Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Go to Christ when bereaved!

Jonathan Edwards gave very helpful counsel to those who are struggling with bereavement- which includes everyone at some time or another:

In case of such an awful dispensation of Providence, those that are concerned in it, and bereaved by it, should go and spread their sorrow before Jesus.

The heart that is full of grief wants vent, and desires to pour out its complaint; but it seeks a compassionate friend to pour it out before.

Christ is such an one, above all others.

Christ is able to afford all that help that is needed in such a case. His power and his wisdom are as sufficient as his purpose, and answerable to his compassions. By the bowels of his mercies, the love and tenderness of his heart, he is disposed to help those that are in affliction; and his ability is answerable to his disposition. He is able to support the heart under the heaviest sorrows, and to give light in the darkness. He can divide the thickest cloud with beams of heavenly light and comfort. He is one that gives songs in the night, and turns the shadow of death into the morning. He has power to make up the loss of those that are bereaved by the death of the most eminent minister. His own presence with the bereaved is sufficient. If the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls be present, how much more is this than enough to supply the want of any under shepherd! And then he is able to furnish others with like gifts and graces for that work .

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord

Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal”

"And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” 
- The Gospel of Luke 15:20

Commenting on this verse about the return of the prodigal son, Norval Geldenhuys wrote-

"So inexplicably wonderful is the love of God that He not merely forgives the repentant sinner, but actually goes to meet him and embraces him in His love and grace."

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Church must remain steadfast

Decades of "everyone doing what is right in their own eyes" is coming home to roost. 

The deepening godlessness of America is causing the multiplication of all sorts of wickedness. In preparation for whatever is coming, the Church must remain steadfast in faithfulness to Christ, His Word, and gospel expressions of His love to others. 

Either God will give influence to His people and stem the current of a debauched culture or He will let things continue to crumble. Then, from the rubble of America's broken idols, we hope for God to grant a purified Church the grace to be workers in the rebuilding of a renewed civilization for the glory of King Jesus.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Trueman gives a helpful angle on the Benedict Option

How should Christians relate with culture in modern America- as our nation now stands? 

This is a HUGE pastoral question that occupies my mind daily. 

I have never been comfortable with the formal sides of the "2K" vs "Transformationalist" debate within Reformed Christianity. I find both positions biblically wanting. While a lover of the theological system I subscribe to (Westminster), I am first and foremost a biblical theologian and an expositor of the biblical text. 

My study of Scripture over the past two decades has shaped my interpretation of the Church's role in the world, especially related to the current situation for Christians in the U.S. I have touched on my thinking in various blog posts and letters to my own church about our purpose and focus going forward in a rapidly digressing post-Christian America. 

A year ago I read Rod Dreher's "Benedict Option" and found myself resonating with much of what he said, but also finding it to feel a bit defeatist. In linked post below, Carl Trueman perfectly summarizes a helpful way to think of Dreher's offering. I think he's hit the nail on the head. Simply put, Christians ned to rethink and reorder....quickly.



Sunday, May 15, 2016

The God-centeredness of God is good news!

Ray Ortlund wrote the following in his Isaiah commentary series (related to Hezekiah's appeal for the Lord to save Judah for the sake of God's glory)-

Have you come to realize how the God-centeredness of God is good news for you? For one thing, it means that your unworthiness is irrelevant to God’s readiness to save you. He is not responding to what you deserve; He is proving what a good Savior he is. 

Don’t you see? This opens up a new definition of happiness. Happiness is God being God to you.

Stop praying, “Lord, I want you to make my life better.” 
Stop praying, “Lord, I want you to make my husband or wife better. I want my children to behave. I want an ideal job.

When you pray that way, you can only end up frustrated, because God will not subordinate himself to any human agenda.

Start praying, “Lord, I just want you to be God to me. I want my life, with my problems, to show the world that you save sinners.”

Friday, May 13, 2016

An Executive Order about bathroom usage...Really?

