RSS feed for this section

Archive | Christian Living

A Sweet Ouch

From A Guide to Christian Living (pages pp.28-31), a devotional extracted from the third book of John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion:

When Scripture commands us in our dealings with men to prefer them in honor to ourselves, and to strive loyally to advance their welfare (Rom. 12:; Phil 2:3), it lays down requirements which no human heart can possibly fulfill, unless first freed from its natural inclination.  For we are so blinded and engrossed by self-love that we all believe we are entitled to rise higher than everyone else and to despise them in comparison.  If we receive some valuable gift from God we immediately use it as an excuse to exult.  Not only do we swell with pride, we almost burst with it!  We make sure we hide from others the vices that beset us, and we pass them off as minor and trifling. Sometimes, indeed, we admire them as virtues! As for our own gifts, we hold them in such high regard that they are a source of wonder to us.  If, however, the same, or even better, gifts are found in other people, so that they put us in the shade, we either ignore or else belittle them as much as […]

Shady Interpretations

Why is it that two Holy-Spirit filled, Christ-loving, Bible-believing Christians can come to very different conclusions on the very same passage of Scripture? The same question applies to Christian denominations (and non-denominational churches) divided by differing teaching. Different doctrine results from differing interpretations of God’s Word. Such fractures among the faithful are frustrating; they run like ruptured veins through the body of church history and they continue to pain the church today. How can we come to collective clarity in our view of God’s Word?

At Your Table Gathered ‘Round

Abby and Trevor, my sister-in-law and now-brother-in-law, were married last Saturday. I had the privilege of praying in the ceremony for the Lord’s blessing on their marriage. After a few words of thanks to God and making requests unique to the new husband and wife, I prayed that the Lord would bless their marriage by blessing the table in their home.

God’s promises in Psalm 128 motivated the prayer, along with the ways I’ve seen him fulfill those promises in Christ at the tables of my in-laws, my parents, my grandparents, and now in our home for the last fifteen years. Some who attended the wedding requested the words of the prayer. I don’t have an exact record, but what follows is the essence of it reconstructed from memory and notes jotted the night before as I prayed in advance for the new couple. Please pray from the heart for this new couple and for all of our homes as you read:

Seven Phrases on the Ten Words

What’s THAT Have to Do With the Ten Commandments?

Have you ever had a conversation with a Christian about an ethical question where they said something to the effect of, “That’s a violation of the _insert number one through ten_  commandment.” And you responded with a “huh?!”

For the sake of example, here are some ethics-statements that Christians have said regarding ethics and their relationship to the Ten Commandments. You may have heard similar statements or have questions of your own :

Labor unions are violations of the Fifth Commandment (honor father and mother).
Angry outbursts are violations of the Sixth Commandment (against murder).
Going out for dinner on Sunday is a violation of the Fourth Commandment (Sabbath).
Playing state lotteries is a violation of the Eighth Commandment (against stealing).
Dressing immodestly is a violation of the Seventh Commandment (against adultery).
Singing uninspired worship songs violates the Second Commandment (no idols).
Birth control is a violation of the Sixth Commandment (against murder).

Again, the purpose of this article is not to attempt to answer the above questions or any ethics question that you may have. The purpose of this article is give you some principles to help you apply the Ten Commandments to some of the […]

Defining Corporate Worship

From a recent class on worship, we hammered out a brief, Biblical, working definition of what a local congregation should be pursuing as it worships the Lord as His holy temple here on the earth.  I simply offer it below with no comment save one.  The Bible makes it abundantly clear that when people worship the Triune God, their behavior toward others will become more Christlike.  Otherwise, they are not truly worshiping.

Corporate Worship is the Church’s 

Reverent & Obedient Service to God,

as Regulated by His Word,

in the Love of the Father,

through the Mediation of the Son,

by the Indwelling Power of the Spirit,

on the Lord’s Day and Other Duly Appointed Times,

Where We are Strengthened by God

to Love the Brethren,

Evangelize the Nations,

and Engage the Needy

in Preparation for the Consummation of the Kingdom.

Calvin’s Counsel on Gentle Reformation

While studying for a recent sermon series on the Lord’s Supper, I read an interesting passage in John Calvin’s 1540 treatise on that sacrament. Toward the end of his treatise (in the extract quoted below), Calvin discusses the controversy between Luther and Zwingli over the nature of the eucharist. As he reviews the unfortunate conflict between these great reformers, Calvin counsels his readers to pursue such matters of doctrinal reformation in a spirit of gentleness. He urges us to “hav[e] the patience to listen to each other in order to follow the truth without passion.”

It sounds like Calvin saw remarkable similarity in the sacramental theology of Zwingli and Luther. According to Calvin, much of the controversy that subsequently overshadowed their positions was due to poorly chosen words, fiery reactions, and a refusal to listen to what opponents actually intended once trenches had been dug. There is much wisdom in Calvin’s assessment of this historic debate. Perhaps if he were alive today, Calvin might himself contribute a post to a blog called “Gentle Reformation” with words like these for us to learn from. 

The New You …

Were you you when you were converted to Christianity?  Or, asking about the same idea from a different angle:  Are you you subsequent to your conversion?  Every Christian should answer with a resolute “Yes!” and “No!”  That’s the Bible’s answer.  As such, it is an ancient, unequivocal answer bearing not one iota of influence from postmodern sentiments about truth.  So what does this answer mean?  How does it make sense?  Let’s take our cue from Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17. 

Sermonic Echoes

During my seminary days attending Covenant Fellowship Church in Pittsburgh, I was blessed to sit under the preaching of Pastor Ken Smith.    We witnessed people being converted, growing disciples, and joyful singing filling the sanctuary.  One of the means the Lord used to produce this spiritual vitality was, with much prayer assistance, Ken’s Biblically-sound, Spirit-filled, covenant-revealing preaching.  At times he would become so animated that a powerful point, followed by a dramatic pause, would echo in the sanctuary as well as reverberate in our  hearts.  I remember that conversations about the messages would follow after the service and throughout the week.