On the 7th Day of Christmas...

...my True Love gave to me, 7 swans a-swimming...
representing the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1) prophecy, 2) ministry, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leading, and 7) compassion (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

An unrelated, lesser-known Christmas song:
See here for the sheet music and digital sound

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

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

New year; new plan

Happy new year, 7 hours early.

Do you have a plan for reading through Scripture comprehensively?

Here is a website that can help you, if you're looking. I used the chronological in 1 year plan, New King James version, in 2007.

For 2008, I'm reading the English Standard Version. I just put together my own plan, which includes 2 or 3 elements: (1) alternate between a Psalm a day for 5 days, then a Proverb. (2) I MAY go heavy on the Gospels this year, reading 4 chapters a day, which gets you through all 4 in a month. If I do, (3) I will also read 2 pages per day (if not the Gospel thing, then 2.5 pages per diem) from the rest, book by book, to cover it all. I am big on "covering it all," to get a good grasp of the whole of Scripture, knowing the pitfall of reading just to "get through" instead of to hear from God. That danger does not warrant avoiding such plans, in my mind.


On the sixth day of Christmas...

... my True Love gave to me: 6 geese a-laying....

representing the six days of creation.
And yes, it was six. Exodus 20:11 should settle any doubts for the Bible-believing Christian...

An unrelated, lesser-known Christmas song:

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
1. Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love1

2. Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

3. In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

4. Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard from above,
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

5. Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance;
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love's dance. Chorus

6. The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

7. For thirty pence Judas me sold,
His covetousness for to advance:
Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold!
The same is he shall lead the dance. Chorus

8. Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
Where Barabbas had deliverance;
They scourged me and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance. Chorus

9. Then on the cross4 hanged I was,
Where a spear my heart did glance;
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

10. Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love's deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance. Chorus

11. Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance. Chorus

Here is a video performance of the song


On the Fifth Day of Christmas...

...my True Love gave to me, 5 golden rings...

representing the first 5 books of the Bible, the Torah, the Pentateuch.

An unrelated Christmas song...

God bless the master of this house
1. God bless the master of this house, and all that are therein
And to begin this Christmastide with mirth now let us sing

The Savior of all people upon this time was born
Who did from death deliver us, when we were left forlorn.

2. Then let us all most merry be, and sing with cheerful voice,
For we have good occasion now this time for to rejoice.

3. Then sing with voices cheerfully, for Christ this time was born,
Who did from death deliver us when we were left forlorn.

Very Funny 12 Days of Christmas rendition!


On the Fourth Day of Christmas...

...my True Love gave to me, 4 calling birds...

representing the 4 Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

Interesting side note on this one. The original was "four colly birds," not calling birds. Colly is old English for black - blackbirds.

An unrelated Christmas song
A Virgin Unspotted - click to play 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.

Then let us be merry, put sorrow away,
Christ Jesus, our Savior, was born on this day.

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 the Third Day of Christmas...

...my True Love gave to me, 3 french hens...

representing faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

An unrelated song for the 3rd day of Christmas:
The Babe of Bethlehem - click for music

Ye nations all, on ye I call, come hear this declaration,
And don't refuse this glorious news of Jesus and salvation.
To royal Jews came first the news of Christ, the great Messiah,
As 'twas foretold by prophets old, Isaiah, Jeremiah.

To Abraham the promise came and to his seed forever,
A light to shine in Isaac's line, by Scripture we discover;
Hail promised morn the Savior's born, the glorious Mediator.
God's blessed Word made flesh and blood, assumed the human nature.


On the Second Day of Christmas...

...my true Love gave to me, 2 turtledoves...

representing the 2 testaments of Scripture, Old and New

Unrelated next song...
Lord of the Dance - (click for music)

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on 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!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced for the scribe & the pharisee
But they would not dance & they wouldn't follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James & John
They came with me & the Dance went on:

I danced on the Sabbath & I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped & they stripped & they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & 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!

It's Still Christmas...

Inspired by this article, we've decided to extend our celebration of Christmas for the traditional 12 days, ending on Epiphany, January 6. For the next 12 days, we will be posting a lesser known Christmas carol, and the meaning of each gift from the 12 days of Christmas song. We are giving one smaller gift to each other each of the 12 days, singing the 12 days of Christmas as we go.

The lastest history talk here is a good description of advent, Christmas and Epiphany, and sound argument that these holidays, and even the 12 Days song, were founded with godly original intentions, but perverted over time to become excuses for immorality, much like Mardi Gras in New Orleans today. Recovering a godly celebration does not compromise with paganism or add to Scripture, but helps us remember the great works God has done.

Epiphany means shine upon, appearance, revealing, or manifestation. It was an early celebration of Christ's birth and appearing to us. Dec 25 developed as an alternate date for the same purpose in the west.

Now, if only we could keep the pine needles on the tree until Epiphany...


Merry Christmas! The first day...

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

This line refers to God the Father, the true love, giving gifts to believers...

A partridge in a pear tree

The gift of His Son, Jesus Christ

Okay, so this one is familiar - the rest will be less so...

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 earth, 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.


Ooh La La

My daughter and I strive to be feminine and ladylike, so we wear skirts. Not all the time, because some days require a good pair of jeans with the knees blown out. Of course, my daughter loves the "twirly" skirts - a best skirts can get parallel to the ground while spinning on her toes. This leaves some modesty issues to be visited.

And then I saw the Skirty. Think 1930's underpinnings meets 1980's biker shorts. It's cute & girly. It's functional. It's fun.

Check out Rebecca Merkle's site, then take another look at the dresses the girls are wearing. They're beautiful and made by Mrs. Merkle as well. Can't wait until she starts selling those, too!


Scripture for the day

Hebrews 1:1-3

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high...


Scripture of the day

Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Baptism, mom and apple pie...

"None of this [Federal Vision stuff] threatens sola fide in the slightest because to maintain that faith is the sole instrument in justification does not deny that God uses other secondary instruments, always subsidiary to the primary instrument, which is faith alone. Those other subordinate instruments would include, but not be limited to, preaching, Gideon Bibles, tracts in the laundromat, billboards, sermon tapes, baptism, godly mothers, and so on."

Doug Wilson

Celebrating Christmas

R.C. Sproul, Jr.


Shooting at the Peacemakers

by R.C. Sproul Jr.

Whenever there is an issue, one will usually find two issues. You believe, for instance, that it is immodest for a woman to wear pants. I believe, enlightened knight that I am, that it is not necessarily immodest. That’s an issue of disagreement. While it is certainly possible that it could go the other way, odds are that the second issue would work out this way. You believe it a grave problem that I don’t hold your view on women and pants. I, on the other hand, am profoundly indifferent to your view, quite content for you to go on holding it. Now we have a second disagreement. We differ on the relative importance of the issue we differ on.

Shrewd politicians have learned how to use this to their advantage. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you believe the federal government ought to spend more money on education. I, on the other hand, believe that no civil governments ought to spend any money on education. If you want to make progress, what do you do? Do you come after dangerous fanatics like me? No. You instead get after people between us, and charge them with failing to sufficiently condemn me. You accuse those who want the level of federal spending to remain constant of being soft on loonies like me. Why would you risk alienating those who are closer to you? To get them to move closer still. As you denounce them, they in turn will feel the need to prove their bona fides on the issue. Before this assault, my loony views were a matter of indifference to these “moderates.” Now it is something they must loudly denounce, lest they get painted by you with my brush.

The strategy, of course, works for politicians of all kinds. It works in office politics. It works in family politics. And it works in church politics. It isn’t enough to disagree with theory A anymore. In order to avoid being tainted you have to stand up and declare theory A to be the very spawn of Satan. In some circles, for instance, it isn’t enough to believe in the five points of Calvinism. You must, in order to keep your Reformed credentials, believe that those who deny any of the five points of Calvinism go straight to hell when they die.

The world is full of issues, some of them subtle, all requiring wisdom. But the greatest wisdom is always needed for the second issue. The hard question is the proportion question. It is better, in the end, to enjoy the company of those who are wrong on a given issue, than those with whom we agree on the issue, but turn it into a matter of life and death. Give me a peaceful Arminian any day over a fire-breathing Calvinist. Give me, on the other hand, a fire-breathing Calvinist any day over those Machiavellians who push their agenda by shooting at the peacemakers.

