[A slightly abridged version of this article will appear in the April 2018 edition of the Mount Carmel Cumberland Presbyterian Church newsletter.]
“My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old— things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” – Psalm 78:1-4, NIV
Psalm 78 is one of the longer psalms in the Bible taking up 72 verses.
Douglas Wilson has provided this summary for it:
“Consider the preamble of this history to be the first eight verses (v. 1-8). The time of Israel in the wilderness is then recounted (v. 9-41). The movement then goes historically backward as the psalmist recalls how God delivered Israel from Egypt in the first place (v. 42-52). The history of Israel is then resumed, and continues down to the time when Judah takes over from Ephraim as the dominant tribe (v. 53-66). That transfer is then celebrated (v. 67-72)”
We know from the psalm that it is a brief history of God’s people in the wilderness, and there’s something for us to learn here.
The primary way to build a community of faith is not with our hands, but with our stories. Revelation 12 tells us that we are made overcomers by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. If that’s true, then remembering what God has done for us (our testimony) is essential to seeing the victory that God has won for us in Christ (by His blood.)
Unfortunately, Psalm 78 has this refrain over and over again in some way: “but they forgot…”
Psalm 78:10 says, “they refused to keep God’s covenant and live by His law.” But why did they forget? They forget because, at some point, the people abandoned the practice of rightly teaching their children who God is and what He was doing for them.
The only way we are going to keep our community from being defined by lawlessness is to tell our children about the works of God, and live out the Gospel in our homes.
Tell your children and grandchildren about Jesus dying on the cross and raising from the dead to declare victory over sin, death, and hell. Teach how to live a godly life in the midst of a sinful world. Show them the importance of living in community with other believers and being active members of the local body of Christ. Remind them of what God has said about them in baptism.
Any kind of community can be built by the work of our hands, but only a community of faith can be built by the word of the Gospel being proclaimed consistently in the home.
As some of you may know, I have endeavored to preach through the first five chapters of Acts at my church, Mount Carmel CP Church. So, I thought I would give a short word about the resources that I’ve been using to help me tackle this endeavor.
This has been a tremendous resource for me. N.T. Wright has firm grasp on the history of the first century church. It’s almost as if he puts you there in the upper room with the followers of Jesus as they decide how they’re going to proceed with picking a replacement for Judas Iscariot.
I realize that Wright has his naysayers among the Reformed community for his views on Justification, but whatever. If you can’t enjoy the truth that he brings to the table without tossing out the parts where he’s off then you’re pretty much like a kid who has to eat McNuggets all the time cause he’ll choke on a chicken leg from Popeye’s.
It doesn’t matter what book it covers, the Christ-Centered Exposition series is a commentary set that’s made by the preacher for the preacher.
These commentaries, particularly the one over Acts, will help you break down a text in a digestible way so that you’re not giving people a bulk of information and no way to process it.
Forgive the second food reference, but it’s like giving someone a huge steak and telling them that they have to eat it with their hands in two bites. The Christ-Centered Exposition series gives you a knife and fork to work with so that you can break down the text and see the Gospel clearly on each page.
Although this isn’t a commentary over Acts, Phyllis Tickle, and her co-author, Jon Sweeney, do an excellent job of documenting the controversy surrounding the deity of the Holy Spirit, and how not much as changed over the last hundreds years.
This has been a helpful resource to me as someone who is trying to communicate the ancient truth about the Holy Spirit into a post-modern culture that only thinks of the Holy Spirit as some kind of impersonal force or power that was harnessed by the mystics of old.
As a couple of honorable mentions, I would like to also briefly talk about Jesus Continued by JD Greear and Rediscovering the Holy Spirit by Michael Horton. Horton’s book is easily 10x more academic than JD’s, but both are very helpful in understanding the deity and purpose of the Holy Spirit. I would say that JD’s book is more for someone who is new to the faith and would like more than just a base knowledge of the Holy Spirit, and Horton’s book is for the academic looking for something to mentally wrestle with, but all in all, I highly recommend both and find both of them helpful in articulating the importance of viewing the Holy Spirit correctly through the lens of Scripture.
