Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Should I Do When Someone Hurts Me? How to Proceed When Offended by Others.

It happens to all of us. At some point in our lives: someone will hurt us deeply. Sometimes it is physical. Sometimes it is emotional. Sometimes it happens with words. Sometimes it happens with actions.

For many of us, the scars of these partially-healed wounds can last a lifetime. If we do not find some sort of personal closure, these events can be emotionally debilitating and spiritually injurious. Some wallow in hatred, guilt, or resentment burning quietly on the inside for years.

Nevertheless, Scripture does give us some very candid and direct counsel for proceeding in these situations. Christians, as redeemed people, are expected to be the "bigger person," take initiative, and help to set our relationships back on a godly course.

The following rubric is intended to help you proceed when your soul aches from the pain caused by others.

NOTE: This is a general guideline and cannot possibly take every variant situation into consideration. 

1. Was the offense physical, violent, sexual, or criminal? If yes, move to #2. If no, move to #3.

2. If the act committed against you was criminal, you have a right and obligation to report it to the proper authorities (i.e. the police) especially if it was of a violent or sexual nature. In these cases, confronting the person personally is usually not a good idea. Here, you run the risk of being abused again, as well as possibly leaving a door open to the abuse of another. You should consider talking to your pastor or a trusted counselor about this, or even a good friend. Ultimately, you will want to find peace in your heart through forgiveness, even though you do not need to put yourself into harm's way again. Trust God to bring about justice in His own time ("Vengeance is mine saith the Lord") and seek the healing hands of Christ.

3. If the offense was not criminal, you should begin seeking reconciliation with the person involved, even if you yourself have not committed any offense against them. You may be totally innocent in the matter, or partially at fault. Likely, the offending party may not even be aware of his offense, and you will burn inside destroying only yourself by harboring your resentment. For this reason, you should ask another question: Is the offending party a Christian? If no, move to #4. If yes, move to #5.

4. Since the offending party is not a Christian, you have an opportunity to share the grace of God that you have personally experienced through Christ. These offenses should be seen as opportunities given by God to show an unbelieving world what true forgiveness looks like. Go to the person personally (if possible) and share your feelings in this matter, and how you are seeking God's peace. Offer the offender true, unconditional forgiveness. If you own part of the fault, apologize unconditionally as well. As the opportunity presents itself, you would do well to share the Gospel with him or her. Although the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35) is in the context of sins committed against other believers, the application is broad enough for all kinds of hurts and grievances: consider how much God has already forgiven you, and seek to model your grace after His!

5. If the offending party is also Christian, we have clear obligations to follow the reconciliation pattern given in Matthew 18:15-20. Notice this passage is in particular reference to when a "brother sins against you" (18:15, emphasis added). These steps given by Jesus assume that the offender is a Christian, and has a sensitive spirit to receive the guidance of the church in his or her life. Here, Jesus has given us a four-part movement for seeking reconciliation, [a] gracious, personal confrontation (verse 15), [b] gracious confrontation with witnesses (verse 16), [c] church leadership intervention with possible disciplinary sanctions (verse 17) and finally [d] terminating the relationship (verse 17). This last step, is to be considered a drastic measure only, and should almost never be the case among professing Christians.

Although the first step is the hardest, it is almost always the most important. How many relationships can be restored if we would only take Jesus' words of counsel here more seriously? How many inner grievances could be mended and healed if we heeded the counsel of the Master?

Unfortunately many of us either jump far too quickly to get others involved (the sin of gossip) or else are content to burn quietly inside harming only ourselves (the sin of unforgiveness).

Take a step of grace today and begin mending your relationship without further delay! 

-Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

One Life is All You Have

A poem by CT Studd, the British missionary to Africa, struck me this past week. To some it may be an old favorite that they recited as a young boy. To others it is completely foreign. I fell in the latter category. I had heard little of CT Studd and had never heard his gem of a poem. I'm glad I did. It reminds me of what is important in this earthly life. It reminds me that my all is meant for Christ. It kills the selfish in me. 

