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“But they weren’t bad parties!”

It was a football Saturday at Purdue University in the late 1990s. I had been called on to serve as a student-host at a post-game alumni party that afternoon in the home of one of the vice-presidents. Alumni often knew my grandparents since my grandfather had been a three-sport athlete at Purdue, had owned a drugstore on the edge of campus for many years, had served in several public offices, and the family had been active in the community.

When I mentioned to an older woman at the post-game party that Bill and Lois Long were my grandparents, she exclaimed,

Bill and Lois Long are your grandparents?! Oh, they used to throw the most wonderful parties!

I had heard about those parties thrown in their Victorian home, more than three decades earlier. My grandparents knew how to work hard and play hard in their thirties. Homecoming weekends were especially full; their friends knew what to expect at the Long house. My mother recalled waking as a child on those Sunday mornings. Descending the stairs, she would peer over the banister to see hungover guests slumbering wherever they had landed in the wee hours.

The woman addressing me thirty years later continued with wide […]

Elders Who Represent Jesus Christ

Elders in the church are chosen to be representatives. In our republic that is the United States of America, governing officials are elected by the people to represent the people. Elders of the church serve as representatives who are elected by the people and from the people (see Acts 6 as an example of officer elections in the New Testament), but they are chosen primarily to represent Jesus to the people. The authority of Christ is administered by elders who represent him. Thus, the members recognize that the risen Jesus is himself the one leading the church even in the present age.

What does it mean that elders are to represent Jesus to the people? Jesus as the God-man is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18). He is presently reigning at the Father’s right hand (Acts 7:55-56, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1). He has not appointed one man as his vicar on earth, as Roman Catholics believe. Instead, Jesus, in his humanity, still reigns over his church. Jesus gave the office of elder to supply representative leadership until he comes again. This leadership is always subject to the only final rule for faith and life, the word of God. He has appointed that a […]

Culture Care: Makoto Fujimura

Last week, the Trinity Forum hosted An Evening Conversation with Makoto Fujimura though Indianapolis Classical Schools at Herron High School. He spoke on culture care which is the subject of his new book Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life.

You will find the whole hour and half discussion (linked below) thought provoking. Near the conclusion of this conversation he states:

“I’m convinced that one of the ways artists can lead into this [culture care] is to take seriously this call to spend time, if you are a Christian, immersed in the word of God…to dwell, behold, to receive…I love that… eat, love and pray, right? That’s’ what we supposed to do with the word of God, and we don’t do that enough as artists, I’m convinced, because I don’t do that enough. …If culture care is ever to happen, it has to be led by people who are doing that on a daily basis. Communities that are doing that on a daily basis. And churches that are committed to that and empowering artists to create and make things because God is a maker… I say in my book, knowledge cannot be knowledge until you make it into reality. It’s […]

An Abundance of Counselors

In an abundance of counselors there is safety and victory (Proverbs 11:14 & 24:5-6). The Lord himself is our great Counselor. In addition to his word and the work of his Spirit within us, he uses people to aid us in making wise decisions. There are at least two ways in which the “abundance of counselors” principle should be applied in our lives:

Seek counsel from many people for one particular decision. This is perhaps the most obvious application of the principle.

When we have a particular decision to make, perhaps we are considering a job offer, we go and get counsel from a number of friends and mentors to aid us.

One potential abuse of inquiring of many advisers for a decision is seeking counsel from different people until we find someone who agrees with our preconceived desire. A second potential abuse is asking too many people for help for the sake of tallying their votes and failing to take responsibility before God for making a timely and conclusive decision.

Keep many friends who are wise in particular aspects of life. Know which one or two to go to depending on the particular challenge we face. This is perhaps a less obvious application […]

Answering Questions with Jesus

 

Joel Hart wrote the following guest-post. Joel is preparing for pastoral ministry as a student of theology in the Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery of the RPCNA. He is a rising senior at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The Lord has given Orlena as Joel’s wife and has blessed them with three children.

                “I left the church because no one would answer my questions.”

This refrain, or similar rhetoric, scatters the blogs or social media posts of those who have distanced themselves from Christ’s church. One question emerges when we observe the phenomenon of despairing and leaving question-askers: Does the church — ­can the church — ­answer the questions of those in the church asking questions amidst an increasingly skeptical world?

Earlier this summer, I enjoyed the privilege of teaching 30 junior high youth at a church family camp. Our studies in the gospel of John led us to the response of the crowds to the teachings of Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:60-71). For Jesus’ audience, this teaching left many with a searching, skeptical question: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (6:60). Here, our Savior answers the doubtful question with a decisive answer built on the […]

Corporate Prayer: An Example

How might we improve corporate prayer? Last month, I suggested that we replicate a practice of the early church in which worshipers are given time to take petitions to the Lord in silent prayer simultaneously.

