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Lord of Men and Nations

The following article is a guest post by Brad Johnston, pastor of the Topeka Reformed Presbyterian Church. In sharing this news about a national confession of faith by the country of Poland, we at Gentle Reformation want to be clear that we are not advocating Roman Catholic doctrine, as Brad’s article states several times and this recent post shows. Rather, this rather remarkable situation provides a challenge for the Protestant church to pray greatly for the kingdom of God to be further manifest through nations coming to Christ.

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You may have heard the thought-provoking news that a former Soviet-bloc country in Eastern Europe has confessed the Lord Jesus Christ as King and Lord. This type of confession is what Christians pray for when they recite or sing Psalm 67: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth” (Psalm 67:4).

This notable event took place on the 1,050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland when the Polish prince embraced Christ in the year A.D. 966. A millennium later in the past century, Poland found itself pressed by Nazi Germany on the west and Communist Russia on the […]

What’s Your Moniker?

How we describe ourselves helps others to understand what we value–what and who we are. This is true in multiple spheres of life. In American culture, our “last name” is our family name. In Asian culture, the “first name” is the family name. That says something about what we value. The same can be said for our spiritual life. What is your name? How are you known?

Surprisingly, the New Testament answer may not be the same as the 21st century church’s answer. Sinclair Ferguson, in The Whole Christ, writes:

What is my default way of describing a believer? Perhaps it is exactly that: “believer.” Or perhaps “disciple,” “born-again person,” or “saint” (more biblical but less common in Protestantism!). Most likely it is the term “Christian.”

Yet these descriptors, while true enough, occur relatively rarely in the pages of the New Testament, and the contexts in which it occurs might suggest that it was a pejorative term used of (rather than by) the early church.

New Testament Christians did not think of themselves as “Christians”! But if not, how did they think of themselves?

Contrast these descriptors with the overwhelmingly dominant way the New Testament describes believers. It is that we are “in Christ.” The […]

Our Heart Telescope

In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, making it unique among attempts to peer into the universe. As Hubble orbits the Earth, it does so above the atmosphere, which distorts and even blocks the light that reaches our planet and is what makes the stars seem to twinkle.  This orbit allows Hubble to give a view of the galaxies that far surpass that of conventional telescopes on the ground that struggle with atmospheric distortion.

So 353 miles above the Earth, Hubble orbits our globe every 97 minutes (which is about five miles per second, meaning it goes across the United States in about 10 minutes).  Hubble has caused the knowledge of outer space to explode, as it has captured images never seen before of newly discovered galaxies and space phenomenon. Scientists have realized what is out there is far more beautiful, complex, and grand in magnitude than they had even imagined. For instance, they discovered there are ten times more galaxies in the observable universe. Who knows what lies beyond what our telescopes can observe now? It took getting beyond earth’s atmosphere for scientists to see new things.

As the Hubble telescope is to astronomy, so is the Spirit to the heart […]

The Too Visible Church

Theologians like to speak of the distinction between the invisible church and the visible church. The invisible church “consists of the whole number of the elect” (WCF 25.1), meaning all true Christians. The visible church “consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion” (WCF 25.2), or in other words all those who are baptized and in Christian congregations. Every local congregation is part of the visible church, for it is the church that the world sees.

Yet I wonder if in our day and age the church may be too visible?

Churches today seem to be vying to be THE ONE SEEN. Almost every community in our land now has one or more churches with a huge megaplex campus that rivals the local mall, with signs all over pointing to it. Given the slick advertisements in magazines, newspaper inserts, radio, television, etc., the promotional line in many congregational budgets must equal, oh let’s say, the salary of one or two small church pastors. Pastors (here I warn myself) use social media and write blogs, which can serve an edifying purpose, but can also be a huge temptation just to be heard and seen by others (“How many Likes do […]

Reject the Choice

…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:14-16)

 

Should a church be focused on proclaiming God’s Word or organizing and promoting ministries of interpersonal mentoring and discipleship? The goal of this short post is simply to reject the false dilemma this question poses. 

The Dodecahedron of Deception

In about 12 hours times I’ll be back in the pulpit! Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll preach two Lord’s Day sermons, to the hearers in the congregation over which I have charge as a pastor.

