11.05.2018

Quotes on Scripture and Joy

On Scripture - Augustine's letters
"Such is the depth of the Christian Scriptures, that even if I were attempting to study them and nothing else from early boyhood to decrepit old age, with the utmost leisure, the most unwearied zeal, and talents greater than I have, I would be still daily making progress in discovering their treasures."
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1, page 474.


On Joy and Gratitude
"We don't get to pick what comes our way, but we do get to choose how we respond....  If you choose joy, there is literally no room for worry in your brain.  You've kicked it out!  So how do you choose joy?  By giving thanks.  By remembering all the good things that have happened, including the good things that have come out of the hard things.

"Cynicism will tempt you to think, 'That's shallow and fluffy.  I'm a realist, and life is hard.'

"Don't go there, okay?  Cynicism turns people into miserable curmudgeons.  Gratitude lifts our spirits and makes us a joy to be around.  It's contagious.  Plus, it's commanded in Scripture:

" 'Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.' (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)."

Susanne Maynes, Biblical counselor, quoted in Samaritan Ministries' Nov 2018 newsletter

10.27.2018

Fallen Babylon



I'm preaching from Revelation 14 tomorrow on God's sovereignty.
Verse 8: "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."

Here are the words to the song in the video.

Hail the day so long expected,
Hail the year of full release.
Zion’s walls are now erected,
And her watchmen publish peace.
Through our Shiloh’s wide dominion,
Hear the trumpet loudly roar,
Babylon is fallen to rise no more.

Blow the trumpet in Mount Zion,
Christ shall come a second time;
Ruling with a rod of iron
All who now as foes combine.
Babel’s garments we’ve rejected,
And our fellowship is o’er,
Babylon is fallen to rise no more.

Destructive Culture War // Accepted apart from Obedience // Content in the Breaking

David Bahnsen mulls over how the culture war has changed after Kavanaugh.


Paul Tripp reminds us that being accepted by God and striving to obey Him are two very different things.


Toby Sumpter preaches an excellent sermon on contentment in the God who breaks and reshapes you.  It gets going at the 15 or 17 minute mark.

10.20.2018

Lost in the Middle

Lost in the Middle: Mid-Life Crisis and the Grace of GodLost in the Middle: Mid-Life Crisis and the Grace of God by Paul David Tripp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Paul Tripp is consistently on the mark in diagnosing the sinful condition of the heart, whatever stage of life or topic he addresses. Lost in the Middle does not disappoint. Tripp accurately describes the mid-life problem: a heart fixed on idols that have disappointed you leaves you dissatisfied with and disinterested in life if you don’t re-orient your heart away from the things you crave on earth and back to the Lord. We start excavating our past and are disappointed to find the career or relationship or identity we invested ourselves in for years has not satisfied as we had hoped.

Tripp takes a long time to say it, though. This is the only downside to the book. The stories are often useful for the reader to identify himself as “lost in the middle.” So I don’t begrudge the use or amount of stories. It’s an inherent part of the problem to not realize what is happening to you – that you are lost. So stories of real people suffering a mid-life crisis really help. But the book could have been much shorter and still gotten the point across, it seems. Still, the content of Tripp’s books involved necessary soul searching, which in turn requires slowing down and a meditative, ambling mood. So going over a theme a few times doesn’t hurt. “To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you” (Philippians 3:1).

Highly recommended reading for anyone aged about 35-45.
I give this book a rare 5 stars, because it was immensely helpful to me, personally.



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10.17.2018

Trouble sleeping? // Re-Orienting Prayer // Trump

Paul Tripp takes a common symptom of deeper trouble - insomnia - and goes deeper toward repentance and faith in the Lord.


Ben Merkle gave a great talk on prayer a bit ago to a post-college audience.  This is well worth the time to listen.


Doug Wilson distinguishes between the PR on Trump and what he is actually getting done, all while many on the right cry about it.

10.01.2018

Savoring Scripture // Tell God's Story

I've been listening to the Kirker's Read podcast, connected to this Bible reading challenge.

Two episodes really grabbed me:

1. Francis Foucachon, a French church planter and chef, talks about reading the Bible in the context of cooking and eating.

