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Podcast: Distance Education and the Seminary

Online education is dramatically changing the playing field in higher education.  In 2011, 89% of four-year public colleges and universities in the U.S. were reported to offer online classes. Though seminaries have lagged behind, in 2011-2012 nearly 20,000 of about 74,000 seminarians enrolled at accredited schools had completed at least one online course while still on campus.   Seminaries are having to learn how to navigate the strange, new world the Digital Age has brought in.

Recently Austin and I discussed with Dr. Jerry O’Neill, president of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Aaron Sams*, Director of Distance Education at RPTS, the new online courses being offered at RPTS.  We heard about the incredible blessings as well as the intriguing challenges this form of education brings to the seminary.  Click below to listen along!

*Just wanted to add a congratulations to Aaron, who this past weekend was honored with his colleague Jon Bergmann for their work in using technology in the flipped classroom approach at the Bammy Awards in Washington, D.C.  The educational equivalent of the Grammy Awards, the Bammy Awards are sponsored by The Academy of Education Arts and Sciences and give recognition to dedicated and innovative educational leaders.





A Trinitarian Approach to Conflict

Over the past two years, I have been looking at many different books on pastoral care written through the ages.  One characteristic I have noticed in many of the writers is the emphasis they give on how varied the body of Christ is yet how united it should be under his headship.  A pastor must recognize this quality about the flock of God.  If he does not, he will be severely handicapped in ministering to them.

Seeing the church in this manner flowed out of these ministers’ emphasis on the Trinity.  They recognized that the God who is both three and one has created his church to be many and one.  They paid close attention to passages such as this one found in I Corinthians 12:4-6, where Paul speaks of the Father, Son, and Spirit in the context of describing the church as a body with many differing members:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Gregory of Nazianzus, a fourth century church father, was especially insightful in viewing the church in this manner and applying [...]


First, a disclosure.  I have an iPad and and an iPhone.  These tools are wonderful helps to me.  After a few double or missed bookings because my wife and I were unaware of each other’s calendars, this summer I synchronized them on these devices (after I convinced her to not use the large printed one anymore in our kitchen).  In teaching, I love how easy it is to plug my iPad into the projector so my students can follow my notes.  I just discovered the Doceri app (I’m always a little behind), which allows me to use my iPad as a whiteboard as it projects what I write on the screen.  Having my iPhone on my commutes saves me invaluable time, as I catch up on phone calls, listen to SermonAudio, or even record sermon or blog thoughts (including these) that I speak out loud in the semi-privacy of my car.  Though far from tech savvy, I am fairly integrated and love these tools.

Yet I am uneasy.  My hand seems to reach for my iDevices automatically, without thinking.  Some nights I stay up too late catching up on emails or just reading the news or blogs.  I find it more difficult to [...]

Westminster Conference 2014

Another post today to give you yet another conference series!  Listening to the messages in both of these posts could keep you busy for quite a while!

The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary hosted its eleventh annual Westminster Confession Conference this past weekend.  The subject this year was “The Law of God and Its Uses.”  The packed chapel at RPTS revealed a great deal of interest in this subject.

Below are the links to the messages.  Each session had a short question & answer period, so that link is included as well.

1. Conference Introduction by Jerry O’Neill

2. Not Under Law – Really?  The Law and Its Uses by Jack Kineer.  Q&A session.

3. The Law Leads Us to Christ: The Law and Its First Use by Barry York.  Q&A session.

4. The Law Restrains Evil: The Law and Its Second Use by Richard Gamble.  Q&A session.

5. The Law Guides Us in Gratitude: The Law and Its Third Use by John Tweeddale.  Q&A session.

6. The Heart of the Matter: Avoiding Legalism by C.J. Williams.  Q&A session.

Rut Etheridge on “Refusing a Lesser Life”

Rut Etheridge, chaplain at Geneva College and fellow Gentle Reformation blogger, recently spoke on the subject of sanctification at the Christian Life Conference of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Beaver Falls, PA.  Entitled “Refusing a Lesser Life: The Savior’s Summons to a Full Hearted Faith,” these four messages are insightful, challenging, and a helpful addition (and, at times, corrective) to the ongoing discussion about this vital topic.

