Last Christmas hymn

From Heaven above to earth I come
by Martin Luther

From Heaven above to earth I come
To bear good news to every home
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing

To you this night is born a Child
Of Mary, chosen virgin mild
This little Child, of lowly birth
Shall be the joy of all the earth.

This is the Christ, our God and Lord,
Who in all need shall aid afford
He will Himself your Savior be
From all your sins to set you free.

He will on you the gifts bestow
Prepared by God for all below;
That in His kingdom, bright and fair,
You may with us His glory share.

These are the tokens ye shall mark,
The swaddling clothes and manger dark;
There shall ye find the young Child laid,
By Whom the heav'ns and earth were made.

Now let us all, with gladsome cheer,
Follow the shepherds and draw near
To see this wondrous Gift of God,
Who hath His own dear Son bestowed.

Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
What is it in yon manger lies?
Who is this Child, so yougn and fair?
The blessed Christ Child lieth there!

Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through Whom the sinful world is blest!
Thou com'st to share my misery,
What thanks shall I return to Thee?

Ah, Lord, Who hast created all,
How weak art Thou, how poor and small,
That Thou dost choose Thine infant bed,
Where humble cattle lately fed!

Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
It yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cardle, Lord, for Thee.

For velvets soft and silken stuff
Thou hast but hay and straw so rough,
Whereon Thou, King, so rich and great,
As 'twere Thy heaven, art throned in state.

And thus, dear Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To make this truth quite plain to me,
That all the world's wealth, honor, might,
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.

My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tonue,
That sweetest ancient cradle song.

Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given,
While angels sing with pious mirth,
A glad new year to all the earth.


Joy to the world

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.


O Come All Ye Faithful

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God's holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.


Handel's Messiah

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6-7


Handel's Messiah

Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Hallelujah! - Revelation 11:15.


God rest ye merry, gentlemen

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

"Fear not then," said the Angel,
"Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan's power and might."
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy


At my knit's end

WARNING: HIGH KNITTING CONTENT TO FOLLOW. Any fiber-phobes please exit now.

I too have succumbed to the Christmas knit mania, deciding to inflict (ahem, gift) my knitting onto a loved one. Who and what shall remain undisclosed, as said gift has yet to be finished. Which brings me to...

LAST MINUTE KNIT-IT. This is a disease that we knitters contract. Intentions of pacing a large project out over time start out great, but there is an inner need to put it all off until the last minute. Maybe it's to prove something to ourselves, maybe it's because we spend too much time just fondling and adoring the fiber content of our yarn. So I find myself leaving on a road trip in less than 24 hours in the midst of picking up over 300 stitches. Then having to knit those quite a few times. And finish off the whole deal. Why do I keep telling myself that 15 hours in a minivan with 4 children is more than ample for such a feat? Wake up and smell the diapers!!

Another tell-tale sign of "last minute knit-it" is the overwhelming desire to CAST ON for another project while facing the impossibility of finishing the first project by the due date! Oh yeah, I have a serious form of this malady. Check out these babies! Makes my fingers twitch.
The best part: hundreds of tidy cables in hot pink yarn. I'm never wearing shoes again!

Angels from the realms of glory

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o'er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation's story,
Now proclaim Messiah's birth:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
Watching o'er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant Light;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great desire of nations,
Ye have seen His natal star;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

The Reformation Polka

by Robert Gebel

[Sung to the tune of "Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious"]
(Another great number from our talent show)

When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law;
While Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian! Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St. Peter's profits soared,
I wrote a little notice for the All Saints' Bull'tin board:
"You cannot purchase merits, for we're justified by grace!
Here's 95 more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!" Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

They loved my tracts, adored my wit, all were exempleror;
The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor.
"Are these your books? Do you recant?" King Charles did demand,
"I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!" Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation -
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Duke Frederick took the Wise approach, responding to my words,
By knighting "George" as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.
Use Brother Martin's model if the languages you seek,
Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek! Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation -
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Let's raise our steins and Concord Books while gathered in this place,
And spread the word that 'catholic' is spelled with lower case;
The Word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets his chance,
So come on, Katy, drop your lute, and join us in our dance! Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation -
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!


Advent origins

Some interesting history on the origin of advent here, under December 16's entry.

Ode to Winter

This is NOT part of the "Christmas song-a-day" routine I have going!
I sang this at our church talent show yesterday, and it went over fairly well, us being northerners and all. Besides, at 77 degress today, with our windows all open and short sleeves on, we actually do miss winter!

We've suffered through three months of summer
Endured it without a complaint,
Though we are true Minnesotans
And at 80 degrees we feel faint.
But now that the leaves are falling
Our spirits are on the rebound
Now we wait for that day in November
When we wake up to snow on the ground.

On that morning we'll put on our parkas
And enjoy that first winter day,
The tree limbs tstark and dramatic
The sky a cold dark gray.
The wind picks up and we smile,
We laugh at the hard freezing rain.
For we are northern people
And we're happier when we're in pain.

Some people complain about winter,
The fancy and the effete,
The people who play New Age music
The people who cook with mesquite.
The people who use the word "network"
And I know that it's not nice to say
But that is the beauty of winter
It keeps all those people away.

In summer you get the illusion
That life must be gentle and warm,
But wisdom comes to us in winter
When we have to stay home in the storm.
When the blizzard comes out of the northwest
You cannot do as you would do.
So winter is when nature teaches
That the world is not here to please you.

And so we look forward to winter,
And setting some new record lows.
There's nothing so good for a person
AS the sting of cold air in your nose.
We enjoy the long hours of darkness,
We enjoy being blasted and chilled.
The wonderful thing about suffering is:
It helps to relieve our guilt.

We're hardy midswestern people,
Not meant for the comfortable life.
We're bred to be stubborn and sturdy
And threive on sturggle and strife.
We're happy with forostbitten faces,
With ice frozen to our eyelash,
With stuff running out of our noses,
And freezing on our moustache.

We stand with our long jumper cables
Dressed in our snowmobile suits,
Wearing our scarves and our mittens
And gigantic double-lined boots.
In summer we're selfish and spoiled,
But winter is good for the heart.
No matter how cold it is, neighbor,
We'll come out and give you a start.

We'll come out and give you a start.
We'll come out and give you a start.
No matter how cold it is, neighbor,
We'll come out and give you a start.

Garrison Keillor
Prairie Home Companion

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around
And glory shone around

"Fear not," he said,
For mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind,
To you and all mankind."

"To you in David's
Town this day
Is born of David's line
The Savior who is Christ the Lord
And this shall be the sign
And this shall be the sign."

"The heavenly Babe
You there shall find
To human view displayed
And meanly wrapped
In swathing bands
And in a manger laid
And in a manger laid."

Thus spake the seraph,
And forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song
Addressed their joyful song

"All glory be to
God on high
And to the earth be peace;
Goodwill henceforth
From heaven to men
Begin and never cease
Begin and never cease!"

The First Noel

The First Noel, the Angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the East beyond them far
And to the earth it gave great light
And so it continued both day and night.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

And by the light of that same star
Three Wise men came from country far
To seek for a King was their intent
And to follow the star wherever it went.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

This star drew nigh to the northwest
O'er Bethlehem it took its rest
And there it did both Pause and stay
Right o'er the place where Jesus lay.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Then entered in those Wise men three
Full reverently upon their knee
And offered there in His presence
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Slowing down...

Blogging will be sporadic as we take a trip back to family for a couple weeks....

Rough-and-Ready Reformation History

Feel free to offer corrections (but not expansions!) This was an attempt to explain the origins of denominations in just a few short paragraphs. So it's obviously simplified and generalized...

At the Reformation (1520-1650) the Lutherans began in Germany, following Luther. The Reformed began primarily in France, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Scotland, following John Calvin. In the same European countries, some wanted a more radical break with Rome than Luther and Calvin were doing. These Anabaptists would rebaptize people coming out of the Catholic church (Luther/Calvin would not). Anabaptist is just Greek for "rebaptize." Some of the roots of the Baptists and Congregationalists come from these anabaptists, although they are NOT the same thing, in spite of the close name. (The Amish and Quakers are more direct descendants of the anabaptists.)

