The Reformed Theology of Grace and Its Influence on Puritan Spirituality

The Reformed theology of grace, as articulated in the Canons of Dort, informed and influenced the spirituality of the Puritans. These Canons of Dort, also called the Five Articles against the Remonstrants, consist of doctrinal statements adopted by the Synod of Dort in 1618–19 against the Five Articles of the Remonstrants (conditional election based on foreseen faith, universal atonement, partial depravity of man, resistible grace, and the possibility of lapsing from grace). In response to these five articles, the delegates at the Synod of Dort issued what came to be known as the five points of Calvinism or doctrines of grace (unconditional election, limited atonement, total depravity, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints). These doctrines highlight the sovereign and gracious work of God in salvation (see The Doctrines of Grace by Boice and Ryken).

For the Reformed, grace is a favor that God sovereignly and freely bestows on those who do not deserve it; in fact, they deserve the exact opposite. Grace rests on God’s eternal election without foreseen faith, its ground is the person and finished work of Christ, and its efficient cause is the Holy Spirit. With this grace, man is given the ability to repent and believe. And as a recipient of God’s unwavering favor, man will persevere until the end. While there is significant diversity among the Puritan heirs of this Reformed view of grace (for instance, there were strong Calvinists like Thomas Goodwin, moderate Calvinists like Richard Baxter, and even Arminian Calvinists like John Goodwin), these doctrines of grace are the broad lines of the Puritan understanding of grace, which impacted their spirituality in various ways. What follows are at least five effects that the Reformed theology of grace had on Puritan spirituality in general.

First, with the Reformed emphasis on the unconditional election and sovereign giving of grace, Puritan spirituality flowed from God’s work and not the product of mere human effort. On the flip side, it saw the human depravity that not only did not merit God’s favor but merited his condemnation. That the Puritans adopted the Calvinistic view on depravity and grace is clear in the Westminster Confession, in which the Puritan divines maintain that man by his fall has totally lost his ability to choose any spiritual good for his salvation. Their emphasis on total depravity underlined the necessity of God’s sovereign grace in salvation. Hence, as Gleason and Kapic have noted, the spirituality of the Puritans was “predominantly Augustinian” in its emphasis on human depravity and sovereign grace (see their The Devoted Life). Yet this Reformed emphasis on election, depravity, and grace did not stop the Puritans from freely and sincerely offering the gospel to all sinners. In their preaching and writing they called sinners to repentance and faith (see, for instance, John Bunyan’s Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ).

Second, the spirituality of the Puritans was shaped by their understanding of grace as grounded in the person and finished work of Christ. Because Christ is the basis of grace, union and communion with him is often foregrounded, and meditating on Christ is one way this manifests in spirituality. Thus, the Puritans wrote lengthy meditations on Christ. Take, for example, Samuel Rutherford’s collection of letters in The Loveliness of Christ and Thomas Goodwin’s The Heart of Christ in Heaven toward Sinners on Earth. Likewise, with this view of grace, the Puritans avoided exalting excessively the physical humanity of the Savior, as seen in certain strains of Roman Catholicism with its emphasis on the Eucharist. Instead the Puritans recognized it was Christ himself who worked salvation and thus whom the heart must love and adore.

Third, Puritan spirituality viewed the Holy Spirit’s work in the soul as the effectual cause of grace. Despite our deadness in sin, the Spirit regenerated us, planting the seed out of which a life of grace would bloom. Indeed, the need for regeneration by the Spirit became a dominant theme in Puritan spirituality. To illustrate this, Thomas Goodwin, author of The Work of the Holy Spirit in Our Salvation, once said that at regeneration the Spirit quickened, enabled, and inclined the soul so as to believe and repent. The Puritans believed that all spirituality resulted from the Spirit’s prior work in the soul. It is immediately upon regeneration that man becomes a cooperator with the Spirit, yet this is always in response to the Spirit’s work. Thus, the Puritans stressed the Spirit’s role not only in conversion but also in sanctification. To give an example, they emphasized the role of the Spirit in prayer, realizing that apart from the Spirit we cannot pray in such a way pleasing to God (see Bunyan’s I Will Pray with the Spirit).

Fourth, the Reformed emphasis on the Father’s electing work, Christ’s redeeming work, and the Spirit’s sanctifying work is another hallmark of Puritan spirituality. This trinitarian emphasis is clearly seen in John Owen’s Communion with God, a work that is not really about prayer but about the doctrine of the Trinity. Owen teaches the Christian that a life of spirituality is about communing with each one of the members of the Trinity in the proper way, each one being the object of our adoration, affection, and prayer. As Rutherford expressed it, “I do not know which person of the trinity I love the most, but this I know, I love each of them and I need them all.”

