On not provoking children

Kevin DeYoung quotes Martin Lloyd-Jones' 7 points on Ephesians 6:4. This is better than you'll find in most parenting books...

"And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord."

1.  “We are incapable of exercising true discipline unless we are first able to exercise self-control, and discipline our own tempers” (Life in the Spirit, 278).
2.  “If a parent is to exercise this discipline in the right way he must never be capricious. There is nothing more irritating to the one who is undergoing discipline than a feeling that the person who is administering it is capricious and uncertain. There is nothing more annoying to a child than the kind of parent whose moods and actions you can never predict, who is changeable, whose condition is always uncertain. There is no worse type of parent than he who one day, in a kindly mood, is indulgent and allows the child to do almost anything it likes, but who the next day flares up in a rage if the child does scarcely anything at all” (279).
3.  “Another most important principle is that the parent must never be unreasonable or unwilling to hear the child’s case. There is nothing that so annoys the one who is being disciplined as the feeling that the whole procedure is utterly unreasonable. In other words, it is a thoroughly bad parent who will not take any circumstances into consideration at all, or who will not listen to any conceivable explanation. . . .Of course one realizes that advantage can be taken of this by the child. All I am saying is that we must never be unreasonable. Let the explanation be given by the child, and if it is not a true reason, then you can chastise for that also as well as for the particular act which constitutes the offence. But to refuse to listen, to prohibit any kind of reply, is inexcusable” (280).
4.  “But there is another principle to be considered – the parent must never be selfish. . . .My charge applies to persons who do not recognize that the child has his own life and personality, and who seem to think that children are entirely for their pleasure, or for their use. They have an essentially wrong notion of parenthood and what it means. They do not realize that we are but guardians and custodians of these lives that are given to us, that we do not possess them, that they do not ‘belong’ to us, that they are not ‘goods’ or chattels, that we have no absolute right over them” (281).
5. “Punishment, discipline, must never be administered in a mechanical manner. There are people who believe in discipline for its own sake. That is not biblical teaching, but the philosophy of the Sergeant Major. . . .It must never be thought of in terms of pressing a button and expecting an inevitable result to follow. That is not true discipline; it is not even human. That belongs to the realm of mechanics. But true discipline is always based on understanding; it has something to say for itself; it has an explanation to give” (282).
6.  Discipline must never be too severe. Here is perhaps the danger that confronts many good parents at the present time as they see the utter lawlessness about them, and as they rightly bemoan it and condemn it. Their danger is to be so deeply influenced by their revulsions as to go right over to this other extreme and to become much too severe. The opposite of no discipline at all is not cruelty, it is balanced discipline, it is controlled discipline” (283).
7.  “We must never fail to recognize growth and development in the child. This is another alarming parental defect which, thank God, one does not see now so often as formerly. But there are still some parents who continue to regard their children all their lives as if they had never outgrown their childhood. The children may be twenty-five but they still treat them as if they were five. They do not recognize that this person, this individual, this child who God has given them in His grace, is one that is growing and developing and maturing” (284).

Family table

When my family gathers around our family table at home, we are all Hemmekes. And yet each person is unique and different. What binds us together is a loving covenant of marriage, and begetting children from that union.

When we gather at the Lord’s Table, it is much the same. We are all followers of Jesus Christ. What binds us together is a loving covenant between Father and Son for their mutual glory. The Father has begotten us as spiritual children to eternal life, through faith in Jesus Christ. We are all children of the same Father, we have the same Lord and Savior. Yet children are not identical. And so we come together at the Lord’s Table to receive the same spiritual food and drink from Him. Yet each of us has slightly different needs. Some need comfort food, some splash of water in the face to wake up, some need strength for a battle. God knows how to provide for each of us, through His Word and sacrament. Through our fellowship of love together with Him and with each other.


Fearing God since 9/11/01

Proverbs 1:7
    "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, 
    But fools despise wisdom and instruction."

The first thing on the way to wisdom is to fear God. Most proverbs are made up of two lines that go together and the second will further explain the first. Prov 1:7 says that the opposite of fearing God is despising wisdom and instruction. Part of maturing as a child of God is to know when you are hearing or seeing wisdom in others, and then to take heed. This is to fear God, for He calls us to be wise.

I take it as a given that 10 years ago today, God gave us a wake up call as a nation. The question remains open whether we are hearing or seeing wisdom and taking heed as a nation. We grieve with those who grieve the loss of loved ones at the hands of terrorists. We also grieve to see little evidence of repentance and revival since then. This doesn’t mean it is not there. God reserves many faithful in each nation that we cannot see. We must have faith in His providence, not the numbers of election polls or legislative majorities. Let us stay vigilant in promoting a vibrant community of Christ followers in our nation, proclaiming and living the gospel clearly to all. Let us turn back to the Lord, confess our sins in faith that we will be heard in Jesus Christ, and then prepare to fulfill all our obligations as covenant members of church, family and this nation.


