Time for a Checkup?

February 13th, 2012

How are you feeling these days? Could it be time for a spiritual checkup?

Vaughan Roberts of St Ebbs Church, Oxford recently preached an excellent message on A Heart for God: Delight. I encourage you to take time to listen to it. Vaughan gives solid Bible teaching that does good like a medicine.

Knowing God (free audio book)

January 2nd, 2012

Christian Audio is offering a free download of J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. If you haven’t read this classic, you should make it your new year’s resolution to read or listen to this wonderful book. If you have read it, here’s a great way to review and find yourself revived by Packer’s clear teaching.

Reading the Bible

January 2nd, 2012

The other day I asked readers to weigh in on their Bible reading program for 2012, so today I thought I’d share with you my reading plan, the reasons I’m using it (again).

As in so many years past, for 2012 I’ve chosen to follow the M’Cheyne Calendar of Daily Readings. I first encountered this little tool as a high school student and immediately fell in love with it (Hey, it was done by a Scotsman. What can I say?). Its origin, however, had little to do with my liking the plan. I appreciated the genius of M’Cheyne’s arrangement. By reading four chapters a day, which doesn’t take very long, you can read through the entire Bible once and the New Testament and Psalms twice in a year.

M’Cheyne’s calendar offers variety. Each day you read from four different passages. Some of you may think that’s too diverse and that you’ll become confused. Try it, however, and you’ll find a lot of cross fertilization in your reading. For example, three of the passages for January 1 (Matt. 1; Ezra 1; Acts 1) stressed fulfilled Scripture. By noting connections like this (and there are many), it becomes easier to see how the various parts of the Bible relate to each other.

Have you chosen a reading plan for 2012? It’s only January 2. Start today. You can easily catch up.

If you choose the M’Cheyne schedule, you may also find D.A. Carson’s daily devotional helpful. Each day he discusses one of the passages from the plan.

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2012

“You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance” (Psalm 65:11).

“I awake this morning in the presence of the holy angels of God. May heaven open wide before me, above me, and around me that I may see the Christ of my love and his sunlit company in all the things of earth this day.” Celtic Prayers from Iona by J. Philip Newell

Bible Reading for 2012

December 30th, 2011

Do you plan to read through the Bible in 2012? I hope so. Many people start out well and with the best intentions but become bogged down somewhere in Leviticus or the “begats” of Chronicles. What you need to help you overcome the “Bible bog” is a good reading plan that incorporates variety along with a reasonable pace which will allow you, in 15 or 20 minutes a day, to make it all the way through God’s Word in a year.

Justin Taylor has an excellent and extensive post on Bible reading plans along with hints and tips to help you persevere. It will be well worth your time to check it out.

If you plan to read through the Bible in 2012, leave a comment. Share which reading schedule you chose to use and your reasons for choosing it.

Back in Business

December 30th, 2011

The hobgoblins of cyberspace have had my website down for quite a while, but now we’re back in business!! And just in time for the new year too! Perhaps I should make a resolution about blogging on a regular basis in 2012. My normal new year’s resolution is “I resolve not to make resolutions.” I might also add that I’m very successful with such resolutions. We’ll see what happens in the new year. Lack of blogging is usually due to another hobgoblin—time.

I hope 2011 has been a good year for you. Feel free to leave a comment and tell us about a special blessing you’ve received. We’ll rejoice with you!

Happy New Year to all!

A Business Conference Based on the Larger Catechism?

July 13th, 2011

Today’s post is by my good friend, Eric Anest. Eric is assistant editorial director for an architecture company in the Washington DC area. Formerly, he was assistant editorial director at P&R Publishing, which produces both popular and academic books from a reformed perspective. He and his family are members of New Hope Presbyterian Church and live in Alexandria, VA.

Ask anyone businessperson, doctor, lawyer, or another professional and you’ll find out just how many advertisements for conferences assault them on a daily basis. Many of these conferences have noble goals, and I’ve made meaningful connections at several such events in the past. Yet after a while, they all sound about the same.

But a few weeks ago I heard about a conference called Business Ethics Today: Business and the 8th Commandment. That was enough to catch my attention, but when I found out the conference was based not just on the 8th commandment, but on the Westminster Larger Catechism’s explanation of the 8th commandment with all its implications, I was hooked.

