8.31.2015

2 Corinthians 1-4

1
God comforts us through others who have also been afflicted.
We were severely afflicted in Asia (Turkey).
We deal honestly with you, but we had to change our plans and not see you.
God is faithful, and all His promises are kept in Jesus Christ.

2
The timing would have made for a painful visit, and I didn't want that just now.
If the sinner has repented, make sure everyone forgives him, so he isn't crushed.
We bear the aroma of Christ to the world, though it smells like death to unbelievers.

3
We don't need to commend ourselves to you - you yourselves are our letter of recommendation!
Our ministry in the Spirit is more glorious than Moses' ministry of condemnation.
We are headed for glory and unveiled, face-to-face fellowship with the Lord through the Spirit.

4
We renounce underhanded cunning in our ministry.
We proclaim the God who shone light at the beginning, and who shines it in our hearts to see Jesus.
But we proclaimers are fragile and afflicted, so everyone sees God has the power.
We do all we do for your sake, that faith and grace may abound among you.
Our afflictions now are nothing compared to the glory coming, so we can bear it.


How this is about Jesus
We see the ministers of Christ afflicted and not always trusted or accepted by their disciples.  This is how it was with Jesus, who bore our scorn, rejection, misunderstanding and worse for us.


Application
Deal straight up with people for their good.  When your selfishness dominates your life, you tend to assume others are selfish, too, when they may not be. (This was the Corinthians' problem toward Paul.)
Cope with current affliction by looking ahead to the glory coming.
Forgive those who are sorry for their sins, or they may despair and become bitter.

8.30.2015

2 Chronicles 13-14

13
Abijah, Rehoboam's son, fights against Jeroboam, and prophesies well against him.  Jeroboam ambushes him, but Judah wins the battle.

14
Abijah's son Asa reigns.  There is peace in his time, except Ethiopia comes up and attacks with a million soldiers.  Asa is prepared with 580,000 men, and faithful in reforming the nation's worship and prayer before the battle.


Application
It is important to know the purpose of any warfare.  Is it national self-interest, defense? Is it for a proper cause?  Both Abijah and Asa fight rightly and well.

2 Chronicles 10-12

10
Solomon's son Rehoboam becomes king.  Jeroboam, a past challenger to the throne, sees his chance and returns from Egypt where he was hiding out.  He gets Israel to ask Rehoboam for less burdens on the workforces.  Rehoboam's older counselors advise agreeing, but he rejects them for the counsel of his peers, who say to throw his new found weight around.  This causes rebellion, and the 10 tribes of Israel break away from Judah and Benjamin forever.

11
Rehoboam tries to reunite them by sending his workforce commander, but they stone him.  He summons an army to force reunification, but God speaks through a prophet against it, and he listens.  He fortifies cities in Judah and Benjamin instead.
The Levites leave Israel, thrown out by Jeroboam, and go to Rehoboam in Judah.
Rehoboam's chief wife is Absalom's daughter.  Her firstborn Abijah, Rehoboam grooms to be king.

12
Egypt's Pharaoh invades and conquers much of Judah, since Rehoboam doesn't remain faithful to God.  It seems he takes the ark, since "he took away everything" (12:9).  Rehoboam reigns 17 years, humbles himself before God, and "conditions are good" (12:12).


How this is about Jesus
When we forsake Jesus as His disciples, we scatter and are divided.


Application
Solomon's dynastic empire is short-lived in glory.  The temple treasure and articles are carried off already.  10 of the 12 tribes go off on their own.  All because of unfaithfulness.

2 Chronicles 7-9

7
God's glory fills the temple (like it did the tabernacle when it was completed in Exodus 40).
The temple is overflowing with sacrificing, and the people feast for a whole week.
After it's all done and the people go home, God comes to Solomon quietly at night and says He will answer his prayer: He will forgive when they repent, but exile them if they rebel.

8
Solomon takes 20 years building the temple and his house.  He fortified and supplied cities.
He keeps Pharaoh's daughter, who he has married, out of places where the ark has been, beginning what signifies a divided loyalty in heart to his women and his God.
He goes on a joint sailing expedition with Tyre and they reap much gold.

9
The Queen of Sheba (an African kingdom south of Egypt) visits Solomon and is blown away by his wealth and good order.  They exchange gifts and he answers all her questions.  (Must have been quite the philosophical and worldview exchange!)
Solomon's wealth described.  All the kings came to visit him and hear his wisdom.  He became famous for the thing he asked God for at the beginning of his reign: wisdom.
Solomon dies after a 40 year reign.


How this is about Jesus
7 - At the consummation of all things, we will have a feast centered on the slain Lamb, expressing God's forgiveness and adoption of His children/people.
8 - Unlike Solomon, Jesus has one bride and she is holy like the Father.
9 - Jesus is the wisdom of God.  One greater than Solomon is here, Jesus said, speaking of Himself.

8.29.2015

Lust // Head Coverings // ISIS atrocities on NYT

David Brooks of the New York Times shines the light on ISIS's brutality and deliberate return to Medieval Islam.


Kevin DeYoung on lust.


Ben Merkle on the Gospel Coalition on head coverings, arguing the argument from nature is indirect in 1 Corinthians 11, thus the specific practice of head coverings is not required today.

Gregg Strawbridge on head coverings, makes a big deal of 1 Corinthians 11:16, that there is no apostolic tradition or position to assert as far as the specific practice.

2 Chronicles 4-6

4
Temple altar made - about 30 feet square and 15 feet high.
Water basin made, holding 18,000 gallons set on 12 bronze oxen for a stand.
10 tables for bread made, with 10 lampstands
Dishes and utensils also.

5
Solomon brings in the ark, sacrificing many animals and all the Levites are there praising God with music.

6
Solomon preaches from a pulpit in the temple built for the occasion.  He recalls God's promise to build David a house, and declares it fulfilled, since he is on the throne and the temple is built.  He kneels on the pulpit and prays, extolling God and asking Him to hear prayers from this temple.  The main purpose of answering these prayers is that Israel and all nations might know and fear God.


How this is about Jesus
Though Solomon declares God's promise fulfilled, there is a deeper fulfillment in Christ being the Son of David on the throne (Luke 1:32-33) and being the temple rebuilt and more glorified (John 2:19-22).


Application
Does our public worship today reflect God's beauty, and a zeal for God's name and promises kept in Christ?

8.28.2015

New Life and Conversion

Part 9 - The Holy Spirit
Chapter 41 - Regeneration and Conversion - Subjective Salvation

Because of the work of Christ, and the Spirit applying that work to us, many things happen to us.  The gospel isn't only objective events, but an inward change in people.  We begin with regeneration and conversion.

Regeneration
The Old Testament required a contrite and tender heart toward God.
Jesus told Nicodemus we have to be born again, by water and Spirit, to see the Kingdom of God.
This fits with Ezekiel's promise to sprinkle water on us and give us a new heart (36:25-26).
We don't see regeneration, but see what it does (John 3:7-8):
- faith, good works, rejecting sin, love, fruit of the Spirit.
Paul speaks of a new creation, or resurrection, which all means regeneration.  All these metaphors for new spiritual life emphasize that God is sovereign over and does it.

1 Peter 1:23 and James 1:18 speak of our being born again by the Word of God.  This seems to describe not the absolute beginning of our spiritual life, but our growth in new life.
[I think I disagree with Frame here.  It seems instead that Paul speaks of our conversion and regeneration combined.  He IS talking about the beginning of our spiritual life, which is almost always attended by the Word as a midwife.]

Regeneration can happen at any point, including in infancy.  John lept for joy in Elizabeth's womb, at the coming of Jesus, also in utero.  [A powerful reminder of the person-hood of the fetus in the womb!]  God may regenerate many who can't express faith in response to the Word.

Faith
It is a gift from God (Acts 16:14), but nevertheless something we DO.
Faith is made up of knowledge, belief and trust.
Knowledge is what we know about God, His Word, especially our sin and His holiness, His remedy found in the cross and resurrection of Christ.  Faith is just a blind leap in the dark without knowledge.
Belief is accepting this knowledge as true.  This is sometimes called assent.
Trust is letting this belief govern your life, submitting yourself to Jesus, loyalty to Him.  The demons lack this, though they know and believe that Jesus is the savior (James 2:19).
The Bible sometimes talks about faith or belief but means less than saving faith.  John 8:31 is an example.
Faith leads to good works.  Works don't earn salvation, but are an evidence of faith.
Faith is required for salvation, except for those incapable of expressing it (infants and the disabled).  We need to urge faith in Christ upon all.

