Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Devotion: Mary's Real Treasure

What do you treasure above all things?

What person, place, or thing holds the position of supremacy in your affections in such a way that nothing rivals its prominence? What do you hold so dearly that nothing, NOTHING rivals its position on the throne of your heart?

In some ways Christmas Eve may be one of the most dangerous times of the year to come to a worship service. Our hearts are distracted: there are travel plans, turkeys in the oven, trinkets to be opened, and family to be received. Materialism and gluttony are just hours away.

If you find your heart being divided today, I would like to commend to you Mary’s treasure. "Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). The old KJV translates that “Mary kept these things,” but all the modern translations have rightly rendered it “treasured.” The Greek word means to safeguard, to defend, to lock tight, to cherish, to protect!

We might ask, WHAT THINGS did Mary treasure? What specifically does Luke 2:19 mean when it says that “all these things” she both treasured and pondered in her heart? 

Ironically, Mary did receive literal treasure in Matthew’s birth narrative. You recall, the Magi brought to Christ three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And what was Mary’s response to these gifts in Matthew 2:11,
"And going into the house [the Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh."

Mary’s response? Nothing. Silence. I’m sure she said ‘thank you,’ but Scripture does not say she treasured the treasure!! In fact, if there is an emphasis at all on materialism, it’s on poverty not riches. Three times (vs. 7, 12, 16) Luke reminds us that the baby is in a manger, a crude box where donkey drool.

Do not be deceived by ‘treasure’ that looks like treasure, but is not infinitely valuable! What good is mere gold when eternal riches are before you? A block of gold and a lump of coal are both equally ineffective in purchasing joy, forgiveness, peace, or eternal life!

So what did Mary treasure? A good Sunday School answer would be that Mary treasured her son. It would make sense, and I don’t think any of us would complain if verse 19 told us that Mary treasured her baby. Luke could have written, "Mary treasured her child and pondered her family in her heart."

But Luke didn't write that.

There is no doubt that Mary ‘treasured’ Jesus as her natural born son. She was the one family member of Jesus who truly believed and followed Him all the way to the cross, watching the Romans beat and pierce His flesh to the cross (John 19:25).

There is no doubt that Mary loved her baby as a mother should. But that’s not the point of verse 19. Every mother—except for the deranged—treasures their own child in the familial sense.

We know what Mary treasured: she treasured “all these things” (2:19) which refers directly back two verses to verse 17, "[The Shepherds] made known the saying that had been told them concerning the child" (Luke 2:17). And what the shepherds heard goes back to vs. 10-11,
"And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.' 
Aha! Here’s the real treasure! Here is what made Mary’s heart glad!

It's not just that she had a baby, but rather the identity and destiny of the baby: a joy not just for her own heart, but joy to all people! A Savior not just to her personally, but to all who repent and believe. 

A multitude of angels attended the coronation of an infant and to exult in this divine decree. The night sky burst into a full panoply of radiant color as holy warrior-spirits beamed upon the Prince of Peace! Singing in unison “Glory! Glory! Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”(Luke 2:14).

Here is my definition of “treasuring": To treasure something means that you would gladly give the whole world to get it, and to joyfully refuse the whole world to keep it!

I suggest that today you and I treasure what Mary treasured: the announcement of the One who is the glory of God and the peaceful joy of men.

--Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

'I See Dead People.' The Scary Truth about Christian Ghostwriting

I see dead people.

Who can forget that memorable line from M. Night Shyamalan's best movie, The Sixth Sense? In the film, an emotionally disturbed child confesses to his psychologist that he sees ghosts. The movie turns dramatically at this shocking moment. Here, the film gives its strongest hint yet that the lead character, played by Bruce Willis, is not what he seems. He is actually dead.  

Perhaps we are now at such a juncture in the world of Christian publishing.

In the last few weeks, the evangelical and Reformed world was given an inside glimpse of the process of “ghostwriting” when a massive plagiarism scandal broke out in full public view.

For the sake of Christian charity, I will omit the names of the key players and the publishing house(s) involved. Astute readers will already be aware of the circumstances, and they need not be repeated here.  

In full disclosure, I am personally acquainted with one of the men in the center of the controversy. This makes what I am about to say even harder. 

This article is not about the errant citations that fell through the cracks somewhere in the editing process. I regard the term "plagiarism" to be unnecessarily hyperbolic and even inflammatory.

The books attributed to this well known author are generally footnoted extensively. I have several of them on my shelf. In some, literally hundreds of academic citations are provided. But there is a far more significant problem lurking below. We must now say "the books attributed to..." the writer.

Perhaps I should define the term. 'Ghostwriters' are usually relatively unknown writers, researchers, and scholars who write substantial portions--or even all--of the books that are actually credited to better known leaders.

So far as I can tell ghostwriting, which has been called "the standard practice of the industry" by the publishers,  might possibly be supported by any of five possible reasons.

However, none of them seems morally justifiable to me. They are:

1. The person to whom the book is attributed is not a competent writer. Response: All writers need substantial editing. Unfortunately, none of us can see all of our own errors in print. But no one pretends that writing and editing are actually the same thing. Hiring another person to do the actual work of writing and composing while taking the credit oneself on the cover seems to me to be the moral equivalent of singing a solo with the vocal track of another performer playing on the sound system. In both cases, the clear intent is to deceive the audience. If one cannot write well, he ought not pretend that he can.

2. The person to whom the book is attributed does not have the time to write the work himself. Response: Writing requires a great amount of time and work; far more than most realize. However, when a known leader employs others do this work--and yet signs his own name to one or more books every year--he creates an illusion of his own superhuman abilities. He is putting on a show and expects others to buy tickets. When a Christian leader gets to this point, he is actually just selling his own fame. If one has not the time to write, he ought not pretend that he has.

