1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

Bible 101

My university graduation featured an address by a speaker who told us he intended to be “aspirational, inspirational, and motivational”. Sadly, he was none of those things, but was a rather dull speaker who trotted out the standard tropes of such occasional addresses: work hard; act well towards your colleagues and clients; persevere towards a better tomorrow. (more…)

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Corrupting the code: How do we lose sight of the basics?

Pastoral Ministry

Elsewhere in Issue #413 Archie Poulos masterfully isolated the scriptural DNA of gospel ministry, centred around the conversion of sinners. (The article can be viewed here.) This article is the counterpart to that one, examining how we can corrupt this DNA. Can we identify stress points in ministry that could compromise the gospel of Jesus and bring it into disrepute? Let’s look at three areas: not watching our lives closely, not watching our doctrine closely, and not loving one another well.1
(more…)

Is Jesus Lord of your (Easter) Holidays?

Everyday Ministry, Life, Sola Panel

Friends, is Jesus Lord of your holidays? For many of you, the answer is yes!

Jesus says the two great commands are to love God and to love your neighbour. So I see people making Jesus Lord of their holidays, when they continue to read the Bible and say their daily prayers while out of regular routine in relaxed mode. Or when they take the chance to read and reflect on a solid Christian book they’d not normally get to. (more…)

photo | Martin Lopatka via flickr

50 shades of white

Life

A couple of days ago I had a moment. Okay, it wasn’t just a moment. It was a few hours. I could tell you how it wasn’t really my fault. How I just followed a link from someone, read about her passion for fiction and clicked on a book in a series that she’s into. (more…)

Depression

Suffering service

Life

Life is pretty good at the moment. I have three great kids. My marriage is going well. We planted a church a few years ago, and we are starting to get some traction. The problems we have are because of growth. All in all, this is one of those seasons people dream about. Life is good. (more…)

What a Muslim teaches us

Everyday Ministry

Back in 1981, Christian hearts thrilled to see a mainstream popular film treat Christian conscience positively. The film was Chariots of Fire and the Christian conscience was that of Eric Liddell, the man who refused to run in the Olympics on a Sunday. It was just so different to see a man of genuine faith presented in a film as a hero instead of a moral failure or a narrow-minded hypocrite.

Yet there was something odd about the insistence on the Lord’s Day Observance. If we were going to stand for principle somewhere should it really be about not running on a Sunday? It was not like having sport organized for every Sunday in opposition to Church as we have it today. It was the once every four years Olympics drawing people from all over the world to Paris in 1924 for a short period of competition. Is it really forbidden in Scripture to run on a Sunday in such a circumstance? (more…)

Challenging the rushed ministry decision

Everyday Ministry, Sola Panel

Every person involved in leading or organising a church or Christian ministry activity will have had the experience of a member dropping out at short notice, leaving sudden gaps to fill, even gaping holes at times. (more…)

Book review: “Modest: Men and women clothed in the gospel”

Review

If the Holy Spirit was my personal shopper I wouldn’t have a problem. Long pants: modest. Short shorts: immodest. Long sleeve shirt: modest. Plunging neckline: immodest.
Modesty seems obvious, and would be simple if I could just get the right skirt length and be done with it—unfortunately the heart issue is more complicated. This is what Tim Challies and RW Glenn explore in Modest. (more…)

frozenchipmunk, via flickr

The preaching of John Chapman

Everyday Ministry, Pastoral Ministry

When John Chapman came to your church in the 1970s, it was like the evangelical circus had come to town. I don’t mean that it was entertainment (though he was gripping) or that there were clowns (though he was hilarious) or even that it was a spectacle (though he was larger than life). I mean that it was the best day of the year. (more…)

Thanksgiving: it’s not trivial.

Life, Sola Panel

flickr: Liz Grace

“Count your blessings.” “Put a smile on your dial.” “Raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens.” Thanksgiving has always seemed a bit trivial to me, a Hallmark greeting card sentiment next to the lyric poetry of praise.1

Here’s how my (faulty) reasoning goes: (more…)

The mundane work of the Spirit

Everyday Ministry, Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel

I burst into tears.

Not true! Sorry Jean, I don’t burst into tears (at least can’t remember the last time), but I get moist at the corners of my eyes quite often! For example, just yesterday… (more…)

→ Christian character and good arguments

Link

Michael Horton has written a paper on constructing good arguments (and avoiding bad ones) for his students, and has cut out some of the essay-specific things to produce a short little set of guidelines for engaging well with people:

Especially in a “wiki” age, our communication today is prone to gushes of words with trickles of thought. We don’t compose letters much anymore, but blurt out emails and tweets. Just look at the level of discourse in this political campaign season and you can see how much we talk about, over, and past rather than to each other. Sadly, these habits—whether fueled by sloth or malice—are becoming acceptable in Christian circles, too. The subculture of Christian blogging often mirrors the “shock-jock” atmosphere of the wider web. “Don’t be like the world” means more than not imitating a porn-addicted culture, while we tolerate a level of interaction that apes the worst of TV sound-bites, ads, and political debates.

For my seminary students I’ve written a summary of what I expect in good paper-writing for my classes. It follows the classical order of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. It also explains why the pursuit of excellence in thinking and communicating is not just an academic exercise, but is a crucial part of Christian character.

It’s a bit technical at points, but it’s worth a read to help you identify arguments and engage in discussions online or elsewhere.

(And before anyone asks, no, this is not directed at anyone in particular.)

→ Breaking Hearts

Link

R. C. Sproul, Jr.:

I am here and not there because He has brought this to pass. I am here for Shannon’s sake, for her good. I am here for my own sake, for my good. And I am here for the sake of Darby, Campbell, Delaney, Erin Claire, Maili, Reilly and Donovan. My Father knows what each of my children need. He knows how to grow the fruit of the Spirit in each of them. He knows precisely what they each need to become more like Jesus. And He has the power to bring this to pass. What they need right now if for me to be here.

Tragic; beautiful.

To dye or not to dye?

Life, Sola Panel

To dye or not to dye? This question came up on Jenny’s blog, and I just couldn’t resist jumping in with a typically over-long comment! Here’s an edited version of what I wrote, for women considering the pressing question of whether or not to dye greying hair. It’s not a bad test-case for issues of beauty and personal adornment.

flickr: foxtongue

Like all things the Bible doesn’t legislate on, whether or not to dye your hair comes down to the freedom to serve one another in love (Gal 5:13). It’s the teaching of demons to declare a created thing “bad”: it’s good if received with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:1-5). We’re not to submit to rules like “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch!” (Col 2:16-23).

So yes, hair dye, waxing, and, dare I say, even botox and surgery to improve appearance are not evil in themselves: (more…)