Proud Patriarchs // Valentine // Raise Hands // Triumphant Children

I don't often refer to Tim Bayly's writing, but thought this was good.  He seems to be inferring that certain, specific people promoting patriarchy have pride problems, which is problematic, of course.  But it's a good general warning for all of us.

A couple days late, the civil disobedience of Saint Valentine.  Thanks, Uri!

Stuart Bryan reminds us why we raise hands in worship at certain points.
Just a teaser: it's not when the music cranks up or you get emotional during the song...

RB Kuiper on what happens to the children of believers who die in the womb, or early infancy.
This is pure gold.


Sermons online

Sermons from the last 4 months are up at the church website, or at wordmp3.com

Book Review: Should We Seek All the Spiritual Gifts?

Tim Challies has an excellent review here of Sam Storms' new book, "Practicing the Power: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit into Your Life."

I would urge all my friends who seek the exercise of the spiritual gifts of healing, tongues, prophecy, etc. in their lives today, to read this review.


Quotable Tuesday: Missing Worship & the God/Man

"We shall all do well to remember the charge: “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is.” (Heb. 10:25). Never to be absent from God’s house on Sundays, without good reason—never to miss the Lord’s Supper when administered in our own congregation—never to let our place be empty when means of grace are going on, this is one way to be a growing and prosperous Christian. The very sermon that we needlessly miss, may contain a precious word in season for our souls. The very assembly for prayer and praise from which we stay away, may be the very gathering that would have cheered, established, and revived our hearts. We know very little how dependent our spiritual health is on little, regular, habitual helps, and how much we suffer if we miss our medicine."
—J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John 20:24-31
HT: Randy Booth

"If it is only man’s nature which is to be acknowledged [in the person of Christ], where is the Godhead Which saves? if only God’s, where is the humanity which is saved?"

Pope Leo the Great - sermon 91


Lord's Supper as Door and Window

When you’re trying to watch the game and somebody is standing in the middle of the room, you might say, “You make a better door than a window.”

Well, This sacrament is both door and window.

A door distinguishes who is inside from who is outside.  While everyone is invited to Christ, only those who have accepted the invitation should partake.  Communion puts a visible difference between believers and unbelievers.

The Lord’s Supper is also a window.  We are not meant to look AT it, but THROUGH it, to the Lord Jesus.  Do this in remembrance of me.  It’s possible to take communion a thousand times, without really coming to Christ.  The Israelites received manna and water from the rock countless times, but most died unbelieving in the desert.  And we believe some distinctive things about communion:  partake weekly.  Covenant children should partake, too.  Wine is proper element for the cup.  This is all looking AT the sacrament.  Jesus might put it like this: “you take communion, because you think that in this you have life; but this testifies of Me.”

This is why the Psalms speak so often of seeking God’s face.  Our faith does involve a set a beliefs.  But at its core it’s about faith in the personal being who is God, and communion with Him.  Seek His face today.  Come to the Lord Jesus Christ and surrender.

Psalm 105:1-4
    Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
    Call upon His name;
    Make known His deeds among the peoples!
    2      Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
    Talk of all His wondrous works!
    3      Glory in His holy name;
    Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!
    4      Seek the LORD and His strength;
    Seek His face evermore!

Dance for Us!

Matthew 11:16-19
"But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, 17 and saying:
    ‘We played the flute for you,
      And you did not dance;
    We mourned to you,
      And you did not lament.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children."

Jesus says the people He came to, were children, not satisfied with their entertainment.  How was the comedy?  It didn’t make me laugh much.  How was the tear jerker?  Not that sad.  They weren’t happy with anything, with John’s rigorous fasting or with the feasting of Jesus.  Why?  Because they had themselves calling the tune and expecting Jesus to dance what they wanted.  But Jesus is the Savior that wretches like us need, not a performer or a guru to make us feel good about ourselves. 



Severus, Vincent, Cassian

Product Details

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2, Vol. 11: Sulpitius Severus, Vincent of Lerins, John Cassian
by Philip Schaff

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I began reading this series about two months ago. There is an online schedule that has you read 7 pages a day for 7 years to get through them all! I started where the schedule was, instead of with volume 1, page 1.

