Suicide and Atonement

The tragic death of Robin Williams in August briefly caught the public imagination in our country. A uniquely gifted man died before his time because he was unable to cope with the depression that haunted him. Well-meaning supporters opined that Mr. Williams was now free at last. Others speculated about what must be wrong with our society that would drive someone like Mr. Williams to despair. While Robin Williams’ suicide dominated the news, there was another high-profile suicide that went virtually unnoticed in our country. Just six days before Williams’ death, Dr. Yoshiki Sasai, a world famous stem cell researcher from Japan, was found hanging in a stair well in the building in which he worked.

Earlier this year one of Dr. Sasai’s research associates made a revolutionary discovery regarding the reprogramming of common cells into cells with the properties of embryonic stem cells. The process of transforming cells is ordinarily done by genetic manipulation of the cells. The new discovery purported to show that the cells could be reprogrammed by simply manipulating the environment in which they grew, thus eliminating the need for altering the genetic composition of the cells. This advance would have moved the use of reprogrammed cells [...]


Singing With Thankfulness In Our Hearts

Do you ever wonder what some of the best a Capella Psalm singing sounds like? Then join us in Indianapolis, Indiana on the Lord’s Day, October 19, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. The acoustically favorable venue of North United Methodist Church will not make it best, nor will the expected 500-plus voices raised in harmony – much as those things will help. No, it will be some of the best because it will come from Spirit-filled hearts full of gratitude for God’s saving grace.

You see, we are thankful that fifty years ago, on October 16, 1964, Jesus established Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was “Second” because there had been a first in Indianapolis in the nineteenth century. In 1964, the Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church was the only RP church in Indiana. God would save many more souls over the years at Second RP, in Bloomington, and beyond. And we are grateful that in 1994 Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church in Kokomo, Indiana would also be planted by the Lord’s hand.

Now twenty years later, these two congregations are joining to celebrate God’s grace with other congregations around the state that the Lord has also planted over these last fifty years. [...]


The Irony of Sin

On the night before his meeting with King Xerxes and Esther, Haman, in accordance with the counsel of his friends and wife, had a seventy-five foot tall gallows built exclusively for the neck of Mordecai, the faithful Jew who would not bow the knee in his presence.

Through the cunning of Haman, an edict had already been sent forth, spelling the demise of the Jews. The outlying provinces were to “kill and annihilate all the Jews- young and old, woman and little children- on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods” (Esther 3:13 NIV). It was a time of great mourning and weeping and fasting for God’s people. They were going to die.

One can almost picture Haman in his bed, listening to the sound of sawing and hammering, as the immense gallows were being constructed. One can imagine him replaying the image of Mordecai standing alone amid a sea of bent knees, refusing to pay homage to him. He no doubt pictured the obstinate Jew swinging in the noonday light, noose cinched tightly around his neck. He no doubt imagined what he would say before the onlookers, how he [...]


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 [...]


Praying for our Nations

As I write this, the people of Scotland are voting on whether or not they want to remain in the United Kingdom. A remarkable 97% of the people have registered to vote in the referendum, and the turnout at the polls is expected to be the highest in Scottish history – remarkable indeed in a climate of electoral apathy. As I write, the result is impossible to predict – experts reckon it could be decided by a margin as slender as 60,000 votes. The polling organisation Ipsos Mori are saying 51% yes, 49% no.

 

As a Northern Irish citizen of the United Kingdom, I have heard and read plenty of arguments over the last few months as to why Scottish independence would be either the kiss of life or the kiss of death to both Scotland and the rest of the UK. In the ‘yes’ camp and in the ‘no’ camp experts hold forth eloquently, persuasively, passionately, supporting their arguments with telling and pertinent statistics. And then the other side comes back with forceful counter-arguments and equally plausible statistics. It’s all too easy to become like the sheep in Animal Farm who just believed whoever spoke last! How do we pray about [...]


iDolatry

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 [...]


Our New Morality

…that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine… (Ephesians 4:14)

It’s easy to be discouraged at the state of morality in our culture (or cultures, as the case may be), but slightly harder to pin down what exactly that morality is. The fact remains that we don’t live in an amoral society, because such a thing is impossible. Human societies will always be guarded by a morality. The real question is not whether morality, but which. We definitely have a morality and for the sake of the church’s future in this society, we need to more deeply discern the waters in which we swim.

My proposal is a new name for our new morality: Reactionary Morality.


Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding (Three Audio Debates)

Here are some theological debates that might be of interest. Each can be found under “Ministries/Trinity Debate” over at the Carl F.H. Henry Center website.

Do Relations of Authority and Submission Exist Eternally Among the Persons of the Godhead?  (Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem vs. Keith Yandell and Tom McCall) 

This is technical debate that will prove taxing at times. But for those with a taste for the subject, they will probably want to give it a go.

Is Social Justice an Essential Part of the Mission of the Church?  (Jim Wallis vs. Al Mohler)

Unfortunately, the bulk of the debate is fairly repetitive. Since there wasn’t a time of cross examination, both speakers weren’t provided an opportunity to really disagree with one another until the Q&A. There the real differences came out more forcefully, however.

How and When Will All Israel Be Saved? (Douglas Moo, John Feinberg, Mitch Glaser, Willem VanGemeren) 

If you would like to hear a variety of voices interact with Romans 11, with an eye towards answering the above question, this panel discussion will provide just that. It is a little dry, but informative nonetheless.

Part 1
Part 2

 

 


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