This week, I propose a three-tiered framework for considering how important various issues are. When disagreement arises it’s easy to get upset emotionally, and make something more important than it is. As foolish sinners, we tend to shrug at the big things, and blow up over the little things. Having a framework in mind ahead of time can help keep things in perspective. I will put these in terms of church membership and life together, for this essay.
Level One - center circle - the Core.
These issues are non-negotiables for membership: you must affirm these for others to consider you a Christian. They are things we gladly share with other evangelical churches, and even non-evangelicals affirm most of these. We cannot compromise on these. This is the kind of stuff the elders will ask you in your membership interview. You don’t have to understand these things completely, and questions about them are always good, but self-consciously and clearly denying these things would lead to church discipline, without any other moral failing.
Examples would be: personal faith in Christ to atone for your sin by His blood, the Trinity, the Bible as God’s Word, the content of the Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles’ and Nicene, especially). The five membership questions in our constitution that we ask of new members in the worship service would also be in this category, or at least the first three of them. See Galatians 1:6-9; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-5.
Level Two - next larger circle out - Confessional matters.
These are issues that church leaders feel strongly enough about to assert as part of the church’s identity. You will hear us raise these issues, and argue certain positions on them. You don’t have to agree with our positions on these things, though we’d like you to! You may not buy it all yet, but if you feel the need to argue against any of it, we'll help you find a better fitting church home for you. We tend to expect elder and deacon candidates to agree with these. These things are our "distinctives" and you should not expect to change our church identity and culture on these points.
Many question whether it is legitimate to take such definitive positions that exclude other believers. But this is unavoidable. It is impossible to be all-inclusive, doctrinally. Every group of believers decides to baptize infants or not, to ordain women to leadership offices or not, and so forth. Eliminating this category leaves unwritten rules about how any one congregation does or believes things. It is better to communicate them clearly (while avoiding a proud, partisan, flag-waving spirit). Those who question this category are right in that this level will go away when Jesus comes again. It is a pragmatic need, accommodating our lack of like-mindedness until then.
The more defined distinctives a church has the more sectarian it becomes. Everyone doesn’t have to be a clone of the leadership, or of everybody else, doctrinally. We don’t get to like-mindedness by lengthening this list. On the other hand, the fewer distinctives a church has the more undefined and nebulous it is, leaning toward having “no creed but Christ.” This leaves too much room for conflicting expectations and can lead to shrugging at important doctrines. Scripture needs to be interpreted and lived out one way or the other.
For a good summary of our distinctives, see the Westminster Confession of Faith (doctrine) and our Philosophy of Ministry (practice). Two examples from these would be covenant (infant) baptism and a family-integrated approach to church life and worship.
Level Three- last circle outermost - personal Convictions.
These are NOT core, and NOT confessional, and at CHRF we all agree to grant the other feller his convictions about these things. We can discuss and dialog, but we will NOT tolerate promotion of these things to the level of fellowship issues. Often these are methods, as opposed to principles. So if you are convinced that homeopathic medicine is the only option for a true Christian, or that it is “the way we do things here,” and if you cannot allow others to differ, we will tell you to sit down and be quiet. That may not sound charitable, but it is actually ensuring there is room for charity with each other. Sometimes a little force must be used to preserve freedom for others. Third circle matters will NOT be allowed to be given prominence. Some examples would be, home school or Christian day school? Is the consumption of alcohol allowed by Scripture? Nutrition and medicine issues, birthing and feeding methods.
Level Three issues like these may or may not have a “right” answer we can infer from Scripture. If there isn’t one, the issue is “adiaphora.” This is a fancy Greek theological word for “it doesn’t matter.” Scripture doesn’t dictate a right and wrong for if you get a Dell or a Mac (!), live in the city or in the country, and so forth.
This 3-level scheme is not a silver bullet to cure theological disagreement. (Christians don’t just disagree on any given issue, we also disagree on how important various issues are!) But it can defuse tension if we are at least looking at the same grid. A useful project in the future may be discussing where to place issues that are near and dear to our hearts. Just because we get riled up about something doesn’t mean it should move up the list. See Romans 14:1-13 for an example.
