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Stories of Hope

Since the fall of last year, our congregation has been planning for three evangelistic services that we called Stories of Hope.  We gave this event this title for three basic reasons: 1) the messages came from the three parables that Jesus told in Luke 15; 2) we had a testimony shared by a member of the church that tied into the theme of the evening; and 3) we believe every person’s life is a God-given story in which the hope of the gospel is to be offered.

These meetings took place over the past three Sunday evenings and just concluded last night.  To give God glory for what we have seen Him do in our midst and to offer encouragement to others, I thought I would share the following.

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To prepare the congregation for this time, our pastors organized what they called “Mission Briefings” over the eight or nine months leading up to Stories of Hope.  They took time once a month in an evening service to encourage the church in such areas as praying specifically for friends, practicing hospitality, and asking kingdom-oriented questions. This training, along with regular exhortations through emails, announcements, and especially sermon references, stirred the congregation to be intentional […]

The Woman in the Parable of the Lost Coin

Last night our congregation held the second of three evangelistic services we are calling “Stories of Hope.”  I preached on the Parable of the Lost Coin from Luke 15:8-10.

Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

I made it clear that as we hear this parable, we are not to identify with the woman but the coin.  For the lost coin represents a sinner, and the theme I developed in the message was “A valuable item lost from its owner becomes worthless, but when restored the joy is multiplied.”

So though we are to see ourselves as not the woman but the coin, the question remains: “What does the woman represent?”  Some commentators think she represents the Holy Spirit, for her searching with her light is like the Spirit illuminating hearts with truth.  Others develop the […]

Poor Laws in an Age of False Beneficence

Whether it is teaching classes on mercy ministry or counseling with others on a case involving someone needy, again and again I find the church struggling to know what to do in helping the poor.  Often I start by telling folks that it is good they are struggling, because every situation will be difficult to discern.  Beware of the one who comes in with the quick, easy answer!

But then I also will ask, “What does the Bible have to say in cases like this one?”  People often fumble around a bit at this question.  Usually a mention of how we have an obligation to care for the needy or a reference to the story of the Good Samaritan is offered by the sensitive, tender-hearted ones on the one hand; and remarks about the poor needing to learn to work or how we cannot be giving handouts to every drunkard comes from the bolder, more stout-hearted folks on the other.  Too infrequently do I hear a reasoned articulation coming from the Scriptures that echoes with the proper Micah 6:8 blend: “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

The location of this verse just quoted explains why.  Notice Micah 6:8 is in the Old Testament. […]

Browse Worthy: Culture Battles

Delighting in Death? – Though no one can truly comprehend the inanity of a woman smiling while wearing a “I Had an Abortion” T-Shirt, Carl Trueman does give some insight here.

The Seed of Divorce – Let Tim Challies help you uproot, by God’s Spirit, this seed that lies in every marriage.

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? – This question is not only a title of the post but the new book Kevin DeYoung has written.  You can read about the book, get a sample of it, and listen as Kevin address this topic in a video-recorded message.

This is How Religious Liberty Dies — The New Rules of the Secular Left – Al Mohler offers insightful commentary on how religious liberty is being limited more and more so as to leave the church with no cultural voice or influence.

Watch Daniel Macarthur’s “Faith Under Fire” Message – The “Bakery Battles” are not limited to the USA.  See the testimony of this general manager of a baking company in Northern Ireland. David Murray also adds some helpful lessons that can be drawn from this situation and others like it.

Pastoral Care Statement to a Congregation

What if you had a brochure, membership class lesson, or church webpage that explained to people the type of pastoral care they could expect to receive when attending your congregation?  Here is my attempt at what such an explanation by a Presbyterian congregation might contain.

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Our congregation wants to provide pastoral care for you, whether this is your first visit with us or you are a longtime member of the church.  What do we mean by “pastoral care?”

Pastoral Care Defined

When one hears the word “pastoral,” they often think of the minister of the church.  Though the idea of pastoral care includes the work of the minister, we mean more by this term than only what the pastor does.  The word pastor comes from French and Latin words for shepherd and shepherding.  In English, we use the word “pasture” similarly.  Just as sheep (a common Biblical metaphor for Christians) are protected and fed by shepherds, so the people of God are to be watched over and nurtured.  The chief Shepherd of the church is the Lord Jesus Christ (Psalm 23; John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20), who calls upon spiritual leaders in each generation to care for His people by teaching them the Word of […]

The RPTJ is Now Available!

