Thursday, April 28, 2005

Who Were The Covenanters?

I pastor the Springs Reformed Church in Colorado Springs, CO. We are part of the denomination of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). Our history goes back to 17th century Scotland and the reformed heritage known as the "Covenanted Reformation". Those who held to the principles of the Covenanted Reformation came to be known as the "Covenanters".

Who were the Covenanters and what wre the issues? The follow link is to a website that is helpful as an introdution to the Covenanters.

Below is off of the website in answer to the question: Who were the Covenanters?:

Simply stated, the Covenanters were those people in Scotland who signed the National Covenant in 1638. They signed this Covenant to confirm their opposition to the interference by the Stuart kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The Stuart kings harboured the belief of the Divine Right of the Monarch. Not only did they believe that God wished them to be the infallible rulers of their kingdom - they also believed that they were the spiritual heads of the Church of Scotland. This latter belief could not be accepted by the Scots. No man, not even a king, could be spiritual head of their church. Only Jesus Christ could be spiritual head of a Christian church. This was the nub of the entire Covenanting struggle.

The Scots were, and would have been, loyal to the Stuart dynasty but for that one sticking point, and from 1638, when the Covenant was signed, until the Glorious Revolution - when Prince William of Orange made a bloodless invasion of Great Britain in 1688 - a great deal of suffering, torture, imprisonment, transportation and executions would ensue. King Charles I had introduced the Book of Common Prayer to Scotland in 1637 to the fury and resentment of the populace. He declared that opposition to the new liturgy would be treason, and thus came about the Covenant.

There followed a period of very severe repression. Ministers with Covenanting sympathies were "outed" from their churches by the authorities, and had to leave their parishes. Many continued to preach at "conventicles" in the open air or in barns and houses. This became an offence punishable by death. Citizens who did not attend their local churches (which were now in the charge of Episcopalian "curates") could be heavily fined, and such offenders were regarded as rebels, who could be questioned, even under torture. They could be asked to take various oaths, which not only declared loyalty to the king, but also to accept his as head of the church. Failure to take such an oath could result in summary execution by the muskets of the dragoons, who were scouring the districts looking for rebels.

The persecutions became more frequent and cruel on the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. As time went on more and more ordinary folk became involved, and skirmishes and battles took place against Government troops. In 1678 the Government raised an army of 6,000 Highlanders, who had no love for the Presbyterian lowlanders. This army swept through the west and south of Scotland, looting and plundering. They remained for many years, quartering themselves on the already impoverished Covenanters.

There are many books that have been written which are moving testimonies to the struggles and battles of the Scotch Covenanters. The stand tall as historical examples of how men should live...and how men should die.

Barbie Meets Jesus: Part 2

The following is from my good friend Jack Smith at the Banner of Truth. Commenting on the "Barbie Meets Jesus" article he writes:

I think this may be the same company that introduced the (and I shiver as I write this) bobble-head Jesus, Moses, and David dolls at the (another shiver) Christian Booksellers Association convention last year. There was also a (shiver) God action figure dressed in a white robe with white shoulder length hair. He apparently takes steroids and is a weight lifter.The last figure I mentioned comes bubble packed with an AK-47. I would encourage ... prayers ... for the abominable state of (shiver) Christian publishing. The only vendor that I'm aware of that has been rejected from participating at the CBA trade show was a manufacturer of(shiver) Christian lingerie. CBA was quite proud of themselves for taking this noble stand.

Maybe if we can get Barbie to wear some of the new "Christian" lingerie she could pass for a Christian and we could then have her come and address the CBA convention next year!

Barbie Meets Jesus

The subject above is the headline in the "Inside the Beltway" section of the April 26 Washington Times. The text of the article is below:

The Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co., creators of dolls such as Shrek and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, announces a new line of interactive Bible characters that promise to entertain children while engaging them in Bible stories. "It's always been on my heart to do this, and now we finally have the right talent and right people to make a doll line of the greatest people ever to walk the earth," says David Socha, founder of the company and creator of the Messengers of Faith dolls. Initially, dolls depicting Jesus Christ, David, Moses, Esther and Mary are being produced, with additional Biblical characters to be released in the future.

