11.28.2012

Our Sin Offering

Gospel confession in worship

There is a pattern of sacrifice in OT: first sin, whole ascension, and peace offerings. We do not sacrifice animals anymore, but the pattern still holds. The sin sacrifice, where the focus is on the blood poured out, and the body is brought outside the camp. This focuses on the death of Christ for our sin. So we confess our sin and appeal to the cross. The blood makes atonement, and this part of the service is all about atonement. This keeps the service gospel centered, even if the sermon doesn’t mention the atonement of Christ. There must be death for our sin, so Christ’s blood is displayed. He is the sacrificial lamb. We have died with Him, buried with Him in baptism Rom 6 says. So we come to God under the covering and protection of Christ’s blood.

7/22/12

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11.27.2012

Love in speech

This is good counsel on speaking truth in love from 1 Cor 13, from Virgil Hurt. 

http://vhurt.blogspot.com/2012/11/loving-saints.html

Confessing our sins in church


Next is our call to confession -
There is a verse in Psalm 66:18 that I often use in our prayer of confession: “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.” We need to deal with our sin daily. Our tendency is to avoid it, ignore it, minimize it, shift the blame for it, cherish it in a corner of our hearts instead of renounce it and let Christ kill it. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral made a conscious decision to never mention sin when he led worship. That is the opposite of what we need to do. Parents need to lead their children to confess their sins. Parents and adults need to be led to confess their sins themselves often. This confession in the worship service is training for all of us, when we see sin, or someone else points it out. Will we get all huffy and stalk off to find new friends, a different church, that won’t meddle in our lives? Or will we let God do His sanctifying work through His people and through the Church?

7/22/12

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Big enough for Samaritans like you and me


Ezekiel 47:1-12
Sermon text - Acts 8 - on Samaritans coming to the Lord

This table is a reminder of Ezekiel’s river. This table is never too small. It grows to fit whoever comes in faith. It is big enough even for Samaritans. There is more grace in Jesus than there is sin in you. Let Him put out the raging fire of sin in your heart with his living water. Don’t make this table so small that only you and your kind fit around it. All Christ’s people are welcome. Don’t make this table so small that you can’t come, just because you have failed in the fight against sin. Come and profess faith in Christ, tell the world that You trust Him for grace, for strength, for help, for joy, for truth, for deliverance from temptation. Believe that He is big enough to handle your issues.

7/22/12

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Walk the light path


Prov 4:14-19
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
And do not walk in the way of evil.
15 Avoid it, do not travel on it;
Turn away from it and pass on.
16 For they do not sleep unless they have done evil;
And their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall.
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness,
And drink the wine of violence.
18 But the path of the just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.
19 The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know what makes them stumble.

These proverbs remind us that the path of life splits into two ways, usually many times a day. You can go the way of wicked or the way of the wise. Pray you are not led into temptation. Do not go that way, with your hands, your heart, or your mind. One of the devil’s schemes is to convince you that you will give in to temptation eventually, so you might as well now. Verse 16 says, they can’t sleep until they do evil. But that doesn’t describe the just. They walk a different path. Pursuing God, grace and gratitude leads to sleeping with a good conscience. Avoid the bread and wine of wicked violence. But eat the bread and wine on this [Lord's] table. There is light on the path of the just, because Jesus is the light of the world. Walk in the light.

7/22/12

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Read a Book!


11.20.2012

Review: A Navpress Bible Study on the Book of Joshua


A Navpress Bible Study on the Book of Joshua
A Navpress Bible Study on the Book of Joshua by The Navigators

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



We used this as our small group material for the last few months at church.

As with most Navigators studies, its strength is basic comprehension and personal application. Its weakness is not enough connection to the bigger story of Scripture and the person of Christ. It was hard to miss this deficiency while reading Schaeffer's commentary at the same time!

Not sure if I'd recommend this series of study books too excitedly. It's decent, but needs the Schaeffer boost of material to avoid shallow-ness. The side bar discussion questions were usually the best.



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Review: Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History


Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History
Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History by Francis A. Schaeffer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Schaeffer does not disappoint.

Better known for his apologetic works like The God Who is There, in this work the author traces the story of redemption in the book Joshua, connecting it to the big themes of Scripture. It is a wonderful example of how Scripture should be read. Not as an academic book to write a paper about, verse by verse. Not as a source of mere uplift and inspiration. But as one part of a bigger story, one chapter of a larger book, where we see both God's sovereign, covenant grace and our responsibilities to believe, obey and serve the Lord.

Get it and read it.



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Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation


George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation 
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. 

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

11.16.2012

Convicted and Comforted


Romans 8 and John 8 are connected. Romans says, No condemnation to fulfill righteousness. John says, I do not condemn you. Sin no more.
                                                     
Jesus, with His words in John 8, convicts the accusers in their conscience. And He comforts the condemned woman. This Lord’s Supper also brings conviction and comfort. Our forefathers in the Reformed faith have pounded away at conviction until this sacrament feels more like a funeral than a feast. And so we tend to over-react a bit and see it only as a comforting feast. But some of us need conviction. We are going easy on sin in our life. We are giving ourselves a pass while we condemn others. This cup you hold should bring you up short. You cannot take this cup and cling to your idols and sinful desires. Then again, some of us need comfort. Satan the accuser has worked us over, and even though we trust Christ, we are afraid we are not good enough to pass God’s moral test. Of course you can’t. Cling to Christ. Do not despair before God in your sin. Renounce it now, and turn to the pleasures found at His right hand, where Jesus Christ sits. See God’s favor, His kindness and joy in this cup you hold. Jesus does not condemn His people. He convicts. He comforts.

