Tuesday, May 31, 2016

alistair's top ten list

I'm always attracted to "top ten" (or 20 or 50) lists of books that authors, theologians, pastors, or scholars give as recommended reading.  Each year at the Basics Pastors' Conference at Parkside Church, Alistair Begg gives his current list of top ten books.  Here's the list for 2016, and his notes:

A Body of Divinity, Thomas Watson, Banner of Truth.
Based on the Westminster Assembly’s Shorter Catechism, this book deals with the foremost truths of the Christian faith. Watson conveys his knowledge of the truth in an original, concise, pithy and illustrative style.

Confessing the Faith, Chad Van Dixhoorn, Banner of Truth.
The Westminster Confession of Faith finds itself in the first rank of great Christian creeds. In this book, Dixhoorn seeks to deepen our understanding of each paragraph of the Confession. Challenging hearts and minds, Confessing the Faith hopes to edify and instruct both advanced and general audiences.

Heroes, Iain Murray, Banner of Truth.
The Bible no more knows a separate class of heroes than it does of saints. Yet grace so shines in some, that it lightens the path of many. As A.W. Tozer could write, “Next to the Holy Scriptures, the greatest aid to the life of faith may be Christian biographies”. In this book, Murray sheds light not only on some well known figures in church history but also on some of those who are not so well known, encouraging readers to see what Christ did “yesterday” and be energized to trust and serve him today.

Honest Evangelism, Rico Tice, Good Book Company.
Hostility and hunger—that’s the response to the message of Jesus. The first is painful, the second is wonderful, and Rico Tice is honest about both. Short, clear, realistic and humorous, this book will challenge you to be honest in your conversations about Jesus, help you to know how to talk about him, and thrill you that God can and will use ordinary people to change eternal destinies.

How the Church Can Change Your Life, Josh Moody, Christian Focus.
Google books on church, there will be no shortage of choice. Some will be helpful, others less so.  So why another book on church? Josh Moody is asking a very different question: why should I go to church at all? Filled with practical advice, this book will help you address questions you should know the answers to and others you never knew to ask.

Isaiah by the Day, Alec Motyer, Christian Focus.
These daily devotionals are birthed from a lifetime of study on the prophecy of Isaiah. Day by day, readers are provided with passages from Isaiah and an opportunity to explore them further.

Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon, Crossway.
For over one hundred years, Christians have treasured Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional. With a reading for the beginning and end of each day throughout the year, this book helps the reader appreciate Spurgeon’s emphasis on the importance of abiding in Christ and meditating on God’s
Word. His wisdom and counsel provide a timeless guide through the trials and triumphs of the year.

The Gagging of God, D.A. Carson, Zondervan.
Is Jesus the only way to God? This clear, scholarly response to that question affirms the deep need for the Gospel’s exclusive message in today’s increasingly pluralistic global community. The Gagging of God offers an in-depth look at the big picture, showing how the many ramifications of pluralism are all parts of a whole, and then provides a systematic Christian response.

The Whole Christ, Sinclair Ferguson, Crossway.
Since the days of the early church, Christians have wrestled with the relationship between law and gospel. Sinclair Ferguson shows us that the antidote to the poisons of both legalism and antinomianism is one and the same: the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are simultaneously justified by faith, freed for good works, and assured of salvation.

Remaking a Broken World, Christopher Ash, 10 of Those.
The thing about Christianity – for many today – is not whether it is true or false, but that it is simply irrelevant. In a sweep through the whole Bible story, this book shows that the ordinary local Christian church, if it is faithful to the Bible, is the most significant happening in the world. Here are the beginnings
of the remaking of a broken world. This – in spite of appearances – really is “where it happens”. Anyone interested in the Christian faith will be stimulated and provoked by this fresh Bible overview.

