Renewal Fellowship Congregational Members

St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church

19 Tamarac Ave.

Charlottetown PE C1A 6T2

902-892-5255

Ministers – Thomas and Paula Hamilton

Grace Presbyterian Church

<www.graceorleans.ca>

1220 Old Tenth Line Rd.

Orleans ON K1E 3W7

613-824-9260

Minister – Dan MacKinnon

St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church

<www.stpaulspcottawa.com>

971 Woodroffe Ave.

Ottawa ON K2A 3G9

613-729-3384

Minister – Jack Archibald

Parkwood Presbyterian Church

<www.parkwoodchurch.ca>

10 Chesterton Dr.

Ottawa ON K2E 5S9

613-225-6648

Minister – James Hurd

Bridlewood Presbyterian Church

<www.bridlewoodpc.ca>

2501 Warden Ave.

Scarborough ON M1W 2L6

416-497-5959

Minister – Kevin Lee

Knox Presbyterian Church

<www.knoxtoronto.org>

630 Spadina Ave.

Toronto ON M5S 2H4

416-921-8993

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

<www.standrews-kingcity.ca>

13190 Keele St.

King City ON L7B 1J2

905-833-2325

Minister – Chris Carter

Cheyne Presbyterian Church

<www.cheynechurch.com>

7 King St. W.

Stoney Creek ON L8G 1G7

905-664-6043

Minister – Steve Lindsay

Kortright Presbyterian Church

<www.kortrightchurch.org>

55 Devere Dr.,
Guelph ON N1G 2T3

519-836-9400

Minister – Alex MacLeod

Knox Presbyterian Church

251 Duncan Street

Wallaceburg ON N8A 5G5

519-627-4367

Minister – David Heath

Fraser Presbyterian Church

<pccweb.ca/fraserchurch>

70 Queen Street South

PO Box 495

Tottenham ON L0G 1W0

905-936-3167

Minister – Jonathan Dennis

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

<www.standrewshuntsville.ca>

1 High St.

Huntsville ON P1H 1P2

705-789-7122

Minister – George Anderson

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

<www.standrewsparrysound.org>

58 Seguin St.

Parry Sound ON P2A 1B6

705-746-9612

Westwood Presbyterian Church

<www.westwoodpc.ca>

197 Browning Blvd.

Winnipeg MB R3K 0L1

204-837-5706

Minister – Peter Bush

Valleyview Presbyterian Church

<www.valleyviewpc.org>

7655 26th Ave SW

Calgary AB T3H 3X2

403-249-6006

Knox Presbyterian Church

<pccweb.ca/knox-vernon>

3701 32nd Ave.

Vernon BC V1T 2N2

250-545-8613

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

<www.standrewsduncan.org>

531 Herbert St.

Duncan BC V9L 1T2

250-746-7413

Minister – Kerry McIntyre

 
What Congregational Members Receive

Member Congregations receive at no additional charge:

  1. As many copies of Renewal News and the Prayer Calendar as
    requested;
  2. Special Pentecost Bulletins and Renewal Fellowship envelopes;
  3. Notice of upcoming Renewal Events in the area;
  4. Priority consultation with the Executive Director about concerns
    in the Church; and,
  5. Free use of the Renewal Fellowship Flaming Bush Logo on church
    signs and literature.
  6. Listing among the Renewal Fellowship Congregational Members, with
    a link to your Church web-site.
What Congregational Members Provide

Member Congregations agree:

  1. That the Session approves the application for membership thereby
    affirming its commitment to the creeds of the Reformed Church as
    summarized in the Statements of Faith;
  2. That the congregation supports the work of the Renewal Fellowship
    with a minimum $100 per year gift;
  3. That the Member Congregation encourages its members to consider
    individual membership in the Renewal Fellowship;
  4. That the Member Congregation encourages participation in Renewal
    Days or other activities sponsored by the Renewal Fellowship; and,
  5. That the Member Congregation is willing to share its resources for
    renewal with others as the Lord enables and directs.

For more information about the Renewal Fellowship Within The
Presbyterian Church in Canada, visit the following pages:

An Introduction the The Renewal Fellowship

The Constitution of The Renewal Fellowship

Membership Fees

A cheque with a minimum $100 per year gift can be sent by mail to the Renewal
Fellowship Office
with the application below, or payment can made securely
online using

Visa   or   MasterCard   through our partner   Beanstream

Any Questions? Call us at 416-233-6581 or 647-830-3203 or use the Renewal Fellowship Office e-mail:<renewalfellowshippcc@gmail.com>.

Application For Congregational Membership

Congregation: ________________________________

Address: _____________________________________

Telephone: ______________

Fax: ______________

E-mail: _______________________________

We agree with the purposes and doctrinal basis of the Renewal
Fellowship within the Presbyterian Church in Canada as expressed in this
membership application. By resolution of our Session, meeting on (date)
_____________________, we hereby apply for congregational membership.

