Friday, May 26, 2006


One of the books I picked up while here at the Banner conference is, The Pastor in the Sick Room--Ministering the Gospel to Those one the Brink of Eternity by John D. Wells. Since it is a fairly small book (only 128 pages) I decided to start reading it while down here. It has been a fascinating read so far. As I was reading today there is one quote that struck me, so I thought I would share it: James M. Campbell, in his little book, Unto the Uttermost, has well said of the Christian ambassador, "Down to the dying moment he is to stand beside the sinner, telling of the mercy that stoops to receive the fragments of a wasted life; tell of the blood of sprinkling, and challenging earth and hell to show a sin it cannot cleanse."

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Sometimes I just need to post a picture of my boy, Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Not live blogging, but the best I can do

The Banner Conference is going great. It is a great blessing to have this opportunity to not only sit under the preaching of the word, but also to fellowship with like minded pastors and elders. As you can see I am trying to take the notes I write down and transfer them to blog entries. Since I am not a very rapid typist, and my hand writing is quite bad, this takes a fair amount of time. I also don't want to miss out on the free time when we can fellowship with one another. I have had the joy to be able to visit with ministers from several denominational backgrounds, and even with some from the RCA. Scott Peterson, Scott Nichols and Peter ? have been great to speak with, as we all share the same concern with the current situation in the RCA. It is good to know that there are pastors, even in the liberal east of the RCA, who are solid theologically and have been kept by God not bowing their knee to Baal.

Banner Conference 2006 -- Session #3 Philip Ryken "The Need for Reformation Today"

Philip Ryken spoke on Jeremiah 7:1-15. What we find here is that reformation starts with the preaching of the word of God. Jeremiah is preaching in the gate of the temple to all the people of Judah who had come there to worship. Perhaps, although we are not told, it was one of the high feasts (Passover or Tabernacles) when a great number of people would have been at the temple to celebrate. This preaching of Jeremiah also came at a pivotal point in the history of Judah. In Jeremiah 26 we find that this preaching of Jeremiah occurred following the reign of Josiah with all its reforms and at the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim. That was a time of growing darkness and desperate need for reformation. The only way that reformation would come is through the proclamation of God's word. What we find here is that this proclamation of the word of God will face opposition. Jeremiah would be seized by the people for this as recounted in Jeremiah 26. The preaching of the word will be opposed and we should not be surprised by this. Instead we should persevere in preaching it. The reason the preaching of the word upsets people is that it points out that religious observance without moral obedience does not save. The people were religiously observant. They were coming to temple to worship. They would be what we call church goers. Yet, we find here that it is just these people who need reformation. So also today, reformation starts in the church, then brings change elsewhere. It starts in the hearts of the ministers of the word, and spreads out from there. That means that the problem is not just out there, it is in the church. The church needs a greater sense of God. That was the problem with the people of Judah. They were putting their trust in the external observances. They trusted in the temple--in its outward trappings and observances. We see a similar thing today in the focus on the visible--numbers, buildings, programs, cash--instead of the holiness of our members. When a church does that it is on its way to apostasy for the measure of a church is the power of God at work in it. Yet, we are tempted to look at externals like:
  • Self-help Christianity with its focus on what you do for God to make yourself better
  • Political Christianity that thinks the right party in government will make things all better
  • Style based Christianity that looks at outward style either traditional or contemporary
  • Or those who call for a new version of God
    • Love not justice
    • God of Uncertainty rather than certainty
    • God who is powerful but not sovereign
The temple became a place of superstitious trust. Do you religious duties and you will be safe. Then you can go and do your own thing all the rest of your life. In doing this the people misapplied what it means to be the elect people of God. That as the elect people of God they were safe even if they lived lives of sin. It was not the temple itself that was the problem, but their misplaced trust in the temple as if it protected them in such a way that the rest of their lives were unimportant. Looking at the list of things Jeremiah is told to confront them with it becomes apparent that they had broken every one of the ten commandments. Once again this is very similar to today. People are making their own laws, and no surprise they are against the laws of God. Even in the church today people are religious, but less moral. All this is an indication that people do not really know the God of the Bible, for they mistreat the poor and weak and helpless. It has been said the test of a nation is how they treat the weak and poor. Here we find that a similar test can be used for our own reformation. The truth of our spiritual reformation can be seen in how we treat the poor, weak and needy. The Jews thought reformation only had to do with temple things, not the whole of their life. It seems often people think the same today. They think God cares nothing for what they do through the week, but Jeremiah reminded then and reminds us that God is watching. He sees how we live. Religious observance without moral obedience is a faith that will not save, and the results are seen in Shiloh. That were where the tabernacle was located at one time, but because of the wickedness of the people it was only ruins when Jeremiah spoke to the people in the temple gates. He tells them go look at what religious observance alone brings. Go to the place where God was and find what happens to those who think this way. The people of Jerusalem thought this would never happen to them, but Shiloh was the location of the tabernacle and it was no more. The same would happen to Jerusalem, and too all who think and live the same way. We need to heed these words, and realize that reformation will start with the preaching of God's word used to change hearts and lives.

