rainstorm

I woke up feeling pretty crappy.  Can I say that?  Probably the lowest I have felt since being in the pit of depression.  The sky is grey. The rain is pouring.  I have a cold.  I did not want to get out of bed, let alone do my devotions this morning. My wife and I are working through 1 Peter 5 right now.  And in my un-firm, lack of resolve, I am glad that He tugged on my heart and got me to do it.

Normally I don’t share devotions on the blog, but today I will, because it is one of those days and it really helped me this morning. Hopefully, if you feel the way I felt this morning, this might bring some perspective. (Forgive the choppiness, This is devotions – not a typical blog post)

Verse 1 Peter 5:10-11

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Observations: Peter is speaking this prayer while he is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Just as all scripture is inspired, we know that this is not just a prayer but also a promise. I know that Jesus is before the throne praying this for me and all my brothers and sisters. And that is almost too much to bear. It overwhelms and consumes.

My sufferings are short, light, momentary, they last but a little while. The “little while” refers to our sufferings in this world – sickness, poverty, persecution, anxiety, depression, grief, loss etc. – and it is contrasted to the eternal glory which has been promised us in Christ.
God, who who is abundantly gracious, has called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus. And since he started this work in us, He will also complete that which He has started in us.

He will restore us.

He will establish us.

He will strengthen us.

He will make us steadfast…

That is amazing. Because I am not steadfast. Steadfast implies being firm and resolute, unyeilding and unwavering, yet…I am not. I am prone to wander. But here, in this verse, God promises that he will make us steadfast. God, who called us in His grace, will not leave us to ourselves, but preserve us to the very end.

Application: Do I believe this promise? I woke up feeling pretty down today. It is probably the weather or this head cold I have… But I feel off. Down. dreary. And here The Lord is saying, believe my promise, I will accomplish this for you. I will strengthen and establish and preserve you in Christ Jesus until that glorious day when Christ will return on the clouds of heaven in power and glory.

And His reward is with Him. It is Him.

It is the God of grace, who in His mercy, called us into His glory. Not because of any merit in ourselves, not because we are so strong, but because of His love for us in Jesus. By His grace He will accomplish this promised salvation.

Therefore all the glory belongs to Him. Not to me. It is not my great faith,or  my firm resolve that will save me. No. It is about him. He will do it, according to His promise. Despite my mood. Despite my pitiful doubts. Despite my weakness. Despite my being prone to wander. It is all His work of grace for me and in me, for us and in us.

It is the glory of His grace. It is the glory of his mercy. It is the glory of Jesus Christ. It is the glory of God’s covenant faithfulness. Rejoice in the grace and the power of our almighty and faithful God. To you oh my God, be the power and the glory forever.

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Choose today to let the peace of Christ rule in your heart and have an attitude of gratitude toward the Lord. Even if you have things that are upsetting you, take a step of faith and begin to thank God for His goodness in your life.  ~ Quote from a famous person.

Do you know who said that?

Joel Osteen.

I just quoted Joel Osteen.

No,  I have not lost my mind. Pease allow me to ‘splain.

What was at the heart of the fall of man in the garden?

We could say pride.

We could say covetousness or discontent.

I believe the Bible teaches that ingratitude was at the heart of the fall.  Man was not grateful for the blessings he had been given, for the authority granted to him by the Lord, for the communion and love he experienced with God – he wanted more, he coveted more, and this reveals an attitude of ingratitude. I believe that ingratitude is also at the heart of our fallenness today. It is this ingratitude which is spoken of by the Apostle Paul in Romans, where he says,

“Although they knew God, they did not honour him as God, nor give thanks to him”.

Something that I noticed through my recent bout with depression is that even unbelievers say we should have an attitude of gratitude.  Which is strange, if you think about it.

Who do they give thanks to?

Themselves?

Fate?

It seems strange to simply be grateful for everything and have that gratitude be directed at nothing.