Finally, and closely related to the emphasis on God’s sovereign, gracious, and definitive work, is the fact that man can be assured of his faith and that he will persevere until the end by God’s preserving grace. The Puritans spent a lot of time on assurance of faith, on its objective grounds and its subjective marks. They attempted to balance a firm trust in what God has done and is doing, without becoming presumptuous, while also identifying the subjective marks without causing those subjective feelings in the soul to simply become the reason for assurance of faith. For instance, according to Joel Beeke in his book Living for God’s Glory, the delegates at the Synod of Dort recognized that Arminian theology threatened the believer’s eternal security and assurance in God’s sovereign grace. Why? Because according to the Remonstrants you can lose your salvation. By understanding the Reformed theology of grace, the Puritans could enjoy assurance of faith because they knew that God would preserve them for eternity.

Sadly, some historians such as David Bebbington think that the Puritans held the position that assurance is rare. This, Bebbington argues, is in contrast to the evangelical belief which maintains that assurance is normal (see his Evangelicalism on Modern Britain). Scholars such as Beeke and Michael Haykin have challenged Bebbington’s view and convincingly argue that the Puritans practiced and taught assurance of faith (see Beeke’s Quest for Full Assurance and Haykin’s coedited book The Advent of Evangelicalism). That the Puritans preached and taught assurance of salvation is clear. For example, Baxter exhorted his congregation not to sit down without assurance, meaning they should not rest until they were assured of God’s saving grace in their lives. Thomas Brooks expressed his assurance of faith this way: “I am wholly His . . . I am eternally His.” “To all who love Christ sincerely,” said William Pinke, “God presently gives an everlasting assurance of salvation.”

Puritan Puritan piety Reformed Theology Spirituality

Ten Directions for Christian Voters

On Tuesday, November 3, 2020, US citizens will exercise their right to vote for who they want to be president. Since the primary two parties in the US are Democratic and Republican, the focus of the election is on Joe Biden (Democratic) and Donald Trump (Republican). But there are other nominees, namely, Joe Jorgensen (Libertarian) and Howie Hawkins (Green). My objective in this post is to provide ten basic guidelines for my fellow Christians as they cast their ballots on November 3.

1. Make God’s Word your primary voting guide. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 110:105).

2. Pray before casting your vote.  Ask the Lord first for guidance as you vote. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him…” (Prov. 3:5–6). Pray also for the candidates even the ones whom you do not like. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1–2).

3. Vote for a candidate who upholds Christian principles. For instance, are his/her views on important moral, social, economic, and health issues biblical?

a. Religious freedom. Will the candidate hinder you from exercising your faith in Jesus Christ, or will he/she protect your liberty as a Christian? 

b. Sanctity of human life. Will the candidate promote abortion, or will he/she fight for the sacredness of life in the womb?

c. Marriage. Will the candidate endorse (so-called) “same-sex marriage,” or will he/she uphold the biblical definition of marriage—a union between one man and one woman only?

d. Racial injustice. Will the candidate treat every life, regardless of color or race, with equal importance, as created in God’s image?

e. Violence. Will the candidate be committed to establish a peaceful and orderly society?

f. Economic crisis. Will the candidate promote biblical work ethics?  “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph. 4:28).

g. Medical Care. Will the candidate give importance (as the Bible does) to good physical, mental, and spiritual health (1 Tim. 4:8; 3 John 2)? How will he/she address the issues surrounding COVID-19?   

Of course, this list is not meant to be exhaustive but just a sample of some moral, social, economic, and health questions we need to ask ourselves as we consider a candidate. Remember, as followers of Christ, we must not “give approval to those who practice” what God has declared to be morally evil (Rom. 1:32).

4. Vote for a candidate who is able to lead our country with justice. Remember that you are not voting for a pastor, but for a president. The candidate might not be exactly on the same page as you are theologically, but if he/she is committed to a fair and righteous judicial system, then you might want to consider voting for this candidate.   

5. Vote for a candidate who has already demonstrated his/her ability to lead well. Look at the candidate’s track record and ask these questions: What did he/she do to improve our economy, stop crime, and maintain peace and order in our land? Did the candidate abuse his/her political power to serve his/her own interest? Was he/she immoral, corrupt, dishonest, or greedy?  

6. Cast your ballot in good conscience. Admittedly, it can be challenging to find a candidate who is both gifted in leadership and righteous in character. That’s why, before making a final decision, seek wisdom from God.

7. Recognize that from eternity past God has already ordained our next political leader. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1). Ultimately, it is God—not the people—who appoints a leader (Gen. 45:8). We are only God’s instruments in bringing about his eternal plan. Be willing, therefore, to submit humbly to God’s sovereign will, knowing that his will is always for our good and for his glory.      