“To make no decision in regard to the growth of authoritarian government is already a decision for it.” 

- Francis Schaeffer (from How Shall We Then Live?)

The President is reportedly issuing an Executive Order today that was also labeled a "letter of guidance" by some news outlets. The letter from the Obama administration states- "a school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity.” Sounds like an Executive Order to me. Yes, an order about bathroom usage.  

So, the President and/or Federal government has the right to issue orders about who uses what bathroom in places funded by tax dollars.   

What’s next?  Where does governmental power stop?  

I really don’t care about who uses what bathroom as such. Our increasingly godless culture is understandably confused about sexuality and even gender, so I guess who uses what bathroom was bound to be a debate.  People, especially women, should be cautious when using any public restroom no matter what the law requires. The vexing issue here isn’t primarily about perverts in the restroom or discriminatory bathroom access- It’s about a ridiculous overreach by the government.  

Whatever your position about LGBT rights may be, this kind of overreach with governmental power will lead to more bad things. The executive order pertains only to public places, so relax, right?  Well, after the government issues an order (law), it has a tendency to put the squeeze on private businesses too.  Remember the wedding cake maker?  

Sure, some will celebrate this….until a governmental decree directly impacts them.  

The rapid decline of liberty in the U.S parallels the rise of secular humanism. The rate of moral digression and government intrusion over the past 10-15 years is truly stunning and will no doubt serve as an example to countless future civilizations.  

In the mean time, the Church must prepare herself for a very different country in which to continue preaching the gospel.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A simple Puritan prayer in a restless time

It appears that Hillary Clinton will face off against Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States.

It seems surreal these two low character candidates are the best this country can come up with. Is this God's judgment upon us?

It's hard to be optimistic about our future, but alas, God is sovereign.

I adapted a Puritan prayer for such a time as this.  It comforts me.

O God, most high, in light of the two candidates vying for the highest office in this nation....most glorious, the thought of Thine infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, but Thou art for ever at perfect peace. Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfillment, they stand fast as the eternal hills. Thy power knows no bond, Thy goodness no stint. Thou bringest order out of confusion, and our defeats are Thy victories: The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Amen.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Characteristics of Godly Wrath

Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" should freak us out, but rest assured, the final Day of the Lord will be FAR worse for those not in Christ.

For the LORD is enraged against all the nations,
and furious against all their host;
he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter.
Their slain shall be cast out,
and the stench of their corpses shall rise;
the mountains shall flow with their blood.
- The Prophet Isaiah (34:2-3)

Studying and preaching Isaiah makes the reality of God's wrath and judgment very apparent. Sometimes reading so much about God's wrath gets to me, even as a bible teacher and preacher. I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for Christ enduring God's wrath in my place, but I am stricken with terror and sadness for those who have not rested upon Christ and are naked before God's wrath. That which awaits unrepentant sinners is almost to awful too contemplate. 

As I try to process the terrible anger God has toward human sin,emotions can twist my understanding and thinking. I am tempted to shy away from speaking of God's wrath because it's so dreadful and awful. I don't want to depict God as awful. Yet, as a minister of God's Word, I must preach what is in the holy text.  As A.W. Pink pointed out, there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. I never want to apologize for what God's Word plainly states. The truth must be proclaimed. The fact is, many come to Christ when they hear of God's wrath. Indeed, I remember being fearful of damnation when I turned to Christ to save me.  I didn't doubt that I deserved God's wrath, and that is the truth which drove me to Jesus. 

Still though, as I preach through Isaiah, more and more of God's judgment is expressed and forecasted.  I know many unbelievers scoff at what they see as a vengeful God.  A preacher can be tempted to preach only the "softer side" of God. Just talk about God loving people in Christ.  God is love.  Jesus is love.  God is Kind. Jesus is compassionate.  But what do God's love, kindness, and grace mean if we are not exposed to the whole truth about our sin, God's righteousness, and our future judgment apart from faith in the work of Christ to remove God's wrath? Only telling part of the truth is a lie, and in this case, a damning lie. 

