Thursday, December 20, 2012

Half-Staff Hypocrisy

Along with most of the country I was shell-shocked by the events in Newtown Connecticut.  To see such evil unleashed on young children was appalling and a reminder of the intrinsic sinfulness of our broken world.  I was reminded once more of the accounts of Moses and Jesus where young children were slaughtered as well. This article by Russell Moore was particularly interesting and I commend it to your reading. 

In the midst of all of this I was irritated by two things that struck me as being particularly hypocritical.  First, the news media (led by Foxnews) were seemingly appalled by every detail and bit of information and yet couldn't seem to keep themselves from plastering the story on their websites and television screens across the country for a week straight.  There was a fair amount of irresponsible journalism as well, it seems that nearly all the details immediately released were incorrect, including, horribly, the name of the perpetrator himself!  I have to wonder if sometimes the sadistic glorification that we offer to these mass-murderers doesn't contribute to more massacres of this nature.  This article offers insights in that direction.

However, what struck me as most hypocritical was our government's order to fly the flag at half-staff.  Don't get me wrong, I think that something so heinous as this deserves to be grieved!  However, did you know that the city of Chicago averages 41 murders a month?  Many of those murders are drive-bys that target minority children.  Do you have to be living in a ritzy suburban area and at a nice school populated primarily by whites to get the flag flown at half-staff when you die?  Does your life have more value if it's lost on the same day as others rather than being lost across the course of 30 days?  Or, perhaps we should consider the other children who are (legally) murdered each and every day in their own mother's womb...3500 at a time.  That's 129.6 Sandy Hook's each and every day.  I think the flags should be flown at half-staff each and every day until this holocaust is stopped.

In the obsessive coverage of last week's event much ink was spilled (or pixels populated) with coverage on the President's teary-eyed speech about the lost children.  But, pardon me if I'm not moved by this.  This is a President whose convention was practically a whose who of NARAL supporters, a President who voted to let abortion survivors die on the table, and a President who seems to care only for children who are wanted.  That's what it is, isn't it?  The kids in Newtown were wanted, those who are aborted are not.  Why the outrage about the massacre of the former and not the latter?  I'd prefer to be outraged at each, anything else seems hypocritical.

Friday, November 30, 2012

7 Things to Look for When You're Looking for a Church

After a rather lengthy 3 month hiatus from the blogosphere (which, of course, I am a vital member of!) I have returned to offer a few brief thoughts on something that's been on my mind lately.

I seem to have had an unusual amount of conversations recently with people who are looking for a church to attend.  For a variety of reasons: recent move, discontent at previous location, etc., these people have been "in the market" (I feel dirty even thinking in those terms) for a new church-home.  Consider this my advice to those seekers (present and future) as they look for a place to worship the Living God. 

1.  If possible, take a look at your previous church one more time.  Maybe you've moved, maybe your previous church was a cult, maybe something else just as obvious has made it so you can't go back, if so then ignore this.  But, perhaps you were a bit hasty in leaving.  Perhaps you lacked patience with your pastor, with the youth pastor, with the leadership, or even with yourself.  It's no small thing to break fellowship with your former church and it's usually worth a second look to see if the problem is in the mirror. 

2.  Look for the Word.  Is it preached (and to the lost as well!)?  Is it believed?  Is it held in the highest esteem?  Is it known by the pastor, the people, the elders?  If you're at a church service and the Word seems to be an after thought or an inconvenience...GET OUT OF THERE!  There are a lot of things you should be willing to sacrifice in order to sit under the faithful preaching of the Word week-in and week-out.

3.  Ask about the church's beliefs concerning discipline and the sacraments.  Do they practice discipline or the sacraments?  What kind of accountability will they offer you and how will they shepherd you if you put down roots among their congregation? 

4.  Look for a praying church.  Churches can have charismatic preachers, wonderful music, incredible programs, and all other manner of attractions, but if there's not's time to keep looking.  If you want to grow, if you want your family to grow, and if you want to be part of a community of faith that is going to remain faithful to the Lord you need to be at a praying church.

5.  Look for a Reformed church.  I don't mean an RCA church (although some fit the bill), but a church that holds faithfully to the Reformed faith.  The best way to find this is to ask a leader in the church what confessions they use as a church and whether they actually believe what is contained in those confessions.  Don't be afraid to ask specific questions about election, creation, the virgin birth, the atonement, etc.  Again, it's worth sacrificing a bit in terms of music or programing if it means that you'll learn what the Bible actually teaches.  If you're not sure where to start looking sometimes a few minutes on the church-search engine of a faithful denomination is time well spent.

6.  Look for a church that exhibits a gracious and Christ-exalting spirit.  When you visit do you leave feeling edified?  Do you feel like the people really love the Lord and one another? 

7.  Is the church humble?  No one wants to go to a church where you're just another number, at perhaps just another campus, for a big-shot pastor to use to boost his ego and book sales.  Does the church care about faithful fruitfulness, does it care about reaching the lost, does it care about confessing sin (corporate and personal), and do you get the impression that the church exists for God's glory as opposed to the glory of men?  This is not to say that large churches can't be humble, they can!  It's simply to warn against the attraction to big-this, and grand-that, only later to be disillusioned by the devastating realization that you're part of a production masquerading as the church.

So, there you have it.  You have something to add?  Put it in the comments section. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are You Living Like Death is Coming?

Last week Friday was the 8th anniversary of a pretty somber day in my life.  8 years ago I was sitting at home with my parents in Wisconsin preparing to return to Northwestern College for my sophomore year when my phone rang with the news: my friend from camp had just been killed in a car accident.  Just like *that* it had happened.  There was no warning, no impending sickness, no chance to say a final "goodbye"...nothing.  

So every year around Aug. 17th I see a flurry of Facebook posts and I remember back to that summer and then, inevitably, I think about death.

I'm a pastor so I think I tend to deal with death more than the average person.  It's not unusual for me to be at a person's home within minutes of their passing and so I am often able to see past the sterilized and cleaned up view of death we get from the morticians.  And yet, even with this familiarity, I can't say that I'm entirely comfortable with death.  It's unnatural, it just feels wrong to me.  It's as if every time I see a person whose soul has departed the body I think to myself, "it's just not supposed to be this way."  And, of course, it's not.  Death was not an original part of creation, it is a result of our rebellion against God. 

But, natural or not, there is no getting around the fact that apart from the return of Christ during our lifetime (a post for another day!) we're all going to die.  The Scriptures don't mince words about it, that's for sure. James says, "You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." (4:14) The Psalmist says, "Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow." (144:4)  The idea in both testaments is clear: life is short and death is certain and nearer than it seems.  It's good for us to realize this.  So often, particularly among younger people (I would include myself in that category), life is lived as if we're immortal.  But the truth is that we're going to die.  One day the brain stops functioning, the heart stops beating, the muscles stop twitching, and the soul departs.  The question is not if this will happen...but whether you are prepared for it to happen and whether you will live in light of this reality.

