When Evil Seems to Triumph

Few things can cause us more consternation than the seeming triumph of evil.

The prophet Habakkuk expressed to God a very human complaint against evil’s triumph: “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (1:3-4).

When people abuse or oppress others, when an evil person gets rewarded or promoted, the cry goes up, “Where is God? Where is justice?”

It’s amazing how many people walk around with unresolved past injustices weighing them down. Just sit and listen to folks for a while. You will hear the cries of their hearts against betrayal, abandonment, abuse, and injustice.

What answer does the Bible give to all this? Continue reading “When Evil Seems to Triumph”

Beyond Illusion & Despair

No matter how many times it happens, I still have hope. I believe that my seven children will all love the meal I make for them. When I said that in my sermon Sunday, one man shouted out, “Then, order pizza!” Nope! That won’t work. One of my daughters doesn’t like tomato sauce! Another child complains about too much cheese! In spite of that, I hope beyond hope that everyone will like the meal.

I suspect I’m not the only one that is looking for a perfect meal. We are all looking for a perfect something. We think our marriage or vacation or job or church or children will fulfill all our hopes and dreams. The reality is generally far different. Everything disappoints.

One of the key promises of the Bible is that Jesus will come again. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Why is Jesus coming back? To bring to completion what He started. He will bring in perfection, the restoration of all things.

An important corollary to this truth is that there will be no completion in this life. There will always be something lacking. Every hobby will have its boring moments. Every relationship will have its hard moments. Every church will feel unwelcoming at times.

It is important to recognize this for two reasons. Continue reading “Beyond Illusion & Despair”

Realistic Expectations for Your Children

Here’s a suggestion for you who are parents or will be. Keep a journal of what your children do. If you have a bad day, write about it. If they do something that makes you particularly happy, write about that, too. I would especially suggest this if you have several children.

My wife does not journal a lot. She has written three journal entries over the past five years. However, a few nights ago, she read them, and she really enjoyed it. I’m going to publish some of my own journal entries in a few months where I describe some of the most intimate details of my private life. Just kidding.

In all seriousness, I’m really pleased how my two oldest children are growing and becoming good workers. They are almost 9 and 8 years old. My son is particular willing to work without complaining, even if he is not as thorough as I would like. Nevertheless, I’m quite pleased.

But my 5 and 4 year old daughters drive me crazy sometimes. Every time I try to get them to do even the smallest tasks, they disappear, get “sick,” or suddenly have to go to the bathroom. I was complaining about this to my wife, and she said, “Anna (our oldest) did the same thing when she was five. I just read it in my journal.” I was greatly relieved. We were not failures as parents. Our younger girls were not destined to be eternal couch potatoes, ever avoiding work. They were just being 5 and 4.

This was a good lesson for me. I’ll keep pushing my children to work, but I also want to have realistic expectations. That’s true for all who have subordinates. It’s true as a pastor, and it’s true as a father. “Be patient with all.” says the Apostle Paul (1 Thess. 5:14).

What’s Right with the Institutional Church

There is much hostility to the idea of the “institutional” church today. Many do not believe that it is authentic and believe that it promotes formalism and bureaucracy over true community, etc.

Are there problems with institutional churches? Of course. Every sort of organization has problems. However, do the problems outweigh the benefits? I do not believe so. Let me tell you why I think that the institutional church is a good idea.

Of course, I could argue this same point directly from the Bible, but I want to just consider the institutional Church in terms of the nature of a society. Let’s suppose that we had no specific instructions on organization and just see what would happen if Christians tried to get together.
Continue reading “What’s Right with the Institutional Church”

Preparing to Meet God in the Lord’s Supper

By Jean Claude (1619–1687)

Just as God never presents Himself to the creature’s eyes without all the marks of His infinite majesty, so the creature should never appear before God without being seized with a religious fear and making the strongest efforts to put himself into an attitude of respect and profound humility.

We find in the history of the Old Testament, that when the Lord first revealed Himself to Moses under the image of a burning bush, Moses was surprised and astonished at the bush. He wanted at first to draw near to look more carefully into this miracle, but at that very moment, he heard a voice saying unto him, “Do not approach. Take off your shoes from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Ex. 3:5).
Continue reading “Preparing to Meet God in the Lord’s Supper”

The Church, Society, and the Law of God

A friend of mine wrote me to tell me that I needed more balance in my presentation of how the church should relate to society. I decided I would try and give a positive presentation of my own views on this matter (at the risk of alienating some). My views are substantially those of Charles Hodge on this matter. I think he eloquently states the obligation of the church to speak to violations of moral law in society but to avoid becoming a policy maker or getting involved specifically in politics. He writes in his Discussions in Church Polity, (103–105):

It follows from the great commission of the Church, that it is her prerogative and duty to testify for the truth and the law of God, whereever she can make her voice heard; not only to her own people, but to kings and rulers, to Jews and Gentiles. It is her duty not only to announce the truth, but to apply it to particular cases and persons; that is, she is bound to instruct, rebuke, and exhort, with all longsuffering. Continue reading “The Church, Society, and the Law of God”

Joy in the Day of Prosperity; Learning in the Day of Adversity

God gives us two different days. He gives us the day of prosperity, and He gives us the day of adversity. We must recognize that “surely God has appointed the one as well as the other” (Eccl. 7:13–14).