Banner Conference 2006 -- Session #2 Sinclair Ferguson "Jesus Christ The Church Builder #1

In this lecture Dr. Ferguson started to looks at Jesus Christ the church builder. In this first of two lectures, he looked at Matthew 16:13-28. This passage comes at a pivotal point in the gospel of Matthew. It is a turning point in the divine revelation of who Jesus is, and through the supernatural work of God in Peter, he confesses that Jesus is the Christ. Following this confession Jesus started to reveal more fully where the final destiny of his ministry would be, pointing the disciples to his suffering and death. It is in this context of the confession of Peter and the revelation of Jesus of his suffering and death, that Jesus gives the teaching concerning his building of the church. The particular verse in question has been one that has been much discussed. For the word "church" is not frequently used in the gospel. There is teaching concerning the new community that Jesus came to form, but the word "church" is not used. Following these things Jesus also told the disciples not to tell anyone. For while he spoke with more clarity, he did not speak with total clarity because the disciples understanding of him as the Christ lacked total clarity. With this in mind, Dr. Ferguson stated that his purpose in this lecture was to draw out various strands that show Christ as the great church builder. There are four things in particular that he wanted to examine. First, the church is central to the vision and work of Christ. This is something we really need to be convinced is true. Christ came not to simply save individuals, but to form a new people for himself. Central to the Father opening Peter's eyes to who Jesus is, is to show that Christ intends to build his church (ekklesia). This word in used in the LXX to speak of the gathered people of God, called out of Egypt, called out from the world, called out to worship, called out to community to assemble for Himself. Jesus speaks of one flock with one shepherd in John, and in the Luke 9 account of the transfiguation of Jesus we find he speaks with Moses and Elijah concerning his exodus (Luke 9:31) which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Jesus came to make a redeemed community, and his words were fulfilled at Pentecost where he starts to build his church in the power of the Holy Spirit forming a new community. This means we need to love the church and give ourselves for the church, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. It is the church that is the context for the transformation of our lives. It is there that we are fit together more and more, but this is slow work. It is the church that is the context for all NT evangelism, and there are little if any verses that speak solely of personal evangelism. We need to understand this. It is not about getting better movies to use for outreach. Evangelism is a church thing. Together the people of God are the evangelistic tool God uses. This is seen again and again in Acts. It is as the church is the church that it is used by God to draw people in. Jesus is making a community so different from everything else around it, that people wonder where did that come from. When the church is the church it astonishes the world, so our task as ministers is to see that this community is formed. Second, The church is build in enemy occupied territory. Jesus taught that he would build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. That is the principle that he holds forth, only to have it shown in practice with Peter's response to his teaching that he would be betrayed, suffer and be put to death. Jesus responds to Peter's disavowal of that mission of the Christ by saying, "Get behind me Satan." So what are the gates of hell? Dr. Ferguson pointed out that in the OT the gates were the place where the elders meet. It is at the gates where the leaders provided their leadership. It is this that Jesus refers to when he speaks of the gates of hell meaning that there are strategic forces arrayed against building the church because the church is build in enemy occupied territory. As the kingdom advances, attacks come against it. Attacks from within, and attacks from without. It is in this environment of attacks from the gates of hell that we do our work. When you enlist in the gospel ministry you enlist for a life of danger. You enlist as soldiers. Again we need to recognize this truth for ourselves. We also need to make the congregations under out care understand this. For, Christ builds his church in enemy occupied territory. Third, The church is built by Christ, by the work of gospel ministers We find this in verse 18 where we read, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" There has been much discussion on this, but it seems best to say he is speaking about Peter. This is not saying that Peter has primacy of authority as some claim, nor that Jesus is bestowing a succession following Peter. Rather, Peter is the dominant apostle. He is always mentioned first within the apostles. One reason Jesus speaks to Peter here is to contrast the glorious community Christ is building, and contrasting it to the weak vessel he uses to build that community. Peter in all his pathetic weakness will be used by the grace of Christ to build his church. But, that is not all, in speaking about Peter here, it speaks of his primacy in ministerial exercise. He was the first to confess Jesus is the Christ. Peter would be the first to be used, but not the last or only one. This speaks to us and reminds us that Jesus central instrument in building his church is the work of the gospel minister. That is seen in places like Ephesians 4 where the gifts listed are all 'word' based gifts. Gifts of those who proclaim the gospel that the church might be built up. This calls all who are gospel ministers to pour the word of God into the people in their care. As a gospel minister you could put your name in the place of Peter's here as one of those who are used by Christ to build his church. Fourth, the church is modeled by Christ in the pattern of his death and resurrection (v 24ff) Those who belong to this new community that is being built by Christ, have their lives molded by Christ and his example. They see in him that death is the way to life, and the cross is the way to victory. This is the shape of the Christian church in this world. Dying and rising always go together for them. Sorrows and joys, sufferings and glories go together in the life of the community Christ is building. As we find in 2 Corinthians 4, death is at work in us, but life in you. We need to see that this is the pattern in the church that Christ is building, so when we suffer we seek God to work life through that suffering in others. Because, Christ is building his church through himself, through his death and resurrection.