The time will come when your sports triumphs will not matter.  The time will come when your checking account will not matter.  The time will come when your Facebook friends won't be your Facebook friends anymore and your job won't be your job anymore.  The time comes when all that we have in this life is stripped away and only one thing remains.  That one thing is faith.  Did you know Christ and trust him completely to forgive your sins and deliver you blameless before the Lord on the Day of Judgment?  If so, you are well prepared for death.  If not, you have an opportunity to repent and turn to Christ now but you never know when there will be no further opportunity to do so.

But for those of us who are in Christ through faith how do we live now in light of the certainty of our eventual death?  Well, our chief aim in life ought not to be success in the worldly sense.  Why would we invest in things that don't ultimately matter?  Our chief aim in all of life should be to glorify God and enjoy him.  This, after all, does not end in death but we as glorified saints will glorify and enjoy God forever.  Consider Paul's words as wisdom for those who want to live in light of their own mortality, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31)  How does a person who knows that this life is not all there is live?  That person lives to the glory of God in all things.

Friday, August 17, 2012


"There's GOLD in 'dem 'der hills!"   I've heard this phrase a few times in reference to a variety of books or resources.  Always the implication is that beneath the rough exterior is immense wealth.  And so it is with the Reformed Confessions.  I grew up in a Reformed Church (RCA), went through catechism class, and even watched a video series on the Belgic Confession in high school.  Yet, somehow, very little of it stuck.  I was a practical Arminian until I came under a number of strong Reformed influences during my seminary career.  (Yes, I just admitted that when I first went to seminary I was largely Arminian.  Let's move on...) 

Early in my time in seminary my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) encouraged me to think more carefully about Ephesians and what Paul says there, my own study of Scripture left me constantly with the feeling of "God can't really be like that, can he?", and then I began to look at the Reformed Confessions and my mind (and heart!) were changed.  It took time for the change to mature.  I left Western Seminary (which, consequently, did not contribute to the reformation of my mind), and ended up at Reformed Theological Seminary where so much of this teaching truly took root deep within my soul.  I'm not a rich man, but I have the richest theological tradition in the world.  Can you ask for more?

Not Reformed?  I'd like to challenge you to do something, something I wish I had done many years before I did!  Read the confessions (Heidelberg, Belgic, Dort) and read them with an open mind.  Read the Scripture references that are littered all over the page.  Read them for what they say, see how they see Scripture as one story of one God's work of redemption of his one chosen people.  See how it fits together in harmonic unity in a way that no other understanding of the Bible fits together. And as you do ask yourself, "Is this faithful to the word of God?  Is this what Scripture teaches?"  For me the answer is an unconditional, "Absolutely!"   

Here's a link to the book.
It's not a beautiful book but, besides the Scriptures themselves, it's the richest read you're ever going to find.   There's GOLD in 'dem 'der hills!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Work and Worship '12

As some of you may know I am have recently returned from an 11 day trip to New Mexico with a group from the church here in Baileyville.  While we were away we served a Native American church in Mescalero pastored by Bob Schut.  You can see his mission profile here.

We did a lot of very exciting things.  We climbed a mountain and a canyon, we worked with youth groups, we burned our mouths on spicy Mexican food, we drove around picking kids up in vans for church, we dug holes and filled them with poles, we dug up concrete and laid new concrete, we stuccoed windows, played 4-square, and we replaced a door.  But, my highlight of the week was our nightly devotional times.

During our nightly devotional times we studied the book of Colossians together.  We nearly finished--the only part we didn't cover was the final greetings section.  It was a great encouragement to see some of the older members of the church and the younger people of the church interacting with the Word together each day.  Every morning we had 1 hour that we spent in personal study during which time we read the passage 3 times and went through a study sheet that I had prepared in advance.  Then at night we discussed it together.  It was encouraging to see the fruit of the study and to see the young and the old growing together as the body of Christ.  In our time together we talked about some tough stuff and we had some time to laugh and all-in-all I thought it was a very beneficial Christ-exalting and God-glorifying experience.  

My recommendation to anyone who might consider a mission trip in the future is to make sure that you're carving significant time each day for individual and group study of the Word.  If you build the best building, and pave the biggest parking lot, and have the most fun, but don't grow in Christ you've not really accomplished all that much.  

We termed our trip a "Work and Worship Trip" instead of the typical "Mission Trip" designation.  I think we lived up the billing, praise the Lord!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Evangelism Part 3: Josh Page

Today is the final installment of our short series on Evangelism.  Thanks to Josh for being willing to edify us and encourage us through his writing.  If you're looking for encouragement as you seek to grow in your faith I recommend looking him up on Facebook.

I want to share one story with you from a few years ago that I find to be so encouraging. It testifies to the fact that God orders our steps.

Just after I started sharing my faith regularly, I moved to Philadelphia for a summer. I was involved in a solid local church ministry and was able to learn how ministry is done in an urban setting.
One particular day I was supposed to go to a brother's home for a barbeque in the afternoon but I felt the Lord impress on my heart not to go. I instead went downtown and witnessed for a while and then went into a hotel lobby to read the Word.

As I was reading my Bible, I was suddenly very burdened to go to New York City and share the Gospel. It was already around 5 in the afternoon and I knew that if I were to go to New York I would need to stay the night and I couldn't afford that. I prayed for a while to make sure this was the Lord leading me and not my flesh. God reminded me of what He told Joshua, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

About 45 minutes later I was on a China Town bus filled with Chinese people en-route to New York City! When we arrived 2 and a half hours later, I was dropped off somewhere in lower Manhattan so I walked to the waterside overlooking New Jersey and spent some time in prayer. It was a beautiful evening and the sun was just going down.

After praying for the Lord to give me boldness and direction, I found a couple named Torio and Tamara who were taking a walk and enjoying the sunset. They were both young and very friendly. After some small talk for a few minutes, I asked them where they would go if they died today. They both agreed they would go to Heaven because they are good people. That is a very common lie from the enemy. So I walked them through the 10 Commandments to show them their sin and their need for the Savior and then shared the Good News of what God has done for us. They were very attentive and appreciated our conversation.

I caught a subway to Times Square and began witnessing to all kinds of people from all around the world. It’s amazing how many people you can meet in one evening in one city! After hours of great conversations with people, sometime around 3 in the morning I struck up a conversation with a man in an alleyway. He wanted nothing to do with me and told me to leave him alone, so I began to walk away but as I turned around to leave he called for me to come back over to him. I didn’t know what to expect! He asked me, "Okay, what question were you going to ask me?" Startled, I began to witness to him and we ended up having an amazing conversation. 30 minutes later he said to me, "Josh, you have no idea how much this conversation means to me. Your trip to New York City was not in vain!" I was stunned. As he was saying those words, I heard someone call out from behind us, "Josh?!!" I turned around and it was Torio, the boyfriend from the couple I had spoken with at the beginning of the night! This was 8 hours later and more than 60 blocks up-town in a city of hundreds of thousands of people!

