Christian Faith

Statement of Faith (originally written and published by Douglas Wilson)

The Triune Majesty

The Triune God is the one uncreated Creator of all things that exist; between the Creator and His creation is a fundamental divide. This one God is eternally existent in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. His Majesty is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, and limited by nothing other than His own nature and character, He is holy, righteous, good, stern, loving, and full of mercy.

Creation

In the beginning, God created the material universe from nothing. He spoke, and by the Word of His power, it was. Our knowledge of the nature and time of this event must be determined solely through careful study of God

Sin

Our first father Adam was our federal head and representative. He was created innocent, but through his rebellion against the express Word of God, plunged himself and his entire posterity, represented in him, into the hopelessness of death in sin. This sin is lawlessness an attempt to live apart from the law and word of God. Since that first great apostasy, no descendant of Adam has escaped from the death of lawlessness apart from efficacious grace.

The Incarnate Christ

The Lord Jesus Christ is, according to the flesh, a descendant of David, and sits on David's throne. He is, at the same time, God enfleshed. He is one individual with two natures fully man and fully God. As a man, He is our elder brother and High Priest before God, representing us to God the Father. As God, He is the visible image of the invisible Father, representing God to us.

Salvation

Because all sons of Adam are spiritually dead, they are consequently incapable of saving themselves. But out of His sovereign mercy, God the Father elected a countless number to eternal salvation, leaving the remainder to their sinful desires. When the time was right, the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross and was raised to life as an efficacious redemption for the elect. Thus He secured the salvation of His church, for which He laid down His life. And at the point of each individual's conversion, the Holy Spirit brings resurrecting grace to each, effectually calling him by His power, with the result of repentance and faith.

Revelation

The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, inerrant in all they affirm. The Word has divine authority in everything it addresses, and it addresses everything. In no way should the Scriptures be brought to the judgement seat of human reason; rather, we must rationally and submissively study the Word granted to us.

Law

The grace of God in the gospel does not set aside the law of God; rather, it establishes it. To the one who believes, the law of God is precious, and through faith the law is established. The law stands as God's testimony of His own righteous character; as such, it cannot be altered by anything other than God's express Word. Consequently, we receive the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments, as fully containing the will of God for us. To all who do not believe, the law of God condemns them in self-righteousness.

Covenant

When God is pleased to bless the proclamation of His gospel, the result will always be a visible collection of saints bound in covenant to Him. They will be characterised through their assembly around the preached Word, their faithful administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper, and their orderly and disciplined government according to the Word of God.

Witness

As believers present the gospel to those who remain in rebellious unbelief, there must be no halfway compromise with that unbelief. The ground and precondition for all creaturely ventures is the Word of God, which necessarily includes our teaching, apologetics, and evangelism. Every thought is to be made captive to the Lord Christ, and every tongue is to glorify the Father.

Eschatology

As the gospel of Christ is proclaimed throughout the world, the result will be the gradual transformation and salvation of the world. Prior to Christ's return, the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the water cover the sea, and the whole earth will be full of His glory.

 

The Creed of Christian Reconstruction by Rev. Andrew Sandlin

 

A Christian Reconstructionist is a Calvinist. He holds to historic, orthodox, catholic Christianity and the great Reformed
confessions. He believes God, not man, is the centre of the universe and beyond; God, not man, controls whatever comes to
pass; God, not man, must be pleased and obeyed. He believes God saves sinners. He does not help them save themselves. A
Christian Reconstructionist believes the Faith should apply to all of life, not just the "spiritual" side. It applies to art, education,
technology, and politics no less than to church, prayer, evangelism, and Bible Study. 
         
A Christian Reconstructionist is a Theonomist. Theonomy means "God's law." A Christian Reconstructionist believes God's
law is found in the Bible. It has not been abolished as a standard of righteousness. It no longer accuses the Christian, since
Christ bore its penalty on the cross for him. But the law is a description of God's righteous character. It cannot change any
more than God can change. God's law is used for three main purposes: First, to drive the sinner to trust in Christ alone, the
only perfect law-keeper. Second, to provide a standard of obedience for the Christian, by which he may judge his progress in
sanctification. And third, to maintain order in society, restraining and arresting civil evil. 
         
A Christian Reconstructionist is a Presuppositionalist. He does not try to "prove" that God exists or that the Bible is true.
He holds to the Faith because the Bible says so, not because he can "prove" it. He does not try to convince the unconverted that
the gospel is true. They already know it is true when they hear it. They need repentance, not evidence. Of course, the Christian
Reconstructionist believes there is evidence for the Faith, in fact, there is nothing but evidence for the Faith. The problem for
the unconverted, though, is not a lack of evidence, but a lack of submission. The Christian Reconstructionist begins and ends
with the Bible. He does not defend "natural theology," and other inventions designed to find some agreement with
covenant-breaking apostate mankind. 
         
A Christian Reconstructionist is a Postmillennialist. He believes Christ will return to earth only after the Holy Spirit has
empowered the church to advance Christ's kingdom in time and history. He has faith that God's purposes to bring all nations,
though not every individual, in subjection to Christ cannot fail. The Christian Reconstructionist is not utopian. He does not
believe the kingdom will advance quickly or painlessly. He knows that we enter the kingdom through much tribulation. He
knows Christians are in the fight for the "long haul." He believes the church may yet be in her infancy. But he believes the
Faith will triumph. Under the power of the Spirit of God, it cannot but triumph. 
         
A Christian Reconstructionist is a Dominionist. He takes seriously the Bible's commands to the godly to take dominion in the
earth. This is the goal of the gospel and the Great Commission. The Christian Reconstructionist believes the earth and all its
fullness is the Lord's: that every area dominated by sin must be "reconstructed" in terms of the Bible. This includes, first, the
individual; second, the family; third, the church; and fourth, the wider society, including the state. The Christian
Reconstructionist therefore believes fervently in Christian civilisation. He firmly believes in the separation of church and state,
but not the separation of the state or anything else from God. He is not a revolutionary; he does not believe in the militant,
forced overthrow of human government. He has infinitely more powerful weapons than guns and bombs, he has the invincible
Spirit of God, the infallible word of God, and the incomparable gospel of God, none of which can fail. 
         
He presses the crown rights of the Lord Jesus Christ in every sphere, expecting eventual triumph. 
         
Copyright © 1997 The Chalcedon Foundation, all rights reserved.
         
            
The Five Points of Calvinism and Arminianism
         
         The following is a comparison of the five points of Calvinism and the five points of Arminianism arising out
of the Dutch Remonstrance controversy. The "Five Points" of Calvinism can be easily remembered by the acronym
TULIP. Admittedly, this discussion favours the Calvinist side. This material originally appeared in "Romans:
An Interpretative Outline (pp. 144-147), by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas.
Quoted from Loraine Boettner's "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination." Permission to reproduce granted in
the book.
  The "Five Points" of Arminianism       The "Five Points" of Calvinism
         
1. Free Will or Human Ability        1. Total Inability or Total Depravity
         
 Although human nature was seriously  Because of the fall, man is unable of
 affected by the fall, man has not    himself to savingly believe the
 been left in a state of total        gospel. The sinner is dead, blind,
 spiritual helplessness. God          and deaf to the things of God; his
 graciously enables every sinner to   heart is deceitful and desperately
 repent and believe, but He does not  corrupt. His will is not free, it is
 interfere with man's freedom. Each   in bondage to his evil nature,
 sinner possesses a free will, and    therefore, he will not--indeed he
 his eternal destiny depends on how   cannot--choose good over evil in the
 he uses it. Man's freedom consists   spiritual realm. Consequently, it
 of his ability to choose good over   takes much more than the Spirit's
 evil in spiritual matters; his will  assistance to bring a sinner to
 is not enslaved to his sinful        Christ--it takes regeneration by
 nature. The sinner has the power to  which the Spirit makes the sinner
 either co-operate with God's Spirit   alive and gives him a new nature.
 and be regenerated or resist God's   Faith is not something man
 grace and perish. The lost sinner    contributes to salvation but is
 needs the Spirit's assistance, but   itself a part of God's gift of
 he does not have to be regenerated   salvation--it is God's gift to the
 by the Spirit before he can believe, sinner, not the sinner's gift to God.
 for faith is man's act and precedes
 the new birth. Faith is the sinner's
 gift to God; it is man's
 contribution to salvation.
         
 2. Conditional Election              2. Unconditional Election
         
 God's choice of certain individuals  God's choice of certain individuals
 unto salvation before the foundation unto salvation before the foundation
 of the world was based upon His      of the world rested solely in His own
 foreseeing that they would respond   sovereign will. His choice of
 to His call. He selected only those  particular sinners was not based on
 whom He knew would of themselves     any foreseen response or obedience on
 freely believe the gospel. Election  their part, such as faith,
 therefore was determined by or       repentance, etc. On the contrary, God
 conditioned upon what man would do.  gives faith and repentance to each
 The faith which God foresaw and upon individual whom He selected. These
 which He based His choice was not    acts are the result, not the cause of
 given to the sinner by God (it was   God's choice. Election therefore was
 not created by the regenerating      not determined by or conditioned upon
 power of the Holy Spirit) but        any virtuous quality or act foreseen
 resulted solely from man's will. It  in man. Those whom God sovereignly
 was left entirely up to man as to    elected He brings through the power
 who would believe and therefore as   of the Spirit to a willing acceptance
 to who would be elected unto         of Christ. Thus God's choice of the
 salvation. God chose those whom He   sinner, not the sinner's choice of
 knew would, of their own free will,  Christ, is the ultimate cause of
 choose Christ. Thus the sinner's     salvation.
 choice of Christ, not God's choice
 of the sinner, is the ultimate cause
 of salvation.
         
 3. Universal Redemption or General   3. Limited Atonement or Particular
 Atonement                            Redemption
         
 Christ's redeeming work made it      Christ's redeeming work was intended
 possible for everyone to be saved    to save the elect only and actually
 but did not actually secure the      secured salvation for them. His death
 salvation of anyone. Although Christ was a substitutionary endurance of
 died for all men and for every man,  the penalty of sin in the place of
 only those who believe on Him are    certain specified sinners. In
 saved. His death enabled God to      addition to putting away the sins of
 pardon sinners on the condition that His people, Christ's redemption
 they believe, but it did not         secured everything necessary for
 actually put away anyone's sins.     their salvation, including faith
 Christ's redemption becomes          which unites them to Him. The gift of
 effective only if man chooses to     faith is infallibly applied by the
 accept it.                           Spirit to all for whom Christ died,
                                      therefore guaranteeing their
                                      salvation.
         
 4. The Holy Spirit Can be            4. Irresistible Grace or The
 Effectually Resisted                 Efficacious Call of the Spirit
         
 The Spirit calls inwardly all those  In addition to the outward general
 who are called outwardly by the      call to salvation which is made to
 gospel invitation; He does all that  everyone who hears the gospel, the
 He can to bring every sinner to      Holy Spirit extends to the elect a
 salvation. But inasmuch as man is    special inward call that inevitably
 free, he can successfully resist the brings them to salvation. The
 Spirit's call. The Spirit cannot     external call (which is made to all
 regenerate the sinner until he       without distinction) can be, and
 believes; faith (which is man's      often is, rejected; whereas the
 contribution) precedes and makes     internal call (which is made only to
 possible the new birth. Thus, man's  the elect) cannot be rejected; it
 free will limits the Spirit in the   always results in conversion. By
 application of Christ's saving work. means of this special call the Spirit
 The Holy Spirit can only draw to     irresistibly draws sinners to Christ.
 Christ those who allow Him to have   He is not limited in His work of
 His way with them. Until the sinner  applying salvation by man's will, nor
 responds, the Spirit cannot give     is He dependent upon man's
 life. God's grace, therefore, is not co-operation for success. The Spirit
 invincible; it can be, and often is, graciously causes the elect sinner to
 resisted and thwarted by man.        co-operate, to believe, to repent, to
                                      come freely and willingly to Christ.
                                      God's grace, therefore, is
                                      invincible; it never fails to result
                                      in the salvation of those to whom it
                                      is extended.
         
 5. Falling from Grace                5. Perseverance of the Saints
     
 Those who believe and are truly      All who are chosen by God, redeemed
 saved can lose their salvation by    by Christ, and given faith by the
 failing to keep up their faith, etc. Spirit are eternally saved. They are
                                      kept in faith by the power of
 All Arminians have not been agreed   Almighty God and thus persevere to
 on this point; some have held that   the end.
 believers are eternally secure in
 Christ--that once a sinner is
 regenerated, he can never be lost.
         
              REJECTED                             REAFFIRMED
         by the Synod of Dort                 by the Synod of Dort
         
 This was the system of thought       This system of theology was
 contained in the "Remonstrance"      reaffirmed by the Synod of Dort in
 (though the "five points" were not   1619 as the doctrine of salvation
 originally arranged in this order).  contained in the Holy Scriptures. The
 It was submitted by the Arminians to system was at that time formulated
 the Church of Holland in 1610 for    into "five points" (in answer to the
 adoption but was rejected by the     five points submitted by the
 Synod of Dort in 1619 on the ground  Arminians) and has ever since been
 that it was unscriptural.            known as the "five points of
                                      Calvinism."
Synod Statement of the International Presbyterian Church 7.11.1981 The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility
1.	We believe that the existence and character of the infinite and personal God is the only basis for
       affirming human responsibility.
         
2.	We reject any statement of the doctrine of God's sovereignty which makes it seem that an emphasis 
       on the real significance of man's choice is a denial of God's sovereignty or vice versa.
         
3.	We believe that the difficulty of this question is one which is true of all of our knowledge. 
       For example, in science, even though our understanding increases with increased information, 
       we will never comprehend the infinite. Similarly in thinking about God and man we have simply 
       to affirm that man is fully responsible and that God is fully sovereign.
         
4.	We reject all statements that affirm or imply that God is the author of evil, or wills human sin, 
       or that history is the unrolling of a divine determinism.
A Warning to Netaholics
Did Jesus use a modem at the sermon on the mount?
Did He ever use a broadcast fax to get His message out?
Did the disciples carry beepers as they went out and about?
Did Jesus use a modem at the sermon on the Mount?
         
Did the Apostle use a laptop with lots of RAM AND ROM?
Did he use an email alias Such as Paul@Rome.com?
Did the man from Macedonia Post an email saying "come"?'
Did the Apostle use a laptop with lots of RAM and ROM?
         
Did Moses use a joystick at the parting of the sea?
And a Satellite Guidance Tracking System to show him where to be?
Did he write the law on tablets, or are they really on CD?
Did Moses use a joystick at the parting of the sea?
         
Did Jesus really die for us that Friday on the tree?
Or was it just a hologram, a bit of wizardry?
Can you download the video clip to play on your PC?
Did Jesus really die for us one day upon a tree?
         
If in your life, the voice of God is sometimes hard to hear.
With other voices calling, His doesn't touch your ear.
Then set aside the laptop and modem, unplug the fancy gear,
Open up that dusty Bible and talk to Him in prayer.
         
GRIEF Patricia Erwin Nordman
In Loving Memory of our son Chuck
and in thanksgiving for our sons
Richard, Robert, Danny and Mike
                     
MY SON! MY SON!
                     
His days were yet in spring of life,
Yet doubt had scarred his growing reasons.
In full he knew the banal strifes
That touch each man in each the seasons.
His teachers charged the grievous words
Of hate, despair, and godless fear.
What hope, he cried -- I can't be heard
Above the world of scorn and jeer.
So to the woods he went, my son -- 
A gun in hand, his heart full spent.
In peace he rests, my golden son -- 
O God, dear God, my heart is rent!
Nineteen -- so young to bear earth's weight
On heart and mind still pressed with child.
O World, why do we decimate
The hearts of those unreconciled?
                     
        -- Patricia Erwin Nordman
                     
                     
                     
I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chattered all the way,
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne'er a word said she,
But, oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me.
                Anonymous
        On December 16, 1976, our oldest son came home for the Christmas holidays,
got the shotgun and went to the adjacent woods. At 7:10 p.m. we heard him
scream and then shoot himself to death. Four months later I wrote a booklet
titled Grief which went into a world-wide ministry. The booklet is now out
of print and I offer it to you, dear reader, in God's name and grace. May
it help give you peace in a world that has become very confused and sad.
                                                Patricia Erwin Nordman
         
(Verses are from the New King James Version unless otherwise specified.)
         
