Capture

Surrey, BC, Canada.

Church caretaker John VanSpronsen arrived at the Surrey Church building at 830am on Sunday morning to open up for the worship services at 10am. To his shock and delight, he saw a line up of “thousands” people waiting to get in.

He waved to the crowd, who cheered enthusiastically at his arrival.

“I called the elders and let them know we may need an extra service or two! There must have been thousands of people there! We quickly arranged to have pastor Bill come at 9am for an early service. I thought the evangelism committee had sent out fliers or something.” shrugged VanSpronsen.

Once the doors opened, the crowd cheered, pulled out their smart phones and ran into the sanctuary all of them making a bee-line for the pulpit. To the surprise of Vanspronsen, Pastor Bill Schooner was already in the pulpit when the doors opened.

“I wondered why they all wanted a picture of pastor Bill, but then I saw the pastor himself with his phone out. He was screaming like a giddy schoolgirl, ”I got Mewtwo! I got Mewtwo!””

In a flash the sanctuary was empty, except for the elders.

The impromptu evangelistic service was cancelled as Pastor Bill ran out the back door yelling, “There’s another Pokemon over here!”

The elders are investigating the merits of Pokemon Go as an evangelistic tool.

spanking

Spanking.

To spank or not to spank?

Whenever the debate of spanking comes up, often Christians quote the “thou shalt spank” verse: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”  Sounds good, doesn’t it?

I have said it.

You may have as well…the problem is, it is not in the Bible.

It is from a Samuel Butler Poem entitled, Hudibras:

Bring me, on oath, a fair account,
And honour too, when you have done’t,
And I’ll admit you to the place
You claim as due in my good grace.
If matrimony and hanging go
By dest’ny, why not whipping too?
What med’cine else can cure the fits
Of lovers when they lose their wits?
Love is a boy by poets stil’d;
Then spare the rod and spoil the child.

Okay…

So what does the Bible say? It certainly speaks about disciplining our children, so too the Bible we ought to look, not to a poem, for direction on how to raise our children. The closest thing in the Bible to this quote is from Proverbs 13:24:

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

It is close, but it is not the same. Is it?

There are other verses which speak of the rod of discipline as well:

Proverbs 22:15 says:

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of the child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”

Proverbs 23:13 says:

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.”

Often well meaning parents speak of the “rod” as a spanking.  In fact there is even a Bible translation, which erroneously translates proverbs 13:24 as:

Whoever refuses to spank his son hates him,
    but whoever loves his son disciplines him from early on.

This is wrong.

The verse does NOT say “spank.” It says, “Spares the rod.”

Many interpret these verses the way that this erroneous translation has, to mean that God is instructing parents to spank children when they misbehave.  Some take it to mean that spankings should be administered with “the rod,” or belts, or other various blunt objects. This misinterpretation is understandable, and has been made by many well meaning Christian parents of the years, but what it shows is a lack of correct Biblical exegesis, when interpreting this verse and others like it.

Perhaps you have heard of the phrase, “Scripture interprets scripture.”  What this means, simply, is that it is important to interpret verses within the greater context of the Bible. While researching this text, I came across many out of context defenses of spanking by normally biblically sound people. Be careful when exegeting!

I digress…

So considering this, what is the “rod” which we use, and how are we to use it? The word rod is the same as the one used in Psalm 23 :

“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

Take a moment and look at that.

Comfort.

The rod comforts…

Let me ask a question, do you think a sheep would be comforted by the rod if it was used to strike it?

Would you say that kids are comforted by a spanking, or being struck with a belt or a rod?

Imagine a dog that cowers every time master picks up the stick that is used to strike it…that dog is not comforted by the stick, but is terrified of it!

rod&staff2Here is the thing, shepherds didn’t use the rod to beat their sheep every time they strayed away. The shepherd’s rod was used to help direct the sheep by gently guiding them in the right direction, and, if needed, giving them a poke or a prod when they strayed to far. The shepherd would also use the rod to count the sheep as the passed under it. Yet the rod was also a weapon, but not for the sheep. It was used to beat off predators like wild dogs, bears and wolves.

 

According to one commentator,  the setting of a word often determines its meaning.

