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!

Psalm 95
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

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"


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!

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

Scripture Reading
Psalm 103

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

Who's Jesus to you?
(He laughs nervously)
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.
Do you believe in sin?
What is sin?
Being out of alignment with my values.
What are you doing when you feel the most centered, the most aligned spiritually?
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!

Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)
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

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.

Come, Thou Almighty King (#63)
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

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