Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pray what you mean

This was my Minister's Prayer of Confession in our last worship service.

Minister Prayer of Confession- Our Father, we praise You for sending Jesus to us. Forgive us Lord if we express any disappointment in Him and His gifts to us through a lack of gratitude. Teach us to plan and anticipate the future but to learn to rest in whatsoever comes to pass. We rejoice in Your goodness to us and pray that You will enable us to see it at every twist and turn of the events in our lives.

I am challenged to see God's goodness to us and to me, in every twist and turn of the events of our lives.

Since I prayed that prayer, I crashed my car and my ribs. It was two separate incidents. All good things come in threes. What is next? Neither the car nor the ribs are too painfully damaged but painfully enough to have to respond to God's Providence. Oh, perhaps my ego and pride are damaged but that always does them good. Is God's Providence good? Is it full of joy, somehow, through the wreckage of unforeseen events? Or, more accurately, through the shadowed veil of unfortunate events? Unfortunate? Maybe God's good fortune is precisely through such events?

But God is good and He would have us see His goodness, even through expensive wrecks and stupid falls on the sledding hill. He is overseeing our lives and the seemingly unimportant and unlucky events are all part of His plan to lead us in and onto glory. We do grow from glory to glory, from day to day, from crash to crash.

Many of you have had events this last year that caused you stop and wonder if God is planning anything at all. How come you can so easily seem to interrupt and alter his plans? I'll bet He didn't see this coming? No? And if not, is that not unsettling? It unsettles me. Then I have to deal with the fact that God does know what is happening, what is necessary for me and how to turn it all to my good and to His glory. And so we honor Him and rest in His goodness and His Providence, the bitter as well as the sweet, for our good God is a consuming fire. He is our Father and is lovingly producing in us a vessel of honor, tried and purified. To God be the glory.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Original Intent- David Barton

Original Intent by David Barton is a must read for every Christian. Barton recounts numerous founding documents and cases that establish the blatantly Christian heritage of our nation. Only in recent times, mainly the last 50 or 60 years, have Americans been willing to jettison our heritage and acquiesce to the whims of liberal historical revisionists and cow tow to the activist judicial system.

This book will give renewed courage and an unapologetic apologetic for our Christian roots, the place of Christian religion in the public sphere both in the courts and in our education system, and hope that the liberal interpretation of America's past is patently refutable.

This book ought to be required reading in every law school. That is unlikely, but our Christian law schools must insist that their students know this history and are able to articulate it in the face of a culture seeking to cut the past off from the present and the future. Such a tactic is sure to bring God's ire and it appears that this has already begun.

One of the great national sins in the Scriptures is forgetting; forgetting God's blessings, forgetting to honor His name, forgetting to count on Him for the future. In recent years, our national leaders, especially in the executive and judicial branches, have self-consciously cut God off from the public sphere. Christians must once again stand for the truth that Jesus Christ is the rightful ruler of these united States of America. We must remember and repent and then take action, standing confidently on God's Word and in the public square. Perhaps God will see fit to rain down His blessings upon us anew.

Dismissed with Prejudice- Christopher Meyerhoeffer

Just finished a novel by an old acquaintance of mine from Twin Falls, Idaho. The book is Dismissed with Prejudice and the author is Christopher Meyerhoeffer.

It was Christopher's first novel and he does a good job. The book is in the John Grisham genre, a legal and criminal thriller. One of the intriguing aspects of the book for me is that it was set in Southern Idaho, where both Christopher (he was a few years older than me) and I grew up. The places and scenes are familiar.

The novel is about a long history of manipulation of the court system by two ambitious lawyers and a couple of cops willing to be bought for a price.

The main character is a civil lawyer, Nick Jelaco, with a Delta Force military background. He is capable of handling himself with his hands and his gun. His wife is murdered and his three year old daughter is abducted. The story is about his desperate attempts to find his daughter and the sordid story that unravels as he does so. The chase involves an interesting character, an enormous Sioux Indian, that Meyerhoeffer paints as a somewhat sympathetic character, even though his actions are despicable. It works. You want to hate the man but find yourself sympathetic due to the pathetic history that created such a beast.

Although I have not read many books in this genre (a few Grisham books and a few others), I appreciated Meyerhoeffer's comparative tastefulness in the book. He could have filled the pages with gory descriptions that would have made entertaining reading for many in our voyeuristic culture. He refrained and did the reader a kind service.

I got the book for Christmas (given by my brother-in-law, longtime close friend of the author's brother) and finished it today. Obviously, the story held my attention. The writing was good for a first published novel. I'd say Christopher acquitted himself quite well. There were lucid chapters and I kept turning pages. I am sure his subsequent forays will be even better.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Contest books are gone

Hey Folks,

The Slave books by MacArthur are all claimed. Thanks for participating!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Free Books Still Available

See the post below.

Books are still available!

Communion Meditation-His name is Jesus

Jospeh called His name Jesus because He was to be the Savior of His people. At Christmas, the baby Jesus, wise men worshiping, shepherds watching and angels singing are all a part of the glory and beauty of Christmas.

But innkeepers turning out pregnant women and Herod killing the babies is part of the Christmas story, too. How could God’s good world become so wretched? Because the people worshiped and served that which is not God. They exchanged the truth for a lie and that resulted in envy and murder and every other conceivable sin.

God had the answer, though. He would come as Emmanuel and dwell with His people. He would teach them of His ways. He would die to pay for their sins. He would send the Holy Spirit to keep them from lurching back into idolatrous rebellion. God would be their champion and save His people from their sins and the death that their sins bring.

Jesus is indeed the Savior. He saves us from our sins. His perfect life and death are the means by which we gain this great salvation. Glory be to God in the highest.

Exhortation-Christmas is Coming!

Christmas is coming! It will be here on Saturday. The presents are under the tree, or will be, and the children are having a hard time restraining themselves. Anticipation is growing and everyone wonders what the morning will bring.

And then it finally happens, Christmas Eve arrives, we finally get to bed, try to sleep or try to stay awake, and then the morning finally comes. It’s Christmas, Christmas presents, Christmas breakfast and Christmas feast.

This is all wondrous and glorious and we are reluctant to even interrupt the moment with the remembrance of sin. But the glory of it all is that Jesus came to Earth to save us from our sins.

Israel had waited for the Savior for many ages past. He finally arrived and He was just the baby boy of a carpenter, so it seemed, and of a young woman with a recent questionable past. They may have been disappointed with such a Savior, not understanding how He could save them from their sins. But God revealed it all in due time.

God gives us Jesus and we must not be disappointed with Him. He is all that we need and we are to be completely satisfied with this Savior. Our hearts must be filled with gratitude for Him and we must learn to extend such gratitude into all the corners of our lives.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Slave-Free Books!

Thomas Nelson has graciously provided some free books to help promote MacArthur's new title, Slave, The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ.

I highly recommend this book.

To receive your book, answer the following question in an email to

I only have five books to give away so the first five responders, (all five of you who read this blog!) will receive a book!

How many times does the Greek word 'doulos' appear in the New Testament?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Slave by John MacArthur

MacArthur's newest title, Slave-The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ, is a must read.

The main thesis of the book is that we ought to identify with Christ primarily as His slaves. This identification has profound implications in our relationship to the Lord as well as to sin.

The opening pages of Slave put forth a strong argument that the Greek 'doulos' should always and only be rendered as the English 'slave.' The Geneva Bible and the KJV generally render 'doulos' as 'servant'. There were perhaps compelling reasons for doing so in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was thought that 'slave' would not adequately represent ancient Roman slavery. In the late medieval world, servants, were not much better than slaves. However, in our modern vernacular, 'servant' does not carry the weight of slavery, at all. Servants are voluntary, come for their hire, are independent and so forth.

So, while our conceptions of slavery may not perfectly fit the Roman idea of slavery, it is much more akin to that idea than to the modern idea of servant.

We are, in fact, bought by Christ. We are His slaves. We have no personal rights of our own. We are not free men. Furthermore, our ownership has been transferred. We used to be slaves of sin. We had to serve that master. But now, we are slaves of Christ, having to serve Him. In this paradoxical way of thinking, the slave of sin is not free. But the slave of Christ, the slave of righteousness is the only one who is free.

This changes the meaning of many passages in the New Testament that are rendered servant. Of the 124 appearances of 'doulos' in the New Testament, the KJV translates it 'slave' only one time. The rest are servant. We must dramatically rethink our connection to Christ.

Having set this stage, MacArthur moves on to examine a great deal of Scripture in light of this change of meaning. He does this while walking through the doctrines of grace. In fact, this process creates an entirely new and refreshing way of thinking about how we relate to God as totally depraved, unconditionally chosen by Him, related to Christ by His atonement, called to Him by His powerful grace, and kept by Him until the day of redemption of our bodies.