Signature (Minister or Clerk): ______________________________

Date: ______________________________

Send to The Renewal Fellowship, 3819 Bloor St. W., Etobicoke ON M9B
1K7.

Our Doctrinal Basis

We are in full agreement with the faith confessed by The Presbyterian Church in Canada in the subordinate standards of the Westminster Confession of Faith as adopted in 1875 and 1889, and in the Declaration Concerning Church and Nation of 1954, as well as with the standards and subscription for membership and leadership within The Presbyterian Church in Canada. In reaffirming these convictions, we wish to underline the following emphases of our biblical, evangelical and reformed faith:


  • The unity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in the Godhead.
  • The sovereignty of God in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgement.
  • The divine inspiration and entire trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as originally given, and its supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
  • The universal sinfulness and guilt of all people since the fall, rendering them subject to God’s wrath and condemnation.
  • Redemption from the guilt, dominion and pollution of sin, solely through the sacrificial death (as our Representative and Substitute) of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God.
  • The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and his ascension to the right hand of God the Father.
  • The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration.
  • The justification of the sinner by the grace of God through faith alone.
  • The indwelling and work of the Holy Spirit in the believer.
  • The one Holy Universal Church with is the Body of Christ and to which all believers belong.
  • The expectation of the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What Does It Take to Grow a Sunday School?

Like many Canadian Presbyterian Churches, St. Paul's, Simcoe, Ontario, has had a shrinking Sunday School over the last couple of decades. A year ago the average attendance was 3 or 4 students. In less than a year we have increased our average attendance by 400%. Now true, it is easier to double or in this case quadruple attendance if you start small, but this is still good news.

How did this happen? Well of course we prayed, but we also took action. We chose two new programs to make the Children's Ministry more attractive and spiritually enriching. For the younger children we chose the "Children and Worship Program", and four adults attended a two-day training session to equip them to be children's worship leaders. Since I have been using this Montessori-based program for over 20 years, it made the transition fairly easy. For the older children, we chose the Christian Reformed program called re:form, which includes discussion based on a DVD presentation. We have also had several fellowship events for the older children in our church family.

The rest of our success story rests on the faithfulness of people. Two sets of grandparents committed themselves to bringing their grandchildren to church. Two couples, who hadn't attended the church since they were teens, decided to come back to church and bring their children. The faithfulness of these four families has been a model for all because of their consistent attendance. Now if a family with children visits the church, we look "child friendly," because we have a critical mass of children.

We still have a lot of work to do, but for now we are enjoying the children and youth God has given us, and we are equipping them to be followers and disciples of Jesus. The congregation of St. Paul's, Simcoe is very happy to include more children and youth in their church family. For more information, please contact me.

Linda Shaw
Children and Worship Trainer for The Presbyterian Church in Canada,
and Children and Worship Coordinator for St. Paul's, Simcoe, Ontario

Friends Sharing the Good News

St. Paul's, Simcoe, Ontario, is now the home of a ministry to seventeen adults with a developmental disability. We meet twice a month for worship, including some vibrant singing, Bible story and open prayer; a craft or activity time; and of course, coffee. From time to time we also go to "Friendship" conferences and special outings, but the important part of our times together is just being friends. Some of those "meeting for coffee" times between regular meetings may be the most significant.

This ministry grew out of a dream shared by three congregations. Two years ago the Anglican, Presbyterian, and Christian Reformed Churches in Simcoe committed to serving the community in this special way, and leaders come from all three of the congregations. Each year, we attend each sponsoring church once and lead in worship. Probably the highlight is the Christmas Pageant which we present at St. Paul's Presbyterian.

Friendship in Faith

"Friendship in Faith" is good news because: (1) we are worshipping God together; (2) we are meeting one of the needs of our community which has a large number of group homes; (3) church members are serving and being blessed; (4) a number of vulnerable people have found a church home through this ministry; (5) we are working ecumenically; (6) we are all learning much about the work of the Holy Spirit through the lives of people who know God in a way most of us will never know because we are too self-sufficient; and, (6) the gatherings are just plain fun

Linda Shaw
Coordinator, "Friendship in Faith", Simcoe, Ontario

General Assembly Additional Motion

The following is an extract from the minutes of the 138th General Assembly.

Rev. Dr. Clyde ErvinePreamble

Over the years, I have attended a number of General Assemblies and been repeatedly impressed and moved by the breadth and depth of the ways we are missionally engaged as a national church. It is a privilege to be a minister in this denomination. I am proud of its people and I'm a passionate promoter of Presbyterians Sharing — the budget that supports such a wide range of ministries and mission.

That said, I want right now, in the context of the Life and Mission Agency Report, to propose a radical reorientation of focus for our denomination. I'm here to plead that our central focus as a denomination be placed on congregations. For a very long time, within a Christendom paradigm, the presence of congregations has been assumed as a given, perhaps even taken for granted. As I read through the General Assembly reports prior to coming to this General Assembly, I found much of interest, yet I confess that I didn't find a sustained focus on congregations as congregations. They are assumed.

