Sunday, December 27, 2015

Something Other Than God?

"All that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy."

-- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Disdain for definitions

"Nothing makes a man more unpopular in the controversies of the present day than an insistence upon definition of terms" -- J. Gresham Machen

Monday, December 14, 2015

Joined to a Local Church

“There is no good, healthy, regular pattern of the Christian life if you are not joined with a local church, if you are not in covenant with other Christians.” -- Trip Lee


"How hard it is to keep our hearts from going too far even in honest affections toward the creature, while we are so backward to love God, who should have all the heart and soul and might. Too strong love to any, though it be good in the kind, may be sinful and hurtful in the degree. It will turn too many of your thoughts from God, and they will be too often running after the beloved creature.... It will increase your sufferings by involving ing you in all the dangers and troubles of those whom you over- love." -- Richard Baxter

Crucial Ignorance

"For conditions even remotely comparable to those now prevailing we must return to imperial Rome, where the populace was kept in good humor by frequent, gratuitous doses of many kinds of entertainment - from poetical dramas to gladiatorial fights, from recitations of Virgil to all-out boxing, from concerts to military reviews to public executions. But even in Rome there was nothing like the non-stop distraction now provided. . ."

~Aldous Huxley explaining the social and political ignorance in 1958.

When You Unchain the Earth from the Sun

Carl Trueman's penetrating analysis about a crucial cultural perspective trend -- self-defining and 'self-identifying'

Here is an excerpt:

"The case of Stefonknee Wolscht, the Canadian man who has decided that he is not simply a woman trapped in a man’s body but actually a six year old girl trapped in the same, has attracted some web attention. At first, I thought the story was a hoax but, no, it would appear that the lunatics have taken over the asylum and it is indeed true.  Even if a sick joke, however, it would still offer insights into the inner logic of the politics of identity as currently played by the Left.  Thus, for example, the U.K.'s Pink News reports that parts of the trans community are upset.  Not, of course, at the harm done to Wolscht's wife and children, those symbols of bourgeois oppression who are thus just so much collateral damage in the Glorious Revolution of the Self(ish).   No.  They are upset because his claim to be a different age “discredits their cause.”

"A moment’s reflection would indicate that this condition, whereby a person is really a small child incarcerated within a much older adult body, is increasingly prevalent in today's society. Recent events on the campuses of some of America’s top (sic) universities (sic) clearly show that the transageist community is rapidly growing in size, influence and belligerence.  Still, as with all vanguard movements, some opposition is to be expected.  The concerned reaction of sections of the transgender community is therefore understandable.

"Or is it?..."

Click here for the entire article.

Monday, December 7, 2015

What Can Miserable Christians Sing?

From Carl Trueman:

“Having experienced — and generally appreciated — worship across the whole evangelical spectrum, from Charismatic to Reformed — I am myself less concerned here with the form of worship than I am with its content. Thus, I would like to make just one observation: the psalms, the Bible’s own hymnbook, have almost entirely dropped from view in the contemporary Western evangelical scene. I am not certain about why this should be, but I have an instinctive feel that it has more than a little to do with the fact that a high proportion of the psalter is taken up with lamentation, with feeling sad, unhappy, tormented, and broken.

In modern Western culture, these are simply not emotions which have much credibility: sure, people still feel these things, but to admit that they are a normal part of one’s everyday life is tantamount to admitting that one has failed in today’s health, wealth, and happiness society. And, of course, if one does admit to them, one must neither accept them nor take any personal responsibility for them: one must blame one’s parents, sue one’s employer, pop a pill, or check into a clinic in order to have such dysfunctional emotions soothed and one’s self-image restored.

Now, one would not expect the world to have much time for the weakness of the psalmists’ cries. It is very disturbing, however, when these cries of lamentation disappear from the language and worship of the church. Perhaps the Western church feels no need to lament — but then it is sadly deluded about how healthy it really is in terms of numbers, influence and spiritual maturity. Perhaps — and this is more likely — it has drunk so deeply at the well of modern Western materialism that it simply does not know what to do with such cries and regards them as little short of embarrassing. Yet the human condition is a poor one — and Christians who are aware of the deceitfulness of the human heart and are looking for a better country should know this.

A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one long triumphalist street party — a theologically incorrect and a pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals. Has an unconscious belief that Christianity is — or at least should be — all about health, wealth, and happiness silently corrupted the content of our worship? Few Christians in areas where the church has been strongest over recent decades — China, Africa, Eastern Europe – would regard uninterrupted emotional highs as normal Christian experience.

Indeed, the biblical portraits of believers give no room to such a notion. Look at Abraham, Joseph, David, Jeremiah, and the detailed account of the psalmists’ experiences. Much agony, much lamentation, occasional despair — and joy, when it manifests itself — is very different from the frothy triumphalism that has infected so much of our modern Western Christianity. In the psalms, God has given the church a language which allows it to express even the deepest agonies of the human soul in the context of worship. Does our contemporary language of worship reflect the horizon of expectation regarding the believer’s experience which the psalter proposes as normative? If not, why not? Is it because the comfortable values of Western middle-class consumerism have silently infiltrated the church and made us consider such cries irrelevant, embarrassing, and signs of abject failure?

I did once suggest at a church meeting that the psalms should take a higher priority in evangelical worship than they generally do — and was told in no uncertain terms by one indignant person that such a view betrayed a heart that had no interest in evangelism. On the contrary, I believe it is the exclusion of the experiences and expectations of the psalmists from our worship — and thus from our horizons of expectation — which has in a large part crippled the evangelistic efforts of the church in the West and turned us all into spiritual pixies.

By excluding the cries of loneliness, dispossession, and desolation from its worship, the church has effectively silenced and excluded the voices of those who are themselves lonely, dispossessed, and desolate, both inside and outside the church. By so doing, it has implicitly endorsed the banal aspirations of consumerism, generated an insipid, trivial and unrealistically triumphalist Christianity, and confirmed its impeccable credentials as a club for the complacent. In the last year, I have asked three very different evangelical audiences what miserable Christians can sing in church. On each occasion my question has elicited uproarious laughter, as if the idea of a broken-hearted, lonely, or despairing Christian was so absurd as to be comical — and yet I posed the question in all seriousness. Is it any wonder that British evangelicalism, from the Reformed to the Charismatic, is almost entirely a comfortable, middle-class phenomenon?”

–Carl R. Trueman, from “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” in The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism (Christian Focus: 2004) pp. 158-160.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

What were church 'services' like in the earliest days?

"...On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles [New Testament] or the writings of the prophets [Old Testament] are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly [the overseer/elder] speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.

"On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen”. The [bread and wine are] distributed, everyone present communicates [participates], and the deacons take it to those who are absent.

"The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need…."

-- Justin Martyr

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Too heavy a burden

'No human relationship can bear the burden of godhood, and the attempt has to take its toll in some way on both parties.' 
-- Ernest Becker

Monday, November 30, 2015

Theological Courage Today

Contra those who seem to think that being theologically avant garde is 'courageous', "These days, the real adventurers are those who set sail for the risky land of Christian orthodoxy. The real brave men and women are those who consistently go to church, observe the sacraments, hear the word, and submit themselves to the discipline of the church. In an age of autonomy, it’s those who subject their thoughts, behaviors, and passions to an exclusive Sovereign that are the brave few. " -- Dustin Messer


"Distraction [from the deep questions of life, including about relating to God] is the only thing that consoles us for miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." -- Pascal

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Christian Pastor and Foolish Ideas

"Have nothing to do with foolish ideas fit only for the godless and the gullible...." (1 Tim. 4:7, paraphrased). I have a feeling that that verse should have a real impact on my participation with Facebook, blogs, comment threads, etc.

A commentary explained that Paul is telling Timothy that when he encounters such foolish ideas, he is to "'refuse', 'beg off' dealing with them. To discuss them seriously would be to give them a dignity which they do not deserve."

-- D. Edmond Hiebert

Intellectual Slacker?

"God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all."

--CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Church as Ground Zero....

It’s time for us Christians to stop perceiving “church” as a weekend option and start seeing it as Ground Zero for world reconciliation.

– Ray Ortlund

In View of Who Christ Is...

Given who Christ is and what He has done for us, loving Him supremely – being supremely devoted to Him in everything (even when we don’t’ feel like it, and, in a way, especially then) -- is the only right way to live.

Judge not?

According to the popular understanding of Matthew 7:1, "Judge not....", no one could serve on a jury. So the popular understanding is prolly my judgment.

The Secret of Living...

"The secret of living is fruit-bearing.... The secret of fruit-bearing is abiding.... The secret of abiding is obeying.... The secret of obeying is loving.... The secret of loving is knowing...."