7/1/12 

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Walk the Line


Proverbs 4:10-13
"    Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, 
          And the years of your life will be many. 
    11      I have taught you in the way of wisdom; 
          I have led you in right paths. 
    12      When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, 
          And when you run, you will not stumble. 
    13      Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; 
          Keep her, for she is your life."


Several of us have been or will be on the road. Solomon speaks of a road in these verses, calling his son to walk in the way, the road, of wisdom. We need drivers training before we get behind the wheel, to learn the rules of the road. Children sit in the back seat observing for many years. So verse 11 says, “I have taught you… I have led you.” But obedience requires action. We don’t just watch, read, and think. Solomon assumes action in verse 12: “When you walk… when you run.” Obedience takes motion, movement. The heart moves in faith toward God the Father, and then the body moves in obedience toward our neighbor in love.

7/1/12

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Opening with Prayer


Today a brief look at the opening prayer in the worship service, sometimes called the invocation. This is also a response to God’s Call to worship Him. We can pray before or after we sing, it doesn’t matter much. The point is to exalt and magnify God with our words, and ask Him to be present for our blessing as we worship Him. If you know the ACTS acronym for worship – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, you’ll notice that the worship service follows this pattern. We adore God in response to His call to worship Him. We confess to Him. In the consecration section we offer prayers of thanksgiving and petition.
            Some are bothered by asking God to be present, invoking His presence, when He is already everywhere. This might be a problem if we didn’t see so often in Scripture God’s promise to bless or be with or to save someone, and then they turn around and ask for that very thing. Abraham believes God and then asks how he will know for sure, Gen 15:6-8. God promises Moses He will go with Israel in the desert, and Moses then asks that God go with Israel in the desert. God promises David to build him a house, and David asks God to do what He promised. God speaks words of greeting and blessing to us in the call to worship and greeting, and we petition Him to be with us and to bless us.

Next week, the confession of sin

Let us ascend with the saints to draw near and worship the risen Lord, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

7/1/12

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With Hands over Their Ears

"The great problem with discontented people (and that means discontented husbands and wives) is that they are the most unteachable people on earth" (For a Glory and a Covering, p. xii).

Douglas Wilson

11.14.2012

Conviction and Comfort

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City

Thoroughly enjoying this, so far!

"The power of the gospel comes in two movements. It first says, 'I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe,' but then quickly follows with, 'I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope.' " (48)

"Preach the gospel as a third way to approach God, distinct from both irreligion [relativism] and religion [moralism].... Many genuine Christians are elder-brotherish - angry, mechanical, superior, insecure - and making this distinction may be the only way to reach them... most post-modern people have been raised in or near churches that are heavily 'religious.' They have observed how religious people tend to bolster their own sense of worth by convincing themselves they are better than other people, which leads them to exclude and condemn others. Most contemporary nonbelievers have rejected these poisonous fruits of religion [moralism] but when they did so, they thought they had rejected Christianity. If they hear you calling them to follow Christ... they will automatically believe you are calling them into the 'elder brother,' moralistic, religious approach to God. Unless you are constantly and clearly showing them that they have misunderstood the gospel and that you are talking about something else besides religion, they won't be listening for the true gospel."

Review: The Forgotten Heavens: Six Essays on Cosmology


The Forgotten Heavens: Six Essays on Cosmology
The Forgotten Heavens: Six Essays on Cosmology by Douglas Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



An intriguing book.
A mixture of insightful and strained interpretation of Scripture.

Strengths
- lots of Biblical texts cited
- main thesis is sound: angels and spirits are real and our modernism leads us to distort the text, ruling out the possibility of actual activity and intervention on their part in our world and lives.

Weaknesses
- the essays seemed scattered and not very coherent. Maybe because of the partial and fleeting knowledge we are given.
- there is some reliance on extra-Biblical sources for context. I can tolerate that as long as there isn't...
- speculation beyond Scripture. It isn't too heavy or frequent, but it's there at a couple points.

1. Doug Wilson looks at stars (as beings?), Hades, Sheol, and Hell, and how the last 3 relate, especially to Jesus' time between death and resurrection.

2. Cherubim and Seraphim, and beasts around them

3. gods and lords ruling the nations (Deut 32:8; Ps 82; 1 Cor 8:5-6; Dan 10; Eph 6:12). Some of them as idols found in the Bible (Baal, Molech, etc.)

4. Divination and witchcraft. Demons worked real wonders to mislead many. Oracles, the witch of Endor, the girl in Acts 16, etc.

5. Angels - Bible uses the word for human messengers and appearances of God Himself, but there are also real angels with some hierarchy and responsibilities (Ps 91:11; Matt 18:10; Luke 2: 2 Sam 24). They help us in spiritual warfare (Dan 10:20-23). This was one of the more helpful, clear and unspeculative essays.

6. Satyrs in Isa 13:21; 34:13-14; Lev 17:7; 2 Chr 11:15; 2 Kings 23:8. Translation is the obstacle, here, with most translations going with a known animal instead of "satyr." They are demons depicted as part man/boy part goat legs (Mr. Tumnus?!) Lilith was a female night demon of Babylon. Isaiah is prophesying against Babylon: she will rest, not wreak havoc. Also a good treatment of those with epilepsy, or "moonstruck" in Matt 4:24; 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-42.

