Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Is Jesus the Only Way of Salvation?

When there is confusion on this matter, it is a sure sign that one has totally lost his way. Currentchristian.com highlights Tony Campolo's waffling.

Monday, January 29, 2007

True Rejoicing - Wise Words from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Lloyd-Jones has some excellent comments on Philippians 3:1 that tie in nicely with our sermon yesterday.

This whole question of joy in the Christian life has often caused a great deal of confusion. If I may so put it, many Christian people are unhappy because they are not experiencing joy. Their whole idea is that joy is the result of things that happen to us. They believe that we have no control over it, that we are not capable of making ourselves rejoice, that joy and rejoicing are the end result of the interaction and inter-operation of a number of forces and factors, most of them without, but some of them within ourselves. And, they say, as a result of all this, we are either happy or we are not. But that, it seems to me, is an error which is constantly exposed and denounced in these New Testament epistles, and here it is exposed by the very fact that we are given a commandment - we are to rejoice, it is something we can do.

But having said that, I must again point out that two dangers arise immediately. The first is the danger of trying to produce this state of rejoicing by making a direct attack upon the emotions.... Some people will say that as rejoicing and happiness belong to the realm of the emotions, then, if we are commanded to rejoice, we must begin to do things to ourselves emotionally in order that we may get into this happy state.... For instance, in a public meeting, or in a public act of worship, think how often something like this happens: the leader of the meeting, or someone else says, 'Well now, the first thing is to get this congregation or gathering into a good mood. Let's put on hymns or tunes or choruses of a certain type - we must get them happy, we must get them to rejoice. They have come in cold and miserable, let's get them into a good, happy state.' So, they put on bright, cheerful hymns to get the people to rejoice. That is what I mean by a direct attack upon the emotions, an attempt to produce joy by doing things to our emotional life which are calculated to lead to that result.

Now I want to show you that that is not the teaching of the Apostle here, as it is not the teaching of the New Testament anywhere. Indeed, I think I can demonstrate that such a direct attack upon the emotions is ... one of the most dangerous things that we can ever do, that it is the high road to false teaching and the various cults. There are many ways that people can make themselves feel happy: by taking drugs, by manipulating circumstances, or by groping in the realm of make-believe, fancy and fantasy, for example.... There is an almost endless variety of ways, and , from the Christian standpoint, that is the major trouble with the world today. The world is full of troubles and unhappiness, terrible things are threatening life today, but instead of facing these things realistically and adopting the Christian way of surmounting them, people deliberately turn their back upon the troubles and, in their search for joy, happiness and peace, create an artificial sense of happiness and pleasure. And if that is wrong for the world, it is wrong also for us as Christian people.

The other danger which we must avoid is the pose of being bright, happy and cheerful Christian people. I think there are a number of people who have rightly seen and understood that Christians are meant to be men and women who rejoice. There is a type of Christian ... who gives the impression that being a Christian means being mournful and miserable.... But people have now seen that that is a false representation of Christianity and of New Testament teaching, and that really the Christian is the only one who can know true happiness in a world like this. So, because of that, they adopt a bright and cheerful pose, and are always trying to give the impression that is is a wonderful thing to be a Christian.

That, it seems to me, is the second form that this error of the direct approach tends to take. I do not know what your experience is but, speaking for myself, the most depressing people I think I have ever met are those who try to give the impression that they are always cheerful and happy. Is there not all the difference in the world between a person who is trying to give that impression and the one who really is happy?

The good doctor goes on to say:

So when we are told to rejoice in the Lord, we must avoid the error of trying to do so by a direct attack upon our emotional nature. How, then, is it to be done? Well, first of all, our rejoicing is always something that results from a realisation of our position in Christ. My joy is the product, almost the by-product, of my concentration upon my relationship to God in Jesus Christ (taken from The Life of Peace: An Exposition of Philippians 3 and 4).

"Our rejoicing is always something that results from a realisation of our position in Christ." That truth corresponds with what we talked about in yesterday's sermon. Rejoicing in the Lord is a recognition of the reality of Christ's Lordship and a wholehearted response to what our relationship with him means. May all of us rejoice in the Lord this week.

The Myth of Moral Neutrality in Science

Dr. Albert Mohler has a good post on an important subject - the myth of moral neutrality in science.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Do You Have the Power of God?

Kevin Bauder asks and answers this question.

Link

"Denial"

A seminary classmate of mine, Michael Riley, posted this stirring poem by George Herbert.

Denial

When my devotions could not pierce
Thy silent ears;
Then was my heart broken, as was my verse;
My breast was full of fears
And disorder:

My bent thoughts, like a brittle bow,
Did fly asunder:
Each took his way; some would to pleasures go,
Some to the wars and thunder
Of alarms.

"As good go any where," they say,
"As to benumb
Both knees and heart, in crying night and day,
Come, come, my God, O come,
But no hearing."

O that thou shouldst give dust a tongue
To cry to thee,
And then not hear it crying! all day long
My heart was in my knee,
But no hearing.

Therefore my soul lay out of sight,
Untun'd, unstrung:
My feeble spirit, unable to look right,
Like a nipped blossom, hung
Discontented.

O cheer and tune my heartless breast,
Defer no time;
That so thy favors granting my request,
They and my mind may chime,
And mend my rhyme.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

How Should a Child Be Trained (Part 3)

Part 1

Part 2

Having established the meaning of Proverbs 22:6, let us look now at the practical application Ryle makes of it. He does this by means of seventeen propositions full of scriptural wisdom. Here is his winsome invitation to consider them.