So it happened that I attended the conference hosted by Westminster Theological Seminary and the Center for Business Ethics today at the Union League in Philadelphia.

Several of the sessions, including the first keynote address by Peter Lillback and another keynote by Jack Templeton, addressed “macro” concerns of the 8th commandment: Does making a profit constitute stealing and thus a breaking of the 8th commandment? As you might imagine, the point of this conference wasn’t to tell people to quit their businesses and go start nonprofits. No, the speakers contended, businesses run in a godly way does good not just for the owner and stockholder but for society at large by creating more prosperity for everyone.

But though the “macro” point needs to be made, I was even more interested in the “micro” concerns of the commandment–how I can better keep the 8th commandment with all its implications. Two speakers were especially helpful for this interest.

Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, said that although the 8th commandment is a “thou shalt not,” a host of “thou shalt’s” follow as a result. We are commanded not just to refrain from stealing but to be a faithful steward of all of what God has given us, business included. This means working hard and well, using our time wisely, not taking shortcuts, and doing our work as though we’ll have to answer for it to God.

Calvin Chin, Entrepreneurship Initiative Director at the Center for Faith and Work, made a similar point but from a different line of reasoning. His main topic was a Christian work ethic, which he said was drawn from the fact that work is a creation mandate, not a result of the fall. Work is something that God created us to do and is therefore something we should put ourselves completely behind. Yet Chin made the insight that workaholism and a Christian work ethic aren’t the same thing. Diligently applying our limited energy to the right things is how the Christian should work. And Christian bosses should remember that demanding unreasonable amounts of time from employees amounts to stealing time and energy from them and thus breaking the 8th commandment.

It was difficult to pick just two highlights from the many sessions and speakers at the Business Ethics Today conference. Yet if anything the lesson I most learned was this: get out your Larger Catechism every so often and with its guidance think through the implications of the Ten Commandments. Far from being a dry compendium on 17th-century life, the Larger Catechism has much to say about living in a globalized, 21st-century world.

Resolution of Thanks

June 18th, 2011

The series of reflections on this year’s General Assembly did not pan out as I had hoped, so I’m going to conclude with posting this year’s resolution of thanks. This resolution, presented each year by Mel Duncan, a ruling elder from Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC highlights some features of the area where the GA was held as well as expressing thanks and hope for the Church.

Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod here at the 39th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.

For here we stand on the edge of the new world hoping for a world to come in this commonwealth cradle of American civilization, the Old Dominion, mother of Presidents. Here we sing the ancient psalms of exile from French Huguenots fleeing to Virginia and the spirituals of enslaved African peoples singing new songs of freedom.  We recall that we are near where a Native American named Pocahontas was baptized into the Christian faith.

We rejoice that in 1683 the Irish Presbytery of Laggan sent Francis Makemie across the ocean, founding four small mission works near where we are meeting and later a presbytery in Philadelphia to begin our long story of American Presbyterianism.

We remember Old Hanover Presbytery of Virginia and praise God for the hundreds of churches, scores of presbyteries, colleges and seminaries to which she helped over the centuries.

We remember today a long line of godly Virginians; Rev John Chavis and Baptist worthy Lottie Moon. More recently we remember Dr. Nelson Bell and the Honorable Kay James who have served faithfully the risen Christ.

We commend the fine work of Assembly Moderator Ruling Elder Dan Carrell, a Virginian, and our faithful Stated Clerk, Dr Roy Taylor and his efficient staff for their outstanding leadership of the church’s courts.  We give thanks for the constant labors of our PCA Agencies and Committees on behalf of a grateful family of churches. We give praise for our host committee and the many people of James River Presbytery who have cared for our every need, skillfully commissioning new songs of worship and working so diligently to bring our church together.

We go on our way rejoicing with the fruitfulness of so many witnesses, His holy name be praised. We also grieve because our own idols keep us from pursuing our Great Commission. We thank you for sending to this General Assembly the fine preaching of Harry Reeder, Tim Keller and Mike Campbell, who reminded us of our church’s worship, mission, and unity. What a marvelous engine we have under the hood indeed! We depart with the fervent prayer that God the Holy Spirit would put in a double portion of the spirit of Samuel Davies, the Apostle to Virginia, and of the fervent evangelist William E. Hill – men who for the sake of Christ’s Church counted all things but loss.

