Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sound Doctrine

John Frame notes that the Greek word behind "sound doctrine" in 1 Tim 4:6 ("good doctrine" in the NKJ) is hygiainos, where we get our word "hygiene."  Doctrine is to be "health-giving" to the soul of man.  In fact, it is to be life-giving to the whole man. (see Frame, Systematic Theology, p7).

Theology is to be taught not only to give us truth about God.  It is to make us more like God.  It is to build us up into the new humanity that we are in in Christ.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Take Off Your Shoes

We are given the great privilege again of ascending in to the holy of holies, into the very presence of God in His holy temple, not made with human hands, but made of humans, saints, you and me, the living stones of His temple in which He dwells.  As we do so, I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to take care.  We are walking into the temple of God and so, metaphorically speaking, we should take off our shoes.  If we do not, we will likely track in all sorts of uncleanness.

This is what it means to confess your sins as you enter here now.  It means to put away, to take off, to remove your transgressions.  Put away your sin, confess your disobedience. Anger, lust, envy, backbiting, private ambition, all must go. Take off your shoes.  In a short time, you will dine with these brothers and sisters – make sure you have not come to spoil the meal.

The metaphor can be adapted many ways.  Wipe your feet, take off your shoes, consider where you have been walking, look down for a moment, in all humility.  We are coming to worship God the Father.  The Lord Jesus washed the feet of His first disciples. So let Him wash yours.

Baptism: The Doorway to the Table

A good picture that helps us understand the relationship between the sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of the Lord’s Table is the relationship between the door into your home and the table where your family sups.  In order to come to the table, you have to come through the door and come into the family.

Baptism identifies a person as a covenant family member.  It is the outward means by which God declares through His church that this one is His.  His name is placed upon the one baptized along with all the privileges and responsibilities of being a family member.  One of those privileges is the privilege of coming to the Table, the Table of Christ, the Lord’s Table.  Here we sup with Christ and with the Father’s family.  Here we enjoy the fruits of our peace with Christ – in fact, here we partake of that peace with Christ.  And so, to all who have been baptized, come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

The Arians' God is a Moving Target

"Once the Arians implicitly introduce temporality into the Father-Son relation, they implicitly introduce temporality into the existence of the Father himself.  If there is an interval between Father and Son, and yet the Son is somehow "God," then God is subject to becoming (Discourses 1.17).  If the Triad emerges, then true religion is not fixed; piety is trying to hit a moving target (Discourses 1.18.  For the Arians, God becomes Father only after begetting the Son (Discourses 1.24).  The Arians imply in various ways that God is subject to time, that he is a God-in-process.
The point of the paradigm of sonship thus cannot be to highlight a temporal interval between Father and Son.  To be sure, there is such an interval in human life, but since God is beyond time, there can be no interval." - Leithart, Athanasius, p. 51

If the Father is not eternally the Father (and He is not if there is not eternally a Son), then God the Father as we know Him now is not the same.  The unchangeable has changed.

Chamberlain's Empathy-Listening with Hitler - not so good...

"Forces that are un-self-regulating can never be made to adapt toward the strength in a system by trying to understand or appreciate their nature.  This was Chamberlain's great mistake at Munich in trying to empathize with Hitler.  Priding himself on his own reasonableness and his unwavering belief in the value of achieving consensus, Chamberlain was trying to "understand Hitler's needs."  He tried to project himself into, that is, fell for, Hitler's position, so that they could work out a mutual accommodation.  It never seems to have occurred to him that there are forces on this planet that, because of their inability or unwillingness to self-regulate, are by nature all take and no give." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p135

There is such a thing as real evil in this world.  Leaders would do well to remember this.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Obey Because You Are Loved

Working on the next text for my sermon.  "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children" - Eph 5:1

Some wonderful words from Bryan Chappell's commentary on the same -

…God’s imperatives, and our obedience, rest on that loving relationship; they do not form the relationship.  We obey because we are loved; we are not loved because we obey.  The love of our Father precedes and stimulates the obedience of his children.  We are to forgive and live and love as dearly loved children imitating the One who already is our Father, not performing to bribe God to become our Father.

The significance of obedience based on the Father’s love becomes more apparent when we consider where the apostle will soon head with his imperatives.  He will soon address the sins of lust and greed.  How would you turn others from such sin?  Should you warn?  Yes.  Should you command to avoidance?  Yes.  Should you condemn participation?  Yes.  But what first?  First, remind those who love God and are grieving for their failure that they are his dearly loved children.  Say to a struggler, “you are a wonderful child, a precious child of God, dearly loved.  You are precious to him.  Live as one dearly loved.  Be what you are in Christ.”

"We obey because we are loved; we are not loved because we obey."  That's a keeper.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Faith and Ritual

All who have been baptized and are able to eat and drink are welcome to this Table.  That is our understanding of the Lord’s Supper.  You do not have to grow up in order to become big enough to eat.  You eat so that you grow up.  However, when we say this, we do not want to encourage an attitude towards a ritual like those who were rebuked throughout the OT, those who merely went through the rituals externally, but without faith and without obedience.

