The Christian Traveller

I spent all of Wednesday of this past week travelling from Northern Ireland to Philadelphia, and the hours of sitting in airports and being herded in queues on and off of various modes of transportation reminded me of an excellent article written by my good friend Jeremy Walker and which I am shamelessly reproducing below, with his permission.

I re-read the article while sitting at the departure gate of Boston airport on the final leg of my journey. As I reviewed the previous 14 hours of travel and assessed it in light of Jeremy’s advice I felt that I probably hadn’t done anyone any positive harm (although I suspect anyone sitting within a few seats’ radius of me when I dropped off to sleep may have disagreed! I’m reminded of a comment by Bill Bryson about his sleeping habits while travelling: ‘Most people who go to sleep on a plane look like they just need a blanket; I look like I need medical attention.’) On the other hand I did feel a dissatisfaction that I hadn’t done something more positive to help a fellow traveller – I hadn’t noticed anyone needing help with their bags or looking lost. I’m not sure […]


Browse Worthy: Clear Thinking on Recent Islamic Activities

From the Charlie Hebdo attack to Duke University now sounding forth the azan, an Islamic call to prayer, on Fridays, we are being confronted more and more with the need to think clearly about the Muslim world.  Here are some helps.

Theological Extremism in a Secular Age – In this post, Al Mohler shows through the American press’ coverage and editorials on the attack in Paris how unprepared the Western world is to deal with the worldview promoted by Islam. Though I have a point of disagreement about his teaching on a Christian view of blasphemy of the Triune God, this article helps clear the fogginess.

No, We Are Not Charlie Hebdo – Rod Dreher at The American Conservative explains why we should stop and think before we start chanting with the mob.

Who are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists? – The BBC has this in-depth report about this cultic group that is destroying and murdering Christians in Nigeria.  Here also is satellite imagery of the most recent devastation.  One could ask why the American media does not cover this greater atrocity with the same fervor it has the Charlie Hebdo attack, but to raise it is to answer it.

End the Muslim Prayer Call at Duke University – One has to admire Franklin […]


Praying for Your Leaders?

It is easy to become frustrated with politics and government. It is easy for us to throw up our hands as Christians and say, “Well, politics is not the essence of Christ’s kingdom, so I’m just not going to invest much (if any) energy there.” Some find it discouraging because it seems that we are often “losing” political battles. But friends, we are only really losing when we are unfaithful to Jesus. Even the martyrs know that they won even though they lost in the face of persecution from earthly authorities as they stood for truth (Revelation 6:9-10). If we are being faithful in Christ, then we are always winning. So, it might be a good time to ask if you are being faithful to God’s call on your life with respect to your leaders, especially as lawmakers take up their work afresh across our land in the month of January.

There will always be considerable debate about what God requires of us as we relate to government. But we are all to pray for our leaders; that is one indisputable truth. Paul urges in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and […]


A Trampling Church – A Brief Reflection on Romans 16:20

It’s an easy verse to miss. Tucked away in the final chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, sandwiched between his personal greetings and doxological conclusion, the following words of promise emerge, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20a). It is an interesting statement, and not a little curious. The allusion is plain enough though. Paul is picking up the language of Genesis 3:15. But instead of referencing Christ, which one would expect, he instead says that Satan is going to be crushed under the feet of the Roman saints. Their heels will suntribo the Serpent, which is to say, trample him or break him into pieces. How can Paul say this? Didn’t Christ crush the head of the Serpent?

Here an awesome truth emerges that sheds light on the mission of the church; a mission that corresponds with God’s strategy of displaying His glory to the principalities and powers in the heavenly realms; a mission that includes our stomping on the enemy. In order to get at this, the doctrinal mountain known as union with Christ needs to be ascended. Only there will the vantage point prove lofty enough to provide a proper perspective.

In […]


The Trinity Hymnbook (Part 3)

In the first post in this three part series, we looked at how the Psalms, authored by our Triune God, contain many references and allusions to the Trinity. In the Psalms, often we are reading and singing of the Father, Son, and Spirit without perhaps the awareness we should have.

With the second installment, we saw how these songs were prepared especially for Jesus Christ by the Father to guide and comfort him in his atoning ministry as our Mediator.  Then, as we live in union with Christ, the Psalms lead us, as David Murray says in his work Jesus on Every Page, to sing of, in, and with Jesus.

In this final segment, we’ll consider seven of the ways the seven-fold Spirit of God is found in the Psalter.

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The Spirit’s authorship is apparent.

We know that all of Scripture is “inspired by God” (II Timothy 3:16) or, as is closer to the original meaning, “God-breathed.” The Bible contains the breathed-out words of God through his Spirit.  In all of Scripture men were moved by the Holy Spirit to give us the very thoughts of God (II Peter 1:20-21).

