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Posts by Nathan Eshelman

Two Cents on Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics Matter.  Hermeneutics is the study of the interpretation of a text. As a pastor, I spend many many hours per week practicing hermeneutics as I study the Bible. There are certain rules that govern how a text is to be understood- and this is true in all liberal arts disciplines which interpret the writings of men and women. Whether you are studying Shakespeare, the Apostle Paul, or JK Rowling, there are rules for how one reads a text.

Today, I learned I had to teach my young son a lesson in hermeneutics.  Following my return from the study this afternoon I took two of my sons on a walk around our mountain.  My young son, following me on our walk, carefully picked up 62 Realtor cards that read, “Allow me to give you my two cents.” There were two pennies taped on every card.

To my son, who is not trained in hermeneutics, this card was to be interpreted as a personal promise to him. The “you” in the text was him, not the owner of the driveway in front of which the Realtor placed the card.

Hermeneutics matter.

Please consider this fact as you endeavor to study the Bible as a student of the Word. There are rules of interpretation that govern the way that the Word of God is to be interpreted. Context, original audience, authorship, grammatical structure, genre of writing, and a host of other things govern how we MUST understand the Scriptures… otherwise you may end up with a handful of promises that don’t belong to you.

Now to retrace our steps… two cents at a time.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Today I was reading my copy of the Book of Common Prayer from 1662… it’s not actually a copy from 1662, but a Cambridge “1662 edition” in burgundy calf-skin leather with gilt edges that was published in 1968. It’s a beautiful copy, might I add.

Anyhow,  I was preparing for my congregation’s Thanksgiving Day Service and  I wanted to read some prayers from our reformed forefathers. The prayers of those who have gone before us ought to serve as  models for public prayer as much of today’s public prayer tends to lack the reverence and awe of those who have gone before us. I was not disappointed as I turned to the section entitled “THANKSGIVINGS.”

As you prepare your hearts for giving thanks unto The One who gave up His only Son so that we may have all things, I hope this prayer may aid in your prayers as well. Enjoy!  Read more

Love Thy Neighbor as Thy Selfie

photoI have been a fan of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for many years. I love the art of language and the skill it takes to document the ever changing and living tongue of the anglophonic people.

This week all nerdly eyes were on Oxford as they announced the word of the year. This is an annual event at which a new and influential word is chosen based on how it has come into the language. Sure, it’s not the Superbowl, but some of us get pretty excited about these things.

Did you hear what this year’s word is? Selfie.

Yep. Selfie.

What is a selfie you might ask? The OED defines selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Why is this so interesting? The selfie is not just a way of putting yourself out there for the tweeters of the world to see. The selfie is a reflection of the corporate fallen heart of mankind. Read more

The Christian Home: Another Protestant Reformation Blessing


The Reformation was a time of rediscovery. The church, in a sense, rediscovered justification by faith alone. The reformation also rediscovered biblical worship, and this was seen as the second pillar of the protestant reformation. As the church was freed from the bondage of a fear based religion, other blessings were brought forth.

Other aspects of the reformation affected the life of the church and had profound implications on a developing Christian society. One such blessing in the rediscovery of biblical religion was the Christian home and the Christian marriage, which brings us to Psalm 128.

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Emperor Norton and King Jesus

empnort2.gifBetween 1859 and 1880 four presidents served the United States, but  as they came and went, one emperor reigned in the United States . Lincoln, Jackson, Grant, and Hayes were all president of the United States during that time, but Emperor Norton I was Emperor of the whole United States and Protector of Mexico.

“Back East” there were significant events that were shaping the growing nation, such as the Pony Express sending mail from coast to coast. The Homestead Act opened the fly-over states resulting in a population surge (including many Covenanters) along the prairies and fields of grain. The Emancipation Proclamation freed Southern slaves and eventually the United States would work on healing herself following a war of ideologies.  And who could forget the fact that the National League was founded as a cradle for Dodger’s baseball (go Blue!).

Many things were changing in the United States between 1859 and 1880,  but one thing remained a constant. Emperor Norton was the self-proclaimed rightful heir of the United States and Mexico.  Read more

Foolish Preaching?

The preaching of the gospel is a profound aspect of Christian worship. Some see preaching merely as a teaching time. Some see it as a time for outreach.  Some see it as a time to justify paying the pastor!  But at the core of preaching is this- preaching is an act of worship.  Through preaching, fallen humanity is able to encounter the holy Triune God of the Bible in a powerful way.

How does the Bible view preaching? The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

To the non-Christian: Preaching is foolish.
To the Christian: Preaching is the power of God. Read more

Q: What’s the Bad News? A: Adam died.