Banner Conference 2006 -- Session #1 Matt Kingswood

The first session of the conference was an excellent sermon by Matt Kingswood. I met Matt the first time I came to the Banner and have gotten to know him a little, but have never had the privilege to sit under his preaching. I was in for a treat. Matt preached on Ephesians 3:14-21. This passage if found between the opening section of Ephesians which focuses mainly on doctrine, and the next section of Ephesians that focuses mainly on application. In it we find the doctrine that Paul had just expounded moving him to prayer, and in that prayer Paul has this statement, "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us." It is this statement that the message revolved around. First, it was noted that when Paul looks to himself he sees that he is disabled. Usually when we think of someone who is disabled we think of physical things, and that is part of what Paul may have seen. We know he had a thorn in the flesh, but his disability goes further. It is found in his weakness and he realizing that he is not sufficient in himself for the gospel ministry (2 Corinithians 3). We also are disabled when we look at ourselves, and Paul here wants us to redirect our attention away from ourselves to God. In doing this he speaks of God's ability in such a way that it is not specific, but at the same time he states the truth of God abundant ability that is covers everything. The call is first to realize the power of God. God does far more abundantly in the power that is at work in us. Consider this power. It is the power that spoke at creation and brought all things into being. Even more than that, it is the power that is spoken of in Ephesians 1:19-20 were it speaks of this power as, "the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places" The power of God at work in those who believe, is the power of the resurrection, of the empty tomb. In this great power God answers prayer. Notice that means that whatever we ask in prayer, even more, whatever we can even imagine, God can and will do more. This is a rebuke to our prayers. It calls us to look at our prayers and ask if we are praying with this great power of God in mind. Or, do we have small expectations. Our are expectations of God unworthy of his great and abundant power. For, small expectations lead to small blessings. Are not our prayers often too timid? Now we need to be clear here, for some name it and claim it teachers look to this passage as proof of their gospel of prosperity. One web site even sub-titles this verse as as "extreme prosperity." As if it is speaking of God providing our physical needs beyond what we ask or imagine. With this misuse, it would be tempting to avoid a passage like this, but just because it is misused, does not mean we should not properly use it. For this text is a great encouragement to prayer, if it is understood in the context in which it was given. The boundaries for this verse are found in its context, particularly verse 21. First we find that God does far more abundantly than we ask or imagine in the context of being in Christ. There is no reason for those who are not Christians to expect God to hear their prayers at all. This is not a blanket promise to all men. It is a promise to the children of God. Second, we find the context of God doing far more abundantly than we ask or imagine is in the church. Jesus promised to build his church, so we must ask whether what we are asking is something that promotes the health, growth and well being of the church. Third, we find the context of God doing far more abundantly than we ask or imagine is that it is to the glory of God. Is what we are asking something for the glory of God. As James taught, ". You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." We must always remember that the context for God power is his glory. In all this we are reminded that God can do exceedingly more than we ask or imagine. The limits are not what we think. The limits are not even what we imagine. They are what God will do. This means that our prayers must acknowledge the infinite power of God in these three areas. From the abstract we must move to how this is realized in our lives for God's abundant working is according to the power at work in us. It is not only realized out in the abstract, but as he works in us. God seeks to strengthen us in the inner man (3:16). He works at making us something. Think of all the things called for in the application section--that we maintain the unity of the Spirit, that we speak the truth in love, that we make the most of the time, and all the rest. Think how that would change us if we were like that all the time. Can you even imagine that, or does it seem beyond imagining? Now realize that God can do exceedingly more than we ask or imagine. God is able to do it. You do not need to stay where you are. Looking to the actualities of life, if you examine how God works in your life, thankfully doesn't he do more than you ask or imagine already. What we receive is not in keeping with what we pray for, thanks be to God. It is far more. God does more than we ask or imagine already. Often in spite of us God works. Our prayers may be small, but God's grace is big. Yet, there is one more thing we need to acknowledge--sometimes God does things that we would not want to imagine. Matt gave the example of a man whose wife was pregnant. She went to bed with flu like symtoms, and never woke up. Both her and the baby died from a rare blood infection, and at the funeral he said he could not imagine that she was gone. He was left alone to take care of three children. We must remember that even there God's power is active, and it is directed by is perfect wisdom. On the last day we shall count it a great mercy that we didn't have our way (JC Ryle) Even these things we would never want to imagine are for our good. For the God who does for more abundantly than we ask or imagine, is the God who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. And as verse 19 reminds us, his love is also far greater than we really know. These are my notes on this talk.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Banner Conference Arrival

