Singing 1600 Year Old Songs

I enjoy “old” songs. You know – Beatles music from 1964, Frank Sinatra from 1957, even Bob Wills from 1940! But, in the grand scheme of things these are not really old songs. What do I mean by an “old song”? This Sunday morning we will sing a hymn that is over 1600 years old.

Ambrose (339-397) was a Christian lawyer, living in Milan, Italy. At the age of 34 he was made Bishop by popular acclaim, due to his godly life and giftedness as a preacher. It was under the ministry of Ambrose that the great Augustine was converted!

Ambrose
Ambrose of Milan (c. 340 – 397 A.D.)

When Ambrose was ministering the Arian controversy was raging. Arianism was the heresy du jour, maintaining that Jesus was NOT God, nor was he co-eternal with the Father. Not only did Arius preach and teach and legislate against this false doctrine, but he pulled out his big gun: He wrote Trinitarian hymns!

On Sunday morning we will close our worship service by singing one of these hymns: “O Splendor of God’s glory bright” (Trinity Hymnal #58). Penned by Ambrose in the 4th century, it is brimming with Trinitarian affirmations.

O Splendor of God’s glory bright, From light eternal bringing light, Thou light of light, light’s living Spring, True Day, all days illumining:

Come, very Sun of heaven’s love, In lasting radiance from above, And pour the Holy Spirit’s ray On all we think or do today.

And now to thee our prayers ascend, O Father, glorious without end; We plead with sovereign grace for pow’r To conquer in temptation’s hour.

Confirm our will to do the right, And keep our hearts from envy’s blight; Let faith her eager fires renew, And hate the false, and love the true.

O joyful be the passing day With thoughts as pure as morning’s ray, With faith like noontide shining bright, Our souls unshadowed by the night.

Dawn’s glory gilds the earth and skies, Let him, our perfect Morn, arise, The work in God the Father one, The Father imaged in the Son

We greatly prize the unity of the church: in her doctrine, worship and even her hymns. We draw great joy from singing the same songs our parents and grandparents sang. But, when we are singing great, rich hymns like “O Splendor of God’s glory bright” we are singing hymns that have been sung by 50 GENERATIONS of Christians!

 

WRPC…Happily Presbyterian!

We have no intention of changing our name to “Woodruff Road Community Church”. That is the case for a couple of reasons.

First, we believe in full disclosure. We believe that we should tell visitors and neighbors who we actually are, and not hide the details of our doctrine and practice. We are most decidedly not just a “generic church”. We firmly hold to a definite, historic, confession of faith

PresbyterySignInSecond, we are delighted to be Presbyterians! When we read Acts 15 we clearly see the elders from several congregations coming together to rule and exercise doctrinal oversight and discipline. We would call that “A Presbytery meeting”.

PresbyteryWorshipLast Saturday WRPC hosted the 131st meeting of OUR presbytery (Calvary Presbytery, which was formed in 1973). The pastors and elders of over 40 PCA congregations in the Upstate of South Carolina came together (as we do four times a year) for worship, oversight of our churches, discipline, examining ministers, and much more. Because we live in such close proximity and have such a long history with one another these meetings are not just technical business, but are marked by warm fellowship between old friends. Such fellowship is always strengthened when it includes excellent food – thanks to our Michelle Shore and her outstanding crew!

The Trinity and Marriage – Counseling from the WCF – 2.3

WCFWCF 2.3 states: In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

What does the Trinity have to do with counseling? Well, probably the most practical connection for our purposes is that the Trinity is the paradigm for marriage. God is of ‘one substance’ but ‘three persons.’ Each is equal in power and glory but each has a specific function or role. This is a picture of marriage isn’t it? The husband and wife are equal in worth but they have different functions. The man is ultimately responsible for the family and the woman is the helper to the man, but neither is of more value than the other.

This is why heresies of the Trinity also point to dysfunctional marriages (and visa versa). When you believe Jesus to be created rather than co-equal (one) with God you have the Arian heresy (think here of Jehovah’s Witness or Islam). A marriage based on this heresy would typically have the man ‘lording’ over the woman.

On the other hand, if you do not believe God to be three persons, that He only manifests Himself differently (sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son etc.), then you hold to Sabellianism or Modalism (think here of Oneness Pentecostalism). Marriages that model themselves after this heresy see the man and the woman as interchangeable; neither has a defined role.

