May 31, 2016

When the Guardrails Come Down

I read Psalm 2 recently, and it struck me how much it sounds as though it could have been written in the United States, some time in the last year or so. Just notice the first three verses:

“Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
‘Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!’”

Doesn’t that sound like what we have been reading about, and hearing in the news, in recent months? From the common folks, right on up to the rulers, what we have in this nation is a meeting of the various minds, and a conferring as to which of God’s laws we can cast aside next. The common man wants this breaking of God’s yoke. State, local, and federal authorities are often in agreement. And the money and power brokers of our culture are forcing the hands of the government officials whose feet aren’t quite so quick to spread the revolution. And so the nation is “in an uproar.” The peoples are “devising a vain thing.” And the rulers are “tak[ing] counsel together” as to how to make it all law.

And all of it is against, not only good morality and historic precedent and often just plain good sense … but these things are being devised, even more seriously, “against the LORD and against His Anointed.” And so it is all utter folly. And self-destruction. Because what does the psalmist say in vv.4-5?

“He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury …”

God is not in heaven, with His head spinning, His hands wringing, and His finger on the panic button. He laughs at those people who think they can overthrow His moral law with the stroke of a legislative pen, or with the power of the media and the cultural establishment. Picture the smile on an NBA player’s face when he is challenged to a game of one-on-one by a gangly high school sophomore. God laughs at us small-timers when we think we have cast off His yoke. And we are foolish if we do not realize it. “He will speak to [us] in His anger."

And not only is our nation taking counsel against the Lord foolish because God can crush us like so many ants in His garden, but because the yoke which our culture is so quick to throw off is an easy yoke (Matthew 11:28-30). Or, as the apostle John put it, “His commandments are not burdensome.” They are actually good for us (and even for non-believers who live in a culture that accepts them as the moral norm) … like the guardrails that keep wayward cars from veering into oncoming traffic.

When I was in college, I remember driving home one Friday afternoon and seeing an old beat-up truck, barreling down the left-hand lane of interstate 65 and, perhaps in a moment of dozing, sideswiping the concrete barrier that lay between the north and south-bound lanes. Sparks flew. And the driver bounced off the barrier, kept control, and kept driving (the blessing of already having a beat-up truck, I suppose). But what would have happened if the barrier had not been there? Both that man, and perhaps a few other people, would have been dead in the melee.

This is what is happening in our culture. The guardrails have been coming down for some time now. And it’s no surprise we have the drug addiction, the fatherless children, the abandoned elderly, and so on with which our government is constantly trying to keep up. And yet the same government (which is, of course, “of the people” – so that we are responsible, too) keeps tearing the guardrails even further down to the ground. Indeed, the barriers are nearly all the way gone. And so life in this country will only become more debauched. And the have-nots and the ne’er-do-wells and the abused will become even worse off than they are now. And the sword that hangs over our national head is only getting sharper and sharper.

And what is the solution, according to Psalm 2? Not that the godly people murmur, or go into hiding. And not that we simply rely on the political system to try and enact better laws (though that is necessary). But that those in the system (which includes “we the people”) “take warning” (v.10), and tremble before the Lord (v.11), and “kiss the Son” (v.12, KJV).

In essence, the solution for a culture that has thrown off God’s yoke is good old fashioned repentance (vv.10-11) and faith in Jesus Christ (v.12)! What our culture needs is the gospel – which proclaims God’s judgment upon sinners, and his mercy upon those who will kiss His Son, and entrust themselves to Him in faith!

And so will you go forth, bearing this good seed in the spheres of your influence? And will you pray for those who have access to the nation’s power brokers – that someone will have the courage of the preachers of old, and will call these men and women to account before a holy God, no matter how much the culture may deride them for doing so? Pray that God would raise up a series of John the Baptists, to preach truth to all the Herods in Washington, and a whole host of John’s, also, in the Columbuses, Frankforts, and city halls of our land – proclaiming God’s righteous judgment, and issuing the invitation to kiss God’s Son, to the “nations … peoples … kings … rulers” who “take counsel together against the LORD.” And would you be something of a John the Baptist in your own sphere … having the courage to sound the alarm, and offer the Son, to your neighbors and family who are veering over the center line in a culture with no guardrails?

