Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Joy of Being Confessionally Reformed

On an older post, I briefly discussed my journey from thinking I was "Reformed" to being "Truly Reformed", which is to say, "Confessionally Reformed", embracing the biblical beauties of The Heidelberg Catechism, The Belgic Confession, The Canons of Dordt, The Westminster Confession of Faith, The Westminster Larger Catechism, and The Westminster Shorter Catechism (otherwise known as The Six Forms of Unity), along with the ecumenical creeds (The Apostles' Creed, The Nicene Creed, and The Athanasian Creed) and The Definition of Chalcedon.

Now I would like to share this very inspiring message by R. Scott Clark on the joy of being confessionally Reformed.

To the confessionally Reformed, I hope this message fosters in you a deeper love for this gift of truth that the Lord has graciously bestowed upon you. To my brothers and sisters who have not yet been blessed as such, may this message be the Lord's means of leading you into all truth.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Theology, Knowledge of Self, and Prayer

To define prayer as merely "talking to God" is deficient. To biblically plumb its depths, one must begin with God and how speech plays a key role in the interactions between the Persons of the Trinity, and how we as men made in God's image and likeness analogize these interactions in our communications with fellow men and God Himself.

To downplay theology is to shun prayer.

"     All speech originates with the Persons of the Trinity.
      God has made us persons in his image.
      Therefore God talks to us, and we talk to him.

Our knowledge of God as the Trinity, three Persons in one God, is the foundation for our understanding of ourselves as discoursing people and as praying people. The more we grasp what it is for God to be as he is, the more we will grasp what it is for us to be as we are. What God is and what we are will determine how the discourse between us is shaped. To the extent that our perceptions of either God or ourselves are distorted, so our perceptions of prayer will be similarly distorted.

- Graeme Goldsworthy, Prayer and the Knowledge of God, ch. 2, p. 37.

The Humanism of Individualistic Piety

How many of us have almost slammed our heads against the wall for having failed over and over again at being consistent with our quiet times? I would think the majority. It seems to me that this emphasis on individualistic piety has more to do with the humanism that has infected the church than it does with the application of biblical doctrine. It almost is an unspoken dogma that being unwavering in one's private times of devotion is superior to going to church every Lord's Day in order to partake of God's blessings through the preaching of the Word, the administration of the Sacraments, corporate prayer and worship, and fellowship among the brethren. I think it's about time that a radical shift in emphasis ensues.

"Many Christians today associate words like piety, devotion, spirituality, and Christian life with things a believer does in private. 'How's your walk?' is shorthand really for asking how well you are keeping up with your personal Bible reading, devotions, and other spiritual disciplines. None of these are wrong, of course. In fact, Jesus modeled getting alone regularly to read Scripture and pray. Nevertheless, a covenantal orientation places much more emphasis on what we do together, with each other and for each other. This in no way entails that we do what we should, but there is an interrelational focus in covenant theology that is different from individualistic pieties. As University of Edinburgh historical theologian David F. Wright notes, 'The piety Calvin advocated was largely communal, churchly. There is much here about `frequenting the sermons` and sharing in the Lord's supper, but very little about individual devotional reading of the Bible or daily routines of prayer, let alone group Bible studies or prayer groups.'"

- Michael Horton, Introducing Covenant Theology, ch. 9, p. 179.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Anselm on Christmas Day

Many thanks to R. Scott Clark for posting the link to this wonderful blog post showcasing Anselm's edifying reflections on the importance of the Incarnation.

"Boso. Infidels ridiculing our simplicity charge upon us that we do injustice and dishonor to God when we affirm that he descended into the womb of a virgin, that he was born of woman, that he grew on the nourishment of milk and the food of men; and, passing over many other things which seem incompatible with Deity, that he endured fatigue, hunger, thirst, stripes and crucifixion among thieves.

Anselm. We do no injustice or dishonor to God, but give him thanks with all the heart, praising and proclaiming the ineffable height of his compassion. For the more astonishing a thing it is and beyond expectation, that he has restored us from so great and deserved ills in which we were, to so great and unmerited blessings which we had forfeited; by so much the more has he shown his more exceeding love and tenderness towards us. For did they but carefully consider bow fitly in this way human redemption is secured, they would not ridicule our simplicity, but would rather join with us in praising the wise beneficence of God. For, as death came upon the human race by the disobedience of man, it was fitting that by man’s obedience life should be restored. And, as sin, the cause of our condemnation, had its origin from a woman, so ought the author of our righteousness and salvation to be born of a woman. And so also was it proper that the devil, who, being man’s tempter, had conquered him in eating of the tree, should be vanquished by man in the suffering of the tree which man bore. Many other things also, if we carefully examine them, give a certain indescribable beauty to our redemption as thus procured.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Imitation of Christ vis-à-vis the Gospel

The notion of the Christian life for many who claim to be seeking to live it is bound up in the imitation of Christ. For them, to be a Christian is to live like Christ, and therefore it is ultimately more existential/pragmatic than it is foundational. This of course ably deconstructs the idea of what it means to be a Christian to accomodate the "Christian Buddhist", the "Christian Hindu", the "Christian Muslim", etc., blurring key distinctives and muting biblical Christianity's claim to exclusivity.

"One of the most sinned-against biblical principles is that of the grace of God in the gospel as the pattern, motive and power for Christian living. Let us take the example of Jesus. The Christian church has always acknowledged the role of the imitation of Christ as a valid principle in Christian living. After all, if we cannot see Jesus as an example of the godly life, who can we see this role? Yet the church has recognized, when it has sought to understand things in the light of the Bible, that Jesus did not come primarily to set an example. Following Jesus was not, for the disciples, solely a matter of trying to be like him in his perfect humanity. It was first of all a matter of believing in him as the unique fulfiller of the Old Testament prophecies of the Christ, the Saviour who was to come to do for them what they were powerless to do for themselves. To keep the biblical perspective we need to see that imitation of Jesus is secondary to and the derivative of the acceptance of his unique role in doing things that can never be merely imitated. The Christian disciple imitates elements of Jesus' life and ministry such as serving one another and even laying down one's life for others. But such serving can never achieve what Jesus' serving achieved in the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of all who believe."