MacArthur does not forget that the New Testament also describes us as the children of God, adopted into His family and kingdom. He does this, while also pointing out that the writers of the Epistles still regularly use the slave language, long after Jesus has raised us up from slaves to children and joint heirs. Furthermore, he gives a wide testimony of the early Church that also prolifically used slave language to describe our standing in Christ.

Many early Christians held the statement, "I am a Christian" to be nearly synonymous with the idea that "I am Christ's slave." When we think of Christ as Lord, Kyrios, we should think of Him as Master, a slave owner. So, in addition to the manifold number of times we see 'doulos', slave, in the New Testament, we also see Jesus as Lord, Kyrios, the Master. The New Testament is full of this language of Master and Slave.

If we understand ourselves as the adopted children of God, we do so, understanding also that we have been raised to that position, from the position of being abject slaves. This ought to produce in us a far greater level of gratitude to the One that is both our Savior and our Lord and Master. It is a privilege to be His slave.

This book would be an exceptional group study for discussion. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Communion Meditation- And the Government is upon His Shoulders

And the government shall be upon His shoulders. We embrace the crucified Jesus. But that is not the same thing as embracing the dead Jesus. We are not loyal to Jesus that way some people are still loyal to Elvis.

One of the glories of communion is the testimony that we give each Lord’s day. We show the Lord’s death, till He come. For the early disciples, there may have been a temptation to cover up the death of Jesus.

You serve Jesus? We saw Him crucified on Calvary.

But the correct Christian response is, “I am not ashamed of the cross of Christ.” It was necessary that He die but He is not dead.

That second part is what is hard to believe. He is not dead. But dead is dead. So, the cross becomes, to Greeks, foolishness, to Jews, a stumbling block, but to those who believe, the power of a changed life.

We are not ashamed of the death of Christ. In that death, He defeated sin and death. He conquered principalities and powers. He bought the salvation of His people. We are not holding on to some nostalgic era, dead and gone. We embrace the cross because He lives and has ascended to His throne until all dominions also recognize and believe.

And the government is upon His shoulders.

Communion Meditation- Witness

Once the Holy Spirit came in power at Pentecost, the disciples were emboldened to declare the gospel message to the world. They went out proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And everywhere they went, their message was attested to with accompanying signs. The gospel is not just a message, words on paper, but it is a message with power. In the early days of the Church, that power was miraculous, in healings, casting out demons, power over vipers. And now that the attesting miracles have ceased, the power is the power of changed lives; men and women turned from darkness to light. power to resist sin and temptation, power to stand against the world’s schemes for education, child-rearing, marriage, and power to stand in holiness in a life transformed by Jesus Christ.

We are called to be witnesses. And what we do here in this meal, testifies to the world that we are Christians and that we believe, not only in a risen Savior, who gives us victory over death, but also in a crucified savior, who died on our behalf. We do not shrink from the foolishness of the cross but embrace it because it means that we have been set free from our sins to live new lives in the risen Savior. To God be the glory forever. Amen.

Exhortation-Third Sunday of Advent

On this Third Sunday of Advent, we are still waiting. We have begun our celebrations and look forward to the festivity and the fellowship. We are thinking of presents, both giving and receiving and we are hoping to please those we give to and are reminding ourselves to be pleased with the gifts that we are given.

As we prepare for Christmas, we should be doing some soul searching of our own. What has God given us? And what have you given Him?

We all know that God has given His own dear Son. He gave Him to us as the greatest gift the world has ever known. It was a gift, the gift that saved the world, darkened in sin. For only God could take away the sins of the world. And He has done so. Amen!

But what have you given Him? Have you given Him your time? Your money? Your actions? Your words? Your hopes? Your good deeds? Your hidden sins? Your spouse? Your children? Your troubles? Your solutions?

The fact of the matter is that the Lord owns you. You are bought with a price and have become His slave. All rights are relinquished to the King of Heaven who has come to Earth to establish His kingdom here and rule His subjects.

Have you given Him the only thing that your really have to offer? Have you completely given Him yourself?

Exhortation- Second Sunday of Advent

On this Second Sunday of Advent, we have become more aware of waiting for Christmas. Waiting is something that many of us don’t do well. One way we fail is to be impatient. Our time clock is ticking at a different pace than everyone else’s. Time bothers us so people who mess with time bother us, too. We call that impatience and impatience is NOT a virtue.

But another response about time is simply not to care. You are only concerned about yourself and are oblivious to everything that is going on around you. Frankly, it doesn’t even matter to you as long as you are doing exactly what you want to be doing, right now.

Both responses are unacceptable. Impatience won’t do, nor will a selfish complacence. So, what are we to do?

We are called to wait upon the Lord. We do this with our eyes wide open, hastening for the day of good things. We prepare ourselves for His advent, ready to embrace Him and whatever He brings to us. But part of that preparation is learning to operate on the Lord’s time and not on our own time frame. We have to learn to wait, eagerly, yes, but patiently, trusting that the Lord does all things well and at just the right time.

We learn much about waiting in our own personal lives and we can apply this to waiting on the Lord. We should learn the lessons and repent and change when we fail. But God is at work in us in this as well.

Exhortation-First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first day of Advent. This time marks a period of waiting for God’s promises to come. This is a good practice. I am thankful that we all look forward to Christmas with eager anticipation. God’s people have always done so and God has always fulfilled His promises.

He promised children to Adam and Eve and a son to replace Abel after the murder by wicked Cain. He promised children to Noah’s sons. Isaac was a child of promise to an old and empty womb. Hannah believed God and He gave the barren woman a son. But Israel grew old again, not believing the promises, unable to bear true sons, a barren womb in a dwindling kingdom.

But yet some waited for the consolation of Israel and God was faithful to His promise. Elizabeth believed God and He gave her a son, the forerunner of the Lord. Mary believed and the virgin bore a Son, One who would take away the sins of God’s people.

Always, God’s people wait upon Him to fulfill His promises and He always does. The Savior has come but comes again to us every time we call upon Him to save us from our sins. He is ever faithful. Only believe.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Exhortation to Augustine Presbytery

Exhortation from the Presiding Minister
Ephesians 3:20-4:32
Lynchburg, Virginia
October 21, 2010


We have many things to discuss today. This passage gives us some insight into how these things ought to be done. The apostle has just spent three chapters climbing the theological high ground. And then that theological high ground leads to his assertions of practical Christianity. Not just doing things decently and in good order. The theological high grounds lead to the intensely practical Christian behavior of being kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Brothers, what are we doing here? We must be reminded. We are shepherds of God’s people. The reason we are here is so that we may be equipped in Christ’s Church to care for His sheep. Do not lose sight of that.

Pastor Douglas Wilson was just in Lynchburg for a debate and conference and he told us about a famous essay of G.K. Chesterton. Calls had gone out for essays to address the question, “What is wrong with the world?” There were numerous submissions and I want to read Chesterton’s short response to you. What is wrong with the World? Chesterton answers in two words. I am.

Gentlemen, the sooner we get to that answer the better we will be equipped to serve the Lord, the world and our own congregations. St. Paul understood this, St. Paul, the aged, the chief of sinners.

Brothers, I cannot speak for you but what is wrong with the world? What is wrong with husbands? What is wrong with fathers? With Pastors? With Sons? With friends? I know the answer. I am.

We have some important items on our agenda today. We are receiving churches into the CREC. This is joyous. We are to support them and keep them accountable. We have overtures that call the Presbytery to look at itself and its actions. We are considering a name change for the CREC.

Emotions and opinions run at different levels on all of these things. Some of these actions and decisions have large ramifications. Others, not so much. And we must confess our own ignorance as to whether these things are even truly important in the long view of Christ’s Kingdom. We will know in 10 or 20 or perhaps 100 or 500 years, when you are all dead and gone. Humility is in order.

But if we be humble men, and we must be, then we will be able to treat all of these things and the men that present them, as we should. We should be able to speak the truth in love. Let us show true Christian maturity in our actions and attitudes towards one another.

In closing, Let me ask you this question. What is wrong with Augustine Presbytery? I know the answer to that question. Do you?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Seven Deadly Sins- John T. Mabray

Just finished The Seven Deadly Sins by my friend and fellow Lynchburg pastor, John T. Mabray. The book was the outgrowth of a sermon series delivered by Pastor Mabray at Rivermont EPC here in Lynchburg.

Mabray does an excellent job of exploring this classic set of sins. In doing so, he thoroughly covers the second table of the law. The writing is very good.

Pastor Mabray shows an infectious zeal for the grace of Christ. He preaches strongly against sins while exhorting the reader to the ever abundant grace of Christ both for forgiveness as well as the strength of the Holy Spirit for daily faithful living.

Each chapter has an extremely helpful list of confessions that really leaves no stone unturned and no excuses reserved for sinning against God in the areas of Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony and Lust.