As one of the thirty-nine Old Testament books, clearly the Psalms […]


A Letter to the Doubting Christian

Dear Mr. Doubting,

Thank you for your last letter. It was honest and, I am sure, difficult to write. I myself have frequently been where you are–asking questions, doubtful about the truth, searching for certainty, unsure of my own belief. Doubt has many channels into the heart, and I too am familiar with the tidal wave of inquisitiveness that seems to fill them all. I have wondered at times if I would ever recover. Such is the tragic position many Christians find themselves in. They are, by all accounts, the unstable man, “like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).

Now, let me be clear. It isn’t the asking of questions that concerns me. By all means ask questions! If we’re to have an informed faith–which Christianity is in desperate need of today–we must have an inquisitive faith. Nor is it difficulty of mind that troubles me. After all, as one of Job’s friends asked, “Can you find out the deep things of God?” (Job 11:7), and, as Peter noted, even some of Paul’s writings are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). Neither is it ignorance concerning unrevealed things, “How unsearchable are his judgments […]


Our Father’s Likeness

What is your gut reaction, honestly, when you hear the phrase: “Obedience to God’s law”?  Do you smile, or do you cringe?  And why?

In the previous entry on this subject, we considered our tendency to think of the Lord Jesus in terms more appropriate to Superman than to the Savior.  We appreciate that he’s saved us from God’s wrath against us as sinners, but we struggle to surrender the autonomy which is the essence of our sinfulness.  We want rescue more than we want redemption.  Yet Scripture teaches us that salvation in Christ is about far more than being rescued from the consequences of our sin.  Salvation has to do not only with what we’re saved from, but what we’re saved for: a life lived more and more in keeping with God’s moral law.

Sadly, however, when so many Christians hear the word “law” in a discussion about God, they bristle.  In our contemporary Christian culture, the word has become synonymous with legalism.  Legalism, however, is an abuse of God’s law resulting from its being redacted or reduced (Deuteronomy 4:1-2; Matthew 5:19.)  Abusing God’s word is inevitably abusive to God’s people.

Relationally cold, unnecessarily strict homes and churches are spiritual dungeons in […]


A new pen pal

If you haven’t filled up your reading card for 2015, may I suggest The Letters of Samuel Rutherford? You will rarely find a pen pal so encouraging and spiritual. Even reading one or two of his letters a day is a great way to be reminded of what true, Christ-centered spirituality really looks like. C.H. Spurgeon himself said that Rutherford’s letters were the closest thing to inspiration that can be found in the writings of men! 


Crass Plagiarism? The Problem of the Relationship of the OT to Ancient Near Eastern Literature – John Currid

After listening to these three lectures, I felt like a carnivore at a steakhouse. Everything was tasty and meaty.

Ever since the discovery of ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian texts, the question of the relationship between these ancient texts and that of the OT has been a matter of considerable dispute. On the one side, there are those who see Moses as little more than a borrower of ideas, a kind of plagiarist who unilaterally adopts the literature of his day. Liberals, of course, tend this direction. One such scholar stated the matter like this,

“We have seen that the biblical chronologies are not grounded on historical memory, but are rather based on a very late theological schema that presupposes a very unhistorical worldview. Those efforts to use the biblical narratives for a reconstruction of the history of the Near East, in a manner comparable to the use of the archives at Mari and similar finds, can justly be dismissed as fundamentalist.”(1)

On the other side reside conservative scholars. While there are a number of different approaches and responses, Dr. Currid argues that Moses did in fact utilize the imagery/language, of say, his Egyptian context, but for polemical purposes. Yes, Moses did […]


A Gentle Reminder

Often in conversations, when someone hears that our blog is named Gentle Reformation, I get a funny look and/or a “Huh, that’s interesting.” Follow-up comments then usually go down two well-worn paths.

Many express that they do not think of the words “gentle” and “reformed” going together, as their experience of Calvinists – or at least their impressions of them – are of the hard-nosed, nostril-flaring, looking-down-the-nose types. Especially on the internet, they have run across anything but gentleness when it comes to discussions of reformed theology.

Others – always guys and often the type the first group have run across – basically think the name is wimpy, even girly.  A good number of the young, restless, and reformed types often combine their Calvinism with strong doses of machismo.  The image they want is that of a husky, bearded man wearing a “I’m a John Knox Homeboy” T-shirt with a beer in one hand, a cigar in the other, and a pistol strapped to his side.  Gentle to them is just plain embarrassing.

So perhaps it would be helpful to give a reminder of why we chose this name and, along with it, a few updates.

Gentleness is to be a quality of Christians and their leaders.  In […]