Tuesday, February 28, 2012


“In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”  

(Dorothy L. Sayers)

by word, but no form

"Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure..." (Deuteronomy 4:15f ESV)

"God did not show them a visible symbol of himself, but spoke to them; therefore they are not now to seek visible symbols of God, but simply to obey his Word.  If it be said that Moses was afraid of the Israelites borrowing designs for images from the idolatrous nations around them, our reply is that undoubtedly he was, and this is exactly the point: all manmade images of God, whether molten or mental, are really borrowing from the stock-in-trade of a sinful and ungodly world, and are bound therefore to be out of accord with God's own holy Word.  To make an image of God is to take one's thoughts of him from a human source, rather than from God himself; and this is precisely what is wrong with image-making."

(--J. I. Packer, Knowing God: 20th Anniversary Edition, p. 49)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Eversharp Symphony

It's been a while since I let you know what fountain pen I'm journaling with.  One of them right now is an Eversharp Symphony, dated 1949/50.  (Older than me...)  It is black, lever-fill, with a 14K gold (fine) nib.   

This is the model 703, one of the second generation models, marking the appearance of several trim levels distinguished by their cap trim.  For lots more information visit the PenHero site article here.  

knowing and being known

From chapter three of Knowing God, by J. I. Packer...

“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it — the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me, and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment therefore, when His care falters.

“This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort — the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates — in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love, and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me. There is, certainly , great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and am I glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which in all conscience, is enough).

“There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.”

(J. I. Packer, Knowing God: 20th Anniversary Edition, pp. 41-42.  Photo above from morguefile.com)

Monday, February 20, 2012

meditating on the truth

I've been enjoying listening to Knowing God, by J. I. Packer on CD-mp3, files that I downloaded for free.  Thank you, ChristianAudio.com!

Chapter one, on "The Study of God", ends with Packer's words about meditation...

How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God?  The rule for doing this is simple but demanding.  It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.

We have some idea, perhaps, what prayer is, but what is meditation?  Well may we ask, for meditation is a lost art today, and Christian people suffer grievously from their ignorance of the practice.

Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God.  It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. 

Its purpose is to clear one's mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let his truth make its full and proper impact on one's mind and heart.  It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a a clear apprehension of God's power and grace.

Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God's greatness and glory and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us--"comfort" us, in the old, strong, Bible sense of the word--as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ... And it is as we enter more and more deeply into this experience of being humble and exalted that out knowledge of God increases, and with it our peace, our strength and our joy.  God help us, then, to put our knowledge about God to this use, that we may in truth "know the Lord".

(J. I. Packer, Knowing God: 20th Anniversary Edition, p. 23)

"...his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." (Psalm 1:2-3 ESV)

Jesus in a word

"Certainly what the Bible says about Jesus contains many mysteries; but the distinctive features of it at least can be put almost in a word.  Jesus of Nazareth, according to the Bible, was no product of this world, but a Savior come voluntarily into this world from without.  His entrance into the world was a stupendous miracle.  While he was on earth he manifested a wondrous control over the forces of nature.  His death was no mere holy martyrdom, but an event of cosmic significance, a sacrifice for the sins of the world.  His resurrection was no mere vain aspiration in the hearts of his disciples, but a mighty act of God.  That is what the Bible says about Jesus."  

(J. Gresham Machen, Selected Shorter Writings, p. 33)

Sunday, February 19, 2012


three essential truths

Jerry Bridges writes, 

In the arena of adversity, the Scriptures teach us three essential truths about God, truths we must believe if we are to trust Him in adversity.  They are:

• God is completely sovereign.
• God is infinite in wisdom.
• God is perfect in love.

Someone has expressed these three truths as they relate to us in this way: "God in His love always wills what is best for us.  In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about." 

(From Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts

Saturday, February 18, 2012

what harms the gospel

“The more wise, righteous, and holy people are without Christ, the more harm they do to the Gospel. So we also, who were religious, were doubly wicked until God enlightened us with the knowledge of his Gospel despite our apparently true piety and holiness.”  

(Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians)

Friday, February 17, 2012

from schaeffer's letters

"What we must ask the Lord for is a work of the Spirit . . . to stand on a very thin line: in other words, to state intellectually (as well as understand, though not completely) the intellectual reality of that which God is and what God has revealed in the objectively inspired Bible; and then to live moment by moment in the reality of a restored relationship with the God who is there, and to act in faith upon what we believe in our daily lives."

--Francis Schaeffer, Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer: Spiritual Reality in the Personal Christian Life.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

spurgeon on election

"So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills."  (Romans 9:18 ESV)

"I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never have chosen him; and I am sure he chose me before I was born, or else he never would have chosen me afterwards; and he must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why he should have looked upon me with special love." 

(Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students)

Monday, February 13, 2012

he loves me just the way I am

My friend Harry keeps me supplied with theologically-pertinent comics.  

Today it is the Calvin & Hobbes version of "God loves me just the way I am, so [therefore] I don't need to change anything."

The first statement, of course, does not imply the second.  He may receive me in his love, mercy and grace, but he loves me too much to let me stay the way I am.  

"Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

dogma that is drama

Trevin Wax shared a good quote recently from Dorothy Sayers' Creed or Chaos?

Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as a bad press. We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine—dull dogma as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama.
It is the dogma that is the drama—not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving-kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death—but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world, lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that man might be glad to believe.
--Dorothy Sayers, cited at The Gospel Coalition.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

in search of adam

Here is Christianity Today's report on the state of the debate: "The Search for the Historical Adam" found here

I appreciate Tim Keller's evaluation...

Another participant, much-respected local pastor Tim Keller, offered a workshop paper laying out in irenic but firm terms a conservative stance on Paul's view of the first humans. "[Paul] most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the biblical authority," Keller wrote. "If Adam doesn't exist, Paul's whole argument—that both sin and grace work 'covenantally'—falls apart. You can't say that 'Paul was a man of his time' but we can accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don't believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul's teaching."


Friday, February 3, 2012

abba! father!

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15 ESV)

Francis Schaeffer comments on this passage in The Finished Work of Christ...

We have received the Holy Spirit, and we are to let Him lead us. If we are truly saved, there should be some evidence of this in our lives. But Paul isn't saying these things to make us grovel in sorrow, searching our hearts and beating our chests, wondering, “Am I really a Christian?” We will see that the rest of this chapter is a great cry of victory and assurance. If you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then indeed you should walk in the Spirit and you should be led by the Spirit. At the same time, interwoven with these reminders is the tremendous realization that, having accepted Christ as Savior and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God is our Father. [8:15-17]  He loves us and cares for us.
If we have accepted Christ as our Savior, God the Father, the Creator, the very one we have sinned against, can now be called “Daddy.” [8:15] Paul has pointed out the absolute gap between being saved and being lost. He has reminded us of the importance of recognizing that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit—the importance of, moment by moment, living according to the Spirit. How marvelous this is! But if, as we contemplate all of this, our hearts begin to fail us, how gentle is our God! How tenderly He picks us up and says, “Don’t you understand this is not to cause you to fear, it’s not to break your heart. It isn't to crush you to the earth. Quite the contrary, it’s to assure you that I have come to you and that I am your papa, your daddy.”
The word “Father” in this verse is the Greek word for father, while “Abba” is the Aramaic word for father. There is a very precious and a very important distinction between the two words. The Greek word “father” can be used like our English word “father.” It can have either a harsh or a gentle meaning. But the word “Abba” in the Aramaic is rather parallel to our word “Daddy.” It is a gentle term. Each language, surely, has a gentle word for “father,” which cannot have a harsh meaning.  Paul wants us to understand the wonder and glory of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He wants us to do some heart searching as to whether or not we are living up to this highest of callings, this greatest of challenges. And yet at the same time, he wants to give us the greatest possible comfort. For the transcendent God of the universe is the one who in the stillness of the night, or when I have fallen in the mud, takes me by the hand and invites me to call Him Daddy.

