16 September, 2011

Palagianism 101, Children's Edition

Recently I took my children to the Los Angeles County Fair just outside of LA. It had all of the normal fair-experiences that people look for when attending a county fair. There were fattened animals, giant pumpkins, tilt-o-whirls, carnies, and even deep fried you-name-its. The whole experience was there.

As we walked past the vendors of tacky hats and marshmallow shooters, we heard a vendor asking the pedestrians, “Have you ever heard of the book with no words?” I had heard the story because my father’s parents were evangelical Christians and were quite happy to share Bible stories and children’s tracts with us when we were kids. I said that I had and he invited my children into the tent.

A very cheerful older lady met the kids at the door and there was one other little boy in the tent ready to hear the story. The narrator told of GOLD streets in Heaven and held up the wordless book to show the page that was all gold. Next she told of how little children must be washed of their sin and turned the page to an all BLACK page. The next page was RED as she proceeded to tell of the blood of the Lord Jesus needing to be shed. This Gospel message went on to say that we can be WHITE as snow as she turned to a bright white page. The final page was GREEN as she told the children that they must grow every day.

Now that’s cute. It was also nostalgic because I remember my grandfather using similar messages. But here’s what got me...

She told my children (and the other little boy) that they must do these things: 

1. Go to Sunday School.
2. Read you Bible every day.
3. Pray.

Those are all good things, right? Yep. They are great. But here’s the line that I keep ruminating on, “...and you will learn to love Jesus.”

Is that true? If little children go to Sunday School, read their Bible everyday, and pray they will learn to love Jesus? I am struggling a bit with that message. It does not sound like the Gospel of free grace, but a call to work your way into the favor of God. To me it sounds like the little children of Los Angeles County were hearing that if they do certain things than GOLD streets would theirs. It sounded more like Pelagius telling children stories than Augustine telling them.

Am I word brat?
Am I being too hard on little old ladies with good intentions?
Am I being... a jerk?

I don’t mean to be any of those things but I wonder if there is Augustinian version of this book. I wonder if children’s messages, videos, sermons, and books with the message of “be nice and don’t hit your sister” do more harm than good. We need to point our children to a crucified Jesus who died because little kids cannot be nice and cannot but hit their sisters. What are we teaching our children? What’s the Gospel that you are sharing with His little ones?

08 July, 2011

Remembering Her Who Spoke the Word to Me

Hebrews 13:7 says, "Remember... those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith."

For me the Word of God was first spoken to me by Mary Ann Di Nicola. Mary Ann opened the Word of God in such a way that the Lord Jesus Christ became living and active to me. In these early months and years of being a Christian, Mary Ann would say, "Nathan, I want you to know that I am the one teaching you this because the men of this generation have not done their job." The Word of God was frequently opened, taught, and lived out through the interactions, lessons, and thorough examinations from the Scriptures.

I remember one day sitting in her living room, along with Shawn Anderson, and Mary Ann asked us to go to the portion of the Scriptures where Jesus and Nicodemus talk about eternal life. Neither of us knew where it was (if I am remembering correctly). Mary insisted that without a thorough knowledge of the Word of God we would not be able to live out the spiritual battle that is going on around us. She was right.

Mary introduced me to the Scriptures. She introduced me to the Westminster Shorter Catechism. She introduced me to the Puritans (Heaven Taken By Storm by Thomas Watson was the first book that she had me read after I became a Christian. Years later, while in seminary I noticed that the introduction to that book was written by my own seminary professor!). For these things, along with prayers, love, friendship, unwanted advice, and even numerous admonishments and rebukes have all helped to shape me into the man of God that I am today (no matter how faulty).

As I consider the woman that first spoke the Word of God to me, I am abundantly grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ that he used this weak vessel to bring me to a saving knowledge of himself. The value of this in my life can never be overstated.

I would like to share the testimony of her coming to saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The cost of discipleship is high. Each one of us must weight the cost- and as I consider she that God used to speak the Word of God to me, the cost of her discipleship is what comes to mind the quickest. Mary Di Nicola paid a great price for following her Lord- and it made her all the more passionate about her Lord. As I consider she who spoke the Word of God to me, I must ask myself these questions: Do I consider the cost? Has the Gospel cost me anything? Do I reflect the zeal and passion of one who has surrendered all?

As I consider the one who spoke the Word of God to me, I must consider my own discipleship. Have you considered the cost?

The Cost of Discipleship by Mary Ann Di Nicola Jaggi (February 2010)

The Cost of Discipleship....Nearly three decades ago on Christmas Eve, the most reverent of holidays in my parent's home, I stood in the kitchen that I spent most of my youth cooking in, clad in an apron, holding a simmering pot of the best Italian marinara sauce in the world! The scene was the stuff of holiday magazine covers...and I stood there, scared to death.

I was surrounded by my siblings, their spouses and children, along with my father, who I deeply loved, now straddling across a pregnant table to take the huge pot from me to be placed at the center. Most everyone was eating and enjoying the many traditional dishes set before them and though there was a solemn presence, there was laughter as well.

My mother had died less than a year before and her absence was like a pall over the setting. She was so integral to every holiday that she often seemed like the Captain of the Enterprise as she directed the event from her position at the stove. I held her in the highest regard at such affairs, often I had been her right hand and carried out intricate orders from her, even as a young girl. Whether for 5 or 500, my mother never failed to fill hungry bellies...she was the Maker of many a memory!

I was born in an Italian-American family and raised as a strict Roman Catholic in a family that was a member of organized crime. Every possible stereotype could rightfully be applied to my extended family but those who sat around in the over-sized kitchen which my mother designed, were not murders, thugs or con-men. They were the product of parents who had given as much as they could to raising productive educated children of honorable occupations and careers.
I adored my father. And crippling was the emotion I felt that night, for I knew I was about to put a thorn into his already burdened heart.

