Christian conversation about pastoral ministry often includes the expression “a pastor’s heart,” but what does that expression actually mean? Though Scripture may not use the exact phrase in question, it absolutely answers questions about the nature and the practical proof of pastoral affection. Read more
Posts from the ‘Musings’ Category
From a recent class on worship, we hammered out a brief, Biblical, working definition of what a local congregation should be pursuing as it worships the Lord as His holy temple here on the earth. I simply offer it below with no comment save one. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that when people worship the Triune God, their behavior toward others will become more Christlike. Otherwise, they are not truly worshiping.
Corporate Worship is the Church’s
Reverent & Obedient Service to God,
as Regulated by His Word,
in the Love of the Father,
through the Mediation of the Son,
by the Indwelling Power of the Spirit,
on the Lord’s Day and Other Duly Appointed Times,
Where We are Strengthened by God
to Love the Brethren,
Evangelize the Nations,
and Engage the Needy
in Preparation for the Consummation of the Kingdom.
Dear single ladies and single men, the church needs you. I know it can seem otherwise when we talk about the importance of covenant families (they are important) or ask you every week with a wink, “Is there someone special in your life?”, but the fact remains: the church needs you now, not just when you get married and have kids. Read more
As the time approaches for my family to move from Indiana to Pennsylvania next month, life has almost been too busy for reflection. Selling and purchasing a home. Finishing teaching one seminary class and finishing being taught in another. Trying to hand off responsibilities without fumbling or trying to hang on to them too long. Planning for not one but two (!) weddings for our children and their moves before we move. Though each day seems to bring more thoughts swirling about our minds and activity whirling about us, how thankful Miriam and I have been for those who have told us they are praying for us. The peace and presence of Christ are real.
One aspect of moving is the countdown. You begin to realize the number of times you have with the church and enjoying certain activities with the saints has always been limited in number. Yet now that number is known, and it is a single digit. From how many more sermons I have left to preach here to annual church events that our children know is their last, each one becomes a reminder of how imminent the move is. Read more
In an interview following his retirement, John Piper pointed out that the Bible does not necessarily mean there will not be any type of tear in heaven. Rather, the Scriptures testify that God will wipe away every tear there. Piper mused that every remembrance of sin and pain in heaven that brings a tear will be met with the immediate comfort of our ever-present Savior and lead us into a fuller experience of the joy of our salvation.
On addressing the question of which comes first, faith or repentance, Sinclair Ferguson reminds us of John Murray’s answer. He said that this is “an unnecessary question and the insistence that one is prior to the other is futile. There is no priority. The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance…saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with saving faith.” (“Faith and Repentance,” Tabletalk, June 2013
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Were you you when you were converted to Christianity? Or, asking about the same idea from a different angle: Are you you subsequent to your conversion? Every Christian should answer with a resolute “Yes!” and “No!” That’s the Bible’s answer. As such, it is an ancient, unequivocal answer bearing not one iota of influence from postmodern sentiments about truth. So what does this answer mean? How does it make sense? Let’s take our cue from Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Read more
During my seminary days attending Covenant Fellowship Church in Pittsburgh, I was blessed to sit under the preaching of Pastor Ken Smith. We witnessed people being converted, growing disciples, and joyful singing filling the sanctuary. One of the means the Lord used to produce this spiritual vitality was, with much prayer assistance, Ken’s Biblically-sound, Spirit-filled, covenant-revealing preaching. At times he would become so animated that a powerful point, followed by a dramatic pause, would echo in the sanctuary as well as reverberate in our hearts. I remember that conversations about the messages would follow after the service and throughout the week. Read more
As we prepare to see a son and then a daughter wed soon (he at the end of May, she the first week of June), my wife and I rejoice over the Lord’s goodness to our children. In so many ways we see how He has brought to them spouses who, designed by His gracious hand, complement them and will make their lives much more fruitful in many ways. As I have been praying for them and reflecting on the first recorded marriage in Genesis 2:18-25, here’s a question I have pondered. When the Lord God saw that it was not good for the original man, Adam, to be alone (Genesis 2:18), why did He bring the animals of the garden to him (Genesis 2:19)?
