Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Everything Comes through Christ Jesus"

"Everything that is coming to us from God comes through Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus has won our pardon; he has reconciled us to God; he has canceled our sin; he has secured the gift of the Spirit for us; he has granted eternal life to us and promises us the life of the consummation; he has made us children of the new covenant; his righteousness has been accounted as ours; he has risen from the dead, and all of God’s sovereignty is mediated through him and directed to our good and to God’s glory."
— D. A. CarsonA Call to Spiritual Reformation

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

When Christ is at the center...

"Ironically, when we live as if our personal story is at the center of our universe, we struggle to find meaning and significance. But when Christ is at the center and we are pushed to the periphery, it is then — in that place of seeming obscurity and insignificance — that we find true worth and value, by giving glory to the crucified and risen King with whom we can become united through faith. "

— Trevin WaxCounterfeit Gospels

Sunday, December 28, 2014

I am early in my story....

‎"I am early in my story, but I believe I will stretch out into eternity, and in heaven I will reflect upon these early days, these days when it seemed God was down a dirt road walking toward me. Years ago he was a swinging speck in the distance; now He is close enough I can hear His singing. Soon I will see the lines on His face." - Donald Miller

Thursday, December 25, 2014

"Feast, Christian, Feast....God is with us...."

“‘Immanuel, God with us.’  It is hell’s terror.  Satan trembles at the sound of it. . . . Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, ‘God with us,’ back he falls, confounded and confused. . . . ‘God with us’ is the laborer’s strength.  How could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away? . . . ‘God with us’ is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of the angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. . . .

"Feast, Christians, feast; you have a right to feast. . . . But in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem.  Let him have a place in your hearts, give him the glory, think of the virgin who conceived him, but think most of all of the Man born, the Child given.

"I finish by again saying, A happy Christmas to you all!

-- C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the Old Testament (London, n.d.), III:430.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Savior, who is Christ the Lord

“…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…” (Luke 2:11)

Jesus is Lord and Messiah (King) and Savior – we need him to be all of these for us.  We need a Savior from the guilt and penalty of our sin.  We need forgiveness.

But more and more I’ve come to realize that, every bit as much, we need Him to be our King and Lord.  We are just no good at governing our own lives.  We keep choosing the way that seems right to us, but again and again it turns out to be a self-destructive choice (Prov. 14:12).  We just haven’t figured out the way to peace (shalom, flourishing, the way things are supposed to be, Rom. 3:17).

So one of the key ways that Jesus saves us is by ‘lording it over us’.  The only way to find ‘rest for our souls’ is to ‘take his yoke’ (that is, his authoritative teaching) and ‘learn from him’ – for his yoke, compared to the one we’ve been wearing, is ‘easy’ and his burden, compared to the one we’ve been carrying, is ‘light’.  (Matt. 11:28-30).

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Glory of Christ is God's Chief End

Puritan Thomas Goodwin [writes]: God’s “chief end was not to bring Christ into the world for us, but us for Christ . . . and God contrived all things that do fall out, and even redemption itself, for the setting forth of Christ’s glory.”

Mark Jones spells out so helpfully what it means that Jesus is not just Lord and Savior, but also Treasure:  The glory of Christ is not an appendix . . . . As it is the culmination of all we can say about his person and work, so his glory provides the most basic reason for saying it, in that it is the basis for and the fullness of our eternal enjoyment of him . . . . we are not speaking the whole truth if we make Christ’s personal glory subservient to our salvation."

"This child of Christmas is more than Lord. He is even more than Savior. He is our great Treasure, and in “our eternal enjoyment of him” is his glory and the end for which God created the world. Christmas is not finally about his birth for our salvation, but our existence for his glory."