8. If the candidate who wins is immoral, remember that God is able to use even wicked leaders to accomplish his eternal plan (Rom. 13:1–7). Of course, this does not give us permission to vote for bad candidates! However, it should remind us that our greatest hope does not lie with any earthly leader, but with our heavenly Father, who is divinely able to overcome evil for good. Indeed, God in his providence can even use a bad ruler as his “servant for your good” (Rom. 13:4).

9. Never forget that God is causing all things—including the upcoming election—to work together for the good of his people, conforming them more fully to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28–29). Whatever the outcome of the election may be, one thing is certain: God will use this election for our sanctification. We are concerned about peace and prosperity, but God is concerned about our piety and his eternal glory. 

10. Finally, respect those who oppose your political position. Even among Christians, there are varying opinions regarding who should be elected to leadership. In fact, some even believe that Christians should not vote at all for “the lesser of two evils,” for lesser evil is still evil. So, learn to agree to disagree, or better yet, to disagree with kindness. And even if your preferred candidate does not win, you are still to honor the candidate who is elected. You must also obey your new leader, unless he/she instructs you to do something that would require you to disobey God. As Christians, our greatest allegiance is to God. As Scripture exhorts us to do, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  


“Well, I want to believe, but I can’t.”

“He who does not believe God has made Him a liar: When we refuse to believe on Jesus, we reject the testimony God has given of His Son. Therefore, we call God a liar with our unbelief” (1 John 5:10).

Quoting Charles Spurgeon heavily, David Guzik, known for his verse by verse Bible commentary, writes the following comments on the above text:

John here exposes the great sin of unbelief. Most everyone who refuses to believe God (in the full sense of the word believe) doesn’t intend to call God a liar. But they do it nonetheless. “The great sin of not believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is often spoken of very lightly and in a very trifling spirit, as though it were scarcely any sin at all; yet, according to my text, and, indeed, according to the whole tenor of the Scriptures, unbelief is the giving of God the lie, and what can be worse?” (Spurgeon)

What if one says, “Well, I want to believe, but I can’t.” Spurgeon answers such a one: “Hearken, O unbeliever, you have said, ‘I cannot believe,’ but it would be more honest if you had said, ‘I will not believe.’ The mischief lies there. Your unbelief is your fault, not your misfortune. It is a disease, but it is also a crime: it is a terrible source of misery to you, but it is justly so, for it is an atrocious offense against the God of truth.”

What if one says, “Well, I’m trying to believe, and I’ll keep on trying.” Spurgeon speaks to this heart: “Did I not hear some one say, ‘Ah, sir, I have been trying to believe for years.’ Terrible words! They make the case still worse. Imagine that after I had made a statement, a man should declare that he did not believe me, in fact, he could not believe me though he would like to do so. I should feel aggrieved certainly; but it would make matters worse if he added, ‘In fact I have been for years trying to believe you, and I cannot do it.’ What does he mean by that? What can he mean but that I am so incorrigibly false, and such a confirmed liar, that though he would like to give me some credit, he really cannot do it? With all the effort he can make in my favour, he finds it quite beyond his power to believe me? Now, a man who says, ‘I have been trying to believe in God,’ in reality says just that with regard to the Most High… The talk about trying to believe is a mere pretence.

But whether pretence or no, let me remind you that there is no text in the Bible which says, ‘Try and believe,’ but it says ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.’ He is the Son of God, he has proved it by his miracles, he died to save sinners, therefore trust him; he deserves implicit trust and child-like confidence. Will you refuse him these? Then you have maligned his character and given him the lie.”

Faith Unbelief

8 Reflections on Racism and Riots

I’m neither black nor white. I’m brown, or Asian American. And I’m a Christian; therefore, I will address racism and rioting from a biblical point of view. Here are my thoughts on these issues:

1) There’s only one race on earth and that is Adam’s race. Regardless of your skin color, your origin can be traced back to Adam (Genesis 1 & 2). We should therefore view ourselves as belonging to the same Adamic race. And having the same blood, we should love, and not hate, each other.

2) Since we have the same race, you can’t say that your race is better than other races. In fact, it doesn’t make sense to think that your race is superior to other races, since there’s only one race. Thus, to be a racist is inconsistent with the Bible. I think we see racism at its worst in the genocide of approximately six million Jews during Hitler’s time. Hitler thought that the Jews were an inferior group of people, “fit for enslavement, or even extermination.”

3) Whether you’re black, brown, red, white, or yellow, your life matters to God because He created you in His image (Genesis 1:26–27). So my life matters not because I’m brown but because I bear God’s image. Black lives matter not because of their color but because they are made in God’s image.

