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The “Silver Bullet” of the Joyful Christian Life?

By: Alex Campbell

A “silver bullet” is defined as a simple remedy to a difficult problem.  The term, from ancient folk lore, taught that the only way to successfully defeat foes such as werewolves, vampires, and witches that embodied dark powers, was to dispatch them with a silver bullet. We are all naturally suspicious of so-called “silver bullet” remedies to our problems, and we should be.  Most of us have been disappointed by failed “silver bullets” in the past.  However, John 15:1-11 seems to offer something of a “silver bullet” for assuring a joyful, successful Christian experience in this life; and that is to abide in Christ.

The opinion is shared by Andrew Murray, a venerable preacher who said, “Abiding by faith in Christ . . . is the simple secret of a holy life.”  So, let us explore John 15:1-11 to discover this simple secret, this “silver bullet” so “that your joy may be made full” (v.11).

Jesus spoke the words of our passage just hours before his death, after the first Lord’s Supper, probably while on the way to the Mount of Olives.  He and his disciples likely passed vineyards on the way, which may have prompted our Lord to remark, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit” (15:1-2).

Here, Jesus sets up the illustration. The vine is Jesus Christ. The vinedresser is God the Father. The branches of the vine are professing Christians and are of two types: the false believer who “does not bear fruit” (i.e. Judas who had just left the group in order to betray Jesus) and the true believer who “bears fruit.”  Of the two types of branches, we find that the vinedresser (God the Father) “takes away” the non-fruit-bearing false believers while, for the true believer who bears fruit, “He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”

Clean

The Lord then begins to expound upon this illustration by pointing out the characteristics of the abiding Christian, who will enjoy the fullest possible life by explaining to the gathered disciples, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (v.3).  That is, the abiding Christian is truly forgiven of his or her sins. They are “clean.”  True joy begins with knowing God’s favor rather than his frown.

Union

The abiding believer also enjoys a constant union with Christ, the vine: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (v.4).  Our union with Christ is described as abiding with him.  This is the point of the entire passage where the word “abide” is used ten times (v.4,5,6,7,9,10).  The branches are “in me.” The branch depends entirely upon the vine for its life.

The source of the fruit of the branches is ultimately the vine. Abiding in Christ is unbroken fellowship with Christ as Paul explained in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”  Or, as Andrew Murray stated, “Abiding in Jesus is nothing but the giving up of oneself to be ruled and taught and led, and so resting in the arms of Everlasting Love.”

Jesus goes on to state, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit.” This verse assumes that the life giving sap of the vine will produce an abundant crop of grapes on the branches. All Christians bear fruit but NOT all Christians bear “much fruit”!  Fruit bearing is a result of the diligent care of our vinedresser Father, because, according to Rick Phillips, “the idea of pruning is to remove whatever inhibits growth.”

John MacArthur agrees, “The Father prunes the true branches by removing anything that would sap their spiritual energy and hinder them from fruitful results.” Your fruit will include acts of righteousness, glorifying God, converts through evangelisms, praise and worship, and personal holiness, and, of course, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). 

Sin

However, the Lord also warns that our ability to bear this fruit is completely dependent upon our abiding with Him, “for apart from Me you can do nothing” (5b).  The problem is that, while we may have been cleansed from our sin, we still sin.  And sin keeps us from abiding in Christ because, at times, we are abiding in the world, the flesh, and even with the devil, instead.

Thomas Chalmers, in his sermon, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, said the only solution to our problem is “to exchange an old affection for a new one.”  He states, “We know of no other way by which to keep the love of the world out of our heart, than to keep in our hearts the love of God – and no other way by which to keep our hearts in the love of God, than building ourselves up on our most holy faith.”

Think of it this way: when someone is preparing logs for firewood, they will often use a metal wedge to split the wood.  When the wedge gets stuck in the deep crevasses of the log, the only way to dislodge it is to pound in another wedge which will cause the first wedge to fall free of the log.  You cannot stop sinning by stopping to sin.  The sin is stuck in you.  You have to knock out the sin with a new wedge, a new “affection,” which is love for Jesus Christ.

Answered Prayer

Another characteristic of the abiding Christian is answered prayer. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (v.7).  This amazing promise, of course, presupposes: 1) union with Christ (a true believer) and, therefore, with the Holy Spirit, and that 2) The prayers are in accordance with God’s Word (“My words abide in you”.)

The ultimate desire of all true believers is to “glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”  That goal is also realized by the abiding believer for “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit . . .” (8a). As followers who glorify God, we also vindicate and, in a sense, validate the ministry of Christ and “and so prove to be My disciples” (8b).

Love

The abiding believer also receives one of the greatest affirmations of God’s love in all of Scripture, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love” (v.9).  Let that sink in!  You are loved by Christ, the vine, in the same boundless, measureless, infinite way that God the father loves God the Son!  Could there be a more reassuring promise in the Bible than that?

Or, could there be a greater motivator to complete obedience than verse 10, which states, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”   The word “abide” (meno) means to stay in, dwell in, or remain.  You have to remain in Christ all the time to experience the blessings of abiding in Christ.  J.C. Ryle explains, “To abide in Christ means to keep up a habit of constant close communion with Him, to be always leaning on Him, resting on Him, pouring out our hearts to Him, and using Him as our Fountain of life and strength, as our chief Companion and best Friend.  To have His words abiding in us, is to keep His sayings and precepts continually before our memories and minds, and to make them the guide of our actions, and the rule of our daily conduct and behavior.”

The Apostle John would later write, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him” (1 John 3:24).  Or, as paraphrased by Andrew Murray, “As long as he abides, and as far as he abides, the believer does not sin.” The best characteristic of the abiding believer is the last mentioned by Christ and He mentions it by way of a wonderful promise, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (v.11).  Full joy! What a promise that is!