GRIEF
        Precious friend, is your heart broken? Are you in utter despair, not
knowing where to turn or whom to trust with your crushing burdens? If so,
then please read this message of comfort and hope for yourself and others
passing through the waters of trouble and fires of affliction. 
        Isaiah speaks of the "day of grief and desperate sorrow." Isaiah 17:11
KJV. But, my dear friend, "The Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow,
and from thy fear." Isaiah 14:3 KJV. Yes, I realize that in your anguish it
seems impossible that darkness will again be light and despair will turn to
hope. 
        My grieving brother or sister, I walk in the valley of grief with you, for
we lost our oldest son in a terrible tragedy. Because of this I would like
to share with you the love of a most merciful and tender Father, as He led
me through the valley of sorrow on to the mountain of hope and trust again. 
        My "day of grief and desperate sorrow" began at what is supposed to be the
happiest season of the year. Chuck called from his out-of-town college to
tell us he wanted to bring his girl friend home two days later to spend the
Christmas holidays with us. That evening and the next day I cleaned and
shopped, happily anticipating their arrival. We would be crowded -- Chuck
had four younger brothers -- but we would manage very happily. Imagine the
shock when, a day earlier than he was expected, we found his car with all
his possessions, but not him. Then we heard his heart-tearing scream and
the shot that killed him immediately.
        It's a rending experience to close out your child's life -- to add a death
certificate to the birth certificate. Chuck's life held so much promise. He
was a brilliant, stately, dignified young man who often said he wanted the
best in life. 
        Chuck's books revealed perhaps more than he would have wanted us to know.
He had marked such lines as "Fortune, honor, beauty, youth, are but
blossoms dying! All our joys are but toys ... All is hazard that we have!
... Secret fates guide our states ... "  I'll never know what one
circumstance or combination of circumstances prompted this desperate final
act. It was over three years later that one of his friends finally told me
that he was trying to get off drugs when he descended into the depths. (Oh
friend, if your child is on drugs, God help you both! We had no idea. Back
then we knew so little about the drug culture.) Beside the passage on
suicide from MacBeth he wrote in small, close letters, "Life has no
meaning, no purpose," and on another page the word "nothing" was written
and scratched over many times.
        The night Chuck died I sank to my knees and boldly demanded of God, in a
grief I didn't think possible, that He keep every one of His promises of
comfort. In the midst of the demands I kept saying over and over, "Thank
You, Father" -- for what, I really didn't know and doubted that night if I
ever would know. But I was convinced that if I didn't say those words then
-- right then -- I would never say them again. I thought of all the sons,
husbands, and brothers who have been killed in all the wars, whose loved
ones will never know their whereabouts. At least we knew. I was grasping
for straws of comfort! I would like to share with you another thought that
surely the Holy Spirit gave me when my brother-in-law came out from the
woods and told us that our son was dead: God our Father was there when His
Son died. For the first time in my life I felt I understood what our
precious Father must have felt and it overwhelmed my heart. How strange
that I never gave it any thought before! Perhaps it was because now I felt
I could understand in a small way ...
        That night, after the police and the ambulance were gone, I sunk to my
knees and I begged God to work, through this horror, a good that at that
moment I did not think possible. Romans 8:28 became my strength in the
hours, days, weeks, and months ahead, and for the birthdays and holidays
that would no longer be Chuck's to enjoy. I had to know that all things do
indeed work together for good -- or lose my sanity. Dear friend, I want you
to know that God provided in many marvelous ways. It was only God's grace
that enabled me to carry on in the face of such totally unexpected anguish. 
        I learned to lean on my precious Father as never before and God indeed
granted me the gift of knowing for a certainty that much good would come of
the evil that Satan had wrought. We were told shortly after Chuck's funeral
that someone had slipped LSD into a drink Chuck had set down while at a
party in Daytona Beach. Chuck himself admitted to me a few weeks before his
death that he smoked marijuana. This has convinced me that one of Satan's
most powerful weapons against our priceless young people today is drugs.
How sad!
        Someone at his funeral told me I must accept "God's will." No, friend! Our
God does not "will" the agony of mind, heart, and body that has plagued the
earth since Adam and Eve lost faith that God knew what was best for them.
It surely was not "God's will" for my son to die by his own hand. But it
was God's will that I accept what happened and use this tragic circumstance
for His glory and for the comfort of others who suffer heartache that seems
never-ending. What God always wills for us is to be happy and whole in mind
and body. He wants His men, women and children to be at peace with Him and
each other. But this peace depends upon our own will and willingness to let
Him guide our lives, fortunes, and even, at times, misfortunes.
        Many question God's love when something seemingly unbearable happens. I
try to view tragedy as a lost-and-found department. We lose someone or
something very dear to us, but in the loss we find a treasure far more
valuable. I found a loving Shepherd who wants me to live with Him for
eternity and will carry me through. Until we are to the point in life when
we are forced to admit that there is absolutely nothing we can do about
this, then I wonder if we have given ourselves totally to God. The night
Chuck died I felt so helpless. My son was dead and there was nothing I
could do about it! What a frightening feeling! Another agonizing aspect of
sorrow is the possibility that we will never know the answers to many of
our whys on this earth. I had a very hard time with this. But we eventually
learn that the whys become unimportant. It is what we do with the troubles
and sorrows that matter.
        I learned to thank God as never before for blessings I had taken for
granted all my life. Particularly in grief, a spirit of thanksgiving is a
simple yet most profound antidote to the self-defeating feelings of anger,
resentment, guilt, and self-pity that so often accompany an incredible
sorrow. It amazed me what was in my heart. I was to discover that grief is
a sieve that brings up out its swirling waters the deformities of our
hearts that we didn't even know existed. I was amazed at the anger and hate
that gripped me. My Christianity was certainly in question!
        I discovered that no matter how bad my problem is, others have suffered
worse trials. How my heart ached as I listened to other parents recount the
years of agony they have gone through with children on drugs. Some end up
in mental institutions. Some struggle to recover a normal life. Others rest
as our son is resting. I will never forget the agony of a father as he
sobbed out the horrible details of how his son, on drugs, shot himself to
death in the house and the blood ran down the boy's bedroom door.  I don't
know how that poor father kept sane!
        I learned that only in sharing comfort are we comforted: "Blessed be the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of
all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to
comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we
ourselves are comforted by God" 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. Everyone has problems
-- deep wounds of the spirit. "The souls of the wounded cry out for help"
Job 24:12 NIV. I found many wounded souls! I also began to understand that
the person who truly cares about others doesn't constantly load them down
with his own aches and pains, either of body or heart. This can be selfish
and cruel.
        William Barclay, in The Letters to the Corinthians, relates the story told
by H.L. Gee about two men who met to transact some business during the war.
"The one was full of how the train in which he had traveled had been
attacked from the air. He would not stop talking about the excitement, the
danger, the narrow escape. The other man said quietly, `Well, let's get on
with our business now. I'd like to get away fairly early because my house
was demolished by a bomb last night.'" 
        A certain mental picture helped me greatly. Picture yourself carrying in
one hand your suitcase of troubles. It's heavy, and you feel weighted down
on one side. Along comes another, weak and tired, with his suitcase of
troubles but, unlike you, he can barely walk under his load. The Christian
thing for you to do is to offer to carry your brother's troubles, thereby
freeing him and balancing your own load. 
        Alexander Maclaren beautifully expresses the strange conjunction of joy
and sorrow: "The highest joy to the Christian almost always comes through
suffering. No flower can bloom in Paradise which is not transplanted from
Gethsemane. No one can taste of the fruit of the tree of life, that has not
tasted of the fruits of the tree of Calvary. The crown is after the cross."
Kahlil Gibran, in his essay on joy and sorrow in his book The Prophet
writes: "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy it can
contain." And Homer observes: "Even his griefs are a joy long after to one
who remembers all that he wrought and endured." 
        "Being punished isn't enjoyable while it is happening -- it hurts! But
afterwards we can see the result, a quiet growth in grace and character."
Hebrews 12:11, TLB. We all flinch from the unexpected, from pain and
suffering. But " ... the Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who
are bowed down" Psalm 145:14; "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy
comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5; "Affliction will not rise up the second
time." Nahum 1:9. What beautiful and encouraging promises!
        In 2 Corinthians 4:8 Paul says: "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet
not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair." How can this possibly
be? Let's consult Philippians 4:6 and 7: "Be anxious for nothing; but in
everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests
be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all
understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
        Here, friend, is the practical way to deal with despair. It covers all the
circumstances of life and gives us the solution: prayer and thanksgiving.
The word "supplication" means to pray for a particular need. What a great
Father we have! 
        D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones tells us in his book Spiritual Depression, Its
Causes and Cure, "Would you like to be rid of ... depression? The first
thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and forever to your past.
Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back
... again. Say: `It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ.'"
Thank You, Father!
        Matthew and Mark tell us: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"
Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34. Luke gives us more hope: "Father, into Your
hands I commit my spirit." Luke 23:46. But John, the beloved of Jesus,
gives us the insight: "It is finished." John 19:30. Indeed, the sacrifice
has been made and the work of redemption finished so we can have hope of
everlasting happiness. It is finished! Whatever happens in between is
covered by the bookends of Jesus's birth and death.
        My greatest anxiety for weeks after my son's death was his salvation. It
haunted me. But two dear editor friends within hours of each other quoted
this same verse, and I accept it as a sign from my Father that my mind is
forever at rest on this matter: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do
right?" Genesis 18:25. Of course He will! When we lose a loved one, we must
learn to say, "It is finished," and know that God will rightly judge. Too,
some presume to know who is saved and who is lost. Because Chuck took his
own life, there were some who told me that he would not be saved. My
friend, only God knows what was on Chuck's mind and heart that night. How
cruel of these well-meaning Christians! It reminds me of the day I went to
see my bed-ridden and dying sister-in-law and she was in tears. She told me
about the three women who came to comfort her. They told her that if she
had enough faith she could be cured and get up and walk. I was outraged. It
took me the whole afternoon to convince Dorothy that God doesn't cure
everybody. In fact, we all die! We talked about Paul and his thorn and
God's grace: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made
perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9. 
        This verse became very meaningful to me after both Dorothy's and Chuck's
deaths. We wonder how we will manage after something enormous alters our
life. Paul's life was transformed on the Road to Damascus. I think in some
ways sorrow is our road to Damascus. It fells us and makes us blind and
then our kind Father tells us He will give us the grace to bear it, even
though we will carry the scar to our grave. I knew that I would never
forget my first-born; the scar of remembrance would be there as scars from
surgeries I've had. But I also knew that I would recover from the initial
intense hurt, as I recovered from the surgeries. This thought really helped
in the first months! I knew that God's grace could not remove the scar, but
the scar could -- as Robert Schuller so eloquently puts it -- become a star
for me, to guide me in a kinder and gentler direction toward my hurting
brothers and sisters. Another thought: those of us who have been gifted
with the knowledge and love of God need a greater foundation. As a writer
said, "The ship in the high wind needs plenty of ballast. When we build
high we must also build low -- the lofty building needs a deep foundation."
Sorrow builds the deep foundation as joy builds the high sails! God is
shifting our ballast. He also promises an abundant provision of grace, for
there are some circumstances in life that we cannot alter and that God does
not see fit to alter. Inward strength to endure is a great manifestation of
the acceptance of God's will and His grace. Outwardly we may be weary and
heartbroken, but we can claim the promises of God and enjoy that inward
peace that only God can give.
        Adversities are God's sieve to help us discover what is most important in
our lives. Joseph Hall tells us, "The most generous vine, if not pruned,
runs out into many superfluous stems, and grows at last weak and fruitless:
so doth the best man if he be not cut short in his desires, and pruned with
afflictions." We don't choose affliction, but it may be the only way God
can redirect our lives.
        When a person is called to rest early in life, Isaiah 57:1 is of great
solace: "Merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the
righteous is taken away from evil." It is so difficult to accept the death
of your child before he has had the opportunity to partake of life fully. I
was told of a mother who prayed desperately that her son might recover from
an automobile accident, refusing to accept the possibility that he might
die. God answered her prayer, and the boy recovered. But his subsequent
life was the tragedy. After years of causing his mother all kinds of grief,
he was finally killed in a fight. Perhaps the mother should have simply
prayed, "Thy will be done, Lord, and whatever is best I accept it, for I
know You will give me the strength and grace to bear it."
        In unspeakable grief it is difficult to believe that the sun will shine
again, that we will again be touched by the beauty of the flowers and the
rainbow after the rain, that music will once again bring quietness of
spirit. Often in overwhelming sorrow the very things that should comfort us
only serve to bring even more sadness because they remind us that we shared
them with our loved one. 
        When tragedy strikes suddenly, sleep can be impossible. I prayed to be
spared nightmares, for Chuck's scream etched deeply into my heart. My
prayer was answered in a way that caused me to give thanks with an
overflowing heart. At this point I want to share something with you that
astonished me. The afternoon I received the letter from the publisher
telling me he felt the Grief booklet would help many grieving people, I
felt very tired, which was unusual. I never took naps then; I worked
part-time and was very active. But that afternoon our precious God put me
to sleep and gave me a gift. 
        In this wonderful daydream I was in a room that was totally and purely
white. It was as if I was compassed about with clouds but yet it was
clearly a room. There were no windows or doors but I didn't feel enclosed
or restricted in any way. I wasn't there long when Chuck walked through the
cloud. He was so beautiful! I thought him to be about 33 (a figure I
wondered about later, because he died just before his 20th birthday), tall
which he was in life, and he had long reddish hair, and a beard and
mustache, which he never sported in life. But what amazed me was his
serenity. He smiled at me and then turned and went back through the cloud.
No words were exchanged. I awoke immediately.
        I felt overwhelmed! What a gift from our beloved God, I thought. The peace
I felt at that moment must be the peace which Jesus spoke of to His
disciples: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you..." (John
14:27.)  I finally shared the dream with a friend and I had to admit that
I'm not sure if it was Chuck (who at the time I truly thought it was) or if
it was Jesus Himself who I saw. The afternoon I experienced the dream I
truly thought it was Chuck, but as time passed and Grief went into a
world-wide ministry, I now believe it was Christ Himself who smiled and
wordlessly whispered to me not to grieve anymore. He would take it from
here. I had done what He wanted me to and the rest I was not even to think
about. In his exposition on Mark in The Interpreter's Bible (p.652),
Halford E. Luccock wrote, "A man's life may have a dull setting ... but if
it catches the reflection of the glory of God which is in the face of Jesus
Christ, it becomes a burning and a shining light; is given as much meaning
and dignity and joy that one of the supreme tragedies is to miss it." I
know I caught the reflection of Jesus that afternoon! Precious Father,
thank You for healing dreams that encourage us to have faith that all works
together for good.
        Before our tragedy I felt God didn't want to be bothered with the little,
trite parts of our everyday lives, but I have prayed mightily these past
months for many little comforts as well as big ones, and each prayer has
been answered faithfully. We must not hesitate to bring our requests to
Him, no matter how insignificant they may seem, for our loving Father knows
that sorrow and its components can be crushing weights on fragile hearts. I
take great comfort in the thought that my dear Father is waiting for me to
come to Him to have my tears wiped away and to rest my weary head on His
shoulder. My earthly father would do no less.
        It is vitally important to read God's Word during times of stress. Verses
read hastily and indifferently before take on new life and meaning. God
gives renewed insight into familiar verses because grief and a desolated
spirit changes our perspective on life. Because of the circumstances of
Chuck's life -- his fear of living and his mode of dying -- 2 Timothy 1:7
became more meaningful for me: "God has not given us a spirit of fear; but
of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Satan gives an unholy spirit.
God gives the Holy Spirit.
        In almost unbearable heartache one night I decided to read the book of
Genesis. Surely God was leading me, for I came across a verse that made me
give thanks even in the midst of this horror. Hagar, a mother in grief,
cried out, "Let me not see the death of the boy." Genesis 21:16. Thank You,
Father, that I did not see the death of my child!
        There are so many verses and chapters in God's priceless Word that give us
comfort and hope and joy in sufferings. I personally found my comfort in
the Old Testament, and the Book of Job in particular. The Books of Isaiah
and Psalms became my spiritual food during this time, too. There were also
certain writers who poured balm on my broken spirit.
        One of the worst parts of grief is not understanding what has happened and
knowing that you may never know. God granted me great comfort from this
passage: "The things we may so much desire to do may become a reality after
God has proved us in the school of experience, and among our greatest
blessings may be counted the thing we were not privileged to do, that would
have barred the way from doing the very things best calculated to prepare
us for a higher work. The plain, sober duties of real life were essential
to prevent the fruitless striving to do things that we were not fitted to
do. Our devised plans often fail that God's plans for us may be a complete
success. Oh, it is in the future life we shall see the tangles and
mysteries of life, that have so annoyed and disappointed our fond hope,
explained. We will see that the prayers and hopes for certain things which
have been withheld have been among our greatest blessings."Ellen G. White,
Our High Calling, p. 318.
        God does not wish to destroy us when suffering comes. He wants to refine
and sanctify us. When bowed in grief, we should turn to Him for support and
love. Joseph was able to say to his brothers: "But as for you, you meant
evil against me; but God meant it for good." Genesis 50:20. Joseph was able
to see the hand of God in many instances of unfair suffering in his life.
During my own time of grieving, Joseph became a hero and I often reread his
life and his graciousness in dealing with situations that most of us could
not have handled. It helps if we remember in both good and bad times that
God's purpose always is to redeem us. But He will not force salvation on
us. If we do not refuse or hinder the workings of His Spirit, He can help
us to accept His saving grace in the bad times, too.
        I want to stress how important it is to take care in what we read and in
the company we seek out during times of affliction. I became very
discouraged when certain friends and relatives told me I would never get
over the death of my son and the circumstances surrounding it. I finally
learned to stay away from even my well-meaning relatives and friends who
only made me feel worse. I think it is true that we never forget certain
events, but that is far different from never getting over a tragedy. So it
is necessary to read positive material and be around positive-thinking
people. This is true even in normal times!
         
Why You?
        And now, dear friend, why you for the blizzards of life that temporarily
whip off the blossoms and fruit? Because God loves you! He wants to
strengthen you so you can be His special ambassador to carry to others His
message of hope to a struggling world so in need of comfort and love. If
you can see your sorrow as a gift from God (yes, I know this sounds
impossible!) then I believe it helps the healing process. I tried to see
Chuck's death as his legacy to the world, and that God appointed me his
executor to pass on a message of hope and comfort.  
        In Isaiah 48:10 the Father tells us that He has chosen us in the furnace
of affliction. He doesn't want us to while away our lives in comfortable
beds when we should be up and doing for others -- in spite of our gnawing
griefs. I read many times this admonition from Joshua, "Get up! Why do you
lie on your face?" Joshua 7:10b. And He certainly doesn't want us in the
local bar bathing our burdened mind and heart in liquid anesthetic. Indeed,
we lose a precious blessing that He has just for us, when we try to escape.
But He kneels and weeps with us! Oh, friend, please believe that! The
shortest and most poignant verse in the Bible is "Jesus wept." How
marvelous -- the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with our unspeakable griefs,
kneeling and weeping with us, His gentle arms enfolding us as we cry out in
anguish. Dear friend, what a beautiful thought! There were many dark nights
when I felt those arms! In my distress I pictured the Father as giving
strength, the Son giving hope, and the Holy Spirit giving wisdom. These we
need so urgently, so quickly, so completely, in the darkest moments.
        At this point I would like to share with you tried and true steps in
dealing with deep grief. Dear friend, I want for you at this moment of your
sorrow that peace that only God can give. May He bless you and grant you
comfort and calm as you read these practical steps in dealing with what now
seems so impossible.
         
1. Don't constantly talk about your feelings of despair. Ellen G. White
says it is "a law of nature that our thoughts and feelings are encouraged
and strengthened as we give them utterance." Ministry of Healing, page 251.
We need to share, yes, but try to speak of hope. Confine your deepest grief
for friends who really do understand. When we constantly talk of the
negative aspects of our grief, we make it just that much more difficult to
recover. It may be tempting to open your bleeding heart for all to see and
suffer with you, but a wound always exposed and being probed doesn't heal.
God will provide the balm. Please believe that!                        
2. Don't worry about eloquent prayers, but do pray. Realize the prayers may
be silent or sobbing prayers. In your confusion you may not know what to
pray for, but God knows and that is the important thing. Just keep the line
open. God understands the temporary static. Don't feel He has lost you or
left you because of the way you feel. He, too, walked the earth, He felt
pain as we do, He loved as we love, and He felt losses as keenly as -- yes,
more keenly than -- we ever could.
        Remember that God surely hears these prayers -- the silent ones, the
weeping ones. He hears them instantly. Our agony deeply touches His heart.
The eighth verse of Psalm 56 is a prayer in itself: "Put my tears into Your
bottle." How extraordinary! God takes note of every tear, drop by sorrowful
drop. The word bottle takes on a holy significance, for it is God's
receptacle in which He preserves and then transforms our tears into pearls.
What a thought when we feel we cannot go on another hour!
        I believe that the greatest prayer we mortals can offer is an ever-present
prayer of thanksgiving. Oh, yes, dear hurting soul, thanksgiving! But how
can you be thankful when struggling under a load too heavy for a human
heart to bear? Give it to Jesus, my friend. Right now, as you read this.
Pray, "Jesus, please, I beg You, hold this broken, shattered heart of mine
in Your gentle hands." Picture Jesus giving it healing, rest and peace.
Than thank Him, friend, and know that He is healing your heart.
        Then open your Bible to Philippians 4 and read over and over these verses.
Verse 6: "Be anxious for nothing: but in everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
Verse 11: "I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content." Verse 13:
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Mark these verses.
Go to them in moments of searing pain.
         
3. Count your blessings. Trite, but I have found this to be truly helpful.
Charles L. Allen, in his book All Things Are Possible Through Prayer, tells
of the lady who asked him, "What have I done to deserve this?" His reply
was, "Nothing. Neither have you done anything to deserve many of your
blessings."  Mr. Allen also points out that every blessing has within it
the risk of sorrow. If we love, we risk losing the  object of that love.
But surely, as the saying goes, it is far better to have loved and lost
than never to have loved at all. If it helps you, jot down your blessings
(you will be surprised to see how many you have!); and when grief begins to
overwhelm you, read them again. I found this to be particularly helpful.
Tangibles such as a note to read can stabilize our emotions and clear our
clouded minds. 
         
4. Take one step at a time and one day at a time. We hear this so often,
but it becomes a practical necessity in times of extreme suffering. God has
promised help for the day and strength for the next agonizing hour, and He
has yet to break a promise. It is up to us to cling to that promise. Allow
friends and relatives to take over the physical and mental duties for
however long you need their help. They want to. Don't deprive them of this
Spirit-inspired wish to be of service. Someday they may need you. Thank God
for them and accept their help graciously.
        At the time of sorrow it is imperative that we keep up our strength. When
searching Scripture for comfort, I was impressed with the many promises of
actual strength. One of the treasures I discovered in my sorrow was: our
God is a practical God. Isaiah 40:29 and 31 became as necessary for my
heart as food for my body: "He gives  power to the weak, and to those who
have no might He increases strength ... But those who wait on the Lord
shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." Our God is
a God who "neither faints nor is weary," (Isaiah 40:28b) so He is there for
us every moment. But, dear friend, don't run ahead of God! Don't become
impatient if He allows you to remain in the valley for a while. There may
be lessons we still have to learn. "The hand of the Lord came upon me and
brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of
the valley; and it was full of bones." Ezekiel 37:1. 
        Adversity is frightening. It also becomes the test of strength, including
physical, for stress can affect our physical condition. I tried to
understand that when difficult situations come into our lives it is because
God knows we are strong enough to endure this and this temporary grief will
make us even stronger. Psalm 46:1 assures us that "God is our refuge and
strength, a very present help in trouble." What a blessed promise! Another
thought I would like to share: while reading the Book of Job it occurred to
me that it wasn't so much that Job trusted God, but that God trusted Job!
For some inexplicable reason, that thought got me through some very bad
moments when I thought I was losing it. But I would stop and think, "God
trusts you, Pat, to come through this! He's depending on you to bring
victory from this." 
         
