Barry York

Communication Lanes

Recognize that the more sensitive the communication, the more to the right you should travel. Obviously, you would never communicate a confidential matter to a friend via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., as other eyes would be upon it. Likewise, every time we send a digital message we need to remember that it has the potential of being spread instantaneously around the world. The Proverbs say, “Discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you” (Prov. 2:11). So as you weigh the sensitivity of a matter, the more careful you need to be, the farther to the right you should travel. 

In my youth, I only had three typical ways to communicate with another person. I’m not speaking of mass communication, but of talking to an individual. What were those ways? I could meet face-to-face. I could write a letter. I could call on the phone. Life was pretty simple when I was young.
Sure, there were other means to interact. Some might mention carrier pigeons, but that’s just another way to deliver a letter. Still, others would say there were walkie-talkies or ham radios. But to keep this real, those forms of communication were just variations of what a telephone gives us – a sound (phone) coming from afar (tele).
But in today’s Digital Age, the options by which we can communicate have multiplied and become more complex. Though there is a myriad of ways to do the following, we could probably boil these additional means of communication down into three categories. I can email a person. I can text. Or I can use the various forms of social media to speak to him or her. I may do these activities on a phone but, oh my, they are much different than a phone call.
Again, remember in this exercise we are only thinking of the routes of personal conversation and not mass communication such as publishing a book or writing a blog article. With that given, what is the best form of communicating at a given time?
To help us, think of the above six ways available for us to speak to another person as a six-lane highway. On an expressway, typically slower traffic is on the right as faster traffic passes on the left. If you think of communication like driving a car on a highway, you have to consider such factors as time, safety, consideration of others around you, etc. With this in mind, we might position these six forms of communication in the following lanes as they indicate both the speed of delivery and the risk of a “crash”, i.e., words wrongly impacting the intended recipient or others that could be involved.

To justify some of these lanes, I would say a letter (Lane 2) is in a safer lane than an email (Lane 4) because a letter is less likely to be seen by someone else and takes longer to write than typing an email.
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Shepherding with Hospitality

Hospitality furnishes family. In this broken world of ours, the poor, the stranger, and the widow often live in isolation. When elders provide hospitality to folks such as these, they learn that they are truly regarded as brothers and sisters in God’s house. 

All Christians are to practice hospitality (Heb. 13:2). But elders are to be so engaged in this practice that it characterizes them (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8). In so many words, Paul told Timothy and Titus that elders not only need to go and seek God’s sheep; they also need to bring them into the fold of the shepherd’s home.
At least three benefits come to the congregation when its pastors and elders open their homes to the flock. First, hospitality supplies experiential love. An elder’s having members of the congregation in his home demonstrates a special care for them. You learn about one another in ways that simply are not possible at Sunday morning worship. Sharing a meal and laughter around a table brings a needed warmth to the gospel that is preached in the church. Shepherds are testifying to their congregants that the true Shepherd loves them so much that He is preparing an eternal home for them (Ps. 23:1, 5).
Second, hospitality provides Christian modeling. In my years of pastoral experience, I am grateful that I have served alongside elders who are hospitable. Many of the people brought into our congregation by the gospel did not come from Christian homes.
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Unlikely Glory

The hour, the glory, the trouble of which Jesus spoke is the cross. How the cross of Christ is a place of unlikely glory! For it raises a question. “How can the brutal beating, crucifying, and death of a man be in any way described as glorious?” Does it not seem as if there is no glory in an act such as this?