- Graeme Goldsworthy, Prayer and the Knowledge of God, ch. 1, p. 12.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Absenteeism and Church Discipline

"In response to our transient culture, some congregations have adopted a practice of 'lapsing' or 'erasing' members who simply disappear. On the surface this seems like a reasonable thing to do. Indeed, I've done it myself. After all, what else can the elders do in such a case? If a member is gone, he is gone. It's not good for the church rolls to be full of non-attending members and the elders are no longer able to care for a missing member, so the best thing is simply to accede to the reality of our transient culture and erase or lapse them.

There is an alternative. It's the third mark of a true church: discipline. As attractive and eminently practical as lapsing or erasing members might be it's not a biblical option. If church membership is analogous to marriage or any other binding contract, one member of the covenant cannot simply disappear. There are extraordinary circumstances. It might be that a husband goes on a trip and, unbeknownst to anyone, he is eaten by a lion. Ordinarily, however, if someone disappears, it is with intent. If it is with intent, then there is a moral problem. In our time, when almost everyone has a mobile phone, email, facebook etc. going 'off the grid' is pretty difficult. It requires intent. If a person intends to escape a covenanted relationship to the visible church by disappearing, then such a person has violated his membership vows. In such a case, a person is a candidate for church discipline, even if he is apparently beyond contact."

- R. Scott Clark, The Heidelblog: 'On Lapsing Members: Coping with a Transient Culture'

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Price of Feeling Good in the Church

This has been shouted out from the rooftops time and again, but seeing that the glory of Christ is at stake—not to mention that souls are still being dragged off to hell with smiles on their faces—I believe with a passion that the following questions need to be asked once more, if not again and again and again: Does the church that you belong to preach the Gospel? Does it biblically and faithfully dispense of the Sacraments? Is discipline being carried out among the membership? Are the Scriptures preached expositorily?

If you attend one of the more famous megachurches (and some of the smaller ones seeking to be megachurches), the honest answer, in all probability, is NO! And if so, you may have been taught what your "purpose" in life is, you may have been shown techniques on how to be "happy" and "prosperous" in the present life, you may have been entertained into coming back for more Sunday after Sunday, and you may have been led to mutter the "sinner's prayer" in order for you to have a "personal relationship with Jesus"—all without Christ in the Law and Christ in the Gospel. The rude awakening may come now, when you can still seek the truth in Christ, or it may come later when you hear Christ's disownment with a finality that is hot and eternally aflame.

Step out into the light while life still courses through your veins.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Roast Pork, Roads to Truth, and the Church

When a person feeds on physical food, it becomes part of the person. The pig cells of roast pork don't remain as such after having entered my body—no, they become Warren cells. This is the nature of physical feeding.

When the mind feeds on truth, it can do so in three ways: subjectively, objectively, and divinely. Subjective feeding on truth is akin to auto-cannibalism, if there is even such a thing. The person is the sole source, judge, and consumer of truth—with truth being a generation of the self. Of course, this is problematic, as it would only be a matter of time before the whole self is consumed and obliterated. Postmodernists and relativists really don't live out their subjectivity consistently. How can they if they are to survive?

Secondly, there is the objective feeding on truth. This is the mind making judgments on the outside world based on how and what it actually is, regardless of personal convenience. It sees that the various objects extrinsic to itself have independent existence and that the act of knowing is the recognition of this and the various properties that make existence possible. This is at the root of factual learning.

If the assimilation of food alters its structure as it becomes absorbed into the body, the subjective approach to truth actually erodes and degrades the self, while the objective approach adds information to the mind's body of knowledge without effecting changes to the nature of the soul. The third approach to truth, feeding on the divine, does precisely that—it leaves the soul, the total person, changed to the core. This is at the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ's declaration that "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). Everything inferior to man that comes into him is either transformed, is destructive of him, or leaves no remarkable residue. Only as man enters into God's truth is he radically altered, the finite embraced by the infinite, coming out of the transaction not as the same Dick, Harry, Jane, Sue or Warren—but more Christlike.

These divine transactions, the feeding on divine truth, come through the preaching of the Word, the administration of the Sacraments, corporate and private prayer, the ardent study of Scripture, and fellowship among the brethren. They are mediated—as would be the necessary case when the infinite engages the finite—through the church.

The Trinitarian Ground of Good

"Within the three religions that have a personal view of God...(Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), only Christianity truly provides robust grounds for values. And this is because of the Trinity. The Trinity allows us to see God interact with himself; it is a window into his character. For example, how do we know God is a loving God? Surely, we could point to the Incarnation, but that relies on something outside himself (the world) and God doesn't rely on the world for the way he is. In the Trinity, however, we see him actively loving within thee Godhead, but without being contingent on anything outside himself. Only the Trinity allows God to escape being arbitrary or relying on something or some standard outside himself. Islam's view of God as radically one fails on one or both of these problems and prevents it from providing a proper grounding of values. And the non-trinitarian view of Judaism fails for the same reason. The way we can have confidence in God's character and his promises is through the Trinity."

- Doug Powell (MA in Christian Apologetics, Biola University; contributor to the Apologetics Study Bible), Modern Reformation, Vol. 18, Number 7, November/December 2009, pp. 38—39.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Neither Syncretistic Nor Irrelevant

Steering clear of the errors of the Emerging and Megachurch movements, there is a better way—the true way—i.e., the historic, apostolic, Christocentric, and confessionally Reformed way.

"So, first of all, what I say is important for the deep church. When we look to form our church, we're looking at three things: we're biblical; we want to connect with the culture—being contextual and being all things to all men in order to reach them, which is important; and we have this great tradition. Obviously, Scripture is the most important, but the other two are also critical for understanding how we as the church can be connected into the twenty-first century. I think that gets us to what Newbigin says: the problem with most churches is that we're either syncretistic and we look exactly like the culture, or we're completely irrelevant and we don't connect with the culture. I think when we have Bible tradition and a desire to be missional in the culture, we're neither syncretistic nor irrelevant. We're actually extremely relevant, but distinct at the same time. We're really what Hauerwas wanted, which was a resident alien. We're both alien to the culture, but we're also residents in the culture."

