Archive by Author

And so-and-so Begat so-and-so

We all know the difficulties of “so-and-so begat so-and-so.” Many evangelical believers read through a Bible in a year reading program. Several of the daily readings will include lists of genealogies that secretly–or maybe not so secretly–prompt the reader to ask questions as to the practicality of such lists upon lists upon lists.

Bible readers using the M’Cheyne reading plan or the reading guide  of the Trinitarian Bible Society’s Westminster Reference Bible are currently working through the beginning of I Chronicles. If you are familiar with the book, it begins with ten chapters of difficult genealogy that include several of the most arduous names found within the pages of the holy Scriptures. If your family is like my family, you may be asking yourself how to work through the so-and-so begat so-and-sos.

Here are two family worship helps from my table to yours as you work through the so-and-sos:

First off, as we are working through the genealogy lists during family worship, we have someone else read the passages to us. This may seem like a strange suggestion–especially from someone who publicly reads the Scriptures for a living–but it is helpful to hear another voice; and a trained one at that.

Yesterday and today we […]

Further Encouragement for Personal Evangelism: The Why Not?

Last week I encouraged you all in your practice of personal evangelism through the words of seventeenth century pastor-theologian, Wilhelmus a’Brakel. That article can be found here.

One of the blessings of being a Gentle Reformation author is the behind-the-scenes interactions with retired pastor, Rev. Ken G. Smith, who frequently sends us feedback, encouragement, and challenges concerning our writings. If I can speak on behalf of all of the GenRef team, we do love his private interactions with the blog!

Last week, Rev. Smith sent me a personal response to a’Brakel’s encouragement towards evangelism, and with his permission, I am passing those comments on to you, the readers, for your encouragement as well. Ken G. Smith wants us to understand the “why” of why Christians do not evangelize. He writes:

I really appreciated reading your piece on evangelism and the reference to a’Brakel, who at one point in my life was very helpful.  I like what he has to say about evangelizing, but have to say I’ve not found his advice effective.

There’s a reason(s) why people don’t bear witness.

Let me share a bit of a different approach.

First, if one is not a fluent “talker” about the gospel, then one needs to assess why […]

Encouragement for Personal Evangelism

Let’s face it, we all struggle with personal evangelism. It is hard for many reformed people–why do so many struggle to share their faith? We all have our litany of excuses:

Too scared…

Not my job…

I don’t like…

What if…

Let me tell you. I struggle too.

Wilhelmus a’Brakel, a seventeenth century Dutch pastor-theologian, understood that his students and congregation also struggled with personal evangelism. In the midst of his four volume systematic theology (1.535-537), a’Brakel encouraged his flock to do the work of an evangelist–and to grow in this discipline.

May you find some encouragement to talk to a friend or neighbor or stranger about Christ and the benefits that he brings, which are of eternal importance.

One will argue: (1) ‘I have no qualifications for it, and if I wish to begin with this task, the words freeze upon my tongue and I do not know what say if I say something, it has no effect.’ To this I respond, ‘You learn by doing.’ If you are not capable of speaking to certain individuals, and about such matters, speak to others. Begin with [those] by whom you are not intimidated, and discuss general and rudimentary principles. You will subsequently acquire more skill.

(2) You may say, ‘I […]

The Road to Hollywood

The “open secret of Hollywood” is the talk of the town where I live. In the aftermath of a Hollywood empire beginning to crumble under weight of sexual scandal, it seems that everyone has always known that this is how Hollywood is run. It’s our open secret.

The church and the culture at large need to reconsider whether Hollywood ought to be telling us how to think and feel about sexual ethics. Have they earned the right to speak into our lives about what is right and wrong in the bedroom? Maybe there’s a better source for determining human sexuality than those who walk the red carpet.

“Hidden Los Angeles” reported today the above sculpture was quietly removed from one of the most famous tourist centers in Los Angeles (adjacent to the famous Chinese and Dolby Theaters on the walk of fame). “The Famous Casting Couch” was a sculpture at the end of a mosaic of quotations called “The Road to Hollywood.” The road to Hollywood leads to “the famous casting couch.” The casting couch is synonymous with rape and sexual favors in exchange for an acting role. More open than secret, it seems. 

Hollywood determines the sexual ethics of our nation as […]

Melting the Hardening Heart

The life of the Christian is a life that ebbs and flows in our love for God. We may not always want to admit that–but in our heart of hearts, we know it to be true. Sometimes our love for God grows cold. Oftentimes that coldness comes from what I would call “hardening providences.” Difficulties, frustrations, sicknesses, and other such providences in our lives can cause us to slowly harden in our heart of hearts. Our love for Christ can grow cold under the many pressures and difficulties of life in a fallen world.

What should the Christian do when he or she finds him or herself in such a position? Maybe you’ve found yourself in such a position?

John Flavel, the English Puritan, upon realizing that several in his congregation were struggling under heavy weights and hardening providences, preached a series of sermons on Psalm 57:2, “I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” These sermons are filled with pastoral warmth as he pointed his people to the Lord Jesus Christ. Among the applications were some designed to “melt” the believer as he or she looks to Christ. Flavel asked, “How can a sanctified heart […]

Sinners at the Sacrament?

