9.20.2017

Angels and Demons

I recently had a discussion about how much demons can influence believers, and not-as-recently read through Calvin's Institutes on Angels and Demons with a discussion group, which is excellent.  But there was some lamentation that good resources on this subject are sparse.
Here's a small collection.

Calvin - start in paragraph 3

Alistair Begg did a sermon series on the devil and his work, recently.

Frederick Leahy - Satan Cast Out - published by Banner of Truth
I haven't read this one, only perused it.

War with the Dragon

Revelation 12:17
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.



The same dragon that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden, that fought with Michael and the angels, that sought to destroy the Christ child at His birth, that tempted Him in the wilderness, that same dragon is making war with the woman and her offspring – that means the church – that means you.


But the accuser has been cast down from heaven.  That’s bad news because he was thrown down to us, to give us trouble.  But it’s good news because his defeat has already come.  The same God who protected His Son at His birth, protects His church.  He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies.

9/17/17

Sin Leads to Suffering

Psalm 32:3-5
When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.  Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.


These verses are in the context of repenting and being forgiven, which we will come to in the ass of pard.  But notice first, that when we hold back from repenting, we suffer.  When we cling to our pet sins, we are holding fire close to our chest, thinking we won’t get burned.  That verse is from Prov 6, in the context of sexual sin: none who touches his neighbor’s wife will go unpunished.  He will get wounds and dishonor and disgrace.  And there is a slower, milder burn we get for lesser sins.  Holding on to that grudge and resentment will warp your soul.  When you hold on to your gluttony or drink, it will dry out your soul.  God’s hand will be heavy on you and you will groan inside, even if everything looks fine on the outside.  So confess it to God.

9/17/17

8.26.2017

Porn and the Image of God // Augustine on eclipses

Tim Challies has some good thoughts on the inconsistency of pornography, and marriage and God's image in women.


Augustine on solar eclipses, and those who predict them, around 400 A.D.:
(slightly updated language)
"For with their understanding and capacity which You [God] have given them, they search out these things.  And much have they found out and foretold many years before.  The eclipses of those luminaries, the sun and moon, on what day, at what hour, and from how many particular points they were likely to come.

Nor did their calculation fail them, and it came to pass even as they foretold.  And they wrote down the rules found out, which are read at this day, and from these others foretell in what year and in what month of the year and on what day of the month, and at what hour of the day and at what quarter of its light either moon or sun is to be eclipsed.  And thus it shall be even as it is foretold.

And men who are ignorant of these things marvel and are amazed and they that know them exult and are exalted.  And by an impious pride departing from You, and forsaking Your light they foretell a failure of the sun's light, which is likely to occur so long before, but see not their own which is now present.  For they seek not religiously from where they have the ability to seek out these things.

And finding that You have made them, they do not give themselves up to You, that You may preserve what You have made, nor sacrifice themselves to You... nor do they slay their own pride."

Confessions, book V., chapter 3.4

8.18.2017

Good Church Members // Charlottesville // Fake News

1.  Good church members
Doug Wilson spurs to us loyalty in our churches.
Not mindless conformity.
Not independence and apart-ness.
Biblical like-mindedness.


2.  Charlottesville
Ben Shapiro denounces the alt right.  And Antifa.  "Condemn violence and evil wherever it occurs."
Doug Wilson likes what Trump said the first time, and so do I.


3.  Dealing with fake news
Tim Challies calls us to read good articles thoughtfully, instead of skimming headlines.

7.02.2017

Shepherd and Sheep

After a couple of sermons today on Jesus, the Good Shepherd, here are a couple videos about the cultural context from Ray VanderLaan.






6.26.2017

Boaz and Break Rooms

As a full-time pastor, I’m fairly sheltered from the rough and tumble of blue collar work life.  I remember the cool break rooms after the hot afternoon, the crude jokes on the side, the tired muscles, watching the clock, and so on, but it has been quite a while.  Hang on to that thought – I’ll bring it back in a minute.


Ruth 2:14-15
Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back. 15 And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.


It’s amazing what it will do for you to slow way down in reading the Bible.  I watch a daily video podcast that takes a verse of Hebrew and a verse of Greek and walks through it, analyzing and translating the original text into English.  While you take two minues per verse to think of the grammar and how best to translate, it enriches your understanding of the text.

Right now I’m reading Ruth 2, and I did several verses in a row this morning.  After a brief conversation at church where a member described the daily schedule at his manual labor, summer job, the description of the reapers really popped out at me.

Don’t reproach or humiliate Ruth, Boaz tells his workers a few times.  Out in the field, there is more freedom to engage in crude jokes, probably comparing the women gleaning behind them.  Probably even more so at lunch, when the men and women would eat separately.

Now here's where it gets interesting.

Boaz does a shocking thing that shakes up the mundane lunch break routine in verses 14-15.  He invites Ruth to sit with the reapers (the men workers) instead of eat with the gleaners (the women).  Most people notice the apparent improper act of Ruth going to the threshing floor by Boaz at night, but I’ve never heard a comment about this incident in 2:14-15.  I’ve always understood Ruth going to the threshing floor at night as a bold act out of the blue, forging ahead with little to go on.  And she does certainly take initiative in that.  But Ruth is responding to Boaz’s similar act in 2:14-15.  Boaz also does something that feels improper (having Ruth sit with the men), to accomplish something more important than propriety.

