Archive for May 2012

Suffering, the Smyrna Church and their AD 155 Pamphlet on the Martyrdom of Polycarp

There are a quarter of a billion Christians living under intense persecution right now. 200,000 are martyred every year for their Christian witness.

Their death is heartbreaking, but from God’s perspective, it’s like graduating summa cum laude, meaning “with highest honor.”

Jesus dictated a letter through John to the Church to remind them to get ready for the trouble.

What might cause trouble for Christians in America?

Might we face persecution for not embracing Darwinism as an Educator? That already happens.

Might we be accused of committing a hate crime if we call homosexuals sinners? That already happens.

Might we be fired and told we were not “team players” for confronting lies in corporate marketing materials? That also already happens.

So what does Jesus say about our suffering? It’s like we are making deposits into our 401k account. One day Jesus will make sure we cash in.

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Every Mother Can Be a co-Redemptrix

I like to think of my mom as a co-Redemptrix.

That’s not a word we Protestants use. If you grew up Roman Catholic then there’s a good chance you studied the co-Redemptrix work of Mary.

Mary is described as a co-Redeemer because she submitted to the will of God that the Redeemer should be born through her body by the power of the Holy Spirit. She prayed, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word (Luke 1:38).

Mary was a co-Redemptrix in that she agreed to work with God in her life and in the life of those around her.

Every mother can be a co-Redemptrix is she works with Christ to bring her family to faith. By your prayers, using the word of God as part of your parenting and instruction, by your godly living, in love and holiness you can bring our lives under the constraints and freedom of God’s law.

This is the primary arena of accountability that God reserves for Mothers.

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"Oh, How I Loved Jesus" — Are We Much Different Than the Church of Ephesus?

Yesterday my wife told me she was in love with me, and my response was, “I love you too.” A few minutes later she asked me about my response. She pointed out that she loves her brothers, but she isn’t in love with her brothers.

She wanted to know if I was still in love with her. Jesus begins his conversation with the Church on this personal level.

It’s a love conversation. Awkward. Peter denied three times on the night of Jesus’ crucifixion that he even knew Jesus. So after the resurrection, Jesus asked if Peter loved Him. Peter said he was only fond of Jesus. So Jesus asked again.

Now Jesus is having the same conversation with us.
I remember when a girl told me she loved me, yet I didn’t respond with the same level of commitment and enthusiasm. Eight hours later we ended a two year dating relationship.

That’s the way Jesus starts His conversation with His Bride. Jesus says, “You’re not in love with your husband anymore.”

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Why Does the Apostle's Creed Think Pontius Pilate is Central to our Faith? — Luke 1:1-4

When the early church pieced together the Apostle’s Creed, they were using the baptismal formulas previously in use by the actual Apostles. We don’t know which Apostle coined each phrase of the Apostle’s Creed, but one of the twelve was baptizing converts in the name of Jesus Christ who suffered under Pontius Pilate.

Which begs the question, “why are we confessing anything about a secular Roman governor?” This morning I am going to explain why Pilate’s name is in the creed, and I am going to suggest that it is necessary for a sound faith.

During this time period in Rome there were mystical religions that taught a variety of strange ideas. These false religions didn’t claim their teachings were real in a historic or scientific sense, but their teachings were spiritually real.

Lots of Christians understand their own faith within this context. My sermon will try to convince you otherwise.

Let me illustrate this with a true experience of mine. I visited a seminary in the late 1990’s where I considered enrolling. Before I enrolled I wanted to discern what kind of an education I would receive so I asked a professor this question. “Do you think the virgin birth really happened historically or is it just spiritually real?” The teacher knew what I was asking. I wasn’t being a smart-aleck. I was trying to size up the orthodoxy of the school.

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If Jesus Worked Miracles by His Divine Power, then He Cheated and I Can't Follow His Example

There was only one time that Jesus stopped acting as a man. There was only one time that Jesus stopped being found in fashion as a man. On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus opened up the windows of His flesh to show His divine attributes independent of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. In that one brief event we see the Son of God in His own glory.

