Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Counsel for a Father Who Is Looking to God to Help Him Lead His Family Out of Household Observance of the Feast Day of the Nativity

When a head of household, comes to the conviction that the religious observance of a feast (or feast day) of the nativity is unwarranted in the church, he sometimes comes to the further conviction that it is also not pleasing to God in his home, or an appropriate shepherding of his family's souls. 

This is especially the case if he is one of those blessed men who understands that what is profitable to his family's souls is not so much what he himself does, but which God alone can do. He understands that the reason that we do what we do is not that it somehow mechanically benefits the eternal souls of our dear ones, but because we are entirely dependent upon God to bless it to them. And therefore man's wisdom in application takes a distant, back seat to God's wisdom in prescription with regard to what we do for family discipleship.

From time to time, I receive an inquiry (in this case a prayer request) from a man who is already convicted about religious observance, and has begun to come under the conviction about family observance. Today, I took time that I did not really have for "only" one household's benefit, to give counsel at greater length—in hope that it might be used to benefit many households. And, of course, the strengthening, gladdening, and maturing of one household has a reinforcing benefit to the body as a whole (cf. Eph 4:11–16, 1Cor 12:18–26).

Note well (n.b.!): this is not intended or expected to convince who have not gotten there by Spirit-powered sitting under the Word in secret worship, family worship, or especially(!) preaching in public worship. Yet, such as are not convinced are welcome to read and see if the Lord may help them, while understanding that it is really "someone else's mail" as it were.

The following is my advice to a father whom the Lord is already bringing to conviction and is looking to the Lord for wisdom and grace for how to carry it out, and how to communicate it to his family. May the Lord bless it to you, as well, gentle reader.

Monday, December 25, 2023

John Murray on manmade holy days

"Here I am alone in the library and apparently everyone has gone from Machen Hall until Friday morning. Now it is 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday. You may think this dismal. Well, I love it. It is a delightful change from the usual stir. I have had two good days in the Library. Monday was taken up with committee meetings, forenoon and afternoon. I hope to be here all day tomorrow. I have not even accepted a dinner engagement for what they call ‘Christmas.’ I hate the whole business." — ๐‰๐จ๐ก๐ง ๐Œ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ซ๐š๐ฒ, December 1958 Letter in ๐ถ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘™๐‘’๐‘๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘Š๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘›๐‘”๐‘ , Vol. 3, p. 120

[ht: Log College Press] 

Samuel Miller on manmade holy days

 "The observance of uncommanded holy-days is ever found to interfere with the due sanctification of the Lord's day. Adding to the appointments of God is superstition. And superstition has ever been found unfriendly to genuine obedience." — ๐’๐š๐ฆ๐ฎ๐ž๐ฅ ๐Œ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ž๐ซ, ๐‘ƒ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘๐‘ฆ๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘š ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘‡๐‘Ÿ๐‘ข๐‘™๐‘ฆ ๐‘ƒ๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘š๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘ฃ๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐ด๐‘๐‘œ๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘–๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐ถ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐ถโ„Ž๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘โ„Ž ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐ถโ„Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘ก (1835, 1836), p. 77 [pictured: Howard Pyle, ๐‘‡โ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘ƒ๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘Ž๐‘› ๐บ๐‘œ๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘›๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐ผ๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ข๐‘๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐ถโ„Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘š๐‘Ž๐‘  ๐‘†๐‘๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ก๐‘  (1883)]

JG Vos on manmade holy days

 "In former times the Reformed Presbyterian Church was solidly opposed to the religious observance of Christmas, East­er and other special days of the same kind. But in recent years this opposition has be­gun to weaken and here and there a Coven­anter congregation is beginning to copy the big denominations and do more or less as others do in this matter of observing days.

