Calvin on the Beatitudes (Part 2 – The Price of Peace)

“Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are those who make peace, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted on account of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” -Matthew 5:8-10

“Imagine a man who has been quarreling with everyone and who is impatient and reckless in everything he does. Yet, on hearing some commotion, he turns up and tries to calm things down. ‘Enough!’ he says, ‘Let’s have peace!’ Or supposing he comes upon a riot, he intervenes and cries: ‘Now then, stop all this fighting!’ What authority would such a man have when, one minute, he loses his temper and storms and rages, and the next he tries to make peace with those around him? Understand that, to be peacemakers, we must first and foremost be peaceable ourselves. What exactly do I mean? Remember what was earlier said about the meek: meekness is part of being peaceable. If we are patient, it will not be our fault if we do not live in harmony and peace with other men. Why else do men inflict such suffering on one another, and war among themselves, and fight like cats and dogs, if not because they are impatient? No one can bear to be wronged, and we are so addicted to self-interest that we demand instant satisfaction; if we do not get it, we immediately take off the gloves. Then come recrimination and hostility, which turn to mortal hatred and the wish to kill and murder, with no one being spared. That is how impatience prevents men from living peaceably together; that is why we consciously chafe and fret, and why each of us is devil to his neighbor. We must learn, then, to cultivate patience, and so to lay aside self-interest and reputation that we readily forgive the wrongs done to us. That, I believe, is how we can be peaceable.

For the rest, it is not enough for us to avoid giving people cause to injure or trouble us. We must do whatever we can to keep peace among ourselves. That is what we must do, even if it means suffering loss as a result or surrendering some of our rights. For peace should be so precious to us – God after all commends it – that nothing else should matter to us.

Imagine someone who takes care not to stir up trouble or annoy anybody, and who instead tries hard to please everyone: whether he is given a hard time or not; he will gently put up with many wrongs rather than make a fuss. Even so, we are bound to follow our Lord’s precept here, and strive for peace in every place. So it is not enough to refrain from violence, ill-will or injury to others: when someone is wrong, we must resist, when innocent people suffer affliction, we should support them as much as we can, bringing them help and relief. When we see two people at odds with each other, we should feel pity for two souls redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who are in danger of perdition. We should grieve when victory goes to the devil, who is the prince of discord, and when God, who is the author of peace, is shut out. That thought should make us want to put an end to quarreling….We must not only be peaceable ourselves, but must also try as hard as we can to overcome hostility, to put out the fire once it is lit, and to avoid disputes of every kind.  Whenever we see people ready to yield to hatred, we should intervene early to set things right. We should not wait for Satan to win the day; we should get it first. That, briefly put, is what we must grasp.

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Calvin on the Beatitudes (Part 1 – Meekness & Mercy)

I have recently been reading through Calvin’s Sermons on the Beatitudes, which was one of my Christmas presents last year. I’ve found much of the chapter on Meekness and Mercy to be germane to the last discussion on service. In fact, I’ve found the section to be so relevant that I had a hard time selecting which excerpt to include. Rather than waste time wrestling through my decision impairment, I’ve decided to indulge myself and just do a series of posts with excerpts from this section of the book.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst on on account of righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for mercy will be shown them.” -Matthew 5:5-7

“We said earlier that although we are exposed to misfortune, trouble, oppression, and abuse, we can be truly happy because God blesses our sufferings when we look to him. In this verse, the Lord Jesus Christ takes believers one step further, teaching that as well as being meek and patient when we are afflicted, we must be at one with others in their distress, and so touched with compassion for their suffering as to look for ways of helping them, as if their pain were ours. I say again, since God has brought us together in order to make of us one body, all members are necessarily one, and each individual must take his share of suffering, in order to relieve those who can bear no more. That is the truth we must grasp here….And because God has bound us all together, no one can turn away and live only for himself . There is no room here for the indifference which promises tranquility and the pleasures of a comfortable life: we must enlarge our affections as the law of love requires.

So when we see some who are sick or poor or destitute, and others who are in trouble and distress of body or mind, we should say, ‘This person belongs to the same body as I do.’ And then we should prove by our deeds that we are merciful. We can proclaim our pity for those who suffer time without number, but unless we actually assist them, our claims will be worthless. There are plenty of people who will say, ‘Oh dear! How terrible to be like that poor man!’ Yet they simply brush it all aside, making no attempt to help. Expressions of pity stir no one into action. In short, this world is full of mercy if words are to be believed; in reality it is all pretence. St James vigorously condemns this attitude in chapter 2 of his Epistle. It is the height of insolence to say, ‘Ah me, what a shame!’, when no one is willing to lift a finger or even utter a word in order to help the distressed. We must learn, therefore, first to be kind and compassionate toward those who suffer; and then to make diligent use of the opportunities which God affords.”

