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Our Other Intercessor

Because it is stated so clearly in Scripture, particularly in the book of Hebrews, most believers know that Christ Himself prays for us.  He is our intercessor.  Christ is our high priest, resurrected from the dead and seated at God’s right hand, who “always lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25). We should take great comfort in knowing that we are in union with an external intercessor seated in the heavens who represents us faithfully to our Father, sympathizing with us in our weakness because he was made like us in every way except for sin.  Knowing this experientially encourages us in prayer.

Yet further encouragement should come knowing we have an internal intercessor as well.  Jesus said he would send “another Helper (or Comforter) to  be with you forever” (John 14:16).  The Holy Spirit dwells within the people of God, and one of his great ministries is that of intercession. Read more

Saturday Evening at a Pastor’s Home

The house is clean. Mostly. You know, pretty clean. Soccer gear is stowed away so Sunday visitors don’t impale themselves on cleats.

Homemade pizza with whole wheat crust, kids eating at the kitchen table, mom and dad across the counter from them. Dad’s still on a diet, so there’s more pizza for those who are supposed to still be growing.

Little boys playing hide and seek, mostly hiding from taking showers.  Read more

My Nothingness

As I journey again through The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, this time with others in a Sunday School class, I am also reminded once again of how difficult, humbling, and yet freeing it can be to learn the art of contentment.

In a section on self-denial, Burroughs takes the reader to the cross and, in a manner of speaking, reminds him what his confession of faith should read in the chapter entitled “Me.”  Though hard to profess and even self-brutal in its statements, Burroughs uses Scriptural truth to help the disciple in Christ’s school of contentment learn what it means to die to self.  Paradoxically, in an age where the message is contentment will come through the acquiring of everything, Burroughs teaches – and more importantly, Scripture teaches – that we will not learn to be content until we see that we have, and even are, nothing.  Burroughs effectively shows that contentment, that “sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in our God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition,” comes as we decrease and Christ increases.

So before the cross of Christ, can you confess the following summaries of what Burroughs teaches? Read more

The Fading Glory of Sex

My friend Bill VanDoodewaard at The Christian Pundit has written an excellent post entitled Art, Nakedness, and Redemption.  In this article, he demonstrates quite clearly, using his extensive knowledge of history (in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Francis Schaeffer), how nudity in art has more to do with promoting the cultural ethos from which it emerges than we might think.  For instance (and here I am sorry to ruin your next museum trip), have you ever thought that those exquisitely carved Greek statues of naked men may have more to do with that society’s homoerotic promotion than, say, with the beauty of the human body (which will be what your guide will tell you)?

This post helps connect the dots between the immorality we see in art and the immorality that we see in the culture and especially the church.  The bad fruit of rampant pornography, fornication, and divorce in the modern church has much of its roots in the arts.  Before you read anymore of this post, you should first read his.

Bill then concludes his post by bringing Scriptural light to bear on how Christians should not fall for the line that “mature adults” can view certain pieces of pornographic art.  Instead, we should acquire the maturity of wisdom that longs for modesty in the art we enjoy.

Reading this stirred up within me concerns I have long had in a related area.  Not only is the evangelical church facing cultural pressures from without in the area of immorality, but also from within.  I believe some of the church’s more well-known leaders are fostering such by their disproportionate teaching on sex and their own lack of discretion. Read more

One Chief Quality about the Church that Pastors Should Never Forget

I usually like short blog titles.  But I wanted this one to stand out a bit.

You see, I was surprised (though I should not have been) about something I saw.  It occurred while doing a survey of historical pastoral theology works for a class I am teaching at the seminary.  I found that in reading each of these men they all stressed, in one way or another, one aspect regarding the nature of the church above many others that is vital for pastors and elders to grasp.  The simple truth they stress is that the church is a varied body.

Here is a short sampling of three men from different times stressing this, with an application from each one that pastors can and should make in the church. Read more

My New Life at RPTS

As a new teacher at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, I have been asked often as of late “How do you like it?”

My answer is simple.  “I’m having a blast!”  To be honest, that has been a big surprise to me.

Transitioning from pastoral ministry to an academic setting was not easy heart-wise.  Having just visited Indiana this past weekend, I was reminded again of how I miss greatly the congregation I left, the personal interactions with the people we love, and regularly ministering God’s Word to a dear flock of His people.  God’s heart, Christ’s blood, and the Spirit’s presence are with the local church in a particular way.  The man who is set apart to administer God’s care to the church has a very special assignment.

Truly feeling that way, to be honest I just did not think I could be as joyful about ministry coming to a seminary.  I knew I would enjoy being around the godly and talented faculty and staff at RPTS.  I looked forward to interaction with the students in and outside the classroom.  Yet I was unsure I would be able to enjoy fully this ministry context.

However, I have been simply overwhelmed with gratitude and astonishment over the way the Lord is working here at RPTS.  To be a part of the seminary community at this unique and opportune time is to see the mighty workings of God.  Let me highlight three of those. Read more

God’s Comparable Loves

When the love of God is discussed, we often speak of his love being incomparable, for it is like no other.  God’s love for his people in Christ is eternal (Ephesians 1:4), primary and initiatory (I John 4:9-10), supremely sacrificial (Romans 5:8), unconquerable (Romans 8:28-32), and immeasurable (Psalm 57:10).  God’s love as described in Scripture is in contrast to man’s weak and sin-choked love, and thus is without equal or even close rival.

