Introduction to Biblical Counseling

May 26th, 2015 No Comments

Tomorrow night is the last night for the Introduction to Biblical Counseling course.

We’ll be watching the last counseling video. We all want to know what happens to Trey and Deb.

Also, there’s free pizza!

So, if you’ve attended in the past, but the things of life squeezed you out, and you want to have one more nice time, come to our last meeting and enjoy the festivities.

7:00 at the Anselm House.

Two Huge Lies

May 26th, 2015 No Comments

Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

Rick Warren

Thinking About Pastoral Ministry?

May 26th, 2015 No Comments

I thought I would put a plug out there for our Greyfriars’ Hall: Ministerial Training School. We have openings and if you’re qualified, we still have time to accept you.

You should know that the workload is prodigious. Students read at least a book a week, meet with various pastors, work alongside ministers, meet with elders, get involved in real life ministry settings, and are involved in the life of the church in a small town where there are many enemies of Christ and they are loud about it. If you want to learn about God in a context where learning is, in many ways, on the job, check us out.

Our Greyfriars’ Hall program is in conjunction with New Saint Andrews Masters program, so if you are enrolled in Greyfriars’ Hall, you will take some classes at NSA and will receive credits that you can apply to an MA in Letters and Science. At the end of your time at Greyfriars’ you will have about half your MA completed.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: the tuition for Greyfriars’ Hall is $0. That’s right, you get great training and other than living and books, don’t have to pay a dime. You do have to bring us cookies from time to time, but even that is negotiable.

Christian Education

May 26th, 2015 No Comments

CREC churches share a deep commitment to the pursuit of Christian education. We are convinced that the world must be understood in a distinctively Christian way, and young saints are to be trained up into that way of thinking about it. The reason the world must be understood in a Christian way is because the world was created by the Christian God. Apart from Him, it cannot be understood properly. But because of the presence of sin in the world, there are a great many obstacles to this proper understanding. It does not come easily: Education is all about learning how to take your rightful place in the world, and this is something too important to leave to our young people to figure out for themselves. Discipleship does not begin when a child reaches the age of eighteen. The Christian faith is not like one of those rides at Disneyland, where you have to be a certain height to participate.

Some of our churches are closely associated with solid Christian schools, and some have more parishioners with connections with the homeschooling community. Some of our churches have members that use both forms of education, but we are overwhelmingly committed to the need for genuine Christian education. This is the principle. The particular method for providing that education is up to the parents, but our churches in their teaching authority emphasize the principle. This is what is entailed in bringing children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

This should be thought of as more of a cultural expectation, and not a legalistic requirement. We know that there are difficult circumstances where Christian education is impossible (e.g., where children are assigned to a government school as a result of a court order in a divorce case). Nevertheless, Christian education is something we are striving to provide for all our covenant children, and if, for example, someone’s financial circumstances make private education unattainable, we want to have financial assistance available through the church and its deacon fund.

We consider this to be part of our life together. In our congregations, when a child is baptized, the congregation is presented with a question that has the force of an oath. “Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of assisting these parents in the Christian nurture of this child? If so, then signify by saying amen.”

Published by Canon Press

Tatoos

May 19th, 2015 No Comments

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a comment on what we wear and how we dress. I included a comment near the end about tattoos being something we wear and forgot to add the link. Here you go.

I don’t know anything about the web site in general, I just liked what they had to say about  tattoos and the Bible.

Child Communion

May 19th, 2015 No Comments

At the very center of the strong family emphasis that you will find in our churches, you will also find our practice of communing our children at the Lord’s Table. This is unusual in Protestant churches, and in some places it is even controversial, so here are a few words of explanation.

Children have their unique challenges in their walk with Christ, as we all do, but an additional challenge is that as a class they are routinely treated as spiritual “outsiders.” Even in churches that baptize infants, it is often the case that a credible profession of faith is required before a child is admitted to the Lord’s Supper. But in our churches, the Lord’s Table is not protected with a profession of faith; the Lord’s Table is regarded as a profession of faith.