It turned out that Torio happened to be playing in a band at a club nearby. We got to continue our conversation where we had left off back in lower Manhattan. He was shocked that God had crossed our paths again - So was I!

Just a few hours later I walked past the ABC studios where they film Good Morning America. I could see they were setting up for the show which would begin in an hour, so I went over and watched them get ready. A line soon formed to get in the building and be a part of the live audience. All of the people in line had reserved tickets months in advance to be a part of the show and were excited to be on television. After a period of waiting, a woman who worked for ABC came out of the studio and collected tickets and gave instructions to the audience members. She noticed that I didn’t have a ticket as she walked past and asked if I had reserved one. I told her I was just there to watch from the outside if that was okay. She said to me, "You know what? You're the only one here without a ticket and we have space inside so we'll go ahead and let you be a part of the show!" I was amazed! I went inside with the group and we were able to be on television several times throughout the show. Kevin Costner was the guest that morning so the ladies behind me were very excited!

At the end of the show they give you the opportunity to meet and take pictures with the news anchors and guests. I really wanted to share the Gospel with them since God obviously wanted me to be there that morning, so I waited until every member of the audience had gone up and met the anchors and taken pictures. Once everyone had left, I walked up to Diane Sawyer and gave her a tract booklet and got to share the Gospel for a few minutes with her and the Good Morning America weather man! It was such a blessing!

God truly orders our steps. Both mine and yours!  Today He has placed specific people on our path that we have the privilege of sharing the Gospel with. It is simply a matter of obeying the Lord. We must recognize that time is very short and people are perishing, and we must understand that God has called us to share His Gospel with them.

The Lord is with you today, friend. Go find someone and share the message of salvation. This Gospel message is urgent and is backed by the power of God.

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16  Let us not be ashamed!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Evangelism Part 2: Josh Page

Today continues our 3 post series on evangelism by Josh Page.  You can find Josh on facebook for regular updates and insights on preaching to the lost. 
One day I went out from my campus in absolute fear and I found a woman waiting at a bus stop for her son. With trembling hands I gave her a gospel tract and stuttered my way through the Gospel as best I could. It went well actually and to my surprise, she thanked me for stopping to talk with her. I thought to myself, “Okay, I can do this!” But when I walked away and found other people along the path, it seemed that every conversation turned out to be awful. I was so discouraged and walked back to campus with my head down. I resolved I would never share my faith with a stranger again. I was certainly not called to this ministry.

All week long while I refused to witness to the lost, the Lord convicted me that people are going to Hell and that I have the very message that can save them from His wrath but I will not share it for fear of man. When I could take His conviction no longer, I marched off my campus and went back onto the streets in fear and found some more lost souls. I was rejected some and encouraged some, but this time I did not stop! I had a fresh sense of God’s presence about me. I knew that He was pleased that I was stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing His Son with the lost. This compelled me to continue daily. I knew that He was with me always even to the end of the age and I knew that my labor in the Lord was not in vain.

It is five years later now and by God’s grace I share my faith everywhere I go with as many people as I can every day. I am more sobered by the reality of Hell and I am more broken for the lost and zealous for the Lord than ever in my life.

Paul said in Philemon, “I pray that you would be more active in sharing your faith so that you may have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (Philemon 6) Isn’t that interesting? We have a more full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ the more that we share our faith!

The Gospel is a treasure of infinite value - When we share this treasure with those who do not have it, it becomes more precious to us!

I am always encouraged when I read the book of Acts and see how passionate the early Church was to preach the Gospel. It wasn’t just the apostles who were preaching the Gospel daily, but the normal-everyday Christian folk as well. When Saul came on the scene to persecute the Church in Acts 8, Luke tells us that all except the apostles were scattered and they preached the Word wherever they went! These people had something special - the Good News and a really clear command from the Giver of the Good News to go and preach it to all creation - and so they did! Guess what? We have the same thing they did. Hallelujah!

I am amazed at the excuses I made for so many years to not share my faith. Every one of those excuses completely crumbles to pieces underneath the weight of God’s Word.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Evangelism: Josh Page (Part 1)

Today begins a short series by a (Facebook) friend of mine, Josh Page.  Josh lives in Clearwater Florida and is an evangelist.  I asked him to write for me so that he might inspire in us a desire to reach the lost with the message of salvation that we hold so dear.  You'll have to tune in the next couple days to get installments two and three!
God is good and everything He does is good!

I grew up in a difficult home having two 2 handicapped brothers. My mom and dad divorced when I was young and my mom was an alcoholic. When I was nine years old she was taken away from my brothers and I due to her addiction.

During this painful time I hated God and my family. I couldn’t understand why a good God would allow bad things to happen to “good” people. When I looked around the neighborhood and saw selfish and greedy kids whose lives were so easy I couldn’t understand why God would allow them to be so happy. It made me mad.

I had gone to church as a child and knew many of the Bible stories but I had not been born-again.
Thankfully, before my great-grandmother went to be with the Lord, she gave me a bible for my birthday and I began to read it daily. There was something about this Book that I could not put down.
At some point before my freshman year in high school I came to a very startling realization: I understood that I was sinful! For the first time in my life, I saw myself in the mirror of God’s Law and realized that I was completely guilty before a holy God and that I had nothing good to offer Him. I had turned my back on the very One who gave me life. I had violated every one of His laws and I knew without a doubt that no amount of good works would erase my sin against Him. I was in great danger of falling under His wrath.

I was overjoyed to hear and understand the Good News of what God did for sinners – that God Himself became a man, Jesus Christ, and lived a perfect life in our place; that He died a criminal’s death, though He was completely sinless, to pay for our sins in His own blood that was shed on the cross and that He was buried and three days later rose from the dead defeating death and Hell, and that if I would repent of my sin and place my trust in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation, God would forgive me of all my sins and grant me the gift of everlasting life!

I cried out to God for His mercy with a broken heart and He saved me! He cleansed me from my all sin. Immediately I had a deep love for my family and for other people. I had an incredible hunger for God’s Word and prayer. I delighted in escaping to the Nevada deserts and fields, where I lived, to pray.

A few years later I moved to Florida to begin Christian college. It was while I was in college that God birthed within me a deep brokenness for the lost.

