Friday, December 29, 2006

I Believe so that I May Understand

Once again, Paul Helm offers some sterling reflection on "The Classical Calvinist Concept of God." If you are unfamiliar with the history of this discussion, you may find this article tough sledding mentally. But there is one point he makes that is very important to understand.

Many men have accused Calvinists of holding to a rationalistic conception of God, especially in his works of predestination and election. But in reality, as Helm clearly shows, it is the alternative views which impose a philosophical a priori assumption upon the Bible. The Pelagian, Semi-pelagian, Arminian, Molinist, and Open Theist views all assume a form of libertarian freedom nowhere taught in the Bible. They then struggle to make this assumption fit with the biblical revelation of God, which forces them to deny or reinterpret many passages of Scripture. This is true rationalism.

1000 years ago Anselm of Canterbury stated well the proper relation between reason and revelation: "I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand. For I believe this also, that 'unless I believe, I shall not understand'." This epistemological attitude of the heart will keep us from reasoning away what the Bible clearly teaches.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reason, Passion, and God

For you theologs out there, I would recommend that you check out Paul Helm's blog. Helm has consistently practiced solid Christian philosophy, and his writings will challenge you to scale the heights of truth in ways you may not have done before.

His post entitled B. B. Warfield on Divine Passion will reward the mental effort it requires with a greater appreciation of who God is and who we are. Here is an extended quote I found stimulating.

Although God is simple, without parts, without division, there is
nevertheless a complexity in the mind of God, but this complexity does not
depend on something other than him. The classical Christian tradition readily
recognizes this. God knows many things and we may think of God’s 'feelings' as
simply his attitudes to what he knows. What he knows - the details of everything
that comes to pass - is present to the divine mind, even though that mind is
itself simple, without parts or divisions, immutable and impassible. What could
be more complex than the universe, with its unparalleled variety? God knows that
complexity. God the Father takes pleasure - no doubt - in the goodness of the
various aspects of the creation, and in the Incarnation, being well pleased with
his beloved Son. And we find in Scripture that among the many things that God
knows that he has delight in are: a just weight (Prov. 11.1); the upright in
their way (Prov. 11.20); those that deal truly (Prov. 12.22); the prayer of the
upright (Prov. 15.8) and so on; among those things which he has ordained which
he hates are a proud look (Prov. 6.16), Esau (Mal. 1.3), all workers of iniquity
(Psalm 5.3) and so on.

How are we to understand these attitudes of God? I suggest that it is
improper to strongly model these on human feelings, to think of these as we
think of human passions or emotions. Although undoubtedly as God has
accommodated himself to our human condition in this way he represents himself as
passionate, God cannot really have passions because of the implication, in the
use of the word 'passion', that the one who is passionate is overtaken or
derailed or blinded by the passion. The passion is an irrational response. That
much is surely clear.

However, it is at this point, I suggest, that we take some care, for a person
may speak with full control of himself, yet in an impassioned way; and the
control he exercises may be the direct result of his passion. To talk of a
scientist’s passion for truth, or a judge’s for justice, may be a way of
speaking of the strength of these commitments. In some cases human passion
distracts and impairs the reason, while in other cases it intensifies the
engagement of the reason. Because of such he may think and speak and act with
greater care than otherwise. For example a person may be so passionate about
truth telling that he takes extreme care to speak the truth himself. A detective
may be so passionate about solving a crime that he is utterly careful and
scrupulous about assembling and weighing the evidence. If God in himself is to
be said to be passionate then this is how it must be with him. We must think of
him as essentially impassioned, full of feeling, utterly engaged in the most
clear-eyed way possible. In other words, we must not define passion in terms of
irrationality, as a misunderstanding or miscalculation of good and evil, as
Stoicism is inclined to do.

Can we understand this impassioned life of God a little more? If God is
impassioned about something then he is maximally engaged in ensuring the coming
to pass of that thing, and to the effects of that coming to pass on beings other
than him. His being is suffused with this commitment. It is likely that such an
understanding of God's commitment to his creation will not be of much comfort to
the current advocates of a 'suffering God', for they readily model the life of
God on the life of passionate human beings. But if God is passionate in this
sense of being utterly engaged then he is impassioned in the works of creation
and redemption in a way and to a degree that utterly transcends the vagaries of
human passion; impassioned in his regard for truth and goodness. So perhaps we
would nearer the truth if we thought of God not as 'having passions' or as a
'suffering God' but as being utterly impassioned in all that he does.

If God is full of feeling then does he have feelings? We may, influenced by
our touchy-feely culture, think that the answer is obvious. Of course he has.
But here again some caution is called for. For we use the term 'feeling' to
cover not merely mental states, feelings of sympathy or compassion, or of
betrayal or alienation, but also feeling arising from changes in our bodies, or
even the fact of being embodied. We feel tired, we have aches and pains,
scratches and itches, sexual pleasure, we feel cold and heat, the wind and the
rain. Is this how it is with God? Clearly not. Further, our mental states, our
feelings or emotions, are frequently the result of selfishness and ignorance. If
in saying that God feels, or even that God has emotions, we are simply (and
carefully) speaking of God’s impassioned attitudes of delighting in, and hating,
and loving in the manner sketched above, then clearly the answer must be no:
God's passion is in no way spasmodic, nor does it impair his mind but rather
enhances it. But not otherwise.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Remember...and Be Grateful

As we come to the close of the year of our Lord 2006, I would encourage you to take time to take two simple but very effective spiritual steps.

