Saturday, December 30, 2006

Matthew Henry didn't love his 'stuff'

I love Matthew Henry for so many reasons. Here's one of them: He wasn't like us. He wasn't materialistic like we all are these days.

One day when Mr Henry was robbed while journeying, he returned home to write this in his diary:

Lord, I thank you
that I have never been robbed before;
that although they took my money, they spared my life;
that although they took everything, it wasn't very much;
that it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.

Not sure that would be my response.

Praise the Lord for men who like this who have continued to form 'so great a cloud of witnesses' before us. God give us grace to run as they did!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Denial of Sola Scriptura Leads to Subjectivism

I've got a Greek exam tomorrow, and the passage I'm studying tonight is Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. I couldn't help but stop to ponder a few things when I got to these verses:

For truly I say to all of you, until heaven and earth pass away, one iota or one dot will not pass away from the Law, until all has come about.
A couple brief points worth noting here. (1) Jesus uses a cool little word play, 'pass away', that is often missed in English translations. (2) Jesus uses a really strong negation to indicate that not a single dot on an 'i' or cross on a 't' could pass from Scripture until all heaven and earth are done away with.

So what? Well, I got to thinking this: For those who are willing to accept the basic tenets of verbal plenary inspiration and sola Scriptura these verse indicate that the Word of God is perfect, and sufficient for the needs of humanity until the end of the earth.

These verses will do little, however, to convince someone who is not already persuaded of this position. They will simply make snide remarks about the 'Matthean community' which produced this text. Some comments might be made about the Matthean variation from Q here or some Jew-pleasing in this Jew-oriented apologetic book. Either way, they will be unconvinced.

That's fine, I suppose. They see it as circular logic to argue from Scripture that Scripture is authoritative, sufficient, God-breathed, etc. If that's the line you want to take, fine, but please realize that the beginning and end of this view is subjectivism, if you want to find any good in the Bible at all.

How's that, you ask? Well, as long as Jesus is talking about social justice or moral virtues most people are fine with him. When he's speaking up for women and including them in his ministry people today love him.

When he talks about the need for perfect righteousness, or the reality of hell, they hate him. They say he's been tampered with, adulterated, his words have been changed by the corrupt church seeking to suppress the historical Jesus who was just too much of a rebel for us to handle.

Hoogly. You can say that only if you take the texts that you want to take and reject the ones you want to reject. You can cite all kinds of Gnostic nonsense, text-critical trash, or church conspiracy claptrap, but in reality all you've done is import your own desires for what you want Jesus to be on to the text, and then let than determine which texts are 'authentic.'

The only people who have any hope of discovering Jesus for who he said he was are those who accept Sola Scriptura. Why? Because then it's not me deciding what issues I really believe Jesus would speak on, or what he would really say about them. I have to let the text speak. I have to honestly do business with the text that exists and somehow let that form my understanding of who Jesus is.

I start with the Bible and end with the Bible. I let it shape and conform my mind's image of Jesus. To pick and choose verses and chapters from the gospels and the NT epistles which I will adhere to is to conform the Bible to my understanding.

Even worse, it's to make my God in my own image.

It's ultimately subjective.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It's a Wonderful Life

The end of the school semester is almost upon us. The end of 2006 is almost upon us.

The season when people like to reflect on the year that was, and ponder their life in the year to come is just beginning.

As I was getting ready for bed last night I got to thinking... I have been so incredibly blessed. In so many ways I've received infinitely (and that's not even exaggerating a little bit) better than what I have deserved.

I have been blessed with the chance to be in a church that is dedicated to teaching the Scriptures, attend a seminary that remains faithful to the word of God, and have friends who are faithful to expound the Bible to me. In short, I seem to just go from one opportunity to learn to another.

That's it. That's my life. Always learning, wherever I am. Here are some of the things I've been learning about lately:

  1. I've been learning about the glory of Christ from John Owen (Works, v.1).
  2. I've been learning about friendship from Esther Edwards Burr (from her letters to her friend Sarah Prince).

  3. I've been learning about parenthood from my one-month-old daughter (who, by the way, thinks I still have a lot to learn!)
  4. I've been learning about leadership from my pastor.
  5. I've been challenged in the areas of prayer and evangelism by one of my closest friends, Rielly.
  6. I've been encouraged to work harder and serve more by my always-loving, always working wife, Stacey.
  7. I've been learning lots about the nature of sin: why I need to hate it more, what it's real goals with me are, and how to put it to death, from John Owen (Works, v.6). I've been going through this together with a couple of brothers from church every week.
  8. I've been challenged to love Christ more and to be more disciplined and more productive with my time through some accountability with my friend Josh.
  9. I've been learning tons about how to worship Jesus at Christmas-time from my dear friends, Bob Kauflin, Mark Altrogge, and co. at Sovereign Grace Ministries who have no idea how much they've blessed the saints through their various ministries.
  10. I've been learning about perseverance from my friend Darrin Brooker, who--believe it or not--has actually been a Sabres fan for a while now, and is still sane.

I could go on and on, but I won't because I need to go to sleep.

Suffice it to say, God is good, and it's a wonderful life.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Oh, the Audacity!

I have found it quite curious over the past few years, the reaction that people get when they speak on the topic of hell and its reality.

Typically people (often 'Christian' people) get quite offended and ask things like, 'Who are you to judge another?' And, 'Doesn't the Bible say more about love and acceptance than it does about hell and judgment?' Thus disgruntled, these ones typically all find each other in a crowd and get themselves and each other quite worked up about the audacity of the one who would dare to speak on hell.

I find it more than interesting that the one who speaks on hell the most in the Bible is the one who loves us the most.

Ever notice that?

It's doubly interesting when you consider he's the one who knew the most of its reality. He's also the one who would experience the full brunt of it for the sake of his people.

Now, are we to accuse Jesus of being audacious? Of course not.

What we must see is that it is not unloving or proud to speak of the reality of hell--even for people who only committed 'minor' sins (see here), or those who 'have never heard of the real God' (see here)--if we are truly speaking about it for the same reasons that Christ speaks of them.

What are those reasons?

  1. A knowledge of the reality of hell. Christ spoke about hell as one with authority because he knew it was a real place, where real people remain under the real wrath of a real God.
  2. A desire for people to see their need of salvation. As Christ preached on hell it was with a view to having people avoid it. Preaching on hell must never be used to exalt oneself above others who we think are destined there.
  3. Love. This encompasses both of the above, but needs to be stated. Jesus didn't end with hell, but having taught of its reality, offered a way of escape. He who taught of eternal condemnation for the rejection of an eternally holy God also taught of eternal reconciliation with that same holy God. He said 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
Will preaching on hell bring bad feedback and negative reactions? I'm sure it always will. But if we're careful to preach the reality of hell for the same reasons as Christ did, in the same way Christ did, offering the same hope that Christ did, we can never be charged with being unbiblical, judgmental, or audacious.

At least not correctly.

Friday, November 24, 2006

'In Jesus' name, amen.'

