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The “Go En” and the Land of the Rising Son

What if there was a nation in the 10/40 Window that could be easily reached with the gospel? What if that nation had less than 1% of the population profess Christianity? What if that nation was completely open to missionaries and other gospel workers? Would you want to see missionaries and gospel workers enter that land?

There is such a nation.

My wife and I had the opportunity to labor in Kobe, Japan, last month. I was asked to come and lecture at Kobe Theological Hall and to speak at the family conference of the Japan Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. It was a great honor to be among men and women who make so many cultural sacrifices to confess Jesus Christ.

At customs I was asked my reason for being in Japan. I told the custom’s officer that I was there to teach at a seminary and that I am a Christian pastor by profession.

“Welcome to Japan.”

My passport was stamped without question.

Japan is nation of great honor and pride. It is a nation of great wealth and resourceful people. Yet at the same time, it is a nation that [...]

Unboxing the Idols of Our Heart

If I were to ask you what is currently the most popular YouTube channel, would you know? Or, what genre of internet videos could earn one stay-at-home mom between $2 million and $13 million in advertising per year? What is your guess? What is the fastest growing genre of internet videos? Cute kitty videos? D-I-Y demos? Pornography?

The answer is none of the above.

The fastest growing genre of YouTube videos is a phenomenon known as unboxing. Yep. Unboxing. Have you heard of it? For the benefit of those who are not Millennials, I will explain. Unboxing is a video genre where the subject of the video is a product that is unpackaged or “unboxed” before the viewer’s eyes. The one doing the unboxing is normally not shown, except for the hands. But her voice is heard as she explains the opening of the new product step-by-step. The viewer hears a description of box quality, what the tissue paper feels like, the amount of plastic around a product, how many ties are holding it in place. In detail, the viewer is invited into the serotonin-driven experience that we all have felt when we get something new. [...]

Two Cents on Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics matter.  Hermeneutics is the study of the interpretation of a text. As a pastor, I spend many many hours per week practicing hermeneutics as I study the Bible. There are certain rules that govern how a text is to be understood- and this is true in all liberal arts disciplines which interpret the writings of men and women. Whether you are studying Shakespeare, the Apostle Paul, or JK Rowling, there are rules for how one reads a text.

Today, I learned I had to teach my young son a lesson in hermeneutics.  Following my return from the study this afternoon I took two of my sons on a walk around our mountain.  My young son, following me on our walk, carefully picked up 62 Realtor cards that read, “Allow me to give you my two cents.” There were two pennies taped on every card.

To my son, who is not trained in hermeneutics, this card was to be interpreted as a personal promise to him. The “you” in the text was him, not the owner of the driveway in front of which the Realtor placed the card.

Hermeneutics matter.

Please consider this fact as you endeavor to study the Bible as a student of the Word. There are rules of interpretation [...]

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Today I was reading my copy of the Book of Common Prayer from 1662… it’s not actually a copy from 1662, but a Cambridge “1662 edition” in burgundy calf-skin leather with gilt edges that was published in 1968. It’s a beautiful copy, might I add.

Anyhow,  I was preparing for my congregation’s Thanksgiving Day Service and  I wanted to read some prayers from our reformed forefathers. The prayers of those who have gone before us ought to serve as  models for public prayer as much of today’s public prayer tends to lack the reverence and awe of those who have gone before us. I was not disappointed as I turned to the section entitled “THANKSGIVINGS.”

As you prepare your hearts for giving thanks unto The One who gave up His only Son so that we may have all things, I hope this prayer may aid in your prayers as well. Enjoy! 

Love Thy Neighbor as Thy Selfie

I have been a fan of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for many years. I love the art of language and the skill it takes to document the ever changing and living tongue of the anglophonic people.

This week all nerdly eyes were on Oxford as they announced the word of the year. This is an annual event at which a new and influential word is chosen based on how it has come into the language. Sure, it’s not the Superbowl, but some of us get pretty excited about these things.

