Monday, December 31, 2018

181231FW Gen 3:12-15 - Gospel of Serpent-Crushing Grace

Family Worship teaching time, following up upon the sermon from Genesis 3:12-15 in corporate worship, Lord's Day morning. Before God says a single word of penalty to the woman or man, He announces His grace that will work in sinners whom He is saving, His grace that will keep the church separate from the world, and His grace that will send His Son as the Seed of the woman to crush the serpent's head. Praise the God of gospel grace!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

181229FW Prov 29:6-9 - Fruitful Faith, Wisdom's Foundation

From the Proverb of the day (29), we saw how confidence in God's goodness to us in Christ is the foundation of wise living. If we are confident that God seeks our pleasure, we will not be snared by trying to find pleasure in disobedience (v6). If we are confident that God attends to all our needs, we will not be closed-fisted but rejoice to imitate His generosity (v7). If we are confident that God defends our interests, we will be freed from contentiousness to pursue peace (v8). And, if we are confident both that we are still sinful and that everything that we encounter is designed by God to fit us for heaven, then we will be poised to take correction seriously and benefit from it (v9).

181229FW Gen 3:12-15 - Good, Serpent-Crushing, News

Family Worship teaching time, anticipating the sermon from Genesis 3:12-15 in corporate worship, tomorrow morning. God elicits a horrifying response from Adam, a disappointing response from the woman, but no response at all from the serpent. Why? Because He asks the serpent no question--simply declares a curse! He promises His own sovereign work in regeneration, and that He will maintain a covenant line of those who belong to Him, over-against those who belong to the serpent. Ultimately, the only way that this can be effective is because He Himself will come, born of a woman, to destroy the devil and his works! ... And God promises all of this before He has even declared the consequences of Adam and his wife's sin! The first time that the bad news of the curse was announced, it was already in the context of the good news of the gospel!!

Friday, December 28, 2018

181228FW Prov 28:10-12 - In Relationships, Reliance, and Rule, We Reap What We Sow

Family Worship teaching lesson from Proverbs 28:10-12. In relationships, we reap what we sow. If we cause others to stumble, we fall. If we build others up, we enjoy good from God's hand. In reliance, we reap what we sow. If we are self-reliant, then we will end up in that utter folly of being wise in our own eyes. If we fear the Lord and rely upon Him, we will be in a position to instruct even those who seem great. In rule, we reap what we sow. When those who rule are godly, there is joy; when they are wicked, there is fear.

181228FW John 7:1-13 - Jesus, Bringer of Sword and Division

Family Worship teaching time, following up upon John 7:1-13 from the Old Testament reading in corporate worship, Lord's Day morning. Jesus highlights for his brothers that they are still of the world--hateful and murderous toward Him. Marvelously, He does so in the midst of reminding us that He has come to suffer and die as a sacrifice for those whose deeds are evil! All mankind is divided by Christ into those who hate Him, and those who trust in and love and follow and obey Him--and who are therefore hated with Him. There is no middle ground.

Incomplete Reformation

The year is winding down, which brings me once again toward the end of 2Chronicles. The evil of Manasseh is never surprising. The repentance of Manasseh always is. Something else caught my eye today, however.
He took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD and in Jerusalem; and he cast them out of the city. He also repaired the altar of the LORD, sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. Nevertheless the people still sacrificed on the high places, but only to the LORD their God. (2 Chr 33:15–17)
It's that last verse there. "Nevertheless the people still sacrificed on the high places, but only to Yahweh their God" (emphasis mine). The way that the Holy Spirit notes this is instructive for believers such as we are, who are always in an a state of incomplete reformation.

Recently someone dear to me, who is just now at a very late point in life coming 'round to delighting in the Lord's Day and rejecting man-made holy days, expressed grief over someone else whom he loves. That individual had been talking about praying to this and that saint, and visiting this and that holy site, as a way to enhance the effectiveness of his own intercession before God.

I pointed out to my dear one that, so long as we are coming by genuine faith in Christ, we are coming in union with Christ. I say 'genuine', rather than 'only', because if we tell the truth, then the fact is that we never have perfect faith in Christ. Even if we intend to believe in Christ alone as the God-man, our Mediator, all of our faith is imperfect. Of course, willfully trusting in others as well is not genuine faith in Christ, but every one of our hearts is a tangled web of excuses by which we explain away all of our false trustings.

Well, if we are coming in union with Christ, then the Lord is receiving us according to Christ's righteousness. And, if we are coming in union with Christ, then His blood puts away all of the guilt of all of the sin and error in how we come.

Does that mean that we should be satisfied with imperfect reformation? No, not at all. As we read through Chronicles (or Kings), we find that the Lord cares very much about every detail of reformation, and does "grade" varying degrees of reformation differently. Here, in 2Chr 33:17, there is obvious divine dissatisfaction with the people's sacrificing on the high places.

However, we also learn here not to treat a smaller degree of reformation as if it is worthless for being smaller. The Lord mentions the sincerity of their flawed (idolatrous!) worship: but only to Yahweh their God. Does this take away the guild of the idolatrous portion? Of course not. The Lord was still about to destroy Israel for their man-invented way of holding a feast to Yahweh in Exodus 32:5. Only the Mediator (Christ!!--though, in that section of Exodus, Moses is a type/foreshadowing of Christ) can take away the guilt that belongs to the flaws in our worship.

That is what frees us to celebrate the removal of some flaws--even if there are others that we can still see. Imperfect reformation is not the same as no reformation at all. In fact, covered in Christ's blood and made sincere by His Spirit, every well-intended reformation is something to be celebrated, even if fraught with glaring blindspots of imperfection!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

181227FW 1Cor 15:50-58 - Victory in Jesus

Family Worship teaching time, following up upon 1Corinthians 15:50-58 from the Old Testament reading in corporate worship, Lord's Day morning. We need glorified bodies to inherit the kingdom. The kingdom is not something that Christians bring in or build. It is something that we pray to come, because we inherit it when it comes. We receive it as a gift, to which we have a right through our relationship to God as His children.

At the resurrection, when death and the grave are exposed not as victorious opponents but as defeated servants, death is swallowed up in victory!

But, as we learn from Romans 6-7, we enjoy already the resurrection victory of Jesus as we walk in newness of life. Death and sin lost their claim upon us when we died in Jesus Christ. The one that belonged to them died in Christ; the one that we are now is a slave of Christ.

This is why we must be steadfast in the work of the Lord Jesus--we are His slaves, so let us stick with His work! This is why we must be immovable in the work of the Lord Jesus--we are His slaves, so let us not depart from His work! This is why we must be abundant in the work of the Lord Jesus--we are His slaves, so let us be overflowing with His work!

Jesus frees us--not to be slaves to ourselves and our desires, but to be slaves to Him. Every time we say no to sin, no to self, and yes to Jesus, we are already now enjoying resurrection victory!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

181226FW Josh 11:1-15 - Shocking Grace

Family Worship teaching time, following up upon Joshua 11:1-15 from the Old Testament reading in corporate worship, Lord's Day morning. Readers and hearers are often shocked at how complete and hard the destruction of the Canaanite tribes/cities/kings is. However, this passage emphasizes over and again that this is the Lord's work, and that the manner in which Joshua and Israel carried it out was according to the Lord's Word. This leaves us to face the fact that we are not shocked enough by sin. If we were, then what we would find truly shocking in this passage is God's grace to Israel!