If you've been a Christian for any length of time, you've probably been forced to think through / discuss the issue of your closing words in prayer. If you're like most contemporary evangelicals in the western world, you probably end most of your prayers with something along the lines of, 'In Jesus' name, amen.'

And again, if you're like most contemporary Christians you've probably heard some preacher at some point in time go off about how praying this is more than just tacking Jesus' name on to the end of a prayer, it means praying as he would pray, asking what he would ask, seeking his kingdom first.

These things are all very true and very good and very important to know. They all have a huge impact on how it is that we pray and what it is that we pray.

But today as I was reading 2 Chronicles I came across something interesting. If you reread Solomon's prayer of dedication of the temple, just note how many times he refers to God's name.

Over and over again, Solomon asks God that when his people pray toward that place (i.e. the temple, which we now understand to be Christ) and by his name, or for the sake of his name, or because of his name, that God would hear them.

This puts Jesus' statements in a new light, altogether! If prayer, to the OT saint, was to be heard because it was concerned with the name (i.e. the character, the reputation, the fame) of God, then when Jesus says that we should pray in his name, he is putting his name on par with God's... a drastic claim indeed.

Sure fits with what Paul says in Philippians 2, though, doesn't it? The name which is given to Jesus is the name above all names... it is the name of God.

I don't know how coherent that all is, but it sure seemed like good food for thought to me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Susannah Lynn Freeman

At 9.53am on Sunday, November 19, 2006, my awesome wife delivered what I happen to think is the world's most beautiful baby girl. She was born about 55cm (22 inches) long and weighed in at about 3.6kg (7lbs 15oz).

The labour was long, hard, and not at all what we expected, but Stacey and I can both testify to God's wonderful grace being with us through the whole experience... and as soon as we heard her first cry, it was all worth it.

Here is some photo evidence:

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The War Within

No one has understood sin and the sin nature like the Puritans, particularly when it comes to the ongoing necessity (and struggles) of putting that sin nature to death. Here are a few gems from the Soli Deo Gloria republication (Morgan, PA, 1995) of Obadiah Sedgwick's (1600-1658) The Anatomy of Secret Sins.

Let a man set up any sin in delightful contemplation and meditation, that same inward acting of his sin, either actually casts him upon the outward adventures, or invites them. This is the least that it does. It strangely ripens his natural inclination; and, besides that, it prepares him for a temptation that suits that way. Satan shall not need to tempt him much who has already tempted himself: and he who will work sin in his heart, a weak occasion will draw it out into his life. Thirty pieces of silver will prevail with a covetous Judas, who already had gold as his master in his heart. (15)

[God] gives singular charge against secret sins. Why? Because He cannot endure any to be hypocritical. The man is to God what his inside is; if you work wickedness in your heart, God will destroy you. Plaster your visible part with all sorts of pious expressions, if yet you can set up a form of sinning within, you are notable hypocrites. (18-19)

Beloved, the main battle of a Christian is not in the open field. His quarrels are mostly within and his enemies are in his own breast. When he has re-formed an ill life, yet it shall cost him infinitely much more to reform an ill heart. He may receive so much power from grace at the beginning, as in a short time, to draw off from most of the former gross acts of sinning, but it will be a work all of his days to get a thorough conquest of secret corruptions. (22)

Satan does not stir a naked eye, but a filthy heart to look through that sinful window. He does not come to the hand and say 'Steal,' but first to the heart, which will quickly command the hand. He does not say immediately to the tongue, 'Swear and blaspheme,' but the heart, which can easily command that hellish language into the tongue. If you should pluck out your eyes and never see any object to excite your unclean heart, yet you may still be as filthy a person as before. Your own corrupt heart and Satan would incline you so. And though you never had a foot to go, or a hand to stir, yet you might be as much a thief as Judas. (23-24)

If you could get another heart, you would look with another eye. The only way to make temptations lose their force is to decline occasions and to cleanse the inward parts. (24)

For some awesome excerpts from John Owen's classic work on the mortificaiton of sin, click here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

When Christians Hear the Word

Sometimes I think I brag about the work that God is doing in our church too much. But then I get to speaking with brothers from other churches who are caught up in programs and boards and committees and all that stuff and they are so negative about church... it really makes me sad. They speak about the divisions and politics in their church and how much of a pain certain people are. It breaks my heart. Church, in so many places, seems to be so... distracted with things (just about any and every thing!) other than the word of God.

But it does help me to realize that there are a lot of churches out there that aren't full of Christians, where the word isn't preached, and where people don't love each other and get actively involved in each other's lives. That all makes me want to talk about our church more, because it makes me think that so much of what happens in 'evangelicalism' today is just merely a result of a whole generation of people being in dead churches. They've never seen what real, biblical, vibrant Christian church is... so they resort to programs and 'conversation' with the goal in mind of completely reinventing the wheel.

Let me just give you a glimpse of what life is like at GFC. A little while ago the Preacher was preaching through the first part of Romans 13, where Paul instructs the Roman Christians to be subject to authorities as to God. Since then I can tell you from experience that without me saying a word, I have been in cars with multiple people from our church who I know used to speed, who now consciously drive the speed limit.

A little while ago another brother happened 'just by chance' to be walking with his wife when he happened upon some people cleaning out (throwing out) a bunch of their office software. The great thing about this is that this brother had been convicted in his conscience by Romans 13 to clean off all his pirated software from his computer. Within days of taking this step of faith, not knowing how he would be able to continue to work on his computer, he 'happens' upon all the free software he needed. Awesome!

These are small things, yes, but they are microcosms. When the word is preached, Christians come. We are not the largest church around, that's for sure, but we are a church made up mostly of truly regenerate people. This is because true Christians are hungry for the word. When they hear it somewhere they stay there. When they stay there and submit themselves to the word as it is preached, the Spirit uses the word to bring about changes in their hearts. As their hearts are changed, their lives change. Sometimes in small ways, other times in large ways, but there is always change.

So I ask again, why look for new ways? Why try to reinvent church? Why try to get God to work in a way other than how he has said he will work? The church was created as a place where the word of God would be read publicly, expounded powerfully, and sung passionately... why do we need anything else? When you preach the word faithfully, you may not pack out the house, but you will fill it with Christians. And the Christians that come will be moved by the Spirit; they will respond with convicted hearts and changed lives. What more could you hope for than that?

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Chicken or the Egg?

After my last post (with regard to the miraculous gifts) evenmay made the comment, 'We should be open to and seek the miraculous, but we should not neglect to thank the Spirit for the ways he gifts his church that seem ordinary.' The first part of the sentence is what caught my attention, because it touches on another issue that's been floating around in my mind: the giving and receiving of the gifts.

Please bear with me if my questions here seem simplistic and practical, but I simply haven't moved in charismatic circles enough to know anything about this. We know that we are to eagerly desire the gifts... but what does that mean, really? If the giving of the gifts is truly the work of a sovereign God (which no one here would deny), then how does one 'desire' them in an 'effective' way (or is there an effective way)?

