Another good one

On mentoring young men

Work, and aging

I found this very helpful.

What are the stages of a man's life, related to his work and family responsibilities?
How do you prepare for and mitigate the vocational discontent (mid-life crisis) that often arises in the 40s?

What happens around forty: 0:30
Overview of stages of adult life: 1:00
Mid-life crisis, analyzed Biblically: 3:50
What it looks like: 4:25
Preparing for it: 5:50
Retirement at 7:30
Inheritance at 9:00

Aging & Work: The Stages of a Mans Life from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

Counseling for crisis

Counseling is not a shoulder to cry on.
Counseling is not time to vent your feelings.
Counseling is not empathy time.
All these things may happen in a counseling session, and they aren't bad, or to be avoided.

But the purpose of counseling is change, by and according to God's word.

I have noticed this lately in my own counseling. I have been advising people that if you have children you should expect child problems. If you are married there will be marriage problems. If you are a young man, certain other problems arise. In this world you will have trouble, and all that.

And, if you counsel people, there will be counseling problems! I have gone along blissfully for a while thinking that counseling should be like preaching: I dish out the Word, and the people absorb it, nod, and go home. Nay, nay. Counseling is needed because people have gotten into a pattern of ungodly living, and built up a resistance to change. So when the counselor comes along with the very purpose of change according to God's Word, he is set up for...

Counseling problems. Dismantling defenses is sometimes the counselor's call. People don't want to change, often. I have been called and accused of all kinds of things in trying to counsel people. Oddly enough, people come for help and then resist the help. They come wanting change, oblivious that they need to change.

This is the way of the cross. I just read John 19 in Bible study with a group of guys. Jesus gives up His life, in the face of hostility and accusation from the very people He is trying to help. Will mom lay down her life for her disobedient children again today? Will dad help with the dishes and the kids tonight, even when his wife and children complain more than they appreciate?

For judgment Jesus came into the world, to bring every person to a decision point. Is Jesus sent from God? Will I believe Him? Will I try to live for Him? Will I serve others, even when those others hurt me?

Good counseling should bring us to this crisis, this decision. Do I think I need help? Am I willing to submit to Biblical help? What should I do differently? And all through the process, sin keeps arising. "No, wait a minute. The problem isnt me, it's her!" We usually say that right when we see what we need to change, and how hard it is going to be. So we go back to the crisis.

Am I in need of change? Who of us is not, this side of glory?


No discernment without absolutes

"Without Gods absolute word, man can only offer a "life-style," not the truth; authority is also gone when truth is gone. The ability to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, is also gone, because, in an existential world, all things are relative, and man is beyond good and evil." Rushdoony, institutes of Biblical Law, pg 580.


You will worship Me on this mountain

Reading Exodus 20-24, I was struck again by how it all ties together. God calls Israel to His mountain to worship Him, after saving them from Egypt. God has them prepare to receive His Word, by sacrifice and other preparations. God speaks to them. God calls them Up the mountain to eat and drink with Him, and then ascend into His cloud. It is our order of worship. Call in chapter 19 Confession in chapter 19 Consecration in chapter 20-23 Communion and consummation in chapter 24

How to get there

"Justification is by the grace of God through faith, and... Sanctification is by law, God's law." Rousas Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, pg 549. Well. Again, I had an allergic reaction to this, but read the whole section to hear him out. HIS allergic reaction is to people who try to avoid the law in their sanctification, in discerning whether they are pursuing holiness and following God's will. This is right. The pietism that pleases self, that one is holy based on how long you pray or read the Bible without reference to the Text is a real problem. The problem I still have with the above quote is that it implies that grace is not involved in our sanctification. Just submit. Just obey. Go do it. We remain reliant on The Spirit's work, giving us new life and new desires to be willing to turn to the Law and follow it. If the Father is the destination, and the Son is the road, and the Spirit is the car we are in getting us to the Father, then the Law is the lines on the road. Wouldn't be much good having lines without an actual road. Wouldn't be much good having a road and lines, without gas propelling you down the road.


For my RCA friends

Please read this front-line defense of orthodoxy in the RCA today.

It gives a concrete way to handle the homosexuality controversy in the RCA.
It details some actions by RCA people who are celebrating the open embrace of unrepentant homosexual practice among church members and clergy.

The RCA has held the line in its positions on paper thus far, but needs this move, to shore up its foundations, as the mark of a true church is its willingness to discipline those refusing to repent of clear sin.


