The Veil

Heb 10:19-22a
"Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith"

This is a covenant renewal worship service. Our covenant with God is a relationship initiated by Him, sealed and made possible by the blood of Jesus. At Sinai Moses sprinkled the people and the Bible with blood to seal the covenant relationship between Yahweh and Israel. At the cross Jesus sprinkled His church with His blood to seal the covenant relationship with you.

At the front of most church buildings, behind the pulpit there is a cross. And in some, that cross is not on a wall but on fabric, to give the idea of a veil. The cross is the new temple veil. It’s our access to the holy of holies, to the presence of God. Technically, as Hebrews says, it isn’t the cross, but the blood of Jesus. And this cup is the new covenant in the blood of Jesus. And as we will sing in a moment, you have gained an interest in the savior’s blood. God promises you that every time He put bread and wine in your hands.


No sacrifice left for us?

Hebrews 10:26-31
"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

Misreading these verses has led many to despair. Who among us has not sinned willfully, after believing in Jesus Christ? Is there really no forgiveness left for us, then? Hebrews speaks here of forsaking Christ, going back to Judaism and counting Christ’s blood as common. In that case, you are not a believer. You aren’t under the saving blood of Jesus. If you look to temple animal blood instead of Christ’s blood for your covering, there is nothing left for you but punishment and judgment by God. These days we aren’t very tempted to look to ritual blood to save us. But we may be looking to our own blood, sweat and tears to save us. The point of these verses isn’t to scare us into repenting, but to point us to the blood of Jesus Christ. Far better to have a healthy fear of God now, that draws us to the cross of Jesus, than to dread God’s coming judgment because we stopped fearing God.

So this warning is first of all for the one who is sinning willfully and doesn’t care. God’s vengeance is coming on them. For us, who have sinned, but are sorry and are looking to Jesus, who are coming now in repentance, we need not fear such a judgment. We do not confess our sins to avert a dreadful sense of impending doom. We confess our sins because we should, because we are grieved – from a fear of God - at offending our Lord.


Do Not Fear

There is a tendency among conservative Christians to handle Scripture too woodenly, and wind up beating people up with God's Word.

One example is God's command to us - "Do not be afraid."

We can heap an unwarranted load of guilt on those already tempted to anxiety and fear.
Here's Ed Welch, with a better way.

Jesus Calling

Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence

Carl Trueman points to Kathy Keller's review of this book.

Very helpful.

Redeemer Pres in Manhattan did not put it on their book table, when asked to.


Book Review: Cotton in My Sack

Cotton In My SackCotton In My Sack by Lois Lenski

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A children's story set in Arkansas, written in 1949.
A sharecropper family learns the value of saving money, neighborly help, and caring for their possessions, in spite of setbacks like fires, heart attacks and near drownings. They move from apathy, indulgence and despair to the dignity of ownership and self improvement.
All this is put in language children can understand, which is its strength.

Lenski is weak in smooth and engaging prose and dialogue. Transitions are choppy.

4 stars for content, two for style.

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Book review: Your Origins Matter

Your Origins MatterYour Origins Matter by Henry M. Morris III

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A booklet by the Institute for Cration Research, written by Henry Morris, son of the author of The Genesis Record.

Ideas have consequences when it comes to our origins. Life has no real meaning if we are here accidentally, without design or purpose of a creator.

Human life has a dignity above plants and animals, given by God. Life is an intricate wonder, and we are made in the image of God.

Morris closes with a simple explanation of the Gospel.

This might be good for junior or high schoolers getting interested in science and biology, being introduced to evolution.

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Book review: Histories of Herodotus

The HistoriesThe Histories by Herodotus

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fascinating. This was my first time reading this classic.

Herodotus is one of the first writers we can call a systematic and modern historian. His bias for the Greeks and against the Persians is evident throughout, though.

He shows historical sense at the beginning, saying he's going to relate everything he knows, not just the lands and rulers that are powerful today, but the obscure, too. Time brings rulers down and raises unexpected peoples, so who knows who the future will want to know about?

Oracles seem to be in the know, Herodotus thinks. He keeps coming back to oracles being fulfilled, even when men try to keep them from happening. He will also refer to a singular God as being in control of events, sometimes, though.

About 75% of the 600 pages relates customs of peoples in the Mediterranean, Baltic and African regions, along with lists of peoples and rulers. The rest relates the history of how Persia came to invade Greece and what came of it. There are a very few golden nuggets of why Greece fought so hard against Persia.

