Theological Thoughts

“I do not want to be noticed”

“I do not want to be noticed”

One of the most interesting comments I have heard from visitors over the years came from a young man in his 20’s. After he attended our church for a couple of weeks, he came to me after church and said, “I am going to look for another church.” Sheepishly, I asked why. He said, “I am looking for a church that I can attend without being noticed.” My response, which may have shocked him a bit was: “Well, I hope you never find such a church.” Thankfully, we had the opportunity to talk about this at a later time. But when you think about that rationale, we are to be shocked about what it is communicating. The Church ought to be a place where you are noticed, not only that but where you are edified and challenged.

The Lord’s Supper invites you to be noticed this morning. It invites you to taste and touch the means of renewal in bread and wine. In fact, as you come to this table, be grateful that you are noticed and rejoice that God has set his eyes and affection upon you.

CREC Statement on Sexuality

CREC Statement on Sexuality

July 16, 2018

The CREC affirms the Bible’s teaching on the creation of man and woman and the establishment of the marriage relationship as only between one man and one woman. There are two sexes, male and female. We stand against all attempts to confuse the Bible’s clear teaching in this area.

The CREC believes that Christians who struggle with various sexual temptations should receive ongoing pastoral care, including those who are tempted to engage in sexual perversions. At the same time, we believe that any teaching that combines LGBTQ identity with identity in Christ is completely unbiblical.

 We believe that encouraging Christians who face certain sexual temptations to identify as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders, whether in sexually active relationships or not, is unbiblical, and further, that this teaching will have destructive effects in the long term, both for individuals who follow it and for any Christian bodies that accommodate it.

 We exhort all ecclesiastical bodies to declare the Bible’s full and clear teaching on sexual behavior, whether in desires or actions, and to encourage individuals to repent of sinful desires and sexual behavior as they turn to Christ to resist temptation.

 We encourage patient pastoral care for struggling individuals who repent of their sins and seek to be obedient to Jesus.

We exhort the broader Christian Church, and particularly Reformed Churches, to hold their churches and pastors accountable to faithful biblical doctrine and practice in all areas of sexuality.

Virgil Hurt

Presiding Minister of Council

Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC)

Handout for Lecture on the New Heavens and Earth with Dr. Steve Jeffery

Download the handout

Heaven, Pensacola – Handout – letter, cut final appendix

 

The Parental Voice

The Parental Voice

We do live in an age of luxurious education. We have well equipped teachers, well developed programs, insightful on-line training. But the danger of such luxuries is that we as parents think we are doing our job by simply exposing, dropping off, or turning on something non-harmful. We are wrong to think this way. Our children’s knowledge is to be fundamentally formed by our parental understanding of the world. We can’t replace others’ affection for our affection, others’ words for our words. Our children need to hear from us that Joseph was a faithful servant, that Ruth was a loyal bride, and that Jesus is the greater king. Others may say all these things, but we need to be the central communicators of those realities daily. We must be constantly communicating and challenging their loves and habits. In the end of the day, it’s our voices speaking truth in love they need to hear most.

Personal Salvation as the First of All

Personal Salvation as the First of All

What the modern evangelical has done is to place all his efforts in the “I am going to heaven” basket while forgetting the “on earth as it is in heaven” basket. The result of this is the catastrophic overemphasis on one dimension of salvation and an underemphasis on the bigger salvific plan God has for the world.

The Bible speaks of the importance of personal salvation, but not as the end all, but the first of all. In other words, personal salvation means immediate incorporation into the work of God in the world. God’s earth is to imitate the quality of life in heaven. This heavenly life cannot be fulfilled unless we look into the entire premise of salvation which is to place a man into a new war-zone. Before he fought for a serpent-king, but now he fights for a savior-king. And this king is eager to see this world made into the glory of the next. Heaven, then, is a glorious resting place. The new heavens and earth is our eternal dwelling place. Our work now is to work as redeemed humanity for that reality in every area of our lives.

The Danger of High Standards

The Danger of High Standards

Demanding high standards for our children is a noble thing. Demanding high standards while frustrating them in the process is foolish. In other words, our high standards need to be loving standards. We need to allow love to cover a multitude of sins lest we sin attempting to love.
In parenting, we need a healthy dose of humility. This is hard in an age when grades matter more than godliness; external obedience more than internal motivation. We cannot, however, allow our high standards to usurp the proper place for training in love. We need an end result where our children desire the good, true, and beautiful because they are infinitely better than the alternatives. It is possible that in our high standards we lose the purpose of the law: to direct our children to the God of the law.

