Archive by Author

There We Stood

My college roommate and I were torn. Purdue football was in a season of rebirth in 1997 under new head-coach Joe Tiller; the team had opened the season 6-2. We had just returned from a blast of a road trip with friends to Iowa City’s Kinnnick Stadium the prior week – a blast even if the Hawkeyes had snapped our six-game winning streak. Next, Nick Saban’s Michigan State Spartans were coming to West Lafayette, Indiana on November 8.

Simultaneously, Dr. Roy Blackwood arranged for Dr. James Montgomery Boice to speak in Indianapolis on November 7-8. Dr. Blackwood had long prayed and labored to bring reformed theology to Indiana – a state that was most influenced by the Restoration Movement, frontier Methodism, Cumberland Presbyterianism, and dispensationalism. Very little that could be considered reformed existed by the mid-twentieth century in Indianapolis. Dr. Blackwood had successfully recruited others in the 1980s like Dr. John Gerstner to come and speak, but interest was not widespread in the city. As in many places in the late twentieth century, interest reformed theology began to gain attention in the area through church planting and the influence of ministries like Ligonier. Blackwood taught some seminary-level classes himself over the [...]

Not Just a Soup Kitchen

Does your local church faithfully minister in the area of mercy? Many of us likely cringe a bit at that question. Perhaps the reason we do not like our own answer to that question is due to ignorance, confusion, fear, lack of leadership, or simply hard-heartedness. So, what is the way forward? When Jesus taught on the ministry of compassion, he often did so through stories – the parable of the Good Samaritan is foremost among them. Those stories then give way to instruction in the ministry of mercy.

Dr. David Apple’s new book Not Just a Soup Kitchen: How Mercy Ministry in the Local Church Transforms Us All follows the same pattern. Apple has been director of Active Compassion Through Service at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for over twenty-five years.

The book opens with Apple’s own biography of having twice been the wounded man on the side of the road like the man on the Jericho Road. He also experienced a hundred other hurts. He writes “This book is partially the story of how God transformed my life after surviving a near-death skull-fracture, childhood sexual abuse, teenage hopelessness, marital betrayal, spiritual bankruptcy and thoughts of suicide as an adult.” The [...]

Speaking With One Another

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.” – Malachi 3:16

Pastor Kenneth G. Smith preached on these words ten years ago in the congregation I serve as pastor. On that Lord’s Day, we gave thanks that the Lord had allowed us to continue as a congregation for forty years. Looking at these words from Malachi, Ken Smith mused on the words that the godly people of Malachi’s day must have spoken to one another in the midst of trouble times. The comfort, of course, is that the Lord paid attention and heard them and wrote a book of remembrance. God will not forget his people!

But what did those who feared the Lord say to one another? We do not know exactly, but they were obviously words that pointed one another towards God in the midst of an increasingly crooked and perverse generation. God will not forget his people, and we must not forget him either!

Pastor Smith exhorted us to speak to one another as members of the local body in three ways. [...]

Singing With Thankfulness In Our Hearts

Do you ever wonder what some of the best a Capella Psalm singing sounds like? Then join us in Indianapolis, Indiana on the Lord’s Day, October 19, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. The acoustically favorable venue of North United Methodist Church will not make it best, nor will the expected 500-plus voices raised in harmony – much as those things will help. No, it will be some of the best because it will come from Spirit-filled hearts full of gratitude for God’s saving grace.

You see, we are thankful that fifty years ago, on October 16, 1964, Jesus established Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was “Second” because there had been a first in Indianapolis in the nineteenth century. In 1964, the Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church was the only RP church in Indiana. God would save many more souls over the years at Second RP, in Bloomington, and beyond. And we are grateful that in 1994 Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church in Kokomo, Indiana would also be planted by the Lord’s hand.

Now twenty years later, these two congregations are joining to celebrate God’s grace with other congregations around the state that the Lord has also planted over these last fifty years. [...]

Integrity Matters

Last week, musician John Mellencamp welcomed Dr. Robert Heimburger, 97 (pictured, right), at the Indianapolis Riley Hospital for Children to record an interview together for a fundraiser next year. Mellencamp describes this neurosurgeon as “the man who gave me life.” He is responsible for the life-altering surgery performed on the month-old Mellencamp in the fall of 1951. Dr. Heimburger’s two sons brought him from his retirement home in Alabama for this special day.

