Friday, February 29, 2008

Loving Human Life from Its Inception

We cannot deal with the sixth commandment, the command to love human life, without wrestling with what it means for human life before birth. The legalization of abortion since 1973 in our country forces this issue upon us with a vengeance. But that is not all. There has been an explosion of new technologies that manipulate the very beginning of human life. Are they ethical? Do they promote human life or do they destroy it? If we love God and love others, we cannot avoid these issues. We must face them squarely. My prayer is that in so doing we may become more conformed to Christ, less conformed to this world, and thus a passionate testimony to God's love for human life.

O for a Heart to Praise My God (#70)
Holy Savior, We Adore Thee (#73)
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (#249)
Jesus Loves Me (#719)
Salvation, O My Soul Rejoice! (#291)
Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild (#714)

The Lord's Supper

The Command to Love Human Life (Part 3): Defending Human Life from the Beginning
Deuteronomy 5:17, et al

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Christians and the Law of Moses

Nathan Busenitz has just completed a series of articles over at Pulpit Magazine dealing with how Christians should handle the Law of Moses. You can access the last article here, which will give you links to all the articles in the series. Since we are now preaching through the Ten Commandments, you may find these articles interesting. The approach I take is very similar to the one Nathan defends.

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 23 - Lawful Oaths and Vows

23.1 A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgment, solemnly calls on God to witness what he swears; and to judge according to the truth or falseness thereof. Exod 20:7; Deut 10:20; Jer 4:2; 2 Chron 6:22, 23.

23.2 The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear; and therein it is to be used, with all holy fear and reverence, therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful and to be abhorred; yet as in matter of weight and moment for confirmation of truth, and ending of all strife, an oath is warranted by the word of God; so a lawful oath being imposed, by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken. Matt 5:34, 37; Jam 5:12; Heb 6:16; 2 Cor 1:23; Neh 13:25.

The Anabaptists strenuously objected to this belief, arguing that Christ prohibited all oath taking by his followers (Matt 5:33-36). They argued that "testifying" and "swearing" were different things:

Testifying and swearing are two different things. For when a person swears he is in the first place promising future things, as Christ was promised to Abraham Whom we a long time afterwards received. But when a person bears testimony he is testifying about the present, whether it is good or evil.... Christ also taught us along the same line when He said, Let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil (William Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, p. 30).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Celestial City

This past week I completed reading John Bunyan's classic Pilgrim's Progress to my children. But I found it difficult to read the last chapter. It was not because of the twinge of sadness I felt at coming to the end of such a wonderful tale. No, it was a different feeling which quite surprised me. Let me use Bunyan's words to say it.

Now, just as the gates were opened to let in the men [to the Celestial City], I looked in after them, and behold the city shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold; and in them walked many men, with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps, to sing praises withal. There were also of them that had wings and they answered one another without intermission, saying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord. And after that they shut up the gates; which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.

I wished myself among them. Reading Bunyan's biblically saturated imaginary description of Christian and Hopeful crossing the river of death and then ascending the mountain and entering into the joy of their Lord provoked vehement longings in my soul to experience the same thing. God used this to powerfully remind me that this is what I am on this pilgrimage for. This is what I long for for my wife and children. This is what I long for for you, my flock.

Just 'listen in' to a portion of Bunyan's story:

The man then asked, "What must we do in the holy place?"
To whom it was answered, 'You must there receive the comfort of all your toil, and have joy for all your sorrow; you must reap what you have sown, even the fruit of all your prayers, and tears, and sufferings for the King by the way. In that place you must wear crowns of gold, and enjoy the perpetual sight and vision of the Holy One; for "there you shall see him as he is." There also you shall serve him continually with praise, with shouting and thanksgiving, whom you desired to serve in the world, though with much difficulty, because of the infirmity of your flesh. There your eyes shall be delighted with seeing, and your ears with hearing the pleasant voice of the Mighty One. There you shall enjoy your friends again that are gone thither before you; and there you shall with joy receive even every one that follows into the holy place after you. There also you shall be clothed with glory and majesty, and put into an equipage fit to ride out with the King of Glory. When he shall come with sound of trumpet in the clouds, as upon the wings of the wind, you shall come with him; and when he shall sit upon the throne of judgment, you shall sit by him; yea, and when he shall pass sentence upon all the workers of iniquity, let them be angels or men, you also shall have a voice in that judgment, because they were his and your enemies. Also, when he shall again return to the city, you shall go too with sound of trumpet, and be ever with him.

O to have the trumpeters of God greet us "with ten thousand welcomes from the world!" O to hear the King say, "Enter in!" O to join in the song "Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever!" This is more joy than a mortal soul can bear.

