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