Pure Feasting with Christ

Your body matters.  This is why Jesus gave us a reminder of Him that involves basic body action – eating and drinking.  The point isn’t just to give us a potent reminder of Him.  It also helps our faith.  In the upper room after the resurrection, Jesus eats some fish and honey to help the disciples believe it is really Him. 

But the purpose of the Lord’s Supper goes beyond even remembering and helping our faith.  We begin now what will continue in glory.  We will sit down at His table in the regeneration, with Abraham and Moses, Esther and Paul.  And we will eat and drink and enjoy.  It is called the marriage supper of the Lamb.  The biggest Thanksgiving turkey, Easter Ham, Christmas feast and wedding reception all rolled into one that there ever was.

We will sit down purified from every defilement.  Not indulging ourselves but being satisfied in Christ.  The junk and immorality that we crave now won’t be there, or will be cleansed.  Our senses will be trained to desire and enjoy the best, the right.  And the best and the right thing for us above all is the Lord Jesus Christ, for whom we were made.  You belong to Him.  Your body and spirit were made for Him.  Only He can lead you and cleanse you and feed You.

Receive and rest on Christ alone today.



Eating at the Family Table

Luke 22:29-30 - And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

One privilege that family members have is to eat at the family table.  Servants eat downstairs, later.  But Jesus has called us friends and brothers.  We eat with Him, because we are heirs of His Kingdom.  Eating and drinking at His table goes hand in hand with judging and ruling with Him and for Him.  We don’t know all that this means, but we can consider God’s ways here, and begin to live and evaluate things according to God’s truth and grace and law and ways.

Since God has set us at peace with Him through the cross, let us also be at peace with each other.  When disputes arise let us fight for God’s glory, not our interests.  In our dispute and rebellion against God, He resolved it by sacrificing His dearest for us, to the point of death.  This table points to that sacrifice.  It shows us our enmity with God, mediated and resolved.  Bless the Lord for His goodness to us through Jesus.


Asking Amiss

James 4:1-3
"Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."

James makes clear that our wars and squabbles come from our wants.  We know how we are supposed to behave.  But we also know what we want.  The two don’t always match up.  What we want isn’t usually what God wants.  And we end up hurting others to get what we want.  Parents want peace and quiet; so they get impatient with children.  Children want to play; they grumble and exasperate parents.

James then says, “YET.”  And he makes an interesting turn.  The problem isn’t the getting, it’s the goal.  We want to get something for ourselves.  God wants to give us wisdom and other things, for His glory.  We ask amiss, out of selfishness.  

But God wants us to ask.  

Redirect your goals, and then ask again.  Don’t strive for more play time, kids, for yourselves.  But you might ask for it to help your sister with her chores.  Don’t strive for more free time or extra income, big people, to have more leisure time to yourself.  But you might ask for the same thing to help your neighbor.  Why are you after what you’re after?

Let us confess our selfish desires to the Lord.



Strolling the Links

An OPC presbytery indirectly rebukes the Family Integrated Church movement. 
Kevin Swanson submits to the OPC.

While some of the four lies contain partial truth, they are misleading when stated dogmatically.
The author has some good points to consider.

Roger Olson, an Arminian, gives a few brief answers.
He distinguishes semi-Pelagianism from Arminianism.  He says in semi-Pelagianism "sinners are capable of exercising a good will toward God unassisted by God’s grace."  God responds with grace (our good will doesn't earn His favor, but "gets us started".)
In Arminianism, God initiates with prevenient, resistible grace to all.  It is then up to us to believe in Christ.
Many Calvinists I know just lump these together as the same animal, but there IS a difference.

Review: The Night Gardener

The Night Gardener
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Best children's book I've read in a long while. World magazine recommended it, and it's perfect for ages 9-14. No romance, good pacing and mystery to keep things moving. A little scary, but not awfully so. Excellent message about not taking the easy way out (sin of escapism) to cope with problems in life. Deftly avoids clunky moralism, though, with a GREAT story. My 11 year old son loved it, and quickly gobbled up with relish Auxier's first story, too.