I experienced a touch of that joy as I read this to my children. The Spirit painted the picture so vividly in my mind that I could not help but wish myself among them.

But one day, by the grace of God alone, I do hope to be there. It makes me want to dig deep and fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life. It makes me want to pour everything I have into being faithful unto death so that I will receive the crown of life. I hope it does the same for you. Let's set our sights on the celestial city and let that joy carry us as we walk this pilgrim pathway together.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Created in God's Image

You and I have something wonderful about us that is unparalleled in all of God's creation. We are made in God's image. This means that we are personal, spiritual, and moral beings who can relate to God and be his representative rulers on earth. The ramifications of this are astounding, not the least of which is the sixth commandment, "You shall not murder." Human life is sacred because it reflects and represents God himself. That is certainly cause for joy.

But an even greater cause for joy is that God the Son was willing to humble himself to become one of us and thus to redeem us and make it possible for us to have that relationship with God that we were created to have. "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery" (Heb 2:14-15, ESV). Jesus Christ, the God-man, fulfills in himself all that mankind was designed to be, and he brings us with him as we are united to him. That is joyful indeed.

All Creatures of Our God and King (#59)
All Things Bright and Beautiful (#723)
It is Finished (#138)
Hallelujah! What a Savior (#128)
Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice (#291)
Once in Royal David's City (#91)

Scripture Reading
Philippians 2:5-11

The Command to Love Human Life (Part 2) - Deuteronomy 5:17

The Courage to Be Different

In our current cultural climate, one of the front lines of the battle for biblical truth is in the area of family and gender issues. In order to be faithful, we are going to have to be willing to live quite differently than the world around us would expect. In order to encourage you to that end, I would like to quote a commentary from Russell Moore, who challenges us with exactly what we need to hear.

A pastor must be willing to lose his pulpit in order to save it. He cannot simply denounce the same "culture war" opponents that might be demonized by Fox News. He must talk about issues that will be sensitive to people in his own congregation--a dating culture that by its very definition anticipates fornication, the outsourcing of parenting to daycare "professionals" in order to carry out duel-income [sic - although I think the way it is written here is also ironically true!] households, and so forth. A pastor who addresses such issues will find some hostility, but he will also find Christians--and seeking lost people--who are willing to give him a hearing because of his honesty and conviction.

The means, first of all, that complementarian pastors must give up on the notion that one can be comfortably anonymous in the ambient culture and still hold to biblical ideas of manhood and womanhood. If that ever were the case (and I doubt it), it is not the case anymore. A man who really gets Ephesians 5 is the kind of man who will be willing to work two jobs and live in a trailer to enable his wife to be the primary caregiver of his children. A woman who really understands Proverbs 31 is going to seem to be a "Stepford wife" to those who are accustomed to women making ribald jokes about men and loud complaints about incompetent husbands. A college student serious about biblical manhood and womanhood is going to set parameters for his interactions with the opposite sex that will seem ridiculous to his roommates.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 22 - Religious Worship and the Lord's Day

22.7 As it is a law of nature, applicable to all, that a proportion of time, determined by God, should be allocated for the worship of God, so, by His Word, He has particularly appointed one day in seven to be kept as a holy Sabbath to Himself. The commandment to this effect is positive, moral, and of perpetual application. It is binding upon all men in all ages. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ the Sabbath was the last day of the week, but when Christ's resurrection took place it was changed to the first day of the week, which is called the Lord's day. It is to be continued to the world's end as the Christian Sabbath, the observance of the seventh day being abolished. Exod. 20:8; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1,2; Rev. 1:10.

22.8 Men keep the Sabbath holy to the Lord when, having duly prepared their hearts and settled their mundane affairs beforehand, for the sake of the Lord's command they set aside all works, words and thoughts that pertain to their worldly employment and recreations, and devote the whole of the Lord's day to the public and private exercises of God's worship, and to duties of necessity and mercy. Neh. 13:15-22; Isa. 58:13; Mat. 12:1-13.

If you have questions about the Lord's Day and the Sabbath Day, I would encourage you to listen to our recent four-part sermon series on the fourth commandment, "The Command to Enter into the Lord's Rest."

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Friday, February 15, 2008

Loving Life

"I'm just loving life" is a statement I've heard on occasion, meaning that the speaker is really enjoying himself. This Sunday, we are going to learn about loving life, but not in the self-directed sense of that statement. The sixth commandment teaches us to have care and concern for the lives of other people. There is indeed something sacred about human life, because we humans are the appointed representatives of God's rule on this earth. The sixth commandment touches on some of the deepest aspects of our existence on this earth, and we will humbly submit ourselves to God's Word on this matter this coming Sunday morning.

