Saturday, December 19, 2015

not born like a king

"These two details--the necessity of a manger and the lack of room with normal society-- are both significant and unexpected.  Why would God's own Son, the expected Davidic Messiah, be born in such a way?  This scandalous set of circumstances points forward to Jesus's future rejection by his own people and the shame and embarrassment of death on a cross.  The unexpected setting of Jesus's birth also anticipates the unexpected way in which Jesus would go about putting things right in God's creation.  His life and death did not match people's expectations.  He wasn't born like a king; he didn't live like a king; and he certainly didn't die like a king.  He was nonetheless God's promised and long-awaited King."  

--From The First Days of Jesus, by Andreas Kostenberger and Alexander Stewart (Crossway, 2015).

Monday, December 7, 2015

child dedication

Our baby (or child) dedication service is one way parents can a) give public thanks to the Lord for the young life entrusted to them; b) request prayer for their child and for them in their roles as parents; and c) to publicly dedicate (set apart) their child and themselves as belonging to the Lord for his service and glory. Normally, we read something like the following at that time...

"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD…" (Psalm 127:3)  God has gifted our families -- and this church -- with children.  They are entrusted to us that we might lead them to the knowledge of God through the Lord Jesus. 
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  (Deuteronomy 6:4-8 ESV).  
The Apostle Paul gives a special word to the fathers, when he wrote, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  (Ephesians 6:4 ESV)

Our Lord Jesus did not turn away parents who brought their children to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray for them:
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’  And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”  (Mark 10:13-16)
Consistent with this teaching, we welcome parents who bring their children for dedication and prayer. This dedication is both of the children to the Lord but also of the parents to their role as Christian fathers and mothers.  

So to these parents we ask, “Recognizing the dignity and responsibility of parenthood and of your dependence upon God's grace, do you now present your children in dedication to the Lord, and do you commit yourselves to raise your children in love toward God and in the knowledge of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord?”  

This is concluded with a prayer of dedication and blessing upon the children and their families.  One service recently had seven babies being dedicated (below).   

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

praying the Lord's prayer

The prayer below is a paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6), based upon the Westminster Shorter Catechism as adapted by Matthew Henry.  Language is modernized. 

Our Father in heaven, we come to you as children to a Father able and ready to help us.  

We implore you, let your name be sanctified; enable us and others to glorify you in all things by which you have made yourself known, and dispose of all things to your own glory.  

Let your kingdom come; let Satan’s kingdom be destroyed, and let the kingdom of your grace be advanced; let us and others be brought into it, and kept in it, and let the kingdom of your glory be hastened.  

Let your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven; make us by your grace able and willing to know, obey, and submit to your will in all things, as the angels do in heaven.  

Give us this day our daily bread; of your free gift let us receive a adequate portion of the good things of this life, and let us enjoy your blessing with them.  

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We pray that for Christ’s sake you would freely pardon all our sins, and that by your grace you would enable us from the heart to forgive others.  

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Either keep us, O Lord, from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted. 

For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Lord, we take our encouragement in prayer from yourself only and desire in our prayers to praise you, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to you: And in testimony of our desires and assurance to be heard through Jesus Christ, we say Amen.

Visit Matthew Henry's Method for Prayer here

pride humbled

Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws.  

"At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?"  At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble."

(Daniel 4:33-37 ESV)

Here's a mighty man who thinks
He is ruler of a vast empire.
Humbled, and now a mad man
Like an animal senseless before all.
A hard lesson learned: God only is God;
He topples empires and feeds the sparrows.
Lost himself, finds himself again,
The madman gets to be king again.
I too am a beast who by grace is 
Brought to look heavenward, to the One
Who cares for the lowly.
Lost, without sound mind, but found, 
And invited to sit upon a throne 
With the King himself. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

God's authority

"Beyond all doubt, biblical religion is authoritarian in nature.  The sovereign God, creator of the universe, Lord of history, dispenser of destiny, determines and rewards the true and the good.  God commands and has the right to be obeyed, and the power also to punish the disobedient and reward the faithful.