1. Remember

Moses told the Israelites, "And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not" (Deut 8:2). Your life this past year has not been an accident. It has been the outworking of the gentle sovereignty of God in your life, and you must not forget what he has done, whether in blessing or in chastisement, for in all he does he seeks to impart himself to us. Remembering, then, is an act of worship. It is acknowledging and submitting to God's good providence. As King David wrote in one of his inspired songs, "Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered.... Remember his covenant forever" (1 Chron 16:12, 15).
To help you get started, here are some things you and your family can remember. I'm sure you can add more to this list.
  • How did the Lord direct my life and provide physically in 2006? Where did I travel? How did the Lord keep me safe? What significant household projects did I complete this year? How did God provide financially for me? What did I do to improve my body for the Lord's service? Did God deliver me from sickness?
  • What significant family events happened this year? Did the Lord grant us a child? Did a loved one pass on to glory?
  • What important books did I read or sermons did I hear that helped me to think more biblically? What Scriptures did I memorize? How did my life change as a result?
  • What special friendships were made this year, and how did those friends make an impact for good in my life?
  • What were my greatest failures and sins in 2006? How did the Lord correct and teach me through these? Am I bringing any unresolved issues into the new year?
  • What were my most significant spiritual victories this year? How did God enable me to serve him? How has he enabled me to pursue and proclaim Christ?
  • What did God do in my church in 2006? How did God train and purify us as his children? In what ways did he enable us to carry out the Great Commission?

2. Be Grateful

In the song of David already mentioned, he began by saying, "Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him; sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually" (1 Chron 16:8-11)! As you worship God by remembering what he has done, let this flow naturally into praising him. Give your heart to adoration in light of how God has manifested his steadfast love and faithfulness in 2006.

What better way to end this year than to unite our hearts as a worshipping community before the throne of God! To him be the glory forever. Amen.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

Good Christmas hymns combine a depth of truth with the power of joy to give us a wonderful vehicle for expressing our praise to God. One of the classics is Hark! the Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley. Before coming to our corporate worship this Sunday, I would encourage you to spend some time just reading the words of this hymn, and letting its truth wash over your soul.

Here, according to Cyberhymnal.org, are the words as Wesley originally wrote them.

Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say,“Christ the Lord is born to-day!”

Christ, by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb!
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with men to appear,
Jesus! Our Immanuel here!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild He lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner Man:
O! to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Little Humor

Is it biblical to indulge in some humor??? You may think my sense of humor needs improvement, but I happen to think that this commercial is funny.

Through the Bible in a Year

Being biblical requires that we expose ourselves continuously to the Scripture. The ESV blog lists and compares several Bible reading plans for going through the Bible in a year. If you are not already doing something like this, you need to.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Freedom of Religion Only a Temporary Expediency

"It must be evident that the final and perfect union of church and state in the coming Kingdom will also put an end to what we call 'freedom of religion.' The American policy of complete separation of church and state, which most sensible men fully approve under present conditions, is not however the ideal policy. It is rather a policy of precaution in a sinful world, where political and ecclesiastical power too often get into the wrong hands, and the result is intolerable oppression. But under the personal rule of the Messianic King the union of church and state will not only be safe; it will also be the highest possible good. For, if religion is of any essential value in human life, and if there is some one true religion, and if there is coming a time when both political and religious authority will be exercised by a wise and loving God acting supernaturally in human affairs - it follows logically that in that day what we call 'religious freedom' must come to an end" (Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom, pp. 244-5).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Proclaiming Christ at Christmas

Don Whitney gives 10 questions to ask at a Christmas gathering. Let's be aware of the opportunities God gives us to give out the good news of Jesus Christ.

Not Everyone Who Says to Me, 'Lord, Lord' ...

I don't always agree with the conclusions pollster George Barna draws from his research, but here is something he says that is right on. Barna says, "People do not have an accurate view of themselves when it comes to spirituality. American Christians are not as devoted to their faith as they like to believe. They have positive feelings about the importance of faith, but their faith is rarely the focal point of their life or a critical factor in their decision-making. The fact that few people take the time to evaluate their spiritual journey, or to develop benchmarks or indicators of their spiritual health, facilitates a distorted view of the prominence and purity of faith in their life."

This is why we need to be relentlessly biblical. "Positive feelings" about "faith" do not a Christian make.

Link to Barna's comments.

Working Out Our Salvation

In our series of messages through Philippians we have clearly seen that living for Christ and the gospel necessarily means that we must live in a manner worthy of the gospel. We must exercise discernment (1:9) and work out what it means to live as a follower of Christ in our day (2:12-13).

In his most recent blog entry, Dr. Albert Mohler provides a good example of this in relation to the toys we buy our children at Christmas. The toys we buy our children at Christmas? Yes, the toys we buy our children at Christmas. Every facet of our lives must conform to pursuing and proclaiming Christ, and this means we must exercise discernment in the toys our children play with. Mohler specifically deals with the toy phenoms Barbie dolls and Bratz dolls, which, as he clearly shows, both embody ungodly cultural ideals. How sadly ironic that many people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by giving gifts to their children which embody the exact opposite of what Christ came for (Titus 2:11-14).

