31 December 2012

The Order of Salvation (Ordo Salutis)

Adult Sunday school class on the Ordo Salutis by Elder Mark Van Drunen.

24 December 2012

Candlelight Christmas Eve Service

We invite you
to join us for our
Christmas Eve
at 7pm
24 December 2012

Everyone is

    And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
    “Glory to God in the highest,
        and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
(Luke 2:8-14 ESV)

11 December 2012


Our expectations of this life are far too great and those of the life to come are way too small.  These unrealistic expectations, when disappointed, lead to much of the depression and discouragement experienced by professing Christians.  As the wise man observes, Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prv 13:12).  Either delayed gratification or unmet expectation will “sicken” the soul with disappointment.  Many modern Christians are sick because they know not what to expect from life in a fallen world and cannot begin to anticipate the glorious life of heaven.  Having expectations “out of whack” they live an imbalanced, unstable and disheartened Christian life.

Let us start with this life.  What should we expect?  At the very least, according to Genesis 3, we should anticipate painful childbirths, fractured relationships, wearisome toil, exasperating problems and inevitable death.  This explains, in part, why Paul calls it the present evil age (Gal 1:4).  Sin has infiltrated, contaminated and devastated every aspect of human life such that our Lord Himself made reference to this adulterous and sinful generation (Mk 8:38).  It is an evil generation! (Lk 11:29).  Death has spread to all men (Ro 5:12) and cemeteries litter the earth’s surface as reminders of sin’s ruinous consequences.  The golden years of retirement are actually evil days and days of darkness (Eccl 12:1; 11:8).  No wonder Solomon threw up his hands at one point and exclaimed, All is vanity! (Eccl 1:2).  In addition, the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1Jn 5:19).  Satan has usurped authority in this age and as the god of this world he has blinded the minds of the unbelievers (2Cor 4:4).  So the mass of unbelieving humanity, unable and unwilling to grasp spiritual truth (1Cor 2:14), now hates the light (Jn 3:20), hates the Lord (Ro 1:30) and hates the followers of Christ (Jn 15:19).  We should not be surprised, therefore, at the fiery trial when it comes upon us as though something strange were happening (1Pt 4:12).  We should expect it!  John says the world is passing away along with its desires (1Jn 2:17).  It is a fallen world, a futile age, a fading universe.  Here we must eat the bread of adversity and drink the water of affliction (Is 30:20).  God in His mercy continues to bestow good things on just and unjust alike (Mt 5:45).  But all our days are full of sorrow, and our work is a vexation.  Even in the night our hearts do not rest (Eccl 2:23).  Should we not then frame our expectations of this life according to the biblical perspective and thereby avoid the heart-sick condition of dashed expectations?

Let us now consider the life to come.  What should we expect?  Paul alludes to what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him, and he tells us that God has revealed these things to us through the Spirit (1Cor 2:9-10).  That is, in Scripture we discover revelations of future blessedness, wonderful glimpses of heavenly glory.  Of course language itself fails to describe that remarkable state adequately, but the Bible provides plenty of revelatory gist for the mill of sanctified imagination!  With those ancient saints we desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one (Heb 11:16).  The heavenly Jerusalem of pure gold, clear as glass, has the glory of God so that its radiance is like a most rare jewel (Rev 21:11, 18).  The Lamb Himself illuminates this glorious city in which there never will be any darkness or corruption or sin (Rev 21:25-27).  In the midst of this city runs the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, and on either side is found the tree of life bearing twelve kinds of fruit for the healing of the nations (Rev 22:1-2).  From this place will be removed all griefs and sorrows because God Himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain (Rev 21:4).  Paul considers present hardships light momentary afflictions when he compares them to this eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2Cor 4:17).  This we may expect as Christians!  We need not lost heart!  If we frame our expectations biblically, we may avoid the heart-sick condition and live a faithful, hopeful, productive Christian life awaiting the adoption of sons, the redemption of our bodies (Ro 8:23).  With Paul we may consider the sufferings of this present time unworthy of comparison with that glory to be revealed to us (Ro 8:18).

The standing ministry of any church must try to help Christians frame their expectations along biblical lines.  Our preaching and teaching must highlight the reality of sin and misery on the one hand, and the truth of heavenly blessedness on the other.  The Lord Jesus Christ has dealt with the one and secured the other.  While unmet expectations sicken the heart, a desire fulfilled is a tree of life (Prv 13:12) and sweet to the soul (Prv 13:19).  May we press on by faith in the promise of God, and look forward to the day when our expectations are not only met but greatly exceeded. 