Jordan Peterson’s Appeal

Jordan Peterson’s Appeal

I am a fan of Jordan Peterson. I’ve read his 12 Rules and listened to many of his youtube videos. A quick glance through his material and any rational human being will conclude that this man has made an art out of common sense. There are hundreds of young men who once had no purpose in life and after reading his book or watching his youtube videos are now finding a reason to get out of bed, putting the gaming and the energy drinks away and conquering their little world. The whole thing is rather inspiring.

Yes, it is true, Peterson does not love Jesus. In biblical terms, he hates Jesus. At the same time, he acknowledges his open dependence on the Judeo-Christian tradition for morality and meaning. He believes in human depravity. He observes this plainly when he writes:

“I don’t think that you have any insight whatsoever into your capacity for good until you have some well-developed insight into your capacity for evil.”

Further, Peterson treats language like a beautiful work of art. He doesn’t waste his words. He treats them carefully like a mother her newborn. Christians can learn a bit about language and rhetoric listening to Peterson argue and make a case. But in the end, the compelling case for Peterson is not that he speaks well or treats common sense with respect, it’s that he blatantly borrows a view of reality from our Christian revelation. That’s the compelling part. My prayer is for God to intervene in his life and thunder into him the Logos of God and make him a consistent apologist for the true faith.

Russia Doesn’t Smile at Strangers

Russia Doesn’t Smile at Strangers

With almost half of planet earth (3.2 billion) watching the World Cup in Russia, Russians are having to adjust to some many cultures meeting in one place. One of the great adjustments is the SMILE. Look up “Why Russians don’t smile,” and you will read some interesting pieces. In a recent article about Russian culture, the author observes that…”in Russia, randomly smiling at strangers in public is often viewed as a sign of mental illness or inferior intellect.”

A recent study on smiling was conducted and concluded that in “Russia, children may only contract their facial muscles when they’re truly happy. It’s an authentic expression of emotion.”

In countries like ours, however, smiling is a crucial social cue. It may not reflect their feelings, “but instead signals acknowledgment or appreciation of another person. And this might explain why American kids who smile more also tend to have more self-control.”

It’s an interesting cultural data to be sure. I wonder what the religious implications are for a culture that views smiling to strangers with such disdain. How do they view hospitality? Friendship? Love?

Update: Someone opined that it’s hypocritical to smile if you don’t feel like.

My answer:

Life offers thousands of opportunities where we have to express ourselves in ways we are not inclined. Most biblical virtues found in Galatians are things we have to strive towards whether we want to or not. We are to be patient when we don’t want to, we are to love when we don’t feel like it, etc. It ought to be a human being’s natural impulse to greet other image-bearers who come their way.

Engaging our Children’s Perspectives

Engaging our Children’s Perspectives

We tend to idolize our wisdom, which is why at times we are quick to dismiss our children’s perspectives and observations. I understand that foolishness needs to be corrected, or better yet, re-directed, but I find myself continually amazed at the insights of children. They carry with them a sense of awe in their interpretation of the world that we need a lot more of as adults. As we get older we tend to forget the magic of a Trinitarian-made world while they rejoice in wonder.

To that end, we need to pay closer attention to their words, to look deeper into their rationales, and to engage their minds. When we quickly dismiss what they say, we may be missing a bit of kingly wisdom and crushing a bit of their emotional and intellectual joy.

Welcoming Little Ones in Church

Welcoming Little Ones in Church

At Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola,FL, we welcome children into our worship service. We know that small children often make noises. While we ask parents to be sensitive to the needs of others, as a congregation, we have a very high tolerance for the noises of little ones in the assembly. After all, entrance into the presence of God and participation in the liturgy and baptismal and covenantal rights that belong to them as members of the royal priesthood.

We encourage you to train your children to engage the service as much as possible. At Providence, we have infants that are already engaging, toddlers singing the doxology, and little children reciting the Creed. While the work of preparing them for worship during the week can be difficult, there is nothing more rewarding than to hear and watch them do what they were created to do: worship the Triune God. They also quickly learn the bodily gestures and postures we use, when to sit, stand, kneel, raise their hands, and shout “Amen.”

That’s one of the advantages of a liturgical pattern of worship: there is enough repetition in the responses and service music that even pre-literate children can be taught rapidly how to participate, at least in bits and pieces.

If your children cause a bit of disorder, please do not feel the need to immediately take them out. The rest of the Providence family is willing to bear with your children, so you can too. Children were no different in Jesus’ day, and yet he invited them to himself, without regard for the distractions they might present (Mt. 18-19). The psalmist insisted that children have a significant role to play in the church’s liturgical “holy war,” silencing the foe and the accuser (Ps. 8).

So, as worship tomorrow, we come together with nursing infants and little ones joining the Son of God in war.