Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mr. Baldwin

I got the news Wednesday that Mr. Richard Baldwin went to be with the Lord (due to some recent serious health issues). His daughter, Margaret,and son, Bill, have posted about what a good and godly man he was, by God's grace. His other son, Jim, was my best friend in high school and roommate at Cedarville. The Lord alone knows how helpful, generous, hospitable and encouraging Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin were to me when I first became a Christian in high school, and in helping me grow in my faith in my college years. Mr. Baldwin was a joyful, devoted, servant-hearted believer who loved his dear wife and children (and then grandchildren and great-grandchildren) because he loved his Lord and Savior first. He will be missed by many, many friends who I'm sure are thankful, like I am, for how God touched our lives through him and through Mrs. Baldwin too. So I'm praying God's comfort for the whole family, in our shared hope of resurrection and reunion. 1 Thess. 4:13-18

Friday, May 20, 2016

Do You Welcome Correction and Rebuke?

"'All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness....' (2 Tim. 3:16). From what Paul writes here (and in many other places) we are reminded that a key aspect of healthy spiritual development is the willingness to be rebuked and corrected. Challenging as that is, the Bible makes clear that such correction is something the truly devoted Christ-follower will welcome (just like a kid who really wants to get good at a sport is glad to have a coach who is 'tough'). The last thing we should do is resent or retaliate when authentically Bible-based correction or reproof comes our way. It is a sad mark of immaturity to turn that into an occasion for fishing around for other 'spiritual leaders' in our lives." -- Jon G. Baldwin

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What Does It Mean to Truly Believe?

“We don't believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.”

― Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mothers Day and the Fifth Commandment

“Honor your father and your mother….” My pastoral mentor, James Grier, used to remind us that at the heart of the meaning of the Fifth Commandment was the crucial concern of passing on faith and devotion towards God from one generation to another. For the old covenant people of Israel, the father and mother, as signficant 'societal leaders' were to be truly devoted to God themselves, living by His Word and will. And so, for that same religious commitment to be handed down, and indeed, enriched, from one generation to another, it was critical that parents were regarded and responded to with profound respect, as those embodying the ‘fear of the Lord’ themselves (along with the rest of the 'elders' in the community).

Now, in the new covenant situation, the family is still crucial, but there is, in the New Testament, the realization that devotion to God in Christ transcends even devotion to parents and family members (e.g., Matt. 10:34-37). And so we read the account of what must have seemed like a fairly shocking reply from Jesus in that time and culture: “While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:45-50)

And so on a day like today we remember that what matters most of all is love and devotion towards God -- and that parents and pastors, children and church members, all work together to embrace and enrich the heritage of faith and faithfulness passed down from one generation to the next, understanding that the family ties that matter the most are the ones that bind us together in our love and devotion to Christ.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How Trump vs. Clinton Helps to Prove There Is a God

I don’t offer that caption lightly, and here’s why:  in my opinion, the fact that a free society of independent persons, privileged with the opportunity to choose, make the choice that Donald  Trump and Hillary Clinton (and the policies they espouse, and the people that they are) are the best options available to lead that society, then surely something supernatural is at work – specifically something supernaturally bad.  For folly (in the sense of that word found in the Book of Proverbs) that is that deep and that perverse must surely be diabolical.  (Reflect on Ephesians 4:17-19).  And the only world-view that takes seriously the reality of the Devil is the world-view and way of thinking that believes that there is a God – the true and living God, the Judge of men and nations, who will certainly have the last word.  (Romans 1:18-32;  Acts 17:30-31).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Christ as Savior, First and Foremost

“People think a Christian is one who follows Christ's teaching and example, but Jesus is not primarily a teacher. He's a rescuer.” -- Tim Keller

The Conquest of Canaan and Yahweh's Worth

"The nature of the conquest—the inhabitants of Canaan being placed entirely under the ban— forcefully communicates the glory of God in salvation through judgment. The total destruction of the inhabitants of the land is just only if the deity who calls for such a measure is worthy of all honor. If Yahweh’s worth is not so great that those who reject him have committed a crime that cries out for infinite justice, then the zero-tolerance policy against the people of the land is a brutal, unjust, egomaniacal atrocity.

"But Yahweh’s policies are not like those of mere men, whose importance does not warrant the slaughter of their opponents. Nor is this a kind of immature self-centered phase that Yahweh eventually grows out of when he decides to be nice and send his Son, Jesus. Rather, the ban on the Canaanites heralds the infinite majesty of the justice of Yahweh, whose holiness demands perfect loyalty, whose worth is such that anything less than absolute allegiance defiles unto death. The conquest of Canaan enacts the glory of God’s justice against those who look to worthless things to be for them what only God can be for them."

