11.27.2009

Enmity at the table?

Sermon from Matt 5:38-43 - loving your enemies

Exhortation based on – Isaiah 53:3-6

One thing enemies do is despise each other. And Jesus was despised by men. Ridiculed. Mocked. Put to shame. He was hung on the tree, where enemies of the state were executed. It was at the tree of life in the Garden where earthly enemies first arose against God, taking forbidden food. But because of the cross, He now offers us, His former enemies, the food of life. He sets a table in the presence of His enemies. Enemies would never think of having a dinner together, but God makes it possible. He sets forth on this table the end result of our salvation – fellowship and food from Him. And He sets forth on this table the means of our salvation – faith in Christ’s flesh and blood sacrifice, taking the wrath of God for our sin, paying the redemption price to buy us back into God’s house as sons and daughters, not servants.

6/14/09

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Return fire?

1 Peter 3:8-9: "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing."

As Jesus prays for us in John 17, He wants us to be one, as He is one with the Father. This is hard to do in the middle of disagreements or being hurt and offended by someone. It is easy to lose compassion, tenderheartedness and courtesy for those who are against us in some way. It is the most natural thing in the world, boys, to hit back when you get hit. Girls, to fire unkind words back when she teases you first. To hold on to memories of being wronged. But Jesus often saves us from remembering our sin, our enemies, and the damage it all does.

This reminds us of our need to confess our sins.

June 14, 2009

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11.23.2009

Smooshy Rainy Day

Rain rain go away...

What do 4 kids and a mama do when trapped indoors by a gloomy day? We spent a couple hours smooshing clay, making wild creations. Geodesic domes. A toothpick-turkey. Tons of lumpy beads. Star Wars space ships. A knitting snow-woman. It felt so good to just sit and create with the kids. One of my biggest frustrations with art class as a kid in school was that you only had 45 min to bang out a project. How can a kid explore the medium, much less create something they're proud of in such a short time?

Smooshing is today's theme - pardon me if this grosses you out, but I'm SOOO happy that our little guy finally p--ped on the potty today!! Mothering is a very earthy thing, not for the squeamish. The little guy turned down ice cream as a treat for a lollipop instead. Wow.

Good stuff - in a comedy club? Yes!

Netflix for Presbyterians

It is called Puritan Picks.
Works exactly like Netflix.
Great selection - variety and depth.
I've got 17 in the queue already...
Check it out!

11.19.2009

That the World May Know

Somebody on an email list I'm on asked about the credibility of Ray VanderLaan (RVL). I thought I'd post my thoughts here.

RVL is deeply devoted to the text of Scripture. Many academics believe that most of what passes for knowledge of 1st century Jewish culture and thought comes from post-NT rabbinic sources. I am not well-versed in this academic debate, but RVL would say (I think) that the Jewish oral tradition is so consistent that it is sometimes legit to extrapolate it back into Jesus' time. He has been shaped by modern Jewish readings of Scripture and Jesus (studied with Jacob Neusner at Hebrew Univ in NYC), which can bring significant insights to us. Key verse here is Rom 1:16; 3:1-2. Paul went to the Jew frst, because they had the context and anticipation for Messianic promises, not just to make the self-righteous prigs jealous. They've been reading Scripture for 2000 years longer than we have. That line of thought. Out of this, I bought and reference the JPS Torah commentary now and then, and it is useful.

Without trying to pick a fight, I'd say that a more Lutheran academic training may prejudice against much of this. I'm not saying 1 Tim 1:13 isn't true, though some in RVL's circles certainly underplay the unbelief of 1st century Jews. I won't defend them doing that. But there's a spectrum. I think there were many godly Jews who honored Scripture, forming a text-honoring culture - John 5:39. But they weren't just misguided in rejecting Jesus - they didn't believe because their pride and sin and nationalism, etc got in the way.

As far as the videos, they are great. There are occasional leaps of Scriptural logic in them, but overall they are solid and useful. For instance, he surmises in "Iron of the Culture" that David obtained the best Philistine technology while in exile with Achish, and then used it against them when he became king of Israel. Application: we need to use the iron of our culture to do 2 Cor 10:4. Pretty good. Do we know for sure David did this? Probably not. Is it a safe and sound inference? Maybe...

11.18.2009

The charismatic question

What I might say to someone starting to go this way.

