A Professional Ministry

A number of years ago John Piper famously wrote, “We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry… The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake” (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 2002). The subtitle of the book explains his thesis: “A Plea to Pastors for a Radical Ministry.” A desire to be comfortable and to have a nice career is incompatible with the radical call to follow Christ. While this advice is good as far as it goes, it misses the point that ALL Christians have a radical call to follow Christ and seek His glory instead of our own comfort (1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 16:24-25). It also fails to address the fact that, at some level, professionalism in the ministry is a positive good!

Most evangelicals do not go into the ministry to be comfortable.

Brothers, Love Your Sisters

With so much talk of brotherly love in the Scriptures, it is sad that there are too few expressions of it witnessed in familial life. Especially in brothers loving their sisters.  Often it seems that brothers are too busy for sisters and bothered with their interests. With so many young ladies looking for attention in all the wrong places these days, you wonder how different things would be if brothers simply loved their sisters.

Yet that raises the question.  Brother, how do you love your sister?  Here are five simple encouragements.

Listen to her. As my own family of three boys and three girls grew, with the genders alternating boy-girl-boy-girl-boy-girl, each brother had a younger sister looking up to him.  I noticed every day that the younger sister wanted to talk and tell the older brother what was going on in the home, in her thoughts, in our lives.  Brother, you can learn to love your sister by putting down the ball or turning away from the screen for a few minutes, looking your sister in the eyes, and listening to what she is wanting to tell you.  Let her know that when she needs to talk to someone, you will be one person that will […]

The Psalter: Smartphone of the Soul (revisited)

Note: This article was originally posted over three years ago here at Gentle Reformation. It is re-posted to compliment several of our recent articles on the place of the Psalms in human life.

Smartphones order our lives helpfully, or at least they can. In one tiny device, we carry a phone, a camera, an alarm clock, a web browser, an atlas, a notebook, a mailbox, a calendar, a library, an audio and video player, and a million apps that do everything from forecasting the weather to finding a spouse. Yet, their small screens and tiny keyboards limit their usefulness. These devices certainly fall short of desktop capacity. On the other hand, their portability makes them far more powerful for the user than a desktop most of the time.

These tools enrich life and make it more efficient. Like every great human idea, they simply copy God’s pattern. God gives us everything we need for life and godliness in his book. But, it’s hard to memorize the whole thing, and it’s not always portable. It’s the desktop. So, the Lord placed the smartphone of the soul right in the center of Scripture.  It’s 150 chapters long, and touches every human need. It does not […]

Audio Picks

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the 2015 Desiring God Conference for Pastors, do so. There was an excellent assortment of speakers and messages.

The topic was sin. They titled the conference: Where Sin Increased: The Rebellion of Man and the Abundance of Grace.

Here are a few that stood out to me:

“What is Sin? The Essence and Root of all Sinning,” by John Piper

“Make War: The Pastor and His People in the Battle Against Sin,” by John Piper

“O, That Day, When Freed From Sin,” by Sam Storms

You can find the rest of the messages here.

The Christian Use of the Imprecatory Psalms

Last week an interesting article appeared on one of my favorite blogs, Reformation 21, entitled “ISIS and the Imprecatory Psalms.” Excited to see how the Psalm portions that involve praying the covenantal curses against the enemies of God would be treated, I eagerly read it.  Author Carleton Wynne, using the fullness of the revelation given to us in the New Testament, makes many good points about the historical rootedness of these prayers, wrongful applications of them, the ultimate fulfillment they will have in the final judgment, and the Christian spirit in which they should now be prayed.  The article is well worth a read.

Providentially, I just completed a teaching course on preaching, where one assignment the students had was to develop a sermon from the imprecatory Psalms.  As we discussed this article, we felt that one thought that runs through the article was a bit unsatisfying.  Though he makes some concession to praying for justice in this life, Wynne seems uncomfortable with prayers for imminent justice when he asks and answers the following question at the end.