On Jericho: Joshua 5:13-6:27

1. Is the angel of the Lord in Joshua 5 Jesus?
Yes, I think this is Jesus.
Reason 1: In the New Testament, when a man bows before an angel, the angel stops him and says to worship God. This angel doesn't stop Joshua.
Reason 2: the ground is holy because God is there, as He was at the burning bush, when Moses takes off his sandals.
Counterargument: There are several examples in the OT of godly men falling down before other men in submission, with no worship implied. Even the word for "worshiped" in 5:14 is used of David bowing to Jonathan and Mephibosheth.
So it isn't conclusive, but Jesus IS the commander of the Lord's army (Rev 19:11).
Either way, the main point of the text is to see Joshua's submission to God. He is not an autonomous national leader conquering in his own will or power.

2. Faith: Joshua's faith is revealed by his obedience. Rahab's and her family's obedience is revealed by their waiting in their house for rescue. This is James' point in James 2.

3. There is no middle ground between faith and lack of it. Being a good person doesn't get you partway spared from God's judgment. You decide to either stand in Rahab's house for protection, or find some way to protect yourself in the city (which gets you killed). You decide to either stand under Christ's protection from God's judgment for sin, or find some other protection. 

4. Jericho is devoted to utter destruction. No plunder or spoil, except for God's treasury. This is the firstfruits principle: the first of what God gives to us, we return to Him.

5. How do we relate to "Canaanites" today? We do not attack them militarily, but we know their judgment is coming. We expect some exiles from Canaan, like Rahab, who come to faith; we spare and treat them generously, as co-heirs of mercy.

General observations on Joshua
1. Like the issue of slavery in the Bible, it is easy to be embarrassed or ashamed of what Joshua actually did: killing all men, women and children in every city. We need to remember that all of us are born in sin, which deserves death. God was judging them, as He did Sodom and Egypt. God wanted this, not Joshua, and it was just.

2. Joshua is a transition book between the Law and the prophets, as Acts is a transition book between the Gospels and the Epistles. Each one deals with Israel's/Church's mission to "take the land" (disciple the nations). Look to Acts for examples as you talk through the lessons (Ananias and Sapphira are like Achan, for instance.) The conquest (and the church's discipleship) is rapid and seems total (Josh 11:23; Col 1:6), but it is incomplete and there is much yet to do (Josh 13:1; Acts 28:25-31; Rev 19:15).


Permissive or Pressing Parenting

Kevin DeYoung, on parenting.

Are you too permissive or too over-bearing with your children?
Both are a problem. I like his point that we can be both at different times.
The Brian Regan reference didn't hurt any, either!

His main point was to lighten up when it's okay to do so. This could be misread, yes.

Parenting is a process of observing and guiding growth over a long time. We don't want children to still be children when they are 30, but that doesn't mean pressing child-like-ness out of your 10 year old. Nor does it mean falling asleep at the wheel as your kids follow the culture more than they honor their parents.

Don't miss a Word

Our Father in heaven, You are the majestic Lord of heaven and earth. The earth quakes before You. You ride the hurricane in Your chariot. Mountains that seem so immovable to us melt before You. The heavens declare, not only Your immensity and power, but Your righteousness. We all see Your splendor displayed. On country roads, in pleasant fields, in the love of a man for a woman, Your glory is great. You have planted light and gladness for us to harvest. So we rejoice before You with all our might. We sing with all the voice we can muster. We pray with all the fervent attention we have. We lean in to listen to Your Word, afraid to miss anything. We give thanks remembering Your holiness.

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.


Faith eats and drinks

Sermon text: Galatians 3:1-9
Faith in Christ justifies us before God, not works of the law

Jesus was amazed at the faith of the centurion who asked for his servant to be healed. His response is to describe many who will come from far away to sit down with Abraham in the kingdom of heaven. This weekly ritual is a reminder of that coming reality. What brings us in is faith. Faith that we need a Savior from our sin and that God has saved us at the cross. Faith is the foundation of our weekly communion practice. Different churches have different buildings, different looking preachers and pulpits and chairs and ways of doing the sacraments, but it is all built on the foundation of faith. So is your eating and drinking. It isn’t about what you’re feeling as you chew bread or drink wine. It isn’t about what you know on the finer theological points. It’s about who you trust. Faith starts with facts and ends up with feelings, but ultimately we trust the person of Jesus Christ. The point of that trust is to sit down reconciled with our Creator. Faith is for fellowship with God.



A Week in the Life of a Pastor

Kevin DeYoung is probably my favorite blogger/pastor right now.

The Monday after a particularly difficult Sunday, he came out with this, which really encouraged me. Perhaps it will help you pray more specifically for your pastor. I shamelessly repost it in full below.