I think it is hard for me to dwell on the wrath of God or the judgment of God because I struggle to comprehend wrath or anger apart from my sinful experience of these. But God's wrath is not like my wrath. His wrath is right and pure. In balance with the whole message of God's glorious gospel, people need to know the truth about God's just wrath and judgment. It will make yet unredeemed  (but elect) sinners run to Jesus and cause redeemed ones cry out to God with thanksgiving for their salvation through Christ. 

While studying another chapter about God's judgment this week (Isaiah 34) I came across a helpful post by Pastor Bob Deffinbaugh that helps me stay on Scriptural point.  

Characteristics of Godly Wrath

(1) Godly wrath is vastly different from the wrath of man (James 1:20).

(2) The wrath of God is always in accordance with the standards set down in Scripture for man’s conduct and the warnings God has given for disobedience (Deuteronomy 29:26-28; 30:15-20; 2 Samuel 12:9-10; 2 Kings 22:10-13; 24:2; 2 Chronicles 19:8-10; 34:18-28; 36:15-16; Jeremiah 22:11-12; 44:2-6).

(3) The wrath of God is in accordance with the deeds of men. God’s wrath is always in direct proportion to man’s sin (Psalm 28:4; Isaiah 59:18; Jeremiah 17:10; 21:14; 25:14; Ezekiel 20:44; 24:14; 36:19).

(4) God’s wrath is slow and controlled, not sudden and explosive (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18).

(5) God’s wrath comes after warning of judgment (see, for example, the warnings given to men in the days of Noah (Genesis 6-9), of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), and throughout the Old Testament by the prophets).

(6) God’s wrath is always provoked by man’s sin (Deuteronomy 4:25; 9:18; Jeremiah 25:6-7; 32:32).

(7) God wrath is not exercised in sin but in righteousness (Romans 2:5; James 1:19-20).

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

More cultural prophecy from Schaeffer

More prophetic utterances (not in the biblical sense) from Francis Schaeffer. He wrote this in the late 70's-

"On a humanistic base, people drift along from generation to generation, and the morally unthinkable becomes the thinkable as the years move on. By 'humanistic base' we mean the fundamental idea that men and women can begin from themselves and derive the standards by which to judge all matters. There are for such people no fixed standards of behaviour, no standards that cannot be eroded or replaced by what seems necessary, expedient, or even fashionable. … The thinkables of the eighties and nineties will certainly include things which most people today find unthinkable and immoral, even unimaginable and too extreme to suggest. Yet - since they do not have some overriding principle that takes them beyond relativistic thinking – when these become thinkable and acceptable in the eighties and nineties, most people will not even remember that they were unthinkable in the seventies. They will slide into each new thinkable without a jolt.’ 

 - Francis Schaeffer, 1979 in "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?"

It's hard to believe we live in a time when having a penis no longer means you are a man and public bathroom usage is based on how you feel about your gender.  Worse yet, if you think men shouldn't be allowed to use the same bathroom as women and girls, you are called a bigot. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Recurring themes in the Old Testament

We've been doing a lot of teaching and preaching through the Old Testament lately. I'm preaching through Isaiah and teaching through Genesis. Nathan has been preaching through 2 Samuel and teaching through the Psalms. In light of this, a parishioner sent a very thoughtful email asking what I thought the main themes were, so as to discuss these with his family as they listened to the various presentations from the OT. I fired off a quick response on those recurring themes that came to mind immediately:

Christ. The Savior promised who is completely sufficient.

God saves. Despite how much we rebel...he moves circumstances to cause repentance and faith.

God is sovereign over every detail of history. Even when you think it's bad, God is still working His plan.

God calls us to be faithful no matter what our nation is doing in general, or to us specifically.

