Posts by Jeffrey Stivason

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Recently, I was reading C. S. Lewis’s article, “First and Second Things.” His thesis is compelling. Simply stated, when the main thing is eclipsed by secondary things both things are lost to us. His example of the woman who makes a dog the center of her universe is humorous. The poor woman loses...
My first pastorate was a small rural congregational church. Her only doctrinal statement was the Apostle’s Creed. The ol’ timers said it was because doctrine didn’t matter out in the country. I served that congregation while in my last year of college and almost all three years of my seminary...
Who is Jesus? Any Christian might easily answer this question by reaching for her Bible and turning to the gospels. But advocates of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) would be quick to caution against such a naïve response. “Oh,” they might say, “you can know something about Jesus from reading the...
We here at Theology on the Go want to help you to help others. Often we are in a conversation with someone on a topic that we know we have seen on Theology on the Go but the podcast and articles are scattered over a two-week period, which is great for slow digestion of good spiritual food but not...
I don’t know about you, but I find it interesting that Hebrews 13 ends with an encouragement to obey and submit to the elders of the congregation. In fact, leaders are mentioned three times from v. 7 to the end of the chapter. Now, we’re not told why it ends this way but one certainly wonders. And...
Many years ago, my two friends and I developed an interest in rock climbing. We lived in an area where you could do a lot of top roping. We would walk into the woods and find a rock face. Someone would unpack the gear and tie off the rope and then we would rappel to the bottom. Being inexperienced...
Our lives, for the most part, are routine. In fact, truth be told, you struggled to get up early and do devotions because the kids were sick the night before. After you did get them off to school, you went to work or had a list of chores that barely reached humdrum on the excitement meter. The...
Old stories about our theological heroes are as heartwarming as they are encouraging. I especially love the story about one time professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, John Murray, who was apparently in the habit of driving theological students to and from church. It...
Some words are difficult to like. Do you know what I mean? Maybe I am not being clear. There are various reasons why we may not like this word or that. Some may be on unfriendly terms with a word because it is difficult to spell (think handkerchief - good thing for auto spell!). A few may avoid a...
When I was young and living under my parent's tutelage, cleaning my room was a primary chore assigned to me. However, even though I was the chief custodian of my room I was not the boss! After cleaning, my mother would show up for the inspection. More often than not, she would look at me with her...
Now, it's this aspect that we need to engage. It's the practical side of adoption. When adoptive parents bring the newest family member home, a time of assimilation ensues. Let me say it like this, the siblings already present need to welcome the newest member and depending on the age of the...
If you have not listened to Aimee Byrd's podcast at the head of this Theology on the Go series, take the seventeen minutes out of your day and do it - especially if you are a pastor. It is worth the time. After listening, I started to reflect on the women in the congregation that I serve and I need...
Pastor Paul was studying when interrupted by the knock at the door. The sound was rapid fire and thud-like. "Someone is upset," he thought as he called out an invitation to enter. Jacob stumbled through the doorway carrying an armload of books. The pastor sat easily back in his chair. He knew it...
Are the Doctrines of Grace practical? Let me be more specific, more practical in my question. Is the doctrine of unconditional election a user-friendly doctrine? Let me put it another way, will this doctrine help form piety, deepen love, and strengthen my faith? Maybe you would respond, "Couldn't...
Have you ever heard the story of the old preacher who stood in his pulpit and explained the doctrine of election? With great excitement, he said pointing down to the floorboards at his left, "Election is when Satan casts a vote for your soul!" And then, pointing to the ceiling to his right, he...
Think about the job of the Old Testament priest. As if he didn't have enough to do he had to do the occasional skin inspection. We read about it in Leviticus 13. The first thing that the priest had to do was figure out what he was dealing with, had the hair on the skin turned white and how deep was...
I watched the vice-presidential debate last night. Who didn't, right? Apparently, we all thought that these debates would somehow move the poll meter to either the left or the right. Political analysts, at least those I watched, were not convinced that such a thing had or would occur. However, the...
Several years ago, I was eating lunch with a few pastors who were lamenting our current cultural condition. What made the conversation so memorable was the man seated beside me. He was a pastor from Eastern Europe. In fact, I arranged the lunch so that he could meet some American pastors. My friend...
Recently my school district has been embroiled in a battle over restroom usage. I know, who in this country hasn't been? However, the good news is we won! Just a couple of days ago the school board voted 5-4 in favor of biology. In other words, biology will be the determining factor with regard to...
Now, let me pose the question. If homosexual orientation is a neutral condition that does not need the eradicating work of the Spirit (which is the obvious implication), then at the consummation, when we will be what we were becoming, will there be those oriented toward homosexuality?
Let's face it, in common parlance pastoral means practical. What is more, people want the practical. I don't blame them. I just had the joy of reacquainting with a young woman who has recently experienced conversion. The next day I gave her Alistair Begg's, Pathway to Freedom: How God's Law Guides...
Not long ago I received an email asking a question. Its impetus was from the Westminster Confession of Faith. The person wanted to know how the Westminster Assembly could have taught that God is impassible when the Scriptures clearly teach that He can be angry, jealous, loving, compassionate and so...
