Listen up! - Steve

Scott Nichols recommended audioblog.com, and it looks good for getting audio files onto this blog.
I'm confused why Blogger/blogspot doesn't offer this capability when they allow image uploads...
Anyway, here comes some audio!


Chain blogs? At least it's about books...

A fellow RCA pastor "tagged" me to answer the 5 questions below. This seems to me like just a souped-up version of "forward this email to 10 people if you love Jesus," but I like the questions, so here goes.

1. The number of books I have owned.
I confess, as a bibliophile, I have a spreadsheet to keep track of (and find!) my books, with a "Have" vs. a "Have read" column.
I have about 1150 books.

2. The last book I bought.
"Well-intentioned Dragons," by Marshall Shelley. Published by Bethany in the 80's.
A book for pastors on dealing with church politics issues. Somewhat helpful; very therapeutic!

3. The last book I finished.
Same as above, but for variety: "The Lord's Service," by Jeff Meyers. Published by Canon press, 2004. Best book on worship I have read, though I disagreed with a few minor details. Worship is an enacted service where God feeds us, and we renew the covenant He has made with us. The first few chapters linking OT sacrficial system to present-day order of worship are worth the whole book. God calls us into His presence, cleanses us, consecrates us with His Word, communes with us in His sacrament, and commissions us. Each of these has a parallel in the tabernacle/temple system.

3b. I'm going to cheat, since I've been reading several 30-page booklets lately.
I also just finished "Freedom's Holy Light," by Peter Lillback, on the American Founder's self-professed reliance on providence in establishing this country. New ones for me: our written peace treaty with Britain in 1783 begins: "In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity." Whoa! Also, the first prayer of the Continental Congress in 1774 ended thusly: "All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Savior. Amen."

4. The book I am currently reading.
Don Quixote, by Cervantes.
Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Invitation System, by Iain Murray. (Interesting critique of Billy Graham Crusades)
The Reformed Pastor, by Richard Baxter.

5. 5 books which mean a lot to me.
The Holiness of God, by RC Sproul
The Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin
Mother Kirk, by Douglas Wilson
Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis
Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien
God in the Wasteland, by David Wells
Shepherding God's Flock, by Jay Adams

Hey, who's counting?!

5b. Bloggers I'm passing this on to:
Honestly my list of blog friends is quite small, and includes pretty much all those who have already tagged me or been tagged by others. So I'll continue my tradition of flouting all the demands to pass on chain letters, electronic or otherwise. Sorry to be a stinker!


The Big Picture - Steve

The Bible begins in a Paradise garden with a woman brought to a man, and a hostile serpent lurking and causing trouble (Gen 1-3).
The Bible ends in a Paradise garden-city with a Bride brought to the Second Adam, and the lurking serpent defeated (Rev 20-22).

In between these two Paradises, the "woman" is in the desert:
- Adam and Eve are exiled to the wilderness
- Abraham travels in the desert
- Hagar flees to the desert (Gen 16)
- Moses shepherds in the desert
- Israel wanders in the desert for 40 years
- Jesus is tempted in the desert
- The voice cries out in the wilderness
- The woman flees to the desert from the dragon (Rev 12)

Not only that, but in the desert, women keep meeting men by wells and marrying them:
- Rebekah waters Abraham's servant's camels and marries Isaac
- Jacob sees Rachel at the well, rolls the stone away for her and marries her.
- Moses meets Zipporah at the well, drives away her oppressors, waters her sheep and marries her.
- The LORD comes to Hagar by a spring in the desert, with covenant promises (Gen 16).
- Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, and many Samaritans become the Bridegroom of the Savior.

The Bible begins with a marriage between Adam and Eve, and ends with a marriage between Jesus, our second Adam, and His Church and Bride. The engagement happens at various oases, springs and wells in the wilderness, where God speaks promises to us (John 4:14, 26), washes us clean (Ezek 16:9; 36:25-27, and gives us bread for the journey (1 Kings 19:1-8).

Sanctity of life? - Steve

In the latest Tabletalk magazine, which I like to read for devotions, there was a bit of a difference between essays in discussing the image of God and human life. Does life have sanctity? Is it sacred, or holy? Or is dignity a better way to say it?

I responded thusly to family that pointed out the discrepancy in Tabletalk:

I guess much depends on the definition of sanctity. If it means holy, as in, different and set apart, then sure, human life is different and in God's image, as opposed to animals. But to say human life is in itself holy and good isn't quite right, because God allows the death penalty for sin, and we are born and conceived in sin. The right to life can be forfeited through sin, so there is no overruling sanctity that keeps us from ever ending life. This is the liberals' argument at us: why do you allow the death penalty if you're pro-life? Because we don't believe in an absolute right to life, regardless of moral behavior. Read this article for more.

We're back - Steve

After two weeks of vacation, our family is trying to get back in the groove...


