What Was God’s Purpose in the Cross?

Everyone whom the Father chose for salvation will be saved through the atonement.

Your salvation, from start to finish, rests on the sovereign decree of God, who decided, in His grace, to have mercy on you, not because of anything He saw in you that demanded it, but for the love of the Son. The only reason I can give under heaven why I’m a Christian is because... Continue Reading

Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake

Let’s prepare by learning how to respond when we are reviled for righteousness as Jesus would.

Peter is not commanding Christians to unite with pseudo-Christians who hold doctrinal positions that amount to heresy. Instead, he is telling us to not be disruptive or cause disharmony within the Body of Christ which is united by holding to the truth. How do we behave toward one another when we do this?   12... Continue Reading

Have God’s Promises about Pestilence Failed? No: Learning from a 17th Century Brother in Christ

The sting of the pestilence is lost.

We are in a condition that is “very grievous and miserable to others.” We can see this in the panic, in the instability this is bringing to the world. Pestilence—and the fear it brings—is perilous. But for the Christian, we know that, even as this “heavy hand of God” befalls us, “it is for some... Continue Reading

The Ordo Salutis: Sanctification

Because God is holy, people God brings into relationship with himself must be made holy.

The concept of definitive sanctification is distinct from the false notion of sinless perfection this side of heaven, because the other complementary way in which we should speak of sanctification is in terms of “progressive sanctification”. The very word “progressive” implies that there is progress to make in our holiness.   “For this is the... Continue Reading

The Bible Gives Buckets of Answers about COVID-19. You May Not Like Them.

What are some questions that the Bible most assuredly does answer?

One day Jesus will return and remake creation, freed from all of the miseries and effects of sin, more glorious than ever. All those who believed in him will be bodily resurrected, and will share in this new creation (Romans 8:18-25). Ultimately there will be no death, no ruin, no disease—and no COVID-19.   Time... Continue Reading

Let This Pandemic Change How We Think

Let’s think humbly, globally—and most importantly—eternally.

The powerful coronavirus can do many things. What it can’t do is erase God’s Word or its power. And it can’t dismantle the church. Though the virus’s impact is significant, it’s temporary. Global pandemics, though rare, are not new (Eccl. 1:9). And no matter what happens, God still reigns on the throne.   If we... Continue Reading

Vocation and the Epidemic

Vocation is not just about how we make our living.

The most wide-spread effect of the epidemic has been to put much of the entire economy on “pause,” putting lots of people out of work, forcing many of those who still have jobs to change everything by working at home, and thwarting the normal course of vocations by not letting people leave the house.  ... Continue Reading

Fear of Not Measuring Up

Fears have real consequences, which can lead us, in an effort to exert control, to set unhealthy and potentially destructive expectations of ourselves and others.

Do you wake up each morning with an expectation that everything you will say, do, and think is going to be perfect? If you do, and you are honest with yourself, you will realize quickly that this is unattainable and unrealistic in this fallen world (Rom. 3:10). Yet, the perfection many still seek is due in... Continue Reading

1918: When Another Pandemic Struck Close to Home

In the United States, my state of Pennsylvania became one of the hardest hit, where some 60,000 people died, and few locales escaped.

It was 1918, and the war in Europe was on. In March, the first case of what became known as the Spanish Flu appeared at a Kansas Army post. By late 1919, 675,000 Americans had died. Around the world, an estimated 60 million lives would be lost by 1922.   In 1998, the eightieth anniversary... Continue Reading

When the Psalms Promise Too Much

As we read the Psalms during a rapidly escalating pandemic, this niggling thought starts to appear: do their words of comfort turn out to be hollow?

The psalmist promises that God is not far off, but a present help when things descend into chaos.  Though a sinkhole opens up and sucks us under the earth, though a landslide drops whole mountains into the sea, though that sea comes crashing into land – in these terrible natural disasters, the poet says, God is our... Continue Reading

Ventilators and Value

Rather than viewing all life as inherently valuable, utilitarianism views life as valuable if it leads to beneficial outcomes for most people.