So there it is: the “silver bullet” of the joyful Christian life is abiding in Christ.  But, keep this in mind – silver bullets may be a simple solution. However, they are not easy to obtain.  None of the werewolf hunters I know purchase their ammo at Walmart!  In the same way, you will devote your life to accessing the simple truth of abiding in Christ and you will obtain the prize through much faith and diligent effort.  But, the joy that is set before you is worth all effort.  Abide in Christ – that your joy may be made full.

Alexander S. Campbell, is the Senior Pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anderson, SC. Dr. Campbell received his BS degree from Clemson University in 1985. He received a Masters of Divinity from Columbia International University in 2001. In 2015, Alex earned his Doctorate of Ministry from Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte. Dr. Campbell is a Chaplain in the South Carolina State Guard and an Adjunct Professor at Anderson University. Alex and Nancy Campbell have raised four children, educating them at home.

 

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Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Several years ago my wife, Janie, and I took our 14-year-old granddaughter, Logan, to the Cinema to see “Chronicles of Narnia” from CS Lewis’ book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The first time I read CS Lewis I was 23 years old, not redeemed and was not particularly impacted by what I read. Years later, at 35, I picked up a copy of Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and began reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe again. This time around, it was very impactful. I visualized a dead, cold world without Christ as it related to my life, both before and after Christ performed heart replacement surgery. (For those of you that have noticed this is the second time I’ve referenced this specific book, movie and song, all three use excellent allegories and reveal strong, spiritual meaning for me.)

As Janie, Logan and I sat in the cinema, one song in the music score struck home – It was “Winter Light” by the recording artist Tim Finn. The lyrics uniquely captured my thoughts and brought relevant understanding of my transition from life without Christ into a fullness of life with Christ. “It’s always in the back of your mind; When everything is dark, still something shines.”

Surveying the Mission Field

I mention this specific incident that happened many years ago because I recently visited several of our missionaries in Berlin, Germany; Warsaw, Poland; and Vilnius, Lithuania. The work that our missionary teams in these countries have undertaken is huge and so needed to shine in a dim and darkening world. During my visit to these three countries, I noticed that there were many churches across the cities and landscape. Every hour I could hear the church bells pealing on the hour and half hour. Sadly, I learned that these church buildings were not churches full of worshippers but were either empty or nearly empty.

During my visit, I went to church with our missionaries. I ate dinner in the homes with their refugee families (in Germany with a Syrian family) and their church support families (Poland). I walked the church grounds and empty buildings with pastors in training (Lithuania). The repeated request from everyone was to have the Scripture, the Standards, and theological truths written in their languages and have it taught and preached with truth. My appreciation and admiration for these families who started this missionary work is beyond my ability to express. The needs are many, and the field is ripe for harvest. We need workers world-wide to preach and teach the Word. We need prayer support to lift up our missionary families all over the mission field. Over years of travel and working away from home, I understand the feeling of being away from home and cut off from family and friends. A simple card or note reminding our missionary families they are not forgotten would go a long way. It is very difficult for these servants to leave their homes and comfort zones as they minister to those crying out for the truth of God’s word.

The Ripe Fields

Truly Matthew 19:23-30 is a fitting reminder of the emphasis Jesus placed on following his calling to reach the lost. “And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Then Peter said in reply, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’”

We can help our missionaries through prayers, support and commitment to take the Word to a place where a hunger for God’s Word is so prevalent. Also, please pray for protection and blessings on our missionary families. There is opposition that should not be there. Ask God to intercede for their success and safety. Many thanks to Heiko and Kay Burklin for their time and help during my visits with Suzanne and Jeff Allers and Rebekah Carson in Germany; Dariusz and Brooke Brycko in Poland; Frank and Emily van Dalen in Lithuania; and to Reverend William Southerland, my traveling partner.

At the beginning of this article, I referenced the Tim Finn song “Winter Light” from the movie Chronicles of Narnia. If your curiosity has gotten the best of you and you have listened to the lyrics once or twice, you will understand why this trip brought the song to mind. I visited the very country where our Reformed position on the Scriptures began some 499 years ago. I stood in the oldest Presbyterian Reformed church in Kedainiai, Lithuania (1585-1640), pictured below. As I stated above, the lyrics uniquely captured my thoughts and brought relevant understanding of my transition from life without Christ into a fullness of life with Christ. The isolated places I visited were a few of the niches in this part of Europe where the Word is springing forth.

The photo on page 4 is a Berlin Church service conducted by a pastor who was one of the very first converts through the early ministry efforts of Jeff and Suzanne Allers. The picture below is a Syrian (Christian) refugee family, living in Germany after fleeing for their lives. Living in poverty didn’t hinder Refaat and Louris from inviting us into their little apartment to serve us a feast at the noon meal. The picture (top right) is Dariusz and Brooke Brycko who are in Warsaw beginning the process of training, educating and translating Scriptures, the Standards and theological books into the Polish language. The next picture is of the restored pulpit inside the Kedainiai Reformed Evangelical Church where Rev. Frank van Dalen took us as we visited churches in Vilnius Kaunas and Kedainiai, Lithuania. I hope and pray these pictures will give you a feel for the tremendous work and tremendous need to always be Reformed and to be reforming ourselves and the world to the truth of God’s Word.

In all the countries where we have missionary efforts, our Christian brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers need, want, and pray desperately for the Word. As stated at Synod during the Moderator’s Challenge, I have prayed and continue to pray that God will refresh our love for Him and call us all to obey the Greatest Commandment.

The Love of God

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).