- Jim Belcher (author of 'Deep Church' and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California), excerpted from an interview with Michael Horton, Modern Reformation, Vol. 18, Number 7, November/December 2009, p. 47.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Weekly Antidote to Worldliness

Those who have a low view of the Sabbath, who deem it as unbinding, forfeit on a key means to overcoming worldliness.

"The Lord's day with its worship directs our attention to God and eternity. How we need this. We need to get away from the toil and dayliness of living and be reminded that a better day is coming. This not only fortifies us in suffering and persecution, but also arms us against worldliness. Spiritually, we need adjustments, and if we cling to our worldly tasks and recreations on the Lord's day, we will not be realigned with God's perspective, and the world will tighten its grip on us."

- Joseph A. Pipa, The Lord's Day, 'The Work of the Sabbath', ch. 10, p. 168

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On the Chimps that Roam the Web

"We mediocrities struggle at a different level, hoping that our own petty contributions, irrelevant and ephemeral as they are, will be puffed and acknowledged by others; and, in a sense, there is nothing we can do about that. I am a man divided against myself; I want to be the centre of attention because I am a fallen human being; I want others to know that I am the special one; and as long as the new me and the old me are bound together in a single, somatic unity, I will forever be at war with myself. What I can do, however, is have the decency to be ashamed of my drive to self-promotion and my craving for attention and for flattery and not indulge it as if it were actually a virtue or a true guide to my real merit. I am not humble, so I should not pretend to be so but rather confess it in private, seeking forgiveness and sanctification. And, negatively, I must avoid doing certain things. I must not proudly announce my humility on the internet so that all can gasp in wonder at my self-effacement. I must make sure I never refer to myself as a scholar. I must not tell people how wonderful I am. I must resist the temptation to laugh at my own jokes. I must not applaud my own speeches. I must deny myself the pleasure of posting other people's overblown flattery of me on my own website, let alone writing such about myself. I must never make myself big by clinging to the coat-tails of another. In short, I must never take myself too seriously.

Not even chimpanzees do that."

- Carl Trueman, Fools Rush In Where Monkeys Fear To Tread

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Heart Disease of the Justified

An enlargement of the heart, that peculiar muscle that pumps life-giving, oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, is a symptom of its disease. Precipitating factors have caused it to over-exert itself, and just like any muscle found in the body, it has compensated for the load by increasing in size. Eventually, it will just give out due to fatigue and the host body will die.

Interestingly, this is not the case for the soul of man, his heart—the seat of his emotions, motivations, inclinations, and intellect. Its enlargement is, conversely, an indication of health—spiritual vigor and life—borne out of the nature of Christ that the Spirit has wrought in him. He is a new man, with a heart pumping the eternal life-giving blood of the Lamb, by which immortality is his as he is forever connected to the Vine.

Abraham was such a man, one with an enlarged heart. Can you picture him bartering with God for the souls of a few men, who in his mind could perhaps be entangled in the web of wickedness and debauchery that is Sodom and Gomorrah, with themselves abhorring their current predicament and desiring the righteousness of God? Why would Abraham feel so strongly about this so as to engage the God of Unapproachable Light, knowing himself to be but a worm? Perhaps it is because the light of life that is his heritage as one who has been counted righteous in the sight of God has opened up his eyes to the extent of his own radical depravity, his own unworthiness, and therefore as a justified sinner he feels an affinity with those that are as yet unjustified. "What separates me from them?", he may have asked himself. "What is it in me that I should have been treated so well, and these little ones, forsaken?" He came face to face with grace and his heart was enlarged.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Enduring Sabbatism of Hebrews 4

"The next place to be cited is Heb iv. 9. This verse (with its context, which must be carefully read) teaches that, as there remains to believers under the Christian dispensation a hope of an eternal rest, so there remains to us an earthly Sabbath to foreshadow it. The points to be noticed in the explanation of the chapter are: That God has an eternal spiritual rest; that He invited Old Testament believers to share it; that it is something higher than Israel's home in Canaan, because after Joshua had fully installed Israel in that rest, God's rest is still held up as something future. The seventh day (verse 4) was the memorial of God's rest, and was thus connected with it. It was under the old dispensation, as under the new, a spiritual faith which introduced into God's rest, and it was unbelief which excluded from it. But as God's rest was something higher than a home in Canaan, and was still offered in the ninety-fifth Psalm long after Joshua settled Israel in that rest, it follows (verse 9) that there still remains a sabbatism, or Sabbath-keeping, for God's people under the new dispensation; and hence (verse 11) we ought to seek to enter into that spiritual rest of God, which is by faith. Now, let it be noted that the word for God's 'rest' throughout the passage is different one from 'Sabbath'. But the apostle's inference is that because God still offers us His 'rest' under the new dispensation, there remaineth to us a Sabbath-keeping under this dispensation. What does this mean? Is the sabbatism identically our 'rest' in faith? But the seventh day was not identically that rest; it was the memorial and emblem of it. So now sabbatism is the memorial and emblem of the rest. Because the rest is ours, therefore the Sabbath-keeping is still ours; heaven and its earthly type belong equally to both dispensations."

- Robert L. Dabney, Discussions, 535 (as cited in Joseph A. Pipa, The Lord's Day, pp. 128—129).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Shadows and a Sulcata

Beauty in creation is reflective of the incomprehensible beauty of God. It is precisely because of His transcendence that only faint shadows of His comeliness are evident in nature—O, but what food for the soul are these glimpses in the dark!

I am of the conviction that man needs his regular doses of the beauty of God reflected in the created order as a barrier against the erosion of his well-being. Having been at a valley surrounded by an undulating series of tree-green mountains yesterday, with the landscape blanketed in a clear sheet of warm, soothing sunlight, and having my heart moved to worship at the sight thereof, my conviction was reinforced. The place was Heaven's Gate cemetery; and though the context was that of mourning, the joy and love of God permeated every inch of grass. Indeed, a peek at a crack on the door of heaven was what it was, and I thought to myself, "papa is enjoying the full reality of all this now"—well, perhaps not the full reality as that is still in the age to come—but being in the presence of the One from whom all this beauty that surrounded me derives its being, he is happy and he is home.