A good book if you're wondering about these Scriptures specifically. If you're interested in the worldview more abstractly I'd recommend CS Lewis' "The Discarded Image."



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The Stability of Our Time


Isaiah 33:5-7

      The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; 
      he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, 
            6       and He will be the stability of your times, 
      abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; 
      the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure. 


      Behold, their heroes cry in the streets; 
      the envoys of peace weep bitterly. 
            8       The highways lie waste; 
      the traveler ceases. 
                  Covenants are broken; 
      cities are despised; 
      there is no regard for man.

You Have a Refuge


Hebrews 9:1a, 9-14

The tabernacle of Moses was given us as a symbol of what Christ would do: cleansing not only bodies but hearts, minds and consciences. We set up tents to shelter us from the weather. We have houses. We go camping. We seek refuge not only from the cold, but from God’s wrath against our guilt and sin. God Himself has provided a shelter. He gave promises and a sacrifice to Abraham. He gave a tabernacle to Israel for a glory and a covering. He gave Boaz to Ruth for a kinsman-redeemer. He gave us Jesus Christ for an atoning redeemer, to fulfill all His other gifts. Solomon sang of Christ’s love for us: “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” You are now in His banqueting house. Rejoice in His grace, His favor, His love, the banner He has raised over You.

6/24/12

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On Church Music


We’ve covered through the greeting so far, so we are up to the opening hymn or Psalm. Again, what’s happening in each section of worship, is God doing something, and we are responding with singing or prayer or reading. Singing is a response to God’s activity in our hearts. We sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, as Col 3:16 says. In each service we sing about half Psalms, half hymns and 1-2 other songs. Many churches today bring into their worship music the Christian music entertainment industry. The idea is that we should sing in church what is on the radio now. We take a different view, that we should sift the best music from all of church history and use that. This is what we do with our doctrine, too. We don’t mean to exclude the contemporary, it just hasn’t had the perspective of years to objectively evaluate it. As modern people, we have a hard time with this. We want the new, the emotional, the authentic, especially when we are responding to God in praise and worship. Using old songs seems so artificial – this isn’t me singing – why can’t I be me? The choice here is not between faking it with old music and being real with modern music. The choice is letting modern music shape us, or letting the best of the church’s musical history shape us. We need the humility to let our forefathers shape our praise. And the church we belong to shapes our praise, too. When we sing, we are not just individuals who happen to be in the same room. The music is chosen for us and we sing it together.

Next week, the opening prayer

6/24/12

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Chase Her!


Proverbs 4:5-9
    Get wisdom! Get understanding! 
          Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. 
    6      Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; 
          Love her, and she will keep you. 
    7      Wisdom is the principal thing; 
          Therefore get wisdom. 
          And in all your getting, get understanding. 
    8      Exalt her, and she will promote you; 
          She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. 
    9      She will place on your head an ornament of grace; 
          A crown of glory she will deliver to you.” 


The Christian’s call is not simply to avoid doing bad things. We are called more importantly to pursue good things. It is more like loving your wife, than crossing a field trying to avoid land mines. We are called to more than simply survive through the minefield. We are to pursue wisdom, cherish sweet time with the Savior, to love God and our neighbor. Of course, loving wisdom will mean avoiding bad behavior. But is your heart thrilled with lady wisdom, with the excellencies of your heavenly Father, with the riches of grace in His Son, and with the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart and life?

6/24/12

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Culture of Grace

Good words by Ray Ortlund here:

"The doctrines of grace create a culture of grace, a social environment of acceptance and hope and freedom and joy....
"If we are ungracious in our relationships and ethos and demeanor and vibe, then we are contradicting the very grace we preach and disempowering our churches in the eyes of the watching world."

11.13.2012

Q&A on Divorce


Question: is it okay to attend the wedding of divorced people?

It depends on the situation, especially the reason for the divorces, and how the divorcees view those divorces now.

If both have divorced illegitimately, are still unrepentant, and they can't imagine why you wouldn't come, I would not go.
If the divorces were illegit, but those about to remarry are repentant, and they have tried to reconcile with their spouses, and they are asking you humbly to come, aware of the difficulty, I would probably go.
If the divorces were legit (the other partner was mainly at fault and left), I would go.

This raises the specter of "when is divorce 
legitimate?" There IS such an animal, but that's for another time. Consider 1 Cor 7:15 and Matt 5:32 for starters.

Lots more could be said, and the circumstance would need to be considered in its details.

Thanksgiving


“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13

It is November, the election is past and the holidays are upon us. While the stores jump from Halloween candy to Santa Claus, let us observe the civil but spiritually edifying holiday of Thanksgiving with as much fervor as we look forward to Christmas. As I led our church in learning and singing "Come, Ye Thankful People Come" yesterday, I pointed out that the church year comes to a close with this season. This hymn and our Lord Himself relates the harvest and ingathering to the close of the age (Matt 13:39), so this is more than a civil holiday. It is a time to reflect on the winnowing that occurs between the wheat and chaff at Christ's return to judge the living and the dead. And before that time, let us consider our role as "laborers for the harvest" (John 4:35; Luke 10:2).

