King Alfred the Great - Recently read this short work on King Alfred the Great, which details the life of a godly leader. His administration is essentially the foundation for common law, which is built on the Mosaic code. The work expresses how society at large profited--stealing and general evil was diminished throughout the land. His character is highlighted, especially his diligence to study and develop personal piety.
The Christian Ministry, by Charles Bridges - I have begun to read this book. I have desired some personal encouragement in regards to the work of the ministry. This quote stands out not only as profound:
“The Ministration of the Church, as Calvin observes, is ‘not an easy and indulgent exercise, but a hard and severe warfare, where Satan is exerting all his power against us, and moving every stone for our disturbance.’”
Josh Harris Ted Talk, Strong Enough to be Wrong - That was the first time she had ever heard a religious leader admit he was wrong.
At Christmas time we remember the good news of the Savior's birth. He entered the world to bring salvation to men.
But our appreciation of Christ will be more fully attuned when we remember that His incarnation was anything but glorious.
The Son of God's entrance into the world was part of his humiliation and thus very "inglorious." We can only appreciate the work of the Savior when we see his incarnation in this light.
Consider the depths to which he did descend to bring you salvation:
1. He left his Father - Prior to the incarnation the Son dwelt in the bosom of the Father, wherein he enjoyed perfect love, joy, and blessing. His leaving this sweet realm marks his first step into hell (for hell is separation from God). What pain it is for us to leave home and part with human parents! How infinitely greater was the pain of Christ in relinquishing the enchanting place of the Father's presence!
2. He was born - He who was very God of very God took upon himself the very flesh He did create. He created man in His own image, but then took the image of man himself. And while this cannot expressly be said to be part of his 'humiliation" (for he retains his human nature now in his exaltation), it is a superb act of condescension on his part.
3. He was born into severe conditions - Christ was not only born into abject poverty, but his birth suffered from the further indignities of obscurity and insult. Bethlehem was little known town, the stable was an undignified place, the manger was, to say the least, crude. Added is the insult of relatives in Bethlehem who did not show compassion on the poor travelers and expecting mother.
4. He was utterly dependent - The sovereign Creator, upon whom all creation depends, was himself made dependent upon Mary & Joseph. He who was used to the service of angels was at the mercy of new parents.
5. He suffered the extremities of infancy - Catholic dogma says that Christ retained the reason of a grown man from infancy. But this is not true. He grew in wisdom & stature. More than that, He suffered from the first hour the new experiences of humanity: hunger, neglect, fatigue, grief, etc.
6. His infancy was filled with accentuated agonies - The conditions surrounding his birth were filled with adversity, adding to his difficulties. He felt the pricks of hay for bedding, endured the pains of an unhospitable manger, and was threatened with death by Herod.
7. He subjected himself to the law - He who was the very Lawgiver, Lord, and Judge put himself under the law. It was not just to live by it as a rule--for he already did this by nature. Rather, he came under the curse of it. He came into this world to fulfill its stipulations for others. In sum, He was born to die.
This documentary on Netflix about lying and deceitful habits is quite intriguing. It expresses well that all men lie (profusely!). It also is interesting to see the rationalizations that lie behind the act of lying and the different avenues that encourage people in their lies.
However, the flick has a glaring mistake: it denies that men are inherently evil. The producers are themselves self deceived because they proclaim that man is basically good. It should be obvious by their own overwhelming data that prolific liars like us are not intrinsically good (or even “basically” good). It is amazing that the video time and again say how bad lying is, yet will not admit the radical depravity that induces it.
It is interesting too that it highlights the use of God’s law as a civil restraint upon society. One part of their study has people recite the 10 commandments before taking the lie test. This recitation curbed immoral choices COMPLETELY, even among atheists and people of other religious adherence.
Unfortunately, as behaviorists (who think man is merely an animal who can be manipulated by mere environmental change) they believe they have the power to change men and manufacture a utopian society where cheating is virtually vanquished. This is perhaps their greater deception. It is the chief lie, for it indicates that they believe themselves to be God.
Man is not a mere animal. We are spiritual creatures who need moral/spiritual restoration. Only the Lord can fix the heart.
General Duties of Deacons
The care of the poor –
Deacons are primarily charged with the ministry of mercy, which occurs both within and without the boundaries of the local church to which they belong. The relief of congregation members is primary. Yet, when there is none (or are few) who need assistance within the church, the deacons should be employed in bringing relief to the community at large, that those outside the church may feel the power of Christian love and saving effects of the gospel. Moreover, deacons are to aid in the assistance of other churches, even those in different regions of the world as is evidenced by Paul’s collection for Jerusalem (2 Cor.8-9).
The broader support of the afflicted, sick, and weak
The deacons assist by moral support, encouragements, visits, and the like to those who are in need of such. While the elders, as shepherds of God’s flock, ought to minister the word and pray with/for such, the deacons may demonstrate their ministration of mercy by coordinating more frequent expressions of friendship, courtesy and temporal care.
These courtesies may also include transportation, facilitating fellowship for shut ins, provisions made for education of young people who may be in need of it, etc.
