498 years later - another reforming German pastor

Take 5 minutes to be encouraged by a modern German reforming pastor.

The Sleep of Death / Theological Q&A

Carl Trueman lectures beautifully on our mortality.  Great sermon preparation for All Saints' Sunday.

I'm behind the times, just discovering Ligonier conference sessions on Youtube.
Here's one packed with hard and needed questions to a panel of good men.
I like how the multiple answers to a question are often contradictory if you listen close, forcing you to discern the truth yourself.

And Kevin DeYoung on 1 John 2:15-17 - Love not the world.  Excellent.
Great for taking a break from Netflix and watching as a family.



It seems like it happens every year.  I try to assert a moderate position on whether or not to celebrate Halloween and its origins.  And someone dogmatically says it's evil and Christians should have no part of it.

This article helpfully applies Scripture to the issue.

This is an area where different experiences are going to lead people to different conclusions about what they should do.  If your neighbor is a witch with spooky stuff going on that's more than decorative, you'll tend toward one view.  If all your Halloweens have been about Superman costumes, visiting Grandma's house, and getting candy, you'll tend another way.  (I think a better alternative is to hold a Reformation Day party, by the way.)

Give each other a break on this one, people, okay?

This 3 minute cinematic poem has been a favorite of mine.

For a longer and more academic look, see Steven Wedgeworth's fine article, here.


The Sacraments

Sacraments are signs (normative perspective on triangle), God's actions (situational), and His presence (existential).

As signs, they are visible words that show us the truth of the Gospel.
As God's actions they make our relationship with Him official.
As God's presence they put us in communion with God, though only by faith.

Baptism brings us into the visible church.
It is an act of repentance (normative perspective - Acts 2:38), cleansing (situational - Acts 22:16), and union (existential - Rom 6:1-4).
It confirms our membership in the covenant with God.  So it isn't just a symbol (a la Zwingli), and it isn't the new birth itself (a la Rome).

Mode of baptism
Some say baptism must be by immersion.  Baptize means immerse.  John the Baptist baptized where there was "much water" (John 3:23).  Jesus came up out of the water at His own baptism (Matt. 3:16).  Our death and resurrection with Christ is better symbolized this way (Romans 6:2-6).

Others say baptism isn't always by immersion.  Luke 11:38 uses "baptize" for a ritual washing.  "Much water" in John 3:23 wasn't necessarily for immersing.  "Some locations of baptism make immersion unlikely (Acts 9:11, 18; 10:25, 47; 16:32-33)" (1064).  There are no examples of baptism in the NT that must be by immersion.  Many Scriptures use the word baptism but the meaning is a sprinkling (Hebrews 9:10; 10:22; 12:24; 1 Peter 1:2), or the Spirit is said to be poured on us (Acts 2:17, 33; Rom 5:5).

Infant baptism
Credo-baptists (CB) believe one should not be baptized until he can profess faith on his own.
Paedo-baptists (PB) believe infants (Greek = paedo) should be baptized.
CB says there is no NT command to baptize infants.  THe NT always links baptism to a profession of faith of an adult.  The NT is radically different from the OT such that we apply sacraments to individuals with faith, not to all those in a household.
PB says the OT commanded the circumcision of infants, and baptism is doing now what circumcision did then.  God's covenant remains for the children, too (Acts 2:39).  Jesus blessed children, a covenantal act (not a sentimental one!).  NT baptisms are mostly household, rejecting the idea that the NT is newly individualistic, even if infants weren't part of those households.

The Lord's Supper
The Supper has past, present and future meaning.  We remember Christ's death in the past, commune with Him in the present, and look forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in the Consummation.

Presence of Christ
Rome says the bread and wine are physically turned into Jesus' body and blood.
Lutherans say the bread and wine are somehow physically conveying Jesus' body and blood.
Both of these don't get the representation meant by the bread and wine.
Most Protestants follow Zwingli who said the bread and wine are just symbols.
Calvin said Christ is really present, but not physically in the bread and wine.

The point of the meal is to express restored reconciliation with God.  Tabernacle and temple both had bread and wine on tables within.  Wisdom invites us to her feast (Prov. 9), and Jesus multiplied bread for the multitudes.

Acts 24-28

24 - Paul makes his defense before Governor Felix, who puts him off and keeps him in jail.  His wife is Jewish, so he knows about the Way, the rise of the Christians.
25 - When a new governor, Festus comes, he wants to make nice with the Jews, and they want to try him in Jerusalem (ambush and kill him before he gets there, actually.)  Paul appeals to Caesar.
The Jewish puppet King Agrippa comes to meet the new governor, and they talk about Paul.  Agrippa offers to familiarize Festus with the Jewish customs to better understand the case and charges against Paul.
26 - Paul appears before Agrippa and Festus, and tells his story: a Pharisee who persecuted the Way, then saw Jesus on the Damascus Road, then was persecuted by the Jews himself.  Festus thinks Paul is crazy, but Agrippa's take is that he is innocent and shouldn't have had to appeal to Caesar.
27 - They send Paul to Rome by sea, and Luke goes along.  But a storm comes up and wrecks the ship on Malta.  Everyone survives thanks to Paul's guidance, as he is led by the Lord.
28 - On Malta, a snake bites Paul, but he isn't hurt.  He heals many and they winter there before going on to Rome.  Christians meet him on the way.  Paul assembles the Jews to explain himself right away.  He preaches the Gospel to them.  Some believe and many don't.  He quotes Isaiah about their stubbornness at them, and continues preaching to all.

How this is about Jesus
He uses the Roman legal system to get Paul to Rome to testify of Him.

God's providence extends from storms to trials and charges in court, to thrones.  He is working all things together for His kingdom expansion and His glory.

Chapter 27 reminds us of Jonah in the storm - taking the Gospel to Gentiles.


Habakkuk cries out to God to do something about Israel's injustice and evil-doing.
God says He is sending Chaldeans to invade and demolish Israel.
Habakkuk says, "Surely not!  They are far more idolatrous than we are."
God says, "Wait for it... the just shall live by faith."
Woe to those who build towns on sin, who worship idols.
Lord remember mercy in Your wrath.  God will come as He has before, in terrible justice and wrath.
Even if every earthly blessing is taken from us, I will rejoice in God who saves.

How this is about Jesus
He takes on this curse for us, of being crushed by foreigners.
He lived by faith in God, and maintained it when God took everything and even forsook Him.

Be careful what you wish/pray for!  Habakkuk starts with wanting God to do something about Israel's sin.  But when he gets an answer, he wants God to remember mercy.  But he is also willing to go through any earthly trial for God to purify and save Israel.

"For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea."
 - Habakkuk 2:14


Listen Up! // Holiness // If I were the devil

I've come to enjoy Ken Myers' Mars Hill Audio Journal.  And his fund raising notes are great, too!
In his last, after a two-sentence introductory paragraph, he says this:

"If you've read this far, a remarkable event has occurred.  It is increasingly difficult to get people to read messages sent to them, regardless of the medium.  You're already six sentences deep into this message, and the next time we send a renewal notice, we might not be so lucky."  (emphasis mine)

So true!