Some ideas for your celebrations:
-          Read a Thanksgiving proclamation from the past: the Pilgrims', Washington’s, etc.
-          Weight your prayers more heavily toward thanksgiving than toward requests this month. I find myself often tempted to offer a few general items of thanksgiving before getting on to a long list of petitions. Do this especially when you pray with others. One advantage of prayer with others is that we learn how others relate to God, we notice what others choose to spend their words and time talking to God about.
-           Read a psalm celebrating Christ's judgment like 96 or 98 and meditate on this. While the end of our age may not be near, I'm an old school Puritan of J.C. Ryle's stripe: it is spiritually healthy for us to consider the end of our lives (Ecc 7:2; Heb 9:27). The two themes of thanksgiving and coming judgment are also combined in Luke 17.

More important than a special observation for a holiday is our attitude of gratitude that should permeate our spirit at all times. Show forth a content and grateful spirit not only in your words and actions but also by your body language and your spirit of joy and gratitude - your evident contentment in Christ. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Pretty direct, isn’t it? Is anything more difficult, seeing all that could be better in your family, or in your church? Is anything more difficult after this election?

Well, yes, actually. Paul had plenty worse things to contend with (Acts 19:28-30) and yet learned to be content (Phil 4:11-13). He commends and thanks God for troublesome churches that burden him. The Psalms also call us to Thanksgiving (see especially 75, 92, 105, 107, 118, 136). So let us return thanks to God at all times, and especially in this season.

11.08.2012

Speak up!

Here are good thoughts from Toby Sumpter.
Careful. They aren't for the faint of heart, or your young children...

Here's a sample:
"the Republican Party represents the American Church quite well. It’s full of smarmy, luke warm, tentative, flip-flopping, spineless do-gooders. Mitt got the nomination because he represented us well, as embarrassing as it is."

Hard words, having taken one on the chin in the culture war.

But he's not just cursing the darkness. Go see...

Let's get to work


There is a lot of anger and bitterness out there over the election. It's more depressing than the prospect of 4 more years of Obama. Christians are looking for someone to blame: how could we vote Obama in, again? Who did this to us, we ask with indignation?

First of all, stop blaming each other.
I do not blame Ron Paul, Virgil Goode or write-in voters for losing this election, and I hope they do not blame Romney voters, either. This is the classic blunder of turning on each other when we have a bigger enemy and mission before us, the success of which rides on our working together. On that mission, read on.

Second, we have to work on our hope.
I’ll let Robert E. Lee do the talking, since my children are studying him right now in history:
“The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”  History is on our side. Jesus shall reign wherever the sun shines, His kingdom spread from shore to shore. Yes, it is disheartening to see a society believe and live apart from and against God. Paul saw that in Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, but it didn't stop him from speaking and persuading men.

Third, we have to work on our maturity
Fringe candidates with the right positions tend to snipe and harp in offensive ways, or hold positions that alienate a large majority. Mainstream candidates are just blah. They won’t say anything, to avoid offense. Romney lost because of this; he did not inspire turnout. He got 2 million LESS votes than McCain in 2008, and Obama got 10 million less votes in 2012 than he did in 2008. The whole country was unimpressed with the whole slate this go ‘round. But particularly, the Republicans had no good candidate to throw against an easy target. That candidate must have the maturity and gravitas to avoid making statements that alienate a majority of voters, and he must have the clearly communicated vision to grab the country’s heart. The church has yet to learn how to engage the culture like this, so how can we expect a political party to do it?  Paul did this in Ephesus for two years, “so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:10).

Fourth, we have to work on our message
David Bahnsen helps us politically: “A defense of free markets and individual responsibility must be wholly rooted in what it means for the masses, and particularly the poor. The ideas of the limited government conservatives are right; the messaging is not. This is self-induced. Fix it, or be a permanent minority.” In others words, we didn’t have a winsome communicator of ideas for a candidate, and we need one or we won’t win.

Culturally, we are losing ground. Same sex marriage proposals advanced in states. Abortion was off the table as a national topic. There is a natural window of openness to talk about political and cultural things with unbelieving coworkers or neighbors right after an election. Do you know what to say? How to persuade people abortion is wrong? Have we been preaching to the choir for so long that we have forgotten how to speak to the man on the street?

Religiously: here is a great 5-minute video presentation of the Gospel. I would encourage you to have a conversation with one person this week that leads to giving them this.

We have our work cut out for us, and the labor is not in vain. Rather, we were made to do it (Eph 2:10).

"For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:9-14

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11.07.2012

Mothers and Daughters are Busy!

From "What Daughters Need" by Nancy Wilson

"Mothers should be equipping their daughters to be proficient, skillful, capable, and trained to run a home on all cylinders. This includes what we call crafting (knitting, sewing, weaving, and a hundred other things) as well as gardening, cooking, decorating, organizing, bookkeeping, shopping, gift-giving, writing, and teaching."

"Moms can be so busy with the little ones that the older ones have to fend for themselves. But daughters need godly oversight. They need Mom to wash their hair and teach them how to fix it. They need mothers to dress them and care for them and comfort them. When daughters are ignored or left to do it themselves, they become unhappy with who they are. They lose their sense of feminine identity. They drift."

Credenda/Agenda, Summer/Fall 2012, pg 24.

And What is Our Center?

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City
I started this one recently, and it's pretty good.