I think this is an excellent Biblical, Pastoral and Practical book.

You can find it here.

Well done.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Home School Commencement Address 2010

Commencement Address 2010
Elizabeth and Zachary Hurt

It is my privilege and honor to be speaking to you today. I’ve only got so many kids and so many opportunities to pontificate. My children are even conspiring against me, lumping two opportunities into one and reducing my number of captured audiences. You can thank them after the ceremony but you will still have to sit through my comments.

Bringing up children is no easy task. To do it well is harder still. This talk is not about ringing my own bell, or for trumpeting the great virtues and abilities of my lovely wife. But having demurred for a second, I do offer you the proof that we have accomplished the task that was set before us. I give you the proof, the fruit of our efforts, Elizabeth and Zachary. I commend them to you as fine examples of Christian virtue and academic excellence. At first hearing, this may seem like self-serving braggadocio. WE must be really smart. Look at our great kids!

And while we are very proud of them, bragging about ourselves is not the point at all. As I have tried to teach the members of our church, acquiring wisdom is something that is expected of all Christians and Christian parents in particular. Getting wisdom is a command from the Lord. Wisdom cries from the streets, “Come in here. I will teach you.” Wisdom is not something out there for the supper smart, the highly educated, the wonderfully advantaged. Wisdom is granted by God to all those who will seek her diligently and having found wisdom, will love her, obeying her ways.

We do have great kids. I am not afraid to say that. As parents, our greatest delight is to see our children, to see them love the Lord, to see them love books, to see them learn wisdom, to watch them grow up, and thus, to receive the fruits of our labors.

Did we expect anything less than this? No, we did not. We have received that which we hoped for. We have been given the desires of our hearts. Having got what we expected, does this make us arrogant, prideful, or even super successful? No, it does not. Remember, we have been given the desires of our heart. Given. It is a gift from God. All that we have, our marriage, our home, our children, our joy, is a gift. And these children, these good children are also a gift. Who would brag about a gift, except to laud the Giver? We did not give ourselves this gift. God gave it to us. So, our task is to thank Him, not bask in the glory of such wonder.

But how does this affect you? What is the purpose of such an address to those who hear these words? Well, wisdom cries out. Can you hear her? Wisdom wants to give you the gift. Will you take her up on it? God has given us the way to joy and to see our children walking in the blessedness of His glory. What will you do?

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not advocating a vending machine approach to God. You don’t just buy wisdom, or bribe God into keeping His promise by doing what is right. He is not obligated to be manipulated by you. Many try that route only to find great frustration in having done everything right, at least in their own minds, only to be forced to eat rotten eggs at the end of the day. How can God’s gift of wisdom be spoiled into something so rancid?

The key is faith, not works. But don’t we have to do what God told us to do in order to receive the rewards that He promised? Well, yes and no. God has made promises to you. He makes covenant with you and with your children, even to a thousand generations. He has also told you to train up your children. He has told you to bring them up in Christian nurture and admonition. So, which is it? Does God bless me because of His promises or because I train my children according to His rule. And I would want to say to you, “Yes” but there is a chicken and an egg.

The chicken came first, we all know that. And God’s Chicken is Faith. Do you believe God’s promises? Yes? How do we know? Well, if you believe Him, then you do what He tells you to do. And, having done so, you receive the promised blessings. So, is the gift then of Works? God forbid you should say such a thing. Works don’t create faith but faith works. This may sound a bit riddle-ish but it really is not that hard. If you really believe God, then you will do what He has told you to do. Granted, you will not do it perfectly but believing God includes confessing and repenting for your shortcomings and sins. He blesses those who do so.

We must believe God when it comes to raising our children. It is the central thing in giving them a Christian education. Do you love God? Do you trust in His promises? Is your home a place where trust, peace and rest are the central identifying qualities? If so, then you are already receiving the gift, the blessing of children, education, wisdom, and joy.

If not, then what is the problem? Do you need more rules? Higher expectations? A better liturgy of the school day? Are you boiling your children in their mother’s milk? Is what they ought to love a dread to them? Or is it a delight? If it is a delight, then you are accomplishing the goal of educating your children in the Lord. If it is not a delight, then you do not need to clamp down with more life straining rules. You must believe God. You must bolster your faith. You must take Him at His promises. As you do this, you will find that the rest and peace necessary to make a house a home begins to flow into or back into your household.

You cannot grasp this gift of faith. It is a gift. It must be given. But our Heavenly Father is not stingy. He gives to those who humbly ask. He gives, pressed down, shaken together, overflowing.

The bottom line in this talk, well preaching (indulge me, I’m a preacher) is that God is good. He is good and He has been very good to us.

Elizabeth and Zachary, your mother and I are very proud of you. You are young but you have accomplished a great deal. Although you are our children, we think of you as a young woman and a young man. It may be awhile before you feel comfortable with those titles, man and woman, but you have shown yourselves worthy of the honor. You have both been diligent, hard-working, self-motivated, honest, godly, cheerful, respectful, kind, gentle, patient, full of love for your God, your parents, your siblings, your church and your friends. You have already shown yourselves steadfast in the faith and I have every reason to believe that you will continue to do so. All of these things are marks of Christian maturity. God has blessed you and in doing so, He has blessed your mother and me.

You have been steady students, loving learning and learning how to learn. You seek knowledge and wisdom, acquire and maintain it. Having got this lesson, you have earned the right to be where you are today.

Where is that? It’s funny. We tend to think of commencements as endings. I suppose a good many people today even think that is what the word means. They think commencement means graduating, moving up, achieving the goal, getting to the finish line. But only a moment’s reflection makes us realize the error. As soon as we see the error, we shall commence to put it right.

Where are you? What right have your accomplishments earned you? The right to commence. You get to commence your education in earnest. You get to commence living like an adult. You commence your journey to your goals. You commence leaving our home, slowly, as you become your own person, in your own skin, on your own terms, under God’s authority. All this hard work has got you to the very wonderful place that we call the starting line. You’ve worked hard. Great! Now you are qualified to begin.

I am thankful that you are here. I have faith in God that at as He has upheld you in the past, passing on the gift of faith in Him, that you will remain ever faithful to Him. Although the world may not be ready for you, you are ready for the world. God bless you both.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Feed My Sheep- A Passionate Plea for Preaching****

Feed My Sheep- A Passionate Plea for Preaching, is a compilation of essays from various preachers. The book is published by Reformation Trust, a division of Ligonier Ministries.

The book includes essays on preaching from many prominent reformed preachers. The topics include The Primacy of Preaching by Al Mohler, Preaching to the Heart by Sinclair Ferguson, Preaching with Authority by Don Kistler, Preaching to Suffering People by John Piper, and A Reminder to Shepherds by John McArthur. There are also other essays, including chapters by RCs Sproul, Sr and Jr.

I highly recommend these essays for preachers. All the articles are excellent reminders of the purposes of preaching, before God, to the congregation and in the life of the minister.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Day God Made- Glen Knecht****

If you want a short, concise and convincing book on the power of the Lord's Day as the Christian Sabbath, then you should read Pastor Glen Knecht's book The Day God Made. He gives a clear and sound argument for the day as continuing into the New Covenant era. Furthermore, he points out the need for the day as a day of rest, delight, worship, instruction and works of mercy.

Many of our troubles can be traced to the contempt that most Christians today show for the Lord's Day. As one day in seven that is put aside and holy, consecrated to the Lord, we have a simple way to show our allegiance to our Father in Heaven and to restore our souls for the work that He has called us to do.

The neglect of the Lord's Day is both a symptom of our spiritual emptiness as well as a cause of our further decline. We need to repent and restore the day that the Lord has given to man.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Prodigal God- Timothy Keller****

Just finished The Prodigal God- Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer PCA Church in New York.

This was an excellent handling of the story of the two sons and the Prodigal Father. His telling of the story is very good and forces some important and very biblical paradigm changes.

God is lavish. The two brothers are both pursuing dead end courses. The Father goes out to both of them. One responds, the other rejects. While we tend to relate to the younger brother, much of the problem in our own midst and in our own churches is that we are in danger of being the older brother, the one who fails to respond to the Father. The younger brothers besetting sin is his bad deeds. The older brother's besetting sin is his good deeds. Which brother are you?

The answer is to turn to the true Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus, who fulfills His calling before the Father. He will find the profligate brother and bring him home. He will remind the cold elder brother that he must serve the Father out of love, not pursuing the self-righteousness of his own good deeds. Jesus, our true elder brother is eminently faithful. When we respond to Him in true gratitude for the great price of His serving us, we will find peace like a deep river.

Furthermore, we will be transformed by this kind of love so that our own profligate lives or our own self-righteous pride are annihilated in the deep, deep, love of Jesus. This is nothing less than walking in the New Creation, in our hearts first and in our lives and the lives around us in this world, thereafter.

Highly recommended book.

