I was not obligated to write a positive review in exchange for the complimentary copy provided by Reformation Heritage Books–ALTHOUGH BEFORE I READ IT I KNEW I WOULD. I’ve come to trust Simonetta Carr’s books the way you trust Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies.
As expected, this is a great, and highly recommended book for at least three reasons.
1. A Great Character. The life of John Knox has all the ingredients to make for some great reading: Courage, conviction, love, loss, intrigue, blunder, and triumph. Knox was right at the center of tremendous upheaval of church and state during a critical juncture in the history of Western Europe. As a major player in the Protestant Reformation, he was also passionate and active, imitable yet flawed. Of all the noteworthy traits that made John Knox, one that speaks resoundingly to our apathetic generation is his keen sense that every part of life is profoundly important. The gospel of free grace in Christ animated his spirit and left no place for lethargic indifference.
2. Great Writing. My hunch is that far less research goes into many historical biographies of greater length, and for older audiences. Good biographies are true–not only true in general–but true in the details. And Simonetta’s biographies get the stories right! At the same time, her clear and crisp writing tell the story well without becoming pedantic. John Knox, like the previous books in Christian Biographies for Young Readers is appropriate for children but not cuddly. By dealing with difficult issues with care and courage, the author prods kids to ask hard questions about difficult subjects: “Was it right for the Protestants to kill Cardinal Beaton for his treacherous leadership? If I were in Knox’ position would I have spent my free time revising a religious book instead of earning money to feed myself? Does God sanction female leadership in the civic sphere?” When is the last time children–or their parents–were prompted to ask these kinds of questions?
3. Great Visual Appeal. Like all the books in this series, the images in John Knox are both informative, and evocative. There is a good blend of contemporary photographs and paintings, as well as period art. I take it as a compliment to artist Matt Abraxas that one of my kids thought his painting of Knox seated pensively in a rowboat crossing the English Channel looked “scary.” It should look scary. It depicts a man with a price on his head reluctantly leaving the people he loved, for an uncertain future. Some books are strong on style but weak on substance, or vice versa. This book excels in both.
The author’s careful attention to detail and the artist’s passion-infused windows into Knox’s world are packaged in a stunning layout that gives the book a timeless feel. It is hard to imagine seeing a new illustrated juvenile biography of John Knox on the market again for a long time. It’s even harder to imagine a better one.
The Five Points of Calvinism (6): Perseverance of the Saints
A number of years ago my wife and I woke up to our radio alarm, which was set to a local Christian station. As we began to revive from the night’s rest, the radio DJ read the station’s verse of the day, Philippians 1:6. Here Paul writes that he is “confident…that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The DJ then offered a brief commentary that was so theologically shocking, I’ll never forget it (even though I heard it through an early morning fog a decade ago). He said, “This verse describes a little doctrine we like to call the perseverance of the saints. It basically means finish what you started.”
The DJ failed to see in this verse the powerful persevering work of God and the confidence such work evokes in his saints. Instead, he focused only on the need for human endurance. Sadly, this is often the focus of those who believe Christ died for everyone according to a conditional election to supply a resistible grace for men and women who are still capable of choosing grace. In the Arminian system, whether or not believers per-severe to the end depends on their zeal to finish well. According to the Arminians’ fifth article of remonstrance, God is ready to help, and will keep Christians from falling “if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive…”
Of course, the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in salvation, and in perseverance, can be a difficult issue. But the difficulties are not resolved by prioritizing the command to persevere over God’s provision of perseverance.
The Five Points of Calvinism (5): Irresistible Grace
The first four articles in this series on the Canons of Dort (CoD; popularly known as the Five Points of Calvinism) focused on the historical context, and the first three heads of doctrine (unconditional election, limited atonement, and total depravity, respectively).
One of the peculiar privileges granted to the president is the right to pardon a limited number of convicts. You might say that this pardon is achieved in two stages. In the first, the president determines to grant the pardon. At this point forgiveness is sure but not experienced. But when the warden calls the prisoner from his cell, and escorts him through the front gates of the jail, the “chosen” prisoner is truly pardoned. In a similar way elect sinners truly experience divine forgiveness when God’s irresistible grace releases them from the prison of sin and guilt.
The first three articles in this series on the Canons of Dort (CoD; popularly known as the Five Points of Calvinism) focused on the historical context, and the first two heads of doctrine (unconditional election and limited atonement, respectively).