Come, now, and let me place before you a few hints about right training. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost bless them, and make them words in season to you all. Reject them not because they are blunt and simple; despise them not because they contain nothing new. Be very sure, if you would train children for heaven, they are hints that ought not to be lightly set aside.

He then proceeds.

I. First, then, if you would train your children rightly, train them in the way they should go, and not in the way that they would.
Remember, children are born with a decided bias toward evil, and therefore, if you let them choose for themselves, they are certain to choose wrong.
The mother can not tell what her tender infant may grow up to be – tall or short, weak or strong, wise of foolish; he may be any of these things, or not – it is all uncertain. But one thing the mother can say with certainty: he will have a corrupt and sinful heart. It is natural to us to do wrong. “Foolishness,” says Solomon, “is bound in the heart of a child” (Prov 22:15). “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov 29:15). Our hearts are like the earth on which we tread – let it alone, and it is sure to bear weeds.
If you then would deal wisely with your child, you must not leave him to the guidance of his own will. Think for him, judge for him, act for him, just as you would for one weak and blind; but for pity’s sake, give him not up to his own wayward tastes and inclinations. It must not be his likings and wishes that are consulted. He knows not yet what is good for his mind and soul, any more than what is good for his body. You do not let him decide what he shall eat, and what he shall drink and how he shall be clothed. Be consistent, and deal with his mind in like manner. Train him in the way that is scriptural and right, and not in the way that he fancies.
If you can not make up your mind to this first principle of Christian training, it is useless for you to read any further. Self-will is almost the first thing that appears in a child’s mind; and it must be your first step to resist it.

I don’t think Ryle is trying to be provocative here, but he could not have written anything more directly contradictory to the prevailing ideas of our age. But he is directly in line with the Scripture.

Let me highlight this central truth: all of us are born sinners. That includes our children. If we do not get this truth, we will never understand child training from God’s perspective. Ryle has a clear grasp of what sin is: self-will. Fundamentally, sin is a refusal to honor God as God. It is idolatry. It is worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator, and hence not obeying the Lord’s will. It is rebellion. This is why we read so many attacks on idolatry in the Bible. But all of our children are born idolaters.

It is no accident that the primary command in all of Scripture addressed to children is to honor and obey their parents. “Honor” and “obey” – these are the antithesis of what is in our precious little rebels’ hearts. But it is our responsibility as parents to train them in the right way.

One more thought. I’m afraid Ryle would be shocked to find out that his reasoning may not have much weight with modern parents. He wrote, “You do not let him decide what he shall eat, and what he shall drink and how he shall be clothed. Be consistent, and deal with his mind in like manner.” But many parents today do let their children decide what they will eat, what they will drink, and what they want to wear, and they deal with their children’s minds in like manner. They are consistent. They let the child do whatever he wants as long as it doesn’t bother them too much. But any parent whose eyes are opened by faith to see the creeping destruction sin brings will lay out their very lives to train that child in the right way and to keep that precious soul from being devoured by sin.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Overcoming Sin

A new edition of John Owen's classic writings on sanctification, entitled Overcoming Sin and Temptation, is now available. You can buy the book online, but if you don't have the money, you can download it for free here. This spiritual food has the savor of Christ throughout, and if you read it, you will no doubt thank God for Owen's application of the Word to your life.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Protecting and Valuing All Human Life

A few blogs alerted me to a good article by George Will in Newsweek magazine. Will challenges the decision of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to recommend prenatal genetic screening for all pregnant women. Though this recommendation sounds ethically neutral, Will correctly notes that the primary purpose of such a procedure is to abort all babies which do not measure up to our standards of "normal." It is a great article, so if you have a moment, read it here.

Christians must lead the way in protecting and valuing all human life as a gift from God.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Superb New Hymn

Pastor Greg Linscott has drawn my attention to a superb recent hymn, "O God Beyond All Praising" by Michael Perry. It is set to the tune Thaxted, originally composed by Gustav Holst for his work The Planets.

Here is the text:

"O God beyond all praising,we worship you today
and sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay;
for we can only wonder at every gift you send,
at blessings without number and mercies without end:
we lift our hearts before you and wait upon your word,
we honor and adore you, our great and mighty Lord."

"Then hear, O gracious Savior, accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favor may serve you as our king;
and whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill,
we'll triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty our sacrifice of praise."

You can hear this hymn sung by the congregation of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia here.

Here is a little more information about the song.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Martin Luther on Catechisms

A college friend of mine, Bob Roberts, shows what Luther had to say about the importance of catechisms.

Link

More Information on Marriage

A few days ago I reflected on a New York Times piece which implied that marriage as we know it is going away. Although I did not have access to other statistics besides those spoken of in the article, I questioned the way the article presented its material. Now, Peter Smith at Lifesitenews.com gives additional information which further shows that the article presented a distorted picture by selectively reporting the facts. Here is an excerpt from Smith's research.

According to the 2005 report “Marital Status of the Population by Sex and Age”, the United States is not yet a culture that has discarded the institution of marriage, where 60.4% of men and 56.9% of women over 18 years old are married.
However, Roberts creates his own analysis by using the Census Bureau’s “Living Arrangements of Persons 15 Years Old and Over by Selected Characteristics”, by including in his 51% figure of women living without a spouse: unmarried teenage and college girls still living with their parents, women whose husbands work out of town, are institutionalized, or are separated from husbands serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Perhaps most disturbing is how blatantly Roberts’ claims are at variance with US census bureau statistics. Among marriageable women over 18 years old, 56.9% of women are married, with 53% having a spouse present, 1.4% with a spouse absent, 9.9% widowed, and 11.5% divorced. Yet, 67.3% of women 30-34, and 70.5% of women are married, a far cry from the profiles of women offered by the Times of women finding fulfillment outside marriage.