Federal Vision motivation

by Douglas Wilson

The reason we talk this way [Federal Vision-y] is because some among the Reformed have set up the Confessions as a Procrustean bed for Bible verses. Verses are stretched or lopped off in order to fit their idea of the system. This is a denial of a central tenet of the Reformed system, which is sola Scriptura. A sterling example of this...

"Contra the statements above, the Standards (and scripture) do not teach that the non-elect are ever united to Christ or saved in any sense because the only way we can be united to Christ is via FAITH and faith is the result of Effectual Calling and Regeneration."....

Here is what Andy has said. No reprobate was ever united to Christ. No reprobate is ever saved in any sense.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away . . . If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (John 15: 1-2, 6).

"And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off" (Rom. 11:17-22).

Who is the Vine? Who is the Root? Who is part of the Vine here? Who is part of the Root here? Is there any sense in which these branches were ever united to Christ? To ask the question is to answer it, provided you are asking questions of the text, and not of the system.

"For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe" (1 Tim. 4:10).

Now is this statement true in any sense? At any level?


The Scholars and the Spirit

"Now many modern versions of the Bible cast doubt on the authenticity of the last twelve verses of Mark. Without going into all the arguments, we should at least note why we are not going into all the arguments. The reconstruction of the autographs (the originals) is a task utterly beyond the competence of scientific textual critics. This does not keep them from trying it, but it should keep us from believing them. And further, the issue is not the original text; the issue is the canonical text. The search for "the historical text" parallels the search for the historical Jesus, and is built on the same unbelieving assumptions, and will end in the same dismal swamps of liberalism. We are not supposed to be unearthing the history behind the text. These things actually happened, to be sure, in real time, and in photographable ways, but God did not send cameras. He sent Gospel writers -- the way our gracious God gave these events to us was by means of this text. We should just say thank you."

Douglas Wilson

Home Sweet Home

You know you're a true MICHIGANDER when

"Vacation" means going up north on I-75
You measure distance in hours.
You know several people who have hit a deer more than once
You often switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.
You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard, without flinching.
You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked
You carry jumper cables in your car and your girlfriend knows how to use them
You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.
You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction
You can identify a southern or eastern accent.
Down South to you means Ohio
A brat is something you eat
Your neighbor throws a party to celebrate his new pole barn.
Your 4th of July picnic was moved indoors due to frost
You have more miles on your snow blower than your car
You find 0 degrees "a little chilly."
You drink pop and bake with soda
Your doctor tells you to drink Vernors and you know it's not medicine.
You can actually drink Vernors without coughing
You know what a Yooper is.
You think owning a Honda is Un-American
You know that UP is a place, not a direction
You know it's possible to live in a thumb
You understand that when visiting Detroit , the best thing to wear is a Kevlar vest
You can make a map of the state with your hands


Narnia, gone bad

In spite of the quote below, Narnia IS a a deeply Christian work.

Not so The Golden Compass, a new movie due out this month. I read about it just now in the Atlantic Monthly (Dec 2007 - "How Hollywood Saved God" - strange title).

The author of the books on which The Golden Compass is based "dismissed the Lord of the Rings trilogy as an 'infantile work...' Narnia got it even worse: 'Morally loathsome,' he called it. 'One of the most ugly and poisonous things I've ever read.' He described his own series as Narnia's moral opposite. 'That's the Christian one,' he told me [author of the essay]. 'And mine is the non-Christian.'"

I'd recommend not seeing the movie, so as not to support him financially. Even if he is just posturing a bit for publicity.

The movie is put out by the same studio as Lord of the Rings and Narnia, and it would certainly be nice if they noticed the sizeable drop in ticket sales for this one, so Hollywood doesn't assume this is just a passing genre craze.


Demi-gods and wine in Narnia

In the middle of the feast Aslan throws, toward the end of Prince Caspian, before the complete restoration (think Communion!),...

"One [of the party] was a youth, dressed only in a fawn-skin, with vine-leaves wreathed in his curly hair. His face would have been almost too pretty for a boy's, if it had not looked so extremely wild. You felt, as Edmund said when he saw him a few days later, 'There's a chap who might do anything - absolutely anything.'... There were a lot of girls with him, as wild as he....

"The man on the donkey, who was old and enormously fat, began calling out at once,
'Refreshments!'.... Everyone began eating, and... you have never tasted such grapes...."

"'I say, Su, I know who they are.'
"The boy with the wild face is Bacchus and the old one on the donkey is Silenus. Don't you remember Mr. Tumnus telling us about them long ago?'
"'Yes, of course. But I say, Lu - '
"'I wouldn't have felt safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we'd met them without Aslan.'
"'I should think not,' said Lucy."

Near the end, when Aslan restores Narnia, he comes to a home in the village of Beruna, with an old woman, sick in bed...

"She was at death's door, but when she opened her eyes and saw the bright, hairy head of the lion staring into her face, she did not scream or faint. She said, 'Oh, Aslan! I knew it was true. I've been waiting for this all my life. Have you come to take me away?'

"'Yes dearest,' said Aslan. 'But not the long journey yet.' And as he spoke, like the flush creeping along the underside of a cloud at sunrise, the color came back to her white face and her eyes grew bright...

"'Here you are, mother,' said Bacchus, dipping a pitcher in the cottage well and handing it to her. But what was in it now was not water but the richest wine [John 2], red as red-currant jelly, smooth as oil, strong as beef, warming as tea, cool as dew."


Gotta Get 'em SOMETHING

According to a new study by The Barna Group, Christian parents this year will spend more than $1 billion on media products — such as DVDs, CDs, magazines and video games — for their children even though they have misgivings about the moral content of some of the resources.

- 87 percent of [Christian!] parents purchased DVDs of movies or television programs for their children under 13, but one-quarter of them did not feel comfortable with the products they purchased.

- 33 percent of [Christian!] parents who bought CDs for their children had concerns about the content of the music.

- About half of Christian [!] parents who bought magazines for their children had misgivings

- 46 percent of those [Christian parents!] who purchased video games for their teens had concerns about the content.


Currently Reading

Priest, Prophet and King: Restoring Biblical Leadership in the Home
by Keith Hoffman


I'm up to chapter 3, and it is excellent. Great Christmas present for dad!
Author is local to the area I grew up, which is fun.

Faith and Works

This is impolitic to do, but I'm young and crazy.

I really did like this book. It is a lightning rod in the Reformed theological thunderstorm of the last few years, and I liked it. This puts me inside one camp and outside the other; thus the impolitic thing.

Anyone interested in Federal Vision (FV) ought to read it for good background - you don't have to be a theologian to read it.

Do you wonder why FV folks make such a big deal about baptism?
This book will tell you.

Do you wonder how we can preach salvation by grace alone, not by works, and then turn around and call for obedience and good works?
This book will tell you.

There are a few sentences to watch out for, where he goes too far ("No one should even attempt to approximate God's judgment" - pg 96), but overall it is well balanced, draws excellent connections between Abraham's covenant and the Great Commission I'd never seen, shows the proper relationship between faith and obedience which is present throughout Scripture, and affirms our salvation by grace alone, through faith alone ("Protestantism has always insisted that salvation is wholly by God's grace. We have rightly rejected the idea that a human being can do anything to achieve his own salvation. We have rightly rejected the idea that a person can work to merit the reward of eternal life" - pg 61).

Here is a teaser to get you to buy the book.

"Instead of looking at covenant from the perspective of regeneration, we ought to look at regeneration from the perspective of covenant. When that happens, baptism, the sign and seal of the covenant, marks the point of conversion. Baptism is the moment when we see the transition from death to life [Romans 6:1-4] and a person is saved [making sense of 1 Peter 3:21].

"This is not to say that baptism accomplishes the transition from death to life, or that baptism causes a person to be born again. That is the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which is rightly rejected by Reformed churches. The Holy Spirit works where, when, and how he pleases, not necessarily at the precise moment of baptism" (pg 94).


Wow, I'm actually getting some comments again. Been a while.

Note the record-high 2 different comments on one post on Nov 13...

Almost makes me wish for the old 30-comments-on-homosexuality days...

Not really.

