Expository Preaching—The Antidote to Anemic Worship

The anemia of evangelical worship—all the music and energy aside—is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching.

In far too many churches, the Bible is nearly silent. The public reading of Scripture has been dropped from many services, and the sermon has been sidelined, reduced to a brief devotional appended to the music. Many preachers accept this as a necessary concession to the age of entertainment. Some hope to put in a brief message of encouragement or exhortation before the conclusion of the service. As Michael Green so pointedly put it: “This is the age of the sermonette, and sermonettes make Christianettes.”

Improving Our Call to Worship

How might we invite the congregation to bring them to Jesus and experience his grace rather than feeling more shame?

Certainly worrisome, fearful, sinful, or competing thoughts can prevent us from connecting with God as we worship. Yet the problem with this type of call right at the beginning of a service is that it is actually burdensome and guilt-producing rather than freeing. We are what we think according to Jesus, for thoughts come out of our hearts (Matt. 15:18-20). Like that young mom with little kids, our thoughts come with us into the sanctuary yanking on us left and right. So how does one just leave them outside or, in a sense, click his fingers and make them go away? As with the whole of the Christian life, God’s people need the help of Christ through God’s Word and Spirit.

My Church as a Social Club

Churches are much more than just social clubs. Yet the evidence suggests that our churches need to be social clubs.

Our churches must continue to be bastions of worship and Christian teaching. However, the social aspects of church life are also valuable. To the extent that societal personal relationships are challenged in a culture in which family instability and mobility are common, it is critical that our churches provide the social stability, strength, and support that our teens and emerging adults so badly need. Our churches cannot ignore their duties in Christian teaching, but neither can they ignore the social needs of the Christian community. Our church is not just a social club, but it must provide the social support necessary to facilitate stability in a culture of secular pressure.

God’s Sovereignty, Our Suffering (Bridges)

When the dark valleys in life come, this book will help you keep your eyes on the Lord and strengthen your trust in his Word.

This is one of the better books I’ve read on suffering and the sovereignty of God: Is God Really in Control by Jerry Bridges. This book is outstanding because it is very biblical, pastoral, and practical. You won’t find a detailed philosophical discussion of theodicy in these pages, but you will find hope, comfort, and encouragement in the sovereignty of God’s love in Christ. As always, Bridges writes in a straightforward manner that most Christians can understand. You can give this book to a 60-year-old Christian going through a trial or a newly married husband and wife grieving over a miscarriage. This is truly a book for the church.

Beware of Ministry Shaming

I fear that we are unaware of our tendency to cast shame upon those with different ministries than us

I don’t think ministry shaming happens with blatant intention, yet I think it is more common than we realize. We may let our passion for our particular ministry color our speech about it in a way that paints a picture of superiority and makes others feel shame for their ministry. We may have certain ideas about what kind of ministry is the best use of our time, so we unknowingly assume that it is the best for others. God may have created us to be an eye, and we may be so passionate about the work of eyes that we make hands and ears feel less important (1 Corinthians 12:14-26).

Taking Back Christianese #8: “It’s Not My Place to Judge Someone Else”

We have been conditioned to never condemn certain kinds of behavior lest we are chastened by an avalanche of social media accusing us of being legalistic and judgmental.

If we stick to the two positive uses of this phrase above, we will be in good shape. However, this phrase is routinely used to say that we can never tell someone that their behavior is wrong. In other words, it is sinning to tell someone they are sinning. But, there are two problems with this approach:

Why Papa of The Shack is Not Aslan of Narnia

Aslan faithfully represents Christ without claiming to be him; Papa claims to be God without accurately resembling him.

Here, then, is a key difference between Narnia and The Shack. Aslan is a character from a different world and a different system of beliefs who has some similarities to God the Son. The Shack presents a character in this world who claims to be God the Son. It also presents characters in this world who claim to be God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. To look at Aslan on the silver screen is to see a character who is like Jesus in some key ways; to look at Papa or Sarayu on the silver screen is to see characters who claim “I am God the Father” and “I am God the Holy Spirit.” (Let me say this clearly: My concern with portraying God the Father as Papa and God the Spirit as Sarayu has nothing to do with their race or gender, or even their humanity. The concern is portraying God as anything at all.)

Questions Regarding Girls, Testosterone, and Wrestling

The strange part is that Mack is not allowed to compete with the males, whom she identifies with, but is allowed to compete against females while on steroids

When it comes to sports, how we feel on the inside doesn’t cut the mustard. So whose rights are we going to protect? We need to begin asking the question, do decisions have consequences and for who? What might a person transitioning to another sex expect as a trade off in competitive sports? Do they get to have it all at the expense of those competing with their natural biological make-up? Do they get to identify as men but compete as women? Does sex reassignment surgery really level the playing field? And how can we be fair in sports, even protecting our women from unnecessary injury, and loving to LGBT individuals? How can they be loving to natural women?

