All articles filed under: Features

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 …

Ministry is Not Mastery

There are myriad temptations in ministry. One persistent temptation is to stop ministering and start mastering. There are many reasons mastering is tempting. All congregations are non-profit organizations. Most are under-funded and understaffed or staffed with volunteers. Often the pastor is the only paid employee. Congregations are not usually very efficient organizations. Pastors face pressures to be “successful” and efficient. It comes from members, elders, and deacons who implicitly or explicitly add the pressure that many ministers already feel to have a growing church. It comes externally from so-called “church growth experts.” Like those home rehabilitation shows on cable television, the church-growth experts tell “success” stories about pastors who turned (flipped) their average little congregation into a fast-growing “dynamic” congregation. Typically, these narratives include a portion detailing how the pastor put his foot down and exercised strong leadership in chasing off discontent members and even elders. The message is clear: real leaders tell their people to get with the program or get out of Dodge. Then there is the internal desire to reach the lost. …

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…

Friendship Evangelism

Before Billy Graham, there was Reuben Archer Torrey. Torrey graduated from Yale in 1875 and, after graduate studies in theology, served what’s now Moody Bible Institute. He pastored a flock in Chicago for a number of years before leading the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.

However, we remember Torrey most for his evangelism. Like D. L. Moody before him and Graham after him, Torrey traveled the world, sharing the gospel by calling sinners to repentance and faith. Scores of Christians looked to him for counsel, and he had plenty to offer. In his book . . .

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.”

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 . . .

“At the Bottom of a Well”: Why Should You Believe?

Henry David Thoreau famously observed how the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. The late theologian Carl F. H. Henry took it a step further when he argued most people don’t really know where they are or where they are going. It’s as if they “cower at the bottom of a well run dry.” 1Carl F. H. Henry, Toward a Recovery of Christian Belief: The Rutherford Lectures (Crossway, 1990), 17. The thrust of this essay is basically a summary of Henry’s important book. Imagine what it would be like to sit at the bottom of a dry well. There is no water to quench your thirst and no light to help you see. You can’t explain where you are, and unless someone reaches in to save you, you’ve no hope of escape. This is the condition of most people today, though they’d never admit it. This is what life is like without faith in the triune God of the Bible. Sure, many people will claim meaning for their lives. Yes, quite a few will assert that …

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 …