2. Nate Wilson urges us to know God's story in the Bible so you can place yourself in it rightly.  This leads to faith, self-sacrifice, courage, rejecting passive fatherhood, manipulative relationships, etc.

Too Much for You

1 Kings 19:1-8

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” 3 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.

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God sets this table of grace for us in the presence of our enemies.  Elijah had Jezebel to contend with.  We have plenty adversaries in the world, our flesh, and the devil to discourage us.  Elijah was discouraged to the point of asking God to take His life.  The journey is too much for you, the angel tells him.  God has designed our path such that we will need to rely on Him.  He teaches us plenty of lessons of working hard and self-discipline in life.  But He doesn’t want you learning to rely on those things to make it.  He gives us food and drink from Him, and we will die without it.  Jesus is the living bread come down from heaven to us.  He is living water – without Him you will die.  Come receive Jesus.  Let God feed you Jesus.  And go in the strength of that food further on your way, and to the mountain of God.

9/30/18

Give It Up

Exodus 32:1-8 - the Golden Calf

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
2 And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.
Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” 6 Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ”

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It’s been said, when you have gov’t of the people, by the people and for the people, it can be hard to avoid having religion, of the people, by the people, for the people.  This is what Aaron dealt with and caved in to, in making a golden calf.  They didn’t want to wait for Moses any longer.  They wanted a god they could see and touch and use to indulge their sensual appetites.  When it says they rose up to play in verse 7, that isn’t innocent playground time, it means messing around sexually.
Aaron gave them what they wanted and slapped God’s name on the whole blasphemous charade.

We need to confess: we try to keep our sinful desires and indulge them, all while wanting to worship God and name His name.  We don’t fight back against our desires for other gods – we give in and try to have it both ways.  On Mount Carmel, Elijah told Israel: “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”  And do you remember what the people said?  Nothing. 

I plead with you today, from the Word of God, give up your sin.  It will keep you from God.

Let us confess our sins to God.

9/30/18

9.26.2018

Bitterness // Church Turf Wars // God's Goal in Your Suffering

Nancy Guthrie has an excellent article on bitterness in an old Tabletalk magazine.


Pursuing greater influence among leadership in the church isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Doing it by way of gossip and flattery among elders definitely is.  Check out St. Anne's Pub for some edifying conversation on this topic.  The interviews are especially good, and the "Elder Gossip" track at the end.


A video from Paul Tripp about his recent suffering, and what God was doing in it.  It's a little overly dramatic cinematography, perhaps, but what he is saying is so good.  "If this is what it takes for God to produce that in me [really relying on His grace], then this has been worth it."  I'd also commend Calvin's Institutes, book 3, chapter 8, "Bearing the Cross," on this topic.

9.13.2018

Seminary // Preaching // Counseling

Crossway has a great article up about seminary: what it is designed for, and what it isn't meant to achieve.


Paul Tripp writes for preachers to pursue excellence out of an awe of God.  This can easily apply to any vocation.


Ed Welch offers up 5 short myths that Christians and pastors should stop believing about counseling.



9.11.2018

Classical Me, Classical Thee

Classical Me, Classical Thee: Squander Not Thine EducationClassical Me, Classical Thee: Squander Not Thine Education by Rebekah Merkle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A quick 100 pages written to classical school students to point out the benefits of such an education, and to call for appreciating and not squandering such a gift.

Merkle does a decent job speaking to a high school audience, with little gimmicks or patronizing, making the case for logic, rhetoric, Latin and more. I’m not sure 6-7 chapters were needed each on a different topic, but the basic point was a good one: you’ve been given a gift. Don’t squander it like the man given 1 talent who buried it in the ground.



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9.10.2018

Augustine on church music; Tripp on midlife

Quotes from my reading:

"Midlife is a war between our dreams and reality, and too often, people, families, and churches are its casualties."
Lost in the Middle, Paul Tripp, pg 140.


About "ceremonies which are found different in different countires... we should not only refrain from finding fault with them, but even recommend them by our approval and imitation, unless restrained by fear of doing greater harm than good by this course....  as in the singing of hymns and psalms...  so useful for inducing a devotional frame of mind and inflaming the strength of love to God, there is diversity of usage."
Letters of Augustine, letter 55, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, page 314.

