I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
Stories of conversion are a wonderful thing.
Through them God’s grace is set on display. Here we see the mysterious workings of the Spirit. God shines in a person’s heart the light of the knowledge of the glory of Himself in the face of Jesus Christ. As a result, the person is transformed, mightily and to the core. And while we do not behold this miracle directly, we certainly witness its effects.
What a wonder it is!
Recently Barry York and I had the distinct privilege of getting to hear firsthand one such story of God’s grace. It’s the account of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. And it is nothing short of astonishing.
Rosaria could not have imagined she would ever wear the name “Christian.” And yet, through a simple and rather unexpected letter from Pastor Ken Smith, a tide of events was set in motion. Her world was soon turned upside down as she found herself meeting with Pastor Ken and his wife, Floy, grappling with the One whom she had so pointedly rejected, Jesus Christ.
In this podcast, we’re pleased to have both Rosaria and Ken on the phone. Listen as they recount this tale with warmth, honesty and insight. You will especially enjoy hearing how this pastor and his wife ministered to Rosaria before, during, and after her conversion.
For more information, the reader should consider visiting Rosaria’s website. There you will find an interesting Q & A section where she grapples with a number of tough issues. Also noteworthy is her testimony which can be found at Christianity Today. This has been the most-read article ever on their website with about 1 million views. Truly amazing!
Remember that old commercial where the thickness of the ketchup was highlighted by the slow wait of it coming out of the bottle? Recall how the song “Anticipation” was sung in the background? (Here’s the link if you want a bit of nostalgia.)
Well, for some time we have been working on having a Gentle Reformation podcast where we interview people of interest. Like that ketchup, things have gone agonizingly slow. Trying to get everything in place behind the scenes “is makin’ me late, is keepin’ me waitin’.”
However, Austin Brown and I have recorded our first interview! Though we are admittedly novices, the two folks we recorded have a fascinating story to tell and lessons to share that will be a blessing to hear. Stay tuned as we hope to post it soon…we think.
You might ask, “”Who are these folks and when can I hear them?” As we are still hoping this will work, I’d rather not say yet. For that old song also says, ‘”I’m no prophet and I don’t know nature’s ways.”
“Anticipation, anticipation is makin’ me late, is keepin’ me waitin…”
Part of my daily Bible reading has been through the book of Proverbs lately and tonight I happened upon a sermon of mine from Proverbs 1. Apparently I’m forgetful enough that my own sermon notes can help me just a few years later. Anyway, here are just a few thoughts about Biblical wisdom, specifically about God’s promise to make us wise: Read more
At the end of the day we had an offer we could not refuse.
We’re still in shock. Though we realize the deal is not fully done until closing, selling our home that quickly was another “moving sign.” Indeed, moving signs have been springing up all around us recently. Read more
Church history is the last thing some people want to think about on any given day. But, you might actually be thinking about church history a whole lot more than you realize at the breakfast table first thing in the morning. My students seem to find history more palatable when they see that they are already familiar with it. So, let’s check out your breakfast menu; it might just whet your appetite for more history. Read more
Recently I was asked by a young lady, a lover of the gospel as well as people, this question, “Does God love unbelievers?” She obviously was wrestling with working out her theology which stresses the sovereign love of God revealed in Christ to the elect with the very practical matter of sharing Christ with unbelievers, which she is doing. Surely the blanket statement “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” is too trite a thing to say to those bent on sin. Yet she wondered if you can communicate in any manner God’s love to an unbeliever, knowing that the Bible says not only that God hates sin but that He “hates all who do iniquity” (Psalm 5:5)?
I answered her question with one of my own. Would God ask you to love someone He is not willing to love?
For Christ does tell us quite clearly that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Then immediately after this command He offers the heavenly Father’s example. God’s practice is to cause the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the wicked and the just. By alluding to God’s providence in this way, Christ was in essence saying the Father demonstrates love even to His enemies and thus so should we. Yet here is where careful distinctions are needed to avoid confusion. Read more
After adding the cream and sugar to my coffee, my wife, who usually prepares it for me, gives it a vigorous stir with a spoon. That way the sweetness attaches itself to the coffee’s bitterness, making it palatable and pleasant to my taste buds inherited from my English forefathers.
I find prayer to be like that. Often my heart, bitter with life’s sins, anxieties, and failures, needs to have some sweetness stirred in so that I can lift its cup up and pour out prayer unto the Lord. Thankfully, I have a friend who does that for me.