Repentance
The flip side of faith, we have sorrow at the knowledge of our sin, renounce it believing it to be wrong, and leave it as we go to Christ and are governed by the truth we believe.
Repenting doesn't earn your salvation, but it is necessary for salvation.
We need to live lives of repentance, not just at our conversion.  Humble quickness to repent is desperately needed in the church today!

8.27.2015

The Call of God

Part 9 - The Holy Spirit
Chapter 40 - Calling

God applies the work of Christ's redemption to us through the Spirit, Who calls, regenerates, converts, justifies, adopts, sanctifies, preserves, and glorifies us.  This is the traditional ordo salutis, order of salvation.

The Father decrees our salvation (normative perspective - Ephesians 1:4), the Son accomplishes atonement in history (situational perspective - Eph. 1:7), and the Spirit applies it to us personally (existential perspective - Eph. 1:13).

We are justified from our guilt (normative), adopted instead of punished (situational), and regenerated from our corruption (existential).

Effectual call
This is a summons into fellowship with Christ.  It comes at a point in history, so the elect are dead in trespasses and sins until the call takes effect.  When it does, we do not resist it, but respond with faith.  The Father calls us, while the Spirit regenerates us.

Other callings of God are the call to
- church office - Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1
- faith, in the free offer of the gospel - Prov. 8:4-5; Matt.22:14
- vocation - 1 Cor. 7:20-24 is used here, but doesn't directly name our professions or roles in life as callings.

8.26.2015

Thank God for same-sex ruling?? // Dump Trump // Hope in Organic and Oil?

1.  This is one of the best things I've read on the high court's same-sex marriage ruling.
There are actually good things that will come of this.  His first reason of 5 is insightful.  It reminds me of Bonhoffer's question: what do I do if my nation asks of me something God forbids?
"God is behind this and is not only using the decision to judge the nation for its abandonment of Him and the marriage covenant, but is also using it to stir up His people to stand steadfast..."



2.  Quoting Doug Wilson, on Trump:
"Donald Trump’s ball cap tells us that he wants to make America great again. Cool. On whose terms? For a certain kind of conservative, the desirability of America being great is a given. Of course we should be great — that’s axiomatic. Why? Follow the argument closely here: because we’re us!

"I would much prefer that we meet the conditions of being made great again, and that cannot happen apart from a genuine humbling and bone deep repentance. This contrasts sharply with Donald Trump’s biblical tone deafness on the subject of repentant humility. “I think repenting is terrific.”

"Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and He will lift you up. Anything else is seeking out a divine smack down. God opposes the proud, and that would include proud conservatives."




3. Desiring God has a great article up about organic food, essential oils, and similar things, that we are tempted to put hope in.  Which hope comes out in how evangelistic we are about them in our relationships.  I see a lot of lip service paid to the truth here (these things don't save us, of course), but then pressure later in one on one conversations (but you really need this, this is really better, you're hurting yourself if you don't switch).  It's another form of legalism, if we aren't careful, overly relying on what is (maybe) a good thing.

1 Corinthians 13-16

13
Love is the greatest spiritual gift.  Without it all my tongue-speaking, prophecies, faith and giving aren't worth anything.  Love is patient and kind.  It doesn't envy, boast, be rude or insist on its way, doesn't resent people or rejoice at wrong.  Prophecies and tongues and knowledge will pass away, but not love.  It will become stronger when we see God face to face.

14
So pursue love.  And prophecy is better than tongues, because you build others up more with it.
Stay orderly in public worship, interpreting tongues, and keeping women from trying to speak with such authority.  Thinking yourself a prophet, even being one, doesn't make you exempt from other spiritual authority.

15
Central to our faith is Christ's resurrection.  He appeared to all the apostles, many others, and to me last.  So how can some of you assert there is no resurrection?  Your faith is pointless then.  Our resurrection will be like Christ's, and will consummate His kingdom.  Why should we work for Christ or at all if there is no resurrection?  Objecting that we don't know what our bodies will be like is silly. We already see different kinds of flesh on earth, so we have an idea.  Natural man, Adam came first, and the spiritual man Jesus last.  Just as we began like Adam, we will finish like Jesus.  We will all change, either at death or His coming, from perishable to imperishable.  Death will be conquered - Jesus got the victory!  So work hard, because your labor counts for eternity.

16
Take a collection every week, and save it up for when I come to bring it to Jerusalem.
I'd like to stay with you for a while, but I'm in Ephesus doing important work right now.
Respect Timothy, though he is young, and Stephanas and Fortunatus.
Do everything in love.
The Asian (Turkish!) Christians greet you.
Christ's grace be with you.

2 Chronicles 1-3

1
Solomon goes to Gibeon to worship God, and God speaks with him, asking him to ask for anything he wants.  Solomon asks for God to keep His promise He made to David about his rule, and for the wisdom to rule well.  God grants it, and promises wealth and honor along with it.  Solomon becomes very wealthy as an arms middleman between Egypt and Syria.

2
Solomon buys wood and fabric from Tyre, for wheat, wine and oil.  He organizes all non-Israelites (former Canaanites?) into a workforce.

3
Temple building begins.  Lots of wood overlaid with gold.  Two cherubim to go over the ark, and two pillars with capitals.


Solomon trades fairly with the nations.  Just because Christ is King of kings and will subdue all nations to Himself, is no reason to take advantage of other nations.

Israel is building a temple for an ark they already have from Moses.  But everything else is remade.  New wineskins for new wine, but the same God, people, covenant and history at the root of it all.

1 Chronicles 26-29

26 - Levites who were gatekeepers, treasurers and judges are listed.
27 - Military divisions: there were 12, one for each month, and 24,000 soldiers to each.  They do not appear to be by tribe, which was new since the time of the judges.  Tribal leaders are given next, so this identity isn't gone.  Stewards of the king's flocks, fields, vineyards and treasuries are listed.

28 - all this organization has been buildup to building the temple.  David again charges Israel and Solomon to build it, after asserting that God made Judah and David leader of Israel.  He presents detailed plans for the temple.  David has prepared all the material and organized manpower.  All that's left for Solomon is to do it.

29 - David publicly gives gold and silver to the temple work and calls on Israel to give, and they do.  David thanks God and calls on Israel to worship Him, and they do.
Solomon is installed as king and David dies.


How this is about Jesus
There is a parallel with Jesus' life.  Building His church doesn't really begin until after His death.  Note the future tense in "I will build My church" (Matthew 16:18).  But He organizes His people into 12 divisions/apostles to prepare for it.


Application
Lead by example in worship and giving, as David does here.
The military appears to be a "serve 1 month out of the year" reserve style, rather than a standing army.  Hm...
Organization has a larger purpose than just feeling good about yourself.  What is the purpose of any and every nation?  To glorify and aggrandize itself?  NO.  To build and beautify a place for the worship of God, and direct all its people to do so.

8.25.2015

1 Chronicles 23-25

23
David organizes the 38,000 Levites who are 30-50 years old.  24,000 help with the temple sacrificial service, 6,000 are judges, 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 musicians.

24
David organizes the priests into 24 divisions, taking turns offering the sacrifices.

25
Musicians are noted - 288 skillful ones.  Note that they "prophesy."  Song writers are prophets.
Asaph works under the king's (David) direction.
They are also organized in 24 divisions, taking turns in the temple.


How this is about Jesus
He organizes His church in the New Testament similarly, with elders (like priests leading worship, song and sacrifice of praise) and deacons (Levites helping with all body life administration).


Application
It's interesting the priests and levites couldn't organize themselves well and needed the king to step in and do it.  Or this just happens providentially to show the priest and king roles merge in Christ, the fulfillment of King David.  In any society, comparing the state, family and church, the state is usually the most developed as far as leadership and resources poured into it.  But there are times in history when the church or the family received more focus than the state.

If you have an important task to do, organize yourself to make sure it gets done!

1 Chronicles 20-22

20
Defeat of the Ammonites, with the Bathsheba incident left out.
Defeat of Philistine giants - Goliath's tribe and kin.

21
David sins by taking a military census (1,570,000 in Israel and Judah).
God has him choose a punishment, and he chooses the one that doesn't involve others conquering.
God does have mercy, though 70,000 die first.  He stops at a certain spot in Jerusalem, which becomes the temple site.  David intercedes for Israel there.  He buys the property at personal cost, sacrifices, the plague is stopped there, and fire comes down from heaven on it.  David names this the spot for the future temple.

