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Monday, February 02, 2004

In keeping with my desire to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I made up a written prayer at work (it was a really slow night) and sent it to my wife to see what she thought of it. She was very impressed and so I though I'd post it here.

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Our Gracious and Loving Father in Heaven,

Exalted Creator and Sovereign Lord, the heavens declare your glory and in the courts of heaven is the beauty of Your holiness. As we come before your heavenly throne to offer the sacrifice of our lips, incline our hearts to see your beauty and your majesty. Impress upon us through your Spirit the wonders of the beauty of Creation which You have made. Enable us to see Your love and mercy in everything in this world - every beautiful moon, every starry night, the wonder of flowers and the singing of birds. You, Lord, are worthy of all praise. Your name is excellent in all the earth and You are worthy of all wonder, honor, and praise.

Father in Heaven, we pray that Your kingdom of righteousness will spread through the whole earth. We desire that Your love and mercy that You have shown to us would be spread abroad in all the world for all men to see. We earnestly desire that the kingdom of our great enemy Satan would be destroyed through the spread of the Truth of the Gospel and that the Gospel Light would be shone into the crevices of Satan's kingdom. Loosen his evil hold over the unbeliever so that men and women would be saved from the perverseness and sin of the world and brought into the Body of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Merciful Father, we pray that the power of Your Spirit would be poured out in this congregation. That each one of us - man, woman, and child - would do your will on earth as the angels and saints in heaven gladly do Your will. Help us to seek to be poor in spirit, to mourn and repent over our sins and to mourn over the sins of our brethren. Help us to be meek, to hunger and thirst after the righteousness that is from above, and to show mercy to those that are around us. Sanctify us that we may be pure in heart and direction for our lives and that we would seek peace with our brethren and our neighbors as much as lies within us. Be with those of us who are persecuted for seeking to do this Your will. Help us to be the salt that gives holy flavor to this world and the light that brings truth and illuminates evil. In all things, cleanse us from selfishness so that we may love you with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind and our neighbor as ourselves.

Father of all blessing, we thank You for Your providential care and watchfulness over us. You, who in Fatherly love, gives us our portion of food, raiment, and shelter through Your bountiful care. Help us to be content with what you give to us and remove covetousnessness from our hearts. We ask for Your continued care and provision. Give us each day according to each one's need and comfort us with the knowledge of Your care and provision so that we will not worry about food, drink, or clothing. Give us understanding of Your love so that we will seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness and not succumb to worry about tomorrow.

Forgiving Father, You who have forgiven our sins and placed them away from You as far as the east is from the west. Bring the Light of Your love to our souls and minds, that we may imitate the forgiveness you have shown to us in the death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Move us that we would forgive our brethren in all things for love covers a multitude of sins. Teach us to know what true forgiveness is that we may be able, even in the face of our enemies, to forgive others and seek not revenge but show mercy and peace to all. Help us to be patient and longsuffering with our brothers and sisters for love endures and is patient and kind. Help us to endure suffering for Your Son's holy name with all forgiveness following the examples of our Lord and our brother Stephen so long ago.

Almighty Father, shelter us under the wings of your Almighty power. Keep us from our great enemy, the Evil One, Satan. Remove his influence from our fellowship and communion together. He is the Father of Lies and a murderer from the beginning of Creation. Keep him and his minions away from us - man, woman, and child - that we may serve you in all holiness, purity, and devotion. Lead us not into temptation away from this devotion and love to You. Let not sin reign over us but let Your Spirit guide and cleanse us so that we will live in the full freedom from slavery to sin. Rule over us so that we may be glad and joyful slaves of righteousness and thus be led to holiness and come into eternal life.

Our Father in Heaven, Let all the earth praise You. We praise You for Your wonder that You have shown to Your people. Let all the earth praise the name of the Lord of Hosts for Your name alone is exalted and Your splendor is above the heavens. You raised up for Your people the Horn of Salvation, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let all Your people continuously praise Your mighty name. We pray that our worship and praise is a sweet-smelling savor. Help us to praise You with our mouths all the days of our lives for You take delight in Your people and crown the humble with salvation.