-- Warren Wiersbe, in his classic brief booklet on John 15 "5 Secrets of Living"

Christmas Christ?

"Everybody loves baby Jesus, but few serve King Jesus." -- Godwin Sathianathan

(compare John 15:18,23)

Brother, Where Is Your Identity

Characteristically profound wisdom and insight from David Powlison.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Sad Superficiality of CCM

The world needs true Christianity, a profound and powerful faith and vision -- but so much of American 'Christendom' is anything but....see for example the lyrics of one of the most popular "Christian" songs, 'Hold Us Together', which does not even mention God or Christ, barely alludes to Scripture ("brother's keeper") and drones on with repeated platitudes: 'Love will hold us together...' 'This is the first day of the rest of your life', lyrics that are more reminiscent of The Captain and Tenille and a kitten calendar than of the Biblical Gospel which announces our only hope -- 'Jesus is the Lord who saves'.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Are Feelings of Offense Self-authenticating?

It seems we have come to the place where we automatically think that every person who claims to be offended actually has sufficient reason to be (and that the very feeling of offense is self-authenticating). But surely this can't be true, in view of this exchange between Jesus, his disciples and the Pharisees (in Matt. 15:12-14): "Then the disciples came to him and asked, 'Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”

"Jesus replied, '...ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.'” (NLT)

So no doubt it will be very hard work to discern such situations, but surely we should give up the notion that every offended person, every time, in every situation 'has the right' -- has sufficient reason -- to be/feel offended.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Can I Pray Down the Holy Spirit?

“Worldliness in the church is the number one enemy, and that comes in when we have unspiritual people, and we have unspiritual people too often because they are nominal Christians.  They have the language, they have the outward, but they don’t have the power.  So, Paul’s words: ‘The kingdom of God is not in word but in power.’  That whole school of Edwards and Alexander and so on — they believed in the power of religion.  You know, men candidating for the ministry, and the minister saying, ‘Can he pray down the Holy Spirit?’  Imagine that question today.  Can a man pray down the Holy Spirit?  It’s not perhaps exactly the sentence we would say is completely correct, but you know what they meant. . . . When those men prayed, the Holy Spirit did come down.”

-- Rev. Iain Murray, in a 9Marks interview with Dr. Mark Dever.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Billy Graham's 97th Birthday

On Billy Graham's 97th birthday, an appreciation....

First of all, years before I came to faith in Christ, it was Dr. Graham’s preaching via his televised ‘crusades’ that planted the seeds for me in terms of coming to know that I was lost and needed a Savior.   Then as the Spirit drew me to faith, it was his book, “Peace with God,” that helped me to understand how to respond to the Gospel in repentance and faith, and what it meant to follow Christ as a new believer.

Also, his own powerful preaching was an early lesson to me about the centrality and efficacy of preaching God’s Word — a lesson that has stayed with me in my own pastoral ministry.

Of course he is not perfect, and I haven't agreed with all his ministry decisions, but overall his integrity, authenticity and faithfulness (along with that of his late wife, Ruth) has always been a heartening example to me. And when there were times that non-believers would point to the failures and hypocrisies of other ‘televangelists’ in order to cast reproach on the Gospel, I could always gently remind them of Billy Graham.

And so I’m sure there are so many, many others who are like me when I say that, when it comes to Billy Graham, I thank God every time I think of him.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"Your Bible Is a Gold Mine"

excellent meditation from Jon Bloom and Desiring God Ministries:

"The word of Christ dwells richly in the one who dwells in it long enough to discover its riches (Colossians 3:16). The Bible is the divine mine that contains the theological mother load. Any theology book based on it is only a small fraction of the Bible’s unquantifiable wealth. That’s why there will be no end to theological book publishing.

The wonderful thing about this mine is that we often find treasure in unexpected places. God loves to lace and layer revelatory riches in what at first seems like a fairly straightforward historical narrative.

One example is the account of Jesus and Peter walking on water in Matthew 14:22–33. This aquatic hike is astounding. But if we’re not careful, we may only see the obvious gold and miss out on much more. Here are a few less obvious nuggets I found when digging recently.

Jesus Makes Us Face Strong Waves in the Dark

Jesus “made” the disciples get into the boat (Matthew 14:22). At the time, they probably didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t an unusual directive from the Master. But in retrospect, it became clear that God knowingly sent them to face an adverse wind all night.

After an exhausting day of ministry (feeding the 5,000), God did not lead them to a rest beside quiet waters, but to row against battering waves for most of the night. The sovereign Lord sometimes intentionally sends us when we’re already weary to struggle against adversity in disorienting darkness.

Jesus Comes in Unexpected Ways at Unexpected Times

When Jesus finally came to the disciples, he came in a completely unexpected way — walking on the water. This so caught them off-guard that they didn’t even recognize him at first (Matthew 14:26). Furthermore, Jesus didn’t show up until “the fourth watch of the night” (Matthew 14:25) — between three and six in the morning.

The weary disciples had been fighting the wind and waves (and probably each other) for long dark hours. No doubt they prayed for God’s help. In the Apostle John’s account, once Jesus reached them and got in the boat, “immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going” (John 6:21). This must have come as a welcome relief, but notice that this relief wasn’t provided until they were extraordinarily tired.

When God comes to us in a moment of need, he might arrive in an unexpected, unrecognizable, and frightening way and later than we hope.

Ask Jesus for Impossible Things

Peter’s request of Jesus was outrageous. It may be that this story is so familiar or has been told to us so matter-of-factly that it doesn’t shock us. If that’s true, we need fresh eyes. We must put our sleep-deprived selves in that wave-tossed little boat in the dead of night, feeling the wind-whipped sea spray on our faces while we squint at the strangest thing we’ve yet seen — Jesus standing about ten feet away on the heaving water as if it were solid ground.

Imagine our nerves being on edge from the terror-induced adrenaline rush. Would we ask to get out of the boat and join Jesus on the water? We might best answer this question by asking ourselves how often we are asking Jesus for the privilege of risking the humanly impossible with him now. Jesus may have admonished Peter for having “little faith” (Matthew 14:30), but Peter was a faith giant in that moment compared to the other eleven. He was the only one who asked to do the impossible with Jesus. And Jesus granted it to him with pleasure.

God is pleased when we ask him to allow us to get out of the safety of our “boat” in order to do the humanly impossible with him, and he does grant such requests.

Jesus Sovereignly Responds to Our Asking

This story illustrates a profound mystery: God in his sovereignty interacts with our initiative. Note the very brief but loaded exchange between Peter and Jesus:

“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ [Jesus] said, ‘Come.’” (Matthew 14:28–29)

There is towering theology in these few words. Peter recognized Jesus as the sovereign Lord of all nature who was commanding the water to support him. Peter also knew that walking on the water would require faith, but he did not mistake his own faith as the power that would command the water beneath him. So he asked Jesus to command him to come. And when Jesus commanded, Peter exercised faith in Jesus’s word, which Jesus honored. That’s how Peter’s faith helped him walk on water. It’s true that when Peter’s faith weakened, he sank (Matthew 14:30). But his cry to Jesus for help proved that Peter knew where the power to hold him up resided, and was itself an expression of faith. And again Jesus responded to Peter’s faith by pulling him back up (Matthew 14:31).

Notice, Jesus did not call any of the disciples to join him on the water. Peter took the initiative to ask Jesus if he could come. Forgive the pun, but this is deep theological water. If Peter had not taken the initiative to ask Jesus, this aspect of the story might simply be missing. What might be missing from your story if you do not take the initiative to ask Jesus?

God alone has power to command reality, but he encourages us to request whatever we wish in prayer (John 15:7) and he loves to respond to our faith by commanding answers to our requests.

Dig, Find, and Be Enriched

Oh, there’s much more gold in this story to be had, but time and article word limits fail me. I must refrain. Go dig, find it, and you will be enriched. In only twelve verses we discovered four theological nuggets:
1.The sovereign Lord sometimes intentionally sends us when we’re already weary to struggle against adversity in disorienting darkness.
2.When God comes to us in a moment of need, he might arrive in an unexpected, unrecognizable, and frightening way and later than we hope.
3.God is pleased when we ask him to allow us to get out of the safety of our “boat” in order to do the humanly impossible with him, and he does grant such requests.
4.God alone has power to command reality, but he encourages us to request whatever we wish in prayer (John 15:7) and he loves to respond to our faith by commanding answers to our requests.