26 November 2012


In the ancient world, excessive pride or hubris was a prominent feature in classical tragedy.  For instance, in Homer’s Iliad the great, mythical conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon was borne out of the deep seated arrogance that permeated both men.  Of course hubris is not just a relic of the past, but is characteristic of every age.  That is because every child of Adam from the moment of conception is infected with this disease, and its symptoms are more or less evident throughout the whole of human experience.  No one is immune.  None is righteous, no, not even one! (Ro 3:10).

Take for example the shocking display of hubris in the life of Herod Antipas.  After delivering an oration arrayed in his imperial regalia, the Caesareans shouted, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” (Acts 12:22).  How foolish he was to welcome this false acclaim!  How excessively proud he was to withhold honor from God.  In the end, it was hubris that led to his gruesome demise.  An angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms (Acts 12:23).

Contrast this with the Paul’s experience in Lystra.  As he was preaching, a man lame from birth was listening and had faith to be healed.  With a penetrating stare Paul looked at him and said, “Stand upright on your feet” (Acts 14:10).  When the cripple sprang to his feet, the Lystrians shouted, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” (Acts 14:11).  Noteworthy was the influence of grace in Paul’s heart.  The temptation was great, but he refused to accept their idolatrous praise.  Unlike Herod, he knew himself to be but a sinful creature infinitely beneath the dignity of his Creator.

As the wise man warns, Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Prv 16:18).  Hubris plagues every human being to one degree or another.  It is something with which we all must struggle.  It reveals itself in countless ways across all walks of life.  Its ugly symptoms can be traced back to that original, diabolical, criminal desire to be like God (Gen 3:5).  The natural man like Herod welcomes the applause.  The spiritual man like Paul knows the truth.  With an enlightened mind he realizes that he is of like nature with the rest of fallen humanity.  It is a humbling insight.  But he also brings good news about turning from such vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them (Acts 14:15).  Amazingly, this living God holds out terms of amnesty to guilty rebels who are willing to lay down their hubris and humbly embrace the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.  Under the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, through the justifying virtue of saving faith, one may display genuine humility reflecting the character of Christ.  Only then may he truly become like God.

14 November 2012

Take up your cross

It seems the biblical idea of cross-bearing has been misunderstood.  Typically we think of the crosses we must bear as the various trials, temptations and hardships we inevitably undergo in this life.  Each of us endures difficulties in which we as Christians are called to exercise patience and through which we may trust in the wise fatherly care of our God.  Many today view these hardships as “crosses” to bear.  But this misses the mark of what Jesus means when He says, “Take up your cross.”  First, unsaved people endure the same hardships.  They suffer afflictions, experience hardships, lose loved ones and eventually die.  Yet we would not say they are “bearing crosses.”  Second, the command to take up the cross indicates that the disciple is active not passive in this duty.  While most of life’s difficulties are “laid upon” us, the Christian is to “take up” his cross.  Third, the instrument itself, the cross, is an instrument of torture and death.  It suggests a hostile activity, not a patient passivity.  We are to use this instrument of death to kill something, namely, our sin.  Fourth and finally, Luke’s rendition of our Lord’s command includes the word “daily”:  Let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Lk 9:23).  Cross-bearing is something disciples must do every day through the scope of their entire lives.  While ordinary hardships are often temporary and of limited duration, cross-bearing is to be daily, every day, on all days, from now until we draw our last breath.  A man does not carry his own cross for two blocks and pass it off to another.  He bears it all the way to his death!  For these reasons, cross-bearing must not refer to the personal disappointments, physical handicaps or difficult hardships we experience with the rest of mankind.  Afflictions will be as diverse as the number of afflicted.  But the cross will be the same.  Regardless of what we suffer, we are all to take up our cross.  So what is the duty of cross-bearing that is incumbent upon every disciple of Christ?

