Monday, November 30

Herald the Gospel Boldly!

The Church has lost sight of the fact that they have something vitally important to say to the world. This is essentially what my daughter, Rachel shared with me from her reading of R. C. Sproul's, Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics. Putting it that way has stuck with me, especially given the tenor of the church's demurring approach to evangelism these days. Coming at this from another generation & a different author, I am amazed at the perspicuity of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who back in the 1960s preached a wonderful series of sermons on the book of Acts. In volume 6, Compelling Christianity, in a sermon entitled simply, "The Word," on 8:4, "Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word."  

But there are those in evangelism, according to Lloyd-Jones who seem to be afraid to declare the truth too dogmatically, who seem to imagine that there is merit in admitting that truth can come from other religions. Perhaps, they think, Christianity does not have the "corner on the market" of directing folks to heaven?! [My paraphrase] And is this not true, that today it is considered a virtue to be tolerant of all beliefs by putting them all on an equal par with the gospel? That last part is vitally important. We can be tolerant of others, but THAT DOES NOT MEAN EQUATING THEM! It's almost as if we cannot be too bold to assert that we have the truth, so we prevaricate by saying that we are pursuers of God in a manner of speaking. Lloyd-Jones sees it quite another way:

They were not looking for anything; they were telling people what they had found. They were not explorers; they were men and women who knew exactly what they had found. This is emphasized everywhere in the New Testament. A church is not a society in which you seek for truth. The church is a society that proclaims the truth, declares it, and heralds it. And if she does not do that, she is not a church, no matter how old she is or who belongs to her. The idea that a Christian is someone who is seeking for salvation or seeking the truth is an utter lie, a contradiction of the very basis of the Gospel. 
Thank you, Lord, for a daughter who's seeking the truth from a foundation of The TRUTH, and has laid her account solidly at the foot of the cross without hesitation. 


Saturday, November 28

Really, The Gospel IS GOOD News!

We Christians, according to Michael Horton, "need to be evangelized every week." For what? To get the soul-freeing gospel right. And don't we want to do just that? We MUST! Whether or not we realize it, we who call ourselves Christians struggle, not just against "principalities and powers" (Eph. 6:10ff), but against law versus grace. Horton says it this way:
When we confuse law and gospel, we avoid both the trauma of God's holiness and the liberating power of his grace. We begin to speak about living the gospel, doing the gospel, even being the gospel, as if the Good News were a message about us and our works instead of about Christ and his works. The proper response is neither to dispense with the law nor to soften it from demand to helpful advice. . . . We are not called to live the gospel but to believe the gospel and to follow the law in view of God's mercies. Turning the gospel into law is a very easy thing for us to do; it comes naturally. That is why we can never take the Good News for granted.
Which is precisely why Horton insists that we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day! "THE LAW TELLS US WHAT TO DO; THE GOSPEL TELLS US WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US IN CHRIST. . . . The law tells us what God expects of us; the gospel tells us what God has done for us." (emphasis mine)

Indeed, it IS for freedom that Christ has set us free (Gal. 5:1), not freedom from the law, but freedom IN CHRIST to believe and be saved. It is the work of Christ that you believe and are saved (John 6:29). HIS work. We rest in that, and in that alone! Don't bolt at this under the pretense that "we're supposed to do something!" We DO. We believe. We trust. We depend on God. It's not OUR doing. It is HIS. Why do we fight this?
"Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art.
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart."  --Jean S. Pigott (1876)

Taken from Christless Christianity by Michael Horton.

Friday, November 27

In Everything Give Thanks

"See what cause the saints have to be frequent in the work of thanksgiving. In this Christians are defective; though they are much in supplication, yet little in gratulation. The apostle says. "In everything give thanks" (1 Thess. 5.18). Why so? Because God makes everything work for our good. We thank the physician, though he gives us a bitter medicine which makes us sick, because it is to make us well; we thank any man who does us a good turn; and shall we not be thankful to God, who makes everything work for good to us? God loves a thankful Christian. Job thanked God when he took all away: "The Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1.21). Many will thank God when He gives; Job thanks Him when He takes away, because he knew that God would work good out of it. We read of saints with harps in their hands (Rev. 14.2), an emblem of praise. We meet many Christians who have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouths; but there are few with their harps in their hands, who praise God in affliction. To be thankful in affliction is a work peculiar to a saint. Every bird can sing in spring, but some birds will sing in the dead of winter. Everyone, almost, can be thankful in prosperity, but a true saint can be thankful in adversity. A good Christian will bless God, not only at sun-rise, but at sun-set. Well may we, in the worst that befalls us, have a psalm of thankfulness, because all things work for good. Oh, be much in blessing of God: we will thank Him that doth befriend us."
Taken from Banner of Truth's Puritan Paperback, "All Things for Good," by Thomas Watson, pp 62-63.

