Pray for ISIS

Setting aside politics, anger, outrage and instead looking to God in faith, I must pray. Yet how should I pray?

As I have read the news, I have been angry at Islamic radicals and at our incompetent president and his weak foreign policy. I have been saddened by the loss of culture and concerned for the well-being of my Christian brothers and sisters, many of whom have fled their homes and sought refuge in Kurdish... Continue Reading

Are Christians “Intolerant Haters”? The Charges are Not New

Truth be told, this is not the first time Christians have received such labels. Indeed, they were given to Christians from the very beginning.

In sum, the stories of Pliny and Nero are both encouraging and frightening at the same time.  They are frightening because they sound eerily similar to the kind of language and accusations being used today against Christians.  But, instead of Christians being asked to pay homage to the Roman gods to prove their acceptability, they... Continue Reading

The Ordinary Means of Grace

Unfortunately, being an ‘ordinary means of grace church’ is becoming less and less common in our day.

When I meet people and they ask me about Providence Presbyterian Church – “What kind of church is it?” – I will tell them about our denomination (“We’re PCA”); I will tell them about our worship (“We have simple worship, singing Hymns and Psalms along with some contemporary hymns with piano accompaniment”); I will tell... Continue Reading

5 Things Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean

Forgiving others is clearly commanded by God, and deep down most believers want to, but it isn’t always easy, and lots of questions arise.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean end of discussion. How many of us husbands have said to our wives “I said I was sorry. So why do we have to keep talking about it?” Even when we forgive, it can be really important for the one sinned against to share how the offender hurt or affected them. We need... Continue Reading

Bring Back the Holy Kiss

With touch in our culture so often either co-opted by sexualization or horrifically corrupted by abuse, the right expression of physical affection in the Christian church is difficult to figure out.

The holy kiss is not subject to personal choice and individual preference. Touch in the church is not offered to someone we especially like as a sign that he or she has been singled out for intimate attention. The holy kiss is not exclusive. In contrast to the man in James 2:2-4 who tells the rich man to... Continue Reading

China Removes Crosses From Two More Churches in Crackdown

The crackdown on Christianity in Zhejiang also coincides with a nationwide campaign that has been directed at legal rights defenders, pro-democracy advocates and liberal online commentators.

At the Wenling Church in Taizhou, congregants said hundreds of Christians sang hymns at daybreak on Friday as the riot police surrounded the church, which is anchored by a distinctive clock tower capped by a bright red cross. In a phone interview, one congregant, Lemon Huang, said the show of force was overwhelming and unnecessary.... Continue Reading

No Other Name: All Or Nothing

It may seem pious to invoke saints or the blessed virgin but it is not. It diminishes Christ’s person and finished work.

Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus alone is “able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him” because he alone is our substitute and our representative before God. Mary did not obey and die for us. St. Christopher did not obey and die for us. Further, Mary, St Anne, and St... Continue Reading

Church Cannibalism: Should Pastors be Called Out for Pac-Man Tactics?

Is this Kingdom building or empire building? I see these tactics doing three things specifically that work against the Kingdom.

I believe church cannibalism is a bad thing for the Kingdom. Why then is there so little discussion of these pac-man tactics? Why no accountability within these mega structures for this kind of activity? Where are the elders and directing boards and what are they thinking when such tactics are carried out again and again?... Continue Reading

The Exclusivity of Treasure Pursuit

It's spiritually impossible to pursue the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of self simultaneously

That’s why “The Exclusivity of Treasure Pursuit” Principle is bad news for our inner Pharisee. Christ has raised the standard of righteousness to an unattainable extreme, and there’s no way we can please God without the grace of Jesus. But if we incorrectly convince ourselves that it’s possible to serve two masters, we’ll believe that... Continue Reading

Expectant Churches vs. Reactive Churches

Many churches live in reactive mode rather than expectant mode

Reactive churches are led by “fireman” leaders. That is, their leaders spend their time “putting out fires” rather than casting vision and raising up leaders. Keeping the congregation happy today consumes more energy than preparing them for tomorrow…. expectant churches are led by “ignitor” leaders. That is, their leaders see their responsibility as igniting fires among the... Continue Reading

