Severus, Vincent, Cassian

Product Details

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2, Vol. 11: Sulpitius Severus, Vincent of Lerins, John Cassian
by Philip Schaff

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I began reading this series about two months ago. There is an online schedule that has you read 7 pages a day for 7 years to get through them all! I started where the schedule was, instead of with volume 1, page 1.

I picked a doozie to start with, apparently. Severus and Vincent and Cassian wrote in the 400s, A.D., mostly about how monks should order their lives, food, prayers, thoughts, clothes, etc. They catalogue virtues and vices, praise specific saints and monks for their asceticism, and decry monks that give it up and go back to their wives (!).

The huge star that shines in this comparative darkness is the last entry: Cassian's seven books on the Incarnation of the Lord, against Nestorius. A brilliant polemic against Arianism, Cassian makes many Scriptural and rational arguments for the full deity of Christ, rebuffing every possible and subtle heresy that would assert Jesus was less than God from all eternity.  THAT was worth reading!

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Shakespeare's SonnetsShakespeare's Sonnets by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At times soaring, at times indecipherable, Shakespeare’s sonnets are great literature indeed.

They aren’t your typical love poems, though. Many are about how time is eating away at his lover’s appearance, or how she is too low for him, or that he shouldn’t love her. In spite of these and other negative descriptions, he loves her anyway.

Not very romantic, on the surface. But they do get you thinking deeply about love, especially for those who have experienced it for a decade or three.

Here’s a sample exploration of lust from number 129:
“Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action….
Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight;
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,
Past reason hated as a swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad….
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows, yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.”

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Two Noble Kinsmen

The Two Noble KinsmenThe Two Noble Kinsmen by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Noble cousins Arcite and Palamon see and love the same woman and fight over her. They duel, but are caught by the king. They each refuse to yield to the other, so King Theseus sets a wrestling contest – the winner will get the girl. Arcite appeals to Mars, the god of war, so wins the fight. But Palamon appeals to Venus, the god of love. Arcite dies in a horse riding accident after the fight, and Palamon gets the girl.

Love makes you do crazy things, or go crazy.

Much of the play is taken with the girl they fight over – her agony over it all. And with the jailer’s daughter, who literally goes crazy, loving Palamon.

This is a retelling of Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale, and Shakespeare was a co-author.

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Henry VIII

Henry VIIIHenry VIII by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Henry VIII

Shakespeare retells the history of Henry putting away his noble first wife Catherine and marrying Anne Boleyn. The Cardinal falls, but not before putting a lot of innocent people to death for his own agenda. Anne gives birth to Elizabeth at the end, and much is made of how great she will be. She, of course, is reigning as Shakespeare writes!

The prologue was amusing: this isn’t going to be a happy play. It’s hard to face your country’s own ugly history.

Comparatively for Shakespeare, the writing was flat and seemed hastily done. He moves the plot along quickly with gentlemen talking in the street about what has happened, which seemed clunky and artificial. It’s still good literature, though, and worth the read for the history, too.

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CymbelineCymbeline by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cymbeline the king of Britain has a daughter Imogen. He wants to marry her to her stepson Cloten, son from his second wife, but he is a boor. She marries Leonatus, and Cymbeline banishes him. He finds a “friend” in Rome, Iachimo, who bets he can seduce Imogen. He sneaks in her room at night but doesn’t do anything, convincing Leonatus he did it. Leonatus in rage sends to have Imogen killed. She is headed for him, and meets with the king’s long-lost sons, her brothers.

Two important themes are slander, and how nobility can shine even in humble settings. Iachimo slanders Imogen, and Leonatus believes it enough to foolishly take up the bet to seduce her. Imogen blames her servant wrongly for thinking Leonatus dead. The sons are living rustically, but are noble-minded. They are drawn to Imogen, though she is a road-worn traveler.

This one has a happy ending, and it was a delight to see the king rescued from his enemies, foreign and domestic, and to see the slanderer get his due.

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King Lear

King LearKing Lear by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

King Lear’s 2 older daughters flatter him, but the youngest refuses to do so. He disowns her, but the king of France marries her. Then Lear goes mad when, after giving up power to the daughters and their husbands, his oldest 2 daughters reject and abuse him. The youngest invades and conquers, while receiving Lear mercifully. He comes to himself and repents, but they lose the battle. The 2 older daughters quarrel and betray each other, leading one of the husbands, and an illegitimate son who has risen to power, to reveal all their treachery.

As a tragedy in the vein of Hamlet, most of the main characters die in the end, either as justice for their own wickedness or as innocent “collateral damage” from others. The play rings home how betrayal and self-seeking will lay waste to your life.

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Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Pericles, Prince of Tyre (Annotated)Pericles, Prince of Tyre by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pericles, Prince of Tyre is all about distancing yourself from dishonor and wickedness. At the beginning he woos a princess, but finds out she is in an incestuous relationship with her father. He flees quickly. Part of the point is that if you flee hard enough and forsake worldly gain, you can escape evil and its consequences.

But you may suffer, still. Pericles marries, but his wife dies in childbirth at sea during a storm. The daughter is nearly killed and put in a brothel as a prostitute. But she resists, stays pure, and gets a decent job. Again, the theme of distancing yourself from dishonor. The happy family reunion at the end reinforces the theme that if you work hard enough at shunning evil, reward will come.

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Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest?Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest? by Mark Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the hardest things for Christians, and Christian theologians, to balance is our justification by God’s free grace alone, and our duty to obey God’s Word. If we are more eager to defend faith alone, we might skip too lightly over our duty to God’s law. If we get excited about applying the law to every aspect of our lives, we might lead others to think wrongly that the law justifies us.

Mark Jones aims to guard against the first danger. Interacting mainly with Tullian Tchividjian’s recent writings, and also with the Sonship movement, our author takes up the old debate over the law between the Lutheran and Reformed, ably defending the Reformed view.

The Lutheran view opposes law and gospel, even into the Christian life, while the Reformed see them as friends, in Christ. “The antithesis between the law and the gospel ends the moment someone becomes a Christian” (Ch. 4, “Sweetly Comply” section, para. 2). “With the gospel and in Christ, united to him by faith, the law is no longer my enemy but my friend” (same). Notice that outside of Christ all agree that law and gospel are at odds: law condemns; gospel holds out rescue. But “As Richard Muller notes, ‘The law, for Lutheranism, can never become the ultimate norm for Christian living but, instead, must always lead to Christ who alone is righteous” (Ch. 4, “Sweetly Comply” section, para. 3).

