“Eschatology and Enjoying Your Mate”
Our relationships within our families and in the household of God bear witness to God’s mission to the world.
Beale points out in his last lecture of his Biblical theology series that every time a man leaves his father’s household to cling to his wife (Gen. 2:24), we have “a parable, a repeated parable, of what Christ would do as the husband of the church: leave his father, cleave to the church. He would... Continue Reading
4 Questions to Ask College Students
Here are four questions that may put college students within your church at ease and help you to understand their needs.
The life of a college student is not so carefree. Active shooters on campus are a real threat. A load of debt kicks in after graduation. The job market is bleak. Therefore, conversations with college students need to be attended by thoughtfulness. “What is your major?” and “What year are you in?” are okay, but “Do you have any job prospects?” can add... Continue Reading
The best teachers understand where they are lacking and seek to be taught so that they will increase in wisdom and learning
Over the years, I’ve learned that if I as a teacher am threatened by the questions or knowledge of my students, I will never grow as a teacher. I’ve prayed that God would enable me never to become defensive, tentative, and ultimately unteachable. I’ve prayed that for my students as well, especially those who are... Continue Reading
Were Early Christian Scribes Untrained Amateurs?
It is often claimed that early Christian scribes were amateurs, unprofessional, and some probably couldn’t even read.
In sum, the oft-repeated claim that early Christian scribes were unprofessional and untrained simply does not fit with what we know about early Christian manuscripts nor about early Christian literary culture. Loveday Alexander provides a perfect summary: It is clear that we are dealing with a group [early Christians] that used books intensively and professionally... Continue Reading
The New Pastor’s Handbook
Jason Helopoulos's new book on help and encouragement for the first years of ministry
The New Pastor’s Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry (Baker) is exactly the sort of book I wanted to read when I was starting out in the ministry. With 48 bite-sized chapters on topics like calling, candidating, reading, using your time wisely, busyness, thankfulness, visitation, discontentment, discouragement, envy, and the privilege... Continue Reading
When Submission Becomes Sinful
We undermine the value of submission in the home as the Bible teaches it if we don't also embrace its Biblical limits.
When those charged with serving and protecting abandon that call and look away from evil, or actively participate in it, we are called not to submit, but to stand up, especially for those who are unable to stand up for themselves. In those moments, it is not submissive silence, but strong words rooted in a... Continue Reading
Clouding the Gospel, Confusing God’s People
Martin Luther made the following outstanding observations in his commentary on Galatians 1:6
There’s a reason why historic Reformed/Presbyterian churches respond so quickly, strongly, and ecclesiastically (i.e. in a churchly manner) to preaching that clouds the gospel by mixing law/works and gospel/grace. When we hear things like “works are instrumental in justification” or “final justification at the last day” or “the lawful gospel” or “I’m not sure ‘imputation’... Continue Reading
Gnosticism vs. Christianity
Six contrasts between the teachings of Gnosticism and the Christian faith
My intent in providing this summary of Lee’s points is not simply so that we may learn a bit of history about a heresy that arose in the early church. My hope is that, by learning and understanding the ways in which Gnosticism is contrasted with Biblical Christianity, we might be better able to spot... Continue Reading
The Raging Waters In South Carolina
Dr. Derek Thomas is senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC. He wrote the following update on the effects of the floods in South Carolina
Our church family has been at the center of the storm, with approximately a hundred homes having sustained damage of some kind, and half of these sustaining such serious damage that they may end up losing their homes entirely. There are families who have lost everything, leaving their homes in the darkness of a Sunday morning, in... Continue Reading
I Was Rebuked Without A Word
We can’t judge hearts simply by what we think we see as outward displays of emotion or activity.
Then everything changed. As the song ended and we were about to take our seats, and incidental to him sitting down turned slightly. His eyes were full of tears and his smile was full. I was gutted. I saw the man that I wanted to be; humble, free, focused, and full of delight in God.... Continue Reading
Speaking The Truth In Love: Five Deceptive Myths
We cannot truly love without speaking truth truthfully; and we can’t speak truth truthfully without loving intentionally and thoughtfully.