Of course, there’s been some other sources that I’ve been using online such as WorkingPreacher.org, but those have been my “go to” books for this series, and if you plan on preaching or studying through the book of Acts I hope you’ll find these resources just as useful as I have.
“There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.” – Psalm 46:4, NKJV
The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon is laced with many a gem. The following is once such a gem in commentary over the 46th psalm.
There is a river. Divine grace like a smoothly flowing, fertilising, full, and never failing river, yields refreshment and consolation to believers. This is the river of the water of life, of which the church above as well as the church below partakes evermore. It is no boisterous ocean, but a placid stream, it is not stayed in its course by earthquakes or crumbling mountains, it follows its serene course without disturbance. Happy are they who know from their own experience that there is such a river of God. The streams whereof in their various influences, for they are many, shall make glad the city of God, by assuring the citizens that Zion’s Lord will unfailingly supply all their needs. The streams are not transient like Cherith, nor muddy like the Nile, nor furious like Kishon, nor treacherous like Job’s deceitful brooks, neither are their waters “naught” like those of Jericho, they are clear, cool, fresh, abundant, and gladdening. The great fear of an Eastern city in time of war was lest the water supply should be cut off during a siege; if that were secured the city could hold out against attacks for an indefinite period. In this verse, Jerusalem, which represents the church of God, is described as well supplied with water, to set forth the fact that in seasons of trial all sufficient grace will be given to enable us to endure unto the end. The church is like a well ordered city, surrounded with mighty walls of truth and justice, garrisoned by omnipotence, fairly built and adorned by infinite wisdom: its burgesses the saints enjoy high privileges; they trade with far off lands, they live in the smile of the King; and as a great river is the very making and mainstay of a town, so is the broad river of everlasting love, and grace their joy and bliss. The church is peculiarly the City of God, of his designing, building, election, purchasing and indwelling. It is dedicated to his praise, and glorified by his presence. The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. This was the peculiar glory of Jerusalem, that the Lord within her walls had a place where he peculiarly revealed himself, and this is the choice privilege of the saints, concerning which we may cry with wonder, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” To be a temple for the Holy Ghost is the delightful portion of each saint, to be the living temple for the Lord our God is also the high honour of the church in her corporate capacity. Our God is here called by a worthy title, indicating his power, majesty, sublimity, and excellency; and it is worthy of note that under this character he dwells in the church. We have not a great God in nature, and a little God in grace; no, the church contains as clear and convincing a revelation of God as the works of nature, and even more amazing in the excellent glory which shines between the cherubim overshadowing that mercy seat which is the centre and gathering place of the people of the living God. To have the Most High dwelling within her members, is to make the church on earth like the church in heaven.
Here we see that the city of God is Christ’s Church, and the river of God is God’s Spirit. The Spirit gladdens the Church just as the river gladdens the city.
[Disclaimer: I am not speaking for the blog as a whole, nor am I speaking for the other contributors. Of all of the other LNT contributors, I am a lone wolf here.]
Let me start off by saying that I’m conservative to the right of Genghis Kahn on a lot of issues. I was raised as a pew running, tongue-talking, Holy Ghost baptized, KJV Onlyist Pentecostal. Even for a couple of years after I left the theological background of my raising it was hard for me to give up the KJV, and I’m still conservative on the classical issues. I believe marriage is to be between one man and one woman. I believe women who have an abortion to avoid responsibility are committing murder. I believe those who are theologically and socially liberal have an agenda and that agenda has no place in the pulpit. If you name a hot button issue within the realm of Christendom there’s a good chance that I’ll land on the right side of it. (Take that however you want to!)
However, I was raised with two great aunts to who stood in the pulpit and proclaimed the Gospel. They boldly proclaimed that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. They urged people to run to Jesus and be washed in the blood of the Lamb for the forgiveness of their sins. I’m told stories of my great-grandmother who faithfully pastored two independent Pentecostal congregations through the 70s and 80s.