What Sermon Prep Really Looks Like

Monday – I’m so glad it’s my day off. Yesterday’s sermon was terrible. Maybe this week will be better.
Tuesday AM -  I better get some emails done and get the blog lined up. If I can check a few things off my To Do List I’ll really be able to concentrate on my sermon.
Tuesday PM – I wasn’t expecting the lunch to go so long and for them to stop by. I’ll guess I’ll get to my sermon tomorrow.
Wednesday AM – Man, more emails. I need to make a few phone calls too. The agendas also need some work. Sermon prep soon.
Wednesday PM – I forgot–staff meetings all afternoon. I got to buckle down and start on this sermon tomorrow.
Thursday AM – Okay, here we go. Let’s get the paper and pencil out and open my Greek Bible. Darn, made the mistake of checking my email and leaving my door open. Got to take care of a couple more things.
Thursday PM – Finally started on my sermon. Working on translation. Making notes. So thankful to be a pastor. What a privilege to study God’s word. I’m getting a little sleepytrhough.
Friday AM – Excited to work on this sermon and think about preaching. So much to learn. So much to study. Never saw that before.
Friday PM – What a mess. I don’t see three points anywhere. Better pray. What is this sermon about? Where I am going? Need an outline before I go home. Brain don’t fail me now.
Saturday AM – It’s quiet here. Need to stop fiddling around with emails. Need some better illustrations. What is my application? These three points could be worded better.
Saturday PM – Praying for help. A few good thoughts I think. That section will preach. The introduction is so-so. Conclusion needs work. Have to push through and finish this. If I push print I can go home.
Saturday extra-PM – I’m sure this is too long. Needs pruning. I’m excited to preach this, but boy it doesn’t feel like much. No time left except for prayer. Should be in bed already.
Sunday before preaching- I can’t believe I get to preach. Stay humble. Pray for unction.
Sunday during preaching – What a joy to teach God’s word. And a challenge. Am I getting through? Am I getting in the way? Need to trust God. I must decrease, he must increase. I think I see a cloud the size of a man’s hand in the distance.
Sunday after preaching – That was too long…again. Trying to smile and talk to people while wondering if that made any difference. A lot of polite hello’s. A couple critiques. Several people seemed genuinely helped. I’m getting hungry and may need to use the bathroom.
Sunday evening – Crazy day. Get the kids to bed. Talk to my wife. Call my mom. Thankful for a good day. Glad it’s over. Not sure what God did, but I’ll trust him for something. I love my church.
Monday – I’m so glad it’s my day off. Yesterday’s sermon was terrible. Maybe this week will be better.

Tedd Tripp at HEAV

Just got my Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) magazine in the mail, and I see Tedd Tripp is keynoting the conference, and Reb Bradley will be speaking in Richmond, VA  June 8-9.

Go here for more.

The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment

The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment: Is There an Ancient Mystery that Foretells America's Future?

“The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with hewn stones; The sycamores are cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.” - Isaiah 9:10

This video was produced by some folks I respect, and narrated by a Jewish rabbi, Jonathan Cahn, whom I do not know. It takes Isaiah 9:10, finding there nine specific harbingers of God’s judgment against Israel, and finds all nine in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, in the USA. I’m not sure I got all nine, but here are the points made.

1.      Sept 12, 2001 – Senate Majority leader quoted Isa 9:10 to our nation’s gathered rulers, out of context, making a vow of our national resolve to survive and thrive. Seven years later, Sept 12, 2008 – the financial markets collapse over the Leman Brothers’ fall.
2.      The germination contract of the NYSE was signed under a sycamore tree. On Sept 11, 2001, when the towers fell, a sycamore tree kiddie corner to it was damaged and eventually cut down. There is now a monument to this tree on Wall Street.
3.      Sabbath year – every 7 years God commanded Israel to rest the land. This is the key to God’s timing of judgment. The Dow crashed Sept 17, 2001, (29 Ellul - Jewish, calendar) and then again Sept 29, 2008 (29 Ellul – Jewish calendar). Sabbath year Hebrew word can mean release, or collapse. “9/11 is woven into the ancient mystery of [Sabbath year].” Dow lost 7% of its value. Point loss was 777.
4.      2 or 3 witnesses needed
1.      Daschle quotes Isa 9:10 quoted 9/12/01 – “we will rebuild”
2.      9/11/04 John Edwards quotes Isa 9:10
3.      2/21/09 Obama says, “We will rebuild.”
5. Mystery Ground. Temple destroyed in 70AD, where the nation was founded – this is part of God’s judgment. America founded on God’s Word, like Israel. Happened on April 30, 1789, when the constitution was put in force and the 1st president inaugurated. Washington spoke of God and warned we must follow God or He will remove His blessing. This happened in New York City, lower Manhattan, St Paul’s chapel, which is kiddie corner from Ground Zero. The church used to OWN ground zero. The sycamore that fell grew on the church’s yard. The foundation of Federal Hall was cracked in the shockwave of 9/11/01.