On demon-possession and our authority
If my daughter's eyes were bugging out unnaturally and she were speaking awful things to me in an unearthly, gravelly voice, I'd start looking seriously into exorcism, and call around for advice. I don't rule demon possession out completely, without considering circumstances. I would not say we have no authority to exorcise. But I would not seek to take action on the spot. (Scriptural accounts imply long times of possession, not for an hour or so of disobedience). I would not trust to saying certain words to cast out a demon and restore my child to obedience (Scriptural accounts don't show possession as source of disobedience, but as tormenting the soul and body). I would not assume my daughter is possessed just because she is not being obedient, nor if she is physically defiant. It is not a normal part of the Christian's discipleship and fight against sin, to address and attack demons directly. This WAS more the case in the Gospels because of the unique circumstance of the Son of God being on earth. The epistles, especially Eph 6:10-20, give a strategy more addressed to us; the Gospels aren't giving us an attack plan but describing what happened to Jesus and what He had the 12 and 70 apostles do in that generation. Mark 16:17-18 is establishing the apostles' authority, and these things are recorded in Acts.

On linking charismatic gifts to salvation
Not having these gifts or powers personally doesn't question our salvation, undermine our faith, or take away spiritual warfare weapons. Many wind up believing their faith in God or standing in Christ is in doubt without these signs - that your faith is undermined if you don't think you can (or if you haven't) cast out demons, or spoken in tongues, or whatever. For the true signs of a Christian, see Rom 6:3-4; Gal 5:16-26; 1 John 3:18-23. Wonders, miracles, sensational Spirit gifts, and casting out demons are not among them. This is partly why I interpreted Mark 16:17ff above as I did.

On credibility
So what do we do with reports of possession and exorcism today? I don't dismiss them all out of hand, but neither do I believe them all eagerly, to support the reality of the spiritual warfare we are actually in. I believe one's credibility is diminished greatly as he puts faith in saying certain words to automatically do spiritual good or evil, like with a deliverance prayer, or saying the name of Jesus. With that perspective, a report of demon-possession is less credible. Like speaking in tongues, it is more likely a result of the power of suggestion than a genuine demonic occurrence.

On agreeing to disagree:
This is where it gets hard. I actually think other Christians are seeing demons where there aren't any, and they are that deluded? Very possibly, yes. But don't take this personally as an attack on your rationality, if you believe demons have attacked you in ways you could sense with the senses. I just don't think the position above about how to fight them is the Biblical one, or that it makes rational sense. It is a difference of opinion that leads to not esteeming one's judgment as highly, as charismatics thus esteem my judgement less, in turn. We should amicably recognize that is a two-way street. But we remain brothers in Christ.

11.14.2009

Crazy Mom & 4 kids hit the city

I grew up in the country - roads ran on a grid system, life was simple. Then we moved to the Hampton Roads area where all bets are off while driving. The cul de sac of America. Your compass will say north but the road signs say east (or west!) and there is hardly a 90-degree intersection to be found. Multi-lane highways fly along then suddenly come to a screeching hault. Ugh.

So when I saw the map for our family field trip to Philadelphia, I was very confident I could drive myself and 4 little ones through this big city. It's one huge grid system! The streets are numbered (in a logical order) and the cross streets are named after trees, like every proper city should have. I attributed this orderly system to Ben Franklin (he did everything else there, right?)

We dropped hubby off at his conference 9am and hit the road into town, high on adrenaline. Oh. MY!

I will never complain about I-64 again. It's a cake walk compared to the stretch of I-76 going into Philly. Yikes. But we made it. I even found a parking spot in the 6-floor garage next to the archaeology museum. Life was good. We settled in for a day in dimly lit rooms looking at things that moved at an extremely slow pace. Those mummies weren't going anywhere.

Bouyed by my morning success, I bundled the kids back and headed across the Schuykill river into the heart of the city. Sky scrapers! Taxis cutting me off! Pedestrians who KNOW they have the right of way! I was on a yarn crawl, folks, and nothing could get me down, not even the chorus of tired whiny voices when they figured out where Mama was bringing them. I easily found the first of many yarn shops on my list and even found a parking spot right around the corner! Too good to be true! I did double check that it wasn't too close to the corner, by a hydrant, or marked "handicapped." Bingo! We dashed in the yarn shop for 20 min, then dashed out, bag of wool in hand.

