I've found that marriages break up not long after people leave their church. It is almost like a gateway drug. You break one solemn covenant (the one with God), it opens the door for you to break the covenant you have with your spouse.
In our day skipping out on a church is a commonplace occurrence. Most people do not realize how henious a sin that is in the eyes of God. To break those vows wherein you knit yourself to a local congregation, is like amputating part of the body of Christ.
Most don't see it this way though. They simply up and go without much thought about it. We leave churches if we are not happy. We have no interest in confronting the sins of the members or leadership. We have no desire to be iron sharpening iron. We just want a place that will suit our needs and make us happy.
Worse yet, people bail out on church altogether. They make lame excuses like, there are no Calvinistic or Reformed churches around here. The churches are just too Arminian. We'll tell ourselves that it is better to have no church than any church that doesn't live up to our expectations.
You see the connection between such attitudes and what happens in a marriage. We've already seared our conscience. We've already opened the vein and let the blood start flowing. Oaths and covenants have already been diluted.
We broke covenant once, and it was good. We tasted of the fruits of sin and now we are ready for more. We are ready now to leave our spouse.
After all, he/she doesn't live up to my expectations. There has got to be a better fit out there for my tastes. Why fight to save this relationship? Neither of us is happy. We can be happier if we just go our separate ways.
So just remember, breaking faith with your church brethren puts you in a dangerous place. It opens the door to divorce.
I've come across two good articles dealing with Presbyterian polity in the last couple of days. They are excellent resources for understanding the Biblical underpinnings of a connectional church and the offices of minister & elder.
Why You Should Be Presbyterian: This article is appreciated because it emphasizes how the church should be connectional in nature. The author has as one of his goals the realization that churches that are independent and congregational lack proper accountabilty and fail to utilize the counsel of the broader church.
Do Minister & Elder Hold the Same Office: This article was written by one of my former seminary professors. Dr. Strange explains well the history surrounding the debate, as well as getting into many of the texts involved. One will note that this view is deeply embedded in the roots of the OT. The hermenutic we use in all of our interpretation as Reformed and Covenantal types does not neglect the continuity of Scripture.
It should be noted that I currently serve in a church that is more two office in its polity (I am three office). It should be understood then that I do respect this long tradition and enjoy working beside my fellow elders very much.
I recently came across a good article on "Why the Missional Movement Will Fail." It is good in that it focuses the real intent of the church's mission. The church was commissioned to "make disciples" and the missional movement, while very zealous & full of "missional" hullabaloo fails without real cultivation of Bible study.
I admit that I am rather adverse from calling myself "Misisonal" and refrain from using the word missional at all. Part of that is my personality (I don't jump on bandwagons very easily and am something of a fad curmudgeon).
Another reason is because I think the word is rather postmodern. It was coined not too many years ago and many people seem to make it mean whatever they want. Some are just using it because it sounds so cool ("I'm missional" sounds so much better than "I like to do evangelism.") But some seem to use it in almost completely contradictory ways! For instance, you have your die hard evangelical using it as well as your flaked out emergent church guys throwing around the term.
But part of the reason I don't use it is because I fail to see a lot of those who call themselves missional doing any really having to do with the mission of the church. It often appears to be just a nice title for a guy who is planting a church or writing a blog somewhere.
[If that is the case, I guess I am missional! (Although, playing Twitter seems to be a real missional thing too. Us fuddy duddies seem to prefer Facebook.)]
What I mean is this: I don't see a lot of the old school forms of evangelism being promoted or implemented by missional guys. It doesn't seem to be hip to pass out tracts or preach in the open air. I do not want to presume to say that this does not happen at all. But it seems that sitting in a coffee shop or having a home group is the focus of most missional guys.
For instance, the article that I mentioned at the very beginning of this post offered a free ebook on practical ways to be missional. Here are a few of the practical suggestions they gave for getting the gospel out:
Um, okay. I get it. You are trying to be available and friendly. But this is not as practical as, "Pass out tracts at a fair booth. Make CD's of your pastor's best evangelistic sermon and distribute them after a college football game."
Not downplaying walking the dog, by any means. But my wife and I have been walking the dog for 15 years now, and there hasn't been any missional activity occur (or, maybe I was being missional and didn't know it because I really don't know what it means to be missional--see discussion above). The only godly thing that happened as a result of the 2-5 miles a day we put in is that we've gotten one happy dog and kept that snickers bar from catching up with us.
I understand that we want to develop relationships and seek to facilitate gospel conversations in our communities. I also have the goal of getting people into my home for dinner and discipleship. But it seems that the old school means of accomplishing the church's mission (dare I use an outdated word like "evangelism"?) have fallen by the wayside.
If this is the case, then I am happy to say that I am not missional. I'm just a guy who believes in preaching, old school evangelism, and doing some old fashioned Bible study.
A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful. In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. Pro 14:25-26
Exegeting Scripture involves looking at all the different parts of God’s word. You whittle each line down and examine each and every word. Each phrase is scrutinized. But as you look at the individual trees (and even individual leaves!), you should never forget to step back and see the forest.