As was the course of every holiday meal, the eating turned to conversation over a myriad of baked goods; delicacies of a world away...treasured desserts my mother learned from her mother and grand-mother and enjoyed as far back as the Roman Empire...passed down to myself and my 9 siblings.

My mother, an educated woman with degrees in the Sciences and Education, would often start the "best part of the holiday"...the banter and debate on subjects of deep personal opinion. From religion to politics, it was no holds barred.

I loved that time of the holidays when I would listen and often interject my own 2-cents into the mix. We all did...and those who sat silent and did not participate were thought ill! Volume was no concern and it was late into the night that one could still hear the Di Nicola family lifting their corporate wisdom to the heavens.

But Mama was not there now and the conversation did not seem to have the spark. Tears, welling frequently in my father's eyes were noticed by every son and daughter and worried quick glances darted one to another. We were all trying so hard to carry forward with tradition...to honor the missing one who had so loved to celebrate with family and friends. But it was so difficult and so surreal.

It is important at this point, to give a truncated recollection of two events that preceded this life-altering Christmas Eve night...a night I had prayed would never come.

Almost a year before, my mother suffered a bizarre classroom accident which left her infirm. She was a strong-willed woman and did not want assistance. She did well caring for herself most of that year, watched over frequently by visiting siblings and one daughter who lived across the street. I was out of town at the time for I had returned to college to obtain further education.

I had been attending Notre Dame College for Theology, pursuing a major in Old Testament Studies. I hoped, with stellar efforts, to be considered as one of the first woman priests authorized by the church. Semesters of 24 and 26 credit hours had not deterred me from maintaining my position on the Dean's List. I loved being educated, and sitting at the feet of learned men. I loved the convent, the sisters, my classmates and the faith I had always strictly adhered to throughout my life.

I was a true Soldier of the Cross in every way and held to the Code of Canon Law as the Church demanded.

But one winter's night, alone in my chilly room, the power of God laid upon the Word before me and a Light streamed into my understanding.

My conversion was shattering to me and deeply personal. I would not degrade it's wonder for a few lines here.

Not a single soul was present save the Spirit of the Living God and in a whisper I heard the Truth. I still dream of that moment. Still dream of the night when every paradigm of my life shattered...like pieces of a stained glass window that would never find it's form again.
I could not cope with the revelation. I returned home to my confused family and my disappointed, sickly mother and watched as she became the embodiment of my religious death. As I stood at her bedside and watched her agonizing with each breath, my Romanist god and his lying doctrine died with her.

In the year that followed, I sought understanding for what was happening to me spiritually. There was no guide in my journey to lead me and neither did the Kindly Light lead anyone to me, save tele-evangelists and their ilk. For almost a year I hid the truth from my precious father and family. In the morning, on Sundays, I sat in the pew beside them and in the evening crept away in stealth to visit a Pentecostal Church that held so many answers, it seemed.

But a time came when I could not continue to serve two masters for I felt fully the hypocrite that I was. I had grown to despise the catholic way of deeds and doing. I could barely stand the words of the Mass, as time and again, the priest with the authority of Rome and its god, sacrificed once again, the Son, though he himself had proclaimed in dying breath "Tetelestai"..."It is finished". Many Protestants fail to understand that the catholic Mass is not a SYMBOLIC sacrament, it is an ACTUAL sacrifice. So demands the Code of Canon Law. This is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Nazareth!

I could bare the weight of the hypocrisy no longer. I was under dire mental fatigue and heartache, as well, for I had to lie more than once, to make it to evening services twice a week to the Pentecostal Church, where I enjoyed my new faith and new Lord. Those lies weighed heavily upon me. I could not tell my father for he had many, many times ranted against the morons and infidels of that particular church. But no one had such hatred for them as my mother. To tell the truth to my father would desecrate my own mother's life and all she stood for and all she taught us. It was from her I drew my deepest commitment to the Vatican and to its god .

I came to a point where I would weep hours on end in travail at having to face the fact that I should boldly be professing the Gospel and the truth of where I was now going to church, to my family and friends. But I was too weak to do it. Too weak to face the heartache. Too weak to be yet another disappointment to my family. I could not tell them for I would face alienation and anger. I knew too much of my father's business in organized crime and I knew I would have to report to the authorities that which I knew, wasn't that the righteous thing to do? Where was the path before me? Where was the way of escape? Was I not to honor my mother and father?
My first accreditation was in Veterinary Science and I had all the knowledge I required to commit suicide in a most efficient manner. Yes, I knew it was wrong but unless you have faced the demons of that hour, I would strongly caution that you not judge one so young in the Lord and so weak. In my basement bedroom, I carried out the procedure with efficiency and laid back waiting for the last breath, yearning to feel anything so long as it was not this confusion. Bible resting on my stomach, I waited as I riffled the pages telling Jesus I was so sorry.

But something was terribly wrong. For the manner by which I was to end my life, was to do so with speed...and nothing was happening! I rose, tears streaming in my eyes as I listened to my father, above me in the kitchen, whistling as he made himself a cup of coffee. I cried because his horrid daughter couldn't even kill herself correctly and now the confusion was beyond understanding. I checked the equipment. But I had done all steps right, how could I still be alive?

I fell to my knees beside my bed, trembling in prayer. I asked first for forgiveness and then for understanding. I was lost in confusion and could see no way out. How could I honor both my father and my Father? I reached for my Bible and asked...asked like I have never asked before nor since...for a Word from the Father to make it through this time of my life, for I could not try again to end it. Was I to openly denounce the Catholic doctrine and forfeit my place in my precious family...to be ostracized and alienated. No one else at church ever gave such testimony. Surely this was not expected of me!

