Sunday, May 27, 2012

Infinite Pleasure

“What an infinite pleasure it must be, as it were, to lose ourselves in Him, and, being swallowed up in the overcoming sense of His goodness, to offer ourselves a living sacrifice, always ascending unto Him in flames of love! Never does a soul know what solid joy and substantial pleasure are till once, being weary of itself, it renounces all property, gives itself up to the Author of its being, feels itself become a hallowed and devoted thing, and can say from an inward sense and feeling, ‘My Beloved is mine. I account all His interest my own, and I am His. I am content to be anything for Him, and do not care for anything for myself but that I may serve Him.’” 

Henry Scougal, "The Life of God in the Soul of Man" in The Works of Henry Scougal, 30

Friday, May 25, 2012

Resurrection Restoration

When the resurrected Jesus provided a miraculous catch of fish and a good breakfast for the disciples, they saw and tasted that he was good. But this isn't a syrupy niceness. This goodness undergirds Jesus' call for total devotion. He calls us to love him and to serve him with all that we are and all that we have. Prepare to lay down your life when we meet this Lord's Day.

Let Us Love (#483)
Jesus Loves Me (#719)
More Love to Thee (#477)
May the Mind of Christ My Savior (#476)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 33; Psalm 27
New Testament: Hebrews 7:18-28

Resurrection Restoration: Jesus Calls for Your Total Love and Service - John 21:15-19 

Husbands, Love Your Wives

In this short but thoughtful list, Brian Croft gives ten ways that husbands can love and serve their wives. His practical suggestions were helpful for me. Perhaps they will be for you, as well. Read the whole list here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

From the Tribunal of Justice to the Throne of Grace

Our Wednesday evening meetings have revived my spirit in prayer. Thank you for praying with me.

It is often quite helpful to read good examples of prayer. Recently, Pastor Steve Thomas recommended to me Lancelot Andrewes' Devotions. Andrewes was a bishop in the Church of England and a translator of the King James Bible. Here is a confession of sin which he wrote for morning prayer.


THOU Lover of men:

Thou that art very pitiful, the Father of mercies that art rich in mercy to all that call upon Thee,
I have sinned against Heaven and in Thy sight and am no more worthy to be called Thy son, nor to be made one of Thy hired servants, no, not the lowest.

But I repent.

Woe is me.

I repent.

Help Thou mine impenitence, and if there be any comfort of love by Thy bowels and mercies, by the multitude by the riches of Thy grace, by Thy abundant mercy, by the great love wherewith Thou hast loved us, be merciful to me a sinner.
Be merciful to me, of all sinners the greatest, the most wretched.
Deep calleth unto deep, the deep of our misery unto the deep of Thy Compassion; where sin hath abounded there let grace much more abound; overcome our evil of Thy good; let Mercy rejoice against Judgment. 

But beyond and before all things, I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;
Thou that didst come into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief, 
Save me.
Thou that didst come to redeem the lost, let not one whom Thou hast redeemed perish.
Deliver me from the recollection of evil things, that what I have seen and heard from the wicked I may never remember, nor ever tell to others; that I may hate every evil way. 

I have deserved death, but yet I appeal from the Tribunal of Thy Justice to the Throne of Thy Grace.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thankful for the Grace of Good Fellowship and Good Preaching

In the past dozen days I have had the privilege of participating in two events which were both very good for my soul. I spoke at a southeast Michigan men's retreat at Camp Michindoh, hosted by Huron Baptist Church. It was so encouraging to learn from these brothers, as well as to see their hunger for the Word. I also participated in the Conference on the Church for God's Glory, hosted by First Baptist Church of Rockford. While there, I connected with many pastors that I had not seen for years, and I met many pastors that I did not know before. What a blessing it was to be around so many men who are steadfast, faithful shepherds, primarily in small churches! Another blessing was the painful, refreshing work of the Spirit brought to bear on my life through the earnest preaching. I needed that. There is something about sitting face-to-face with a real preacher (not listening to a recording or watching a video) that is spiritually beneficial. Pastor Scott Williquette opened the conference with a sermon from John 21:15-19 on what is important to Jesus that was both pointed in dealing with my sin and hope-giving for the work God has called me to do. The rest of the conference was likewise challenging.

God is so good to give us fellow believers and faithful pastors.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Friday, May 18, 2012

Resurrection Revelation

How do you relate to a God/man who has died and come back to life? The disciples faced this dilemma. They loved Jesus, but he was so far beyond them. He was awful, in the best sense of that term. Could they trust him as they went out to serve him? After his resurrection, Jesus revealed even more of the glory of God, full of grace and truth. Let this revelation bring you to a place of humble, reverent trust and joy this Lord's Day.