Thursday, November 26

An Edwards-ian Thanksgiving

In November 1739, Jonathan Edwards preached not freedom from want, but freedom from demons. 

by Elesha Coffman | November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving is a feel-good holiday. All Americans know, or think they know, about the “first Thanksgiving” celebration among helpful American Indians and grateful Pilgrims. Some Americans know, at least vaguely, that the national tradition is also connected to war. Abraham Lincoln began the annual observance in 1863, as the Civil War was nearing its bloody crescendo, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the federal holiday official by signing a bill in December 1941, a few weeks after Pearl Harbor. But hey, those wars happened a long time ago, and they were noble wars, and the good guys won. As the twentieth century spun on, Thanksgiving became synonymous with plenty, even excess, prompting an annual round of reduced-fat recipes, dieting tips, and warnings about the lethargy brought on by too much turkey. The dominant image was Norman Rockwell’s iconic “Freedom from Want,” another World War II artifact symbolizing all that was right with America and could be right with the world following an Allied victory. 

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), America’s foremost theologian, held forth a very different vision in his 1739 Thanksgiving sermon.

Naturally, Edwards could have known nothing of the Civil War or World War II. He did know about cooperation and conflicts between European settlers and American Indians; in 1750, having been forced from his prestigious Northampton parish, he became a missionary to the Housatonic Indians. But no meditations on ethnic harmony, national success, or bountiful harvests informed his sermon. Instead, he took as his text Luke 8:2-3 (NIV): “and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” 

What, you might ask, has this to do with corn on the cob? The direct connection is the labor of women as cooks and caregivers. Before you dismiss this idea as hopelessly backward and sexist, read what Edwards said about the women who served the disciples:
How suitable and becoming was the behavior of those women that when Christ had been their deliverer from such grievous calamities, they thus showed their dear love and gratitude to him, and fed and clothed him as long as he lived, and prepared for an embalming of him when he was dead. How suitable and amiable was the behavior of Mary Magdalene, that had been a notorious sinner and out of whom Christ cast seven devils, in following Christ ever after wherever he went, to provide meat and drink for him while he lived, from a dear love which she always had for him, and followed him to the cross, and followed him to the grave, and was the most [?] of all in doing him honor at his death.
The members of Edwards’s congregation could not minister directly to Christ, so he exhorted them—men and women—to minister to “the least of these” in his stead. Edwards called for an active ministry: “We are not only to wait till the poor come to our houses a-begging, but we are to bring ‘em to our houses (Isa. 58:7). … We are not to wait till they come to our houses, but we are to go to theirs. This is said to be pure and undefiled religion (Jam. 1:27).” As further incentive, Edwards stressed that none of this work would come close to the effort Christ expended on our behalf, yet all pious efforts would be rewarded in heaven. Gratitude should beget service, which yields blessings and yet more gratitude.

If there is any freedom from want in this picture, it comes not through sun and rain on fields, or through national security, but through Christ’s people following his example and assuaging the grievous calamities of the poor and oppressed. Freedom from want is not a guarantee, but a goal. And it’s going to take a lot more work than the most lavish turkey dinner.

* * *
N.B., while we’re on the subject of gratitude, many thanks to the folks at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, who transcribed this sermon and made it available online.


Wednesday, November 25

WONDROUS Things--Meditation 4

"Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law" (Psalm 119:18).
If more Christians were convinced of this--that God's Word is WONDROUS--then they would far more quickly read and soak in it! The benefit is incalculable! Prayer is needed to arrive there. But the destination is certain! Wonders await those who seek God in His Word!