Congregations

  1. In the New Testament, and in light of Jesus' ministry, the earliest disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, began their mission. In Jerusalem and going out from there, they go out preaching Jesus. But to what end? The forming of local congregations.-
  2. Further, the documents we know as the New Testament were written largely to help those early congregations. Congregational formation, congregational edification, congregational health, and congregational mission are the reasons why the New Testament was written.
  3. Within our own Reformed Tradition, the burning question among the early Reformers was this: Where is the church to be found? The classic answer given was that the church is present wherever the gospel is preached and the gospel sacraments are rightly celebrated. In other words the church is found in local, concrete, embodied communities called congregations.
  4. I also suggest that as a matter of history, it has been congregations for the last 2000 years that have been the primary bearers of the gospel from one generation to another.

My conclusion: congregations constitute the basic, fundamental fabric of our denomination. But we too often assume that they will always be there.

We know, or perhaps need to be reminded, that fifty years ago The Presbyterian Church in Canada had 200,000 members in its congregations; today the number is 100,000. Fifty years ago, The Presbyterian Church in Canada had 100,000 in its congregations' Sunday schools; today it is 17,000. This reality casts a shadow over the work of the denomination and of this Assembly. But it seems to me this has not yet moved us seriously to give a nationally sustained focus to congregations as congregations. Congregations themselves and presbyteries, and to some extent synods, pay attention to congregations. But it is at the national, General Assembly level that I plead for a radical reorientation of our priorities.

What might a primary focus on congregational vitality look like? I suggest that it means a vast emphasis on making disciples. The formation of congregations in New Testament times arose out of the fact of Jesus, crucified and risen. Claiming all authority in heaven and earth, Jesus told his earliest disciples, "Go make disciples". Those well known words of commission need to be burnt into the national consciousness and practice of our denomination.

"Go make disciples". The commission is based christologically on the crucified and risen Jesus. But the commission needs to be expressed ecclesiologically, as it is in the New Testament, in the creation of congregations, which in turn, according to the New Testament, are meant to embody and express the values of the kingdom of God.

To make disciples begins with evangelism, an evangelism that challenges post-Christian, secular Canada with the claims of Christ. It's going to be hard; congregations feel intimidated by this challenge. Congregations need help in doing this from a national church that has decided, and that has it in its DNA, that congregations are primary. Congregations need help to exegete an unfriendly, even hostile context. Congregations need help to face the social and intellectual barriers in our society that challenge the gospel. Congregations need help through theological and practical resources that will enable them to understand, celebrate and share the gospel.

But if evangelism is an invitation to discipleship, discipleship does not end there. To make disciples is to create and sustain congregations as counter-cultural communities that in concrete, local settings, follow a distinctive Lord, think in distinctive Christian ways, and live out distinctive kingdoms values. It's going to be hard.

For the greater part of our history as a denomination in Canada we have been part and parcel of the fabric of a Christian Canada. But our place in the nation has changed. We are no longer as welcome within the reigning cultural assumptions of our society — which is why congregational life and growth are so difficult, and why so many clergy and congregations are so discouraged.

As I look at the reports in front of us, and as I look at the Life and Mission Agency Report, I wish that there was a greater focus on congregations as congregations. The particular section of the Life and Mission Agency Report that might be expected to focus on the congregation as congregation would be Canadian Ministries. But on reading that report I note that under the one umbrella of Canadian Ministries we have, as a denomination, placed our commitment to congregational worship, congregational evangelism, congregational Christian Education, congregational Youth Ministry, and congregational development and leadership, all under the mandate of one associate secretary. I have to conclude from this, that at a national level, sadly, we are not at this time serious about the fundamental fabric of the denomination, congregations, and about the fundamental calling of the church — to make disciples.

We need a radical reorientation of our priorities. It's going to be hard. If we were as a General Assembly to commit ourselves nationally to placing a primary and central focus on congregational vitality, it will involve tough, courageous choices in the use of limited resources.

Yet not just because I want The Presbyterian Church in Canada to survive (and I do) but because of a desire to be faithful to biblical patterns and principles, I move that the 138th General Assembly go on record as giving priority to the reimagining and renewal of our congregations and ask the Life and Mission Agency to consider how new energy and resources may be focused on congregational vitality, and that the Life and Mission Agency share the mind of this Assembly with the Assembly Council as the latter develops a new national mission and vision statement.

Clyde Ervine, Presbytery of Hamilton

Additional Motion

W.J.C. Ervine moved, duly seconded, that the 138th General Assembly go on record as giving priority to the reimagining and renewal of congregations and that it ask the Life and Mission Agency to consider how new energy and resources may be focussed on congregational vitality, and that the Life and Mission Agency share the mind of this Assembly on this matter with the Assembly Council as it further develops a national mission and vision statement. Adopted.