"Francis Schaeffer argued rightly that Christians' relationships with each other constitute the criterion the world uses to judge whether their message is truthful - so Christian community is the 'final apologetic.'" (31)

"It is not the quality of the faith itself that saves us; it is what Jesus has done for us. It is easy to assume that being 'saved by faith' means that God will now love us because of the depth of our repentance and faith.... It is not the amount of our faith but the object of our faith that saves us." (36)

Quick post-election thoughts

Brian Nolder
The kingdom of God is much bigger than America–indeed, that most Christians in the world today have dark skin, not light; most do not necessarily speak English–and that the kingdom of God does not, in the final analysis, depend on America.

David Field:
Evangelical defeatism is a failure of historical perspective. After all, the statistics are out there....

Russell Moore:
So let’s pray for President Obama. Let’s not give ourselves to terms of disrespect, or every crazy conspiracy theory that floats across the Internet.

Doug Wilson:
Jesus is still Lord, and the truth is still the truth. A corollary of this is that math is still math, and blind folly is still blind folly. And salvation from blind folly is still true salvation. The gospel is still the gospel, and it is still powerful to save. And nothing is more evident than that it is gospel that we need.



I would add to all this that God does not need my right vote, or the right candidate elected, to see His Son satisfied in His labors for His people and His kingdom. He does right and well for us against, or regardless of, our efforts. On the other hand, it is important for us to get back to work, for our labor is not in vain (1 Cor 15:58). Sometimes we must believe this against the evidence otherwise...

11.06.2012

Pray and work: Vote

Joel Beeke closes the election season with a beautiful prayer and final thoughts, which closely reflect my own.

And this was intriguing. Seems to be after an NPR interview. Romney is mad at the interviewer for spending so much time on Mormonism. They get into a discussion of Christ's second coming, abortion, and more. I don't know when this happened.

11.05.2012

Election: Article, Video, and more thoughts

Since writing on the election a few days ago, I discovered this article by Kevin DeYoung on
What Am I Doing When I Vote?

It's a good read, getting at the heart of the abstract disagreement between third party-ers and Romney supporters.

Last minute update: I also just saw this article by Joel Beeke - hadn't seen it before posting my thoughts, but we say much the same thing.

A couple thoughts:
Viability is a factor that must be weighed along with alternatives offered. In a state where Romney is a shoe-in or guaranteed to lose, I'd be very likely to vote Constitution party. In that case, my vote does something positive, without damaging the leading candidate's chance of winning. Regardless of the good intention, a third party vote's greatest effect is keeping a vote from the only guy who can beat Obama.

Measuring viability by statistics and polls is a sound policy. Polls can be off, but when it's 50-48-2, it's Quixotic to truly believe the guy getting 2 could win. Even given a miraculous revival begun by God yesterday, the 2% guy isn't winning. God does not exercise His sovereignty in this way. I admit that He HAS in some Biblical stories (2 Kings 6-7 comes to mind). But there He gives a promise of the coming miracle, and we must believe His promise against the perceived odds. We have no such promise and so no obligation to believe and vote third party. Polls today show a virtual tie in Virginia and nationally Romney has a tiny lead. This is one of those "every vote counts" races, as far as we can see ahead.

Since I'm already being controversial, try this thought experiment. Say Obama is one candidate, with his policies as they are, and the other candidate's policies involve China's one-child policy, forced sterilization and abortion for violators, open persecution of Christians, and government takeover of the oil industry. Obama opposes the first 3 of these 4 outright. Would you vote for Obama if there were no third party candidate on the ballot, if it was a 50-50 race in the polls? Can we vote against our beliefs to avoid downright catastrophe? I give this example to show that I understand the slippery slope argument. My third party friends pity me for being such a compromiser. Yes, I know we are being conditioned to tolerate greater and greater evil over time in an eroding culture. That does not force me to vote only for a Christian or constitutional candidate, if there is one. Involvement with co-belligerent allies is often more effective in cultural impact than casting a vote that reflects all my convictions.

This relates to the Hebrew midwives, or to hiding Jews from Nazis, in this way: the above board, "do the right thing in front of everyone" path, is not always the best or most godly option, especially in an unChristian culture. This point is often lost on Christian Reconstructionists, who are focused on what an ideal Christian state and culture should look like, and who may not be thinking practically about how to live and engage in THIS culture. "I must not lie to a Nazi or to Pharaoh, or the Jericho police (Rahab) regardless of the consequences" is analogous to, "I must not vote for a candidate who does not reflect my views regardless of the consequences." It is a stark contrast between doing what you can to save life and advance the good out there, versus making sure that what you yourself do is not wrong, regardless what ends up happening beyond you. Do we vote for a guy who has a chance of moving us toward more abortion restrictions, or against him because he favors some exceptions allowing abortion? An interesting clash of priorities.

This discussion also reflects a disagreement in assessing the adequacy of Romney's policies. One side sees him as little different than Obama, a virtual Pharaoh who needs to let the American people go. The other side sees him as a stark contrast of fiscal sanity to Obama, who will at least tap on our budgetary brakes.

I forgot last time to share this video with you, on the Virginian situation with Virgil Goode likely to tip VA to Obama. 6:30-9:05 is the relevant section.

Finally, my motivation for writing all this comes down to one thing:
Christian Romney voters should not feel guilty about voting for him, even though he is very flawed.

But... Romney is our best viable choice? This should be a wake up call to how our culture is sliding away from its Christian moorings. The church is decreasingly salt and light in our nation - woe upon us!

Don't take hostages

I often listen to a sermon or two on Monday morning while I'm cleaning up the desk to get ready for the new work week.