The care of the church’s property and finances
Building, grounds, equipment, janitorial needs, collections/accountings, community benevolence.
The recruiting of members’ involvement in works of mercy and service
The deacons seek to enlist others from the local fellowship to assist them and dutifully employ them in the above mentioned duties
Usual Diaconal Committees
As the deacons must execute their duties in a timely manner, it may require separate teams be created. The creation of committees is thus wise. The following composes an ordinary distribution of duties:
This week the Supreme Court began hearings on the case of Christian baker Jack Philips. Since it is back in the public eye we are are once again being inundated with arguments to support same sex marriage.
Let's examine their rationale and see how none of the reasons should be influential for us as Christians.
1. It's LOVE! The world today has a radical misconception of what love is and what kinds of things you can love. Love is not to be defined as a feeling, romantic desire, erotic impulse, or even zealous, long lasting commitment to another.
Love is only to be defined by God and His law. The Lord alone, who himself is the embodiment of Love, tells us what we are to love and how that love is to manifests itself. In the case of homosexual marriage, it is a misplaced 'affection' and a perversion of how love is to be expressed.
2. They are consenting adults! Mutual agreement can be a good thing, but we need to recognize that consent of involved parties does not make an action right or wrong.
We must keep in mind that God's approval is what matters most. If God is against it, it doesn't matter how many people may concur with a decision. Even if the Supreme Court ends up offering up its unanimous consent, it is still wrong.
3. It's a committed / monogamous relationship - In a day where most change lovers as often as they change their clothes, it is almost refreshing to hear people talk about monogamy. But we shouldn't be fooled - homosexuals rarely are monogamous. We know that one perversion usually is followed by another, and studies have shown this to be true in the case of homosexuality.
But even in the rare instance where monogamy may be practiced, it still doesn't constitute a lawful marriage. God not only requires singular devotion, He also requires two people of the opposite sex: a male & female.
4. It doesn't hurt anyone - This tag is bandied about regularly and loosely. And, as you may have guessed by now, harm (or lack of it) does not constitute lawfulness in and of itself. God's Word is to be the final authority in all matters of life and faith.
But Christians shouldn't be fooled by this innocent sounding declaration. We know that the wages of sin is death. Sin always has consequences. And those who embrace sinful lifestyles not only harm themselves, but they also inflict harm on those around them.
The effects of homosexuality are rabid, starting with the decreased life span and increased sickliness of those who practice such things. It also has ramifications for children of such couples and has destructive social implications too (including financial burdens, political fallout, etc).
5. You can't legislate morality - Well, what else is there to legislate then? Such a declaration is a complete misnomer because morality is exactly what is under the government's particular scrutiny. The civil magistrate was instituted by God for the expressed purpose of maintaining a just and orderly society. It is God's expressed agent in punishing the evildoer and exacting His vengeance in cases of criminal offense. (Rom. 13)
Moreover, if morality can't be legislated, why was Jack Philips (and others like him) were taken to court in the first place?
If the present SCOTUS case tells us anything, it isn't that we cannot legislate morality. The real issue is, "Which morality do we legislate?"
This case is a simple reminder that all nations are inherently religious and their laws reflect the god of the land. Since this is so, let us pray that God might be honored and our land might be granted true revival.
This article appeared in the Hopewell Weekly, the weekly e-newsletter of Hopewell Church. Subscribe below to stay up to date on teachings, church events, and prayer requests.
Tis the season! Christmas is upon us and the New Year is dawning. It is a great time for a last ditch effort to contact all those who have visited the church over the course of the year.
Sending out Christmas cards is a perfect way to remind those visitors of your existence and provide a gospel resource for their spiritual nurture.
I began by ordering some cheap Christmas cards off of amazon. Almost 40 cards can be purchased for under $10. For this occasion I chose cards with a nice picture on the front and blank inside. I then designed a simple, gospel based greeting on my computer and ran them through my printer. I added a seasonal Bible verse and simple message. In years past I put the church’s logo on it. This year I chose to say, “Merry Christmas from the Hopewell Church family.”
After they were printed I then added a personal, hand written message. It was just two quick lines that spoke of the gospel and expressed that they were in my prayers.
As an added feature this year I included a special gift with the card. Earlier in the year I had created an ebook on the end times. I had converted the eschatology chapter of Louis Berkhof’s Summary of Christian Doctrine to a sleek ebook that helped to link readers back to our church’s social media outlets. Since it deals with Christ’s second coming it fit perfect with the Advent season.
Again, this was put together on my computer. I created a little document that resembled a small gift certificate. I then placed a QR code on it which served as the link to the ebook (which was hosted on our website). When the QR code is scanned, the ebook automatically downloads to the reader’s device.
This little slip of paper was then folded and inserted into each of the Christmas cards.
All in all, each person who visited received a gospel centered Christmas card along with a personalized message and solid discipleship resource. They were reminded of our interest in them and given another encouragement to attend again. Best of all the total cost with postage was less than $25.
A friend commented that the Christian bakers should have gone the extra mile and baked two cakes for the homosexuals who wanted to be married. My response? Well... it went something like this...