Communion Meditation- Jesus is Good

At this table, we are called to peace. Jesus has called us friends and has seated us for a special meal with Him. This should do wonders for our assurance of peace and salvation in Christ. But where does your assurance lie? I hope that no one gathered here is assured of peace and friendship with Christ based upon how well you are doing. You should not feel blessed at this table because the Lord has thought so highly of you that He invited you here.

It is not because you are so great that you are here. If you think that, then you need to be humbled. But for those of you who are weak of conscience and feel as if you are too bad to be here, there is a message of peace and hope for you. Jesus knows you. He knows what you think. He knows what you say. He knows what you do. He knows you even better than you know yourself. He knows your good deeds and He knows your many failings.

So, being at peace here is not a matter of how good you are but of how good Jesus is. He has not only invited you here. He has given you new clothes through forgiveness of sin. He has cleansed you with the fire of His Holy Spirit. He has given you a soft heart of flesh in place of a hard heart of stone. He has been very good. There is nothing that you can do to match His goodness, so your only faithful response is to simply and exuberantly give thanks.

Pluck Out Your Eyes

How do we pluck out our eyes or chop off our hands or feet? Could we even do such a thing? Why would we want to? After all, we need our eyes. We need our hands. We need our feet. But Jesus is talking about those sins that stumble you, that keep you from pressing on in obedience with Him.

We are Christians and we say that we hate sin. But the fact is, we really love some of our sins. Are you in battle against those things that keep you from adequately loving Jesus? Or have you embraced them and are you unwilling to let them go? Could you be like one of C.S. Lewis’s characters in The Great Divorce that chooses your pet sin and hell rather than choosing to repent and go to heaven? Be honest now. What keeps you from really repenting, turning away, letting go? What causes you to stumble? Is it the comfortable desire of your body? The sensual desire of your eyes? The irrational desire of accumulation?

Learn to hate every unlawful desire that competes with your love for Jesus. Turn away now, kill it, don’t look back and press on to the higher calling in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sackett's Land- Louis L'Amour***

Stupid is as Stupid Says. Guess I didn't know any better. Like Peter, I didn't know what to say, so I spoke. Live and learn.

I just finished my first Louis L'Amour book. I think I had read a few pages in the past but never stuck with a book. I had always thought L'Amour was dime store novels of the Old American West and perhaps some of his books are just that. I should not have pronounced on a topic of which I knew little, if anything.

But I found this first of the Sackett series quite good. L'Amour is a good writer, go figure, he's only sold about 300 million books! He has obviously done a great deal of research and so there is good historical data to be gleaned from these adventure stories, as well.

I needed some true leisure reading and found this just the ticket. I am currently reading the next book in the series. It is a bit long and wordy but I am still finding it enjoyable. In my small experience with L'Amour, he likes his men to be men and in mostly the right sort of ways. I find that a welcome remedy to our effeminate minded modern culture.

The Mystery of the Lord's Supper-Robert Bruce****

The Mystery of the Lord's Supper by Robert Bruce is an excellent presentation of various aspects of the Lord's Supper.

There is a fair amount of emphasis on self-examination but it is not too introspective. He presents a good balance of simply heeding God's promises, recalling your own good experiences with God, and living in real assurance of God's goodness. While self-examination ought to occur in order that we honestly confess our sins before the Lord, there is a perverse introspection that will never see God's grace in our own fallen heart. So, we must strike a healthy and biblical balance. I think Bruce does that quite well.

The final chapter is quite good in this regard although he makes a great blunder in the end. He says that a child or a mad man cannot examine themselves, therefore they should not partake of the Lord's Supper. To which I respond, if a child or mad man is baptized and is seeking Christ, confessing sins, or not outwardly rebellious, then the Lord's Supper is just what the mad man needs to restore his sanity and what the child needs to grow in maturity.

Otherwise, though, a sound book and recommended.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Communion Meditation- Eat, Drink, Digest

We enjoy food long before it gives us nourishment.  We see it and it is a delight to the eyes. We smell it cooking and it wets the appetite.  We may even hear it, think of bacon cooking, or enjoy the texture as you peel an orange.  Finally, we taste it. We can do this with little or no nourishment. You can simply put something savory on your tongue.  Or you can chew food, receiving some of the pleasure, then spit it out, receiving little or no benefit.  In order to receive the nourishment of the food, we must take, eat, take, drink, chew, swallow, digest.   

Many people see Christ in some measure of belief.  They hear the Word of God and assent to the truth. They may taste of His benefits in the church. They may feel the love of the saints.  They may even sense the sweet aroma of the bread of God’s people.  Yet, they never really partake. They do not eat the Word of God.  It does not enter them in a meaningful or saving way, giving life and health to their body and soul.  

So, we come to this meal of thanksgiving. Let us take and eat in faith, not simply eating bread and wine, but by faith, laying hold of the Word of God, chewing on it and being transformed by its power.  Let us not simply look with approval from a distance but rather, being seated at the table of the Lord, let us be fed and nourished by His life-giving food.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Caught by My Daughter

In my sermon on Mark 9, I spent a great deal of time and preaching zeal on Mark 9:40, "for the one who is not against us is for us."

My 13 year old daughter is reading Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will. In it, Luther lays hard claim to Matthew 12:30, "He that is not with me is against me."

What are we to make of these two sayings of Jesus?  Clearly, the statement, "He who is not against us, is for us," is a much milder statement than, "He that is not with me is against me."

The context is the key. In Mark 9, a man is casting out devils in the name of Jesus. Since it is working, we should assume that he is actually working by the power of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit.  The disciples want the man to stop because he is not expressly following or traveling with them.  Jesus says that anyone who does a miracle in his name will not then lightly speak evil of him and that the one who is not expressly against us is for us.

In Matthew, Jesus had been doing miracles, casting out demons. The Pharisees claimed that He did this work by the power of Beelzebub.  They had already declared against Jesus. In that situation, Jesus says that he who is not for us is against us.  The Pharisees had already made their position clear, they were opposed to Christ.

So, the difference in the two passages is clear. The Matthew passage is for those that have declared open hostility to Christ. The Mark passage is for those brothers and sisters that are working in the name of Jesus but are clearly not completely with us.  The former are to be rejected and judged. The latter need to be received and taught.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible- Upgradable Blessings

Luke 6:38 38Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Call me dense, I guess, I won't take much offense. I have always read this passage generally that if you are giving, the Lord will be giving.  If you are stingy, the Lord will be stingy towards you. And it does teach that and more.

With the measure you measure, the Lord will measure. It is not simply that the Lord will bless a generous man and will withhold blessing from a stingy man.  The Lord will repay you according to your level of generosity.  Do you dispense blessings with a teaspoon?  If so, when the Lord gets around to blessing you, it will be by the teaspoonful.  I suppose it will take a while to fill up your cup.

But do you dispense blessings by the cupful?  Or do you dispense them by the 5 gallon bucket? Or with a an ever renewable spring?  The Lord will repay accordingly.

What sorts of blessings? 

How about financial ones to start? Do you give? Do you tithe?  Do you give above the tithe? Do you look for new ways to be generous? Do you show hospitality?  Do you have friends, family and church members over for lunch?  Do you help others in times of need?

How about verbal blessings? Do you give sparingly?  Ever wonder why no one says anything good to you or about you? Do you compliment?  Do you encourage? Do you speak the truth in love?

God will bless you the way that you bless others. And He will use YOUR measuring cup.  Maybe you need to upgrade?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

New Wine

In Luke 5 Jesus tells the Pharisees that you must not sew new patches on old clothes. Also, that you must not put new wine into old wine skins. In the past, I have generally tried to understand these statements as sort of stand alone statements relating vaguely to the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.

Of course, it does relate that way but it is not general. Jesus gives several specific examples of how it relates.

1. Jesus eats with tax-collectors and sinners Luke 5:29-32. Thus, the holiness code and the ceremonial law is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This has ramifications all over the place. The Pharisees hate this. They want an easy to follow code, not the messiness of dealing with sinners and tax collectors.

2. The importance of fasting for spiritual benefit, renewal, holiness, etc. is dramatically changed. Luke 5:33-35. Jesus fed the disciples, they ate and drank. The time for fasting when Jesus is taken away is the time of His death and perhaps also the time from the Ascension to Pentecost. I do not believe it is the time between first and second coming. Jesus is with us now in the Holy Spirit.
The Pharisees cannot point to their fasting as spiritual maturity when they always neglect the weighty elements of the law.

3. Jesus gathers food and eats on the Sabbath, Luke 6:1-5. The Pharisees' view of the Sabbath was a mess. Jesus teaches them that the Sabbath was made for man to give him life. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and is Himself the Sabbath.