“In the case of the word, “rod”there are two preceding articles which will change the meaning from metaphorical to concrete: the rod and a rod. “The rod” is always metaphorical, as in Lamentations 3:1—“I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.” On the other hand, “a rod” is always with reference to a concrete object—a straight stick that might have been used as a tool of measurement (1Sa 17:7, Rev. 21:16), a symbol of authority (Is. 14:5), or a staff used in herding sheep (Lev. 27:32)…

In every case, when the word rod is used with reference to the training or discipline of children, it is preceded by the article the, connoting that the usage is metaphorical. To understand it otherwise results in irreconcilable confusion. For example, in Exodus (21:20), The Lord specifies that if a man beats his male or female slave with a rod, and the slave dies as a direct result, the man must be punished.”

Interesting stuff.

The rod is metaphorical.  So this verse is a metaphorical rod, and a verse like  proverbs 26:3 is literal! “A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, And a rod for the back of fools.”

I heard that yawn!

Ok. Lets move on.

The point is that this verse is not saying you have to hit your kids. It is not saying, “Thou Shalt Spank!” It is saying train them, love them, discipline them raise them correctly. Now to clarify, I am not saying don’t spank your kids. I do believe that a properly administered spanking  is an effective type of “using the rod”, but it is not the only way to use the rod. I have had to spank on occasion, but let’s be honest, spanking is often done in anger or frustration, rather than in love. And when we do that, when we do it when we are angry, may be teaching our children that it is ok to hit people when they make you mad.  I can’t speak for you, but that is not the message I want to send my kids…

Spanking is easy.

It is quick.

Even my kid thinks so.

For example one time when I was disciplining my 6 year old for misbehaviour, I took away her privileges and toys for a day… she asked me for a spanking instead. She would have rather had a spank that stung for a minute, than having to endure the loss of her things for an afternoon.

So let’s admit it, spanking can be done out of sheer laziness. Often more effective methods of discipline require a lot more effort and patience. Right? And those other methods of discipline, when done in love, are in fact administering the rod as Proverbs 13:24 instructs.

 

alcoholabuse

Much has been posted about the use of porn amongst Christians. We have become familiar with alarming statistics like: “2 out of 5 church going men watch porn several times a week; or, 56% of divorce cases involve one party having an obsessive interest in porn…” (stats: setfreesummit.org). And by God’s abundant grace we need wholesale repentance from this sin, and a pursuit of holiness in Christ that continues to deny all and every one of these deceitful desires in our hearts.

But less has been said about its possible twin ill: alcoholism.

Possibly the two greatest spiritual cancers in the church today, especially as it concerns our sanctification or our christian ethic, are pornography and alcoholism.

Pornography is an immoral, addictive, noxious behaviour leading to fornication and all kinds of sexual sins.

Alcoholism is an abuse of alcohol leading to drunkenness, dependency / addiction and a host of social ills.

Yes, it is true that there are other spiritual cancers existing in the church today. And they are equally troubling, like a growing secularism, rampant materialism, drug abuse, and so on, but pornography  and alcohol may still have the greatest scourge on the church today.

 

ed4a4d39aa9e19b795da843a18463ff3The reason many do not venture to speak about alcoholism amongst the saints is because many do not see it as a problem. We parade drinking as the one freedom in Christ that is sanctioned in Scripture, and by doing this give tacit consent to its abuse. Yes, we know the texts that defend a little alcohol for the stomach:

 

No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. 1 Tim 5:23

Or enjoyed at a wedding:

Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now. John 2:10

Or other celebratory events:

Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.(Deut 14:26),

But what happens when the little becomes a lot, or certainly too much?

Or, what happens when alcohol becomes the most important part of any camping trip?

Or, what happens when our children rarely see us at an event without an alcoholic beverage in our hand?

Or, what happens when our youth are uber excited about turning 18 or 19 or 21 only because then they can have a legally sanctioned party with alcohol?

Or, what happens when alcohol moves from a freedom to spiritual bondage so that we crave and demand its company every weekend with our friends, (or worse every night), and then find the need to joke about it, promote and even defend its use at every juncture even over social media?

What then?

How do we effectually diagnose this spiritual malady?

And what impact does it have on our soul and the advancement of the Kingdom?

What kind of new life in Christ is still tapped into the old life of alcoholism, which only seeks to destroy the glorious, hope-filled life that Christ purchased for us?  