We are now living in a time where we are instituting a sliding scale of deserving vulnerability and a terrifyingly dystopian approach to healthcare. If my pal in his 70s, with COPD and muscular dystrophy, gets coronavirus at the same time as me, he’ll be booted off the ventilator for my sake. That is as... Continue Reading

A Creedal Crescendo – Descended into Hell

What happened when Jesus in His humanity died?

Hades does not refer to a place of punishment; that would be Gehenna (also translated “hell”). Rather the Creed references Hades to describe the human experience of death. Jesus did not enter Gehenna to be punished for the sins He bore. It was on the cross that He endured the fullness of the wrath of... Continue Reading

What Is ‘Prudent Prudence’ in Response to the Coronavirus?

I’ve prayed and pondered long and hard what to say about the pandemic, wanting to encourage simultaneously both prudent care and fearless confidence.

What are faithful, wise Christians to do? How can we avoid both extremes, of over-reaction and under-reaction, of panic and complacency? How can we respond to this situation in terms of the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbors?   This is a long article. I hope you’ll read it all... Continue Reading

Invitation to Come to Jesus

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to call people to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

This calling regenerates the heart and enables the new believer to see Jesus on the Cross, and why it was necessary, for them personally, for Him to die that way. This is Grace. Then through faith they repent and believe. As a result, the Father imputes Christ’s Righteousness to them, justifying them by Faith. He... Continue Reading

Why We Need the Psalms

Why should contemporary Christians still give time to these clearly ancient, often unruly, sometimes alarming, frequently perplexing prayers and praises of Israel from more than 2,500 years ago?

In some Christian circles one can miss either the realism or the balance the Psalms provide. The Psalms tell us that trouble is normal, darkness is possible, reverses are likely, and ordinariness is celebrated. There is a herky-jerky pattern to believing life in the Psalms, covering the waterfront of conditions. The Psalms make clear that... Continue Reading

The Reality of Fear

We might wish all our fears away, but our fears, of course, are not all bad.

Our fears remind us that we are small and that we need Jesus. Dependence on Him is life; independence is a deadly myth. Fear is also a critical alarm that warns us of danger. Without it, we are handicapped in our growth in wisdom because wisdom must discern what is good and safe from what... Continue Reading

Pastoral Letter on Worshiping in a Pandemic

“A Pastoral Letter: to all the saints who are feeling guilty and may be tempted to take unbiblical measures to assuage their spiritual hunger and self-imposed guilt.”

During these strange and sad days when we are under the dark cloud of this pandemic, let us not pummel ourselves and riddle ourselves with false guilt and false grace. This pandemic is God’s providence for us. He knows well our limitations and restrictions. He has given all we need for these days, namely His... Continue Reading

New York Times Ignores The Evidence To Slander Christians As Coronavirus Deniers

Katherine Stewart couldn’t be bothered to find out, as a good journalist would, what the Cornwall Alliance or plenty of other conservative, evangelical Christians think about the coronavirus. Slander sufficed.

Stewart’s hit piece uses all the standard tools of yellow journalism: caricature, guilt by association, hasty generalization, cherry-picking evidence, ignoring contrary evidence, and more. For instance, she quotes three pastors as examples of “many of [Trump’s] evangelical allies.” One, on March 15, “urged his congregants to show up for worship in person.”   “Stop denying science!! … There... Continue Reading

Does Christianity Have an Answer?

Wright leaves us only with the Christian tradition of lament in times of distress.

Wright is right to warn Christians against specific claims about the coronavirus that go beyond the clear teaching of Scripture. And he is certainly right to say we are lamenting. Yet is it really true that the Christian faith gives no answers about the coronavirus? The reality is that God’s Word does give a vital message, including answers... Continue Reading

Thoughts on Psalm 133

This Psalm obviously expresses a desire and praise for unity with the people of God.

I can remember the hot days of summer in Texas when a hose in the face felt incredible! Verse 3 gives a similar illustration. Hermon is a mountain to the north of Jerusalem that rises to about 9000 feet and is known for its lushness. It would be covered with snow and dew all year... Continue Reading

Is the Current Crisis Really “Unprecedented”?