Commissioners of the 39th General Assembly, here we stand, here we sing, here we rejoice, here we remember, here we give praise and thanksgiving. Here in Virginia Beach we proclaim “Christ for the World.”

TE Henry Lewis Smith (Chairman) Presbytery of Southeast Alabama

RE Melton L. Duncan (Secretary) Presbytery of Calvary

A Successful Assembly?

June 13th, 2011

Today begins a series of posts from guest bloggers on their post-General Assembly reflections. Today’s blog is by my friend, Stan Gale. Stan serves as a pastor in the Philadelphia Metro West Presbytery.

Stanley D. Gale (M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary; D.Min. Covenant Theological Seminary) has served as a pastor for 25 years.  He and his wife, Linda, live in West Chester, Pennsylvania.  He is the author of several books, including The Prayer of Jehoshaphat: Seeing Beyond Life’s StormsWhat is Spiritual Warfare? (Basics of the Faith Series) and most recently, Making Sanity Out of Vanity: Christian Realism in the Book of Ecclesiastes. He can be reached at sdgale@CHOPministry.net.

What makes a “successful” General Assembly?  I guess it depends on whom you ask.  James River Presbytery, who hosted this year’s GA in Virginia Beach, might answer “an assembly that runs without problems.”  Tim Schirm, manager of the PCA Bookstore, might be happy with good sales and less inventory to cart back to Atlanta.  Sponsors of the various overtures would likely delight in an affirmative answer.  Exhibitors might well revel in contacts made and seed sown to further the cause of their respective ministries or offerings.

For me, success can be described in three F’s.

The first F is faithfulness.  My church paid for my travel and time.  I was present as a commissioner.  My job in service to Christ was to be engaged in the business of the Assembly—digesting reports, processing debate and voting intelligently.

That meant long hours and a worn out body.  We finished up about 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, having to reconvene after the worship service to deal with backed up business.  I am not one accustomed to late nights.  That plus an aggregate weariness from the travel and meeting demands meant fatigue.  That late night was greeted with an early Friday start. But that’s just part of the cost of diligence in my role as a commissioner.

The second F is fulfilling.  Sometimes at GA I am able to enjoy the area attractions. Not this year.  Holding the Assembly at Virginia Beach was a big tease, promising fun in the sun but at arm’s length because of the weight of responsibilities.  The extent of my tourist activity was noticing the statue of Neptune at 31st Street as I drove by on my way home.  However, refreshment was to be found in other ways.

General Assembly offers far more than a business meeting for the work of the church.  It provides an opportunity for replenishment.  The worship, the fellowship, reconnecting with people I only see once a year, the change of pace from regular pastoral responsibilities, the wealth of resources from the exhibitors, the seminars covering a wide range of topics—all contribute to sending me back to my local church with renewed enthusiasm for Christ and his church.

I confess that I did go with an agenda of my own, which I shamelessly promote here.  I suppose the appropriate F here would be fruitfulness.  For me, GA is an opportunity to promote ministries and tools I have developed for the work of the church, what might be called networking.  A book I had just written was released at GA.  In fact, I saw it in the PCA bookstore before I had seen it myself and had to buy a copy.  (The PCA bookstore is offering my book, Making Sanity Out of Vanity, at the GA 50% discount while supplies last.)

I held a seminar on “Reformed Evangelism,” in part to let the larger church know of a resource for evangelism I had developed for resourcing/equipping Christ’s disciples in their witness for the gospel of the kingdom.  (The bookstore also carries my booklet, How Can I Know Eternal Life?) Two articles of interest I referenced in my seminar are “Goldilocks and the Gospel,” a description of the booklet  and “A ‘Reformed’ Presentation of the Gospel,” currently posted on the byFaithonline website.

Was the Assembly a success for me?  Unequivocally yes.  In this case, three solid F’s means passing with flying colors.  Each one represents an answer to prayer in which God allowed me to faithfully serve him, to find renewed fulfillment for his service and the encouragement of fruitfulness as evidenced by contacts made and strong interest expressed in my ministry efforts.

Update from Scotland

June 11th, 2011

In an earlier post about the Church of Scotland’s new position to ordain practicing homosexuals, I mentioned one of the faithful pastors in that denomination, Dominic Smart. It now appears that the Rev Mr Smart is leading his congregation out of the Church of Scotland. Bravo for a stand well-taken.

Let’s be in prayer for this brother and his congregation.