It concludes with 2 Chronicles 7:14: “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  The gatherings in churches after 9/11/01 had the feeling of triumph (“God bless America”), NOT repentance. We have not repented as a nation. Also, this verse is not for a nation, but for God’s people. The Church is compromised with sin and not pursuing God. We need to repent.

So much for a summary. Here’s my take.

I believe there is clear application of Isaiah 9:10 to the recent history of the USA. America is intent on recovering from trials, apart from repentance and returning to the ways of the Lord, as Israel was in Isaiah 9. So our solutions (increased security and war on terror resulting in national debt, easy money resulting in housing bubbles and recession) will backfire, and God’s judgment will come. Cahn is on target, here. On our current trajectory as a nation, God is going to judge us. We are not repenting, as a church or as a nation, in spite of God’s warnings to us. God’s blessings are now beginning to fade. The church should be deliberately searching the Scriptures and her life to see how she should repent and return to the Lord.

Cahn states: “America like Israel was founded for God’s purposes… God blessed America more than any nation.” I reject the implicit assertion that America is unique among the nations, religiously, or in God’s eyes. We are not a peculiar people, as Israel was. We have an inspired account of how God dealt with His people, Israel, in the Bible. While we can draw valid application from it to apply to our own nations, we must be careful not to go the other way, and declare that God is doing x because the markets did y on date z. The newspaper is not an inspired account of God’s dealings with us. We are not inspired interpreters and VERY easily get these things wrong, trying to put together a puzzle that only God can. I remain skeptical of finding God’s purposes in modern events like this. God superintends all things deliberately, but that doesn’t mean there is an important message from Him for us in every falling tree. One example in the movie is the Sabbath year release of debts. The purpose of the 7th year was to FORGIVE debts, not to predict the timing of economic collapse. There is also some arbitrary picking of dates here to make it work, and then sensationalizing it, complete with spooky music in the background. It’s a bit overdone, and off base in a couple places.

Then again, the church needs to recover from spiritualizing every prophetic text into excluding God from superintending the finances, law, and politics of nations. This movie gets 5 stars in that area, from me. The cinematography is very good, and I understand the over-done-ness, in the attempt to grab the attention of an entertainment-stupified people (and church!). A solid 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Not just for our kind

We are keen to fence the Lord’s Table, here. That means we want unbelievers and unrepentant hypocrites to not take bread and wine, because they will be eating and drinking judgment on themselves.

But it is also important that we make clear that ANY believer is welcome at this table. Not just the Calvinists, the homeschoolers, the infant baptizers. Not just those who feel good about their obedience this week, not just those free of their besetting sins. We don’t justify ourselves. We’re here because we know we need Jesus Christ to do that. So come and lay down your sin and failure before Him. Pick up the bread and wine instead. That’s the great trade God offers you. Give Him your guilt and He’ll give you grace.


Asserting more than He said

We are indeed prone to wander. God is the God of mercy and justice, while we are not true to Him or merciful or just to each other. 1 Cor 4 exhorts us “not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"

Where sinners fellowship together over time, then envy, jealousy, puffy pride, and anger arise over things that go beyond what is written in Scripture.



The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit (Contours of Christian Theology, #6)The Holy Spirit by Sinclair B. Ferguson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Masterful, thorough, and Biblical. Ferguson covers every aspect of the Holy Spirit in this theologically packed volume. I'd recommend any book in this "Contours of Christian Theology" series.

Ferguson's contribution is balanced. He covers the Spirit's work in individual regeneration and in the church corporately, and in the regeneration of all things, without prejudicing one over the other.

His view of the gifts of the Spirit was an especially helpful chapter. He is a cessationist, which is just fine with me. The gifts of the Spirit centered on the proclamation of the Word right from the very start of the New Testament, and the gifts of tongue speaking and prophecy ended with the close of the apostolic age. We are now in a post-apostolic age, where those gifts are not operating. Ferguson does not exclude the miraculous and supernatural working of God through the Spirit today, however, as the cessationist position is constantly accused of holding.

This work was spiritually edifying, especially in seeing the Spirit's work on behalf of the believer personally and sacramentally. The one down-side is that he uses very academic terminology, which will turn away most believers. Re-writing words like "repristinization" and "eschatologization" (on the last page!) would have been helpful to the reader.

View all my reviews

Freed for Holiness

This food and drink bring life and liberty. Living water and bread from heaven gives true freedom. Worldly food promises freedom, but brings slavery. When the White Witch gave Edmund Turkish delight in Narnia, it made him a slave to want more and more so that he would destroy himself. When we feed on Jesus in our souls and at this table, we are freed to want more and more of Him, so that we truly live as we were meant to live. As one of our nationally treasured documents almost says, this Lord’s table is all about life, liberty and the pursuit of holiness.