Orthdoxy

OrthodoxyOrthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A grand apologetic work in which Chesterton shows the madness of modern atheist thought, displays the wonder of the mundane world, and glories in the ancient novelty of orthodoxy.

Ancient novelty, you say? This is my own phrase for Chesterton’s self-described journey to faith. He came to orthodox Christianity thinking it was a brand new thing, only to discover it had been there all along. Like sailing the ocean, coming to land and thinking it’s a new discovery, only to find out you’ve hit Long Island.

Chesterton calls for a loyalty to the world as God made it. We need to reject the pessimistic hatred of life and suicide toward which modernity inevitably drags us. Do we critique things and people because we love them or because we love hurting them from a resentment inside?

Part of that loyalty is maintaining a wonder at it all. It isn’t some law of necessity that turns eggs into chickens – it is magical. God calls to the sun every morning: “Do it again!” We get tired of this because we are old and stale, while God remains full of vitality. This wonder leads us to respect creational boundaries God built in to it.

Chesterton’s literary knowledge and references are vast, and I hardly get half of them. His writing style is quite meandering and indirect. It isn’t for everyone, but his ideas are an essential and hearty tonic for the orthodox, and an effective antidote against the atheistic and materialistic thought that continues to prevail today.



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9.04.2018

Reset

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout CultureReset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David P. Murray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


An immensely helpful book specifically for burned out, middle-aged pastors, but kept general enough to be useful to anyone stressed out. There is a companion book for women, called Refresh.

Don’t be fooled by the gimmicky-appearing alliteration on the surface (10 chapters starting with “re”) – there is a great deal of wisdom here. The simple structure and shorter chapters is an essential format for the burned out, so there’s a method to Murray’s marketeering.

The foundation of grace at the beginning is key, and distinguishes this book from others addressing the same topic. The keynote is that grace provides space to slow down, take stock, and make wiser decisions about your priorities, health, time, etc.

And there are lots of zingers throughout:

“What I do instead of sleep shines a spotlight on my idols” (pg. 55).

[Muting phone notifications] “produces a totally different mindset and mind depth than the one that’s sub-consciously waiting for the next beep or ding” (93).

“It’s not ‘Rest when you have nothing to do,’ but ‘Rest because we will never be done.’” (101).

Murray tackles root issues, like letting your work or past failures be your identity, instead of Christ and His grace. And he does so in very practical ways, touching you where you live your life.

Highly recommended.



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9.03.2018

The Doctrine of the Covenant

The Main Points of the Doctrine of the CovenantThe Main Points of the Doctrine of the Covenant by Klaas Schilder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A speech by Klaas Schilder, 1944.
This was my first foray into Dutch theologian Klaas Schilder’s writings, and it will not be the last.

The author’s name has come up in recent theological controversies, and now I know why. Schilder emphasized the outward or objective covenant, which is formally marked by baptism. And his accent is on God speaking His promises and commands to everyone in that covenant, not just the elect whom we cannot know with certainty.

The setting is quite polemical. Schilder is obviously arguing against another side in a debate. The other side is saying that if we talk about conditions in the covenant of grace, we make it a legalistic, works-based thing, which Paul was talking about and rejecting in Galatians. Schilder rejects this:

“If it is true that we are letting the covenant become a preaching of laws or a theory of morals, then [their] allegation is entirely just. Both groups are hollowing out the covenant: those who preach the promise and shove the demand into the background, and those who because of the demand neglect the sweet music of the promise; both have slipped away from the covenant” (pg 10).

We must “let God speak in a conditional manner” (12).

Schilder asserts at the same time, the confessional doctrines of grace and election. “Any good that comes from me is God’s gift and is from Him alone! Yet we must speak of conditions: I will not receive it if I do not comply with the demand – faith is the first demand” (13).

This was only a short speech. I plan to tackle Christ and Culture next.

The only publishing information in the hard copy is as follows:
Printed in Canada.
Translated by T. vanLaar, 1992



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