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Blog Archives: January 2018 — December 2018

The New Year Journey

December 27, 2018
Chris Castaldo
How shall we proceed into the New Year? Timothy Jones (1955 – ), the author of A Place for God, provides helpful insight. In the following excerpt, he describes the radical commitment of early Celtic saints who embarked on a life of missionary service without worldly assurances or visible supports. Their faithful embrace of “peregrinatio” provides an inspiring example of the journey to which God calls his disciples: The Celtic saints of earlier centuries made much of the idea of peregrinatio, a difficult-to-translate word that suggests an ...

Why Christmas?

December 18, 2018
Chris Castaldo
A Pottery Barn-like-glow emanating from the fireplace. The resplendence of tinfoil seraphs. The smile on a child’s face as she stands beside your bed at 4:33 AM with eyes that say, “Daddy, is it time yet?” These expressions of love-light gleaming are special gifts from God, enchanting and enriching our hearts; but they are not the reason for Christmas. So what is it? The reason for Christmas is best summarized in one word: GRACE God the Father, overlooking his wayward creation in the crucible of despond, offered the greatest gift ...

What Would You Like for Christmas?

December 13, 2018
Chris Castaldo
What would you like to receive for Christmas? You are by now familiar with the wish lists of the important people in your life—a spouse, children, siblings, friends. But what does the Lord’s Christmas list include, the gifts that God intends to give his people? How about this? How about a big branch from Israel? Here is how the Prophet Jeremiah described it: “The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. ‘In those days, I will make a righteous Branch sprout from ...

Special Event: Lessons and Carols 2018

December 06, 2018
Chris Castaldo
You are cordially invited to join us at New Covenant Church, Naperville on Sunday, December 9 at 3:00 PM for our annual Lessons and Carols service under the direction of Greg Wheatley. This year we are delighted to have soprano, Grace Canfield, along with our adult choir. The Festival of Lessons and Carols is a worship service celebrating the birth of Christ. The nine lessons, readings of Scripture, are interspersed with the singing of carols, hymns and choir music. Traditionally, the lessons span the fall of humanity, words from the ...

Advent and Peace

November 29, 2018
Chris Castaldo
How does Advent contribute to peace? The Church univocally confesses that it comes through the Babe in the manger whom we call Lord. This is the bedrock on which true peace is established. But in what way is incarnational peace ‘spread to all the earth abroad’? Here is an example from history. Friar Antonio de Montesinos was a member of the Dominican order and served on the island of Hispaniola, which the Spanish had claimed as their first colony in the Americas in 1493. Montesinos was appalled by the colonists’ enslavement of the local ...

Are you Connected?

November 15, 2018
Chris Castaldo
God fits us into his temple as living stones.  It is in discovering this reality—the building of God, in which we live, and move, and have our being—that we come alive.  It is not by getting our own way, but rather by fitting into something sacred, ancient and massive. Here is how C. S. Lewis memorably puts it: “We have in our day started by getting the whole picture upside down.  Starting with the doctrine that every individual is ‘of infinite value,’ we then picture God as a kind of employment committee whose business it is to find ...

Living as the Church

November 08, 2018
Chris Castaldo
How should the Church function? This question has been part of our consideration in the Wednesday evening Men’s study. It turns out that the model of church employed by a community has profound implications on the way we approach ministry. In what follows, I will survey the basic conceptions of the Church from the last millennia. Such insights provide categories for engaging conversation with other Christians and will also help us to evaluate the values and priorities with which we approach ministry. Among the most helpful volumes on the ...

Is the Reformation Still Necessary?

November 01, 2018
Chris Castaldo
It’s an oft-repeated question: is the Reformation still necessary? On this Reformation Day, it is proper to consider how the gospel renewal impulse of yesteryear applies to our present moment in history. Central to the Reformation was the fact that God places us before his unbroken gaze. We who were once separated from Christ—strangers to the covenant or promise and without hope in the world—have been drawn into the loving embrace of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This happens, says the Apostle Paul, “by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13). But ...

The Marks of a True Disciple

October 25, 2018
Chris Castaldo
Amy Carmichael (1867 – 1951) served in India as a missionary from Northern Ireland. Shocked to discover that poor girls were “donated” to Hindu temples to be trained as cult prostitutes, she devoted herself to saving children from religious prostitution and infanticide. Founding the Dohnavur Fellowship1 in 1901, her work became well-known through her many books, poems, and letters. In the poem below, Amy Carmichael writes about the scars of the cross that mark a true disciple of Christ. No Scar? Hast thou no scar? No hidden scar on ...

Marks of Gospel Renewal

October 18, 2018
Chris Castaldo
J. I. Packer, writing in God in our Midst (Ann Arbor, 1987, 24-35), proposes that, among the variety of God’s ways, five constants appear in all biblical revivals: 1. Awareness of God’s presence: “The first and fundamental feature in renewal is the sense that God has drawn awesomely near in his holiness, mercy and might.” 2. Responsiveness to God’s Word: “The message of Scripture which previously was making only a superficial impact, if that, now searches its hearers and readers to the depth of their being.” 3. Sensitiveness to sin: ...

