Pure Feasting with Christ

Your body matters.  This is why Jesus gave us a reminder of Him that involves basic body action – eating and drinking.  The point isn’t just to give us a potent reminder of Him.  It also helps our faith.  In the upper room after the resurrection, Jesus eats some fish and honey to help the disciples believe it is really Him. 

But the purpose of the Lord’s Supper goes beyond even remembering and helping our faith.  We begin now what will continue in glory.  We will sit down at His table in the regeneration, with Abraham and Moses, Esther and Paul.  And we will eat and drink and enjoy.  It is called the marriage supper of the Lamb.  The biggest Thanksgiving turkey, Easter Ham, Christmas feast and wedding reception all rolled into one that there ever was.

We will sit down purified from every defilement.  Not indulging ourselves but being satisfied in Christ.  The junk and immorality that we crave now won’t be there, or will be cleansed.  Our senses will be trained to desire and enjoy the best, the right.  And the best and the right thing for us above all is the Lord Jesus Christ, for whom we were made.  You belong to Him.  Your body and spirit were made for Him.  Only He can lead you and cleanse you and feed You.

Receive and rest on Christ alone today.



Eating at the Family Table

Luke 22:29-30 - And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

One privilege that family members have is to eat at the family table.  Servants eat downstairs, later.  But Jesus has called us friends and brothers.  We eat with Him, because we are heirs of His Kingdom.  Eating and drinking at His table goes hand in hand with judging and ruling with Him and for Him.  We don’t know all that this means, but we can consider God’s ways here, and begin to live and evaluate things according to God’s truth and grace and law and ways.

Since God has set us at peace with Him through the cross, let us also be at peace with each other.  When disputes arise let us fight for God’s glory, not our interests.  In our dispute and rebellion against God, He resolved it by sacrificing His dearest for us, to the point of death.  This table points to that sacrifice.  It shows us our enmity with God, mediated and resolved.  Bless the Lord for His goodness to us through Jesus.


Asking Amiss

James 4:1-3
"Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."

James makes clear that our wars and squabbles come from our wants.  We know how we are supposed to behave.  But we also know what we want.  The two don’t always match up.  What we want isn’t usually what God wants.  And we end up hurting others to get what we want.  Parents want peace and quiet; so they get impatient with children.  Children want to play; they grumble and exasperate parents.

James then says, “YET.”  And he makes an interesting turn.  The problem isn’t the getting, it’s the goal.  We want to get something for ourselves.  God wants to give us wisdom and other things, for His glory.  We ask amiss, out of selfishness.  

But God wants us to ask.  

Redirect your goals, and then ask again.  Don’t strive for more play time, kids, for yourselves.  But you might ask for it to help your sister with her chores.  Don’t strive for more free time or extra income, big people, to have more leisure time to yourself.  But you might ask for the same thing to help your neighbor.  Why are you after what you’re after?

Let us confess our selfish desires to the Lord.



Strolling the Links

An OPC presbytery indirectly rebukes the Family Integrated Church movement. 
Kevin Swanson submits to the OPC.

While some of the four lies contain partial truth, they are misleading when stated dogmatically.
The author has some good points to consider.

Roger Olson, an Arminian, gives a few brief answers.
He distinguishes semi-Pelagianism from Arminianism.  He says in semi-Pelagianism "sinners are capable of exercising a good will toward God unassisted by God’s grace."  God responds with grace (our good will doesn't earn His favor, but "gets us started".)
In Arminianism, God initiates with prevenient, resistible grace to all.  It is then up to us to believe in Christ.
Many Calvinists I know just lump these together as the same animal, but there IS a difference.

Review: The Night Gardener

The Night Gardener
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Best children's book I've read in a long while. World magazine recommended it, and it's perfect for ages 9-14. No romance, good pacing and mystery to keep things moving. A little scary, but not awfully so. Excellent message about not taking the easy way out (sin of escapism) to cope with problems in life. Deftly avoids clunky moralism, though, with a GREAT story. My 11 year old son loved it, and quickly gobbled up with relish Auxier's first story, too.

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Frame chapter 3 - Lordship as a Unique Worldview

God is unique.

He is unsurpassed and perfect in holiness, power, love, etc.  He alone is self sufficient.

Though He is great, He is personal.  We are not the product of impersonal forces, as naturalism claims, but of a personal being with His own will and intentions and desires.  He is a person who speaks to us.  Impersonal forces have no will or thought to communicate, but God does.

God is transcendent.  This doesn't mean He is literally "up there."  But He is "above it all" in that He made and rules it all.  Isaiah 6:1; Psalm 113:5-6.  This doesn't mean we can't know Him.  His thoughts and ways are above ours, but eternal life is knowing God and His Son Jesus (John 17:3).