It begins with a sincere faith in the Lord Jesus and a humble reliance upon the Holy Spirit.  Whatever cross-bearing is, one cannot perform it without trusting in Christ and being empowered by His Spirit.  It also involves at the very least the daily and diligent use of God’s appointed means for killing sin.  To deny oneself is the negative aspect of the disciple’s duty.  One must abstain from indulging his sin and starve it to death.  To bear one’s cross is the positive aspect of the disciple’s duty.  One actively crucifies his sin with God-given means of grace, especially the word, sacraments and prayer.  The word is a sword with which the disciple identifies sin, lacerates lust and cuts out selfish ambition, evil desires, sinful sloth, ungodly materialism, etc.  It is a powerful instrument for putting to death self-interest, self-esteem, self-centeredness and self-importance.  Indeed, it is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12).  The sacraments are potent means of strengthening and equipping the disciple to fight this spiritual battle.  Luther often defended himself against the devil by saying, “I am baptized!”  The same can be said with regard to one’s own flesh.  “Flesh, would you indulge your sinful lusts?  I am baptized!  I am a communicant!  You will not prevail”  Interestingly, the disciple’s initial duties of self-denial and cross-bearing are matched by the disciple’s initial privilege of baptism (Mt 28:19).  The link between these discipleship firsts is noteworthy.  Specifically, without baptism (and the Lord’s Supper) these initial duties would be far more difficult to fulfill.  Prayer is indispensable in this battle with sin.  One cannot prevail without it.  Cross-bearing requires prayer.  No wonder the early church devoted itself to this discipline (Acts 2:42).  In fact, the whole panoply of spiritual armor enumerated by Paul concludes with an exhortation to be praying at all times in the Spirit (Eph 6:18).  This is how the disciple acknowledges his utter dependence on Christ to receive help in time of need.  We need His power and grace to mortify our sins.  Prayer seeks from the Lord that which only He can supply through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  To those who seem to lack power in overcoming sin and who find themselves flailing and floundering in their struggle with lust, perhaps it needs to be said, You do not have, because you do not ask (Jas 4:2).  Jesus assures us that the heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Lk 11:13).

There is far more to it than this.  Owen’s classic treatise on the mortification of sin is a masterful treatment of this topic.  But a sincere, Spirit-filled believer’s use of the means of grace is certainly a large part of this duty.  While we share in this life’s miseries with all of Adam’s children, as Christians we must be diligent in actively crucifying those sins that threaten our spiritual fruitfulness and well-being.  As Owen wisely advises, Be killing sin, or it will be killing you!  So attend the word.  Participate in the sacraments.  Engage in prayer.  Mortify sin.  Glorify and enjoy Christ.

15 October 2012

2012 Northern Ohio Reformed Fellowship Conference

Northern Ohio Reformed Fellowship 2012 Conference

On October 26th-27th, come and hear Don McNeil 
speak about the Reformation.
Northern Ohio Reformed Fellowship (NORF) is sponsoring a conference at Faith Presbyterian Church, 
with lectures on Friday Oct. 26th at 7:00 p.m.,
and Saturday Oct. 27th at 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
Preregister by emailing Kate Tasseff at faith.pca.akron@gmail.com with your name(s) and days which you will be attending.
The cost is $5 per person, $10 per family. Please pay upon arrival at the conference.
Don McNeil’s general topic for the conference will be “Religious Persecution During the Reformation.” More specific details about the lectures will be released soon.

Don McNeill serves with MTW and Africa Inland Mission in the areas of Theological Education. He is on staff at Westminster Theological College & Seminary in Uganda.

Don and Fran were reared in Mississippi and met at MS State where both received a Bachelor of Science. Don later earned a Master of Christian Education in 1979 and a Master of Divinity in 1994 from RTS, Jackson. Married for 35 years, they have four children, and grandchildren.

