All articles filed under: Columns

New Creations in the New Year

On a recent flight to Dallas I enjoyed reading the current issue of American Way, the monthly magazine of American Airlines. In this particular issue the cover story was about golf phenom Lexi Thompson. Her remarks about why she loves the game of golf were striking: “Every day I wake up and somethings different in my game: my swing, the weather. That’s the thing about golf. It’s always a challenge every time you wake up. That’s why I gravitated to it. What keeps me going is that you can never perfect it.”

What Thompson recognizes about golf we can apply to the Christian life. Indeed, what keeps us going—striving for growth in practical holiness—is that we will never perfect the Christian life this side of heaven. There is always room for improvement.

The Church of Misfit Toys

Outside the church (i.e., outside the visible, organized Christ-confessing covenant community, where the gospel is preached purely, the sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are administered purely, and where church discipline is used), the church often looks very different than it does to members. Those outside the church quite often assume that only those who have achieved a state of perfection are welcome in church. Let’s put that to rest immediately: the church most assuredly is not for the perfect. Were that the case, the church would be entirely empty as there are no perfected Christians this side of heaven. The only congregation of perfect people is what Reformed theologians call “the church triumphant” (i.e., that gathering of glorified believers in heaven). We get a picture of that congregation in the Revelation (e.g., chapter 4). The church as it exists in this world, in this life (called the “church militant”) is full of nothing but sinners, who manifest the effects of sin in every conceivable way. It has been that way from the moment sin …

Jingle All the Way?

Each Christmas season I find myself moved again and again by the profound truths we sing about in some of our better Christmas songs. Take, for example, these lyrics from “Silent Night”: Silent night, holy night Son of God, love’s pure light Radiant beams from Thy holy face With the dawn of redeeming grace Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth I thank God that I have not ceased to wonder at the mystery and reality of “Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.” But as I said in a recent sermon, as much as I appreciate many of our popular Christmas hymns the songs of Scripture sing with a power beyond anything written by mere men and women. I’m thinking of songs like that of Zachariah in Luke 1:68-79. Because Zachariah wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, his words are “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). In other words, Zachariah’s song …

Charles Finney Does Not Live Here

This is a really important consideration for our friends from the broader evangelical world as they come into contact with confessional Presbyterian and Reformed (P&R) worship. There is a high likelihood that those emerging from the broad evangelical traditions are addicted to a regular, even programmed release of dopamine and/or norepinephrine. It is not your fault. You are part of a tradition that dates to the mid-19th century. That tradition (represented and perfected by Charles Finney) discovered ways of manipulating people in public worship in order to move them from point A (the pew) to point B (the anxious bench).

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 …

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…

Pastor, Don’t Neglect Leviticus

A while back, I was preaching through the book of Ruth, and I highlighted that Boaz demonstrated himself to be a profoundly godly and extraordinary man. I said this because he, first, knew the law and, second, went beyond it when he allowed Ruth to glean under his watchful care. Then I said, “And you’ll never know why Boaz is so extraordinary if you don’t know Leviticus. For that matter, you can’t really understand your Bible unless you know Leviticus. That’s why it’s my favorite book of the Bible.”