Every other moment in the life of Jesus manifests a glory of the Father which we see in Jesus’ life by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was fully God yet lived as a common man. Jesus lived every day dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit. He is our example.

It would be unfair to set Jesus up as our role model for Christian living if He lived by His own divine power. Jesus did not overcome sin or work miracles by His own power. Jesus always worked by the power of the Spirit.

Jesus didn’t live righteous by a power unavailable to us mere mortals. Jesus lived by the Spirit and showed us how to do the same.

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Limited Time! 56% OFF — Only $8.00 — This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence

John Piper

PURCHASE — This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (Hardcover) for only $8.00

Reflecting on forty years of matrimony, John Piper exalts the biblical meaning of marriage over its emotion, exhorting couples to keep their covenant for all the best reasons.

Even in the days when people commonly stayed married “til death do us part,” there has never been a generation whose view of marriage was high enough, says Pastor John Piper. That is all the more true in our casual times.

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10 Warning Signs of an Inwardly Obsessed Church

Any healthy church must have some level of inward focus. Those in the church should be discipled. Hurting members need genuine concern and ministry. Healthy fellowship among the members is a good sign for a congregation.

But churches can lose their outward focus and become preoccupied with the perceived needs and desires of the members. The dollars spent and the time expended can quickly become focused on the demands of those inside the congregation. When that takes place the church has become inwardly obsessed. It is no longer a Great Commission congregation.

In my research of churches and consultation with churches, I have kept a checklist of potential signs that a church might be moving toward inward obsession. No church is perfect; indeed most churches will demonstrate one or two of these signs for a season. But the real danger takes place when a church begins to manifest three or more of these warning signs for an extended period of months and even years.

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Minority Report of Erskine Trustees Regarding the Erskine Board’s Response to the General Synod

The following report is presented to the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (the Synod) in response to the action taken by the Erskine Board of Trustees (the Board) at its February 17, 2012 meeting.

A majority of the Board refused to thoroughly address a motion made at Synod’s 208th meeting stating in summary that they did not concur with changing the charter to recognize Synod’s authority to remove trustees, and that they did not seek further dialogue on this issue.

We recognize that the issues discussed below have a lengthy history, and that the current Board’s action (as well as actions of the Boards of the past quarter century), which necessitates this report is yet another episode in the story of ongoing tension between these two bodies.

We also recognize that these issues are complex, and we urge that delegates to the General Synod read this response with care. The stakes are high, for the historic relationship between the General Synod and its educational institutions now hangs in the balance. In addition, it is time for the Synod to move its focus to preaching the Word, discipling believers, and reaching the lost for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The list of Minority Report signers is varied—those who voted against the Board’s action and who voted for it (on the basis of information provided by the Board’s ad hoc Committee that has now been demonstrated to be factually incorrect), but now realize that their vote was mistaken. All are united, however, in the conviction that the Board’s action was not in the best interests of Erskine and that it was less than faithful to the Church of Jesus Christ.

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OUTREACH Prayer Update — May 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 4 couples being assesses at the Church Planting Assessment Center (CPAC) May 1-4.
  • Pray for preparations for General Synod meeting.
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A message from Erskine Board of Trustees Chair Joe Patrick

Dear Ministers and Elders,

Prior to the June 2012 meeting of the General Synod, I wanted to follow up regarding my previous note. Earlier I had communicated the Erskine Board of Trustees’ response to the 2011 Synod motions regarding the removal of trustees from the Erskine Board.

David Conner has given a presentation on these motions to the Board of Trustees (at its February 2012 meeting) and to various other groups since that time, including the Executive Board of General Synod. The presentation contains some of the numerous materials that are cited in the Board’s response to General Synod. The requirements of the accrediting agencies were more stringent than many of us anticipated and the materials demonstrate the constraints which shaped the Board’s decision.

In the interest of transparency, I have included materials in the presentation that explain the Board’s position.

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