Renewal Fellowship Prayer Meetings

For Pastors and Laity

Vancouver — The last Saturday of each month. For location, contact Bob Astop by telephone at 604-594-6614 or e-mail him at <bobastop@dccnet.com>.

Ottawa/Eastern Ontario — Usually on the second Saturday at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, 971 Woodroffe Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario. Contact Reverend James Hurd at Parkwood Presbyterian Church by telephone at 613-225-6648 or e-mail him at <jthurd@sympatico.ca>.

For Pastors

Eastern Toronto Area — The third Tuesday of the month. The time is 6:00 p.m. and the meeting takes place prior to, and at the location of the monthly meeting of the Presbytery of Pickering. For further details, contact Reverend Duncan Cameron by telephone at 416-438-4370 or e-mail him at <pastor@standrewsscarborough.ca>.

Hamilton — The third Thursday of the month. The time is 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon with lunch afterwards for those able to stay. The location is Cheyne Presbyterian Church, 7 King St. W., Stoney Creek, Ontario. For further details, contact Reverend George Robertson at Knox Presbyterian Church, Waterdown by telephone at 905-689-8115.

Good News Journey – St. Andrew’s Moncton

Rev. Dr. Martin KreplinAn eleven-year journey of discernment, decisions, and dedication ended on January 29, 2012, when the congregation of St. Andrew's, Moncton NB, gathered for worship in their new building with their long-time pastor, The Rev. Dr. Martin Kreplin. The preceding Sunday, they had said farewell to their historic building in downtown Moncton, and, like the people of God who crossed the Jordan River into a new land, the congregation marked the occasion with a service of praise and thankfulness (and perhaps some tears).

This journey really began in the 1980's when a consultant recommended that the congregation move. God's timing is perfect though, and the congregation earnestly sought out God's will on the matter in 2001. The people prayed and asked God to reveal the barriers that were keeping them from enthusiastically inviting their friends and neighbours to come to St. Andrew's. It became clear that their beloved old building, with no parking and difficult accessibility, was holding them back from being the welcoming church that God was calling them to be. It has been a difficult journey from old to new, but with the generous offer of land at below market value, the astute guidance of the Synod Pastor, The Rev. Charles Taylor (now deceased), sacrificial giving by the congregation, RBC loan guarantees from the Presbyterian Building Corporation, bridge financing from Canadian Ministries, the guidance of several national church staff, donations of furniture from local businesses, and much prayer, the congregation is now worshipping and serving out of a beautiful new building on a high-profile street near the major transportation routes of Moncton.

The new building includes multi-use space for worship, large and small gatherings, and community ministry projects. The main auditorium can be transformed for many purposes including Sunday worship, but it does include an organ and the stained-glass windows from the old building to remind them of their history, and God's promise to continue to bless them and make them a blessing wherever they are. Their new community is an eclectic group of inter-generational and inter-cultural families in new suburbs and in a nearby trailer park. Oh, and the other good news is that while the old building has not sold, another congregation started renting the building on February 1st, so there will continue to be a Christian witness at the old site.

The people prayed, and the providential hand of God has been in the process. Give thanks to God for what the Almighty has done, and pray for this "new" congregation and their leaders as they seek to use their new facility to reach out to their community and grow in faithfulness. They have a building that accommodates a wide variety of programming, and they have parking spaces for many new members. Included in their vision for the immediate future are an "Every Home for Christ" program, after-school programs for two nearby schools, children's programs, youth ministry, and life-skills training classes. Further, they can now accommodate inter-denominational and regional events. Pray that they will continue to have a heart for God and for God's children. For a photo of their new building and more "good news," go to their website at . And, their church sign tells us plenty:

God's people have been called to share the "Good News" of Jesus' life and resurrection, but it's also beneficial to share congregational "good news." Share your congregation's and Presbytery's "good news" stories so the whole denomination can be encouraged.

Leaders

It seems to me that it is always fruitful to discuss Christian leadership. I hope many of the readers of this brief article will respond as they agree or disagree with these thoughts and hopefully add insights gained from their personal experience, study, and reflection. Rather than using a bunch of words that start with the same letter, I have chosen to use ten words that rhyme with "lead" as a device to tie this discussion together and to show a limited amount of cleverness.

I am indebted to many for any valuable insights you might gain and I am fully responsible for any errors. I admit to no originality but steal from so many it is hard to remember who to give the credit. I do remember however where this thought process began. It was through the leadership of Chuck Congram and his Difference Makers conferences a decade ago. Thank you, Chuck.

Christian leaders should FEED. The sheep need feeding. Those called to lead them are called to feed them. The problem is only babies and the infirmed should be spoon-fed. The maturing and mature should learn to feed themselves. That frees the shepherds to search for lost sheep and for disciple-making. Showing the sheep where the good pastures can be found is a role of leadership.