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Gratitude is taught in recovery groups, and it is in many of the new pop-psychology and self help books. Unbelieving counsellours teach their clients to have an attitude of gratitude. It seems to be all the rage in pop psychology right now. Google gratitude and you get all sorts of quotes. But this gratitude fad is not just some new age, postmodern, self help thing. Gratitude is fundamentally a Christian thing.  A Biblical thing. The Heidelberg Catechism, an old but invaluable  document from the time of the reformation, teaches the gospel and is divided into three parts. The first part speaks to our sinful condition.  The second part speaks about our redemption through Jesus.  And the third part is about our thankfulness, or our gratitude. In a tiny nutshell the gospel is about how bad we were, how much God loved us through Jesus, and how we get to be thankful for his love.

Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians,

“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 

Today, in evangelical circles there are people, like Osteen, who are famous for their positive messages that are peppered with having an attitude of gratitude. As a Reformed believer, I tend to get my back up when these teachers come on. As I think most believers in the Reformed camp do. Because we zealously defend what is taught in the first part of the old catechism… the doctrine of the reality of our sin, and the doctrine of total depravity.  We’re living in a culture that denies the reality of sin and says that we are basically good, so we push back against it. And rightly so.  But I fear that sometimes we drive so close to the shoulder of the road for fear of being hit by the errors coming from the other direction, that we can, from time to time, drive off into the ditch. What I mean is, that we can lose sight of the blessings of God. We can forget that God actually does love us. We can forget that we get to be joyful people. We can forget that we are called to rejoice in all things and that we get to be thankful in all things.  We can forget that we are called to have an attitude of gratitude to the Lord.

At least I can.

But I am learning, thankfully.

The catechism teaches that prayer is the most important part of our thankfulness.  It also teaches that “God will give his grace and the Holy Spirit only to those who constantly and with heartfelt longing ask him for these gifts and thank him for them.” In 1 Thessalonians Paul tell us that God’s will for us is to be joyful, thankful, and to pray always. In Romans 12 Paul repeats himself when he says,

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

We can see that Bible constantly links prayer and gratitude. We do well to consider our prayer life.  Do we make time to pray?  Do we delight in prayer? As forgiven children of the most high God, we have an opportunity everyday to come before the Lord in humbleness, joyfulness, and gratitude. Are we making the most of this opportunity to meet with our Father?  Do our prayers reveal an attitude of joyful gratitude for his grace and blessing in our lives? Or are we stuck in the “I am a wretched sinner” part of the catechism, rarely casting our gaze upon the beauty of the atonement wrought for us in the cross and rejoicing in thankfulness?

To clarify about Osteen, I am not suggesting that we all start listening to him, far from it. That quote above? It is out of context. He goes on to talk about how this attitude will help you to be blessed with prosperity in this life, which is un-biblical. In stark contrast to Osteen’s theology, we desperately need to know that we are sinners. But we don’t stop there.  We don’t get hung up on our sin. We don’t wallow in it.  Once we realize our sinfulness, we stop looking at ourselves and we get to instead look to Christ. Once we have taken our gaze from ourselves and our sin and put it on Jesus Christ, we can take the opportunity to be grateful to the Lord for His goodness in our life. We can choose today to be grateful for these blessings.   Look at the cross.  Look at your salvation. You are blessed.

Let’s be grateful to the Lord.

God gave me an introverted daughter and an extroverted daughter.

Some may say, “Both your daughters are introverted…”

I understand why you say that, but that would not be correct. Both of them are shy.  Shyness has a bit to do with personality, but it has more to do with fear. Fear of being out of familiar surroundings, or fear of new people, etc.

My extroverted daughter is 5 and loves to go out and play with the neighbours, she loves visiting people, she is a social butterfly, gets bored easily, very easily, …she has difficulty playing alone, and will bound into any room at top speed and light it up with her infectious laugh and bright smile. She loves to be held, and has energy to burn. She is not fond of learning or sitting or reading. She doesn’t like school very much. She has a lot of friends, and who her friends are, is constantly changing everyday. She also loves the spotlight.  She is constantly wanting to have her picture taken, and is always asking me record videos of her up to her crazy antics.

