On Mary // On the Incarnation

Thomas Schreiner lays out the Catholic and Protestant views of Mary quite well.

Jared Wilson has a short yet deep look at the Incarnation here.
"God’s incarnation in Christ was not an exit from heaven so much as a descent, an extension."


Tables and Trees

During a Thanksgiving sermon this morning from Matthew 26:26-28, I realized:

Adam and Eve stood by a tree, took fruit and ate it.
Jesus at the table, hours from the tree of Calvary, took bread, gave thanks, and gave it to the disciples to eat.

They both took and ate, but Jesus gave thanks.  This is because He was giving of Himself, not taking for Himself.

Around your tables and trees this season, put more energy and thought to giving thanks and giving of yourself, than taking or getting for yourself.


What's Missing from Worship? // Did the Reformation Fail?

Tim Challies lists a few things missing from worship in church these days.
It's good, but he omits communion.  As Kevin DeYoung quipped once, most American evangelical church-goers partake of more movie clips in church than sacraments.

Peter Leithart makes it on Fox News!  But he tells us the Reformation failed.  What?!
Okay, I get his ecumenical point, but is division not necessary over such major points as justification by faith alone?  We may not tolerate immorality and major error in the church for the sake of unity (Rev. 2:14-15).  Doug Wilson's rejoinder is good: if the Reformation failed because of the divisions that resulted, then Paul's missionary journeys failed, too.


Church Fathers // CS Lewis' Errors // Cell Phone Habits

Stephen Nichols at Ligonier gives Luther's take on the church fathers.
I found this interesting, as I continue my multi-year trek through the fathers.
Did Luther throw out 1400 years of church thought and believe he was right instead?

Doug Wilson offers a friendly critique of C.S. Lewis, on imprecatory Psalms.
"Some people want to use the imprecatory psalms as a way of providing cover for their own personal anger issues....  But there are others who understand that a hard world sometimes requires hard words."

I haven't read it yet, but Tony Reinke's book, "12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You" looks really good.  Here is a free pdf of the whole book!


Standing for the Flag

I didn't care too much about the NFL kerfluffle over kneeling for the national anthem, until a conversation with a family member made me realize that high schools were following the trend, and school leadership was celebrating or endorsing it.

Call me out of touch for not knowing that, but yes, now I'm finally upset.

Of course, Kaepernick has started something, and he is a role model and will be followed by high schoolers and others in dissing the flag.  I note that originally he sat down on the bench, but now all the rage is to kneel.  Kneeling, you see, makes the whole thing seem nobler somehow.  But you are still refusing to stand out of respect for the symbol of our country.  You are saying you cannot respect our country, her flaws are so deep. 

Kneeling is an easy way to say something loud and strong, and to feel noble while doing it. 
But you are dishonoring our country.  Please stop.  Please stand.

Now, this disrespect is sadly something that Rush Limbaugh and ultra-conservative parents have been teaching their children for a long time.  I'll express my disagreement with those liberals so vehemently that my scorn and disrespect is obvious.  So when the kids grow up, they learn to disrespect a country they have disagreements with.  Hm.

Some believe players have a constitutional right to free speech in this way.  To force them to stand violates their first amendment rights.  This grossly misunderstands the first amendment.  When you are employed as a performer, you waive many free speech rights to do your job as the employer wishes.  Could Disney employees disrespect the flag while performing at Disneyworld?  If Disney allowed it, yes.  But should they?

The NFL and colleges and high schools are culture-shaping institutions that should promote respect for our country and her flag, while also giving some meaningful forum for expressing protest.  Schools for certain should not be promoting students dishonoring the flag.  A rule that any player who doesn't stand for the anthem will sit on the bench during the game would be very fitting.

This is why Mike Pence is also a contrasting role model to Kaepernick, and will also be followed.  This is why his walkout, leaving the game during the anthem when players knelt, was brilliant.  We should not give our support to forms of protest that disrespect and disrupt our country.  MLK's march on Washington was a planned and respectful event, and he exhorted all there to continue such respect.  Today's Antifa and black lives matter claim to be the heirs of such protest, but their actions show a night and day difference.

These institutions like the NFL and school administrations should expect a loss of support and revenue if they allow players to go on dissing the country that has made their significant wealth possible.  I have no problem with players exercising their free speech and finding a way publicly to ally with black lives matter or whatever the cause is.  But the NFL should not allow it during the national anthem.

As usual the media is severely biased, to the point of blatant advocacy for the players.
Al Sharpton compares Jerry Jones to a plantation owner, but Donald Trump gets accused of race-baiting?  Come on.

Finally, of course we should avoid idolizing our nation.  We don't want to say, "I side with my country, right or wrong."  Or, "I stand for the flag because my country is near-perfect and is on the right track."  We should be free to criticize our nation's policies and culture.  (If we never do, maybe idolatry is near.)  But just as older children can give their parents feedback, they should do so respectfully, and may never dishonor them.  Patriotism with proper priorities is pleasing to God.