Last Monday I presided at the graveside service of Mary Joy Blocki, the daughter of dear friends and gospel co-laborers Martin & Kathy Blocki. Though Mary suffered through many physical afflictions during her life that fell just short of twenty-three years, the Lord used her in mighty ways to advance His kingdom. The celebration service two days prior to her burial was a beautiful testimony to that truth. The post below is the meditation on John 12:23-24 that I gave at the cemetery.
Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
What hour brought Christ’s glory? How was He glorified?
When we think of glory, we think of splendor, awe, and the display of beauty. A fabulous fireworks display is glorious. A brilliant sunrise is glorious. Standing over the edge of the Grand Canyon is glorious.
When it comes to Christ and His glory, we know that the Lord will come again one day when the heavens open up with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God. He will be accompanied by His mighty angels and come to earth to judge the living and the dead. How glorious that day will be!
Yet that is not the hour that Jesus said had come in this text. His final manifestation is not the glory of which He speaks here in these verses. There is another glory of which Jesus speaks. It is an unlikely glory.
Jesus makes it clear here and throughout this gospel what that unlikely glory is.
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Weeping for the Prodigal

Heart sorrow is to drive the ones praying for lost children back to where they need to go, to their only hope. To the gospel, where they remember that Christ was separated and cursed by God so that His people could be brought back to Him. Surely each anguished tear of the grieving Christian parent, preserved in His bottle and recorded in His book by the Lord (Ps. 56:8), is a cry to that end.

How do Christian parents pray for straying covenant children? For those who know the faith but have long abandoned it?
The Apostle Paul gives us a model in the opening words of Romans 9:
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Here Paul considers his kinsmen according to the flesh, meaning the Jewish people. As he looks upon the nation

whom God greatly favored above all others as recorded in the Old Testament;
those who were known as the “children of God;”
the people to whom God through the centuries sent His signs and prophets;
those from whom the Messiah came and to whom the Messiah was sent;
and sees that though their Messiah came to them as Jesus Christ, in large measure they rejected and spurned the Holy One of Israel;

what is his response? Paul expresses that he has a “mega sorrow” (what the Greek says) and an anguish in his heart that will not stop. By way of contrast, the Apostle John said that he had no greater joy than to hear of his children walking in the truth (3 John 4). Certainly then there is no greater, unrelenting sorrow for a parent than a child walking the other way.
And it is most fitting that Romans 9 begins with this expression of grief. For Romans 9 is perhaps one of the most difficult chapters in the Bible for people to receive, as it expounds upon the doctrine of predestination. This chapter of the Bible tells us that not only has God elected some to salvation, but deliberately passed over others. Thus, this expression of Paul here instructs in this manner: the only type of heart that can properly handle doctrines such as predestination is a broken one. A heart that, even when faced with seeing once-professing people exhibit reprobate behavior, still cries out for God to redeem.
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Songs in the Night

When Jesus entered the dark night of His soul on Calvary’s cross, He had these same songs on His heart. He quoted from the Psalms, expressing both His despair in the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1), and His hope when He finally said, “Into your hand I commit my spirit” (Ps. 31:5). Friend, if your Lord needed these words at His blackest hour, so do you. When you do not know what to say or pray, when you have groaning too deep for words, when the darkness falls, then turn to the songs in the night the Lord Himself used, and that He still provides for you.

When believers enter “the dark night of the soul,” those times when God’s mysterious will, worked out through difficult providence, makes the Lord appear veiled and unapproachable, what should they do? As we look at Scripture, one conclusion is apparent. They should sing. For the biblical testimony is that God provides “songs in the night”—lyrics to bring to Him in times of great heart distress.

We would not, at first thought, naturally reason that a time of struggle, suffering, or pain is also a time for singing, especially when God seems absent and hidden. It can almost seem cruel to suggest that a hurting, disillusioned soul should sing. Crying, wondering, and groaning seem more fitting. But singing? Is not lifting our voice in song for happy times? Certainly, but singing is also for trying times. Indeed, perhaps especially so.
Christian songwriter Michael Card has noted that in the book of Psalms, sixty-five of the 150 songs found there, or more than 40 percent, contain lamentations. As His people live in this sin-cursed world, God knew that they would need help pouring out their souls to Him in distress. So, He provided them with songs to sing at those times—songs in the night.
Job’s younger friend Elihu testifies to this truth when he acknowledges that God “gives songs in the night” to those in distress (Job 35:10). Likewise, the psalmist, so troubled in soul that he says he moans when he remembers God, stirs himself with the words, “Let me remember my song in the night” (Ps. 77:3, 6). He then goes on to sing five agonizing lines of a song that, stated in questions, describe how spiritual midnight truly feels. “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” (vv. 7–9).
One such song in the night is Psalm 42.