Here is another example of why we need to be discerning about what we read and hear.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Dating: To Kiss or Not to Kiss

Scott Croft posts a clear call to biblical holiness in relationships. Here is an excerpt.

The question is not "How far can I go in indulging my desires for sexual gratification or intimacy without getting too close to this thing the Bible utterly rejects?" The question we should all ask — in any area of our lives — is "How can I best pursue that to which God in His Word has positively called me?" He has called us all to pursue holiness and purity in our personal lives. That leaves little room for intentional flirtation with any sin, sexual or otherwise.

"Just Kissing"

Let's talk about two practical arguments that have implications for "just kissing." The first is that all sexual activity is sex. God's design of sex doesn't merely include the act of sexual intercourse. It's also everything that leads up to that act, and everything on the sexual continuum is meant to end in that act. It's called foreplay, and it's a fundamental part of God's design for sex. To borrow (and embellish) an analogy from Michael Lawrence, sexual activity is like a down-hill on-ramp to a highway. It's one way, you gather momentum the second you enter it, and according to the Great Engineer's design of the highway system, there's only one reason to get on it.
This truth bears itself out not only in our emotions, desires, and common sense, but literally in our physical bodies. The moment two people begin kissing or touching each other in a sexual way, both the male and female body — without going into unwarranted detail here — begin "preparing" for sex. God has designed us that way, and when we begin any sort of sexual activity, our bodies know exactly what's going on — even if our self-deluding minds deny it.
I'll simply call the other argument the "wisdom argument." Even if we assume for a moment — just for the sake of argument, mind you — that kissing without doing anything else isn't sex and is therefore OK. When two people care for one another, it is natural to want to consummate that affection physically. In the right context, those desires are good and right and God-glorifying. In any context, they are some of the strongest desires known to human kind. Kissing will only make you want to do more than kiss. It will make you want to indulge in sin. That desire will be strong enough in both of you without blatantly tempting yourself by trying to put just one foot on the on-ramp. It's simply a physiological and emotional reality. If courting such spiritual danger is not sin itself, it is, at the very least, an unwise invitation to sin, what Proverbs calls "folly." Why put someone you claim to care about at spiritual risk?

Remember the Gospel

I'll be the first to admit that this column has been a pretty rough slog through a type of sin many of us (myself included) have fallen into at one time or another in our lives. Let me close by reminding us all that while God hates sin, and while sexual sin — like all sin — is destructive to us and grieving to God, there is hope and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. If we truly repent of our past sins and turn from them and believe in the atoning blood of Christ, we are not "damaged goods," but new creations. What was red as crimson has become white as snow.



I am thankful that Pastor Croft has kindly and biblically dealt with this issue. It saddens me greatly that Christians could be so confused on something so elementary, but if we will come to grips with the biblical teaching on this matter, we will be able to shine as lights in the world. Holiness is always beautiful!

(HT: currentchristian.com)

When is an Evangelical not an Evangelical?

Check out this interesting article.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

How Should a Child Be Trained? (Part 2)

Part 1

Ryle’s interpretation of Proverbs 22:6 matches with the way most English translations and most English readers understand this verse. Nevertheless, several scholars have questioned this interpretation and offered various alternatives. I’m not going to examine all the alternatives here, although I will mention some as we work through the text. I simply intend to show why I believe that the common interpretation is the correct one.
This proverb comes near the end of the major section of the book of Proverbs, 10:1-22:16. In this section of the book most of the proverbs are in the form of a saying. A saying in Scripture is basically a sentence with two parallel lines that expresses a general truth about life. It does not give a command or instruction directly; rather, it shows the reader a general truth about life that the reader must take into consideration if he is to live wisely and righteously. It is a self-contained statement with little connection to its context. Here are a couple examples.

Line 1: A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
Line 2: and favor is better than silver or gold. (Prov 22:1)

Line 1: The rich and the poor meet together;
Line 2: the Lord is the maker of them all. (Prov 22:2)

Proverbs 22:6, however, is not a saying, although it is a one sentence statement of general truth. It is an admonition. The difference between the two is that the admonition gives a command. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child.” This is an imperative, a command. This text is not informing us of something as much as it is instructing us to do something. It is not descriptive but prescriptive.
Yet like a saying, Proverbs 22:6 is composed of two parallel lines or clauses.

Line 1: Train up a child in the way he should go;
Line 2: even when he is old he will not depart from it.