Each of these proverbs contains good lessons. You can learn a lot from each line. But it is important to notice their juxtaposition too.
We could talk about the excellency of a truthful witness. We could enshrine the bold advocate of Biblical truth as one who is a savior. And we could talk about how wonderful it is to know the fear of God and possess a good self esteem (confidence). But you have to understand that these ideas are not separate and independent of each other. They are intertwined and the first is absolutely dependent upon the second.
A truthful witness saves lives. He is one who stands up against the tide of unbelief and is willing to be known as a kook. He’s not afraid to speak out against the issues of his day, despite being the minority—perhaps even the lone voice. But how is it that he has that boldness? His confidence comes from his fear of God. When you are not anchored in the fear of God, you will end up pandering and capitulating to the masses.
Think of Athanasius. He was exiled three times for his standing against the rank heresy of Arianism. There is no doubt that there was the temptation to succumb to the falsehood that was becoming more and more mainstream. Life in exile was certainly not a pleasant thing. Yet, despite his persecution, he remained faithful to the word of God.
Martin Luther is a good example too. We romanticize Luther’s life. We tend to forget that people didn’t much care for his speaking out against purgatory, the Roman establishment, and such. We forget that he cowered at times in his home, to the point of being almost mad.
What was it that made these stalwarts so persevering? It was their fear of God.
Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, think of the Apostle Peter. He betrayed Christ three times. What was the grand pressure that he faced? It wasn't anything much. He got rolled over by a little girl. Why did he cave? Why did he lack the confidence to speak up? Because he didn’t know the fear of God.
What about our day? What would it be like if you spoke up against the sacred cows of our day? If you dared to pipe up about feminism, and talk about things like Titus 2 or 2 Tim. 2:14. Or if you had a crazy thought like: You know, children are leaving the faith in droves and becoming atheists and agnostics almost en mass. Perhaps it is because they are going to schools that are atheistic and agnostic? Maybe we should do something completely off the wall and reconsider the way we raise and educate them.
What would it be like if you attempted to broach these kinds of issues? Imagine the kind of blowback you’d get. I would suppose some of your jobs would be on the line. You’d likely be thought of as a kook. You might not be physically exiled like Athanasius, but you might experience an exile of sorts as people leave your church or say things like, “there goes Crazy Uncle Matt again!”
That’s why the fear of the Lord must be your confidence. The best summary of what that is goes like this: The fear of God is when your biggest fear is breaking God’s command and offending him. God is so loved, so enjoyed, so reverenced, so enjoyed that His will, and it alone, is what matters.
Only when He comes first will you be able to be a savior...and an oddball.
"No, you can’t split rotten wood."
-B.B. Warfeild, speaking to Machen about Machen's desire to see a split in the PCUSA in 1921
I believe in believer's baptism. Whenever someone enters the covenant for the first time, through repentance and profession of faith, they must be baptized. Once they enter, the promises of God extend to their children. As such, these children ought to be marked out as belonging to the Lord's through baptism.
Similarly, in the OT, when a Gentile became a follower of YHWH, he had to be circumcised. Once that was done, all of his household (children and slaves), became covenantally united to the Lord. All were members of God's church (Israel), and liable to either blessings or curses.
In the book of Acts, we see a transition stage. The covenant sign had changed from circumcision to baptism, as Col. 2 and Matt. 28 indicate. Thus, all those who profess faith in the book of Acts must be baptized. Yet Peter expresses the continuity of God's dealing with families when he says that "the promise is to you and to your children." He echoes the words of God in Genesis 12 and 17 purposefully.
Peter's testimony is not alone. Paul backs him when he indicates that the children of believer's are "holy." That is, they have been distinguished from the children of unbelievers. They are "set apart to God," and, being so, ought to have the sign that marks them as such.
But prior to the Apostle's, we have the words and deeds of Jesus himself. Jesus recognized the little children (infants) as members of his kingdom when he told his disciples to "Let the babies come to me, and do not forbid them, for such is the kingdom of heaven." He went on to express that this kingdom membership cannot remain solely one of physical birth or parental heritage. True membership must also be accompanied by faith, for "one must become like a little child." In sum, Christ spoke of both the external and internal covenants in virtually the same breath.
This phenomena has a crude parallel in our American citizenship. Upon birth we are acknowledged as members of this nation/state by means of an official birth certificate. We are to be raised to be faithful patriots, and at the proper time we must express our adherence to this kingdom publicly (through voting, for example).
Prior to his ascension to the Father's right hand, Jesus also gave the apostles the charge go and make disciples. How does one "make a disciple?" It is through the dual works of teaching them all that Christ has commanded and assigning to them the name of the Triune God in baptism. Since we still have the command to "impress these things upon our children, talk about them as we lie down and get up and walk along the way," we must recognize these children as disciples through baptism.
Covenant baptism, like it's Old Testament counterpart of circumcision, is a sign and seal to the child. It is the visible manifestation of God's promise "I will be your God, you will be my people." This baptism does not save a child, but it does contain a lively and true promise. So the child always carries with him this reminder and he should recognize that he must respond with faith and obedience all his days.