Holiness by JC Ryle is available for Kindle for $0.99 at Amazon right now.

I heard this great blues song live yesterday performed by a church member at our talent show.
"If I Were the Devil"

2 Chronicles 35

King Josiah keeps Passover, telling the priests to do it, and giving many animals for it.  The Levites and priests had a lot of work!  The singers and gatekeepers were doing their thing, too.

Egypt comes to attack Assyria, and Josiah foolishly confronts him at Megiddo.  He dies from battle wounds, a sad end to the reforming king.

How this is about Jesus
He leads Israel to true worship of God, especially at Passover.
He will conquer at the end time battle at Megiddo, instead of fall to the wicked.

Don't grab a passing dog by the ears, injecting yourself into an argument not your own (Prov. 26.17).
Though we may have bright moments in our lives (Josiah's reforms), we will also have embarrassing ones.

Repentance that works // Mugged by Nietzsche // Pleasing God

Here's a helpful article on how to repent of that recurring sin in your life.  And how NOT to.

Hank the Cowdog author writes about how he was mugged by Nietzchse in college.

As God's saved children, we can either please or grieve Him.  Here's a helpful look at how.


1 - God will wipe the earth and Jerusalem clean of the wicked & those not seeking Him, for their sins
2 - God will judge and desolate His enemies in Ammon, Moab, Assyria, Ashkelon, and Israel will dwell peacefully there.
3 - Israel has also been wicked.  She doesn't draw near to Me, breaks the law, and devour the poor.  So I will judge the nations, and change and restore Israel to holiness.  Sing, Israel, for God will save and sing over you!

How this is about Jesus
He asks for the nations as His inheritance from His Father, when He is crowned King (Psalm 2).  Here we see some of those nations judged.
He sings over the apostles in the Upper Room, just before the cross, fulfilling Zeph. 3:17.

When God judges the nations, He usually includes an indictment on His own people.  We have no reason to boast or gloat when we criticize the culture for its godlessness, for we are sinners ourselves (Romans 2).  But God in His grace has chosen to restore and forgive us.


Election and Assurance

Part 5 - Soteriology
Chapter 37 - Perkins and His Greatest Case of Conscience

William Perkins (1558-1602) "wed decretal and experimental theology" (587).  He wanted to comfort unassured Christians that they had true faith by describing what happened within the soul of one whom God elects.  So he lays out in great detail 5 stages of faith from weaker to stronger.

He identifies three grounds we have for the assurance of our salvation:

  1. Gospel Promises in the Bible
  2. The Holy Spirit's testimony
  3. The fruit of our sanctification in obedience and good works

Perkins saw 1 John as a treatise on attaining a clear and assured conscience.  [I think this led him to a bit of eisigesis, reading that topic into the text when it wasn't the point.]

Here are some marks of a true believer. There are times when you

  • commune with God
  • flee worldly lusts
  • have a sincere heart toward God
  • love fellow Christians
  • want to obey God's commandments

Perkins emphasized the subjective experience of faith and assurance more than earlier reformers, but he agreed with them on unconditional election, and the need to ground our experience in the Word of God.  He set the tone and direction for Puritan thought for years to come.


2 Chronicles 33-34

King Manasseh took the throne after his father Hezekiah.
Manasseh undid all Hezekiah's great reforms, rebuilding pagan altars and high places.
But God sent Assyria to plunder Jerusalem and capture Manasseh.  He was taken prisoner to Babylon.  But he repented sincerely and God let him return to reign again.
His son Amon reigned for only 2 years, serving the idols as his father had shown him how to do.

Josiah son of Amon began to reign when he was 8.  When he was 20 he purged Judah of idols.
When he was 26 he started to repair the temple, and found the book of the Law.
He is grieved at Israel's sin, and sends to a prophet to ask about it.
Huldah says God is going to bring disaster for it, but will spare Josiah who had a tender heart.
Josiah holds a public reading of the whole book and leads everyone to commit to worship Jahweh, and turn away from idols.

How this is about Jesus
He is devoted to the Word of God from His youth, too.
He teaches Israel the Word.

Manasseh shows us that even the worst ruler is not beyond the grace of God.  Change is possible.
Josiah shows us that rulers should lead their people to worship the true God, and not remain neutral about it.


God is full of wrath and will end His enemies for good.
Israel can take heart because the brutal and idolatrous Assyrian won't pass through Israel anymore.

Nineveh's downfall is poetically described - the spears, torches and chariots in the streets, the women carried off moaning, the gold plundered.

More description.  Stumbling over dead bodies in the street.
God is against Nineveh because of her prostitution (3:4-5).  She inflicted evil on everyone (3:19).
She's no different than other cities that have fallen.  Her wealth will take wings like the grasshopper and fly away.
You'll end scattered and mortally wounded with no healing in sight.

How this is about Jesus
He also promises judgment and a painful end for His enemies (1 Thess. 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:5-8; Rev. 19:15).

It can be hard for Western Christians, facing little hostility from enemies of Christ until very recently, to understand the solace believers can draw from texts such as these.  This comfort doesn't come from a desire to "get them back" personally, but to see Christ's name and sovereignty vindicated after His people are trampled under and killed.

Acts 23

The Roman officer (Claudias) assembles the priests and elders to find out what their problem is with Paul.  It starts badly.  Paul insists adamantly on his innocence.  The high priest orders him struck.  Paul lashes back, not realizing it's the high priest.  Then he divides the Jews against each other by claiming Pharisee status.  The Jews get so violent nothing more can be done.  Claudius takes Paul back to jail.

Some Jews make a plot to kill Paul the next time he is moved.  Paul's nephew hears of it, tells Paul, who sends him to Claudius, who needs to protect Roman citizen Paul at cost of his own job.  So he sends him to Governor Felix in Caesarea under heavy guard.  Jesus appears to Paul encouraging him and predicting he will witness to Christ in Rome, too.

How this is about Jesus / Application
The plots of the wicked and decisions of important officials and rulers is not out of God's control.  Rather, it is all part of His plan to glorify Himself through Christ in the church.  He arranges all events so that His people have opportunity to bear witness to Him.


Micah 6-7

I indict you for your disobedience.  I redeemed you from Egypt.
I require justice and kindness, more than lots of sacrifice.
But all I see in Israel is violence, deceit, theft - all the ways of Ahab.
You can't even trust your own family.
But Israel will be restored, and the nations subject to them, instead of the other way around.
God pardons sin and shows mercy.

How this is about Jesus
He refers to 7:6 in Matthew 10:32, saying it is fulfilled in His coming.  Israel's wickedness climaxes in their rejecting Jesus.
He refers to 6:8 in Matthew 9:13, saying right relationship is more central to glorifying God than sacrifice.