After a good nights rest in Carlisle, and a hefty breakfast, we headed up to Cumberland Valley Books to do some shopping. As usual once I get into a bookstore with a good collection of theological and reference books, walking out without purchasing at least a few is almost impossible. The shopping was good, and I lefts with several books for quite good prices. However, while shopping a person from the US Geological Survey hit the mirror on my van with their mirror as they drove by where I was parked. Thankfully they left their contact information, so I won't be one the hook to pay for that repair myself. The glass is cracked in several places and I am not sure if the motor of the power window is undamaged or not. It seemed to move the window, but then stalled in one direction. It is also now much more noisy than it was before. My hope is that we can get everything organized so that I can get it fixed when I get back to Canada. Following our shopping spree, we headed over to Messiah College where we registered and checked in. Some of our group decided to head off to see Gettysburg, but although I would have liked to go again, I needed some time to wind down and rest. But, that was not to be, as one of our party needed to go to lunch because he is diabetic, and my van was the only one available. So off to the restaurant we went for a fairly good meal. By the time I got back, there was only 1 hour left until the first speaker, so I did get a little rest before heading over. It was good to finally be here. To know that soon I would be able to enjoy the fellowship and even better listen to the preaching of God's word.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Arrived in Carlisle

The first portion of the trip to the Banner of Truth conference has been completed. We had 9 people driving down which required two vans. We left Woodstock ON at a little after 8am. We had to pick up one other person in Burlington, then we headed for the border. Usually border crossings are pretty straight forward, but that was not to be the case for us this time. The first van got through with minimal problems, but the second van, the one I was driving had a British citizen on board and on person had just finished his education at an American seminary on a student visa and instead of saying that his studies were completed the seminary recorded them as terminated. The border guard must have been having a bad day because he really got in the face of both of these gentlemen, and while he rightfully pulled up over, the attitude he showed was the sort that gives border guards a bad name. We were told the wait to get the visa would be 2 hours, so the other van went ahead and left us with some directions. Thankfully the wait was not 2 hours, and God got us through in only 45 minutes. Overall it was both concerning, thinking that we might be turned back and not get to the conference, and somewhat exciting to see the border security people at work. By the way, the people inside were very friendly, and did their job with efficiency and professionalism. My compliments to them for doing a demanding job, especially with those who did not speak English, with a professional but friendly manner. Once we were back on our way we made good time, although instead of taking the by-pass to I-90 we ended up taking 190 around Buffalo. That added another five minutes to our trip, and we had some other navigational concerning when we thought we had missed the exit for Batavia while we were talking theology. That is what happens when you get a bunch of pastors in a van together. Again, we were wrong, and we soon arrived at the exit. In Batavia we started to look for a washroom to relieve ourselves, but none of the gas stations had one. The first one we stopped at told us they used to have one but their customers destroyed it. There must be some anti-public toilet gang in Batavia, because none of the gas stations had one. Thankfully, a short way out of Batavia we did find one, and we stopped to answer the call of nature and pick up some snacks. We also checked a map to verify the directions we had been given, and all seemed good. We headed out and made great time, passing the other van which had stopped for lunch in Savona. They caught up, and we continued together all the way to Carlisle where we checked into the Motel 6 for the night at about 6:15pm. Overall a pretty good trip with only a few hitches. We then headed out for supper at Applebees. Picked up some stuff from Wal-mart, and headed back to the Motel for the night. So now we are here, ready to rest and prepare for the start of the conference tomorrow. The trip was one that reminded all of us that we are always under the providential care of God. In his providence he had us stopped at the border for some reason. Yet, in all of this the comfort is that we are in his providential care, and he is working out his good purposes that he may be glorified. It is wonderful to serve a God who oversees this creation in such a way that even the sparrow falling to the ground is in his care, and since that is the case, so are all the events in our lives.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