With that said, I advocate pets as stress-relievers, too. I am enjoying "Ranger", my Sulcata Tortoise very much!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Discipleship and Doctrine

"We need sound doctrine, not because we are intellectualists but because we need the surprising good news that we have been saved not by our discipleship but by Christ and his work. We need this doctrine not simply to know how to be saved from God's wrath but for the knowledge of how we have been liberated from the tyranny of sin. Anyone can rise to the occasion and help to make the world a better place, but only through faith in Christ can a sinner be united to Christ and bear the fruit of the Spirit, whose fragrance penetrates this passing age with the scent of the age to come. We need the doctrine in order to know what God is doing in this time between Christ's two comings, as he gathers us to receive his good gifts through preaching and Sacrament, as we respond to him in prayer and praise, contribute to the up-building of the saints through the gifts he has given us, and reach out to the world through witness and service."

- Michael S. Horton (What Is Discipleship Anyway?, Modern Reformation)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Papa, Our Long Talks Are Not Over

I am writing this as one who has just recently lost a dearly beloved father-in-law. Well, to be more precise, what I lost was the ability to interact with him through the agency of our physical bodies. Human relationships this side of glory are founded on laws of physics that must not be transgressed in order for life to ensue, for communication to take place, and hence for relationships to flourish. Death is the stake driven through the heart of the physicality of humanity, the distortion that mars God's ultimate design for man to be embodied, and the fruition of sin. For where there is sin, there then must be the tears of years of shared humanity abruptly torn asunder, bringing with it the grief and convulsion of soul that marked even the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 11:33—35).

Me and my family are allowed to mourn for papa, for he was God's gift to us—being instrumental in the bringing forth of my wife into the world and raising her up in a manner that has benefited me as her husband and our kids as their mother—with his felicities transcending kinfolk, spilling over to the many people he has touched through the preaching of the Word, his social advocacies, and his long, drawn-out story-telling (he was a voracious reader and had an opinion on almost everything under the sun), which have all now been temporarily suspended.

But then our lament must be short-lived. As children of God, redeemed by the invaluable covenant blood of Christ, death is now but the doorway into an eternity of seeing the Lord face to face—but it is not to be romanticized for it is the curse of God upon sin, and the curse which He Himself bore in behalf of those whom He has chosen from among the lot of mankind even before the dawn of time. The nature of death is a dichotomy: it is the harbinger of doom for those who have shunned the Lamb that was slain even before the foundation of the world, and the herald of delights for those who through the Spirit have put their faith, through grace, in Christ—and it is in the latter consideration that we find the consolation that cuts short our sadness.

I may not have often appreciated papa's penchant for verbosity, but I know that in the future age of glory, I shall again converse with papa, with a perfection of dialogue that must necessarily mark the absence of sin, in the flesh. We love you, papa!

"When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

'Death is swallowed up in victory.'
'O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?'" (1 Cor. 15:54—55)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiness and Self-Esteem

"We need to work at ensuring that our commitment to holiness is a commitment to God, not to our own self-esteem. Frederick W. Faber, a nineteenth-century British writer, showed me great insight into this tendency (I've paraphrased his words for clarity): 'When we sin we are more vexed at the lowering of our self-esteem than we are grieved at God's dishonor. We are surprised and irritated at our own lack of self-control in subjecting ourselves to unworthy habits....The first cause of this is self-love, which is unable to stand the disappointment of not seeing ourselves in time of trial come out beautiful, erect, and admirable.'"

- Jerry Bridges, Holiness, 'Sin and Self-Esteem', p. 119

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Beauty, Purity, and Simplicity of Reformed Worship

"Reformed worship is beautiful, but it does not have the beauty of sensual things. Rather, it has the beauty mentioned in several of the psalms. 'Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness' (Ps. 29:2).

It is for this reason that Reformed worship has always been marked by what some have called 'a stark simplicity.' The beauty is found in the faithful preaching of the Word of God, in the simple, unadorned, but faithful administration of the sacraments, and in the maintenance of faithful discipline. Reformed people find their delight in truth and in the spiritual things that Christ spoke of when he said that we must worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Abraham Kuyper spoke of 'the serious danger with which symbolism menaces the future of our Calvinistic Church life.' When 'symbolism replaces revelation,' he said, it 'makes us fall back from conscious to unconscious religion. The Reformed faith always places revelation in the foreground, and tolerates no other performances than such as are able to echo it and remain carefully under its sway.' This simplicity is a hallmark of the worship conducted in Reformed churches."

- Thomas E. Tyson and G.I. Williamson, What is the Reformed Faith?, Part IV, p. 34

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Undefeatable Decalogue

"The Reformed faith insists upon God's supreme authority. 'The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will' (WSC, Q.39). That revealed will (the moral law) is 'summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments' (WSC, Q.41), which are found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. It is not difficult to relate all of the commands in the Bible to one or more of the Ten Commandments (cf. Matt 5:17—48). That moral law is binding upon all men for all time. Prior to our conversion, it 'was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith' (Gal. 3:24). That is, it revealed our sin and need of a Savior. After conversion, it is a rule of gratitude for the covenant people of God in their thankful service to their Deliverer."

- Thomas E. Tyson and G.I. Williamson, What is the Reformed Faith?, Part II, p. 22

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Calvin and the Comfort Zone

The brief snippet below blessed me in that it showcases what it means to live radically outside of our comfort zones in order to render pure, undefiled obedience to Christ, as exemplified in Calvin's life.