5. Get busy as soon as possible. This is imperative. I cannot stress it too
much. Work keeps mind, heart and body intact. Start jobs that have
accumulated over the months and years. If you have a paying job, get back
to it as soon as possible. Physical exercise with a friend is most helpful
also: jogging, walking, camping, swimming, picnics, tennis, basketball --
whatever you like to do -- but do it with a friend and do it outdoors
whenever possible. Nature has definite healing powers for the hurting hurt.
        I believe this is one of the most important steps in dealing with grief.
In New England there is an expression used for those in heart pain: "Go out
and tell it to the bees." The bees stay busy.
        Physicians tell us that we use the brain cells of our frontal lobes when
we are worried and fearful. Other brain cells control muscular activity. In
physical activity we relieve the strain on the cells of the important
frontal lobes and allow them to rest from their intense stress. The very
worst thing we can do is withdraw from life, crawl into bed, and pull the
covers over our heads, and reflect on what an injustice we have been dealt.
God's natural world provides the fresh air, sunshine and beauty we so need
at all times, but especially in the dark times.
         
6. Hold on to faith -- faith in today and, above all, faith in tomorrow.
This perhaps is the most difficult step of all. Does God really know best?
Does He really care about our tangled hearts, our shattered dreams, our
sleepless nights, our Gethsemane moments? Oh yes, my dear friend, He does!
At the time you may not believe it, but hold on to the reality that when
you are trapped in that terrible valley of despair, the everlasting hills
are all around you. 
        In the immediate aftermath of grief we are so tempted to ask why. Indeed,
we feel we have a right to know why we have been singled out for such an
unbearable burden. We may pass through the futile and self-pitying stage of
thinking that no one else suffers as we do. My friend, go next door, to
church, to the grocery store, to the halls of Congress, to that friend who
seems so carefree, and seek out a fellow sufferer. The world is filled with
them! Grief is universal and is no respecter of age or status. 
        Rather than wasting time and emotion threatening God -- "I'll never trust
you again, God!" -- study His Word. There you will find an answer to your
grief, although you may not find the reason why grief is permitted. There
are certain pieces to God's puzzle that He reserves for Himself to test our
faith. But you will find an answer to wait in faith on God. Faith is simple
in definition but enormously difficult in practice. It is admitting and
believing that our Father has complete control of our lives. We are not the
masters of our fate, as Henley in his poem Invictus would have us believe,
but we can choose the Master of our fate.
         
7. Keep in mind that in grief there is a peculiar ministry. I use the word
"peculiar" in the sense that it is used in God's Word: set apart,
consecrated, exclusively God's. You who have borne sorrows made bearable
through a divinely renewed heart and mind have a special work for God. Your
heart has been broken up, watered with tears, and planted with God's
special seeds so that you may bear the graceful blooms of hope, love and
gentleness for others to appropriate in their dark moments. What a
beautiful ministry!
         
8. Remember that only God knows the end from the beginning. There is a
sublime purpose for and in our lives which includes everything that happens
to us. Joseph's beginning was full of trials: he was sold by his brothers
into slavery and then he was imprisoned for something he didn't do. But he
believed, he held on to his faith and he was rewarded. God had a plan for
Joseph, and it could only be fulfilled with his cooperation. So it must be
with our lives. "Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and
knows the One Who is leading." Oswald Chambers.
        Job is another example of stability and steadfastness in the face of
catastrophe. He lost all, he was afflicted bodily, and yet he could still
say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust him." Job 13:15. Still another of
Job's complete trust: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed
be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21. In Job 42:10 (KJV) we are told that
"The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends." The
word "captivity" is significant. We become captive to feelings of anger,
hate and distrust in extremity of heart or body.
        When Job prayed for others his captivity was turned and he was given twice
the blessings he had before. When sorrow descends on us, it is so easy to
be made a captive of self-pity and resentment. But in praying for others,
in listening to the even greater burdens others must carry, we can be
liberated from our own prison of discontent.
        There are well-meaning friends and relatives who tell us that time heals.
They are right -- it does. But I'm grateful for the advice of a good friend
who warned me that before the hurt is lessened it might get much worse. God
may ask us to remain in the dark for a while, to learn more lessons and to
discover the shadows in our heart that we don't even know we have. Only in
the dark can we finally see the Light. The school of sorrow has within its
walls a unique kind of education obtained nowhere else.
        G.R. Nash writes: "When the famous artist Sir James Thornbill was painting
the inside of St. Paul's Cathedral he stepped back one day to view the
effects of his work, bringing himself, without knowing it, so near to the
edge of the scaffolding that another step would have sent him hurtling down
to certain death. His assistant, seeing the danger but not daring to shout
lest the shock should make the other lose his balance and his life, rushed
forward, then snatching up a brush he rubbed it straight over the painting.
Overcome with rage, Sir James sprang forward to save his work, only to be
pacified with these words: `I spoiled your painting, Sir James, that I
might save your life.'" (When Days are Dark, p.29.)
        It is at these times we must appropriate the precious promises. One of the
dearest promises in all the Bible is Revelation 21:4: "And God will wipe
away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow,
nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed
away."  This is the verse on my son's grave.
        Think of it, dear weeping friend! No more tears; no more pain in body,
mind or heart; no more parting from loved ones. We shall know as we are
known; we shall again meet those we have loved. We shall walk hand in hand
with our lovely Saviour up into the everlasting hills.
        Thank You, Father!

 

Baptism

I am a Christian who believes that Christ's command to baptise believers includes the children of believers as part of the covenant community. The sign of baptism shows their membership in the church. Calvin said that as regeneration precedes faith what better sign of this could there be than that the sign of baptism be given to those too young to show faith? I first read this in Bridges and Phypers, The Water That Divides. I should love to be pointed to the primary source in Calvin's writing. For Baptists, baptism seems primarily to be the person witnessing to their faith. I believe the reformed and biblical view gives greater priority to God witnessing that he alone saves by faith in His Son when his name is put on us in baptism.

Baptism is not magic. It does not save. But it is a means of the grace of God. There is something supernatural there.

For the a reason approach to baptism, I commend to you the writing of Francis Schaeffer on baptism.

After you have followed the link, you can read below what is required by our church when children of members are baptised.

Questions for Baptism of Children of the Covenant

Parents

1. Do you acknowledge that you are saved only through faith in Jesus, that you trust not in anything you have done or will ever do, but only in His finished work - His death upon the Cross, by which He took upon Himself the penalty for Your sins?

2. Do you realise that baptism is not a saving ordinance, and though it signifies your children's membership in the covenant community, it is not a matter of magic? Do you understand that your children are themselves responsible to receive Christ as Saviour and Lord as they become accountable to Him?

3. Do you in this sacrament covenant together with God to raise your children in the instruction, obedience, and worship of the Lord, to pray for and with them, to keep them in the fellowship of God's people, to be faithful and loving in your home, to be immediate examples of faith, and therefore to do your utmost to lead them to a saving knowledge of Christ at an early age?

4. Do you acknowledge that your children are a gift of God, who are of course to be cherished and enjoyed, but who belong at last not to you but to God? Do you undertake to assist your children in every possible way as they seek to lead a life of devoted service to his Lord and Saviour?

Do you, with God's help, undertake not to hinder your children should they feel called to serve God in a far-away place?

bDo you, with God's help, undertake not to complain against God should your children die before you?

Godparents

Do you hereby pledge to show special interest in these children, to pray for them with regularity, and to aid their parents in their responsibilities however you are able?

Congregation

Do you, the members of this congregation, agree to pray for these parents as they raise their children in the Christian faith, and to support them in their efforts by providing their children with further examples of obedience and service to God? Should these parents neglect their God-given task, will you in all humility rebuke and correct them?

 International Presbyterian Church, 53 Drayton Green, Ealing, London W13 0JE


Questions for prospective Church Members and for Believer's Baptism

 

 

1. Do you believe that God exists, that he is not merely an idea or concept, but lives forever and from all eternity as a personal God in the three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

 

2. Do you know that you have many times done things you know to be wrong, and that if God were to judge you as you deserve, He would have to condemn you?

 

3. Do you believe that Jesus Christ, who has existed forever as the Second Person of the Trinity, became a man, lived a perfect life, died on the Cross, and rose again in history? Do you know that in doing so he did everything necessary to atone for your sin and to restore you to right relationship to God?

 

4. Have you personally accepted this work of Christ, and believed in his promises, including the promise that 'he who believes on the Son has everlasting life'? Can you therefore say without pride or presumption that you are a child of God, born into his family?

 

5. Do you now intend to serve Christ and do you thus acknowledge his lordship over your whole life? Do you realize that you must depend on the strength of the Holy Spirit, and whereas this obedience will indeed be costly, it will not result in any loss to yourself, but will rather bring fulfilment to yourself as a creature made in the image of God?

 

For membership:

 

6. In joining this particular congregation do you promise to be subject to the teaching and discipline of its elders under the Word of God and commit yourself to the welfare of its members?

 

 


The Constitution of The International Presbyterian Church

The official name of this church is the International Presbyterian Church.

The subordinate standards of the International Presbyterian Church are the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

Local Churches and the Synod

Chapters 13, 14 and 15 of the Book of Acts together with the remainder of the New Testament make it clear that both local churches and synods (or councils) are pleasing to God and commanded by him.

Almighty God in his providence has allowed different parts of his church to be governed in varied ways. He has blessed churches of diverse government as his fruitful branches. Rejoicing in this and in no way casting reflections upon bodies differently governed, we nevertheless believe that government by presbyters is founded upon the Word of God and the practice of the early church and is highly expedient.

We believe that each local church may call one or more men to be 'pastor'. By this title we mean an elder who is able to devote much of his time and gifts to the teaching, shepherding, and ruling of the church, and who therefore should receive financial support from the church. However, the pastor(s) and other elders, as their New Testament description, 'bishop' (episkopoi), indicates, are joined together in the oversight of the church. The distinction between the two indicates no superiority one over another, as all together are responsible for the feeding and shepherding of Christ's flock. (While pastors are not necessary for the well-being of the church, it is evident from Scripture that pastors are most helpful to the well-being of the church.) Any distinction between pastors and elders is to be considered one of expedience and not of office. All presbyters are referred to in I Timothy 3:2 which says 'the bishop must be … a good teacher' (NEB), but this need not imply that all must preach (or that all must equally preach) in the public worship of the church.

Believing that local churches, presbyteries, and synods are founded upon and agreeable to the Word of God, we authorize the spiritual government of this Church by sessions, presbyteries, and synods, which are to be comprised only of presbyters.

These councils do not possess any civil jurisdiction, nor do they inflict any civil penalties. Their power is wholly moral and spiritual, only ministerial and declarative of the Word of God.

The synod, a presbytery, or a local church may own property in accordance with the laws of the country in which the property is situated.

A local church is entitled to keep or dispose of its property as it sees fit whether it remains within or chooses to withdraw from the International Presbyterian Church. This statement is to be construed as a solemn covenant by which the International Presbyterian Church as a whole undertakes never to attempt to secure possession of the property of any congregation against its will, whether or not the congregation remains a part of this body. All officers and agencies of the International Presbyterian Church are hereby prohibited from making any such attempt. These provisions concerning local church property are unamendable and irrevocable.

Officers of the Church

The officers of this church are presbyters (comprising pastors and elders) and deacons.

PRESBYTERS: The person who fills the office of presbyter receives in the Scriptures different names expressive of his various duties. As he has oversight of the flock of Christ, he is called pastor or shepherd. As he serves Christ in his Church he is named minister. As it is his duty to be mature and wise, living as an example to the flock and governing well in the household and kingdom of Christ, he is termed presbyter or elder. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, urging them to be reconciled to God through Christ, entrusted with the Gospel, he is designated ambassador. As he dispenses the manifold grace of God, overseeing the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is entitled steward of the mysteries of God. In all he is in humility the servant of Christ, set apart for the work of his Gospel.

DEACONS: The Scriptures teach that deacons are called to a ministry of helpful service, according to the example of the Lord Jesus who himself 'went about doing good' (Acts 10:38). Their work of giving practical assistance to those in need lends visible expression to the unity of believers in the one Body of Christ.

Deacons are to help and comfort those in sickness, sorrow, difficulty or distress. They should promote love and generosity among the members of the church, maintaining trust and confidence in the integrity of their office as they oversee the collection and distribution of gifts and offerings with expedience and wisdom. They should keep financial records in good order, making regular report to the congregation of all income and expenditure, encouraging the practice of gracious and good stewardship. They are entrusted with the care and upkeep of property owned (or used) by the congregation, responsibly maintaining it as they enlist the time, effort, and resources of the entire membership.

In matters of consequence involving church property or finance the deacons cannot take final action without approval of the session and consent of the congregation. In all matters the deacons are under the supervision and authority of the session.

The qualifications for this office (I Timothy 3:8-13) indicate that it is spiritual in nature. Accordingly, those who fulfill it must be men and women of spiritual character, honest reputation, exemplary life, brotherly spirit, warm sympathy, and sound judgement.

The Church Session

The church session consists of all presbyters of a particular congregation. In the case of a church having only one presbyter, such 'borrowed' presbyters as agreed by the synod will (with him) form a session until additional presbyters are ordained or installed.

A pastor may be the moderator of a local session, but the session as a whole will be answerable to the synod for the teaching of the local congregation.

Every session must keep a clear record of its proceedings. It is to be submitted to the synod once a year for review and inspection.

Every session must keep a register or roll of the members of its congregation, both of believers and of their baptised children; of suspensions from the Lord's Table; of the deaths and other removals of church members. Such names may be entered in or removed from the register only by order of the session.

The Presbytery

When necessary a presbytery may be formed in a particular geographical location as an intermediate body between the local session and the synod. All presbyters in such an area will be members of the presbytery.

The Synod

The synod of this church consists of all presbyters of local congregations. If for good and acceptable reasons a presbyter ceases to be a member of a congregation of the International Presbyterian Church, the synod may invite him to continue as a member from year to year.

The officers of the synod will be the Moderator and the Secretary (Stated Clerk). They are to be elected each year.

The synod, in accordance with the presbyterian form of government, will have the power to do that which enables the International Presbyterian Church to function as a church. It will act as the final court of appeal in all matters affecting the doctrine or constitution of the church. The synod will review the records of each congregation; it will advise and instruct on cases submitted to it; it will constitute the bond of union, peace, correspondence, and mutual confidence among all congregations.

The synod has the power of deciding in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline; of reproving, warning; of bearing testimony against error in doctrine or immorality in practice; of establishing or incorporating new local congregations; of corresponding with other church bodies on such terms as may be agreed by the synod and the corresponding body; of recommending and aiding the promotion of charity, truth, and holiness.

Electing and Ordaining Deacons

Each congregation may elect deacons in whatever manner it may approve. In all cases the person(s) elected must be a member in good standing in the congregation in which he/she is to exercise the office.

When a person has been elected to this office, and has declared willingness to accept it, he/she is to be ordained in the following manner:

After a sermon in which a presbyter outlines the nature of the office and the character required of the one who fulfills it, he will pose to the candidate the following questions, in the presence of the congregation:

1) Do you believe the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, without error not only where they speak of religious matters, but also where they speak of history, the cosmos, and ethical matters?

2) Do you approve of the presbyterian form of church government?

3) Do you accept the office of deacon in this congregation, and promise to faithfully perform all of its duties?

4) Do you promise to promote the purity, peace and unity of the Church?

The deacon-elect, having answered these questions in the affirmative, the presbyter concerned will pose the following questions to the congregation assembled:

1) Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother/sister as a deacon, and do you promise to give him/her all that honour, encouragement and obedience in the Lord to which this office, according to the Word of God and the constitution of this church, entitles him/her?

The members of the congregation having answered this question in the affirmative, by holding up their right hands, the session will proceed to ordain the candidate to the office of deacon by the laying-on-of-hands and by prayer.

Electing and Ordaining/Installing Presbyters

It should be noted that I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 specify the qualifications for the office of presbyter. It is understood from these passages and from elsewhere in Scripture that presbyters must be men.

It is the duty of the session to convene a meeting to elect a presbyter if a majority of those entitled to vote in the case so wish. The session is encouraged to seek the advice of presbyters from another session at the time of such an election. In every case the new presbyter must have the approval of the presbytery.

All presbyters will be members of the congregation in which they serve.

When a congregation elects a presbyter and calls him to that office, he is to be examined by the presbytery (or synod), although this examination may well have taken place before the call was issued. A call which has been issued by a congregation and approved by the presbytery (or synod) is in itself a request for the ordination or installation of the presbyter-elect. If he has previously been ordained, he should be installed into office in the congregation which has called him. If he has not been ordained, then his ordination should normally be regarded as including installation within it.

A presbyter is to be ordained in the following manner:

In a service at which a presbyter from another session should be present, a sermon suitable to the occasion will be preached. The presbyter presiding will inform the congregation of the approval given to the candidate by the presbytery (or by the synod). He will explain the church's view of ordination, referring to the significance attributed by Scripture to the office. He will emphasize the seriousness of the commitments made by both the candidate and by the congregation. Then, addressing the candidate, he will pose to him the following questions:

1) Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, without error not only where they speak of religious matters, but also where they speak of history, the cosmos and ethical matters?

2) Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?

3) Do you approve of the presbyterian form of church government?

4) Do you promise such subjection to your brethren as is taught in the Word of God?

5) Do you seek the office of pastor/elder out of love for God and a sincere desire to promote his glory in the Gospel of his Son?

6) Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace of the Church &endash; whatever persecution or opposition may arise against you on that account?

7) Do you promise to be faithful in your own walk with Christ, determining to live as an example of the Gospel you preach?

8) Are you now willing to take oversight of this congregation and do you promise to discharge the duties of a pastor/an elder as God gives you strength?

The candidate having answered these questions in the affirmative, the presbyter presiding will pose to the congregation assembled the following questions:

1) Are you, the members of this congregation, willing to receive ………………………..(name) as your pastor/elder?

2) Do you promise to receive his teaching from the Word of God with humility and love, and do you promise to give him all that honour, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord, to which his office, according to the Word of God and the constitution of this church entitles him?

3) Do you promise to encourage him in his difficult work and to help him as he ministers among you?

4) (where applicable) Do you promise to provide him with the financial support which Scripture declares to be your obligation?

In the case of both ordination and installation, the congregation having answered these questions by holding up their right hands, the candidate will kneel and the assembled presbyters will ordain him by the laying-on-of-hands and by prayer.

In the case of installation only, the congregation having answered these questions by holding up their right hands, the assembled presbyters will install the candidates by prayer alone.

 

 

 

AFFIRMATIONS

 

 Every part of Christ's Church, when brought into existence, is called to a ministry of life and teaching which will effectively convey the gospel to its own generation and culture.

 

The International Presbyterian Church recognizes that it has been raised up by the Lord for a specific purpose and to a specific work, its distinctive ministry shaped by the inerrant Word of God and adapted to the needs of the present time.

 

We believe that our Presbyterian form of church government is founded upon the Word of God and the pattern of the early church, and is both practicable and helpful1.

 

Believing the Church to transcend national boundaries we rejoice in the international character of our church, both because some congregations are of mixed nationality, and because God has raised up congregations of particular nationality.

 

We acknowledge that there are many true churches of Christ. We are glad to be of service to them and are thankful for whatever help we may receive from them. We are glad both to receive them and to be received by them in fitting expressions of fellowship and unity in the one Body of Christ.

