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My Rocky Mountain High

Over the holiday break my wife and I spent a delightful extended weekend in Colorado.  While journeying through the streets of Colorado Springs, one of our hosts pointed out the new marijuana shops that have opened up since the legalization took effect.  All I can say is that some may get their “Colorado Rocky Mountain High” from cannabis, but ours came from the creation and especially the church!

What majesty is not only seen but felt as you drive or stand along the towering Rockies!  The quietness and the power overwhelm, humbling you beneath their splendor.  We spent a few days with our dear friends John & Angi Hindman and their family in Longmont.  One day we drove up into the mountains to Brainerd Lake, with plans to hike around it a bit.  But by the time we arrived the temperature had plummeted to single digits and the winds blew strong.  So we remained in the van, enjoying the view as we partook of a hot soup and snack picnic.  On the way back down, we happened upon the scene of a bull moose lumbering across a snow-covered field.  As I had driven all over a park in Canada a few […]

Hallowed Memories: Happy New Year!

One my greatest New Year’s Eve/Day highlights is singing the 77th Psalm to the tune Auld Lang Syne. For me, this tradition began in Grand Rapids, MI, in the manse of Rev. and Mrs. Lanning. Bringing in the new year with God’s Word sung is a marvelous tradition that I have brought into my home and promoted among my congregation in Los Angeles.

The 77th Psalm begins with the psalmist crying out to God and refusing to be comforted. He then begins to recall the days of old and in his heart’s meditation he confronts himself with a series of self-examining questions.

Self-examination at the end of year and at the beginning of a new year is worthy of our consideration as Christians. Here are some of the psalmist’s questions that you may also examine yourself as you begin 2013:

Will the Lord cast off forever?  Will he be favorable no more?  Has his mercy ceased forever?  Has his favor failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he shut up mercy in anger? What does the psalmist conclude following examining the character of God in relationship to his merciless perception? 

You see, in these questions we find the obvious! Jesus is […]

How Romantic Comedies Are Destroying the World …

C.S. Lewis opens his brilliant, prophetic series of lectures entitled The Abolition of Man with these words:  “I doubt whether we are sufficiently attentive to the importance of elementary text books.”  Lewis alerts his audience to particular lessons children in his day were learning about values, ethics and knowledge – lessons which, if uncritically absorbed into our souls, gut our very humanity.  How this dehumanizing happens, I’ll not spoil for you – please read the book if you’ve not already!  Suffice it to say, Lewis was right.

Browse Worthy: More Meditative Thoughts on Tragedy

Jared’s post on Saturday helped me a great deal to think in a Biblical way about the tragedy in Connecticut.  We need this clear rather than emotive thinking at times such as these.  Instead of running to the Drudge Report, mainstream media news, or Facebook for more informational overload (which leads to emotional overload), why not meditate in a more helpful manner?  How so?

First, follow the advice of David Murray and stop the “Peeping Tom” syndrome news agencies encourage when situations like this occur. Next, let an overseas missionary lovingly remind you of how prevalent and unusual tragedy really is in this sin-cursed world.  Then, let  Al Mohler give you further theological instruction on how to process, pray, and discuss the awful brokenness sin has brought with the compassion and victory of Christ.

I cannot believe one reporter actually interviewed, with the permission of her parents, a little surviving girl near the scene of the tragedy who had just left the school.  It was made worse when, seeing she was not able to say much, he displayed his mindlessness further by dismissing her with these words: “Go and enjoy the day with your family.”

May we not, in the virtual world of the internet, do the […]

Browse Worthy: Good Works’ Relationship to God

Though clearly our aim is not to focus on controversial issues on Gentle Reformation, there are times to make known debates when doing so will help sharpen the mind of the church on vital topics. This is especially important when influential pastors and authors are involved.  I do so again today.

Recently I drew your attention to a series of posts written about the doctrine of total depravity and the Christian.  The gifted pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Tullian Tchividjian, created a stir because of the way his article wed too strongly the believer with an ongoing depravity.

Tchividjian has sought to overcome the concerns expressed by others with a new post entitled “God Doesn’t Need Your Good Works…But Your Neighbor Does.”  Sadly, despite much truth in his article, it will only raise further concerns.  If “wedding” was the problem in his first post, “divorcing” is the problem here as he separates too strongly sanctification from God Himself.  The statement from his article that summarizes its theme would be this: “The aim and direction of good works are horizontal, not vertical.”  According to numerous passages, including Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus taught that believers will be rewarded on Judgment Day according to good works that ultimately […]

Books That Have Shaped Our Lives

While imprisoned in a dank cell, the Apostle Paul made a request.  He asked Timothy to bring him three things.  “When you come,” he said, “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” (2 Tim 4:13)

It certainly stirs the imagination to think what those books and parchments must have been.  As for the latter, they were almost certainly the Scriptures.  Would not this faithful servant desire above all else the Word of God?  One can easily picture him reading the scroll of Isaiah in the dim light.  So they were most likely Holy Writ.