We know that all alcoholics start as moderate drinkers though not all moderate drinkers are alcoholics – granted. All the same, all those who get drunk start with a first drink. We have all seen this happen and we have witnessed its destructive even licentious effects. I remember an older man who once attended our church here in Lae periodically for a year or two but never fully committed himself to Christ.

His struggle?

Alcohol.

Once, in a state of inebriation, he raped a young (15 year old) girl.

( Unfortunately, I do not know how the matter was dealt with by the law, but sadly many cases here in PNG are not brought to the attention of the police.)

rape-1.gifWhen I saw him again, I confronted him. He tried to justify his damnable act. He said it began when his mate poured a beer in front of him. He was trying to resist, he pined. “But when I see it foam and swish in the glass and absorb its smell, everything in me says I want that, I crave that, and I need that!! I can’t help myself!” (cf Prov 23:31). My heart burns with anger for the pain he caused this young girl. Justice was not served. even though before this perversity we had preached and shared with him repeatedly the hope, the freedom in Christ purchased for him on Golgotha and his desperate need to repent.

Sadly, we all know too many stories, maybe not as perverse as this one, of men and women enslaved to this deceitful but ruthless taskmaster. (Eph 5:18 cf 2 Sam 13:28; Is 28:7 etc).

It is true we live in a porn riddled age but we also live in an alcohol saturated age and the cost on the souls of the saints may be equally destructive.

These dual ethical ills (read: lusts of the flesh) converge in unilaterally destroying an unfettered love and passion for Christ and the advancement of His Kingdom. An argument could be sustained that if these two idols (which ferment into a spiritual cancer) were more firmly rejected in the hearts of Christ’s followers – by the abundant grace afforded them by the One who broke these chains on Calvary’s tree – there would likely be a possible hundredfold increase in passion for mission, the lost, the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom and the advancement of the Church…and all for God’s glory.

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Just one example: we struggle to find young men ready to enter the ministry in order to preach and proclaim the awesome Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. There maybe any number of reasons why they are not entering by the hordes, but may it be in part that we are loosing this battle to fill our seminaries with potential labourers because the potential labourers are living with one or both of these spiritual cancers?

Scripture says you can’t serve God and mammon.

Neither can you serve God and porn or alcohol.

But the joy and POWER of the Gospel is that in Christ there is freedom from the enslavement from either or both of these. All praise to God because His grace is abundant to save!

More than that, this purchased freedom in Christ clears the mind for the Spirit to renew and fan into flame a passion for what counts – the exaltation of Christ in every corner of this lost world!

I am not condemning alcohol because Scripture doesn’t. Scripture even considers wine a blessing for instance, in Gen 27:28, we read the blessing,

May God give you heaven’s dew
and earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine.”

Though at the same time Scripture is replete with warnings about its abuse. For example, Prov 20:1 states,

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler…

And 1 Cor 6:10 states,

“…nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers…will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Finally, Proverbs 23:30-35 states,

“Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.  In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder…and your heart utters perverse things.”

I am speaking out against alcoholism and the abuse of alcohol.

In the end, friends, if we turn a blind eye to its abuse because we do not want to be seen as a legalist, or a teetotaler, or we don’t want anything to infringe on our own drinking habits this is unquestionably selfish at best.   At worst, if we turn a blind eye to its abuse we may be perpetuating unrestrained drinking amongst church-goers and desecrating Christ’s Name before a lost world.

It is in this light that this spiritual cancer needs to be addressed, lovingly but firmly, wisely and in a Christ-glorifying way. Simply put, we need to address the household idols of our times in clear and direct language.

My humble prayer is that I have at least started down that path… 

Pastor Ian Wildeboer

This guest post was written Ian Wildeboer, Missionary Pastor in Lae, 
Papua New Guinea, and has been edited and reformatted from the original 
which can be found on his  Facebook page.

 

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Reports out of Hamilton, Ontario, from the 58th annual general synod, suggest that in an effort to more effectively reach their local communities, 17 of the local churches in Classis Ontario Westside and Classis Ontario Midwest will join together to form a single congregation.  The congregation will boast a membership of just over 14,000. With 8,800 communicant members,  this will become the single largest Protestant congregation in all of Canada.

