He Is Here

Psalm 21:1-6
    1 The king shall have joy in Your strength, O LORD; 
          And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! 
    2      You have given him his heart’s desire, 
          And have not withheld the request of his lips.       Selah

    3      For You meet him with the blessings of goodness; 
          You set a crown of pure gold upon his head. 
    4      He asked life from You, and You gave it to him— 
          Length of days forever and ever. 
    5      His glory is great in Your salvation; 
          Honor and majesty You have placed upon him. 
    6      For You have made him most blessed forever; 
          You have made him exceedingly glad with Your presence.

The presence of Jesus at His table is a precious truth to His people. It was in the eating of food that the disciples in the upper room on Easter evening knew and were glad that Jesus was really with them. It was in the blessing, breaking and giving of the bread that the Emmaus Road disciples recognized Him. The question for us is whether we will realize He is here. It’s possible to breeze through and just not think much about it. Do you believe He is alive? Do you realize that means life for you? Is He your Lord and your God? If so, then Jesus gives you a seat here at His table. Enjoy communion and fellowship with Him.


Go to Him Anyway

John 20:27
"Then He said to Thomas,  “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”  "

Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. We do not know why, but his absence from the church hindered and delayed his walk with the Lord. The writer of Hebrews warns us not to forsake gathering together with believers. Sometimes we want to stay away because we are near despair. This may have been Thomas. Sometimes we stay away because we are embarrassed or ashamed of our sins. Notice that Jesus knew all of Thomas’ doubt, and Jesus came to him anyway, inviting repentance and faith. Jesus knows all your problems, powerlessness, apathy toward Him, and your sin. And He calls you near to confess your sin anyway.


A Right to Love?

YouTube has a rainbow heart at the top today: celebrating LGBT pride.

Everyone has the right to love and be loved, they say.

That allows bestiality, polygamy, incest, and more.

And what about the bachelor heterosexual who wants to be married but cannot find a love, or it is unrequited? How will society legally or culturally grant them their rights?

This is insane.

See a recent Touchstone article here for more. Highlight:

"Whether he [the homosexual] presents himself as an object of love or indignation, what he demands in either case is acceptance not of the person, but of the sin-bound and sin-defined person. He demands the declaration of spiritual authority that there is nothing objectively disordered about this binding of man to sin, and assurance that this monstrous amalgam can indeed enter the kingdom of heaven. This can never happen among Christians until they abandon Christianity, which is at war with every sin..."


How to Read Scripture

Here's an interesting article by CREC pastor in Brooklyn, Troy Greene.

He describes but doesn't name Leithart's hermeneutic: interpretive maximalism. 
 - Squeeze every bit of truth out of the text.
 - The text is rich and every word is inspired that way for a reason.
 - How a word is used in Genesis matters to how we should read it in Habakkuk and Romans.

The pushback against this is that you can find anything according to your own fancy in the deep weeds of the dictionary or your imagination, while missing the main point. Sometimes Jordan and Leithart do this. But there's enough good to make reading them worth it. Sometimes their critics are right. Other times their critics don't have the literary sense that Leithart does to see the connection. The details enhance the main point, they don't (or shouldn't) detract from it. Working with the details doesn't mean there ISN'T a main point.

Troy's raven is a great example. Seems fanciful at first. But then you realize the millions of dead bodies under the water that the raven flew over, while the dove brings back peace/olive to the ark/church.

Like imagination generally, a more imaginative reading of Scripture needs Scriptural boundaries, but it need not be rejected out of hand. Therer are 3 categories of connection: (1) those explicitly stated in Scripture (Heb 2:6-9), (2) fanciful and not meant by Scripture (the two breasts of the woman in Song of Solomon are the OT and NT), and (3) a real connection but only implied or inferred literarily (Jehoiachin, in the podcast). The last one is where most disagreement lies.

Slow to Believe

Luke 24:25-26
Then He said to them,  “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”

Heavenly Father, we confess that we are slow of heart to believe. The news hardly sinks in. We are thick-headed to realize it, and slower yet to act according to this joyous news. Jesus Christ is risen! Forgive us our slowness. Your Son told His disciples several times before it happened that He would rise again. He raised Lazarus and others to life from death. And still they lost hope at His death. Lord, we confess our lack of faith, our loss of hope when times are dark. Sometimes we even take our anxiety as a badge of piety, instead of confessing it as a sin. Forgive our fretting, when we forget our freedom and life in the Lord. Forgive our trying to fix our faults on our own, forgetting Your power to revive, heal and forgive. Forgive us we pray in the name of Jesus, who offered Himself as the lamb to take away our sins, who rose again for our justification.

