God’s Grace in Our Fears

Even when the world seems flipped upside down and even when the worst happens, God rules and reigns.

For someone who is often weakened by fear, it’s hard to imagine not having any fear in the face of something terrible. The important thing to notice is that the psalmist doesn’t say, “even when the very worst happens, if you have strong faith and believe really hard, you won’t have any fear.” Rather, the... Continue Reading

Jesus Doesn’t Give a Standing Ovation to Sexual Assault

If the church is going to function as God intended, we need to take stand against sin in our midst.

This is grievous to God. Sexual assault utterly appalls him. A confession of sexual assault is not something to be applauded. Yes, we can be grateful that the event has come to light, but we shouldn’t be applauding a man for a half-hearted confession that should have happened twenty years ago. There is nothing admirable... Continue Reading

How to Reconcile with Another Christian

How many of our disagreements, misunderstandings, feelings of bitterness, and lack of forgiveness in the body of Christ would disappear if we looked at our conflict in light of eternity?

Paul reminds Philemon that Christians are family. Christian reconciliation is always reconciliation between family members. Who is Philemon receiving? Not simply Onesimus, his slave, but now Onesimus, his brother in Christ. Paul makes this clear in verse 10: “I appeal to you for my child.” In effect, Paul is arguing, “You are brothers. This must affect... Continue Reading

Preparing for Winter

For Christian educational institutions, the way ahead may be very hard

The response of Christian higher education to the coming winter must therefore be twofold: financial planning for the worst-case scenario, where not only federal money but also tax-exempt status is revoked; and careful reflection on how the curriculum can cultivate accurate and wholesome aesthetic judgment. And, given the very brief time colleges have to shape... Continue Reading

Facebook is Done With Quality Journalism. Deal With It.

Facebook will gradually pull the plug on news. Publishers should stop whining and move on.

Facebook came up with glowing new products like Newsfeed, Instant Articles, and Facebook Live, providing silly advice for thriving on the platform (“Play on emotion, folks, users love it! — Hem, this might be difficult, we are business news providers…”). Facebook promised a deluge of eyeballs. Caught in the headlights, deer-like publishers silenced their mental... Continue Reading

When Vows Are Broken

How do we minister to those who are standing in the middle of the fragments, the spouses and children of the person who smashed the “vase?”

What do we do when there is abuse, abandonment, or adultery? You can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist. This may be your situation or that of a friend or family member. I fear that “we will not throw it away; we will keep it forever” offers no real comfort but only “go in peace, stay... Continue Reading

The Peculiarity of Early Christian Worship

Or How Early Christians Managed to Offend Just about Everybody

So, Christian worship managed to irritate just about everyone.  The Romans were agitated.  The Jews were upset.  Christianity was seen as a subversive threat. But, here’s the key. Christians did not, for these reasons, decided to abandon, change, or modify their worship.  Despite the opposition, they stayed true to their practices and true to their... Continue Reading

3 Lessons I Learned From Burnout

Pastors aren’t supposed to have breakdowns. So I thought.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us: “But when Christ, had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:12,14) This means the performance can stop. We can stop trying to do, and simply be in... Continue Reading

Sola Scriptura

"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for... salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture."

The difference between Catholic and Protestant teaching is more subtle than people realize, for Catholics confess that Scripture is inspired, infallible, and authoritative. It is wise to remember, too, that the first Reformers were encouraged to study Scripture by scholarly Catholics: Staupitz told Luther to get his doctorate in biblical studies, Erasmus encouraged Zwingli’s studies,... Continue Reading

A Big God Calls for Really, Really Big Prayers

When you pray you are speaking to the God whose majesty is so unfathomable that the four living creatures never cease, day or night, to cry out, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

“Do you know the God to whom you are speaking?” How do you envision him as you pray? Do you think of him as so completely occupied with people more important than yourself that he could barely find a spare minute to listen to your little requests? Do you think of him as hearing your... Continue Reading

4 Problems with Downplaying God’s Wrath

The doctrine of divine wrath is an integral piece of the gospel message, and therefore, moving away from it will inevitably have far-reaching consequences for the church’s faith and life.