Friday, May 27, 2016

doctrine, practice, life, and morality

"Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds."  (Ephesians 4:17 ESV)

"Doctrine followed by practice is the distinct characteristic of [Paul's] method... doctrine and practice are so intimately related and connected that they must never be divided; Paul cannot deal even with the most practical matters except in the light of doctrine."

"Our conduct must always arise from and be dictated by and controlled by our doctrine.  In other words, the Christian life is not a code which is imposed upon us and which we do not understand."

"As it follows out of doctrine we must understand what we are doing and what we are not doing.  Or, to put that still more plainly, we should never do things merely because other people are doing them; and we should not refrain from doing things simply because other people refrain from doing them. We must understand why we do them or why we refrain."

"Our conduct should always be to us something which is inevitable in view of what we believe.
"If my Christian living is not quite inevitable to me, if I am always fighting against it and struggling and trying to get out of it, and wondering why is it so hard and narrow, if I find myself rather envying the people who are still back in the world, there is something radically wrong with my Christian life.  Christian conduct and behaviour should be inevitable."

[On the difference between Christianity and morality...] "Christianity is interested primarily in me; and it is interested in my conduct, not in and of itself and in terms of its social consequence; it is interested in my conduct and behaviour because of its interest in Christ, in God, in the church, in the plan of redemption, in the whole scheme of salvation, in the fact that God will, through the church, astound the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.  Not conduct in itself, but conduct in terms of this vast scheme; God nullifying the effects of evil, destroying the works of the devil, and restoring and reuniting in one all things in Christ.  Christian conduct and behaviour always has a specifically Christian reference, and it is only rightly viewed in terms of the grand purpose of redemption." 

"Failure in the living of the Christian life, therefore, must ultimately result from a failure somewhere or other to understand the doctrine and the truth."

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, highlights from "Practice Rooted in Doctrine" from Darkness and Light, An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17--5:17 (Baker Books, 1982), pp. 19-21.

Or hear the sermon: "Practice Rooted in Doctrine"

Saturday, May 21, 2016

striped duofold

Richard Binder writes about the “new” Duofold: After retiring the Streamlined Duofold from its catalog in 1935 (but continuing manufacture in the U.S.A. at least into 1937), Parker reintroduced the Duofold name in 1939.  In 1940, the “striped” Duofold was introduced... [Read more here

I have a green and gold model (beautifully translucent), a Striped Duofold Major with a Fine nib, vacumatic fill, manufactured in 1943 (identified by the wide band on cap & no tassie on the blind cap).  There's a "V" engraved on the nib for "Victory" since this was made during World War II.  Another fine writing instrument and a part of history. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Parker Duofold "Big Red"

Been a while since I posted anything about fountain pens. One of the prize pens in my collection is the Parker Duofold in red, also known as the "Big Red."  I picked it up at a very reasonable price at an estate sale.

PenHero writes, The Parker Duofold was introduced in 1921 in a very unusual orange red hard rubber called "Chinese Lacquer Red." The majority of hard rubber pens being made at the time were all black, so the Duofold stood out. It was a very large pen, being 5 1/2 inches long capped and 6 7/8 posted and the large red pen quickly became known as "Big Red," the name it and all following large red Duofolds are known by to this day...

More info here from ParkerPens.   

These flat-top Duofolds were manufactured from 1921 to 1933.  Mine is a Parker Duofold Senior, made in 1928.  The two flush, narrow bands on the cap date this to that year.  

The nib is gold-filled (medium) with the arrow engraving.  The body is Permanite (celluloid) and the filling mechanism is a button-filler. 

It had previously been restored, and it is a real treat to write with a fountain pen that is almost a century old!


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

not by works, but for works

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

There are three truths about "works" in this passage, and it's important to hold all three and consider their order:

1) We are not saved by works. (v. 8-9)(Salvation really is a gift.)

2) We are now God's work. (v. 10a)(God is graciously working in us, Phil. 2:13.)

3) We are saved for good works, prepared by God. (v. 10b)(Not saved by works, but created for good works.)

