Verse of the day

"In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul."

Psalm 94:19


Communion exhortation - 5/27/07

Pentecost Sunday
Text: Acts 2

Baptism is entrance into the communion of the faithful. Breaking of bread IS communion of the faithful, it is our sharing in the life of Christ, and His body. And so we invite all those who are baptized and not under the discipline of the church, to commune with Him at His table.

Again paraphrasing from Leviticus 23, the Old Covenant institution of the feast of Pentecost: “You shall bring from your homes 2 wave loaves. And with the animal sacrifices made, the priest shall wave the animal sacrifices made with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD.” On the feast of firstfruits, as worshipers brought in the first of the barley harvest, Jesus rose from death, the firstfruits of our own resurrection. On the feast of Pentecost, as worshipers brought in the first of the wheat harvest, the body of Christ experiences its first harvest, a firstfruits of the harvest to come on that great and awesome day of the Lord, when He will gather the wheat into his barns, and burn the chaff with fire.

You have before you that awful picture of judgment. Not only the bread of life, but chaff for burning. Not only the blood that washes sins away, but also Christ treading out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. Rev 19:7: “Jesus Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. When that last day comes, what will you find? Only law, Sinai, a mountain that can’t be touched except on pain of death, chaff and the blood of your own destruction? Or will you find life in the Spirit? The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. He gives bread and wine, peace and reconciliation. His death accomplishes it. His resurrection and ascension proclaims it to us. His Spirit comes so that we might proclaim all of it to all men.

The Spirit blows where He will and you must be born again of water and the Spirit, if you are to see life and blessing here. If the Spirit has moved you to seek Jesus, and to repent for rejecting Him, then come now. The promise is for you, and the promise is for your children as well, and for many who are far off, who are not here yet.

Come to the feast, for all things are now ready.


Haiku of the Day

If veg'tables we
on life's chopping board sitteth
I'd roll to the floor.


Poem of the Day

Lord Byron
"For Music"

THERE be none of Beauty's daughters
With a magic like thee;
And like music on the waters
Is thy sweet voice to me:
When, as if its sound were causing
The charmèd ocean's pausing,
The waves lie still and gleaming,
And the lull'd winds seem dreaming:

And the midnight moon is weaving
Her bright chain o'er the deep;
Whose breast is gently heaving,
As an infant's asleep:
So the spirit bows before thee,
To listen and adore thee;
With a full but soft emotion,
Like the swell of Summer's ocean.

The Hermit Family

"[Rod] Dreher says many good things in this chapter ["Education and the Home," from Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots].

"Just a couple comments or cautions. Crunchy-con-ism needs to take care that it does not shrink below village size. Anchorite families are not the need of the hour. Family is important, but it is not all important. If I could add a qualification to Russell Kirk's statement above ["the family is the institution most necessary to conserve"], it would include the necessity of preserving the Church above all. Families are a part of this, and that is the point. We don't need hermit families. We need to take care that our children grow up in community, and this needs to be broader than the family. It also needs to be centered in Word and sacrament. If the kids are homeschooled, there are ways to arrange for this, but it takes work. I would urge Dreher and those with him to consider forming schools -- not status quo schools, but schools that are responsive to involved parents. Covenant schools are not a recent development of modernity -- they go back at least to the Jewish exile in Babylon. And I think they are at least as consistent with the crunchy-con ethos as disciplined homeschooling is."

Douglas Wilson


No "free-will"

Reading Luther, it has surprised me (shouldn't have) how thoroughly like Augustine and Calvin Luther was in his thinking on this free will business. You read the short, simplified histories of the Reformation and you get the sense that Luther didn't have time for theological nitpicking or systematizing. Not quite true! And all those Protestants who cling to man's free will in salvation, AND who claim Luther as their Reformational forefather, had better read his words below closely.

"When God is not present to work in us, all is evil, and of necessity we act in a way that contributes nothing towards our salvation.... On the other hand: when God works in us, the will is changed under the sweet influence of the Spirit of God.... there is no freedom, no 'free-will', to turn elsewhere, or to desire anything else, as long as the Spirit and grace of God remain in a man...." (102-3).

"So man's will is like a beast standing between two riders. If God rides, it wills and goes where God will: as the Psalm says, 'I am become as a beast before thee, and I am ever with thee' (Ps 73:22-23). If Satan rides, it will and goes where Satan wills. Nor may it choose to which rider it will run, or which it will seek; but the riders themselves fight to decide who shall have and hold it" (103-104).