Like the many links of a single chain, the Five Points of Calvinism are integrally connected to each other by two inescapable truths of Scripture: Man’s complete ruin by sin, and God’s perfect, gracious, and sovereign remedy in Christ. These truths are introduced by the third and fourth points which the Canons combine into one subject (articles 1-5 focus on man’s natural depravity; articles 6-17 consider the Holy Spirit’s irresistible work in the lives of God’s elect).
From the Grave to the Sky: Gaining Godly Fear for Faithful Living
Have you ever thought about the power of fear? Men will do things when they are scared that they would never do if they were at ease. Fear can be an energizing splash of cold water on a face drooping with drowsiness. There is good reason why the Scriptures, particularly in the Old Testament, describe vital religion as the “fear of God.”
Still, we tend to think of fear only negatively. Franklin Roosevelt famously stated: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The Gospel accounts of the forty days following Christ’s death would amend that motto: The only things we have to fear are unbelieving fear and God himself. Mark 16 opens a window into the power of godly fear as it spans the time from Jesus’ burial to his disciples’ ministry following his ascension.
My God, my Father and my Savior, since it has pleased thee to preserve me by thy grace through the night just ended and until the present day, grant that I may use it entirely in thy service and that I may think, say, and do nothing but to please thee and to obey thy holy will, so that all my actions may redound to the glory of thy name and the edification of my neighbors. And just as in this earthly life thou causest the sun to shine on thy world to give physical light, let thy Holy Spirit illumine my mind to guide me in the way of thy righteousness. Thus in everything I do, let my goal and intention always be to walk reverently and to honor and serve thee, relying only on thy blessing for my well-being and undertaking only what is pleasing to thee.
Grant also, O Lord, that as I labor for my physical needs and for this present life, I may lift up my soul to the heavenly and blessed life which thou hast promised to thy children…. And since to begin well means little unless one perseveres, I beseech thee to be my guide not only today but for all my life, daily continuing and increasing thy grace in me until thou hast brought me into full union with thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the true Sun of our souls, shining day and night forever…. Amen.
The Five Points of Calvinism (3): Limited Atonement
The first two articles in this series on the Canons of Dort (CoD, popularly known as the Five Points of Calvinism) focused on the historical context, and the first head of doctrine (unconditional election), respectively.
The theological conflict in the Netherlands in the early 17th century produced a statement of faith relating to five disputed doctrines which remains extremely useful to this day. The first point concerned God’s election. In contrast to the Arminian party, the Calvinists insisted that Scripture teaches an unconditional elect-ion. That is, God chooses some people to salvation completely irrespective of their future faith and obedience. Understanding this view of election is essential to grasping the second point, which is often the most difficult doctrine for “would-be” Calvinists. The idea of a “limited atonement” has given rise to so-called, “four-point Calvinists.”
The disagreement has to do with the answer to the question, “For whom did Christ die?” Arminians and “four-point Calvinists” insist that Christ died for everyone. They believe that because of the cross, all men come into a new relationship with God. It is up to the sinner to use the universal grace provided by God to meet his new condition of faith. Calvinists believe that Christ died for the elect. His death was designed to, and actually did, atone for a limited number of people.
Of course, the tremendous liability with the phrase “limited atone-ment” is that it sounds so neg-ative; it makes Christ’s death seem deficient. Alternate phrases such as “definite atonement” or “particular redemption” help convey the central issue: Christ died for those whom he actually saves. And the issue is a significant one.
I’ve been asked to offer a prayer this evening for media. I’ve also attached (below) two prayers from previous “National Day of Prayer” services.
Prayer for Media
Creator God, we thank you that you are a communicator. You have chosen to reveal your will to us in nature as your invisible attributes are clearly seen in what you have made. You have revealed yourself more fully in Scripture, which is an infallible testimony of who you are, of what you promise in the gospel, and of what you expect from us. Most gloriously, you have revealed yourself in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. In him you have spoken in grace and truth. We thank you for sending your Son into this world to preach the message of the kingdom, to sacrifice his life for the sins of your children, and to intercede forever on our behalf.
Lord, we thank you for making us in your image with the ability to communicate with each other. We pray, then, for the various forms of media that affect us every day. Help these media to be a faithful reflection of your communication in this world.
