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.  


Look to Him

Hebrews 12:1-2
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

These verses teach us much about us in our sin.

First, we are easily ensnared and held back.  Sin sneaks up to tempt us, quickly and often.

Second, resisting sin is a race to run with endurance.  It is not a one-time, short sprint.

Third, joy comes after resisting temptation, after enduring the cross.  We usually focus on the passing pleasure of sin and forget the long, dull ache of regret that follows. 

But the main thing to remember is that we are to look to Jesus.  Not just as a tactic to defeat sin.  We look to Him because we love Him and trust Him.  When that love fades and the siren song of sin calls, we look away from Him.  We shrink from the cross of our own self-sacrifice.  We are intimidated by its shame.  But Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, so let us look to Him.

Let us confess our sins before almighty God.



OthelloOthello by William Shakespeare

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” – John 8:44.

These words of Jesus sum up the villain Iago, in Shakepeare’s play “Othello.” Both Satan and Iago (a) use lies (b) to do murder (c) from jealous hatred.

a. Iago lies constantly. The reader sees the lie, a character in the play is in on it, and his own wife makes several statements that condemn him, though she doesn’t realize it’s him. He is a slanderer. She says, “I will be hanged if some eternal villain, Some busy and insinuating rogue, Some cogging, cozening slave, to get some office, Have not devis’d this slander” (IV.2). Iago gets Othello to think that his lieutenant Cassio loves Othello’s wife and is having an affair with her. He sows seeds of jealousy, with no basis in fact at all. Shakespeare puts right in front of us that Iago is doing this knowingly, with great deception. Othello trusts Iago’s counsel and sees him as wise and good. “Though I do hate him as I do hell-pains, Yet, for necessity of present life, I must show out a flag and sign of love, Which is indeed but sign” (I.1). When he lies, he makes Othello think he is only sharing this needed information for his own welfare, when he is really doing it to destroy him. Iago could try to be sneaky, but he’s just sharing information with simple honesty (III.3). Right. The snake in the garden did the same with Eve: “I just want you to be all you can be.”

b. But he is really out to take us down. [Spoiler alert!] Iago’s goal was to kill Othello, and he succeeds famously. He so inflames Iago with jealousy that Othello kills his own wife in their bed. Then in despair, Othello stabs himself, after several allusions to Iago being satanic (“viper,” “if thou be’st a devil”). Along the way there is plenty of collateral damage, including the deaths of two innocent women.

c. Iago does all this out of his own jealousy. He wanted Desdemona himself. “Nothing can or shall content my soul Till I am even’d with him, wife for wife” (II.1). This doesn’t get as much attention, but it is important. The same canker of sin that tortures Iago and the devil spreads to others under their sway. They want others to share their tortured sufferings.

Iago is a famous villain because he is so effective. This is what makes a villain famous – that they get away with their schemes, when we see their evil plans.

Othello is compelling not just because Iago is so sensationally bad. Othello is compelling because we know there is a real Iago out there. A deceiver, a liar, out to destroy us. Be careful who you believe. Be slow to believe ill of others without solid proof. Recognize and reject gossip and slander as the satanic activity it is, or you may find yourself led along in his lies, and despairing like Othello in the end.

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Sex in Ancient Rome // Legalism Police // No Pastor-in-Chief

Tim Challies recommends Sexual Morality in a Christless World by Matthew Rueger.  This book gives the history of sexual mores among ancient Romans and Jews, showing that the sexual revolution we are headed into is not new.  This isn't exactly comforting, though.  Things will likely get worse in the short term, and Christians will suffer more persecution for holding up the biblical standard of sexual ethics.

Erik Raymond is good, on duty and delight.
"Many people avoid their duty because it is not their delight."
"I am advocating for doing the right thing—that which God calls us to do—whether we feel like it or not."
"Don’t be scared off by such rigid words as duty. The Legalism Police will attempt to cite you with some type of holiness violation. But friends, when the duties are ordained means by God, they are blessings filled with the seeds of your delight."

Kevin DeYoung has the right perspective on this election season, including a great response to the old saw, "We're not electing a Pastor-in-Chief!"

A Bridge to Use

Ephesians 5:28-32
"So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church."

It’s helpful every now and then to review what we believe about the presence of Jesus here at this Supper.  Roman Catholics tells us the bread turns into His physical body so that we actually eat the flesh of Jesus.  Lutherans say He is present physically somehow around the elements.  But no, the risen body of Jesus is in heaven, and doesn’t come down to us again.  Other Protestants mostly say that Jesus is no more present at this table than any other place and time.  This is just a visual aid to help us remember Jesus, they say.  But no, the bread we break is a communion, a sharing in, the body of Christ.  So we say this Supper communicates Jesus to us, it connects us with the real presence of Jesus by faith. 

This is one of those God-appointed places where there is a physical bridge for the grace of God to come to us.  The bridge alone isn’t enough, of course.  The flesh profits nothing without the Spirit.  We also need the vehicle of faith to carry Christ to us across the bridge.  Yes, God can bring Jesus to us without the bridge, but He built the bridge for us to use regularly.