The Bible contains over 31,000 verses — so much gold and so little time. We’ll never exhaust the gold it contains during our brief lives, but we must discover all we can. The Apostle John said this about the three years he spent with the word made flesh: “Were every one of [the things Jesus did] to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

Well, the written word is written. But of this word we can say that if all it reveals were to be written, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."

-- Jon Bloom, Desiring God Ministries

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Love the Lord Your God

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength…." (Deut. 6:5). Primarily in view here is the love shown by a subject to a king. To love King Yahweh is to be his loyal and obedient servant (Israel was the Lord’s kingdom people).... Such love is to be total, involving one’s whole being….” -- NIV Study Bible

Living "out of" Faith

Instead of sliding down into a perspective of 'barely getting by' when it comes to living for Christ, it's helpful for me to remember Paul's words, "...anything that does not come from faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23) "So ...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31) so that "you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way...." (Col. 1:10).

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Only One Call to Worship

"There can only be one call to worship, and this comes at conversion, when in complete repentance we admit to worshiping falsely, trapped by the inversion and enslaved to false gods before whom we have been dying sacrifices. This call to true worship comes but once, not every Sunday, in spite of the repeated calls to worship that begin most liturgies and orders of worship. These should not be labeled calls to worship but calls to continuation of worship. We do not go to church to worship, but, already at worship, we join our brothers and sisters in continuing those actions that should have been going on – privately, familially, or even corporately – all week long." -- Harold Best

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Worship That Ends Up in the Right Place

"Worship is one of the ultimate themes of this life, but it is never a question of whether worship will or won't occur in the heart of a human being. It's more a case of whether that worship will travel in the proper direction and end up in the right place.

"It's guaranteed that everyone on this planet will be an extravagant worshiper of some kind, sacrificially spending themselves in a life of desire and devotion. But it's by no means guaranteed that their worship will travel along the right paths. People will find a way to worship anything and everything.

"But all the time, God is calling back to himself, back to being the God reflectors and image bearers we were meant to be He is the only One worthy of our worship.

"As. C. S. Lewis reminded us, idols inevitably break the hearts of their worshipers. But not so when we worship Jesus -- of course the complete opposite occurs, and we find ourselves in a place of fulfillment and satisfaction."

-- Matt Redman in his foreword to the new book by Bob Kauflin -- "True Worshipers"

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Christ loved the church; we should do the same

“The church is not perfect, but woe to the man who finds pleasure in pointing out her imperfections. Christ loved his church, and let us do the same. I have no doubt that the Lord can see more fault in his church than I can; and I have equal confidence that he sees no fault at all. Because he covers her faults with his own love—that love which covers a multitude of sins; and he removes all her defilement with that precious blood which washes away all the transgressions of his people.”

-- Charles Spurgeon

Monday, October 26, 2015

Our War Against Reality

"...First, we need to remember—we must always remember—that the war against sexual purity and the family is a war against God. And that means it is a war against reality. Wars against reality cannot truly succeed...."  Very insightful cultural analysis from Dr. Brian Matson in this article.

"Saying and Meaning 'I Love You'"

"...Love is the willful and joyful sacrifice of ourselves in the service of others so that they might be blessed...."  A helpful article on the true meaning of love.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Since There Really Is a Heaven...

“Now suppose both death and hell were utterly defeated. Suppose the fight was fixed. Suppose God took you on a crystal ball trip into your future and you saw with indubitable certainty that despite everything — your sin, your smallness, your stupidity — you could have free for the asking your whole crazy heart’s deepest desire: heaven, eternal joy. Would you not return fearless and singing? What can earth do to you, if you are guaranteed heaven? To fear the worst earthly loss would be like a millionaire fearing the loss of a penny — less, a scratch on a penny.” --  Peter Kreeft

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Without Jesus, What Would Be Left?

 "Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were possible, with some super magnet, to pull up out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left?" -- Jaroslav Pelikan

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Hide it under a bushel? No!....."

"Being public about your faith simply means not hiding the wellspring of your life, not hiding who you truly are." -- Tim Keller

Monday, October 19, 2015

How long?....

How long wilt Thou forget me,
O Lord, Thou God of grace?
How long shall fears beset me
While darkness hides Thy face?
How long shall griefs distress me
And turn my day to night?
How long shall foes oppress me
And triumph in their might?

O Lord my God, behold me
And hear mine earnest cries;
Lest sleep of death enfold me,
Enlighten Thou mine eyes;
Lest now my foe insulting
Should boast of his success,
And enemies exulting
Rejoice in my distress.

But I with expectation
Have on Thy grace relied;
My heart in Thy salvation
Shall still with joy confide;
And I with voice of singing
Will praise the Lord above,
Who, richest bounties bringing,
Has dealt with me in love.

--The Psalter 1912

Reverence for Scripture

"Our Heavenly Father, revealing his majesty [in the gospel], lifts reverence for Scripture beyond the realm of controversy." -- John Calvin

Glorifying and Enjoying God

"How can He whose glory is His perfections be glorified if He be not also enjoyed?"

-- BB Warfield on "The First Question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism")

Q.  What is the chief end of man?
A.  Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Friday, October 16, 2015

One cunning, cherished sin...

Lord, with what care hast thou begirt us round!
     Parents first season us; then schoolmasters
     Deliver us to laws; they send us bound
To rules of reason, holy messengers,
Pulpits and Sundays, sorrow-dogging sin,
     Afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes,
     Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in,
Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,
Blessings beforehand, ties of gratefulness,
     The sound of glory ringing in our ears,
     Without, our shame, within, our consciences,
Angels and grace, eternal hopes and fears.
     Yet all these fences and their whole array
     One cunning bosom-sin blows quite away.

     -- George Herbert, "Sin"

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Faith Links Us to God

"Faith is the link between  ourselves and a God of transforming love." -- J.I. Packer

Heaven Or Hell

“If we insist on keeping Hell, we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven, we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.” -- C.S. Lewis, "The Great Divorce"

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Conversion: Bringing People to Obedience

There are some who resist the idea that ‘getting saved’ (conversion) necessarily involves a person submitting to the Lordship of Christ. There are many, many passages, however, that teach this truth, including one I’ve rarely seen referenced – Rom. 15:18. In this verse Paul summarizes his ministry as “what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience [NIV: ‘to obey God’]” (cp. Rom. 1:5; 6:16ff. & 16:26; cp. 1:8 with 16:19).

For me, it’s hard for me to think how the Bible could have put this any more clearly. For while it’s certainly true that we are saved (justified) by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9), it is simultaneously true that a genuine conversion brings the beginning of a new life of 'obedience to God' as this verse in Romans makes very plain. (Compare Eph. 2:10.) As J.I. Packer has written, “The proof of past conversion is present convertedness.”

Are you, and the people you care about, sincerely (though imperfectly) obedient to God (as He and His will are revealed in His Word)?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Mortification of Sin

"Be killing sin or it will be killing you." -- John Owen (Rom. 8:13)

Christianity and the Structure of Society

“The thing that is in danger is the whole structure of society, and it is necessary to persuade thinking men and women of the vital and intimate connection between the structure of society and the theological doctrines of Christianity.” -- Dorothy Sayers

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Affliction is one of God's medicines

"Affliction is one of God’s medicines. By it He often teaches lessons which would be learned in no other way. By it He often draws souls away from sin and the world, which would otherwise have perished everlastingly. Health is a great blessing, but sanctified disease is a greater." -- J.C. Ryle

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Shattered Dreams and Shaken Faith

An exceptionally wise and honest meditation from Vaneetha Rendall at Desiring God Ministries:

Sometimes my faith is shaken when my dreams are shattered.

I wonder where God is in the midst of my suffering. I cannot sense his presence. I feel alone and afraid. My faith wavers.

I question what I have long believed. I wonder what is real, especially when my experience doesn’t match my expectations.

This wavering deeply troubles me. I have tasted God’s goodness, enjoyed close fellowship with him, rested in his tender care. I have known both his power and his love. Yet in the midst of profound struggle, I have no answers. Just questions.

John the Baptist understood this struggle as he waited in prison. He, above all men, knew who Jesus was. Even in the womb, he leapt for joy in the presence of the unborn Savior. At the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, before any of his miracles, John declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He baptized Jesus and saw God’s Spirit descend on him, testifying that he indeed was the Son of God.

And yet, at the height of Jesus’s ministry, John sent word to him from prison, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2–3).

At one point, John was sure that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus further confirmed his divinity by performing miracles, yet now John was wondering what was true.


Unfulfilled Expectations

John knew from Scripture that he who gave the blind sight, made the lame walk, and preached good news to the poor could surely “open the prison of those who were bound” as prophesied in Isaiah 61:1. But Jesus didn’t do that for John.