It is important to distinguish a third-level matter from Core and Confessional matters, so we are not unnecessarily divisive among ourselves. With the man on the street, we should talk about first level issues saving the second and third level stuff for later. Then again, people may notice us if we stick out from the world on second and third level issues. Our call is to make the connection back to the Core issues. We do x, y and z because Jesus died and rose again to give us new life according to His image! Let us keep the main thing, the main thing, as we serve the risen Lord Jesus Christ this week!
A Reformation Day, All Saints' Day exhortation, from Psalm 145
We commune now with Christ, and all His saints. Past generations have declared God’s glory and works to us, and we rejoice with them in what God has done. We proclaim Christ’s death in this meal, to our children and to the whole world. God has opened His hand and given us bread from heaven; the wine of joy. He has satisfied our desire in giving His Son Jesus Christ. He alone is our mediator. God’s grace alone brings Him to us, not our works. Only our faith in Him obtains His salvation, not our obedience. Only Scripture is our ultimate authority to know this. We reserve all glory for this to God alone.
We need to be re-formed in God’s presence, not removed FROM His presence. So it is with our holidays. While the reformation rightly removed many saints’ days, several of our holidays need to be reformed, not removed.
The church began to celebrate All Saints' day in the 300s, celebrating the victorious saints at rest with Christ. Over time, superstition and error came in. Halloween means "all saints’ eve." It was an early version of the carnal Mardi Gras before the spiritual Lent.But let’s get the big picture here. The Christian calendar year begins in December with Advent and Xmas, when we celebrate the coming of the light of the world at our coldest and darkest hour. We then celebrate His death and resurrection in the spring, the time of new life. We celebrate Ascension, then Pentecost, and the coming of the Spirit, the source of our growth. During the summer, the Spirit yields its fruit in us until the fields are white for harvest. So we commemorate Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and Spirit sending, and realize that it is all pointing to the vindication of His saints, as they appear with Christ, when He comes again for the final harvest. We need to reform and recover this holiday - All Saints' Day. Instead of trying to replace it with something different, let us return thanks to God for fruitful saints now at rest with Christ.
2 Samuel 5
Theme: God establishes David’s kingdom with crown, covenant, conquest and city
As I’ve said before, there is a reason the offering and Communion are so close together in our service. Our work overlaps with our worship, and with God building His house. We bring the fruit of our labor in to God’s house. The trees in the courtyard of God’s house bear fruit from Sunday to Sunday, and we partake of the fruit God gives.
We take part in being and building the city of
But all this happens because we are in Christ, in covenant with Him, receiving His grace over our guilt, receiving His righteousness. His crown makes ours possible. His conquest makes our thinkable. His faithful Sonship in God’s house makes our house building feasible. Without Him we have a house of cards.
And so it all hinges on our being in covenant with Christ and faithful to our king. You are at the King’s table. Are you as awed as you would be in
I'm going to try this Amy Butler "Liverpool" pattern. It's a button down darted blouse with variations for it to be sleeveless, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeved.... blouse length, tunic length, dress length.... you see the options are nearly endless!
Now comes the challenge of pairing the pattern with a suitable fabric. I'd love some cotton voile or lawn, but generally don't like to wear see-through fabrics!
Of course, the wallpaper in the photo is amazing. I'd love to have a large wall done up in that, but then my family would probably lock me in that room!
This stripy pair is a good lesson in color theory. I had one skein of self-striping yarn that covered the whole gamut of the rainbow. My initial idea was to alternate ends of the yarn creatine a eye-busting dual-colored stripe sequence. It didn't work because too many of the colors were so similar in hue that the stripe affect was lost.
Enter a neutral. A neutral color would not only stretch my yarn yardage and enable me to make knee socks (love!), but it would make the colors stand out and separate them a bit, so my brain told me. My brain has been out of school awhile, because it forgot about VALUE!! See that lovely neutral gray and how it doesn't pop against the other colors (try squinting your eyes at the image). That is because the grey and blue and red (and most of the other colors in the skein) are very close in value. Hmm. Black or white or a lighter grey (or I think just the right light aqua) would've been a better choice. Now I have nearly a full length knee sock knit up that might possibly hit the frog pond (rip it, rip it). So will it be "Sassy Stripes Surprise Sara"? or "Undo the Uglies"?