3. The person to whom the book is attributed is not thoroughly knowledgeable about the subject matter on which he writes. Response: None of us are omniscient. All who aspire to write well must do a significant amount of research. Often experts must be consulted. However, having a team of researchers (or a research assistant) do the bulk of the study creates the illusion that the named author is far more knowledgeable about the subject matter than he really is. As with 1 & 2 above, he is creating an illusion about himself that he hopes (and expects) his audience will believe. If one has not the expertise to write, he ought not pretend that he does.

4. Publishers, seeking greater sales revenue, prefer better known leaders to lesser known writers for obvious marketing reasons. Response: Doing business with a view towards making money is not intrinsically wrong in itself. Certainly Christian ethics does not require a business to lose money in order to be considered moral. On the other hand, selling a product--any product--that purports to be something it is not is deceiving to the consumer at best and morally fraudulent at worst.

5. The ghostwriter is not well known and cannot garner an audience of his own at this time; he needs to "get his foot in the door" somehow. Response: Everyone must begin somewhere. Many careers must begin in the "mailroom." Nevertheless, allowing one's own work to be usurped by a more popular Christian celebrity seems to compromise the very integrity of the craft of writing. For this reason, it would seem better not to write at all than to participate in someone else's self-promotion or a corporation’s greed.

Since none of the above rationale seems morally persuasive to me, I am inclined to see a spiritual "deadness" in the entire enterprise of ghostwriting.

I see dead people.

The fact that most Christians (myself included) simply don't know how widespread this practice really is seems more frightening than a horror flick.  

My guess is that there are dozens of well-known pastors and Christian celebrities who have availed themselves to ghostwriters that now dread the possibility that they too may be exposed as frauds. Likely, their audiences would be horrified to learn that they write little to nothing of the books that they hawk under their own names.

When I wrote Hold Fast the Faith, my devotional commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith, it took me nearly five years to bring it to completion. As an unknown author, almost half of that time was spent convincing a reputable publisher to take on the project. Finally, one did.  

I wrote every word, often late at night after my kids went to bed, or very early morning before the coffee pot even finished brewing. I was working full-time in the ministry, pastoring a church of 400 people, while trying to be a responsible father to my children and husband to my wife.

I know what it takes to write a book and pastor a church at the same time. Believe me, I can imagine how great the temptation would be to cut corners if I was ever offered the opportunity to cheat. It would be so easy!

But writing is an arduous task. One pours out his soul with his words. He shapes his sentences as a sculptor shapes marble. Slowly. Arduously. Good books are not stamped out in a plastic mold by "research teams," they are handcrafted.

Can anyone really imagine C.S. Lewis using a ghostwriter? Or Augustine? Or Calvin?

In other words, I would rather grind out even one book that contained my own spiritual DNA—my blood, sweat, and tears--than publish volumes by passing off some other writer's work under my own name.

One’s conscience would have to die before he would be able to participate in such a sham.

--Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. He is the author of Hold Fast the Faith: A Devotional Commentary on the Westminster Confession of 1647. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An Advent Prayer for Those Who Pray

Advent, (Latin: adventus): the season of the ecclesiastical calendar, immediately preceding Christmas, when the Christian church has traditionally celebrated the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as anticipating His second advent at His return.

Lord Jesus, my Master, help me to bring to mind the significance of your coming.

It isn’t that I have forgotten the essentials of knowledge, but I need to be reminded of the deep truths associated with that knowledge, that in remembering the one I may not overlook the other.

You left the Father’s throne, you did not try to hold on to it, but made yourself to be as one who is without reputation. Lord of Glory, you became a nobody that I might become a somebody! – you took upon yourself servanthood so that instead of being served, as you deserved, you served others, and gave your life for them.

Baby of Bethlehem you became the exalted one, lifted up, and glorified. You were given a Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus (your Name) every knee would bow. It was you Lord, abased for me, whom the Father raised to glory. It was all so personal. The angels were correct from the beginning – Glory to God in the Highest!

I cannot fully grasp the reasoning but I marvel and rejoice that you became my Savior and that all the fullness of the Godhead lived in you. Crucified, raised, and ascended, it is by your grace that you brought truth to me, not my search, nor my want. It was you who brought light to my heart and filled me with hope of eternity.

And so today it isn’t so much an event that happened two thousand years ago that stirs my soul, marvelous though it is to recall, but it is the Advent promise that this same Lord Jesus will come a second time, “in power and great glory,” and gather me together with Him and all the saints in the clouds of Heaven. “So shall we ever be with the Lord.”

In this season of anticipation help me to keep my eye fixed to the horizon. Help me always to be ready, to live ready. Lift me above present circumstance to look for the Son of Man who will come when I least expect Him, and who will gloriously and suddenly appear – my Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

May the Holy Spirit set my heart to longing for that day, that I may not waste my life on trivia but seek first the Kingdom of God. Release me from the distractions that preoccupy me, and grant that I may serve you in holiness and righteousness all my days. That’s my prayer.

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

-Dr. Wilfred Bellamy. Pastor, missionary, and former coordinator of the General Synod, Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Boy Named Van

"I like to help people." That was the simple, straightforward answer I received when I asked one of our children how they felt about giving an offering to the Lord. With that statement, our ministry began to pray about how we at Willow Creek Church's Children's Ministry should use our offering to bring God glory and also "help people."

We at WCC believe that it is important to teach our children very young the importance of offering our time, talent, and treasure to the Lord.

It is commanded: Psalm 96:8- Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!

God promises to bless those who do: Malachi 3:10- Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

God uses our tithe and loves those who give: 2nd Corinthians 9:7- Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

But most importantly, we are to give as our act of worship because we have received so much from the Lord! So we decided to do for one what we wish we could do for all.

"One Child," a ministry of Mission to the World, is designed to bring church's or individuals together to sponsor a child from across the world, supplying finances so a child may go to school, wear proper clothing, eat daily meals, and study the Bible.

Van Nun Lian Charang, or "Van" is our sponsored child. Van is 6 years old, the same age as many of our children. Van loves to play football, his favorite subject is Bible, and is one of 6 children. Van is just like us. Van is loved by God.

