Monday is New Years and, as is often the case, people’s minds turn toward things they’d like to do in the new year. Whether that is eating better, exercising, or spending more time in God’s word, the new year is a time for pausing and thinking about goals for the next leg of the journey.Read More
Judy Garland’s performance in Frank Baum’s the Wizard of Oz will forever be a classic. It is one of those movies that has successfully crossed barriers and renewed its place in the hearts of each new generation for many decades.
In the movie, Dorothy and Toto are accompanied on the road to Oz by three companions—the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. Each feels frustrated by the lack of something. For the Scarecrow, he longs to have a brain so that he can think deep thoughts. The Tin Man wishes he had a heart so that he can love. And the Lion wishes that he could be brave. What is interesting is how each of these corresponds to what we have been learning in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3.Read More
Worship can sometimes feel like a chore, that’s why so many of us don’t show up on Sundays to church. But worship is not like taking out the garbage. Our feelings are too fickle to be the basis for going to worship. They change with a drop of a hat. They are always in flux according to what kind of day we’ve been having. Depending on the day, we either feel high or low when it comes to praising God. What we need is a bigger picture of worship to sustain us when our feelings are betraying us.Read More
There’s no place for lowliness in a world that values glory and prestige above humility and long-suffering. But at the heart of the Christian Gospel is the truth that God dwells with the lowly, with those who are humble and those who suffer.Read More
Sin will always entice you to feel free to address evil elsewhere but not in your own heart. We find a strange comfort in speaking piously and critiquing others, because it gives us a sense that we care about what is good and right and true. But God calls us to look deeper and see if our hearts really beat with his... if we are willing to ask whether or not we meet the standard that we so freely impose on others.Read More
It is important for every Christian to be able to understand the Gospel, the Christian message, in such a way that you can readily and easily summarize it for someone. It is the message of salvation—how sinful people can have peace with God and spend eternity with him in heaven. The Gospel answers four questions...Read More
The church campout will be July 20-22 at Eastcreek Campground in Mineral.
Eastcreek does not have a group site, but we have reserved seven sites close to each other (3, 10, J, K, P1, P2, P3) that can form a group area and will mean more than one RV and more than one tent in each site. We have space for up to 4 RVs and 16 tents, which will mean sharing sites. If you would prefer, you can reserve your own private site through the campground. Check in is at a 2pm on Thursday. We have reserved the sites through Saturday night so that we can stay as long as we want to on Saturday.
Reservations will be on a "first come, first served" basis. The cost is $43 / night for RVs and $27 / night for tents. Please be aware that each assumes (4) people and there may be an extra charge for larger families. You can sign up here.
Last Sunday we started a new series on the Church and Evangelism. While topical series are not the norm at Reformation, we do periodically pause and look at subjects that we believe are timely and important to the congregation. In the past we have done this with church officers, worship and the Lord’s Supper.
Over the past several months the elders have been reading through the book Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by Mack Stiles. The book addresses evangelism—the calling of non-Christians to saving faith and the process of discipleship, which is becoming more like Jesus (Luke 6:40). Stiles does a great job addressing problems with many modern approaches to evangelism—but more importantly he offers a biblically faithful approach. Such an approach is desperately needed in the church today.
It is needed because God has a heart for the lost and we ought to as well. Jesus came into this world to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). The last words our Savior spoke included the command to take the gospel of salvation into all the world (Matthew 28:18-20). It pleases him for all men to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). When we are apathetic toward evangelism we betray hearts that are out of sync with our Savior’s. The elders believe that this is an area where our church can (and should) grow.
But biblical instruction on evangelism is needed for another reason as well. Many well-intentioned believers have employed methods of evangelism that are not in accord with God’s word. We don’t just want to evangelize—we want to evangelize well. So the new series will not only seek to explain what evangelism is and why we should be passionate about it, but how God calls us to engage in that work.
The series will break into two parts. First, we will look at what the church is. It is the church that evangelizes and so we must understand what the church that evangelizes is. The first sermon was on the invisible church. From here we will look at the visible church as well as various metaphors God gives us to describe the church such as the bride of Christ, the pillar of truth, the household of God, the body of Christ and so on. We will look at each of these and see how they reveal an aspect of who we are as the church.
From there we will turn and look at the work of evangelism. We will address the content of the gospel message. Sadly many Christians struggle to clearly and succinctly summarize what the gospel is. The Bible says the gospel is the power of God unto salvation—we ought to know what it is. Much of what we will look at in this part of the series is how the church bears witness to the work of Jesus both by being the church and actively seeking to work together to share the grace of Jesus with unbelievers. Evangelism is not a solo sport, but a group effort. As Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) A healthy view of evangelism must understand how we, as Christians, support each other in sharing the love of Christ with others. Our hope is that the series we are beginning will help us see, appreciate and embody all of these things.
