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The Eschatological Insufficiency of the Archaic

In the church, as in life, it’s often hard to give up things that have become old friends. Sometimes, it’s hard to know when they have outlived their usefulness, and we must exercise wisdom in removing archaic fixtures.

You might have seen that Basking Ridge Presbyterian’s 600-year old white oak tree has died. Under that tree in Bernards, New Jersey, George Whitefield preached to over 3,000 people in 1740. Legend has it that George Washington picnicked beneath its outstretched limbs. My own ancestors worshiped at that church; indirectly, the shade of that tree has helped shape my own soul. That which served so well has died and must be removed.

Remove archaic fixtures we must, because devotion to the archaic reveals in us an insufficient eschatology. Loving what met needs in the past over what meets the need of the moment fails to anticipate the glory that is to be revealed. It trades a vision for the glory of Christ for earthly forms that are passing away. With the Apostle Paul, we must always seek fidelity to Christ as we count everything as loss for the sake of Christ that we may ultimately attain the resurrection from the dead. With Paul, we forget […]

Young People Also Need an Abundance of Counselors

“How should we have other people involved in discipling our children in their adolescent years?” In a recent panel discussion on discipleship in the church I pastor, that question was asked. The Scriptures teach us that “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). This truth holds for groups and individuals. The Apostle John and Timothy both benefited at a very young age from the mentoring of men beyond their own family, and we should not be afraid to emulate examples like these in the Scriptures as we seek godly mentors for our teenagers.

There are risks involved. We must take the necessary precautions as we encourage our young people to seek wisdom and help from others who can disciple them in ways we cannot as their parents. But the far greater risk is in leaving our teenagers isolated and disconnected.

Since every situation is different, there is no fixed way to bring the right influences into the lives of our adolescent children. Proverbs 27:10 instructs us “Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,” and so we understand that it is important for our children to know and be […]

Spring Storms: Are You Ready?

Spring sprang on Monday in Indianapolis with powerful thunderstorms. Booming thunder rattled both windows and the souls of young and old, not to mention all of the dogs that ran for cover under their masters’ beds. More storms will surely come this spring;  are you ready? Emergency preparedness experts ready us physically, but is your soul ready for them too? The Lord gave Psalm 29 to meet us at times like these; it’s a good one to memorize for the next storm that rumbles.

“The voice of the Lord” is repeated seven times in a Psalm that describes the thunder of a violent storm that moves across the land of Israel from northwest to southeast. The Psalm opens as a call to worship in light of the storm that is bearing through the region. In the Psalm, we hear the voice of God in natural revelation as it rumbles over waters, as it shakes mountains, splinters great cedars, flashes forth flames of fire, echoes across the desert, and terrifies wild beasts. Storms today do all of the same things; and they still freak people out with their raw power.

But the Psalm says that inside God’s temple, all cry “Glory!” Why? Because the […]

Seeking the Approval of Men

By guest contributor Venkatesh Gopalakrishnan. Venkatesh is a church planting pastor in Bangalore, India with the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

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“Do not wait for any man to approve your ministry!” thundered a young preacher from the pulpit of a church in Bangalore. He went on to declare, alluding to Galatians 1:10, “If you seek the approval of any man, you cannot please God!” The young preacher wanted his hearers to stop giving excuses and enter the ministries to which God was calling them. Sitting in the pew, I could not but help thinking that what I just heard was so contrary to what I had been taught. Concluding that the preacher’s view was rather idiosyncratic, I ignored the his advice and tried to meditate on the more edifying aspects of the sermon.

However, just a few days after this incident I heard another friend make a very similar remark, albeit in a slightly different context. This friend was arguing with me that a pastor ought not to receive salary from any church since this practice leads him to seek the approval of men. Once again, the principle was that in ministry, a pastor must preserve his independence at all […]

Presbytery Exam Fun with J. Gresham Machen

For those in the Presbyterian tradition, oral exams for students of theology pursuing licensure to receive a call as a pastor can be terrifying. Students sit on a platform before dozens of elders and answer questions on Scripture, theology, history, ministry, and more. However, after many hours of exams in one day at a presbytery meeting, the exams can also become quite tiring for elders who must listen, ask follow-up questions, and vote to sustain or not to sustain the students.

As my fellow students of theology and I went through our exams more than a decade ago, we noticed these trends over the several years during which we sat before presbytery. We decided to try to spice things up just a bit as we sat before these men whom we deeply loved and respected. So, we occasionally worked rather obscure bits of history or theology into our answers for the fun of watching the faces of our examiners. And it was fun, even as we took our exams very seriously.

