Leaving the NAR Church: Dylan’s story.

by churchwatcher

Our good friend and fellow polemicist Amy Spreeman, contributor to Pirate Christian Radio, presents the 5th in her series of those who found themselves in this dreadful bondage, and what happened when their eyes were opened:

I had the most painful conversation with my wife that night that I’ve ever had when she got home, and I knew that we had to move out of town and leave Pentecostalism…”

Oftentimes I’ve found that psychological abuse goes hand-in-hand with the hierarchy model of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The emotional and spiritual abuse from Dylan’s Australian church (not to mention the false teaching), was so intense that he packed his wife and five children up and moved away.  Australia is rife with New Apostolic Reformation and its mystical teachings.

Dylan gives us an inside glimpse at the heartache of his small-town church. Make that former church.

In this series, I want to take readers beyond the textbook What is the New Apostolic Reformation Movement explanation, into the personal experiences from those who have been there, and what happened when God opened their eyes to the truth.

This is Dylan’s story in his own words:

Our family left our small country church just over a year ago. It was in a seaside town in country South Australia, and our experience there was a haunting one even thinking about it now.

My wife and I both played music and led worship bands occasionally through our younger years in charismatic churches, and we felt like we could help the music team out with this church’s praise and worship songs on Sundays. But us having four small children and another one on the way wasn’t really in the “vision” of the young lady who led the team.

When we first got there we felt welcome, especially because we had small kids. They had a crèche (nursery). They had one piano player who happened to be the pastor’s daughter, and we immediately thought we could jump in and minister there.

We witnessed a change-over from the previous pastors to these new ones from South Africa, and were initially excited. We were looking forward to working with them on new outreaches, new ministries, and helping women to study Scripture together in small groups. But as time went on, we had several decidedly shaky experiences with the senior leadership.

One time I remember we couldn’t make it to a leadership day after church because our daughter was crying and needed to breast-feed. There was nothing we could do, and had to leave. So we did. We even politely told the senior pastor himself on the way out. Then the pastor’s wife stormed out of the building and started berating us for leaving early. “What are you doing? These meetings are where God moves and we catch the vision of the church! Why are you leaving this early?” After explaining everything she stormed back in in a huff, and slammed the door. This lady had the title of “Pastor” to her name in public and on all literature, and flaunted that title in every part of the service.

Another time during kitchen fellowship, we were talking with one of the volunteers, who was a family friend. Right in the middle of the conversation the pastor’s wife took aside this volunteer, and blasted her for “speaking too long” with us, and said that she needed to “get back in the kitchen.”

The service of volunteers is pushed and pushed in these NAR churches, where they push for “excellence” in everything, at the expense of the volunteers who blindly join up thinking they’re serving God by fulfilling the pastor’s labour needs. We heard from the top leadership that church is not for the believer, but to be comfortable and relevant for the unsaved. I even heard in leadership meetings that church is to be catered and operated like a successful MacDonald’s franchise, with the same level of welcoming customer service!

We realized that the pastor’s doctrine from the pulpit was New Apostolic when he played a message from David Hogan who is associated with Bethel Church. This man claims to have raised hundreds from the dead, and to have driven underwater in a semi-trailer truck. He would constantly “whoop” and “woo” in the glory during services. He also runs a “healing ranch” in the U.S. that nobody really knows where it is or what it does. Seeing this man’s crazy preaching and the Creflo Dollar-style sermons about claiming cars by declaring how righteous we are as believers was a sure sign we had to go. Something had to change.

But there were other events before us leaving that led to where we are now. I remember one time I was pulled aside by the pastor for wanting to bring my children to a worship team night where they were going to watch a DVD on team leadership in worship. I was chastised for “expecting their family to provide for our kids” and that we “don’t appreciate and respect his daughter’s authority.” As far as I was concerned, God was my authority and his daughter was simply trying to tell me what to do as a husband and father with unfounded bravado in a new leadership position. This conversation was recorded live, and made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

This “covering” doctrine the pastors adopted stemmed from the shepherding movement which I knew had ties to the “latter rain” movement. Our church constantly preached that because healing is in heaven, healing is also on earth, that the evil people who built the tower of Babel in unity were doing a good thing because of their unity.