"So it befits theologians to refrain from using the term [free-will] when they want to speak of human ability, and to leave it to be applied to God only.... People think it means what the natural force of the phrase would require, namely, a power of freely turning in any direction, yelding to none and subject to none.... However, with regard to God, and in all that bears on salvation or damnation, [man] has no 'free-will', but is a captive, prisoner and bondslave, either to the will of God, or to the will of Satan" (105, 107).

"Free-will belongs to none but God only. You are no doubt right in assigning to man a will of some sort, but to credit him with a will that is free in the things of God is too much" (137).

Communion Exhortation - 5/20/07

Ascension Sunday

At this point in the service we often find ourselves thinking about sacrifice, because it is the Lord’s sacrificial death that we proclaim. In the OT, sacrificial animals were meant to symbolize the worshiper. Here are 5 standard steps of sacrifices, which show how sacrifices speak of Jesus, our Host at this table.
1. The worshiper lays his hand on the head of the animal. We draw near to God through a substitute.
1. Jesus is the elect substitute. As we trust Him, His death is propitious for us.
2. The worshiper slays the animal. Sinners cannot stand before a holy God. The way to God is the way of death, the death of a substitute.
2. Jesus dies for the sake of sinners.
3. The priest displays the blood before Yahweh. As in the Passover, blood displayed turns away the wrath of Yahweh.
3. Jesus is also the priest who displays His own blood before the Father.
4. The priest arranges Yahweh’s bread on His altar, and turns it to smoke. Through the substitutionary animal, the worshiper ascends into the presence of God.
4. Jesus ascends to the Father to stand in His presence as our substitute. United to Him, we also ascend to the heavenlies.
5. Normally, there is a meal. Having drawn near to Yahweh through a substitute, we can eat and drink in His presence.
5. We eat and drink with and on Jesus in the Supper.

And so He sits us down at His table, here on Mount Zion, to eat and drink with God, to see Him and not be undone. We are here with Him, on God’s mount Zion because we are in Christ, and He has ascended to the Father. How this can be we have no idea. But we know that we have been raised to life and restored to God’s presence, accepted and favored by Him forever.

Communion Exhortation - 5/13/07

Text: 1 Samuel 19 - when David flees for refuge from Saul to Samuel.

The body of Jesus is food indeed. The blood of Jesus, is drink indeed. Unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we have no life in us. Here is our refuge. But this doesn’t mean that eternal life comes directly from taking Communion, like gas comes out of the pump when you pull the trigger. Scripture tells us that whatever is not of faith is sin, and it is true here at our Lord ’s Table. Do you believe you must be united with Jesus to escape the wrath of God? Do you believe that besides just pardoning you, God now favors you, when you are in Christ?

If you do, remember: that union of being in Christ is symbolized here. But this is no empty symbol, or sign, or ritual. No ritual is meaningless or mere routine. Symbols and rituals change reality. When you stand at attention, look to the American flag and listen or sing the national anthem, you are just performing a meaningless ritual with a symbol, right? No, this confirms the loyalty within you toward our country, or it confirms the disgust within you toward our country. It reveals your heart. And so it is with Christ here. He is put before you. Is your heart swelling with loyalty, glad to be under His refuge? Or are you raging against the futility of it all, disgusted with the hypocrisy you are sure is all around you? If so, then pray that everything here would work against sin and hypocrisy, as it is meant to do, and pray that it would work against the sin and hypocrisy in your own life first.


It's Greek to Me

Steve will be teaching Biblical Greek to about a dozen people starting next week. I probably won't attend the classes, but still want to learn. So he gave me the grammar text book to study on my own. I left it laying on the table and came back later to find this from my 5 yr. old:

Either she's mastering the Greek alphabet or developing a formula for cold fusion.

Family devotions = child abuse?

Someone recently opined that Christians in America are only decades away from suffering persecution for their faith. I offer up this book as supporting evidence for that opinion. This, and other aggressive briefs for atheism and attacks on religion, includes the argument that raising children in a religion, instilling beliefs into them before they have the capacity to object, amounts to child abuse.

And we know what must be done in cases of child abuse. The state must step in and remove the child from the home.