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Ways to Serve Your Local Church

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” -Hebrews 10:24

Every congregation, no matter its size, at any given time will have a multitude of needs among its members. Some needs are more easily spotted than others, some more easily relieved than others. It is our calling as Christians to be discerning and proactive in coming alongside our brothers and sisters to help bear their burdens in these moments. Here are some bulleted ideas for your consideration on how to serve within your local church and community:

CALL, EMAIL, OR WRITE CARDS:

  • shut-ins, the sick or disabled
  • a friend who’s struggling
  • missionaries

COOK:

  • families experiencing illness, surgery, birth, death, etc.
  • prepare a dinner for single moms or wives with deployed husbands
  • new neighbors, and those needing extra help
  • replenish emergency freezer meals at church (individual or as a group)
  • always keep a freezer meal on hand for emergencies

CHILDCARE:

  • babysit (or trade childcare) for a mom/parents who could use a break
  • carpool
  • be a surrogate aunt or grandma to a family w/o close relatives
  • take a friend’s children out to the library, park movie, etc.
  • offer free babysitting (or gift certificates) for someone who’s financially stressed

INVITE:

  • a single mom or widow to have dinner with your family
  • a neighbor to participate in a community service project with you
  • a friend to coffee
  • a family for dinner or dessert (not just on Sundays)
  • singles from church

TRANSPORTATION:

  • elderly, disabled, etc.
  • those needing rides to/from airport, doctor’s appts.
  • ride to and from church services, activities, meetings

HELP THOSE IN CRISIS

  • be the “point person” for complex circumstances/situations
  • head up (or co-lead) a support group
  • volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center

PRACTICAL HELPS:

  • clean! Be part of a team, or just run in to clean one bathroom
  • rake, weed, garden
  • do someone’s laundry
  • grocery shopping/running errands
  • respite care
  • minor home repair

I’m sure there are plenty of other opportunities to serve that have been left out…please feel free to share those below in the comment section. (The majority of the this post, BTW, is borrow directly from a church bulletin which a friend shared with me–I take no credit)

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Female Deacons in the PCA?

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this year’s GA will entertain an overture requesting the BCO be adapted to allow ordination of female deacons. Actually, I just didn’t want to believe my ears. This overture should really come as no surprise. My pastor along with other friends in the PCA have been predicting it for years based on previous compromises within our denomination on issues like the Lord’s Day, Subscription, etc. Now it’s here. Let’s examine it. I have copied the supporting argument directly from the body of Overture 9, which is in bold below, and have added my commentary after each section individually:

 

Overture to the PCA from the session of liberti church regarding changes to BCO 9-3, to allow churches to ordain women as deacons

 

Whereas BCO identifies deacons as necessarily men and only allows a particular Session to “appoint godly men and women to assist the deacons . . .” (BCO 9-7);

 

I’m not entirely sure if the this section quotes the BCO as a premise or just background. It is likely an attempt to frame the current, expedient use of laymen/laywomen assisting deacons in a way that it might seem as though the language of the BCO already allows women to fulfill the same duties as deacons. Doing so would bring the argument one small semantic step closer to being able to jump to the conclusion that the only difference between a layman/laywoman assisting a deacon and holding office as a deacon is the title. Sadly it has become a common practice within the PCA to have “unofficial” female deacons who are actually fulfilling all the duties of elected deacons without bearing the title. This practice, of course, is already out of accord with both the spirit and the letter of law since such practice is an obvious overextension of any working definition of “assisting.”

Furthermore, if these helpers’ duties were intended to be tantamount to actually serving as deacons, there would be no reason for the language of the BCO to include “godly men” among those able to assist deacons since men are free to actually serve in this office.