Guest ministers prophesied over us, giving confusing and weird messages such as my wife “birthing new ministries” and “leading other people,” when all she wanted to do was homeschool our children! The John Bevere “UnderCover” books had played a part in this obnoxious and volatile leadership demand set, and his sermons were regularly played and promoted in church.

Dominionism was regularly talked about, as was “Kingdom thinking,” a term I remember since my Bible college days that refers to thinking in terms of taking ground for Christ instead of making disciples of all nations, teaching them all that Jesus commanded.

The hammer really dropped, though, when my wife attended a women’s event called “Providence” where young women were given a mini-concert and prophecies from a preacher from Adelaide South Australia. After the event was over, the pastor’s wife took my wife aside and said, “can I speak into your life for a moment?” My wife naively said “yes,” and she then proceeded to sit down with my wife and tell her how unorganised she is, how she had a “rebellious spirit,” how we hadn’t read the leadership book by heretic David McCracken they gave us yet, how we couldn’t have any more children (even though we were pregnant at that time with our 5th), and that my wife will never play on the music team until she starts “mopping floors” and listening to authority more to “earn” her place at the top.

She even told me to get a vasectomy so that our ministry could continue as they wished. There was more said, but when I confronted the pastor with this he simply said that, “every word from God has to be taken with a grain of salt. You take the good bits and bad bits and sort them out on your own.”

That was it. No look into the matter, no sympathy, no regrets. In other words, what she said was “from God” and that it “had to be filtered through.” This absolutely floored us.

This totally killed our sense of belonging and alienated us from them. We were lost, and searching, and crying most nights. We’d always had the carrot dangling over our heads in that church that we’d one day get to minister in the areas we felt called to, but that we just “weren’t ready” yet. They kept going on and on at volunteer meetings about their culture and vision they’re building, and demanded outrageous amounts of money for elaborate building projects.

In the end it pushed me to urgent prayer, and care for my wife. I had the most painful conversation with my wife that night that I’ve ever had when she got home, and I knew that we had to move out of town and leave Pentecostalism. The rancid doctrine and imaginations that came from the pulpit were so bad that I resolved to attend a conservative church as soon as I could.

So after much prayer and house hunting, we came to live in Tailem Bend South Australia. We now attend a conservative Baptist church that solidly preaches the Gospel. God’s word is honoured in the way it is handled. We now go into nursing homes locally playing hymns in a modern way for them, singing songs that have been sung for generations about Christ and Him crucified, and about God and His endless mercies and riches.

We don’t miss the hype, mania, chronic fatigue and mishandling of God’s word in our old NAR/charismatic church, and have a fresh love for God and ministry that didn’t exist for a long time. We are still healing, but thanks to some episodes of Fighting for the Faith, some good discernment, some great conversations and lots of prayer – we have begun to find new ways to reach people with the Gospel, and have left behind the burnout, labour, service and manipulation of the New Apostolic Reformation doctrines.
Praise God!


Author’s Note:  If you would like to send me your story about your NAR church experience and what happened when your eyes were opened, you can email me here. Please let me know if you would like me to change your first name to keep you anonymous.

Source: Amy Spreeman, “Berean Examiner”, http://www.piratechristian.com/berean-examiner/2017/1/leaving-the-nar-church-dylans-story (Accessed 28/01/17)

January 26: Peter Marshall [1902-1949]

January 26: Peter Marshall [1902-1949]

 A Man Called Peter
by Rev. David T. Myers

The young man was returning from work one starless night in Scotland. Figuring he could save time by cutting across one of the moors, the twenty-one year old began to walk through the field and was startled when he heard his name “Peter” called by someone.   Inquiring as to who it was who called him, all he heard was the howling of the wind. He took up his pace again, only to hear an urgent voice again, “Peter!.” He stopped, trying to figure out who was calling him.  Suddenly, he stumbled, and in reaching out his hand, found an empty space ahead of him. Not able to see any more clearly, he felt around the edge of the ground and realized that he was on the edge of an abandoned stone quarry. One more step would have resulted in him falling to a certain death in that quarry. The near accident made a powerful impression on Peter Marshall.  He had no doubt that the voice was that of God, and that the latter must have a special purpose in his life in sparing him.