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Frame chapter 3 - Lordship as a Unique Worldview

God is unique.

He is unsurpassed and perfect in holiness, power, love, etc.  He alone is self sufficient.

Though He is great, He is personal.  We are not the product of impersonal forces, as naturalism claims, but of a personal being with His own will and intentions and desires.  He is a person who speaks to us.  Impersonal forces have no will or thought to communicate, but God does.

God is transcendent.  This doesn't mean He is literally "up there."  But He is "above it all" in that He made and rules it all.  Isaiah 6:1; Psalm 113:5-6.  This doesn't mean we can't know Him.  His thoughts and ways are above ours, but eternal life is knowing God and His Son Jesus (John 17:3).

God is immanent - present with us.  Again, this isn't just location.  Jesus is Immanuel, for our salvation.  Distortions of this lead to deism or pantheism.

Immanuel Kant distorted God's transcendence to see Him as unknowable.
Other modern "openness of God" theology distorts God's immanence such that He is not sovereign.
This is a spiritual battle here: will we submit to God's Lordship, or claim the right to choose and decide for ourselves apart from God's rule?

God is creator.  His creation is distinct from Him, and not identified with Him in any way (even in the Incarnation, the two natures of Christ are distinct and not mixed).  Immanence is not identity.  God is always close and present with His creation, yet sovereign over it - denying the Bible's creator/creature distinction gives autonomy to creatures, somehow, which is in error.

Opening Prayer - Bind Yourself to Christ

Heavenly Father, we bind ourselves to You today.  By Christ’s incarnation, baptism, death, His bursting from the tomb, and ascension, we can come to You and find rest.  We are here to praise You with all our might, to honor You, to lift Your name on high.  We trust You to hold and lead us.  You created the cherubim and they cry out that you are holy.  Your patriarchs and prophets and apostles give us examples to follow.  All creation points us to You.

Keep us from Satan’s wiles in this hour, from false words and self-deceived hearts. Protect your people from burning and bombs, bullies and bullets as we worship you on this day.  Comfort us with the presence of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.  Yours is a strong name, Yahweh God, and we draw near to You in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives and reigns with You, one God without beginning or end - Amen.


Considering Christ and Conscience at Communion

At the Lord's Table, we keep the feast.  But how do we keep it?

First, we look to Christ, the Passover lamb.  We have no other protection from the destroyer, from the consuming wrath of God, than the blood of Jesus.  Under His protection death's dark angel passes by and we are safe.  We trust Jesus to protect us and satisfy God's justice for our sins.

Second, we judge ourselves, as best as we are able.  We are to keep this feast in sincerity and truth.  We resolve to put away all sin from our hearts and lives.  At the same time we know our resolution isn't what preserves us.  Our resolutions are always imperfect, it is Jesus we trust.  We cannot cling to sin stubbornly, or look away and hope it will go away on its own.  We must renounce it and let Jesus kill it.  We do this as best as we are able.  A toddler grows up learning manners at the table over time, and so we learn to judge ourselves over time.  But we don't withhold the food until some artificial point when they have officially learned table manners.  The Passover lamb was for the whole house.  And the children had to learn why that night was different from all others.

Third, we let the Lord purify us through this means of grace.  Jesus is really feeding us with Himself here.  The main work isn't our discernment or our purity of thought or resolution.  The main work is Christ communicating Himself to us, His purity.  We are truly unleavened, because Christ was sacrificed for us.  Receive Christ, your protective covering now.

Receive and rest on Christ alone today.



Frame: Chapter 2 - The Lord

Where other theologians' work could be summed up in one topic (Schleiermacher's feeling, Barth's crisis, Gutierrez' liberation, Luther's justification) John Frame wants to begin with God's Lordship.  It is central to Scripture, dominating the text in frequency and theme.

Many theologians resist this today, mainly because modern people want autonomy above all else.

Reformed theologians use covenant to summarize the theme of Scripture, and this is good.  But Lordship does better, as it focuses on the personal God who administers this relationship with His world.  Most other themes that describe our relationship with God presuppose God's Lordship (sonship, marriage, servanthood, etc.).