I have prayed to God many times, asking him for more of the Spirit. I have acknowledged to God that my position on this issue is underdeveloped--I am totally open to the possibility of the sign gifts continuing on even now, but I remain unconvinced. I know I want to prophesy... I know that if it means I experience more of the Spirit, then I want to speak in tongues, too. Is that fulfilling the command to 'desire' the gifts, or is there something more?

Here's the big question I'm getting at: Do I need to be entirely convinced of the reality of the ongoing nature of the gifts in order to receive them? Why would God wait till someone is totally convinced before giving them the experience of prophecy? Why wouldn't he give me a prophecy first so that I would know for certain that is the Lord speaking? I know that I would be convinced by a genuine experience of such a miracle...

If I am open to the Lord's working in my life in this way, and desirous of experiencing him in every appropriate way, is that enough? Or do I need to be fully convinced that tongues continue before I speak in tongues? I don't know of a biblical text to which I can directly refer, since obviously everyone at that point believed in the presence of the miraculous gifts at that point.

Is it wrong to desire something I'm not convinced is biblical? Is it wrong to seek an experience in order to validate theology?

Anyone got any practical suggestions?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Random Thoughts on the Sign Gifts

Attending WorshipGod06 (run by Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace Ministries)with Tim has given me lots to think about. Ever since Tim and I got back I've been mulling over the issues with regards to the 'sign' or 'miraculous' gifts. Here are some random thoughts I've been chewing on...

1. 1 Corinthians 13.8-13. This is not profound, but merely an acknowledgement of what the majority of evangelicalism has already said: these verses are not referring to the closing of the canon. Without this text, the intratextual evidence for any strong cessationist position is incredibly weak. To my knowledge this is the only text cessationists use to argue their position that Paul knew of the gifts coming to an end. Further, even if we could allow that this text is speaking of these gifts (tongues, prophecies, and knowledge), then why do we include things like the gift of healing in the list of gifts which have ceased?

2. Where do we draw the line? It seems to me that the categories of 'miraculous' or 'sign' gifts are somewhat artificially imposed on the New Testament text (like imposing the 'moral / civil / ceremonial' categories on the OT Law). Nowhere does it seem evident that such a distinction is made. Quite the contrary, in places like Romans 12.4-8 Paul lumps prophecy in with faith, service, teaching, exhortation, contributing, leading, acts of mercy, etc. What justification is there for picking and choosing which cease and which continue?

3. We need to know. The going line in our circles is that these are matters of secondary or tertiary importance to the gospel, and so we are united in our differences and able to fellowship with each other since we agree on the central issues. I agree with this. But I can't help but wonder how consistent it is. If there are people prophesying by the Spirit and we are saying that they're not, aren't we closing our ears to God's words to us? Aren't we guilty of denying a genuine work of God? Or if the opposite is the case and they're not really prophesying, but are saying they are, are they not false prophets? If they are putting false words in God's mouth is that something we can afford to call 'secondary'? I don't see how. I've been reading through Jeremiah lately and finding that God has some very harsh declarations against those who prophesy falsely in his name...

4. 'But they're not the New Testament gifts...'. This was one of Tim's (and mine as well) biggest complaints against the practising of the gifts that we saw at WorshipGod06. Simply put, what we saw did not line up with what we read in the New Testament. Now, as one who believes strongly in Sola Scriptura, I want to phrase very carefully what I say next, because I realize that variations of this thinking can be used to all kinds of nefarious ends. But as I think about the practising of the gifts described in Acts and then think about the gifts that I see today at Bible-centred places like Covenant Life Church, I have to ask, 'so what if they're different?' Again, I don't want to dismiss any biblical command or restrictions which are ongoing, but don't we often argue that the book of Acts is more 'descriptive' rather than 'prescriptive'? And if we're honest with ourselves, how much of what takes place on a Sunday morning in our church buildings actually resembles what the first believers did as they met 'day by day' anyway? So why is it such a big deal with the gifts? It seems that the more important (if one can speak in such terms) place to look for guidance on the practice of the gifts would be the epistles written to post-Acts churches. These epistles contain many instructions on how to practice the gifts in an ongoing sense and nowhere seem to indicate that they will cease. Places like Covenant Life Church, leaders like Bob Kauflin, and organizations like Sovereign Grace Ministries do seem to follow those instructions quite well. Everything is done decently and in order (more ordered, in fact, than many cessationist churches I've been in where no one even has an order of service written up).

Again, these are all just random thoughts not leading to any conclusions. They're just things I'm contemplating in the spare moments my brain manages to come across.

Any thoughts are more than welcome!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Good Stuff to Read

If you're like me, you can't help but feel horribly ignorant with regard to much of our Christian heritage. I know a few of the main figures, but very little aside from the biggest names.

It has been a wonderful blessing to study this past year or so under Dr Haykin at TBS because he has done so much to bring church history to life for me. Fortunately, he does it in a way that challenges you with very practical application to the Christian life that we live now. It is no mere academic exercise.

I'm currently going through a couple of Dr Haykin's books and have enjoyed another one previously, so I thought I'd recommend them to whoever thinks they'd like to make themselves a little more familiar with a couple of our forefathers in the faith.

I had the chance to read this book several years ago. It simply contains about 50 of Watts' lesser known hymns. Absolutely fantastic devotional material.

Oliver Cromwell is an absolutely fascinating character who is often written about and studied, but few have come to appreciate the Puritan spirituality that pervaded all of his life and his thought.

Whitefield is always a wonderful study. The devotion with which he writes stirs the heart.

These books are all available from the Joshua Press website and are all very inexpensive. The format is simple and easy to read: the first section contains writings by Dr Haykin overviewing the spirituality of the person in question. The other part of the book is made up of selections from their writings so that you can familiarize yourself with the figure in a firsthand sense by engaging with the primary sources (and you don't even have to go to a library!).

These books are absolutely wonderful because they introduce you to some key figures of our faith without being incredibly demanding of your time or mental energy. And as with everything Dr Haykin does, these books are primarily concerned with practical spirituality and how our lives can be more conformed to the image of Christ by the power of the Spirit now because of what these men wrote so long ago.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I have to...

My friend Josh decided to blog about my wife. Sweet.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Thoughts on Communion with God as Friendship

Thomas Goodwin offers these thoughts on communion with God as friendship, and how this concept should shape our devotional life. Do we serve out of duty or delight?

Mutual communion is the soul of all true friendship and a familiar converse with a friend hath the greatest sweetness in it ... [so] besides the common tribute of daily worship you owe to [God], take occasionto come into his presence on purpose to have communion with him. This is truly friendly, for friendship is most maintained and kept up by visits; and these, the more free and less occasioned by urgent business ... they are, the more friendly they are. ... We use to check our friends with this upbraiding, You still [always] come when you have some business, but when will you come to see me? ... When thou comest into his presnce, be telling him still how well thou lovest him; labour to abound in expressions of that kind, than which ... there is nothing more taking with the heart of any friend.

As cited in JI Packer, A Quest for Godliness (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990), 208.