"Behind God's will stands omnipotent power.  The notion that the individual subjectively determines what is ultimately good and evil, true and false, not only results in an encroaching nihilism, but also presupposes the illusion of a godless world.  God can be ignored only if we assume the autonomy of the world.  

"But it is God who in his purpose has determined the existence and nature of the world.  The divine sovereignty extends to every sphere of life--the sphere of work, whether in the laboratory or in the forum; the sphere of love, whether in the home or in neighbor-relations; the sphere of justice, whether between the nations or in local cities and towns. 

"Divine sovereignty can be thus formulated because it extends also to the sphere of truth.  We cannot understand the inner secret of the cosmos without God's Word nor interpret anything comprehensively apart from its relation to the Creator and Sustainer of all. Human beings are commanded by him not only to love the truth but also to do it (John 3:21; 1 John 1:6); knowledge is not simply an intellectual concern but involves ethical obligation as well.  Impenitence spells doom, for man can in no way justify his spiritual revolt.  

"God's authority was firmly stamped on man's conscience at creation, and clearly republished in the Bible which meshes man's fall and need of moral rescue with God's gracious offer of forgiveness and promise of new life to all who repent and trust him."  

~ Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, IV:15-16. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

my way of seeing things

But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:4-6 ESV) 

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools...  (Romans 1:21-22 ESV)

"Their [Adam & Eve's] disobedience entailed two things that are now characteristic of all of us as humans. On the one hand, for each of us, sin is the claim to the right to myself, and so to my way of seeing things, which—far more than class, gender, race and generation—is the ultimate source of human relativity.

"On the other hand, sin is the deliberate repudiation of God and the truth of his way of seeing things. If my way of seeing things is decisive, anyone who differs from me is wrong by definition—including God. No, especially God, because his way of seeing things is more powerful and therefore more threatening than anyone else’s."

~ Os Guinness, Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion.   

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Enjoyed listening to this 9Marks interview between Mark Dever and Carl F. H. Henry in 1997.  This would be six years before Henry's death in 2003.  

Dever asked Henry to identify some differences that he sees in evangelicalism between today and earlier in the 1950 and 60s.  Two points came out: 

1) Earlier there was a need to call evangelicals, who had largely withdrawn from the culture, to be more active in, and engaged with, the culture. Today the problem, Henry says, is to get the contemporary culture -- very much degenerated -- out of the evangelical. 

2) In the 1950s and 60s evangelicals saw that they needed one another and so worked together.  Today, Henry said, they do not feel that they need each other the way they needed each other then.  Too many evangelicals and churches are pursuing their own agendas and individual ministries apart from a relationship to the wider body of evangelicalism. 

Listen to the full interview here.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

favorite biographies

I was asked recently to suggest some biographies that I have read and would recommend to others. Most of the biographies that I have read are about men, and specifically, theologians and pastors, and sometimes soldiers.  I read biographies to find people to emulate and to serve as historical mentors. 

Here are my top ten biographies, in alphabetical order...

Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, by Peter Brown.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas. 

Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life, by Colin Duriez.

Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, by Roland H. Bainton.

Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret, by Howard Taylor and Geraldine Taylor. 

Jonathan Edwards: A Life, by George M. Marsden.
(Or, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards, by George M. Marsden).

Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, by Iain Murray. (Either the two-volume original set or the new one-volume edition.)

Robert E. Lee on Leadership: Executive Lessons in Character, Courage, and Vision, by H.W. Crocker III.  

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, by C. S. Lewis.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand.

Monday, November 9, 2015

ABCs of living like Christ

"Let the one who says he abides in Him, walk in the manner in which He walked."  (1 John 2:6 NAS)

Jack Hall, former VT professor and long-time member of BCF, spoke briefly during Sunday announcements about our upcoming conference...   