Christian leaders should HEED. Before they set a direction to lead and before they set an agenda for the sheep, they should be deep into God's Word and listening to the Spirit's direction. For those who preach, they should be willing to respond to the call of the text before they pass the call along in a message.

Christian leaders should PLEAD. Communications on every level should be calling the faithful to greater commitment, greater response, greater holiness, greater surrender, greater obedience, greater mission. The list of areas where our people need to grow and mature is virtually endless. The status quo is not the end of the race. We all need to be exhorted to greater faithfulness.

Christian leaders should BLEED. It's a matter of relationship and really connecting to the pain and suffering of our people. We should be fully sharing both the joys and the sorrows while always taking time to explore where God is in both.

Christian leaders also NEED. They need encouragement. They need prayer. They need Sabbath. They need affirmation of their gifts and support in the areas they are not gifted.

Christian leaders should READ. The thirst for wisdom from their Bibles and from other leaders should be a mark of all leaders. There is a power to a team or group working through a great book together. Processing great ideas leads to great leadership.

Christian leaders should SPEED. Okay, this might be a bit of a stretch. I don't mean reckless or careless speeding. I mean moving with urgency. Leaders can't be stopped with fear. They need to act in faith. No matter how tempting doing nothing sometimes can be, leaders are called to action.

Christian leaders should SEED. Planting seeds that others may harvest is one of the Kingdom's principles. Investing in future leaders is one of the most important responsibilities of any leader. Making disciples requires great sacrifice and patience. It also is a source of wonderful joy.

Christian leaders should BREED. While somewhat similar to seeding, breeding is the intentional actions required to activate organic growth – passing along leadership DNA to leaders-on-the-way, granting authority equal to the responsibility we want others to take on. Risking that potential leaders might do it a different way or even may fail a few times is a necessary part of bringing new leaders to maturity.

Christian leaders should WEED. It is true that good leaders should insure that only good projects and ministries are receiving investments of time, energy and resources. That is a huge challenge in many churches as "the way we have always done it" receives way too much support as opposed to "the way we are called to move forward". But an even tougher and more important idea is weeding out "good" things to make space for "great" ones. It is an attribute of the most effective leaders that they can "see" a preferred future and focus on the key steps to make it become a reality.

And so, Christian leaders should LEAD. Romans 12:8 is a call to those who are gifted as leaders to exercise the gift. We don't do it because it is easy or because it gains us power or popularity. We do it because it is the call placed on us with the gift provided. The Kingdom is too important to not give it our best.

Fred Stewart
Executive Director of the Renewal Fellowship

Stuff Happens

Recently I wrote a light poem for a contest entitled. I titled it, "I Blame Ketchup".

Ketchup on fries,
on chilli, on rice,
on Jello, on meat pies,
on pizza by slice.

Ketchup on eggs,
poached or fried,
soft boiled or hard,
deviled or dyed.

Ketchup they boast,
on steak is the most,
on hot dog, or bun,
foot long's more fun.

Ketchup on jerky,
chicken, or turkey,
dark meat or light,
'til belt is too tight.

Ketchup on chives
may give you hives
sniffling, or sneezing,
and horrible lives.

Yes, I maintain,
ketchup's to blame.
Ketchup by name,
is to blame.

I blame ketchup,
not God.

Cassandra WesselOf course, blaming ketchup for what goes wrong is laughable. Stuff does happen. Natural disasters plague our planet. Stress zones in the earth's crust snap. Earthquakes and tsunamis devastate. Fiery volcanos erupt. Hurricanes and tornados roar, rend and ruin. Low pressure systems collide with high, causing massive storms. Jet streams propel them like missiles across oceans and continents. Natural disasters fiercely tear through human attempts at civilization.

Stuff happens. It happens because this earth is a living thing. It struggles as with the pain of childbirth. St. Paul, wrote. "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." Romans 8:22 (NIV) The earth has done this because pride laden evil entered in the form of a serpent at the beginning of human history. When Adam and Eve reached proudly for God-forbidden fruit and consumed it, they soon found themselves consumed. This action propelled them from God's presence. It became the spiritual barrier between themselves and God, but it also tore the physical realm, making ongoing tragedy certain.

Nevertheless, people never seem to expect tragedy. Often they never even think about 'stuff happening'. They shove death and disaster far from their minds. When it happens, they find themselves unprepared. Then, face to face with tough questions, they ask "Why? Why me? Why my family?" Their questions compel them to search for answers, usually in all the wrong places, like alcohol or drugs. Instead, their questions lead to even more fearful questions, which remain, unanswered.

Similarly, some believers fail to think about "stuff happening". They simply assume nothing will happen to them because they are Christians. They believe God protects them. They are right that God protects His people. The book of Job bears testimony to it. Nevertheless, godly Job suffered terribly. Satan battled for his soul causing all sorts of disasters to happen to him. The Accuser is the spiritual cause behind physical troubles.

