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No longer talking

Have you noticed that people are no longer talking? Sure, there is plenty of chat in shops and restaurants, but how often do you phone someone? If you’re over 40 you probably haven’t changed your habits, but I suspect that if you are under 40 there has been a change.

I’m reading Alone Together by Sherry Turkle, a book whose subtitle is ‘Why we expect more from technology and less from each other”. In it she explores how technology is changing us and how we interact with each other.

One aspect she writes about is the growing distaste for the talking over the phone, and a preference for texting; of how using the phone is often seen as an intrusion on people.

Turkle quotes a sixteen-year-old who won’t use the phone: “When you text, you have more time to think about what you’re writing… On the telephone, too much might show.” Another says, he might, not now, but sometime soon, “force himself” to talk on the phone. “It might be a way to teach yourself to have a conversation . For later in life, I’ll need to learn how to have a conversation…”

She tells of a daughter being picked up from school by […]

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? 

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 […]

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 […]

Christian Competence

Time is pressing on in sermon preparation, so on this Saturday afternoon I thought I’d share my morning thoughts.

Introduction

Perhaps your feeling tired or jaded in the work. Maybe you feel the burden of the responsibility to preach. “Who” you may wonder “is sufficient for these things?”

Context

In 2 Corinthians 1-2 Paul has been wrestling with this question. He clearly had detractors who were running down his credentials. After laying out his defense, in 1.12-2.11, he asserts that his change of plans was neither whimsical or selfish. Instead he delayed his visit to spare pain to God’s flock.

In 2.14-17 he deals with Christian conquest, for Christ has called them, as ministers, to diffuse fragrance around the globe in Christ’s Gospel victory march.

Next in 3.1-3 he shows that in exercising his powerful, successful mission, through God’s means of grace, he needs no other, human, Christian commendation, for results speak for themselves: Corinthian conversion and church planting is proof enough of divine power at work in Paul’s apostolic efforts. The fruit of New Covenant ministry is seen in the regeneration of the ‘living letters’ that Christ, through Gospel ministry, has written on living ‘fleshy’ human hearts

Then, in 3.4-6, he insists that such apostolic boasting […]

Ten Brief Lessons on the Ten Commandments

Many Christians tend to have an uneasy relationship with God’s law. Often, wrong perceptions interfere with a clear understanding about the Ten Commandments. To help, here are ten brief lessons regarding the Decalogue.

Lesson 1: The Ten Commandments were given to the redeemed. The Remember that the Ten Commandments were given to Israel after they had been delivered out of Egypt, not before. They were not a code given for Israel to earn there way out of slavery; these commandments were given to them as the redeemed people of God. The Lord reminds them of this in the very preface to the Ten commandments, found in Exodus 20:1 which states, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Lesson 2: The Lord made a covenant with Israel based on the Ten Commandments. When Moses came down off Mt. Sinai with the stone tables of God’s law as recorded in Exodus 24, he built an altar before the people. He then took the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkled half of it on the altar. After reading the “book of the covenant”, i.e. the Ten Commandments and other laws, the people responded they would […]

Comfort for Christians

Introduction

A number of years ago, I came across a beautifully written, pastorally helpful, spiritually enriching and heart-consoling, little volume by Arthur. W. Pink, published by Baker Books, entitled ‘Comfort for Christians’. What caught my eye, and lured me like a bee to honey, was the sweetest four-page entry on ‘Our Light and Momentary Troubles’: at that particular time this was health to my bones and balm of Gilead to my soul.

That chapter, of course, was a moving exposition, from Paul’s letter to Second Corinthians, which I began to study afresh, yesterday morning, with much profit. In this sacred epistle the apostle handles many subjects, one of the chief of which is the suffering of the believer and corresponding divine consolation. In the very first section, he leads us with cords of kindness to the “Father of all mercies” and “the God of all comfort”. It is to this God of Grace, and the comfort found in Christ, that I want to lead your soul for refreshment of the heart.

Explanation

Before I begin to pin down some principles, with private and pastoral applications, I just want to make a few comments on the text itself.

First please note, that while ‘comfort’ in the […]

Kindred Spirits

Anyone familiar with Anne of Green Gables will immediately think of Anne’s search for true friendship when they hear the term “kindred spirits.” This poor orphan finally finding heart companions in such persons as Diana, Matthew, Marilla, and ultimately Gilbert is what makes the story so touching and tender. She viewed a kindred spirit as one who saw things and cared for life in the same manner that she did.

Interestingly, this term is found in the NASB version in Philippians 2:20. Paul says of Timothy, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” This phrase is a translation of the Greek word ἰσόψυχοs, which combines the word equal (“iso” like in the word isoceles triangle) with the word for soul. So the term is defined to mean “like-minded, equal in soul, same hearted.” The increasingly popular ESV does not quite do justice to the word when it has Paul saying “I have no one like him.” The NKJV and KJV get closer when they use the more literal “I have no one like-minded.” Not to be sentimental, but a brief study would show, I believe, that Paul would have been happy with us thinking of him and […]

The Devil’s Glasses

No, this post is not about looking at the eclipse.

Rather, someone once illustrated temptation in this way. When you are being tempted, the devil sets on your nose a pair of false glasses. These glasses make the sin look so small that you view engaging in it as trivial.

How does Satan fool us with lies so that we believe that committing sin will be inconsequential? Here are five of the common ways he distorts our spiritual vision with his lies during temptation.

He focuses our attention on the immediate pleasure rather than the pain of sin. A juicy worm floating in the water looks tasty to a fish, but when it bites and the hook is set the pain makes it thrash. In the same way, thinking of the nice things one can buy with stolen money or the fun to be had with another’s wife can make sin look so pleasurable. But the inevitable pain that will follow of spending time in jail for theft or facing the vengeance of a jealous husband is not considered.

He makes us look myopically at sin as a merely private matter. Many a person thinks that sins such as viewing pornography, bowing before a household idol, […]

Answering Questions with Jesus

 

Joel Hart wrote the following guest-post. Joel is preparing for pastoral ministry as a student of theology in the Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery of the RPCNA. He is a rising senior at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The Lord has given Orlena as Joel’s wife and has blessed them with three children.

                “I left the church because no one would answer my questions.”

This refrain, or similar rhetoric, scatters the blogs or social media posts of those who have distanced themselves from Christ’s church. One question emerges when we observe the phenomenon of despairing and leaving question-askers: Does the church — ­can the church — ­answer the questions of those in the church asking questions amidst an increasingly skeptical world?

Earlier this summer, I enjoyed the privilege of teaching 30 junior high youth at a church family camp. Our studies in the gospel of John led us to the response of the crowds to the teachings of Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:60-71). For Jesus’ audience, this teaching left many with a searching, skeptical question: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (6:60). Here, our Savior answers the doubtful question with a decisive answer built on the […]