Micah 6:8
"what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

Acts 22

Paul tells the crowd at the temple of his conversion.  The crowd listens attentively through the assertion that Jesus is alive and is Lord, but condemn him when he claims God sent him to the Gentiles.  The Roman officer sets him up for "questioning" (flogging), but Paul makes his Roman citizenship known and they back off.

How this is about Jesus / Application
Paul takes any opportunity to talk about Jesus, even when a riotous mob is out for his blood thinking wrongly that he took a Gentile into the temple.  He takes little thought or effort for defending himself, but has a laser focus on bringing attention to the person of Jesus, even when his life is in danger.


Acts 21

Paul travels with his group to Jerusalem.  From Ephesus they sail to Tyre and stay with Christians for a week while the ship unloaded cargo.  They tell Paul by the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem, but he goes on anyway!  Agabus says he'll be arrested.  In Jerusalem they meet with James and the elders.  They rejoice without objection at Paul's report of his work among the Gentiles.  They then ask Paul to pay expenses for some men to fulfill a Nazirite vow, to show the concerned Jewish Christians that Paul isn't teaching Jews to forsake the temple.  He does it.

It's a week long process and near the end when Paul is in the temple, Jews from Asia that agitated against him there stir up the crowd with the accusation that he took Gentiles into the temple.  They drag Paul out and start beating him, but the Romans get wind of it and come arrest Paul.  Paul speaks Greek to the arresting officer, then Hebrew to the Jews gathered.

How this is about Jesus / Application
Sometimes the Lord leads us into hard situations, even telling us it's going to be hard.  We then get pressure from friends not to do it, but we know we must to be faithful.
Paul is entertaining Gentile friends in Jerusalem, but is careful NOT to take them into the temple.  He wants to bring Jew and Gentile together; he still respects the ritual separation that is still standing, but preaches more strongly that it is torn down at the cross.

Micah 4-5

4 - God will restore Zion's mountain as a place of pure worship, teaching and judgment for all nations.  Don't fret when they gather against you, for I've done it to bring them to Me.

5 - Bethlehem will bring forth a shepherd to feed the flock of Israel, though Assyria will invade and strike Him.  God will cut off Israel's horses, cities, idols, and sorceries, but deliver a remnant.

How this is about Jesus
He is the King on the mountain to which the nations flow (Psalm 2; Isaiah 60).
He is the ruler born in Bethlehem, "whose origin is from of old, from ancient days" (5:2).

The promise of restoration and removal of sin, violence and threat creates such longing in the heart for it now.  This is a hope that purifies (1 John 3:3).

"They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of Yahweh of hosts has spoken" (Micah 4:4).

Micah 1-3

1 - God is going to come and stamp on you for Israel's sins - her idols and prostitutes
2 - woe to those who pre-meditate oppression and wickedness and then do it.  You drive women and children from their homes and pass around the wine and beer.
3 - woe to the rulers who flay and fleece their people, to the prophets who seek their own gain.  Prophet, priest and king are all in it for themselves while claiming the Lord is with them so no disaster will come.

How this is about Jesus
He also rebuked the teachers and priests for their selfishness and hypocrisy.
He is God - He did come bringing judgment (to Jerusalem in 70AD) - but teaching and sacrifice came first at the cross.

Rulers and spokesmen need to take special heed to act with integrity, not taking advantage of people.


Romans 16

I commend Phoebe to you - a servant of the church.  [She must have carried the letter to Rome.]
Greet everyone there for me; the churches of Christ greet you.
Don't tolerate the divisive or flatterers.
God will crush Satan under you soon.
Timothy, Tertius the secretary who wrote the letter, Gaius (Paul's host), Erastus (the city treasurer) and others greet the Romans.
God can strengthen you according to the Gospel I preach - to Him be the glory through Jesus Christ!

How this is about Jesus
He unites the church in one communion.
He crushed the snake first, and will see it done in our life together as the church.
He gets the Father much glory through His work for and in the church.

Communication between churches in different areas is important to maintain our sense of the church beyond our locality.  God is bigger than what is happening HERE.
We need to acknowledge the work that others do for the Kingdom of God.
We need to stay away from and not tolerate those that work against the Kingdom in the church.

Puritan Richard Sibbes Wants You to Entertain the Holy Spirit

Sibbes was a Cambridge pastor and lecturer in the early 1600s.  His most famous work is "The Bruised Reed."  He wanted his preaching to woo the hearer to love the truth.  He followed Perkins and converted or taught several Westminster Assemblymen.  We will consider his view on entertaining the Spirit, that is, how to make your soul compatible with Him, and not grieve Him.

The Spirit is the One who lives in us and makes union and relationship with Christ possible.  Spiritual warfare will result, since our natural self is hostile to Christ and holiness.

The Spirit seals us to God.  Calvin and Owen took this as our regeneration, but later Puritans like Perkins and Sibbes saw it as our conscious and growing assurance of being the Lord's, which sweetens and sanctifies us.  Owen liked the call to assurance but didn't think the sealing of the Spirit of Ephesians 1:13 meant this [I agree with Owen].

The Spirit comforts us when our souls are distressed.  By the Word, He brings peace and order and quiet rest to us.

We grieve the Spirit when we sin.  Spiritual sins of pride are perhaps most grievous, though carnal temptations "drown the soul in physical delights."  Busyness also makes a cacophony so the soul cannot communicate with Christ.

Romans 15

The more mature in faith need to help the weaker, more immature, or less shaped by the Word.
Jesus has done this for us.
Receive each other as Jesus received you.
Jesus came to save the Gentiles, too.
Paul know the Romans Christians can minister to themselves, but he wrote boldly about Christ's grace, since he was given this ministry to Gentiles.
I'm on the way to Jerusalem with financial aid for the Christians in Jerusalem.  But then I plan to go to Spain, and would like to stop by and see you a while.
Pray that I survive the Judean hostility.

How this is about Jesus
Paul didn't keep the good news just for the Jews.  All the world is to know it and be invited to faith in Christ.

Paul must have heard of, or anticipated, tension between Jews and Gentiles.  His wording seems carefully crafted to apply to both sides equally.  On secondary issues, it's important to negotiate in this way.  Many reject such diplomacy and negotiation in the Christian life, since they reject the very category of secondary or doubtful or minor issues.  Since the Bible addresses everything, they think, there is nothing it doesn't give a definitive stance on.  This is not true, and Romans 14-15 proves it.

Romans 14

Don't argue over doubtful and minor things, judging, condemning or despising people over such issues.  If a fellow Christian is upset by what you eat or drink, don't stick it in his face and press the point.  Your freedom isn't hindered, but you should be more willing to walk delicately where there are delicate consciences.

How this is about Jesus
He was very patient while men wondered whether He was the Messiah.
He was angry with those who condemned people over minor issues like healing on the Sabbath.

Be careful what you judge people over.
We cannot avoid making judgments, but we can be slower to arrive at them, and gentler on the way.  That way we have time to let emotions cycle through, and think more clearly about whether this issue is worth it.

