Monthly Archives: October 2006

Humility

Wow, two posts in one day! But now that the wireless connection at TBS has improved, I can sit at the table on my laptop instead of standing by the door.
Lately I’ve been struck with how often Christians (including myself in particular) lack in the area of humility. On Friday mornings I have an absolutely fabulous class on pastoral leadership that has really got me thinking on this. Both our readings and lectures have made the point that true leadership needs to be marked by humility. Last weekend TBS hosted the International Baptist Conference dedicated to the theme of worship. The first session had Joe Boot (Canadian Director of RZIM) address the issue of worship wars. What struck me about his session and the way he handled a person during the Q&A was that his life and ministry was characterised by humility. He emphasised the need to be humble, particularly when one differs with another Christian on the issue of congregational worship. He also handled a particularly abrasive questioner with a tremendous balance of humility and firmness.
Just now, as I was looking at Challies.com, I caught a link to the New Attitude site where Pastor Mark Lauterbach spoke to the great need of humility when disagreeing with another believer. He provided an excellent list on how to deal with others that I found to be helpful for my own thinking and thought I’d blog it:
1. Be quick to remember that this person is one with whom I will share in eternal glory around the Lamb.
2. Review with them the foundation of our salvation, and review it in detail. Review the stunning grace of God through Christ’s death to undeserving sinners. Spend time reviewing how you each appreciate grace and what new ways it has melted your heart.
3. Be quick to hear the position of those you disagree with and make sure it is understood so well that they tell us we are stating it fairly. I like to begin my rebuttal while they are speaking but that is a mark of pride. Pride also results in false stereotypes, generalizations, and extreme examples.
4. Go to Scripture. How quickly we set aside our Bibles and simply talk theology with each other. Open the text. Walk through the text.
5. Watch against uncharitable judgments of motives, education, consistency, etc.
6. Perhaps agree to disagree. But go to learn as well as to make a point.
The fifth point about uncharitable judgments was especially helpful, as I tend to do this. It’s so easy to dismiss someone’s argument by seeking out an agenda behind it. In a formal debate that would be called an ad hominem argument. That is a fallacy.
There has been much that I have learned from Dr. Haykin as I have worked for him and observed his life and scholarship. One maxim that runs around in my head that he has said on a number of occasions is very applicable to this post and should be point number seven. When disagreeing with a member of another viewpoint (say an amil disagreeing with a dispy), never refer to the worst example of the opposing viewpoint to win an argument. So, if I, as an amillennialist were to disagree with a dispensationalist brother, I shouldn’t poke holes in the Left Behind series. Rather, I should address the arguments of dispensationalism’s best adherents. This is the height of charity and truly does seek the cause of truth. Isn’t this something that we would want others to do with us? Would I, as a Calvinist, want an Arminian brother to demonise my view because Mark Carpenter (outsidethecamp.com) claims to be a Calvinist?
I pray to God that I can be more charitable towards those who differ with me and show them the love of Christ in all things.
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An Indian Great Awakening

***PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR THE SAD STORY OF EZRA VESAPOGU***
Of late the Lord has encouraged my faith through the testimony of my new friend Ezra Vesapogu. I just want to take a brief moment to share that encouragement with any of you may still read the blog. Often in the West Christians think that the Lord is no longer moving and that revival seems such a distant hope. But to hear of the work of the Lord amongst Ezra’s people proves that God is still in the business of revival.
Ezra came to Toronto last week to attend the International Baptist Conference. He took a twenty eight hour flight from Hyderabad, India just to be able to hear the speakers. Ezra well recognises the importance of good teaching and will go to great lengths to attend good conferences.
Ezra is part of a ministry in India called Gospel Fellowship India. He is the founder and works in coordination with a number of Calvinistic Baptist churches in New York City and Atlanta, Ga. GFI oversees one hundred and eighty seven Calvinistic Baptist churches in India, all of which have been a result of Ezra’s church planting efforts and gospel preaching. You read that correctly, it is not a type-o. In India there are one hundred and eighty seven Reformed Baptist churches. In those churches are thirty thousand Reformed Baptist believers; twenty thousand of whom have been baptised. I was stymied when I heard those numbers because I know that there aren’t that many Calvinistic Baptist churches in Canada!
Ezra and GFI have been working assiduously over the years to bring the Gospel to unreached people groups in India. Essentially, the Gospel has been a whirl-wind that is taking whole villages by storm. To hear Ezra’s stories is akin to reading through the Book of Acts or work on early church persecution. As the Christians are killed and maimed, the Gospel goes forth and changes more lives. It is absolutely amazing.
My brother Ezra was once a Hindu militant who organised his friends to take a stand against any foreign religions. When Ezra (at the time his name was Subarou, meaning “son of a snake”) heard that a Christian evangelist was coming to a nearby village to spread Christianity, he and his friends filled their pockets with stones to do away with the trouble maker. Yet as Ezra went to kill this evangelist, the Holy Spirit took over his life and saved Ezra from his sin. Hearing the evangelist, David, preach the Gospel, mesmerised Ezra and at the end of the evening he threw down his arms and became a Christian. This all occurred much to the dismay of his family and he was kicked out of the house that night by his father.
Without getting into too many details, one could essentially write a whole book about Ezra’s life, I will say that Ezra’s once hostile family are all converted and both is father and brother are pastors. The village where Ezra comes from now houses a church of three thousand people. All of whom came to Christ through the work of Ezra and his grandmother. And this is a common theme amongst most of the villages that Ezra and GFI encounter. Mass conversions and church planting.
Currently they have two Bible colleges, both of which Ezra teaches systematic theology, world religions and homiletics in. They have an orphanage, an elementary school, a literacy program and other humanitarian relief ministries. And with all that has been accomplished so far, their vision is nowhere near diminished. Their prayer is to plant three hundred more churches in the next ten years. They would also like to set up another Bible college in the Hindi speaking north.
All of this work does not come without opposition. In a number of the provinces in India there are anti-conversion laws. Ezra himself has been jailed for preaching the Gospel as well as brought to court on charges. He recently, by providence, had thirty charges dropped against him and awaits six more to be dropped (DV). This isn’t the worst of what Ezra and the believers there face. Just a look at Ezra’s face reveals the scars on his forehead from stones. At one point a man attemped to take Ezra’s life by weilding a knife at Ezra’s chest. If Ezra hadn’t lifted his leg in time, he would have surely been killed. The stab wound on his leg is proof enough of that.
Every day when I see Ezra I want to give him a hug. He is such a kind and caring man; one who is easy going and a joy to be around. It is incredible to think that he has experienced so much for the cause of Christ. For him, it’s all in a day’s work.
I have had the privelege of hearing him share his testimony and GFI presentation in a number of churches. My prayer is that Ezra’s life and ministry would encourage us here in Canada to strive to see revival like that which is pouring on India.
I thank Almighty God for having given me a new friend in Ezra. May he and his family (his son’s names are Calvin and Spurgeon by the way) be protected and may they have an impact for the Gospel such as yet has not been seen!
To read an article on Ezra and GFI, see this one from In Touch magazine.
***UPDATE*** Unfortunately, as things often happen in this world of sin, the above testimony and overall ministry of Ezra Vesapogu is a farce. Through a sad series of events it has come to light that Ezra lied completely about his testimony and about the scope and nature of his ministry. Myself and a lot of others were deceived into believing in and trusting Ezra – many people had invested ten years into him.
If you are at all considering working with Ezra and his new work, “Share Ministries,” I would advise you strongly to reconsider. Your money, your time and your energy will be wasted. After Ezra was caught in his deceit, he did nothing to repent and make amends – though he claims to people that he did. If you have any questions about Ezra, contact the leadership team at North Shore Baptist Church here at info@ns-bc.org. They can provide you with first hand details.
I have posted a picture of Ezra just in case he starts going by a fake name so that you know who you are dealing with. He is the bald one with the mustache:

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Sunday School Lesson

Studies in the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)
Ian Hugh Clary
Holy Word Church
October 15, 2006
So everyone who acknowledges (homologeo) me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32).

