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My Thoughts and Prayers for the Persecuted Church

This morning as I thought and prayed for fellow Christians who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ and His word worldwide, especially, in Iraq and Syria I was reminded of the following passages of Scripture:

Revelation 6:9-11: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on earth? Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”

Matthew 5: 10-12: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Romans 12: “Bless those who persecute you; bless them and do not curse them.”

1 Peter 4:16: “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

1 Peter 5:10: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Father, may you watch over and protect your Church. May you keep Her faithful and bold even in times of persecution. In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen!

 

Does Every Christian Have a Special Guardian Angel?

I guess you have heard of the notion of guardian angels before. Those who believe in guardian angels state that every Christian has an angel assigned to them by God to care and protect them. This belief is not recent. Church history shows that it dates back so many centuries ago. In fact, some early Church Fathers like Origen and Chrysostom in third and fourth centuries respectively believed and taught about guardian angels.

Those who advocate for the belief in guardian angels cite Matthew 18:10 and Acts 12:15 as their biblical basis. In the first verses of Matthew 18, Jesus speaks to his apostles about humbling themselves like children. Then he later says to them: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (10).

In the first verses of Acts 12 we find Jesus’ disciples praying in the house of Mary (the mother of John Mark) for Peter who has been put in prison by the Jewish religious and government leaders. However, when a girl reports to them that Peter is released from prison and is standing outside the house in which they were in, the disciples disbelieve her and say, “You are out of your mind.” But the girl insists but still they dismiss her and say, “It is his angel!” (15).

Now, do these verses teach that each Christian has a particular guardian angel? I do not believe so. In the case of Matthew 18:10, we should understand the “little ones” and “their angels” in a collective sense rather than individualistic sense. In other words, the verse states that angels who minister to these little ones and can also minister to every believer see the face of God the Father (not a particular angel of a particular little one sees the face of God the Father). In the case of Acts 12:15, we should understand it to mean that the believers thought that at this particular time God had sent this angel to probably encourage them and they referred to this angel as “Peter’s angel” implying an angel that was sent to them for the cause of Peter whom they were praying for.

It is important to guard against the belief of guardian angels because it can easily lead to the worship of angels which is prohibited in Scripture (Rev. 22:8, 9). Herman Bavinck observes, “The problem with the doctrine of guardian angels is that it leads to veneration and worship, a practice apparently referred to in Colossians 2:18.” If a believer is so occupied with the thoughts of a special angel who cares and protects them, they stand in danger of obliterating God in their minds as a sole sustainer and preserver of their lives and instead accredit this sustenance and preservation to an angel.

Having said this, it is important to point out that the Bible does teach that angels do minister to God’s people (but not a particular angel specifically for a particular Christian). Angels are ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14). So, God uses angels to help believers in various ways. For instance we read in Psalms 34:7 and 91:11 that they watch over believers. Angels also intervene is some special ways in some events of God’s people (Isaiah 63:9; Daniel 6:22; Acts 5:19). They also execute judgments against God’s enemies (Genesis 19:1, 13; 2 Kings 19:35; Matthew 13:41).

So, yes God uses his angels to help or minister to his people but God never sets aside or assign a particular angel to a particular Christian. This belief is hardly supported by Scripture and can easily lead to worship of angels which the Bible prohibits. I fully agree with the Belgic Confession Article 12 which clearly states: “He (God) also created the angels good, to be His messengers and to serve His elect (all believers).”

I also agree with John Calvin when he writes:

“But whether individual angels have been assigned to individual believers for their protection, I dare not affirm with confidence… Indeed, those who confine to one angel the care that God takes of each one of us are doing a great injustice both to themselves and to all the members of the church; as if it were an idle promise that we should fight more valiantly with these hosts supporting and protecting us round about!”

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2014 in Christianity and theology

 

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The Challenge for the Preacher

“When it comes to preaching the Word of God, a man will never follow the right course if he cannot forget self, and close his eyes to anything that might distract him in this world from acting according to God’s pure ways. Indeed, he will surely stray away from the path, first to one side, then to the other. Hence, God’s doctrines are often corrupted because those who ought to preach them are inclined to malevolent, or to seek the favour of their hearers. They may fear to incur bad feeling or to provoke anger against themselves.

Therefore, it is impossible for us to serve God in our natural state; we must be absolutely determined, with unshakeable constancy, to suffer for the doctrines that we preach, and not to let this cause us grief. We must fight under the ensign of our captain, Jesus Christ, knowing that we cannot share in the glory of his resurrection if we have not first suffered with him, following his example. All believers must certainly strengthen themselves to do these things. . .

. . .Those who are called by God to preach his Word must be resolved that they will not compromise, even if the whole world were to rise up against them. They must bear all conflicts, knowing that God will help them in their need and always grant them victory, provided they follow their vocation in purity and simplicity. The greatest insult and injury that we can give to God is in yielding to the desires of man, and twisting his Word both left and right. It is not only a question of abandoning our own ideas, but also of constantly upholding God’s truth, which is immutable; it must never be altered, however changeable and inconstant man may be.”

Taken from: John Calvin’s Sermons on Galatians. (Copied from Reformed Bibliophile, http://www.erictyoung.com ).

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Sound Teaching

 

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All Scripture is All about Christ

I will tell you one thing that proves to a demonstration, that Christ is still precious to his people, and it is this:-send one of Christ’s people to hear the most noted preacher of the age, whoever that may be; he preaches a very learned sermon, very fine and magnificent, but there is not a word about Christ in that sermon.Suppose that to be the case, and the Christian man will go out and say, “I did not care a farthing for that man’s discourse.” Why? “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. I heard nothing about Christ.”