One More

This may be my last blog entry until I am actually at the Banner conference. I am currently at my parents-in-law's place because I will be preaching a classical appointment at their church. I am using their internet connect, but this afternoon we go to my mother's place for the night (she lives much closer to the place where all the pastors who are going to the Banner with me will meet) and she does not have internet access. So I just wanted to say . . .


Friday, May 19, 2006

Bearing With Those Who Are Weak

Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) The Example of Christ 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. As I read this it struck me how different the tolerance Scripture calls for is from that of the world. Again and again we are told that we should tolerate all sorts of sinful practice in the church for the sake of unity and peace in the church. In and of itself, this call is not incorrect. There are many places in Scripture that call for us to be one and Christ and the Father are one, to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, however, even though those calling for unity would agree that this unity should not be at the cost of the truth of scriptures, in practice that is often exactly what happens. This passage also calls of a bearing with one another. In verse one we read, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” In other words, those who are strong should be patient with those who are weak, and not seek to merely do their own thing. Now I am sure there are people who would say, “There, you see you who claim that this or that practice that scripture says is wrong but I do, you should bear with me in my weakness and not please yourself.” Yet, it strikes me that to say that would be to miss the point. For in context the issue is not whether a person can do something that is sinful in itself, that is something against the revealed teachings of God's will found in Scripture, but rather on debatable things. Going back to the previous chapter we find the background for the weak and the strong mentioned here. The weak are those who think something is a sin that is not. They have not truly understood their Christian liberty. The specific issue has to do with dietary laws. Although not specifically mentioned it would seem this is speaking of eating meat bought in the market place if it had been offered in the temple of the various pagan gods because of the mention of some only eating vegetables. The other option is this could be speaking of clean or unclean food as defined in the Old Testament. It does not make a big difference either way as Jesus did away with the food prohibitions. The strong are those who realize that in and of itself the meat is neither clean or unclean. The weak on the other hand are those who think it is sinful to eat that meat, and so they eat only vegetables. In other words, the weak are those who think something that is in itself not sinful, is sinful. They do not yet fully grasp their Christian liberty. With that being the case, for those who claim that we should not point out how they are going against the revealed will of God to say that we should bear with them in their weakness, is at best to turn this passage on its head. For if they are correct that they have Christian liberty to do whatever it is they do, then they would by the definition of this passage be the strong, and we who think they are sinning would be the weak who have not fully grasped our Christian liberty. Thus they would be the ones who need to bear with us, and they would be the ones who should not lead us into sin by their actions. That would be the best case, but the worst case is more likely. That is those who are advocating or living in a practice that is blatantly against what the Scriptures teach, are taking a passage that deals with questions of Christian liberty and making that liberty a license for sin. For although it is for freedom that Christ has set us free, that comes with the warning, “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” If someone is living according to the flesh, then they are the weak ones, or perhaps they do not really have faith at all. So this passage in calling for the strong to bear with the weak, is not a call to compromise on the Word of God, but a call to be patient with those who do not yet understand the liberty they have in Christ. Yet, even here we need to be careful, for this bearing with those who are weak, is not what many people might think it is. The bearing with the weak is defined like this, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” That is, bearing with those who are weak, does not mean leaving them where they are, it means patiently seeking to build that person up. It means seeking to strengthen them in their faith, and in how to live in keeping with that faith. This becomes apparent when we look further at the reason for this, “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”” What we find is that Christ is both the reason for living this way, and the pattern for how to do this. He is the pattern because of what he did. He took upon himself the sins of those who believe, taking the reproach against God that they represent upon himself. He patiently bore his sufferings, so that he could save his people, and he did this so that they, by grace through faith, would be transformed into his own likeness. So in what he did, bearing the sins of his people and patiently working to transform them, he shows both the ground and the pattern for us. The ground or reason for our bearing with others is that Christ did that for us. He did not leave us as we are, but died to save us and transform us. The pattern he gave us, is one of patient love that does not capitulate to sin, but seeks to transform people to be what he has called them to be. Think of how patient Christ has been with you. Think of how he has works through the preaching and teaching of the Scriptures. Think of how he has transformed you life by his grace and Spirit. Now apply that to how you deal with fellow Christians. Not in the wrong way, thinking that you can save them because only Christ can do that, but in the right way, following the patient pattern of Jesus. The other thing we find is that working for the good of others, is based firmly in what the Bible teaches us. We read, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Far from trying to find ways around what the Bible teaches us about how we should live, bearing with those who are weak seeks to make them more and more aware of what the Bible has to say. It is in the Scriptures that we find the instruction and encouragement that we all need so that we can continue to live in hope. Finally, this is all done to the glory of God. First, because we cannot do it without his grace. He must be working in all of us to bring about this sort of bearing with one another. That is why this section ends with a request to God, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is God who grants this, and so the only way we can live this way correctly is to turn to him and his grace every day. That means prayer, lots and lots of prayer. Although we have to strive to live this way, the fact that is ultimately depends on God's grace means that in the end the glory goes to him. So we do this so that God will be shown as glorious in our lives in how we treat one another. Now, with all that in mind, I hope you realize that this sort of bearing with and pleasing of those who are weak, is far from easy. In fact it is far from being what the world thinks of pleasing at all. For it will at times require not mere patience, but also admonitions, corrections, and rebukes. It requires constantly calling for others and ourselves to conform ourselves more and more to the pattern God has given in his word. It means at times encouraging people, and at other times pointing out where they are going wrong. Many of these things are not pleasant, but that is what bearing with one another is all about. It is about continuing to point people to Jesus and his Word, so that they by the grace of God and the working of the Spirit might be transformed to be like Jesus. And, it is about listening to those who seek to correct you Scripturally as well. But, it is never about compromising with sin, for that will not bring glory to God. So this section ends with these words, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” May I be more like this; may you be more like this so God will be glorified.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Only Three Days