May 23, 2016

More Reading Ideas for Those Who Aren’t (Yet) Big Readers

Last week I suggested that Christian reading is a habit worth your taking up … and that, even if you aren’t yet an avid reader, there is a way in. Particularly, I listed three Christian magazines that would start you with more bites-sized reading portions, and provide you both spiritual meat\ and stimulus to read further.

This week (although I think books and magazines will be more significant for you) I want to point those of you who are prone to read on your devices to some Christian blogs that will do the same. So have a look at my descriptions, and then add one or more of these sites to your blog feed, or subscribe by email, or bookmark them, or just check in on them periodically. You will be helped in your walk with the Lord. This is the blog of Christian blogger extraordinaire, Tim Challies. Monday through Saturday, he always posts an article that will help you think through some life or biblical issue in a Christian fashion. Each day he also posts a daily ‘A La Carte’ in which he links to other interesting articles from around the web … so that, not only does Challies post good content himself, but he will introduce you to other good content from around the web. Lots of great articles every week on subjects moral, theological, social, and so on … some by John Piper, others by other capable Christian writers. Albert Mohler is perhaps the leading Christian statesman of our day – and has a key eye, and a gifted pen, for voicing the Christian worldview as it relates to so many of the hot-button issues of our day – politics, ethics, societal crises, and so on. If you want to know how to think about the news Christianly, Mohler is your guy. His articles are less frequent and more lengthy than the other blogs I mention, but they will help you think deeply. You can also listen to his daily podcast The Briefing at or subscribe in iTunes.

So again, just a few ideas to get you going. We all need stimulus to think biblically, and God has provided numerous good teachers in our day, whose work is more accessible than ever. Let’s take advantage!

May 18, 2016

Some Reading Ideas for Those Who Aren’t (Yet) Big Readers

One of my delights as a pastor is to see our little library log book filling up with names, and with good book titles which have been checked out by the names in question. We are blessed, in our land and language, not only with unprecedented access to the Bible, but also with unprecedented access to good Christian books intended to help us understand the Bible, apply it to our lives, and think Christianly. And so let me urge you, if you are not doing so already, to make use of your church library. 

But it occurred to me that, for those who aren’t (yet) big readers, that there are some other resources available that might get you going as well. And I want to list a few of them for you, this week and next. Today I mention three magazines that I think you will find stimulating. Next week we’ll look at some blogs. But first the magazines:

Table Talk. This monthly magazine, put out by Ligonier Ministries, is a treasure of brief and helpful articles … usually all centered around a central theme for the month. The magazine also contains a daily Bible reading plan, to help you stay on track in the word, too. And so, if you gave it a half an hour, a couple days a week, you could read through the magazine in a month, be introduced to some of the most able Bible teachers of our time, and be greatly encouraged in your faith, and in your reading habit. This would be my highest recommendation in the magazine category. $23/yr. Available in paper and digital formats. Order at

Free Grace Broadcaster. This free, no frills quarterly magazine contains 8-10 articles from great Christian teachers of the past, and each issue is centered on a particular biblical theme – heaven, marriage, evangelism, etc. If you sought to read just an article a week, maybe on your Sunday afternoon, you’d read the whole magazine in less than the allotted quarter (and might find yourself wishing for more)! FREE. Available in paper and digital formats. Subscribe and/or download at

Studies in the Scriptures. This magazine of biblical study articles (something like sermons/Bible studies on paper) was published monthly by a man called Arthur Pink for 31 years in the first half of the 20th century. In recent years, Chapel Library in Pensacola has made the magazine live again by reprinting the final 21 years of magazines, and making them available to modern readers. Order or download a few months’ worth, read an article or two a week, and you will find a good deal of biblical meat for your soul. FREE. Available in paper and digital formats. Download or order copies at

Just a few ideas of solid meat that is available to you, and that might get you started on a habit that will bless your soul for a lifetime – Christian reading.

