A Desperate and Manly Cry for Help Brings Deliverance–Psalm 119 devotional (Qoph)

ק Qoph

145 I cry out with my whole heart;
Hear me, O Lord!
I will keep Your statutes.
146 I cry out to You;
Save me, and I will keep Your testimonies.
147 I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.
148 My eyes are awake through the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.
149 Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness;
O Lord, revive me according to Your justice.
150 They draw near who follow after wickedness;
They are far from Your law.
151 You are near, O Lord,
And all Your commandments are truth.
152 Concerning Your testimonies,
I have known of old that You have founded them forever. Psalm 119 nkj

The Christian life is one of a struggle against the sinful flesh.  Even as redeemed children of God, trusting in His Son Jesus Christ for salvation, we commit sins daily, and these sins bring consequences.  God acts as a loving father to discipline his wayward children, and often it’s the cruel mercies of the wicked that come against us when we have failed to walk in obedience.  But the psalmist’s manly and desperate cry for help to God is our expression hope in Him for deliverance in these trials in life.  We cannot hope for deliverance from the cruelties of this world, or for victory over the sin that reigns in our bodies, unless we genuinely cry out to God for it.  Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Be like the psalmist, and cry out for help against sin reigning in your life today and everyday.  And go in faith that God will answer your desperate prayer.

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The Tender Mercies of the Wicked are Cruel, but the Lord’s Mercy is Good–Psalm 119 Devotional (Ayin)

ע Ayin

121 I have done justice and righteousness;
Do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Be surety for Your servant for good;
Do not let the proud oppress me.
123 My eyes fail from seeking Your salvation
And Your righteous word.
124 Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy,
And teach me Your statutes.
125 I am Your servant;
Give me understanding,
That I may know Your testimonies.
126 It is time for You to act, O Lord,
For they have regarded Your law as void.
127 Therefore I love Your commandments
More than gold, yes, than fine gold!
128 Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things
I consider to be right;
I hate every false way. Psalm 119, nkj

The Lord is good.  His mercy can be relied upon, but “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” Proverbs 12:10  The world oppresses and marginalizes, especially Christians that it sees as different and other.  In the midst of cruelty and oppression, the psalmist cries out to the Lord, where he knows he will find refuge.  Are you turning to the Lord with Life’s problems and hardships, or to something or someone else?  His hope is that the Lord will right all wrongs, especially violations of His law.  It is up to God to punish and not to us.  Leave that to Him.

The greatest blessing that the Lord gives to His people, is that He writes his law upon their hearts, His statutes and commandments.  Trouble in life is often caused by our own sin.  God’s grace teaches us to obey him more faithfully, so that we do not repeat the same sins that got us into trouble.  It is a grace from God.  Starting your day, pray and ask God to teach you His statutes, and go trusting that he will answer your prayer.

 

 

 

 

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On Women in the Office of Deacon

protesting-suffragettes-early-1900s1The following is an excerpt from a paper presented to the Candidates and Credentials Committee of the  Midwest Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) on October 27, 2014:

Deacons are officers in the church set apart by ordination to lead and manage the church’s ministries of love and material provision, and to exhort and stir up the congregation to love one another in practical ways. They have the same spiritual qualifications as elders.  They were first ordained as recorded in Acts 6:6, after a controversy had arisen from the Greek-speaking Christians in the Church at Jerusalem, who contended that their widows were neglected while the Aramaic-speaking widows were not.  It is notable that the seven first deacons, apart from being male, appear to also have Greek names.  The context indicates that they were to perform a portion of the same duties that the apostles were fulfilling, (yet perhaps providing for the Greek-speaking widows, with the apostles continuing to serve the Aramaic-speaking widows.)  (Examples of deacons preaching authoritatively, as Stephen in Acts 6:10 and Philip in Acts 8:4-6, also warrant further investigation.)  If we are to follow this original institution and apply it to the Church today, deacons are assistants to the spiritual leadership of the Church, helpers to the session in the context of a local church, performing functions that the session would otherwise do themselves if there were no deacons.  If elders must be male, then it follows logically that those office-bearers who assist them by performing some of the same duties that they themselves would perform as elders, it follows that deacons must also be male.  If it is not proper for elders to delegate these duties at all unless their particular assistants aka. deacons are available, and if they must otherwise perform the duties themselves as elders, then this same headship qualification of being a male must apply to deacons as it does for elders.

