Eternity Magazine

Discernment: Thinking God's Thoughts after Him

Someone I knew recently expressed an opinion that surprised and in some ways disappointed me. I said to myself, “I thought he would have more discernment than that.”

The experience caused me to reflect on the importance of discernment, and the lack of it in our world. People do not see issues clearly and are easily misled because they do not think biblically. But, sadly, one cannot help reflecting on how true that is of ourselves, in the church community too. 


Does Christian Education Compromise Excellence?

Recently a Christian educator remarked to me, “The modern student faces the alternatives of a Christian education or a good education.”

Though on the surface the remark seems bathed in cynicism, it was actually delivered in a tone of profound alarm. The speaker is committed to the enterprise of Christian education, but is concerned that in an effort to maintain a spiritual purity unblemished by the world, much of Christian education may be compromising the goal of academic excellence.


Does it Really Matter?

To begin at the beginning, taking nothing for granted, is always the wise way. So the first thing to do is face up to the basic question: Does “right living” matter anyway? Is the moral quality of a Christian’s personal life important? 

To this question you would, of course, expect all believers to reply “yes,” for any other answer would sound shocking. But if our “yes” were motivated only by a desire not to shock nor lose face, it would be a self-serving declaration that neither honored God nor expressed Christian insight. Historically, some of those who said what amounts to “no” were digging deeper than some whom we can imagine saying “yes.”


Expelling Worldliness with a New Affection

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was one of the most remarkable men of his time—a mathematician, evangelical theologian, economist, ecclesiastical, political, and social reformer all in one.  His most famous sermon was published under the unlikely title: “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” In it he expounded an insight of permanent importance for Christian living: you cannot destroy love for the world merely by showing its emptiness. Even if we could do so, that would lead only to despair. The first world–centered love of our hearts can be expelled only by a new love and affection—for God and from God. The love of the world and the love of the Father cannot dwell together in the same heart. But the love of the world can be driven out only by the love of the Father. Hence Chalmers’ sermon title.


Five Basics for Political Involvement

It has always been difficult for Christians to think in harmony about the state. This is due to two ambiguities. One ambiguity is that the church, although it should be sacred in the sense of being devoted wholly to God and his kingdom, is often quite secular and thus, to the embarrassment of many believers, frequently takes its authority, theology, agenda, and methods from the world. It is not noticeably unique. The other ambiguity is that the state, although established by God for the defense and wellbeing of its citizens, sometimes operates in a despotic and even demonic manner. So while Christians are called upon to honor and obey the secular powers, they must also at times be ready to challenge them in the name of God and his righteousness, and even disobey the state when its laws conflict with God’s.


No Matter the Test, Pick up the Broom!

Four more days until she would be 17. It would be her father’s birthday, too, but there would be no celebration this year. It was the depth of the Great Depression and her father was dying. The children knelt around the bed while their mother prayed, but the girl wondered whether anyone was listening. Was God near enough to hear a prayer? Did he take any notice of their situation?


Paths of Righteousness

It is generally felt that guidance is a tricky subject, and most of us have had first-hand experience of what we would call guidance problems, either our own or those of others whom we have tried to help.  Why do so many such problems arise?  Where do the difficulties come from?  Alas, most of them are of our own making.  In our quest for God’s guidance we became our own worst enemies, and our mistakes attest to our nuttiness in this area.


The Power and the Story

Something about Easter cuts through mere religious profession. At other times of the year and on other subjects the outwardly religious person can mask an empty spiritual life without words. Not on Easter. At Easter we proclaim the resurrection, which is difficult to do if we have not had a personal encounter with the One who rose form the dead 2,000 years ago.


Say "Aah": Take This Spiritual Tongue Test

My first doctor was a man of great personal warmth and reassuring presence. As a child, I thought of him with deepest admiration and affection.

However, there was one part of his examinations I always disliked—when he spoke the words “Stick out your tongue, and say ‘aah.’” Yet while always feeling terribly discomfited by this procedure, I was also always amazed that he could apparently tell so much about my health by this “tongue test”! He always did it, so it must have been important.


The Task of Seeking God's Mysterious Will

An encounter with a friend from my teen-age years reminded me of the wise and pithy words of the Puritan writer John Flavel: “The providence of God is like Hebrew words—it can be read only backwards.” I was leaving a restaurant in my native town in Scotland one day and there was my friend being helped along by his elderly mother.  His condition was just as someone had hinted to me. His had been one of those active, energized, intense spirits; but now his powers had been wasted by a serious auto accident.