Poem of the Day

Just to prove that Poe wasn't just a horror author...

by Edgar Allen Poe

So sweet the hour, so calm the time,
I feel it more than half a crime,
When Nature sleeps and stars are mute,
To mar the silence ev'n with lute.
At rest on ocean's brilliant dyes
An image of Elysium lies:
Seven Pleiades entranced in Heaven,
Form in the deep another seven:
Endymion nodding from above
Sees in the sea a second love.
Within the valleys dim and brown,
And on the spectral mountain's crown,
The wearied light is dying down,
And earth, and stars, and sea, and sky
Are redolent of sleep, as I
Am redolent of thee and thine
Enthralling love, my Adeline.
But list, O list, - so soft and low
Thy lover's voice tonight shall flow,
That, scarce awake, thy soul shall deem
My words the music of a dream.
Thus, while no single sound too rude
Upon thy slumber shall intrude,
Our thoughts, our souls - O God above!
In every deed shall mingle, love.

From moralism to Christ

C.S. Lewis, English Literature in the 16th Century, p. 187

"In theological language, no man can be saved by works. The whole purpose of the 'gospel', for Tyndale, is to deliver us from morality. Thus, paradoxically, the 'puritan' of modern imagination -- the cold, gloomy heart, doing as duty what happier and richer souls do without thinking of it -- is precisely the enemy which historical Protestantism arose and smote. What really matters is not to obey moral rules but to be a creature of a certain kind."


Christian (dis)unity before the world

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." Jesus, in John 17:20

From US News, Nov 26, 2007, pg 48.

The church of the holy sepulcher in Jerusalem is the spot many believe Jesus was crucified.

"Today it is divvied up into territories and ritual duties by six resident Christian groups: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syrian Orthodox, (Egyptian) Coptic Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox. Their places are precisely delineated under rules that were set down in 1852 by Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Majid, who tired of sending his troops to break up sectarian fights over control and practices. 'The sultan was sending troops in here all the time, so he finally said, 'You're going to do this and you're going to do that,'' explains [a Franciscan monk]....

"The keys to the church are held by Muslims, as they have been since the year 638, when Caliph Omar, then the city's ruler, appointed the local Nusseibeh family as doorkeepers... Since his father died 25 years ago, Wajeeh Nusseibeh has been faithfully unlocking the church at 4 a.m. and locking it at 8 p.m....

"He doesn't actually have custody of the keys. That duty, or privilege, was granted in 1192 by the conqueror Saladin to the local Joudeh family. And since then, a Joudeh has been bringin a Nusseibeh the keys each morning and evening."

The Jewish police also need to be present, because an altercation could go international, and Israel would be blamed. The article recounts a 2004 fight between Franciscans and Greek Orthodox that left bloody noses behind, and a 2002 incident where "scores of police were required to break up the resulting brawl."

Amazing how one of Christianity's most holy sites must be mediated by one outside the Church, when Jesus is our one mediator. What a sad witness.


Theology wonk-ism

Lloyd-Jones, Preachers and Preaching, pp. 178-179

"This is really dangerous, and the way to counteract it is to prescribe balanced reading for yourself. What I mean is this. Read theology, as I say, but always balance it, not only with Church history but with biographies and the more devotional type of reading. Let me explain why this is so important. Your are preparing yourself, remember, and the danger for the intellectual type of man, if he is only reading theology or philosophy, is to become puffed up. He persuades himself that he has a perfect system; there is no problem, there is no difficulty."


A Defense of Advent/Christmas

In the Christian conservative circles I like to hang around in, there are some who look askance upon Christmas. Isn't it pagan in origin? The world has taken it with Santa and greedy kids grubbing for presents, haven't they?

Well, no. Check this out for a good response. Excerpt below.

"A certain man once thought it good to pour used dishwater into the wine set aside for a feast. The master of the feast saw this and threw out the wine. He was then accused of ruining the feast. Much has been made of the Puritan opposition to Christmas, but more than a little of the problem was caused by how Christmas used to be celebrated.... One of the central reasons Puritans were opposed to it was because of all the immorality that was going on in the name of Jesus."

And he isn't just talking today's commercialization. Think more like Mardi Gras. Did you know it is actually a religious run-up to Lent? That is the corruption the Puritans were dealing with...

On Iraq

From "Getting the Job Done," by Richard Lowry, in National Review, pg 38, Nov 5, 2007.

"The Iraq War has wars within wars. One Army intelligence officer identifies six different ones: the Sunni vs. Shiite conflict; the fight against al-Qaeda; the Shiite vs. Shiite struggle; the challenge of crime; Iran's effort to destabilize the country; and the Sunni insurgency.. each of these has its own layers.... Every area has its own dynamic and its own players, whom our military has to know and manage....

"To sit in on briefings with American colonels about their areas of operation is to get a window on an incredibly complicated world. They have to run local governments, train Iraqi forces, manage relations with Baghdad, revitalize local economies, and engage in graduate-level anthropology - all while fighting a war. These must be the most competent people on Earth. You are awestruck by how much they have been able to accomplish, at the same time you want to hold your head in your hands at the magnitude and complexity of the tasks they still have ahead of them.

"One... officer explains counterinsurgency and winning the trust of a local population in a metaphor that, however apt, elicits guffaws from his comrades:
'It's like Pilates - it's all about time spent under pressure.' What our troops most need from us is something within our power to grant - more time."


Seeker-Sensitive Model "a Bust"

I subscribe to HB London's "The Pastor's Weekly Briefing." He is a staffer with Focus on the Family, a pastor to pastors. I've been thinking of unsubscribing for a while, as most of it is stats on the George Barna - Willow Creek model.

But then this showed up.

I couldn't believe my eyes.

I hadn't seen any news on this myself, heard a rumbling somewhere, but London nails it:

"Well, it seems everyone is talking about Pastor Bill Hybels' statements concerning the ministry of Willow Creek over the past 30 years. At least, I have seen his words in print on a lot of Web sites and from the pages of a new book, REVEAL.

The report from the book "reveals" that what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers, yes, but not disciples.... "If you simply want a crowd, the 'seeker sensitive' model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it's a bust."

It would appear that Hybels and others are just growing weary of programs, promotion and platform presence. Of the 11,000 people who responded to the REVEAL survey, 26 percent of them said they were either "stalled" or "dissatisfied" with their spiritual growth. I would think most of us would be happy to see 75 percent of our congregation enjoying spiritual growth — but I believe what it is saying is that the mature believers are not seeing progress in their own journies. That is serious.

As I read various reports, I could not help but think of the thousands of pastors who did not buy into the "seeker sensitive" strategy who lost members and even their own ministry because they were out of touch. Teaching the fundamentals of faith was not enough.

Or — the thousands who bought hundreds of dollars worth of "Willow" material, now to see it in question. Or — the pastors who restructured their total operation to fit the Willow model only to see it collapse around them. But there are thousands of others of our colleagues who, with God's help, made it work. What was the finished product? I guess we will see.

Pastor Hybels' conclusion is, "We should have gotten people, taught people how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own." What a concept. I think I can see a new paradigm on the horizon."

What is a Family Integrated Church?

Distinctives of a Family Integrated Church (FIC)
By Dr. Voddie Baucham, Jr.

Family Integrated Churches come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. There are FICs in virtually every denominational and theological tradition, and in most sections of the country. While no two FICs are exactly alike, they do have certain distinctives in common

Families Worship Together
If you’ve ever walked into a FIC during a worship service, perhaps the first thing that struck you was the fact that there were so many babies and small children in the service. We have grown accustomed to the presence of children in the service, and the children grow accustomed to being a part of the worship experience. No one will stop you at the door if you try to enter our service with your toddler.

No Systematic Age Segregation
One of the biggest distinctions of a FIC is the absence of age-graded ministries. We do not have segregated youth ministry, or children’s ministry. First, these ministries are not part of the biblical church model. The Bible is clear on whose job it is to disciple children... parents. Second, these ministries can work against the biblical mode. Parents who are relieved of their discipleship duties tend to become dependent on those who have taken over the job. Finally, these ministries have failed. We are losing 75-88% of Evangelical teens by the end of their freshman year in college. And as Dr. Alvin Reid has noticed, “The largest rise of youth professionals in history has been accompanied by a decline in youth evangelism effectiveness.”

