The First Word of God to His Church

Have you ever noticed that almost every letter in the New Testament–James, Hebrews, and 3 John excepted–opens with the words “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” or a close approximate? Its’ easy, isn’t it, to just pass by those words. After all, sometimes we view them as being a mere formality, equivalent to our own modern, “I hope you are well.” Who cares about mere pleasantries when the body of the letter is what contains the “good stuff.”

Well, it’s true that the Apostles borrowed from the common practice of their own day when they wrote letters. After all, letter writing isn’t a unique Christian endeavor. But it’s far from the truth to think of these greeting only as a matter of custom. Rather, as a part of God’s Word, they’re transformed and given significance. Here’s two ways to think about these greetings—“grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

First, we need to remember that this is an inspired greeting. Though the Apostles wrote the letters, they did so as those who were inspired. Their letters, to be sure, bear their trademarks—their personality and characteristics. The letters [...]


Crisis Management

The current Ebola epidemic has dwarfed all previous outbreaks of this potent and deadly virus. Since it was first discovered in 1976 variants of the Ebola virus have infected 2,387 people in 24 distinct outbreaks of the disease. Of those infected, the disease has killed 1,590 (67%). That was until the current outbreak in West Africa, which is thought to have infected almost 10,000 people and to have killed over 4,500 to date. At its current rate of increase, The World Health Organization (WHO) is estimating that there will be over 20,000 cases by the end of next week.

In addition to killing more people than all the previous Ebola outbreaks combined, the current outbreak is the first in which a victim died in the United States. It is also the first time that a person has been infected with the virus while on U.S. soil. Perhaps this variant of the virus is really no different from strains in previous outbreaks. To the casual observer it appears that the current viral strain is much more effective at getting around. The epidemiology of this outbreak seems to point in that direction. Interestingly, health officials in our country have been adamant that they [...]


Not Just a Soup Kitchen

Does your local church faithfully minister in the area of mercy? Many of us likely cringe a bit at that question. Perhaps the reason we do not like our own answer to that question is due to ignorance, confusion, fear, lack of leadership, or simply hard-heartedness. So, what is the way forward? When Jesus taught on the ministry of compassion, he often did so through stories – the parable of the Good Samaritan is foremost among them. Those stories then give way to instruction in the ministry of mercy.

Dr. David Apple’s new book Not Just a Soup Kitchen: How Mercy Ministry in the Local Church Transforms Us All follows the same pattern. Apple has been director of Active Compassion Through Service at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for over twenty-five years.

The book opens with Apple’s own biography of having twice been the wounded man on the side of the road like the man on the Jericho Road. He also experienced a hundred other hurts. He writes “This book is partially the story of how God transformed my life after surviving a near-death skull-fracture, childhood sexual abuse, teenage hopelessness, marital betrayal, spiritual bankruptcy and thoughts of suicide as an adult.” The [...]


Dr. James Anderson – Audio and Articles

Dr. James Anderson, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, has made some of his works available for free. He is an exquisite blend of Van Tillian thought and analytical philosophy, and I for one have immensely enjoyed not only his lectures, but his written articles. In this vein, allow me to point out a few for your consideration:

Audio

• Why Universities Can’t Do Without God – A look at why the atheistic worldview cannot account for moral norms and rational thought.

• Can I Trust the Bible over Evolutionary Science – A popular level discussion of faith and science.

• Calvinism and the Origin of Sin – A theologically robust and faithful handling of an admittedly tricky subject.

Articles

• If Knowledge Then God: The Epistemological Theistic Arguments of Plantinga and Van Til – A superb paper summarizing the arguments of each these two apologetic giants.

• The Lord of Non-Contradiction: An Argument for God From Logic (Greg Welty and James Anderson) – A philosophically heavy article, so be warned.


Guest Post: J.K. Wall on the Two Kingdoms Debate

J.K. Wall is a business journalist in Indianapolis, where he is a member of the Christ Church Reformed Presbyterian congregation. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, writing his master’s thesis on the early sermons of Augustine of Hippo. His book Messiah the Prince Revisited, a modern update on Scottish theologian William Symington’s book, was published in September by Crown & Covenant Publications.   J.K. applies Symington’s work to a current theological issue in this guest post entitled “Avoiding Double Vision: A Helpful Historical Lens for the Modern Two Kingdoms Debate.”

It’s natural that we look to past thinkers for guidance in the midst of contemporary theological debates—like the one between two kingdoms theology and the one kingdom, neo-Calvinist viewpoint.

So in recent years, there have been numerous back-and-forth arguments as to whether Augustine’s concept of “two cities” or Luther’s concept of “two kingdoms” or Calvin’s comments about the “twofold government” of a spiritual kingdom and political kingdom give the upper hand to one side or the other of this discussion.