Kneeling for the flag smacks of ingratitude at God's gift of a good land.
It takes the easy road to loud self-expression at the expense of honoring your country.


Hef // Daughters // Solas

An excellent piece of writing about Hugh Hefner, on his recent death.

This is a good one for dads raising daughters, looking to when the suitors show up.
Shotgun jokes come easy, but building a wall, a spiritually strong daughter, is the name of the game.

John Piper makes an important clarification about the five solas of the Reformation.


Ten Tricks of Temptation // Sharper Sermons // 2 Examples

Sam Storms offers 10 methods of the evil one in tempting us.

David Murray has a couple good articles here and here on crafting shorter and better sermons, which I'm benefiting from this week.

I listened to two really good sermons yesterday.
- Alistair Begg on faithfulness in mid-life, looking to the example of Caleb
- Ben Merkle (from Moscow, ID) on the theme of seed in the Bible.

The desire to be first is a disqualification for Christian leadership. —D.A. Carson


Communism // Reformation // Fathers Exasperating

Doug Wilson has a good screed against communism, because of its direct dependence on envy.

How about a Reformation biography each day for the month of October, leading up to the 500th Reformation Day?  Desiring God fills the bill.

6 ways fathers can exasperate children.  Helpful and short.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" - Romans 8:18.


Yahweh is LORD // In the Market without the Beast's Sign on You

Here's an important article explaining why, when I read Scripture in church and it says "the LORD," I usually say "Yahweh."  Our English Bibles change the Hebrew Yahweh (a personal pronoun and a name) to the title Lord.

A modest win for religious liberty in Lansing, Michigan, as reported by World Magazine.


Purging and Inviting

1 Corinthians 5:7
"purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened."

Where it is obvious that a member of the church has left the way of the Lord, the church is bound by duty to purge out the leaven.  There is a door, and Christ and God’s favor are inside, and judgment and wrath are outside.  There are only two kingdoms – light and darkness.  The kingdom of the Son and the kingdom of the dark Lord.  If we refuse and turn away from Christ, then we are delivered to Satan, no matter what lies we believe about living our own life.  This is sobering to consider at the table, and we often sing about it: “Lord, why am I a guest?  Why was I made to hear Your voice and enter while there’s room, when 1000s make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come.  The same love that spread the feast sweetly draws us in.”  Let us thank God all the more for bringing us to Him.

Even when the church excludes some from the table, she also calls all to enter the kingdom of God by repenting of their sins and trusting in Christ for forgiveness.  She points to that doorway as a doorkeeper for God’s house.  

We now sit in God’s house as His children, redeemed, cleansed, forgiven, loved and accepted.  

Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 85
Q. How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?
A. According to the command of Christ:
Those who, though called Christians,
profess unchristian teachings or live unchristian lives,
and who after repeated personal and loving admonitions,
refuse to abandon their errors and evil ways,
and who after being reported to the church, that is,
to those ordained by the church for that purpose,
fail to respond also to the church’s admonitions—
such persons the church excludes from the Christian community
by withholding the sacraments from them,
and God also excludes them from the kingdom of Christ.1

Such persons,
when promising and demonstrating genuine reform,
are received again as members of Christ and of his church.2

1 Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:3-5, 11-13; 2 Thess. 3:14-15
2 Luke 15:20-24; 2 Cor. 2:6-11



Isaiah 6:5-7
“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of hosts.”

Isaiah exclaims that he is undone by his uncleanness in comparison to God’s majesty and holiness.  Without this sense of our personal undoing, we probably lack a true repentance.  It’s a sense of helplessness before holiness, a sense of guilt standing in front of glory.  Do you know God’s displeasure and wrath against sin?  Against your sin?  We must confess and admit our guilt.  Not just the guilt of the people we live among.  Our OWN guilt.  We have unclean lips and lives.

Let us confess our sins to the Lord.



Angels and Demons

I recently had a discussion about how much demons can influence believers, and not-as-recently read through Calvin's Institutes on Angels and Demons with a discussion group, which is excellent.  But there was some lamentation that good resources on this subject are sparse.
Here's a small collection.

Calvin - start in paragraph 3

Alistair Begg did a sermon series on the devil and his work, recently.

Frederick Leahy - Satan Cast Out - published by Banner of Truth
I haven't read this one, only perused it.

War with the Dragon

Revelation 12:17
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

The same dragon that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden, that fought with Michael and the angels, that sought to destroy the Christ child at His birth, that tempted Him in the wilderness, that same dragon is making war with the woman and her offspring – that means the church – that means you.

But the accuser has been cast down from heaven.  That’s bad news because he was thrown down to us, to give us trouble.  But it’s good news because his defeat has already come.  The same God who protected His Son at His birth, protects His church.  He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies.


