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Archive | Biography

The Blessed Fulgentius (A.D. 467-532)

Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspe, remains a relatively unknown leader of the early church. Almost certainly born in A. D. 467, Fulgentius (sometimes known as Fulgence) lived a busy life of sixty-five years until his death in 532. He lived in North Africa (present day Tunisia) during a difficult era of church history colored by debates over the deity of Christ, His nature(s), and the Pelagian controversy. He served as bishop from 507 to 532, though he spent many of those years in exile under the rule of an Arian king; the Arians denied the deity of Christ. God raised up Fulgentius to vigorously defend the orthodox faith in the face of great persecution. He is arguably the greatest churchman of North Africa to come after Augustine, in whose tradition he followed. John Calvin made extensive use of his writings, but because the biography of Fulgentius and his writings have only been translated into English within the last two decades, most in the English speaking world have no idea who he was. Virtually everything we know regarding Fulgentius is found in his Selected Works, translated by Robert B. Eno (vol. 95, The Fathers of the Church, ed. Thomas B. Halton, Washington D. […]

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 […]

Every Testimony is Different and Every One is the Same

Every testimony of God’s saving grace in the life of a person is the same, and every one is different. That is what we tell young people who are preparing to make their public profession of faith in the church and become communicant members.

This week, I plan to give my students the testimony of my grandfather, Paul Faris, written below as an example. It’s good for them to see that a man who was born over 100 years ago and who is now with the Lord also has a story that is just like theirs. None of them have served as farm hands. They have not had horses and chickens as witnesses to their prayers. But, they will recognize the story as their own. He was convicted of his sin and turned to Jesus through the ministry of God’s word and specific people. He dealt with the same guilt and other internal struggles which with they wrestle. He found life in Jesus just as they have.

They live in a different generation, but they have the same covenant Lord. His promise stands across all generations: “They will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation […]

Reflections on Dr. Bruce Stewart

Last Friday, I attended the quietly glorious memorial service of Bruce Stewart. Dr. Stewart served faithfully and well at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary as Professor of Pastoral Theology and also as President (you can see an article about his life here). One of the remaining living professors from my years at RPTS, Dr. Wayne Spear, preached with his customary dignity and insight from the words of Simeon on seeing the Savior in Luke 2, highlighting in his message qualities Dr. Stewart had embodied. As Dr. Spear spoke, memories of his ministry and influence on me swirled together with the phrases I was hearing. Here are a few of my reflections.

“Compassionate and gracious like his Savior.” When the Lord called me into the ministry and I knew I was heading toward seminary, everything in my life already felt new at that time. Miriam and I were newly married, living in a new city, had just become parents, were brand new to the church and the Reformed faith, and were now scheduled to head away from our first home after less then three years of being there. Moving to Pittsburgh and entering into a whole new field of study seemed daunting to us. […]

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 […]

The Trumpet Blasts that Were Never Heard

We live in times where the church is needing to think through her relationship with the state and the rulers over us. This is not the first time in the history of Christianity where we have had to meditate on our doctrine of the magistrate or our relationship to those in authority. This is not the first time that we have had to choose between losing our right hand and losing our left. Where would you turn to read about the relationship between the church and an oppressive government?

Looking for a book on the relationship between the church and a tyrannical government may be useful for the church in the next few decades. Consider the following statements:

* It is not by birth that one can rule over a people; those under him must approve of that rule.
* Those who practice idolatry or are living publicly scandalous lives are not to be placed in public office.
* If a ruler proves to be a tyrant or is willfully disobedient to God’s Word, then not even an oath can keep him in office.
* If people too quickly or without due consideration put someone in office and it is later found that he is […]

Whatever God Wants; The life of Samuel E. Boyle

Samuel E. Boyle (1905-2002) served as a leading Reformed Presbyterian pastor and missionary for much of the twentieth century. Robert S. Taylor has written a booklet-sized biography of Sam titled Whatever God Wants: The Life of Samuel E. Boyle. It is helpful but brief and is now out of print. Guests at our table recently inquired about the details of Sam’s life, but it was not possible to point them to an easily accessible biographical sketch. What follows is a revised version of remarks I made at his memorial service in 2002. A similar edition was also published in the Reformed Presbyterian Witness shortly thereafter. May we not forget those richly used by the Lord.

Reformed Presbyterian missions work in China had just begun a little over a century ago, and a dear woman in America with a missionary heart began to pray fervently, like Hannah of old, for a son for the Chinese field. In 1905, God gave her that son, whom she named Samuel following in Hannah’s footsteps. Sam Boyle’s mother gave birth to him in the women’s dormitory of Geneva College where his parents worked. Thus began a full life of 97 years that was richly blessed by God.

Sam […]

In the Twinkle of an Eye

Last Saturday afternoon was a warm, sunny day, full of promise that spring was finally here. Spencer, Miriam, and I were putting up the awning over our back porch, the threat of heavy snows that would damage it now gone and the need for a place of cooling shade growing. With the awning half-draped over the frame, we were enjoying the weather and laughing at our miscues in trying to put the heavy canvas in its proper position.

I left for a moment to get some needed wrenches from the tool shed to finish the job. As I returned, behind the part of the awning still hanging down I could hear that Miriam was upset. She was repeatedly saying, “Oh, no! I’m so sorry!” Thinking somehow Spencer had been injured, I hurried around the green canvas. Spencer was unharmed but stood there stunned as he looked at his mother. Miriam was on the phone with grief, pain, and tears upon her face.

She was hearing the news that our brother-in-law, Jon, had died from a motorcycle accident that afternoon.

How quickly the lives of those we love have changed. Jon was a faithful believer in Christ, husband and father, and servant in his church and community. […]

The Pursuit of Holiness: On the Passing into Glory of Jerry Bridges

When I was converted by Christ at the University of Michigan in the early 1980’s, the Lord used the ministry of The Navigators as his tool to open my mind and heart to Jesus. Within the early months of my new life, my mentor gave me a book that became the first one I read as a new believer. That book was The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.

What a treasure of a book! What a way to begin my Christian journey! I learned at the very beginning of my Christian life that I was responsible now, in the grace of Christ, to be holy before the Lord.  Yet what a battle that would be. As Bridges explained so clearly:

As we grow in holiness, we grow in hatred of sin; and God, being infinitely holy, has an infinite hatred of sin.”

The clear Bible teaching, sound doctrine that I later learned was based on Bridges’ love of the Puritans, and eye-opening illustrations such as “even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb” resounded in my newly regenerated heart. The Pursuit of Holiness helped set me properly upon the paths of righteousness on which the Good Shepherd leads all who follow […]

Though Dead He Still Speaks–C.H.S

Hanging on my wall just to the left of my desk is a small framed sheet of paper. The fragile paper is the palette upon which in faded purple ink are scribbled the almost unintelligible handwritten notes of a sermon entitled, “The Joyous Return.” Everything about it bears the marks of age. And rightly so! For the sermon was preached on March 1, 1891 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London by the Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon. The name and influence of Spurgeon has attained near ubiquity among contemporary preachers and students of preaching—and that’s to say nothing of the impact he has had on thousands who have read his sermons. It’s probably not advisable to try and quantify who is or is not the greatest preacher, but I don’t think it’s overly ambitious to agree with the consensus of many that he remains the Prince of Preachers.

It was a little over ten years ago that I was first introduced to Charles Spurgeon. At a very pivotal and difficult time in my life my brother recommended that I try reading some of his sermons. I quickly began to devour them as I read under the conviction of sin, the joy of […]