I've noticed a growing trend in ministry. I highly doubt that it is something new. It manifests itself in things written or said by pastors in large, seeker oriented churches that have been "successful"--from the world's point of view--and it surfaces in things written or said by pastors of small, theologically robust churches that have been "successful" in not doing what large, seeker oriented churches do.
Some accuse the Protestant emphasis upon the preached Word as pastor-centric and non-engaging, but such an accusation assumes too little about the listener's responsibility in corporate worship. Every individual in the congregation has responsibilities when the Word of God is preached. As we listen to the Word preached we want to aim at listening to it astutely, attentively, reverently, prayerfully, and responsively.
Heinrich Bullinger’s early life was studded with dangers. At the time of his birth, July 18, 1504, his family was still frequently on the move to escape the wrath of his uncles (his mother’s brothers), who were bent on killing his father. After all, Heinrich Sr. was the local priest, and had taken Anna Wiederkehr in common law marriage (a practice the church had officially forbidden but was in fact allowing, providing the priest could pay a yearly tribute to a bishop).
Marie Durand was born on July 15, 1711 in in the French village of Bouschet de Pranles. Largely unknown outside of France, she is remembered for her faithfulness to her faith while imprisoned for thirty-eight years in the Tower of Constance. In fact, she has become a symbol of resistance, to the point of being held up as an example during the Nazi occupation of France.
Christians are frequently reminded to “remember the reason for Christmas,” meaning, of course, that we should turn our attention away from the cultural trappings and to the fact that Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem. But this Christmas, perhaps we should fix our attention a little more closely, not just on the details of Jesus’ birth, but on the miracle of the incarnation. In so doing, we join a great cloud of Christian witnesses, who have reflected deeply on this glorious mystery.
Humans have been fascinated by themselves since the earliest times in the history of our race. From the crude stick figures painted on the walls of caves in prehistoric times through to the sophisticated image of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, or the mathematical musings around the Fibonacci sequence in the beauty and balance of the human form, there has been a never-ending search for the perfect paradigm for humanity.
I heard a comment recently from one of the young men in our church that gave me pause for thought. He said, ‘I don’t think I have ever heard a sermon about assurance.’ My initial reaction was to frantically cast my mind back over the last 40 years trying to remember if I myself had ever addressed the subject (thankfully I have), but then I began to wonder why this vital topic has apparently been neglected both in the pulpit and in Christian literature in more recent times.
The opening chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is, for some, like watching paint dry on a wall! Genealogies are not everyone’s thing. But this genealogy ought to be. It’s obviously the genealogy of Jesus. Yet, not so obvious is the Davidic background of the genealogy. David alone is mentioned five times! However, something a bit arcane but no less valid is the fact that David’s name has three Hebrew letters and adds up to a numerical value of fourteen. Strikingly, the genealogy has three main sections each having fourteen descendants. Da
He surely saw him from the boat. The Lord watched the erratic and unstable demoniac who was as unruly as the storm he had recently silenced. The man’s appearance alone made him an imposing figure against the otherwise peaceful shores of the Garasenes. One can’t help but wonder if the disciples feared this man more than they had feared the wind and waves! But they paddled on to become spectators of one of the most significant battles of Jesus’ ministry.
Luther once said, “Whoever knows well this art of distinguishing between the Law and the gospel, him place at the head and call him a doctor of Holy Scripture.” John Newton wrote something similar, “The correct understanding of the harmony between law and grace is to preserve oneself from being entangled by errors on the right hand and on the left.” When the leading soldier of the reformation and one of the wisest pastors of the 19th century speak on the difficulty of understanding the relationship between law and gospel we know that we have a real task ahead.
Theology becomes a dangerous weapon when its terms become rhetorical arrows with which to shoot adversaries instead of tools that are supposed to lend clarity to whatever topic is under discussion. Antinomianism is perhaps one of the most abused terms in theological discourse. It is meant to be a characterization of a theological position, but it often becomes a word employed to call in question one’s ethical or spiritual condition as well.
Herman J Selderhuis, Calvinus Pastor Ecclesiae Papers of the Eleventh International Congress on Calvin Research, vol. 39, Reformed Historical Theology (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016). 467pp. Hardcover. $150.00.
Satan tempts us to think that God is so indulgent that we need not fear punishment for our sins. Few of Satan's lies are more widespread and more dangerous today,
"God is a God of love. He does not punish. He never judges. God expects people to sin and simply overlooks our sin, much as would a lenient and permissive grandfather. So don't get too alarmed about sin."