Friday, December 21, 2018

181221FW Prov 21:9-11 - Contentiousness, Conduct, Correction, and the Heart

Proverb of the day (21), vv9-11. Avoiding becoming (or marrying) a contentious woman; keeping the heart, and receiving correction.

181221FW Jn 6:60-71 - Christ Alone Gives Spirit and Life by His Word

Family Worship teaching time, following up upon John 6:60-71 from the gospel reading in corporate worship, Lord's Day morning. The people were offended that Jesus said that they had no spiritual life from themselves, and could only ever have any from Him. Jesus told them that they would be even more offended when they see Him sitting on the throne of heaven. Yes, His Words are the Words of eternal life, but He alone can apply them to us and give us life by them. So, let us not presume that just because we are part of His church, or even know and agree with true Christian teaching, that we are thereby saved and safe. These are unreliable things to cling to. Instead, let us cling only to Him Himself! And, if we find it difficult, we are not without recourse. We may come and ask Him who is the only One who can give this faith.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

181220FW 1Corinthians 15:35-49 - What Kind of Body We'll Be Raised With

Family Worship teaching time, following up upon 1Corinthians 15:35-49 from the epistle reading in corporate worship, Lord's Day morning. In the resurrection, we don't get our old bodies back. Rather, from the humble, corruptible, weak seed of our corpse, the Lord makes something glorious, incorruptible, and strong after the pattern of Christ. He is the last Adam, the heavenly Man, and we receive according to what He is like and what He deserves as our federal Head!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

2018.12.19 Worship Wednesday - The Day of Worship, Chapter 7-9

On these Worship Wednesdays, we are reading The Day of Worship: Reassessing the Christian Life in Light of the Sabbath by Ryan McGraw. 

In chapter 7, McGraw demonstrated that Jesus's own exposition of the 6th commandment establishes for us how to understand and apply any of the ten commandments, and specifically the 4th commandment.

Just as Jesus demonstrates that the 6th commandment includes the positive commandment to love our neighbor, so also the 4th commandment includes not just the prohibition ("do no work") but especially focuses upon the positive commandment, "Remember the Sabbath to consecrate it."

Just as the 6th commandment forbids hatred in the heart and requires love in the heart, so also the 4th commandment requires delighting in the day.

Just as the 6th commandment forbids speech of hatred and requires speech of love toward our neighbor, so also the 4th commandment requires that our speech on the Lord's Day be consecrated speech.

Just as the 6th commandment required consideration of others' ability to worship ("don't sacrifice unreconciled"), so also most obviously the 4th commandment requires consideration of others (which keeps us from justifying employing others).

In chapter 8, McGraw moves onto some practical considerations. He is diligent to point out that this is a book of principles, not details--that proactively attending to what the day is for will be the process by which we arrive at our particular habit of keeping God's holy day. He had made illustrative applications throughout the book, to show how this would work in practice.

Here, he adds a couple areas of pastoral advice, including the necessity of preparing in advance, the preference of corporate worship over private, and the need to answer all detail questions from the standpoint of "what best helps me keep the day according to the purpose for the day?"

Finally, in chapter 9, McGraw tackles the question of whether or not this approach to the 4th commandment is legalistic. Happily, he works to define terms first. Legalism is not either carefulness about or emphasis upon obeying God's commandments. If this were true, then the Holy Spirit would be a legalist!

Rather, legalism is altering (whether by addition or subtraction) God's commandments with our own, or believing that we can be righteous in God's sight by how well we do, or that we can grow in holiness by virtue of how hard we work. In fact,  the person who wants to subtract some part of consecrating the Lord's Day is a legalist, and the one who looks down upon others who aren't as enlightened about it as he is to do whatever he wishes on the Lord's Day is a legalist.

The solution to legalism is to love God's law because we love Him Himself, the God of the law, and to be grateful that part of what Jesus has won for us is that we shall surely be made like Him by His Spirit. Thus, without subtracting in the least from God's law, we come to it from a joyful standpoint of love and liberty.

If our view of any part of God's law is sound, then we will be viewing it as pervasive and comprehensive and something that is impossible to perfectly do in this life--but also as something in which we delight and to which we look forward to being perfectly conformed in glory. Is this how we view Lord's Day keeping? Or are we legalists?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2018.11.28 Worship Wednesday - The Day of Worship, Chapters 3-6

On these Worship Wednesdays, we are reading The Day of Worship: Reassessing the Christian Life in Light of the Sabbath by Ryan McGraw. 

In chapters 3-6, I've most appreciated how McGraw highlights what the day is for. He rightly points out that this was true from the moment the Sabbath was sanctified, not a new teaching in Isaiah 58, since what is necessarily implied is as binding and true as what is implicit.

The chapter on worldliness is especially helpful as it searches out the reason that so many resist even the idea of an Isaiah 58 type Sabbath--and how some who at first attempt to keep it do not find it joyous.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Count Your Blessings? You Can't.

When faith counts its blessings, it begins with a score of infinity (thanks be to God for His indescribable gift) to zero (not once has the Lord treated me with even the slightest injustice or unkindness) and only improves from there.

Any other kind of blessing-counting is a recipe for the brutish pit of pre-worship Asaph in Psalm 73

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Theology Thursday: Christ the Great Display of God's Glory

"In him do we behold the wisdom, goodness, love, grace, mercy, and power of God, acting themselves in the contrivance, constitution, and efficacious accomplishment of the great work of our redemption and salvation."

John Owen's The Glory of Christ, location 777

Sunday, October 7, 2018

I Can Help You Plan for That (Family Worship)

Man... sitting here writing the devotional for the congregation. Had a bunch of things (again) that got in the way (again) of finishing it by a reasonable time, and now I'm maybe grumbling in my spirit just a little bit (ok, a lot--there's a lot of fleshliness left...).

But I've got Utah-Stanford running in the other computer to my left, and this commercial keeps coming on, and every time it comes on, it just about makes me cry.

There's so much here--the dad having spent time building with and teaching his son, the son coming to the conclusion that he owes his dad dignity and wants his dad to live with him. If at all humanly possible, this is how to do it. Thank God for in-home health, hospice, etc.

And then I remember that this is one of the primary reasons behind grinding out this devotional every week. There is a spending of time that is more important than hanging out outside.
There is a teaching that is more important than teaching how to spend a hammer. There is an investment of fathers in their children that is infinitely greater than building clubhouses together. There is a spiritual investment of fathers in their children that is God's primary, daily plan for the care of His covenant children's eternal souls.
And this devotional is my opportunity as a shepherd to say--and really not just say but make good on it--"I can help you plan for that." And suddenly, it's not a deflating grind, but a joy again.

Thank-you, Lord!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Is there a proper, Christian use of the memory of my (repented-of) sin?

I received this very important question from a dear brother, who often finds himself mulling over his past sin, grieving over how he cannot appreciate the infinite weightiness of it. As is often the case, it's a question whose answer would be useful to many, even though it is the first time I can remember having been asked. Here's the beginning of an answer:

I'd be delighted for this to be a face to face conversation, but am also glad to give enough synopsis to provide a little relief. 