 

However, this church stands in the stream of historic Christianity, and in the Reformed tradition1, which since the sixteenth century has upheld the truth of God's Word and the authority of Christ over all of life.

 

In affirming our valuable heritage we wish to emphasize the importance of the following in the life and witness of our church for the present time: Truth, Spirituality, Social Responsibility, Ethical Imperatives, and the Understanding of Contemporary Culture.

 

1. TRUTH

 

We affirm, against the consensus of our society, that there is such a thing as truth. Unchanging, reliable and understandable information pertaining to all of life is conveyed from God to man by the Scriptures.

 

Statements made by the Bible are objectively true, even though they may not be exhaustive. By this we mean that they accurately describe the nature of things both as they are in themselves, and as they exist within the course of history which God has begun and which he sustains.

 

Statements about the cosmos and the natural world are factual even though they are not made in the language of today's sciences.

 

1See Appendix for History of Presbyterianism

Statements about the nature of man, his divine image, his sinfulness, his need of salvation and the reality of his judgement are not simply 'religious' statements (eg

merely subjective) but statements of fact. Thus, for example, the Bible teaches that we live in a world which clearly declares that it has been created by God, but also a world which is abnormal in every respect because of the fall.

 

Within the relativistic culture2 which surrounds us, we consider it imperative to emphasize this view of truth, for it is the foundation of all knowledge and life.

 

Therefore we acknowledge that we must obey the commandment of Christ to go out into all the world to preach the gospel, to teach, to baptise, to make disciples, and to plant new congregations which will faithfully guard and proclaim God's truth.

 

As we acknowledge and speak this truth, we must strive to live by it. Accordingly, we seek the purity of the visible church and insist there must be discipline in matters of false doctrine and disobedience to God's moral commandments.

 

2. SPIRITUALITY

 

Even a brief survey of Church history shows that the Church has been repeatedly confused about the nature of spirituality. Instead of being seen as essentially positive, involving the restoration of man's humanity under God's authority, it has been regarded, either explicitly or by implication, as something negative. Christianity then becomes a withdrawal from life and a denial of those categories of ordinary human experience (such as creativity, compassion, beauty, and even in some cases responsibility) which actually constitute man as the image of God, even when he is fallen.

 

Such an attitude, characterised by Colossians 2:20 as 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!' has an appearance of wisdom (ie spirituality) but in fact lacks any value in the real struggle, that again sin. Against this mentality of negation we affirm that spirituality is essentially positive. Redemption includes not only atonement for sin but also the eventual and complete restoration of all good things through Christ's work.

 

This has profound and practical implications for both the believer and the church. First, the believer is encouraged to take issue not with his humanity but with his sin. Neither the appreciation of beauty nor the enjoyment of physical pleasures are wrong in and of themselves. Rather, it is the misuse of these God-given capacities that constitutes sin. Second, the believer is to consider the whole of life the proper realm of his spirituality, rejecting any separation of the secular and spiritual dimensions of life. Life in the home, life in the work place, the realms of politics, art, literature, education &endash; all are significant and all are important to the believer and the church. As Abraham Kuyper said, 'There is not in all the universe one square inch of territory over which Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not say 'That is mine'. Third, because churches should never be merely 'preaching points' or 'activity generators', the believer must be committed to living within the fellowship and community of the Body of Christ and there to demonstrate transformed relationships.

 

2Eg see penultimate paragraph, page 4

3. SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

 

Our culture insists that personal fulfilment and social progress come by throwing off restrictive moral tradition. In contrast, we affirm that God has made human beings to reflect his righteous and loving character, and that the law of God given in Scripture shows how they are meant to live. Fulfilment and freedom for individual and society result from obedience to God's commandments. These commandments are good not only for believers but for all people. The Christian need never hesitate to commend them to human society.

 

We affirm the basic unity of the Old and New Testaments. The abiding demands of Old Testament law are to be embodied in the lives of Christians as they were in the life of Christ.

 

We affirm that the Christian is called not to retreat from society but to be salt and light in it. As light he is to live in a way which causes people to be drawn to the truth. Such practice of righteousness and love is to be seen not only in the life of the individual but in that of the church, as it strives to be a living community, characterised by genuine care and concern. As salt the Christian is to love his neighbour as himself, helping those in need outside the church, and not shunning responsible involvement in civic affairs.

 

Regarding the State, we affirm that Scriptures consider the offices of human government to be instituted by God. Because he has established them to further his purposes, they are obliged to undertake the just use of force against evil-doers. However, if conflict arises between conscience and the commands of any human authority the Christian must obey God first. Yet as the civil office represents a calling pleasing to God we affirm that the Christian may indeed seek such office in order to serve him.

 

4. ETHICAL IMPERATIVES

 

We must recognise the 'ethical imperatives' of our own day &endash; those issues which demand an ethical response &endash; and not simply contemplate the battles of past generations.

 

Throughout the ages men have failed to treat other men with the dignity, justice, respect, and compassion due to all human beings. They have often done this by denying the essential humanity of those whom they would abuse. This has been done to enemies in wartime, to black slaves, and to aboriginal peoples. In our day it is the unseen, unborn humans in the womb whose humanity is often denied so that they may be killed.

 

We must help bring an end to the 'slaughter of the innocents' carried on at present through legalised abortion. As we affirm the humanity of unborn children we are obliged to work for their protection. It is appropriate to do so both by moral persuasion, as the biblical view of unborn children is expounded and applied, and by political action, as we resolve to change the unjust laws which permit their destruction.

 

At the same time, we must help in practical and loving ways those who have used or are tempted to use abortion as a solution to their predicament.

 

In this context, we cannot neglect to emphasize that while sexual experience is good in itself because created by God, it is legitimate only within marriage, that is within a life-long, exclusive commitment between one man and one woman. It is particularly incumbent on us to teach this to our young people.

 

We commit ourselves to defend the dignity and well-being of man as created in the image of God when and where necessary. For example, there should be a strong and active concern to prevent or relieve famine, to find creative solutions to unemployment, to oppose racial discrimination, and to uphold religious liberty.

 

5. UNDERSTANDING CONTEMPORARY CULTURE

 

Whether in the second century or in the twentieth, Christians have always been tempted to avoid the confrontation of ideas ad practices which inevitably accompany a faithful proclamation of God's truth. Frequently this has been masked by an apparently sincere desire to be 'relevant' &endash; to understand the ideas of a culture in order to endorse its fashions and traditions wherever possible.

 

We must stress that any discussion of popular culture must first acknowledge the primacy of Scripture and then be conducted with reference to it. The Church must always start with the written revelation of God because the Bible is the final authority and infallible guide for all ages until Christ returns. Without it a proper understanding of contemporary culture cannot be found. Only as God's light is lifted up among us can we see clearly amidst the surrounding darkness.

 

We therefore subject our view of the present culture to a prior consideration of the Word of God. Nevertheless, this does not imply that attempts to understand contemporary culture are either unnecessary or misguided. Since its formation the Church has been commissioned as much to a prophetic ministry as to an evangelistic one. Therefore it needs to identify the ways in which people are perishing and being misled in order to address itself to their rescue, and to see the ways in which injustice and unrighteousness are promoted or condoned in order to oppose them.

 

This is doubly important in our own moment of history as we witness the flowering of pagan culture on every side. Christians are only too conscious of the profound change which has marked the past thirty or forty years, without understanding that it is an inevitable consequence of a widespread and malignant disease, namely the acceptance of a materialistic and relativistic world-view. People are now taught and encouraged to value material things above all else and to deny absolute standards of right and wrong. It is this which has brought such a rapid deterioration of values in recent decades: the breakdown of marriage, promiscuity, abortion, infanticide, material greed, violent crime and the acceptance of homosexual practices.

 

Therefore, we attempt to understand contemporary culture in order to arrest its degeneration and decay, and, by God's grace, to reform society by the preaching of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20) and by the open statement of the truth (II Corinthians 4:2). In this sense we are indeed called to be relevant, so as to speak 'clearly as we should' (Colossians 4:4). To remain old-fashioned and so to continue habits of life and thought merely because they have come down to us from a previous generation is to deny our responsibility to live and speak prophetically.

 

(Adopted November 1985)

 

RULES FOR BEING HUMAN
As far as learning to be human goes, the following Rules could well be those 
given to us before we were born, in order to to guide us through this life.
         
         
1. You will receive a body. You will like it or hate it, but it will be yours 
for the entire period you're around.
         
         
2. You will learn lessons. You are already enrolled in the full-time informal 
school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to 
learn more. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid. That 
is your choice.
         
         
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and 
error, mingled with occasional short-cuts learned from watching others. The 
"failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the choices which 
ultimately "work."
         
         
4. A lesson is repeated until it is learned. Each lesson will be presented to 
you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it you 
can go on to the next lesson.
         
         
5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not 
contain its own lessons. If you are alive, there will always be new lessons to be 
learned.
         
         
6. "THERE" is no better than "HERE." When your "There" has become "Here," you 
will simply discover another "There" that again will look better than "Here."
         
         
7. Others are mostly mirrors of yourself. You cannot love or hate something 
about another person unless it reflects on something you love or hate about 
yourself. If you hurt someone else you are ultimately hurting yourself. 
         
         
8. Your answers to life's questions lie inside you. You simply need to listen 
and trust. (If you are a Christian, the voice of the Spirit will come from 
within as well. If you are not a believer, heaven help you!)
         
         
9. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the resources and 
tools you need. What you do with them is your choice.
         
         
10. You will forget all this.
         
These are my notes of a biographical talk I gave on the centenary of the death of
one of my heroes.
CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON
         
Born 19.6.1834 Kelvedon, Essex. Two generations of Independent pastors. 17th.C.
ancestors fled Catholic Europe. Melbourne then Peel P.M. Lincoln enters politics. Early years in grandfather's manse with Puritan books, read for family prayers at 5. 1836 Chartism, Pickwick Papers. 37 William IV dies. Victoria,b.19. 39 1st. Opium war. 40 Victoria marries Albert. Back to parents, Colchester. School. Precocious. Prophecy by former missionary of
preaching future. 48 Communist manifesto. Maidstone, Agricultural college. 49 Usher in a Newmarket school, 15 Conviction of sin. 6.1.1850 converted Primitive Methodist Chapel, Colchester. 15 3.5.50 Baptism in River Park 15 Regularly doing evangelistic visiting Teaching
Sunday school. Cambridge as student teacher Preaching in villages. Oct. 1851 pastor, Waterbeach Baptists 17 Village transformed Forthright, witty,
disciplined Failed to gain place at Stepney Baptist College through maid's mistake
. University closed. Later it was said that college would have spoilt his education by Bunyan, other Puritans and ordinary country people. 18.12.53 Visits New Park Street, 80 in 1200 places. Invited 3 Jan. Sundays. Feb. 3 months trial Asked for prayer. Apr. 1854 accepted pastorate of New Park St. Southwark 19 soon filled. Exeter Hall , 5000 full, while chapel extended to 2000. Preaching Christ centred, direct, applied, earthy, humour wit great amount of poetic allusion, remarkable memory. Prayers were even more remarkable said Moody, later. Press said most remarkable
ministry since Whitfield and Wesley. Queue to get in. In depth press debate on
theology and preaching. Phenomenon of the age. late 54 Cholera 20. Fearless visiting eventually, reputation for healing prayer,
denied any special gift. Jan 55 Weekly sermons first published 20. Oct. Reissued 1689 Baptist confession. Feb-May 56 Exeter Hall 22. Left because owners could not let it become Baptist. 1856 married Susanna Thompson. Started Pastor's College, financed personally 15
years. By 66 students had founded 18 new London congregations including West
Ealing in 65. 22 19 10 56 First evening at Surrey Gardens Music Hall. Fire!!
7 dead in 12000 22. Missed only one Sunday. 57 Early disputes with Arminians and hyper Calvinists. Press ridicule. Plans for
world's biggest chapel. The saint and His Saviour, first book. From this year
health, previously good, deteriorated. 7.10.57 Crystal Palace 23654 £700 to India fund 23 after mutiny. 59 Origin of Species. 10 7 59 10000 on Clapham Common for widow of man killed by lightning. 11.12.59 left Music Hall, Revival Year. Left due to Sunday entertainments. 18.12.59-1.3.61 Exeter Hall. 24. Exhausted at 10 sermons a week. 61 Albert died. 18.3.1861 Metropolitan Tabernacle opened 26, 3600 seats + 2000 standing, precentor
led singing, 3 months paid seating tickets. Unreserved seats 5 minutes before
service. 63 American Civil War chs v anti slavery and outspoken in an unusual way.
Perhaps one reason why never went to U.S.A. 5.6.1864 Sermon on Baptismal Regeneration accused evangelicals of perjury for not preaching it! 29 350000 copies. A saucy fellow- Lord Shaftesbury. Left Evangelical
Alliance. Temperance society at Pastor's College though C.H.S. not teetotal. 65 Lincoln assassinated, Barnardo's first home. Jan 65 Sword & Trowel, a founder of London Baptist Assoc., 64 churches. 30. 67 Church decoration. Agricultural Hall, North London, 20000 . October ill, exhausted, gout. Sir James Simpson operated on Mrs. S. 68 Disraeli then Gladstone P.M. Support for Gladstone disestablishing Church of Ireland. 1869 Stockwell Orphanage 35, widow's £20000 gift. Smallpox, gout. 71 depression, 7 silent weeks instead of up to 10 sermons. Italy vacation. 1874 dispute on tobacco 40. 75 Lectures to my students. Supported Moody's first mission. 79 Zulu war. His jubilee, 66 institutions from his ministry 84 Ill in Mentone. 85 Gordon killed. 1887-9 Downgrade controversy over lack of doctrinal discipline with incipient liberalism in Baptists. 53. 28.10.87 Withdrew from B.U. 53. 88 Weary worn and ill. July too weak to write, Mentone. 24,2,89 Back in London. Oct. 90- Feb. 91 Mentone. 1891, 6 June, last sermon in London. 6000 congregation, 14692 members added,
20 million hearers there alone. 26 10.91 France. 1892, 31 Jan died Mentone, France 57. 50000 passed the coffin 5 funeral services no plain stone. 98 Met. Tab. burnt down. May 1917 Last sermon published.

         
         
This is another talk given at our church.
         
         
Is the Welfare State A Christian Responsibility?
If the government is not concerned about poverty they are denying people their
 human rights. So said Paul Goggins of Church Action on Poverty on Radio 4 this
 morning. Well that statement makes some bold assumptions, like the concept of
 human rights which I might tackle another night, but today it is poverty under
 examination. Whose responsibility is it? Do you support the idea of higher taxes
 to give more to the poor? Do you give to beggars?
         
An historical survey (Anglocentric)
	Pre- reformation gifts to church for charity and chantries
	Henry V111 had beggars whipped
1557 Mary had them branded V for vagabond. London later granted 1000
     licenses to beggars
1572 JPs to organise Overseers of the poor in every parish. Poor rate. Some
      houses of correction and workhouses.
1601 Poor Law revised and to last over 230 years  for unemployed, sick, aged
     and orphans. replaces private charity through church. But generous parishes 
	were a magnet.
1662 Act of Settlement Only one place where you can get help.
1697 Certificates of settlement legalised so migrant workers could be returned 
      to their parish of settlement if impoverished
18c  Pauper apprentices Later battles over their conditions of work.
	Some private workhouses were the worst.
1795 Berks justices used poor relief to supplement wages. Speenhamland 		
     system. Allowances to supplement low wages. Widespread use. Rise in
     rates. Total doubled in 8 years. Locally it rose 8 fold in one parish in 29 
	years. Dependency. Large families encouraged.
1834 Poor law amendment act. To last 80 years. Orphans, sick and old deserved
     help but the rest were idle. So discourage poor relief and the problem will
     vanish. Parishes grouped into unions. Elected Boards of Guardians 
	responsible to national Poor Law Commission. Able bodied not eligible for
     relief if in own homes. Workhouses to be less comfortable than the life of
     the poorest outside the system. Sexes separated so as not to encourage more
     dependants. An administrative success lasting to 1929 but much resentment
in industrial north where occasional unemployment was a hazard.
Commissioners stoned and the workhouse test had to be abandoned in
industrial areas. Allowances removed in rural parts. 1793,1829,1846 Acts to protect Friendly Societies. Weekly sub for unemployment,
sickness and death benefits. By 1850 25% of workers took part. 1835 Municipal corporations 1870 School Boards 1888 County councils 1894 Rural and Urban district Councils All took over much of the work of Boards of Guardians. 1908 Old age pensions 1911 Unemployment insurance, relief 15 weeks a year. 2x16 weeks in 1921 1929 Local Government Act gave duties of Guardians to county and borough councils. Mass unemployment necessitated a change but by now guardians cared mainly for aged. 1931 Means tested Transitional payment to supplement the Dole. 1944 For the first time a government said that the first aim of economic policy should be the avoidance of unemployment. It was no longer to be seen as the fault of the idle.
How the Law cared for the poor
Exod. 23:11   but during the seventh year let the land lie unplayed and unused. 
Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat
 what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. 
Lev. 25:25    "If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his 
property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold. 
Lev. 25:35    "If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support 
himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can 
continue to live among you.
Obedience abolishes poverty but sin establishes it 
Deut. 15:4   However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD 
your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 
Deut. 15:7   If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the
land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tight-fisted to
ward your poor brother. 
Deut. 15:11   There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you
to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
Economic justice
Deut. 24:14,15   Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, 
whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.  Pay him
his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. 
Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin. Prov. 19:17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. Prov. 22:9 A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.
Christian help
Acts 9:36   In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is
Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 
Acts 10:4   Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The 
angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial 
offering before God. 
Acts 24:17    "After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my 
people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 
Rom. 15:26   For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the 
poor among the saints in Jerusalem.
 
Origins of centralised state
1 Sam. 8:6-22   But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased 
Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the 
people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected
me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt
until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now
listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will
reign over them will do. "Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who
were asking him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you
will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses,
and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day. "But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles. "When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, "Listen to them and give them a king." Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Everyone go back to his town." So taxation, conscription, impoverishment but no promised help for the needy.
Question for your deliberation
We today accept concepts unknown to Scripture. Human rights. Scripture talks of 
charity. A State which cares for welfare, education and health. Does Scripture 
give a case to argue that these areas should not be primarily the responsibility 
of the state? Do people want these to be the state's responsibility because that 
is easier than personal responsibility? Has the state become an idol, i.e. in the 
place of God?
         
19/11/95
Tax cuts
Dr. J Benton
Evangelicals Now
14 Silverleigh Road
Thornton Heath
CR7 6DU								30.10.94

 

Dear John,
         
So you feel sick of tax cuts and are keen to be a supporter of God's servant the civil government.
         
This might sound commendable to some, but do you not have a responsibility to consider in the light of Holy Scripture the purpose of civil government and therefore the limitations as to the areas for which it should demand taxes?
         
To my limited knowledge there seems to be a dearth of contemporary literature on this subject apart from that of the reconstructionists which seems simplistic.
         
Today the state has taken over and secularised provisions originally initiated on the basis of Christian charity. This is the case in health, education and social security. What was originally given graciously by Christians is now demanded as a human right which the state should provide. But should it?
         
Today the state is idolised in the place of God as the provider of the peoples' needs.
It refuses to make moral judgments to discern between worthy  and unworthy recipients of benefits. It has consistently moved away from giving fiscal advantage to those who live according to God's standards, e.g. in matrimony.
         
Christians have historically taken action against unjust taxation. Ship money for Charles I and George III's demands upon his transatlantic subjects were resisted and the course of history changed.
         
We have a duty to pay taxes but also a responsibility to speak prophetically concerning the limitations of civil governmental responsibilities. If the government gets it hands out of our pockets we would be free to use more of our money to the glory of God	. But perhaps too many Christians would rather continue to turn over responsibility, and money to the state.
         
Yours in the service of the King,
         
Graham J Weeks
									
The European Community and Xenophobia
30th June 1996
				 				
Dear John.
         