Lest you think this is an isolated instance of a kook fringe in America, look to Germany's state pressure on homeschooling families, who, in one recent instance, are fined and have their children removed from their homes and forcibly taken to school, all to "cultivate a homogenous culture" in the country.

Here is an excerpt from Doug Wilson, who is critiquing the book chapter by chapter.

"All law is the imposition of morality, and all law systems are codified moral systems. At the head of each codified moral system is the god of the system. When you have found the source of law, you have found the god of the system. This was the case in Moses' Israel, in Confucian China, in Marxist Russia, and in secularist Manhattan. It would be the case in any societal blueprints drafted entirely by Christopher Hitchens. The systems differ because the gods differ."

The way to die, provided

"God does not wave a compromise-wand over us and declare us to be forgiven. That would justify us, but He would not be just. Or He could send us all to hell -- then He would be just, but not the one who justifies. Rather, He sent a new Adam. He established the whole human race all over again -- Jesus Christ established a new way of being human. But the only way to get out of the old human race and into the new one is by means of death and resurrection. This is why there is no injustice in the gospel. I do not just walk away from my sins. Sinners are guilty and all sinners must die. What the cross does is provide us with a way of dying with reurrection as a promised consequence. Jesus did not die so that we might live. He died so that we might die; He lives so that we might live. This is our hope, and this is our glory. And God in His kindness has authorized His people to extend this offer - full of grace - to [the world]."

Douglas Wilson


Knit & Lit

The boys brought home a great book from the library last week. It combines dinosaurs and knitting in a unique and fun way. A diminutive dinosaur laments the fact that he doesn't have the roar and scales that make him fierce like his brother dinosaurs. But he and his little mouse friend are content to sit and "knittety knittety knit" their time away. His house is so full of knitted sweaters, scarves, socks and more they can hardly get in the door (the kids could relate to this!). But when the ice age sets in, the nearly-frozen dinosaurs are very glad to get outfitted from their brother's stash of woolen goods.


Free will?

This is a lively and vigorous refutation from Martin Luther to Erasmus on the subject of free will. If Luther were invited to speak at a debate today, he would be removed within 5 minutes for rudeness, I'm quite sure.

"Uncertainty is the most miserable thing in the world." (69)

"Surely your rhetoricians teach that he who would speak about a subject should first say whether it exists, then what it is, what its parts are, what is contrary to it, allied to it, like it, and so on? But you deprive poor 'free-will' of all these advantages, and settle no single question relating to it save the first, i.e. whether it exists (and we shall see how worthless your arguments on that point are) - so that aq more incompetent book on 'free-will' (apart from the elegance of its language) I never saw!" (pg 79)

"God foreknows nothing contingently, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will. This bombshell knocks 'free-will' flat, and utterly shatters it.... Do you suppose that He does not will what He foreknows, or that He does not foreknow what He wills? If He wills what He foreknows, His will is eternal and changeless, because His nature is so. From which it follows, by resistless logic, that all we do, however it may appear to us to be done mutably and contingently, is in reality done necessarily and immutably in respect of God's will.... Since, then His will is not impeded, what is done cannot but be done where, when, how, as far as, and by whom, He foresees and wills."
(pg 80)

I excerpt these to show how closely Luther and Calvin were in thought. Both followed logic and held strong views of God's providence and sovereignty.


Wild City Life

Since we've moved from rural Michigan to the city, I've had more encounters with wild life than I bargained for. I knew the South had her share of large cockroaches and other pests, but I honestly didn't plan on finding such critters in suburbia. Thankfully, the roaches have not shown their creepy faces, but we've had close encounters of the first kind with many other species:

1) rabbits. I have never seen so many rabbits in my life. TAME rabbits. Walked 2 feet away from Peter Cottontail before he moseyed off. They believe they own the yard.

2) ticks. Pulled 2 off my 4 year old a few weeks back. Ugh. Still gives me the creepy-crawlies.

and the latest: 3) lizards. While I was sunning myself on the deck after cleaning up lunch dishes, I peeked one eye open to see a good 8" THING slithering across the other end of our deck. Long skinny fellow with a nice tail. 30 seconds later his friend joined me in a sunny spot a foot from my leg. This guy had lost his tail, so I'm assuming he lost the battle with reptile #1. Since he was so close, I was able to determine that he was a salamander, and not a lizard.

So when you come visit, you don't have to worry about finding any reptiles. Salamanders are actually amphibians. :)


Poem of the day

Seven Ages Of Man
by William Shakespeare

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice
In fair round belly, with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part.

