Archive for June, 2010

Praying for the 38th General Assembly of the PCA

Below is a prayer guide for the upcoming General Assembly of the PCA that came across my desk. I found it helpful. Please join me in praying for the commissioners to this years GA as we carry out the work of the church.

A GUIDE FOR PRAYER

38th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America

June 29 through July 2, 2010

Nashville, Tennessee

Pray that the Commissioners will have an ear only to the Word of Christ, as delivered in the Scriptures, as the rule for settling all substantial matters before the Assembly; that they will exercise prudence and good sense in all matters merely circumstantial; and that they will have the wisdom to so distinguish among the matters before the Church.

Pray also that the Commissioners will engage in debate with a sense of fair play, integrity and charity, and that they will be so moved by the Spirit of God, as to put aside selfishness, pride or party spirit, in order to glorify Christ in His Church and edify His people; pray that in times of work, worship & fellowship, the bonds of love & unity among our Elders would be strengthened; pray that Pastors who come in discouragement would be heartened & encouraged to be faithful in their labor.

Pray for the Moderator (and his assistants); the Stated Clerk; the Parliamentarians; and the office staff.

Pray for your Elders’ faithful participation in the work of the Assembly; and pray for the Lord’s blessing upon the ministry of the Word in the worship services and in the seminar options provided throughout the week.

MONDAY

11:00 am—Committees of Commissioners begin meeting: pray for the wisdom of these committees as they frame recommendations on all the business coming before the Assembly, as well as review the records of all the Permanent Committees and Agencies; pray especially for the wisdom and practical efficiency of the Overtures Committee, as it must prepare recommendations on 13 of the 27 Overtures before the Assembly.

TUESDAY

8:00 am—Committees of Commissioners continue.

7:30 pm—Opening worship service. Pray for the Lord’s blessing upon the means of grace, particularly the moderator’s closing address.

9:00 pm—First business session convenes. Pray for the election of the new moderator, that he would be wise, fair, firm and good-humored in leading the Assembly through the week.

WEDNESDAY

Seminars—pray that this non-business part of the Assembly’s schedule will enrich the faith and life of the elders attending.

Report of Stated Clerk—pray that the Lord will give the Assembly wisdom if there is a final vote on last year’s proposed Book of Church Order (BCO) amendments.

Report of Committee on Interchurch Relations—pray for the members of the permanent committee; concerning the address to the Assembly from delegates from other denominations; pray especially for a Reformed & Presbyterian unity throughout the world that does not violate the Church’s calling to be a pillar and support of the truth.

Report of Committee on Presbytery Records—pray that the commissioners will consider with care this very important portion of the Assembly’s oversight responsibility.

Informational Reports of the Various Committees—pray that commissioners will be encouraged and challenged to hear reports of the work of the General Assembly Committees and Agencies.

THURSDAY

Report of Committee on Ridge Haven—pray for the new camping season, especially that the children attending would come to know Christ or be further nourished in their faith.

Report of Standing Judicial Commission—pray for the members of the SJC, that they would have a love for justice in the administration of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, for the glory of the Lord & the upbuilding of the Body; pray for the Lord’s blessing upon the SJC’s work in completing the cases pending and in the cases adjudicated this year; that the parties involved will receive the decision of the Court with humility & grace; and that there will be repentance where there is sin; understanding where there is hardness of heart; and restoration among brothers & sisters who are divided.

Report of Committee on Constitutional Business—pray for the Committee, that they advise accurately and wisely on any disputed questions during the Assembly.

Report of Committee on PCA Foundation—pray for the work of stewardship in the PCA, and for the committee and its management & distribution of assets.

Report of Committee on Mission to the World (MTW)—pray for Dr. Paul Kooistra (the coordinator), the committee staff, and permanent committee members; and pray for our missionaries throughout the world. To that end see: http://www.mtw.org/

Report of Theological Examining Committee—pray that the Committee be careful & faithful in their work of examining GA nominated officers.

Report of Committee on Nominations—pray that able and faithful men will be elected; that those elected to office will serve well & that those not elected will not be discouraged; specially pray for those to be elected to the SJC.

Report of Committee on Christian Education & Publications—pray for Dr. Charles Dunahoo (the coordinator), and the members of the permanent committee; and for the work of Christian Education across our denomination.

Report of the Committee on Reformed University Ministries— pray for TE Rod Mays (the coordinator), the members of the permanent committee, and for the work of RUM ministers in colleges and universities across the Unites States.

Report of Committee on PCA Retirements and Benefits, Inc.—pray for the permanent committee, that they be wise stewards of the various insurance plans they administer, as well as of the investments made on behalf of the PCA; and pray for the prosperity of the retired ministers and widows relief fund.

Report of Committee on Covenant Theological Seminary— pray for the Seminary, its President, Dr. Bryan Chapell; and for the continued faithfulness of the faculty, the Board of Trustees & the students.

Report of Committee on Mission to North America—pray for TE James Bland (the coordinator), and the members of the permanent committee; for capable men to plant churches; for the work of church planting, particularly among people from other cultures; for Bethany Christian Services; for the PCA Chaplains; and that the Assembly exercise wisdom in the creation of new presbyteries. Pray in particular for the Assembly’s consideration of a proposal from the chaplains to adopt a declaration concerning the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the U.S. Military with respect to homosexuality.

Report of Committee on Covenant College—pray for the College, its President, Dr. Niel Nielson; and for the faculty, the Board of Trustees & the students.

Report of Cooperative Ministries Committee—pray for the members of this committee as they seek to foster cooperative ministry among General Assembly Committees and Agencies and provide a forum for resolving issues of inter-agency conflict. In particular pray that the Lord would guide the Assembly in considering the very important and perhaps controversial 2010 PCA Strategic Plan.

