9.29.2012

Jesus' Wife?

I've seen little of the "Jesus' wife" story, but thought this article offers the best evaluation.

9.26.2012

The World's Rejects Eat and Drink

Jesus braced his disiples for rejection by the world. But then, He sent them out into it, knowing they would be rejected. Because that is what Jesus Himself did. We come here to this table as the world's rejects. And that is just fine with us because we are Christ's redeemed. Nobody likes rejection. But it's a little easier to take when we know it is inevitable, and we know we are on the right side. The table draws the line. Nobody should eat and drink who rejects Christ. Everyone who accepts Him, who accepts the rejection of the world with Him, should eat and drink.

4/1/12 - Palm Sunday

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Serve the Suffering Surrenderer


Jesus had a warrant out for his arrest, much of the last week of his earthly ministry. The cowards led by caiaphas eventually use judas to arrest him at night, apart from the crowds who loved him. Peter figures this is the moment, when Jesus will restore the kingdom from these compromisers.

But the real battle happened while Peter was sleeping in Gethsemane, when Jesus overcame the temptation to set aside His Fathers will. Jesus COULD get enough legions to defeat Rome, but how would that accomplish his mission? Kingdom transformation is the big picture goal the gospel, but service and sacrifice, crosses and losses come first. Peter and the people are ready to lay down their lives fighting for Jesus. But once they realize Jesus is going to let Himself be arrested, they flee. 

We would rather fight and die, than serve and sacrifice for a suffering surrenderer.  But this is your life. Most of the time, you are called not to a sensational down in flames sacrifice that wows everyone. You are called to the quiet service that few notice. The service that doesn't feel at all like victory. We die to our desires, daily.

4/1/12 - Palm Sunday

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Jail for a spanking?

So it now appears to be illegal to spank your child in the state of Delaware.

In a law against child abuse (we're all against it, just to be clear), physical injury is defined broadly as pain, and subject to a one year prison sentence.

Law and politics matter.

The cultural press is starting to shift - not just to endorse and mainstream immorality, but to condemn and punish a Christian lifestyle.

9.25.2012

Setting aside covetousness, not desire


Jesus Himself just before His death, did not set aside ALL desire. 

He wrestled to the ground the temptation to take the easy way. And He prayed to His father that His desire was for us to be with Him, with His Father in glory. 

We have a foreshadowing of that here. We commune with Christ. We are with Him. This is what He wanted all along, why He came and taught, suffered and died for us. 

Jesus was perfectly content in fellowship with His Father, but dis-satisfied to leave us outside of that fellowship. He wanted for us what He had. And He has seen the labor of His soul, and been satisfied. He sat down at the right hand of God, His work finished. Let us also be content and at rest in His work done for us.

3/25/12

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Power Should Serve


It happened among Jesus’ closest disciples on His way to Jerusalem to die for them. They argued along the way about who was the greatest. And again here, in Luke 22, at the Last Supper, they are arguing again about who is first.

Jesus reminds us that greatness and power are there to serve others. He has all power to call down angels and blink planets out of existence, and He stoops to wash their feet.

We need to lay down our coveting selfish desires for what we want, and use what God has given us to help others be clean, fed, and holy. Let us confess our sin of coveting influence, popularity, money, and positions of power. 

Remember that these are often secret desires that others don’t see. Ps 90:8 - You have set our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. Heb 4:13 - And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

3/25/12

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9.21.2012

Holiness: Pursue It!

On Christian Reconstruction

Sometimes it's really helpful to read an article about you or your friends written by a neutral observer.

In doing some research I found this article, and thought I would pass it on

9.19.2012

Review: The Unity Factor


The Unity Factor
The Unity Factor by Larry W. Osborne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Pretty decent, practical look at church leadership. Covers conflict, how to work as a team, trust, what NOT to worry about, how to introduce change, etc. Has a fair dose of corporate mentality, but it's not too detrimental.

Beneficial for any church leader facing some conflict. So... any church leader!



View all my reviews

9.18.2012

How to Suffer


1 Peter 2:18-25
"Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:“Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."


When we suffer for doing good, it is very easy to get self-righteous and argumentative. "Can you believe what she did just because I tried to help?" Can you take it patiently, or do we need to fight back? We have an example to follow, and you hold His covenant memorial in Your hands. Jesus had a choice in Gethsemane, to exact blood from Romans and Sadducees, or to pour out His own. He could call down legions of angels to spill blood and save Himself, or He could spill His own blood and save you. Whose blood is this cup about? It is a new covenant in HIS blood. When we face trials and adversity, we have an example to follow. He has shown us the way and won our salvation by His grace. Send and be sent for others to know Christ. Spend and be spent for others to grow in Christ. But first, rest here in God’s grace, that it is Christ’s blood that satisfies the Father and brings you into His favor.