Clearly the Scriptures teach that it was to see what Adam would name them (Genesis 2:19). Yet given the context of God recognizing that Adam needed a helper, and the Lord forming one for him immediately after this animal-naming process was complete, more is going on here. Certainly Adam would have become more cognizant that he was created uniquely above all other earthly creatures, being made in God’s own image, and that would have led him to feel more acutely his loneliness. Surely that is the answer in part to this “new zoo review,” as many commentators teach. Yet how did this process not only reveal to him his loneliness but also point to a solution? Read more
We come now to the third and last post on the poetic life of the Christian.
As stated in the first post on this subject, the lives of believers are to be poetic in the sense they should be ones of contemplation, for we are people of the Scriptures. Recently in an interview in Tabletalk magazine, John Piper said:
The fact that hundreds of the pages of God’s inspired Word are devoted to poetry makes me aware that God thinks the sound of language matters…It is self-evident to me that poetry is not meant to be speed-read, but ordinarily read aloud. So now I see that God has forced me to hear. He has forced a slow savoring of the way things are written to be heard as well as seen.
Not only does Piper speak of contemplation, but of how “the sound of language matters” and that we should enjoy a “slow savoring” of the Bible’s poetry. In other words, poetry by nature has a beauty as we discussed in the second post, and our lives as redeemed by the Savior should be purveyors of the beauty and laughter of redemption to the world.
However, one other vital aspect of poetry, that mirrors the believer’s life, is that of suffering and pain. Read more
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert tops Crown and Covenant Publication’s best-seller list this year. This story of Dr. Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion to Christ and journey into the Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA) has captivated many. Dr. Michael LeFebvre edited and is the primary author of the church’s second best-seller of the year, The Gospel and Sexual Orientation. God is blessing the RPCNA, and many others beyond it, profoundly through these two saints. Their journeys into the RPCNA have a fascinating common element that might make some people a little uncomfortable. Their exposure to the denomination in the 1990s came through two pastors who were warmly engaged with other Christian groups. These same para-church ministries were being criticized in the church at the time. Though I was in high school and college at the time, I shared some of the criticisms. How should we evaluate this history? Ministry is messy, and this essay may be too, but we need to think about what God has done. Read more
I have been in the “theater of God’s glory” (Calvin’s words, not mine). People have told me for years that I need to get to Yosemite Valley. Who has the time? Five kids. Congregational duties. Personal studies. Denominational duties. Last week my family and I spent the week hiking the trails and being under the falls and granite cliffs. We hiked among 3000 year-old trees and enjoyed natural revelation at its finest.
Yosemite is the most beautiful place that I have ever been. The whole place cries, “Glory!” Huge granite mountains. Unadulterated beauty. Waterfalls in all directions. Now I understand why everyone who has been there smiles when you talk about it. It’s a place that speaks of the glory of God.
Yosemite is a spiritual place for sure. There is something very right about being in a place that is filled with beauty and makes you turn toward the Creator in thanks and praise. Yosemite is truly a theater of God’s glory.
As a Christian I am deeply interested in the message Yosemite speaks to her visitors. If it’s really as beautiful as I am claiming (and it is), then you would expect that her beauty would drive visitors to the God of the Bible. But she doesn’t. Is Yosemite being unfaithful? Is she speaking a lie to her visitors? Let’s look at some of the ways people have responded to the voice and song of this deeply spiritual valley. Read more
Does the following sentence make sense to you? “I found a BFF on FB with my Droid App; his blog made me LOL so hard I had to Tweet.” If so, you are plugged into the lingo of our digital era. The philosophical trends and technological advances in our day combine to make our words both abbreviated and multiplied. Acronyms abound as many millions of people broadcast terse bits of social or self-referential commentary; at the same time, online journals provide limitless space for linguistic catharsis. The ability to share information with so many people can be used in wonderful ways, but there are also significant dangers associated with ever-expanding mass media. Read more
Dr. Rich Holdeman, pastor of the Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church, contributor here at Gentle Reformation, and a dearly loved brother, just announced recently he has been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Though we want to respect the family’s privacy, we want to acknowledge our concern here for Rich and his wife Amy and their four daughters as well as seeking the prayers of the saints on their behalf.
Though this illness is a very serious one, may we pray that God would raise this faithful servant up from it like he did Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30). To paraphrase Paul, may God have mercy on him, and not on him only but also on us, so that we would not have sorrow upon sorrow.
James tells us in 1:22 that the person who hears God’s word without doing God’s word is engaged in self-deceit. Obviously, self-deceit is subtle. How are we to know when we are self-deceived in our walk with the Lord? According to James, we are successfully lying to ourselves when our lives do not change according to the pattern of the Word we have heard. Read more