Friday, December 31, 2010

No Excuses Now

If you have ever thought that you ought to have a Bible reading plan but just couldn't find one that suits you...well, just take a look at this list.

No excuses now!

The Meek Shall Inherit the Land

Praise the Lord for the snow! I'm grateful for the moisture, and I also enjoyed the invigorating sharp air this morning while I cleared the sidewalks. I can't imagine living somewhere where the snow never flies. That's for the (snow)birds!

We will begin our corporate worship of our great Savior in 2011 with a sermon on Psalm 37. There is great wisdom to feast on in this psalm. I'm looking forward to starting off the new year with all of you in worship.

Songs
Praise Ye the Lord! (#42)
Doxology
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (#495)
He Who Would Valiant Be (#507)
Another Year Is Dawning (#732)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 22; Psalm 72
New Testament: Matthew 14:22-36

Sermon
The Salvation of the Righteous - Psalm 37

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Knowing God in 2011


I cannot speak of religion without lamenting that, among so many pretenders of it, so few understand what it means. Some place it in the understanding, orthodox notions and opinions; and all the account they can give of their religion is that they are of this or the other persuasion, and have joined themselves to one of those many sects whereinto Christendom is most unhappily divided. Others place it in the outward man, in a constant course of external duties and a model of performances; if they live peaceably with their neighbors, keep a temperate diet, observe the returns of worship, frequenting the church and their closet, and sometimes extend their hands to relieve the poor, they think they have sufficiently acquitted themselves. Others again put all religion in the affections, in rapturous heats and ecstatic devotion; and all they aim at is to pray with passion, to think of heaven with pleasure, and to be affected with those kind and melting expressions wherewith they court their Savior till they persuade themselves that they are mightily in love with him. And from this they assume a great confidence of their salvation, which they esteem the chief of Christian graces.

Thus are those things which have any resemblance of piety, and at best are but means of obtaining it, or particular exercises of it, frequently mistaken for the whole of religion…. 

But certainly religion is quite another thing; and they who are acquainted with it will entertain far different thoughts, and disdain all those shadows and false imitations of it. They know by experience that true religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation in the divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul. In the apostle’s words, it is “Christ formed in you.”

Henry Scougal
The Life of God in the Soul of Man

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Last Lord's Day of 2010

A gift of God's grace - that's how I would describe meeting with you each Lord's Day throughout this year. As we meet together tomorrow, I'm looking forward to the sweetness and the power one more time in 2010.

Songs
I Sing the Mighty Power of God (#19)
Doxology
Praise Ye Jehovah (#4)
A Sovereign Protector I Have (#615)
O God Our Help in Ages Past (#49)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 21; Psalm 39
New Testament: Matthew 14:1-21

Sermon
Come to Me and Drink (Part 2) - John 7

Monday, December 20, 2010

Virtues and Vices in Music

I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People by Calvin Stapert today. Here's a quote that caught my attention.


“A musician’s task is to present the virtues and vices in his music well, and to arouse skillfully in the feelings of the listener a love for the former and a disgust for the latter. For it is in the true nature of music that it is above all a teacher of propriety.”

Johann Mattheson

Friday, December 17, 2010

Drawing Water from the Wells of Salvation

Are you out to kill Jesus Christ or are you coming to him for true life? It seems faintly ridiculous to even ask this question at this time of year when we picture Jesus as a cute little baby in a manger. Who would want to kill him? The answer - you might, depending on how you respond to him.

Killing or coming - these are stark options, but they are real. You have to choose. Come to church this Sunday and hear what Jesus has to say about the matter.

Songs
O Come, All Ye Faithful (#88)
Angels from the Realms of Glory (#111)
As with Gladness Men of Old (#97)
Silent Night! Holy Night! (#109)
Joy to the World (#92)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 20; Psalm 17
New Testament: Matthew 13

Sermon
Come to Me and Drink - John 7

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fathers, Train Up Your Children...

Fathers, if you are sleepy at the wheel when it comes to spiritual leadership in your home, here is a good wake up call by Robbie Low.

In 1994 the Swiss carried out an extra survey that the researchers for our masters in Europe (I write from England) were happy to record. The question was asked to determine whether a person’s religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. The result is dynamite. There is one critical factor. It is overwhelming, and it is this: It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

After discussing the evidence, Low concludes:

A church that is conspiring against the blessings of patriarchy not only disfigures the icon of the First Person of the Trinity, effects disobedience to the example and teaching of the Second Person of the Trinity, and rejects the Pentecostal action of the Third Person of the Trinity but, more significantly for our society, flies in the face of the sociological evidence!