Over at the Reformation 21 blog, Matthew Tuininga declared it “anachronistic and impossible” to fit Calvin into the contemporary two kingdoms controversy—a prudent warning that clearly applies more broadly than [...]


Weekend Quote: Bonar on Coverings for Sin

From Light and Truth, Bible Thoughts and Themes by Horatius Bonar, in reference to Adam and Eve covering themselves with fig leaves after eating the forbidden fruit in the garden.

Man thinks he can cover himself.  He knows not the greatness of the evil; he does not calculate on the penetration of the all-seeing eye.  He sets to work and makes himself a covering, and he says this will do.  What sin is, or what the sinner needs or what God requires, he has no idea of.  Each sinner has his own way of covering himself; he weaves his own web, whatever may be the substance of which it is composed.  He wishes to be his own coverer, the maker of his own raiment.  He thinks he can do it himself.  He has no idea that it is utterly beyond his power.  He trusts to the skill of his own hands to provide the dress that shall hide his shame from the eye of God and man.  He thinks it an easy thing to deal with shame, and fear, and conviction, and conscience.  He will not believe that these can only be dealt with by God.  This is the last thing [...]


Is Christianity Homophobic?

A young man in our congregation runs a chain of bakery stores in Northern Ireland. A few months ago a gay man representing a group called ‘Queerspace’ came into one of his stores and placed an order for a cake with the message ‘Support Gay Marriage’. The order was refused by the management because it went against their strong Christian convictions about the nature of marriage. There would have been no problem selling the customer a cake—he wan’t being denied service because of his sexual orientation. The bakery simply refused to endorse his campaign for gay marriage. The management have also refused to ice cakes with (heterosexual) pornographic pictures or slogans they found offensive. There was no question of this man being treated differently because he is a homosexual.

Nevertheless, a few weeks later, the bakery was threatened with legal action by the Equality Commission, a publicly funded body, claiming they had breached equality laws which outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods and services.

Needless to say, the case prompted a media storm. And it didn’t take long before Christians in general, and the management of this bakery in particular, were being accused of homophobia. It’s such a common slur, isn’t [...]


Browse Worthy: Holding Hands

Often it is a little look, a quiet gesture, a soft touch that communicates so much.  I wanted to highlight these two articles in the hope that you might stop today, take a loved ones’s hand in yours, and dwell on the beauty and love that simple gesture conveys to another.

R.C. Sproul Jr., now a widower, offers wisdom in Husbands, Hold Your Wife’s Hand.  After his wife passed away two years ago, he tweeted “I wish I had held her hand more.”  Don’t have the same regret.

We also need to hold our children’s hands.  Melissa Edgington writes her thoughts about doing so in a touching post fitly titled So Many Stories in a Mama’s Hands.

After you read these posts, you might then think about how many times the gospels tell us Jesus touched others with his hands.  Blessing babies.  Touching a leper.  Raising a child.  Healing a bent woman.  Those he loved he touched.


Will all my sins be seen on the last day?

Will all my sins be seen on the last day?

A friend recently asked me this question. More than that, this question has been asked me of me several times in recent months. Christians, with good reason, want to know what we can expect on the last day. Several have asked me point blank, “When Jesus returns and judges everyone, will all of my sins be broadcast up on a cosmic-sized movie screen for God – and everyone else – to see?”

Some passages in Scripture seem to point this way. Revelation 20:12 speaks about the dead on the day of judgment being “judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” And Romans 2:6 promises that God “will render to each one according to his works…” Verses like these give many the impression that each and every human will have the same experience on the day of judgment: having their every sin brought out into the light, to be seen for what they’ve truly done and who they truly are.

But is that what Scripture really teaches? Is that what believers in Jesus can expect? While there are many Biblical scholars who might disagree, [...]


The Logic of Abortion ~ Or Why a Mother Can Kill Her Baby

Mara Clarke of the Abortion Support Network (a pro-abortionist organization) recently debated Scott Klusendorf on the Unbelievable radio show. When pressed as to why it is morally permissible for a pregnant woman to end the life of a human being in her womb, Mara Clarke said,

Mara: “At the end of the day, all I can go with is: women who are living outside of the womb absolutely have a right to- and I don’t say this term- I never say this term- bodily autonomy, right? They have a right to continue with or not continue with a pregnancy.”

Justin (the host of the show): “Ok. So that in a sense overrides any issues of whether we’re dealing with a human in the womb or not for you.”

Mara: “Yes.”

Justin: “The autonomy of a woman over her body trumps that- and that presumably is the distinction then we’re drawing between the toddler and the child in the womb. A toddler is separate to the woman at that point, obviously. There’s not a question of her having control of her body at that point. You’re dealing with a separate individual.”

Mara: “Yeah, we can send [...]