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.