So, the new wine skins was a new way of doing things. Some of this was reformation but what Jesus really instituted was transformation. Men needed to be new and their old way of doing things, including the way that they did religion, would not work any more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

JEDfessions of a Pastor

I have been learning a few things during this process. As I mentioned last week in my exhortation, it is easy to make habits and hard to break them. I should have said, "It is easier to make new habits than it is to break old ones." That is because it is not really that easy to make habits.

In order to make a habit, one must repeat an action enough times to be able to do it automatically. Athletes and musicians know this, so they do the same actions over and over until they gain muscle memory. But athletes and musicians also know that to break a bad habit is difficult. So, when a teacher or coach points out the bad habit and the need to break it before it has long-lasting ill consequences, a battle ensues. What is that battle? While one knows that the new habit is better, trying to develop the new and better habit results in WORSE performance, not better. Change your swing and your batting average will go down before it goes up. Change your hand position and the notes will sound less clear and slower before they improve. Many musicians and athletes go back to the old way of doing things before the new habit is ever formed. They claim that the change was detrimental. But the problem was that they just did not stay with it long enough to see the improvement.

JEDfession- The new way of doing things is not habitual. The old habits were not bad but the new ones (at least the ones that I want to adopt and make permanent like praying three times a day, 30 minutes of Bible reading, resolutions of better behavior, especially speaking), are not yet formed as habits. Or, they were done at different times or in a different way. Here's the problem. Somewhere between the old habits and the new habits is total failure. Trying to form a new habit means that you are not doing the old one. Then, if you fail in the new one, you are neither doing the old nor the new one. Instead of doing one thing well or even excellent, you are failing completely. This is quite distressing and makes one think that the old way was so much better, matched my personality, or at least was not total failure.. But the main problem is simply that the new habit is not yet formed. You need a few weeks of consistent repetition to make it habitual.

Finally, I have learned that it is very difficult to deny oneself. Doing your regular habits is not self-denial. This is true, even if your regular habits appear to be very, very, disciplined. JEDish, so to speak. You may have developed good habits. Good for you. But now you are on autopilot and self-denial may even mean performing LESS admirably, as you see it (say, for a day).

While we are not ascetics, Jesus did say that if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Self-denial, in order to follow Jesus, is clearly part of the Christian calling. So, when we find ourselves in the no man's land of being in between habits, we must learn to deny ourselves and follow Christ. This will lead us not only to new habits but the RIGHT new habits.

Having failed JED at many places, perhaps you have got a glimpse into the areas that you do not really want to change and some of the areas where you really do want to change. Perhaps you can use these last 12 days to focus on one or two things, bible reading, prayer, benevolent speech, whatever important priorities you have zeroed in on, and work on making that one new good behavior habitual.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Heaven and Earth

In a previous post, I mentioned that Heaven was torn open and the Spirit descended to Earth when Jesus was baptized.

The same word is used later when Jesus is crucified and the veil of the temple is 'torn open.'

At that point, the veil is torn so that Earth can enter Heaven. We are told in Hebrews 9 that Christ has not entered into the holy place made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.

This tearing of the veil was the point at which earth tore into heaven.

The same word is used for the tearing into earth as for the tearing into heaven.

In Jesus Christ, Heaven and Earth have met.

6000 Years To Go

In my previous post, I mentioned that we should use the name Yahweh when referring to the God of the Bible. I would be just as comfortable referring to Him as the Lord, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. That makes things clear.

But should we try for Yahweh or Yahveh? Won't that just confuse things here at the end of the ages when there are so many competing voices, denominations and even religions?


But would it change your view of how we work through doctrinal and practical issues if we were not in the end of the ages but in the beginning of the church era?

Think about the doctrinal fights and development of the early church councils. We look back on that era as necessary to the truths that we hold dear now. They had the Scriptures but there was a great deal of wrangling about what those Scriptures taught. That wrangling rooted out heresy and developed systematic orthodoxy.

The big fights and doctrinal development were in the first 500 years. The last great doctrinal fights were about 500 years ago. We call it the Reformation. And the key point about the reformation to keep in mind is that it was driven by a commitment and understanding of Scripture. For the most part, the Reformation was about returning to the views held by Augustine some 1100 years earlier. And this looking back enabled the church to move forward in still unprecedented ways.

We now see a prolific church in nearly every corner of the globe. But we do not yet see the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Nor do we see the great promises of Isaiah's later chapters. Partially fulfilled? Yes. Filled up to all that glory? Not even close.

So, where does all this leave us? It is my contention that the New Covenant era ought to be at least twice as glorious as the Old Covenant era. There were about 4000 years of OC history. Perhaps if the New Covenant is twice as glorious, we shall see 8000 years. Also, that adds up nicely to 12,000 years!

I am not doing numerology, per see. I readily admit that this is total speculation. But what I think is clear in the Scriptures is that Jesus will reign until all His enemies are subdued beneath His feet. When that happens, then He will deliver the Kingdom to the Father. The last enemy destroyed will be death. That is the Resurrection.

Until then, Jesus is doing the work of advancing the Kingdom of God in the Earth, His will done on Earth as in Heaven.

If we have another 6000 years of this until the Lord delivers the kingdom to the Father, then I think we can take a very different view of how we reform, develop our lives together, work on doctrinal and practical problems, view doctrinal advance, work with our brothers in other denominations.

This ought not to make us lazy but it should help us to think that doing the work now will pay off for hundreds or thousands of years. That mindsight is far preferred to the one that says that it really doesn't matter how much work we do now because things are so bad we must be at the end. If we are at the end, then why work so hard?

His name is Yahweh

You may have noticed that in some of our prayers we say Yahweh instead of LORD, all caps. Why is this? The name Yahweh is somewhat foreign to us. We are much more familiar with saying God or Lord. There is nothing wrong with those terms but they are generic terms of a deity, not proper names. In a situation where we know that everyone is tracking with us, believing in the Triune God, worshipping the Father, His Son Jesus, the Spirit sent by the Father and the Son, we can use the shorthand name God, or speak of the Lord.

But we must be clear about whom we are speaking. In America, Lord is fine. God is fine. Jesus is a problem. The next time you are somewhere where they say the pledge of allegiance, try substituting the name Jesus for One Nation Under Jesus, and see how it feels and what sort of response you get. The name of the true God is much more powerful than speaking of a higher power.

So, how does Yahweh fit into all of this? It is God’s name. It is the salvation name He gave Moses to tell the Egyptians and the enslaved Israelites. We do not know exactly how to pronounce the name because the Jews, out of so-called reverence to God, refused to pronounce the name. But God had told them to pronounce it, to declare it to unbelievers and believers alike. It is my contention that the failure to pronounce God’s name is a gross and harmful disobedience.

So, why Yahweh and not Jehovah? Well, we do have the Hebrew scriptures and the best we can do with the pronunciation now is Yahweh, or perhaps Yahveh. It takes away the generic commitment to some God and places our commitment exactly where it ought to be, in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the God of Moses and Joshua. In the Father of the Lord Jesus. His name is Yahweh.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Tearing of Heaven

Jesus was baptized and, 'when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.'

We tend to think that the goal of our lives is to somehow tear through the heavens and get to Jesus.  Much of modern evangelical Christianity touts this very thing. This Earth and this life are just jumping off points to Heaven. The real goal is to get out of here to there.

But what happened when Jesus was baptized?  The heavens were torn open and the Spirit descended. Jesus did not leave the earthly and enter into the heavenlies. Heaven came down to Earth and empowered Jesus, the man.

Ah, you say, but Jesus did go to heaven.  He left us and went there. He got out of here, after all. Yes, but not like our modern Gnostics like to think.  He did not escape the body and go to heaven. He was resurrected and took His resurrected body to heaven. Jesus is still a man.  And will return as a man and rule on the Resurrected Earth forever.

So, if we see what is going on here in a different light, it changes everything.  This life is about getting the Spirit here to Earth, bringing Heaven to Earth, recreating that Chasm that was made in Adam and bridged in the Second Adam.  Jesus has done this. The Spirit has inaugurated the New Heavens and the New Earth. They are not completely remade yet. Only that in the final  Resurrection. But they ARE new and the Spirit is the promise that one day they shall be completely new.

But even now the heavens are torn open and come to earth.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Work of the Pastor- William Still****

This is a tremendous little book and a must read for every pastor. It is a book that ought to be read every couple of years. It is a great encouragement to those of us who have chosen to preach 'the whole counsel of God.'  He clearly asserts and articulates that this task of preaching and teaching the Word of God is the heart and soul of the ministry of the pastor.

We need reminded of this often. In a world where there is constant pressure to conform to various popular methodologies of ministry, whether they be mostly evangelistic, or largely programmatic, Still reminds us of the work that we should be doing still. That work is knowing, studying, living, preaching and teaching the Word of God.

Perhaps every minister begins his ministry believing the Word of God is sufficient for everything but not every pastor ends up there.  Time and circumstance, sinners and saints, spirits and devils all help broil up competing priorities.