His greater privilege also implies greater responsibility. If he rebels, he is judged with stricter judgment--for he enjoyed more light and more proximity to God & His blessing.
One of the questions that I am often asked has to do with calamities and natural disasters. People wonder if these can be interpreted as signs of God's judgment upon America.
My answer to that is yes and no. On the one hand, we should acknowledge that we can never have an infallible understanding of God's providence. We are not prophets who can peer into the mind of God and determine whether or not God is using this event as a way of testing us (as in the case of Job) or if it is a direct expression of his wrath (as in the case of the Moabites attacking Israel during the time of the Judges).
However, that being said, every calamity ought to give us pause. If we treat it with a sort of atheistic complacence and never give a single thought to the sins of our community / nation / state / church, we may only be incurring more guilt. It is only right that such times of calamity would cause us to bow before the Lord to humbly petition his mercy.
It may be that such a catastrophe may have nothing to do with communal guilt. But it would be foolish not to take time to reflect as a corporate body and/or ask the Lord to reveal our misdeeds if there be any to which we are blind.
[For more on this, I would recommend James Henley Thornwell's famous sermon, "Judgments: A Call to Repentance."]
We might be more particular here and ask whether or not the recent hurricanes, wildfires, and attacks by enemies indications of God's wrath. To this I would respond, "Perhaps so." Yet this I can definitely say: God is not on America's side.
We do not need any specific national tragedy to assure us of this. The fact that we have gross and appalling deeds should be all the indication we need.
We are a nation that is embroiled in sin. We have a staggering amount of blood on our hands due to abortion, a debased currency coupled with debt proportions that are almost astronomical, and an all round attitude of giving God the finger every chance we can. These are just a few of our corporate offenses.
That we are not escaping the clutches of this downward spiral is judgment enough. God has said he would give people over to their sins, and this is what he seems to be doing.
It should be safe to say that America, though once a shining city on a hill, will no doubt go the way of all nations if Christ should tarry. And while God may very well send us warnings, it is safe to say that we are tightening the noose of our destruction quite well enough on our own.
For two weeks I had been helping a man who was essentially homeless. At first I had him doing some chores around the house. I gave him food and paid him a fair wage for his labors.
As our relationship progressed I saw that he had some expertise in washing, waxing and detailing cars. I encouraged him to pursue these gifts and attempt to make a business of it. I began to help him in this. I allowed him to use my supplies and hose. I made flyers for him to pass out and gave him tips on how to get a business going. I set up a website for him, a facebook page, and did a good deal of promotional work for him.
The people of Providence Church also assisted. They were kind enough to offer more than simple prayers (which they most certainly did). They brought their cars in for him to spiff up to help "get him on his feet" and they offered him a great deal of encouragement/counsel. The deacons were also ready to help in more substantial ways if his condition necessitated it.
Throughout it all I was able to give this young man a substantial amount of counsel. Each day we would work through relational problems he was having. I talked to him about the gospel and what it meant to follow the Lord. He would listen as I explained how he needed to adjust certain priorities and repent of certain lifestyles.
All this is to say that we had a great ministry going and there was true compassion being demonstrated...until Job & Family Services stepped in!
That's right. The State of Ohio gave him a food stamps card. Ever since then, I have not seen or heard from him. I've called him twice at the place he had been staying. They said that they had not seen him much. I figure that means he is shacking up with his girlfriend again, and has re-entered that volatile relationship.
Why work when you can get your cake and eat it too from your local tyrants?
To be sure, the young man I was assisting is culpable of sin in the matter. Yet the gods of this age should not be pardoned in the least. They are now guilty of having killed this man's desire to work and they have given him license to live a sexually promiscuous lifestyle.
People need to recognize that the state is a religion. They do not want people being exposed to Christian compassion. They will bribe them with food and money to keep them from having to honor Christ or be exposed to His Word.
"If they cannot partake worthily without being able duly to discern the sanctity of the Lord's body, why should we stretch out poison to our young children instead of vivifying food?"1
If you leave your child at the Kroc Center here in Ashland be aware that your kid could be at risk.
The Salvation Army hosted the gay lesbian anti-bullying summit at their Kroc Center facility. They therefore endorse the acceptance of lesbians, gays, and transgenders as normal sexuality. That means your kid may very well be left under the oversight of a pervert they hired. At the very least your child will likely be taught that such a lifestyle is acceptable.
These people have no desire to stand for God and his law. They are exactly the opposite of what they claim to be. They are the Reprobation Army and servants of Satan. So long as they tolerate sinful patterns and shameful deeds they offer no hope of salvation.
What's more, they will see no problem putting your children in the care of a sodomite. He or she might be alone with your child. He or she might be asked to accompany your child to the bathroom. That kind of person might be watching your child running around in his/her swimsuit at the spray park.
You must realize that your child may not be safe there by himself/herself. If you choose to take your child there, be sure to accompany them at all times.
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