 

I also find it odd that in this small quote from BCO 9-7 several words are omitted without being marked by proper punctuation (“…”). The BCO actually reads “appoint godly men and women from the congregation to assist the deacons…”

 

 

Whereas Romans 16:1 names a woman, Phoebe, as a deacon (literal Greek translation) and clearly calls her “sister” (therefore a woman serving in that calling);

 

The most literal Greek translation of δικονος is actually “servant” not “deacon.” Even though δικονος can mean “deacon,” the word always carries the denotation of “servant” since a deacon is always a servant, but a servant is not always a deacon. As it is used within the context of Romans 16, I understand it to mean Phoebe was helping/ministering to the church and not serving in the official role of a deacon: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.” If we look at the role of Phoebe in this scenario she is functioning as a servant to Paul as a letter-bearer and is also known to help others generally within the church. A similar example would be Onesimus, who helped Paul in writing his letter to Philemon, due to Paul’s physical impairments at that time, and delivered the epistle as a servant in Christ, not as a deacon in the church. Though I suppose it is possible for her to have been a deacon based on this verse, it’s really more far-fetched and at best, would be a poor supporting proof for female deacons as it is still ambiguous etc. We’ll have to let Scripture interpret Scripture here, which I believe 1 Timothy 3 does clearly.

 

Whereas 1 Timothy 3:11 speaks of “their women” connected with the deacons (not wives, as the NIV interprets), yet has no similar statement about wives of elders—a much more significant role—this interpretive translation of the NIV is questionable, and suggests that Paul meant for women to be included as deacons in our churches;

 

Now here is where the argument falls apart. I’ve included the preceding section of 1 Timothy 3 as well which discusses the qualification of elders. I placed both sections for elders and deacons together since there is a natural parallelism between the two offices. The qualifications for deacons begins in vs. 8:

1 Timothy 3

1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

8 Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

 

Okay, so the argument is based on the clarity of whether γυν is better translated as “wives” or “women” in vs. 11. Considering the same noun is used again in vs. 12, I’m going to assume context clues can assist us in finding an accurate translation. Here are our options: “Deacons must be the husband of one wife” OR “Deacons must be the husband of one woman” OR “Deacons must be the man of one wife” OR “Deacons must be the man of one woman.” Naturally, this is not a qualification any woman can fulfill however you translate it.

 

Whereas the office of deacon is an office of service rather than ruling, with no word or teaching gifts required for it, therefore it is consistent with Paul’s defined gender roles within the body to allow women to serve as deacons in the church;

 

According to what we just discussed in 1Timothy, it’s not in accord with the prescribed gender roles of Scripture. Proponents of female deacons have to qualify their arguments by claiming the office of deacon is somehow completely different from the office of elder because, in their estimation, that would just be taking it too far. Since the success of their agenda necessitates the demolition of certain barriers restricting gender roles in the church, they become caught in a vain attempt to keep evangelical feminism from rushing into the Church toward it’s logical conclusion–female elders. In a sense, they want to drill holes in a concrete levy and then cover it with Spackle. How long could it possibly hold?

 

Whereas it has become common practice in the PCA across many churches and presbyteries to allow churches to elect and commission women to serve as deacons equal to men serving in the office (which is out of order with BCO 9-7);

 

This defense simply makes me sad. Rather than take action against a practice that is admittedly out of accord with the Book of Church Order, the argument is to change the standard not the practice. So, not only did we know it was going on, we waited until it became “common” before we said anything. I suppose it does make for a much more substantial muscle to flex—“No need to cause a big stink. We just need you guys to shuffle a few papers and make the majority happy.” What the writers of this overture may not realize is that, at some point, they will no longer be in the majority. Eventually a majority of “radical” liberals will submit an overture requesting women be allowed to do “non-authoritative” readings and prayers from the pulpit, and if adapting the Standards has already become the new standard, anything will be possible. Our denomination would follow the same course as the PCUS–changing the Standards one jot and tiddle at a time until they are unrecognizable. Wouldn’t it make more sense for a congregation or even a presbytery to switch its membership to a denomination that has already made these compromises rather than staying in the PCA?

 

Whereas the practice of commissioning women to the office of the deacon and ordaining men to the same office is inconsistent in its approach to office and therefore an injustice;

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course it is inconsistent. As stated previously in the overture, this “common” practice of commissioning women is out of line with the BCO, so in order to make it fit we would have plow down more of the natural barriers established to prevent the ordination of women. I also noticed how Feminist language is manifested within the pragmatic appeals of the overture here and again later on with please of “injustice” and “oppression.”


Whereas ordination is to a particular office of elder or deacon and not conferral of general “rule” within the church, and is instead, conferral of status necessary to fulfill the calling of a particular office;
I don’t exactly understand this section. Maybe someone else could address this in the comments?

