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Seven Steps to the Perfect Start to College or University

This month many students are beginning their first year of college or university. Here are seven steps to the perfect start, not only for these new freshmen, but also for those students who have already begun and are seeking a fresh start. 1.  Read the Bible and pray. This sounds obvious, but it isn’t. With more social pressure, less time, and less privacy, maintaining a regular, daily, discipline of quiet times is going to be difficult.  Don’t let it slip. 2.  Be a member of a local Bible teaching church. The one consistent predictor of who stays a Christian and thrives spiritually after university or college is who is committed to a local Bible teaching church. I love para-church groups, have been involved with many, and support them, but if a student is not a part of a local church, they are far less likely to be part of a local church when they are no...

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Some Thoughts on Christian Weddings

Two Principles: Marriage is a creation gift from God (Genesis 2:18-25). That means that you don’t have to be a Christian to get the benefit of marriage. This is something that God – as an expression of his loving goodness – gives to all his creatures made in his image. It is a part of the natural created order, and like the sun and the rain it falls on the just and the not so just. But marriage is more than a creation gift; it is a message about Christ’s love for the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). Within the created order, God in His providence invested a type, a foreshadow, a sign to point to Christ and his love for the church.  Many times in the Old Testament, and in the New, the relationship between God and his people is compared to a marriage relationship. This is not just a cutesy metaphor.  Marriage, in a very real sense,...

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Vacation

With summer officially upon us, here are some ways to make the most of your vacation/holiday: 1. Rest For the inveterate workaholics the idea of any sort of break can seem faintly guilt inducing. Remember that rest is God’s idea, a creation ordinance, affirmed in the Ten Commandments, and a part of expressing the gospel by resting in God’s sovereignty. So rest. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting up really late (if you have young children that’s never going to happen anyway), but it might mean going to bed early. And perhaps an afternoon nap. 2. Relax Relaxation is not the same as resting. Relaxation might well involve some pretty vigorous exercise. Or it might involve consciously giving yourself to think through some things in your life in quiet. It might mean ‘getting away from it all’ mentally as well as geographically enough so that you do not have the needs of the office, or the home, constantly consciously...

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God-Centered Living

Here’s the why and how of God-centered living. Why? We are made by God. We are not our own. Whether we live abundantly wicked lives, or good old fashioned clean living lives, a life that is not surrendered to God is not life as the Bible defines it. We are the walking dead even if we physically live if our life is not God-centered (Ephesians 2:1). Take the illustration of someone renting a room in someone else’s house. They may keep their room clean. They may not trash it or play loud music at 3 in the morning.  But if they do not pay rent, they are, however nicely, living in a room that is not giving what they owe to the owner of the house. Similarly, if we live nice comfortable lives but don’t give our due to God, then we are not living life as designed by the Creator. Jesus...

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Moody and magnificent!

(Warning: flagrant self-promotion to follow.) My book No Other Gospel (Crossway, 2011) has just been published and I have duly been doing the rounds of radio interviews on Christian radio in the US. They have certainly been fascinating. Whereas in the UK there is Premier Radio listened to by a loyal audience, no doubt, in the US there is a very large population of Christians who listen to Christian talk radio, with news and music, and regular preaching programming. Some of it perhaps classifies as ‘naff’ or ‘cheesy’, but much of it is genuinely edifying and helpful. There is also the very fast-paced twitter and blogging world. Recently a controversial new book, with a pre-release video, was posted by a well known American blogger and over the weekend received something like a quarter of a million hits. That kind of attention, and internet traffic, was enough to get CNN interested. We are talking —...

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No Weddings and a Funeral

Some remarkable new studies have emerged about the changing patterns of marriage in America. For decades, it has been assumed that the more educated elites tended towards being more liberal in this and many other ways, while the lower echelons, the less educated with minimal if any college education, are assumed to be more conservative with relation to marriage and anything else. A strange complexity For a long time it has been known that this picture has a strange complexity to it: the more educated, while liberal in theory about marriage, actually tend to be pretty conservative about it in their own practice. What’s new, though, is that there is a growing body of evidence that the less educated, whatever their ideological theory, are in practice moving decisively away from long-term marriage commitments. There is more divorce, more out of wedlock birth, less commitment to the institution of marriage. This is a seismic change...

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For the Fame of God’s Name and in Honour of a Servant

John Piper is one of the most influential of his generation of evangelical leaders, and this month Crossway have come out with a ‘festschrift’ in his honour. The book lists a remarkable catalogue of friends and colleagues with whom Piper has collaborated over the years. And it is surely a testament to the way God has used John Piper that such a book could be put together. Josh the booster! Not being one of the contributors to this volume, I feel free to ‘boost’ it and commend it to others to read. Piper, of course, has had an influence on my spiritual journey (along with many other people), and I am particularly grateful for his preaching and writing. His book The Supremacy of God in Preaching is still one of my favourite books on preaching, and is I think a genuine classic, along with such tomes as Stott’s and Lloyd-Jones’s on preaching. I first heard him preach...

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Whence now ‘religious’ politics?

After Glenn Beck (a Mormon Fox News commentator) organised and led a massive rally in Washington DC recently, calling on the need for reviving America, many discerning Christian commentators were disconcerted — to say the least — to discover that evangelical Christians seemed able to embrace Beck as one of their own. Justin Taylor has since posted a repeat of the ESV Study Bible’s teaching about what is different between Mormonism and Christianity (1), and Russell Moore has opined successfully that the problem is not that Beck is an effective leader, nor that he is allowed to speak his mind in religiously free America, but that some evangelical Christians are so undiscerning (2). What has caused a situation where genuine Christians can embrace rank heresy with excitement about its positive effect on their country? Of course, putting the question like that is not perhaps entirely fair, for the feeling is that, given...

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To change the world

A book which deserves a much longer review is James Davidson Hunter’s To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Later Modern World. As I say, I cannot possibly do this book justice in these few words, other than to say that if you are interested in the problem of cultural change in our day you really should read it. I don’t agree with everything that Hunter says. For instance, it is frustrating that Hunter (so sure footed elsewhere) makes if not monumental gaffes in historical summary, at least takes a particular side in the historical debate about particular events without seeming to realise that the side he is taking is far from non-controversial. He seems to regard it as an open and shut case that Luther was at least partly responsible for the German genocide of the Jews, and that Calvin was entirely responsible for the...

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The Ideological War in the Aftermath of September 11

With the recent renewed furor over the legacy of 9/11, I was interested to dig around and find what I had posted about it for our church in New Haven soon after the original 9/11.  Yale sends a lot of people to work in Manhattan so in the immediacy of that terrible event New Haven was in mourning with lots of connections to the workers in downtown Manhattan. I remember coming out of our apartment and seeing a Yale undergraduate sitting on the steps of the house – we were renting a multifamily at the time – and my wife noticing that she was simply sitting there weeping uncontrollably.  This didn’t seem normal and when she told me I immediately switched on the news channel on the TV and saw one of the buildings with a plane stuck in the side of it. Sometime later, I thought some ideological reflection on what 9/11 was going to do to us would be helpful.  This...

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