One of the themes of the upcoming conference is "Living with a Missional Mindset," that is, seeking to live in such a way as to draw people to Christ with every encounter. In other words, emulate Christ.  So, to figure out how well you are doing in that regard, let's go through the alphabet using words that describe Jesus's character or personality, and then assess in your own mind how you measure up....

Bold in testimony
Kind/source of all knowledge
Triumphant over satan  
X = died on a cross for our salvation
Yahweh/source of youth
Zesty ... because of Jesus we can be "zesty"!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

creation of marriage - quotes and links

“God created man good and after his own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that they might rightly know God his creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.” (Heidelberg Catechism, 1563, Q#6.)

"It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing to a young bride and groom from his prison cell in Nazi Germany in 1943)

"A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers."  (Ruth Bell Graham)

“...most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide range of outcomes.”  -- National Review 

“According to new research, states with a high concentration of married couples experience faster economic growth, less child poverty and more economic mobility than states where fewer adults are married, even after controlling for a variety of economic and demographic factors.”  -- Washington Post  

"A happy marriage is a marriage between two happy people...  Marriage isn't supposed to make you happy - it's supposed to make you married."  (Frank Pittman, marriage therapist)

Sunday sermon: "The Creation of Marriage" (MP3)

See the BCF Statement on Marriage and Family (2013).

Saturday, October 24, 2015

the law commands and makes us know

The Law commands and makes us know 
What duties to our God we owe; 
But ’tis the Gospel must reveal 
Where lies our strength to do His will.  

The Law discovers guilt and sin 
And shows how vile our hearts have been; 
The Gospel only can express 
Forgiving love and cleansing grace.  

What curses doth the Law denounce 
Against the man that fails but once! 
But in the Gospel Christ appears, 
Pard’ning the guilt of numerous years.  

My soul, no more attempt to draw 
Thy life and comfort from the Law. 
Fly to the hope the Gospel gives; 
The man that trusts the promise lives.

~ Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

a prayer before the sermon

a wedding declaration

At weddings where I am the officiant, I usually open with this statement about marriage...

Marriage is the creation of God.  It is the lifelong and exclusive bond between one man and one woman who vow to live together as husband and wife for the rest of their lives.  It was established by God from the beginning for the first human couple and their descendants, as it says, (Genesis 2:24)  "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

Despite the rise and fall of civilizations, marriage has been held in high honor throughout all history and all cultures.  In biblical revelation, both the prophets of the Old Testament and apostles of the New Testament affirm marriage to be a sacred  bond.  The Lord Jesus himself taught the highest standards regarding marriage and brought blessing and joy to a marriage celebration that he attended.

Why did God ordain marriage?  God created the institution of marriage to display his glory and to bless us for our good.  Marriage is for our good in that it brings us the blessing of companionship, intimacy and security, and – as the Lord wills – children to nurture and train for the good of succeeding generations.  It is good for our world and for its welfare.

But ultimately marriage is not about us.  It is designed to reveal the glory of God, as a way to display the beauty of his covenantal love.  God makes promises and unites himself to people through his Son, Jesus Christ.  His Son, Jesus Christ, is presented in the bible as a bride-groom who comes to earth to take us to himself.  Christians are those who have responded in faith to God’s proposal and have committed themselves to Christ.  And so we become recipients of his faithful, unending love.  Every wedding celebration we attend in this life is a tiny picture of the great celebration coming for all those who belong to Christ.  We are looking forward to, and are preparing for, that day when we will be with the Lord Jesus forever, with infinite joy in God’s household.

Marriage therefore is based upon a covenant.  Our God is a God who makes and keeps his commitments.  He vows his unending faithfulness and love to his people.  God grants us the privilege to also make and keep covenants.  The marriage covenant is a union of a man and woman who commit themselves unreservedly to each other.  It is not just love that leads them to make these vows, but the vows themselves become the basis of continued love.

We have gathered together today to witness the vows of this couple...


Friday, October 23, 2015

a true myth

In J. R. R. Tolkien's biography by Humphrey Carter, the author records for us this conversation between Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.  Lewis at this point is still a skeptic, believing Christianity to be only a myth... 