No father—no family—no faith. Winning and keeping men is essential to the community of faith and vital to the work of all mothers and the future salvation of our children. 

Read the entire article.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Christmas Carol

Christmas Carols

2

Christina Rosetti


A holy, heavenly chime
Rings fullness in of time,
And on His Mother’s breast
Our Lord God ever-blest
Is laid a Babe at rest.

Stoop, Spirits unused to stoop,
Swoop, Angels, flying swoop,
Adoring as you gaze,
Uplifting hymns of praise: -
“Grace to the Full of Grace!”

The cave is cold and strait
To hold the angelic state:
More strait it is, more cold,
To foster and infold
Its Maker one hour old.

Thrilled through with awestruck love,
Meek Angels poised above,
To see their God, look down:
“What, is there never a Crown
For Him in swaddled gown?

“How comes He soft and weak
With such a tender cheek,
With such a soft, small hand? -
The very Hand which span’d
Heaven when its girth was plann’d.

“How comes He with a voice
Which is but baby-noise? -
That Voice which spake with might
- ‘Let there be light’ - and light
Sprang out before our sight.

“What need hath He of flesh
Made flawless now afresh?
What need of human heart? -
Heart that must bleed and smart
Choosing the better part.

“But see: His gracious smile
Dismisses us a while
To serve Him in His kin.
Haste we, make haste, begin
To fetch His brethren in.”

Like stars they flash and shoot,
The Shepherds they salute:
“Glory to God” they sing:
“Good news of peace we bring,
For Christ is born a King.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Apostasy and Assurance

"After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him" (John 6:66). Many who follow Jesus for a time end up turning away from him. How are we to make sense of this? Are such people lost forever? Should you fear falling away from Jesus?

Join us this Lord's Day for an unsettling, or a comforting (depending upon your condition), look into his Word.

Songs
O Come, O Come Emmanuel (#87)
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (#90)
Angels We Have Heard on High (#89)
The First Noel (#98)
What Child Is This? (#103)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 19; Psalm 83
New Testament: Matthew 12:22-50

Sermon
You Have the Words of Life: Assurance and Apostasy - John 6:35-71

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Lessons from the House of Mourning

Yesterday my family and I drove to Ordway for Tiffany Brock's funeral. As with Dale Goetz' funeral, it was one of those rare events that fills the soul with solemn joy. I told my children as we drove away from the cemetery that I was deeply thankful they were able to be at an event like this, for there are few things which embody so much biblical wisdom as a truly Christian funeral. It is impossible to adequately put into words all the sturdy wisdom and sublime grace communicated in such a setting, but here are at least a few of the thoughts that pulsed in my heart last night.

  • I was challenged to live my life fervently for the Lord like Tiffany did. Living with the knowledge of approaching death tends to blow the lethargy of worldliness out of the mind and snaps the soul into readiness. It teaches us to set our affections on things above where Christ is.
  • I was vividly reminded of how brief life is. Our lives are a vapor. How clearly I remember the joy of the Brock family staying with us as we all prepared for David and Tiffany's wedding. Now we were reunited for Tiffany's funeral. 
  • The effects of sin are painful, almost beyond words. Funerals like Tiffany's make me hate sin - especially in myself.
  • Nevertheless, life in Christ overcomes with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory!
  • I am so glad for Christian funeral practices. They give genuine expression to our grief and to our great hope in the resurrection. I particularly like the fact that at the Ordway cemetery the graveside service really is at the grave side. The symbolism of human frailty coming into contact with eternity can be felt. The sun was tending toward its rest beyond the mountains, shedding it's light on the little band on the prairie, as the final words were said where Tiffany's body would be laid to rest. It was fitting that she should be laid to rest where her parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents had labored under the sun. Now, our hearts yearn for that day when the trumpet will sound and she will be raised incorruptible.
  • Last, I was encouraged by this funeral to abound in the work of the Lord. However insignificant my little labors are, they are not in vain in the Lord.
Death is swallowed up in victory. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Calvin on the Way in Which We Receive the Grace of Christ


Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.1.1
How do we receive those benefits which the Father bestowed on his only-begotten Son—not for Christ’s own private use, but that he might enrich poor and needy men? First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us. For this reason, he is called “our Head” [Eph 4:15], and “the first-born among many brethren” [Rom 8:29]. We also, in turn, are said to be “engrafted into him” [Rom 11:17], and to “put on Christ” [Gal 3:27]; for, as I have said, all that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him. It is true that we obtain this by faith.

Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.11.1
Christ was given to us by God’s generosity, to be grasped and possessed by us in faith. By partaking of him, we principally receive a double grace: namely, that being reconciled to God through Christ’s blamelessness, we may have in heaven instead of a Judge a gracious Father; and secondly, that sanctified by His Spirit we may cultivate blamelessness and purity of life.

Good Memories, Good Music

Photo from Glen Eyrie website
Last night my wife and I enjoyed a special gift from our church family - the 2010 Music of Christmas concert by the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs and the Colorado Springs Children's Chorale. The event was held in the Great Hall of the Castle at Glen Eyrie.

As my wife and I walked through the chilly night air up to the castle, we remembered that we had not been to a concert together since before we were married. The last time we attended a concert, we walked through the chilly night air of Milwaukee, WI to attend a performance by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Those memories seem to come from long ago and far away. It was fun to make some new memories and to listen to some wonderful music from Holst, Corelli, Mendelssohn, Handel, Lauridsen, and Rutter.

A hearty thanks to all who gave us the gift of good memories and good music!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What Is that Animal?

Economics, in its broadest sense, is all over the news these days, generating as much confusion as clarity. A great deal of the confusion is over what this animal "economics" is. The taxology debates and the resulting public policy squabbles usually leave a scent that we are tempted to identify with a skunk. So, to help clear the air, I'd like to share the best brief definition of economics that I have ever read. I came across it a couple days ago as I read Redeeming Economics by John D. Mueller.

"Economics is essentially a theory of providence."

Understanding economics is based on knowing God and knowing ourselves. This animal "economics" turns out to be a a study of the featherless biped Man in his relationships with God and others. So Jesus' command to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor turns out to be at the heart of economics. If we leave that out, we have misidentified the animal.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Supreme Gift

At Christmas time in our society, many people begin thinking about giving gifts to one another. This gift-giving finds its source in the supreme gift from God. But this supreme gift is not what many people, even many Christians, think it is. Many Christians celebrate the supreme gift as God giving his Son Jesus to us. This is certainly a wonderful gift, but it actually comes from a greater gift. You see, God the Father loves his Son and gives to him a host of people to whom the Son will give eternal life. The Son gives his people eternal life by giving himself for them. God the Father's gift to us comes from, or is entailed in, his gift to the Son. Join us this Lord's Day to marvel at the sovereign, life-giving love of God!

Songs
O Come, All Ye Faithful (#88)
Joy to the World (#92)
And Can It Be? (#335)
Amazing Grace (#247)
Chosen of God (#290)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 18; Psalm 29
New Testament: Matthew 12:1-21

Sermon
All That the Father Gives Me: God's Sovereign Grace in Salvation - John 6:35-51

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Tribute

L.A. Times writer David Zucchino has published a tribute to Dale. You can read it here.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Arguing with God

I went to the place of public worship, lifting up my heart to God for assistance and grace, in my great work; and God was gracious to me, helping me to plead with him for holiness, and to use the strongest arguments with him, drawn from the incarnation and sufferings of Christ, for this very end, that men might be made holy.

David Brainerd, Lord's Day, October 14, 1744

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Keep Silence...and Sing

Good hymns about the incarnation of our Savior are priceless. Check out Chuck Bumgardner's excellent discussion of two such hymns here.

Staying Faithful

This post by Carl Trueman, though written from a Presbyterian perspective, gives good food for thought on how we can fight for long-term faithfulness as a church. The term "fight" is appropriate, for faithfulness doesn't just happen. Without constant diligence and vigorous efforts after holiness, truth, and love, we will surely decay. "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Tim 4:16).

Here are Dr. Trueman's suggestions for staying faithful.
1. Guard your personal integrity and be honest about where you stand in relation to your vows.
2. Understand that sound preaching and earnest prayer are not enough to stop a denomination losing the plot or to turn it around once the rot has set in.
3. Watch changes to the terms of confessional subscription very carefully.
4. Do not be intimidated by the `we are just doing it for evangelism' argument.
5. If you are called to be a leader, then be a leader, not a statesman.

Read the entire post here.

 Point #2 sparked some thoughts for me. It was recently suggested to me that if a church is committed to expository preaching, then the church is on the right track, even if there are other problematic areas. I'm not convinced that this is the case.

First, I should make clear that a commitment to expository preaching is a blessed commitment. Such a commitment is necessary to the enduring faithfulness of any church.