Faith is the key to the ritual, a lively faith that changes how you live, think, and talk.  Faith is the key to those who are blessed in coming to the Table and those who are not.  And so pause, not because you need to doubt your faith, but you need to remind yourself of the faith which has been given to you.  Do you know the Father?  Do you know Him through His Son?  Are you in Christ by faith alone?  Are you in need of Him for your salvation and in order to grow up in that faith.  Then welcome – you are welcome to come and partake.

The Eternal Father-Son Relationship

"Once the Arians implicitly introduce temporality into the Father-Son relations, they implicitly introduce temporality into the existence of the Father himself.  If there is an interval between Father and Son, and yet the Son is somehow "God," then God is subject to becoming (Discourses 1.17).  If the Triad emerges, then true religion is not fixed; piety is trying to hit a moving target (Discourses 1.18).  For the Arians, God becomes Father only after begetting the Son (Discourses 1;24).  The Arians imply in various ways that God is subject to time, that he is a God-in-process.
The point of the paradigm of sonship thus cannot be to highlight a temporal interval between Father and Son.  To be sure, there is such an interval in human life, but since God is beyond time, there can be no interval." - Leithart, Athanasius, p51.

Hence, the eternal Father-Son relationship and existence of God.

When Empathy Goes Awry

"This was Chamberlain's great  mistake at Munich in trying to empathize with Hitler.  Priding himself on is own reasonableness and his unwavering belief in the value of achieving consensus, Chamberlain was trying to "understand Hitler's needs."  He tried to project himself into, that is, feel for, Hitler's position, so that they could work out a mutual accommodation.  It never seems to have occurred to him that there are forces on this planet that, because of their inability or unwillingness to self-regulate, are by nature all take and no give." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p135.

Friedman is right on, except that the problem with the "forces on this planet" is not inability to self-regulate, it is that, by nature, we are sinners, in high rebellion against God and His Law.

But the Hitler-Chamberlain example may cause us to think that this only happens in extraordinary situations where nations and the world are on the brink.  Really, it happens in very mundane situations in the home and in community - but when it happens, the results can be devastating to that home or community - they are just not noticed as quickly on the nightly news.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Being And Then Doing

This morning we will begin a series of sermons through the book of Ephesians.  And as we gather to worship, let me summarize the entire book of Ephesians for you – Chs 1-3:  What you have been freely given in Christ.  Chs 4-6:  What you are able to therefore do in Christ.  This is the Gospel – the gracious Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Being – and then Doing.

Now, Christian, you think that you know the Gospel.  But you also know that you often fall into various temptations and sins.  Why?  At the heart of all stumbling there is the fault of not believing this truth.  We refuse to fully believe all that we have been given in Christ.  We fail to believe that we are fundamentally different because of Jesus Christ.  You are something you never could be because of Jesus Christ.  You are on a life journey you could never be on if it were not for Jesus Christ.  You are in Christ and you must come to know more and more of what that means – and your faith must be strengthened, deepened, widened, to comprehend, apprehend, and trust these things to be true.

All other religious systems preach doing in order to become something.  The Good News is this – you have become something – holy, righteous, blameless, spiritually-minded, truth-filled, Spirit-empowered – not because you did anything but because Someone did something for you.  Receive this, believe this, and the rest becomes just filling out the details of the life that is yours in Jesus Christ.  That is why you have been summoned to worship.  Come and worship.  Come and receive.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

A Wordless God?

Athanasius's fourth example to prove the eternality of the Son is based on the relationship of Word and Wisdom.

"If the Son is not eternal to the Father, "proper" to his essence, then the Father at one time was powerless, wisdomless, and wordless.  But that cannot be.  How dare we slander God by saying that he was ever alogos?" - Leithart, Athanasius, p49.

Subsidizing Anxiety

"As lofty and noble as the concept of empathy may sound, and as well-intentioned as those may be who make it the linchpin idea of their theories of healing, education, or management, societal regression has too often perverted the use of empathy into a disguise for anxiety, a rationalization for the failure to define a position, and a power tool in the hands of the "sensitive"." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p133.

Here Friedman takes a shot at one of the idols of modern therapy - empathetic listening.  It is more important, they say, to make a person feel heard and understood than it is to solve their problem.  A youtube clip went viral to make the same attack.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Who Is This God?

Who is this God you have come to worship?  The pagan gods worked in the world as faraway, capricious agents who affected history for petty reasons.  The god of evolutionism is impersonal, a force that drives things by chance, by whims, and by its own commandment – the fittest will survive.  The god of secular humanism puffs up the individual, lets him tell his own story, set his own boundaries, and in the end, cease to exist or to exist in an eternal loneliness and dark despair.

But you have come to worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This personal God of history  loves sinners enough to send His only Son, to be born of a woman, to be born under the law, and to die on a cross so that they might be saved, so that you might be saved.  Therefore, we approach God as Father and not simply as the impersonal uncreated being or power source.  His personhood, expressed to us perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ is loving and kind, relational and compassionate, strong and secure.

We are invited to come to God our Father in the name of Jesus, His Son.  When we come in His name, united in Him, we are wrapped up in the loving relationship of the Father with His Son.  That love is personal – in fact, that love is a Person Himself – He is the Holy Spirit, and He dwells in those who are found in Christ.  This is too wonderful to fully comprehend – in much the same way the love of a really great human father for his son is hard to fully comprehend – at least it cannot be comprehended like a math problem can be figured out.  Really, it has to be experienced, lived in, lived out – in real time, in real relationship and communion, and over and over renewed with His, the Father’s, kind words – come here, come to Me, come again.  I am your God and you are my people.

