RSS feed for this section

Archive | The Church

The Humorless Pulpit

I have a word for you preachers out there.  Humor has no place in the pulpit.  Especially Reformed ones.  I am so serious. I am not joking. Some guys like to refer to themselves as TR – Truly Reformed.  Well, just know that I can top that because I am RR – Really Reformed. Preachers should know enough never to use any jokes when they preach. For humor in the pulpit is no laughing matter.

I’m serious.  Laughing violates the Regulative Principle.  Think about it.  Where are we commanded in the Bible to laugh in worship?  Abraham and Sarah thought they would laugh in front of God, and what happened to them?  They got a child named “Laughter.”  You think that’s funny?  How would you like to go call your kid to supper and have to yell out in the neighborhood, “Laughter, time to eat!”?  Or if he is misbehaving say, “Laughter, cut out the laughter!”  That’s not funny.

People try to justify some levity in the pulpit by saying there is joking material in the Bible.  No, I don’t mean the made up ones, like “Who is the shortest man in the Bible?” Answer: “Bildad the Shuhite.”  I mean saying things […]

Pursuing Prodigals

Many Christian parents have had the sad experience of seeing a covenant child grow up and wander from the faith.  To see one whom you joyfully brought into the world, baptized in the name of the Triune God, sacrificed in love to nurture and provide for, and trained to love Christ and His church, grow up only to reject his inheritance for the pottage of this world is a tragedy whose grief is carried daily by godly parents.  

If the Apostle John said that he had no greater joy than seeing his children walking with the Lord (III John 4), then certainly there is no greater sadness than to see a young person walk away from Him.  

Without going into all the questions this issue raises in such areas as parental guilt and responsibility, church discipline, election, etc., what exactly should be the response of parents and those in fellowship with them that are thrust into this unwanted situation of having a prodigal? It begins with taking hope in knowing that the story of the Bible is one of God pursuing His wayward people.  Just recently the words of Isaiah 29:22-24 were brought to my attention.

Therefore thus says the Lord, who […]

A Long Line of Godly Men

Sometimes it’s striking how our own lives parallel church history. The subtitle of Ligonier’s biography series, “A Long Line of Godly Men” has been ringing in my head this past week. Not only is it an appropriate phrase to celebrate how God has blessed his church through many godly men, it’s also an appropriate title for his grace in my life.

As God often chooses to use secondary means to accomplish his wonderful purposes, he has chosen to use a long line of godly men in my life to bring his saving and sanctifying grace to me. As we approach Thanksgiving, I wanted to give God my public thanks for this long line of godly men he’s used in my life.

Highlights of Sanctification: Overcoming Modern Challenges

On Friday and Saturday I spent a wonderful time in Indianapolis with over 300 other believers being fed by Tim Challies and David Murray as they addressed the topic of growing as believers in the midst of the unique challenges of the modern world.  The Second Reformed Presbyterian Church hosted the time well by providing a warm welcome to all, making available room for the huge layout of books by Reformation Heritage Books with tasty refreshments nearby, and offering special times of question and answer sessions with David and Tim, be it for youth around pizza or pastors around a tasty lunch. Certainly the time was a taste of the eternal fellowship we will fully enjoy one day.

As I believe it would be well worth the investment of time to listen to their messages, here are four paragraphs highlighting each one.  To listen to the particular talk, just click the title’s hyperlink. 

The Trinity’s Hymnbook (Part I)

Certain congregational songbooks use the word “Trinity” in their titles.  For instance, there is the Trinity Hymnal and the Trinity Psalter.  Yet how aware are we that the songbook found in the middle of the Bible, the Psalms, is filled with references and allusions to the Trinity?  In one sense this should not surprise us, as they were authored by the Triune God (II Timothy 3:16; I Peter 1:20-21).  However, if my own growing awareness and recent experiments pointing this out to students are any indication, many believers are missing out on this particular vein of richness in the Psalter.

My eyes were opened to this while sitting under the teacher of Robert Letham, author of The Holy Trinity.  During this wonderful week of learning, Dr. Letham showed how the knowledge of the Trinity is present in the Old Testament but is veiled and only progressively revealed. For instance, do you know where in the Bible is the first place the Trinity is referenced?  The first three verses of the Bible!  God (the Father) is mentioned in verse 1, the Spirit of God in verse 2, and the Word of God (whom we know is Jesus) in verse 3.  He then lead us through an […]

Preaching with Authority

Every preacher who stands behind a pulpit or on a street corner should desire to preach with authority.  He should hope that when people hear him that they are rather hearing God speaking to them through him.  He should long for his preaching to be effectual, moving people into obedient response to the Word of God.

For this is how Jesus preached. Following one of his sermons, this is the description of the response:  “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29).

So how does one preach with authority?  Certainly the preacher should pray that God would bestow authority upon him as he proclaims the gospel.  Yet are there principles he can follow so that when he preaches he just does not sound like he is just attempting to be authoritative, but actually preaches with authority?  I believe so, especially if we remember the context where this statement regarding Jesus’ preaching was made.  The crowds were amazed at the teaching of Jesus as they heard the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

A Good Trend

In the Reformed Presbyterian Church where I serve, over the last decade or two we have seen congregations adding multiple pastoral staff.  For instance, nearly twenty years ago the congregations in the state of Indiana where I was located all had just one pastor per congregation for the most part.  Today as I write, two-thirds of the organized congregations there have more than one man serving in the pastorate.  Many other denominations have been experiencing similar trends.

Though we long for empty pulpits in congregations to be filled; we recognize not every context or occasion calls for or can sustain more than a singular pastor; and certainly there are difficulties and dangers that can arise in congregations where there is more than one pastor, overall this is a good trend.  As Martin Bucer said in Concerning the True Care of Souls, “Therefore, since the pastoral office involves such a great and important work, and one which so long as we live here is unending, that of presenting the church of Christ in all its members without fault, without stain or wrinkle, this office requires many sorts of ministry and work.”

One Chief Quality about the Church that Pastors Should Never Forget

I usually like short blog titles.  But I wanted this one to stand out a bit.

You see, I was surprised (though I should not have been) about something I saw.  It occurred while doing a survey of historical pastoral theology works for a class I am teaching at the seminary.  I found that in reading each of these men they all stressed, in one way or another, one aspect regarding the nature of the church above many others that is vital for pastors and elders to grasp.  The simple truth they stress is that the church is a varied body.

Here is a short sampling of three men from different times stressing this, with an application from each one that pastors can and should make in the church.

My New Life at RPTS

As a new teacher at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, I have been asked often as of late “How do you like it?”

My answer is simple.  “I’m having a blast!”  To be honest, that has been a big surprise to me.

Transitioning from pastoral ministry to an academic setting was not easy heart-wise.  Having just visited Indiana this past weekend, I was reminded again of how I miss greatly the congregation I left, the personal interactions with the people we love, and regularly ministering God’s Word to a dear flock of His people.  God’s heart, Christ’s blood, and the Spirit’s presence are with the local church in a particular way.  The man who is set apart to administer God’s care to the church has a very special assignment.

Truly feeling that way, to be honest I just did not think I could be as joyful about ministry coming to a seminary.  I knew I would enjoy being around the godly and talented faculty and staff at RPTS.  I looked forward to interaction with the students in and outside the classroom.  Yet I was unsure I would be able to enjoy fully this ministry context.

However, I have been simply overwhelmed with gratitude and astonishment […]

Foolish Preaching?

The preaching of the gospel is a profound aspect of Christian worship. Some see preaching merely as a teaching time. Some see it as a time for outreach.  Some see it as a time to justify paying the pastor!  But at the core of preaching is this- preaching is an act of worship.  Through preaching, fallen humanity is able to encounter the holy Triune God of the Bible in a powerful way.

How does the Bible view preaching? The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.“

To the non-Christian: Preaching is foolish.
To the Christian: Preaching is the power of God.