Obviously truth spoken in love is to be done thoughtfully, timely and with words carefully chosen, while creating an environment of love for effective communication. If a doctor knows you have a terminal condition and loves you he will not be silent. He will thoughtfully tell you the truth. Likely he will take you aside... Continue Reading
Saving Souls Takes Toll On Pastors’ Health
Full-time church ministry actually can kill the people who do it – but it does so slowly.
Some of the results may surprise even devout churchgoers: 54 percent of pastors find their jobs frequently overwhelming, and 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle. So while about half are overwhelmed and wonder if they should quit, another part of the study showed only 13 percent of... Continue Reading
Why Do We Not Save Christians?
They need help, and they have no good place to go
Today, Christians are under special threat in the Middle East. The possibility that Christian refugees will be able to go home and reconstruct their communities and lead normal lives is far lower than are the chances for their Muslim neighbors. The level of continuing discrimination and physical threat against them is high, and in Syria... Continue Reading
Eight Reasons Many Churches Are Living in the 1980s
Nine out of ten churches in America are either declining, or they are growing so slowly they are not keeping up with the growth rate of their community
Churches largely catered to the needs of church members in the 1980s. We thus created a culture of membership that is me-driven. Many church members do not want to make the sacrifices necessary to reach our communities and culture today. They are demanding their own needs and preferences to be the priority of their churches. ... Continue Reading
The End of Homiletics?
By “homiletics” we mean nothing more or less than the applied convergence of biblical exegesis, the cure of souls, and ascetical theology.
Preachers who want to be interesting want to be interesting because they were taught that interesting is the summum bonum of Christian preaching. They weren’t told that, of course. Instructors in homiletics are not crass people, and they don’t teach people to be self-aggrandizing performers. Homiletics taught that by accident because, if homiletics is true to itself as a discipline, it... Continue Reading
Thoughts on Note-Taking During Sermons
Hearing a sermon is not like hearing a lecture. It is your meeting with the living Christ.
Ditching the note-taking preaching ethos both elevates sermons and properly diminishes them. It treats a sermon as proclamation aided by the Spirit, which gives the sermon a supernatural weight. On the other hand, by treating all words in a sermon as expendable to memory, it puts the preacher’s words in the right place compared to... Continue Reading
The Bithynian Option
Peter's letter to the Bithynians and the history of the Christian church in that particular region suggest several principles and insights for how to engage a fluid and foreign culture as resident outsiders
Ambassadors as a rule do not join municipal steering committees. They are not citizens. Neither do they move into caves and preach prophetic denunciations from a safe distance. They live in the culture as representatives of a foreign power. That is the essence and substance of the Bithynian Option. It understands the Christian mission as... Continue Reading
I Hate the Fall
The only thing that comforts me in the midst of this dark and fallen world is the fact that God hates sin and evil even more than I
Dear friend, we all should hate sin and evil. We should hate the Fall. But even as we hate it, we have hope. God has answered the problem of evil by crushing his own Son. And one day, the Son will return to restore this world and make all things new. On that day, the... Continue Reading
Parachutes, Survivors, and a Challenge
In order to deal with the discomfort, sometimes the existence of abuse is doubted, and as a result, the existence of its survivors is doubted too.
If this is not “your” issue, I respect that. Then please don’t make pronouncements about what is or is not domestic violence out of ignorance. This is a life and death matter, and you don’t know who is listening and taking your words to heart. Do the research and weigh the evidence. Your attitude and... Continue Reading
Ministering to Pedophiles
Addressing the pedophile’s deception and showing what true repentance and ministry to them should look like
A pedophile who refuses to do these things is not repentant and should be put out of the church immediately. The pastor must also make it clear that any ministry the pedophile receives shall not come at the expense of his victims. Just as salvation comes first to the Jew, then to the gentile (Romans... Continue Reading
Handling Contentions in the Church
Here are eight things for pastors to keep in mind while seeking to navigate the trials and controversies that local congregations often face
Never simply give in to contentious or complaining congregants for the sake of peace. One of the biggest mistakes that pastors make is to give in to the demands of discontent or contentious congregants simply to keep them happy. By doing so, they inadvertently empower sinful congregants. If pastors give in on one thing for which... Continue Reading
When the Devil Points a Gun at You
As the gunman shouted to the Christians to make themselves known! What would you do?