I Sing the Mighty Power of God (#19)
Mighty God While Angels Bless Thee (#27)
Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee (#84)
Our Great Savior (#434)
Psalm 8a
Redeemed (#423)

Scripture Reading
John 1:1-18 - The Word Made Flesh

The Command to Love Human Life - Deuteronomy 5:17

Christianity a Blessing to the World

Christianity is not primarily about how to have a great life here and now, at least as that is commonly understood. We make a great mistake if we present it to people as such. Nevertheless, it is still true that when societies incorporate Christian principles, it is a boon to the people. I came across two articles this morning which reminded me of this point.

James C. Capretta, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, published an article entitled "The Population Gap," in which he used current demographic trends in Europe and Japan to argue that "policy-makers around the world must ... realize that helping families raise the next generation of productive workers is crucial for continued prosperity...." The reasoning behind this is clear. Capretta writes,

Inevitably, with low birth rates, there comes a day of reckoning when the number of new labor force entrants falls short of workforce exits. In Europe, that day of reckoning is fast approaching. The European Commission expects the available pool of working-age residents in the EU -- those between the ages of 15 and 64 -- to begin falling after 2011 and total employment to start declining after 2017. By 2050 the Commission projects the working-age population in the EU to have fallen by more than 50 million people compared to its 2011 peak, or nearly 17 percent. Japan's working-age population is set to drop a stunning 40 percent between 2004 and 2050, according to the U.N.

In contrast with current trends, Christianity has historically been unashamedly pro-life, pro-natalist, and pro-family. This strengthens society at its roots.

In another article, Connie Marshner reminds us of the "Simple Lesson" that "there are moral costs in socialized medicine." She illustrates the point with the case of Samuel Golubchuk in Canada, who is on a respirator and is fed by a tube. The doctor wants to unplug the respirator and remove the feeding tube; the Orthodox Jewish family does not, saying it violates their religious beliefs.

Marshner explains:
Here is the ethical conflict. The doctor believes that he cannot "ethically participate in the administration of this treatment any longer." He thinks the machines only prolong Golubchuk's suffering. So he wants to unplug them. British common law, the foundation of Canadian law, requires a physician to provide care only as long as he thinks it benefits the patient. The Golubchuks believe it would be intrinsically evil to unplug the machines. The Canadian government controls what happens in the health care system, not individuals and families. If your values place you in opposition to the government's values . . . well, tough.

This should be a lesson to us who live as Canada's southern neighbors. You can read the article for that lesson. But the point I want to derive from this is that Christianity should help us to avoid this ethical dilemma, for the simple reason that Christianity does not teach us to depend upon the government for our needs. It teaches us to submit to the government, but to depend upon God. It teaches us to take personal responsibility by doing our own work (1 Thess 4:11-12). In times of need it teaches us to turn first of all to our families (1 Tim 5:4, 8, 16) and secondarily to the church (1 Tim 5:9-10).

So as we live wisely according to God's Word, we find that we benefit ourselves and we are also a blessing to our neighbors.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Singing Psalms

This morning I planned our service for next Sunday morning, and as one of our songs I chose Psalm 8. I chose it, in part, because there was basically nothing else in our hymn book which dealt with who man is and what his place is in God's universe. In choosing music for our services I regularly face the challenge of finding music which expresses some of the themes which we will expound from Scripture in the service. We may not think of it often, but our American evangelical hymnody tends to focus on a fairly limited range of topics. The things we do sing about are great, but there is a great deal of doctrine and Christian life and experience that we do not sing about.

I believe singing the Psalms helps us to correct this imbalance. The psalms deal with a vast array of doctrine and experience in ways that enable us to express our hearts in worship to God. I hope you enjoy learning and singing the Psalms.

For some good thoughts from church leaders throughout history, see today's post on Psalm-singing at Chuck Bumgardner's blog.

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 22 - Religious Worship and the Lord's Day

22.4 Prayer is to be made for things lawful, and for men of all sorts now living or as yet unborn. But prayer is not to be made for the dead, nor for those who are known to be guilty of 'the sin unto death'. 2 Sam. 7:29; 12:21-23; 1 Tim. 2:1,2; 1 John 5:16.

22.5 The reading of the Scripture, the preaching and hearing of the Word of God, the instructing and admonishing of one another by means of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with heartfelt thankfulness to the Lord, the observance of baptism and the Lord's supper-these are all parts of divine worship to be performed obediently, intelligently, faithfully, reverently, and with godly fear. Moreover, on special occasions, solemn humiliation, fastings, and thanksgivings ought to be observed in a holy and reverential manner. Exod. 15:1-19; Esther 4:16; Ps. 107; Joel 2:12; Matt. 28:19,20; Luke 8:18; 1 Cor. 11:26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2.