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this thrilling saga....
We as a congregation are a member of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. In this article I’m going to briefly explain each of these 4 terms, and delve a bit deeper into the middle two: “Reformed” and “Evangelical.”
The CREC is a confederation. This comes from the Latin con-feudus: covenant with. It is meant to emphasize the covenantal relationship God has set up with us. He makes promises to us on His own, that define and redeem us. And that colors our relationship with each other: we make promises to each other as a group of churches that define us. These are summarized in our constitution - how we will work and live together. We have similar beliefs about certain issues, which I'll summarize in another article. The word confederate is an inadvertent reminder of the War between the States in the 1860s. While there are more southern sympathizers in the CREC than you will find in other denominations, per capita, there are also those nervous about the word and what it conveys. Dialogue continues over this.
Skipping to the last word, the CREC is a confederation of churches. Many denominations have the word “Church” in them somewhere. The CREC folks chose the plural to emphasize that the real essence of the church is not in the denominational identity, but at the local congregational level. All the churches in an area have as much right to the word "Church" as any one denomination does. A denomination cannot claim to be the Church in a given area (The “Reformed Church in
The CREC is Reformed. We stand in the tradition of Calvin, and identify with the Westminster Assembly or with the Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dordt (5 points – TULIP), and Belgic Confession. Here are some defining distinctions of the Reformed, from other Protestants, a bit on the simplistic side, for clarity’s sake.
- We do not have bishops like the Anglicans, but believe elders have equal authority among themselves. This is called presbyterian polity (church structure). The elders rule in a local church, not the simple majority of voting members.
- We believe Christ is not physically present in the Lord’s Supper (the Lutherans do), but that He IS truly present specially by the Spirit and fed upon by believers (most evangelicals don’t).
- We emphasize the positive, guiding use of the Law, while Lutherans emphasize the negative, convicting use of the Law – though we all believe in both.
- We think God’s sovereignty and His covenant with us are major themes of the Bible.
- We baptize infants before they can profess faith, unlike the Baptists. We do not re-baptize people, typically, unless a prior baptism was obviously not legitimate.
- Unlike broad evangelicalism, we believe the church is an important institution, with real (not absolute) authority, which institution we need to join and be accountable to as a member.
The CREC is Evangelical. We must preach the basic Gospel of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, which atones for our sin before the Father’s wrath, saves us from hell and restores us to His favor. We must evangelize the lost with a call to respond with repentance and faith in this good news. Even given the Reformed distinctions above, and the foibles of evangelicalism (below), evangelicals remain our friends and brothers in Christ. There are problems with evangelicalism to avoid. It is largely captured by marketing and publishing trends, these days. It has a very low view of the church and sacraments. It is vulnerable to false teaching since it often refuses to define anything beyond the very basic gospel (“no creed but Christ”). Evangelicals focus on a crisis conversion experience, our feelings, and the Spirit’s work. Reformed folks, by contrast, focus on covenant nurture through the outward means of grace (preaching, prayer, sacraments), objective truth in Scripture, and Christ’s work. To illustrate the Reformed perspective, it is not necessary to have a dramatic testimony – the important thing is to have faith. It is not necessary to have certain intense feelings, the important thing is that you believe the truth and that it leads you to personally trust God. Experiencing signs and wonders of the Spirit is not necessary (and chasing after them is bad); following the Spirit leading you into the truth in the Word He inspired IS needed. Some of us are pilgrims from evangelicalism into the Reformed view of the Gospel. Some of us have yet to see the debilitating effects of evangelicalism on our own piety. Wherever we are on that grid, we are committed to being evangelical and Reformed, both in what we say and in how we live.
ruby throated Hummingbird, Indigo bunting, dark-eyed Junco, Killdeer, Loon, Mallard, Nuthatch
Oriole, brown Pelican, Quail, Robin, Starling, Tufted Titmouse
Upupa epops (hoopooe), turkey Vulture, downy Woodpecker, Xanthornus flaviceps, Yellowthroat, Zone-tailed hawk
I have plenty of scraps now to make a great start to a quilt top, too!