Monday, September 29, 2008

About the N.E. Michigan Reformation Society

It’s been about two years now that a gathering of a half dozen men met at Grace Community Church in Oscoda, Mi. It was the desire and passion of these men to see the doctrines of Grace proclaimed to the Christian community of northern Michigan. Pastor Tom Burbridge was our first pastor chair. Pastor Jeremy Lee for the past year has been our pastor leader. Beginning in January '09 Pastor Jeff Ryan will officiate as pastor chair.

This is the crux of the matter:

"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Col. 2:8).

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).

" Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ "(Rom. 5:1).

"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).

Our pastor in church on Sunday prayed a prayer I believe I have never heard in a congregational meeting. He prayed a prayer of repentance for himself and his congregation. It was not a short prayer of repentance; it was quite long and thorough. I bowed my heart feeling as though the pastor’s passionate hands were on me personally.

This is the ministry of the NE Michigan Reformation Society. We are a Para-Church organization. Our goal is to be a help to local churches.

We are not a society that meets for coffee to talk politics, church growth methods etc. We meet to encourage all of the sufficiency of God’s Holy Word in every ministry and walk of life God into which God leads us. We meet to repent of our worldliness, and to seek the knowledge of God as led by the Holy Spirit through Bible studies and encouragement. We pray for the reformation of churches, for His guidance through His Word; we pray that Congregations everywhere will use Scripture Alone as their only rule for faith and practice. Our passion is the reformation of all Northern Michigan.

"My neighbor came by a couple days ago. He is a "twice immersed, hand raised convert after singing the song ten times unbeliever." He has a telescope that he has invited me to use to visit the heavens more closely. I mentioned that the Milky Way was so large that it would take 4 million light years to cross it traveling at the speed of the shuttle at 18,000 mph. He said that that was proof God didn’t make the stars and the universe because God could not possibly make anything that big. To a screeching halt I came. "Who do you think God is? Is He a man like you and I? Is He a human being? No, God is a spirit." He is all powerful and everywhere. God made everything. Harold Camping made this serious mistake on his Christian radio program. He didn’t know how God could hear the prayers of millions; he just trusted that God heard. Wow! What does the Scripture say?

"He who comes to God must believe that He is."

"We are justified by faith, faith comes by hearing, hearing comes by the Word of God."It is the Word of God that saves.

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).

What about Psalms 139, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me" (vs. 7-10).

God is everywhere all the time in every event. Nothing escapes Him. We call Christians everywhere to repentance, worship, and total dependence on His Word, thus all will be saved who repent, worship, and depend upon Him.

The NE Michigan Reformation Society will soon be in its third year as a presence in NE Michigan. I have been very blessed to have met many pastors and lay people who have a heart for the message that the Cambridge Declaration brings, ie, the five Solas of the Christian reformation: Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, to the Glory of God Alone. I want to express my appreciation for the love each brother has shown me. I trust I can reciprocate in like manner. This note is a thank you.

"Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20, 21).

Ken Clouse
Lay Leader
NE Michigan Reformation Society

Monday, September 22, 2008

Encouragement to Proclaim the Gospel in All Its Fullness

The need is great for Christians to proclaim the full truth of the Biblical gospel and trust God to effectually work in the hearts of people, as sometimes the way we evangelize is far fom what Jesus taught and His apostles practiced.

Why is it that the church has so many who "make decisions" yet so few who are actually committed to Christ, live transformed lives, and deny themselves & take up the cross of discipleship & follow Him? Why is it that so many who have said “yes” to Christ (and who have been told by somebody that they are now eternally saved) will apparently one day stand before Him and hear Him say the words of Matthew 7:23, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”?

Could it be because too often what these people have said “yes” to isn’t the gospel at all, but an abbreviated form of the truth that has barely mentioned the character of God and the nature of sin? Could it be that in our zeal to reach the lost and save as many as possible we are proclaiming a gospel of our own design--a gospel designed not to offend, a gospel that can be accepted by proud, unrepentant people who don't understand who God is or how grievously they have offended Him with their sin?

We need to be more familiar with the evangelism of Jesus (like with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, and the rich young ruler) and the evangelism of the apostles than we are with the current popular techniques to get a crowd and get positive responses. We need to trust the Biblical gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit and not our own persuasiveness. We need to remember that we are like Ezekiel, called to speak God's Word to a bunch of dry bones, trusting God to raise up a great army for His name. We need to be faithful to speak the truth!

Pastor Jeff Ryan
Calvary Bible Church
Rogers City, MI

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Disturbing News from My Alma Mater

I discovered a conference at my alma mater, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, on Founders Ministry website( and sent the following letter to the president in response.

Dear Dr. Donnie Fox,

I am a 2005 graduate of Clear Creek. I became concerned when I recently saw an article in the Western Recorder advertising a conference at Clear Creek entitled: The Challenge of Calvinism. A conference to address the problem of Calvinism.