In England, the reformation was more political at first, so not much changed from Roman Catholic practice. They just kept doing basically the same thing as Rome, but declared independence from Roman authority. This was the Anglican Church - in America it is the Episcopalians. Others in England wanted to go in Calvin's direction, and usually had to separate from the state Anglican church to do it, as using the prayer book was enforced closely. (The prayer book had/has theology in it that is too Catholic for Protestants). From these Calvinist separatists came the Pilgrims that went to Holland, then to Plymouth on the Mayflower. Both these separatists and the Reformed on the European continent were presbyterian in government.

Later in England, John Wesley came along and stressed personal piety in reaction to the mostly spiritually dead state church. His Methodist Bible studies quickly became a movement in itself. Wesleyans, Congregationalists and Methodists come from this stream. He made many important points and fought for revival well. Argued that being a baptized member of a church doesn't guarantee salvation. An obvious point today, but controversial then, that's how corrupt the church was. On the other hand, Reformed folk tend to say that this pietist stream overreacts and makes our personal devotions into religious works in which they effectively (though they may not realize it or admit it) trust for their salvation, instead of trusting in Christ.

Pandora's Box of Music

A friend pointed me to a useful music website: www.pandora.com

Just type in "Silent Night," and you have your Christmas music for the season - all free! Or any other artist or song you like.

The catches are...
1. you need a high-speed internet connection. Dial-up won't work.
2. It can't play the exact song you ask for if it is licensed. It will get around to it, but picks song by style, randomly.

I found this perfect to start exploring the blues and jazz world...


We three kings

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to rein

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Pray'r and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav'n replies


A Great and Mighty Wonder

To the tune of "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming."

1. A great and mighty wonder
A full and holy cure!
The Virgin bears the Infant
With virgin-honour pure.

Repeat the hymn again:
"To God on high be glory
And peace on earth to men!"

2. The Word becomes Incarnate,
And yet remains on high:
And Cherubyn sing anthems
To shepherds from the sky.

3. And we with them triumphant
Repeat the hymn agen:,
“To God on high be glory,
And peace on earth to men.”

4. While thus they sing your Monarchy
Those bright angelick bands,
Rejoice, ye vales and mountains,
Ye oceans, clap your hands.

5. Since all he comes to ransom,
By all be he adored,
The Infant born in Beth’lem,
The Saviour and the Lord.

6. And1 idol forms shall perish,
And error shall decay,
And Christ shall wield his sceptre;
Our Lord and God for aye.


O Lord, How Shall I Meet Thee?

Hear the music

1. O Lord, how shall I meet Thee,
How welcome Thee aright?
Thy people long to greet Thee,
My Hope, my heart's Delight!
O kindle, Lord, most holy,
Thy lamp within my breast
To do in spirit lowly
All that may please Thee best.

2. Thy Zion strews before Thee
Green boughs and fairest palms,
And I, too, will adore Thee
With joyous songs and psalms.
My heart shall bloom forever
For Thee with praises new
And from Thy name shall never
Withhold the honor due.

3. I lay in fetters, groaning,
Thou com'st to set me free;
I stood, my shame bemoaning,
Thou com'st to honor me;
A glory Thou dost give me,
A treasure safe on high,
That will not fail or leave me
As earthly riches fly.

4. Love caused Thy incarnation,
Love brought Thee down to me;
Thy thirst for my salvation
Procured my liberty.
O love beyond all telling,
That led Thee to embrace,
In love all love excelling,
Our lost and fallen race!

5. Rejoice, then, ye sad-hearted,
Who sit in deepest gloom,
Who mourn o'er joys departed
And tremble at your doom.
Despair not, He is near you,
Yea, standing at the door,
Who best can help and cheer you
And bids you weep no more.

6. Ye need not toil nor languish
Nor ponder day and night
How in the midst of anguish
Ye draw Him by your might.
He comes, He comes all willing,
Moved by His love alone,
Your woes and troubles stilling;
For all to Him are known.

7. Sin's debt, that fearful burden,
Let not your souls distress;
Your guilt the Lord will pardon
And cover by His grace.
He comes, for men procuring
The peace of sin forgiven,
For all God's sons securing
Their heritage in heaven.

8. What though the foes be raging,
Heed not their craft and spite;
Your Lord, the battle waging,
Will scatter all their might.
He comes, a King most glorious,
And all His earthly foes
In vain His course victorious
Endeavor to oppose.

9. He comes to judge the nations,
A terror to His foes,
A Light of consolations
And blessed Hope to those
Who love the Lord's appearing.
O glorious Sun, now come,
Send forth Thy beams so cheering,
And guide us safely home.


Infant holy, Infant lowly

1. Infant holy, Infant lowly, for His bed a cattle stall;
Oxen lowing, little knowing, Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
Swift are winging Angels singing, Noels ringing, Tidings bringing:
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.

2. Flocks were sleeping, Shepherds keeping vigil till the morning new
Saw the glory, heard the story, tidings of a gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow, praises voicing, greet the morrow:
Christ the Babe was born for you.

Hear the music



Isaiah is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Here are excerpts of particularly moving or meaningful passages, with New Testament connections in parentheses.

Isaiah 24:7-8 (Rev 18:22)
The new wine fails, the vine languishes,
All the merry-hearted sigh.
The mirth of the tambourine ceases,
The noise of the jubilant ends,
The joy of the harp ceases.

They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing;
For the majesty of the Lord
They shall cry aloud from the sea.
Therefore glorify the Lord in the dawning light,
The name of the Lord God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea.
From the ends of the earth we have heard songs:
“Glory to the righteous!”

It shall come to pass in that day
That the Lord will punish on high the host of exalted ones,
And on the earth the kings of the earth. (Rev 6:15)
They will be gathered together,
As prisoners are gathered in the pit,
And will be shut up in the prison; (Rev 20:3)
After many days they will be punished.
Then the moon will be disgraced
And the sun ashamed;
For the Lord of hosts will reign
On Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
And before His elders, gloriously. (Rev 4:4)

And in this mountain
The Lord of hosts will make for all people
A feast of choice pieces,
A feast of wines on the lees, (John 2:1-10)
Of fat things full of marrow,
Of well-refined wines on the lees.
And He will destroy on this mountain
The surface of the covering cast over all people,
And the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever, (1 Corinthians 15:54)
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; (Rev 7:17; 20:14; 21:4)
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.
And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the Lord;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

Yes, in the way of Your judgments,
O Lord, we have waited for You;
The desire of our soul is for Your name
And for the remembrance of You.
With my soul I have desired You in the night,
Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early;
For when Your judgments are in the earth,
The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

26:17-19 - read the right way, this passage shows us Jesus gloriously
As a woman with child
Is in pain and cries out in her pangs, (Rev 12:2)
When she draws near the time of her delivery,
So have we been in Your sight, O Lord.
We have been with child, we have been in pain;
We have, as it were, brought forth wind;
We have not accomplished any deliverance in the earth,
Nor have the inhabitants of the world fallen.

Your dead shall live;
Together with my dead body they shall arise. (Ephesians 2:5-6)
Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; (Eph 5:14)
For your dew is like the dew of herbs,
And the earth shall cast out the dead.

In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, (Hebrews 4:12; Rev 1:16; 19:15)
Will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, (Rev 12:3,9)
Leviathan that twisted serpent;
And He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming

1. Lo, how a rose e'er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung!
From Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung.

It came, a floweret bright,
Amid the cold of winter
When half spent was the night

2. Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind
With Mary we behold it,
The Virgin mother kind

To show God's love aright,
She bore to us a Savior
When half spent was the night

3. The shepherds heard the story
Proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of Glory
Was born on earth this night.

To Bethlehem they sped
And in the manger they found him,
As angels heralds said.

4. This Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere;

True man, yet very God,
From Sin and death he saves us,
And lightens every load.


John Calvin, Presuppositionalist

"They who strive to build up firm faith in Scripture through disputation are doing things backwards.... The testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason. For God alone is a fit witness to Himself in his Word, so also the Word will not find acceptance in men's hearts before it is sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit. The same Spirit, therefore, who has spoken through the mouths of the prophets must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us that they faithfully proclaim what has been divinely commanded.... I speak of nothing other than what each believer experiences within himself."