22
David prepares material for the temple, and charges Solomon to build it, and his administration to help him.


How this is about Jesus
Chapter 21 is central.  The angel dealing out the plague stands between heaven and earth over Jerusalem, just as Jesus hangs on the cross between heaven and earth, taking the plague and curse on Himself.  He intercedes for His sheep, pleading His own blood.  David insisted on the sacrifice costing himself and none other, and Jesus does likewise, to the hilt.


Application
Offer as full and complete recompense for your sins as you know how.
Provide for your children opportunities and direction to work for God.  Identify the giants and go take them out.

8.24.2015

1 Chronicles 17-19

17
David tells Nathan the prophet that he plans to build God a temple.
God comes to Nathan and says no, but God will plant Israel securely and give David an everlasting  lineage.  David's son will build a temple.
David goes to God and thanks Him humbly for all He has done: "Let it be as you have said."

18 - David defeats Philistines, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Amalek, and even Syria.
19
The Ammonites insult Israel.  Israel musters for battle.  Ammon hires Syrian mercenaries, and it's a tough battle, but thanks to Joab and Abishai, Israel wins.  The Syrians muster their whole country after the mercenaries lose, and Israel defeats them again.


How this is about Jesus
These chapters pre-figure Jesus in two ways.
17 - He is the son of David who will have David's throne forever (Luke 1:32).
18-19 - He is the King of kings, who will subdue under Himself all nations.


Application
Sometimes God has other plans, when we are all piously resolved to do great things for Him.
God's people have many enemies, but He will see them protected and victorious.
We need to fight when the enemy seems overwhelming, instead of fleeing or giving up.

8.21.2015

Psalm 87-88

87
Many cities know of the true God, but Zion, Jerusalem, will be marked out as special by everybody.
We find much comfort in, and speak glorious things of, Zion.

88
I'm in trouble, near death, and discouraged.
Why won't You help me, Lord, or even give me a sense of Your presence?
Even my friends and wife shun me, and I'm alone in the dark.


How this is about Jesus
87 - He is what makes Zion glorious (Ephesians 5:25-28).
88 - He went through the darkness of being forsaken by God.


Application
87 - We should lift up and esteem the church more than we do, since she is dearly loved by God and Christ died for her.  Speak glorious things of the church.

88 - This is one of the few Psalms that doesn't turn the corner to words of faith and hope.  Sometimes we are just stuck.  But the Psalmist is still praying, still talking to God.  When that stops, we should worry...

1 Corinthians 9-12

9
As an apostle to you, I have a right to some physical benefits.  But I'm not demanding anything.  I have to preach, anyway.  I'm living as a servant to everyone, to win whoever I can to the Lord Jesus.  This takes discipline, like an athlete training for the race.

10
Israel all partook of the benefits of Christ i the Exodus, but most of them fell dead in the desert in unbelief.  Don't wind up like that.  You may be tempted, but God will help you stand.  You are partaking of Christ when you take the Lord's Supper; so don't go to idol feasts, too.  You can eat what you want from the meat market, even if it's come from an idol's temple.  But if others show fear of an idol, don't run roughshod over such an awareness - temper your actions to sensitive consciences of others.  Seek God's glory in everything.

11
Keep natural gender distinctions as expressed by the culture obvious in worship.
Don't show partiality at the Lord's Table.  Treat everyone the same.  Jesus gave His body and blood for each of you, and you partake of it in the bread and wine, so don't sin as you distribute and eat.  Judge yourself, so God won't have to.  Do the Supper so it's obvious that we are all equal in receiving it.  The Supper shouldn't be to satisfy hunger.

12
The Spirit leads us to believe in Jesus, and He also gives each of us abilities to serve each other: speaking wisdom, faith, healing, discernment.  The same Spirit does this for the one Body of Christ.  We are each different members, but meant to function as one.


How this is about Jesus
9 - He also surrendered His crown rights when He came to us on earth.
10 - He was with Israel in the desert.  He doesn't tolerate loyalty to other gods.
11 - He is the redeemer of our fellow Christians, so we may not demean them in how we worship.
12 - He gives us the Spirit, who equips us with gifts, so we can better bear witness to the love and truth of Christ Himself.  The Spirit and His gifts are from Jesus and for Jesus.


Application
9 - We should bend over backwards not to offend people, when it doesn't compromise the Gospel, so relationship is there to move them toward the Lord Jesus.
10 - Don't presume you are the center and God will always help you, regardless.  You have to keep conforming to His standard, and many of His people have not done so.
11 - How we relate to others in public worship is important.  Gender distinctions don't go away, and honor and submission should be shown.  Class distinctions should go away when we worship.
12 - Pursue skills and abilities that help others the most.  Don't begrudge others their gifts, or think you have to be like others.  Appreciate different gifts in others, and learn from others.

8.19.2015

Regeneration

Part 5 - Soteriology
Chapter 29 - Puritans on Regeneration

Puritans with the earlier Reformers rejected baptismal regeneration of Rome.  So they had to explain how regeneration happened, then.

Earlier Reformers used the term regeneration about every point of the Christian life, not just the beginning.  God's call and our regeneration were used interchangeably until the second generation Reformers, when Turretin said, "A thing [regenerated new life] ought to exist before it can work [respond to God's call]" (465).

Regeneration is necessary for us.  Jesus tells Nicodemus so in John 3 ("You must be born again.")
We must be made new to be fit for God.  Without this, the cross of Christ does not bring us to God.
It's one thing to know what the new life is, but another thing to have it.

Regeneration is neither a physical and substantial change to our makeup, nor simply the Spirit helping us be better.  It is an inward change, not merely outward.  It is God's work, not partly ours, since we are dead when it happens.  The Puritans used the word physical to describe the Spirit's work of regeneration, but this was in opposition to the Arminian idea of regeneration as moral persuasion.  They said the Spirit wouldn't force the will as if we were blocks of stone, but only persuade it.  The Puritans said regeneration was an actual (their word "physical) change of our will.

God works regeneration immediately in our hearts, especially considering elect infants, and He usually uses the Word of God to do it.

Regeneration renews every part of man, mind, heart and will.  Rome may think only one part is fallen and needs to be restored.  Arminians think the will is coaxed.  But each part is reborn, to know, love and choose God.

Regeneration is irresistible by definition.  It is the Spirit making alive and freeing the will of man to do what it was made to do.  This doesn't make us puppets, but what we were made for.  Romans 9:19; James 1:18 demonstrate this.  Verses that speak of resisting the Spirit mean His outward call, not inward regeneration.

Regeneration can't be undone.  God starts what He finishes (Phil. 1:6).  It isn't that we endured, but that God preserves us.

Regeneration only happens to the elect. 1 Peter 1:2-3 connects the elect tightly with those born again.  They are the same group.

Regeneration does not happen automatically at baptism, though in the elect the Spirit uses baptism as a means to bring new life about.

You can tell regeneration by certain signs.  A willingness to be examined, a love for the saints, respect for God's commandments, a working against all sin (1 John 3:9-10).  False signs are a profession of faith without works to prove it (James 2), seeking repentance to avoid punishment only, and seeking the Lord for "outward mercies" only.


This was all excellent.  Some in my circles question many of these points, but I do not.  From John 3 to 1 Peter 1:2-3, Scripture teaches what the Puritans articulated, especially in Westminster.

When is a Woman Doing a "Man's Job"? / Christian Liberty / Liberals are Dividing the Church

1. John Piper gives a pretty good explanation of when a woman is doing a "man's job."


2. Sinclair Ferguson lays out Christian liberty principles from Romans 14-15 with fresh light.


3.  Many churches in the Reformed Church in America are now discussing homosexuality (or women's ordination, if they are conservative), and they need to read this, by Jared Wilson.  When a liberal position is newly adopted in their congregation, the conservatives who leave are not the divisive ones.  Those driving the church off the biblical road of orthodoxy into the ditch are the divisive ones.

This hits very close to home for me, but it must be said.

If you are trying to change a church's view away from the Scriptural teaching restricting the office of elder to men, or away from disciplining unrepentant homosexual practice, if you are trying to impose different views on a congregation that has held the traditional view up until now, you are being divisive.  From the article:
"it isn’t those who believe the Bible when it says sin is sin that are being divisive; it is those who are introducing the idea that some sins aren’t. If you push a decision on something that innovates on the Bible’s testimony, you’re creating the division."
The whole piece is barely over a screen in length, check it out - gold from the Gospel Coalition.

Trim Healthy Papa? Someday...