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav'd, a world too wide,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.


Doesn't it mean exactly what it says?

"I seriously doubt the global-warming issue, if it does exist, will be on anyone's Top 5 list after the comet/asteroid collision of Isaiah 24:19-20 occurs."

This letter to the editor of The Banner, August, 2006, letters to the editor) is a text-book case of overliteral reading of Scripture. Liberals (Banner editors, for example!) love to point these people out to argue against reading the Bible literally or believing in its inerrancy. This does not follow, and only gets people laughing at some misguided, but otherwise orthodox Christians. This is the posture of the serpent, not Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:26).

The author probably thinks that the earth being split open means a comet is going to hit the earth and break it into 2 or more pieces, or dig a huge hole in it. He is not reading the Bible literarily, in genre (Isaiah is speaking poetically here, as he does often). Neither do liberals read the Bible in context, when they deny that Isa 24:19-20 teaches that God is going to cause great chaos/consternation among His enemies because of their sins.


Communion exhortation - 5/6/07

We seek to worship God in a way we call covenant renewal. Our worship service is meant to re-establish our covenant, our relationship with God, in a certain way. In our worship, we proclaim the Lord’s death, and our relationship to Him. We have been created, preserved and saved by Him, and we are being made like Him in holiness, love and beauty. We seek closer relations with Jesus here. We celebrate this covenant, we re-affirm it, we renew it.

The primary way God gave Israel for doing this was sacrifice. A sin offering was brought first, for cleansing. Then a whole animal was completely burned as a sign of our total devotion and service and consecration to God. And then the peace offering was offered. The fat was burned, the blood was sprinkled before the Lord, to show the death that brings peace, the breast and right thigh went to the priest, and the rest was given back to the worshipper to eat before the Lord. And all this was meant to give peace, that you are right with God, in your confession of sin, in your consecration to Him, in your Communion with Him.

Loved people, we now see the express image of the invisible God in Jesus the Christ, and we have confidence in the shed blood of Jesus to confess our sin, we consecrate ourselves now toward a specific goal of becoming like Jesus, and we commune with Him who has called us His friends and brothers, even His own body and bride. Do you love Him as your own soul? Is your life bound up with His? Then come, for all things are now ready.

Communion exhortation - 4/29/07

Text - 1 Samuel 17 - David and Goliath

David and Goliath includes a gruesome part that doesn’t make it into the Bible story pictures too often. In order to keep this part of the service from being too sentimental, I’m going to bring it up now. After the stone, David cuts off Goliath’s head with his own sword. Once that happens, once everyone sees the dead body, the battle is over, and it has yet to begin. Once the body is seen dead, the Philistines flee; the Israelites arise and shout and pursue.
This is where we find ourselves in the story. With a different Body before us. But when the Body of our Lord Jesus was affirmed dead by the Roman soldiers, the victory was won. But then a plot twist. Jesus comes back to life, His Body raised from death, and here it is before you. Our proper response is to arise, shout and pursue the Philistines.
But remember where the body is, that is before you. YOU are the Body of Christ, Paul writes to the church. The Body of our Lord is not before you on the table. It is gathered all around you, seated in chairs with you. You are united with Jesus, and you, His Body, are fed by faithful eating and drinking from this table.

Communion exhortation - 4/22/07

Text - 1 Samuel 16, the anointing of David

Baptism is a sign of our entrance into life, the new, clean, joyous, abundant life of Jesus, the Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a sign of our new life nourished, and continually fed.

Remember, at the sacrifice, there was an anointing. The true anointing of our Messiah took place before time, when the Father anointed the Son to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives. But the Son was not anointed simply to proclaim this as our prophet, but also to accomplish this as our High Priest and sacrifice. The anointing leads to the sacrifice. The great shepherd is anointed to teach and guide the sheep as their teacher, to sacrifice Himself as their priest, so they wouldn’t have to go to the altar, and to shepherd and rule the sheep, as their king.

Look not on the outward appearance of things here (1 Sam 16:7), but look beyond: the bread is the body of the Anointed One, sacrificed for you; the wine is the blood of the Anointed One, shed for many, for the remission of your sins.