However, such a commitment is not sufficient for the enduring faithfulness of a church. As Trueman points out, heterodoxy dresses up in many guises. Often, what is actually practiced in a church and in the lives of its people has a much more determinative impact on the direction of a church than what is preached from the pulpit. Furthermore, what a church loves shapes and directs whatever doctrinal commitments that church may hold. A church may formally hold to an impeccable doctrinal statement and philosophy of ministry, but if the people of the church, and especially the leaders of the church, have their affections shaped by alien influences, they will cease to understand the spirit of their own commitments. When they no longer understand these commitments, it is but a short step to revise, replace, or reject them. Many times this happens in practice long before it happens on paper.

Enduring faithfulness requires orthodoxy, to be sure, but it also requires orthopraxy (right practices) and orthopathy (right loves). Faith and love flow out into obedience - an obedience that is willing to fight the good fight of faith. Without this willingness to drop the pietistic pretense and fight for what is right, we will not stay faithful.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Bread of Life

Jesus' words are always full of comfort as well as conviction. They humble us, but they also give us hope. "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." Join us this Lord's Day to feed on Christ by faith!

Songs
Psalm 95
Doxology
Arise My Soul Arise (#174)
Come Ye Disconsolate (#317)
Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah (#495)


Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 17; Psalm 3
New Testament: Matthew 11:1-30

Sermon
I Am the Bread of Life - John 6:1-71

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Soul's Joy

How do we know when God's sweet presence is with us? We have talked about that this week, and it was profitable for my soul. Last night before retiring I read this poem by George Herbert which meditates on that very conundrum. Herbert's artistic wit is at work here, by the way, for this poem is a parody of a secular love poem. By means of a parody, Herbert shows up the shallowness of simpering love poetry when compared to the deep and profound oceans of the soul's relationship with God. Hence, this poem is entitled "A Parody." There are no fluffy feelings here, no racing pulse, no burning in the bosom. No, this is art which helps us to understand our relationship with God rightly, truly, and faithfully. I commend it for your meditation.

Soul's joy, when thou art gone,
     And I alone,
     Which cannot be,
Because thou dost abide with me,
     And I depend on thee;

Yet when thou dost suppress
     The cheerfulness
     Of thy abode,
And in my powers not stir abroad,
     But leave me to my load:


O what a damp and shade
     Doth me invade!
     No stormy night
Can so afflict or so affright,
     As thy eclipsed light.


Ah Lord! do not withdraw,
     Lest want of awe
     Make sin appear,
And when thou dost but shine less clear,
     Say, that thou art not here.


And then what life I have,
     While Sin doth rave,
     And falsely boast,
That I may seek, but thou art lost;
     Thou and alone thou know'st.


O what a deadly cold
     Doth me enfold!
     I half believe,
That Sin says true: but while I grieve
     Thou com'st and dost relieve.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Discover, Develop, Delight

I call myself conservative. What is that? Well, in one sense it is simply an attempt to live in accordance with absolute reality as God has revealed it. This reality is ours to discover, develop, and delight in, but it is not ours to determine. Too many people think of conservatism like a block of wood - inert, static, incapable of change, a relic of past life. While conservatism which has died is block-like, genuine conservatism is more like a tree which grows, develops, and produces beautiful blossoms and luscious fruit - but always in keeping with its true nature.

Thinking in this vein, I appreciate good discussions which discover, develop, and delight within the framework of God-saturated reality. The results are quite often explosive, life-changing, and deeply satisfying. Today I'd like to highlight a couple discussions which fit that bill from websites which regularly feature worthwhile content.

"Will the Real Legalist Please Stand Up - Judging Culture"

"Humanity and Honor, Culture and Clarity"

Enjoy!

Giving Thanks

"Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."
(Psalm 103:1-5)

This Lord's Day we will corporately give thanks for all of the Lord's blessings. Preach this psalm to your soul and prepare to give him glory!

Songs
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come (#708)
Doxology
Praise Ye Jehovah (#4)
We Gather Together (#709)
Now Thank We All Our God (#5)

Scripture Reading
Psalm 103

Sermon
Everyday Grace - John 6:11, 23

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Afflictions of Christ

David Brainerd's entry in his diary on May 18, 1743 expresses what so many men and women have endured for the sake of Christ's cause.

My circumstances are such that I have no comfort of any kind,but what I have in God. I live in the most lonesome wilderness; have but one single person to converse with that can speak English. Most of the talk I hear is either Highland Scotch or Indian. I have no fellow-christian to whom I may unbosom myself, or lay open y spiritual sorrows; with whom I may take sweet counsel in conversation about heavenly things, and join in social prayer. I live poorly with regard to the comforts of life: most of my diet consists of boiled corn, hasty-pudding, &c. I lodge on a bundle of straw, my labor is hard and extremely difficult, and I have little appearance of success to comfort me. The Indians have no land to live on but what the Dutch people lay claim to; and these threaten to drive them off. They have no regard to the souls of the poor Indians; and by what I can learn, they hate me because I come to preach to them. But that which makes all my difficulties grievous to be borne, is, that God hides his face from me.