Evangelism/Discipleship Through Homes
We teach parents to evangelize and disciple their children and their neighbors. We emphasize the ministry of hospitality, family worship, catechism, and family discipleship. Thus, instead of placing the burden on paid professionals to “do the work of the ministry,” we equip the saints to do it.

Education as a Key Component of Discipleship
Jesus said, “A pupil is not above his teacher, but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Whoever educates a child is discipling that child. We work hard to help parents see the importance of Christian education, and to help them make biblical choices as it relates to this part of their children’s discipleship.

Poem of the Day

Two Sayings
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Two sayings of the Holy Scriptures beat
Like pulses in the Church's brow and breast;
And by them we find rest in our unrest
And, heart deep in salt-tears, do yet entreat
God's fellowship as if on heavenly seat.
The first is Jesus Wept, - whereon is prest
Full many a sobbing face that drops its best
And sweetest waters on the record sweet:
And one is where the Christ, denied and scorned
Looked Upon Peter. Oh, to render plain
By help of having loved a little and mourned,
That look of sovran love and sovran pain
Which He, who could not sin yet suffered, turned
On him who could reject but not sustain!


Calvin on reading the Bible scientifically

“Moses wrote in a popular style things which without instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to understand; but astronomers investigate with great labor whatever the sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is not to be reprobated, nor this science to be condemned, because some frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is unknown to them. For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God. . . . [S]ince the Spirit of God here opens a common school for all, it is not surprising that he should chiefly choose those subjects which would be intelligible to all. If the astronomer inquires respecting the actual dimensions of the stars, he will find the moon to be less than Saturn; but this is something abstruse, for to the sight it appears differently. Moses, therefore, rather adapts his discourse to common usage. For since the Lord stretches forth, as it were, his hand to us in causing us to enjoy the brightness of the sun and moon, how great would be our ingratitude were we to close our eyes against our own experience? There is therefore no reason why janglers should deride the unskillfulness of Moses in making the moon the second luminary; for he does not call us up into heaven, he only proposes things which lie open before our eyes.”

Commentary on Genesis 1:16


I haven't read the book - heard an interview with the author.

I like the principles of Maken's book (gift of celibacy applied too broadly today, e.g.). Some singles may need a fire under them to learn and take the steps they can toward marriage. But these things can come across too rigidly. At least in the interview I heard, there was an undue pressure on singles and sometimes outright maligning of them ("what's wrong with you that you aren't married yet?").

The biggest problem is for singles who want to be married but find it just not happening yet logistically, or no opportunities, etc. Young men do need to learn to "take a wife," but this doesn't mean it is like getting bread from the grocery store. What if no one wants to marry them? Fathers of potential mates find their maturity adequate but not up to their standards, they have personality quirks that obscure their maturity, etc. Singles aren't the only ones responsible to see themselves married. This takes a concerted effort by the family of God.

267 Emails

I took a complete email fast during vacation last week, and it was great!
Now if I could just do that every 7 days.
Meanwhile, I'll be wading through the remains for a few days.


Vacation reading

A friend recommended this a few weeks ago, and I providentially found it laying around at our vacation spot, so off I go...


Explaining Baptism

There is much confusion regarding baptism, since it is often assumed there could only be 2 ways to look at it. Either baptism saves you and makes you holy, makes you a Christian in the Roman Catholic sense of regenerating you automatically, or it is just a way to act out your profession of faith. As Reformed believers we say there is a 3rd way.

When you and your fiancé decide to get married, your legal status doesn’t change right away, but your relationship certainly does. But when do we celebrate our anniversaries? On the day we decided to get married? No, on the day our new covenant relationship was solemnized before God and witnesses. It is the same here. We do not deny that David, who will be baptized soon, that David’s relationship with the Lord has been established for some time. But today, here, that covenant relationship is solemnized before God and witnesses.

What would you think of a society that had no public marriages, b/c they didn’t want to make too much of outward forms and ceremonies? It is the same with baptism. We want to celebrate, endorse, approve, rejoice in David’s relationship with the Lord, and we want to do it the way Christ told us to – go and make disciples, baptizing them.

When the minister at a wedding pronounces the couple man and wife, has he created a relationship where there was none before? No. The prior relationship led to taking public vows at a specific ceremony, which added a legal and physical dimension to the relationship that wasn’t there before. In the same way, baptism adds further dimensions, obligations and blessings, to the relationship we have with the Lord.
Sprinkling some water on David’s head this morning may not look like much, but our weapons are not of this world. We trust the Spirit to fight for David, as He marks David as belonging to Jesus, in the covenant of grace mediated by Jesus His Savior. This is something the Spirit of Christ does – baptism is not mainly our act, but God’s. Imagine heaven torn open at this moment, and the Lord himself coming down, tearing off this roof, taking the bowl from Mr Doskey, hearing David cry out, “My Lord and my God!”, and then baptizing him. Now, the fact that I am not Jesus shouldn’t dull that reality, b/c I truly represent Christ as I baptize David, in spite of my own sin. We need representation. Jesus represents us to the Father, and we are justified. Preaching re-presents the Gospel to us. Baptism represents to us our cleanliness in Christ. The Supper represents Christ’s death for us. We need these things, and they are Christ’s gifts to us. The gift of God for the people of God.

Communion prayer - 11/4/07

Adapted from one of John Calvin's, in honor of Reformation Day:

Heavenly Father, by Your goodness You invite us now to receive these holy signs of our peace and reconciliation with You. Your Son Jesus, who died for us, calls to Himself all those who labor and are heavy laden, You will surely not reject Your servants who beg Your grace and seek salvation and life in the death of Jeuss Christ. Now therefore lift our hearts to You; give us Your Holy Spirit. Grant us grace to approach this table with humble repentance and a thirsty soul that desires Your grace. Strengthen our faith so that, in receiving by hand these visible signs, we may receive by faith the broken body of Jesus Christ and His blood, shed for us as the nourishment of eternal life.

Communion exhortation - 11/4/07

We are soldiers who perform a weekly drill together, as one platoon in the division of the Lord’s army. But this is a strangely fitted regiment. We carry songbooks and bibles, bread and wine, instead of ammunition. We are a choir who sing God’s praise. We boast in our weakness, not our capabilities. We pray for our enemies and love them and serve them.

God has set things up this way so that faith is required of His Church on earth. We have to believe that fighting this way is effective, b/c there are certainly times when we can’t SEE that fact. We have to believe our General’s methods are best for victory. He just walked in to their camp, laid down His sword, let them arrest and execute Him. But God’s love and covenant promises are stronger than death. Once we die with our General, we rise with Him, too. As long as we abide in the vine, we are more than conquerors. We are kings and priests, sitting with our father Abraham at the table of Christ’s Kingdom, not worthy to be here, but made partakers nonetheless – by grace, through faith, b/c of Christ, for God’s glory.


Beam Me Up Scotty, and don't forget the crochet hooks this time!

Hyperbolic space - the concept that space grows outward exponentially, so that you could draw an infinite number of lines which would NEVER touch because space is continually growing. OK, now crochet that.

Knitters and crocheters have long been involved in the world of science and mathematics: Moebius loop scarves, fibonacci sequence striped sweaters, and Norah Gauhn's entire published profile is steeped with similar geeky stuff. The new generation of stitchers has taken this way beyond Grandma's doilies.

Twin sisters have developed a method to crochet a model of hyperbolic space, and are using that to show - in yarn! - what a coral reef ecosystem is like.

Check out this article from the Chicago Reader for all the great details and gorgeous photos!


Precarious Position of Preacher

"Every preacher knows the insidious temptation to vainglory to which the pulpit exposes him. We stand there in a prominent position, lifted above the congregation, the focus of their gaze and the object of their attention. It is a perilous position indeed" (John Stott, The Preacher's Portrait, p.77).

