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Archive | Christian Living

With Him by Ken G. Smith

At the end of last week, I had the privilege of visiting with Ken Smith. Ken was my pastor when I was in seminary years ago. His Spirit-filled preaching, the warm hospitality he and Floy always gave us, and Friday morning prayer times with him and a few other men were just some of the ways he ministered to me during those years. I learned so much from him then, and now that I am back in the Pittsburgh area he has again been a rich source of encouragement to me. So I have not only heard him teach, but experienced him practicing, the truth contained in the title of his new book With Him.

This short volume on this simple yet profound principal of discipleship is chocked full with insights into Jesus’ way of working with men. As the Scriptures tell us, our Lord chose his disciples to be “with him” (Mark 3:14). Ken demonstrates from Christ’s life that the most powerful way of developing another is to take him or her with you as you minister and live. He also develops how other key biblical figures practiced the with him principal, backs it up with the teaching of others, and shares wonderful anecdotes […]

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 […]

What is the Point of Church?

The following is a guest post by J.K. Wall who is a writer in Indianapolis. His modernized abridgment of William Symington’s work, Messiah the Prince Revisited, was published in 2014 by Crown & Covenant Publications. You can e-mail him at jk.wall@gmail.com.

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During a chat at a restaurant last month a dear friend, who hasn’t attended church regularly for years, claimed that church is unnecessary for true Christian faith.

In other words, Who even needs the church? What’s the point?

This is a burning question for many today, especially Millennials. They find Christians a group of people they don’t want to associate with. They are turned off by pervasive hypocrisy and legalism among modern American Christians—at least in the conservative circles in which this friend and I have moved. They especially don’t like the overt politicization of many evangelical churches by the Religious Right movement. And they don’t see why going to a building with a bunch of people once a week has any effect on what they believe.

I didn’t have a great answer for my friend’s question that night. But here is what I should have said:

You can’t be anything individually without having a relationship with others.”

You can’t be a writer […]

What to Pray for Your Church

The following article is a guest post by Pastor Bob Hemphill. Bob is a RPCNA minister and church planter who recently retired after decades of service. He is the author of the Windmill Pete series of books for children.

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How long, O LORD, will I call for help and you will not hear? I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ Yet you do not save.” -Habakkuk 1:2

The prophet cries for help in the manner of the Psalm writers. However, it is not a personal problem he brings to the Lord. He is asking God to deal with sin in Judah, to discipline and purify God’s people.

Can you find anywhere in the Bible the typical prayer of so many of us pastors and members of churches, a prayer for God to add people and make the church bigger? I don’t think so.

The prayers of believers in the Bible, when it comes to Christ’s Church, are either of the Habakkuk type – Lord, purify us, cleanse us, turn our hearts back to you, cause us to bring glory to your name; or they are of the Apostle Paul type – Lord, save the lost, cause them to repent and believe, bring them into your kingdom, write them in the […]

Strangers in Saunas – Update

For those who of you who are wondering how things are going in my local health club in Belfast, or praying for the ‘strangers in saunas’ with whom I was conversing, I thought it might be helpful to give you a brief update:

I’m not sure how a clerical collar would look in the sauna, but I was tempted to consider, for future ventures, wearing a ‘onesy’ or ‘Lycra body suit’ or a bathrobe, following my next encounter with another stranger in the sauna. Perhaps you may have guessed, by my slightly prudish comments, it was an older lady who entered the sauna a couple of days later. Happily we were seated in opposite corners of the sauna, but it didn’t take too long before she introduced herself, WAIT FOR IT, by her christian name FAITH.

Well, after I had recovered from the surprise (o ye of little faith!), I couldn’t help but ask “Well, tell me FAITH ….do you have faith?” It turns out, actually, that she does – and she also attends a local church, whose former minister I know of (who is, I think, very mildly evangelical). Anyway, she goes to church regularly, and expressed her thanks for the pastoral care […]

Starting Forest Fires

In late spring two years ago, I took to the woods behind my house to rid the trees of the nests of tent worms. Tree after tree had their branches loaded with the unsightly, web-like sacs containing wriggling caterpillars. Seeing these cottony blobs loaded with worms out our window made my wife shudder, and knowing they would soon march out and start stripping the branches of leaves made her determined that I needed to do something about it.