In 1686, shortly after Jean Claude, the famous Huguenot theologian, had left France because of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (which had allowed for toleration of the French Reformed Churches) he preached a sermon on that passage to a crowd of Dutch citizens and Huguenot refugees in The Hague, Netherlands for a day of fasting. Claude could not have chosen a more appropriate text. The Dutch had enjoyed the prosperity and blessing of the Lord in a free, Protestant land. The Huguenot refugees were still mourning their flight from their French homeland and attempting to put the pieces together in a new land.

Claude’s sermon was recently translated by Rev. Charles Telfer and printed in Vol. 19 of the Mid-America Journal of Theology (purchase it here). This sermon is a powerful exposition of that particular text as well as an excellent illustration of the power of Huguenot preaching. It is also one of my favorite sermons.

When Claude arrived at the point of application in his sermon, he addressed each group (the Dutch and the French) within the congregation separately. To those who had lived in prosperity he encouraged them to be grateful and use what they possessed to God’s glory: Continue reading “Joy in the Day of Prosperity; Learning in the Day of Adversity”

Jesus As Food

This figure that Jesus Christ presents to us under the image of food is itself very full and beautiful, being founded on an almost infinite number of comparisons or relationships that there are between the body and blood of our Savior in regard to our spiritual life and food in regard to our bodily life. At this point, I will not make an exhaustive list, it will be sufficient to notice three that can serve as a door to the others.

First, food is something naturally outside of ourselves that changes into our substance when we partake of it, and it is so absolutely necessary that without it we cannot exist so that the desire for food is violent and insatiable. In the same way, Jesus Christ is a principle of life which is outside of us, but being received by devotion and faith, communicates Him to us in such a way that we are filled with the power of His death and resurrection. Further, this is so necessary for the rest and peace of our consciences that without Him we cannot have any holiness, consolation, hope, or even the least spark of joy or spiritual life. That’s why the anxieties of a soul deprived of this great support are compared by Jesus Christ to hunger and thirst. “Blessed are those,” He says, “who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled” (Mt. 5).

Second, just as there is delight in taking food, since nature wanted to join pleasure to the usage of something so necessary and just as the body feels established and a certain tranquility after eating, so is it with Jesus Christ. The Christian soul cannot meditate on Him without an indescribable pleasure nor receive Him without enjoying a perfect rest.
Continue reading “Jesus As Food”

Jean Claude, Pastor and Theologian (1619–1687)

The Church Where Claude Pastored
One of the most famous and highly respected theologians of the 17th century was the French Huguenot Jean Claude (1619–1687). Everyone in the Reformed communion speaks of him the highest respect. Even his greatest opponent, Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, the famous Roman Catholic apologist, said of him that he said the most and best of what could be said for a bad cause! In this post, I would like to give a very brief overview of his life and explain a few of his works that are available in English.

As for the major events of Claude’s life, he was born in the home of a Protestant minister in southwestern France, where French Protestantism was strongest, in 1619. He did his studies at Montaubon and was ordained by his own father in 1646. He ministered in La Treyne for one year and then went on to Saint-Afrique where he served for eight years. In 1655, he became a pastor in the Reformed Church at Nîmes, one of the most important churches in France. Because of his success and the outcome of a provincial Synod in 1661, he was banished from the province (Languedoc). He then went to Paris to seek to get the sentence removed, but he was unsuccessful. His travels then led him to Montaubon, where he had studied for the ministry, and he was soon called and installed as a minister of that place. There, he served with relative peace and contentment for four years.

For various reasons, Claude was banished from Montaubon, and once again he went to Paris to have the sentence removed where, once again, he was unsuccessful. However, the Lord had other plans. He became the pastor at Charenton. Charenton was the most important Protestant Church in France because of its proximity to the Court. Because of the terms of the Edict of Nantes, no Protestant Church was allowed within the walls of Paris. Consequently, all of the Protestants in Paris had to worship outside the city walls. The closest church was in Charenton, about five miles outside of Paris. From this church, Claude countered the machinations against the Protestants, gave counsel to the Churches of France, and defended the cause of the Reformation. He was from 1666 until the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the pastor of French Protestantism. Continue reading “Jean Claude, Pastor and Theologian (1619–1687)”