Resurrection Day


Look to the Lamb

Exodus 12:1-3, 6-7
"Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.... 6 Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it."

4 days before Passover, every family was to choose a lamb to sacrifice. 4-5 days before Passover, Jesus enters Jerusalem. John the Baptist had inaugurated Jesus’ ministry by crying out, “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” Now Jesus enters Jerusalem in time for everyone to pick him as their lamb. Instead of spreading the blood on our doorposts, we now pass around a cup of wine, but the principle is the same. We are displaying the blood of the sacrifice that turns away God’s wrath from us. Jesus enters the city to offer His sacrifice to be applied to you. We eat and drink this bread and wine, claiming that divine offer, claiming Christ’s work on the cross, claiming Him for our lamb.

People look to many other lambs, many other ways to please God. Hard work, good works outweighing sins, avoiding really bad sins, keeping up with your devotions, attending church. These are all good things, but if we make them our lamb, the way we think God will accept us, then we miss Jesus like the Jews did that week.

So as you drink, remember the lamb. Know that you share in His death and life, as surely as your body shares in the wine you drink.

Palm Sunday

What Will God Do When He Comes?

Matthew 21:33-46
"38 when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. 
40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” 

Jesus tells this parable a day or two after His triumphal entry, a day or two before He is crucified. Christ came first to teach and heal, to proclaim and rebuke as a prophet, as He rebukes here. Like Adam, we are vinedressers who want to keep the fruit for ourselves, when it is meant for God. We reject Him, even when He sends messengers, gives us His Word and Spirit to guide. Even when we know of Jesus going to the cross to take our sin for us, we go and sin, anyway.

In the end, it comes down to the King. He comes, and it is time to go to Him and confess and swear loyalty, or time to run and hide and try to be your own king. The first path is life, the second is death. The cornerstone can set you right, or crush you. Far better to confess, take part in His kingdom, than try to make your own.

Palm Sunday

Daniel's Food Issue


If Daniel's refraining from eating Babylon's food (Dan 1:8-16) is the same situation as the Corinthians not eating meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 8:4, 7), doesn't that make Daniel a weaker brother, with an overly sensitive conscience? That doesn't seem right.

Isn't it just that Levitical food laws were still in force for Daniel, before Jesus came?


Review: The Book of Three

The Book of Three
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pretty good.

A knock-off of Lord of the Rings, in some ways - you can tell where he's borrowing similar characters or plot points.

Taran's character is the strong point. His impatience and temper and immaturity ring true with young readers, and he learns lessons our children need to learn, without the story being preachy about it.

We're going on to the second of five.

View all my reviews

Pleasure is God's, Not Satan's

(C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 44)

"Never forgot that when we [demons] are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s [God's] ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the human to take the pleasure which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it’s better style. To get the man’s souls and give him nothing in return — that is what really gladdens Our Father’s [Satan's] Heart."

Summer Isn't Yours

Toby Sumpter

"Transitions, changes, different routines, mixed with certain kinds of expectations can often be setups for grumbling and complaining."

Read the whole thing - tears apart our carping criticism and the ingratitude lurking behind it.

Eating in Front of Enemies

Psalm 23 - God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies

Lead by example, when you are in a time of conflict or anxiety. I’ve seen this done well several times. When my stomach is all tied in knots, someone tells a joke and a belly laugh later I realize there is more to life than my emergency problem. That God has it covered, even if I can’t get a handle on it yet.

There is a peace that passes understanding. And it guards your heart. Not the other way around. It isn’t that you have enough smarts or courage to have peace. It’s that God’s peace supports your heart. So take food and take heart. Christ has provided his church with bread and wine to remove our anxiety and encourage our hearts each week. One thing God means for this worship service to do for you is to remove any unhealthy anxiety you have built up over the week. Take food and trust the Lord.


So Dump It Out Before Him

Leviticus 2:1-3, 14-16
"When anyone offers a grain offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it. 2 He shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. 3 The rest of the grain offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. It is most holy of the offerings to the LORD made by fire."14 ‘If you offer a grain offering of your firstfruits to the LORD, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits green heads of grain roasted on the fire, grain beaten from full heads. 15 And you shall put oil on it, and lay frankincense on it. It is a grain offering. 16 Then the priest shall burn the memorial portion: part of its beaten grain and part of its oil, with all the frankincense, as an offering made by fire to the LORD."