The Philadelphia police force is a top-notch crime-cracking team. Out of state red minivans seem to draw their attention, especially those parked in front of a driveway. Drat! This officer was a fast-worker with Extra-Sensory-Perception. The parking ticket he put under my wiper was for the EXACT same amount as my yarn shop bill.

It's gray & cloudy, been drizzling on us all day, 4 kiddos are tired and complaining, my ability to process ANYTHING else new is kaput, and now there's a parking ticket to tell my hubby about. I did not cry (Dutch people don't cry). I laughed. Really. I hope you are too!

Salvation... from what?

A lot of things.


Jesus saves from the American Dream

This depends on the definition of American Dream you're working with, but I fully agree that there are aspects of the American Dream from which we need salvation.

Conditions met

Good John Piper quote here:

"Sometimes readers of the Bible see the conditions that God lays down for his blessing and they conclude from these conditions that our action is first and decisive, then God responds to bless us.

That is not right.

There are indeed real conditions that God often commands. We must meet them for the promised blessing to come. But that does not mean that we are left to ourselves to meet the conditions or that our action is first and decisive."

Read Jeremiah 29:13, then 24:7, to see it.

11.13.2009

Out of state!

I am at the CCEF national conference in Philadelphia. Great stuff.
Title: Sex Matters
Here are the first talks I've heard.

Pre-conference – Doing Pastoral Care in the church
1. What’s right about sex? Winston Smith - CCEF teacher
2. The Fall: Sex Contaminated - Ed Welch – CCEF faculty - author
3. Marriage, Adultery, and God’s Wrath: How the Prophets Express God’s Passion
by Mike Kelly – Prof at Westminster - East

These talks are coming yet
4. When sex in marriage doesn't work
by Phil Monroe - prof at Biblical Theological Seminary
5. Jesus our Redeemer - David Powlison - Westminster prof, CCEF teacher
6. Redeeming Sex for Singles - Lauren Winner - author
7. How Church Leaders Should Respond to Sexual Abuse - Tim Lane and Aaron Sironi
8. When a Spouse Has a Headache - Ed Welch - CCEF teacher and author
9. Redeeming Sex in Marriage - Mike Emlet - CCEF teacher
10. Sex and Heaven: Why Sex isn't everything - Tim Lane - CCEF director

Bought these books so far (I'm done!), not related to the conference topic
Calvin in the Public Square: Liberal democracies, rights, and civil liberties
Satan Cast Out: A Study in Biblical Demonology
Precious remedies against Satan's devices - Thomas Brooks, puritan
Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling - Kruis

Renewing Promises with the Promise-Giver

Based on Psalm 116:1-8, 12-14, 17-19

In every sacrament, God confirms or renews His covenant with us. A covenant is a 2-way promise that shapes a relationship. God makes His Gospel promises visible and tangible in the sacraments; He renews covenant with us. He wants us to hear His promises often, so that our relationship with Him stays close and warm, like a father with his children is meant to be.

At the same time, the sacraments, and our worship also involve us making promises to God. Because He has heard our cry and saved us, we lift up the cup of salvation, call on His name, and pay our vows in front of everyone here. This ritual is a time for you to renew your confession of faith in your savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. To renew your membership vows, to recall your baptism in Christ. To think upon His promises He first made to you, and renew your own trust in those promises, and in the Promise-giver.

6/7/09

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Working it off, or holding it against

Based on Hebrews 4:14-16

We do not understand grace. We don’t want to accept forgiveness. When we sin, we want to work off our debt ourselves, so we aren’t obligated to others, or to God. Many good works we do motivated by a sense of guilt and debt. In this, we lack faith in the death of Christ to fully pay for our sin.

We have the same problem when others sin; we want to see them face the consequences. It is hard to accept that Jesus paid it all, for them, as they repent. It is very easy to say you forgive, while you hide an unforgiving heart that keeps pointing out real consequences they must face. This doesn’t mean that if you point to consequences you must be unforgiving, just that it is easy to use the partial truth of consequences to justify your bitterness, especially when you keep laying the consequences on them yourself.

Of course, none of this applies if they won’t make a clean and full confession, acknowledging they understand the sin or offense, and are seeking to change. We all need a great deal of practice in confronting the sins of others lovingly and forthrightly, having an honest dialogue about the situation, acknowledging our faults to others humbly, and forgiving and staying in close relationship with those who have hurt us. We practice and improve upon this each Lord’s Day here, in God’s call to confession, our confession, His assurance of forgiveness, experiencing His ongoing communion with us, and His commission to continue serving Him, in spite of our past failures.