"Athens... proved... how noble a thing equality before the law is... for while they were oppresssed under tyrants, they had no better success in war than any of their neighbors, yet, once the yoke was flung off, they proved the finest fighters in the world.... So long as they were held down by authroity, they deliberately shirked their duty in the field, as slaves shirk working for their masters; but when freedom was won, then every man amongst them was interested in his own cause" (p.340).

Or this

"The people there had had a taste of liberty and were too well pleased to have got rid of Aristagoras [a tyrant] to be willing to welcome another ruler of the same stamp" (p.361).

This is a main theme: the Greeks beat back the Persians against overwhelming odds and lack of unity themselves, because they were motivated to keep their freedom and not come under the Persian yoke.

There is some vulgarity, crudity and lewdness to watch out for. You can tell he's relating these stories for the sensationalism of it, but you don't get the sense he is wildly exaggerating them. It's just how sinful human nature is. Sometimes we have to look at this to remember our depravity, the way we look at pictures of Auschwitz.

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Book review: Sounder

SounderSounder by William H. Armstrong

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A quick and useful read on negro life as a sharecropper. The people have no names, to make the point that their dignity is diminished in society. But the identity of the dog is linked with the boy and the father.

[spoiler alert]

The dog is carelessly shot and grievously wounded, and the father is arrested equally carelessly. The dog doesn't die until he sees the man return home. The father doesn't die until he sees his family again.

I read this to see if it a suitable for my children, ages 9-12, and I think it is. Maybe 12 and up. There is one use of the n word early on, and realistic (not gratuitous) violence done to people is portrayed.

One of its strengths is getting the reader to fear the oppressor. It also vividly shows the temptation of the boy to hate the oppressor.

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Book review: Bringer of Storms

Bringer of Storms (Binding of the Blade #2)Bringer of Storms by L.B. Graham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Second in a series my kids are reading.
Provocative character sketch of a reprobate consumed by envy and hate, willing to cross over to "the dark side" because of it. Also a good study of revenge.

The writing style is a bit plodding, though. He doesn't leave anything out, like a good artist knows how to do. It's about twice as long as it has to be.

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Review: Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent prose and metaphor.

Main character has asthma, and knows his weakness.
His father is a man of faith - miracles happen around him.
His big brother kills two bullies who enter their home to rough him up.
His sister is a poet who makes sense of life through her steady meter.

He flees the law, and the family finds a semblance of redemption while seeking him. Great exploration of our response to sin. Anger? Sin back? Reject the faith? Write about it? Cling to family? Pray and wait and work?

Shocking ending, which deepens the pain and keeps it real.

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Growing in grace

2 Peter 3:18
"but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

I've been considering this verse lately, having friends on two sides of the spectrum.

Side one: the Self-Conscious Improver
This is the idealist. They might constantly set spiritual goals and meet them - in their own minds. Or they pat themselves on the back when they look back. "My marriage, devotional life, etc. has really improved since 10 years ago. I thank you, Lord, that I am not like other sinners." The danger of self-righteousness is pretty obvious, here. There's lots of emphasis on growth, but it's by our virtue and effort. People who grow up in the church know this is wrong, so layers of self-deception tend to build up. We tell ourselves it's by God's grace when inside we really believe it's because we've worked harder at it.

Side two: we're all stuck
This is the cynic. He denies we grow at all, or only very minimally. Goal setting is a bad idea to him. "I'm still struggling with the same issues in my marriage as 10 years ago. I'm a worm." The danger here is too little faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the sin in our lives. There's lots of emphasis on depravity and the sinful nature, but putting forth effort is seen as automatically legalistic. This option is accepted on the surface by many in the church. Who can argue against affirming sin and depravity in one's self? Worm theology is a very acceptable form of false humility.

The Bible calls us to grow. It also says it is God who works in us to work out our salvation. So let us pray for grace to grow in Christ's grace, BY His grace.

Here's John Calvin, with a better balance.
But no one in this earthly prison of the body has sufficient strength to press on with due eagerness, and weakness so weighs down the greater number that, with wavering and limping and even creeping along the ground they move at a feeble rate. Let each one of us, then, proceed according to the measure of his puny capacity and set out upon the journey we have begun. No one shall set out so inauspiciously as not daily to make some headway, though it be slight. Therefore, let us not cease so to act that we may make some unceasing progress in the way of the Lord. And let us not despair at the slightness of our success; for even though attainment may not correspond to desire, when today outstrips yesterday the effort is not lost. Only let us look toward our mark with sincere simplicity and aspire to our goal; not fondly flattering ourselves, nor excusing our own evil deeds, but with continuous effort striving toward this end: that we may surpass ourselves in goodness until we attain to goodness itself. It is this, indeed, which through the whole course of life we seek and follow. But we shall attain it only when we have cast off the weakness of the body, and are received into full fellowship with him. ((John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion (ed. John T. McNeill; trans. Ford Lewis Battles; 2 vols.; LCC; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), Book 3, Chapter 6, Section 5.)) - quoted here.