I flipped open the pages and through swollen eyes, I stopped, breathless. For there came strength... A solitary verse that gave me fortitude for the rest of my life. Though I have been challenged on the situation from most every Christian I have ever told the account to, I stand firm on the Author and the Finisher of my faith as giving me specific direction to do as He desired of me. have neither looked to the right nor to the left but made the way by God's leading to a fruitful life in Christ.

There on the pages, I read: Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. Psalm 45:10-11

That Christmas Eve I put forth, to stunned ears, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I told all present that unless they accepted the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary as the sole sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, that what laid ahead for each and every one of them, despite the novenas, the rosaries, the alms and the Masses was hell itself and eternity apart from God. I told them that a continual sacrifice was was not the Gospel of the Risen Lord and that no amount of priestly intercession for 50 or 50,000 years would pull them from eternal damnation. I told them I was now anathema from the Roman Church and would serve Jesus Christ from the Word alone and not the false christ of men and false doctrine. That night I lost my entire family, just as I knew I would. ..never for one moment have I not loved them. But greater and higher and wider is the love in me for the Christ of God and the Father of Lights than for any that walk this world. Yes, even in this day, there are those who are called to forsake all for Christ's sake.

God bless each and every one of you... Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

In Christ's Love,
MaryAnn di Nicola Jaggi

07 July, 2011

The Light of the World Gives Light to One

In the Gospels we see numerous responses to the Lord Jesus. As Jesus reveals himself as light in John 8 he then illustrates that aspect of his calling with the healing of a man born blind. Often we fail to see such connections because we have been so trained to cut off the associations because of the numbers in our Bibles (John 8:1; John 9:1). We fail to remember that those numbers are not inspired, but were later added to the text as a help. Sometimes they fail to help because they fail to bring together the connections that are between one chapter and another. Arthur Pink comments on such connections between John 8 and John 9. The Light of the World brought His light to one.. where do you stand in regard to the light of Christ?

In John 8 we behold Christ as the light exposing darkness, but in John 9 He communicates light. In John 8 the Light is despised and rejected, in John 9 He is received and worshiped. In John 8 the Jews are seen stooping down to pick up stones; in John 9 Christ is seen stooping down to make anointing clay. In John 8 Christ hides himself from the Jews; in John 9 He reveals Himself to the blind beggar. In John 8 we have a company in whom the Word has no place; in John 9, outside the Temple, He is owned as Lord. The central truth of John 8 is Light testing human responsibility; in John 9 the central truth is God acting in sovereign grace after human responsibility has failed.

02 July, 2011

So What Happened At the 180th Synod of the RPCNA?

The 180th Synod of the RPCNA met at Indiana Wesleyan University (yes, Wesleyan) from June 28-July 1, 2011. Ruling Elder, Steve McMahon (Midwest Presbytery), was nominated as the Moderator. This was only the second time in RP history that a ruling elder has been elected to this office (according to some reports).

Monday evening began with a gripping sermon from Matthew 16 titled, “I Will Build My Church” by Dr. Jerry O'Neill. The members then took time to remember some of the pastors who had died in the past year. Drs. D. Carson, K. Hoffman, and C. Chao were among them.

Tuesday began with a sermon from this writer on Colossians 1 followed by an extensive discussion concerning the finances of the denomination. The finances appear to be generally stable, although there are a number of boards and agencies that could use more funding (ie: Global Missions and Home Missions being the two most crucial, according to the Scriptures).

The state of the presbyteries appears to be quite stable. Each presbytery is growing, planting churches, and experiencing the smiles of our Heavenly Father. The Atlantic Presbytery is welcoming an American Presbyterian Church into their number. The Great Lakes/Gulf has three congregations that are seeking to unite with them. There is church planting in the South- including a mission in South Carolina, which has not seen an RP Church since before the Secession. The Japanse Presbytery is currently managing nearly $200,000 worth of donations for tsunami relief. And, as you know, the Pacific Coast is celebrating 100 years and is seeking to plant in Tucson, AZ.

The East Asia Committee reported on a recent trip, in which JON and DR met with the leaders of between 20,000 and 30,000 Reformed Presbyterians that are seeking to organize as presbyteries and to have those called to the pastorate and eldership ordained and installed. The Synod made this committee a commission, which gives these men the power to act on behalf of Synod. Ordinations and the organization of presbyteries will result in a denomination that is 3-4 times larger than the North American branch! Thanks to God that the door was not closed (Not Hoi Moon?), but instead built in the way that He saw fit!

Pastor Rut Etheridge led us in worship Wednesday morning. “The Struggle of a Pastor's Heart” was the sermon's title. Doug Lee, the Executive Director of an organization that oversees our chaplains gave a report on our chaplains. It was reported that Chaplain Leach has recovered remarkably from his stroke. He also mentioned Brent England and his work with Hospice.

The Sudan Report was reason for giving praise and thanks to our great God and King! Last year at this time there were 300 members of the Sudan RP Church. At the time of this meeting, there are over 1200 members to Sudanese RP Church. Many churches have been planted, pastors trained, saints discipled and idols burned! For an oral report along with video and photos, go to the following link:

The Sudan Report brought tears to many eyes and was evidence of the great love that Jesus Christ has for building His Church in all parts of the world. As a plug for the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course: many of the principles of global church planting were employed in a distinctively Reformed Presbyterian way. If you are ever able to take this course, it is worth the time and energy. Now back to what we did at Synod...

The Psalter Revision Committee gave their report, along with the final changes to the 5th edition of the Book of Psalms for Worship. A new rendition of Psalm 136D was sung and proved to be a worshipful rendition of the psalm. The committee was dismissed with thanks. They had worked for a number of years to update and improve our book of praise. Lord willing, it will prove to be sufficient for the next couple of generations of RPs.