A Lord has control, authority and presence.

He is in control.  He governs and orchestrates all events and people in the world.

He has authority.  Not only CAN He rule, He has the right to.  Because He owns it, He is the evaluator of His world, and His judgments are right.  This is seen clearly in Genesis 1, Moses' confrontation with Pharaoh and Exodus 20:1-3.  THe NT shows that Jesus has all authority, even to forgive sins.  Though Abraham and Moses and Job argued with God, or asked God to change His intention, His authority cannot be questioned.  God's authority covers all of life - it has not been restricted since the OT law to the church or matters of salvation.

He is present.  Our Immanuel (God-with-us) is not an absentee landlord.  He is with us by His Spirit (1 Cor 6:19) to bless us according to His covenant promises, as He was with Joseph (Gen 39:3) and Moses (Ex 3:11-12).

Frame is known for a tri-perspective outlook.  Most theological themes can be seen by its norm, fact and perception.  Norm refers to rules, ethical "oughts."  Fact refers to the way things are and history.  Perception is our experience of things.  On Lordship, God authors the norms (authority), He controls the facts (control), and He gives us our faculties of perception to see them (presence).  Apply God's norms, learn His story, use your heart and brain to love and serve Him.

What is Theology?

I've begun a study of John Frame's Systematic Theology with a small group of folks.
I'm going to summarize each chapter here, to spark interest in the book and in the group.
Here is chapter one.

Theology defines terms, though Scripture itself seldom defines the terms it uses, and Scripture often uses terms differently than theologians usually do.  Theological terms often require more than one definition to say everything about it.  So we have to be careful not to identify our theology too closely with Scripture.  But theology is a helpful teaching tool.

Theology studies Scripture, not just our own subjective religious eexperience (against Schleiermacher), and also not just for the objective information found there (against a clinical objectivism), but for the purpose of edification.  There is a subjective element to theology in that the goal is to help people.  All kinds of people are doing theology: youth minister, parent leading family devotions, Sunday school teacher telling Bible stories to children.

Theology has to be Bible centered, even when the academy in which most theologians are trained assumes the Bible is not the Word of God.  Theologians need to know Jesus and the needs of His people, besides knowing their academic field.  Sometimes theology can get in the way of the Bible, if we focus too much on what theologians of the past have said.


Spiritual Fathers

At a critical point in my spiritual formation, somewhere between 18-23 years old I think, the Lord led me to attend a Sunday School class with a handful of men who were all about three times my age.  It was a glorious experience I'll never forget.  I remember not talking much, just listening to the wisdom of these men, most of whom didn't have much formal education by today's standards.

One of them went to be with the Lord a couple days ago.

We spent very little time together outside of that class, but his demeanor and the way he taught showed me a love for the Lord and His Word that helped me tremendously.  I was in the grip of some judgmental immaturity at the time, in that cage stage of theology, with a sophomoric understanding of the Word.  Battling liberalism was the essence of Christian piety, I thought.  Not that that's a bad thing, but he showed me so much more - that mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13), that love for the Lord Jesus shows itself in many quiet ways.

"Though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me." (
1 Cor. 4:15-16)

May the Lord grant Wally Folkert rest and reward in Christ.  He was a spiritual father for me at just the right time - a channel God used to give me just what God knew I needed then.

Funny how I wasn't really aware of all this until I heard of his death and thought about my time with him.  It is SO important to connect with other believers who are different from us around God's Word!


Liberty Comes From Jesus

Micah describes how things will be in the end, with God’s blessing on His people.  Our Founding Fathers like George Washington picked up on this phrase, everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, to describe their desire in establishing this country.  It’s a lovely description of liberty and the absence of tyranny.  Political liberty IS one of the many good fruits that flow from gospel roots.  But so often we look to a government to give us liberty before we look to God for it.  Too often we seek liberty without first calling America to go up to Yahweh’s house and worship the God of Jacob through His Messiah, Jesus, His Son.  We want freedom, without Jesus, and there is none to be had.  Too often, the tyranny of Washington DC is more distressing to us than the tyranny of the devil.

