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Archive | Scripture

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 […]

The Day God Spoke to Katy Perry

While many Christians were in their local church hearing God speak in the reading, singing, and preaching of his Word, Katy Perry was preparing for the half-time performance of Super Bowl XLIX. I suppose for any artist this is a once in a life time chance and is probably the biggest venue they will ever play. According to recent ratings, Katy’s performance was the most-watched halftime show in history, with 118.5 million viewers. To whom does she attribute the success? Well, in her own words, to God. “It’s funny, I was praying and I got a word from God and He says, ‘You got this and I got you.’”

Not surprisingly her comment caused a flurry of responses. Some people find it impossible that God would speak to her. Though raised in a Pentecostal home Katy no longer identifies herself as a Christian, she publicly promotes movements that are contrary to the Bible, and one would need to do gymnastics to find redemptive quality in her music. Others are suggesting this as her “burning bush” or “Damascus road” experience–God confirming his wayward daughter that he hasn’t let her go.

There’s probably been enough commentary on all of this to make most people […]

Elon’s (and Your) Historical Record: Date. Dash. Date.

As the ancient church historian was writing the book of Judges, he must have asked himself, “What do I know about Elon?” (Judges 12:11-12) The other historians around him must have scratched their heads, much like you may be doing as you secretly ask, “Who is Elon?” As the ancient historian summed up the whole life of a political and spiritual leader in ancient Israel, he came to the conclusion that not much was known about Judge Elon. His answer was that Elon lived. Elon worked. Elon died.

“After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.”

We might hope that an ancient historian would record more for us, but the fact is that every life on this earth will be summed up as Elon’s life is here summed. You live. You work. You die.

Our Father’s Likeness

What is your gut reaction, honestly, when you hear the phrase: “Obedience to God’s law”?  Do you smile, or do you cringe?  And why?

In the previous entry on this subject, we considered our tendency to think of the Lord Jesus in terms more appropriate to Superman than to the Savior.  We appreciate that he’s saved us from God’s wrath against us as sinners, but we struggle to surrender the autonomy which is the essence of our sinfulness.  We want rescue more than we want redemption.  Yet Scripture teaches us that salvation in Christ is about far more than being rescued from the consequences of our sin.  Salvation has to do not only with what we’re saved from, but what we’re saved for: a life lived more and more in keeping with God’s moral law.

Sadly, however, when so many Christians hear the word “law” in a discussion about God, they bristle.  In our contemporary Christian culture, the word has become synonymous with legalism.  Legalism, however, is an abuse of God’s law resulting from its being redacted or reduced (Deuteronomy 4:1-2; Matthew 5:19.)  Abusing God’s word is inevitably abusive to God’s people.

Relationally cold, unnecessarily strict homes and churches are spiritual dungeons in […]