My introverted daughter is 8. She is just like me. She likes playing with the neighbour kids, but prefers smaller groups, or one on one time. She likes visiting family, but will steal away with just one or two cousins to get away from the group.  She is not a social butterfly, and would rather sit in her bed and read a book or play a video game than go to a party. She is artistic, a thinker, and intelligent. She rarely bounds into rooms at top speed, although it has been known to happen. She also has an infectious smile and laugh, but it only comes out around those she trusts, or if she is completely comfortable…like at the father daughter evening at Gems…I had no idea who that awkwardly loud and outgoing child was! She loves learning, reading, and she just told me she does not understand why people don’t like school!

I see myself in her. While it is kinda cool to have a little clone of myself, it is painful to watch her go through the same challenges that I did as a child. We both are perfectionists.  We both have all or nothing attitudes.  We can both be self defeating.  As a parent, I can relate to the introvert more than the extrovert.

God knew what he was doing giving me the introvert first. I understand the introverted one.  I know how to deal with her, because we have similar personalities.  I know what makes her tick.  Discipline with her is easy. I thought I was figuring this whole parenting thing out…then God said, “Here is something different.” And He gave us the extroverted one.  I do not think like an extrovert. Disciplining her is difficult because I am still learning her.  I don’t always understand what makes her tick.  What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other.

Anyway, I love them both equally.  They are my little pink lights that brighten my day when I get home each evening.  I marvel at the way God works in giving us our personalities. If we were all the same, life would be pretty boring.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

The Introvert helped to edit this post.  The Extrovert was outside playing with her friends.

K & M

Grateful for Depression

Posted: April 17, 2015 in Depression

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While struggling in the pit of depression, my counsellour gave me homework.  It was initially to help change some negative patterns of thinking that I was stuck in, but I have found it to be invaluable advice in my personal life and my family life.  It has changed the way our family functions at the basic level. The advice is simple.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thess. 5:18

Have personal devotions twice per day. Yes. Twice. For just 5 minutes.  I don’t mean read a chapter of the Bible and study it and then get out the commentaries.  I mean get before the Lord and pray on your knees. What I was told to do was in the morning give thanks for 5 general things. In the evening before bed give thanks for 5 things specific to that day.  The kicker for the morning prayer, was that  I had to come up with new things everyday day.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! ~ Psalm 107:1

Easy peasy…  Or so I thought.

Evening devotions were enlightening, finding 5 specific things to pray about when you are depressed is difficult, but it helped me focus on my family and the blessings in my life. With morning devotions I started out by giving thanks for my wife and kids and house and food and salvation etc.  Now, with all the usual things given thanks for, I had to look deeper to find different blessings to thank God for.  At first I was stumped, but it has gotten easier to think outside the box.

 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ~Ephesians 5:20

grateful-for-everythingEverything.  Give thanks for everything! Instead of simply the food we eat,  give thanks for the truck driver who brought the chicken from the farm to the processing plant. Give thanks for the janitor who had to clean the store after it closed.  I am thanking the Lord for the underwear that lasted me well over 5 years….I am thanking the Lord for the things I take for granted, like clean water.  Laminate flooring. The fact my car only burned 1 litre of oil last week. That the last diaper I changed was able to hold that much poop. I was thankful that the poop stains came out of my shirt sleeve…give thanks for the people in the church who do little things.  Look around and pick something to give thanks about.  Everything.