Sin Leads to Suffering

Psalm 32:3-5
When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.  Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

These verses are in the context of repenting and being forgiven, which we will come to in the ass of pard.  But notice first, that when we hold back from repenting, we suffer.  When we cling to our pet sins, we are holding fire close to our chest, thinking we won’t get burned.  That verse is from Prov 6, in the context of sexual sin: none who touches his neighbor’s wife will go unpunished.  He will get wounds and dishonor and disgrace.  And there is a slower, milder burn we get for lesser sins.  Holding on to that grudge and resentment will warp your soul.  When you hold on to your gluttony or drink, it will dry out your soul.  God’s hand will be heavy on you and you will groan inside, even if everything looks fine on the outside.  So confess it to God.



Porn and the Image of God // Augustine on eclipses

Tim Challies has some good thoughts on the inconsistency of pornography, and marriage and God's image in women.

Augustine on solar eclipses, and those who predict them, around 400 A.D.:
(slightly updated language)
"For with their understanding and capacity which You [God] have given them, they search out these things.  And much have they found out and foretold many years before.  The eclipses of those luminaries, the sun and moon, on what day, at what hour, and from how many particular points they were likely to come.

Nor did their calculation fail them, and it came to pass even as they foretold.  And they wrote down the rules found out, which are read at this day, and from these others foretell in what year and in what month of the year and on what day of the month, and at what hour of the day and at what quarter of its light either moon or sun is to be eclipsed.  And thus it shall be even as it is foretold.

And men who are ignorant of these things marvel and are amazed and they that know them exult and are exalted.  And by an impious pride departing from You, and forsaking Your light they foretell a failure of the sun's light, which is likely to occur so long before, but see not their own which is now present.  For they seek not religiously from where they have the ability to seek out these things.

And finding that You have made them, they do not give themselves up to You, that You may preserve what You have made, nor sacrifice themselves to You... nor do they slay their own pride."

Confessions, book V., chapter 3.4


Good Church Members // Charlottesville // Fake News

1.  Good church members
Doug Wilson spurs to us loyalty in our churches.
Not mindless conformity.
Not independence and apart-ness.
Biblical like-mindedness.

2.  Charlottesville
Ben Shapiro denounces the alt right.  And Antifa.  "Condemn violence and evil wherever it occurs."
Doug Wilson likes what Trump said the first time, and so do I.

3.  Dealing with fake news
Tim Challies calls us to read good articles thoughtfully, instead of skimming headlines.


Shepherd and Sheep

After a couple of sermons today on Jesus, the Good Shepherd, here are a couple videos about the cultural context from Ray VanderLaan.


Boaz and Break Rooms

As a full-time pastor, I’m fairly sheltered from the rough and tumble of blue collar work life.  I remember the cool break rooms after the hot afternoon, the crude jokes on the side, the tired muscles, watching the clock, and so on, but it has been quite a while.  Hang on to that thought – I’ll bring it back in a minute.

Ruth 2:14-15
Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back. 15 And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.

It’s amazing what it will do for you to slow way down in reading the Bible.  I watch a daily video podcast that takes a verse of Hebrew and a verse of Greek and walks through it, analyzing and translating the original text into English.  While you take two minues per verse to think of the grammar and how best to translate, it enriches your understanding of the text.

Right now I’m reading Ruth 2, and I did several verses in a row this morning.  After a brief conversation at church where a member described the daily schedule at his manual labor, summer job, the description of the reapers really popped out at me.

Don’t reproach or humiliate Ruth, Boaz tells his workers a few times.  Out in the field, there is more freedom to engage in crude jokes, probably comparing the women gleaning behind them.  Probably even more so at lunch, when the men and women would eat separately.

Now here's where it gets interesting.

Boaz does a shocking thing that shakes up the mundane lunch break routine in verses 14-15.  He invites Ruth to sit with the reapers (the men workers) instead of eat with the gleaners (the women).  Most people notice the apparent improper act of Ruth going to the threshing floor by Boaz at night, but I’ve never heard a comment about this incident in 2:14-15.  I’ve always understood Ruth going to the threshing floor at night as a bold act out of the blue, forging ahead with little to go on.  And she does certainly take initiative in that.  But Ruth is responding to Boaz’s similar act in 2:14-15.  Boaz also does something that feels improper (having Ruth sit with the men), to accomplish something more important than propriety.

Boaz gets two things done.  First, he acts on his pious words, extending God’s love to Ruth.  He had just called down God’s blessing on her, that He would repay her for leaving her homeland and staying loyal to Naomi.  He wanted the God of Israel to take note and make up her Moabite loss with prosperity in Israel.  So he then does his part to make that happen.  Not only will she get the gleanings of the day from his field, she gets the good food at lunch, and takes some of that home, too.