1 Tim 3:11-12 “11 γυναῖκας ὡσαύτως σεμνάς, μὴ διαβόλους, νηφαλίους, πιστὰς ἐν πᾶσιν. 12 διάκονοι ἔστωσαν μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρες, τέκνων καλῶς προϊστάμενοι καὶ τῶν ἰδίων οἴκων·”

The late Rev. Christian Adjemian took “γυναῖκας” in 1 Tim 3:11-12 as a reference to women deacons, arguing that it would make more sense that verse 11 would follow verse 12 instead of preceding it, if the reference were to the wives of deacons. He argues that it is unnatural to take “γυναῖκας” in verse 11 as “wives.”  I do not agree.  In the literary form of a letter, of which 1 Timothy is an exemplar, the structure is more extemporaneous and conversational than would be the case in a work that was edited and went through several redactions and revisions.  It seems quite natural that after referencing bishops or overseers earlier in the chapter, where the wives of the same are not given specific qualifications, but referenced in that the bishops are to be “husbands of one wife” and govern their families well, the wives of deacons would now also come to mind.  (The qualifications given for deacons’ wives are not specifically applied to bishops’ wives, but this should be inferred as an implication by good and necessary consequence from the chapter, i. e. that the same qualifications hold for the wives of the bishops.)  Now, having mentioned and given qualifications for the wives of deacons, the thoughts of the apostle writing this letter would naturally light upon the marriage and family life of the deacons with their wives.  There is nothing unnatural about this flow of consciousness.  It must be noted that a pastoral epistle is not written in the most precisely logical order possible, as if it were a doctoral thesis or a work of systematic theology.  It is a letter.

Dr. Leonard Coppes, in his book, “Who Will Lead Us”, notes that “γυναῖκας” in 1Tim3:11 is found in parallel contrast to “Διακόνους” in verse 8, suggesting that here a different group separate from the deacons is in view (p. 137.) This suggests the correct understanding is that it either refers to the wives of the deacons, or some other group of women who were not a part of the diaconate mentioned in verse 8.  Probably the former interpretation is likely, since this passage does not mention any other group of individuals in the church other than bishops, deacons, and the wives of both, (although Coppes prefers to understand them as an unordained class of women in the church who may have been used to tend widows and women who were ill.)  As noted by B. B. Warfield [(The Presbyterian Review, 10.38, pp. 283, 284.)] and others, Romans 16:1 and its reference to Phoebe is not a conclusive basis on which to build a definition of a distinct office in the Church, given the range of meaning of the term “διάκονον” variously rendered as deacon, minister, servant, etc.

The qualifications given for deacon in 1 Timothy 8:10 are the identical spiritual qualifications given for bishop in 8:2-7. If elders must be male, it follows that deacons must be male.  It is notable that the RPCNA itself did not ordain women deacons until the 1880s, a turbulent time when the early feminist movement was pushing for equal rights for women in many spheres of life, and that around the same time a measure to bring deaconesses into the [Presbyterian Church (USA)] was defeated, as noted by Rev. Brian Schwertley (“A Historical and Biblical Examination of Women Deacons”, p. 1).  This timeline suggests that perhaps the impulse to bring women deacons into the RPCNA was more political than exegetical.  It should also be noted that although now and then in church history an office of “widow” or “deaconess” arises, at no time in history, not in the early church, or any other age until the nineteenth century, were women admitted to an identical office with that of the deacon to rule with them over the administration of mercy ministry as members of the diaconate.  At least, in none of the sources that this author has examined, including those provided [by the committee], no such argument has been made.  All the various historical sources concur on this point.  The offices of the church are appointed by Christ the head for the good of the body (Ephesians 4:11-12), and based on the regulative principle, the church has no more right to innovate in the offices of the church than it does in the polity (presbyterial) or worship commanded in Scripture.

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How the West Was Lost, by the Presbyterians

320px-george_caleb_bingham_-_daniel_boone_escorting_settlers_through_the_cumberland_gap

The smallness of the Reformed/Presbyterian community of churches in comparison to the larger evangelical American context is largely a consequence of a failure to plant and maintain churches among those Scot-Irish Presbyterians who settled in the Appalachian mountain chain and kept heading west from there.  It’s no secret that the Presbyterians lagged far behind the Baptists and Methodists, not to mention new groups like the Cambellites, in planting churches where people had settled in the west. They saw the problem, and tried to remedy it by forming a Plan of Union with their Congregationalist cousins to the north for planting churches in the West.  It didn’t work.  Perhaps nothing more could be done.