Trim Healthy MamaTrim Healthy Mama by Pearl P. Barrett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I avoid nutrition books like the plague.
I also almost never review a book unless I've read the whole thing.
But I couldn't resist on this one.
I only lightly read two chapters, and I was pleasantly surprised. Fitting with common sense and basic medical facts (my wife assures me), the authors are also quite well grounded biblically. Here are two examples:

“Daniel turned down the king’s meat because it was not killed according to God’s laws and was also offered to idols. This is why Daniel stated that it ‘defiled’ him, not because he thought vegetarianism was a better way of eating” (pg. 46).

“You cannot go back to an Eden body state… you cannot purify your body or heart through avoiding animal foods [or any specific food, I think the authors would add]…. God sent Jesus Christ, and the shedding of His blood to purify us. Nothing else can do it” (46).

They also quote 1 Timothy 4:1-3, which should be in more diet books: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” The emphasis is theirs.

This is highly refreshing in a world of bizarre and theologically off base diet and nutrition plans, and theirs is simple enough for this nutritionally illiterate country boy to comprehend. They DO keep the Levitical laws, thinking they are there for health, with which I disagree. But they are very non-pushy about this, and it isn't integral to their plan, which is also really refreshing.

Bon appetit!



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Fredericksburg

Last weekend my family toured this battlefield, halfway between DC and Richmond, with Virginia friends.  The visitor center movie was well done, showing the violence and tragedy of war.  It really makes you rethink if it was all necessary.  Wasn’t there some way to avoid this that didn’t involve secession or the maintenance of slavery?  Apparently not.  And 10,000 rounds of bullets flew through the air every minute at Fredericksburg as a result.

The Federals were led by Burnside who bungled a lot. This gave Lee time to arrive and defend a strong position.  The North had to build bridges, cross a river, and take a town, all while picked off by sharpshooters hiding in the town.  Then they had to storm a wide open hill while barraged with cannon from the top and bullets from 6000 Confederates shooting at them from behind a long stone wall near the top of the hill.  And that was all a supposed distraction from the main hope of breaking through the line a few miles to the south, which never got anywhere.  The “Yankee invaders” were repulsed after much loss of life, the north losing about 8 times as many men as the south.

Things got a bit personal.  It turns out the first Federals across the river into the town was a regiment from Michigan.  The tour guide said there was a monument to them in town along the river.  My Virginian host graciously suggested we go see it, so we did.





I enjoy talking about the war with my Virginian friends.  There is always the drama of wondering if this is going to get emotional and ugly, as it sometimes does.  They speak of the imperialistic paternalism of the north, while I speak of a national cohesion that doesn’t allow fellow Americans to continue to commit atrocities like slavery.  Lincoln and Lee and Stonewall Jackson – these were great men and leaders who each had different blind spots and faults.

Lessons learned:
  • If you don’t sit down and sacrifice some of your interests in negotiations, blood will be spilled.  If politics isn't effective, uglier things result.
  • Remembering the sacrifices of blood your people made in the past doesn’t have to lead to continued hatred or hostility.
  • If we thought today like we did back then, we would likely be fighting a civil war over abortion and/or gay rights.  The 90% of red-state counties would be besieging the urban areas and forcibly shutting down abortion clinics.  While some see the federal imposition begun with Lincoln as leading to Roe v. Wade and other Federal over-reach, I do think the federal government should impose some proper morality on all 50 states.  The problem is that they are imposing wickedness on us, not that they are imposing anything at all.

Stop Looking Away

[I don't know what the PP on the shirts stands for.  Something German, not related to Planned Parenthood.  Interesting coincidence, though...]


I understand the desire to think on good and lovely things.  “Whatever is of good report… meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).  We also must face and fully acknowledge our personal and national sins, exposing works of darkness among us (Ephesians 5:11).

People use Facebook for different reasons.  Some to escape from life and get a laugh.  Others to keep up with friends.  Others like a dose of the political.  Social media lets us filter out friends to only see what we want to see.  This is not healthy.  Friends give an honest rebuke sometimes.  Or they just bring up something you aren’t as prone to enjoy, but it’s something you need in your life.  Different members of the body have different gifts, and we need to appreciate those with gifts we don’t have.

CS Lewis once said that when a people gets focused on politics, that people is diseased, and that is certainly true in our time.  The cure isn’t to escape – to swear off politics, and only look at cats and dogs on Facebook.  A grim obsession with politics won’t fix things, either.  But we are in a moment when we have a real opportunity to expose the brutality of abortion and its anti-midwife, Planned Parenthood.  Attempting that exposure will feel like we are fixated on dark, ugly negativism for a bit, because we are trying to get the world to see it.  So if you’re sick of the ugliness and negativity, it’s fine to turn it off for a while when you get overwhelmed.  But please, also do your part to show the world the barbarity that we currently approve.

Eisenhower, after victory in Germany, made some of its soldiers and citizens sit and watch videos of concentration camps, or even tour them, so they would face what they had looked away from for so long.


It’s time to stop looking away.
It’s time to hold up the pictures.
It's time to show the world what we do to children to defend “choice.”

What the Spirit Does

Part Nine - The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
Chapter 39 - The Holy Spirit

The Person of the Spirit
He is God, an object of worship no less than the Father and the Son.  Scripture attributes to Him the writing of Scripture.  He has divine attributes of eternity, wisdom, omniscience, etc.  He does what God does: create, judge, give life, save.
He is a Person, not a force.  He is God's wisdom, and referred to as He often, not it.

The Work of the Spirit
He brings God's power on people, like Samson (Judges 13:25).
He equips the prophets, Jesus and the apostles to speak with authority.
He is God's presence on earth.

The Spirit's work in the believer
He applies the work of Christ to us, giving us all "we need in our life with God" (925).  He makes us alive, helps us pray and preach, sanctifies us, gives us unity, teaches the Church, etc.
The baptism of the Spirit is our regeneration, and every true believer has it.
The filling of the Spirit is something we can pursue or neglect (Eph. 5:18).
The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) shows His work to be a slow process of growth as well as an equipping in any given moment.
Gifts of the Spirit are not listed exhaustively in the Bible.  Any ability that edifies the church is a gift.

Miracles come through the Spirit, but are quite rare in the Bible.  They are given mainly to prove a prophet (Moses, Elijah, Elisha and Jesus are the main ones) is from God.  So we should NOT expect such miracles as a matter of course today.

Prophecy - there are no prophets today, as there were in the Bible.  We may loosely call as prophecy things like preaching, or a dream or sense of some impending trouble that turns out to be true.  But authoritative words from the Lord are only found in Scripture.

Tongues - 1 Corinthians 14 shows that the church had the gift of speaking in unknown (angelic) languages.  Interpretation was required, making it like prophecy.  Thus, since we have a completed canon of Scripture, tongues are unneeded.  Tongues in private may still be active and of some value (1 Cor. 14:2), but the gifts are meant to edify the body, and not just for private enjoyment.

Healing - like with miracles, the apostles and prophets had a special ability in this to attest their divine message, though the gift of healing was not at their complete disposal.  So we shouldn't expect to see this gift active regularly.  But God does heal miraculously and may give the gift to people - "we just don't know the purposes of God well enough to make such a generalization" (931).  Our calling is to pray for healing (James 5:14-15) in faith, yet remembering even Paul was denied it.

Psalm 73 & 85

73
I envied the wealthy wicked, and thought I'd been godly in vain.
But that was beastly bitterness before You.
They'll be swept away, while I have Your guidance here and will be with You in glory after death.

85
You forgave us in the past.  Revive us again!
Surely He will speak peace to us, joined with righteousness.


How this is about Jesus
73 - He was received by the Father into glory after the wicked seemed to sweep Him away, and will receive us into glory with Him.
85 - His cross is the reason righteousness and peace can join.  Without His reconciliation, we have either (1) a holy God separated from us sinners leaving us punished/destroyed, or (2) an uneasy peace that poorly covers up our unrighteousness leaving us broken and despairing.


Application
73 - Do not envy the wicked wealthy.  Their day will pass and you will have eternal reward far richer than riches with the Lord.
85 - Appeal to God for present mercy, based on past mercy received.  Plead His historic faithfulness for current faithfulness.

"for me it is good to be near God" - Psalm 73:28

8.18.2015

Psalm 48-50

48
We praise God, for He saved us from the ships of Tarshish.
We have considered Your loving works, Lord.
Consider Zion, so you can tell the next generation of God's deeds.

49
When the wicked cheat me, I remember that their wealth can't save them from death.

50
God summons all the earth to Him, especially inviting His covenant people.
God doesn't need sacrifices.  He wants our thanks and our petitions.
The wicked will not escape God's judgment, and are invited to thank God and repent to Him.