As I stated in the 212th Synod’s Moderator’s Challenge, we cannot begin to understand the “how” in loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength without much individual prayer, even fasting. To love your neighbor as yourself is impossible until you die to self. Then with a new heart, we see our neighbor with the compassion of Christ. He becomes more important than our agendas, comforts and goals. You know you belong to Christ when you are making certain that the person in front of you knows Jesus. This takes priority over your own life’s momentary objectives. James reminds us that we are to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:22-25).

To borrow a quote I recently heard from Rosaria Butterfield, “Our job as image bearers is to put the hand of the Savior into the hand of the struggling.” I urge you to ask for new mercies each day and new opportunities to serve, witness, exhort and proclaim Christ to someone. Are we not called, taught, equipped, prepared and trained for such a time as this? Do we love our neighbor, as the greatest commandment requires? Pastors, lead your people. Churches, own your town, city, state and the whole earth to the glory of our great God!?

(Please remember our Missionaries. Send them notes and cards letting them know you have not forgotten them. For a complete list of addresses contact Sheila Osborne, sheilao@me.com.– Phil Williams)

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What is it to Love?

By: Rev. Patrick Malphrus

 The theme of synod this year is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. But what does it actually mean to love? The article that follows is a condensed version of the sermon I had the honor of preaching this year at General Synod.

keepinstep In our modern day context there’s a serious problem when it comes to love that goes all the way to its very definition that says love is something you have, something you get, and perhaps even something you fall into or out of. The term love, when used in a flippant manner, is often used to express an emotional tie or a strong preference. Even when used in a genuine manner, however, often times the term love is misused because the worldly idea of love is flawed.

My wife and I are currently going through the certification process to become foster care providers for the state of South Carolina. Not too long ago we attended a class required for certification that required us to watch video segment titled “Love is not enough”. The video said love isn’t enough to be a good foster care provider because you have to be truthful, kind, and have perseverance and patience. After watching the video, it occurred to me that in our modern day context, love really is no more than an emotional attachment, linked to a strong preference, shrouded in positive thinking. But I ask again, is this love?

Consider the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10: 25-37. This passage defines true, real love. In verse 25, the reader is told that “behold, a lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test” and asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” In turn Jesus asked the lawyer, “what’s in the law, how do you read it?” The lawyer responded by saying “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and your neighbor as yourself”. It’s at this point that Jesus forces the conversation out of the theoretical and into the practical and tells the lawyer in verse 28 that “You have answered correctly, do this and you will live.”

At this point the text says that the lawyer was offended and sought to justify himself by asking “And who is my neighbor?” An evil but common practice amongst Pharisees and others in Jesus’ time was to take the Biblical concept of neighbor and deal with it handily by saying “the only person who is my neighbor is the one who is honorable and who fears the Lord as I fear the Lord”. If someone did not match up to this and other vague criteria the person was simply dismissed as being less than a neighbor and, as a result, God’s law no longer applied to him.

In the verses that follow, Jesus masterfully told the lawyer and his other listeners the parable of the Good Samaritan. The plot is a simple one. A man is attacked on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and is left naked, penniless, and nearly dead with his life hanging in the balance. After both a priest and a Levite refused to help, the man finds help from the most unlikely of sources—a Samaritan. Not only did this anonymous Samaritan help the man, he saw to the man’s proper care and ultimate health.

A few paragraphs above I wrote that this passage defines true, real love. The fact is that you see and understand what true, real love is or you don’t. Sadly, I have not always understood what it means to love. On June 5th, 2007, I was examined for licensure and ordination by Second Presbytery. I had passed my committee exams and only had to pass my floor exam. A call to become Associate Pastor at Devenger Road ARP church was hanging in the balance.

In my opinion my exam went very well, that is until Dr. Rob Roy McGregor stood to ask his questions. To be clear, I had a background with Dr. McGregor. He suffered with me and the congregation through some of my earliest sermons at the Iva ARP church when I was still in seminary at Erskine. Even so, he was always so encouraging and gracious. Yet when he stood during my examination, after watching student examinations in Second Presbytery for three years up to that point, I knew I was in trouble.

I do not remember Dr. McGregor’s precise words, but to paraphrase he asked “I have heard you speak, I know your testimony, and I know that you profess to Love God. But when you say you love God, what is it that you love?” Falling back on the good training I received at Erskine Seminary I responded with a confessional answer, citing the Shorter Catechism and Chapter 2 of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Immediately I could tell that I was not giving a satisfactory answer. Dr. McGregor rephrased his question and asked again but my answer was still not correct. Being a gracious man and perhaps sensing I would not be able to answer him in a satisfactory manner Dr. McGregor said “of course what you’ve said is true but that’s not the answer I was looking for, but you and I will get together and we’ll talk”. I passed my exams and went on to be ordained and to receive the call, but shortly thereafter Dr. McGregor invited me to lunch.

It was during our conversation over lunch that Dr. McGregor asked again, “You say that you love God, but what is it that you love?” I began naming God’s attributes but I was still puzzled as to the direction of his question. Dr. McGregor then gave me a hint by saying “talk more about those attributes of God—what makes God who God is.” After doing so, Dr. McGregor asked again “when you love God, then, what is it that you love?” It was at that point that I was confronted with perhaps the most profound theological reality of my life and I finally understood what it means to truly love.

Dr. McGregor wasn’t really interested in whether or not I knew the catechism because that wasn’t the point of his question. Instead, he was interested in the contents of my heart. Dr. McGregor helped me see that the point of his question—“when you say you love God what is it that you love”—is that you can’t say you love God if you don’t love the things that make him God. The truth is this: It is easy to say we love God as a concept but when we think about what makes him God it changes everything. Why? Consider the implications.

         God is Truth. If you say you love God you are saying you love truth.

If you love truth will you be a liar? Will you slander your brother? Will you defend your brother’s good name? In the same way, if you love truth will you stand up for truth and proclaim it?