Sir Fred Catherwood should be able to distinguish between a hatred of The European Community and xenophobia. Most people I know are highly critical of the EC and the two European Courts. We believe that governments since 1970 have sold our national birthright for a mess of European potage, but we have no hatred for the citizens of the EC.
         
In the 1970 general election I had a choice of three candidates all of whom were pro Europe. For the only time in an election, local, national or European I deliberately abstained having been as effectively disenfranchised as when I went to live in Nigeria later that year.
         
After we were in Europe,  Wilson gave people a referendum about continuing in Europe. It was like a woman, having been forced into a shotgun wedding, being asked if she still consented, when the baby was a toddler. Not surprisingly the vote was for the status quo.
         
I do not understand how even a Europhile like Sir Fred can tell us that the continental beef industry has been damaged more than ours over the BSE fiasco. There are plenty of customers for British beef . I am even now digesting my Sunday roast beef dinner. Why should not the world be able to buy our beef? No one has established that it is anything other than wholesome.
         
The thing that upsets me the most about this whole sad affair is that there is no free market at all. The price of beef has not come down. Neither government nor the industry want a free market. The farmers want their guaranteed incomes, relying on the state rather than providence and good husbandry for their living.
         
A plague on the EC in general and the Common Agricultural Policy in particular. Let us get out of the EC, out of the European Courts. Let us reestablish a nation state of the United Kingdom.
         
Of course if the Scots or the Welsh want their own way, well some of us would be prepared to be gracious.
         
Yours sincerely, Graham J Weeks
Establishment
Dr. J Benton
Evangelicals Now
14 Silverleigh Road
Thornton Heath
CR7 6DU			
								6 November 1993
         
Dear John,
         
I continue to enjoy and be stimulated by EN. I regret that I did not write before on the subject of establishment. 
         
First of all the treatment of the issue was anglo-centric. There is more than one such church even in this United Kingdom and others that would like to be established at least north of the Border!
         
Secondly and of primary importance is the practical effect of disestablishment of any church. The result would not be the "biblical" position advocated by Herbert Carson et al. The clear result would be the establishment of secularism and futher privatisation of all religions. We have at present a de facto establishment of secularism due to the impotence of the churches of all persuasions not merely the two established ones. A de jure disestablishment would therefore put us on a par with the U.S.A. if not worse.
         
Before my objections are dismissed as pragmatic I would ask to be shown how it would be proposed that rulers are called to practically profess and acknowledge the Lordship of Christ in their God-given calling. All people are to bow before Christ in their callings and politics must be seen do be done under His authority. Pietism must not rule as it is the friend of secularism. In my view rulers have a duty to establish Christianity, not a particular church. That I would say was the aim of some of the American Founding Fathers but they sadly missed the mark.
         
However, your November article has provoked a prompter response!
         
Having opposed the idea of the undeserving poor you eventually merely redefine them with not much discernible difference from the original historic understanding of the term! One difference is that you seem to be
solely concerned with the duties of Christians, not rulers (See above!!).
I can largely agree with what you have said about the Christian individual or corporate responsibility. But you omitted the responsibility to be a wise steward not taken in by deceivers. All pastors at least have experience of plausible lying scroungers. So the first response is not unthinking mercy but asking yourself is this person having me on. Unless you are pretty certain they are lying about their need you are obliged to be merciful.
         
Secondly, a major issue is the responsibility of the state towards the poor. The Welfare State had noble motivation but has failed to discern the need to limit the continuance of mercy to the irresponsible. Now we see some belated and partial attempt to do so. But rather than arguing the party politics of it Christians should be questioning as to what the bible teaches about responsibility to the poor on the part of the state and that of the church. I have seen very little written on this except by either left of centre Christians or on the other side, reconstructionists. Both of these seem to me to have a wrong deductions from the scriptural data. The left never seems to divide the responsibilities of church from state. The other side fails to  consider how the Law might be framed in a different way if it had been given from say Scafell Pike in 1993. In a developed industrial society certain thing would have been different, not because God has changed but because the world has.
Among the reformed writers, only the reconstructionists seem to take seriously these differing responsibilities. I can think of one noted theologian from Scotland whose views on such matters seem to owe more to the results of English oppression than to rightly dividing the Word on this.
	Well I did not intend to write at length or to get on to reconstructionism which has certainly had a less than balanced treatment in EN so I had better close.	I would appreciate receiving any response you may care to offer as I really do enjoy EN
         
				Yours for the rule of Christ,
Graham J Weeks
         
Dr. J Benton
Evangelicals Now
14 Silverleigh Road
Thornton Heath
CR7 6DU			
								20 November 1993
         
Dear John,
         
I have been disappointed by the articles and responses on disestablishment. The treatment of the issue was anglo-centric. There is more than one such church even in this United Kingdom and others that would like to be established at least north of the Border!
         
Secondly and of primary importance is the practical effect of disestablishment of any church. The result would not be the "biblical" position advocated by Herbert Carson et al. The clear result would be the establishment of secularism and futher privatisation of all religions. We have at present a de facto establishment of secularism due to the impotence of the churches of all persuasions not merely the two established ones. A de jure disestablishment would therefore put us on a par with the U.S.A. if not worse.
         
I should like to ask those who would so privatise the the faith, how they would be propose that rulers are called to practically profess and acknowledge the Lordship of Christ in their God-given calling. All people are to bow before Christ in their callings and politics must be seen do be done under His authority. Pietism must not rule as it is the friend of secularism. In my view rulers have a duty to establish Christianity, not a particular church. That I would say was the aim of some of the American Founding Fathers but they sadly missed the mark
         
The church does not need establishment but rulers do. They should  acknowledge the truth, not merely as private individuals but as public persons. This is done when Parliament meets and in many Councils. For some of us this is not empty civic religion but a true bowing before God and a seeking of His will in a political calling.
         
Yours for the rule of Christ,
         
Councillor Graham Weeks
London Borough of Ealing
         
Coins and Kings
God has a wry sense of humour. I am reminded of it by two letters on our coins, FD. They stand for the Latin,Fidei Defensor, Defender of the Faith. The title was granted to Henry VIII by Pope Leo in 1521 as a result of the book, "Defence of the Seven Sacraments." The king had taken part in the composition of this reply to Luther"s "Babylonian Captivity of the Church." He took all credit for authorship and his reward was a papal title to rival those of continental monarchs. It was not intended as an hereditary title but the heirs of Henry still hold the title as witnessed by our coins. They have sworn the Coronation Oath to uphold the Reformed Protestant Religion but are pleased to keep their papal title. Recently Prince Charles said that he would prefer to be defender  of all faiths. Subsequent clarification from the Prince stated that he did not wish to challenge the constitutional position of the Church of England of which he will one day, God willing, become Supreme Governor. The Archbishop of Canterbury assured the public that there was only one constitutional requirement for the Prince to  be crowned king, he has to be the legitimate child of the sovereign. Questions of personal faith or morality are not constitutional impediments.
	The televised documentary about the Prince reopened the debate about the establishment of the Church of England. Curiously, little is said about the otheestablished church north of the border but there is public debate on whether Christianityshould have a privileged constitutional position.Evangelicals Now has had articles, notably from Herbert Carson, on the unbiblical status of an established church. In AD 313 the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, professing to be a Christian , issued the Edict of Milan giving full legal tolerance to Christianity. Ever since believers have been divided as to the benefits of Christianity being recognised as special by the state. Originally the Romans had given special tolerance to the Jewish religion and Christians were a Jewish sect. The followers of Jesus lost their privileges when they were expelled by the synagogues . Their subsequent refusal to offer incense to the Emperor as a god was costly. It won for many the martyrs crown. From AD 313, Christianity recognised by the Emperor, meant an end to official persecution. Confiscated property was returned, clerics received special exemptions from civic office and bishops were granted civil jurisdiction. Soon however shepherds of Christ's flock became princes of the church. Bedecked in purple, the imperial colour, they were to sit on thrones. A cathedral is the place of a throne, not a sheep fold. The down side of the establishment of Christianity is well documented as it affected the church.
	 Most of the current debate in the Church of England is about how wrong it is for the Crown through Parliament to have influence over the appointment of bishops, and for ungodly parliamentarians to legislate for the church. Presbyterian Scotland does not seem to have such problems having dispensed with the servicesof an episcopate. While an establishment for England like the Scottish model has been suggested I have yet to hear the Anglican case for a presbyterian church of England. That was offered by the Westminster Assembly 350 years ago but  did not find favour even then when there was neither king nor bishops to remove. 
	Many but not all Evangelicals favour disestablishment. Some Anglicans want it. Secularists certainly favour it. A strong opinion opposed to any change appeared in The Times on July 12th. Rabbi Dr. Julian Jacobs, the Chief Rabbi's representative on interfaith relationships, wrote that disestablishment would be a major step towards the secularisation of Britain and would reduce religious tolerance. He believes that modern Britain has a unique record of religious tolerance. Establishment embraces diversity and embodies the central role of faith in the life of the nation. If that is removed all faiths will suffer and be equally marginalised in a new secular state. After the role of religion is reduced what follows is a reduction in the value of human life.
	Chesterton said that when man ceases to believe in God he does not 
believe in nothing but in anything. Proponents of disestablishment forget that to disestablish Christianity is not to establish nothing. Humanistic secularism would be enthroned as supreme arbiter. I believe that the state needs establishment far more than the church. I have never been a member of an established church but as a christian active in politics I value the fact that we are constitutionally a Christian country. Parliament opens each day with prayer, an acknowledgement that legislators are not autonomous. They should not make up the laws as they go along but discover the will of God for civil government. In the borough where I am a councillor the Mayor's chaplain prays for the councillors when the council meets. This year I protested to the mayor when he decided not to have a chaplain. I miss the reminder that councillors are responsible to a higher authority than the mayor or the electorate. 
	Most of all Christians should argue for the continuing special place of Christianity simply because it is true and other religions are false. The gospel does not need state approval or toleration. The King of Kings reigns over all earthly rulers. They should confess Christ as his ministers in public office. The outworking of the truth of our faith has given true religious liberty in Britain. It was a struggle in which many lives were lost for the crown rights of the redeemer. Men like Samuel Rutherford contended for the sovereignty of Christ over not only the church but rulers too. His book "Lex Rex", would have cost him his life at the Restoration had not God taken Rutherford home to Emmanuel's land.
	 Christian liberty is worth defending. It is an inheritance not to be despised for a bowl of secularist tolerance. Liberty is more than toleration. Christians should not be content with mere toleration in a secularist state. They should continue to contend for that truth affirmed in the coronation service when the monarch receives the orb. The archbishop reminds the new ruler that Christ by his cross rules the sphere of the world.
	Our coins bear two other letters, DG, Deo Gratia, by the grace of God. The truth of the gospel is also on our coins. By the grace of God kings reign. May the Prince of Wales truly bow before the God who is there and be a defender of true faith. By a continuance of a Christian heritage there will be true religious liberty for all.
Graham J Weeks The H Factor
Why did "Back to basics" become "Back off personal morality"? Why does Mr. Major tell us that his slogan is not about personal morality .ut only public policy?  Surveys show that people want an emphasis on personal morality. They probably want it more than the Prime Minister. After all, like his predecessor he has not demanded the resignation of adulterous ministers. As long as you have not betrayed your leader it does not matter that you have deceived your wife. But in propounding the policy, MMr. Major must have failed to understand the popular desire for personal morality or forgotten how lacking it is in the everyday story of Westminster folk. The press take delight in unearthing embarrassing stories of how the public pronouncements of M.P.s do not square with their personal lives. The public dislike hypocrites. Mr. Major may not sack them, but grass roots constituency committees are in the real world where demands are more stringent. Mr. Yeo was forced to resign ministerial office after pressure from his local party. Ordinary people could not stomach him speaking against single parents when he had fathered a child by an adulterous relationship. Hartley Booth resigned his post when he was shown to be a flirtatious preacher. The fear of being exposed as a hypocrite was at work. I call it the H factor, fear of exposure as a hypocrite. 
	All too often Christians underestimate the strength of the H Factor . My children attend a Church of England High School. I wondered why the school  would not teach morality simply on the basis of what the Bible said. Their answer that they did not want to embarrass children from one parent  families seemed less than satisfactory. Then it dawned on me. Biblical morality was an embarrassment to the teachers. So I stood up in the annual parents' meeting and asked the chairman of governors if the failure to teach morality in terms of biblical absolutes was because a number of the staff were know not to live that way. I think it was the most embarrassing question I ever asked. I almost felt sorry for the chairman. But not quite. The H Factor needs to be exposed.
	But the most glaring example of the H Factor is in the field of public health. Have you noticed how public policy on Aids is never to promote chastity and fidelity, only "safe" sex? People will not accept such a high standard we are told. It is unrealistic.
	Now contrast the message on smoking. Are smokers told to smoke the safer cigars, pipes or low tar brands? Is there a safe smoking campaign? No, not at all. The obnoxious weed must be banned from polite society. There is an 11th commandment after all.
	So why the difference between fornication and fumigation? It is the H Factor. The politicians and public health officials know they can give up smoking if necessary, but their little bits on the side, well that is another matter. Politicians will not talk personal morality when they personally fall short of the mark. H Factor rules O.K.?
	No, it is certainly not all right. Let us pray for  politicians whose personal integrity is the basis for their public pronouncements. Let us pray that  Christian leaders would call for better standards in public life.
Graham J Weeks 21.2.94 
This was my talk given on the 350th anniversary of the Westminster Assembly and repeated at a special place in 2003 the the form below.
The Westminster Assembly
In February 2003 the First Presbytery of the International Presbyterian Church in England was privileged to meet in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey, by kind permission of the Dean of Westminster. As moderator of the presbytery I gave this short address on the significance of our meeting place.
         
Believing that the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, and that God is to be worshipped in spirit and truth, we know that ever since the curtain of the Temple was ripped from top to bottom, there have been no holy places. However, there are places of special historic significance, For us Presbyterians, the Jerusalem Chamber is the special of special places., not holy, but very special.
         
 In 1647 the newspaper 'Perfect occurrences of everyday journal in parliament' had something  of a scoop. It was the first ever newspaper advert. It was for a book, 'The divine right of  church government'  This was indeed a different age to our own but it was the most formative one in English history . That was the verdict of historian Christopher 
 Hill on the 17th century. in general and 1640-50 in particular.
         
1643 was a  year after civil war started in England. In 1642 in the battle at Edgehill  there was no clear victory for Charles I nor for Parliament. The king was victorious at Marlborough , Parliament at Winchester, and Turnham Green In 1643 Bristol,  Bradford, Grantham Leeds, Reading Warfield, and  Gainsborough all saw parliamentary forces victorious.
Theatres were closed, income & property taxes introduced, Hobbes was  writing and
Milton too was busy with  "The doctrine and discipline of divorce", Rembrandt painting in Holland and in Italy, Galileo died,  This year , Isaac Newton was born. Coffee drinking  was popular in Paris, Four  colonies formed the  Confederation of 
New England, Tasmania and New Zealand were discovered, Portugal ceded the Gold Coast, now Ghana, to the Dutch.   Gillespie,  a Scottish commissioner to the Westminster Assembly, said an age of righteousness was to be inaugurated as per the prophet Ezekiel and it could be could be 1643.  There was much millennial fever. This was the age of the Westminster Confession.
         
Our elders' ordination promise is 'To sincerely receive and adopt the Westminster Confession as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures and to approve of the Presbyterian form of church government.' The confession is our subordinate standard after Scripture.  The early church formulated the catholic creeds. The Reformation produced national confessions, but in 1618-19, the Synod of Dordt received as true by all reformed churches.
         
In 1643 England and Scotland were two different countries with one king. Both were united in hatred of Archbishop Laud who was imprisoned in 1641 and executed in 1645. In November 1641 the Long Parliament wanted to ban bishops and have representatives of both countries plus some from abroad to consider 'all things necessary for the peace and good government of the church'. A synod was to report to Parliament. Charles refused assent. The bill was passed without. Royal consent and 1st July 1643 was set for 'an assembly of learned and godly divines and others to be consulted with the
 Parliament, for the setting of the government and liturgy of the Church of England' The Assembly met in the Henry VII Chapel of Westminster Abbey. By October it was very cold so they moved to the Jerusalem Chamber. Nearly all saw society as one
 with none of modern concept of separation of church from state. They held a Puritan vision of a united Reformed Christendom as previously it was Catholic. All of England was to live in obedience to God. They wanted a national church establishment to encourage national obedience in a united society. Theirs was a different. view of the coercive power of church councils from today. They saw the entire nation to be in covenant with God. The future of the nation, not merely the church was involved.
 All members were Calvinists. There were121 divines, all Church of England ministers, plus four Scottish commissioners, 10 Lords and 21 Members of Parliament.
Some didn't come because of the king, e.g. Archbishop Ussher. They met in theJerusalem Chamber until 23.March 16.52, first to revise the 39 articles of the Church of England. But the Scots, Baillie Gillespie, Rutherford and Henderson had sworn to uniform reform by the National Covenant of 1638. Baxter was not there 
But said for eminent learning godliness, ministerial abilities and fidelity it was the best Synod, together with Dordt, since the days of the apostles. They had 1163 meetings. 
The Scots with the right to speak but not to vote were influential for the divine 
right of presbytery. The majority of the English said that Presbyterianism was most agreeable to the Word of God though their church had been Episcopalian, They were not prelatists, seeing bishops are princes of the church but as overseers of several churches. Many were still for moderate episcopacy. Some became Presbyterian.
Independents numbered 5 only, among them Goodwin and Nye . All had been exiled to Netherlands and had links with American Colonies. They were not separatists but accepted establishment though not as strongly as New England. Theirs was an influence beyond their numerical strength in the Assembly, possibly because they enjoyed widespread support in the Army, right up to Cromwell himself. There were no Baptists of any kind nor separatists who wanted no link between church and state. There were though Erastians,  Coleman Lightfoot with Selden MP. They believed that pastors are teachers not church rulers. Authority rests with the state. The state is the final arbiter of discipline, excommunication. The church is under state authority. This was the view of many in Parliament. The Assembly was called by Parliament, and prohibited from publishing anything without parliamentary approval. Parliament could and did alter the All Assembly participants had implicit Erastianism.
         
They took an oath to maintain doctrine "most agreeable to the Word of God" and discipline "most to the glory of God and the good and peace of His Church."
Dissent was allowed but it was to be reported to parliament. Plenary sessions met and committees, Monday to -Friday, 9 to 2 except fast days. They met less frequently later. In the first year they debated meeting on December. 25th as the Scots wanted to decry 
superstition and so they did meet on what had formerly been Christmas day. Initially there were three afternoon committees. Members were assigned to one but free to 
go to any. All eventually discussed the same material.  The Grand Committee, a joint one with the Scots, had about 20 members to report to parliament.
Baillie complained of "the unhappy and unammendable prolixity of these people, 
inclined to differ from all the world and from one another and shortly from 
themselves. No people had so much need of a presbytery." This Scottish opinion of the English is still relevant today. There was wearisome procrastination. It was difficult to progress in orderly fashion because of members' diversity and state influence. The
English had looked to civil authority for unity and order, but the Scots to the church. Baillie said weekly preaching before parliament and on Fast Days was with profound reverence that took the edge off all exhortation and made all applications to them toothless and adulatorous.  There was a battle over liberty versus order. It spread to all society. The Scots were stricter than the English. No one said parliament was restricted to civil matters only. 
         
Concern was raised at a book by Williams, The Bloody Tenet of persecution for cause of conscience, published 1644, and at Milton on Divorce. Palmer suggested the result of Willims' teaching would be all manners of heresies. Every man Jew, Turk, pagan, papist, Arminian, Anabaptist, would to be left to his own free liberty of conscience. Milton wrote his Areopagitica for such liberty of expression.
         