Allow me to share Studd's poem Only One Life with you this day:

“Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
— extra stanza —
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd

JT Holderman is Assistant Pastor of Bellevue Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Gap, PA.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

God's Word

In the past, the "Roman Catholic church" determined that people could not own the Bible- God's Word.  That is in direct conflict with God's Word.  That organization allows it today, but it was not by their choice.  Men like William Tyndale died to bring this Bible to the people.  At Providence Church today, Pastor Greg Gunn spoke a little of William Tyndale's sacrifice to get God's Word into the hands of the "common" people.  Eventually, it cost him his life.

How could people hide God's Word in their hearts to avoid sinning against Him (Psalm 119.11) if they were banned from having His Word?  How could God's Word illuminate their paths (Psalm 119.105) if they did not have it to read?  It was the height of arrogance and demonic influence to keep God's Word away from the people.  For it to perpetrated by those claiming to represent God was despicable.  They were sons of hell itself: priests and popes, monks and bishops, cardinals and rulers controlled by Rome.

To "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3.16) you need the Word! How hellish the "church" that keeps His Word from the people!! (Either by physically keeping it as the Romanist approach, or by sermons not based on Scripture but human 'wisdom.'

Putting this into applicable language... Embrace His Word.  Many things are inspiring, only God's Word is INSPIRED.  God's Word is powerful.  His Gospel is "the power of salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1.16)- it will change lives when applied and trusted.

Pete Garbacki is a minister with Time for Truth Ministries and Mission.Brasil. Follow him on Twitter @mission_brasil or FaceBook at

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The 5 Love Languages of Children: To Love as He First Loved Us

We often speak about wanting to love our children well. We want to model for them how Jesus Christ has loved us. It is only out of that great love that we are able to love our children.

The book, The 5 Love Languages of Children, by Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell speaks to the necessity of children being loved well as an essential component of growth and development. It is through 5 distinct love languages, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, and Acts of Service, that we can model for our children how we are loved by Jesus and how they are loved by Jesus. Jesus beautifully modeled each of these forms of love during his earthly ministry, and the Bible recounts just how much he loved in these various ways.

Physical Touch- There are many examples of Jesus miraculously healing people of their physical afflictions from blindness to leprosy to raising the dead to life! However, in John 13, Jesus explicitly expresses his love through the physical touch of washing his disciples feet.

Words of Affirmation- Jesus' words are all through the Gospel accounts, but perhaps his most comforting words were found in the Matthew 28:19-20, when he commissioned his disciples to "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Quality Time- Jesus clearly demonstrated love through quality time with his disciples, taking 12 men and committing more than 3 years of his life to discipling, encouraging, rebuking, teaching, etc. One such example is his Sermon on the Mount teaching to the disciples in Matthew chapters 5-7.

Gifts- Jesus came to take upon himself, the punishment that we deserved for our sin, and subsequently gifting us with his righteousness that is bestowed by God the Father. The Apostle Paul describes this gift of righteousness in Romans 5:17 when he says, "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Acts of Service- Jesus expressed his love for his people through giving his life as the ultimate example of sacrifical service. The Apostel Paul beautifully communicates the details of that sacrifice in Philipians 2:7-8 which states, "He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

Lord Jesus, thank you for modeling for us how to love perfectly. Thank you for loving us in a way that we are incapable of repeating. May we seek to honor you by loving our children, and in all things, point them to you as the foundational source for love and acceptance.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Remember Your Leaders: Jonathan Edwards

“Resolved: To live with all my might while I do live.”
-Jonathan Edwards

A Biographical Sketch 
Jonathan Edwards was born October 5, 1703, in Windsor, Connecticut. He had ten sisters and not one brother. He could probably knit with and crochet with the best. He was of superior intellect and at twelve years of age his father sent him to Yale where Edwards flourished. He was a thinker, appearing to have always had his pen in hand taking notes as he read. At the age of 16 he graduated from Yale as valedictorian and gave the graduation address in Latin, for fun. He was brilliant.

At 19 years of age Edwards took his first call as a pastor to Scotch Presbyterian Church in New York. He returned to Yale a year later to finish Masters work and fell in love with Sarah Pierrepont. She was according to Edward’s own hand, “…of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind…and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure” (Edwards, Memoirs, xxxix). Over the next 23 years they had eight daughters and three sons.