God is merciful. If you say you love God you are saying you love mercy. But if you love mercy will you be characterized by wrath and volatility? If you love mercy will you refuse to forgive?

God is just and righteous. If you say you love God you’re saying you love righteousness and justice, yet if you are unjust in your dealings, if righteousness doesn’t matter to you, and if you’ve no desire to pursue personal holiness can you truthfully say you love justice and righteousness?

God is on a mission to redeem his people. This mission was and is so drastically important that he sent his only Son to die for His Church. If you say you love God you’ll love the gospel, and if you refuse to tell it? If you refuse to get your hands dirty with real evangelism do you really love God’s mission?

Do you get the point? Love is not something you fall in or out of. Love is not some emotional attachment, linked to a strong preference, shrouded in positive thinking. What is love? Love is what you actually do.

At the parable’s conclusion, Jesus asked the lawyer “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer had no answer other than admitting that the true neighbor was “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus responded by telling the lawyer “You go, and do likewise.”

Jesus did not say to think likewise. Jesus said to actually do likewise. Love is defined by what you actually do.

Should this concept be surprising to us? James 1:22 says “Be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deceiving yourselves.” Deceiving yourselves how? Deceiving yourselves into thinking your faith is genuine. James wrote that any man who is a hearer but not a doer is like a man that stares into a mirror and then turns and forgets what his face looks like.

Remember the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. The servant who was given the one talent, but instead of investing it or working it like the other two servants, just buried it in the ground out of fear received the rebuke of being called wicked and slothful. He was called worthless and he was cast out into the darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

This business of loving God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, is not about simple emotions. Instead, this is a call to action, as is the call to love your neighbor as yourself. There are consequences for those who refuse but there are blessings for those who submit such as the ultimate blessing of being called a good and faithful servant as seen in Matthew 25. However, these blessings are not limited to our Heavenly reward.

It is time to be both honest and practical. The fact is that the ARP is not in great shape as a denomination. I don’t know all the numbers but I have heard that about half of our churches have less than 50 members. That existence can be very difficult. I speak from experience. The first church I served as a student was the Woodruff ARP Church. It closed a few years ago. The next church I served was Iva ARP and they struggled in terms of size and it broke my heart.

Statistics show that once a church drops beneath 50 attenders it just doesn’t come back, membership wise. It’s a statistical impossibility, in fact. But while God invented mathematics, He has always been in the business of beating the odds. Many of you know that Devenger Road, where I currently serve, experienced a terrible time just a few years ago. Our attendance dropped down very low, beneath 50 in worship. To say the least, times were very difficult. But something happened. People became focused. The Lord changed our priorities, and people started coming and some started joining. Even more are coming that haven’t yet joined. God has defied the odds. By God’s grace we climbed out of such low attendance and continue to grow.

People that know have asked me how this has happened, wanting to know what has Devenger Road has done. The answer is simple. There wasn’t some program. There wasn’t some equation where we plugged in the right worship style and then the right programs. The way we have grown is by the people of Devenger Road loving God, loving one another, and loving other people by understanding that love isn’t an emotion but instead is an action and by understanding that love isn’t about just loving in concept but instead is about being real neighbors to anyone God sends our way, no matter what.

People also want to know how we in the ARP are going to grow and what we need to do as a denomination. Some have said the key is church planting. While I am certainly a proponent of planting new churches I cannot help but wonder if we can plant enough churches to replace the churches that will inevitably close if they do not begin to grow. In addition, as churches close and giving decreases will we even have the monetary resources to continue planting churches? I do not know the answer for certain but my suspicion is that we will not. So then, what must we do as a denomination? Again, the answer is simple: we must get serious about loving God, loving people, and about actually doing something. There’s no grand secret. As I encouraged the Fathers and Brothers at the General Synod, I also want to encourage you, the reader, right now—let us be hearers of the word and doers.

As Presbyterians we say that we do things decently and in order but sometimes we get so concerned about the decent part and the order part that we forget the doing part. Decent and in order can be translated into nice and status quo. I believe I can say this because I came under care of Second Presbytery 12 years ago as a student of theology and I’ve been watching since then. In a book my wife and I were reading together recently, the author writes about churches that get absolutely stuffed with theology and grow fat and stagnant on a steady diet of doctrine without any real spiritual exercise.

Is this us in the ARP? If so, the exercise we need is truly loving one another, loving our neighbors, and loving God in action and not just in word. Jesus’ command to the lawyer at the end of the passage, and by extension, his command to “Go and do likewise” us is only fitting because Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to do likewise, on Calvary. Luke 9:51 says that Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Let us, in turn, set our face toward laying down our own lives through loving God and one another, thus showing the whole world what it means to truly love.

 

Rev. Patrick Malphrus is pastor at Devenger Road ARP in Greenville, SC. He and his wife Amanda have one daughter, Isabella, who is 8 years old. Rev. Malphrus is currently the Vice Moderator of General Synod and Parliamentarian of Second Presbytery.

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The Power of Music

Children Singing_Music ConferenceBy: Kristen Wunderlich

“Next to the word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through music.”-Martin Luther

God has given us the gift of music that we may worship Him TOGETHER in song. This is the very heart of corporate worship. Ephesians 5:19 states, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” Colossians 3:16 echoes the same statement, including a phrase about “teaching and admonishing” each other in corporate singing. These verses from the Bible remind us that our hearts as worshippers must be engaged in the words we are singing and that we must do this TOGETHER. The subjective beauty of the melody and the difficulty of the music are truly not what is important; the text and its direction toward God is the most integral part of this important part of worship.