Let’s get a feel for what qualifies as unprecedented by reviewing a time or two in U.S. history when something truly without precedent happened.

Both the founders’ revolution and the progressives’ revolution by evolution were unprecedented in U.S. history. They changed the operating system of our nation. In both cases, the relationship between the people and their government was dramatically altered. Is it possible that we are watching something unprecedented unfold as national, state, and local governments respond to... Continue Reading

The Ordo Salutis: Adoption

Previously we were his enemies and orphans, and now we are adopted by God.

We were dead to the things of God, and then suddenly he made us spiritually alive. Upon hearing the gospel message, we became aware that we were sinners and needed a savior. And then the empty hand of faith, a gift in itself from God, reached out to Christ, trusting in what he has done... Continue Reading

A Creedal Crescendo – Crucified

Jesus went to the cross as the sacrifice to deal with sin’s debt.

Christ’s saving work is testimony to the Father’s love and wisdom. In answer to the question, “Who killed Jesus?,” the ultimate answer is not Judas who betrayed Him, not the Jews who conspired against Him, not the mob that chose Barabbas over Jesus for release, not Pilate who gave Him in His innocence over to... Continue Reading

10 Church Members God Especially Calls Me To Love

How am I, as a pastor, to relate to particularly difficult people?

I understand why a pastor is prone to think about how these people drive him crazy. I’ve done that myself. But it was crucial to my spiritual health and to my success in ministry that I make a change in my thinking. Rather than seeing them as people who drive me crazy, I have preferred... Continue Reading

Thoughts on Psalm 27

Even if the worst this world has to throw at us comes upon us, the Lord is with us and, in the end, he will provide for every one of our needs.

We have been isolated in such a way that we may feel abandoned by the closest to us. We have so much trouble and uncertainty at this moment that we are probably all being attacked by various fears that come in all shapes and sizes. Life seems to be falling apart around us. And yet,... Continue Reading

7 Reasons Why God Makes a “Crook” in a Christian’s Lot

Christians do not need to fear the “crooks” God allows in their lives but can instead rest in God’s faithfulness.

Joseph had cause to be prideful when he was young because his father favored him, and dreams indicated that his brothers would bow down to him (Gen. 37:1-11). Although his years spent as a slave and a prisoner were great trials for Joseph (Gen. 39-40), he learned humility of spirit during that time, which would... Continue Reading

Nothing I Suffer Surprises God

Replacing “what if” with “even if” is one of the most liberating exchanges we can make.

Years ago, I wrote an article to remind myself (and others) that even if my nightmares came true, God would be there, carrying me and comforting me. When we are obsessively searching Google, we are often wondering what we’ll do if the worst happens, or we’re trying to reassure ourselves that the worst won’t happen.... Continue Reading

The Lord Is With You Today

All the days He is with me to the end, and through the end, and beyond the end forever and ever!

Every day will be a day of temptation. In the home, in the business, in company, in loneliness; I shall encounter the devil’s subtle snares. But let my Lord be with me, and temptation will but reveal the closeness and blessedness of the tie. It will be an instrument which He uses to impart more... Continue Reading

Pestilence and Pastoral Ministry

His careful wisdom was applied differently in circumstances with tremendous sensitivity and an earnest desire that God would be glorified it in all.

As a pastor who is struggling through difficult questions facing my own ministry, Green — a man who was infected with disease as a result of pastoral visitation, who dealt charitably with the weakness of his family and wife, who labored tirelessly in preaching, and who recognized God’s blessing even in canceling church — is... Continue Reading

Paul Gerhardt and His Songs of Confident Hope

He suffered many losses, but knew that Christ will one day restore everything in a perfect way.

Some of Gerhardt’s hymns were translated into English first by John Wesley (1703-1796) and largely by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878), who also devoted a chapter to him in her book on German hymnwriters. “His hymns seem to be the spontaneous outpouring of a heart that overflows with love, trust, and praise,”[4] she said. Much of the depths... Continue Reading