“But,” said Lewis, “myths are lies, even though lies breathed through silver.”  

“No,” said Tolkien, “they are not.  ...just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about truth.  We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a 'sub-creator' and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbor, while materialistic 'progress' leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.”  

“You mean,” asked Lewis, “that the story of Christ is simply a true myth, a myth that works on us in the same way as the others, but a myth that really happened? In that case, I begin to understand.” 

From J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter.  Map below is from Tolkien's book, The Hobbit.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

being known

"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. 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."

~ J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 41.

Monday, October 19, 2015

in order to rule, he must serve

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep [preserve, guard] it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."  (Genesis 2:15-17 ESV)

"Adam had to subdue the earth and have dominion over it, and this he must do in a twofold sense: he must cultivate it, open it up, and so cause to come up out of it all the treasures which God has stored there for man's use; and he must also watch over it, safeguard it, protect it against all evil that may threaten it, must, in short, secure it against the service of corruption in which the whole of creation now groans.

"But man can fulfill this calling over against the earth only if he does not break the bond of connection which unites him with heaven, only if he continues to believe God at His word and to obey His commandment. The twofold task is essentially therefore one task. Adam must have dominion over the earth, not by idleness and passivity but through the work of his head and heart and hand. 

"But in order to rule, he must serve; He must serve God who is his Creator and Lawgiver. Work and rest, rule and service, earthly and heavenly vocation, civilization and religion, culture and cultus, these pairs go together from the very beginning. They belong together and together they comprise in one vocation the great and holy and glorious purpose of man. All culture, that is, all work which man undertakes in order to subdue the earth, whether agriculture, stock breeding, commerce, industry, science, or the rest, is all the fulfillment of a single Divine calling. But if man is really to be and remain such he must proceed in dependence on and in obedience to the Word of God. Religion must be the principle which animates the whole of life and which sanctifies it into a service of God." 

~ Herman Bavinck, "The Origin, Purpose, and Essence of Man," in Our Reasonable Faith, p.187

Image is from

Friday, October 16, 2015

the future not an open question

"[Christianity] insists upon a purposive and moral as over against a purely mathematical universe; it insists upon a personal God, as against impersonal ultimates whether of space-time or √©lan vital variety; it insists upon a divine creation as over against a naturalistic evolution; it insists that man’s uniqueness is a divine endowment rather than a human achievement; it insists that man’s predicament is not an animal inheritance nor a necessity of his nature but rather a consequence of his voluntary revolt against God; it insists that salvation can be provided only by God, as against the view that man is competent to save himself; it insists that the Scriptures are a revelation lighting the way to the divine incarnation in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of mankind, as against the view that they stand among many records of religious experience without a difference in kind; it insists that history is bound up with man’s acceptance or rejection of the God-man, rather than that history is primarily what happens among nations; it insists that the future is not an open question, but that world events move toward an ultimate consummation in a future judgment of the race."

~ Carl F. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

human significance

"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?"  (Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)

"We must not belittle man's achievements. In science, for instance, man's achievements demonstrate that he is not junk, though the ends to which he often puts them show how lost he is.  Our forefathers, though they believed man was lost, had no problem concerning man's significance.  Man can influence history, including his own eternity and that of others.  This view sees man, as man, as something wonderful.

"In contrast to this there is the rationalist who has determinedly put himself at the center of the universe and insists on beginning autonomously with only the knowledge he can gather, and has ended up finding himself quite meaningless. It comes to the same thing as Zen-Buddhism, which expresses so accurately the view of modern man: 'Man enters the water and causes no ripple.'  The Bible says he causes ripples that never end.  As a sinner, man cannot be selective in his significance, so he leaves behind bad as well as good marks in history; but he certainly is not a zero."