Did you hear what this year’s word is? Selfie.

Yep. Selfie.

What is a selfie you might ask? The OED defines selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Why is this so interesting? The selfie is not just a way of putting yourself out there for the tweeters of the world to see. The selfie is a reflection of the corporate fallen heart of mankind.

The Christian Home: Another Protestant Reformation Blessing

The Reformation was a time of rediscovery. The church, in a sense, rediscovered justification by faith alone. The reformation also rediscovered biblical worship, and this was seen as the second pillar of the protestant reformation. As the church was freed from the bondage of a fear based religion, other blessings were brought forth.

Other aspects of the reformation affected the life of the church and had profound implications on a developing Christian society. One such blessing in the rediscovery of biblical religion was the Christian home and the Christian marriage, which brings us to Psalm 128.

Emperor Norton and King Jesus

Between 1859 and 1880 four presidents served the United States, but  as they came and went, one emperor reigned in the United States . Lincoln, Jackson, Grant, and Hayes were all president of the United States during that time, but Emperor Norton I was Emperor of the whole United States and Protector of Mexico.

“Back East” there were significant events that were shaping the growing nation, such as the Pony Express sending mail from coast to coast. The Homestead Act opened the fly-over states resulting in a population surge (including many Covenanters) along the prairies and fields of grain. The Emancipation Proclamation freed Southern slaves and eventually the United States would work on healing herself following a war of ideologies.  And who could forget the fact that the National League was founded as a cradle for Dodger’s baseball (go Blue!).

Many things were changing in the United States between 1859 and 1880,  but one thing remained a constant. Emperor Norton was the self-proclaimed rightful heir of the United States and Mexico. 

Foolish Preaching?

The preaching of the gospel is a profound aspect of Christian worship. Some see preaching merely as a teaching time. Some see it as a time for outreach.  Some see it as a time to justify paying the pastor!  But at the core of preaching is this- preaching is an act of worship.  Through preaching, fallen humanity is able to encounter the holy Triune God of the Bible in a powerful way.

How does the Bible view preaching? The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.“

To the non-Christian: Preaching is foolish.
To the Christian: Preaching is the power of God.

Q: What’s the Bad News? A: Adam died.

When I was in high school there was a teacher there that would always ask me, “What’s the good news, Eshelman?” He was a football coach, so ending the interrogative with a surname was part of his schtick. What was the good news? I was not a Christian at the time, so I didn’t know what he was talking about, although I understood that “the gospel” was supposed to be good news according to Christian teaching.

What is the good news? Why is it good?

This summer I had the privilege of preaching the opening message at a church family conference which was on “What happened when Jesus died?” The good news was going to preached in all its multifaceted glory. I preached on the bad news.

No one ever asked me, “What’s the bad news, Eshelman?” But there is bad news. And the bad news is that Adam died. What happened when Adam died? That was my question to answer.

Seven Phrases on the Ten Words

What’s THAT Have to Do With the Ten Commandments?

Have you ever had a conversation with a Christian about an ethical question where they said something to the effect of, “That’s a violation of the _insert number one through ten_  commandment.” And you responded with a “huh?!”

For the sake of example, here are some ethics-statements that Christians have said regarding ethics and their relationship to the Ten Commandments. You may have heard similar statements or have questions of your own :

Labor unions are violations of the Fifth Commandment (honor father and mother).
Angry outbursts are violations of the Sixth Commandment (against murder).
Going out for dinner on Sunday is a violation of the Fourth Commandment (Sabbath).
Playing state lotteries is a violation of the Eighth Commandment (against stealing).
Dressing immodestly is a violation of the Seventh Commandment (against adultery).
Singing uninspired worship songs violates the Second Commandment (no idols).
Birth control is a violation of the Sixth Commandment (against murder).

Again, the purpose of this article is not to attempt to answer the above questions or any ethics question that you may have. The purpose of this article is give you some principles to help you apply the Ten Commandments to some of the [...]