Archive for April 2012

Do the Catacomb Paintings of Jesus Help Us Imagine His Likeness at His Second Coming?


Before Christianity was accepted by Constantine, the saints buried Christians along the walls of tunnels in what we call catacombs. Most major cities in the Roman empire have large sprawling catacombs underneath them. The city of Rome has over 4 million Christians buried underground in this fashion within 600 miles of tunnels.

The family often decorated the tombs. We do the same with carved headstones and occasional flowers. They often painted a portrait of Christ, or a fish, or bread and grapes, or bread and fish, or the Good Shepherd, or a cross.

Early Christians knew what Jesus looked like. They saw His face every time they greeted Him. Artists of the day could have easily been employed to paint His picture on a stone used to seal up a tomb in the catacombs. And in fact this was often done.

Obviously, our relationship with Jesus is not enhanced by our ability to rightly frame His earthly image in our head, but, might our worship be enhanced by rightly framing a heavenly image in our head?

Revelation 1:9-20 encourages us to do just that.

So what does this image look like?

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Sarah May McFerrin — Passed April 27, 2012


Miss Sarah May McFerrin, 85, of Due West, SC, died peacefully this morning after a short battle with cancer.

Miss McFerrin was the only child of Rev. and Mrs. J. B. McFerrin, who served pastorates in Virginia, Arkansas, and South Carolina. Miss McFerrin was a member of Due West ARP Church, Due West, SC, where she was serving a second term as president of the Due West Foreign Missionary Society.

She had a great love for foreign mission work and corresponded frequently with numerous World Witness missionaries, praying for them and supporting them financially.

She was a retired guidance counselor with the Abbeville County (SC) Public School District, where she influenced generations of young people with her keen insights, her compassion, and her love for Christ.

Funeral services will be conducted Sunday April 29, 2012 at 3:00 PM in the Due West ARP Church with the Rev. Calvin Draffin officiating. The burial will follow in the church cemetery. Honorary pallbearers will be members of the Session at the Due West ARP Church.

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The Book of Revelation Ends the Same for Everyone — God says, "Checkmate!"


The only memory I have of my mom’s dad is playing chess in the basement of his home during the holidays. He owned a split level home. We played in the downstairs next to the fireplace.

My grandfather was American Indian. He had the jet black hair and flat nose to match. He was a striking man to see. And he never let me beat him in chess. He always won.

As I reflect on those memories I find comfort in his winning. Occasionally, I would think I was getting the upper hand. But in the end it was always checkmate. He was always in control.

I am glad I didn’t have the ability to out-think my grandfather. I am glad he always won.

That’s what God is telling us in Revelation. You may think God is not in control, but in the end it is checkmate for everybody. Jesus wins. God gets the glory, and things work out for our benefit.

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Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it! — Banned by the UK Government


The man who believes he can help gay people turn straight

Dr Mike Davidson, a Christian campaigner with a homosexual past, says others, too, can reject what he calls a sin.

“We don’t consider it a disease,” says Davidson, who works under the banner of the Core Issues Trust. “There are plenty of people who work in a therapeutic context to achieve life goals. There are some people who have tried gay; it doesn’t work for them. It’s not mixing with their life circumstances. They want to move out of it. They deserve to receive professional help that is well trained, well regulated and ethical. That’s what we are trying to achieve.”

The Mayor of London has just banned advertisements that Davidson and his allies planned to put on the sides of buses, declaring: “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!” They were meant to mirror a campaign by the gay rights group Stonewall, but Boris Johnson pulled the ads after taking offence at the suggestion he saw within them.

“It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone can recover from,” said Johnson, who feared “a backlash so intense it would not have been in the interests of Christian people in this city”.

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Faith, Freedom, and the First Amendment: The Guarantee of Religious Liberty


Freedom of religion is at the heart of the American understanding of liberty. Under our constitutional order, the free exercise of religion is not a mere matter of toleration but an inalienable natural right.

As George Washington explained in his famous letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport: “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.” There are, of course, some limits to the free exercise of religion. Citizens cannot invoke the First Amendment to break general laws (although exemptions may be granted).

But within the confines of the law, all citizens have the same right of conscience. This essay is adapted from The Heritage Guide to the Constitution for a series providing constitutional guidance for lawmakers.

Visit the Heritage Foundation to learn more

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Briefly Noted: Is Facebook Making Us Lonely, Distracted, and Narcissistic?


In his recent article in The Atlantic, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?,” Stephen Marche suggests that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media might actually be making us more lonely (and more narcissistic, to boot).[1] Marche argues, “Social Media–from Facebook to Twitter–have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggest that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)–and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill. A report on what the epidemic of loneliness is doing to our souls and our society.” (p. 60)

Marche begins with the story of the death of a former B-movie star whose dead body was not discovered in her house until a year after her death (even though she had thousands of Facebook “friends”) in order to illustrate the ironic effects of Facebook on our souls and society. For Marche greater social media “connection” actually leads to greater “disconnection.” The public and shared nature of Facebook ironically can turn people more in on themselves.