This reminds us of our need to confess our sins.

6/7/09

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Fire at the gate of the Garden

This is an incomplete draft from a friend. Thought it was worth pondering...

God created Adam; perfect, without blemish
Adam walked with God in the garden.
Adam screwed up, became blemished, imperfect
Adam clothed himself with plants (like a Priest)
God killed an animal (covering Adam's sin with blood)
God clothed him as a king in new flesh
God kicked Adam out
Adam could no longer walk with God in the garden/Holy of Holies
Adam brought animals to the gate of the garden to be cut into pieces and ascend in the fire of the cherubims' swords as a picture of what Jesus would do
The Priests supervised and performed sacrifices, like God, providing clothing/covering for the people
The Levites "replaced" the cherubim, guarding the garden
Now we are priests, entering the Holy of Holies every week
Now we are living sacrifices, clothed/washed by baptism, cut up by the word, set on fire by the Holy Spirit

11.10.2009

Elsie Dinsmore

Elsie Dinsmore
The world of Elsie was touching at times, frustrating occasionally, but mostly either exasperating or revolting. I'd better explain this, as many Christians in my circles highly esteem the books. This review only covers the first book - I have no idea what happens later.

The center of the book is Elsie's relationship with her father. The two primary issues are his approval and his faith. In both cases, while seeking to make a biblical point, the author goes to great excess that ought to be avoided.

Elsie is cravenly dependent on her father's approval. The book tries to show, I think, how important the influence of a father is, with which I disagree not at all. But in the extreme of what actually happens, the reader can be easily misled. Father's every look away or harsh word leaves her crestfallen, while his every look to her, smile, or tender word, nourishes and waters her. The point is a good one, but is overdone. This was the exasperating part.

I found two contradictions especially disturbing in the book. Elsie's devotional life - time with the Lord - is sweet and cherished, but is overwhelmed by her earthly father's poor relationship. This is understandable for a little girl, perhaps. Worse is the way she tries to work for her dad's favor. Again, this may be the author trying to show the damage of a bad father more than holding up as good the attempt to earn dad's approval. But it's a functional denial of justification by grace, which right doctrine is explicitly stated at one point in the book, through Elsie's own lips. She knows it is only by faith that her Father in heaven will accept her - there is nothing she can do to earn it. But most of the book is devoted to Elsie trying to figure out what she can do to earn her earthly father's favor. The denial of justification by grace alone comes out most egregiously in Elsie's assumptions of the Sabbath. At one point, she just knows her father can't know the Lord, because he asks her to play a secular song on Sunday.

There is another functional denial in the book - of total depravity. Elsie does no wrong, on purpose, and her character is sketched this way quite purposely, it seems. The book communicates that with enough piety one could get out from under our sinful nature. Thus, in all the suffering we face, the fault lies with the persecutor - it could never be our fault.

The revolting part was the father's behavior to his daughter early on: uninterested, cold, strict and harsh. While the father grows out of this to be engaged and tender, it is dealt with ambiguously. Did he act that way formerly on purpose as something she needed from him? That is implied at times. The priorities in the book were all skewed, here. Elsie promptly obeys his every strict command, reasonable or not. But when asked to play a secular song on Sunday she refuses. This is so exaggerated, that I can easily see this book used to encourage putting up with parental abuse, verbal, emotional or physical. Just so long as you don't have a secular thought on Sunday.

However, there are other admirable aspects of the book, like the way Elsie resists peer pressure to dishonor her father, and how she does bear up under teasing and trials, and how the father becomes more tender to Elsie. But overall it does not paint the picture of piety I'm looking for in my children.

11.08.2009

Today's agenda


*cough cough* hacking my lungs out ... not much voice left. Instead of talking, I'll be doing a bit of this today, but with much better bow position!!