“This is certainly an historic occasion! There are so many of us Reformed folk packed into in this area, we thought, ‘Why not?’ I mean, other churches seem to have success in reaching their communities and seeing conversions with this model.”, stated an exuberant Dr. Dirk Vanblooughhaard, Professor of New Testament Eisegesis at the Hamilton Reformed Seminary.

When asked where a congregation of that size would gather for worship, Vanblooughhaard stated that, ” We considered meeting at First Ontario Centre, which may still happen, but the plan for now is to continue using all 17 church buildings. Rather than continue as local congregations, each will become satellite campuses, with the Hamilton Reformed Seminary being the central hub. Each campus will receive a new 250 inch jumbo-tron style screen and the sermons will be preached from a studio at the seminary and live streamed to each campus!”

When asked what would become of each local minister, Vanblooughhaard excitedly responded, “Each minister has received a new title – ‘Executive Pastor of Preaching, Evangelism, Teaching, Families,  Visitation, Outreach, Counselling and Vision Casting’.” Vanblooughhaard continues,“This will lighten each pastor’s workload significantly, as each will only have to preach 6 sermons per year!  They will continue to lead the services at each campus, but will now be able to sit with their families more often. During the week they get to focus more effort on the practical side of things like on evangelism, outreach, visitation, and drinking coffee with college students.”

The local young peoples societies have already made plans for installing PS4’s in the sound booths, to coordinate “NHL16” video game tournaments on the giant screens after the services for the local communities. According to one enthusiastic YP rep, “All kids like playing video games, this will definitely help in outreach!”

A name for the new mega church has yet to be decided upon, the “Revisioned Reformatted Central Canadian Evangelical Reformed Church in Mecca” was suggested by one seemingly disgruntled parishoner, but was quickly vetoed by the Unified Committee for Rebranding.

 

 

 

transgender.png

All this transgender talk in the news has really got me thinking about what I am. What is it that I am supposed to be? Was I born right? Am I really living the way I think I should be? Am I being true to myself? Am I even using the right bathroom?

Screen-Shot-2016-04-06-at-11.56.02-AM.sized-770x415xc.pngHave you heard about that transgender man-woman-dragon who cut its ears and nose off and had horns implanted in its head and has had scales tattooed over its body? It has requested to be called “it,” so I am not being disrespectful by calling it an it. It believes that when it was born it should have been a dragon…

I wonder what bathroom it uses, or can it go on the lawn?

And it is being celebrated by the left for being true to itself.

Well that settles it.

If it can be a transgendered mystical creature, and be celebrated, I have decided that I am going to be a pastor. That is respectable right? The left may not get it, but the right will. I mean, at least most of you would expect that of me, I have mentioned it in past posts…so I am going to be pastor.

No, not in 5 or 6 years…

Not after a seminary education…

Not after receiving a call…

Not after being ordained…

Right now.

Today.

That’s right.

I feel that I was born as a pastor, and no one can tell me otherwise. It is time to embrace who I am. I know that some of you will hate me, and not accept me, but you are all bigots if you think that. I will come to your church and if you don’t let me preach, I will cry harassment, and prejuduice, and go the human rights tribunal…

Oh and while I am at it, I think I am Korean.

And Female.

And Baptist.

I am a pre-seminary, pre-calling, pre-ordination, pre-op, pre-cultured, pre-london-baptist confession-catechized, transgendered, transvocational, transethnic, transdenominational, transconfessional, Korean, Woman, Baptist, Pastor.

Celebrate me.

Or else.

QUXiDmjHTaZJcOfXC1QA_63578572_euthanasia_image1When writing about suicide I try to approach the subject sensitively. Many, including myself, have been affected by suicide, and it is a very emotional and personal issue. It can be easy for a blog post to come across as cold and mechanical, and that is something I do not want to do with this topic, but it is just a blog post and I cannot possibly cover everything that the title asks.

Let’s begin.

The small Canadian community of Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency recently, after 11 people attempted suicide in one night.  The community has seen a rash of suicides and attempted suicides in the past year or so. Federal MPs held an emergency debate  to address the mental health crisis. The Ontario provincial government will dedicate up to $2 million toward long-term solutions to prevent suicide attempts in the troubled Attawapiskat First Nation.

While the government is looking for solutions to help this community deal with their crisis, the federal government  has proposed a law allowing voluntary euthanasia for sufferers of serious medical conditions.