We would also encourage each of you to read Stiles’ book. If you would like to buy a copy it is available at Amazon in hardback or on Kindle. However, as we mentioned on Sunday, we have copies available for free on the back table. Please feel free to take a copy for your family and read through it—you will be glad you did. The July 2016 New Horizons had a wonderful review of the book by John Shaw if you would like to read it (pages 14-15). That same issue also had a helpful article on evangelism on pages 3-8.
Looking at Psalm 46 in the sermon on Sunday, we closed by talking about what it means to trust Jesus in the midst of adversity. God does not promise to keep us from hard times; he promises to be with us in the midst of them (Psalm 46:1, 5, 7, 11). It is in those times that he tells us to "be still" and know that he is God—that our confidence is in his strength and not our own.
So I thought I would briefly review what it means to trust him in the midst of trials.
- It begins with admitting when you are not in control. The simple reality is that he is God and we are not. However, we often try to act as if we are God and in control. We will never trust God as long as we are placing our hope in ourselves.
- The second thing is remembering that he is God. Once we remember that we are not in control, it is much easier to remember who is. All of creation is in his hand. All enemies are subject to his sovereign power. This doesn't mean that no adversity will come to you, but it does mean that none can reach you without his permission and approval. That means if hard times come, God has a reason (Romans 8:28). He is shaping you. He is teaching you. He is helping you learn that this world is not your home. He is teaching you to rely upon him and his strength and not your own. And he is teaching you to long to be with him in heaven.
- The third thing is to learn is to ask yourself the right questions. If you don't learn to ask the right questions, you will never arrive at the right answers. So here are a few questions to ask yourself.
- “Is this trial greater than my God?” The trials that are described in Psalm 46 are not small. They are much greater than we are. But they are not greater than God.
- “Can this trial separate me from the love of God or his plan?” Remember what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8 (vv. 37-39). Nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. God's promise is not that hard times won't come, but that he will carry you through them.
- “Is the goal to get through the trial or to be made more like Jesus through it?” God has told us over and over that the purpose of trials is to make us more like Jesus (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5). If your top priority is just to get through the trial, you will miss what God is doing through it.
These things take minutes to read and a lifetime to learn. My hope is that reviewing them will help you to trust the Lord and seek his purposes in the midst of trials and affliction.
This is the third of three posts responding to a request made at the Annual Congregational meeting for a tutorial in subscribing to the church blog and podcasts. In the first post, we discussed the church blog. In the second post we looked at how to subscribe to the sermons podcast. This last post will cover much of the same ground as the second, but specifically look at how to subscribe to the Sunday School podcast.
THE SUNDAY SCHOOL PODCAST
As mention in the second post, a podcast is used to distribute digital content—such as audio or videos. While we have no video content, we do make audio recordings of sermons and Sunday School classes available. These can be accessed directly from the website on the Sermons page and the Sunday School page. However, a more helpful way to access these on a regular basis is to use a podcast application (app) on your smart phone or tablet.
There are several apps available on Android phones and tablets such as PocketCasts, DoggCatcher, and Stitcher. iPhone has it's own built in app simply called Podcasts. Two others apps that are very good are Overcast and iCatcher. If you have not already done so, you will want to find the app already installed on your phone or install one of these.
SUBSCRIBING TO THE SUNDAY SCHOOL PODCAST
Once you have the app installed, you can subscribe to the Sunday School podcast either by searching for Reformation Presbyterian Olympia or by entering the the address of the podcast (http://www.ropcolympia.org/sunday-school/?format=rss) directly. Once you have done this it will check for updates regularly and let you know when a new sermon has been uploaded. You can listen to it right in the app.
SUBSCRIBING TO INDIVIDUAL SERIES
It is also possible to subscribe to a particular Sunday School series. On the Sunday School page, you will notice a bar on the far right (or the very bottom if you are on your phone or tablet). This has a list of sermon series at the top and Sunday School series below that. To the right of each one, you will find RSS. Typically on a phone or tablet you want to press and hold on RSS and you will get the option to copy the link or link address. Press copy and then paste it in your podcast app under subscribe by URL. On a desktop computer simply right click on it and select "Copy Link Address."
If the app says that the link is invalid, try resubmitting it. Sometimes it takes a few times to work. We have covered many things in Sunday School and this is a great way to visit (or revisit) a book or topic. You will find classes on Esther, Job, Daniel, Jonah, 1 Peter and the Beatitudes. You will also find topical studies on the Five Solas of the Reformation as well as parenting, marriage, evangelism, the church, and a few other topics. We also have had classes going through the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Shorter Catechism and we are currently studying the Heidelberg Catechism.