Alcohol is a Romans 14 problem in the church these days.  Those advocating total abstinence don't think this chapter applies.  They say alcohol consumption is doubtless a sin or unwise leading to sin.  Those who favor alcohol consumption very often violate this text by despising abstainers.  Neither is right, but Romans 14 definitely applies to this issue (verse 21).  I would guess that 90% of the Christian world needs correction in their thoughts and position and demeanor toward others on this issue.


Romans 13 - When to Resist the Governing Authorities

Don't resist or ignore the government.  Pay your taxes, and honor those in office.
Avoiding owing people money, but always consider yourself in debt to love others, which fulfills God's law.
Live urgently, turning away from sensual indulgence and turning TO Jesus Christ.

How this is about Jesus
He kept the law by loving God and loving His neighbor, by avoiding sensual sin and turning to His Father (Matthew 4).

A controversial topic: when is it okay to resist the government?  Daniel and His friends do so with commendation from Scripture, so this is not an absolute, no-exceptions rule.  It seems the rules of just war apply.  You may resist if there is a reasonable chance of success, when the government is being a terror to good, when much harm is being done by the government's policy.  You MUST resist when it asks you to commit idolatry or otherwise explicitly disobey God's Word.

Romans 12

So serve and worship God with your life, using your gifts in the body of Christ.
Love each other with sincerity.  Don't get all uppity and on your high horse.
Bless your enemies.  Leave vengeance and wrath to God.

How this is about Jesus
He blessed His persecutors, and laid down His life for His people.
He left judgment and wrath until His return.

While each member is called to a different kind of service (vss. 3-8), ALL Christians must resist conformity to the world, bless their enemies and avoid wrathful vengeance toward them.



God calls Hosea as a prophet and tells him to marry a prostitute.
This is a sign to Israel that they are behaving as a prostitute, not faithful to God.
Her leaders pursue wine and women, her people worship idols like pagans.
They seek salvation from Egypt and Assyria, while giving lip service and hollow repentance to God.
God won't forgive Israel (Ephraim), but He will forgive Judah.
He desires mercy, not just sacrifice (6:6).
His heart cries out at the thought of judgment, and He has mercy instead (11:8-9).
Death has no sting if God decides to redeem, but He leaves Ephraim to be judged (13:14-16).
God will heal their backsliding and restore their soul and land.

How this is about Jesus
He quotes 6:6 in Matthew 9:13.
He is the faithful Groom purifying a dirty and impure bride.

God's rebuke of Israel's indulgence is quite relevant to the church in our day in the West.
His compassionate heart comes through (11:8-9).
But also God makes a distinction within the Church, saving the wheat and judging false sons in her pale.  Solemn warning is mixed with declarations of forgiveness and coming restoration.

Isaiah 65-66

I plead with My people all day to stop their idolatry and rebellion, but they don't stop.
I'll save, bless, feed and water My People.  But you rebels will get the opposite.
I create a new heavens and earth where you will live long with no violence or calamity.

God looks with favor on the humble and contrite of heart, who trembles at His Word.
But when you reject Me, all your "right worship" is just idolatry to Me.
Zion will bring forth a nation in a day.
God will judge idolators, but gather His people to Jerusalem.
Some Gentiles will come in, too, and even be priests.
But in the end rebels will have only carnage and death left, forever.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus quotes the last verse of Isaiah to refer to hell, in Mark 9.

We have the hope of a new heaven and earth to look forward to, where righteousness dwells, where all nature is restored to peace and harmony, where all rebels are removed from resisting God and harrying His people!

Isaiah 66:12
I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream


Health Care // Art in Church // PP Video Creator Emerges

J. Todd Billings talks sense about our view of modern medicine.  So many see it as savior or villain, when it is neither.  He's a prof at my seminary alma mater!

Artists and the church often don't mix well.

And the man behind the Planned Parenthood videos is...

Isaiah 62-64

God will build up Zion again and give her a new name, a crown and glory.  God will marry her.
She will be safe and redeemed.

God has trampled peoples in judgment and vengeance, since they had rebelled and grieved His Spirit.
But He led them back safely as our Father through the desert to their home, back to rest.

Come down and make Your name known!
You made Zion a wasteland, but we are the work of Your hand.  Will You leave us in our desolation?

How this is about Jesus
He is the bridegroom who takes His Church as His bride.
He did rend the heavens and come down as the Son of God.  The temple veil was torn at His crucifixion, on which angels were woven representing the heavens and our access to paradise blocked (Genesis 3; Exodus 36:35; 2 Chronicles 3:14).

God will restore the glory lost in the Garden, though we face affliction and adversity now.
We often wonder why God doesn't help us the way we think we need, now, but He has His purposes.

"So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name."
Isaiah 63:14


Isaiah 59-61

You have blood on your hands, you oppress the poor, weaving webs of deceit and lies.
So you are blind and separated from God.
God is displeased, and comes with salvation Himself.  The Redeemer will come.
God's covenant with Israel is that the Spirit will not leave that Redeemer.

God is going to restore Israel to her glory.
Camels bearing wealth will come from the nations.
You'll have no threat or violence, but rather light and peace.  God will be your light and glory.
You will be My branch that I plant.

God's Spirit is on Me to bring His liberty, favor, and healing to Israel.
He clothes His people with salvation and joy like a bride and groom dress for a wedding.

How this is about Jesus
59 - Notice each person of the Trinity is related to God's covenant people:
The Promiser (Father, God), Promised (Redeemer, Son), and Pledge (Spirit in His mouth).
60 - Jesus is the light of the world, not just for Israel.  He is the branch (vine).
61 - Jesus quotes this text at the beginning of His ministry, applying it to Himself.  The Spirit was indeed on Him!  This is also a strongly Trinitarian text.

It never ceases to amaze me how the prophets could rebuke Israel strongly for their sins one moment, and promise restoration and grace the next.  Getting greater grace means stronger sensitivity to sin.


Glenn Beck's Christianity // Advice for Pastors // Facebook is Changing You // Cage Stage

Stop calling yourself a Christian, Glenn Beck.

10 commandments for pastors - Joel Beeke

How Facebook affects our relationships at church.  Many FB critiques are amateur hacks, but this one really nails it on the head.

This is pretty funny, because it's so true.  I call it "Cage Stage Calvinism."

More on Franklin

A bit more on Franklin is called for.

His scientific theory on electricity was laughed at in the Royal Society at first.

He was not strictly a Deist, as they hold to an absent and un-involved God.  Franklin actually composed his own liturgies and prayers for worship.  But a divine or atoning Jesus was not part of his beliefs.

His family life neared wreck status.  His son, governor of New Jersey, was a loyalist, and Ben kept that son's son with him after a return from Europe.  He cut the governor son out of his will.  He was distant from his wife, lived with a widow in London, and tells us himself he had some run-ins with prostitutes.  This is the man who sought perfection in virtue!