Does anyone else see the problem here? There is some sort of perversity afoot. What this is saying is that suicide is wrong, and should be stopped… except when it eases pain suffering.  But aren’t the people in Attawapiskat suffering?  The whole thing just boggles my mind.

With the upcoming MP free vote, and all the chatter about suicide, euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide…it is a good time to talk about it.  I recommend writing an easy mail to your MP through ARPA’s website, to urge them to say no to euthanasia.

Is suicide ever morally permissible?

I know most of you will be thinking about the crisis in Attawapiskat and Euthenasia, so before you say, “no,” let me ask a few questions:

  1. Is it morally permissible for a Seargent to throw himself on a live grenade to save his soldiers?
  2. Is it morally permissible for a dad to run into a burning house to try to save his family and die?
  3. Is it morally permissible for a mother to jump in front of a speeding car and push a child out the way, herself being killed in the process?
  4. What about the Christian who has a gun to his head – deny Jesus or die. By refusing to deny Jesus, the believer chooses something that he knows will result in his death, in effect suicide…

I would hope that we would all agree that these are morally permissible actions that lead to one’s own death.

So it is permissible to die for another person.  The Bible speaks about this, when Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  The first 4 questions that are asked, fall under the 2 greatest commandments.  #4 is about loving God more than yourself.  #1-3 is about loving others.

So when does suicide go from permissible to sinful? 

Is it permissible for those people in Attawapaskit to take their own lives, and end the depression, third world poverty, and suffering they face?

Is it permissible for one to take ones own life, at the end of a long terminal illness?

What is the difference?

Why is it ok to end terminal illness and not extreme poverty, or depression? Really there is no difference. I would argue that suicide becomes sinful, when it is a result of self focus, self love, self pity, etc.  When we take our eyes off of the giver of life, and look at life itself as the point of existence. When we take our focus off of Jesus and look to ourselves, our own suffering then it becomes a sin.   As John Piper states, “In the midst of a feeling of utter meaningless and hopelessness and numbness of depression the soul says: “It can’t get any worse than this. So even if I don’t know what I will gain through death, I do know what I will escape.” And so suicide is an attempt to escape the intolerable. It is an act of self-love.” 

I know that sounds harsh.

I am not trying to diminish depression, pain and suffering, terminal illness, or mental illness. We ought to do everything in our power to help these people ease their pain and suffering. Throughout the Bible we are told to care for each other, rejoice with each other, weep with those who weep, carry each other burdens, care for the sick, the orphan, the widow, and on and on.  We are not told to kill the elderly or the sick, but to care for them.

There is a morally permissible self death, we have seen that.  But it is not Euthanasia. It is not mental illness.  As we move further away from the gospel as a society, we will inevitably see more and more radical craziness in the headlines.  As we take our eyes off of the giver of life, and we look to ourselves as our own supreme being as autonomous individuals, I wonder how far He will let this society fall.  Come soon Lord Jesus.

Follow this link to write an easy email to your MP urging them to say no to Euthanasia. ARPA Urge your MP to say NO

 

 

f104e8df5665e9dfd0efa08a613826fd

Daddy show me your muscles!

I do my best superhero impression and flex my ‘massive’ arms, she pokes my muscle and giggles. Then she does her best body builder pose with both arms flexed…and growls at me.

I growl back.

She jumps on me and hangs off of my arm, trying with all her might to pull my arm down…as I lift her up to the ceiling. I toss her up in the air and flip her upside down.

Then we fall to the ground, and using her best wrestling moves, she pins me, and I am down for the count…until the last second when I manage to wiggle my way free and I scoop her up into my arms and spin her around…

She squeals with delight.

She is 6, and to her, I am the strongest person in the world.

After throwing her around for a bit, she snuggles in and hugs me and says, “I love you daddy.”

In her daddy’s arms, she feels safe.

When the neighbour’s dog growls, or a big kid is mean to her, or when she is scared of the dark, she runs to her daddy, she reaches up and I pick her up. She finds refuge in her daddy’s arms.

She does not fear my strength, she doesn’t worry about me ever causing her harm.

Daddy is her protector.

I think sometimes as we grow up, we lose that. We forget that we don’t have to rely on our own strength, that we can still run to our Father for protection. When we think of God’s power, often we think of God dashing to pieces his enemies, or his mighty power in creation. But then we read of his strong arm in texts like Psalm 89, and that reminds us that His strength is also our defense.

