Posts by Jeffrey Stivason

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The second commandment is tricky business. Let me state the matter in the form of a question. Do verses 4-6 of Exodus 20 constitute another commandment, a second commandment, or are these verses simply part of the first commandment stated in verse 3? Roman Catholicism says, no, they are a...
According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, “The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof….neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation” (WCF, 19.5) Obviously, the Westminster Divines were not...
Last night I finished my pilgrimage through Augustine’s City of God . Considering it took Augustine almost a decade to finish book nineteen after starting I would say that I made better time on the reading than he did the writing. I wish that I could say all twenty-two books and eight hundred and...
As we come to the conclusion of our study on the beatitudes it will be good to ask, how we should respond? What are we expected to do about this set of familiar blessings? Certainly these blessings are part of a larger sermon and so should be viewed in that light. For example, just as the sermon...
Philosophy is the love of wisdom. However, as soon as some hear the sound of the word they think of an unbearable heaviness. They immediately think thoughts that don’t often approximate what philosophy really is at its heart. What is more, theology and philosophy have enjoyed a close relationship...
Several years ago I was reading or re-reading various old books. As I read, a theme struck me. It was the theme of companionship or friendship. For example, in H. G. Well’s strange little book, The Invisible Man , the man invisible, named Griffin, is an unfriendly loner. He is completely isolated...
C. S. Lewis once wrote an essay to a very old book wherein he commended the practice of reading old books. He, as a modern writer, did not want people to stop reading modern books but to generously sprinkle their reading of modern books with old ones. However, and this gets his point across, he...
Some passages of Scripture are better known than others. How can they not be? The Lord’s Prayer is recited across the landscape of Christendom along with the Twenty-third Psalm and the Ten Commandments. But there are others. In fact, it’s interesting how the popular conception of a passage can...
Shepherding visits are helpful for shepherds and sheep. For the flock, the visit provides informal genuine care and guidance. Among many blessings, shepherding affords the under-shepherd an opportunity to glean information that will enable him to better care for the flock in the future. Several...
Recently I read Anthony Everitt’s The Life of Rome’s first Emperor: Augustus . Everitt is an excellent writer. From his pen, history reads like the story it is. But I was struck by something in the narrative that encouraged me upon reflection. After the death of Julius Caesar two-thirds of the...
I know what it’s like to suffer at the hands of anxiety and I also know the debilitating effects of what has been called OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The two are often partners in crime. If one is near the other is not far off. For me, anxiety and OCD settled in just before my senior year...
I have fond memories of growing up in my neighborhood. I was raised in a little country town with one stop light. My friends and I played cops and robbers and the only girl in the neighborhood was as tough as any of us! We would run through the woods with our toy guns yelling, “Bang, bang!” and the...
Families tell stories. Often they tell the same stories over and over again. They elicit the same laughter at just the right moment. They are familiar. I heard one person even quip that instead of retelling the stories they should number them so at family gatherings they can call out the numbers...
A theological earthquake shook my life over twenty years ago. I can still see the classroom lit by the afternoon sun. It was mostly quiet and peaceful that day with one exception. A classmate was standing in front of me trying for all he was worth to persuade me of definite or limited atonement. If...
The office of deacon is an important one. In one sense the deacon or servant is not distinctive. Christ described himself as a servant in Mark 10:45 saying, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The word serve is the verb form of...
You are a pastor in a small city. You’ve known your barber for almost twenty years. One day while he trims he asks for help in prayer. He, like many others, struggles in that area. So, you decide to go home and write a brief thirty-four page guide for him. You even incorporate your friend in the...
In 381 the Council of Constantinople wrote the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. In that creed we find the attributes of the Church. The famous line says that the church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” However, in the days of the Reformation disputes arose. The Roman Catholics contested the...
It is said that when Martin Luther heard of his father’s death he took his Psalter and retreated to his room and was not seen the rest of the day. This news came to the great German while he was at the Castle Coburg during the Diet of Augsburg. We may wonder what such a great man did in the...
Have you ever wondered about the topical and logical order of the Westminster Confession of Faith? Not all of it; just the ordo salutis . After chapter nine lays out man’s fourfold state chapter ten begins with what we might think of as a typical ordering of those blessings which accompany a Spirit...
In today’s world of tolerance and conciliation even theologians have a tendency to stray from the old paths and act as if postmodernity has the ability to build new roadways to places not traveled in a long time. For example, one theologian has gone on record as saying that the Reformation’s...
Not long ago I sat across from a young man who complained, “The Bible itself does not teach Sola Scriptura .” In that meeting I took him through several passages and because the divide between Reformed Protestants and Rome is as great as it ever was these texts bear unearthing in this series of...
Today the Roman Catholic Church does not sound like the Roman Catholic Church of the Counter Reformation of the 16 th century. I am not talking about tone but rather content. For example, in the first canon of the twenty-second session of Trent the Mass is defined as a “true and proper sacrifice.”...
In the last section of the golden book Calvin asks how the present life and its comfort should be used by the Christian. The question of use invites us to think about fit. In other words, says Calvin, we must let the use of God’s gifts “be governed by their author’s purpose.” [1] Imagine a group of...
A beautiful singing voice is amazing. But then again the whole notion of music can be unfathomable. Maybe you think that is an overstatement or editorial license. But think about it. How can some people with aphasia, a communication disorder, sing with fluency? We see the same phenomenon with those...
The raising of Lazarus from the dead in John 11 always elicits memories of what older preachers have said as they thundered through the text. I’m not sure who said it but someone somewhere once said, “Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb by name lest all the dead arise!” And I can imagine George...
