A Vengeful Spirit

Do not say, “I will repay evil,”
wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.
-Proverbs 20:22

It’s a drama as old as Haman’s hatred of Mordecai but as current and present as the latest movie trailer. Last night I saw the trailer for a new movie promising the star character’s pursuit of his family’s enemies at all costs. This called to mind the many other films that have followed the path of vengeance, always to my not-so-secret delight. But this morning, Proverbs reminded me, beautifully and clearly, of God’s call upon His people to leave vengeance to Him alone.

Maybe you don’t have movie-quality enemies whom you’re tempted to stalk endlessly and violently, but Scripture wouldn’t repeat this lesson if the vast majority of us weren’t tempted in one way or another to love revenge. So I hope you’ll consider with me the dangers of a vengeful spirit and the different (and much, much better) path to which God has called us. I believe the desire for revenge or vengeance is a current issue facing many Christians and our obedience to God in this area will be one of the most significant testimonies we have to God in an increasingly Godless nation.  


If Church Isn’t Necessary, Let’s Quit.

Here’s a proposition for the new year. I propose that if church isn’t necessary, we quit. I mean it. If it’s not necessary let’s cancel all of our services, board up the windows, lock the doors, and send everyone on their merry way. Sure, Christians have been gathering together to hear the Word read and preached, to sing with grace in their hearts, and observe the sacraments for over two thousand years. But if it’s not necessary let’s be the first generation to finally end the practice. Let’s silence the pulpit, close up the song books, dry up the baptismal waters, and put away the bread and wine. If church isn’t necessary, let’s quit.

Why? Because I’m convinced if it’s not necessary it’s too difficult and not worth my time. Listening to sermons is hard and it’s not really my learning style. So, let’s quit. Singing is outdated and the thought of someone hearing me slightly off key or out of tune is unbearable. Let’s quit. Praying together is boring and I’m too easily distracted. Let’s quit. I have my own friends and family and people at church can be hard to get along with. Let’s quit. It’s also too time […]


So You Want to Start a Book Club

Or at least I do. In fact, this year I’ve put out the call to my local church, assembling into one glorious band of reading brothers all those who have shown interest, or even partial interest, seeing how I’m not above cajoling the hesitant.

I’ve never done this before. Nor have I been a part of one. So it’s uncharted territory. But it sounds like fun.

Here’s how I envision it (and perhaps such visions of grandeur will inspire someone in another local body of believers to start a book club). I imagine us men tackling a book a month. The text could be political in nature, or theological, or cultural, or historical or whatever. No door stoppers. No arcane manuscripts from days medieval. Just good, thought-provoking books that not only challenge the mind, but sharpen the spirit. Or simply elicit joy.

I then imagine us sitting around together, once a month, like Oxford dons ornamented with cigars and golden drinks. As the evening waxes long, and as the shadows from the suit of armor in the corner deepen, we continue to pontificate into the night, solving the world’s problems and cracking the deep mysteries of life.

So that’s basically the format. […]


Reflections on Dr. Bruce Stewart

Last Friday, I attended the quietly glorious memorial service of Bruce Stewart. Dr. Stewart served faithfully and well at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary as Professor of Pastoral Theology and also as President (you can see an article about his life here). One of the remaining living professors from my years at RPTS, Dr. Wayne Spear, preached with his customary dignity and insight from the words of Simeon on seeing the Savior in Luke 2, highlighting in his message qualities Dr. Stewart had embodied. As Dr. Spear spoke, memories of his ministry and influence on me swirled together with the phrases I was hearing. Here are a few of my reflections.

“Compassionate and gracious like his Savior.” When the Lord called me into the ministry and I knew I was heading toward seminary, everything in my life already felt new at that time. Miriam and I were newly married, living in a new city, had just become parents, were brand new to the church and the Reformed faith, and were now scheduled to head away from our first home after less then three years of being there. Moving to Pittsburgh and entering into a whole new field of study seemed daunting to us. […]


Fair-Weather Friends And Family

“‘Tis the season to be jolly!” “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” That’s what most will have said over the recent festive season of Christmas & New Year. Of course the reality is quite different …many are not wonderfully jolly but lonely, suffering, grieved, anxious, elderly, heartbroken or ill; yet a few others are staring into the dark tunnel of terminal illness. Some of these dear folks are well-known to us as family, friends, believing brothers & sisters, colleagues or neighbours. This is their season to be sorry …the most dreaded, dark & dreary time of the year!