Why we don't see answers to prayer

Tim Challies recently posted some reasons why God will not answer our prayers. About the same time I was wondering about unanswered prayer and got to thinking that perhaps much of what we call unanswered prayer is really prayer that we simply don't see answered. The reasons for this could be legion, but here's one that stuck out to me: Many times we don't know what we're praying for, or what the answer will look like.

Our church recently held a 'week of prayer.' In one of the meetings we focused on prayers of contrition as a theme, emphasizing our absolute dependence on God for all things. In our last meeting we prayed prayers of dedication to God, committing our future plans and ministry hopes to him to do with as he sees fit. In both of these cases many prayers were offered to God, begging him to keep us humble and to demolish pride in all its subtle forms in our hearts.

That got me to thinking.

Those are wonderful and biblical things to pray! But how do we know when those prayers have been answered? Sometimes I think we expect God to answer those prayers by simply changing our hearts overnight so that we never are tempted to pride again. But that's not a biblical expectation.

What is a more likely answer to that prayer? It's more likely that God will bring hardships or persecution. He may allow me to fall into some sort of sin, or else have some secret sin in my heart exposed before others. It is in these types of ways that God strips us of our self-reliance and our sinful, blind desire for and pride in autonomy. Pride is too deeply ingrained in our personalities, thought processes, and decision-making capacities for us to deal with it any other way.

How can we put pride to death when we don't know where it is?

Looking back over my life I can see that many times God has answered my prayers in ways that I have not expected. More often than not when I sincerely pray for humility and for the Lord to destroy sin in my life, that prayer is answered with suffering or the exposure of sin in my heart. The trouble is that since I wasn't expecting this as an answer to prayer, I don't see it as one at the time, and then I get upset and cry out, 'Why would you let this happen to me, God?'

But it's all grace. He gives grace in the trial, he gives grace for increased faith, he gives grace as he humbles us so that we might increasingly depend on him in love.

This is just one example, but I think it illustrates the point well. From our end prayers often seem to go unanswered. I wonder if often we are just looking for the wrong type of answer.

Just for fun, here's an awesome hymn by John Newton that illustrates the same point:

I asked the LORD that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, his face.

‘Twas he who taught me thus to pray,
And he, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favoured hour,
At once he’d answer my request;
And by his love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with his own hand he seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

LORD, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“‘Tis in this way, the LORD replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in me.”

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Running Well: Ministry Accountability

Wow! It's good to be RC Sproul. Anyone want to take a guess at how much money he's raking in through his ministry? How about Billy Graham?

Take a wild stab, then see how close your guesses are by clicking here.

'The sun's in my eyes...'

This morning, as my wife and I were making the commute in to the downtown area of Toronto (I drop her off at work before heading in to the seminary) we hit traffic. Now, for anyone who knows anything about Toronto, you'll know that hitting traffic in Toronto is like getting wet in the rain--this is not a big surprise.

What was surprising was where we hit the slow-down. Usually at this spot in our trip, the traffic is moving well, so I began to wonder what the deal was. Then we came around a bend in the road and I realized, 'ah, we're heading east, around sunrise' (can't wait for those clocks to shift...). I said to Stacey something to the effect of, 'rats, we've got the sun in our eyes.'

And then I stopped to take another look. I was overwhelmed for some reason this morning by the brightness of the sun (maybe the fact that it was rising directly in front of my eyes had something to do with it...). As 'chance' (i.e. providence) would have it, just as those words were out of my mouth the song 'Your Holy Majesty' by Mark Altrogge (who doesn't love Mark Altrogge?!) came on our stereo. Of course, the first verse has these words:

You are high above all things
The heavens can’t contain
Your radiance and Your beauty
You shine brighter than the sun
I’m ravished and undone
You’ve conquered me completely
Now I am longing for the time
When I will see Your (holy majesty)
I had to chuckle out loud. God is so good!

Immediately my thoughts turned heaven-ward. The heavens are the largest possible expanse we can fathom, but they can't contain the radiance and the beauty of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus. He shines brighter than the sun!

What an awesome thought!

I started thinking about what an incredible sensation it will be to be completely surrounded, engulfed, warmed--totally and truly delighted--in the glory and splendour of the one who loved my soul enough to die for me.

Of course, this isn't Mark's own original concept. He's building off of some large biblical images, not the least of which is Rev 21.23-25:
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.
Some Christians these days say we need to not think about heaven so much and to start thinking about this world more, since that's where we live now. I agree that as Christians we need to be salt & light in this world, but never, ever, not even for a second, will I agree that we need to think less about death and the realities of heaven and hell. There is nothing that delights my heart more in all the world than the reality of the hope of one day seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ--finally being able to be with him. He is all my glory and all my delight.

For now we know in part... then we shall see him, the lover of our souls. I only regret that I am so slow to turn my own heart and my thoughts to him and the realities of heaven and it often requires great acts of providence such as this to get me there.

Here are all the words for the Altrogge song, 'Your Holy Majesty.' You can hear a clip of it here:

You are high above all things
The heavens can’t contain
Your radiance and Your beauty
You shine brighter than the sun
I’m ravished and undone
You’ve conquered me completely
Now I am longing for the time
When I will see Your

Holy Holy Majesty
Your glory and Your splendor
Holy Holy Majesty
You fill my soul with wonder
And unspeakable delight
At just the sight
Of Your Holy Majesty

Why would You shed Your own blood
For those who spurned Your love
And so many times refused Your grace
Why would You take up our curse
Why did You love us first?
Oh You deserve eternal praise
Now I am longing for the time
When I will see Your

Mark Altrogge (c) 2001 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)
All rights reserved. Use only by permission.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Strengthened With All Power...

Here's something I wrote a few years back when the preacher was in Colossians (I think). I just came across it on my computer and so I thought I'd throw it up here in hopes that it might encourage some.


"... strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might,
for the attaining of all steadfastness..."
- Col. 1:11

It is not with any human power that the Christian overcomes sin. In iniquity we are conceived and in iniquity we dwell from the womb to the grave, except by the grace of God. We were all dead in transgressions and sins, and we all served the prince of this world. The Lord looks into our hearts and sees they are desperately wicked and deceitful above all else. He sees that every intention of every thought is only evil continually. He sees that the carnal mind is at enmity with Him and cannot submit itself to Him—nor would it. We were slaves to sin, and without the grace of God at this very moment, you, Christian, are still a slave to your passions. It is only through the strengthening that He provides that we have power. And what power! Were you to live a thousand lives in a thousand lands, you could never behold the great power of our God. When my God appears and demands of man, "Gird up your loins ... I will ask you and you will instruct Me", who is he that can stand? No man can stand before my God.

God has brought us to Christ Jesus and preserved us so that neither tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, death, life, angels, principalities, things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing can separate us from Him! He is the Creator and in Him all things hold together and have their being. Behold the power of your God!

So what is this power to you and to me? It is the power available for the mortifying of sin—the power to make us steadfast. Do you long for integrity? Do you long to see victory in the darkest corners of your heart? Then call on God to give you this power! When temptation comes to despair, remember that when God is for us—though all the world may strive against us—we are more than conquerors through His power!