Three hundred years ago the Westmin­ster Assembly of Divines met in London, England, to compile the Confession of Faith, Catechisms and other standards that have become the heritage of all churches of the Presbyterian family throughout the world. Let me quote what the Westminster Assem­bly said about the observance of holy days. It is found in the Appendix to the Directory for Worship which they prepared. This is what they said: 'There is no day command­ed in Scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s Day, which is the Christian Sabbath. Festival-days, vulgarly called ‘holy-days’, having no warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued.' 300 years ago that was the accepted belief of all Presbyterians. Since then, the majority have gradually adopted the customs of the Episcopalians and Catholics, and today they observe a variety of special days in their re­ligious services. But we should realize that we Covenanters, in opposing the observance of Easter and other 'holy' days, are only holding to the original principle which was once held by ๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ Presbyterians everywhere. It is not the Covenanters that have changed." — ๐‰.๐†. ๐•๐จ๐ฌ, "The Observance of Days" in ๐ต๐‘™๐‘ข๐‘’ ๐ต๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ÿ ๐น๐‘Ž๐‘–๐‘กโ„Ž ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐ฟ๐‘–๐‘“๐‘’ (Jan.-March 1947), pp. 17-18

[ht: Virginia is for Hugenots]

Warfield on manmade holy days

"There is a certain passionate intensity in the way in which Christmas is now celebrated among us. But after all, what can be said for the customs to which we have committed ourselves. There is no reason to believe that our Lord wished His birthday to be celebrated by His followers. There is no reason to believe that the day on which we are celebrating it is His birthday. There is no reason to believe that the way in which we currently celebrate it would meet His approval. Are we not in some danger of making of what we fondly tell ourselves is a celebration of the Advent of our Lord, on the one side something much more like the Saturnalia of old Rome than is becoming in a sober Christian life; and, on the other something much more like a shopkeeper’s carnival than can comport with the dignity of even a sober secular life?" — ๐.๐. ๐–๐š๐ซ๐Ÿ๐ข๐ž๐ฅ๐, ๐‘…๐‘’๐‘ฃ๐‘–๐‘’๐‘ค ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐บ๐‘’๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘” ๐‘…๐‘–๐‘’๐‘ก๐‘ ๐‘โ„Ž๐‘’๐‘™, Weihnachten in Kirche, Kunst und Volksleben (1903) [pictured: Franz Skarbina, ๐‘Š๐‘’๐‘–โ„Ž๐‘›๐‘Ž๐‘โ„Ž๐‘ก๐‘ ๐‘š๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘˜๐‘ก, ๐ต๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘™๐‘–๐‘› (1892)] 

[ht: Log College Press]

Thursday, November 30, 2023

On DW, KDY, Self-Owning in the Reformed Blogosphere, and Self-Owning in Our Own Lives

I chuckled as I typed "Reformed Blogosphere." It's a paper-weight sized snow globe—buried in the tiny pile of what is left of religion—in the cluttered attic that is America. The whole attic, taken collectively, has an inflated view of itself. But, even among men and history, it is not so big as it thinks it is. And before God, all of the nations are as a drop in the bucket.

If you don't know who DW is, you don't need to. There's nothing that he's said that hasn't been said better, by someone patently godlier, so that if the student will become like his teacher, you have better options. And if you don't know who KDY is, all you need to know for the purposes of this little note is that KDY made the "mistake" of writing an article about DW.

KDY noted that DW has a cultic following who follow DW's self-caricature in taking a flame thrower to anyone who critiques him. The article points out that as helpful as some of what DW has written might be, his fleshly demeanor and conduct should warn us off from becoming disciples, and that if we find ourselves attracted to that demeanor, then that should be its own warning sign about our own hearts.

Predictably, the DWdisciples immediately went scorched-earth, digging up things about the church that KDY serves, which predated him and which will outlast him unless the Lord grants a surprising reformation there. KDY is something that I am not, in part because his conscience apparently tolerates things in worship and ministry that mine wouldn't. So, this isn't a defense of KDY. It's just an observation that the response of the DWdisciples is something of a self-own. KDY said "this is how they tend to act." And they responded by acting that way.

