Psalm 107

    1      Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
    For His mercy endures forever.
    2      Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
    Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
    3      And gathered out of the lands,
    From the east and from the west,
    From the north and from the south.

    4      They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way;
    They found no city to dwell in.
    5      Hungry and thirsty,
    Their soul fainted in them.
    6      Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
    And He delivered them out of their distresses.
    7      And He led them forth by the right way,
    That they might go to a city for a dwelling place.
    8      Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
    And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
    9      For He satisfies the longing soul,
    And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
    10      Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    Bound in affliction and irons—
    11      Because they rebelled against the words of God,
    And despised the counsel of the Most High,
    12      Therefore He brought down their heart with labor;
    They fell down, and there was none to help.
    13      Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
    And He saved them out of their distresses.
    14      He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
    And broke their chains in pieces.
    15      Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
    And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
    16      For He has broken the gates of bronze,
    And cut the bars of iron in two.

    17      Fools, because of their transgression,
    And because of their iniquities, were afflicted.
    18      Their soul abhorred all manner of food,
    And they drew near to the gates of death.
    19      Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
    And He saved them out of their distresses.
    20      He sent His word and healed them,
    And delivered them from their destructions.
    21      Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
    And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
    22      Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    And declare His works with rejoicing.

    23      Those who go down to the sea in ships,
    Who do business on great waters,
    24      They see the works of the LORD,
    And His wonders in the deep.
    25      For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
    Which lifts up the waves of the sea.
    26      They mount up to the heavens,
    They go down again to the depths;
    Their soul melts because of trouble.
    27      They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
    And are at their wits’ end.
    28      Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble,
    And He brings them out of their distresses.
    29      He calms the storm,
    So that its waves are still.
    30      Then they are glad because they are quiet;
    So He guides them to their desired haven.
    31      Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
    And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
    32      Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people,
    And praise Him in the company of the elders.

    33      He turns rivers into a wilderness,
    And the watersprings into dry ground;
    34      A fruitful land into barrenness,
    For the wickedness of those who dwell in it.
    35      He turns a wilderness into pools of water,
    And dry land into watersprings.
    36      There He makes the hungry dwell,
    That they may establish a city for a dwelling place,
    37      And sow fields and plant vineyards,
    That they may yield a fruitful harvest.
    38      He also blesses them, and they multiply greatly;
    And He does not let their cattle decrease.

    39      When they are diminished and brought low
    Through oppression, affliction and sorrow,
    40      He pours contempt on princes,
    And causes them to wander in the wilderness where there is no way;
    41      Yet He sets the poor on high, far from affliction,
    And makes their families like a flock.
    42      The righteous see it and rejoice,
    And all iniquity stops its mouth.

    43      Whoever is wise will observe these things,
    And they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.

Pilgrims in the Wilderness

from William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other's heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

Ezekiel 6-10

6 - Ezekiel prophesies against the mountains for all the idolatry in them.
7 - the end, your doom, has come on you.  Disaster will follow disaster.  They'll be plundered and paralyzed by terror.
8 - God shows Ezekiel the priests in the temple worshiping idols in secret.

9 - as God's glory arises from the temple, He calls executioners to the altar, and sends to mark everyone who is grieved at Jerusalem's sins.  The executioners do their bloody work, starting with the sanctuary and elders and going through the city.  Ezekiel cries out in grief to spare the remnant and God says there will be punishment and justice.

10 - Ezekiel sees the glory of God depart the temple, with the same vision of 4 living creatures and wheels as in the first chapter and vision.

Ezekiel 8:12
"Have you seen what the elders... are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures?  For they say, 'The LORD does not see us..."

Ezekiel 1-5

God showed Ezekiel the priest visions while he was in Babylon.
He sees a fiery windstorm with 4 living creatures and 4 wheel-in-wheels by each, with a throne above
Jesus: this resembles the vision in Revelation 1 - the voice of God/Jesus is many-waters powerful.
Application: God can go anywhere, even into captivity with exiles.

