Archive by Author

Ordinary Elders

When we think of the work of the elders of the church what are the primary duties that we consider? In the Book of Acts, chapter 6, the elders of the church are to devote themselves to the ministry of the Word and to prayer. These are the two basic callings of those who minister in the eldership of the church.

A few weeks ago I was privileged to participate in the memorial service of a Christian woman from another congregation. There were a number of ministers who participated, all reformed in conviction. The son of the woman, who had gone to her eternal rest, gave me a gift for participating in the service. It was clear that he knew me very well. As he was going through his mother’s belongings he found Session Minutes from a church where one of his relatives had served as a ruling elder in the early 1900s. The Session Minutes were from Roseburg, Oregon Presbyterian Church and they were dated January 7, 1917. Accompanying the Minutes was an old photo of the church building.

J.G. Vos’s Temperate Views on Temperance

It is without doubt that JG Vos changed the RPCNA. Many will tell you of their experiences in his classroom at Geneva College and how they came to love the Word of God under his ministry. As the son of one of the most important theologians of the 20th century, he brought attention to the RPCNA at a time when it was often isolated from the greater reformed community. JG Vos popularized amillennialism in the RPCNA. He, along with Philip Martin, are credited by some for keeping the RPCNA from ordaining women elders. He renewed interest in the Scottish Covenanters through his writing. He renewed interest in confessionalism through the Blue Banner Faith and Life magazine. Many cite Vos’s preaching as the means of grace God used for their own conversions.

Today’s RPCNA would be quite different without JG Vos and his work. One area of change in the RPCNA that began with Vos is the RPCNA’s current view on abstinence from alcoholic beverages. Beginning in the late 1930s our Synod began a debate regarding the relationship between the Christian and alcohol, a debate that eventually led to a decision 60 years later to reverse its stand […]

Look! Look! Look!

I live in a diverse place. My neighborhood is made up of a number of Asian and Latino people groups, along with, like my family, those of European descent. A couple of blocks from my home is the largest concentration of Armenians outside of Armenia. There are so many Armenians living around me that one time my seven year-old son asked me if Armenian was the second most widely used language in the world.

We enjoy the diversity of culture that we get to experience from day to day. A number of months ago we were in a neighborhood not far ours where a sign read, “Korean Culture Days: Brought to you with help by the Armenian and Latino communities.” 

Elon’s (and Your) Historical Record: Date. Dash. Date.

As the ancient church historian was writing the book of Judges, he must have asked himself, “What do I know about Elon?” (Judges 12:11-12) The other historians around him must have scratched their heads, much like you may be doing as you secretly ask, “Who is Elon?” As the ancient historian summed up the whole life of a political and spiritual leader in ancient Israel, he came to the conclusion that not much was known about Judge Elon. His answer was that Elon lived. Elon worked. Elon died.

“After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.”

We might hope that an ancient historian would record more for us, but the fact is that every life on this earth will be summed up as Elon’s life is here summed. You live. You work. You die.

Apologetics for the Rest of Us

Evidentialist or Presuppositional? If you said Presuppositional, do you mean of the Van Til variety or are you a Clarkian?  If you said Evidentialist, do you prefer the ontological, teleological, cosmological, or some other argument for God’s existence? It’s enough to blow your epistemology, isn’t it?  Do you ever think that you need a seminary degree or at least college philosophy to discuss God’s existence? It can be discouraging, can’t it?

Last week Pastor David Reese (Colorado Springs, CO) spoke at a youth conference here in Los Angeles on the topic of “relational apologetics.” I recommend that if you want to defend your faith, but are frequently discouraged by the philosophical nature of apologetic discussions, you ought to begin with these messages.

They can be downloaded, free of charge, here.

 

A Cure for the Prayerless Heart

Are you having trouble in your prayer life? Do you feel as though your heart is hardened soil as you pray? Sing the psalms!  Wilhelmus a’Brakel gave this encouragement to his readers over 300 years ago when he wrote:

Singing will move a heart which frequently remains unmoved during prayer. It can be that while singing the tears will drip upon the book. Have you not frequently experienced this? Have not you been stirred up by hearing the singing of others? Others will therefore also be stirred up by your singing.