"Calvin knew whereof he spoke. There was a period of murkiness as he became an evangelical. There must have been a period of transition in Paris, an inward wrestling with whether or when to stop attending Mass. Whether and when to identify with the evangelicals. How? Where? At what cost? His public identification with the evangelical church in Geneva, his virtual imprisonment by Farel, being pressed into service in Geneva against his will, having been unceremoniously dismissed by the City Council and then recalled from a much more pleasant place–Calvin only wanted to study and write–these were all crosses he bore. He considered that living in Geneva was like being crucified 1000 times a day. He did it at the expense of his own health, his own happiness, his own peace of mind, against his better judgment and personal inclinations, because his Savior did it for him." (emphasis mine)

- R. Scott Clark, To the Evangelical Nicodemites, Part 4

Friday, November 6, 2009

Satanic "Christianity"

"What would things look like if Satan actually took over a city? The first frames in our imaginative slide show probably depict mayhem on a massive scale: Widespread violence, deviant sexualities, pornography in every vending machine, churches closed down and worshipers dragged off to City Hall. Over a half-century ago, Donald Grey Barnhouse, pastor of Philadelphia's Tenth Presbyterian Church, gave his CBS radio audience a different picture of what it would look like if Satan took control of a town in America. He said that all of the bars and pool halls would be closed, pornography banished, pristine streets and sidewalks would be occupied by tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The kids would answer 'Yes, sir,' 'No, ma'am,' and the churches would be full on Sunday ... where Christ is not preached.

Not to be alarmist, but it looks a lot like Satan is in charge right now."

- Michael S. Horton, Christless Christianity, Getting in Christ's Way

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Prayer of Confession

"Our Father, we are sinful and You are holy. We recognize that we have heard in Your Law difficult words knowing how often we have offended You in thought, word, and deed, not only by obvious violations, but by failing to conform to its perfect commands, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. There is nothing in us that gives us reason for hope, for where we thought we were well, we are sick in soul. Where we thought we were holy, we are in truth unholy and ungrateful. Our hearts are filled with the love of the world; our minds are dark and are assailed by doubts; our wills are too often given to selfishness and our bodies to laziness and unrighteousness. By sinning against our neighbors, we have also sinned against You, in Whose image they were created. Lord have mercy on us; Christ have mercy on us; Lord have mercy on us."

- Dr. Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of The White Horse Inn national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is author of several books, including Power Religion, A Better Way, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology (Baker, 2006), and Too Good to be True: Finding Hope in a World of Hype (Zondervan, 2006).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Luther and Tradition / Sola Scriptura vs. Biblicism

"In preparation for the council that would eventually become the Council of Trent, Luther published in 1539 On the Councils and the Church. There he mocked the papacy and magisterium as 'masters' of the law, works, and sanctity but not Scripture. Even in the midst of satire, he was careful to note that he did not pretend to read Scripture by himself or as if no one had read it before him:

For I know that none of them attempted to read a book of Holy Scripture in school, or to use the writings of the fathers as an aid, as I did. Let them take a book of Holy Scripture and seek out the glosses of the fathers; then they will share the experience I had when I worked on the letter to the Hebrews with St. Chrysostom's glosses, the letter to Titus and the letter to the Galatians with the help of St. Jerome, Genesis with the help of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, the Psalter with all the writers available, and so on. I have read more than they think, and have worked my way through all the books; this makes them appear impudent indeed who imagine that I did not read the fathers and who want to recommend them to me as something precious, the very thing that I was forced to devaluate twenty years ago when I read the Scriptures.

This passage is telling about his mature view of extrabiblical authority. Luther read Sripture with the fathers, but he was not enslaved to them. He understood that councils and the fathers often contradicted one another. This passage is especially fascinating because of the period to which he refers was that in which he was reaching his mature Protestant views on the doctrine of justification. In other words, Luther did not reach his doctrine of justification by simply reading Scripture. Rather, he reached it by reading Scripture in dialogue with the Christian tradition."

- R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession, ch. 1, pp. 23-24

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Goodness of God

One cannot even begin to fathom the goodness of God. In eternity past, even before a single angel was given existence, God in His triune perfection was ultimately happy and contented. The fellowship that flowed in between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was such that they needed nothing else to complete their utter state of ecstasy. Nothing could be more true as God, being God, cannot improve upon Himself in any way, shape or form.

But why create anything or anyone else? Why fashion the angels, the universe in all its splendor, or man in his feebleness? Why decree the Fall and the consequent disarray that befell the cosmos? Things are so because God is good. We've all heard it before. The concept is trumpeted every where the name of God is named, and yet is it commonly held that "being" is loud evidence of His goodness? Being is better than nothing and the elemental way that God has showcased His goodness is in the act of creation.

But God's goodness does not end in the swirling stars, the majesty of mountains, or the intelligence of man. He is so good that He, wanting a fuller expression of His goodness, hatched the plan of redemption. The second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, through whom the prior manifestation of goodness was made in the created order, was to become man. Man, made in the image of God, was to see, firsthand, how good God can be. In wisdom, God subjected the universe to futility, but this was to be the theater through which the drama of His goodness would be unanimously played out. The eternally-happy, self-sufficient and self-existent God, through Christ, disrobed Himself of His glory and right to "divine comforts" to announce that He is good.

Is this not love? Truly, love has never been so perfectly defined as in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Sit down, get quiet, and ponder upon this truth for a moment. He made all that exists, He made you, and He became like you so that you may know that He is good and that you may share in this goodness in His presence forever. Finite analogies cannot adequately express this wonderful truth, but think of a man becoming the smallest bacetrium, saving the world of bacteria, and choosing to exist as a bacterium forever. Boggles the mind. And yet integrity demands belief for this is what actually happened and history is one's ally in this regard. History screams the goodness of God—and this is true just as much in His salvation as it is in His condemnation.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Objective Hope

Truth is objective. That is to say something is real regardless of any imposition on it by a subject. The 5-year old who sees a rattlesnake in front of him will be killed by its venomous bite if he attempts to handle it, notwithstanding his ignorance of its lethal nature, because it is objectively poisonous. Knowledge of the truth is a life-saver and the converse is borne out by Scripture, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..." (Hosea 4:6).

God is objectively "there" even if not a single soul acknowledges it. And God has broken through the transcendence barrier, enfleshed Himself, walked in time, and made history—objectively. The Christian faith is not a spiritualization of secret knowledge gained by esoteric means (Finney's revivalism, the prosperity movement's "principles", and basically evangelicalism's pragmatism ring a gnostic bell), but the laying hold of truth that is objective: Jesus Christ is God, and once upon a time in history He became man, lived a perfectly righteous life, and died on a Roman cross, in full obedience to the Father, to redeem for Himself a people that would be reproductions of His glorified body and character.

