Why Working Hard Is Important

If you're anything like me, and if you're in a secular occupation, you may look around you and wonder why hard work is important to God, the world, and to yourself. after all, it seems like others may get by with doing much less. You might be tempted to cave in to that pressure and ease off. If you have experienced this, take heart! God in His Word has a lot to say about one who labors. First, God tells we do it to sustain ourselves. Paul speaks in 2 Thess. 3 of those who do not work, do not eat. A basic tenet of life. Second, Proverbs 6:9-11 tells us of the results that come from the hands of a sluggard.

And our employer is paying us to, what again? WORK! Even though it may appear that hard work is a quaint concept from the past, and not valued like it used to be in the world, it is very important that we have a strong (dare I say, Protestant?) work ethic. Ask any Puritan! Now, get back to work, Christian, and stop surfing the web while your employer is paying you, already!


The Ever-Present Danger of Extremism

A Christian doesn't have to go very far in their pilgrimage here before they encounter some form of theological extremism. It can take many forms: KJV Onlyism, hyper-dispensationalism, headcoverings, fundamentalism, legalism of all varieties. How do Christians get caught up in it all? Having been involved in many of them over the years, I believe there are two primary causes. 1) Pride: Everyone wants to hold the "correct" position on every conceivable doctrinal point. Usually, little study goes into it. Something captivates them, or "mesmorizes" them (as Paul tells the Galatians) into thinking they have found a golden nugget, something that has eluded God's people for centuries. Or, it is something that has been lost, and must be recovered. Before they know it, off they go! Where there is humility, however, there is the realization that, ya know what? I don't know everything! I'll happily defer to the greats on many issues, thank you very much! That brings us to pride's close cousin, 2) A disregard for church history: A working knowledge of church history can and should protect the Christian from "going off the rails" into questionable directions. It really is a matter of a lack of respect of the theological acumen of those who went before us. Even those familiar with church history are prone to this, attempting to mold every turn of history into the shape of their pre-conceived thought. The moral of the story: a healthy respect for our time-tested past can go a long way toward innoculating the believer from the pernicious influences of extremes. Disclaimer: Christianity by mere definition can be considered extreme, compared to the world's idea of moralism and righteousness. The point of the post is to expose doctrinal extremism that comes not from above, but from the ever-present influence of the flesh. Remember 1 Cor. 8 - knowledge puffs up. Study with great care and humility....and seek wisdom, Christian.


What Our View of the Elderly Reveals About Us

We live in a time in America when the culture has a certain viewpoint about getting older. From health care issues to workplace issues, a common thread seems to be a lower respect for the aging in our society. And, the age range of that disrespect has expanded. Now, if someone is in their 40s or 50s, they might be considered in some circles to be "old-fashioned", especially regarding things such as computer literacy. But how does this view comport with the Bible? In Proverbs 23:22, Solomon exhorts his son to "harken to your Father who begot you and do not despise your mother when she is old." There are many more examples of this in Scripture. As the culture respects age less and less, we as believers need to be sure and not fall into the same trap. We can think of many ways that this fleshes itself out. How about being behind the slow, elderly driver? Do we react with resentment, or compassion? We have to keep in mind that, one day, we'll be in that same position one day. And what will the driver behind us think of us? Keep this Scripture from Proverbs 16:31 in mind: "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life."


Are You a Nice Christian or a Mean Christian?

If you have been a believer for a good stretch of time, you may have encountered two different "kinds" of Christian: the first I wold describe as the "nice" Christian. This is typically found in wider evangelicalism and is often accompanied by a disdain for the two "D"s: doctrinal preciseness and denominations. They might exhibit a syrupy, always cheerful attitude complete with Christianese one-liners such as the ubiquitous "Praise God...", or, when attempting to comfort those who are grieving, "Just trust God." The second, the "mean" Christian is usually from a more fundamentalist type, who now believes the Bible and is gonna let everyone know it. Of course, never in a spirit of Christ-like concern, but using a know-it-all, condescending tone, complete with Scriptures stating they are going to h-e-double-toothpicks any moment now. And usually do so at church while wearing a suit. Now I know I am really over-generalizing here. But I have a question. Where do either of these approaches draw their warrant from Scripture? We seem to always swing from one sickening extreme to the other. What about the new Calvinist in the "cage stage"? Do they take gleeful pleasure in telling everyone that will listen to them how God is sovereign and He takes pleasure in 9/11? Some of this I think comes down to over-kill when attempting to correct a previous extreme. When we are first saved, we see the sin of our previous attitudes toward people and, when desiring to do what the Bible commands about loving our neighbor, go on a trajectory that would make June Cleaver look like Sybil. This over-correction I believe works in the other direction also: someone begins seeing Biblical truths and they run to the extreme in their application. They might see a command to "hide the Word of God in their hearts" and they are now on a crusade for Bible memorization that would make Rosetta Stone look tame. And EVERYONE better be doing it too, or they're going to hear about it.