It is important that we pay attention to the relationship between these clauses. The second clause is a consequence of the first clause. This means that whatever the first clause is telling us to do, the result of doing it is that “when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Unfortunately, the meaning of the first clause is what scholars squabble about. There are basically three questions that need to be answered. (1) What does the term “train” mean? (2) What does “child” refer to? (3) What does “in the way he should go” mean?
1. What does the term “train” mean? The Hebrew verb khanak is used five times in the OT. Twice it refers to “dedicating” or “initiating” a house (Deut 20:5), and twice it refers to “dedicating” the temple (1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chron 7:5). Based upon this information and the usage of the cognate noun, some suggest that “train up” would be better translated as “dedicate/initiate.” Thus the verse would not be talking about child training, but about initiating.
However, three things indicate that “train up” is indeed a proper understanding. First, the adjective form of khanak does mean “trained, tried, or experienced,” so it is not out of the question to see khanak as indicating some kind of training. Hebrew lexicons routinely gloss khanak in Proverbs 22:6 as “to train up.” Second, this is the only use of khanak connected with a personal object (using the preposition le). It is different than dedicating or beginning to use an inanimate object like a building. Third, and most importantly, the idea of dedicating/initiating a child cannot sustain the result mentioned in the second clause. How does an act of dedicating/initiating a youth according to his way result in him never departing from that way? The idea of “training” fits much better.
2. Some scholars also take issue with the traditional interpretation of the term “child.” They contend that the “child” mentioned here is actually a young man. Therefore, they say, the verse is not talking about how we deal with children, but how we initiate a young man into adult status and responsibilities. There is some merit to this consideration. The Hebrew word is na’ar, which is used in the OT of a wide range of ages: infant (Ex 2:6), weaned child (1 Sam 1:24), young child (Jer 1:6), lad (Gen 22:12), adolescent (Gen 37:2), young man of marriageable age (Gen 34:19), etc. No married person is ever called a na’ar. But the term is also used of “servants” (e.g. Gen 14:24; 18:7; Judg 8:20; 1 Sam 21:5-6). It may focus more on the status of the person than on the age, per se.
In the end, however, I do not believe that this objection is all that significant. Given the command to “train up,” it really makes little difference to the interpretation of this verse if we are talking about a little baby or college student. Na’ar as used in Proverbs 22:6 could refer to any young person still in the formative years of life, still under the direction or tutelage of another, which would be from birth up to young adulthood. The command is for that young person to be trained. Those who object err in trying to force a narrower meaning on the term when the context does not require it.
3. Perhaps the most challenging question of all is what “in the way he should go” means. The phrase could be translated, “according to his way.” But what is “his way”? Two common views among recent commentators and preachers are that it means that a child should be trained (1) according to his personal natural inclinations, or (2) according to the nature of youth in general. The first view, although it sounds plausible to us in our psychologically oriented society, is totally foreign to the perspective of Proverbs as a whole. It is commonly preached, but few scholars accept it.
The second view has more to commend it. It understands the verse to mean, “Train a child in a manner befitting a child…[O]ne should train a child using vocabulary, concepts, and illustrations a child can understand” (Duane Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, 188). I doubt that anyone would disagree with this idea, but is this what the verse itself is saying?
I do not believe so. The fatal flaw in this interpretation is that it cannot make adequate sense of the result clause which follows. On this interpretation, the verse would read, “Train up a child [or young person] in a manner befitting a child, and when he is old he will not depart from the manner befitting a child.” This is definitely not what we are after in our training! To be fair, these interpreters do not take it this way. They understand the verse to say that if we train up a child according to the nature of youth, then he will be equipped to go on in the right way throughout life. But in so doing they have subtly changed the meaning of the pronoun “it” at the end of the verse to be different from the meaning of its antecedent.
The traditional interpretation of this phrase, meaning “in the way he should go,” is still the best. Allen Ross rightly says, “In the Book of Proverbs there are only two ‘ways’ a child can go, the way of the wise and the righteous or the way of the fool and the wicked” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary). The command is to train up young people in the way of wisdom, and the expected result is that the young people will adhere to this way throughout their lives.

So I have gone through all that to tell you that you already basically knew what the verse means! But seriously, it is good to be confident in your understanding of this verse so that as Dr. Ryle skillfully and practically applies it to our child-rearing, we will benefit from it. Prepare to be edified!

Lest We Forget

In our cushy American Christianity, it is easy to forget that we have brothers and sisters around the globe who literally give their lives to follow Christ. We should honor such men, pray for them, and let their commitment be an example to us.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is Marriage Going Away?

The New York Times reports today that 51% of women in America are now living without a spouse. Altogether, 63 million of the 117 million American women over the age of 15 are married, which works out to 53.85% of women in this age bracket. That would mean that about 46% of American women are not married. However, the 51% statistic reported by the Times includes all women who do not currently have a spouse in the home for any reason. For example, it would include women whose husbands are in the military and currently deployed overseas. These women would be a subset of the 2.4 million women in America whose husbands are not living at home for one reason or another. This statistic also includes the 3.1 million women who are legally separated from their husbands. If you add these figures to the 46% of women who are single, divorced, or widowed, then you get the 51% that the Times reports.

What do I make of these figures?

1. Always be wary of the way the NYT reports things from its far left perspective. The thrust of the article seems to be that marriage as we know it is going away. This is enhanced by using the 51% statistic discussed above rather than the 46% statistic. But in using this 51% statistic, the authors are lumping together some very different situations (e.g. a woman whose husband is deployed versus one who has been divorced versus a widow). The only common denominator is that a husband is not currently living in the home. This tells us next to nothing about the actual state of the marriages or non-marriages involved. We should also note that, even with all the problems in our society, the majority of American women of marriageable age are married. The authors simply ignore this as a relevant fact.

Not only does the article imply that marriage is going away, it further implies that this is a good thing. Every one of the women interviewed for the article was either single or divorced, and all were quoted as saying positive things about their single lives. There was nary a word in the article about all the detrimental effects of cohabitation or divorce on women's lives and on society as a whole.

The article further implied that this decline in marriage should be factored into public policy. It quotes Professor Stephanie Coontz as saying, "It is simply delusional to construct social policy or make personal life decisions on the basis that you can count on people spending most of their adult lives in marriage." But this commits the classic fallacy of assuming that "what is" is necessarily "what ought to be."

2. Nevertheless, the article is correct that the trends in marriage in America are not good. Living together without being married is a growing trend. Although the divorce rates have leveled off, this is in part because fewer people are getting married. They simply live together. In addition, young adults now tend to put off marriage until later. The authors correctly state, "The proportion of married people, especially among younger age groups, has been declining for decades. Between 1950 and 2000, the share of women 15-to-24 who were married plummeted to 16 percent, from 42 percent. Among 25-to-34-year-olds, the proportion dropped to 58 percent, from 82 percent." So why is this a bad trend? This leads me to my next point.