In the glorious name of our Mediator and High Priest, Jesus Christ - the King who sits on the throne of heaven for ever and ever, we pray that our prayer and worship is acceptable in Your sight - our Lord and our Redeemer. Amen
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I've been rather delinquent in posting any items recently. One thing of note that occurred in the last week and a half was a rather surprise examination by my consistory. I had a scheduled meeting on the 22nd of January to speak with the church council as a whole. I was supposed to present some financial details for my needs while training at seminary. (Just a note: I'm planning on attending Mid-America Reformed Seminary starting in August 2004)

It seems while I was waiting that one of the new ruling elders asked when the consistory had ever examined me as to my call to the ministry and other potential issues and beliefs. It occurred to everyone that such a meeting had never been done. There was an email sent from my pastor in January of 2003 requesting a meeting with me and Jessica (to which I said I was available at any time), but it was never followed up on during the next 12 months. I had been urging such a meeting for the previous two months to this meeting in correspondence with the elders but nothing was ever set up.

Well, when I went in the meeting room I was expecting a full council. Instead, there was just the elders. I started to get sweaty palms and a little bit nervous. For the next hour - totally unprepared - I was "interrogated" by the elders and my pastor as to my call to be a minister of Word and sacrament. Questions included such things like my view of the ministry, what the difference (if any) between a pastor and a preacher, the importance of my family, my viewpoint of authority (ruling) in the church, etc. Happily, I passed with flying colors. Seemed they were so impressed that my wife, Jessica, was told about the meeting from a couple of the elders' wives.

Another good thing, the council later on decided to give me support in the amount of $800 a month for the first year of seminary and would request the churches in classis to contribute $1200 more per month. With my own savings being used as well, I only need to raise an additional $1200 per month. Anybody want to help a starving (soon-to-be) seminarian? :-)

All six of us would appreciate the support to keep food in our mouths. :-)

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Church Membership

Some philosophies regarding church membership have recently come to my attention that deeply disturbs me. I go to a Reformed church where the consistory (session) is planning to reject the request of a family to enter into church membership because of the issue of infant baptism (the wife is the one who doesn’t agree with it).

I believe that in looking at the issue of church membership, a pastoral viewpoint should take precedence over a ruling viewpoint. I mean this in the sense that the officers should look at the believers who come into the life of a congregation as an opportunity to minister and teach them the truth of Scripture. Confessional subscription should be required of those who would teach for the sake of order and agreement, but not for those who would be taught.

I think if our ministries of Word and Sacrament are to be places of feeding and watering for the sheep of Christ, then we must look at the theological differences (such as infant baptism) to not be issues of discipline (thus preventing the aspiring member from joining) but as issues of discipleship and shepherding. It is one thing to not baptize your children out of a misunderstanding of Scripture. It is quite another to not baptize out of willful disobedience. The latter is subject to discipline whereas the first is subject to teaching and discipleship.

Therefore we should not be hesitant to admit into membership those who don’t necessarily agree on every point. While this may make for a more mixed congregation, it shouldn’t change the teaching and pastoral ministry of the congregation as that must be in line with confessional standards. When we talk about in the form of church membership that the ones joining must agree with “the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testaments and in the articles of the Christian faith as taught in this Christian church”, are we talking about the entire Three Forms of Unity or the Apostles’ Creed (which the Heidelberg Catechism speaks of as the articles of the faith – Q/A 22)? I would submit that those who can agree with the Creed (which includes Baptists) should be welcomed to our congregations and come under the pastoral care and teaching ministry to further their maturity in the Christian faith.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

My wife and I were discussing in the last week the nature of preaching - what its purposes and goals are when it comes to the people of God in weekly worship. We came to the conclusion that all too often it seems that Reformed preaching seems to emphasize heavily on the intellectual nature of man and thus sermons with this emphasis have a tendency to seem more like lectures. We attended a service recently where the preacher was very methodical and well...uninteresting in his exposition of Psalm 110. My wife said that she could have gotten all of what he preached on just by reading the Psalm. It seemed to be a sermon to speak to the intellect (i.e. this is what the passage says) and very little that speaks to the whole of the person (i.e. this is what God is saying, why it is important to you, and what you should do in response to God's instruction).

Our new pastor of some 11 months has been a blessing in many ways. His sermons seem to be lifegiving and encouraging. It redirects our focus on our Lord Jesus and encourages us each week. When it gets toward the end of the week, we look forward to attending the worship and hearing his sermons. While we both think the liturgy could use a lot of work, worship is nonetheless a joy and highlight each week.

This brings me back to my original point. Preaching should be something that speaks to the entire man - emotionally and mentally (both physical and spiritual) - to encourage and strenghten his faith in God and his trust in Jesus Christ. To do only one aspect is to descend into charasmatic type of worship (emotionally focused) or into teaching only (intellectually focused). Some sermons are no more inspiring than a particular topical lecture. Preaching the Word should be focused on inspiring the whole man (we are not Gnostics!) to grow in faith and trust in Christ.