True story: I was preaching on Rom 9:19–24 last night, roughly 24 hours after reading the KDY article. The introduction was crafted around the respondent in v19 thinking that he's come up with a such a clever argument, but that his presentation is actually such a revelation of his character that it ends up being a "self-own." I was very tempted to use DW as an illustration, because he's often had clever points to make (and only rarely are they as invalid as the rhetorical questioner in v19), but the cleverness of the point ends up being beside the point because his character is such that the presentation of it ends up being, before God, a self-own.

One great "tell" that we know little of the greatness and nearness of the Lord is that we still see ourselves (or anyone else) as very large. Genuinely knowing the nearness of the Lord will always compel us to make our lowliness known to all (cf. Phlp 4:5).

Another great tell that we know little of the greatness and nearness of the Lord is when first-table issues are smaller to us than second-table issues. When we obsess over statutes about how to treat each other but are largely unbothered by those laws of God that tell us what it is, specifically, to regard Him as holy when drawing near to Him.

DWdisciples rabidly attacking someone who says they tend to attack rabidly is a self-own. A sinner "finding fault" with God for finding fault with sinners is a self-own. Pride in a Christian is a self-own. Anything manmade or earthly in a church's worship is a self-own.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The Need for Excellence in Worship—But What (Who!) Is the Excellence of Worship, and What Is it to Worship Excellently?

I was surprised to see an organization that I esteem promoting a conference on the need for excellence in worship that emphasizes music and aesthetics, featuring a hymn sing. 

I don't think anyone is for bad singing, bad lighting, casual dressing, slovenly grooming, or doing anything poorly in worship. But the excellence of NT worship is especially in heaven, and this is communicated by a simplicity on earth that says, "the great Excellence is in glory." 

In other words, "more outwardly attractive" is not the same as "more excellent," when God Himself has set for us the aesthetic of simplicity. NT worship is to be excellently simple in the congregation on earth

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Connection Must Be More Than an Appearance

I had an unpleasant experience this morning. I went to retrieve my phone from where it charges overnight and discovered that its connection to the charging cable had been a farce. There it sat, looking like it was drawing new life by its line to the wall, but something was wrong at the point of connection. The phone itself was pleading for help, asking to go into "battery saver" mode.

It occurred to me that many a believer lives in "battery saver" mode because, in attendance upon the means of grace, he has not been engaging with the Lord Himself by faith.

Since God has appointed the means of grace as the actions of His worship, it despises His glory for us to come only superficially. We must give ourselves to Him, and receive Himself to us, as we offer up our souls in praying, singing, hearing preaching, etc. 

And if we are not doing so, we will find that this dishonoring of Him in the worship also has detrimental effects in our Christian walk. It is only through actual abiding in Christ that we have life to bear fruit. There are many strands of vegetation that appear to be on a vine that are not in the vine. But if our worshiping is a superficial farce, let us not be surprised to be in "battery saver" mode when the time for service comes.

For further reading: John 15:1–8

[Hopefully, in the time that it took to write this, "quick charge," has made my phone serviceable. Is there such a thing for the Christian life? By God's grace, I think He does it sometimes, but it is presumptuous to expect it apart from consistent, persistent, genuine looking to Him in His ordinary means]

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Another Biblical Evidence against Money-Collecting in the Public Worship (or "That Escalated Quickly!")

Some time ago, our Session studied, and had me preach through a series that the Lord much blessed to our congregation—a Scriptural theology of our public worship, in anticipation of some reformations. 

Monday, February 13, 2023

Why I'd Prefer to Hear the Spiritual News from Your Household (or Congregation) than the Spiritual News from Asbury University

I spent a few minutes with my children this morning describing my own experiences in 24+hour religious fervor times in which there was much class-skipping. I attended a sister school of Asbury, for 2.5 years. This occurred, triggered by a chapel service that suddenly wouldn't end, in two of the three springs that I was there. 