God is immanent - present with us.  Again, this isn't just location.  Jesus is Immanuel, for our salvation.  Distortions of this lead to deism or pantheism.

Immanuel Kant distorted God's transcendence to see Him as unknowable.
Other modern "openness of God" theology distorts God's immanence such that He is not sovereign.
This is a spiritual battle here: will we submit to God's Lordship, or claim the right to choose and decide for ourselves apart from God's rule?

God is creator.  His creation is distinct from Him, and not identified with Him in any way (even in the Incarnation, the two natures of Christ are distinct and not mixed).  Immanence is not identity.  God is always close and present with His creation, yet sovereign over it - denying the Bible's creator/creature distinction gives autonomy to creatures, somehow, which is in error.

Opening Prayer - Bind Yourself to Christ

Heavenly Father, we bind ourselves to You today.  By Christ’s incarnation, baptism, death, His bursting from the tomb, and ascension, we can come to You and find rest.  We are here to praise You with all our might, to honor You, to lift Your name on high.  We trust You to hold and lead us.  You created the cherubim and they cry out that you are holy.  Your patriarchs and prophets and apostles give us examples to follow.  All creation points us to You.

Keep us from Satan’s wiles in this hour, from false words and self-deceived hearts. Protect your people from burning and bombs, bullies and bullets as we worship you on this day.  Comfort us with the presence of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.  Yours is a strong name, Yahweh God, and we draw near to You in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives and reigns with You, one God without beginning or end - Amen.


Considering Christ and Conscience at Communion

At the Lord's Table, we keep the feast.  But how do we keep it?

First, we look to Christ, the Passover lamb.  We have no other protection from the destroyer, from the consuming wrath of God, than the blood of Jesus.  Under His protection death's dark angel passes by and we are safe.  We trust Jesus to protect us and satisfy God's justice for our sins.

Second, we judge ourselves, as best as we are able.  We are to keep this feast in sincerity and truth.  We resolve to put away all sin from our hearts and lives.  At the same time we know our resolution isn't what preserves us.  Our resolutions are always imperfect, it is Jesus we trust.  We cannot cling to sin stubbornly, or look away and hope it will go away on its own.  We must renounce it and let Jesus kill it.  We do this as best as we are able.  A toddler grows up learning manners at the table over time, and so we learn to judge ourselves over time.  But we don't withhold the food until some artificial point when they have officially learned table manners.  The Passover lamb was for the whole house.  And the children had to learn why that night was different from all others.

Third, we let the Lord purify us through this means of grace.  Jesus is really feeding us with Himself here.  The main work isn't our discernment or our purity of thought or resolution.  The main work is Christ communicating Himself to us, His purity.  We are truly unleavened, because Christ was sacrificed for us.  Receive Christ, your protective covering now.

Receive and rest on Christ alone today.



Frame: Chapter 2 - The Lord

Where other theologians' work could be summed up in one topic (Schleiermacher's feeling, Barth's crisis, Gutierrez' liberation, Luther's justification) John Frame wants to begin with God's Lordship.  It is central to Scripture, dominating the text in frequency and theme.

Many theologians resist this today, mainly because modern people want autonomy above all else.

Reformed theologians use covenant to summarize the theme of Scripture, and this is good.  But Lordship does better, as it focuses on the personal God who administers this relationship with His world.  Most other themes that describe our relationship with God presuppose God's Lordship (sonship, marriage, servanthood, etc.).

A Lord has control, authority and presence.

He is in control.  He governs and orchestrates all events and people in the world.

He has authority.  Not only CAN He rule, He has the right to.  Because He owns it, He is the evaluator of His world, and His judgments are right.  This is seen clearly in Genesis 1, Moses' confrontation with Pharaoh and Exodus 20:1-3.  THe NT shows that Jesus has all authority, even to forgive sins.  Though Abraham and Moses and Job argued with God, or asked God to change His intention, His authority cannot be questioned.  God's authority covers all of life - it has not been restricted since the OT law to the church or matters of salvation.

He is present.  Our Immanuel (God-with-us) is not an absentee landlord.  He is with us by His Spirit (1 Cor 6:19) to bless us according to His covenant promises, as He was with Joseph (Gen 39:3) and Moses (Ex 3:11-12).

Frame is known for a tri-perspective outlook.  Most theological themes can be seen by its norm, fact and perception.  Norm refers to rules, ethical "oughts."  Fact refers to the way things are and history.  Perception is our experience of things.  On Lordship, God authors the norms (authority), He controls the facts (control), and He gives us our faculties of perception to see them (presence).  Apply God's norms, learn His story, use your heart and brain to love and serve Him.

What is Theology?

I've begun a study of John Frame's Systematic Theology with a small group of folks.
I'm going to summarize each chapter here, to spark interest in the book and in the group.
Here is chapter one.