His name is "Wonderful" and all his promises are "exceeding great and precious promises" (2 Peter 1:4); they transcend man's capacity (Manton). God infinite transcends, Jesus via Holy Spirit comprehends. Therefore, we pray.
Indeed, the law of the LORD is perfect, 
   Reviving the soul; 
The testimony of the LORD is sure, 
   Making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
   Rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure,
   Enlightening the eyes. (Psalm 19:7-8)
God's Word--revives our sluggishness, bestows wisdom, bolsters our heart with joy, and turns all kinds of lights on for our eyes to see! Wondrous things! YES. Is Christ not called the "Wonderful Counselor" (Is. 9:6), the "Word made flesh" (John 1:14), the Spirit-taught Glory (John 16:14). Are we not in the Book privy to "the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:18), the mysterious [now unveiled] wisdom of God ordained for our glory (1 Cor. 2:7). Wonder-filled mysteries unfolded for us! That's marvelous. And shall we not attempt daily to plumb those depths through the Spirit? Can we not say with the woman at the well, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did?" (John 4:29). Is He not still telling us these things, for the "Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of  soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).

Yes, we pray -- "Open my eyes to behold wondrous things . . ."

If we are to be guilty, let us not be guilty of asking of God too little!


Tuesday, November 24

"OPEN OUR EYES"--Meditation on IOUS-Part 3

"Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law" (Psalm 119:18).

Vital prayer. Men must pray for their eyes to be opened, because they do not necessarily see what is right in front of them.  

1. The scribes in Herod's Jerusalem knew the place of the Messiah's birth . . . Bethlehem, as found in Micah 5:2, yet did not set out with the Wise Men to see the Christ child. They were like mere sign posts, pointing in the right direction, but not moving one step themselves to get there! Or,

2. Note too Jesus' scathing rebuke of the Jews in John 5, where he lays this charge at their feet, "You search the Scriptures, because in them you think you have eternal life" (which is partly true, viz., one may find the truth there). But, they were not rebuked for looking in the right direction but failing to believe it. Jesus goes on to say, but "it is they that bear witness about me. Yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life" (39-40). Connecting proper action to evident truth requires God's enlightening power.
The Psalmist had just prayed (v 17), "deal bountifully with your servant," and this is one way to do that, viz., by opening the spiritual eyes. Why pray this?

First, because we are conscious of our darkness, the dullness of our spiritual vision, and our consequent powerlessness to remove the defect. We need outside help, help outside of our abilities.

Second, we need to pray this because the Scriptures are so full of wonderful treasures, they "teem with marvels," and "the Bible is a wonder land" (A Treasury of David, C. H. Spurgeon). There is so much in God's Word, and we are so naturally ill-equipped, that we must turn to God through his Spirit to enlighten our spiritual understanding. Spurgeon wrote, "Scripture needs opening, but not one half so much our eyes do; the veil is not on the book but on our hearts."

It is they who've had a taste of Scripture's goodness who crave more. See a little, pray for much! Is this not then, a mark of the true Christian--Spurgeon offers again-- that a "true knowledge of God causes its possessor to thirst for deeper knowledge?"

One more word (Ah, there's so much still!!) from Thomas Manton: Saints do not complain that the law needs to be made plainer, but for their understanding to improve. "Blind men might as well complain of God, that he doth not make a sun whereby they might see. . . . There is no [lack] of light in the Scripture, but there is a veil of darkness upon our hearts." Therefore, we pray . . .



Sunday, November 22

Thanksgiving In the Midst of Fear

Seriously ill in the days of the Black Plague, poet John Donne still celebrated God's goodness

Updated by Philip Yancey and introduced by Chris Armstrong | posted 8/08/2008 12:33PM Fourteen Thanksgivings ago in the pages of Christianity Today, Philip Yancey shared a powerful meditation on giving thanks in a time of suffering and fear. Its source was one of Christianity's most complex and compelling poets: John Donne.

Born in England in 1571, "Jack" Donne spent his youth in dissoluteness and rebelliousness, expressed in witty erotic poetry. Turning at last to Christ, Donne came to see himself as a prodigal saved only by grace. 

Through a middle age marked by increasing devotion to Christ—but also by poverty and discouragement—he turned his evident poetic skill to the great themes of love, death, and God's mercy. Then in 1615 he became an ordained Anglican priest, whereafter he poured his creative energies more into sermons than poems. 

During a near-fatal illness in the year 1623, however, Donne turned again to poetry, completing his most famous volume, the Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. 

Each day, the bedridden clergyman heard from his window the church bells of London announcing that the Black Plague—then scourging Europe—had taken more victims. Donne was convinced he, too, had the plague and would soon die (in his famous phrase, the person "for whom the bell tolled" was himself). 

It turned out that he did not die quite yet; he recovered, living on to the age of 59 or 60. But in the teeth of his suffering and fear, Donne poured out verses reaching towards God. 

