The Gospel in a handshake

I’ve just finished “Mission at Nuremburg” by Tim Townsend. It is the fascinating story of Henry Gerecke, chaplain at the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunal. A one word quote from a newspaper review on the front simply says “Gripping”, and it was.

Among Gerecke’s ‘parishioners’ were:

Hermann Goering—Commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, and a man who had given some of the most genocidal orders of the war.
Rudolf Hess—known as the third most powerful man in Germany, behind Hitler and Goering
Fritz Sauckel—Head of Labour and Supply in Nazi Germany. He was described as “the greatest and cruellest slave driver since Pharaoh”. He worked millions of slave labourers to death without mercy.
Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel—Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed forces. His unquestioning obedience to Hitler led to his being responsible for more deaths than anyone could count.
Wilhelm Frick—Minister of the Interior. An innocuous sounding title, but that meant he was responsible for all that happened within the borders of Germany, including the rounding up of the Jewish people for extermination. His title covered up a reign of terror.
Joachim von Ribbentrop—Hitler’s Foreign Minister.

How would you do in ministering to such men?

As chaplain Gerecke knew it was his duty to share the hope of forgiveness […]


One Hundred Times as Much

I was teaching from Mark 10.23-31 in a seminary class this morning, and it came home to me with fresh power while I was teaching. So I thought I’d strike while the iron is hot and put something down on paper – or at least on the screen.

Jesus says in vv29-30 that anyone who has had to leave house or family or lands for his sake and the sake of the gospel will receive one hundred times as much back. What does he mean?

Let’s be careful not to spiritualise away what Jesus is saying here. He’s not talking about treasure in heaven, because first of all he says ‘now in this time’;  then he spells out that he is talking about things in this life – the very things that had been sacrificed: ‘houses, family and lands’; and then he goes on to say that in the age to come the person will also receive eternal life – so the ‘hundred times as much’ is something different from eternal life, something that is for this age.

And let’s be careful not to take these words in a crass literalistic way either, as if this is teaching some sort of health and […]


Browse Worthy: Our Sad, Sex-Saturated Society

Some sane thoughts for dealing with this culture in which we live.

On Nude Selfies

One of the Kardashians put up one of these on the internet. Practical Theology for Women discusses how “body part” currency is truly a counterfeit one.

Sex Trumps History

No, this is not about the presidential race. Rather, Carl Trueman finds yet another reason (a surprisingly valid one, I might add) for why people do not know history.

The Modesty Debate

Sam Powell discusses that the common emphasis in the church on women dressing modestly can often be a cover up of the wrong kind.

Openness Unhindered

An insightful and lengthy review over at Reformation 21 of Rosaria Butterfield’s book by this title.

Sex, Sin & Salvation

For training and help in this area, on April 21-23 in Pittsburgh, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary are hosting a conference with this title. Speakers include Rosaria Butterfield, Tim Challies, Peter Jones, Heath Lambert, George Scipione, John Street, and Derek Thomas. Click the link or banner to find out more and register.


In Praise of Administration

[Note: After a helpful conversation with a friend, I’ve edited this post to speak more clearly to the structure and organizational ministry in local congregations, realizing that “administration” is used in 1 Corinthians more to highlight the work of elders ruling in the church. Since the article was more focused on the organizational side of administration, I’ve made some word changes to reflect that.]

“I’m not gifted in organization.”

I’ve said that. Many pastors I know have said the same thing. When you hear a pastor say that, it may be an attempted excuse for why the life of the church is a muddied mess and something fell through the cracks, again. There’s often some truth to it. Not everyone is naturally gifted at organization and organizational leadership. And so, for almost a decade of pastoral ministry, I chanted the mantra in order to explain why our church calendar wasn’t up-to-date and why my expense reports were months late. It’s true that I’m not great at it. But the wider truth is that I don’t like to do administrative work, so I just don’t. 


You’re Not Electing a Pastor-in-Chief

It’s campaign season. That either excites you, frustrates you, or–if you’re like me–a little bit of both. On the one hand it’s fun to follow along with the political debates, columns, and commentaries. On the other hand, the over-the-top rhetoric, inconsistencies, self-congratulatory spirits, and drama can be the source of a lot of angst. I have generally tried to avoid being too political in public. To be sure, there are issues I hold to uncompromisingly and others for which I adopt a more laissez-faire attitude. There are candidates I appreciate and others who make my blood boil. I do my best to be semi-informed on domestic and foreign policy and our contemporary social issues. I try, when conscience allows, to participate in elections and maintain that a principled vote is always better than a pragmatic. But despite being an armchair political junkie, I don’t make it a habit to speak or write much about political issues. This post will be, most likely, my only exception to that.