3/18/12

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Extended Preparation


In the season of Lent, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us in His earthly ministry. When He was 12, He already knew that His Father’s house was in Jerusalem, not in Nazareth. Yet He returned with Joseph and Mary and was subject to them. His public ministry begins 18 years later. This is a great lesson of Lent. As Jesus did, we have in our lives long seasons of preparation. Abraham, Noah, Moses, Elijah, all had long periods when God promised and declared things, but they had much to learn and long to wait. Will we be faithful stewards of God’s house while we wait? Will we learn obedience through the things we suffer, as Jesus did? Will we keep His return in mind, remembering for whom we work, why we deny ourselves?

3/18/12

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On Confessing Together

Our order of worship is meant to include all the many facets of our relationship with God. Adoring worship, reading the Bible, praying to God, times of silent meditation. And at this point, repentance and broken-heartedness over our sin. Corporate worship where we all do these things together, needs to be mindful of one another. When we are alone and repenting, we may sob, shout, cry and take a long time crying out to God. In this service, we don’t do the same things, only all in the same room. We can’t call up intense emotions on the spot, and we don’t need to. This doesn’t mean we aren’t turning to God with all our heart, fasting and weeping. It means we can’t all be emotional at the same time together. This has the illusion of looking cold and formal, but what’s really going on is that we are trying to repent and worship together as the church, not just individuals who happen to be in the same room. That said, repentance before God does need to be heart-rending, not outward only. We say words and go through motions of repenting every week, and every week you are here you do this with us. But it is up you to rend your heart and grieve for your sins.

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Commentators

Here is some commentary fun, from studying the Ten Commandments. Each writer has his own style that annoys or endears.
This is meant as light hearted fun, exaggerating their style and/or content for comedic effect. No offense is intended to any of these men, who far surpass me in wisdom.


Charles Hodge - the principle is evident, even from the conscience and natural reason.

Thomas Watson - the commandment has eight parts and six uses...

Rushdoony - this commandment shows the evils of the over-reaching state, and why the government should not be involved in education. A return to Biblical Law is the answer to our problems.

a Brakel - we see this commandment violated in 1 Sam 16:1; 2 Kings 3:5; Ecc 5:3; Deut 25:24, enjoined in Deut 25:24....

Herman Hoeksema - THERE IS NO COMMON GRACE!!!!

Reading notes

The sacraments were given to the Church; they are not for private consumption, administered by anyone. Not just anyone officiates entrance into citizenship in a nation (baptism) or enforces exile from it (excommunication). Jesus gave the keys of His Kingdom to His apostles (Matt 16:19) who passed them on to elders (Titus 1:5). (Pages 177-78).


Abraham received the sign and seal of the covenant of grace: circumcision (Gen 17; Acts 7:8; Rom 4:11). Being uncircumcised was a sign you were a stranger to the covenant of promise (Eph 2:11-12).


Baptism is the circumcision of Christ, or signs and seals it, so that it replaces circumcision as the sign and seal of the covenant of grace (Col 2:11-13).


The Spirit makes baptism effective as a means of grace, as evidenced at Pentecost (Acts 2:33, 38-39).


In Acts, the Spirit was grafting new Gentile branches into the tree of Israel, calling primarily for adult baptisms. But the pattern of giving covenant children the sign of the covenant had not changed. Where is THAT in Scripture? If the credo-baptist points to the circumcision of the heart, then why baptize at all, since it is the heart that matters?

The Second Helvetic Confession

The Second Helvetic Confession (1562) was second because its author, Heinrich Bullinger, leading Swiss reformer after Ulrich Zwingli died, had written another one 25 years earlier. It is Helvetic because that is the Latin word for "Swiss." And it was written at the request of Elector Frederick in Germany, who was in hot water once the Heidelberg Catechism, which he had commissioned, was published there. Lutherans thought it too Reformed, not Lutheran enough, and a heresy trial of Frederick was set. Frederick enlisted Bullinger to write a confession in his defense, and the Second Helvetic resulted. Frederick was exonerated, so it must have succeeded in bridging some Lutheran and Reformed divisions.