Grace at the Table

2 Samuel 9:7-8
So David said to [Mephibosheth], “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.”
8 Then he bowed himself, and said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”

Like Mephibosheth, we are spiritual cripples who need to admit our need to the son of David, who sits on the throne. As children of the heavenly Father, we need to accept our Father’s food, without trying to pay Him back for it. We need to eat here to live, and we cannot earn it. Without the bread and wine Jesus provides – His own body - we have no life in us.

We are in someone else’s kingdom, eating at their table. But it has been made our own, for we have been united with Jesus Christ, the Lord of this table, the Lord of lords, the lord of God’s kingdom.

So let us trust God’s act of grace at the cross. And let us trust God’s future grace in sanctifying us and bringing us to glory with Him.


Sin is Shelob

Proverbs 5:21-23
    For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD,
    And He ponders all his paths.
    22      His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,
    And he is caught in the cords of his sin.
    23      He shall die for lack of instruction,
    And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.

Sin is a trap.
Like Shelob winding her cords around Frodo, the weeds of sin tie us up.

Sin is getting lost.
Folly leads us astray. We are off the path and can’t find our way.

Sin is death.
For lack of teaching, for refusing to be taught, we die apart from God.

God sees all this. Not only does He see it, He ponders it, thinks long and hard about it. We can keep no secrets from Him, and He knows our sin and plight far better than we do. So we had better be honest with Him, and take refuge in His offered shelter, the Lord Jesus Christ.



Noah, the Movie

Did you see the ad during the Super Bowl?
You can find the trailer online fairly easily.

Check out Ken Ham's take, before getting excited about a Christian and Biblical movie in the mainstream.

Here's a second witness.

Lament, into Hope at the Lord's Table

Psalm 22:1, 16, 21-26

    My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
    Why are You so far from helping Me,
    And from the words of My groaning?

16    For dogs have surrounded Me;
    The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
    They pierced My hands and My feet;

21    Save Me from the lion’s mouth
    And from the horns of the wild oxen!
    You have answered Me.
    22      I will declare Your name to My brethren;
    In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
    23      You who fear the LORD, praise Him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
    And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel!
    24      For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
    Nor has He hidden His face from Him;
    But when He cried to Him, He heard.
    25      My praise shall be of You in the great assembly;
    I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.
    26      The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
    Those who seek Him will praise the LORD.
    Let your heart live forever!

This table is a table of lament, in a way. Every time we do this, Jesus says, we are proclaiming His death. We are declaring He died, and how that death completes our reconciliation with God. We are also lamenting that this should not have had to happen. It did because we sinned. We also lament that things still are not how they should be. Our communion with the Lord is not as complete as it could be. Injustice, persecution and chains still flourish in the world.

But this table is the source of our hope that the beachhead has been secured, that the enemy ‘s days are numbered.  Jesus took on the greatest servitude, the most unjust treatment, the severest martyrdom. He lamented on the cross, crying out to God. And like the Psalm He quoted, His life was changed from a cry in the dark alone, into praise in the great assembly.

The gospel story is the center. Jesus died and rose. Halfway through the story, everything is going wrong, and death approaches. We have Gethsemane moments. Sometimes that’s where we are in the story, and we have to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus, embracing humiliation, lament and self-denial. But the story didn’t stop there. God raised up Jesus and He will raise you up, not because of any denial or discipline you have done, but just by God’s free grace. This wine is the seal of that truth. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.


Lazy Sin

Proverbs 5:15-20
          Drink water from your own cistern,
    And running water from your own well.
    16      Should your fountains be dispersed abroad,
    Streams of water in the streets?
    17      Let them be only your own,
    And not for strangers with you.
    18      Let your fountain be blessed,
    And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
    19      As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
    Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
    And always be enraptured with her love.
    20      For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman,
    And be embraced in the arms of a seductress?