Dr. Heimburger’s presence in Indianapolis last week excited me, too. He pioneered many surgical procedures in the field of neuroscience throughout his career in Indianapolis and was known internationally. In 1963, he operated on my then 63 year-old great-grandfather Evan Sanderson who suffered from Parkinson’s disease. His daughter Lois Long (my grandmother) had read about a similar surgery performed on the East Coast and suggested it to her father. Sixty-five miles from home, Dr. Heimburger evaluated him in Indianapolis and agreed to attempt a similar procedure. The experimental surgery apparently sought to freeze one part of the brain. After opening Evan’s skull, Dr. Heimburger injected him with a dye as part of the operation. As the dye was injected, Evan began to convulse on the table. He survived, but [...]

Mercy Ministry: Theology and Practice

When the bubonic plague broke out in 1519, Ulrich Zwingli won the hearts of Zurich, Switzerland’s citizens as he remained in the city to care for victims and nearly died himself while other religious and civic leaders fled. His preaching combined with active faith ushered in the reformation. Theology and mercy are always connected. To no one’s surprise, God’s word remains true, and poverty and plagues persist in our day. For those reasons, the Reformation Society of Indiana’s 2014 fall conference Growing a Heart for Ministry will highlight the theology and practice of mercy ministry. The conference will be held on Friday and Saturday, October 31-November 1 at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Our speakers, Dr. Philip Ryken and Dr. David Apple worked together for nearly two decades at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Together, they proclaimed the truths of the Bible and practiced mercy in the heart of Philadelphia. Today, Dr. Ryken serves as the president of Wheaton College and Dr. Apple remains as the director of mercy ministries at Tenth Presbyterian.

The Children Are Always Included

Where do our children stand with respect to God’s covenant? How should we treat them as Christian parents? Why do we baptize infants? Those questions fill the mind of parents. They were never more on our mind this summer than as we drove to participate in extended family gatherings on both sides of our family.

In that drive time, we listened to Ted Donnelly’s six sermon series on infant baptism. He is a now-retired pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland. Though the sermons were preached nine years ago, the timeless truth of God’s word is preached from a grandfatherly man who not only knows the Scripture but who has experienced the blessing of it in the various stages of life, too. In this series, he handles not only the technical aspects of baptism, but each message is drenched with pastoral love and tenderness.

Questions Worth Asking. Answers Worth Memorizing.

This summer, our family has renewed its work to memorize the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We try to fit some of the questions in our daily devotions and as we drive on the road. Recently, I was explaining to my six year-old son that God has planned every event in history – even the minutest detail. He then looked me squarely in the eye and asked “even the bad things?” The discussion flowed from Q&A 7 that says “The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

My son asked a question that everyone asks, and the catechism simply helped him to draw it out. The Shorter Catechism has the knack of not only asking great questions, but it helps us ask questions that exist deeply in our souls that we might not otherwise articulate. Better still, it gives the answers of the Bible and points us in the right direction for further thought and study. Why else should you memorize the Shorter Catechism? Here are five more benefits that I have experienced – from among dozens that could be listed:

Willing to be the Foil?

Jewelers have sometimes backed gems with foil in order to cause the stone to gleam more brightly. The term “foil” then carried over into literature. A foil is a character who exists in a story in order to highlight another character in one way or another. In real life, it’s tough to be the foil. As Christians, we know that we serve as a backdrop in the cosmic story of redemption so that Jesus shines more brightly. With eyes of faith, we embrace that reality. But how do we respond when God makes us the foil to cause other people to shine more brightly for his glory? The Lord has given us the story of Joseph to show us the way.

Looking Forward to Persevering

“Of course!” “Absolutely!” “Why, certainly!” “Oh, yes!” “Oh, definitely!”

The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints rang sweetly in my ears with those exclamations as an eighty-six year old woman joined the congregation that I serve. That doctrine promises that God’s elect, once converted, will persevere in grace to the end (e.g. John 10:27-30). Each semester in Bible school, we have a church orientation class for prospective members. At the end of the term, the elders interview those desiring to make profession of faith for communicant membership. There, the words above were spoken.