Homosexuality in the RCA

My former denomination (Reformed Church in America) continues to struggle with this, having a biblical position on paper, but not having the spine or orthodoxy to discipline at the presbytery level those who openly flout that position.

Kevin DeYoung, an RCA Michigan pastor, is starting a good blog series on it, here.

And John Piper quoted Wolfhart Pannenberg on this, lately. It is so fitting, I quote it below. Keep in mind this guy Pannenberg is something of a liberal theologian, German contemporary, all the rage with the liberal professor types in the RCA. I hope they take heed to him, and not to the political correctness prevailing in many parts of the RCA.

"Here lies the boundary of a Christian church that knows itself to be bound by the authority of Scripture. Those who urge the church to change the norm of its teaching on this matter must know that they are promoting schism. If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church." ("Should We Support Gay Marriage? No")

Two errors about God speaking today

Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching
John R. W. Stott (1921-2011)

“When once we have grasped the truth that ‘God still speaks through what he has spoken,’ we shall be protected against two opposite errors. The first is the belief that, though it was heard in ancient times, God’s voice is silent today. The second is the claim that God is indeed speaking today, but that his Word has little or nothing to do with Scripture."


On Lying

Preparing for a sermon on the ninth commandment, forbidding bearing false witness against your neighbor.

"Exorbitant attention to how to do a thing destroys the ability to do it. An adept in logic may be a very poor reasoner; and a man who spends his life in studying the rules of elocution may be a very indifferent orator. So a man versed in all the subtleties of casuistry [ethics of right and wrong in various situations] is apt to lose the clear and simple apprehension of right and wrong."

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, pg 447-448

"In criminal falsehoods there must be not only the enunciation or signification of what is false, and an intention to deceive, but also a violation of some obligation.... Notwithstanding this ability to abuse, the principle that a higher obligation absolves from a lower stands firm.... It is evidently right to inflict pain in order to save life.... The question now under consideration is not whether it is ever right to do wrong... nor is the question whether it is ever right to lie; but rather what constitutes a lie" (pg 441-442)


Is it Jesus who appears to Joshua in 5:13-15?

I think it was a theophany, an appearance of Jesus, pre-incarnation, the commander of His Father's army.
If it were an angel, he would say, "Don't worship me." And the place is holy because of Who is there with Joshua.

But the main point of the passage is to show that God is in charge, and Joshua is under Him. The point is to put Joshua on par with Moses, as the same thing happens at the burning bush.

It is a great example of literary foreshadowing: we don't fully understand what this means until several chapters in the book (several books later in the Bible) when Jesus comes - really not until we see Him as the commander of the army in Rev 19:11-16!

Why did Achan's family die with him in Joshua 7?

There is a contrast with Rahab and "all that she had" being saved (6:23), where Achan "and all that he had" (7:24) being destroyed. (The same happens to the men with Korah in Numbers 16:32 and to Daniel's enemies in Daniel 6:24.) Like with the Canaanites Israel kills, we must assume that God does this knowing they are sinful and without faith in Him. Rahab demonstrates that faith (James 2:25), so his saved with her household. Achan takes forbidden fruit like Adam, and so taints his whole community.

Why are Achan's children killed, too? (No wife mentioned, curiously). I assume they aided and abetted in the concealment. You can't dig a hole big enough to hide that much silver and gold in such a small tent without your several children noticing.

Beyond this, I think we underestimate the serious impact Adam's sin had on the human race - worse than the physical death of Achan's children was the death of alienation from God that Adam brought on all his children. The death of Achan's children, even if they were ignorant of Achan's sin, is a picture of that imputation of original sin, in a way. Can God destroy "innocent" people like this, just to make a negative example for others? See Romans 9:22-23.

We are all His, are without excuse in our sin (Romans 1:20; 2:1), and God will not condemn the guiltless, or those who trust Him.


The only Savior's Table

Sermon text: Galatians 1:11-24

This is the only table with real and lasting food. If you drink here you will never be thirsty again, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well. If you eat here, you will be satisfied. That’s because this is the table of the only Savior, Jesus. Anyone or anything else you encounter in the world that promises to satisfy or save you is false and fake. God gives us many gifts to enjoy, but none to idolize and replace Him as Savior. So do not leave the host of this table. Don’t let anyone trouble you or turn you from the Lord Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all your sins and set you free from the tyranny of the devil. “by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”