May 12, 2016

Cheaper in Dozens: Bulk Discounts on Good Books

Do you value good books?  Does your church sometimes purchase lots of them in bulk?  Or might you want to do so for handing out evangelistically?  Allow me to make you aware of an online bookstore, begun by a friend of mine named Jim Holmes, called Cheaper in Dozens

Cheaper in DozensJim's commitment is to sell only quality Christian literature (from publishers like Banner, Evangelical Press, Reformation Heritage, Shepherds Press, etc.) with free shipping ... and (here's where the site could be really beneficial) there are added discounts when you buy a dozen or more (thus the name)! So the site could be especially helpful if you're buying in bulk.

The books are sold at 10% off retail, but the discounts go up to:

20% if you buy 12
25% if you buy 25
30% if you buy 50
40% if you buy 100

I receive Jim's periodic email newsletter, in which he shares helpful ideas about how to get folks reading, along with special offers on particular books. If you are a reader, or a pastor who wants your church family to read, or to get good resources into their hands for doing so ... you might sign up for the newsletter by going to the website ( and entering your email address in the light grey connection bar near the bottom of the page.

Alternatively, just go to the website and browse around, like them on Facebook.


May 2, 2016

In Praise of Women

Have you ever listened to a woman heralding the gospel? Perhaps more often (and more appropriately) than you recognize!  How can it be, you ask? Well, stay with me (and don’t jump to conclusions just yet about what I mean!).

I was recently listening to a helpful sermon (by Iain D. Campbell) on the resurrection of Jesus from John 20. And what stuck with me was when Dr. Campbell, taking a cue from the 19th century preacher T.V. Moore, paused to notice how unusual it appears when we consider that it was a woman, Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus selected as the first herald of His resurrection; the first one to proclaim that He was risen indeed!

How can this be? That’s the question Moore poses in his classic work, The Last Days of Jesus. After all, Moore points out, this is the same Jesus who commissioned the apostles who, speaking on His behalf, would soon make it clear that women are not “to teach or exercise authority over a man” in the church (1 Timothy 3:12). And so, since that is the will of Christ on the matter of women preachers, Moore ponders, how is it that Jesus makes this seeming exception by giving Mary Magdalene – and not the apostles – the privilege of being the first herald of the risen Savior?

The solution, of course, is not to throw out what is said elsewhere in the New Testament regarding the prohibition of women teaching men in the church. 1 Timothy 3:12 stands. “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man.” But with that being said, why the seeming exception with Mary Magdalene?

Well, says Moore, it’s not actually an exception at all. 

Now, of course, one reason it is not an exception (which I myself would add at this point) is that Mary was not teaching in an authoritative or church setting, but simply sharing the good news person-to-person … just like a woman might do, today, with male classmates or co-workers. 

But Moore sees something even more profound happening in John 20. The fact that a woman was the first one to announce the good news of Christ’s resurrection is not an exception, he says, but actually the natural order in which a great many of us have first heard the same good news never since!

And so, seizing on and preaching Moore’s observation, Campbell asks his hearers: ‘Where did you first hear the story of the cross? Who first told you the story of the risen Savior? Where did you first hear that Christ was alive? Was it from a minister in a pulpit? Or was it, perhaps, from a woman – a godly mother, a godly grandmother whose heart was tender to your heart when you were in your childhood … so that the first person to tell you that Christ was alive was a woman, too?’

Here is Moore’s great observation, and Campbell’s stirring preaching of it: It was not strange that Mary Magdalene was the first to announce that Jesus was alive, because that is the pattern for so many of us, in every generation since – first hearing the good news from the lips of a woman! ‘We will never know,’ Campbell continues, ‘what we owe to the women who spent time with Jesus in the garden – our mothers and our grandmothers and our Sunday School teachers who impacted our lives to tell us that Christ was alive.’

And so it is probably true that many who read these lines owe more to the heralding of the gospel from feminine lips than we had really taken time to recognize – not as they usurped the God-given role of men, but as they took up the God-given role of women: nurturing little ones in the faith; helping them memorize scripture and catechism; singing gospel truth to them in the Sunday School room, and in the cradle, and even in the womb.

And so here is a little tribute to the godly mothers and grandmothers who read this little article. And here is an encouragement to those who are still in the midst of those formative years of bringing children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” God is using you! Christ is making Himself known through your lips – often the very first lips who herald His good news to the little ones in your life! So keep on! “Your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”