If I asked you to tell me what your favorite hymn was you would, no doubt, have a story or a connection to a life event where that hymn was present. For many of us, “Amazing Grace” is such a hymn, providing a special, but probably sad, remembrance of a loved one’s funeral. My choir makes fun of me that I can quickly remember what others have shared as their favorite hymn. I remember those things because I try to connect a story to the person’s beloved hymn. I remember that Mr. Harold’s favorite hymn is “His Eye is on the Sparrow” because the text focuses on God’s care of the tiniest and most helpless creatures; a metaphor, perhaps, for the only child that he and his wife lost when she was only a few years old. I remember that Ms. Suzanne’s favorite hymn is, “In Christ Alone” because it was sung at her daughter’s wedding at Bonclarken. I remember that “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” is Mr. Sam’s favorite because he seems so tied to the roots of the church he has been a member of his entire life. He listened to this revivalist hymn even as a child in the same pew where he now sits as an adult.

What makes us fall in love with a hymn? The text? The melody? The feeling we get when we sing it? Or do we focus on the hymn’s message and the power and strength of joining with a multitude of other voices to sing and reflect on its message? Perhaps we don’t think of the latter as much as we ought. Is this not what the verses in Ephesians and Colossians instruct us to do? Should we not truly be “iron sharpening iron”? Surely we all feel the presence of God when we pray together in a corporate setting. Should we not feel the same divineness when we SING together? Isn’t that what our psalm and hymn singing should be? It is another way to pray and focus our minds on the worship of our God. Comfort, strength, perseverance, peace…these are all things that are found in many of our hymns. Luther reminds us that the power of music is true and that it is a crucial and important part of our corporate worship.

In the Fall of 2007, our family’s world was rocked when my Uncle died suddenly at the age of 55 from a heart condition none of us were aware that he had. A beloved country veterinarian in rural Kentucky, he died on the side of the freeway pulled from his truck by my cousin’s best friend, a young vet student, who was shadowing him that day. Carter would later tell us, “It was as if your Uncle breathed into this world and breathed out in the next.” Our shocked family gathered at the Baptist church in Shelbyville days later to say goodbye to this incredible Christian man who had been a witness to so many. The visitation was hours long as the line of people whose lives he had touched continued to stretch far beyond the back door of the church. Later, at the cemetery, my brave Aunt began to finally show the cracks of what had transpired in the previous days.   Not able to bear the sight of the casket being lowered in the ground, she turned to her best friend for solace. The other woman engulfed her in her arms and began to sing, “whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say; it is well, it is well with my soul”. Soon the singing spread as one by one we joined her and quickly we were all joining in the refrain of this most powerful hymn. I had heard this hymn before but I felt as if I had never truly heard its message. There, in that cemetery, the corporate worship we had as we joined our hearts in song was intent on believing the message of that hymn. We found strength in its message. I heard that hymn in a new light that day. We were thirsty for solace, we were thirsty for the hope outlined in this hymn. The Bible does not promise that our lives will be easy…in fact, it warns us that our way will be paved with many trials. In that moment, life did not make sense to our family. The story behind that hymn is even more tragic; I invite you to do your own research if you do not know its tale. However, the hymn writer was able to boldly say that this was God’s plan. Through the measures of that hymn, he was able to find acceptance and hold to the belief of God’s perfect plan, even in the midst of tragedy.

This past year I have enjoyed going and speaking to different ARP women’s groups about the stories behind our most well-known and loved hymns. A common thread that seems to run through the stories of the development of many of our hymns is the distress and trials of the hymn writer. The words we know by heart from refrains and verses were written by those who experienced such strife in their life. Could knowing the inspiration behind these hymns color the way we sing them in worship? I believe we can look to our hymns to provide truth and inspiration for our walk through this Christian journey. There are many books you can find that tell the stories of these hymns. Have you ever considered using hymns as a meditation or prayer? Our family uses hymns as devotionals, especially when we are all together at Christmas. In her most famous hymn, “Blessed Assurance”, Fanny Crosby, known as “America’s Hymn Queen” , writes, “This is my story, this is my SONG, praising my Savior all the day long!” Could we not feel some connection to the sentiment that was present at the creation of a hymn and would this not truly bond us as worshipful Christians? How much stronger are we when we sing together?

Recently, I had the honor of seeing three of my wonderful voice students graduate from Winthrop University. As a special remembrance, I bought them each a journal and wrote a Bible verse in the front. I jotted down a favorite verse from Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is with you, the mighty warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but rejoice over you with singing.” This verse shows God singing over us with delight. He is not speaking…He is SINGING. How could we choose NOT to sing to Him? How much more should our delight be in Him for everything He is to us? Our praises seem so inadequate and unworthy of such a great God, but how could we choose NOT to SING?

I admit that I get a bit frustrated when I look out in our sanctuary and see people holding hymnals but not moving their mouths and joining in the psalms and hymns that we include in worship. What would Martin Luther think of this? I’ve spoken to some in my congregation who say, “I don’t have a good voice”, “I don’t like to sing”, or, my least favorite, “Mrs. Smith told me in the 5th grade that I couldn’t sing, so I don’t.” God cares not for the beauty of our voice…in fact, I think every voice that raises praise to Him is pleasing and a right and acceptable form of praise. He needs to hear us SINGING over Him and taking delight in all He does for us, as the verse in Zephaniah reminds us. And, when you make that joyful noise, pay close attention to the text of the hymn or psalm you are singing, for in it you may find “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”, as the hymn writer reminds us.

Dr. Kristen Wunderlich is the Associate Professor of Voice at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. She is also the Music Director for First ARP Church in Lancaster, SC.