This may seem silly, I mean, who thanks God for shoe polish, a radio in his car, or …?  But what I noticed, is that taking time to consider what to thank God for, really considering the blessings in your life, particularly the treasure we have in Christ Jesus, that he loved us when we were unlovable, but even the little things, completely changes you.

imagesTry it for a month. Write down what you are giving thanks for. Then go back and read through your journal. You will see that you gave thanks for 5 new things everyday, and after a month that is about 150 things.  There are some things I have thanked him for over and over again, and with family devotions we always thank him for food and love and salvation and the like. The thing I did not expect is that I have even come to thank God for granting that I should suffer from depression.  Through it, he has shown me his mercies, through it he has brought me low to show me his power to lift high. Through it he has given me a new perspective on His grace.  Grateful for everything, even depression.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! ~ Psalm 118:28-29

Cousin Gary

Posted: April 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

When I got home this afternoon, all I had on my mind was game one of the Canucks-Flames play-off series. But my wife informed me that her cousin, and our brother in Christ, Gary Drost had been called home only a few hours ago.  My heart ached when I read the post by Grace. It was a sombre way to start this evening.

Our prayers are with the Drost family, especially Grace and Janet, and all his friends and family.  I did not know him well, but I know that he touched many lives in his all too short 34 years, and he was deeply loved. He will be missed by many. Even though he lived and died in the arms of his Lord and Saviour, his loved ones still feel the loss ever so deeply. Give them a hug, a shoulder, an ear. Just be there. Love on them. They grieve. There are countless tears…but tears are not a bad thing.  Tears of grief are painful, but they bear witness to the beauty of a gift enjoyed.

And life is a gift.

A son is a gift.

A fiancée is a gift.

A cousin is a gift.

A friend is a gift.

A teacher is a gift.

We weep with you and we are praying for strength for you all in this difficult time.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. ~ Psalm 116:15

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From an anonymous sister in Christ:

Hi Ryan, I have a question for you. I know that the Bible teaches women cannot be pastors or elders, but what about ushers? I asked our head usher if I could be an usher, and I was told that I could not because it is a man’s job.  When I pushed him to explain he said that there are blue jobs and pink jobs in the church, and that ushering is a blue job.  What do you think?”

Hi thanks for your question.

Women should not be ushers in the Church. Here are a few reasons.

  1. Women should not be ushers, because usher is the 4th office and we believe that women should not hold office in the Church.  I am sure it’s there somewhere in the New Testament that the 7 deacons in the New Testament were so overworked that they went to the elders and were like, “Hey guys! We are so busy serving, and handing out food that we need to appoint some men to stand at the doors and find seats for people…”
  2. Ushers need to be strong. Sometimes ushers need to carry chairs and set them up when additional visitors show up…chairs are heavy, and in 1 Peter 3 it says that women are weaker.  Ushers need to have strong arms in case they need to carry a stack of chairs. Men usually have stronger arms.
  3. An old guy in Church once scolded me when I was an usher for not wearing a tie. Ushers should wear ties.  Women should not, therefore women should not be ushers.
  4. In the old French the word Usher is Ussier, which literally means “Door Man.”  Man.  Not woman…
  5. Sometimes in a crowded church, it is hard to see the vacant seats.  Men are usually taller than women and can spot these vacant seats easier.
  6. If women serve as ushers, they will start wanting to be ministers and we can’t have that.
  7. Ushering is the training ground for men to become elders and deacons, so we can’t waste a training spot…

I hope you appreciate satire. In all seriousness, the role of Usher is not an office within the church. The Canadian Reformed Churches recognize from Scripture that there are three distinct offices: ministers, elders, and deacons. We believe that it is these three offices which are restricted to men only. So that means that other functions within the church ought to be open to women. In our church, for example, women operate the nursery and serve on various committees and perform many other valuable functions.

It is true that traditionally, in our churches the ushers have been men. So I can see why the head usher at your church would say that ushering is a “blue job.” Only once can I recall a lady serving as an usher in one of the Canadian Reformed Churches I have visited, but that is not because of a Biblical mandate, it is really only because of tradition. There is nothing in our form of government, nor in our Church Order, nor in the Three Forms of Unity, nor in Scripture that would forbid  women from serving as ushers.

Jesus Knows Your Loneliness

Posted: April 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

hopeless

Do you feel lonely?