The Eternal Father Requires an Eternal Son

Athanasius's third example to prove the eternality of the Son is the requirement of an eternal Son in order for the Father to be an eternal Father.

"Again, the sonship image is about the honor of God.  Would it be honoring to God to say that he was incomplete?  No.  A father who has no son is not a father at all.  Therefore, it is an insult to the Father to say that the Son is anything less than eternal...A son is the perfection of a father's nature" - Leithart, Athanasius, p49.

Only if They are Moving Toward You

"Whether you are a parent, a minister, a healer, or a CEO, your communicant's capacity to hear you depends primarily on the emotional variables of direction, distance, and anxiety.  Others can only hear you when they are moving toward you, no matter how eloquently you phrase the message.  In other words, as long as you are in the pursuing, rescuing, or coercive position, your message, no matter how eloquently broadcast, will never catch up." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p128.

Anxiety, in particular, he mentions, works like static in the conversation, making it impossible to hear the other.  Turn up the volume on the message and the static only goes up as well because anxiety increases.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Environment of Education

There is no such thing as religious neutrality in anyone’s educational material, method, or philosophy.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7) means that you cannot go anywhere in pursuit of knowledge without answering this fundamental question – ‘do you fear the Lord?’  If it is true that God created the universe ex nihilo, and that ‘in Him we live and move and have our being’, then how can we ever faithfully study anything without acknowledging the full authority of God over the creation and providence of that thing?  As faithful disciples, we must learn to bring every thought captive to Christ, and to ‘the Queen of the sciences’.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chronic Anxiety and Books on Marriage

"It is remarkable how the explosion of books in recent years about management resembles the similar explosion that occurred in the 1960s regarding premarital counseling.  As society became anxious about the rising divorce rate and everyone talked about the demise of the family, the number of books being written for the clergy in this country on premarital counseling seemed to be exceeding the number of people getting married." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p113.

Books and blogs and chronic anxiety.  I am reminded of Solomon:  "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh."  There really is a way to study an issue that in the end is only wearisome.  This happens when one is attempting to solve a problem out of anxiety and not from a position in faith - faith in a sovereign and good God.  This occurs constantly in men (and I observe it far more in women) who constantly search the Internet for the latest studies on any issue that is causing them such anxiety.

"Be anxious for nothing..." Paul commands.  If we obey this first and receive the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (see all of Philippians 4:6-7), then it might be OK, after that, to do a little research.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fountain and Stream

The second image Athanasius uses to defend the eternality of the Son is that of the fountain and the stream:
  "Just as a fountain is no fountain without a stream flowing from it, so the Father is no Father without a Son." - Leithart, Athanasius, p47.
Jeremiah calls Yahweh the "fountain of living waters" (Jer 3:12) and thus the basis for Athanasius' second image.

Mother and Mother and Child

"Parenting is no different from any other kind of "managing."  The critical issues in raising children have far less to do with proper technique than with the nature of the parents' presence and the type of emotional processes they engender.  I have, for example, almost never seen a mother who had a mature relationship with her own mother have trouble with her daughter.  Similarly, I never saw a highly reactive or hypercritical father who was not distant from his own family of origin (and who, thereby, made the members of his new nuclear family too important to him.)" - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, pp112-113.

Or, the sins of the fathers are passed down to the future generations.  In ministering to teens and young people interested in getting married, I have made it a practice to get them to see that improving their relationship with their parents, both mom and dad, will have more impact on how well their future marriage will go than almost any other relational investment they can make.  Also when seeking to get to know someone (whether they would be a good match for you or not), I have said that romantic, candle-light dinners will tell you very little; watching that person deal with their parents and siblings will tell you almost all you need to know.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Women in Combat

This is a public gathering of worship where the Lordship of Jesus Christ is to be declared, exposited, offered and applied by all who hear.  Our triune God alone is to be worshiped and we are to hear and proclaim His holy law and gospel openly, both here and throughout His land, without fearing any man.

Jesus said that the church is the light of the world and that we are not to put that light under a basket – it is to be put on a lampstand where it gives light to all who are in the house.  We are to be the salt of the earth, preserving the world from encroaching evil.  One of the applications of these things is that we are to speak openly as a church with regard to public darkness and public evil as it occurs.  It seems we have no lack of opportunity of late, and so as we gather to worship, we must again make a public declaration to our civil rulers.

As a founding member church of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches, our position on the latest action of the military is biblical and clear.  One of our memorials reads as follows:  “It is not lawful for women to be mustered for combat service, for our Lord has declared it an abomination for women to don the martial attire of a man (Deut 22:5).  Christian fathers must protect their daughters from being seduced or coerced into such a circumstance, and the Church must support them as they do so.”

In other words, we are required by the scriptures to declare to Mr. Panetta, “Mr. Secretary, you may not place women in combat positions as standard operating procedures.  It is an abomination to the Lord.”
This issue was discussed in two sermons I preached as we went through the book of Deuteronomy.  In Deuteronomy 14:21b we are commanded not to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk and we learned that this passage, in light of all of Scripture, teaches us that women were created by God to be life-givers, nurturers and sustainers of life – not dealers in death.  In Deuteronomy 22:5 we are told that it is an abomination for women to dress in warrior-garb.