Behold the Glories of the Lamb (#653)
With Joy We Meditate the Grace (#176)
Before the Throne of God Above (#177)
Thine Be the Glory (#162)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 32:21-35; Psalm 106:24-48
New Testament: Hebrews 7:1-17

Resurrection Revelation - John 21:1-14

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Monumental Judgment

Last month I posted on the interconnection of form and content. In that post I used a negative example, but now I'd like to provide a positive example of good judgment in artistic media. The most recent edition of Imprimis features a lecture by Michael J. Lewis on "The Decline of American Monuments and Memorials." Lewis understands the answer to two very basic questions that direct good judgment:

What is a monument?

What is a monument for?

Since he knows these answers, Lewis is also able to deal with what materials and styles express well what a monument is and what a monument is for. I love some of the quotes from his speech.

[The Eisenhower and King memorials] fail fundamentally as monuments, not because they misunderstand the nature of their subject, but because they misunderstand what a monument is, or should be.

I can't help thinking that Roosevelt himself was much more gifted in creating inspiring visual imagery than the makers of his monument.

Monuments and memorials today are discursive, sentimental, addicted to narrative literalism, and asking to be judged on good intentions rather than visual coherence.

...the conviction...became widespread in the 1960s, that we do not need formal conventions, but rather authenticity and sincerity - that we do not need etiquette, but rather honesty. 

Allegory requires an imaginative act, and is literary, whereas our culture is uncomfortable with figurative language. This began around 1977, the moment the language censors began to attack phrases like "Man does not live on bread alone," asking "What about women?" A painful literalism set in, which is hostile to figurative language in speech and to abstract allegory in art....It is not surprising that a culture ill at ease with the notion of absolute truth would find it very difficult to make monuments that show urgency and conviction.

[Read the whole thing here.]

I submit this to you because the best way to learn good judgment yourself is to carefully observe those who exercise it well. Good judgment can never be reduced to a packet of information. It is just as much an art form as the monuments which Lewis critiques. So, pay attention to those who are truly wise and are not snookered by the relativism all around us. This kind of judgment may seem monumental to those around you, but it is necessary for mature Christian living.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Seeing the Light of Life

Since August of 2010, we have been seeing Christ from the Gospel of John in our morning sermons. Why?

So that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Come, see, and believe.

O Come, All Ye Faithful (#88)
The Name High Over All (#31)
How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds (#39)
Give to Our God Immortal Praise (#53)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 32:1-20; Psalm 106:1-23
New Testament: Hebrews 6

Seeing Is Believing? The Light of Life Seen by Those Who Believe - John 20:30-31

Sunday, May 06, 2012


Throw away thy rod,
Throw away thy wrath:
O my God,
Take the gentle path.

For my heart's desire
Unto thine is bent:
I aspire
To a full consent.

Not a word or look
I affect to own,
But by book,
And thy book alone.

Though I fail, I weep:
Though I halt in pace,
Yet I creep
To the throne of grace.

Then let wrath remove;
Love will do the deed:
For with love
Stony hearts will bleed.

Love is swift of foot;
Love's a man of war,
And can shoot,
And can hit from far.

Who can scape his bow?
That which wrought on thee,
Brought thee low,
Needs must work on me.

Throw away thy rod;
Though man frailties hath,
Thou art God:
Throw away thy wrath.

George Herbert

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Here is a useful contrast of two different perspectives on corporate worship.

"Worship: Evangelical or Reformed?"

When we come together as a church tomorrow morning, ask yourself, "What is going on here? Is this merely something we are doing, or is God truly doing something here, too?"

Friday, May 04, 2012

Believing without Seeing

How would you like it if your name became a proverb for being slow to believe? That is exactly what happened to Christ's disciple Thomas. We can hardly say his name without immediately attaching "doubting" to it. But truth be told, we probably all deserve to have that label attached before our names. "Doubting Jason" needs the truth Christ taught Thomas, and so do you. Join us this Lord's Day.

Come Christians, Join to Sing (#67)
Praise the Savior, Ye Who Know Him (#17)
Jesus Christ, the Crucified (#386)
Be Thou My Vision (#462)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 31; Psalm 103
New Testament: Hebrews 5

Believing without Seeing - John 20:24-29

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Confessions as Anchors

To the extent that doctrine is disdained and theological inquiry regarded as superfluous, even in our own day, old heresies reappear and new ones are created, even among those who think of themselves as orthodox and believe that they are firmly attached to the faith once delivered.