To think that God will protect believers simply because they are believers, forgets the lesson of Job. To believe that God will always elevate His own people above the rest of the human race, reeks of sinful pride. People who ascribe to this view soon find their cocksure belief system crumbling because those beliefs are wrongly grounded in their own self esteem, rather than God's grace. Thus when "stuff happens", the people who wrongly placed their faith in pride of position, find their lives shaken as with a 9.0 earthquake. 'Stuff happening' dismays them.

Dismay can be found everywhere people hug a sense of deserved destiny to heart. There's a phrase in an old song that goes,"life is just a bowl of cherries". It reflects the idea that life only brings good things. It affirms what some believe – that no plague, or disaster ought to come near them. They believe they deserve luxury and happiness wherever they find it – simply because they are human. They feel entitled to good things. Deep down, they have a sense of deserved destiny buried in their bones.

Scripture begs to differ with this expectation. The witness of the Old Testament refutes the sense of self-centered destiny. Thousands of years ago, when God's chosen people engaged in all sorts of forbidden activities, God expelled them from their homeland for pridefully breaking their agreement with God to live by God's laws. Both law abiding and law breaker lost their homeland. This event counters the idea that deserving people will always receive good things.

Having said as much, good things do come to people, but not because of any human right to have them. Good things happen by God's grace. Because God rules over everything, He grants good things when He chooses.

In democracies, people find this idea troublesome. They can more readily accept "mother nature's" fickleness, than God's rule. In an attempt to ensure the validity of their position, they try to remove God from public places and minds. However, this effort does not erase God. It merely highlights human pride.

There is a saying traveling through Christian circles."You may not believe in God, but God believes in you." That saying shouts that God exists, but even more, in spite of human rebellion, it proclaims His love for people. St. Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 (NIV). "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Absolutely no one deserved good things more than God's perfect Son. Nevertheless, our Lord Jesus, when faced with the cross said, "Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine, be done." God's own Son cancelled human pride and cheekiness by going to the cross. God's answer to 'stuff happening' is the cross of Christ. God in Christ Jesus went to the cross to counter for all eternity the horrible effects of sin. While this earth may still reel beneath them, eternity does not. Through Christ Jesus, God sovereignly opened the way into eternity for those who accept His offer. When they do, death becomes the open door to life, eternal. This is why, when 'stuff happens', I no longer blame God, or even ketchup. I pray that I will praise Him in all things, instead.

The Spirit Unites Us To Christ: The Christian Life

Rev. Dr. Richard ToppingIn order to become a person who can be taught by others, nothing less than conversion is required; and that is a work of the Spirit who tames our egocentricity so that we can learn as pupils, together with other pupils, in the school of Christ.

In the last issue, we closed Part Two of Rev. Dr. Richard Topping's article with this first sentence. Now we move into the third and final instalment of this wonderful reflection, which was originally presented at the Renewal Day in November 2009 at St. Andrew's Newton Presbyterian Church in Surrey BC. Dr. Topping is St. Andrew's Hall Professor of Reformed Studies at the Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver BC. — Kit Schindell

Read Part 1 and Part 2

What would this mean for sermon preparation and/or personal Bible study? Do we get our ideas of Christian scholarship more from the academy than from the Gospel and our Reformed tradition?

Jesus Christ by his death and new life has won the benefits that God intended for us. Salvation is won through Christ. God redeems what is broken in the world that He has made. However, these benefits lost in the fall and won back by the Son of God remain external to us. There is potential grace afoot in the universe through Christ. This grace is apart from us, external to us, because we are sinners; we don't receive grace automatically. Book Three of the Institutes of the Christian Religion is called, "The Way in Which We receive the Grace of Christ . . ." and the whole of this section is about how the benefits of salvation won in Christ come to us through our contact with God.

Christ is the mediator of grace and so to receive the benefits of his life into our lives we need personal contact with Christ. "He must become ours and dwell in us." Calvin loves to speak of our union with Christ, our engrafting into Christ, our being made one with him: "We are apparelled with him." So close is our fellowship, our personal contact with Christ that we are united with him more closely "than are the limbs with the body." Calvin says that our hope for resurrection and eternal life would be faint were it not for our "complete and entire" union with Christ. Fellowship with Christ is close, personal, intimate — he lives in us and we in him. What happens to Christ, death and resurrection, happens to us, because we are in him. Our union with Christ is the condition for our access to a spiritual life.

