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Of Golf Balls and Badminton Birdies

“Understand that people are like golf balls or badminton birdies.” So said a friend giving a tip for effective leadership. You barely tap a golf ball, and it rolls clear across the carpet. You whack a badminton birdie with all your might, and it only moves a few yards. People in Jesus’ church can be like these when you confront them about a matter.

Some people are quite sensitive; a little tap is usually all they need. One gently spoken word will move them to thought and action. Swing too hard, and they’ll flee far from you.

Other people don’t get subtleties; you have to be blunt and hit pretty hard. Direct words cause them to see reality and change their ways. Swing too softly, and they will not progress in life.

Is it an oversimplification? Yes, but sometimes those of us who are badminton birdies need to have things spelled out in black and white in order to at least start understanding nuances. Golf ball personalities need to learn these things lest they be sensitive to everyone in the church except for the badminton birdies who fail to pick up on their “obvious” hints.

If we want to obey Jesus’ words “whatever you wish that […]

A Day in God’s House in the 1850s

The following is a lively description of a typical Lord’s Day in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Indiana in the 1850s. The author, Daniel Cargill Faris (1843-1919), recounts his experience in the church of his youth. He was the son of James Faris who was the first pastor of the congregation. The account is found in his personal writings. Daniel Cargill Faris would later serve as the pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Barnet, Vermont.

“PREACHING”

by D. C. Faris

Written on Nov. 21, 1904

While the building in which the congregation gathered for worship on the Sabbath was called the “meeting house”, the services held there were not called “meeting”, that name being given to the week-day services held from house to house in the homes of the people. The religious exercises in the “meeting- house” were named from their principal part, “preaching”. That is the meaning of the noun which I am not able to find in the dictionary; but it was so used among us in my boyhood. My mother might have said to us, “It is time to get ready to go to “preaching”; and one of the boys might have asked […]

Is the Sin of Gluttony Really that Serious?

That question was asked by a church member as I recently preached on gluttony. Why might we ask? Christian culture approves of giggling about gluttony in ways that it would never bless laughing at lust. We probably laugh more comfortably about gluttony because the right use of food and drink is a very public matter where the right use of sex is a very private matter.

But the fact that we giggle about gluttony might reveal it as a most pernicious sin. The English word comes from the Latin and means “to gulp.” Gluttony idolizes food to feed our own self-love. The holidays being upon us, it’s a good time to ask the question. Is gluttony really that serious? Consider the following:

Gluttony plunged the whole human race into a state of sin and misery with the first transgression (Genesis 3:6).
Gluttony, or “excess of food,” helped earned a curse of utter destruction upon Sodom, the standard example of God’s wrath and judgment (Ezekiel 16:49).
In Moses’ day, When Israel craved meat in the wilderness, the Lord sent quail. “While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD […]

Happy Wife. Happy Life.

The beeps. The buzzes. The vibrations. The earbuds. The squinting eyes. The bluish glow. They all indicate that the world has invaded our homes in new ways through online portals, and it clamors for our attention. Relationships at home suffer when we are so distracted that we abandon the ones we love…or ought to love. That leads to sadness and loneliness. The unmitigated invasion of the online world into our homes ruins marriages. As husbands know, a happy wife means a happy life. Conversely, when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Part of the problem, especially for men, is that these online portals call us to legitimate responsibilities in the world beyond the home in addition to the illegitimate ways they clamor for our attention. The good news is that there is nothing new. Even in Moses’ day, God addressed the challenge of a man’s responsibility in the world and his calling to make his wife happy.

“When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken” (Deuteronomy 24:5).

Notice the key: dedicated […]

At Seventeen – Harry Wilkey (1942-2016)

Harry Wilkey passed into glory last week at age 73. He lived most of his life as a quadriplegic after being injured at age 17. My grandfather was his pastor at the time. Sterling, Kansas was his lifelong home. He was a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Harry was a friend of our family and an encourager to me. With his family’s encouragement, I’m posting his testimony here. Jesus was faithful to Harry, and, by God’s grace, Harry was faithful to Jesus. Now, his soul is with the Lord. His body, which is still united to Christ, will be held by the grave…but only until the resurrection.

At Seventeen

A personal testimony to God’s increasing grace

By Harry Wilkey

At age seventeen, a Nickerson High graduate, I packed up my stuff and made my first move away from home to Sterling College.  I had no clue that God would cut short my stay.  Many choices faced me there.  It surprised me that a Christian college offered most options of worldliness right there on campus.  Some fellow dorm mates involved themselves in pornography, gambling, and homosexuality.  We watched, smiled, and some cheered as one fellow daily dressed up […]

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Are you giving thought to words you might speak at your Thanksgiving Day table or worship service? Whether you are the host of the meal for the extended family, a head of the household, or a ministry leader, you’ll have the opportunity to take a few moments to lead the family in some reflection of gratitude.