It’s just that the Presbyterian/Congregationalist emphasis on an educated ministry slowed the rate of growth on the frontier based on the number of licentiates that were available.  Meanwhile the Baptists and Methodists would find a young man with gifts, give him a Bible, two or three more books, and send him on a horse off to preach wherever he found people who would listen.  Who could compete with that speed and agility and maintain doctrinal integrity?

If you trace the areas where the Scot-Irish and their descendants (who were almost all Presbyterian in the beginning) settled first in America, and shaped the culture that newcomers would find and assimilate into, it extends from western Pennsylvania down to the western Carolinas, and west from there through southern Ohio, south Indiana, sKentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, South Kansas, and the North Texas Hill Country. Not to mention that these people were dominant in the initial settlements all over the far west extending to eastern Oregon. Now imagine if the dominant Christian churches over this vast region were Presbyterian.

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Putting Islamic Violence in Perspective

Good thoughts on putting Islamic violence in perspective…

Reformed Fellowship of Bellevue

This is a good article on putting Islamic violence in perspective.  http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/does-islam-inevitably-lead-to-violence

Also, for information on how to pray for Muslims who are hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, let me recommend signing up for the monthly MERF (Middle East Reformed Fellowship) newsletter at http://www.merf.org MERF.org.

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Happy Reformation Day!


FB_IMG_1446304917196Happy Reformation Day!

On this day in 1517 a Bible professor named Martin Luther posted 95 objections to the sale of indulgences on the door of the Wittenberg cathedral in Saxony: pieces of paper sold with the promise of forgiveness of sins by the Pope. This event is known as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which restored the church to faith in Jesus Christ alone as he is revealed in his word.

Today let us rejoice in God’s deliverance of his Church, and pray for those whose faith is yet in bondage to the traditions of men.

The photo attached doesn’t accurately depict Luther’s intent in posting the 95 theses, but perhaps its effect.

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Misconceptions about the Reformer Jean Calvin (1509-1564)

The 16th century French Reformer Jean Calvin wrote what was arguably the most important work of the Reformation period in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, and was superbly talented at exegeting, preaching, and teaching the Scriptures, as evidenced by the wealth of biblical commentary and published sermons that he left to posterity. However, despite popular misconception, there are several things he didn’t do:

1. Start or found a new church.

2. Wield civil power in Geneva. (As a non-citizen, he couldn’t even vote.)

3. Teach new doctrines.

4. Lead a network or presbytery of churches.

5. Function as the only or clearly most influential voice among pastors in the Reformed churches of his day.

6. Come up with the doctrine of predestination or the “five points.”

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What is a Christian in the USA to do after Obergefell v. Hodges?

What to do in the wake of Obergefell vs. Hodges, what is a Christian to do in the United States of America?

1. Strengthen Marriages

Your witness for the truth of God’s word, and the sanctity of marriage, isn’t very convincing to a confused and hurting world if you are busy not loving your wife, secretly watching pornography, flirting, or disobeying your husband. Make God the center of your marriage, among other reasons, to prove to your children and neighbors that you mean what you say, and to guard against compromise. If we are so disgusted with a perversion of marriage, what are we doing to assert the true definition, and more than that, to persuade others that it’s the way to go? Lead first by example.

2. Teach children in the Lord

Give your children, or use your gifts to help parents in your church to give their children, an education in the Christian faith. Teach them the Scriptures. Teach them to pray and to read the Scriptures for themselves. Make use of the Shorter or Heidelberg Catechism as an introduction to the Christian faith. If at all possible, keep them out of the public schools where they will not only be bombarded, but be tempted to compromise with the world and all its false doctrine at an early and vulnerable age. It’s not like when many of us went to public school. Conscientious dissent in the name of religion will no longer be tolerated. Teach them that they will be hated for the sake of Christ, experiencing persecution much worse than you did in your lifetime, but to rejoice in tribulation, that if they persevere to the end they will receive a crown of glory in heaven.

3. Strengthen the Church

If you’ve been dating the church, marry her now. Join a faithful Bible-believing and preaching church. She needs you as much as you need her. Sure, she has warts, but be an encouragement and not a criticizer. Treat your brothers and sisters in Christ as family, loving them unconditionally, because you are family. And all you have in this world is one another. This world is not our home. We are a holy nation in exile like Israel in Babylon. Let’s not forget Jerusalem but cultivate her fellowship and distinctive ways constantly by investing time, resources, and relationships to strengthen her. As Theodore de Bèze said, “the church is an anvil that has worn out manny a hammer.” America will pass away, but the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which is preeminently manifested through Church on earth, endures forever.