These poems speak, as Yancey says, to "the guilt and fear and helpless faith that marked [Donne's] darkest days." They also answer one of the toughest questions we can face, "In the midst of plague times, how can we give thanks?" 

Here are the three poems excerpted by Yancey, with his clarifying revisions of Donne's eighteenth-century language:
O eternal and most gracious God, you have reserved your perfect joy and perfect glory for the future when we will possess, forever, all that can in any way conduce to our happiness. Yet here also in this world, you grant us earnests full of payment, glimpses of that stored treasure. Just as we see you through a glass darkly, so also do we receive your goodness by reflection and by your instruments.
Nature reaches out her hand and offers corn, and wine, and oil, and milk; but it was you who filled the hand of nature with such bounty. Industry reaches out her hand and gives us fruits of labor for ourselves and our prosperity; but you guided the hands that sowed and watered, and you gave the increase. Friends reach out their hands to support us; but your hand supports the hand we lean on.
Through all these, your instruments, have I received your blessing, O God, but I bless your name most for this, that I have has my portion not only in the hearing, but in the preaching of your gospel.
O most gracious God, on this sickbed I feel under your correction, and I taste of humiliation, but let me taste of consolation, too. Once this scourge has persuaded us that we are nothing of ourselves, may it also persuade us that you are all things unto us.    . . .
I see your hand upon me now, O Lord, and I ask not why it comes or what it intends. Whether you will bid my soul to stay in this body for some time, or meet you this day in paradise, I ask not. Curiosity of mind tempts me to know, but my true healing lies in silent and absolute obedience to your will, even before I know it. Preserve that obedience, O my God, and that will preserve me to you; that, when you have catechized me with affliction here, I may take a greater degree, and serve you in a higher place, in your kingdom of joy and glory. Amen.
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today International/Christian History magazine.


Saturday, November 21

A Vital (Eternal) Conflict Between Christianity & Islam!

Alarming! Absolutely alarming. This is one of the greatest heart-aches of my life, that so many so-called Christians are swallowing the lie that there is no appreciable difference between the prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ! There is every difference in the world! Thank you, John Piper for having the love to state the following. Before viewing it, please keep in mind the words of the beloved apostle John, "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah]? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. NO ONE WHO DENIES THE SON HAS THE FATHER [I.e., the Jesus as He is revealed in Scripture] WHOEVER CONFESSES THE SON HAS THE FATHER ALSO." (1 John 2:22-23) God helps us!!

Friday, November 20

Meditation on IOUS-Part 2

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain (Psalm 119:36).
Yesterday, we looked at the word "incline," which is vital to our progress toward God away from our stagnation. But toward what do we pray to be inclined? "Your testimonies." And this is accentuated in contrast to ". . . and NOT to selfish gain." So, whatever God's "testimonies" are, they are set over against "selfish" pursuits.


The Psalmist uses this word 23 times in this long chapter. According to Charles Bridge (Psalm 119), the term "testimony" refers to the whole of the biblical revelation, whereas, "testimonies" specifies the "preceptive part of Scripture (v. 138)." So, we are urged to "keep his testimonies" (v. 2), and here (v. 36) that our heart might be "inclined" toward them. Or, Matthew Henry--incline me toward "those things which thy testimonies prescribe; not only make me do my duty" as if I MUST, but "make me desirous to do thy duty as that which is agreeable to the new nature and really advantageous to me." Such a duty might be portrayed in the pastor's closing wedding words to the groom, "Now, you may kiss the bride." The groom finds no hesitation in obeying such an instruction! Oh, no; it is his delight. So, we pray: "May I see your testimonies as such a sweet instruction as to "kiss" the Book. My inclination is to more than a plastic obedience, but a wholehearted delight.


KJV, "covetousness." Man naturally runs after sin, being prone to self-centered thoughts. The heart of man, Thomas Manton offers, "is like a sponge that being thirsty in itself, sucks in moisture from other things; it is a chaos of desires, seeking to be filled with something from without" (Sermons on Psalm 119, 1:345). But, he adds most appropriately, "We were made for another, to be happy in the enjoyment of a being [outside of] us; therefore man must have something to love; for the affections of the soul cannot lie idle and without an object." Oh, that we would grasp this grand truth that all sins foist their way upon us by deceit, duping us into believing that we would be better off sinning that living holy lives. But we would sing with Charles Wesley (Love Divine, All Loves Excelling):
Take away our bent to sinning; 
Alpha and Omega be;

End of faith, as its Beginning. 
Set our hearts at liberty.
And there it is -- liberty! It is for freedom that Christ has set you free (Gal. 5:1). Let us pray this first in the list of IOUS that we may run away from the soul-smoothering grip of sin and turn rather unto the heart-freeing testimonies of our great God and Savior!

