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Strangers in Saunas – Update 2

Just back from my Monday lunchtime swim at the gym – thought it might be good to pass on some more information.

Up to 60 lengths today – please don’t get visions of a Bluefin Tuna gliding effortlessly from end to end. My aquatics are more akin to that of the Humpback Whale!

The main thing learnt today in the Steam Room was God’s sovereignty over circumstances.

After entering and sitting I tried to start the conversation with a middle-aged guy in the corner by saying: ‘They could do with a light in here!’ I’ve often thought that to myself, so it seemed a reasonable introduction. Well, to my surprise there was no response at all. Just long silence for the next 5 minutes.

My next attempt was more fruitful: ‘The weather’s great, isn’t it?’ Now it just happens to have been the driest April on record in Northern Ireland. Yesterday also just happened to be a real ‘blue-sky belter-of-a-day’ (sorry if these colloquialisms seem strange across the pond!).

Suddenly the stranger perked up – it seems I’d struck the conversation-opener jackpot. ‘Yeh!’ he agreed. ‘Spent the whole day up the Mournes!’ (our local mountain range and of Don McLean fame).

‘Climbing were you?’ I inquired […]

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 […]

Lord of Men and Nations

The following article is a guest post by Brad Johnston, pastor of the Topeka Reformed Presbyterian Church. In sharing this news about a national confession of faith by the country of Poland, we at Gentle Reformation want to be clear that we are not advocating Roman Catholic doctrine, as Brad’s article states several times and this recent post shows. Rather, this rather remarkable situation provides a challenge for the Protestant church to pray greatly for the kingdom of God to be further manifest through nations coming to Christ.

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You may have heard the thought-provoking news that a former Soviet-bloc country in Eastern Europe has confessed the Lord Jesus Christ as King and Lord. This type of confession is what Christians pray for when they recite or sing Psalm 67: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth” (Psalm 67:4).

This notable event took place on the 1,050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland when the Polish prince embraced Christ in the year A.D. 966. A millennium later in the past century, Poland found itself pressed by Nazi Germany on the west and Communist Russia on the […]

Refreshment on Revival

At last…..  almost a month without proper internet access & the stress of moving to a new house. Which reminds me of a few thoughts I had some time ago on Revival from Zechariah 1.1-6….

Exile was now over. The people had returned. State-sponsored rebuilding of the House of Yahweh in Jerusalem had been decreed by Cyrus . The harsh reality of life in the Empire back in their homeland which had not, as yet, lived up to their dreams of restoration. The Jews as a consequence had grown spiritually gloomy and cold. So the Prophet of God is sent to stir up his returned Church. There are at least ten lessons or principles the Spirit gives us which help us think properly about revival…

1. The Church always tends to decline so is constantly in need of revival v4.

2. Church revival comes through the efficacious preaching of the Word of God v1, 3 & 6.

3. Church revival comes with messages which place a stress on sinful behaviour or practice & the need for the grace of repentance v2, 4 & 6.

4. Church revival comes after a period of chastening & acknowledgment of waywardness on the part of the people of God v6b.

5. Church revival is forgotten by previous generations […]

Visual Missiology in the Bible

The following guest post is penned by Brian Wright. Brian is a senior at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary from Arlington, Massachusetts. He and his wife Lisa spent three years in Manhattan, Kansas before moving to Pittsburgh for seminary. He is a student under care of the Midwest Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.

If Israel was God’s chosen people in the Old Testament era, what about the rest of the world? Did God care about the other nations? Jesus told his disciples to make disciples of all nations, and the missionary efforts of the New Testament era are hard to miss. What does the Old Testament have to say about the nations of the world?

The chart seen to the right (click image to enlarge) is a preliminary attempt at a Biblical theological timeline of God’s concern for the nations. This August, I took part in a week-long Theology and Methods of Missions class at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Three weeks before the class began, the students were split into four groups of four and tasked with constructing a visual representation of God’s interaction with the nations. We were assigned sections of the Bible by group, and […]

To Condemn Surfing? Define Your Christianity.

“Protestant missionaries… had forced surfing deep into the shadows… To Calvinists, surfing was a sinful exercise, leading only to unbridled licentiousness and godless impiety. Go surfing they pronounced from their pulpits, and eternal flames awaited.” Pacific, 131.

Simon Winchester (one of my favorite authors) makes this passing statement  about surfing and 1820’s Hawaiian Calvinism. Calvinism is condemned in less than forty words in the midst of a 492 page book which concerns the ecological, international, and economic importance of the Pacific Ocean. Why did Calvinism get discredited in the midst of a discussion on the ocean? With no footnote or historical anecdote, the assertion was made that Calvinists believe that surfing leads to hell’s flame.