I wish that I had recorded it. We talked about what revivals looked like in the Scripture. We talked about how God worked them, and how people responded. We talked about the real holiness that believers live in real life. And we talked about what real worship is: Who defines it, Who leads it from heaven, by whom He leads it on earth, what the singing in it should be, what the speaking in it should be, etc.

We were just about to begin family worship together, and I wanted my children to bring to bear upon our worship the concluding applications in yesterday's morning sermon (an application about the genuine knowledge of God in worship and life) and evening sermon (an application about how we come to Him in worship and how we conduct ourselves in worship).

Friday, February 3, 2023

(WCF 3.2–4) Truth to Treasure: Predestination unto Life and Foreordination unto Death

 The following is my monthly contribution to Seventeen82 for February, 2023.

(WCF 3.2–4) Truth to Treasure: Predestination unto Life and Foreordination unto Death

3.2 Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

Does God know all hypothetical futures? Of course.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Please Pray for B———

Please pray for B——— to be given the new birth, saving faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance unto life.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Persistence in Holding Fast to a Person

 Joshua 22:2,5 (NKJV)

     2 and said to them: “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you. […] But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Persistence in faithfulness and obedience is a work that is never done. But it is more than a work. It is holding fast to a Person.

You Have Heard of Perseverance, and Compassion, and Mercy!

James 5:11 (NKJV)
     11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

Genesis 50:20 (NKJV) 
     20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

Neither Job nor Joseph knew, in the midst of their trials, the purpose of their trials. But the Lord recorded them so that we might “hear” of them. In them, we hear the primary message: “the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” And in them, we learn to look to God for the same thing that He produced in them “perseverance.” May the Lord give us the perseverance of Job! 

The Danger of Hearts Fattened upon Temporal, Earthly Things, Rather Than upon Christ

James 5:1–8 (NKJV) 
     1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.
     Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 

When one is “rich” (v1), he is in great danger of having his treasure (v3) or nourishment (“fattened,” v5) be in something other than Christ Himself. How dangerous! As we prepare to meet the Lord of Hosts (v4, 8), let us learn to have hearts that treasure Him and are nourished by Him (v8).

Is Your Guru's Mouth Full of Christ?

One of the features of my life (maybe I'll write a bit about my life one day; it's my personal blog, after all) is trudging back and forth past the front desk at the gym in order to prolong my time in the sauna non-lethally, by means of the one drinking fountain in the entire building.

Yesterday, over the course of five of these trips in one hour, one of the fitness instructors was regaling the very patient front desk staff with her sagacious counsel on every aspect of life, health, fruitfulness, and fulfillment. Maybe it's a fitness instructor thing. Her mouth was full. Full of ideas. Full of techniques. Full of motivations. But it wasn't full of Christ. How refreshing it was to return to the oppressive climate of the sauna and find the streams of the living water of Christ again in the little calfskin book!

God's mouth is full of Christ. And if you have an earthly teacher and example whom you follow, I hope his mouth is similarly full of Christ. Since ministers of the gospel are called to be such teachers and examples, let our mouths always be full of Christ!

I know a thing or two about a thing or two. But I have learned, over the years, not to have my mouth full of everything that I know (Pr 14:33, 29:11). One reason is that I don't want to create other avenues for resistance, when so much of the flock's health and growth relies (instrumentally under sovereign providence) upon how they receive my words. Another reason is that I don't want to weaken by diffusion the flock's resting upon Christ through His means by their attempting to do many wise things, however prudent and beneficial they may be. But the biggest reason is this: I hope for my mouth to be as full of Christ as possible. It's more aimed at than realized thus far, but I do wish to be able to say,

"I resolved to know nothing among you, except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

Ministers, too, have those whom they listen to and those whom they emulate. I hope that mine will be those whose mouths are always full of Christ. Christ Himself. The glory of His person and nature. The excellence and effectiveness of all His works. The sweetness and gladness of knowing Him. The restfulness and invigoration of serving Him. Whatever is of Him. Let it just be of Him!

Is your guru's mouth full of Christ?