But as God has graciously revealed Himself to us we have a wonderful picture of how we are to relate to one another, always in mutual love and according to our roles. Think of it this way, if we did NOT have God as our model, how would we know what marriage is, what our roles are etc.? Evolutionary and progressive attempts to answer this have failed miserably and led to the many disastrous marriages we see today.

The Preaching of the Word: Our Legacy as Protestants

William Perkins
William Perkins

The centerpiece of the life of WRPC is the preaching of the Bible. Twice every Sunday (in our AM & PM services) the zenith of our gathered life occurs when a minister opens the Bible and authoritatively explains a text and then applies it to you. But this emphasis is not new to us. From its earliest days the Protestant Reformers made the exposition of the Bible THE ministry priority.

Even though he only lived to age 44, William Perkins made his mark. Jonathan Edwards studied Perkins’ writings carefully and viewed him as the model for both theology and philosophy. At the time of his death (in 1602) Perkins’ published writings (dozens of books) were actually outselling those of John Calvin! Perkins was also a great mentor, training such luminaries as Thomas Goodwin, William Ames, Bishop James Ussher, Richard Sibbes and hundreds of others.

But it was his lectures on preaching that captured a generation. Perkins classic The Art of Prophesying has been a standard textbook for seminarian and preacher in training for over 400 years. Listen to this little snippet from Perkins that perfectly summarizes what we mean by expository preaching:

Preaching has four great principles. First, to read the text distinctly, from canonical Scripture. Second, to give it sense and understanding according to the Scripture itself. Third, to collect a few profitable points of doctrine out of its natural sense; and Fourth, to apply, if you have the gift, the doctrines to the life and manner of men in a simple and plain speech.”

Confer of the Word

 

TonyRogers
Tony Rogers

(Guest Post: Tony Rogers)

In WLC #160 it lists several things that are incumbent upon those who hear the Word, among which is the seldom-mentioned requirement to “confer of it” with others. To confer of the Word means we are to talk about it, to put off all unlawful and unprofitable conversation and make the Word the primary subject of our conversations with one another.

An example of this can be found in the case of the Lord Jesus who, following upon His resurrection, joined the conversation of two distraught disciples as they walked by the way, turning their foolish talk to the Scriptures (Luke 24:13-27, esp. vv. 25-27). Of course this is but one instance of what Jesus is seen doing all throughout the Gospels. If this was the practice of the Lord Himself, then it should also be the practice of those who own Him as Lord.

This duty may also be inferred from Scripture in diverse ways. For example:

  • The Word of God is to be in our hearts (Psalm 119:11); it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45); therefore, the Word of God ought to be in our mouths when we speak with one another.
  • Scripture commands us to speak the truth to one another (Zech. 8:16; Eph. 4:15, 25); the Bible is the Word of truth (John 17:17; Acts 26:25; 2 Tim. 2:15); therefore, we are to speak the Word to one another.

In addition to the example of our Lord and legitimate deductions that can be made from Scripture, the obligation to converse with one another about the Word is also expressly commanded. The locus classicus in this regard is Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

In a sermon preached July 20th, 1555, on Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Calvin said:

Therefore let us consider, that whereas we have so much needless talk our Lord will have his people exercised in talking and conferring upon his law, whether it be in resting, or in journeying, or when they be at home in their house. If we minded this warning well, surely it would be a bridle to rein us back and to withdraw us from the unprofitable talk whereunto we are so much given. [John Calvin, Sermons on Deuteronomy, Facsimile of 1583 edition (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), p. 276.]*

People speak about what they know and love. If we are largely taken up with idle talk and seldom speak of the word to one another, especially on the Lord’s Day when we hear the Word preached and have the responsibility of improving upon what we have heard, it is an indication that we do not know and love Scripture as much as we ought, and is a call for us to more earnestly search, hear, and meditate on the Word of God.

*I have modernized the English from that found in the Facsimile edition.

Covenantal Joy

ElaineJaniceRobbinsThe Lord has mercifully blessed our household with another grandchild!

Joining Bray (7) and Jack (2) and Emmie Ruth (almost 1), we are rejoicing in the birth of Elaine (“Lainey”) Janice on Sunday, in Rock Hill, S.C.