Boaz gets two things done.  First, he acts on his pious words, extending God’s love to Ruth.  He had just called down God’s blessing on her, that He would repay her for leaving her homeland and staying loyal to Naomi.  He wanted the God of Israel to take note and make up her Moabite loss with prosperity in Israel.  So he then does his part to make that happen.  Not only will she get the gleanings of the day from his field, she gets the good food at lunch, and takes some of that home, too.

But the second thing is what caught my eye, related to the rough and tumble of lunch room conversations at work.  By bringing a woman to the table, Boaz rebukes or gently reminds his workers, that they can’t talk their usual way now that she is there.  You know that awkward sense when a group of ladies is talking and it’s bordering on gossip, and then a man walks up?  Or when a group of men are hamming it up, and it’s going a little too far, and then a woman walks within earshot?  Boaz makes that happen.  He invites Ruth to sit with the men.  Maybe he’s changing the culture of his employers, or just reminding them how it needs to stay.  And he is also telling them that she is as important as they are.  It's too easy when the men and women are apart socially all the time for each to start looking down on the other.  He mixes it up to prevent this.


In the end, Boaz did not just give Ruth food, a handout.  He gave her social dignity when she could easily have been maligned, mocked and misused.

6.02.2017

When in the Course of Human Events

When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern SecessionWhen in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession by Charles Adams

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


When in the Course of Human Events – Charles Adams

Every now and then I’ll pick up a pro-Confederate book and sample the argument one more time.
As a northerner by birth now living in the South, I try to understand the strong sentiment that the South was right and that it will (or should) rise again.

Charles Adams’ take is an extremely one-sided picture of the war. He jumps right in, asserting in the preface that abolitionists were terrorists. This is like calling pro-lifers terrorists. Some extremists shoot abortion doctors, but most reject such violence while advocating for a legal end to abortion. You can’t blame the radical abolitionists for the South’s refusal to free the slaves. Our author actually attempts to assert this. He holds the North’s oppression of the South after the war responsible for the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. These kinds of wild claims made it hard for me to take the book seriously and finish it.

A key thesis that I acknowledge is that there were economic factors at work, dividing the North and the South, apart from slavery. Adams wants to make that the only motive for secession, while many today believe slavery was the only motive for the war. Neither are right.

Slavery was doomed in the 1860s he says and would go away inevitably.
If so isn’t the South still to blame for resisting the pressure in the North to emancipate? They would rather secede than give in to the inevitable emancipation, making it seem much less inevitable. Lincoln’s “extreme position” only went as far as to not let slavery expand, and this was all it took for the South to secede.

Adams asserts that the issue of slavery was a pretext to unify Southerners to fight. Slavery wasn’t in jeopardy, so it wasn’t the reason to secede, he argues. But slavery WAS in jeopardy in territories headed for future statehood. He doesn’t mention this at all. Southerners viewed the abolition of slavery in territories becoming states as the forerunner to abolition in their states.

Adams tries to make parallels in chapter one to secessions from empires throughout history.
The difference is that few of these voluntarily joined as one nation originally; they were annexed forcibly to start with. These United States of America were not a conglomeration of disparate nations, but arose from a unified English culture, more or less.

Adams relies heavily on English opinion of the war, which favored the South. He colors them as unbiased outside observers, but their opinion had economic reasons. Britain was an economic competitor with the North and traded more with the South. It is a mark of Adams’ extreme bias, to the point of dishonesty, that he argues so strongly the North’s economic motive to keep the union, while muting England’s economic motive FOR secession, in siding with the South in their papers. To Adams, the South’s cause was noble; the North’s was malicious.

Why was secession so intolerable for the North? Why not just let the states go? Adams poses this as a rhetorical question, but there is a real answer. Secession produced a double evil: the division of a nation and the continuance of slavery. Political union makes us responsible for each other.

How could it threaten liberty to let the South secede? the author asks. Wouldn’t it advance liberty to give the states the self-determination they should rightly have? Well, to let the South secede would show that America could not bring about liberty for its citizens, the slaves.

Now, I know the North wasn’t pure as the driven snow, either. There was plenty of racism there, too. Adams makes a good case that there was little support for emancipation in the North.
Adams may be right that there was no huge political will in North or South for freedom and equal rights for blacks/slaves. So what was Lincoln to do? This fuller picture is indeed missing from the standard version of the history.

Was it an injustice to free the slaves without some provision of education or training for them?
Yes. But it would have been a greater injustice to leave them in slavery in a new nation, the Confederate States of America.

The lesson to learn from the war is not, as Adams contends, to let the South secede – to let political liberty trump social evils. It is to have the right reasons for any law or war, imposing government will on a people. His charges against how Lincoln conducted the war legally were new to me. If true (don’t know if I can trust Adams’ historical verity), this is a lesson to learn and not repeat.

