Look! Look To Your Baptism!

We Christians like to tell people where and how to look. To those crushed under the weight of sin or guilt we say, “Look to the cross! Look to the cross and see God’s justice for your sin being satisfied in his Son.” To those wearied by sorrow and suffering we say, “Look forward! God has promised that this light and momentary affliction will soon give way to an eternal weight of glory.” To those who are being persecuted we …

A Corporate Confession of Sin & Assurance of Pardon

One of my favorite elements of a worship service is a confession of sin and the subsequent assurance of pardon. At Grace Fellowship Church we include this in almost every service and, from time to time, I like to share an example. Here is how we confessed our sins together using Psalm 32 as our guide. *** We just sang together, “All the redeemed washed in his blood / Come and rejoice in his great love!” One of the ways …

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Should Christians “Self Care?”

Words and phrases come and go. Both within the church and without, they often rise for a while, then quietly slip into decline and disuse. It is an annual tradition for dictionaries to announce the new words they are adding as well as the antiquated ones they are removing. In recent days, I’ve repeatedly heard the phrase “self-care,” or one of its many synonyms. I’ve heard it used in church contexts and in secular ones. I’ve seen Christians and non-Christians …

What’s the Purpose (and the Benefit) of Family Devotions?

What’s the purpose of family devotions? Probably no habit or discipline is so lauded, recommended, or even commanded among Christian families than this. But what’s the point of it? What is it meant to accomplish? Over many years of leading family devotions, I have been surprised to learn that it’s both more and less than I had expected. As Aileen and I began building the habit of family devotions, first as something that followed dinner and later as something that …

A Pastoral Prayer

Every now and again I like to share an example of a pastoral prayer from Grace Fellowship Church. I do this because there are few examples of pastoral prayers online and I thought these may serve to inspire themes, passages, or ideas as other pastors and elders prepare to lead their churches in prayer. Please feel free to use or to adapt these prayers however you see fit. Here is one pastor Paul Martin prayed before our church not too …

The Book that Has Most Influenced My Writing

When I talk to writers or talk about writing, I’m inevitably asked questions like these: What books have most influenced your writing? What books do you recommend to become a better writer? My answers have varied through the years, though William Zinnser’s On Writing Well is generally near the top of the list, and I’m always sure to hold up Malcolm Gladwell as the kind of writer I’d someday like to become. Yet I’ve always known I haven’t read enough …

Is It Sinful to Observe (or Not To Observe) Lent?

This is the time of year when I receive a lot of questions about Lent. Is it sinful to observe Lent? Is it sinful not to? Is there spiritual benefit in observing it? Or could there even be an element of spiritual danger? I am going to offer a few comments of my own, then direct you to some contemporary writers who have been helpful to me. This much is beyond dispute: Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to …

The Beauty of a Gentle Heart

If there is any quality that is conspicuous by its absence today, perhaps it is gentleness. Though this is a precious and beautiful trait, it is sadly rare. I recently read (and highly recommend!) J.R. Miller’s short work A Gentle Heart, and in that book I came across this convicting passage which reminds us of the source and model of our gentleness. *** There was gentleness in the world before Jesus came. There was mother love. There was friendship, deep, …

The Eternal Significance of a Single Little Word

Jesus tells us—in fact, he solemnly warns us—that our words matter. Every single word we speak has significance. “I tell you,” he says, “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36). Not most of those careless words. Not some of those careless words. All of them. This is a terrifying thought for those of us who are prone to speak often, speak hastily, or speak harshly. It calls us to repent, …

When Grumbling Meets Gossip

It’s for good reason that the Apostle Paul is considered one of the greatest leaders among the first generation of Christians. He was the early church’s foremost theologian, pastor, missionary, and church planter. He was also the Christian faith’s chief exemplar. Through the descriptions of his life in the book of Acts and the biographical details contained in the various epistles, we see him setting an example of how a Christian is to live. In fact, he lived such a …