Ministry to Grieving Parents

Knowing what to say and when to be there but quiet

Don’t expect that if you only knew the right thing to say or do, the right book or counselor to recommend, that everything would be OK. This kind of loss will hurt a while. Your persistent presence with us, refusing to give up on us, your choosing to be at ease with our sadness and struggle,... Continue Reading

25 Things Successful Teachers Do Differently

Are teachers reaching their students? Here are 25 things successful educators do differently

What students take away from a successful education usually centers on a personal connection with a teacher who instilled passion and inspiration for their subject. It’s difficult to measure success, and in the world of academia, educators are continually re-evaluating how to quantify learning. But the first and most important question to ask is: Are... Continue Reading

Kurdistan Declares “Safe Haven” for Christian Refugees

Kurdistan has declared a safe-haven for Christian refugees, as Islamist militants extinguish the Christian presence in Iraq’s second city, Mosul

A ray of hope is the affirmation by Kurdish leaders that Christian refugees are being offered a safe haven in Kurdistan and will be welcomed, protected and free to practise their religion. Ainkawa is a mainly Christian district of Erbil, the Kurdish capital….‘In 2003 we had around 2,000 families living in Ainkawa, now we have... Continue Reading

Are We Too Concerned with Demons?

Too much concern with Satan and demons means that we focus less of our attention on Christ

We do not have to be possessed by a demon to get drunk. There is enough abiding wickedness in us to do it all by ourselves. We can never say, “The Devil made me do it.” We can say that we are tempted, incited, or seduced by Satan, but not that we are controlled or... Continue Reading

White House Caves on Religious Accommodations to HHS Mandate

The Obama administration announced that they would create a workaround to allow nonprofits to claim religious exemptions from the Obamacare contraception mandate

In a statement, a Justice Department official pointed to the Wheaton College decision as the impetus behind the decision. “In light of the Supreme Court order regarding Wheaton College, the Departments intend to augment their regulations to provide an alternative way for objecting nonprofit religious organizations to provide notification…” The Obama administration announced Tuesday evening... Continue Reading

A Web of Care: Internal Resources

Creating a web of care so that people find it hard to hide, get lost, slip away or fall through the cracks

There are always a number of people who have gifts of mercy and are relationally strong in helping others with wise counsel. Often, they have gained these skills and character qualities through the hard knocks of life. You know who they are because people talk about how they have been helped by them.   The... Continue Reading

Prayer Log

Lesson learned: I need to be faithful in my own ministry of prayer

The Spirit impressed upon me that I must be that “servant” (singular) who stands faithfully in the breech on behalf of the church God has brought me to serve.  I am to follow the model of the Servant Intercessor, who pleads day and night for His church. My very call as a pastor is one of prayer... Continue Reading

Slow to Anger; Quick to Reconcile

God is patient and long-suffering, and his just discipline progresses slowly

As men continue to walk in rebellion, God progressively leaves them be and turns them over to increased levels of depravity. Slowly, but consistently, God removes his restraining hand of grace, and individuals find themselves more and more buffeted by God’s disciplinary hand and the harsh consequences of their sin. God is quick to judge, but... Continue Reading

The Gospel For Mormons Who Reject It

A review of Starting at the Finish Line by John B. Wallace, a devout Mormon who ended up getting “burned out” by Mormon doctrine and practice.

The bulk of the book really talks about grace – the fact that Jesus came into the world to die for wicked sinners and give them the gift of eternal salvation by faith alone (not by works).  Time and time again Wallace explains how he was very works oriented in the Mormon religion.  He shows... Continue Reading

Looking Ahead, the Martyr’s Great Hope

How do you prepare for persecution ahead of time and find strength in the midst of it?