This works out in our “street level” piety in this way: to avoid giving any glory to ourselves, average-Joe Reformed-guy will say that everything he does, even the most obedient, is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:4). We cannot keep the law and never will, so we turn away from it, to the Gospel and accept grace, never to look back to the law. But this is misguided.

“It is actually an affront to God to suggest that Spirit-wrought works in believers are ‘filthy rags,’ for these are works that God has prepared in advance for us to do in order to magnify his grace and glorify the name of Christ (1 Cor. 15:10; John 15:5)” (Ch. 5, “Good or Filthy” section, para. 3).

See the problem? Do we have to turn away from the law to accept grace? Yes, in the sense that we have to give up trying to keep it for ourselves. No, in the sense that we should still strive to obey God. But it is so easy to turn back to the law, once we have become believers, and fall back into legalism, trying to earn or keep our status with God. So easy, that many believers resist it at all. Any talk of duty or obedience must lead to legalism. No! No! Jones shines at this point, showing all the Scriptures that take us back to obedience, with nary a hint of legalism.

When we say God is pleased with us in Christ, is there no sense in which His pleasure changes based on our obedience? The antinomian, eager to defend God’s electing and unchanging love, will quickly say no, there is no aspect of God’s love toward us that changes, whether we sin or not, if we are in Christ. But the Bible speaks of our pleasing God or not, as Christians (2 Sam. 11:27; Col 1:10). This does not mean our obedience determines our salvation, but our obedience (or lack thereof) does affect our relationship with God. The antinomian, on the other hand, will oppose preachers who “warn their people that they can displease God and Christ or that God can be angry with his people, as he often has been (Ezra 9; 2 Kings 17:18)” (Ch. 6, “Displeasing God and Christ” section, para. 4).

Much of this debate revolves around our view of sanctification. The antinomian is prone to say that sanctification is little more than getting used to and living out our justification. The better view is to exhort us as Peter did to work out our salvation. “The sanctification of the church is an important part of Christ’s glory. It would be incorrect to affirm that we can add to or diminish God’s essential glory. But, again, we may or may not bring glory to the God-man, depending on our obedience or sin” (Ch. 6, “Pleasing God and Christ” section, para. 3).

May we look to our sanctification at all for assurance that we are in Christ? The antinomian would say no, that will lead to works-righteousness. But the classic Reformer said yes, our obedience is a secondary source of assurance (Ch. 7). The antinomian sees himself as a Christian as still totally depraved, ignoring the work of the Spirit moving him to obedience which pleases God. He assumes he isn’t much different from unbelievers as far as his heart goes. Looking within will only result in despair. The authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith saw it differently when they wrote that assurance is founded in part upon “the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises [of salvation] are made” (WCF 18:2). In other words, God is working something new in you, that will be evident in some ways. This doesn’t mean we are justified in thinking ourselves better morally than unbelievers, generally. But God is doing a work of sanctification in us that He is not doing in unbelievers.

Jones has a difficult PR battle with his thesis. No one who wants to be known as a defender of Reformed doctrines of grace and the five solas wants to imply what sound like caveats to our justification by faith alone. Who wants to appear to demote the importance of justification, the hallmark of the Reformation? And yet, if we are to do justice to all of Scripture, we must be careful not to wave our pet doctrine so loudly that it drowns out other important truths in the Bible. “The antinomians gave a priority to justification that went far beyond what Scripture teaches” (Ch 7. “Antinomian Assurance” section, para. 6). This is an audacious statement when writing to a Reformed audience! But I believe it to be an important caution. We have not exhaustively described the Gospel when we have explained justification. While justification is the capstone of Reformed theology, it is not all of it. It is the hinge on which our salvation turns, but it is not the whole door.

Where you stand in this debate as a pastor will dramatically shape your preaching. Jones critiques the antinomian: “The same repetitive mantras are preached week after week, to the point that if you have heard one sermon, you have heard them all. These are not overstatements. It is very difficult for some preachers to deliver messages each week when they have a sort of ‘systematic theology’ that they need to declare every Lord’s Day” (Ch. 8, “Different Types” section, para. 10).

Jones’ main point is that if we understand the person and work of Christ in His fullness, the apparent tension between law and gospel will resolve itself. Jesus justifies and sanctifies us for His glory.

This book may be especially useful for “cage stage” Calvinists who have just discovered the doctrines of grace, and for elders and pastors considering how to preach (and evaluate preaching on) the whole counsel of God. It isn’t an “entry-level” theology book – you ought to know a little about the Reformed doctrinal landscape before diving in. And he quotes old-language Puritans frequently. But I highly commend this work to you.

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The Tempest

The TempestThe Tempest by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Tempest is one of those stories filled with magic and spirits and gods, but yet very much shaped by the Christian gospel.

Prospero has been exiled by his usurping brother, but he is a sorcerer who brings storms, wrecks ships, blinds and moves men as he wills, with the help of the fairy Ariel. He overcame the evil witch on the island to which he was exiled, keeping her son Caliban as his servant.

Prospero prevents a plot to kill another prince, and confronts his usurper, while also offering him forgiveness. It seemed to me that Prospero represents God, who sovereignly moves events, whom we have kicked out of His own kingdom/world, who offers us forgiveness, and who works in our hearts like Ariel to move us to repentance.

Shakespeare contrasts the faithful servant Ariel who gains his freedom at the end, with the treacherous Caliban (and others) who are self-serving and willing to betray their masters to get ahead.

Once you’ve read this, go get Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, which is a Junior High meditation on various Shakespeare plays. He plays with Caliban’s many curses to great amusement.

“Toads, beetles, bats, light on you!”

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Liturgical worship // Goodwill toward Men? // Pious Sorrow Tempers Ferocious Attack

This is a great look at the benefits of liturgical worship.

Did the angels sing, "Peace on earth, goodwill toward men"
Or "peace among men with whom He is pleased"?
Andreas Kostenberger gives the right answer, I think.

"The bitterness indeed and blasphemy of your words might drive us to a furious and ferocious attack in answer; but we must somewhat curb the reins of our pious sorrow."
John Cassian (ca. 500AD), Seven Books on the Incarnation of the Lord, book 6, chpt 9.


