Author: Michael Pohlman

Personality Driven Ministry

Carl Trueman has a helpful essay in the current issue of Modern Reformation magazine. In “Reflections on the Reformed Resurgence,” Trueman takes stock of what we can learn about a movement within evangelicalism now over a decade old. Trueman introduces the Reformed resurgence in contrast to another significant trend within American Christianity at the time: It is now over a decade since Collin Hansen coined the term “young, restless, and Reformed” (YRR) to characterize a rising generation of Christians who had rediscovered the vitality of the central doctrines of the Reformation: Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, and so on. What Hansen (then a journalist with Christianity Today) had noticed was that while much of the trendy Christian media attention focused on the emerging/emergent church, there was another vibrant strand of evangelical Christianity gaining momentum in the United States and beyond. While the emergent gurus, such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones, were moving in a more non- and perhaps anti-doctrinal direction, other church leaders—John Piper, Tim Keller and so forth—were doing the opposite. They were …

Our Groaning Joy

Our quest for joy begins at the end of the creation narrative with God looking at all he had created and pronouncing it “very good.” Tragically, this good creation would be radically tarnished with sin given the rebellion of our first parents—a rebellion that replaced God’s blessing with his curse. But even in this darkest of moments, hope rings out. The Apostle Paul assures us that there’s coming a day when God will make his blessings flow “far as the curse is found”: For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For …

In Praise of Heavy Providences

Today I’m struck anew with how contrary to the world is the Christian life. I’m thinking specifically about how the world will almost without fail define the best way forward in life as the way of ease. That is, the path of least resistance is, by definition, the right path to choose.

Not so in God’s economy.

The Bible is full of reminders about how, in the call of God, things will be difficult rather than easy; complex rather than simple; strenuous rather than leisurely. Indeed, it’s not for no reason that the Bible often calls us to endure and persevere — conditions irrelevant for times of ease. (After all, no one “endures” a day at the beach.)

We get a powerful picture into why God orchestrates things this way when we remember Moses’ words of merciful warning to Israel in Deuteronomy 8:11-19…

The Pastor and the Weight of Glory

If you were asked to isolate the “fundamental problem” in the evangelical world today, what would you say? I believe David Wells had it right when he outlined what ails contemporary American evangelicalism: The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music, and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging…

Discipleship: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Does it pay-off to be a follower of Jesus Christ? Is it a sound investment? A good decision? Can it be justified in the light of what it costs a person? These are the questions that make up the cost-benefit analysis of discipleship. And this helps us get at the heart of Jesus’ words on discipleship in Mark 9:42-50: Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. [43] And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. [45] And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. [47] And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to …

Some Pastors and Teachers: A Manifesto

The Tortoise wins.

I remember hearing Aesop’s famous fable The Hare & the Tortoise as a little boy and thinking, “I’d still like to be the hare. After all, the tortoise may win, but who wants to be a tortoise?”

Many years later I’ve reconsidered, especially when it comes to pastoral ministry. If there ever was a vocation wherein “the race is not to the swift,” it’s the pastorate. A faithful shepherd will . . .

One There is, Above All Others

Faithful pastors need a song on their heart. But not just any song. We need songs that sing of our Savior; songs that are richly theological and doxological. In Newton we have both. *** One there is, above all others, Well deserves the name of Friend; His is love beyond a brother’s, Costly, free, and knows no end: They who once His kindness prove, Find it everlasting love! Which of all our friends to save us, Could or would have shed their blood? But our Jesus died to have us Reconciled, in Him to God: This was boundless love indeed! Jesus is a Friend in need. When He lived on earth abasèd, Friend of sinners was His name; Now, above all glory raisèd, He rejoices in the same: Still He calls them brethren, friends, And to all their wants attends. Could we bear from one another, What He daily bears from us? Yet this glorious Friend and Brother, Loves us though we treat Him thus: Though for good we render ill, He accounts us brethren …

Why a Great Tribulation?

Preaching through Mark 13 was hard. The themes taken up in this chapter—the destruction of the temple and fall of Jerusalem, the Great Tribulation, Second Coming of Christ, and faithful discipleship—are both humbling and exhilarating to study. I remember coming to verse 14 and the “abomination of desolation.” I sought to demonstrate from the text how this future event will take place during an unprecedented period of tribulation on earth—indeed, “such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be” (v. 19). The Great Tribulation is significant not only because it exceeds in horror any known event in human history, but also because it marks the period of time immediately preceding the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, Jesus exhorts us to “be on guard” or “take heart” or “not be led astray” from the path of discipleship (v. 23). I had several questions of this text. One of my questions was, Why? Why a Great Tribulation? Why would God do this? I offered three …

Pastoring and Hot-Air Balloons

I’ve only been in a hot-air balloon once. And it was tied to the ground so I could only go so high and then no higher. But that was fine with me given that cutting the rope would have left me unanchored to the ground below, an idea that I wasn’t ready to embrace. So much of the Christian life is like this: we don’t want to let go of control (our anchor) and fly at the will of our God. Of course, behind this desire for control is our own “God-complex.” In our pride we think we can steer the course of our lives better than the Lord. We trust our own wisdom more than his. But this is the height of folly given our finite, imperfect wisdom when compared to the infinite, perfect wisdom of God. Indeed, God alone is all-wise and, therefore, we ought to unhesitatingly embrace his control over our lives. Isaiah reminds us that God is “wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:29). And we know that in …