Warfield sums up: "The very good works which we do, then, have been prepared for us by God in his electing grace, that we should walk in them. We are not chosen because we are good; we are chosen that we may be good." (B. B. Warfield)

no secular neutrality

"How is this world of assumptions formed? Obviously through all the means of education and communication existing in society. Who controls those means? The question of power is inescapable. Whatever their pretensions, schools teach children to believe something and not something else. There is no ‘secular’ neutrality."  (Lesslie Newbigin)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

sunday slides

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it."  (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV)

“Sanctification may be defined as that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spirit by which He purifies the sinner from the pollution of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God, and enables him to perform good works.” (Louis Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine, p 267)

Here's the responsive reading after the sermon:

Leader:   Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, 
whose sin is covered.  
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, 
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Congregation:  I acknowledged my sin to you, 
and I did not cover my iniquity; 
I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," 
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Leader:  Let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you 
at a time when you may be found. 
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, 
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. 

Congregation:  Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Leader:  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; 
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 

Congregation: If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, 
O Lord, who could stand?  
But with you there is forgiveness, 
that you may be feared.  

Leader: In Christ we have redemption through his blood, 
the forgiveness of our trespasses, 
according to the riches of his grace, 
which he lavished upon us. 

Congregation:  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness 
and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Leader:  When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, 
he sat down at the right hand of God, 

Congregation: For by a single offering he has perfected for all time 
those who are being sanctified.  

Leader: If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, 
we have fellowship with one another, 
and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  

Congregation: If we confess our sins, 
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins 
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

~Readings taken from Psalm 32, 38; 51; 130; Ephesians 1; Colossians 1; Hebrews 10; 1 John 1. 

Sunday's sermon in MP3 and notes in PDF at SermonAudio

Friday, May 6, 2016

bavinck on sanctification

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV)

In studying this passage, I have been helped by the insights of Herman Bavinck on the topic of sanctification.  Some highlights below...

"To understand the benefit of sanctification correctly, we must proceed from the idea that Christ is our holiness in the same sense in which he is our righteousness. He is a complete and all-sufficient Savior. He does not rest until, after pronouncing his acquittal in our conscience, he has also imparted full holiness and glory to us. By his righteousness, accordingly, he does not just restore us to the state of the just who will go scot-free in the judgment of God, in order then to leave us to ourselves to reform ourselves after God's image and to merit eternal life. But Christ has accomplished everything. He bore for us the guilt and punishment of sin, placed himself under the law to secure eternal life for us, and then arose from the grave to communicate himself to us in all his fullness for both our righteousness and sanctification (1 Cor 1:30). The holiness that must completely become ours therefore fully awaits us in Christ." (Reformed Dogmatics, 4:248)
"The new life in Christ, just like all natural life, must be nourished and strengthened. This is possible only in communion with Christ in the Holy Spirit and through the word of Scripture. Enlightened by the Spirit, believers gain a new knowledge of faith. The gospel is the food of faith and must be known to be nourishment. Salvation that is not known and enjoyed is no salvation. God saves by causing himself to be known and enjoyed in Christ."  (RD 4:96)
"Faith is not intellectual assent to a historical truth but a practical knowledge of the grace that God has revealed in Christ, a heartfelt trust that he has forgiven all our sins and accepted us as his children. For that reason this faith is not only needed at the beginning in justification, but it must also accompany the Christian throughout one's entire life, and also play a permanent and irreplaceable role in sanctification. In sanctification, too, it is exclusively faith that saves us. . . Faith . . . is the one great work Christians have to do in sanctification according to the principles of the gospel (John 6:29); it is the means of sanctification par excellence. . . . Faith breaks all self-reliance and fastens on to God's promise. It allows the law to stand in all its grandeur and refuses to lower the moral ideal, but also refrains from any attempt, by observing it, to find life and peace; it seizes upon God's mercy and relies on the righteousness and holiness accomplished in Christ on behalf of humans. It fosters humility, dependence, and trust and grants comfort, peace, and joy through the Holy Spirit." (RD 4:257)
“The life of the Christian is not a quiet growth, but a continuous struggle... Because sanctification, like the whole of salvation, is the work of God, we are admonished, obliged, to a new obedience, and we are also qualified for it. He grants abundant grace not that we should instantly or suddenly be holy and continue to rest in this holiness, but that we should persevere in the struggle and remain standing. He hears our prayers but does it in accordance with the law and order which He has fixed for the spiritual life. Hence we are always of good course, for He who has begun a good work in us will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ. The believers can and they will become holy because in Christ they are holy.” (Our Reasonable Faith, pp 492, 502-3).