Many years ago my wife and I participated in a very large scavenger hunt. We had tremendous fun and wasted a lot of gas! But imagine a humorous scenario. Picture one of our colleagues finding a clue and instead of using it to press on to find the next clue he became enamored with the current clue...
Disciplines and vocations have access points. When you enter college as an economics major you start with Economics 101. When you begin an exercise program for the first time you hire a trainer or as an experienced friend for help. You may even read a basic book on nutrition. Why? Because you are...
On December 24, 1920 Benjamin B. Warfield fell ill after being struck with angina pectoris. He died on February 16, 1921. Why should we pause this week to remember a Princeton theologian who has been with the Lord for one hundred years? Perhaps Isaac Newton’s reason is enough, “If I have seen...
Goodness is a word that can obviously mean upright. Think of the oft used comparison between good and evil. But the word can also point up the benefit or qualities possessed by another. We might say something like, “The teachers are good here.” Of course, by that we mean that the teachers are the...
The dangers facing the church today are subtle. They are like those facing the family. Imagine a young man sits his parents down at the kitchen table for a talk. He then outs himself as gay or perhaps transgendered. The danger facing that family at that moment is very real. Traditionally they have...
What Metaphor? The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians five brings to mind images of an orchard. It’s a serene and beautiful scene. However, the more I look at the text of Galatians I start to think that the orchard metaphor may be a more pleasing one but not entirely consistent with what we find in...
Perhaps you have noticed by now that Proverbs 6:16-19 is not simply a list of ills that God hates though it most certainly is that. But it is more. On the surface of this list is an explanation. God is not only telling us the things He hates but why He hates them. Have you noticed what is included...
As we come to the end of our series on walking in the book of Ephesians it is appropriate that Paul would urge believers to walk carefully. [1] The adverb “carefully” has the idea of walking deliberately. I can just imagine a young person carelessly trundling along only to hear his mother bark out...
When I was in college I took a class on various religious traditions. My class visited a Jewish synagogue and while there the priest said this in response to a question asked of him that I no longer remember, “You Christians claim to have Jesus but we Jews have something better. We have the law.” I...
The holidays are a wonderful time of year. However, for some they are a time of guilt. The season reminds them of things they said and did or did not say or do and those thoughts bring guilty. Strikingly, man is able to pull the galaxies close through a telescope and a microscope can enlarge a...
When I was a young teen trying to get comfortable in my own skin words were a commodity that could make or break you. Utter one wrong word and social standing could be tenuous. The best you could do was hope that people had short memories and so never bring up your words again. Today things are...
Several years ago I sat across from someone who lied to me. At the time I would have called him a friend. He certainly was no friend. However, in the moment he lied to me I had one up on him. I knew the very story he was attempting to falsify. I knew that every word dribbling off of his tongue was...
How do we think about the Old Testament saint’s believing experience in relation to our own? Perhaps we think better of them than we do of ourselves! Or maybe we use them as an excuse for our bad behavior. For instance, how many times has David’s name been invoked as an excuse for unfaithfulness?...
Paul once commented to Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” [1] This text tends to make the typical American Christian uncomfortable. They immediately compare their experience to that of the underground church in China or something similar. Yet...
When Freud arrived in America to give five lectures at Clark University he is said to have quipped, “We are bringing them the plague.” He knew of what he was speaking. He wrote to a colleague referring to his invitation to Clark University saying, “By the way, we could soon be ‘up [expletive] creek...
One afternoon a group of bored boys decided to bother an old man working in his yard. After causing the man a little trouble they moved on. However, the town wherein they lived was a small one and so having recognized one of the boys the old man called on the father of that particular boy. When the...
Motivation is what moves us to do something. For some, the reason for being at the gym is the ten or twenty pounds they need to lose. Some study for grades. Some study to get beyond the poverty in which they grew up. Motivation is the thing that moves us. So let me ask you a question. What...
I am a pastor in Pennsylvania. And I appreciate my brothers who are laboring hard to understand how to handle the governor’s guidelines. As an aside, guidelines are almost a euphemism for dictatorial power. On March 6 th Governor Wolf declared a state of emergency and placed himself in charge of...
What would Martin Luther King, Jr. think of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the violence it has spawned? What would he think of the death of Horace Lorenzo Anderson in CHOP? [1] What would he think about the shooting in Chicago that claimed the life of Mekhi James, a three year old boy? [2] What would...
Let me begin with an affirmation. The Gospel Matters. Some will immediately accuse me of being antagonistic. After all, Stan Wischnowski ran a headline that read “Buildings Matter” and he found himself without a job. [1] But I am not an antagonist. I am a minister of the Gospel. Others will ask, “...
As a pastor, I am for unity. It is part and parcel of the fabric of what it means to be a Christian. I am united to Christ by virtue of the Spirit of unity indwelling me. The Apostle Paul clearly enjoins every believer to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bound of peace. There is...
Everybody loves the Joseph story. Chapters thirty-seven through fifty with the minor exception of chapter thirty-eight seem to be all about Joseph. And that is exactly why we have to remind ourselves that the story is not Joseph’s but Jacob’s story. Genesis 37:2 reminds us that these are the...
Charles Spurgeon’s famous quip goes something like this, “I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.” We might say something similar about justification. We may describe it...
The New Perspective now feels old. Or to say it differently, it has gained stability in the academy and in the church. Tom Wright, its leading salesperson, is as intelligent as he is winsome. He also has the instincts of a pastor. Hence the Everyone’s Commentary, which has quickly become a staple...
Justification has been described in various ways by Reformers we respect and admire. Luther spoke of it as the foundation of the church and Calvin said it was the main hinge on which religion turned. However, we say it the doctrine is central. What is more, it’s as beautiful as it is ministerial...