So perhaps at this point, John doubted what he knew. If Jesus was indeed the Messiah, John probably expected to have a role in his earthly kingdom. He wouldn’t have expected to start with such a high calling, preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness, only to end his life and his ministry in a small prison cell. Besides, John preached that the Messiah would come with an unquenchable fire. With judgment. With power. He likely expected that to be in his lifetime.

None of those expectations coincided with reality. And that may have caused John to doubt. Unfulfilled expectations often elicit that response in me. Especially when I’ve been faithful.

Jesus doesn’t condemn John for his doubts. He even says that no one greater than John has ever lived. He understands why John is asking the question. And Jesus’s response to him reinforces what John already knows: that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.

At the same time, Jesus knows that John’s public ministry is over. Just like the saints in Hebrews 11, John wouldn’t receive all God’s promises but could only greet them from afar. He would not serve with Jesus or see the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. But one day he would. One day he would see his glorious part in God’s magnificent plan. He, the last of the old covenant prophets, would see how God used him to prepare the world to receive Jesus.

And John would rejoice.

But for now, John has to accept the Messiah’s plans for his life. Plans that are different than what he envisioned. He has to dwell on what he knows to be true rather than fixate on his circumstances. He has to remember who God is and trust him from a dark prison.

And so it is with me.

When Your Plans Crumble

When my plans crumble and God takes me away from my dreams, I must trust in God’s infinite wisdom. When my cup of suffering seems too much to bear, I need to rest in his immeasurable love. When my life spins out of control, I need to remember God’s absolute sovereignty.

I may not understand what is happening. But I cannot stop talking to him. Or turn away in fear. I must simply go to Jesus and tell him my doubts. Ask him to help me see.

John’s doubts are the same as mine. I wonder if God is who he says he is. And if everything is under his control. And if he truly loves me.

And when I doubt, God calls me, as he did John, to trust what I know to be true. To trust the bedrock principles that I know from Scripture and from experience. That God is completely sovereign. And loving. And wise. Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from his will.

In this life, I may never see how God is using my trials. But one day I will be grateful for them. All I can do now is trust that he who made the lame walk and the blind see, who died on a cross so I could spend eternity with him, is going to do the very best thing for me.

It all comes down to trust. Will I trust my circumstances that constantly change? Or will I trust God who is unchanging?

On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.

-- Vaneetha Rendall

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Faith That Works

This passage from Charles Hodge, to me, compellingly makes the case that true, saving faith will necessarily be transformative, thus securing the link between God-given genuine faith and the believer’s inevitable (though imperfect/incomplete in this life) allegiance/obedience (new affections and new actions), as the fruit of faith.  And so, the Reformed maxim is true:  faith alone saves (more accurately, Christ saves through faith alone), but the faith/believing that saves will not remain alone, but will bear fruit in new affections/obedience/good works.

“But that faith which is the gift of God, which arises from his opening our eyes to see the excellence of the truth, is attended with joy and love. These feelings are as immediately and necessarily attendant on this kind of faith, as pleasure is on the perception of beauty. Hence faith is said to work by love. And as all revealed truth is the object of the faith of which we now speak, every truth must, in proportion to the strength of our faith, produce its appropriate effect upon the heart. A belief of the being and perfections of God, founded upon the apprehension of his glory, must produce love, reverence and confidence, with a desire to be conformed to his image. Hence the apostle says: We all, with open face, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of God, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the spirit of the Lord, (2 Corinthians 3: 18).

“Faith in his threatenings, founded upon a perception of their justice, their harmony with his perfections, and the ill-desert of sin, must produce fear and trembling. His people, therefore, are described as those who tremble at his Word. Faith in his promises, founded upon the apprehension of his faithfulness and power, their harmony with all his revealed purposes, their suitableness to our nature and necessities, must produce confidence, joy and hope.

“This was the faith which made Abraham leave his own country, to go to a strange land; which led Moses to esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. This was the faith of David also, of Samuel, and of all the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. This is the faith which leads all the people of God to confess that they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and that they look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

“This is the faith which overcomes the world, which leads the believer to set his affections on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; which enables him to glory even in tribulation, while he looks not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal. And what shall we say of a faith in Jesus Christ founded upon the apprehension of the glory of God, as it shines in him; which beholds that glory as the glory of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth; which contemplates the Redeemer as clothed in our nature; the first-born of many brethren; as dying for our sins, rising again for our justification, ascending into heaven and as now seated at the right hand of God, where he ever liveth to make intercession for us?

“Such a faith the apostle tells us, must produce love, for he says, Whom having not seen ye love, and in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. The soul gladly receives him as a Saviour in all the characters and for all the purposes for which he is revealed; and naturally desires to be conformed to his will, and to make known the unsearchable riches of his grace to others. It is no less obvious that no one can believe the representations given in the Scriptures respecting the character of man and the ill-desert of sin, with a faith founded upon right apprehension of the holiness of God and the evil of his own heart, without experiencing self-condemnation, self-abhorrence, and a constant hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Thus of all the truths in the Word of God, it may be said, that so far as they are believed in virtue of this spiritual apprehension, they will exert their appropriate influence upon the heart and consequently upon the life.

“That such a faith should not produce good fruits is as impossible as that the sun should give light without heat.”

-- Charles Hodge,  "The Way of Life" (Kindle Locations 1833-1856). Counted Faithful. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Where All the Beauty Came From

"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing . . . to find the place where all the beauty came from."

-- C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sweet Mercies...Full and Durable

"There is in my Father's love every thing desirable; there is the sweetness of all mercies, and that fully and durably." -- John Owen

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The End of Our Idols

"Godly sorrow is the funeral that God puts on for our idols." [see 2 Cor. 7:10]

-- Landry Fields (of the Toronto Raptors)

Freedom of Religion

Heartened to hear Pope Francis, in his speech from Philadelphia, affirm the crucial reality that the right to religious freedom (affirmed in the very first amendment of our Bill of Rights) is by no means restricted to the 'freedom to worship' (the phrase characteristically used by President Obama and Hillary Clinton), but also the freedom to practice and live out one's religious commitments in every sphere of life -- "in the public square", culturally, politically, vocationally, etc.

The conclusion to his speech: "May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy. And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself...."

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." -- "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights' (via the United Nations"

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Religion: Indelibly Part of Human Life

"Religion is more than dogma and rules. It is a mixture of worldview and praxis that permeates all of peoples’ lives. We should remember that religion has had a prominent place in Australian history, and religious organizations form the backbone of our welfare network. Faith communities and the state can work together for the common good, and religion is an inalienable aspect of human existence, like music, art and literature. What’s more, religion is remarkably robust – it is not going to disappear. So it is far better that we treat religion as indelibly part of human life than as something to be begrudgingly tolerated and excised from public life...." -- Michael Bird

-- from "Whose Religion? Which Secularism?"

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Life's "Interruptions"?

"The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s “own,” or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s 'real life' is a phantom of one’s own imagination." ~ C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Misuse of Prayer

"...we should remember Augustine's letter to Anicia.  There he says, in short, that you should not begin to pray for all you want until you realize that in God you have all you need.  That is, unless we know that God is the one thing we truly need, our petitions and supplications may become, simply, forms of worry and lust.  We can use prayer as just another way to pursue many things that we want too much.  Not only will  God not hear such prayers (because we ask for things selfishly to spend on our lusts [James 4:2-3]), but the prayers will not reorient our perspective and give us any relief from the melancholy burden of self-absorption."

-- Tim Keller, "Prayer - Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God"  p. 139

Just a Nice Guy?

"Jesus wasn't just a nice guy who did good in the world.  You don't crucify nice guys.  You crucify threats." -- Tim Keller

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Word, Prayer and the Spirit

"Luther expects that we will hear God speak through his Word. Luther will not make the same mistake as George Whitefield, assuming that his inner impressions are revelations from God. God’s communication to us is in the Scripture.

"That does not mean, however, that meditation is merely an exercise of the mind. He expects that the Spirit, as we reflect on the biblical truth before God, will sometimes fill our heart with rich thoughts and ideas that feel poignant and new to us, even when we are thinking about a text or truth that we have heard hundreds of times before.

"Luther is talking about the eyes of our hearts being enlightened (Eph 1: 18) so that things we know with the mind become more fully rooted in our beings’ core."

-- Tim Keller, Timothy "Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God" (pp. 95-96). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Faith That Works?

I cannot think that I have learned much about living a life of faith in God -- in my own case, or in those I seek to minister to -- unless and until such faith bears fruit in the happiness of holiness -- what Paul calls 'righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit' (Rom. 14:17).

