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Seeking His Spirit

Lately I have been reflecting on the prophets’ visions of revival. Many of the wondrous things they see in the days of Christ and promises they extend have to do with fuller manifestations of the Spirit of God. For three familiar examples:

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army…And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:9-10, 13-14)

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the […]

Preparing for Our Heavenly Union with God

In his beautiful tribute yesterday, James shared the news that a dear friend to a number of us at Gentle Reformation, Pastor David Long, passed into glory on Saturday evening. When I received the news, I had just said “Amen” following a quiet, tearful time of singing and praying with my family for Dave and Jenny and their family. Dave, my spiritual father, is now with the God he knew so well, served so faithfully, and told others of so sincerely.

At a conference last fall at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary on “Experiencing the Fullness of Our Union with Christ,” providentially I gave the final talk on preparing for heaven. At the start of my message and in the journal being published this week, I dedicated this talk to Dave as follows.

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At the time of my study and writing of this article, I have been emotionally walking with a lifetime friend and mentor as he fights a battle against a serious form of cancer. Observing someone close to you preparing to meet God moves a discussion such as this one out of the realm of the merely academic and speculative to that of pastoral and personal. So this article is dedicated to Pastor […]

Browse Worthy: Heaven and Hell

In April of 2008, the congregation where I served as pastor in Indiana had Pastor Edward “Ted” Donnelly of the Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church of Belfast preach five times for outreach services. He addressed the topics of heaven and hell.

Though you can read his book on this subject, there is such power in hearing them preached.  Though the videos below are not the best quality, the messages certainly are. Why not encourage someone you care about to listen?

Seminary. Be Here!

One of the most exciting developments in seminary education is distance learning (DL). Taking courses online is becoming an increasingly popular means for students to pursue theological education. In seminaries accredited by ATS, more than a quarter of the students have taken at least one course online and this number is only expected to grow. At the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary where I serve, the number of credits for online classes nearly tripled from the fall of last year to this year.

DL can be a blessing to the church for many reasons. Students can remain longer in their local ministry context without uprooting their families from their homes and congregations.  DL allows for flexibility to family and work schedules that the traditional classroom does not. Seminaries can reach students in foreign lands who otherwise would not be able to attend due to such things as visa restrictions or moving costs. People who may not want to be pastors but desire to deepen their theological knowledge can take or audit classes more easily. DL encourages the further connection and cooperation between the seminary and the local church, as pastors can work with students enrolled in online courses and see what they are learning.

However, […]

Growth in the Rural Church

It was once quipped that trying to turn a rural church around is harder than reaching a group of practicing Muslims. Gloomy as it may sound, rural churches are facing some unique challenges, especially as it concerns membership. The allurement of the city and the agricultural mechanization of the last fifty years has left rural America in a steady decline. The church has felt the effects. I don’t think too highly of statistical research, but both Barna and Pew have suggested that the overwhelming majority of rural churches have, at best, no increased growth and, at worst, decline.

Despite such gloomy sentiments it seems the rural church can grow. A couple of years ago W. Scott Moore assessed growth patterns in rural churches that had experienced a significant increase in membership by those who were previously unchurched. And guess what? He lived to write a book about it!

So how does one “grow” a rural church? Of course, growth is ultimately dependent on the Spirit alone. Paul reminds us: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). So perhaps it should be asked: what are unchurched people looking for in a rural church? Surprising as it may seem, […]

Even Though It’s Not A Game

Let’s try out a phrase: “spectator Christians.”

The trend toward spectatorship is a culture-wide phenomenon seeping into the church. Sports used to be something we did; now it’s something we watch. Music used to be a reason to get together with neighbors and have fun; now it’s something our headphones use to keep us separate from others. Christianity is, to my eyes, similarly and increasingly becoming a spectator event. 

A Church Planting Testimony

On the evening of September 11, around two hundred people gathered as the Marion Reformed Presbyterian Church was organized by the presbytery in Marion, Indiana.  One of the highlights of the evening was the history of the work uniquely expressed by Scott Hunt, an attorney in Marion who was installed as a ruling elder in the new congregation. With his permission I am sharing this history below.

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Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,.. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,…and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon….and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way (Matthew 1:2, 6, 11, 16-18).

It is clear from a cursory reading of God’s Word that the history of His people is important.  Whether it is the descendants of Adam in Genesis or a list of David’s […]

Two Types of Sinners

According to the Bible, several ways exist to classify sinners. First and foremost, we can simply state the universal truth.  All men are sinners!  Both the wicked and the saint alike! Romans 3:23 sums it up clearly, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The saint has been forgiven his sin, but as Luther stated he is still simul justus et peccator – at the same time righteous and a sinner. In what follows, the church must not forget this universal truth.

However, the Scriptures do make other distinctions regarding sinners. They can be labeled according to the types of sin they commit, such as adulterers, liars, murderers, etc. (I Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 22:15). Also, the ungodly can be classified with respect to their disobedience to the Word, where they can resist it immediately, receive it joyfully at first then fall away, or let it be choked out over a period of time (Matt. 13:3-9; 18-23). Another way to view sinners, somewhat akin to Dante’s hellish circles in his Inferno, is to think of them with respect to the degree of depravity they have reached. All men are sinners, yet people to various degrees become hardened and fall further into the depths of sin, with some even reaching the […]

Grateful Presbyterianism

When I became a pastor in the RPCNA, one of the vows I took went like this:

Do you believe it to be the teaching of Scripture…that the permanent form of church government is presbyterian?

So, yeah, I do. And I made a vow to that effect, so fat chance getting me to turn my back on it now. I’m presbyterian by conviction, because I really do believe it’s how Scripture shows the church ought to be led. Presbyterianism strengthens the church’s ability to submit to her leaders, trusting that when things go wrong (and they do), there is a higher authority ready to right the ship. As I’ve reminded my congregationalist friends, any church government works when everything’s going well. But presbyterianism works when nothing is going well.

But this past weekend, I was reminded in a few powerful ways that the greatest benefit of being presbyterian isn’t the structure of authority existing over individual sessions and the ability to work through discipline cases effectively. The greatest benefit of being presbyterian is being loved, pursuing Christ’s kingdom-on-earth together in a community of true and mutual care. 

Qualities of Urgency in Preaching Seen in Peter’s Pentecost Sermon

Martyn Lloyd-Jones once stated to preachers, “You are not simply imparting information, you are dealing with souls, you are dealing with pilgrims on the way to eternity, you are dealing with matters not only of life and death in this world, but eternal destiny. Nothing can be so terribly urgent.”

With that quote in mind, what does urgent preaching look like? With over half of its content sermonic, the Biblical record contained in the Acts of the Apostles would support the thesis that true preaching is urgent preaching.  Using Peter’s message at Pentecost as a paradigm, we can see urgent preaching would appear to possess at least these seven qualities.

1) A yearning to glorify God for his salvation (Acts 2:17, 22, 36). Peter makes it clear throughout his message that salvation is the work of God from beginning to end.

2) An aim in the message to touch hearts as well as minds (Acts 2:14, 22-23, 29, 36-37). When those gathered at Pentecost heard this message, they were “cut to the heart,” which is clearly Peter’s aim.

3) An eschatological sense that the gospel is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Eleven of the twenty-three verses of Peter’s sermon are Old Testament quotations, which add […]