The Synod took on a huge task last year by forming a committee to study sexual orientation. Our own, Howard Huizing, was able to sit on that committee. Forty-six pages of biblical, confessional, and pastoral material was produced and were adopted by the Synod. This paper will be passed to our sister churches in the USA and around the world, and this writer believes it will set the standard for confessionally reformed churches' position of homosexuality. This paper will be available later in the year as a book from Crown and Covenant. It may also include, in the introduction, the real life stories of RPs who have struggled with sexual identity issues. This will be the new gold standard for biblical counsel on this issue.

Wednesday evening was taken up with greetings from fraternal delegates. Reformed Presbyterians from Australia, Scotland and Cyprus gave greetings and told of the work of Christ in their Synods. Pastor Andrew Quigley spoke of the work of the Scottish RP Church and how they are growing at an unprecedented rate. This is in part from the recent unbiblical actions of the Free Church of Scotland, as well as from pursuing church planting with vigor and prayer. We on the Pacific Coast have a lot to learn from Andrew Quigley's leadership (maybe he will speak for us at our family camp in one of the years to come?).

The ARP, OPC, RCUS, URC, FCS, and HRC all brought greetings to the RPCNA. Can you tell me what all of those letters mean? Even if not, they are Reformed and Presbyterian bodies with which we have some degree of fellowship. One of the delegates is a friend of mine from seminary and it was great spending time catching up on our various pastoral experiences since graduating from seminary together. For the second year in a row, fraternal churches have challenged the RPCNA on our position concerning women deacons. Two denominations this year asked us to review our theological position and practice. There was a motion to form a committee to give an answer for our current practice, but this motion lost. Dr. Spear directed the court to a 2002 exegetical paper on our position.

The International Conference was an area of great interest to the Court. The speaker will be Dr. Joel Beeke. The theme is “How to Live the Christian Life.” July 21-27, 2012 are the dates. We will be at IWU, which is a very beautiful campus. A fellow pastor and friend described it as “what Methodists can do with a large farm and endless funds.” It will prove to be a good place for our conference. People will be shuttled to the campus at no extra charge. Put it on your calendars because 2000 RPs from around the world are expected to be in attendance!

The Thursday morning worship was from Colossians 3 and the sermon was preached by the chaplain of Erskine College and Seminary. This is the ARPs college. The practice of having an ARP preach for us is a long standing tradition in the RPCNA. An RP also preaches at their Synod every year.

The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary gave their thanks to Don Piper for 25 years of service on the Board of Trustees. His seat has been filled by David Ashleigh. The Seminary sees the need for having a board member from Los Angeles since there are a number of students being supplied to the seminary from our congregation! One piece of controversy from the seminary was the board asking the Synod to allow for a ruling elder to serve as the president. Currently only pastors are allowed to serve as the president. This brought some debate, but in the end, the recommendation was returned to the Seminary Board for review. Most (all?) seminaries have only teaching elders as their presidents.

Crown and Covenant noted that each of their books will also be sold in electronic format. The RP Witness is moving to an every other month mailing due to high postage costs. This will be supplemented by an interactive website that will feature additional articles and other material. The ARP Psalter was published by C&C and is selling very well. This is good news for a denomination that is recently rediscovering psalmody after almost 70 years of allowing hymns in worship!

A request to amend the Directory for Public Worship lost. The request was to clarify that weddings and funerals are NOT public worship. The 1645 Directory for Publick Worship included these items, but they were not considered worship then either, but civil matters. The RP does not consider these gatherings worship, but the request was for further clarity.

Pastor Whitla spoke about the Youth Ministries of the denomination. The Pacific Coast Conference was mentioned as something the Synod Committee was very pleased with. The young ladies of our denomination were also given credit for being quite spiritually mature, but the Youth Ministries Committee is afraid that our young men are not stepping up and showing the leadership that they should. This will be an area of focus to this committee in the next couple of years.

The Finance Committee changed the way that congregational assessments (read: taxes) are done. There will no longer be a $40 per communicant member tax, now 2% of all undesignated funds will be the assessment. This should save smaller churches a great deal.

Overall the Synod was an important time to reconnect with fellow pastors and elders. There was much prayer, psalm singing, fellowship, and even some healthy banter. To those who were not members of the court, but were watching the deliberations during the week, it was clear that Jesus is central in the life of the RP Church. It was also clear that unity and truth are highly valued in our churches. Many spoke of the peace of our Courts being a highlight for them. Psalm 133 was lived out as brothers "dwell in unity" in the Courts of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And of course, the psalm singing was great!

30 May, 2011

Questions and Answers Before the Day of Fasting

Here are some guidelines and helps to prepare us for our Day of Fasting and Solemn Assembly which is scheduled for Friday, June 3, 5:30PM until Saturday, June 4, 5:30PM. If you have any other questions before this weekend, do not hesitate to call or email.

Could you define fasting again for me?
Our Standards say, “Religious fasting is an ordinance of God in which the believer voluntarily abstains from food for a season for the purpose of seeking the will of God, strength for service or deeper spirituality. It should be accompanied by meditation, self-examination, humiliation before God, confession of sin, repentance and renewed dedication to a life of obedience (Reformed Presbyterian Testimony, 21.7).”

How are we supposed to do this?
For the 24 hours that the Pacific Coast Presbytery has called us to fast we should avoid food and caloric intake for the sake of afflicting ourselves (remember this is one of the biblical terms for fasting) and drawing us closer to Christ in prayer and meditation. It is a practice of self denial as well as a way to give us more time for prayer and meditation.