Communion exhortation - 9/30/07

There comes a time in every camping experience when it feels good to be packing up for home. The shower, the mattress, the conveniences await. Here you have that foretaste. We groan in this earthly tent, but the Spirit is our guarantee that better things are coming. And the Spirit works through this sacrament, making the future a present reality, as we are joined with Christ and experience union with Him. What did Jesus tell His disciples as they held and drank the wine? I will not drink it again until I am with you in my Father’s kingdom. For the Jew, the feast booths looked backward to the wilderness wandering. The feast reminds us of our present and future hope for the heavenly city that Abraham hoped for – something better than what we have now. Abraham lived in tents all his life. The only piece of land he owned was his wife’s tomb. But when Melchizedek brought out bread and wine, Abraham had a premature feast to celebrate God’s promises of inheriting the land for his children. When Jacob returns to the land from his exile with Laban, he built booths, and bought some land. The promise was coming true, even with the unease of living next to his brother Esau. This table is a premature feast. Jesus has promised that the meek will inherit the whole earth. We are called to celebrate our salvation before it is fully realized. The bread from heaven is Jesus Himself, His body broken for you. The wine is the richer glory of the New Covenant. Jesus, the living water, turned water into wine, blessing us as He shed His blood to cover our sins.

Word, Water, Bread, Wine. The gifts of God, for the people of God.

Communion exhortation - 10/7/07

You have before you, bread and wine. It took some work for these to get here. Not only did someone have to buy the bread and wine and set it out, but before that, there is a process and effort that goes into making bread. Making wine is even more complex, and at every table that is set, we always seek to thank God for His provision, to thank those who prepare it as well.

Now, Twas the same love that spread the feast that sweetly drew us in. God’s love motivated Him to a process and some effort in our direction. He sent His Son to us to keep covenant for us. The Living Word truly taught us the Word. He agonized in the Garden. He was despised and rejected by men. He died as an acceptable sacrifice to pay for our sin. Love is active. It comes, it works, it is faithful, love sacrifices, love lays down itself for one’s friend. And you are His friends, as you come to Him in faith, trusting Him to take on Himself your sins; trusting Him to give to you His righteousness. He feeds your soul with His Body, strengthening You. He shows your union with Him here, assuring you of His intent to bless you in Christ.

Word, Water, Bread, Wine. The gifts of God, for the people of God.

Opening prayer - 10/7/07

Holy God, you have created us in Your 3-person image, and we worship You in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. You are our Father and we are Your children. Your Son is our Savior, and we are Your redeemed people. Your Spirit is our comforter and teacher, and we are baptized and filled with Your Spirit to be Your purified people. We bind unto ourselves today the strong name of the Trinity. May our response to Your Word and Sacrament today glorify You and conform us more to the likeness of Jesus.


Iraq - food for thought

I recently signed on to Gary DeMar's American Vision email and magazine.
Here's a blurb from the first article:

"The talk from both ends of the political spectrum is that “democracy” will cure the ills of Iraq, Iran, and the surrounding Muslim nations. What if the “liberated” people of Iraq, with their newly acquired right to vote, decide they want a Taliban-style social and political system whose goal is to defeat the infidel West and impose Sharia law on Muslims and non-Muslims? Democracy in the hands of wild-eyed fanatics is perilous. They will use the democratic process to deny the democratic process once they gain power through the democratic process.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. There are democratic elements in our constitutional system, but these are balanced with courts and elected representatives. Moreover, western-style democratic principles are built on the remnants of a Christian moral order. Self-government under God’s ultimate government tempered the potential harmful effects of a pure democracy that could be manipulated by evil men. Attempts to export our political form without the worldview that gives it its heart will lead to unintended consequences. Democracy in the Mideast will only lead to the imposition of the prevailing worldview which is anti-Christian."


Prepare to Worship Sunday

"We need to come prepared [for worship]. Because we have not spent any time glorying in the presence of God, our affections are unstirred. We come with cold hearts, depending on the social activity of corporate worship to warm our hearts and to make us ready, whereas, we ought to approach worship like a racehorse, straining, longing to begin the race. We should come to worship having been already in God's presence through meditation and prayerful preparation." - page 162.

Opening Prayer - 10/28/07

Heavenly Father, for the past week, we have been seeking to serve You in Your world and in Your kingdom. We now return once again to the source, from whom all blessings flow. You gather us in to rejuvenate, recreate, cleanse and sanctify us, transforming us for continued and greater service in Your Kingdom. We come here to worship You in faith. We believe You will do these things to us. This is Your service to us – blessing, strengthening, granting rest. Give us receptive hearts that are able to stop our clamoring frenzy for a moment, in order to receive from You, Your gifts for us: words of life, bread and wine to nourish, fellowship to encourage, prayer to cast down burdens. We ask You to be present now as we worship You. We believe You are here, for You promise to be in Your word. We pray now through the living Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who sits at Your right hand, living and reigning with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, without beginning or end. Amen.

Call to confession - 10/28/07

We gather to worship our God, and prepare now to confess our sins to Him. God wants us to bring our whole selves before Him – our heart, mind, music, money, words, troubles, cares – everything. But our sin we must drop here at the door, and leave behind. We do this not by stoically working up spiritual feelings of perfection, but by repenting of them.

We must be sure to confess the sin of pride. Probably, it was the slippery serpent’s first sin, and it remains subtle and slippery for us. Just when we think we’ve ginned up our humility adequately again, we take satisfaction in our ginning it up. As we raise our children, we compare with the world or the church, and approve ourselves, instead of confessing our sins.

We must learn to repent of what we think we are doing right. We must repent for taking pride in our strengths, as a cover for not obeying God elsewhere.

Communion exhortation - 10/28/07

When Jesus took bread and broke it, He said, This is My Body. His Body was dis-membered, as muscles were punctured, and skin flogged off. And He calls us to RE-member Him. When Adam fell asleep in the Garden, he was dis-membered, as God opened his side and made Eve from his bone. Then he rejoiced to be re-joined with his bride.
Our sin has torn us apart from fellowship and membership with our Creator. But God in Christ has made a way to re-member us, to reincorporate us into the Triune fellowship of joy and love. It meant the disjointing, ripping crucifixion, but it resulted in rejoining and healing for us. We deserve God’s judgment for our sin against Him, and we can only receive His favor if we stand in Him, with His righteousness covering us, as a member of His Body. We must be one loaf with Him. So let us act out that membership as we pass the one loaf, ripping our part in Christ, and remembering Him, as He is symbolically reunited with us. Do this in remembrance of our Lord Jesus.

Word, Water, Bread, Wine. The gifts of God, for the children of God. We invite all those who are baptized and not under the discipline of Christ’s Church, to commune with Him at His table.

Great deal

I highly recommend this Bible, for 2 reasons:

1. The translation:
ESV (English Standard Version). Most accurate and literate version based on the modern critical texts, in my opinion.

2. The study and theological notes:
If you're a study Bible person at all, then of all the study Bibles out there (and I used to be an expert salesman at the local Christian book-gift store) I think this one most closely reflects a proper understanding of Scripture.


Opening prayer - 10/15/07

Heavenly Father, on this Sunday, this Lord’s Day, we hail Your Son’s sacrificial, rising from death and conquering death and hell. We give our Lord Christ all glory, laud and honor, as they did when He entered Jerusalem triumphantly. We sing hosanna to the son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Our children also sing joyfully and out of the mouths of babes You have ordained praise to confound the wicked. Let the praise of Your children be acceptable in Your sight today, because we come to You through Your Son our Savior, Amen.

Call to confession - 10/15/07

Our call to confession this morning is directed toward our children, but applies to all of us in a broad way. Children, when you are here, think about those around you, and not just yourselves. Respect everyone here as a member of the body of Christ. Remember that we are not here so you can talk with your friends. We are not here so you can have a certain book or toy for a while. We are here to worship God together. We are selfish, and so it can be hard to think of others. But remember how Jesus thought of us selflessly. Be kind to those around you. Don’t fidget or whisper and distract them from the Lord’s service. Don’t look for excuses to go to the back room. Pay attention to what God is saying to you, and notice that He is speaking to all of us. You are part of this group, this church, the Body of Chirst. So respect that body. Teens, this applies to you as well. Don’t spend your fellowship time here only with those of your age, seeking your own friendship enhancement. Not that you can’t do that, but leave time to also serve those who are younger than you, and learn from those who are older. Discern the body of Christ gathered on this day.