I know I shouldn't be this excited, but I AM! ONLY THREE MORE DAYS 'TIL WE LEAVE FOR THE BANNER!!!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I'm Not Lovin' It

As reported first on Pyromaniacs on the McDonald's sponsored Kidzworld site there are some rather troubling things. I would have expected that they would have a nice site with good safe things for kids, but on that site they have many things that are at best questionable, and at worst downright destructive. There is a whole section on Goth and by following the links in that section one very quickly ends up in sections dealing with the not so good parts of the web. Ok, the downright evil parts of the web. McDonald's is even so helpful as to have whole sections on Wicca seeking to debunk the myths about the evil of witchcraft. However, search for Christian and you find links on celebrities like Christian Bale or Christian Kane. As you scroll down there are some more things that I in the broad scope of Christian, but no explanation of what Christians believe. Even searching for Christianity only gets the following results: I must admit I like McDonald's food, especially their toasted Deli Sandwiches, but I am not sure I want my dollars supporting a corporation such as this.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Doctrine of Justification

My reading has taken a definite serious turn. From fiction novels to good solid theology. So, I have turned my mind to study the doctrine on which the church hinges, Justification. To do so I decided to re-start reading a book I started to read a while back, but got too busy with other things to complete. Now I try to read a chapter or so a day, and that seems to be working well. The book is The Doctrine of Justification by James Buchanan--subtitled An Outline of its History in the Church and of its Exposition from Scripture J.I. Packer had this to say about this book, "The doctrine of justification by faith is like Atlas: it bears a world on its shoulders, the entire evangelical knowledge of saving grace. The doctrines of election, of effectual calling, regeneration, and repentance, of adoption, of prayer, of the church, the ministry, and the sacraments, have all to be interpreted and understood in the light of justification by faith. When justification falls, all true knowledge of the grace of God in human life falls with it, and then as Luther said, the church itself falls. The value of Buchanan's book today is that it will help us to understand this message better, and so to preach it in the full and comprehensive way in which the modern world need to hear it. This is still the best textbook on this subject, from the standpoint of the classic covenant theology." There were two things that I found fascinating in the introduction. Remember that this book was originally published in 1867. Buchanan states, "looking at the character of our current literature, may it not be said that, to a large class of minds in the present age, nothing could well be more new than the old Theology of the Reformation?" What caught my eye here is how true that was not just then, but still is today. The doctrines of the Reformation seem to have been lost even in many Reformed denominations. Second, what caught my eye is his guiding principle, "that the only effective refutation of error is the establishment of truth. Truth is one, error is multiform; and truth, once firmly established, overthrows all the errors that either have been, or may yet be, opposed to it. He who exposes and expels an error, does well; but it will only return in another form, unless the truth has been so lodged in the heart as to shut it out for ever." This serves as a good reminder that as a pastor my task is not merely to reveal and correct error, but much more importantly to proclaim the truth in such a way that believers are filled with it and error is cast out. So far this book has been fascinating. I am looking forward to the rest of it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Interesting Survey Results