When asked about her vitals, I have responded that she is petite (7 lbs and 5 oz.) when compared to her big brother Jack (who was a ten-pounder). When asked if she looks like James or Megen, I have said “She looks like herself”.

Sandy and I are overjoyed because:

  • It is always a great mercy when God opens the womb: “Children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward.Psalm 127:3.
  • It is God who has knit this beautiful little girl together in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16) and we are commanded to rejoice and praise Him for ALL His works.
  • Our newest grand-daughter has astounding worth, since she has been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and is an eternal soul.
  • Our Lord Jesus, by His nine months in the womb of Mary (Luke 1), forever showed the dignity of newborns and the joy that should accompany their birth.
  • Seeing one’s children, then grandchildren (Psalm 128:6) is to be understood as an unparalleled honor.

But, we are desirous of even more blessing from The Triune God. We don’t just want a bunch of grandchildren; What we are praying and laboring for is a bunch of gospelbelieving, Christ-loving, church-centered, Holy Spirit-sanctified grandchildren.

Our great hope is the Promise of God, since He has gone on record and stated to His people (Deut. 7:9) that “He is the faithful God, who keeps covenant & mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”

Authority

oliphant_covenantal_apologeticsOne of the classes that I teach in my worldview series deals with authority. Authority is one of the ‘bottom line’ issues in worldviews and apologetics.

Scott Oliphant, teacher of apologetics at Westminster East writes in his book Covenantal Apologetics: “Apologetics, in many ways, is simply a battle over authorities. It involves making plain just where we stand, or better, where we rest, with regard to what we claim. It also involves encouraging our opponents to make plain where they rest their own case. The authority issue is always primary.”

Why is it primary? Because in the end you have two choices. Either God is the Authority who has created, organized and defined the world and we conform ourselves to His world….or each and every individual conforms the world to their preferences. The first gives a foundation for objective, absolute truth; the latter rules out truth altogether. In the first we discover truth, in the second we declare our current beliefs/biases.

We are seeing in our culture now what happens when you leave the first for the second – and it isn’t pretty, individually, socially, philosophically or culturally.

Putting the Sovereignty of God Right Up Front in our Ministry

WCFYou can’t hang around WRPC too long without realizing that we love boasting in our sovereign Lord. But, you may not be aware that the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty is under assault – again – in evangelical circles. Oh well, there is nothing new under the sun….Whether it was the Romans (that Paul was correcting in Romans 9-11) OR Pelagius OR Erasmus OR John Wesley OR Charles Finney OR the Open Theists of today, God’s sovereignty has been attacked for 2000 years! Here are some of the objections raised when we teach (as our Shorter Catechism Question #7 says) “He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

• Objection One – “God is NOT sovereign, I am the center of my universe.” The most egregious examples of this sort of thinking are embodied in the lines from William Ernest Henley’s classic poem Invictus… “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my
soul.” What Henley is trying desperately to say is that God would not intrude on my personal sovereignty.

• Objection Two – God is just like me. He is ignorant of the future (this view has been officially codified by the movement known as “Open Theism”) and CANNOT ordain what will happen in the future.

• Objection Three – Well sovereignty, election, and predestination may be in the Bible, but they are “peripheral” and not central.

It is the Third Objection I’d like to address: Is sovereignty a “major” or a “minor”? Simply put, I cannot think of anything more “major” than this: Is God in control of all things, or not? Does He save sinners OR do they save themselves? Does He foreordain all things OR does He ignorantly wait to see what happens? The brilliant modern Reformed theologian David Wells (buy anything he has ever written!) rightly states:

It is one of the defining marks of our time that God is now weightless. I do not mean by this. That he is ethereal but rather that He has become unimportant. Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider Him less interesting than television, His commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, His judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news and His truth less compelling than the advertisers sweet joy of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness.
from God in the Wasteland (p. 88)

For a case study of the importance of the Sovereignty of God, let’s look at Paul’s epistles…What we will see is that he either addresses it right up front (in an epistle) OR he addresses it at great length:

Romans, well, you know how extensively Paul asserts God’s sovereignty in redemption in Romans 9-11!

In 1 Corinthians Paul cannot even get out of the first chapter without asserting the doctrine of God’s sovereign call (1:2), the idea of sovereign grace (1:4) and sovereign election (1:27).

