Friday, December 20, 2019

What about the "righteous lie"?

There are better, more detailed treatments of this that delve into such important questions as the moral law being an expression of the character of God, and whether that character can ever conflict (of course not!). But after seeing this question make the rounds among some whom I love and respect, I wish to add my own informal, comparatively brief summary answer.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Praying for Greta and Millions of Children Like Her

This year a 16 year old girl won Time Magazine's person of the year. For what? For being trotted out as an image of youth and innocence to promote the nature-worship that is part of the complex public religion of our day. Truly, they still sacrifice virgins to the pagan nature-gods.

This poor girl is not a hero. She has been abused by her handlers--including, and especially, her parents.

They have put a world of burden on her shoulders, when she should be learning and growing and developing all sorts of skills (mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, etc.) through the work (yes, work!) and play of childhood.

They have taught her that she is wise enough to rebuke her elders, when they ought to have instilled in her a respect for age and experience that is superseded only by that Word which can make one wiser than her teachers.

They have thrust her, immodestly, onto the most public possible display, rather than teaching her the virtues of self-forgetfulness and modesty--that humility that is glad to serve gently and quietly where He who sees in secret observes and rewards.

Sadly, her being declared Person of the Year is symptomatic of the fact that it's not just Greta. Though not to the same degree, this is being done to millions of children in our and other cultures. Even--God forgive and help us!--in the churches.

As I plod along, day by day and week by week, in ministering the ordinary means of grace, it is in hope (in part) that God will use these means to protect the children who are influenced by my ministry from such folly. One of those means is prayer--in which we cry out to God for reformation and revival to come through these means multiplied by a multitude of other pastors and parents.

When I pray for reformation, one of the things that I pray for is an end to this folly. When I pray for revival, one of the things that I pray for is an end to this folly. Won't you work and pray with me? God strengthen and hear us!

Monday, December 9, 2019

How Should We Deal with Adiaphora (Matters Indifferent)?

Over at Purely Presbyterian there's an excellent article, drawing on wise pastors' Scriptural counsel, reasoning through some principles for handling issues to which Scripture speaks less directly or less obviously. In short: aiming at God's glory, in love for the whole church, and in maintenance of the clearest possible conscience.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Glory of Advent Season

Heaven has come down to earth. But let those who love this glorious reality learn to love another marvelously glorious reality: on the first day of each week, the ascended Lord calls an assembly on earth to come up to Heaven! This weekly celebration is Christ's own way of celebrating His advent.

Friday, December 6, 2019

191206FW Proverbs 6:16-19 - "What Does God Hate?"

A family worship lesson in the "Proverb of the day." Scripture tells us what God hates, so that we will take it seriously and hate it too. What does God hate?

Friday, July 12, 2019

2019.07.12 Family Friday - Holy Vision for Family Life (Gouge), pp51-131

On these Family Fridays, we are reading A Holy Vision for Family Life by William Gouge. Over the last several weeks, we covered pp51-131, with the following scribbled notes:

and the following select quotes:

from p88 on how Christ's purpose toward perfecting us as His bride should both establish perfection as the standard at which we aim, and also banish from us all discouragement at our falling short, since Christ will in fact accomplish it.

from p108 on how, since Christ cherishes us as His own body, all of His care--even disciplining care--toward us is exercised in the most affectionate love.

from p110 on how, since Christ can never starve His own body but only always provides for it what is best, we can know that even if we should die for lack of outward means, that is His way of bringing us into our final and most perfect provision.

from p117 on the fact that being made into the very body of our Lord Himself has raised us much higher than anything which Adam had before the Fall.

from p124 on how one of the most needful responses to having Christ Himself as our own head is that--having such an One as Himself to depend upon in this way, we refuse that wicked dishonoring of Him that would occur if we depended upon anything else.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