I think that social media can make us more distracted and less reflective. We find it difficult to read, to reflect, to pray, or to do anything else that requires sustained attention, precisely because we are assaulted by emails, text messages, tweets, and Facebook updates. We have got to find some way to carve out time in our lives for deeply human activities such as reading, contemplation, prayer, and conversation.

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More Scripture-Twisting on the Campaign Trail?


Raise your hand if you’re offended by politicians and church leaders using the Bible like a wax nose. On the left bank, there is the well-worn battery of references to Jesus and the rich young ruler, the command to “render unto Caesar,” and the last judgment where the sheep and goats are separated.

As the Washington Post poses the question: “Jesus said, ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ In a time of economic turmoil and record poverty levels, are tax cuts for the wealthy moral?” Regular “On Faith” columnist and former seminary president Susan Brooks Thistlewaite is ready with an answer—and verses to back it up. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “‘Sell all that you own and distribute the money.’

But the young man, ‘who was very rich,’ turned away. Jesus’ comment? ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God’ (Luke 18: 21-25).” “All too true,” Ms. Thistlewaite sighs with all the self-satisfaction of someone who thinks she’s not the rich young ruler. “It’s also easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a bill with the rich paying their fair share of taxes to get through Congress. Not gonna happen.”

According to a recent Pew Study, Americans think that there has been too much about religion in the political campaign. And no wonder.

It’s no time for Christians to back away from concern for the common good, bringing their deepest convictions to bear just as others do.

However, the trading of Bible verses ripped from their covenantal context and intention is a sure way to trivialize God’s Word in our society, in our churches, and in our own lives.

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The Glory of Plodding


It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church.

Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me. Put away the Che Guevara t-shirts, stop the revolution, and join the rest of the plodders.

Fifty years from now you’ll be glad you did.

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Jesus told Mary, "I am Not Yet Ascended" — Didn't He Already Go to Heaven?


Jesus makes two ascents. Take a moment to think this through. There are two events when Jesus ascends into Heaven.

First, after His death on the Cross Jesus immediately ascends into the congregation of the saints in heaven. Jesus told the thief hanging next to Him that they were both going to heaven.

This answers the question, “Where was Jesus during the three days His body was in the grave?”

The second ascent is recorded in the Bible in Acts 1:3-11. This is called the Ascension.

The difference is that in the first ascending of Jesus in Heaven He does so as a Man. He joins with the saints for three days without a resurrected body. He then goes back and forth to heaven for 40 days with a resurrected body.

The Ascension is different entirely. In the Ascension God answers Jesus prayer in John 20:5 “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

This is why Mary couldn’t cling to Jesus and keep Him for herself. He wasn’t yet fully ascended.

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Louisiana College Wins Legal Battle for Inerrancy — Lessons for the ARP Maybe?



Liberal professors “candidly testified [before the court] that their errant view of the Bible was in conflict with the inerrant beliefs of the [school] administration.”

The professors filed suit in 2005 against the school amid a growing furor over the school’s movement away from Baptist doctrine. The professors fueled the controversy with statements they made during class, including voicing skepticism over the bodily resurrection of Jesus and Mary’s virginity, school President Joe Aguillard said.

In response to complaints from parents and students about how liberal the small college in Pineville, La., had become, the Louisiana Baptist Convention appointed a new slate of conservative trustees to oversee operations, Aguillard said: “Their goal was to bring the college back to its biblical roots.”

They have now won the mandate to finish those goals.

Result? During the last five years enrollment has grown by 89 percent.

What are the lessons for the ARP?


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The Future of the PCA — Is the Decline of the PCA Different from the ARP?


The PCA will probably continue to decline in the decade to come. Some of the reasons are sociological and demographic; others are theological. Some are intrinsic to our PCA identity, and cannot be changed.

Most of our PCA churches are rural and have less than 100 members. As the rural countryside declines, the rural churches will decline, too. 

Ten years ago, because of congregations leaving Liberal denominations for the PCA, we foolishly boasted that the PCA was growing at a rate of five percent per year. Membership grew from 2002 to 2006 by 27,056 which is only 1.1% over four years, or .27% per year.

At our General Assembly in Orlando in June of 2009, it was reported that the PCA had experienced NEGATIVE growth (for the first time) in 2008. 

Growth by receiving conservative churches came to an end when the Evangelical Presbyterian Church began, because the EPC, while conservative, also admits churches with women elders and deacons.

In the decades ahead we will probably continue our decline.