U2

Magnificent / Magnificent / I was born / I was born to be with You / In this space and time / After that and ever after I haven’t had a clue /
Only to break rhyme / This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue / Only love, only love can leave such a mark / But only love, only
love can heal such a scar / I was born / I was born to sing for you / I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up / And sing whatever song you
wanted me to / I give you back my voice / From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise… / Only love, only love can leave such a mark
/ But only love, only love can heal such a scar / Justified till we die, you and I will magnify / The Magnificent / Magnificent / Only love, only
love can leave such a mark / But only love, only love unites our hearts / Justified, till we die you and I will magnify / The Magnificent
/ Magnificent / Magnificent

On Job

I just finished reading Job.

Elihu is my favorite character. He is young, sees the folly of his elders, and enters the fray full of words and wind to vent.

Some see Elihu as a misguided fool. I take Elihu to be a wise and positive character, since he is not singled out by God at the end (42:7), and his speech in chapter 37 is almost identical to God's own in chapter 38. Job's other friends assail him and assume he must have sinned. Elihu also challenges Job, but more temperately, by questioning the words Job has spoken in their hearing.

The narrator gives a rare and important interjection in 32:1-5 - an interpretive key to the book.
Many assume that Job must have always spoken rightly throughout the book, since God vindicates him at the end. This ignores 42:6 - Job repents! Job was blameless before, not because he never sinned, but because he repented. Same at the end of the book. We see Job falter under God's heavy hand, but come forth as gold because he repents at the end. Not because he is so wise throughout.

So remember that God in the Lord Christ always offers you a future and a hope. The pathway forward is humility, pursuit of wisdom, and repentance. No matter what stupid thing you've done, God will justify and prosper you in the future (before death, or after), if your heart is ordered rightly before Him.

9.17.2012

Joshua 18-21

Text summary and highlights
Chapter 18
1-2 - tabernacle set up at Shiloh. Seven tribes still to get land.
3-10 - exhortation to survey the land; it is done.
rest of 18 - Benjamin's inheritance

Chatper 19
1-9 - Simeon takes part of Judah's land, since it is more land than they can manage
10-16 - Zebulun
17-23 - Isaachar
24-31 - Asher
32-39 - Naphtali
40-48 - Dan
49-50 - Joshua is neighbors with Caleb in Ephraim
51 - the door of the tabernacle is a civic center, like our courthouses having property deeds.

Chapter 20 - 6 cities of refuge designated, obeying Numbers 35, to keep accused murderers safe until trial. These are all Levite cities (see chpt. 21). The Levites served as judges, as well as teachers of the Law.

Chatper 21 - cities for the Levites
1-42 - 48 cities given to the Levites
43-45 - recap and summary: God kept His promise to give Israel the land

Application
Receive what God offers you: rest and provision in Christ.  Land, a mind, hands, skills, to steward and multiply for Him.


Levites are scattered throughout Israel, not all in one place. We need teaching and justice close by.
Justice must proceed from the law of God. Teachers of law and right should be involved in judging rightly by the law.

Jesus is our city of refuge: accessible protection from the avenger - Heb 6:17-18.  On the other hand, Jesus is a greater refuge. The cities only protected the innocent; Christ justifies the guilty. And He is closer than a city!

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Hard Times


Q: Are all our trials discipline from God? Doesn't Hebrews 12:5-11 teach this?

A? No, all our trials are not corrective discipline. Job is the proof. All trials are from God, and they are all training for us to grow, but they are not all a punitive discipline to correct or punish. We should consider our lives and change and repent always, including in times of trial. Sometimes hard times are a wake up call for us to change. But we don't HAVE TO find what we did wrong to make good use of a difficulty. It is enough to learn something from it, even if that is as little as, "God is in charge, I don't always know what He is doing, it's for my good somehow, and He isn't there to make my life peaceful and painless.."

9.15.2012

Amazed by Grace

Last night the church I serve as pastor threw me a surprise appreciation party, celebrating my six years of labor among and for the saints.

They gave their hearts to us: smiles, presence, and presents: homemade goods; a picture book of Scripture, writings and drawings; and a whole musical recital to boot.

Here were some highlights:
singing And Can It Be all together, acapella.
A Bay Psalter replica (first book printed in the New World)
A prayer of thanksgiving by fellow elder Mark.
Handwritten passage of Mr. Beaver describing Aslan ("He's the King, I tell you.)
A family singing "I'd Rather Have Jesus"
Music students gaining more performance experience!
Sneaky "party fairies" (aka social committee), enjoying planning and pulling one over on their very surprised pastor!

Sara is still trying to figure out where to put everything in the kitchen. We spent an hour late last night looking over each item in the LARGE gift basket. I finally got to the scrapbook/giftbook/photo album this morning - wonderful!

