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.

Praise Ye the Lord! (#42)
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

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.

I Sing the Mighty Power of God (#19)
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

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.

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

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


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.

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

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!

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

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