If we can't get kids to believe in Jesus, at least we can get them to play with Him...?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Pope and the Press

The following is from an entry that was posted on a discussion list I belong to. I think it is excellent and really hits the nail on the head as to the differences between Protestantism and Catholicsim:

Gene Edward Veith wrote a good article on the Roman church here:

What I liked about it is that in just one short article he wrote three things that the media and many evangelicals simply miss:

1) The RCC's media savvy is precisely because they are this-worldly:

"Many evangelicals are probably envious, thinking no way are we ever going to get this kind of good press. Roman Catholicism—with its image-centeredness, visible worldwide institutions, and externalized rituals—is certainly more media-friendly than Protestantism, which is Word-centered, decentralized, and internalized. The media is oriented to celebrities, and in the pope they have one. "

2) The RCC is not conservative but incredibly liberal and relativist on the thing that matters most:

"In one area, the late pope was not traditional at all. By emphasizing that good works are the fruit of God's grace, he had many Lutherans and evangelicals thinking that Catholics now agree with them on justification by faith. But the pope applied this principle to other religions, as well. If Muslims and Hindus demonstrate good works, that must be a sign of God's grace. Now, Catholics are teaching that not just other Christians but believers in other religions can be saved, even apart from conscious faith in Jesus Christ. This ecumenical theology tallies well with relativism, making Catholicism palatable to our new polytheistic culture."

3) The RCC, for all its pomp and show, does not in the end have the full Gospel:

"But though the pope was eulogized for all of his good works, the prayers begged God to let him into heaven, calling on Mary and the saints to intercede for him. Sadly missing was the liberating gospel of salvation through faith in the free forgiveness won by Christ alone."

May god help the church to recognize her "other-worldliness' and may we walk by faith and not by sight.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Geneva Still Standing Tall

While many protestants are falling all over themselves to show how accomodating they are in the wake of the death of Pope John Paul II (e.g. Doug Wilson giving his condolenses to Roman Catholics during a worship service, President Bush attending Mass in honor of the deceased Pope), it is refreshing to hear that the city of Geneva will not capitulate to the current, universal love-fest, by lowering their flag to half-mast in respect for the Pope. The following is the Reuters story:

GENEVA (Reuters) - Geneva, the birthplace of Calvinism, will once again mark its distance from the Vatican and not fly flags at half-mast for the funeral of Pope John Paul.

The city, where John Calvin introduced his austere version of Protestantism in the 16th century, said it would make no exception to a local rule that flags be only lowered for the death of a Swiss citizen.

"There is just no precedent of this sort in Geneva," said head of the local council Martine Brunschwig Graf, referring to calls for Geneva to go along with the rest of Switzerland in a gesture of respect for the Pontiff, who died on Saturday.

Calvin was a major figure in the Protestant Reformation and under his influence Geneva renounced papal authority, abolished mass and closed down monasteries in 1536.

Hopefully the day will dawn soon when Protestants will not be afraid to stand tall in the face of ecumincal peer-pressure and Geneva's example will once again influence the nations.

Sabbath Snow

I pastor a small church (the Springs Reformed Church-RPCNA in Colorado Springs, CO) and today we have a 'snow day'. That is, this morning we have blizzard-like conditions and since we have folks that travel over an hour to get here, we decided that the safest thing to do is to cancel our services this morning.

It is a bit odd for me to have a 'snow day'. It just doesn't seem right! I study all week and prepare to lead this congregation in the worship of God. This, I know, is significant (2 Tim. 4:1-2), but I still need to keep it in perspective...

...this is the Lord's Day after all! This is God's Day and He controls the weather and He has decided that this Sabbath will be too snowy for this little congregation to gather together for worship. And, He has decided that this preacher will not deliver his sermon today to this people.

Who can know the ways of the Lord? A man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his path. From my perspective I am tempted to interpret today's events in light of 'me'. But there is a whole lot more going on in this world and going on today, than 'my sermon' or even the congregation that I pastor.

Each will take this day, hopefully, from the Lord, accepting His providencial decision to pour forth a blizzard, locking us all up in our homes with our families today.

But this is still the Lord's Day. He still owns it and He still calls us to delight in Him.

As far as I am concerned, I will lead my family in worship this morning and then spend the day with them. In fact we will take this as a reprive from the Lord and a time to spend time with each other and to edify each other.