Van also lives in Bangladesh, a country east of India, and education in Bangladesh is not free. If not for the "One Child" ministry, Van would be working in a field rather than attending school. Again, a child, just like ours, loved by God, needing to experience our Savior's love.

Our children may right now only give because they want to "help people." But regardless of the motivation, we at WCC Children's Ministry are committed to honoring God with our time, talent, and treasure. It is because God has loved us, that we are able to love others. Won't you consider doing for one what you wish you could do for all?

-Drew Taylor
WCC Director of Children's Ministry

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Cool Pastor: An Oxymoron or Just a Regular Moron?

I had to do a double-take when I saw the tour bus.

There it was, idling softly in the parking lot, with the pastor’s name and newest book title emblazoned large--in bright yellow letters--across either side. Being advertised on that conspicuous rolling billboard was a “special evening,” (no doubt repeated dozens of times in select cities across the nation) with the newest “it” pastor.

His similitude to a rock star was highly intentional. Autograph sessions would soon follow as well, of course.  

You may not recognize him as a pastor at all at first. It will take a moment for the fog machine to clear up, as he takes center stage. But soon enough you will be able to identify him clearly: he’s the guy wearing the sneakers and the torn jeans, possibly even a hoodie and a snap-back too. He doesn’t carry a Bible under his arm—that would send the wrong signal—he carries his tablet computer.

He is the “cool pastor,” the next big thing.

He didn’t come to your city for a show? No problem. He’s building a satellite campus in your suburb next. In fact, there are already dozens of wannabes cropping up in churches near you. They are the next generation. The hipster pastors.

But this whole celebrity minister phenomenon has me wondering: isn’t “cool pastor” an oxymoron?

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with being current. There is nothing wrong with using modern communication tools. There is nothing wrong with speaking in a relevant way to current trends, both societal and cultural.

But the closest thing to the pastoral job description in the Bible is found in 2 Timothy 4:1-5,

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

No mention of having panache or chic jeans there. If anything, it sounds decidedly arduous. Difficult. Even subversive.

If I can be completely honest, there was a time in my life when I craved to be considered a “cool pastor.” In the early years, as the morning dawned on my pastoral vocation, I honestly believed it was possible to walk in both worlds, that is to say, the world of cultural approval and the world of Biblical fidelity.

More and more, however, I am not sure this is even desirable.

I am not suggesting that pastors return to monkish albs or don black robes exclusively. (Full disclosure: I do own a robe, but I haven’t worn it in over five years). I am however convinced that my desire to win cultural approval as a minister must die and die soon!

Our current fascination with our pastors’ book sales, name recognition value, and proliferating multi-site video venues ought to be considered a dangerous trend. Never before in the history of Christendom has a pastor’s reputation been graded by any other factors than his doctrine and his personal ethic. Today, we would add his fans.

No, my highest goal as a pastor is not to secure the greatest number of Twitter followers, but rather to model one man: our Lord Jesus Christ. His message must be my own. His methods must be sufficient for me. His majesty must be my highest end.

Though Jesus attracted a large following at times (Matthew 19:2; Mark 4:1; John 6:2) there were other moments when His doctrine and His fiery preaching sent men running in the opposite direction (John 6:66). If we should ask whether our Lord was more often cultural or countercultural, the preponderance of the Gospel materials emphatically suggest the latter.

I am sure there will be some who will appeal to texts such as 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 to justify the coolness factor as the necessary “cross we must bear” to make the Gospel intelligible in a modern context. They will argue that this is how we “become all things to all people, that by all means we might save some.”

But isn’t it ironic how those who use that Pauline text to defend a dogged pursuit of “relevance” end up making the Gospel less relevant to their hearer’s salvation and sanctification? At the very least, interpreting 1 Corinthians 9 as a methodological “free pass” makes light of the historical context surrounding the tensions between the Jewish and Hellenistic Christians to whom Paul ministered.  

To assume the role of the pastor is to assume the role of the prophet. I do not need to dress like John the Baptist, but I had better be ready to preach like him as well as to be treated like him. The pastor must more frequently confront a god-forsaken culture than conform to it.

Whether or not I am even aware of it, the subconscious and non-verbal communication that I put out is as instrumental in articulating the Gospel as the words I preach. Unfortunately, the more conspicuous the “show” surrounding my sermon, the less magnanimous the Gospel appears in juxtaposition. It is obscured by bright lights and video clips, high-wires and hair gel.

I will never forget the moment I met John Piper, although I doubt he could possibly remember it. His brown belt didn’t match his black shoes, and his well-worn slacks and tweed jacket wordlessly whispered, “This world has nothing for me!” He wasn’t the least bit slovenly or unkempt, but his entire demeanor adorned the very message He preached: Jesus Christ is supreme above all things.

Here is the bottom line. The unbelieving world will always do “cool” better than the Church. When the Church adopts coolness and relevance as its corporate values, it slavishly agrees to follow, lagging always one step behind the world. (This is why Christian music always ends up ripping off the sounds and styles of their secular counterparts, while Christian film often has a cheesy “cringe factor”).   

The church is not called to be the caricature of modern culture; it is called to be the critique (even the foil) of that same culture. When we explicitly model ourselves on the unbelieving world—whether its art, architecture, or ethos—we are implicitly and foolishly endorsing it.

As a pastor, I cannot afford to act so foolishly.

-Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. He is the author of Hold Fast the Faith: A Devotional Commentary on the Westminster Confession of1647 (Reformation Press, 2012). He blogs regularly at Whitefieldsprayer.blogspot.com.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Conversion at the Eleventh Hour: Five Truths from the Thief on the Cross

Today I have the privilege of doing the funeral of a man who was converted just days before his death. In his honor, here are five observations from the conversion of the thief on the cross in Luke 23:32-43.