We might have to suffer for knowing Christ. Actually, that's the majority experience for Christians over the centuries- perhaps the chief way God grows us personally, and the Church corporately. Christianity isn't dying, it's actually expanding the world over, but through lots of suffering.

It's never too late, while we have breath in our lungs, to confess our sins and ask for God's forgiveness and blessing- which are provided through Christ.

I am grateful for such notes from congregants. It focuses my own thoughts and serves to confirm the wonderful unity of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

There is no life for us in any tangible thing

Lots of trust was placed in horses and chariots during the days of ancient Israel. God warned against their trusting in these fading, physical things.  The Psalmist wrote- "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (20:7).

We look to so many things for happiness, joy, and fulfillment. We see earthly items and think they'll give us security and contentment, but they never do.  Raymond Ortlund addresses this very tendency in his sermon on Isaiah 31 and 32-

“The richness and fullness of life come from what is spiritual, not earthly. Money, for example, can buy a house, but it can’t make a home. Money can put food on the table, but it can’t put laughter and joy around that table. Money can fly you to Paris, but it can’t kindle romance there. What money can do is make you an attractive target for thieves and lawsuits. There is no security in money. There is no life for us in any tangible thing. What makes for life comes not from this world but from the grace of God. Therefore, a heart at one with God is the secret to life. To have God is to have all things. To trust him is to be saved.” 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Blessing of an Intergenerational Church Worshiping together

With the birth of Redeemer's first great grand baby, I marveled at the grace of God for making us an intergenerational church before our 25th year of existence.  This little covenant child has the blessing of her parents, grand parents, and great grand parents worshiping with her at Redeemer. I think it is rare to be a suburban church and have all the generations represented in our congregation.  I love and cherish this feature of our fellowship.    

Our worship "style" is often pegged as "traditional", which I can't stand. I much rather prefer calling it what it is: Historic Christian worship with a quasi-liturgical and clearly Reformed bent but also an appreciation for new, solid, congregational worship songs. We even have a few of our members writing and composing new congregational music for us to sing- you can't get more contemporary than that!  We have selected a style that we trust is both Bible-based and accessible for multiple generations. 

In recent months I have been both amazed and blessed at the sophistication displayed by so many of our Redeemer children related to their comprehension of what happens in the worship service. Parents have shared sermon notes taken by children just ten or eleven years old that show they really get what is being taught.  Children have given me notes and letters thanking me for some aspect of the worship service, sometimes with a picture or quote that reveals they are tracking wonderfully. On many occasions the observations of young people have given me an insight about Scripture I didn’t previously have. God teaches us by His Word and He is constantly using the insights of others, no matter what age, to do so. 

Redeemer’s worship service is simple but purposeful.  It is intended to follow a process that is plain to understand and Scripturally derived. Furthermore, there is intentionally lots of Scripture integrated in the readings, prayers, songs, and sermon.  We are a “Word and Sacrament” church, so these things should be front and center.  Children and teens get the point. We shouldn’t underestimate their ability to see the reasoning behind what we do. Furthermore, we shouldn’t assume it’s too old fashioned for them or in some way antiquated.  If we are careful about what we do and take the time to explain the elements, worshipers of all ages will appreciate our approach and be blessed.  

To be clear, by celebrating our worship style I am not intending to criticize other approaches to  worship.  There are many Biblically faithful, God-centered, Christ-exalting worship orders and styles.  As long as believers are asking the right questions when they plan times of worship, a God-honoring result is likely.  What does God say in His Word about worship?  What does God say is the purpose of our gatherings? According to the Bible, what elements should be included in a worship service?  What does God get out of our worship?  When these questions are asked, a worship service that exalts God and edifies the saints (no matter what age) follows, and this is what we are constantly striving for at Redeemer.  Hearing from young people in our congregation who are tracking and appreciative of the intentionality of our worship approach is truly one of my greatest joys.  