Of course, the church is having a difficult time declaring this because we are just as guilty blending genders where the Scriptures make clear distinctions – for instance, ordaining women as though they could be pastors or elders.  We don’t obey the clear and obvious teaching of scripture; why should the world?  Our unisex, egalitarian culture is an abomination.  We are not to destroy mankind, with all of its masculine and feminine distinctions, as God created us.  We are instead to cultivate and glory in these distinctions.  To mess with them is to mess with the picture of the Gospel.

And this is why we are so mixed up.  This is why the church does not know how to wage real warfare with her spiritual weapons.  This is why the Gospel proclaimed to our generation is so impotent.  Our message is all mixed up, our pictures are all skewed, our unrepentant hypocrisies are unnoticed by us but as obvious as can be to the unbelieving world.  Let judgment begin with the household of God.

The Radiance of the Glory - per Athanasius

Leithart describes the four primary paradigms or images that Athanasius finds in Scripture to defend the eternality and full deity of the Son.  Here is the first:

"The point of the radiance image (in Heb 1:3) is to emphasize that the Son is necessary to the Father's existence, as necessary as the rays of light are to the light source, and therefore the Son is just as eternal as the Father.  Just as there is no light that does not radiate, so the Father is not without the radiance of his glory.  When one reads of the Son as the "radiance" of the Father's glory, "who has so little sense as to doubt of the eternity of the Son?  For when did man see light without the brightness of its radiance, that he may say of the Son, 'There was once, and He was not,' or 'Before His generation He was not'?" (Discourses 1.12)...The light-radiance imagery not only proves the co-eternity of the Father and the Son but also shows, in Athanasius's view, that the Arian position is nonsensical...The Father cannot create without his Son, any more than a light can illuminate without its radiance." - Leithart, Athanasius, pp44-45.

The Mental Health Industry has ADD

"It is as though the entire mental health profession suffered from its own form of attention deficit disorder.  For example, when the family therapy movement began in the 1960s, Masters and Johnson had just published their books on sexual dysfunction.  For a while every family therapy conference anywhere began to have as its keynote speaker an expert on sexual dysfunction.  Families were going to be made healthy through lack of frustration.  And then, suddenly, the issue receded into the background.  Did everyone suddenly become sexually satisfied?  The focus on sex was replaced for a while by anorexia, then attention deficit disorder, then repressed memory syndrome, and today it is either post-traumatic stress disorder or child abuse.  These issues do not get cured; rather, everyone gets bored because the issue itself is a symptom.  The intensity surrounding it is not due to its own nature but to the fact that it has taken center stage for a while as a focus of societal anxiety." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, pp109-110.

Societies which refuse to submit to and acknowledge the Savior and Healer of the world will never find themselves saved or healed.  They will dab around the wound, a little here, a little there, but they will refuse to deal with the true substance of the trauma.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Arianism is Pantheistic

"At several points, Athanasius argues that Arianism reduces to pantheism or polytheism.  If the Son participates in the Unoriginate, just like everything else, and yet the Son is called "God," then what difference is there between the nature of the Son and the nature of all other originated things?" - Leithart, Athanasius, p24.

Sloppy Christian thinking often does not carefully defend the deity of Christ.  When this happens, even those who are not Arians begin to blur the distinction between "the art of God in creation" and "God in creation."

Medical Studies and a Failure of Nerve

"The propensity of such studies to induce a "failure of nerve" lies not only in their sheer volume, but also by the way a regressed civilization's focus on pathology and drive for certainty causes them to be formatted in the first place...Studies will constantly conclude that your chances of obtaining a particular disease are three or even five times greater if you eat this or do that.  Even though the numbers of people involved in almost all of these studies are very small, a chronically anxious public mind concerned with certainty extrapolates that proportion out in real numbers to a very large portion of the population." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p 106.

My thought:  How does your relationship with Christ, or with your earthly father, figure into all of these health issues that seem to plague our culture?  These may be far more critical issues with regard to health than how much sugar, coffee, wine, or butter you have consumed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Athanasius the Man

"There is no doubt that Athanasius was a tough customer, and he employed methods to combat heresy and to shore up the Nicene settlement that would make modern bishops blanch...Without excusing his errors and sins, we should recognize that only a tough man, a man of extraordinary determination, could have so single-mindedly fought off Arian views that he regarded as dangerous blasphemies threatening the foundations of the gospel and the church.  Only a very determined man could have stood against emperors and councils of bishops, endured five exiles, and fought off numerous false accusations, all in defense of the gospel." - Peter Leithart, Athanasius, p15.

What is Hindering New Leaders?

"...if a society is to evolve, or if leaders are to arise, then safety can never be allowed to become more important than adventure." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p83.

Take off the bike helmets and light up your pipes (tobacco, that is - jeepers, I forget I live in Washington State).