This Easter weekend, I expect to spend a lot of time with family. It is hard to be lonely when surrounded by friends and family; however I am sure we have all experienced loneliness to one degree or another at one point in our lives.  Loneliness enters our lives in many different ways. We experience loneliness in grief, in the loss of a loved one. Perhaps you have moved to a new city, or a new country. Maybe your loved ones have moved away. We experience loneliness in separation from loved ones. In personal conflicts at work, at church, with family or with friends we find we can find ourselves alone.

How about you?

Are you lonesome?

Perhaps you are feel abandoned by your spouse, or parents, or children?

Perhaps you are a single mother raising your children all alone.

Maybe you are widower.

Perhaps you have never been married and long for the companionship of a spouse.

In our culture there seems to be a great emphasis on individualism, the power of the one, the dignity of solitude.  Yet, even in the midst of this philosophy, the fear of being alone, the fear of being abandoned is still there.  Regardless of what our culture says, no one wants to be alone, yet loneliness is something many of us experience right now, or will at some time in our lives.

The Bible often speaks of loneliness and anguish. Take a look at Adam.  He felt abandoned by God.  But why did he? Had he not forsaken God first? The Bible tells us God came to look for Adam, but Adam was trying to hide from the Lord. The Lord forsakes those who forsake Him. In Psalm 22 David writes of his anguish at feeling abandoned by God:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

At one point in my life I felt abandoned by God.  But during this time of my life it was really when I turned my back on God, when I was just paying “lip-service” to the church, when I grudgingly dragged myself to church Sunday mornings and made excuses to skip the second service, when I was living a sinful, selfish life. It felt like God had abandoned me.  But it was actually I who had abandoned God.  God never left; He was right there with me. But why did He not abandon me?  Why did he not leave me in my self-pity?  It was only for the sake of Jesus. Think of the life Jesus lived; think of His position as the Son of God. He also cried out the words of Psalm 22 while hanging on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  It was not that He had forsaken God as Adam had, and perhaps David, and myself had

Jesus was God the Son who lived a perfect life of holiness.

He was, and is, one with the Father.

Jesus never turned His back on the Father; in fact he did everything according to the will of God – So how could he have been forsaken by God the Father? Jesus was forsaken that we might be accepted by God and nevermore be forsaken by Him.

Being condemned to death by hanging meant to be cursed by God. The Son of God, who lived a sinless life, endured the death of one who had been cursed by God. Did Jesus deserve to die, forsaken by God and hated by man?

No.

Kings-StoryBut the only one capable of bearing God’s curse, and the punishment for the sins of the world, is God himself.  So He took my curse, your curse, and the curse of all who might believe upon Himself.  Jesus was abandoned by God. He suffered complete separation from the Father.  Can you imagine what that must have been like?  To be in complete communion with the Father, and living a sinless life and then being forsaken? I cannot fathom it. But I rejoice greatly in it! He not only endured our spiritual death in our place, He defeated death in doing so!

So, you may feel alone at times.  Especially if your husband leaves, or your wife passes away, or your children abandon the Church.  You might feel abandoned by people. You may even feel abandoned by God like I did. Perhaps you even cry out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” You may, like me, have turned your back on God, blaming Him for your misery.  “Why, God, have you done this?  Why have you left me?” 

He has given me an answer. He has given you an answer.

The answer which we celebrate this Easter.  The answer of our redeemer, Jesus Christ: “I have not forsaken you, nor will I ever.” Jesus endured more loneliness, and more suffering than you or I will ever have to endure as he hung on the cross. He is there for you, and me, and for all who would call upon His name, confess, repent and believe.

Do you believe?

Romans 8:35-39 –” Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus Knows Your Loneliness.

Posted: April 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

hopeless

Do you feel lonley?