This one by Doug Wilson on the Wheat and Tares was REALLY good.

The clips at the link on hostages, "Do nothing," and ecclesiastical ethnic cleansing were especially good.

11.02.2012

Psalm 148:7, 10

Here are some amazing pictures of God's creatures that are too small for the naked eye to see.

Greet One Another


We’ve covered through the opening sentences, so we are up to the greeting. Instead of simply saying good morning, the greeting in the worship service is a declaration of intent to bless, by God, and we accept that intent and respond to it. We often use the beginning of a NT Letter, where greetings to the church abound. The greeting is also a greeting between worship leader and congregation. The leader intends to lead you in worship, in the presence and blessing of the Lord. The people accept this intent and this person to do it. Greetings like this aren’t just for worship. Boaz and many others greet people in the Lord at work or in letters. To name the Lord in greeting someone is an easy way to define your relationship with them by God’s presence.

6/10/12

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Serving up Jesus


Sermon on Acts 6:1-7

Our Lord Jesus Christ came to serve. He had a ministry. He was a deacon. He gives us daily bread and does not neglect us. But there is one big difference. Ministers serve what is not their own. Jesus Christ is the source. He gives Himself. Do not think you are getting anything else at this meal. You are not getting a warm fuzzy feeling of communion. You are not getting a stoic feeling of conviction. You are not getting ideas, doctrine and theology in picture form. You are not getting a snack. You are not getting a reminder of Jesus. You are getting Jesus. Not physically his body, but by the Spirit the real Jesus is communicated to us in this bread and wine, as we take it in faith. Christ’s ministers are right now giving you what is way beyond their power to give. Feed upon Jesus Christ in your soul, trust Him with your life.

6/10/12

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Fathers Who Teach


Proverbs 4:3-4
    When I was my father’s son, 
          Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, 
    4      He also taught me, and said to me: 
          “Let your heart retain my words; 
          Keep my commands, and live. 


Faithful fathers teach. Solomon thinks out loud to his son, back to the time when King David taught him. He remembers that David did a good thing. He taught him, and pleaded with him from the heart to follow his godly example.

This convicts us in several ways. One trap home schoolers fall into is letting mom do all the educating, and thus all the discipleship. Fathers consider it the feminine realm and don’t touch it, out of simple neglect or some foolish machismo that doesn’t want to get involved in women’s work. This is a grave sin of omission men need to confess, and then start engaging with our children on a heart level.

That’s the second conviction. We are shepherding hearts, not training pets, building projects, or scheduling events. To shepherd a child requires honesty, respect, sincerity, kindness, patience, forgiveness – toward your children. It is easy to demand these things of your children, but harder to demonstrate them first. We are to exhort and command our children to follow God’s ways. And we must tell them, like Paul told the Corinthians, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” This is one of the most convicting things you can say to anyone. And it is essential to parents teaching their children successfully.

This reminds us to confess our sins...

6/10/12

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11.01.2012

Review: Parenting by God's Promises: How to Raise Children in the Covenant of Grace


Parenting by God's Promises: How to Raise Children in the Covenant of Grace
Parenting by God's Promises: How to Raise Children in the Covenant of Grace by Joel R. Beeke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



I seldom give five stars here. Except for Calvin, Luther.

That's the caliber of this book. It is on par or better than the other two best parenting books I recommend: Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp, and Standing on the Promises by Doug Wilson.

Beyond a couple quibbles about using KJV, and overusing "must," "should," and ought," this is an outstanding book on parenting.

It is content-rich without being overwhelming.
It is Biblically balanced in resting parenting upon the covenant of grace, and calling out comprehensively our duties in that covenant. Chapter 1 starts strong with application to parenting from Genesis 15, of all places.
Chapter 2 may daunt some readers, with its theological discussion of the covenant, but it's a very important one, and he nails it without getting caught up in contemporary controversy about it.

After this covenantal foundation is laid, Beeke considers parents as prophets (teaching and training), priests (intercession and sympathy) and kings (discipline), then a few practical chapters on training children in piety, listening, speaking and siblings. Last comes a section for teens, and also preparing children for marriage, and parenting adult children and relating to grandchildren.

There is often an optical illusion in parenting books. One sixth of this book addresses the covenant of gospel grace. The rest is our responsibilities as parents. Some assume that that quantity alone makes the book moralistic, but they are sadly mistaken. The exhortation to what we are to do covers a lot of ground, illustrates often, and is soaked with grace and sympathy.

Here are a couple samples, which Beeke goes on to apply to parenting children.

"The Puritans believed a husband and wife had equal authority in the eyes of their children, though a wife was expected to practice biblical submission to her husband (Eph. 5:22; Col 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1-6). They had an orderly protocol for making decisions. If a husband and wife disagreed on a matter, they would talk over the issue until they came to a mutually acceptable solution. In the rare case when agreement could not be reached, it was the wife's duty to submit to her husband's authority in the matter. Of course, at times a Puritan husband might defer to his wife's opinion, especially if he was persuaded by her reasoning or if she felt more strongly about a particular matter than he did... In other words, the fact that the Puritans advocated strong male leadership did not mean a Puritan husband could simply have it his way. A wise husband, out of respect for his wife's intelligence, good sense, and practical experience, frequently deferred to her. Husbands and wives worked together as a team - as they should today." (171-2)

"One of the biggest obstacles to effective listening is self-absorbed pride. Instead of tuning our ears to what others are telling us, we tend to think ahead to our responses. Our own thoughts usually trump what others say. We care too much about our own ideas, opinions, preferences, and problems to take genuine interest in someone else's" (195-196).

