Last week I had the privilege of attending the 182nd Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America in Marion, Indiana. For my Indian brothers who are unfamiliar with the concept of a synod, here is a simple definition: a synod is the highest court of a presbyterian church. Elders from across denomination come together to consider matters which affect the entire denomination.
Delegates of RP Synod 2013
I will not be able to describe each day of the Synod (as has been done here) but I am simply going to list the main things that I learned from attending it.
Synod Exemplified God’s Generational Faithfulness
The moderator of the Synod constituted the court by saying: “Welcome to the 182nd synod of Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.” Immediately all those passages in Psalms which speak of fathers teaching their children the word of God generation after generation came to my mind. I was so thankful that God has preserved this church (now my church!) for the last 182 years. In my estimation, the RP church has remained faithful to God for this long because she has clearly confessed her theology through the Westminster standards and RP Testimony and has passed this legacy on to her children generation after generation. Presbyterian polity, which she inherited from her Scottish forefathers, has also given her ecclesiastical robustness. Of course, none of these ecclesiastical features in and of themselves insulate her from apostasy but God has used these to keep her faithful. And for these reasons I was thrilled to be part of the RP synod. Continue reading
Back in 2004, I was a young Christian. I was zealous for the Lord and dreamt big things for the Lord. In that year, I was attending a conference and in that conference we were asked to get together in groups and come out with a vision for Christ particular to India. Four of us got together and we came up with an idea, largely at my initiative, which seemed absolutely outlandish. I led the group in drawing an outline of India with the Parliament building at its center, and with an open Bible at its center. All this was to say that one day Jesus Christ will be acknowledged even by the Indian government. One member of my group, although he had reluctantly agreed to go with my idea, after our presentation, smiled at me and said that I am dreaming an impossibility. Although I resented his comment at that time, in the course of years, after I was introduced to the radical Dispensational eschatology and a missional theology that interprets all occurrences of the word “nation” in the New Testament as “people groups”, I myself felt that I had entertained silly ideas and gave up my “childish ways.” Continue reading
Although I arrived in US only a month and a half ago for my seminary internship here at Second RP, I have found myself preaching to my new local church three times! I have done two psalm explanations and have preached once in the evening service in this short time. The first two times I went up to the pulpit I had my detailed sermon notes firmly tucked into my Bible lest I forget what I am going to say! I faced the congregation, an American one, with a lot of trepidation. Keeping the time limit and following my outline was on top of my mind. All this seemed like an examination in which I was desperately trying to excel often causing me anxiety. Continue reading
RSI stands for Reformation Society of Indiana. RSI is a fellowship of churches who hold to the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation. Leaders from Presbyterian, Congregational, Baptist and Independent churches from around central Indiana come together for luncheon meetings once in two months to study and discuss the word of God, and encourage one another in prayer. I went for one such luncheon a week before and I was thoroughly blessed.
Pastor Rich and I drove to Gray Road Baptist Church at noon and were warmly greeted by the church staff who were busy preparing lunch for us. After twenty minutes of our arrival, people started trickling in and I was able to fellowship with a few brothers before the meeting. One among them was Bob Amon, a Princeton graduate, who has shared about his faith in Jesus Christ on national radio unapologetically. His testimony encouraged me tremendously. Continue reading
A few days ago I had the joy of being part of a presbytery meeting of the Great Lakes Gulf Presbytery of the RPCNA. This was my first ever opportunity to witness the functioning of a presbyterian church and I was really excited. The agenda of the meeting was to examine two candidates; one candidate was examined to be ordained for pastoral ministry and the other was examined to be given a license to preach. Continue reading
The last two points of Calvinism are known as Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of Saints. The form the I and P of the TULIP acronym.
By Irresistible Grace we mean that it is the Holy Spirit who calls a sinner out of his deadness in sin and makes him alive in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:15; Col2 :13; 1 John 5:1). This call – which is often termed as the internal call or effectual call – cannot be resisted. There are plethora of passages from which this doctrine can be proved. I will choose just two. In John 6: 37, Jesus says that all whom the Father has given him will come to him. On the other hand, in John 6:44 , he says that no one come to the him unless the Father draws that person. These two verses form a logical construct called syllogism. From these two verses we can easily conclude that all that God the Father draws towards Jesus will put their faith in Jesus; and none but these only. This ‘drawing’ happens through agency of the Holy Spirit (Eze 37:3-6, 11-14; Joh 3:3-8). This act of drawing a sinner or making him alive is termed in theology as Regeneration. Continue reading
I owe a great deal of debt to John Bunyan. When I was going through a crisis in my life, it was his book, the Pilgrim’s Progress, which brought me immense comfort and encouragement. The same book also introduced me to Calvinistic theology, a set of doctrinal truths which have become the anchor of my soul. So as I went through another difficult season in my life I did not hesitate to turn to another of Bunyan’s writings to find solace and encouragement. This time it was his autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.
This book is short account of the most important phases of Bunyan’s life. Bunyan recounts his pre-conversion years (1-117), his evangelical experience (118-132), his fight with temptations and his victory over them (133-264), his pastoral ministry, his imprisonment and his trials. One of his friends adds a brief account of his death and his character. Continue reading
Son of Hamas – A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices . The tag line of this book should probably have read - A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices which all worked together for the good of someone who loves God and is called according to his purpose.
