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presbyterian thoughts

promoting intelligent piety in the city of angels

Updated: 2018-01-15T08:31:03.567-08:00


Palagianism 101, Children's Edition


Recently I took my children to the Los Angeles County Fair just outside of LA. It had all of the normal fair-experiences that people look for when attending a county fair. There were fattened animals, giant pumpkins, tilt-o-whirls, carnies, and even deep fried you-name-its. The whole experience was there.

As we walked past the vendors of tacky hats and marshmallow shooters, we heard a vendor asking the pedestrians, “Have you ever heard of the book with no words?” I had heard the story because my father’s parents were evangelical Christians and were quite happy to share Bible stories and children’s tracts with us when we were kids. I said that I had and he invited my children into the tent.

A very cheerful older lady met the kids at the door and there was one other little boy in the tent ready to hear the story. The narrator told of GOLD streets in Heaven and held up the wordless book to show the page that was all gold. Next she told of how little children must be washed of their sin and turned the page to an all BLACK page. The next page was RED as she proceeded to tell of the blood of the Lord Jesus needing to be shed. This Gospel message went on to say that we can be WHITE as snow as she turned to a bright white page. The final page was GREEN as she told the children that they must grow every day.

Now that’s cute. It was also nostalgic because I remember my grandfather using similar messages. But here’s what got me...

She told my children (and the other little boy) that they must do these things: 

1. Go to Sunday School.
2. Read you Bible every day.
3. Pray.

Those are all good things, right? Yep. They are great. But here’s the line that I keep ruminating on, “...and you will learn to love Jesus.”

Is that true? If little children go to Sunday School, read their Bible everyday, and pray they will learn to love Jesus? I am struggling a bit with that message. It does not sound like the Gospel of free grace, but a call to work your way into the favor of God. To me it sounds like the little children of Los Angeles County were hearing that if they do certain things than GOLD streets would theirs. It sounded more like Pelagius telling children stories than Augustine telling them.

Am I word brat?
Am I being too hard on little old ladies with good intentions?
Am I being... a jerk?

I don’t mean to be any of those things but I wonder if there is Augustinian version of this book. I wonder if children’s messages, videos, sermons, and books with the message of “be nice and don’t hit your sister” do more harm than good. We need to point our children to a crucified Jesus who died because little kids cannot be nice and cannot but hit their sisters. What are we teaching our children? What’s the Gospel that you are sharing with His little ones?

Remembering Her Who Spoke the Word to Me


Hebrews 13:7 says, "Remember... those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." For me the Word of God was first spoken to me by Mary Ann Di Nicola. Mary Ann opened the Word of God in such a way that the Lord Jesus Christ became living and active to me. In these early months and years of being a Christian, Mary Ann would say, "Nathan, I want you to know that I am the one teaching you this because the men of this generation have not done their job." The Word of God was frequently opened, taught, and lived out through the interactions, lessons, and thorough examinations from the Scriptures. I remember one day sitting in her living room, along with Shawn Anderson, and Mary Ann asked us to go to the portion of the Scriptures where Jesus and Nicodemus talk about eternal life. Neither of us knew where it was (if I am remembering correctly). Mary insisted that without a thorough knowledge of the Word of God we would not be able to live out the spiritual battle that is going on around us. She was right. Mary introduced me to the Scriptures. She introduced me to the Westminster Shorter Catechism. She introduced me to the Puritans (Heaven Taken By Storm by Thomas Watson was the first book that she had me read after I became a Christian. Years later, while in seminary I noticed that the introduction to that book was written by my own seminary professor!). For these things, along with prayers, love, friendship, unwanted advice, and even numerous admonishments and rebukes have all helped to shape me into the man of God that I am today (no matter how faulty). As I consider the woman that first spoke the Word of God to me, I am abundantly grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ that he used this weak vessel to bring me to a saving knowledge of himself. The value of this in my life can never be overstated. I would like to share the testimony of her coming to saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The cost of discipleship is high. Each one of us must weight the cost- and as I consider she that God used to speak the Word of God to me, the cost of her discipleship is what comes to mind the quickest. Mary Di Nicola paid a great price for following her Lord- and it made her all the more passionate about her Lord. As I consider she who spoke the Word of God to me, I must ask myself these questions: Do I consider the cost? Has the Gospel cost me anything? Do I reflect the zeal and passion of one who has surrendered all? As I consider the one who spoke the Word of God to me, I must consider my own discipleship. Have you considered the cost? The Cost of Discipleship by Mary Ann Di Nicola Jaggi (February 2010)The Cost of Discipleship....Nearly three decades ago on Christmas Eve, the most reverent of holidays in my parent's home, I stood in the kitchen that I spent most of my youth cooking in, clad in an apron, holding a simmering pot of the best Italian marinara sauce in the world! The scene was the stuff of holiday magazine covers...and I stood there, scared to death. I was surrounded by my siblings, their spouses and children, along with my father, who I deeply loved, now straddling across a pregnant table to take the huge pot from me to be placed at the center. Most everyone was eating and enjoying the many traditional dishes set before them and though there was a solemn presence, there was laughter as well. My mother had died less than a year before and her absence was like a pall over the setting. She was so integral to every holiday that she often seemed like the Captain of the Enterprise as she directed the event from her position at the stove. I held her in the highest regard at such affairs, often I had been her right hand and carried out intricate orders from her, even as a young girl. Whether for 5 or 500, my mother never failed to fill hungry bellies...she was the Maker of many a memory! I was born in an Italian-American family and raised as a strict Roman Catholic in a family that was a member of organized crime. Every possible stereotype could ri[...]