1. The soul continues to exist, even after death. Jesus said, "Truly, truly I tell you, TODAY...!" (Luke 23:43, emphasis added). The criminals were sure to die on the cross. Death was inescapable. Crucifixion resulted in a 100% chance of death. The only question was “when would death come?” The Romans were experts at crucifixion. Nobody ever got off the cross and lived to tell about it.

These are our chances as well--100%. All men die. And yet the Bible is clear that all men will continue on in eternal consciousness after death. James say, "Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes" (James 4:14).

Have you ever thought about what will happen when you die? Have you ever considered the fate of your own soul ten seconds after you die? 

2. One of the two destinations is called paradise (or Heaven); the other is Hell. "Today you will be with me in PARADISE" (Luke 23:43, emphasis added).  What makes heaven so great, is that Jesus is there! We will be with Jesus, as He Himself promised the thief personally. If I had to define Heaven in as few words as possible, I would define it as “eternity with the Ever Living God.”

3. If any man should go to Heaven, it is by grace alone. Notice this man's honest confession. "We are receiving the due reward for our deeds" (23:41). How could a criminal like this ever be admitted into heaven? The only answer is by grace! Most people believe that people go to Heaven based on our good deeds. If this were so, the thief had no chance. He was literally pinned to the cross. What good could he do now? He could not serve the poor. He had no chance to ever again walk a "little old lady" across the street. He could not reach into his wallet to drop a quarter into the Salvation Army bucket. Surely he did not deserve forgiveness, and yet Jesus gave it to him by grace alone!  

4. He was admitted to Heaven based on a profession of faith in Jesus. He said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). This isn’t the most complete theological statement about Jesus in the Bible, but it is a faithful one! He called Jesus a King. There is much that the thief leaves out (Jesus' divine nature, His Preincarnate glory, His resurrection etc.) but it is a believing profession. A simple plea of faith. A simple request—“save me.” 

5. It is better to be converted at the latest possible moment, than not at all. The other Gospels tell us that both criminals mocked Jesus at first (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32). But Luke's Gospel implies that the second thief had a change of heart for some reason. Perhaps it was based upon the manner in which Jesus testified on the cross. In other words, it was Jesus’ death on the cross that changed his heart. 

But if there is one thing of which I am sure--it is better come to Christ at the eleventh hour than not at all!

-Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Give Wycliffe His Due!

By Wilfred A. Bellamy
In the context of Reformation Sunday and the birthday celebrations of the Reformed Faith, all of which are well conceived and justified, one man appears to quietly slip through a crack in the memory of the Church. His name is John Wycliffe.

Our tradition reminds us of the ministry of Martin Luther and of 95 theses nailed to the door of the Cathedral Church in Wittenburg, Germany on October 31, 1517 -- a banner occasion for the Reformed Church. It also brings to mind the several issues of confrontation with Rome that were the hallmark of Luther's career. We recall them with gratitude.

Yet it was John Wycliffe whom history has dubbed: "The Morning Star of the Reformation". Born almost 200 years before Luther, in the obscurity of a tiny village in North Yorkshire, England, Wycliffe completed his early childhood education in a one-room school and made his way to the University of Oxford. There he studied first as a student of philosophy and theology, and then became a full professor in the same field. He was of stoic demeanor, not given to frivolity, a serious minded man whose primary interest was always the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. He consistently argued that the Word of God was the primary authoritative source of Christianity and that it would remain so for all time.

Despite the consternation that he caused in the Roman Church, from his earliest days as an Oxford Don, he postulated several of the key arguments later embraced by Martin Luther. He wrote a number of tracts and books to make his ideas known, and especially denounced the notion of a purchased salvation by means of paid-for indulgences. In addition he warmly embraced the Biblical doctrines of "Justification by Faith" as a single act of Sovereign Grace; and Sanctification as the process which means the Holy Spirit directs in the life of the believer. Both almost unheard of in their day. Supremely he saw Christ as Sovereign Lord and God, the Savior of Mankind, and trusted in His substitutionary death.

In his zeal for truth, Wycliffe set to work on his magnum opus , the translation of the New Testament into the English Language. This had the dual benefit of delivering the Word of God to the common people of Britain, while removing the Church from the role of sole interpreter of truth. Wycliffe's action was fiercely opposed by Rome and vigorous efforts were made to destroy his work and unseat him from his position at Oxford. Indeed, some copies of the New Testament were destroyed, but because there were so many of them, zealously copied by believers, many survived.

John Wycliffe, a gentle giant, valiant for the faith once delivered to the saints, died of a stroke in 1384. It was thirty years later that the Roman Church, still incensed and still smarting because of Wycliffe's great influence and his role in pioneering the reformation of the church, had his bones dug up and publicly burned.

But give John Wycliffe his due! He was long gone and safe home. He had already received his "well done, good and faithful servant," from his Lord.

Wilfred A. Bellamy, Ph.D. 
November 2013

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Grace of Judgment: Is Hell Consistent with the Love of God?

God has appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged; but likewise all persons, that have lived upon earth, shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 33.1).

It seems a bit strange for the Westminster Confession of Faith--such a joyful and God-rejoicing document--to end with a chapter on judgment. Yet, it is not that grace is lacking in this text. There is plenty of peace here. For instance the next section of the Confession speaks of “the manifestation of the glory of His mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect,” and “the fullness of joy and refreshing which shall come from the presence of the Lord” (see 33.2). And yet we remember that this is a Puritan document. And so it is quite fitting that this great confession, as it was originally written, ends with a stern warning to obedience and faith. For this reason we are not surprised to hear of hell mentioned in the closing words as well.

Is the concept of hell consistent with a loving God? It is.