Now faith isn’t suspended in thin air.  We need something to believe, someone to trust.  So we need the Word of God, mainly, to know what to believe.  And then we need a way to express our faith and act on that faith. So the sacraments and fellowship of the church are essential supports.  God gives us water, bread and wine to seal the Word to us by faith.  

These are gifts of God for the people of God. 

Receive Him, rest on Him alone today.  



Receive, then Represent Christ

John 21:15-17

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

We often hear the cliche these days that we are to be Christ to others.  Is this really possible?  It is a bit of rhetorical exaggeration with an important truth in it.  We do need to represent Christ well to the world, to our families, to each other.  Elders do this in this church and here at this table.  Jesus feeds us.  He is the host of this table.  But he sets up this meal so that the elders take His place, stand in His stead, represent Him.  To be Christ to others, we first must receive Christ from others.  When Jesus restores Peter by the sea after the resurrection, Jesus first goes back to basics.  Do you love Me?  If so, then you can, you are called, to feed His sheep.  Or, Paul tells Timothy, what you received from me, pass on to other faithful men who can teach more.

Communion takes us to the touchstone of our faith: being with Jesus, loving Him, seeing His sacrifice for us, seeing Him represented in others, strengthened in the grace He gives us. 

These are gifts of God for the people of God
Receive Him, rest on Him alone today.  



Psalms and Fear // Parenting Boys // Parenting Angry

George Guthrie's insightful ways the Psalms address our fears.

David Murray has some great tips on raising boys.

Kevin DeYoung passes on D. Martin Lloyd-Jones' counsel on avoiding anger in parenting.

The Gate of Heaven

Genesis 28:12-17

Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”

1. God sovereignly provides a connection with Himself. We cannot make this connection ourselves. Jacob was on the run from Esau, just trying to sleep on a rock. God had other plans, and He makes promises of salvation to Jacob. God reveals Himself to us first.

2. The connection God provides is Jesus, the ladder. His sacrifice on the cross makes fellowship between God and man possible again. He is the bridge between heaven and earth.

3. When Jacob was in distress, God provided comfort. When Elijah ran from Jezebel, God sent an angel with food for his journey.  At this table, this sacrament of Communion, set up by our Lord on the night before His death, is like our Bethel.  It isn’t the ladder itself, but it is where God has set it up.


Where Have You Strayed?

Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all

We considered the shepherd metaphor last week in looking at elders shepherding the flock.  We will see more of this picture today.  We are like sheep that go the wrong way.  Scripture emphasizes often that this means ALL of us.  Every one.  No one can think in his heart, "Well I haven’t done so badly, I can just check out through this part of the service."  No.  The reason we do this every week isn’t just because it’s how the service should go.  This service reflects our relationship with God, and each of us needs to confess our sins to God daily.

So the question for us at this point is HOW.  How have we sinned and what should we confess?  The shepherd wants you feeding on His food –Jesus is the bread of life.  Where have you gone to find other food?  The shepherd wants you resting in His fold, safe from wolves – where have you wandered, open to attack?  The shepherd wants to bring you to the clear water of life – what mud have you found as a good-enough substitute?

Let us confess our sins before almighty God.



Thankfully, God Takes Things Away

Isaiah 25:6-9

"And in this mountain
The Lord of hosts will make for all people
A feast of choice pieces,
A feast of wines on the lees,
Of fat things full of marrow,
Of well-refined wines on the lees.
7 And He will destroy on this mountain
The surface of the covering cast over all people,
And the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.
9 And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the Lord;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

1. At the Lord’s Table we see a substitution that is at the core of the Gospel. The bread and wine represent the body and blood of Jesus. He sacrificed His life to spare us the punishment. So instead of our death, we are given the means of life – bread. And above and beyond that we are given a means of joy in the wine.

2. This is what we see in Isaiah 25. There are things God is going to take away from us, and things He is going to give us. He takes away death, sorrow, tears, rebukes. And He will give us a feast of excellent meat and wine and fat.

3. Notice I’m talking in the future tense. In one sense this is true already, for God favors you now. But all the sadness and trouble isn’t gone yet. And we are not as happy as He means for us to be. So we wait for Him and for His salvation.

4. The way God brings about His favor is at the cross of Jesus Christ, which this meal represents. So take this time to commune with your savior and redeemer now.


God is Right

Romans 3:19-20
"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

The law of God makes us aware that we are sinners, that we have offended our Creator and gone against His will and His design for our lives.  We set aside all excuses and explanations, and instead come to the Lord and say, “You are right and holy and good, but I have been in the wrong; I have gone away from you.”  We cannot justify ourselves before God with anything we have done.  Instead we look to what Jesus Christ has done for us.  So as we look to Him,
Let us confess our sins before almighty God.


Back // Trump // Berenstain Presbyterians

1.  I'm back from a brief hiatus, hoping to blog more regularly.  The plan is to post links to good articles and my own liturgical paragraphs (calls to confession and/or communion exhortations) every day, and my own writings or book reviews about weekly.

2.  Al Mohler nails the Christian conundrum in his briefing today.

3.  The Berenstain Bears are now Presbyterian - sort of.  The older moralistic bears have given way to Bible-quoting bears, the New York Times reports...