This Easter weekend, I expect to spend a lot of time with family. It is hard to be lonely when surrounded by friends and family; however I am sure we have all experienced loneliness to one degree or another at one point in our lives.  Loneliness enters our lives in many different ways. We experience lonliness in grief, in the loss of a loved one. Perhaps you have moved to a new city, or a new country. Maybe your loved ones have moved away. We experience lonliness in separation from loved ones. In personal conflicts at work, at church, with family or with friends we find we can find ourselves alone.

 

How about you?

Are you lonesome?

Perhaps you are feel abandoned by your spouse, or parents, or children? 

Perhaps you are a single mother raising your children all alone. 

Maybe you are widower.

Perhaps you have never been married and long for the companionship of a spouse.   

In our culture there seems to be a great emphasis on individualism, the power of the one, the dignity of solitude.  Yet, even in the midst of this philosophy, the fear of being alone, the fear of being abandoned is still there.  Regardless of what our culture says, no one wants to be alone, yet loneliness is something many of us experience right now, or will at some time in our lives.

The Bible often speaks of loneliness and anguish. Take a look at Adam.  He felt abandoned by God.  But why did he? Had he not forsaken God first? The Bible tells us God came to look for Adam, but Adam was trying to hide from the Lord. The Lord forsakes those who forsake Him. In Psalm 22 David writes of his anguish at feeling abandoned by God:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

At one point in my life I felt abandoned by God.  But during this time of my life it was really when I turned my back on God, when I was just paying “lip-service” to the church, when I grudgingly dragged myself to church Sunday mornings and made excuses to skip the second service, when I was living a sinful, selfish life. It felt like God had abandoned me.  But it was actually I who had abandoned God.  God never left; He was right there with me. But why did He not abandon me?  Why did he not leave me in my self-pity?  It was only for the sake of Jesus. Think of the life Jesus lived; think of His position as the Son of God. He also cried out the words of Psalm 22 while hanging on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  It was not that He had forsaken God as Adam had, and perhaps David, and myself had 

Jesus was God the Son who lived a perfect life of holiness.

He was, and is, one with the Father.

Jesus never turned His back on the Father; in fact he did everything according to the will of God – So how could he have been forsaken by God the Father? Jesus was forsaken that we might be accepted by God and nevermore be forsaken by Him.

Being condemned to death by hanging meant to be cursed by God. The Son of God, who lived a sinless life, endured the death of one who had been cursed by God. Did Jesus deserve to die, forsaken by God and hated by man?

No.

Kings-StoryBut the only one capable of bearing God’s curse, and the punishment for the sins of the world, is God himself.  So He took my curse, your curse, and the curse of all who might believe upon Himself.  Jesus was abandoned by God. He suffered complete separation from the Father.  Can you imagine what that must have been like?  To be in complete communion with the Father, and living a sinless life and then being forsaken? I cannot fathom it. But I rejoice greatly in it! He not only endured our spiritual death in our place, He defeated death in doing so! 

So, you may feel alone at times.  Especially if your husband leaves, or your wife passes away, or your children abandon the Church.  You might feel abandoned by people. You may even feel abandoned by God like I did. Perhaps you even cry out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” You may, like me, have turned your back on God, blaming Him for your misery.  “Why, God, have you done this?  Why have you left me?” 

He has given me an answer. He has given you an answer.

The answer which we celebrate this Easter.  The answer of our redeemer, Jesus Christ: “I have not forsaken you, nor will I ever.” Jesus endured more loneliness, and more suffering than you or I will ever have to endure as he hung on the cross. He is there for you, and me, and for all who would call upon His name, confess, repent and believe.

Do you believe?

Romans 8:35-39 –” Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Consequences

The following post is written by Rev. Jim Witteveen.

When Christians seek to harmonize evolutionary theory with the Christian faith, I believe they may often be motivated by a sincere but misguided idea that acceptance of current scientific theories is necessary in order for the church, and the gospel message that the church proclaims, to remain relevant in our culture.