Yet within God’s incomparable love, the Scriptures make distinctions regarding God’s affection for objects of that love.  He does love certain entities more than others.

The psalmist declares this in Psalm 87:2 when he says, “The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.”  This verse is a statement of God’s comparable loves. Read more

Foolish Preaching?

The preaching of the gospel is a profound aspect of Christian worship. Some see preaching merely as a teaching time. Some see it as a time for outreach.  Some see it as a time to justify paying the pastor!  But at the core of preaching is this- preaching is an act of worship.  Through preaching, fallen humanity is able to encounter the holy Triune God of the Bible in a powerful way.

How does the Bible view preaching? The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

To the non-Christian: Preaching is foolish.
To the Christian: Preaching is the power of God. Read more

“But what about him?!”

Have you ever had a burden so heavy on your heart, a duty you knew you had to perform, that its weight altered your view of the rest of life and of those who surround you? Suddenly, every song you hear taunts you. Every gust of wind against your cheek is a slap in the face. Every smile aimed your way provokes not a grin, but a growl: “Put that smile away! If you knew what I’m facing, you’d weep!” And has that pressure forced from within you feelings of envy and even bitterness toward people whose burdens seem so light compared to what’s crushing you? The Apostle Peter received news from the Lord Jesus which surely could have made him feel this way. Read more

Man Like Him

“He was made like his brothers

                in every way.”

With awe and joy I read.

My humble yet exalted priest 

                Who, every day,

Hears me as I plead.

 

Then thought of “Lamb slain

                before earth’s foundation,”

Brings pause over Holy Writ.

Another shining facet

                Of salvation

Warms this heart further yet.

 

“Not only was the Lord

                Made like me

Except without sin,” I ponder.

“We were first formed as the man

                He would be.”

A wonder upon a wonder!

 

So true God-Man, seated

                at the right,      

with love that will never dim,

Meets with pity believers

                He became like,

So they can be man like Him. 

Humiliation Through Humiliation

He [Christ] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (ESV).  

-Col 2:15-

With a stroke of the pen, the apostle Paul added a small but profound detail in the above verse.  In so highlighting the triumphant nature of Christ’s victory over the principalities of darkness, something of the cross’ humiliating design is brought out.  Christ is said to have made an open spectacle of his enemies, thereby shaming or humiliating them. 

In a word, God embarrassed the kingdom of darkness.

But how? Read more

Apply Your Heart to Instruction

They were normal days in my homeschool world. An elementary student, I sat on the couch or at the table with my math book. I had mastered laziness. My first strategy was always to daydream. Then, after some prodding, I’d bellyache, maybe sob if needed. Phrases like “I need help” or “I can’t figure it out” were close friends. Read more

The Church in Old Testament Typology

We have been promoting happily David Murray’s book Jesus on Every Pageas it is such a clear presentation of how we can see Jesus throughout all of Old Testament literature as the Lord said we could (Luke 22:44; John 5:39).  Could it also be true that we can find “the church on every page” in the Old Testament, or at least the church on almost every page?

I believe so.

Of course this cuts against the grain of dispensational theology that grips much of the church today, which in itself is a sad irony as it leaves the church downplaying its very existence.  You see, one of the key tenets of dispensationalism is the sharp distinction made between the nation of Israel and the church.   This more than perhaps anything else is what distinguishes dispensational theology from covenant theology.  Though many systems of dispensationalism exist, every form of which I am aware sees God’s plan for Israel as different from that of the church in one fundamental way.  What is it?    Dispensationalists see the Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel as fundamentally describing the physical nation of the Jews rather than the church of the New Covenant.  Many dispensationalists would even go so far as to say the church is not prophesied about in the Old Testament and, based on their view of certain prophecies such as Daniel 7:24-27, deem the age of the church as “parenthetical,” i.e. not a major aspect of the overall plan of God. Read more

Yearning For Heaven

Positioned on a grassy hill, looking down on the stage where the musicians sang and played with artistic fervor, my heart could not help but yearn for heaven.

Last night, my wife and I, along with her sister, had the joy of attending a large concert.

At one point, I peered out over the crowd.  Thousands upon thousands of people were spread across the landscape, hands raised, bouncing, their faces aglow from the flashing lights.    

At that moment, my thoughts were lifted heavenward, and my heart ached.  There we were, fixed in a mass of people, singing with delight, and yet, the delight fell short.  My heart wanted more.

But what? Read more

And Returned to Her Home

Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer. Last night, on our ride home from a cookout with friends, we saw Illinois license plates heading west, and Ohio plates heading east. Everyone was going home.

Sometimes we feel a letdown at the end of summer. Vacations refreshed us, mission trips expanded our vision, church conferences spurred us to greater growth. A holiday weekend provided an opportunity to be with family and friends. And now it ends. And we go home. Read more