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 ‘Theology’ 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.
Rob Bell is back, and the critiques of his latest work are coming in. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to read What We Talk About When We Talk About God, but I’m starting to peruse the reviews. Having read and taught concerning his previous work, I know that Bell’s claims about Christianity must be taken seriously and answered seriously. It is precisely that fact which causes me to cringe a bit regarding the reviews of his most recent work. So far, they seem to follow the typical pattern of analysis and refutation, which is well and good. But, similar to the last batch of critiques, they contain an element which subtly but substantially undermines the otherwise helpful work within them. Read more
While studying for a recent sermon series on the Lord’s Supper, I read an interesting passage in John Calvin’s 1540 treatise on that sacrament. Toward the end of his treatise (in the extract quoted below), Calvin discusses the controversy between Luther and Zwingli over the nature of the eucharist. As he reviews the unfortunate conflict between these great reformers, Calvin counsels his readers to pursue such matters of doctrinal reformation in a spirit of gentleness. He urges us to ”hav[e] the patience to listen to each other in order to follow the truth without passion.”
It sounds like Calvin saw remarkable similarity in the sacramental theology of Zwingli and Luther. According to Calvin, much of the controversy that subsequently overshadowed their positions was due to poorly chosen words, fiery reactions, and a refusal to listen to what opponents actually intended once trenches had been dug. There is much wisdom in Calvin’s assessment of this historic debate. Perhaps if he were alive today, Calvin might himself contribute a post to a blog called “Gentle Reformation” with words like these for us to learn from. Read more
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
- For an engaging and lively discussion on church polity (don’t worry, you won’t fall asleep… I think), check out the following 9 Marks panel discussion, Polity Is For Everyone.
- When I heard that James White and N.T. Wright were going to be discussing the subject of justification, I did a somersault (Or maybe I just quickly right-clicked my mouse on the download button). Either way, I was thrilled with the prospects of hearing these two engage the subject. And you should be too! It is the February 9th episode of Unbelievable.
- Reformed Forum recently interviewed Melissa Kruger, author of the book The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World. Covetousness is rarely discussed in our culture, but in this discussion, the subject is helpfully dissected. It is both insightful and convicting, so beware my fellow materialistic Americans.
- For a smart and interesting conversation about freedom, check out What Does Freedom Require? A Conversation With Os Guinness. This is hosted by Dr. Al Mohler.
- Lastly, it would be nearly a crime not to draw attention to Piper’s farewell sermon. After having served so faithfully, and after having had such a profound impact on so many lives (myself certainly included), I happily and heartily recommend his sermon. The message is entitled, “God Raised Your Great Shepherd From The Dead.”
Presbyopia is a “medical condition where the eye exhibits a progressively diminished ability to focus on near objects with age.” That sounds like a horrible condition, of course, but this is not the presbyopia of which I am speaking. I want us to have a spiritual presbyopia, diminishing our focus on small things and looking toward the Kingdom of Christ advancing throughout the nations. The word presbyopia is made up of two Greek words, “presby” comes from the word meaning elder, and “opia” comes from the Greek word for vision. So for a spiritual definition of presbyopia- we are talking about having a spiritual vision for the increase of the church, a vision which should be shared by the elders of the church, a vision of growth, multiplication, discipleship, and church planting. Read more
Formal introductions are made, the crowd applauds, and the Christian and non-Christian position themselves behind a lectern, notes in hand. It is a debate, a venue where two worldviews collide in an open forum.
Ever since the advent of the internet, there has been a veritable explosion of resources and recordings of such encounters. One need only check out the Veritas Forum, or Justin Brierley’s UK radio show Unbelievable, for two more recent examples. There are hundreds of debates just waiting to be heard out there. Thousands and thousands of recorded hours. Most are a mere click away.
Over the past decade, I’ve been afforded the luxury of having a job where I can listen to such exchanges. It’s been an absolute joy. But if I may be so bold, I’ve noticed a problematic tendency in the area of Christian apologetics, particularly as expressed in the domain of public discourse. 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
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
Recently I was asked by a young lady, a lover of the gospel as well as people, this question, “Does God love unbelievers?” She obviously was wrestling with working out her theology which stresses the sovereign love of God revealed in Christ to the elect with the very practical matter of sharing Christ with unbelievers, which she is doing. Surely the blanket statement “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” is too trite a thing to say to those bent on sin. Yet she wondered if you can communicate in any manner God’s love to an unbeliever, knowing that the Bible says not only that God hates sin but that He “hates all who do iniquity” (Psalm 5:5)?
I answered her question with one of my own. Would God ask you to love someone He is not willing to love?