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Praying in the Spirit

John Calvin called the Psalter “the anatomy of all parts of the soul.” Commenting on Calvin’s thoughts, Robert Godfrey said, “In other words, (what Calvin is saying is that) the Psalter shows how Christians are to offer praise and prayer to God amid all the various circumstances of life.” Calvin taught that every fear, every anxious thought, every yearning for the Christian can be a prompting toward obedience in prayer by using the psalms to help us to pray.

This afternoon I  returned from a wonderful weekend in Colorado. I can say with full conviction of heart, “The Lord was with us!” For I experienced God’s people praying in the Spirit.
Invited by Pastor Joseph Friedly of the Tri-Lakes Reformed Church, on Saturday I met with a half dozen men, along with their wives, who are considering pastoral ministry. Hearing their stories, desires, questions, and even anxieties, we spent an incredible time in fellowship, honest discussion, and prayer for several hours on Saturday evening.
Then on the Lord’s Day, in God’s providence I came having planned to preach on the role of the Spirit in the life of the church. In the morning service, I addressed Ezekiel 47 and the imagery of the river flowing from the temple, growing deeper and bringing life the further it spreads.  Then we looked at Ephesians 6:18 in the evening service and concentrated on the phrase “praying at all times in the Spirit.”
However, though I came to encourage this church in prayer, I found the night before and then that day that the Lord had arrived before me!
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Sing with Thankfulness!

Never tire of marveling over how the Lord elected you from all eternity to be His chosen one (Col. 3:12)! Recall continually the incredible holy love that He has for His people, and how He wants that exhibited in the church (Col. 2:12-14)! Marvel again and again over the peace He has brought to you in Christ –  He tells you “to be thankful” for it (Col. 3:15)! Go to worship to fulfill your duty “to teach and admonish” your brothers and sisters with Christ’s Word so they remember His salvation as well!

As believers, we should not only be seasonally thankful but ever thankful. We can demonstrate our thanks to the Lord by obeying His Word, offering prayers of gratitude, and expressing appreciation to one another. But another means we have is that we can sing our thanks. The Apostle Paul told the church at Colossae:
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16)
On a Saturday afternoon recently, I was invited by the director of the Pittsburgh Gospel Chorale, Dr. Herbert Jones, to be a special guest at their concert at a historic African-American Baptist church in the city. He actually asked me to take center stage in the middle of the concert. Now, I’ve tried to relate this to my children in such a way that is sounds like I was asked to sing. But they know better! Dr. Jones just actually asked me to give a greeting on behalf of Reformed Presbyterian Theologically Seminary.
This wonderful concert expressed joy and wonder for Christ’s salvation from beginning to end that was off the charts. While listening and watching, I was reminded of something my junior high school choir director would often tell us, “Don’t only sing with your voices. Sing with your faces.” That’s what this choir was doing.
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The Preacher as a Workman

Just as a craftsman continues to learn how to make a better product, so the preacher needs to keep growing in his abilities. He should discuss his preaching with mentors and friends. He should regularly read books on homiletics. He should not be ashamed to take a class, attend a seminar, or participate in the Simeon Trust to develop further in his abilities. As a homiletics professor, I regularly tell my students that I am still learning and that I am one of them, a laborer with fellow laborers.