When I was in high school there was a teacher there that would always ask me, “What’s the good news, Eshelman?” He was a football coach, so ending the interrogative with a surname was part of his schtick. What was the good news? I was not a Christian at the time, so I didn’t know what he was talking about, although I understood that “the gospel” was supposed to be good news according to Christian teaching.

What is the good news? Why is it good?

This summer I had the privilege of preaching the opening message at a church family conference which was on “What happened when Jesus died?” The good news was going to preached in all its multifaceted glory. I preached on the bad news.

No one ever asked me, “What’s the bad news, Eshelman?” But there is bad news. And the bad news is that Adam died. What happened when Adam died? That was my question to answer. Read more

Seven Phrases on the Ten Words

What’s THAT Have to Do With the Ten Commandments?

Have you ever had a conversation with a Christian about an ethical question where they said something to the effect of, “That’s a violation of the _insert number one through ten_  commandment.” And you responded with a “huh?!”

For the sake of example, here are some ethics-statements that Christians have said regarding ethics and their relationship to the Ten Commandments. You may have heard similar statements or have questions of your own :

  • Labor unions are violations of the Fifth Commandment (honor father and mother).
  • Angry outbursts are violations of the Sixth Commandment (against murder).
  • Going out for dinner on Sunday is a violation of the Fourth Commandment (Sabbath).
  • Playing state lotteries is a violation of the Eighth Commandment (against stealing).
  • Dressing immodestly is a violation of the Seventh Commandment (against adultery).
  • Singing uninspired worship songs violates the Second Commandment (no idols).
  • Birth control is a violation of the Sixth Commandment (against murder).

Again, the purpose of this article is not to attempt to answer the above questions or any ethics question that you may have. The purpose of this article is give you some principles to help you apply the Ten Commandments to some of the ethical situations that you face from day to day in the Christian life.

So how can you better understand the Ten Commandments? Below are seven principles to help  as you think about living a careful life in gratitude for the grace of Jesus Christ.  Read more

The Not-So Lost Art of Pharisee Making

This week I followed a discussion that started off something like this: “New Presbyterian here. Anything I should know in your humble opinion?”  There were many answers given, some humorous, some ridiculous, some wonderful. Here’s a sampling of some of the answers. Remember, the question is, “I am a new Presbyterian; what should I know?

  • Bavinck.
  • The PCA and the PCUSA are not the same thing.
  • Babies are for baptizing.
  • The Federal Vision is bad.
  • The Westminster Standards and Three Forms of Unity complement each other very well.
  • We enjoy cigars- get smoking! Scotch helps too!
  • Psalms are for singing.
  • Grow a beard and say “covenant” a lot.
  • Buy a copy of the Westminster Standards NOW! (Free Presbyterian Edition) Carry it wherever you go.
  • Don’t neglect growth in holiness and love and compassion for others.

I enjoyed reading the answers that people gave. Many were obviously tongue-in-cheek and most of them were broad generalizations (except “Bavinck”) although attempting to be helpful. As I read through them I was reminded of two times in my life when questions were asked  related to the question “What should I do first?”

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Here Come the Presbyopians!

Presbyopia is a “medical condition where the eye exhibits a progressively diminished ability to focus on near objects with age.” That sounds like a horrible condition, of course, but this is not the presbyopia of which I am speaking. I want us to have a spiritual presbyopia, diminishing our focus on small things and looking toward the Kingdom of Christ advancing throughout the nations. The word presbyopia is made up of two Greek words, “presby” comes from the word meaning elder, and “opia” comes from the Greek word for vision. So for a spiritual definition of presbyopia- we are talking about having a spiritual vision for the increase of the church, a vision which should be shared by the elders of the church, a vision of growth, multiplication, discipleship, and church planting. Read more

Yosemite’s Song: In the Theater of God’s Glory

I have been in the “theater of God’s glory” (Calvin’s words, not mine).  People have told me for years that I need to get to Yosemite Valley. Who has the time? Five kids. Congregational duties. Personal studies. Denominational duties. Last week my family and I spent the week hiking the trails and being under the falls and granite cliffs. We hiked among 3000 year-old trees and enjoyed natural revelation at its finest.

Yosemite is the most beautiful place that I have ever been. The whole place cries, “Glory!” Huge granite mountains. Unadulterated beauty. Waterfalls in all directions. Now I understand why everyone who has been there smiles when you talk about it. It’s a place that speaks of the glory of God.

Yosemite is a spiritual place for sure. There is something very right about being in a place that is filled with beauty and makes you turn toward the Creator in thanks and praise. Yosemite is truly a theater of God’s glory.