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True Colors

Show-Your-True-Colors-OriginBy: Neil Stewart

By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action…yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days.” (Daniel 11:32-33)

We live in interesting times. For decades our culture has raged against God. Like giddy children playing Jenga, intellectual elites have been busy removing the foundation stones of civilization. Relativism, like that fabled, uncontainable, universal solvent, has eaten through all the old certainties of life. A transparent new world beckons— a world in which men are encouraged to see through everything (which, as C.S. Lewis warns, is precisely the same as to see nothing!). In this world we stand proudly with both feet firmly planted in midair. So enlightened in our ability to parse our own identity, we honestly don’t know which restroom to use. So refined in our kindness, we spare the murder on death row. So courageous in protecting the right’s of women, we kill the child before she leaves the womb. Here is a world that will tolerate everything but the Truth and those brave enough to speak it.

None of this should surprise the Christian. The world has never been our friend. Since Genesis 3, there has been no armistice in the Serpent’s conflict with the Church. At times the battle lines are obvious, and the world shows its true colors, snapping at the Church with the venomous hatred of a viper. More often, however, the conflict is more subtle. For those willing to make just a little compromise in their walk with God, the world stands ready, like a python, to embrace the traitor with her more lethal kindness.

The prophet, Daniel had witnessed both sides of this antagonism firsthand. He had seen both the furnace and the Lion’s Den from the inside, but he had also felt the sweet, alluring defilement of the King’s table (Daniel 1:8). Resistance was not easy. It took deliberate thoughtful resolve for the young lad, far from home, to refuse this pleasant opportunity to defile himself!

Have you ever noticed how the first chapter of Daniel concludes? It leaps forward from Daniel the teenager to Daniel the Octogenarian. And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king.(Daniel 1:21). Sixty years later! When the rest of the wisemen lost their heads, Daniel kept his, even after Babylon’s fall and Persia’s rise. It’s almost as if the author is telling us that this one moment of faithfulness, as this young man stood in the valley of decision, stands as the secret of his longevity in the service of God. I believe God gave us this book to encourage this mindset. Do you share it?

Fast forward to Daniel 10. Three years have passed since Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Palestine. Daniel is in His twilight years, too old to make the journey home himself, but he had, no doubt, heard troubling reports from Jerusalem. The initial joy experienced by the pilgrims had evaporated. The hopeless task of rebuilding what had been lost, together with the hostility of the Samaritans “squatting” in Jerusalem, left the people thoroughly discouraged.

Concerned by this news, Daniel fasted seeking the face of God. Although his prayer received immediate response, Satanic opposition in the heavenly places delayed the angel for three weeks. At last, the messenger arrives, glowing with the glory of God, and takes Daniel on a tour of the next 500 years of future history.

As the story unfolds, the angel points Daniel forwards to the coming of Antiochus Epiphanes, a vicious, godless blasphemer who brutalized the people of God 170 years before the birth of Christ (Dan 11:21-35). After him, another King will rise, even worse (if worse can be imagined) to complete Satan’s assault against God’s beleaguered people. I believe this figure is the Anti-Christ (Dan 11:36ff).

Like his spiritual father, the devil, Antiochus Epiphanes was a deceiver and a killer. With smooth words, he flattered compromisers into hell. And with the sword, he dispatched the faithful to an early glory (11:32).

One class of people alone will have the strength to resist Him:

…. the people who know their God will display strength and take action…yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days.” (Daniel 11:32-33)

This is the pressing need of the hour today. We need to press on in the knowledge of God, what our father’s called, experiential Calvinism. We must know God and feel this knowledge deep down in our souls. Such knowledge is especially needed in the pulpits of our land. As preachers, we simply cannot lead people where we have never been ourselves.

As I say this, J.I Packers famous observation in his book Knowing God haunts me: it is one thing to know about God, it is quite another to know Him. Physics professors and surfers know waves: The one knows them from the safe distance of laboratory. The other, however, has felt their wild, exhilarating power out in the ocean. It is precisely this kind of knowledge that we need in the Church today. Do you have it?

Writing in the New Testament, and considering the awful assault Anti-Christ will one day bring against the Church, Paul tells us many of our number do not! Many from within the visible Church will be willing to welcome the Anti-Christ’s Python-like embrace.

(The Man of Lawlessness will come) in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.(2 Thessalonians 2:9–12)

How could they be so foolish? Because they are weak in this vital area. They do not know God. They are neither gripped by His grace nor by His glory.

Frame by frame, Paul traces the psychology of their collapse. First, “They did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” This is tragic. The love of the truth , you see, is not something we work up from within ourselves. It is something God is willing to give to those willing to receive it! And these poor souls were not. Are you? Are you willing to let God teach you to love His Word? We learn this lesson best beneath the pulpit as men preach a theology that can be felt — felt first by themselves and then by their hearers.

Secondly, Paul tells us those vulnerable to the Anti-Christ’s charms “took pleasure in wickedness.” This searches me. If we don’t delight in God and His Word, it is almost always because we are satisfying our desire for delight somewhere else. One of the reasons, I fear, our generation is so weak in its knowledge of God is because we have eviscerated our spiritual thirst with pornography. In both pulpit and pew, this scourge is decimating the Church in America today.

In his book “The Crook in the Lot”, Thomas Boston said, “Trials are the great engine of Providence for making men appear in their true colors.” The same can be said of temptation (Matt 4:1). It proves our mettle. Like a mirror, it shows us up for who we really are. God is watching us wrestle with our pornographic age. Our response is revealing.

The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, And He watches all His paths (Prov 5:21 in context!)

I fear too many preachers attempt to soothe this open sore with an imbalanced preaching of grace– a grace without teeth offering peace and life without mortification. We do well to remember that the same God who said, “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound…” also said, “Those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God!” Our people need to hear both sides of this equation. We must not be ashamed of God. Like Paul, our sermons must proclaim His whole character, both His goodness and His severity. Now is not the time to preach an unfelt Christ.