Thursday, November 19

The Greater "Gain"--Meditations on I.O.U.S.

Building on an earlier post (Monday), I want to delve a bit deeper into the first verse of the I.O.U.S. of soul development. The first verse--the "I" of the IOUS, is:
"Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain."  -Psalm 119:36

We all have them. They're not forced. We exhibit them naturally. Whether we tend toward optimism or pessimism, to light meat or dark, Fords or Chevrolets, . . . or, to sin. No one has to cajole us; we lean in that direction. We are commanded not to "love the world" (1 John 2:15), but we lean that way . . . at least for a while. Americans, it seems, lean heavily in the direction of money, 401K's and vacations. What makes us incline toward anything? It suits us, pleases us, makes us feel better. Makes sense, doesn't it? But to be inclined toward God's testimonies is different. "We can be worldly of ourselves, but we cannot be holy and heavenly of ourselves; that must be asked of him who is the Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift." (Thomas Manton, 17th C.) So, what we lack by nature, we seek through prayer. This is one mark of the wise man. "We need rather to confess our weakness, than defend our strength" (Austin, in Manton).


If we weren't so disobedient to God's law, so naturally prone to move away from Him, then we would not need to pray, "Incline my heart." But even after we are redeemed by Jesus' blood, we still have the negative principle at work within us. Romans 7:21, "So I find it to be a law [principle] that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand." We need to be drawn back and bent in the direction of God's will.


Such a prayer also implies, does it not, that God is gracious and able to act upon our souls to bring us into conformity with his will. Should we not be thankful that while we tend to run away from him, our Lord pursues to bring us to himself again!


By Word and Spirit; by persuasion and power. "I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules" (Ezk. 36:27). God does this! First, God draws us to himself (John 6:44), then he causes us to "walk in his statutes." In Christ, all is covered. He INCLINES our hearts to his way.

Lastly, God works upon our moral desires. "I led them with cords of kindness, with bands of love" (Hosea 11:4). "Surely," as Manton says, "God hath more hand in good than Satan hath in evil; otherwise man were as praiseworthy for doing good, as [he is] reproveable for doing evil." God knows how to alter the course of our affections by his power, therefore, he does not just lead us but draw us to himself.

(Thomas Manton, Sermons on Psalm 119, Banner of Truth Trust)

Tomorrow - Why the contrast of "testimonies" with "selfish gain"?

Tuesday, November 17

Why Should God Let You Into Heaven?

If we are burdened about revival, then what kind of gospel message lies at the heart of the life of the convert and the church? We want to be revived to a biblical gospel. The larger question is: what IS the gospel? 

What IS the Gospel?

In Michael Horton’s interview in this month’s Christianity Today, pp. 46-49, “Christ At The Center,” He focuses on a critical idea which has come to me as a confluence of weaknesses. Two of our elders, for example, volunteered that some members, when questioned re: their salvation, failed to define their conversion in terms of what Jesus had done for them, that is through the atonement, justification, etc. (This takes into consideration that not everyone would be familiar with theological jargon). But we usually pose the well-used question:  “If you died and stood before God, and he asked you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ What would you say?” Even when given hints, “what do you think about justification,” they still couldn’t see it. Now, apart from the obvious lesson that is for us in leadership, I see another larger issue when conjoined with Horton’s interview. Most today tend to define their salvation in terms of what it means for them or to them (which is fine on one level). And from there they tend to think of Christianity in terms of what they do to stay, as it were, on the good side of God. And this is very unfortunate especially in light of the fact that this is promoted by pastors in the pulpit! But . . .

The gospel-driven life is not following a list of imperatives even good and necessary ones, like: read your Bible, pray, study these books, learn the spiritual disciplines, evangelize. Paul’s “power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16) is more than the power of God “to conversion,” as Horton opines. Salvation is not based upon what happens inside of me, but on what Christ did outside of me. It is what God has done FOR us in Christ. What we find, then, is that this is more than one man’s point of view. It is, unfortunately endemic to the church culture at large.