The Light of the World Gives Light to One


In the Gospels we see numerous responses to the Lord Jesus. As Jesus reveals himself as light in John 8 he then illustrates that aspect of his calling with the healing of a man born blind. Often we fail to see such connections because we have been so trained to cut off the associations because of the numbers in our Bibles (John 8:1; John 9:1). We fail to remember that those numbers are not inspired, but were later added to the text as a help. Sometimes they fail to help because they fail to bring together the connections that are between one chapter and another. Arthur Pink comments on such connections between John 8 and John 9. The Light of the World brought His light to one.. where do you stand in regard to the light of Christ?

In John 8 we behold Christ as the light exposing darkness, but in John 9 He communicates light. In John 8 the Light is despised and rejected, in John 9 He is received and worshiped. In John 8 the Jews are seen stooping down to pick up stones; in John 9 Christ is seen stooping down to make anointing clay. In John 8 Christ hides himself from the Jews; in John 9 He reveals Himself to the blind beggar. In John 8 we have a company in whom the Word has no place; in John 9, outside the Temple, He is owned as Lord. The central truth of John 8 is Light testing human responsibility; in John 9 the central truth is God acting in sovereign grace after human responsibility has failed.

So What Happened At the 180th Synod of the RPCNA?


The 180th Synod of the RPCNA met at Indiana Wesleyan University (yes, Wesleyan) from June 28-July 1, 2011. Ruling Elder, Steve McMahon (Midwest Presbytery), was nominated as the Moderator. This was only the second time in RP history that a ruling elder has been elected to this office (according to some reports). Monday evening began with a gripping sermon from Matthew 16 titled, “I Will Build My Church” by Dr. Jerry O'Neill. The members then took time to remember some of the pastors who had died in the past year. Drs. D. Carson, K. Hoffman, and C. Chao were among them. Tuesday began with a sermon from this writer on Colossians 1 followed by an extensive discussion concerning the finances of the denomination. The finances appear to be generally stable, although there are a number of boards and agencies that could use more funding (ie: Global Missions and Home Missions being the two most crucial, according to the Scriptures). The state of the presbyteries appears to be quite stable. Each presbytery is growing, planting churches, and experiencing the smiles of our Heavenly Father. The Atlantic Presbytery is welcoming an American Presbyterian Church into their number. The Great Lakes/Gulf has three congregations that are seeking to unite with them. There is church planting in the South- including a mission in South Carolina, which has not seen an RP Church since before the Secession. The Japanse Presbytery is currently managing nearly $200,000 worth of donations for tsunami relief. And, as you know, the Pacific Coast is celebrating 100 years and is seeking to plant in Tucson, AZ. The East Asia Committee reported on a recent trip, in which JON and DR met with the leaders of between 20,000 and 30,000 Reformed Presbyterians that are seeking to organize as presbyteries and to have those called to the pastorate and eldership ordained and installed. The Synod made this committee a commission, which gives these men the power to act on behalf of Synod. Ordinations and the organization of presbyteries will result in a denomination that is 3-4 times larger than the North American branch! Thanks to God that the door was not closed (Not Hoi Moon?), but instead built in the way that He saw fit! Pastor Rut Etheridge led us in worship Wednesday morning. “The Struggle of a Pastor's Heart” was the sermon's title. Doug Lee, the Executive Director of an organization that oversees our chaplains gave a report on our chaplains. It was reported that Chaplain Leach has recovered remarkably from his stroke. He also mentioned Brent England and his work with Hospice. The Sudan Report was reason for giving praise and thanks to our great God and King! Last year at this time there were 300 members of the Sudan RP Church. At the time of this meeting, there are over 1200 members to Sudanese RP Church. Many churches have been planted, pastors trained, saints discipled and idols burned! For an oral report along with video and photos, go to the following link: Sudan Report brought tears to many eyes and was evidence of the great love that Jesus Christ has for building His Church in all parts of the world. As a plug for the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course: many of the principles of global church planting were employed in a distinctively Reformed Presbyterian way. If you are ever able to take this course, it is worth the time and energy. Now back to what we did at Synod...The Psalter Revision Committee gave their report, along with the final changes to the 5th edition of the Book of Psalms for Worship. A new rendition of Psalm 136D was sung and proved to be a worshipful rendition of the psalm. The committee was dismissed with thanks. They had worked for a number of years to update and improve our book of praise. Lord willing, it will prove to be sufficient for the next couple of generations of RPs. The Synod took on a huge task last year by forming a committee to study sexual orientation. O[...]