Are you afraid to ask? Remember Christ's promise that "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." And as Paul encouraged Timothy, we have not been given a spirit of timidity, but one of power! Take hold of this power and destroy the idols in your heart, Christian!

Are you afraid your request will fall on deaf ears? "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" Christian, take heart, and go forth this day and be steadfast—for the Lord Himself strengthens you.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Spurgeon on Meditation

Good old C.H. Spurgeon had these words to share as he commented on Ps 119.15:

We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser’s feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it. Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord, and be this our resolve this morning, “I will meditate in thy precepts.”
In our day it is trendy to be busy. We think we're important if we're the busiest person in any crowd, always in a rush to get on to the next thing. May God give his people grace to make the time to meditate on his word, making it always our priority.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Christ of Isaiah

In my own devotions I've just finished reading through the book of Isaiah. I must say that I think one of the reasons why our churches today are so weak and shallow, and have such a small view of God is that we don't read our whole Bible. I know so many Christians who just simply don't want to read the Old Testament for one reason or another. What a tragedy!

This time through Isaiah has been my favourite so far. Isaiah's God is so wonderfully transcendent, yet so amazingly concerned for the poor; so profoundly righteous, so awesomely just; forever concerned with making the whole world to know that he--YHWH--is God, and there is no other.

One of the other things that really struck me this time is how much the apostle Paul quotes Isaiah. It's amazing! I don't know how I never noticed it before. And not just Paul, either--the New Testament authors seem to love the book of Isaiah. The cool thing is that so many times when an NT author quotes Isaiah it is to say some pretty remarkable things about our Lord Jesus. Here are just a few examples that stuck out to me the past couple of days.

1. Isaiah 60.1-2, quoted in Ephesians 5.14. This passage in Ephesians 5 is cool because Paul takes a saying of Isaiah about YHWH and then directly applies it to the New Covenant believers in Ephesus, saying that all the truth of the person and holiness of God is found in the man Christ Jesus, who is none other than God himself.

2. Isaiah 60.19-20, quoted in Rev 21.23 and 22.5. Make sure you read both of those references. In Isaiah the promise is given that in the New Jerusalem there will be no need of sun or moon YHWH (his specific, personal name) will be the light in that place for his people. In Revelation, John says that the glory of God--which is paralleled with the lamb of God (i.e., Jesus) will be the light. In other words, Jesus and YHWH are One. Now this is an obvious theme throughout Revelation, but it's that much cooler when you read it in the context of Isaiah and all that you've heard over the past 60 chapters about the glory of God.

Too often we either don't want to read our Old Testament or else we read it as quickly and superficially as possible because we think it has nothing to say to us. In reality, all its truth speaks of Jesus, who has everything to do with us if we claim to be Christians.

So get in the Word! Remember that every word is God-breathed and useful to us, so that we can be equipped to do the work of God that he has called us to.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It's no excuse, but...

I've been blogging infrequently since I've been back in town lately. 'Why,' you ask? Thanks for your concern. For one thing, it's our 'Autumn Week of Prayer' at church, which has kept me out at prayer meetings every day. For another thing, I've started back into classes this week. Normally that's pretty manageable... unfortunately, this year I've started Hebrew. Oi.

For those of you who'd be interesting in seeing something a little bit fun, check this site out. Our Hebrew Prof recommended it.

Back to the grindstone for now...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Start of the School Year

Well, another year is getting underway at TBS. As a result, I'll be away for the next few days at a staff / student retreat up north-east of here. Kirk Wellum (or "kwellum" as the preacher likes to call him) will be preaching several messages to us from the word. I hope to post some reflections on my return.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Thoughts on Poverty of Spirit - 5

I guess, technically, my last post on 'poverty of spirit' was here, but I've since posted on humility here and here as well.

As we've seen in the other posts, there are many things which can cause us to lose our poverty of spirit and to become proud. Sometimes we lose sight of who God really is, which means that we lose our absolute standard by which we are judged, and therefore, humbled. We begin to compare ourselves against other men (Rom 2.1-5), rather than against the holy law (Rom 3.19-20) of God and the glory of God (Rom 3.21-23)--God's standards of judgment.

So what else causes Christians to lose this one characteristic which is the entrance-way to the kingdom of Christ (Mt 5.3)?

I would suggest that as North American evangelicals we don't spend enough time considering our sin. When we don't consider it, we don't recognize its seriousness. When we don't recognize how serious it is, or how evil our hearts which produce such sin are, we don't confess our sin. When we don't confess our sin and beg for mercy we quickly become proud.

We would do well to take our cues from David. Few followers of God have been as passionate and had their lives and hearts exposed quite as much as David. Many of us have fallen into sin, but few of us have had it exposed in public and written down for all generations to remember like David.

You'll remember that in 2 Sam 11 David sins, and then in the next chapter, is exposed and rebuked by Nathan. When Nathan comes to speak to David about his sin, he tells David there will be consequences for his sin. Here's the part we sometimes forget, though: Nathan says, 'The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.' In other words, God has already shown mercy to David; his sin is forgiven and he will not be judged because of it.

This is important because it happens before the confession of sin that we read in Psalm 51. David, having heard from the prophet that his sins have been 'put away', now prays a prayer of confession and repentence, begging and pleading with God for mercy. He begins his prayer this way:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love,
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Sometimes we read this and on account of our familiarity we don't stop to think about it. David, as king, would be familiar with the process of begging one in authority for mercy--people would come to him often for that very reason. When one came to a king to beg for mercy, what would their posture be? How would they present themselves to the king? What would be their general demeanour? To be sure, it would be one of brokenness and utter dependence. They would fall prostrate before the one who held their lives in his hands. They recognized that whether they lived or died, were forgiven or condemned was entirely up to him--their life was not under their control any longer.

How often do we come to God in confession and brokenness like this? Why don't we? One reason why we don't is that too often we presume on God's grace. We think that because we are told in Scripture that our sins are forgiven in Christ, there is no longer any need for us to come to God in this sort of contrition--we forget that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God who is a consuming fire! We forget that David, who had specifically been told he sins had been put away, still took the time to come to God in brokenness and contrition and recognize his shortcomings.

Another reason we don't come to God in confession like this is that we forget our sins are against God. We, like David, commit sins against other people, and so we think we should confess and apologize to them, giving little thought to the fact that our sin has been offence to the very person and dignity of God.

Ps 51.4 says, 'Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.' Has that verse ever puzzled you? David had been unsatisfied with all his other wives, committed adultery against Bathsheba and made her to commit adultery, stolen the wife of Uriah, and then murdered Uriah, forcing Joab to become an accomplice; this is all to say nothing of the whole nation of Israel that David was letting down as he was the supposed leader of God's people. The list of people that David had sinned against are endless here. Where would David get this crazy idea that he had sinned against God and God alone?

He got the idea from God himself.