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Fear of Man

"It is dangerous to be[too] concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the Lord, you are safe." -- Proverbs 29:25 (GNT)

Thursday, September 17, 2015


“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.”
― C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Calvin on the "Divided Experience" of Believers

Believers experience ups and downs in their lives, but the final reality of their lives is faith. The divided experience of believers is captured well by Calvin:

"Therefore the godly heart feels in itself a division because it is partly imbued with sweetness from its recognition of the divine goodness, partly grieves in bitterness from the awareness of its calamity; partly rests upon the promises of the gospel, partly trembles at the evidence of its own iniquity; partly rejoices at the expectation of life, partly shudders at death. This variation arises from imperfection of faith, since in the course of the present life it never goes so well with us that we are wholly cured of the disease of unbelief and entirely filled and possessed by faith."

-- quoted by Thomas Schreiner, "Faith Alone---The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught...and Why It Still Matters (The Five Solas Series)" 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Living by Faith Is Not Easy in This Fallen World

'Luther captured, perhaps better than any theologian, the weakness that still bedevils our lives. He says, “The words ‘freedom from the wrath of God, from the Law, sin, death, etc.,’ are easy to say, but to feel the greatness of the freedom and to apply its results to oneself in a struggle, in the agony of conscience, and in practice — this is more difficult than anyone can say.”  Living by faith is not easy in this fallen world.'

 -- quoted by Thomas Schreiner in "Faith Alone: the Doctrine of Justification"

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What It Means to Worship

To worship, then, means to gratefully serve and obey God, in all of life, out of reverent submission and devotion to Him, in response to His greatness and grace."   (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:31; 1 Thess. 1:9; Rom. 6:17ff; Heb. 12:28-29.)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

As Living Sacrifices

"And how is the body to become a sacrifice?  Let your tongue speak nothing filthy, and it has become and offering; let your hand do no lawless deed, and it has become a whole burnt offering.”

-- Chrysostom (on Romans 12:1-2)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Worship is a Totalizing Activity

“Worship is adoration of, devotion to and complete submission to God. Right worship strives to relate all human desire and activity to God; it is an exercise in reorientation toward one all-sufficient end. All human desires and activities are put into question: How does this love, this commitment, this activity avow or disavow, affirm or disclaim my relationship to God as the fundamental expression of my identity and destiny?

"Worship is therefore a totalizing activity; it demands that everything in a person's life be put in the dock before God, interrogated by one standard and consequently renounced or reordered.

"This is why the form of worship is prayer. In confession we repent of that in us that does not conduce to love of God, and in praise and intercession we reorder our vision and our desires to the love of God. The end of right worship is that everything be taken captive for Christ, that our lives as Christians be the expression of one unceasing prayer to God.”

-- Kent Dunnington. Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice (Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology) (Kindle Locations 1717-1719). Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Experiential Prayer

"Prayer is the way to experience a powerful confidence that God is handling our lives well, that our bad things will turn out for good, our good things cannot be taken from us, and the best things are yet to come." -- Timothy Keller

Monday, September 7, 2015


“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” -- Corrie ten Boom

God's Fatherly Pity

“Though he knows your trials will work for your good, yet he pities you. Though he knows that there is sin in you, which, perhaps, may require this rough discipline ere you be sanctified, yet he pities you. Though he can hear the music of heaven, the songs of glee that will ultimately come of your present sighs and griefs, yet still he pities those groans and wails of yours; for ‘He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.’ In all our distresses and present griefs he takes his share; he pities us as a father pities his children.”

- Charles Spurgeon, “God’s Fatherly Pity”
posted at "Of First Importance"

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Do You Really Have God?

"For you do not have a god [or, perhaps, you don't really have God] if you [just] call him God outwardly with your lips...but [only] if you trust him your with heart and look to him for all good, grace and favor...."

"Such faith and confidence can be found only when it springs up and flows from the blood and wounds and death of Christ. If you see in these that God is so kindly disposed toward you that he even gives his own Son for you then your heart in turn must grow sweet and disposed towards God and in this way your confidence must grow out of pure good will and love, God's toward you, and yours toward God." [lightly edited]

-- Martin Luther

Friday, September 4, 2015

How Can We Be Liberated from Guilty Fears? (Luther)

Until the heart believes in God, it is impossible for it to rejoice in him. When faith is lacking, man is filled with fear and gloom and is disposed to flee at the very mention, the mere thought, of God. Indeed, the unbelieving heart is filled with enmity and hatred against God. Conscious of its own guilt, it has no confidence in his gracious mercy; it knows God is an enemy to sin and will terribly punish the same.

Since there exist in the heart these two things--a consciousness of sin and a perception of God's chastisement the heart must ever be depressed, faint, even terrified. It must be continually apprehensive that God stands behind ready to chastise. Solomon says (Prov 28, 1), "The wicked flee when no man pursueth." And Deuteronomy 28, 65-66 reads, "Jehovah will give thee there a trembling heart . . . . and thy life shall hang in doubt." One may as well try to persuade water to burn as to talk to such a heart of joy in God. All words will be without effect, for the sinner feels upon his conscience the pressure of God's hand. The prophet's injunction (Ps 32, 11) likewise is: "Be glad in Jehovah, and rejoice, ye righteous; and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart." It must be the just and the righteous who are to rejoice in the Lord. This text, therefore, is written, not for the sinner, but for the saint. First we must tell sinners how they can be liberated from their sins and perceive a merciful God. When they have been released from the power of an evil conscience, joy will result naturally.

But how shall we be liberated from an accusing conscience and receive the assurance of God's mercy? The question has been sufficiently answered in the preceding postils, and will be again frequently satisfied later on. He who would have a quiet conscience, and would be sensitive of God's mercy, must not, like the apostates, depend on works, still further doing violence to the heart and increasing its hatred of God. He must place no hope whatever in works; must apprehend God in Christ, comprehend the Gospel and believe its promises.

But what does the Gospel promise other than that Christ is given for us; that he bears our sins; that he is our Bishop, Mediator, and Advocate before God, and that thus only through him and his work is God reconciled, are our sins forgiven and our consciences set free and made glad? When this sort of faith in the Gospel really exists in the heart, God is recognized as favorable and pleasing. The heart confidently feels his favor and grace, and only these. It fears not God's chastisement. It is secure and in good spirit because God has conferred upon it, through Christ, superabundant goodness and grace. Essentially, the fruits of such a faith are love, peace, joy, and songs of thanksgiving and praise. It will enjoy unalloyed and sincere pleasure in God as its supremely beloved and gracious Father, a Father whose attitude toward itself has been wholly paternal, and who, without any merit on its part, has richly poured out upon that heart his goodness.

-- Martin Luther (sermon)

Luther on Confidently Feeling God's Favor and Grace

"But what does the Gospel promise other than that Christ is given for us; that he bears our sins; that he is our Bishop, Mediator, and Advocate before God, and that thus only through him and his work is God reconciled, are our sins forgiven and our consciences set free and made glad? When this sort of faith in the Gospel really exists in the heart, God is recognized as favorable and pleasing. The heart confidently feels his favor and grace, and only these. It fears not God's chastisement. It is secure and in good spirit because God has conferred upon it, through Christ, superabundant goodness and grace. Essentially, the fruits of such a faith are love, peace, joy, and songs of thanksgiving and praise. It will enjoy unalloyed and sincere pleasure in God as its supremely beloved and gracious Father, a Father whose attitude toward itself has been wholly paternal, and who, without any merit on its part, has richly poured out upon that heart his goodness." -- Martin Luther

Faith: Certain About God's Benevolence

"Faith is ultimately a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit”

― John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 Vols

Are You a True Believer?

"In one word, he only is a true believer who, firmly persuaded that God is reconciled, and is a kind Father to him, hopes everything from his kindness, who, trusting to the promises of the divine favor, with undoubting confidence anticipates salvation; as the Apostle shows in these words, “We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end,” (Heb. 3:14).

"He thus holds, that none hope well in the Lord save those who confidently glory in being the heirs of the heavenly kingdom."

-- John Calvin

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Nature of Idolatry

"Granting something ultimate value does not necessarily mean attributing a set of metaphysical divine attributes; the act of granting ultimate value involves a life of devotion and ultimate commitment to something or someone.

"Absolute value can be conferred on many things... In this extension of worship, religious attitude is perceived not as part of metaphysics or as an expression of customary rituals, but as a form of absolute devotion, an attitude that makes something into a godlike being.

"What makes something into an absolute is that it is both overriding and demanding. It claims to stand superior to any competing claim.... Any non-absolute value that is made absolute and demands to be the center of dedicated life is idolatry."

