• Church,  New Testament

    Elder, Bishop, or Pastor?

    How do you refer to church leaders? Do you use the term elder, bishop, or pastor? If you are confused by these different denominational terms you are not alone. A bishop is typically equated with Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches, although Anglican and a few Lutheran churches also use the term. The term elder is often associated with the Mormon church and the young men you meet in ties on your front porch, though more evangelical churches are utilizing the term elder now. For most people, the term pastor is an easily-recognizable term referring to the spiritual leader of a church. I grew up in a baptist church that had a pastor, and assistant pastor, and a deacon board. It was not until high school that I was introduced to the idea of elder. When I began to study what the Bible had to say about church leadership, what I…

  • Christian Living,  Church,  New Testament

    Church Discipline: The Forgotten Pillar

    Little known to most people, the 1561 Belgic Confession gives three marks by which the true church is known: (1) preaching the pure gospel, (2) observing the sacraments (i.e., baptism and communion), and (3) practicing church discipline. Throughout church history, church discipline has been an integral component of God-fearing churches. However, a recent survey of pastors revealed that 55% of churches have never formally disciplined a member. Another 21% stated that, although the church had practiced church discipline, it was three or more years ago. Clearly, church discipline has fallen on hard times and is hardly viewed as a pillar of the church. There are a variety of reasons churches do not practice church discipline. One reason, sadly, is ignorance. In order to alleviate the ignorance, my goal in this post is to provide a simple template for following church discipline as taught in Matthew 18:15–17. Church Discipline Step 1:…

  • Church,  Culture,  Old Testament

    Joy to the World! (Singing a “Non-Christmas Song” at Christmas)

    Music is such a big part of Christmas. There is always a little extra energy come Christmas time, due in part to the old Christmas songs that we sing. A classic example of those Christmas songs is Joy to the World. Joy to the World is one of Christianity’s most beloved Christmas songs. It is one of those songs that almost everyone can sing along with (even if they are not a Christian). Written by Isaac Watts, Joy to the World is based on Psalm 98 and was first published in 1719 in a collection entitled The Psalms of David: Imitated in the Language of the New Testament and Applied to the Christian State and Worship. Although I don’t normally blog about songs, given the fact many of us will be singing Joy to the World this Christmas season, I thought I would point out the biblical connections. The biblical…

  • Church,  Culture

    A Biblical View of Gender and Why it Matters

    LGBT and gender issues continue to be on the cultural forefront. Each day the headlines bring us arguments for gender-neutral bathrooms, news about transgender athletes, or a doctor who loses his job because he holds to a biblical view of gender. The biblical view of gender is antiquated according to some, labeled as outdated, non-essential, and a relic of a bygone patriarchal era. In a secular worldview, gender has no value and the differences must be minimized. Despite obvious physical differences between men and women, these distinctions are minimized or ignored. According to the secular worldview, if someone wants to behave with masculine or feminine gender characteristics that is their choice. For many today, gender is a social construct and not related to anything inherent in either sex. Sadly, many churches are embracing a secular worldview and rejecting the biblical view of gender. It is rather common for Christians to…

  • Christian Living,  Church,  Culture,  Ethics

    Slavery Reparations and the Christian

    Slavery reparations are all the rage right now. This week there was a House hearing on reparations, and there were a variety of celebrity testimonies, including Danny Glover and Burgess Owens arguing for or against reparations. This conversation has really ignited over the last year. When the culture takes aim at a topic, the Christian needs to be equipped to think through the issues from a biblical worldview. On the issue of whether slavery reparations are to be implemented, I think there are a couple issues to consider. First, slavery reparations would be a logistical nightmare. Although the issue is often painted as blacks needing to receive reparations and whites needing to pay reparations, that is a gross oversimplification. If the actual issue is slavery, one needs to consider the numerous black slaveholders. Should their black descendants be required to pay reparations? According to one black brother, he can actually…

  • Church

    Are there Songs We Shouldn’t Sing in Church?

    I think most people would acknowledge there are some songs which are inappropriate for church worship. However, the real issue is where do we draw the line? To some, all “Christian songs” are appropriate for use in a church. To others, only a certain kind of music is allowed. How should we think through this issue? Are there any passages which talk about this issue directly? This is the first question to ask in working through any issue. Pertaining to this issue, Colossians 3:16 applies very appropriately (cf. Eph 5:19). Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Notice that the church is charged to teach and admonish one another WITH psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. In other words, these are the means by which the…

  • Church,  New Testament,  Old Testament

    Prophets and Prophetic Revelation

    Since the beginning of time, God has communicated with His people through prophets. We can deduce from Genesis 3:8 that God likely communed with Adam and Eve at regular intervals. We are also told in Luke 11:51 that Abel was among the prophets, and thus received revelation from God. Prophets spoke for God. Perhaps better stated, prophets were God’s mouthpiece. Jeremiah 1:4-10 is quite instructive for the prophetic role. In v. 9, God specifically tells Jeremiah, “I have put my words in your mouth.” That is the role of the prophet—he speaks God’s words. As a nation, Israel was given special instruction for prophets. Deuteronomy 13:1–5 lays down the important principle that prophets cannot contradict previous revelation. If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if…

  • Church

    A Man of Whom the World Was Not Worthy

    In life there are few men and women who exemplify what could be called true greatness. This kind of greatness often defies definition and is instead understood by seeing the character within the narrative which makes them special. Today I want to share with you the story of someone who exemplified this kind of character. His name is Eric Liddell. Liddell’s story may be known to some from the 1981 movie, Chariots of Fire. The movie relates Liddell’s story, how at the age of 22 he climbed the ranks of the world’s best 100m sprinters—one of the favorites to win the 1924 Olympics in Paris. However, Liddell learned that his heat of the 100m was set for a Sunday (Liddell was a Christian who refused to participate in athletics on Sundays). To shorten a story which ought not to be shortened, he switched events, giving himself 6 months to train…

  • Church,  Review

    Book Review: Shattered Shepherds – Finding Hope in the Midst of Ministry Disaster

    Conflict is inevitable in life. Even for pastors and church leaders, difficulties are not absent. Some shepherds go through such terrible times in their ministries that it is akin to losing a loved one. For the most part there has been a lack of helpful resources for pastors who find themselves in such situations. Steve Swartz’ book Shattered Shepherds fills this gap. Drawing upon Scripture and his own painful experience, pastor Swartz deals with how a church leader ought to deal with the aftermath of a divisive and difficult situation in church. I was privileged to be able to go to seminary with Steve, and I am thankful for this new book which will help many pastors deal with painful issues that they have gone through. I definitely recommend it as a resource for church leaders who feel pained by others in the church. On the other hand, the book…

  • Christian Living,  Church,  Ethics,  Hermeneutics

    Should Women Wear Head Coverings?

    If you walk into almost any church in North America this Sunday you will not see many (if any) women wearing a head covering. However, 1 Cor 11:2-16 seems to indicate that head coverings should be worn by women during the church service. To further complicate matters, one of the reasons given in 1 Cor 11 is because of God’s created order. If Paul is supporting head coverings from the created order, are we not obligated to continue this practice which all the churches of Paul’s time observed (1 Cor 11:16)? This is notoriously one of the most difficult passages to interpret. Some people claim that  because of the many exegetical difficulties, this passage should not be used for discussion on gender and roles. However, despite some of the contextual difficulties, I think the passage is clear enough to trace the overall argument and make an informed theological decision regarding…