This portion of Scripture describes the grain offering, which is symbolic of our work. We plant and harvest, and this grain is the result. The modern equivalent is a paycheck. We offer the firstfruits of our income to God at the temple to the priest.

There is no leaven in it. Leaven often represented sin, and our lives must be free of sin to be pleasing and presentable to God. This is why we confess our sins early in the worship service every week.

In our sermon text, Paul and Luke are on a ship carrying a cargo of grain. To ride out the storm, lighten the ship, and not sink, they have to dump out all the grain. This reminds us that our works will not save us. We cannot rely at all on our work to be acceptable to God. Yet we do it all the time in dozens of ways.

Let us renounce our sin as despised in our sight as in God’s.
Let us resolve to fight our sin with renewed strength.
Let us remember not to rely on our work.



How to Conquer

"Great reformation and revival... will happen the same way the early Christians conquered Rome. Their program of conquest consisted largely of two elements — gospel preaching and being eaten by lions — a strategy that has not yet captured the imagination of the the contemporary church." Douglas Wilson

When a post-Christian culture is in decline, leaving the faith, the remaining Christians can have a hard time adjusting to the new reality. They might grasp for political power to restore their heritage. They might retrench, focus inward and separate more from people around, acting more Amish. But whatever it is, they tend to flail about looking for something, anything, that will reverse the decline.

God's people have lived through such declines before. Most notably Augustine as Rome surrendered and sunk to the barbarians. Rome had supported Christianity for a hundred years, on and off, and now the Christians were terrified to lose that protection and be vulnerable to barbarians. Study that history; read Augustine's "City of God." You'll see that the decline didn't happen because the church didn't speak out strongly enough. Her task wasn't foremost to persuade the culture about principles of liberty and law.

It is speaking and believing and living the gospel that makes the difference. God is very clear on this in His Word. "this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith." (1 John 5:4). This faith leads to good works of purity and compassion that make the world notice. Not on the evening news or New York Times at first.

There is certainly a place to work to restore the institution of the family, political liberty, and so forth. But the church's main task is to point to the object of our faith, Jesus Christ - the source of our good works. If we are working only or mainly for a political ideology or higher morality, we are building on a weak foundation. You cannot build a stable and happy society solely on Rand Paul's libertarianism or Bill Gothard's moral principles and consequences. Jesus Christ is the only center that holds. He brings forth from His treasure liberty and morality for a society. But we have to get there by worshiping, loving and trusting Him more than His gifts.

This is why the worship of the church, focused on the Gospel must be the center, on the first day of the week. The rest of the week, we may work for liberty and morality. But on Sunday at church, we rest in the work Christ finished to give us everlasting freedom and purity. We ought not import to the center, things meant to flow outward from it. A sermon on the need for morality that any Mormon can agree with is no Christian sermon. A message supposedly from God's Word that would fit in fine at CPAC is not giving due weight to the center: the Lord Jesus Christ.

The faith that conquers is not faith in principles of liberty or morality. We trust a personal God, whose being and providence, yes, designs our lives according such principles. But our misplaced priorities start to show when our society rejects them.

Do we trust in the presence of such gifts (properly working principles among a people)? Or do we trust the Giver, who sometimes withholds such gifts according to His wisdom and justice?


Ways Dads Provoke Kids

Pretty good article by Mark Driscoll.

#3 & 7 were most penetrating, for me at least.

On Spurgeon

Here is a British magazine article from 1884 commending Spurgeon on his 50th birthday.

Aside from dinging Calvinism right at the front, it is really good. I liked their critique of his congregationalism and rejection of the theater. But it really gets humming after that...

Believe Enough to Receive

Sermon text Acts 26 - Paul before Agrippa

Faith in Jesus is the way we come to the Table and partake.
This table is given for us to respond as Agrippa should have to Paul’s question: “Do you believe?”
Faith is trusting God enough to take His gift. We stop kicking against the goads and come and submit to receive His kindness.
We realize the privileged position we have to hold this cup. We don’t treat it lightly to be part of Christ’s body.
We are eager to bring others to this Table.