4) Since every life is created in God’s image, all lives (black, brown, red, white, and yellow) are equal. We should therefore treat every life with equal importance. George Floyd’s life was as important as the lives of those Nigerian Christians brutally murdered by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram.

According to, “350 Nigerian Christians were massacred in the first two months of 2020…Nigeria has become a killing field of defenseless Christians. Reliable sources show that between 11,500 and 12,000 Christians have been massacred since June 2015 when the Buhari Government of Nigeria came to power. Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen accounted for 7,400 murders of Christians. Boko Haram committed 4000 killings of Christians.”

Imagine since 2015 about 12,000 black lives were murdered in Nigeria! Right now there are demonstrations around the world, including England, Germany, and Canada, against the murder of George Floyd. Yet I can’t help but wonder why we also don’t hear an outcry regarding the mass killing of black lives in Nigeria? Is it because Nigerian lives are not as important as the lives of those living in the US? I’m not minimizing the horrible murder of Floyd, nor am I saying that police brutality should not be peacefully protested. However, if we really believe that all lives matter, we should treat every single life with equal worth. We should not pick and choose what life we want to value.

5) Since God’s image is sacred and since every life is made in God’s image, every life is not only important and equal, but also sacred. The murder of George Floyd was evil because it violated the sacredness of his life (Genesis 9:6). And the sacredness of one’s life doesn’t depend on who violates it. Floyd’s life was sacred not because it was violated by a white police officer. Even if he was murdered by a black police officer, his life was still sacred.

Sadly, if a black life was killed by another black person, or if a white life was killed by a black person, we don’t see the same degree of protest, as if black lives only matter when they are killed by a white person. When was the last time you heard a strong demonstration because a black man was killed by a black police officer? Every life matters because every life is sacred; and thus, I plead with the Black Lives Matter movement that they also protest against the murder of unborn innocent babies in the wombs of every black woman. The lives of these aborted unborn babies were as sacred as George Floyd’s life.

According to Grand Rapids Right to Life, “Abortion is not just a woman’s issue.  It’s a human rights issue.…Abortion is the number one killer of black lives in the United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, abortion kills more black people than HIV, homicide, diabetes, accident, cancer, and heart disease … combined.”

6) God has gifted us in the US with the First Amendment, which guarantees “the freedom of speech” and “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Constitutionally, you have all the right to protest against the injustice done to George Floyd. But according to the First Amendment, you must to do so “peaceably.” Therefore, you have no right to loot, hurt police officers and set their vehicles on fire, vandalize and ruin buildings. This is not your right! After all, what does looting have to do with the murder of Floyd? Do you think it will help solve the issue? The injustice done to Floyd does not license you to do lawlessness. My heart was grieved with what happened to Floyd but my heart was equally grieved with the riots caused by lawless protesters.

God says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all….Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17–21).

7) Racism is still very much alive in our country. We can either ignore this problem and pretend it doesn’t exist, or face and address it. Fellow Christians, we should deal with the issue of racism with the same equal force that we give to the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. To my fellow pastors, we should also be preaching against the sin of racism.

8) The only remedy for racism is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Racism says, “I’m ethnically superior to you.” The gospel says, “We equally matter before God because both of us are created in His image.” Racism violates the sanctity of life. The gospel treats every life as sacred. Racism begets hatred and violence. The gospel begets love and peace. Racism divides. The gospel brings reconciliation not only between you and God but also between you and your enemies. Racism harms and kills. The gospel heals and gives everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Racism resents. The gospel forgives.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).

What we therefore desperately need today in our country is the gospel.

8 Reflections on Racism & Riots by Brian G. Najapfour


Abortion Anger Favoritism Gospel Homosexuality Racism

10 Tips on Homeschooling

Today our guest blogger is Jill Meerdink, wife to Trevor and stay-at-home-mom/teacher to their six children. She enjoys homeschooling their children in the backwoods of Northern British Columbia, Canada.


With the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, many parents are homeschooling for the first time.  Maybe you were thinking of homeschooling already, maybe you never gave it a thought, or maybe you’ve been homeschooling for years. In any case, we’ve all found homeschooling tough (maybe even really tough!) at one point or another. Here are a few tips to help you on your journey.

1. “Commit your work unto the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Prov. 16:3).

Lay it all before the Lord.  Ask for His guidance. After all, it is His will that you are where you are right now.

2. Prioritize your goals.

As you lay it all before the Lord, ask Him to show you what His priorities are. What does God see as most important right now?  Is it schoolwork? Teaching your kids about God (Deut. 6:6 – 7)?  Training your children in good habits? The answer will be different for every family. This is a decision that should be worked through by you, your husband, and God. As an example, our family priorities are:

a. Bringing the gospel to our children.
b. Building godly character in our children.
c. Teaching our children their “school” studies.