Desiring to be her shining knight and rescue her from these little dragons, I dutifully followed her suggestion to rid the trees of these pests. She had seen her sister’s husband burn them out of his trees by tying a gas-soaked rag on the end of a pole, lighting it on fire, then burning the nests. So on an exceptionally warm Saturday in May that year, I did likewise. I must admit it was rather satisfying seeing the tents melt under the heat and watching all those little tree terrorists get their just reward. Everything was working according to plan…until I decided to get one last nest down further in the woods.

For as I reached up to scorch the last bastion of those buggers, […]

A Minister of Mercy

An Offer Too Good To Refuse

What a wonderful surprise! That’s was my reaction to the very kind and generous offer made by one of the older members of my congregation. He is a retired missionary who possesses a deep theological knowledge. I couldn’t believe my ears: ‘Take any books you like – you can have first pick from my library!” So on the appointed day, and at a pre-arranged time, I went round to my friend, with some sturdy cardboard boxes, and filled my car boot [trunk] with dozens of weighty tomes.

The Secret Workings of Providence

This all happened around the time when we recently moved house, so half of my library is still in boxes. This explains why I haven’t had much time to survey the contents properly or the leisure to digest their accumulated wisdom. Yet, as providence would have it, I recently read a quotation from Thomas Goodwin in a Banner of Truth magazine (it was either imbedded in a magazine article or just the bare quote and nothing else). The quotation was something along the lines of (my heavy paraphrase) “Salvation will not be withheld from any penitent sinner who comes to God truly believing that the Lord is full of mercy.”

Isn’t is […]

Things May Get Messy

Next week on March 29 and 30 Rosaria Butterfield is coming to speak to the Christian community in Bloomington, IN (more information here).  Rosaria is a gracious and engaging believer who has written two very helpful books on the power of the gospel to transform our lives.  In Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, she tells the story of her own, dramatic conversion to Christ.  In Openness Unhindered, she explores the need for every person to find his or her true identity in Christ.  In the process of telling some of her own story, she makes it clear that the gospel has the power to seriously disrupt our lives in ways that are not always neat and tidy.  Calling her own conversion story a “train wreck” she has a lot to teach the church about what it means to work with people whose lives are being made new by Christ.  When she walked away from her former life as a tenured English professor at Syracuse University, all she had left was her dog and what she could fit in her car.  God quite literally blew up her previous relationships and support systems in the process of making her His own.

In […]

The Expectation of Fasting

When Jesus was asked a question on the subject of fasting as recorded in Matthew 9, he answered in a way that God’s people should well understand.  He used a wedding metaphor.

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.’” (Matt. 9:14-15)

The basic lesson of this metaphor is that fasting is like waiting for a wedding. Better yet, fasting is like the bride longing for the wedding and bringing it more quickly by that longing. It is asking the lover of your soul to come and make a holy visitation.

With this metaphor, Jesus explained that his disciples were not fasting at the time because he was with them. But when he would leave to go to heaven where he is now, note what he says will happen. Look at the last three words of verse 15: “they will fast.” Jesus expects Christians to fast.

Our Lord made that clear earlier in the gospel of Matthew. […]

The Screensaver of your Mind

What’s your computer’s screensaver? You know – the picture that comes up after a few minutes of inactivity. In the olden times there were only a handful of stock pictures to choose from, but nowadays the choices are infinite. Some hi-res close-up photograph of a butterfly wing or a satellite shot of the Sahara desert from space. Perhaps a random assortment of your family photographs. If you’re unimaginative or just haven’t worked out how to change the default screensaver setting then perhaps you’re greeted by a blank screen when the computer goes into power save mode. Whatever it is, it’s what comes up when you’re not actively using the computer for anything else.

Your computer screensaver (or lack of one) may or may not reveal something profound about your personality and thoughts, but did you ever think about the screensavers of your own brain? What are they? They’re the things your mind reverts to thinking about when it’s left to its own devices. When you’re not focused on a particular task in hand – you’re not trying to solve that calculus equation or write that essay or cook that meal or repair that broken door handle or watch that TV show or […]