The Papists in France knew this, and therefore they strictly forbade the singing of psalms and meted out cruel punishment for this—even prior to massacring the church.

Therefore, no longer be silent, but lift up your voices—in spite of the devil and all the enemies of God—to the honor and glory of your God, as this has done you too much good already (and still does) than that you would refrain from thanking the Lord with songs of praise. You must furthermore do so in order that you might stir up others to serve the Lord with gladness. It will then become manifest to all […]

Some Say I’m a Dreamer; But I’m Not the Only One

Occasionally when reading the dead theologians, and let’s face it, the dead guys are better reading,  you get a glimpse of the humanity of the writer that makes you smile. Occasionally a bit of humor is seen in Calvin. At times a bit of vulnerability is read in a’Brakel. When we are reminded that the best of men are mere men, we take comfort in knowing that we have the same savior who will sanctify us as he has sanctified those who have gone before us. We enjoy the humanity of our divines.

Today I was reading Spurgeon, as I often do on Mondays, and some humanity was seen in the reading. With Spurgeon this is not surprising because often we blush, smile, and occasionally LOL when reading the Prince of Preachers, but today’s reading was different. Today Spurgeon recalled a dream and he told his readership about it! Spurgeon recalled his dream and as I read it, I imagined him attempting to capture the essence of the dream and realizing that he cannot recall it in the same way that he experienced it. Dreams often do not retell well do they? This was no exception.

Let Pulpit Freedom Ring!

In the 1920s a group of young people in the RPCNA asked their ministers why they chose to pastor in their particular denomination. As I reviewed the answers of these long dead ministers, I realized that common themes were found within each of their answers. One of the most common themes was that these ministers appreciated the freedom in the pulpit that they enjoyed in their denominational home. The whole counsel of God was preached and no topic was too base or taboo for the pulpit. Here are a few samples:

“Accepting the whole Bible as inspired and authoritative, this church believes that it should all be preached. This means that we have a freedom bounded only by the revealed will of God to preach truth and to condemn error…”
-RC Wylie

“The Covenanter pulpit is a free pulpit. The breadth of the Church’s confession makes it a forum for the fearless discussion of sin regardless of the form it may assume. The Covenanter minister may preach against the prevalent sins of the age and still feel that he stands on a pulpit which supports him; he may proclaim all the fundamentals of the Gospel, untrammeled by the conventions […]

Qualifying our Ever-So-Merciful Consciences

The church is called to be a merciful people. Jesus has called us to extend mercy as we preach the gospel through the nations.  Sometimes, it seems, at least here in the U.S.A.,  as though we go out of our way to footnote, qualify, and  give restrictions on how that mercy is to be distributed. We often err on the side of doing nothing rather than on the side of doing too much. If I am ever in a position where I need mercy extended to me…  I hope that the church errs on the side of grace. Maybe loving our neighbor would cause us to do likewise.

Or maybe not…. we should check the footnotes to be sure. 

The Kingdom of Donkeys and Pachyderms

This week the United States saw a major shift in the political landscape of the nation. The Democratic blue has faded to Republican red as Republicans celebrate victories in the House, the Senate, and in gubernatorial mansions across the nation.

Does this mean that the nation is becoming more conservative? Maybe. Does it mean that people are tired of the liberal rhetoric of the past six years? It could be. Does it mean that our nation is on its way to seeing hope and change? That may be the case. Does it mean that we find ourselves under the gracious blessings of Jesus Christ?

In that last question stands the warning.

The Reformed Presbyterian Testimony wisely warns: “We deny that simply having a democratic or republican form of government insures God’s approval and blessing (RPT 23.10).”

There is great wisdom in this statement.

Over the past decade the United States of America has moved the furthest away from biblical ethics that it has ever been. Although the pendulum swung right again on Tuesday, the Church of Jesus Christ must not allow that to be seen as a victory for biblical Christianity.

It […]