Jonathan Edwards explains why:
“The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionally more or less heinous, as he was under greater or lesser obligations to obey him. And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligations to love, and honor, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty. Our obligation to love, honor, and obey any being is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority…But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty…So sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations must be infinitely heinous…and therefore renders no more than proportional to the heinousness of what they are guilty of.”[1]

The Christian faith is no “lollipop religion.” It is not the chaff of popular self-esteem banter. It is not the easy-to-digest frivolity of “do it yourself” religion. And the Westminster Confession of Faith makes no pretensions of recommending such glitter. The Christian faith does, however, remit serious warnings of judgment as often as it promises incomprehensible rewards; often in the same breath. And so the Confession ends here, a bit like the Apostle John ends his first epistle, with a staunch reminder of the sheer weightiness of the matters presented within the rest of the document.

When we decide to worship and serve the Lord Jesus Christ with our lives, we have also decided to worship and serve the one who will judge us on that last day (John 5:22, 27). This is wonderful news. The one who will judge us is also our Savior!  If our own judge took off His garments of honor and nobility to condescend to be our Savior, how much more then will His judgment be according to His own mercy.

As we consider the sternness and mercy of God today, let us pray with the Reformer John Calvin regarding this great and terrible doctrine of the judgment,
“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, grant us the grace that, being warned by so many examples of Your wrath and vengeance (in the Bible), the memory of which You have willed should endure until the end of the world, we might learn thereby how redoubtable and terrible a Judge You are against the obstinate and those who have hardened their hearts. Grant us also the grace that, today we might not be deaf to this doctrine which we have heard from the mouth of your prophet. Rather, grant that we might apply all our studies in order to appease You and find favor in Your sight, and, abandoning all hope in mankind, present ourselves directly to You. Moreover, being supported by Your loving kindness alone, which You have promised us in Jesus Christ, may we never doubt again that You are our true Father. May we be so touched by a spirit of repentance, that, even if we have been bad examples for one another, and scandalized each other, we might rather become banner-bearers, or guides, to the right way of salvation. And may we strive to help our neighbors by living a good and well-ordered life, so that all together we might attain that heavenly and happy life which Your only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, has dearly acquired for us by His blood. Amen.”[2]

I have sitting on my desk a tiny trophy that I “earned” for playing T-ball as a young boy. T-ball is the kind of baseball that is played before children are able to hit and pitch the ball on their own. The baseball just sits there on the tee waiting for the batter to strike it. At the end of my first season playing for the “T-ball Tornados” the coach handed us each a small, itty-bitty trophy no higher than six inches. It sits modestly on a 1-inch high pedestal of plastic. What seemed to me a more than generous reward for my efforts as a child, now seems to me a humorous reminder of the irony of my achievements. Our earthly trophies are so small and ignoble compared to the righteousness of Jesus, aren’t they?

Often I have found that the more I can meditate on the day of my own judgment, the more I am able to ferret out the wood and hay before I am foolish enough to try to build something out of them.  Philippians 2:12 warns us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” We fear, not because we are concerned that God will destroy us, for there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1); rather we fear because our hearts have been regenerated in order to love Him more and more. Our fear is not that we would ourselves be condemned, but we fear that we would live in such a way that the honor of God is tarnished. Similarly, we tremble not because we are afraid of punishment, but with the ground-shaking responsibility of carrying His name-plate on our hearts. 

The above has been adapted from Matthew Everhard's book, Hold Fast the Faith: A Devotional Commentary on the Westminster Confession of 1647 (Reformation Press, 2012). Matthew is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

[1] Jonathan Edwards, quoted in John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. (Sisters OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2003) p. 60.

[2] John Calvin, quoted in Steven J. Lawson, The Expository Genius of John Calvin.  (Orlando FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007) p. 127-128.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Treat" your neighborhood this October 31st! 3 simple ways to live missionally this Halloween.

For many of us, October 31st is the most awkward day of the year. Each year we must face the reality that on one hand there is a pious, religious side of ourselves which scoffs at this evening of debauchery in which scantily clad or scarily clad people roam the streets, monsters rule, and chaos abounds! However, there is  another side of ourselves which enjoys seeing family and friends gather together, creative costumes worn, all in an epic search for candy!

So what are we the church called to do on this day marked Halloween? Here are 3 simple tips designed to encourage you and your family to be missional this Thursday night:

1. Embrace your neighbors. We are called by God to love our neighbors. Namely, we are called to love those who we come into contact with. What better way to love those around us than to be personable with the many that we will come into contact with over the course of Halloween night. Sit out on the lawn, offer water to parents as well as candy to kids, smile, ask questions, just embrace those in your neighborhood!

2. Be "that" house. Every neighborhood has a house that gives full size candy bars when half-size would suffice. “That” house has front lawn decorations that attract the eye of wandering trick-or-treaters. “That” house gets talked about by children and parents at the end of the evening. Love radically, give generously, be “that house.

3. Invite. Over the course of the evening, you’ll have many opportunities to meet people in your community that you otherwise would not speak to. What an amazing opportunity to tell people about a place where they can find real community, the local church! Get to know people, ask about them, and encourage them to come with you to church on Sunday. Even offer to take them to lunch afterwards. Seek opportunities to share the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Be inviters.

Hope ya’ll have a great October 31st, remembering that you are always on mission; and that you are greatly loved by our Lord Jesus Christ, who lavishes you with a grace that is infinitely sweeter than any piece of Halloween candy.

When Elephants Fight

Common in the fables of African culture is the concept that “when elephants fight the grass gets hurt.” The ferocity of the beasts as they defend their right to territory or property renders them insensitive to their surroundings and thus considerable damage is done. They hurt themselves while other entities suffer.

It must be obvious where this is leading. How frequently today we hear of conflicting schools of thought within the Christian community – even the Reformed and Evangelical. We fret over whether Piper picked a peck of pickled Packer, or follow the Gresham Machen road to Gerstner and Sproul. We have champions whom we are tempted to follow and who sometimes let us down by their Driscoll/MacArthur interlocutions. And what may we say of Biologos and its adherents, “masters of theological confusion and compromise?” In fact it appears that the Christian community is more hindered than helped by a multitude of alignments that easily divert us from the simple faith that adheres us to the sticking place of Scripture; “... the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.”