The Winter's Tale

The Winter's TaleThe Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This sad tale turned happy shows us how jealousy destroys, how God’s providential mercy restores, and how hard it can be to forgive.

The kings of Sicily and Bohemia are friends, but Sicily suspects Bohemia of adultery with his wife. It isn’t true, but he won’t listen to reason. His family is destroyed as a result. The source of the jealousy is his friend heeding her words after he wouldn’t heed his. This is a potent headwater of envy: to not be listened to easily brings resentment. Ironically, the king does not believe his wife’s pleadings of innocence, but he does believe the oracle of Delphi! He does to her the very thing that made him jealous.

Divine Providence restores. After 16 years, a faithful and observant servant brings his daughter back home. The wife isn’t really dead, and she comes back at the end.

But to forgive? A nobleman’s wife plays a key role in constantly, bluntly, reminding the king of the awful thing he did to his wife. She does not forgive him, reinforcing his own difficulty in forgiving himself. Turns out, she had the queen cloistered for 16 years, withholding her from the king! This is despicable. Shakespeare is a genius at making us feel revolted by this evil of withholding forgiveness. And then the king freely forgives her when she could not forgive herself. She swears she will never marry again (her husband died), but the king gives her a husband.

The cycle of offense has to stop with mercy and free forgiveness, or it won’t stop. Jesus Christ did this at the cross for the world, and “A Winter’s Tale” is a beautifully crafted, Gospel-shaped story.

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CoriolanusCoriolanus by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Coriolanus, as retold by Shakespeare, was a successful general but a poor politician. The nobility wanted him to serve as consul, but he could not flatter the people at all, or even speak diplomatically. So they reject and banish him when the disagreement gets intense. He finds his way to his military enemy and offers to help attack Rome. Only his wife nad mother dissuade him from this, and he goes back with his enemy, who betrays and kills him. A tragic end – so unnecessary - for a war hero.

Recurring themes:
1 - the changing tide of the people. Several times the people change their minds about whether they like Coriolanus. They are easily led with flattery, the right words and charisma.

2 - pride can get in the way of the ambitious attaining their goals. While much of it was personality temperament, Coriolanus was just a stubborn jerk sometimes. He was more interested in standing on his honor than in overlooking provocations and pursuing peace.

3 - selfish political agendas can wreak terrible injustice for those who deserve better. There was no need to oppose Coriolanus as consul, except to grab the people’s support for themselves instead, which is what Brutus and Sicinius do. Coriolanus’ enemy, Aufidius, also does this at the end, deciding to assassinate Coriolanus to maintain his own position. There are shades and echoes here of the Sadducees and Caiaphas betraying Jesus: better one die to preserve our place and the nation.

While there were a few good insights into character or statecraft, this wasn’t one of Shakespeare’s best, literarily. It seemed like work to move the plot along. Perhaps this was due to the total absence of romance or marriage prospects – rare in a Shakespeare work.

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Sunday Christmas // Parenting Law or Grace?

Kevin DeYoung nails how to handle Christmas on a Sunday.

Paul Tripp puts the essential third use of the law to work in parenting.
Too often we think it has to be law OR grace, when in a sense, law IS grace.
(Yes, I know there is an important other sense in which law is opposed to grace.)
Law needs to be applied in a gracious way.


All's Well that Ends Well

All's Well That Ends WellAll's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

All’s Well that Ends Well is a play about testing honor and seeing through dishonorable lies and selfishness. People often see the dishonorable for what they are, before the dishonorable know it about themselves. The mercy extended at the end shines all the stronger for the despicable behavior seen up until then. It is very easy to question the sincerity of one’s repentance when you aren’t sure, instead of simply receiving them in mercy.

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Alcohol as Badge? // Grace Motivates // Sabbath

Tim Challies makes an important regarding Christians and alcohol.

David Murray points us to grace as the primary motivator for all we do.  Grace destroys legalism, burnout, and a host of other problems.

Here's a look at making the Sabbath a delight.  Some helpful and concrete ideas, here.

Christians Get Depressed, Too

Christians Get Depressed Too: Hope and Help for Depressed PeopleChristians Get Depressed Too: Hope and Help for Depressed People by David P. Murray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent, balanced and short.
Murray knows the difference between depression that is physically or chemically caused, and depression that irresponsibly mishandles feelings or difficulties. Sometimes the two are intertwined. Medication can be wrongly prescribed when the cause is spiritual. Rebuke can be wrongly administered when the cause is medical.

Murray’s main point in writing is in the title. Christians should not load themselves with false guilt simply for noticing they are depressed. Christians can and do suffer from all forms of depression. This doesn’t mean it is always a sickness for which they bear no responsibility, but sometimes it is. His main point leads Murray to argue against assuming as a default starting point that depression has a sinful cause. That may be where you wind up, but when the counselor starts his investigation from that viewpoint, it can harm the one suffering.

Being diagnosed with depression doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you. One of the best parts of the book is the way Murray applies a Reformed view of God’s sovereignty to depression. God afflicts us with diseases and difficulties for a reason – a holy reason that is for our good, though we cannot see it.

The church does not handle afflictions like this well. How do you raise and face deeply personal problems publicly, and live with them for years, when they have no simple solution? The church needs to extend and show much patience and love through this.

Murray offers lots of practical help in a short space, for the sufferer and their caregivers both. Highly recommended.

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Repenting of Besetting Sins

How do you repent, again and again, when you can't shake that sinful habit?
Here are some thoughts.

True repentance looks like honesty without trying to put a positive spin on your fault.  Just be brutally honest about the sinful desires and thoughts you still see in yourself.  Repentance takes this to God in prayer, first and foremost - see Psalm 51 and Romans 7:14-25.

True repentance doesn't make promises you convince yourself you can keep.  Tying resolutions for perfect behavior in the future, to your present repentance, is a recipe for discouragement. Repentance is present and past oriented first.  It does "strive for a new obedience" as WSC 87 says.  But WCF 15:3 is really important: don't rely on your repenting to "fix" you.  If I just think or say the right words or feel the right thing, then I'll be better, or God will fix me, we think.

