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Archive | Christian Living

Martin Luther on Prayer

No doubt we will hear a fair bit about Martin Luther in the coming months, but I don’t think he’s featured too much on Gentle Reformation so far, so perhaps I can share a few notes I recently came across on some points Luther made about prayer.

Prayer is a duty

Luther understood prayer first and foremost as a duty, because God has commanded us to do it. It’s more than a duty, of course, but it is not less. The third commandment not only forbids us from using God’s name in an empty and meaningless way – it also requires us to praise the holy name of God and call upon it all our needs. Prayer is just as clearly and solemnly commanded as having no other gods, not murdering or stealing, and we need to have a greater sense of that than we do. Luther wrote, ‘From fact that prayer is so urgently commanded, we ought to conclude that we should by no means despise our prayers, but rather prize them highly.’ Even more strongly, Luther declared, ‘He who does not pray should know that he is no Christian and does not belong in the kingdom of God.’

I wonder […]

The Signage of Your Life

Whilst traveling in the USA last month I stayed for a few nights in accommodation provided by a church.  It was basic, but I genuinely appreciated it as it saved the Scottish church the price of a hotel.  (I say that not because the Scots are tightfisted, but because we’re trying to invest our kingdom resources as prudently as we can.) Anyway to get back to my accommodation in the church.  After a long day of travel, and it was long, I arrived at my destination and was kindly led through a myriad of corridors to the room where I would be staying.  This corridor was one of, I think four in the building, and it alone had seven doors on it leading to a variety of rooms. Three of those rooms had signage on them.  One had a sign marked ‘Ladies’, another ‘Gents’, and the third had a bright pick notice with the words ‘Shower Room’ on it.   But the room I would be staying in had no sign saying what it was.  Well to be fair it had a sign, but not on the door. When I woke up the first morning, having had a decent 6 hours […]

What Remembering the Poor Really Means

When the apostles eventually confirmed the Lord’s commission for Paul to go to the Gentiles, according to him they gave him one final admonition. “They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do” (Gal 2:10). Part and parcel of pastoral and church planting ministry is then this duty to remember the poor. Yet what does it really mean to remember them?

It is easy to associate the word remember simply with the idea of acknowledging or being aware of a circumstance. We can shake our heads sadly and muse, “Yes, it’s too bad there are so many poor people in that part of town.” Like the politician who famously said of the struggling, “I feel your pain” while remaining at a distance from them, we can think it sufficient to know of the existence of the plight of others and feel sorry for them. But in the Bible, to remember means something much more than bringing to mind a matter.

Like many of the commandments found in the New Testament, such as the great commandments to love God and neighbor, this call to remember the poor is an echo of Old Testament law. Israel was […]

The Call of Widowhood

Because of sad, hard, tragic providence, over the last few years a number of friends and a family member have become widows. In praying for and interacting with these dear women, Miriam and I have seen how lonely and difficult their new status can be. In reflecting on this both personally and biblically, one thought that might be helpful is to see widowhood as a calling.

When a Christian woman becomes a wife, she takes her vows before the Lord and receives her new role with her husband as a calling. She becomes his helper (Gen. 2:18), his closest companion by covenant (Mal. 2:14), and the delight of his life (Gen 2:23; Song of Sol. 4). By submitting herself to his leadership, usually symbolized in our culture by the woman taking her husband’s last name, the wife has linked her identity with him (Eph. 5:22-33). They have become one. If the Lord blesses them with children, the woman sees her calling as a wife expanded into motherhood (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 113:9). We typically do not balk at the idea of becoming and being a wife as a calling.

But what about widowhood? Can that not also be considered a calling of a unique […]

Browse Worthy: The Immigration Crisis

With so many protests and so much in the news about the president’s immigration ban, here are a few articles hopefully to encourage calm, reasoned thinking on the matter.

Trump’s order is a balm for Christians, not a ban on Muslims | Carol Swain

An opinion piece on CNN that comments on the actual text of President Trump’s order.

Evangelical Experts Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban | Kate Shellnut

This article features the difficulty that agencies like World Relief have following the president’s actions and, despite its title, offers perspectives from leading Christians on both sides of the issue.

Ten Theses on Immigration | Ross Douthat

This New York Time article brings some fascinating insights from social science research to this issue.

