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What If I Don’t Think My Spouse is a Christian?

The Bible is clear that a Christian should only marry a Christian. We gather that from where the Lord warned the people of Israel not to “make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst” (Exodus 34:12). Also, Paul instructs us not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14), and he reminds the widow that she is “free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39). Certainly this wasn’t intended to squash our love life, but it’s intended by God for our good. I can remember someone once telling me about their non-Christian spouse, how exceedingly sorrowful it was to wake up every morning next to a spiritual corpse. Indeed, I can think of few things more burdensome in this life than to be unequally yoked–to marry someone who doesn’t share convictions on truth, life, and eternity.

But I’ve also encountered people who thought they were marrying a Christian only to wonder, sometime later, if they’d been mistaken. From my limited experience this isn’t as uncommon as we might think. As we slip into the day-to-day routine of life, share in […]

A Letter to the Doubting Christian

Dear Mr. Doubting,

Thank you for your last letter. It was honest and, I am sure, difficult to write. I myself have frequently been where you are–asking questions, doubtful about the truth, searching for certainty, unsure of my own belief. Doubt has many channels into the heart, and I too am familiar with the tidal wave of inquisitiveness that seems to fill them all. I have wondered at times if I would ever recover. Such is the tragic position many Christians find themselves in. They are, by all accounts, the unstable man, “like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).

Now, let me be clear. It isn’t the asking of questions that concerns me. By all means ask questions! If we’re to have an informed faith–which Christianity is in desperate need of today–we must have an inquisitive faith. Nor is it difficulty of mind that troubles me. After all, as one of Job’s friends asked, “Can you find out the deep things of God?” (Job 11:7), and, as Peter noted, even some of Paul’s writings are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). Neither is it ignorance concerning unrevealed things, “How unsearchable are his judgments […]

Dr. Fundamentalis–“Faithful Unto Death”

On January 1, 1937 J. Gresham Machen died. Though he died at the early age of 55, Machen was an accomplished man. He stood fast against the theological liberalism and Modernism of his day with great personal loss, and championed the cause of Jesus Christ with an unwavering conviction to the Bible. He also helped to found the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster Theological Seminary.

While most of the world has probably never heard of Machen, his death commanded the attention of the American journalist, essayist, and scholar, H.L. Mencken. Mencken wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a Christian. In fact, he believed it was “excessively dubious.” Yet, his admiration for the unwavering and faithful Machen has been memorialized in an obituary he wrote. In his estimation Machen was a man of “great learning and sharp intelligence.” I post it here not only because it’s a remarkable witness to a man I esteem highly, but because it’s a wonderful testimony to the influence of conviction. The world doesn’t need a jellyfish Christianity. It needs a Christianity, informed by the eternal truth of God with a backbone of steel. That, in many ways, characterizes Gresham Machen.  As Mencken reflected, “Religion, if […]

What Must I Be To Pray?

I trust you won’t hold it against me if I told you that I’ve often wondered what makes someone a good prayer. I know, I know, that sounds awfully critical and judgmental—two sins I’m often prone to. But I must admit that I’ve heard people pray in such a way that it has made deep and lasting impressions on me.

I remember one prayer from a man I greatly admire that adored God for his Triunity. God in unity, God in plurality, simple in substance, undivided in nature yet distinct in person and indivisibly united. The content was so rich a theological treatise could have been written from it, and it moved me to worship. But I have also heard profound prayers from the lips of children who, without care or concern for what others would think or say, converse with God with such blessed simplicity I blush that I don’t approach the Throne of Grace with likewise child affections. So, if I’m allowed to ask, what makes a man, woman, or child a good prayer? If it’s not eloquence, wordiness, age, experience—what is it?

I think the answer, or at least one of the answers to that question, is character. The […]

The Hatred of Adam’s Hatefilled Race

Watching the news and hearing conversations over the last several weeks has been very hard. The media circus and endless commentaries surrounding Michael Brown and Eric Garner should cause Christians to pause. There’s been so much vitriolic hatred. I must admit, I feel a deep sympathy with the Psalmist, “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” Jesus is serious about loving your neighbor. In fact, the only thing more important than loving your neighbor is loving the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. But second to that, and like that, is loving your neighbor as yourself.

That’s radical command. Why? Because the heart of man is exceedingly hateful. To not love another is hate. And, if I can insist on it, the true tragedy of hatred is not the victimization, marginalization, or oppression of another. The ultimate tragedy, the ultimate outrage of hate is that hatred is sin. This is serious! If you hate your neighbor you’re in danger of the fires of hell. And it’s become clear to me that I don’t hate hatred near enough.