So at this Christmas season, let us continue to work out our salvation and show to the world the pure and holy joy that comes from pursuing Christ!

Are Pastors to Blame for Divorce Rates?

Matt Freidman thinks about what pastors are doing to encourage a high view of marriage. He concludes, "For in the end, by adopting a low view of the Church, of the institution of marriage and of the pastoral office, we haven't really blessed but most assuredly have cursed the people we intended to help."

Link

Saturday, December 16, 2006

None Other Lamb

Michael A. G. Haykin's excellent church history blog Historia Ecclesiastica features a brief biographical sketch of Christina Rossetti, author of the well-known Christmas carol In the Bleak Mid-Winter. He includes a selection of her work written near the end of her life as she suffered from painful breast cancer. It is the cry of a soul hanging on to Christ alone, and I am sure all Christ-loving hearts will find it inspiring.

None other Lamb, none other Name,
None other Hope in heaven or earth or sea,
None other Hiding-place from guilt and shame,
None beside Thee.

My faith burns low, my hope burns low,
Only my heart’s desire cries out in me
By the deep thunder of its want and woe,
Cries out to Thee.

Lord, Thou art Life tho I be dead,
Love’s Fire Thou art however cold I be:
Nor heaven have I, nor place to lay my head,
Nor home, but Thee.

This poem is worth pondering for a while, and if you have time, read Haykin's whole post here.

King Jesus

"What the world needs, as the prophets saw clearly, is not primarily a better philosophy of government or a more perfect system of legislation, but a Person who has the character, wisdom, and power needed to rule for God among men" (Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 161).

The current world political scene, as well as all of human history, should make us put our trust in the One who is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Emperor's New Clothes?

To me, the hard-headed quest for embryonic stem cell therapies, despite all the moral problems involved, reveals what happens when we put our trust in man and not God. It not only makes us ethically blind, it makes us empirically blind as well. The emperor still has no clothes.

Here is a good article on the facts.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Moral Schizophrenia

Once again, we see that nothing blinds to the obvious like sin does. Our compassion for these people should motivate us to tell the truth - the truth of the gospel.

Link

Your Word is Truth

Last night I greatly enjoyed the fellowship of some brothers in the faith. Our conversation turned toward the Bible - its inspiration, preservation, and importance in our lives. I praise the Lord for men who take the Word of God seriously.

Here is an important exhortation along those lines, penned about 50 years ago by E. J. Young, which is still as relevant today as when it was written.

"The majority of professing Christendom does not take seriously the Word of God. He, however, who has fled to Christ for refuge from the accusing finger of God's law must take that Word seriously. It may be a very unpopular thing today to base one's life upon such an authority as the Bible. But if it is unpopular, it surely is a very blessed thing. To know that the words of Scripture are not merely the words of men, but that in them a Divine authority resides, is indeed strengthening to one's faith...."
"A return to the Bible is the greatest need of the day. Unless the Church turns to this authoritative Word of the sovereign God as - let us say it boldly - an external authority; unless the Church is willing to hear the Word of God in the one place where that Word may be heard, she will soon cease to be the Church of the living God. When, however, in humble submission to the gracious, loving Word of her glorious King, she bows to His will, she may courageously challenge all opponents. Far and wide, with majestic boldness, she may proclaim the truth: I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it was given me of Him who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He tells me that this Book is His, and this Book tells me about Him. Come, then, ye wise of this world, ye doubters, ye disputers of the age. Come with your whisperings of doubt, your mockeries of uncertainty. I take my stand upon the solid, unchanging rock of His eternal truth, and in the everlasting Name of Him who brought into being the fair fields of earth and the blue heaven above, I command you,
Hear Him, ye deaf, His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ.
Ye blind, behold your Savior come
And leap, ye lame, for joy."
(Thy Word is Truth, pp. 272-73)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Along the Way

A couple weeks ago I picked up a second-hand copy of Complete Poems of Robert Frost in beautiful condition. Ever since then I have meandered through its lanes, here and there selecting a bit of poetic fruit to taste. I may comment on some of his poems in the future. But here I would like to share with you a different poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, his justly famous "Ozymandias." I was reminded of it last week. While reading from Frost before bed, my wife and I began reminiscing on poems we had learned as children. She has learned many more than I, and even to this day a bit of Shakespeare will slip off of her tongue now and then. As we talked, she remembered Ozymandias. It is a poem whose simple power came home to us even as children, and whose lesson we should not easily forget.

OZYMANDIAS of EGYPT
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Jesus is the Revealer, Redeemer, and Ruler

I am sorry to say that I still have not been able to post Sunday mornings sermon to the church website. We are having some technical difficulties uploading the sermon. I will let you know when we get this resolved.

In the meantime, you can still discuss the sermon here if you wish.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Engaging the Culture or Becoming Just Like It?

A popular phrase these days among Christians is that we must "engage the culture." I'm not really sure why this is so popular. Of course we must engage the culture, if we believe in the Great Commission. This is just another way of saying that we are to give out the gospel.