Sinner meets Holy; Confession results

We just sang that the eye of sinful man cannot see God’s immense glory and holiness. We have come close to the holy God in worship. As Romans 13 says, “let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Let us lay these sins at our Lord’s feet, confess them, and walk away from them, putting on Christ as we go.



John 9

Jesus heals a man blind from birth. This causes a ruckus, as it is during a feast and on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are divided: some say it's sinful because it was on the Sabbath; others say it is such a miracle, it must be from God. They try to solve this dilemma by saying it's a different guy (calling the parents in), and getting him to condemn Jesus, but neither works. They excommunicate the healed blind man. Jesus finds him and shows Himself to him. The man worships Jesus. Jesus points out that the blind now sees, but those who "see" are still blind.

People go to great lengths to dismiss Jesus. They will try any excuse to be able to say, "Jesus was not from God." Because if He was, He messes with our ideas of what is right, and calls for total obedience.

Don't boil a kid in its mother's milk. In other words, don't use something that should be a blessing to them (like the Sabbath) to beat them up. The Pharisees put the healed man and his parents through the wringer on the Sabbath, even excommunicating him on the spot, trying to uphold the importance of the Sabbath!

When Jesus heals you, a total healing in all dimensions results. This man is healed not only of physical blindness, but also freed from the guilt of sin, and freed from the intimidation of the Pharisees (no small feat itself). There are many who Jesus miraculously heals or feeds who do NOT come to Him in worship. A whole generation of Israelites fed by manna in the wilderness comes to mind. But when you are truly reborn by God, the transformation will be total: spiritual, physical, social, everything. It may not be complete. We do not attain perfection until Christ's return. But the transformation begins in every part of life.

McCheyne - Life is an Adventure

Robert Murray Mccheyne Life Is An AdventRobert Murray Mccheyne Life Is An Advent by Irene Howat
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Points for intent and content, but not for writing style.
The intent is to uphold missionaries and evangelists as good examples for our children to read about and emulate.
The content is the biography of Robert Murray McCheyne, about whom I knew nothing, and still know little.
The style leaves a lot to be desired. Uneven pacing, abrupt transitions exits and entrances, these impinge on conveying well the events of McCheyne's life. His famous reading plan gets 1/3 of a page and isn't really described clearly.

On the plus side, his earnest desire to share the life and work of Jesus Christ with his parishioners regardless of his ailing health (he died at 29) comes through well.

If you need something for your children to read, give them this. But there has to be a better children's biography of McCheyne out there. Come to think of it, there doesn't /have/ to be, but there should be.

View all my reviews


Straight from God

Sermon text - Galatians 1:11-26
Paul's gospel not invented or inherited, but from God

John 1:12-13
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

The gospel is from God, and so is this Lord’s Supper. We did not make this up ourselves. Such a thing is unlikely to enter our heads - passing bits of bread and wine around. We did not just inherit this from some Medieval tradition that we thoughtlessly continue. Jesus Himself told His disciples to do this to proclaim His death, to remember Him. We don’t boast in coming to this table. We glorify God who called us here. He is the center; not our choices. “Every good and perfect gift comes down to us from the Father of lights. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth.”


Delivered from deep debt

Heidelberg Catechism 12-15
Q.According to God’s righteous judgment
we deserve punishment
both now and in eternity:
how then can we escape this punishment
and return to God’s favor?
A.God requires that his justice be satisfied.
Therefore the claims of this justice
must be paid in full,
either by ourselves or by another.

Q.Can we make this payment ourselves?
A.Certainly not. Actually, we increase our debt every day.

Q.Can another creature—any at all— pay this debt for us?
A.No. To begin with, God will not punish any other creature
for what a human is guilty of. Furthermore, no mere creature can bear the weight
of God’s eternal wrath against sin and deliver others from it.

Q.What kind of mediator and deliverer
should we look for then?
A.One who is a true and righteous human, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.

Our sin and misery is great. We have rebelled against God and are condemned in our very nature from birth. How can we return to God’s favor?

First, sin must be paid for and punished, or God is not good. So who can pay this great debt? Not ourselves. We load 16 tons, and whaddaya get? Another day older and deeper in debt. That’s not just a song, that’s spiritual truth. We think we work our way out of debt to God, but we keep sinning every day.

Who can pay this great debt? No other creature. Ps 49 says no one can by any means redeem his brother, for the redemption of their souls is costly. Every creature has his own sin to pay for.

So we need a human to pay humanity’s debt, but not one saddled with Adam’s corruption. We need a deliverer who can receive and withstand God’s punishment, which no mere human could do. We need the God-man Jesus Christ.

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.


Joshua 5:1-12

1. Circumcision: rendering yourselves helpless before your enemy for days, when you are to defeat them militarily? God's preparation of His people for spiritual warfare sometimes looks foolish to the world or feels to us too painful, counterproductive, or slow.