The Solemn League and Covenant pledged to maintain Presbyterianism in Scotland and reform the churches of England and Ireland according to Scripture and the examples of 'the best reformed churches'. Parliament and the Assembly signed it in September 1643. There was to be a uniform reformation in doctrine, order and worship. It was the price Parliament had to pay for Scotland's help against Charles I . This was why the Scottish commissioners were present. Later the political alliance failed and by 1650, the future Charles II was signing the Solemn League and Covenant, so he could enlist Scots support against Parliament.
         
Between July and October 1643 revising the Assembly was revising the 39 Articles. By 24 April 1644 a directory for ordination and proposition for church government was finished.  It was not accepted by parliament but was by the Church of Scotland.  There was church discipline for drunkenness, swearing, blasphemy, image worship, duels, dancing, gambling, Sabbath breaking, going to mediums. extortion, bribery and fraud. In 
1644 a big parliament victory at Marston Moor established the authority of Oliver Cromwell.  His secret was his disciplined cavalry, the only ones who would reform and charge again instead of the customary cavalry habit of riding off after one charge in order to loot the enemy's baggage train. "God made them as stubble to our swords", Cromwell would write. He was a godly man with a keen sense of the providence of God in all events. His army took York.  The Queen fled to France.  That year Rutherford published Lex Rex, to show God's law rules, even over Kings. But the assembly was bogged down in eclessiology. There was a breach in the spring of 1645 between Presbyterians and Independents. It is significant that this happened when the army triumphed.  In 1645 Naseby, Bristol, Winchester, Carlisle, Basingstoke were all victories for Lt-General Cromwell.
         
1645 accepted the Directory for Public Worship by the churches and parliament. It was not a liturgy. Preaching was emphasised. Parliament told the Assembly to go on to the Confession and stop the church government. debate. There was trouble over the relation of church courts to parliament and Chapter 30 declared the church free from 
parliament overruling excommunication. This clash with the Erastian parliament reopened the church government dispute. The Assembly never formally answered parliament's queries.  The Confession's most notable omission is any clear statement of Presbyterian church government. This is understandable once one knows the history of conflict in the Assembly and with parliament.
         
1646 saw Oxford fall and Charles captured. The Confession not the Assembly's prime task but it was done by April 1647.  The king at Carisbrooke agreed to abolish 
Episcopacy and restore Presbyterianism. November 5th 1647 saw the completion of the Shorter Catechism.  On 13 October 1647 Parliament established a Presbyterian Church of England for one year but Cromwell did not favour this.
14.April 1648 the Longer catechism was finished and approved by the Church of Scotland. But by now Scotland and England were at war. The English were victorious at. Preston and later at Dunbar
         
1649 saw civil approval of the Westminster Standards in Scotland .Bur when Charles was executed the Scots proclaimed his son king in Edinburgh. 
22 February 1649 was the end of the Assembly's numbered sessions but until it continued until 16 52 as ministerial training committee.
         
In 1660 a modified, less Presbyterian version of the Confession was accepted by parliament but the mood had changed in England by this time 2 years after Cromwell had died
         
1658 saw the Savoy Declaration, the Congregational confession and in 1689 Baptist Confession Both based on the Westminster Confession.  In 1729 it was adopted by the original synod in North America 
         
Now or Confession enjoys the voluntary adhesion of multitudes where this English nation failed to confess it. Now liberals fail to confess while we fail to teach it. Our Confession is a product of its age. But what an age, and what a product. 
         
Solei Deo Gloria.
         
         
         
         
Hope for the downcast
All of us struggle with ups and downs, some of us more than others.
In one Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown tells Lucy." life has its ups and downs", but 
Lucy replies, "Why, I want Ups, ups ups!" The News of the World, the paper which boasts the world's largest circulation, had
the slogan, All human life is there. Well, the sordid bits certainly are, but if you
really want to know about real Christian life look at the Psalms. he Psalmists
sometimes are on the mountain peaks of spiritual experience, sometimes cast down in
the depths. Sometimes a Psalm from the depths ends in gloom, like sometimes one
day seems to get no better, but other Psalms give us great hope as we see how
those who hope in God transcend the problems faced in this life which have a
tendency to cast us down. Psalms 42 & 43 give us hope. They fit together with one
theme and structure. Ps. 42 For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. Prayer of a member the Levitical choir far from home 3 stanzas of 5 verses with refrain 5,11,43:5 plus one central key theme verse 8 Refrain can be our main text Why? Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Feels forgotten 9 by God, rejected 43.2, but no link with known sin But first step in dealing with depression is to talk to yourself, not just to
listen. Examine yourself and reason. Be active. Do not be passive giving in to
your feelings. Jerry who refused to give in. Why was the Psalmist downcast and disturbed? Thing he puts first is not the external
causes, the oppression from his enemies, but his lack of fellowship with God. I. Drought Ps. 42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. Deer need constant supply especially when pursued but chase is not in the Psalm,
rather a drought. Looks for perennial flowing streams. Joel 1:20 Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up
and fire has devoured the open pastures. Jerusalem. 14:1-6 This is the word of the LORD to Jeremiah concerning the drought:
"Judah mourns, her cities languish; they wail for the land, and a cry goes up from
Jerusalem. The nobles send their servants for water; they go to the cisterns but
find no water. They return with their jars unfilled; dismayed and despairing, they
cover their heads. The ground is cracked because there is no rain in the land;
the farmers are dismayed and cover their heads. Even the doe in the field deserts
her new-born fawn because there is no grass. Wild donkeys stand on the barren
heights and pant like jackals; their eyesight fails for lack of pasture." Ps. 119:131 I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Ps. 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my
body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Ps. 143:6 I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched
land. Deut. 5:26 For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking
out of fire, as we have, and survived? Cry of when in response to where, drought of communion with God Vulnerable when things go wrong for professes faith in God, among those who those
who hunger and thirst for righteousness, not those already filled Is lack of fellowship with God a high priority to be sorted out in your life? Every time I am depressed, fellowship with God is at a low ebb. Give high priority to restoring fellowship. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, So downcast he is not eating while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" 4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession
to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Past memory may be disturbing but it should remind us that no condition is permanent
Past and future give us hope. 5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in
God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and 6 my God. Having hope is the spur to action, hope in God. Distress is neither unavoidable nor unendurable II. Depths My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the
Jordan, the heights of Hermon --from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar
of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Jonah 2:3 You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the
currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. In north of land at Jordan head waters 8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me-- a prayer to the
God of my life. 9 I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I
go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" Ps. 42:10 My bones suffer mortal
agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope
in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God. III. Deliverance Appeals to God as judge Ps. 43:1 Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue
me from deceitful and wicked men. 2 You are God my stronghold. Why have you
rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? 3 Send forth
your light and your truth, let them guide me; Light and truth personified as God's messengers to lead to the temple Ps. 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is
the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid? let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. 4 Then will
I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the
harp, O God, my God. 5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within
me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God. hope in God Isa. 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will
soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not
be faint. Isa. 49:23 I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed." Jerusalem. 14:22 Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies
themselves send down showers? No, it is you, O LORD our God. Therefore our hope is
in you, for you are the one who does all this. Jerusalem. 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to
prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Lam. 3:21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Lam. 3:25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks
him; Micah 7:7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Saviour;
my God will hear me. Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways
to his face. Ps. 25:3 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be
put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. Ps. 25:5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my
hope is in you all day long. Ps. 31:24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. Ps. 33:18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope
is in his unfailing love, Ps. 33:20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. Ps. 33:22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope
in you. Ps. 52:9 I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will
hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints. Ps. 62:5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. Ps. 65:5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Saviour, the
hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, Ps. 71:5 For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. Ps. 71:14 But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Ps. 119:43 Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope
in your laws. Ps. 119:49 Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. Ps. 119:74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope
in your word. Ps. 119:81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope
in your word. Ps. 119:114 You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. Ps. 119:147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. Ps. 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. Ps. 130:7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption. Ps. 146:5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD
his God, Ps. 147:11 the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his
unfailing love. 1 Tim. 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and
of Christ Jesus our hope, Rom. 5:2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we
now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Rom. 5:4-5 perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not
disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy
Spirit, whom he has given us. Rom. 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Rom. 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us,
so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Eph. 1:18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order
that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious
inheritance in the saints, 2Ths. 2:16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and
by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 1 Tim. 5:5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God
and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 1 Tim. 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor
to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God,
who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Rom. 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in
him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Convinced civility
1 Pet. 3:15   But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give 
an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 
But do this with gentleness and respect, 
         
Peter writes to suffering Christians facing opposition. Tempted to keep a low 
profile but told to be ready to speak out, yet with gentleness and respect.
Not well known characteristics of bold witnesses.
         
                               .......... everywhere 
       The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
       The best lack all conviction, while the worst 
       Are full of passionate intensity. 
W B Yeats  The Second Coming
         
The medium often is the message. World full of good communicators of bad ideas. 
Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness, while the children of the kingdom often do not come 
across well, Ian Paisley
         
Civility is public politeness, a kinder gentler people. It is a fruit of
the Spirit. But people who are civil often lack strong convictions and
those with strong convictions lack civility. We need both civility and
passionate conviction, a convinced civility.
         
It means treating all people, especially those with whom we differ with courtesy 
because they too are made in the image of God, marred though it be.
         
