Posts by Jeffrey Stivason

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I recently finished Luke Timothy Johnson’s The Mind in Another Place: My Life as a Scholar (Eerdmans, 2022). I was eager to read it. I am always eager to read an autobiography about the intellectual and scholarly life of a person so accomplished and prolific as Johnson. The author provides a list...
Male humans do not lactate. I know that this may come as a surprise to you, especially since we are now being told that males just might be able to lactate and so breast feed their young. This information comes from such trusted sources as the Scientific American, after all, how could a magazine...
After reading through this prophecy, one doesn’t need to make it further than the first five chapters to realize that there is a profound problem. The people of God know the right things to say. In 1:15, they spread out their hands in prayer. They know the right things to do. In 1:11, they...
Whatever we may think about an idol, foolish as it may be, we must not be in doubt about the infatuation that these chunks of metal and blocks of wood inspire in their worshipers. idols are precious to idolaters. What is more, idolaters are often witnesses for their idols, even though their witness...
As of late, there was a scuffle in the House because Rep. Eli Crane from Arizona used the term “colored people” instead of “people of color.” Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH) responded immediately “asking for unanimous consent to take down the words of (sic) referring to me or any of my colleagues as colored...
Elon Musk, owner of Twitter, recently tweeted that “the words ‘cis’ and ‘cisgender’ are considered slurs on this platform.” Personally, I am relieved and thankful for his willingness to put a stop to the language nonsense we have had to endure the last several years. Yes, it is a small step...
Following the fall of the Cambridge Dictionary, the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary has slipped from the same cultural precipice only to dashed on the blunt rocks of wokeness below. The evidence? A secondary definition has been added to define the word female. Now, claims the book that is...
I woke up this morning to David French’s New York Times Opinion article. [1] To be honest, it left a bad after taste. It wasn’t that everything he said was either wrong or inflammatory, it wasn’t. In fact, there were some interesting comparisons. For example, French insightfully suggests that the...
Welcome to Ref21! It probably sounds strange to be welcomed to a page that you have read for nearly twenty years! Ref21 has been a staple of daily Christian reading for literally thousands of believers. So, why act as if we are meeting for the first time? The answer is, we are. My name is Jeff...
The office of deacon is an important one. In one sense the deacon or servant is not distinctive. Christ described himself as a servant in Mark 10:45 saying, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The word serve is the verb form of...
You are a pastor in a small city. You’ve known your barber for almost twenty years. One day while he trims he asks for help in prayer. He, like many others, struggles in that area. So, you decide to go home and write a brief thirty-four page guide for him. You even incorporate your friend in the...
In 381 the Council of Constantinople wrote the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. In that creed we find the attributes of the Church. The famous line says that the church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” However, in the days of the Reformation disputes arose. The Roman Catholics contested the...
It is said that when Martin Luther heard of his father’s death he took his Psalter and retreated to his room and was not seen the rest of the day. This news came to the great German while he was at the Castle Coburg during the Diet of Augsburg. We may wonder what such a great man did in the...
Have you ever wondered about the topical and logical order of the Westminster Confession of Faith? Not all of it; just the ordo salutis . After chapter nine lays out man’s fourfold state chapter ten begins with what we might think of as a typical ordering of those blessings which accompany a Spirit...
In today’s world of tolerance and conciliation even theologians have a tendency to stray from the old paths and act as if postmodernity has the ability to build new roadways to places not traveled in a long time. For example, one theologian has gone on record as saying that the Reformation’s...
Not long ago I sat across from a young man who complained, “The Bible itself does not teach Sola Scriptura .” In that meeting I took him through several passages and because the divide between Reformed Protestants and Rome is as great as it ever was these texts bear unearthing in this series of...
Today the Roman Catholic Church does not sound like the Roman Catholic Church of the Counter Reformation of the 16 th century. I am not talking about tone but rather content. For example, in the first canon of the twenty-second session of Trent the Mass is defined as a “true and proper sacrifice.”...
In the last section of the golden book Calvin asks how the present life and its comfort should be used by the Christian. The question of use invites us to think about fit. In other words, says Calvin, we must let the use of God’s gifts “be governed by their author’s purpose.” [1] Imagine a group of...
A beautiful singing voice is amazing. But then again the whole notion of music can be unfathomable. Maybe you think that is an overstatement or editorial license. But think about it. How can some people with aphasia, a communication disorder, sing with fluency? We see the same phenomenon with those...
The raising of Lazarus from the dead in John 11 always elicits memories of what older preachers have said as they thundered through the text. I’m not sure who said it but someone somewhere once said, “Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb by name lest all the dead arise!” And I can imagine George...
Many years ago my wife and I participated in a very large scavenger hunt. We had tremendous fun and wasted a lot of gas! But imagine a humorous scenario. Picture one of our colleagues finding a clue and instead of using it to press on to find the next clue he became enamored with the current clue...
Disciplines and vocations have access points. When you enter college as an economics major you start with Economics 101. When you begin an exercise program for the first time you hire a trainer or as an experienced friend for help. You may even read a basic book on nutrition. Why? Because you are...
On December 24, 1920 Benjamin B. Warfield fell ill after being struck with angina pectoris. He died on February 16, 1921. Why should we pause this week to remember a Princeton theologian who has been with the Lord for one hundred years? Perhaps Isaac Newton’s reason is enough, “If I have seen...
Goodness is a word that can obviously mean upright. Think of the oft used comparison between good and evil. But the word can also point up the benefit or qualities possessed by another. We might say something like, “The teachers are good here.” Of course, by that we mean that the teachers are the...
The dangers facing the church today are subtle. They are like those facing the family. Imagine a young man sits his parents down at the kitchen table for a talk. He then outs himself as gay or perhaps transgendered. The danger facing that family at that moment is very real. Traditionally they have...