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, pgs 79-80.
Quoted in Evangelicalism Divided, by Iain Murray, pg 157-8.

"Presuppositionalist? What's that?"

This position emphasizes that we cannot argue logically from a neutral position, proving conclusively the truth for an unbeliever. Without the Spirit's work, they will remain unbelievers (1 Corinthians 2:14). Of course, this doesn't mean we shouldn't provide arguments; just that we shouldn't expect them to go very far without God's softening the heart of the listener (1 Peter 3:15).

Another great advent hymn

Behold the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night,
and blest is he whose loins are girt, whose lamp is burning bright;
but woe to that dull servant, whom the Master shall surprise
with lamp untrimmed, unburning, and with slumber in his eyes.

Do thou, my soul, beware, beware, lest thou in sleep sink down,
lest thou be given o'er to death, and lose the golden crown;
but see that thou be sober, with a watchful eye, and thus
cry--"Holy, holy, holy God, have mercy upon us."

That day, the day of fear, shall come; my soul, slack not thy toil,
but light thy lamp, and feed it well, and make it bright with oil;
who knowest not how soon may sound the cry at eventide,
"Behold the Bridegroom comes! Arise! Go forth to meet the bride."

Beware, my soul; beware, beware, lest thou in slumber lie,
and, like the Five, remain without, and knock, and vainly cry;
but watch, and bear thy lamp undimmed, and Christ shall gird thee on
his own bright wedding-robe of light--the glory of the Son.


Christmas with Little Ones

Everyone seems to resent the busyness of the Christmas season - too many parties, cleaning, cards, baking, shopping, cleaning, church programs, feasting, did I mention cleaning?? One friend I recently talked with expressed a desire for PEACE for the season. A worthy goal, but how does one rest in peace with so much activity and little ones scurrying around?

I brainstormed a few ideas for a quick, quiet family time to be worked into each day. With so many "after 5:00" events, perhaps breakfast or another day-time would be best to share some quiet moments with the kids remembering the real meaning of Christmas. These may not all foster peace and quiet, but could become a new family tradition!

1. read a few pages of a book together over popcorn and apples (we are enjoying "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls)

2. sing a few Christmas carols together

3. add an ornament to the tree each day

4. Write a note to a relative or neighbor (or draw a picture for the really wee ones)

5. read the day's delivery of Christmas cards while munching homemade cookies (Oreos work, too) - remember to pray for the folks you received cards from, too

6. play a game together, like Pin the Nose on the Snowman or toss giant marshmallows into bowls (who says you can't play with your food?)

7. get a large Mary and Joseph and move them closer and closer to a Nativiy scene each day, arriving on Christmas

8. Use those fire-roasted chestnuts and a rubber band to "shoot" down paper cutouts of Santa and his reindeer (parental supervision suggested)

9. have an indoor snowball fight with styrofoam balls (good for snow-challenged regions)

10. work on memorizing Luke 2 as a family - see how many hand motions you can add to aid in remembering it.

Communion exhortation - 12/10/06

In Proverbs, lady wisdom spreads a banquet and calls us to partake. Speaking figuratively from Scripture, it is not only Jesus Himself who calls us to share the banquet, but His bride, the church. The Spirit and the Bride say “Come” (Revelation 22). As we share table fellowship with Him, we are also sharing table fellowship with her. Joined with her, who is joined with Christ, we grow in wisdom.

Women, you prepare many tables, over and over, for your husbands and children. And so our Lord prepares a table before us, week after week. Very often, when everyone sits down, they don’t realize all the work that went into the planning, shopping, cooking, table setting and more. And so we are tempted to ingratitude. And in the same way, we have little idea all that went into the preparation of this feast. We come as little children, unaware of all the preparation. Oh, we have some idea, from Scripture, enough to keep us thankful. From God putting up with the complaining Israelites with their manna, to Jesus crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” We get an inkling. Maybe it seems this way for you in some meals, but it is really true that Jesus went through hell to prepare this table for you.

And so respond in faith by lifting the cup of salvation, and calling on Yahweh’s name.

He has brought you to His banqueting table. He has prepared a place for you. His banner over you is love. The Spirit and the Bride say “Come.”

Communion exhortation - 12/3/06

When the king prepared a wedding banquet, but none came, He sought others to come, that there be no empty seats. Be sure you do not despise the feast prepared for you. Honor the host’s preparations. Don’t do so by taking a small piece and making yourself as small and inconspicuous as possible in a corner. Jesus Christ is here rejoicing over you (Isaiah 62:5). Chew on that for a while. Rejoice and glory in Him.

Are you worthy to be here? Not on your own merit. But your Lord has provided you with wedding clothes – Jesus Christ’s own obedience. Express your gratitude to Him by enjoying His presence, by enjoying the feast He has made ready.

Be sure to discern the body of which we partake. First, If you are deliberately out of fellowship with Christ, if you don’t really want to be here, then do not partake. Second, If you are out of fellowship with any member of His body gathered around you, realize that you have 7 days before you will be here again. Prepare for Christ’s arrival. If you are taking delight in the broken relationship, then do not come to this table. Third, If you are out of fellowship with any member of Christ’s Body, the Church universal, gathered elsewhere this morning, beware. Are you taking delight in that break, glad you don’t have to deal with THEM anymore? Then do not come.

Discern the Body in these 3 ways. But none of us is in perfect fellowship with God or our neighbor. If you are saddened by the sin you see remaining, if you truly desire closer fellowship with your Savior and His people, then come, regardless of the sin that tries to hinder you.

He has brought you to His banqueting table. He has prepared a place for you. His banner over you is love.

Communion exhortation - 11/26/06

In 1st century Galilee, when a young man and woman were considering marriage, they would meet with their fathers and a cup of wine would be poured. The young man would take it, hand it to the young lady and say, “This cup is a covenant with my blood.” The lady then took the cup, and had a choice. She could refuse to drink, and the relationship was over. If she took the cup and drank, she engaged herself to the man, and they would later be married.

And so Jesus, during the 3rd cup of the Passover ritual, catches His disciples off guard to say the least, when he holds out a cup of wine to them, and says the same thing a man would when proposing marriage: “This cup is a covenant in My blood.” The question before you is, will you renew this covenant? Most of you, this is not the first time your Bridegroom has given you the cup. But little has changed since the first time. We are still waiting for the wedding; still proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes.

Remember today, what He went through to spread His garment over you (Ruth 3:9), to take you to Himself. Remember with Thanksgiving.

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

Hear the music

1. In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

2. Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

3. Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

4. What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.


2 more meditations on the Incarnation

A wondrous mystery
A wondrous mystery comes to light today:
natures are transformed,
God has become man.
What he was before, he still remains,
though garbed in a nature that was never his:
Godhead undebased
and undivided.

To a Child Crying
To a child crying in the cold
come three kings to worhsip Him,
for this child can bestow
kingdoms, life, glory and heaven.

He is born in lowliness,
although He is a mighty king.
For by decree He comes to us
in humility and poverty.
For this child crying in the cold
come three kings.


Brightest and Best

Hail the blest morn, see the great Mediator
Down from the regions of glory descend.
Shepherds, go worship the Babe in the manger.
Lo, for a guard the bright angels attend.

Brightest and best of the Suns of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid!
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on His cradle the dew drops are shining.
Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall.
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining;
Maker and monarch and savior of all!

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favor secure.
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration.
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.


The Wexford Carol

Good people all, this Christmastime,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending His beloved Son.
O let us all both sing and pray
To God with love this Christmas Day;
In Bethlehem that Christmas morn
There was a blessed Messiah born.
The night before that happytide,
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark how all things came to pass.
From ev'ry door turned back, alas.
As long foretold, their refuge all
Was but an humble ox's stall.
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God's angels did appear,
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
"Prepare and go," the angels said,
"To Bethlehem, be not afraid;
For there you'll find, this happy morn,
A princely babe, sweet Jesus born."
With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the Babe to find
And as God's angel had foretold
They did our Savior Christ behold.
Within a manger He was laid,
And by His side the Virgin Maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife.