Friday, August 2, 2013

It Only Takes One to Change

"Contrary to popular thinking, it does not require two people working on a marriage to change it.  Rarely are both partners equally motivated.  But changing a marriage fundamentally does require that someone function as a leader in the sense in which I have been using that term.  Where one partner can be taught to regulate his or her own reactivity, the other will often begin to imitate that behavior, and adaptation can ultimately be reversed.  But for this shift to occur a critical point of departure must be reached:  the more motivated partner must also be able to stop shifting blame to the other and to look more at his or her own input.  This does not mean that they should look more at their own faults, but rather at how they have been compounding the situation." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p81.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Symptoms Come in Fads

"My thesis here is that the climate of contemporary America has become so chronically anxious that our society has gone into an emotional regression that is toxic to well-defined leadership. This regression, despite the plethora of self-help literature and the many well-intentioned human rights movements, is characterized principally by a devaluing and denigration of the well-differentiated self. It has lowered people's pain thresholds, with the result that comfort is valued over the rewards of facing challenge, symptoms come in fads, and cures go in and out of style like clothing fashions." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p53.

Monday, July 29, 2013

King of Righteousness and then also King of Peace

Yesterday, I preached on Hebrews 7:1-2, and as I was studying, ran across a wonderful sermon by Charles Spurgeon (are there any other kinds of Spurgeon sermons?).  Here is a snippet - 

"All over the world, and everywhere, this is God’s way of dealing with men. Do not imagine that God will ever lay aside his righteousness for the sake of saving a sinner — that he will ever deal with men unrighteously in order that they may escape the penalty due to their transgression. He has never done so, and he never will. Glorious in holiness is he for ever and ever. That blazing throne must consume iniquity, transgression cannot stand before it; there can be no exception to this rule. The Judge of all the earth must do right. Whatever things may change, the law of God cannot alter, and the character of God cannot deteriorate. High as the great mountains, deep as the abyss, eternal as his being, is the righteousness of the Most High. Peace can never come to men from the Lord God Almighty except by righteousness. The two can never be separated without the most fearful consequences. Peace without righteousness is like the smooth surface of the stream ere it takes its awful Niagara plunge. If there is to be peace between God and man, God must still be a righteous God, and by some means or other the transgression of man must be justly put away, for God cannot wink at it, or permit it to go unpunished. Salvation must first of all provide for righteousness, or peace will never lodge within its chambers. The Lord of heaven is first King of righteousness, and then King of peace, so that Melchisedec was such a king as God is."

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Well-Differentiated Leader

"If the leader did not have to be in direct contact with every member in order to influence them, then it should follow that if a leader could learn to be a well-differentiated presence, by the very nature of his or her being he or she could promote differentiation and support creative imagination throughout the system." - Friedman, Failure of Nerve, p18.

Leaders lead by who they are and not just by their message.  "Stonewall" Jackson got his name not by what he said, but by an incident in battle that displayed who he was.  His followers rallied.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

He Is Able

(From the end of my sermon of the same title)
The Scripture reference is Ephesians 3:20-21 –
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Application – How should this change my Monday?
No One Is Beyond the Power of God – Do you doubt that God can save that loved one who has steadfastly resisted your prayers and witness? Remember your own salvation; remember it in light of the story of Ephesians 1-3.
No Struggle is Beyond the Power of God – Do you doubt that God is able to make good out of your struggle, your affliction, your circumstance? Can’t imagine it? God’s Word says otherwise (Paul says otherwise while sitting in prison). Every time you come to the Table you are to see that of course He can – and will.
No Era is Beyond the Power of God – The nations will flow to the mountain of God. There are no “footnote” eras where God was not at work – where nothing happened. Often, the dark days of volume 2 in a trilogy are the necessary setup for the great eucatastrophe. Always pray this prayer watchfully.

Friday, July 5, 2013

If Imaginatively Stuck

"It certainly has not been my experience in working with imaginatively stuck marriages, families, corporations, or other institutions that an increase in information will necessarily enable a system to get unstuck.  And the risk-averse are rarely emboldened by data" - Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p31.

Discipleship is not primarily a work of data-transfer.  It is primarily the work reviving godly imagination.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Real Cultural Engagement

"...So we should be in the market for young Christian men and women who are willing to be trained in genuine cultural engagement. They won’t be embarrassed by old-fashioned virtues, like hard work and discipline. They will respect authority and defy the authorities. They won’t get fired from jobs because of laziness, and they will get fired from them because of something they said about homosexuality. They won’t resent money and success, and they won’t be dazzled by money and success. They will laugh at the hipsters, and they will laugh at themselves laughing at the hipsters. They will loathe the enticements of corrupt entertainment, and they will love a true story. They would rather die than become one of the cool kids. They will be cool." - Douglas Wilson

Monday, February 4, 2013

Should We Ask God to Destroy our Enemies?

A friend wrote to me about my recent sermons on the Psalms (I have been preaching through Psalm 31-40).  She is struggling with the idea of praying for the destruction of her enemies.  Are we supposed to do that?  Didn’t Jesus pray for the forgiveness of those who were putting Him to death?  She had many questions surrounding this topic.  Here was my “stab” at answering, briefly…

Destruction.  Death.  Why does God do that?  Why was there a flood over the whole world and everyone, everyone died (some estimate the world was more greatly populated than the 7 billion on earth today)?  Except for Noah and his family.  And was Noah really that much nicer than everyone else?  Start there when you are wondering about God dealing out destruction.  It’s tough. 