True repentance trusts Jesus' atonement.  Repentance admits your fault without excuse, and without trying to make it up in a way that minimizes the wrongdoing.  Sometimes after losing the battle, we can do the post-mortem discussion as a way to convince ourselves we didn't really lose, or that it wasn't that bad, or that since we'll win the next game we can set this one aside.  But only the blood of Jesus at the cross can atone for it.  Trust that, and reject every way you try to atone for your sin yourself.  2 Cor. 7:9-11.

True repentance anchors in the Word.  Satan will continue to try to get you to believe the lie that you're missing out on "the good life" by not giving in to this temptation.  It's good to pour out your heart to God about this, admitting that your feelings, or some part of you, believe this lie.  Then renounce it, fight it mentally, by using the Word.  Many times what we know is right we will fight against in our sinful nature - Roman 7:14-25!  Gotta fight back.  We will often fail, but that doesn't mean the fight is over.  Prov 24:16; Psalm 37:24; Micah 7:8.  The fight is wearying and humbling, by God's design.

True repentance surrenders to His grace.  It doesn't negotiate with God.  If we aren't trusting His grace, we will either give up or convince ourselves by mental tricks and casuistry that we are succeeding on our own.  But you have no righteousness to offer Him, to get Him to help you.

True repentance uses methods without relying on them.  When you fall back into sin, it doesn't mean your method failed, necessarily.  Your heart left the Lord for a time, but there may be much good to continue using/doing in past advice you've received from various folks.  Jacob walked with a limp his whole life after wrestling with the angel.  Keep wrestling - asking God to bless you in this area - and expect to walk with a limp.  Which means, you'll need crutches - to compensate somehow.  What does that look like, exactly?  The heart is critical, of course, and everything flows from what it desires.  But we also need outward structure to stay on the right track, because we are so prone to wander.  Don't throw the crutches away because you fell.

True repentance knows, as a child of God in Christ, that He never accuses you to condemnation for your sinful failings.  John 8:10-11.  Sometimes for men it feels masculine in a good way to condemn yourself strongly, or have others condemn you, and use that as a brief and strong push to STOP IT!  I think Col. 2:23 applies to that tactic: it's self-imposed will worship that doesn't really help fight sin.  Instead, more truly and effectively, God accepts you where you are, right now.  But He loves you enough to not want you to stay there.  Your motivation isn't fear that He'll stop loving you, but wanting to honor the one who died to get you out of the gutter and clean you up.


Thoughts on Deborah and Barak

Judges 4-5 is about deliverance from an unexpected source.

Culturally, Israel didn't expect women to lead.  Deborah is judging Israel but wants Barak to lead the army.  He won't unless she goes, too.  In other words, he makes her lead, when he should.

Judges 5:2 is the main message.  Israel needs leaders, and they need to follow their leaders.  But God can deliver even when the "first-string" leaders don't step forward.  Esther 4:14 may relate.  The rest of Judges is littered with flawed or unexpected leaders that God uses anyway.

The same theme of deliverance from an unexpected place is in the Jael section.  Somehow Sisera slips away from the army, but God can see to the downfall (or exaltation) of anyone, regardless of earthly, political or military maneuvers.  In this case, He uses Jael.  It's a great statement that God's people can "break the mold" sometimes.  A woman doesn't always have to have a "gentle and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4) apparently.  Unless it's a trick to crush the bad guy!

This relates to Jesus since He is also a deliverer from an unexpected place: Galilee.  See the end of John 7.  More generally, who'd expect the savior of the world to come from obscure Israel, which was not a major player on the world political stage at any point?  Interesting that Zebulun and Naphtali are mentioned in Judges 4:10, and in Isaiah 9:1 when speaking of where Messiah will come from....

The decisive blow of Jael, and Deborah's summoning of the army in Barak's name (4:9), both point to action needed by the leader.  Philippians 2:5-11 is very relevant.  Hebrews 2:14.  Strong language: destroy.  I just read a great chapter in "Dragon's Tooth" by N.D. Wilson about this very thing (chpt 15, "An End").  The main character had to kill the bad guy, and it's described graphically - a stab to the temple, actually, now that I think of it...

The glory goes to the one who leads (Judges 4:9-10) - the one who sacrifices.  Jesus was in the position to do this, and He does it.  Leadership to a T!  Earthly leaders are really poor at this - we compromise and we waffle - which is why Judges is so compelling.


No Indispensable Nation

Doug Wilson:
"The future plans that God has for this planet do not require the United States. We are not the essential nation; we are, like every great power, the superfluous nation. If God restores us and uses us wonderfully, it is nothing but His great mercy. If God sets us aside, and accomplishes His purposes through others"...

Reminds me of Esther 4: relief and deliverance for God's people will come from somewhere else, if you don't act in the moment God gives you.


He Shall Come to Judge the Quick and the Dead

Thanksgiving comes providentially at the end of the liturgical church year, which outlines the work of Christ for our redemption.  Beginning with His birth (Christmas) and ministry (Lent), then death and resurrection (Easter), giving of the Spirit (Pentecost), it concludes with a recognition of All Saints’ Day on November 1, noting the Church triumphant that has gone on to glory.

Thanksgiving is an ideal stand-in for the final work of Christ for our redemption: His return to judge the quick and the dead. This follows the death of the saints.  Consider the last verses of a classic hymn at Thanksgiving time.

All the world is God's own field,
fruit as praise to God we yield;
wheat and tares together sown
are to joy or sorrow grown;
first the blade and then the ear,
then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we
wholesome grain and pure may be. 

3 For the Lord our God shall come,
and shall take the harvest home;
from the field shall in that day
all offenses purge away,
giving angels charge at last
in the fire the tares to cast;
but the fruitful ears to store
in the garner evermore. 

4 Even so, Lord, quickly come,
bring thy final harvest home;
gather thou thy people in,
free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified,
in thy presence to abide;
come, with all thine angels, come,
raise the glorious harvest home.

We are the harvest that the Lord reaps for His barns.  The denomination in which I was raised has a communion liturgy that points us forward to this:  “As this grain was gathered from many fields into one loaf, and these grapes were gathered from many hills into one cup, grant, O Lord, that Your whole Church may soon be gathered from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom.”

So, while the rest of the world rushes to the stores today, Christians would do well to meditate on the spiritual harvest still to come, when our Lord shall come and gather us home.  Jesus was the first-fruits of the resurrection harvest to come, when all the dead in Christ will rise.