A Virgin Unspotted

This is easily my favorite new-to-me Christmas song this year...
Hear and see the music

1. A Virgin unspotted, the prophet foretold,
Should bring forth a Savior, which now we behold.
To be our Redeemer from death, hell and sin,
Which Adam's transgression had wrapped us in.

Aye and therefore be merry, set sorrow aside,
Christ Jesus, our Savior, was born on this tide.

2. At Bethlehem city in Jewry, it was
That Joseph and Mary together did pass,
Alt for to be taxed with many one more,
Great Cesar commanded the same should be so. Chorus

3. But when they had entered the city so fair,
A number of people so mighty was there,
That Joseph and Mary, whose substance was small,
Could find in the inn there no lodging at all. Chorus

4. Then were they constrained in a stable to lie,
Where horses and asses they used for to tie:
Their lodging so simple they took it no scorn,
But against the next morning our Saviour was born. Chorus

5. The King of all Kings to this world being brought,
Small store of fine linen to wrap Him was sought,
But when she had swaddled her young Son so sweet,
Within an ox manger she laid Him to sleep. Chorus

6. Then God sent an angel from Heaven so high,
To certain poor shepherds in fields where they lie,
And bade them no Longer in sorrow to stay,
Because that our Saviour was born on this day. Chorus

7. Then presently after the shepherds did spy
Vast numbers of Angels to stand in the sky;
They joyfully talk and sweetly did sing,
To God be all glory, our heavenly King. Chorus

8. To teach us humility all this was done,
And learn we from thence haughty pride for to shun:
A manger His cradle who came from above,
The great God of mercy, of peace, and of love. Chorus

On Grievances

by Douglas Wilson, 11/15/06

"There are two sins related to this that we must overcome before we can obey the Lord here. The first is the idea, just mentioned, that we have a right to our disagreements so long as they are amicably held. Of course, it is better to be amicable than nasty, but this is still a means to the end. The end is agreement, not agreeable disagreement. An important means to like-mindedness is amicable disagreement, but it must never be mistaken for the end.

The second sin we must fight is the sin of the grievance. A grievance is never mere disagreement. A grievance always has an edge; a grievance is personal; a grievance resents; a grievance imputes motives; a grievance is suspicious; a grievance is an insult to the love of God in Christ."

Sing Christmas Songs!

Everyone, go here and get in the Spirit by singing some songs for the season!
It's all free piano music, with lyrics, and played in audio for you, if you want.
I'm ecstatic!


Three Ships

I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, in the morning.

And who was in those ships all three
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
And who was in those ships all three
On Christmas Day, in the morning?

Twas Joseph and his Fair Ladye,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.
Twas Joseph and his Fair Ladye,
On Christmas Day, in the morning.

O, he did whistle and she did sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.
O, he did whistle and she did sing,
On Christmas Day, in the morning.

Saint Michael was the steeres-man,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.
Saint Michael was the steeres-man,
On Christmas Day, in the morning.

Pray whither sailed those ships all three?
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.
Pray whither sailed those ships all three?
On Christmas Day, in the morning.

O, they sailed unto Bethlehem
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.
O, they sailed unto Bethlehem
On Christmas Day, in the morning.

And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.
And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day, in the morning.


With Sweet Jubilation

With Sweet Jubilation
now sing and be joyful!
Our heart's delight lies
in a manger,
and shines like the sun
in His mother's lap.
He is our Alpha and Omega.

O infant Jesus,
I yearn for You always!
Give comfort to me, my heart, O best of boys;
through all of your goodness,
O Prince of Glory,
draw me after you!

O love of the Father!
O mercy of the Son!
We would remain as the lost
through our sins;
but He has gained for us
the joys of Heaven;
Oh! there we would remain!


Masters in This Hall

1. Masters in this Hall,
Hear ye news to-day
Brought from over sea,
And ever I you pray:

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!
Nowell, sing we clear!
Holpen are all folk on earth,
Born is God's son so dear:
Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!
Nowell, sing we loud!
God to-day hath poor folk raised
And cast a-down the proud.

2. Going o'er the hills,
Through the milk-white snow,
Heard I ewes bleat
While the wind did blow: Chorus

3. Shepherds many an one
Sat among the sheep,
No man spake more word
Than they had been asleep: Chorus

4. Quoth I, "Fellows mine,
Why this guise sit ye?
Making but dull cheer,
Shepherds though ye be? Chorus

5. "Shepherds should of right
Leap and dance and sing,
Thus to see ye sit,
Is a right strange thing": Chorus

6. Quoth these fellows then,
"To Bethlem town we go,
To see a mighty lord
Lie in manger low": Chorus

7. "How name ye this lord,
Shepherds?' then said I,
"Very God," they said,
"Come from Heaven high": Chorus

8. Then to Bethlem town
We went two and two,
And in a sorry place
Heard the oxen low: Chorus

9. Therein did we see
A sweet and goodly may
And a fair old man,
Upon the straw she lay: Chorus

10. And a little child
On her arm had she,
"Wot ye who this is?"
Said the hinds to me: Chorus

11. Ox and ass him know,
Kneeling on their knee,
Wondrous joy had I
This little babe to see: Chorus

12. This is Christ the Lord,
Masters be ye glad!
Christmas is come in,
And no folk should be sad: Chorus


The Lord's Supper

Tabletalk's November issue, pg 15:

"The traditional Reformed view of the Lord's Supper.... differs markedly from memorialism in claiming that Christ is indeed present in His sSUpper. More is involved than a remembrance on the part of the participants....

"The eating of drinking [of Christ, referred to in John 6] is not physical but is nonetheless real and true. Christ does not come down to us in His body and bolood; rather we are lifeted up to Him by the Holy Spirit....

"There is both a real, objective communion in the Lord's Supper and, at the same time, the condition of those who receive it is not incidental or superfluous. We feed on Christ through faith, just as He taught. Just as we need a mouth to receive bread and wine, so we need faith to receive Christ. As Robert Bruce put it, 'As soon as you receive the bread in your mouth (if you are a faithful man or woman) you receive the body of Christ in your soul, and that by faith' (They Mystery of the Lord's Supper, 44)."

On a personal note, it is a tremendous blessing to be partaking of the Supper every week in worship...

Lord of the Dance

Not exactly Christmas, except the first verse, but great lyrics, nonetheless.
Hear the music

I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
But they would not dance and they would not follow me;
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;
They came to me and the dance went on.

I danced on the sabbath when I cured the lame,
The holy people said it was a shame;
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high;
And they left me there on a cross to die.

I danced on a Friday and the sky turned black;
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back;
They buried my body and they thought I’d gone,
But I am the dance and I still go on.

They cut me down and I leapt up high,
I am the life that’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.


The Holly and the Ivy

Hear music

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown

O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.

The holly and the ivy
Now both are full well grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.


Sweet Jesus

An old German carol, harmonized by Bach
Hear it sung (may take a minute)

O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild,
The Father's will done by a child;
From heaven you came down to the earth,
and gave yourself a human birth
O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild.

O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild,
You turned your Father's anger wild;
You paid the debt of all our race,
bestowed on us your Father's grace,
O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild.

O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild,
Love's beauty found in this small child;
Inspire us with your love's bright flame,
So we all may love you the same,
O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild.


As I Lay Upon a Night

Alma redemptoris mater ("Nourishing mother of the Redeemer")
Has been attributed to John Dunstable (c. 1390-1453)

Alternate Title: As I Lay Upon A Night

(Don't worry; I'm not going Catholic on you. I'm screening carefully for Mary-worship. This might be a little close to the edge for some, though...)
(Also, note the footnotes in this one to explain the middle English.)

1. As I lay upon a night,
my thought was on a burd(1) so bright
that men clepn(2) Mary, full of might,
redemptoris mater.

2. To her came Gabriel with light
And said: Hail be thou, blissful wight!3
To ben cleped4 now art thou dight5
redemptoris mater.

3. At that word that lady bright
Anon6 conceived God full of might;
Then men wist7 well that she hight8
redemptoris mater.