Jesus’ friendship stirs me to pray. Likewise, it stirred our forefather Abraham to pray. Read more
I found this quote in my studies this morning and thought it would be an encouragement as we each look forward to the Lord’s Day. In speaking about God’s grace in raising up Samuel to be a prophet, Dale Ralph Davies writes:
If contemporary believers have a church where social activities, committee meetings, and nifty programs have not eclipsed the place of the word of God, if the teaching of the word of God stands at the heart of the church’s life, if there is a pulpit ministry where the Scriptures are clearly, accurately, and helpfully preached, then they are rich in the grace of God.
If you have such a church family, regardless of what else others might think is missing, give thanks to God for the grace of His Word!
No one could ask for better in-laws than mine. It is not only because they gave their beautiful daughter to an undeserving guy. They have been ones who through the years have constantly encouraged us, supported our family and ministry through their labors and gifts, and given us invaluable counsel (to the point Miriam’s dad likes to call me Moses and himself Jethro).
Our children also could not ask for better grandparents. They have been deemed “Papa and HooHoo,” Miriam’s mother being so named when the kids were little for her habit of calling out “Hoo, hoo!” when she enters the house. When Papa and HooHoo come to visit, it is an exciting event. Our children have always gone bounding out the door to greet them. Not only do they genuinely love them, but they know treats and surprises will be found in their vehicle! The days the grandparents are here are usually spent doing such things as planting flowers, helping with chores, working on crafts and projects, and taking trips to Meijer for groceries and “snoops” (treats). Read more
Next week, the Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery of the RPCNA will hold its annual spring meeting. The nominating committee will submit a slate of candidates for various committees and offices for the coming year. For the first time in some thirty years, Rich Johnston will not be nominated for youth secretary. The vote will probably be quiet and ordinary, but it will formally conclude a most-extraordinary three decades of ministry to the young people of this presbytery. Read more
Like coming upon a car accident with injuries, for some reason it always jars me when I read the following in the Old Testament. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk” (Deuteronomy 14:21; also Exodus 23:19; 34:26). Something about the very thought of this just makes me go “Yuck!”
It is not just that I do not like goat’s milk, which I do not. Recently the men had a discussion around the table at Fellowship Lunch about goat’s milk. Words like “brown” and “smelly” and even “mucous-like consistency” were used to describe it. I know some out there surely like goat’s milk, but there were no fans around that table. No, it is not the milk per se, but the way it is being used that is disgusting. What is it about this verse that makes the very idea revolting?
A reader named Justin submitted the following question to our “Gentle Answers” feature found on the right sidebar. My answer to him is below.
I just read your post on the unpardonable sin entitled the “Iron Cage“. I have struggled with this particular topic for a few years now. A few years ago I indeed had not be watchful and been somewhat lax in my spiritual walk. Because of an awful thought I had a few years ago, during that time, while reading the unpardonable sin passage in Mark I have feared that I have committed the unpardonable sin. Ever since then I have feared that all that awaits me is eternal punishment and this terrifies me. I have earnestly prayed for God’s forgiveness over and over but still feel anxiety. I feel as if because of what I’ve done and thought, the promises of God no longer apply to me and He has left me and I can’t be forgiven for the things I’ve thought; I can’t imagine standing before Him and those particular thoughts being brought up; I hate them! I noticed you quoted J.I. Packer in your post and I read that portion of his book Concise Theology and he goes on to say that if someone has anxiety that they’ve committed this sin that itself is evidence they have not, due to the hardheartedness of such a sin. However your excerpt from Bunyan shows a man who is very remorseful for what he has done yet finds no mercy; his anxiety over committing the sin has no bearing on his state whatsoever. Could you clarify?
Thank you for your honest question. I appreciate this opportunity to clarify this issue for you. Though I do not know you nor your heart, I do want to encourage you. Please allow me to state succinctly at the outset my answer to your concern over whether you have committed the unpardonable sin, then explain it. Read more
The Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery of the RPCNA meets later this month. In a recent Facebook discussion, I suggested that a certain student of theology would show good judgment by bringing a bag of candy to share at the meeting. Jokes about bribes popped up instantly because the elders will be voting on student theology exams; it was all good fun. Of course, bribery is utterly sinful, but it’s a good idea for students to bring a bag of candy to share. Why? Because it’s portable hospitality, and 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 both say that an elder must be hospitable. Read more
Our family hosts a college Bible study for our congregation each Thursday in our home. A capable young man, a recent graduate himself, leads the study. Souls are being attracted through the study of God’s word and the earnest love of the saints. Last Thursday night, I arrived home and peeked in to see our living room filled with over twenty young adults. My heart brimmed with gratitude to see them hungry for the word of God. They sing a Psalm at the beginning and end of each study. The leader observed privately afterward that this group is one of the weakest singing groups of which he has ever been a part. “We really sound bad,” he said. I’ve heard them sing, and I concur. Read more