One afternoon in college, I realized that outside of the four walls of my campus there are literally thousands of people who do not know Jesus and who are headed straight for Hell and I wasn’t saying anything to any of them. I always thought that evangelism was a gift that God only gave certain people, but the more I read the Word the more I realized that this was merely an excuse to not obey the Lord in the Great Commission. The “gift” is God’s Son and those who have His Son are now called to share Him with the world! We are all commanded to go into the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. We are Christ’s ambassadors. What a privilege!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Theology of Suffering

People suffer.  It's just that simple.  No matter how wealthy you are you can never fully insulate yourself from suffering.  Whether it's the senseless tragedy of a movie theater shooting or the death of a child or the typical decay of an aging body we all suffer.

The question for today is, "why do Christians suffer?"  Think about this.  Christ loves his church, the church was predestined from before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Spirit dwells in the church, and yet even though the Lord loves his church so dearly (even at the expense of his own life) still it suffers.  Why?

I found this answer from John Piper in his essay, Preaching to Suffering People, to be particularly helpful in answering that question.

Suffering will come to believers.  It must come.  It is part of their calling.  In Philippians 1:29, Paul tells the entire church in Philippi, "To you it has been granted for Christ's sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake."  This is a gift from God to all believers.  We are appointed to suffer.  "You yourselves know that we have been destined for this" (1 Thess. 3:3).  We are preaching to disciples of Jesus, not disciples of Hugh Hefner.  "Can we wish, if it were possible, to walk in a path strewed with flowers when His was strewed with thorns?"

If we are to glorify God in our lives that means we must be able to see suffering as a God given opportunity to make his name great.  We see our suffering as a chance to find strength in God's strength when ours is gone.  We see suffering as an opportunity to rejoice in the majesty of God and the new creation that awaits us on that Day.  We must see suffering as opportunity and not accident.  There are no accidents in God's universe.  There is no room for open-theism in biblical Christianity.  There is sin, there is suffering, and there is strife.  But these are opportunities to turn to the sinless one, to look the God who is good even in our suffering, and to long for a day when all strife has ceased.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Church-His Body

"And he is the head of the body, the church."  (Colossians 1:18)

I want to ask and answer and explore one very simple question: what happens when a body part is severed from the rest of the body and subsequently from its head?

The obvious answer is that it dies.  If I were to cut off a finger today it would die, it would certainly not be able to move on its own, sustain its own life, or prevent the decaying of the flesh. 

So, what happens when a person chooses to separate from the body of Christ, his church?  If the metaphor holds up then the answer is the same, death.  Apart from a connection to the body a member of the body will cease to live.  So it holds true with members of the church.  A member of the church who is cut off from the church will cease to live. 

What are some ways that a person may be cut off from the church and from Christ?

The first way, and the most common way in my context, is to voluntarily disassociate with the body of Christ in the local context.  Many people claim Christ, claim to be students of the Scriptures, claim to pray, and yet do not worship with the church.  They are "spiritual" and spiritually isolated at the same time.  Hebrews warns us against such behavior, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  Separation from the body leads to death.  Separation from Christ's body leads to separation from Christ and spiritual death.  If you have separated from the church it is time to repent and be reunited with Christ through his body.  (Hebrews 10:25)

The second way to be cut off from Christ and his church is through theological heresy.  In Colossians two Paul deals with this very thing.  Paul is contesting the claims of false teachers who are trying to blend superstition with Jewish practices and Christ to form some sort of hybrid super religion.  But, Paul says, in reality they are cut off from Christ the head.  "He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow." (v.19)  They jettisoned the gospel in favor of tradition and superstitions.  Today many people jettison the gospel for all kinds of reasons.  Be sure that the biblical Christ is always at the forefront of your faith.

How can you remain connected to the body and connected to Christ?  Become and remain a member of a faithful, bible believing, Christ exalting, gospel loving, theologically rich congregation.  Make sure your pastor hasn't jettisoned core components of the Christian faith (think of the Apostles Creed or justification by faith) and make sure that you remain firmly connected to the body through worship, prayer, and fellowship with the saints.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Christ the Head

Today begins a two-part series on Christ as the head and the church as the body. 

The Scriptures use many many metaphors.  Believers are called sheep, Peter is the rock, the disciples become fishers of men, marriage is a metaphor for Christ and the church, those who hear the gospel are compared to differing kinds of soils, Jesus is the good shepherd, etc.  Today and tomorrow I want to look at a metaphor that Paul employs in his epistle to the Colossians; the metaphor of Christ as head and the church as body.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:15-18NIV)

What does it mean that Christ is the head of his church?  We'll look today at the authority and primacy of the head in the body.  Tomorrow will be more application of the principles we look at today.

The head serves to foster the growth and life of the body.  Christ grows his church (contrary to the theories of many from the 90's) and it is by his initiative and his will that his body grows and increases in life.  Jesus says to Peter, "On this rock I will build my church."  (Matthew 16:18)

The head also controls the actions body and is in authority over it.  When the body acts independent of the commands of the head we consider that to be a disease.  Perhaps Parkinson's is the best example of this.  The body works best when it submits to and is coordinated by its head.  So too with Christ and the church.  The church works best, or perhaps only truly works, when it is submitting to Christ.  Our ever action should be informed and led by Christ through his word and Spirit.  All that we do should be held against the command he has given us to make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28)

The head also sustains the life that is within the body.  While the beating of a heart, the secretion of essential horomones, and the regeneration of cells is not a voluntary endeavor we know that the head is responsible to regulating all such actions.  So too, once again, with the church.  The church ceases to be the church when Christ no longer supports her.  If Jesus were to remove himself from the church the church would die.  It is he who gives her life, breath, and a beating heart.  Without Christ we are nothing.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

God Uses Clay Pots

John MacArthur on the men God uses to lead his people:

Preachers are men--that's all.  And men are not perfect, so there is no hope of perfection in ministry...Abraham was guilty of duplicity, yet he became the man of faith and the friend of God.  Moses was a man of stuttering speech and a quick temper, yet he was the one chosen to lead a nation, to represent them before God, and to receive His law and deliver it to them.  David was guilty of adultery, conspiracy, murder, and unfaithfulness as a husband and father, but he repented and was regarded as a man after God's own heart.  He was also the greatest songwriter of all history.  W still sing the songs of this 'sweet singer of Israel.'  Elijah ran from Jezebel, pleading for euthanasia, but this same Elijah defied Ahab and all the prophets of Baal, and hear the still small voice of God at Horeb.  In the midst of the heavenly vision, Isaiah said, 'I am a man with a dirty mouth; I live among people with dirty mouths.  I'm certainly useless to you, O God.' But when he had been cleansed, he said, 'Here I am; send me, ' and God said, 'Go.' 