-- from David Mathis at Desiring God

It Is More Blessed to Give

“Remember that we have been taught, ‘It is more blessed to give, than to receive…..’ To give your time, to give your attention, to give your practical help, to give the benefit of the doubt, to give someone another chance, to give grace and forgiveness, realizing how desperately you have needed, and still need, both -- from God and from others -- yourself.” – Jon G. Baldwin

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – Colossians 3:12-14

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Atheism, Evidence and Philosophy

"God never wrought miracle, to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." -- Francis Bacon, "Of Atheism," The Essays

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Jesus is the Fulfillment and the Fulfiller

“The Old Testament is an incomplete book; it is revelation developing towards a climax.  There is the constant prediction of a ‘day of the Lord,’ a consummation, a unique revelation of the power and glory of God. . . . This hope is expressed in terms of the past, yet exceeds anything experienced in the past.

"There is to be a new David, but a greater than David; a new Moses but a greater than Moses; a new Elijah or Melchizedek, but one greater than those who stand out from the pages of the old records.
"There is to be a greater and more wonderful tabernacling of God, as his presence comes to dwell in a new temple.  There is to be a new creation, a new Israel, redeemed, revived, a people made up of those to whom a new heart and a new spirit are given that they may love and obey their Lord.

"Old Testament prophecy . . . needed only the coming of the One in whom all the prophecies of the Old Testament would be fulfilled, in whom all those themes of hope in the Old Testament would be gathered up and realized, the Fulfillment and the Fulfiller. . . .”

-- Francis Foulkes, “The Acts of God,” in G. K. Beale, editor, The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? (Grand Rapids, 1994), pages 364-365.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's OK to be ordinary....

"...for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs." (George Eliot)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

C.S. Lewis: the Most Reluctant Convert

C.S. Lewis describes his own conversion in his book, "Surprised by Joy":

"You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him of whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 [May 22] I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.

"I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? … The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compassion is our liberation."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Soul Rest?

Why would we ever think that we could experience the promised 'rest for our souls' unless we have 'taken up the easy yoke,' and are habitually learning to live by the teaching of Jesus our Lord? (Matt. 11:28-30)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Exacting Boss or Loving Father

"How can the inner workings of the heart be changed from a dynamic of fear and anger to that of love, joy, and gratitude? Here is how. You need to be moved by the sight of what it cost to bring you home. The key difference between a Pharisee and a believer in Jesus is inner-heart motivation. Pharisees are being good but out of a fear-fueled need to control God. They don’t really trust him or love him. To them God is an exacting boss, not a loving father. Christians have seen something that has transformed their hearts toward God so they can finally love and rest in the Father."

— Tim Keller
The Prodigal God

A worthwhile reminder....

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

—William Shakespeare, "Hamlet"

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?"

from Charles Spurgeon:

An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it during the past few years. It has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.

From speaking out as the Puritans did, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church. If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it? "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). That is clear enough. So it would have been if He had added, "and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel." No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him.

Then again, "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers ... , for the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:11-12). Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the church to the world? "Ye are the salt" (Matt. 5:13), not the sugar candy—something the world will spit out not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, "Let the dead bury their dead" (Matt. 8:22) He was in awful earnestness.

Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear him say, "Run after these people Peter and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow." Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them.

In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of this gospel of amusement! Their message is, "Come out, keep out, keep clean out!" Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.

After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the church had a prayer meeting but they did not pray, "Lord grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are." If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). That is the only difference! Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods.

-- Charles H. Spurgeon

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christ the Divider

Matthew 2:3 "When King Herod heard this [about the birth of Jesus] he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him."

“Christ is the peace of the righteous, the trouble of the wicked.” (P. Quesnel)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Romantic Love Is Not Enough"

"I love my wife. She’s a remarkable, godly, and wonderful woman. I am thrilled to be married to her and to have spent these last ten years growing together. To expect her to meet all of my relational needs, however, would be incredibly unfair to her. Romantic love is a wonderful gift from God, but all of our relational needs cannot be met in one relationship. We need more than romantic love to be happy.