2. Circumcision - the study book assumed God forbids Israel to circumcise their children while wandering in the wilderness. I have always believed they neglected this out of spiritual sloth or disobedience. Which do you think it is, and why? The Scripture that most directly addresses this seems to be verse 7.

3. Sacraments: both circumcision and passover are celebrated here. 
a. Circumcision becomes NT baptism (Colossians 2:11-14), and Passover becomes NT Communion. Israel had to be circumcised to do Passover (Ex 12:44, 48); we are baptized before taking Communion.
b. Crossing the Jordan was a baptism, as crossing the Red Sea was (1 Cor 10:2). Eating the fruit of the land was a kind of Communion.
c. These sacraments are part of our preparation for spiritual warfare. They look silly to the world, and maybe feel useless to ourselves, at times. But God commands them.

4. Manna to food:
a. Israel ate manna in the wilderness and died.  They were preserved (manna) and marked (circumcision) physically, but did they have faith?
b. God preserves us in different ways at different times, but He is the same faithful God dealing with His people in the same ways.

5. Jesus Christ: each of the points and Scriptures above point us to Christ. The sacramental lines especially help us see this (as they are designed to do!). Christ sets us apart to Himself (circ) and washes us (baptism and unleavened bread). He offers Himself as the sacrificial lamb (Psvr) and delivers us from the bondage of sin and guilt (Exodus).

6. Preparation: we must abide in Christ, identify with Him and His salvation in faith, before we are ready to be His witnesses in spiritual conquest of the land we are to inherit.


He does what He shows

Holy Spirit: Contours of Christian Theology

Sinclair Ferguson is one of my contemporary theological superheroes.
This book gets five stars and I'm not even done, yet.

Here's a bit on Romans 6:1-4

"Interpreters tend to signal their ecclesiastical affiliations here in assuming either a... sacramentalism or, by way of reaction, insisting that what Paul has in view is not water baptism but Spirit baptism.... There is no third option allowed. But.... there is a thrid possibility: the ministry of the Holy Spirit in uniting us to Christ.... The Spirit effects in believers the reality to which they [the sacraments] point."

And then this

"Baptism is often viewed as though it were primarily a mirror of our spiritual experience of conversion, and as though its core significance were testimony to our faith in Christ.... But this is not the New Testament's perspective.... Rather, baptism is first and foremost a sign and seal of grace, of divine activity in Christ, and of the riches of His provision for us. It is not faith that is signified or sealed. It is Christ.

And later

"An understanding of the way in which the Spirit uses baptism... preserves us from the twin errors common in sacramental theology: (1) the error of so subjectivizing the symbolism of the rite that our use of it throws us back upon our own actions, decisions and experiences...; and (2) so objectifying the effectiveness of the blessing of the symbol that we identify the reception of the sign with the reception of what it signifies, and give no place to the faith which finds Christ Himself unveiled in the sign, or to the ongoing ministry of the Spirit. the efficacy of baptism and the Lord's Supper can no more be separated from the ministry of the Spirit than from the efficacy of the reading and hearing of the Scriptures."

What is two kingdom theology?

I wrote this up while listening to an interview by Kevin Swanson with John Frame, on Two Kingdom Theology.

The Church and state are different. Church doesn't administer civil justice and the state does not administer sacraments or preach the Gospel. Everyone agrees with this. This is not two-kingdom theology.

Two kingdom theology adds to this that the state has to be, or should be, secular. Culture and state should operate on common grace wisdom unrelated to Christ's redemption, not God's revelation from Scripture. Separation of church and state is good and right. Christians should argue from natural law and reason in the public square, not appealing to the Bible.

This is where things get sticky. There IS wisdom given us unrelated to our redemption. Frame says we suppress this, condemning ourselves (Romans 1). But I'm not sure this covers ALL the skill or wisdom we have in the world. There is also Genesis 4:19-22 - cultural skill and knowledge (is this tainted by its Cain and Lamech context?). And there IS some level of separation and difference between the church and state. But to say they operate on fundamentally different paradigms, such that there are two different kingdoms is not helpful.

Where is the kingdom of God?
Kuyper says that there isn't one square inch that Christ doesn't claim as His. We are to do everything we do to God's glory, not just in our worship, but in our work, where Christ's kingdom is also present. Opposed to this, two-kingdom theology says that the kingdom of God is in the church worshiping on Sunday, not in the secular state.

Law and gospel
We are saved by grace apart from works of the law. This is basic. Luther went on to say that some Scriptures are law passages, and some Scriptures are gospel passages. Frame (and I) finds this problematic. Law passages can positively guide us; Gospel passages can smell like death to unbelievers. Obedience is good news to believers; the free offer of grace is repulsive to unbelievers. Two kingdom theology tends to overlay the sharp distinction between law and gospel, on their sharp distinction between state and church. To the state belongs the law; to the church belongs the gospel. This is way too simplistic.