If you confess (homologeo) with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved
(Romans 10:9).

Being Confessional

1) Provides a public declaration to the world of what the church believes about God and man
2) Provides an expression of unity in belief between individual churches
3) Preserves historic, biblical doctrine
4) It is a concise statement that can measure the preaching of ministers
5) Confessions and catechisms are also tools for teaching
– we live in an age where Christians don’t even know their own faith. It is much like the time of Dorothy Sayers who could say, “It is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practise it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ. If you think I am exaggerating, ask the Army chaplains. Apart from a possible one percent of intelligent and instructed Christians, there are three kinds of people we have to deal with. There are the frank and open heathen, whose notions of Christianity are a dreadful jumble of rags and tags of Bible anecdote and clotted mythological nonsense. There are the ignorant Christians, who combine a mild gentle-Jesus sentimentality with vaguely humanistic ethics – most of these are Arian heretics. Finally, there are the more or less instructed churchgoers, who know all the arguments about divorce and auricular confession and communion in two kinds, but are about as well equipped to do battle on fundamentals against a Marxian atheist or a Wellsian agnostic as a boy with a pea-shooter facing a fan-fire of machine-guns. Theologically, this country is at present in a state of utter chaos” (Creed or Chaos, 28).

Everyone has a creed, or a belief. To say, “I have no creed” is to have a creed. “No creed but Christ” is also a creed, and is indefinable. Who Christ is needs to be explained.
“To arrive at the truth we must dismiss religious prejudices…We must let God speak of himself…Our appeal is to the Bible for truth” (Let God Be True, by Jehovah’s Witnesses).

Creeds and Confessions

Defined

Homologeo – to acknowledge something, ordinarily in public, a public declaration; a profession of allegiance. Translated confess, profess or acknowledge.

Credo – I believe

Confessio – Confession; a written or oral assertion against oneself made by a party regarding a matter under trial

Creeds in Scripture

Peter’s Confession (Matt. 16:16)
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

John 6:69
And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Acts 8:36-38 (Verse 37 is an omitted text)
And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

1 Corinthians 15:3-8
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Other creedal statements in Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (Shema); Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8; John 20:28; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Timothy 3:16, 6:12; Hebrews 4:14, 10:23; 1 Peter 3:18-22

Creeds in Early Church

Rule of Faith (Regula Fidei)
– developed some time in the second century
– summary of the gospel
– not really a fixed creed with a verbal form that did not vary
– used against Gnosticism
– harmonious with apostolic teaching
– tradition of teaching first referred to by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (ca. 140-200)
– North African Father Tertullian (ca. 160-225) first used the term regula fidei
– likely a reference to Galatians 6:16 – walk according to this “rule” or kanon (kanovni)

Apostles’ Creed (c. 390)
Schaff: “As the Lord’s Prayer is the Prayer of prayers, the Decalogue the Law of laws, so the Apostles’ Creed is the Creed of creeds.”
– not written by the apostles
– reflects apostolic teaching and the Rule of Faith
– explicitly Trinitarian
– “catholic church” means “universal church” not Roman Catholic. From the Latin catholicus universal.”
– “descended into hell” – based on Matt. 27:52; Lk. 23:43; 1 Pet. 3:18-20. Some believe it referred to victory over evil, others the suffering on the cross, and some a place of “existence” to preach the gospel to the dead children of God. The Thirty-Nine Articles affirms this in Art. III.

The Nicene Creed (325)
– written during the Arian controversy
– at the Council of Nicaea in 325
– “substance” (homoousios) language indicates the full divinity of the Son
– procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son (filioque)

The Definition of Chalcedon (451)
– confirmed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451
– reaffirms Nicaea and Constantinople, especially “substance” language
– because of Nestorian controversy, additions needed to be made
– doctrine of the God-man defined (duality of natures)

Other Creeds include: Constantinopolitan Creed, Athanasian Creed.

