The Open Door Policy for Aliens & Strangers — the Letter to Philadelphia

Have you ever felt like you weren’t wanted? Like a fifth wheel? Has a religious crowd ever made you feel like a stranger? Like everyone else was extended brotherly love, but you?

Jesus promises never to let His people feel like outsiders.

Jesus will not withhold His friendliness, favor, brotherly love or praise for His faithful.

Jesus opens the door wide into Heaven for His people. In the New Jerusalem the faithful will never feel like a fifth wheel. With Jesus we will never feel like a stranger.

We might feel like an alien in this world, but when we approach Heaven, we will find an open door. We will be greeted by Jesus and the saints!

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The Open Door Policy for Aliens & Strangers — the Letter to Philadelphia

Have you ever felt like you weren’t wanted? Like a fifth wheel? Has a religious crowd ever made you feel like a stranger? Like everyone else was extended brotherly love, but you?

Jesus promises never to let His people feel like outsiders.

Jesus will not withhold His friendliness, favor, brotherly love or praise for His faithful.

Jesus opens the door wide into Heaven for His people. In the New Jerusalem the faithful will never feel like a fifth wheel. With Jesus we will never feel like a stranger.

We might feel like an alien in this world, but when we approach Heaven, we will find an open door. We will be greeted by Jesus and the saints!

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The Powerful Legacy of William Tyndale

A hundred years ago a comet made of frozen gas entered our atmosphere and made impact in Russia, in a swampy forest in western Siberia. When an ice comet travels through Earth’s atmosphere, the friction melts and atomizes the frozen gas into a trail of flammable vapor that spreads from the Earth’s crust all the way back to the highest parts of our stratosphere. When the explosion happens on the surface of the earth, the fire ball has the potential to reach thousands of miles high with the explosive power of a thousand atomic bombs.

The shock wave from that explosion flattened 80 million trees over 800 square miles. The center of the impact left all the trees standing straight up with no branches.

The fireball stretched back into the outer atmosphere, as high as there is burnable oxygen to ignite the trial of gas left in the wake of the comet’s path. This produced so much light that a day later Londoners could read their newspapers under the night sky.

The comet struck at 7:17 am on June 30, 1908. Just over a hundred years ago.

But the energy from that event pales in significance to another explosion that happened 500 years ago in London, an explosion of light that set the world ablaze, and still shines today. That light is the glory of the Son of God shining forth from the pages of Holy Writ. That light wasn’t shining very well for a thousand years before Tyndale.

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Five Confessions of a Failed Church Planter — by John Thomas

There are five major–and painful–confessions that I am ready to own up to: Prayerlessness, Lack of Personal Focus, Lack of Gospel Centeredness, Lack of Honest Critique, Lack of Partnership.

Looking back, any one of these errors was enough to sink the ship. There are dozens of other failures that I could note. These seem to be the most egregious; the ones that had they been dealt with at the time would likely have made the difference between failure and viability.

It’s my hope and prayer that these confessions will help those who are in the throes of leading a plant or those who will lead a plant in the future, not to make the same mistakes I made along the way. It is also my hope that the Lord will continue to raise up an army of men who will, in spite of the odds, take up the banner of church planting for the glory of God!

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"Wolf" — as used in the Bible by Jesus and Paul — Charles W. Wilson

Jesus writes in Revelation 2:1-7 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. . . . This thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Paul also warned the same Ephesian elders to beware of, to be discerning of, and to protect the church from the false teachers he described as “wolves.” This they did to the point that Jesus commended them for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also hated.

“Hate” is a powerful word. Many of us today recoil from and are offended by it. Some even say “hate” is a sub-Christian response.  Nevertheless, it is the word Jesus used and a response He approved of and commended in the Ephesian elders as they contended for the purity of the Christian community in Ephesus. Why? What is it about “false teachers” that brings out of Jesus and Paul the appellation of “wolf” and the visceral emotion of “hate”?

In the hands of Jesus and Paul, “wolf” is a literary device for identifying false teachers and the destructive heresies which are their trade. As the wolf in the forest stalks and kills and devours her prey, false teachers as they come stalking with their God-perverting and idolatrous doctrines kill and devour the souls and lives of men and women.

What is the nature of these “false teachers” the Ephesian elders hated – a hatred Jesus commended?

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The Church of the Living Dead — Sardis

Gospel passions build great organizations, but carelessness let’s them slide into Christian obscurity and Kingdom irrelevance.

Consider the Kingdom Mission of Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale. Gospel passion made them grow, but carelessness left them useless for the Kingdom of Christ. The current fight within the ARP over Erskine is a work of sweat and prayer to keep our Denominational College and Seminary off the list of the spiritually irrelevant.

The Church at Sardis was fast becoming irrelevant to Christ’s Kingdom.
Evangelistic zeal had dried up. Fervent prayer was marginalized. A commitment to discipleship was replaced with commitments to programs and fruitless busy-ness.