However you lay out your priorities, write them out and hang them up for a reminder. When the tough days come and the only thing that gets done is your number one priority, then you can be encouraged that you have done the number one thing that God has required of you.

3. Remember that God will give you the strength you need to do what He is calling you to do.

Take Moses, for example, in Exodus 4:1–5. God used what Moses already had—his rod. God will use the gifts He’s given you to do the work He’s calling you to do.

4. Schedule.

With points 1, 2, and 3 in mind, make a schedule or a routine you will follow every day.  Children do very well with a specific routine. Knowing what is next in their day and what is required of them makes them feel more settled and less agitated. Make sure that in your routine your number one priority is getting done. In our schedule, one of the first things we do in our day is family devotions.  It’s just that important. Work the rest of your day around your priorities. For a more in depth look at scheduling, I highly recommend Managers of Their Homes by Steve and Teri Maxwell available on

5. You don’t have to do it all!

Weed out any unnecessary school work and combine what you can. Is your child really good at spelling? Then lay their spelling workbook aside. Instead of doing a handwriting worksheet, have your child write his answers to their history questions in their neatest handwriting or even on specially lined paper. These are just examples. As you work with your own children you will begin to see what is unnecessary and what can be linked with other schoolwork.

6. There will be tough times.

In these times, go back over points 1, 2 and 3. You will be greatly encouraged! Remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint!

7. Include Dad if he is available.

Kids love when Dad can teach them and spend time with them, too!  Even if that’s just for a bedtime story.

8. Group kids together if you can.

This is especially true if you have a big family or mostly younger children. Quite often they can easily do the same history together and sometimes even math or reading.

9. Do you need a break? Take it!

Kids love a surprise day off.  And sometimes Mom needs that too!  Don’t view it as a weakness!  A refreshed Mom makes for a more relaxed home!

10. Relax! Homeschooling is only as complicated as you make it.

Yes, it is challenging but it is also very rewarding!  Relish the “Aha!” moments your child has when the lightbulb goes on and they finally understand something! Usually, it is your child’s teacher that gets to enjoy these times. Enjoy the ride! Relax and count your blessings in this busy time!

Are you a teacher who is sending work home?

Try to understand that a homeschool will run differently than a classroom. For instance, as a teacher, you have one whole day to devote to one single age group or level. Parents with multiple children (and especially young children) have that same amount of time (and often less, if you include all the homemaking they do) to teach multiple age groups or levels. Consider what the most important work to send home would be. Be honest about what is just icing on the cake and can easily be learned next school year or in the future. Understanding each other’s needs is important in this busy and stressful time for all of us.

Are you a parent that has already been thinking of homeschooling your children and then you got slam-dunked into it when COVID-19 came into the picture?

Let me encourage you. Homeschooling as a lifestyle is much different than homeschooling on lockdown. As parents, we have more options all the way around: curriculum, what to teach, what to leave out, etc. It is much less stressful overall than homeschooling for the short term under the direction of a school. If you are thinking of homeschooling for the long run, I encourage you to talk to a few homeschooling parents you know in your area. They can advise you on all the ins and outs and laws of your state or province and also shed more light on homeschooling lifestyle than I can here.

Keep in mind that God is using all this for your sanctification and your family’s spiritual good.  Allow God to use it to make you more like His Son Jesus Christ. And remember, like all parenting, this work is kingdom work!

10 Tips on Homeschooling


Our Greatest Need as a Nation

So what do you think is our greatest need as a nation?

Interestingly, in a Wall Street Journal article, written in 1947 (two years after the Second World War), a writer made this observation: “What America needs more than railway extension, western irrigation, a low tariff, a bigger cotton crop, and larger wheat crop is a revival of religion. The kind that father and mother used to have. A religion that counted it good business to take time for family worship each morning right in the middle of the wheat harvest.”

In short, according to this writer, what America needs most is a revival of religion—a religion that is based on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In his book—The Secret of Christian Joy—published in 1938, Vance Havner (1901–1986) also made a similar observation: “The greatest need of America is an old-fashioned, heaven-born, God-sent revival.” I do believe too that today our greatest need as a nation is true revival.

Now, what is revival? In his book Revival: A People Saturated With God, Brian H. Edwards gives what I think is a comprehensive definition of revival: “A true Holy Spirit revival is a remarkable increase in the spiritual life of a larger number of God’s people, accompanied by an awesome awareness of the presence of God, intensity of prayer and praise, a deep conviction of sin with a passionate longing for holiness and unusual effectiveness in evangelism, leading to the salvation of many unbelievers.”