The chasm between God’s holiness (not niceness) and our fallenness is infinite.  The only way we even have life at all is Grace – all Grace.  The only way we are redeemed is Grace, all Grace.  I have no right to think that in comparison to anyone else, I deserve to live and they deserve to die – and that is what comes through so clear as you read the Psalms – all the Psalms.  One day, you should take a weekend and just make yourself read all 150 Psalms and see what you come away with – in total.  It is awesome, it is complex, it is unruly, God is not tame – but He is good.

So, am I to pray for the destruction of my enemies?  Well, as a follower of Christ and a member of His kingdom – yes.  But what do I mean by their “destruction?”  I mean to turn them over to God’s holy wrath that will glorify His name (to Whom I am ultimately loyal).  It is His full right and position to decide if He would “destroy” them in their sin by leaving them in that sin and place them under His good and righteous judgment or whether He “destroys” their “old man” by placing them in Christ where we die in His death and are raised to new life by faith in Him and His perfect work accomplished for us.  It certainly is a question “why does God not save everyone?” – and it is not easily answered.  It is just as much a wonderful question:  “why does God create and then redeem, save, and bring to Himself anyone?  Why does God save anyone?”  When God is revealed in all His glory, it doesn’t make sense, it is not easily answered.

Part of the reason, frankly, that these are questions which are so hard to answer is because our god is too small.  Where were we when He placed Jupiter where He desired?  How did He do that?  He tells us that we have to understand that (creation out of nothing, full and complete sovereignty over the stars and galaxies and over every sub-atomic particle) before we can understand the purpose of evil, the nature of fallen man and the salvation of God in full.  The point is that we have to take it in faith, bow and worship and receive His good gifts – and rest in a good Father’s wisdom that goes far beyond anything we could comprehend (Rom 11:33-36).

Our desire is for the world to be saved, for that “bad” destruction to not come upon our enemies, God’s enemies.  Bur read the story in the Bible – that is EXACTLY where this story is going.  Hallelujah!  The world will be as full of the glory of God (and the knowledge of the glory of God) as the waters cover the sea.  And as far as I can tell, the waters completely cover the sea.  The descendants of Abraham (those with the faith of Abraham) will not be able to be numbered (and we can still count to 7 billion and more) – they will be more numerous than the sand on the beach.  You can’t count that high.  Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

In the meantime, we are at war.  We do not fight against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and our weapons are not carnal but spiritual for pulling down all strongholds.  Faith – that is what overcomes the world (1 John 5).  Sing the Psalms with that faith or they will be a bummer.  Sing the Psalm with that faith and they will be used by God to bring His salvation and the praise to the glory of His grace from the river to the ends of the earth.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bold Sinners

One thing a penitential Psalm like Psalm 38 should do for us, should cause us to remember, is that we are not to come to the Lord’s Table and turn towards some kind of morbid introspection because we are such sinners and could never really be holy enough to come to this meal.  We should come to this Table as repentant and repenting sinners, as forgiven sinners, as bold sinners, bold to come for mercy because this is a feast of mercy – just what we need – just what we were summoned to come and receive.
Jesus is our salvation.  Jesus is our holiness.  Jesus is our sanctification.  We did not purchase ourselves and now we are presenting our purchased selves to Him.  He purchased us and so He has the right, not us, to bring us to this Table, to bring us to Himself.  And here is the good news – He wants to.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 28, 2013

When It's Time to be Quiet

Thoughts as I study Psalm 39.  Just the first three verses -
I said, “I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, While the wicked are before me.” 2 I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; And my sorrow was stirred up. 3 My heart was hot within me; While I was musing, the fire burned. Then I spoke with my tongue:
There is a time when it is best, as right as you may be, to just be quiet.  The Psalm-singer understood this.  Certainly Jesus did as well.  It is not that you don't have a good answer, a correction to the falsehoods being declared and lived out, even against you (and maybe especially in those times when it is against you).
There are times when you should not speak to men about it.  However, it is important to notice then the Psalm-singer is letting God know.  He is speaking to God about it.  Interestingly, the Psalm seems to end (v13) with the Psalm-singer even saying that he will cease from speaking to God about it.  Even here, it may be that he is ceasing to argue with the Lord and instead hoping in God and resting in that hope - resting in such a way that there is no need to speak about it anymore.
Helpful Cross-References:
V1 – “…while the wicked are before me”

Colossians 4:5 (NKJV)
5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.

V2 – “I was mute with silence”

Isaiah 53:7 (NKJV)
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.

Matthew 27:12-14 (NKJV)
12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. 13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.

“I held my peace even from good”

Matthew 7:6 (NKJV)
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

Hunger for Jesus

In the Garden, Adam was free to eat from all the trees but one.  But he was free to eat from all the other trees.  Hunger and eating things were part of the creation order and will be part of life in the resurrection.  But hunger always teaches us that we need something – something from outside ourselves – in order to be truly satisfied, truly full.  And of course, at this Table, we are always partaking by faith of that which truly satisfies and nourishes our souls – and that is the body and blood of our Perfect Sacrifice, our Savior and Lord.
And so, to be hungry for bread, to be thirsty for wine – these are good things.  But they teach us that to hunger for Jesus, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to hunger to be filled with the Spirit – these are the marks of the disciples of God, the followers of Jesus.  Come and welcome – come and partake of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the Bread of Heaven

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hungry for God

If we have this right and Covenant Renewal leads to an end – here – at the Lord’s Table – then the work of the Word preached and sung and heard and spoken and sung more – leads us to a particular hunger – a hunger for the Word.

