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Archive for January, 2013


If there was one word to sum up this meeting, it would be transition. There was plenty of transition discussed at this meeting, and there will be more in the next year or so.

Our meeting began with a brief discussion of our plan for multiplication, which is currently in a holding pattern. Growth needs to take place for both new Presbyteries to be healthy. The Missions Committee needs to come up with a church planting plan, particularly for New Mexico and Texas. The Presbytery would need to invest in this plan.

We then quickly addressed that exciting business of the budget. It was disappointing to see that only about half of our churches contribute to Presbytery. Thankfully our congregation is one what will be added to that number.

We then moved to the BCO Amendments. We actually had some discussion of the first, regarding the recording of exceptions to the Standards for those seeking licensure. But the first 4 passed handily. The BCO Amendment to prohibit intinction did not receive as much discussion that I thought it would . Perhaps because the matter was essentially decided by the Presbyteries that had already voted. There was a question about the theological argument for intinction. We had to admit that not much has been provided aside from the focus on the unity of the body revealed in the one cup and loaf. The question was called quickly after only a few comments. The recommendation was soundly defeated.

We heard from Reformed University Ministries, which in our case is only New Mexico State University at this time. That work has been doing quite well. The campus pastor, Sid Bream, however will be leaving to plant an RUF chapter at his alma mater, Davidson College. They already have a few solid candidates to replace Sid.

We took one of the Cru leaders from New Mexico State University under care. Vince Hoppe is a member at University Presbyterian Church in Los Cruces. He and his wife plan on attending Covenant Theological Seminary in the Fall.

We remove, upon request, another man from under our care. He has been struggling with doubts and sin. While the letter was quite dismal, the pastor of the church reports that there have been good steps made recently.

We heard reports from our church plants. Holy Cross in Marana, AZ is doing well in their new facility. Pete Rehrmann feels like he’s he keeps planting the church, often initiating people into their ethos. He and his wife are expecting their 2nd child. The report from Roswell, NM was not as encouraging. The building is far too large for the congregation. They hope to make a trade with a Christian school that needs more space. This would alleviate the financial pressures they feel and enable them to concentrate on ministry.

We received a report from the Southwest Church Planting Network.A new church plant in Tulsa, Ethos Presbyterian Church, began in January. Later this year a new plant in NE San Antonio should begin. Luke Evans, from Rincon Mountain Presbyterian Church in Tucson, will be leaving to plant that church.

We received the resignation letter for John Pickett as Senior Pastor of University Presbyterian Church effective April 30th. The Associate Pastor, Patrick Tebbano was offered the call to be the Senior Pastor. Since this was an exception to the regular order of things, super-majorities were required by both the congregation and the Presbytery. He received both.

We also receive the resignation of Matt Uldrich from Catalina Foothills. They have been undergoing quite a bit of change in the last year as a number of staff left to plant UCity church in downtown Tucson.

One of our congregations, Covenant Community in Scotsdale, is also looking to find a new location. They want a more visible facility. They have a buyer for their current property. But we all know that Presbyterians do few things quickly.

So, you can see why transition came to mind. It is hard to predict what such change will do to a Presbytery, strengthen it or weaken it. But the churches of Presbytery of the Southwest should be praying that it will strengthen the congregations and the Presbytery.

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We’ve had a number of events recently that have shaken many Americans to the core. The reality of evil was pressed home in painful fashion. Sadly, most Americans aren’t prepared to face the reality of evil. If people are considered basically good, then we essentially think such things should not happen here where we are educated and prosperous. Those things only happen there, wherever there may be. But not to us, not on our shores.

There are a number of books that have tried to tackle this problem. Some good. Some bland. And some quite horrible, like the sadly popular book by Rabbi Kushner about the God who wants to help but really can’t. He also assumes there are good people.

“To come to grips with the problem of evil and suffering, you must do more than hear heart-wrenching stories about suffering people. You must hear God’s truth to help you interpret those stories.”

Randy Alcorn has released The Goodness of God: Assurance of Purpose in the Midst of Suffering for this reason. It is a shorter version (120 pages) of his book If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering. It makes a readable, meaningful book that you can hand out to people who are suffering, or struggling with the suffering of others. He covers lots of ground in succinct fashion, including illustrations and examples to help people understand his point. It is not dry and academic. He writes of his own suffering and how he had to make sense of it. He believes any faith that doesn’t prepare you for suffering is not a biblical faith, and our churches must do a better job teaching biblical theology to prepare people for suffering.

“The pain of suffering points to something deeply and unacceptably flawed about this world we inhabit.”

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Unlike many Patriots’ fans, I try to be reasonable. I know they can’t win every year. Therefore, while I was disappointed with the outcome of the AFC championship game, I thought they had a good season. A successful season. Until that game they had not lost by more than 2 points in 3 of 4 their loses (and the other was only by 7- all one possession games).

I thought this was a better team than last year’s Super Bowl team. They had a MUCH improved running game. They had a pass rush that they used inconsistently (part of that was injuries to Chandler Jones). They made adjustments to eliminate the big plays that had hurt them early in the season. Part of that was trading for Talib.

The AFC championship game hurts, because I think they are a better team. The Ravens did make a bold move that paid off in changing offensive coordinators. Ray Lewis’ presence was not so much about his ability to play but his experience and ability help his team mates get into proper position. They were a much better team than the one that slid down the rankings mid-season. That does not bode well for them next year without Lewis.

So, what went wrong?

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Some books are written and read as labors of love. Some books are written and read as “necessary evils”. The author wishes they did not have to write the book, and you wish you didn’t have to read it. Sometimes their labor of love is your “necessary evil”.

The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis by Guy Prentiss Waters is probably one of those necessary evils. I’m sure he probably wishes he could have spent the time and energy writing on some other project. Because he loves Christ and his denomination (the PCA), he felt compelled to write this book.

Because I am now serving in the PCA, and love Christ and His Church, I felt it necessary to read this book that I might better understand the Federal Vision since it is present in the PCA. Since I appreciated his earlier book Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul, I thought this would be a helpful book. It was. I just wasn’t happy that I had to read it, and at times found it difficult to wrap my head around what the Federal Vision actually is.

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Books are written for a variety of reasons- some good, some bad and some neutral. They can be written because of a great love for something. They can be written to sound a warning.

Paul Tripp wrote Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry to sound a warning. As he has traveled the world and visited with many churches and their staff, he has seen some disturbing trends.

Joshua Harris compared this book to heart surgery. The main point is the gospel, which challenges the sinful status quo in our lives. God is more concerned with our holiness (and His glory) than we are. So God’s grace is often disruptive. This, reflecting that, is a disruptive book.

The initial premise is that pastoral  ministry presents some unique challenges. These challenges are destructive to ministry and ministers. The only solution is the gospel rigorously understood and applied on a consistent basis.

“You are constantly preaching to yourself some kind of gospel.”

As Tripp lays out some of the most common traps and snares, you will not recognize yourself in them all (I hope). But you should see some tendencies toward some of them. You should be able to identify with some of them (I’m always preparing, for instance). And when he ruthlessly goes after you, so to speak, it will be difficult to continue. Unless you keep sight of the gospel and recognize the goal is sanctification, and not condemnation.

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