Hebr. 12:14   Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy;
without holiness no one will see the Lord. We need a convinced civility. One biblical book that helps us to move thoughtfully in the direction of living as servants of God is 1 Peter. From what we know about the civility, or lack of it, in the apostle Peter in his earlier days of ministry, as explained in the Gospels (recall who cut off the priest's servant's ear? => John 18:10), these words in 1 Peter carry authentic weight as someone, who through his growth in Christlikeness, exhibits much more of an appreciation of the fruit of the Spirit in this sphere "convinced civility". What convicted civility is not Civility is not relativism. It does not mean we cannot criticise wrong things. We
can approve that people have the right to say some things without agreeing that what
they say is right. Not non-judgemental It is not refusing to proclaim standards by which conduct is to
be judged. No-one can be non-judgemental. Accept the person, not the sin. See them for their potential, not their sinfulness.
The judge who was Christlike. Not a mere evangelistic strategy. Characteristics of convinced civility Opposite of a Crusading spirit Thought they had a good cause and went about achieving their aims in a godless
brutal way. In fact the cause was also wrong. But a crusading spirit says, We are
in a battle for the soul of the nation. No compromise with error. No surrender. The
devil loves pluralism and toleration. Liberal crusaders have different slogans,
Nothing must stop our pursuit of social justice, God wants us to empower the poor,
the task is too urgent to worry about niceties. Seeks change in all of life God cares about public as well as private righteousness and morality He wants Christians to be agents for change. But those of us who delight to proclaim God's sovereignty, holiness, justice and
wrath need also to do it in a way that is God like in terms of his love and
gentleness., a God who is slow to anger, and often takes a lot of time to change s
stubborn hearts, a God who brings about change without writing off people as junk. Modest We need a modesty about what can be done and be faithful where God has placed us
with the resources available to us. There has only been one true Messiah. The place to learn civility The church is the context to learn public righteousness. We should learn it first
in the family then in the church where views may differ but are expressed with respect. The family gives us some problems in this area for we have a bad of strong love and
a familiarity which can lead to a lack of civility, especially among our children.
I'll kill him for using my mug. We start to learn in the family and learn more in
the church. If we cannot live work and speak together with convinced civility as a people of God
our testimony to the world will not be credible. Why have we not had a credible
testimony to many Muslims. They look to the nation. We need to point them to the
church. Choose words carefully The Crusader believes the cause is so important any means may be used to attain the
end including abusive speech. Story of the stones thrown by the black boy. Baxter and Naylor p52 Label and dismiss Question what names to use Remember we are all sinners Concentrate on your own sinfulness and the other person's humanity Ps. 139:19 -24 If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you
bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your
name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against
you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if
there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Listen. Learn to find good things in those from whom you differ. Learn to appreciate diversity need to disentangle it from false religions and value
systems but God loves diversity Rev. 5:9-10 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to
open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for
God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a
kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." Difficult but essential All sexuality is warped sexuality. No-one is either gay or straight. Question the
terminology. Just because someone has a different view of reality do not let them
judge yours to be a phobia. Be honest, be frank but you do not have to sniff every dustbin in town to know what
rubbish is. There is a way of talking about sexuality which is unacceptable.
Scripture is not prudish but neither does it take delight in erotic titillation. Remember we all have things of which we are ashamed. The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. Eph. 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into
him who is the Head, that is, Christ. We are triumphant in Christ We are to proclaim His victory and authority but without triumphalism We are sometimes good prophets but poor priests for we fail to identify with people
and where their problems are. Listen and identify. The leader is affected by the
people. Jesus was. He wept. We stick to issues not scoring points off people Majumdar We show appreciation of the good things in their lives We confess that we are sinners and they fall short of their own standards Garba We point them to the sufficiency of Christ We demonstrate his love in our community give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, We live in the time of God's patience. He is patient with us and works slowly. He draws straight lines with crooked sticks
The Providence of God The greatest comfort in this world
Ps. 62:11-2   One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are
strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person
according to what he has done. Ps. 62 is a psalm of David. David up against it and near to falling Ps. 62:3 How long will you assault a man? Would all of you throw him down-- this
leaning wall, this tottering fence? Ps. 62:4 They fully intend to topple him from his lofty place; He is the king but uneasy lies
the head... Surrounded by lying, deceitful people Ps. 62:4 they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their
hearts they curse. So can he put his trust in people, no. People are not to be trusted Ps. 62:9 Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a
balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. The king may be rich but does he put trust in wealth to protect him? No. Ps. 62:10 Do not trust in extortion or take pride in stolen goods; though your
riches increase, do not set your heart on them. So if you are up against great difficulties, adverse circumstances, and people or
possessions are no help, what do you do? Ps. 62:1 My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. Ps. 62:2 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be
shaken. The leaning fence finds stability on the rock. David is a rickety fence. God is a
castle fortress in whom he can be safe. He encourages himself to trust in this God who alone gives hope for the future Ps. 62:5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. God gives him confidence that he will not fall Ps. 62:6 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be
shaken. He has confidence, not from self but from God. I am amazes at the faith of the atheist, faith in self to survive, but my future
depends on God Ps. 62:7 My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. I can run to the rock and be safe. Prov. 18:10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and
are safe. He trusts and encourages others to trust whatever their situation. Ps. 62:8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for
God is our refuge. Ps. 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. What is it about God that gives David this confidence? Ps. 62:11,12 One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God,
are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Our God is strong, our God is loving. This is the providence of God. The Heidelberg catechism defines it like this 27. Q. What do you understand by the providence of God? A. God's providence is His almighty and ever present power,[1] whereby, as with His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures,[2] and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty,[3] indeed, all things, come not by chance[4] but by His fatherly hand.[5] We have a loving Heavenly father who rules and controls the world he has made for
the purposes of his glory and our good. Our world is not ruled by evil or by chance
but by our powerful, loving Father in heaven Where do we best learn that God is strong, loving and in control? At the cross, the death of the son of God. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The death of Jesus on the cross was no accident, no tragedy, but God's great plan
for our salvation. This is what Peter and John confessed Acts 4:27 -28 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and
the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom
you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Men plotted to do evil but God meant it for good. God is so in control that he can
use the acts of evil men to accomplish his purposes. Were these men forced? Was Judas compelled to betray? No. They act as responsible
agents but God is controlling it all for his purposes. Men may plot evil. God uses it for his salvation. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery to be rid of him. They intended evil. What
did God intend? Joseph told his brothers Gen. 45:5 -7 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for
selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For
two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there
will not be ploughing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a
remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. Gen. 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish
what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Only a mighty sovereign loving God, who controls all his creation can do this, and
do it without violating the wills of people who remain responsible for their actions. God is in control and man is responsible Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. This is the last phrase of our Psalm. it teaches human responsibility as well as
divine sovereignty. God is strong, loving and in control, yet we are responsible
for what we do. We will be held to account. no-one can say I sinned because God made
me do it. Judas betrayed Jesus for the money. For 30 pieces of silver. Did God make him do it?
No, but God overruled and used the greed of Judas for our salvation. Judas knew he
was responsible. That is why he hanged himself. We find it impossible to reconcile these two things that the Scriptures teach,
divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We do not have to reconcile them We
only have to believe them both for our comfort and our good because God tells us
both are true. The best illustration is in Paul's shipwreck. Acts 27:22 -25 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you
will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose
I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, Do not be afraid, Paul. You must
stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail
with you.' So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen
just as he told me. Take courage for God is in control for our salvation Acts 27:30-31 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat
down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow.
Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay with the
ship, you cannot be saved." God will save but he will do it through the skill of the crew. God who orders what
will happen also orders that it will happen through responsible human action. So you see this is no fatalism. It does not say. ke sira sira whatever will be will
be. It trusts God and acts. It doesn't say God will save people without our help.
It
says God will save people when we pray and preach the gospel for these are the means
he will use to accomplish his purposes. Our God is strong, loving and in control. We are to trust him no matter what. this
is the trial of faith. Will we trust in God, in his promises, his word, his salvation
when things go well or will we neglect him? When things go badly will we complain why this has happened to us or will we trust
in the loving providence of God? We live in a fallen world which is in rebellion against God. Things go wrong. Big
things, little things. Is your hope and confidence in God alone? How does this teaching help us? 28. Q. What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by His providence? A. We can be patient in adversity,[1] thankful in prosperity,[2] and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from His love;[3] for all creatures are so completely in His hand that without His will they cannot so much as move. patient in adversity Job 1:21 and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." James 1:3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Ps. 55:22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let
the righteous fall. Rom. 5:3 -5 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know
that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope
. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our
hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. thankful in prosperity 1Ths. 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in
Christ Jesus. with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from His love; Rom. 8:38 -39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor
demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor
depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love o
f God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. for all creatures are so completely in His hand that without His will they cannot so much as move. Prov. 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. Matt. 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall
to the ground apart from the will of your Father. Job 1:12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your
hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the
presence of the LORD. God is in charge, not Satan Prov. 21:1 The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a
watercourse wherever he pleases. No matter who wins the general election, God is in charge. "A firm faith in the universal providence of God is the solution of all earthly
troubles." b.b.warfield Do you know this God as your loving heavenly father? Come to him now through his
Son.
Harvest
Gen. 8:22    "As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, 
summer and winter, day and night will never cease." 
read Lev 23 9-22, 23-44
Exod. 23:14-17    "Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.
"Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast,
 as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that
month you came out of Egypt. "No one is to appear before me empty-handed. Celebrate
the Feast of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops you sow in your field.
"Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your
crops from the field. "Three times a year all the men are to appear before the
Sovereign LORD. Unleavened bread = Passover =First fruits Harvest = Weeks = Pentecost Ingathering = Tabernacles Exod. 34:22 "Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the first fruits of the wheat
harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Lev. 23:10 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land I
am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the
first grain you harvest. Deut. 16:15 For seven days celebrate the Feast to the LORD your God at the place
the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in
all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. Emphasis on rejoice D12 one place. 14 if too far Remembering Redemption Ps. 67:6 Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. Ps. 85:12 The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its
harvest. Emphasis on land and God's salvation tied to land of Israel Ps. 107:37 They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest; NT looks to a different harvest Matt. 9:37-38 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the
workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into
his harvest field." He had called fishermen to a different harvest. At the end a gathering in. Matt. 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the
harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then
gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'" Matt. 13:39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of t
he age, and the harvesters are angels. Parable of tenants showed harvest not coming from Israel Matt. 21:34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants
to collect his fruit. Matt. 21:41 "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and
he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop
at harvest time." Rom. 1:13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to
c
home to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might
have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. Day of Pentecost gathers first fruit. Now time to gather in more, until last day. Harvest of judgement to come. Rev. 14:15 Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to
him who was sitting on the cloud, "Take your sickle and reap, because the time to
reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." harvest of righteousness 2Cor. 9:10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also s
supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your
righteousness. Gal. 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap
a harvest if we do not give up. Hebr. 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on,
however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been
trained by it. James 3:18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Pentecost
Deut  16:9-12
Pentecost means 50 days,  from Passover. 
Lev. 23:16   Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then
present an offering of new grain to the LORD. Same as Feast of Harvest Exod. 23:16 "Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops
you sow in your field. "Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year,
when you gather in your crops from the field. Same as Feast of Weeks Exod 34:22 "Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the first fruits of the wheat
harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Num. 28:26 "On the day of first fruits, when you present to the LORD an
offering of new grain during the Feast of Weeks, hold a sacred assembly and do
no regular work. Deut. 16:10 Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a
freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you. One of three annual feasts. Deut. 16:16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God
at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks
and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: Pledge of full harvest to come. Trust in God for full harvest. Offerings presented. Proportionate. Rejoice Remember Rest Obey Done at time of 1st temple. 2Chr. 8:13 according to the daily requirement for offerings commanded by Moses
for Sabbaths, New Moons and the three annual feasts --the Feast of Unleavened Bread
, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. After exile, remember Law giving Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Peter explained it in terms of Joel, day of Lord. Reading Calvin to prepare a sermon I came across this. The violence of the wind had the effect of making them afraid. For we are never
rightly prepared to receive the grace of God unless the vain confidence of the
flesh has been mastered. For as by faith we have open access to Him, so it is that
humility and fear open the door for Him to come to us. He will have nothing to do
with proud and careless men who please themselves. On Acts 1:2 Since no man is excluded from calling upon God the gate of salvation is set open to
all. There is nothing else to hinder us from entering, but our own unbelief. On Acts 1:21. This could be called Calvin's free offer of the Gospel! The Observance of Pentecost in the Early Church Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University The earliest references to the observance of Pentecost in the early Church come down to us from the second half of the second century. The lack of information for the previous period does not mean that Pentecost was not observed. The incidental references to Pentecost in the New Testament that we examined in chapter 6 as well as the earliest accounts of its observance in Christian literature suggest that the feast had been widely observed from apostolic times. Season of Rejoicing. Pentecost was regarded in the early Church as a fifty-day period of joy and triumph during which Christians were to refrain from kneeling and fasting. As noted above, the earliest reference to the celebration of such a period, as we have seen, is found in the apocryphal Acts of Paul (about A. D. 180), where we read: "While Paul was in prison, the brethren, since it was Pentecost, wept not neither did they bow the knee, but they stood and prayed rejoicing. "28 From about the same time, a fragment of a lost book about Passover by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (about A. D. 130-200), says: "Pentecost, in which we do not bend our knees, because it has the same value as the Lord's day. This custom started in apostolic times. "29 This passage is interesting because it derives from apostolic times the practice of not kneeling during Pentecost. By the end of the second century we find in the writings of Tertullian (about A. D. 160-225) numerous admonitions to refrain from kneeling and fasting during the season of Pentecost. In his treatise On Fasting, Tertullian challenges the argument that all the feasts have been abolished by posing these rhetorical questions: "Why do we observe the Passover by an annual rotation in the first month? Why in the fifty ensuing days do we spend our time in exultation?"30 The point of Tertullian's argument is that the Old Testament feasts can hardly have been abolished if Christians were still observing them. The passage shows that Pentecost was viewed as an unbroken period of rejoicing. Tertullian expresses the same view of Pentecost in his treatise On Baptism: "Pentecost is a most joyous space for conferring baptisms. "31 What makes Pentecost a most joyous season are the events commemorated during this period. Tertullian mentions specifically four of them: (1) the resurrection, which was repeatedly proven among the disciples; (2) the ascension; (3) Christ's promise to return to gather His people; and (4) the descent of the Holy Spirit. 32 Standing in Prayer as an Emblem of the Resurrection. The celebration of the fifty days as a joyful period in which it was forbidden to fast or to kneel is well attested by such writers as Epiphanius, Basil the Great, Hippolytus, and Jerome. 33 The custom also is mentioned in the apocryphal Testament of the Lord: "At Pentecost let no one fast or kneel. For these are days of rest and joy. Let those who bear burdens of labour refresh themselves a little in the days of Pentecost. "34 The Apostolic Constitutions go so far as declaring guilty of sin those who fast during the days of Pentecost, because on those days Christians ought to rejoice and not to mourn. 35 The reason for not fasting or kneeling during the days of Pentecost is clearly given by Augustine: "The period of fifty days we celebrate after the Lord's resurrection, represents not toil, but rest and gladness. For this reason we do not fast in them; and in praying we stand upright, which is an emblem of resurrection." 36 By standing in prayer during Pentecost, Christians were honouring not only the resurrection of Christ but also the future resurrection of the believers. In his treatise On the Holy Spirit Basil explains more precisely the eschatological meaning of standing: "All Pentecost is a reminder of the resurrection expected in the age to come. . . . On this point the rules of the church have educated us to prefer the upright attitude of prayer, for by their plain reminder they, as it were, make our mind to dwell no longer in the present but in the future. Moreover every time we fall upon our knees and rise from off them we show by the very deed that by our sin we fell down to earth, and by the loving kindness of our Creator were called back to heaven." 37 Mood rather than Mode of Observance. The foregoing references describe more the mood of the Pentecost celebration than the manner of its observance. Early Christian writers often tell us that during the fifty days of Pentecost Christians did not mourn, fast, or kneel; but they do not tell us what distinctive religious services were conducted either privately at home or publicly at church. During the first three centuries, apparently only a few distinctive religious ceremonies were associated with Pentecost. One was the administration of baptism. Tertullian explains that Passover was the ideal time for baptism because at that festival "the Lord's passion, in which we are baptised, was completed." 38 After Passover, Tertullian says, "Pentecost is a most joyous space for conferring baptisms." 39 Presumably the reason is that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost could remind the baptismal candidates of the baptism of the Spirit that was to accompany their baptism by water. It should be noted that the administration of baptism in early Christianity was usually an annual event, because it took at least a year to prepare for baptism candidates coming from a pagan background. While believing Jews could be baptised immediately, as at Pentecost, because they already had a Biblical faith and practice, pagan converts could be baptised only after months or even years of instruction into the Christian faith. Special Scripture Readings for Pentecost. A valuable source of information on the observance of Pentecost in the early Church are the lectionaries, that is, manuals containing specific Scripture readings assigned to the feasts in the year. Though the lectionaries for the feasts are not extant before the ninth century, they do reflect liturgical traditions that go back to early Christianity. Some of them are quite revealing for an understanding of the meaning of Pentecost in the early Church. The earliest lectionaries are in the Syriac language, a branch of Aramaic that was extensively used in early Christianity. From the second century onward, Syriac was used in translations of the Bible and in the production of Christian literature. The early Syriac Lectionary lists thirteen Biblical passages to be read on the final day of Pentecost. Each passage is accompanied by a brief annotation, which explains the reason for the usage of the passage. "Job 32:6 to 33:6 (The Spirit gives wisdom); Daniel 1:1-21 (Ten days put to the test); Joel 2:21-31 (cf. Acts 2); Judges 13:2-25 (Birth of Samson, the Nazarite, drinking no wine); 1 Samuel 16:1-13 (Unction of David); Jeremiah 31:27-37 (New Covenant); Isaiah 48:12 to 49:13 (The Lord assembles Israel, new Covenant); Genesis 11:1-9 (Tower of Babel, 'antitype' of Pentecost story in Acts); Exodus 19:1 to 20:17 (Gathering around Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments); Psalm 47 (Responsively v. 8 'God reigns over the nations'); Acts 2:1-21 (Pentecost-story). 1 Corinthians 12:1-27 (The working of the Spirit); John 14:15-27 (Promise of the Paraclete)."40 The comments given in brackets for the choice of the periscopes reveal that Pentecost was seen as a feast that commemorated the new Covenant, the giving of the Law, the outpouring of Holy Spirit, and the bestowal of spiritual gifts. Presumably, these were some of the themes that were expounded during the religious service. The choice of the Old Testament readings suggests that Christians viewed the old covenant established at Sinai through the giving of the Law as a type of the new covenant fulfilled on the day of Pentecost through the giving of the Holy Spirit. The Greek lectionary mentions the following Scripture readings from the Old Testament: "Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29 (The seventy elders on whom the Spirit is laid); Joel 2:23-32 (cf. Acts 2); Ezekiel 36:24-28 (Gathering of Israel, a new Spirit is put in it)."41 Of these Scripture readings, the most interesting is the one from Numbers 11:16-29, where we are told that a part of the Spirit of Moses was laid on the seventy elders. In a sense, this is one of the best types of Pentecost story in the Old Testament. The seventy elders played also a significant role in preparing the Israelites for God's revelation at Mount Sinai (Ex 19: 7) and for leading them into the covenant commitment (Ex 24:9). Apparently, some Christians saw in that story a foreshadowing of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Goudoever lists several other early Christian lectionaries which mention the reading of Exodus 19 for the liturgy of Pentecost. On the basis of these he concludes: "One of the most striking agreements between the Church and the Synagogue lessons is the reading of the Revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai. The story is considered by the Church fathers as the Old Testament 'type' of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Christian Pentecost Day." 42 Augustine offers a suggestive comparison between the giving of the Law at Sinai and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost: "In former times Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai and he proclaimed the commandments of the Lord before the people. There God came down to the mountain, here the Holy Spirit came to be visible in tongues of fire. There thunder and voices, here fishermen sparkling with various flaming tongues. This is what the divine passage said, 'when the days of Pentecost were fulfilled.'" 43 Later Developments. Beginning from the fourth century, the liturgy of Pentecost became very elaborate. The same was true for all the religious feasts. The freedom and financial support that Roman emperors gave to the Church influenced church leaders to develop more elaborate rituals, often in imitation of pompous pagan rituals. The observance of Pentecost began with an all-night vigil during which several masses would be read, the baptismal fountain would be blessed, the baptismal candidates would be confirmed, and numerous prayers and songs would be offered. 44 During the Middle Ages, various customs developed as part of the celebration of Pentecost. The dove as symbol of the Holy Spirit was widely used to re-enact in a dramatic way the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. When the priest arrived at the altar, he sang in a loud and solemn voice: "Come, Holy Ghost" (Viene Sancte Spiritus). Then, immediately, a blowing sound was produced in the church. According to Francis Weiser, "This noise was produced in some countries, like France, by the blowing of trumpets; in others by choirboys, who hissed, hummed, pressed windbags, and rattled the benches. All eyes turned toward the ceiling of the church where from an opening called 'Holy Ghost Hole' there appeared a disc the size of a cart wheel, which slowly descended in horizontal position, swinging in ever-widening circles. Upon a blue background, broken by bundles of golden rays, it bore on its underside the figure of a white dove. "Meanwhile, the choir sang the sequence. At its conclusion the dove came to rest, hanging suspended in the middle of the church. There followed a 'rain' of flowers indicating the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and of water symbolising baptism. In some towns of central Europe people even went so far as to drop pieces of burning wick or straw from the Holy Ghost Hole, to represent the flaming tongues of Pentecost. This practice, however, was eventually stopped because it tended to put people on fire externally, instead of internally as the Holy Spirit had done at Jerusalem. In the thirteenth century in many cathedrals of France real white pigeons were released during the singing of the sequence and flew around the church while roses were dropped from the Holy Ghost Hole." 45 Like Easter, Pentecost in time came to include pagan superstitious practices associated with ancient Spring festivals. "In many places," Weiser writes, "all through Pentecost night could be heard the noise of shooting (Pfingstschiessen) and cracking of whips (Pfingstschnalzen). In pre-Christian times this observance was held to frighten harmful powers away from home and harvest; in Christian times it assumed the character of a salute to the great feast. The modern version of the ancient Spring festival (maypole and May Queen) is connected with Pentecost in many sections of Europe. The queen is called 'Pentecost Bride' (Pfingstbraut). Other relics of the Indo-European Spring festival are the games, dances, and races held at Pentecost. This tradition used to be most popular everywhere in the Middle Ages, and still is in central Europe. In England, Pentecost Sunday was a day of horse races, plays, and feasting (Whitsun Ale). In Germany, too, people would hold banquets (Pfingstgelage) and drink 'Pentecost beer.'" 46 The production and sale of a stronger "Pentecost beer," known in England as "Whitsun Ale," was an important part of the Pentecost celebration which involved local churches. In his book The Christian Year, Edward Horn writes: "This was one of the 'parish ales' which were parochial festivals featured by ale which was stronger than usual, and which was sold by the church warden who used the proceeds for the repairs of the church or for distribution to the poor. These ales were of social importance in England in the middle Ages and were usually held in the churchyard or a nearby barn. Colleges and universities used to brew their own ales and raise money by holding their own ales. Such celebrating was not restricted to England and the (Lutheran) Saxon General Articles in 1557 inveighed against the excesses of the 'Pfingsttänze, Pfingstschiessens, Pfingstbiers.' But, while the English reformers tried to suppress these social activities, Luther could see no harm in them, and most Lutheran orders ignored them." 47 Colonial America was not without its Pentecost's frolics. The most important celebration in colonial New York was on Capitol Hill in Albany, which was known as Pinkster Hill, from the German word for Pentecost, "Pfingsten." It was a slave frolic. "The Negroes kept up the fun for a week, dancing, eating gingerbread and drinking in honour of their legendary 'Old King Charley.' They used cast-off finery to bedeck themselves and consumed so much liquor that the bacchanalia had finally to be suppressed. On Long Island the festival was observed by whites as well as blacks; in parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland, usually by Negroes only." 48 The degeneration of the Feast of Pentecost from a celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into an occasion to seek for the infilling of alcoholic spirits and the pleasure of games, dances, and races is a sad commentary on the perversion of a Biblical feast. Our challenge today is to reject the secularisation of God's Holy Days by rediscovering their meaning and relevance for our Christian life. ## Conclusion. The observance of Pentecost in the early church was characterised by a mood of rejoicing during the fifty days following Passover. What made Pentecost a most joyous season were the events commemorated during that period, namely, the resurrection, the ascension, the promise of Christ's Return, the inauguration of Christ's intercessory ministry, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the birth of the Christian mission. To express their joy and gladness, Christians refrained from kneeling, fasting, and mourning during the fifty days of Pentecost. By standing for prayer and singing, Christians were honouring the resurrection of Christ as well as the future resurrection of all believers. Like the Jews, Christians had few distinctive ceremonies associated with Pentecost. One of them was the administration of baptism to those candidates who for months or years had been instructed into the Christian faith. Being the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost could remind the baptismal candidates of the baptism of the Spirit that was to accompany their water baptism. The Scripture readings for the last day of Pentecost were mostly Old Testament passages dealing with the new covenant and the giving of the Law at Sinai. This suggests that Christians viewed the covenant that God established with the Israelites through the giving of the Law at Sinai as foreshadowing the new covenant that God established with the spiritual Israel through the giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Gradually Pentecost, like Easter, degenerated into an occasion to seek for pleasure rather than the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Drinking, dancing, playing, and feasting became the popular way to celebrate the feast. To a large extent, this trend has continued to our times. God's Holy Days have largely become an occasion to seek for personal pleasure and profit, rather than for the peace and power of God's Spirit.
Heaven What is it like?

Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Paul,2Cor. 12:4 was
caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. Phil. 1:23 I am torn
between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
Z

Resurrection is our final state, but what is heaven like now? What does the future hold?

John in Rev 4 saw a door standing open in heaven, and what did he see, but a throne.

Vision of God as enthroned

Rev. 1:4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was,
and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,

2Chr. 18:18 Micaiah continued, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with
all the host of heaven standing on his right and on his left.

Ezek. 1:26 Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne
was a figure like that of a man. Ezek. 10:1 I looked, and I saw the likeness of a throne of sapphire above the expanse
that was over the heads of the cherubim.

Dan. 7:9 "As I looked, "thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as
snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.

Eternal throne of justice and power

Ps. 9:4 For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously.

Ps. 9:7 The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgement.

Ps. 45:6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom.

Ps. 47:8 God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.

Ps. 93:2 Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.

Ps. 97:2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Lam. 5:19 You, O LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation.

His throne in heaven is the true temple

Matt. 5:34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne;

Ps. 11:4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes
examine them.

Ps. 103:19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

Ps. 123:1 I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.

Isa. 63:15 Look down from heaven and see from your lofty throne, holy and glorious. Where are your zeal and your
might? Your tenderness and compassion are withheld from us.

Isa. 66:1 This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will
build for me? Where will my resting place be?

Throne on earth

Jerusalem. 3:17 At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to
honour the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts.

Ezek. 43:7 He said: "Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I
will live among the Israelites forever. The house of Israel will never again defile my holy name --neither they nor their
kings --by their prostitution and the lifeless idols of their kings at their high places.

King Jesus to be enthroned

Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his
father David,

Future throne

Matt. 25:31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly
glory.

Hebr. 1:8 But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the
sceptre of your kingdom.

Hebr. 8:1 The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the
throne of the Majesty in heaven,

Hebr. 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the
cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

God now reigns in heaven

Rev. 4:2-6 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the
one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.
Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were
dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals
of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne
there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the centre, around the throne, were four living creatures,
and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

Rev. 4:9-10 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives
for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for
ever and ever.

The lamb is on the throne

Rev. 5:6-7 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four
living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all
the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.

The fact that he is the lamb, like a lamb that has been slain, speaks of his atonement as a theme of heaven

All creation praises God in heaven

Rev. 5:11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand
times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.

Rev. 5:13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them,
singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!"

Eternity of praise and unspoiled joy

Rev. 7:9-11 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation,
tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and
were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits
on the throne, and to the Lamb." All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living
creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God,

Rev. 7:15 Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on
the throne will spread his tent over them.

Rev. 7:17 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Rev. 14:3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could
learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

He will judge

Rev. 6:16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the
throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

Rev. 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and
there was no place for them.

Rev. 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book
was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

Prayer reaches God's throne now

Exod. 17:16 He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the
Amalekites from generation to generation."

Hebr. 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to
help us in our time of need.

Rev. 8:3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer,
with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.

We will share his throne

Matt. 19:28 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his
glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Rev. 3:21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down
with my Father on his throne.

Our future place

Rev. 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live
with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Rev. 21:5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down,
for these words are trustworthy and true."

Rev. 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb

Rev. 22:3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants
will serve him.

 

Forgiveness

being notes for a sermon 12.7.98 IPC Ealing

Matt. 18:15-35

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. "The servant fell on his knees before him. Be patient with me,' he begged, and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. "Then the master called the servant in. You wicked servant,' he said, `I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

 

Introduction- Corie ten Boom and the Ravensbruck guard.

 

1. An obligation to forgive and to keep on forgiving.

 

Matt. 6:12-15 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

To forgive is to let go, not to keep hold. Literally in English the for prefix means a negative. To forgive is not to give, not to give the blame, the punishment, the consequences.

 

When someone sins against you there are rules laid down by the Lord. But what if someone keeps on sinning and supposedly repenting? Note this is not about overlooking sin and not dealing with it. It is about forgiving when someone repents. The Bible always links forgiveness with repentance. Now tis is misunderstood and controversial, we shall return to it later, but I mention it now to put this parable in context.

 

Peter wants to know how often he has to forgive, 7 times? No 490 times says Jesus, there is a continual obligation to forgive those who offend against us.

 

Jesus told the story of a king settling accounts with his servants. One owed an enormous sum. 10.000 talents may be calculated at 30,000 years wages for a labourer. Say £300M. An impossible debt to repay. So the debtor and his family were to be sold into slavery so that the king got something against the debt. No income support or welfare benefits in this kingdom. The man makes a quite unreasonable response. he asks the king to be patient and he will repay all. Pigs were flying low that day. But instead of being a cynic the king was gracious. Taking pity on the man, he forgave the debt. He wrote it off. he would not call him to account for it any more. The man was free. What did he do when freed. Was he grateful, a better man. Not at all. He found a man who owed him a small sum, insignificant by comparison with his indebtedness to the king. This was not £300M but £2000. He grabs the man and throttles him demanding his money. The poor man begs the creditor to be patient but he reuses. He imprisons the debtor. The king hears and orders the man to be brought to hear that because he was unmerciful he would have to repay his enormous debt. He had been shown mercy but showed none himself. So his mercilessness would return on him. Prison and torture was his fate, Torture was used to obtain disclosure of hidden sources of money.