11.07.2009

Our knowledge, at the Lord's Supper

Left on the cutting board, for tomorrow's service:

Our knowledge does not make us worthy to receive the Lord's Supper. God just means for us to believe His Word as we receive. Early on, little children have knowledge that goes like this: “Jesus loves me. Everybody here is getting fed by Jesus. Me, too.” Later, our still-maturing knowledge goes like this: “Jesus loves us. He feeds us. He died to take our sins away.” We go on to learn all kinds of glorious truths, we have moments of conviction or conversion. And such moments enrich the Lord’s Supper, grounding it in the Word. But they are not pre-requisites for the Supper. We are meant to grow up acting out the signs that dramatize the Word; we are not meant to refrain from acting them out until we understand and accept the Word. The refraining can be a hindrance to doing just that.

11.03.2009

Tongues a sign...

Great thought in a sermon I heard the other day.

Tongues were a sign in the NT church for the unbeliever (1 Cor 14:22)... largely the Jewish unbelievers, given that Paul quotes Isa 28:11-12. There in Isaiah, the Jews' unbelief would be confirmed with the sign of hearing foreign tongues: invading Assyrians. The point was that tongues in the NT church were a sign of the coming judgment on Israel in 70AD, as they were a sign to the Jews of Jerusalem's coming destruction by Assyria in Isaiah's day.

It isn't conclusive in excluding the charismatic argument, but one can argue that since the event has taken place, the sign for the event is outdated.

Buh-Bye Socktober

Sock #1 - complete, sock #2 refused to pose for the camera

Socktober is done. My goal of knitting three socks in one month was not met. I did knit 2 socks, one for me (finishing a pair) and one for hubby (starting a pair). My toes will be toasty and his...well, I guess there'll have to be a lot of footsie under the table to keep his toes warm until the 2nd sock is finished!

And now it's November... plain, boring November. Nothing catchy like "Socktober" comes to mind. Any suggestions? After planning last weekend's Reformation party my mind needs a creative boost!

11.02.2009

What's the Sabbath?

Here's some follow-up discussion I'm having with someone about Sunday as Sabbath.
These thoughts are me trying to work out a defined position myself. Feel free correct any mis-steps you see here...

First, I miscommunicated if you think my position is that we no longer have, or observe, the Sabbath.
We do. But it is a different sort of Sabbath, focused on celebrating the resurrection, with the revealed purpose of entering rest in Christ. Less emphasis on (not abolishment of) no work commands. I don't think this changes the Isaiah passage (58:13-14) much at all.

One way to answer your question is with the Heidelberg catechism's Q&A 103: (Heidelberg and many reformers on the European continent didn't say the sabbath was "moved," nor did they say it was "abolished.")

Q. What is God's will for you

in the fourth commandment?

A. First,
that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained,^1
and that, especially on the festive day of rest,
I regularly attend the assembly of God's people^2
to learn what God's Word teaches,^3
to participate in the sacraments,^4
to pray to God publicly,^5
and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.^6

Second,
that every day of my life
I rest from my evil ways,
let the Lord work in me through his Spirit,
and so begin already in this life
the eternal Sabbath.^7

^1 Deut. 6:4-9, 20-25; 1 Cor. 9:13-14; 2 Tim. 2:2; 3:13-17; Tit. 1:5
^2 Deut. 12:5-12; Ps. 40:9-10; 68:26; Acts 2:42-47; Heb. 10:23-25
^3 Rom. 10:14-17; 1 Cor. 14:31-32; 1 Tim. 4:13
^4 1 Cor. 11:23-25
^5 Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:1
^6 Ps. 50:14; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8 & 9
^7 Isa. 66:23; Heb. 4:9-11

There is a spectrum of Sabbath views from the strongly "Sabbatarian" that agrees completely with Westminster, to the view of Calvin, and other views in the middle:
Strong sabbatarian: the Sabbath has moved from Saturday to Sunday. It is a day for no activity but worship, piety, necessity and mercy. No recreation for the self is allowed. Isa 58 forbids it.

Calvin (hoping I'm not mischaracterizing): the Sabbath is abolished as part of the ceremonial law. It is right for the church to all worship on one day, and the NT church chose Sunday, the Lord's Day. It also makes sense to retain the 1 in 7 principle of rest from work, but this is no longer morally binding as it was in the OT.

Middle position (mine, I think): we have a new Sabbath, as we have a new creation order in Christ. Most of the old sabbath definitions still apply, though not as rigidly, as the center is now clear: rest in Christ. The center is no longer refraining from work, but worship (focus on Christ, our rest) and loving the saints. Recreation for self is allowed; refraining from work is still a moral command, but exceptions are allowed, given vocational necessity.