28 August 2012

True Courage

We once admired heroes.  Today we endure celebrities.  This regrettable situation is due in large part to the lack of courage.  One might define courage as that quality of the soul which enables a person to resolutely perform his duty in the face danger and difficulty.  In spite of fear and trepidation, the courageous person presses on in doing what he needs and is supposed to do.  This is what distinguishes the hero from an ordinary man.  The hero's display of courage makes him the object of admiration.  He becomes known for unusual valor, boldness or self-sacrifice.  The celebrity by contrast is just known.  He is famous for no distinguishing quality of character, but simply for God-given gifts or circumstances, such as birth, beauty, talent or riches.  These are things for which to be thankful but about which not to boast.  They testify to the goodness and glory of the Maker who gave them, not the greatness of the one who received them.
The hero deserves our respect because of his exercise of courage while the celebrity grabs our attention because of his place on the cultural stage.  The one inspires while the other simply entertains.  This generation seems to be far more interested in celebrities than heroes.  Perhaps that betrays a general lack of appreciation for truly heroic character.  It may also signify a scarcity of courage itself.  For whatever reason our generation has been robbed of heroes!  Or perhaps our attention has been so preoccupied with the celebrities on stage that we have failed to see heroes in the trenches.  Occasionally a few courageous men and women come to prominence leading and inspiring us by living for others and striving for causes greater than themselves.  But this is rare.  Why are they so few and seemingly obscure?  Is it because we are infatuated with short-lived celebrity and disinterested in praiseworthy heroism?  Or do modern people just lack courage?  Perhaps it is both.  That is why it is important to learn from the teaching of Scripture which highlights the importance of both .
Early in their training, the disciples were rebuked by Jesus for failing in this regard.  In a boat on the lake they were in the midst of a great storm, and they panicked.  These experienced fishermen gave in to fear despite Jesus' pledge to reach the other side (Mk 4:35).  Terrified, they awoke the Lord who not only rebuked the wind and calmed the sea but also said, Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith? (Mk 4:40).  He reveals the connection between faith and courage.  Simply stated it looks like this.  All those who believe are courageous.  You don't believe.  Therefore you're not courageous.  In other words, the disciples lacked courage because they lacked faith.  The former is an outgrowth of the latter.  If I believe Jesus – if I trust Him and take Him at His word – then I have no reason to be afraid.  After all, He upholds the universe and controls whatsoever takes place (Heb 1:3).  Nothing – absolutely nothing! – transpires apart from His infinite wisdom and sovereign power.  So if He is for me, who or what can possibly be against me? (Rom 8:31).  I may perform my duty without fear.  In the spirit of Stonewall Jackson I can say that until the day God calls me home, I am immortal.  If I take the Lord at His word, then I can face these evil days with a firm resolve to do my duty.  Under His blessing and by His grace, I can be a hero in my own right. 
We must be more specific about that faith which spawns godly courage.  It embraces three very important things:  God's cause, God's call and God's company.  Consider the example of Joshua.  The Lord says, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Josh 1:9).  Joshua is to be courageous because, first, he has been enlisted in the cause of God who commanded it.  Second, he has been called to this work by God who ordained it.  Third, he is accompanied by God who is with him in it.  There we find these three elements:  God’s cause, God’s call and God’s company.  Joshua led the people into Canaan with courage because he knew the cause was just, the work was his and the presence of God was with him.  In the same way, the disciples in the boat on the sea amid the storm should have displayed godly courage.  There was no need to panic.  Like Joshua, their cause was just, their call was plain, and their Lord was with them in the boat.  Their problem was that they lacked faith.  As a result of that, according to the Lord Jesus, they lacked courage.
Perhaps now we can redefine our concept of courage in light of this discussion.  It is that quality of the soul flowing from a sincere belief in God's cause, call and company that enables a person to resolutely perform his duty in the face of danger and difficulty.  This is the nature of true courage that animates genuine heroes.  It is what we ought to admire and take note of in our collective appreciation.  Paul says, pay honor to whom honor is due (Rom 13:7).  To those who display courage as outlined above, we should certainly pay honor.  Specifically, as we pray for laborers to work in God's harvest, our requests should reflect and be influenced by this understanding.
Today we are in desperate need of heroes who will act like men (1Cor 16:13).  Our culture shows signs of crumbling because of hero-famine.  The solution involves Christians becoming strong and courageous.  This will happen as we believe in God's cause and His call and His company.  Remember the cause for which we labor is just, for we are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God (Mt 6:33).  Keep in mind that the call of God is plain, for in no uncertain terms He has called us to salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2Th 2:13).  Collectively we have been commissioned by Christ to make disciples (Mt 28:19) and insofar as we are able, we are to contribute time, talents and treasure accordingly.  We may courageously become all things to all people so that by all means we might save some (1Cor 9:22).  Never forget that God's gracious company is assured, for as His parting promise to His beloved people, Jesus said, Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Mt 28:20).  Take Him at His word and press on in your duty.  Be courageous and act like men.  Follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the greatest Hero the world has ever seen.