4. When Jesu on the rood9 was pight,10
Mary was doleful of that sight
Till she see him rise upright,
redemptoris mater.

5. Jesu that sittest in heaven light,
Grant us to comen beforn thy sight
With that burde that is so bright,
redemptoris mater.

1. burd = maiden
2. clepn = call
3. wight = person
4. cleped = called
5. dight = appointed
6. anon = straightway
7. wist = knew
8. hight = named
9. rood = cross or crucifix
10. pight = pitched


Going with the flow

"Some, I dare say, will object that I am asking what is unreasonable; that youth is not the time of life when people ought to be grave and thoughtful. I answer, there is little danger of their being too much so in the present day. Foolish talking and kidding, and joking, and excessive amusement, are only too common. I don't argue the fact that there is a time for all things; but to be always flippant and joking is anything but wise. What does the wisest of men say--"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure" (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4)....

"Few seem to have any opinions of their own, or to think for themselves. Like dead fish, they go with the stream and tide: what others think is right, they think is right; and what others call wrong, they call wrong too. There are not many original thinkers in the world. Most men are like sheep, they follow a leader. If it was the fashion of the day to be Roman Catholics, they would be Roman Catholics, if it was to be Islamic, they would be Islamic. They dread the idea of going against the current of the times. In a word, the opinion of the day becomes their reli gion, their creed, their Bible, and their God....

"Learn to say "No!" Don't let the fear of not seeming good-natured make you unable to do it. When sinners entice you, be able to say decidedly, "I will not give in to them" (Proverbs 1:10).... Never be ashamed of letting men see that you want to go to heaven..."

Section 2, paragraphs 3 and 5.

Sleepers, Awake!

words by Philipp Nicolai, 1599
arr. and harm. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Based on Matthew 25:1-13

This one fits in nicely with elements of our worship service last Sunday and this coming Sunday...

Hear the tune

1. "Sleepers, wake!" the watch cry pealeth,
while slumber deep each eyelid sealeth:
Awake, Jerusalem, awake!
Midnight's solemn hour is tolling,
and seraph-notes are onward rolling;
They call on us our part to take.
Come forth, ye virgins wise:
the Bridegroom comes, arise!
Each lamp be bright
with ready light
to grace the marriage feast tonight.

2. Zion hears the voice that singeth
with sudden joy her glad heart springeth,
at once she wakes, she stands arrayed:
her Light is come, her Star ascending,
lo, girt with truth, with mercy blending,
her Bridegroom there, so long delayed.
All hail! God's glorious Son,
all hail! our joy and crown,
The joyful call
we answer all,
and follow to the bridal hall.

3. Praise to him who goes before us!
Let men and angels join in chorus,
let harp and cymbal add their sound.
Twelve the gates, a pearl each portal:
we haste to join the choir immortal
within the Holy City's bound.
Ear ne'er heard aught like this,
nor heart conceived such bliss.
We raise the song,
we swell the throng,
to praise thee ages all along.


Jesus not for the Regulative Principle

"We are told, that our Lord was at Jerusalem at the feast of the dedication [John 10:22]... for the commemoration of the restoration of the temple and altar, after its profanation by Antiochus. Now this was certainly a mere human institution, and had no divine image, had no divine superscription upon it [God hadn't commanded in Scripture that this feast must be celebrated]; and yet I do not find that our blessed Lord and Master preached against it; I do not find that he spent his time about this; his heart was too big with superior things; and I believe when we, like him, are filled with the Holy Ghost, we shall not entertain our audiences with disputes about rites and ceremonies, but shall treat upon the essentials of the gospel..."

George Whitefield, sermon on John 10:27-28
Select Sermons, pg 184.

(If the title confuses you, the Regulative Principle is a position held by some conservative Christians, that we should only do in worship what the Scripture has commanded, not adding our own extras.)

On the propriety of Christmas trees

Somebody asked, and this was my answer:

Personally I don't see much of a 2nd commandment connection. That commandment forbids carving images/statues/idols to bow down to, as they represent (or are claimed to BE) some other god. Now, this can happen functionally with icons in Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox settings, but I'm doubting there is a danger of us inadvertently worshiping or praying to our Christmas trees ("O Christmas Tree" song, excluded - watch out for that one!).

This relates more to general cultural practice, I'd say. Can we continue a religiously ambiguous practice like Christmas trees, as a way of celebrating Christ's Incaration? I would say we can. Does the tree have pagan roots? Probably. Can we redeem the practice? Certainly. We don't have a tree this year, as we'll be gone over Christmas, but we put up our outdoor lights as a physical expression of Isaiah 9:1-2; 60:1-3; and Matt 4:15-16. The idea is to tangibly convey joy and celebration over the Light coming to our dark world. If there is a better way to do that than the trees, greenery and lights, then go for it. But history has a way of providing the means of conveying joy in practices handed down to us. There is no inherent need to fight that, unless superstition or false teaching has crept in.

Do we need to reject those means of celebration (holly, ivy, trees, etc.) in order to stay pure from the world's defilement? Not necessarily. Just don't sing "O Christmas Tree" unless you can do so giving all glory to God. And watch out for overly sentimental interpretations of our Lord's Nativity that deny the conflict into which He was born.

The world does creep in, but we need to filter, not pull the plug on the whole computer...

Shepherds! Shake off your drowsy sleep

1. Shepherds! Shake off your drowsy sleep,
Rise and leave your silly sheep;
Angels from heaven loud are singing; [1]
Tidings of great joy are bringing.

Shepherds! The chorus come and swell!
Sing Noel! Sing Noel!

2. Hark? Even now the bells ring round,
Listen to their merry sound;
Hark! How the birds new songs are making
As if the winter's chains were breaking.

3. See how the flowers all burst anew,
Thinking snow is summer dew;
See how the stars afresh are glowing,
All their brightest beams bestowing.

4. Cometh at length the age of peace,
Strife and sorrow now shall cease;
Prophets foretold the wondrous story
Of this Heaven-born Prince of Glory.

5. Shepherds! Then up and quick away,
Seek the Babe ere break of day;
He is the hope of every nation,
All in Him shall find salvation.

French carol - hear the tune


Advent and Nativity songs

This season of remembering our Lord's Incarnation, I will be posting a song a day, related to the season. There are so many rich verses - where to start?

I Wonder as I Wander

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on'ry people like you and like I...
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God's heaven a star's light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God's angels in heav'n for to sing,
He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King.

Hear the tune in MIDI


Reading log

I. Great article in World's Nov 25 issue on evangelical feminism (believing women in ministry is okay; downplaying male headship) leading to theological liberalism. Actually, author Wayne Grudem considers the former to be the first step on the road to the latter, as it places experience over Scripture (how can you deny her obvious gift?). He observes a consistent pattern of denominations sliding into liberalism:

1. Abandoning Biblical inerrancy
2. Endorsing the ordination of women as pastors
3. Abandoning the Bible's teaching on male headship in marriage
4. Excluding clergy who are opposed to women's ordination.
5. Approving homosexual conduct asw morally valid in some cases
6. Approving homosexual ordination

Well, my old denomination, the RCA mostly has done 1-3, haven't gotten 4 accomplished yet, though they've tried, and are currently seeking to accomplish #5. They ran into a snare when they tried to do 5 and 6 at the same time. Too much too fast for the "conservatives" (with tongue firmly in my cheek).

Thank the Lord for faithful men (see page 5 of the link), with whom I've recently associated in place of that craziness.

II. Darfur/Sudan article in the same World issue. There are serious issues here. China sells Sudan the fighter jets and helicopters that provide air cover for the Islamic-motivated raiding parties to do the pillaging of southern/Christian villages, while the US pulls out economically, and is isolated diplomatically. The government claims it's now trying to disarm the raiding parties, but they were still going on Nov 6 when the article was written. Gov't also claims to be providing development to its refugees (Christians in villages fleeing raids), but World Vision and UNICEF can't seem to get the gov't's help in getting ITS basic work done. A very sad situation.

III. A great piece on the role of government in higher education. There's a nice part about all the major technological advances (transistors, moon landing, etc.) being done BEFORE the government got involved or could have an effect on education.