It is true that little children do not yet know how to make this profession; it is our assigned task to bring them up m the nurture and admonition of the Lord so that they learn how to do it. We teach them to make this profession by making it together with them every week. In our view it is analogous to bringing them home from the hospital right after they were born and speaking to them in English…even though they don’t know English yet. That is quite true, but the fact that we do this is why they grow up to speak it fluently. We want our children to grow up speaking communion with Christ as their native language.

We are (all of us) saved through the gift of faith, from first to last, and it is no different with our children. As with all communicant members of the visible Church, it is possible for a child who grows up this way to turn away from Christ. When such a sad event happens they are to be disciplined as any other member would be.

But in the meantime, the apostle Paul compares the entire congregation to one loaf of bread (1 Cor. 10:17). And it is our conviction that all who are bread should get bread.

Published by Canon Press

Church Membership

May 15th, 2015 No Comments

Because we live in a casual and breezy age, many Christians are unfamiliar with the idea of a covenanted church membership. CREC churches usually have a formal membership roster, and for some this may require a brief explanation.

The biblical basis for this is found in Hebrews 13:7, 17. Verse 7 speaks of Christian “rulers” who have taught the Word of God, and who have lived lives worthy of imitation. Now obviously, in order to obey someone, you have to know who they are. To hear them you have to be within earshot, and to imitate them, you have to know them and their families. So for members of the congregation, it is necessary to know the roster of their elders–otherwise obedience to them is an incoherent duty, impossible to fulfill. In addition to this idea of submission and obedience, verse 17 shows us the specific responsibilities that extend in the other direction. Those who have the rule watch out for individual souls, and they do so as ones who must give account. One of the things that those who will give an account must do is actually count. If a father goes out to the park with the kids, when he returns, and morn asks him if he has all of them with him, she will not be satisfied with “more or less” for an answer. Verse 17 requires some kind of membership roster. “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds” (Prov. 7:23).

While attachment to a particular congregation is important, it is not important in the same fixed way that a marriage s, for example. A man might lawfully leave a congregation to take a job in another part of the country, but it would not be lawful for him to desert his family for that same job. Because the CREC is not sectarian, we also think it is legitimate for someone to transfer from one church to another in the same community—if the attitude is not schismatic, then the action certainly is not. Church membership is simply a way for members and elders both to take some form of orderly responsibility. For us, it is not a matter of ownership (the “lording over” prohibited to elders in 1 Pet. 5:3) or isolation from other believers (the partisan spirit prohibited to followers in 1 Cor. 3:4).

Published by Canon Press

Wine in Communion

May 14th, 2015 No Comments

Most people come to our churches from the broader evangelical world. If you grew up Roman Catholic or Lutheran, you are accustomed to the use of wine in communion. But if you ‘come to one of our services from an evangelical or Baptist background, the use of wine can be quite a surprise. And because we usually observe communion weekly, this is an adjustment you have to deal with every week.

We do this because we are convinced that Jesus used wine when He first established the meal, and we believe that we do not have the authority to alter what He established. The Jews used wine in their Passover meals, and Jesus established this sacrament in the context of that meal. The “cup of blessing” that Paul refers to (1 Cor. 10:16) was the third cup in the Passover meal, and it was a cup of wine. Indeed, in an age without refrigeration, it would not have been possible to keep and maintain what we think of as grape juice.

One of the ways we know that the wine in the Bible was alcoholic is through the constant reminders not to drink too much of it (Eph. 5:18, 1 Cor. 11:21). If biblical wine were simply grape juice, these moral exhortations would make no sense. The master of the wedding feast at Cana was not amazed that the best grape juice had been saved for last, after all the third-rate grape juice had dulled everybody’s senses (John 2:10).