As members of the Church we must embrace the whole Christ and His whole gospel. We harm our souls by rejecting any part of it. This is the real God, the only One who can offer real hope and real mercy to the lost and undone. His grace is ferocious and it is tender, calling us back from sin to His loving embrace. As Hosea preached,

““Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.”” (Hosea 6:1–3).

How could we ignore such an offer? Let us, then, press on in the knowledge of God. For only those who know God will show strength and take action. This is our moment on the stage of history, it is God’s great time for us to be alive. Now is not a time for weakness.

Rev. Dr. Neil Stewart serves as the Pastor of Christ Covenant Church (ARP) in Greensboro, NC. A former Pediatrician from Northern Ireland, he is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi. He has also pastored in Georgia and rural Mississippi as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America.  He and his wife, Catherine, have six children.

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Holy Spirit, My Spirit

 


Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 3.18.22 PMFollowing last year’s nomination and election as Moderator, I have spent a lot of time in thought and prayer for you and for our church (Synod). A portion of that time has been in reflection on issues, needs, strengths, weaknesses and direction for our Synod. In past years, we have seen issues come and go. Some have been handled well and some have lingered on for quite a while, partly due to varied expectations. We are all well aware of the repetitive challenges that, if not resolved, will hamper us in seeking a biblical and orderly approach to glorifying God as we work together to serve Him and His Church. In unity, we must keep Christ and His word as our standard bearer as we live out our duties and ministry in such a way that it brings glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As we have seen in the past, this can be a difficult task. It is very easy for us to lean on our own understanding and adopt the world’s approach to ‘church work.’ Many times in my life, I have had to draw back and focus on one of the more critical roles of the church, which is proclaiming Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. I know that we in ourselves do not have all the answers to resolve issues and personality differences that lead to angst and discord. Yet if these issues and differences are allowed to continue unresolved, the ability of the called to fulfill Christ’s commission is diminished. I also know that only by living in the Word and seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, will we be able to handle our differences and exhibit the “Fruit of the Spirit” through living in Christian unity. John 17:22-23 exhorts us to be one in unity. “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

The challenges of the church have not changed over the centuries. What we face isn’t new; and ever since we were redeemed by His finished work on the cross, we have had the same problems just with different issues and different people in a different time.

One example that hit home recently for me is from the Gospel of Matthew 16:21-23: “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

  • Like Peter, we want it our way and we want it now. Whatever the issue or agenda, we tend to lean on our own understanding.
  • Like Peter, we all set our minds on the ways of man; and like Peter, we all stand rebuked.

It is our nature to put self on the throne and try to control, demand, confront and solve. Looking further at Matthew 16:24-26: we understand it’s not about us: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

We do react just like Peter. It is our “born in sin” nature. Martin Luther said it well; “I am more afraid of my own heart than of the Pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self”. It is very difficult, even unnatural, for us to submit to his commandments, His Holy Spirit and become Christ-like in all we say and do.

Since last June, I have prayed and sought for a better understanding of the “Fresh Insights from Ancient Paths” that Moderator Hunt so carefully exhorted us to seek out. As he quoted in his Moderator’s address last year from Jeremiah 6:16, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it. Then you will find rest for your souls.” Following the 211th General Synod, I began to re-examine the challenges we face and the barriers that are in front of us as we fulfill the call of proclaiming Jesus Christ to a lost world. In trying to submit to this calling, we all realize that “the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.” We all know overcoming self is a daily battle. Any gain we have in dying to self immediately frees the “Pope” in us. How do we stay honest before the Lord? We need to seek His guidance and then continually examine ourselves to see if we are actually fulfilling the calling as identified in scripture. Specifically from 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

As you know, each year the incoming Moderator has the privilege and responsibility of setting the Synod theme to be proclaimed, taught, preached and, hopefully, lived by each of us during this entire year. After prayer and thought, the theme I have chosen for the 212th Synod is from Mark 12:29-31: “Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Our theme consists of four important words: “Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength,”

Let us live these words as we help our church members and each of us to seek God with our whole heart, to help us understand that we must love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength—to love him so much that we display the evidences that we have denied ourselves, taken up the cross of Jesus Christ, and are following Him.

I am convinced that if we love Jesus with our heart, soul, mind and strength, we will love our neighbor enough to get in front of him, and as commanded in 1 Peter 2:9, “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

What does “getting in front” of our neighbor, family, co-worker, friend and, yes, even our enemies look like? Is it preaching a sermon, writing a blog, commenting on a web site, exhorting the book of the month we just read? Maybe. Any legitimate means we may use could be helpful and beneficial in proclaiming Jesus. However, I think that the stronger evidence is caring about your brother’s soul enough to get in his path and share your love for Jesus. You cannot and will not do this without the help of God’s Holy Spirit showing you how to demonstrate the love of the father heart, soul, mind, and strength, as you love your neighbor as yourself.

Condition of the Church and the Challenges before us.

Since the 206th General Synod, we have seen our total Church (Synod) lose around 20% of its members. Each year our Denominational Ministry Fund decreases because our churches do not, or are not able to give to this fund. In looking at the yearly minutes of Synod, do we see evidence that we are a blessed and growing church? Or do we have the same trend that past Moderator Andy Putnam presented to you in the 207th General Synod. Our churches in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church are fewer, smaller, older and struggling. Through the lack of growth, we find ourselves struggling to keep and meet our commitments in ministry. We find ourselves trying to overcome the lack of blessings by looking to other means to raise operational funds. The solution is simple: put your heart, soul, mind and strength into loving, exhorting, and proclaiming the excellencies of Christ to everyone, both the lost and saved. If we live out our lives with this focus we will not have a resource (money) problem–we will have a space problem. We won’t be asking for the blessing of others but will be blessing more of those who are in need.