In 1726 God called Edwards to assist his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, in ministering to the esteemed Church of Northampton, Massachusetts. Stoddard passed three years later and Edwards took over as sole minister. His primary task as a pastor was ardent study of the Scriptures. He said: “Be assiduous in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived. Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected” (Edwards, Christian Knowledge, 162). To Edwards the greatest impact and good he could do as a pastor was to study well the Word of God and communicate it’s truth in all that he did, be that preaching, conversation, or in his prolific writing.

In 1757, after 23 years as pastor of Northampton, and time spent writing and thinking in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Edwards was called by Princeton College to assume the role of President. It was a crowning achievement to be extended this invitation. He took it, although he was initially against the opportunity due to his poor health and grand writing dreams. However on March 22, 1758, after only assuming the position of President a month earlier, Edwards passed away after complications that arose from a smallpox inoculation.

Edwards is an example to us as a man who was fixed upon God as his ultimate end in all of life. Due to his writings that have been well preserved, we have a good corpus from which to “remember” his faith and imitate it in our lives. Here are three great things that Edwards strived for in the exercise of his faith:

We Were Created to Glorify God 
Uppermost in all of Edwards life was the great Reformed pillar of Soli Deo Gloria. Edwards’ faith spurned him to exist to magnify and extol God’s glory in all that he put his hand to. While he was a sinner and couldn’t accomplish this perfectly, it was nonetheless chief in his mind for what was his end in life. For as Edward’s says:

“Thus we see that the great and last end of God’s works which is so variously expressed in Scripture, is indeed but one; and this one end is most properly and comprehensively called, ‘the glory of God.’” (Edwards, Ethical Writings, 530)

And so Edwards, by the faith God had given him, sought to elevate and display the glory of God in his life. One thing we can take from Edwards on this point is his understanding of our sinful nature. The more depraved we are, the more we have to glory in our God:

“God hath made man’s emptiness and misery, his low, lost and ruined state into which he is sunk by the fall, an occasion of the greater advancement of his own glory…as there is now a much more universal and apparent dependence of man on God.” (Kimnach, The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, 79)

We Were Created To Delight in God 
To many the Christian faith looks like a joyless prison. It is a religion of prohibition: you can’t get drunk, you can’t sleep around, you can’t lie on your taxes. Many in the world see Christianity as a set of rules that restricts the individual and takes all fun out of life. However Edwards says quite the opposite. He roots the fundamental core of Christianity in relation to happiness and joy. Christianity does not kill delight, it instead magnifies it and puts it in it’s proper place. Edwards says this:

“God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it.” (Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, 79)

Edwards contends that when we live into our created purpose in Christ, namely to glorify God, we do so only successfully when we do so out of delight. Because the Christian, if he truly grasps faith, realizes that he has found the most joyful pursuit in all of life, giving glory to his creator. And he is the most joyful pursuit because “He is [our] highest good…the sum of all that good which Christ purchased. God is the inheritance of the saints; he is the portion of their souls.” (Kimnach, The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, 74) And so from Edwards we can learn that we are to delight in our God, in His goodness towards us, and in so doing bring glory to God.

We Were Created to Pursue God 
Edwards was a man of great resolve. A man who put his mind to a task and did not waver. He was intensely driven in all that he did. He was this way because he understood the seriousness of what he was called to do, to redirect hearts and minds to God’s glory. As such, Edwards found himself in a relentless pursuit of God. This is well attested to in his many Resolutions (Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1, xx).

With 1 Corinthians 10:31 as his guide, whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God, Edwards produced a list of 70 resolutions to guide his life and pursuit of God’s glory to be manifested. These are no mere New Years Resolution like we might think. May these few be an encouragement to you to imitate his faith, a faith that calls us to be enamored in our pursuit of knowing and displaying God’s glory in our lives.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration…

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God…

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

Edwards was a man of resolve. May we resolve to be so fixed on God in our lives so as to display His glory in all that we do.