3. As Christians, we do not base our ideas about right and wrong on what people happen to be doing. The Word of God gives us a clarity far above the muddled views of ethical relativists. From the Bible we learn that God's intention is for one man and one woman to be united in a covenant relationship for life in order to exercise productive and procreative dominion over the creation. Our society's retreat from marriage and childbearing is a clear indication of its idolatry. Americans worship personal autonomy. God's dominion blessing seems so restrictive. It really cramps our idolatrous style. But like all areas of rebellion against God, we will reap what we sow. The very things that seem to promise us freedom will in the end destroy our souls and our society.

I invite you to taste and see that the Lord is good by committing yourself to follow Christ in the area of marriage. Then America can see the beauty of holiness in God's design for living. Marriage is not going away - at least not as long as there are those who revel in God's wonderful design for humanity.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Interesting Fact

The World Congress of Families reports, "As of January, 2007, there are at least seventy-two (72) discrete therapeutic benefits for human that have been developed from stem cells from adults; after over seven years of trying, there are zero, non, nein, nada, no therapies that have been developed from stem cells taken from human embryos." (This information was gathered from stemcellresearch.org).

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Embodiment of Orthodoxy?

I had an experience this week which heightened in my heart the tension I feel as I observe current Christendom. It was a musical experience, and it came about through the unintentional juxtaposition of two musical works, both of which implicitly claim to be expressions of Christian orthodoxy.

The first piece was J. S. Bach's "St. Matthew Passion." I don't know of anyone, friend or foe, who would deny that Bach's music is a masterful musical interpretation of Reformation orthodoxy. In fact, many have credited Bach's music itself with helping to forward the Reformation cause.

The second piece I do not know the name of, nor do I know if it has a name. It was the theme music for a video promo of the New Attitude 2007 conference. I really don't even know how to describe the music. You'll just have to listen to it yourself. I would hazzard a guess that it was written by one or more of the artists associated with Sovereign Grace ministries. The theme of the conference is "Embrace a Humble Orthodoxy," and the conference features some of the biggest names in conservative Christianity in America as speakers. The doctrinal orthodoxy of the speakers is beyond all doubt. The promo video features several snippets of Josh Harris talking about embodying the unchanging truths of God's Word which have been passed down through generations. He asks, "What does it look like for our generation to embrace a humble orthodoxy?" He says that humble orthodoxy requires discernment. He says that we should be able to tell others to look at our lives and see that the gospel has changed us.

All of this is true, preciously true. And certainly our music is one powerful means that we use to express to others our worldview. In fact, we use music to participate with others in a common expression of hearts. Music aurally embodies, not just our emotional interpretations of the world, but our constructions and explorations of what we desire. So as I listened to the music of the video, I was struck with this thought. Can this kind of music and Bach's music both be good, beautiful, and true embodiments of Christian orthodoxy? Is it possible to embrace a reformed systematic theology and at the same time to miss the musical implications of that theology by a mile?

What are your answers to these two questions? I say "no" and "yes," respectively. So what do we do about it? We need a powerful reformation that can revision the world according to God's revelation and then express that in song. Think about it, and pray that God in his mercy will grant us the wisdom to do it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

"Generation Next" on Religion

Here is a good example of what happens when men make up their own religion. This is why we strive to be relentlessly biblical. Christianity is a revealed religion. God is the one who determines the nature of our relationship to him, and we must come to him on his terms.

(HT: currentchristian.com)

How Should a Child Be Trained? (Part 1)

One of my goals for High Country Baptist Church is to “present everyone mature in Christ” (Col 1:28). To that end, our Sunday sermons focus on the direct exposition and application of Scripture. Yet we obviously cannot cover everything about applying the Scriptures to our lives in one or two sermons a week. On this blog, then, I try to bring up various topics that we can think through biblically.
I would like to do a series of posts over the next several weeks interacting with a pithy little work on child training written over 160 years ago by J. C. Ryle entitled How Should a Child Be Trained? I picked up this booklet at a little Amish bookstore and have found it to be challenging and helpful. Many of our church members are at the beginning of child-rearing years, so this is directly applicable to us. But even for those who are not currently rearing children, I believe this will be worthwhile for two reasons. First, nearly everyone impacts the life of some child at least indirectly. You might be a grandparent, an uncle or aunt, a teacher, or just a fellow church member. In any case, you can be a Christian influence in the life of a child. Second, child training requires rigorous and skillful application of biblical truth to life. Christianity lives as it is applied, and in no other way. Observing the real life applications of Scripture to child training will provide you will a model for applying Scripture to many other areas of life.

Before I begin, let me give you a little background on the author. John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) was an Anglican clergyman who eventually became bishop of Liverpool. He was a leader of the Evangelical School of Anglicans. In other words, he believed in the Bible and the biblical Gospel. His writings are still being reprinted today because of their biblical wisdom, with Holiness being perhaps his most well known (read it!). I am always impressed by the spirit of earnest gospel living that pervades Ryle’s works.
Ryle begins:

“Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

"I suppose that most professing Christians are acquainted with the text at the head of this page. The sound of it is probably familiar to your ears, like an old tune. It is likely you have heard it, or read it, talked of it, or quoted it, many a time. Is it not so?
"But after all, how little is the substance of this text regarded! The doctrine it contains appears scarcely known; the duty it puts before us seems fearfully seldom practiced. Reader, do I not speak the truth?
"It cannot be said that the subject is a new one. The world is old, and we have the experience of nearly six thousand years to help us. We live in days when there is a mighty zeal for education in every quarter. We hear of new schools rising on all sides. We are told of new systems and new books for the young, of every sort and description. And still, for all this, the vast majority of children are manifestly not trained in the way they should go, for when they grow up to man’s estate, they do not walk with God.
"Now, how shall we account for these things? The plain truth is, the Lord’s commandment in our text is not regarded; and therefore the Lord’s promise in our text is not fulfilled.
"Reader, these things may well give rise to great searchings of heart. Suffer, then, a word of exhortation from a minister about the right training of children. Believe me, the subject is one that should come home to every conscience, and make every one ask himself the question, “Am I in this matter doing what I can?”
"It is a subject that concerns almost all. There is hardly a household that it does not touch. Fathers, mothers, nurses, teachers, preachers, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters – all have an interest in it…. I wish to stir up all to bear this in remembrance.
"It is a subject, too, on which all concerned are in great danger of coming short of their duty. This is preeminently a point in which men can see the faults of their neighbors more clearly than their own. They will often bring up their children in the very path which they have denounced to their friends as unsafe. They will see motes in other men’s families, and overlook beams in their own. They will be quick-sighted as eagles in detecting mistakes abroad, and yet blind as bats to fatal errors which are daily going on at home. They will be wise about their brother’s house, but foolish about their own flesh and blood. Here, if anywhere, we have need to suspect our own judgment. This, too, you will do well to bear in mind."
[Ryle adds this footnote here: "As a minister, I can not help remarking that there is hardly any subject about which people seem so tenacious as they are about their children. I have sometimes been perfectly astonished at the slowness of sensible Christian parents to allow that their own children are at fault, or deserve blame. There are not a few persons to whom I would far rather speak about their own sins, than tell them their children had done anything wrong."]

Ryle’s words are straightforward. Without mincing any words, he has delivered to us a direct confrontation which may indeed “give rise to great searchings of heart.” I feel the sting of this challenge in my own heart. The immediate temptation, then, is to find a way out of the challenge. But let me urge you, as I urge myself, not to duck and run. In order for Ryle’s wounds to be beneficial, we must take them to heart (Prov 27:6; Heb 3:12-13). And let me assure you, you will find Ryle to be a true friend.
In my next post on this topic, I would like to deal right away with what is most likely to be the number one objection to Ryle’s words – his interpretation of Proverbs 22:6. He does not take time to do this in the booklet, I suspect because his interpretation would not have been challenged in his day. I don’t want to distract too much from all the good exhortation that is the heart of this tract by spending an inordinate amount of time in technical matters of interpretation, but I also do not want people to be able to brush aside his challenge as being unbiblical without seriously considering the evidence. Ryle says that the reason so many children do not walk after God is “the Lord’s commandment in our text is not regarded; and therefore the Lord’s promise in our text is not fulfilled.” Is he right?

Sermons Available

In the month of December we had some glitches posting our Sunday morning sermons on the website. I am thankful to report that those sermons are now available. Check it out here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Puritanism: The Real Thing

If you have ever thought that the Puritans were killjoys, you need to read historian Michael Haykin's good post on the subject.

Puritanism: The Real Thing

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Godliness in Old Age

Warren Vanhetloo, a retired seminary professor now in his 80's, shares these good thoughts about living for God in old age.

"Old age enables us to spend long days alone with the person we've been shaping all our lives. That one who walked and talked with God throughout a busy day finds that he now has long periods of uninterrupted fellowship, joys of various sorts in contemplations of past, present, and future. His inner voice does not crack as he sings the old hymns of the faith. He can send up a prayer at any time for any sort of request. His life is full and blessed. Yes, his life is excellent.

"One who griped and complained through the years will find much more to complain about in the declining years of body and mind. More things other people do now cause greater reaction than through previous years.
Irritating sounds become even more irritating. Nothing becomes less irritating; more things cause irritation. Life becomes increasingly more difficult to endure to the end.

"The declining years are not always all we had expected. One who loves to travel and looks forward to visiting several places after retirement finds instead that the body is not up to the rigors. Travel is more pain than pleasure. One who looked forward to spending hour after hour reading unexpectedly finds that his eyes no longer can stand steady reading for more than an hour or two. For many, old age is living in a different type of world.

"The aging process affects everyone differently. There is a marked difference in the way people who are devoted to God enter old age. They get sweeter. Any church is greatly blessed to have senior saints who are fully devoted to God in their old age. Others can see the glory of God in their kindness and patience and humility. Will you be devoted in your old age?

"It doesn't happen automatically. You don't turn 65 and retire and become devoted to God. As we age, we just become more of who we already are. If you are not devoted now, you won't be devoted later. If you want to finish your life devoted to God, live a faithful devoted life now. Be committed to prayer and God's word and serving in Christ's church.

"When we have the strength and stamina, we can take care of things ourselves. But there may come a time when we can't do what we used to do; when we can't drive our car anymore; when we can't keep up the home we are living in.

"What do you do then? Well, if you have been depending on God each day, that's what you continue doing. God is no different; He just has different lessons.

"Those who are older, because of their closeness to eternity, have a clearer vision of true values. Simeon had been told that he would not die before seeing the Lord's Christ (Messiah), and so he waited, and looked for and expected the arrival of the Messiah (Luke 2:26). Picture him, visiting the temple wondering, "is this the day." "I'm getting old, Lord. My joints are hurting; I get tired so easily. It's not so easy climbing these steps to the temple." Younger folks walk past him quickly. He seems to be in the way of people who have somewhere to go. He sits down in the midst of many people in the temple, but his thoughts aren't there. He's seen much of life. He has seen fads come and go. He's been to many weddings. He's been to many funerals. Many of his contemporaries are dead. He knows he is on the threshold of eternity. So he is looking beyond this world. His values are different. He knows there are things more important than money and possessions, than clothes and beauty, than popularity and good times.

