Archive by Author

Rejoicing in Lament

Earlier this week I gave a public lecture on the subject of living with cancer. One of the observations I made was that God has used my experience with leukemia to help me appreciate His word more fully. In God’s providence, I had just started working through the book of Psalms in my regular Bible reading when I was diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer about two years ago. The first book of the Psalter contains many psalms of lament in which the psalmist is crying out to God for help, often in a state of anguish. I had read those psalms many times before and, frankly, did not find them particularly meaningful.

A Professional Ministry

A number of years ago John Piper famously wrote, “We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry… The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake” (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 2002). The subtitle of the book explains his thesis: “A Plea to Pastors for a Radical Ministry.” A desire to be comfortable and to have a nice career is incompatible with the radical call to follow Christ. While this advice is good as far as it goes, it misses the point that ALL Christians have a radical call to follow Christ and seek His glory instead of our own comfort (1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 16:24-25). It also fails to address the fact that, at some level, professionalism in the ministry is a positive good!

Most evangelicals do not go into the ministry to be comfortable.

Threats Real and Perceived

Humans have an incredible capacity to fear. A certain type of fear is actually a gift to us in a fallen world because it enables us to sense and avoid danger. The problem with fear, however, is that the parts of the brain that control our fear response are not the same ones that control our ability to reason. In other words, to be effective, our capacity to fear has to operate very quickly, and the cost of a rapid fear response is a sometimes irrational fear response. People, who want to control your behavior, are quite adept at appealing to your fear response in order to get you to take some action that benefits them. Tune in to this news outlet and follow their “breaking coverage” of some tragic event. Support this or that environmental cause before the planet is destroyed. Buy gold before the next stock market crash. Buy survival supplies before the coming societal meltdown. Enroll your kid in a special program before it’s too late and she falls behind the other kids. The list is virtually endless.

Sadly, Christians are often motivated by irrational fears just like everyone else. A particularly troubling example of this is the […]

Just Doing His Job…

On this morning in which much of the world is celebrating Christmas in one way or another, I know how my friends at the Cairn Farm in Coleraine, Northern Ireland are spending it. At around 4:30 AM their time, they got up, just as they do every day, and went out in the pitch blackness to milk and then feed their cows. The process took them around 3 hours – perhaps longer today because they will have given most of their employees the day off to be with their families. My friends will steal some time with their own family during the day before returning to the barn at around 4:00 PM to repeat the milking and feeding process all over again.

Milking cows can be dirty work, but it needs to be done – twice a day every, single day of the year. There are no exceptions. This is the type of responsibility that most people want no part of – it is simply too demanding and it requires too many sacrifices to be responsible for hundreds of animals, which need daily care.

Driving back with one of these farmer friends, an elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Northern Ireland, […]

Thanks for Answering the Call

On Veterans’ Day this year I had the unusual privilege of welcoming the Governor of the State of Indiana to Lighthouse Christian Academy in Bloomington, IN. Lighthouse is the small, Christian, K-12 school which my children attend. Governor Pence graciously offered to be the keynote speaker at our annual Veterans’ Day ceremony.

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 […]

Suicide and Atonement

The tragic death of Robin Williams in August briefly caught the public imagination in our country. A uniquely gifted man died before his time because he was unable to cope with the depression that haunted him. Well-meaning supporters opined that Mr. Williams was now free at last. Others speculated about what must be wrong with our society that would drive someone like Mr. Williams to despair. While Robin Williams’ suicide dominated the news, there was another high-profile suicide that went virtually unnoticed in our country. Just six days before Williams’ death, Dr. Yoshiki Sasai, a world famous stem cell researcher from Japan, was found hanging in a stair well in the building in which he worked.

Earlier this year one of Dr. Sasai’s research associates made a revolutionary discovery regarding the reprogramming of common cells into cells with the properties of embryonic stem cells. The process of transforming cells is ordinarily done by genetic manipulation of the cells. The new discovery purported to show that the cells could be reprogrammed by simply manipulating the environment in which they grew, thus eliminating the need for altering the genetic composition of the cells. This advance would have moved the use of reprogrammed cells […]

On the First Day Sabbath

Since several folks have raised the issue of why Christians celebrate the Lord’s Day on the first day of the week, I thought I’d write briefly about that issue.

Our Catechism says, “From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 59).

The Sabbath, which is a creation ordinance, affirmed in the Ten Commandments, is perpetual and binding on all believers in all times and places (Exodus 20:8-11).  The day in which the Sabbath is celebrated was moved from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week with the resurrection of Jesus on that day.  The practice of the Christian church throughout its history has affirmed this position.  That fact, of course, does not make the practice biblical, but it certainly should give us great confidence that the early church was on to something.  What was it? 

Sports and the Lord’s Day

Note: This is a follow-up to “The Christian and Sports” which I posted on James Faris’ page before I got my own!

Our love for sports as both participants and spectators can swerve into idolatry in many ways.  Perhaps none is more obvious than the effect that sports can have on the Christian observance of the Lord’s Day.  I suppose I should not have been surprised when I received an email through the Christian-based basketball league one of my daughters was participating in this winter inviting her to come to a basketball clinic hosted by the Indiana University women’s team at 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning.  After all, college athletics misuse the Lord’s Day nearly as much as the professional leagues do today.  Still, I found it hard to believe that the good folks at I.U. would send an invitation to an explicitly Christian basketball league for a Sunday morning clinic.  But, of course, the reason the marketing people at I.U. thought that was a good idea is doubtless because it has worked in the past.  Christians, by and large, show little commitment in honoring the fourth commandment which requires us to cease from our regular work in order to […]