There is tremendous strength and comfort in this objectivism since we realize that our hope is not in our feeble attempts at righteousness and self-redemption but in something, or more accurately Someone, external to ourselves. Our state of being beloved by the Father, in His counting us as His sons and daughters, is not founded on anything qualitatively meritorious or inherent in us, but in the radical implications of what Christ has already done in history past. Eschatologically, our glory is sealed as we wait in joyous anticipation of not an ethereal disembodied existence but a physical coalition of the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God.

And that is the truth.

Truly Reformed

I came to know of the doctrines of grace around 2005, and became convinced in heart and mind that the T.U.L.I.P., collectively, is what Scripture explicitly teaches. I devoured books and articles penned by what I thought then were "Reformed" and "Calvinist" authors. I learned a lot from them and I'm thankful for their witness. So I considered myself Reformed and a Calvinist, and in my mind being a 5-pointer was all it took for me to be able to claim the labels.

However, just this year, a brother by the name of Joel De Leon, who is studying to be a Presbyterian pastor in the U.S., came into contact with me through Facebook. We struck up a rapport and he, in utter generosity, sent me books and the "Amazing Grace" DVD. One of the books was "This World is Not My Home" by Michael Williams, a study on Dispensationalism. I haven't read the book in its entirety but, through the few chapters that I have indeed read, I began realizing many things about my theological worldview in that they had quite a few holes. This started the ball rolling. Things came to a head last month or so when I began listening to and reading some of Michael Horton's stuff. I began to see the richness, robustness, and cogency of the Reformed faith and what it means to be "Truly Reformed". I also got into articles by other "Truly Reformed" scholars and the case was made that being soteriologically-Reformed does not make one "Truly Reformed".

Fully persuaded that I was of the beauty and faithfulness to Scripture of the Reformed faith, I then desired to be "Truly Reformed". I purchased Michael Horton's "Introducing Covenant Theology" from a local Christian bookstore, ordered R.S. Clark's "Recovering the Reformed Confession" and the Beveridge May 2009 edition of Calvin's "Institutes" from Amazon, and still continued to download online articles. Through the agency of Joel, I came into contact with Ptr. Nollie Malabuyo, a local pastor who shepherds a "Truly Reformed" church, and I sent him a polite Facebook message asking if I could perhaps join them (Ptr. Nollie is Westminster Theological Seminary-trained). I was overjoyed when he gave me the warmest approval.

In all this, I see God's leading hand. The Reformed faith's objectivity, grounding in history, and scholarship are the impetuses to my loving God with all my mind; its Christo-centric humility, devotion, and gratitude the foundation of my godly affection.

Thank you, my Lord, for Your grace has been, is now, and will forever be AMAZING!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

Let it be indelibly carved in your heart and mind, especially for the occasions when indwelling sin robs you of peace and joy, that "his steadfast love endures forever".

Psalm 136

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

17 to him who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
18 and killed mighty kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
22 a heritage to Israel his servant,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Calvin on the Primacy of the Gospel

"Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune. For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation [life] is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under vituperation [verbal abuse], abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death. This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father."

- John Calvin, Preface to Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Does Desperation Mark Your Desire?

Psalm 63:1-8
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

This was the passage that I meditated upon this morning, and what I found therein it is now my pleasure to share with you. What I saw was that the soul that desires God desires Him truly and biblically when the nature of this desire is that of utter desperation and dependence. The soul is at the end of itself. It has nothing to live on. It is stranded in a desert wilderness devoid of any means of survival—and the only hope in sight is God.

Truly, this is the state of each and every human being. The unbeliever does not recognize this gnawing barrenness as the innate thirst of the human soul for God, but the believer is keenly aware and his whole being cries out. The passage makes mention of both the "soul" and the "flesh" craving for satisfaction in God. This is but the true nature of our need, for both the material and immaterial parts of man long for the wholeness that only the Creator can bestow upon the creature.

This desire for God is also so consuming and pervasive that life on this world is considered as of lesser worth than seeing, feeling, and tasting the love of God. It is that tangible. The pleasures of the love of God are so real to both body and soul that they are likened to the sheer joy and satisfaction of having feasted on exquisite food. Having once tasted of the goodness of God, the soul now finds everything in this world as mere roughage, even unpalatable, and longs for the time when everyday would be a day of perfect feasting on God and His delights.

Do you crave for God with all that is you (not just "in" you)? Do you find Him as the supreme delight of your soul? Do you long for Him so much that His denial would be the death of you? God is so desirable that any desire of Him less than a desperate one is unworthy of Him.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Old Cross and the New

"The cross where Jesus died became also the cross where His apostle died. The loss, the rejection, the shame, belong both to Christ and to all who in very truth are His. The cross that saves them also slays them, and anything short of this is a pseudo-faith and not true faith at all. But what are we to say when the great majority of our evangelical leaders walk not as crucified men but as those who accept the world at its own value—rejecting only its grosser elements? How can we face Him who was crucified and slain when we see His followers accepted and praised? Yet they preach the cross and protest loudly that they are true believers. Are there then two crosses? And did Paul mean one thing and they another? I fear that it is so, that there are two crosses, the old cross and the new.


The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it. The old cross brought tears and blood; the new cross brings laughter.

- A.W. Tozer, The Radical Cross, ch. 30, pp. 137-138

Do You Desire God?

Let me love you, my Lord Jesus Christ, above myself and above everything else outside myself. Keep me abiding in You and utterly connected to You so that where I begin is You and where I end is You.

To glorify You: that is why I exist.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Greatest Good

Every human being, while alive on this earth, is in pursuit of what he or she deems is the universe's "greatest good". The worldly man esteems power, riches, fame, and pleasure as the rationale of existence, while the man beholden to God has this as the chief of his or her desires: "To be conformed to the likeness of Christ and to share in God's holiness...That is the highest good to which the believer can aspire." (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, ch. 13, p. 238).