For Christ does tell us quite clearly that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Then immediately after this command He offers the heavenly Father’s example. God’s practice is to cause the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the wicked and the just. By alluding to God’s providence in this way, Christ was in essence saying the Father demonstrates love even to His enemies and thus so should we. Yet here is where careful distinctions are needed to avoid confusion.
A reader named Justin submitted the following question to our “Gentle Answers” feature found on the right sidebar. My answer to him is below.
I just read your post on the unpardonable sin entitled the “Iron Cage“. I have struggled with this particular topic for a few years now. A few years ago I indeed had not be watchful and been somewhat lax in my spiritual walk. Because of an awful thought I had a few years ago, during that time, while reading the unpardonable sin passage in Mark I have feared that I have committed the unpardonable sin. Ever since then I have feared that all that awaits me is eternal punishment and this terrifies me. I have earnestly prayed for God’s forgiveness over and over but still feel anxiety. I feel as if because of what I’ve done and thought, the promises of God no longer apply to me and He has left me and I can’t be forgiven for the things I’ve thought; I can’t imagine standing before Him and those particular thoughts being brought up; I hate them! I noticed you quoted J.I. Packer in your post and I read that portion of his book Concise Theology and he goes on to say that if someone has anxiety that they’ve committed this sin that itself is evidence they have not, due to the hardheartedness of such a sin. However your excerpt from Bunyan shows a man who is very remorseful for what he has done yet finds no mercy; his anxiety over committing the sin has no bearing on his state whatsoever. Could you clarify?
Thank you for your honest question. I appreciate this opportunity to clarify this issue for you. Though I do not know you nor your heart, I do want to encourage you. Please allow me to state succinctly at the outset my answer to your concern over whether you have committed the unpardonable sin, then explain it. Read more
The Puritans are derided as legalistic killjoys whose meticulous writings tend to parse the life out of true piety. Even a quick overview of their work will reveal their ability to write exhaustively on a topic and to exhaust the reader in the process! However, the careful, charitable reader of Puritan works will spy in them a faith of studied simplicity, one from which we could benefit in the midst of current battles among believers. Read more
One my greatest New Year’s Eve/Day highlights is singing the 77th Psalm to the tune Auld Lang Syne. For me, this tradition began in Grand Rapids, MI, in the manse of Rev. and Mrs. Lanning. Bringing in the new year with God’s Word sung is a marvelous tradition that I have brought into my home and promoted among my congregation in Los Angeles.
The 77th Psalm begins with the psalmist crying out to God and refusing to be comforted. He then begins to recall the days of old and in his heart’s meditation he confronts himself with a series of self-examining questions.
Self-examination at the end of year and at the beginning of a new year is worthy of our consideration as Christians. Here are some of the psalmist’s questions that you may also examine yourself as you begin 2013:
Will the Lord cast off forever? Will he be favorable no more? Has his mercy ceased forever? Has his favor failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he shut up mercy in anger? What does the psalmist conclude following examining the character of God in relationship to his merciless perception?
You see, in these questions we find the obvious! Jesus is faithful to his people- he is faithful to his promise. This is not a problem with God’s character. His covenant faithfulness will continue by “his right arm.” As you begin 2013, take time to sing some self-examination, and as you do, turn your heart and mind to the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s “right arm” of faithfulness.
Enjoy your psalm singing, God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises, and the richest blessings of grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. And on behalf of the gentlemen of Gentle Reformation, Happy New Year!
Psalm 77: 1-14a, United Presbyterian Psalter, 1912. Tune: Auld Lang Syne
I thought upon the days of old, The years departed long,
I held communion with my heart, By night recalled my song.
My heart inquired with anxious care, Will God forever spurn?
Shall we no more his favor see? Will mercy ne’er return?
Forever shall his promise fail? Has God forgotten grace?
Has he withdrawn his tender love, In anger hid his face?
These doubts are my infirmity, My thoughts at once reply;
I call back years of God’s right hand, The years of God Most High.
I will commemorate, O Lord, Thy wondrous deeds of old,
And meditate upon Thy works Of pow’r and grace untold.
O God, most holy is Thy way, Most perfect, good and right;
Thou art the only living God, The God of wondrous might.
C.S. Lewis opens his brilliant, prophetic series of lectures entitled The Abolition of Man with these words: “I doubt whether we are sufficiently attentive to the importance of elementary text books.” Lewis alerts his audience as to what children in his day were being taught regarding the philosophy and ethics of human knowledge, propaganda which, when uncritically absorbed into the soul, guts our very humanity.
As to how this dehumanizing happens, I’ll not spoil the book for you – please read it if you’ve not already! Suffice it to say, Lewis was right. Read more