Good preaching is not just teaching what to do this week or how to think about a single issue. It is forming us in the likeness of Christ. It is a means of grace used by the Spirit to chip away the remaining sinfulness and carve us more and more in the form of Jesus. It is training discernment, teaching us not only how to view one thing but learning how to look at everything through the lens of creation and covenant, Scripture and the life of our Savior, cross and future crown.
By the grace of God I am what I am… (1st Corinthians 15:10)
One of the greatest challenges in weekly preaching is remembering that you must meet your audience where they are and help them in their daily walk with Christ. The typical Reformed pastor spends a lot of time with books, reading old volumes of theology and sermons written by men who have been dead for many years, sometimes centuries. He may also spend time online or actively corresponding with other men about current theological controversies and the latest issue which has been designated the true test of orthodoxy. But when it comes time to write his weekly sermon(s), if he is a good pastor, he must remember that he was sent by Christ to shepherd a particular flock of sheep. He is not pastoring an audience on YouTube. He is not enlightening the broader presbytery by the brilliance of his exposition or saving his denomination by the power of his elocution. He is a shepherd sent to lead, feed, water, and protect particular sheep, and most of those sheep have very different priorities than their theologically attuned pastor.
Reformed churches are, rightly, critical of evangelicalish churches where the sermon is always something like Seven Ways to Have a Better Marriage or What Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour Can Teach Us About Loving Jesus. Such preaching neither edifies saints nor points the unbeliever to Jesus Christ.
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By Michael Riley — 2 years ago
We shouldn’t think that our pressures are unique. The temptations that we face have been faced before, they are not unprecedented, and we aren’t exempt from obedience to God.
These are not unprecedented days. That’s important to say, because unprecedented has become one of the most overused descriptors of the past year.
To call something unprecedented is to make a very bold statement. It is not merely to say that “this thing hasn’t happened before,” but to say that “nothing even reasonably similar to this thing has happened before.”
To be sure, most of us have seen events this past year (even this past week) that have no clear parallel within our lifetimes. There is really nothing in my lifetime like the COVID shutdowns and stay home orders. The national civil unrest is at a level that I have not witnessed before, though those just a bit older than I am could make a very convincing case that the late 1960s were much more unstable in our nation.
And that already suggests the problem: I didn’t live through the late 1960s, so our current situation seems totally new to me. But to think that it is unprecedented expresses historical ignorance. Even people slightly older than me have seen circumstances like these before.
And that point needs to be broadened. To think that because we haven’t seen an event before that that event is without precedent is not only to be ignorant of history—it is to invite folly.
By Suzy Weiss — 2 years ago
It used to be that people wanted to make babies. Women, especially, but also men. That was a healthy young person’s default position, and our existence depended on it. We wanted to do other things, of course, and the great post-feminist challenge was how to have it all…But now, for an increasing number, the question isn’t how to have it all. It’s: why do it at all?
Rachel Diamond looks like most of the moms at the Park Slope café where we meet. She’s wearing a green t-shirt under a black corduroy jumper, sensible shoes and carries a smart, leather bag. She sips a four dollar iced chai. Except the 31-year-old isn’t a mom. And she never will be. “You know,” Diamond says cheerily, “I never expected to be the poster child of sterilization.”
On the aspiring actor’s TikTok, one finds short funny videos about Diamond’s job working the register at a cafe near Union Square and updates on her rescue pitbull, Rue, who has anemia. Mixed in are the clips extolling her child-free life. They have titles like “Sterilization Attempt #3” and “Being Childfree: We DO Know What We’re Missing.” It’s been five months since she had her fallopian tubes cut—not tied—and she has 64,000 followers.
Growing up near Hershey, Penn., Diamond always assumed she’d have a family of her own. Then came college at Arcadia University; her political awakening, away from her conservative roots, and towards progressivism; and a therapist who she found online a few months after graduation who made her realize that being spanked as a child was deeply traumatic, and that it made her fear authority figures like her father. She decided that she never wanted to be one herself. Never ever ever.
“Looking back, I never pretended that my American Girl dolls were children, they were always my sisters,” she says. “There were little things showing that I wasn’t preparing myself for motherhood. I think for me, it’s as innate as saying, ‘I’ve always wanted to be a mom.’”
Diamond is hardly an outlier. Americans are making fewer babies than we’ve made since we started keeping track in the 1930s. And some women, like Diamond, are not just putting off pregnancy but eliminating the possibility of it altogether.
Last year, the number of deaths exceeded that of births in 25 states—up from five the year before. The marriage rate is also at an all-time low, at 6.5 marriages per 1,000 people. Millennials are the first generation where a majority are unmarried (about 56%). They are also more likely to live with their own parents, according to Pew, than previous generations were in their twenties and thirties.