Peter was another clay pot, the leader and spokesman of the twelve apostles, but he denied his Lord with oaths and curses, and even had the audacity to correct the Lord.  However, he was restored by the compassion of Jesus in the midst of his disobedience, and was enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit to speak with such force on the day of Pentecost as to be the agent by which God orchestrated the great introduction of the church.  John the apostle expected to be praised by Jesus for refusing to allow a man not of their company to cast out demons in the name of the Lord.  Likewise, he and his brother James wanted to call down fire from heaven and burn up a Samaritan village, and they sent their motherto ask that they might be given the chief places in the kingdom.  Yet John became the beloved disciple, the apostle of love, the eagle who soared to great heights.  He became, it seems, the apostle who pierced the deepest into the mystery of the incarnation.

Are you seeing a pattern?

God's leaders are mere mortals and each of them has sin in their lives.  Yet, by God's grace, they are called to lead his people.  Expect faithfulness from them and do not tolerate grave error, but also be quick to forgive and to give grace.  Those of us who are called to lead bear a great responsibility and the load is lighter if those whom we serve make bearing it a joy.  "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." (Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

Monday, July 30, 2012


This week I'm going with a group of people from our church here in Baileyville down to Mescalero, New Mexico.  There's an RCA church in Mescalero that was planted among the Apache tribe there in 1907.  Here's a fun-fact that many of you may not have known: the RCA has been a leading denomination in reaching Native Americans with the gospel.  In fact the famous chief, Geronimo, was a member in the Reformed Church, although his conversion seemed to waver as you can read here.  I'll be excited to partner with such a historic and important ministry.

We'll be there for about seven days and, Lord willing, we hope to get a lot accomplished in our time there.  We'll be painting, doing concrete work, pulling down trees, and installing some windows from what it sounds like and I'm sure other things will come up.  There's also a couple opportunities to be involved in youth groups and women's bible studies that we hope to take advantage of.

But, we also hope to do a good amount of worship as well.  It is my hope that each member of the trip will come back being genuinely and sustainably nearer to the Lord.  We'll be studying the whole book of Colossians and we'll be spending a good amount of time talking together about the Lord, his gospel, and its impact on our lives.

Pray for our group, if you would.  Pray that we are kept safe, that we truly do serve the mission needs of the Mescalero Reformed Church, and that we grow in our love for the Lord.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Boice on the Essential Nature of Preaching

James Montgomery Boice on the essential nature of preaching for the health and growth of a church: 

"Many things are talked about as necessary for the health and growth of the church today.  People talk about certain programs as essential.  It is true that they are important.  We have such a diversified culture that people have their own individual problems.  The family is fragmented, and the kind of reinforcement along Christian lines that ought to take place in homes does not always take place.  The church is trying to minister specifically at these points through programs.  Still, if you think back to the time of the Great Awakening in this country, you will realize that churches at that time had hardly any programs at all, at least nothing that we would recognize as programs.  There were no youth groups, no graded Sunday schools, no bowling leagues, no baseball teams.  But those churches were healthy.  Why?  Because they had the faithful preaching of the Word."

How many of us would consider a church with faithful preaching and with no Sunday school, no programs, no youth group a successful church? 

The apostles had no Sunday school, no programs, and no youth group, but they had the Spirit and the Word and their churches were on fire for the Lord.

Food for thought about our priorities and the measure of our success.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Missional Church?

The word "missional" has been very in vogue in recent years.  It doesn't matter if you're a liberal or an evangelical, baptist, reformed, arminian, or calvinist you can embrace the word missional.  Perhaps that's part of the appeal of the word.  I'm sure that's part of its appeal in my denomination, the RCA.  We like it because we can each make it mean what we want and speak the same language while remaining distinct in the manifestation of our missionality.

But, personally, I'm not one to go for "container" words.  By container words I mean words that sound nice but are actually quite empty and allow you to fill them with your own meaning.  Missional is the paradigmatic container word.  A word that can mean so many different things to so many different people is not one that I'm prone to put a whole lot of trust in.

Matthew 28:18-20 is the beginning and the end of the discussion on the mission of the church.  "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in teh name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'"

If your view of missional has this in mind then let's join hands in the labor of the Lord, brother.  If not, then even if we use the same words we're not really speaking the same language.

Does Matthew 28 exhaust the idea of mission?  No.  But, if your idea of mission falls outside of those bounds you can be sure that it's not mission.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Abortion: The American Holocaust

We live in the time of a horrible holocaust.  In less than 40 years over fifty million babies have been murdered in their own mother's wombs.  That's 50,000,000.  1...2...3...4...5...6...7...50,000,000.  Perhaps our outrage isn't kindled because we can't wrap our minds around that number, or perhaps it's because the people that are killed are rarely seen.  See the facts and get a link to the Guttmacher PDF here.

But, according to the Guttmacher Institute (Planned Parenthood's policy wing) one in five conceived children are murdered in the womb.  1...2...3...4...dead.  John...Ben...Suzie...Betty...Cindy.  See that stat here.

Let me recommend a movie to watch.  Perhaps you're pro-life and you want some motivation, watch this.  Perhaps you're on the fence or you've never really thought about the issue, watch this. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Synod '13: The Final Vote

An insight on the BCO for my RCA brothers and sisters:

As many of you know the so called "conscience clauses" are on the chopping block.  The CC's are provisions in the RCA's Book of Church Order that forbid a couple of things from happening.  First, the clauses forbid those opposed to the ordination of women to obstruct by unconstitutional means the ordination of women in the RCA.  Second, the clauses forbid those who support women's ordination from disciplining those who object due to their interpretation of Scripture. 

There is a three step process for this removal to occur:
The first vote to strike them down occurred this past June at General Synod 2012.  The proposal to remove the clauses from the BCO needed to obtain a 50%+1 vote and it cleared that hurdle with ease. 

Now the vote goes to the classes (see: presbyteries) where 2/3 of them need to vote to approve the removal for this vote to return to General Synod 2013 for another vote.  There are 45 classes so the proposed elimination requires approval by 30 of them.  It is my guess that the 30 vote threshold will be met.  I believe this for a number of reasons, but that's a post for another day.

Then the issue returns to General Synod 2013 for another vote requiring 50%+1.

Here's the insight I wanted to get to.  Let's say for the sake of the argument that the 30 classis requirement is met.  In this case it returns, once more, for final approval at the next General Synod.  This requirement is found in the very last section of the General Synod section of the BCO.  The problem here is that, as of late, there has been a very significant misunderstanding of this final vote.  At this past synod the president of the synod opined that this vote was nothing more than a certification that the proper process was followed and that the two-thirds classis vote was achieved.  However, she was not in-line in making this assertion.  Certainly you can find that mindset stated nowhere in the BCO itself and Dr. Allan Janssen speaks directly contrary to that in his commentary on the BCO.