He is our refuge.

He loves us tenderly.

When we are scared, when the wolf growls, when bad men attack, we can run to him.

There really is no safer place than in the arms of our Father.

“You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.
You crushed Rahab like one of the slain;
with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.
The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
you founded the world and all that is in it.
You created the north and the south;
Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.
Your arm is endowed with power;
your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.”~ Psalm 89:9-13

 

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My journey to embrace confessionalism was not planned.  In fact, growing up, I pretty much despised any confessions. They were relics of the past, used by the Church to get out of Roman Catholicism and they were better left in the past. I felt that they were divisive, man made, and put God in a box.  My motto was the broadly evangelical phrase, “No creed but Christ.”

Growing up, I attended a church that was proud of its “Inter-denominational” heritage. So was I.  It was a wonderful mix of believers from various denominational backgrounds.  Many of whom I still consider friends and fellow believers. We were a melting pot of all sorts of different theological traditions. Baptist, Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, (even some Dutch Reformed folk were in there), you name it, it was probably in there somewhere. If variety is the spice of life, this church was extra spicy!

In the name of ecumenicism, that church never adopted a deep and meaningful confession of faith, rather opting for a simple and basic one.  The statement was not wrong per se, it was biblical, but it was vague and left room so that all the different people could have room for their distinctive beliefs. For instance, even the two “lead” pastors were quite different.  Their soteriology was different, their views on the charismatic gifts were different, their eschatology was different, not to mention various other points of doctrine. But they were, I suppose, both within the bounds of some kind of Christian orthodoxy, (although I am sure some would disagree.) One of them introduced me to the Charismatic theology of Derek Prince, while the other introduced me to Reformed Theology via RC Sproul and JI Packer. The point is that somehow it worked, they were not fringe crazy, they were not seeker sensitive, they were not emergent. They preached salvation for sinners through Jesus sacrifice.  Though they differed on points of doctrine, and though there was a hint of moralism and error, the church seemed to thrive under their leadership.

Though I was young, I remember within that ecumenicism that there were vastly different thoughts on the direction the church should go.  Some said they should become more broadly evangelical, reach out to the community, have meetings on the beach, get bigger bands, bring in more people, others wanted the church to narrow in and become more orthodox. Everyone had an opinion on which the direction the ship should turn.

When those pastors left, the church changed direction to be sure. It became seeker sensitive.  It became progressive.  It became broadly evangelical. In an effort to reach the community, the gospel message was made easier to swallow, talk of sin and depravity was replaced with talk about how valuable we are to God, and that God has a big plan for us…essentially it replaced the gospel with a feel good gospel. Under the new leadership, the ship was being turned a direction that it did not want to go.  The faithful, for the most part, wanted to stay within the bounds of orthodoxy, but the ship kept turning anyway.  There was nothing in place to stop the ship, no warning signal, no light house to warn of the danger.strumble-head-lighthouse-set-dramatically-against-the-night-sky-a-beam-of-light-circling-photo-by-hagen-landsem.jpg

Most of the old members jumped ship before it crashed.

While I had left some years before this happened, I watched from the outside, astonished, as the ship I grew up on, veered into dangerous waters. My heart was breaking.  I watched many people leave the church altogether, disillusioned at the direction it was going.

Though I came to a confessionally Reformed church many years ago, it was not until I watched the crumbling of that old church, that I started to really doubt the road that the broadly Evangelical community was taking. Evangelicalism used to include a mix of men like J.G. Machen, BB Warfield,  and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  All different for sure, but all well within in the bounds of orthodoxy, and all confessional. Broad evangelicalism at the time would have included men like John Stott, AW Tozer and Martin Lloyd-Jones, less confessional, but certainly still orthodox. Today, however, evangelicalism means anything from RC Sproul to Steven Furtick, Joel Beeke to TD Jakes, John Piper to Rob Bell, John Macarthur to Clayton Jennings, J.I. Packer to Joel Osteen and everything and anything in between. The walls of Evangelicalism have been torn down and rebuilt, expanded, and pushed out. The walls are no longer built on the foundation, they are built out so far that they are constructed right on the dirt.

How can a house built on dirt stand? The word evangelical, really, has lost it’s meaning.