A caution for us relates to how we speak of other styles of worship.  If we are careful to speak of the legitimacy of multiple forms of Christian worship, we’ll cultivate a humble attitude. If we are condescending and critical of other forms and styles, we will nurture a pharisaical attitude that is not becoming of the humility we should have as worshipers.  Also, acting as though we do it right and everyone else is wrong or somehow less mature, will set our young people up to either become joyless, judgmental critics or leave a bad taste in their mouth about what we do and cause them to want no part of it as they grow up.  We do what we do for a reason, but we are not saying we are right about everything or that everyone else has an inferior approach to how they worship.   

The broad spectrum of engaged worshipers at Redeemer is a blessing I hope we all cherish. Seeing our young people participating, taking notes, and discussing the sermon or other aspects of worship should encourage every member of our church. For church leadership’s part, we are committed to provide Biblically guided, practically ordered, understandable, God-centered, and Christ-exalting corporate worship meetings.  For your part, our members of all ages, be prayerful and humble about our approach to God in worship and be sure to engage your children in discussion about everything we’re doing.  It is such a joy to serve a unified, intergenerational congregation of people who love to worship their God in the splendor of His holiness and in the joy of Christ our gracious savior.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien on this day in 1944

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien often met at Oxford's Eastgate Hotel to discuss their latest literary efforts over a drink or a meal.

In a letter dated March 30, 1944, Tolkien noted that Lewis was pestering him to complete his unfinished manuscript, "The Lord of the Rings".

He wrote- "Lunch with C.S.L, quite an outing for me."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Penal substitution in personal terms

If you ever hear a "pastor" or teacher denying the doctrine of penal substitution, get as far away from that wolf as you can.  Jesus satisfied the wrath of God for our sin by His work on the cross. Period.  Jesus' prime purpose for dying on the cross wasn't to be an example of sacrifice or to send a message of love, he died to satisfy the divine justice of God and endure the righteous wrath of the Almighty in order to save us.  

J.I. Packer quantifies the bible's teaching on penal substitution in personal terms-

(1) God 'condones nothing’, but judges all sin as it deserves: which Scripture affirms, and my conscience confirms, to be right.

(2) My sins merit ultimate penal suffering and rejection from God’s presence (conscience also confirms this), and nothing I do can blot them out.

(3) The penalty due to me for my sins, whatever it was, was paid for me by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in his death on the cross.

(4) Because this is so, I through faith in him am made ‘the righteousness of God in him’, i.e. I am justified; pardon, acceptance and sonship become mine.

(5) Christ’s death for me is my sole ground of hope before God. ‘If he fulfilled not justice, I must; if he underwent not wrath, I must to eternity.’

(6) My faith in Christ is God’s own gift to me, given in virtue of Christ’s death for me: i.e. the cross procured it.

(7) Christ’s death for me guarantees my preservation to glory.

(8) Christ’s death for me is the measure and pledge of the love of the Father and the Son to me.

(9) Christ’s death for me calls and constrains me to trust, to worship, to love and to serve.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A.A. Dropped the Mic in 1880...might as well have been 2016

Who is responsible for the unholy laws and customs of divorce which have been in late years growing rapidly, like a constitutional cancer, through all our social fabric? Who is responsible for the rapidly-increasing, almost universal, desecration of our ancestral Sabbath? Who is responsible for the prevalent corruptions in trade which loosen the bands of faith and transform the halls of the honest trader into the gambler's den? Who is responsible for the new doctrines of secular education which hand over the very baptized children of the Church to a monstrous propagandism of Naturalism and Atheism? Who is responsible for the new doctrine that the State is not a creature of God and owes him no allegiance, thus making the mediatorial Headship of Christ an unsubstantial shadow and his kingdom an unreal dream?