"Sometimes we load unnecessary guilt on parents by turning general rules into absolute requirements - this will always happen if you always do that. The verse that is cited most often to support this faulty thinking is Proverbs 22:6... this verse is a proverb, not a magic formula to guarantee successful parenting. Despite the best upbringing, a child may rebel against his parents..." (133).



View all my reviews

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Election 2012

Who should you vote for in this election?

Let’s start with the basics.

Not Obama
1. He supports and pushes for abortion on demand, with no restrictions. With his priorities, it’s easier for a child to get a morning after abortion pill from school than a Tylenol. This alone rules him out, though there is plenty more.
2. He supports the normalization of homosexuality in our culture, and the legal redefinition of marriage that comes with it. The culture of our armed forces is at stake, for instance.
3. He does not support religious freedom. At home, Obamacare forces private business owners and non-profits to provide abortifacient drugs to their employees, regardless of religious convictions against it. Abroad, he is more interested in mollifying Islamists than insisting they not allow the persecution of their people.
4. He is a tax and spend liberal. He couches it in nice language: don’t we want to invest, provide, and care for various people? It’s all veiled language for spending more taxpayer money on things the constitution has not put under the purview of the federal government. Unbelievably, he wants government to have a bigger role than it already does in our land.

Not the Libertarians
They are on the wrong side of the culture war, shrugging at abortion and the redefinition of marriage. They believe religious neutrality is possible at the government level, but they are wrong. Some policy has to be made on these issues, and they don’t push for the right ones.

Not the Constitution party
Their candidate is Virgil Goode. Although I agree with his positions the most, with less than 1% support of voters he doesn’t have a chance of winning. (I’ll come back to this.)

Why not Romney?
He’s Mormon. Every presidential candidate probably since Jefferson has been a professing Christian (assumption, there – may be wrong). It was a big deal when JFK ran, a Catholic and not a Protestant. Biblically, the argument goes, in Exodus 18:21 God told Moses to install as civil judges and rulers “men who fear God.” Mormons do not worship the same God that Christians do, though they co-opt much of the language. Christian supporters of Romney tend to justify their support by minimizing the Mormon factor, reckoning it not a cult but a weird denomination of Christianity. It is NOT just wacky Christianity. But I’ve already heard this argument offered, so people can feel okay to vote for Romney. This is a good reason to NOT support Romney!
He’s a moderate. He’s done his share of flip flopping, and doesn’t push too hard in the values arena of politics. He’s no Reagan visionary for smaller government and more free enterprise, which I’m looking for. He seldom appeals to that tea party-ish group for which I have sympathies.

Why Romney?
So am I not voting, or what? In spite of the above, I will be voting for Romney, and here is why.

Mormonism – Romney is a devout Mormon, no holds barred. There’s no point in denying this. American Christians have for so long had only Christian candidates running that we have not had to think about this, and it’s throwing us for a loop. Fact: it is legitimate in principle for a Christian to vote and support for public office a candidate who is not a Christian. This happens to Christians all the time in other democratic nations. They are not sinning to vote for one atheist or secularist over another. As one wit put it, our choice this time is between a man who thinks he will become a god, and one who thinks he already is one. We have been spoiled with our Christian-veneer culture, and now that it’s gone we are dismayed. Our nation’s slide into unbelief has already occurred, and as usual the church is behind the curve in noticing what is going on. We live in Babylon, culturally speaking. Daniel was not disobedient to serve in the administration of three pagan kings, and neither are we to vote for a competent pagan instead of a dangerous one.

What about Exodus 18:21? Isn’t it always wrong to vote for a man who does not fear the true God? Theologically, God was regulating the nation of Israel, which was politically a Theocracy directly formed by Him, with Moses the sole supreme court judge. It is not clear to me that nations of the world today are called to obey the civil law in the Pentateuch in the same way that Israel was. However, national laws ought to reflect the “general equity” of the law, as Westminster puts it. But the extent to which this can practically be done will depend on how Christianized the culture has become. We don't "sit this one out," until we have an ideal candidate. What the ideal Christian state should look like, will have to wait for another time, but Christians should vote for the viable candidate that most reflects competent, moral and Biblical positions.

Viable? What does that mean? Politics is the art of the possible. Every four years in our system it comes down to two tickets. This year all the third party candidates combined have the support of about 7% of voters so far. Politics is war. Your vote is not for Sun-Tzu’s principles of war-fighting versus Clausewitz’s, in the abstract. Your vote is a bullet fired into the fray. It is one hand on the rope in a cultural tug-of-war. You don’t need to (I would argue you may not) withhold firing or tugging until you know the commander-in-chief’s piety and principles are pure. You DO need to know that the bad guys are really bad guys, which I covered in the first paragraph.

Viability involves circumstances. In the 2012 presidential election, the Constitution party candidate Virgil Goode is expected to get nearly 10% of the vote in Virginia. I will vote in Virginia, and Goode represents my views more than Romney does. Goode is well known and popular in the southwest of the state. There is a good chance this will hand Obama the state of Virginia, which is one of the handful of critical swing states in play in the nation. This is a well-known phenomenon: Nader cost Gore the election to Bush, Jr. in 2000. Perot cost Bush, Sr. the 1996 election to Clinton. The 2012 election is also close. I’m more interested in helping Romney beat Obama, than I am in “making a statement” with my principled vote which gives Obama an advantage over the only guy who can beat him. Viability is part of the definition of the ideal candidate, which rules out my otherwise ideal third party choice.