~ Francis Schaeffer, Escape From Reason, p. 268

Friday, October 2, 2015

a dozen books

I was asked recently to come up with a short list of Christian books that have impacted my life, being books that I would also heartily recommend others to read.  I would add that such books should be read more than once.  And we should intersperse newer works with older works. They are as follows: 

  • Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together
  • Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541).
  • Coleman, Robert. Master Plan of Evangelism.
  • DeYoung, Kevin. Taking God at his Word.
  • Keller, Tim. The Reason for God.
  • Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity
  • Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Evangelistic Sermons
  • Luther, Martin. Commentary on Galatians
  • Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism.
  • Packer, J. I. Knowing God
  • Schaeffer, Francis. True Spirituality.
  • Stott, John.  The Cross of Christ.

Addendum: I also recommend that you read -- and seek to master -- the works of one author, or a few authors, who wrote deeply on biblical and theological topics.  Over the past forty years my studies have centered on the following theologians and/or pastors: John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Francis Schaeffer, and more recently, Herman Bavinck and Carl F. H. Henry. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

vestiges of beauty and creativity

“And God saw everything that he had made and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31)

“Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter” (Psalm 74:16–17)

Randy Alcorn writes, 

Eden has been trampled and vacated. Nevertheless, in nature and art and music we see and hear vestiges of God’s beauty and creativity.   To study creation is to study the Creator. Science should be worshipful discovery because the heavens and all creation declare God’s glory (Psalm 19:1). 

God reveals His character in flowers, waterfalls, animals, and planets. God’s name is written large in nature in His beauty, organization, skill, precision, and attention to detail. He’s the Master Artist. We’re told that God’s “invisible qualities” can be “clearly seen” in “what has been made” (Romans 1:20). 

This is God’s general revelation. Eden has been trampled, torched, savaged and vacated. Nevertheless, in our own bodies and in our world we can see the intricacy of God’s craftsmanship; and in flowers and rain and art and music we see and hear vestiges of God’s beauty and creativity. 

As a boy I had a passionate interest in astronomy. I remember vividly the thrill of first seeing Saturn’s rings through my new telescope when I was eleven years old. It exhilarated me and stirred my heart. Five years later, I heard the gospel for the first time and came to know Jesus, but the wonders of the heavens helped lead me to God.   

“The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.” —Louis Pasteur   

Taken from Seeing the Unseen: A Daily Dose of Eternal Perspective, by Randy Alcorn.

Monday, September 28, 2015

the blessing of being human

And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28 ESV)

Here is an excerpt from "The Blessing Of Being Human", a sermon from Genesis 1:28-31.  Here's the outline of the passage...

Fruitfulness (v. 28a) 

Dominion over creatures (v. 28b)
Provision of food (v. 29)
Provision for creatures (v. 30)
A very good creation (v. 31)  

"The blessing of being human is fulfilled ultimately by God’s Son, the Lord Jesus, who was prophesied to be the blessing that would come to all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:2-3), and the King, the one like a Son of Man, who would come to establish his righteous rule and subdue the earth (Daniel 7:13-14).

"Though being in nature God, he took on a human nature (Philippian 2:6-7), and being made a little while lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5-6; Hebrews 2:7-9), he was born a child in a stable (Luke 2:7) surrounded by livestock. 

"At his  baptism the Father’s voice from heaven pronounced, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.' (Matthew 3:17)
"Jesus exercised his authority over the stormy waters of the sea (Matt 8:24-27), and by his will fish filled the Galilean nets (Luke 5; John 21).  He miraculously fed multitudes in the wilderness (Mark 8; John 6), and he called himself the living Bread come down out of heaven for the life of the world (John 6:51).  

"He rode peacefully on an unbroken donkey who carried him through the crowds of Jerusalem (Matthew 21).    

"He is the true Image of the invisible God, and the Firstborn over all creation (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-3).  He is the last Adam and the second Man (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47), to whom creation ultimately owes its allegiance.

"He is the One who by his redeeming death, by the cleansing of his blood and the triumph of his resurrection, will create a new earth and new kings to walk upon it:  'By its light [the holy city, the new Jerusalem] will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.' (Revelation 21:24)   

"This blessing is given for us to share in -- only in him, only in and through the Lord Jesus.  Salvation itself is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), bringing order out of disorder, and fullness out of emptiness, blessing instead of a curse, and the echo of the pronouncement 'behold, it is very good.'" 