Theology defines terms, though Scripture itself seldom defines the terms it uses, and Scripture often uses terms differently than theologians usually do.  Theological terms often require more than one definition to say everything about it.  So we have to be careful not to identify our theology too closely with Scripture.  But theology is a helpful teaching tool.

Theology studies Scripture, not just our own subjective religious eexperience (against Schleiermacher), and also not just for the objective information found there (against a clinical objectivism), but for the purpose of edification.  There is a subjective element to theology in that the goal is to help people.  All kinds of people are doing theology: youth minister, parent leading family devotions, Sunday school teacher telling Bible stories to children.

Theology has to be Bible centered, even when the academy in which most theologians are trained assumes the Bible is not the Word of God.  Theologians need to know Jesus and the needs of His people, besides knowing their academic field.  Sometimes theology can get in the way of the Bible, if we focus too much on what theologians of the past have said.


Spiritual Fathers

At a critical point in my spiritual formation, somewhere between 18-23 years old I think, the Lord led me to attend a Sunday School class with a handful of men who were all about three times my age.  It was a glorious experience I'll never forget.  I remember not talking much, just listening to the wisdom of these men, most of whom didn't have much formal education by today's standards.

One of them went to be with the Lord a couple days ago.

We spent very little time together outside of that class, but his demeanor and the way he taught showed me a love for the Lord and His Word that helped me tremendously.  I was in the grip of some judgmental immaturity at the time, in that cage stage of theology, with a sophomoric understanding of the Word.  Battling liberalism was the essence of Christian piety, I thought.  Not that that's a bad thing, but he showed me so much more - that mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13), that love for the Lord Jesus shows itself in many quiet ways.

"Though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me." (
1 Cor. 4:15-16)

May the Lord grant Wally Folkert rest and reward in Christ.  He was a spiritual father for me at just the right time - a channel God used to give me just what God knew I needed then.

Funny how I wasn't really aware of all this until I heard of his death and thought about my time with him.  It is SO important to connect with other believers who are different from us around God's Word!


Liberty Comes From Jesus

Micah describes how things will be in the end, with God’s blessing on His people.  Our Founding Fathers like George Washington picked up on this phrase, everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, to describe their desire in establishing this country.  It’s a lovely description of liberty and the absence of tyranny.  Political liberty IS one of the many good fruits that flow from gospel roots.  But so often we look to a government to give us liberty before we look to God for it.  Too often we seek liberty without first calling America to go up to Yahweh’s house and worship the God of Jacob through His Messiah, Jesus, His Son.  We want freedom, without Jesus, and there is none to be had.  Too often, the tyranny of Washington DC is more distressing to us than the tyranny of the devil.

God forgive and mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

Let us confess our impatience with God’s sovereign plan among the nations when we have our own hearts and homes to tend.

Every Sunday is the Christian’s independence day, when we remember Jesus coming alive from the tomb, showing us the life and liberty we have because of Him.  The Son of God has set you free!


Micah 4:1-4

          Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
    That the mountain of the LORD’s house
    Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
    And shall be exalted above the hills;
    And peoples shall flow to it.
    2      Many nations shall come and say,
    “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
    To the house of the God of Jacob;
    He will teach us His ways,
    And we shall walk in His paths.”
    For out of Zion the law shall go forth,
    And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
    3      He shall judge between many peoples,
    And rebuke strong nations afar off;
    They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    And their spears into pruning hooks;
    Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    Neither shall they learn war anymore.

    4      But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree,
    And no one shall make them afraid;
    For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.

Independence Day - Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father,  We have answered Your call to proclaim liberty throughout the land.  In Your Law you told Israel every 50 years to blow the trumpet and proclaim liberty.  Debts forgiven, slaves freed, the land at rest and restored to its owner.  Your Son came and proclaimed this acceptable year of Yours, and we rejoice in it.  You have set us free indeed in the work of Jesus, His teaching and healing, suffering and dying, His resurrection and rising to Your throne, His interceding and sending us the Spirit, His future return.  Lord, in this we are free!

Stand up, O God, be present now.  Let us sing and dance and shout for joy, for You set the prisoner free and bring him home.  You cast down the tyrant, that ancient serpent the devil.  And You will overthrow every one of his minions who oppress here on earth.  Lord, You have saved us from the pit, and we come here with music, young and old, asking you to cast down the proud oppressor, and bring to all the nations the liberty that comes only from Your Son our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Gracious Father, we draw near to You in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives and reigns with You, 1 God without beginning or end - Amen.


Review: Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God

Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God
Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I only read the third section, on evangelism, about 55 pages, in preparing for a sermon. The other sections address why we should evangelize if God is sovereign.

A solid and biblically grounded review of evangelism. It is not the same as conversion, but aims at it. We represent Christ as His ambassador, and speak truth about Him, inviting others to turn away from sin and trust Him as their Savior and Lord. We do this to glorify God and love our neighbor. I thought the way Packer addressed limited atonement in actual evangelism was excellent. (Hint: Calvinist Whitefield and John Wesley considered each other fellow evangelists.)