Peter Marshall was born in Coatbridge, Scotland, near Glasglow in 1902. His father had died when he was four years of age, but a godly mother brought him up in the faith. He first wished to go to sea but God said “no” to that dream. Then it was to become a missionary in China, but that door was also closed. The door opened was a job in America, to which his widowed mother reluctantly packed his suitcase, commending him to the Lord. After a brief stay in New Jersey, he traveled to Atlanta, George where he took a job at the Birmingham News. It was there that he joined the First Presbyterian Church. Soon, he was busy in the Sunday School, the youth activities, and other ministries. The Presbytery of Birmingham took him under his care, with plans to send him to seminary.

The school of choice was Columbia Theological Seminary, right in a suburb of Atlanta.  Wondering how he would afford it, the Men’s class which he was teaching at First Presbyterian, pledged to him that they would financially undergird him in his classes at this historic seminary.  He commented, “I feel that my every action is guided by Him who ordains all things for His servants.” He would graduated magna cum laud from Columbia, and be ordained in 1931. Called to a rural church in Covington Presbyterian in Georgia, he stayed there for three years.  Then God’s call brought him to Westminster Presbyterian in Atlanta in 1933. There he was known as the “charming young Scotsman with the silver tongue.” He transferred to his last congregation in Washington, D.C. at New York Avenue Presbyterian in 1937. It was there that a door right into the halls of the federal government was opened to him, in that twice he was chosen to be the Chaplain to Congress in 1947 – 1949.

It was in this calling that he was to bear an influence for Christ far beyond any ministry he had up to this time. The post ceased to be mere formality and became a powerful and effective reminder of the truth that God is in control of all things, from the greatest to the least. He believed God was not a Republican nor a Democrat, but that God did want to influence legislation passed by that political body. He became the conscience of the Senate.

After an earlier brush with death from an apparent heart attack, the final summons came on January 26, 1949. Two years later, his wife Catherine would write the award-winning book, A Man Called Peter, which would be made into an Oscar-winning movie.

Words to Live By:
Can we say along with Peter Marshall that we are “determined to give our life to God for Him to use us wherever He wants us?” Such a commitment is necessary for all Christians in their lives here on earth.

The Early Symptoms of Spiritual Danger

from Jan 25, 2017 Category: Articles

I can still recall the conversation although it took place more than three decades ago. A shocked friend asked, “Have you heard that Sarah is no longer a Christian?” What was so alarming to my friend was that Sarah had been one of the most influential, and apparently fruitful, members of her Inter-Varsity group. What would those who had been influenced by her witness to Christ say, or do? Would they be shaken to the core and now doubt their own Christian faith? After all, the person who had pointed them to Christ no longer trusted Him.

On occasion, we wonder if an individual really has been converted. And sometimes we have an inexplicable, ill-defined sense that something is missing. But we cannot read the heart. Even so, we hear of friends—whose faith we never doubted—turning away from Christ.

Apostasy is the old, vigorous word to describe this abandonment of Christ. The New Testament church was familiar with it. It was a major concern of the author of Hebrews. That is why he wrote the often-discussed words of Hebrews 6:4–6:

Those once enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the coming age—if they fall away cannot be renewed again to repentance.

Some in the early church thought that the phrase “cannot be renewed” meant that those who stumbled could not be received back into fellowship. But our author does not have the penitent in mind. Rather, he is thinking of those whose hardness of heart blocks the way to the Cross and proves irreversible.

It has been said that there is no more powerful or detailed description of the true Christian in the New Testament than in the words of Hebrews 6:4–6. That is surely a breathtaking statement in the light of what is said about the first readers a few verses later. The author is confident of something “better” in them—the very things that accompany salvation (6:9). The implication is that, however powerful the experiences described in 6:4–6 may be, these are not the definitive marks of a Christian. They may be present when genuine faith is absent. In fact, Hebrews is telling us that which is possible to experience without actually being a Christian.