None of these things were concerns for the Church at Sardis. They had become content with previous spiritual victories. They made their boast in their glorious history, not the Lord, and they lost Christ’s vision for their community.

They looked alive, but Jesus said they were dead. They had a reputation for being alive, but they were spiritually dead. They were the church of the living dead.

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The Deep Things of Satan . . . in the Church of Thyatira

Christians in Thyatira felt pressure from the trade guilds. We would call them Unions.

Imagine yourself living in Chicago as an electrician. If you are willing to join a Union and vote for the local politicians then you’re fine.

But let’s say you’re a Tea Party radical and a conservative political activist. Could you get employment as an electrician in Chicago?

The Unions in Thyatira were teaching immoral and corrupting values. Each guild worshipped a deity who promised financial success and good health.

Worship was like a Mardi Gras Party. The guilds sponsored immoral festivals like what you might see in Rio de Janeiro. Union members were expected to participate or possibly lose their benefits.

Christians faced a huge dilemma. They could attend these festivals and eat the meat offered to the idols, or boycott the festivals and damage their careers. Some Christians did speak out and call the society to repentance. Others, within the church, argued that participation was fine. Jesus calls these church people Jezebels.

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Can We Negotiate a Ceasefire with Satan? — Revelation 2:12-17

Abraham Kuyper said that, “There is not a square inch in heaven or on earth or under the earth in which there is peace between Christ and Satan.”

Jesus said that Satan lived in Pergamum. Does Satan dwell in your town?

You can tell be answering this question — “Do your neighbors publicly express their animosity toward God without shame?”

Is homosexuality celebrated? Are cults and witchcraft treated as acceptable religious options? Does the culture treat abortion as a morally neutral decision? Is living together without the benefit of marriage considered moral? Is pornographic material readily available?

How much animosity against God can citizens flaunt without being shunned? Can people be publically sinful and not become social outcasts?

Answering these questions will measure the level at which Satan is allowed to feel at home within your own community.

Do you help Satan feel comfortable by going along to get along? Have you lost your saltiness? Have you negotiated a ceasefire with Satan to protect your own skin? Jesus calls this the error of Balaam.

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Manuscript of the Incoming Moderator’s Address — What’s Eating at the Fabric of the ARP Church?

by Steve Suits

Fathers and brothers, last year Moderator Andy Putnam laid before us a statistical picture of the health of our denomination.  His presentation made it quite clear that the trajectory of the ARPC in terms of numbers is not positive.  Now, the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) identifies in its report to us this year what is eating at the fabric of the ARPC, echoing to a large degree what was said by the Vision Committee over five years ago.

Not only are we experiencing declining membership, diminishing giving, and dying congregations, but, according to what these two committees have reported, apathy and mediocrity characterize much of the attitude of our work, at least in the sphere of denominational affairs. Coming out of this is what the SPC called, “blame-shifting and conflict for control.”

Such negative attributes are probably not as apparent to those among us who do not spend much time in denominational activities, but rather are working hard to serve their local congregations.  Nevertheless, this is what has been said by the members of these two committees, who have thought long and hard about our condition.  What underlying problems are responsible for this state of affairs?

Why a Synod in the first place?

When I looked to our Confession of Faith for guidance, I found that a Synod is for the better government and further edification of the Church.  How does a synod provide for better government and further edification of the Church?

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"WOLVES" General Synod Communion 2012 — Andrew Putnam

by Reverend Andrew Putnam
Acts 20:28-32
English Standard Version

There are WOLVES in this very room that pollute the gospel for their own purposes, that will allow the devil to use them for his purposes and will subvert the Gospel for their own power and interests.

How do we deal with the wolves knocking on the ARP’s door? Putnam offered three solutions:

1. Preach the Gospel – hold fast to the Gospel message – love one another.

2. “Shoot them” – don’t let them run free (Joel 3:10); starve them; ignore them; give them nothing.

3. Pray – for the wolves among God’s sheep; for peace and prosperity.
“If we don’t do this, we will be standing in the ruins of the ARP Church saying, ‘Oh, what used to be…’”

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Synod 2012 — Items of Interest for ARP Churches

Can your church organize a fundraising team to raise $1,000 between now and next year? Contact me to inquire how to help.

Click to read the Synod Packet located at Google Docs.

June 07, 2012 at 7:24 pm – Due to a lack of delegates (lacking 6 elders and 15 ministers), Synod was suspended and all business was shelved.

June 07, 2012 at 4:48 pm – Synod affirms that Marriage is only defined as between a Man and a Woman.

June 07, 2012 at 4:27 pm – Synod funding for Erskine will continue, with love and patience, as the College Board of Trustees works through the new information that was brought to light within the Minority Report.

June 07, 2012 at 2:47 pm – That a season of prayer and fasting for Erskine College and Seminary be held in the churches of the presbyteries in the ARP Synod.