-- James M. Hamilton Jr., "God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology" (Kindle Locations 3203-3211). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"The Dead End of Sexual Sin"

An article from Rosaria Butterfield on the Desiring God website:

Unbelievers don’t “struggle” with same-sex attraction. I didn’t. My love for women came with nary a struggle at all.

I had not always been a lesbian, but in my late twenties, I met my first lesbian-lover. I was hooked and believed that I had found my real self. Sex with women was part of my life and identity, but it was not the only part — and not always the biggest part.

I simply preferred everything about women: their company, their conversation, their companionship, and the contours of their/our body. I favored the nesting, the setting up of house and home, and the building of lesbian community.

As an unbelieving professor of English, an advocate of postmodernism and poststructuralism, and an opponent of all totalizing meta-narratives (like Christianity, I would have added back in the day), I found peace and purpose in my life as a lesbian and the queer community I helped to create.

Conversion and Confusion

It was only after I met my risen Lord that I ever felt shame in my sin, with my sexual attractions, and with my sexual history.

Conversion brought with it a train wreck of contradictory feelings, ranging from liberty to shame. Conversion also left me confused. While it was clear that God forbade sex outside of biblical marriage, it was not clear to me what I should do with the complex matrix of desires and attractions, sensibilities and senses of self that churned within and still defined me.

What is the sin of sexual transgression? The sex? The identity? How deep was repentance to go?

Meeting John Owen

In these newfound struggles, a friend recommended that I read an old, seventeenth-century theologian named John Owen, in a trio of his books (now brought together under the title Overcoming Sin and Temptation).

At first, I was offended to realize that what I called “who I am,” John Owen called “indwelling sin.” But I hung in there with him. Owen taught me that sin in the life of a believer manifests itself in three ways: distortion by original sin, distraction of actual day-to-day sin, and discouragement by the daily residence of indwelling sin.

Eventually, the concept of indwelling sin provided a window to see how God intended to replace my shame with hope. Indeed, John Owen’s understanding of indwelling sin is the missing link in our current cultural confusion about what sexual sin is — and what to do about it.

As believers, we lament with the apostle Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:19–20). But after we lament, what should we do? How should we think about sin that has become a daily part of our identity?

Owen explained with four responses.

1. Starve It

Indwelling sin is a parasite, and it eats what you do. God’s word is poison to sin when embraced by a heart made new by the Holy Spirit. You starve indwelling sin by feeding yourself deeply on his word. Sin cannot abide in his word. So, fill your hearts and minds with Scripture.

One way that I do that is singing the Psalms. Psalm-singing, for me, is a powerful devotional practice as it helps me to melt my will into God’s and memorize his word in the process. We starve our indwelling sin by reading Scripture comprehensively, in big chunks, and by whole books at a time. This allows us to see God’s providence at work in big-picture ways.

2. Call Sin What It Is

Now that it is in the house, don’t buy it a collar and a leash and give it a sweet name. Don’t “admit” sin as a harmless (but un-housebroken) pet. Instead, confess it as an evil offense and put it out! Even if you love it! You can’t domesticate sin by welcoming it into your home.

Don’t make a false peace. Don’t make excuses. Don’t get sentimental about sin. Don’t play the victim. Don’t live by excuse-righteousness. If you bring the baby tiger into your house and name it Fluffy, don’t be surprised if you wake up one day and Fluffy is eating you alive. That is how sin works, and Fluffy knows her job. Sometimes sin lurks and festers for decades, deceiving the sinner that he really has it all under control, until it unleashes itself on everything you built, cherished, and loved.

Be wise about your choice sins and don’t coddle them. And remember that sin is not ever “who you are” if you are in Christ. In Christ, you are a son or daughter of the King; you are royalty. You do battle with sin because it distorts your real identity; you do not define yourself by these sins that are original with your consciousness and daily present in your life.

3. Extinguish Indwelling Sin by Killing It

Sin is not only an enemy, says Owen. Sin is at enmity with God. Enemies can be reconciled, but there is no hope for reconciliation for anything at enmity with God. Anything at enmity with God must be put to death. Our battles with sin draw us closer in union with Christ. Repentance is a new doorway into God’s presence and joy.

Indeed, our identity comes from being crucified and resurrected with Christ:

We have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. (Romans 6:4–6)
Satan will use our indwelling sin as blackmail, declaring that we cannot be in Christ and sin in heart or body like this. In those moments, we remind him that he is right about one thing only: our sin is indeed sin. It is indeed transgression against God and nothing else.