When our hearts are renewed by the Spirit, it is not that desire is eliminated.  Instead it is rightly directed, so that our desire for fellowship leads to the eternal communion of the Trinity – and for us to enjoy that communion with the Trinity – here at the Table.
Our hopes – all of them – are directed for the honor to go to the glory of God; our search for knowledge is directed for that knowledge to be revealed to the glory of God; our hunger for food is directed for food that is from heaven and that is enjoyed to the glory of God.  This is the communion table.  This is the fellowship of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit – and it is a renewal – a renewal of our, the body of Christ, a renewal of our faith, hope and love – and of desires satisfied again – only at one place, here – with the Word of God.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Have Kids and Save the World

 Let me begin by stating what appears to be well understood in our congregation already – and yet bears repeating again and again.  It is a blessing, a great blessing, for a married couple to have children.

Let me also make a statement that is probably also well understood in our midst.  The reformation of our culture is not going to take place over the course of a couple rounds of national and local elections.  It is going to take generations.  It has taken us many generations to get ourselves into this mess as deep as we are in it – and it is going to take many generations to undo the mess – and even the undoing of the mess will be messy

            Let me make one more statement that I think we need to cultivate more and more in our midst.  God commands us to have an optimistic view of the evangelization of the world, the discipling of the nations by the church, and the future growth and sanctification of the church and the world which Christ purchased – over generations.

We are not in the middle of a story, the end of which no one knows – even God.  We are not in the middle of a cosmic crap-shoot – God’s betting on us but who knows how it will all go.  We are the militant church, we are the mighty seed of the woman who has and will crush the serpent’s head.  We are that mustard seed that grows up to be the greatest tree in the garden.

            Having children, and then in the grace of God and according to His promises, caring for, loving the little ones, including missing much of the sermon because you have to take care of all the squirrels sitting in your row, educating them in the fear of God in all things, training and equipping them with knowledge, wisdom, and skill according to their frames and giftednesses, bringing them up in the fear and admonition of the LORD, laughing around your tables and heading off to the room in your home where spankings are administered when necessary – these are THE MEANS God will use to bring about the changes we are praying for in our country.

            And so this is the army of God meeting around His throne and at His Table.  Parents – and especially moms of little ones – you need to hear this and you need to hear this with faith – the faith which Jesus gives by means of His Holy Spirit.  What you are doing, that mundane work that most of the world tells you is worthless and a waste of a real career you could be pursuing – is some of the most important work of world transformation and God-glorifying missions you could ever do.  So come, let us worship our God – with the kids!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday 2013

Today (January 20, 2013) is National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  I want to quote from a post made by Pastor George Grant on Wednesday of this last week –

“"If there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try.... When it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now.... Let's do the right thing... This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged, and their voices should compel us to change.” President Obama

Today, America's president issued an astonishing 23 Executive Actions aimed at new gun controls--ostensibly to "protect the children of our nation." But, not one of them would have protected the 3,300 children murdered in the nation's abortion clinics today. Not one of them would protect the 3,300 children who will be murdered tomorrow. Not one of them would protect the 3,300 children who will be murdered the day after that. Or, the 1,000,000 children who will be murdered here in "the land of the free and brave" during the course of 2013.

The heights to which this hypocrisy and hubris rises is beyond fathoming: the president is the chief champion of Planned Parenthood and the child-killing minions of the nation's grisly abortion-industrial-complex.

Predictably, the hue and cry from most Christians has been about governmental assault on their guns, their vaunted 2nd Amendment rights--to be sure, no small thing. But, where are the lamentations for Rachel's children in our modern day Ramah?

"I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it.... We have to examine ourselves in our hearts, and ask yourselves what is important? When we say we've suffered too much pain, and care too much about our children to allow this to continue, then change will, change will come. That's what it's going to take." President Obama"

Meanwhile, in WA state our new Governor gave his first speech, committing himself to fighting for the Reproductive Parity Act.  Reproductive parity is the term the abortion industry is using for a bill that would require every insurance policy that provides maternity care to also provide abortion care.

This outright rebellion and disregard, openly displayed, needs to continue to cause us to gasp with wonder.  As we will see in Psalm 37 this morning, when the wicked are building and using instruments of harm upon the weak, we should remember how these stories go.  We should remember what God does to such nations, and we should cry out for mercy before it is too late.  President Obama is near correct although he doesn’t know what he is saying when he says, “This is how we will be judged, and their voices should compel us to change.”  Mr. President: The blood of over 40 million cover our land and cry out to God.


The Man in the Middle

"...the citizen who owns defensive weapons, and was trained in their use, constitutes the great barrier against centralized power from above and decentralized criminal violence from below. It is the man in the middle, the armed voter, who is the backbone of Western liberty." - Gary North

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Read the Word

Have you read the Scriptures?  Have you read through the whole Bible? Have you read through the New Testament?  Have you given yourself to reading and re-reading, to meditating, to studying, to memorizing, to thinking through your own applications of believing, changing, doing for your life?

Fathers, are you taking your children through the Scriptures?  Are you modeling what it means to love the Word of God?  Mothers, do your children find you reading and considering a passage of Scripture as though it was fine gold – as though it was better than fine gold?