One of the things I have found most fascinating about this election cycle is the place that has been given to character. Maybe I’m too young or haven’t been involved in the political process […]


3GT Episode 13: Hey, Johnny! Don’t Preach Like That!

That’s right!  Another episode already!

The men spend most of their time talking about the don’ts of preaching.  While the topic may seem to only be of interest to preachers, Austin stirs the pot a bit, offering a perspective from the side of the pew.

The other segment explores the black hole of time.  If you’re wondering what the black hole of time is, well, tune in and see!


Learning More about Caring for the Widow

How does one help the widow practically? Even as I am currently teaching a class on mercy at the seminary, I am being taught this anew by my congregation.

On Saturday afternoon I had the privilege of joining around twenty men and young boys at the home of Nellie, who with her four young children tragically lost their husband and father a few years ago. One of the elders in our congregation, Herb, has organized a remodeling project on her old farmhouse that the congregation has slowly but surely been working on over that time. A new porch and kitchen have already been added, and the next phase will add on some living space and much needed bedrooms. In order to accomplish this goal, the old kitchen had to be torn off the back of the house.

So that is what we did Saturday. By the time I arrived, the men, wielding crowbars and sledgehammers, had already knocked down the walls and removed much of the roof. Nellie’s dad’s truck was piled high with the beams and boards, then taken to a big pile in a nearby field to be unloaded for a future bonfire that will undoubtedly make a huge blaze. Teenage boys shoveled plaster […]


Cache Creek Indian Mission

The following article is a guest post by Russ Pulliam, who is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, the director of the Pulliam Fellowship, and a ruling elder of the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis.

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The Cache Creek mission to Indians in Oklahoma is a noble chapter in the history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.

It’s also part of a larger noble chapter in American history.

Americans usually learn the mainstream story of oppression and mistreatment of Indians in school or from Hollywood. But a few faithful believers lived out another less-publicized side of the story, practicing Matthew 28:18-20 and bringing the gospel to native Americans and seeking justice for them, especially in Puritan Massachusetts in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Cache Creek story follows in that noble tradition, as the RP church sought to reach Indians in what was then the Oklahoma territory from 1889 to the 1960s, in a barren area southwest of Oklahoma City. The church’s 1871 testimony recognized the national sin of oppression of Indians, long before Americans came to a sense of regret for the injustices against them. The Testimony confesses: “The history of the government has been largely one of oppression and […]


Of Christian Courage, Contemptible Candidacies, and COFFEE

How much of our Christian courage is a function of the comfort and convenience of our surroundings?  How much of our boldness in Christian witness would wilt if the cozy accoutrements of a wealthy modern culture were taken from us?

Imagine if our words in praise of Christ no longer had the internet as an outlet, if every word of public witness had to actually be spoken in public, or at least in private to a living, breathing, and potentially hostile human being.  Imagine if there were no more church conferences to attend, no more family camps, no more youth group outings at which to find Christian fellowship.  And, perhaps worst of all, imagine if there were no more coffee shops – !!!!!- at which to study Scripture, write sermons and do theological cyber battle with Christians from different denominations, all comfortably and anonymously as one among  many happy, well-caffeinated people.


Victims of a Drive-by Catechizing

A number of years ago, a fellow student and I mumbled and griped to one another as we raked leaves on a chilly fall day on the front lawn of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We participated in a work-in-lieu of tuition program that covered part of our educational costs. Each student in the program was assigned tasks and was required to work a set number of hours. However, the program was not well-organized that year as it has since become, and the work never filled the hours required. My brother and I had conscientiously tried to fulfill our obligations week-by-week and go above and beyond the assigned tasks, but we never came close to filling our “required” hours. We were also pretty sure that most other students in the program didn’t begin to bother trying to fill their required hours with extra work.

One day, the seminary administration announced that the student assigned to rake leaves at the beginning of the term had dropped out. Thanksgiving break was nigh; the leaves were untouched. The emergency announcement dictated that any student in the work program who had not completed his work hours for the term […]