Sin Offering

Leviticus 4:27-29
"If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally by doing something against any of the commandments of the LORD in anything which ought not to be done, and is guilty, 28 or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, then he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. 29 And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering, and kill the sin offering at the place of the burnt offering."

Let us bring our sin offering near to God. The way we do this after Christ has come, is we bring to mind our sins. And we bring to mind the sin offering, Jesus Christ. Every sin offering the worshiper put his hand on the animal, symbolically transferring his sins to the animal, which was then killed. So we lay our sins on Jesus, who will take them away from God’s sight for us.



How to Cultivate Desire for God

This is a good resource from John Piper.

"We simply can’t flip a switch to make our hearts love God the way he deserves. Our only hope of delighting in God is God himself giving the help."

So what can we do?

At this link:
A short article, and a 6 part conference, video or audio, to download.

Appealing over Caesar's Head, to Christ

Isaiah 25:6-9
    And in this mountain 
          The LORD of hosts will make for all people 
          A feast of choice pieces, 
          A feast of wines on the lees, 
          Of fat things full of marrow, 
          Of well-refined wines on the lees. 
    7      And He will destroy on this mountain 
          The surface of the covering cast over all people, 
          And the veil that is spread over all nations. 
    8      He will swallow up death forever, 
          And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; 
          The rebuke of His people 
          He will take away from all the earth; 
          For the LORD has spoken. 
    9      And it will be said in that day: 
          “Behold, this is our God; 
          We have waited for Him, and He will save us. 
          This is the LORD; 
          We have waited for Him; 
          We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” 

When we consider the Lordship of Christ, we think of a lord protecting us from enemies with his castle. A mighty fortress is our God, and He has provided refuge at the cross of Christ. He has triumphed over our enemies. Physical disease, marauding jihadists, personal temptation and guilt – these things no longer mock and dominate us, even if they stick with us. We have a sure protection at the cross.

Another thing a Lord does is provide and lay a table, a feast. As Isaiah speaks of the feast that Yahweh will make for us, He says that we have waited for Him. Paul certainly waited a while to make his appeal to Caesar. Here at this Table we have a place to appeal to God through Christ. As we hold this cup, each of us is to appeal, saying, “Let His blood have been shed for me.”



Law and Grace in Dealing with Sin

Douglas Wilson:

"It is not as though law deals with sin, and grace must be protected from sin by the law. No — what the law was powerless to do, weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to be a vicarious sin offering. Grace deals with sin much more effectively than the law can on its own. There is a place for law, an honored place, which is why we still discipline. But it must be a subordinate place, and we protect our discipline with grace. We cannot ultimately protect our grace with discipline."


On Not Defining Ourselves

We often think that what sets us apart is our homeschooling, or our deeper more deliberate obedience, or unique opinions on issues. It is not so. What sets us apart is God’s choice to grant us repentance and faith in His Son. Paul preaches faith in Jesus to Felix and Drusilla. Self-control and our other virtues are involved in that, but it starts with faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. This table is designed to draw the line in the right place. It is an outward sign of what sets us apart. It is not about what we do, but about where we go for help. Those who know their need come to the Lord’s Table in a Christian church to eat. We only know we are starving for sustenance by God’s grace. We trust God’s cure, we are only willing to receive Christ by faith. And that is how we are to eat the bread and wine. With faith firmly rooted in Him.


Express It

Exodus 3:1-5

God calls to Moses from the burning bush to take off his shoes, for he is on holy ground. Today is the first Sunday in Lent, an outward season. God calls for an outward act on Moses’ part here, to show his reverence. We must avoid putting on a show for others or for ourselves when we do works of piety, Jesus says in the sermon on the mount. But Jesus does not mean to forbid all outward acts of piety, whether charity for others, fasting for ourselves, or worship toward God. How do you remind yourself from day to day that God is holy and you are not? How do you remind yourself of Christ’s call to deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Jesus? Let our actions flow from a heart of reverence and confession for our sins.


Skyfall: A Review

We finally got around to watching the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall. (Spoiler alert.)

Quite disappointing.

Dripping with the moral confusion of post-modernism, Skyfall was very different from the classic James Bond movies.

First, the good stuff:
The opening action sequence was par for the Bond course, meaning very good. The bad guy was psychologically interesting. The sexual element was not as heavy, which was nice. (Still there, just not shown so graphically.) The bureaucrat who takes a bullet for M was a creative touch and a subtle point well made about the need for government oversight not politically motivated. That was a nice development from the standard flat “dumb bureaucrats and politicians” motif of the past.