The Cure for a Lack of Fruit in Our Christian Lives

As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you

“While the certainty of salvation is grounded upon the (objective) work of Christ, the certainty of assurance is grounded upon the (objective) promises God gives us and the (subjective) discovery of those promises at work in us. And it is this latter consideration that gives rise to one or two problems.”   The Westminster Confession of... Continue Reading

Is Genesis History? The Scientists say “Yes”

Over 143,000 people attended the premier showing of “Is Genesis History” on February 23rd (largest grossing movie of the day); encore presentations will be shown March 2 and March 7.

The production is high quality and moves quickly. Seven or eight top scientists in various disciplines are interviewed and provide expert testimony. This was genuinely informative to me. If you’re a pastor like me who may not be strong in scientific particulars, it is refreshing to have such strong reinforcement from well-credentialed and knowledgeable professionals.... Continue Reading

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety

The rise of Lent in non-Roman, Orthodox or Anglican circles is a fascinating phenomenon.

When Presbyterians and Baptists and free church evangelicals start attending Ash Wednesday services and observing Lent, one can only conclude that they have either been poorly instructed in the theology or the history of their own traditions, or that they have no theology and history. Or maybe they are simply exhibiting the attitude of the... Continue Reading

Christ’s Amazing Transition

Christ’s resurrection was His appointment as the Son of God-in-power

“It is only if the Son of God amazingly transitions from humiliation to exaltation that we can graciously transition from God’s just and holy wrath on us for our sin to his love toward us as his adopted children. In other words, we are sons of God by grace whereas Christ is God’s Son by... Continue Reading

Forty Three Years Of Federal Vision Theology

Federal Vision theology is Norman Shepherd’s theology

“The controversy simmered below the surface until the late 90s, when he retired from the ministry and began speaking at conferences on covenant and justification, where he advanced the same views that he had argued in the first phase of the controversy. In 2000 he published The Call of Grace (see this review and response)... Continue Reading

To Give a Good Answer, Sometimes You Have to Change the Question

As Christians representing God’s Word, we have to be able to explain the bigger picture

“In the case of homosexuality, pornography, and sex outside of marriage, we need to explain what God’s plan is for human sexuality. The reason there are negatives in the Bible is to protect the positives. God says no to certain sexual behavior because He has a beautiful plan for sexuality He wants us to protect.”... Continue Reading

The Typographical Reformation

One of the leaders of the church who recognized the importance of printing right from the start was the scholar-bishop Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, who in 1458 became Pope Pius II

“The printing press was an amazing ditto device that seemed to work like magic. Printing by woodcuts was known before the time of Gutenberg. This was a laborious process that involved carving letters or pictures onto a block of wood, inking the finished product, and pressing it onto vellum (a surface made from calfskin) or... Continue Reading

Are You Suffocating Your Creativity?

In recent years I’ve observed the drag upon my creativity

“I try to have a period of time between 30 and 60 minutes per day to let my mind latch onto concepts, ideas, or dreams. Often I do this while walking the dog in the morning or during my lunch break. This morning I wrestled through the introduction to my sermon and gleaned a half-dozen... Continue Reading

Tim Keller Stepping Down as Redeemer Senior Pastor

The influential Reformed leader is moving away from his NYC pulpit as his church becomes three.

Keller, 66, announced at all eight Sunday services that he will be stepping down from the pulpit corresponding with a decades-long plan to transition the single Presbyterian Church in America congregation—which has grown to 5,000 members since it began 28 years ago—to three particular churches.   Later this year, Redeemer Presbyterian will no longer be... Continue Reading

Repent of Lent: How Spiritual Disciplines Can Be Bad for Your Soul

Christ fasted for forty days in the wilderness on our behalf, so we wouldn’t have to; not as a model, but as a substitute

His passion was not a discipline that made his heart pure in its love for his Father, it was the price to be paid for our sins, and he paid it in full. Christians are called to suffer as Christ suffered, that is, with the same purpose. We are called to suffer not for ourselves, but for others. When we engage in fasting in his image, but for the purpose of purifying ourselves, we invert that image. Such penitence is ultimately focused on self, not on the other.

A Great Teacher Can Simplify Without Distortion

Once the teacher has mastered his material, how does he transmit it to his students?

A great teacher can simplify without distortion. This is the supreme test of understanding. If I truly understand something, I ought to be able to communicate it to others. There is a vast chasm that separates the simple from the simplistic. Jesus, the greatest teacher ever, taught in simple terms. But He was never simplistic. To oversimplify is to distort the truth. The great teacher can express the profound by the simple, without distortion. To do that requires a deep level of understanding. The great teacher imparts understanding, not merely information. To do that the teacher must understand the material being taught.