Back in 2 Samuel 12, when Nathan originally confronts David about his sin, he speaks the word of God to David, saying, 'Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' And just in case David didn't catch it the first time, Nathan repeats it a few verses later: 'Because, by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.' The point that God is stressing through his prophet is that ultimately when we sin we choose to reject God.

God has promised us pure pleasure and ultimate joy in him, but we reject him and his offer when we choose the fleeting pleasures of sin. We distrust him. We belittle his promises of great grace and everlasting, soul-satisfying joy in fellowship with him. David had heard the promises of God, but instead chose a few days of pleasure with a woman who was forbidden to him. The whole lie of sin is that the joy we find in it is better than the joy that can be found in God.

But that is a lie. It is a lie from Satan who is the father of all lies. When we sin we outright reject God and by our actions say to him that we prefer whatever pleasure we can find in sin to anything good we see in him.

David understood this, but I think we have in large part forgotten it today. We forget that sin is an offence against God. It is an insult to him. We mock him. No wonder David was so quick to confess. No wonder he fell on his face before his God and begged with him for mercy and grace.

We ought to do the same. Ultimately, recognizing who our sin is against--and refusing to presume on his grace--will lead to great recognition of the seriousness of our sin, which will lead to more confession of sin. Confession of sin leads to brokenness of heart. Brokenness of heart and recognition of guilt are essential to maintaining a poverty of spirit that God blesses.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Few Thoughts on Friendship

Friendship is a wonderful thing. Christian friendship is infinitely better. In fact, I think it would be correct to say that only Christians can experience true friendship.

From a biblical standpoint, one's will and affections are ultimately rooted in his heart. If the heart of an individual is unregenerate, his only love is self-love; he only seeks his pleasure, his heart is proud, and he delights in evil. His will and affections, then, from whence friendship must flow are perverted.

But the heart of a Christian is different. The heart of a Christian is primarily oriented towards the worship and enjoyment of God. From this type of heart, friendship will simply be a partnership in achieving this goal. In other words, a friend is one who loves God by displaying God to me, that in our friendship I might see more of God and thus love God more. In our friendship, I will enjoy God to greater degrees than I had previously known, because I experience the life of God and the mercy and love of God in my friendship with another Christian.

It is at this point in particular (the theocentricity of friendship) where Augustine departed from philosophers who had come before him and had attempted to define true friendship. “While friendship by classical writers is described as a search together for beauty, truth, and wisdom, in Christian friendship, the search ultimately leads friends to the source who is Beauty, Wisdom, Truth, and Love.”[1] God being the ultimate object of all human desire is not a new theme to Augustine in the Confessions, but here it is introduced as the very basis of all Christian friendship: Helping one another pursue our Sovereign Joy.

Perhaps the most profound element of friendship in Augustine’s thought is the idea that in friendship, one will fulfil the twofold commandment. Augustine here adapts Cicero’s definition of friendship, which involved simply doing what is best for the other person, in a reciprocal relationship. “If God is seen as the highest good towards which everything must be directed and if all love must focus on God before all else for it to be truly Christian, friendship among Christians gains a new perspective.”[2] For Augustine then, you are loving God and loving another as yourself by helping him to love God, which is his greatest good, which in turn he will do for you, as this is your greatest wish for yourself as well. Friendship for friendship’s sake—even friendship for the other person’s sake—is no longer in view at all in Augustine’s thought.

This friendship which is centred entirely on God and his goodness benefits all involved by helping them to gain a clearer vision of him. “Sage has observed that the anima una ‘est pour S.Augustin, à partir de 407, l’énigme et le miroir par excellence où il nous est donné dès ici-bas à comprendre, comme nous le pouvons, le mystère de Dieu’.”[3] To Augustine, the most valuable friend in the world is the one who can best reveal God to him and push him to pursue God. In short, “Augustine thinks of friendship as beginning, continuing and ending in God—friendship is participation in the life of God.”[4]

Augustine never reached the goal of friendship he desired in this life, because what he desired was none other than God himself, and the pure unadulterated fellowship with fellow humans which flowed out of that. “His ideal was no earthly society but a heavenly community of mutually loving members of the City of God (described as ‘a perfectly ordered and perfectly harmonious fellowship in the enjoyment of God and a mutual fellowship in God’) and only here would men be able to know one another completely and to form a perfect intimacy, as friends aimed to do.”[5] But that day has now come for Augustine, and will soon come for us. The lesson for us in the meantime is to pursue God and to pursue friendships in which we can push others in their pursuit of God and find ourselves encouraged as well—and to do so with all the strength and vigour that Augustine did.

For more on this, see here.

[1] Edward C. Sellner, “Like a Kindling Fire: Meanings of Friendship in the Life and Writings of Augustine,” Spirituality Today (Fall 1991, v.43.3), pp 24-257. Also available online at

Carolinne White, Christian Friendship in the Fourth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 197.

[3] As quoted in White, Christian Friendship, 210.

[4] “Ten Augustinian Values: An Introduction.” Available online at

[5] White, Christian Friendship, 205.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Some Thoughts

It never ceases to amaze me how God works themes into our lives so that we keep learning the same lessons in various places and ways. This past Sunday the preacher was preaching from Romans 13 and the Christian obligation to submit to authority, since authority is established by God. One of the obvious points of application was obeying the speed limit.

While this may or may not prick your conscience, it sure got me thinking. I've always just thought of the speed limit as one of those things that no one really intends for you to follow. This Sunday, however, got me thinking about the type of heart that speeds and drives as aggressively as I have been known to from time to time. It's not just a matter of obeying the letter of the law--it is a heart of rebellion. It's a heart that wants to control its own destiny. It's a heart that thinks where I need to go and when I need to be there is more important than where anyone else is going, or anyone else's safety. That's not a heart of submission at all--to God or to eathly authority.

Somehow this seems, in my mind anyway, to tie in to this next thought that a brother challenged me with a couple of days ago. Here is a quote from an article by Henri Nouwen:

But in the spiritual life, the word discipline means "the effort to create some space in which God can act." Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you're not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create space in which something can happen that you hadn't planned or counted on.
I've been working really hard lately at trying to be more disciplined in some little areas of my life, in hopes of reeping fruit in some larger battles within my heart. I've been working on a regular bedtime and waketime, developing a few spiritual disciplines that I have let slip, working harder, staying focused, etc. To me that seemed like good discipline; making everything rigid and scheduled, always planning ahead.

But then I read this quote and it got me thinking. What I tend to value is busy-ness and accomplishing tasks, rather than the pursuit and enjoyment of godliness. Often I get so caught up in my Christian chores (devotions, seminary work, church work, etc.) that I forget I'm supposed to be serving and enjoying God. It becomes more about the task than the experience of God, or the glorification of God that the task was intended to accomplish. That's not discipline. That's just being a task-driven person.

I suppose these things relate because in both areas I've seen God challenging me to slow down. But how do you slow down and not do less? The things that I do are not things that I would like to stop doing (nor is it God-glorifying to quit a course part way through).