They also aren’t having sex. The number of young men (ages 18 to 30) who admit they have had no sex in the past year tripled between 2008 and 2018. Cities like New York, where young, secular Americans flock to to build their lives, are increasingly childless. In San Francisco, there are more dogs than children.
It used to be that people wanted to make babies. Women, especially, but also men. That was a healthy young person’s default position, and our existence depended on it. We wanted to do other things, of course, and the great post-feminist challenge was how to have it all—the proper work-life balance, the career and the baby, the supportive husband and the adventurous life.
But now, for an increasing number, the question isn’t how to have it all. It’s: why do it at all?
This psychological reversal didn’t just happen. It took place inside the hurricane of spiritual, cultural and environmental forces swirling around us. But the message from this young cohort is clear: Life is already exhausting enough. And the world is broken and burning. Who would want to bring new, innocent life into a criminally unequal society situated on a planet with catastrophically rising sea levels?
The Rapture—sorry, the end—is upon us, and this is no time for onesies. So says The New Yorker and NPR and AOC. According to a new poll, 39% of Gen Zers are hesitant to procreate for fear of the climate apocalypse. A nationally representative study of adults in Michigan found that over a quarter of adults there are child-free by choice. And new research by the Institute of Family Studies found that the desire to have a child among adults decreased by 17% since the onset of the pandemic.
“I think it’s morally wrong to bring a child into the world,” said Isabel, 28, a self proclaimed anti-natalist who lives in southwestern Texas and did not want her last name in print. “No matter how good someone has it, they will suffer.”
Texas’s new, highly restrictive abortion law has led her to take action sooner instead of later. “I was going to wait until I was thirty to get the procedure done,” Isabel said, “but, with the Heartbeat Bill in place, I can’t take the risk of getting pregnant and not being able to abort.”
Last week, she was approved for The Operation—aka laparoscopic bilateral salpingectomy. (Many surgeons won’t sterilize young, childless women because studies indicate high rates of regret, so it can take time to lock one down.) During the procedure, which she hopes will take place in the next few months depending on Covid and the hospital’s capacity to perform elective surgeries, Isabel’s surgeon will make three incisions: two near her abdomen and one just above her belly button. This will allow the surgeon to insert cameras and then remove her fallopian tubes.
Isabel is planning a “sterilization celebration” at a local sushi joint. There will be lots of booze, a smattering of friends, and her brother and his husband, who are also child-free. “I don’t want to work my life away,” says Isabel, who hopes to retire in her fifties or earlier.
Darlene Nickell, 31, in Denver, Colo., had her tubes removed eight months ago. “My generation is very aware of the ways that our parents traumatized us,” she tells me. “My mom smoked a lot of weed and did her own thing, and my dad was away a lot for work.” She says her parents’ marriage improved after they became empty nesters.
She first set out to get sterilized at the age of 21 and was told by her doctor that she needed written consent from her male partner or to have already had two kids. Meantime, her childless male friend from high school had successfully gotten his vasectomy a year before. “That felt like an attack on me.”
By Benjamin Glaser — 1 year ago
All things depend on Him for all of their existence. The fact you are breathing now is because the Lord has so ordered the earth to produce the proper amount and type of air you need in order that your lungs will inflate and deflate to a sufficient degree that your body stays on this side of the grass. A particular actuality that we do not spend enough time mediating on is how much the physical world which we need to survive is held together by its Creator, and how we can do nothing to make the parameters different than how God designed it.
Today as the divines open our eyes to see the depth of how God works in history and why He does what He does there is an opportunity here to put a plug in for something we are going to begin to do at Bethany ARP Church on Sunday evenings beginning Sunday November 13th. As we close out Ruth the week before we are then going to start a new series in our second service on the Lord’s Day where we’re going to mainly work through this portion of the Larger Catechism. Gaining a better sense of how God operates in His works of predestination and election, and how that plays out in His providence is vital to dealing with the day-to-day troubles we face as believers living in a sin-soaked world. For those of you unable to attend at that time of night for whatever prudential reason they will be recorded and placed on our YouTube channel.
So as not to spend too much more on this let us go ahead and look at the Q/A’s below:
Q. 18. What are God’s works of providence?
A. God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.
Q. 19. What is God’s providence towards the angels?
A. God by his providence permitted some of the angels, wilfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that, and all their sins, to his own glory; and established the rest in holiness and happiness; employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, mercy, and justice.
Q. 20. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?
A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.
One of the truths of the Bible as it relates to these questions is the reality that no created thing ever is independent of God. All things depend on Him for all of their existence.