How this is about Jesus
Psalm 49:8 tells us redemption has an infinite price, and Jesus could pay it.  As our mediator, in His divinity He could take God's full punishment and live again.
50 - God's covenant with us is based on sacrifice - that of Jesus Christ on the cross.


Application
These Psalms are full of direction for us.
48 - Consider what God has done in Scripture and history beyond His Word.
48 - Tell the next generation of the Lord.  Knowing the church well helps you do this (vss. 12-13).
49 - Take comfort when the wicked have their way on earth.  There is nothing more for them.
50 - Don't get thinking that God needs your money or piety.  He wants hearts of thanks, praise, and a child's cry for help to his faithful father.

An Appeal to Heaven

An Appeal To Heaven: What Would Happen If We Did It AgainAn Appeal To Heaven: What Would Happen If We Did It Again by Dutch Sheets

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This is the first Dutch Sheets book I've read. He's in the charismatic movement, which puts it outside my usual reading list.

Let's dispense with the disagreements first, before moving to the message we can take from the book. Sheets asserts or assumes many things I disagree with.
- God can’t do something until we agree with an idea or pray a certain way.
- Agreement in prayer multiplies its power.
- Prayer automatically makes us stronger spiritually.
- The Spirit speaks directly and verbally to us in new revelation.
- The United States Constitution was inspired by God!

Sheets relies on secret knowledge, dreams from God we need to interpret, and God hiding messages to us only the author can unlock. He predicts a 3rd great awakening if we connect to God, and believe He will save our country instead of judge it. Sorry, but our believing doesn’t make it so.


On the positive side, filtering out the above, Sheets is right that
- no nation or culture is too far gone for God to revive. We should always moderate pessimism in a declining culture with the hope of a reviving God.
- God wants us to build on the spiritual work of previous generations. History matters and is not separate from us. As everlasting God, He can heal past sins.
- Intercession connects us to one another. When we pray sincerely for others, our lives are intertwined with them. Praying for God to heal the past and present sins of your nation will endear your heart to your nation. This is fine, as long as we aren't putting our nation too high in importance. No nation is indispensable to God's plan.
- Merit based revival is out – we don’t deserve it. (Sheets often functionally contradicts this, though, asserting that if enough people pray hard enough God will revive us.)


I enjoyed the history. When George Washington commissioned some ships in the Revolutionary War, before Old Glory came about, he directed a flag to fly on the ships. The words say "An Appeal to Heaven." The phrase is from John Locke, who said we always have that appeal when earthly rulers deny us our God-given rights. Historically, the evergreen tree was used for ship masts, and there was a regulatory dispute with Britain over their use. Sheets uses the evergreen to show God’s cross-generational action - He is the everlasting God. We need to step into our national history and appeal for God to continue his work begun in past generations, and work with future generations in mind.



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8.17.2015

Psalm 42, 44-47

42
I pant for God as the deer for water.
I'm cast down in my soul, wondering when my exile will be over.
I still have sweet fellowship with Him, but my enemy oppresses me.
Hope in God, my soul - He will save me.

44
We have heard how You helped our fathers, Lord.
But you have let us be defeated, though we haven't forsaken You.
Help us!

45
The king is handsome, gracious, victorious.  His throne is forever.
Receive Him gladly as your husband, princess.

46
God will be our refuge even when the whole earth shakes, and all the nations rage and totter.
God brings a river of peace.  Where the nations rattled sabers, He stops them and exalts Himself.

47
Praise God with shouts of joy, for He has subdued nations beneath us.
He reigns over all nations, and all military might belongs to Him.


How this is about Jesus
42 - He panted for God's presence when tempted in the wilderness, too.
44 - He was forsaken by God though He was faithful.
45 - He is the king, commended to the bride, His church.
46 - His kingdom shall not be shaken (Heb. 12:25-28).  He sends us the river of peace -John 7:37-39.
47 - He is the coming conquering king who will strike the nations such that every knee will bow.

1 Chronicles 10-16

10 - Saul and his sons died in battle with the Philistines, because of his disobedience to God.

11 - Israel anoints David king.  He conquers Jerusalem and makes it his capital.  His mighty men listed, including Uriah the Hittite.

12 - Mighty men gathering to David before he was king.  At his crowning, the number of fighting men of all the tribes is given, and Israel has a three day party.

13 - David brings the ark to Jerusalem, but they do it wrong, putting it on a cart.  When the oxen stumble, God strikes dead the guy who reaches out to keep the ark from crashing.  David is afraid of moving the ark any further and it stays at the nearest guy's house for 3 months, who happens to be a gentile from Gath.  God blesses him.

14 - David secures his kingdom with more wives and children, and by defeating the Philistines.

15 - David brings up the ark again, this time giving specific instructions to the priests and Levites to do it according to the Bible.  He also sets them to work as musicians.  His wife Michal disrespects him as too undignified in his exuberant worship.

16 - David worships God with sacrifice, gives each Israelite food, and gives the priests songs to use in worship.  This is a sampling from 105, 96 and 106.  He makes sure there are priests at both sites (the ark in Jerusalem and the high place where the rest of the tabernacle is still set up at Gibeon).


How this is about Jesus
David is the anointed (messiah) king, and this story makes clear he also has a God-given role to direct the priests.  Rarely in Israel do king and priest merge in one man, and when they do it is a pre-quel to our Lord Jesus, who is both for us.


Application
Worship God in His way, ordered by the Bible.
God will see His purpose done through His people, especially His messianic king.  Take comfort and assurance in this!

8.16.2015

Jesus on the Church // Motive for Modesty

Jesus mentions the church twice in His ministry.  But look how much is said!

This is a really good article on the motive for modesty.

1 Corinthians 5-8

5
While you are bragging about your great spirituality, you are tolerating sexual immorality - incest, even.  You need to exclude him from the brethren, that he and you may be purified.  This is how we keep Passover today and worship the Lamb, Christ.
This doesn't mean avoiding anyone who is immoral, just those who claim to be believers.  Our job is to judge those within the church, not everyone in the world.

6
Why are you taking each other to court before unbelievers?  They won't inherit the kingdom but you will.  Surely someone among you can judge as well as they; you don't have to be so contentious in front of unbelievers - what a witness that is!  You've been washed clean by Jesus and His Spirit.
God cares about your body, so don't wreck it with gluttony or sexual immorality.  It doesn't fit with your union with Christ, who bought you.

7
The married should not deprive each other sexually, and not separate.
The single should stay that way if they can, but may marry.
If one spouse is an unbeliever and that unbeliever is willing to stay, do it.  If they leave, the believer isn't guilty and is free to remarry.  Stay together if you can, as the covenant household is sanctified by the presence of a believer.
You don't have to change your circumstances once you become a Christian: married, circumcised, slave or free.
Don't let marriage get in the way of discipleship, as it can.  You may enter marriage, but it may be better to abstain.  Widows may remarry, but it may be better not to.

8
Don't take pride in what you know.  You may "know" that demons don't exist, but we need to love those unused to this truth.  So don't eat meat sacrificed to idols in their presence.


How this is about Jesus
5 - Church discipline is a way we observe the Old Testament Passover today, by cleaning all the leaven out of our houses.  Christ is the connection from Old to New Covenants.
6 - Jesus redeeming us from sin means there are some things we may not do.  He is our Lord.
7 - Paul builds on Jesus' teaching on marriage and divorce in a new situation, where the Gospel is going beyond Israel into new territory.
8 - Jesus died for your fellow Christians, so don't do anything to endanger their salvation in your life together.


Application
5 - We need to give greater priority to the purity of the church than the purity of the world.
6 - Christianity is not just thoughts and feelings, but affects what we do with our bodies.
7 - Christianity changes your choices about marriage, divorce and sex.  It isn't your life, but the Lord's.
8 - Accommodate each other's scruples in the moment, while teaching the truth in more objective times.

1 Chronicles 6-9

6
Levi's descendants.  Moses and Aaron are great grandsons of Levi.  Heman and Asaph led the Levite temple musicians in David and Solomon's day.  Aaron's sons made sacrifice.  The cities and lands the Levites were given throughout Israel.

7
Descendants of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Asher.
Ephraim's early occupants of Canaan are killed by men of Gath.  Joshua comes from them.

8 - Benjamin's descendants, down to Saul.

9
Judah went into exile and returned.  This chapter connects family lines before and after exile of those who served in the temple and of Saul's family.


How is this about Jesus
These are the names of the remnant from exile.  They represent those written in the Lamb's book of life.  They are God's people, whom He knows intimately.  All our history, our names and our deeds.