-- "Idolatry" by Moshe Halbertal and Avishai Margalit (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1992)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Everyone Worships

"Worship is one of the ultimate themes of this life, but it is never a question of whether worship will or won’t occur in the heart of a human being. It’s more a case of whether that worship will travel in the proper direction and end up in the right place.

"It’s guaranteed that everyone on this planet will be an extravagant worshiper of some kind, sacrificially spending themselves in a life of desire and devotion. But it’s by no means guaranteed that their worship will travel along the right paths.

"People will find a way to worship anything and everything. But all the time, God is calling us back to himself, back to being the God reflectors and image bearers we were meant to be. He is the only One worthy of our worship."

"As C. S. Lewis reminded us, idols inevitably break the hearts of their worshipers. But not so when we worship Jesus—of course the complete opposite occurs, and we find ourselves in a place of fulfillment and satisfaction."

-- Matt Redman (in his preface to Bob Kauflin's new book, "True Worshipers"

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Trying Very Hard to Be Good

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” -- C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity

Saturday, August 29, 2015

It's About Knowing Christ

True Christianity is focused on knowing Christ, not merely knowing theology or doing ministry or serving a cause for lesser motives related to our own identity, significance or affirmation. All those indeed come to a faithful follower of Jesus, but they are secondary, in authentic Christianity, to seeking to truly know Christ himself. --  (Phil. 3:7-10)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Only Two Basic Loves

"There can be only two basic loves. The love of God unto the forgetfulness of self. And the love of self unto the forgetfulness and denial of God."


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Prophet's Certainty of God

“There is not one of [the Old Testament prophets] who did not receive this new certainty of God in such a way that the whole previous pattern of his life, the thoughts and plans by which he had till now regulated his relationship to the world, was not smashed, and replaced by a mighty divine imperative obliging him to undertake something which hitherto he had not even considered as a possibility.”

-- Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (Philadelphia, 1961), I:345.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Ruler of a Whole New Order of Life

“The connection between ‘the good news’ and the kingdom of God is obscured for Christians by the use of the Greek word ‘Christ’ for Messiah throughout our translations of the New Testament. Every time we come across the phrase ‘Jesus Christ,’ instead of hearing ‘Jesus, the king who was promised to Israel,’ all we hear is ‘Jesus’ followed by a meaningless syllable. For most, probably, the phrase means, ‘Jesus, who saves me from my sins.’ This is certainly true, but it falls short of saying ‘Jesus, the ruler of a whole new order of life, who have delivered me so I can be part of it.”

-- Richard Lovelace, “Renewal as a Way of Life”

Saturday, August 22, 2015

When We Call Him 'Lord'

"...true discipleship is about dutifully and faithfully living out the lordship of Jesus Christ. Discipleship means ordering our lives according to his story, symbols, teaching, and authority. Evangelism is not about asking people to try Jesus the way they might try a new decaf moccacino latte from Starbucks. It is more like declaring the victory of the Lord Jesus over sin and death, warning of the judgment to be made by the Lord Jesus over all rebellion, and inviting people to find joy and satisfaction in the life and love that come from the Lord Jesus Christ...."

-- Michael Bird "Kyrios Christos: the Lordship of Jesus Christ Today"

Friday, August 21, 2015

Real world faith

“We cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety.” – John Calvin

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Sense of the Divine

Calvin on the sensus divinitatis (or sense of the divine):

"There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. This we take to beyond controversy. To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty . . . Therefore, since from the beginning of the world there has been no region, no city, in short, no household, that could do without religion, there lies in this a tacit confession of a sense of deity inscribed in the hearts of all."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Trial of Your Faith

"God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.”

― C.S. Lewis

Monday, August 17, 2015

Nicer Than Jesus?

"There is a kind of evangelical Christianity (and Christian ministry) today, popular among many bloggers and Christian authors and artists (musicians), for example, that seems to think that if Christians would just chill out and not be so judgmental that non-Christians (what the Bible calls 'the world') would find Christianity much more palatable and plausible. What then, do we make of Jesus himself saying, during his own ministry: "The world... hates Me because I keep telling it that its ways are evil"? (John 7:7)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Help my unbelief

“A perfect faith is nowhere to be found, so it follows that all of us are partly unbelievers.”

― John Calvin

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Though you have not seen Him...

Imagine, then, how you would live, act, talk, text, spend your time, post to Facebook, process situations -- if Jesus was right there in the room with you….

….well, He is. Always. Or to say it another way, you live all your life, speak all your words, think all your thoughts and daydreams, and do all your deeds ‘in front of Him’ – in His presence.

This reality should be both sobering and encouraging. And I think it would be, if we really truly believed in Him like we profess....

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,...." 1 Peter 1:8

Friday, August 14, 2015

For Whom Is the Lord's Supper Instituted?

“For whom is the Lord’s Supper instituted?”

"For those who are truly sorrowful for their sins, and yet trust that these are forgiven them for the sake of Christ, and that their remaining infirmities are covered by his passion and death, and who also earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy...."

-- Heidelberg Catechism

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Citizens of the Kingdom

"Citizens of the kingdom are merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted, and reviled. You may have made a decision years ago that was not true salvation if it did not involve these things. Years later maybe you came back to the Lord broken over your sin. That's the moment it became real; that's the moment you entered the kingdom."

(John MacArthur, The Beatitudes 'The Only Way To Happiness', pg. 19)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Theology and Song

“Any theology that does not lead to song is, at a fundamental level, a flawed theology.” ― J.I. Packer

The Fight Is On

“Like it or not – and most of us definitely do not – you are in a battle. That being the case, you had better well decide you are going to fight the good fight.” (1 Cor. 9:25-26; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; 1 Tim. 1:18; 6:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:3; 4:7; 1 Pet. 2:11; 5:8; James 4:7) – Jon G. Baldwin

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Without holiness....

"If your religion does not make you holy, it will damn you. It is simply painted pageantry to go to hell in." -- Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What more can He say than to you He hath said?

I continue to be very sorry to see people emamored with books like "Jesus Calling" -- which (erroneously) claim to have words from Jesus, intended almost exclusively to soothe, when in fact we have an authentically inspired book containing all the words of Jesus that we need for comfort, encouragement, reproof, instruction, warning etc. Those helped by the other books are helped only insofar as the ideas/truths they include are in fact Biblical -- but we would be much wiser and much more God-honoring to stick to the words of the Lord that He has actually spoken and inspired.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What is our part?

“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour (help, nourishment, prosperity) of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Monday, August 3, 2015


Credo:  I should live joyfully, courageously, prayerfully and purposefully before God everyday as his loved child (being renewed in his image) in the obedience of faith, faith [i.e., belief that engenders vital confidence] in his contrary-to-what-I-deserve love/grace/goodness towards me in Christ my Savior/Mediator (by his atoning cross and victorious resurrection), in accordance with his Gospel-centered, inscripturated Word, empowered by His gracious Spirit, trusting God’s loving fatherly Providence, and Christ’s tender high priestly ministry, that extends to every detail of my life and situation now, while also hoping in the perfect happiness and glory that he has promised me for eternity.

(Josh. 1:7ff.;  2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Jn. 3:1ff; Eph. 3:18ff.; Rom. 8:31ff.; Rom. 3:21ff.; 5:6ff.; 6:1-4ff.; 10:9ff.; Acts 2:36ff.; Matt. 28:18ff.; Gal. 5:16ff.; Eph.5:18ff,; Deut. 6:24; Rom. 8:28; Heb. 12:5ff.; 2 Cor. 4:16ff.; 1 Pet. 1:6f.; Rev. 21&22)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Stumbling block (people)

"There are many professing Christians who, frankly, make it harder for others, especially other Christians, to believe . Because, in spite of their professed devotion to Jesus, their lives are so filled with discontent and distractions and even down-right disobedience, that their pious claim of having found their purpose and joy in Christ and their service to Him just does not ring true. In fact their hypocritical pretending of piety in the midst of what it’s pretty clear that they really care about clangs false.

"But then, thank God, there ARE those, that precious few, that remnant of the real, who, by the choices that they make, and the contentment and commitment that they manifest as they make them, show that Christ really and truly is ‘the Pearl of great price’ and the ‘treasure in the field’ so surpassingly valuable to them that they are happy to sell off everything else they once clung to or daydreamed about in order to possess Him (Matt. 13:44-46)."

