What do mad Christians sing?

Awhile back, Carl Trueman wrote a great little article titled “What Can Miserable Christians Sing.” Here’s a summary, in the author’s own words:

“My thesis was very simple: there is nothing in the typical book of hymns or praise songs that a woman who has miscarried a baby, or a parent who has just lost a child to cancer, can sing with honesty and integrity on a Sunday.

“The desperation and heartache of such moments are things which we instinctively feel have no place in a religion where we are called on to rejoice in the Lord always.  Yet there is a praise book which taps such emotions and gives the broken-hearted honest words with which to express their deepest sorrows to God.

“It’s called the book of Psalms; and its recovery as a source of public praise in the Christian church can only help the church overcome its innate triumphalism and make room for the poor and the weak; that is the very people that Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians which are the normal kind of church member.

The Skeptic and the Problem of Evil

The skeptic looks around at the world and concludes that there is a profound problem. He sees that evil is a real and terrible thing, a power that not only creeps about in the heart of man, but permeates nature. Tornadoes rip homes apart. Lungs fill with fluids. Cancer spreads. People starve. Children are run over. Men sink to the bottom of oceans.

History is a museum of death.

Having recognized the horrific nature of such things, the skeptic turns his gaze heavenward and says, “There is no God. Or if there is one, he is a monster.”

All of this seemingly incontrovertible evidence secures in the skeptic’s mind a certain assurance that he is interpreting the data correctly.

But why does the skeptic assume the worst about God? Instead of asking himself whether such evil is meant to speak to him personally, he instinctively raises an accusing finger towards his Maker.  What if the skeptic has it all turned around? What if all human suffering, especially the suffering of the Son of God, is meant by God to portray, for dull souls like ours, the unimaginable ugliness and offensiveness of sin? What if God subjected the world to futility in order to show […]

The Plastic Man

Growing up in the 1970’s in the Midwest, I loved watching sports on television.  NFL Football and the Chicago Cubs on WGN with announcer Jack Brickhouse were my favorites.  But I relished watching the Olympics when they came on.  During the two weeks they took place, my family would gather around the television each evening to watch.  Like many Americans, my nationalistic pride would soar as Team USA racked up the medals.

During the 1976 Summer Games, I still remember as a young teenager watching Bruce Jenner compete and win the Decathlon, the premier event of the Olympics.  The underdog against the favored Soviet Union athlete and previous Olympic champion, Nikolai Avilov, Jenner excited the nation as we rooted for this chiseled, flowing haired competitor clad in his red tank top and blue shorts.  Not only did he pull off the upset with his running, jumping, hurdling and hurtling, but he set a world record in the process.

Yet life goes on.  Though I remember afterwards seeing Jenner’s winning pose with outstretched arms on Wheaties boxes and his smiling, fresh face on the occasional sports commentary, to be honest like most of my childhood sports idols he simply disappeared from my radar screen.  Since I […]

Appreciating the Trinity

I don’t know if I’m allowed to write what I’m about to, but I will anyway. I’m sometimes disappointed by the way many of us identify ourselves as “Christians.” Can I say that? No, it’s not because I’m seeking some existential freedom from labels. I happily own all kinds of different -isms for myself. Nor is it because I think “Christian” is an unbiblical word. On the contrary, it was in Antioch “the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26). Rather, it’s because I have the sneaking suspicion that many of us have reduced this term “Christian” to identify ourselves only in relation to Christ. To be sure that’s incredibly important. Our union with Christ is the backbone of salvation. But I wonder, when you identify yourself as a “Christian,” is there a self-conscious Trinitarianism behind that label?

The doctrine of the Trinity isn’t a marginal or secondary doctrine appended to our belief in Christ, as if we can remain neutral to the Father or the Spirit. One writer was so bold as to assert, “Between the Trinity and Hell there lies no other choice.” Is he wrong? I don’t think so. A non-triune God is not the God of the […]

The Perfect(ionism) Excuse, part 3 in a series on sanctification …

Do you believe that it is possible to overcome a besetting sin in your life?  And do you believe that this conquering is possible in this life?  If your answer is no, or a highly qualified “yes”, what is it that keeps you from answering instead with a resolute, unqualified “yes”?  And is that hesitation truly consistent with what Scripture says is possible for the sons and daughters of the living God?