"Many churches have been blessed with numerous senior saints devoted to God in their old age. They stand on the threshold of eternity, living with a daily dependence on God, thereby testifying to the truth of His Son. Such senior saints who are devoted to God in their old age are not prejudiced.
They have seen that people are people no matter their background, and that God loves all. Jesus came to be the Savior of all men.

"We are blessed to have such seniors in our midst. We are honored by their presence. We don't always recognize the treasure God has placed with us.
We would be wise to get to know better these senior saints who are devoted to God in their old age. You will surely be blessed to invite them to your home or to visit them.

"God has a place of service for everyone who is devoted to Him, no matter your age. But this is especially true for senior saints. God has a place of service for each senior saint. Even by the way they live their life they are testifying to truth. God has placed in our midst some senior saints, fully devoted to God in their old age, who have a clear vision of values because of their closeness to eternity and who are living daily with a dependence on God. Our senior saints who have been walking with Jesus in this life have grown accustomed to His presence. They know that only by knowing Jesus Christ can a person have peace concerning death and eternity."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

We Rest on Thee

If my memory serves me correctly, yesterday was the 51st anniversary of the death of Jim Elliot, Rodger Youderian, Ed McCully, Pete Flemming, and Nate Saint, murdered by the very people they were trying to reach with the gospel. Yet, by the grace of God, the gospel did reach the Auca people. This inspiring story is told by Elizabeth Elliot in Through Gates of Splendor, and I encourage you to read it as a tonic to keep your own life Christ-centered and gospel-oriented.

The song these men sang just a few days before their death is one that also stirs my soul, and I share one stanza for your edification.

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender,
Thine is the battle; thine shall be the praise
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor
Victors, we rest with Thee through endless days.

Sonnet on 1 John 2:15-17

Andy Naselli posts a thoughtful sonnet on 1 John 2:15-17 by D. A. Carson.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

South Korea Now Leading the Race to Self-Destruct

Lifesitenews.com is reporting that South Korea's total fertility rate (TFR) has dropped to 1.08. This is the lowest in the world. The total fertility rate is the average number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to bear children at the current average rate over her child-bearing years. Replacement level necessary to sustain a population is 2.1. The problem is so bad that the Planned Population Federation of Korea (an affiliate of Planned Parenthood) is actually talking about raising the birthrate. Can you believe it?

Yet the South Korean leaders have apparently not recognized the obvious failure of their worldview, at least according to what is reported. The PPFK wants to stimulate child-bearing by encouraging soap opera writers to depict happy mothers with children. Meanwhile, the Minister for Gender Equality and Family wants to move more women into the workforce and increase government funding for child-care. Is this really serious? Stimulating child-bearing through soap operas while also taking mothers or potential mothers out of the home and giving children government nannies? This is another example of what happens when men reject a biblical worldview and substitute their own wisdom. "Claiming to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:22).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

In the Beginning God Created...

I hold to a literal interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis. In the future I hope to express more about this, but since I have talked with some folks about creation this past week, I wanted to point you to a new article by Duane Gish at ICR that you might find useful.

"A Few Reasons an Evolutionary Origin of Life is Impossible"

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Neat New Bible Atlas Tool

If you are wanting to understand more of the geographical features of the Bible, you really should check out biblemap.org, an application of Google maps to the Bible lands.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

The Creed of Chalcedon

In our church bulletins we have been introduced to the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed. I would also like you to be aware of the Creed of Chalcedon. Here is what will appear in our bulletin next Sunday.

Genuine faith must be expressed, both in words and actions. Throughout church history, Christians have expressed their faith through creeds (from the Latin credo, or “I believe”) and confessions. Creeds and confessions are very valuable as “summaries of the doctrines of the Bible, aids to its sound understanding, bonds of union among their professors, [and] public standards and guards against false doctrine and practice” (Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Vol. 1, p. 8). Their authority is always subordinate to the Bible, and they are useful only to the extent that they are accurate statements of biblical teaching. The Creed of Chalcedon was produced in A.D. 451 to reaffirm the biblical teaching about the person of Jesus and to oppose the heresies of Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, and Eutychianism.


Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one consent teach men to
confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Deity
and also complete in humanity; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable
[rational] soul and body; of one substance [essence] with the Father as regards
his Deity, and of one substance with us as regards his humanity; in all things
like unto us, apart from sin; as regards his Deity, begotten of the Father
before all ages, but yet as regards his humanity born of the Virgin Mary, the
God-bearer , for us and for our salvation; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord,
Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without
change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being
in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature
being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not
parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten
God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets declared from ancient
times, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers
has handed down to us. [This translation is taken with slight alteration from
Henry Bettenson, ed. Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd ed. (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1963), pp. 51-52.]

Regarding the term "God-bearer" (theotokos), Philip Schaff has an important note. "The predicate ... 'the Bringer-forth of God,' ... is directed against Nestorius, and was meant originally not so much to exalt the Virgin Mary as to assert the true divinity of Christ and the realness of the Incarnation.... It is safer to adhere to the New Testament designation of Mary as mater Iesou [mother of Jesus], or mater tou Kuriou [mother of the Lord] (Luke i.43)."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian?

As I perused Richard Carwardine's acclaimed Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power recently, I came across his discussion of Lincoln's religious life. This discussion covers only nine pages, but it persuasively makes the case that Lincoln was not a Christian, in any biblical sense of that term. He was certainly influenced by the Bible, but, as Mary Todd Lincoln said, he had "no faith in the usual acceptation of those words."