But the second thing is what caught my eye, related to the rough and tumble of lunch room conversations at work.  By bringing a woman to the table, Boaz rebukes or gently reminds his workers, that they can’t talk their usual way now that she is there.  You know that awkward sense when a group of ladies is talking and it’s bordering on gossip, and then a man walks up?  Or when a group of men are hamming it up, and it’s going a little too far, and then a woman walks within earshot?  Boaz makes that happen.  He invites Ruth to sit with the men.  Maybe he’s changing the culture of his employers, or just reminding them how it needs to stay.  And he is also telling them that she is as important as they are.  It's too easy when the men and women are apart socially all the time for each to start looking down on the other.  He mixes it up to prevent this.

In the end, Boaz did not just give Ruth food, a handout.  He gave her social dignity when she could easily have been maligned, mocked and misused.


When in the Course of Human Events

When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern SecessionWhen in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession by Charles Adams

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When in the Course of Human Events – Charles Adams

Every now and then I’ll pick up a pro-Confederate book and sample the argument one more time.
As a northerner by birth now living in the South, I try to understand the strong sentiment that the South was right and that it will (or should) rise again.

Charles Adams’ take is an extremely one-sided picture of the war. He jumps right in, asserting in the preface that abolitionists were terrorists. This is like calling pro-lifers terrorists. Some extremists shoot abortion doctors, but most reject such violence while advocating for a legal end to abortion. You can’t blame the radical abolitionists for the South’s refusal to free the slaves. Our author actually attempts to assert this. He holds the North’s oppression of the South after the war responsible for the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. These kinds of wild claims made it hard for me to take the book seriously and finish it.

A key thesis that I acknowledge is that there were economic factors at work, dividing the North and the South, apart from slavery. Adams wants to make that the only motive for secession, while many today believe slavery was the only motive for the war. Neither are right.

Slavery was doomed in the 1860s he says and would go away inevitably.
If so isn’t the South still to blame for resisting the pressure in the North to emancipate? They would rather secede than give in to the inevitable emancipation, making it seem much less inevitable. Lincoln’s “extreme position” only went as far as to not let slavery expand, and this was all it took for the South to secede.

Adams asserts that the issue of slavery was a pretext to unify Southerners to fight. Slavery wasn’t in jeopardy, so it wasn’t the reason to secede, he argues. But slavery WAS in jeopardy in territories headed for future statehood. He doesn’t mention this at all. Southerners viewed the abolition of slavery in territories becoming states as the forerunner to abolition in their states.

Adams tries to make parallels in chapter one to secessions from empires throughout history.
The difference is that few of these voluntarily joined as one nation originally; they were annexed forcibly to start with. These United States of America were not a conglomeration of disparate nations, but arose from a unified English culture, more or less.

Adams relies heavily on English opinion of the war, which favored the South. He colors them as unbiased outside observers, but their opinion had economic reasons. Britain was an economic competitor with the North and traded more with the South. It is a mark of Adams’ extreme bias, to the point of dishonesty, that he argues so strongly the North’s economic motive to keep the union, while muting England’s economic motive FOR secession, in siding with the South in their papers. To Adams, the South’s cause was noble; the North’s was malicious.

Why was secession so intolerable for the North? Why not just let the states go? Adams poses this as a rhetorical question, but there is a real answer. Secession produced a double evil: the division of a nation and the continuance of slavery. Political union makes us responsible for each other.

How could it threaten liberty to let the South secede? the author asks. Wouldn’t it advance liberty to give the states the self-determination they should rightly have? Well, to let the South secede would show that America could not bring about liberty for its citizens, the slaves.

Now, I know the North wasn’t pure as the driven snow, either. There was plenty of racism there, too. Adams makes a good case that there was little support for emancipation in the North.
Adams may be right that there was no huge political will in North or South for freedom and equal rights for blacks/slaves. So what was Lincoln to do? This fuller picture is indeed missing from the standard version of the history.

Was it an injustice to free the slaves without some provision of education or training for them?
Yes. But it would have been a greater injustice to leave them in slavery in a new nation, the Confederate States of America.

The lesson to learn from the war is not, as Adams contends, to let the South secede – to let political liberty trump social evils. It is to have the right reasons for any law or war, imposing government will on a people. His charges against how Lincoln conducted the war legally were new to me. If true (don’t know if I can trust Adams’ historical verity), this is a lesson to learn and not repeat.

In the end, both sides can look back and say, this should have gone differently. But they continue blaming each other. North to South: you should have freed your slaves willingly. South to North: this book. You shouldn’t have forced us to stay for your own economic reasons.

