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Browse Worthy: Online Bullying

One of the peculiarities of the Digital Age is how quickly mass hysteria can arise against someone. Perhaps the most famous case of this phenomenon is chronicled in The New York Times Magazine article “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life.” Sacco, with a small number of Twitter followers, tweeted a foolish line that was – rightly or wrongly – interpreted as a racial slur before she boarded an international flight. By the time she reached her destination, her tweet was the top trending one and a virtual mob was calling for her head. She lost her job, her life was threatened, and she has become famous for all the wrong reasons.

Yet it is not only unthinking tweets that can bring someone undue attention. People can purposely target someone with whom they disagree, and try to bring a high degree of public shaming on that person. A case in point is that of BuzzFeed‘s article that came out this week entitled “Chip And Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage.” BuzzFeed is a digital media company that delivers news and entertainment over social media. This post on the Gaines, who host the popular HGTV show “Fixer Upper“, seems nothing more than an […]

18 Proverbs for Church Struggles: What Pain in Church Life Has Taught Me

If my perfect Lord learned obedience through suffering, so must all who follow him.

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Nothing helps like dry and thirsty times to bring out the sweet taste of the Psalms.

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The best prayers are often offered with a libation of tears.

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God provides an oasis in our deserts.  They are called friends.

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If God destroyed a whole generation for grumbling and complaining before they entered the land of promise, what will he do to those who grumble who are in Christ and his church?

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In backyard basketball, we say, “No blood – no foul.”  In other words, quit complaining about every infraction and just keep playing.  That makes for a loose but good paraphrase of Hebrews 12:4-5, “If you have not started bleeding yet, then your trial isn’t nearly as bad as it could be.  Accept the discipline of the Lord and press on.”

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Often silence is the answer.

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As Spurgeon said, those who slander your name would really have something to talk about if only they knew the real truth about you.  When others speak ill of […]

Like That First Thanksgiving of Old

Friends are coming today.
They will join our little feast. 
Expected, we will pray and eat,
Offering thanks for God’s goodness
Of food and friendship,
Like that first Thanksgiving of old.

Yet other visitors have come.
Uninvited, yet welcome.

Last night he stood there,
Staring at me from the woods.
His pride and power
Fitted sharply upon his head.
The buck was wary, snorting,
Flicking his tail,
Uneasy with my presence.

Early this morning
Another visitor stopped by.
A new neighbor –
Friendly, and humble of heart.
We spoke of splitting wood,
Family,
Books we have read, and…
Hunting.

Could perhaps next Thanksgiving
Both these unexpected visitors
Be invited to our table?
One a provision of food,
The other that of friendship,
Like that first Thanksgiving of old.

The Relationship of Preaching to Pastoral Counseling

In Colossians 1:28, the Apostle Paul states, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” The goal of Biblical preaching is to bring every man to bear fully the image of God in Christ. Thus, we should preach in such a way that every sinner is called to the justifying work of Christ, every saint is urged onward in their sanctification in Christ, and every person desires and is being prepared to meet Christ in glory. The Spirit-filled preaching of God’s Word from the pulpit is the primary means the Lord has for accomplishing this lofty task.  As the Westminster Larger Catechism asks and answers:

Q. 155. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?

A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

With this understanding of preaching, we […]

The Common Sin of Middle Age Believers

Each stage of adult life presents its own unique challenges. Young adults worry about finding work and getting married. Older folks have increasing health problems and the loss of independent living. And those in their middle age years, with their own set of struggles, often find themselves “caught in the middle” trying to help aging parents while guiding their children into adulthood.

In the midst of these challenges, it might be helpful to be aware that there are also unique temptations to sin that are more age-specific. Without denying any sin can tempt any believer at any age, can we not identify one sin in particular that is perhaps most common in the church to each of these ages?

For young people, is not worldliness often the big issue? One of my mentors regularly told me that for covenant children growing up in a Christian home, their biggest struggle was often not whether they would express faith in Christ, but rather would they submit to his Lordship. The tug of the world with its passing pleasures and prominent positions causes many a young believer to wrestle, and some do fall away into these offerings of the evil one.

For the aged, perhaps inflexibility is the prevalent […]

Another Tale of Squirrel Nut’s Kins

Perhaps it was the fact a squirrel blew out a transformer last week and left the seminary without electricity for a few hours. Or hearing even nursing home residents are not safe from these critters. Or maybe it is nostalgia as I miss the folks in my former congregation. Or just as I am about to finish a big project I am a little giddy. Whatever the case, I thought I would dust off this story and share it today for some fun. 