Something must be missing therefore from this list of influences and experiences. What Hebrews has already said about an earlier generation brings it to light: “the gospel was preached … to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith” (Heb. 4:2 NKJV). There was no real trust in Christ, the crucified, risen, and reigning Savior.

The truth and the power of the gospel were experienced. But “experience” in itself is not regeneration unless gospel grace penetrates into the heart. Hebrews 6:4–6 makes no mention of the crucified One being trusted and sin being rejected. Rather, despite rich spiritual experiences, heart unbelief and rejection of Christ, crucifying Him ourselves, are grimly possible.

The solemn fact is that none of us can tell the difference between the beginning of backsliding and the beginning of apostasy. Both look the same. So what are the tell-tale signs of this sickness unto death? Are there early symptoms that might alert us to our spiritual danger?

Hebrews 6:8–12 suggests three things we should look out for:

First, we should look for the presence of “thorns and briars” (v. 8). Here Hebrews echoes the words of our Lord in the Parable of the Soils. In some soils (hearts) the good seed of the Word is planted and seems to take root. But in fact the soil is infested with weeds that strangle the fruit of the good seed. “The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19 NKJV).

Second, we should look for the absence of “things that [always] accompany salvation” (v. 9). What are these “things”? They are, surely, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–24). Paul interestingly contrasts verbally the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh. These marks of grace are the natural outcome of regeneration. Furthermore, the Cross has a central place in such a life, for “those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions” (Gal. 5:24 NKJV).

The third thing is perhaps the most alarming: The failure to show “diligence” and a tendency to become “sluggish” (vv. 11–12). Earlier the writer had warned how easy it is just to “drift away” (Heb. 2:1). But this drifting happens slowly, and it often goes unnoticed.

Yes, apostasy happens. Sometimes the catalyst is flagrant sin. The pain of conviction and repentance is refused, and the only alternative to it is wholesale rejection of Christ. But sometimes the catalyst is a thorn growing quietly in the heart, an indifference to the way of the Cross, a drifting that is not reversed by the knowledge of biblical warnings.

So perhaps a personal health check is in order. And today would be the wisest time to do it.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

Ten Prophecies re the Church in 2017

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Last weeks Ten ‘Prophecies’ for Society/Culture in 2017 have already had a partial fulfilment.  Israel, Trump and the SNP ruling out a second Indy Ref in 2017.  But how will the Church of Jesus Christ fare in this coming year?  Only the Lord knows.  However I like to think ahead and watch trends. So here goes

 1) The C of S and C of E  in the UK will continue to decline – and evangelicals within them will continue to find it difficult to accept what is going on.  Likewise for the mainstream Protestant denominations in the US.   As they fall apart the number of new denominations and churches will continue to increase but whether they will make up for the decline is doubtful.  The Scottish Church census will be out in the first part of the year and I have no doubt that the figures will be bad.

One of the reasons why is because of the turning away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ which has taken place in so many churches.  It’s not often that the extent of apostasy in the church surprises me – I thought I had seen it all.  But this week I came across this:

Qu’ran Recitation in St Mary’s

The fact that an Anglican cathedral in Glasgow has a recitation of the Qu’ran is astonishing enough in itself, but what is even more astounding is that the passage recited specifically states that Jesus is not the Son of God.   The cathedral removed the link from their website but if you click the link about you can get it.

 2) Post-modern evangelicals will continue to undermine the church and the gospel. Their undermining of Scripture and caving into the culture, especially on the re-making of humanity will continue. When someone says ‘God did not say’ it is at least clear and direct.  What the post-modern evangelicals do is much more subtle….they ask ‘did God really say?’.  They make open questions of issues which Scripture clearly speaks about, because they want to keep on board the hard-working evangelicals who are the life blood of any church, but they also want to have a foot in the progressive camp and so they play the ‘humble, inquiring’ card, when in reality they are undermining.   I have seen this is in so many ways.  I know of evangelical churches who have already caved into the culture and others who just keep quiet and declare ‘we don’t have a stated policy’.   Such faint hearted compromise will blight and undermine the church.