Please cause reporters and news organizations to report the news in a way that is accurate, and edifying. Frustrate those agencies which would promote an ungodly agenda by praising wickedness and scorning righteousness. Grant courage to those individuals and organizations who have been enlightened by the gospel. Help them to speak according to their convictions and protect them from the backlash of those who hate the things of God.
Please keep your people from being consumed by overuse of media. Help us not to be overwhelmed by negative reporting. In the face of much bad news, drive us back to your word, to your church, and to your means of grace. Make us especially attentive to your voice as you speak through the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments. And help us to use our voices to speak what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.
Be pleased to answer our prayer for the sake of the kingdom and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
The Five Points of Calvinism (2): Unconditional Election
The first article in this series on the Canons of Dort (popularly known as The Five Points of Calvinism) was a historical introduction focusing on the religious and civil upheaval in the Netherlands around the turn of the 17th century due to sharp theological disagreement.
Since the mid 1500s the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands had pledged their commitment to Scripture as summarized in The Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism. Early in the 17th century the followers of Jacob Arminius, known as the Remonstrants, challenged this commitment. Given the close tie between church and state, the theological conflict boiled over into societal and political unrest. The problem became so urgent that in 1618 a synod convened with the express purpose of examining The Five Articles of the Remonstrants. The Synod rejected these articles and in issued instead, five counterpoints called the Canons of Dort (CoD). These statements are commonly rearranged from their historical order under the acronym “TULIP” for ease of memorization.
My kindle book on Jonah is FREE until TOMORROW EVENING. Joel Beeke kindly wrote, this “…little book on Jonah is everything that an introductory Bible Study guide should be: exegetically faithful, doctrinally sound, practically helpful, experientially warm, and colorfully written.”
Biblical Personal Finance: Earning and Spending for God’s Glory
Imagine what the people of God could do if their financial houses were in order. That paraphrase of a question often asked by a popular financial advisor is meant to be an exercise in hopeful anticipation of what actually could happen.
If the question doesn’t sound very “spiritual” we might have an unbiblical notion of spirituality. More than 2,000 Scripture verses deal with money and possessions. The way we manage money is fundamentally a spiritual matter (Luke 16:10-11). On top of this, consider the problems related to poor money management. In a recent survey 46% of Americans reported suffering from debt-related stress. Financial problems can lead to marital breakdowns and contribute to unethical behavior (Prov. 30:8-9).
I’ve never done this before, and may never do it again. But here is a draft of the sermon I hope to preach tomorrow (12,16,12). I hope, with God’s help, that the sermon changes for the better when I preach it. (If nothing else, I won’t be preaching the typos and grammatical mistakes!) But wounds heal best when addressed promptly.
“Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” These are the words of Psalm 10:1. They are also words which resonate in our hearts today as we reflect on this week’s shooting in Newtown,CT.
Friday morning a gunman shot his mother, drove to the school that he apparently attended as a boy and shot up two classrooms killing himself and twenty-six others. Twenty of the victims were children, mostly kindergartners. It is the nation’s second largest school shooting ever. The same day a knife-wielding man slashed 22 children and an adult at an elementary school in central China. Two years ago, a man slashed 28 children, two teachers and a security guard in a kindergarten in eastern China.
Assessing Advent (3): Two (more) Reasons Christ Came to Earth
he Psalmist says, all of creation declares the glory of God (Psa. 19:1). But nothing glorifies God like the incarnation of his Son. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Sing, sing, O universe, till thou hast exhausted thyself, yet thou canst not chant an anthem so sweet as the song of the incarnation!” If God is glorified by the “song of the incarnation” then we should sing it with gusto. One of the ways we do so is by reflecting on the reasons for which the Son of God took on flesh. To do so exhaustively is impossible. If all the reasons for which Christ came to earth were written down, “I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). We could even say that the number of reasons for which Christ came into the world is equal to the number of people he came to save. But the Scriptures are filled with beautiful stanzas of the incarnation song.
The First Thanksgiving: An Historical Introduction
For many Americans, everything we know about the First Thanksgiving we learned in elementary school. Maybe that’s why we have no problem picturing the Pilgrim Fathers wearing black construction-paper steeple hats surrounded by large families in warm homes eating restaurant-grade food (including cylindrical, jellied cranberry sauce). A more informed view of the First Thanksgiving might deepen our understanding of providence and help us develop perspective for giving thanks. To understand the American thanks-giving of 1621 we need to go back almost a century earlier to the reformation in England.