Communion exhortation - 10/15/07

Our communion exhortation today is Psalm 128, as applied to Jesus.
How blessed the man who fears the Lord. This man is Jesus, who fully obeyed God, and so is fully blessed, and the one through whom we are blessed. He has eaten the labor of His hands and is satisfied. His wife, the Bride, the Church is a fruitful vine in the midst of His house, bearing fruit, bearing children to the Lord of the house. We are those children, gathered like olive plants around the Lord’s Table. This is how the Father blesses His Son. This is how we see ourselves in God’s story. God’s adopted children, given a place at His table. Out of Christ’s obedient labor and sacrifice He provides for His children. When we are young and immature, we aren’t even aware of the sacrifice that goes into this. As we mature, we learn more about the cross: the physical pain, the injustice, the Son being forsaken by His Father. We hear these words, and have some idea, but part of maturity is knowing that we remain children, not yet fully understanding the full labor that made this Supper possible.

Word, Water, Bread, Wine. The gifts of God, for the children of God. We invite all those who are baptized and not under the discipline of Christ’s Church, to commune with Him at His table.


Another cool analogy

If the Church is the Body of Christ, with marks that define its vitality...

"Word is a mark of life like breathing is. Sacraments are a mark of life like heart beats are. Discipline is a mark of life the way an immune system is. This last one is different than the first two -- in this way. If a man stops breathing, he dies right then. If his heart stops, he dies right then. If his immune system goes, he dies sometime sooner or later, probably sooner."

Douglas Wilson

Communion exhortation

As we come to this Table, week by week, we are reminded that our heavenly Father has chosen to feed us through His Son Jesus Christ. If we do not partake of Him, we have no life in us. So I want to parse the simple sentence: Jesus feeds us.

The object of this Supper is Christ. We can only truly partake here when we believe Him. The object of our faith is Jesus. We proclaim that He is what we need, and in this Supper, and this whole service, God gives Him to us.

Jesus feeds. What do we DO with Jesus, when He is given to us? We let Him nourish us. He is the heavenly manna, given to us daily, to sustain us through the wilderness. We will become like Jesus, in paradise, and God is beginning that process here. We are what we eat, after all, and we want to be like Him. So let Jesus feed you with His own Body and blood.

Jesus feeds us. Not just you, but us. This is not a time for the lights to go down and fade out everyone around you. This is a time to see how God’s Kingdom works, leavening the WHOLE lump of dough, not just your piece of it. Discern the Body, so that you can glorify God rightly, and serve Him more effectively in the Body.

Jesus feeds us now through His appointed representatives. But keep your focus on Him, and His Body.


Our call to confession this morning is a reminder that we are gathered on the mountain of the Lord, and that on this mountain, the Lord sets a feast for us. You have assembled to meet with God. Since this is what you have done, it should also have been your intention to do it. Take care that You do not sit down at Hist table with Your appetite already ruined by the dainties of this world. If you have been eating where you should not, nibbling on various lusts, snacking on resentments, gorging on covetousness, you are in no condition to enjoy what has been prepared for you.

Take care also that You do not reject the table set by God in the name of some higher holiness. Many reject the goodness and beauty of creation in the name of true spirituality. No one can be holier than Jesus Christ, though many fools have tried it.

At the right hand of God are pleasures forevermore, and we worship Him in the name of the One who sits at that right hand. The people of God, when they understand, are a glad people.

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, we have gathered together in response to Your call to worship You. Your Word has formed and shaped us into one holy nation, a kingdom of priests. As Your Spirit gathers us up to heaven, the 4 living creatures cry out, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” Around them the 24 elders fall down before You from their thrones to worship You, casting their crowns before You, because You are worthy to receive all glory, because You created all things. They have harps to sing your praises, in tune with our piano. They have gathered up our prayers in their bowls of incense, tuning them to Your will, and the coming of Your Kingdom to earth. As we fall down before the Lamb, may our worship be pleasing in Your sight, Yahweh of Israel, for we approach You washed and redeemed in His blood, by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.


Long Life & Success to the Farmer

Let the Wealthy & Great
Roll in Splendor and State
I envy then not I declare it
I eat my own Lamb,My Chickens & Ham
I shear my own fleece & I wear it
I have Lawns, I have Bowers
I have Fruits, I have Flowers
The Lark is my morning alarmer
so jolly boys now
Here's God Speed the Plough
Long Life & Success to the Farmer.

English Verse circa 1890

Fiber for the Whole Family

Some have called me a "Fiber Freak" - although I do not really deserve the title. I only knit and sometimes crochet. True freaks card, spin, and dye their own fiber. I've dabbled in spinning on a homemade drop spindle, but I digress.

The real fiber freaks gathered this weekend at a huge fiber festival - the New York Sheep & Wool Festival, commonly called Rhinebeck. There's a lot of buzz in blogland about it, but I'd like to share this photo I found to defend myself on how knitting can truly be a family pasttime:

from www.masondixonknitting.com

Do you see this?! Mom and Dad are knitting, while junior happily hangs out in the backpack. Of course, I'm assuming he's knitting too. And *what* are they knitting? They're adding onto a charity blanket, a group project started by the gals over at mason-dixon knitting. You can see a lot of other great fiber festival photos there, including a dude wearing tights while riding two percheron horses.

See, these events are never boring! :) Too bad we have to wait for spring for the next season of festivals.



Sometimes in order to go forwards, you really need to go backwards first. I've been experiencing this in a few of my pasttimes lately, namely knitting.

I've been working on a lace scarf/stole and am FINALLY attaching the final edging. I got 1/3 done and realized I messed up the spacing of it in proportion to the scarf body. Sigh. So it was promptly ripped out (no looking back!). Backwards by mistake, backwards by necessity.

My next project is a more exciting, PURPOSEFUL kind of moving backwards. Oh, hang on for this! I picked up a sweater at a thrift store that'sa trifle too small in the arms, so I am in the process of removing the sleeves (there was a tidy crochet seam that easily unzipped the sleeves from the body). Then I will unravel the sleeves and wind up the yarn, reusing some of it to knit an edging around the armholes. It'll be a fun challenge to match the guage and style of the sweater. There's a zipper down the front 1/4 of the sweater, but I'm considering steeking the front to make it a full zip-up vest. Please pause to consider the thrill of steeking: you stabilize the knitting with a machine sewn line up both sides of where you'll cut, then (deep breath) SNIP THROUGH THE SWEATER, cutting it in two. The stitching will hold the knit stitches from unraveling (in theory), allowing me to pick up and knit a new zipper band on each side with the yarn from the sleeves. If it all fails miserably, I'm out a few bucks and gain about 800 yds of fine cotton yarn.

Hmmm, what else can I destroy and then "fix up"?

Poem of the Day

The Seraph and Poet
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The seraph sings before the manifest
God-One, and in the burning of the Seven,
And with the full life of consummate
Heaving beneath him like a mother's
Warm with her first-born's slumber in that
The poet sings upon the earth grave-riven,
Before the naughty world, soon self-forgiven
For wronging him, - and in the darkness prest
From his own soul by worldly weights.
Even so,
Sing, seraph with the glory! heaven is high;
Sing, poet with the sorrow! earth is low:
The universe's inward voices cry
'Amen' to either song of joy and woe:
Sing, seraph, - poet, - sing on equally!


Poem of the day

She Was a Phantom of Delight
by William Wordsworth

She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment's ornament;
Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
Like Twilight's, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful Dawn;
A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.

I saw her upon a nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A Creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles.

And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A Being breathing thoughtful breath,
A Traveler between life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
To warm, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright,
With something of angelic light.


Eternal covenant; almost eternal debate

I just finished Ralph's book, Eternal Covenant, and enjoyed it. I think I largely agree with it.

Smith's main point is that the covenant of works is an extension of the eternal covenant of love within the Trinity. Instead of viewing the covenant as Adam earning God's favor meritoriously, we ought to view it as God creating Adam IN His favor, with the blessing of life, Eden, etc. Adam was required to keep covenant by obeying God, but categories of merit are unnecessary to this view.

(Quick glossary:
FV = Federal Vision
TR = Truly Reformed, who think FV is not Reformed, that it denies justification by faith alone, etc)

Well the TR crowd is all over this one. Here is a long article by Richard Phillips critiquing Smith and his FV cronies. My take on the Phillips article:

1. Phillips dismisses as unworthy of attention Smith's argument that the elements of a covenant imply an actual covenant (Ps 2:7-9; Jn 17:1-5, 20-23) when speaking of the inner-Trinitarian covenant, yet Phillips uses that exact same argument to confirm a covenant of works from John Murray's writings.