*     *     *

There is much written on Jonathan Edwards. For an introduction I would recommend Owen Strachan's Essential Edwards Collection (book one in particular), and John Piper's elucidation of Edward's main theological orientation in God's Passion for His Glory. For a deeper look at Edwards life George Marsden's biography is top notch. As for Edwards own work, I would direct you first to some of his best sermons and then to the Religious Affections or Concerning The End for Which God Created the World. Yale also has most of Edwards work free to read on their webpage which is simply an invaluable gift from the school.

**Next Week: Remembering Your Leader Charles Spurgeon

JT Holderman is Assistant Pastor of Bellevue Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Gap, PA.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dads: Our Prayers Count Double (Here's Why)

This morning on the way to school, we pulled into the parking lot and began our regular moment of brief prayer for the school day. As we waited in line for the serpentine parade of vehicles to inch closer to the school doors, Simone, my four-year-old daughter, led us aloud. As she prayed, I was struck with a startling epiphany.

She had used almost identically the same words I had the previous morning. 

It wasn't so much the content of the prayer that struck me, it was the imitable style. "Thank you for the cross. Bless mommy at home, daddy at church, and Soriah, Elijah, and me in school." I had said almost the exact same thing 24 hours ago.

When I say that the prayers of fathers "count double," I don't mean that they are twice as powerful. That would be silly. Certainly unbiblical. What I mean is that we are also teaching our children the very language of prayer as we speak. 

The implications for this are huge. I will name just three.

1) First, if we pray God-exalting prayers, our children will learn to exalt Him as well. Lifting up the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, magnifying the empowering work of the Holy Spirit, and making much of the glory of the Father will provide a model of praise that is not soon forgotten. Imagine what an entire childhood--filled with daddy's gospel-soaked prayers--would do to a child's prayer life over time!

Dads, if we can model a trajectory of prayer that intentionally exalts God as our supreme joy, our children will learn to regard Him so highly as well. Unfortunately...

2) The opposite of that is also true: selfish models of prayer beget selfish people. Let's be careful here. Of course we should teach our children to ask of God His provision for our lives (Matt 6:11, 7:7-11). The Bible commands us to do that.

But if children learn from daddy's prayers that the whole point (the highest end) of intercession is to make requests, our children will begin to subconsciously adopt the "Divine Butler" theology of God. They will see a God that primarily exists, as John Piper has written cuttingly elsewhere, "to fluff the pillows and adjust the thermostat." Studies in religious experience are showing exactly that: moral therapeutic deism (MTD) is the fastest growing "religion" today.

3) Finally, dads in particular have a crucial role in the spiritual development of our children. Some readers may wonder why I chose to focus this brief piece on fathers in particular and not parents in general. Surely it is true that mommy's prayers are also exemplary. I am not denying this. They are. Nevertheless, fathers have been given a primacy in the family that many (most?) in our age have abdicated entirely. Would not our families be stronger if dad resumed his role as spiritual "head"of household instead of the spiritual "tail" dragging reluctantly behind?

I think the implications are clear. If dad prays without any notable unction--or worse, fails to lead his family in prayer at all--his example will leave a gaping hole in the Christian family.

--Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, FL.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Top Twenty Most Read Verses in the Bible (And What it Says about Us as Bible Readers)

Have you ever wondered which verses of the Bible are the most frequently read?

We could all probably have made some guesses. I'm sure most people would correctly guess that John 3:16 is at the top of the list, for instance. But now that many believers are using their phones, tablets, and computers as their Bibles, for the first time in history we can be scientifically sure what verses rank highest when it comes to frequency of readership.

A couple of years ago,, the super-popular Scripture website released their own list of the top 100 most read Bible verses. See the full top 100 here. (I myself use this site all the time, not so much to read from as a devotional discipline, but as a convenient way to cut and paste Scripture into articles, power point presentations etc).

The below list of the top 20 is taken from their data. 

Any shockers here? Not really. It is actually a pretty excellent "starter supply" of verses worthy of memorization by all Christians. Many of the most read verses display God's great and sustaining grace in our lives (Rom 8:28, Eph 2:8, Phil 4:13 etc.). All of these passages are worthy of our trust, and are inspiring to our faith.