22.6 In present gospel days neither prayer nor any other aspect of religious worship depends for its efficacy on the place where it is performed or towards which it is directed, for God is everywhere to be worshipped in spirit and in truth; as, for instance, in the daily worship carried on in private families, in the worship in which individual Christians engage in secret, and in the worship of the public assemblies. Such assemblies are convened in accordance with God's Word and providence, and believers must neither carelessly neglect them nor willfully forsake them. Ps. 55:17; Mal. 1:11; Matt. 6:6; John 4:21; Acts 2:42; 10:2; 1 Tim. 2:8; Heb. 10:25.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Honor, Once Again

What connection does little Johnny throwing a fit in a grocery store in order to get his mother to buy him a candy bar have with popular culture? Much in every way, I say. “In this demand for reverence to parents, the fifth commandment lays the foundation for the sanctification of the whole social life, inasmuch as it thereby teaches us to acknowledge a divine authority in the same” (Gustav Oehler). We will explore a bit of "the sanctification of the whole social life" together this Sunday. See you there!

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (#23)
Who Would True Valor See (#508)
Trust and Obey (#525)
Thou Sweet Beloved Will of God (#528)
I Need Thee Every Hour (#526)
I Surrender All (#552)

Scripture Reading
Psalm 119:161-176

The Command to Love Your Parents with Honor (Part 4) - Deuteronomy 5:16

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 22 - Religious Worship and the Lord's Day

22.1 THE light of nature shows that there is a God who has dominion and sovereignty over all. He is just and good, and He does good to all. He is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, invoked, trusted and served by men with all their heart and soul and strength. But the only acceptable way of worshipping the true God is appointed by Himself, in accordance with His own will. Consequently He may not be worshipped in ways of mere human contrivance, or proceeding from Satan's suggestions. Visible symbols of God, and all other forms of worship not prescribed in the Holy Scripture, are expressly forbidden. Exod. 20:4-6; Deut. 12:32; Jer. 10:7; Mark 12:33.

22.2 Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to Him alone. It is not to be given to angels, saints, or any other creatures. Since man's fall into sin, worship cannot be rendered to God without a mediator; and the only accepted mediation is that of Christ. Matt. 4:9,10; 28:19; John 5:23; 14:6; Rom. 1:25; Col. 2:18; 1 Tim. 2:5; Rev. 19:10.

22.3 God requires all men to pray to Him, and to give thanks, this being one part of natural worship. But to render such prayer acceptable, several things are requisite: it must be made in the name of God's Son, it must be Spirit-aided, and it must accord with the will of God. It must also be reverent, humble, fervent and persevering, and linked with faith, love and understanding. United prayer, when offered, must always be in a known language. Ps. 65:2; 95:1-7; John 14:13,14; Rom. 8:26; 1 Cor. 14:16,17; 1 John 5:14.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

To Fathers

Today I read "A Father's Resolutions" by Cotton Mather. It brought much conviction to me for my slothfulness in training my children, but I hope God will use it to spur me on to accomplish my delightful duties. May he use it in your lives the same way.

(HT: Orchard Keeper)

Considering Worship

I've been away from the blog lately due to other more pressing responsibilities, so I thought I would break the silence by referring you to a useful meditation on corporate worship music.

(HT: Immoderate)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Chronological Snobbery or Humble Respect

Our honor for our fathers and mothers has great implications for society as a whole. So much of contemporary pop culture caters to "youth" and "now." But the fifth commandment incorporates an entirely different perspective. We ought to revere the aged and respect the wisdom they have to give us. We ought not to assume that latest is greatest. The perspective gained by understanding the generations before us will keep us from seeing only the here and now. It will help us to understand, I believe, God's perspective on our place in the authority structure of his universe, and thus help us to live accordingly. This is much needed wisdom in our day. Join us on Sunday morning as we learn more of honoring our fathers and mothers.

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (#243)
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (#400)
How Sad Our State (#333)
How Sweet and Awful Is the Place (#238)
And Can It Be? (#335)
Praise Ye Jehovah (#4)

Scripture Readings
Dead in Sins; Saved by Grace - Ephesians 2:1-10
Reconciled to God - Ephesians 2:11-22
Victory in Christ over Sin and Death - 1 Corinthians 15:20-22; 50-58

The Lord's Supper

The Command to Love Your Parents with Honor (Part 3) - Deuteronomy 5:16