June 2007

The 176th Synod of the RPCNA will be history as of tomorrow. I will give some thoughts later in the week about my attendance. The RP has hosted a blog that tells about this year’s court. It can be checked out here.

As a quick note, I was well pleased with the debates surrounding worship and the delegate’s high view of Presbyterian history in regard to the Westminster Directory for Publick Worship.


Take to heart what manner of person you are before God and what will befall you due to this.
(1) Do you have such an even-tempered and stable disposition of heart when people maltreat you in word and deed?
(2) Or do you have a cross, fretful, and irritable nature? Do you have as many spines as a porcupine does, or are you as prickly as a bush of thorns, so that one cannot be in your presence without being pricked? (IV: 84-85).

Time away from the seminary gives me the opportunity to catch up with current evangelical Christianity. It gives me the chance to read what others are reading. When I say others, I mean people who are not reading Church Fathers, Medieval Mystics, Reformers, or Puritans. I mean the people that live in the real world and deal with day-to-realities that seminarians and pastors tend to forget. I get a chance to read what the people in the trenches of reality are reading.

This week I read girl meets God by Lauren Winner. This book is not new, it was published in 2003, but it is fresh and still being read by many college students and many non-Christians. Winner is a winner. She speaks of her conversion from an Orthodox Jew to a High Church evangelical.

I would not agree with all of Winner’s theology, but as you read you can sense that she is working out her faith. She struggles with sin, she is a poor witness, she is a bad friend, she is a hypocrite at times. Lauren Winners is you and me. There is so much that real Christians struggle with here. There is so much that we, in the Reformed community are afraid to admit and to discuss. She doubts, she fears, she questions her faith. But she also prays with friends, attempts to think through her faith, attempts to live unto the glory of Christ.

Take a couple of days and read this book. There are so many touch points that can be used for discussion with the greater evangelical community and those who are not Christians. This book is also somewhat racy at times as Winner discusses her sins and areas that are less than sanctified. I imagine that is why Random House is her publisher and not Zondervan or Baker. Winner also has great glasses which make it all worth while.. for me at least!

On being more sophisticated than her other church members:

I would answer in the affirmative because I would look around All Angel’s [Church] at the motley crew of Christians, some of whom buy clothes at Wal-Mart and some of whom wear Vera Wang, and I know that these people are my people, polyester, Amy Grant, and all. p106.
On the superficial nature of her relationship with her unconverted father:

So we don’t talk much about church or God or prayer. And when we talk about other things, a creeping superficiality marks our conversations. I tell him about the papers I am writing for school, but I don’t speak about vocation. I tell him about decisions I make, but I never speak about prayerfully discerning God’s will for my life. I tell him about buying a new desk. I do not tell him about all the ways I am slowly turning into the person God wants me to become. p109.
On evangelism:

Evangelizing, if it means handing out tracts, is not something I do. I don’t ever swing my arm around a friend’s shoulder, look meaningful into her eyes and ask, “Susie, if you were hit by a bus tomorrow, would you go to heaven?” When I come face-to-face with Jesus’ commission to the disciples- go and spread the word around the world- I wince, for I know I am not even spreading it around Morningside Heights. p120.
On prayer:

I have a hard time praying. It usually feels like a waste of time. It feels unproductive; my time would be better spent writing a paragraph or reading a book or practicing a conjugation or baking a pie. Sometimes whole weeks elapse when I bother to hardly pray at all, because prayer is boring; because it feels silly; but above all because it is unproductive… Still there are weeks when I do pray, the weeks when I trust- or, at least manage to act like I trust- that prayer does something, even if it is something I cannot see. Aquinas wrote, “Prayer is profitable because it makes us familiars with God.” I like that language… Then Aquinas quoted Psalm 140, “Let my prayers be directed as incense in thy sight.” p135.
On an ex-boyfriend getting married:

I am a mean petty person, and a terrible Christian to boot, and I spend all weekend hoping that Steven and his bride will be miserable, that his brilliant dissertation will turn to straw… and he will be stuck in a loveless marriage in the godforsaken town in Arkansas for the rest of his natural life. I hope too, that she is not a Christian, that she will lead him down a path of sin and restlessness… p141.

On the English Church historian, Venerable Bede:

That prayer is why I love Bede. Because he knew that knowledge and books were just a nice way to fill the time until he came to dwell with Jesus. p201.
On Confessing sins to one-another:

The Lord has put away all your sins. I think that the language is perfect, God folding my sins neatly and putting them in the dresser drawer next to the sweaters and the turtlenecks and the socks. It means the God who worries about our sins is not only God the judge, but also God the caretaker. He worries about sin because he craves righteousness, but also simply because he loves us. p211.

I have been attempting to collect old Synod reports from the RPCNA. When I mean old, I do not mean 1985. I mean late-1800s and early 1900s. Finding these has been a real joy, because when I read one there is this sensation that I am most-likely the only person who has read this in about 100 years (maybe I am conceited, maybe I am wrong, but I still think along these lines).

The amount of material that is devotional in nature is quite amazing as well. From what I hear from some people in Reformed denominations, synods (as well as classis, presbyteries, etc.) have a legal and formal sense that is usually less than worshipful.

These old reports are filled with material that causes one to lift up holy hands to the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is one example, from the RPCNA Synod, 1910. It is from the Report on the Committee of the Sabbath:

The Sabbath is the mountain day between the weeks. Here Jesus is found teaching and pronouncing blessings. They, who will, may have this high day with Jesus, and enjoy His fellowship- the very essence of happiness How rich and numerous the blessings that come to such! This mountain is strewn with precious gifts: comfort for the sad; pardon for the guilty; bread for the hungry; rest for the weary; riches for the poor; visions for the pure; society for the lonely; crowns for the humble; heaven for the persecuted; the Holy Spirit for all. What happy experiences the Sabbath brings to those who worship in the Spirit! What views of life, of destiny, of eternity! What stirrings of the soul, what incoming power, what feelings of holy awe what consciousness of kinship with God! How the horizon bounds back, and life grows large! How near heaven seems to be! How real the Throne, the Lamb, the angels, and the Redeemed! Blessing upon blessing for the Sabbath-keeper. “Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keep the Sabbath (Is. 56:2.)!

According to Steve Burlew, the Banner of Truth Trust is releasing a new book on parenting from the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Of course I am very excited for this book since Dr. Lloyd-Jones is one of my favorites. Lloyd-Jones has influenced my theology and ministry in many ways. I hope that this book influences the way that grace can be at the center of our parenting.

Maybe my friend, Steve Burlew, from the Banner, will send me an advanced copy for review (I hope so)!

“When the light of the gospel enters the soul it brings with it a supernatural power that radically transforms the whole of life. This change is perhaps no more clearly seen than in the relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children. Our age has witnessed an almost total collapse of the family unit, and in many places the majority of children are now being raised in ‘broken homes’. Our society presents Christian parents and children with a unique opportunity of bearing witness to God’s love by just being different. Few things are more powerful than a Christian family in which the true relationship between parents and children is clearly seen. This may be one of the ways in which God will bringing many to a knowledge of the truth.”

If the heart were more spiritual and joyous, we would more readily praise the Lord with joyful song and thereby stir up ourselves and others. I am here not only speaking of the singing in church. (There many do not even sing; and for some the very best they can do is read the psalm silently.) [IV: 35].

Today marks the day of Rev. Ray Lanning’s birth! He has been an inspiration to me as well as to many aspiring ministers. (Just ask his Homiletics students who helps them the most in their preaching!)

Everyone should wish him well as the Lord has given him another year to serve as an under-shepherd to the sheep!

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