“Economic” Subordination of the Son? Part 1: Theologia and Oikonomia

There are three major use classes of “economy” at play in the current debate, and it is of utmost importance to discuss them separately and on their own terms as they relate to ESS

The problem, as I stated in the last post, is that there are too many definitions and variant uses of “ontological” and “economic” at play for a statement such as Ligonier’s to constitutively rule out the supposed Subordination of the Son that has been called into question. This has lead each participant to see His position as orthodox, with lofty origin in the Fathers, and yet all still disagreeing on what is and isn’t biblical and orthodox subordination of the Son.

The Body of Evidence

Bad as it is, the madness that is currently the only politically acceptable approach to gender is surely doomed.

Transgenderism, rather like abortion, puts the law in a contradictory position on the nature of personhood in our contemporary world. Just as Scott Peterson can be charged with murdering the unborn baby his wife could legally have aborted, so Desiree could be charged with David’s crime. As long as a change in self-identification is no defense at law regarding pre-transition crimes, then civilization may survive—but only at the cost of contradicting itself. And if ever it does become a valid defense, then the rule of law will be at an end. There is a lesson there somewhere.

How Not to Help a Sufferer

Think of these as four ways we, like Job’s friends, can pour burning coals on the heads of those already sitting in ashes.

Minimize the wrongdoing that caused the suffering. I’m not sure why we tend to do this, but we do. It’s that karma instinct. We say things like “I’m sure they meant well,” or “It can’t be that bad,” or “Well, in every conflict the blame is on both sides.” But the truth is we don’t know that someone meant well. Maybe they didn’t. We don’t know that it wasn’t that bad. Maybe it was. And blame is not always 50/50. Sometimes it’s 80/20. Sometimes it’s even 100/0. That seems to be God’s verdict on Job and his friends (Job 42:7). When you’re sitting with a sufferer, don’t minimize the sin that has contributed to their suffering.

When Storm Clouds Swirl Around You

Whatever our God does is only loving and kind and good, even when he brings fearful judgments on the earth or visits trials on our lives.

Because our God is infinite in his righteousness, almighty in power, infinite in his wisdom and love, we can absolutely trust him that every single thing he does in our lives or takes us through is completely under his control, the most righteous, wise, and loving thing he could do for us. Let us trust him with all our hearts.

Jesus Feminists & Forbidden Discourse

From a feminist standpoint, Jesus Feminists should listen to the very women—whether they be conservative or liberal—they claim to represent and defend.

How heartbreaking to watch Christian feminists churn out the bigotry accusations aimed at conservative Christians with little thoughtfulness and wisdom. Perhaps it’s just easier for Christian feminists to follow along with the popular progressive narrative than to weigh the fears of little girls’ parents, sexual assault victims, and rape survivors. But I guess the broader feminist movement isn’t paying attention to these women either.

Quantum Leap Into the Paranormal

Invitations to "nature spirituality" are becoming more openly and boldly paranormal.

In 1995, Jean Houston claimed that the ancient Egyptian myth of Isis (the occult goddess of the underworld) is the only way to save our declining Western culture. Her terminology has become more “hip” and more deliberately [?] obscure, but the message is the same–only direct connection with the powers of nature and with the... Continue Reading

3 Things We Must Believe about God’s Word

In Psalm 119 we see at least three essential, irreducible characteristics we should believe about God’s word.

And yet, we should go one step further and learn to see the goodness and rightness in all that God commands. We should love what God loves and delight in whatever he says. God does not lay down arbitrary rules. He does not give orders so that we might be restricted and miserable. He never... Continue Reading

Reading the Bible as a Coherent Story, but Not Too Much

Most heresies arise from someone “reading the Bible alone in his closet.”

It is important to read the Bible as a coherent story–but not too much. We must allow its continuities and its discontinuities to press themselves into those parts of our understanding where we are immature, where we are easily deceived, and where we have cultural and sinful blind spots.   Growing up as a new... Continue Reading

U.S. House Votes To Overturn Obama’s Planned Parenthood Edict

The U. S. House passed a resolution 230-188 on Feb. 16 to reverse a last-minute Obama administration order to protect some of Planned Parenthood’s funding.

Days before leaving office, President Barack Obama issued a directive barring conservative states from blocking Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from Title X funding. The resolution seeks to give states the option to direct Title X grant money to any kind of health center they wish. Direct taxpayer funding of abortion is still a... Continue Reading

Seven Costs of Disciple-Making

We could list dozens of costs, no doubt, but here let’s limit it to seven

“Perhaps what might help us over our hurdles is not to hide how costly disciple-making is, but to be utterly honest and explicit about the costs, and hold them out in the light for us to see, and then find whether something in us might just rise to the peculiar glory of it all.”  ... Continue Reading

Psalm 143 as a Template for Prayer in Temptation’s Hour

The Psalms are wonderful guides for our prayer.

You close with a declaration of faith.  You are confident God’s love will prevail.  God is with you.  You will overcome because Christ overcame for you.  You are His.  He is the Good Shepherd who sought you, keeps you and guards you.  He will not lose you.  A new start. A first step.  With your... Continue Reading