What if I have medical problems?
If you are not able to fast for the entire 24 hours due to a medical condition, do what your body is able to handle (and maybe a tiny bit more). The fast should be one where you practice self-denial, but it also is not designed to harm you. Jesus desires obedience, not sacrifice. You will have to decide what you are able to handle. Please make that decision prayerfully.

Should my children fast?
If your children are at an age where they understand what is being asked of them, they should most definitely fast. If they are too young to understand the nature and purpose, do not have them fast. Young children may be able to participate in an abbreviated way. Broth and juices are good substitutes for younger children who wish to participate. Nursing mothers should do what they are able to do, but be wise about it!

What if I have never fasted before?
If you have never fasted you will want to prepare yourself this week by eating less, and attempting to focus on prayer at times when you may have hunger pains. You may also want to ask someone in the congregation to be a prayer and accountability partner in this time. Do not eat too much before you begin. You will do better if you eat less in preparation than if you gorge yourself. Also, be well hydrated before the fast. Drink plenty of water. You may also need to drink water during the fast. This is okay.

Is there more to this than just not eating?
Fasting is only a means to an end. There is nothing spiritual about not eating food. In order for it to be a biblical fast, we need to “accompany it with meditation, self-examination, humiliation before God, confession of sin, repentance, and renewed dedication to a life of obedience (RPT 21.7)” Fasting should lead us to changed hearts, not just empty bellies.

Should I just go about my day as usual?
No. You should try to treat this time as a season where you focus on God in Christ in a more intense way. Some things come up, but try to free your schedule as best as possible so that you can have time for spiritual exercises. It is also a good day for fellowship around the Word of God. Since it is a public fast, you may want to spend some of your times with others from the congregation.

What if I have young children?
If you have young children that you are caring for, fasting will prove to be more difficult. Plan your day well. Schedule one or two times during the day when others can be with your children. Also use their nap times for prayer and meditation. You may also incorporate them into the spiritual exercises of the day.

How do you want us to pray?
You can use the prayer guide to help you along. Also, feel free to reflect on your own spiritual life as well. The purpose is for the presbytery, but each one of us make up the presbytery.

Should I pray alone or with others?
It is appropriate to pray as an individual, as families, and in groups. If people would like to organize small gatherings here at the church, feel free. That is why we want to have the church open. We would love to see the building used for prayer, psalm singing, Scripture reading, and meditation during this 24 hours.

How do I get others to pray with me?
Ask them. There may be some in the congregation who are interested in praying in groups. Feel free to gather a small group and meet in the chapel or one of the rooms of the church building. You can sing psalms of penitence, meditate, read Scripture, and even listen to sermons together. This is very appropriate for this day.

What should I meditate on during this time?
There are many things that are appropriate to meditate on during a fast. The Bible is the primary source for meditation. Some like to use the Shorter Catechism as a way to think about spiritual truth. Your Psalter is another valuable resource. If you are unsure what meditation looks like, ask the pastor for resources. You could also use some of your time to listen to or read sermons on various Biblical passages.

What's in store for Saturday?
On Saturday at 5:30PM we will gather in the chapel for a worship service. There will be singing, public prayers (like a prayer meeting), and a homily (short sermon) from the pastor. We will also renew our covenant of communicant membership. Please consider this a called worship service. You may come as early as you want to so that you can use the chapel to pray. Again, the church is going to be open. After worship, we will have a light meal to break the fast together.

Should I bring anything for Saturday's meal?
No. Dottiann Pino is arranging the post-fast meal. There is no need to bring anything.

What if I still have questions through-out the week?
You are free to contact the elders with any further questions. Many in the congregation are new to this as well. Feel free to ask!

27 May, 2011

Urgent Prayers Needed for Cush4Christ

In response to escalating conflict in South Sudan, most of the the Cush4Christ team was evacuated

today to Kenya.

Most of you are probably aware of clashes erupting in recent days in the Abyei area (about 80 miles NE of our mission, and the link will take you to the latest articles from the BBC) between the Northern Army and South Sudan Army (SPLA). However in addition to that clash, there have been major troop buildups along the North/South border including an area just about 40 miles north of our mission. In addition, there is great unrest with reports of troops seizing vehicles (some to travel to the front lines, others to flee the front lines) and other associated acts of violence (at least 2 within 2 miles of our compound in the last 48 hours). Finally, our sources within the SPLA expect a major Northern Army air and land offensive to begin in the next two days.

Therefore, the Cush4Christ team in consultation with RPGM determined that it was time to enact the evacuation plan. While none of us knows exactly what will transpire in the next few days, it seemed prudent to get our team out of Sudan before the situation deteriorated further.

Here is the status of our team:

  • The Ward family was already in Nairobi, Kenya this week for a regularly scheduled resupply and rejuvenate trip.
  • The Faris family is on the chartered evacuation flight and will reach Nairobi soon. (The Faris family is scheduled to be in the US for 2 months from late June-August, so they will try to move their flight up.)
  • Jan Buchanan is on the evacuation flight. Unfortunately, Jan just arrived in Sudan a week ago, so barely had time to settle in.
  • Scott Brinkerhoff is remaining in Sudan for the present time to further secure the compound and continue the radio ministry, but plans are in place for him to join later evacuation flights through Samaritan's Purse or the UN depending on the developments. We have every reason to believe that his life is not in danger, and are thankful for his willingness to continue behind to wrap things up. For obvious reasons, it is less conspicuous for a single man to travel about and easier to find shelter at the UN compound if needed and room on later evacuation flights than for an entire family to do these things.

Your prayers for God’s people in South Sudan are greatly needed. Over these past few years, we have marveled at the way that God has brought forth Sudanese men for ministry, how He has seen fit not only to provide pastors, but ruling elders and deacons for this multiplying church with over 1300 members.