I read the first edition, written 50 years ago. There is some dated stuff on revival/evangelistic meetings. There may be an updated revision that addresses this.

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Review: Eusebius: The Church History-H: The Church History

Eusebius: The Church History-H: The Church History
Eusebius: The Church History-H: The Church History by Paul L. Maier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writing around 325, Eusebius chronicles the first 300 years or so after Christ's ascension. The focus is on the persecutions of believers, the bishops of various cities and especially Rome, the heresies that plagued the church, and the greatness of Constantine in relieving the church of her distress.

Eusebius makes several intriguing assertions, only the first of which is generally accepted.
- Peter was the main source for the gospel of Mark
- Paul wrote Hebrews
- 2 Peter is probably not canonical
- Matthew was written in Hebrew, originally

He shows too much reliance on the succession of bishops, even speaking of "the throne of James" as something of a relic.

He describes the offices of a church in one city thusly: "there can be only one bishop in a catholic church, in which... there are 46 presbyters, 7 deacons, 7 subdeacons, 42 acolytes, 52 exorcists, readers, and doorkeepers, and more than 1500 widows and people in distress" (pg 240). Definitely the bishop is more than an overseer/elder in one congregation, there.

He writes strongly against the Donatists, Marcion, Montanus, even an early form of Arianism. He is a bit too glowing of Origen, even describing his self-castration positively.

Overall, a helpful book, though with lots of chaff to sift through. It's main value is its early date, of course.

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The Lady's Right

So Sara and I picked up Emma again last night, and came across this gem.

"It is always the lady's right to decide on the degree of acquaintance."

In other words, if she wishes to distance herself from a man, she may, without pressure from him.


Breaking Down Proud Towers of Boasting

Joel 3:18-21
    And it will come to pass in that day
    That the mountains shall drip with new wine,
    The hills shall flow with milk,
    And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water;
    A fountain shall flow from the house of the LORD
    And water the Valley of Acacias.

    19      “Egypt shall be a desolation,
    And Edom a desolate wilderness,
    Because of violence against the people of Judah,
    For they have shed innocent blood in their land.
    20      But Judah shall abide forever,
    And Jerusalem from generation to generation.
    21      For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted;
    For the LORD dwells in Zion.

If the point of the message was to avoid boasting in people, glorying in ways to Christ instead of in Christ the Way, the same is true here at the table.

It’s easy for us to boast in “the way we do it here.”  Unlike the rest of the church, our children are with us, we partake every week, etc.  There is more than a little boasting in our hearts.  Let the simple action of receiving and eating, holding a cup and drinking it, break that boasting down.

This banquet, this love, this provision, this is what will endure through the fire at the end.  Egypt and Edom will be desolate wilderness (vs. 19).  Not the nations as we know them today.  Egypt and Edom stand for those opposed to God.  Those who destroy God’s work will be destroyed, but Judah will stay forever, forgiven and full of festal food.

Receive and rest on Christ alone today.


Wits or the Wise

We have a hard time trusting God.  We find other defenses and glories to trust and boast in.  The Psalmist here points out the difference in the quality of men.  Some are of higher degree and others lower.  We know we are all equal in the eyes of God, but quality differs.  

This tempts us to put our trust in one or the other.  We tend to trust the elites, whether that is the Supreme Court or Rand Paul, or Mike Farris.  Or, we tend to trust the common man and away with all elites and their pretension.

God shoos us away from both.  When we acquire a little wealth, vs 10 says, we tend to think that’s the answer to most problems.  But Only God has power to save us, vs 11.  That doesn’t mean we slack off.  Vs 12 - He rewards us according to our work.  But he saves us by His mercy.

Let us confess our sins of trusting our wits, or trusting the wise.
Let us confess our impatience with God’s sovereign plan among the nations when we have our own hearts and homes to tend.



Point and Proper Purpose

The message of the Lord's table is the same as what Paul preached and the same we find in the written Word of God we now have.  It is Christ crucified, His death proclaimed, as the atonement for our sins.

The manner of the table is worthy partaking, and that means discerning the body.  In the context of 1 Cor 11 that meant sensitivity to the whole church, taking every one into account and not leaving some out.  It's deeply ironic that most of the church uses this very text to keep the littlest among us from this gift from God.  Recognize and thank God for one another while you chew and swallow.  We certainly do this in remembrance of Jesus, that's the message.  But the manner, the way we remember him is by remembering His whole body.

The motive for the Lord's table is later in the text.  We don't want to be judged and condemned by the Lord, we want his blessing.  We are here to be fed.  If you don't know that you are weak and sick and in need of the great physician then there is nothing for you here.  Receive and rest on Christ alone today.