Questions and Answers Before the Day of Fasting


Here are some guidelines and helps to prepare us for our Day of Fasting and Solemn Assembly which is scheduled for Friday, June 3, 5:30PM until Saturday, June 4, 5:30PM. If you have any other questions before this weekend, do not hesitate to call or email. Could you define fasting again for me? Our Standards say, “Religious fasting is an ordinance of God in which the believer voluntarily abstains from food for a season for the purpose of seeking the will of God, strength for service or deeper spirituality. It should be accompanied by meditation, self-examination, humiliation before God, confession of sin, repentance and renewed dedication to a life of obedience (Reformed Presbyterian Testimony, 21.7).”How are we supposed to do this? For the 24 hours that the Pacific Coast Presbytery has called us to fast we should avoid food and caloric intake for the sake of afflicting ourselves (remember this is one of the biblical terms for fasting) and drawing us closer to Christ in prayer and meditation. It is a practice of self denial as well as a way to give us more time for prayer and meditation. What if I have medical problems? If you are not able to fast for the entire 24 hours due to a medical condition, do what your body is able to handle (and maybe a tiny bit more). The fast should be one where you practice self-denial, but it also is not designed to harm you. Jesus desires obedience, not sacrifice. You will have to decide what you are able to handle. Please make that decision prayerfully. Should my children fast? If your children are at an age where they understand what is being asked of them, they should most definitely fast. If they are too young to understand the nature and purpose, do not have them fast. Young children may be able to participate in an abbreviated way. Broth and juices are good substitutes for younger children who wish to participate. Nursing mothers should do what they are able to do, but be wise about it! What if I have never fasted before? If you have never fasted you will want to prepare yourself this week by eating less, and attempting to focus on prayer at times when you may have hunger pains. You may also want to ask someone in the congregation to be a prayer and accountability partner in this time. Do not eat too much before you begin. You will do better if you eat less in preparation than if you gorge yourself. Also, be well hydrated before the fast. Drink plenty of water. You may also need to drink water during the fast. This is okay. Is there more to this than just not eating? Fasting is only a means to an end. There is nothing spiritual about not eating food. In order for it to be a biblical fast, we need to “accompany it with meditation, self-examination, humiliation before God, confession of sin, repentance, and renewed dedication to a life of obedience (RPT 21.7)” Fasting should lead us to changed hearts, not just empty bellies. Should I just go about my day as usual? No. You should try to treat this time as a season where you focus on God in Christ in a more intense way. Some things come up, but try to free your schedule as best as possible so that you can have time for spiritual exercises. It is also a good day for fellowship around the Word of God. Since it is a public fast, you may want to spend some of your times with others from the congregation. What if I have young children? If you have young children that you are caring for, fasting will prove to be more difficult. Plan your day well. Schedule one or two times during the day when others can be with your children. Also use their nap times for prayer and meditation. You may also incorporate them into the spiritual exercises of the day. How do you want us to pray? You can use the prayer guide to help you along. Also, feel free to reflect on your own spiritual life as well. The purpose is for the presbytery, but each one of us make up the presbytery. Should I pray alone or with others? It is appropriate to pray as an [...]

Urgent Prayers Needed for Cush4Christ


In response to escalating conflict in South Sudan, most of the the Cush4Christ team was evacuated today to Kenya. Most of you are probably aware of clashes erupting in recent days in the Abyei area (about 80 miles NE of our mission, and the link will take you to the latest articles from the BBC) between the Northern Army and South Sudan Army (SPLA). However in addition to that clash, there have been major troop buildups along the North/South border including an area just about 40 miles north of our mission. In addition, there is great unrest with reports of troops seizing vehicles (some to travel to the front lines, others to flee the front lines) and other associated acts of violence (at least 2 within 2 miles of our compound in the last 48 hours). Finally, our sources within the SPLA expect a major Northern Army air and land offensive to begin in the next two days. Therefore, the Cush4Christ team in consultation with RPGM determined that it was time to enact the evacuation plan. While none of us knows exactly what will transpire in the next few days, it seemed prudent to get our team out of Sudan before the situation deteriorated further. Here is the status of our team:The Ward family was already in Nairobi, Kenya this week for a regularly scheduled resupply and rejuvenate trip.The Faris family is on the chartered evacuation flight and will reach Nairobi soon. (The Faris family is scheduled to be in the US for 2 months from late June-August, so they will try to move their flight up.)Jan Buchanan is on the evacuation flight. Unfortunately, Jan just arrived in Sudan a week ago, so barely had time to settle in.Scott Brinkerhoff is remaining in Sudan for the present time to further secure the compound and continue the radio ministry, but plans are in place for him to join later evacuation flights through Samaritan's Purse or the UN depending on the developments. We have every reason to believe that his life is not in danger, and are thankful for his willingness to continue behind to wrap things up. For obvious reasons, it is less conspicuous for a single man to travel about and easier to find shelter at the UN compound if needed and room on later evacuation flights than for an entire family to do these things.Your prayers for God’s people in South Sudan are greatly needed. Over these past few years, we have marveled at the way that God has brought forth Sudanese men for ministry, how He has seen fit not only to provide pastors, but ruling elders and deacons for this multiplying church with over 1300 members.Please pray for the ministers and officers of His churches in Southern Sudan. May God grant them wisdom, courage, and the Spirit’s leading as they assume an even greater leadership role among the saints.Please pray for the safety of the saints and that these clashes would soon end and that Christ’s churches might again enjoy peace as they grow and develop.Pray that God’s Word through radio broadcasts in the area might also be used of God to strike at the heart of those currently engaged in the clashes and that they will be moved away from conflict and instead pursue the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.Give thanks for a safe evacuation of the missionaries and pray that the time away from Sudan will be short and well-used.Pray for the children of the missionaries in this time as such changes can be stressful not only for parents but for the young as well.Obviously, we will be monitoring the situation and making further plans as the situation becomes more clear. As further news becomes available we will let you know. Signed, Matt Filbert.[...]

Glasgow Reformed Presbyterian Church


Good news from our brothers and sisters in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland:

Lord's Day 22nd May 2011, will, God willing, be a day of much rejoicing and thanksgiving in the Scottish RP Church. For the past year the RPCS Presbytery has actively supported the work undertaken by the Airdrie RP Church to see a new RP congregation planted in Glasgow. That vision will be realised on the Lord's Day the 22nd May when the Presbytery will meet to formally constitute the new Glasgow RP Church.

There will be no morning service in Airdrie on the 22nd May as we will be travelling into Glasgow to join with them for this important and historic occasion. We will meet at the Airdrie church at 10am to travel in together in the minibus and cars. There will be a light buffet lunch after the morning service.

Initially the Airdrie Session will oversee the work along with thePresbytery appointed organising minister, Rev. Kenneth Stewart, but the desire is that it will not be too long before this new congregation will have its own leadership of elders and deacons.

We will delight in this development when it takes place, but are also very conscious that only Christ can and will build His Church to the Father's glory.

