Monday, January 15, 2007

Book Recommendation-On Being Presbyterian by Sean Michael Lucas

That I was reading a book called, “On Being a Presbyterian” amused a newer attendee of our congregation. Certainly I should know what it means to be a Presbyterian-after all I have been one for many years. I advised the book was on loan from our pastor, and I was interested in seeing how the author stated things. It would also be a good review, and in the history portion it could provide new information. I would also know if it was a book I could recommend, and I highly recommend it.

The subtitle of the book also indicates the sections in it, “Our beliefs, practices, and stories.” Lucas is dean of faculty and assistant professor of church history at Covenant Theological Seminary, so he is no stranger or outsider to Presbyterianism, or the PCA.

In Part 1 he looks at Presbyterian Beliefs. He does look at what we would have in common with other Christians, but the bulk is looking at the distinctives. This section has 5 chapters, but it is not one for each of the letter of TULIP, as some might assume. The five points of Calvinism do appear, but in Chapter 2 where he explains the Presbyterian beliefs on grace. This is where they belong. They are part of the picture, but not the whole picture. The chapter subjects are God’s sovereignty, grace, covenant and kingdom, the Church and sacraments. The chapters are well done looks at these beliefs. He doesn’t merely state what the beliefs are, but looks at how they affect the others, and us.

Part 2 is on Presbyterian practices. These do involve beliefs, and so this section flows out of the last one. In the first chapter of this section Lucas explains why he uses the word piety, and what he means by it. It’s on how we practice our beliefs, but also who we base them on. It’s a well done look at how God is connected to them.

In Part 2 he also writes on worship and church government. The chapter on worship is refreshing in that he looks at all worship, not just music and singing. Too often we use worship too narrowly. This short look at worship is instructive in how worship is more. The chapter on church government is also instructive as some feel this distinctive is a bigger difference between Presbyterians and Baptists than sacraments.

Part 3 is on Presbyterian stories. He presents an interesting historical look at how we got from the Reformers to what we have in North America today. Calvin and Knox loom large n the first part. He looks at the divisions, reunions, and new denominations as well. It gives a clear picture at how we got where we are today.

I highly recommend this book for all Christians, not just Presbyterians. I would also recommend it to any who are interested in church history. Its more obvious benefits would be for those who are new to Presbyterianism, or those who are considering attending or joining a Presbyterian church. But Christians with no intention of being Presbyterian could also benefit by better understanding of their brothers and sisters. I would read the same sort of book written by non-Presbyterian Christians if they were available. (This one is published by P&R Publishing.)

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"Jehovah-Rophi. I Am the Lord That Healeth Thee" by William Cowper

Here's a wonderful set of words penned by William Cowper-one of my favorite hymn writers, and a man who was used by God, despite suffering from what was probably some form of depression.

Jehovah-Rophi. I Am the Lord That Healeth Thee
(Exodus, xv.26)

Heal us, Emmanuel! here we are,
Waiting to feel Thy touch:
Deep-wounded souls to Thee repair
And, Saviour, we are such.

Our faith is feeble, we confess,
We faintly trust Thy word;
But wilt Thou pity us the less?
Be that far from Thee, Lord!

Remember him who once applied,
With trembling, for relief;
"Lord, I believe," with tears he cried,
"Oh, help my unbelief!"

She too, who touch'd Thee in the press,
And healing virtue stole,
Was answer'd, "Daughter, go in peace,
Thy faith hath made thee whole."

Conceal'd amid the gathering throng,
She would have shunn'd Thy view;
And if her faith was firm and strong,
Had strong misgivings too.

Like her, with hopes and fears we come,
To touch Thee, if we may;
Oh! send us not despairing home,
Send none unheal'd away!

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LOTW January 15, 2007

Wow, it's been over a month since it's been "whenever", but the Links of the Whenever have returned. (Or will, after I go check on my late lunch.)

First up-From "Around the World With Ken Ham", the provocatively titled article-
Darwin Was Right. Just a little something to chew on & think about.

Second, for some humour in your life-William Shatner Lent Me His Hairpiece (an untrue story) I first saw it on the Space Channel here in Canada. (Advisory--if you decide to check out other videos at this site, please use your discretion and heed any warnings they post.)