"The second synod's action is a 'declarative resolution.'  Too often, that has been taken to be little more than a ratification of the broader church's wisdom as reflected by the vote of the classes.  The declarative resolution should not, however, be viewed as a mere formality.  The wording of this section makes clear that the second synod's action is taken 'at it's discretion,' and that it 'may' make its declarative action.  Thus, the order allows for second thought on the part of the synod.  The final vote remains the responsibility of that assembly and ought not to be taken lightly."  (p.260)

If, as I expect, the classes vote to approve it would serve us well to keep this in mind and to come prepared ready to make a full (and better!) defense of the clauses at General Synod 2013.  At the very least we should be prepared to set the record straight on the responsibility of the second synod in the decision making process.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

50 Shades of Prey (Doug Wilson and More)

Pastor Doug Wilson has written a very sound critique of the reprehensible bestselling book, "50 Shades of Grey".  I would highly encourage you to read it here

The gist of the review is that abuse of women is never okay whether they "volunteered" for it or not.  If you were to ask the average woman on the street, "when is it okay to hit a woman?" I'm sure that the overwhelming answer would be, "NEVER!"  Then, if I may ask, why are so many women falling head-over-heels for this book? 

For a short synopsis of the main dynamic between the characters check out this portion of the book.

"I don't want to lose him. In spite of all his demands, his need to control, his scary vices, I have never felt as alive as I do now. It's a thrill to be sitting here beside him. He's so unpredictable, sexy, smart, and funny. But his moods... oh -- and he wants to hurt me" (Fifty Shades, p. 259).

In response to this section Doug Wilson responds, "Yeah, well, there's that. 'Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?'"

As an evangelical reformed Christian with a robust view of biblical manhood and womanhood this kind of putrid nonsense attacks the very core of what I believe the relationship between a man and a woman ought to be.  A man should never do anything to harm a woman: not in the kitchen, not in the living room, and not in the bedroom.  A man's (a husband's) role is to serve and to love as Jesus served and loved the church even giving his own life for her.  Jesus does not dominate the church, he does not abuse the church, and he does not make unreasonable demands from the church; neither should any man do those things to his wife.

Women, do yourselves a favor; if you're tempted to reach for a book like this, don't.  Reach for a Gospel.  See in Christ how a woman should  be treated.  Don't read something that encourages creeps to turn you into an object for sadistic pleasure.  Read the word of life that encourages men to love you with divine love.

Men, do yourself and your wife/daughters a favor; don't let that trash into your house.  Don't let that sort of thing infiltrate their minds.  Exercise your God-given responsibility to guard your home and by your own example show the very foolishness and backwardness of a book like 50 Shades of Prey.

Monday, July 23, 2012

MMQ: Mad @ God

Yesterday's text was Matthew 12:9-14. It is copied below for your convenience.

This is round two in Jesus' fight with the Pharisees over the Sabbath in Mth. 12. In verse 13 he heals the man's crippled hand, by the power of God, before their very eyes in open defiance against their trumped up hypocritical interpretation of the Lord's Sabbath command. Here's what I had to say about it yesterday morning.

And now you would suspect that the Pharisees would have a time of serious self-inspection. You would think that they would go away pondering why it was that Jesus was vindicated before their very eyes. You would think that they would go away wondering if he was right about their hypocrisy. I mean, c’mon, you’d have to be absolutely mad not to at least consider what you’ve seen and heard. But, that’s exactly what they are…they’re mad. They’re not a drool on yourself, repeat yourself, talk gibberish, and think you’re Blackbeard the pirate kind of mad. They’re worse. They’re a hate God kind of mad. They’re a “I refuse to be wrong even when I am clearly wrong” kind of mad. They’re stubborn and proud and no matter what the evidence may say they will not accept that they have been wrong. And if they can’t trap Jesus and if they can’t confuse Jesus and if they can’t stop Jesus, by George, then they’ll kill him.
Verse 14 says, “But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus."

This reminds me of the 5th question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism. The Catechism asks if it is possible to keep the law perfectly and responds, "No. I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor." Certainly the Pharisees exemplify here those natural tendencies that reside within ever fallen sinful human heart.


9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sin Unleashed

Tragedy can be horribly confusing.  "Why did this happen?" is a common question.  Certainly that question is going to be asked frequently in light of the movie theatre shooting in Aurora Colorado yesterday.  The Fox News headline reads "horrific attack came out of nowhere."  Why did it come at all?

James Egan Holmes has no criminal record, only one traffic ticket, and gave no one any reason to think that he was capable of something like this.  He was a good student, a quiet and easy going neighbor, and apparently he's a mass murderer. 

I'm sure many more details will come out as the police disarm the bombs and booby traps from his apartment, as detectives uncover every shred of evidence, as the media dissects his life, and as t.v. shrinks hypothesize about his innermost motivations and thoughts.  But the one truth that can't be found in an apartment or on a transcript or through interviews is the one that offers the most insight.  James Egan Holmes was a sinner and for whatever reason the sinful inclinations of his unrepentant and unconverted heart were unleashed on those unsuspecting people in Aurora. 

Bad things happen for many reasons and yet for just one reason.  Evil exists because we're part of a world in rebellion against God.

We need a savior, James Holmes needs a savior, let's pray that the savior reveals himself to this sin sick sinner.

Let's also pray for the victims who are still with us, pray for the families of those who died, and praise the Lord that he restrains sin to the extent that events like this are as rare as they are.  We long for a world where this sort of thing never happens, we long for the New Earth, come Lord Jesus.

Friday, July 20, 2012

America's Chicken Sandwich

I love Chick-fil-A.  Their sandwiches are scrumptous, their employees are polite ("my pleasure"), their bathrooms are clean, and they're closed on Sundays.  They're also about to go through a very rough patch.

This week the president of Chick-fil-A stepped on a cultural landmine.  “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.” ~ Dan Cathy, President, Chick-fil-A

Anyone who pays attention to anything knows that this is the hot-button issue in the church and culture-at-large today, I'm sure Dan Cathy was aware of that when he said what he did. 

Now, I don't believe in "Christian businesses", I'm quite sure there won't be Chick-fil-A in heaven (although their food is heavenly), and corporations aren't converted, justified, and glorified.  But, I do believe that the church should impact and influence culture in many ways with business being one of them.  I'm happy to see a company run on Christian principles such as Lord's Day observance and support for biblical marriage in our day.

Unfortunately, many in our nation don't share this appreciation and Chick-fil-A is about to feel the wrath of the world, and I hope it's up to the task.  They're going to be boycotted, picketed, kicked off university campuses, advertised against, banned from sponsorship, and the list goes on.  There will be (it's probably already begun) a full blown culture-war against Chick-fil-A.

I'd like to help ease the fury about to be unleashed and here's a suggestion from Bryan Fischer from American Family Radio.  "Fortunately, there is a way for defenders of the family to show their support in tangible ways: let’s buy Chick-fil-A out of every last one of their chicken sandwiches. You’ll like ‘em (you better believe I will!), they’ll just make more, Dan Cathy will thank you, and what the gay lobby intends for evil will be turned by values-driven Americans into something good. Let’s make Chick-fil-A America’s official chicken chain."