Of course any pangs of conscience that we might have been susceptible to over recent weeks, have largely been suppressed by the drip-feed of on-line entertainment and merriment – as we enjoyed & indulged ourselves to the full (or to excess), we almost entirely forgot about them: we barely gave them a thought & refused to let their needs & suffering interfere or impinge in any way with our festive schedule. Strange we should be able to find so much time for those who could repay us with presents or pleasure. The shocking thing is we did not have to be taught to […]


New Year Weariness

So the web is filling up with resolutions, lists of what to do, what goals to set for 2017; and doubtless sermons will be preached tomorrow exhorting people with all sorts of challenges for 2017 – maybe I’m just getting old, seen too many resolutions fail, seen people dispirited at the prospect of another year ending with disappointed hopes and unrealised dreams – so I’m not going to go that route!

Life can be wearying. New years with all their talk of fresh starts can be wearying – the same desires for improvement, the same desires to see the church grow, to see lost loved ones come to Christ – and another year comes and goes with no discernable change.

Weariness can set in at individual and congregational level. And we crank back on the enthusiasm level, afraid to keep living with high expectations amidst low outcomes.

So here’s my prescription for the New Year:

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3)

Consider him…

Consider all he has done for you. Consider all he is too you. Take what you already know, turn it over in your mind. Turn it upwards in praise. […]


A 2016 Thank You!

During a busy holiday week with friends and family coming and going, I have been on the internet less and face-to-face more. So I was a bit delayed in receiving some good news brought to my attention by some of my fellow GenRef Gents. Gentle Reformation was named as one of “My Top 10 Blogs of 2016” by Tim Challies. So I had to sneak away from company this morning and write a bit!

For several reasons, this recognition is quite an honor for us. Though some of us have attended conferences or interacted personally with Pastor Challies on occasion, for the most part he has been a “mentor at a distance” to us. The rich content of his blog combined with his caring, pastoral tone – qualities we sought to capture in the naming of our blog – have set a high mark that we have tried to emulate here. So as one who is a father and leader in the Christian blogging movement whom we respect highly, having Tim think of us in this way is surprising and quite humbling. To be honest, as Tim’s linking to us draws far more attention our way than we normally receive, it feels a bit like […]


Of Golf Balls and Badminton Birdies

“Understand that people are like golf balls or badminton birdies.” So said a friend giving a tip for effective leadership. You barely tap a golf ball, and it rolls clear across the carpet. You whack a badminton birdie with all your might, and it only moves a few yards. People in Jesus’ church can be like these when you confront them about a matter.

Some people are quite sensitive; a little tap is usually all they need. One gently spoken word will move them to thought and action. Swing too hard, and they’ll flee far from you.

Other people don’t get subtleties; you have to be blunt and hit pretty hard. Direct words cause them to see reality and change their ways. Swing too softly, and they will not progress in life.

Is it an oversimplification? Yes, but sometimes those of us who are badminton birdies need to have things spelled out in black and white in order to at least start understanding nuances. Golf ball personalities need to learn these things lest they be sensitive to everyone in the church except for the badminton birdies who fail to pick up on their “obvious” hints.

If we want to obey Jesus’ words “whatever you wish that […]


Coming February 2017–The Jerusalem Chamber

The Jerusalem Chamber is a unique collaborative podcast between pastors Shawn Anderson, Kyle Borg, Nathan Eshelman, and Joel Wood to provide a round table discussion on the Westminster Confession of Faith.

The Jerusalem Chamber gets its name from the meeting room at Westminster Abbey where, from 1643-1653, the Westminster Divines met to produce, among other things, the Westminster Confession of Faith. This confession remains one of the most enduring summaries of evangelical truth and remains the teaching of Presbyterian churches. Far from being an irrelevant relic of the past, it is our belief that the health of the church depends on continuing to pattern our doctrine, worship, and piety after it.

There are many good commentaries and works that explore the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The uniqueness of The Jerusalem Chamber podcast is that it provides an audio discussion with pastoral application of every paragraph of the confession. In February 2017 join Shawn, Kyle, Nathan, and Joel–four good friends and fellow pastors in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America–as they discuss “the humble advice of the Assembly of Divines.”

Find them at: www.JerusalemChamber.com and on Facebook and Twitter.


The Most Hurtful Comments of Job’s Friends?

Each time I read through the drama of the Book of Job, some new theme seems to stick out to me. The limit of Satan’s power. The majesty of God in his creation and rule. The incredible insights into the Lord’s sovereignty. The depths to which human suffering can take us. Or, as James pointed out earlier this year which pertains to the theme I want to share, how the Lord restored Job’s fortunes, including blessing him with children again.

For what has hit me in reading Job in my devotions recently are the hurtful comments his friends make with respect to children. Though Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar made many barbed remarks through the three cycles of their discourse with Job that impugned his character, questioned his faith, and mocked his knowledge, perhaps the ones that must have struck most deeply into the heart of Job were the ones they spoke regarding children?

Before I point these remarks out, remember the context. Job had seven sons and three daughters (1:2). The sons appeared to have been adult males at the time, each having their own homes. Apparently, during a season of the year much like the holiday time we are currently in, they […]