I receive an e-mail update from and in the most recent one there was an article concerning the results of a survey of pastors that has some concerning results. I thought I would post the article in total in my blog, so here it is:

Clergy spiritually exhausted, stressed out

by Amy Cameron

FORGET the demise of the church. Look closer. Our ministers, according to a new study, are spiritually exhausted, stressed out, have few friends and little support. In short, Christian ministry in Canada is, in the words of the author of a recent report, "in crisis."

'Clergy Well-Being: Seeking Wholeness with Integrity,' a report compiled by Andrew Irvine of Knox College,shows that 77 percent of the surveyed clergy felt they were more like a CEO than a pastor; 18 percent could not identify a close friend in church or their community; and 80 percent felt guilty if caught taking time off during the week even though most work a 50-hour week.

"There is a big disconnect between the call to ministry and what they actually do," says Irvine."There were major issues around things like identity, relationships and competition among clergy."

Irvine was recently appointed director of the Centre for Clergy Care and Congregational Health,officially launched in February. Jointly sponsored by Emmanuel College and Knox, both at the University of Toronto, the centre will focus on helping clergy deal with the stressors identified in the study. "How do we use this data redemptively to bring change to the church and those who serve it?" asks Irvine. "We see it as being a crisis."

The study, begun in 2003and funded by the Beatty Ryckman Trust, drew on responses from the clergy in six major denominations in Ontario: United, Presbyterian,Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, Baptist and Pentecostal. Initially,questionnaires were sent to a sample group representing 30 percent of the clergy. With a 27 percent response rate, the data was then used to focus questions in direct interviews with men and women in ministry.

"Eighty-three percent saw a call to minister in a traditional sense. I am called of God," says Irvine, who also acts as coordinator of theological field education at Knox College and is the author of Between Two Worlds: Understanding and Managing Clergy Stress.

"But then when you ask them about the job, more than 80 percent said that it is more that of a CEO than a pastor."

And with the almost constant barrage of speculation about the demise of the church, adds Irvine,ministers are forced into a position of being more concerned about the survival of the church and its fiscal operation than spiritual leadership.

The issue of clergy health has come up often in the past several years. In 2001, the Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod declared clergy wellness a top priority and formed a task force to look at ways to support ministers.Pilot studies were started in three Ontario communities, and in 2005the clergy in the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island diocese formed a professional association to offer continuing education, support and information to their members.

On a cold evening in February 2005, hundreds of people gathered in a funky downtown Toronto nightclub for the launch of a new book. All ages and stations were represented at the event, including a local minister and his wife. A well-meaning friend introduced the man to a group of people using his formal title. "Please don't," he stopped her. "Announcing that I'm a minister kills the conversation."

This story, when related to Irvine, elicits a sigh of recognition. "That's very true," he agrees.When he was a minister in the Church of Scotland, Irvine was commonly introduced as "our minister" or "the minister" but rarely, if ever, as"Andrew".

Conversations in social settings inevitably died. "We don't admit to our sins because the holy person is here," he explains. "It is an identity that you can never getaway from. A priest or minister, even when they're at home, remains a priest or minister."

In the past, professional ethics dictated that clergy should avoid forming personal relationships with members of the congregation or community. Any show of favoritism or the whiff of indiscretion could jeopardize a minister's position.

But this strict view has stifled the very human need to make and maintain close relationships."Many clergy could not identify a close friend in the church or the community," says Irvine of those surveyed in the study.