The abundance and feasting we experience at Thanksgiving looks ahead to the joyful marriage supper of the Lamb in glory.  Then petition will give way to eternal thanksgiving, “How long?” will resolve to “How great!” and cries for vindication from under the altar will turn to “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!” (Rev. 5-6).


Thanksgiving 2016

This Thanksgiving Day I have a particular thing for which to give the Lord thanks.

We decided to try to find a worship service to attend, either Wednesday night or Thursday morning, and discovered a Christian Reformed congregation just 30 minutes away that was holding an actual, increasingly rare, Thursday morning Thanksgiving service.  (As an aside, I’m now sitting down to a juicy turkey, at 1pm, in a house with no time bake oven – this is do-able, people!)

On the way I told the kids I wasn’t sure what to expect.  My wife was raised in the CRC, and while we are thankful for their heritage, plenty of liberalism has creeped in lately.  I was hoping for a traditional service with hymns, confession of sin and an expository sermon, but that was a long shot.  More likely we’d get an open mic time and songs we didn’t know.

The long shot came through, and I was pleasantly surprised and blessed by the Lord.  Not only was the service reverent and edifying, but the people were warm and friendly, the music was a discrete blend of hymns and the best thanksgiving choruses, the pastor referred to my seminary alma mater, and the sermon was Christ-exalting and edifying.  Instead of taking an offering they had a card to write a few things you were thankful for, and come up and put them in the offering plate.  My kids took part from the heart and with no prompting.  The church is almost done preaching through the Heidelberg Catechism in a year, and they hold a weekly evening service.

Over the last year one thing the Lord has shown me is how easily discouraged I can get.  The message this morning was on Psalm 13 and seemed tailor-made for me.  In a time of crying out, “How long, O Lord?” He intervened this morning, feeding, comforting, and strengthening my spirit.  I have often felt this receiving the ministry of the Word while sitting in the pew in my own church, too, but it just seemed especially strong on this holiday, when it was less expected.

So, I am thankful to know of another faithful congregation near me, its connections familiar from my childhood and professional education, and to be fed by them on this Thanksgiving Day.

One other thing I noticed was the music.  With just a piano player, one song leader, and a screen, ordinary people faithfully praised their God.  It struck me how the Christian music industry out of Nashville has (probably inadvertently) grossly distorted the normal church-goer’s expectations of what to expect from church music.  If believers (or church musicians?) can just set aside their radio and concert experience, expecting a level of professional that ordinary people can’t meet; or their nostalgia of music from their childhood, or their pet peeves against screens - then when we come before God in worship one more obstacle to pure worship would fall.  I experienced that this morning.  Of course, it didn’t hurt for me that the old blue Psalter was in the pew, though we didn’t use it.

I could be all upset about how they don’t share some of my theological distinctives, and prideful about how we’re the only church in the area to do and believe x, leading me to dismiss and ignore such a church.  But that would not be an appropriate act of thanksgiving to God on this day.  So, thank You, Lord, for your faithful remnant in every city and nation, who look in faith to Your Son Jesus Christ.

Psalm 13
    How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
    How long will You hide Your face from me?
    2      How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
    Having sorrow in my heart daily?
    How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

    3      Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;
    Enlighten my eyes,
    Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
    4      Lest my enemy say,
    “I have prevailed against him”;
    Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

    5      But I have trusted in Your mercy;
    My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
    6      I will sing to the LORD,
    Because He has dealt bountifully with me.


Pence at Hamilton // Praying Parents

Mike Pence reacted well to an attempt to publicly shame him at the "Hamilton" play.
Who are the real intolerant ones, anyway?

Greg Harris gives lots of ideas on praying for your children.


What Do We Want? Discipleship! When Do We Want It? Now!

A bit ago, Doug Wilson responded to Russell Moore's Washington Post article pronouncing the death of the Religious Right.

Among the good things he said was this false trichotomy, most annoying to the present writer, who teeters between a-millennial and post-millennial thought:

"We can either abandon culture, accommodate ourselves in some way to culture, or successfully teach our culture what obedience to Jesus looks like. Moore believes in cultural engagement so the first option is out. He is not a theocratic postmillennialist, so the third option is out. That leaves the second option."

Wait, if we don't successfully disciple the nations we are compromising?  What if, in God's sovereignty, He determines only to save some of a certain tribe and nation, instead of seeing it overwhelmingly discipled to Christ?  I assume this has already happened in history.  Attila's Huns or the Ming dynasty and empire, so far as we know, did not convert completely to the God of Israel.  We may be moving in history toward a time when the Chinese and Mongols and all the rest will do so.  I do hold to such a post-millennial hope.

But to claim that if successful discipleship isn't happening now, then the church is compromising, is as dangerous spiritually as the name-it-and-claim-it charismatic view of healing or prayer.  I guess if America doesn't return to Christ, then the church just didn't work hard enough, pray hard enough, embrace the right eschatology, or back the right candidate.  We must have compromised somewhere.

Tell that to Tyndale, burning at the stake saying, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes."  There is a pragmatism lurking here that works against Wilson's purposes.  He wants us to take our Bibles to the political debate, and not just use natural law or common sense.  I agree.  But let's not argue for that by saying we would win if we did so, and we are losing because we aren't.  Sometimes you wind up in prison for the Word of God, too (Rev. 1:9-10).

I don't mind Wilson's call to base our political advocacy firmly on the Bible.  I don't mind an expectation that the nations will eventually flow into Jerusalem to worship the Son.  But let's beware an impatience for that, that is quick to assume compromise when results aren't as immediate as we'd like them to be.

The Gospel of John 1-4 - Boice Commentary review

The Gospel of John Volume 1: The Coming of the Light (John 1-4)The Gospel of John Volume 1: The Coming of the Light by James Montgomery Boice

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Boice is theological gold, and this collection of sermons differs only in addressing Scripture even more directly to the normal lives of God’s people in the pew. With a natural blend of exposition and application, Boice draws instruction from every ounce of every verse.

As an example, in writing on the Incarnation from John 1:1, 14 (a 5-page chapter/sermon on just these two verses), he applies the truth that Jesus became a man this way:

“By becoming man Jesus has also provided us with an example of how the life that is fully pleasing to the Father should be lived…. I often have been asked by people who are concerned with the state of the church today why it is that so many of the young men who go to seminary (even a good seminary, for that matter) come out of it without much of a message and without much of an ability to lead the churches they eventually serve. This is good questioning. As I have thought about it, I have come to feel that one of the main reasons is that they lack an adequate example of what the Christian ministry can be. They have never had contact with a strong church or with an intelligent preaching ministry that is Bible-centered and faithful to the great themes of the gospel. SO, lacking an example, they wander about in their approach and fail to provide strong leadership…. Thus, Jesus became man in order to go through all sorts of situations with all sorts of people in order that we might be provided with a pattern upon which our Christian life can be constructed.”