But Satan is dead wrong about the most important matter. In repentance, we stand in the risen Christ. And the sin that we have committed (and will commit) is covered by his righteousness. But fight we must. To leave sin alone, says Owen, is to let sin grow — “not to conquer it is to be conquered by it.”

4. Daily Cultivate Your New Life in Christ

God does not leave us alone to fight the battle in shame and isolation. Instead, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the soul of each believer is “vivified.” “To vivicate” means to animate, or to give life to. Vivification complements mortification (to put to death), and by so doing, it allows us to see the wide angle of sanctification, which includes two aspects:

1) Deliverance from the desire of those choice sins, experienced when the grace of obedience gives us the “expulsive power of a new affection” (to quote Thomas Chalmers).

2) Humility over the fact that we daily need God’s constant flow of grace from heaven, and that no matter how sin tries to delude us, hiding our sin is never the answer. Indeed, the desire to be strong enough in ourselves, so that we can live independently of God, is the first sin, the essence of sin, and the mother of all sin.

Owen’s missing link is for believers only. He says, “Unless a man be regenerate (born again), unless he be a believer, all attempts that he can make for mortification [of sin] . . . are to no purpose. In vain he shall use many remedies, [but] he shall not be healed.”

What then should an unbeliever do? Cry out to God for the Holy Spirit to give him a new heart and convert his soul: “mortification [of sin] is not the present business of unregenerate men. God calls them not to it as yet; conversion is their work — the conversion of the whole soul — not the mortification of this or that particular lust.”

Freed for Joy

In the writings of John Owen, I was shown how and why the promises of sexual fulfillment on my own terms were the antithesis of what I had once fervently believed. Instead of liberty, my sexual sin was enslavement. This seventeenth-century Puritan revealed to me how my lesbian desires and sensibilities were dead-end joy-killers.

Today, I now stand in a long line of godly women — the Mary Magdalene line. The gospel came with grace, but demanded irreconcilable war. Somewhere on this bloody battlefield, God gave me an uncanny desire to become a godly woman, covered by God, hedged in by his word and his will. This desire bled into another one: to become, if the Lord willed, the godly wife of a godly husband.

And then I noticed it.

Union with the risen Christ meant that everything else was nailed to the cross. I couldn’t get my former life back if I wanted it. At first, this was terrifying, but when I peered deep into the abyss of my terror, I found peace.

With peace, I found that the gospel is always ahead of you. Home is forward. Today, by God’s amazing grace alone, I am a chosen part of God’s family, where God cares about the details of my day, the math lessons and the spilled macaroni and cheese, and most of all, for the people, the image-bearers of his precious grace, the man who calls me beloved, and the children who call me mother.

-- Rosaria Butterfield (on the Desiring God website)

Rosaria has written a book on this theme, titled Openness, Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ (Crown and Covenant).

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Gracious Comforts, Holy Commands

“Corporate [gathered] worship is designed to focus our wandering hearts on the gracious comforts and holy commands of our sovereign Savior-King.” – Paul David Tripp

Treating God as God

Treating God as God  – “Therefore, …whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” -- 1 Cor. 10:31  (Rom. 1:1-4,5; Ps. 96:8-10)

If you truly believe in a Being/Person who is supremely/perfectly authoritative, and supremely/perfectly sovereign (in control) and supremely perfectly good, then you ought to live in complete submission and complete trust towards that Being/Person, to wisely rule you for your true good and to graciously bring you to perfect happiness (salvation) in the end.

'Luther’s definition of a “god” is helpful here: “A ‘god’ is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart.... Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that really is your God.”

This Person/Being would certainly deserve (your/every person’s) supreme devotion (love), and that is exactly what is expected/commanded (Deut. 6:4-5f.; Matt. 22:37; cp. Matt. 6:24; 10:37; Eph. 6:24; 1 Cor. 16:22; 2 Tim. 3:4; Rom. 1:30 {8:6-7})

Treating God as God means relating to God, as the Supreme Being/Person, supreme in authority (to submit to Him), saviorhood (to trust in Him for His justification/acceptance, that grants your identity and security) and sovereign control (Providence) (to trust in Him experientially, including in the midst of hardship and trials).

This way of living that is habitually submitting, trusting and depending towards God is what Paul calls “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5; 16:26; cp. 6:17ff.;  15:18; 16:19; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; Rom. 12:1-2;  Matt. 28:18ff.   It is allegiance/obedience that arises out of faith/belief in God.