The high level of competition among clergy in the same denomination make even relationships between peers very strained. Many ministers, in fact,could only name their spouse as a close friend which, says the professor, brings up a whole host of other issues around marriage and ministry. "Clergy have been seen as either superhuman who needed no friends or subhuman who could exist without them, but certainly not human."

Isolation, balancing family with the church and fulfilling a minister's spiritual needs are among the issues that Irvine and the centre are examining in their clergy workshops across the country. By bringing together ministers from different denominations but in similar positions (rural vs. urban, for example), the workshops provide a safe and comfortable forum for men and women to discuss their problems and, most important, work toward some solutions.

"Clergy are looking to back away from the heat of the parish to work with their calling and their personal life. These are good people who want, in all sincerity, to serve God and the world in any way they can," says Irvine. "What I believe is that there lies within clergy and each one of us the means to move to recovery and health. We're now being proactive."

The centre, which is still working on a fee structure for its services (though funding will be available to those who need it, assures Irvine), will continue to research the issues surrounding ministry and will work with congregations to establish a vision for the future and help answer the question: what does it mean to be a church in the 21st century?

The ultimate goal, says Irvine, is to eventually offer online courses to clergy on issues not taught in seminary. One course, for example, could be 'How to Deal with the Antagonist in Your Midst.' "There's one or two in every congregation," laughs Irvine.

-- courtesy of Presbyterian Record

Eagle Chicks

While the original Eagle's nest sadly had infertile eggs, the people who provided the eagle cam have put in on another next with two baby eagles. It is fascinating to watch them, especially when they are being fed by their parents.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Where will it end?

More and more I am starting to wonder if the RCA has gone to far in its slide into the theologically liberal wasteland. On the RCA web-site they have on this page a section on Earth Day promoting having churches do an Earth Day Sunday. It reads as follows:

Earth Day Sunday

Praising the beauty of God's creation is an essential part of our ongoing faith journey and worship experience and each year we dedicate one Sunday to lift up creation stewardship as a focus through a Earth Day celebration.Each year, the National Council of Churches' Eco-Justice Working Group focuses on a particular environmental theme and highlights a number of ways individuals and congregations can celebrate and protect God's creation. We hope these ideas inspire further thoughts, conversations,and actions in answering God's call to be faithful stewards of creation.

You may not see what is wrong with this at first glance, but notice that the first line calls for Christians to praise the beauty of God's creation. This is directly against God's commands to praise him and him only. Only God is worthy of our praise and worship, and to praise the creation in a worship service is to place an idol on the throne of God. This call is to outright disobedience to God in the name of being socially active Christians. Yet, things get worse. For not only do we have that line, but if you follow the link in the news alert to the "resources" for celebrating Earth day, you are linked to the National Council of Churches web-site there you will find such helpful headings as: Sacred Oceans and Seas Life-Giving Breath of God: Protecting Precious Air Resources Waters of Life: Enough for All Notice how the language used for each of these use terms that, intentionally or not, deify the creation. This is done by using terms that refer to our triune God to refer to the aspects of his creation that is being "praised." This is simply creation worship under the guise of Christianity. I would have looked at the resources themselves, but to do so I would need to register which I have no desire to do. People wonder why the RCA is consistently loosing members. They think that neat programs like 'NCD' and 'Purpose Driven' will make a difference while the real problem is that we as a denomination are in disobedience to our Lord and his revealed will in the scriptures. The problems are not simply the lack of discipline of those ministers, classies and congregations who are 'marrying' and lobbying for the ordination of practicing homosexuals. It is a fundamental abandonment of scripture as our guiding authority.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Interesting Take on the Mega-Church from 'King of the Hill'

I ran into this on another blog, and found it an interesting take on Christianity and the Mega-church by the creator of King of the Hill Mike Judge who as far as I know is and unbeliever. King of The Hill

Monday, May 01, 2006

More Happenings From a "partner" in the Formula of Agreeement

I probably should have posted on this before, as I had read about it elsewhere, but this commentary by Al Mohler reminded me of it. A congregation in the PCUSA has accepted into their membership a professed Atheist. He denies the existence of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, and all the other basics of the Christian faith, joining as a political move. It seems that there is a request for the Presbytery to deal with this, but I bears watching as if the PCUSA does not do anything to discipline the Session and Minister in this situation, and the Synod follows suite, then we can officially state that the PCUSA has become a false church, and all ties must be severed. As I said this needs to be watched by us as it unfolds further. Edit May 3, 2006: Here is the link to the article by atheist who joined this PCUSA congregation.