In the end, both sides can look back and say, this should have gone differently. But they continue blaming each other. North to South: you should have freed your slaves willingly. South to North: this book. You shouldn’t have forced us to stay for your own economic reasons.



Here is a review from Amazon that summarizes the book and my perspective quite nicely.
“In case anyone doubted Garry Wills' argument in A Necessary Evil that the peculiar myths and distortions surrounding the nature, formation, and meaning of the U.S. regularly stir movements committed to myth rather than reality, Adams, a historian of taxation, delivers a polemic that proves it. The Civil War, Adams argues, was not about slavery or the Union; it was about tariffs! The Southern states had a right to secede. Slavery would have ended at some point, but Lincoln did not particularly threaten it. It was, Adams maintains, the "dueling tariffs" of the Union and the Confederacy that caused the war. Within his states' rights argument, Adams maintains secession's legality should have been determined by the courts, and slaveholders should have been compensated for the property they lost through emancipation. Adams relies heavily on the European press; he asserts, but does not prove, that U.S. abolitionists were a fanatical lunatic fringe. The author clearly anticipates controversy; it should not be long in coming.” Mary Carroll


Marilynne Robinson, Givenness of Things. Pgs. 96-97
“I know causes of the Civil War are widely disputed, but I have been reading the speeches and papers of leaders of the Confederacy, and for them the point at issue was slavery. Slavery plain and simple. They drew up a constitution very like the national Constitution, except in its explicit protections of slavery. Their defense of their sacred institutitons means the defense of slavery. Their definition of state’s rights means their insistence on their right to bring this ‘species of property’ into states that did not acknowledge it, and to make these states enforce their claims on such ‘property’ without reference to their traditions, to their own laws, or to their right to protect their own citizens.”



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6.01.2017

Shepherd of the Hills

The Shepherd of the HillsThe Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A delightful, Romantic story of character and courage, resolve and reconciliation. Set in the Ozarks, the rough mountaineers and their simple ways encounter the shepherd, “Dad” Howitt, a refined and cultured city man. He bridges the gap and teaches two “fine specimens” of humanity – a young man and young woman – what it means to be a “sure enough lady” and man.

But the shepherd has his own problems, and the hills are full of rough men ready to take what they want and kill whoever stands in their way.

Plenty of action and drama, with a strong streak of country pride. The ways of the city may be more refined but not more noble. The story is partly about a young man frustrated in his love for a lady, but handling it well and resolving it nobly.

I wouldn’t call this a must read, but it is a good story, well written.



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5.31.2017

Peter Martyr Vermigli

Peter Martyr VermigliPeter Martyr Vermigli by Simonetta Carr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Outstanding biography of a little-known reformer from Italy who worked with the Swiss and English reformations, and influenced the Synod of Dordt after his death. Carr tells his personal and family story along with his theological work, showing the great personal sacrifice that Peter Martyr and others were willing to make to advance the truth in Christ's church.



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5.17.2017

13 Reasons Why Not // Artists' Freedom // Riots

Good article on why not to watch 13 Reasons.  It hurts the people it's trying to help.


Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer argues in the Washington Post for freedom of artists to refuse to express viewpoints they disagree with, regardless what side of the politics it lands on.


Marvin Olasky compares recent riots over Trump's election to past riots in American cities, ending with a Civil War application.

5.15.2017

The End for Which God Made the World


by Jonathan Edwards

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A cogent argument that God made the world primarily for His glory. This primary end does not exclude another goal: our happiness. Since we were made to worship Him, our obedience to His design brings us delight and Him glory.

As an old American choral piece puts it:
“Thine be the glory, man’s the boundless bliss!”

The writing style and argumentation is heavily philosophical – beware!




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5.11.2017

Honesty // Fear Individualism, too // Disappointed with Church

Covenant Eyes makes a great connection between how you hear sermons and how (if?) you are open and honest with him or anyone about your struggles.


Samaritan Ministries helpfully critiques the radical individualism of Cain: "Am I my brother's keeper?"  He observes that fear of communism or too much state involvement keeps too many Christians from being willing to answer yes to that question...


A really good article at Desiring God that starts with being disappointed with worship services, and turns to expound Philippians.  If church is frustrating you, lately, please read!

5.09.2017

Gregory Recommends Augustine

Here's one of my favorite quotes in Pope Gregory's letters so far:
Writing to an African Prefect:

"As to your wishing the book on the exposition of holy Job to be sent to you [written by Gregory].... if you desire to be satiated with delicious food, read the works of the blessed Augustine, your countryman, and seek not our chaff in comparison with his fine wheat."  (Letters, book 10, letter 37).

5.05.2017

Temple Creation // Work out Salvation // Reviewing Culture

Peter Leithart at his best, showing how the temple is a re-creation of... creation, and a pointer ahead to incarnation.


How is it salvation is all of grace, AND we are to work out our salvation?


Marvin Olasky defends why they review mainstream movies and music that have morally offensive content.  I've had this question myself sometimes, but I think his answer is on target.
Make sure to read the end on how moralism obscures the need for grace and for Christ.