Brothers, pray for our missionaries, and pray that the Lord will make us willing to endure all things for the elect's sake.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Understanding Those to Whom We Minister

FALSANI:
Who's Jesus to you?
(He laughs nervously)
OBAMA:
Right.
Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he's also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher.
And he's also a wonderful teacher. I think it's important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.
...
FALSANI:
Do you believe in sin?
OBAMA:
Yes.
FALSANI:
What is sin?
OBAMA:
Being out of alignment with my values.
...
FALSANI:
What are you doing when you feel the most centered, the most aligned spiritually?
OBAMA:
I think I already described it. It's when I'm being true to myself....

The entire interview, which is worth reading, can be found here.

I have no political interest in posting this. My interest is in the fact that this interview represents the faith of thousands of our friends and neighbors who call themselves Christian. As we seek to serve these friends and neighbors, we need to be aware of the many misconceptions that they hold about Christianity, and we need to address these with the truth of God's Word. Only the truth will set them free.

(HT: The Weekly Standard Blog)

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Connoisseur of Churches

Currently I am reading The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis to my children. It is entertaining, to be sure, but it also opens up countless windows of opportunity to talk about doctrinal and ethical and biblical truths. Sometimes I criticize the perspective Lewis communicates. Nevertheless, the book is full of sparkling observations of truth. I can't help but share one we read last night. Screwtape writes to his under-demon Wormwood:

You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it. May I ask what you are about? Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church? Do you realise that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing? Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for a church that 'suits' him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.

Ah, the wisdom of demons.

Love Overflowing into Life

The love between God the Father and God the Son is like a mighty river springing up in the mountains of the Father's self-revelation, shooting through the rapids of judgment, watering the fruitful plains of worship, and emptying into the ocean of eternal life. Join us for an expedition down this river through an exposition of Jesus' words this Lord's Day!

Songs
Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)
Doxology
O Father, Thou Whose Love Profound (#29)
Glory Be to God the Father (#72)
Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice (#291)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 16; Psalm 83
New Testament: Matthew 10:24-42

Sermon
Love Overflowing into Life: Your Life Found in the Love Between the Father and the Son - John 5:19-24

Friday, November 05, 2010

Legislating Morality

In light of the recent elections here in Colorado, here is something worthwhile on which to meditate: "Why We Can't Help but Legislate Morality."

Micah Watson opens with these words:

“You can’t legislate morality” has become a common turn of phrase. The truth, however, is that every law and regulation that is proposed, passed, and enforced has inherent in it some idea of the good that it seeks to promote or preserve. Indeed, no governing authority can in any way be understood to be morally neutral. Those who think such a chimerical understanding is possible could hardly be more wrong. For, in fact, the opposite is true: You cannot not legislate morality.

Read the whole thing.

I Am Working

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world....


These evocative words by Ralph Waldo Emerson have come to be used for many events which set off world-transforming effects. In a sense, they can be applied to John 5 as the Scripture develops for us what happened when the Word became flesh and manifested his glory. As Jesus demonstrated who he truly was and what that meant for sinful men, opposition began to seethe and simmer. But when we come to John 5, it comes to full boil. Jesus deliberately performs a sign which fans the flames and draws the battle lines sharply between belief and unbelief. From here on, there is no turning back. The battle is on. Jesus' work brings him directly into conflict with unbelief.

We will hear from the Word of God about this this Lord's Day, and we will honor the Son just as we honor the Father. Come and join us.

Songs
Come, Thou Almighty King (#63)
Doxology
How Sad Our State (#333)
What Think Ye of Christ? (#363)
How Good Is the God We Adore (#738)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 15; Psalm 25
New Testament: Matthew 10:1-23

Sermon
"I Am Working:" Jesus' Clash with Unbelief - John 5

Friday, October 29, 2010

You Will Not Believe

"Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe," Jesus said. What a strange response after he had just been asked to heal an official's son! Why would he give that response? Join us this Lord's Day to hear Jesus' word and to grasp what it means to believe in him.

Songs
Chosen of God (#290)
Doxology
Psalm 119f
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (#588)
Psalm 117a

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 14; Psalm 110
New Testament: Matthew 9:18-38

Sermon
You Will Not Believe - John 4:43-54

P.S. Attentive readers may have already noticed that our songs have to do with the Reformation. October 31 is "Reformation Day." No candy and costumes; we will sing great hymns!