Unfortunately, however, this is not what many people mean when they use this terminology. I actually get a little bit nervous when I hear the phrase, "engage the culture," because in my experience this amounts to code for "copy our degraded and ungodly culture." This is actually antithetical to the gospel. If we are to advance the gospel, we must live lives that are worthy of the gospel, which always means that we will not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Let's engage the culture with holiness, truth, and love. Then the world will see Jesus, not a bad imitation of themselves.

Here is a good article on this.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Expectations: An Application of Phil 2

In our recent Sunday morning messages we have been learning from Philippians 2:5-11. I recently came across a powerful application of this passage. This week I read a moving article by Cari Kilcup entitled "When Expectations Go Unmet, God is There: My Stillbirth Story." Mrs. Kilcup opened by writing:

"Death is not supposed to precede birth, is it? We certainly do not expect it to. Sometimes expectations go unmet. When they are, God is there offering His strong, loving arms to carry us through.
"This past April I was 'expecting.' It's interesting that we use that word to describe a pregnant woman, because that's what I was doing. I was expecting to experience ... that in a few weeks I would meet the precious little one whom God had placed in my womb."

She went on to relate the story of how the baby in her womb, a little girl, had died from a knotted umbilical cord. She told of the difficult process of delivering her dead child, saying, "We left the hospital...with an empty womb, empty arms, and broken hearts, but our Lord was with us...." But she also told of how the Lord taught her through the Scriptures in this trial.

"Sometime later God showed me something about expectations. I realized that my expectations are things that I feel I have a right to. Philippians 2:7 tells us that Jesus gave up His rights as God, and took the humble position of a slave, even submitting Himself obediently to death! If my Jesus, the one Who holds the rights to everything, gave up those rights for me, I must be willing to let go of my rights, my expectations. I need to place them in the gentle hands of the One who has a better plan for me. I have had to do that again this year - in September another baby was born to heaven through miscarriage.
"We all have expectations, and many are realized. When they are not, God is still there, offering His love, support and comfort and He guides us down the path He has laid out for us. When we die to our expectations, we find new life in Christ...."

This is what it means to have the mindset of Christ. It was the reason the apostle Paul's joy oozes between every line of the letter to the Philippians. For him, to live was Christ and to die was gain. He gave up everything (including his expectations) for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus the Lord. Oh that all of us would give our expectations to God, and know the surpassing joy of knowing Christ!
_________________________________________
As a post script to this, I will share with you a poem written by one of my seminary friends, Will Pareja, whose child died in the womb.
The Broken Arrow
Dirge for Nicolas Augusto Pareja
Ps 127:4-5; Prov 13:12; Lam 3:13; Job 1:20; 6:4; Ps 119:68


Two warriors envisioned a quiver of children,
Of pointed arrows shot in obscure night.
Poised for alarm and prepared to fight,
They longed for the time when bows bent.

Overjoyed were they by the Maker’s first arrow
Given to them across the Big River. [Forgive the intrusion here. Their first son was born in Mexico, on the other side of the "Rio Grande." JP]
Desire blazed to again fill the quiver,
But not with grief that would bring them so low.

Marked was the quiver for the second of shots,
To fill the desired place.
Yet outside of time and space,
The Great Giver set in motion his eternal tho’ts.

To their racking woe, the Maker snuffed out
The life of their second born son.
“A dream?,” they tho’t—no, they were undone
Holding the broken arrow they would no longer tout.

The wounds of divine severity— though rarely pleasant—
Are lathered in the balm of God’s mercy.
Good Giver of life, we bow the knee
In adoration of your wisdom and right to reclaim our infant.

Tocqueville Today

Last week I posted an excerpt from Tocqueville's Democracy in America about the roles of men and women in 1830's America. My goal in doing so was not to make you wish we could replicate the society of a previous era (if you are a conservative) or to make you fume about the backwardness of earlier America (if you are a liberal). It was simply to make us reflect on how to apply the biblical teachings on men and women to our day. Sometimes a look at a different time period or culture opens our eyes to assumptions and practices in our present culture which we need to scrutinize on biblical grounds. That is why I asked you to think about the portrait Tocqueville painted in biblical terms. Was America as he described it a good example of a biblical view of the roles of men and women?
It is critical that we learn to think in biblical terms about these issues, because when challenges come to our "traditional" gender roles, we have a very weak position if we can only answer, "That's the way we've always done it." For example, I sometimes hear social conservatives argue against homosexual legal unions with things like "This has never been done before in the history of Western society." True enough. But why should this carry any moral authority with homosexuals? History can only carry the moral authority of example when it is properly interpreted, and the proper interpretation of history must come from God as he has revealed it to us in the Bible. It is the Bible that is our source of faith and practice.
I would now like to present some words from a modern admirer of Tocqueville who thinks that Tocqueville's vision of gender roles has been rendered nostalgic and unworkable in our modern society. In his recent work, Manliness, Harvey C. Mansfield writes:
"How can we employ manliness usefully in our gender-neutral society? One thing we cannot do is to go back to a society in which women are kept in the home and men are free to leave it. Women restrained, men free; this is how that traditional arrangement looks to us now. One could say, with a nod to Rousseau, that women were more in charge than they appeared to be, and men less. Some conservatives, women and men, may be inclined to go back in this direction, and to see whether this reactionary change might be possible let us look briefly again at Tocqueville. Tocqueville paints a beautiful picture, too beautiful to be true, of how men and women lived separate but equal in America in his day.
"Tocqueville congratulates American women for willingly accepting the confines of the household, the 'yoke' of marriage, in view of natural differences between the two sexes. American women, he says, tolerate this condition 'courageously' because they have chosen it; they often display a 'manly reason and a wholly virile energy.' So if you were to ask Tocqueville (he imagines) to what he attributes the prosperity and force of the American people, he would answer that 'it is to the superiority of its women.' Although American women cannot escape the domestic circle, they are never forced to leave it; so they retain 'a very delicate appearance and always remain women in their manners.' Women with the best of manliness who yet remain women, and democratic, too!
"Tocqueville's solution to the problem of democratic despotism is to encourage manliness, and part of that is to attribute manliness to American women. ... It's a very complimentary statement, a nice try from a gallant and attractive man; but today, in a late stage of the democratic revolution that Tocqueville described so well, our democracy has placed the idea of separate but equal status for women firmly in the past....
"Having firmly set aside the reactionary solution of separate roles, man in public and woman in private, an arrangement 'traditional' to be sure - if you mean by that common to all human history - we abandon nostalgia and return to the gender-neutral society...."

