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Archive | Christian Living

Honor Such Men: Rich Johnston’s Thirty Years of Youth Ministry

Next week, the Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery of the RPCNA will hold its annual spring meeting. The nominating committee will submit a slate of candidates for various committees and offices for the coming year. For the first time in some thirty years, Rich Johnston will not be nominated for youth secretary. The vote will probably be quiet and ordinary, but it will formally conclude a most-extraordinary three decades of ministry to the young people of this presbytery.

Gentle Answers: Revisiting the Iron Cage

A reader named Justin submitted the following question to our “Gentle Answers” feature found on the right sidebar.  My answer to him is below.

Barry,

I just read your post on the unpardonable sin entitled the “Iron Cage“.  I have struggled with this particular topic for a few years now.  A few years ago I indeed had not be watchful and been somewhat lax in my spiritual walk.  Because of an awful thought I had a few years ago, during that time, while reading the unpardonable sin passage in Mark I have feared that I have committed the unpardonable sin.  Ever since then I have feared that all that awaits me is eternal punishment and this terrifies me.  I have earnestly prayed for God’s forgiveness over and over but still feel anxiety.  I feel as if because of what I’ve done and thought, the promises of God no longer apply to me and He has left me and I can’t be forgiven for the things I’ve thought; I can’t imagine standing before Him and those particular thoughts being brought up; I hate them!  I noticed you quoted J.I. Packer in your post and I read that portion of his book Concise Theology […]

An Elder Must Be Hospitable

The Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery of the RPCNA meets later this month. In a recent Facebook discussion, I suggested that a certain student of theology would show good judgment by bringing a bag of candy to share at the meeting. Jokes about bribes popped up instantly because the elders will be voting on student theology exams; it was all good fun. Of course, bribery is utterly sinful, but it’s a good idea for students to bring a bag of candy to share. Why? Because it’s portable hospitality, and 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 both say that an elder must be hospitable.

Construction Sounds

Our family hosts a college Bible study for our congregation each Thursday in our home. A capable young man, a recent graduate himself, leads the study. Souls are being attracted through the study of God’s word and the earnest love of the saints. Last Thursday night, I arrived home and peeked in to see our living room filled with over twenty young adults. My heart brimmed with gratitude to see them hungry for the word of God. They sing a Psalm at the beginning and end of each study. The leader observed privately afterward that this group is one of the weakest singing groups of which he has ever been a part. “We really sound bad,” he said. I’ve heard them sing, and I concur.

Dusting Off the Word Love (Guest Post by Ken Smith)

Valentine’s Day is one week away, and I cannot think of a better way to prepare than to meditate on love with one who has been practicing it,  modeling it, and teaching on it for a long time.  Pastor Ken Smith, who was my minister during my days in seminary, is one of the most loving men I know.  

Ken has been married to Floy for 56 years, and they have 3 sons and daughters-in-law and twelve grandchildren.  He was ordained on June 13, 1952 in what was the Central-Pittsburgh Reformed Presbyterian Church, which is now the North Hills Reformed Presbyterian Church.  Ken says, “Floy and I took a Scrabble board with us on our honeymoon, and we’re still playing.  (Is she two games ahead?)”

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“You don’t have to be in love in order to get married,” I said.  Their faces took on a surprised and questioning look.  “No,” I said, “It’s natural, enjoyable, and desirable; but it’s not a necessity.”  They were reflecting today’s cultural view, and I was intentionally painting them into a mental corner.  We were in a pre-marital counseling session.

Today’s culture here in America has tended to become emotionally […]

Gospel Hatred

I have experienced some gospel hatred as of late.

By this, I do not mean the persecution or suffering of faithful witnesses and martyrs.  If giving your life for the gospel is referred to as drinking of the cup by our Lord (Matthew 20:22-23), then in my experience I have, at most, only smelt the aroma of that cup from afar.  I know of believers in other lands who have sacrificed their welfare and lives for Christ.  As for me personally, the record of more than two decades of ministry shows that only a few minor incidences of threats, yelling, and mocking have come my way from embittered souls.  The  martyrs saw giving their life as a Christ-granted honor, yet I have not yet been “considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” in this manner (Acts 5:41).

No, the gospel hatred to which I refer comes from another direction.  

Washington Reflections (Guest Post by Emory York)

Recently my daughter Emory, a freshman nursing student at Purdue University, traveled through the night with friends to attend an event in Washington D.C.  Upon her return, after I listened to her describe her experience over the phone in the tears and raw emotion of uncalloused youth, I asked her to put her thoughts into writing.  They follow below.

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The agonizing cries, which can only proceed from the most tortured of human souls, pierced the silence of my imagination. I could almost smell the reek of unwashed, decaying, and burning human flesh.  Haunted figures and hollowed eyes presented themselves before me wherever I turned. There was no escape from the overwhelming sense that I was experiencing no small taste of hell.

Such were the thoughts and emotions which flooded over me as I walked through the National Holocaust Museum in our nation’s capital.  After being confronted with the acute depravity of mankind, museum visitors are quoted saying, “This can never be allowed to happen in any form again.” We leave appalled, but comforted with the fact that we would never participate in such horrific evil.  We think that our nation is so much more advanced and we have come so far […]

Browse Worthy: Homosexuality

I agreed with David Murray a few months ago when he asked for a moratorium on speaking and posting about homosexuality.  I worked at actually practicing my own moratorium, seeking deliberately not to mention it automatically in writing or speaking as any easy target.  I did refer to it once recently, but that was to highlight a book that deals with a person’s story regarding it.  However, even then I sought to be more careful in how I spoke about this subject.  No one probably noticed, since silence on a subject rarely is noticed and our culture’s cacophony regarding it continues.

Today I wanted to lift this moratorium because of three articles worthy of your attention regarding it.  May they help us be both more loving and wise as this issue just doesn’t go away.

Albert Mohler – This post gives insight into the recent policy change of the Boy Scouts.  In his typical lucid fashion, Dr. Mohler explains that the national Boy Scout Board’s ruling to allow each local troop to decide whether to accommodate openly gay participants will not work.  “This capitulation and the abandonment of the B.S.A.’s longstanding policy will, in the end, please no one. The new policy is […]

A Helpful Marital Thought

In Christian marriage two saints, who still have plenty of sin’s remnant clinging to them, form a lifelong union. This means then, with the baring of the soul’s wiring that marriage exposes, sparks are going to fly.  Marital conflict is inevitable.

So when the sea of anger begins rising, the emotional waves start rolling, and the marital boat is rocking, what is one immediate way to batten down the hatches to prevent the ship from capsizing?  Bring to mind that this conflict is for your benefit, to help you become more like Christ.  Remember that Jesus did not only speak peace and calm the sea for his scared disciples out in the boat in the storm.  Before this, while watching from a mountain above as He prayed, He sent the storm to them so they could grow in their holiness by experiencing Him in new ways.

Brooks, Baseball, and Battles Among Believers

The Puritans are derided as legalistic killjoys whose meticulous writings tend to parse the life out of true piety.  Even a quick overview of their work will reveal their ability to write exhaustively on a topic and to exhaust the reader in the process!  However, the careful, charitable reader of Puritan works will spy in them a faith of studied simplicity, one from which we could benefit in the midst of current battles among believers.