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If You Are Sad This Thanksgiving

Though Thanksgiving Day will be filled with joy and happy memories for many, for others the holidays can remind them of loss and tragedy. Such is the case for the family of Amanda Blackburn, the young pastor’s wife murdered in her home two weeks ago.

Below is her father, Phil Byars, being interviewed by Indianapolis reporter Scott Swain. Though you can see the grief, pain, and struggle on his face and hear it in his words and voice, you also see and hear the real ministry of Jesus to him at this time. Listen especially to how he answers the question about how his family will spend Thanksgiving. Then take a little time to pray, call, invite over, or visit someone who may be struggling with pain today.

Also, for those who may be wondering how someone can forgive such things, here is a prayer from Martin Luther on the petition regarding forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer. You can see in Mr. Byars that he is learning to pray just like this.

O dear Lord, God and Father, enter not into judgment against us because no man living is justified before thee. Do not count it against us as a sin that we are […]

Mole Patrol

In cleaning out the tool shed upon moving into our home two years ago, I almost tossed out the funny looking, conical-shaped container of half-used mole poison left behind by the previous owner.  Yet instead of seeing the yellow bottle as potential trash, I should have seen it as a prophetical forewarning of battles yet to come.

For though there was no sign of them in my lawn last year, the end of this summer and early fall changed all that. The attack started simply enough. I noticed a few raised areas on the edge of my property. Thinking little of it, I stamped them down and walked away with a smug “that’ll show them” attitude. I shake my head now thinking of how inexperienced at war I was!

For before I knew what had happened, their boots in the ground campaign turned my yard into what looks like someone’s idea of an upside down battlefield. Trenches pushing earth upward hiding the soldiers. Mounds of earth every few feet in certain areas forming upside down craters, as if small bombs had exploded underground. Supply lines of tasty grubs below fueling the troops onward. Exhausting my leftover bottle of poison in one area only to have […]

Browse Worthy: Immigration

Jared pointed out some good reading about refugees yesterday. As the ISIS attacks and immigration issues call the church to exercise great wisdom, several other articles listed below are quite helpful as well.

GenRef Gent Rutledge Etheridge shared some wisdom on Facebook yesterday that we would all do well to heed. Practicing being “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” will be especially important in these difficult and complex days ahead.

Sad to see so many oversimplifications, stereotypes and straw men at play in Facebook posts regarding the Syrian refugee crisis. Especially sad to see all of the above among Christians, all sides seeming to imply that to disagree with their simplistically stated opinion is to deny the generous gospel of Jesus. Perhaps it’d be best, especially in this medium, to acknowledge the extraordinary complexity of the situation (What are the government’s responsibilities in tandem with or in distinction from the church’s responsibilities in these matters? How do we apply the positive implications of the sixth commandment while being willing to die for the sake of the gospel? In proclaiming and living out the gospel, how are we in this situation to apply practically Jesus’s admonition to be wise […]

Simple Praying for Complex Times

As we see the inward, moral deterioration of the western world with waves of immigrants from other lands, many of whom are hostile to Christianity, coming to us, knowing how to pray directly and effectively can be difficult. Here’s a little help to that end from a book by Martin Luther.

Authored in 1535, A Simple Way to Pray was written to Luther’s barber, a man named Peter Beskendorf.  This man, known as “Master Peter,” had been Luther’s barber for years and was his friend.  Master Peter recognized the link between Luther’s prayer life and his obvious greatness, so he asked the Reformer to teach him how to pray. One can imagine Luther sitting there in a barber’s chair, his face all lathered up and a razor blade whisking along his neck, and this barber asking him questions about prayer.  Luther probably hesitated talking too much, not wanting to distract Peter in his work for obvious reasons!  So Luther wrote this book, which begins:

Dear Master Peter:  I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray.  May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen.”

The Lord used Luther to help […]

Cat Christians

Recently we had some Christian friends from Asia over.  As we discussed the church in their land, one of them used an analogy I had not heard before. She said a lot of Christians in her country were “like cats.”