2019.06.12 Worship Wednesday - Gospel Worship (Burroughs), pp67-110

On these Worship Wednesdays, we are reading Gospel Worship by Jeremiah Burroughs. Over the last several weeks, we covered pp67-110, with the following scribbled notes:

and the following select quotes:

from p78 on how an unbeliever can never worship from pure motives

from p81 on how the only way to sanctify God's name in worship is by the power of the Spirit and union with Christ

from p84 on how the only right worship is worship that comes from truly regenerate affections

from p86 on how a true apprehension of God's glory is what produces true zeal in worship

from p89 on how worship must be done chiefly from a genuine desire that God would be honored, not any other reason

from p92 on how worshiping from a desire for God's honor means that we will love even that right worship from which we perceive no benefit to ourselves

from p96 on how the one who truly fears God will fear Him most when closest to Him in worship

from p97 on the greatness of the vileness of allowing ourselves to be distracted in worship

from p99 on how the best way to resist distractions in worship is to stir up fervor toward the Lord Himself

from p100 on the necessity of giving all of one's strength to God's worship

from p102 on the complete impropriety of ever being impressed with our worship

from p104 on how right worship is not only worship that is only according to God's Word in Scripture, but also only that worship that is done in and through us by God's Spirit

from p106 on how worship that is done merely out of a sense of duty cannot genuinely gladden the heart

from p108 on how right worship is only that worship that is done in union with Christ and offered by Him to God on our behalf

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

190605FW Judg 3:12-31 - The Lord Who Saves in the Icky Details of Life

Family Worship teaching time in Judges 3:12-31, following up upon the Old Testament reading from Lord's Day morning worship on June 2, 2019. Israel is still being Israel--wicked. And the Lord is still being the Lord--showing patience and mercy and saving them. How does He do it? Even in some of the icky little details of life. This encourages us that the Lord is working, and saving, even in such details. But, we ultimately come away longing for the Lord's deliverer who can do something about our internal filthiness. That deliverer can only be the Lord Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

190604FW Prov 4:14-19 - The Paths of the Wicked and the Righteous

Family Worship teaching time in the "Proverb of the Day." The wicked and righteous are on two completely different paths. To one, wickedness is as natural as eating bread and drinking wine, and it will destroy them. To the other, righteousness is a glory in the infancy of its dawning, and a guarantee that it will be completed, because that righteousness can genuinely exist only in Christ!

190604FW Heb 2:10-18 - Knowing and Experiencing Jesus's Likeness to His Brethren

Family Worship teaching time in Hebrews 2:10-18, following up upon the text that formed the first portion of the Lord's Day morning worship service. God gave His own Son to be our Trailblazer--the One who cleared a path that could and would never have to be cleared again, with a suffering of a kind that we will never have to endure. Indeed, we who follow after Him in suffering do so by His attendant help, rejoicing that we are taking the same route that He has cleared for us. God is "bringing many sons to glory," in all of our sufferings, and He gives us a weekly taste of that when we are gathered into Heaven in our Captain Who has gone before us!

2019.06.04 Timeless Tuesday - Letters of Samuel Rutherford, pp150-166

On these "Timeless Tuesdays," we are reading through the full Banner of Truth edition of Letters of Samuel Rutherford. Today, we covered pp150-166, with the following scribbled notes:

And the following choice quotes:

from p154 on the grief of failing to be weaned from this world by our trials

from p154 on how Christ is better than the rest of heaven itself

from p161 on the blessedness of the trials that fit us for glory 

from p162 on how finding Christ Himself sweeter is itself a reward of infinite value for our trials

from p163 on regret over not having made better use of opportunities to preach

Monday, June 3, 2019

2019.06.03 Ministry Monday - An Able and Faithful Ministry (Garretson), pp204-235

Notes from Samuel Garretson's An Able and Faithful Ministry: Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office. pp204-235

And a few choice quotes...

from p207 on the attraction and power of expository preaching

from p214 on the need for Christ-compelled men preaching as messages from God

from p218 on the superiority of directness, clarity, and organization over elqouence

from p221 on the importance of weighty earnestness in preaching

from p233 on the superiority of introducing from the text/context

from p235 on the superiority of using Scripture itself for illustrations

190603FW Prov 3:1-4 - The Loving, Fatherly Gift of God's Law

Family Worship teaching time from the "Proverb of the day." God's law is as personal as it is legal. It is the loving gift of a Father who loves us in His Son, and who employs His law as He makes us like unto His Son, and gives us the blessings of His Son.