Scripture that makes you go hm.. Tamar

Friend: Tamar dressed up like a pagan shrine prostitute to deceive her father-in-law into having sex with her (Gen 38:13ff), and she was considered righteous by doing so (Gen 38:26)

Me: She is "more righteous," but that righteousness is still filthy rags. Judah's point is that his sin is greater than hers, acknowledging that she did sin. He has no grounds from which to accuse her, given his own sin. This might fit into the Esther category of being forced into something. Tamar needed a husband to provide for her, but Judah didn't give her the one available (Shelah). She is forced into this to expose Judah's sin.

Of course, Tamar could have just asked Judah for the man, right? But Judah appears to have decided to keep him from Tamar out of superstitious fear for his (Shelah's) life (Gen 38:11). At this point I think you run into some politics. How can the sin of a tribal leader like Judah be exposed? Not easily. The point is to rebuke Judah's hypocrisy for wanting to burn Tamar, when she did this with /him/!

Okay, so then shouldn't Tamar just have accepted the injustice, instead of solving it this way? I think some gospel accounts come to mind at this point. The persistent widow, the unclean woman with the flow of blood who goes to Jesus in the crowd, the Gentile woman who asks for crumbs from the table, ask-seek-find. The theme is to pursue justice intensely. Yes, but immorally? I think Tamar's actions were sinful, and yet notice what God does with them. Tamar is the first woman mentioned in the New Testament (Matt 1:3), because the child she has through this incestuous, lustful, deceiving, out-of-wedlock incident is Perez, the ancestor of Boaz, David and Jesus.

Friend: Judah's response is more literally "She is righteous, not I." The choice of words doesn't lead us to think she chose the lesser of the two evils, but that she actually did the right/correct/good thing. Unlike other widows of the time, she did not need a husband or son to be cared for since she lived in Judah's household, so she had even less legitimate of a reason to deceive Judah into sleeping with her. More importantly, the text here takes care to clear Judah of incest since it states in vs16 and vs26 that Judah did not know it was Tamar and that he did not sleep with her again. Why would the text give this aspect of the "sin" attention and not the deception or the adultery or the assuming the role of a prostitute (a prostitute of pagan idolatry at that)?

Me: I read the Hebrew differently: "tzedekah mimenu" literally "righteous from me" which last particle is often used as a comparative "more ... than I." Still I would agree with you that the text applauds her action. I would then take this as a form of civil disobedience. To her privileged position, I would agree, but see Judah's position as tribal leader as more relevant. Because of that, his sin HAD to be dealt with or God's plan could be obstructed (think Achan in Ai). Yes, I agree the text clear Judah of incest, but it was still incest on Tamar's part! I don't have all the answers here, but know it is a repeated Scriptural theme of persistent women zealous for righteousness, doing crazy things to confront ungodly men or resolve hard situations.

Friend: If I hear you right it sounds like this instance does not fit neatly into our definitions or boxes of sin. This was my impression of the text also.


Not your Grandma's knitting

I've always got an eye open for new and innovative knitting, something that goes beyond the expected sweaters and dishrags.

And I have a broken beach umbrella on my back deck. Hmmmm.....

Yup, that's a knitted umbrella or parasol, pattern found at Knitty.com here.

Knitting is really getting wild. Shoes, espadrilles, birthday cake, vegetables, Fiestaware tea set, flowers, digestive systems, and more!


On a roll

George Grant is, over here.

Check out the April 26 entry on the first English landing half an hour from my home, and the prayers made and Scripture read there and then.

Or the April 24 entry for a paragraph on the amazing connection between John Knox, RC Sproul and George Grant.

Or the April 23 entry for a great 2 paragraphs on Islamic Imperialism.

Enter in; take and eat; receive rest

Eugune Petersen, in Modern Reformation, Jan/Feb 2007, pg 35

"I have tried to take each major area of our lives - creation, salvation, and the community and... each section comes into a focus in something we do: creation comes into focus in Sabbath-keeping, salvation comes into focus in the eucharist, and community comes into focus in baptism. So, none of these things is left to be just ideas. They all end up doing something. But they aren't doing seomthing that you're in control of; there's something that you have to enter into. When Americans start talking about doing something, they're usually talking about pragmatics: how do I do it? Well, there's no "way" to keep the Sabbath - you have to enter into something larger than you; there's no "way" to receive holy Communion - you just take what's given to you; there'e no "way" to be baptized - you have to let somebody else do it to you; so, it requires our participation, but is doesn't permit our taking charge."