And perhaps the most disturbing thing about the following story is that, except for a few instances of poetic license, it is entirely true.  

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The reader or hearer of this story should be careful not to mistake it for another one that has a similar-sounding title, the popular children’s story known as A Tale of Squirrel Nutkins by Beatrix Potter.  Nor should one think that this story is some type of sequel to Ms. Potter’s account.  Oh, no.  In Ms. Potter’s story, the little squirrel hero of her tale, Squirrel Nutkins, is pictured as a cuddly animal that warms the hearts of children around the world with its delightful antics that have a cute, mischievous nature to […]

Casting (Bal)lots

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. –Proverbs 16:33

Many have commented how incredible it is that we have come to the point of having these two major presidential candidates before us as a nation. I have heard it expressed that it is like trying to choose whether you would prefer a boisterous, drunken uncle or a conniving, wicked stepmother. As people agonize over how to vote tomorrow, perhaps it is helpful to remember the verse above.

Much like we use dice or choose straws, lots were pebbles or sticks with markings representing different parties. They were cast and one chosen, most likely, by landing in a designated spot. This practice was common in biblical times. Aaron casts lots to see which goat would be the offering and the other the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement. Joshua cast lots to divide the land of Israel among the families of the tribes. In the days of David lots were cast to see which men would serve in the various priestly functions. So common was the practice that lots were cast to figure out that it was Jonah on the ship that had brought about […]

Browse Worthy: The Hatmaker Controversy

Recently Jen Hatmaker, a professing Christian author and star of a hit television show “My Big Family Renovation,” created a firestorm over comments she made in an interview regarding homosexuality. Her expressions, along with her husband’s, reflect the muddled reasoning of many Christians. As several have responded to the Hatmakers with helpful clarity, here are some links to sharpen your mind and strengthen your heart regarding this important social matter.

The politics of Jen Hatmaker: Trump, Black Lives Matter, gay marriage and more | Jonathan Merritt

Here you can read the original interview of Hatmaker. Notice that she states that gay relationships can be holy.

The high cost of popular evangelical Jen Hatmaker’s gay marriage comments | Katelyn Beaty

This Washington Post article describes some of the fallout following her interview.

Love Your Neighbor Enough to Speak Truth | Rosaria Butterfield

The author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert responds to Hatmaker and explains why her viewpoint is a spiritually dangerous one.

Where I stand on LGBTQ | Brandon Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker’s husband Brandon explains the process for their change in views.

A Few Brief Thoughts on the Hatmaker Hermeneutic | Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung, pastor and author of  What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, reveals the nature of his response in the URL […]

Why Cursing Matters

The following is a guest post from Dr. Michael LeFebvre, pastor of Christ Church Reformed Presbyterian in Brownsburg, Indiana, and author of Singing the Songs of Jesus: Revisiting the Psalms and Exploring Ecclesiastes: Joy That Perseveres.

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We encounter it in movies. We hear it at school and at work. We see it in print. Our society has adopted curses as a normal part of speech—almost as though curse words were just another kind of adjective or adverb.

As defined in the dictionary, to curse is “to wish or invoke evil, calamity, injury, or destruction upon.” In modern American society, cursing is typically done through one-word invectives: the so-called “four letter words.” When done properly—and there is a right use of cursing—a curse is a call upon God to visit his just condemnation on someone or something. For example, in Genesis 9:25, Noah uttered a curse upon the house of Ham due to the evil Ham himself had brought upon his lineage. A curse is a declaration that someone or something is condemned before God. We don’t have the right to decide for ourselves who is condemned and who is not; but there are times when God’s condemnation is to be declared—in all reverence […]

My Top Ten Suggestions for New Pastors

As still a rather newish seminary professor, I am growing accustomed to seeing yet another batch of graduates go off into their first pastorate. I regularly get asked for a tip or two about what to do upon arrival (or sometimes I just offer them without being asked!). So I thought I would give ten of them that I regularly pass along one way or the other. Though surely there are others who have given such a list (Ah! A quick Google search after I compiled my list netted this one from the Banner and another one from Thom Rainer for some other ideas), here is mine for what it’s worth.

1) Form an external prayer team before you arrive. As Paul asked others to pray for his ministry (Eph 6:18-19; Col 4:3-4), so it is wise to ask for prayer support to sustain you through those early days. Giving friends and family who know you best some specific prayer items to ask the Lord to go before your arrival will best insure your paths will be straight.

2) Systematically visit with the congregation through your first year. Getting to know your new flock is essential to properly caring for them (Prov 27:23). Whether going […]