Thursday, July 19, 2012


In doing my exegesis on Matthew 12:9-14 I came across this bit of analytical genius from an unlikely source.

9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What's in the Heart Comes to Mind

It's funny what we think of sometimes, isn't it? 

I remember when I was younger one of my least favorite things to do was to watch my younger brother's soccer games.  Besides the fact that I understood very little about the game I was convinced (by plenty of evidence!) that he cared more about the dandelions at his feet than he did for the ball.  When I was playing youth baseball a number of years later we lost a game (in part) because the second basemen was daydreaming and totally missed a ball that fell right behind him...he hadn't even seen it coming, he was writing the name of his crush in the dirt by the base.  What compels us to think of these things?  I like to think that my brother was as bored by soccer as I am (he'll deny it!).  The young second baseman did what many guys do...he daydreamed about girls. 

But, just the other day I had an unusual experience of my own.  I was sick last Tuesday night.  I came down with a very violent case of the stomach flu and spent most of 8 hours in the bathroom doing what sick people do.  It was miserable: I was dehydrated, physically exhausted, sick, running a fever, I had hot sweats and cold sweats, I was in really really rough shape.  And at about 2:30 in the morning in the midst of one of the worst episodes of the evening something came to my head and I began to sing.  "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you."  And even in the midst of my misery there was comfort in the word of the Lord.

Check out this song.

My wife has been listening to "Seeds Family Worship" lately.  They put out CD's with songs using the words of Scripture.  (They just started using the ESV which makes me quite happy.)  Just having these on in the car, at work, or while we're home has been a great way for writing the word on my heart. 

You think of a lot of things at 2:30 in the morning when you're sicker than sick.  But you can't think of Scripture passages you don't know!  Go ahead and give these a shot, you never know when you may be especially glad you did.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

We Didn't Come Here To Leave!

As I was reading Don Kistler's essay, Preaching With Authority, I had to laugh at a short story he recounts.  "I have a dear friend who often supplies the pulpit in an African American church in Pittsburgh.  His first time there was an eye-opener for him.  He was introduced to speak after an hour and forty minutes.  He asked his host how long he had to preach.  The response was, 'Till you're done, brother; we didn't come here to leave!'" 

Convicting, isn't it?  I grew up in a regular evangelical church where the service was typically 60-70 minutes long and I usually started getting antsy at about the 40 minute mark.  I could sit through 9 innings of a Cubs game by age six without a problem and if there were extra innings all the better!  But extra sermon at age sixteen?  No thanks.  

I'm not sure why we do this to ourselves.  We get all dressed up (well...some of us do anyways), we drive (or walk) to church, and then when we're there we can't help but steal that glance (or four) at the clock on the wall.  We hope for overtime, extra innings, a double episode, or another hour with our date.  But extra sermon?  No thanks.  

Here's something I wish I had been challenged to do long ago: treat the worship service like you're in the very presence of God (you are), treat the faithful preacher like he's Jesus preaching to you (he is), and believe that your time in corporate worship is the most important time in your week (it is).  Worship with God's redeemed people is an incredible blessing.  Worship is time for the living God to receive our praise, bless us through hearing our prayers, and to correct us, admonish us, teach us, and train us for the work he generously gives us to do!  Why would we come just to leave?!

And, oh yeah, if you can get rid of the clock on the wall...go for it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Morning Quarterback: Mth 12:1-8

Matthew 12:1-8

The Christian life is a balance, a narrow road if you will, in which there are dangers to either side.  Too far to the one side and you fall into unrepentant rebellion against God's law.  Too far to the other side and you become a cold-hearted legalistic idolater.  How do you walk the balance?  By knowing God, following Christ, and through the enabling work of the Spirit.

We must know God if we are to understand his word properly.  This is where the Pharisees went so horribly wrong.  Verse seven says as much.  "If you had known what this means, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless."  Notice that the verse Jesus quotes from Hosea is a passage about God's heart.  It's not that they merely misunderstood a command, no, they misunderstood God's own heart.  They were, quite simply, idolaters.  They worshipped a god who was merciless, graceless, and loveless.  They worshipped a god who was, not coincidentally, just like themselves.

If there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the character and nature of God in your heart or mind it will lead you into idolatry.  This is why the early church struggled so valiantly to define clearly what the Scripture teaches about God.  This is why we should labor humbly in the word of God, studying the Lord himself, so we will be able to defend our own hearts and minds from the mistakes of the Pharisees.

"And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."  (John 17:3)

--Looking to learn more about the character of God?  I highly recommend J.I. Packer's classic work, Knowing God.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sproul on Luther's Certain Assertions

R.C. Sproul writes about Luther's insistence on asserting the truth of Scripture and with great conviction and confidence.

"'Nothing is more familiar or characteristic among Christians than assertion.  Take away assertions, and you take away Christianity.'  Then, in his passion, Luther said: 'Away, now, with Skeptics and Academics from the company of us Christians; let us have men who will assert.'"

"Luther would have none of the spirit of those who are always learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7).  The foundational truths of Christianity were built on the blood of the martyrs, because the apostles didn't go into the marketplace saying: 'Well, maybe Jesus rose from the dead or maybe He didn't.  You need to examine this, and suspend judgment.'  No, they were bold in their assertions because they know what they believed (2 Tim. 1:8-12).  They understood the things of God, were convinced of the truth of the claims of Jesus, and, having that assurance and certainty of the truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture, they went boldly into a dying world.  Luther did the same."

Feed My Sheep.  Sproul.  77

Friday, July 13, 2012

Does Your Pastor Love Jesus?

A few questions to ask yourself if you're ever looking for a pastoral candidate:
--Is this man converted?
--Does he believe the Bible is true and inspired by God?
--Does he love Jesus?

James Montgomery Boice quotes a sermon from Gilbert Tennent (1740) where Tennent speaks about just this.   "Natural men [that is, unconverted men] have no call of God to the ministerial work.  So if a godly man finds himself in a church or denomination in which such natural men hold rule, then it is both lawful and expedient to go from there to hear godly persons."

Don't ever put yourself (or, men, your family) in the position of sitting under an unconverted mininstry. Be willing to ask the hard questions, and sometimes the obvious questions, of your pastor.  A man in my congregation ended up in our church because he asked his former pastor if he believed in God and the man said no!  Unfortunately, I'm not sure that's all that uncommon.  Boice says of ministers, "Ministers are somewhat reluctant to say what they really believe because, if they do, their congregations are likely to get rid of them.  They will be out looking for another job.  But they do say what they believe in the company of other ministers."

So put your pastor (or pastoral candidate) on the spot, ask the tough questions, make sure he genuinely agrees with your statement of faith, and protect yourself and your family from the danger of an unconverted minister.

