Church, Local, politics, Worship

An Open Letter to His Honor the Mayor Timothy Titus, of Paradise, California

Two thousand years ago, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus of Nazareth instructed his followers that they should not pray in public; only hypocrites pray in public, he said.

The National Day of Prayer was founded in 1952 during the Red Scare, as an attempt to ostracize progressives in the U.S. as un-American. It was not an effort to bring peace to this land, but an effort to bring division.

In In April 2010, a federal judge found the National Day of Prayer to be unconstitutional.

An extremist group called the Ridge Ministerial Fellowship has organized a local National Day of Prayer event on on May 2, 2013, at Terry Ashe Park, a municipal facility located in the heart of our dear town. It is publicly documented that this organization has had a history of pressuring His Honor the Mayor, concerning Proposition 8 and its so-called “impact” on the PUSD. We humbly request that you help us to take a stand against them as a matter of civic duty.

It is one thing to host religious organizations for lectures or faith-based initiatives which bring unity to the community. It is quite another to host worship services which bring division to those who either believe praying the way they do is unwholesome and hypocritical (such as people who believe Jesus’ teachings) or other faiths which believe the way they pray is even blasphemous.

Hosting the National Day of Prayer event in the public park implies (intentionally or otherwise) that the secular town government is partial towards certain religions; towards those who wish to pray for supernatural help—who condemn other lifestyles as immoral—over against those who wish to use reason and action to bring change. To put it another way, there are people who wish to hold humans accountable for their actions and neighborly duties on one side, over against those who wish to create division and invoke a supernatural entity to do his will in our land. Our government should promote democracy and accountability, and encourage these interfaith organizations to observe their practices on private land.

A petition has been started on Change.org regarding this issue.

UPDATE: 10:40 AM
After further investigation, we have decided to close this petition. While the so-called “National Day of Prayer” is itself unconstitutional, this group has a right to worship in the park. In similar instances, the ACLU has fought to defend the rights of churches to worship organizationally in a park. If we work to prohibit them from doing so, the ACLU will be against us on this. (See http://www.aclu.org/religion-belief/aclu-tn-successfully-advocates-behalf-student-preachers)

The problem is the National Day of Prayer itself. But I don’t see how it’s possible to force people to use a different name for it if they do it every May anyway…

Thank you for your support.

UPDATE 8:30 PM
The mayor decided to respond despite the cancellation of the petition. This is what he said: “Since the Town neither owns nor controls the Recreation Center, the prayer event is not subject to Town approval, nor are we a sponsor of the event.” So much for my first foray into local politics…

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Christina, Church

The Threefold Cord

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Eccl. 4:9-12, ESV

Here is Susanna Spurgeon’s postscript to a particularly sad chapter in her husband’s autobiography, which recalled many of the terrible things people had said about him:

A strange serenity has brooded over my spirit as these chapters have recalled the heartless attacks made on God’s servant… for he is so safe now, “with God eternally shut in”…

But at the time of their publication what a grievous affliction these slanders were to me! My heart alternately sorrowed over him, and flamed with indignation against his detractors. For a long time I wondered how I could set continual comfort before his eyes, till, at last I hit upon the expedient of having the following verses printed in large Old English type, and enclosed in a pretty Oxford frame. (This was before the days of the illuminated mottoes which at present are so conspicuous in our homes, and so often silently speak a message from God to us.

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in Heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” —Matthew v. 11, 12

The text was hung up in our own room and was read over by the dear preacher every morning,–fulfilling its purpose most blessedly, for it strengthened his heart, and enabled him to buckle on the invisible armour, whereby he could calmly walk among men, unruffled by their calumnies, and concerned only for their best and highest interests. —The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, p. 61

I am so thankful to have my wife by my side. I love you.

HT: Mark Driscoll

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Church, Reformed Theology

He learned church discipline from Johnny Mac

Last month I mentioned the fallout from the Florida church discipline fiasco and subsequent Nine Marks commentary in a post called “Church Discipline called ‘extortion’ by Fox News“.  Tonight on my way home from work I was listening to a recent message from John MacArthur on church discipline in which he mentioned that the pastor of that church was actually a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and a personal friend.  He was discussing how rare it is or churches to practice church discipline these days, even though it is so clearly taught in Scripture.