Noticeably, revival can only be experienced by believers—by those who have been made alive by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Christ. An unbeliever—a spiritually dead person cannot be revived; he must first be born again, because there is no life to be revived in him. Yet, remember that God is pleased to use the revival of his people to bring many sinners to true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Or as Edwards says, revival leads to “the salvation of many unbelievers.”

Oh, may we sincerely pray with the hymn writer William Mackay (1839–1885),

Revive us again–fill each heart with thy love;
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

Hallelujah, thine the glory!
Hallelujah, Amen!
Hallelujah, thine the glory!
Revive us again.

The scriptural background for this hymn is Psalm 85:4–7: “Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.”

Revival is ultimately the work of our sovereign God, not primarily for our good, but for his own glory. Oh, let’s not stop crying out to God to pour out his Spirit on us as a nation—to heal our broken land. Nothing is impossible with God! Could it be one of the reasons why we don’t experience revival is because we don’t earnestly ask for it? As James tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).

And before we pray to God to revive the church in our country, we first need to ask God to revive ourselves. Revival must begin with us believers. The English evangelist Rodney “Gipsy” Smith (1860–1947) was once asked the secret of revival. His reply is convicting: “Go home. Take a piece of chalk. Draw a circle around yourself. Then pray, ‘O Lord, revive everything inside this circle.’” This ought to be your prayer and my prayer: “O Lord, revive me first.”

Has it really been your prayer in the past few weeks that God will revive your heart? How quick we are to see the need for others to be changed, overlooking our own need for revival. We see the speck in other’s eye but do not notice the log in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3). Before we criticize others, we first need to examine ourselves. Before we ask God to revive our nation and our leaders, we first need to ask God to revive us.

Our Greatest Need as a Nation



Stop Blaming Others, instead Self-examine Your Heart

We are in the middle of a pandemic right now. And in the midst of this health and economic crisis we see an increasing inclination to blame others.

We blame China. “If China had told us about this COVID-19 earlier, we would not have been in this situation. It’s China’s fault.”

We blame the President. “Our president failed to prepare our country for the coming of this coronavirus.”

We blame our governor. “She is too strict. She is robbing us of our freedom to do what we think is good for us.”

We probably even blame God. “If God is good and loving, why did He give us this virus?”

Of course, blaming shifting is not new. Our first parents did this in the Garden of Eden after they had sinned against God. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:11–13). The fact that we also love to blame others shows that we are their children. Like father, like son; like mother, like daughter.

But here’s my question for you: Does it solve our crisis by blaming others? Does it help our situation get better by pointing our finger at others? Of course not! So instead of engaging yourself in blaming others, use this time to self-examine your heart. Instead of finding fault with others, why don’t we pray with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:23–24).

Could it be that you and I are in part responsible for God’s bringing this virus on us? Remember Jonah. To run away from God, he took a ship going to Tarshish. But God sent a violent wind over the sea, putting the ship in great danger. The sailors wondered who was responsible for bringing this disaster on them. To make the story short, Jonah took the responsibility. Jonah then said to the sailors, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you” (Jonah 1:12). The sailors eventually did as Jonah told them to do and “the sea ceased from its raging” (v. 15).

Now, I share this story not to suggest that it is your fault or my fault that we are caught up in this pandemic. But have you ever thought that you could be a partaker of this crisis? Have you ever thought also of the possibility that one of God’s many purposes with this coronavirus is to specifically test you? Perhaps God wanted to see how you would react to the pandemic. This virus can definitely expose who we really are!

Ironically, some Christians have the courage to protest against their political leader whom they think is robbing them of their freedom, yet remain silent when it comes to sharing their faith with others. I sometimes wonder what change could happen in our country if these Christians have the same boldness to rally for the gospel’s sake? Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying Christians cannot disagree with how our government is handling the COVID-19 crisis, or that Christians cannot use the proper means to protest. However, how many of us have the same courage and passion to proclaim the gospel to our neighbors, or to surround the state capitol because we are so grieved about how our state tramples on God’s law? When was the last time you made a special trip just to share the gospel with others?

In addition to blaming others for the crisis, some of us may also find ourselves focused on complaining about our situation. Again, let’s pause and ask God to search our hearts. And let’s ask ourselves: What have we done to actually help solve our crisis? In the past three weeks, have you earnestly prayed to God to stop this pandemic? Have you diligently asked God to direct you to ways in which you can practically help your extended family, church, community, and beyond in the midst of this trying time? One early Christian once said, “I know many who fast, pray, sigh, and demonstrate every manner of piety, so long as it costs them nothing, yet would not part with a penny to help those in distress.” What sacrifices have you made for others’ sake?