Here is a review from Amazon that summarizes the book and my perspective quite nicely.
“In case anyone doubted Garry Wills' argument in A Necessary Evil that the peculiar myths and distortions surrounding the nature, formation, and meaning of the U.S. regularly stir movements committed to myth rather than reality, Adams, a historian of taxation, delivers a polemic that proves it. The Civil War, Adams argues, was not about slavery or the Union; it was about tariffs! The Southern states had a right to secede. Slavery would have ended at some point, but Lincoln did not particularly threaten it. It was, Adams maintains, the "dueling tariffs" of the Union and the Confederacy that caused the war. Within his states' rights argument, Adams maintains secession's legality should have been determined by the courts, and slaveholders should have been compensated for the property they lost through emancipation. Adams relies heavily on the European press; he asserts, but does not prove, that U.S. abolitionists were a fanatical lunatic fringe. The author clearly anticipates controversy; it should not be long in coming.” Mary Carroll

Marilynne Robinson, Givenness of Things. Pgs. 96-97
“I know causes of the Civil War are widely disputed, but I have been reading the speeches and papers of leaders of the Confederacy, and for them the point at issue was slavery. Slavery plain and simple. They drew up a constitution very like the national Constitution, except in its explicit protections of slavery. Their defense of their sacred institutitons means the defense of slavery. Their definition of state’s rights means their insistence on their right to bring this ‘species of property’ into states that did not acknowledge it, and to make these states enforce their claims on such ‘property’ without reference to their traditions, to their own laws, or to their right to protect their own citizens.”

View all my reviews


Shepherd of the Hills

The Shepherd of the HillsThe Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A delightful, Romantic story of character and courage, resolve and reconciliation. Set in the Ozarks, the rough mountaineers and their simple ways encounter the shepherd, “Dad” Howitt, a refined and cultured city man. He bridges the gap and teaches two “fine specimens” of humanity – a young man and young woman – what it means to be a “sure enough lady” and man.

But the shepherd has his own problems, and the hills are full of rough men ready to take what they want and kill whoever stands in their way.

Plenty of action and drama, with a strong streak of country pride. The ways of the city may be more refined but not more noble. The story is partly about a young man frustrated in his love for a lady, but handling it well and resolving it nobly.

I wouldn’t call this a must read, but it is a good story, well written.

View all my reviews


Peter Martyr Vermigli

Peter Martyr VermigliPeter Martyr Vermigli by Simonetta Carr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Outstanding biography of a little-known reformer from Italy who worked with the Swiss and English reformations, and influenced the Synod of Dordt after his death. Carr tells his personal and family story along with his theological work, showing the great personal sacrifice that Peter Martyr and others were willing to make to advance the truth in Christ's church.

View all my reviews


13 Reasons Why Not // Artists' Freedom // Riots

Good article on why not to watch 13 Reasons.  It hurts the people it's trying to help.

Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer argues in the Washington Post for freedom of artists to refuse to express viewpoints they disagree with, regardless what side of the politics it lands on.

Marvin Olasky compares recent riots over Trump's election to past riots in American cities, ending with a Civil War application.


The End for Which God Made the World

by Jonathan Edwards

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cogent argument that God made the world primarily for His glory. This primary end does not exclude another goal: our happiness. Since we were made to worship Him, our obedience to His design brings us delight and Him glory.

As an old American choral piece puts it:
“Thine be the glory, man’s the boundless bliss!”

The writing style and argumentation is heavily philosophical – beware!

View all my reviews


Honesty // Fear Individualism, too // Disappointed with Church

Covenant Eyes makes a great connection between how you hear sermons and how (if?) you are open and honest with him or anyone about your struggles.

Samaritan Ministries helpfully critiques the radical individualism of Cain: "Am I my brother's keeper?"  He observes that fear of communism or too much state involvement keeps too many Christians from being willing to answer yes to that question...

A really good article at Desiring God that starts with being disappointed with worship services, and turns to expound Philippians.  If church is frustrating you, lately, please read!


Gregory Recommends Augustine

Here's one of my favorite quotes in Pope Gregory's letters so far:
Writing to an African Prefect:

"As to your wishing the book on the exposition of holy Job to be sent to you [written by Gregory].... if you desire to be satiated with delicious food, read the works of the blessed Augustine, your countryman, and seek not our chaff in comparison with his fine wheat."  (Letters, book 10, letter 37).


Temple Creation // Work out Salvation // Reviewing Culture

Peter Leithart at his best, showing how the temple is a re-creation of... creation, and a pointer ahead to incarnation.

How is it salvation is all of grace, AND we are to work out our salvation?

Marvin Olasky defends why they review mainstream movies and music that have morally offensive content.  I've had this question myself sometimes, but I think his answer is on target.
Make sure to read the end on how moralism obscures the need for grace and for Christ.


Take Your Bible // Charismatic Calvin // Heart-Felt Calvin

Bring your Bible to church, says Doug Wilson.
I haven't always executed this well with my own family, but it's really important.
Read why here.

John Calvin, on why we should kneel and raise our hands in worship.

"We are called to a knowledge of God: not that knowledge which, content with empty speculation, merely flits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruitful if we duly perceive it, and if it takes root in the heart."  John Calvin, Institutes, I.5.9.


Rejoicing // Being Professional // Genesis 3:16

Moving from worrying to rejoicing - World Magazine 

This was a challenging piece calling pastors to professional, in the best sense of the word.
Those who revolt against professionalism and stress an organic ministry model, often fall into being unprofessional: sloppy, lazy, and thoughtless about rightly serving the body of Christ in the details of the big and little things.