It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I had heard of people who didn’t believe that women should be pastors, and even then it wasn’t until I was an adult that I actually met one of these unicorns, and I found that the idea of women in pastoral ministry is actually a liberal issue.
Today, I am no longer Pentecostal. I am a proud Calvinist, but I am a pastor in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church – one of the few conservative-leaning denominations that ordain women to the pastorate, and I proudly stand on the liberal side with this issue, and here’s why…
1. There Were Dynamic Female Leaders in the Bible
I could go back to the Old Testament and mention Deborah the judge and Hildah the prophetess, and I could even talk about the Anna the prophetess mentioned Luke 2:36-38 who gave thanks to God for Jesus, but I think I want to start in a slightly more uncomfortable place for my complimentarian brethren.
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. – Romans 16:7, NIV
The first hurdle is to figure out whether or not Junia was a man or a woman. The Greek name, jIounivan, is in fact feminine so it is to be translated Junia rather Junias as the NIV 1984 and other translations have rendered it.
The second hurdle is to try to decipher what “outstanding among the apostles” means. While there is major controversy surrounding the actual meaning, one thing is clear – the patristics were confident that this woman was, in fact, an apostle.* Although, maybe not in the classical sense, but she was called and sent of the church.
Then, we come to Priscilla and Aquila. This husband and wife team discipled Apollos according to Acts 18. However, there’s something that we notice with Priscilla and Aquila that is different from the traditional way of addressing couples even in our modern day with the man’s name being mentioned first almost all of the time. It’s more often that you hear, “Let’s invite Joe and Mary over for dinner” rather than “Let’s invite Mary and Joe over for dinner.” Notice this observation made by Eddie Hyatt.
In Paul’s greeting to Priscilla and Aquilla in Romans 16:3-5, he greets them and the church that is in their house. Interestingly, he puts Priscilla’s name first in the greeting. This is telling for, in doing so, he violated the normal, conventional way of presenting a couple in the ancient world. The proper way would have been to mention Aquilla first, but Paul goes against accepted convention and mentions Priscilla first (Hyatt, Paul, Women and Church, 28-29).
That Paul would purposely mention Priscilla first is a powerful statement of her status and influence and of Paul’s estimation of her. Many New Testament scholars see this as evidence that she was the out-front one in the relationship and the pastor of the church in their home. R.C.H. Lenski, for example, said, “She by nature was more gifted and able than her husband, also spiritually fully developed, due to having Paul in her home for 18 months in Corinth.”
2. There Were Dynamic Female Leaders in Church History
I’m not going to spend as much time on this point because we could be here for a while, but I will point out a couple of examples the first being Hilda of Whitby.
The great-niece of King Edwin of Northumbria, she was baptized at 13 when the king and his household converted to Christianity in 627 A.D. 20 years later, at the age of 33 she answered the call on her life to become a nun. Under the direction of Aidan of Lindisfarne, she established a number of monasteries her last being Whitby.
The monastery at Whitby was what was known as a double house meaning that not only were there women who were becoming nuns, but there were there becoming monks. The implication of this is while they attended mass and had a priest of their own, Hilda oversaw the spiritual environment of that monastery. Whether we want to admit it or not, as an abbess she pretty much functioned as a pastor overseeing the spiritual care of both men and women.**
The second example I would like for us to take note of is that of Rev. Louisa Woosley. Unless you’re Cumberland Presbyterian, you probably don’t recognize that name, but during her 45 years of evangelistic ministry within the denomination, she saw about 100,000 conversions across 20 states. In 1891, she published the book, “Shall Woman Preach?” where she presents with all theological boldness and clarity a resounding ‘yes’ as an answer to question that the title presents.
3. We Can Raise Up Dynamic Female Leaders in the Church Today
Before I go on any further, let me just say that in a way, I get it. It’s hard to see that women should have a place in the pulpit when it seems all the only female pastors getting any exposure are those preaching false prosperity gospel (Paula White) or those preaching a gospel of social justice. The PCUSA, the UMC, and the Episcopalian Church are all shelling out naval-gazing humanists for pastors so it’s hard to see any hope for there to be room for Bible believing women in the pulpit, but the Assemblies of God are training up young women qualified to take the pulpit who aren’t afraid to stand up against those who have “an appearance of godliness but deny the power thereof,” and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church needs to get on the ball if we’re going to stand in the fight against an age of secularism that seeks to invade our churches.