The address for Glasgow RP Fellowship is Thornwood Primary School, 11 Thornwood Terrace, Glasgow, G11 7QZ .

To read more news items from the church, please visit:

What Does the RPCNA Say About Fasting?


The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. -Jesus in Mark 2.Fasting is an ordinance of God that is much neglected in the Church of Jesus Christ today. The Scriptures say a lot about the ordinance of fasting, but what is it? I think that the Reformed Presbyterian Church has helpful information within the Standards of the Church. Hear from the Larger Catechism, Reformed Presbyterian Testimony, as well as the Directory for Public Worship for meditation material on fasting. The Pacific Coast Presbytery of the RPCNA will be fasting on June 4, 2011. Please see this guide for praying for the Pacific Coast Presbytery. Larger CatechismQuestion 108: What are the duties required in the second commandment?Answer: The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.Reformed Presbyterian Testimony 21.7Religious fasting is an ordinance of God in which the believer voluntarily abstains from food for a season for the purpose of seeking the will of God, strength for service or deeper spirituality. It should be accompanied by meditation, self-examination, humiliation before God, confession of sin, repentance and renewed dedication to a life of obedience.Directory for Public Worship 4.2In Christian fasting, as an ordinance of God, the believer voluntarily abstains from food or some ordinary pleasure for a season for the purpose of seeking the will of God, strength for service, or deeper spirituality. It should be accompanied by meditation, self-examination, humiliation before God, confession of sin, repentance and renewed dedication to a life of obedience.A fast day may be marked by a service of public worship. In such services, it is fitting that psalms of penitence be sung, along with the offering of prayers of confession of sin and petitions for pardon.If the civil authority calls for a time of prayer and fasting that is in harmony with the Scriptures, Sessions may encourage the people of God to pay due respect to that call. Besides such general occasions, there may be times when families and individuals, for their own reasons, give themselves to prayer and fasting for a season.Special days of fasting, humiliation and prayer are particularly appropriate when God’s judgments are evident in the land, or when corporate sin in church or nation provokes the Lord and invites His judgments. It is appropriate that such days be observed in connection with services preparatory to the Lord’s Supper or on days designated by Sessions, Presbyteries, and Synods for this purpose.[...]

Ever Compare the Wicked and the Righteous?


There are many comparisons in the Scriptures between the righteous and the wicked. Below is a chart that compares the wicked with the righteous in the 37th Psalm. As we look over the chart and think about David's discussion (a sung discussion, mind you), we quickly are confronted with the fact that many of these things are not actualized in the Christian experience. How many from our list are present realities? How many from our list are generalized truths (like proverbs)? How many from our list are eschatological? What word (from the chart) would you use to summarize the wicked? What word would you use to summarize the righteous? Where is Jesus in this list? The Wicked The Righteous What He Does/Should Do: Will fade and die Plot against the righteous. Gnash teeth at righteous Draws swords and bends bows. Attempt to bring down the poor and needy. Attempt to slay those who are upright. Has abundance (in this life) Will perish. Vanish like smoke Borrows and does not pay back. Is cursed by God Watch for the righteous and seeks to put him to death. Spreads himself like a green laurel Becomes “no more” Fret not because of evildoers. Do not be envious of wrongdoers. 3. Trust in the Lord Do good. Delight in the Lord Be still before the Lord Wait patiently for him Fret not over the one who prospers Fret not over the one who carries out evil Refrain from anger Forsake wrath. Fret not Will inherit the land Will inherit the land. Will delight in peace. Has little (but it’s better) Heritage will remain forever Not put to shame Have abundance in famine (compare 16). Is generous and gives. Blessed by the Lord Will inherit the land (third time saying it). Delights in the Lord Falls but is not cast away. Their children do not beg bread Lends generously His children become a blessing Turns from evil Does good Will dwell forever (in the land- 4th). Are preserved of God. Inherit the land (5th time) Dwell upon the land forever Their mouths utter wisdom Their tongue speaks justice Law is in his heart Steps do not slip 34. Waits for the Lord and keeps his way. Has a future. 40. Take refuge in God. What God Does (directly or through providence): Will be cut off Will make them “no more” Laughs at the wicked. Sees the wicked’s day coming. Slay wicked with own sword. Break their bows. Break their arms. Cuts off the wicked Will cut off their children Shall altogether be destroyed 38. Shall be cut off Give you the desires of your heart. Act. Bring forth righteousness as light. Bring forth justice. Upholds the upright Knows the day of the blameless Establishes their steps Upholds their hand Does not forsake them. Loves justice Will not forsake his saints Will not abandon them to the wicked. Will not let them be condemned. Will exalt the righteous to inherit the land (6th time). Gives salvation Is a stronghold in times of trouble. Helps and delivers them. Delivers 40. Saves [...]