3) An American charismatic church will become the next big thing/renewal/programme.   The ‘globalisation’ and ‘McDonaldisation’ of the church, combined with the internet, poor theology, poor ecclesiology and the desperation to get some kind of quick fix make us very susceptible to the latest fad.  Will we never learn?

 4)  Creflo Dollar won’t return to Scotland.  His visit here last year was a failure.  We may be a small country with a small percentage of Christians but I was glad that we did not give in to his showmanship. Why Creflo Dollar is not Welcome in Scotland   Creflo Dollar and Scotland – The Reaction   Creflo Dollar and the Corporate Charismatics

5) There will be greater unity amongst bible believing Christians.  Yes, there will still be the personality clashes, the sinful empire building, the infighting and rivalry, but because of the needs of the hour, love for the Lord, faith in his Word and a genuine desire to reach our society, there will be greater unity.    There has to be greater unity.  He must increase, we must decrease.

 6) The number of Christians being salt and light in the public square will increase. Christians have a strong motivation to be involved in the public square – not as those who want political power because we know that the Gospel does not advance with political power – but rather as those who obey the Lord’s injunction to be salt and light.   I know of more Christians involved in politics, media, education and healthcare, than I have ever done before.  Much of the work and witness is done under the radar but it is being done.  The Church must encourage its people to continue and not give up.  Humble service should be our aim.

 7) The Church will commemorate the Reformation. It’s the 500th anniversary of the date commonly marked as the beginning of the Reformation.  Some will regard it as a mistake which needs to be corrected.  Others will see it as no longer necessary.  But I hope that Reformation theology and practice will be rediscovered by the Church.  I don’t doubt the Christianity of many of my Catholic brothers and sisters, and I stand with them on many issues, not least social ones, but I am not prepared to give up on sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratis , solus Christus, soli Deo gloria  (Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone).  Lets make sure that the Reformation remembrance is a party as we recover and rejoice in a renewed church, rather than a memorial service as we lament what has gone.

 8) The Evangelical Church in the US will continue to be split over Donald Trump – The term evangelical in the US is very broad…but still covers a substantial percentage of the population and is of great importance to the rest of the global church.  But as this post from Michael Horton in the Washington Post indicates, there is an enormous danger in evangelicals allying themselves with any political party or any one individual.  Our hope is in Christ, not in Trump or anyone else.

The Church in the US needs to recover its theology, not seek political power.   When you realise that books like Jesus Calling, the Shack, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and adult colouring books were amongst the bestselling ‘Christian’ books in the US in 2016, you realise the trouble we are in. Bestselling Christian Books in the US

9) The Church will reach out amongst the poor.   It seems to me that it is often the case that the richer and more middle class the church, the more they talk about helping the poor.  However the real need is not the kind of patronising charity that this often precedes, but rather the planting of real gospel churches amongst the poor..because the Gospel frees, empowers and does not patronise.  That is why the work of Twenty Schemes is so vital.   My own convictions on this have grown stronger over the past few months and I am delighted that St Peters will be starting a new church plant in the Charleston housing estate in Dundee.

 10) Africa and Asia will be seen more and more as the key areas of evangelicalism in the world.  Sometimes we still think that Europe and the US are the centres of the church.  My own view is that unless there is a real renewal and revival of the church in the West, the 21st Century will be the century of the Asian and African churches.  I am so encouraged by my Asian and African brothers and sisters and very much look forward to working with and learning more from them. I hope that they will learn from our mistakes and not make the same ones.

Our God is a God of surprises….may we see his surprising grace at work in our midst.  May his kingdom come….

Written and Published BY —

About ‘The Wee Flea’

David RobertsonMy name is David Robertson and I am the minister of St Peters Free Church in Dundee Scotland. http://www.stpeters-dundee.org.uk   (the church is famous for being the original church of Robert Murray McCheyne)…I am also the associate director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity
http://www.solas-cpc.org

I am married to Annabel and we have three children – Andrew who is currently working at Chalmers Church in Edinburgh before coming to do a church plant in Dundee , Becky who is married to Pete in Australia (and our beautiful granddaughter Isla), and Emma Jane who studying nursing at Edinburgh University.