Come Thou Fount - Opening Prayer

You are the fount of every blessing, and our hearts need tuning.  Teach us songs of your redemption and grace, your truth and your majesty.  We raise our ebenezer here, and tell one another and the world and you, that we have gotten this far only with your help.  You rescued and shielded us from danger with your precious blood.  We owe you our lives for the grace you've given us.  Bind and seal our hearts to you.  We ascend to the courts above now as we gather in your name.  The angels bless you as they do your will, and we join them, praising Father, Son and Holy Ghost.



Father's Day confession of sin

1 Cor 4:14-17
"I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church."

The church today has many teachers, but how many fathers do we see who we can imitate?  Timothy did not have one, but he found one in Paul.  Perhaps you have a faithful father, and if so, he is a gift from God.  Thank God for him today.  One thing the church needs to confess corporately these days is that we have so FEW faithful fathers.  A father raises children to walk with the Lord as he is walking.  Like Paul with Timothy, a father works hard to honor God and set a good example, and then He sends his children to their work, too.  A good father is first a faithful son, as Timothy was, submitting to God’s will and work.

Let us confess those times we do not give others a good example to follow.  Those times we do not follow our heavenly Father in faith.  Those times we neglect to disciple and train and remind others into godliness.


Opening Prayer for Father's Day

Psalm 68:4-5
    "Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
    Extol Him who rides on the clouds,
    By His name YAH,
    And rejoice before Him.
    5      A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    Is God in His holy habitation."

It is a joyful sound to hear your people gather and sing. We keep this festal day, the Lord’s Day, when Your Son emerged from the tomb victorious over death.  We extol Him who has ridden on the clouds up to your throne.  On this Father’s Day we remember that You are a father of the fatherless and a defender of widows.  You bring us from loss to fellowship, from weeping to joy, from despair to peace.  

So we are here to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light.  We glory in Your irresistible calling of us, Lord, to Yourself.  Help us as we answer Your call and worship You now.  Grant us patience to listen, eagerness to hear you.


Foolish to Think It?

What a strange thing for a bit of bread and wine to point to Jesus Christ.  How does this ritual of Eucharist proclaim the death of the Lord?  Here is more of God’s wisdom, which doesn’t fit with worldly wisdom.

After His resurrection, Jesus showed Thomas the scars and holes in His hands and side.  They were still there.  We would think all thought of crucifixion would be wiped away in a glorified body, but it is not.  When the saints sing a new song in glory to the Lamb, the first thing they say is that He is worthy because He was slain.

Until we get there, we have this Supper to say the same thing.

Here we worship the Lamb.  Here God feeds us and calls us His children, on the basis of the cross.  Here we preach Christ crucified.  We don’t leave the cross behind to get to victory in Jesus.  The cross IS God’s victory.  Here we boast in it, glory in it and in God.

The cross really does something.  Worldly wisdom finds that absurd.

This Lord’s Supper also really does something.  That can be hard to believe, too.  But it’s true.  This bread and wine, by the Spirit giving faith and uniting us to Jesus, eating this bread and wine proclaims Christ, feeds and strengthens and shapes our lives, confirms our faith, marks out the body of Christ.


Strolling the links

Does God view the efforts of Christians as filthy rags, as Isaiah 64:6 seems to say?  NO.  Michael Kruger gives an encouraging clarification.  Only 3 screens long, on my computer.

Continuing the "IS Courtship Flawed" discussion, Aimee Byrd chimes in with a helpful distinction between casual and formal dating, advocating the latter.  I'm still more of a courtship guy, but if parents allow dates while shepherding their kids carefully (which can be done), I'm not going to raise an outcry.

Since these courtship discussions tend to come across as judging those who are still waiting to court, or are courting now, here is an article that encourages young ladies who desire marriage, and have been waiting... and waiting... and waiting.  Really good toward the end.

This was good for my soul and convicting, after a few facebook disagreements with friends.

Helpful arguments here against dipping the bread in the wine, when celebrating the Lord's Supper.  It's called intinction, but I love the slogan here: "Sip it, don't dip it!"

Brad Pitt warns us that success is a dead end.  "I’m telling you, once you get everything, then you’re just left with yourself."


Review: Freedom and Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church

Freedom and Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church
Freedom and Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church by Kevin DeYoung

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book was written for congregations and their leaders who are asking whether women should be in leadership positions of the church.

With his characteristic grace and clarity, DeYoung backs up his "no" answer with biblical support. Looking to Genesis, Jesus, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy he makes a solid case. The part on slavery in the Bible is probably controversial, but I thought very well done.

Main strength: DeYoung knows the opposing argument well, answering most objections I've heard from those who support women in church leadership roles.

Weakness: I'm not sure the head covering section was needed, though it is okay. I disagreed with his take on deacons in 1 Timothy 3:11.