We hope that the Sunday School recordings will be helpful to you and that, by making them available as podcasts, they will be more readily accessible.
At the Annual Congregational Meeting this year, the request was made that we put up a tutorial on how to subscribe to the church blog and sermon and Sunday School podcasts. To that end, this will be the second of three posts giving a brief "how-to guide" to subscribing to these on your phone or tablet. In the first post, we discussed the church blog. Now we will look at the sermons podcast.
THE SERMONS PODCAST
A podcast is much like a blog, except that it is used to distribute digital content—such as audio or videos. We have two main groups of audio files—one for the sermons preached at Reformation and one for the Sunday School lessons taught. These can be accessed directly from the website on the Sermons page and the Sunday School page, or you can use an application on your smart phone or tablet to access them when they become available.
Android may come with a built in podcast app, but, if not, there are several available such as PocketCasts, DoggCatcher, and Stitcher. iPhone has it's own built in app simply called Podcasts. Two others apps that are very good are Overcast and iCatcher. The first thing you will want to do is find the app already installed on your phone or install one of these.
SUBSCRIBING TO THE SERMONS PODCAST
Once you have the app installed, you can subscribe to the Sermons podcast either by searching for Reformation Presbyterian Olympia or by entering the the address of the podcast (http://www.ropcolympia.org/sermons/?format=rss) directly. Once you have done this it will check for updates regularly and let you know when a new sermon has been uploaded. You can listen to it right in the app.
SUBSCRIBING TO INDIVIDUAL SERIES
It is also possible to subscribe to a particular sermon series. On the Sermons page, you will notice a bar on the far right (or the very bottom if you are on your phone or tablet). This has a list of sermon series. To the right of each one, you will find RSS. Typically on a phone or tablet you want to press and hold on RSS and you will get the option to copy the link or link address. Press copy and then paste it in your podcast app under subscribe by URL. On a desktop computer simply right click on it and select "Copy Link Address."
If the app says that the link is invalid, try resubmitting it. Sometimes it takes a few times to work. If you are looking for an old series, this is a great way to get just those sermons.
The sermons page is there to help you. Podcasting is a simple and helpful way to access the many sermons we have up on our webpage. We hope this little tutorial is helpful to you to get started in making use of what is available.
At the Annual Congregational Meeting this year, the request was made that we put up a tutorial on how to subscribe to the church blog and sermon and Sunday School podcasts. To that end, this will be the first of three posts giving a brief "how-to guide" to subscribing to these on your phone or tablet. First, we will cover the church blog.
The church blog is intended to serve as a place to share information that we think may be of interest to the congregation. This may be as simple as an update on what is going on at church or something more substantive such as follow up to a sermon or a book review or some thoughts on an issue in the Christian life.
However, it is not a daily blog, but occasional in nature. You will not want to check it daily—so it is easier if you are notified when a new post is made. To help with that there are apps for smart phones and tablets called RSS (Really Simple Syndication) readers.
Currently the most commonly used service is Feedly. You can create an account and then subscribe to the sites that you want to follow. Feedly has apps for Android and the iPhone/iPad. There are other RSS readers available—this is just one solution that is pretty easy to use for beginners. If you already use another RSS reader, you can use it with the church blog as well.
Once you have downloaded and installed the RSS app and logged in with your account, you can just tap the magnifying glass in the upper right hand corner and paste or type the address of the church blog (http://www.ropcolympia.org/blog/?format=rss) into the search field and hit search. It will find the blog (called "Blog - Reformation Presbyterian"). Click on that and you will be subscribed.
We hope that the blog is an encouragement to the congregation and that these instructions are helpful to notify you when it is updated.
Perhaps you are like me and have long felt like paying attention and retaining what you read is particularly hard when it comes to reading the Bible. I can’t count how many times I have finished reading a section of the Bible and wondered “What did I just read?” I think there a lot of reasons for this—not the least of which is that the Enemy does not want us to hear God’s word. The Scriptures are truth. They wash over us like cleansing water. The simple reality is that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities. Rather than discourage us from reading the Bible, that should convince us all the more of just how important it is.
