Smoking Spiritualized. II
Ralph Erskine (1685–1752)
WAS this small plant for thee cut down?
So was the plant of great renown,
Which Mercy sends
For nobler ends.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco. 5
Doth juice medicinal proceed
From such a naughty foreign weed?
Then what ’s the power
Of Jesse’s flower?
Thus think, and smoke tobacco. 10
The promise, like the pipe, inlays,
And by the mouth of faith conveys
What virtue flows
From Sharon’s rose:
Thus think, and smoke tobacco. 15
In vain the unlighted pipe you blow—
Your pains in outward means are so,
Till heavenly fire
Your heart inspire:
Thus think, and smoke tobacco. 20
The smoke like burning incense towers;
So should a praying heart of yours
With ardent cries
Surmount the skies:
Thus think, and smoke tobacco. 25
This an extended a theological essay that was written for my church last year. It is actually a substantially abridged version of an original (4k vs. 11k words) that was used as a conversation partner among LPC’s elders. The longer version had more exegetical and historical work, as well as engagement with the EPC’s Book of Worship (which I’ll probably post separately at a later date) and deeper analysis of the missional dimension of tithes and offertories.
How should the church think about money, especially when it comes to acts of giving in worship and honoring God with our resources? These are two inter-related questions: How should the church collect money? and What is God’s expectation for giving? What follows is a sketch of the biblical summary on these topics along with historical considerations. It concludes with principles for Langhorne Presbyterian Church’s practice.
Tithes and Offerings in the Old Testament
In the Mosaic law there were broadly three categories of tithes: the tithes to support the Levitical priesthood (Numbers 18:21, Deuteronomy 14:22-29, 2 Chronicles 31:3-5); the tithes for the celebrations at Israel’s festivals (Deuteronomy 12:6ff, 16:13-17; and tithes for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 26:12-13). Each of these kinds of tithes had a variation in the frequency in their collection. Notably the tithe to the Levites was explicitly premised on Israel living in the promised land (Deuteronomy 12:19, 26:1-4).
A common misconception is that tithing equated to 10% of an Israelite’s income. However, “Some [scholars] think the Israelites gave 14 tithes over seven years; others believe they gave 12. Regardless, when we add the required tithes together, the amount certainly exceeded 10 percent. In fact, the number was probably somewhere around 20 percent per year….
Read the article at ref21. Here is an excerpt:
Westminster Shorter Catechism 85 asks, “What doth God require of us that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?” This is a hugely important question! The answer comes in three parts: 1) Faith in Jesus Christ. 2) Repentance unto life. 3) An answer that may make any self-respecting, sola gratia & sola fide holding Protestant spit out their coffee: The diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.
There are things and our use of things that God requires for us to escape his wrath and curse. These things and our use of them is how Jesus gives us the benefits of redemption. In other words, this is how Jesus gives us salvation… This allows us to ask our question, “How is prayer made effectual for salvation…”
Every now and then I write a more extended theological essay for our church. The goal is to help people in the church think through biblical topics theologically and to see “under the hood” and how conclusions are reached. I’ll start posting them on the blog here from time to time. This is the most recent post.
How should the church think about the liturgical calendar?
As history reveals, the influence of tradition and culture establishes the necessity of discernment for Christians seeking to worship in spirit and truth. For churches in the Reformed Protestant tradition like Langhorne Presbyterian Church, the answer to that must always begin by asking first another question: What does the Bible have to say about this? What does God think about how we use our time and leverage it for worship and spirituality?
God’s Concern for Our Time
God demonstrates his concern about time from the get-go of creation. He created the sun, moon, and stars on day four of creation to rule the day and night and to be for “signs and for season, and for days and for years.” God established a natural rhythm of day and night, of the passing and return of seasons, into creation itself. The sun and moon, the rotation and orbit of the earth, are given by God for us to mark out the passing of time (signs and seasons) to commemorate and observe milestones. Things like New Year’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays at different points in the year are all gifts that God has given us flowing from day four of creation. The natural rhythm of creation is a gift to practice creativity and cultivation of the earth in our organization and practice of time. The way we practice time orients our lives and shapes the story we believe we are inhabiting. This is called the liturgy of life…
No, they cannot. Sorta.
This will be my final post for awhile on EPC-polity insider baseball. I can’t keep boring all of my half-dozen readers.
The context and explanation of this question and answer are important for EPC polity. The “renunciation of jurisdiction” is a constitutional principle of the EPC that is a natural consequence of our ecclesiology. Courts of the church (Sessions, Presbyteries, the General Assembly) have spiritual jurisdiction over their constituents (members of the local church, pastors and churches of the presbytery, the presbyteries of the church; BoG 16-2, BoD 1-11, 4-2.) Each court only has authority – which is spiritual in nature and only relates to the function of the court – over the people that belong to it. So local church X does not have authority over the worship and membership of local church Y. Nor does local church X have authority over people who are not members or participants in its worship.
This is relevant to the issue of church discipline. A local church may only exercise discipline over people within its jurisdiction: members and participants in the life of the congregation. But the EPC is not a cult; no one is ever compelled to remain a member of an EPC congregation…