Let a man examine himself. These words of the Apostle Paul weigh heavily upon the hearts and minds of so many believers as we prepare to the come to the Lord’s Supper. These are weighty and heavy words that can nag at us at times as we consider the struggles with sin and the enemy within. Let a man examine himself.

But what if I am unworthy? What if I continue to sin against God’s mercy? What if I am weak in my convictions? Surely then I ought not to go to the Supper!

Thomas Watson, a 17th century English Puritan, pastors the questioning saint as to why he or she ought to go to the Table in each of these instances. May reflection on these questions and answers lead you to Christ–and lead to you to his Table to receive the grace and mercy that you seek.

OBJECTION 1. But I am sinful and unworthy, and why should I meddle with such holy things?

ANSWER. Who did Christ die for but such? “He came into the world to save sinners,” 1 Timothy 1:15. He took our sins upon Him as well as our nature. “He bare our grief’s,” Isaiah 53:4. In the Hebrew […]

The Blossoming of a Desert Rose

On Dean Martin Drive in Las Vegas, Nevada, forty-seven people gathered for worship in the back room of a rented church building. From the perspective of the world’s desert-playground, the called service of public worship was less than noteworthy. It went totally unnoticed, I am sure. The night before this worship service McGregor and Mayweather boxed at MGM on “the strip” while millions watched over pay-per-view. Over that same weekend dozens of famous music acts, comedians, dancers, and less honorable shows and events occurred. Millions of dollars—or more—were spent at tables and in slot machines. But which event had eternal significance? Las Vegas Reformed Presbyterian Church was established.

In 2012, a group of friends committed to confessional presbyterianism approached the RPCNA’s Pacific Coast Presbytery with a Macedonian call: “Brothers, come over and help us!” Since that time the small Pacific Coast Presbytery sent ministers and prayers, gave oversight and counsel, as well as loved, taught, and encouraged this small group of friends and worshipers. Over time the small group grew to include several new families and singles.

Not all were happy. “Your church is doomed before it even begins.” That was the comment of one local who encouraged one of the worshipers […]

Longing for Home

I have been away from home a lot this summer. It’s not been vacationing on a beach with a little-umbrella’d drink–I can do that without leaving. My travels have been for ministry purposes with a quick trip to Vancouver for some family time. Despite the good reasons for travel, like most of you, I began to long for home.

For many people, home is a place of love and a place for which we long when we are away. You know the longing for home? Remember when you were first sick while away at university, how you longed for home?  Or during a time of family trial where you longed to be with those that needed you? Maybe a birthday missed?  Do you know those familiar smells, sounds, or sights which bring to memory your love for home?

Most of us love home and when we are away we long to be there.

As Christians, that love and longing for home ought to be a desire for our eternal home as well. We ought to long for heaven and the Christ who dwells there. For heaven is our eternal home.

Do you long for eternity? I don’t think that we consider heaven enough. At […]

Biographies Towards Community

We live in a time when many in the church struggle to connect with other members of the body. Many consider connectedness something that happens online rather than through living in community. If you don’t believe me, ask the closest millennial–his or her deepest relationships may be with people they know via pixels and screens. We are “alone together” as sociologist Sherry Turkle has put it. The struggle for community is a problem in the world and increasingly it is also a problem in the church.

Besides this lack of connection—or communion—the 21st century North American church is also largely ahistorical. Being ahistorical, having a disregard for the history of the church, has led to old errors being revived, to a disconnection with ancient Christianity (hence the number of evangelicals that go to Rome or the Eastern Church in search of historical connection), and to an inability of individual Christians to gauge their experience against the experience of others.

Lack of connection and community, as well as an ahistorical approach to Christianity, has caused a deficiency in the lives of believers. What can be done to help encourage connection, community, and history? There are several vital remedies for regaining vibrant and experiential […]

Violent Peace

The following article was written by Rebekah McIlhenny. Rebekah is a member of the Los Angeles Reformed Presbyterian Church; a graduate of Covenant College; wife of Ryan (Dr. Mac), and mother of four. In the article, Becky mentions her pastor recently saying something to her about peace. The aforementioned comment occurred at the aforementioned pastor’s dining room table along with additional counsel from the aforementioned pastor’s wife. Freshly brewed coffee and homemade crepes were also present.

Violent Peace originally appeared on Becky’s blog, Mercy for the Macs.

Yesterday one of my sons was involved in a conflict with a fellow student in our homeschool co-op.  The other student claimed he did something hurtful for which my son denies.   I am not sure who is telling the truth. While I am not so biased to believe that my little blond cherub is always telling the truth, I do know he has no talent for lying.  So when I discussed the issue later with the two boys and the student’s mother, I was surprised to learn that my son apologized for what he had done and that everything was resolved.

I am sure the other mom thought I was crazy when I started to ask questions.  I […]