June 07, 2012 at 12:10 pm – Pacific (Korean) Presbytery was not dissolved, but their inclusion within the ARP was referred back to the Executive Board

June 07, 2012 at 11:03 am – Voted to Affirm the Historicity of Adam & Eve

June 07, 2012 at 9:45 am – New Moderator Elect for 2013-2014

June 06, 2012 at 10:45 am – Moderator’s Address by Dr. Steve Suits entitled “What’s Eating at the Fabric of the ARP Church? — by Dr. Steve Suits”

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What's Eating at the Fabric of the ARP Church? — by Dr. Steve Suits

by arpmagazine

In his Moderator’s Challenge to Synod delegates, guests, and members of the press this morning, incoming Moderator, Dr. Steve Suits, began by painting a bleak picture of a denomination with declining membership and giving – with stagnant or dying congregations.

The picture did not improve as he mentioned reports by the Strategic Planning Committee and 2007 Vision Committee. Both reports alluded to apathy and mediocrity characterizing much of the attitude of the work of the Church in the “sphere of denominational affairs.” This, in turn, has led to “blame-shifting and conflict for control.”

Later, Moderator Suits appealed to members of Synod to consider that in all this, God may be working in the ARP Church. “Often, when the church seems buried and things seem most discouraging, God is working profoundly beneath the surface.”

“Fathers and brothers, what is God doing to further his grace among us so that He can work his grace through us? Let us not look at the externals – the statistics, the reports, the so-called struggles for control and blame-shifting. Rather, let us call upon our Sovereign God under whose lordship we stand and serve.

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Separation of Church and School — by World Magazine

by Mickey McLean at World Magazine

The struggle over the governance of Erskine College and Seminary continues

The ongoing battle between the board of trustees of Erskine College and Erskine Seminary and their founding denomination, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, over the governance of the schools remains unresolved following the ARPC’s annual denominational meeting that ended Thursday.

ARPC pastors and ruling elders, who make up the delegates to the denomination’s highest court, the General Synod, voted to appoint committees to continue to study the issue and report back at next year’s annual meeting.

In making the motion to continue to study the situation, former ARPC Synod moderator Steve Maye said, according to a reporter for The Aquila Report

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The Gospel Gone Viral . . .

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Someone I follow on Twitter recently shared this video of a man’s marriage proposal to his girlfriend.  For obvious reasons the video quickly went viral.  With more than a million downloads in just a few days, the video even landed the couple an interview on the Today Show.

Church planting movements are what happens when the gospel goes viral.  As men and women come to know Christ the gospel spreads through networks and communities and nations.  Obviously, this is a work of the Holy Spirit, but we can help facilitate the spread of the gospel by teaching and discipling others in a way that communicates the importance of sharing the gospel with others.  As we disciple others, we are investing in the lives of others to teach them to be obedient to God and to share Christ with others.  When Jesus called his disciples he told them, “Follow me [obedience] and I will make you fishers of men [evangelism].”

As I’ve been preparing for missions work in Wales, I’ve been learning to be more intentional in my own teaching.  I’ve come across a method of reading and studying the Bible that naturally cultivates the spread of the gospel.  I call it the SOS method of Scripture reading.  SOS stands for Say, Obey, Share. After reading a passage of Scripture I ask myself three questions.

  1. Say: What does this passage say?
  2. Obey:  What does this passage require me to do or believe?
  3. Share: Who needs to hear this?

I then spend a short amount of time in prayer for that person and resolve to share the message with that person at the next available opportunity.  I can’t say that I’m always faithful to share as I should, but I have found that its made me more intentional in my relationships.  As we all become more faithful to share the gospel with others, my prayer and vision is to see the gospel go viral in such a way that our culture and world is transformed for the glory of God!

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In Defense of Marriage — Focus on the Family

Dear Friend,

I have some bad news to report. Just yesterday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston declared that part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The federal definition of marriage as being the union of one man and one woman has applied to all federal laws, regulations and benefits since 1996. This lawsuit involves claims from same-sex couples demanding federal benefits that are reserved for heterosexual couples.

Essentially, the appellate court said the federal government—and by extension, the taxpayers in all 50 states—must subsidize whatever types of arrangements a state may choose to call “marriage.”

Think about that for minute. In the 1800s, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of Congress to forbid polygamy in any territory wishing to apply for statehood. But the federal appeals court in Boston today ignored that history and declared Congress has no interest in keeping the definition of marriage the same as it has been for thousands of years.

Also visit the Heritage Foundation’s BLOG Roll on the Defense of Marriage.

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Christ Community Church — Prayer Letter June

Thank you so much for your ongoing prayers for Christ Community Church.  Your prayers continue to bless us.

Greetings from Christ Community!

I want to thank you for your continuing prayers for our Mission.

First, thank you for your prayers about our Easter services. Our sunrise service was larger again this year and our regular service was well attended too, giving us the opportunity to share the gospel with about 300 people in our area. A few who attended the sunrise service have visited the church as well and we hope to continue to share God’s love with them in the future.

Our men’s study is still meeting faithfully on Monday

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