An overview of the Trinity ought to include a variety of elements. The synopsis might begin with a statement concerning God's incomprehensibility and our creaturely need for revelation. It ought to cover the doctrine of divine simplicity. God's triunity should also be part of that discussion. And...
I have a question for you. Can existence be separated from attributes? Perhaps a definition or two is in order. My guess is that you know what it means to exist. But what is an attribute? An attribute is a quality, feature, or characteristic about a person or thing. So, for example, think of a fire...
Today theology has fallen on tough times and that includes confessional theology. Listen closely to contemporary conversations, because depending on the participants the discussion will usually include a wink and a nod, as if to say, the narrative, of which these confessional documents are a part,...
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...
Shepherding visits are helpful for shepherds and sheep. For the flock, the visit provides informal genuine care. 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 years ago, I...
If you have a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith open it up. Take a minute to peruse it. Now, let me ask you a question. Historically what can you tell me about the time of the Confession? Yes, you could probably tell that the language is a bit archaic and the authors liked long sentences...
There are those who claim that the Westminster Confession of Faith is a scholastic document lacking in pastoral sensitivity but abounding in the dust of theological tomes. But is it? I don't think so. In fact, I am convinced that the Westminster Confession is both heady and hearty! That is to say,...
If, as my wife descended the staircase ready to go out on a date night, I said to her, "Hon, you look beautiful," she would likely thank me. But, if on that same evening, not ten minutes after, I told her that she looked monstrous how do you think she might react? Well, she might start looking...
When World War I erupted in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson was committed to a policy of neutrality. However, Germany was not committed to the same policy. German submarines had attacked several civilian European vessels killing many, including Americans.
The blows of a brother are the best kind. I thought of that proverb when I read Benjamin B. Warfield's assessment of Charles Hodge as a teacher of exegesis. Five years after graduating from Princeton, A. A. Hodge, the son of Charles, had written Warfield a request. Warfield summarized the appeal at...
Let me begin with a question. When you think of politics, watch campaign news, or read the latest pollsters - does your heart race? Do you get excited? Do you have that "I've got to do something!" feeling? Okay, if you answered "yes," then, at the very least, you are an emotionally invested citizen...
What is a pastor/scholar? That is no mean question. Descriptions range. Some have quipped that the pastor/scholar is an ecclesiastical unicorn! Others grant a rare sighting. Still others think the problem is one of misclassification. The Pastor/scholar is in reality the more common pastor/...
I'll start with a confession; I love John Bunyan's, The Pilgrim's Progress. I have read it frequently since the late 90s. But I'm afraid that not everyone shares my love. For some, the allegory is a turnoff. Bunyan does justify his method in his apologetic poem at the beginning - but who reads the...
Have you ever wondered why Matthew quotes Isaiah in the opening chapter of his Gospel?[1] Perhaps you would say, "Of course not! We already know why. The quote substantiates the virgin conception and birth of Christ!" Yes, but is that the only reason? Again, you may claim, "Isn't that reason enough...
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...
I love old sea stories. I especially enjoy reading them when the book gives a tidbit of inconsequential information that provides a window into the world at the time of the tale. In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick's true account of the old Moby Dick yarn is an excellent example.
The salient portion of the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling reads, "The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them" (22-23). In other words, and as you by now know, same sex marriage has become a civil right in the...
My first experience at church planting was not easy. It was trying times to keep a small group meeting in a nursing home, a YWCA hall, and even an occasional hotel room! For a while, it seemed like we were vagabonds carrying boxes of Bibles and song books in and out of doors from one Sunday to the...
By now, Obergefell v. Hodges is household parlance. The majority opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States reads, "The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them." Same-sex marriage is now a civil right...
A wise Puritan once said, "Providence is the Christian's diary not his Bible." Let me illustrate. Imagine the boy who is trying to decide which college to attend. He simply can't make up his mind and so he decides that he will go to that college which his parents or friends mention first in their...
What is the difference between the providence of God and fate? For some the difference is not easily discerned. In fact, it may have been your unfortunate experience to have learned about fatalism while listening to someone lecture on God's providence! So, what is the real difference between two?...
Have you ever been in a discussion when someone asked, "But what is faith?" And then there was that long pause because you were all waiting for someone to quote Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Now, whether we call what we find in...
In the fifteenth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul identifies Christ's resurrection as the first fruits of those who are asleep. Now, we might wonder at his choice of words. What does he mean by "first fruits?" Well, some might say, "Paul is wanting us to think about Christ's...
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...
Cardinal Bellarmine (1542-1621) was a well-known figure of the Counter-Reformation and was no mean theologian. He was Pope Clement VIII's personal theologian and in 1930 he was canonized and consequently named a Doctor of the Church. Protestants often reflect on the Reformation as the time in which...
The first three chapters of Mark's gospel are a literary tsunami. The kingdom of God embodied in Christ came like a wave. The Spirit descended upon Christ at His baptism and drove Him into the wilderness where he overcame the temptation of Satan. And from that point on the Spirit empowered Christ...
It's Sunday morning. The alarm buzzes. After convincing yourself that getting vertical is a good thing you slide out of bed and prepare for church. Now, let me ask you a question. What are you expecting to hear when you get there? No, sorry, let me rephrase the question. Who are you expecting to...