He goes on to describe Jesus as a needlework sampler that we look to as we live our life and do our work. Excellent illustration and application of biblical themes.

My one quibble would be that he goes a little too slow through the text, sometimes drawing in lots of other biblical texts and themes only tangentially related to the text. I think he does so to increase biblical literacy, which is good. But it obscures the main point occasionally.

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Pastors Have Authority?? // Young-Earth Vindication // Seminary Work

Kevin DeYoung offers a decent and basic description of pastors and elders in the presbyterian or reformed church setting.

Scientist finds soft tissue in dinosaur bones, gets sued by his university, then is legally vindicated.
Great story, here!!

I enjoyed Tabletalk's interview with Ligon Duncan on leading a seminary, and raising up and supporting pastors in the local church.


Division in the Church?

A friend passed on this quote from Peter Leithart's "End of Protestantism."
My thoughts are below.

“This amounts to a call for the end of Protestantism. Insofar as opposition to Catholicism is constitutive of Protestant identity; insofar as Protestants, whatever their theology, have acted as if they are members of a different church from Roman Catholics and Orthodox; insofar as Protestants define themselves over against other Protestants, as Lutherans are not-Reformed and Baptists are not-Methodist—in all these respects, Jesus bids Protestantism to come and die” (p. 6).

I think it's good to consider ourselves mere Christians, in CS Lewis' language.

But we need to stay clear about how to interpret Scripture and live the Christian life.  Until Rome stops insisting on submission to its bishop, Protestants have a duty to oppose Rome on that level.

We ought to be more cordial across denominational lines, and seek wisdom there to correct ourselves.  I think that is partly Leithart's point, and I agree.  But that doesn't mean being naive about their errors.  Maybe Leithart is just rightly focusing on correcting himself (Protestants) more than others (Rome), but he often comes across as minimizing their errors.  There is not a moral (doctrinal?) equivalence between Protestants and Catholics and Orthodox.  None has it all right, either, of course, but an attitude of "everybody has their problems, so why are we divided?" is dangerous in this area.

As an example, for a Protestant Christian to marry an Orthodox or Catholic is a bad idea.  Some divisions are warranted in the present situation.  When a church insists on ordaining women to church office, or asserting Mariolatry, those who find such actions unbiblical are warranted to separate from the error if they cannot correct it.

I think a lot of evangelicals are enticed away from maintaining such boundaries when they first encounter Catholics as friends or close co-workers.  It's kind of like caving on homosexuality when your child comes out as gay.  Responding well to your daughter in that situation might look from the outside to hard-line conservatives like caving, but it isn't.  So with Leithart, here, perhaps.

So those are some qualifications to the quote.  It's true there will be no Protestantism in Heaven, and that should impact our ethics here.  But Leithart is over-realizing his eschatology.


The Bruised Reed

The Bruised ReedThe Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Richard Sibbes was a Puritan, but the opposite of the caricature we all have of Puritans. Instead of staunch and stern, Sibbes was sensitive. Where we’d expect harshness, he deals out compassion and mercy in abundance.

The theme text is Isaiah 42:3:
“A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.”

Sibbes’ burning passion was to assure the faint hearted that their souls were safe with the Savior. Yes, we have failed Him often. But that doesn’t mean He will abandon us. This is the perfect antidote to discouragement that comes because of your inadequate Christian walk of sanctification.

The one quibble I’d have is that in expositing the last of the three lines of the Scripture text, Sibbes internalizes the whole thing. He does so brilliantly, but doesn’t deal with corporate, societal or political aspects of this. How will Jesus bring forth justice in our life together?

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The Ballad of the White Horse

The Ballad of the White HorseThe Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chesterton brilliantly retells King Alfred’s 9th-century wars against the pagan Danish invaders of Britain. Using the format of an epic poem matches the form and sound of the words to the story he lays out. As a master of the English language I didn’t easily understand everything to which the author alludes. Thankfully I had the Ignatius Press 2001 reprint, which includes exhaustive explanatory endnotes.

Alfred fought the Danes not just militarily but in their pagan worldview. Chesterton includes the legends that portray this. One emphasizes the dignity of the servant and the need for a ruler to serve. In another Alfred sneaks into the Danish camp with his harp. Guthrum, the Danish chief, and his lords first sing songs of their gods that end in nihilistic despair and blind stoicism. Alfred sings back:

“That though you hunt the Christian man
Like a hare on the hill-side,
The hare has still more heart to run
Than you have heart to ride” (III.335-338).

Earlier we hear:
“The men of the East may spell the stars,
And times and triumphs mark,
But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark” (I.231-234).

Alfred is a key source of the Christian happy warrior theme, found today in Tolkien's riders of Rohan, and on the pages of National Review. Gaiety abounds, even while observing and passing through dark times.

This one is best read aloud! The meter is really strong, so that you can sense the stern Danes and Alfred’s resolve. He often puts the climax in the last line, with a couple fewer syllables for emphasis. My boys ate up the battle scenes, of course.

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Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and CleopatraAntony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Most of my knowledge of this piece of history has come from 1950s epic movies, so reading it through Shakespeare’s eyes was a delight.

Cleopatra’s seductive opportunism and Antony’s prideful strength and indulgence come out strongly. Their despair and demise at the end argue powerfully against these character traits. Their common ground was pride: they both would rather die than face defeat and submission alive.

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Shakespeare's Best // Covenant Communion // What to Do at Church?

What is Shakespeare's most popular play?
This link has some cool infographics and a unique way of answering the question...

Peter Leithart offers some provocative thoughts on paedo (infant) communion.  I find this biblically sound.  Great for Reformation Day reading!  Always reforming...
"The Protestant tendency to restrict the evangelical invitation to God's table to the spiritually accomplished has done as much to undermine the pure gospel of grace as a hundred Papal bulls and a dozen Tridentine councils."

A short encouragement toward the right goal, when you are at church.

Bad Patriarchy, or Just Biblical?