190603FW Gen 11:10-32 - Christ-Driven History and Living

Family Worship teaching time in Genesis 11:10-32, following up upon the morning sermon from the Lord's Day morning worship service. This genealogy shows how Christ-driven and gospel-driven history really is, in the providence of God. It calls for our lives to be the same--especially as we recognize that God loves to use our weakness to glorify Himself in Christ in the gospel.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

190601FW Prov 1:1-7 - Who Needs Wisdom and How to Get It

Family Worship teaching time from the "Proverb of the day." The simple and the young especially need wisdom--and if we don't think we need it, then we actually need it all the more! The only true knowledge is that which fears the Lord, and the fear of the Lord is also the prerequisite for the true humility required to overcome our flesh's resistance to being instructed.

190601FW Gen 11:10-32 - Zeroing in on Jesus

Family Worship teaching time in Genesis 11:10-32, preparing for the Lord's Day morning sermon tomorrow. We all have a vested interest in this genealogy, because its focus is Christ; and, we desperately need a Redeemer who can take away our guilt and overcome death. Christ is just such a Redeemer. As God propels redemptive history forward to Jesus, He is pleased to use weakness so that all the glory will be His.

Friday, May 31, 2019

190531FW Prov 31:10-12 - Being or Finding an Excellent Wife

Family worship teaching lesson from the "Proverb of the Day." What kind of wife is more valuable than the greatest earthly treasure? Where does this value appear? How are young ladies to prepare to be such a wife? How are young men to find them?

190531FW Jn 13:1-17 - Christ's Almighty, Cleansing, Disciple-making Love

Family worship teaching lesson, reviewing John 13:1-17, the epistle reading from the Lord's Day morning worship service, May 26, 2019. The Holy Spirit amazes us with what Jesus was "knowing" and thinking about as He washed the disciples' feet. The almighty, eternally begotten, God the Son has stooped down to be the cleanser of dirt-creatures who must be delivered from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. Those whom He loves, He cleanses. And, if He is not cleansing us, then it is a sure indicator that we have no part in Him. Part of His cleansing us is that we would love one another, and be willing to humble ourselves to serve one another--especially to participate in His cleansing work in each other's lives.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

190530FW 2Cor 11:1-15 - True Apostolic Christianity vs Satanic Apostolic Christianity

Family worship teaching lesson, reviewing 2Corinthians 11:1-15, the epistle reading from the Lord's Day morning worship service, May 26, 2019. The apostle is concerned for the Corinthians that though they are betrothed to the true Jesus, listening to satanic apostles has got them setting their affections upon a false Jesus who is a figment of deceived imaginations.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

190528FW 1Chr 29:10-15 - The Generous Privilege of Worship

Family worship teaching lesson, reviewing 1Chronicles 29:10-15, the Scripture from which came the first part of the Lord's Day morning worship service, May 26, 2019. As David considers that they have been permitted to give offerings to build a temple for Almighty God, he confesses that all belongs to God already, and that it is actually an infinite condescension that God generously gives them the privilege of offering to Him or worshiping Him. The same is true with all of our set times of worship, and even the opportunity to offer our very lives in a spirit and act of worship!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

190517FW Prov 17:13-14 - Responding to Goodness & Preempting Quarrels

Family worship teaching lesson from Proverbs 17:13-14 (yesterday's "Proverb of the day"). v13 teaches that sin is much more heinous against someone who has done you good. This magnifies the heinousness of believers' sin against God, and therefore the wonderful grace of God in His longsuffering with us. These should be strong inducements to putting our sin to death! In v14, we are reminded of how important it is to be one who refuses to start a quarrel.