It still gets 5 stars, mainly because several churches where I grew up are asking this very question right now. Why SHOULDN'T women preach and be elders in the church? This book lays out the Biblical answer.

Unfortunately, it is out of print! I got my copy by writing University Reformed Church in Lansing, MI, and explaining why I wanted it. They had some copies and sent me one. Ask, and you shall receive!

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An Undivided Catch

When Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection in Galilee, they are following Peter back to fishing.  Jesus calls to them to try the other side of the boat for fish.  They catch so many that they can’t lift it into the boat, but the net isn’t torn. Torn is the word schism. Jesus makes Peter and the apostles fishers of men, and the net doesn’t break.  This is a prediction and an exhortation to the future church.  The number of believers, now in the billions, won’t divide the church, but our divisive hearts may.  This table is one place to mend the nets.  Set things right with your brother or sister before coming here, or resolve to start that process today.

The disciples had no food, they could catch nothing with Jesus’ power.  And so it is with us.  Jesus invites us to eat and refresh ourselves here, regardless how much or how little we have worked for Him.  Some of us have worked our tails off this week for others.  Some of us have enjoyed that work as honored guests.  Remember that we all receive grace and honor because of the work of Christ.  We don’t deserve it, but He gives it anyway, to feed and heal and strengthen the body.  Mend the nets.


Raised up, Then Raised Higher

Today is Ascension Sunday, it has been just over 40 days since Resurrection Day.  Many of the Reformers in reforming the church calendar threw out all Rome’s saints days, but those same Reformers kept 5 holy days.  Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension day, and Pentecost.  We celebrate Pentecost next Sunday morning with others from our presbytery.

For today, Ascension day is on par with Christmas and Easter, notice, because it is part of Christ’s work for us.  

Christ's ascension shows us three things. First, Jesus has a unique position, at the right hand of the Father.  He alone is head of the church, and we look more at that in the sermon later.  Second, it shows His inauguration as our king.  When the apostles consider the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, they quote Psalms 2 and 110, where Jesus is installed as king and invited to rule.  And third, it shows His intercession for us.  The cross showed Jesus’ sacrifice for us; the resurrection showed God’s pleasure with Jesus.  If Jesus has atoned for us and He pleases the Father, and now has /returned/ to the Father, how can God be against us anymore?

Let us confess craving to know the times of restoring Christ’s kingdom, Let us confess setting our mind on earthly things, instead of things above where Christ is.


Acts 1:6-11
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”


When You Commune

What is it we should be doing during communion?  The rest of the service is pretty self explanatory. You confess your sins to God when we kneel. You listen to God's Word during the sermon.  But how does eating bread and drinking a thimble of wine relate to God?

1 Corinthians 1 gives us a few clues. From vs 2, we are being called Christians.  Paul tells the Corinthians they are called saints.  We let God name us and claim us as His own.  We do this when we let Him feed us as His own children.

Second, also vs 2, we also call on the name of the Lord Jesus, believing He is God's appointed sacrifice to take away our sins.  This is the faith part of the equation that is crucial for the sacraments to work as they are supposed to, and feed us.

Third, from vs 3-4, we thank God for His grace to us in Christ. we are grateful He has put His name, His grace and peace upon us and within us.  We show that thanks by lifting the cup of salvation, eating the bread He gives us.

Fourth, from vs 7-8, we wait for the return of Christ, proclaiming His death until He comes.  Eating and drinking here is one big lean to the future, to the marriage supper of the lamb, when we will be confirmed blameless and received by God.

And finally vs 9, we are enjoying fellowship with Him now.  Jesus communicates Himself to us in this meal.  He relates to us here through His spirit.  So God is calling you His own holy child. You are calling on God to save you in Christ. You are thanking God for saving you already.  You are waiting for Him to complete His work in you. You are enjoying time with Him now.


Calling to God

Jeremiah 33:3
"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know."

Lord God, there is so much about you that we do not know.  Your ways and thoughts are higher than ours. Yet You call us to call to You, for You show us great things about Yourself. Let our worship follow what You have shown us in Your word.  Remind us Lord of all we do not know, all we cannot comprehend, and the future You have not opened to us, so that we may worship You humbly.  Remind us of the truth You have given us, that we may worship you boldly as redeemed servants, as adopted children, brought into Your household of faith.  As we kneel and confess our sin, keep us sincere and fervent in fighting the good fight. As we hear Your word, keep us attentive and eager to learn, change and act for You.  As we commune with You in sacrament and in prayer, make Your Son sweetness to our souls, and our fellowship in Him and with each other a true delight.  As You send us out to serve You, let us go with conviction and with joy, knowing we are Your people, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus into the freedom of Your spirit.


Forgetting to Thank Him

Romans 1:18-21
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."