What Metaphor? The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians five brings to mind images of an orchard. It’s a serene and beautiful scene. However, the more I look at the text of Galatians I start to think that the orchard metaphor may be a more pleasing one but not entirely consistent with what we find in...
Perhaps you have noticed by now that Proverbs 6:16-19 is not simply a list of ills that God hates though it most certainly is that. But it is more. On the surface of this list is an explanation. God is not only telling us the things He hates but why He hates them. Have you noticed what is included...
As we come to the end of our series on walking in the book of Ephesians it is appropriate that Paul would urge believers to walk carefully. [1] The adverb “carefully” has the idea of walking deliberately. I can just imagine a young person carelessly trundling along only to hear his mother bark out...
When I was in college I took a class on various religious traditions. My class visited a Jewish synagogue and while there the priest said this in response to a question asked of him that I no longer remember, “You Christians claim to have Jesus but we Jews have something better. We have the law.” I...
The holidays are a wonderful time of year. However, for some they are a time of guilt. The season reminds them of things they said and did or did not say or do and those thoughts bring guilty. Strikingly, man is able to pull the galaxies close through a telescope and a microscope can enlarge a...
When I was a young teen trying to get comfortable in my own skin words were a commodity that could make or break you. Utter one wrong word and social standing could be tenuous. The best you could do was hope that people had short memories and so never bring up your words again. Today things are...
Several years ago I sat across from someone who lied to me. At the time I would have called him a friend. He certainly was no friend. However, in the moment he lied to me I had one up on him. I knew the very story he was attempting to falsify. I knew that every word dribbling off of his tongue was...
How do we think about the Old Testament saint’s believing experience in relation to our own? Perhaps we think better of them than we do of ourselves! Or maybe we use them as an excuse for our bad behavior. For instance, how many times has David’s name been invoked as an excuse for unfaithfulness?...
Paul once commented to Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” [1] This text tends to make the typical American Christian uncomfortable. They immediately compare their experience to that of the underground church in China or something similar. Yet...
When Freud arrived in America to give five lectures at Clark University he is said to have quipped, “We are bringing them the plague.” He knew of what he was speaking. He wrote to a colleague referring to his invitation to Clark University saying, “By the way, we could soon be ‘up [expletive] creek...
One afternoon a group of bored boys decided to bother an old man working in his yard. After causing the man a little trouble they moved on. However, the town wherein they lived was a small one and so having recognized one of the boys the old man called on the father of that particular boy. When the...
Motivation is what moves us to do something. For some, the reason for being at the gym is the ten or twenty pounds they need to lose. Some study for grades. Some study to get beyond the poverty in which they grew up. Motivation is the thing that moves us. So let me ask you a question. What...
I am a pastor in Pennsylvania. And I appreciate my brothers who are laboring hard to understand how to handle the governor’s guidelines. As an aside, guidelines are almost a euphemism for dictatorial power. On March 6 th Governor Wolf declared a state of emergency and placed himself in charge of...
What would Martin Luther King, Jr. think of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the violence it has spawned? What would he think of the death of Horace Lorenzo Anderson in CHOP? [1] What would he think about the shooting in Chicago that claimed the life of Mekhi James, a three year old boy? [2] What would...
Let me begin with an affirmation. The Gospel Matters. Some will immediately accuse me of being antagonistic. After all, Stan Wischnowski ran a headline that read “Buildings Matter” and he found himself without a job. [1] But I am not an antagonist. I am a minister of the Gospel. Others will ask, “...
As a pastor, I am for unity. It is part and parcel of the fabric of what it means to be a Christian. I am united to Christ by virtue of the Spirit of unity indwelling me. The Apostle Paul clearly enjoins every believer to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bound of peace. There is...
Everybody loves the Joseph story. Chapters thirty-seven through fifty with the minor exception of chapter thirty-eight seem to be all about Joseph. And that is exactly why we have to remind ourselves that the story is not Joseph’s but Jacob’s story. Genesis 37:2 reminds us that these are the...
Charles Spurgeon’s famous quip goes something like this, “I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.” We might say something similar about justification. We may describe it...
The New Perspective now feels old. Or to say it differently, it has gained stability in the academy and in the church. Tom Wright, its leading salesperson, is as intelligent as he is winsome. He also has the instincts of a pastor. Hence the Everyone’s Commentary, which has quickly become a staple...
Justification has been described in various ways by Reformers we respect and admire. Luther spoke of it as the foundation of the church and Calvin said it was the main hinge on which religion turned. However, we say it the doctrine is central. What is more, it’s as beautiful as it is ministerial...
I indicated in the introduction to this series that there was an ordo docendi to the ordo salutis . My comment had the placement of union with Christ in mind. Where does it belong? Do we place it at the end of the list of benefits as John Murray did in his understandably famous Redemption...
Today Theology for Everyone begins a new series. It is a familiar topic. However, it is one that needs to be set within a context. We are going to explore the ordo salutis or the order of salvation. For those not familiar with the expression it primarily deals with the application of the gospel to...
One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons opens with Linus and lucy staring out the window. Rain is pouring down outside. Lucy, in a rare moment of weakness, confesses her fright to Linus. She is worried that if it continues to rain heavily the earth will flood! Linus calmly explains to his sister that...
Let’s start our series on the humiliation and exaltation of Christ from the beginning. Obviously, humiliation comes before exaltation and so we start our study with the former. But we can be even more specific. We are going to start with the incarnation. Now, I dare say that most Christians...
I am not a scientist nor the son of a scientist. Therefore, my understanding of and ability to explain a scientific concept is, to say the least, limited. So, here goes nothing! The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that an isolated system left to its own devices will move toward disorder. Take...