As God alone is the creator and the source of blessing and goodness, so in salvation and in the new creation God alone through his Son Jesus Christ will be the source of all blessing and goodness.   To believe in him is to have been born again into God’s family.  To walk obediently with him is to be fruitful.  And there is no greater privilege than to fill the earth with the proclamation of this good news.

The painting above is the "Miraculous Haul of Fishes" by Henry Ossawa Tanner. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

he created it, and did not let it go

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." (Revelation 4:11 ESV)

"The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all." (Psalm 103:19 ESV)

"To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:17 ESV)

Understood in this way, the doctrine of creation and providence is rich in encouragement and comfort.  There is so much in life that is oppressive and that robs us of the strength to live and to act.  There are the adversities and disappointments which we meet on life's way.  There are those terrible calamities and disasters which sometimes cause hundreds and thousands of lives to be lost in nameless anguish.  But life in its ordinary course also can sometimes raise doubts in the mind about the providence of God.  Is not mystery the portion of all mankind?  The worm of restlessness and fear gnaws at all existence.  Is it not true that God has a quarrel with His creatures and that we perish in His wrath and are terrified by His anger?  No, it is not the unbelievers and frivolous only, but the children of God also, and these the most deeply of all, who are seized upon by the awful seriousness of reality. And sometimes the question forces its way from the heart up to the lips: Can it be that God created man on the earth for nothing?

But then the despondent Christian by a faith in God's creation and providence again raises his head up high.  No devil, but God, the Almighty, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, created the world.  It is in its entirety and in its parts the work of His hands, and of His hands alone.  Once He had created it, He did not let it go.  By His almighty and omnipresent power He sustains it.  He governs and rules all things in such a way that they all cooperate and all converge upon the purpose He has established.  The providence of God includes, together with the maintenance and the cooperation, also the third aspect of governance.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15 and Rev. 19:6) and His kingdom lasts unto all eternity (1 Tim. 1:17).  No accident and no necessity, no arbritrariness and no force, no mere caprice nor iron destiny controls the world and its history and the life and lot of mankind.  Behind all secondary causes there lurks and works the almighty will of an almighty God and a faithful Father.

It speaks for itself that no one can really believe this with his heart and confess it with his mouth except the person who knows himself to be a child of God. The faith in providence stands in the most intimate of relationships with the faith in redemption. 

~ Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, p. 182. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

he created them male and female

Here are some helpful articles regarding a complementarian view of men's and women's roles in marriage and ministry...

A Vision for Biblical Complementarity. "Over the years I have come to see from Scripture and from life that manhood and womanhood are the beautiful handiwork of a good and loving God." (John Piper)

Unwilling to twist Scripture. "And I must confess: attitudinally, I am an egalitarian. I find what scripture says on these matters very difficult to swallow at times. However, I am positionally a complementarian because I can’t go against my conscience. For me at least, to read these passages in an egalitarian way is to do some exegetical gymnastics in which one twists and turns the text to conform it to their views. I may not be comfortable with my complementarian position, but I am unwilling to twist scripture into something that it does not say."  (Daniel Wallace, Professor of New Testament, Dallas Theological Seminary)

On 1 Timothy 2:8-15. "We think 1 Timothy 2:8-15 imposes two restrictions on the ministry of women: they are not to teach Christian doctrine to men and they are not to exercise authority directly over men in the church. These restrictions are permanent, authoritative for the church in all times and places and circumstances as long as men and women are descended from Adam and Eve."
(Douglas Moo, Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College)

Headship and equality.  (PDF) Does any kind of male authority in home or church violate human equality?  Wayne Grudem is editor of 
this book, Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood. (Crossway, 2002) 

Who Should Women Teach?  From Fifty Crucial Questions

The Danvers Statement.   In December, 1987, the newly-formed Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood met in Danvers, Massachusetts, to compose the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Gender confusion.  "What do we tell our children about a gender-confused world? The truth. That gender-confused children are just that–confused. Their feelings don’t change who they are–or their worth.  All children are unique, irreplaceable, and have a purpose to fulfill in the world.  The push to neutralize the genders is an attack on an individual’s worth. To neutralize our children’s gender is to swaddle them in black and put an anonymous mask on them from birth."