In Galatians Paul wants to stress (again in the first chapter, 1:15) the idea of a sovereign and gracious call to salvation.

In Ephesians Paul unleashes a flurry of assertions about God’s sovereignty (again in the first chapter). In 1:4 we find that God sovereignly chose us before time. In 1:5 Paul asserts that God predestined us for salvation. He repeats this theme in 1:11.

In Philippians Paul is so confident of God’s sovereign power that he can assert (in 1:6) that God WILL complete the good work He has begun in believers.

In Colossians (1:13) we are told of God’s mighty and sovereign deliverance of believers from the realm of darkness into the kingdom of light.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:4 Paul wants to assert God’s sovereign and distinguishing work of election.

In 2 Timothy (1:9) Paul makes the same point that was earlier made in Ephesians 1, namely that God has sovereignly saved us and called us because of His eternally, gracious purposes.

In Titus Paul cannot get past the opening breath of his letter (1:1) before He speaks of “the elect”.

What’s my point? The Apostle Paul did not see sovereignty as something that was peripheral, or something that he was embarrassed about. No, he often speaks about it FIRST in his letters.

So, why do we emphasize the Sovereignty of God? Because it magnifies God’s greatness and makes Him….weighty. Because it is a major theme of the Scriptures (especially Paul). Because it is TRUE!

– Pastor Carl

Peacemaking – How To Deal with Conflicts

The-PeacemakerOne of the better resources in counseling outside of the Scripture and Westminster (see other posts) is the book Peacemaker by Ken Sande. Over time I will be sharing with you many of the jewels of this book but let me just share a few reasons why this is such an important tool in your counseling belt.

1) The book addresses the issue of conflict first from 40,000 feet. That is, it doesn’t just jump in and say “here’s how you fix it.” Rather, it begins with the big categories of glorifying God and sovereignty among others.

2) It is thorough. I never thought peacemaking involved so much preparation, thought, wisdom, and humility. But if you really want to reconcile with someone this book is your go-to book. It will help you address all the issues and address them thoroughly.

3) It is extremely practical. The steps in each chapter are concrete and helpful. It is not nebulous ‘go work it out with them’ advice, but rather specific instructions and wisdom so that you have a clear idea of what you need to do and how to do it.

4) It is Biblical. There are Scriptures throughout the book. Sande is a member of the PCA and so brings a reformed perspective to the topic.

I hope this whets your appetite if you haven’t read the book. There are others versions for kids and families but I’d recommend for now just sticking with the original.

THE Biggest Issue and Starting Point – Counseling from the WCF 2

WCFH. G. Wells once said that if God does not exist, nothing matters; but if God does exist, nothing else matters. Dostoevsky’s version looks like this: If there is no God, all things are permissible. God’s existence makes ALL the difference. This is true in all of life, no aspect of our existence is unaffected by God’s existence (or non-existence).

But it cannot just be any undefined deity (like the AA’s Higher Power or the impersonal ‘Force’) to which we appeal. We must know God as He is, not as we want Him to be, and here is where Westminster Chapter 2 comes as a wonderful tool for us. Though we cannot go through all the descriptors listed in this chapter, here are a few critical attributes for us to understand. (Quotes from the WCF are in bold print.)

God (paragraph 2) has all life, glory, goodness, blessedness in and of Himself. We need to know this because if we want life, it will only be found in Him. We will not find life and joy in any sinful pursuit no matter how momentarily stimulating it may be. (Prov. 8.35-36)

God is (paragraph 1)  most holy. If we want to be with the Author of life we must know that He is holy and that which is sinful cannot abide in His presence. As such, we need cleansing, but we can’t do it ourselves. Who will cleanse us?

We learn in paragraph 1 that God is also “most loving, gracious, merciful, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin…We can truly know forgiveness from sin and shame and be cleansed by God Himself. As such, we can enter into His presence with confidence and joy.

These paragraphs then, help us with our sins and sinfulness. But what about times of suffering not due to our own sin?

Chapter 2 to the rescue again! Because here we learn that God works all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will and that His knowledge is infinite, infallible.  Isn’t that comforting when the doctor calls with a bad report? We’ll learn more of God’s sovereignty in upcoming chapters.

There is nothing in life more important than knowing God. The WCF chapter 2 is a good start, but for a fuller understanding, read J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. You will never be the same.