P.S.S. Here are some good suggestions on serving the church each Sunday morning when we gather.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Samaritans and Sukkoth

Since we just studied Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman last Lord's Day, you might be interested in this splendid set of photographs of contemporary Samaritans celebrating Sukkot (the feast of tabernacles or booths), which commemorates the forty years of wandering in the wilderness.

(HT: BiblePlaces.com)

Not Conservative, Just Old

You will want to follow the series of posts by Scott Aniol seeking to define "conservatism."

The first post articulates two pillars of conservatism:

The first is affirmation of transcendent, absolute principles, a belief that such principles are knowable, and a commitment to align one’s self to those principles. Now the three big transcendentals are truth, goodness, and beauty. 

The second pillar of conservatism is a commitment to conserve those institutions and forms that best reflect a recognition and respect for this transcendent order. 

He makes this important observation, There is a huge difference between being truly conservative and being merely anti-contemporary. My fear is that there are a lot of people, especially within the fundamentalist heritage, who are certainly anti-contemporary in their practice, but they do not really have truly conservative underpinnings for their practice. And so they often end up defending traditions that are certainly not part of the current pop culture, but neither are they really conservative either. What they defend is not conservative, it’s just old.

Read it here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Good Medicine

Once in a while, it is good to simply sit back and laugh at ourselves. After all, we humans regularly deserve more than a hearty guffaw. Since I have been thinking about church unity lately, here is something at which to chuckle (or groan).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Loving the Church

I recently reviewed the book Loving the Church by John Crotts. You can read the review here at SharperIron.org.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Missions Motivation

Powerful missionary activity has always been compelled by the conviction that the light of nature is not sufficient to bring men to a right relationship with God. Men must hear the good news of Jesus Christ in order to be converted. Here is David Brainerd's testimony to that conviction.

"It is easy to harangue upon the excellency and advantage of the light of nature. It is agreeable to the pride of mankind to exalt the powers of human reason, and pronounce it a sufficient guide to eternal happiness. But let us inquire into the records of antiquity, let us consult the experience of all ages, and we shall find, that those who had no guide but the light of nature, no instructor but unassisted reason, have wandered in perpetual uncertainty, darkness, and error. Or let us take a view of the present state of those countries that have not been illuminated by the gospel; and we shall see, that notwithstanding the improvements of near six thousand years, they remain to this day covered with the grossest darkness, and abandoned to the most immoral and vicious practices."

(taken from his ordination sermon, preached June 12, 1744)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Sufficiency of Scripture

This is a doctrine that comes into play every day in many ways in our lives. Here is a simple outline, drawn from several sources, of the doctrine.

What does the sufficiency of Scripture mean?


Wayne Grudem gives a good definition: “The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly” (Systematic Theology, 127).

The Westminster Confession of Faith says, “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed” (1.6).


Where does the Bible teach this?

a. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 is one key passage.

b. See also Psalm 119:1; Isa 29:13-14; Mark 7:8; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Rev 22:18-19.

c. Hebrews 1:1-4 also has important implications for our understanding. Since God has given the ultimate revelation of himself in his Son, and that revelation is authoritatively recorded only in the Scripture, we need not look elsewhere for understanding God’s redemptive plan.


What are the practical implications of this doctrine?

a. God tells us in the Bible everything we need to know from him about how to think or live.

b. We must not add anything to the Bible.

c. We should not think of any other information as equal to the Bible in truth or authority.

d. God’s requirements for our lives must be defined by the Scriptures, either directly or by good and necessary consequence. We may not call something sin unless we can demonstrate it biblically.

e. In our ethical reasoning, we ought to emphasize what the Scripture emphasizes. Topics and issues in Scripture that are less clear should be lesser in importance to us.

f. We must be content with what God has told us.


What does this doctrine not teach?

a. It does not teach that the Bible is the only factor in making ethical decisions. It teaches that the Bible contains all the divine words that we need. There are other things that we need to live wisely, such as the illumination of the Spirit, correct use of the tools God has given us, and natural revelation.

b. It does not teach that the Bible is the only source of information we may use in decision making.

c. It does not teach that natural revelation is irrelevant. In fact, natural revelation and special revelation must go together. The important point is that special revelation norms or controls our understanding of natural revelation.

d. It does not teach that logic, or right use of reason, is unnecessary. Diligent study and correct reasoning are indispensible to rightly using Scripture.

e. It does not teach that we may not have human teachers, especially those who are well-informed on relevant topics or who are good examples in their wisdom. On the contrary, the Scripture indicates the importance of other people in our discipleship.

f. It does not teach that there are no other legitimate authorities in our lives. In fact, the Bible itself specifically legitimizes other authorities. However, these authorities are always subordinate to the Scripture.