Post-Thanksgiving Thanklessness

The ads are everywhere, luring us to be the first in line Friday morning to get the big deal. And what a big deal it is. Stores opening at pre-dawn hours with hundreds of shoppers pressing against the glass, possibly trampling each other. We have outlets near our home that will be opening at MIDNIGHT - barely time for your turkey to settle before going off to armwrestle for the latest holiday fad gadget that's 40% off.

Let's think about this: we spend an entire day with friends and family, off from work, so that we can thank God for the blessings he has given us. Then, the very next day, armed with wish lists, coupons, and high-traction sneakers, we do all we can to get more. Oh, but it's not for ourselves, it's for our loved ones. We are so thankful for our loved ones we'll buy them the very best...from Wal-Mart....at the cheapest price we can fanaggle. I'm so thankful for my family that I'll buy them the cheapest thing I can find to satisfy a line item on their wish list.

This holiday season, I challenge all of us to pause before whipping out the Visa for that impulse gift that so-and-so will "just love" (for two seconds then re-gift next year). It's when we really take the time to get to know eachother that we can best show our love and appreciation in tangible ways. And you probably will save yourself a fist fight in aisle 14 in the process. Unless of course, a square punch in the face is what you need most to wake you up from the shopping madness!

Time's winged chariot...

An evocative poem of the day on the ipod the other day. A bit long to post, but do check out just what the English language can do...

To His Coy Mistress
by Andrew Marvell


Communion Exhortation

Once a policeman went to an elementary school to take a report on some vandalism there. While he stood in the hallway, a little girl came up to him and said, “My mother told me to call the police whenever I need help, is that right?” Policeman said, “That’s right.” She stuck her foot out and said, “In that case, would you tie my shoe?” When the policeman got back to his car, where his canine unit dog was in the back seat, a little boy ran up and said, is that a dog?” “It sure is,” said the policeman. The boy thought for a minute and asked, “What did he do wrong?”
How do you respond in God’s presence? It is appropriate early on, to ask, What did I do? And repent of it. But then later, in deeper communion, we can ask God for help.

Israel was not ready to receive the presence of the living God. Are you? We have already been in God’s presence in worship for the last hour, but we have been summoned, we have confessed, and we have been set apart, all in order to commune and then be commissioned. The consecration section is when we prepare and rearrange our lives to be in God’s presence. What good does it do to prepare and cook the meal, if you don’t eat it?

In the same way, dear people, we now enjoy full fellowship, as full as possible in this life, full fellowship with God in this meal, with all sin straightened out behind us. Perhaps something came up in the sermon that you need to take care of. But the main direction of this table is not lamentation and repentance; it is fellowship – partaking. Our sinful selves died with Christ on the cross. We live and abide with Christ now. We look forward to fuller fellowship when we drink of the fruit of the vine with Him in glory.

Be careful not to get stuck on repentance. It is quite rude to go to someone’s home for dinner, and continue to repeat throughout the night, “I don’t know why you would invite me. I don’t deserve to be here.” No. God gives you permission to revel in His grace. Enjoy God’s presence. We are not engaging in a weekly funeral service to remember Good Friday with somber long faces. This meal is a feast – a foretaste of a coming feast of fellowship.

Share your life with Christ and with His Body, as it is gathered with you – all around you - today. Fellowship not only with Christ in the inner portions of your soul, face scrunched up and eyes closed. Fellowship also with the body of Christ, smiling eyes wide open in wonder that you are included among this gathering of Christ’s people.


Reformed first, or catholic first?

My side of a conversation with a pastor friend, discussing doctrinal differences being less important than differences between the church and world:

I do appreciate the dynamic of being more united as believers of different backgrounds with a secular culture around us. I think "Mere Christianity" is much needed. I think church affiliation is only important as far as it identifies how you interpret the Bible, which it does less and less today. I am a strong proponent of a truly catholic (little-c, or universal) church, but the catch is that everyone has different ideas for how to proceed! Some say pray for revival, others say get the baptism of the Spirit, others say know more theology, others say involvement in church, others say the key is how the church is set up... all these different emphases come out of a way of reading Scripture which can't be underestimated.

The group I'm with would say that husbands and fathers need to repent of abdicating leadership of their families, and need to start leading their families into worship and godliness. That believers must restore Lord's Day worship as central to life, and consider it a true delight. That we must live out in our relationships what we know in our heads. And that the way we live IS our theology - no matter how heretical, no matter the profession of our lips.

Great last quotes

On authority to influence:
"The captain derives his authority from the major... the general from the commander-in-chief, the president of the United States, the president from the government, and the government from God.... That authority may be called original which is not derived from any other man, but directly from God. Thus many would say that the authroity fo the poeple of the United States to govern themselves is original authority. But we Calvinists, who wdo not believe in absolute popular sovereignty, would correct this and cliam original authroity for the government.... again, the authroity of the parents over their children is original It is not derived from the church, nor from society, nor from the state" (Berkhof, pg 104).

Agnostics imposing their religion in the public square today...
"Our opponents maintain not only that they do not know anything about the nature of reality, but also that nobody else can possibly know anything about it" (Van Til, pg 129).

The need to influence our children from all angles:
"Our educational ideals and those of our opponents are poles apart. How impossible, then, for us to inculcate our ideals in any satisfactory way unless we have the educational influence all to ourselves" (Van Til, pg 130).


Arkansas Sam, the Beast

On Walmart sponsoring homosexual events...

Part of the homosexual agenda is to win the biggest companies in the world, since the rest follow the biggest, when it comes to endorsement and benefits policies. So they are targeting Walmart and winning. The result will be that in a decade or so almost all companies will be treating homosexually active couples as legitimately married people. If they can't win politically/legally, they will try industrial policy. Walmart's decision is an amorally, economic one, I'm sure, neither flagrant nor stupid. Their idol is not homosexuality but money.

Somebody mentioned the mark of the beast in Revelation. This is more relevant than you may realize. The original context of this was the shopping mall and stock exchange of Ephesus. To get into the market, you had to sprinkle incense to (i.e., worship) Caesar. Then you were given a ticket (mark) to show you had a right to be in the market. The point: society's expectations of everyone's priorities kept the early Christians excluded from society - they had to find a way to meet most of their needs from each other. They literally had to drop out of society sometimes, in order to keep from idolatry.

Walmart only asks for *money* to get into their stores so far :) (Everyone take out your Sam's card and repeat: "This is NOT the mark of the beast.") There are no altars there. Regardless of how they use their money, it is not immoral to buy something at Walmart at this point. If there WERE an altar to worship at to get in, your presence inside would be immoral without spending anything. Use of money is not the issue. The dollars in your wallet/purse right now were maybe handled by someone buying drugs, sex, or something less-sensationally immoral. Sin is not physically contagious, though it should repulse us on a gut level.

At the same time, we would do well to support places we know are moral, or at least places where we aren't aware of supporting immorality.

And we should be preparing ourselves to sacrifice economically, in order to stay faithful to the true God. The time may come when the culture demands our personal lip-service type of worship to their gods (like sprinkling incense on an altar). It would likely look like signing a contract these days, and refer to the "good of the people." Then we need to be willing to give up the market on which we are so dependent.

As far as food sacrificed to idols: there are two ways for someone to inform you of this. One is a weaker brother, who says, This steak was consecrated to Athena; how can you buy and eat it? This context seems to be in 1 Corinthians 8. To which Paul says, don't eat it, so as not to sear the weaker brothers' conscience. The second way is for an unbeliever to flagrantly brag to you: "THIS is ATHENA'S steak." This context seems to be in 1 Cor 10:27-28, to which again Paul says, don't eat it, so as not to give the impression that you endorse Athena. This latter pushes me toward not shopping at Walmart.

But notice that the difference is our knowledge (1 Cor 8:6-7; 10:27-28) and the glory we give (1 Cor 10:31). Believe it or not, Paul is endorsing a "don't ask, don't tell" policy here. He wants Christians to be as actively engaged in the marketplace as possible, without compromising their integrity. One way to accomplish this is by not bringing up whether a temple devoted this particular steak to an idol's glory. If you don't know, then YOU can give glory for it to the true God. If someone beats you to the punch and says, "This steak was cooked for Dagon's glory," then you need to sit it out. But notice that Paul would rather have us be proactive in the public square, glorifying God, than reactive - boycotting places for their idolatry. He doesn't want us giving ground to idols, when they claim part of creation as "theirs." Technically we are not morally constrained by others from partaking of anything in creation which God made for us to enjoy, within His law. Satan can't come in and say "Walmart's mine," and keep us out. Neither can the homosexuals.