As Solomon warns his son away from the immoral woman, he directs him to his own wife. Interesting that it seems Solomon is instructing a married son, not a younger teenager. And the point is to turn away from tempting sinful desires by turning to stronger godly desires. Why should we be enraptured by lesser pleasures, when God has given us greater ones? Those married have a natural outlet, if they will do the work of cultivating that relationship. An outlet for lust is very easy to access these days, and Satan tempts us with what is easy, regardless the cost later. If you have fallen for this pattern of discontent and lazy sin, there is a way out. Maybe it is sexual in nature, maybe it has to do with your work, or your parenting or your schooling. But there is a way out. Repent and rejoice.

Repent – no sin is so bad that repenting of it won’t bring forgiveness. No sin can separate you from God, unless you refuse to repent of it.
Rejoice – get on the right path again by rejoicing in what God has given you.


Super Bowl Halftime Show

The outside is clean, but inside...

So I watched the super bowl with friends Sunday night, and felt abashed as the half time show finished up. See, I had mentioned in passing in the sermon in the morning that our culture's decadence shows up in half-time shows. But then, it was a fairly clean show, besides an old shirt-less man jumping around telling me to "gibbitaway." Bruno Mars was new to me, and a great entertainer. I was relieved and pleasantly surprised, and my kids walked in and out, watching and playing with friends.

Then I looked up the lyrics today that I didn't understand while watching.


It's amazing that Christians will now tolerate and even appreciate idolatry and reveling in debauchery in word, as long as the image is one of outward decency.

Here are the lyrics to Mars' "Locked out of Heaven."
I took out the oohs and yeahs, for your convenience.
(Parental advisory!)

Never had much faith in love or miracles
Never wanna put my heart on the line
But swimming in your water* is something spiritual
I'm born again every time you spend the night

'Cause your sex takes me to paradise
Yeah, your sex takes me to paradise
And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah

'Cause you make me feel like I've been locked out of heaven
For too long, for too long
Yeah, you make me feel like I've been locked out of heaven
For too long, for too long

You bring me to my knees, you make me testify
You can make a sinner change his ways
Open up your gates 'cause I can't wait to see the light
And right there is where I wanna stay

'Cause your sex takes me to paradise
Yeah, your sex takes me to paradise
And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah

'Cause you make me feel like I've been locked out of heaven
For too long, for too long
Yeah, you make me feel like I've been locked out of heaven
For too long, for too long

Can I just stay here?
Spend the rest of my days here?
Can't I just stay here?
Spend the rest of my days here?

'Cause you make me feel like I've been locked out of heaven
For too long, for too long
Yeah, you make me feel like I've been locked out of heaven
For too long, for too long


From the Center to the World

Psalm 9:13-14
    Have mercy on me, O LORD!
    Consider my trouble from those who hate me,
    You who lift me up from the gates of death,
    14      That I may tell of all Your praise
    In the gates of the daughter of Zion.
    I will rejoice in Your salvation.

We sit in the gate of Zion here, at the Lord’s table, among His people, at the center of the world. The wicked who think they are God try to convince us that they have the center. Hollywood, DC, Richmond, that’s where it really happens. No, it isn’t. Christ is the center. We ought to go to those places, but we go to colonize, not as wide-eyed country bumpkins coming into town. We go to the gates of Sheol, the gates of death, the gates of hell, which will not prevail against the gates of Zion.

And we go to convince and conquer for Christ.

But we go not as another lobby group among many. We go there from the center. This Word we’ve heard, this bread and wine we eat and drink, are the definition of reality, of the center. And at this table we find atonement shown, your troubles seen and dealt with, arms of forgiveness flung open wide, joy splashed around, sure protection for the asking. All in the Lord Jesus Christ. What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms.


Sin Consumes You

Proverbs 5:9-14
    Lest you give your honor to others,
    And your years to the cruel one;
    10      Lest aliens be filled with your wealth,
    And your labors go to the house of a foreigner;
    11      And you mourn at last,
    When your flesh and your body are consumed,
    12      And say:
    “How I have hated instruction,
    And my heart despised correction!
    13      I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers,
    Nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!
    14      I was on the verge of total ruin,
    In the midst of the assembly and congregation.”

Solomon warns his son of the immoral woman in this chapter, and this section gives us a list of “lests.” You’d better listen, else this will happen. If you follow the immoral woman, if you give in to any temptation, you’re giving away your energy and dignity, your time and money and work. Just throwing it all in the trashheap. Your own body will be consumed, vs 11. You’ll get glimpses of the connection between your ruin and your rejection of instruction. In our sin, we stand on the verge of total ruin. Let us turn away quickly, reject our sinful ways, and receive instruction and life once again.



Is Jesus anti-Gay People?

Brian Nolder, CREC pastor in Pella, Iowa, answers well here.