As the pastor of a church that self-identifies (!) as patriarchal, I read with interest Matt Holst’s article critiquing Patriarchy at Reformation 21.  Mr Holst’s analysis is a mixed bag, and since many Reformed folk seem quick to grind the axe against patriarchy these days, I thought I'd offer a cordial response.  Taking each of his five areas of grave concern, then...

First, yes, Patriarchy does tend to diminish and replace church authority.  Yes, and amen.  I’ve seen multiple times first-hand the patriarch playing the part of a dutiful church member until the slightest thing crosses his agenda.  Then it’s back to home church or skip to the next church that will leave me alone to my family.  The accountability tends to be one-way: patriarch holding the church accountable, and seldom the other way around.

Second, yes, Patriarchy tends to isolate families away from even the church, not to mention the world.  Again, the slightest thing to impinge on the sacred family schedule is dismissed.  Patriarchal churches and families are great for the introverted among us, but not so much for the moms who need connection and encouragement from others outside the family.  It’s fine to avoid over-scheduling so that you aren’t at a church meeting away from your family every night of the week.  It
is NOT okay to swing the other way, and not connect with your church family at all except a couple hours on Sunday for one worship service.

The third point, that patriachalists turn the roles of prophet, priest and king into church offices, is nearly the same as the first point.  I have found more use, though, from pointing parents to the roles, than abuse from those taking it too far.  The average Christian father isn’t even aware that he can or should represent Christ to his family in any way as prophet, priest and king.  Reviving an awareness of these roles without putting the father’s position in competition with the church’s is the goal.

Fourth.  Here’s where it gets really interesting.  Yes, bad patriarchy tends to pull apart the husband-wife unity, and set the man on top, isolated from his family in decision making.  I have seen this play out in very detrimental ways, first hand.  On the other end of the spectrum, in most households today mom usually proposes things verbally and then just goes ahead with them when dad doesn’t say anything against it.  This is bad matriarchy, in response to the husband’s abdication of his job.  (Funny so many Reformed are on a crusade against patriarchy, when the opposite problem is actually afflicting our main culture far more.)  Holst is absolutely right that mom should have authority in the home.  But it ought not be a self-asserted authority, separate from what the parents decide together to do.

The fifth point is off base, I think.  While a great deal of legalism does tend to crop up around patriarchy, God’s design is that the husband be the head of the wife – that he be the one individual with authority in the home, as Christ to the church (Ephesians 5:22-27).  Centering authority in one person in the home was God’s idea.  In the family structure, there is not a plurality of leadership in the same way you have in a board of elders.  It is not a singularity of leadership as with a bishop or dictator.  And yet, the woman is given as a helper IN LEADING.  That is where I part ways with bad patriarchy.  But there is an office of family leader which the man is called to fulfill.  That is where I part ways with Holst.  If this seems a contradiction to the fourth point, remember that the isolation is the problem.  Every leader needs to both be with his people, and be apart from them to lead them.  The trick for the husband is to see his wife as a co-shepherd leading him or helping him to lead others, or to see her as a sheep to be led, depending on what the situation is calling for.

As a post-script, it is also right to point out that men are not over women generally, but that this is specific to the marriage relationship.  Holst misses 1 Timothy 2:11-15 here, which does not put men as a class above women as a class.  But it does reserve offices of authority for men.  In this way, all Christians should be for patriarchy in the literal sense (“men rule”), while avoiding the excesses of bad Patriarchy.


Witness, Work and Welcome

This table points to work and witness and welcome, too.

It points to Christ’s witness that drove Him to the cross.  He was the great prophet who spoke the truth about Himself, and our hearts that reject Him.  
This table points to Christ’s work on the cross, letting His body be ripped and His blood be poured out for you.
And this table points to the welcome Jesus extends to you.  Come to Him now.

We witness at this table, too, proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes again.
We work NOT to work.  We are resting in Christ’s work here – the opposite of work.  Maybe it takes work to not work, to focus on the Lord instead of trying to earn God’s favor ourselves.  
And we welcome – we welcome the Lord into our hearts, our thoughts, our lives.  And we welcome His people as we look around, discerning the body of Christ in one another.  We receive one another.

Receive Him, rest on Him alone today.  


Don't Assume Room Temperature

Revelation 3:14-16, 19-21
These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth....19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."

The Laodicians lived between hot and cold.  The next town over one way had hot springs; the next town over the other way had cold mountain water flowing through it.  The two waters met near Laodicea and became uselessly lukewarm.  

The point, like the water, is clear.  Do good for others.  Either healing with hot springs, or cooling with refreshing hospitality.  Jesus knows your works and your heart.  

To go with a kitchen example, We need to be plugged in to the power source, to be the fridge or the oven, to give others a cold drink or a piping hot apple dumpling.  If a hurricane hits, or if we just unplug from the Lord out of apathy, we all tend to assume room temperature, and turn moldy and gross. 

Instead we are called to zeal and repentance, and Jesus will come in to us and eat with us.  We need only make room for Him.

Let us confess our sins before almighty God.



Posture at the Table

Psalm 23
"He makes me lie down in green pastures"

Sheep usually eat standing up, walking from one patch of grass to another.  But the host of this table is the only begotten Word of God, eternal.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  And He wants us resting in Him, abiding in Him.  Not hurriedly eating a meal so we can rush off to our next appointment today, on this day of rest, ironically.  

Lie down.  Recline.  

At the first supper in the upper room, John the disciple Jesus loved, reclined on Jesus, against His chest.  Lean on His everlasting arms.  I do not think at this table that we should be on the edge our seats or on our knees, partaking as supplicants.  We have already confessed our sins. Rather, we sit back in our chairs in close conversation and communion with our host and others at the table.  He has made us kings and priests in His kingdom.  Not careless or casual, but knowing our place is secure in Him.  Not standing around the table as if ready to rush off, nor refusing the grace of our offered place.  

Sit and meditate for a while on Your savior, His mercy.  He is Your life, your light, Your good shepherd.


Establishing Your Heart

Hebrews 13:8-9
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.

Scripture tells us here, what we will also see in John 1.  Jesus is eternally the same.  Because of that, we don’t want to be chasing the latest fads in our thinking about Him.  Such fads reflect the world and the times more than the truth of who Jesus is.