Both of these approaches I have described seem to both be a form of Pharasee-ism - basically a one-size-fits-all approach to the Christian life. Christian liberty either goes out the window, or is thrown out there as a defense of every evil, or, on the other side, awe are handed a "to-do" list a mile long. Do either of these approaches look like the Gospel as presented in Scripture? Certainly we must stand for truth, and as a Reformed Christian, I stand firm by the historic confessions that make Christianity what it is, and I stand against all forms of heresy. But HOW do we go about it?

And, does acting so "religious" as in our first example, or as a "defender" with our sword ready to cut someone down in an instance, exalt Christ or gain anyone a clearer picture of who God is? One may argue "Yeah, but then how will someone know I am a Christian". I answer that with Scripture: "You shall know them by their fruits." What does our fruit look like? Are there attitudes we need to shed? Yes, all of us have some. But recognizing these in our own lives are a first step towards humbly dropping the extreme "nicey-nice" approach and the equally obnoxious "meany-mean" approach I have attempted to describe above.

Some of these expose just how sub-cultured Christianity has become, especially in America. Perhaps we'll explore this further when we speak with Stephen J Nichols about his book "Jesus Made In America" next week on ReformedCast.

DISCLAIMER: There may indeed be times when these approaches may be necessary on a case-by-case basis. But the exception proves the rule, I believe. Okay, everyone, carry on.


The Call To Ministry and a Lesson In Hindsight

I was speaking to my son-in-law yesterday on the call to ministry. He's on staff at InterVarsity and the subject came up as we talked about his call. Then today, fellow podcaster William F. Hill Jr. (host of Sola5 and Covenant Radio) posted a blog article about his call to the ministry and recent decision to move to Greenville SC while he attends seminary.

The past year, and these two encounters, have prompted me to post this blog article. The last year has really made me think about my years preparing for ministry and subsequent time in pastoral ministry, so I wanted to tell my story in hopes that it will benefit someone out there.

I felt a "call" around 2000 and decided to go to Baptist Bible College in Boston, MA (now Boston Baptist College). I went for one semester and decided that I needed to go back to work full-time and Bible college part-time, so I began attending a four-year Bible institute (New England Baptist Theological Institute) in Sept. 2001. So I completed the program in four years, while working full-time, and after four grueling years, graduated in 2005. I then sought a church, and it took until 1997 to become a Pastor at New Beginnings Evangelical Church. Meanwhile, my theological journey was in flux. In late 2006, I embraced Calvinism but remained baptistic. But during the time between 2000, until I left that church, I was convinced that I was called to ministry. It was only after spending less than a year at a Reformed Baptist church that I began to question that assumption. My ordination that I sought was denied and/or delayed not only at the church at pastored but also at the church I joined shortly after. Meanwhile, my theological convictions shifted to a more fully Reformed paedobaptist position and joined a PCA church. But back to the call. I couldn't help but reflect upon the issue of the call to ministry after the dust settled and started ReformedCast. The "call to ministry" has been understood differently by many throughout church history. Some think if someone has the internal call, then that is sufficient for embarking on a life of pastoral ministry. Others believe the internal call must be evidenced by an external call. This is the position of most Reformed believers and other Bible-believers, and what I now believe is the correct one. This is why ordination is so important - for the body of Christ to confirm externally what is internal. Our internal impressions can be and are sometimes wrong.  I must add that hands were laid on my when I was installed at my church, so perhaps one can argue this was an ordination. But that wasn't their understanding, and there was no exam. That leads us right back to the original question: was my ministry confirmed by other godly elders? While I received some encouragement from family, friends and others, I must confess that I never received that confirmation. Encouragement is something different from confirmation. Incidentally, this is where fellow elders come in. They can better assess our God-given gifts much better than we can, due to our inherent bias from our sinful nature, which will always favor ourselves. I write this article as a means of both encouragement and warning to others: confirm a call to ministry first before embarking . You will save yourself untold grief, and you will be able to confidently enter ministry knowing other Godly men approve. The same principle applies to church planting, I believe. (A church should be behind every legitimate church plant. The individualism that pervades our culture has given people the idea that they just get a warm fuzzy, and off they go and plant.) May God grant the reader the wisdom to avoid the unwise inclinations of our hearts and first seek confirmation of your call to preach and to pastoral ministry. This is not an indictment of ministry at all, mind you It is sort of like becoming an accountant when you weren't given a gift of math! And it is much more serious! It is the Word of God, and a proper call is necessary before undertaking it. The words of Charles Spurgeon ring in my ears: "if you can do anything but preach, then don't preach."

