Amusements and Levity: A Pastoral Letter

Landon ChapmanChristianityLeave a Comment

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PASTORAL LETTER,

ADDRESSED BY THE

ASSOCIATE PRESBYTERY OF MIAMI,

TO THE

CONGREGATIONS UNDER THEIR INSPECTION.


Dear Brethren –

The station which we occupy is one of high responsibility The Church’s blessed Head has been pleased to appoint us as Watchmen, and it is for your souls that we are commanded to watch, and for our vigilance we must give an account. If we see evils prevailing, and dangers approaching, and give not faithful warning, we are guilty of the blood of souls, and it will be required at our hands. In a special manner it becomes our duty to watch over the rising generation, that they may be trained up to serve the God of their Fathers, and to transmit his name and cause to those who shall succeed them. On the habits which they form, and the character which they sustain– much depends.

The dearest interests of truth and Godliness are identified with them. This truth, is so plain to the common understandings of men that it has become almost a proverbial saying, that “the rising generation are the hope of the future church.” Consequently the Church’s hope will be bright or otherwise, in proportion to the existing state of things among the young. To this deeply interesting portion of our flocks we would now affectionately address the word of exhortation.

By your baptismal vows you are pledged to be the Lord’s people, and from the obligation of this pledge you never can be released. Permit us solemnly to ask you “Have you duly reflected on the import of the engagement? Have you felt the weight of the obligation? Are you aiming to live as the Lord’s people? Are there not many among you who are living as if you were not the Lord’s, but your own?”

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“God, Why Am I Still in Debt?”

Nate PickowiczChristianity, Series: Portraits of FaithLeave a Comment

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The Ryle family had gone from riches to rags almost overnight. They had been a strong, vibrant Victorian family during the mid-1800s, but poor management of the family bank by the father, John Ryle, would plummet them into ruin. By June 1841, the business and the family were bankrupt. Ryle was left only with his wife and children, and two horses. The loss would be devastating for the whole family, but the humiliation would weigh especially heavy on their oldest son, John Charles.

John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) had enjoyed the best of life. He had gone to the best schools, attended the finest gatherings, and partook in the luxuries of the elite. He fit the Victorian English model well. He was tall (6’3″), handsome and charismatic, which left him fending off women for most of his young life. John was raised in a religious family, and attended church regularly. But it would be a fateful stint at Oxford that would change his life, and the whole world, for that matter.

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The Daily Discovery (September 3, 2015)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily DiscoveryLeave a Comment

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ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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The 9th Planned Parenthood Video – “The ninth video in the Planned Parenthood baby parts scandal focuses on Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR), the small and secretive company that has harvested and sold fetal body parts at Planned Parenthood clinics longer than any other entity.  The video features undercover conversations with Dr. Katharine Sheehan, the long-time medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest until 2013; Perrin Larton, the Procurement Manager for ABR; and Cate Dyer, the CEO of rival fetal tissue procurement company StemExpress.”

Christians: Increasingly Marginalized and Punished – “It is quickly becoming more and more obvious that religious freedom is declining (quite rapidly) in America. And with the June SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) decision to legalize gay ‘marriage,’ this decline is happening faster than ever. Christians are increasingly being punished by the government for acting on their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage that are based on the standard of Scripture. And we are hearing of more and more people being disciplined or fired from their jobs because they profess their Christian faith.”

400 Pastors Resigned Last Sunday – “Fallout from the Ashley Madison scandal continues. The company’s CEO has resigned; several people who used the adultery website have committed suicide. And some 400 clergy resigned publicly from their ministries last Sunday.Let’s put that number in perspective.One pastor who seeks to have an affair is one too many. Infidelity shatters the spouse, devastates the children, and wounds the congregation. Pastors who violate their marriage vows sin against God, their family, and the sheep they are called to shepherd.

Gay Atheist Rebukes Church for Moral Slide – “Matthew Parris calls himself a ‘gay atheist.’ After 62 percent of voters in Ireland approved gay marriage recently, he responded to the church’s response. In his view, the Archbishop of Dublin’s statement that the church needed to undertake a ‘reality check’ was troubling and indicative of continued moral compromise. According to Parris, ‘the conservative Catholic’s only proper response to news such as that from Dublin . . . is that 62 percent in a referendum does not cause a sin in the eyes of God to cease to be a sin.'”