Rejecting evolutionary theory as contrary to Scripture, some say, places an unnecessary stumbling block before unbelievers. What really matters is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and not details about origins, or arguments about the creation week, or debates about whether or not Adam was descended from someone (or something) else. Some say that this discussion is a waste of time – that we should be spending our time and effort on being more “missional,” and not arguing about these issues. Others say that when we reject the current scientific understanding of the origin and development of the universe, we are creating barriers and excluding people from the Church who may hold to these beliefs, or struggle with them.

However, I believe that these Christians don’t really understand how dangerous the waters that they are entering are. Rather than accommodating such opinions, we need to provide strong warnings against them.

Here’s another quote from “The Bible And Evolution” by Richard D. Phillips which speaks with great wisdom to this issue:

God Adam and You“Peter Enns has written, ‘Some behaviours that Christians have thought of as sinful are understood in an evolutionary scheme as means of ensuring survival – for example, the aggression and dominance associated with “survival of the fittest” and sexual promiscuity to perpetuate one’s gene pool.’

Enns is right, and his candour should be appreciated. Evolution cannot be grafted onto the structure of biblical Christianity, but replaces it with a different structure, a different ethic, a different story of salvation, and a different religion altogether.

I strongly doubt that most Christians who urge an embrace of evolution, or at least its tolerance, envision so staggering a loss as a result. They see a gain: no longer would Christians have to be considered anti-science ostriches with our heads in the sand… no longer would we be categorically excluded from the possibility of dialogue in the market square of secular society. No longer would we be a cult of obscurantists who refuse to accept what everyone else knows. No longer would we argue matters that seem so far removed from the good news of forgiveness through a loving Saviour. With the credibility of our tolerant consideration of evolution, we would gain an opportunity to discuss Jesus as the loving Saviour. Do we realize the folly of this reasoning?…

The logic of the gospel we seek to present is one that belongs to the story of Adam as the special image bearer of God, who brought sin and death into the world by transgression. Moreover, the events of Christ’s life that we proclaim are as unacceptable to the postmodern worldview as the special creation of Adam. We would be holding forth the doctrines of a Bible that we have already subjected to the higher authority of secularist dogma and scientific claims, neither of which will tolerate Christ’s atoning death and bodily resurrection. In short, by the folly of our desire to escape the persecution of a world that does not tolerate God’s Word, we have ourselves abandoned the history taught in the Bible, which alone can support the story of the Christian message, the gospel of Jesus as the Saviour for our sins. How little is the gain and how catastrophic must be the loss to a Christianity that capitulates to a narrative that is in its very essence designed to replace the teaching of God’s Word regarding everything in our world.”

If you are a member of the Canadian & American Reformed Churches you likely know about the proposed revision to the Belgic Confession article 14 by Classis Ontario West. If not read it here:  Proposal Regarding BC Article 14

This is the proposed change:

We believe that God created the human race by making and forming Adam from dust (Gen. 2:7) and Eve from Adam’s side (Gen.2:21-22). They were created as the first two humans and the biological ancestors of all other humans. There were no pre-Adamites, whether human or hominid. God made and formed Adam after his own image…[the rest of the text remains as currently adopted.]

My initial reaction to this was to stay away. Far away.  The last time I got in the middle of this issue, I felt like Gumby being drawn and quartered.

But I have received a number of questions asking what I think about the proposal. One person asks, “Isn’t Belgic Confession Article 14 Sufficient?”

Before I write anything, I qualify my statements by saying that I am a layperson. I am not a scientist, a pastor, or a theologian.  I will comment on the actual proposed revision, but I will refrain from commenting on the body of the proposal.

To put it simply:

I agree with the clarification per se, but I am not convinced that the confession needs to be changed. I do believe that there needs to be a statement on the issues facing the Church, presently, within the Reformed and Evangelical world. One of the big ticket items being the issue of origins as it pertains to theistic evolution, specifically, with regard to the special creation of Adam and death prior to the fall. That is, whether or not Adam descended from “pre-adamites.”  This is the big issue for me in the whole evolution debate.  The Gospel stands or falls on whether or not death entered the human race through Adam’s sin.