Know the problem, to know Gospel comfort

Heidelberg Catechsim questions 9-11
Q9. But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?
A.No, God created human beings with the ability to keep the law.1
They, however, provoked by the devil,2
in willful disobedience,3
robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.4
1 Gen. 1:31; Eph. 4:24
2 Gen. 3:13; John 8:44
3 Gen. 3:6
4 Rom. 5:12, 18, 19

Q10. Does God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
A.Certainly not. God is terribly angry with the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit.
As a just judge, God will punish them both now and in eternity,1
having declared:
“Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey
all the things written in the book of the law.”2
1 Ex. 34:7; Ps. 5:4-6; Nah. 1:2; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6; Heb. 9:27
2 Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26

Q11. But isn’t God also merciful?
A.God is certainly merciful,1
but also just.2
God’s justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty — eternal punishment of body and soul.3
1 Ex. 34:6-7; Ps. 103:8-9
2 Ex. 34:7; Deut. 7:9-11; Ps. 5:4-6; Heb. 10:30-31
3 Matt. 25:35-46

So far in the Heidelberg catechism, we’ve learned that our only comfort is belonging to Jesus who pays for our sin and frees us from it. To be fully comforted in this, we must first understand how great our sin and misery are. The law of God teaches us that we have not lived up to His will perfectly, that we are prone to sin. God did not make us this way, He made us without sin, but we sinned ourselves, becoming so corrupt that we can no longer do any good even if we try, until we are born again by the Spirit.

But if we are born unable to do good, how can God find fault with us? Adam and Eve robbed all their descendants of the ability to keep the law. We fell as a race, together, at the beginning. And if any of us were in their place, we would have fallen, too. God’s mercy does not violate His justice. He is angry with sin and punishes every last sinner, either in the sinner himself, which lands them in eternal hell, or He punishes redeemed sinners in Christ on the cross. It is to that Christ that we turn to confess our sins now.



Set apart before birth

Genesis 17 goes out of its way to point out that Isaac is conceived by a circumcised Abraham, unlike Ishmael.

Abraham circumcises Ishmael and himself the same day God commands it, and Isaac is born about a year later. Abraham wishes Ishmael could be the one, since he's already 13, but God's consecration is needed.

It is important that Isaac come forth by God's choice (not by Abraham and Sarah's choice as Ishmael did), with God's sign placed on Abraham and Isaac by Abraham, from the start.

Speechless in sin; covered by blood

In Genesis 15, when God appears to Abraham, Abraham pertly reminds God of His promise yet unfulfilled (15:2). After messing up with Hagar, he is much more humble when God speaks again in 17:1: he just falls on his face without saying anything (17:3). Our mouths are stopped and our words are fewer before God, when we know our sin more fully.

Back in chapter 15, God makes a self-imprecatory oath with him in the animals cut apart and the manifestation of God's presence in the pot going between the bleeding animal pieces. This was done in the culture (Jeremiah 34:18), as a statement that if I break the promise we have made, you may have my blood in death. God doesn't have Abraham walk through, only God does. The covenant is broken of course, for Abraham and all his descendants do not "walk before Me and be blameless" (Gen 17:3). And the blood of Jesus is spilled to cover it, and keep the bond between God and man, which was forged here.

Invited and Accepted

Ephesians 2:13 - "Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."

God is so good to us. His provision is rich. Not only does He give us clear truth in His Word, He also gives us His people to live among, so we can see a variety of angles to the same Gospel of grace. He pictures the gospel of grace and peace for us in sacraments of cleansing and feeding. Here at His Table we see God’s grace. We don’t deserve a place at this table, but He has set us here anyway, because He wants to. He wants us with Him in fellowship and peace. We see His peace toward us. You don’t give people food too fast if you’re not at peace with them. God shows His peace to us, accomplished at the cross and proven at the resurrection. God shows His peace to us here at His table. Christ Himself is our peace, and here we commune with Him.


Like Oregon Cedars

Prayer of Invocation – Psalm 92
Lord, Your works are great and your wisdom is a deep mystery. The secular man doesn’t have a clue. Their flourishing only lasts a moment, and then they die. But You are exalted forever. You outlast anyone who tries to oppose You. You have exalted your Christ and anointed Him for us. This has cast down our enemies our sins. You plant us in your courts to flourish like palm trees in Florida, like cedars in the northwest. You give us long life and much fruit to return glory to You. You are our rock, and there is no unrighteousness in You. So we worship You now, sitting, standing, kneeling, praying, singing, listening to You.

We come to you through Jesus Christ, by the power of Your Holy Spirit who lives and reigns with You, one God without beginning or end. Amen.