In the end, we need to contribute to culture as Christians, and see that activity as kingdom work. Christ's kingdom shows itself throughout the world as leaven spreads in bread dough.

We do not have two kingdoms separated by law and gospel. We have one King, one kingdom. Granted, He does deal with different parts of His realm differently. But the way He structures His courts and counsels at the castle (the Church) are meant by design to do certain things in the rest of the realm (state and culture).

Morbid introspection

Just watched an assessment of Jonathan Edwards' resolutions, and pietism, by Joe Rigney and Doug Wilson.

At one point Doug says that the Holy Spirit is the comforter and the devil is the accuser, and morbidly introspective folks get this backwards. They think any felt accusation is a sign of piety.

This is a good point, when addressing a pietist, but unbalanced, in the abstract. The Spirit can also convict. The devil can give false comfort. Rationalizing sin away is at least as prevalent as pietism.

The devil is in the details, or in this case, in the direct object. What are you feeling accused OF?
Drinking a soda, when that isn't a sin? Then yes, it's the devil trying to condemn you without cause.
Feeling accused of a real sin you really committed, but have also really repented of? Devil again.
Is it a real sin, and your repentance is fake, or half-hearted, and you are really cherishing the sin? Spirit conviction is at work!

Run the same diagnostic tests on the comfort side: are the feelings of comfort coming to you grounded in grace and forgiveness, or in justifying or explaining away continued sin?

And the principles you have to judge by are very well covered by the "Puritan checklists" Rigney and Wilson were discussing, such as Religious Affections, by Jonathan Edwards.

King's Arrow

King's ArrowKing's Arrow by Douglas Bond

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Four stars, given it's for young people. I read Duncan's War, the first in this trilogy of historical fiction set in Scotland during the Covenanter uprisings.

The prolific Douglas Bond deals with how to love your enemies, political submission to ungodly rulers, training and self-discipline, meditating on Scripture via Psalm singing, courageous worship gathering by ministers in the face of violent reprisal by the state, and more. Give it to your 8-13 year old boy.

The Scottish dialect is a bit thick and annoying. The writing style is not so subtle. There are two episodes where the violence goes PG-13, at least. But on the whole a very edifying story.

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1 Corinthians 14:33b-35:
“As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

These words have long frustrated or confused God’s people. Most disregard them. A few too woodenly apply them. Let’s take a closer look.

In 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul said if a woman prays or prophesies, she should do so with her head covered. This assumes women can speak in public worship. She might pray silently, which would then not conflict with 14:34, but to prophesy silently is a contradiction. To deny women prophesied legitimately in the NT church ignores Acts 2:17-18; 21:9, and Luke 2:36.

So there must be something going on in the context of 1 Corinthians 14:34 to resolve the apparent contradiction with 11:5. And there is. Beginning at verse 26, Paul is giving instructions on order in public worship. Everything needs to be helpful which means no tongues left uninterpreted (27-28). The church needs to do things one at a time (30-31). Prophets who speak must then be discerned or judged (29). This last one shows us the distinction that resolves 11:5 and 14:34. While women prayed or prophesied, they were to refrain from judging the prophecies. The early church was in the process of sifting truth, through the apostles and through church elders appointed to rule. These offices were (and are) closed to women. So is the function of discerning and setting forth truths for the church to live by. But this does not rule out women speaking, prophesying, praying and singing in church. The context shows what manner of speech is not permitted by women. It is essentially the same as in 1 Timothy 2:12: do not teach or have authority, but be silent. The silence in both texts is not absolute, no-sound-from-your-mouth. Rather it is the silence of not asserting authority or challenging a speaker disrespectfully.

This does not mean the only application is for everyone to be respectful to others. There IS a Biblical gender role issue at play. It would be shameful for a woman to presume to publicly take part in ruling the church, or to question her husband’s judgment in public. How does that uphold a woman’s call to respect and submit to her husband? Paul appeals to the creation order, to the law’s principle that a wife is to be submissive. So this requirement of silent women is not a cultural expression of respect that has now passed and is no longer relevant.

So there is a real distinction between speaking at all and speaking to discern and judge publicly. This does NOT mean that women can only announce the ladies’ meeting or sing with the rest. It does NOT mean that they are excluded completely from theological discussion. Wives in private discussion over serious matters with their husbands honor God by asking questions respectfully and speaking their mind openly. A godly husband will not get defensive when she does, but will welcome the help that his helpmeet is giving. So it is in the church. Good church leaders aren’t offended at input from women, but welcome it. Affirming Biblical gender roles does not require absolute silence.