I am not arguing that such condemnations have never been made. Somewhere someone at some time has most-likely condemned wave riding, yet Winchester’s statement demonstrates that outside of the church people have presuppositions about what defines the Christian. People assume they know what is Christianity. That assumption is based on how we reflect Christianity; how we define it. To an unbelieving world, we define Christianity, not in our words only — but also in our actions.

What defines you?

What defines your Christianity?

Is it defined by a condemnation of surfing or some other lawful activity? Is […]

Expectant Prayer for the Nations

Do our prayers really matter in missions and the spread of the gospel around the globe? Is it worth leading our children to pray for specific nations of the world?

Recently, God impressed upon me the amazing era in which we live. The good news of Jesus Christ is rapidly spreading around the world.

Today, even I get to see with my own eyes the work of God in people from India, Arabia, China, and Africa – even if it is just a token of what is happening globally. My great-grandparents could only have dreamed of so many people from these lands joining us for worship as a church and sitting around our dining room table. I confess that as a child I did not expect this as I should have.

What has led to such progress? Jesus has also ordained that social, economic, and technological forces would align to propel the advance of the gospel in our day. Faithful gospel preachers have gone out over the years sowing with tears. And people have prayed for generations, and God has graciously answered.

In my growing up experience, our parents taught us to pray for the world. We prayed for specific countries from our little farm in Indiana. […]

Evangelistic Preaching

In conversations I have had recently with both seasoned ministers and young men preparing for pastoral ministry, the subject of what constitutes evangelistic preaching has been discussed. As we wonder why we do not see more conversions in Reformed churches, generally speaking, certainly one simple reason is that we do not preach for them. Are there not times where a preacher should preach not only an edifying gospel-centered sermon, delivered faithfully in his weekly Lord’s Day preaching, but an evangelizing one, whether in the church for special seasons and services or outside the church along the highways and the hedges (Luke 14:23)? If so, what would such a sermon look and sound like?

Below are thirteen characteristics, briefly explained, which help distinguish an evangelistic sermon from what we might call an edification sermon. These qualities should not be understood as mutually exclusive, but rather as weighted tendencies or features.

An evangelistic sermon is aimed primarily at unbelievers; an edification sermon is aimed primarily at Christians. An obvious quality perhaps, yet this question is worth asking. When is the last time you preached or heard such a sermon? We may rightly scoff at the excesses of the widespread Arminian, revivalistic preaching of our day. Certainly I […]

Sowing Gospel Seeds

Why do many Christians struggle to share their faith with others?

I believe one answer to that is that they feel unqualified. They believe that they have to have a perfect presentation or be well-trained before they are able to do so. I especially believe that we who are in the Reformed camp have made sharing Christ more complicated than it need be.

Think for a moment of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. She clearly was not well-versed in Scripture. Her education would have been minimal. Her lifestyle up to this time was grossly an immoral one. Yet she was used to lead a whole village out to Christ (John 4:30) and many believed in him (John 4:39, 41).

Her “method”? She gave a simple testimony of Jesus’ prophetic insights and wondered aloud if he was the Christ.

Similarly, I would like to encourage you to think of sharing the gospel as simply sowing seeds. Of course, Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven in this way, as of a sower going out and sowing seeds in many places (Matthew 13:1-9). We are told the seed represents the word of the kingdom (Mt. 13:18-19). As a seed is a small object, we need to remember that […]

The Gospel in a handshake

I’ve just finished “Mission at Nuremburg” by Tim Townsend. It is the fascinating story of Henry Gerecke, chaplain at the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunal. A one word quote from a newspaper review on the front simply says “Gripping”, and it was.

Among Gerecke’s ‘parishioners’ were:

Hermann Goering—Commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, and a man who had given some of the most genocidal orders of the war.
Rudolf Hess—known as the third most powerful man in Germany, behind Hitler and Goering
Fritz Sauckel—Head of Labour and Supply in Nazi Germany. He was described as “the greatest and cruellest slave driver since Pharaoh”. He worked millions of slave labourers to death without mercy.
Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel—Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed forces. His unquestioning obedience to Hitler led to his being responsible for more deaths than anyone could count.
Wilhelm Frick—Minister of the Interior. An innocuous sounding title, but that meant he was responsible for all that happened within the borders of Germany, including the rounding up of the Jewish people for extermination. His title covered up a reign of terror.
Joachim von Ribbentrop—Hitler’s Foreign Minister.

How would you do in ministering to such men?

As chaplain Gerecke knew it was his duty to share the hope of forgiveness […]