-- Jon G. Baldwin

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


My dad died one year ago today, so I suppose it’s not unusual to be reflective. There are all kinds of things I’ve been thinking today, including this reality check: there are limits in this life, and there are last opportunities. It’s easy to live with the idea that ‘it’s never too late’ – never too late to do right, to say what you want to say, to turn your life around (or, more accurately, to let God turn you), to do your part to repair a relationship, to share the Gospel, again, with a family member or a friend, to do the good that it’s out there for you to do, to trust Christ as Savior, to get serious about following him as Lord. And while it’s true that most of the time we are given many, many chances – many more than we deserve – it’s also true that there are in fact limits and last chances and the prospect of lost opportunities. So we need to get real, get wise, and do the good and Godward things we need to do now – today, while the door is still open. As the Bible writers say more than once, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts….”

Monday, July 27, 2015

Just as I am...

"If you just cannot accept, no matter how many times we say it, that God takes sheer delight in you, even though you’re stumbling around in your failures and addictions and making such slow strides toward maturity— hear us: “God shows his own love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” No way, of course, does He want you to keep being beaten up and taken hostage by these unsightly habits and other leftover dysfunctions. They mean you no good, and they will always cost you freedom and joy and the confident blessings of obedience. But that doesn’t mean we’re not all, every last one of us, in an ongoing recovery mode as God keeps doing His work in us— which we must sure need a lot of."

-- Matt Chandler & Michael Snetzer, "Recovering Redemption: A Gospel Saturated Perspective on How to Change" (p. 49).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Meditative Prayer and Scripture

"Meditative prayer is far from the mystical practice of emptying one’s mind and yielding to the experience of mental passivity. What Packer calls for is that we fill our minds with truth from God’s Word about God himself. Meditation is what Packer refers to as directed thinking, active mental exertion in faithful and sustained focus on Scripture, God, the beauty of creation, the truths of redemption, and all that has been revealed of Christ and his saving work."

-- Sam Storms, "Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit (Theologians on the Christian Life)" (p. 143). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Biblical Illiteracy

“In my opinion, the greatest sin in the church of Jesus Christ in this generation is ignorance of the Word of God. Many times I have heard a church officer say, "Well I don't know much about the Bible, but..." and then he gives his opinion, which often actually contradicts the Word of God! Why doesn't he know much about the Bible? These things were written aforetime for our learning. God wants you to know His Word.” - ~ J. Vernon McGee

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Turning Fifty and Still Fighting for Faith

Wise, realistic insights from Jon Bloom

I turn fifty this weekend. Fifty. It came faster than I expected.

I received a birthday greeting in the mail from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). I told my wife that it was like receiving a card from the Grim Reaper. Retirement is not something I’m prepared to think about yet, either psychologically or financially (though I may be prepared in the former sense before the latter sense).

Or spiritually. There is no retirement from Kingdom work.

I am among the oldest of so-called “Generation X,” born from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s. We are a gap generation, an undistinguished “X” between the massive, socially dominant Baby Boomers and the noisy, hip Millennials. We are not “the greatest generation,” and we’re not the coolest. We’re the quiet, middle-child generation. We came of age in the relatively conservative Reagan-Bush era, which means we aren’t political or cultural revolutionaries. And we are now increasingly finding ourselves in middle age, no longer trendsetters, and not yet sages.

Fifty Feels Different

Middle age feels different than I thought it would. My grandmother once said to me (she was in her early nineties and I was in my early thirties), “Inside I still feel like I did in my twenties. I look in the mirror now and wonder, who is that old lady?” Now I understand better what she meant. Much of the inner me at fifty does not feel different than I did at 25. But when I see myself in photos, I wonder at the middle-aged man. Is that really what I look like? That looks like my dad.

But looking older is not the hard part of middle age. That’s mainly hard on my vanity, which is good for my soul. The harder part is the deeper, existential realization that at fifty I am still far more like the 25-year-old inner me than I thought I would be.

I thought I would be more mature by now. I thought I would have greater faith. I thought I would be more prayerful, less fearful, more patient, less irritable. There has been progress in all these areas, but not as much as I expected.

I thought I would be a more Christ-like, Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus, a better husband, a more skilled father, a more thoughtful friend. I thought I would be a bolder witness for Christ and a greater lover of people. I thought I would be more fruitful. And I thought I would have made more progress in overcoming my constitutional and temperamental weaknesses.

The hardest part of middle age is realizing how much of the me I thought would change still remains. The pace of sanctification is turning out to be painfully slow. Disgusting depravity is still a daily battle on many levels. I am still so “beset with weakness” (Hebrews 5:2).

Middle Age Temptations

I know better now why people have mid-life crises. There are more demands on us at this stage of life than at any previous time. Family, vocational, financial, and often ministry challenges are more complex than ever. And these arrive precisely at the time when it dawns on us that we are more sinful, weaker, and less wise than we thought we’d be by now. We can feel trapped in the middle.

That’s why some respond by withdrawing into a protective cocoon while others bolt for some greener-looking pastures. Some grasp at a new fantasy since the old ones didn’t deliver, while others simply succumb to the cynicism that all dreams are empty fantasies and begin the hardening process that produces bitter old people. When weakness meets weariness, and discouragement meets disillusionment, we must be on our guard. These are spiritually precarious moments.

Sufficient Grace to Endure the Race

I’m finding that what I really need at this phase of life is the refreshing gospel reminder that it is precisely my weaknesses that showcase most clearly and beautifully the strength of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 2:9–10), and that I have need of endurance, so that when I have done the will of God I may receive what he promised (Hebrews 10:36). My weaknesses have a purpose in God’s design, and so does my weariness.

Middle age is like miles twelve to twenty in a marathon (at least psychologically), when the initial energetic optimism of the start is gone and the finish line still seems far off (even with the AARP cheerleaders). Miles still stretch out ahead, and we know there are still some hills. Our body is weary, and our mind is susceptible to mental diversions. Regrets, anxieties, and fears cloud our thinking more than they did at the beginning. We are faced with various temptations to give up.

These middle miles may not be the most glorious miles of the race, but they frequently are the most important. Whether or not we finish well is often determined during this stretch of road.

So as I help lead the vanguard of Generation X into our sixth decade in the race of faith, with the rhythm of my feet upon the pavement and through some fatigue, I’m preaching to myself, There’s sufficient grace to endure the race (2 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 12:1).

Fifty came faster than I expected. So will sixty and seventy, if the Lord wills. So will the finish line. So will Glory. And each will feel different than I thought it would. My expectations, and certainly my self-image, are not what’s important.

What’s important, what this whole race is about, is obtaining the Prize (Philippians 3:14). And I want to keep running that I may obtain it (1 Corinthians 9:24).

-- Jon Bloom

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


"Don't ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up." -- G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A grumbling mood

“Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others... but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine...." -- C.S. Lewis

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Advantages of Believing in Providence

The Heidelberg Catechism asks, “What advantage comes from acknowledging God’s creation and providence?” And answers:

"We learn that we are to be patient in adversity, grateful in the midst of blessing, and to trust our faithful God and Father for the future, assured that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot even move."

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sanctification by Word and Spirit

"The sanctification of the Spirit is peculiarly connected with, and limited to the doctrine, truth, and grace of the gospel; for holiness is the implanting, writing, and realizing of the Gospel in our souls."

-- John Owen

Friday, July 17, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Blessings of Christ's Kingly Office for Us

"The happiness promised us in Christ does not consist in outward advantages—such as leading a joyous and peaceful life, having rich possessions, being safe from all harm, and abounding with delights such as the flesh commonly longs after. No, our happiness belongs to the heavenly life.

"Christ enriches his people with all things necessary for the eternal salvation of souls and fortifies them with courage to stand unconquerable against all the assaults of spiritual enemies. From this we infer that he rules—inwardly and outwardly—more for our own sake than his.

"Thus it is that we may patiently pass through this life with its misery, hunger, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other troubles—content with this one thing: that our King will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph."

-- John Calvin, "Institutes of the Christian Religion"

Monday, July 13, 2015

How Helpless Guilty Nature Lies

How helpless guilty nature lies,
Unconscious of its load!
The heart, unchanged can never rise
To happiness and God.

The will perverse, the passions blind,
In paths of ruin stray;
Reason, debased, can never find
The safe, the narrow way.

Can aught, beneath a power divine,
The stubborn will subdue?
Tis Thine, almighty Saviour, Thine,
To form the heart anew.

O change these wretched hearts of ours,
And give them life divine!
Then shall our passions and our powers,
Almighty Lord, be Thine!

-- Isaac Watts

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Message That Counters Everything

"...The gospel is the one message that counters everything we want to believe about ourselves and about God. It counters the message of Pride Toronto, it counters the message of liberal Christianity, it counters the message of atheism, it counters the message of Mormonism, it counters the message of humanism, it counters every single message outside of itself.