My assessment, not just from the above indicators, but from my years in Christendom, is that an unhealthy number within the church have become unintentional victims of imperative overload. The end result has been a weakening of the gospel message and a relocating of our salvation in the results or fruits of that salvation. This has serious implications for many doctrines, including the atonement, repentance, evangelism, and even for how we pray for revival.

The gospel, in short, and according to Scripture is:

. . .that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
Christ died and rose again and demonstrated this by showing himself AFTER his resurrection to too many people for this to have been considered myth. Christ did it all. We get into heaven by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and in his exaltation in heaven. There is infinite merit in the precious blood of Jesus Christ!

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.

. . . "Dressed in His righteousness alone, 
Faultless to stand before the throne. 

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand; 
All other ground is sinking sand."
-Edward Mote (1834)

Monday, November 16

How To Begin Monday With God

Monday is my day off. It is for many ministers. But I find on my day "off" that I want to communicate the importance of exciting our relationship with God by means . . . whatever means helps us "see" God rightly in order to love him intimately.

One word of advice I pass along to the church family when the chance arises, is (assuming Bible reading) to pray a short prayer for enlightenment. Even a mere 10 seconds will do wonders in diverting interruptions and focusing our attention where it needs to be.

A second means to help comes from John Piper, which came out in our Sunday School lesson, his DVD series entitled, "When I Don't Desire God." This, along with several related resources can be found here. It has a been a spiritual boon to our souls. In our adult class we chose to view it twice, pausing it the second time though whenever we needed to delve into his instructions a little deeper. It has been a marked blessing.

So, How Do We Start Monday?

I'm sitting here in my "easy chair" reflecting on this waiting to get back to the Bible to do what I am writing! Piper uses an acrostic to direct himself, an acrostic which utilizes only Scriptures--many familiar to the seasoned believer. Any one of these references is beautiful, but the combination is immensely helpful in opening our hearts rightly to God. And who doesn't need that? Here they are with my comments:


First. "Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain" (Psalm 119:36). Frankly, our hearts are quickly and easily turned toward other things, even when I am sitting down to read God's Word! Perhaps, "especially" when?! "To be forewarned is to be forearmed" applies well to our own hearts. Know your heart, and if it is like so many, "hedge your bets" by praying against such spiritual dullness. Ask for your heart to "incline" in God's direction.

Second. "Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things out of your law" (Psalm 119:18). They're there--"wonderful things" that is. We often have a difficult time detecting them. Hunters have an uncanny ability to spot deer way out in an open field, when non-hunters see nothing. Their eyes have been trained to "see." We need much the same when it comes to the things of God. And we do well to pray for it.

Third. "Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name" (Psalm 86:11). Unite my heart. What does this mean? It can be easily understood when we realize that we can know things two ways, in our heads and in our hearts. Most of us understand this and have often heard it said, "It's not good enough to believe it in your head, but it must sink down 18" to your heart." The book of James is all about uniting our hearts. In fact, the opening salvo reveals that we need God's unlimited wisdom precisely because we can become "double-minded." In other words, our minds believe one thing while our hearts go in another. When the two are brought together it can be described as "purity," or "single-mindedness." Unite my heart to fear your name. Very good prayer!

Fourth. "Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days" (Psalm 90:14). All of humanity wants to be happy. Of course, there are many aberrant ways in which to seek it. But we urge others to seek satisfaction in God alone. After a long build-up to the weekend, and an especially long (and wonderful) Sunday, I still want (yes, especially want) satisfaction in my Lord on Monday morning when I tend to be weary. The worth of our satisfaction falls in direct proportion to the thing doing the satisfying. Whether it's my wife, my job, or the football game. Each can satisfy me, but in a different way. But when GOD does the satisfying, there is NOTHING like it, because there is no one like God! Pray that we not be satisfied by lesser things. Think BIG!!

Again, these are astute prayers; they take into consideration my fallible heart and pave the way to overcome it, directing me into a wonderful unfolding of the ways of God. May I urge everyone who loves God to pursue such prayers ere they open the Word of God.

Tuesday, November 10

5 Ways Sin Is Serious

The following was posted yesterday by John Piper. He touches on a subject so close to every true believer that I felt constrained to re-post it to my readers. Of course, for those who receive Piper's blog posts, please forgive the duplication. Speaking of David, Piper offers:

In Psalm 51, as he laments and repents of his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, David confesses at least five ways that his sin is extremely serious.
1. He says that he can’t get the sin out of his mind.