There are loads of clichés about love. “Love is all we need." "I married my best friend.” Songs invite couples into an “us against the world” mentality. But these clichés are misleading and will ultimately damage relationships. Romantic love serves a wonderful purpose, but it cannot do more than it was designed to do. It cannot replace the important role of other friendships...."

For the full article, click here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Freedom of Religion and Secular Humanism

One of the most damaging and far-reaching mis-beliefs that is confusing the current 'conversation' on crucial ethical issues today is the idea that 'secular humanism' ought to be the default position -- and then perhaps some extra accommodations should be tacked on to legislation for 'those who are religious.'

But even though secular humanism as a belief system typically lacks a deity, it is still, for the purposes of our national conversations, an all-encompassing 'world-view' that speaks to the issues of ethics (what is right and wrong...what people, or the government, OUGHT or ought not do). It is just at this point that we need to recognize that, in this sense, secular humanism, as a comprehensive system of beliefs, should not be advantaged or favored by governmental legislation or policy, to the detriment of those whose comprehensive belief system does include God.

The U.S. Constitution is concerned to preserve freedom in the practice of one's religion (not merely a private activity of worshiping), and for that there must be a true and thorough freedom of conscience. In short, a-theism (belief systems that do not include a deity) is not to be preferred or advantaged by the government to the detriment of theism (belief systems that do include a deity).

It is worth considering too that the Declaration of Independence found the source of inalienable human rights in the endowment of the Creator. If a belief system does not include a Creator, how can it securely maintain inalienable human rights that have their source in Him?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Joy of Jesus

"It cannot be supposed that Jesus prosecuted His work on earth in a state of mental depression. His advent into the world was announced as ‘good tidings of great joy,’ and the tidings which He Himself proclaimed were ‘the good tidings,’ by way of eminence. It is inconceivable that He went about proclaiming them with a sad countenance.… Joy He had; but it was not the shallow joy of mere pagan delight in living, nor the delusive joy of a hope destined to failure; but the deep exultation of a conquerer setting captives free. This joy underlay all His sufferings and shed its light along the whole thorn-beset path which was trodden by His torn feet."

— B. B. Warfield, quoted by Brian S. Borgman in
"Feelings and Faith"
(Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2009), 154

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Bible and Reality Teach the Same Lesson

Biblical Christianity teaches us that we human beings were created and designed to rightly relate to God, such that, when we don’t, our lives really go hay-wire, so that the only real ‘fix’ for this is to begin to rightly relate to God. At age 54, not only am I more and more sure that this is what the Bible teaches, I’m also more and more certain that this is what life/reality teaches too.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Communion with God -- Essential to Christianity

John Newton, the Puritan writer of the song Amazing Grace, wrote to a friend: "Many . . . who would not flatly contradict the apostle’s testimony in 1 John 1: 3 [i.e., that we should have fellowship with God in the Holy Spirit] attempt to evade its force by restraining it to the primitive times . . . but who can believe that the very nature and design of Christianity should alter in the course of time? And that communion with God, which was essential to it in the apostle’s days, should now be unnecessary?"

--  John Newton, “Letter IV: Communion with God,” in The Letters of John Newton, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1960), 29.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Martin Luther on the Bible and Communion with God

Martin Luther was adamant that we must never get “beyond” God’s words in the Bible or we can’t know whom we are conversing with . “We must first hear the Word, and then afterwards the Holy Ghost works in our hearts; he works in the hearts of whom he will, and how he will, but never without the Word.”

-- Tim Keller, "Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God" (p. 57). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Sense of Deity

'All human beings are made in the “image of God ” (Gen 1: 26– 27). Bearing God’s image means that we are designed to reflect and relate to God. This is why the sixteenth-century Reformer John Calvin wrote of the divinitatis sensum, the sense of deity that all human beings have. “There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity,” and therefore “the seed of religion is planted in all.”' [compare Romans 1:19-20]

-- Tim Keller, "Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God" (p. 44)