Christ Centered and Reformed Aid for Japan


Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Please forward this and reproduce this information for your social media contacts:Do you want to help the hurting in Japan but do not know how? Do you desire to send money but want it used unto the glory of Jesus and not just for administrators? Do you desire to see the Gospel triumph in the midst of suffering in a land where only 3% of the population claim Christ in any form, and only 30% claim ANY religious beliefs? Do you desire to see The Land of the Rising Sun helped by the Church of the Risen Son? Many people want to help, and yet do not know how. Many Christians want to help, but want assurance that their funds will be used in a Christ centered way. Here is a way to help that is through the local Japanese Church: Dear Saints,Reformed Presbyterian Global Missions is setting up a “Japan Relief Fund” in response to the earthquake and tsunami that have devastated northern Japan this past week. Checks can be made out to “RP Global Missions” and perhaps congregations could send a joint check on Monday, March 21st (next week!) once they have collected this coming weekend and/or Lord’s Day, to:RP Global Missions3004 5th Ave.Beaver Falls, PA 15010-3671In the Memo Line, write “Japan Relief Fund” – this part is very important for correct crediting and directing. Donations made this way are tax deductible. If you prefer to donate online, you can do so at .Our plan is to route all funds to the Japan Presbytery and entrust them to direct funds in any way they see fit, directly or secondarily, further north.This way, all people in North America who donate can be assured that 100% of funds will be responsibly managed on-site by the churches’ pastors, elders, and deacons.Thank you for your timely help! As you know very well from the ample news sources, the need is great!Sincerely yours in Christ,Dr. Jonathan M. Watt, RPCNA Global Missions BoardThe Japanese branch of the Reformed Presbyterian Church consists of the following congregations: Higashisuma; Kasumigaoka, Okamoto-Keiyaku, Kita-Suzurandai, and Mukonoso. The Japanese RP Church also operates a reformed bookstore in Kobe as well as a seminary, called Kobe Theological Hall. Please consider having your congregations, friends, and loved ones contribute directly to RP Global Missions so that the resources going to Japan are doing Christ's work, in Christ's name, and for Christ's Kingdom and cause. Please also share this information with those would be interested. Warmly, In Christ, Pastor Nathan EshelmanPastor Nathan EshelmanReformed Presbyterian Church3557 Fletcher Drive Los Angeles, California, 90065study: 323.255.8757mobile: Facebook: "Los Angeles Reformed Presbyterian Church"[...]

So What Happened at the Presbytery Meeting?


A Presbytery Report to the Los Angeles Reformed Presbyterian Church:So What Happened at Presbytery?The Presbytery of the Pacific Coast met in San Diego this weekend to hold the annual spring meeting. Ruling Elder Hal Reyburn was elected Moderator and commented that he was thankful to be elected and that the agenda of this meeting “could be the most exciting agenda” he has seen in 35 years as a ruling elder.”All of the reports were in the hands of the presbytery well in advance so that the court could focus on discussion and prayer of the papers and reports before them. This proved to be beneficial because the workload was intense and God glorifying! The meeting began with the usual business of the election of officers, the calling of the roll, and opening devotional exercises. Pastor Eshelman was again elected as the clerk of presbytery with Ryan Hemphill as assistant clerk. Pastor Mark England opened with devotions around the theme “doing all things lawfully and in order” and reminded the presbytery of it's duties and responsibilities as a presbytery of the RPCNA. The candidates and credentials committee (C&CC) has quickly become the busiest committee of presbytery. The C&CC introduced Gil Garcia, Paul Ruchtie, and Greg Whitlock to the court as potential students of theology. The presbytery voted to make them students of theology, something for which this writer is abundantly thankful! The C&CC is also working with Mr. Aldo Yannon of San Francisco, CA, who is seeking ordination in the PC Presbytery. He is currently teaching Greek and Hebrew classes to Christians in San Quentin State Prison. Mr. Jason Ryce, a candidate who is eligible to receive a call as pastor, was also introduced to the court as a possible addition to our presbytery's membership. Elder Hector Pino was added to the C&CC since a majority of the C&CC work will be with Los Angeles RPC members. Ask that God would equip all involved since this is a new experience in many ways for our presbytery. The talk about Aldo and Jason brings us to other exciting news in the presbytery: There is a small group of families in Tucson, AZ who are hoping to see an RP Church planted in that area. Jason Ryce has been invited by the presbytery to come into discussions about how we could make this happen. The court believes that God is moving quickly towards making this a reality and has decided to establish a “Tucson Commission” (a commission has full authority to act on behalf of the presbytery) to oversee the planting of an RP Church in that city, as well as, Lord willing, helping the Ryce family move to Tucson to begin that work. Jason and his wife are in Tucson this week to do “exploratory work.” Elder Huizing and Pastor Eshelman have been appointed to that Commission. Pastor Eshelman turned down the request to have him act as chair to this commission (see, he can say, “no.”). The hope is that Jason would come onto the Phoenix Session as an associate pastor and transition into ful time ministry in Tucson as the Lord sees fit. The discussions with Mr. Yannon have led to the possibility of a church plant in the San Francisco Bay area. There are a number of families there that participate in a monthly psalm sing and time of study at the home of Yannons. A committee has been established to go to the Bay area and do exploratory work. That committee is Pastors McCracken and Hemphill, along with our very own Elder Pino. Jesus is on the move, folks! Prayers are needed and requested. The presbytery took time to meditate on the fact that we will be celebrating our 100th anniversary as a presbytery on June 6th of this year. A number of recommendations came from the Los Angeles Session surrounding this special time in the life of our presbytery. There will be a “Solemn As[...]

Egyptian Covenanters*- It is Coming, Friends.


How are you praying for Egypt? What do you think should happen as we literally watch power shift before our tweets and livefeeds? I know what I am praying...

What does Egypt have to do with a blog called "presbyterian thoughts?" What is so special about Egypt you may be thinking.

Everything. The Scriptures promise that there will come a day when the nation of Egypt will enter into covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ and they will keep their vows. They will become covenanters.

Isaiah 19:21, "And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord in that day and perform them."

May the Lord Jesus use the current chaos in Egypt as the "fulness of time" for this ancient people. May they reject Islam, reject secularism, reject humanism- and embrace their rightful leader and King. May this be the time of their vowing and performing their duties unto Christ. Does that seem unlikely? No, it doesn't. It WILL happen at some point. And I know this because the Scriptures promise that it will come to pass. Egypt will be covenanters unto the Lord Jesus. They will vow and they will perform their vows.

May this be their hour to bow the knee to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Now get praying!