 

The lesson is that unless you are forgiving people, God will call in our debt to him.

 

The sum is enormous. No-one can pay. For the unforgiving there is no hope, only a prospect of eternal torture.

 

2. How can our debt be forgiven?

 

Matt. 9:2-6 Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." Which is easier: to say, Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, Get up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . ." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home."

 

Jesus can forgive sins.

 

Matt. 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

 

He gave his life so we can be forgiven. In him is forgiveness now.

 

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

Acts 5:31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.

 

Note he gives us repentance and forgiveness. Turning from sin is not something we can do of ourselves, We are dead in trespasses and sins. Dead men do not rise and walk, only those whom Jesus raises to new life. He can and does give repentance and forgiveness.

 

Acts 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

 

Acts 13:38 "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.

 

Eph. 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace

 

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

 

So enjoying the remission of our huge unpayable debt through the gift of God, his only Son, we are obligated to forgive others as we have been forgiven.

 

Eph. 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

Col. 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

 

Matt. 10:8 . Freely you have received, freely give.

 

 

3. Forgiveness defined

 

A promise not to bring the sin up to the sinner, others or yourself.

 

 

Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because he who 'forgives' you - out of love - takes upon himself the consequences of what you have done.

Dag Hammarskjold

 

Once a woman has forgiven a man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.

Marlene Dietrich

 

4. Grace is the key

 

If we do not forgive it shows we have not been forgiven. Unless grace received is shown in gracious living, we have no grace, only a prospect of judgement ahead,

 

He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven. Lord Herbert

 

Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

 

Jay Adams says this is fatherly forgiving not a judicial pardon that brings initial justification. Be than as it may, we are under obligation.

 

5. What about forgiving the unrepentant?

 

We mentioned this before. it is common evangelical teaching that we are just to forgive unconditionally. After all did not Jesus do that when he prayed, Father forgive?

No, he did not. he prayed that God would forgive them . Praying for someone's forgiveness is not the same as declaring them forgiven. We should indeed follow Christ example and pray for their forgiveness, or that of Stephen, 'lay not this sin to their charge'. Now he did not say that killing did not matter. He called it sin. He did not say he forgave them. He prayed for God to be gracious to the sinners killing him. Grace is the key. The verses in Mark talk of forgiving while you pray. This is not declaring them forgiven but telling God you want to forgive them. You do not want to hold onto their sin. But until they repent and let go, you cannot have that letting go in real forgiveness which results in true reconciliation. Peace only comes when sin is dealt with. The blood of Christ deals with our sin. We must repent and confess for reconciliation with God and man. When there is repentance there will be forgiveness, then sin can be forgotten, not brought up again.

 

Of course, we are not God. God cannot merely overlook sin, His infinite majesty is infinitely offended by our unwarranted rebellion. He must deal with sin and he has made gracious loving forgiveness free to all who rust in Christ. But we do not have the dignity of God. We can and should overlook trivial offences. but serious matters, one's we cannot, should not let go unremarked lest their repetition cause trouble again, these we must deal with. Go tell your brother his fault. I can expect feedback after this sermon.

 

Forgive from the heart. Even if your brother is unrepentant you are not I believe free to call down wrath from heaven upon him . You are not to,make a lectionary of imprecatory Psalms to sort out those who offend you. you are to pray for their forgiveness,. More than that, go and ask them to repent.

 

Story of the old Yorkshire farmer and Hitler. Save Hitler, and if Thoo wont save him, take him home.

 

6. Conclusion

 

Are you forgiven? Do you forgive? Have you anything to put right now?

The Bread of Life

 

Exodus 16, John 6:25-59

 

Why have you come to church? To worship God, give thanks and learn from Him?

Because you have to?

Company?

Curiosity?

 

Jesus said these people came to him not from curiosity about his miracles but because he could give them what they wanted, food. 5 loaves and 2 fishes had sufficed for 5000.

Jesus says it is not wrong to work for food, but you are interested in the wrong kind of food, this food that spoils. There is a better food, a more important food. It lasts for ever, it gives life forever. It comes from the Son of Man, Jesus.

 

This sounded like a very good deal indeed. No more shopping trips ever. What do you need to do to get this food of eternal life?

 

All you have to do is believe in the one God has sent. No hard labour day after day. Just trust the person God has sent you. He is your provider of everlasting life food.

 

Now come on, this is a bit much. How can we believe someone can do this for us? Prove it to us. Show us you have the power to do this. Moses gave our ancestors food in the desert,. What will you do. These folks were aware of their history, nostalgic for the good old days when God fed them 40 years with manna. Beat that Jesus.

 

Do not look back. Look to the here and now. Now God is giving you real bread from heaven, bread that gives life to the world and this bread is a person who comes from God.

 

The Jews asked for a sign. Jesus gave them an enigma, a riddle.

 

They did not want a riddle, They wanted bread. Give us this bread, Jesus.

 

Note, they still think it is a thing, not a person.

 

You want the bread. I am the bread. Come to me and you will never hunger, believe in me, trust me, you will never be thirsty.

 

Note two things. This is a conversation on two different levels. The people are of a vision limited to the physical, the here and now, daily bread. Jesus has has moved to the spiritual, Coming to Jesus, believing on Jesus, trusting Him, you will be satisfied, nourished for ever. Sunday evening attenders not the parallelism here.

 

God's will is this. v40, look to the Son, to me Jesus, believe in me, trust me, you will receive life eternal, satisfaction now, needs met now, and life forever.

 

A stupendous claim and one that was too much for his hearers.

 

Jesus says he is not surprised at their grumbling rejection. They say they know he has not come from heaven they know where he is from, they know his family. How can he be bread from heaven?

 

Jesus says they do not understand and come to him because something other than human understanding and will is necessary for this, God the Father must draw them to his Son. God must teach them They must listen to what God is saying, learn from God and come to believe in Jesus. Believe in Jesus, you have life for ever.

 

In the past, your ancestors ate bread from heaven, then they died. All of them except two died in the desert, rather a sore point. Why did they die? They had not believed God's promise that he would defeat their enemies and give them the land. They had bread from God but died. Now the real bread from God is here. Eat this real bread from heaven and you live for ever. Jesus, living bread from heaven. My body is the living bread. I am going to give it, a sacrifice to give the world. With some of the Jewish sacrifices the worshippers ate the meat together and rejoiced before God

 

Note v 51, eat the bread, Jesus, live for ever and compare with, v29, believe, v33, come and believe, v40, look and believe, v44 come to Jesus, v47, believe in Jesus. Eating the bread from heaven means coming to Jesus and trusting in Him.

 

v 52. They did not understand this at all. Jesus adds mystery to the puzzle.

 

To have life you must eat his flesh and drink his blood. He stands before them and says this. How can it be?

 

Eat him, drink Him, life forever, resurrection from the dead. Real food and drink are his body and blood. Jesus is real nourishment. Eat and you are in him, linked to him. Jesus has come from God the father and lives because of God his father. If you feed on Jesus you will live because of him.

Note all this feeding, eating, drinking is the same as coming to Jesus and believing in him. Trusting means eating and drinking from Jesus. eating and drinking means believing.

 

Jesus is the bread from heaven Eat and live forever. believe in Jesus and never die.

 

Practical conclusion.

 

Death faces us all. two things certain. You want life beyond death, eternal life, it is only in Jesus, through trust in Him. Repent and believe. tat is the first step.

 

Secondly, believing is receiving the bread of life, Jesus. believing is eating, drinking and being nourished, not physically but spiritually. v55 Real food and drink. Reality is not merely the physical, what we taste and touch. reality is the spiritual too.

 

Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread, gave thanks and said, take, eat this is my body broken for you.

 

Did he mean it was magically made into his body? No. It stayed real bread, but by faith, it became for them a sharing in the body of Jesus, real spiritual nourishment. Here we have a mystery. We believe that at the Lord's table, Jesus is spiritually present feeding us in bread and wine. We do not believe that a priest makes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. We have no magic words or bells to signify a miraculous change takes place and a sacrifice is being offered on an altar. No. We believe that bread and wine on a table are bread and wine. And just as bread and wine nourish our bodies, so when we eat and drink with faith in Jesus Christ, he is spiritually present in the bread and wine. (Spiritually present not, physically he is bodily in heaven, spiritually, by His Holy Spirit, he is present wit h us, nourishing us by his grace.) Just as bread and wine physically nourish us, so Christ here spiritually nourishes us. Al this is by faith in him. To believe is to come to Christ. It is to eat and drink from him. It is all by trust in him that we are nourished, satisfied by God.

 

The Lord's table is no magical priestly ritual with the the offering of a magic sacrifice to God. Neither is it a mere memorial with mere symbols. Here, for those who have faith. Christ is present and he feeds us.

 

Do you believe?

 

If you do, come welcome to the feast. If you have not come to Jesus as your sovereign Lord, now is the day of salvation. Come now, believe, eat and drink and live forever, satisfied by the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Very God of Very God. he calls you to his feast.
IPC 1.8.98

 

The King is Here Mat 1:18-24

(OT reading 1Sam8)

 

Do you ever have funny dreams? Lions. Queen coming to tea is very common. Doesn't really happen. But this amazing story is true. the King of Kings comes to earth, to a dirty stable in the Middle East.

A teenage unmarried mother is going to have a baby. She was probably under 16. She was engaged to be married to an honest carpenter who was probably 20 or so. When he found out she was going to have a baby and he was definitely not the father, well, he decided the marriage was off. He would not take her to court. That would be a public humiliation to get a divorce in court. Would just write a letter of divorce with no fuss. So he slept on these plans, no doubt a very sad man.

Then he had the most amazing dream. An angel, messenger from God, told him to scrap his plan to divorce young Mary. No, God, wanted them to marry. Mary had not been messing around with another man. It was not any man, but God himself who was responsible for Mary's pregnancy. The Holy Spirit of God had made this baby grow within her. It was to be a boy. One who had to be given a special name, Jesus. It means God saves or God will save, God is salvation. He is going to come to save his people from their sins. He is Emmanuel, God coming to be with his people.

Our sermon today is entitled, The King is Here. Who was king where Jesus was born? Herod, a half Jew. Real rulers? Romans. Under European domination and wanted to be free with their own king. But they had not had a proper king for nearly 600 years. 597 BC Jehoiachin their last king went into exile in Babylon. They had only had kings since 1043, less than 450 years. For 400 years before that they had been a nation with no human king. Why? Well God was their only king. First reference to a king in Israel is during their conquest of Canaan.

Num. 23:21 "No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The LORD their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them.

They had no human king. Joshua was their leader, later to be called a judge of Israel, their first. This nation with no human king was to have a king greater than a human one.

Num. 24:7 Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. "Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted.

God was their only king.

Deut. 33:5 He was king over Jeshurun when the leaders of the people assembled, along with the tribes of Israel.

God knew that one day they would want a human king.

Deut. 17:14,15 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite.

200 years after Moses they asked Gideon to be king but he refused.

Judg. 8:22-23 The Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us --you, your son and your grandson --because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian." But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you."

400 years after they left Egypt as a nation, Israel wanted a human king. 1Sam 8 tells the story. Everybody else has a king they said. We want one too. Old Samuel has been our last judge. he is getting on. His sons are covered with sleaze, not fit to be in charge. Give us a king. Old Sam was not happy, not because his sons wouldn't get the family business either. God told Sam he was right to be sad. These people were not just rejecting Samuel's advice, they were rejecting God himself. They wanted to have a king just like every other nation. But the point was that they were not meant to be like every other nation, not even like any other nation. They were to be holy, separate, different because they had a holy, separate, different god.

You shall be holy for I am Holy.

1 Sam. 8:7 And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

God says that this is just one more example of their sin in rejecting Him. They have always done it. But all actions have consequences. God tells Sam to let the Israelites know what will happen when they have a human king just like other nations.

He will force your children to be his slaves.

Sons will be conscripted as soldiers.

Sons will be slave labour in his arms factories.

Sons will slave on his farms.

Daughters will slave in his kitchens.

He'll take the best of your land.

Every year he'll tax your income and your capital

You will not like it at all but there will be no relief.

Great, its a deal said the people of Israel. Yes they had gone mad. Sin does that to people. It clouds the judgement so we don't consider the consequences of our foolish choices.

They said they wanted a king because he would lead them and fight their battles. Now we have it. God wasn't good enough to lead them. No a man must fight and save them.

However, they had got one thing right. A king is responsible for the defence of his realm. To fight for his people. To save them from their enemies. The duty of a king is the defence of his realm and the establishment of justice for his subjects according to God's law. As Queen of Sheba said to Solomon

2Chr. 9:8 Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness."

But kings like their subjects are sinners. From Saul onwards all the kings of Israel failed in some measure to rule righteously and defend God's people. God pronounced his judgement on Israel and their king when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and took them into exile.

Now, with the birth of baby Jesus God has sent his King, to save his people from their real enemy. Not from Rome but from sin.

When Jesus was born people thought their real problem was a political one. get rid of European domination, rule from Rome, and all will be well. But their problem was much greater. Their real problem was not their visible submission to Rome, but their unseen and unrecognised subjection to sin, to their rebellion against God. Jesus came to save them from their sin, from themselves. The real enemy is within. It is sin. Jesus came to save us from our enemy, sin, and to establish justice over us, the righteous rule of God's law over our lives.

How does he do this. God himself comes in human flesh, born of the Virgin, to live, die as the sacrifice for our sin, to rise in resurrection triumph. Jesus, born in Bethlehem is alive today , as perfect man he reigns with God in heaven to establish his law as people by faith submit to his rule. Human government, human salvation is a failure. Ask any politician if you can find one to give an honest answer. It doesn't work because it is tainted by sin. Sin is much worse than sleaze. Their are not ultimate political solutions to the problems of this world. Ultimate solutions are found only in the infinite God. he became man in Jesus for our salvation. The king is here in Bethlehem. The king of kings. Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man. He laid his glory by, he wrapped him in our clay, unseen by human eye the latent godhead lay. Infant of days he here became and bore the mild Emmanuel's name. That is how Charles Wesley put it. In our century The maker of the stars and sea become on earth a child for me.

Submit

Obey

Trust Him to defend and keep you

Rejoice

Ps. 149:1-5 Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp. For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honour and sing for joy on their beds.

Adoption

(notes for a sermon at IPC Ealing February 2001

Alexander the Great, 356-323 BC, King of Macedon Philip V, 238-179 BC, King of Macedonia ,Marcus Aurelius, 121-180, Emperor of Rome Three of the most powerful men of their times. What do they have in common? Each was adopted.

 

American adoption law, unlike most common law, is not derived from British common law, but rather from Roman law. The British steadfastly refused to recognise any dilution of inheritance rights established by family bloodlines. Adoption 1926 legal in England but 1958, inherit on intestacy. However, Romans practised both child and adult adoption to enable citizens to continue family lines and inheritance rights. This has become the basis of American adoption practices.

 

Adoption has been part of our human experience probably since our beginnings, but certainly part of our written law since the 18th century BC, during the reign of Babylonian King Hammurabi. While this is not the first evidence of written law, the Code of Hammurabi is the earliest to survive intact with clear definitions of adoption.

 

To our way of thinking adoption means status and privileges of being a family member being given to some-one not a blood relation but in the ancient world of Semitic society blood relationship not necessary to enjoy family privileges

 

Gen. 17:9-13 Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner --those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. .

 

Hebrew father does not imply physical father hood so much as protector and nurturer. Ps. 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. This explains what fatherhood meant.

 

Archeology reveals a childless couple could adopt a son, who served them while they lived, buried them when they died, and receive the inheritance, though a natural son would displace him.

 

Gen. 15:1-4 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir."

First adoption like text is Gen. 48:5 "Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.

 

Exod. 2:10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of the water."

 

Esth. 2:7 Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.

 

Israel is God's adopted son.

 

Exod. 4:22-23 Then say to Pharaoh, `This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, "Let my son go, so he may worship me." But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'

 

A rebellious son

 

Isa. 1:2-3 Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: "I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand."

 

Jer. 3:19 "I myself said, "`How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.' I thought you would call me `Father' and not turn away from following me.

 

Hosea 11:1-2 "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.

 

The Davidic king is God's son by adoption

 

2Sam. 7:12-14 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men.

 

1Chr. 28:6 He said to me: `Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.

 

Ps. 2:6-7 "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill. I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father.

 

So, Rom. 9:4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons;

 

Eph. 1:5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--

 

Gal. 4:1-7 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

 

Rom. 8:14-17 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs --heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

 

Rom. 8:23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

 

Have his name put on them

 

Jer. 14:9 You are among us, O LORD, and we bear your name;

 

2Cor. 6:18 "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

 

Receive the spirit of adoption Rom 8:15

 

Access to the throne of grace with boldness

Eph. 3:12 Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

 

Can cry, Abba Father

 

Pitied Ps. 103:13-14 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

 

protected Prov. 14:26 He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.

Ps. 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?

 

provided for Matt. 6:30-32 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

1Pet. 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Pray and let God worry

 

disciplined Hebr. 12:5-12 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

 

Never cast off Lam. 3:31-32 For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.

Hebr. 13:5 God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

 

sealed until the day of redemption Eph. 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

 

Inherit the promises

Hebr. 6:12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

 

Heirs of everlasting salvation 1Pet. 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade --kept in heaven for you,

Hebr. 1:14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Tribute to my father

At his funeral May 1994 

Fred Weeks was born in Newport, Monmouthshire, the sixth and youngest child of Christian parents. His forebears had for generations been skilled metal workers. In 1936 he was half way through his apprenticeship to his father as a tool maker when his father suddenly died. Shortly after Fred was converted among the Christan Brethren. In 1940 he was conscripted into the Royal Artillery and posted to Stonybrough Barracks near Thirsk to service searchlights on the moors. Worshipping at Castlegate Methodist Church he met his wife, Mary, daughter of the pastor, George Graham. Fred soon returned to Newport, his former employers needing his skills for war production. In 1944 was married to Mary Graham at Topcliffe Methodist Church. They lived in Newport until 1947 when they moved to Topcliffe.

Fred started preaching and Sunday School teaching among the Christian Brethren in his home town. When he moved to Yorkshire he continued to witness in both ways becoming a Methodist Local Preacher in 1949.

He worked for Bamletts Agricultural Engineers in Thirsk and other engineering employers until 1955 when oil related dermatitis forced him to leave his trade. He found new employment selling brushes for Betterwear, a job at which he excelled becoming top salesman in the north of England.

In 1951 the family moved to Skipton Bridge where he taught in the Sunday School for over 30 years. Hospitality was extended to many, especially to young men on National Service at R.A.F. Topcliffe.

After retirement, home was in Thirsk. Mary went to be with the Lord in 1990. Fred is survived by two sons, four grandchildren and his elder sister.  

 

 

Ishmael My Brother

Compiled by Anne Cooper

MARC

pp317

£7.99

Ishmael My Brother is the second, enlarged edition of a helpful study guide first published in 1985. The aim of the book is to prepare Christians for witness to Muslim neighbours. This is a practical guide starting with making friends, it goes on to teach about Islamic beliefs and practices, then cultural, historical and political development. After considering the global and political face of Islam the book ends with a very practical call to prayer and action. This book will serve as a good introduction for ordinary Christians seeking help in witness to local Muslims.

There are however some omissions. The index shows there is no study of predestination, a major concept in both faiths and one where as in many areas there are profound similarities and differences . In current concerns there is no discussion of the problem that Muslims face when they are living as a minority who have to respect an alien rule of law. Unlike Christianity Islam has no theology of suffering service.

It would have been helpful also to have looked at the aspirations of Muslims in the sphere of education. If Christians would like to see schools established on the basis of their own world and life view, will they sympathise with Muslim aspirations for voluntary aided schools?

 

Graham J Weeks

 

 

 

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Last Modified: 2/7/05

 


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