What do you think of Mansfield's argument? How would you answer it biblically? Is it simply passe to speak of separate roles for men and women?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Parental Rights

Michael Farris and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) have been spearheading efforts to defend parental rights both here and abroad. You would do well to be aware of their work. Pray 1 Timothy 2:1-3 in this regard.

Knowing the true Christ and the true way of salvation

Last Sunday we spent a fair amount of time talking about who Christ is. Here is an article dealing with an important theological topic of our day called "the new perspective on Paul." The article does a good job of giving the basic gist of the "new perspective," and it also lays out biblically why this new perspective is wrong. But I also want you to notice how closely understanding the true teaching about salvation is connected with understanding the true picture of Christ. This will increase your worship of our glorious Savior.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Moral Schizophrenia

When a city can pass a law banning all trans fats (click on title above), while society allows all kinds of moral perversions to pass unrestricted, it is a sure sign that somebody is worshipping false gods. False gods will make you insane (Romans 1:21-22).

Should a Wife "Glorify" Her Husband?

The Lord has blessed our church with many ladies who have an earnest desire to please him. (And I want to say as pastor how much I appreciate their talent and industry in Christ's service!) Several of our ladies have been going through the very profitable volume entitled The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. From what I hear, it has been a challenging and encouraging read. However, last Friday at the ladies Bible study some ladies raised questions about the propriety of the way Mrs. Peace described a wife's role in relationship to her husband. I appreciate the careful reading and the effort to "test everything" and to "hold fast what is good." In that spirit, I want to offer the following thoughts in order to help us all grow in our ability to live out the rich relationship that is godly, covenant marriage.
Before I begin, let me post here the relevant quotes from the book which raised questions. You will understand these best if you have read the entire chapter, so if you haven't done that, please take time to do so. These are all taken from chapter six, "A Wife's Understanding of Her Role."

"The Apostle Paul is making reference [in 1 Cor 11:7-9] to God's original intent. Man is to glorify God and woman is to glorify the man" (p. 49).
"So, just as Christ glorified the Father by doing the Father's 'work,' you are to glorify your husband by doing the husband's 'work.' Your role is to glorify your husband. You were created for him" (p. 51).
"[T]he wife's role is a model of the church's relationship to Christ. Therefore, you should submit to your husband's authority and use your energies to glorify him" (p. 53).
"Christ/the husband cherishes, sacrifices for, nourishes, and loves the church/wife. On the other hand, the church/wife is to submit to and glorify her Christ/husband" (p. 53).
"Basically, we have said that the wife's role is to glorify and submit to her husband. She was created to fulfill her role as 'helper' for her husband" (p. 54).

Now, I must hasten to add that the ladies were not questioning that this teaching was essentially correct. Some simply wondered if it was appropriate to speak of "glorifying" one's husband. Is this giving to a man what should be reserved for God alone?
First of all, I want to note that the ladies are on to something important here. God is unique and is not to be confused in any way with his creation. He is worthy of glory in an absolute and ultimate way, and no human being can share in his glory (Isa 42:8). Yet I would maintain that Mrs. Peace is correct in her use of the term "glorify" because she is using it in a biblical way.
Note the definition of the terms "glory" and "glorify" in the New Testament. They refer to magnificence, greatness, enhancing someone's reputation, praising them, honoring them, etc., and they are used of people as well as of God (Luke 14:10; Rom 2:10; 9:4; 1 Cor 11:7; 1 Thess 2:20). Of course, we recognize that the glory of humans is like grass (1 Peter 1:24); it is not equal to God's either in quantity or quality. It is only a reflection of God's glory. Yet, although we do not normally speak this way in everyday conversation, there is nothing inherently wrong with "glorifying" another human being. Every time we praise our children for doing something right, we are glorifying them. Every time we hold a rally for troops returning from Iraq, we are glorifying them. Every time we clap our hands for the USAFA football team, we are glorifying them. We all recognize that we are not "deifying" our children, soldiers, or football players. We are simply responding to something they have accomplished with a recognition of honor and praise.
This response is actually a profoundly important aspect of our lives as Christians. In John 17, Jesus Christ's high priestly prayer incorporates a "theology" of glory in relationships. He prayed that the Father would glorify him so that he could glorify the Father (17:2). He speaks of how he glorified the Father by accomplishing the work that the Father gave him to do (17:4) and asks the Father to glorify him in his own presence with the glory he had before the world existed (17:5). He goes on to say that he is glorified in those people who are his (17:10), and he prays in vv. 21-23 "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them that they may be one even as we are one, I im them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me" (ESV).
As we mirror the relationships modelled for us in the Trinity, we will glorify one another. Just as Jesus and the Father glorify one another, and even share that glory with us as we are united to them (v. 22), so we should glorify one another in our relationships. Theologian John Frame says it this way, "...the concept of mutual glorification suggests an important way in which Christians can be like the members of the Trinity: we, too, are called to defer to one another in this way, to glorify one another, to be disposable to one anther's purposes - that is, to love one another as God loved us."
If this is true in all of our relationships in the body of Christ, how much more is it true in our husband-wife relationships. Mrs. Peace has done an excellent job of presenting the biblical evidence for why a wife should glorify her husband. Though this language may sound strange to our ears, it actually points us to our participation in the life of the Triune God, exemplified in our marriage relationships.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Knowing the Christ We Pursue and Proclaim