I believe that if we will, we can raise up female leaders who will fearlessly exposit the truths of God’s Word, and in so doing they will proclaim the radical holiness and marvelous grace of our glorious God.
Over the last 7 and a half years, what started out as an occasional hobby with for 4 or 5 nominally interested followers turned into a community where we’ve made friends and sparked conversations.
With my recent call to the pastorate at Mount Carmel Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and my wedding date soon approaching, I feel that it is time that I let something go. I’m a pastor, and soon I will be a husband. That being said, I will still make posts from time to time, and occasionally offer commentary on theological issues of the day… RIGHT HERE ON LNT! (*cue a cheap Mick Foley pop*)
But for now, I feel that it is time to hand to reins over my friend and colleague, Jay Sawrie. He will be taking on the role of lead contributor.
Followers, thank you for all your love and support.
“So what happened to make a clause that had been understood for centuries as not really meaning that God tempted people to sin suddenly too difficult for ordinary people to take in? Blame a theory known as “dynamic equivalence,” which has afflicted biblical and other religious translations (such as the Catholic Mass) since the 1960s. The idea is that most modern people can’t make heads or tails of ancient diction—so instead of formally rendering phrases of the sacred languages into precise English, French, or whatever, the translator tries to figure out what the authors of those phrases generally meant to say and then puts that meaning into lowest-common-denominator vernacular, even slang, which may in no way resemble the original phrasing. This seems to have been the thinking behind the French bishops’ alteration of the Lord’s Prayer.”
“In conclusion, we should rejoice that Jesus is the one true God. This is the same Jesus who died on a cross for our sins – He knows our pains and struggles and He understands us and is here to help us. This is the same Jesus who rose from the grave and will come again, to take home all who confess Him as He truly is. As such we should have confidence in Him and should share with others the good news about who Jesus is and what He has done.”
“Cranmer’s greatest achievement, the Book of Common Prayer, was issued in March 1549. It included a new liturgy in English, as opposed to the old liturgy in Latin. It was also much simpler than the old Roman Catholic missal, giving prominence to the reading of Scriptures, and restoring the Lord’s Supper to a distribution of both bread and wine to the laity. By emphasizing prayer, praise, and study, he was hoping to bring a greater knowledge of God and His Word to a people who were used to delegating those activities to the clergy.”
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
– Hebrews 4:12-16, NIV
Every pastor has a pastor – someone that they can talk with and go to for spiritual advice. If you’re a pastor, and you don’t have a pastor, then get one. You’ll go insane. At the very least, get a therapist. I don’t really recommend that option because therapists tend to charge by the hour and ask you about your feelings in a very unfeeling way, but I digress.
I was listening to a recent sermon my pastor (which can find at this link), and he briefly expounded on Hebrews 4:12-16, and I wanted to share with you my take away from his exposition.
Notice, first of all, that our passage tells us of the sharpness of God’s word, and how it is that sharpness that tears into the root of our being. And what is it that is at the core our being? Sin. We’re sinful, and the word of God exposes that sin before a holy God. The same holy God before whose presence Isaiah feared that he might die because he was a man of unclean lips. So, if this is the case, then what hope is there for us?
Our hope is that Jesus is a faithful high priest who has taken upon Himself the sins of those who run to Him for light and life. Because He always lives to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25), we are able to approach the throne of grace and receive mercy in the time of need. And when do we need mercy? All the time, especially when we see our sin exposed before Him, and do you know what? We can rejoice because it has all been laid on Christ.
“Till on that cross as Jesus died The wrath of God was satisfied For every sin on Him was laid”
– Keith Getty & Stuart Townsend
“And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
– Revelation 5:9-10, NIV
Jesus paid for you, and He continually intercedes for you. Go in peace.