We have issues, agendas, and probably more than a few golden calves that need to be ground into dust. Let’s not react as scripture indicates Peter did by setting our minds on what we would do to fix “it”. Own the greatest commandment. Every day ask God’s help to live and love heart, soul, mind and strength so that we will see a growing church.

My devotion for and love of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church has increased significantly through learning more of the history, purpose and commitment of the Scottish covenanters as they lived and died with their faith and love. In the past, the fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers purposed to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ through devotion to God’s established Covenant and Word by Faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, Grace alone, with the Glory to God. We are a covenantal people; and it is that covenant that is established by God the Father, fulfilled in Jesus through the Holy Spirit with the promise for each of us, and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord calls to himself. Acts 2:38-39. It is through our calling into His covenant and being obedient to His word that we have seen and will see our churches progress and grow.

In the Synod packets, each delegate was given a lapel pin inscribed with the four words heart, soul, mind and strength. I ask that you pray and ask God each day to place someone in your path that you can share the work of Jesus with. Wear the pin to remind you to pray toward that end, preach it, and demonstrate it to your family, church, community, co-workers, friends, enemies, and sojourners near and far!

May we leave this 212th General Synod and demonstrate evidence in our lives that indeed “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Ask God’s Holy Spirit to enable you to love Him with all your heart. Make it the priority of your church, family, presbytery and our synod to seek with all your heart, soul, mind and strength the blessing of boldly proclaiming the gospel one-on-one to the unredeemed. If we are obedient to the word and proclaim the excellencies of Christ, we will see the lost saved and our churches will grow. Prepare, pray and ask God to put someone in front of you and witness Jesus Christ every day.

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Happy 107th Birthday

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 10.39.37 AMMrs. Eva Maloney, member of Oak Ridge ARP Church in Heath Springs, SC, celebrates her 107th birthday today.  She was born to John William and Minnie Cox Brock near Honea Path, SC. While a freshman at Erskine College, she met James LeRoy Maloney, who taught at a nearby school. They later married and he graduated from Erskine Seminary in 1935 and went on to pastor Pleasant Hill ARP Church.

During her 75 years at Pleasant Hill, Mrs. Maloney taught the Ladies Bible Class and participated in all phases of the women’s work. She served as pianist at Oak Ridge ARP Church for 30 years and was involved in their women’s work. Rev. Maloney helped organize Oak Ridge and pastored both churches for many years.

Mrs. Maloney also served as dietician at Bonclarken for four years, during the time Rev. Maloney was manager of Bonclarken. She has two daughters, Judy O’Conner and Sharon M. Shute. Happy Birthday Mrs. Maloney!

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Synod Prep

Synod 2016 Prep

ARP SealBe sure to follow The ARP Magazine on all social media forms (Instagram, Facebook & Twitter) for immediate updates during the General Synod meeting next week. There will also be evening updates on this site. #arpcsynod2016

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Florida Church Dedicates New Building for Outreach

12489200_1666393066942056_2162377466924935504_oFirst Presbyterian Church of Lake Placid officially dedicated its new Genesis Center, an outreach center for the community, at 4:00 p.m. on February 28th. More than five hundred people attended the dedication service which featured music performed by the congregation’s praise team, orchestra, handbells, choir, and children’s group, along with video, dancers, greetings from other congregations, and statements from ministry leaders.

The service opened with medley setting of “Blessed Assurance” and “Holy, Holy, Holy” that featured the combined forces of the various musical groups with dancers. The congregation’s senior pastor, Rev. Ray Cameron, gave the opening prayer and invocation, after which elder Paul Koukos read the outreach center mission statement. This was followed by a time of congregational singing led by the praise team and a responsive litany giving thanks to God for the completion of the new building and dedicating it to the glory of God and the work of evangelism. Associate Pastor Drew Severance offered thanks to all who had been involved in praying for and supporting the completion of the building and led the litany.

Special music during the service was provided by Tim Sewell, leader of the praise team and director youth ministries at the church, and his wife Barbara, who sang a duet on “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” The children’s choir sang an anthem entitled “Small Deeds,” highlighting how the purposes of God can be accomplished by ordinary people in simple acts of kindness, and the adult choir sang Joseph Martin’s setting of John 3:16 “For God So Loved the World.”

Greetings from the presbytery and the prayer of adoration were given by the Rev. Darrell Peer, pastor of the Sebring ARP church, and the Rev. Ray Culpeper, head of the Lake Placid Christian Ministerial Association. Wendy Lee Mielke and Rev. Drew Severance highlighted the mission of the church and its vision for the new center in presentations that focused on home and foreign missions, small groups, and the congregation’s nascent sports ministry.

Rev. Ray Cameron gave the dedicatory sermon highlighting the two GC’s: the Genesis Center and the Great Commission. He touched upon the faithfulness of God in the ninety years of the Lake Placid church’s existence and the crucial importance of reaching out to the unsaved in love and compassion, meeting them where they are so that they may know the grace and salvation of Christ. The sermon highlighted particularly how sports, community events, and the arts can be used as Gospel opportunities as the church makes use of the Genesis Center to fulfill the Great Commission in new ways.

The service closed with a reprise of the opening medley and fellowship time with heavy hors d’oeuvres staffed by the women of the church and the kitchen committee.

 

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Chapel By the Sea Chili Cookoff

 

0516 nib chiliThank you to our chapel youth for serving us some of the best chili in Florida! Earnings help send them to summer camp @ Bonclarken. Winners for 1st place were Kaia A. and Cade S., 2nd place went to Randy Bunn and 3rd place winner was Brad Miller. Congrats, and thanks for supper!

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