It is blazoned on his conscience. Verse 3: For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Ever before him. The tape keeps playing. And he can’t stop it.

2. He says that his exceeding sinfulness is only against God.

Nathan had said David despised God and scorned his word. So David says in verse 4, Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.

This doesn’t mean Bathsheba and Uriah and the baby weren’t hurt. It means that what makes sin sin is that it is against God. Hurting man is bad. It is horribly bad. But that’s not the horror of sin. Sin is an attack on God—a belittling of God. David admits this in striking terms: “Against you, you only, have I sinned.”

3. He doesn't justify himself.

David vindicates God, not himself. There is no self-justification. No defense. No escape. Verse 4: …so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

God is justified. God is blameless. If God casts David into hell, God will be innocent.
This is radical God-centered repentance. This is the way saved people think and feel. God would be just to damn me. And that I am still breathing is sheer mercy. And that I am forgiven is sheer blood-bought mercy. David vindicates the righteousness of God, not himself.

4. He intensifies his guilt by drawing attention to his inborn corruption.

Verse 5: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Some people use their inborn corruption to diminish their personal guilt. David does the opposite. For him the fact that he committed adultery and murdered and lied are expressions of something worse: He is by nature that way.

If God does not rescue him, he will do more and more evil.

5. He admits that he sinned not just against external law but against God’s merciful light in his heart.

Verse 6: Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

God had been his teacher. God had made him wise. David had done so many wise things. And then sin got the upper hand. For David, this made it all the worse. “I have been blessed with so much knowledge and so much wisdom. O how deep must be my depravity that it could sin against so much light.”

So in those five ways at least David joins the prophet Nathan and God in condemning his sin and confessing the depths of his corruption.

Monday, November 9

No Ordinary People

Salvation does far, far more than merely qualify us for heaven (as unbelievably wonderful as that is). It changes the very makeup of every convert of Jesus, transforming them into nothing less than a child of God, "with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereunto." As Paul lays out so beautifully for us in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44:
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. 
C. S. Lewis highlights the degree of such a transformation:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption which you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations... It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspections proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.     
The Weight Of Glory

Friday, November 6

Restoring My Soul. The "Ah-h-h!" of Faith & Love.

A morning meditation. 

Familiar, perhaps, too familiar words . . .

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want [lack]. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Psalm 23:1-3).
I don't want to read these words to come up with something fancy. Or study to prepare a sermon. Let me just drink in the love, the peace, yes, especially the "mercy" (v. 6) that goes with me all my life long. I call the LORD "My" Shepherd in order to own the relationship, to celebrate it, to personalize my need, and thus my provision.

My Shepherd Provides

"I shall not lack." Lack what? Anything. Anything? . . . Really? REALLY. Every sin is traceable to some perceived lack on our part. "I need respect and hate that others don't affirm me." No, I don't need that. My Shepherd affirms, and that's enough. "Well, I must lust after that . . . whatever, whoever, because I need . . . something." No, Shepherd Jesus fills all in all. PERIOD. In fact, He IS my life!

My Shepherd Restores

"He restores my soul." This is the ah-h-h part. Much within and without threatens our peace, destroys it. Sin within unsettles me, creates guilt, promotes lies, causes me to glance away from truth for fear of being seen. I fall and perhaps even sink into a sort of despair. Sins without attack me at work, in the local community, in the world. "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Ps. 36:1), and I feel it. It tugs at my heart. It wells up within my breast that so few even care. BUT. But my Shepherd restores. He not only forgives (wonderfully healing in itself), but my Shepherd RESTORES my soul. The very meat of my existence, the marrow of life--He renews, restores to health and perfect relationship. Unmitigated. Without alloy . . . or apology. And especially without regret. Oh, none of that! Restored.


That's MY Shepherd!

Ah-h-h . . .

Thursday, November 5

Evangelicals and Catholics Together: On the Blessed Virgin Mary in Christian Faith and Life

VITAL! Read with care. I have been following the Evangelicals and Catholics Together issues. (Actually, my wife and I have) The latest point Evangelicals and Catholic theologians are trying to "flesh out" is the place of Mary in their mutual doctrinal stances. The following is the full text from Guy Davies of Exiled Preacher. I appreciate his clear-headed, Scriptural approach to this topic. We need more voices out there warning of the kind of compromise that would give over critical doctrines that cannot be altered without losing the Gospel of grace, and therefore must not be betrayed. Guy writes:
Evangelicals and Catholics Together have produced a joint-statement, Do Whatever He Tells You: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Christian Faith and Life. ECT continues on the assumption that Evangelicals and Roman Catholics as those who "accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ". We wish that this were the case, but there has to be real concern that the Roman Catholic negation of justification by faith alone tends to detract from the gospel of grace and obscure the way of salvation.

