Archive by Author

Calvin on Christian Sobriety

One of the devotional habits I have practiced over the past few summers is to read slowly, section-by-section, through A Guide to Christian Living. A gift from a friend, this small book is taken from Book 3 of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. The teachings are laid out clearly in short sections. I find these meditations orient heart and life, for Calvin helps the believer see how union with Christ leads to the proper practice of our Christian duties.

I share now a short section on sobriety with you I recently read and, in the battle with my own flesh, keep striving to practice. Calvin is commenting on Titus 2:11-14, where we are told that Christ’s salvation teaches us to cast away “all ungodliness and worldly desires, and thus to live sober, righteous, and holy lives in this world” as we await Christ’s final coming. Note that by speaking of sobriety Calvin does not just mean abstaining from drunkenness, though certainly that would be included. Rather, he means the moderate use of any of God’s gifts to us.

Sobriety designates chastity and moderation, and a pure and disciplined use of God’s gifts, together with patience in a time of poverty…Nothing, […]

Browse Worthy: Prayer Helps

Noticed some prayer encouragements these past days being offered from a variety of sources. Here are a few links that may help you to pray with more strength, focus, and quantity.

Weep, Love, and Pray: A Christian Response to Dallas, Castille, and Sterling | David Murray

Though the news cycle can drive these tragedies to the back of our minds too quickly, praying in the manner set before us here helps keep them before us and the Lord in a godly way.

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Prayer | Melissa Edgington

Some great tips for mothers who have little uninterrupted time for prayer through the course of their days.

Five Things I Pray I Will Not Do as a Senior Adult in the Church | Thom Ranier

As the hair grays and the bones ache more, one can tend to become more cynical as well. Here are some good prayers to keep this from happening.

R.C. Sproul on the Other Comforter | Nathan Bingham

A short, comforting excerpt from a talk by Dr. Sproul that reminds us we always have strength and power available, which helps us when we pray.

Pray Continually | Titus Martin

One of my pastors preached this encouraging message from the familiar text of I Thessalonians 5:17.

Do Not Be Anxious About Anything […]

The Immaturity of Addiction

A person who has practiced addictive behaviors for a good portion of his life once told me an insight he had been given. Though it came from a secular source, this observation rings true. He was told that one of the side effects of addiction to drugs and alcohol is immaturity. In fact, the counselor told the class my friend was attending that at the age you began to use intoxicating substances to get drunk or high in an ongoing way is the basic maturity level you currently have. For instance, if someone began to use drugs heavily at age sixteen and was now twenty-four, such areas as his mental, relational, and work maturity levels would roughly still be that of a teenager. You simply stop maturing very much when you do drugs.

This rule of thumb makes sense under closer observation. When someone begins to abuse substances repeatedly, they are often exchanging responsibility for pleasure. Many addicts enter this lifestyle to escape hard circumstances, trials, or truths about themselves they do not want to face. Consequently, the lessons they would have learned in meeting these situations, dealing with them constructively, and growing in maturity through them are lost opportunities. If you ever wonder […]

O Little Nuthatch

O little nuthatch,
From whence comes your name?
Did you look a little crazed
When from the shell you came?

O little nuthatch,
Can you explain this to me?
How does your gray disappear
On the trunk of my oak tree?

O little nuthatch,
Why eat upside down?
Would not swallowing be easier
If you simply turned around?

O little nuthatch,
What is with your song?
Are your really laughing
With those scratchy notes all wrong?

O little nuthatch,
Why do you despise a duet?
Can you really be so fierce
To chase a jay from the suet?

O little nuthatch,
Have you guessed by now?
You bring a smile to me
As to your Maker I bow.

Helping a Covenant Child Prepare a Testimony

When preparing young people who have grown up in the church to make a public profession of faith, the usual formulaic approach of writing down a testimony usually does not work. Asking them to think of what their life was like before Christ, how they were then converted, and what has happened since then does not fit their experience.

For many teen-aged believers who grew up in a Christian home and attended church regularly do not remember a time when they did not believe in Christ. Though they have known experiences with sin and trusting in Christ through their life, they are hesitant about naming a time of conversion. Forcing them to come up with such a time can be a way of unknowingly sowing harmful seeds into their souls, as they start looking for an experience that creates doubt rather than looking to Christ with simple yet real faith.