  • Please pray for the ministers and officers of His churches in Southern Sudan. May God grant them wisdom, courage, and the Spirit’s leading as they assume an even greater leadership role among the saints.
  • Please pray for the safety of the saints and that these clashes would soon end and that Christ’s churches might again enjoy peace as they grow and develop.
  • Pray that God’s Word through radio broadcasts in the area might also be used of God to strike at the heart of those currently engaged in the clashes and that they will be moved away from conflict and instead pursue the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
  • Give thanks for a safe evacuation of the missionaries and pray that the time away from Sudan will be short and well-used.
  • Pray for the children of the missionaries in this time as such changes can be stressful not only for parents but for the young as well.

Obviously, we will be monitoring the situation and making further plans as the situation becomes more clear. As further news becomes available we will let you know. Signed, Matt Filbert.

16 May, 2011

Glasgow Reformed Presbyterian Church

Good news from our brothers and sisters in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland:

Lord's Day 22nd May 2011, will, God willing, be a day of much rejoicing and thanksgiving in the Scottish RP Church. For the past year the RPCS Presbytery has actively supported the work undertaken by the Airdrie RP Church to see a new RP congregation planted in Glasgow. That vision will be realised on the Lord's Day the 22nd May when the Presbytery will meet to formally constitute the new Glasgow RP Church.

There will be no morning service in Airdrie on the 22nd May as we will be travelling into Glasgow to join with them for this important and historic occasion. We will meet at the Airdrie church at 10am to travel in together in the minibus and cars. There will be a light buffet lunch after the morning service.

Initially the Airdrie Session will oversee the work along with thePresbytery appointed organising minister, Rev. Kenneth Stewart, but the desire is that it will not be too long before this new congregation will have its own leadership of elders and deacons.

We will delight in this development when it takes place, but are also very conscious that only Christ can and will build His Church to the Father's glory.

The address for Glasgow RP Fellowship is Thornwood Primary School, 11 Thornwood Terrace, Glasgow, G11 7QZ .

To read more news items from the church, please visit: www.airdrierpcs.org

12 May, 2011

What Does the RPCNA Say About Fasting?

The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. -Jesus in Mark 2.

Fasting is an ordinance of God that is much neglected in the Church of Jesus Christ today. The Scriptures say a lot about the ordinance of fasting, but what is it? I think that the Reformed Presbyterian Church has helpful information within the Standards of the Church. Hear from the Larger Catechism, Reformed Presbyterian Testimony, as well as the Directory for Public Worship for meditation material on fasting. The Pacific Coast Presbytery of the RPCNA will be fasting on June 4, 2011. Please see this guide for praying for the Pacific Coast Presbytery.

Larger Catechism

Question 108: What are the duties required in the second commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

Reformed Presbyterian Testimony 21.7

Religious fasting is an ordinance of God in which the believer voluntarily abstains from food for a season for the purpose of seeking the will of God, strength for service or deeper spirituality. It should be accompanied by meditation, self-examination, humiliation before God, confession of sin, repentance and renewed dedication to a life of obedience.

Directory for Public Worship 4.2

In Christian fasting, as an ordinance of God, the believer voluntarily abstains from food or some ordinary pleasure for a season for the purpose of seeking the will of God, strength for service, or deeper spirituality. It should be accompanied by meditation, self-examination, humiliation before God, confession of sin, repentance and renewed dedication to a life of obedience.

A fast day may be marked by a service of public worship. In such services, it is fitting that psalms of penitence be sung, along with the offering of prayers of confession of sin and petitions for pardon.

If the civil authority calls for a time of prayer and fasting that is in harmony with the Scriptures, Sessions may encourage the people of God to pay due respect to that call. Besides such general occasions, there may be times when families and individuals, for their own reasons, give themselves to prayer and fasting for a season.

Special days of fasting, humiliation and prayer are particularly appropriate when God’s judgments are evident in the land, or when corporate sin in church or nation provokes the Lord and invites His judgments. It is appropriate that such days be observed in connection with services preparatory to the Lord’s Supper or on days designated by Sessions, Presbyteries, and Synods for this purpose.

06 April, 2011

Ever Compare the Wicked and the Righteous?

There are many comparisons in the Scriptures between the righteous and the wicked. Below is a chart that compares the wicked with the righteous in the 37th Psalm. As we look over the chart and think about David's discussion (a sung discussion, mind you), we quickly are confronted with the fact that many of these things are not actualized in the Christian experience.

  • How many from our list are present realities?
  • How many from our list are generalized truths (like proverbs)?
  • How many from our list are eschatological?
  • What word (from the chart) would you use to summarize the wicked?
  • What word would you use to summarize the righteous?
  • Where is Jesus in this list?

The Wicked

The Righteous

What He Does/Should Do:

  1. Will fade and die
  2. Plot against the righteous.
  3. Gnash teeth at righteous
  4. Draws swords and bends bows.
  5. Attempt to bring down the poor and needy.
  6. Attempt to slay those who are upright.
  7. Has abundance (in this life)
  8. Will perish.
  9. Vanish like smoke
  10. Borrows and does not pay back.
  11. Is cursed by God
  12. Watch for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.
  13. Spreads himself like a green laurel
  14. Becomes “no more”