Here are some of his sayings:
Three can keep secret if two are dead.

Wise men don't need advice.  Fools won't take it.

The constitution only give people the right to pursue happiness.  You have to catch it yourself.

Many people die at 25 and aren't bureid until they are 75.

Never confuse motion with action.

Never take a wife till thou hast a house to put her in.

He that rises late must trot all day.

He that won't be counseled can't be helped.

If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.

If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.

All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.

That last one fascinates me.  As a diplomat and negotiator in many delicate situations, he must have seen his fair share of hard heads and compromisers.  It is those who strike the right balance who influence events the most.  Reminds me of the unruly Republicans right now...

The Full and Interesting Life of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin FranklinThe Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Franklin lived an amazing life, and wrote about it with wit and style in this autobiography. Born to a large Protestant family, he focuses on virtue in the first part of his book. Setting himself up as a printer, it's industry over idleness, arbitration over contention, temperance and frugality over indulgence and drink. He rejects Christian doctrine overtly while still believing in God, which leads him directly into moralism. With youthful zeal he sets the goal of becoming morally perfect, admitting he never reached it, but claiming he was better for the attempt. When he pursues humility the best he can do is the appearance of it, making him more persuasive in debates with others. This is very good advice, as it applies to rhetoric, but doesn't touch the heart of pride, which he sees everywhere including in himself.

He encouraged non-sectarian behavior, wanting to unite the public instead of let religious doctrine divide. He enjoyed George Whitefield's speaking ability but disagreed with his Christianity.

I was surprised at how little there was about the Revolutionary War in it. Franklin was in Paris for most of it, the American face appealing to the French for help. His rude reception in London after the Stamp Act was fun to read.

I learned a lot in his longer account of disputes between colonial assemblies, the Crown and Parliament over how to fund the French-Indian War. His satire about the King of Prussia claiming Britain for his own was delightful - his point being to refute the idea that the Stamp Act and other taxes were justified to pay for the war. His critique of Britain's many trade restrictions for the colonies was piercing. He noticed the incompetence of the British army in some respects during this war, which likely gave confidence that they could win in a confrontation.

When he came back to Philadelphia in 1776, just in time for the Constitutional
Convention, his account of London's posture toward the colonies was heavily relied upon in their deliberations.

Franklin seems to have started everything in Philadelphia: the library, the fire department, etc. He rejected slanderous journalism, refusing to print it. Later he moved in the highest circles of London and Paris society, with the like of Adam Smith and pretty French salon ladies.

On his return to America after serving as diplomat after the war, he served as governor of Pennsylvania for a few years, before retiring.

I'll end with a brief excerpt:

"As the chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning, sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive, assuming manner [pushy, cocky, self-assurance they are right], that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition and to defeat every one of those purposes for which speech was given to us, to wit, giving or receiving information or pleasure" (page 26).

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Surviving Un-Schooling

Surviving the Applewhites (Applewhites, #1)Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not very good.

A chaotic home-schooling family takes in a juvenile delinquent and reforms him by involving him in a big family project.

The premise is right up my alley, but there were a lot of drawbacks. Both parents are self-absorbed to the point of narcissism and neglect. The definition of education leaves a lot to be desired. The whole premise that if you just set kids free to be on their own they will learn best, is off-base.

On the bright side, it does help kids relate to:
1. Being an organized personality in a chaotic environment - frustrating!
2. A new family member to adjust to.
3. Finding your gift and contribution to make to the group.

The Sound of Music was a nice touch.

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Lincoln's Childhood, for Children

Abe Lincoln Grows UpAbe Lincoln Grows Up by Carl Sandburg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lincoln has always intrigued me, and even more so since moving to the South and discovering people who still revile him.

Carl Sandburg wrote a classic biography in 1926, and this is something of a children's version of it, I gather. Sandburg's writing exquisitely captures the spirit of the nation during Lincoln's childhood years. This book covers Abe's life until he leaves his parents at 19 years of age.

Westward expansion was front and center, Lincoln's own father moving them several times from Kentucky to Indiana and Illinois. Indian hostility was intense. Johnny Appleseed and Mr Audubon make cameo appearances.

Besides this, I'll mention three formative events Sandburg highlights.
1. The death of his mother early, and arrival of his step-mother. This brought a higher standard of living and expectations on Abe. At the same time, his father looked down on "eddicatin."
2. Andrew Jackson's presidency showed him a backwoodsman could make it big.
3. Taking cargo on flatboats down the Mississippi to New Orleans showed him the wide world and the slave markets.

Sandburg subtly foreshadows Lincoln's later political life: the teenager practicing speeches, delighting in stories, and always reading and writing. Young Abe seemed to know the power of the spoken word, and he wanted to wield from a young age.

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Politics from the French Revolution

The Social ContractThe Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Rousseau, a forerunner of the French Revolution, sets out to establish political authority somewhere – anywhere – other than royalty. He admits explicitly near the beginning that he rejects divine revelation as a guide. The only alternative is to set up something else as infallible and indestructible - in Rousseau's case: the "will of the people." Somehow, as you take larger groups of people into account at once, their individual selfish wills and desires will smooth and even out and a General Will that is best emerges. This is mere worship of man - of the collective state, really - put in political terms. The will of the people is sovereign.

A better and more biblical view sees only God’s Word as infallible and sovereign, and political authority as balanced between king, elders and people. None of the latter three are immune from sin. Each can abuse their rights, and do. But each has a role to play. Rousseau wants to level it all to the absolute will of the people.

Rousseau occasionally hits some wisdom
- his basic understanding of the need to distinguish a legislative and executive branch of government.
- a state needs to check the power of rulers assigned to carry out their will, that they not usurp power belonging to the people. This is true, but in his context used to destroy royalty undeserving of such punishment.

Rousseau is thoroughly misguided at most points. Here are some examples:
Page 140 – “The word ‘finance’ is the word of a slave…. In a genuinely free state, the citizens do everything with their own hands and nothing by means of money.”
Freedom and finance are not contradictory, much less freedom and currency.

Pg. 143 – “The moment a people adopts representatives it is no longer free.”
This idea is part of the great leveling. There must be absolutely nothing standing between the individual and the state. Ironically this is what makes it possible for the state to tyrannize the individual! Representatives preserve freedom and help discern the will of the people. Rousseau seems to think figuring out the people’s will is all that’s needed, but representatives also play an important role in evaluating that will.

In book IV, chapter 8, he limits the prohibitions of a state to one: “no intolerance.” This was an attack on religion, on the Church, it continues today, and he calls for banishment of all churches from his state since they are the prime example of intolerance. He wants a limit to rulers’ power, but the will of the people is to banish anyone who holds there is only one way to salvation.

As one of the first and best modern attempts at establishing government apart from the truth of Christianity, Rousseau gives it a valiant go. But it’s thoroughly contradictory and unconvincing to me.