The issue is who we give glory to, intentionally or otherwise. And the homosexual lobby is CERTAINLY pushing for society to give glory to homosexual desire and behavior these days. The answer isn't to retreat wherever they are active, but to love them, persuade them of the harm they do to themselves, and point them to a loving Father who made them for something better.

1. When you go out to eat at a restaurant, be sure to give thanks to God together out loud. Give God the glory before others. Not in a loud, "look at us" way. But also not in a cowering, "quiet so no one can hear" way.

2. If your conscience says to not go to Walmart, don't go. Paul would describe you as a weaker brother, but this doesn't make you an inferior Christian. For balance with your "stronger" brothers, read 1 Cor 8:4-6; Romans 14:14, 20, 22, remember it is God's Word, and remember that we are not called to be more "righteous" (using our own standards) than God commands. But if you aren't convinced in your conscience that Walmart is a moral option, then it is a sin for you to go, even if you know in your head it's alright. As you go elsewhere and see other Christians with Walmart bags in their homes, submit to your elders' judgment if they don't censure members for going to Walmart. There are times to engage the culture, even if it appears to others you are compromising. Just don't use "engage the culture" as a cloak to save a few bucks if there are better places to shop. (Engaging the culture by shopping at Walmart would be supporting God-glorifying products and avoiding sinful ones they sell - voting with your dollars).

3. DON'T go researching what every company you patronize is supporting. Let God deal with their idolatry. He has given you the ability to receive the fruit of their idolatry and transform it into a means of glorifying Him.


Communion exhortation

Paul speaks of tables in 1 Corinthians 10. We return often to our tables at home for nourishment at breakfast, dinner and supper, and it is the same with the Lord’s Supper. Just as our bodies require constant sustenance, dependent on God, so our souls require constant sustenance, dependent on God. And one normal way God has given us for this feeding is at this Table. And so today we begin eating at this Table every Lord’s Day, when we gather for worship, to keep us satisfied in the abundant grace of Christ. This is a great protection against the temptation to make up idols to meet our needs at other tables.

Paul speaks of two tables, maybe more. The table of the Lord, and the table of demons. And we cannot continue coming to both tables. The Philistines figure [1 Samuel 5], well the more tables the better, the more gods, the more we’re hedging our bets. But God allows none of this. We must put our trust in Him alone. Only His table sustains us, and we may not go around looking for satisfaction elsewhere. God commanded Israel in Deuteronomy 14 to bring their offerings to Him, and then eat and be satisfied. The Psalmist in 63:5 says His soul “shall be satisfied as with fat and abundance.” And so, in the way we push back the chair from a Thanksgiving feast with a contented sigh, may our souls be deeply satisfied at the Table of our Lord Jesus Christ. Your needs and desires are met by partaking of the body and blood of Jesus.


Paternal love

It took me awhile (and help from Sara) to figure out that the end refers to Joseph and Mary's flight to Egypt...

A Prayer For My Son
by William Butler Yeats.

Bid a strong ghost stand at the head
That my Michael may sleep sound,
Nor cry, nor turn in the bed
Till his morning meal come round;
And may departing twilight keep
All dread afar till morning's back.
That his mother may not lack
Her fill of sleep.
Bid the ghost have sword in fist:
Some there are, for I avow
Such devilish things exist,
Who have planned his murder, for they know
Of some most haughty deed or thought
That waits upon his future days,
And would through hatred of the bays
Bring that to nought.
Though You can fashion everything
From nothing every day, and teach
The morning stars to sing,
You have lacked articulate speech
To tell Your simplest want, and known,
Wailing upon a woman's knee,
All of that worst ignominy
Of flesh and bone;
And when through all the town there ran
The servants of Your enemy,
A woman and a man,
Unless the Holy Writings lie,
Hurried through the smooth and rough
And through the fertile and waste,
protecting, till the danger past,
With human love.


Classic Van Til Pre-supposition-alism

"We do not expect men to be reasonable unless God has once more made them so. But this does not vitiate the usefulness of reasoning with unreasonable men. Such reasoning strengthens our faith, and (who knows?) may be used by the Spirit to make men reasonable."
Page 57

"But the charge will finally come that I accept all this [the authority of Christ] because the Bible tells me.... How then shall I escape the charge of circle reasoning...? The answer is that I shall in no wise seek to escape it but boldly affirm it as the only alternative to self-destruction.... Circular reasoning is the most reasonable form of reasoning for a finite personality. No other form of reasoning is possible."
Page 61

Beach day

Just to make all our Michigan friends jealous, we went to the beach today (Virginia Beach, right around 47th Street), in low-70s weather. We got warm in our short sleeves and jeans. Sara visited some yarn shops - and got a stellar buy 1 get 1 free deal. We ingested our best lunch ever, at a local Italian joint (fettucine alfredo to die for!). And the kids got to pet crabs and turtles at the outstanding Virginia Beach aquarium, thanks to a tip from a friend. The only downers were no bookstores, and a traffic delay going through the tunnel on the way back up highway 64 (probably quite normal for the local commuters). Sara had her first experience knitting underwater (in the tunnel; no direct water contact). Zach had his first ocean-view feeding, on the sand.

And I even got in a teaching moment with Grace and Owen, explaining that the roaring of the waves (they were pretty big) was like the voice of God (Rev 1:15). This was interesting, as I explained it first to Owen, then again to Grace when she walked up, and I had Owen fill in the blanks, repeating it to her. Where I had said the many waters were like God's voice, Owen said it was like Jesus. He made that connection sub-consciously, on his own! Living up to his (John) Owen name already. What a prodigy theologian!


Too heavy!!? Take this...

A Prayer For My Daughter
by William Butler Yeats.

Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle
But Gregory's wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind.
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.
I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And-under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come,
Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.
May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.
Helen being chosen found life flat and dull
And later had much trouble from a fool,
While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray,
Being fatherless could have her way
Yet chose a bandy-legged smith for man.
It's certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of plenty is undone.
In courtesy I'd have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful;
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty's very self, has charm made wise.
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.

Politics and Theocracy

Should Christians actively seek to dominate public office?

The central focus of Reformation should be the Church and its discipling of men and families. This will have the salt-light affect in every vocation the men are called to, politics included. As the Church's discipleship extends its influence, men will come forward as viable candidates in their communities for office (Deut 18:21 directly applies). The world around may balk at their faith in Christ, but won't be able to gainsay the service they provide the community in office. Because of their integrity, they will change the system, instead of the system corrupting them. (This could take several generations from now to trickle up to national offices. Most often now, one's integrity gets one booted or squeezed out. I think starting local is key.)

Politics is a mirror reflecting society's values. We shouldn't try to change society's values through politics, like drawing a mustache on your reflection in the mirror. We should stay groomed ourselves, and then keep the mirror clean, too. Don't ignore politics as inherently corrupt or useless. Be involved to take dominion of the earth. But know that politics reflects and (at most) preserves values, it doesn't advance or create them. (This isn't to say politics is not a worthwhile vocation; it certainly is!) And also remember that we are pilgrims waiting to inherit another city (Rev 21:2). God has established that other city, and it is in conflict with the "city of man." A great resource to unpack this idea is Peter Leithart's "Against Christianity." Politically provocative, but helpful.

Should Christian theocracy be the goal of US Christians?

"A theocracy is a system of government where the religious authorities govern, either directly or through the subjection of the state to the church."