  1. Fret not because of evildoers.
  2. Do not be envious of wrongdoers.

3. Trust in the Lord

  1. Do good.
  2. Delight in the Lord
  3. Be still before the Lord
  4. Wait patiently for him
  5. Fret not over the one who prospers
  6. Fret not over the one who carries out evil
  7. Refrain from anger
  8. Forsake wrath.
  9. Fret not
  10. Will inherit the land
  11. Will inherit the land.
  12. Will delight in peace.
  13. Has little (but it’s better)
  14. Heritage will remain forever
  15. Not put to shame
  16. Have abundance in famine (compare 16).
  17. Is generous and gives.
  18. Blessed by the Lord
  19. Will inherit the land (third time saying it).
  20. Delights in the Lord
  21. Falls but is not cast away.
  22. Their children do not beg bread
  23. Lends generously
  24. His children become a blessing
  25. Turns from evil
  26. Does good
  27. Will dwell forever (in the land- 4th).
  28. Are preserved of God.
  29. Inherit the land (5th time)
  30. Dwell upon the land forever
  31. Their mouths utter wisdom
  32. Their tongue speaks justice
  33. Law is in his heart
  34. Steps do not slip

34. Waits for the Lord and keeps his way.

  1. Has a future.

40. Take refuge in God.

What God Does (directly or through providence):

  1. Will be cut off
  2. Will make them “no more”
  3. Laughs at the wicked.
  4. Sees the wicked’s day coming.
  5. Slay wicked with own sword.
  6. Break their bows.
  7. Break their arms.
  8. Cuts off the wicked
  9. Will cut off their children
  10. Shall altogether be destroyed

38. Shall be cut off

  1. Give you the desires of your heart.
  2. Act.
  3. Bring forth righteousness as light.
  4. Bring forth justice.
  5. Upholds the upright
  6. Knows the day of the blameless
  7. Establishes their steps
  8. Upholds their hand
  9. Does not forsake them.
  10. Loves justice
  11. Will not forsake his saints
  12. Will not abandon them to the wicked.
  13. Will not let them be condemned.
  14. Will exalt the righteous to inherit the land (6th time).
  15. Gives salvation
  16. Is a stronghold in times of trouble.
  17. Helps and delivers them.
  18. Delivers

40. Saves

15 March, 2011

Christ Centered and Reformed Aid for Japan

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Please forward this and reproduce this information for your social media contacts:

Do you want to help the hurting in Japan but do not know how? Do you desire to send money but want it used unto the glory of Jesus and not just for administrators? Do you desire to see the Gospel triumph in the midst of suffering in a land where only 3% of the population claim Christ in any form, and only 30% claim ANY religious beliefs? Do you desire to see The Land of the Rising Sun helped by the Church of the Risen Son?

Many people want to help, and yet do not know how. Many Christians want to help, but want assurance that their funds will be used in a Christ centered way. Here is a way to help that is through the local Japanese Church:

Dear Saints,
Reformed Presbyterian Global Missions is setting up a “Japan Relief Fund” in response to the earthquake and tsunami that have devastated northern Japan this past week. Checks can be made out to “RP Global Missions” and perhaps congregations could send a joint check on Monday, March 21st (next week!) once they have collected this coming weekend and/or Lord’s Day, to:

RP Global Missions
3004 5th Ave.
Beaver Falls, PA 15010-3671

In the Memo Line, write “Japan Relief Fund” – this part is very important for correct crediting and directing. Donations made this way are tax deductible. If you prefer to donate online, you can do so at www.RPGlobalMissions.org .

Our plan is to route all funds to the Japan Presbytery and entrust them to direct funds in any way they see fit, directly or secondarily, further north.
This way, all people in North America who donate can be assured that 100% of funds will be responsibly managed on-site by the churches’ pastors, elders, and deacons.Thank you for your timely help! As you know very well from the ample news sources, the need is great!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Dr. Jonathan M. Watt, RPCNA Global Missions Board

The Japanese branch of the Reformed Presbyterian Church consists of the following congregations: Higashisuma; Kasumigaoka, Okamoto-Keiyaku, Kita-Suzurandai, and Mukonoso. The Japanese RP Church also operates a reformed bookstore in Kobe as well as a seminary, called Kobe Theological Hall.

Please consider having your congregations, friends, and loved ones contribute directly to RP Global Missions so that the resources going to Japan are doing Christ's work, in Christ's name, and for Christ's Kingdom and cause. Please also share this information with those would be interested.

Warmly, In Christ,

Pastor Nathan Eshelman

Pastor Nathan Eshelman
Reformed Presbyterian Church
3557 Fletcher Drive
Los Angeles, California, 90065
study: 323.255.8757
mobile: 323.356.5717
"Los Angeles Reformed Presbyterian Church"

19 February, 2011

So What Happened at the Presbytery Meeting?

A Presbytery Report to the Los Angeles Reformed Presbyterian Church:

So What Happened at Presbytery?

The Presbytery of the Pacific Coast met in San Diego this weekend to hold the annual spring meeting. Ruling Elder Hal Reyburn was elected Moderator and commented that he was thankful to be elected and that the agenda of this meeting “could be the most exciting agenda” he has seen in 35 years as a ruling elder.”

All of the reports were in the hands of the presbytery well in advance so that the court could focus on discussion and prayer of the papers and reports before them. This proved to be beneficial because the workload was intense and God glorifying!

The meeting began with the usual business of the election of officers, the calling of the roll, and opening devotional exercises. Pastor Eshelman was again elected as the clerk of presbytery with Ryan Hemphill as assistant clerk. Pastor Mark England opened with devotions around the theme “doing all things lawfully and in order” and reminded the presbytery of it's duties and responsibilities as a presbytery of the RPCNA.

The candidates and credentials committee (C&CC) has quickly become the busiest committee of presbytery. The C&CC introduced Gil Garcia, Paul Ruchtie, and Greg Whitlock to the court as potential students of theology. The presbytery voted to make them students of theology, something for which this writer is abundantly thankful! The C&CC is also working with Mr. Aldo Yannon of San Francisco, CA, who is seeking ordination in the PC Presbytery. He is currently teaching Greek and Hebrew classes to Christians in San Quentin State Prison. Mr. Jason Ryce, a candidate who is eligible to receive a call as pastor, was also introduced to the court as a possible addition to our presbytery's membership. Elder Hector Pino was added to the C&CC since a majority of the C&CC work will be with Los Angeles RPC members. Ask that God would equip all involved since this is a new experience in many ways for our presbytery.