We often look to this chapter as we consider the immorality of our culture around us, and that is certainly part of the intent.  But Paul points to the root of that immorality, and it is something common to the sinful hearts of unbeliever and believer alike.  We are prone to not give glory to God, not just those on the other side of the culture war, we are. We naturally do not give thanks to God.  When Paul begins his letter to the Corinthians, a messed up group, he begins with thanksgiving.

We have a hard time remembering to thank God for good things, much less things or people that frustrate us. parents tend to criticize their children more than thanking god for them. Employees grumble about their bosses.  Most of all, we forget the giver as we enjoy the gifts.

Let us confess our sins of neglecting to glorify and praise god as we should for his bountiful gifts to us.



Uninterrupted listening

Sometimes people have the idea that sitting quietly and listening to an uninterrupted sermon is a modern invention foreign to Scripture and the ancient church.

Comes Eusebius, describing the gatherings of a heretic con artist Paul of Samosata.

"Some fail to applaud or wave their handkerchiefs as in a theater or shout and jump up as do the disorderly men and women who are his partisans, listening instead in orderly reverence, as in God's house."  (Church History, 7:30)

Here we see that the way we listen to sermons today is not overly academic traditionalism, or just the way some too-conservative churches worship, but reverence for the Word which the church had from the beginning.

A God Who Feasts Us

Abraham sets a feast for three strangers.  Fine flour.  Veal.  Fresh butter and whole milk.  This was no small deal.

It is the same with God, who will set us a feast of choice pieces of meat.  Well-aged and refined wine.  Not the cheap stuff, but that $400 bottle that’s been aging for 10 years.  We can barely imagine the glory, the delights, the holiness of that feast of consummation with Christ our bridegroom.

Right now we have just a token of that great feast, but it is enough to sustain us.  God is open-hearted toward us, welcoming us into His Triune fellowship. He is generous beyond measure.  He sacrifices His own Son, eager to welcome you home.  So come to Him now.  Thank Him. Praise Him.  Rejoice in God’s kindness to you.


Isaiah 25:6-8

    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.

When God Won't Listen

Isaiah 59:1-3
    Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened,
    That it cannot save;
    Nor His ear heavy,
    That it cannot hear.
    2      But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
    And your sins have hidden His face from you,
    So that He will not hear.
    3      For your hands are defiled with blood,
    And your fingers with iniquity;
    Your lips have spoken lies,
    Your tongue has muttered perversity.

God can save you. God can hear you. But our sin separates us from God.

We have blood on our hands as a nation. We are calling evil good; we are judging good as evil. As individuals, each of us here has lied at some point, trying to get away with sin, or not call it sin.

So God will not hear us.  If we don’t care, and go with the flow, and accept our sinful patterns of thought and action, as here to stay in our lives – God will not hear us.  But if we feel like we are at war with ourselves, part wanting to sin, part fighting it, then we cry out with the Psalmist to God, “Unite my heart to fear Your name.” Then God hears us.

Our relationship with God and with others is not what it should be. Our sins separate us from Him and others. Our sin messes things up when we try to interact.  But God hears us as we confess our sins in Jesus Christ’s name, and acknowledge our wrong.


Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father,
You call us to make a joyful noise, to worship You with gladness, to come into your presence with singing, and we have made a beginning. We stand amid worshipers and we praise Your name together.  As You command us to enter Your gates with thanksgiving, we pray You would grant what you command.  Give us gratitude with which to glorify You.  We look to you to feed us by Your Word, Your Spirit, and Your sacraments.  Let us fulfill our vows to You, prayers of confession or requests we’ve made to You throughout this week, bringing you an offering.  Remind us of Your great and holy name, as we hear You speak in Your Word, as we sing and pray to You.

Gracious Father, we approach You in the Lord Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives and reign with You, one God without beginning or end - Amen.



At the Engagement Table

The Jews of Jesus' day had an interesting engagement custom. When a man asked a girl's father permission to marry, and he agreed, then the parents and the couple would meet. The groom-to-be would take a cup of wine, offer it to the girl, and say something like, "With this cup I offer you my life."  At that point the girl could refuse the cup, and turn down the proposal of marriage.  Or she would take it and drink it, accepting him.

Here is your wedding vow into your union with Jesus.

I believe Jesus has this in mind when He institutes the Eucharist. Part of what's going on here is Jesus inviting us into a relationship with Him as personal as marriage. Salvation in Jesus is as joyful as a wedding. Life in Christ is richly rewarding as a marriage is meant to be.

Jesus is the husband of the church. He leads and provides for us. He loves us tenderly and faithfully. We submit to him gladly.  I, Steve, we the church, take You, Lord Jesus to be our wedded bridegroom.



Review: A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World
A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The best book on prayer I can remember reading.