Some might feel that including alcoholic drink in a sacramental meal is somehow disrespectful. But this is actually a modern version of letting the traditions of men (which can exert a powerful influence) set aside the Word of God—which Jesus said not to do (Mark 7:9). In the Old Testament, tithe money was to be used to buy shekar, or “strong drink” (Deut. 14:22-26). In the New, the word for wine is oinos, and is clearly alcoholic, as multiple contexts make clear.

There is one more point worth emphasizing. The wine we use in communion should be like the gospel–and that is potent. As with anything potent, abuses are possible (e.g., shall we sin that grace may abound?”), but the possibility of abuse should not be allowed to replace the authority of Scripture. We want in the first place to be biblical people. This means we do not want a grape-juice gospel, but rather a gospel with a kick.

Published by Canon Press

Optimism About the Future of the Church

May 13th, 2015 No Comments

A doctrinal emphasis that you are very likely to find in CREC churches is, oddly enough, a doctrinal point that is not actually required by any of our approved doctrinal statements. When it comes to the question of eschatology (what will happen at the end of the world), the only thing that the universal Church has agreed on thus far is that Jesus Christ will one day return in power and glory to judge “the quick and the dead.” When it comes to all the particular details surrounding and leading up to that glorious event, the broader Church has not yet reached a consensus. Some denominations are premillennial dispensationalist, some are historic premillennial, some are amillennial, and so on. Someone once joked that the millennium is a thousand years of peace that Christians like to fight about.

Although it is not a doctrinal requirement of the CREC, our pastors and church leaders are overwhelmingly what is called postmillennial. This is an odd doctrinal position in our day, but there was a time in the history of the Reformed churches when it was much more commonplace, and in this, we are simply returning to our historic roots.

What it means, in broad outlines, is that we believe that the preaching of the gospel in the world will be powerful and effective, that the nations will come to Christ in order to be discipled by Him, that a golden era of human history will ensue, and that after this (where the “post” comes from), the Lord Jesus will return to destroy the last enemy, death.

If you are not accustomed to this sort of thing, and you attach yourself to a CREC church, the optimism might take some getting used to. When you used to see some outrage on the evening news, you would tell a friend that it’s the “last days,” and what should we expect? But now you have friends telling you that the bad guys can’t keep up this kind of folly forever, and it will soon be time for us to make our move.

As was mentioned just above, this is not a doctrinal requirement for our church leaders, and still less for the members of our churches. But it Would be fair to say that it has become a significant part of the culture of the CREC.

Published by Canon Press

Biblical Sermons

May 12th, 2015 No Comments

There is an old joke among preachers that sermonettes are for Christianettes. Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. The Scriptures are our life. Believing what we do about the absolute authority of the Bible, it only makes sense that the sermon would be important to our worship. But we also have to note that sermons are not just important because of the propositional content from the Bible that they relay; preaching is also an important event in its own right. It is through the foolishness of preaching that those who believe may come to salvation (1 Cor. 1:21). Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the preached word (Rom. 10:14). Undervaluing the importance of preaching is to undervalue the importance of human souls.

As a general rule, sermons in the CREC are expository. This means that messages take care to apply the teaching of Scripture to our lives passage by passage. It is also important to note that Old Testament books are not neglected in this—they are not the Word of God emeritus, or put out to pasture. They, together with the New Testament, are the minister’s tool chest (2 Tim. 3:16).

This is not to say that all the messages will be expositional, working through books of the Bible. But most of them will be. Some of the messages will be keyed to the church year, expounding what the Reformers called the “evangelical feast days,” marking events like Christ’s birth, or resurrection, or ascension into Heaven. At other times, there may be a series of topical sermons, addressing a particular need that a congregation might have. But for the most part, sermons are anchored in particular books of the Bible.

One other point should be made. Once the exposition of a text has been declared, it is crucial that the minister goes on to apply the principles involved in the text to the lives of the people before him. This is the point of application, and sermons that are not applied are just exercises in self-deception (Jas. 1:22-24).

Published by Canon Press

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