God calls Ezekiel to prophesy to the stubborn nation of Israel after he eats the book God gives him.
He is a watchman, responsible to warn Israel, to put them on notice for their sins.
Jesus: also called to prophesy to stubborn Israel.
Application: sometimes we need to speak truth to people even though they won't accept it.  We get that truth from God in His revealed Word.

Ezekiel makes a prophetic diarama of Jerusalem's siege.  He lays on his side 430 days, one for each year of Israel and Judah's exile.
Jesus: He not only acts out but takes on ultimately God's exiling punishment of His people.
Application: God keeps Ezekiel from having to eat food cooked with human excrement.  He shields His people from the full judgment their sins deserve.

Ezekiel cuts his hair, burns a third, cuts a third with a sword around the city, throws a third to the wind, and puts a few in his pocket.  This is what God will do to Israel for her abominations.  It'll be gruesome.
Jesus: He predicts similar disaster on Jerusalem.
Application: God has many ways He punishes a people.  We tend to fixate on one thing: political corruption, disease, foreign invasion, economic collapse, etc.


Reading Greek // Battling Depression // What You Ask Yourself Each Decade

A good short article on the importance of knowing Hebrew and Greek if you're teaching the Bible.

Ed Welch writes well on why to get out of bed in the morning, Why Bother

The questions we ask ourselves in each decade of life.  Really short help to greater self-awareness.

1 Timothy 4-6

We know men will love false teaching like requiring celibacy, forbidding certain foods, and other demonic doctrines.  Teach the church about these, training yourself in godliness.
Set a good example so they won't despise your youth.
When you meet, priority goes to Bible reading and teaching.

Correct older church members by encouraging instead of rebuking them.
Let families support their members first, then the church.  Widows supported should be older, or they should remarry.
Pay elders who are teaching or ruling for their living.
Don't be partial to or against elders when assessing them or accusations against them.

Slaves should respect their masters, not be angry or try to take advantage of Christian owners.
Do not tolerate opposition to sound teaching.  Teach contentment instead of constant controversy.
Fight the good fight and keep a good testimony, like Jesus did before Pilate.
Tell the rich to be generous instead of proud.

How this is about Jesus
He is our example of how to stay steadfast when faced with temptation by Satan, or false teaching or despising by Pharisees.
He watches out for His sheep (widows), and for His under-shepherds.

Teachings that God forbids eating certain foods are demonic (4:1-5).
Find ways to honor those older than you, even when they are being dishonorable.
Guard the truth and provide for the needy, more than pursuing your own rights, wealth or winning arguments.

1 Timothy 1-3

Timothy, my spiritual son,
Keep at your work of forbidding strange teachings, striving instead for sincere love and pure conscience.
I thank God for saving a chief sinner like me, and the law addresses such in your midst.

Have the church pray for everyone, even kings and all in authority, since Jesus is our Mediator.
Women should dress modestly and be adorned rather with godliness, not seeking to teach the church.
God will preserve them in their own risky childbirths, and save them through the birth of His Son.

Elders and deacons need to have integrity, self-control, and respectability in all areas of life.
This (chapters 2-3) is how you ought to behave in the church - the point is to worship Jesus.

How this is about Jesus
The center of the book, the end of chapter 3, breaks out in praise of Jesus, the purpose of the church.
Timothy has a spiritual father in Paul.  This is how discipleship is meant to go, and it is modeled on the Father/Son relationship as God has revealed Himself to us.

  • Cultivate relationships of mentoring and being mentored in the Christian faith.
  • Stick to the truth revealed in the Bible and don't get distracted.
  • Chapter 2 addresses temptations peculiar to men and women.  Men tend to neglect prayer or be hypocritical in it; women focus on outward adornment to the neglect of inward or try to control things with their words.  /Generally/ speaking...
  • Only put faithful and respected men in leadership.


Psalm 137

We hung our harps in the trees when we got to Babylon in captivity.
They asked us to sing, but how could we?
Remember the Edomites who loved to see Jerusalem fall.
Repay them with what happened to us - our babies smashed to death!