Thus, the pastor preparing them to testify of their faith in Christ, so that they can be given the privileges of communicant membership by the elders and come to the Lord’s Supper, needs to approach them a little differently than someone who was converted out of the world as an adult. To that […]

A Wedding in the Woods

Only the Lord could take one day of heart-breaking tragedy, combine it with another day of anticipated joy, and transform it into a time of overflowing grace and beauty.

The day of tragic sorrow occurred less than three months ago when we too abruptly lost Jon, the husband of my wife’s sister. The day of expected joy was Saturday, when his daughter, Kimby, was married.

As Kimby and her groom Andre had desired, and Jon and Jennifer had agreed, the wedding took place in the wooded setting of their home. The day was a gorgeous one, with low humidity and the late afternoon sun shining yet shaded by the tall pines overhead, a breeze gently rustling through them. Large tables with round built-on seats, ones that Jon had secured months in advance for this occasion, were set on the various levels of the deck and yard.  Each one was simply yet elegantly decorated with wood slab chargers (Jon’s idea) holding brightly colored cloth napkins; rich bouquets of a variety of orange and peach colored roses and ranunculuses filled the centers of the tables. The sand volleyball court, the scene of innumerable outdoor games, now served as the sanctuary, with tons of fine sand hauled in by Jon’s friends offering a […]

Preaching to the Mind

Sometimes we preachers fail in the pulpit simply because we forget what we are up against. We think if we are just pleasant enough or clever enough or loud enough, certainly we will be convincing to our hearers. Yet we must never forget that one of the impacts of the noetic effect of sin is that it causes the mind to be at war against the things of God. We can act as if we are training puppies when instead we are wrestling bears.

Fallen man at his fundamental level, at the core of his constituted being, sets his mind on the things of the flesh. In Romans 8:7-8, Paul states it this way: “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” That unconverted man sitting before you in the pew has a mind that dwells on how he can satisfy his own cravings for such things as pleasure, prestige, and power. So deeply do men suppress the truth, so fiercely do they hate God, that in the words of Dr. James Boice men become “morally insane.” […]

Browse Worthy: Trinitarianism and Complementarianism (Part 3)

As has been noted by this first list of articles then another post, a fascinating and important debate has been taking place about the doctrine of the Trinity in seeking to find support for complementarianism. The need for the church to be clear regarding the Godhead as revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit cannot be overemphasized (as this post also reminded us).

Some further posts are shared below that help crystallize the issues. There is a world of difference between saying that the eternally generated Son submitted to the Father before the incarnation (resulting in God having more than one will) and saying that in their eternal counsel the Son as man would submit to the Father (the belief that Christ has both a divine and human will). I hope and pray that the truth of who God is and how He has chosen to reveal himself will triumph over desires to support in an unwarranted manner a lesser teaching of Scripture or, worse yet, to protect reputations. For there is no dishonor in being corrected and accepting it.

Sitting at Douglas Kelly’s Feet: Subordination and the Current Debate | Daniel F. Wells (June 26, 2016)
Heresy and Humility — Lessons from a Current Controversy | Al […]

The Mask Will Not Work

 

In a book on World War I that we have, there is a haunting picture that you can see above. The photo shows a line of a few American soldiers in France coming out of their foxholes in an attempt to advance toward enemy lines. Though the picture only represents a second in time on a great battlefield, the black and white of the picture highlights the story of its grim reality. Behind the men you can see that the battlefield is smoky, as artillery shells have hit and exploded behind them.  Most of the handful of men in the picture are crouched down and running ahead, gun in hand.  But it is the lead soldier in the picture that grabs your attention.

His helmet is off and his head thrust back. His right arm is up and his left hand is clutching his throat.  You can tell he is about to go down.  As the historian explains the picture, you realize it is not a bullet that got him. Notice all the other men around him are wearing gas masks.  Yet his did not work, and the poisonous gas of the enemy is having its effect as he gasps for life, […]