The Happiest Saints in History

Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, and You

The story of the saints down through history is a story of joy lost and found, of glory smothered and shining. From the church fathers to the Reformation to our own century, we learn that true and deep joy grows dim whenever God’s glory is eclipsed. But when God’s glory shines, then the saints sing... Continue Reading

Listening to His Law

When pastors, elders, family-fathers, teachers, and city-fathers abdicate their paternal responsibility, a culture declines to emotionalism, chaos, and banality.

The aim of this three-part series has been to outline biblical education as enculturation, with a focus on the role of fathers. To succeed in shaping a culture and impressing it on future generations, education as paideia requires the attentive, firm, imaginative presence of fathers.   As subcreators, tasked with extending dominion in the form... Continue Reading

Millennials, Gen Xers to baby boomers: Can you retire so I can get a job promotion?

There’s a multigenerational traffic jam on the upper rungs of America’s career ladder.

Forty-one percent of millennials—and 30% of all adults—said they’ve found it difficult to move up in their fields because boomers are waiting longer to retire, according to a USA TODAY/LinkedIn survey of 1,019 working professionals in September.   As more baby boomers put off retirement, millennials and Gen Xers are finding it harder to move up... Continue Reading

Saint Augustine on Kanye West

Augustine explains why we rejoice differently at the conversion of a celebrity.

We rejoice at the conversion of a Kanye or any celebrity because it is a particular manifestation of God’s mercy. Hollywood seems impregnable to the gospel. These conversions remind us that it isn’t. Kanye West says he’s a born again Christian. He says he’s going to be spreading the gospel. His Sunday Service concerts feature... Continue Reading

How to Read John Theologically

One must read Christianly, canonically, confessionally, and creatively.

Not to treat John as Scripture is itself a form of eisegesis, and it is a disobedient hearing of the text’s own claim and of the God by whom it was authored. In short, the divine identity of Scripture must be both the ground and the guide of a properly theological reading of John.  ... Continue Reading

In Spirit and (?) Truth

True worshipers and true worship.

What might it mean to worship in spirit and truth? Is Jesus talking about sincere worship, worship from the heart and not just from the lips? Is He referring to worship that is not restricted to a particular place? Is He saying that we can’t worship in our own power or in our own way... Continue Reading

To Write, or Not to Write, That is the Question

Everyone who picks up a pen (or sits behind a keyboard) would do well to weigh carefully the seriousness of writing the holy things of God.

Admittedly, in writing I’ve had made missteps. I’ve written things in foolish haste, spouted off undigested thoughts, uncharitably characterized others, and written things that are wrong—and I haven’t always had the humility to acknowledge it. As such I often return to that question: to write or not to write?   The Scottish Presbyterian James Durham... Continue Reading

Nikolaus Von Amsdorf

More than a Beer-Drinking Friend

He became a pastor in 1524, when the city of Magdeburg asked him to introduce the Reformation to their citizens. Initially hesitant to take on such a high calling, he finally agreed…and remained in that position for over seventeen years, in spite of constant threats from the local Roman Catholic clerics and other frequent challenges.... Continue Reading

Should We Interpret the Old Testament like the Apostles?

Can we imitate the way in which the New Testament apostles exegeted the Old Testament? No, “wet must listen to the biblical writers through illumination?

The difference cannot be glibly dismissed. A fundamental difference exists in status, activity, and product. The New Testament writers, possessing the gift of apostleship or prophecy, experienced the Spirit’s unique ministry of inspiration, whereas readers of their writings experience the Spirit’s common ministry of illumination. The former were granted knowledge directly from God, apart from... Continue Reading

Sin Exposed in the Most Dreadful Colors

In the cross of Christ, God’s hatred to sin is manifested in the most striking light! The evil of sin is exposed in the most dreadful colors!

And what has He done? He did no wickedness; He knew no sin but was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. And why then, all these dreadful sufferings from heaven, earth, and hell? Why, He only stood in the law-place of sinners; He only received their sin by imputation. And you see what it... Continue Reading

The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas

Environmentalism often comes to us these days as a political idea with a particular spiritual shape. It comes to us as Christianity without Christ.