World Magazine, again, on how to translate Genesis 3:16, and why it matters.
NKJV: Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
Old ESV: Your desire shall be for your husband, but he shall rule over you.
New ESV: Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.


Beck's Mormonism // Resisting Cynicism // Pleasing God

A good short article on Glenn Beck and the difference between Mormons and Christians.
We don't have to be syncretists, merging two conflicting religious claims together, to forge political alliances...

Are you prone to be a cynic?  Though many cynics revel in their cynicism, it is not a fruit of the Spirit!  This might help diagnose the problem.  And it is a problem...

After a stimulating discussion at church yesterday on the role of the law in our lives as Christians, Kevin DeYoung serves up this gem on seeking to please God our Father as already justified children.

Things I never Noticed in the Bible

Numbers 22:40
"Then Balak offered oxen and sheep, and he sent some to Balaam and to the princes who were with him."

Balaam had princes with him when he rode his donkey and it talked to him.  I had always assumed he was alone, missing verse 40.  Did they hear the donkey speak, too?  Were they like the men with Saul on the Damascus road?  "the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one" (Acts 9:7).

It only makes sense.  Balaam is sought after by princes and kings.  Of course he has servants in that day.  So this altercation is very public.  They see Balaam abusing his donkey, and his wavering between resolving to speak only what God says (Numbers 22:18), accepting bribes (22:32), and advising Balak to tempt Israel in other ways (Numbers 25:1-2; Revelation 2:14).  They see their boss constrained by God, uniquely taught by Him.  Yet they also see Balaam working against Him in the end, enticing the very people he blessed to sin.

What a chump.

But out of the mouth of this donkey comes God's view of His people:
- no sin observed in them (23:21)
- God is with them (23:21)
- they are beautiful and lovely (24:5-6)
- they will spread out and multiply (24:7)
- a King shall arise from them (24:17)


Pastors Criticizing and Criticized // Praying for Pastors // Church Singing

Mark Dever talks about how pastors should receive and give criticism.  This was excellent!

How to pray for your pastor.  Eight specific and targeted prayers.

Tim Challies lists benefits of a physical hymnal at church, instead of words on a screen.
He's too pessimistic about "going back," as if it's a quixotic and futile quest.  I suppose all the cool churches would consider it too 10-years-ago, and inconvenient.  But the medium-sized churches who do powerpoint with amateur volunteers at the computer often hit snags mid-song, when the computer freezes or the operator is asleep at the button.

Another aspect lost is knowing you're part of a bigger church than you and your radio station.  Who put this book together, and why do we align with them?  You're more likely to ask that with a physical book in your hand.  But we should also ask it CCM song selection.  This song on Christian radio they are playing a lot - why is it a good song to sing in church?
Church music should not be an extension of "top Christian 40" radio.


Culture War // Patient Sanctification // On Luther and Lutherans

Kevin DeYoung reminds the church that to always wage the cultural war will sometimes alienate hurting people. 
"While we do not have patience for secular agendas, we must have patience for struggling people....
Let’s make sure we aren’t constantly in full-on culture warrior mode. We should empathize with those who genuinely feel threatened, scared, or all alone. Standing up for the truth doesn’t mean we have to say everything we think in every situation. It’s okay to be tactful, respectful, and even keep our mouths shut at times. Charging ahead with zeal is not an excuse for trampling over people."

Ever noticed that you are patient with yourself, but not with others?
This is especially true regarding your sins and theirs....

Carl Trueman writes well about conversion theology and the sacraments, and wonders why Reformed try harder to ally with Baptists than with Lutherans.


Givenness of Things Review

The Givenness of Things: EssaysThe Givenness of Things: Essays by Marilynne Robinson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Marilynne Robinson does her best to make “liberal” attractive again.

I don’t think she ever uses the word, and I don’t mean it here in the way that conservative talk shows do. She only occasionally advocates for more involvement of the state in our lives, and then only obliquely.

No, I mean the classical liberal, non-economic sense, of being open-hearted to one another as people. Her thesis is found on the last page:
“Everything depends on reverence for who we are and what we are, on the sacredness implicit in the human circumstance. We know how deeply we can injure one another by denying fairness. We know how profoundly we can impoverish ourselves by failing to find value in one another. We know that respect is a profound alleviation, which we can offer and too often withhold” (286).

She couches the truth in very gentle terms, for an audience now unaccustomed to biblical truth. But referring to Calvin and the Puritans often, Robinson asserts that people are made in the image of God, and must be treated as such. If you can ignore her undercurrent of universalism and neo-orthodox treatment of Scripture, this is an important take-away.