I picked a doozie to start with, apparently. Severus and Vincent and Cassian wrote in the 400s, A.D., mostly about how monks should order their lives, food, prayers, thoughts, clothes, etc. They catalogue virtues and vices, praise specific saints and monks for their asceticism, and decry monks that give it up and go back to their wives (!).

The huge star that shines in this comparative darkness is the last entry: Cassian's seven books on the Incarnation of the Lord, against Nestorius. A brilliant polemic against Arianism, Cassian makes many Scriptural and rational arguments for the full deity of Christ, rebuffing every possible and subtle heresy that would assert Jesus was less than God from all eternity.  THAT was worth reading!

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Shakespeare's SonnetsShakespeare's Sonnets by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At times soaring, at times indecipherable, Shakespeare’s sonnets are great literature indeed.

They aren’t your typical love poems, though. Many are about how time is eating away at his lover’s appearance, or how she is too low for him, or that he shouldn’t love her. In spite of these and other negative descriptions, he loves her anyway.

Not very romantic, on the surface. But they do get you thinking deeply about love, especially for those who have experienced it for a decade or three.

Here’s a sample exploration of lust from number 129:
“Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action….
Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight;
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,
Past reason hated as a swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad….
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows, yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.”

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Two Noble Kinsmen

The Two Noble KinsmenThe Two Noble Kinsmen by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Noble cousins Arcite and Palamon see and love the same woman and fight over her. They duel, but are caught by the king. They each refuse to yield to the other, so King Theseus sets a wrestling contest – the winner will get the girl. Arcite appeals to Mars, the god of war, so wins the fight. But Palamon appeals to Venus, the god of love. Arcite dies in a horse riding accident after the fight, and Palamon gets the girl.

Love makes you do crazy things, or go crazy.

Much of the play is taken with the girl they fight over – her agony over it all. And with the jailer’s daughter, who literally goes crazy, loving Palamon.

This is a retelling of Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale, and Shakespeare was a co-author.

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Henry VIII

Henry VIIIHenry VIII by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Henry VIII

Shakespeare retells the history of Henry putting away his noble first wife Catherine and marrying Anne Boleyn. The Cardinal falls, but not before putting a lot of innocent people to death for his own agenda. Anne gives birth to Elizabeth at the end, and much is made of how great she will be. She, of course, is reigning as Shakespeare writes!

The prologue was amusing: this isn’t going to be a happy play. It’s hard to face your country’s own ugly history.

Comparatively for Shakespeare, the writing was flat and seemed hastily done. He moves the plot along quickly with gentlemen talking in the street about what has happened, which seemed clunky and artificial. It’s still good literature, though, and worth the read for the history, too.

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CymbelineCymbeline by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cymbeline the king of Britain has a daughter Imogen. He wants to marry her to her stepson Cloten, son from his second wife, but he is a boor. She marries Leonatus, and Cymbeline banishes him. He finds a “friend” in Rome, Iachimo, who bets he can seduce Imogen. He sneaks in her room at night but doesn’t do anything, convincing Leonatus he did it. Leonatus in rage sends to have Imogen killed. She is headed for him, and meets with the king’s long-lost sons, her brothers.

Two important themes are slander, and how nobility can shine even in humble settings. Iachimo slanders Imogen, and Leonatus believes it enough to foolishly take up the bet to seduce her. Imogen blames her servant wrongly for thinking Leonatus dead. The sons are living rustically, but are noble-minded. They are drawn to Imogen, though she is a road-worn traveler.

This one has a happy ending, and it was a delight to see the king rescued from his enemies, foreign and domestic, and to see the slanderer get his due.