Should this further clarification be added to the Belgic Confession by the Canadian Reformed Churches? Maybe I am a purist, but, I would make the argument mentioned in paragraph 3 of the proposal – that is, that the way article 14 currently reads is sufficient. Let’s read the first paragraph of BC Article 14:

We believe that God created man of dust from the ground and He made and formed him after His own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy. His will could conform to the will of God in every respect. But, when man was in this high position, he did not appreciate it nor did he value his excellency. He gave ear to the words of the devil and willfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse. For he transgressed the commandment of life which he had received; by his sin he broke away from God, who was his true life; he corrupted his whole nature. By all this he made himself liable to physical and spiritual death.

Let’s read the last sentence. “By all this he made himself liable to physical and spiritual death.” If Adam descended from monkeys, or apes, or hominid creatures, then death was already in our blood. What that means is, that if Adam’s ancestors died, then Adam would not be “liable” for death since death already existed. How could he be liable for something that he did not cause? This removes, for me, the possibility of pre-adamic ancestors.

Ok, now let’s read the first sentence. “We believe that God created man of dust from the ground and He made and formed him after His own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy.” That is pretty cut and dried isn’t it? I have heard the arguments for theistic evolution, but let me ask as simple question. Does God change?  Does he change his mind? In the first article of the Belgic Confession we confess that God is immutable. To be immutable means to be unchanging over time. Let me ask another question, considering that God is immutable, would He create man in his own image, call it good, and then allow death and mutations to occur over millions of years to create Adam? Which is it?  Either He created Adam Good, or he didn’t and instead used death and mutation to get him to that state of goodness mentioned in Genesis.

Some may ask…What is so bad about death before Adam? Simply, we confess that death is the price of sin, and death entered in through Adam’s sin. If death existed before Adam, that is, if Adam had parents or grandparents who died before the fall, then he was not liable for it, as we confess. If Adam is not liable for death, then we do not need the sacrifice of Jesus. If we do not need the sacrifice of Jesus…well, like I said, the Gospel stands or falls on this point.

In my mind Belgic Confession Article 14 is currently sufficient to refute theistic evolution. I believe that it already, adequately, teaches that Adam was a special creation, that he did not come out of the womb of a pre-adamic hominid creature

I know the drafters of the overture intend to glorify God and protect the flock. There is no doubt in my mind of that, and I appreciate their concern and the passion that went into drafting it. If I can be so bold to say as a layperson, I am concerned about changing the Belgic Confession as our little denomination has it.  The drafters of the proposal state,

“We believe that this proposed change is a clarification, rather than a major change.”

It is true, that it is a simple clarification, but my concern is that by changing the confession, and being a confessional church, we separate ourselves just a little more from other confessionally reformed churches. We’ll have our own little confession for the Canadian Reformed Churches and the other Reformed Churches will have their own.  If the proposal is approved, my hope is that the confession does not change without at least consultation with our sister churches. Ultimately, I wonder if creating an additional document, like the Walloon Articles mentioned in the proposal (8b), to clarify an origins position would be a viable option?  Make it binding for ministers if it is deemed necessary.

I have avoided commenting on the body of the proposal itself and instead focused only on the actual proposed revision. Feel free to read the following links for more commentary on the body of the proposal:

The Proposal from Classis Ontario West Proposal Regarding BC Article 14
Arnold Sikkema’s Response to Allegations Contained in the Proposal: I Am Not A Theistic Evolutionist.
Nelson Kloosterman’s Response to the Proposal: Making A Dirty Splash In a Little Puddle.
Bill DeJong’s Response to the Proposal:Amendments to the Belgic Confession?

Anyway.  These are my thoughts from my small and sinful brain on the matter. In the end God is faithful.  May he be glorified in this process whatever the outcome.

I will do my best to read and approve any comments on the blog, but no guarantees… I am on vacation after today :)  See you when I get back in April!