This morning we gloried in who Christ Jesus is - his divine-human person. You can listen to the sermon by clicking on the title above and post comments or questions here.

Here are some great quotes from the Puritan pastor John Owen relating to Jesus Christ as the God-man.
"This is a glory whose beams are so wonderful that the blind world cannot see their beauty and so many deny the incarnation of God. Nevertheless, this is the glory of our religion, the glory of the church, the only rock on which it was built, the only source of present grace and future glory" (The Glory of Christ).
"Let us get it fixed in our minds that this glory of Christ in his divine-human person, is the best, the most noble and beneficial truth that we can think about or set our hearts on. It is the neglect of meditation that keeps so many Christians in a feeble state, regardless of their privileges. They hear of these things and assent to the truth of them or at least they do not quesiton them. But they never solemnly meditate on them. But they never solemnly meditate on them" (ibid.).

Spend time this week meditating on and adoring the Person of Christ. I would appreciate you sharing anything you learn as you do that, and may we all behold the glory of our Lord!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Motherhood without Marriage

In light of this hurtful and immoral trend, I would encourage us to do more than shout at the darkness. Those of us who embrace Christ must model what a vibrant, godly, covenant marriage is, where husbands love their wives like Christ loves the church, and where wives submit to their husbands (Eph 5). Many people will scorn us for this vision, but they will not be able to deny its powerful beauty.

Good Message Introducing Biblical Separatism

Dr. Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, gives a helpful basic introduction to how we discern those with whom we can have Christian fellowship and those with whom we cannot. Very important message for our day.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

You Cannot Serve God and Mammon

CitizenLink reports that household debt has risen to 129 percent of after-tax income in America. Money makes a cruel master. May we all put our hope in God and be careful to live within our means.
http://www.citizenlink.org/CLNews/A000003261.cfm

Faith and Reason

Clicking the title above will take you to some important thoughts on faith and reason from Albert Mohler.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Little Perspective on Family Life by Tocqueville