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Can We Ask Our Children to Pay Our Debt and Still Call Ourselves The Greatest Generation?


Every time Christians elect politicians willing to spend more in taxes than we collect, we cosign our good names to the generational theft from future generations. This is a great sin.

What is the role of the Church? We need to preach against stealing.

Is our national debt really stealing? It is no different than taking a credit card out in our child’s name. If we borrow for our own comforts, and borrow more than we can every hope to pay back, then we are shifting the responsibility for that debt to them. Regardless of our good intentions, that’s white collar crime.

The Greatest Generation will be known, by future generations, as the Morally Bankrupt Generation. We are borrowing money to give charity (Welfare, Medicaid and Food Stamps) on the backs of our grand-children. It will be known as the Greatest Crime in a Thousand Years.

Nehemiah tells us how to fix it if we are willing to get involved.

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How Does Erskine Implement Christian Education? — Two Opinions


Two Opinions about implementing Christian Education.

ONE: I can watch on my television as three hundred cyclists climb the Alps and then race through the streets of Paris toward the finish line, not having any idea whatsoever which one is engaged in Christian cycling and which is practicing Jewish cycling perhaps or Hindu cycling. In other words, the activity itself, though practiced by a Christian, has really not changed at all in and of itself. Therefore, there is no such thing as Christian Education either.

TWO: There is no doubt that the Bill of Rights is the Bill of Rights whether one studies it at UC Berkeley or Regent University. One could therefore try to make the case that the adjectives “progressive” and “conservative” are meaningless as applied to constitutional jurisprudence. That would be news to the faculty and students at either institution. Or one might say that because Yale Divinity School and Westminster Theological Seminary use the same Greek New Testament, the adjectives “evangelical” and “non-evangelical” are vacuous in New Testament studies.

Obviously, the term Christian Education has meaning.


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Draft for the ARPC Form of Government

by William Barron Chairman — Committee to Revise the Form of Government TO:  Ministers and Session Clerks RE:  Form of Government Revision Please see the attached document for an explanation of the work of your Committee to Revise the Form of Government. This is only the Cover Letter to the FOG which will be included in the Synod…

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OUTREACH Prayer Update April 2012


Our church planters depend on the prayers and encouragement of God’s people.

OUTREACH NORTH AMERICA provides this monthly prayer letter to inform you of some of their specific needs and praises so you will know better how to pray for them.

Thank you for your prayers and the interest you show by your phone and e-mail responses. Your prayers truly encourage your church planters.

In general

  • Pray for preparations this month for the Church Planting Assessment Center (CPAC) that will be early next month, May 1-4.
  • Pray for our mission congregations as they plan summer outreach ministry.
    • Christian Education Ministries (CEM) has seen an increase in the number of churches wanting to participate in the Appalachia mission, but due to limited availability and a desire to optimize effectiveness, it may be difficult to find enough ministry sites for all the churches that want to participate. The Appalachia mission has also seen great success and ONA is working with CEM to take veteran churches to help with church plants and renewal endeavors in the ARP.
    • It is great that ARP churches are excited about missions and ONA and CEM want to help provide opportunities for mission trips to support our ARP church plants!
    • This summer some established ARP churches taking mission trips to church plants to help them with their summer outreach ministries. We hope this great opportunity will flourish and grow over the next few years.
    • Please contact the ONA office if your church is interested in participating.
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Did God Pollute the Environment by Creating Oil?


There are voices within our culture trying to remove the label “GOOD” from the creation.

Many things that God called good, they call bad.

Oil is a good example. We are not committing a sin by unlocking the energy within the creation. God placed it there for us to find and use.

We are not sinful for cutting down trees to make paper or build homes.

The Biblical model of the family is not a curse on women. The Ten commandments are not an infringement on liberty or free speech.

We must not adopt the world’s negative view toward God’s amazing gifts.

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Cal Thomas: Politics Reveal GOD GAP and Clergy isn't helping close it


by Cal Thomas

There have been many “gaps” in modern politics. There is the gender gap, the generation gap and now the God gap, which is the gulf between people who take God’s instructions seriously and those who don’t. Which side of the gap you’re on could influence your vote.

The God gap is growing wider.

I asked Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum about this. In a telephone interview with me, Santorum, whose rhetoric is loaded with religious and cultural language, said, “While (such language) may be upsetting to some, there’s a hunger out there for talking about what’s true.”

How, then, would he explain a recent New York Times story that reported for the first time in our history, that “more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.” Santorum acknowledged, “I’m probably talking to Republican audiences, so it’s a little different. I’m not talking to the general audience at this point. Marriage is on the decline. The culture is changing.”

The problem for presidential candidates — and for President Obama, who occasionally appeals to Scripture to justify his policies — is that fewer people are listening to the voice of God, or to voices claiming to speak for Him.

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