A minister of Christ must maintain a one-track mind, focused on the Word of Christ. Only then can he adequately and effectively traverse all the complex paths of the life of the people of God. Let him foremost be a shepherd, one who protects the flock by the authoritative Word of Christ so that he can lead them to green pastures and feed them there.

Devil's Work

"The devil always does a deadlier work through hardened Christians than through the unconverted and gets far more diabolical pleasure from it, too."

"There is an application of the Word of God for even the most urgent contemporary situations, but if we get all hot and bothered about it, and myopically concentrate all our ministry on that, for ever moaning from our pulpits about the evils of the day, what are the hungry sheep going to feed upon the while? The devil is a master of sidetrack."

William Still, The Work of the Pastor

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

John Calvin

Just finished The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven J. Lawson.  It is one of the Long Line of Godly Men Series. 

I'd say the book is three out of four stars but mostly because it is about Calvin.  It is a decent short introduction to Calvin and his views about preaching.  It is a bit repetitive but still exalts the great saint of Geneva.

For you Calvinists who do not know much about Calvin, I highly recommend it.  Are there better books? Sure, but this one is short and you really should read something about Calvin.

And then, after you read something about Calvin, you really need to read Calvin.  He still stands as the monumental figure of the Reformation.  His commentaries are still regularly quoted by modern writers.  He was a giant among giants and any ventures into the world of Calvin pay large dividends.

I may even name a kid after him. Wait, I already did!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trust and Obey

We cannot see and understand the world or even our own lives the way that God does. For some, this is frustrating. They have a need to understand and will not fully trust God until they do understand.  And since this level of understanding is often, perhaps even usually, withheld from them, their frustration continues or even increases.  And they make the claim that their frustration is because God has not revealed Himself clearly enough or explained what He is doing clearly enough.  When, in fact, the true reason for the frustration is a lack of trust in God.
 We should get this right so we can adequately raise our own children.  They often have more faith in us than we have in God.  There are many, many things that they cannot understand. What two year old understands a spanking?  Or a denial of some simple fun, television, a video game, playing with the rebellious Johnny next door?  But the child learns to simply trust and obey.  I hope our children will grow up and be able to transfer their explicit trust in us parents to their heavenly Father.  
But how are we doing? Do we trust Him explicitly for all the things that are going on in our lives and in the world that we do not understand?  Is He working all things for good?  

Are you willing to not know and simply to trust our Lord Christ?  With that sickness? With that shaky job? With that unknown future? With that theological conundrum?  With that unjust accusation? With that slight from your sisters?
Our job is to obey the Lord, turn from sin, walk according to the Holy Spirit and put our simple and explicit trust in Jesus Christ.  He is in control of the master plan. We need to rest in that great truth.

Are you resting? Or tossing and turning?

Communion Meditation- Edible Word

The Lord feeds us. His food is the Word of God. It is given for cleansing the inner man and for casting out demons of evil desire and sin. His food makes us fit for the Spiritual work of the kingdom. It is the fertilizer that prunes us so that we bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in great abundance; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The Word of God does go to the heart and purifies. It purges out the leaven of unrighteousness. It deals with sin and wickedness. It transforms us and renews us from faith to faith and glory to glory. It kills the old man but gives birth to the new.

What we hold here is not merely bread. It is the edible Word of God. Because we partake by faith, believing all of God’s promises to us in Christ, the Word of God is applied to us and sealed with us in assurance of His promises.

Just as surely as you hold that bread in your hand and eat it with these saints, has God given you the Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. Why doubt this truth? Look at the bread and remember God’s promises to you. He fulfilled them when Jesus died on the cross. How could He prove His promises more clearly than that.

So look to Christ in full assurance of faith.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Christ and the Church

The Bible tells us that marriage is an image of Christ and the Church. We tend to think of this the other way round. We think Christ and His Church is like marriage.

If we put things in proper order, we find that the Bible has much to teach us. How is a man supposed to treat his wife? Well, how did Jesus treat the Church? He served her, think of the washing of the Apostles' feet. He taught. He suffered. He died. He rose. He ascended. He rules. He watches over by His Holy Spirit. He intercedes. He promises to never leave and to make His bride perfect. He is coming again and we can trust His Word absolutely.

As we were discussing this yesterday, we gained more insight into the role of the wife, as well as the role of God's people in the church, both in leadership as well as laymen.

God's people do maintenance. They administer the work of God. They keep track of the household of faith. They prepare the sacraments. They are assistants to Christ in that role. He makes the sacraments efficacious but His ministers do the physical work.

The church worships the Trinity and the Son of God is the husband of the church, worshipped accordingly. A wife ought not to worship her husband as God. That would be disobedience to God. But she ought to reverence her husband, as Sarah did, calling her husband lord.

The Church adds to her number, preaching, teaching, making disciples in all nations. Just as the Church is saved by childbearing, so, too, is a godly woman. The Church prepares and feeds her household, admonishing unruly children, praising the faithful and obedient.

You get the idea. These are profound truths and we would do well to ponder them as we think about our roles as husbands and wives.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lonesome Years

Lonesome Years.
Virgil Hurt

I’m on my own
Without you
I’m all alone

And where do we go from here?
To wind back the lonesome years.

Tears that roll
See me
I’m all alone


To start anew
It’s only me
And you


Your hand in mine
Me and you
It’s time

And I’m glad you brought me here
To wind back the lonesome years

And I’m glad you brought me here
To wind back the lonesome years.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible- Golden Rule Pretzel

Matthew 7:12 12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

I am sure we have all read the golden rule many times in various forms in the Scriptures.  I suppose I have most often read it in a negative sense like this, "Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you."

This keeps us from treating other people in all sorts of ill ways. You do not want someone to slander you, so do not slander them. You do not want someone to presume on your behavior, so you do not make bad assumptions about them.

But this rule is given to us in a very positive and forceful way, "Do to them what you would have them do to you."

I believe this changes things quite a bit. Men want honor and respect but do we simply not dishonor others?  Or do we actively honor others?

We often want respect and honor from our wives. We may even tell them so. But if you have to ask it lessons the import and effectiveness of the honor or respect. 

So, how do you treat your wife the way you want to be treated? Here's the twist, the pretzel part.

You want honor and respect. From men, you get honor and respect by giving honor and respect. If you are not getting any, it is probable that you are not giving any.

With your wife, the transaction is a bit different.  You want honor and respect from her but you do not get it by giving it.  She wants love from you.  If you are not getting the respect you want and need from her, then what is the problem?  You are not giving the love. 

Incidentally, this works in the reverse order as well. If a wife wants more love, she needs to give more respect and honor. But we are talking to the men and expect them to lead their wives by example.

Finally, the last part of this verse is 'this is the law and the prophets.'  We know that all the law and prophets is contained in this simple saying, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."  That is a different version of the Golden Rule. 

And I ask, "Who is a closer neighbor than your spouse?"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Deep Exegesis- Leithart

Just finished Peter Leithart's Deep Exegesis, The Mystery of Reading Scripture.

It is an excellent book. One of my deep mysteries is how Dr. Leithart reads so many books and remembers them. Overall, this is an excellent book as one thinks about not only reading Scripture but reading in general. Leithart shows how we bring all of our past experiences and reading into the meaning of the text. The reader correctly does this and the texts themselves encourage us to read this way.

He argues that any modern reader cannot fully or even correctly understand T.S. Eliot, unless he understands or experiences Eliot's reading. Eliot read Dante who read Virgil who read Homer. So, you read Eliot one way, until you read Dante and realize your reading of Eliot was short, or weak, or even wrong. And then you read Virgil and Homer and find in them so much of Eliot, or perhaps better said, so much of them in him. And the text takes on a fuller or even a different reading.

All texts work this way and so we should not be surprised that Scripture works this way, as well. It keeps taking on new meanings for us. This is not to say that we can mold the text into any meaning we want to. To do that to Eliot would be dishonest. But we can continue to come to know texts in deeper and deeper and surprisingly comprehensive and different ways.

I wish this book was shorter. Leithart is brilliant and so many connections flow so easily from his pen it is difficult to keep them all going in the same direction. To wit, the 'accessibility' of Leithart is blocked by his own vast knowledge. I get the sense he doesn't realize that he is making tough sledding for the rest of us. He just slides merrily down the hill. This is a book that ought to be read by many far and wide but I wonder if some of it will be too obscure and difficult for some. Not sure of his target audience but these ideas would be good to condense and present in a broader context.

Then again, it might simply be my mushy skull that fails to maintain the proper forward motion.

I give the book 3 1/2 of 4 stars simply because of some of the difficulty and flow of the book. The ideas and most of the presentation are simply top notch.

You ought to read it.