Hopefully you'll think & you'll laugh---and hopefully in the right order.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Taking the Lord's Name in Vague

No, that's not a typo in the title. It's something I once said as a child.

I didn't know the gospel-but I did know of the Ten Commandments, and once I chastised someone for breaking the third commandment by telling them not to take the Lord's name in vague. I had either misheard or mis remembered what the commandment was.

Still, while it isn't a direct violation of the third commandment--we may be guilty of "taking the Lord's name in vague."

We may lack boldness or clarity. While God can still use this, it shouldn't be the way we normally use His name. How many songs, books, sermons, etc are guilty of this? We speak or sing of God with such vagueness that who are we really referring to? So much of it seems like fluff.

I also have a concern that there are people who think they are Christians because they heard a vague message about God--but they didn't hear the gospel and don't know Christ.

I'm not saying everybody has to be a great theologian and know all there is to know about God. What I am saying is we should be careful about how we refer to God. We should avoid shallow, vague messages and teaching. We should be clear.

Now Jesus did use parables, sometimes to hide the meaning from some listeners--but His parables were never vague. Those who were meant to understand did, even if they needed some help. Those with ears to hear did hear.

This is also not speaking against speaking simply so those who are seeking or learning can understand. To take them into consideration is speaking clearly. SOmetimes it is our Christian jargon that makes things vague. But it may be uncertainty, fear, timidity or something else. We need to be prayerful about how we speak of God, Christ, and the Gospel, let us do it according to those we are speaking to and the context, but let us not be vague.


Thomas Watson on-"Shall we know each other in heaven?"

Here's an interesting quote I found online.

Some have asked whether we shall know one another in heaven? Surely, our knowledge will not be diminished, but increased. The judgement of Luther and Anselm, and many other divines is, that we shall know one another; yea, the saints of all ages, whose faces we never saw; and, when we shall see the saints in glory without their infirmities of pride end passion, it will be a glorious sight.

—Thomas Watson (c. 1620—1686)

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I've Been There How Long?

I was thinking about some things lately, and realized how long I had been a member of the congreagtion where I worship. I realized that it was the group I had the longest association with outside of my family. In my time there I have held 3 jobs (the first for only a few months, before I quit to take a better one.) I had met the woman I married, but we barely knew each other at that time. I had a lot less grey hair.

I realized the current pastor has been here almost as long as I attended under the previous pastor. (We were pastor-less for about a year, during that time elders filled in.)

There must be a reason for it.

If you've read previous posts you'll have seen me express appreciation and thanks for the congregation. That is one of the reasons I'm still around. So is the teaching.

Still I was surpised when I realized how long I've been around.

May God bless us all with groups we are part of that are helpful, and may those associations be long ones, unless the Lord takes us elsewhere.

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Ordering around the Holy Spirit?

In my "Merry Christmas" post I received a question about a comment I had made at Purgatorio. The question had to do with the so called "Holy Laughter/Toronto Blessing" movement of several years back. (If you're not familiar with it--there are lots of links if you do a search.) The question was-
i was just wondering what you meant by "ordering the Holy Spirit around" thanks!
A few years ago, John Arnott-a pastor at the Toronto Airport Vineyard where the "Toronto Blessing" started- came to a local church to share the blessing.

A group of my friends and myself went to check it out. I will admit we doubted it, but wanted to see it first hand.

What we saw was more a performance than anything else. One of the worst parts was hearing Arnott order the Holy Spirit around. This wasn't someone claiming the promises of God. He was ordering the Holy Spirit as if he was owed something. He wasn't submitting to the Sovereign God, but was acting as if he was the one in charge. Yes, the Holy Spirit was sent as a helper, but that doesn't make Him a servant we get to boss around. We don't, and can't, deserve His help in any way. Arnott acted as if he was in charge of the sovereign God. He told the Spirit he was commanding Him. There was no reverence. While this is my impression, I flet like He was demoting the Spirit, and promoting himself. Read John 3 to see how the Holy Spirit works. Read Acts to see Him as God.

Hopefully that answers the question, if not let me know.

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