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Good Plans For Applying Jeremiah 29:11

What is your greatest desire in life?  And  what is right now your most difficult situation in life? And how do to the two relate?

If you know Christ, you know what the answer to the first question ought to be.  Your greatest desire ought to be to glorify God, to live so as to reflect the glory of His saving grace in the risen Christ.  That’s your heartbeat, but maybe as you read this, that desire feels faint, more like a murmur.  Enter, then, your greatest difficulty.    

Of Christian Courage, Contemptible Candidacies, and COFFEE

How much of our Christian courage is a function of the comfort and convenience of our surroundings?  How much of our boldness in Christian witness would wilt if the cozy accoutrements of a wealthy modern culture were taken from us?

Imagine if our words in praise of Christ no longer had the internet as an outlet, if every word of public witness had to actually be spoken in public, or at least in private to a living, breathing, and potentially hostile human being.  Imagine if there were no more church conferences to attend, no more family camps, no more youth group outings at which to find Christian fellowship.  And, perhaps worst of all, imagine if there were no more coffee shops – !!!!!- at which to study Scripture, write sermons and do theological cyber battle with Christians from different denominations, all comfortably and anonymously as one among  many happy, well-caffeinated people.

Lord, Save Us From Some of These Christian Politicians

It makes me so sad to see Evangelicals heaping praise upon Donald Trump and abusing the Bible to do so.  “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7) has to be one of the most misused texts of Scripture in our day.   Politicians and their supporters use it to tell Christians to look past the commandment-breaking lifestyle of their choice for President, as if Jesus taught that someone’s doing some benevolent things in addition to blatantly evil things was sufficient proof of authentic faith. 

The Friendship Test

Is your loyalty as a friend being put to the test?  It might be, publicly, and you might have no idea it’s happening.  It could be happening right now as you read this!  Perhaps you’ve seen something like this in your Facebook feed, posted by one of your friends:  “I’m tired of people just pretending to be my friend.  So I’m going to see who among all my so-called ‘friends’ on Facebook really is one.  Whoever cares enough to take a few extra seconds – seriously, how hard is that?! – to read this ENTIRE post, please copy the last line and post it on your page.  Then, I’ll “like” it and know that your friendship actually means something.  Everyone else I’m just going to unfriend. I’ll leave this up long enough for my real friends to notice and to make themselves known.  You have one day.  Go.”  

Some Dogmatic Thoughts on Grace

When I was five years old, my parents took me and my sister to a farm – I think it was a farm – I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings so much as the reason for the trip.  We were getting a puppy!  Pretty soon I was standing in front of a wire-fenced, makeshift kennel in which a litter of mutts happily yipped and played together.  They were a mix of Golden Retriever and German Shepherd, and the one with a white tip on his tail immediately caught my attention.  So did the fact that he nipped me.  Yep, this was going to be our dog. 

Glad to be Disappointed in Chapel

God has blessed the Geneva chapel program with some absolutely wonderful sermons and testimonies this fall, and I say that with no reference whatsoever to my own work.  From Dr. Dan Doriani of Covenant Seminary, to Dr. Bill Edgar, Geneva’s interim President, to Dr. Christopher Yuan from Moody Bible Institute, and co-author along with his mother of Out of a Far Country, A Gay Son’s Journey to God and a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope – these men have brought the chapel crowd wonderful biblical substance expressed in their own pastoral, engaging styles.  

We Could Be Heroes (and maybe that’s not good …)

We have such low standards for heroes.  And I don’t just mean comic book superheroes:  Green Lantern…Hawkeye….Robin (!?!)  No matter how much we equivocate the term, these guys don’t deserve the title “super.”  But that’s a subject for another blog.  In this one, I’d like to explore the tendency among Christians in our modern, Western culture to laud as heroic any non-fictional person who seems even vaguely virtuous.  In a time of moral famine, Christians seem far too eager to gobble up and praise what little signs we see of basic good behavior and to celebrate them as Christ-like.   To borrow and adapt C.S. Lewis’ expression:  When it comes to distinctly Christian heroism, we are far too easily pleased.  

Stop the Conversation Stoppers!

As Bible-believing Christians continue to speak out against sinful, seismic social changes and against atrocities enacted in the name of health care, they are met with predictable charges of hypocrisy.  “You have no right to protest when people of your faith fail so miserably to tangibly care for the people you claim to champion.”  Despite the civilization shaking significance of the evil these Christians decry, some people are far more interested in decrying (sometimes without specific example) the evil of Christian hypocrisy.  The mere existence of Christian hypocrisy apparently invalidates all public Christian protests.   We could expect such thinking and accusations from opponents of Christianity.   What’s unnerving is that these predictable accusations and the imbalanced moral outrage they represent are coming more and more from Bible-believing Christians.      

A Lament for Sally (and the rest of us)

There is a difference between freedom and autonomy (literally, self-law).  Freedom allows flourishing within a defined context conducive to life.  To bloom bright and beautiful, flowers are “constrained” by their need for water, good soil, and sun.  Autonomy demands the right to redefine terms and refuse any restraint.  Pop culture and political activists in black robes have made it clear:  We demand autonomy.  No fixed definitions for social institutions and therefore none for us as individuals.  We demand the right to self-define, no matter whose freedom gets trampled in the process and no matter who gets hurt, including ourselves. As we will increasingly see, but will likely keep refusing to learn, self-definition is self-destruction.

The following satire is barely hyperbolic.  As these recent articles show – doctors in Belgium to kill healthy 24 year old  and  Aggressive pursuit of the right to die – this scenario is now nightmarishly close to materializing.    

Where Faith Goes to Die

It’s an old joke among Christian leaders to “accidentally” refer to seminary as cemetery.  “Back when I was in cemetery…er, seminary…” Or to a young prospect for the pastorate:  “So, you’re heading to cemetery…er, seminary, eh?  Well, hang in there.  You’ll be involved in real ministry eventually.”  The joker’s purposeful subliminal slip assumes that theological education and vital, faith-filled ministry are in tension with one another, if they’re not outright enemies.  Well, if seminary is where an aspiring minister’s faith goes to die, then Presbytery meetings must be purgatory.

For Presbyterian denominations within Christ’s church, Presbytery is the deliberative assembly of elders from a particular geographical region that gathers to make decisions which will guide the local congregations within that region.  The Synod (or General Assembly) is the Presbytery meeting of all Presbyteries in the denomination.  All the stereotypes, the alleged faith-killing aspects of seminary – dry discussions of dust-accumulating documents written by dead theologians who were barely interesting in their own day – are made to live again in debates among seminary graduates and other church leaders.  Any vitality from fresh ideas in these debates is short-lived; soon those sparks of life are laid to rest in the coffins of […]