At its heart, this doctrine represents the fact that God alone is the Lord who has ultimate authority.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Believing the One Who Is from Above

"He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). When John the Baptist spoke these words about Jesus, he wasn't just being humble (although he truly was humble). He was making a statement of absolute fact. Jesus, not John, is the one from above, and he is above all. There is no one like Jesus. That's why you must believe in him. Join us this Lord's Day to be like John and rejoice greatly in Jesus.

Songs
Joy to the World (#92)
Arise, My Soul, Arise (#174)
Hark, the Glad Sound (#126)
I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say (tune: Kingsford)
The Name High Over All (#31)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 12; Psalm 105
New Testament: Matthew 8:18-34

Sermon
Believe the One Who Is from Above - John 3:22-36

Thursday, October 07, 2010

"Spirituality"

Read this article.

It is the perfect illustration of what happens when "spirituality" displaces biblical Christianity, even when it goes by the name of Christianity.

Dr. Mohler nails it.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Applications of Ephesians 6:4

John MacArthur talks about some applications of "not provoking your children to anger" in this message. Good to ponder and apply.

Obey!

The next chapter of The Family at Church gives some clear advice on practicing the preached Word.Here is a brief condensation of the chapter.


1. Strive to retain and pray over what you have heard. Joseph Alleine said one way to remember the preached Word is to “come from your knees to the sermon, and come from the sermon to your knees.”
2. Familiarize yourself with the truths you have heard. When you come home from church, speak to your loved ones about the sermon you have heard in an edifying, practical manner. Encourage your children to take notes on the sermon. After the last service each Sabbath, we read through those notes as a family and talk our way through the sermons. In addition, speak with fellow believers about the sermons. Share some of the lessons you are learning from the Word. Do not engage in frivolous, worldly conversation after a sermon. Most important, familiarize yourself with the sermon by meditating in private upon what you have heard in public.
3. Put the sermon into action. A sermon is not over when the minister says “Amen.” Rather that is when the true sermon begins. In an old Scottish story, a wife asked her husband if the sermon was done. “No,” he replied, “It has been said, but it has yet to be done.” Ask older, more experienced Christians for advice. Thank God for all that you receive. Lean upon the Holy Spirit. (The Family at Church, Joel Beeke, chapter 4)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Who can comprehend the love of God?

I hope you will join us this Lord's Day to rejoice in the love of God for this sinful world.

Songs
O Father, Thou Whose Love Profound (#29)
Arise, My Soul, Arise (#174)
God Loved the World (#244)
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (#249)
Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice! (#291)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 11:10-32; Psalm 47
New Testament: Matthew 8:1-17

Sermon
God So Loved the World - John 3:16

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Having to State the Obvious

"By contending that there is no such thing as moral neutrality, we are also declaring that someone's morality will be imposed."

J. Daryl Charles, The Unformed Conscience of Evangelicalism

Dispelling the Darkness

Not surprisingly, Americans in general are not knowledgeable about religion. Perhaps that is why our president can claim to be a Christian while speaking theological nonsense and moral perversion. It is exactly this kind of thing that makes the Gospel of John so pressingly relevant. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Listen!

It is imperative that we realize the rich resources for godly living which the Lord has provided for us in the ordinary means of grace, such as listening to sermons at church. I have found some conscience-quickening advice in the little book by Joel Beeke entitled The Family at Church: Listening to Sermons and Attending Prayer Meetings. Here is a synopsis of chapter 3 on listening to the preached Word.

Here are some guidelines for listening rightly to God’s Word.

1. Listen with an understanding, tender conscience. Jesus’ parable of the sower presents us with four types of listeners.
¨ The stony-hearted, superficial listener.
¨ The easily-impressed but resistant listener.
¨ The half-hearted, distracted listener.
¨ The understanding, fruitful listener.

2. Listen attentively to the preached Word. We must not listen to sermons as spectators but as participants. Good listening is hard work; it involves worshiping God continuously….Jesus did not spoon-feed His hearers….He challenges us to think, and that takes work….Pray for grace to work at listening.

3. Listen with submissive faith. This kind of meekness involves a submissive frame of heart, a willingness to hear the counsels and reproofs of the word. Through this kind of faith, the Word is engrafted into the soul and produces the sweet fruit of righteousness.

