Ask R.C.

How should I prepare my son to provide for his family?

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Don’t Follow the Folly of the World An excellent question. Too often we in the church follow the folly of the world in taking a passive approach to the future. We tend to believe all we have to do is show up, and if things don’t work out well for us, it must be the system’s fault. Another key error we have embraced from the world is this notion — that if we acquire specialized skills we will be able to provide for our families. Such thinking often leads to violating the first principle of sound stewardship — never spend more than you make. The standard American plan is to send our children off to college, borrow tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for it, and hope for a good job that will allow the debt to be paid off upon graduation. Sometimes it works, but…

Ask R.C. Jr: What have we lost in the lost art of letter writing?

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My Dearest Gaulips, You asked about some of the newest features our media consultants are working on, and how you might put them to good use in your treatment of your patient. I will explain a few of them, but do not lose sight of the simple principle — the more we can take these cursed humans away from their bodies, the better off we can be. Entice them with ease, with reach, with speed, with convenience, but take away from them the things that matter the most— actual communication. When we move them from aural communication to written communication we automatically remove all the subtleties of communication, the non-verbal cues that give context, and perhaps more important, social lubricant. Our enemy, however, managed quite well with the written word. I remember those heady days when we lit so many fires in those early churches. And that accursed traitor Paul…

A Man Has a Right to Own Her Body

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Root Causes of Abortion You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain James 4:2. Seeking to stop the slaughter of the unborn by merely declaiming abortion is like building a bridge by starting in the middle. James reminds us that we murder because we lust. Statistics tells us that nearly 9 of ten women who get an abortion in America are unmarried. That is telling. Abortion & Related Sins Too often we in the evangelical church have taken a binary approach to the problem. Either we separate the sin of abortion from all its related sins and give our time and attention there, or we decide it’s a heart issue, and our only hope is mass conversion. (Forgetting the hard truth that 1 of 6 abortions in America is procured by a professing evangelical.) Feminism Abortion, in the end, is a heart issue. And it…

Ask R.C. Jr: How can I tell if someone has truly repented of grievous sin?

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The Fruit of Repentance There is one tell-tale fruit, but it may take a long time for it to happen. And even then you likely won’t see it. But here’s the fruit nonetheless — if the sinner ends up in heaven, you will know they had truly repented. If not, they likely had not. I understand the desire to know the sincerity of another’s repentance. I’ve been in countless pastoral situations wherein it seemed like the answer to that one question — is this person truly repentant — determined the answer to every other question about what should be done. Trouble is, God has not been pleased to give us the means to peer into the souls of others. An Example So what do we do? Consider the case of adultery, perhaps the most common grievous sin we face. Suppose I am unfaithful to my wife. Suppose I claim to…

Ask R.C. Jr: Did God act unethically in asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?

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A Challenging Question There are any number of challenges that come from this account in Genesis. Some have used it to deny God knows the future, on the basis of God’s declaration, “Now I know that you fear God” in 12:22. Some have used it to argue that God is wicked, either for asking the father to kill the innocent son, or for lying to Abraham, telling Abraham He wanted him to do something He didn’t really want him to do. The first objection is answered easily enough — only God the Father has an innocent Son. While Isaac may not have been guilty of a capital offense on the earthly civil sphere, from his conception he stood guilty before the living God. God had every right to take Isaac’s life, and to call Abraham to be the means of that execution. The Problem Lies With Us Which leaves us…

What 5 things can I do to best take advantage of a conference?

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Evangelicals these days seem to have something of a love/hate relationship with conferences. We grumble about the conference junkie who wanders from event to event looking for a greater mountaintop experience, and soon finds himself dissatisfied with home preaching. On the other hand, people can go from one conference to another looking for that experience in part because there are so many because so many seem to be having mountaintop experiences. Perhaps, with some wisdom, we can maximize the benefits while diminishing the dangers. Here are five suggestions. Do not go to see/get close to the celebrity preacher. Go to hear the Word preached. Granted not all conferences provide “preaching” narrowly defined. But all of them ought at least seek to provide wisdom from the Word of God. That is where the power is. Let us hope that the celebrity preacher became such because of his fidelity to the Word,…

Ask R.C. Jr: If you could have done one thing differently as a husband, what would it be?

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My Deepest Regret It is both awkward and encouraging the feedback I have received over the past few years for the writing I have done during my beloved’s illness, homegoing and absence. I especially rejoice when I hear that the things I have written have served another in a time of hardship. It remains my intention to use what I have written in a book in the future. That said, I still believe that the most vulnerable, most insightful, most helpful thing I wrote all along this journey was this brief tweet — I wish I had held her hand more. That is likely my deepest regret, that I did not hold her hand more. Not Letting Go It’s not, of course, that I never held her hand. It is likely, however, that I did not as often as she would have liked. Holding her hand communicates to her in…

What is it like to be a single parent?

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The Realization The first time I realized I was a single parent was while serving on a panel discussing how the church might better serve those in “broken families.” I was on the panel simply because I was a pastor, and as I was answering a particular question from the audience it came crashing down on me, “Oh, I’m in a broken family.” There is a reason, however, it took so long for this reality to dawn on me — it’s just not a “thing.” That is, I don’t look in the mirror and think, “Single parent.” I don’t look at my family picture in the church directory and think, “Broken family.” When you are without your spouse, when your children are missing a parent you don’t enter into a category. You simply live the life God has set before you. The Hardships One dear friend who lost her husband…

Is it appropriate to serve communion to shut-ins?

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It is most certainly appropriate for the elders of the church to serve communion to members who are, for health or other reasons, unable to attend the gathering of God’s people on the Lord’s Day. Before we get to how and why, however, let me list a few caveats. First, the sacraments are given to the church, and are under the authority of the local church. We ought not, if we are shut in, arrange a private communion ceremony on our own. Neither should a non-elder, except perhaps in the most dire circumstances, serve communion to a shut in. Common Objections Some object to communion for shut-ins, usually for two reasons. First, they rightly affirm that we should never separate the sacraments from the Word. We don’t want either to treat the sacrament as a hollow sign, nor as spiritual magic. We don’t do this for fear the shut-in will…

Ask R.C. Jr: What is the difference between biblical theology & systematic theology?

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The Terminology In the context of this question we are using the phrase “biblical theology” in a specific, technical sense. In its general sense all biblical theology means is a theology that is biblical, true to the Bible. And we all hope, whenever we are engaged in systematic theology, that we are affirming what the Bible affirms, that it is a biblical theology. The Methodology When however, the terms come up in contrast they reflect less the content of theology and more the methodology of studying theology. Systematic theology is an approach that addresses key issues in our thinking by considering all that the Bible (and natural revelation for that matter) has to say about a given subject. Possible Dangers of Systematic Approach Many systematic theologies begin with the doctrine of revelation, asking questions about how God shows Himself to us, the nature of Scripture and its inspiration, the ways…