What Are We Commanded to Sing in Public Worship?

Recently, I encountered [an article] attempting to reason against Exclusive Psalmody. If you're not familiar with the case for EP, here's an overly brief/simple summary:
Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
That which we sing in corporate worship will dwell in us richly. There is only One whose Words may be permitted to do so! (see also the parallel in Eph 5:18-21, where this rich-indwelling of Christ's Word is conjoined with being filled with the Spirit, and each of us is to render obedience to what the others are singing--again, not something to be done with the ideas of men, but only with the Word of God.)
Hebrews 2:11:12 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”
Quoting from Psalm 22, the apostle teaches that part of the "joy set before Him" on the cross, was Jesus's current action in not only the preaching, but also His activity in the singing in the worship assemblies of the church. If it is Jesus who sings in the assembly, we must not presume to put our words or thoughts into His mouth!

Then, there are the many, many obvious Scriptures that apply the 2nd commandment. Basically, if we worship according to the ideas of men, then we make ourselves our own gods. We might sound like we are honoring God with our lips, but our hearts will be far from Him.

The WCF summarizes these Scriptures thusly:
The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.
So, how is it that I arrive at believing that I am commanded to sing some of what people call "hymns"? It really is not by the form of argument in the article above. I'm not particularly convinced that creed/confession recitation is a prescribed element of the public worship of God (it troubles my conscience to do so where I currently minister, but I submit to the elders in their understanding texts like 1Cor 1:10 to imply some kind of speaking together for confessing the faith). And whereas the preaching that is commanded is inherently expository, but singing is not inherently expository, so that analogy dies easily. The article by itself would push me in the other direction.

However, one cannot so easily dismiss the assertion that metrical translation is inherently paraphrastic--or that singing itself requires some extent of paraphrase.

The argument that has actually compelled me into what some would call "hymn singing" is the fact that we are commanded to sing as the Spirit's appointed method for the rich indwelling of the Word of Christ, and that the Holy Spirit has attached a specific glory to the name, Jesus (c.f. Phil 2:9-11; Col 3:16-17).

In the first place, if "Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" is a limiting clause, then we may only sing in public worship those particular Psalms with those words in the superscripts. So, not even the entire Psalter would be commanded in that case. However, if that is not a limiting clause, then the full command is to sing the Word of Christ--so, rather than like so many "red-letter" text editions of Scripture, we must understand a command to sing the Words of Christ as a command to sing the thoughts of all of Scripture.

I am sympathetic to the argument that the thoughts of all of Scripture may be found somewhere in the Psalms. But, personal and pastoral experience has proved that while we may sing a couple lines from a Psalm that are analogous in theme to the other Scripture text about which we are trying to obey the command; yet, a metrical/paraphrastic translation of that text itself, or faithful opening of its ideas in verse, is a more direct and complete obedience to the command.

I appreciate that the article is trying to say that there is such a thing as hymn singing that is not "our putting our words into God's mouth." At least, I hope that's what he was saying: "here are other places where we are very intentionally yielding our thoughts to God's thoughts by paraphrased/rearranged words; and, that is something that applies especially in the form of song."

Ultimately, this comes to a head when trying to obey the good and necessary consequence of Phil 2:9-11 and the command of Col 3:17. Because, while there are many names and titles for Christ in the Psalter, yet I am commanded by God specifically to use the name of Jesus, and specifically in the glorifying of the Father through the worship of Christ, and specifically in context and connection with letting Christ's Word dwell in me richly in connection with congregational singing in the public worship of God.

Now--a proper understanding of Scripture commands for worship would exclude a vast majority, of the hymns currently sung in American services on the Lord's Day. But, I also think it excludes being exclusive to the Psalter.