8.14.2015

1 Chronicles 1-5

1
The descendants of Adam to Noah.
Shem, Ham and Japheth and their sons, to Abraham.
Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, and Esau's descendants (Edomites).

2 - The 12 sons of Jacob: Judah, down to David's family

3 - The sons of David, and the royal line down past Zerubbabel.

4
Judah's other descendants, not already mentioned in chapters 2-3.  Jabez's prayer is here, but more interestingly, Pharaoh's daughter married in to this clan (vss. 17-18).
Simeon's descendants down to the present.  Their defeat of Canaanites.

5
Reuben's descendants, down to the present.  His loss of the birthright, the clan leader at the point of the Assyrian exile, and their earlier war against Hagrites.
Gad's descendants were their neighbors and fought the Hagrites with them successfully.
Half of Manasseh's tribe's descendants also lived in Bashan with them.  They all forsook God for idols, so God carried them off into exile.


How this is about Jesus
This part of Chronicles connects Israel's history with its present, as they returned from exile and restarted their lives, in a way.  Jesus always makes a way for people to repent and return to Him.  Even being invaded, conquered and carried off to live in subjugation in a foreign land for 70 years is not a dead end for Him.  He can restore you.


Application
Knowing your history is important to know your identity, and to be loyal to your people and your God.

8.12.2015

The Work of Christ

Part 8 - The Doctrine of Christ
Chapter 38 - The Work of Christ

The offices of Christ show the normative perspective of His work.
As prophet, He not only spoke the Word but IS the Word of God, as its "Author and the chief theme of Scripture" (900).

As priest, He sacrificed Himself as an atonement for our sins.  His sacrifice was spotless, as He was perfectly righteous.  The atonement expiates sin (wiping it from our record and taking it on Himself), propitiates God (redirecting His anger against our sin from us to Jesus), reconciles us to God, and redeems us (buys us back) to God.  Wrong views of the atonement include (1) that Jesus paid the ransom/redemption to Satan, not to God, (2) that His death was only an example for us to self-sacrifice, and (3) that God could forgive our sins without the cross-atonement.  Scripture teaches the atonement is limited in its extent, not in its efficacy (John 10:11, 15; Rom. 8:32-39).  That is, anyone the cross applies to is totally saved.  The cross doesn't just make it possible for them to be saved (limited efficacy).  Everyone limits the atonement in either extent or efficacy, unless they are universalists.  Verses that speak of Christ dying for all either shouldn't be taken literally (1 Cor 15:22; Mark 1:5), or refer to the cosmic scope of the atonement (John 3:16; Col 1:20), or means some from all nations (1 John 2:2).  Besides the atonement, Jesus also intercedes for us as priest.  As a human He can be a faithful and sympathetic advocate with the Father for us.

As King, Jesus does powerful things: creating, sustaining and working miracles.  Of the line of David, He was raised from the dead, showing His power.  His coming as King IS the Gospel (Isaiah 52:7).  Earthly rulers misunderstood Jesus' kingship, "but they were not wrong to feel threatened" (909).  He is the King of kings.

The states of Christ show the situational perspective of His work
As the catechism puts it, Jesus was humbled in His Incarnation, life under the law, suffering, death, and descent into Hell.  The last involved bringing Old Testament saints from Sheol to glory (compare Hebrews 11:39-40 with 12:22).  Jesus was exalted in His resurrection, ascension, sitting at God's right hand, and future return.  Philippians 2:5-11 describes both states, and also applies them to us, in a way, leading us to consider our union with Christ.

Union with Christ
"Jesus saves us by uniting us to Himself" (909).  Since we are chosen in Christ before the world began (Eph. 1:3-4), but also fell into sin right after our creation, there are different senses in which we are united with Christ.
Election - God chose us before time, in His purpose.
Adoption - God chose us for a privileged position in relation to Him, like His own Son (Eph. 1:11-14)
Redemption - God forgives our sins by the cross of Christ.  We are chosen to be justified and sanctified (Eph. 1:7-10; 2:5-10).


This is a fairly standard treatment of the work of Christ.  The most notable parts are the descent into hell, where Frame makes an interesting case for the harrowing of hell from Hebrews 11:39-40; 12:22, and the union with Christ, where he points out that union with Christ happens in multiple senses.  Both assertions are controversial, but I think true.

Psalm 146-150

147
Praise God for all He does.
He builds up Jerusalem, counts the stars, sends every form of weather, makes food grow for the animals, and reveals His Word to Israel.
Mostly, He delights in those who fear Him (verse 11).

148
Praise God, heavens, angels, sun, moon, stars, clouds, sea creatures, hail, fire, snow, wind, mountains, trees, beasts, insects, birds, kings, people, young men and women, old men, and children - because He made you.
Praise Him because He is very majestic, and has given strength to His people.

149
Praise God and dance before Him, for He takes pleasure in His people.
Let them praise Him from bed to battlefield, where they do vengeance on wicked kings.

150
Praise God with everything you have (instruments, body and breath).
Praise God wherever you are (sanctuary or outside under the heavens).


How is this about Jesus
Fearing God is mentioned as the key.  Jesus did this (Hebrews 5:7), and the Father delighted in Him (Matthew 3:17).
He will fulfill Psalm 149, taking vengeance on His enemies (Psalm 2; Revelation 19:17-21).


Application
Our duty and delight should be praising God daily.  What does this look like in your daily routine?

8.11.2015

What's Best Next

What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things DoneWhat's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A Gospel-oriented look at productivity.

Perman connects these two worlds excellently. Productivity is not the end all and be all, defining our success or happiness. God is. The secular stuff on productivity often assumes a wrong attitude on this.

But thanks to God’s common grace, there is much good wisdom to glean from that material, too. Perman uses it. Quoting Peter Drucker and Stephen Covey right alongside Al Mohler and John Piper was a little surreal, but it works. He interviews some interesting people from both worlds on their productivity techniques.

We can summarize Perman’s strategy with the acronym DARE.
Define your foundation, purpose (mission statement), goals and next task, all in the Lord’s will.
Architect – design your week and day accordingly
Reduce hindrances, clutter, distractions, and any drags on your productivity
Execute – either do it now, or schedule it for later

A lot of this is obvious stuff that we just forget in our laziness. Figure out what’s most important to do right now, and work at it first until it is done. Then go on to the next thing. Duh. But many people really think they work better bouncing from one thing to the next without focusing on one thing. I agree with Perman that multi-tasking really isn’t more efficient. It’s just giving in to distraction most of the time. As much as it is up to you (sometimes it isn’t!), stay focused on your task until it is done. You’ll do it better, your mind will be clearer, and you’ll be more ready for the next thing.

What’s Best Next brilliantly combines the big picture with specific and practical help. Starting with the big picture look at the significance of work and gospel centeredness, he winds up talking about how to handle your email and plan your day and week. While there is some “filler” in the middle (I found myself skimming some), the end material is an excellent summary and reference.

I’ll be returning to this book to reference it again.



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Foxe's Book of Martyrs: Book Review

Fox's Book of Martyrs: A History of the Lives, Sufferings, and Deaths of the Early Christian and Protestant MartyrsFox's Book of Martyrs: A History of the Lives, Sufferings, and Deaths of the Early Christian and Protestant Martyrs by John Foxe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


John Foxe found himself exiled from his homeland of England along with many others, when Roman Catholic Queen Mary came to the throne in 1553. He undertook to write an account of her persecutions, and did it using the weapon of history instead of theology.

Foxe didn’t get much into the theological issues that Protestants had against Rome. Instead he lined up a series of accounts of Roman brutality against Protestants, and put them at the end of a 2000 year long line of the persecution of Christians, showing that Rome is just the latest version of the enemies and oppressors of Christ’s true church. (This diametrically opposed Rome’s argument that history was on THEIR side.) He likens the persecutors to the Pharisees and Sadducees, who put Jesus to death. So instead of a theological treatise, Foxe tells the story of martyrs who assert Protestant doctrine simply and briefly at the stake, refusing to recant. This shows us (literally!) what was at stake in Reformation doctrine.

Foxe does not just tell the stories of those who died for the true faith of Christ, but also those who endured troubles for speaking the truth. This is the actual definition of martyr: a witness to the truth in Christ. So Luther gets a chapter, too, and Constantine, and Wycliffe, none of whom were put to death for their faith.

The most distinctive feature of the book is its detailed description of violence. This is not for the faint of heart! They use every device to inflict pain imaginable, and some you couldn’t imagine before reading this. I wouldn’t have a child younger than 13 or 14 read this. If it were put on a movie screen it would be a strong R rating.