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.Romans 8:1

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Php 3:13-14 (admittedly, contextually, talking especially about any 'good' in our past)

We certainly must never dwell upon repented-of sin in any self-condemning way! If God "forgets" our sins in that manner, and we decide that we will continue to remember them, not only do we harm one of His dear children, but we make ourselves out to be wiser or holier than God!! In the face of such texts, we need biblical warrant to dwell upon the past at all. And we do have it.

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1Timothy 1:15-17

Here is an especially helpful passage, because it gives not only warrant for remembering the past but also a biblical aim for doing so. I often hear v15 quoted, but without highlighting its relationship to vv16-17! We may make a right use of the memory of the greatness of our sin: 

(a) as a trophy of Jesus' patience with us, in order to encourage us about how He might save others; i.e. not so that we would have woeful thoughts of ourselves, but that in the face of the infinite gravity of others' sin, we would be yet more impressed with the mercy of Christ and not consider anyone else hopeless, and certainly not look down upon anyone.

(b) to be driven to great eruptions of praise to God

After all, our lives are all about God's glory--and particularly that glory as displayed in Jesus.

This has been the Holy Spirit's great work in all of creation and redemption: literally to shine light upon the glory of Jesus as God's chosen display of His glory for all time and into eternity [Shameless plug for listening to the morning sermon from the 23rd if you haven't yet--one of the best sermons (I think) that the Lord has enabled me to preach upon the Holy Spirit]. Whatever is good in us is by and from the Holy Spirit. And so we can expect that all "good" remembering of our sin will have this as its aim: shining light upon the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

Now, taking that doctrine into the realm of more directly answering the question of "how much" or "how heavily" we should remember our past sin: just as much as is conducive to and actually producing of overflowing effusions of praise of the glory of the grace of Christ!

The force that must be applied by these memories is not a weight that makes our heads to hang, but an upward pull that lifts our faces in praise.

Personally, without the aid of sins already committed, I continually produce enough new sin to end up confessing it, rejoicing in God's redeeming me in Christ, and praising His ongoing mercy and patience. 

So, the only reason I would make intentional reference to my former sin would be when working on humility toward an unbeliever who appears particularly hard, or working on encouragement about the possibility of his salvation, or working on gratitude and praise to God for His entire redeeming work from election to atonement to justification to sanctification and glorification.

And however unintentional memories of former sins arise in my mind--whether by the Holy Spirit or an angel or an accusing devil/demon or Satan himself--I seek (though imperfectly so) to employ that memory unto such biblical ends as above.

Not having made recent study of this, I would guess that there are other texts that present us with other biblical uses for remembering repented-of sin. But we can continue that conversation face to face. 2Jn v12.

Grace and peace,

Monday, September 24, 2018

Why Christian Women Did NOT Want To Vote

It's pretty amazing to think that even the title to this little post may be seen by some as provocative or controversial.

1903 may not be that long ago chronologically, but it seems like light-years, culturally.

Check out this article (it's not too long):

Just 115 years ago, as appeared in an article in The Atlantic, the women of Massachusetts overwhelmingly rejected the "right" to vote, because they were too busy doing the more important work of training up the future of the state, the church, businesses, and the army.

They had not yet been bullied and belittled into viewing the most important task in our nation as something insignificant and better left to state-industrial child-farms. They saw the family, the household, as the fundamental unit of every important institution in society. Such thinking is more biblically sound than much of the church in 2018.

Today, The Atlantic and Massachusetts are almost synonymous with a form of progressivism so obscene that it would make their great-grandparents' hair rise on the backs of their necks.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Worship Wednesday

"Worldly recreations on the Sabbath are no more appropriate than if a groom paused in the middle of his wedding ceremony to check the scores of a football game. Recreation would be a perfectly appropriate pleasure on a day of rest from labor, but an entirely inappropriate one on a day devoted to taking pleasure in worship."

Location 930 of The Day of Worship by Ryan McGraw

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Do you know the gift of God?

(John 4:10) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

Most of those who care to read anything that I write can easily answer both questions--even without looking down to v14. There, Jesus makes clear that the "gift of God" is eternal life. And, He does so while repeating twice that He Himself is the One who gives this gift--that God Himself is the One who has come as a man and is speaking to the woman at the well.

What we might miss is the way that Jesus seems to be using the word "know" here. It is not merely mental assent, but a conviction that evokes a response.

If we are not actively looking to Him for our eternal life, that's a pretty good indication that we don't "know" as we ought to. Knowledge of Christ is not a mere theological calculus. It is a recognition that produces a response.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Getting Back to the Apostolic Church

It is always moving, and sometimes deeply frustrating, to hear or see someone talking about "getting back to the apostolic church."

But not so much because we've somehow lost our way for a couple thousand years. Rather, I am moved and sometimes frustrated by the fact that there are such apostolic churches right around most corners in the U.S.--and even, as I am increasingly learning, in many places around the world where the gospel is only recently penetrating.

Where are they? Reformed, Presbyterian churches. That was the entire point of the Reformation--back to the Bible. But here we are in a biblically illiterate age, in which it is assumed that all expressions of the church are equally man-made, and therefore this idea of "the apostolic" church is floated as something without creed, confession, or organization. 

Really, I cannot think of a more efficient way of ensuring that you will have nothing but a man-made expression of the church than to leave it up to every man to make his own expression.

The most recent reminder of this for me was in response to a Presbyterian social media meme which humorously pointed out the great danger in being without formal church membership, being without creeds and confessions, and being without church discipline.

Image may contain: 1 person, text, outdoor and water

Predictably, one commentator complained, "I don't think the disciples had any of this."

If we knew our Bibles better, such rubbish would be rather easily dismissed as the ravings of unbelievers. But I actually hear this kind of reasoning from Reformed church officers

Alas! Alas! God grant us a rediscovery of His Word as in the days of Josiah, where we realize that we need not make it up as we go along and, mourning over our past confusion and rebellion, eagerly put into place all that His Word calls for in His church.

So, is it true that the disciples had no formal church membership, no creeds or confessions, and no church discipline?

2Tim 1:13 refers to some kind of confession or catechism that Paul had given Timothy. Remarkable that, as far as we know, it doesn't appear in Scripture--just reinforces that uninspired arrangements of doctrine are a biblical response to Scriptural teaching.

Luke 1:4 ... Theophilus's instruction is literally referred to as catechizing

And of course they definitely had formal church membership and church discipline, otherwise what's with keeping a record of their number (Ac 2-4, etc), and how could someone be put out of the church if there was not a formal identification of who is in the church (1Cor 5-6, etc), and with all of the duties of believers to "one another" and of elders to their flock and the flock to their elders (Eph 4, 1Cor 12, Heb 13, 1Pet 5, all the pastoral epistles, etc), it would be impossible to know whether you are doing that without some formal recognition of who is a member and who is an elder. From whom could delegates to the Acts 15 assembly be selected? Etc. etc.

The canard of an unorganized apostolic hippie community is a figment of the imagination of an anti-authority age.

"Let's get back to the apostolic church" is just contemporary speak for "let me be rid of submission and commitment." But look at how Christ talks about being a disciple. It's all about submission and commitment. So, not at all surprising that there is plain evidence of all of these things in the New Testament.