Friday, May 17, 2019

190517FW John 12:37-41 - Displaying Christ's Glory: Whom and What Isaiah Saw

Family worship teaching lesson, reviewing John 12:37-41, the Gospel lesson from Lord's Day worship on May 12. Christ declares the cross as the great display of His glory. This, Isaiah saw in the throneroom of Isaiah 6 and the substitutionary atonement of Isaiah 53!

2019.05.16 Theology Thursday - The Glory of Christ (Owen, vol 1), pp389-408

On these Theology Thursdays, we are reading The Glory of Christ by John Owen. Today, we covered pp389-408, with the following scribbled notes:

And the following favorite quotes...

from p393 on the disastrous effect of purported images of Christ

from p395 on fresh faith-views of Christ's glory as the cure for spiritual malaise

from p397 on how unbelieving it is to lack a desire for experience and enjoyment of Christ's glory to whatever extent we may do so even now

from p401 on the necessity of both the intellect and the affections for properly perceiving Christ's glory

from p403 on how every true glimpse of Christ's glory must produce love for Him

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

190515FW Judges 1:27-2:6 - Incomplete Obedience or Repentance Is None At All

Family worship teaching lesson, reviewing Judges 1:27-2:6, the Old Testament lesson from Lord's Day worship on May 12. The Holy Spirit takes us a step back in time, to when Joshua was still alive, to show us the progressive downgrade of Israel's obedience that had taken place during the conquest itself. Ultimately, their partial obedience was the result of not having Yahweh alone as God, but rather being their own god and adopting and raising up for themselves other gods--including tax money (nothing new under the sun!). Tragically, their partial repentance included only that selfish sorrow, which keeps serving oneself, not that godly sorrow that bears the fruit of turning from the sin to newly committed obedience.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

190511FW Gen 9:18-29 - How to Be Blessed: Christ Is Adam's Children's Only Hope

Family worship teaching lesson, previewing the morning sermon text for May 12, Genesis 9:18-29. The end of Genesis 9 finally concludes Genesis 5. It seemed that the line of the godly had all but vanished, but the flood brought both wrath and salvation and re-set the covenant of grace with Noah. Still, Noah and Ham and Canaan and all of us are children of the first Adam. This is shockingly displayed when Noah's abuse of covenantal blessing ends up in great sin on his and Ham's parts. If we are to escape the curse that we deserve and be blessed instead, it will come only by being graciously transferred from him to the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

2019.05.08 Worship Wednesday - Gospel Worship (Burroughs), pp48-66

On these Worship Wednesdays, we are reading Gospel Worship by Jeremiah Burroughs. Today, we covered pp48-66, with the following scribbled notes:

And the following favorite quote on the importance of worship (and therefore the importance of preparing for it)

190509FW 2Corinthians 9 - Godliness That Displays Christ unto His Glory

Follow-up on 2Corinthians 9 from the epistle reading in Lord's Day morning worship and the Lord's Day afternoon sermon. The apostle is eager for the Corinthians to display the character of Christ in their generosity, so that thanksgiving and glory will abound to God for His indescribable gift of Christ. Christ not only is a believer's righteousness, but He then begins to transform that believer into a display of Himself.

190508FW Judges 1:1-26 - The Beginnings of Unfaithfulness

Following up upon the Old Testament reading from Judges 1:1-26 in the Lord's Day morning worship service this week. God alone is faithful, and we need Him Himself to be our own faithfulness. We need Christ! The book of Judges starts out pretty well, with the people inquiring of the Lord, Judah and Simeon cooperating, and Israel beginning to possess the land that they have taken. However, things will go badly quickly, and some hints of it are already appearing.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

2019.05.07 Timeless Tuesday - Letters of Samuel Rutherford, pp128-150

On these "Timeless Tuesdays," we are reading through the full Banner of Truth edition of Letters of Samuel Rutherford. Today, we covered pp128-150, with the following scribbled notes:

And my favorite quote from this section was this one on looking forward to glory

190507FW Mar 4:1-20 - Good-Soil Listeners Submit and Devote Themselves to God's Word

Following up upon Mark 4:1-20 from the Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin in the Lord's Day morning worship service.  Family Worship teaching time of a family of 10--complete with noisy baby! Here, we study the parable of the soils, and how a good-hearing heart has to be given by God. How does such a heart hear? By paying good attention, by interacting with God in His Word, and by determining to submit to and be controlled by God in His Word. Attend thereunto with diligence, preparation and prayer. Receive it with faith and love. Lay it up in our hearts. Practice it in our lives. The Word is authoritative and sufficient!