Another blogger, Joe Carter, recently discussed the beliefs of the founding fathers of our nation. While there were some orthodox, Trinitarians in the bunch (such as John Witherspoon), many of them were deists or Unitarians.

Why do I bring this up? As Christians who desire to be biblical, we must remember that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of Christianity. Those who are merely influenced by the moral guidelines of Christianity are not Christians in a biblical sense. Given the fact that the Bible has wielded great influence in the history of our nation, it is tempting to start to apply the label "Christian" to many of our national forebears. But this is inaccurate, and this inaccuracy can actually cause us to mistake the real genius and nature of Christianity.

It is those who trust wholeheartedly in the Second Person of the Trinity who became a man, died as a substitute for sinners, and rose from the dead who are Christians. Jesus must be the object of faith of a sinful man seeking a Savior. Christianity cannot be reduced to a prescription for a moral society. To take it as such is to divest it of its distinctives and power. This is because its power is bound up in a Person, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We are obviously not the final judge of any man's salvation, but we do have the clear word of God on this issue: "Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God" (1 John 4:3). We must never forget this.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Bring the Books: Good Books to Read in 2007

If you want to improve your ability to think biblically in 2007, here are some books that we as a church have found challenging or helpful. Reading good books is one of the best ways to educate yourself on all kinds of things relating to the Christian life. This list can serve as a starter’s guide to helpful literature. Don't be intimidated by it. The books listed here are not written primarily for specialist scholars, but for anyone who wishes to think. As always, test all things by the Scriptures, and use discernment in reading. The very process of engaging good books on the basis of Scripture will be very enlightening for you. I heartily recommend that you purchase some or all of the books on this list (and if you have recommendations for others, let me know!) and digest them well. It will benefit your soul.

Bibles
English Standard Version
New King James Version
NIV Study Bible
New American Standard Bible
New English Translation
Holman Christian Standard Bible

Bible Study
How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
Living By the Book by Howard Hendricks
Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics by Walter Kaiser and Moses Silva
Basic Bible Interpretation by Roy B. Zuck

Commentaries
Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. Walvoord and Zuck
Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gabelein
MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur
Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald
New Bible Commentary, ed. Wenham, Motyer, Carson, and France
[Contact me for recommendations on specific, in-depth commentaries.]

Theology
A few significant historical works
On the Incarnation by Athanasius
The Trinity and The City of God by Augustine
Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther

Significant historical creeds, confessions, and catechisms
The Apostles’ Creed
The Nicene Creed
The Creed of Chalcedon
The Augsburg Confession
The Heidelberg Catechism
The Canons of the Synod of Dort
The Westminster Confession of Faith
The Westminster Shorter Catechism

Significant historical Baptist confessions
The First London Baptist Confession
The Second London Baptist Confession of 1688/89
The Philadelphia Baptist Confession of 1742
The New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833

A few recent evangelical theologies
The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns
Introducing Christian Doctrine by Millard Erickson (or the more extensive Christian Theology)
Charts of Christian Theology & Doctrine by H. Wayne House
Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem (or the more extensive Systematic Theology)
A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith by Robert Reymond
Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie
Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul

Devotional
Morning and Evening by C. H. Spurgeon
Confessions by Augustine of Hippo
The Valley of Vision: a Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur G. Bennett
For the Love of God, 2 vol. by D. A. Carson

Evangelism and Missions
Always Ready by Greg Bahnsen
Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame
Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper
For the Sake of His Name by Doran, Johnson, and Eckman
The Soulwinner by Charles Spurgeon
How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul Little
Tell the Truth by Will Metzger

Christian Living
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
Changed Into His Image by Jim Berg
Trusting God by Jerry Bridges
Knowing God by J. I. Packer
Holiness by J. C. Ryle
The Hospitality Commands by Alexander Strauch
Mystery of Providence by John Flavel
A Lifting Up for the Downcast by William Bridge
The Crook in the Lot by Thomas Boston
The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit by Matthew Henry
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs

Christian Family and Parenting
Christian Living in the Home by Jay Adams
Strengthening Your Marriage by Wayne Mack
God, Marriage and Family by Andreas Kostenberger with David Jones
The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace
How Should a Child Be Trained by J. C. Ryle
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
Family Worship in the Bible, in History & in Your Home by Donald S. Whitney
Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman

Men
Thoughts for Young Men by J. C. Ryle
Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes

Women
Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Becoming a Titus 2 Woman by Martha Peace

Prayer
The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer
With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray

Church History
Christianity Through the Centuries by Earle Cairns
In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850 by David Beale
Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of the Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000 by Ian Murray

Biography
Jonathan Edwards by Ian Murray
Marriage to a Difficult Man by Elizabeth Dodds (about Sarah Edwards)
Here I Stand by Rolland Bainton (bio of Martin Luther)
C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, Volumes 1 & 2
Susannah Spurgeon: Free Grace and Dying Love by Charles Ray
John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides by John Paton
The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards
Robert Murray M’Cheyne by Andrew Bonar
Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Eliot
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
George Whitefield
by Arnold Dallimore

Contemporary Practical or Theological Issues
The Look: Does God Really Care What I Wear? by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Christian Modesty and The Public Undressing of America by Jeff Pollard
Singing and Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today by Paul S. Jones
Measuring the Music: Another Look at the Contemporary Christian Music Debate by John Makujina
The King James Only Controversy by James R. White
Christianity & Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen
The Tragedy of Compromise by Ernest D. Pickering
The Answers Book by Batten, Ham, Safarti, and Wieland
The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed. Wayne Grudem and John Piper
The Feminist Mistake by Mary Cassian

Once again, I welcome suggested additions to this list. Happy reading! to you. But more importantly, may you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!