Scripture and Faith

October 11, 2018
Chris Castaldo
I recently grabbed coffee with a friend in which conversation turned toward the relationship of Scripture and faith. After listening to numerous questions and some objections to biblical authority, my basic point was the same as Paul’s in Romans 10:17: “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Scripture is the God-appointed means of faith. In this vein, here is a helpful statement by Bavinck. Herman Bavinck taught theology at Kampen in Holland, and subsequently at the Free University of Amsterdam. He is highly ...

Divine Compassion

October 04, 2018
Chris Castaldo
Augustine’s first literary work as bishop was a two-book reply to certain questions about biblical interpretation. The questions were sent to him by the successor of Ambrose in Milan, Simplician, who had previously mentored Augustine during a season of spiritual distress. This following selection from Augustine’s work is part of his answer to Simplician’s question concerning the relation of grace and free will in Romans 9:10-29 . In it, Augustine explains that any compassion a believer might exercise is traced back to God’s calling. A ...

Preaching and Prayer

September 27, 2018
Chris Castaldo
Augustine of Hippo (354-430)—famous bishop, pastor, theologian, and philosopher—was a superlative preacher. In On Christian Teaching, he shares with his brother pastors his meditations on the sacred art. This famous pastoral manual remains worthy of sustained study, the fourth chapter containing Augustine’s most developed understanding of preaching. This extract contains words that may find an abiding place in the heart of the pastor, as Augustine calls for prayer before preaching, a turning to God before turning to the congregation. The ...

Coram Deo & the Fourth Wall

September 19, 2018
Chris Castaldo
The term coram Deo (before the sight of God) has been used for millennia as a way to remind God’s people to live worthy of our calling. Unfortunately, instead of seeing the glory of the invisible God, our eyes tend to fall upon a thousand instances of sin and brokenness—our own and that of the world. We therefore wonder: how can we recognize more of God’s empowering presence? I think the following illustration may help. Years ago, when I studied acting at the HB Studio in Manhattan, I learned Uta Hagen’s concept of the “fourth wall.” Simply ...

The Heartbeat of Apologetics

September 13, 2018
Chris Castaldo
Brought up a pagan and a student of secular philosophy, Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165) showed that his conversion was sound by risking his life to defend the faith. Indeed, he was ultimately loyal unto death—hence, the name “Martyr.” In this selection from his First Apology, written around 155, he speaks of the need for integrity in both speaker and hearer. On that basis, he stands before the emperor and his non-Christian advisors, making his case for Christianity on its merits, without regard or recourse to external pressure, personal gain, ...

The Courage to Profess Christ

September 06, 2018
Chris Castaldo
Pope Leo X was incensed that Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) had refused to face an excommunication trial in Rome. Luther had, instead, appealed his case to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The emperor agreed to accept the case, but then, in the winter of 1520-21, he wavered under threats from Rome. Luther’s protector, Frederick the Wise, was determined that Charles take the case, but he wanted to double-check with Luther before urging the emperor to defy the Pope. Luther’s response was unequivocal, a model to all compelled to perilously stand in ...

The Imposing Force of Truth

August 30, 2018
Chris Castaldo
I have enjoyed learning about the legacy of Thomas Scott (1747-1821). Scott had been a godless and lazy minister in the Church of England, at a time when many non-evangelical clergy were distinguished by their lukewarm enthusiasm for true religion. His own neglect of his duty provoked him to search the Scriptures and through this study he was brought to genuine repentance. Scott charts his journey to repentance in an autobiography entitled The Force of Truth. Conscious of his own experience he summons ministers to devote themselves to the ...

Gospel Outreach to the Partially Evangelized

August 21, 2018
Chris Castaldo
Angela’s Ashes is the autobiography of Frank McCourt who describes his life in Ireland during the 1930s and 1940s. His family lived in a hovel with one bare light bulb and bedbugs, on a dirt lane, and shared one outdoor toilet with all the neighbors. Because dad was an alcoholic and seldom found work, they subsisted on unemployment. For many painful years the family lived on bread and tea. In the early part of the film, Frank’s mother (Angela) loses her three babies, Margaret-Mary, Eugene, and Oliver, to “consumption,” the dreaded disease ...

Peter Mead & Biblical Preaching

August 16, 2018
Chris Castaldo
It seems like yesterday we had Dr. Peter Mead at New Covenant Church, all the way from England. You may recall his phenomenal message on John 3:1-16, titled, Alive. You thought you knew everything there was to John 3:16 didn’t you? Yeah, so did I. And then Peter started preaching. In addition to enjoying his ministry among us, I had the pleasure of visiting with Peter and his family over lunch. It was then I became thoroughly impressed with his work of training pastors and suggested that one day he will need to let me dedicate a blog post to ...

A Preacher’s Legacy

August 09, 2018
Chris Castaldo
The Reformation in England was in many ways a series of bonfires. While Hitler burned books, 16th century religious authorities and magistrates burned their writers and those who read them. One such reader was “little” Thomas Bilney (c. 1495-1531). Bilney was burned at the stake in 1531, but his influence survived into the reign of Queen Mary. Some of the most famous English martyrs were converted under his ministry. Bilney, like Luther, was converted by reading Paul’s epistles. He had acquired a copy of Erasmus’ Latin New Testament, more ...

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