Jesus: a man's man - Steve

We've got a discussion going on an RCA evangelical email list group, asking the question: "Where are all the men in the church?" It's coming across pretty clear that we're not too sure what sanctified masculinity looks like. Here's my two cents I threw in...

I believe masculine godliness looks like Jesus in His relationship with His Bride, the Church (Eph 5:25-33). These 3 qualities stick out:

1. Responsibility – Jesus took responsibility for His people’s salvation/well-being. Men should do the same for their families and churches. After the Fall, God asked the man where he was (my read: God assumed the man was responsible for both of them); his first act was to pass responsibility to his wife (Gen 3:9-12). Men should be thinking: “As a family we need to…” and then consulting with his wife about how best to do those things.

2. Initiative - Jesus initiated the relationship with His Church: “we loved because He first loved us… Men should do the same in their families and churches, not waiting for the wife to bring up the spiritual things, but being the first to raise or act on an issue.

3. Effective service – Jesus washed the disciples’ feet; He washes the Church with the Word to present her to Himself on His wedding day. He takes responsibility for His wife’s spiritual well-being and her beauty of holiness. He acts and serves sacrificially toward that end. Men should do the same for their families/churches. Tendencies to sports and other “macho” stuff are not necessarily unhealthy, just expressions of a masculine desire for **effective action**, which Jesus displayed fully on the cross (Heb 12:2, where Jesus is the beginner and completer/perfecter of our faith, on the cross. In modern parlance, there was a job to do, and He "got 'er done.").

These 3, for starters, would have a dramatic effect, if acted out in the church by men. The church cannot make men do this. We don’t draw them in primarily with hunting programs; we teach them these 3 (and other) responsibilities, and pray for the Spirit to work in men’s lives to live it out.

I am a strong believer that we do need something programmatically just for men in the church, because they are called to lead their families. If the church equips men effectively to do this, she has equipped entire households - the whole church. But if we speak in an effeminate, sentimental way (as I believe we have for the past century or so), we speak to only half the congregation, and the other masculine half drops away.


Calvin and the root of sin - Steve

What was the root of all sin? Calvin makes a good case here (under verse 6) that it was a lack of faith - not believing what God said.

"observe, that men then revolted from God, when, having forsaken his word, they lent their ears to the falsehoods of Satan. Hence we infer, that God will be seen and adored in his word; and, therefore, that all reverence for him is shaken off when his word is despised. A doctrine most useful to be known, for the word of God obtains its due honor only with few so that they who rush onward with impunity in contempt of this word, yet arrogate to themselves a chief rank among the worshippers of God. But as God does not manifest himself to men otherwise than through the word, so neither is his majesty maintained, nor does his worship remain secure among us any longer than while we obey his word. Therefore, unbelief was the root of defection; just as faith alone unites us to God. Hence flowed ambition and pride..."

Up until this point in the garden, as one children's Bible we have puts it, they were "glad to obey. But then the craft snake came by.... Should Eve eat? Or should she turn away her head and just believe what God had said?"

It appears that obedience before the Fall required faith (in God's words), just as it does after the Fall...


Calvin and the Garden of Eden - Steve

These are more my own random thoughts after reading Calvin, than based on his insights:

God plants a garden on the earth and puts Adam in it. He then tells Adam and Eve to fill the earth and subdue it. Since they are made in His image, could their specific task have been to copy what He did, and expand the garden over the world?

This would bring together into one divine purpose the whole of history, before and after the Fall: God has always been about growing a Kingdom. Jesus talked about it with mustard seeds and yeast. Daniel saw visions about it, of a stone that smashes kingdoms, then grows.

To reduce all of history and Scripture down to one thought: the Fall was a blip in God's plan from creation to the consummation of all things. We see sin, the cross and redemption as too overwhelmingly central because we aren't remembering these bookends of God's story. Is our focus more on the cliff of sin and judgment we fell into but were pulled out of, or more on the garden on the other side of the canyon that God has called us to repair?

The July Tabletalk on the image of God had a related article by Greg Bailey: "the early church had come to see salvation as a work of God by which He makes His people more like Christ - to the end that they more closely reflect the image of God."

The point of salvation was to restore God's image in us, and that would lead to (a much bigger now) paradise. Only now, we aren't just inheriting a small garden, or even a land of Canaan, but the whole earth.


Calvin and light - Steve

I just started reading Calvin's Commentary on Genesis. Great stuff.

The preface/argument contains an excellent critique of higher criticism - modern skeptics who don't believe Moses wrote it.

On verse 3, God creating light, there is a wonderful response (400 years before the fact) to silly objections (***coughcilvancollegepeoplecough***) about having light 4 days before you have the sun:

"To nothing are we more prone than to tie down the power of God to those instruments the agency of which he employs. The sun and moon supply us with light: And, according to our notions we so include this power to give light in them, that if they were taken away from the world, it would seem impossible for any light to remain. Therefore the Lord, by the very order of the creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand the light, which he is able to impart to us without the sun and moon."