Among other things (e.g. discussing things with my wife, talking with my girls, wrestling with my boys, etc.), I will sit by the window, cup of coffee in hand, and I will just watch the white come down and blow about...

...I think I needed this Sabbath snow.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Sanctification...Sola Fide?

Sanctification by faith alone? Is that title uncomfortable to you? What is your understanding of sanctification? The fact that sanctification is by faith alone has been misunderstood, abused, and, most of the time, rejected. Reformed Christians have (rightly) worked hard to distinguish between justification and sanctification, arguing that justification is the legal declaration of 'righteous' based upon the meritorious righteousness of Jesus Christ, and not a statement of the actual condition of the believer himself. Yet it seems that while Protestants have worked so hard to keep our works out of justification, that often they have mistakenly thought that since they have kept them far from justification, therefore they can then safely pour them into the catagory of sanctification. Sanctification is the actual infusion of the righteousness of Christ into us, even as justification is the actual imputation of the righteousness of Christ to our account. Francis Turretin says concerning the difference between justification and sanctification,

The former consists in the judicial and forensic act of remission of sin and imputation of righteousness; the latter in the physical and moral act of infusion of righteousness and internal renovation.

In like manner, the Westminster Larger Catechism #77 states concerning this difference:

...God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof...

I hope to be arguing in a series herein on Linkin' Blogs, for the biblical and Reformed doctrine of sanctification by faith alone in Christ alone. In the mean time, and keeping with the purpose of this blog, let me suggest a few foundational works that are essential reading on the subject:

John Owen, Sin & Temptation (This is the best work on subject of mortification ever written. It is currently out of print, but one of the books that is contained in this little, abridged volume is availible at the link below)

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (This is the best single volume on the whole subject of sanctification ever written. It has recently been republished and is availible at the link below)

William Romaine, The Life, Walk, and Triumph of Faith (This is an excellent treatment on the whole subject of living by faith. If you try to buy it anywhere else but the link below you could pay over $ it is only $15. While at the Reformation Heritage Books site, you may wish to also purchase Romaine's other excellent volume, 12 Discourses on the Law & the Gospel)

If you can get these and read them, you will be instantly edified and on your way to understanding sanctification, and that it is by faith in Christ alone.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Breath of Fresh Air

Tired of all the palp that passes for music within Christian circles? Then check out Jason Coghill, a gifted musician from Australia who not only has talent, but also a keen theological mind and a heart for using his gifts according to the Word of God. Bio from his website states:

In 1995 Jason, together with Matthew Jacoby and Rod Gear formed the band Sons of Korah, now an internationally renowned acoustic trio dedicated to composing music to the psalms. Jason left the band to pursue a solo career, composing, arranging and producing recordings of the psalms in various musical and acappella styles. He continues in this and also teaches singing at senior college level.
Jason leads the singing at the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia in Geelong, where he is also a deacon. In 2000, at age 28, he graduated from the Reformed Theological College, Geelong, with a Diploma of Theology. Jason is married to Jane who is also a musician currently studying at Melbourne University.
Jason has written an excellent essay entitled "Entertain Evangelsim: And never the twain shall meet" (posted on his website) which asks tough questions of the current CCM scene. He argues that specific goals require specific means, and then asks why we have rock concerts if our stated purpose is to evangelize the lost. The Word of God nowhere calls for the employment of music as a means of why are we thinking that our modern Christian rock bands will be an effectual means of bringing salvation to sinners? I commend the essay to you for your careful and prayerful read.
Where does Jason's music fit in? I would suggest it is in the category of edification. Like good theological conversation over a nice meal or a good cup of coffee, Jason's music is both pleasing to the senses and spiritual uplifting. He has worked at setting the Psalms...word-for-word out of the English translations (mostly NIV and NKJV) appropriate music so that Christians might hide them in their hearts and have them on their minds.
The style is basically a melodic acoustic-folk...mostly just Jason and his guitar, but also some flute (played by his wife Jane Jacobs), some bass, and some harmonies. Many of my friends who have purchased his most recent CD, "Songs of Deliverance", are saying that it is "the best Christian music" they "have ever heard." I concur with this assesment and I am very picky when it comes to music.
Go to his website, read the mission statement, read the reviews, read his articles... Buy his latest CD and then eagerly await the release of a new one in July.