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Jurassic Park

Jurassic ParkJurassic Park by Michael Crichton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Jurassic World came out, and one of my children got really interested in dinosaurs, I got interested in the original book of Jurassic Park and came across it at the library.

Crichton relies heavily on dramatic irony – the audience knowing what’s coming while the characters don’t. The story and pacing are well done.

The whole work is designed to extol chaos theory. Mankind cannot control nature. Life will find a way to break through any barriers or control we try to impose. This assertion flies in the face of God’s call to humanity to fill and subdue the earth, to tend nature.

On the other hand, there is a healthy rebuke of the pride and presumption of modern science, easily assuming it is right, can’t be wrong, and nothing could go wrong because WE are doing it. If we have figured out HOW to do a thing (cloning, for example) then we should do it, for the glory or the money or whatever, no matter the possible harm it could do. We don’t have the maturity to handle the knowledge we have so quickly attained.

Yet the book encourages the wonder of science and discovery in the characters of the children and the archaeologists.

A decent read for a plane ride, but there is plenty better stuff out there.

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The Church

Doctrine of the ChurchDoctrine of the Church by Edmund Clowney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A solid treatment of the church from a generation ago.

Clowney begins with an introduction surveying the contemporary church (in this case, of the 60s and 70s). Its pitfalls were to socialize, secularize and sacramentalize the church. He then considers the church as the people of God, the kingdom and body of Christ, and the fellowship of the Spirit.

Packing with theological gold and insight, Clowney critiques the ecumenical movement along the way, as failing to reject heresy for the absolute principle of unity. He incorporates the Old Testament revelation of Israel as the people of God seamlessly into an understanding of His precious, redeemed people.

I read this 60 page booklet for a sermon on the church and found it very helpful theologically. There isn't much application, which isn't a fault as it was written for a different audience. Church elders would especially profit from reading this.

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This is How We Know What Love Is...

The Warden and the Wolf King (The Wingfeather Saga #4)The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The conclusion to the Wingfeather Saga deeply satisfies.
Each book in the series got better, as far as writing style goes.

The end event is really bittersweet, done very well. There are many echoes of Lord of the Rings, and the strongest note is your identity, your name. Remembering who you are, and who names you, is vital to your character. This is true for the good guys and the bad guys.

Brotherly love and loyalty comes to its climax.
Find the good in people you think are bad.

These are lessons to learn, but he really tells a good story throughout, too.

Highly recommended.

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Bradford's Account of Plymouth

Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647 by William Bradford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

William Bradford was the governor of Plymouth Plantation almost every year from 1621 to 1657 when he died. He relates first hand our legends of Squanto, the first Thanksgiving, the Mayflower compact, etc.

Some much beloved words come from his pen:
The term Pilgrim coined:
"So they left that goodly and pleasant city which had been their resting pace near twelve years; but they knew they were pilgrims, and looked not much on those things, but lift up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits" (50).

Private Property established:
He also undoes the socialist set-up of the group's charter, going to private property instead. "... assigned to every family a parcel of land.... made all hands very industrious" (133).

But there were many surprises in the book for me, too.

1. The Arminian theological controversy broke out in the Netherlands while the Pilgrims sojourned there. A couple of them got involved, trying to refute Jacobus Arminius.

2. Bradford says the Indian women are much more modest than English women (pg. 99). I'm sure this evaluation is prejudiced by his greater familiarity with English culture, and the fear or natural shyness Indian women would have encountering white men. But still, an intriguing comment. Immodesty was a big problem in Elizabethan England.

3. As separatists, the group rejected the Church calendar, including the celebration of Christmas. The governor sent everyone out to work on Christmas, and when some less persuaded of the separatist view stayed home or played in the streets, he took away their tools and told them to stay inside.

4. Squanto seems to have gotten greedy, playing English off Indian groups, and vice versa, or at least that's what Bradford thought: "Squanto sought his own ends and played his own game, by putting the Indians in fear and drawing gifts from them to enrich himself, making them believe he could stir up war against whom he would, and make peace for whom he would..." (109).

5. Much of the book is taken up with the colony's financial troubles. Those funding them back in England expected gold and goods to flow back home and enrich them. When this didn't happen, some backed out and those that stayed were less than helpful in supplying the colony. One agent in particular just ripped the Pilgrims off badly. Clarifying accounts across the ocean was tedious and time-consuming. The Dutch and French both pressed in, claiming lands and trapping rights, etc.

6. The group had to deal with radical sects that came their way in later years from England. Roger Williams passed through. Groups that rejected the church altogether, "sowing the seeds of Familism and Anabaptistry, to the infection of some and danger of others; so that we are not willing to join with them in any league or confederacy at all" (353).

7. They also had to deal with gross sin. Not every one of them was a dyed-in-the-wool pious separatist. Many servants were at a dead end in England due to their poor moral character, and saw a chance to start over, or exploit new ground in America. Sodomy, rape and bestiality, besides adultery came up, and their adjudicating of these according to Scripture was fascinating, some being executed and others not, depending. (354ff).

8. They wanted a minister, but made do with Elder Brewster for several years. Steve Wilkins in his review of the book, in Veritas Press' Omnibus III, says this focus on the state to the detriment of the church set America on the path of looking to the state to fix our problems while giving much less respect to the church, comparatively. This may be overstated, but Wilkins is on to something. To their credit, they gave several a try, but they were either incompetent, poor preachers, too weak-willed for the hard country, or had crazy views (or just incompatible with the particular Pilgrims).

9. The Mather family (Increase, John, Cotton, etc.) lived nearby in the Massachusetts Bay Colony that would become Boston and Salem. There was a fair bit of correspondence back and forth between the governors and the Pilgrims sought theological advice on a few matters, besides working together against Indian threats. Yale College was being formed in the later years of Bradford's writing and governing.

The Pilgrims sought to establish a new world, flee persecution, find greater opportunity to provide for their families, and expand the knowledge and kingdom of Christ to new lands. We should laud their fortitude and faith, and learn all we can from their experience.

Have your high schoolers read this book!

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Romans 11

It seems God has rejected Israel, since they are rejecting Jesus.
But Elijah felt like that, too, when God had His remnant.
God is bringing Gentiles in, now, and they shouldn't be arrogant toward the Jews.  The root supports you, and you are in by faith alone, not by how much better you are than the Jews.
They are disobeying for a time, that God's mercy later may be shown.

How this is about Jesus
He is the vine, we are the branches.  The metaphor of the tree that Paul uses, where Jews are broken off the tree when they reject Jesus, fits John 15 exactly.
Jesus did come from the stump of Jesse, the root of Abraham and David.  The deliverer came from Zion.

We do well to study the history of the Jews (I recommend Paul Johnson's history).  Instead of disdaining and rejecting them as either legalistic Pharisees (Orthodox) or liberals, find the good.  "As a Driven Leaf" by Milton Steinberg is good.


Isaiah 56-58

Don't let foreigners stay away from Me - My house is for them, too.  Their hope is not cut off.
Israel's leaders are blind, without a voice to warn of danger, selfishly devouring the sheep by indulging in wine and hard liquor.