I have been disturbed since my time at CCBBC at its response to Calvinism. When I came to CCBBC in 2000, I had no idea what Calvinism was, but I was shortly introduced to the beliefs of Calvinism. However, for most of my time at CCBBC, I was not a Calvinist. I was still bothered at how Clear Creek responded to Calvinism (the firing of Dr. Castleton, especially and falsely accusing Calvinist students of proselytizing). My feeling at the time was that rather than attacking Calvinists as the enemy we should embrace them as fellow believers with whom we disagree.

In my experience, the students of CCBBC were ignorant of Calvinism; consequently, the rejection of it was a rejection of the caricature and not the actual theology. Because of the schools response to Calvinism, students remain ignorant of both Calvinism and Arminianism; therefore, they cannot adequately wrestle with the challenges of God’s sovereignty and humanity’s free will. I feel a conference that would facilitate a dialogue between Calvinism and Arminianism would better benefit students. Rather than, a one sided diatribe against Calvinism.

Clear Creek’s reaction is also bothersome because it is denial of its confession of faith: the New Hampshire Confession. According to Lumpkin (this is the book I used for Baptist Doctrine class at CCBBC), “The New Hampshire confession…sought to restate its Calvinism in very moderate tones.”[1] The New Hampshire Confession asserts both monergistic regeneration and unconditional election, which as far as I know no professor at CCBBC affirms even though they sign this statement of faith when hired. In addition, it is my understanding that at least some of the founders of CCBBC were Calvinists.

Why is CCBBC so concerned that some of its students or faculty might embrace the doctrines that brought about the Protestant Reformation? Would CCBBC have a conference to keep these men from being pastors and missionaries: Adoniram Judson, Charles Spurgeon, BH Carroll, John Broadus, James P. Boyce, and WA Criswell all of whom claimed to be Calvinists?

My problem really is not that CCBBC is not Calvinistic as much as its hostility towards those who are. It is a sad day when my alma mater is holding conferences condemning the beliefs I hold dear.

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church

[1] Lumpkin, William L. Baptist Confessions of Faith (Judson 1969) pg. 360

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Repentance Unto Life

The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them."

Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’

"I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

"The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’

This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

"Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’

"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?"

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life" (Acts 11:1-18 NIV).

What is repentance unto life?

Contextually, this "repentance to life" is the faith induced by hearing the Good News of God's provision of complete forgiveness in Christ.

The conclusion was forced by undeniable evidence of the Holy Spirit coming to the just-believing Gentiles who did not submit to Jewish regulations in the Law for God's supreme blessing promised to Israel--the Holy Spirit. (They may have supposed that the all flesh portion of the promise meant all flesh which binds itself to keeping God's covenant with Israel.)

It is a summary phrase equivalent to what some today call conversion, accepting Christ, trusting Christ, coming to Christ, et. al.. However, Russian Evangelical Baptists will ask you, "When did you repent?" rather than "When did you accept Christ?"

It describes what God did which brought about the reception of the correct heart attitude (which is repentance). It is the ministry and work of God upon which all preaching relies for effectiveness. So, Paul told Timothy to patiently teach opponents "in the hope that God would grant them repentance, leading to a knowledge of the truth that they may escape the trap of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will." Repentance is a desire to embrace God's truth and the perfection of God. It is what was rejected and abandoned in the garden. This is a gift from God which He must grant to people who have been running from His truth trying to escape reason and reach a demonic fantasy.

Thank you, Father, for your supreme gifts. In Christ's great name, Amen!

Pastor Brian Tidd
Big Rock Congregational Church
Atlanta, MI

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Plea for Faithful Ministry 2

The first key for the faithful minister is to embrace the gospel. In addition, he must accept the Bible as the standard of truth.

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:13 NASB).

When sound, which means healthy, is used with doctrine or word, it means correct teaching or doctrine. Some believe that there must exist an authoritative church to maintain pure doctrine. Others hold that Christ is the standard by which all teachings are to be judged. However, Paul is teaching in this text that his teachings are the doctrinal standard for the church. Since Paul's teachings are contained in Scripture, the New Testament Scriptures are the standard of truth for the church. The Apostle Peter also upholds the Scriptures as the authoritative standard: "Remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles" (2 Peter 3:2 NASB). The church should never rule over Scripture, but she should submit to all its teachings and uphold the teachings of the Scripture. Only then is the church and her ministers fulfilling their mission. In addition, one can certainly agree that Christ is the ultimate standard of truth, but this begs the question: how does one know anything about Christ outside of Scripture? Scripture is our only inerrant source of information about Christ; therefore, Scripture, the written Word of God must be the standard of a faithful minister.

When a minister accepts the Bible as the standard of truth, it ought to affect his ministry. He should take diligent care that his teaching matches the teaching of the Bible. This is best accomplished by expository preaching, which enables the pastor to preach"the whole counsel of God." It also enable the pastor to preach authoritatively because he is preaching not the latest fad or opinion poll, but the God inspired, authoritative Word of God.

Men, let us be faithful ministers by embracing the gospel and accepting the Bible as the standard of truth.

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church