(Feed My Sheep, 27.  Reformation Trust. 2008)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Ironic Coronation of a GS Professor

I'm all for examinations. I think that elder candidates in the local church should be examined on whether they fit the criteria established for them in 1 Timothy and Titus. I think candidates for the pastorate should be intensely examined on their theology, piety, skills for ministry, and biblical knowledge in addition to the qualifications for elder in 1 Timothy and Titus. And, if the office must exist, I think that candidates for General Synod Professor of Theology should be the most vigorously examined. These men and women are responsible for training the pastors for our denomination, they speak with palpable gravitas at General Synod, they serve on commissions and frequently as delegates to the synod.

I hate coronations. It makes me feel physically queasy when I realize that someone's installation to a significant office of authority within Christ's church is a done deal before it should be. When we as the church abdicate our responsibility to examine potential office bearers we do ourselves and the glory of Christ no favors.

Unfortunately, we had a coronation at this past General Synod. Rev. Dr. Allan Janssen was nominated by the board of trustees of New Brunswick Theological Seminary and was elected by a (voice) vote of the General Synod. There was, however, no examination whatsoever. In fact it was apparent from the beginning that his election was a done deal. It was so obvious that in the workbook given to each delegate at the beginning of the week the following phrase was placed in the schedule "3:45: Colleges, Seminaries and MFCA, installation of GS professor Janssen." His installation was planned and scheduled before the synod had even had a chance to elect him (or not).

The issue in all of this is that according to the BCO the synod could have rejected Dr. Janssen even though the workbook had his installation scheduled and the President of the synod spoke openly of his installation before he was elected. Should they have turned him away? I don't know, and that's the problem. Maybe Dr. Janssen is a great Christian man with a brilliant mind and will serve the church well, or perhaps not. How was the average delegate to know? The BCO says, "A General Synod professor shall be elected by the General Synod by a majority vote of the members present." Technically we fulfilled the letter of the law, but it's clear to me that the spirit of the law was violated. Apparently Dr. Janssen thinks so as well. Writing in his own commentary on RCA church order he writes concerning the election of GS professors, "Finally, the church assures itself of broad support by requiring the election by a majority vote of the synod. The nomination of a candidate should not presume on election." (Constitutional Theology, 251)

Ironically, if ever there was a presumed election it was this one. My hope is that Dr. Janssen was screaming on the inside, that he insisted on a more genuine process but was turned down. I hope he was as uncomfortable with the process as I was. My disappointment is that it seems that in the modern church we've lost our stomach for serious examination and we have settled for pomp and circumstance coronations.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Lord Provides

The last couple days were rough in the Kappers' household.  Melanie came down with the stomach-flu early in the morning and was generally out of commission for the whole day.  That left me to play Pastor Ben and Mr. Mom.  I did my usual Tuesday morning reading, made the worship bulletin for this week, blogged, and took care of a few other pastoral responsibilities and then I also changed diapers, made meals, went to the grocery store, put Caleb down for his naps and got him up from his naps.  I was feeling exhausted by noon!

This reminded me of a passage from Genesis, "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.'"  (2:18)  The Lord in his infinite wisdom knew that days like yesterday would not be a healthy norm for his creature formed in his very own image.   Man would benefit greatly from sharing responsibilities with a counterpart.  And so the Lord made woman, and praise him for it!

Sometimes it takes a day like yesterday to remind us of the wisdom and generous providence of our heavenly Father.  I have a wife who shares and bears many responsibilities that I simply couldn't handle day-in and day-out on my own.

I'm thankful for the Lord's provision in my life and for Melanie's service to our family...I just wish she hadn't shared her stomach flu with me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What's the Purpose?

This week Melanie (my wife) and I are reading through Titus, Proverbs 11-15 and Psalms 111-120.  As I began my reading this morning I was struck by these verses from Titus.

Titus 1:1-3 "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;"  (ESV)

When I was in Jr. High I only knew how to write one kind of sentence--a run-on sentence.  I'd write entire paragraphs and forget to put any periods in there because I was so into what I was writing about. Needless to say my English grades were never very high.  Most times I had a hard time reading what I had originally written because the red ink was so thick.

I suspect my teachers wouldn't have liked Paul's sentence here much either, but if ever there was a power-packed and rich run-on sentence this is it.

Paul is an apostle, but not for his own sake, he's an apostle for the sake of God's elect.  He's an apostle for God's purposes so that his people might be knowledgeable of the truth, godly, hopeful, and eternally secure.  Paul accomplishes God's purpose through preaching.  No gimmicks, no self-aggrandizement, no glamour, just preaching.  Praise the Lord for the power of his word.

We spend much time these days speaking of purpose.  One of the best selling books and Bible studies of our day is "The Purpose Driven Life".  Paul's purpose was to serve God's people, God's truth, and to testify to God's glory.  Is that your purpose today?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Morning Quarterback

Each Monday I'll be posting a bit of a recap or highlight from the previous Sunday's sermon.  If I'm on the road you'll be blessed with a few notes from the sermon I sat under.  In Baileyville we've spent most of the last year going through Matthew's Gospel.  I find that the American church has many ideas about Jesus and his mission...and I find many of them to be entirely unfounded or at the least greatly misguided.  It has been my hope in the Matthew series to give Christ's flock in the congregation I serve a robust and healthy understanding of the one to whom all honor is due.  This past week we finished up Matthew 11 with a sermon on verses 25-30, "The Gracious Invitation".  

Check out this blurb from Sunday's Message:

A whole nation of people had been weakened by false teaching and burdened by extra rules and regulations. Jesus comes to these people, people who are being crushed under the weight of pride and self-righteous attempts at salvation, and he says, “come to me, you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

What a relief. Perhaps you can feel it too. You’ve spent your whole life trying to be good enough, trying to do just the right things, trying to appear godly. But, somewhere deep down, you knew it wasn’t enough. You knew that your works weren’t up to the task, you knew your sin was too great to make up for on your own. You knew that just being a good person wouldn’t cut it with God.  You have felt the reality that your sins are entirely too wicked to be made up for with the good deeds you do which are never quite good enough. And so you too became weary and burdened, your soul was full of angst and your spirit was oppressed with knowledge of your own inadequacy. And now, into the midst of that chaos, Jesus says, “Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” In other words: Stop trying to save yourself, stop trying to impress others with your goodness, stop trying to be good enough to earn God’s favor. Trust me. Come to me. Listen to me. And find rest in me.  

This passage was a familiar one for me, as it is for many people.  But there was still something refreshing, comforting, and deeply satisfying about it.  Even a pastor steeped in the Reformed faith can find the temptation to legalism and works-righteousness to be quite strong and it is good to be reminded of Chirst's sufficiency and his gracious invitation to sinners to find rest in him.