4. Keep the main thing the main thing.

Political battles, hobbies, careers, will try to suck up your time. It takes money to live on, and we can still vote for as long as we still have the vote, but focus more on being a witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Seek opportunities to bring up the gospel in conversation instead of the 2016 presidential elections, or the Supreme Court. The latter will vanish like smoke in the wind, but our Lord Jesus Christ reigns forever, and we are his ambassadors laboring in this earthly kingdom of darkness. Let’s be found doing principally that which he sent us to do.

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Review of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard

0617152145aThis book offers a breakdown and historical overview of what the author refers to as the 11 distinct ethno-geographical nations that make up the US and Canada. His broad history and analysis is mostly correct. You may be surprised at how well the history of colonial settlement, migrations, and assimilation connects and translates to today in a way that helps explain the socio-political characteristics and traits of the different American regions. Today’s political battles and cultural differences are direct product of the history of settlement and migration in the various regions of North America.  The author is writing from a secular perspective, and is left-leaning politically, although it doesn’t affect his analysis too much until the last chapters. I would recommend this book first of all for Americans to understand better what national culture they grew up in, based on where they are from, and how and why other American nations differ in their social and political habits. I’d also recommend it for those traveling or moving to a different location in the US or Canada. I’ve lived in several different parts of the US, and always noticed cultural differences of attitude, behavior, and treatment of outsiders, but I feel like I understand better where the lines are drawn and how they developed to what they are now after reading this book. (Hint, it doesn’t normally coincide with state borders.)

The author does an especially good job explaining the fascinating history of how the distinct colonial nations of the east coast expanded west and maintained many of their distinctive features in a new location, whether in the midwest or on the west coast.  He shows how the patterns of settlement determine the social and political characteristics of western states today.

Woodard could have done a better job tracing the changes in religious belief and how the nations were impacted and altered by those changes, especially “Yankeedom.” He doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on that aspect, not drawing a line between the public Christianity of the puritan fathers and the social activism of liberal churches and post-Christian New England, to mark when and how the change came about, and what impact it had on the nation. He seems to think that the Puritans deemphasized individual Christian faith, although of course those who know the Puritans know that if anything they are often perceived as being too introspective about their faith. And New England was also the birthplace of the Baptists in America, an offshoot of the puritans, who later made such inroads in the Deep South.

All in all it’s a very useful book.

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Does Revelation 22:17 Teach Arminianism?

“And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17b KJV

New Testament Greek text:

ὁ θέλων λαβέτω ὕδωρ ζωῆς δωρεάν SBL

My literal translation: “May he who wills receive the water of life for free.”

“May…receive” (λαβέτω) This verb is in the subjunctive tense. It expresses a wish, hope, or desire. The author is expressing a desire that those who are willing will receive the water of life free of charge, IOW without payment.

“the water of life” (ὕδωρ ζωῆς), this is a picture of the grace of God in Christ, that water that Jesus spoke of at the well, which if anyone drinks, he will never thirst again. It’s the promise of eternal life in happiness with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“he who wills” (ὁ θέλων)—In greek this is literally a participle with the definite article, such as you have if it were just like this in English: “the willing.” But of course we don’t write or talk like that in English, so the KJV adds what is implied “whosoever will” and I have supplied, “he who wills”

The idea really isn’t about telling us who has a will to receive, or who is able to have the will, or might possibly have the will to receive what is offered. It’s simply stating that having the will to receive the free gift of the water of life is a condition to receiving it. God has limited the recipients of eternal life to only those who have the will to receive it. No one will get it who does not will to receive it.

This verse does not say that everyone has the will to receive it. This verse does not tell us how those who have the will, got the will to receive it. It doesn’t tell us who is and is not able to have the will to receive it, based on the condition of their own heart. It doesn’t even tell us that only those whom God has chosen and made new then have the will to receive it (although other passages tell us that.) It simply states that it is those who have the will who will receive.

My position is that no one has the will to receive, until the Holy Spirit makes them new in the new birth aka regeneration, a miracle from above, and then and only then do they have the will to receive the eternal life which is offered upon condition of having the will to receive it. This verse just says that those who do receive it, must have the will to receive it, or they won’t receive it. I agree with that, obviously. So this verse is entirely compatible with my definition of free will.

(The foregoing is extracted from an email to a relative of mine)

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