Exclusive: The letter Russell Moore will send Trump about the refugee order | Russell Moore

Dr. Moore already sent his letter but it is worth reading, especially as an example of addressing our leaders on this matter.

The Immigration Crises May Be a Providential Call to Make a Move | Jennifer Oshman

Become an immigrant yourself? May sound crazy, but when I read this link at Tim Challies’ site I understood.

Humbling Hezekiahs

What minister is entirely free from the vestiges of self? Is it not the very best, most effective, most productive pastors who are most frequently assaulted by temptations to pride? Is it not a humbling fact that the hearts of Christian elders are so easily puffed up? If Satan was the originator of pride, and if sinners, at times, seem to thrive and revel in pride, is not every believer also in danger of succumbing to pride?

Such questions and thoughts as these have been whizzing round my neurones since the case of Hezekiah came before my mind. What, we have to ask, was going through his brain when he committed this sin? So I started to attempt to tease out the thought processes of one of Judah’s stellar monarchs. I began to meander my way slowly through the accounts of the sin of Hezekiah in scripture (2 Kings 20.12-19; 2 Chronicles 32.24-31; Isaiah 39.1-8). I was rocked by the force of the many valuable and instructive lessons and warnings to be scavenged from the spiritual carrion of the accounts of the carcass-like sin of the pride of Hezekiah.

1. Godly leaders who do much for the wellbeing of the Kingdom and honour of the House of God are still capable of committing serious, disgraceful sins that […]

An Emoji Testimony

I want to give you a simple way to share your faith. Not trivialize it, as the title of this post could imply, but help solidify it in your heart and mind as a ready way to share the hope of Christ in you. Let me explain.

In Matthew 13, our Lord told a parable likening the kingdom of God to a sower sowing seeds indiscriminately. Regardless of the soil type – hard, rocky, weedy, or fertile – the sower just threw out the seed. Later, when Jesus explained the parable to his disciples, he told them the seed was God’s Word and the soils represented people’s hearts. Though other applications can be made from this parable, one thing we learn is that we are to be liberally and widely sharing God’s Word with others.

Often, we stop short of testifying to Christ with unbelievers around us, be it a neighbor, a co-worker, an acquaintance, or even a longtime friend because we simply do not know what to say. We are unprepared, and I know many Christians can also feel unqualified to speak.

Yet this parable should encourage us in at least two ways. First, it reminds us that we are not accountable for […]

Navigating Transitions

Regardless of whether you love or dread change, it remains inevitable. Save the unchanging character of God, everything and everyone we know undergoes constant change. And beyond the never-ending constant stream of change, there are also times of life marked by even greater change, times we often call transitions. This past weekend I was able to spend time with a group of college students exploring together a faithful way of navigating the big transitions in life. More than anything, I was hoping they would see that being proactive as we head into transitions is more challenging but much more effective and joyful. Toward the end of helping you be proactive in times of change, here are some of the highlights. 

Presbyterian Partiality?

I’m hoping to preach on the sin of partiality tomorrow evening from James 2.1-7.

In preparing, yesterday morning, I was really surprised to discover that one of the chief reasons or motivations for the prohibition of prejudice is the doctrine of election!

“Listen my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith & heirs of the Kingdom, which God has promised to those who love him?”

It actually makes me wonder why we, in particular, as died-in-the-wool Calvinists, fall into the trap of ‘Presbyterian Partiality’ (apologies in advance to other readers)? There are strong reasons why ‘The Reformed’ (for want of a better term), of all people, should be less vulnerable or prone to this sin.

We ought to have a strong doctrine of scripture. Yet exegesis of the text forbids partiality in church, James 2.1, which in comparison to Saviour is an inglorious sin:

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory.”

The definition of Thayer helps us get a better handle on the problem of partiality which is:

“…the fault of one who when called on to requite or to give judgment has respect to the outward […]

In Awe of the Aged

Have you ever met a mature Christian?  That question’s not meant to be snarky, no matter how many smirks it may inspire.  It’s meant to call attention to the truly special experience of interacting with people who sincerely (and sometimes unknowingly) exude from the core of their being what Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5).  Their demeanor is calm and calming.  Ordinary conversations with them feel holy, and when you leave, you feel understood, taken seriously, and loved.  These people scare the stuff out of me.