…at many colleges including Bowdoin, Vanderbilt, and the 23 campuses in the Cal State system, administrators are removing official recognition from Christian prayer and reading groups, mostly for these groups’ refusal to accept non-Christians in leadership positions. This might be taken as covered primarily by the idea of shunning, but it contains an element of... Continue Reading

Does Critical Theory Matter for the Evangelical Church to Act for Social Justice?: A Response to Neil Shenvi

Dr. Shenvi wishes to debunk “critical theory” because he believes it is a “a growing threat to biblical theology.”

We have few illusions that any kind of “ultimate” or complete liberation can be achieved on earth.  We believe in a kind of human progress toward greater justice and more robust forms of democracy, but it would also seem to be in the human condition to fall back into patterns of domination (And this also... Continue Reading

The Wonder of All We Have in Christ

Five Contrasts at the Heart of Hebrews

The superiority of Christ over all that came before him (not just pagan but also God-given, first-covenant practice) is the theme that runs throughout the letter from the opening declaration (Hebrews 1:4) to the concluding lines (Hebrews 12:24).   When we lose our wonder, we are prone to wander. Not only are we prone to... Continue Reading

How to Rejoice Always

Joy in its ultimate sense means drawing near to God through the enjoyment of his good gifts and of himself.

The command to rejoice always does mean that we always have to feel okay, healthy, and exuberant at all times. It means that we have a stable object over which rejoice. It means we choose joy over non-joy. And when possible, our body’s sensory organs follow suit (our eyes tear up, our mouths smile, our... Continue Reading

Radically Ordinary Hospitality

Look for people in your church who are good at hospitality, and ask them to teach others how to be hospitable too.

Hospitality is strategic in our ministry to unbelievers, as well as our ministry to fellow believers. It’s a statement of belief in the value and dignity of every person that we welcome into our homes.   It’s there, right in the middle of the character qualifications of eldership: Therefore an overseer must be above reproach,... Continue Reading

Sanctification: Our Speech

We serve a holy God and we live with people made in his image. Our words ought to reflect that dignity and honor.

 Everything that exits our mouths by way of speech ought to have as its goal the good of those around us even when we must speak boldly or in rebuke. We can’t escape the fact that the super majority of uses of expletives is far less than wholesome or useful for building up anyone.  ... Continue Reading

Women of the Reformation: Katie Luther

"God’s highest gift on earth is a pious, cheerful, God-fearing, home-keeping wife, with whom you may live peacefully, to whom you may entrust your goods and body and life (M. Luther).”

Coming out of a monastic life, both Luther and Katie saw their wedding on June 13, 1525, as an act of confession and obedience to God’s act of creation. While Katie saw Luther as a liberator, Luther too found a freedom he had never known in his marriage with Katie. For this reason, Luther called... Continue Reading

3 Traits of a Biblical Leader

You can command followers by strength. But you can only draw followers by love.

You will never lead anyone into genuine, God-honoring, long-lasting, community-building, self-fulfilling obedience unless they are directed by love for God and his glory. Of course, we can’t create that love; only the Holy Spirit can. Still, true leaders know the importance of nurturing love for God by means of wise words and kind actions. True... Continue Reading

I Will Fight For Your Young People. Will You?

A Pastor’s Plea to Christian Parents

Some of the biggest challenges in ministry come from inside the church, particularly parents between the ages of 45–60. There is one issue that has produced the struggle: their young people are leaving the church. Many parents have watched for years the same old story happen over and over. As soon as a young person returns... Continue Reading

Union in Ephesians 1:3-14

The Reformed Church is in danger of being too systematic for its own good.

The opening sentence of Ephesians has been analyzed systematically by many. This work is profitable, good, and necessary for the church and fulfills the duties of the office of the minister. But, Paul did not deliver the topic of union to us in Ephesians 1:3-14 is a systematic fashion.   As is commonly noted in... Continue Reading

5 Ways to Read More of the Bible

Our days can be unpredictable, and that’s why our Bible intake often is too.