Bond didn’t smile for a second the whole time – not the happy warrior of old. The personal backstory on Bond was way out of character. His callous rejection and destruction of his own home was disturbing. The homosexual element (half a minute or so) was just weird.

The worst moral confusion was about the woman, which is no surprise given the influence feminism has had on our culture since Bond began 50 years ago. The woman is either supposed to side with the bad guy and die, or help Bond and he saves her. Instead, Bond observes she is a former sex slave, offers her an escape (very Christ-like, actually), but the next night he has sex with her! This didn’t fit at all with the somewhat-compassionate offer the night before. (Might for the delusional guy, but not the former sex slave.) The producers must have thought the sex trade element would be “cool” but still wanted the standard Bond love scene. Quite reprehensible when you put them together, though.

But it got worse. Only half way through the movie, the bad guy unceremoniously kills the girl in front of Bond while Bond shows little emotion. M becomes the stand-in “girl” Bond is trying to save for the rest of the movie, and even she dies in the end. This was also a very feminist and dark revision to the Bond theme: men can’t save or help women, so they die. The story isn’t to stop the bad guy and rescue the girl anymore. It’s just stop the bad guy. While the girl always looked like an accessory in the old Bond movies, now she really is optional. A depressing trend in our sexual ethics as a society.

I’m glad the director Mendes is not doing the next one.

Talk about it constructively

In conversation with an old friend yesterday, he related some really weird church experiences. I was shocked again at the level of dysfunction and distortion of the Gospel that can exist in the body of Christ. Views and practices of church leaders vary so widely.

If you notice your church leadership (me?) say or do something wrong or bizarre that hurts the body, please tell them. Do it lovingly, prayerfully, graciously. But try to show them the error and the harm that you see.

Then listen. Likely, they will have some kind of explanation for you. Consider it for a while, and maybe reply later. It’s better to have conversations that are
- long-running and sporadic
- about ideas and practices
- with committed friends or church members

than to have arguments that are
- immediate, intense, and emotional
- about people (accusatory)
- with one or both sides half way out the door already.

Of course, some disagreements will be too big, and you just can’t stay. I’m just arguing for candid, in-the-clear discussions that resolve peacefully, with or without total agreement. I’m asking you to distinguish between personal opinions that don’t cause harm (let those slide), and things that happen that ARE harmful (start a conversation).

Most of us fight or flee when faced with difficult conflict situations, when constructive engagement is the need of the hour.


Review: Sir William Blackstone and the Common Law: Blackstone's Legacy to America

Sir William Blackstone and the Common Law: Blackstone's Legacy to America
Sir William Blackstone and the Common Law: Blackstone's Legacy to America by Robert D. Stacey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A useful and frustrating book.

It was useful in that I knew almost nothing of Blackstone and his commentaries on the common law before this. (Still haven’t read Blackstone himself!) It seems his contribution was to summarize into one place clearly the common law history and precedents of English history, from Alfred the Great to the present.

It was frustrating in that the author often made a thinly veiled argument for natural law, by mere assertion. Blackstone believed in and relied on natural law, so it must be right. The author was trying to appreciate Blackstone and argue for natural law at the same time, but only really accomplished the first. The second goal needed another book.

Analysis of judicial review was clear without being simplistic. Judges need to apply the principles of law in new situations, so in this sense they review and extend the law. But they cannot create new principles out of thin air. That they do shows the influence a judge can have in society: “we believe this now, not that, so I rule thusly…”

Dr. Stacey gives a helpful outline of how modern legal theory is far different from Blackstone’s understanding. He helps the normal reader understand legal positivism, and connects the dots with the broader culture war nicely.

View all my reviews

Some books I bought at the home school convention in Richmond

Topical Memory System: The Navigators Scripture Memory Course with Cards

Beyond Stateliest Marble: The Passionate Femininity of Anne Bradstreet

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Beyond the Summerland


Review: Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Colfer spins an action packed tale of a boy genius who attempts to extort a fortune from fairies.

Think smart, three steps ahead. This is James Bond, chess-game battle. In that sense, I really liked its mentally engaging element.

But swearing and potty language abound, and the basic premise was immoral. It was a fantasy Thomas Crown affair.

Not recommended, though it was quite popular in its day.

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