Authority and orderliness have been instituted by Christ, through the Holy Spirit, since the very beginning.

Want to "get back to the apostolic church"? If you live in America, that's not difficult to do. Join a NAPARC (or similar) church.

If these thoughts are new to you, or you find yourself unconvinced, you may wish to read Witherow's Apostolic Church.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Walking by Faith, Not by Sight - Pastoral Letter from the 9/14/18 Hopewell Herald

Dear Congregation,

Reflecting on last Lord’s Day morning’s sermon has been a cause of much frustration for me. I know that the eternal God, the Creator, holds Himself out unto me repeatedly as Jesus Christ, the God-man, who humbled Himself and suffered much and literally bore Hell for my sake.

So why am I frustrated? Because my wonder and adoration at the greatness of His being, and my thankfulness and love for what He’s done for me, are so pathetically small. As I think back over the week, there have been so many times where I was quite forgetful of Him—even while laboring in this holy calling!

I know that He is worthy of so much more, and I grope at affections and responses that correspond. It is tempting to me to take a shortcut—figure out what kind of things bypass my ungrateful heart and stir me up into a froth of emotions and irrational, unrealistic vows to do works that feel more impressive than ordinary faithfulness and obedience in the daily callings of my life.

But, as I prepare for the Lord’s Day, I am reminded of something else that the Holy Spirit presented to us in those New Testament passages about the eternal plan of God that He put into motion in the creation: He is going to finish the work He has begun.

He didn’t predestine us merely to forgiveness, but wholly unto perfect glory—that we would be conformed to the image of His Son, and that unto the praise of the glory of His grace.

So what shall we do? Keep the Lord’s Day, which He uses to make us to delight in Him (Isaiah 58:13-14), reading and hearing preached His Word which sanctifies us and equips us and makes us wise for salvation (John 17:17, 2Timothy 3:14-17), singing by which we are filled with His Spirit and His Word dwells richly in us (Ephesians 5:15-21, Colossians 3:14-16), and celebrating that Supper by which we have fellowship in Jesus’ own body and blood (1Corinthians 10:15-18).

You see—Christianity really is about going to church and participating well in worship. But not at all because that’s some kind of work by which we earn anything or show what good Christians we are. Rather, it is because Jesus Himself is all our hope and all our need, and these are His appointed means by which He does His work, as He keeps all His promises and carries out all His plans.

Let’s walk by faith, not by sight. Rather than do what makes us “feel” like it’s working for a few moments, let us come to Him and trust His Word that He is doing a work that will be perfect forever and ever.

Looking forward to worship with you!


Monday, August 13, 2018

180813FW Romans 13:1-4 - Submitting to God's Authority

Family Worship teaching time, following up upon Romans 13:1-4 from the sermon in corporate worship, Lord's Day morning. Because God is the ultimate authority in our home, in the church, and in the society, we are to submit and obey in doing good in each of these spheres. For, God is always doing us good now, and at the day of judgment, He will punish those found outside of Christ, and reward all good that was done in Christ.

Monday, July 2, 2018

180702FW Hebrews 13:5 - God Himself Exemplifies and Empowers Christian Love

Family Worship teaching time from Hebrews 13:5, following up upon the morning sermon from the Lord's Day. If we are to love God in the Heb 12:28-29 way, and love others in the Heb 13:1-4 way, then we cannot have hearts full of the love of stuff. God exemplifies Christian love by giving Himself for us (Jn 3:16, 1Jn 3:16, 1Jn 4:10) as we are to give ourselves for others. God empowers Christian love by giving us a possession that dwarfs everything else we could possibly have: Himself.

Friday, June 29, 2018

180629FW Mark 15:40-16:8 - God Helps His Feeble Servants Be Faithful

Family Worship teaching time from Mark 15:40-16:8, following up upon the gospel reading from the Lord's Day morning worship service. Even in the midst of the Resurrection, which is the great action in the text, the Lord was pleased to use the women who served however they could, despite their weakness--going ahead of them to supply what was needed to equip them

Thursday, June 28, 2018

180628FW 1Corinthians 3:9-17 - God's Workers, Doing God's Work, God's Way

Family Worship teaching time from 1Corinthians 3:9-17 on how ministers belong to the Lord, not the church. And the church itself belongs to the Lord, rather than to itself, so ministry must be done according to the Word of God, not the ideas of men.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

180627FW Genesis 25:19-28 - Praying and Listening to Our Always-Good God

Family Worship teaching time from Genesis 25:19-28, following up upon the Old Testament reading from Lord's Day morning worship. We see how the Lord, in His goodness, was bringing the Savior into the world--even through the prolonged trial of Rebekah's barrenness and the intense trial of her pregnancy. And, we see how faith, because it is sure of God's goodness, responds to such trials by prayer and seeking God's Word.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

180626FW Psalm 87 - Rejoicing Over the New Birth

Family Worship teaching time, reviewing Psalm 87 from the Lord's Day morning service, and the Lord calling His people to be led by Jesus, their Forever-Priest, as they rejoice and sing over the new birth in their corporate worship

Monday, June 25, 2018

180625FW Hebrews 13:1-4

Family Worship teaching time from Hebrews 13:1-4, following up upon the morning sermon from the Lord's Day morning worship

Saturday, June 23, 2018

180623FW Hebrews 12:29

Family Worship teaching time from Hebrews 12:29, following up upon the sermon from last Lord's Day's morning worship

Friday, June 22, 2018

180622FW Mark 15:16-39

Family Worship teaching time from Mark 15:16-39, following up upon the gospel reading from Lord's Day morning's worship service

Thursday, June 21, 2018

180621FW 1Corinthians 3:1-8

Family Worship teaching time from 1Corinthians 3:1-8, following up upon the epistle reading from the Lord's Day morning worship service

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

180620FW Genesis 25:1-18

Family Worship teaching time from Genesis 25:1-18, on the surprising goodness, abundant goodness, and eternal goodness of God, following up upon the Old Testament reading from the Lord's Day morning worship service

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

180619FW Proverbs 19:1-10

Family Worship teaching time on wisdom, wealth, and words from the "Proverb of the day"

180619FW Colossians 1:9-22

Family Worship teaching time in Colossians 1:9-22, following up upon the call to worship, prayer for help, confession of sin, and assurance of the gospel from the Lord's Day morning worship service

Monday, June 18, 2018

180618FW Proverbs 18:9-13

Family Worship teaching time on Proverbs 18:9-13 from the "Proverb of the Day"

180618FW Hebrews 12:28

Family Worship teaching time from Hebrews 12:28, following up upon the Lord's Day morning sermon

Saturday, June 16, 2018

180616FW Hebrews 12:28-29

Family Worship teaching time from Hebrews 12:28-29, following up upon the Lord's Day morning sermon

Friday, June 15, 2018

Two wise pastors from yesteryear, and their concern for souls on Christmas

Truly, we do not wish to trouble or alienate anyone more than is necessary for the care of souls. This, perhaps, is why Spurgeon in his younger years accommodated the "Christian" co-opting of Saturnalia. And, it may have something to do with why Calvin, upon his return to Geneva, accepted the will of the people of that city-state regarding the day.