Godly men and women, suffering for their faith, do not ultimately hope in release from an earthly prison. The wife of de Bres, and many martyr’s wives of the past oriented their hope around heaven, trusting the truth of God’s word that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory... Continue Reading

Autopsy of a Deceased Church: A Review

Thom Rainer’s book is the result of the study of 14 dying churches to see what went wrong

The most pervasive and common thread of our autopsies was that the deceased churches lived for a long time with the past as hero. They held on more tightly with each progressive year. They often clung to things of the past with desperation and fear. And when any internal or external force tried to change... Continue Reading

When God Loves Me Too Much

He loves me too much to give me that thing I am convinced I need.

Whatever it is—an object, a person, a position, a recognition, an award—God expresses his love in withholding it from me. He knows me far better than I know myself. He knows what I need, and he knows what I don’t need. He knows what would soon step into that place he reserves for himself.   I... Continue Reading

Sexual Assault: What Does the Hook-Up Culture Have To Do with It?

The sexual assault epidemic on college campuses is created, in part, by the effects of the hook-up culture.

This series of vague and variable sexual expectations clashes dangerously with the carte blanche given to young American adults. After all, boys will be boys and girls will go wild. The selfish individualism expected among adolescents and young adults tells us not to take “no”for an answer. Respect for ideas of sexual integrity—the concept that sex might... Continue Reading

How Should a Pastor Respond When He is Praised for a Good Sermon?

Here are 4 suggestions for how to respond in a God-honoring way.

The great temptation when complimented about a sermon is to think the fruit of our labors ultimately is about us and because of us.  When a kind word is extended to us about our sermon, make sure God is credited and praised.  Not superficially, but sincerely.  We can give God glory with our lips in response, but inside be eaten up... Continue Reading

Jesus Is Not Only Sympathetic; He Can Change Things

Jesus, our great high priest, is waiting and longing to help us.

So often somebody tells me about a hard time they are going through and I may be sympathetic but often I can’t do anything about it. I can pray for them, but I can’t change their situation. I can’t lift their burden or heal them or take their sadness or provide all they need. I... Continue Reading

To the Women of America: 4 Reasons to Hate 50 Shades of Grey

Let me try to explain why you are too good for this movie

The problem with the sex portrayed in this movie, or in any trashy romance novel you find at the airport, or in many other films and TV shows, or in many actual relationships, is that it’s always self-seeking, never honest, never truthful, never trusting, and never protecting. There is no hope in it, no kindness,... Continue Reading

Ex-Mars Hill Church Members: ‘We are not anonymous’

The dissenting voices in his church speak of a harsh, judgmental, dictatorial environment.

Disillusioned former Mars Hill Church members, faced with senior pastor Mark Driscoll’s claim that they “remain anonymous,” have taken to Facebook to deliver on-the-record explanations of why they departed the Seattle-based megachurch. They have invited those who left the church to make a declaration:  “Dear Pastor Mark and Mars Hill: We are not anonymous.”  ... Continue Reading

Steady Destruction — and Deafening Silence

The Islamic State destroys Jonah’s tomb and other Judeo-Christian sites in Mosul while President Obama remains mute

Islamic State fighters have seized all 30 churches and monasteries in the Mosul area, removing their crosses and burning or destroying many of the buildings. They have converted to a mosque the Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Mosul’s Al Shurta district, Mar Ephraim, installing loudspeakers issuing calls to Islamic prayer. Two ancient monasteries have been looted... Continue Reading

N Is for Nazareth

Christians around the world are changing their social media avatars to the arabic letter “n.”

“Nazareth, though, reminds us that God’s purposes are global, transcending our tribal and national categories. When Jesus preached in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, he was received with joy and awe, until he told his fellow villagers that they really didn’t understand what he was saying. Jesus demonstrated that God’s purposes had always gone “outside... Continue Reading

Persecuted Christians and You

Do we care about persecuted Christians around the world?

“No one has a more legitimate claim on our concern than severely-persecuted Christians, wherever they may be found. They are especially precious in the Lord’s sight, and they suffer the greatest injustice. With them in mind, Scripture says the world is not worthy of them (Heb 11.38). And what could be more unjust than violence... Continue Reading