Grace Community Church in southern California is approaching John MacArthur’s 40th anniversary as their pastor, and in recent weeks he has been discussing the biblical foundations that were laid all those years ago.  I recommend subscribing to their sermon podcast.
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Church, Reformed Theology

Church Discipline called "extortion" by Fox News

There is a lot of commentary on deliberate-church/reformed blogs regarding the Fox News report about the woman who tried to resign her membership rather than suffer church discipline for her sins of fornication.  The media is aghast!
Of course, the church is supposed to be discreet about a member’s sins, not making them public to the public, but only making them public to the church if necessary (the third step in the four steps of church discipline found in Matthew 18).  However, it was not the church that made it public, it was the sinful woman!  The most public thing the church did was to send a very heartfelt letter to the woman expressing their intention to “tell it to the church” four weeks later if she refuses to repent. Instead of repenting, the woman took it to the press.
My first thought was, wait, isn’t this supposed to be religion-friendly Fox News?  (Note that Roman Catholic Fox News commentators Sean Hannity and Bill O’Rielly both believe people are “basically good”.)  I guess the church really needs its media allies to turn on it, though.  I mean, how are we supposed to be counter-culture if we’re not seen as counter-culture?

Greg Gilbert says,

You need to make sure that your constitution or covenant—something your members have to understand and affirm—makes explicit the church’s right to refuse a member’s resignation in order to proceed with church discipline…That may not help much in the court of public opinion—like I said, we’re going to get skewered in the media for church discipline no matter what—but it may very well help in a court of law.  The case law surrounding church discipline is still very much unsettled.  Traditionally, courts have been reluctant to step into such matters, but my guess is that as the courts become more activist and the culture more hostile to the church, that reluctance will wane.

Nine Marks commentary can be found here, here, and here.

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Church

Church Discipline Run Amok

An article in the Washington Post describes a wolf in sheeps clothing if ever there was one.  The church is so full of legalism–it makes me wonder how someone could read the Bible and have never heard of Jesus.  This is what happens when a church allows its pastor to claim “apostolic” authority.  This is also why it is so important to interpret Ephesians 4:11 properly, especially in light of Ephesians 2:20.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  Eph 2:19-21 (ESV)

The household of God has been (already) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.  I believe the phrase “apostles and prophets” (or “prophets and apostles”) was a first-century name for the whole of Scripture.  Just as the “Law and the Prophets” referred to the Old Testament, so “Prophets and Apostles” refer to the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek Scriptures, with “Prophets” summarizing the Books of Moses (law) all the way through the prophetic writings of Malachi.  Basically, when Paul was writing, the churches had copies of the Gospels already in their possession.
Even if you do not subscribe to the view of “apostles and prophets” meaning Scripture, it still speaks of the foundation of the church, that was laid in the Book of Acts.  The Apostles were known.  Their names appeared on a list.  They laid the foundation, with Christ as the cornerstone, and now the Spirit is building us into a dwelling place for God.  Any pastor who claims apostolic authority is looking to control your life and build a cult like the sad, hellbound man in this story.
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Church, Reformed Theology

New Church Blog

We have added a new blog for Sovereign Joy at sovereign-joy.blogspot.com, but within the next day or two it should move to blog.sovereignjoycf.org, a subdomain of our own site. I have conformed the design of the blog so that it matches our home page, but if you navigate back and forth between the two pages, you’ll notice the header image is offset by a couple of pixels (I should get this fixed). Make sure you click on the “Follow This Blog” link in the sidebar.

I’m looking forward to reading Pastor Patrick’s blogs again. It’s been a whole year! I don’t blame him for taking a break. His last post resulted in a rather heated debate with local residents, but I believe it was good thing, because it helped us to identify that sometimes division is necessary. Unity should not come at the expense of sound doctrine.

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Book Reviews, Church

Simplifying things

Quote:

Be it for the praise of other Christians, or just to get them off your back, the desire to have people praise your progress in the faith can be just as vain as the need to be seen as a success by your peers, or society, or any of those other forms of “acceptable” ego-stroking. Since the very essence of God’s grace is that He has given us unmerited mercy in return for our wickedness, ego should have nothing to do with our growth as Christians. I believe that taking pride in driving a better car or having a nicer house than your neighbor is no less a matter of pride as the desire to hear other Christians praise your so-called godliness. While it’s good to encourage others by maturing in your faith, just as the spiritual maturity of those around us is encouraging, it’s also easy to get off track. I’m talking about that need for a spiritual “Atta-boy!” or a better seat in church on Sunday, or the always dangerous acceptance into that inner circle of “church staff.” (No, I don’t think that the position of a church staff member is evil. I just know that if Christianity is treated like a social club, it often has the same entanglements as one. From someone who spent half of his life growing up in churches, I can say it happens, and more often than you might think.) – Mark Salomon, Simplicity

I am no longer on church staff. Please pray for me. As far as my heart goes, He has been preparing me for this. I can totally see his hand in it, but I was just expecting him to have things all lined up before he pulled the rug out from under me. Pray that God will return me to successful independent-contractorship and bring me some clients, and pray that he would lead me where to go from here in terms of ministry and church community, etc.

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