The talk about Aldo and Jason brings us to other exciting news in the presbytery: There is a small group of families in Tucson, AZ who are hoping to see an RP Church planted in that area. Jason Ryce has been invited by the presbytery to come into discussions about how we could make this happen. The court believes that God is moving quickly towards making this a reality and has decided to establish a “Tucson Commission” (a commission has full authority to act on behalf of the presbytery) to oversee the planting of an RP Church in that city, as well as, Lord willing, helping the Ryce family move to Tucson to begin that work. Jason and his wife are in Tucson this week to do “exploratory work.” Elder Huizing and Pastor Eshelman have been appointed to that Commission. Pastor Eshelman turned down the request to have him act as chair to this commission (see, he can say, “no.”). The hope is that Jason would come onto the Phoenix Session as an associate pastor and transition into ful time ministry in Tucson as the Lord sees fit.

The discussions with Mr. Yannon have led to the possibility of a church plant in the San Francisco Bay area. There are a number of families there that participate in a monthly psalm sing and time of study at the home of Yannons. A committee has been established to go to the Bay area and do exploratory work. That committee is Pastors McCracken and Hemphill, along with our very own Elder Pino. Jesus is on the move, folks! Prayers are needed and requested.

The presbytery took time to meditate on the fact that we will be celebrating our 100th anniversary as a presbytery on June 6th of this year. A number of recommendations came from the Los Angeles Session surrounding this special time in the life of our presbytery. There will be a “Solemn Assembly and Day of Fasting” on June 4, 2011, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of our presbytery. There will also be a time of teaching leading up to that Assembly that will give instruction to the churches on the nature, purpose, and validity of fasting.

The presbytery has also set up a “Next 100 Fund” that would be for the purpose of financial gifts (we would like prayers too!) to support church planting efforts for the future of our presbytery. If anyone is interested in a donation to that fund, please see Pastor Eshelman ($20 to $2 million... it all helps). There will also be a Day of Thanksgiving at the Summer Family Conference to give praise to God for sustaining grace over 100 years in the West (what else is 100 years old in the West?)!

Fraternal Greetings were warmly received from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church; the Reformed Church in the United States; as well as from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The RCUS Western Classes is celebrating it's 25th anniversary this year and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a denomination. These churches, with whom we have fraternal fellowship, were prayed for as the work of the Gospel goes forth from their pulpits as well.

The presbytery assessment was raised from $10 per communicant to $12 per communicant. It was noted that this fund is strictly for presbytery travel and that the extra $2 per communicant will be helpful due to the number of works that Jesus may bring to us in the next couple of years. Praise God for that!

Friday evening there was a meal that the San Diego congregation hosted. It was followed by a service of worship in which Jason Ryce preached on Matthew 26. Man, can that guy preach!

Much discussion revolved around the Winter Youth Conference that was hosted here in LA this past December-January. The presbytery was pleased with the outcome as well as the spiritual benefit that has already been seen in the lives of some of our youth (keep praying though). The presbytery would like the LA Session along with the Youth Secretaries, Paul and Megan Hemphill, to begin plans on this year's conference!

There is also a youth ministry leadership team that is being assembled by the presbytery. The presbytery is looking for young communicant members in good standing that show exceptional Christian character as well as leadership skills. If you have a recommendation of one of our young people- please let the Session know. Also, use this as an opportunity to get to know the young people as you are looking for one to recommend!

$1500 has been given to the LA Church as seed money for this conference. There was a warm thanks to Sarah Ashleigh for her hard work! I won't say anything more about that- I don't want to spoil the fun. Please be in prayer for next year's conference as the Session along with these young people begin plans. If you would like to serve at that conference- let us know. It's early, but that's okay!

Paul Hemphill was “Skyped” in to present the Youth Secretary Report. This was a first in our presbytery! A talking head on a computer screen giving a report to the presbytery was an interesting experience. It is also a way that the PC Presbytery can meet more often without costing a lot of money for travel. Isn't being a Christian in the 21st century amazing? Praise God!

Each congregation had a time to give some praise reports as well as congregational concerns. For the most part, the congregations appear to be in good spirits. There are some concerns that should be prayed about: The San Diego congregation is still praying for God to raise up office bearers to lead alongside Pastor England. The Fresno congregation has seen a couple of families move on to other congregations. Please be mindful of that body in your prayers. Seattle appears to be doing well with a strong membership and committed people. One of their office bearers has resigned though. Phoenix is still struggling some financially, but still believes God is calling them to participate in helping plant Tucson, AZ RPC. You know about LA, so we don't need to talk about us.

Besides these items, there was great singing, great fellowship, and great energy as the presbytery looks ahead to a bright future under the Son. On more than one occasion this writer overheard conversations that including the idea that it seems that God is moving us out of survival mode and into growth mode. Isn't that the desire of your heart? Wouldn't you love to see Jesus move from the desert places to the coastal lands as He gathers worshipers to give praise to His holy name? I know I would. Please prayerfully consider storming the throne room of grace and pleading on behalf of the Presbytery of the Pacific Coast! Elder Pino led one devotional time where he read from Acts 15. He focused on verse 28 and the idea that “it seemed to good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” Well, the presbytery believes that this year's meeting seemed good to Him and to us. We look forward to seeing what he will do with all of this exciting news.

The presbytery believes that God has given us a season of Winter so that we may blossom in the Spring. I think that I can see things budding already, can't you?

Pastor Nathan