Over the years here at Gentle Reformation, we’ve written a few article on the topic of thanksgiving. Around this time of year, we hear from people looking to our archives to help prepare thoughts. We’ll surely keep writing more, but here are links to posts of Thanksgivings past. They might give you ideas of themes to emphasize as you lead those under your charge.

Biblical Themes:

Growing in Jesus on Thanksgiving Day explores how Psalms of thanks stimulate growth in our souls, and Eight Themes in Thanksgiving pulls more themes of praise from the Psalter.

Seven Themes in Thanksgiving in the New Testament explores exactly that.

Historical Themes:

A seventeenth Century prayer of thanks following deliverance or prayers of thanksgiving from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer will lead your hearts to the throne of God like they did for saints of old.

A Thanksgiving Day Proclamation from 1777 or a Thanksgiving Day […]

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

What will it take to make progress in peaceful relationships between people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds? Political commentators are paying close attention to attitudes and the racial breakdown of voters in this week’s United States presidential election. Clearly, some voted for Donald Trump out of fear and frustration that white uneducated Americans are being mocked and marginalized. In response, some immigrants and minorities fear what the future holds for them. We stand at a moment of opportunity. What is the way forward?

There are a lot of answers I don’t have, but I’ll never forget a breakfast I attended over a decade ago. Dr. Herb Lusk, pastor of Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia spoke on Shamgar, Israel’s judge who followed Ehud and receives scant attention in the biblical record:

“After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel” (Judges 3:31).

Judges 5:6 merely recounts that Shamgar lived at a time when “the highways were abandoned, and travelers kept to the byways.”

Lusk may not have drawn out all of the covenantal implications of this judge’s ministry, but he memorably summarized how Shamgar served the Lord by faith and […]

Kill the Midweek Prayer Meeting?

“The church started to grow when we killed the midweek prayer meeting.” Those words might seem anathema to some, but this was the sentiment of the pastor of my youth. The late Dave Long looked back on three decades of ministry in one congregation with those words. His assessment was true because more people participated in the small group Bible studies that replaced the Wednesday prayer meeting. The small groups always included prayer, and the net result was a more prayerful congregation that prayed more specifically and personally for one another and others to whom we were ministering. For that to happen, a long-established tradition had to go.

Church leadership often laments a lack of participation in midweek prayer meetings because we know the power God gives through prayer. Perhaps we can overemphasize one good-but-not-required way of doing things. The one divinely ordained corporate prayer meeting is public worship on the Lord’s Day. On that appointed day, the congregation calls on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26, Psalm 65:2-4, 1 Corinthians 1:2), and God’s people gather at the house of the Lord which is a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7, Mark 11:17). Paul and Silas supposed that […]

Visual Missiology in the Bible

The following guest post is penned by Brian Wright. Brian is a senior at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary from Arlington, Massachusetts. He and his wife Lisa spent three years in Manhattan, Kansas before moving to Pittsburgh for seminary. He is a student under care of the Midwest Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.

If Israel was God’s chosen people in the Old Testament era, what about the rest of the world? Did God care about the other nations? Jesus told his disciples to make disciples of all nations, and the missionary efforts of the New Testament era are hard to miss. What does the Old Testament have to say about the nations of the world?

The chart seen to the right (click image to enlarge) is a preliminary attempt at a Biblical theological timeline of God’s concern for the nations. This August, I took part in a week-long Theology and Methods of Missions class at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Three weeks before the class began, the students were split into four groups of four and tasked with constructing a visual representation of God’s interaction with the nations. We were assigned sections of the Bible by group, and […]

Safe spaces, Emotions, and Justice: The Cities of Refuge

God made us to be emotional and to love justice. Our emotions motivate us to pursue justice. God also knows that our emotions can cloud our thinking such that vengeance is not based on justice. So, in the Old Testament, the Lord established cities of refuge. There, people who were guilty might find asylum until the truth could be fully known. Only then would retribution be inflicted on those found guilty (Exodus 21:12-14, Numbers 35:10-15, Deuteronomy 19:1-13, Joshua 20).

The undergirding principle of the cities of refuge is that our emotions must be harnessed by the truth as we seek justice. Facts must bridle our feelings. Only then will we love life the way we should.

The Old Testament laws of the cities of refuge deal specifically with manslaughter and murder – the greatest injustice that could be done because it involves taking a person’s life. The principle is to govern the way we deal with all lesser injustices, hurts, and losses. We may endure loss of life in our family, what we perceive to be a harsh word from a friend, or the disappearance of the candy bar we had stashed away to enjoy later. Whatever the case, God’s law is aiming for […]