But Christ remains outside of us, apart from us, until by faith we are joined to him. And for Calvin, faith is always and everywhere the work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is confidence and trust that the benefits of Christ are mine. That what happened back there and then on the cross and at the empty tomb applies to me here and now. Jesus Christ by his death and new life achieves salvation and the Holy Spirit is the means by which this salvation reaches even us. It is the work of the Spirit to create faith, not just that God and Christ exist but faith in God come among us in Christ for us and our salvation. Faith is the channel opened by the Spirit, at the hearing of the Gospel Word and at the sharing in the sacraments, through which the blessings of salvation achieved in Christ flow to us. Faith is what is generated in us by the Spirit's work of breaking down our sinful resistance to God so that we can behold the love and grace of God come in Jesus Christ. By faith, which is the work of the Spirit, we are bound to Christ and his benefits. "Perfect salvation is found in the person of Christ . . . that we may become partakers of it, he baptizes us in the Holy Spirit and fire . . . bringing us into the light of faith in his gospel and so regenerating us that we become new creatures." And again, "The Holy Spirit is the cause of our enjoyment of Christ and of all his benefits."

The Spirit works (ordinarily) by means of the Word and Sacraments. In Calvin's thought, while it is certainly true that the Word read and proclaimed is never effective without the agency of the Spirit, it is also certainly true that Calvin is not an "enthusiast" or a spiritualist, and his thought could never give rise to a generic understanding of spirituality. While Calvin always respects the freedom of Almighty God to work as God chooses, he does note again and again that the Spirit works by certain regular means in the life of the people of God. These are scripture and the sacraments.

Scripture is a clear and sufficient witness to the Gospel in its own right. However, we misconstrue and misunderstand it because of sin. And so the Spirit illumines the Scriptures so that we see what we ought to see and know by means of it. Nothing is wrong with the Bible, for Calvin. It speaks clearly and plainly and sufficiently of God and the Gospel and of the benefits of Christ. However, something is wrong with us. God is broadcasting, but our reception is faulty. And so the Spirit, as we have noted, repairs what is broken in us so that we can know God and share in the benefits of Christ. The Spirit adds amplitude so that we get God and the Gospel and our need for them. The Spirit creates faith by means of the witness of the Word and we are united with Christ.

The Spirit also works in the sacraments. We are weak. Our imaginations, as we noted, lead us astray. We like tangible and visible things and so we fall into idolatry. Ah, but God, gracious and accommodating as God is, comes to us not just in a verbal witness (scripture), God presents Christ and his benefits to us in visible items/actions (the sacraments). We hear God's word in Scripture by the grace of the Spirit, and we see God's Word in the bread and the wine. Indeed, for Calvin and Calvinists, one of the reasons we break the bread — 'fraction it' — at Holy Communion is as a symbol of Christ's body broken for our benefit. And when we share together at our Lord's Table, praying, "Lift up your hearts," the Spirit actually and truly answers our prayers and we are raised up to commune with Christ at the right hand of the Father. We share spiritually in the life of Christ by the work of God's Holy Spirit — and faith is created and helped by this intimate communing, this fellowship with our Saviour.

What then are the benefits of Christ communicated to those who have faith by the Spirit? It is a double grace: justification — that is the imputation of Christ's good standing with God to us so that our sins are forgiven. Engrafted into Christ a blessed exchange takes place, our sins are laid on him and his new life is infused into us. We are in Christ, clothed in his righteousness. He is in us, and we are in him.

The benefits of Christ come to us from the Spirit and we make progress in holiness. If in the fall of human beings the image of God in us is corrupted, the Spirit is busy in the lives of the saints to restore it. We are, for Calvin, never made entirely holy in this life. In fact, part of sanctification (becoming holy) is found in the recognition of how far from it we are. Calvin sees regeneration, being made over again in the image of God, as consisting in two parts: mortification of the old person and vivification of the new person. The shape of the Christian life is in this way determined by the shape of the life of Christ who died and then rose again. We are "in Christ" by faith and the grace of the Spirit, and so what happened to Jesus happens to us. We die with him to an old way of living for sin. We rise with him to live our lives to God. The power of the reign of sin over and in us is done.

However, Calvin says that this life is "a perpetual battlefield" with sin. God by the Holy Spirit is continually at work in the saints killing in us what kills us so that God may fill us with the life of Christ. Calvin says, "This restoration is not accomplished in a minute of time nor in a day, nor in a year; but God continually abolishes the corruptions of the flesh in his elect in a continuous succession of time, and indeed little by little; and he does not cease to cleanse them of their filth, to dedicate them to himself as temples, to reform their senses to try piety, so that they exercise themselves all their lives in penitence, and know that this war never comes to an end until death. (I Corinthians 1:8)". Self-love and ambition were, for Calvin, particularly besetting sins. In the fall from right praise, the praise of self — ego-centricity — is particularly troublesome on Calvin's account.

On the other side is vivification — life — new life in Christ born of the Spirit. If mortification of the flesh is the answer to the fallen praise of idols, then vivification is the answer to our ingratitude and self-congratulation. We are raised with Christ to live gratefully all the days of our lives to God. Here and now in definite deeds of gratitude, the image of God in us begins to be restored. Every thankful deed offered at the prompting of the Spirit (our obedience) for new life in Christ is a restoration of what we have been created for. Obedience to God is for Calvin the form that gratitude and love for God takes in this life. "The Spirit nourishes and confirms in us the love of obedience . . ." and "The aim of regeneration is that people may perceive in our lives a melody and harmony between the righteousness of God and our obedience; and that thereby we ratify the adoption in which God has accepted us as his children."