Échanger la souffrance temporaire contre la joie éternelle
Nous savons tous que nos vies sont parfois pénibles. Nous luttons contre des sentiments d’infériorité ou contre nos faiblesses. Nous vivons des frustrations dues à la douleur physique ou à des échecs. Nous savons ce que signifie être abandonnés, méprisés, incompris, maltraités.
Notre souffrance est réelle, mais ce qui est extraordinaire, c’est que si nous souffrons en croyant en Jésus, notre histoire est semblable à celles que l’on retrouve en Hébreux 11. En effet, la lettre aux Hébreux fut écrite pour des croyants tentés d’abandonner à cause de leurs luttes. Comme nous aujourd’hui, ils avaient désespérément besoin de savoir que Dieu discipline ceux qu’il aime, pour leur bien et pour sa gloire (Héb. 12:3-11). La première partie d’Hébreux 12 constitue une invitation à échanger la souffrance temporaire contre la joie éternelle.
In recent years Calvinism has acquired a new level of energy and interest. In 2009 Time magazine called Calvinism one of the top ten ideas changing the world.[i] But what is Calvinism?
Broadly speaking Calvinism (named after the 16th century Genevan reformer John Calvin) is a biblical world-and-life view that speaks to the head, heart, and hands with implications for church, family, vocation, government, and everything in between.
But more narrowly conceived Calvinism is the Reformed understanding of salvation. To borrow from James Packer, it is a defense of a simple, three-word assertion: God saves sinners. The triune God alone provides the solution; man only contributes the problem. In biblical salvation God saves to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25), linking every aspect of our salvation into one unbreakable golden chain (Rom. 8:29–30). And those God saves he ingloriously describes as dead in sins (Eph. 2:1) and worthy of eternal punishment (Rom. 6:23).
The Church’s Missionary Task: Obeying God’s Call to Reap in His Fields
Have you ever sung the following words? “Lord of harvest, send forth reapers; hear us, Lord, to Thee we cry; send them now the sheaves to gather, ere the harvest time pass by.” It’s a good song of prayer based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:38. Still, the song is a bit awkward because it’s about us; we are the reapers for whom we are praying.
When Jesus exhorts his disciples to “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest,” his assumption is that those praying for the harvest are those already engaged in the work. They are praying for supplemental, not substitute laborers. In the next chapter Jesus sends out his disciples as laborers into God’s field.
The reality is, as Jesus says, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” How true this is even of those within the church.
Join or Die?: Addressing the Question of Church Membership
In 1754 Benjamin Franklin published a cartoon called “Join or Die.” It pictured a snake cut into eights representing the British colonies in the New World. Franklin argued that unless the colonies formed one body they would never be able to resist the powerful threat of the French and their Indian allies.Considering the fierce enemies assaulting believers in every age (1 Pet. 5:8; John 15:19; Gal. 5:19) Franklin’s plea speaks similarly to one of the most basic questions every believer has to answer: “What is the relationship between the Christian and the church?” Increasingly, more people see less of a connection between the two. Sixty percent of Americans who never attend church during the course of a year view themselves as Christians.[i]
But a sincere perusal of Scripture helps us to see that the relationship between the Christian and the church is much more significant than we might realize. In fact, contrary to the practice of most Americans God not only calls believers to attend church but to bind themselves to a local, Bible-believing congregation in a visible and vital way.
Making a Marriage: God’s Blueprint for Marital Success
To say that Christian marriage is under attack today is a great understatement. The statistics are telling. Fewer people are pursuing marriage and those who do are waiting longer to get married. In 1960 fifty-nine percent of eighteen to twenty-nine year-olds were married compared to just twenty percent in 2010. In 1960, the median age for entering marriage was in the early twenties; today it’s nearly thirty. As marriage has declined co-habitation has increased, nearly doubling since 1990. This data reflects changing opinions and practices relating to marriage; thirty-nine percent of Americans say they believe that marriage is becoming obsolete. At the same time concern for God’s basic definition of marriage is declining. For the first time in history the level of strong support for homosexual unions equals that of strong opposition (22%). And these statistics have not even touched on the problems found within Christian marriages.
Under the cover of darkness, almost exactly 450 years ago a young minister named Guido de Bres quietly crept up to the castle gate of Doornik, Belgium. Over this gate he threw a letter pleading for religious toleration along with a summary of the Christian faith. Within that castle slept King Philip II, leader of the Holy Roman Empire who for 40 years had been leading a brutal and bloody inquisition against evangelical believers in the Netherlands.