I do a lot of writing – in newspapers, magazines, on the net and also books.  I am the author of Awakening (the life of Robert Murray McCheyne); The Dawkins Letters, Quench (cafe evangelism) and Magnificent Obsession.  My latest book is called Engaging With Atheists.

I am interested in history, politics, theology, music, sport, art etc.  I am a ‘big picture’ person who likes to look at things in a wide context – especially the growth, decline and renewal of the church in the West….my blogs will reflect these interests – some will be published articles, or articles that are on other websites (such as Solas, St Peters and the Free Church). I will also put online all newspaper letters that I have published.  When I travel I like to write a travel blog as well.  I have a great burden for the church in Scotland, the UK and Europe and this is reflected in what I write.  For me writing is a form of thinking out loud and trying to work out things.  I often get things wrong and appreciate correction. I don’t claim any particular wisdom or expertise and value immensely the insights of others.   One piece of advice in reading these – please don’t read between the lines.  I write what I think (at least what is appropriate for the public arena!) and I try not to speak in code!  There is no ‘in between’.  Please don’t read into what I say what is not there!

Contrary to rumour I am not a communist, nor a liberal, nor a fascist, nor a Jesuit….I’m not sure what label fits! My supreme passion and interest is Jesus Christ.  To him I owe everything.  I live for him and I serve him.  My only hope in all this writing is that you will share, or come to share that passion.  In Christ alone my hope is found….

The ‘wee flea’ name comes from a series of interactions I had on the Dawkins website.  He banned me from his site under my own name and called myself, Alaister McGarth and John Lennox ‘fleas living of a dogs back’.  I promptly started reposting under the name ‘the wee flea’, and Dawkins, not being aware of Scottish church history or the nickname of my denomination (the wee frees), let it go by for a few weeks…until I was outed…and banned again! Anyway I kind of liked the name…enjoy the blog…

This personal testimony will help you understand where I am coming from:

https://theweeflea.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/the-shelter-of-the-most-high-new-year-old-hope-a-personal-testimony/

You can also hear this profile interview on Premier Christian Radio which is really a personal testimony – https://theweeflea.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/personal-profile-interview-with-premier-christian-radio/

If you so desire you can follow me on Twitter – @theweeflea  or Solas @solascpc

And if you are into Facebook then just look up David Andrew Robertson

For some reason a lot of people read this blog and many want to comment.  I welcome comments, including critical ones, but please note I normally don’t publish anonymous ones and I can’t publish all that I get….

David

New post on This Day in Presbyterian History – January 14: Work on the Shorter Catechism

by archivist

A Bellweather of Our Church’s Health?

Dipping into an article by the Rev. Stuart Robinson [pictured at right], titled “Recently Discovered Memoranda of the Westminster Assembly” (The Southern Presbyterian Review, 27.4 (October 1876): 730-759, we find this excerpt on the Westminster Assembly’s work on the Shorter and Larger Catechisms:—

The Catechisms, Larger and Shorter, were discussed with equal care before the whole Assembly, as reported from their Committees, question by question.  Under date of January 14, 1646, the record is :

“Upon motion made by Mr. Vines, it was Ordered :

“That the Committee for the Catechism do prepare a draught of two Catechisms, one more large and another more brief, in which they are to have an eye to the Confession of Faith, and to the matter of the Catechism already begun.” [cf. Van Dixhoorn, Minutes & Papers of the Westminster Assembly, vol. 4, p. 399]

wsc_london_02To Dr. Tuckney was assigned the Shorter Catechism.

It is not until April 12, 1648, that we find the Minute of their completion, as follows :

“The proofs for both Catechisms shall be transcribed and sent up to both Honorable Houses of Parliament.  Ordered to be carried up on Friday morning by the Prolocutor with the Assembly.”
[Session 1049., cf. M&PWA, iv.749.]

“APRIL 14, 1648, Friday Morning.