But Paul is not training blank slate believers in how to relate to each other as husband and wife; he is dealing with disorderly, overly talkative women. Good church leaders also know when to lovingly but firmly stop usurping women (or men). Paul does set down proper boundaries for the church, in principle. But there is also some circumstantial judgment happening, here. A woman prone to usurp authority needs to be silent for a while, pastorally. Ideally, she should help her husband by sharing her thoughts. Similarly, one prone to abuse alcohol needs to abstain for a time. But the usurping or just talkative woman context and how Paul deals with it does not leave us with no guidance in this passage. In principle, wives need to respect authority publicly at church. Women can contribute publicly to theological discussion, as long as they do not dishonor the authority of their husbands and elders.

The church today should consider these verses more than they do. There are two very practical meanings for the local congregation I serve as pastor.

1. Prayer – we often have a prayer time during public worship in response to the sermon when men pray publicly. This practice is to encourage their vocal leadership before their families and in the church. It is not an outworking of 1 Corinthians 14:34. Women CAN pray publicly in worship.

2. Sermon discussion – we also have a time after the worship service for the congregation to comment on the text or sermon, ask clarifying questions, etc. May women contribute to this? I believe so, though there is the potential for problems. Can a woman express a contrary thought to a man who already spoke? Not if it’s her husband! If it isn’t, and she is respectful and doesn’t dogmatically say how it is in the church, which is for the elders to do, then the church values and welcomes her input.


When the Ship Comes in

I really got a kick out of this. I hardly know Bob Dylan's music at all, but plucked this one out on the guitar.

Pretty decent poetic description of Christ's return.

Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin’
Like the stillness in the wind
’Fore the hurricane begins
The hour when the ship comes in

Oh the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking

Oh the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they’ll be smiling
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand
The hour that the ship comes in

And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they’re spoken
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean

A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck
The hour that the ship comes in

Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin’
And the ship’s wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin’

Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’
But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it’s for real
The hour when the ship comes in

Then they’ll raise their hands
Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands
But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered
And like Pharoah’s tribe
They’ll be drownded in the tide
And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered


Tithe, then as you are able

Deuteronomy 16:17
"Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that He has given you."

One of the arguments against a required tithe in the NT, is that God tells us to give as we are able in the NT, not a strict percentage, as in the OT. This verse really undercuts that argument. The OT already said to give as you are able... AND to give a tenth of your increase. Obviously, everyone can give a tenth (and receive help from the church if needed), but some can give much more.

Fasting as Intercession

Reading in Deuteronomy:
Jesus quotes from chapter 8 when tempted. In Deut 9:9 Moses fasts 40 days and nights, no bread or water, just like Jesus does in the wilderness. It's as verbatim a quote as you're going to get, and I think the Gospel writers intended the connection.

Moses fasts to intercede for Israel, so I think we ought to add this to what's going on in Jesus' temptations, too. He is not only preparing for His future ministry. He is already interceding with God to spare Israel their past offenses.


What is the Balm in Gilead?

GileadGilead by Marilynne Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This highly acclaimed work of fiction depicts an old minister writing to his young son, to give an account of his life, he says. It deals honestly with all the tensions and disagreements and disputes we have with those closest to us. Envy, bitterness, love and reconciliation shine throughout.

Personally the style didn't grab me at all, and only my commitment to finish a book I start(unless something is really wrong) kept me going. The last 50 pages or so was worth the effort. The form of the book contributed to the message: life (and the book) is often a struggle and search for the first 80%, and then near the end comes the release of blessing and reconciliation.

It felt a little preachy and abstract at times, especially when lauding Karl Barth or some other mainline liberal pet topic. (There was an excellent page on the tension between forgiveness and the awfulness of sin.) But Robinson did a masterful job of conveying in a first person journal, a man struggling to forgive and love, knowing he should, yet not being able to do it. I can see it provoking people to reconsider offenses against others that they are carrying around, and don't know what to do with.

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Kindness amidst collapse

"In a time where there are pressures, real and imagined, to identify yourself by which “Bill” you align with — O’Reilly, Moyers, Graham, or Gothard — Marilynne Robinson humbly offers a beautifully unique, historically rich vision of fearless Christian love worth abiding in."

An intriguing, short article here on Marilynne Robinson, author of Gilead, which I am currently reading. Questioned about Fox News at Calvin College, her answer was great.

“The only obligation I recognize is to say what I believe to be true [...] and to say it with kindness. I believe that is how a Christian conversation should proceed.”
“We’re stuck in psycho-emotional bomb shelters [of fear]..."
"We live in a time when the claiming of a religious identity has become more important than abiding in what that truth implies.”

Then again, I just read of a beating of a couple in Norfolk, VA, and I wonder - is the fear justified? As we descend into barbarism, like the Roman Empire of the 3-400s, I still think we need to reject fear and "under attack"-ism. Augustine offered a very different answer in the City of God, as Rome collapsed around him. We should fear God, live and witness a positive faith to all we can, and trust the Lord.