New life in Christ includes the love of our neighbour. We praise God in the love of the neighbour for they are created in the image of God. It is regard for the neighbour as image bearer that stokes the believer into the service of others and so to praise God. In a striking passage, Calvin writes, "We ought not to dwell upon the vices of men, but rather to contemplate in them the image of God, which by his excellence and dignity can and should move us to love them and forget all their vices which might turn us therefrom."

Our gratitude to God — in the form of obedience to God and love of our neighbour — ought to be spontaneous and free. However, we resist the Spirit through sloth and we struggle, particularly in times of trouble, to be faithful. And so the law is given as a spur and help to guide us in the right direction. We require guidance in the new life God wants to give us. And here Calvin lays down a very different path to Luther. The law has a positive use in the life of the Christian, it guides, it leads us to life; the Spirit makes use of it to guide us toward right and grateful living in the love of God and neighbour — we were created for this.

The new life comes hard, on Calvin's view. For it is guided not just by the law but by the life of Jesus Christ himself. To live for Christ in this life is to suffer. Calvin doesn't say that the whole of the new life in Christ is suffering, but almost. Suffering and tribulation predominate in this life, and if there are moments of respite in the struggle to deny ourselves and take up our cross, those are allowed by God so that we may take up the struggle again with renewed vigour.

For Calvin, the sufferings in this life, taken up in faithfulness to Christ by the power of the Spirit, are to be viewed in the light of eternity — if we share in Christ's life of suffering, we shall share in his glory as well. "We must," he writes, "always look to the end, to accustom ourselves to despise the present life . . . the Lord knows very well how prone we are to a blind and even brutish love of this word" and so God uses affliction "that our heart should not be too much attached to such a foolish love."

Calvin will also speak of prayer as the intended result of the suffering we undergo. When what faith seeks is not plain to sight, obscured as it is by present sufferings, we pray and ask for the fulfillment of God promises. In this movement toward God in affliction, it is the Spirit at work in us, inciting us to call out "Abba Father." "Wherefore God, in order to make up for our weakness, give us his Spirit for a master, who teaches us and tells us what it is legitimate for us to ask, and who also rules our affections."

Let me end with a question? Is this good enough? Is this a scriptural and Christ-centered enough way of speaking about the Christian life? Do we have sufficient warrant to summarize almost the whole of the Christian life in terms of suffering? Is the almost principal warrant to pray to be found in suffering? What about gratitude to God for so great a life and so great a salvation — doesn't the Spirit move us to thanksgiving too?

We might note that here Calvin follows the Apostles' Creed, which summarizes the whole of Christ's life in these terms: "suffered under Pontius Pilate." I've always wondered whether we might add a line in the creed here from Acts 10 — "he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed." It seems to me that Calvin's account lacks the liberating, healing, lifting work of grace, even in the here and now. He seems to equate vivification (new life in Christ) with suffering; new life with just about dying?

Karl Barth says that Calvin on the Christian life is "stern," "sombre" and "forbidding." He argues that, "Calvin suffers from a curious over-emphasis on mortification at the expense of vivification." And Barth asks, "Who authorized him to almost completely conceal . . . the clear and positive meaning and character of conversion as liberation by giving vivification only a minor position as the reverse side of mortification." And then here's how the Reformed tradition reforms: Barth writes: "The truth is that in the New Testament the real dying and passing and perishing of the old man is matched by a no less real rising and coming and appearing of the new."

Reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God; it is the perpetual work of the Spirit in our lives and in Christ's church. (Dogmatics, IV/2: 575, 579).

The Spirit is Moving Swiftly

In April 2010, the Session of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Swift
Current, Saskatchewan, decided to advise the Presbytery that their church
would be closing in 2011. They were a small, discouraged group of seniors
(approximately 15 at Sunday worship). Within days of their decision, The
Rev. Jonathan Kwon came forward and shared that he felt God was calling him
to become their pastor. He was inducted in September 2010.

Less than a year later, there are 40 adults and youth meeting for
worship and several mid-week programs. And after no Sunday School for 25
years, there is a Sunday School with 8 children. A VBS this past summer drew
22 children!

Clerk of Session, Heather Steinhoff, says, “As much as things have
changed already (not without some stress), I think we are just getting
started.”

Pray for this inter-cultural congregation (Canadian, Korean, and
Filipino) as they seek to be faithful to God, each other, and their
community. Go to their website at www.starpreschurch.ca for more signs of renewal, and give God the
praise.


Now it’s your turn! Share your Good News story with Renewal Fellowship Secretary, Linda Shaw <ianandlindashaw@gmail.com> or call 519-428-5396.