If you are Reformed in your theology, or are familiar with different denominational takes on this topic, the term “perfectionism” may have come to mind in light of these questions.  Suffice it to say, I am not advocating the idea that Christians can attain a state of sinless perfection in this life, even with regard to willful sins.  The closer we draw to Christ, the more aware we become of sins which had been lurking undetected in our hearts, the kind which eventually give rise to overt and obvious sin (Matthew 5:21-22).  These words from Psalm 139 are appropriate to pray until our dying day: “Search me, O God, and know my heart.  Try me and know my anxious thoughts!  And see if there is any offensive way in […]

Let Us Love One Another

Recently, one reader wrote to Gentle Reformation giving thanks for the teachings, exhortations, and analyses. The reader went on to suggest that more stories from the battlefield – accounts of what Jesus is doing – might encourage to our readers further.

The difficulty is that Jesus always ministers personally, and many if not most accounts of what he is doing should not be told on the internet. But the Lord has been pleased to provide a testimony in our local congregation that may encourage you.

The Lord has sent a slow but steady trickle of international people into our midst. They come for ESL classes, English Bible classes, church social events, or to worship and join the church. Some are Christians and others are not yet. Most of what is happening is quite small – a ride here or there, a meal in a home, babysitting, help completing documents, discussions of cultural events and the like. More often than not, the context involves multiple people from the church.

In the last few months, their independent testimony has captivated me with one common theme. It is something like, “We have never seen people love each other like this in our culture.” These comments have come from […]

The Day God Spoke to Katy Perry

While many Christians were in their local church hearing God speak in the reading, singing, and preaching of his Word, Katy Perry was preparing for the half-time performance of Super Bowl XLIX. I suppose for any artist this is a once in a life time chance and is probably the biggest venue they will ever play. According to recent ratings, Katy’s performance was the most-watched halftime show in history, with 118.5 million viewers. To whom does she attribute the success? Well, in her own words, to God. “It’s funny, I was praying and I got a word from God and He says, ‘You got this and I got you.’”

Not surprisingly her comment caused a flurry of responses. Some people find it impossible that God would speak to her. Though raised in a Pentecostal home Katy no longer identifies herself as a Christian, she publicly promotes movements that are contrary to the Bible, and one would need to do gymnastics to find redemptive quality in her music. Others are suggesting this as her “burning bush” or “Damascus road” experience–God confirming his wayward daughter that he hasn’t let her go.

There’s probably been enough commentary on all of this to make most people […]

Let The Nations Be Glad

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church.  Worship is.  Missions exists because worship doesn’t.  Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.  When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.  It is a temporary necessity.  But worship abides forever.

Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions.  It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory.  The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God.  ‘The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!’ (Psalm 97:1). ‘Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee!  Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!’ (Psalm 67:3-4).

But worship is also the fuel of missions.  Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching.  You can’t commend what you don’t cherish.  Missionaries will never call out, ‘Let the nations be glad!, who cannot say from the heart, ‘I rejoice in the Lord… I will be glad and exult in […]

Jesus Our Sin-Bearer

Over at The Cripplegate, in an article entitled “In what way was Jesus made sin on the cross?“, Nathan Busenitz tackled the meaning of the phrase “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf” from II Corinthians 5:21.    In what way was Jesus “made sin”?

To answer that question, he asked another, more thorough one.  “Did Jesus become the literal embodiment of sin, or take on a sin nature, or become a sinner when He died at Calvary?”

That question Busenitz answered with a resounding “No!” by developing the doctrine of imputation.  As B.B. Warfield states, there are three great acts of imputation in the history of mankind.

In the developed theology thus brought into the possession of the Church, three several acts of imputation were established and expounded. These are the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity; the imputation of the sins of His people to the Redeemer; the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to His people.” (Studies in Theology, “Imputation”)

It is this second act of imputation that Busenitz treated.  He laid out the case that Jesus did not in any way become a sinner on the cross or literally become sin itself, but rather we are […]

Elon’s (and Your) Historical Record: Date. Dash. Date.

As the ancient church historian was writing the book of Judges, he must have asked himself, “What do I know about Elon?” (Judges 12:11-12) The other historians around him must have scratched their heads, much like you may be doing as you secretly ask, “Who is Elon?” As the ancient historian summed up the whole life of a political and spiritual leader in ancient Israel, he came to the conclusion that not much was known about Judge Elon. His answer was that Elon lived. Elon worked. Elon died.

“After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.”

We might hope that an ancient historian would record more for us, but the fact is that every life on this earth will be summed up as Elon’s life is here summed. You live. You work. You die.