Communion Meditation- Discipline

We have been talking about discipline, doing the same things over and over for the purpose of advancing in godliness. But, of course, we all know that discipline, which is good, can also be the source of thoughtlessness. In a very real way, that is one of the great purposes of discipline. Once we have a behavior as a habit, we cease to think about it.

Those of you who arise at the exact same time every day train your bodies to awake and arise at that time with little or no effort like it was before it was a habit. Many of you pray every time you eat. And if you do these things enough, you do them without thinking about them. I dare say that many people pray before they eat without praying at all. Bow the head, bat the eye, bite the burger.

The Lord’s Supper is a discipline and a good one, perhaps the very best. But in order to partake of it and receive the true benefit, it ought not to be done like a prayer before a burger that is not a prayer at all. It ought to be done like the prayer before Thanksgiving meal when everyone has been waiting, smelling and anticipating the feast all day long.

I have noticed that some of our children do not have a good sense of reverence, joy, attention and thanksgiving in this meal. We do not want that to become their habit. Do not fret on this now but work on correcting this attitude at home in your meals and in your prayers. Instruct them about the glory and import of this meal where we feed on Christ. Make sure your correction to them is towards joy and thanksgiving. Encourage and exhort them, and yourselves, to come to this meal with a true heart of joy and thanksgiving.

Discipline and Godliness

Dear brothers and sisters, we are all engaged in a life of discipline. Even our regular Lord’s Day worship is discipline. It is something we do regularly and repeatedly. Many of you are working on the Jonathan Edwards Disciplines for a season. This is well and good.

The apostles says, 1Cor. 9 24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

So, it is good to discipline your body. If this is done for the purpose of disciplining your whole man towards godliness, you do well. But we all know many athletes that are disciplined in their particular skill who are not also disciplined to godliness. So, do not make the mistake of thinking that because you have any number of bodily disciplines, exercise or diet, or even spiritual disciplines, bible reading or even prayer, that these disciplines automatically make you godly. The disciplines should be used towards godliness but they ought not to be confused with godliness. Are you producing godly fruit?

The apostle says to Timothy, 1Tim.4:6-8 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 7But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. 8For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

So, do your disciplines help you produce godly fruit? If not, they are of no earthly or heavenly use. Now, I do not despise disciplines whether purely physical or mental and spiritual. But we must examine the fruit thereof.

What is growing from your disciplines? Do they need pruning? Is your heart of humility and virtue being strengthened? Or are your disciplines producing a buffed and steely heart? If godly virtue and humility is not the fruit of your discipline, then repentance is the pruning needed to produce a heart of flesh.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

JED- Day 1

Well, we are half a day into JED. So far, so good.

I was up early for Bible Study and prayer. My oldest son and three daughters all got up and we spent time reading the Scriptures and in prayer. It was a beautiful way to start a day.

Here are some comments that I have already received from members of our church.

One man has already made a hardy resolution.

"Resolved to do all things without a spirit of complaining. "Do all things without complaining and arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God, without fault, in a crooked and depraved generation." "

Another is calculating the sleep or lack thereof.

"I got up at 5:04 this morning (6 hours 15 minutes of sleep), and had a good time of reading scripture and praying before I got my wife up at 6:00 (which is her JED wake up time). I tried to reduce the size of my breakfast to have a diet of moderation... and I'm about starving now."

I am encouraged as a pastor that quite a number of people in our church have taken up the challenge to live a more godly and disciplined life. I believe it will produce godly fruit and am excited to see the result of this concentrated effort.

Even my 8 year old son wanted to get into the get up early act. I think he needs lots of sleep so was not encouraging him to get up at 5am. This morning my oldest son woke him up at 5am. I woke him up, briefly, at 6am, not really to get him up but because he wanted me to wake him. I am sure he stumbled out of bed at a much later time. And good for him. But he is going to pray with my wife three times a day and that is another beautiful outcome. God is good.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jonathan Edwards Discipline- JED

Just read The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (Long Line of Godly Men Profile)- Steven Lawson.

I gave the book a 2 out of 4 stars. I anticipated a biography of the great man. I have heard lots about Edwards but read little. So, I was a little disappointed that the book is not really a biography.

It is a short introduction into the Resolutions of Edwards. He made 70 resolutions as a young man of nineteen and then spent his life attempting to be faithful to his resolutions and His Lord. This is one reason why Edwards was able to accomplish so much.

The book was subpar but it did give me a great interest in Edwards and a renewed vigor towards spiritual disciplines. In fact, I have resolved to follow some spiritual disciplines extra closely during the Lenten season. I have asked for volunteers from our church to join me in this and have surprisingly received a very positive response.

Beginning on Wednesday, Feb.24, here is what we intend to do.

Here is the letter of invite that I sent to our church.

Gentlemen and Ladies, Young Men and Women of at least age 13,

Would you consider taking a wilderness experience with me?

I have been reading a biography of Jonathan Edwards, one of the greatest men in the history of the United States. He was a bit austere, truly a modern Christian ascetic. I am not agitating for asceticism. But I do think some serious spiritual discipline practice is likely to benefit us. We will not be doing anything even so drastic in these 40 days as the way he spent his entire life.

Here is what I am proposing. For the Lenten season, beginning Feb. 17, let those who would willingly do so, embark upon a journey into the wilderness. For the 40 days of Lent, we will practice spiritual disciplines, perhaps in a way that we have never done before. We will meet weekly to discuss our triumphs and failures as well as the benefits or drawbacks, to such a course.

By the way, I am not trying to create a new Lenten practice at our church. I do not necessarily believe in penitential seasons. I am not proposing that. I think concentrated focus on doing the right things is good. Extended times of several weeks of personal introspection is not necessarily good. Too much focus on self and what we are doing here also might be too much focus on self. Maybe this will give us some insight on how we might want to celebrate or practice in our Pre-Easter season in the future, maybe not. But this is being done as a one-time thing.

The goal will be to practice discipline and develop habits of those disciplines that most benefit us. I imagine we will be in for some surprises. We will probably also have lots of failures but I think the successes will make it worth it.

We will call it JED- Jonathan Edwards Discipline

What will this 40 days entail?
1. Prayer three times daily, morning, noon, night. These may be short times or longer as occasion or opportunity arise. But at the minimum, 15 minutes a day, at least five minutes per prayer time.
2. Arising early, 5am, Or, not more than 7 hours of sleep per night. I know, but part of this is to see what we can get out of this time. It’s only 40 days, you can do it. Part of this discipline is simply redeeming the time. We may find that we need more sleep but we may find that we can get by just as well or even better on 7. I generally get a lot of sleep so this will be a challenge for me.
3. Reading a short biography of Jonathan Edwards and his Resolutions.
4. Read his 70 resolutions weekly. They take about 5-10 minutes to read. We’ll discuss them.
5. Develop your own life resolutions. Say, at least 12 resolutions.
6. Practice an Edwardsian moderation in diet. Well, not exactly, he was a Spartan, but choose to eat carefully and wisely such that you are not sluggish. Maybe, for this season setting some guidelines on amounts of food and drink. (ie. Only one helping, not more than one soda, beer or glass of wine per day, maybe not eating something you tend to indulge in that is not particularly good for you, that sort of thing).
7. Changing some behavior that wastefully uses up a lot of time.(For me, checking internet for news, sports, etc. Not using the internet at all at home in the evening. I can take a break for 40 days.) Each of you might have a different time waster.
8. Fast at least one meal per week.
9. Fast one full day during this 40 days. We may pick the same day so we can compare notes and talk about how it went.
10. Read the Bible for at least 30 minutes per day. (easy to do if you get up at 5am). Recommend several psalms or page of psalms, one proverb, reading in OT and NT. Or follow your regular reading plan but get in at least 30 minutes.
11. Walk or some other exercise for at least 30 minutes per day. (see number 9) Amazingly, Edwards did this and still accomplished an unbelievable amount of work. We have all the time savers but cannot get outdoors regularly.
12. Actively pursuing godliness, kindness, gentleness, serving, careful speech, goodness, etc. May want to pick one specific area of godliness where you need work and practice getting better.
13. Meet once per week on Wed. at 5:30am to discuss how things are going, starting Feb. 24.

Sundays are exempt for all requirements related to food, sleep, exercise, etc. Sunday is a feast day.

Star of Bethlehem

Have you seen the Star of Bethlehem? Just watched it. I was very impressed. Thanks Philip.

Have a look here.

I have always been a bit of a pre-sup apologetic sort and the Evidence that Demands a Verdict can also simply be discounted as having been created after the fact, or simply the imaginations of the faithful.

Don't misunderstand me, I think there is a great deal of convincing evidence from the Bible and from extra-biblical sources. I believe it. But at the end of the argument, the skeptic can still maintain his nonchalant attitude, having not been fully convinced. Of course, it always take the Holy Spirit to make a convert.