I therefore plead with you. Please let’s stop blaming others and using our energy to complain. Rather, let’s use this very difficult and painful time to engage in self-examination. Maybe God gave us this COVID-19 to redirect our hearts back to him.

We are all anxious to get back to “normal” life. But I’m afraid to say that for many of us normal life is that which is consumed with the idols of this world such as money, sports, and entertainment. Could it be that one reason why God has not yet taken this virus away from us is because we have not learned the many lessons that he is teaching us through this pandemic? Why don’t you prayerfully ask God, “Lord, what do you want me to learn from this crisis?”

May we not emerge from this pandemic hardening our hearts like Pharaoh who feared the plagues but not God!

A Call for Self-Examination


Affliction Suffering

A Guide for Small, Low-Tech Churches to Start Their Online Ministry

Today our guest blogger is Tim Arndt. He is an assistant pastor at Allendale Baptist Church where he is heavily involved in discipleship, outreach, and communications. He is the director of the Michigan Apologetics Network and is a chapter director with Ratio Christi at Grand Valley State University. Anyone who meets Tim easily remembers him as the tallest Filipino they’ve ever met.

Tim Arndt

Tim Arndt


As the COVID-19 crisis hit America, in a matter of a 48 hours, I had four churches (besides my own) contact me asking for help to livestream their services and move their ministries online.

It was kind of funny having so many churches look to my church as if we were “experts” when just a few years ago we were a low-tech church of 40 people meeting in a funeral home.

By God’s grace, our church kept growing bit by bit and we kept seeking to improve in our use of technology too.

If you’re in a smaller, perhaps “older” church that is having a hard time adjusting to moving your ministries online, I’m writing this article for you.

I understand the challenges you’re experiencing.

The advice I’m giving here assumes you have little to no knowledge of how to utilize these technologies and can be quickly implemented.

(Not to mention, my advice shouldn’t break your budget either).

So grab the most tech-savvy person at your church and see if you can start using some of these tools to get your ministries going during this time of social distancing.

Online Sermons and Classes

If your church has not previously been recording video of sermons and classes, here is the general approach I would recommend:

Record your video in high definition, with good audio, and then upload the recorded video to both YouTube and Facebook.

Let me unpack that for you a bit.

By “high definition” I mean, make sure you are recording your video in at least 1080p or better yet, 4K resolution.

You’ll notice that I recommended recording your sermon and not livestreaming.

Livestreaming can be a lot more complicated than simply recording and you will usually end up with a much lower quality video. There are more reasons I can offer, but if you’re not used to using video, start with recording good video and you can work on livestreaming later.

The nice thing about recording is most people now own phones that can record in HD.

So you don’t need to spend extra money right away purchasing a camera! (of course if you have a nice camera, feel free to use it).

For good audio, you’re going to need a decent microphone.

There are a lot of microphones out there, but I’ll give you 3 examples of mics you can use with an iPhone: The Shure MV88, Blue mics, and this lavalier-style mic.

Here is why I recommend uploading your video to both Facebook AND YouTube.

Chances are your church has a Facebook page with some following. Since you already have an “audience” there, put your sermon right in front of them and then they can easily share it with their friends and family.

The reason it’s good to also upload your video to YouTube is because while over 70% of Americans use Facebook, over 90% use YouTube. For the people in your church who are not yet on Facebook, you can email them a link to your sermon on YouTube.

There’s a lot more that could be said about how to take good video of your sermons and classes, but if you at least pay attention to your lighting and the “rule of thirds”, your video should look great.

Here’s a list of free video editing software you can use.

Online Small Groups & Bible Studies

My church has continued doing small groups and smaller Bible studies on line and people have been really loving it!

To do this, you’re going to want to use some video conferencing software.

My top recommendation is Zoom.

I’d recommend that your church get a pro account or two ($15 per month) and it is really easy to setup and invite people to connect through video.

Other alternatives are Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams.

While these are not as advanced, you could also do video calls through Facebook messenger and Facetime. To be honest, while our church is using Zoom for most things, some people prefer using these other options and that’s okay!

Ultimately the goal is to keep your people connected to God and each other, and video conferencing software can really help with that.

Online Church Fellowship

This is something I think all churches need to start doing:

Utilize Facebook “groups”.

We’ve received an overwhelming amount of feedback from people telling us how thankful they are for our “prayer and encouragement” Facebook group.

In our group we encourage people to ask for prayer requests and share how God has worked in their lives.

Additionally, it’s a great way for the pastors to send encouragement to their people.

While there are probably people in your church who don’t use Facebook, I would suggest that there are just as many (if not more) who don’t really use email.

Our prayer and encouragement group on Facebook has 120 members and 111 of them were active in the group in the last 7 days.

Meanwhile, only 40% of our people open the emails we send them.