However, these men still loved the souls of those entrusted to their care, as I hope that the Judgment will vindicate me of having done, and so even in the observance of the day, they raised the alarm against man-made fantasies in spiritual things, and pointed people instead to the true and living Lord Jesus Christ, whom we may only know insofar as--and by those means by which--He has given Himself to us.

Rather than attempt to navigate this thorny path on my own, I leave my beloved readers in the capable hands of these faithful ministers, by words that they carefully selected in later years of ministry, having a wisdom to which I do not in this life expect to attain.

Calvin, excerpt from 1551 Christmas sermon while preaching through Micah (
Now, I see here today more people than I am accustomed to having at the sermon. Why is that? It is Christmas day. And who told you this? You poor beasts. That is a fitting euphemism for all of you who have come here today to honor Noel. Did you think you would be honoring God?

Consider what sort of obedience to God your coming displays. In your mind, you are celebrating a holiday for God, or turning today into one but so much for that. In truth, as you have often been admonished, it is good to set aside one day out of the year in which we are reminded of all the good that has occurred because of Christ’s birth in the world, and in which we hear the story of his birth retold, which will be done Sunday.

But if you think that Jesus Christ was born today, you are as crazed as wild beasts. For when you elevate one day alone for the purpose of worshiping God, you have just turned it into an idol. True, you insist that you have done so for the honor of God, but it is more for the honor of the devil.

Let us consider what our Lord has to say on the matter. Was it not Saul’s intention to worship God when he spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, along with the best spoils and cattle? He says as much: ‘I want to worship God.’ Saul’s tongue was full of devotion and good intention. But what was the response he received? ‘You soothsayer! You heretic! You apostate! You claim to be honoring God, but God rejects you and disavows all that you have done.’

Consequently, the same is true of our actions. For no day is superior to another. It matters not whether we recall our Lord’s nativity on a Wednesday, Thursday, or some other day. But when we insist on establishing a service of worship based on our whim, we blaspheme God, and create an idol, though we have done it all in the name of God. And when you worship God in the idleness of a holiday spirit, that is a heavy sin to bear, and one which attracts others about it, until we reach the height of iniquity.

Therefore, let us pay attention to what Micah is saying here, that God must not only strip away things that are bad in themselves, but must also eliminate anything that might foster superstition. Once we have understood that, we will no longer find it strange that Noel is not being observed today, but that on Sunday we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper and recite the story of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But all those who barely know Jesus Christ, or that we must be subject to him, and that God removes all those impediments that prevent us from coming to him, these folk, I say, will at best grit their teeth. They came here in anticipation of celebrating a wrong intention, but will leave with it wholly unfulfilled.
Spurgeon, in the introduction to his Christmas sermon in 1871, disavowing the superstition of the season and the day, and explaining that he is preaching upon the incarnation because it is a correct thing for any day of the year:
We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Saviour; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority.

Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Saviour’s birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred. Fabricius gives a catalogue of 136 different learned opinions upon the matter; and various divines invent weighty arguments for advocating a date in every month in the year.

It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the nativity of our Lord; and it was not till very long after the Western church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it.

Because the day is not known, therefore superstition has fixed it; while, since the day of the death of our Saviour might be determined with much certainty, therefore superstition shifts the date of its observance every year. Where is the method in the madness of the superstitious? Probably the fact is that the holy days were arranged to fit in with heathen festivals.

We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Saviour was born, it is the twenty-fifth of December. Nevertheless since, the current of men’s thoughts is led this way just now, and I see no evil in the current itself, I shall launch the bark of our discourse upon that stream, and make use of the fact, which I shall neither justify nor condemn, by endeavoring to lead your thoughts in the same direction.

Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day in the year, it cannot be in the power of other men’s superstitions to render such a meditation improper for to-day. Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of his dear son.

2018.06.15 Family Friday - William Gouge's "Building a Godly Home v1 - a Holy Vision for Family Life": chapter 1 (continued), Serving Each Other in the Fear of the Lord

On Family Fridays, I'm reading William Gouge's Building a Godly Home vol 1, A Holy Vision for Family Life.

Chapter 1, part 3: the Fear of God Moving Us to Do Service to Men
Gouge proceeds to show that the fear of God is what moves a good conscience to submit to other men. He uses examples of David, Joseph, and Christ in Scripture submitting to lawful authority out of reverence for the Lord.

If it's not fear of God moving us to submit to authority, then our submission will be forced and selfish or slavish instead of free, willing, and cheerful. This is because the fear of God makes care more for what God wants than for the impulses of our heart.

This means that those in authority have a duty to teach those under them first to fear the Lord, or else their submission will do them ill. And inferiors must pray that their superiors also will fear the Lord.

Chapter 1, part 4: Limiting All Duty to Man, within the compass of the fear of God
It also means that we must only submit to those commands that can be done in fear of the Lord (meaning that we must not submit if commanded to sin).

For superiors, it means that instead of indulging their inferiors' whims, they should give such commands as will lead those beneath them in the fear of the Lord. Both must be seeking to please God rather than men.

180615FW Mark 15:1-15

Family worship teaching time, following up upon the gospel reading in Mark 15:1-15 from the Lord's Day morning worship

Thursday, June 14, 2018

180614FW 1Corinthians 2:6-16

Family Worship teaching time, following up upon the Epistle reading from Lord's Day morning worship

In Support of Simplicity in Worship

In preaching through the book of Hebrews, I've been struck again with how the Lord intentionally planned to glorify His Son by the transition that would take place in worship from something attached to a particular place and nation on earth to something that can happen among any place and nation because it now takes place primarily in Heaven.

Take especially chapters 2 and 12 together. We come to Mount Zion, God's heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, the congregation of the Firstborn, the souls of the just made perfect, God the Judge of all, Christ Jesus the (better) Mediator of the New (everlasting) Covenant. And it is there that He presents us (Behold I and the children whom You have given me) upon the basis of His own faith ("I will put my trust in Him") and proceeds to declare His Father's Name to us and sing His Father's praise in the midst of our assembly.

This transition from worship that was tied to a specific place/nation to worship that instead exults in the Person of the Christ is exactly the substance of one the most important conversations ever had in worship: Jesus, with the woman at the well. She wants to know, "where is the right place to worship?" He answers, "Well, it used to be the temple, but you actually can't walk to the right place anymore. God is Spirit, and the only transportation to the right 'place' of worship is the activity of the Holy Spirit by the instrumentality of the Scriptures." Amazingly, that woman rightly understood that this amazing transition was bound up with the coming of the Christ and the identity of the Christ! When we try to "culturally contextualize" worship, we are chafing precisely against the point that Christ was making there in John 4.

It is simply impossible to emphasize or add any earthly activity without diverting attention from the glory of the heavenly reality of Christian congregational worship.

When God has determined to glorify something by its simplicity, then whatever man adds must necessarily subtract from that glory.

2018.06.14 Theology Thursday - John Owen's "The Glory of Christ": Chapter 1, The explication of the text

On Theology Thursdays, I've am reading John Owen's The Glory of Christ. Today, after a long break from blogging through extracurricular reading, I pick up again with chapter 1.

Owen is opening the text, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given me." John 17:24

Generous Self-Glorification
For Christ, it is not selfish that He would seek to be glorified and have that glory observed. Rather, He desires it for us precisely because beholding His glory is to our great, "advantage, benefit, satisfaction, and blessedness" (Kindle location 329).