If there is any surprise, for me at least, it is that sin doesn't come in on the list until the 19th and 20th most read verses (although the reality is implied indirectly in some other verses such as #'s 1, 11, and 18). Also surprisingly absent from the top 20 are the words "cross," (earliest appearance at #35) "death," (#56) "blood," (absent from the top 100 entirely) and "resurrection" (#54).

I am not suggesting that this list should be interpreted in a negative light. Certainly one verse is not more "inspired" than the next. But if anything, we might say that we as readers tend to dwell more on the results of our justification (our new status and identity in Christ) than the means of our justification (the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus).

What do you think?
  1. John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  2. Jer 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
  3. Rom 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
  4. Phil 4:13: I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
  5. Gen 1:1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
  6. Prov 3:5: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
  7. Prov 3:6: in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
  8. Rom 12:2: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
  9. Phil 4:6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
  10. Matt 28:19: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
  11. Eph 2:8: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
  12. Gal 5:22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
  13. Rom 12:1: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
  14. John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
  15. Acts 18:10: For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
  16. Acts 18:9: One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.
  17. Acts 18:11: So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
  18. Gal 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
  19. 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
  20. Rom 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Seven Benefits From Scripture

The Apostle's Teaching
In Acts 2:42 Luke sees fit to let his audience know that the first thing the early church exercised among themselves was a devotion to the "apostle's teaching." The "apostle's teaching" was the content and implications of what it meant to be a Christian. The apostles, those who had seen the risen Lord Jesus, were compelled by the Spirit to share the good news of the Gospel, what Jesus Christ had accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection. And so the early church was primarily devoted to the Gospel of first importance, since it was the Gospel that defined the distinct content of what it meant to be a Christian and what it meant to be the Church. 

Scripture, the written form of the "apostle's teaching," is therefore worthy of our devotion because it is the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). The early church knew that their identity as Christians was in Christ Jesus, but that was only known through the Gospel. 

Need We Be Convinced?
They did not need to be convinced of it's primary and foundational importance in their lives. And I would think many of us today do not need to be convinced because we already are, we already believe that the Scriptures truly are "God-breathed" (2 Tim. 3:16) and worthy of our devotion as a disciple and as the church. 

But I would venture to say that there are many of us who would like to read our Scriptures more, but simply don't think they are worth reading. There are many of us who may simply think it's just some archaic compilation of ancient writings that only the really devout should read. Or maybe there are simply some of us  who think Scripture is nice to have, but really just not worth my time in my busy Schedule.

Seven Benefits of Reading Scripture
To both crowds I would extend a word of encouragement and exhortation to read the Scriptures. The Spirit truly moves and touches our hearts when we read the living Word of God. I want to convince you that Scripture is worthy of your devotion, so here are seven things that God does in us when we read His Word:

  1. Scripture Brings Faith: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of God (Romans 10:17). It is the Word of God that ignites faith in the heart of a believer and continues to sustain it by God's grace. 
  2. Scripture Sanctifies: Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth (John 17:17) and How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word (Psalm 119:9). The Spirit by the reading of God's Word transforms us more and more into the likeness of Christ and makes us more into the person God designed us to be.
  3. Scripture Reveals Truth: If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set your free (John 8:31-32) and The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple (Psalm 19:7). The capital T Truth is found in Scripture, because only Scripture is God's living and breathing Word.
  4. Scripture Shows We Are Loved: But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and [God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy! (Titus 3:5). If you are feeling unloved, look to the Scriptures and see how much you are loved.
  5. Scripture Gives Hope: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?! (Romans 8:31-32). Hope for the Christian is found in God's promises and His promises are always "yes" and "for us" in Christ. Therefore there is great reason to have hope.
  6. Scripture Battles Fear: Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10). Verses like this in Scripture strengthen us to know that God is with us and that we need not fear.
  7. Scripture Makes Us Glorify God: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39). We read countless verses like this of God's grace and goodness and all we can do is but glorify Him.
May I exhort you to read the Word of God. It is worthy of our devotion. By it's words the Spirit moves in our lives and we are transformed to delight in God and fear no more earthly worries. Scripture is the foundation of the Church.