How this is about Jesus
He went into a deeper captivity than Israel, agonizing in Gethsemane and suffering on Calvary.
He will judge with poetic justice those who scorn and oppose His people.

It can be hard to sing when we are going through troubles.
There is a time to laugh and a time to mourn.
There is a godly wish for the demise of Christ's and our enemies.


Preaching, part 1

The Puritans were master preachers.

Primacy of Preaching
Preaching is echoing Scripture with a view to convert and sanctify men, changing their thinking and willing.  Only God's Word may be preached, or man's ideas creep in and the message loses its authority.  The Word must be preached to fan the flame in men's hearts.  It is a high calling to speak God's message to His people.  Preaching must be earnest and fervent to do it justice.

Power in Preaching
The Anglicans thought the Puritans emphasized preaching too much, and preached too intensely.
The Puritans thoughts the Anglicans valued refinement and rhetoric too much with no "Thus saith the Lord" authority in their homilies.
The Puritans sought to address the mind, prick the conscience and woo the heart.

Plainness in Preaching
This means simple and clear, not undignified or ugly speech.
Using "a middle-school vocabulary" to explain and apply a Scripture passage and doctrine.
Dependence on the Spirit and prayer make preaching effective.


The Dragon and the Raven

The Dragon and the Raven, or, The Days of King AlfredThe Dragon and the Raven, or, The Days of King Alfred by G.A. Henty

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My first read of G.A. Henty’s 140 or so books, I came away somewhat satisfied.

The main character, fictional Edmund, is placed in the historical events of King Alfred’s early reign when the Danish Vikings were plundering and overrunning divided England. Edmund, through discipline of himself and his men, helps push back the Norsemen. He acts with honor and courage even when captured. He thinks ahead and plans wisely, fighting in defense of his country, but never for his own aggrandizement.

I read after finishing that Henty was a war correspondent, and that makes sense. Sometimes his writing is rather factual and historical – not always an engaging plot-mover. But he writes mainly for young boys, both to convey history and encourage their personal virtue – a uniquely edifying purpose in books for young readers these days.

Three themes I appreciated:
1. The contrast of Viking to English worldview. Do the strong take what they can for themselves, or use their strength to protect and provide for the weak? Henty more shows and assumes this by how the (his)story goes than preaches about it.

2. Strength and dominance is not always with the virtuous and the Christian. Living at this point of time in the West we can forget this point, though events are pressing it upon us again as we become more and more post-Christian.

3. Unity and teamwork are a critical element to being strong. Edmund’s soldiers don’t succeed until they work together and follow orders in the middle of battles. Coordinated plans with multiple fronts acting together succeed.

May God give us the strength in these days to be self-controlled, work together for the good of others, and to look to our good Lord Jesus Christ for mercy.

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The Bible on Elders

Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church LeadershipBiblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership by Alexander Strauch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Alexander Strauch has written a solid treatment of elders as they were meant to be by the Bible.

At least half the book is exposition of Scripture texts related to elders - a real strength. You need a team of multiple elders who are humble servants who can teach and apply Scripture to the flock in a caring and truthful way. I can see this book being a God-send to Baptist or non-denominational congregations that begin to realize they should have elders and wonder where to start.

It feels like the other half of the book is Strauch’s strident opposition to clericalism. He has a chip on his shoulder against educated pastors being distinct from elders. That can lead to professionalism and the pushing aside of elders doing their shepherding work, but the education is needed, and the distinction should be noted officially in the body (1 tim 5:17). His fixation with not having lone pastors could be very discouraging to pastors in small churches with little other leadership, or it could keep a formally educated elder from feeling he has something important to contribute to the elder team. Churches need to value both the shepherding of lay elders, and the training of a full-time elder/pastor, without devaluing one at the expense of the other. To put this in 2-office, 3-office (2.5-office!) terminology, Strauch is 2.1 office, while I am 2.75 office.

Nevertheless, this is worthwhile and important reading for every elder, or Christian thinking about becoming an elder.