Whence come these portentous upheavals of the ancient primitive rock upon which society has always rested? Whence comes this socialistic earthquake, arraying capital and labor in irreconcilable conflict like oxygen and fire? Whence come these mad nihilistic, anarchical ravings, the wild presages of a universal deluge, which will blot out at once the family, the school, the church, the home, all civilization and religion, in one sea of ruin?

In the name of your own interests I plead with you; in the name of your treasure-houses and barns, of your rich farms and cities, of your accumulations in the past and your hopes in the future,—I charge you, you never will be secure if you do not faithfully maintain all the crown-rights of Jesus the King of men. In the name of your children and their inheritance of the precious Christian civilization you in turn have received from your sires; in the name of the Christian Church,—I charge you that its sacred franchise, religious liberty, cannot be retained by men who in civil matters deny their allegiance to the King. In the name of your own soul and its salvation; in the name of the adorable Victim of that bloody and agonizing sacrifice whence you draw all your hopes of salvation; by Gethsemane and Calvary,—I charge you, citizens of the United States, afloat on your wide wild sea of politics, THERE IS ANOTHER KING, ONE JESUS: THE SAFETY OF THE STATE CAN BE SECURED ONLY IN THE WAY OF HUMBLE AND WHOLE-SOULED LOYALTY TO HIS PERSON AND OF OBEDIENCE TO HIS LAW.

- A.A. Hodge

A.A. Hodge's advice for standing against Romanism

A.A. Hodge offered this helpful advice when dealing with Roman Catholicism-

Dear friends, take my advice in this. In maintaining our evangelical position against Romanists, Ritualists and exclusive Churchmen, do not waste your force by laying emphasis upon any subordinate question as to church government, liturgies or parity of the clergy. Stand up only for essentials. Strike right at the heart of error. 

The three central dangerous errors of Romanism and Ritualism are these: 

(1) The perpetuity of the apostolate (which is the basis for the Papacy and Papal authority).

(2) the priestly character and offices of Christian ministers (the idea that human mediators are necessary to perform ongoing sacrifices or "mass" on behalf of the people). 

(3) the sacramental principle, or the depending upon the sacraments as the essential, initial and ordinary channels of grace. (salvation is based in whole or in part on the grace transferred by the sacraments)

These are three radical heresies which exclude the truth, derogate from the honor of Christ and betray souls by inducing them to build upon false foundations. But if these three pestiferous roots of error are excluded, there can be no difference of radical importance between bodies of Christians who hold to the historic faith of "the holy catholic Church.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A.W. Tozer on Golden-Calf Christianity (circa 1960)

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God's professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture, designed to house the golden calf.

So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Any objection to the carryings on of our present golden-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, "But we are winning them!" And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world's treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no."

From chapter 30 of "Man - The Dwelling Place of God" by A.W. Tozer (1960)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Committed to developing a full-orbed ecclesiology

At our recent elder’s retreat, I was greatly encouraged by our collective unity and passion for maintaining a faithful “Word and Sacrament” ministry.  My January article took a cue from James Rogers’ First Things post as I proposed churches like Redeemer will play an increasingly important role in our nation’s strength and vibrancy because of our Word and Sacrament commitment. In a time when so many churches seem to have been distracted and ecclesiastically weakened by waging a mis-focused morality war in wider culture a simple Word and Sacrament ministry will become more critical. James Rogers also wrote-

Recovering a full-orbed ecclesiology for the Church—not for the Church in the abstract, but for the practical lives of Christian layfolk and leaders in the churches—must be in initial imperative for the Church today.”

By “ecclesiology” Rogers is referring to a biblical understanding about who and what the Church is.  A Word and Sacrament Church is intentional about making God’s means of grace readily available to God’s people for their sanctification.  By staying simple about this focus, sinners are saved and discipled (justified and sanctified). A Word and Sacrament church exudes Biblical ecclesiology. This isn’t an exercise in seclusion with no care for the world around us, on the contrary it is the actual means for reaching the world for Christ. As I wrote in January, the Church must keep the priority of the Word and Sacraments which will serve to multiply our numbers and strengthen us for the opportunities God gives to be salt and light in a morally digressed culture. 

