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

10 February, 2011

Egyptian Covenanters*- It is Coming, Friends.

How are you praying for Egypt? What do you think should happen as we literally watch power shift before our tweets and livefeeds? I know what I am praying...

What does Egypt have to do with a blog called "presbyterian thoughts?" What is so special about Egypt you may be thinking.

Everything. The Scriptures promise that there will come a day when the nation of Egypt will enter into covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ and they will keep their vows. They will become covenanters.

Isaiah 19:21, "And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord in that day and perform them."

May the Lord Jesus use the current chaos in Egypt as the "fulness of time" for this ancient people. May they reject Islam, reject secularism, reject humanism- and embrace their rightful leader and King. May this be the time of their vowing and performing their duties unto Christ. Does that seem unlikely? No, it doesn't. It WILL happen at some point. And I know this because the Scriptures promise that it will come to pass. Egypt will be covenanters unto the Lord Jesus. They will vow and they will perform their vows.

May this be their hour to bow the knee to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Now get praying!

From Fisher's Catechism:
Q. 63. How do you prove that national covenanting is a warrantable duty under the New Testament?
A. From its being promised in the Old Testament that this shall be a duty performed under the New, Isaiah 19:21 — “The Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and — they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and shall perform it.” Besides, if it was a moral duty upon special occasions, under the Old Testament (as appears from 2 Chron 15:12, and 34:31, 32; Neh. 9:38), it must remain to be the same, upon the like occasions, still; because Christ came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil them, Matt 5:17.

* I don't necessarily mean that Egypt will be Reformed Presbyterian "Covenanters"; but they will enter into covenant with God and keep it, hence covenanters.

Who Is Handing Out Bread in the Bread Line?

It always amazes me how people can make pastors into rock stars. Now don't get me wrong... I listen to many conference messages, I read the latest books by the big names in the Reformed world. I appreciate the ministry of those who have a global ministry. But ministers are but men.

I think that JC Ryle said it well when talking about the roll of the disciples at the feeding of the 5000:

"Now here is a lively emblem of the work which a true minister of the New Testament is meant to do. He is not a mediator between God and man. He has no power to put away sin, or impart grace. His whole business is to receive the bread of life which the Master provides, and to distribute it among the souls of whom he labors. He cannot make men value the bread or receive it. He cannot make it soul saving, or life giving to anyone. This is not his work. For this he is not responsible. His whole business is to be a faithful distributor of the food which his Divine Master has provided; and that done, his office is discharged."

So who is the true minister of the Gospel? He's not a rock star that has fans a mile wide and an inch deep. He's the homeless guy that works at the soup kitchen. He's the guy that is passing out bread and praying that his people will eat and be filled. Is there any room for pride or stardom in that? No. But there's room for humility and service. Now start passing out that bread.