I also think it is a mistake to assert that God honors the principled vote over the strategic one. Several stories in Scripture show God blessing strategic action when the culture war is going against you – the Hebrew midwives, for one.

This position is often rejected as compromising one’s principles. It can be wrong to support the “lesser of two evils,” when that candidate’s policies are truly evil and unbiblical. But that’s just what we are debating: when is a candidate worthy of our vote? Are Romney’s positions sufficiently Biblical and constitutional to vote for him? The clichés against lesser of two evils and voting your conscience beg this question, they assume the answer is no, without making any actual case for the negative position. If I think the answer is “Yes,” and I vote for Romney, I’m not necessarily sinning. This is a conscience issue. Some argue that a candidate must oppose all abortion without exception before he gets a Christian vote. Others argue that we should vote for the viable candidate who most opposes abortion. The right answer is unclear and people should not go against their conscience. God does not require me to vote for the candidate whose views most closely resemble my views, if viability of candidates makes a strategic difference. It is not only the third party voter who “votes his conscience.” This phrase implies that the Republican voter is voting against his conscience and principles, but he is not, necessarily. He understands that it can be more effective to be a co-belligerent in a larger group than to set up a new, purer fringe party. He is choosing to fire his gun, to pull on the rope, where the battle is, instead of where he wants to and where no one is looking. SHOULD the battle be there? Yes, and God willing it will be one day. But it isn’t today.

This position is also rejected as reflecting the fear of man. Why faithlessly react in response to where the culture is, instead of how God wants us to?. Will we do anything to keep a bad guy out of office? This view is rejecting prudence as much as fear of man. The same argument can be used against buying insurance. “Don’t you know God says in the Bible that He will provide for us? Insurance is lack of faith!” No, there are earthly means of provision God has given us, which it is foolish and even tempting God for us to not employ. Voting is one of them. It is not lack of faith to vote to get Obama out of office because you fear for our country at the prospect of another four years of his regime.

This position is also rejected by arguing that there is no real difference between the major parties. One wants to drive off the cliff at 80 miles an hour, and the other wants to go 60. To continue the analogy, and shape it to reality:
-          it isn’t a cliff, but a ditch. One president cannot smash a country beyond repair killing everyone in the car, given our system of checks and balances. We can get out of the ditch, and back on the road at any point, by God’s grace granting us repentance as a nation.
-          the third party you prefer is in the back seat, nowhere near the brakes or wheel, and no one in the car is listening to him. I’m happy to support the guy right next to the driver who can actually grab the wheel and hit the brakes for right now. A vote is a short term measure, not long term. If we can gain grassroots support to move a better candidate into the “on deck” position to take the wheel next time, great. But right now it’s Obama or Romney. Your vote for a third guy will not be noticed for the future.
I do agree that the Republican party is sliding left, with the whole country. But it’s an exaggeration to say they are identical.

To summarize:
1. Professing Christians who vote for Obama are acting against God’s will. There, I said it.
2. Christians who vote libertarian are confused and ideologically overzealous for a smaller government. I can tolerate that to a degree.
3. Christians who vote Constitution party I respect, though I have to bite my tongue to not chide them for throwing their vote away, for that really is what they are doing, regardless of the “rightness” of the positions.
4. Christians who vote for Romney should remember that they are co-belligerents with him, not ideological allies, in an important culture war. This war is waged far more by evangelism and persuasion than by elections.

Please go vote Tuesday!

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Give Attention

Proverbs 4:1-2

    Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, 
          And give attention to know understanding; 
    2      For I give you good doctrine: 
          Do not forsake my law. 

Solomon is teaching his children with these proverbs. God is showing Himself a father to us children, too. We must learn first to be taught by the Lord in His Word, before we can teach and parent our own children. We all learn by imitation and example. Over time, children pay attention to what their parents give attention. This is why Paul tells Timothy to give attention to the public reading of Scripture. Pay attention, listen, to what God says. It is getting harder and harder to give attention in this world of Netflix and facebook, texts and tweets. Are we giving God the attention He deserves? Are we teachable, willing to change according to His Word? He gives us good doctrine there, vs 2, and we cannot forsake it.

6/3/12

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Suffering Giving Way to Sweet Reward


Hebrews 12:1-6, 11

Our Lord Jesus Christ faced the attacks of compromise and persecution. He was tempted by Satan to take the easy way. To receive glory and kingdoms with a little bow of the knee to Satan instead of the painful sacrifice of the cross. He was tempted to set aside the cup His Father gave him to drink, a cup that meant arrest, condemnation, flogging, beating, crucifixion, and God-forsaken-ness. When your soul is sorrowful even to death at the crosses and losses you have endured, remember that Jesus has traveled this road ahead of you. Your painful suffering for Christ is filling up the afflictions His body must suffer. At the end of the road, though we cannot always see it, is peaceable fruit, joy set before us, an eternal weight of glory that far surpasses these light and momentary afflictions. The cup you hold shows us the shame and sacrifice of Christ on the cross, atoning for our sin. The cup also shows us the joy and glory of full favor, forgiveness and fellowship with the Father. He gives us the best of His blessings for us to enjoy, as His adopted and beloved sons and daughters.

6/3/12

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