It is a deep and lasting encouragement to me to be deliberately, tangibly, joyfully, and Christ-centrically acknowledged and thanked by the flock for serving them. God's timing amazes me as He gives times of quiet and then activity, criticism and then encouragement. I find Romans 1:11-12 fitting: "For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." While I usually come to a gathering of the church to give spiritual things for her establishment, it hardly occurs to me, or only as an afterthought, that I might find encouragement myself in our common faith and joy together.

Ephesians 3:20-21
"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

9.14.2012

No to NIV

Here's a good article explaining some of the problems with new gender-inclusive translations, which the NIV has now bought, hook line and sinker.I used the NIV for a time in high school and appreciate its simple language at points. I still have old ones and use them occasionally.

But don't buy one now, please.

The English Standard Version or New King James Version are more accurate, without sacrificing clear readability.

Review: Foundlings


Foundlings
Foundlings by Matthew Christian Harding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



The Peleg Chronicles

Matthew Christian Harding can tell a gripping tale. This trilogy imagines life on earth after the flood and before Abraham, when real giants and dragons roamed the earth (see Genesis 6:4; Joshua 13:12; Isaiah 27:1; Job 41). He portrays well the antithesis, the intense spiritual and physical battle between the sons of light and the sons of the serpent. There are evil men, followers of the dragon, who persecute followers of Noah’s God. The latter must encourage each other with God’s Words and fight together to save the princess and survive. Orphans discover their real identity. Dragon priests seek to kill and destroy, and they hold great sway over the king. Graveyards, live burials and human sacrifice are involved, but no gratuitous gruesomeness is depicted. Intense for very young ones, but generally if you can read at this level you can handle it. I wouldn’t recommend reading out loud to your 3-5 year old, but it’s perfect for 9-12 year old boys. Girls, too, but… well, it isn’t Jane Austen. Excellent pacing, plot and character development. He holds forth forgiveness and redemption by God's mercy, even after heinous sins.

Harding is keen to show the power of the Word of God to encourage, and so he liberally suffuses the trilogy with Scripture not actually written until later. A bit strange, but suspension of disbelief (ironically!) goes a long way. This shows well how the godly are to meditate on, find strength in, and have the Word much on our lips in our speech with others. Also, he has a strong polemic against magic. The bad guys use it, try it, and entice the good guys with it, but the sons of light must resist it. This is perfectly appropriate and good in a book reimagining the real world of Genesis 10-11.

Though self-published these books deserve more attention from readers. Word to the wise: get all three, because they are one story together, with cliffhangers at the end of the first two. See for yourself, here – www.MatthewChristianHarding.com



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9.13.2012

Words as Levers for the Me Monster


We will be considering the 9th commandment this morning, which forbids bearing false witness against our neighbor. When Jesus comes to Jerusalem the week of His death, He finds slick debaters who are very good with words, determined to use them against Jesus. They are opposed to Him, for He has convicted them of sin, with true words that went home. They are determined to remove this obstacle to keeping their place and nation. They reply with flattery and word traps, to trip Him into some verbal gaffe and lower Him in the polls with the people. This is at the heart of the ninth commandment: don’t use your words to lower others and advance yourself. Don’t violate and oppose the Truth. Jesus is the truth, so pursue it. Instead of saying whatever it takes for Me, Me, Me, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow the truth.

3/11/12

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What the Church I Pastor is All About


1. We are a Christian church, evangelical in faith, seeking to make and to be disciples of Jesus Christ
a. We believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, revealing our creation, fall, redemption and restoration. (See Chicago Statement)
b. Scripture’s teachings are best summarized in the creeds of the historic Church: the Apostles’ & Nicene Creeds

2. We are a Reformed church, covenantal in theology and practice
a. We interpret the Bible the way the Reformers of the 16th century did, especially as laid out in their confessions and catechisms (Westminster, Heidelberg, etc.). We teach and practice paedo-baptism and paedo–communion.

3. We are a family-affirming church, reinforcing Biblical family authority
            a. We worship together as families, without age-segregated programs or Sunday Schools
            b. We affirm Biblical roles of manhood and womanhood (see Danvers statement)

4. We are a liturgical church, with a participatory worship service and weekly Communion

Joshua 13-17

Text summary and highlights
Chapter 13 - There is land yet to be conquered (!)! Divide it to the tribes (7). Eastern tribes have their land (8-33). Levites get no land inheritance (14, 33)

Chapter 14 - There are still 12 tribes: Levi dropped, but Joseph becomes two (1-5). Caleb asks for the Anakim-infested mountain of Hebron (6-15)

Chapter 15 - Judah receives their inheritance first, as the new leader of Israel. They led the march in the desert (Numbers 2:3), and Jacob blessed them over their older brothers (Genesis 49:3-10). Caleb takes the land he was given (13-19).

