Results tagged “memorial” from Reformation21 Blog

William Franklin Graham, Jr (November, 7, 1918 - February 21, 2018)

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The Bible tells us that Christ graciously gives gifted people to His Church for her growth and maturity. Among these are the evangelists. Today we learned that the best known American evangelist has died; he is now present with the Lord whom he served.

Much should and will be written about the life and influence of Billy Graham. He was a counselor to presidents, and the catalyst for many of the para-church organizations that sprang up after WWII. His own organization - the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association - has a long track record of financial integrity and blameless moral conduct - a tribute, in many ways, to Graham's own honesty and honor.

Born in 1918 and coming into prominence in the late 1940s, Billy Graham's evangelistic crusades took him all over the world. He was quick to embrace new technology - particularly television - in an attempt to reach even more than the millions he already reached in his stadium preaching tours. The Lord used his voice to proclaim the good news of Jesus in a clear and powerful way, and many came to a saving knowledge of Christ under his preaching ministry. Even for those who never heard him preach, his confidence in the scriptures and concern for the lost were well-known.

The founder of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Donald Grey Barnhouse, had a friendship with Dr. Graham. In a 1977 interview with Christianity Today, Graham said, "One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing. Donald Barnhouse said that if he knew the Lord was coming in three years he would spend two of them studying and one preaching. I'm trying to make it up."1 At another point in his ministry, Graham said of Barnhouse, "He knew the Scriptures better than any man I ever knew."

There are bound to be disagreements among sincere Christians over questions of theology and methodology. After all, the apostle Paul tells us, "For now we see in a mirror dimly." But today we rejoice in the life and ministry of Billy Graham, preacher and evangelist, remembering Paul's words to the Ephesian church: "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."


1. "Taking the World's Temperature" (interview), Christianity Today (Sept. 23, 1977): 19. 

Remembering Dr. Morton H. Smith

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Dr. Morton H. Smith, founding professor of Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), founder of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (GPTS), first Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), and one of the world's foremost authorities on American Presbyterian history and theology, passed into glory on Sunday, November 12, 2017. He was 93 years old.

He was the fourth of five sons born to James Brookes and Margaret Morton Smith of Roanoke, Virginia on December 11, 1923. His early childhood was characterized by a love for the mountains of western Virginia and a heartfelt commitment to Christ from a young age. The Smith family maintained an active membership in the Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church, where Mr. Smith served as a Ruling Elder until they moved to the Mt. Washington area of Baltimore, Maryland.

It was at the Mt. Washington Presbyterian Church that Dr. Smith publicly professed his faith in Jesus Christ. Later on in life, Dr. Smith would credit Pastor James E. Moore with having the greatest influence on his life outside of his parents. The elders received Dr. Smith as a communing member when he was eleven years old. During the membership interview, the senior elder of the session asked Dr. Smith, "What does Jesus mean to you?" The generally shy young man expressed his love for Christ when, choking up, he eked out an answer that communicated, "He means everything to me, and I trust Him as my Savior."

In the Spring of 1941, Dr. Smith graduated from the St. Paul's School for Boys in Baltimore. He enrolled at the University of Michigan that Fall to study Forestry. In his first year at Michigan, he met his future wife, Miss. Lois Knopf. They married on June 30, 1944 while Dr. Smith was serving as a military flight instructor during World War II. After graduating with a degree in Botany in 1947, he accepted a position as the office manager in the Registrar's office.

The Lord used teaching and preaching opportunities at Grace Bible Church (Miss. Lois' home church) to call Dr. Smith to the gospel ministry. He enrolled at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia in the Fall of 1949. While at Columbia, Dr. Smith gravitated to the last remaining confessional professor at the seminary, Dr. William Childs Robinson. Recognizing the entrenched theological liberalism of the institution as a whole, the Smiths decided to transfer to Westminster Theological Seminary in the Fall of 1950.

The Smiths spent one year at Westminster, and Dr. Smith later recalled it as the most intellectually stimulating year of his life. He particularly profited from time spent with Dr. Cornelius Van Til and Professor John Murray. Though their year in Philadelphia was a great blessing to the Smiths, Dr. John R. Richardson of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Atlanta convinced them to return to a denominational seminary of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) in order to prepare for ministry in that body. Dr. Smith completed his studies at Columbia Theological Seminary in December of 1952.

Like many students of Columbia Seminary at the time, Dr. Smith was active in pastoral and preaching ministry while pursuing his degree. In 1952, he was ministering to an unaffiliated core group of believers in Valdosta, GA who ultimately organized as a congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). After consulting with Dr. Van Til and PCUS missionary to Japan Dr. David McIlwaine, both of whom urged Dr. Smith to remain in the PCUS in order to maintain a confessional witness within the Southern Presbyterian church, he elected to pursue a call in the PCUS. In 1954, he accepted a call to a two-church field: Springfield-Roller, near Baltimore, MD.

That same year, however, he received a call to teach Bible at Belhaven Colleg in Jackson, MS. He would hold that position until 1963. It was during this time that the Smiths adopted Samuel and Suzanne in 1958 and 1962, respectively. In 1962, he completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree on a Fulbright Fellowship to the Free University of Amsterdam, under the tutelage of Professor G.C. Berkouwer. His doctoral dissertation is in publication under the title, Studies in Southern Presbyterian Theology. In 1963, Westminster Theological Seminary invited Dr. Smith to join the faculty as a guest lecturer in practical theology.