Maybe it means I need to take on less. Or maybe it means I need to learn to manage my time better. Maybe it means I need to prioritize more. Whatever it means, I'm grateful that God is patient with me and my painstakingly slow sanctification and my slowness to learn what he desires to teach me.

New Desiring God Site Design & Content

Check out the fresh design on the Desiring God website! They are now featuring, online, every John Piper message preached for the last 25 years! All available for free! Definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Vacation Pics

My wife and I recently returned from a week of vacation at my grandparents' cottage. Alas, the sun sets on yet another summer.

'So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.' -- Ps 90.12

Monday, August 21, 2006

Gone (Again)

As the summer winds down, my wife and I have been able to work our schedules so that we get one more week away. We'll be up at the cottage until Thursday or so. We're looking forward to just being somewhere quiet together for a few days. On Wednesday night we're seeing the play version of "Anne of Green Gables." I hope to spend a good portion of each day reading, in preparartion for the module course on persecution and discipleship I'll be taking next week at school. Needless to say, I won't be posting until I get back.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Little More on Humility...

This past year in my Early Christian Spirituality course at TBS we had a lecture on Basil of Caesarea's theology of humility. His twentieth homily was full of great theological insight and practical suggestions for how to live with greater humility.

One of his suggestions for how to stir up humility is simply to recall one's past sins. It is only possible for me to become proud and think more highly of myself than I ought when I forget what I ought to think of myself--namely, when I forget what I've done and what I deserve from a holy God.

Sometimes, however, instead of genuine humility, I find that meditating on past sins (or even present sinfulness) just produces feelings of guilt and regret. I think about wrong things that I've done and how horrible they were. Then I think about the ongoing consequences of things I've done (how I've made people feel or things that happen to others as a result of my sins) and it just gets worse.

The trouble of course is that my focus is on the wrong place. The thing which should create in me the deepest and truest humility is looking at the cross. Despite what I so often see, the worst consequence of my sin isn't the hurt feelings of other people--it is the death of the Son of God. As the hymnwriter put it:

"Thus while his death my sin displays in all its blackest hue..."
The truth is that while the cross reveals grace and mercy, wrath and justice, it also reveals truth about me. Nowhere do I see the true end of all my sins and my sinful heart better than in the cross.

What is the cross? It is the place where the only one who was ever innocent, the only one who was ever truly pure, was beaten and mocked, whipped and murdered for me. Why? Because that's what my sins deserve.

But the hymnwriter didn't stop there...
"Thus while his death my sin displays in all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace, it seals my pardon too"
This is the mystery of grace in the wonder of the cross. The only truly beautiful, truly innocent, truly perfect man to walk this earth in nothing but love became the victim of violent hatred--and I was the offender. But yet, in this--the greatest of all travesties, that God would be rejected by man--my pardon is sealed. It is complete. He accomplished it all.

In the cross I see the absolute depravity of my sin... the absolute godlessness of my soul left to its own power. If given my way, I would kill God. But here's the irony: in God's grace, my God was killed for me. What wonderful grace!

How can the recipient of such grace know anything but humility? How can pride find a place in any heart which has rightly evaluated the cross?
"Thus while his death my sin displays in all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace, it seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief, and mournful joy, my spirit now is filled;
That I should such a life destroy... yet live by him I killed."
Go figure: the answer to something in the Christian's life is to look more to the cross... who would've thought? No fancy programs, no insider-tricks... just look to the cross.

What does it mean that Christ died for me? It means my sin deserved death. If my sin doesn't deserve death, and Christ died, then we mock the cross and make God out to be a liar. The cross, then, was superfluous.

But if my sin was so deep that I would desire the death of God, and that I deserved the eternity of punishment Christ bore on my behalf, then I need to do some serious thinking about who and what I really am. This type of thinking can lead only to deepest despair for those outside of Christ. But it will lead to endless joy and deepest hope for those who have seen their burdens tumble to the sepulchre.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Kerux's Cleezer is... CUTE?!

So, you'd think a guy who blogs this much about his 'manly' truck would avoid referring to it as 'cute' wherever possible.

Well, Kerux is just full of surprises. The other day he called me to come help him put this cap on his truck, which I was glad to do. Afterward, however, I was quite surprised when we went inside and his wife mentioned that Cleezer just wasn't quite as 'cute' with the cap.

That's fine. No big deal. Women get confused about such things. They think all kinds of things are 'cute' or 'fun' that guys just wouldn't describe that way.

The thing that floored me is that Kerux agreed! Which, of course, implies that he did indeed think his truck was cute before (and since it was more cute before, that implies that there is still some element of cuteness present)! To my even greater surprise, he was disappointed that his 'truck' (can we still call it that now?!) is no longer quite so cute, thus implying that having his truck be cute is obviously what he is aiming for.

Now that is disturbing. At least Derifter was offended when I referred to his little red S-10 as 'pretty.' Maybe Derifter needs to talk to Kerux.

Just for the record, I think that The Cleez is a beauty of a truck that I would be proud to be seen in (as Kerux is, in this picture). This comment is not a knock on the Cleez as much as a question about her owner. :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bunyan on How to Mortify Our Longings for Egypt

Here is a scene I read last night from Bunyan's immortal Pilgrim's Progress. In this excerpt, Christian (an allegorical figure representing a believer on his journey through life to heaven, ie. Zion) is having a conversation with a lady named Prudence. She asks him if he sometimes still longs for his home country (ie. the life he used to live). Bunyan's insights on how to overcome indwelling sins of the mind here are priceless. Enjoy!

PRUDENCE: Do you not think sometimes of the country from whence you came?

CHRISTIAN: Yea, but with much shame and detestation. Truly, if I had been mindful of that country from whence I came out, I might have had opportunity to have returned; but now I desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one (Heb. 11:15,16).

PRUDENCE: Do you not yet bear away with you some of the things that then you were conversant withal?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, but greatly against my will; especially my inward and carnal cogitations, with which all my countrymen, as well as myself, were delighted. But now all those things are my grief; and might I but choose mine own things, I would choose never to think of those things more: but when I would be a doing that which is best, that which is worst is with me (Rom. 7:15, 21).

PRUDENCE: Do you not find sometimes as if those things were vanquished, which at other times are your perplexity?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, but that is but seldom; but they are to me golden hours in which such things happen to me.

PRUDENCE: Can you remember by what means you find your annoyances at times as if they were vanquished?

CHRISTIAN: Yes: when I think what I saw at the cross, that will do it; and when I look upon my broidered coat, that will do it; and when I look into the roll that I carry in my bosom, that will do it; and when my thoughts wax warm about whither I am going, that will do it.

PRUDENCE: And what is it that makes you so desirous to go to Mount Zion?

CHRISTIAN: Why, there I hope to see Him alive that did hang dead on the cross; and there I hope to be rid of all those things that to this day are in me an annoyance to me: there they say there is no death, (Isa. 25:8; Rev. 21:4) and there I shall dwell with such company as I like best. For, to tell you the truth, I love Him because I was by Him eased of my burden; and I am weary of my inward sickness. I would fain be where I shall die no more, and with the company that shall continually cry, 'Holy, holy, holy.'