Send that man on the Sabbath morning to hear some hedge and ditch preacher, some one who cuts the king’s English about never so badly, but who preaches Jesus Christ-you will see the tears rolling down that man’s face, and when he comes out he will say, “I do not like that man’s bad grammar; I do not like the many mistakes he has made, but oh! it has done my heart good, for he spoke about Christ.” That, after all, is the main thing for the Christian; he wants to hear about his Lord, and if he hears him magnified he will overlook a hundred faults.

In fact, you will find that Christians are all agreed, that the best sermon is that which is fullest of Christ. They never like to hear a sermon unless there is something of Christ in it. A Welsh minister who was preaching last Sabbath at the chapel of my dear brother, Jonathan George, was saying, that Christ was the sum and substance of the gospel, and he broke out into this story:-

A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, “What do you think of my sermon?”

“A very poor sermon indeed,” said he.

“A poor sermon?” said the young man, “it took me a long time to study it.”

“Ay, no doubt of it.”

“Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?”

“Oh, yes,” said the old preacher, “very good indeed.”

“Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn’t you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?”

“Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon.”

“Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?”

“Because,” said he, “there was no Christ in it.”

“Well,” said the young man, “Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text.”

So the old man said, “Don’t you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?”

“Yes,” said the young man.

“Ah!” said the old divine “and so from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business is when you get to a text, to say, ‘Now what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis-Christ. And,” said he, “I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it.” Now since you say amen to that, and declare that what you want to hear is Jesus Christ, the text is proved-“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious.”” 

Taken from the sermon on 1 Peter 2:7  by Charles H.  Spurgeon. Delivered on March 13, 1859.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2014 in Sound Teaching

 

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Malawian Presbyterianism: Are We Standing or Falling like PCUSA?

My fellow Presbyterians in Malawi,

Last Thursday, (June 19, 2014), the Presbyterian Church of United States of America (PCUSA) passed a resolution to allow gays or lesbians to marry in church. Now, this has shocked some but I am not really shocked. Why? Because this is just one of the fruits of steps that were taken many years ago beginning from 1920s.

PCUSA through the Auburn Affirmation in 1920s rejected that the Bible is without error (inerrancy of Scripture), the virgin birth of Jesus and his deity, that Christ died on behalf of sinners (substitutionary atonement), bodily resurrection of Christ and authenticity of Christ’s miracles. Jesus’ miracles were said to be myths. The Auburn Confession also declared that Presbyterians in PCUSA must:

• “safeguard liberty of thought and teaching of its ministers”;
• prohibit the restricting of church teaching to rigid interpretations of Scripture and doctrine; and
• refuse to rank ecclesiastical authority or the authority of the Bible above that of the individual Spirit-led conscience. (In other words, man can decide what or what not to believe in the Bible). (http://www.layman.org/Files/how-we-got-here-updated.pdfhttp://www.layman.org/Files/how-we-got-here-updated.pdf).

This declaration led to many things like increased focus on social justice to the extent that salvation, in some cases, is viewed as a mere liberation from poverty and social injustice. This focus on social justice and human rights also led to less emphasis in following the Bible when it comes to the ordination of who is to be a deacon, an elder or a pastor in the church as outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.

From 1990s to date, PCUSA among other things has accepted that gays or lesbians can be members of the church, pastors and elders or deacons and a few days ago it has accepted that gays or lesbians can officially marry in church. Marriage is now no longer between a man and a woman but between “two people.”

Now, we might look at PCUSA and think, “That’s America, it will never happen to the Presbyterianism in Malawi. But “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). The Presbyterian Church in Malawi partners with PCUSA in a number of areas. A good number of PCUSA congregations also have exchange visits with Presbyterian congregations in Malawi.

I wonder and fear if PCUSA will not influence our Presbyterian church or if it has not already influenced it somehow  knowing that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33). These are my concerns and fears. I believe that all of us including our leaders should ponder on these things lest some years from now, we will also find ourselves in the same place where PCUSA is now.

Thanks for reading. May the Good Lord bless you as you reflect on this post and search the Scriptures to ascertain if these things are so (Acts 17:11).

 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Sound Teaching

 

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Lessons in Church Planting

Originally posted on THE CHRISTIAN PUNDIT:

holy trinity presbyterian church Engaging in the work of planting Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church (ARP) in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan is bringing back memories of life lessons in church planting, gained in a small inner-city church in Kokomo, Indiana. The church there, itself a fairly recent church plant, was engaged in planting a church in the next town. The longer we lived, worshiped, were mentored in that Christian community, the more we grew in deep respect and appreciation for God’s gracious work through the Reformed Presbyterian Churches (RPCNA) in Indiana. Over a few decades, with a biblical simplicity, the kingdom of God advanced through them, from one small congregation in Bloomington, to eleven–still continuing to envision more across the state.

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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Understanding Law and Gospel

Originally posted on THE CHRISTIAN PUNDIT:

Over at Reformation21, Carl Trueman assesses a recent blog post by Tullian Tchividjian, calling for “a much needed face-to-face debate” after Tchividjian’s claim that Reformed and evangelical preachers are confusing law and gospel; Michael Kruger provides a helpful response to Tchividjian at his blog, leading to a Kruger-Tchividjian exchange in the comments section. Reading through the posts it seems plain to me that Tchividjian lacks clarity on the relationship of law and gospel–and that his counter-bloggers (Trueman, Kruger, et al) capably and clearly explain the scriptural relationship of the law and the gospel. Others have as well, including:

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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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