From Fisher's Catechism:
Q. 63. How do you prove that national covenanting is a warrantable duty under the New Testament?
A. From its being promised in the Old Testament that this shall be a duty performed under the New, Isaiah 19:21 — “The Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and — they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and shall perform it.” Besides, if it was a moral duty upon special occasions, under the Old Testament (as appears from 2 Chron 15:12, and 34:31, 32; Neh. 9:38), it must remain to be the same, upon the like occasions, still; because Christ came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil them, Matt 5:17.

* I don't necessarily mean that Egypt will be Reformed Presbyterian "Covenanters"; but they will enter into covenant with God and keep it, hence covenanters.

Who Is Handing Out Bread in the Bread Line?


It always amazes me how people can make pastors into rock stars. Now don't get me wrong... I listen to many conference messages, I read the latest books by the big names in the Reformed world. I appreciate the ministry of those who have a global ministry. But ministers are but men.

I think that JC Ryle said it well when talking about the roll of the disciples at the feeding of the 5000:

"Now here is a lively emblem of the work which a true minister of the New Testament is meant to do. He is not a mediator between God and man. He has no power to put away sin, or impart grace. His whole business is to receive the bread of life which the Master provides, and to distribute it among the souls of whom he labors. He cannot make men value the bread or receive it. He cannot make it soul saving, or life giving to anyone. This is not his work. For this he is not responsible. His whole business is to be a faithful distributor of the food which his Divine Master has provided; and that done, his office is discharged."

So who is the true minister of the Gospel? He's not a rock star that has fans a mile wide and an inch deep. He's the homeless guy that works at the soup kitchen. He's the guy that is passing out bread and praying that his people will eat and be filled. Is there any room for pride or stardom in that? No. But there's room for humility and service. Now start passing out that bread.

Why Are We Here? A Congregational Meeting Meditation on Ephesians 3:14-21


Ephesians 3:14-21 Why Are We Here?For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, [15] from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, [16] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. [20] Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Why are We Here? Now that question could be asked in a couple of different ways- but my question is: why are we are here at a congregational meeting of the Los Angeles Reformed Presbyterian Church? And what are we doing here? Are we just having a business meeting where we will talk about the budget- maybe have a bit of discussion about what we like or don’t like in the budget? Maybe have a few questions or comments about the reports that we will hear from the various reporters in the church. Well, sure, we are here for that- we need to do this once a year as a part of our doing all things decently and in order- but what is at the core of what is really going on here? Why really are we here? I would like to very briefly look at Ephesians 3:14-21 and divide the text into two areas that will help us to answer this question. The first division will be theological or historical redemptive. And the second division will be doxological, and contemporary to our particular congregation. So why are we here? Let's start with the theological. In verse 14 we have Paul giving praise and prayer that the mystery of the Gospel has been revealed and this is part of why we are here. The mystery of the Gospel was that it was going to be a world-wide phenomeon that would start in a tiny centralized slice of land, and it would spread throughout the ancient world and make its way into Spain in the time of the NT and into Europe and eventually North and South America and throughout all of the continents of the worlds. We are here because we are part of this inheritance of the mystery of the Gospel. From this world-wide revelation of the mystery, Paul applies it specifically to the lives of individual believers. Give glory, in verse 16, that the Spirit has applied this Gospel to the nations to us as individuals if we are in Christ. Then verse 17 shows that this personal application has an organic nature and that we are not here just because we are connected to some world wide movement called the mystery revealed to the nations. We are not just here because we have had this individual application of that Gospel. We are here because we have been made a part of something bigger. Notice verse 17 shows that we have been rooted and grounded in love and then in verse 18- we comprehend this with ALL the saints. Connectedness, organic, being a part of something bigger- the church. So we are not just a bunch of individuals who are here today who have our own agenda- we are part of an organic union called the church- and we are rooted and grounded together in this. So why are we here- Because the love of God extends high and low and east and west and it must be applied to you specifically and to us as a congregation- and when people look onto our fellowship they should not even be able to describe what they are experiencing because the love of God in Christ that is ap[...]

Revive Us! ....But How?


This past week Timothy Keller wrote a blog post on revival and the means in which biblical revival comes. He used the classic book, Sprague's Lectures on Revival of Religion from 1832 to glean five things that are present in genuine revival:

1. Extra-ordinary Prayer
2. Recovery of the Grace in the Gospel
3. Renewed individuals who experience the presence of God
4. Gospel application (counseling) on individuals and and groups
5. The means of grace communicated in a new way.

As helpful as Keller's post was in considering some of the factors that are in involved when God spreads his grace through a congregation, city, or nation in a renewed way; I could not help but think of preaching as the central means that God uses for revival.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "Is it not clear, as you take a bird's eye view of Church history, that the decadent periods in and eras in the history of the Church have always been those periods where preaching has declined? What is it that always heralds the new dawn of a Reformation or a revival? It is renewed preaching. Not only a new interest in preaching but a new kind of preaching. A revival of true preaching has always heralded these great movements in the history of the Church. And of course, when the Reformation and Revival come they have always led to great and notable periods of the greatest preaching that the Church has ever known." Preachers and Preaching, 24.

Does the Church of Christ want revival? If she does then she needs to invest in good preachers. She needs to be committed to equipping and raising up men who have been called to preach with passion, unction, and clarity. And again- this drives us full circle- to prayer. Pray that Christ would raise up men to proclaim the Word in extraordinary ways. Pray that God would revive and reform- and equip our preachers.