Heaven Begun on Earth
Owen concludes that "beholding of the glory of Christ is one of the greatest privileges and advancements that believers are capable of in this world, or that which is to come" (loc 365). He notes that what will be enjoyed by sight in the next life can only be enjoyed by faith in this one (loc 372).

These two are tied together, because only those who are saved by grace now will see Christ later. So, those who claim to have a desire to see Christ's glory in heaven are self-deceived if they have no view of Christ's glory by faith already in this world (loc 387).

Christ's Glory Our only Vision of God's Glory
He then notes from John chapter 1 that, when the Word became flesh, the disciples "beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." What did they behold? Not a physically glorious man. Not the essential glory of the divine nature. But the glory of that aspect of the God-man's described as His being "full of grace and truth" (loc 393-403).

Since our only access to heavenly things is not the conjectures and imaginations of our minds, but only that which is specifically recorded in Scripture, we must restrict our consideration of the glory of Christ to what Scripture specifies that glory to be (loc 411, 429).

Christ's Glory Presently Apprehended by Scripture Alone
This believing of Scripture, and Scripture alone, is of the essence of faith. It is a great act of the life and power of faith to behold presently, through the lens of Scripture, the glory of Christ (loc 431).

Developing the habit of beholding the glory of Christ prepares us for our primary vocation in heaven. Those who are not already regenerated by the Spirit and desirous of Christ's glory now would not later find any advantage to heaven itself (loc 447).

Scripture says that "to be spiritually minded is life and peace" precisely because having this vision of the glory of Christ places all other things in perspective. There is an aspect to God's glory that will always be by faith. Since the divine nature cannot be seen, our vision of it will always be in the face of Jesus Christ (loc 466-8).

Owen's Plan for the Study
Owen purposes to cover the following questions:
1. What is that glory of Christ which we do or may behold by faith?
2. How do we behold it?
3. Wherein our doing so differs from immediate vision in heaven?
(loc 478)

My Reflex Reaction to the Livestream of PCAGA Report of the Ad-Interim Committee on Racial Reconciliation

Something we'll never stop addressing? Fair enough
Watching the livestream of the PCA committee on racial reconciliation. Basic message is, "this is a sanctification issue, so it's something to always be growing in, and we will never stop talking about this." So, so much more to say about specific statements that really just need to be challenged, pushed back on, or even exposed. But, I would accept that much: it's a sanctification issue.

But let's not forget to give much praise to God for what He's already done
Ok then... dismiss the committee with thanks. Is there anyone who actually doesn't believe that PCA congregations are growing in loving their neighbor--and that everyone knows that this needs to continue? I would suggest that failing to acknowledge God's merciful work in this area the last thirty plus years is actually a wicked ingratitude.

And there are a bunch of other things that need more addressing, since we're talking about things that we should never stop addressing
I transferred into the PCA in seminary, and pastored in it for a decade. I came into it in the deep south. Loving neighbors of other cultures was nowhere NEAR the top of the list of areas of sanctification that were most being ignored.

The PCA needs a Lord's Day committee. A committee on the second commandment, the regulative principle, and the current worship chaos of diversity. A committee on the imbibing of wicked entertainment. A committee on reverence in speech with the name of God and those ways in which He reveals His name. A committee on the genuine honoring of parents and other authorities. A committee on the 8th commandment and American economics. A committee on what love to neighbor in an abortion-legal culture demands of our churches and congregants. A committee on the nature of proper ministry to the poorest in our communities.

I've never had to convince someone in the PCA that racism was wrong and something that they needed to take action to fight against wherever it exists. But I have wept before God to shake us up and accelerate our sanctification in these areas, and pleaded with men just to acknowledge that something HAS to be done in these areas. Where are their study committees?

I'm not PCA anymore, but I still have a significant measure of love for and interest in the church for which the Lord had me weep and work for more than a decade. May He graciously protect, preserve, and prosper her!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

180613FW Genesis 24:50-67

Family Worship teaching time, following up upon the Old Testament reading from corporate worship on the Lord's Day morning

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

180612FW Proverbs 12:8-9

Family Worship from the "Proverb of the day" (for the 12th day of the month)

180612FW 1Peter2:4-10

Family Worship, following up upon the Epistle reading from morning worship on the Lord's Day

Saturday, June 9, 2018

180609FW Hebrews 12:22-24

Family Worship, following up upon the previous morning sermon and preparing for the next day's

Friday, June 8, 2018

180608FW Mark 14:66-72

Family Worship, following up upon the Gospel reading from morning worship on the Lord's Day

Saturday, June 2, 2018

180602FW Hebrews 12:14-17

Family Worship, following up upon the previous week's morning sermon, and preparing for the next day's

Friday, June 1, 2018

180601FW Mark 14:52-65

Family worship, following up upon the Gospel reading in worship Lord's Day morning

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Don't Reject Jesus!

That, of course, is exactly what the US Episcopal Church has done by changing the wedding vows in their church order from "union of husband and wife" to "union of two people."

This rebellion against God is so pervasive in entertainment and culture that some believers are susceptible to the idea that it is a small issue that we need to flex upon in order to have influence with others.

But, for those who are genuine Christians, there is no room to flex.
Matthew 19:4-6 And [Jesus] answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
If we can't trust that Jesus is right about the basis of marriage in the creation, the purpose of marriage in joining one man to one woman, and the nature of marriage as a covenantal joining conducted by God Himself...

...then why would we trust that Jesus is right about the basis, purpose and nature of His cross?

We trust Him about our eternal salvation and blessing. Let us also trust Him about this great earthly blessing of marriage.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What's a "Traditional" Presbyterian? And how does "Reformation" back to the "truly" traditional boundaries happen?

I found it helpful to read [this article] by Dr. Benjamin Shaw from GPTS.

Of course, there are many more particular issues that could be added to the few that he mentions: idoltraous images of Christ, the lack of evening services and midweek prayer meetings, the de-emphasis upon preaching, the emphasis upon music, the use of choirs, the wearing of clerical garb, etc.

But so much of what is traditional was "born yesterday" in the history of the church, and especially of Presbyterian--and that for good reason. Not only does it fail to be biblical; but, in so many cases, the new "tradition" either implicitly obscures or explicitly counteracts something biblical and important.

As I was reading Dr. Shaw's article, I felt a kinship in his experience. The church I grew up in was EPC, not mainline.

And the seminary I went to actually had me read for class many of the volumes in which I discovered that you could substitute the phrase "liberal Presbyterian" for the phrase "traditional Presbyterian" in most people's thoughts and dialogue, and almost always be more theologically and historically accurate.

But, after reading the article, I find myself wondering if there aren't a great many people who look at those liberal and spiritually unhealthful (and in some cases, simply wicked) "traditions," and think that they are important components of our faith that ought to be celebrated, rather than recent intrusions that need to be purged.

That brings me to the main point of his article. It isn't just for the PCA. It stands for all of us. In doctrine, worship, morality, and polity--as in much of the rest of life--if we don't understand why the boundaries are there, we are precisely those for whom the boundaries are most necessary!

Reformation is a long work. In the age of imperfection (until the Lord returns), it is a lifetime work for every believer, every elder, every congregation. In reforming particular things, it can be a work that spans generations.