I think movements away from the doctrine of hell are also often connected to discomfort with divine wrath. For example, I remember Rob Bell’s question in the promotional video for Love Wins: “What kind of God would need to save us from himself? And how could that possibly be good news?” The root issue for Bell... Continue Reading

Cultural Myths About Truth and Love

"Truth without love is barbarity, but love without truth is cruelty."

Because speaking the truth is central to an effective Gospel ministry, there is little doubt that Satan will devise as many reasons possible to discourage Christians from either speaking to those living in the death spiral of sin and idolatry; or to distract them from intentionally, thoughtfully and relentlessly loving sinners drowning in the brokenness... Continue Reading

Themes (or Challenges) for Reformed Christians in 2018

I am no prophet (see number three below), but do keep my ear to the ground, and am willing to predict a number of issues that I think will prove prominent.

I believe Reformed Christians may be more willing than ever to take a closer look at our evangelism to ask why it is that other movements, especially Pentecostalism, seem so much better at drawing unbelievers. And, of course, there will be many surprises along the way as issues arise within and outside the church.   For good... Continue Reading

Evangelical Chaplain’s Suspension Intensifies Denomination’s Gay Marriage Debate

Other ECC pastors also face disciplinary action for taking part in the nuptials of gay couples or affirming them in other ways.

The Rev. Judy Peterson, ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church and pastor at its flagship North Park University in Chicago, presided at the wedding of two men in April. That act resulted in her suspension and then a petition drive calling on ECC leaders to place a moratorium on their guidelines forbidding clergy to officiate at... Continue Reading

“Don’t do it!!” Why You Shouldn’t Practice Church Discipline

What’s the pastor to do? My advice would be, “Don’t get yourself into this situation in the first place. Once you’ve discovered that corrective church discipline is biblical, hold off on practicing it for a while.”

What finally sends these otherwise nice, normal, well-adjusted, previously popular pastors over the edge is their discovery that some churches do, in fact, practice church discipline. Not strange, maladjusted churches, but happy, growing, large, grace-oriented churches like Grace Community in Sun Valley, California, or Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, or First Baptist in Durham, North Carolina,... Continue Reading

Overly Optimistic in 1998

Hopeful explanations from 20 years ago as to why character and compassionate conservatism mattered in national politics

Compartmentalization: That was the conventional Washington answer up to last week. Repeatedly we were told that a president’s personal life has no relation to his public activities. But a study of presidential history shows a link between lying about adultery and lying about other matters.   The dozen years between the fall of the Berlin... Continue Reading

Idolatry and Ingratitude (Luther)

Unthankfulness and idolatry are related, and Luther very well explains Paul’s teaching on that fact.

“Ingratitude, namely, and the love of vanity (i.e., the sense of self-importance and of self-righteousness or, as one says, of “good intentions”) delude people terribly, so that they become incorrigible, unable to believe anything else but that they behave splendidly and are pleasing to God. Thus, they make themselves a gracious God, though this does not correspond to reality. And... Continue Reading

Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?

Contrary to the current narrative, the Scriptures, the Reformed Confessions and principles of nature teach us that some sins are more reprehensible than others.

Our society unequivocally acknowledges that it is a heightened offense for men who hold positions of power to abuse that power in order to prey on women for sexual gratification. When God places men or women in positions of power or influence, such individuals have an increased responsibility to use that power for the glory... Continue Reading

Why I March? To Reject Pro-Abortion Christianity

We are called to spearhead a movement that emphasizes love, compassion and justice for the least among us.

We live in a deceived society where even professing Christians succumb to pro-abortion arguments. This reality should push us to speak up, prepare a defense, and keep marching for the sanctity of life Just last November, I reported that a group of liberal clergy gathered in Fort Worth, Texas. They were there to “bless” an abortion clinic and... Continue Reading

A Thought Experiment

Can’t imagine it? Neither can I.

Imagine a man named A. Davis. Mr. Davis is a white nationalist and a former leader in the Nazi Party in the United States. He has had membership or at least close affiliation and sympathy with various domestic terrorist groups. The groups which he defends have been responsible for an array of crimes including drug... Continue Reading

Growing Up Black In the Purity Movement

When we substitute cultural stereotypes for biblical mandates, we run the risk of alienating people from both.