2. Covenant does not inherently require unequals, as Phillips insists (Gen 21:32). Historically, the term can be used for agreements and relationships with lords-vassals or between equals. This opens the way to see the Trinity as in covenant.

3. I disagree that Smith is headed for tri-theism with covenantal understanding of it. We speak of husband and wife as becoming one flesh, though two persons. The mystery is the same. Philips is underestimating what covenantal unity is. One could as easily accuse Philips of modalism.

4. While Phillips sees Smith's covenant as relationship as denigrating covenant, I found Smith's argument compelling. Phillips prefers to see covenant as our means to relationship with God, nothing more, and certainly not the relationship itself. If this is so, Smith asks, then is covenant jettisoned once we get to heaven? It would have to be if covenant is only soteriological, and not ontological, too. But do we not remain in covenant with God there? Do we not renew covenant with God in worship? Does our covenantal union with Christ go away once we are with Him directly? How else are we as the Church to be one as the Trinity is one (John 17)?

5. Smith may not be as big a leap for me since I'm not as steeped in the Westminster side of things, with its explicit covenant of works. I'm more familiar with the Dutch guys, Kuyper et al, who Smith relies on...

Phillips is very unfair to Smith in saying that "Instead of the classically identified elements of a covenant - the parties involved, the condition, the promised blessing, and the threatened sanction - all that now is involved is a mutual commitment to relationship". He must have missed Smith's argument that the classical elements of a covenant imply a covenant. Smith is not doing away with these elements at all, but saying there is a more relational backdrop to those legal elements.

When Phillips says the biblical structure of covenants collapses, he is just asserting what Smith denies: that the covenant of works should be foundational in defining all the other covenants. Reading works into the Trinity is all right to a point (John 17:4), but those works are motivated by love (John 17:23) and grounded in faith (Hebrews 5:7; also, did Jesus merit God's favor, or have it from the beginning? See Luke 2:40). Smith's point, with which I agree, is that the works required in God's covenant of works with Adam also had to be motivated by love and grounded in faith. Smith DOES differentiate faith and works clearly, but he asserts that they function equally in cov of works and cov of grace, which I agree with. The difference is whose faith and works are the basis for righteousness - Adam's own in first; Jesus' for us in second. (If this is the distinction TRs want to keep in keeping the cov of works language, I'm all for it.) Phillips' repeated accusation that FV "merges faith and works" is unfair.

Phillips makes me angry when he says Smith describes a covenant we have to stay in by works. I just read the book, and Smith says no such thing. Smith DOES say Adam was created in covenant and the test was to stay in, but he had to do so by faith, resulting in good works, in standard "faith alone, but not faith that is alone" categories. Adam's faith - in God's Word and to His covenant - was the sole instrument justifying him, keeping him in covenant obedience to God before the fall. After the fall, it is our faith - in Christ's obedience and death for our faithlessness - that is the sole instrument justifying us before God.

Then Phillips critiques Peter Leithart - but I don't think Leithart would say "our relationship with God is derivative from our relationship in the church" as Phillips has him saying. I WOULD want to make the church more central to our identity, as Leithart does, though.

He mis-interprets Wilson's objective covenant: "This means I can know objectively I am right with God because I am in the church." This is patently false. Wilson would say no such thing. You can know you are in covenant with God if you are in the church, and that brings real blessings (or curses).

Anyway, it degenerates from there, and I'd better stop. Phillips is on the other side from me of a widening chasm on these issues. In my humble opinion, his side comes close to denying James 2's living faith, while FV has found a way to hold justification by faith alone, undiluted, AND James 2. (I probably ought to read a TR's exposition of James 2 to figure out their position better on that.)

Smith has several compelling points in the book:
1. The tree of life was not forbidden Adam from the start. Thus he was in the covenant of life from the moment he existed, by fiat of creation in the image of God.

2. Assuming a covenant of works as the foundation makes the whole system man-centered. The center of Gen 1-2 isn't the prohibition of the fruit, but God saying "Let Us make man in Our image." Smith retains this God centered orientation, while not vitiating the first covenant with Adam, either.

3. Bavinck, AA Hodge and Dabney all spoke of God's graciousness in the covenant of works, long before Doug Wilson or Ralph Smith did. Smith's question is pertinent: "Has Bavinck denied the Gospel?"

If you are worried about Smith's orthodoxy, see page 82-83 of Eternal Covenant:
"The facts that we are involved in Adam's sin, that our sins were laid upon Christ, and that we are counted as righteous because of His faithfulness to the covenant (Kline's revised view of merit) cannot be denied without denying the gospel. But to affirm these truths, one does not have to agree with Kline's particular formulation of the covenant of works or any other view of the covenant of works.... Was Adam required to be faithful to the covenant in order to be blessed? Yes. Was it such that even one infraction of the covenant meant death? Yes. Was Christ required to be faithful to the covenant in order to be blessed? Yes. Was it such that even one infraction of the covenant would have meant death? Yes."

"What the Bible - and also the Westminster Confession - requires in the way of a parallel between Adam and Christ, then, is not denied on a trinitarian covenant of love approach. None of the essentials - not federal headship, nor the importance of Jesus' active obedience to the demands of the covenant, nor righteousness, nor law, nor imputation - are diminished... nor does it undermine the doctrine of justification by faith. On the contrary, the system of doctrine which finds its genius in the fact that it is wholly theocentric is allowed to attain a mature form, leaving behind the medieval merit system and a doctrine of the covenant that makes the trinitarian covenant subordinate to the covenant of works."

Here is a statement of Ralph Smith's to evaluate:
"When merit has been redefined as covenant faithfulness and we understand that both Adam and Christ are promised blessings upon the basis of being faithful to the covenant, there seems to be very little lost if we drop the redefined and now unnecessary word 'merit.'... life was not a blessing to be won by merit. Life was essential to the original condition of the covenant."

I would say that most TRs equate merit with active obedience. If that is the case, I agree with them. But FV is pointing out that the medieval debate saw merit as either (1)strict justice, genuinely earned merit, which is condign merit; or as (2)merit God defines in covenant, even if it isn't strictly worth the reward given, which is congruent merit. FV makes the point that the Reformed rightly reject the first, adopts the second, but that that second option, congruent merit, isn't what we think of as merit at all. Grace was there from the start. God sustains our lives while we "earn" His reward, given before fully/truly earned. This is not merit. The picture is often given of a parent telling a child they can have their allowance if they clean their room. The allowance isn't a strict worth reward for cleaning the room. They should have cleaned it anyway! But the parent condescends. This is all true, but as the child in relationship to God, doesn't it glorify Him more for me to remember the condescension as I obey? Isn't the relationship in that covenant of works as much about the gracious condescension as it is about the strict obedience of meritorious work?

Now, when it comes to Christ, He fully satisfied God's justice by complete obedience. But He didn't have to work into this favor. He had it from early childhood (Luke 2:40) and at His baptism (Luke 3:22). The hard part for Jesus and for us is to hold faithfully all the blessings and grace that our Father loads upon us.

Anyway, it would be interesting to read the FV statement at the FV link at the top of this post, in conjunction with this critique, as it would highlight many unfair characterizations, I think. I'll leave that for you to do someday....


Two great poems

Sonnet 14
by John Donne

Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Past And Future
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

My future will not copy fair my past
On any leaf but Heaven's. Be fully done
Supernal Will! I would not fain be one
Who, satisfying thirst and breaking fast,
Upon the fulness of the heart at last
Says no grace after meat. My wine has run
Indeed out of my cup, and there is none
To gather up the bread of my repast
Scattered and trampled; yet I find some good
In earth's green herbs, and streams that bubble up
Clear from the darkling ground, - content until
I sit with angels before better food: -
Dear Christ! when thy new vintage fills my cup,
This hand shall shake no more, nor that wine spill


A Brief for Infant Baptism

A summary of Scripture, arguing for believers to baptize their children.

Covenant promise, and sign
1. God established a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17:7, to be God to him and to his children.
2. The sign of the covenant was circumcision, given to Abraham, and his descendants (Genesis 17:10-11).
3. This sign was according to God’s promise, not the Mosaic law, and so was not done away with as the OT ceremonial law was, in Christ (Galatians 3:17).
4. Blood was a sign of this covenant from the beginning, in circumcision and later in the sacrifices, and it is the blood of Christ that actually saves us, in this covenant (Zechariah 9:11; Hebrews 13:20).