JT Holderman is Assistant Pastor of Bellevue Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Gap, PA.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Movie Review: The Investigator (Opens September 13th, 2013)

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the world premiere of the new movie The Investigator starring Wade Williams and David Sanborn.
David M. Sanborn

It was, in a word, compelling!

In the same genre as other films with Christian themes (viewers will likely compare this film to Courageous, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof), The Investigator covers brand new ground--the field of Christian apologetics.

The movie centers around the "circumstantial evidence" for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the film's protagonist, a former cop, explores his own crisis-of-faith by using his skills to a recreate a "courtroom" analysis of the evidence for the historic events of Christianity. This all takes place as Sergeant James Buanacore helps his high school criminal justice class apply the science of forensic evidence to one of the great crimes of all time--Jesus's death.

Those familiar with Lee Strobel's outstanding book The Case for Christ will find themselves following along nimbly with the evidence presented in this film. This time, however, the evidence for the historicity of Christianity is presented winsomely inside the story's main plot-line, and in an especially personal way. 

While the sub-plot (Buanacore is also the school's high school baseball coach leading his team into the playoffs) is endearing enough, it is the lead character's agonizing, soul-searching, drive to find truth in the evidence of Christianity that carries the movie forward. All this prompts viewers to ask themselves like-minded questions about faith, family, and the meaning of our experience--both as post-resurrection believers, or conversely, as skeptics.

Williams does an admirable job as Sergeant Buanacore, but in this writer's humble opinion, David Sanborn (as Buanacore's brother, Paul) proved himself to be an outstanding screen actor, especially in some of the movie's more intensely emotional scenes. [Full disclosure: David Sanborn is one of my best friends].

We can only hope that this movie will be used of God to provoke the same kind of sincere soul-searching as the Gospel of John describes in the disciple Thomas (see John 20:24-29). Surely those who are daring enough to follow the example of "Doubting Thomas"  will find what Josh McDowell once called the "evidence that demands a verdict."

Here is the synopsis as given by the official website:
"Police Sergeant James Buanacore, a twenty-year veteran investigator, starts the most important investigation of his life when a drug bust goes tragically wrong, forcing James out of the job he loves and into retirement. When James' wife Stephanie has a miscarriage, he is devastated and begins to question his previously strong faith. Depressed and angry, James isolates himself until his famous brother encourages him to take a job as a criminal justice teacher and baseball coach at a Christian high school. With his cop mentality challenging his students, James struggles through experiences with an unsupportive principal, a guidance counselor with a secret, and rebellious students. But when his best option seems to be quitting, a student challenges him to begin the investigation that will change his life, and those of his students, forever...the investigation into the homicide of Jesus Christ."(

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville Florida. 

Remember Your Leaders: John Calvin

“No man ever had a profounder sense of God than he; no man ever more unreservedly surrendered himself to the Divine direction.” --BB Warfield

Calvin is the father of Reformed Theology. It’s a wonder this Presbyterian didn’t begin our series with Calvin. Central to reformed theology for Calvin was the supremacy of God’s glory and the Scriptures for understanding first who God is, and therefore the purpose of His creation. Few have exhibited as much devotion to the proper handling of the Scriptures as that of John Calvin. He was a man who found himself at all times enamored with the glory of God as displayed in His Scriptures. At every point of the canon Calvin found that it pointed to the unsurpassing glory of God as it’s utmost end. For those of us who know Calvin we can’t forget to remember his contribution to our faith. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Calvin, his passion for God will ignite a flame in your heart to set aside all purposes in your life that lead elsewhere than God and encourage Godward focus in all that you are.

I have been influenced more by Calvin than any other theologian and his influence has not simply been a matter of knowledge, he has drawn me to worship and glorify God in my daily life. My hope is he will do the same for you, he will take your heart and set it on fire for God’s glory.