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


My friend Tim and I are leaving this morning to attend WorshipGod06, put on by Sovereign Grace Ministries. I don't know that I'll be blogging at all while I'm gone, but check Tim's blog for regular updates as he live-blogs all the goings-on.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

kerux noemata: Mainline Christianity is Dead: And Why that is A Good Thing

Kerux sounds in with some important thoughts--well worth the read. Enjoy!

Mainline Christianity is Dead: And Why that is A Good Thing

From Poverty of Spirit to Riches of Wisdom

I have had the privelege of filling the pulpit at Grace Fellowship Church for the past few weeks while 'the preacher' (aka kerux) was away on vacation. The past two Sunday nights I tried to draw some more practical thoughts together with regards to poverty of spirit (see here, here, here, and here for the series I started, and to which I hope to return shortly).

This message's title was 'From Poverty of Spirit to Riches of Wisdom.' The basic premise is that if we are broken before God, we will be humble before others (poverty of spirit) and that this will result in true life change (ie. wisdom: the ability to live skillfully, in a way that pleases God in the midst of a fallen world). In order to live wisely, we must be humble.

Here's the outline:

  1. Humility allows us to gain wisdom (verses)
  2. Humility make us able to take reproof / correction (verses)
  3. Humility leads us to avoid temptation (verses)
  4. Humility leads to less talking and therefore less sin (verses)
  5. Humility makes it easier to admit guilt & need for reconciliation (verses)
  6. Humility gives ability to be content with less (verses)
  7. The humble one aligns himself with the Lord (verses)
  8. Humility allows us to treat all others fairly (verses)
  9. Humility gives us ability to accept what comes in life (verses)
  10. Humility allows us to have genuine, godly friendships (verses)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sing All the Verses -- Part 3

This is the last installment in this series, unless I stumble across something pretty amazing. This time I want to point out that two of our most famous (and deserving so!) hymns that we've sung in our churches for years are missing verses. Since the hymns are so popular I won't post all the verses, just the ones that are usually missing (how's that for irony?). If you want to see all the words, check here and here.

And Can it Be?
(5th of 6 verses, appeared between the verse when the chains fall off
his soul and the verse that begins 'No condemnation now I dread...')

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Saviour in my heart.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
(Originally the 4th verse, between 'See from his head, his hands...'
and 'Were the whole realm...')

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

I don't know why these started getting left out, but who cares. The point is, we should sing them! They're great! So if you know your 'worship leader' or if you lead your services... sing them! :)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sing All the Verses--Part 2

Okay, honestly, who knew that what we usually sing as the Doxology has more than one verse?! It's true. The words were written by Thomas Ken, published in the Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College, in 1674.

Ken wrote this hymn at a time when the established church believed only Scripture should be sung as hymns, with an emphasis on the Psalms. Some considered it sinful and blasphemous to write new lyrics for church music, akin to adding to the Scriptures. In that atmosphere, Ken wrote this and several other hymns for the boys at Winchester College, with strict instructions that they use them only in their rooms, for private devotions. Ironically, the last stanza has come into widespread use as the Doxology, perhaps the most frequently used piece of music in public worship. At Ken’s request, the hymn was sung at his funeral, fittingly held at sunrise.

Here are all the great words. It is a song we would all well be able to use in our morning devotions, even now, 330-some-odd years later. Enjoy!

Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee, Who safe has kept
And hast refreshed me while I slept
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake
I may of endless light partake.

Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

I would not wake nor rise again
And Heaven itself I would disdain,
Wert Thou not there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.

Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Above info gathered from the Cyber Hymnal.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I Love Scripture!

Yesterday I got to read through a portion of 1 Kings. My favourite part of what I read was Solomon's building and dedication of the temple. After reading from Genesis all the way through to 1 Kings, it is a wonderful breath of fresh air!

I think sometimes we lose sight of just how momentous an occasion this really was. Finally... after slavery, the exodus, the 40 years of wandering, the failed conquest of the promised land, the pathetic time of the judges, the first king becoming a miserable failure, a lifetime of war and tumult under David... finally, peace! Finally, God's people are able to construct a permanent fixture where God will be honoured and worshiped. It is the place where he has chosen to make his name dwell.

So Solomon has construction of the temple completed, he brings in the ark of the covenant, and offers his prayer of dedication. It's a wonderful scene of celebration and worship of our God as innumerable sacrifices were offered. God is pleased to come down and dwell in his temple--so much so that the priests could not stand to minister in the Holy Place because the glory of YHWH filled the house.

The temple is the place where God dwells and where man can meet with him--the place where God and man dwell together. It is the place where God's glory abides, where he reveals himself to his people.

Solomon's prayer of dedication is then largely concerned with the request of God that whenever God's people pray toward this temple--where God and his people can meet together, where God himself dwells--these prayers will be heard and answered. This is to be true, even when they have sinned, this will be the way they are to pray for reconciliation--pray toward the temple.

And so Solomon, the king, prays for his people. He intercedes for them before the Lord, pleading with God that their sins will be forgiven and that he will have mercy on them.

The glory of God had descended on this place, the Lord had met with his people and heard the prayers of Solomon--why? All of this is made possible--God's people can approach God in his temple--because of the sacrifices they had made. They sacrificed before the ark as they brought it in, and once Solomon had prayed they offered more: 22,000 oxen, and 120,000 sheep as peace offerings to God.

But all of this was still imperfect, in some sense, because we see that where the holiness and the glory of God dwell, the priests still aren't able to be. After a while, the priests are forced to leave the Holy Place where they ministered because of the presence of God.

Of course, what I love the most about all this is Jesus. Where was he? Where wasn't he?! Jesus is the temple--the perfect meeting place of God and man. In him the fullness of deity dwells bodily. He said, 'destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days.' But of course, he was not referring to the temple of stone, but the temple of his flesh--where God and man truly come together. And because he is the fulfillment of the temple, he's also the reason our prayers are offered freely to God now, because we pray through Christ.

But Christ is more than the temple and the reason our prayers are heard. He's also the true Solomon--the true Son of David who will inherit the eternal throne and promises of God. As the true Son of David and the true King, Jesus is the one true intercessor for his people! Now he offers prayers to God on our behalf!

And of course, Jesus is the true sacrifice which makes God's meeting with his people possible at all. Jesus is the perfect 'once for all' sacrifice for the sins of God's people, that every single one of his people would be perfectly covered and able, finally, to meet with God.

And lastly, it has all been made perfect now, through Christ, because we no longer have to worry about imperfect priests, unable to draw near in the earthly temple, because the earthly temple was only ever 'copy' and a 'shadow' anyway! Now, Christ, who is the true high priest, draws near to God in the perfect, heavenly temple on our behalf.

I could go on and on, but this is too long already. What an absolutely wonderful God! What a wonderful Saviour! What a wonderful book that ties all these things so beautifully together. No wonder Christ said he's the fulfillment of the whole thing! He well deserves the name that is above all names.