While it’d be great to have thirty minutes alone in the morning with a fresh cup of single-origin coffee from Kenya—you can’t rely on the setting to read the Scriptures. If you get the 6 am dream setting, fantastic. Enjoy. But don’t hitch your reading of the Holy Bible to that sketchy schedule.   Life... Continue Reading

The Lord is My Shepherd: What Does this Mean?

He does not promise to spare you from trouble, but he does promise to be with you in your trouble.

The Israelites to whom this was written often feared not having water and food provided for them, but for you, that may not be your struggle. For some, you might be struggling with the Lord’s provision and care in other areas. This Psalm is a reminder that the Lord will lead and guide and protect... Continue Reading

Argue with Your Pride

We strut through the streets of the earth as if our strength were not fragile, our knowledge not narrow, our lungs not rising only because God gives us breath.

We find pride persuasive for a reason. For a moment at least, pride gives us what we’ve grasped for: the admiration of our peers, the eyes of passing admirers, the laughter of the crowd, the pleasure of being part of the in-group. But the purchase is costlier than it appears, for pride offers us something... Continue Reading

How do you see people?

When we look at people, we should see exactly JUST that—a person in the image of God who needs a relationship with the Son of God. Nothing more. Nothing less. As we look, we must not allow the distractions of the “things” to keep us from seeing what is truly real, really important, and really... Continue Reading

Behold, the Lamb of God: Theology Proper and the Inseparability of Penal-Substitutionary Atonement from Forensic Justification and Imputation

Many factors contributed to the Protestant Reformation, but one of the most significant was the debate over the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

“In church history people have disagreed as to what justification is, and the purpose of this chapter is not to restate all the data for the Reformation’s view of justification as the biblical view. Numerous books have argued this case, along with other chapters in this book. Instead, I assume that the Reformation’s view of... Continue Reading

The Almost Invisible Church

We spend our time wishing that we could be part of what God is doing, all the while missing what God is doing right under our noses because it looks small and insignificant and because it’s hard work.

Thirteen years later, the church has grown, and so have the people. I sat with the pastor and listened over coffee to what God has been doing. It’s still messy. It’s still an almost invisible church. The room can hold a hundred no matter how they configure the church. You would probably never visit that... Continue Reading

What I Want to be When I Grow Up

Those being led astray should bring sorrow to our hearts, not snark to our lips.

During my cage-stage, I found a whole new world of Christianity that had been there all along that I was previously too blind to see, and it was wonderful. But there was a downside too. I had a few arguments, not too many though. I poked fun at Arminians and open-theists, and if anything broke... Continue Reading

Toward a Softer, Gentler Science

Unlike knowledge that deals with intangibles such as religion and philosophy, hard science, we are told, deals in the realm of the observable and measurable and is therefore best suited to answer life’s most pressing questions.

Most school children are taught that the Enlightenment was a time in which science finally shook off the fetters of the church and archaic superstition. Copernicus and Galileo are lauded among the myriad of intellectual martyrs as they tried to distinguish science from philosophical and theological presumptions—the David of facts and evidence pitted against the... Continue Reading

Reprise: You’re Using It Wrong: Ephesians 5:16 & Time

If you think Ephesians 5:16 is about industriousness and time management, You’re Using It Wrong!

There are two enormous problems with this interpretation. First the ancients, including those who lived in Ephesus in the first century, didn’t think of time the way we do, as an asset to be squandered or spent wisely. That is entirely a modern, and more precisely western, conception of time. I would add, it seems... Continue Reading

John Newton, My Friend

Although he has been dead for 212 years, John Newton has become a good friend over the years.

I written about him before, about reading his letters, about godly speech, about hearing sermons, and about pride among preachers. Newton is special, and he makes me think, but I love him more because he communicates in such a way that makes me want to be more like Jesus. As he said of another preacher, “he not only informed... Continue Reading