What Is America’s Largest Protestant Denomination Doing to Combat Predatory Prosperity Preaching? – “The lobbying entity of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has made it clear that it is against predatory practices that take advantage of the poor, having joined a broad coalition earlier this year organized to ‘raise awareness about families in financial crisis and how high-cost lending negatively impacts them.’ But what is the high-profile Christian ethics advocacy organization doing to protect vulnerable believers from preying prosperity preachers?”

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The Daily Discovery (September 2, 2015)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily DiscoveryLeave a Comment

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ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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Lazy Writing, Cheap Restoration – “War Room follows the increasingly dreary pattern familiar to anyone who has seen more than a handful of Christian films. Karen Abercrombie and Priscilla Shirer are easy to like as a spiritually mature senior on the one hand and a beleaguered housewife on the other whom the older woman teaches to pray. T. C. Stallings plays a flatter character: Tony, the not-yet philandering but not exactly faithful husband to Shirer’s Elizabeth. The women deliver lines like ‘Devil, you just got your butt kicked!’ and ‘Go back to hell where you belong, and leave my family alone!’ with the requisite earnestness to make viewers believe that they believe.”

How to Survive World Religions 101 – “Michael Kruger entered his freshman year at the University of North Carolina as a committed Christian. He thought he was ready for the intellectual challenges college would mount against his faith—that is, until he found himself sitting in a New Testament introduction class with Bart Ehrman as his professor. It left him shell-shocked.”

Foolish, Ignorant Controversies – “So, as faithful Christians, we are to be perpetually fleeing these youthful lusts and continually running from these sinful passions that began when we were young.  Further, we should be perpetually pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace.  With that context in mind, we move to 2 Tim 2:23 where Paul commands Timothy to, ‘Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.'”

A Sample Statement on Regular Church Attendance – “The following is a statement from the elders at Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA. Recently, they began releasing “Shepherd Studies” to help their congregation think well about important Biblical topics that affect the life of their church. This first statement was crafted to help set an expectation of what it means to regularly attend the weekly worship service. This is not a binding document, but rather a study that seeks to help their church understand how they intend to live together.”

Your Newsfeed Is Not New – “Judges is one of those books in the Old Testament where we’re regularly called to pause and stare in bewilderment at Israel. As we read we cannot help but ask, ‘How did they get here? How did things get so bad so quickly?’ But like most of the stories about Israel, they’re not just about Israel—they’re about us. And as I’ve been reading Judges lately, I haven’t been able to help but notice the parallels to our present day.”

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The Daily Discovery (September 1, 2015)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily DiscoveryLeave a Comment

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ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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Totalitolerance – “There are two kinds of tolerant societies. The first is one which contains the principles of liberty within its framework of foundational values, and the second is a society in transition, flipping from one set of intolerances to another set. During the switch, during the transition, demands for tolerance are the battering ram used against the establishment intolerance, in order to make way for the new set of intolerances. As it suits them, advocates of the rising intolerance may pretend to be principled in their tolerance, but it is all just a sham.”

Trump Hosts Televangelists Who Fleece Their Flocks – “No wonder The Donald is so lucky with money!  He’s been planting seed faith cash into  strategic WOF alliances.  God will surely smile and bless his campaign….(/snark)  Hat tip to Janet Mefferd for sharing this from the Daily Beast…”

‘The Shack,’ with film pending, called ‘greatest deception’ to church ‘in the last 200 years’ – “An evangelical seminary professor is calling The Shack the ‘greatest deception foisted on the church in the last 200 years’ and urging Christian leaders to speak out against it ahead of its release as a movie.  James B. DeYoung, professor of New Testament language and literature at Western Seminary in Portland, Ore., says controversy over the 2007 bestselling book by William Paul Young will resurface when the film – which began shooting in June – is released.”