One way fads show up for us is in our food.  New recipes, diets, ingredients.  Now, as with science, there are things we have learned that we didn’t know 800 years ago, and it’s a good thing.  So stay on top of good nutrition for your family, by all means.  But how is your heart established?  Heb 13:9 says by grace.  By grace.  When it goes on to say not by foods, it is talking mainly about the temple sacrifices you would eat.  Aren’t you misapplying the text, then, preacher, you might ask?  No, this is a how much more argument.  If God doesn’t want believers occupied anymore with ritual food laws He actually wrote into the Bible, how much more does He not want us distracted from the Eternal Lord Jesus by fads and foods not mentioned in the Bible at all?

Lots of things call for our attention today, many of them good, some of them harmless fun.  But the advertisement usually wants you setting your heart on their product.  Will a political election establish our nation one way or another?  Not without the grace of God moving hearts first.

Establish your heart by grace, by the eternal Jesus Christ.

Let us confess our sins together, of setting our hearts on created and lesser things, instead of on our great and good Father in heaven.



Secular Christians // Hell

Are you a modern secularist, except for a belief in the soul and a future and distant heaven?
You might be.
See this book review by Doug Wilson to check...

Here is an excellent article on hell by Tim Keller.  He follows CS Lewis in arguing that hell is locked first from the inside.  In one sense this is true and in another sense (from the decrees of God) it is not. But this is only part of the article - don't skip this one over that point!  Besides that controversial point, there is a LOT of gold here, on why hell is important, how to communicate it to unbelievers, etc.


Timon of Athens Review

Timon of AthensTimon of Athens by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Athens is become a forest of beasts.”

Timon of Athens is one of the most depressing Shakespeare plays I’ve read this year. Timon is a wealthy and generous nobleman of Athens who goes bankrupt from his generosity. His “friends” flee and refuse to loan him money in his need. Timon changes from a naïve optimist to a hardened cynic overnight. He hates all mankind and lives out in the woods. Even when the Athenians come and offer him dictatorship of the city, he refuses. He kills himself, and leaves an epitaph that rails against the reader to go away and curses him to be consumed by a plague.

Apart from God’s revelation, men have a hard time staying balanced in their view of man. Are people basically good and well-intentioned, to be trusted until proven otherwise? Or are they sinners who should always be suspected? The truth is in between. Because of our sinful nature inherited from Adam we do need accountability, checks and balances, or we will try to get away with anything. But God also gives common grace to all men, and His Spirit at work in believers, to pursue the good, true and beautiful. Total depravity doesn’t mean we should always suspect everyone’s motives to be malicious. Grace doesn’t mean we can expect all sweetness and roses all the time.

Timon’s quote above assumes Athens changed. But what had really changed was Timon’s situation, giving him new information about his supposed friends. God brings changes into our lives to reveal our character and teach us new things. Timon is a classic bad example of how NOT to respond. It’s true that he needed to grow in his view of others, but he learned the wrong lesson.

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Postmodern Times

Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and CulturePostmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture by Gene Edward Veith Jr.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Veith ably observes how postmodernism has changed the cultural landscape in art, movies, literature, politics and religion. The confusion of Babel has smashed into the modern world like a wrecking ball, leaving little of the bubbling confidence that we can fix all our problems if we just try hard enough.

But postmodernism swings the other way, skeptical of believing any story that claims to explain reality. We have to construct our own reality and meaning in life, they say. Christianity rightly critiques this by pointing to the ultimate reality of God and His revealed Word, a solid foundation on which to perceive and handle truth. We can take dominion of this world to an extent, and DO things.

I enjoyed Veith’s converse point even more, I think, though. Christians should welcome postmodernism’s critique of modernism in part. Most folks have set aside a naïve trust in the abilities of man to solve man’s problems. This opens people to the gospel in a new way. They see the problem and don’t see a solution. The problem is most are now prejudiced against accepting any solution from anywhere. Our current response to Trump is a good example: “Well, there’s a better chance of things improving with him than with Hillary.” This is the ringing endorsement I hear most often. Not agreement with his policies, not repeating his plans to lead. People are overwhelmingly pessimistic about solutions today. They refuse to be impressed. The cool response to everything is now, “Meh.” Veith calls it a cultivated blandness. This is the fruit of postmodernism.

There IS an absolute truth that we can count on outside of ourselves. Humanity is capable of great things, but we cannot fix all our problems by ourselves. Our knowledge and might is fragile. We are dependent on our Creator. At the end, Veith prophetically (in 1994) says Christians will come to be targeted for holding to absolute assertions about truth regarding God, ethics, and salvation. When the foundations are destroyed (Psalm 11), what can the righteous do? There appears to be no answer, except that God is in His temple. HE is the answer to the chaos of Babel, to the refusal to accept answers to our questions and hurts in life.

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Dad's Delight // Stott v. Lloyd-Jones // Intriguing Distractions

If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. —D.A. Carson

David Mathis interviews a Sri Lankan Christian writer about how dad can set a tone of joy and delight in his home.  This is practical, spiritual gold!

John Stott once publicly contradicted Lloyd-Jones right after he spoke, at a major conference.
The question was whether to separate from "doctrinally mixed" denominations.
Learn more here.  

Here's a preaching tip I sometimes forget: the intriguing isn't always the important.


Restoration in Your Future

After a sermon on John 1:14-18, at the Lord's Table:

When we think of the Word becoming flesh, when we hear of Him coming home and us receiving Him, this is all language that leads us to a table.  All this truth is dramatized here in the Lord’s Supper.  The master of the house has returned.  He knocks on the door and we open and receive Him.  He feeds us from His immeasurable supply.  We have on the table The bread of life, because He gave up His body to death.  The wine of joy, because He suffered and bled for us.

But these are signs and seals of the covenant.  The covenant is the God-shaped relationship we have with Him, set up by Christ.  He took on our flesh to redeem us, body and soul.  Restoration is on the way, for every aspect of your life.  He heals all your diseases, restores your soul, reconciles broken friendships, replaces tension with tenderness.  Restoration is on the way, because of the redemption accomplished at the cross.

So remember your redeemer, the eternal Word.  Remember you are at the family table of Father and Son, adopted as a child of God

Tis So Sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take him at his word,
just to rest upon his promise, just to know, thus saith the Lord
Jeus, Jesus how I trust him, How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, percious Jesus, O for grace to trust him more!

Receive Him, rest on Him alone today.