Recently the faculty of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary published the first edition of a new journal. The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal will be an online publication in order to make it more readily available.  The plan is to publish two issues per year, and will be found on the resource page of the seminary’s website.

For a further explanation, read the opening column of the journal entitled “From Rutherford Hall” by our president.

As I write this column, I am sitting in my office in Rutherford Hall, the grand, former Horne Mansion situated on the small campus of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) in the East End of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By God’s grace, the Seminary has a long and noble history like the building itself, dating back to its establishment in 1810. Given Rutherford Hall is the location where so much of the life of RPTS takes place – classes, chapel services, conferences, meals, fellowship – that is the name given to this column. We anticipate this feature being a regular part of this new journal being launched by RPTS. The journal, to no one’s surprise, will be called the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal.

I believe you will find the Reformed Presbyterian Theological […]

That Last Old Testament Verse

Often home schooling advocates and family ministry speakers quote the last verse of the Old Testament.  Malachi 4:6 brings the Old Testament to its conclusion with this promise about life in the age of Christ: “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” Clearly, calling people to claim a Scriptural promise that Christ’s ministry will restore healthy relationships between parents and children is a beautiful hope to offer them.

However, though that might be a possible application of this verse, it is not the proper interpretation of it.

In their classic commentary on the Old Testament, Keil & Delitsch state the following:

The meaning of this is not that he will settle disputes in families, or restore peace between parents and children; for the leading sin of the nation at the time of our prophet was not family quarrels, but estrangement from God. The fathers are rather the ancestors of the Israelite(ish) nation, the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), and generally the pious forefathers, such as David and the godly men of his time. The sons or children are the degenerate descendants of Malachi’s own time and the succeeding ages.”

They go on to explain that […]

J.G. Vos’ Work of Theological Renewal in the RPCNA

Recently Gentle Reformation writers did a series on J.G. Vos for the Reformed Presbyterian Witness magazine.  The following article was my contribution.  In the article I referred to a tract that Vos and another minister wrote, and have received inquiries to its availability.  To my knowledge the tract was only in printed form, so I have scanned it for easy reference.  Click “Are Women Elders Scriptural?” to read it.

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In the flow of denominational history, periods occur where the church can be threatened and even overrun by liberalism.  Indeed, a look at the ecclesiastical landscape today would make one think there is never much of an ebb and flow but only irreversible tidal waves!

The RPCNA has been no exception to such concerns.  In an article he wrote regarding the history of the RPCNA, Tom Reid recounts the state of the denomination in the first half of the twentieth century.  “Over time, the RPCNA’s interest in bringing reform to society gradually was deformed into something approaching social gospel liberalism.” However, in our ongoing look at the influence of J.G. Vos on the RPCNA, we want to highlight how the Lord raised him up to stem the tide of modernism by bringing theological renewal.  His influence […]

Putting Boots on Our Predestination

Recently in a class I took on leadership by Terry Walling, we were encouraged to look at our lives and heritage more carefully using a Post-It Note Timeline to consider all the events, circumstances, and people the Lord has used to shape us.  Dr. Walling had us identify how God as the Potter uses many influences to form us into the people we are. He led us through exercises that helped us recognize people whom God has used to mold us thus far.

As we prayerfully reflected on our lives with Dr. Walling’s guidance, each of us began to see that the Lord uses a myriad of people in lesser and greater ways to prepare and direct us in our service to Him.  Indeed, as we become more aware of God’s shaping hand through others, we begin to see lessons and patterns the Lord uses uniquely in our own lives to guide us further into His ways.

For example, in my own life I saw God has often used “spanks” through the hands of others to shape me. One of my very first memories is crying as a toddler after my father had truly spanked me (with many repeats through my childhood!) which helped put […]

Mercy and the Westminster Publick Directory of Worship

In teaching on mercy ministry in Reformed settings, I often use the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) to make a point. The RPW teaches that we are only to worship God as He commands us to do so in Scripture. In considering matters of worship, many Reformed Christians, rightly so, insist on regulating carefully by the Word of God what takes place in the church’s worship of God.

So as I address mercy and worship, I like to say there is another RPW.  Not only must we be careful to regulate our worship according to God’s Word, but we must also be diligent to insure that God’s Word is regulating us, especially in the area of mercy. Repeatedly, God’s Word emphasizes as we come into His presence that He is examining us to see if we are caring for the poor, the stranger, the widow, and the orphan as we ought.  Just two samples among dozens that could be given:

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.  Rescue the weak and needy; […]