Having said that, I also believe that there are practical impediments to hearing and retaining what we read in our personal devotional times. Most modern Bibles are filled with various apparatus helps. There are study notes, cross references and verse numbers. None of these are original, but have been added to help us in our study of the Bible. Each can be helpful if used well. However, they also have liabilities. Because these are technically not a part of the Bible, when we are just reading, we know that we need to ignore them. So our minds subconsciously filter them out. However, that takes energy and comes at a cost. Perhaps the best analogy is attempting to carry on a conversation with someone in a loud room. In order to give your attention to the person speaking, you need to filter out all the background noise. You can do this, but after a while you notice that you are simply exhausted. That is because it takes energy to filter out everything that isn’t important in order to focus on that which is. That is what is taking place when you filter out section headings, study notes, cross references and, yes, verse numbers.
In recent years, in order to address this, there has been a growing interest in what are known as Reader’s Bibles. These are Bible that take out most or all of those distracting study apparatuses. They present the biblical text in simple, uncluttered paragraph format. Some include chapter markers so that you have some idea where you are at, others do not. While these are not helpful for group study or for bringing to worship, I have found them to be truly revolutionary for my personal reading. For the past few years I have been using Crossway’s Reader’s ESV. Their hardback edition is quite inexpensive and the Kindle edition is even less. They also have a True Tone edition that is quite attractive. A few weeks ago I received my copy of Bibliotheca, which is a four volume edition of the Bible. What sets Bibliotheca apart is that it uses nice thick paper, which makes reading more pleasant and removes “bleed-through” of the text. It also retains the Divine Name (YHWH) rather than the common use of LORD. I personally think this is quite helpful in reading the Bible. Finally, Bibliotheca uses the Hebrew order of the Bible, rather than the Greek order of the Old Testament. It uses a revised version of the ASV (American Standard Version), which is quite pleasant to read. While it is nicer in many ways than the ESV Reader’s Bible, it also costs more. If you would like a multi-volume edition that is similar, but uses the ESV text, Crossway has recently come out with a Hardback edition as well as a leather edition. They are nice, but cost more.
Over the past few years I have become a devoted user of Reader’s Bibles and I cannot recommend them highly enough. Not only have I noticed my retention going way up, but I have talked to numerous other people who have noticed the same benefits. I encourage you to do yourself a favor and get one. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
We talked in the sermon on Sunday about what repentance is. By way of practical suggestions, I'd like to offer the follow thoughts for when you need to go to someone and repent. When you repent, ask yourself these questions:
1. What did you do wrong?
You should always be specific. Do not say, "I'm sorry about earlier." Be very clear on what you did that was wrong.
2. Why was it wrong?
The answer here is not because it hurt the other person's feelings. Was it wrong because you disobeyed God? Was it wrong because you served yourself and not the other? Was it wrong because you did not think before you spoke? Was said in anger? To hurt?
3. What does the other person deserve?
Yes, people are sinners, but they are made in God's image and deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. You need to acknowledge that the one against whom you sinned deserves better. Husbands deserve to be honored, not because they are perfect, but because Christ says so. Wives deserved to be cherished, because Christ has cherished us. Children deserve kindness, patience and gentleness. Parents deserve honor. Remind the person that you did not sin because he deserved it, but because you failed.
4. What do you want to do?
If you say "I will never do it again," you are not repenting, you are bargaining. You are asking for forgiveness in exchange for your future good works (oh, and you are also lying). Be honest. You want to work on it. You will work on it. But you will probably fail again and that ought to lead you to humility and brokenness.
5. What do you want from the other?
When you have confessed what you did, why it was wrong and what you want to do, you need to ask for forgiveness. This is what you want (or should want). The sad reality is that we have made people afraid to offer forgiveness. Grace is the only thing that can cover sin. If you are truly repentant, there is nothing you can do to fix what you have done. Asking for forgiveness admits that you have no rights, only brokenness. It also frees the offended person to offer forgiveness without fear that they will be attacked as being "holier than thou."
And that leads to the question of, how do you respond when someone repents. The Lord commands us to forgive those who repent because he has forgiven us. Matthew 18:21-35 is a wonderful passage about this reality. But how you respond to someone who repents is as important as how they repent. Do not respond with "it's okay" because it's not okay to sin. Don't say "don't worry about it" because that just says he should feel free to do it again. The other person has repented, not asked you tell him it is okay. He is asking for forgiveness. That is what you need to respond with. Respond with "I forgive you." That is how God responds to us when we repent and how he calls us to respond to others.
We are finally getting around to launching our new website. I hope that you like what we have come up with. The session is extremely grateful to Charlie and Sara Montes for all their help in getting it launched.
There is still a lot to do. We need to get the Audio Archive (sermons and Sunday Schools) moved over to the new site, which will take a while. But once everything is up and running, we think that this will be a much more helpful place for the church to find news, listen to audio and keep up to date. We also hope that it will be a helpful place to visitors to find out more about our church.