This is a black-and-white proposition. There is no fence-straddling and no demilitarized zone. A person is either worldly or godly; he or she is either a child of the devil or a child of God. In both cases, one's desires determine one's ultimate end.

What occupies the "meat" of your daily thoughts?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Live by Grace, Not Performance

"I write these words at the age of fifty-five. During the past ten or twelve years, I have often—and with greater seriousness than ever before—reflected upon the course of my life. Certain patterns of thought and attitude and conduct have come to light, some of them quite disturbing. I look back upon repeated failures in my efforts to subdue inner conflicts and fears, to combat immaturity and self-centeredness, to build genuine and enriching relationships with other people, to conquer besetting sins, and to grow in holiness and communion with God. I now see that every period in my life has been marked by...struggle. But the persistence of the failures, together with a growing understanding of the past, has made the struggles of recent years exceptionally intense and painful."

- J. Knox Chamblin, Paul and the Self, pp. 11-12, as quoted by Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace, ch. 2, p. 42.

"I am this day seventy years old, a monument of Divine mercy and goodness, though on a review of my life I find much, very much, for which I ought to be humbled in the dust; my direct and positive sins are innumerable, my negligence in the Lord's work has been great. I have not promoted his cause, nor sought his glory and honour as I ought, notwithstanding all this, I am spared till now, and am still retained in his Work, and I trust I am received into the divine favour through him."

- William Carey, in a letter to one of his sons

These words describe the voice of the one for whom conformity to Christ is the sweetest, most desirable thing in the universe. However, human experience in this fallen world will ever fall short of the mark of complete Christlikeness, and the Christian may often be left heartbroken and in despair over sins that daily mar his walk and testimony. The danger of relating to God on the basis of performance then becomes quite apparent.

We must constantly be taking to mind and heart the precious truth that God deals with His children always on the foundation of His unmerited grace. He can justifiably do this for us—for those who have trusted in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ—by virtue of the fact that Christ has fully satisfied His requirements of having both the penalty of sin paid for and perfect obedience to His law carried out in a sinless righteous life—and these are applied to us as real benefits. Because of our union with Christ, God's grace is assured and we have now, and will have all the days of our earthly lives, all that we need and will ever need to live a life that is pleasing to God, growing in maturity to the attainment of ever-increasing Christlikeness.

But we must desire Christ and continue to desire Him, and the new nature wrought in us by the Holy Spirit does so in a way that is as inevitable as breathing is to the sustenance of physical life.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Pipermeister on Calvo

"I think this would be a fitting banner over all of John Calvin’s life and work—zeal to illustrate the glory of God. The essential meaning of John Calvin’s life and preaching is that he recovered and embodied a passion for the absolute reality and majesty of God. That is what I want us to see most clearly. Benjamin Warfield said of Calvin, 'No man ever had a profounder sense of God than he.' There’s the key to Calvin’s life and theology.

Geerhardus Vos, the Princeton New Testament scholar, asked this question in 1891: Why has Reformed theology been able to grasp the fullness of Scripture unlike any other branch of Christendom? He answered, 'Because Reformed theology took hold of the Scriptures in their deepest root idea. . . . This root idea which served as the key to unlock the rich treasuries of the Scriptures was
the preeminence of God’s glory in the consideration of all that has been created.' It is this relentless orientation toward the glory of God that gives coherence to John Calvin’s life and to the Reformed tradition that followed. Vos said that the 'all-embracing slogan of the Reformed faith is this: the work of grace in the sinner is a mirror for the glory of God.' Mirroring the glory of God is the meaning of John Calvin’s life and ministry."

- John Piper, John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God, ch. 2, pp. 16-17 (emphases are in italics in the original)

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Humble Tenacity of Looking to Christ

Indeed, if gameness and heart are character traits that are valued highly in the prizefighter, so are they in the Christian.

"Jonathan Edwards just laid me bare in 1971 and '72 when I was reading his book Religious Affections. I can remember several nights where, in his chapter on evangelical humiliation, he began to peel back the onion layers of my soul. He would say, 'So you think you're humble? What if you're boasting in your humility?' And you admit, 'Yes, I probably am boasting in my humility.' And he would ask, 'Well, what if your confession that you are boasting in your humility is really a pose, and you're still boasting in your humility?'

He gave question after question that made you realize, 'There's no center to this onion.' You peel and peel and peel, and the last peel just disappears, because you can always ask yourself, 'How do you know?' You can always doubt yourself. There's no way, by mere self-analysis, to come to a point where you're looking at something that you can say, 'Definitely authentic!' Because the capacity of the human brain to doubt is always there.

So where in the world does assurance come from? The answer is that, even though introspection is commended and wise up to a point, the bottom line of assurance comes when you stop analyzing and you look to Christ and you look and you look and you look until Christ himself in his glory and his sufficiency by reflex, as it were, awakens a self-forgetful 'Yes!' to him.

Your best moments of assurance are not the moments when you're thinking about your assurance. Because the very moment that you're thinking about your assurance, you have the capacity at that moment to doubt your assurance. This little voice, whether it's your conscience or the devil, is saying, 'You think you have assurance, but...'

And so the answer comes, 'Look to the cross! Look to Christ!' And if you're able to look to the cross, if you're able to see him as sufficient and satisfying and powerfully able to carry all your sins, and you find yourself drawn out of yourself to say 'Yes' to him, that's what you want. You are assured. He is your assurance at that moment.

- John Piper, How can I know if my repentance is genuine?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Loneliness of Holiness

What a breath of fresh air it is when one's life experience is validated in the lives and words of the saints of old, who themselves know the different nuances of what it means to walk upon the narrow path of devotion and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

"The truly spiritual man is indeed something of an oddity. He lives not for himself but to promote the interests of Another. He seeks to persuade people to give all to his Lord and asks no portion or share for himself. He delights not to be honored but to see his Savior glorified in the eyes of men. His joy is to see his Lord promoted and himself neglcted. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces (see Psalm 45:8), and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.

It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. 'Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me' (Psalm 27:10). His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else. He learns in inner solitude what he could not have learned in the crowd—that Christ is All in all, that He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that in Him we have and possess life's summum bonum.