Thursday, May 5, 2016

what we are praying for

Today is the National Day of Prayer.  Below are some of the things we should be praying about...

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  (1 Timothy 2:1, 2)

Thanksgiving for the many bounties and blessings our nation has received from God in his grace: public safety, many good laws, opportunities for work, clean food and water, clothing, homes, families, friends, democracy, freedom to worship, and many more. 

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.  
(Psalm 136:1)

For our leaders.  Ask that God in his mercy grant wisdom, humility, and moral integrity to our national leaders: for President Obama, Congress, and Supreme Court justices.  For Governor McAuliffe, Senators Warner and Kaine, and Rep. Morgan Griffith.  For Virginia legislature, state courts, and local leaders to make good and wise decisions: the mayor, board of supervisors, town council, and administrators.  Pray for the upcoming elections, for God to grant us righteous leadership, and for civil discourse on national issues.  

"But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."  (Jeremiah 29:7)

For our educational institutions: local schools, Virginia Tech, Radford University, NRCC, and others.  Pray that the school boards, the faculty and administration of these schools would lead and teach with truth and integrity.  Pray for safety on these campuses. 

“…far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.”  (1 Samuel 12:23)

Give thanks for our law enforcement and safety officers, for fire and rescue and first responders.  Pray for their safety and integrity.  Pray for protection from acts of terrorism and violence.  Pray for recovery for those communities that have experienced tragedies, whether natural or man-made. 

For our U.S. Armed Forces here and abroad.  Pray for God's healing the scars of war, physically, spiritually and emotionally; and for the welfare and care of military families.  That our troops still deployed overseas be kept safe, and be able to return home soon. 

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"  (Psalm 46:10)

For churches in our land.  That we would be revived, spiritually vibrant, working in harmony, for the good news of Jesus Christ to advance and bear fruit in our community.  

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9)

In confession.  Pray that we as a nation would repent of our pride and idolatry, as we “humble ourselves and pray, and turn from our wicked ways.”  That the Church in America would reject complacency and compromise, and joyfully follow and proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. 

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”  (Psalm 51:1-2)

For spiritual healing for our nation: broken homes and marriages, racism, violence, drug abuse, pornography, sex trafficking, poverty, homelessness, aimlessness, and rising suicide rates.   Ask that God would grant success to the efforts of pregnancy resource centers, and for an end to abortions in America.
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD…” (Jeremiah 29:12-14a)

For the nations in our midst.  That our international residents would feel welcome in our community and be safe from discrimination.  That the light of the gospel would advance among all our immigrants and international guests.
Ask God to give wisdom to state and community leaders, and to churches, regarding immigration issues. 

“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!  For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.” (Psalm 96:3-5)

For preservation of religious freedom in this country.   Pray for fellow Christians, and for other religious groups, who face increased intolerance and hostility both here and around the world. 

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”  (Hebrews 13:3)

For our economy:  that we as a country, and as individuals, would embrace wise fiscal policies.  For the many who are struggling with debt.  That those seeking work would be able to find productive jobs.  