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King Lear

King LearKing Lear by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

King Lear’s 2 older daughters flatter him, but the youngest refuses to do so. He disowns her, but the king of France marries her. Then Lear goes mad when, after giving up power to the daughters and their husbands, his oldest 2 daughters reject and abuse him. The youngest invades and conquers, while receiving Lear mercifully. He comes to himself and repents, but they lose the battle. The 2 older daughters quarrel and betray each other, leading one of the husbands, and an illegitimate son who has risen to power, to reveal all their treachery.

As a tragedy in the vein of Hamlet, most of the main characters die in the end, either as justice for their own wickedness or as innocent “collateral damage” from others. The play rings home how betrayal and self-seeking will lay waste to your life.

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Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Pericles, Prince of Tyre (Annotated)Pericles, Prince of Tyre by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pericles, Prince of Tyre is all about distancing yourself from dishonor and wickedness. At the beginning he woos a princess, but finds out she is in an incestuous relationship with her father. He flees quickly. Part of the point is that if you flee hard enough and forsake worldly gain, you can escape evil and its consequences.

But you may suffer, still. Pericles marries, but his wife dies in childbirth at sea during a storm. The daughter is nearly killed and put in a brothel as a prostitute. But she resists, stays pure, and gets a decent job. Again, the theme of distancing yourself from dishonor. The happy family reunion at the end reinforces the theme that if you work hard enough at shunning evil, reward will come.

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Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest?Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest? by Mark Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the hardest things for Christians, and Christian theologians, to balance is our justification by God’s free grace alone, and our duty to obey God’s Word. If we are more eager to defend faith alone, we might skip too lightly over our duty to God’s law. If we get excited about applying the law to every aspect of our lives, we might lead others to think wrongly that the law justifies us.

Mark Jones aims to guard against the first danger. Interacting mainly with Tullian Tchividjian’s recent writings, and also with the Sonship movement, our author takes up the old debate over the law between the Lutheran and Reformed, ably defending the Reformed view.

The Lutheran view opposes law and gospel, even into the Christian life, while the Reformed see them as friends, in Christ. “The antithesis between the law and the gospel ends the moment someone becomes a Christian” (Ch. 4, “Sweetly Comply” section, para. 2). “With the gospel and in Christ, united to him by faith, the law is no longer my enemy but my friend” (same). Notice that outside of Christ all agree that law and gospel are at odds: law condemns; gospel holds out rescue. But “As Richard Muller notes, ‘The law, for Lutheranism, can never become the ultimate norm for Christian living but, instead, must always lead to Christ who alone is righteous” (Ch. 4, “Sweetly Comply” section, para. 3).

This works out in our “street level” piety in this way: to avoid giving any glory to ourselves, average-Joe Reformed-guy will say that everything he does, even the most obedient, is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:4). We cannot keep the law and never will, so we turn away from it, to the Gospel and accept grace, never to look back to the law. But this is misguided.

“It is actually an affront to God to suggest that Spirit-wrought works in believers are ‘filthy rags,’ for these are works that God has prepared in advance for us to do in order to magnify his grace and glorify the name of Christ (1 Cor. 15:10; John 15:5)” (Ch. 5, “Good or Filthy” section, para. 3).

See the problem? Do we have to turn away from the law to accept grace? Yes, in the sense that we have to give up trying to keep it for ourselves. No, in the sense that we should still strive to obey God. But it is so easy to turn back to the law, once we have become believers, and fall back into legalism, trying to earn or keep our status with God. So easy, that many believers resist it at all. Any talk of duty or obedience must lead to legalism. No! No! Jones shines at this point, showing all the Scriptures that take us back to obedience, with nary a hint of legalism.

When we say God is pleased with us in Christ, is there no sense in which His pleasure changes based on our obedience? The antinomian, eager to defend God’s electing and unchanging love, will quickly say no, there is no aspect of God’s love toward us that changes, whether we sin or not, if we are in Christ. But the Bible speaks of our pleasing God or not, as Christians (2 Sam. 11:27; Col 1:10). This does not mean our obedience determines our salvation, but our obedience (or lack thereof) does affect our relationship with God. The antinomian, on the other hand, will oppose preachers who “warn their people that they can displease God and Christ or that God can be angry with his people, as he often has been (Ezra 9; 2 Kings 17:18)” (Ch. 6, “Displeasing God and Christ” section, para. 4).