Later, one of my comrades read Ned B. Stonehouse’s biography of J. Gresham Machen, a father of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. There, we learned to our surprise and joy that we had […]

Song of Moses: Song of Life

A few weeks ago, I attended an event at my alma mater, Purdue University. Emerging from our parked car that evening, I took in familiar sights and sounds of campus; impulsively, I began to sing the second stanza and chorus of our fight song, Hail Purdue, as my children smirked:

When in after years we’re turning
Alma mater, back to you,
May our hearts with love be yearning
For the scenes of old Purdue.
Back among you pathways winding
Let us seek what lies before,
Fondest hopes and aims e’re finding,
While we sing of days of yore.

Hail, hail to old Purdue!
All hail to our old gold and black.
Hail, hail to old Purdue!
Our friendship may she never lack.
Ever grateful, ever true,
Thus we raise our song anew
Of the days we’ve spent with you,
All hail our own Purdue!

Though I forget most of the details that were taught in the classes I took as an undergraduate, that song still evokes in me a sense of loyal friendship, of identity, of connection with the Purdue family, of warm memories with teachers and students, of respect for (most of) what I learned, and of aspirations the university instilled in us. Remarkably, even particular classes and teachings from those days come to life in my […]

The Sluggard Within: Defined and Defeated

The Bible says that the person who is guilty of sloth, belongs to the same family as the most destructive beings on earth. Proverbs 18:9 says, “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” Yes, the one who is lazy and indifferent to his call to serve the Lord with zeal has more in common with the likes of Adolf Hitler and even Satan than he might first recognize.

We think of sloth as merely having to do with our work, but it runs deeper in our souls than merely that one outward expression. It is an expression of spiritual boredom and a passive “resistance to the demands of love” as defined by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung. The English word “diligent” connects our work with our motives. It comes from the Latin “diligere” meaning to respect, esteem, or love.

How do we fall prey to and express this sin? Here are seven characteristics of the sluggard as presented in Proverbs:

The sluggard has great desire and ambition. Proverbs 21:25-26: “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.  26 All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.” […]

A Matter of Identity

Why were men with crushed testicles, bastard children, Moabites and Ammonites, and to a lesser extent, Egyptians and Edomites forbidden from entering the assembly of the Lord according to Deuteronomy 23:1-8? These verses are admittedly difficult verses to interpret for a number of reasons, but I think that they speak powerfully to the church today that is seeking to know how to respond to those struggling with various matters of identity.

One thing is sure: a preacher needs no illustrative material at the outset of his sermon to arrest the attention of his congregation after reading these verses!

No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD.  2 “No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD.  3 “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever,  4 because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired […]

Assurance for Seekers – A Gentle Refresher

Until recently, I had missed the contextual power of Isaiah 55:10-11. Commentator Alec Motyer helped me see the wonder of these verses in a new way. They promise:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (ESV).

I had thought of them as primarily a comfort for those who are speaking the gospel; and they are. Often, Christians use this text to encourage a brother who with great trepidation spoke to a non-Christian or in some difficult circumstance. His words may not have been eloquent, but God’s word was spoken, and we take comfort in knowing that they have power. That is not a wrong application, but the context presses us to an higher purpose and even better use for these great promises.

These words of comfort were given to those who were straying and should have been […]

Of Golf Balls and Badminton Birdies

“Understand that people are like golf balls or badminton birdies.” So said a friend giving a tip for effective leadership. You barely tap a golf ball, and it rolls clear across the carpet. You whack a badminton birdie with all your might, and it only moves a few yards. People in Jesus’ church can be like these when you confront them about a matter.

Some people are quite sensitive; a little tap is usually all they need. One gently spoken word will move them to thought and action. Swing too hard, and they’ll flee far from you.

Other people don’t get subtleties; you have to be blunt and hit pretty hard. Direct words cause them to see reality and change their ways. Swing too softly, and they will not progress in life.

Is it an oversimplification? Yes, but sometimes those of us who are badminton birdies need to have things spelled out in black and white in order to at least start understanding nuances. Golf ball personalities need to learn these things lest they be sensitive to everyone in the church except for the badminton birdies who fail to pick up on their “obvious” hints.

If we want to obey Jesus’ words “whatever you wish that […]