“Prolocutor informed the Assembly that he had delivered the Cate­chisms, and was called in and told that they had ordered six hundred copies with those proofs to be printed for the use of the Assembly and two Houses ; and give thanks to the Assembly for the same.”
[Session 1051, cf. M&PWA, iv.750.]

Use of the Westminster Shorter Catechism has had its ups and downs. In the Southern Presbyterian denomination throughout the first half of the 20th-century, there were often nearly one thousand children per year who would memorize the whole of the Shorter Catechism. The Christian Observer would annually print an honor roll with the names of these children. It is interesting (and depressing) to watch over the next few decades as, year by year, those numbers declined. Even as late as 1958, there were perhaps a thousand in that list. But by 1975, the list of names had shrunk to less than two hundred. Finally, by 1988 the publisher had given up on this annual feature. If we tried to put together such a roster today, where would we stand? Every good Presbyterian will acclaim the value of the Shorter Catechism, but how many actually use it? How many disciple their children through the memorization of it?

It’s not a new problem, though. In his review of Dr. Ashbel Green’s then-recently published Lectures on the Shorter Catechism, Dr. Archibald Alexander wrote:—.

But if we do not entirely misinterpret the temper and taste of the times in which we live, doctrinal catechisms, and lectures explanatory of such catechisms, are not the books which will be sought after and read with avidity. The religious taste of most readers is, we fear, greatly vitiated by works of fiction and other kinds of light reading. Nothing will now please, unless it be characterized by novelty and variety; and while many new means of instruction have been afforded to our youth, in which we sincerely rejoice, we are so old fashioned in our notions, as to feel regret that in our own church those excellent little summaries of Christian doctrine, the Westminster Catechisms, are falling with many into disuse.”
[The Biblical Repertory, and Theological Review, Vol. 2 No. 2 (1830): 299]

Words to Live By:
Few things in this life just fall into our laps. Most good things take work to acquire, develop and maintain; discipline bears a good fruit for the long term. The value of the Westminster Shorter Catechism has been acclaimed by many, but for how many of us is that acclamation mere lip service? The year is still young, and its not too late to slip in another resolution. Wouldn’t this be a great year to work on the Shorter Catechism?

 
archivist | January 14, 2017 at 12:05 am | Categories: January 2017 | URL: http://www.thisday.pcahistory.org/?p=16792
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5 Overlooked Gifts of the Spirit

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piosi / Shutterstock.com

When it comes to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is easy for Christians to think of some kind of special power to walk on water, healing people miraculously, or even the dead being raised. Christians often sound like we want to change the world for God through extraordinary means. And yet, what we find in the New Testament with the close of the apostolic era is a Spirit who is changing the world through very ordinary means and gifts. Here are five overlooked gifts of the Holy Spirit that God uses to change the world.

1. The Church’s Constitution

Just as modern states have laws and constitutions, God gave his people, the church, a constitution that governs all she says and does—the Bible. Through the extraordinary ministry of the prophets and apostles in Jesus’ day, the Spirit delivered Christ’s rule inscribed in an actual book: the Bible (inspiration). This unique Word of God is the preeminent gift of the Spirit. This Word now constitutes the new covenant community, the church. The new covenant community gathers around a new mediator, Jesus, who has broken down all the boundaries that we see in the Old Testament. We no longer make ourselves holy through ceremonies or being descended from a certain family line. We are made holy by the blood of Christ which washes us through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word through the power of the Spirit.

Through the ordinary ministry of pastors today, the Spirit guides the church by opening our hearts through what is already written by the preaching of the Word (illumination). The Spirit shapes this fellowship of believers by this written constitution that has unique authority over our lives for all our beliefs and practices.

2. The Church’s Elders

The Spirit brings Christ’s official roles as prophet, priest, and king to us by the Word of God through ordinary ministers, deacons, and elders. The elders uniquely rule the church of Christ; yet, they are in no way mediators to God. They serve Christ, the only mediator, as they serve the people of God.

Christ directs their authority according to his Word—the constitution that frames their appointed rule. They merely relay the wisdom, mysteries, and salvation of Christ to guide and direct the people of God in the salvation he alone has provided.

