Posts by Jeffrey Stivason

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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...
I indicated in the introduction to this series that there was an ordo docendi to the ordo salutis . My comment had the placement of union with Christ in mind. Where does it belong? Do we place it at the end of the list of benefits as John Murray did in his understandably famous Redemption...
Today Theology for Everyone begins a new series. It is a familiar topic. However, it is one that needs to be set within a context. We are going to explore the ordo salutis or the order of salvation. For those not familiar with the expression it primarily deals with the application of the gospel to...
One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons opens with Linus and lucy staring out the window. Rain is pouring down outside. Lucy, in a rare moment of weakness, confesses her fright to Linus. She is worried that if it continues to rain heavily the earth will flood! Linus calmly explains to his sister that...
Let’s start our series on the humiliation and exaltation of Christ from the beginning. Obviously, humiliation comes before exaltation and so we start our study with the former. But we can be even more specific. We are going to start with the incarnation. Now, I dare say that most Christians...
I am not a scientist nor the son of a scientist. Therefore, my understanding of and ability to explain a scientific concept is, to say the least, limited. So, here goes nothing! The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that an isolated system left to its own devices will move toward disorder. Take...
Some Bible passages are perplexing. That may be an understatement. We wonder about some of them. Like unruly children who cannot be harnessed and corralled these passages too are hard to handle. When we have finished our daily chores and obligations we ponder them. Better than the illustration of...
There is an interesting view that circulates around the church about the Holy Spirit. It goes something like this. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit did not indwell anyone but only remained with people. However, in the New Testament the Spirit literally dove into His work. In other words, He...
Have you ever wondered why Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14? Perhaps the ready answer is that the quote substantiates the virgin conception and birth of Christ, which is true enough. However, the text raises a number of questions. For instance, why did God promise a virgin conceived and virgin born...
The Fifth Commandment is weighty. The finger of God inscribed it this way, “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” In the Westminster Larger Catechism, the commandments are typically explained by asking what the duties of 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...
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...
For Christians, there are proverbial perennial questions that are, well, perennial. Every May graduating Christians seek the will of God for where they will take further education. Every college student wonders who God has for them on campus. And after boy meets girl and both graduate they labor to...
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!...
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...
I was once asked what I considered the best theology text. I took a breath and as I did the person reiterated, “ The best.” Their emphasis on the definite article reminded me that they wanted one and only one. It brought me up short as does the question before me. What one book has made a singular...
The story of the man born blind in John 9 is well known. It’s one of those stories that take work to read because we have to disabuse ourselves of contemporary concern for those with disabilities. For example, there were no Seeing Eye dogs, Braille books or reading machines. This man was a beggar...
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to own a time machine? Who wouldn’t want to return as a spectator to the most significant moments in history? To witness bishop Leo face off with Attila the Hun outside the gates of Rome or Farel beseech Calvin to stay in Geneva or the Westminster Assembly debate...
I love to see families walking through the doors of the auditorium on Lord's Day morning. I see each of them as a living stone coming together to form a living temple in order to worship the living God. They were once like the dry bones of Ezekiel's vision scattered about in the valley of the...
A few weeks ago the session on which I serve was interviewing some young teenage girls for communicant membership in the church. When a child in the congregation I serve approaches me about making their profession of faith before the session I ask them two questions. First, I ask to hear their...
Dear Theophilus, You have been so inquisitive. Your questions demonstrate your great desire to learn more of the faith. However, allow me in this last letter to speak to you about one of the greatest dangers facing the church today. You have been so zealous and sincere in your pursuit of the truth...
Dear Theophilus, I find that the greatest danger facing the church today is Christ-less Christianity. I realize that this expression will raise your eyebrows and well it should for what is Christianity if not Christ? But if I leave it undefined you will ask what it means in your next letter! So,...
Several weeks ago I sent my cadre of writers a question. I asked them, “If you could identify and warn your fellow believers about the greatest spiritual danger that they may face in life what would it be?” I was a little shocked at how fast they responded. The response was immediate, which told me...
I could tell the young man standing in front of me was deeply concerned. It didn’t take long to find out why. A friend of his from another church was having a difficult time with the church’s leadership. He felt his friend had experienced an injustice. He wanted to help but didn’t know how and he...
I once read a book about how to read good literature. The author made a clear assertion. He said a meal is never just a meal. Now, I am not a lit scholar. I don’t want to argue for the veracity or falsity of his claim. But I would say that the Lord’s Supper is never just a meal. The Lord’s Supper...
On Monday, March 25, 2019, Rep. Stephanie Borowicz prayed at the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. It was not the most eloquent prayer I have ever heard. In fact, Rep. Borowicz sounded a bit nervous and even looked it. Sometimes she had her eyes opened and sometimes closed. She used Jesus as a...
It is never easy to watch someone walk away from their profession of faith in Christ. It is never easy to go through the disciplinary process which may culminate in excommunication. It’s never easy and it is always painful. And when one and likely both of these things happen you can’t help but...
C. S. Lewis has been a helpful guide to many Christians and rightfully so. He has led countless weary travelers through the world’s wasteland in order to introduce them to the Christ of Christianity. And though his defense of the faith is well known and respected through works like Mere...
Tertullian and Irenaeus are the earliest witnesses to the Creed now known as the Apostle’s Creed. During their pastorates it was likely in its earliest form and known as the Roman Symbol. This early form of the Apostle’s Creed most likely appeared in or around 150 AD in Rome and was a response to...
The phrase in the Apostle’s Creed, “He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty” is packed with theological importance. Early on we learned that this creed was written to combat the theological deviance of Gnosticism. Everywhere the Creed indicates that the...
As we approach the Lord’s Day on any given Sunday, let alone one on which many of us will lose an hour of restful preparation due to the resetting of our clocks, how shall we listen to the sermon? Added to the question’s difficulty is the author of this article. Some will say, “Wait, don’t you...