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Systematic (Van-Tilian) Theology

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian BeliefSystematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John M. Frame

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


There’s a bulky, unwieldy word to start a book review with. It sums up Frame’s approach to Systematic Theology. Pick any topic, and Frame can in some way relate it to the triad with three perspectives. At the top point is the perspective of authority. God decrees, commands, defines right and wrong as the Creator God. At the left point is the perspective of control. God providentially sets the situation, puts us in the Garden or on this earth, tells us the story of redemption. And at the right point of the triangle is the perspective of presence. God indwells us by His Spirit, has us experience and feel events (situational perspective) and truths (normative perspective).

Frame spends about 2/3 of these 1100 pages on the doctrine of God, teasing out philosophical nuances, so if you’re looking for an even treatment of each topic of theology, this is not it. What it is, is a systematizing of Cornelius Van Til’s pre-suppositional thought into most heads of theology, which was well worth the time. There were a few chapters toward the end where Frame didn’t seem to have much to contribute, and was simply passing on Reformed teaching, mainly from the Westminster confession. But for anyone with an interest in Van Til, this is worth the read. One key theme from him is the Lordship of the Tri-une God. He determines everything about our existence – that we have the senses we do (existential perspective), the world we are in (situational p.), and the logical and moral immutable truths at work in His universe (normative).

Frame begins and ends the book with an emphasis that theology must be applied to life for it to fulfill its purpose. He often accomplishes this (though not always!) applying even esoteric subjects to life.

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How to Be Members of One Another

Members One of AnotherMembers One of Another by Eric Lane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Crisp and practical, Eric Lane writes from a generation ago as an independent Baptist. Yet this presbyterian pastor found a lot of gold! The first two chapters are a great argument for membership. Middle chapters orient us to what formal membership looks like practically. The last chapter has two strengths: it lays out four categories of sin that lead to church discipline, and it calls for churches to recognize each other's discipline, instead of receiving people who have been disciplined by another church.

Excellent resource for both church elders and the layman who needs an introduction to church membership.

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Paul to Philemon: I thank God that you have refreshed the saints.
I am sending your slave Onesimus back to you.  I became his spiritual father and wanted him to stay with me.  But I wanted that to be with your consent.  If he wronged you, forgive him.  If he owes you anything, I'll pay it.  Receive him as you would me, not as a slave to be punished but as a brother in Christ.  Return him to me if possible ("benefit/joy" in vs 20 is closely related to the name "Onesimus").  I hope to visit you soon.  The grace of Jesus be with you.

How this is about Jesus
Paul is being Christ-like, here, interceding for His people, taking any punishment they deserve on himself (vs 18-19).

When we have sinned, as Onesimus appears to have (vs 18), the solution is a direct appeal for forgiveness and reconciliation.
Paul expects slavery to fade away over time, where the Gospel is obeyed.  Christian love should change the relationship between master and slave.  Because of the large financial investment, this may take time to disentangle, and so Paul deals carefully with Philemon about it.


Paul writes instructions to Titus for ordering the church on Crete.
Appoint elders who have integrity and can successfully oppose false teachers.
Teach everyone to be self-controlled and respectful in their roles as slaves, wives, old or young, man or woman.
Put away the old life of hatred, reviling rebellion.
God saved us by His mercy, not by our works.
Avoid divisive dissension, disagreements over minutae, and dividers.
Devote believers to useful good works.

How this is about Jesus
We want to make Jesus look good to others.  In church jargon we call this glorifying God.
The center of this short letter comes at 2:11 after a long list of reminding Titus what to teach Cretan Christians about how to behave.  Verse 10: "so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior."  We want to be like Jesus and make Him look good.  Since He IS good, when we are good we reflect His radiance for a dark world to see.

The ongoing presence of false teaching seeking to enter the church, and sin within believers leaves much work for church leaders like Titus to do!
Churches need leaders to dispel the confusion that false teaching and sinful divisiveness brings.