9781599253237So about 5 or 6 years ago I fully embraced Reformed confessionalism. Specifically the Three Forms of Unity. If I am honest, I never thought I would fully embrace it. As I mentioned, growing up in an interdenominational church I looked down upon “catechisms” and “confessions” as archaic tools that were used to keep Christians apart.  Now I look at them as unifying tools. Doctrine does not separate…it unites. We must have doctrine. As the apostle Paul says:

“Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught” (Romans 16:17).

“Charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine“ (1 Timothy 1:3).

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing” (1 Tim. 6:3,4).

“Teach what accords with sound doctrine“ (Titus 2:1).

Embracing the Reformed confessions has been like a breath of fresh air. Like finding a map and a compass after wandering the desert. Todd Pruitt poignantly states about his own journey to confessionalism with these words:

“The experience has been like finding an oasis in a desert. It has been like discovering a GPS after meandering blindly through an unknown country. Too dramatic? It does not feel that way to me. It is nearly impossible to effectively put down error and nurture unity within a church whose minimal statement of faith is only able to identify the grossest of heresies.”

CaptureSo it strikes me that while I was a long time in embracing confessionalism, that some in Canadian Reformed Circles, have subtly embraced “nonconfessionalism.”  What do I mean?  It seems that some of us are all too willing to give up many of our doctrinal distinctives; it seems that as long as we get to keep a broadly evangelical definition of being “Reformed,” we are happy. Perhaps we will cling to TULIP and predestination, but loosen our grip on things like worship, baptism, the covenant, liturgy, sacraments etc.   Perhaps this is in reaction to the perceived sectarianism and inward focus of the past, or perhaps it is caused by a mixing with the tolerant culture of today in an age of information. I am not certain what the reason for it is, but it is there. While this generation rightly decries sectarianism, we must be very careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

All Christians are confessional, at least in a shallow sense of the term. Even the ecumenical motto, “No creed but Christ,” is a kind of confession. These Christians wrongly believe, like I did,  that their churches don’t have confessions, but the truth is that every church has a confession, even though it may not be written down and though it may evolve according to whomever is at the helm of the ship.

All churches, and Christians, have a lens through which they read and interpret the Bible. So, this begs the question, “Which lens are we are going to use?” Is it the Reformed lens or some other lens? If we look through our own individual lenses with our own preconceived notions, desires, and biases, we end up, not united together in sincerity and tolerance as some think, but with a kind of sincere individualistic chaos and the danger of veering our ship into very shallow waters.

We must be confessional in order to to be truly united.

We must be confessional in order to faithfully maintain our witness to the community around us.

We must be confessional to maintain our orthodoxy.

If we lose our confessions, we will inevitably veer into the shallow waters of individualism, tolerance, and a false ecumenical unity living in a shelter with walls built on dirt.

Without the light house, a ship will crash into the rocks.

With out confessions, a church will crash into error and heresy.

That is why I am a confessional Christian.

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Question: I was talking with some friends at bible study.  We were talking about the two great commands and we were debating if the second greatest command, as Jesus explains it, is also a command to love yourself.  I don’t think it is. What do you think?

Short answer: No. “Love your neighbour as yourself” is not a command to love yourself.

The point of the command has nothing to do with loving ourselves. If we are in our right minds, we already love ourselves. We naturally clothe, feed, and care for ourselves. The point is that we are to love others, as we already love ourselves. What does that look like in action?

We are to feed our hungry neighbour, as we feed ourselves.

We are to shelter our homeless neighbour, as we shelter ourselves.

We are to clothe the poor, as we clothe ourselves.

We are to help our jobless neighbour, as much as we are grateful for own jobs.

We are to adopt the orphan, as much as we are grateful for God’s adoption of us through Jesus Christ.

We are to prepare a room for the lost, the refugee, the unlovable, as Jesus prepares a room for us in his father’s house.

We are to seek to share the gospel of salvation of the lost, as much as we are grateful for our own salvation.

Jesus expands on this even further when he says in John, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Love each other,

as…

he…

loved…

us.

Let’s consider what love he has shown.

He took our humanity upon himself…for us.

He lived a perfectly sinless life…for us.

He was betrayed…for us.

Wrongly accused…for us.

Beaten…for us.