"We want to believe that we are autonomous, but the gospel assures us we are under the jurisdiction of God...."

For the rest of Tim Challies' article, click here.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


We vastly underestimate the effects of the reality that our fall into sin, back in the Garden of Eden, had not only in turning us toward doing the bad instead of the good, but, simultaneously, it also meant that we would become very, very, very foolish. And that was bound to play out in all kinds of crucial and massive ways in our individual lives, our families, and in our politics and society. We need the rescuing gift of God's truth as much as we need his grace. (Eph. 4:17-19)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Almost Saved...

Here's an excerpt from a D.A Carson devotional from Luke 11:24-26:

"Apparently the man who has been exorcised of the evil spirit never replaced that spirit with anything else. The Holy Spirit did not take up residence in his life; the man simply remained vacant....

"There are three lessons to learn.

"...First, partial conversions are all too common. A person gets partially cleaned up. He or she is drawn close enought to the Gospel and to the people of God that there is some sort of turning away from godlessness, a preliminary infatuation with holiness, an attraction toward righteousness. But like the person represented by rocky soil in the parable of the sower and the soils (8:14-15), this person may initially seem to be the best of the crop, and yet not endure. There has never been the kind of conversion that spells the takeover of an individual by the living God, a reorientation tied to genuine repentance and enduring faith.

"The second lesson follows: a little Gospel is a dangerous thing. It gets people to think well of themselves, to sigh with relief that the worst evils have been dissipated, to enjoy a nice sense of belonging. But if a person is not truly justified, regenerated and transferred from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God's dear Son, the dollop of religion may serve as little more than an inoculation against the real thing.

"The third lesson is inferential.... Evil cannot simply be opposed -- that is, it is never enough simply to fight evil, to cast out a demon. Evil must be replaced by good, the evil spirit by the Holy Spirit. We must 'overcome evil with good' (Rom.12:21). For instance it is difficult to overcome bitterness against someone by simply resolving to stop being bitter; one must replace bitterness by genuine forgiveness and love for that person. It is difficult to overcome greed by simply resloving not to be quite so materialistic; one must fasten one's affections on better treasure (cf. Luke 12:13-21) and learn to be wonderfully and self-sacrificially generous. Overcome evil with good." [Eph.4:22-32]

--D.A. Carson "For the Love of God" for Feb.25 (Crossway 1998)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

We Just Don't See Straight

“We live in an age when there is a false glare on the things of time and a great mist over the things of eternity.”

― J.C. Ryle

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Christ Coordinates Our Friendships

'In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting - any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends, "Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another."'

-- C.S. Lewis

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn versus Anthony Kennedy on the Nature of Liberty

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's view of human freedom, rooted in historic Christian thinking, is just about diametrically opposed to the view espoused by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his recent Supreme Court opinions...

Consider this quote from Solzhenitsyn:

" American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God's creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding one thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims.

"Subsequently, however, all such limitations were eroded everywhere in the West; a total emancipation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming ever more materialistic. The West has finally achieved the rights of man, and even excess, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistic selfishness of the Western approach to the world has reached its peak and the world has found itself in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the celebrated technological achievements of progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the twentieth century's moral poverty, which no one could have imagined even as late as the nineteenth century...."

-- "A World Split Apart" — Commencement Address Delivered At Harvard University, June 8, 1978

July 4, Inalienable Rights, and the Creator

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As we celebrate July 4, there are some striking things to take note of in this most famous sentence from the Declaration of Independence. The founding fathers regarded these to be among the ‘self-evident truths’ that were foundational to our republic: “that all men are CREATED equal”, and that “their Creator” (not any human government or governmental institution) was the source of their “inalienable rights.”
So if the Creator is the source of our rights, surely he must be the one who defines them, which makes this statement from Jesus seem especially relevant in our time: “Haven’t you read…that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,….” (Matthew 19:4).
I am not one to claim that all the founding fathers were orthodox believers, but who can doubt that they and Jesus had the same Person in mind when they refer to the Creator?
It seems that Secularists today are determined to re-define historic cultural institutions, but to do so they have to attempt what even they cannot actually and legitimately do -- which is to re-write history. As John Adams himself said, "Facts are stubborn things...."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Interest in God Himself

"Moving in evangelical circles as I do, I am often troubled with what I find. While my fellow believers are constantly seeking to advance in godliness, they show little direct interest in God himself. When they study Scripture, only the principles of daily personal godliness get their attention; their heavenly Father does not. It is as if they should concentrate on the ethics and dynamics of marriage and fail to spend time with their spouse!

"There is something narcissistic and, to tell the truth, nutty in being more concerned about godliness than about God. As it would not be nice to care more for our marriage than for the partner we have promised to love, honor, and cherish, so it is not nice to care more for our religion than for the God whom we are called to praise and please every day of our lives."

-- J.I. Packer, quoted by Sam Storms, "Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit (Theologians on the Christian Life)" (Kindle Locations 2924-2930). Crossway. Kindle Edition. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The American Experiment

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” -- John Adams

Who You Really Are

“What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.” -- Robert Murray McCheyne

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sez who?

Whenever an individual or a society faces some crucial cultural, ethical issue there is, looming in the background an absolutely critical question:  Sez Who?   That is, if you assert that  marriage is [fill in the blank], then who's to say you are right in your assertion?

Theists -- people like our Founding Fathers who believed in a Creator -- can plausibly answer the Sez Who question by saying, "God says....."  (And that's just what Christians do on this matter, relying on passages like Gen. 1:27; 2:24 and Matt. 19:4-6).   Now of course secularists don't find this convincing, nor do they accept this answer to the Sez Who? question.  But what almost always seems to go unnoticed is that they do not appear to have a coherent and compelling answer themselves to "Sez Who?"

Is their answer to, "Who says your concept of marriage is the right one?" -- is their answer merely, "I do...I and the people who agree with me"?   Would that be Justice Kennedy's answer?   So are we down to merely "we do, and majority rules"?  But our founding documents' understanding of inalienable rights (endowed by the Creator, and recognized, but not given, by Government) -- that understanding was precisely intended and designed to protect these fundamental rights from the dictates of the majority.

And yet, it seems like "majority rules" is what has happened here.   There is, in this world-view, no transcendent "Who" (God) -- Justice Kennedy's opining does not, because it cannot, go there.  There is only 'us' -- and so, "majority rules" after all.  And it's not the majority of the populace (via referendum) nor the majority of duly-elected legislators (via political process) -- no, it's the majority of Supreme Court justices.

So 'who says' that marriage is what we were told yesterday that it is?  Five judges, that's who.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Denney on Understanding Christ's Death

The death of Christ could not be proof of God's love for us unless it was actually necessary to save us, as this classic analogy from theologian James Denney illustrates: "There is something irrational in saying that the death of Christ is a great proof of love to the sinful, unless there is shown at the same time a rational connection between that death and the responsibilities which sin involves, and the responsibilities which sin involves, and from which that death delivers.

"Perhaps one should beg pardon for using so simple an illustration, but the point is a vital one, and it is necessary to be clear. If I were sitting on the end of a pier, on a summer day, enjoying the sunshine and the air, and some one came along and jumped into the water and got drowned 'to prove his love for me,' I should find it quite unintelligible. I might be much in need of love, but an act in no rational relation to any of my necessities could not prove it.

"But if I had fallen over the pier and were drowning, and some one sprang into the water, and at the cost of making my peril, or what but for him would be my fate, his own, saved me from death, then I should say, 'Greater love hath no man than this.' I should say it intelligibly, because there would be an intellibible relation between the sacrifice which love made and the necessity from which it redeemed."

-- James Denney

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Yesterday's Faithfulness Brings Today's Encouaragement

A wise, against the grain perspective from Erik Raymond...

"...Think about your own congregation, if you were facing such a pressure packed situation, do you think you would you point them back to the previous generation? It is common today to embrace the prominence of the now. We tend to act like we think that we are the most important generation. We rarely look over our shoulders unless we are looking down our noses or tickling our curiosity. However, for Christians, looking back is vitally important for marching ahead faithfully. There is great value today in looking back to yesterday...."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Questioning and Faith

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.”

― Elisabeth Elliot, "A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael"

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Source of Our Every Good

" will not suffice simply to hold that there is one whom all ought to honor and adore, unless we are also persuaded that he is the fountain of every good, and that we must seek nothing elsewhere than in him. . . . For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his fatherly care, that he is the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond him — they will never yield him willing service. Nay, unless they establish their complete happiness in him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him."

-- John Calvin (Institutes, I, 2, 1)