Whereas a position on the ordination of women as deacons does not strike at the “vitals of religion;”

As a denomination we are in danger. We are trusting ourselves with little changes here and there to suit capricious desires of fallible men and women.“It is but a little one,” is the lie Satan would have us believe when, in fact, this overture could cause our denomination to lose one of the 9 marks of a true church—Biblical Understanding of Leadership. In fact, if it is passed, then the means to this end would actually be the loss of another mark—Biblical Church Discipline. Rather than expecting repentance from those who refuse to conform to our Standards, we are instead bringing charges against the Standards and demanding they change.

 

Whereas the gifts of women in our congregations are arguably underutilized by denying them the opportunity to use their gifts in accordance with Scripture as an ordained deacon;

 

I certainly agree that the “gifts of women in our congregations are arguably underutilized in our churches.” However, since ordination of women as deacons is NOT in accordance with Scripture, this is NOT an outlet for female ministry. If we pursue that which is out of accord with God’s revealed will, then it will not be a blessing to the church. Instead, it will serve as a curse to the church. The current outlines for the office of deacon within the BCO is not that which keeps us as women from ministering within the church; it is our sinful nature and love for comfort and ease that causes us to neglect our duties and privileges within Christ’s Church. All Christians are called to love one another and to be servants, and as women we can certainly be proactive in considering how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds, to consider the poor or sick, or to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Women can serve the church in many capacities (and have been for generations prior to this overture). I’ll take this as a natural transition to state that my desire for this blog is to discuss Biblical outlets for women in the church—outlets that do not necessarily come with titles or recognition but yet still serve the Kingdom by the means which God has seen fit to bless.

 

 

 

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A Godly Mother’s Advice

I found the following excerpt to be a helpful reminder to obey Christ’s command “watch and pray;” it is taken from Life in Jesus: A Memoir of Mrs. Mary Winslow, Arranged From Her Correspondence, Diary, and Thoughts. by Her Son Octavius Winslow, D.D.

TO HER CHILDREN

“….Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall, is an admonition that should cause us to look narrowly to our own way, and not to cast the first stone at a fallen brother, but rather pray for such a one. Beware, my dear, dear children, of the first declension from Christ. Examine your hearts, and bring them daily, yea hourly, to Jesus, with all that you find evil there; and He will subdue it, and give you the victory. Never sit down to reason with your own heart, for it is deceitful; but fly to your true, your tried Friend, and He will never disappoint nor deceive you. Never neglect private prayer; and plead hard with Jesus for a constant and abiding spirit of prayer, so that you can lift up your heart to Him wherever you are, or in whatever you may be engaged. Plead much for the promised indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Be cautious of grieving this most blessed Guest of your souls; and when you do, go immediately to Christ, and He will wash it all away. Avoid light, trifling professors of religion; their influence will be as poison to your souls. Be very cautious to whom you open your heart. Make no one your confidant but Jesus. Oh, commune with Him of all that is in your heart. If you are wounded, go and tell Christ. If you are in need, go and tell Christ, —the silver and the gold are His. If you are in perplexity or difficulty, through your own imprudence or otherwise, go not to an arm of flesh, nor sit down to consider how you are to obtain deliverance; but go directly to Jesus, and tell Him all, all; and He will appear for you, and bring you out of all, by suggesting to your minds the right means to be used, and following them with His blessing. Oh, I beseech you to do this, and may the Lord incline you to do so for His name’s sake! Amen and amen.”

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Probatio Pennae

So what kind of name is The Cellar Door? Well, it’s a great one. As you may already be aware, Cellar door has commonly been recognized as the most aesthetically pleasing word in English, a rumor reportedly begun by Tolkien. I have chosen it as the title of this blog for that simple reason–it sounds good, and though it serves admittedly as a somewhat unoriginal title, it ultimately serves its purpose as a catchy one. If you are not fully convinced of the awesomeness that is cellar door, let’s look to the most trustworthy of all resources, Wikipedia:

The phrase cellar door has some notoriety as the reputedly most euphonic sound combination of the English language (specifically, when spoken with a British accent). A more recent example of an allegedly ugly-sounding word is blog.

Other than that, the name doesn’t carry any intended symbolic meaning. I suppose I could say something pseudo-snazzy like, “The Cellar Door is that modest portal through which I pass into this wide, wide, world of web and take my place in its vast blogosphere.”

May the Lord Jesus Christ be glorified and His Church edified.


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