My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

25 June 2008

Justification Controversy

The synod just passed these recommendations from a committee that was formed to study the current controversies surrounding the doctrine of justification. If you're not in on this controversy, don't worry about it - it's not really worth your time. If you know some of what's going on, you'll be interested to see where our synod now officially stands. I should also note that these recommendations were unanimously approved with no dissent.

1. That Synod declare that we stand in solidarity with our Reformed and Presbyterian brethren in rejecting as contrary to our confessional standards the theological views that are generally associated with the movements identified as "The New Perspective(s) on Paul" and "The Federal Vision."

2. That Synod reaffirm our commitment to the biblical, historical, and confessional, Reformed doctrine of justification - sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus - which requires the imputation of the active obedience of Jesus Christ as an essential component of that righteousness which is the ground of our justification and is received by faith alone.

3. That Synod recommend to our ministers and members the study of the reports of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the Mid-America Theological Seminary (M-ARS), and the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS).

4. That Synod request our Sessions, Presbyteries, and other examination boards to be diligent in their examinations of potential office holders as to the critical areas of theology that are associated with the new views.

24 June 2008


The RPCNA synod began meeting last night. Keith Magill, pastor of the Elkhart congregation, preached from 2 Corinthians 11. Afterwards, Dr. Denny Prutow, professor of homiletics was elected as the new moderator. This morning, John Edgar preached from Acts 16 on the mission of church planting. More of these kinds of details can be found at the official synod blog.

If inspiration strikes, perhaps I shall publish some synodical limericks or haikus.

19 June 2008

Prayer, 2

Here are a few more thoughts on prayer from our recent series through the Lord's Prayer.

First, prayer is God-connected. That connection is specifically the connection of adoption, so Jesus teaches us to approach God in prayer as our Father. It's fascinating that there is extremely little said about the Fatherhood of God in the Old Testament, but it's all over the New Testament. This points to the greatness of living in the new covenant, of following the one who tore the temple curtain in two. Also, this God-connection aspect of prayer means that prayer is inseparably connected with the gospel. In fact, we could say that prayer is living out the gospel of our adoption.

Second, prayer is God-centered and so Jesus teaches us to orient ourselves around our great God by addressing Him not only as Father, but as our Father in heaven. An illustration may suffice to make the point: when you are getting directions from Google maps or Mapquest, you may know full well your destination, where you want to end up. But if you don't start at the right place, you're going nowhere. So it is with prayer. We may have a clear sense of what we want or need from God, but if we are so quick in prayer that we skip past praise, we have not begun in the right place.

Third, prayer is God-captivated: our first request is "hallowed be thy name" or "make your glory more known in my life and the world." Where does the heart of adoration come from but meditation? One of the greatest passages of praise, one of the most God-captivated portions of Scripture is Romans 11:33-36 (O the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God...). how did the Apostle Paul cultivate such a God-captivated heart? Well, by meditating upon and writing about the great truths of Christ's redemption for eleven long chapters. So meditation begets adoration. Deep prayer requires deep thinking.

12 June 2008

Presbyterians & Joy

Yesterday was our bi-monthly pastors' fellowship lunch in Indianapolis. As I was driving back, I alternated between meditating on the upcoming sermon passage and reflecting on the blessings of this meeting. Here's what I came up with for the latter:

It's a wonderful comfort to be in fellowship with men I can trust. This trust comes from both their personal character as well as our common subscription to our doctrinal standards. The second may seem like a little thing, but to know that these men stand in the same place I do (or, more properly, that I stand where they do) is a wonderful, presbyterian joy.

It's also a wonderful humbling and instructive thing to hear godly men pray. As we split up for prayer, I found myself in a group with three other men who were each walking with Christ when I was still "behind the picture on the wall." All three prayed differently, but with each there is an almost-tangible sense of their closeness to Jesus.

Finally, it is a great blessing and boon to true fellowship to be understood. Jesus sent out his disciples two by two because solo ministry is, well, stupid. Even though most of us serve as the sole pastor in a congregation, being a presbyterian means never really being alone. It means having friends and mentors who are always available for counsel and prayer and who understand this vocation more deeply and incisively than most.

03 June 2008

Prayer, 1

As 2008 approached and commenced, I wondered to God what He would have for my spiritual growth this year. At the same time, I was prayerfully considering the same question for our congregation. The four areas I have been steadily praying about since then are (1) more outreach, (2) more holiness, (3) more generosity and (4) more prayer.

Two weeks ago our sermon series came to Luke 11, where Jesus teaches His disciples to pray. At the same time in our congregation, we are beginning a new class on basic spiritual disciplines and an evening sermon discussion time. All this amounts to a lot of time this month at Immanuel RPC talking about prayer. It occurs to me that perhaps God is answering my prayer for more prayer.

In this light, I thought I might take a few blog posts to share some Biblical points and personal thoughts on prayer. For those at Immanuel, this will be review...but review makes the soil of our hearts and minds able to sustain growth.

First, prayer must be learned. The disciples grew up in a praying culture, but yet realized how much they had to learn. Thus they asked Jesus, "teach us to pray."

Second, prayer is not natural. Certainly there is an impulse in humanity to cry out to a conceived deity. Only a very few succeed in stifling this impulse entirely. But even though we all pray, Biblical prayer, Christ-centered and Spirit-powered prayer are not natural. We are all born breathing and breathe all our lives - but as opera singers must relearn the right breathing for their art, so Christians must relearn prayer.

Third, a desire from prayer comes from keeping our eyes on Jesus. Luke the historian brings a great gift to the church in constantly revealing to us the ongoing, infinite and eternal love that exists in our Triune God. In the gospels, the Father is always pointing out the Son and providing for Him; at the same time the Son is always seeking the Father's glory and purpose. As we watch this, we are to be more than instructed: we are to be inspired. Like the disciples whose desire for prayer came from watching Jesus, so we should meditate on the majestic, Trinitarian love of Jesus for the Father.