When elephants fight it matters more to them that they be proved correct, than that the Body of Christ is enriched by them. They must win. Consider the appalling altercations that are passed back and forth between six-day creationists and all the other “ists” who find that trusting “thus saith the Lord” is evidence of intellectual ineptitude. It isn't so much that brethren disagree, but they must castigate one another in order to persuasively develop camp followers who will comfortably argue opinions that they may not have completely understood themselves, but they do have a champion who does.

When the “grass gets hurt” the Church of Jesus Christ suffers. The “unity of the Body in the bond of peace” becomes fragmented, and love for the brethren is replaced by harsh and unyielding criticism.

But imagine now the one who has no elephant in the fight and is content to let the animals destroy one another. After all is said and done, when the giants have exhausted their repertoire, the damage is done, the grass has been decimated, and the territory is available for the “strong man” to help himself to the spoils.

Wilfred A. Bellamy, Ph.D.
October 27, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Family Book Recommendation: One Year of Dinner Table Devotions

I've had several encounters with parents who are frustrated with their inability to foster good
conversation with their children or are unable to have a consistent family devotion time...

Is that you? Then I've got THE solution for you. I joke of course, but honestly, these candid conversations with children can be awkward, uncomfortable, and difficult to cultivate.

One resource that might be helpful for you is the One Year of Dinner Table Devotions & Discussion Starters by Nancy Guthrie.

This book offers a simple, daily, one-half page of text, followed by discussion starter questions for fit for the entire family. Additionally, each day has scripture verses that connect the discussion back to God's word.

While discussions with children can be difficult, I encourage you to have these conversations. Be vulnerable, foster an environment of sharing, and seek to be gracious. God is so gracious with us and desires a relationship with his children; may we model that grace and love in pursuing relationships with our children.

You can purchase One Year of Dinner Table Devotions & Discussion Starters  here.

-Drew Taylor

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Updated: The Best (FREE) Christian Apps for Your Device

Any list like this is going to be controversial. Nevertheless, having been an iPhone owner now for a number of years, here is my list of the best (free!) applications that I have put on my device.

As a pastor, my list will probably error on the side of being useful to the minister. In any regard, here we go...

1. The ESV Bible. I praise God that the publishers of the ESV Bible at Crossway  want to give away the Word of God for free! Unlike some of the other major translations (ahem! NIV), the folks at Crossway will give away the ESV Bible app absolutely free for any device. Easily to use. Best Bible; best app. Great search and cross-reference features.  

2. Twitter. Of course, this is not a specifically Christian application. Yet the usefulness for me here is huge. I "follow" around 100 other reformed pastors and ministries that I am inclined to admire. By following someone on Twitter, I can read their newest blog posts and articles that are relevant to me and keep up to date on the great articles and debates of the day.

I can follow everyone from The Aquila Report, to R.C. Sproul, to John Piper, to Mark Driscoll. Twitter also helps me to distribute info on my own articles and books to those who "follow" me.

3. Kindle.  I've been a Kindle user for more than a year now and love it. There are literally thousands of free (or very cheap) books for Kindle devices but get this: you don't need a Kindle device to get them now! You can download the Kindle "app" (Kindle Reader) to your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop and be reading Luther, Calvin, Bunyan and others for zero dollars! If you already own a Kindle, having the app will put all of your previously loaded content onto your phone too, so you can read your books on multiple devices. The Kindle App also syncs the page you are on to all your devices! By the way, you can get a couple of my books too (just saying!).

4. Reformed Forum. This app is really exciting for theology geeks! The Reformed Forum is a series of pod-cast radio shows that discuss very deep topics in theology and related fields.  Promulgated by two young Reformed pastors Camden Bucey (OPC) and Nick Batzig (PCA), the discussion centers around new and old works in theology, Biblical studies, and church history. I especially appreciate the show "East of Eden" which discusses the writings of Jonathan Edwards. 

5. Zite. This application is a personally tailored e-magazine based upon the topics you select. Each day, Zite searches the internet for articles, blogs, and pages devoted to the topics you customize. I have mine set to pick up articles on "world news," "theology," "Christianity," "health," and "social networking." I can even make it much more specific, such as "Olympic wrestling" (rather than just sports) if I want. Also, if I want it to pick up articles from any particular blog, I can have it do that too.

6. Christian Creeds and Reformed Confessions. This application has the full texts of all of the major creeds and confessions of Christian history. For me, having the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism on my phone is a great luxury. But I can also compare them instantly to the other confessions of note such as: The Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt just to name a few. Devised by the kind folks at Westminster Theological Seminary. 

7. WSC in 90 Days. Speaking of the confessions, let me also mention the "Westminster Shorter Catechism in 90 Days" app. Learn Puritan theology a few minutes a day! This is especially helpful in those odd minutes that often go wasted: sitting in line to pick up children from school, for instance. Thanks to the guys at Reformed Theological Seminary for this one. Brilliant. 

8. Evernote. This is a simple note-taking and categorization application. It lets me file my random thoughts, sermon ideas, Scripture notes, and photographs. It helps me to sift them into topical "notebooks" (sermons, staff meetings, elders, strategic planning etc.). Especially helpful is the ability to use a photo as a note. Rather than jotting down a quotation or paragraph I want to use in a sermon or essay, I can simply take a picture of it and file the whole things as a note.

9. Mars Hill.  The Mars Hill app gives me immediate access to the worship music and remixed hymns created by the dozens of Mars Hill Church worship bands. Much of this music is to be commended highly for its originality and theological depth. In addition to this, I also get one-touch access to Pastor Mark Driscoll's stirring (and often controversial) sermons. If you don't like Driscoll, skip this one. 

10. The Gospel Coalition.  Readers of Kevin DeYoung, D.A. Carson and others in the Gospel Coalition will like to pick up this easy app. As one might guess, this application gives you push button access to the day's moving blog articles related to Christianity, theology, and local church ministry. A lot of good writers post here.  