His situation was different than ours; indeed it was far worse. He writes of the “oppressions and tortures ending in the most shameful torments and death more cruel and barbaric than were ever invented…” But what we need to hear is that while he begs for religious freedom he also pledges that his fellow believers would honor the king in all things lawful and that they would strive to honor God in all things. In short they would be the best possible citizens of the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God.
The Office of Christian Man: Applying Christ's Three-fold Office to Men
If modern television sitcoms were the litmus test for masculinity, our expectations of men would be minimal. It’s no secret that for most of the last half century television has depicted fathers as incompetent buffoons often only featured to keep the laugh-track greased. Besides bringing home a paycheck (sometimes), TV dads mainly try to stay out of the way of their much better half. The negative influence such portrayal has had on the men that God intends to lead the home, the church, and to an extent, society, is hard to over-stress.
In contrast to cultural expectations, the Bible calls men to reflect Christ’s three-fold office of prophet, priest, and king. In fact, this is true of all believers.
The protestant reformation laid the ax to the root of the notion that only kings and clergy discharged an important office. The reformers understood the profound implications of Christ’s anointing by the Spirit to be God’s officer, fulfilling the three Old Testament offices. Beginning at Pentecost, Christ poured out this same Spirit upon his people (Acts 2:17), calling and equipping them to continue on earth his prophetic (Matt. 10:22), priestly (1 Pet. 2:5) and kingly work (Eph. 6:11).
By living out the three-fold office of Christ, our fathers, future fathers, and other single men will distinguish themselves from those who wrongly call themselves men, and inspire the respect and reverence of those they are called to lead.
This article is adapted from an address delivered at Classis Michigan’s 2012 Missions Rally. Rev. Boekestein was asked to speak to the challenges the URCNA faces in the area of home missions.
After the United States declared independence they agreed to submit to the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union to help them in their mission to develop into a strong nation and eventually spread across the continent. The problem was that until the Articles of Confederation were replaced by the Constitution, Congress was paralyzed and every state was doing what it thought best regardless of the common good. There was no mechanism for garnering funding. Congress could do nothing significant without the approval of most or all of the states. Individual states independently laid embargoes, negotiated directly with foreigners, raised armies and made war, all violating the letter and the spirit of the Articles of Confederation. In the words of James Madison: “The radical infirmity of the ‘Articles of Confederation’ was the dependence of Congress on the voluntary and simultaneous compliance with its requisitions by so many independent communities, each consulting more or less its particular interest and convenience and distrusting the compliance of the others.”[i]
Perhaps this scenario sheds some light on some of the challenges we as United Reformed Churches face in fulfilling the Great Commission together.
Behold Your Mother!: The Legacy of Jesus’ Love for Moms
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a perfect child? Can you imagine a child who never threw selfish tantrums or scowled at the meal you set before him? Can you conceive of a kid who never left his room trashed after he was told to pick it up or who never spent his allowance irresponsibly and then whined for more money?
Here’s a reality check: If you did have a perfect child, life as a mother in this world would still be hard.
Mary had a perfect Son but her life as a mother was not easy. Like every mother, she still needed a Savior to rescue her from the demands, guilt and worries of motherhood. In her case, her Savior was her Son.
The Carbondale (PA) Area Ministerium has asked me to pray for the churches in our area tonight. Here is what I hope to pray:
Great God in Heaven and Lord of the church, we thank you so much for your promise to build a church against which the gates of hell can not prevail. We thank you that in the church we can experience the restoration of community which we lost in the fall of Adam. It is with profound gratitude that many of us can say, “I love thy Church, O God! Her walls before Thee stand, dear as the apple of thine eye, and graven on thy hand.”
We do confess, however, that through our own sin that bride of Christ, the church, has become tarnished with unfaithfulness. Some of us have zeal but not knowledge. For others our learning is much better than our lifestyle. We are sometimes too harsh toward the hurting and sometimes too relaxed with the rebellious.
Lord, we pray that the churches in our community would exhibit the marks of true churches of Christ. Cause the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to have the central place in our churches. We are thankful for the men and women who have come before us and for the traditions which they have left to us. But do keep us, as your dear Son has said, from making the Word of God no effect through our traditions which we have handed down (Mark 7:13). As Isaiah has written, keep us from “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (29:13). Instead cause us to manage all things according to the pure Word of God, rejecting everything contrary thereto. May we own Jesus Christ as the only Head of the church.
