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A Minister of Mercy

An Offer Too Good To Refuse

What a wonderful surprise! That’s was my reaction to the very kind and generous offer made by one of the older members of my congregation. He is a retired missionary who possesses a deep theological knowledge. I couldn’t believe my ears: ‘Take any books you like – you can have first pick from my library!” So on the appointed day, and at a pre-arranged time, I went round to my friend, with some sturdy cardboard boxes, and filled my car boot [trunk] with dozens of weighty tomes.

The Secret Workings of Providence

This all happened around the time when we recently moved house, so half of my library is still in boxes. This explains why I haven’t had much time to survey the contents properly or the leisure to digest their accumulated wisdom. Yet, as providence would have it, I recently read a quotation from Thomas Goodwin in a Banner of Truth magazine (it was either imbedded in a magazine article or just the bare quote and nothing else). The quotation was something along the lines of (my heavy paraphrase) “Salvation will not be withheld from any penitent sinner who comes to God truly believing that the Lord is full of mercy.”

Isn’t is […]

Spring Storms: Are You Ready?

Spring sprang on Monday in Indianapolis with powerful thunderstorms. Booming thunder rattled both windows and the souls of young and old, not to mention all of the dogs that ran for cover under their masters’ beds. More storms will surely come this spring;  are you ready? Emergency preparedness experts ready us physically, but is your soul ready for them too? The Lord gave Psalm 29 to meet us at times like these; it’s a good one to memorize for the next storm that rumbles.

“The voice of the Lord” is repeated seven times in a Psalm that describes the thunder of a violent storm that moves across the land of Israel from northwest to southeast. The Psalm opens as a call to worship in light of the storm that is bearing through the region. In the Psalm, we hear the voice of God in natural revelation as it rumbles over waters, as it shakes mountains, splinters great cedars, flashes forth flames of fire, echoes across the desert, and terrifies wild beasts. Storms today do all of the same things; and they still freak people out with their raw power.

But the Psalm says that inside God’s temple, all cry “Glory!” Why? Because the […]

Seeking the Approval of Men

By guest contributor Venkatesh Gopalakrishnan. Venkatesh is a church planting pastor in Bangalore, India with the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

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“Do not wait for any man to approve your ministry!” thundered a young preacher from the pulpit of a church in Bangalore. He went on to declare, alluding to Galatians 1:10, “If you seek the approval of any man, you cannot please God!” The young preacher wanted his hearers to stop giving excuses and enter the ministries to which God was calling them. Sitting in the pew, I could not but help thinking that what I just heard was so contrary to what I had been taught. Concluding that the preacher’s view was rather idiosyncratic, I ignored the his advice and tried to meditate on the more edifying aspects of the sermon.

However, just a few days after this incident I heard another friend make a very similar remark, albeit in a slightly different context. This friend was arguing with me that a pastor ought not to receive salary from any church since this practice leads him to seek the approval of men. Once again, the principle was that in ministry, a pastor must preserve his independence at all […]

Sweetness of Prayer in the Bitterness of Life

The Christian life is filled with many sorrows–many trials and disappointments. In the midst of those problems, persecutions, disappointments, and discouragements–do not lose hope. Persevere in prayer. Seek sweetness in prayer. When prayers seem to go unanswered, continue to pray by faith that Christ would see you through the trial at hand, because he will! The bitterness is for a season for the believer; and the sweetness is for an eternity.

Calvin, speaking of “unanswered” prayers said:

God, even when he does not comply with our wishes, is still attentive and kindly to our prayers, so that hope relying upon his word will never disappoint us. But believers need to be sustained by this patience, since they would not long stand unless they relied upon it. For the Lord proves his people by no light trials…but often drives them to extremity, and allows them, so driven, to lie a long time in the mire before he gives them any taste of his sweetness… What could they do here but be discouraged and rush into despair if they were not, when afflicted, desolate, and already half-dead, revived by the thought that God has regard for them and will bring an end to their […]

3GT Episode 29: How Do I Pray When I Don’t Feel Like It?

Our parishonier gets things rolling with this question. The prof tries to kick the can down the street, then runs to others for help. The pastor pontificates a bit about the place of the psalms and putting prayers in print. Fear of public praying is admitted. The role of the Trinity in prayer is pondered. Promises are claimed. False forms of prayer and hindrances to prayer are warned against. The Three Guys Theologize in practical ways on this episode!

We thank Crown & Covenant for sponsoring the podcast! Be sure to listen for some great free give-aways!

https://threeguystheologizing.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/3gt-episode-29.mp3

The Beauty of Botany

I’ve just returned this morning from a flying visit to my daughter in Cambridge, England. Yesterday morning was spent drinking in the impressive architecture of the magnificent Ely Cathedral. After lunch we spent an hour walking around Cambridge Botanical Gardens.