But what of the books?  What might they have been?

Here we can only guess.  Whatever they were, Paul desired to have them.  He wanted to pore over them again in the remaining time allotted to him.

Books are undoubtedly important.  By inscribing various shaped symbols onto a clean sheet of paper, the very ideas and imaginations of men are communicated.  We can be lifted out of our world into another, where we encounter all manner of strange creatures and places.  We can be shown more clearly man’s true nature through the art of story.  And we can actually […]

Holidays and Holy Days

Christmas is just a few weeks off. Most churches have Christmas trees up by now, and many ministers started their Advent sermon series this past weekend. Christmas–like Easter and the other holy days of the Christian calendar–has been so widely embraced by protestant churches, that not to incorporate them into the church worship schedule seems either strange or downright block headed.

I am one of those pastors who still believes the church should not include these holidays in the worship calendar. But I also don’t want to maintain that distinction in stubbornness or merely out of fondness for “old style presbyterianism.” So, I thought I’d take a couple of paragraphs–speaking for myself at least–to explain why I still believe this is a matter of biblical conviction.

First of all, there is one religious calendar that goes all the way back to the creation: the weekly religious calendar. God appointed the sabbath day as a religious day to be observed weekly. The Ten Commandments reaffirm that this weekly day of worship sets the cadence of life for God’s people. The New Testament also continues to call us to weekly sabbath (or, Lord’s Day) worship (more on this, later). The weekly religious calendar is biblical, and continues in […]

Browse Worthy: Depravity and the Christian

Here’s a question to sharpen your mind before the weekend:  Are Christians totally depraved?   Now trace along the following links to discover the answer.

Tullian Tchividjian – This article on the Gospel Coalition website first raises the question.  To his credit, a careful reading shows that Pastor Tchividjian acknowledges that the answer has both “No” and “Yes” components.  But I believe his development of the “Yes” component basically negates the “No” sense of his answer and leads to trouble, as is well pointed out by…

Rick Phillips – This response on Reformation 21 is superb in both answering the original question accurately and clarifying the problems with Tchividjian’s answer.  He also reminds us that traces of this incorrect theology are found in Tchividjian’s popular new book Jesus + Nothing = Everything, where he also links to a gracious and good review of the book by…

Uprooted: Interview with Rebecca VanDoodewaard

Rebecca VanDoodewaard is the the author of the new book Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians. She is the wife of Bill, Professor of Church History at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and mother of three.  Bill and Rebecca blog together at The Christian Pundit.

Uprooted is loaded with practical, spiritual advice on how to handle moving and the life changes it brings.  Rebecca was gracious to answer the following questions to introduce you to the book.  My wife and I have been encouraged by the book as we prepare to be uprooted ourselves next year, so I wanted to draw it to others’ attention.  But beyond that, as part of Bill & Rebecca’s journey led them to worship and live near us for three years, they are dear friends and I can attest to the reality in their lives of the godly faith encouraged in this book.

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You explain in the opening pages of the book the life factors that caused you to have to deal with homesickness and led to the writing of Uprooted.  Could you share with our readers here a few of those?

My own homesickness drove me to dig into Scripture and the lives of saints from history who […]

The Goal of Gospel Preaching

Too often the pastor, in writing his sermon for the Lord’s Day, falls into the thinking that the goal of his preparation is just getting the message done.  That’s not the true end of gospel preaching.  Thinking that way will lead to boredom and even death in the pulpit, not life.  He needs to think of what the ultimate goal is to be.

Neither is the goal – and here I tread on far more delicate ground – simply that of conversion.

I know I could be misunderstood in this.  Yet hear me out.  By its very definition, gospel preaching should be evangelistic.  Indeed, the earnest preacher should long for a baptism by fire to be poured out on sinners’ hearts while listening to his message and to see many won to Christ through it. On this side of heaven, can there be any greater joy than hearing the Lord has taken the word you have preached and used it to cause a sinner to repent?  If angels rejoice over this, then helping them to do so should be the pursuit of the minister.