The first part is the strongest, on dealing with challenges to prayer. Our cynicism, busyness, distractions, need to be in control or to feel useful.

Helpful contrast between two ditches of asking selfishly (demanding) and not asking at all out of cynicism (despair) or super-spirituality (thinking it's irreverent to ask - false humility). Instead we are to ask with faith that surrenders to God.

Prayer is not constant, structured speech, as public prayer leads us to believe. Individual prayer is a mixed time of asking God for things we think we want, thinking through those wants before God, laying ourselves and others before Him, and searching Scripture as the Spirit leads us.

Praying is not disconnected from life, but part of the story.

This book is very good for the soul.

View all my reviews



I am grateful to God for 16 years of marriage to this wonderful woman.
I love you, Sara.

Easter Eyes Open

The two Emmaus road disciples had their Eyes opened and saw Jesus when they broke bread. In Genesis 3:7 Adam and Eve when they ate had their Eyes open and they knew their nakedness. 

One thing we do at this table is examine ourselves.  Perhaps you are acutely aware of your sin here. Your inadequacy.  This is good. We should realize God won’t be pleased with us; He will be angry.  But we can go off the rails here and try to sew fig leaves for ourselves and hide from God.  We need to see and accept God’s mercy to be accepted. 

We have this at the cross. 

We go on to have our eyes opened and see the risen, living Lord who accepts us and eats with us. We don't just have guilt removed in some abstract, legal way.

You have a Lord who loves you.  
Who knows you.  
Whom you can know.  
Who walks with you even when you don’t see Him.
Who sits down to eat and drink with you until you know Him. 

Are your eyes open to risen Lord Jesus?


Too Good to Be True?

Our emotions and the enormity of events keep us from hearing true words. The disciples in the excitement of Jesus’ popularity could not hear him telling them He would be crucified. And now hearing the news that Jesus is risen, they cannot hear and accept it.  

Whatever events are overcoming you right now – overwhelming temptation, crisis, discouragement – or the exuberant joy of Easter – hear the words of Jesus. He died for your sins and rose for your justification.

Let us confess missing the truth of our need and His provision.



Rejected by the Tolerance Police

While working through back issues of First Things magazine, I found this gem.

“Describing homosexual acts as immoral is not at all like calling black men and women inferior…. The implication is that people who hold such views should have no voice in American society and that homosexuality should be aggressively affirmed in our public and private institutions, while dissent is punished.”  

Related to this, Ray VanderLaan in the Turkish town of Prienne describes the early church situation: if you don’t sacrifice to the gods in the public square, you can’t participate in the economic and social life of the town.  If you don’t sacrifice at town hall, you can’t have a voice in the politics and laws being formulated.


Quite relevant, these days.  This rains on the parade of a “Transformational” view of culture. (Engage with culture makers to shape it, instead of dropping out or forming a sub-culture.) There comes a point of divergence when they or you can no longer work together for the civic good.

How does this relate to Daniel working in the highest echelons of Babylon?  It seems God put Daniel in that position without the need to compromise his faith at first.  The king just didn’t ask him about his beliefs, perhaps.  Or he overlooked his beliefs because he was so valuable.

Palm Sunday Praise

Thank You Father, for opening the gate of righteousness that takes us to You.  Thank You for Jesus Christ Your Son who is the door. Though the builders rejected you, Lord Jesus, you are the one stone that sets the whole building straight.  Lord you make every day for us to rejoice and be glad in, but you refer us especially to the Lord's Day, when You raised Him from death. We rejoice not simply in a new day, or fair weather, but in your work through Christ. We cry out hosanna, asking you to save us from certain condemnation for our sins. You are the deliverer from bondage to sin, the King who rides on in majesty, the prophet who judged his unbelieving people, the priest and lamb who offered up a perfect and pleasing sacrifice to God for our sin. we praise you as the triumphant one who has cast out the ruler of this world. As the new Jerusalem, we receive you gladly. You take us to yourself each week in worship, by the spirit. Let us worship you with reverence and fear, with joy and gladness.


The Lamb Does the Lifting

Christ our Passover lamb was sacrificed for us, Paul says in 1 Cor 5.  We no longer choose Passover lambs and sacrifice them and keep that feast. Jesus instituted a new festival for us, on the same night He was betrayed, on the night of Passover. When we eat this bread, it reminds us of the broken body of Jesus on the cross. Torn skin, bloody and scourged. And at the same time, much worse, torn apart fellowship from His Father, for the first time in forever.  When we hold and drink the wine in this cup, we participate in the new redemption, the new exodus.  Israel came out of Egypt, and Moses sprinkled them with blood and called it the blood of the covenant.  Jesus delivers us from the bondage of sin guilt, and gave us this cup, calling it the new covenant.  The blood of the lamb kept the angel of death at bay for Israel. The blood of Jesus covers us from God's understandable wrath against our sin.