If you desire a greater experience of the Lord in your walk with him, Rut helps point the way.  Here are the links:

1. Serving: Freedom Instead of Autonomy

2. Knowing: Assurance Instead of Agnosticism

3. Childlike Instead of Childish

4. Kingdom Fire

Drops of Nectar

At summer’s end, at perfect time,

   Hosta shoots reach up high;

As the purple cups, hanging down,

   Beckon those flying by.


With whirring wings and slender beak,

   Colors catching the sun,

Humming birds feast as they hover,

   Always amazing one.


Yet on this day, the lumbering

   Of those inside the cup,

Fumbling, tumbling, the bumblebees

  Rouse this watching one up.


For while drinking drops of nectar

   Prepared in flower’d jar,

The bees, unknowingly, bear gold,

   Life that’s spread near and far.


 So too we receive His blessings

     Not seeing as we taste, 

Others touched as we’re becoming

    The vessels of His grace.


The Pilgrim’s Psalter

Within the Book of Psalms, certain collections or groupings of thematic psalms can be found.  One of the most easily identifiable is the fifteen psalms known as the Song of Ascents, Psalms 120-134.  As you can see in your Bible, each of these psalms has translated the title “A Song of Ascent” above it, as this title is actually the first verse of each psalm in the Hebrew manuscript.  They were given this name because they were sung as the Jewish people journeyed up to Jerusalem during their three annual feasts.  One could title this collection The Pilgrim’s Psalter.

That these psalms chronicle and encourage the Christian’s journey in this world was first brought to my attention by Pastor Paul Faris.  Paul was a long-term minister in the RPCNA, grandfather of Gentle Reformation author James Faris, and one who served with me and mentored me in my early years of church planting.  This faithful pilgrim finished his course in this world and is now enjoying the fullness of the lessons he taught me and others below.

Paul saw the Song of Ascents as capturing three stages of our spiritual journey.  We first begin our walk with God by leaving evil behind (Beginning), make progress in [...]

The Power of Memory

With my Uncle Don passing away this week, my mom lost both her brothers within a span of a few months.  Sadly, her dementia makes it impossible for me to relate to her what has taken place.

However, just a few weeks ago, Don and Mom spoke on the phone ever so briefly.  I saw in my Mom’s brightening eyes and emotional voice the signs she knew it was her brother on the line.

The videos below, one of an old trainer visiting his elephant after fifteen years of separation, and the other of an Alzheimer patient having a moment of recognition of her daughter lying beside her, capture the power of memories.

These events remind us of the importance of such things as lifelong bonds of love, of continuing to love the forgetful and wayward, and of the hope in calling people to remember the gospel that they so long ago seem to have forgotten.  “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9).


Browse Worthy: David Murray’s Student Tech Tips

With school getting into full swing these days, it is important for students to work on their organizational abilities.  In this increasingly technological age, boxes of crayons and notebooks with tabs are being replaced with digital apps and files it seems.  Not only that, but even yesterday’s technology gets replaced in a blink of an eye.  My youngest daughter’s Christian school just told her to leave last year’s flash drive at home and sign up for Dropbox.  Trying to keep up with the best ways to use and organize the technology can be overwhelming.

That’s why I am thankful for the series of “New Student Tips” Dr. David Murray is doing over at his HeadHeartHand blog.  Clearly explained and carefully linked, he guides you through the top web applications that can help you not only order your educational life, but all of it.  I am not sure how many more he intends to do in this series, but here are the links of the articles so far.  They have been beneficial to me, and I have even learned more about the ones I am already using.  Also, the good news is that these are all free!

So whether a new student or an old one like me,  take [...]

Scar Stories

With her Carolina twang, Mommy told me to go let Daddy know that supper was ready. Heading out the front door of our little house on the dead end of the gravel road, I saw Daddy across the creek that ran through our property. He was clearing brush from the bank. As I headed toward him to deliver the message Sally, our black-coated collie, came eagerly over to greet me.

Sally was chained to a metal stake Daddy sometimes used to pitch horseshoes. As she wagged her tail and rubbed against me, the chain she dragged caught around my left foot, knocking me off balance. As I pitched forward, the top of my right foot, as bare as the other one, drug across the jagged edge of the horseshoe pipe. My errand to call Daddy to supper turned into a scream of pain as I looked and saw the top of my foot flayed open, blood pouring out.

My mind has blocked out much of the rest of the memories of that day when I was no more than five years of age. I remember Daddy and Mr. Jackson, the kind corn farmer who lived across the road, carrying me toward the [...]