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

why we do theology

In my seminary years I enjoyed most of the classes and subjects I studied.  I loved learning to study the Bible in its original languages, hearing exposition of every book of the Bible, taking historical theology and apologetics, and gaining practical ministry skills for the pastorate.  But my greatest love, and the area that became my major interest, was (and is) systematic theology. 

Theopedia gives a good definition: "Systematic theology is a discipline which addresses theological topics one by one (e.g. God, Sin, Humanity) and attempts to summarize all the biblical teaching on each particular subject. Sometimes called constructive theology or even dogmatic theology, the goal is to present the major themes (i.e. doctrines) of the Christian faith in an organized and ordered overview that remains faithful to the biblical witness."  

Recently, I came upon this quote from John Murray, who taught theology for many years at Westminster Seminary, on why systematic theology is "the most noble of all studies"...   
"When we properly weigh the proposition that the Scriptures are the deposit of special revelation, that they are the oracles of God, that in them God encounters and addresses us, discloses to us his incomprehensible majesty, summons us to the knowledge and fulfillment of his will, unveils to us the mystery of his counsel, and unfolds the purposes of his grace, then systematic theology, of all sciences and disciplines, is seen to be the most noble, not one of cold, passionless reflection but one that stirs adoring wonder and claims the most consecrated exercise of all our powers.  It is the most noble of all studies because its province is the whole counsel of God and seeks, as no other discipline, to set forth the riches of God's revelation in the orderly and embracive manner which is its peculiar method and function."
~ John Murray, "Systematic Theology" in the Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol. 4 (Banner of Truth, 1982).
I couldn't agree more!  The goal of systematic theology is that we might know God truly, trust him more, and have our lives conformed to his will.  For me, studying theology indeed is not "a passionless reflection but one that stirs adoring wonder"!

Monday, May 2, 2016

like a child

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."  And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:13-16 ESV)

"Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them."  (Luke 18:15 ESV) 

At the turn of the previous century, B. B. Warfield, Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton, would give Sunday afternoon sermons to the students on campus.  A number of these have been collected and published in Faith and Life (Banner of Truth, 1974). 

In this message on Jesus' blessing of the children (from Mark 10 and Luke 18) Warfield sought to understand just what it was about children (many of them infants) that made them suitable examples for entry into God's Kingdom.  He ruled out innocence, since human depravity runs deep in our nature, even from before birth.  He ruled out humility and simplicity, since children early manifest a high degree of selfishness, and infants really aren't capable of choosing to be humble. 

The excerpts that follow are Warfield's explanation of what receiving the kingdom like a child means... 

"The particular trait which our Saviour has in mind when He declares that only the childlike can enter His Kingdom is the trustfulness of the child. Here we touch, indeed, what seems really the fundamental trait of the truly childish mind, that colors all its moral life, and constitutes, not merely its dominant but we might almost say, its entire disposition— implicit trustfulness. The age of childhood is, above everything else, the age of trust. Dependent upon its elders for everything, the whole nature of the child is keyed to trust; on trust it lives, and by means of trust it finds all its means of existence. Its virtues and its faults alike grow out of trust as its fundamental characteristic. There is no picture of perfect and simple and implicit trust discoverable in all the world comparable to the picture of the infant lying peacefully and serenely on its mother's bosom.

"They lay happy and thoughtless in their mother’s arms and in Jesus’ own arms. Their characteristic was just helpless dependence; complete dependence upon the care of those whose care for them was necessary.

"And it would seem that it is just this objective helpless dependence which is the point of comparison between them and the children of the Kingdom.

"Trust, simple, utter trust, that is the pathway to the Kingdom.

"The Kingdom of God is not taken – acquired – laid hold of; it is just 'received.' It comes to men, men do not come to it.

"It is purely a gift, a gift of God’s; and they who receive it must receive it purely as a gift. He who will not humble himself and enter it as a little child enters the world, in utter nakedness and complete dependence, shall never see it."

You can read this sermon online here