Not understanding what she meant, I asked her to explain. She described these people as those who go to church here and there, have no loyalty to a single congregation, and show no respect for authority and structure. Thus, like cats they walk about independently, having little regard for the church of Christ.

We laughed at the analogy. It reminded my wife and me of one of our favorite commercials featuring cowboys on the range herding cats. The rugged men juxtaposed with the idea of driving cats across the range highlights in a silly way their nature.

Yet as I have thought more about it, “Cat Christians” are not limited to our friend’s country and are a serious problem in the church. We have plenty of them in our nation as well. People show little loyalty to congregations. They bite and claw at one another, then run away without settling conflicts. So many come to church wanting it to serve their needs rather than seeking to serve others. […]

Browse Worthy: Doctrinal Quizzes

Tim Challies has been running a series of quizzes on doctrine at his site. Going through these helps sharpen your mind and theological precision. So why not try one or two of the links below?

But beware! The last one may be the hardest one of all.

Thirty-Three on the Three-in-One: A Quiz on the Trinity
A Quiz on Christ
A Quiz on the Doctrine of Scripture
Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie?

Sow Only One Seed in the Vineyard

You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, or all the produce of the seed which you have sown and the increase of the vineyard will become defiled. You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together. You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself. If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her, and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, ‘I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin…’” -Deuteronomy 22:9-14

When you read the above laws prohibiting sowing two types of seeds in the vineyard or yoking an ox and donkey together, what kind of law do you consider them to be? The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) gives three categories for the law – moral, judicial, & ceremonial. Yet sometimes sticking laws in these categories is not always as easy as it might first appear, and the wisdom that is to come from meditating on them and seeing them in context can be lost in the process (see Psalm […]

Browse Worthy: Seminary

After writing on the importance of coming to seminary earlier this week, I noticed several other articles on theological education were shared.

Why Study Hebrew (or Greek)? – David Murray explains how the struggle inherent in language studies is the most beneficial part when it comes to studying the Bible.

Choosing the Right Seminary  – Kevin DeYoung gives seven important questions to ask for those wondering which theological school to attend.

Kevin DeYoung Appointed Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at RTS – The title says it all. Congratulations!

Am I a Pastor or a Scholar? – A little help from The Gospel Coalition in answering that question.

Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal – In this sponsored post on Tim Challies website, you can see the details of what we hope is both a “scholarly and pastoral” online journal that will be beneficial to the church.

Browse Worthy: Cute, Laughing Monsters

The eleventh video of Planned Parenthood doctors discussing abortions and preserving body parts for maximum profit is below. The ladies in the video speak so casually of partially birthing the premature babies so they can keep the heads intact in order to retrieve the whole brain.

Though I know references to Hitler are too common in our day by those wishing to demonize others, still while watching this video I could not help but think of an article I had read last week called “Hitler at Home.” The pictures show the Fuehrer with his mistress Eva Braun as they appear in family-like scenes in tastefully decorated rooms or with their pet dogs. The pictures can both humanize them and numb us to the atrocities they were committing at the time.

Pretty faces, jokes, and smiles cannot cover over monstrous hearts and hands dripping with blood.

Seminary. Be Here!

One of the most exciting developments in seminary education is distance learning (DL). Taking courses online is becoming an increasingly popular means for students to pursue theological education. In seminaries accredited by ATS, more than a quarter of the students have taken at least one course online and this number is only expected to grow. At the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary where I serve, the number of credits for online classes nearly tripled from the fall of last year to this year.

DL can be a blessing to the church for many reasons. Students can remain longer in their local ministry context without uprooting their families from their homes and congregations.  DL allows for flexibility to family and work schedules that the traditional classroom does not. Seminaries can reach students in foreign lands who otherwise would not be able to attend due to such things as visa restrictions or moving costs. People who may not want to be pastors but desire to deepen their theological knowledge can take or audit classes more easily. DL encourages the further connection and cooperation between the seminary and the local church, as pastors can work with students enrolled in online courses and see what they are learning.

However, […]