So why write it all out? Should we avoid this? I don’t think so.

Again, Foxe’s intent is to show what is at stake in the battleground of history. This is spiritual warfare, and we must be loyal to the truth and to our Lord, even when it means less pay, loss of friends, getting sued, fired, imprisoned, beaten or executed. The church today, especially in America, is oblivious to these real sacrifices required. We express shock and disbelief when the culture rejects us! We need to steel ourselves for the full court press coming against our beliefs from our culture. Foxe helps us in this fight.



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8.10.2015

Psalm 136 & 146

136
This Psalm thanks God for making heaven and earth, sun and moon, day and night.  It then retells God dividing the Red Sea, bringing Israel out of Egypt, through the desert, and into Canaan, defeating Pharaoh, Sihon and Og along the way.
The most distinctive feature of this Psalm is that the second line of every verse is "for His steadfast love endures forever."  This gets VERY repetitive to say, making the point in the very experience of reading it, that we get tired of God quickly, while He continues His love to us.

146
I praise God and don't trust in princes.  Hoping in God is better.
It's Yahweh who does everything: opening eyes, freeing prisoners, protecting travelers, lifting up the oppressed.
He will always reign.


How is this about Jesus
He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  He was the rock that followed Israel in the desert (1 Cor. 10:4-5).
He is the prince of peace in whom we can completely trust.


Application
Ordered priorities of our trust in leaders is important.  We trust Jesus more than parents, presidents or pastors, for good reason!  This doesn't mean NO trust in earthly leaders.  This is an example of something that happens fairly often in Scripture, where a flat prohibition is given, when it intends to prioritize.  Jesus says to hate father and mother - He means compared to Himself.  Paul says women should not adorn themselves outwardly - he means the inner character is more important.

We should have an expectation that earthly leaders will keep their oath of office, but not be crushed and shattered when they fail.

1 Corinthians 1-4

1
I thank God that He gave You spiritual gifts so abundantly.
Don't follow earthly teachers and baptizers and wind up divided as a body.
It may seem foolish not to follow savvy speakers, but we have been called to believe in Christ crucified.  He is our wisdom.

2
I didn't come to you with savvy eloquence, but just focused on Jesus Christ.
The natural man can't understand this godly wisdom, but by the Spirit we can and do accept the Lord.

3
You're acting like babies when you brag about the earthly leaders you follow.  They are all workers in God's field.  Jesus is the foundation; everyone else builds on Him, well or poorly.  God has a way of confounding the wise in their own eyes, so avoid boasting in men.

4
Think of us as God's stewards.  We are poor and persecuted and distressed, while you brag about how great you have it!  I'm your spiritual father - a deeper relationship than these earthly teachers you eagerly follow.  I want to come to you with gentleness, but I'll beat back these imposters if I have to.


How this is about Jesus
Paul makes clear that Jesus is the foundation of every church.  Whoever else we follow is under Him and evaluated by Him.  Our admiration of people's abilities may not rise above our adoration of the Lord.

8.09.2015

Acts 18

Paul goes from Athens to Corinth, and meets a Jewish tentmaker Aquila there.  After trying the synagogue for a few weeks, he goes to the Gentiles, and the Lord speaks to Paul telling him to stay a while.  He stays a year and a half, and the church grows.  The Jews try to get them in trouble, but the Roman judge dismisses the case as a dispute within Judaism; the citizens in an outbreak of anti-Semitism beat up the Jewish leader and drive them away.

After staying there a while, Paul went on to Ephesus, Jerusalem, Antioch, then through the church he had already planted.

Priscilla and Aquila settled in Ephesus, and they come across a strong preacher Apollos, but he only knows John's baptism, nothing more.  They teach him more fully, and he refutes the Jews well.


How this is about Jesus
He knows who are His before they are converted, and tells Paul to stay in Corinth to gather them into His church.


Application
1. Sometimes you don't have to do much to let the Gospel advance, like Paul watching Gallio dismiss the Jews' case against him.  Other times, we should invest heavily in equipping men who can powerfully persuade men.

2. Companionship is important along the way - Paul meets Aquila and his wife, and they are a great help to him.

8.08.2015

Frankenstein - Book Review

FrankensteinFrankenstein by Mary Shelley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Doctor Frankenstein becomes obsessed with creating life from dead matter.  But when he succeeds, he flees in horror from his monstrous creation, and much misery and destruction follows.

Mary Shelley, wife of the famed poet Percy Shelley, was raised in the center of the Romantic movement, which asserted that natural human feelings remained important in spite of Rationalism's mechanistic view of life.  Shelley assumes the truth of both schools of thought - that we can create life by mechanical and materialistic means, and that an individual's feelings are of greater importance than the science.  Both schools reject the existence of God, as does Shelley.  Frankenstein (who is the doctor, not the monster) is the only creator: flawed and weak, at that.

Which leads to Shelley's reservations with the prevailing intellectual winds of her time (notably of her own husband!).  She portrays the great misery that comes from going against nature.  Sin and the results of our sin are monstrous and ugly.  The unnamed monster asserts the Romantic ideal that if only men would accept and love him, he wouldn't be driven to rage and murder.  Men are good, but made bad by their environment, is the idea.  Shelley doesn't outright reject this godless and unbiblical idea, but she does show the tormenting consequences that come from crossing natural boundaries that shouldn't be crossed.  It certainly fits a Biblical worldview to that extent, especially the poetic justice theme, that if you violate nature it'll come back to bite you.

Recent children's movies have gone further with the Romantic ideal above.  The evil genius is not defeated but redeemed, by others loving him again.  If only they were loved instead of hated, they wouldn't have to be evil.  Shelley didn't go to this extreme - she never faults people for their revulsion at the monster.  Evil and ugliness remain what they are.  We cannot call evil good, nor say that our wickedness is forced upon us solely by others.

Another theme of Frankenstein that fits well with Scripture is human companionship.  The monster's creator flees him immediately, and much of the book is taken up with the monster observing human fellowship (family) and wishing to be part of it.  He asks Dr. Frankenstein for a bride.  He describes his torment using Milton's Paradise Lost's description of Satan in hell.  At least Satan had companions - this monster is totally alone.  This is arguably the worst consequence of sin - how it separates us from God and from others.

And in the end, the consequences of our sin, like the monster in the book, are stronger than ourselves, unstoppable (the source of the popular horror theme).  Sin takes dominion of us, if the Spirit of God is not working against it.  Sin leads to death - there is nothing for the monster to do, once he has taken vengeance and his creator is dead.  Suicide is the only real option left both for the Rationalist and the Romantic, since they are now isolated from God and man.  Though they extol the sublimity of nature, they themselves have twisted nature by rejecting their Creator, and so are at a dead end.


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8.07.2015

Psalm 133-135

133
Unity among brothers is good and pleasant, like oil on the body and dew on the fields.  It is life itself.

134
You ministers who have night shift at the temple:
Bless Yahweh by lifting your hands to Him; He will bless you.

135
Praise God, for He chose us to be His own people!
He brings the clouds, lightning and wind.
He struck down our enemies in the past: Egypt's firstborn and Canaanites.  You vindicate us!
Idols see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing; their worshipers wind up like that.
But we bless Yahweh from His Mount Zion, His city of Jerusalem.


How this is about Jesus
He restores unity, reconciling God to man, and man with man, in the forgiveness of our sins.
He struck down our greatest enemies: Satan the accuser, and our own sinfulness and guilt.
Instead of idolatry leading to a life of being deaf, dumb and mute, Jesus is the path of life, pleasure and joy (Psalm 16:11).

Psalm 130-132

130
I cry to you from a low point in my life.
I can't stand before You because of sin, but You promise to forgive.
I wait and hope upon God and His Word.  He promises mercy and redemption.

131
I try to stay out of great matters.
Instead I look to God as a toddler to his mother.
Hope in Yahweh!

132
Remember David's resolve to build You a house.
We are going there to worship now.  Meet us there, and cloth Your people with righteousness and joy
God promised David a descendant on his throne forever.
He promises to live with us on Zion and provide for us forever.


How this is about Jesus
During His life and ministry here, He trusted His Father fully at every point.
He is the descendant of David who will be forever on the throne at God's right hand.

Psalm 127-129

127
If God doesn't build your house, you might as well not have it.
There's no point to working your butt off if God doesn't bless you with rest.
Faithful children are a reward and blessing from God.