- A.W. Tozer, The Radical Cross, ch. 6, p. 37

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Schaeffer on Brotherly Love

"All men are our neighbors, and we are to love them as ourselves. We are to do this on the basis of creation, even if they are not redeemed, for all men have value because they are made in the image of God. Therefore they are to be loved even at great cost.

This is, of course, the whole point of Jesus' story of the good Samaritan: Because a man is a man, he is to be loved at all cost.

So, when Jesus gives the special command to love our Christian brothers, it does not negate the other command. The two are not antithetical. We are not to choose between loving all men as ourselves and loving the Christian in a special way. The two commands reinforce each other.

If Jesus has commanded so strongly that we love all men as our neighbors, then how important it is especially to love our fellow Christians. If we are told to love all men as our neighbors—as ourselves—then surely, when it comes to those with whom we have the special bonds as fellow Christians—having one Father through one Jesus Christ and being indwelt by one Spirit—we can understand how overwhelmingly important it is that all men be able to see an observable love for those with whom we have these special ties. Paul makes the double obligation clear in Galatians 6:10: 'As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.' He does not negate the command to do good to all men. But it is still not meaningless to add, 'especially unto them who are of the household of faith.' This dual goal should be our Christian mentality, the set of our minds; we should be consciously thinking about it and what it means in our one-moment-at-a-time lives. It should be the attitude that governs our outward observable actions.

- Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, 157-58

Friday, June 19, 2009


I have a mental picture of the kind of man I want to be. A stable man, walking in integrity, and in constant obedience to the Lord. But then there's the real me.

Hope does not exist in anything, anywhere, at any time except in the prospect of conformity to the character of the Lord Jesus Christ, secured for me by His life and death and applied by the Holy Spirit, and in His promise to really carry this out and not leave me as I am. "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom 7:24,25)

Whenever despair over my self grips me, to You I cling, O, Lord. Leave me not as I am.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

D.A. Carson's Dad

"Dad had a view of work that sprang in part from the Great Depression: anything less than working all the time was letting down the people and the Lord. There is no hint in his journals or letters of the proper place of rest, of pacing himself, of Jesus’ words, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31, niv). In Dad this was married to a bit of a perfectionist streak. That, I suspect, played a big part in his failure to finish his thesis: the work was never good enough, so it was never complete. And the sense of failure from not completing it added to the pattern of failure, which in turn engendered more defeat.

I do not wish to make excuses for Dad. Certainly I am not in a position to judge him. But there are gospel ways of tackling this problem more hopefully. So many aspects of ministry demand excellence, and there are not enough hours in the day to be excellent in all of them. When I was a young man, I heard D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones comment that he would not go across the street to hear himself preach. Now that I am close to the age he was when I heard him, I am beginning to understand. It is rare for me to finish a sermon without feeling somewhere between slightly discouraged and moderately depressed that I have not preached with more unction, that I have not articulated these glorious truths more powerfully and with greater insight, and so forth. But I cannot allow that to drive me to despair; rather, it must drive me to a greater grasp of the simple and profound truth that we preach and visit and serve under the gospel of grace, and God accepts us because of his Son. I must learn to accept myself not because of my putative successes but because of the merits of God’s Son. The ministry is so open-ended that one never feels that all possible work has been done, or done as well as one might like. There are always more people to visit, more studying to be done, more preparation to do. What Christians must do, what Christian leaders must do, is constantly remember that we serve our God and Maker and Redeemer under the gospel of grace. Dad’s diaries show he understood this truth in theory, and sometimes he exulted in it (as when he was reading Machen’s What Is Faith?), but quite frankly, his sense of failure sometimes blinded him to the glory of gospel freedom.
" (emphasis mine)

The foregoing is a snippet from D.A. Carson's "Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson)", a book about Don's father. I have never come across a piece by Don from which I was not blessed in soul. This book is no exception. The humility of Don and his father come leaping forth forcefully from the pages and one cannot help but be encouraged by the grace that permeated the Carson family.

This book will aid you in the furtherance of your sanctification. Get it here: Download

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What is the Nature of Your Treasure?

Living in a world besmirched by the aftermath of sin, it must then be that pain, suffering, and disappointment are inevitable. To be human is to have trouble as a constant companion (Job 5:7). However, one's soul is adversely intruded upon by trouble only when the object of one's affection, or one's treasure, is assailed or threatened. Therefore, the key to soul stability in times of suffering rests solely not on desiring that which is affected by the fallenness of the current order of creation, thus changeable, but on desiring that which transcends the world, thus unchangeable. To be at peace in whatever circumstance is to have the Unchanging One as one's Chief Desire and Only Treasure.

The nature of what one pursues as the "apple of one's eye" determines the state of one's joy. Anxiety, fear and worry must necessarily rest upon those who have purposed to find joy in the volatile; but these soul torments have no intelligent and logical basis for those whose soul-satisfaction owes itself to the One who does not change (Malachi 3:6).

John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Adrian Warnock and the Pipermeister

This interview once more underscores the fact that the humble are the ones upon whom God lavishes His grace in order for them to glorify Him by finding their satisfaction and enjoyment solely and ultimately in Him.

"He mentioned to me that he regularly walks away from his events feeling like he's blown it." - referring to D.A. Carson.

"I just know that what I want is the gift of self-forgetfulness..."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Where a Man Belongs

"A famous cigarette billboard pictures a curly-headed, bronze-faced, muscular macho with a cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth. The sign says, 'Where a man belongs'. That is a lie. Where a man belongs is at the bedside of his children, leading in devotion and prayer. Where a man belongs is leading his family to the house of God. Where a man belongs is up early and alone with God seeking vision and direction for his family."

- John Piper, Desiring God, ch. 8, p. 218

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Entailments of Everlasting Life

"We must believe in Jesus and receive Him and turn from our sin and obey Him and humble ourselves like little children and love Him more than we love our family, our possessions, or our own life. This is what it means to be converted to Christ. This alone is the way of everlasting life."

- John Piper, Desiring God, ch. 2, pp. 69 - 70

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