11. RefNet. Reformation Network is a decent app. It is essentially "one touch" listening to streaming audio content. As an EPC pastor, I find the speakers on this super-easy application to be the main guys I want listen to anyways: Piper, Sproul, Mohler, etc. Perfect for the treadmill. I don't have to download anything or transfer files to a device. Just one touch, and I'm already listening. This is great for those moments you don't want to have to pick a specific podcast, you just flip it on to what is "on" at the moment. 

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. Please consider following on Twitter @matt_everhard.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why Christian History?

Later this fall, our church is hosting an annual event called Reformation Sunday. Taking place on the Lord's Day closest to October 31st (the day in 1517 when Luther posted his 95 Theses), it will be a day filled with preaching, feasting, and enjoying the company of others.

We plan to have an ethnic meal filled with potluck dishes from various nations: England, Scotland (haggis!), Switzerland, and of course Germany (kraut please...). After that, we will put on a spirited version of the Scottish 'Highland Games' led by our youth department in the courtyard.

Since most modern Evangelical churches don't see the relevance of celebrating Reformation Sunday, it got me wondering: what is the value of studying much less celebrating Christian history at all?

What follows are a three brief thoughts on the value of Christian history.

First, Christian history yields great heroes of the faith whom we may emulate. Granted, Christ alone is the highest and greatest hero upon which to model our lives (Hebrews 12:2),  Having said that, there are others too who have led notable (if imperfect) lives, filled with astonishing grace.

William Tyndale, for one, is a man who has literally changed my life. Why? Because I wouldn't have the Bible on my desk without him; he selflessly devoted his whole life to translating the Scriptures into English. Condemned as a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church, he was burned at the stake as a "reward" for his undying courage.

Christian history warns us of the many pitfalls of false teaching. Many of the doctrines that we take for granted (such as salvation by faith alone) have been defended  in the face of tremendous heresy and apostasy. Luther and others defended the great truths of the Reformation, often at great expense. Many gave their lives--for the truths we take for granted--in order to refute heresy.

It is grievous to see how the modern church has fallen into same heresies our ancestors have already overcome. Legalism and its equally wicked opposite, antinomianism, come to mind in this regard.

Finally, Christian history encourages us to reflect on the slow, but sure advance of the Kingdom of God. How great it is to realize that we are proclaiming the same doctrines that our forefathers upheld! That we are the heirs of such men as Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Calvin, Luther, and Augustine!

Slowly and steadily, the Gospel is advancing around the globe as every tribe and nation is saturated with the good news. Still, there is much work to be done. Much ground to cover. 

Yet, whenever I read the works of these men listed above, I am evermore encouraged to see that I believe and confess the same truths as these brothers from other centuries and nations around the globe. By looking back to their footprints, I am also encouraged to look forward to those who fill follow one day in ours.

Yes, Christ will come to redeem His elect remnant! Shall we be numbered among them? I hope so.

-Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Existence of God Amidst Evil

For many the problem of evil prevents a belief in God. Many phrase it like this: :"If God is all powerful and truly good, then why would he allow evil to exist?" A theodicy seeks to work out an answer to this question. Many simply decide that their theodicy is to disbelieve in God, that therefore God cannot exist, because if He was good and all powerful evil would not exist.

However Tim Keller in his latest must-own book Walking With God Through Pain And Suffering argues poignantly that this inconsistency between the reality of an all powerful and good God and the problem of evil are not ultimately at odds:
If God has good reasons for allowing suffering and evil, then there is no contradiction between his existence and that of evil. So in order for his case not to faith, the skeptic would have to reply that God could not possibly have any such reasons. But it is very hard to prove that.
To show the skeptic that his premise is untrue, the believer could point out that we ourselves often allow suffering in someone's life in order to bring about some greater good. Doctors often inflict painful procedures and treatments on people, all for the purpose of the greater good of better health and longer life. Parents who punish bad behavior with the loss of toys or privileges are causing pain, but the alternative is that the child will grow into an adult with no self-control and would therefore experience far greater suffering...Many can point to adversity in their lives that, however excruciating, taught them lessons that helped them avoid greater suffering later. So the principle of allowing pain for the good reason of bringing about a greater happiness is valid and one we understand ourselves. That means there is no automatic inconsistency between God and the existence of evil and suffering. (97)
Keller, like usual, knocks this topic out of the park. I would invite you to read his text. We all face evil and suffering in this world and Keller provides arrows in our quiver for us to deal with them when they come.

JT Holderman is Assistant Pastor of Bellevue Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Gap, PA.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Thelogy, Culture, and the Kingdom of God." By Dr. Wilfred A. Bellamy.

In consideration of the role of the Church of Jesus Christ as it engages the various cultures in which it is planted, the following perspective is presented.

Let us first give consideration to the church as the Kingdom of God. Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph.5:25). Therefore all matters pertaining to the church reflect not so much the things that we do, as the people that we are in Christ. We are the people of His Kingdom, known and loved from before the foundation of the world.

While we agree, and understand, that there is a “then and there” dimension of Kingdom, let us also agree that there is a “here and now” Kingdom reality in which we are called to walk (2 Cor 5:17).

Living as Kingdom people is not a matter of strategic intent, nor is it methodological, nor is it a matter of cultural relevance, but it means “walking in the light as He is in the light,” all the while demonstrating that “we have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:5-7). We are the called people of God, the company of the redeemed, a diverse body uniquely joined – a Kingdom of citizens, (Rev. 5:9-10), no less.

John Calvin described the church as a “just redeeming community.” Thus, in living for Christ in a fallen world, we are to live redemptively, modeling before others our likeness to Christ, as the Holy Spirit enables us to grow up into Him. Calvin also finds it virtually impossible to speak of salvation without first speaking of the Kingdom e.g. he recites Mark 1:15 “… the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel.” Thus Calvin’s eschatology precedes his soteriology (Institutes 3.3.19).  As Kuyper so clearly expressed, “as is your eschatology so is your theology.”