I *think* I'd agree with rejecting this definition of theocracy. Though I have trouble finding the mandate to separate civil and religious authority in Scripture. I see that that is how it was with Samuel/Saul, Israel's priests/kings, but at the points of Israel's greatest faithfulness the offices are melded: David wears the linen of the priest (1 Chronicles 15:27), as Samuel did for a time. Moses and the elders had both civil and religious authority under Torah. Even Romans 13 can be read either way - the one who bears the sword might also bear the Word without violating the passage's meaning. I believe the history of the West has led us to this practice more than Scripture. Which doesn't make it wrong, just not required by Scripture. Someone give me a clear argument that Scripture *requires* the separation of civil and religious authorities. I'm certainly open to it. I agree the separation is a legitimate interpretation of Scripture (WCF chapter 23), but am not sure it is the only legit one. This would look something like the Ayatollahs, but substitute grace for the legalism, and discipleship for the cruel punishments. The religious leaders have so much influence on the community (political life) that civil magistrates need to follow them. There can be varying degrees of this. IF I thought this was a good idea (not sure myself yet), I'd probably argue for an "indirect theocracy," where there is still a distinction between civil and religious. The civil magistrate can legally do whatever he wants, but since the Church has the influence in society it is supposed to (!), if the state officeholder starts going haywire, he'll be out of office next month.


Christian education essential

Louis Berkhof wrote this in 1953, while president of Calvin Seminary:

"We must take that which is most fundamental in the life of the child into consideration in the whole of his education.... [it is foolish to say] that the school is concerned only with the head and should limit itself to secular eduction, while the home and the church make provision for the heart by addign religious education. We should never forgget that the eucation which the child receives in the school, though divorced from religion, is nevertheless an education of the entire child and is bound to make a deep impression on the heart....

"In view of the fact that the influence of the Christian home is waning, and that the church can devote only a couple of hours a week to the religious training of its youth, the school is easily the most important educational agency of the present. Is it not the height of folly even from a purely educational point of view to let the most important agency in education ignore that which is most essential and most fundamental in the life of the child?"

Pages 32-33

In it up to my elbows

After a few comments that the presence of the Mrs. has been missed on the blog lately, I thought I better write again. Something to alleviate the heavy political and theological tones that can prevail here. Something to put a smile on your face, even though I wasn't smiling at the time!

Let me tell you about my day as a mom of 4 kids (Moms-to-be can go back to reading your "Parenting" magazines full of airbrushed photos):

Started the day off with 7 hours of very interrupted sleep, thanks to our 3 month old, Zach. A good hour was spent getting everyone changed, dressed, fed, and corralled back to the kitchen for some school time. I bounced around between the four children helping with addition, sounding out the letter "Ff", and reading books. We worked on memorizing the second stanza to Psalm 148 and the last lines of the Apostle's Creed (my kids are ages 5, 3 and 2). Pretty typical morning. A few dinosaurs popped in and out, but nothing eventful.

A nice hot lunch was prepared and set on the table, and just as hubby walked in the door to join us, I picked up the baby to have him by the table as well. This was met by my oldest son yelling "Mom, look at Zach!" I looked down, and sure enough, his diaper had exploded. Only those of you who have raised breastfed babies can fully appreciate the meaning of "explode".

This nuclear-level explosion warranted a full out bath, change of clothes for him AND ME, dismantling our excersaucer, an extra load of laundry, mopping the bathroom floor, and finally returning to eat a cold lunch after everyone else had finished. *Sigh*

Somewhere in all this I thought about the parallels of our sin and "the mess". Our sin is just as revolting to God as what I cleaned up this afternoon, even though it may come packaged in cute little bundles we want to cuddle. How humbling to compare myself to that slimy mess! And God didn't turn up his nose and daintily try to dab away some of our goo. No, He poured himself into our sinful humanity to bring us up out of the slime. Next Sunday when we get to the confession of sin part of the worship service, perhaps we won't be so flippant about it all.

And if you need a reminder, come babysit for us!

The people have spoken

I'm no politico, but here are the interesting races from my view.

1. Virginia - US Senate seat. Incumbent George Allen lost to Democrat Jim Webb by less than 8,000 votes out of 2.3 million total cast. A major disappointment - clear choice between liberal and conservative, and the former prevailed. If only more Democrats had voted 3rd party...

2. Virginia state constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between 1 man and 1 woman: passed easily - 57% to 43%. This was a delight, as I got to vote for Michigan's similar amendment there last year, and here this year.

3. Back in Michigan, liberal governor Granholm easily pasted big-money, Republican-establishment Dick Devos, 56% to 42%. I'm sure it wasn't hard to garner the liberal base against him.

4. Big picture, the house is in Democrat hands, and the Senate is a virtual stalemate. Republican establishment bewails it. Some less partisan conservatives see it as a good thing, and I tend to agree. This will mean less Republican big spending getting through. With gridlock, less government happens - a generally good thing. These days, I'd rather have less government, even if it is Republican.

The one exception to that would be the Senate when it comes time for court nominations. I'm seeing a slim chance of any more good judges getting on, with only 2 years of Bush left, and a more hostile Congress. I also predict (in a Nostradamus manner, tongue firmly in cheek) that the backlash against Republicans will continue in 2008, and a Democrat will be president.


The Heavens Declare...

Check out these amazing pictures from the Hubble telescope. Here's one to get you there...

Luther's famous quote

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”



Sorry for the library thing search, if you've tried that and been confused. It seems to search other people's libraries, but I can't get it to search my own. The folks over there have been unresponsive thus far, but here's hoping it works out...

Welch's Biblical brain potion

Blame It on the Brain?
by Ed Welch

Finishing this up, and it was excellent, well-balanced and on target Biblically.
He divides it into some ailments which are traceable to the brain, or biology, other ailments which may be biological or moral/spiritual, and a final category of ailments which cannot be relegated to the brain but certainly have moral components. For a sense of Welch's perspective, he puts in the first category Alzheimers and dementia, in the second, depression and attention deficit disorder, and in the third, homosexuality and alcholism. The ADD and homosexuality chapters were outstanding.

My only lingering question is whether Welch is related to the Welch's grape juice people, which would be interesting, as he writes well on alcoholism and the strenghts and weaknesses of Alcoholics Anonymous.

1 Samuel 4:1 and commentaries

After preaching on 1 Samuel 4 yesterday, I received a question from a church member:
Does 1 Sam 4:1a go with chapter 3, or with chapter 4. Commentaries he looked at were divided, so he wondered about the reliability of commentaries, etc. Here was my answer:

I would say putting 4:1a with the rest of chpt 4 is legit. I did not make the connection consciously from the text, I suppose because you just can't mention everything going on in the text or we'd be there all day, but I alluded to it in that God sends the trouble, He moves armies, etc.

I think both interpretations can work, side by side. 4:1a goes with 3:1, but 4:1a also connects with 4:1b, by way of contrast, if nothing else. We may be dealing here with artificial chapter breaks. With no punctuation in the original text, we only know from context where to put the period and paragraph break. At the end of 3:21, or 4:1a? Most modern Bibles do that for you at 4:1a. I note Keil & Delitzsch make the application you mention. But that only works if the paragraph ends at 3:21. Then verse 4:1 reads something like this: "And the word of Samuel came to all Israel, and Israel went out to battle against the Philistines..." Conversely, NKJV and NIV, KJV all put in a "Now" to make a sharp break.

K&D is theologically reliable. But textual scholarship may have learned some things since its writing, like this chapter break thing, that they didn't consider. I wouldn't say there are commentaries to avoid, except for Scofield's dispensational stuff. It's just good to know when and who wrote it. Commentators can read their own biases into the text, too. Puritan era writers tended to comment verse by verse, not connecting larger chunks of text as much (Henry and Calvin, e.g.), whereas today commentators do more "literary" commenting - noting how the structure of the story/text communicates. Both are legit angles and needed. See the forest and each tree.

I'm using all physical books for commentaries on Samuel, so can't help you for this series there! Though I occasionally check out K&D, too. Here's what I'm using now.
- Promise and Deliverance by DeGraaf
- A Son to Me by Leithart

Online stuff:
- Spurgeon's Treasury of David, his classic commentary on the Psalms is here

- I assume you've found John Calvin's commentaries, if you're at CCEL

- Here's something to check out, though I don't have it so can't recommend heartily.
You need to download the application, but it is free. Good stuff there includes
- Geneva Bible translation notes
- John Gill's exposition of the whole Bible
- K&D
- Matthew Henry
- Treasury of David
- Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, which is a good cross-reference system.