So may we pray the imprecatory Psalms today? No, in the sense that Christians today may not pray the imprecatory Psalms with outstretched finger, identifying enemies who do them […]

A Brief History of Psalm Singing

A couple of weeks ago our congregation featured as part of a programme made for the BBC tracing the development of Christian hymns from its roots in psalm singing to the present proliferation of modern praise songs. (If you live in the UK you can still watch the programme on the BBC iPlayer here). It was a great opportunity to showcase (albeit briefly) the psalms in congregational worship. Still flying the flag for Psalmody, and following hot on the heels of Jared Olivetti’s post a few days back about the suitability of the psalms for worship, I thought I’d say a few things about the pedigree of Psalm singers…

Usually if people know anything about the Reformed Presbyterian Church they know that our book of praise is the Psalter. But it’s also very likely that they don’t know why Reformed Presbyterians choose to sing only Psalms. No doubt it seems very peculiar to many nowadays. In an age when we have access to countless thousands of worship songs, why would we choose to limit ourselves to these 150 extremely ancient songs?

Is it because we want to live in the past? Are we like those American civil war buffs who dress up […]

GenRef Podcast: The Happy Christian by David Murray

Recently we interviewed Dr. David Murray, Professor of Old Tes­ta­ment and Prac­ti­cal The­ol­ogy at Puri­tan Reformed The­o­lo­gical Sem­i­nary, about his latest book, The Happy Christian.  Austin and I enjoyed a lively discussion with David as we talked about such topics from the book as the new “happy psychology” research, the impact of news on our emotional state, and the joy we can have in appreciating the differences of others.  I hope you will give it a listen below.

If you do listen, be sure to pay attention on how to enter our book giveaway.  One listener will receive a free copy of The Happy Christian.  Even if you do not win, you can order a book by clicking the image.

If you desire a happiness that is much truer than the latest platitude from Joel Osteen, reaches much deeper than the positive psychology offered by Gretchen Rubin, and lasts longer than a Pharrell Williams’ song, then you should read – and apply – The Happy Christian. Here is my endorsement.

While interacting with secular researchers, popular authors, and theologians both ancient and modern, in his newest book David Murray opens up the Scriptures and offers immensely practical means for cultivating the abundant life Jesus promises to his people.  […]

Got 5 Minutes?

Do you find history a bit boring, especially when it’s recounted online? It tends to be done on sites with numerous pages of information, much of which is barely readable because of its density, and there’s often little recognition of the fact that it’s supposed to engage the normal human being.

Here’s a website that will at least open up the world of Scottish Reformation history for you.   It’s a clear, colorful, informative, and easy to use site.  It gives a timeline for the overall period of 1580-1690  as well as timelines for each of the specific periods within that time frame, i.e. 1st Reformation, and 2nd Reformation, and the Covenanters.  You just click on the image and read about the person or the event. There is also a reading list of books on each character and event if you want to delve deeper.

As well as the historical information the site also provides information on the location of the numerous historical sites where some astonishing things happened in the lives of these brothers and sisters in the past.

Have you got five minutes?  Have a look at it – www.reformationhistory.org


What do mad Christians sing?

Awhile back, Carl Trueman wrote a great little article titled “What Can Miserable Christians Sing.” Here’s a summary, in the author’s own words:

“My thesis was very simple: there is nothing in the typical book of hymns or praise songs that a woman who has miscarried a baby, or a parent who has just lost a child to cancer, can sing with honesty and integrity on a Sunday.

“The desperation and heartache of such moments are things which we instinctively feel have no place in a religion where we are called on to rejoice in the Lord always.  Yet there is a praise book which taps such emotions and gives the broken-hearted honest words with which to express their deepest sorrows to God.

“It’s called the book of Psalms; and its recovery as a source of public praise in the Christian church can only help the church overcome its innate triumphalism and make room for the poor and the weak; that is the very people that Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians which are the normal kind of church member.

The Skeptic and the Problem of Evil

The skeptic looks around at the world and concludes that there is a profound problem. He sees that evil is a real and terrible thing, a power that not only creeps about in the heart of man, but permeates nature. Tornadoes rip homes apart. Lungs fill with fluids. Cancer spreads. People starve. Children are run over. Men sink to the bottom of oceans.

History is a museum of death.

Having recognized the horrific nature of such things, the skeptic turns his gaze heavenward and says, “There is no God. Or if there is one, he is a monster.”

All of this seemingly incontrovertible evidence secures in the skeptic’s mind a certain assurance that he is interpreting the data correctly.

But why does the skeptic assume the worst about God? Instead of asking himself whether such evil is meant to speak to him personally, he instinctively raises an accusing finger towards his Maker.  What if the skeptic has it all turned around? What if all human suffering, especially the suffering of the Son of God, is meant by God to portray, for dull souls like ours, the unimaginable ugliness and offensiveness of sin? What if God subjected the world to futility in order to show […]