The givenness of things involves our created-ness, the universe as vast and mysterious, our need for forgiveness and grace from others. She upholds “a generous and even a costly readiness to show our respect for all minds and spirits, especially for those whose place in life might cheat them of respect…. To value one another is our greatest safety, and to indulge in fear and contempt is our gravest error” (29). This needs some tempering with a realistic view of the sin at work in everyone’s lives. But it’s refreshing, coming from conservative circles where the tendency is to only value propositional truth. If the person doesn’t hold to the truth exactly as I see it, the person is abruptly dismissed. Robinson instead calls for respect and tolerance (in the old, best sense of the word), and patient regard for the soul God is working on. As the fellow says, people need kindness, because everyone is dealing with something hard.

This leads her to defend the humanities in academia, at a time when our culture looks more to science for answers. I agree with her in this, though she may go too far in the “education as savior” direction. But she also interacts with contemporary science quite a bit, usually making the point that we don’t know as much as we think we know.

Robinson’s writing style is not very accessible – she’s more academic. 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 on that one. But her tone does convey her thesis: value the givenness of things that God has built into the souls around you.

View all my reviews

A New Hymn // Being Pastoral // Love Called Hate

Here's a wonderful new hymn for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, by Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace.

What does it mean to be "pastoral"?  Kevin DeYoung helps.

We are starting to condemn acts of love as hate, in the church, just like progressives do in the culture, Tim Challies asserts.

"It is not necessary for a preacher to express all his thoughts in one sermon. A preacher should have three principles: first, to make a good beginning, and not spend time with many words before coming to the point; secondly, to say that which belongs to the subject in chief, and avoid strange and foreign thoughts; thirdly, to stop at the proper time."
Martin Luther, The Early Years, Christian History, n. 34.


Content Eyes // Politics Well, and in Moderation

Randy Booth says, "Put on your Happy Eyes," look at the world as God calls us to, and be content.

Kevin DeYoung has a couple good articles on politics.  One for anyone, one for pastors.


Weight of Glory

The Weight of GloryThe Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lewis wrote with a glorious mixture of common sense and an ever-present awareness of eternity close at hand. This collection of essays powerfully shapes the Christian mind to give God’s glory the weight it deserves in our estimation. But his treatment of God’s glory is unexpectedly this-worldly. Why should we go on reading books when bombs are dropping? How can we experience the spiritual when the only tools we seem to have are crude senses and emotions? How do we deal with temptations of the world like ambition and craving the approval of men? How do we maintain a right godly mind as we go through our prayers? How can we maintain a rich private life, while not isolating ourselves from the body of Christ?

Lewis writes this way, with a determined down-to-earth-ness, both because it was who he naturally was, and to engage with and defeat the prevailing materialism of his day. He ably showed the plausibility of the Christian worldview to secularists who only wanted to consider the physical elements of the world as relevant or knowable.

I highly recommend these essays to you.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else” (140).

An older review of mine from 2011:
CS Lewis was a master essayist, who offered some bracing defenses of orthodox Christian thought and practice at a time when liberalism was already at high tide in his academic circles. Cogent and colorful, this book is a collection of essays:

1. The Weight of glory, in which he ties God's glory to the joy we desire but never fully achieve.

2. Learning in War time, a lecture to students during the war, making the case for continuing the pursuit of culture and vocation during wartime.

3. Why I am not a pacifist, in which he explains... why he is not a pacifist.

4. Transposition, a glorious take the relation between physical and spiritual, sensations and emotions, our resurrected body compared with our present one.

5. Is Theology Poetry? in which he rejects believing the theology because it is beautiful.

6. The Inner Ring, probably the most insightful essay on the temptation of all people no matter how old, to work for acceptance by the "in crowd," however you define that. He dissects the lure of the world, and the pride of life.

7. Membership, on how the Church as participating in the body of Christ keeps us from individualism and collectivism. Right up the political wonk's alley. If you wonder how to handle Acts 2:42-44 as a political conservative, read this.

8. On forgiveness, a short sermon on forgiving real faults, not rationalizing away people's offenses so there is really nothing to forgive.

9. A Slip of the Tongue, another sermon, facing honestly our desire to not commit too much to God before it hurts us in the "real" world.

View all my reviews

Friends and Lovers

Friends and Lovers: Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in MarriageFriends and Lovers: Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage by Joel R. Beeke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Solid and short, this is a great booklet for anyone married.
Beeke handles a delicate subject with discretion and directness.

View all my reviews


Giving and Receiving at the Table

Jesus is the LORD.  He is the one working with His Father right now, serving you, feeding you, with His own life.

Jesus feeds us all, by His power.  Some of you who are responsible for meals in your home know the relentless nature of this work.  You are always working, cleaning up the last meal, or planning for the next one.  You have a small inkling of the Father and Son always working, together, to open hands and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

He represents here, His ultimate work of giving at the cross.  Only on the basis of the cross does God continue to sustain His world, by grace.

But Jesus not only gives at this Table, He also receives.  The Psalmist tells us that God is near to those who call on Him.  He hears our cry.  This table is a place to call on God, remember His name and His work on our behalf, claim it that you might be spared His judgment.  Praise Him, and bless His name forever.  Jesus receives your worship here, even as He gives you the sign of life in Him.