Confessions of Faith of the Reformation

The Augsburg Confession (1530)
– official Lutheran document
– written by Philip Melancthon; had the full approval of Luther
– to consolidate Lutheran teaching, as well as to disprove false allegations and display areas of agreement with RC
– at the request of the German Emperor Charles V; presented to him June 25
– signed on Aug. 23 by seven German princes
– recognised for its moderation

The Belgic Confession (1561)
– part of the “Three Forms of Unity” of the Reformed Churches
– based on the Gallican Confession (1559)
– written by Guido de Bres (1522-1567) – later martyred
– to conciliate the Netherlands’ government
– adopted later by the Synod Dort

The Heidelberg Catechism (1562)
– part of the “Three Forms of Unity” of the Reformed Churches
– drafted by Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583) and Kaspar Olevian the latter had been influenced by Melancthon
– a catechism, written in question and answer format
– opening statement is beautiful: “Question 1: What is your only comfort in life and in death? Answer 1: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.

Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England (1571)
– standard confession for the Church of England
– written by Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Henry VIII
– instead of being a formal creed, it is rather a “short summary of dogmatic tenets, each article dealing with some point raised in current controversies and laying down in general terms the Anglican view.”

Other Reformation Confessions include: The Lambeth Articles, the Genevan Confession, the Scots Confession, the Tetrapolitan Confession, the Helvetic Confession and the Council of Trent (Counter-reformation).

Confessions of Faith in the Puritan Era

Canons of Dort (1618-1619)
– part of the “Three Forms of Unity” of the Reformed Churches
– developed during the famous Synod of Dort held in the Dutch city of Dordtrecht
– convened in response to the Remonstrants
– Reformed theologians from all over the continent, as well as some from Britain, attended
– where the Five Points of Calvinism originated

Westminster Standards:
Westminster Confession of Faith (1646)
Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647)
Westminster Larger Catechism (1647)

– official confession and catechisms of Presbyterian church the world over
– drafted by 151 Puritan divines from England and Scotland mostly Presbyterian (some Independents)
– during religious toleration under Oliver Cromwell
– met at Westminster Abbey from July 1, 1643 to February 22, 1649 with 1163 sessions, although it never formally dissolved
– the first question/answer of the Shorter Catechism is well-known. “Question: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever.”

Savoy Declaration of Faith (1658)
– standard confession for the Congregationalist (Independent) churches
– drafted at the Savoy Palace by representatives of 120 churches
– John Owen and Thomas Goodwin were involved in drafting it
– reflects the language, often word for word, with the Westminster Confession
– differences: SDF XXI.II&III and WCF XX.II&III on Liberty of Conscience; SDF XXIV.III and WCF XXIII.III on the Civil Magistrate; SDF XXVI.I-V and WCF XXV.I-VI on Marriage. As well there were thirty short statements describing Congregational church polity

Other Puritan era confessions include: the Irish Articles, the Arminian Articles, the Cambridge Platform.

Baptist Confessions of Faith

The London Baptist Confession of Faith (1644)
– drafted in London by seven representative Particular Baptist Churches
– advocated Calvinistic theology and believers baptism as well as strict rejection of the Anabaptists (whom the Baptists were accused of following)
– written to defend themselves against charges of Anabaptism that arose in London
– also defending themselves against the charge of sexual immorality in the practice of immersion

The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)
– first appeared in 1677, but was not publicly released until 1689 because of religious persecution; the Glorious Revolution allowed its publication
– accepted by the General Assembly of Particular Baptist Churches in 1689 with 108 representative churches
– likely drafted by William Collins, and was signed by such Baptist dignitaries as Hanserd Knollys, William Kiffin and Benjamin Keach
– like the Savoy, it shares much in common with WCF, much of it word for word
– also dependent on the Savoy and the First London Confession
– of the 160 statements in the 1689, 146 are from the Savoy (with its similarities to WCF remembered) and the First London Confession
– differences with WCF in areas such as church government (Congregational), relationship of church to state and baptism (adults/immersion)
– to encourage unity the Baptists intentionally used WCF; in the first edition the writers explain their ecumenical desires
– later adopted in America in 1742 as the Philadelphia Confession of Faith

Other Baptist confessions: the Baptist Catechism, the Philadelphia Confession, the New Hampshire Confession, Abstract of Principles.