Same covenant promise, from Old to New
1. God is building one house. Moses was a faithful servant, helping erect some scaffolding while also building the house; Christ was the faithful Son who completes the foundation (apostles) and removes the need for scaffolding. (Hebrews 3:5-6)
2. But the promise of salvation – re-entering covenant relationship with God’s favor – remains the same (Galatians 3:9).
3. Israel was baptized into Moses, and ate and drank of Christ in the manna and rock in the desert (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Paul compares the Church to Israel, saying the same danger is true of us. Don’t eat and drink in communion and still fall away (1 Cor 10:14ff).
4. We assume that the New Covenant did not remove everything found in the Old Covenant unless otherwise stated; rather, since our salvation in Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, into which we are ingrafted (Romans 11:17-18), we assume that the Old Covenant signs are in force, unless the New gives us a change, as it often does (Mark 7:19; Heb 10:1-10). But no change is given for the pattern of applying the sign of the covenant (see below “no change”).

Hypocrisy not an argument against infant baptism
1. Unbelieving Jews believed they were all right just because they were circumcised (John 8:33), but God can raise up covenant children from rocks (Matthew 3:9). The point is that you must have faith, be born again, even if you are a Jew (John 3:3ff).
2. God’s answer to this hypocrisy is not to withhold the signs of the covenant until we can be sure they believe, but to cut unbelievers out of the covenant, in His time and way (Romans 11:17, 20).

Same reality signified in circ. and baptism
1. What counted an Israelite a member of God’s Old Covenant was circumcision (Gen 17:10-14).
2. What counts a Christian a member of God’s New Covenant is baptism, whether Jew or Greek.
- We are baptized into one Body (made a member of God’s New Covenant) (1 Cor 12:13).
- If you are baptized into Christ, you have put Him on (Gal 3:27-28), and are an heir of the promise made to Abraham (Gal 3:29), which was signified by circumcision (Gen 17:10).
3. The initiatory rite of the Church was baptism from the beginning, for Jews and Gentiles (Acts 2:41). This conflicts with the initiatory rite of Israel – circumcision. So everyone in the early church was asking “What gives? Do the Gentiles have to become Jews?” God’s answer is in Acts 15 and Colossians 2:11-12, which I quote:

“In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”

4. To paraphrase: Gentiles, you don’t have to get circumcised like some Jewish believers are saying you should. Your baptism counts as your circumcision.
5. Circumcision and baptism are two signs of the exact same spiritual reality – being set apart for God, having your sin removed from you, cleansed in the righteousness of Christ, etc. So if God gives the first sign to infants, we have no argument to take the second sign from infants.

No change in including children in covenant
But one thing the NT does NOT change is the inclusion of children of believers in the covenant. Just as the inclusion of Gentiles without circumcision was controversial, so beginning to exclude children from the covenant would have been a MAJOR change. But the NT says nothing about it. In fact it confirms the opposite.

1. Peter says at Pentecost that the promise of salvation through Christ is to those present, and to their children (Acts 2:39), and they were faithful enough Jews to know he was hinting back to God’s promise to Abraham and his children. This is new, but not new.
2. God applies an Israelite covenant promise to Gentile children (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Sacraments given ahead of time; point outward to Christ, not only inward to faith
The sacraments signify a spiritual reality outside of us. Purity in baptism, washing of sin in Christ’s blood. They do not merely signify a spiritual reality at work IN us. An example of this is Passover. Israel eats and drinks of a Lamb, the means of their being spared, before they are redeemed from Egypt. Another would be the Sabbath, which is a secondary sign of the covenant in the OT. We have this sign, before we have the reality (Ezekiel 20:12; Hebrews 4). If circumcision/baptism only points inward to the person’s faith, then God should not have given circumcision to infants. But if the sacraments point to an outward reality into which we are brought (Sabbath, redemption, cleansing), then there is not a problem with applying the sign before the reality is there. This is one way God engenders faith in His people. The NT does not address or change this, and so we assume the pattern of infant circumcision carries over to baptism.

NT need not be explicit on a doctrine for it to be true
Remember that the NT is not a systematic theology; other key doctrines like the Trinity are also not explicitly taught in it, yet are true.

Poem of the Day

Best to keep this one in the bonds of matrimony, and notice the tight meter and rhyme, as you go...

Where Be Ye Going, You Devon Maid?
by John Keats

Where be ye going, you Devon maid?
And what have ye there i' the basket?
Ye tight little fairy, just fresh from the dairy,
Will ye give me some cream if I ask it?

I love your meads, and I love your flowers,
And I love your junkets mainly,
But 'hind the door, I love kissing more,
O look not so disdainly!

I love your hills, and I love your dales,
And I love your flocks a-bleating;
But O, on the heather to lie together,
With both our hearts a-beating!

I'll put your basket all safe in a nook,
Your shawl I'll hang up on this willow,
And we will sigh in the daisy's eye,
And kiss on a grass-green pillow.


Ephesians 4:32

This week's memory verse, illustrated by Grace
(watering flowers and mowing lawn for a family on vacation)


Some Right Wright

"It is quite an illegitimate use of all this to see 'experience' as a separate source of authority to be played off against scripture itself, though this move is now frequent, almost routine, in many theological circles ('Scripture says... tradition says... reason says... but experience says... and so that's what we go with").... (pg 101)

To speak of 'experience' as an authority, then, is to admit that the word 'authority' itself is being dismantled.... If 'experience' is itself a source of authroity, we can no longer be addressed by a word which comes from beyond ourselves. At this point, theology and Christn living cease to be rooted in God himself, and are rooted instead in our own selves; in other words, they become a form of idolatry in which we exchange the truth about God for a human-made lie...." (pg 101, 103).

"We could put it like this. 'Experience' is what grows by itself in the garden. 'Authority' is what happens whne the gardener wants to affirm the goodness of the genuine flowers and vegetables by uprooting the weeds in order to let beauty and fruitfulness triumph over chaos, thorns and thistles. An over-authoritarian church, paying no attention to experience, solves the problem by paving the garden with concrete. An over-experiential church solves the (real or imagined) problem of concrete (rigid and 'judgmental' forms of faith) by letting anything and everything grow unchecked, sometimes labeling concrete as 'law' and so celebrating any and every weed as 'grace.'" (pg 104)


The Spirit baptizes us into His own fruit

Following my sermon on baptism today, here is a good follow-up, just-to-make-sure-I'm-still-orthodox kind of thing. Wilson is explaining Galatians 5:18-26:

"Those who are baptized have been baptized into Christ, which means they have been baptized "into" the second list [the fruit of the Spirit]. But what if their life still matches the first list [of sinful living]? What does that mean? It means that, apart from repentance, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Their baptism obligates them covenantally to be characterized by the second list, not the first. But unbelief within the covenant makes disobedience within the covenant possible. Baptism puts a man under the obligations of the covenant; it does not substitute for a life of obedience based on faith in Christ alone."

On turning the hearts of fathers

"We are prone to interpret the phrase 'turn the hearts of the fathers to the children' in various incorrect or incomplete ways. Some define this by coming home - leaving the corporate world to provide for the family in some home-based enterprise.....

Others define this as implementing strict obedience training modes in the home, with severe consequences for disobedience....

Others define this by adopting the 'patriarch' label, with little or no understanding of what that actually means. Some foolishly view this as bossing the wife and children around, in order to remind them who is in charge. Others take this stance solely as implementing and reinforcing strict gender differences in the household. While I heartily embrace unique gender roles in all areas of life, this doesn't get at the root of biblical patriarchy and it doesn't get anywhere near to fulfilling the prophecy in Malachi.

What is missing from the three scenarios I have briefly and roughly summarized above is the difficult work of pursuing the heart of our children.... seeking to tie strings of fellowship with his children, truly enjoying their presence, and letting his children know that he enjoys their presence.... [Our heavenly Father] loves to spend time in fellowship with us, to commune with us. When we understand the Lord's Supper properly, we see that He is tying the same strings of fellowship with us that we need to be tying with those under our care, and as His heart is turned to us, our hearts are turned to Him."

Jay Barfield
in Every Thought Captive, Sept/Oct 2007