How healthy, once again, to reflect on the timely warning James gives to would-be hearers lest they become ‘sermon-tasters’. It is also a forceful reminder to pray for the sort of Word-doing that is part & parcel of proper Word-hearing.

James puts this matter of sermon application so unforgettably in 1.22 of his epistle:

“Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Having taken a few moments to identify some traps that ensnare sermon hearers each week, I have begun to realise how multifaceted this sermon-tasting deception can be. This explains in part the slightly weird title ‘Dodecahedron of Deception.’ Here, then, are twelve traps & pitfalls, that hearers may fall into & must prayerfully seek help to avoid or escape, when they attend their meeting-house tomorrow!

We deceive ourselves when….

1. We apply the message to others for whom we feel the sermon is most fitting, whilst failing to apply it to our own case & heart, for which God intended it.

2. We take great delight in the subject, style, sound or structure […]

The Trumpet Blasts that Were Never Heard

We live in times where the church is needing to think through her relationship with the state and the rulers over us. This is not the first time in the history of Christianity where we have had to meditate on our doctrine of the magistrate or our relationship to those in authority. This is not the first time that we have had to choose between losing our right hand and losing our left. Where would you turn to read about the relationship between the church and an oppressive government?

Looking for a book on the relationship between the church and a tyrannical government may be useful for the church in the next few decades. Consider the following statements:

* It is not by birth that one can rule over a people; those under him must approve of that rule.
* Those who practice idolatry or are living publicly scandalous lives are not to be placed in public office.
* If a ruler proves to be a tyrant or is willfully disobedient to God’s Word, then not even an oath can keep him in office.
* If people too quickly or without due consideration put someone in office and it is later found that he is […]

What Should Be One of My Chief Aims at Church?

The answer is quite simple: encouragement.

Now not just your own encouragement, which is important enough, but the encouragement of others. That’s the aim. That’s where the emphasis falls.

In a section like 1 Corinthians 12-14, where Paul addresses spiritual gifts, and the attendant misuse among the Corinthian saints, the apostle exhibits both a clear and sustained emphasis upon encouragement.

Here’s a sampling to make the point. Why are gifts given?

My Top Ten Suggestions for New Pastors

As still a rather newish seminary professor, I am growing accustomed to seeing yet another batch of graduates go off into their first pastorate. I regularly get asked for a tip or two about what to do upon arrival (or sometimes I just offer them without being asked!). So I thought I would give ten of them that I regularly pass along one way or the other. Though surely there are others who have given such a list (Ah! A quick Google search after I compiled my list netted this one from the Banner and another one from Thom Rainer for some other ideas), here is mine for what it’s worth.

1) Form an external prayer team before you arrive. As Paul asked others to pray for his ministry (Eph 6:18-19; Col 4:3-4), so it is wise to ask for prayer support to sustain you through those early days. Giving friends and family who know you best some specific prayer items to ask the Lord to go before your arrival will best insure your paths will be straight.

2) Systematically visit with the congregation through your first year. Getting to know your new flock is essential to properly caring for them (Prov 27:23). Whether going […]

Refreshment on Revival

At last…..  almost a month without proper internet access & the stress of moving to a new house. Which reminds me of a few thoughts I had some time ago on Revival from Zechariah 1.1-6….

Exile was now over. The people had returned. State-sponsored rebuilding of the House of Yahweh in Jerusalem had been decreed by Cyrus . The harsh reality of life in the Empire back in their homeland which had not, as yet, lived up to their dreams of restoration. The Jews as a consequence had grown spiritually gloomy and cold. So the Prophet of God is sent to stir up his returned Church. There are at least ten lessons or principles the Spirit gives us which help us think properly about revival…

1. The Church always tends to decline so is constantly in need of revival v4.

2. Church revival comes through the efficacious preaching of the Word of God v1, 3 & 6.

3. Church revival comes with messages which place a stress on sinful behaviour or practice & the need for the grace of repentance v2, 4 & 6.

4. Church revival comes after a period of chastening & acknowledgment of waywardness on the part of the people of God v6b.

5. Church revival is forgotten by previous generations […]