Mosab Hassan Yousef, popularly known as the Son of Hamas, by virtue of being the eldest son of a founding member of Hamas- a Palestinian terrorist organization – is now, can you believe it, a son of God. This book takes you right into the heart of Israel-Palestine politics. It gives you a first hand account of the ideologies and motives behind the actions that have split the earth beneath them. And Mosab does all this not from a wishy-washy secular perspective but from a Biblical perspective, which is why this book is a delightful reading for any Christian. Continue reading
Continuing from my previous post, here I would like to mention a few things in Think which I found to be unpersuasive and sometimes disturbing. I realize that these points, on which I am going to comment on, are larger aspects of Piper’s theology and not the main points of this book itself. Disagreements on these points did not rob me of the benefits I derived from this book.
Also I should mention that while doing this exercise I am greatly aware that I am toddler in theology and layman with far lesser experience and maturity than John Piper, who has served the Lord for well over 35 years. Also, since I do not want to sound acrimonious, which has come to characterize much of Reformed blogosphere, I am going to address John Piper as Bro. Piper in order to always remind myself that he is my brother in the Lord and not some third person whom I delight in critiquing. Continue reading
Think is a neat little book written by John Piper. As the title suggests, it is a book on thinking. More importantly, it is a book on how thinking is related to loving God – the great commandment that all Christians are called to fulfill.
In this book John Piper contends that thinking is something wholly indispensable for a Christian; but it is not an end in itself. It serves the larger purpose of loving God. And what is loving God? The essence of loving God is treasuring him above all things. All thinking is but a means to this end. This is the main thesis of the book. The following sentence may capture the essence of the book
“loving God with the mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things. Treasuring God is the essence of loving him, and the mind serves this love by comprehending (imperfectly and partially, but truly) the truth and beauty and worth of the Treasure” (Page 19) Continue reading
October 31 2010 was the 493rd anniversary of what has now come to be known as the Reformation Day. On the same day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg. That event sparked off the Protestant Reformation which altered the course of Christian History decisively.
However, sadly, this event has been forgotten with the passage of time. Indian Christians, especially, have very little knowledge about it. Hardly any churches have this important day in their church calendar to commemorate it. Many also think that since the Reformation got sparked off in Europe, it is something specific to that geographical region and is probably irrelevant to Indian Christians. However, as I pointed out, this event was so crucial to the universal visible church as a whole that it shapes our church life even to this day. All of us who identify ourselves as protestants need to know what we are protesting about. Hence it is good to remind ourselves of the real issues in the Reformation.
Continuing from the previous post, here I want to give a few suggestions on how to choose good books. Before I give suggestions, I would like to define what I mean by “good” books. A “good” christian book is not necessarily one with which you will agree on everything. A “good” christian book, according to me, is one which follows sound theology (2 Tim 1:13), at least for the most part, and presents clear and cogent arguments for its claims and conclusions . This applies even to Christian fiction and poetry (for they too convey some theology). A book may be well written, but that does not make it good automatically. Take for example Purpose Driven Life. Its a book which is well-organized. You can follow Warren’s arguments very easily. However, many of my respected teachers (and I am persuaded) deem it not good since it does not have sound theology and does not follow sound patterns of interpretation.
Now having said all this, my definition begs the questions – What is “sound theology”? Well, I believe Calvinism and Reformed Theology is sound. Not everyone will agree with me. That’s fine. Nevertheless, this does highlight the fact that you should first get convinced of what sound theology is . If you make up your mind on that you will be in a much better position to choose good books. If you haven’t, you may choose books which shed light on the questions you are grappling with. See, already we are getting into a rational process of choosing good books! So, with that said, let me move on to my suggestions. Continue reading
Come November/December and the Christian village in Bangalore goes on a book buying spree. Reason – mega Christmas book sales. The biggest book sale of them all is the Bangalore International Christian Book Fair conducted by OM Books. Thousands and thousands of books are strewn all over the Campus Crusade Hall for people to buy. Its a sale for which people make a beeline even before the sale begins and certainly during the whole week.
However, many a times when I observed the way people buy books(me included; at least some years ago), I found a strange similarity between it and the way people buy vegetables in a grocery store! Just glance at all the books, take some of them, look at the front and the back, if you like it, put them into the basket (even the baskets in these sales look a lot like the ones in grocery store) and head to the billing counter. This is a hyperbole of course. People do take into account whether the books fall somewhere in their sphere of interest and then decide to buy it. However, many a times the reason to buy a particular book stops there. One more reason may be that its a book which is being sold in OM Book Sale; alas! it has to be good since it is found a Christian book fair, right? Continue reading
As I was meditating through the book of Philemon one verse particularly caught my attention.
I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment (Phm 1:10; NASB).
It produced a strange warmth in my heart. The reason for this is the the intimate language Paul employs while pleading Onesimus’ case with Philemon. This verse seems to echo John 3:16 since KJV and NASB both employ the word “begotten” (KJV also uses “son”). Paul’s care for his disciples was like that of a father for his son.
This does not seem to be an isolated verse where Paul uses such intimate language. As I looked through other letters of his’, such language abounds. Paul called Timothy his “beloved child in faith”(2 Tim1:2). Titus was his “true child in the common faith” (Tit 1:4). This language was not confined to individuals, he applied them even to churches. When the Corinthian church was being torn apart by sectarianism, he informed them that though they may have many guides yet they have only one father in the Gospel – he was their father in the Gospel (1 Cor 4:15). When Galatians were being led astray by the circumcision party, Paul chided them and corrected them. He later added that he “was in pains of childbirth till Christ was formed in them.” He intensely desired to be with them in order to protect them from this damning heresy(Gal 4:19-20). Continue reading
The book of Philemon is a short letter written by Paul to Philemon in which he pleads with him to take back his (Philemon’s) runaway slave, Onesimus, who had now become a Christian. The way Paul goes about doing this is something exemplary and contains many lessons for us – out of which we will concentrate on one. Continue reading