When I read this quote from Michael Raiter’s article, "The Slow Death of Congregational Singing," I thought about a decision we made at Bethlehem 13 years ago. The article said:
I was at a convention recently, seated near the rear of the auditorium. The music team at the front were ‘leading’ (and I use that word advisedly) and we were singing. Well, we were meant to be singing.... I turned to a friend next to me and commented, “No-one's singing”. He looked at me as if I'd just observed that no-one was flying. Of course they're not singing; we haven't really sung here for years.
Thirteen years ago we asked: What should be the defining sound of corporate worship at Beth…
They say that nothing is certain except death and taxes. In America, at least, we can add one more thing to the list: Every four years politicians and pundits will wax eloquent about the “difficult” and “controversial” issue of abortion.
Debates about “a woman’s right to choose” and “a baby’s right to life” will quickly degenerate into shouting matches that obscure rather than clarify the issues.
As Christians, we don’t have the luxury of speaking with vagueness, ambiguity, and cliché. When we open our mouths, we must speak clearly (Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:3-4).
But if we are to speak clearly, we must first think and feel clearly about difficult and controversial moral…
Angels are not omniscient. That is, they do not know all that is and will be. We believe this partly because they are finite, created beings and partly because the New Testament portrays them as desiring to look into things. And it speaks of things being “made known” to them.
For example, Peter says that the gospel contains “things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12). And Paul says that the church exists so that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10).
Angels are also sinless and in that sense perfect. Therefore, unfallen angels still learn things. So it is possible to be perfect yet ignor…
Last Wednesday marked the eightieth anniversary of the death of Lilias Trotter. She died August 27, 1928, forty years and five months after following God’s call to leave her comfortable English home and move to Algeria.
According to the standards of her day, it seemed impossible that she should succeed. She was too old (34!). She was single. She didn’t know Arabic. She had no acquaintances in North Africa, except the two women who traveled with her. She couldn’t pass the physical exam for any mission board because she had a chronically weak heart following a surgery when she was younger.
If God works through the weakness of humans, as Lilias believed, he had it here in full force!…
“Remember those...who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3)
Lord have mercy on your people harassed and driven from their homes in eastern India. Grant them protection and relief. That is what I would want for my body.
In the meantime, Lord, grant them to entrust their souls to a faithful Creator, and to not return evil for evil.
Titus 3 speaks a timely word during election season. Paul charges Titus,
Remind [the people] to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (verses 1-2)
God doesn't send his church into the political fray with a strut and an open mouth but with gentleness and courtesy—with a readiness to do good, to avoid quarrels, and to speak evil of no one.
Why gentleness and courtesy? Why such an unexpected posture? Paul follows with his reason:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions…
Sometimes a strong rebuke is in order. The sin we see in the lives of those we love and lead is so serious that we must respond with intensity. This is the loving way to handle egregious departures from the truth.
But more often the sin is subtler, and the best way to respond is the path of an affirming challenge.
A Strong Rebuke
The occasional strong rebuke has biblical precedent. When Peter opposed Jesus’ path to the cross, the Savior responded with a passionate reprimand: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23).
And when Paul received word that his Galatian converts were trading trust in God’s grace for self-reliance, love prompted him to respond with severity. Their erro…
Soren Kierkegaard said, “When the age loses the tragic, it gains despair.”
This sounds profoundly right.
The elements of life that make tragedy possible are the same as the ones that fight off despair. For tragedy to be real there has to be something hugely precious, and there has to be the capacity to feel a great emotion. When these are both present, tragedy can happen.
Despair is the horrible blankness that settles over us when nothing is seen as precious anymore and there is no capacity to feel it anyway.
As great as our tragedy may be, if we feel it to the full, it is a sign that the weapons against despair are still in place.
Often the gifts of God come in strang…
Our ninth grandchild was born on Friday: Morrow John Piper. The day was filled with evidences of God’s tenderness to us. So I ask with the psalmist, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?”
The psalmist answers, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” (Psalms 116:12-13).
The fact of the call defines the meaning of the cup. The cup is lifted for another filling. More, Lord, more! Show your inexhaustible Self! Which is to say, God will be most glorified in Morrow and me if we keep calling on him as the only all-satisfying Treasure of our lives.
So my “return” to the Lord for this child is to purpose that every day, while I hav…
Joseph Bottum, an editor at First Things, recently published an article called “The Death of Protestant America.” Here are a few of his observations that give meaning to the title.
- By “Protestant America” he means the America that was once defined by the mainline churches—the more liberal expressions of the Northern Baptists, United Church of Christ, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians. Take a deep breath and consider: In 1965 50% of the American population was in these churches. But today 8% of Americans belong to these churches.
- “The death of the Mainline is the central historical fact of our time: the event that disting…