We should also sell guns to murderers, saute our neighbor for cannibals, give taxi rides for thieves on their heist, offer knives to abortionists, sell dogs to those involved in beastiality.
I think you get my point. A homosexual wedding is a direct violation of God's law. To support it in any way is to be guilty in it. You become an accomplice and advocate. A Christian has more than a freedom to abstain, he has a moral duty.
That is why the bakers are being forced to submit. They MUST support and be a promoter. They are not allowed to not back the wickedness. No one is allowed freedom of conscience in the matter. They may not in any way say that this act is wrong.
The god of secularism may not be defied.
Marriage is the uniting of two sinners. As sinners, they by nature repel one another. We are inclined to break out against one another and there is a sense in which marriages are doomed from the beginning.
This is why all couples must look unto Christ and submit unto Him. It is only a miracle of God's grace that can weld these two differing forces together. The Spirit of God is the only power that can overcome the rebelling forces of the human heart and allow a couple to dwell together in happiness for the extent of their days.
The sordid details of yet another sexual scandal has lit up the news media. Unfortunately, such stories are becoming a daily occurrence.
Since these exploits reveal the prevalence of sexual sin in our day, it is a good time to review some Biblical truths regarding the subject of purity.
1. The innocent will not be put to shame (Ps 25:3). Those who live clean lives will not be disgraced. Chastity has the simple reward of being free from public embarrassment and the shame of guilt.
On the contrary, dishonorable people will eventually be dishonored. If the latest news spin tells us anything, it is this: What is said (or done) in secret will be proclaimed on housetops.
2. God avenges the powerless. Closely related is the fact that God acts to assist those who are weak and defenseless. To be sure, sexual harassment is a form of oppression. Crude talk and lewd advances are at their core power plays (perpetrated by both men and women). Respectful attitudes and actions towards the opposite sex is further reinforced when we remember that the Lord "executes justice for the oppressed." (Psalm 146:7).
3. Keeping Good Company is Wisdom - Who is laughing at Mike Pence now? His policy of never dining with a woman who is not his wife (sometimes called the Billy Graham Rule) has become the gold standard for purity and non-accusation.
Proverbs 2 reminds us that wisdom is the greatest friend a person can have because it connects with people of integrity and provides unassailable alibis.
4. Biblical sexuality is the most fulfilling - Marital fidelity not only offers a life of no regret, but it provides the avenue for the greatest joy and fulfillment. God designed marriage for the express purpose of sexual gratification. Scripture repeatedly associates the deeper concepts fulfillment (unity, intimacy, and happiness) with fidelity, while associating death, despair, and difficulty with fornication.
5. Decency = contentment - Much of the unfaithfulness that occurs in the world has to do with one simple thing: discontent. It is because people are not content with God and His plan that they seek exploits and eroticism. What Paul says about those who are not content with material things is also true for those who are not content with their wife (or lack thereof)--they "fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction."
One of the most perplexing parts of the Bible involves the Old Testament food laws. Indeed, many unbelievers will go so far as to use these laws to mock the Christian religion.
While these laws are no longer binding on Christians today, understanding their place and role helps us know more about God's will for our lives now.
1. God is watching out for us - The Jews were some of the healthiest people on the planet. The reason was much because of their diet. Most of the animals that God forbid were, to some degree or other, toxic for consumption. Jews didn't have to worry about scurvy and trichinosis b/c God was watching out for them. Other animals had unsanitary eating habits...and who wants to eat toilet bowl cleaner?
We must remember that obedience is good for us. God's law is meant to facilitate life. If we obey God's law we will likely see good health and much happiness.
2. God loves us immensely - God had given the food laws so that the people of Israel would be distinguished from all the other people's of the earth. They were to stand out as a holy nation, a peculiar people, etc. Their diet only served to reinforce the notion that they belonged specifically to the Lord.
The food laws may not make for devotional reading, but each line should remind us that God has a special love for us. We are His unique people and He has chosen us out of all the people of the earth.
3. Unity - Food is the great unifier, is it not? Our carry-in meals create greater bonds of fellowship among us. We gain encouragement and strength as we sit and eat with each other. So too with the Jews! The food laws of the OT helped the Israelites bond as a people. It reinforced their identity and faith in God.
As the wise have said: "Intimate friendships are formed at table."
4. Bad company corrupts good character - It's not too hard to figure out who doesn't come to a vegan party, does it? Just as food unites, it also separates. It can keep people apart.
The finicky diet of the Jews kept them from having unholy companionship. Since they couldn't fellowship with pagans very well due to the different menues, they were often kept from relationships that would lead to idolatry and sin.
From this we may be reminded that we ought not to be unequally yoked and develop deep relationships with people of different faiths.
5. Redemptive reminder - One of the prime food laws regarded the eating/drinking of blood. Not only was this a practice that was unhealthy and typically associated with idolatrous rites, but it was a reminder of the realities of life and death. Blood (which is a symbol of life) must be shed due to sin. To profane blood is to profane life. Moreover, it reflects poorly upon the blood sacrifice of Christ, whose aim is to restore life.
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