4. Listen with humility and serious self-examination. Do I humbly examine myself under the preaching of God’s Word, trembling at its impact? Do I cultivate a meek and submissive spirit, receiving God’s truth as a student while being intimately aware of my own depravity? Do I seriously examine myself under preaching, listening for my own instruction rather than for the instruction of others?...When the marks of grace are set before us, we must ask: Do I experience these marks?...Do I relish having the Word of God applied to my life? 
If you would like to purchase the book, there is a good price at Solid Ground Christian Books here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why We Sing that Way

If you have not yet read Scott Aniol's posts on Christian hymnody, you ought to do so. You can download all of them in two pdf files here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Go Into All the World

I love to hear of the work of Christ around the globe. I should probably mention it more on this blog. Today I was looking at Dan and Jana Eads' blog and praising the Lord for the good work he is doing in and through them in Tanzania. Check it out, and you can praise the Lord, too!

P.S. While the Eads are stateside, the Dan Huffstutler family will be living in their house in TZ while transitioning to their ministry in Kenya. Keep up with the Huffstutlers on their Facebook page.

No Anonymous Comments

Just to let everyone know, as a general rule I do not allow anonymous comments on this blog. Blogs can be a useful tool of communication within certain limits. They are, however, a terrible venue for anonymous argumentation.

Trace the Serpent

Here is a good word from John Owen on dealing with our temptations.

We need to trace this serpent in all of its windings, and to recognize its most secret tricks.

Read it all.

Educating for Liberty

On Mondays I typically stay away from the computer, stay away from the office, stay away from the phone. I never manage to stay entirely away from books. Yesterday I received in the mail the newest volume of the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, but I restrained myself and read only one article before I went to bed. Instead, on Mondays I work on the many family errands and projects which I do not have time to accomplish during the rest of the week. I even made a new chicken feeder yesterday out of a couple old buckets.

While I am puttering around, working on projects which don't require a lot of thought (like chicken feeders), I will occasionally listen to lectures on a wide variety of topics. Yesterday, I listened to a very good lecture entitled "Educating for Liberty" by Peter J. Leithart. I commend it to you. [Go to this page and then scroll down to the lecture referenced above.] Since Christ commanded us to make disciples, and since education is essentially discipleship, understanding education rightly is crucial to accomplishing the mission of Christ.

Leithart basically makes the case that education which is for liberty must be education in love, that which trains the students to love what is good, true, and beautiful. But he goes on to point out, quite correctly, that this is "precisely what liberal democracy, at least in its current form, prohibits. Rooted as it is in Enlightenment renunciation of unchosen tradition, American public education, at least, explicitly renounces all religious ends and sometimes operates on the pretense of promoting no ends at all. If I am correct, this kind of education cannot be education for liberty."

I wonder how many Christian parents who send their children to be trained in the public school system realize that they are subjecting their children to an education which destroys liberty? I wonder how many Christian parents who homeschool their children do so out of a false and unbiblical view of liberty, namely, "I can do what I want"? I fear that many, many Christian young people are being discipled into spiritual bondage because their parents and pastors do not understand the ends of education.

Listen to the lecture. I'll look forward to discussing it with you.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

HCBC Church Covenant

Having been, as we trust, brought by divine grace to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and to give ourselves wholly to Him, and having been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit upon our profession of faith, we do now, in the presence of God and this assembly, solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.

We purpose, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love, exercise an affectionate care and watchfulness over each other, and faithfully warn, exhort, and admonish each other as occasion may require. We will work and pray for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but will devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the ordinances of the church, and to prayer. We will contribute cheerfully and regularly to the ministry and expenses of this church and the spread of the Gospel throughout all nations. We will reject all heretical beliefs and practices, contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We will both submit to the church’s discipline upon ourselves and assume our responsibility to participate in the discipline of other members, according to the teachings of Scripture.

We will strive by God’s grace and power to live as Christ in the world, and denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we will seek to fulfill our calling to lead a holy life and to be salt and light. We purpose to maintain family and private devotions; to train our children according to the Word of God; to seek the salvation of our relatives and acquaintances; to walk carefully in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our commitments, and exemplary in our conduct. We will abide by the standards of sexual purity, ethical integrity, and spiritual fidelity taught in the Bible. We will watch over one another in brotherly love, remember one another in prayer, rejoice with one another in blessing, and bear one another’s burdens in times of trial.

We moreover purpose that when we remove from this place we will as soon as possible unite with some other church of like faith and order where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word. If there is no such church, we shall seek, with the Lord’s help, to establish one.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.