Along the way, there is much educating to do. Sometimes, people just have never been exposed to the biblical teaching. And there is much loving to do. There are folks who either can't--or, more often, will never exert the mental effort to--understand why something ought to be changed. But they will tolerate much, if they know that you love them.

But in all Reformation, as we marvel at the holiness of God and honor that holiness by a relentless pursuit of being biblical...

let us also marvel at the patience of God. How very much of what we have held dear turns out in actuality to offend Him and deserve wrath!

And how marvelous that, for the sake of His Son, and the love in which He sent Him, He has patiently borne with all these failings... continuing to extend to us the sacred indwelling and powerful working of His Holy Spirit!
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also... the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect... And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will... But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
2Timothy 2:1-2, 2:9-10, 2:24-26, 3:14-4:2

Monday, April 2, 2018

Why my family refers to "Easter" day as "The Lord's Day" and to Easterized celebration as "Fertility Fest"

A friend, whose thoughtfulness and sincerity I very much appreciate, posted on Facebook:
Can't enjoy a single holiday without 30 knowitalls coming out of their parents basements to warn us about the "pagan roots" of it. "Don't eat peeps, that's honoring Ishtar the fertilizer bunny god from 4000 b.c., I bet you didn't know that huh" Thanks... I do now...
I started to comment, but the comment got longish. And, since I've been misunderstood on this point more than a few times, I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts in a more easily searchable location.

There's a difference between important knowledge and being a know-it-all. So, I hope that you'll receive this as one and not the other. We're actually studying Romans 14 this week with our church/family, and the reminder that our heart and consideration for others in the midst of disagreement is vital to recognizing and treating them as those who belong to the Lord. The Lord's providential timing is marvelous!

There are multiple fertility deities in the ancient near-east that go by similar names. Oestre, Estare, Ishtar, Ashteroth, Ashera, etc. They all have a resurrection / fertility-renewal feast in the spring. You can imagine what fertility cult celebration of renewed fertility might involve... not particularly godly (believe it or not; peeps isn't the worst thing humans have indulged in during springtime celebrations).

Idols are not anything, but demons are something, and they masquerade as idols to be sacrificed to (1Cor 10:18-20). So, I would be careful of the fertility symbols (bunnies, eggs), and of a name that is etymologically connected to possibly the name of an ancient demon that has deceived so many into so much sin for thousands of years.

I personally am opposed to observance of the day at all not due to its pagan origins (the sovereign God of all providence does not find it challenging to use a pagan to produce something good), but due to its man-made origins.

I see repeatedly in Scripture the principle that anything of a religious nature that is invented by man is idolatry. And, since, by Christ's glorious finished work, the Lord obsoleted all of His own religious days that looked forward to Christ, I have an even stronger aversion to the creation of new religious observance days.

That said, there are a large number of believers who wish to unitedly celebrate the resurrection in a special way once a year. I think that we have already been given 52 such glorious days that cannot be improved upon. The Lord has created the Lord's Day for us! Who can better it? This is also why I don't like to say "Sunday" (God has given the Lord's Day its name), or "Resurrection Sunday" (does that mean there are 51 Lord's Days that are somehow "less resurrectiony"?). I don't despise you if you do. Don't worry that I think less of you, and please don't judge me for my practice either!

If you're going to observe the day though, may I suggest going with an ancient, if plain, a name that has been used in some Eastern churches for generations? "The Feast of the Glorious Resurrection"

(btw--I love non-religious, non-"holy" holidays... commemorating events, celebrating life, rejoicing over relationships... that's all fantastic stuff. Just don't feel like you have to make up a religious reason for it... leave the invention of religion to God alone. Man-made religion only succeeds in taking the things that God values as most important and devaluing them. Case in point: pharisees who had lots of well-meaning ideas but for the most part lost love of man and God to the point that they both failed to recognize the Christ and hated Him to the point of murder. Easy to bash them, so let's not turn around and be like them!)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

2018.01.18 Devotional Gleanings

Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him. Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming! Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!”
Genesis 37:18-20
The precious doctrine of God's all-sovereign will is the biblical answer to the problem of evil. Here we have where they meant it for evil, but the testimony of 50:20 is that God meant this for good. Even through the wickedness that the wicked do, the good God is always doing good. And the final piece of that goodness will be to punish the wickedness of the wicked!

    “Why did I not die at birth?
    Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?
    Why did the knees receive me?
    Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?”
Job 3:11-12
Here are the first in a long series of questions that Job has throughout the book. God's answer? "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (38:4). Indeed, this is the foundational answer to any of us, whenever we question the providence of God.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
    ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
    But their heart is far from Me.
    And in vain they worship Me,
    Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”
Mark 7:5-8
What dangerous thing it is when a clever idea becomes a tradition. As the weightiness of the tradition increases, the importance to us of Scripture decreases, until we begin to lay aside God's commandments, and that dreadful sentence sounds in heaven, "Their heart is far from me, and in vain they worship me."

For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:22-25
When God finally gives a man a right heart toward His law, it is evidence that he now has peace with God, but it brings him directly into a war with his sin. Battle is not pleasant, but victory is sure!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018.01.17 Devotional Gleanings

But on this condition we will consent to you: If you will become as we are, if every male of you is circumcised, then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us; and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. But if you will not heed us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.”
And their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. So the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. He was more honorable than all the household of his father.
Genesis 34:15-19
The abuse of covenant signs for false moral superiority and to wield as a tool against others is as old as covenant signs.

Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.”
And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments.
Genesis 35:1-2

How is it that foreign gods lasted so long in Jacob's house, with his knowledge? Many a sad tale can be told of the spiritual state of a man's household simply because he tolerated it. But how much more marvelous, then, is the patience of God who brings Jacob back to when he at first began to know God and invites him to worship. Let us put away all that is against the Lord, and come back to Bethel, where we first knew Him, and worship!

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.
Job 1:1
Let all prosperity gospel, material and spiritual, die here. God's own topic sentence for the book of Job is a quadruple statement of his godliness. Yet, he is plunged into the second-most terrible material pain and spiritual darkness in all the Bible. The most terrible? The only One in Scripture we know for sure to have been most godly, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Who is there who will take a brother in great distress and tie upon his back the burden of being of stronger faith or purer character than the man whom the Lord Himself introduces with a quadruple statement of godliness?! Let such a brother never think that he is being a 'friend'!

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job 2:9-10
What a frightful thing is a spiritually unstable wife, who counsels her husband from passion rather than patience! She is unto him such a spiritual calamity that Satan attacked Job, in part, by leaving his wife alive!

So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”
Mark 5:12
Even if the Lord should providentially assign unto us a messenger from Satan that He refuses to take away for a time (2Cor 12), let us remember that they can only do unto believers what Christ intends for our good. They are on their faces before Him as condemned beggars!

And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
Mark 6:2-3
Dear preachers, if a congregation, that has had Christ Himself directly deliver the sermon, can respond to what they themselves admit is the most powerful message they ever heard by taking offense at the preacher's person, do not be surprised when the same occurs with you!

Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.
Mark 6:14, 29
Herod knew they had taken the body of John to bury and so perceived expectation of resurrection. Let us who hope for the resurrection of the dead take care what is done with our corpses!