Much of this debate revolves around our view of sanctification. The antinomian is prone to say that sanctification is little more than getting used to and living out our justification. The better view is to exhort us as Peter did to work out our salvation. “The sanctification of the church is an important part of Christ’s glory. It would be incorrect to affirm that we can add to or diminish God’s essential glory. But, again, we may or may not bring glory to the God-man, depending on our obedience or sin” (Ch. 6, “Pleasing God and Christ” section, para. 3).

May we look to our sanctification at all for assurance that we are in Christ? The antinomian would say no, that will lead to works-righteousness. But the classic Reformer said yes, our obedience is a secondary source of assurance (Ch. 7). The antinomian sees himself as a Christian as still totally depraved, ignoring the work of the Spirit moving him to obedience which pleases God. He assumes he isn’t much different from unbelievers as far as his heart goes. Looking within will only result in despair. The authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith saw it differently when they wrote that assurance is founded in part upon “the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises [of salvation] are made” (WCF 18:2). In other words, God is working something new in you, that will be evident in some ways. This doesn’t mean we are justified in thinking ourselves better morally than unbelievers, generally. But God is doing a work of sanctification in us that He is not doing in unbelievers.

Jones has a difficult PR battle with his thesis. No one who wants to be known as a defender of Reformed doctrines of grace and the five solas wants to imply what sound like caveats to our justification by faith alone. Who wants to appear to demote the importance of justification, the hallmark of the Reformation? And yet, if we are to do justice to all of Scripture, we must be careful not to wave our pet doctrine so loudly that it drowns out other important truths in the Bible. “The antinomians gave a priority to justification that went far beyond what Scripture teaches” (Ch 7. “Antinomian Assurance” section, para. 6). This is an audacious statement when writing to a Reformed audience! But I believe it to be an important caution. We have not exhaustively described the Gospel when we have explained justification. While justification is the capstone of Reformed theology, it is not all of it. It is the hinge on which our salvation turns, but it is not the whole door.

Where you stand in this debate as a pastor will dramatically shape your preaching. Jones critiques the antinomian: “The same repetitive mantras are preached week after week, to the point that if you have heard one sermon, you have heard them all. These are not overstatements. It is very difficult for some preachers to deliver messages each week when they have a sort of ‘systematic theology’ that they need to declare every Lord’s Day” (Ch. 8, “Different Types” section, para. 10).

Jones’ main point is that if we understand the person and work of Christ in His fullness, the apparent tension between law and gospel will resolve itself. Jesus justifies and sanctifies us for His glory.

This book may be especially useful for “cage stage” Calvinists who have just discovered the doctrines of grace, and for elders and pastors considering how to preach (and evaluate preaching on) the whole counsel of God. It isn’t an “entry-level” theology book – you ought to know a little about the Reformed doctrinal landscape before diving in. And he quotes old-language Puritans frequently. But I highly commend this work to you.

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The Tempest

The TempestThe Tempest by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Tempest is one of those stories filled with magic and spirits and gods, but yet very much shaped by the Christian gospel.

Prospero has been exiled by his usurping brother, but he is a sorcerer who brings storms, wrecks ships, blinds and moves men as he wills, with the help of the fairy Ariel. He overcame the evil witch on the island to which he was exiled, keeping her son Caliban as his servant.

Prospero prevents a plot to kill another prince, and confronts his usurper, while also offering him forgiveness. It seemed to me that Prospero represents God, who sovereignly moves events, whom we have kicked out of His own kingdom/world, who offers us forgiveness, and who works in our hearts like Ariel to move us to repentance.

Shakespeare contrasts the faithful servant Ariel who gains his freedom at the end, with the treacherous Caliban (and others) who are self-serving and willing to betray their masters to get ahead.

Once you’ve read this, go get Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, which is a Junior High meditation on various Shakespeare plays. He plays with Caliban’s many curses to great amusement.

“Toads, beetles, bats, light on you!”

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