Harold O. J. Brown, Heresies, 28

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Puritan Day in the Sun and Its Sunset

Under Charles I (1625-49), both political and theological tensions escalated. The appointment of William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633 marked a clear attempt to depart from Calvinistic thought. Laud attempted to impose uniformity in worship on all congregations, even in Ireland and Scotland, which led directly to the Scottish National Covenant in 1638 and the Bishop’s Wars in 1639-40, in which the Scots defeated Charles’ army. Many in England were convinced that Charles was leading England back to Rome.
Charles, however, did not back down. In 1640 he led in enacting a series of canons which proclaimed the divine right of kings to rule in civil society and the church. When he called a new Parliament in order to approve taxes to fund his wars, he was met with stiff resistance. The “Root and Branch Petition,” signed by 15,000 Londoners, called for the abolition of the present church government. The “Long Parliament,” as it came to be known, had a strong Puritan element, and it denied Charles the taxes and annulled the Canons of 1640. A rebellion in Ireland was savagely put down and thousands of Protestants were killed, which only fueled the white-hot fires of conflict. Parliament issued its “Grand Remonstrance,” which indicted Charles for all of his misdeeds. Charles himself illegally entered the chamber of the House of Commons in 1642 to attempt to arrest those who led the opposition to his rule. There was no way forward except by armed conflict. On August 22, 1642, Charles called upon his loyal subjects to come to his aid against a rebellious Parliament.
At first, the outlook seemed grim for the Parliamentarians. They called upon the Scots for help, and the Scottish parliament agreed to help on the condition that England would adopt the Solemn League and Covenant which had been adopted in Scotland. This would have made Presbyterianism the law of the land in England, and it was as intolerant of independency as the Church of England had been. Many Puritans had misgivings, but the need for help was so urgent that Parliament agreed. Hence, 21,000 Scottish soldiers marched south to aid the war against the crown.
On June 15, 1646, at Naseby, Oliver Cromwell led his New Model Army to victory over the royalist forces. This put a stop to the fighting temporarily, but peace was not to be had yet. Charles was still officially recognized as king, and although in captivity, he attempted to pit various political factions against one another in an effort to regain the upper hand. He was able to secure the help of the Scots, but Cromwell defeated him in battle again in 1648.
What happened next is described in the words of the official website of the British monarchy:
“The Army, concluding that permanent peace was impossible whilst Charles lived, decided that the King must be put on trial and executed. In December, Parliament was purged, leaving a small rump totally dependent on the Army, and the Rump Parliament established a High Court of Justice in the first week of January 1649. On 20 January, Charles was charged with high treason 'against the realm of England'. Charles refused to plead, saying that he did not recognise the legality of the High Court (it had been established by a Commons purged of dissent, and without the House of Lords - nor had the Commons ever acted as a judicature). The King was sentenced to death on 27 January. Three days later, Charles was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London.”

In the midst of all of this turmoil, the Commons had concluded that the Church of England needed to be completely reconstituted; thus, they abolished episcopacy and left the church with no legal foundation for existence. Parliament called for an assembly of theologians to provide a legal and theological basis for the church. The theologians, or “divines” as they were called, were tasked with settling the government and worship of the Church of England. Their goal was not to revise the church’s doctrine but to show that the Church of England was in agreement with the Scottish church and with the Reformed churches on the continent. One hundred nineteen leading churchmen were chosen, and on July 1, 1643, the Westminster assembly began its work. This was an opportunity that Puritans had hoped for.
The work of the Assembly would not conclude until March 25, 1652. In the meantime, they produced a lasting and influential confession of faith, a directory of church government, and catechisms. However, the major purpose for which they labored would ultimately be undone. Although Cromwell led the parliamentary army to victory over the royalists, Cromwell and the army were predominately independents, not Presbyterians. Cromwell wanted more religious freedom than the Presbyterians were willing to grant, and the Scottish co-belligerents feared the Independents. The anti-royalist party was thus fractured. Furthermore, many in England still believed very much in monarchy. They wanted a constitutional monarchy, not the abolition of monarchy. After Cromwell’s death, the monarchy was eventually restored in 1660 to Charles’ son, Charles II. The Act of Uniformity in 1662 forced over 2,000 ministers out of their pulpits, creating the English non-conformist movement. Robert Letham concludes, “The Westminster Assembly failed to achieve in its own land the purpose for which it had been established" [The Westminster Assembly: Reading Its Theology in Historical Context (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2009), 44.]
The Puritan movement basically lasted for another generation or so, but it gradually faded away as a cohesive movement. In 1688-89, William and Mary came to the throne in the Glorious Revolution and established a degree of religious toleration that previous monarchs had forbidden. The Bill of Rights established many civil liberties, and the Act of Toleration allowed Nonconformists to worship as they pleased, as long as they stayed within certain bounds. The combination of events that transpired in the last forty years of the seventeenth century effectively spelled the end of the Puritan movement as such.  Although men like Matthew Henry (1662-1714) or Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) can be identified as Puritan in their thinking and emphases, the times were changing and other movements took center stage. Of course, Puritans concerns will never die away, as they are concerns that go to the heart of what it means to know the Lord.