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Of Burner Phones and Busy Lives: Making the Best Use of Time

A couple of weeks ago I walked into a cell phone store and said,  “I would like to trade in my iPhone 6 for a dumb phone.” Puzzled, the clerk asked why I would do such a thing. I told him I longed for the simplicity of the 2000s. The look of puzzlement continued as I described why I only wanted talk and text: I am tired of the media access on my phone. It’s a time vacuum.

He consulted with another employee and then informed me that they no longer sold dumb phones and said I would have to buy a “burner phone” to avoid media. I could try CVS or Target. All phone plans now carry a media charge; it cannot be avoided.

I went home disappointed, but as a small victory in the media-fatigue battle I deleted my Facebook app. I love you all, but you don’t need to join me on coffee dates with my wife and you don’t need to accompany me to the park with my children. I don’t need to see your vacation pics while I’m waiting for the light to change. There are better ways for me to use my time.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, gives a […]

Lord, Save Us From Some of These Christian Politicians

It makes me so sad to see Evangelicals heaping praise upon Donald Trump and abusing the Bible to do so.  “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7) has to be one of the most misused texts of Scripture in our day.   Politicians and their supporters use it to tell Christians to look past the commandment-breaking lifestyle of their choice for President, as if Jesus taught that someone’s doing some benevolent things in addition to blatantly evil things was sufficient proof of authentic faith. 

A Word in Season

Many Christians believe that God still gives words of knowledge and prophecies just as he did in the days of the apostles. They are excited to think that God would speak directly to their circumstances. Compared to the immediacy of such revelations, the weekly consecutive exposition of God’s word can seem something of a straitjacket.
But how many times have you found in your daily Bible reading that the passage assigned for the day is exactly the word from the Lord that you need? How often has the next passage to be preached by your pastor spoken right into your situation in a way that could only be because of the supernatural ordering of things by the Holy Spirit. Is this not an even more miraculous evidence of the Lord’s power than a prophecy – that the Lord can arrange a series of sermons or readings months in advance so that exactly the right passage comes before exactly the right person at exactly the right moment?
We’ve seen this many times in our congregation, but most recently just last Lord’s Day. A week ago a three-year old boy in our congregation was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukaemia. What was the passage ordained […]

Where Faith Goes to Die

It’s an old joke among Christian leaders to “accidentally” refer to seminary as cemetery.  “Back when I was in cemetery…er, seminary…” Or to a young prospect for the pastorate:  “So, you’re heading to cemetery…er, seminary, eh?  Well, hang in there.  You’ll be involved in real ministry eventually.”  The joker’s purposeful subliminal slip assumes that theological education and vital, faith-filled ministry are in tension with one another, if they’re not outright enemies.  Well, if seminary is where an aspiring minister’s faith goes to die, then Presbytery meetings must be purgatory.

For Presbyterian denominations within Christ’s church, Presbytery is the deliberative assembly of elders from a particular geographical region that gathers to make decisions which will guide the local congregations within that region.  The Synod (or General Assembly) is the Presbytery meeting of all Presbyteries in the denomination.  All the stereotypes, the alleged faith-killing aspects of seminary – dry discussions of dust-accumulating documents written by dead theologians who were barely interesting in their own day – are made to live again in debates among seminary graduates and other church leaders.  Any vitality from fresh ideas in these debates is short-lived; soon those sparks of life are laid to rest in the coffins of […]

If I Were to Sin

John said the Bible was written so that “you may not sin.”

But what if I were to sin?

If I were to sin, I would not want to have a god other than the Trinity or worship idols.
For I would become like the false god or the idol I worshipped.
I don’t want to be angry like Allah or blind like a Buddha.
(Psalm 115:1-8)

If I were to sin, I would not want to use the Lord’s name wrongly.
He takes it personally and how could I hurt the One whose very name gives me salvation?
(Exodus 20:7; Acts 4:12)

If I were to sin, I would not want to forget the Sabbath Day.
I would miss too many blessings and ultimately forget the Lord Himself.
(Isaiah 58:13-14)

If I were to sin, I would not dishonor my parents or even roll my eyes at them.
For that is to invite the birds of the valley to peck out those eyes.
(Proverbs 30:17)

If I were to sin, I would not want to mess around with another man’s wife.
For that would be like lighting a fire on my […]

So I’m Apathetic…Who Cares?!

It is incredibly easy in our day to observe an incredibly saddening reality:  Apathy is everywhere.  To which you might reply: “Who cares?”  To which I might reply:  “Fair point, and my point exactly.”  To which you might reply: “Whatever.”  This could go on for a while, and I would win, but you wouldn’t care!

It is easy to be apathetic when we feel unthreatened, or unimpressed.  Imagine being at one of those zoo aquariums where you can walk through a transparent tunnel and be surrounded by all the sea life.  You feel quite safe, even though a group of gnarly- toothed, flesh eating sharks swarms above and beside you.  The Plexiglas is protecting you, so you’re rather indifferent to their presence.  You might even get irritated that the sharks aren’t doing anything interesting, like attacking some other sea creature or each another.  Maybe you can find a video like that with your phone.

After several minutes of searching, you look up and see the sharks looking back at you.  They’re now together, side by side, and it seems they’ve been staring at you the whole time you were staring at your cellphone.  You’re a little embarrassed at being startled, so you […]

The Chickens of Postmodernism

The chickens of postmodernism and the social construct theory of truth are coming home to roost. They have been for a while, but it is helpful to consider the implications from time to time.

The social construct theory essentially asserts that truth is what the society agrees upon as being the truth; the one absolute is that there are no absolutes. Thus, murder is wrong because everyone agrees that it is wrong, not because it is objectively wrong. When I talk to people in our republic about the nature of truth and probe for their understanding of it, the social construct theory is by far the most frequent explanation people give – especially young people.

What are the implications when we abandon the objective truth of divine revelation? There are many, for sure. Here are five implications that have struck me recently from various events in our culture. Of course, not everyone who believes in the absence of revealed or objective truth would express these five perspectives in belief or action; many are blessedly inconsistent. However, these are consistent with the position and are increasingly evident:

Might makes right. The truth is established by the 51%. Thus, political and judicial processes must establish […]

The Woman in the Parable of the Lost Coin

Last night our congregation held the second of three evangelistic services we are calling “Stories of Hope.”  I preached on the Parable of the Lost Coin from Luke 15:8-10.

Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

I made it clear that as we hear this parable, we are not to identify with the woman but the coin.  For the lost coin represents a sinner, and the theme I developed in the message was “A valuable item lost from its owner becomes worthless, but when restored the joy is multiplied.”

So though we are to see ourselves as not the woman but the coin, the question remains: “What does the woman represent?”  Some commentators think she represents the Holy Spirit, for her searching with her light is like the Spirit illuminating hearts with truth.  Others develop the […]

The RPTJ is Now Available!

Recently the faculty of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary published the first edition of a new journal. The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal will be an online publication in order to make it more readily available.  The plan is to publish two issues per year, and will be found on the resource page of the seminary’s website.

For a further explanation, read the opening column of the journal entitled “From Rutherford Hall” by our president.

As I write this column, I am sitting in my office in Rutherford Hall, the grand, former Horne Mansion situated on the small campus of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) in the East End of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By God’s grace, the Seminary has a long and noble history like the building itself, dating back to its establishment in 1810. Given Rutherford Hall is the location where so much of the life of RPTS takes place – classes, chapel services, conferences, meals, fellowship – that is the name given to this column. We anticipate this feature being a regular part of this new journal being launched by RPTS. The journal, to no one’s surprise, will be called the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal.

I believe you will find the Reformed Presbyterian Theological […]