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All articles in category Ecclesiological & Pastoral

March 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Solving conflicts in the home

We have an announcement to make — today, our families and marriages are under siege. Good communication and conflict resolution are important in a healthy and edifying marriage and home life, but are they missing in ours? Marital disagreements may occur for various reasons. There can be unrealistic expectations of our spouse, or the discovery that he or she does not possess the qualities we expected of them before marriage. Since we want to see desirable traits acquired and distasteful ones eliminated, we proceed with the monumental task of ‘remaking our spouses into ideal mates’, and the conflict begins. Conflict It has been claimed that...

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March 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The pre-emptive resignation: a ‘Get out of jail free’ card?

Church leaders often ask how they should respond when a person who is being disciplined by the church resigns before the process of discipline is complete. Should they accept the resignation or continue moving toward excommunication? Suppose a man decides to leave his wife for another woman. Other members of the church ask the man to repent and return to his wife. He doesn’t. They ask again, but this time they also warn him about the possibility of excommunication. So, he resigns his membership. Case closed. He’s now immune. Or at least that’s what the adulterous man is saying. Is that correct? The case in...

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March 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Same gender love

‘The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David’ (1 Samuel 18:1); ‘your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing that of a woman’ (2 Samuel 1:26). In China’s past, close female friends sometimes bound themselves to each other in friendship by means of a voluntary contract called Laotong — a contract in which they vowed to be sisters for life. These vows were often formalised and sealed with a small religious ceremony in a Chinese temple. In Chinese thought, such friendships were to last for eternity. Marriage, children, distance, illness or age would not erode the commitment of friendship each had made to...

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February 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

‘I shall not die, but live and tell’ — an author’s testimony

In May 2017, I sent the completed manuscript of my recent book, Prayers of the Bible, to my publisher. In June, I was rushed to the hospital, after coming down with an extreme case of altitude sickness at a Christian conference in Colorado. Relentlessly dizzy and nauseated, I threw up for 21 days in a row, defied all treatment, and showed no improvements. The doctors warned my wife that I might never recover. Food and fluid were pumped into me intravenously; my death was awaited with baited breath, and my life was prayed for by many of God’s people. One day, early in this ordeal, I...

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February 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Two debatable traditions

We all observe certain traditions, some good and others open to question. I wish to address two of these traditions, observed by some, but not by others. Pronouns used in relation to God I have been asked why it is that so many evangelicals no longer begin pronouns referring to God, the Lord Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit with a capital (upper case) letter (e.g. ‘You’, ‘His’, ‘Thee’, ‘Thou’), especially as I am guilty of the same practice. My response is that the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures carry no such distinctions, neither does, for example, the Authorised Version of the Bible. The practice of...

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January 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

In whose name?

In ET August 2016, ‘Teach us how not to pray’ looked at some bad ways people pray, putting their desires above their legitimate needs and not considering God’s will for their lives. But why do Bible-believing Christians behave this way? It comes down, I think, to at least two issues. One is fear, the other overfamiliarity. The fear issue is probably the simplest to understand. Although we might ‘have the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16), we, like Peter in Mark 8:33, do not always ‘have in mind the concerns of God’. There are times when our concerns appear so overwhelming that, rather than seeking...

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January 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Seeking, speaking and winning2

They will be missing from our churches next Sunday: that wide variety of individuals — the ‘down and outs’, ‘up and outs’, and all others in between. But one thing is for sure, whether up or down, they are most definitely ‘out’; the majority totally ignorant of the real gospel, living with a blatant disregard for God and his commands. And they live near you. So what? There may just be a Pharisee lurking within us, wanting to scold these ungodly people for not seeking the Lord in his house on his day. However, like Adam, they are cut off from the life of God,...

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December 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Mary’s Magnificat; Rachel’s lament

For many families at Christmas, traditional imagery can be heartbreaking, rather than heart-warming. ‘Christmas is all about family’; ‘children make Christmas special’; ‘it’s such a joy to see the little ones’ faces on Christmas day’. We’ve all heard these perfectly natural sentiments expressed by parents and not just secular parents. Christian parents often put more into their seasonal celebrations because of their children. In one sense, they’re right. It is lovely to be surrounded by family and excited children, opening presents or singing carols or taking part in nativity plays. And of course, it reminds us of the virgin Mary, whose obedience to God’s will,...

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December 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Making sense of terrorism and tragedy

How are Christians to respond to recent tragic events in the UK? There have been bombings at Parsons Green and at the Manchester Arena. There was the attack in Westminster. And, barely had the police cordons been lifted in Borough Market and London Bridge, when another cordon went up around Grenfell Tower, because of its horrific fire. We all have firmly etched on our memories images of those and other horrific happenings. Yet these are not the first nor the last time such things will happen. Sadly, we know yet another tragic story will soon emerge and dominate the headlines. As Christians, it is vital...

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October 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Reformation 500: ‘Here I stand!’

On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 theses on the door at the Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany. Thus began the Reformation. As we will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of his act this year, it is a good opportunity to reflect on why the Reformation was needed and what message it says to today’s church. Enslaving sins Although Luther is credited as being God’s man to start the Reformation in Europe, he was part of a process that had been going on centuries before him. Sadly, the church in the Middle Ages had lost its earlier purity. Ignorance of the Bible and...

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October 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The very practical Reformation

When people today think of the Reformation, they tend to picture Luther in monastic robes nailing a large amount of paper to the Castle Church door in Wittenburg. Or, they think of the wonderful ideas of the Reformation: justification by faith alone; Scripture alone as our supreme authority; salvation by grace alone. These ideas revolutionised the church, brought freedom to ordinary Christians living across Europe, and changed the world we live in today. But the Reformation was also an intensely practical movement. The great doctrinal discoveries of the Reformation meant change, not only for what Christians believe, but also how we do things. And this...

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October 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

North America and Reformation in the Netherlands

Perhaps the Reformation’s most lasting impact on the American church has come from the Netherlands. The Reformation came later to the Netherlands than Germany and England, perhaps because of extreme persecution. The German states retained some autonomy, but there was no such protection in the Netherlands. During the Reformation era, over 50,000 Protestants were martyred for their faith. When Philip II ruled over the Low Countries (Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg), he persecuted the Dutch, through his Spanish bishops and veteran armies. He also stripped the nobles of their power and imposed heavy taxes on the people, thereby solidifying the Dutch against the Spanish, politically, economically...

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