Chapters 16-17 - Ephraim and Manasseh receive their inheritance. In contrast to Caleb, they complain about their land, and don't have the will to drive out the inhabitants (17:13-18).

Application
1. Levites who get no land are like ministers fully supported by the church today. Both are supported by tithes to teach the word to the people (Malachi 2:7).

2. Specific and obscure borders and cities. Each of us has a different life situation, little known to others, that God has given us. These are the resources and circumstances we are to steward profitably for His Kingdom.

3. God keeps His promises in His Word. Joshua and Israel consider what happened at the end of the Pentateuch to be God's Words and deeds.
a. The daughters of Zelophehad requested an inheritance with their brothers, Moses granted the request, and Joshua gave them the land (17:3). 
b. Caleb argued for taking the Anakim 45 years ago (Numbers 13:21-22, 30), and now asks for the same thing, still believing God will give it to him, though he is now 85 years old! (14:7-14)
c. Jacob foretold Judah's rise to prominence in Genesis 49:8-10, and it comes to pass.

4. Incomplete Victory
At the end of each tribe being given land, often people or cities NOT taken are listed. The promise is not fully realized. This was partly not their fault: they COULD not drive them out. (See Exodus 23:28-30 for why.) And it partly WAS their fault: once they were able to, they did not and would not (Joshua 17:13). We must possess our promised possessions, and not let them lie dormant out of laziness or compromise with sin. What do we have in Christ? The Spirit and all His gifts, fellow believers, assurance, joy, etc. Do not neglect the gifts within you!

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9.11.2012

It's Not About Values

Al Mohler:

"Hell will be filled with people who were avidly committed to Christian values. Christian values cannot save anyone and never will. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a Christian value, and a comfortability with Christian values can blind sinners to their need for the gospel....

"Human beings are natural-born moralists, and moralism is the most potent of all the false gospels. The language of “values” is the language of moralism and cultural Protestantism."

9.06.2012

On America

This paragraph by Peter Leithart sums up what I've tried to say before about the potential idol many conservative Christians make of America.



Peter Leithart: America is exceptional in all sorts of ways:
  • It had a unique founding;
  • it is one of the most deeply Christian nations that has ever existed;
  • it is of course fabulously wealthy and powerful;
  • its political and economic system have enabled human creativity and ingenuity to be unleashed as never before in human history.
  • I am grateful for America’s tradition of hospitality to aliens from all over the world, and our real assistance to the poor and oppressed.
What I criticize in the book is “Americanism,” which is, as David Gelernter has said, one of the world’s great biblical religions.  Americanism rarely exists in a pure form; most American Christians are Christians and Americanists at the same time.
Americanism has a way of reading the Bible (with America sometimes playing a prominent role in the biblical story as the “new Israel”), an eschatology (America is the “new order of the ages” and the “last best hope of mankind”), a doctrine of political salvation (everyone becomes like us, and all will be well), and, since the civil war, a view of sacrifice (American soldiers give their lives, and take the lives of enemies, to make the world peaceful and free).
For many American Christians, American exceptionalism involves some degree of adherence to Americanism.  Americanism is a heresy; in certain respects it is simply idolatrous.  Jesus, not James Madison, brought in the “new order of the ages.”
The practical effect of Americanism is that it blinds Christians to the real evils that America has perpetrated and also obscures the central importance of the church as God’s empire on earth.  Americanism encourages Christians to support the American cause no matter what, because the future of the world depends on America.  Even when we’re bombing civilians or sending billions of dollars in military aid to Muslim dictators, Christians still wave the flag and sing America’s praises.  And for some Christians, criticism of America is almost tantamount to apostasy.

Compelling exposure of counterfeits

This is a different medium to convey the Gospel.
The music is a little over the top, but the form of the words fascinated me throughout. Not quite rap, but has meter and rhyme throughout.
Not for younger ones.
It starts a little slow, give it a chance.

The ideas come from Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods, and it's excellent.

9.04.2012

Political polling today?

Where is the original text of the Bible?

While doing some study for a talk on Scripture, I found this excellent survey of the issue of textual criticism. Not detailed or dense, but clear, short and hitting all the important points.

I don't know the author or the site, and he doesn't cover everything, but the whole article was great.

Check it out.