Now to the statement itself. The opening section attempts to set out the common ground between Evangelicals and Catholics on Mary. Then unresolved differences are spelt out under the headings of, A Catholic Word to Evangelicals and, An Evangelical Word to Catholics. On the whole disagreements are faced honestly rather than fudged. The Evangelicals explain on the basis of Scripture why they do not accept Roman Catholic dogmas such as the Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception, Bodily Assumption and Invocation of Mary. However, the Evangelical signatories seem open to further special revelation on Marian teaching saying,
"As a safeguard against the temptation to idolatry and because this pattern of piety is not found in the New Testament, most Evangelicals today do not include prayers to Mary and the saints in their worship and personal devotions. At the same time, we acknowledge that the sovereign Lord may choose to reveal himself in extraordinary ways whenever and however he wills." [Emphasis added].
What is the last sentence in that quote supposed to mean in the light of Evangelical commitment to sola Scriptura? Yes, we are open to the Spirit giving us more light from the Word, but that does not entail the revelation of new doctrines like the 'Bodily Assumption of Mary' which are not found in the Bible. The Westminster Confession of Faith speaks for all Evangelicals when it says,
"The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture." (WCF I:X).
On this issue the Evangelical signatories have conceded too much in the direction of Roman Catholic thinking. That quibble aside, and it is a serious quibble, there is much that is helpful in what the Evangelicals have to say on Mary and her role in redemptive history. Overreacting against the extravagance of Roman Catholic Marian teaching Evangelicals have sometimes failed to give due consideration to Mary. She is indeed 'blessed among women' as the mother of our Lord. We should admire and imitate her faith and love. All Christians need to give careful heed to her admonition concerning her Son, "Whatever he says to you, do it." (John 2:5). The Evangelicals note that the Reformers seemed to have a much 'higher' view of Mary than their theological heirs and successors.

Surprising as it may seem, this document is able to highlight a considerable amount of common understanding between Bible believing Evangelicals and traditional Catholics on Mary. But even as this joint-statement demonstrates, with all the best ecumenical will in the world, serious disagreements remain. In a sense, the big issue is sola Scriptura. Shall we view Mary in the light of the witness of Scripture alone, or will we supplement what the Bible says with the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church? On that point, Evangelicals and Catholics are not together.

I believe that dialogue between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics is a worthwhile exercise. But the Evangelicals often seem to be the ones conceding ground. As ever Rome wants unity on its own terms. Writing in The Guardian, Roman Catholic theologian Hans Kung despairs of this tendency, exposing the Vatican's ecumenical skulduggery. Evangelicals should take note.
Thank you, Guy.

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Tuesday, November 3

Is Evangelism About Getting "Results?"

Has the church done evangelism and missions right? It's especially beneficial at times to listen to the voices of godly men of the past in order to shed light on our day. Certainly one of those "big" voices is Jonathan Edwards. In The God-Centered Life, Josh Moody writes:
Too many of our missionary organizations, whether "foreign" or home mission, develop a piety almost exclusively geared up for getting results. There are too few quiet days, too little sense of the need for personal renewal, too little understanding of the worth of developing personal godliness through times of Bible study and prayer and reading, let alone meditation and reflection. Evangelistic mission tend to be beehives of work and generate a workaholic culture of piety, where godliness is equated to productivity. Edwards was highly productive, yet his personal notebooks and records of the inner life are laced with a desire not for more and more, or larger and larger, "ministries," but for God himself. Edwards is seeking him. Edwards' Resolutions are the best example of this attitude. Here are a few:
 1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory . . .
2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the forementioned things.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to, if it were the last hour of my life . . .

11.Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances don't hinder . . .

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it . . .

40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723. (E. Hickman [ed.], The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Banner of Truth], 1988, vol. 1, pp. xx-xxii)
Taken from Josh Moody, The God-Centered Life: Insights From Jonathan Edwards for Today (Regent College Publishing, Vancouver, BC. 2006).