The origins and the dark side of the purity movement and the shaping of our assumptions about the ideal woman do not negate the biblical commands about purity. Those commands apply to all of us without exception, regardless of our ethnic background or American experience. I am not talking about the Word here, but a full package... Continue Reading

Why Repentant Pastors Should Be Forgiven But Not Restored to the Pulpit

“Above reproach” doesn’t mean a pastor is sinless. It means that if everything about his life is brought into the light, people would still trust him and follow him in the way of godliness.

It’s important to forgive repentant pastors, but not to restore them to pastoral office for years or perhaps ever (depending on the nature of the sin) because Paul’s qualifications pertain to the character. A pastor is an extraordinary ordinary Christian. A pastor is a teacher and a pattern setter. An example. Therefore, he must be... Continue Reading

Where Do You Find Life?

When life is hard when obstacles block your way, when burdens weigh heavy, and when the reality of your sin threatens to undo you—where do you seek life?

David again tells God of his sorrow and seeks strength in God’s word. Where do we turn when we are in sorrow? Do we try to distract ourselves with the comfort of Netflix, food, or social media? Do we use our circumstances as an excuse for sin? We see here and throughout the Psalms that... Continue Reading

Anti-Scholasticism, Revival(ism), Pietism, Or The Reformed Theology, Piety, And Practice?

Why would those who actually subscribe to the Reformed confession pursue revivalism and pietism?

I and others have been trying to persuade the Reformed to recognize that the 18th and 19th century revivals are not as distinct (the first supposedly a good revival and the second supposedly a bad revival) as we have been told nor were they a natural outgrowth of the classical Reformed theology, piety, and practice.... Continue Reading

The Doctrines of Grace: By His Grace and for His Glory

There is really only one point to the doctrines of grace, namely, that God saves sinners by His grace and for His glory.

This is why the doctrines of grace are so desperately needed in our churches. They give glory to God alone. They define salvation as being all of God. When salvation is correctly perceived in this way, then—and only then—God receives all the glory for it. Only sola gratia produces soli Deo gloria.   “Those who have received salvation are to attribute it... Continue Reading

Pastors: Play the Long Game and Keep Your Chins Up

Measuring the success of one’s service based primarily on what we can see is deceptive, because most of the fruit in our ministry is in things that are unseen.

Isn’t this a commentary on the deceptiveness of the heart? Ministers who preach the sovereignty of God and labor for the glory of God can be found huddling in the shade of our own Babel or the dust cloud of personal disappointment.   The ministry is a tricky thing for pastors. When things seem to go... Continue Reading

10 Things You Should Know about Athanasius

Athanasius was the great early Christian defender of the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He was exiled five times. Athanasius admitted the truth of the charge and was exiled to Treveri (modern Trier) in northern France from 336 to 337. This was the first of five exiles, four of which were for his defense of the deity of Christ against Arianism. The two longest, from 339–346 and 356–361, were... Continue Reading

‘In Essentials, Unity’ Includes Sexual Morality

“In non-essentials, liberty.” Yes, there are non-essentials. Sexual morality isn’t one of them.

They [Jerusalem Council] imposed the first rule to keep Christianity distinct and holy unto the Lord — clearly not optional! The prohibition against eating “what has been strangled” enforced the rule against eating the blood of animals, a command that was never meant only for Jews…And so is sexual morality. From the beginning and throughout... Continue Reading

Jim Elliot Was No Fool

Their hearts were set on reaching the Auca Indians with the good news of Jesus.

On Friday, January 6, three Aucas—one man and two women—approached them. They exchanged greetings. The missionaries showed them rubber bands, yo-yos, and balloons, and the man was taken up in the plane. On Sunday, January 8, they were due to radio in at 4:30. There was silence. When no message came, a plane was sent... Continue Reading

The Uprising In Iran: ‘This Is What Revolution Looks Like’

A report on how the ongoing protests are more than an economic revolt. Could the darkness that descended upon Iran in 1979 soon be lifted?

“Judging by the fact that they killed those protesters, I don’t think it’s going to stop. But I want to say, no matter what the outcome of these protests, the people of Iran have already won, because no longer does this regime have any legitimacy. Zero legitimacy. Because over and over again, people have said... Continue Reading