What will 2013 have for you?  Are you prepared?  How will you prepare?  At rock bottom, give yourself to the Word of God.  If you are in Christ, it is food – food for your soul.  You live in an age and in a nation where your access to the Word of God is unprecedented.  It has not always been that way – it may not always be that way.  Do not squander the gifts of God.


If you do not have a Bible reading program, find one, grab one, find one on the back Information Table or look up at our website.  Use your new Smart Phone – you can probably find an app.  Or here’s one for you – open up to Genesis and read a couple chapters.  Then open up to Matthew and read one.  Then pick up where you left off the next day – and then the next.  And there you go – food for your soul, direction for your life, and anchor for your faith.  Simple as that.


What would this congregation look like if all of us read through the Scriptures this year?  What would we look like if 20 years from now we had, all of us, read through the Scriptures 20 times?  Do you think it would make a difference in your life?  Many, many brothers and sisters could testify to you that in fact it has made an incredible and profound impact on theirs?  Are you any different?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Communal and Individual

The Lord’s Table is both a communal and an individual rite.  It is not to be taken normally alone, in the way baptism is administered, one person at a time.  It is a communal activity – both with the Lord but also with one another.  This is why you are called to discern the Lord’s body as you partake.  Look around you and see the body of Christ feasting with Him at His table.
But it is also an individual rite.  In order for there to be a community, individuals of that community must come.  And so, if you have been baptized, identified in that community, and are able, physically, to partake – then you should come.  Jesus is communing with you and with you personally as well.  He has particular nourishment and particular fellowship for you in just the situation you find yourself in.  But remember, that individual relationship is like a member of a body – it relies and depends on all the rest of the body as well – and God is specially feeding and equipping those members too.  Just remember this – He is most likely equipping you to be part of that encouragement and support for the other parts in the week ahead.  And so come, and be fed and then given away yourself – by Your good and giving God.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Jesus and His People

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins”  Matt 1:21.
And that is why this Table has been prepared for you – His brothers and sisters, His family.  Our elder brother has saved us from our sins.  His body was broken for you.  His blood was shed for you.  It is at this Table that you give your AMEN to just such a glorious truth as this – and you are summoned to do so over and over and over again after your baptism.
Look around you as you prepare to partake – look around you and see that in Christ, there are no divisions.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, free nor slave, male nor female, rich or poor, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.  Look around you and discern the Lord’s body.  We are that body.  We are His family.  We are His people.  That is what it means that we are the church of Jesus the Christ.  And that is why we partake together.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Speak Comfort at the Table

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God.  “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, That her warfare is ended, That her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the LORD’s hand Double for all her sins.”
If you are God’s people, then you are called to hear this comfort, you are summoned to come to this Table where you can see comfort, and you are called, by faith, to taste this comfort in the bread and in the wine.
Taste the peace, for your warfare is ended.  Christ put an end to death and enmity – you are friends with God.  Taste the pardon, for your iniquity has been dealt with.  Christ paid with His own blood for your sins and you are reconciled with God.
Come and hear.  Come and taste.  Before you is the ultimate Christmas feast – the ultimate and perfect comfort food.

Joy and the Present Love of God

Paul writes of sufferings of the Christian in Romans 8; things, none of which can separate us from the love of God.  Paul does not say that conquest is found in escaping these things, nor in their removal from our lives.  Conquest is found when even in the most horrible of situations, these things cannot separate us from the love of God.  Of course this means that we can experience and live in the love of God in the midst of the most horrible of situations.

Jesus Himself did not cry out over the pain of the nails in His hands and feet, nor in the shame of His naked and humiliating public crucifixion.  His cry of despair was over the departure of God from His presence, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?"

One man wrote, "Joy is not the absence of pain, but the presence of God."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Winnowing Fan at the Supper

In addition to the Bread and the Cup, the Winnowing Fan of the Lord Jesus is here as well at the Table.  The same fan that came when the Spirit was given by Christ, the fan that separates the wheat from the chaff, remains at work here at the Table as well.  The Table is a dangerous place to come.


Paul warned us that there is a way to come to this Table in an unworthy manner – and it could be summed up this way:  proclaiming yourself to be a follower of Jesus but refusing to act like it – especially in how you are treating others here with you at this Table – right now.  You must come with faith and with the faith that is connected to honest repentance and a contrite heart.  The Table is a dangerous place.


But the only place to escape the danger of this place if you are a baptized member is to come and find refuge here in faith and with that contrite heart.  There is no safety in not coming and there is no safety in coming with any hypocrisy.  But thanks be to God, through Jesus, there is the Way, the only Way, to escape the danger of this Table and receive all its benefits.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Trust and Hope

This Table is a Table of Trust and Hope.  It is a place that we are to come to where our trust and hope is nourished in the One who is worthy of our undivided trust and hope.  His body and blood were given on behalf of us, to redeem us, to pay for our sin, to set us free from the wrath that we were due.  This Table recalls and memorializes our past rescue.

But it declares our present and future rescues as well.  In His providence, His perfect providence over all things, God promises to provide for us everything that we need for life and godliness in Christ Jesus.  “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy.”  This Table is therefore our help and shield for He is our help and shield.  In which ways do you need to trust today in the LORD?  In which ways do you need to hope in Christ today – this week – this time in your life?  Well then, welcome to the Table of trust and hope.