Mailbag #14: Discipling without “Picking Favorites”; Tricky Baptism Situation; Churches and Name Changes; Numerical Growth v. Spiritual Growth – “Recently we have been teaching a lot on discipleship, especially intergenerational discipling friendships. By God’s grace, we have seen a spark ignite into a flame among our congregation. However, a snag we are experiencing is this: as we have charged our older men and women to reach out to younger men and women, we have seen a pattern of “picking favorites.” Those with favorable or noteworthy reputations in the church get first-string attention and those who don’t get left out entirely. The problem that results is twofold: How does one go about declining an invitation to discipling friendships simply because they are already meeting with five different people? And, how do they redirect these older men/women to reach out to others in light of a passage like 1 Timothy 5:1?”

America’s One Enduring Legacy in History – “Two millennia ago, ‘a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered’ (Luke 2:1). The most apparently powerful earthly head-of-state ordered a census because the empire needed more tax revenue to fund its budget. At least in Judea, this required people to register in their ancestral tribal homes.  Unforeseen by everyone at the time, except a young Jewish couple and a few of their confidante relatives, the greatest outcome of this plan to stimulate the Roman economy was that it moved the fetal cosmic Head-of-State from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where according to prophecy he was to be born.”

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The Daily Discovery (August 31, 2015)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily Discovery1 Comment

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ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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My Wife’s Plea to Christian Men – “Over the weekend I could see that Aileen had something on her mind. We spoke and she told me about reading the news, about seeing more Christian men fall into scandal, and, in the face of it all, her confusion, her despair, the crumbling of her hope. I asked if she would write about it. Here is what she said…”

The Place and Purpose of Parachurch Ministries – “The world of campus ministry is a world filled with parachurch ministries. Names like Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), InterVarsity, and Navigators are household names for most evangelicals. Their founders are some of the past century’s heroes of the faith. These ministries are the gold standard of evangelicalism for good reason.”

How Could Noah Build Something So Large? – “Imagine that you had never studied ancient monuments and had never heard of Stonehenge in England. How would you respond to someone who told you that long before the advent of modern machinery, ancient people moved 30-foot-tall, 25-ton stones a distance of 20 miles and arranged them in precise alignment with the sun on the summer solstice?”

Honor authorities, but fear God – “First Peter 2:13 starts with six words most of us probably really, really hate: ‘Be subject to every human institution.’  Admit it: you just bristled, didn’t you?  None of us particularly like authority. That is, in large part, because we are sinners prone to wanting to be our own authorities. But some of us also have a habit of being so concerned about our human authorities that we forget that they are also under God’s authority.  Yes, respect and obey the earthly authorities—whether parents, pastors, police or presidents—but don’t forget: they’re not the primary authority. God is.”

The Biblical Basis for Missions – “What is mission, and what is the principal foundation for the mission of the church? The word mission itself comes from the Latin verb missio, which means ‘to send.’ So, literally, missions has to do with sending. In the Scriptures, we see the verb to send being used over and over, in a multitude of ways. But there’s a sense in which the whole life of the church and the whole experience of the Christian are rooted ultimately in some kind of sending that is founded in the authority and the action of God Himself.”

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The Daily Discovery (August 29-30, 2015)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily Discovery3 Comments

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ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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Eight Reasons Why We Need the Puritans – “For many years before surrendering to vocational ministry, I was a conservative evangelical Christian whom God had called to work in the dog-eat-dog world of secular media. While working for a metropolitan daily newspaper in Georgia, one of my ultra-liberal colleagues was teasing me about being a conservative ‘boy’ from a small town in the sticks of North Georgia. She said, ‘You know what you are? You’re a Puritan!’ At the time, I didn’t really know what to make of it. Today, I see it as a high compliment. Perhaps someday.”

Truth in the Age of Cynicism – “During World War II, martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer had harsher things to say about cynicism. Writing from a Nazi prison he described the cynic as one who claims to tell the truth in all places, and at all times, and to every person, but in reality he is just a consistent liar. The cynic wears a halo as ‘a zealot for truth’ but he ends up destroying reality. He ‘desecrates the mystery, breaks trust, betrays the community in which he lives, and smiles arrogantly over the havoc he has wrought and over the human weakness that ‘can’t bear the truth.'”