Psalm 145:10-21
All Your works shall praise You, O Lord,
And Your saints shall bless You.
11 They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom,
And talk of Your power,
12 To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts,
And the glorious majesty of His kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.[c]

14 The Lord upholds all who fall,
And raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look expectantly to You,
And You give them their food in due season.
16 You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all His ways,
Gracious in all His works.
18 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry and save them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.
21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord,
And all flesh shall bless His holy name
Forever and ever.

Free Now

The scene from Braveheart is classic.  Instead of begging for mercy, he cries freedom, and dies.  Through that sacrifice, the scots go on to fight and win their freedom.  Now for us, It is the Son of God whose death wins our freedom, not just from political tyranny, but something far worse - from the curse of the law.  From God’s condemnation of you.

And you have no more battles to fight, to be justified before God.  Skirmishes with sin remain of course, but by faith in Christ, you are free from condemnation forever.  Right now.  Rejoice!

Assurance of pardon


Proud Patriarchs // Valentine // Raise Hands // Triumphant Children

I don't often refer to Tim Bayly's writing, but thought this was good.  He seems to be inferring that certain, specific people promoting patriarchy have pride problems, which is problematic, of course.  But it's a good general warning for all of us.

A couple days late, the civil disobedience of Saint Valentine.  Thanks, Uri!

Stuart Bryan reminds us why we raise hands in worship at certain points.
Just a teaser: it's not when the music cranks up or you get emotional during the song...

RB Kuiper on what happens to the children of believers who die in the womb, or early infancy.
This is pure gold.


Sermons online

Sermons from the last 4 months are up at the church website, or at wordmp3.com

Book Review: Should We Seek All the Spiritual Gifts?

Tim Challies has an excellent review here of Sam Storms' new book, "Practicing the Power: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit into Your Life."

I would urge all my friends who seek the exercise of the spiritual gifts of healing, tongues, prophecy, etc. in their lives today, to read this review.


Quotable Tuesday: Missing Worship & the God/Man

"We shall all do well to remember the charge: “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is.” (Heb. 10:25). Never to be absent from God’s house on Sundays, without good reason—never to miss the Lord’s Supper when administered in our own congregation—never to let our place be empty when means of grace are going on, this is one way to be a growing and prosperous Christian. The very sermon that we needlessly miss, may contain a precious word in season for our souls. The very assembly for prayer and praise from which we stay away, may be the very gathering that would have cheered, established, and revived our hearts. We know very little how dependent our spiritual health is on little, regular, habitual helps, and how much we suffer if we miss our medicine."
—J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John 20:24-31
HT: Randy Booth

"If it is only man’s nature which is to be acknowledged [in the person of Christ], where is the Godhead Which saves? if only God’s, where is the humanity which is saved?"

Pope Leo the Great - sermon 91


Lord's Supper as Door and Window

When you’re trying to watch the game and somebody is standing in the middle of the room, you might say, “You make a better door than a window.”

Well, This sacrament is both door and window.

A door distinguishes who is inside from who is outside.  While everyone is invited to Christ, only those who have accepted the invitation should partake.  Communion puts a visible difference between believers and unbelievers.

The Lord’s Supper is also a window.  We are not meant to look AT it, but THROUGH it, to the Lord Jesus.  Do this in remembrance of me.  It’s possible to take communion a thousand times, without really coming to Christ.  The Israelites received manna and water from the rock countless times, but most died unbelieving in the desert.  And we believe some distinctive things about communion:  partake weekly.  Covenant children should partake, too.  Wine is proper element for the cup.  This is all looking AT the sacrament.  Jesus might put it like this: “you take communion, because you think that in this you have life; but this testifies of Me.”

This is why the Psalms speak so often of seeking God’s face.  Our faith does involve a set a beliefs.  But at its core it’s about faith in the personal being who is God, and communion with Him.  Seek His face today.  Come to the Lord Jesus Christ and surrender.

Psalm 105:1-4
    Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
    Call upon His name;
    Make known His deeds among the peoples!
    2      Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
    Talk of all His wondrous works!
    3      Glory in His holy name;
    Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!
    4      Seek the LORD and His strength;
    Seek His face evermore!

Dance for Us!

Matthew 11:16-19
"But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, 17 and saying:
    ‘We played the flute for you,
      And you did not dance;
    We mourned to you,
      And you did not lament.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children."

Jesus says the people He came to, were children, not satisfied with their entertainment.  How was the comedy?  It didn’t make me laugh much.  How was the tear jerker?  Not that sad.  They weren’t happy with anything, with John’s rigorous fasting or with the feasting of Jesus.  Why?  Because they had themselves calling the tune and expecting Jesus to dance what they wanted.  But Jesus is the Savior that wretches like us need, not a performer or a guru to make us feel good about ourselves.