But I think this film will shake up a skeptic.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Water, Bread and Wine

"In Baptism, the thing that represents Christ is water; in the Supper, the things that represent Christ are bread and wine. Water is appointed to represent Christ in Babtism because it is most appropriate to represent our washing with the Blood of Christ. What is better to wash with than water?

So there is nothing more suitable in which to wash the soul than the Blood of Christ. In the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, He has appointed bread and wine because there is nothing more appropriate to nourish the body than bread and wine."

Robert Bruce, The Mystery of the Lord's Supper

Demographic Winter

Check this out. Our church growth program is having babies. Make sense, eh?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lord of the Floods

As Psalm 93 declares, Yahweh on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.

How often we fail to live as if this were actually true. Like Peter, we begin to move in faith only to find ourselves glancing about in fear. The waters begin to roll over us and we lose sight of Jesus.

We understand Peter and empathize with him because we realize how much faith it took to even get out of the boat, especially when we compare his faith with ours. No one else even got out of the boat. But we must remember the lesson. Jesus is on the waters. He bids us to come to Him. We must go in faith. He is mightier than the waters, the floods of the sea. Peter did not continue walking in faith but at least He called out to Jesus to save him in the tumultuous waves.

We may not literally walk on the sea but we have very real fears, waves and wind that pull our eyes from looking to Jesus. Perhaps we are distracted by money problems or health problems or personal doubts or theological conundrums or simply fear of the unknown that lies ahead in 2010. We find many reasons to fear and too few reasons to have faith.

Stop looking at the waters, the troubles, the enemies. We have weapons enough in our arsenal to walk, to overcome, to win. The Lord Jesus is on our side. He bids us walk through all of our troubles in faith. Confess your doubts and fears. Receive the forgiveness of the Lord and walk forward into this new year with full faith in Jesus Christ.

Communion Meditation-Renewal

As we start a new year, we should be aware of renewal. God has granted us forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Of course, there is a sense in which this covers all of our sins, past, present and future. But there is also a sense is which we cannot walk in the newness of life unless we continually are renewed. The life of the Spirit comes to all those who are truly in Christ. God governs this by His inscrutable wisdom. But those who do not remain in Christ do not receive the blessings of Christ. That is a self-evident statement, redundant, almost silly.

But the there are those, and reformed types, too, who may insist on receiving the blessings of Christ simply because they once prayed a prayer or because they believe they are of the elect or because they are churchmen or have been declared forgiven by a minister. All of these things are good and true blessings but unless you believe in the Lord Jesus today, right now, then what you did back then doesn’t do you a lot of good.

This does not mean that if you have weak faith or doubt or have fallen into sin, that you are left out of God’s blessings. He grants mercy for all His bruised reeds and shimmering lights. But you should renew your commitment to Him, your need for Him, your trust in Him, your hope in Him on a regular basis, even daily, each morning. At the very least, you should do this weekly, in our liturgy, in our prayers, our songs, our hearing of the word, our confession of sin, the absolution from the minister and especially here at the Lord’s Table.

Renew covenant with God, the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the ever present Holy Spirit. Be filled up with God as you eat and drink. Take heart, make strong the hands that hang down and the knees that grow weak. All things are new in Christ.

Communion Meditation-Remember

Today, our sermon was simply remembering. It is good for us to think about where we have come from and how God has provided for us. When we do this, it bolsters our faith to look into the unknown future believing God to be as faithful in the future as He has been in the past. Also, we expand our hope beyond our own circumstances to the circumstances of others, to our church, to the body of Christ and to the world.

If we do not forget, if we remember what God has done, how can we not be thankful? How can we not have hope? How can we not be encouraged?

This meal is one of thankfulness but it is also a meal of remembrance. God has done things. He has been faithful to His people through all ages and He has been faithful to us. So, it is fitting that we give Him thanks.

There may be very real troubles in our day. There may be troubles in your life. These troubles look to Christ and when we do so, we remember that He has always rescued us in our time of greatest need. So, we give thanks and we hold onto this hope for the times that we are in and for the uncertain times that lie ahead.

Remember and give thanks.

Faith in Jesus Christ

We are called to be a people of faith. What does that mean? Do we have faith in faith? Is faith some substance we store up to get us through troubled times? Do we squirrel away faith so that we can dig it up in the long cold days of winter?

What do we mean when we say we are to have faith or that we are to be a people of faith? It means that we put our trust in the Lord. Faith is not some substance we store up. Faith is believing God, laying hold of His promises, bowing before Jesus Christ because we know He is our King. When we say that we are to have faith, what we really mean is that we are to put our faith, our trust, our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.

You do not have to worry about storing up enough faith or losing some of your faith. But you do need to practice your faith. You do not need to worry if you have enough faith but you do need to look to the one in whom we have faith.

God makes promises. God keeps His promises. His people are blessed by His promises. You are God’s people. Do you believe this? Do you believe Him? Do you believe that He is able to save you from your sins and overcome the world, the flesh and the devil? If so, that is faith. Do you believe? Do you need the Lord to help your unbelief? He is faithful in this as well.

Come to the Lord Jesus. Confess your unbelief and have faith in Christ for He is ever faithful.

Formal-ISM Kills

It is true that formalism is a danger to our very salvation. When we grow so used to a routine that we cease to think at all or only think about how sleek and plumed we have grown, our very existence as the people of God is at risk.

And while this sort of danger is clearly seen over centuries or even generations, the danger can become reality much quicker than that.

Even in your own homes, you have realized how quickly a practice can become a regular routine. The prayer before dinner, the good night hug, the departing farewell: all of these are good and meant for good. But when they grow stale and lifeless, the very blessing of them begins to mock us. We often continue on with the outside of the thing when the inside, the heart and soul, has already grown hollow and cold. The thing, the hug, the kiss, even the prayer may eventually begin to disgust us as it points out our own failure or even hypocrisy.

Formalism in the church does much the same thing. We have all these wonderful traditions, full of meaning and meant to bless us. They do so as long as we are paying attention, as long we actively participate, as long as our hearts are warm and our minds are engaged.

But let hold fast to the outside of the thing, only, and the slow death begins to set in. It is a slow death, so we may not notice it until there is no chance of resuscitation. Where are you? Are you holding on to the center of our liturgy? To Christ, Himself? Is the service real and lively and life producing? Or do you know these dance steps and they are starting to bore you and you are beginning to wander in mind and heart? This day, renew yourself in Christ’s Spirit. Turn to Him once again and participate in this service, in your family, in your walk as one who is alive from the dead.

Communion Meditation-Peacemakers

Brothers and sisters hear me. I call you brothers and sisters and so you are. Although none of you have the same birth mother as I do, all of you have the same adopted parents. You are all children of my Father, the creator of heaven and earth. And you are all children of my mother, the New Jerusalem, the shining city of God, the church triumphant.

While these are spiritual truths, they are no less real, no less important than your own relationships by birth. Our bond of brotherhood is kept for us by the bonds of faithfulness of Jesus Christ. It is kept for us in heaven by His grace and might and recognized on Earth through His beloved bride.

Do not take this lightly. To the extent that you seek peace and fellowship with your own earthly parents, seek peace and fellowship with God, our Father and His Son, through His Spirit, and the bride of Christ, our Mother, the Church, through faithful living and loving.

To the extent that you seek fellowship with your born brothers and sisters, seek peace and fellowship here in the bonds of brotherhood through baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

To the best of your ability, you must be at peace with your parents and your brothers and sisters. So, too, here, to the best of your ability, you must be at peace with God and with His people. This meal says that you are. If this is true, God bless you all. But to the extent that it is not true, make sure that you are doing all that is in your power to be at peace with Father, Mother, Sister and Brother.

And so eat and drink of this blessing of unity in Christ.

Exhortation-Not Like Cain

Shortly after the fall of man, the broken will of man was revealed. Cain rose up and slew his brother because "Yahweh had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell."

We do not know exactly why the Lord had respect for Abel and his offering but not to Cain and his offering. The text makes us think that Cain was already broken and sin was looking for an opportunity to express itself in a large way.

But what we can note is that Cain was jealous and envious of his brother. If Abel was going to receive respect and honor from the Lord, Cain was not going to be happy. He determined to destroy Abel.

This is the pre-eminent lesson. We must desire the good of our brothers. When they are respected, honored, enriched, blessed, or glorified, we must not complain and grumble. We must not lament that we are overlooked. Perhaps you are as honorable as your recognized brother, or perhaps, like Cain, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.”

Whether or not you are happy for the elevation of those you think beneath you reveals much about the state of your soul. Let me say that again, Whether or not you are happy for the elevation of those you think beneath you reveals much about the state of your soul. Perhaps they do not deserve it. But that is up to God. If He thinks so, don’t you think you should agree with Him?

So, let us not be like Cain, unhappy towards God because of the envy in our hearts towards others. This envy must die so that Abel and you may live.