Make our churches places where the gospel of Jesus Christ is heard loud and clear from week to week. Keep the ministers of our churches from distorting the message of salvation that is found only through the finished work of Christ. Grant also boldness to the shepherds of our churches to keep watch over the doctrine and life of those under their care. May we never cease to preach against the sins in which we and our people can become so easily entangled.
We pray that through bold preaching and involved shepherding that we would become a holy people. Cause us to receive Christ as the only Savior. Help us to avoid sin, to follow after righteousness, and to love the true God and our neighbor. May we crucify the flesh and its works and turn neither to the right nor to the left. Cause sinners to find in our churches the only cure for their sin and guilt. May we find refuge in the obedience, passion, and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we have remission of sins, through faith in him. Amen.
Imagine that you’ve been called to minister to a largely isolated community composed of an unfamiliar people group totaling less than 100 souls. The natural beauty of the place will be stunning. The opportunities for adventure will be nearly limitless. The locals will be hospitable. But you’ll have no regular phone service or reliable electricity. Snow will never be more than a few months away. During the brief summer the mosquitoes will swarm in clouds. Worst of all, the human brokenness will be palpable. And you’ll be moving there with your wife and two small children (with one more soon on the way).
These facts faced Rev. Wes Bredenhof (CanRC) as he considered the call to move to FortBabine, a small aboriginal town in central British Columbia, Canada. The Bredenhof’s nearly five year adventure is described in The Gospel under the Northern Lights: A Missionary Memoir.
Christ Our High P-R-I-E-S-T: Remembering Christ’s Work on the Cross
In 1941 Winston Churchill stood before an eager audience at an all-boys school in war-torn England and spoke these famous words, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in.”[i] Churchill’s words echo the thrust of the message of the writer to the Hebrews. But where Churchill rested his comments on the “honor and good sense” of his audience, the writer to the Hebrews urges confidence in the high priestly work of Jesus ChristThe recipients of Hebrews were in danger of abandoning Christ through unbelief. Pressured by persecution, assaulted by sin and challenged by everyday life, these believers were on the brink of quitting in the heat of battle. With such dangers clearly in view the author chooses one primary theme on which to focus; the priesthood of Christ. The word “priest” occurs over seventy times in the New Testament. More than one third of these occurrences are in Hebrews.
Christ’s priesthood demands believer’s attention on a continual basis. When we fear that God is still angry toward us we need to remember that Christ has propitiated the wrath of God. When we doubt that God could ever look on us with favor we need to recall that Christ stood as our replacement. The love the Father shows to him he now shows to us. When we take for granted that Christ suffered for us we need to reflect on his innocence. He always does the will of God for us with precise obedience.
The priesthood of Christ is eminently practical but if we can’t remember what his priesthood means we will not use it as we must. It has been well said that “the association of ideas is the controlling law of memory.” If we could associate six key ideas of Christ’s priesthood with the letters P-R-I-E-S-T perhaps we would more readily recall his work and be better steeled to “never give in.”
As our congregation is evaluating the nature of congregational meetings (with relation to women voting) we have found Martin Monsma’s “The Congregational Meeting” to be a helpful resource. Since it is no longer in print and hard to find, here is a PDF version.
Christian Community: Contentment without Complacency
Christian reflection on community is often an exercise in romanticism. By viewing the early Christian community of Acts 2 through rose-colored glasses we imagine a homogenous cloister of haloed saints meeting all of each other’s expectations, living as one big happy family. By projecting this abstract ideal on our own church context we are almost guaranteed to foster a spirit of disappointment and disillusionment, often leading some to desert the pursuit of comm-unity altogether.
Even outside of Christian circles, “community” has become a buzzword; being so overused and having so many definitions, it ceases to mean anything. Thankfully, the Bible does offer a clear definition of community. It also teaches us how to live as a community without expecting either too much or too little from it.
If you want to stop romanticizing Christian community consider reading a little book called Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a 20th century German theologian who was executed for participating in a plot to assassinate Hitler). Living as he did, under the religiously supp-ressive Nazi regime, Bonhoeffer’s perspective on biblical community can help us to develop a more balanced, less self-centered understanding of Christian fellowship. He helps us understand that community is less about what we need to do than about what Christ is doing, which helps us to seek contentment in Christ’s community while at the same time preventing us from becoming complacent in our responsibilities to that community.