God forgive and mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

Let us confess our impatience with God’s sovereign plan among the nations when we have our own hearts and homes to tend.

Every Sunday is the Christian’s independence day, when we remember Jesus coming alive from the tomb, showing us the life and liberty we have because of Him.  The Son of God has set you free!


Micah 4:1-4

          Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
    That the mountain of the LORD’s house
    Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
    And shall be exalted above the hills;
    And peoples shall flow to it.
    2      Many nations shall come and say,
    “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
    To the house of the God of Jacob;
    He will teach us His ways,
    And we shall walk in His paths.”
    For out of Zion the law shall go forth,
    And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
    3      He shall judge between many peoples,
    And rebuke strong nations afar off;
    They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    And their spears into pruning hooks;
    Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    Neither shall they learn war anymore.

    4      But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree,
    And no one shall make them afraid;
    For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.

Independence Day - Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father,  We have answered Your call to proclaim liberty throughout the land.  In Your Law you told Israel every 50 years to blow the trumpet and proclaim liberty.  Debts forgiven, slaves freed, the land at rest and restored to its owner.  Your Son came and proclaimed this acceptable year of Yours, and we rejoice in it.  You have set us free indeed in the work of Jesus, His teaching and healing, suffering and dying, His resurrection and rising to Your throne, His interceding and sending us the Spirit, His future return.  Lord, in this we are free!

Stand up, O God, be present now.  Let us sing and dance and shout for joy, for You set the prisoner free and bring him home.  You cast down the tyrant, that ancient serpent the devil.  And You will overthrow every one of his minions who oppress here on earth.  Lord, You have saved us from the pit, and we come here with music, young and old, asking you to cast down the proud oppressor, and bring to all the nations the liberty that comes only from Your Son our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Gracious Father, we draw near to You in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives and reigns with You, 1 God without beginning or end - Amen.


Review: Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God

Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God
Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I only read the third section, on evangelism, about 55 pages, in preparing for a sermon. The other sections address why we should evangelize if God is sovereign.

A solid and biblically grounded review of evangelism. It is not the same as conversion, but aims at it. We represent Christ as His ambassador, and speak truth about Him, inviting others to turn away from sin and trust Him as their Savior and Lord. We do this to glorify God and love our neighbor. I thought the way Packer addressed limited atonement in actual evangelism was excellent. (Hint: Calvinist Whitefield and John Wesley considered each other fellow evangelists.)

I read the first edition, written 50 years ago. There is some dated stuff on revival/evangelistic meetings. There may be an updated revision that addresses this.

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Review: Eusebius: The Church History-H: The Church History

Eusebius: The Church History-H: The Church History
Eusebius: The Church History-H: The Church History by Paul L. Maier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writing around 325, Eusebius chronicles the first 300 years or so after Christ's ascension. The focus is on the persecutions of believers, the bishops of various cities and especially Rome, the heresies that plagued the church, and the greatness of Constantine in relieving the church of her distress.

Eusebius makes several intriguing assertions, only the first of which is generally accepted.
- Peter was the main source for the gospel of Mark
- Paul wrote Hebrews
- 2 Peter is probably not canonical
- Matthew was written in Hebrew, originally

He shows too much reliance on the succession of bishops, even speaking of "the throne of James" as something of a relic.

He describes the offices of a church in one city thusly: "there can be only one bishop in a catholic church, in which... there are 46 presbyters, 7 deacons, 7 subdeacons, 42 acolytes, 52 exorcists, readers, and doorkeepers, and more than 1500 widows and people in distress" (pg 240). Definitely the bishop is more than an overseer/elder in one congregation, there.

He writes strongly against the Donatists, Marcion, Montanus, even an early form of Arianism. He is a bit too glowing of Origen, even describing his self-castration positively.

Overall, a helpful book, though with lots of chaff to sift through. It's main value is its early date, of course.

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