These are important moments. People rarely focus on their death. And though the temptation is often to fear, fear that the next person I talk to could hate Christianity, we cannot stay silent. We must keep pressing and shining the light of the Gospel on this lost world. God is in the business of bringing... Continue Reading
Caught in the Spotlight: Christian Leaders Who Mishandle Sexual Abuse Disclosures
Instead of focusing time and energy in doing the right thing when a spotlight is turned on, many leaders will focus time and energy trying to get them turned off, or at the very least pointed elsewhere
Victims are marginalized when leaders demand that they not share their stories in the manner in which they have decided, publicly or privately. This tactic is deceptively clever because it attempts to paint a bold survivor as an insensitive perpetrator in a disgusting attempt to shame the survivor into turning off the spotlight and putting... Continue Reading
Don’t Try to Impress God
One of the easiest traps into which believers fall is the trap of trying to impress God.
Another way we try to impress God is through busyness. I am more and more convinced that there are lots of people out there, even in the church (and maybe especially in the church!) who think that they will either get into heaven by busyness, or will get a substantially greater reward of another kind... Continue Reading
The Fourth Person of the Trinity?
“Don’t try to stand in the place of God and do what only God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit can do in someone’s life.”
While we want to be faithful as pastors and spiritually fruitful congregants to help those entrusted to our care–as well as members of the same body, we must ever guard against allowing ourselves to slide into a role that God hasn’t given to us–a role that only He possesses. When I was an intern... Continue Reading
Calculated Killing of Christians in Roseburg?
When religion draws fire, look to God and the heroic example of Charleston's forgiveness
If Christians are labeled as “haters” simply because they hold views derived from their Scriptures, the elevated rhetoric can, and indeed does lead to violent actions. It is inevitable. I am not saying we don’t criticize, but we must not demonize. When we demonize others — Christians, Muslims, gays, African-Americans or whomever — we... Continue Reading
6 Reasons Why Anxiety, Worry, & Fear are Particular Problems for Christians
About 20% of the US population has an anxiety disorder. That’s about one in five people, or 40 million adults.
So baseline, you’ll find more anxious people in a church than waiting in line to bungee jump. I don’t have hard statistics on this, but I think the incidence of anxiety disorders in a church congregation is higher than the 20% you find in the general US population. Plus anxious people tend to also be... Continue Reading
Have Church Your Way: The High Cost of the Worship Wars
Larger churches came up with a solution: two services, each with its own “worship style.” But it cost us in the end.
We’re building Burger Kings when we should be planting gardens and digging wells. We’re further indulging the carb-addicted, malnourished population with the same cheap fluff, instead of offering them a balanced meal of Word and Sacrament. Be hospitable, yes, but don’t dumb it down. Don’t make it easy. Trading the body and blood for donuts... Continue Reading
Homeschooled Children Do Not Grow Up To Be More Religious
Family climate, especially faithful religious devotion by both parents, delivered in a context of loving nurture, is more important than where a child goes to school.
So what does it all mean? Anecdotes and biased studies aside, it seems from this emerging body of work that homeschooling itself will not automatically produce adults who share the conservative political, religious and moral beliefs of their parents. The data also suggest that family climate, especially faithful religious devotion by both parents, delivered in a... Continue Reading
High School Rejects ACLU Bid to Block Prayer Boxes
A Louisiana school board rebuffed the ACLU at a meeting Oct. 1 when it passed a resolution calling the organization’s recent threats unwarranted.
“The board wishes to publicly reaffirm its intent to operate a successful school district in which equal access is recognized and the legal rights of all students are respected, including those of its students who wish to engage in student-lead, student-initiated religious expression,” the statement said. (WNS)–A Louisiana school board rebuffed the ACLU at a meeting... Continue Reading