Archive by Author

Putting Boots on Our Predestination

Recently in a class I took on leadership by Terry Walling, we were encouraged to look at our lives and heritage more carefully using a Post-It Note Timeline to consider all the events, circumstances, and people the Lord has used to shape us.  Dr. Walling had us identify how God as the Potter uses many influences to form us into the people we are. He led us through exercises that helped us recognize people whom God has used to mold us thus far.

As we prayerfully reflected on our lives with Dr. Walling’s guidance, each of us began to see that the Lord uses a myriad of people in lesser and greater ways to prepare and direct us in our service to Him.  Indeed, as we become more aware of God’s shaping hand through others, we begin to see lessons and patterns the Lord uses uniquely in our own lives to guide us further into His ways.

For example, in my own life I saw God has often used “spanks” through the hands of others to shape me. One of my very first memories is crying as a toddler after my father had truly spanked me (with many repeats through my childhood!) which helped put […]

Mercy and the Westminster Publick Directory of Worship

In teaching on mercy ministry in Reformed settings, I often use the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) to make a point. The RPW teaches that we are only to worship God as He commands us to do so in Scripture. In considering matters of worship, many Reformed Christians, rightly so, insist on regulating carefully by the Word of God what takes place in the church’s worship of God.

So as I address mercy and worship, I like to say there is another RPW.  Not only must we be careful to regulate our worship according to God’s Word, but we must also be diligent to insure that God’s Word is regulating us, especially in the area of mercy. Repeatedly, God’s Word emphasizes as we come into His presence that He is examining us to see if we are caring for the poor, the stranger, the widow, and the orphan as we ought.  Just two samples among dozens that could be given:

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.  Rescue the weak and needy; […]

Drinking and Christian Liberty

For over a century, the denomination in which I serve was heavily involved in the temperance movement.  Indeed, up until our recent history, ministers had to promise not to use alcoholic beverages as part of their ordination vows.  Having witnessed the removal of what was known as “the abstinence vow” in ecclesiastical committees and courts, the character and conduct of the church’s leaders following this change can use ongoing encouragements toward holiness.  From my observations in this particular situation, I thought I would offer three key Scriptural cautions regarding how we practice a Christian liberty.

Enjoy your liberty yet do not glory in it.  Psalm 104 tells us that as God provides sustenance for all His creatures, He has also given “wine which makes man’s heart glad” (Ps. 104:15).  Just as Jesus’ first miracle provided wine at a wedding so the joy of the day could continue, so drink, as other pleasures, has been given to man to use for enjoyment.

Yet it is one thing to use these gifts from the Lord in a moderated enjoyment of them, and another thing entirely to glory in them.  By this I mean that one can become so enthralled with a Christian liberty that it becomes his glory rather than Christ. […]

A Garden Afar

Over vales and fields,

lies a garden afar.

The beauty of its three flowers

call to me.

So I travel winding road 

for a day to gaze upon,

to joy in,

and to learn from them.

~~~~~

The first, a bright crocus, 

puts springtime delight 

in a heart shivering over 

her wintry surroundings.

As I bow to smell 

her playful fragrance,

and feel chubby, little petals against my cheek,

I wonder how one so small

- and too far away -

can put such great love

in a grandfather’s heart?

~~~~~

My next flower is a bold tulip -

how colorful, grace-filled, and statuesque she stands!

The snows melt away

before her charming aroma,

her radiant joy,

and the musical glory of springtime

she sends forth heavenward.

The father longs for the times

his tulip was in garden near;

yet gives thanks that Another

cares for her so well.

~~~~~

The last flower, a fading red rose,

has drooping head

and slowly dropping petals.

The cruel winter

has been so […]

The Quest for the Historical Adam

Our friend, Dr. William VanDoodewaard of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and The Christian Pundit, has just published a work entitled The Quest for the Historical Adam.  In this day of increasing attacks on the Bible’s authority, Adam is now portrayed as a mythological figure even by those calling themselves evangelicals. Bill has done meticulous historical and theological research that validates the orthodox teaching regarding Adam and explains why anyone believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ must also believe in the reality of Adam.

Listen to Bill’s further explanation for the book in the video below, and then read Al Mohler’s forward that follows.  To pre-order the book at a discounted rate, go here.

Al Mohler’s Forward

Each generation of Christians faces its own set of theological challenges. For this generation of evangelicals, the question of beginnings is taking on a new urgency. In fact, this question is now a matter of gospel urgency. How are we to understand the Bible’s story if we can have no confidence that we know how it even begins?

In terms of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the most urgent question related to beginnings has to do with the existence of Adam and Eve as the first parents to all humanity and […]

Love Brothers, Love Strangers

Let brotherly love continue.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…
Hebrews 12:1-2

“You know what the key to evangelism in the 21st-century will be, don’t you?”

Recently I read an older article at Desiring God, where David Mathis told of being in a class on intensive evangelism and being asked this question by Steve Childers, director of Global Church Advancement.  Childers waited, then gave the one word answer.  “Hospitality.”  If you want a further development of Childer’s answer, read Mathis’ article entitled “Hospitality and the Great Commission.”

Childers is correct.  Repeatedly the Bible shows God using hospitality to advance the kingdom of God.  From Jesus eating with tax gatherers and sinners to Cornelius inviting people into his house to hear Peter, the Lord used homes to spread the gospel. Mathis’ post shows how thoroughly Biblical and how often commanded showing hospitality is, especially in our witness to Christ.

Next month our congregation will begin a series of evangelistic services called Stories of Hope.  Rather than only trying to encourage members to invite friends to those services, we have been urging them to pray for and then befriend more deeply those around them.  We do no want their friends only coming to hear the testimonies and gospel story preaching at the services; we want their […]

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 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 […]

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.  […]

The Plastic Man

Growing up in the 1970’s in the Midwest, I loved watching sports on television.  NFL Football and the Chicago Cubs on WGN with announcer Jack Brickhouse were my favorites.  But I relished watching the Olympics when they came on.  During the two weeks they took place, my family would gather around the television each evening to watch.  Like many Americans, my nationalistic pride would soar as Team USA racked up the medals.

During the 1976 Summer Games, I still remember as a young teenager watching Bruce Jenner compete and win the Decathlon, the premier event of the Olympics.  The underdog against the favored Soviet Union athlete and previous Olympic champion, Nikolai Avilov, Jenner excited the nation as we rooted for this chiseled, flowing haired competitor clad in his red tank top and blue shorts.  Not only did he pull off the upset with his running, jumping, hurdling and hurtling, but he set a world record in the process.

Yet life goes on.  Though I remember afterwards seeing Jenner’s winning pose with outstretched arms on Wheaties boxes and his smiling, fresh face on the occasional sports commentary, to be honest like most of my childhood sports idols he simply disappeared from my radar screen.  Since I […]