3. The Church’s Ministers

The particular offices of minister and elder have been given by the Spirit of Christ to equip all of the saints in their vocations and callings.

We are equipped through them to be prophets, priests, and kings in the world, declaring Christ’s work, battling sin, living to righteousness, and bringing God’s Word to our neighbors. The pastor is the shepherd who assists the elders in their rule and is sent by the Lord to teach and instruct, building up the household of God as servants of the Word of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. The Church’s Deacons

Christ does not merely rule our hearts but our bodies as well. He is equally concerned for our physical needs and wants. The gifts of the Spirit, therefore, include the ministry of the diaconate, serving the temporal needs of the saints.

In order that the apostles might give due diligence to the task of prayer and the preaching of the Word, the diaconate was created so these important tasks would not be forgotten.

The deacons allow ministers to give themselves to prayer and God’s Word, and they allow the elders to care for the spiritual government of the church. The diaconate serves as a reminder that Christ is still fully human in heaven and cares for us in body and soul.

5. The Church’s Unity

No believer is an island, isolated from the church. Similarly, no local church or denomination is the one catholic church apart from sister churches. They are only one and catholic as they exist together in Christ through the faithful preaching of the gospel and administration of the sacraments.

In this communion, the gifts of the Spirit are used by Christ to care for the temporal and eternal welfare of his commonwealth and colony of heaven, uniting us to himself and to each other.

This unity spans history, as well as every niche demographic of our day, connecting us to the “faith once delivered to the saints.” This unity of doctrine and practice binds us in our faith, hope, and love as we long for the day when the Spirit rolls the heavens back at the coming of Christ.

 

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Christian evangelist cleared at Sheriff’s Court | Christian Concern

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A Christian evangelist has been cleared of threatening and abusive behaviour, at a trial in Kilmarnock, Scotland.

Gordon Larmour was charged with behaving in a “threatening or abusive manner aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation” and “assault”, after he shared the Christian position on homosexual practice with some young men in the street.

The trial happened on 9 January at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Gordon was found ‘not guilty’ after the evidence against him broke down.

Sharing the good news

Gordon, who often visits Irvine to offer gospel leaflets to people, offered a leaflet to a group of young men who were passing through the town. He shared with one of the men how meeting God had turned his life around.

Another of the men, who said he was a homosexual, asked Gordon for God’s opinion of those who engage in homosexual practices. Gordon told him what the Bible teaches.

Gordon’s answers angered the man and he tried to hit Gordon. The young men then began to chase Gordon and shouted abusive comments at him.

Police officers called to the scene were told by the young men that Gordon had made ‘homophobic’ remarks, so he was arrested and taken to a police station and held overnight.

Insufficient evidence

Gordon was charged with behaving in a “threatening or abusive manner aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation” and “assault”.

At the trial on 9 January 2017, two of the young men who spoke with Gordon appeared as witnesses, along with a police officer.

The Sheriff made the decision for the case to be heard in private, concerned for the sensitivities for one of the young men.

But the young men’s accounts of the events did not agree, and the police officer was unable to say for certain whether Gordon had said anything more than “the act [of homosexuality] was wrong”.

Because the evidence against Gordon broke down, Gordon’s solicitor, CLC allied lawyer Alastair Ross, made a submission of ‘no case to answer’.

The Sheriff found that Gordon was ‘not guilty’ only an hour after the trial began.

‘A wonderful result’

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, commented:

Gordon Larmour

“This is a wonderful result for Gordon and for Christian evangelists in the UK. Freedom of speech is being consistently undermined in the UK, but here is a win for common sense.

“It is a great surprise that this case was heard in private, and the accusers should have had the courage to give their evidence in public. It is a great relief that the judge ruled in favour of Gordon, because the case simply did not stand up to scrutiny.

“Christians need not be intimidated, and should take advantage of the freedom we have to share the good news about Jesus, who is the only hope for our nation.”
Please join us in thanking God for this excellent result and pray that Gordon and others who seek to spread the good news of Jesus in Scotland, and elsewhere in the UK, will be encouraged by this victory.
Related Links:
Kevin DeYoung: Is it wrong for a Christian to defend their rights?