In 1964, the Smiths moved to French Camp, MS to serve on the faculty of what would become Reformed Theological Seminary. Dr. Smith taught classes in several locations around the country, locations to which he would travel by plane in his own Cessna 150. He would fly his plane all over the continental United States as both a professor and a churchman for decades, finally selling his last aircraft in 1988.

Dr. Smith was on the original faculty in the Fall of 1966, when Reformed Theological Seminary commenced classes with 17 students. He taught there until 1978, at which point his role as Stated Clerk of the PCA grew into a full-time responsibility. The Steering Committee of the Continuing Presbyterian Church (what would become the PCA) commissioned Dr. Smith to produce a book outlining a rationale for separating from the PCUS. How is the Gold Become Dim was published shortly before the Continuing Church met in December of 1973. At that first meeting of the Continuing Church, the gathered elders elected Dr. Smith to serve as Clerk at the Convocation of Sessions and at the First General Assembly of the fledgling church. He would continue in this role until 1988, serving the new denomination which from its start devoted itself to three great aims: to be faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.

In 1978, once he began to work full-time as Stated Clerk. Toward the end of his tenure as Stated Clerk, Dr. Smith began working with a group of elders from Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC to establish an Old School Presbyterian Seminary in Upstate South Carolina. In the Fall of 1987, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary began classes to equip preachers, pastors, and churchmen for Christ's Kingdom.

After resigning as Stated Clerk of the PCA, Dr. Smith continued to serve on denominational committees, take an active part in the Western Carolina Presbytery of the PCA, and participate in the life of Cornerstone PCA in Brevard, NC. He also traveled extensively around the world to teach, preach, and train pastors in many different countries: South Africa, South Korea, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Russia, and New Zealand. In 2013, the Board of Trustees of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary named a Chair in Systematic Theology in honor of Dr. Smith.

Generations of his students will remember him as a godly, gentle, and quiet man of strong Christian character and conviction. As a scholar, he was committed to the depth and breadth of the Reformed tradition, founded upon the rock-solid foundation of God's Word. His was an exegetically grounded theology. Committed to preparing and equipping Reformed ministers, his academic work flowed out of the instruction which he provided to his students. As a true child of God, Dr. Smith had a humble, simple faith in Christ. For Dr. Morton Smith, all true doctrinal inquiry finds its ultimate terminus in Christ. He loved to talk about and preach Christ.

The PCA recognized his contribution as one of the founding fathers of the denomination when the 28th General Assembly (2000) elected him to serve as Moderator. To date, he appears to be the last bearded moderator of the PCA General Assembly.

In a festschrift published in honor of Dr. Smith's eightieth birthday in 2004, I described Dr. Smith's influence on the PCA in no uncertain terms: "no man has had a more profound impact on the early development of this denomination than he." Reformed Theological Seminary Chancellor and CEO Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III, who studied "The Theology of the Westminster Standards" under Dr. Smith at Covenant Theological Seminary, identified him as both a family friend and "one of the key figures in late twentieth-century North American Presbyterianism." Reformed Theological Seminary Professor Emeritus Dr. Douglas F. Kelly commended Dr. Smith as a man who has "stood for what he understands to be God's truth no matter how offensive it has been to the spirit of the age."

In the last few years of his life, Dr. Smith enjoyed receiving guests into his home, many of whom were students and colleagues from various seasons of his life. He also lovingly cared for his wife as her health declined more rapidly than his. It was only a severe stroke on Thursday, November 2, 2017 that caused him to pass more quickly into glory.

We thank God for the life and legacy of Dr. Morton Howison Smith, even as we mourn his death. Yet our loss is his gain. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches in Q. & A. 37, "The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united in Christ, do rest in their graves til the resurrection." Having passed into glory, Dr. Morton Smith is now perfect in holiness, beholding his beloved Christ.

Running the Race of Redemption

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John Cain.jpg"If I had died in the line of duty, I don't think that I would have come to Christ. If I had been shot, I would have worn that as a badge of heroism. But when God gave me cancer, He brought me to a place of weakness in order to show me my need for Christ." These were the precious words of Chatham County Sgt. John Cain, who died on Saturday evening after a year long battle with pancreatic cancer. John was repeatedly featured on national news a year prior for helping a battered marathon runner finish a race. Within a month, John was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After his diagnosis, John entered a race--a race in which he acknowledged his need for Christ to carry him across the finish line. 

John joined New Covenant this year. He loved coming to worship and talking about points in the sermon that deeply affected him. When I first met John, he would barely look me in the eyes or talk with me. However, over the past year, John would greet me on Sunday mornings with a deep joy in his eyes, even as his body was wasting away. John's godly parents have been members of our church these past 7 years. They sought to raise their children to love God's word. They expressed to me over the years that their greatest longing was for their now grown children to come to a saving knowledge of Christ. After John was converted, he would talk with me about spiritual realities when we sat together. Among those things that John would speak to me about most of all were the work of Christ, the forgiveness of sins and God's mysterious sovereign providence. He would reach deep into his mind to pull out all the things that he had learned from Scripture as a child--things that he now believed for the first time in his life.

John's life became a glorious testimony to God's redeeming grace. As painful as it was for me to sit by his bedside as he lay dying, my mind was repeatedly filled with a sense of the infinite wisdom of God in crafting the circumstances of John's life in order to draw him to His Son. One minute, John was a law enforcement hero, the next, he was a weak man who recognized his need for Christ and his utter dependence on God to sustain his life.

This Thursday, John will be honored with a police memorial funeral. This will be a glorious opportunity for the proclamation of the Gospel. To that end, I am asking you to partner with me in prayer, "that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel," and, that many of John's family members and law enforcement colleagues will hear the Gospel and will also put their trust in Christ.