Now, I want to be clear. Hatred isn’t a respecter […]

My Eyes Flow With Tears

A few years ago a little book caught my attention. Though I had read it before I noticed, for the first time, that it was unlike most books I had ever read. It was poetic. It was tragic and sorrowful. It was graphic and stirring. It was intense and emotional. Most fascinating, however, is that it was a book that profoundly reflected the heart of Jesus. Not Jesus as we sometimes think of him–confident as he calmed the storm, bold as he preached the kingdom, jealous as he overturned tables, or silent as he faced his oppressors. But Jesus as he stood by the grave of Lazarus and wept (Jn 11:35). Jesus as he approached Jerusalem weeping over it (Lk 19:41). Jesus as he offered up prayers with tears (Heb 5:7). It was the book of Lamentations.

I’m going to guess that Lamentations isn’t a book most of us are familiar with. In it, the Prophet Jeremiah is heartbroken and stunned at the destruction of Jerusalem, “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations!” While the fall of Jerusalem is described in a purely historical […]

A Letter to the Anxious Christian

Dear Mr. Anxious,

Hello friend! I wanted to thank you for your letter. I must admit, however, that I was sorry to hear of your many burdensome anxieties. They are a load you were not meant to bear. You’re not alone. The world is full of anxious people. I don’t mean people who are anxious about the things of God–sin and temptation or the condition of their souls. If only we had more of that and less of worldly worry! No, we worry about all kinds of things—money and health, marriage and children, school and work, reputations and appearances, today and tomorrow; we worry about what we will eat and drink and wear—and on and on the list could go. In my own case, I must admit, every now and then anxiety hangs over my head like a dark shadow that seems all but impossible to escape.

Yet, Mr. Anxious, I feel strongly that a Christian has as much a right to worry as he does to steal, lie, or kill. That is, he doesn’t have a right–it’s illegal! Worry is unbelief, it’s being mastered by circumstances, it’s a distrust of God’s promises. We worry, and worry is sin. The command is […]

In the Praise of Protestantism

Sometimes I want to protest Protestantism. Well, to be fair, at least how Protestantism is now. There’s a lot to be discouraged about. But on this Reformation Day I want to put my discouragements aside and praise Protestantism. You may know that on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther famously nailed his 95-Theses to the door in Wittenberg, Germany. While the fire of the Reformation had been burning for some time, this event, no doubt, accelerated what would become the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was one of the greatest workings of the Holy Spirit since the beginnings of the New Testament church and the days of the Apostles.

To be sure, reality calls us to recognize that the bright sun of Protestantism has been largely eclipsed. The Marburg Colloquy, which first challenged the possibility of a united Protestant church, only stands at the head of what is quite literally a thousand fractures. While this is a sad truth, especially in light of our prayers for the “peace of Jerusalem” (Ps 122:6), I’m not naïve enough to think that the unity for which Jesus prayed when he said, “that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11), is achievable on […]

The First Word of God to His Church

Have you ever noticed that almost every letter in the New Testament–James, Hebrews, and 3 John excepted–opens with the words “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” or a close approximate? Its’ easy, isn’t it, to just pass by those words. After all, sometimes we view them as being a mere formality, equivalent to our own modern, “I hope you are well.” Who cares about mere pleasantries when the body of the letter is what contains the “good stuff.”

Well, it’s true that the Apostles borrowed from the common practice of their own day when they wrote letters. After all, letter writing isn’t a unique Christian endeavor. But it’s far from the truth to think of these greeting only as a matter of custom. Rather, as a part of God’s Word, they’re transformed and given significance. Here’s two ways to think about these greetings—“grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

First, we need to remember that this is an inspired greeting. Though the Apostles wrote the letters, they did so as those who were inspired. Their letters, to be sure, bear their trademarks—their personality and characteristics. The letters […]

Speaking to One Another in Song

If I’m honest, I think one of the downsides of being a pastor is that I don’t often get to sit in the pews. I know pews aren’t always the most comfortable and the sweat stains on the back of ours may cause some people to wonder why sitting in them would be such a blessing. But there’s something about standing side-by-side with the people of God as they worship. There’s a certain connection that can seem lacking when you’re standing alone at the pulpit.

I was thinking of this when I attended a funeral at our church a couple of weeks ago. I was able to sit in the pews; something I hadn’t done since becoming pastor. And it was a blessing. But what really left an indelible impression on me was the singing of the Psalms. The Apostle Paul said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16). The Puritan Thomas Manton observed that we sing Psalms primarily to glorify God, but also to mutually edify one another. He wrote, “It is not meant of teaching from the psalms, but teaching […]