As a Christian I am deeply interested in the message  Yosemite speaks to her visitors. If it’s really as beautiful as I am claiming (and it is), then you would expect that her beauty would drive visitors to the God of the Bible. But she doesn’t. Is Yosemite being unfaithful? Is she speaking a lie to her visitors? Let’s look at some of the ways  people have responded to the voice and song of this deeply spiritual valley. Read more

Hallowed Memories: Happy New Year!

One my greatest New Year’s Eve/Day highlights is singing the 77th Psalm to the tune Auld Lang Syne. For me, this tradition began in Grand Rapids, MI, in the manse of Rev. and Mrs. Lanning. Bringing in the new year with God’s Word sung is a marvelous tradition that I have brought into my home and promoted among my congregation in Los Angeles.

The 77th Psalm begins with the psalmist crying out to God and refusing to be comforted. He then begins to recall the days of old and in his heart’s meditation he confronts himself with a series of self-examining questions.

Self-examination at the end of year and at the beginning of a new year is worthy of our consideration as Christians. Here are some of the psalmist’s questions that you may also examine yourself as you begin 2013:

Will the Lord cast off forever?  Will he be favorable no more?  Has his mercy ceased forever?  Has his favor failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he shut up mercy in anger? What does the psalmist conclude following examining the character of God in relationship to his merciless perception? 

You see, in these questions we find the obvious! Jesus is faithful to his people- he is faithful to his promise. This is not a problem with God’s character. His covenant faithfulness will continue by “his right arm.” As you begin 2013, take time to sing some self-examination, and as you do, turn your heart and mind to the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s “right arm” of faithfulness.

Enjoy your psalm singing, God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises, and the richest blessings of grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. And on behalf of the gentlemen of Gentle Reformation, Happy New Year!

Psalm 77: 1-14a, United Presbyterian Psalter, 1912. Tune: Auld Lang Syne

I thought upon the days of old, The years departed long,
I held communion with my heart, By night recalled my song.
My heart inquired with anxious care, Will God forever spurn?
Shall we no more his favor see? Will mercy ne’er return?

Forever shall his promise fail? Has God forgotten grace?
Has he withdrawn his tender love, In anger hid his face?
These doubts are my infirmity, My thoughts at once reply;
I call back years of God’s right hand, The years of God Most High.

I will commemorate, O Lord, Thy wondrous deeds of old,
And meditate upon Thy works Of pow’r and grace untold.
O God, most holy is Thy way, Most perfect, good and right;
Thou art the only living God, The God of wondrous might.

Thanksgiving: My Kingdom or His Kingdom?

Let my whole life
be an expression of thankfulness
unto thee for thy grace and mercy.
And therefore, O Lord,
I do here from the the very bottom of my heart,
together with the thousand thousands of angels…
acknowledge to be due unto thee…
all praise, honour, glory, and power,
from this time forth and forevermore.

The Reverend Lewis Bayly, a Puritan minister in London, wrote these words around c.1611 as an expression of thanksgiving following an illness. This prayer gives us insight on how to truly live out a life of thanksgiving. Notice that there is very little of Pastor Bayly in this prayer. His thankfulness is aimed to the heavens and with the very angels that surround the throne of God, he is thankful for grace and mercy.  Read more

Why the Word of God Will Not Let Me Vote for Mitt Romney: A Gentlemanly Response to Dr.Joel Beeke

There are few men in this world to whom I owe so much. While many readers may say that Dr. Beeke has been an influence in their lives through his writing, his preaching, and his conference messages — I have so much more that I owe to Joel Beeke.

Dr. Beeke has been a key figure in forming me into the minister of the gospel that I am. Four and a half years of study under his instruction at Puritan Reformed Seminary have shaped and molded my spiritual life, my family, my sanctification, and my pastoral ministry. The very first sermon that I ever preached began with the two of us storming the throne room of grace as we prayed in his study. Dr. Beeke laid hands on me as I was ordained to the Gospel ministry here in Los Angeles, CA. He has preached in my pulpit on numerous occasions as he has visited the West Coast. He continues to pray for me and my “success” as a minister within the RPCNA. I really believe that any crowns that I receive in glory will be partially his crowns as well.  Read more

A Reformed Christian Voter’s Guide

There has been a number of election-related posts over the past several months here on Gentle Reformation. Some authors have questioned whether we should vote for a Mormon. One has  encouraged us to remember the etymology of “vote.” We have been asked to write in a candidate instead of protesting. There’s been some controversy… but Lord willing, it’s all been in the spirit of gentlemen and churchmen. But the question remains: What should we as Reformed Christians do? What should be our guide?

Whether you choose to vote or not to vote in the upcoming elections, below are some paragraphs from the Reformed Presbyterian Testimony that ought to assist you in making a biblically informed decision in (or outside of) the voting booth. Read more