Sadly, after the £5 ($6) dollar entrance ticket, as we probably should have realised, the gardens were a little disappointing: apart from a few cherry blossoms, and a ‘host of golden daffodils dancing in the breeze’, very little else had begun to bud or bloom, in these earliest days of Spring.

Yet, in spite of the lack of colour, in the extensive lawns and lakes, and beyond the occasional splash or flap of the local Mallard ducks, the trip was not in vain: our meander through the ‘glasshouse’, for the Indian Sub-Continent display of tropical plants, was worth the ticket price alone.

There were a few intimidating triffids that put out blossoms in your face; the cactus section was amazing (not quite sure how Arizona sneaked into to the sub-continental botanical area); but the piece de resistance was the exhibition of dozens of orchid subspecies that lit up the display with their delicate colours and resplendent, ornamental, forms.

Almost every shade […]

Presbytery Exam Fun with J. Gresham Machen

For those in the Presbyterian tradition, oral exams for students of theology pursuing licensure to receive a call as a pastor can be terrifying. Students sit on a platform before dozens of elders and answer questions on Scripture, theology, history, ministry, and more. However, after many hours of exams in one day at a presbytery meeting, the exams can also become quite tiring for elders who must listen, ask follow-up questions, and vote to sustain or not to sustain the students.

As my fellow students of theology and I went through our exams more than a decade ago, we noticed these trends over the several years during which we sat before presbytery. We decided to try to spice things up just a bit as we sat before these men whom we deeply loved and respected. So, we occasionally worked rather obscure bits of history or theology into our answers for the fun of watching the faces of our examiners. And it was fun, even as we took our exams very seriously.

Later, one of my comrades read Ned B. Stonehouse’s biography of J. Gresham Machen, a father of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. There, we learned to our surprise and joy that we had […]

3GT Episode 28: Rewind on the Lord’s Table

The 3GTers go back in time to pick up on their discussion about the Lord’s Table from Episode 23. A listener asked, “Wait a minute. What about dementia and the mentally disabled? How can they discern Christ’s body and blood to come to the Lord’s Table?” Aaron pulls out his handy dandy parishioner card, but when the professor and pastor take it on, he jumps right in as well. Our merciful Lord has answers!

Also, do not miss the opportunity to win some free goodies from our new sponsors, Crown and Covenant Publications!

https://threeguystheologizing.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/3gt-episode-28-edit-3617-9-59-pm.mp3

Men’s Breakfast and the Affair of the Sausages

This morning the men of my congregation will join for breakfast as we often do. There will be bacon and sausage consumed. The choice of bacon and sausage is not a protest, but part of the regular menu.

Most won’t think about it at all but will joyfully consume the sausages.

In 1522, in Zurich, Switzerland, a young preacher named Ulrich preached a sermon called “Von Erkiesen und Freiheit der Speisen.” My wife would have to help me with the German, but its something to the effect of “On the choice and freedom of foods.”

The argument that young Ulrich Zwingli made was that Christians are free to eat meat or free to not eat meat and the church does not have the right to force God’s people to fast or to abstain from that which God does not command. It was a sermon against Lent.

This sermon went 16th-century-viral and a strangely titled piece of church history was born:

The Affair of the Sausages.

The affair of the sausages was an incident wherein a printer fed his workers, along with some local dignitaries, choice sausages during a March 1522 Lenten fast. This led to the arrest of the merchant-printer for violating the Zurich laws. His […]

Strangers in Saunas

After the swimming pool today, where I swam 30 lengths freestyle, I spent twenty minutes in the Sauna. It happened to be full of aged 50+ years men who were pontificating loudly and crudely about the politics of Northern Ireland.

As the air was getting ‘blue’ I thought I’d introduce God into the conversation. To a stunned silence I pronounced confidently ‘the problem with the nation is we have turned our backs on God – our people no longer have any time for Christ’ quickly followed by, half-smiling ‘I thought that would be a conversation stopper!’

Now, of course, the men felt obliged to talk. I was happy to confess I was a Christian minister. This began a debate on the role of church and state – in both European Catholic and Protestant churches. I was, with the Lord’s help, able to answer one inquirer about these matters (just about), and, to give a couple of little snippets about the US separation of powers (I hope I got it right!), when that was raised.

There ensued a free lively exchange for the next fifteen minutes or so. One man proclaimed himself an atheist and said one thing he could never understand, brought up in the […]