The Christian and the Sabbath Day (Lord's Day)


A number of Christians today struggle with the principle called Sabbath keeping. Many see the Sabbath as an ordinance that was connected to the Mosaic Ceremonies and as a result deny the binding nature of the Sabbath Day on the New Testament Church.The problem though is not a problem with the text of the Scriptures though. The problem is in the way that we understand the Scriptures. The Christian Sabbath is binding upon the Church and it is both supported by the historical documents of the Church as well as the Scriptures themselves. Take for instance the Westminster Standards (WCF, WSC, WLC) and the Reformed Presbyterian Testimony (RPT). These documents defend the Sabbath as a perpetually binding obligation to the New Testament Church. Notice the words of our Confessional documents: As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, He hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto Him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath. (WCF 21.7)We reject the teaching that the Fourth Commandment is no longer binding under the New Testament. (RPT 21.11)Q. What is required in the fourth commandment?A. The fourth commandment requireth of all men the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word, expressly one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world; which is the Christian sabbath, and in the New Testament called The Lord’s Day. (WLC 116)Of course, these are only subordinate standards. These documents are not the Word of God. What does the Word of God say in regard to the Sabbath Day? The Sabbath shows up in the Scriptures long before Moses was ever on the scene. The pattern of six days of work and one day of rest is on the first pages of the Scriptures. God did not need rest, but he was setting up a pattern that was to be followed through-out time. We call this a "creation ordinance." This was not something that was connected to ceremonies, but something that God intended BEFORE sin ever came into the story of mankind. Genesis 2.1-3 records, "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation."Notice here that God rested after the work was created. What was the reason for God resting? It was so that he could set up the pattern for man to follow. Notice that Moses records that because God rested he blessed Sabbath rest and he made Sabbath rest holy. How is that connected to ceremonial law when sin has not entered the world? The answer is that it is not connected to ceremony, but to creation. We see this again in the 10 commandments. When God gave the moral law to Moses he did so as a way to reflect His own character and to give a visible representation of what expectations he had on his creatures. Who argues that in the New Testament Church that people are now free to commit adultery or free to steal or free to worship other gods? N[...]

Level Ground or Slippery Places?


Today I was reading Charles Spurgeon (the Baptist) on Psalm 26 in his wonderful work, Treasury of David. Spurgeon has these great helps for pastors with little theological training called, "helps for the village preacher." When I got to the "help" for verse 12, I was taken back a bit. What did he mean? What a wonderful help for this urban pastor to meditate on in my afternoon meditation.

Verse 12 reads: My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.

Now here's the help, and mind you, it is not a free sermon from Busy Pastors Dot Com; it really was intended to foster meditation: "Congregational Psalmody, and our personal share in it."

That's it.

That's the whole help for the village pastor.

In my meditation I considered the way that congregational psalmody really does leave us on level ground so that we can praise without being hindered. As a pastor, I have received numerous questions on the theology of certain hymns; or the writer of certain hymns; or questions about the unbelief of modern praise and worship musicians who continue to write; or comments on the Unitarianism of Isaac Watts...

There are so many questions!

Spurgeon tells the village... er... urban pastor... don't worry about all of these questions. Stand where your foot is level. Sing the psalms to God in His praise! Bless the Lord in the Great Assembly without all of the questions and confusion and ignorance. Praise Him with the use of the Psalter, and you will not have to worry about all of this other stuff.

So my question to you.... well, actually, Spurgeon's question to you:

Are you on level ground in your blessing of the Lord, or is your congregation's foot always slipping on new and unique ways of praise? Are you standing firm, or are you sliding into areas that are unseen? It's amazing how worship can do that. We become what we sing.

I want to be on level ground. We'll stick with God's songs.

Three Sided Triangles & Unmarried Bachelors


The term "born again Christian" is redundant. All who are Christians must be born again. There is no other kinds of Christians than those who are born again.

RC Sproul states, "The simple reality is this: everyone who is truly a Christian is born again. There are no other kinds of Christians. There's no such thing as a non-born-again-Christian or an unregenerate Christian. Yes, there are plenty of unregenerate church members and plenty of unregenerate people who profess to be Christians, but a person cannot be in Christ unless he or she is regenerate. By the same token, if you are regenerate, you are a Christian."

The World Went and Got Itself in a Big Damn Hurry


"The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry." These were among the last words of the character, Brooks Hatlen, in the novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

It's true. The world is in a hurry.

Of course, it always has been. People change. Things change. Times and seasons change. Styles change. Our desires change. Our love ebbs and flows. Our thoughts wander on to different things at different times.

The world is in a big hurry. Brooks was right. There is not much comfort in that. There is something terrifying about it. What's next? What will happen? What will become of me? Change is to be feared because we don't know what is next. We don't know what will happen. We don't know what will become of me.

For Christians, we have a hope, despite the ever changing world around us. We have a focal point to keep us from getting dizzied by the ever blinking lights and changes of this world.

Herman Bavinck summed up this focal point best when talking about the God who does not change. This God who does not change is really the only hope for consistancy in a world that has gotten itself in a big damn hurry. Look to Him- the one who changes not.

Everything changes, but He remains standing. He is and remains the same. He remains who he is. He is YHWH, he who is and ever remains himself. He is the first and with the last he is still the same God. He is who he is, the incorruptible who alone has immortality, and is always the same. Unchangeable in his existence and being, he is so also in his thought and will, in all his plans and decisions. He is not a human that he should lie or repent. What he says, he will do. His gifts and calling are irrevocable. He does not reject his people. He completes what he has begun. In a word, He, YHWH, does not change. In him there is no variation or shadow due to change. Dogmatics. Volume 1, p. 153.

History of this Scene?


I am looking for information on this print. It was given to me by one of my former elders (in the Grand Rapids congregation). It appears to be a kirk session praying over the Scriptures before public worship. Does anyone know the artist's name? The print's title? The names of the characters in the print? Any information would be appreciated.