P.S. I don't regret any of my experiences for God used them to make me who I am. Still, I have never been happier having left pastoral ministry behind one year ago. He showed me that it wasn't for me, and family circumstances also caused me to let it go. I hope that no one was damaged from it! Although when the Word goes out, it always accomplishes its purposes. I now get to freely serve my local Presbyterian church, concentrate on family, pursue my podcast, and even pursue my secular career with more vigor than ever. In all, Sola Deo Gloria!

Eccl. 9:10 - "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going."


Mark Dever Interviews David Van Drunen


Here is an interview from 9 Marks with Mark Dever featuring David Van Drunen. The subject is natural law and two kingdoms. Enjoy...




Tim Challies featured on May 10th ReformedCast

This week, we are privileged to welcome Tim Challies on the program to discuss his book "The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion", and the ever-changing world of new media. Details may be found here. UPDATE: Here's the audio:



Dr Brian Lee and Two Kingdoms on ReformedCast on a Special Wednesday Edition

This week, we will discuss two-kingdom theology with Dr. Brian Lee, the Pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington, DC. We look forward to this discussion. We'll post it here on Thursday.UPDATE: Here's the audio:



Bob Hayton and King James Onlyism This Week

We welcome back Bob Hayton this week as we look at King James Onlyism. You may recall that Bob was the guest on our debut episode last September as we looked at fundamentalism. See the details on this week's episode here. UPDATE: Here's the audio:



T4G Reformed....Really?

Here is an interesting blog article from Joe Coker over at Pilgrimage to Geneva on what it means to be Reformed....truly (but don't call me TR, please :)....Food for thought.


Tom Ascol Interviewed This Week

On ReformedCast this Monday evening, we will be speaking with Dr Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries. For more details, here is the link to our website:

http://reformedcast.com/2011/04/12/episode-31-the-founders-and-the-sbc-41811/

We look forward to speaking with him on Calvinism and its impact on the SBC. Join us!UPDATE: Here's the audio:



How NOT to Listen to a Sermon

This tweet from Nathan Bingham directs us to Tony Reinke's blog on how NOT to listen to a sermon. Food for thought (not just for someone else by the way....) I'm reprinting it here:

John Newton penned a brilliant letter on how to profit from sermons [Works, 1:224–225]. First, Newton explains how one should listen to sermons:
As a hearer, you have a right to try all doctrines by the word of God; and it is your duty so to do. Faithful ministers will remind you of this: they will not wish to hold you in an implicit and blind obedience to what they say, upon their own authority, nor desire that you should follow them farther than they have the Scripture for their warrant. They would not be lords over your conscience, but helpers of your joy. Prize this Gospel liberty, which sets you free from the doctrines and commandments of men; but do not abuse it to the purposes of pride and self.
Then Newton explains how not to listen to sermons:
There are hearers who make themselves, and not the Scripture, the standard of their judgment. They attend not so much to be instructed, as to pass their sentence. To them, the pulpit is the bar at which the minister stands to take his trial before them; a bar at which few escape censure, from judges at once so severe and inconsistent.
Excellent balance.