From Chapter 11, "Life in the Spirit", in The Finished Work of Christ: The Truth of Romans 1-8, by Francis A. Schaeffer (Crossway Books, 1998)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

new artist: josh garrels

Trouble has beset my ways, and wicked winds have blown

Sirens call my name, they say they’ll ease my pain, then break me on the stones

But true love is the burden that will carry me back home

Carry me with the, memories of the, beauty I have known

I’m sailing home to you I won’t be long

By the light of moon I will press on

So tie me to the mast of this old ship and point me home

Before I lose the one I love, before my chance is gone

I want to hold, her in, my arms.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

moralists old and new

"They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them..." (Romans 2:15)

Trevin Wax writes in Counterfeit Gospels (page 117-18) about the human drive for moral standards, as well as the deep-seated tendency to justify ourselves by those standards...

In Policy Review, Mary Eberstadt compares two imaginary ladies, a grandmother named Betty and her thirty-year-old granddaughter, Jennifer. Betty wouldn’t think of judging someone based upon what they eat. Jennifer wouldn’t think of judging someone based upon their sexual activity. But both still maintain some notion that there is right and wrong.
What the imaginary examples of Betty and [her thirty-year-old granddaughter] Jennifer have established is this: Their personal moral relationships toward food and toward sex are just about perfectly reversed. Betty does care about nutrition and food, but it doesn’t occur to her to extend her opinions to a moral judgment—i.e., to believe that other people ought to do as she does in the matter of food, and that they are wrong if they don’t. In fact, she thinks such an extension would be wrong in a different way; it would be impolite, needlessly judgmental, simply not done.
Jennifer, similarly, does care to some limited degree about what other people do about sex; but it seldom occurs to her to extend her opinions to a moral judgment. In fact, she thinks such an extension would be wrong in a different way—because it would be impolite, needlessly judgmental, simply not done. On the other hand, Jennifer is genuinely certain that her opinions about food are not only nutritionally correct, but also, in some deep, meaningful sense, morally correct—i.e., she feels that others ought to do something like what she does.
And Betty, on the other hand, feels exactly the same way about what she calls sexual morality.
Do you see how the desire to judge is woven into the core of our being? Generations may trade morals and values, but all of us long for universal morality. We are born to be moralists.

God has given us a conscience that reveals to us that something is wrong with the world. Likewise, deep down we know that something is wrong with us. 

Moralism satisfies our desire for a universal morality in a perverse way. We look for ways to define our morality based upon whatever is socially acceptable. By shifting with the moral standards of society, we feel good about staying within current expressions of morality and rejecting older expressions of morality. Ironically, what may look like license is actually a commitment to new moral norms.

reaching college students

Insightful post by J. D. Greear and college worker, Rupert Leary,  at the Gospel Coalition on "9 Keys to Reaching College Students."

After recently meeting with the campus staff who attend our church (for a time of evaluation of our ministry), we found much overlap with this points:  

We learned the following nine lessons along the way as our college ministry grew and flourished in an area that features many prominent universities.

1. Whatever you do, don't shy away from depth.

2. Preach the gospel.

3. Love on display is often the most effective apologetic.

4. Remember that we live in the Bono generation.

5. Lift their eyes to the nations.

6. Aggressively develop summer projects and overseas opportunities.

7. One-on-one meetings and small groups are often more effective for evangelism than large gatherings.

8. Providing multigenerational connections within the church is essential to discipleship.

9. Cultural adaptation is important, though not essential.

[They conclude...]
Why do churches hold on to the cultural mores and styles of previous generations if they are trying to reach this one? We can't make the gospel more attractive through our "coolness," but let's face it: if the 1950s ever come back, many of our churches are going to be ready. That said, ultimately the appeal of the church has more to do with its timelessness than its trendiness. The essential element is not a cool pastor or loud music but an authentic message.

Traditionalism is a killer not because it is "uncool" but because it is a counterfeit of the gospel. Some churches that are very effective in engaging students have more of the ancient, reverent feel than a vibrant, energetic one. Our church has more of a modern feel, but we think the gospel's power can reign in both settings. We would encourage you to lay all cultural elements of your church at the feet of Jesus and ask him to show you how to prioritize the mission over preference. Every effective missionary in every culture has thought this way. God help us if we value our cultural traditions more than our children!

There is no magic bullet for reaching students, but we hope these timeless values will help spur you to expect great things of God for this generation, and then attempt great things for God in it.

Complete post here.