A Reformation Prayer For Thanksgiving


Often other men have the ability to express my spiritual desires better than I do. Today is such a day as I consider thankfulness to God and what that means for my life, my family, and my spiritual hope. Enjoy:

Lord God,
our Heavenly Father,
we thank Thee for all thy benefits,
which we so unceasingly receive
from thy bountiful hand.
We thank Thee
that it pleases Thee
to sustain us
in this temporal life
and to supply all our needs.
We are especially grateful
that Thou hast regenerated us
unto the hope of a better life,
which Thou hast revealed unto us
in Thy holy Gospel.
We pray thee,
merciful God and Father,
that our hearts may not become
too deeply attached to these
earthly and perishable things,
but that we may always look heavenward,
expecting our Savior Jesus Christ,
until He shall appear
upon the clouds
unto our deliverance.

From the “Christian Prayers” of the Dutch National Church Liturgy, 1564.

A Psalm, Hymn, or Spiritual Song for the Lord's Day


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Jerusalem Sinners in Need of Reformation


I have lived there.

I have lived in the Jerusalem for Reformed Christians. 12 years of it. I have attended two of the Christian colleges, one of the seminaries. I have worked for a Christian publishing house as well as a Christian psychiatric hospital. I would pass at least a dozen (or more) Reformed churches on my way to Church.

I have been in the restaurants and have heard people talking about BSF or the Catechism. I visited Mars Hill once. I know the difference between Heritage Reformed and Free Reformed. I know the difference between RCA, CRC, URC, PRC, FRC, HRC, IRC and NRC.

I know what happened in 1924 and why that little and insignificant seminary in Grandville is still angry about it. I have been to the intersection where there is a Reformed church on each corner, literally.

I have seen love grow cold, I have seen pastors eaten alive, I have seen the deadness of dead orthodoxy. I have seen the love for anything but Confessional Christianity. I have seen the Jerusalem sinner. I have been the Jerusalem Sinner.

May the Lord Jesus Christ break through the religion and bring true revival and reformation.

Water Into ANYTHING BUT Wine


As I study the second chapter of the Gospel According to John, I am amazed at how many people doubt Jesus' miracle of turning water into wine. Some claim that the wine is non-alcoholic wine, some claim that it is some unfermented juice, and some even go as far as saying that it was water turned into water.

Here is one example of the text being explained away: Leslie Weatherhead proposes that, "The wine runs out. Water is served. Why that's the best joke of all! They lift their wine cups, as we do in fun when we shout, "Adam's ale the best of all!" The bridegroom is congratulated by the master of ceremonies, who carries the joke farther still. "Why you've kept the best wine until now." It requires only a servant going through the room into the kitchen for a wonderful rumor to start!" (Weatherhead, It Happened in Palestine, p.50)

Friends, a proposal such as the one above takes more faith than believing the Word of God! And the only authority is the author's own imagination. Help thou our unbelief!

As I read and as I meditate, I pray that God would help my unbelief. How often do we find ourselves attempting to explain away the Scriptures? Not just this text, but any text that confronts us with the will of God: Sabbath keeping, sacrificial giving, a circumcised heart. The wedding at Cana is the classic example of the difficulties that we find in our own heart to believe the Word of God.

May we be hearers of the Word, and doers also.

Reformation Day Meditation on Psalm Twenty Five


Some have asked about the Reformation Day Service at Faith OPC in Long Beach in which I participated. Below is the meditation on Psalm 25 that I delivered as we gave thanks to God for the work he has done in the Protestant Reformation. Reformed Presbyterians have a long history of psalm mediation during public worship. To many it looks like a mini sermon on a psalm. We also have a long tradition of retelling martyr stories from the Killing Times in Scotland when 18,000 Reformed Presbyterians were put to death for their faith in the one true King and Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. Both of these elements of the RP tradition have been incorporated in the meditation. As you read through, please be in prayer that God would again move through the Spirit of His Son to reform the Church. MEDITATION ON PSALM 25. 8-15This afternoon we will meditate on Psalm 25: 8-15, and as we do so, we must remember that as we gather to worship God and to celebrate what he in the Protestant Reformation; we must also remember the price that was paid by many who have gone before us. The price that was paid by the faithful martyrs and contenders for this Reformed Faith. Revelation 6:10 speaks of those martyrs and says, “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Why are they able to stand before God and cry out? Look at our Psalm: Verse 8 reads, “The Lord is good and just; the way He’ll sinners show.” Friends, we gather to celebrate the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ has shown the way to sinners, sinners like you and me, and this psalm is calling on us to respond with praise and adoration and thanksgiving! Verse 9, “He guides the meek in what is just, that they his path will know.” Friends, do you know this path? Have you bowed your knee to King Jesus as you confess the way to God is only through the son and that by faith alone by grace alone to the glory of God alone? In verse 10 we see the result of this confession of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will keep his word; we will obey his covenant; our way will be loving kindness and truth! What a wonderful confession from the Psalmist. David here cries out that he knows the way of God and that this way has been revealed to him- and when we pause to meditate on the greatness of this fact, and as we reflect on what it means to live lives as sons and daughters of the reformation, we must be humbled. Humbled to to our knees in praise and thanksgiving. I am not worthy Lord. I am merely a sinner saved by grace. And this si what David does in our second stanza: My sinfulness is great. And great O Lord my blame, O pardon my iniquity, to glorify your name.David understands that even in the state of grace his praise is hindered, his praise is not perfect. I must have my sin pardoned so that I may glorify your name! Have you considered that? Especially you young people- have you considered that if you are outside of the Lord Jesus Christ then you are unable to live out your chief end as our catechism calls it. But in verse 12 we see something different. We see fearing the Lord leads to living unto his glory and fulfilling this chief end of man. The soul will see prosperity and the land his seed will own. Who owns the land? The seed, Christ, the inheritor of the nations as we already sang about this afternoon. And as we move into verse [...]