Posts by Jeffrey Stivason

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I teach a small weekly Bible study that is attended by a couple of Roman Catholics one of which is practicing and the other is not. A third member has embraced the Gospel and broken ties with Rome. Recently, in one of these studies, I mentioned purgatory and received an instant, “Oh, we don’t...
“Why can’t you get past the objections of Luther and his progeny?” That was the question that came plaintively from the man who sat opposite the pastor in the coffee house. The Pastor, whose name was Peter, looked at him as if to say, “Haven’t I already explained?” I could see his frustration as I...
I will officiate at a wedding ceremony today. My wedding sermons aren’t really sermons but meditations. They are short but calculated. I view the wedding meditation as the last effort on the heels of pre-marital counseling to sink the arrow into the target. The target, of course, is the couple. The...
Perhaps the phrase that gets stuck in the throat when reciting the Apostle’s Creed is “ He (Christ) descended into hell .” And if it does, it wouldn’t surprise me. It was difficult for John Calvin to utter the phrase despite having used the Apostle’s Creed to formulate his Institutes of the...
Quite a while ago, I met a woman with whom I had attended a particular church several years earlier. At the time of our meeting we were both worshiping in different congregations. In the midst of the conversation, having discovered that I was reformed in my theology, she informed me that she too...
Many have known the Apostle’s Creed from youth. Likely, it is the most popular creed in Christendom. The Anglican Prayer Book simply calls it, The Creed, like Thomas simply called Aristotle, the Philosopher. It has primacy of place. And Christians have treated it that way. Universally, it seems to...
I recently read of one man’s experience as a student in the classroom of a famous professor. One student asked the professor, “What one trait separates the great scholar from all the rest?” The students sat in anticipation. Would it be pedigree, proclivity for languages, resilience, intelligence,...
While attending an academic conference this past year I went to a dinner with some friends and other conference attendees. The conversation around the table was spirited, wide ranging and a lot of fun. At one point, the conversation turned to the eternal generation of the Son. In the midst of the...
Recently, I was reading John Murray’s commentary on the book of Romans. I was struck by what I read. In Romans 4:3 we read, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now, we know that our faith is not the ground of our justification but this is what Murray said, In terms...
Benjamin B. Warfield wrote a little article for the Homiletic Review in 1897 titled, "The Indispensableness of Systematic Theology to the Preacher." As anything written by Warfield, it is a thoughtful and edifying piece with a clear aim. According to the Lion of Old Princeton, it is through Gospel...
The morning air was still cold when Martin Luther entered the shop of Peter the barber. Peter was not only the local barber but a surgeon able to perform minor surgeries like bloodletting and tooth extraction. Likely his specialty cut as a barber prior to the Reformation was the tonsure or the...
Over the last several years, some in the church have argued that a person may be oriented toward homosexuality but not act on the inclination or tendency. That may or may not be the case. However, the burden of this article is not that. In this article, I will demonstrate that to claim that...
Today, at Place for Truth, we are launching another endeavor in the hope that the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ will be served by our efforts. We realize the truth of what R C Sproul once captured in a book title – everyone is a theologian! Therefore, the question is not whether you are a...
On December 22, 1898 the New York Observer wished its readers a “Merry Merry Christmas to All.” Following that wish was a wonderful gift. On every page of the Observer was something to direct the reader’s thoughts to the reason for the season. And on page 818 there is a poem called, “Young Luther’s...
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...
I recently read an article that offered a disturbing statistic. The author claimed that 40% of students who enter college will not complete their degree. He also claimed that over 60% of this group would not drop out due to financial reasons but a good number would stop because they simply don’t...
I was in a store just a couple of days ago when a smiling clerk asked if she could help my wife and me with some pictures we were admiring. However, talk about beautiful pictures gave way to a less than attractive reality. When we were finished, we asked where she would spend Thanksgiving. That’s...
The best doctors are diagnosticians. Those who have hidden the taxonomy of pathogens in their cerebral cortex and are able to ply their knowledge to the often distorted complex of a patient’s woes – that, is a doctor indeed. The best of the Puritans were the best of spiritual doctors. Let’s imagine...
In the previous articles, I have suggested that C.S. Lewis’s article, “First and Second Things” provides an understanding as to why pastors experience burnout. Lewis said that when first things are eclipsed by second things both are lost. In the first post, I suggested that a way of avoiding or...
The book of Revelation can be thrilling. Not because of the charts and timelines often concocted to parse out the unknowable date of Christ’s return. No, it’s marvelous because it is filled with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But let me tell you what else it has going for it besides the fact that it...
Pastoral burnout is a significant problem in the church today. In the last article, I suggested that C.S. Lewis’s article, “First and Second Things” might be helpful in diagnosing the problem. Lewis said that when first things are eclipsed by second things both things are lost. In that first post,...
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...
Theology on the Go in Summary : The sufficiency of Scripture 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...
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...
The gospel of Jesus Christ is astounding. To think that when we were yet sinners God sent His only begotten Son to keep the law that we were unable to keep and to bear the curse we were unwilling to bear is enough to strike us dumb! And yet, that is exactly what the sovereign Creator did. Think of...
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...
Over the last several years, some in the church have argued that a person may be oriented toward homosexuality but not act on the inclination or tendency. That may or may not be the case. However, the burden of this article is not that. In this article, I will demonstrate that to claim that...
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? [1] 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...
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,...