Ten Evangelical Affirmations in Light of the 2016 Election Results

affirmation_by_paxinabox
A simple affirmation*

Listening to the radio and reading the paper today there seems to be no end to the expression of “surprise” and “shock” and even “disbelief” over the fact that Donald Trump now stands as the president-elect of the United States of America.

While I felt similarly, it occurs to me: not everything is strange. Not everything is unclear. In fact, here are ten truths, in the form of “affirmations”–“yeses”–which every God-fearing, Bible-believing American can stand behind with certainty, confidence, and even joy the day after a bewildering election cycle concluded. Continue reading

Thoughts on Welcoming the Weak

In wider cultural circles, Christians often come under attack for failing to express to one another those virtues which we say are so important. I’m talking about things like love, sympathy, acceptance, and showing undeserved kindness.

This is, in one sense, a decoy topic for someone who has refused to consider the claims of Jesus. All too often their reasons amount to nothing more than excuses which avoid, rather than seriously engage, the truth claims of the faith.

Think about it. Don’t deep divides within the fields of evolutionary biology about just how the world came to be separate the most scholarly in the field? Yet such divides are not singled out for forming a reasonable basis for rejecting evolutionary biology. The same goes for politics. Deep divides within the a political party in American society are not a sound basis for rejecting said political party, or politics, as a whole.

In fact, in every area of public life, quarrels over fairly minor points are disputed between friends: “You like the NFL, I like the NFL; you like the AFC, I like the AFC; you like the AFC East, I like the AFC East; you like the Cowboys, I…click.” You get the idea.

Yet, I suspect that Christians are singled out in a special way for hypocrisy here because of the claims of the Christian faith itself: Continue reading

Calvin’s Prayer following His Lecture on Ezekiel 3

After lecturing on the third chapter of Ezekiel, Calvin composed this prayer, which both summarizes what he said in his lecture regarding the importance and calling of pastors to the Church, and adds to it a note of personal pleading with the Lord.

In his prayer, Calvin says, in effect, that if pastors are so important, make us, therefore, the kind of people who want godly ministers to lead, guide, and teach us.

Here’s his prayer: Continue reading

Summertime Parenting

With older children who go to school, our house is quiet during the day. But won’t last much longer. In just a few short weeks, we will experience a reverse exodus: the children will come home and stay for the summer.

This presents special challenges for our family. First of all, my study is at home and having little bodies around during the day can make getting some kinds of work done more difficult. (Frankly, their bodies aren’t so little any more, but you get the idea.) Second, we have four children at home (two in college) and so we’re dealing with parenting on a larger scale than some other people we know.

To start with, we start with two biblical principles. Continue reading

Pastors Turning Tail

To turn tail describes behavior of a coward, someone who runs from danger. Mr. Crane described the dynamics of cowardice in The Red Badge of Courage. I read it in eighth grade and will never forget the experience.

In days where denominations and departments of state are turning tail and running from the clear teaching of Scripture, pressure will increase on pastors to do the same. If the world is a battlefield on which pastors are called to fight a spiritual war for the kingdom of God, the godly will stand fast; but false teachers (sometimes called “thieves”) turn tail from their commitments and exchange the truth for a lie, scratching the “itching ears” of those who by nature do not want to hear hard words of repentance.

But what about fleeing for one’s life? Escaping persecution is a different matter, isn’t it?  Continue reading

Beautiful Music & Ugly Album Art

I’m a fan of Thomas Tallis, and have listened to his music for years. Some time ago, I went to purchase an album of Tallis music by the Tallis Scholars called Spem in Alium, which is a beautiful song that reads in English as follows:

I have never put my hope in any other

but in You, O God of Israel

who can show both anger and graciousness,

and who absolves all the sins

of suffering man

Lord God, Creator of Heaven and Earth

be mindful of our lowliness

At some point after I purchased the song from iTunes, the album artwork in my computer browser started showing up with an ad promoting a wicked movie called Fifty Shades of Gray. Continue reading

7 Reasons Protestants are Pro Ecclesia

Pro Ecclesia means “for the church” and Protestants are people who “protest.” That’s a strange combination: how can Protestants (negative) be for the Church (positive)?

It all began innocently enough. A German Bible doctor  and priest penned something like a medieval letter to the editor when he posted a list of ninety-five arguments on the public bulletin board (the door of the chapel in the center of town). This priest-scholar believed these were worthy of debate by church leaders and published them out of a love for the Church and an established tradition of seeking its reformation.

However, that priest, named Dr. Martin Luther, was eventually excommunicated by the Roman Catholic hierarchy for refusing to recant his views which he first articulated when he posted those concerns, called theses, on October 31, 1517.

It is remarkable that such a small action (which was essentially nothing more than a blog post or an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer) set in motion what would eventually become the Protestant Reformation. Since then, that historic event (or events, as many historians acknowledge a number of reformations) has come to define a movement of Christian belief known as Protestantism.

Yet, as a Catholic reform movement defined in part by objecting to certain things–especially religious traditions and practices which have little or nothing to do with the Bible–we must not be understood merely as an opposition movement, or as people who only stand against.

I think there is a need to reemphasize that while the label or term “Protestant” has historically negative connotations, it does not summarize the whole scope of Protestant belief. We need to freshly articulate he positive grounds or foundations for protestant faith and practice.

Besides this, because of the many traditions within Protestantism, it is important to lay out the major convictions held by those who find themselves still “protesting” certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church as a way of understanding what binds us is greater than what divides. Here then are seven “pros” or positive beliefs that all Protestants share. Continue reading

Ascension Snips and Clips

So much gets left on the cutting room floor–hence “snips and clips” in my title–when preparing a sermon. Here is a fascinating, orthodox, and devotional article by John F. Maile, called “The Ascension in Luke-Acts,” taken from the Tyndale Bulletin 37 (1986). Its gist is to engage in a scholarly, but pious way, with the value and biblical basis for believing, and loving, the doctrine of the Ascension of Jesus Christ.

In particular, I love this quote, below. As you read, notice how the author makes a theological connection between the Ascension in Luke’s Gospel and the Ascension in Acts.

In that regard, this is biblical scholarship that promotes the reading of your Bible, and loving more deeply, and obeying more fully, what it teaches; this is theological scholarship that exalts Christ and His Bride, the Church: Continue reading

Pentecost and Acts

pentecost by purple whirlpool

Part of the problem with denominations and Christian traditions is that words are taken like brand names (think © or ™), making it harder to use them with genuine biblical meaning…

  • Catholic means “universal”–no Christian in his right mind would deny the universal character to the Christian message (true for all time, in all societies and cultures, around the world)
  • Presbyterian means “governed by elders” (among other things) and in this regard, many churches have presbyters as key leaders in the local assembly, not just “Presbyterian” churches.
  • Pentecostal or “related to Pentecost” ought to describe all true Chrsitians: people who take “Pentecost” seriously as a watershed moment for the church of Jesus Christ.

That last brand name, “Pentecostal,” is on my mind lately as I’ve begun to preach through the Book of Acts. We will hit Acts 2:1-11 in two Sundays; so, I’m asking myself, “what does Luke mean by Pentecost?” and “How, or in what way, are we called to be Pentecostal today?”

We need to begin with this observation: Pentecost (or the outpouring of the Holy Spirit) is not the key action of God in Acts: the key ‘act’ of God in Acts is the Ascension of Jesus. Continue reading