Report of Committee on Administration—pray for the staff and the members of the permanent committee; pray for good stewardship in the approval of the budgets. Pray in particular for the consideration of an important new funding plan for the committee.

Report of Overtures Committee—Many of the difficult issues before the Assembly will come in the 13 overtures from Presbyteries reported by this Committee. Pending are proposals: to amend The Book of Church Order to address the matter of women and the diaconate (from competing points of view), to address the means by which the non-Constitutional portions of The Directory for the Worship of God may be amended, and to revise the rules governing the organization of new churches; that Assembly planners be directed not to use intinction (the practice of dipping the bread into the wine at the Lord’s Supper) at Assembly worship services; to adopt a declaration concerning the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the U.S. Military with respect to homosexuality; and to form a study committee on the question “What are the duties of the visible church relative to political and economic justice?”

Pray that the Lord would provide grace, patience and perseverance for the Assembly if there is a late night session.

FRIDAY

Adjournment, 12:00 noon—pray that the Assembly makes this goal for adjournment.

Pray for a safe journey home for all, and for God’s favor in blessing that work which is according to His Word, and for His leading to see and correct that which is not.

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Mountains and Why We Love Them

Many of the men who have had a great impact on my understanding of Scripture and what it means to follow Christ have been great lovers of mountains. Craig Loibner, my pastor through Jr. High and High School, who still challenges me to think through my faith and ask questions, cannot go long without two things – preaching from the gospels and visiting the mountains. Francis Schaeffer was a mountain dweller, ministering to all kinds of folks that had questions at L’Abri high up in the Alps. Dr. Bryan Estelle, a seminary professor at Westminster Seminary California, came to RTS as a visiting professor to teach a class on the prophetic books of the Old Testament. He spent one week, lecturing for about 6 hours a day, dramatically shaping how I understood the Old Testament. At lunch Dr. Estelle told stories of climbing the big walls in Yosemite Valley, his attempt on Denali, and other time spent in the mountains. J. Gresham Machen, founder of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and author of Christianity and Liberalism, a book I reference frequently, was also a lover of mountains, spending many days climbing the notable peaks of the Alps. You can read his essay, “Mountains and Why We Love Them,” here.

So, what is it about the mountains that is so fascinating, so captivating? Mountains are majestic. Mountains refuse and refute our pride. They have a way of giving us perspective. Mountains force us to deal with our smallness. They prod us to ask questions. In short mountains bear witness to the greatness and wonder of God. Paul writes, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1.19-20, ESV). Mountains leave us without excuse.

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Un-Parenting; Un-Believable

Is there truth? This, of course, is an age-old question that has been answered in various ways by various philosophers at various times. It is easy enough to debate this question in a purely cerebral way without ever dealing with the consequences of our ideas. However, if we alter the question slightly such hypothetical discussions become much more difficult and unhelpful. So… Are there standards? Well, the obvious answer is yes. For instance, if there were no grammatical standards written communication would be impossible. What about in parenting? Are there standards in parenting? Here is an article from ABC News about a woman who tries to say answer this question in the negative. She is leading the way in movements called un-schooling and un-parenting.

The whole un-philosophy is built on freedom and autonomy. When asked about rules she said, “Because we don’t punish, we don’t use the term rules.” Here is the problem. Even if I decide not to use the term gravity, it still exists.  If gravity exists, I had better understand the rules that apply before I get to the edge of a cliff. Denying standards does not mean they do not exist, it simply means we are out of touch with reality.

In the end, the un-mom’s practice betrays her philosophy. When teaching a mom how to un-school and un-parent (a conundrum in and of itself) an issue came up with how many cookies to let the kids eat. Her answer? “When you set up things with limits, you’re setting up a scenario of kids sneaking things.” Wait a minute. You don’t want the kids sneaking cookies, so you let them have as many as they want?

There are two underlying assumptions that are problematic. First, there is an assumption that it is bad to sneak things. This assumption is not problematic because it is wrong, this assumption is problematic because it is right. By operating on the assumption that sneaking things is wrong and letting the kids have as many cookies as they want, you are still submitting to the standard.

The second assumption is more subtle. The thought of the un-mom goes like this.

  1. Sneaking things is bad.
  2. If I give my kids whatever they want, they won’t sneak things.
  3. If my kids don’t sneak things, they aren’t doing that thing which is bad.
  4. Therefore, I will give my kids whatever they want.

The deadly assumption is that if we curb an undesirable behavior then we’re all good regardless of the motivation behind that behavior. This is simply un-true. Sneaking things is a symptom of selfishness, flesh-worship, and a lack of self-control. Eating a whole bag of cookies because you want to is also a symptom of selfishness, flesh-worship, and a lack of self-control. The symptom is not the problem, it only alerts us to the problem.

The article states, “Martin said she has ‘such a present-based mind-set’ that she doesn’t think about her kids’ futures, and that she just wants them to be happy.” In the end, a standard does exist. Her kids’ happiness is the standard. None of us wants our kids or ourselves to be unhappy. However, when we set up human happiness, whether it is ours, our kids’, or someone else’s, as our standard we are setting up a fleshy idol.

While we may not be as open with our idol building as the un-mom, we are all guilty of serving our flesh in our pursuit of happiness rather than God’s glory. This is sin. When our flesh becomes the standard, we are guilty of the very thing Paul writes about in Romans 1.18-32. Professing wise, we have become fools by exalting ourselves, the creature, over God, the Creator. Nevertheless, there is good news, for the gospel says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.8, ESV). Yes, while I was still walking in sin and justifying myself with all kinds of un-excuses and un-philosophies, Christ, the one who knew no sin, became sin for me that I might become the righteousness of God. Christ subjected himself to the standards, which I denied that I might be forgiven for living as a fool.

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