Saturday, September 19, 2015

all three

In the Old Testament there were three key individuals who were mediators between the people and God: the prophet (who revealed God's will to them), the priest (who interceded for and represented people before God), and the king (who ruled the people with God's law, being under it himself).  These are sometimes called anointed ones, because they were installed into their office (or, role) by being anointed with oil or with the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes an individual might have two of these roles: Melchizedek was a priest and a king, David was a king and a prophet, Ezekiel was a priest and a prophet.   

As the Old Testament story unfolds, especially in the prophetic books, we see that God was foretelling and preparing for one person to come who would unite all three offices in himself.  He would be the Anointed One (Heb., messiah; Gr. christos).  It might be diagrammed this way...

Herman Bavinck summarizes why it was necessary for God's Son, coming into the world, to fulfill all three of these roles...

We need a Christ who is all three [offices] at once.  We need a prophet who proclaims God to us, a priest who reconciles us with God, and a king who in the name of God rules and protects us.  The whole image of God must be restored in man -- knowledge, yes, but also holiness and righteousness.  The whole man must be saved, according to soul and body, according to head and heart and hand.  We need a Saviour who redeems us perfectly and entirely and who fully realizes in us our original purpose.  Christ does this.  Because He Himself is prophet, priest, and king, He in turn makes us prophets, priests, and kings unto God and His Father (Rev. 1:6).   

~ Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, p. 335.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

to dwell in the house of the Lord

"One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple." 

(Psalm 27:4 ESV)

"To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life means to be so vividly conscious of our fellowship with the living God that every morning, noon and night our thoughts go out to Him, that we hear his voice in the soul, that we are aware of his holy Presence within, experience his workings in our heart and in our conscience, and that we carefully avoid the things which we would not dare to do if God stood before us and spoke to us."

(Abraham Kuyper, To Be Near Unto God)

Friday, September 11, 2015

anvil and hammer

Last eve I paused beside the blacksmith's door,
   And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then looking in, I saw upon the floor,
   Old hammers worn with beating years of time.

"How many anvils have you had," said I,
   "To wear and batter all these hammers so?"
"Just one," said he, and then with twinkling eye,
   "The anvil wears the hammers out, you know."

"And so," I thought, "The Anvil of God's Word
   For ages skeptic blows have beat upon,
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
   The Anvil is unharmed, the hammers gone."

"The Anvil of God's Word" by John Clifford, D.D. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

do the next thing

"Do the Next Thing" was an anonymous poem that was one of Elisabeth Elliot's favorites.  It's a good word for today as we often become overwhelmed with details or paralyzed with too many options.  We may want to see the outcome more clearly before we act.  Yet this poem reminds us there is a place for simple, faithful duty.  We need to act upon God's clearly-given will. "Just do the next thing..." 

At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven that,
as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.

And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, ‘Do the next thing.’
Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.

Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.

Do the next thing.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

the gospel beautifies the church

Here are some great snippets from Ray Ortlund, Jr., from The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (Crossway, 2014) ...

I want to be really forgiven of my real sins by a real Savior.

God's final category for you is not your goodness versus your badness, but your union with Christ versus your distance from Christ.

The beauty of human relationships, is the first thing that outsiders are likely to notice when they enter a church.

The household of God must offer a clear and lovely alternative to the madness of this world.

We either proudly believe we are too good to be judged, or we proudly believe we are too bad to be saved.

When a whole church luxuriates in Christ alone, that church embodies a gospel culture.

The beauty of love is the crown of a well-taught church.

The gospel never advances without someone paying a price.

The greatness of Christ creates courage in us.