Some readers have inquired as to what this might look like in practice. Below, I’ve published Second Reformed Presbyterian Church’s whole order of service from last Lord’s Day morning. You can see our developing practice of corporate prayer. We’re not saying we’re praying the best way, or the only way, or the way that we will always pray; we’re just trying to grow in our love for the Lord and in our prayer life.

Members have provided enthusiastic feedback as we have experimented with different forms of the same basic method over the last few weeks and months. They note that this method calls them to be more engaged in prayer in worship (and less drowsy), leads them to greater communion with God and others, and teaches them to pray by example and by practice. The net result is that we lift up far more requests to the Lord than if the voice of one leader vocalizes prayer during the entire time of corporate prayer. Saints have time to […]

The Holy Spirit: Completing the Work of Christ in Us

[The Holy Spirit] comes because of the completed work of Christ for us and He comes to complete the work of Christ in us. [1] – Joseph Pipa

What is God doing in my life today, you may ask yourself? Take heart, because even today he is completing the work of Jesus Christ in the lives of God’s people.

Jesus has earned our redemption in history. Because he has completed that glorious work for us, the Holy Spirit is now acting and he will not be stopped. Our lives are not spiritually static. Something dynamic is happening within the hearts of his people today.

Today, the Holy Spirit is regenerating people and giving new them new hearts. He is working in us the gifts of faith and repentance. He is assuring us that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He is crying out “Abba! Father” in our hearts so that we will know that we are sons of God and not slaves. He is sanctifying us from sin. He is changing our minds, wills, and emotions. He is spawning new love in us for Jesus and his people. He is lifting our eyes to a new vision […]

Corporate Worship: The Lord’s House of Prayer

When you go to corporate worship, do you have the sense that you are talking to God in a more personal and vibrant way than in your individual devotions each day?

When you think of corporate worship, do you think of it more as “calling on the name of the Lord” or going to “hear from God”?

Strikingly, the most common nomenclature for worship in Scripture is that of prayer and calling on God. The first corporate worship is mentioned in Genesis 4:26 with Seth and Enosh: “At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.”

We rightly celebrate the recovery of preaching in the Reformation. But, if we have erred in recent centuries in reformed circles, it is probably in over-emphasizing God’s house as a place of preaching (which it is, e.g. Isaiah 2:3) while under-emphasizing God’s declaration that his house is a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7 and Mark 11:17).

Sometimes, looking at examples of worship practices in past ages can give us ideas of ways to pray that would better engage worshipers.

A fourth century text from Egypt provides such an example. It is recorded for us by S. Sarapion (c. A.D. 340).  In the […]

Looking Like Jesus

It’s very encouraging for young Christians to see older saints who look like Jesus in thought, word, and deed.  Their example motivates us to honor the Father and to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). How do we grow into such a resemblance over time?

For many years, researchers have questioned why married couples look like one another more and more over the years. Studies like this one conducted three decades ago at the University of Michigan consistently show that couples do grow to look more like one another as they age. Researchers believe that couples begin to mimic each other’s facial expressions and in time develop muscle memories that are similar. Over the years, these habits cause their facial features to be conformed more closely to one another in a permanent way. It is also believed that the shared emotions that accompany these facial expressions may also increase visible similarities over time.

The Christian’s experience with Christ is similar. In his treatise on the Holy Spirit, John Owen wrote: “[Love] begets a likeness between the mind loving and the object beloved…A mind filled with the love of Christ as crucified…will be changed into his image and likeness, by […]

The Ordinary and the Extraordinary: How God works in summer camps and conferences

It’s the season for summer church camps and conferences. Our presbytery will host its conference soon. God’s word will be proclaimed in a setting unique from the rest of life. Christians will retreat from their regular callings to spend a block of time worshiping together, hearing and discussing God’s work, and enjoying fellowship together over meals and between the lines on fields or courts of play. Young people’s hearts will be drawn-out in counseling group discussions. They will be challenged to commit themselves to the Lord in response to his word, especially at the end of the week.

We must not abuse the setting to evoke emotionally derived responses, but we should also recognize that the Lord does work though these extended meetings to settle our hearts and minds for a few days, to immerse us in his word, and to change us.

The Lord stirred my heart afresh at one particular conference when I was in high school. I vividly remember how the Lord met me there through his word and by his Spirit. The change that came in me was evident in the months that followed and still is to this day.

So, recently, I was fascinated to stumble across my […]