Therefore preaching needs to speak to his emotions. It needs to uplife and encouraged the depressed, the weary, the sorrowful. Preaching needs to speak to his intellect. It needs to bring his mind to an awareness of God's love and forgiveness, God's law, and God's goodness. In summary, it needs to encourage his faith and strive to conform him to the mind of Christ (both intellectually and emotionally). We need to think rightly and feel rightly so that we can do rightly and not be tossed about by the waves of life (James 1:8).

The goal of preaching should not be to have such a memorable sermon that it sticks with the parishoners all week long. It should be focused on encouraging and uplifting the members of the Body of Christ as they are sitting in their pews. By the time the worship service has come to an end, a congregant should be feel strengthened and encouraged - ready to face another week of battle against the Great Enemy.

During the following week, a parishoner may not (and probably won't) remember the sermon, but the Spirit has used the preached Word to encourage him and cause him to persevere in his faith. His understanding will grow of God and His Christ. He may not remember how or when but he will grow as the Spirit brings things to remembrance.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

I wrote this up after a discussion on the Theologica Forum discussing homeschooling versus public schooling. I felt I needed to crystalize my thoughts more on my specific reasons for choosing to homeschool and follow the classical education model. I thought it might be better to write it down than just have it in my head.

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Home School Education Philosophy

The basic premise of any type of education is that it is religious. One cannot help the influence of one’s religious view of the world and reality in any subject taught. This is true of science (evolution vs. creation), history (meaningless vs. purposeful), language study (communication skills for life vs. communication skills to spread the kingdom of God), math (explanation of the functions of science vs. a reflection of the order of the Creator), and the arts (pleasure vs. bringing glory to God).

The philosophical foundation of this school’s curriculum is devised from two aspects - Christian and classical studies. These two are brought together to form a cohesive whole. Christian refers to the emphasis upon the study, belief, and communication of God’s truth. Classical refers to the methodology of acquiring the tools to communicate God’s truth. The classical Trivium contains three methods (closely corresponding to the age of the child), which are the grammar stage, the dialectic (logic) stage, and the rhetoric (speech) stage.

The practical outworking of this philosophy of education differs significantly from the ordinary public and private (i.e. Christian) education philosophy. Where the primary goal of the predominant education philosophy is that of the apprehension of facts with little or no teaching on organizing those facts learned and communication of them, the goal of the Christian Classical education philosophy is to be able to give the facts of the various fields of study, teach logic and debate to organize those facts, and finally teach communication skills in order to present truth.

The general outline of Classical Christian education is thus. During the formative years of education (K-6th), a large amount of data (history, math, language skills, Bible memorization, etc.) is presented. This purpose is to give the factual background and foundation for the future development of the second and third parts of the Trivium. During the time when a student becomes much more aware of his environment (7th - 9th) and is seeking to correlate all the various subjects he has studied in the previous years, a study of the logical formation and arrangement of that data is studied (logic and debate). When these skills of arranging and correlating various branches of knowledge into a cohesive whole has been gained, then the student is taught the skills of speech and presentation (rhetoric) in the final years (10th - 12th). All of this is done with the background of integrating Christian truth into the curriculum so that the student is able to bring his faith into all the branches of study, correlate and organize them together, and be able to present the truth of God in various and persuasive ways across many fields of study.

The goal of the educational approach is that the student will have a firm grasp of the world around him and is able to communicate the truth of God against ungodliness wherever it is presented - philosophical, educational, political, economic, ethical or religious. The basic presupposition is the existence and work of God in His Creation and the realization that all things are for and to the glory of the Triune God. This is why the study of Greek and Roman classic literature is studied alongside the truth of God’s Word. Many of the modern philosophies, while unique in certain aspects, are really children of pagan philosophies of the past. Knowing these philosophies and being able to confront and tear down the strongholds that exalt themselves above Christ is vital in order to keep one’s self unspotted from the world.

The goal in particular with the schooling at home aspect is to provide a central focus in the child's life that is oriented toward family interaction and less toward individualism. As the student grows older he/she will think more in terms of self within the community (i.e. family/church) rather than solely in terms of himself/herself. Hopefully this will provide a better balance of looking at the world. We are all individuals of the one body of Christ.

Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do. Do it all to the glory of God. - 1 Corinthians 10:31

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