So the way to strengthen your obedience is to strengthen your faith/belief and our faith/belief is strengthened through the Word of God – via preaching, authentic worship, personal study/devotions.  (Rom. 10:17; Col. 1:28; 2 Tim. 3:16-17;  1 Pet. 2:-23)

Realizing that God is the Supreme Authority also includes the truth that He will be the Judge of all people, reviewing, recompensing and rewarding people for everything they’ve said or done, vindicating and rewarding the godly, and condemning and punishing the ungodly.  (2 Cor. 5:10; Ps. 96:10; Rev. 22:12)

·       There is no way it can be right to love such a Supreme/Perfect Being partially.
·       There is no way it can be right to trust such a Supreme/Perfect Being partially.
·       There is no way it can be right to obey such a Supreme/Perfect Being partially.
·       There is no way it can be right to serve such a Supreme/Perfect Being partially.

Of course, as fallen sinners, with our weakness, folly and sin, we will do all these things partially and imperfectly, and that is why we need daily forgiveness (1 John 1:9).   But our aspiration and goal and desire will always be to love and trust and obey God – this Supremely Good and Perfect Being – perfectly.  (Matt. 22:37; 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 1:9)

In practical (practiceable) terms, this all plays out in relation to God’s Word to us – knowing Him through His Word (and thus knowing the perfections of His character and ways and will) and then responding to glorify Him in accordance with His revealed will in His Word also.  Where is this all-important Word from God to be found?  In our Bibles.  We will live by every inscripturated (written-down) Word of God, in the power of the Spirit, in the fellowship of His people (the church, including its pastor-teachers).

“Corporate/gathered worship is designed to focus our wandering hearts on the gracious comforts and holy commands of our sovereign Savior-King.” – Paul David Tripp

Recommended reading: 
“Right Side Up (Life as God Meant It to Be)” – Paul Grimmond

“Easter Uncut – What Really Happened and Why It Really Matters”  -- Carl Laferton

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spurgeon on a Mother's Agreement with God's Judgment on Her Children

Charles Spurgeon tells the story of  a mother who dreamed about the Day of God's Final Judgment of her children...

'She thought the judgment day was come. The great books were opened. They all stood before God. And Jesus Christ said, “Separate the chaff from the wheat; put the goats on the left hand, and the sheep on the right.” The mother dreamed that she and her children were standing just in the middle of the great assembly. And the angel came, and said, “I must take the mother, she is a sheep: she must go to the right hand. The children are goats: they must go on the left.”

'She thought as she went, her children clutched her, and said, “Mother, can we part? Must we be separated?” She then put her arms around them, and seemed to say, “My children, I would, if possible, take you with me.”

'But in a moment the angel touched her; her cheeks were dried, and now, overcoming natural affection, being rendered supernatural and sublime, resigned to God’s will, she said, “My children, I taught you well, I trained you up, and you forsook the ways of God; and now all I have to say is, Amen to your condemnation.”'

-- Tom Nettles, "Living by Revealed Truth"

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Jesus, the King, Re-established Human Rule...

“Jesus as King…re-established human rule over the angelic and natural orders. He lived out everything that it means to be human, establishing himself as a wise ruler with dominion over his own appetites, with a will, affections, and conscience guided by the direction of his Father – and not by that of Satan. He walked through human suffering, temptation, and, ultimately, the curse of death itself – standing in the place of wrath itself – to wrest humanity from the Accuser’s fingers.”

-- Russell Moore

The Present Phase of God's Kingdom

"In its present phase, the kingdom is like its King before he was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of the Father. It can only appear weak and foolish to the world, even though this kingdom is more extensive in its global reach and more intensive in its redemptive power than any earthly empire in history." — Michael Horton

Who/What is your Supreme Authority?

I'm more convinced than ever that the crucial question every person faces is identifying the actual, functioning supreme authority in one's life and 'world-view' (the way you look at the world) -- the supreme authority when it comes to what you think and believe, value and do. (Compare Romans 10:9; Colossian 1:16-18)

No Such Thing as Religious Neutrality

'Augustine knew there was no such thing as spiritual or religious neutrality. People are for or against the Bible’s God. All humanity, he observed, belongs to one of two societies— one city that “lifts up its head in its own glory” and “loves its own strength as displayed in its mighty men,” and another city that “says to its God, ‘Thou art my glory and the lifter up of mine head’” and “‘ I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.’”

-- Jonathan Leeman, "Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ's Rule (Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture)" InterVarsity Press