The church of the 20th century became the church of missiology, where outreach was concerned. Much has been written about the “science of missions” from a methodological perspective, as if means and method were the lodestone of effectiveness. But lest we forget that eschatology supercedes missiology, and lose sight of the call to obedience that is the hallmark of the Kingdom of God, let us be reminded that the sceptre of God, as it is extended to the lost, is to understand and believe that God reigns, that He is Lord, that He is first and foremost authoritative, and that we are “enjoined to pray that He would subdue all minds and hearts to voluntary obedience" (Institutes 3.20.42).

The Gospel of Christ, the “power of God unto salvation” (1 Cor. 1:18), is essentially relational. It requires inter-personal connection for its proper transmission, interpretation and comprehension. The Gospel is not an impersonal statement of truth. It is always more “euangellion” than it is “kerugma.” It is first lived and is thus recognizably different from life without or before Gospel. Then it is spoken, by way of pronouncement or proclamation, in the normal course of a day’s events as well as on other occasions of proclamation. As has been stated elsewhere, “the question of evangelical cultural engagement begins not with a ‘how’ but with a ‘who’” (Andy Crouch, in a persuasive argument for evangelical Christianity as a counter-culture, not an attempt at cultural engagement, CT 2006).

The conveyance of Biblical truth as it is revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if that truth is to escape the mask of mystery and become reality to those who meet the believer and hear what he or she has to say, must be clearly visible – not by guise or stylistic affectation, but in Christlikeness – “let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me!”

The truth is therefore essentially incarnational. Our likeness to Christ is not an acquired affectation, but a life lived within the bounds of a culture. We become recognizable in that culture either because we are of it, or because we have become a part of it by an act of the will. Our participation in Kingdom extension is therefore not a brief peremptory intrusion in the lives of other people but an identification with them in daily living. Thus the Lord Jesus Himself “took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of man.” So very God became very man because He purposed so to be (Philippians 2: 5-11).

Incarnation removes the possibility of mistaking witness to Jesus Christ as some sort of trained-for event. Being a witness to Jesus Christ is being like Him, and revealing Him to those with whom we come into contact. This is the eschatological imperative.

-Rev. Dr. Wilfred A. Bellamy PH.D. is an ordained pastor in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, a former missionary to Nigeria, and the former Coordinator of the General Synod of the ARP. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October is Reformation Month! Why Bible Loving Christians Should Care about the Past.

October is the time of year in which the Protestant Church has traditionally celebrated one of the greatest revivals in post-biblical history. The "Reformation" (or re-forming of the church) is generally viewed as that great outpouring of God's grace, centering in the century of the 1500's, that transformed most of Europe and stood as a turning point in the history of western civilization.

Martin Luther and the 95 Theses: Oct 31, 1517.
What happened?
Briefly, the Roman Catholic Church and its Eastern Orthodox twin-cousin had become deluged in medieval theology. As the institutional church claimed for itself more and more authority--eventually regarding itself as having equal with Scripture--the dogmas of the church moved further and further away from biblical moorings. Such doctrines as purgatory, the selling of indulgences, the re-sacrifice of Christ at the mass, and the adoration of Mary--none of which are found in Scripture--gained prominence.

On October 31st 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, unsettled the status quo by challenging the powers-that-be to a debate regarding the abhorrent doctrine of indulgences. On this day, Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. This marked the formal beginning of the Reformation, although some men who came before him helped to set the stage (John Wycliffe and John Huss for instance). 

Originally, Martin Luther had no intentions of starting a new branch of Christianity. He had no desire to form a "Lutheran" contingent of followers. He certainly did not foresee the proliferation of Protestant denominations that would be spawned shortly. He merely wanted to spark an "in-house" debate to reform the existing church, which he loved deeply.

However, Luther's ideas regarding the ultimate authority of Scripture were considered too radical, and were seen as a "slap in the face" to papal authority. Eventually, Luther was summoned to recant his writings at the Diet of Worms (1521). He did not.

The Reformation fires quickly spread to other nations outside of Germany. Ulrich Zwingli seemingly uncovered the doctrine of "justification by faith alone" simultaneously, or even before Luther (as he himself claimed). A half-generation later, John Calvin stormed onto the worldwide scene with his small book the Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536) which meant to clarify and defend Reformed doctrine to the King of France. His own work brought revival to Geneva, Swizerland, which became a new center of evangelical theology and training.

William Tyndale (England), John Knox (Scotland), Heinrick Bullinger (Switzerland) and others fanned the flames of revival all over Europe. The Netherlands, Belgium and other further reaching lands were likewise impacted as the throngs of laypersons were revived by a fresh preaching of God's word, especially as it pertains to salvation by free grace in Jesus Christ.

During this time, Protestants (as they were called) began writing vibrant new confessions of faith; the Augsburg Confession of 1530 and the Heidelberg Confession of 1563, for instance, defined Lutheran and Reformed theology respectively. Many stood strong for their convictions despite heavy persecution and a Counter-Reformation attempted by Rome. 

Lasting Effects
As a movement, the ramifications of the Reformation are difficult to quantify because they are so deep and long-lasting. Some would say the Reformation is still not over in some regards. In our own land here in America, our forefathers, the Puritans, considered themselves to be the direct heirs of Reformation teaching and theology. Our own founding as a nation was deeply impacted by Reformed beliefs and convictions as it regards God's holy Law and saving Gospel.

As we celebrate this month of October, let us pray that God would bless our land with passionate preachers of revival who lift up such glorious Biblical doctrines as those which came to be known as the Five Solas:
  • Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)
  • Sola Fide (Faith alone)
  • Solus Christus (Christ alone)
  • Sola Gratia (Grace alone) and
  • Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone Glory)
Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. Follow on Twitter @matt_everhard.