The righteous rest, but you idolators weary yourselves with your false worship.
You burn with lust (perverted SEX), slaughter your own children (ABORTION).
Can your idols save you like I can, when trouble comes?
I will restore and speak peace to My Israel, though she has been rebellious to this day.
Some will heed and rest, but others will have no peace in their continued wickedness.

Don't use your fast days to oppress the poor and serve yourself all the more.
If you help and feed the poor, and direct your desires to God instead of yourself on the Sabbath, then God will bless you.

How this is about Jesus
56 - He quotes verse 7 when Israel's leaders devour the sheep and degrade the Gentile worship area as an animal and money exchange.
58 - He speaks against oppression of the poor, and sincerity of worship.

Self-serving leadership is a recurring problem in the church.
The West's idolatry is obvious in our sexual perversions and abortion holocaust.
Our selfishness is evident in doing what we want on the Sabbath (Lord's Day), instead of spending it with the Lord and His people.


Romans 10

I desire my fellow Jews to be saved, and they have zeal, but not according to the truth of Jesus the Messiah.  You can get righteousness by either obeying the law (no one can) or by faith in Christ.
How will anyone believe without being told?  They have heard (Psalm 19:4) but have not yet understood.

How this is about Jesus
The law's purpose is to show righteousness and lead us to Jesus who kept it for us.
Verses 9-10 are an early and basic Christian creed.  Jesus is Lord.  God raised Him from the dead.

Believe and confess this, with your heart and lips and life!
Be zealous to bring the truth to your fellow countrymen.  They've heard in a way already (even if they've never heard of Jesus), but they need to hear it again, perhaps more directly.

Isaiah 53-55

God's servant had no physical attraction to draw men to His power, but was despised, rejected, considered afflicted by God.  His piercing was for our sins; His wounds for our healing.
He will justify many through His work, have much plunder, and be satisfied.

The barren woman will have tons of children and need a bigger house.
This means God's people, on whom He will have compassion and restore to righteousness, peace and blessing, along with their children.

Come to the Lord for free filling!  Forsake your sins.
God will rain joy and peace and song on you.

How this is about Jesus
Chapter 53 is a high point in the whole Old Testament as far as speaking of Jesus.  The Ethiopian eunuch was reading this chapter by God's providence when Phillip drew near him (Acts 8).
I enjoy meditating on Christ with 53:11 - that He is satisfied now with His work.

Don't be discouraged by Christian missionaries beheaded - they are following Jesus in the spirit of Isaiah 53.
Rest in God's promises to enlarge His family and rain righteousness and provision on you, for free.


Romans 9

I am in anguish for my fellow Jews who have such outward blessing in their covenant with God, but have not come to faith in Christ.
But God's plan hasn't failed - He always chose only some from Israel for salvation, rejecting others.
Who is saved is up to God, not us.
We might object that God shouldn't blame us, then.  But we are all His creatures - if He wants to punish some of us to show His justice, and save others to show His mercy, He can do that without blame.
Many in Israel sought God's favor, but on their own efforts without faith and got nowhere.  The newcomer Gentiles with simple faith have surpassed them.

How this is about Jesus
He says Himself that we cannot come to God unless the Father draws us.
He was the younger brother chosen in Israel over His elders, to their anger, resentment and rejection.

We need to thank God for His mercy - that our salvation isn't up to our efforts or we'd never attain it.
Avoid blaming God for His election and salvation plan, as if we can spot holes or injustice in His plan.  We are the creation, not the Creator!

Isaiah 50-52

God's Servant comes and sustains the weary with words, gives His beard to be plucked.  But He sets Himself to His task, and God helps Him.  Meanwhile Israel contends against God in the dark, trying to make their own light.

O Israel, look to Abraham and Sarah, how God gave them great promises when they were small.
God will save you now, too, with comfort, joy, gladness and singing as you return home.

Jerusalem will be pure.  You will leave Assyria as you left Egypt.  Leave its impurity!
My servant will be lifted up but mangled, and sprinkle nations that way.

How this is about Jesus
50 - His beard was plucked; He set His face to go to Jerusalem.
52 - He is the servant lifted up and mangled on the cross.

Look forward to your full ransom and return home.
51 - Look back to promises God has kept to His past people, for encouragement now.
52 - The Gospel of God's reign and our return is beautiful.

Isaiah 51:11
"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."


Franklin's Pride Admitted


"There is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as Pride.  Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, andn will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility."

Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - page 144.

I'm only a third through this book, but Franklin has a moment of insight into himself here.
His method of self-improvement is shot through with pride and presumption...

Romans 8

There is no condemnation for you, because you have the Spirit of life.  Jesus has fulfilled the requirement of righteousness for you, and we live it out by the Spirit.  You no longer live by the flesh but by the Spirit, who raised up Christ from the dead.
So we are obliged to live by the Spirit, since He has made us sons of God, and heirs.

Our current suffering doesn't compare to the coming glory.  All creation groans for it.  As we hope and pray, the Spirit intercedes and God works everything for our good.  He will glorify in the end, those He predestined from the beginning, those He calls and justifies now.

So how can anyone or anything be against us or separate us from His love?  He gave His Son Jesus to DIE for us, so His promises  to make us heirs won't fail.  Even if we are killed we conquer.

How this is about Jesus
His resurrection is proof that God is powerful to change our dead and sinful hearts by the Spirit.
His death is proof that God will see our salvation through to the end.

Are you living by God's Spirit, groaning for complete removal of sin?
Take comfort that nothing can separate you from His love.

Romans 7

When a husband dies, the widow isn't bound to him anymore.  So when you die in Christ, you are not bound to the law anymore.
Is the law bad, then?  No, it promises life and shows the right way.  But with that comes condemnation when we sin.
For I know myself, that I keep doing what I know to be wrong, though I want to do what is right.
I remain wretched in this body of death (sinful tendencies) - who will deliver?  God, through Jesus!

How this is about Jesus
Since we died in Him, we are free from the curse and condemnation of the law.
He teaches us the right way, not just to condemn but to guide.
He will yet deliver us from our current sinful tendencies.

We should feel free from the punishment we justly deserve by the law, because of the death of Christ.
We should experience an ongoing struggle against the sin remaining within us, and look to Jesus for deliverance from it.

Isaiah 47-49

Babylon, you're going to be stripped of your finery and be degraded.
I gave My people into your hand and you were ruthless.
Let your astrologers and sorcerers try to save you - they have no power.

Israel, you still cling to your idols.  I foretold brand new things, so you wouldn't claim to have known it already, or given credit to your idols.  I alone do these things!
If you had listened to Me, your blessing would have covered the earth.
Leave Babylon as you left Egypt - I gave you water from the rock then, remember?