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Romans 5:10
Let those who believe in Christ for forgiveness of sin marvel. They have not received merely a dead atonement, but a living Redeemer who, having once atoned for them, now works for them and in them forever and ever by His almighty power!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018.01.16 Devotional Gleanings

Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children... Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
Genesis 32:11, 24-26
Up until this point, Jacob saw himself as the primary obtainer of his blessings and Esau as his primary danger. He was wrong on both counts. God's phyiscal "answer" to Jacob's prayer was to keep him up all night, exhaust him, and debilitate him. It is by grace that we obtain any blessing. And, it is also God with whom, primarily, we must wrestle in our lives... a wrestling survivable only in Christ!

And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that
    ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
    And hearing they may hear and not understand;
    Lest they should turn,
    And their sins be forgiven them.’ ”
Mark 4:11-12
The plainness of the parables exposed that lack of understanding comes not from the complexity of the material but from hardness of heart. The clarity of Scripture is a precious doctrine, regained in the Reformation; but, let us acknowledge what it means about our minds and hearts, and let us ever be pleading with the Lord for light and life to overcome our dullness and deadness.

Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.”
Mark 4:24
The Savior teaches us to put effort into meditating upon the Scriptures.

And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Mark 4:41
Though they knew Him yet but a little, we can learn much from these disciples who knew at least enough to fear the Lord Jesus rightly with the fear of God.

What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.
Romans 3:1-2
How great is the history of God's mercy to the nations that billions now possess what was the chief blessing of the Jews! There is no greater worldwide mercy-mission than the translation of the Scriptures into the tongues in which they are still lacking; and, it is a great spurning of God's mercy if we fail to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest those Scriptures.

As it is written:
    “There is none righteous, no, not one;
          There is none who understands;
    There is none who seeks after God.
          They have all turned aside;
    They have together become unprofitable;
    There is none who does good, no, not one.”
          “Their throat is an open tomb;
    With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
    “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
          “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
          “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
          Destruction and misery are in their ways;
          And the way of peace they have not known.”
          “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3:10-18
Let the myth of good people die here. Let the myth of bad things (even the judgment of Hell) happening to good people die here.

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Romans 4:5
In Christ the righteous, God justifies the ungodly. That truth which, by its illogic, has scandalized the Papists for 500 years, has also--by that same illogic--delighted believers since Adam began to hope in the seed of his wife.

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;
Romans 4:16-17
God made dirt into man and commanded light to exist. Scripture stirs sinners up to faith in the promise of Christ by pointing to Genesis 1-2 as literal, historical record.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018.01.15 Devotional Gleanings

Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s... And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?”
Genesis 31:19, 30
Alas! How the wickedness of our idolatrous hearts has dulled our minds. Gods who cannot even protect themselves from being stolen are no gods at all. Who would want to steal them or care that they had been stolen? And yet it is so with all of our false hopes, purposes, and delights. Lord have mercy upon us!

Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, “Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king’s behalf, is standing at the house of Haman.” Then the king said, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided.
Esther 7:9-10
Let the people of God never fret over the direction of current events. Though the gallows are prepared for them, nothing is ever so secure as their souls in the hands of their Redeemer. And though their enemies act with apparent impunity, the Lord shall surely bring them to justice.

And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:27-28
Our Lord created the Sabbath for our good, just as He, the Lord of the Sabbath, came for our good. But just as there are many who attempt to redefine the mission of Christ to terms that better suit their whims, let us not be surprised if there are many who attempt to redefine the nature of the Sabbath to terms that better suit their whims.

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
Romans 2:4-5
When I do not suffer immediate consequence for sin, does this new display of wondrous mercy propel me to repentance? If not, let me fear greatly, for it may be not only that I am self-deceived, but that I am continuing to store up against myself still more wrath for the day of judgment!

in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Romans 2:16
It is a part of the gospel that God will judge our secrets. We must have an atonement great enough to exhaust all of the secret sins of our hearts. There can be no such remedy but the cross of Christ!

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Romans 2:28-29
That which a divinely ordained Levitical priesthood and divinely good law could not accomplish for us and in us, is the sure work our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Heb 7:11-19)!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018.01.11 Devotional Gleanings

And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, “Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. And stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury turns away, until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?”
Genesis 27:42-45
How very sad! "a few days." She never saw her dear son again. Let this sober us against attempting to manipulate situations, as she had been doing throughout the chapter. Instead, let us do what is Scripturally right in each situation and trust the Lord to bring from it whatever He will.

Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?
Matthew 26:53
What encouragement this is! He who now intercedes for us has, at His mere request, the instantaneous arrival of more than twelve legions of angels. Jesus prays for me. Let me never again doubt that I am receiving from heaven exactly whatever is of maximum eternal benefit for me and all the Lord's people.

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
Acts 26:28
One could hardly think of such a fearful use of the word "almost." Dear ones who are grappling with the claims of Christ and the danger of your sin, do not be "almost" persuaded and suffer torment forever, justly for your sin. Take a page from Jacob, and wrestle with the Lord, clinging to Him and refusing to let go until He blesses you. Do not say from Hell one day, "I was almost persuaded to become a Christian."

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018.01.04 Theology Thursday - The Glory of Christ, continuation of Preface to the Reader

On Theology Thursdays, I've am reading John Owen's The Glory of Christ. Today, I continued with the Preface to the Reader.

Owen is still giving reasons for, or benefits of, the study of the glory of Christ.

The glory of Christ is a remedy for every single trouble.

Owen makes the Scriptural point that by comparison to Christ's glory, every single trouble or distress is slight and inconsiderable. We have a stake in / enjoyment of the glory of Christ, which is infinitely greater.
For what are all the things of this life? What is the good or evil of them in comparison of an interest in this transcendent glory? (Kindle location 157)
Similarly, our emotions get all out of control in the midst of our troubles, but thinking upon Christ's glory will quiet them. Romans 5:2-5 connects our soaking up into all of our heart God's love for us with our rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God. And this is what enables us to rejoice in troubles.

The glory of Christ is especially a comfort in contemplating and confronting our death.

At death, we will enter an invisible world, of which we can only know what God has told us in Scripture.

Psalm 16 deals with this by "setting the Lord always before me." He is our portion. [JNH note: also Asaph in Psalm 73, "...YOU will receive me into glory"]. Jesus endured the cross as one about to dismiss His spirit to the Father's presence. Stephen endured stoning as someone who saw Christ ready to receive him.

Since we recoil at having our souls separated from our bodies, we like Paul can take comfort not only in Christ's continuing care for our body, but also in our souls departing to be with Christ. We can remember that Christ, who is transcendentally glorious has undergone the same thing. We can yield our wills to the One who has seen fit to give us a personal interest in the glory of Christ.

In order to receive any of these comforts in death, we must have
a prospect of that glory that shall give us a new state far more excellent than what we here leave or depart from (Kindle location 304)
So, gentle reader. What do you think of Owen's reasoning in this second half of the Preface to the Reader? 

I found it helpful and hope that I might respond to troubles, and especially to thoughts about death, by setting my thoughts upon the glory of Christ.

It also occurs to me that this is a powerful weapon against temptation to sin: what do I hope to gain by this sin, and how can it compare to the glory of Christ?