Any attentive reader (or even not so attentive reader) of this blog will soon notice that of the three main God-given social institutions - family, church, and state - my interests lie primarily, though not by any means exclusively, with the first two. This post concerns the family. I hope we will love God enough to conform our lives in this area to his Word.
Since we as Americans tend strongly to conform our faith to our social norms, we are usually asleep at the wheel when it comes to assessing how much we have imbibed our cultures' mores concerning the roles and relationships of men and women, and of family life in general. Sometimes a peek at a different time period can provoke us to open our drowsy eyes to what the Scripture actually says about these things. With that in mind, I offer this intriguing assessment of the relationships of American men and women in the 1830's by Alexis de Tocqueville.
"There are people in Europe who, confusing the diverse attributes of the sexes, intend to make man and woman into beings not only equal, but alike. They give them both the same functions, impose the same duties on them, and accord them the same rights; they mix them in all things - labors, pleasures, affairs. One can easily conceive that in thus striving to equalize one sex with the other, one degrades them both; and that from this coarse mixture of nature's works, only weak men and disreputable women can ever emerge.
"This is not the way Americans have understood the kind of democratic equality that can be established between woman and man. They have thought that since nature had established such great variation between the physical and moral constitution of man and that of woman, its clearly indicated goal was to give a diverse employment to their different faculties; and they have judged that progress did not consist in making two unlike beings do nearly the same things, but in getting each of them to acquit its task as well as possible. Americans have applied to the two sexes the great principle of political economy that dominates industry in our day. They have carefully divided the functions of man and woman in order that the great social work be better done.
"America, among the world's countries, is the one where where they have tatken the most continual care to draw cleanly separated lines of action for the two sexes, and where they have wanted them both to march at an equal pace but on ever different paths. You do not see American women directing the external affairs of the family, conducting a business, or indeed entering the political sphere; but neither do you encounter any of them who are obliged to engage in the rough work of plowing or in any painful exertions that require the development of physical force There are no families so poor as to make an exception to this rule.
"If the American woman cannot escape from the peaceful circle of domestic occupations, she is, on the other hand, never constrained to leave it.
"Hence it is that American women, who often display a manly reason and a whole virile energy, generally preserve a very delicate appearance and always remain women in their manners, although they sometimes show themselves to be men in mind and heart.
"Neither have Americans ever imagined that democratic principles should have the consequence of overturning marital power and introducing confusion of authorities in the family. They have thought that every association, to be efficacious, must have a head, and that the natural head of the conjugal association is the man. They therefore do not deny him the right to direct his mate; and they believe that in the little society of husband and wife, as well as in the great political society, the object of democracy is to regulate and legitimate necessary powers, not to destroy all power.
"This is not an opinion particular to one sex and fought by the other.
"I did not remark that American women considered conjugal authority as a happy usurpation of their rights, or that they believed they were debasing themselves in submitting to it. On the contrary, it seemed evident to me that they made a sort of glory for themselves out of the voluntary abandonmnet of thir wills, and that they found their greatness in submitting on their own to the yoke and not in escaping from it. That is at least the sentiment that the most virtuous women express: the others are silent, and one does not hear in the United States of an adulterous wife noisily claiming the rights of woman while riding roughshod over her most hallowed duties.
"It has often been remarked that in Europe a certain scorn is disclosed in the very midst of the flatteries that men lavish on women: although the European often makes himself the slave of woman one sees that he never sincerely believer her his equal.
"In the United States women are scarcely praised, but it is shown daily that they are esteemed....
"Thus Americans do not believe that man and woman have the duty or the right to do the same things, but they show the same esteem for the role of each of them, and they consider them as beings whose value is equal although their destiny differs. They do not give the same form or the same employment to the courage of woman as to that of man, but they never doubt her courage; and if they deem that man and his mate should not always employ their intelligence and reason in the same manner, they at least judge that the reason of one is as sure as that of the other, and her intelligence as clear.
"...If one asked me to what do I think one must principally attribute the singular prosperity and growing force of this people, I would answer that it is to the superiority of its women" (Democracy in America, Vol 2, Part 3, Chapter 12).
So, what think you? Assuming Tocqueville's assessment is reasonably accurate, were Americans in those days operating according to a fairly biblical model in their views of men and women? Be sure to use Scripture to support your answer.

Jesus Christ our Lord

As we continue our study of Philippians 2:5-11, it would do us all well to spend some time feeding our souls on the vision of Christ presented in the Word of God. I can't think of a better way to enter into the Christmas season than to gain a deeper acquaintance with our Savior and Lord.
(Note: Clicking on the title above will take you to a concise overview of the biblical doctrine about Jesus Christ. I hope this is helpful.)

All Praise to Christ

All praise to Thee, Eternal Lord,
Clothed in a garb of flesh and blood;
Choosing a manger for a throne,
While worlds on worlds are Thine alone.
Martin Luther

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Welcome Sophia: Another Ray of Light in a Culture of Death


It is not new news to declare that the Western world is in a demographic crisis, not to mention other developed countries like Japan. This demographic debacle is not at all surprising, given the selfish sinfulness that drives our societies. Children are considered an impediment to our happiness and fulfillment (at least if you have more that two of them). Of course, it is not hard to figure out where this wilfull sterilization will lead for any society that embraces it - extinction.
However, I am distressed when I see Christians falling into the same mindset as the self-destructing societies around us. This thinking finds no support from the Scriptures and should be utterly alien to a transformed mind.
At our church and in my home, we revel in children as an unmitigated good from God (Psalm 127:3). I am not a naive utopian, as I have five children and am well acquainted with the challenges that children bring. Nevertheless, even these challenges are a means of God's grace in our lives. Rearing children for the Lord is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and for the glory of God.
In light of that, I want to give a special welcome to Sophia Tossell, the youngest attender at High Country Baptist Church. May God make her into a virtuous woman who is far more precious than jewels.



Here are some more "arrows" that God has blessed us with. We trust that by God's grace they will love the Lord their God with all their hearts and be mighty men for God.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Is the "light" fading?

Here is one who at least recognizes that the story the Enlightenment told simply doesn't hold true.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Having the Mind of Christ: Our Pattern for United Gospel Living

Our sermon today was about having the mindset of Christ. We are commanded to have this mindset if we want to live in unity and walk worthy of the gospel. Christ's attitude was one of humble servanthood, even to the point of dying on a cross. This means that our attitude should be one of death to self. This might seem impossibly unreasonable, but Christ's exaltation gives us hope for embracing his attitude.
If you have questions or comments about the sermon, feel free to comment here. Clicking on the title above will take you to a page where you can download the sermon.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving Thanks



Today we had the privilege of giving thanks to our great and good God with family, friends, and neighbors. I do long for more of a spirit of thanksgiving in my life, and such times as today encourage my heart toward that end. In our naturalistic society we have so lost touch with the reality that God's providence is over all. It is this conviction that lies behind the earliest Thanksgiving proclamations given in our country, and this conviction must be ours today if we wish to bow the knee and give thanks to God.

Here are some pictures from today.




Chad and I enjoyed good fellowship discussing the Christ-centered life called for in the letter to the Philippians.