128
God blesses the man who fears him with
- the fruit of his labor
- a fruitful wife in the heart of his home
- children around the table
- seeing Jerusalem prosper
- seeing your children's children

129
They have afflicted me deeply, but not prevailed.  God turned them back.
May they be like tiny grass that withers, is useless and ignored.


How this is about Jesus
The blessing of God is essential.  Without it nothing else will satisfy.  And God promised His blessing to the world through Abraham and his seed, Jesus Christ (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16).  Faith in Him is essential to God's blessing (Galatians 3:26-29).

8.06.2015

The Person of Jesus Christ

Part 8 - The Doctrine of Christ
Chapter 37 - The Person of Christ

We should be "Christ-centered," but not in a way that reduces every theological answer to "Jesus," as Karl Barth tends to do.

Deity of Christ
Jesus is Lord" is a fundamental NT assertion.  The New Testament also assumes His deity.
He didn't remove His deity when He humbled Himself to become one of us (Philippians 2:7).  This was an ethical act, not a metaphysical one.

Humanity of Christ
It was harder for first century people to accept that God became physical, due to the influence of Gnosticism, which assumed that physical matter is evil.  1 John 4:2-3 and John 20:26-29 assert His humanity forcefully, though.

Incarnation
Jesus "underwent a major change" (883), taking on our humanity in a fallen world to redeem us from that sinful condition.  This is an example to us to lay down our lives for each other, but that example is based on an atonement that pays for sin with blood.

Virgin conception and birth
Jesus' birth was normal; His conception was supernatural!  It:
  • signals redemptive work to come in His life.
  • asserts His humanity and deity, both.
  • shows our salvation is apart from our effort (or Joseph's!)
  • shows God kept Jesus from our inherited sinful condition.

Hypostatic union
The Council of Chalcedon put this in words in 451 A.D.  Christ has two natures, human and divine, in one person.  They are distinct but undivided.  The doctrine of the Trinity says God is 3 persons in one divine nature, but here we use the word nature differently: Jesus is 1 of the 3 persons, and 2 natures co-exist (subsist?) in that 1 person.  How does this work?  Generally, Jesus limited His divine attributes while on earth.

Communication of Attributes
But do His divine attributes affect His human attributes (or the other way around) or not?  If we say not, we are prone to divide the two natures.  If we say they do (Luther said Jesus' humanity is omnipresent, so "This is My body" could be literally true) we are prone to confuse the two natures.

Christ the Image of God
He is the exact image, where we only had dimmer pictures in the Old Testament (Hebrews 1:1-4).
As King, He controls (situational perspective).
As Prophet, He has authority (normative perspective).
As Priest, He is present (existential perspective).
Each of these is true in His being, and also works out in history

8.05.2015

John Frame on Sin

Only God, angels and humans are (or can be) morally and ethically good.
God did NOT create Adam and Eve in a morally neutral state - they reflected His image, which is good.
They knew the law and could keep it, but could also choose not to.  Yet their nature was good.  This is a bit of a mystery, and we should leave it as such, instead of try to explain the fall philosophically.

Part 7 - The Doctrine of Man
Chapter 36 - Sin

The Roman view basically says we had the potential to sin from bodily desires overriding the limits of reason.  This assumes a dualism between body and soul, and between nature and grace.

Sin is not a metaphysical problem, that we have a design flaw in how we are made.  The problem isn't that we aren't smart enough or aware enough, or that our bodily desires overwhelm our more righteous reason.  Sin is ethical - it is one person disobeying Another.

Defining Sin according to Frame's Tri-Perspective View
Normative - sin is disobeying commands.
Situational - sin is glorifying yourself instead of God, pursuing your kingdom instead of His.
Existential - sin is unbelief and hatred of God, instead of loving and trusting Him.
[Would have liked more on Gen 3:6 here]

Origin of Sin
The angels fell first, and Satan tempted Adam and Eve.
His approach is to question God's Word and get Eve to make judgments for herself apart from God's Word.  Creation order is reversed: man submits to woman and woman to beast, instead of beast to men/women and woman to man.
Sin is not a natural part of who we are as humans, or we have no hope.  No, sin was introduced after creation, so it can be undone.

God's Response to the Fall
His curses are mixed with blessings.  Enmity with serpent will be overcome.  Pain in childbirth, but there will be more life.  Frustrating work, but it will still yield fruit.  Adam believes, and names his wife "life."

Effects of the Fall
Sin brings guilt (normative perspective), punishment (situational) and corruption (existential).
Our guilt is inherited as a sinful condition from Adam.  This doesn't seem fair, but we are also given righteousness not our own from Christ.
Our punishment also affects the creation, which groans for redemption (Rom. 8:19-22; Col 1:19-20).
Our corruption is a heart condition, dead or enslaved to sin.  Not that we are as bad as we could be, but that we are unable to please God.

Temptation
Temptation is not itself sin, but gives birth to it (James 1:13-15).
The world, the flesh and the devil tempt us - both Genesis 3:6 and 1 John 2:16 teach this, in parallel.

Believers should not count themselves totally depraved anymore, since the Spirit is at work in us.  Though Westminster asserts that the works of regenerate believers are still mixed with sin and not able to please God in themselves, still, our "corruption is overcome by God's grace" (869).  We should be careful stating that "there is no health in us," since the redemptive work of Christ and His Spirit are active within us.

Psalms 123-125

123
We've had enough of scorn and contempt from others.
We wait on You to help as a servant does her mistress, with no one else to help, and You able to give mercy.

124
If God hadn't helped us we would have drowned - they would have wiped us out.
Blessed be God, who helped us!

125
You abide forever unmoved if you trust Yahweh.
Wickedness will not rule, but God will protect you, as mountains surround and protect Jerusalem. 

Psalms 120-122

120
I cried to God, distressed by the liars and war-mongers around me.
They'll get arrows and fire.  I've lived too long with those who love violence.

121
Help comes from Yahweh, and security.  I look to Him for it.
He keeps me from harm and always watches over my coming and going.

122
I am glad when it is time for God's people to gather and worship in Jerusalem.
It is the place of judgment, and we pursue peace there for one another.


How this is about Jesus
120 - He is the prince of peace - only He can bring an end to the violence of man.
121 - He wants us to ascend  to be with Him, where there is complete safety.
122 - He is the center of worship on Zion (Rev. 5) and brings peace (Eph. 2:14).

8.04.2015

Psalm 119:89-176

Lamed - Your Word is fixed, and my attention is focused on it.
Mem - I love Your law!  It gives me understanding and is sweet.
Nun - I aim to remember and keep Your rules and let them guide me.
Samek - the wicked do not keep Your Word; I hate them and You discard them.
Ayin - I am doing and seeking good, longing for Your salvation and Word.
Pe - I am panting for Your commandments, and weeping that men don't keep them.
Tsadhe - Your rules are right; they delight me even when I am in trouble.
Qoph - I seek Your testimonies with my whole heart.
Resh - the faithless do not keep Your rules and ways - they will not be saved.
Sin/Shin - Rulers persecute me, but I have joy and peace in Your laws.
Tav - Though I have strayed, hear my cry and deliver me according to Your Word.


It's striking to me that throughout this Psalm the singer constantly resolves and asserts his righteousness or desire to follow God's Word.  Only in the last verse is there an acknowledgement that he has strayed.  This doesn't contradict his assertions, for our hearts are divided and at war.

Lively emotions dance about on center stage.  There are certainly pious resolutions here, but also joy and delight.

2 Thessalonians

1
We thank God that your faith is growing as you are persecuted.
Jesus will avenge and relieve you when He returns with His angels and punishes them.
He will glorify Himself in your life now for Him.

2
Don't think Jesus has already come.  Rebellion and the lawless man must come first.  Lawlessness is already at work, but God restrains its full force for now.  That man will claim to be higher than anything and sit in the temple as God.  He will deceive and delude many, but God will kill him and bring his work to nothing.
For yourselves, be thankful that God chose you for salvation so early.  He will comfort and establish you, as He has already graciously given comfort and hope.

3
Pray for us to keep bringing the Gospel to a hostile world.
Don't be idle or keep company with the idle - meet your own needs by working hard.
God grant you peace through Jesus Christ.


How this is about Jesus
He hasn't come yet, but will come and set right all the wrongs you face from men hostile to Christ and His Gospel.


Application

  • Part of being a Christian is knowing that many not only don't have faith, but some are very hostile and angry against the Gospel of Christ.  It is a threat to them, and they might take it out on us.
  • Some people use religion as an excuse for being passive or lazy (it's really up to God, anyway), or for being interfering and nosy (busybody trying to be the Holy Spirit for everyone).