So what does the Word and Sacrament ministry of Redeemer look like in light of these things?  A full orbed ecclesiology requires intentional discipleship by the Word of God, in all aspects of life.  The central feature of our church is Worship based on the Bible.  Our main venue for the Word of God preached and the sacraments administered is the weekly service of worship each Lord’s Day morning. Certainly no one would think a church could be duly equipped as disciples based on one 80-minute service each week. Before recent times, daily bible learning was the practice of families, churches, and schools. Redeemer’s leadership intentionally oversees several regular ministries that nurture development of a full orbed ecclesiology in our members.  

Each Sunday morning there is a specially designed bible/doctrine education session (Sunday School) for all ages between worship services. Sunday night there is an additional bible teaching time for adults, a bible application discussion time for teens, and elementary students participate in catechism learning. In addition to these Sunday opportunities, there are bible studies specific to men and women during the weekdays.  For young people we have a time of fun, fellowship and biblical encouragement on Wednesday nights during the school year.  We are a Word and Sacrament ministry passionate and intentional about providing as much bible learning and application opportunities as reasonably possible- so our members will have a “full orbed ecclesiology”.  

Even with the several aforementioned opportunities, only a few hours in biblical instruction are available weekly. For mature believers these opportunities are probably enough to nurture already developed spiritual disciplines and practices, but not for our younger members who are still developing an ecclesiology. A Christian school, especially when church-run (parochial), can be a very effective way to disciple young people about the world through the lens of the Word.

I have read studies critical of local church youth ministry and Christian schools that argue these kinds of ministries aren't really that effective in grounding young people in the Christian faith.  Youth ministries that fail to incorporate young people in the life of the church and Christian schools independent of a local church oversight often have serious flaws (a subject for a future post). We are not trying to do either at Redeemer.  Our youth ministry has the same simple focus as the whole of our church- biblical and doctrinal training coupled with ways to apply the truth of Scripture in life and service (ministry of the Word).  Fellowship (a.k.a. fun times for the youth to be together), by the way, is a big part of learning to apply Scripture (a subject for a future post).  Our Christian school is parochial and therefore under the church's supervision and oversight.  In a time when many Christian schools tend to be independent and not very focused on their purpose, our school has clear church oversight and a definite part to play in the catechizing of young believers.  Redeemer’s Christian School (Heritage Christian Academy) exists to assist families in developing a full-orbed ecclesiology, not as a distraction from the church's central mission. The thousands of day time hours spent by students in a classroom contain the prime learning hours in a critical episode of their lives, and so the church attempts to offer the Word in those hours through the provision a school.  Families have all sorts of discipleship resources at their disposal, providing a day school is a very solid tool offered to RPC families and the wider Christian community.  The biggest challenge with providing a school is cost.  It's not cheap. Personally, I'm bent on finding a way to bring the cost of our school down for RPC members. Whatever the cost in the mean time, it is a worthy sacrifice. 

The times are desperate and concerning, but our mission remains the same.  I pray regularly for God to keep us committed to a Word and Sacrament ministry that helps the people of God develop a full orbed ecclesiology.

Blind Preachers in Powerless Pulpits

Why is church attendance up in the U.S. but Christianity seems to be on the decline? 

As in Isaiah's day, largely because there are blind preachers in powerless pulpits scratching the itching ears of people who want comfort over conviction and acceptance in the culture over the carrying of Christ’s cross. 

That's my take.

Isaiah 29:10-12

10] For the LORD has poured out upon you
a spirit of deep sleep,
and has closed your eyes (the prophets),
and covered your heads (the seers).
[11] And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” [12] And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ferociously Awesome- The Great Horned Owl

We have a "Great Horned Owl" living in a big tree behind my office.  She is ferociously awesome.