A Biographical Sketch
Jean Cauvin was born July 10th, 1509, in Noyon, France. He was a brilliant boy and was sent at 14 to study theology at University of Paris by order of his father. However five years later he began a degree in law in Bourges and Orleans because his father had a disagreement with the church. Shortly following this change of course Calvin’s father passed away and he returned to Paris to study the Classics which had become a dear love to him. At the age of 23 (1532) he published his first book, a commentary on Seneca, a classic secular text. To say he was driven would be an understatement.

Sometime between 1532 and the end of 1533 Calvin became a Christian. His friend Nicholas Cop gave a rather Protestant fueled address at the University of Paris and was chastised by parliament for being Lutheran-like in his speech. This led to an attack on other Lutheran minded people, of which Calvin was one. He was forced to flee France. He intended to go to Strasbourg, Germany and retire to a life of writing and teaching; God had other plans. Troop movements prevented Calvin from traveling directly to Strasbourg; he was forced to detour through Geneva, Switzerland. In Geneva William Farel, the fiery leader of the Reformation movement there, chastised Calvin for hoping to attend a life of writing and leisure:
[Farel] proceeded to utter an imprecation that God would curse my retirement…if I should withdraw and refuse to give assistance, when the necessity was so urgent. By this imprecation I was so stricken with terror, that I desisted from the journey which I had undertaken.” (Piper, Legacy of Sovereign Joy, 129) 
Calvin, by God’s sovereign plan, with the help of troop movements blocking Calvin’s path, became minister of St. Pierre’s in Geneva.

However Calvin did not attend to all the desires of city council and they booted him out of town in 1538. He finally made it to Strasbourg where he spent three years teaching New Tesament and writing. He met his wife Idelette de Bure here and married her in August of 1540. During Calvin’s leave, the city council realized their mistake and begged Calvin back. He returned on September 13, 1541 and his first Sunday back preached on the next verse of the series on Acts that he left off with when he was kicked out of Geneva. He remained there as a minister until his death in 1564.

Because Calvin is so well known, we will look at three things we can learn and imitate of him in our faith, two of which are commonly known, and one which is more obscure.

Soli Deo Gloria
Calvin’s faith led him to focus primarily on the supremacy of God’s glory. If we imitate nothing else in Calvin’s faith than this, we are on solid ground. This truly is the foundation of Reformed Theology. John Piper speaks about Calvin in this manner, “The fundamental issue for John Calvin, from the beginning to the end of his life, was the issue of the centrality and supremacy and majesty of the glory of God” (Piper 119). Indeed one can scarcely read anything written by Calvin and not see that God’s glory was his chief end in what he said, how he ministered, and how he lived his private life. Calvin claims that it is his highest goal by his own writing:
“The thing [O God] at which I chiefly aimed, and for which I most diligently labored, was, that the glory of thy goodness and justice…might shine forth conspicuous, that the virtue and blessings of thy Christ…might be fully displayed” (Dillenberger, John Calvin: Selections from His Writings, 110). 
We learn from Calvin what our proper aim is: the glory of God! In the 1600’s the Westminster Assembly ratified this as true according to question and answer one, “What is our chief purpose in life?...To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Calvin’s faith leads the way for us who live in the 21st century. In remembering him as a leader of the faith we are drawn to imitate his sheer delight and devotion to glorifying God in all that he did. May we seek in our days to glorify the Creator and not the creature (Rom. 1:24-25) in our studies in school, in our relationships at work, in our mutual worship together as a family, and above all as witnesses and ambassadors on Jesus’ behalf to the world.