Sophia was the youngest of the many blessings (children) present today. I hope her young ears and young mind will be filled with the sounds of people giving thanks to God.

Our neighbors John and Shauna with their new blessing, Mackensie.

What good is a tree if you can't climb it? Katie enjoying God's creation.


The Parker brothers partaking of pie. Now that's something to be thankful for!

I trust your Thanksgiving was as joyful as ours.

I close with something I read this morning in God's Word. "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth" (Revelation 11:17-18). What a day of thanksgiving that will be!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Jesus is Lord - A Great Hymn

Here is a great hymn I just learned about a couple days ago. It expresses well in poetic form the awesome truths of Philippians 2:5-11. It is by Francis Bland Tucker and is sung to the tune of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Sine Nomine.


All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine,
Didst yield the glory that of right was thine,
That in our darkened hearts thy grace might shine:
Allelujah!

Thou cam’st to us in lowliness of thought;
By thee the outcast and the poor were sought,
And by thy death was God’s salvation wrought:
Allelujah!

Let this mind be in us which was in thee,
Who was a servant that we might be free,
Humbling thyself to death on Calvary:
Allelujah!

Wherefore, by God’s eternal purpose, thou
Art high exalted o’er all creatures now,
And given the name to which all knees shall bow:
Allelujah!

Let every tongue confess with one accord
In heaven and earth that Jesus Christ is Lord;
And God the Father be by all adored:
Allelujah!

AMEN! AMEN!

Competing RELIGIONS

In one sense, I like Richard Dawkins. He, along with men like Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris, is a leading evangelist for thorough-going atheism. Now, I obviously do not like his atheism. But the reason I like Richard Dawkins is that he is the kind of person who makes it very clear that atheism, or "science," is really another religion that cannot be accomodated with Christianity.

He, of course, does not claim that he is religious. He recently said, "I am utterly fed up with the respect that we - all of us, including the secular among us - are brainwashed into bestowing on religion." He seems to have bought into the very common but very wrong conception that religion entails belief in a Supreme Being. While this seems plausible on the surface, it runs into insuperable difficulties when we try to use this definition in practice.

A much better definition of religious belief has been given by Roy Clouser. He writes that "a belief is a religious belief provided that:
(1) It is a belief in something as divine per se no matter how that is further described, or
(2) it is a belief about how the non-divine depends upon the divine per se, or
(3) it is a belief about how humans come to stand in proper relation to the divine per se,
(4) where the essential core of divinity per se is to have the status of unconditionally non-dependent reality" (The Myth of Religious Neutrality, p. 24).

Given this more accurate definition of religious belief, it is clear that Dawkins' naturalism is indeed a religion. Naturalism says that the cosmos is all that is, that ever was, and that ever will be (a rough quote from Carl Sagan, an evangelist for naturalism of the past generation). In other words, the cosmos has the status of unconditionally non-dependent reality. It is "god," and in naturalistic thinking, we are all extensions of this "god." Thus we are the universe trying to figure itself out. This is just another variety of paganism, a religious belief that has been around long before it illegitimately cloaked itself in the respectable garb of "science."

This all fits precisely with what the Bible teaches. The Bible says that, as creatures made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), all men are inescapably religious (Romans 1:18-23). They will either worship the one true and living God, or they will come up with some kind of substitute. Anything that replaces God is an idol, even if it does not have formal rites of worship (e.g. covetousness is idolatry). This stark antithesis is fundamental to biblical religion. Either you worship God as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ, or you worship an idol. Either you embrace the true religion, or you have a false religion. There is no possibility of being "non-religious."

The reason I like Richard Dawkins is that he recognizes the antithesis, despite the fact that he is confused about the nature of religion. There are far too many atheists and Christians alike who try to work out some kind of middle ground between their competing religions. But, as Dawkins correctly recognizes, it simply can't be done.

Some links to recent comments about Richard Dawkins:
1. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/21/science/21belief.html?_r=2&th&emc=th&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
2. http://www.albertmohler.com/commentary_read.php?cdate=2006-11-21

Friday, November 17, 2006

Just Practicing Again

From what I have posted so far, you might indeed wonder what this blog has to do with being relentlessly biblical. You'll just have to wait until I get into this thing.
I thought about practicing a little apologetic work by responding to Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation. However, I discovered that Doug Wilson is doing quite a good job of that over on his blog, and in a much more entertaining fashion than I. So I will just content myself with practicing links and direct you over there. http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=Anchor&CategoryID=1&BlogID=3132

Saturday, November 11, 2006

One More Great American Soldier

Since I just posted about great American soldiers, I can't pass up the opportunity to highlight one more - my brother. He is a man who acquits himself well as a soldier and as a Christian, with the emphasis first of all on Christian. God bless you, Brandon. We are praying for you as you go back to Iraq.





By the way, he's a great uncle, too.

Welcome Home

I thought I would learn to post pictures on this blog by uploading some special pictures from Friday night and Saturday morning. I had the privilege of attending the welcome home ceremonies for Allan Lyson and Steve Walker, two great American soldiers. Thank you, men. Well done.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Greetings

To those of you who happen to stumble across this, hello! I am simply playing around with this blog right now in order to learn the ropes of blogging. In the future I hope to begin using this blog as a tool for interacting about life from a biblical perspective.