Carnal Peace – “The message of the false prophets of Israel was one of peace. But their peace was an illusion. They preached peace when there was no peace, or what Luther called a carnal peace. Luther said that when the gospel is preached with passion and with accuracy, it does not bring peace. In fact, our Lord Himself said, ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword’ (Matt. 10:34). That does not mean that we are called to use weapons of military combat to further the extension of the kingdom. We are to be peacemakers. We are to be tolerant, kind, and patient people. But if you look at the record of history, the true prophets of Israel contended for the truth, and every time they did, controversy emerged.”

Justification and Double Imputation – “Romans 5:19 and 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 are two places in Scripture that teach the twin truths of justification and double imputation: ‘For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.’ ‘…He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him’ (NASB). After discussing these passages in some detail, John Fesko writes this in summary…”

My Trip to Planned Murderhood and at College Campus on August 27, 2015 – “Before I start, I would like to first thank these beloved brothers: David Beal and Steve Pivovaroff for their encouragement to me today. They both reached out to me and impelled me to keep ministering at these aborturaries. The warfare can be intense from time to time, but it is a joy to serve my King. Here is what transpired today concerning our evangelism excursion there and elsewhere…”

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The Daily Discovery (August 28, 2015)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily Discovery4 Comments

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ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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Strange Firony… – “I honestly, sincerely wish I could move on from the topic of the Charismatic Movement, but it just keeps on coming up.  It’s been almost two years since the Strange Fire conference, and it seemed like all the parties involved got their shots in.  The Cessationists made their reasonable appeals, made a lot of unreasonable rants, published their stuff, wrote their responses, etc.  The Continuationists basically cried about division and broad brushes.  The Pentecostals basically cried about division and broad brushes.  The Charismatics basically cried about division and broad brushes.  Charisma Magazine kept on doing everything possibly in their power toprovide an endless tsunami of amazing examples as to why the Strange FireConference was necessary (and possibly understated things: every single word in that statement links to a separate mind-numbing article, just for a few dozen examples).”

Life Is Short. Love Your Spouse. – “As the Ashley Madison leak continues playing out in the media, we’re reminded again and again about the lies of sin. The Ashley Madison Company, a cheating site that is (sadly) very successful, has the following motto: ‘Life is short. Have an affair.’ The lies don’t come much more blatantly than this.”

Controversial New Movie on Homosexuality to be Advertised in the Skies over San Francisco – “San Francisco residents may look up to see a rainbow in the sky next week, but it won’t indicate the typical support for gay rights. A new movie that over 1,000 LGBT supporters have warned the public not to watch will be advertised on a banner for two days over San Francisco.  While pro-LGBT viewers have slammed the film on online review sites, the film’s producer is not deterred. Ray Comfort, whose movies have been seen by millions, said, ‘Despite the calls for censorship and displays of intolerance, we’re hoping people will be open-minded enough to watch the film and come to their own conclusion.'”

Law-Keeping Cannot Save You – “People by nature want to boast in their own abilities, efforts, and achievements. Therefore, the cross of Christ is an offense to everyone. In this lab, John Piper looks at why we resist the message of the cross, as well as what the good news of the gospel says to our self-righteousness.”

Five Lessons for Serial Daters – “Every fall, young men and women descend on college campuses across the country freshly free from parental accountability and looking for love. It’s a unique time of life that likely won’t repeat itself. Never again will you have instant access to so many people of the opposite sex.”

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The Daily Discovery (August 27, 2015)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily DiscoveryLeave a Comment

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ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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Has America Abandoned God? – “As a culture we are at a strange place, we seem to be headed toward a precipice at breakneck speed. From the recent Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, to the recent release of the undercover videos showing the management of Planned Parenthood haggling over the price of the its tiny murder victims, and the mindless defense of PP on the part of many and the complete ignoring of the story by the mainstream media (while there was widespread outrage over and wall to wall media coverage of the legal killing of a lion in Zimbabwe) I have heard many believers asking has America abandoned God?”

Congregationalism Doesn’t Stop at 8 p.m. – “Congregationalists argue that local congregations are ultimately responsible for their membership, discipline, and doctrine. But what does that mean? Are congregations responsible for a slice the church’s life while the elders handle the rest? As long as we cast biblically informed votes in a members meeting, are we fulfilling our congregational duty? Or does ‘membership, discipline, and doctrine’ require something more than merely saying ‘aye’ and ‘nay’?”

Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ – “Rosaria Butterfield knits. Balls of yarn at her feet become fingerless mohair mittens for her family of six. But that’s not the only kind of knitting she does. She also wields her needles of theology and experience against the tangled mess of modern sexuality. The result is order where chaos tends to rule.  This order is timely. When it comes to same-sex anything, the church can appear awkward and clumsy. As the pressure mounts, we Christians fumble around with our Bibles, unsure of how to connect the truths in God’s Word to cultural discourse or personal struggles.”

Ken Ham Releases Eye-Opening Ready to Return – “For Ready to Return: Bringing Back the Church’s Lost Generation, thousands of young adults in our churches, as well as thousands more adults in their 40s, were interviewed by ARG with questions about their church participation when growing up, their current levels of church participation, and their beliefs about Bible doctrines, Creation, and Noah’s Ark. The first book in this series, Already Gone, presented the results of a survey dealing with why those who attended church regularly while young are no longer sitting in our pews. This follow-up book shows that many of the 20s generation who still attend church regularly support gay ‘marriage,’ say they are not born again, and 65% believe that if a person is good they will go to heaven. Jeff Kinley assisted Ham in writing this new book.”

Heidelberg 117: Who Defines True Prayer? – “One of the themes that we have been exploring through the exposition of the catechism, which is really an exposition of the Scriptures and the Christian faith as understood and confessed by the Reformed Churches, is the relationship between the objective, that which apart from us, and the subjective, our personal experience. In our age the subjective tends to dominate. People identify themselves in ways contrary to their biology and demand that others accept this self-identification. This is nothing but radical subjectivism. It rests on the belief that all norms are really nothing more than contrivances, conventions, constructions that may be deconstructed at will.”

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The Daily Discovery (August 26, 2015)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily DiscoveryLeave a Comment

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ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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15 Ways to Fight Lust With the Sword of the Spirit – “It is almost impossible in the Western world to escape sensuality. Sex is on the television, in the movies and in our music, on the side of buses, during halftime shows, in our books and in glossy close-ups at supermarket check-out. Sex is all around us in the mall, dripping off every beer commercial, and two stories high on our billboards. Sexual sin is walking around our high schools, flaunted across our universities, and hiding in our churches.”

Idolatry is dumb. Jesus is not – “Though the word is more-or-less out of style, unless you’re counting reality TV shows that are also increasingly going out of style, the practice of idolatry is still going strong. In saying this, of course, I don’t simply mean putting little statues of wood and metal up in our homes and praying to them (though I do—and we have a store in our local mall that sells tons of them!). Human has this unique ability to worship… well, pretty much anything. And everything. Because we do.”

Not In Part But the Whole – “Sometimes it is the unexpected things that get you. Sometimes it is the words you have heard or said or sung a hundred times over that suddenly leap off the page—words like ‘My sin, not in part but the whole.’ The words come, of course, from the much-loved hymn ‘It Is Well With My Soul,’ a song that joyfully celebrates the freedom that is found in salvation.”

Ministering to the Suffering – “One of my mentors used to wisely say, ‘We are either in a trial, about to enter a trial, or coming out of a trial.’ Such is life under the weight of the Curse.  Since God’s people are called to be skilled relationally, this means that relating to people in suffering is going to comprise much of our relationships.”

Hillsong and the issue of association – “If you’re a church music minister, there’s a lot out there to choose from. It’s overwhelming, in fact. Strike out the songs with weak theology or inaccessible music, and it’s still overwhelming. Since the Reformation, the church has seen such a wealth of songs as to be nearly uncountable (Charles Wesley himself wrote more than 6,000). Even if your church is guilty of chronological snobbery and sings only songs written in the past few decades, you could still make weekly song selection into a full-time job. Part of the reason for such a recent glut of music is that what once was the purview of pastors and trained theologians (that is, writing song texts) has been taken up by musicians, often with little thought for the magnitude of the responsibility they’re assuming. Right or wrong, the songs we sing shape our understanding of who God is and what He does. And there’s plenty of material, both old and new, that’s weak or even heretical. But happily there’s much that is excellent and rich, especially in the past fifteen years.”

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