Modern confessions include: the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy; the Cambridge Declaration

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A Letter to a Soldier

Dear Mark,

I’m not home to Windsor very much these days. My wife Vicky and I live in Toronto where I go to school and where she works. Right now it is Thanksgiving weekend and I am thankful to be sitting with my mother in my old house on Belleperche Place reading the The Windsor Star. It feels so good to be home.
Thankfully, mom saved two articles for me to read about a couple of Windsor boys fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. And quite frankly I was wonderfully shocked to see you and your cousin wearing shades sitting in front of some impressive looking artillery.
What an article to read! Twice I had to stop and let the words sink into my brain, letting the amazement settle a little. I simply could not believe that my friend from gradeschool and highschool “was in the turret of a LAV-3, firing at the Taliban and trying not to hit his fellow soldiers as they retreated to the armoured vehicle.” That one really needed to sink in.
I have long been a fan of war movies and novels and consider myself to be an amateur student of war. When I went to Concord Public School, I did a report on tanks for Mr. Ashworth’s grade five class. In Mr. Mahadio’s grade four class I wrote on Winston Churchill. The latter is still one of my heroes and I have since collected a number of books by or about him. One of my all-time favourite movies is Band of Brothers, a series where I consistently cried through the battle scenes of each episode.
My wife’s grandmother is a cute, ninety-five year old Welsh woman who was a Captain in the Second World War. She led a unit of nurses (then known as “Sisters”) all over the world to tend to injured soldiers. Her stories are absolutely amazing and I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the life that she led serving her country.
The purpose for this letter is to give you my respect and admiration as well. I share a lot of memories with you from our school days. But the memories you will share with your fellow soldiers overseas will be so much more significant. No longer are you the guy who thought he was Jim Morrison. The kid who got into trouble from Mr. Muir for pulling the gym change room lights on himself. You are no longer the guy who kept bugging me to take acid with him and skip school to watch Pink Floyd’s The Wall. You are now the guy who fights for freedom. Who stands against objective evil. You are the guy who protects his friends from Taliban insurgents. Quite frankly, you are a hero.
After reading the articles about you and Drew, a sense of pride swelled in my heart. Here am I, reading about a guy I used to party with, who is now a person of courage and grit. Not the shy singer of “Bleeding Feet,” but the guy who looks across the sands of Afghanistan wondering when the next bullet will scream across the sky.
My pastor in Essex fought with the Marines in Vietnam. No matter what one may have thought about that war, I know one thing: Pastor Valade is a hero. Although I am a strong supporter of the Canadian cause in Afghanistan, there are many Canadians, sadly, who are not. But no matter what one’s view of the war, our boys who are there are heroes. And I thank God that you are numbered among them.
I have committed myself to pray regularly for you and your cousin. My prayer is that God would protect the two of you from harm, that He would strengthen the bond of love between you and that you would be soldiers who fight with honour and dignity. May God, through Christ, reveal Himself to you on the fields of battle. May He show you that there is great meaning in what you do, even when those around you may die and everything seems useless. Always remember to never lose heart!
Concluding a long argument against pacifism, C.S. Lewis could say, “This, then, is why I am not a Pacifist. If I tried to become one, I should find a very doubtful factual basis, an obscure train of reasoning, a weight of authority both human and Divine against me, and strong grounds for suspecting that my wishes had directed my decision. As I have said, moral decisions do not admit of mathematical certainty. It may be, after all, that Pacifism is right. But it seems to me very long odds, longer odds than I would care to take with the voice of almost all humanity against me.”[1]
I was very proud to see you in The Windsor Star. Be assured that what you are doing is good and that there are many of us back here in Canada who thank God for you.

God bless,

Ian Clary

[1] Clive Staples Lewis, “Why I Am Not A Pacifist” in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses (New York: HarperCollins, 1980), 90.

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