Stripped naked, humiliated, and whipped…for us.

Hung on a cross…for us.

Suffered and died…for us.

He rose again, defeating sin and death…for us.

The point of the second greatest command is not to love yourself. That is easy. The point is to love others. Which is not so easy. We are to love each other as Jesus loved us. Which is impossible.  The point is that we cannot keep this command perfectly as Jesus did.

As the Heidelberg Catechism says in Lord’s Day 44

In this life even the holiest
have only a small beginning
of this obedience.
Nevertheless, with earnest purpose
they do begin to live
not only according to some
but to all the commandments of God.

Even though we are unable in ourselves to keep this command to love others perfectly, we get to look to Jesus.  We ought not get discouraged.  We have an advocate in Heaven! He is before the throne of the Father, mediating…for us…on our behalf.

He declares to the Father that he has kept the second greatest commandment perfectly…for us.

What love.

SDG

I find that as I come out of a depressive episode (I am thankful that this one was not that intense or long), that the creative juices often flow with thunderous velocity for a time immediately following. Like a stream that was dammed up by a rock slide, the water that had built up on the other side turns into a rushing river once the rocks are broken away. In fact so many ideas race through my head at the same time, that I cannot possibly catch them all as they rush past me. I have started so many posts…and just left them! One such idea that I do want to touch on is the matter of depression in the Bible and that the Lord does understand…

christians-get-depressed-cover.jpgDavid Murray, in his book Christians Get Depressed Too states that, “David and the other psalmists often found themselves deeply depressed for various reasons. They did not, however, apologize for what they were feeling, nor did they confess it as sin. It was a legitimate part of their relationship with God. They interacted with Him through the context of their depression.”

They interacted with God through the context of their depression. Hard to do sometimes, when the patterns of false thinking begin to swirl around in your head. False thoughts often cloud our minds blocking the light and keeping us in darkness. Thoughts like:

I am alone in this…(no you’re not.)

God does not love me… (Jesus loves you – the Bible tells me so),

I am worthless… (our value is beyond worth in Christ Jesus!),

Jesus doesn’t get what I am going through (he does),

The world would be better off without me (if you think persistent thoughts like this please seek professional help).

There are a number of examples of depression and anxiety in the Bible. Just open to the book of Psalms as David Murray says! Psalm 22 and 88 are a couple that immediately to mind. But lets look at Psalm 102 for a moment:

Hear my prayer, Lord;
let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

How many times have I prayed this while in the midst of depression! Do not hide your face from me…He isn’t, but it sure feels like it. David goes on:

For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
In my distress I groan aloud
and am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.

If you are suffering from depression, or have in the past, I am sure that you can relate to this. I sure can. King David is, as David Murray says, interacting with God in the context of his depression. He is not apologizing for it, he just being honest with the Lord.

What about some lesser known examples? I believe that Hannah was depressed. In 1 Samuel it says of her:

“ Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.”

Hannah prayed to the Lord, in the midst of her anguish. She interacted with the Lord in the context of her anguish.

Elijah-in-cave

In 1 Kings we read about Elijah, that he,

“asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”

In 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul stated that he “despaired of life itself.”

These are just a sampling. There are many more examples throughout scripture that show people of faith interacting with God in the context of their depression or mental anguish. Continue to pray. Continue to seek God, despite how you are feeling. The hopelessness we feel in the midst of depression is not a sin, so cry out to the Lord.

If you think that Jesus doesn’t get it, if you think he doesn’t understand your distress, I get it, I have been there…but he does. Jesus gets it. Jesus lamented as he contemplated bearing the wrath of God against the sin of humanity and cried out, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.

Jesus felt extreme mental anguish, he knows.

download (1)In John 11, we read that Jesus wept. His tears were shed in response to Lazarus’ death and Mary and Martha’s grief. Jesus did not have to let Lazarus die and then raise him, he could have chosen to remove Lazarus’ sickness from afar and heal him, yet he didn’t. Jesus made himself vulnerable. He stopped for a moment in to feel the sting of death, to identify with broken people who struggled with hopelessness.

Jesus wept.

He weeps for you.

He weeps for me.

You are not alone. Continue to pray. Continue to seek God, despite how you are feeling. Interact with the Lord in the context of your depression. The hopelessness felt in the midst of depression is not a sin, so cry out to the Lord.