Over the past several months, whether at work, church, a friend’s house, or home, I have witnessed a number of finished projects. Wooden oak floors being restored to their original warm luster. An aged, beat-up stairwell with slippery steps patched, painted, and safe once again with new non-slip treads. Stained glass windows that once adorned a church installed into the RPTS library. A gorgeous, handcrafted circulation desk for the library installed near those windows. Café-style tables with thick walnut tops delivered for students to study and visit over. Double-hung, insulated windows replacing broken, single pane ones. New carpet with soft padding underneath laid down to create a warm den.
In each of these situations, I did not witness much – if any – of the work being done. I just saw the final product. But each time, one thing was clear. The project testified to the hard work and knowledgeable craftsmanship of the laborer. The work done left you with the confidence that if you were to see another project done by these individuals, you would find the same level of competence.
Such should be the case with each sermon the preacher brings to the people of God. The people listening should have confidence that the minister has worked hard to bring them a well-constructed message. For as Paul told Timothy as he labored at the church in Ephesus, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). This admonition suggests at least five ways preachers can improve their craft.
Remember you are to be a laborer. The word for workman (ἐργάτης) that Paul uses is a word for a common field laborer. They were men who knew how to work with their hands and get a job done. These are the type of workers that Jesus told us to pray for in Matthew 9:36-38, where the Lord uses the image of laborers going out into the fields and harvesting the grain as a reminder in part of what a pastor should be.
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Our Weekly Wedding Rehearsal

As the next Lord’s Day approaches, get yourself ready. Through faith, eagerly accept the invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Attend gratefully the rehearsal for it as your church worships. Clothe yourself in the holiness that your Bridegroom has provided. For He is coming for us, and it will not be long!

Have you ever thought of how every Lord’s Day is like a wedding rehearsal?
For the church knows where our faith as the bride of Christ is leading us. We are headed toward the great wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9). As such, we are to “make ourselves ready” (Rev. 19:7) and be “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).  As we worship as His bride on the Lord’s Day, we should view this as readying ourselves for the wondrous wedding that will take place on that glorious day.
As we come to worship our God, the Spirit of God is using the means of grace to prepare us for that experience. Thus, an actual duty of the pastor is to get his people heaven-ready to spend eternity with the Triune God. In the words of the church father Gregory of Nazianzus, the minister of the gospel is to “to provide the soul with wings” to fly in a sense toward heaven. He said that the pastor should seek to “bestow heavenly bliss upon the one who belongs to the heavenly host.” Each Lord’s Day is preparation for the coming Day of the Lord, the consummation of our relationship with Him.
I attended two weddings this past summer. One was the marriage of my son, Spencer, and the other wedding was that of a good friend and RPTS student, Martin.
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When Gossip is Not

As cultivating interpersonal relationships, dealing with sin and conflict, raising children, avoiding folly, shepherding God’s people, discerning false teaching, etc., are all vital parts of life in the church, Christians must talk with and about others. 

In recent months, I have had several people speak with me about situations going on around them. Each of these parties were godly Christians seeking counsel about difficult matters involving others. Each time, they would pause and say something like “I don’t mean to gossip” or “I hope this isn’t gossip.” Clearly, they were struggling with matters of conscience regarding whether speaking of others constituted gossip.
As cultivating interpersonal relationships, dealing with sin and conflict, raising children, avoiding folly, shepherding God’s people, discerning false teaching, etc., are all vital parts of life in the church, Christians must talk with and about others. I find many sensitive believers struggle to open up because they wrongly believe to do so would be to gossip. Sadly then, the above needs are not met properly.
So when is gossip not? I studied over the answer to question 144 in the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC) : “What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?” regarding not bearing false witness. Here are five guidelines distilled from that meditative exercise.
It is not gossip when…
The matter is public record.
I have seen people hesitate to convey information that is recorded in civil or ecclesiastical documents as a matter of public information. Here I speak of such matters as public news items in the local paper, a published article available in print or on the internet, divorce records in a civil court, or public disciplinary sanctions taken by the church. I know of situations where someone has been accused of not following the principles of Matthew 18 in speaking to a person privately when the issue at hand is already known over social media or in print. This situation is not gossip.
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