God called me by name from the womb and gave me words like a sword.
At times it's seemed in vain to speak, but now God makes me a light to the Gentile nations, too, to bring them to the Lord.
I will gather Israel from the four winds again, though she thinks I've forgotten her.
The land will be too small for all My people, and they will wonder where they all came from.
I will rescue you from those who devoured you.

How this is about Jesus
Only Jesus saves, as God claims for Himself that power.
49 - He is the light of the world (John 8:12).  He will gather His many people from afar for blessing (John 5:25-28).

47 - Don't be afraid of those who have earthly power and hostile motivation to harm us, as Christ's people.
48 - God is the one who allows such things to refine us.
49 - Our call is to speak and testify to the truth, even when it seems vain to do so.


Law as Guide

Part 5 - Soteriology
Chapter 35 - Third Use of the Law

Some Christians are allergic to the law. Not under law, but under grace is their motto, and if someone points them to a moral obligation in Scripture, they'll likely look squinty-eyed, suspecting legalism. They have forgotten that Christ freed us to serve and obey the Lord (Romans 8:4).

Other Christians live by the law. If they are going to make any progress in godliness they have to get serious about obedience. Or they have to study Scripture harder to understand the law. They have forgotten that the Spirit of liberty lives in them (2 Corinthians 3:17).

The Puritans emphasized something called the third use of the law, which strikes the biblical balance between these two unhealthy tendencies. We don't grow in godliness through condemnation or through casting off all restraints including biblical ones, but by looking to the Word for guidance to live.

The law will not justify us. It is not the source of our life in Christ. But the Spirit gave it to us to help us follow Christ, AFTER we come to Him to forgive our sins.  Luther said that outside of Christ the law is a beating stick, but after conversion it is a walking stick for us to walk in godliness.

Westminster treats the Ten Commandments in a way that draws out its application to us in this third use. Some evangelical Christians lean anti-nomian (literally, against law - described in the second paragraph, above).  They are concerned by the language of duties and obligations, but Jesus didn't come to abolish the law, and gave plenty of stern warnings and commands Himself based on it.

None of this means we are saved by the law, or should rely on our obedience or works to get favor with God. But Gospel and Law are more friends than they are enemies, to the true Christian, once his condemnation is lifted. Being truly forgiven motivates you to love and serve. It is an abuse of forgiveness to go on sinning because you don't care and can get away with it.

I'm not quite sure how this chapter fits in the Soteriology secion.  The Puritans tended to cover their favorite topics (like this one) in every section of theology, and their followers, like Beeke/Jones, tend to do the same.


Isaiah 45-46

God names Cyrus to do His work for Him.
I have formed him, and he can't argue against doing it.
The wealth of nations will stream to him.
There is no other god to save but Me.
Every knee will bow to Me in loyalty.

You carry your idols around, but I will carry you.
What I plan happens, and I will save Zion.

How this is about Jesus
Cyrus is a forerunner of Jesus: God's appointed servant to deliver Israel.
Jesus carries our burdens and sins at the cross, instead of us carrying idols around.

Don't think you can beat God with your plans - He has already taken your rebellion into His plan to save His people.
You will acknowledge His Lordship eventually.  You might as well come along quietly and live with Him as Lord now.

Isaiah 45:21
"there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior."


Isaiah 43-44

But you won't be hurt by water or fire as I redeem you.
The blind and My Servant will witness of Me, that only I save.
I will do a new thing, making a way in the sea and the desert.
But you didn't call to Me, but burdened Me with your sins instead.
I will forgive you, but you have sinned and I will punish you.

I will pour My Spirit on you.
There is no other god besides Me.
Men make an idol out of the same log they cook their food with - idolatry is folly.
I set up the sky, and I will people Jerusalem again.
I will get Cyrus to shepherd My people back and build Jerusalem again.

How this is about Jesus
He witnesses to God's truth and glory.
He provides God's forgiveness, and foretells God's punishment.
He pours out the Spirit on His people, after ascending to heaven.

Isaiah foretells
- Cyrus by name, well before his time
- Pentecost, even further in the future.
We should look to creation to see God's power, when we doubt He will deliver us.
Since we use physical things, like burning wood, we should be careful not to trust them as we do God

Isaiah 41-42

Don't be afraid, for I am with you, to strengthen you with My right hand, against all your enemies and the idols you are tempted to serve.

God's servant will have His Spirit, be gentle, and not tire, until He establishes light, justice and a covenant for His people.
Shout for joy, for God will come and give the blind sight.
He gave Israel up to plunder, but they didn't learn from it.

How this is about Jesus
He is the servant, who has the Holy Spirit.
He establishes God's covenant with us.

Look to God for strength, both to fight idolatry and to be encouraged in spirit.
Rejoice at God's great goodness to you in Christ!
When God chastens you, learn from it, instead of complaining or digging in your heels, or getting selfish.


Isaiah 39-40

Diplomats from Babylon visit Hezekiah, and he foolishly shows them everything Israel has.
Isaiah foretells doom, but Hezekiah selfishly shrugs, since he'll be dead and gone by then.

God wants His prophet to speak comfort and peace to Jerusalem.
God is coming to You with reward and to shepherd you.
Who's going to tell God what He can't do, when He measures the oceans by the width of His hand?
Are you going to compare God to an idol made out of wood, when He set up the sky like a tent?
So you think God doesn't see you, or can't help you?
If He strengthens you, you don't get tired.

How this is about Jesus
Unlike Hezekiah, He takes responsibility for Jerusalem's fate.  He lays down his life instead of asking for more life.

40 - He is the One who comes, who shepherds Israel, who gives strength.

This chapter is all about comfort, in the rough way we sometimes comfort others - with rhetorical questions meant to hammer home comforting truth of God's omniscience, omnipotence, and compassion.

Romans 6

You are dead to sin because you died with Christ at the cross.
You are alive to Christ, because you rose with Him in His resurrection.
So don’t serve sin like a slave, since it leads to death; serve Christ, which leads to life.

How this is about Jesus/Application
We have to die to our old self and sin, before we can be a new creation, rising in Christ’s resurrection.  God does this to us in regeneration, and gives us a heart to believe and repent - it isn't something we have to try to do on our own.  When we repent of our sins, we need to count ourselves dead and alive in Christ.  This is the first imperative, the first thing Paul tells us to do, in the whole book of Romans!

Romans 5

God justifies us through Christ, though we were still sinners.
Sin came through one man and his one sinful act; so righteousness comes through one Man (Jesus) and His righteous act (crucifixion).

How this is about Jesus
He sets right what Adam tipped over.
He justifies us before God.

See all you do and think and feel as either Adam-like (sinful nature) or Christ-like.

Romans 4

Abraham believed God, that’s what justified Him before God (Genesis 15:6).
Psalm 32 says the same thing.
Abraham was uncircumcised when this happened, not circumcised.
So it’s by faith, as Abraham’s faith was strong against the physical evidence.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus is the object of Abraham’s faith, and ours.  He is the one we believe to make us righteous before God.


Trust Jesus, and nothing else, to lift God’s condemnation against you for your sins.