Scripture As Spectacles
Second to Calvin’s devotion to God’s glory is his devotion to the Scripture’s. Calvin famously describes the Scriptures “spectacles” whereby they help us “[gather] up the otherwise confused knowledge of God in our minds…[and] clearly shows us the true God” (Institutes I.VI.I). Therefore as a child of God he was vehemently focused on the importance of the living word of God. He shined as a preacher, as an expositor of God’s Word to his congregation day in and day out. His life was “a ministry of unrelenting exposition of the Word of God. [His] constancy had a focus, the exposition of the Word of God” (Piper, Legacy of Sovereign Joy, 137). Few examples of the faith had as high a view of Scripture as Calvin. He magnifies it’s importance in this manner:
“Now, in order that true religion may shine upon us, we ought to hold that it must take its beginning from heavenly doctrine and that no one can get even the slightest taste of right and sound doctrine unless he be a pupil of Scripture. Hence, there also emerges the beginning of true understanding when we reverently embrace what it pleases God there to witness of himself.” (Institutes I.VI.II) 
We learn then very clearly from our great father in the faith that Scripture is of utmost importance to our lives. For scripture acts as the equilibrium of the Christian; it directs our steps, one foot in front of the other, without falling over, towards a true knowledge of God and therefore of ourselves. To learn and imitate Calvin’s faith leads us to be pupils of the Scriptures.

A Godward Happiness
The glory of God and the primacy of Scripture are commonly known about Calvin, but this third point is more obscure to his theological children. Calvin was a man who was exceedingly happy in God alone. We often think in the church that happiness is a secondary issue that is set aside for God’s glory. But Calvin understood that giving glory to God was precisely what we were created to do, and to do that meant that we were to truly be happy, what God longs for us. And so our service of God rests in our happiness towards Him. Calvin puts it like this:
“For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his fatherly care, that he is the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond him—they will never yield him willing service. Nay, unless they establish their complete happiness in him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him.” (Institutes I.II.I) 
We learn from Calvin that we are to be happy people. We learn from Calvin’s faith that our happiness is only truly happiness when it rests in God and how he has designed us to be happy, in the presence of his glory. As imitators of his faith then we ought to endeavor to find God as our supreme treasure and delight, the person who brings a smile to our faces and one in which we long to live for because he alone is our happiness. Pray that we might learn from the faith of John Calvin, that God would draw us nearer to Himself through the great leader he has given to us as an example of faith.

*     *     *

There is much written on John Calvin. For an introduction I would recommend Steven Lawson's The Expository Genius of John Calvin, Burk Parson's John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, or Piper's chapter on Calvin in The Legacy of Sovereign Joy. For something a bit more meatier I would look at THL Parker's classic biography, John Calvin, or I would go straight to Calvin's Institutes, they are a wonderfully accessible read.

**Next Week: Remembering Your Leader Jonathan Edwards

JT Holderman is Assistant Pastor of Bellevue Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Gap, PA.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Made for Good Works

Having attended church most of my life, I have heard this mantra countless times...

Admit you're a sinner. Believe in what Jesus did on the cross, Commit your life to him.

It's as easy as ABC!

Now those may not be the first ABC's you had ever learned, but for those of us in the church, this was a learned formula to acquiring salvation. As I have grown as a man as well as a Christian, I realize that the ABC's of the faith only partially reveal the fulness of the cross.

New York City Pastor Tim Keller states, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not the ABC's of Christianity, it is the A-Z of Christianity."

Everything in this life points to the accomplished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. When we believe the Gospel, the "good news" of his victory over sin and death, we ought to be stirred to action. But instead what happens?

I hear it time and again... "I am saved by Jesus, but what's the point of trying to live a good life? I'm already going to heaven when I die." Oh how I often believe that narrow view of the Gospel, and resultantly, fail to live with much purpose or passion!

Friends, the Gospel brings us to a place where we are free of the burden of trying to "work our way to righteousness." For many who do not believe the Gospel, recognizing that Jesus did it all through the gift of grace as Ephesians 2:8-9 states, "not as a result of works, so that no one can boast," is a huge relief.

However, we often stop at verse 9 and don't read Ephesians 2:10 which draws out the entire Gospel when it states, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

The good news of Christianity is not simply that you are saved from hell. That is good news but that is a very limiting view of the Gospel. Instead, we are called as believers in Christ Jesus to "good works," for the glory of God and to fulfill our purpose on this earth. When we truncate the Gospel to being about saving us from punishment, we lose focus on God's big story. Every day, God is using people, broken, messy, sinful people, like you and me to do good works in order that we might find our purpose and passion in him.

Can't think of any good works to do? Contact me, I'm a children's ministry director and I know a generation of children you can serve who are in the process of learning the A - Z's of the Gospel.