Monday, May 6, 2019

2019.05.06 Ministry Monday - An Able and Faithful Ministry (Garretson), pp172-204

Notes from Samuel Garretson's An Able and Faithful Ministry: Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office. pp172-204
And a choice quote from p196:

I'm Believing God That... This Phrase Is a Rather Anti-biblical Way to Describe Prayer

I've noticed a trend, lately, of professing believers saying that they're "believing God that" He will do something that they want Him to do. I assume that what they mean is that they are praying--pleading with Him, crying out to Him, making known their requests to Him. These are Scriptural ways of describing what it means to pray for something. And then there's the entire issue of having such requests formed by the mind of the Lord Himself in the Scriptures.

I'm not sure where the other way of speaking is coming from. While I try to stay abreast of the latest inventions of men that are passing themselves off as "Christianity," there must be some new book(let), or preaching personality, or radio ditty of which I'm not aware.

But I am aware that it is harmful. One of the chief delights of the believer is to know that God is God, and we are not. It is to view Christ in the Bible by Spirit-wrought faith, and behold His glory as the only-begotten of the Father. It is to realize continually that He is wise, and I am not. He is powerful, and I am not. He is righteous, and I am not. He is holy, and I am not. He is good, and I am not. He is perfectly faithful and true, and I am not.

We see an ocean of glory in God the Son, incarnate--full of steadfast love and faithfulness. We see in Jesus Christ all that God is, all that we ought to have been, all that is credited to us through faith in Him, all that will be done in us as He makes us like Himself. Why would we want to feel like we ourselves are something? Such a feeling can only hide from our view the glory of Christ. Why would we want to speak of our desire, and our confidence in that desire, as if it has in itself some kind of spiritual power?

When I hear someone say, "I'm believing God that..." what I hear is the opposite of prayer and of faith. Prayer involves a submission to the wisdom of God, but this statement seems to impose upon Him my wisdom. Faith binds itself to believe God's words, but this statement seems to bind God to believe and obey our words.

So, I think we might find it more helpful (and certainly more honest) to use one of those Bible phrases to describe the fact that we are asking God for something. It is a wonder that the Lord God listens to the voices of men. And a mercy that He responds by His grace which is sufficient for us, as His power is perfect in our weakness. Often, this mercy comes in the form of a resolute, divine, "No!"

And let us reserve "believing God" for reference to believing not what we are telling Him, but rather for what God has perfectly told us in the Scriptures--best of all, all about Himself in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

2019.04.30 Timeless Tuesday - Letters of Samuel Rutherford, pp108-128

I've picked this one back up after a long hiatus. Rather than do a write-up each day, which discourages my posting, I'll just throw in a snap of whatever I've scribbled about the section, along with one of my favorite quote from the day.

On these "Timeless Tuesdays," we are reading through the full Banner of Truth edition of Letters of Samuel Rutherford. Today, we covered pp108-128, with the following scribbled notes:

And this gem from p127 was my second-favorite quote, but my first (from p128) was providentially quoted by Greenville Seminary today on social media. Here, SR is writing to a noblewoman who is being severely persecuted for faithfulness to Christ in His church:

2019.04.29 Ministry Monday - An Able and Faithful Ministry (Garretson), pp159-172

I've picked this one back up after a long hiatus. Rather than do a write-up each day, which discourages my posting, I'll just throw in a snap of whatever I've scribbled about the section, along with one of my favorite quote from the day.

Samuel Garretson's An Able and Faithful Ministry: Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office. pp159-172.

And from p169: