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Archive | Christian Living

The Importance of Practical Religion

‘The Gospel is at stake! You must not budge an inch! Peter, brothers, Barnabas, you’ve got to change your practice!’

Is that how it happened in Antioch, with Paul’s face-to-face rebuke of Peter, where he refused the spare the blushes? The truth of the Gospel was endangered by behavior that was disconnected from principle (Galatians 2.11 & 14):

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned …But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of Gospel, I said to Cephas: ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile, and not like a Jew, how can you force Gentiles to live like Jews.”

In my initial naivety, I thought that there was only one simple single principle being taught: that we should lovingly, prayerfully, firmly, yet bravely, highlight hypocrisy publicly, if the Gospel is in jeopardy – of course we should do that, no matter who it embarrasses, for the love of Christ, with the hope of restoring brothers – but to bow to peer pressure, and create confusion about the Gospel, puts souls at eternal risk, so we cannot pass the buck!

However, on reflection, principial disconnection from practice […]

Big Doors Little Hinges

If you visit Heinz Chapel on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, you will pass through enormous, oak doors that are fifteen feet high and weigh 800 pounds each.  The amazing thing about the doors is that they actually work.  In many historic buildings there are massive doors but people enter through smaller openings – a normal-sized door within the larger door.  At Heinz Chapel the 800 pound doors swing open so smoothly that a child weighing 75 pounds can open them.  How is this possible? 

3GT Episode 57: Dads, Daughters, & Dating

The young fathers with young daughters want to get ready! So they ask the old guy for advice, since he has one married, one dating, and one he’s trying to keep from thinking about it. Many topics then arise: loving mom, daddy dates, listening, listening some more, dating rules, talking to interested young men, and guarding hearts. And in the process, the old guy learns who John Cusack is and which 3GTer looks like him!

Listen to 3DT once again – Three Dads Theologizing!


You can also subscribe to 3GT on iTunes!

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 […]

A Professor’s Prayer from Matthew 23

Heavenly Father,

May it never be that your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who is seated on heaven’s throne, should look down upon me, teaching from my professor’s chair, and tell others, “Listen to what he says, but do not follow his example” (v. 2-3).

Please keep me from calling others to Christian duty and gospel sacrifices that I am unwilling to make myself (v. 4).

Guard my heart from such things as quoting Scripture or preaching, or putting on fancy coat and tie or academic regalia, to impress men rather than to serve you, O Lord (v. 5).

Help me to sit lovingly with the lowly rather than angling to be seated proudly with the powerful (v. 6).

As I teach and preach, may my heart’s true longing not be for people to put titles before my name or initials after it, but to know you as the only true Teacher, Father, and Lord (v. 7-10).

May any greatness be measured only on the scale of being a lowly, humble, thankful servant of my great Lord whose sacrifice gave me life and a place of service in his glorious kingdom (v. 11-12).

O, Lord, may I never hear you say of me that I closed the […]

Decision paralysis and searching for paradise

Monday morning. A day off for some pastors; certainly for this one.* And a good opportunity to grab coffee or lunch with my wife. The conversation goes like this:

Lovely wife: “Where d’you wanna go?”

Me: “I dunno, where do you wanna go?”

Lovely wife: “How about McGovern’s, we’ve got a discount voucher for there.”**

Me: “Dunno never eaten there, let me check what people say.” Gets out phone… “Reviews don’t say a lot, is there anywhere else”

Lovely wife: “What about Puddleglum’s?”

Me: “Nah, doesn’t inspire me”

Lovely wife: “What do you feel like?”

Me: “I feel like something tasty, but not spicy—not expensive either, but not fast food.”

20 minutes pass while I poke around on Facebook and Tripadvisor .

Meanwhile, lovely wife is losing the will to live, never mind the will to go out for lunch.

Lovely wife: “Are you finding anything there?”

Me: “Nah, nothing grabs me.”

Lovely wife: “Why don’t we get in the car and just head down town?” (Slipping McGovern’s voucher in her bag, just in case)

Another 5 minutes pass as I scroll through reviews, muttering, “Where, where, where?”

Then came the grand denouement, the moment of blinding revelation:

Lovely wife: “Look, It doesn’t have to be perfection. I’m not looking for a place that gives me […]

Fishers of Men

When Jesus came upon the two brothers, Simon and Andrew, repairing their nets by the Sea of Galilee, he spoke to them those familiar words found in Matthew 4:19. “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” My experience has shown me that the words are familiar to the church, but the actual work perhaps not so much. How might we better understand the words so the work can be more accessible to us?

We can start by realizing that this call of Christ to these two men did not just come “out of the blue.” Some have read this text, seen Simon and Andrew immediately leaving their nets behind to follow Christ, and concluded that these men, without any previous interaction with Jesus, left all to work with him. However, that’s not the case. These brothers already had a growing knowledge of Christ.

Jesus was living a very public ministry at this point. He already had been baptized by John the Baptist. At that time, we find that Andrew had heard John the Baptist preaching about Jesus, seen him point Jesus out as the Lamb of God, and then gone to tell his brother Simon that he had found the Messiah (John 1:35-42). […]

3GT Episode 56: Stop! Thief!

On occasion the guys address one of the Ten Commandments, and on this episode it is Number 8: “You shall not steal.” Pretty simple, right? Hold on. From pillaging to pilfering to plagiarizing, thievery can take many forms. In our modern, digitized world, the temptations and ability to steal are multiplied. And the thief is not always “out there.” He may reside in our own hearts. What hope and instruction does the gospel give about this issue?

Join the 3GTers as they discuss and apply God’s Law. (Note: The picture accompanying this episode is courtesy of Pixabay, a free imaging resource :).


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Is The Lid About To Come Off?

The last week has seen a progressively deepening crisis in Hollywood on both sides of the Atlantic. Celebrities, stars and Oscar Nominations Committees have disowned Harvey Weinstein with an air of disbelief and disgust. Prosecutions may follow for this most successful producer.

Now, today, on the BBC’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ program, new allegations, concerning the UK music industry have emerged. Sarah Bowden, a music manager, has spoken about a scale of endemic sexual harassment, abuse and rape which is “as bad if not worse” as anything Hollywood has to offer.

Perhaps, we might wonder, if guilty complicity of promotion-seeking stars, has led to a backlash – those who are ashamed are now seeking their revenge [though not in the case of Sarah Bowden, who repelled all approaches to her cost]. That still does not excuse the advances of these males. All godly, right-thinking, Christians, if not entirely surprised, should nevertheless be sickened by these criminal events.

These revelation, of course, may only be the first – we may well be about to witness the lifting the lid on a proverbial ‘can of worms!’ Can we really have expected anything else from the industry that was born and lauded by Al Freed and Ian Dury […]

Funerals are for the Living

Attending my elderly neighbor’s funeral yesterday, the Lord impressed upon me again something I have been thinking about lately. As others have noted, funerals are really for the living, not the dead.

Certainly funerals, by their very nature, remember the dead. Yet the purpose of a Christian funeral is to give place for those still living and who are connected to the deceased to do the remembering, to grieve, and to hear the hope of the gospel. Thankfully, the funeral I attended yesterday did just that.

Providentially, the Lord prepared me beforehand to attend the funeral. Pastor Ed Blackwood, Director of Admissions and Student Services at RPTS, preached a wonderful chapel message yesterday morning on Abraham’s burial of his wife Sarah. The Lord used Ed’s Biblical insights and pastoral experience in a great way with students and faculty alike. Watch this brief message below for encouragement on how we should think about life, death, and funerals.