I’m not suggesting you replace email with Facebook, but what I am saying is that your people are on Facebook and are more than willing to interact with the church in a group!

Here are 3 pieces of advice to using your Facebook group well.

  1. Make sure it’s a “private” group so that people have to request to join.
  2. Make sure you have a few trustworthy Admins or Moderators who can remove any posts that may be gossip or harmful in any way.
  3. Don’t overwhelm people with information, rather encourage interaction among the church. Ask how you can pray for people, or what they are thankful for. Get a conversation going.

Online Giving

My church took a hit when we had to cancel our services, but we still had an encouraging amount come in through our online giving platform.

I’ve spoken with a few churches this past week who said they have not received anything.

I know some churches have been hesitant to use online giving, but I think in this situation of quarantines and social distancing, utilizing online giving is a way to love your people.

Believe it or not there are a ton of giving platforms out there designed for churches.

If you currently use any sort of church database which stores your members’ contact information, they might have an online giving platform already.

Using your current database as a giving platform conveniently syncs your information automatically.

However, if you are starting from scratch, begin by looking at the fees involved. has compiled the pricing of the most popular online giving platforms for churches and you can weigh for yourself which option will be best for your church.

The Church Will Stand

In times like these it is important to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18b: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

These are hard times for churches, but it is in the darkest times that the church will shine brightest.

Utilize the gift of technology to the best of your ability and you can continue to see your church grow in the love and knowledge of Christ.

Use technology for the glory of God, until we can all meet again.




Ministry Technology

A Biblical Theology of Sickness

At some point in your life you will experience sickness (you might get a cold, the flu, cancer, or the coronavirus). And since sickness is a part of our existence, having a biblical view of it is of great importance. Therefore, in this article I will examine what the Bible teaches about illness. Here are six truths about sickness.

1. Sickness is a consequence of original sin; and in this sense, sickness is a punishment from God for sin.

In Genesis 2:17 God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that he eats of it he shall surely die.  Adam disobeyed God. And the moment he sinned, his body started dying. His body became subject to illness. God punished Adam for his sin. If Adam had not sinned, there would be no death, there would be no sickness.

Hence, the presence of sickness is a sad reminder of the fall of Adam. It is one of the effects of original sin. Sickness exists because sin does. In the new heaven and new earth there will be no more sickness because there will be no more sin (Rev. 21:4).

2. Your sickness may be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a chastisement from the Lord.

In James 5:14–15 the author asks, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Here it is possible that the person is sick because of particular sin in his life.

Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul proclaims, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor. 11:27–30). Notice the connection between sickness and sin here. Many members of the Corinthian church are sick because of their sin.

It is therefore possible that God has given you infirmity in order to chastise you (Heb. 12:6). Perhaps it is a consequence of your irresponsible care of your body (e.g., bad diet). Nevertheless, in this context affliction comes to us from God’s loving hand. Affliction is like a rod that God uses to bring back his wandering sheep to the fold.

3. Your sickness may not be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a test from the Lord.

The word “if” in James 5:15 also allows the possibility that the sick person has not committed sins and in this way his sickness is not a result of his personal sin but a test from God. Job is an example of this truth (Job 2:4–7). Sickness became an instrument in God’s hand to mold Job into the person that God wanted him to be. Sickness became a blessing for Job, for it brought him closer to God. The wheelchair- bound Joni Eareckson Tada once declared, “Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”

4. Sickness can be a consequence of the personal sin of another person.

2 Samuel 12:15 tells us that “the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick.” David’s child died as a result of David’s sin concerning Bathsheba and Uriah. David committed adultery and murder. At another instance, the nation of Israel suffered a pestilence because David’s sin (2 Sam. 24). It is thus possible that a person or even a nation suffers the consequence of the sins of others.

5. Sickness can neither be a consequence of our personal sin, nor a consequence of the personal sin of another person. In this sense, sickness is simply a demonstration of God’s absolute sovereignty.

Remember the man born blind in John 9:1–3. In that passage the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” No one sinned. God was simply practicing his absolute prerogative to do whatever pleases him. He was simply displaying his sovereignty—to remind us that we do not control our health. He does!

6. Sickness comes to us from God ultimately for His glory and for our good.

In John 11 when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Whatever kind of sickness you have, pray that through it God may be glorified.

While sickness is for God’s glory, it is also for our good. Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh…to keep me from becoming conceited.” In short, God has given Paul “a thorn in the flesh” (whatever it might be) in order to keep him from the sin of pride.

Maybe God has given you a certain kind of illness (like the coronavirus) in order to keep you from pride and teach you to depend more on his grace (2 Cor. 12:9), so that at the end you can sing with the psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Ps. 119:71).

A Biblical Theology of Sickness