Saturday, May 31, 2014

Merodach-Baladan Before Sennacherib

Webb suggests that chapters 38-39 occurred chronologically before chapters 36-37 (Webb, The Message of Isaiah, p35).  

If he is right, then the order has more to do with the shape of the book than simply giving us the facts of the stories.  The story of Sennacherib is the story of Assyria's attempted invasion of Jerusalem, which failed.  The story of Hezekiah's illness and the Babylonian envoys is the story pointing to the future exile and captivity of Judah by Babylon.

In those years of exile, it is the words of comfort (chapters 40ff) that will be the most important chapters of hope.

1-35 - Judgment and Yahweh's Kindness
           36-37 - Sennacherib/Assyria
           38-39 - Babylon
40-66 - Hope in the Midst of Yahweh's Coming Exile

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Kingdom of Grace

The Kingdom of God is the gospel.  The kingdom is good news.  The declaration of the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the power of God for salvation.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, we are justified; we are saved.  "Jesus is Lord" is true and because it is true there is salvation to be found.

And so this is a kingdom of grace.  But that grace, that kingdom, comes with vengeance, for God will judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus (Rom 2:16).  All sin is going to be dealt with, either in Christ or outside of Christ.  And all men, even Christians, are required to keep the law of God.  That is why, when giving the Great Commission, Jesus said to teach them to observe all that He had commanded (Matt 28:20).

And even that is grace, a kingdom of grace.  We have been saved so that we no longer are slaves to sin.  We are able to keep God's law and even love doing so.  We are able to hate our sin and make no excuse for it, instead, repenting of it.  We are able to walk in the Spirit, putting off the effects and habits of the old man and putting on the character and practices of the New Man.  In this sense, we become prisoners of Christ, under His command - a command of freedom and liberty to be what humanity was meant to be.

This is some of what Frame intends when he writes, "Kingdom...includes both grace and vengeance" (Frame, ST, p95).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Cultural Change of the Great Commission

"So the Great Commission is a program for cultural change.  As individuals bow the knee to Christ, they discover that worshiping Jesus must lead to action, bringing Jesus' teachings to bear on everything.  So the kingdom brings individuals to Christ and also brings those individuals to exalt him in every area of life.  It is both individual and social change, until God consummates the kingdom at the return of Jesus to judge the living and the dead." - Frame, ST, p93.

We must repent of our individualistic assumptions.  As an individual is sanctified, that sanctification never remains solely "in" him.  He is changed and so the world around him will be affected.  And as the world around him is affected, the culture is changed.  The yeast spreads, the tree grows, the waters cover the sea.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Diane - RIP

An update from a friend on the passing of his wife - I post it without full names.  The point is to witness the glorious faith of both wife and husband.  They both have taught me so much even as I witnessed her suffering and passing from afar.

"Last night at 12:01am Diane followed Aslan home.  An hour earlier we concluded another day of singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and remembering how she faithfully completed the good works God had ordained for her to do.  Our children and grandchildren have been in and out continually, many sleeping at Hope’s home.

Minutes earlier she was coughing and I reminded her again that though we wanted her to remain with us, we released her from her labors to enjoy life’s next chapter in the presence of her Lord and King.  Shortly after, I went to administer her nightly dose of pain meds and realized her spirit had departed.

Since our last update she’d not eaten or consumed fluids. Our job was to keep her clean and comfortable.  I had to accept the willing help of Jessica and Shana for this task.  Until then, Diane, a private person, only wanted me to serve her in that fashion along with the nurses.  In a prior post I referred to the cancer as “grotesque.”  They thought it an odd description, but now would say it was an understatement. 

I’m not trying to be “crude”, but understanding what Diane fought with such grace and peace raised an already high estimation of mom to a new level.  During the past six months, she only thought of others.  She knew the cancer was inoperable and systematically wrote exhortations to each grandchild, planned her memorial, distributed gifts and even came to our Passover Feast and Easter Sabbath Service.  She did it all without a complaint, hint of self pity or reservation.

God’s grace has shone through her radiant face, kind words and thoughtful deeds.  Each of us are in awe and pray that our Father would allow us to honor her but bearing our crosses with the same humble faith that she exhibited. 

God continues to amaze us with blessings, too numerous to list, from people who Diane has touched directly and indirectly throughout the years.  This “update” is primarily an announcement of her home going.  I will try to recap the past six months in future posts as time allows."

Against Sacramental Superstition

"The surgeon may pick up many different instruments in the course of the operation, but it is the surgeon who is doing it.  If we have mastered this distinction, we stand against every form of sacramental superstition and abuse." - Wilson, Against the Church, p23.

We know we have been given the Word, and water, and bread and wine.  And we believe that these are means of grace.  We know that we have a liturgical service that declares we are drawn up into God's throne room.  But none of these "things" and none of these "acts" in and of themselves can do anything to our hearts.  None of it matters unless the Surgeon picks up these instruments and uses them on us.

We are totally and completely at the mercy of God.  And, understood rightly, we would rather not be anywhere else, dependent upon anyone or anything else.  Do you know the mercy of God?  Have you tasted His goodness?  Nothing is better.  No one is better.

Major Themes of Isaiah

Isaiah could be thought of as two main sections with a center story.  The story is of the salvation of Jerusalem from captivity, covered in Chapters 36-39, and the two sections are on either side.

There is a commissioning of Isaiah as prophet in both sections.  The first is in Chapter 6 (most likely placed there chiastically in the first part, which covers chapters 1-12).  The second is in Chapter 40.

In Chapter 6, Isaiah is called to a ministry that will not be heard.  In Chapter 40, he is called to a ministry of hope that must be heard.

In Chapter 6, Isaiah is called to judge the people.  In Chapter 40, he is called to comfort the people.

Judgment and salvation.  Exile and return.  Demolition and reconstruction.  Death and resurrection.  

One More Verse from "I Will Sing My Maker's Praises"

Another verse from our new hymn:  “Since then neither change nor coldness, in my Father’s love can be – Lo!  I lift my hands with boldness, as Thy child I come to Thee.  Grant me grace, O God, I pray Thee, That I may with all my might, all my lifetime, day and night, love and trust Thee and obey Thee – And, when this brief life is o’er, Praise and love Thee evermore.”

God’s love is unchanging – it never grows cold towards you.  He is the perfect Father – and so you are invited to always come to Him.  Yes, He may discipline You – but only out of the love of the Father.  And there is grace, always grace, from Him to you who come in the name of Jesus.  This table is for those – His children, the ones who call upon His name in faith.  Here, we come and receive Christ by means of the Spirit – and that same faith is nurtured and strengthened – so come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Since the Ascension

"Since Jesus' ascension, the kingdom of God is the work of God through his people, Bringing Jesus' kingship to bear on the whole world.  It is bringing people to bow the knee to him, and every tongue to confess his lordship.  It is turning people into disciples, baptizing, and teaching them to observe everything that Jesus has taught us.  Note that our teaching is not just any "teaching" (didasko), but a teaching "to observe" (tereo).  The focus is not on propositions, but on actions.  The discipleship class leads not only to "knowing that," but "knowing how."  Insofar as the teaching remains at the intellectual level, the work is not done.  The teaching is to be kept, observed, applied." - Frame, ST, p93.

Christ's ascension did not relegate His reign to over the church only.  In fact, it declared His kingship over all of His creation.  He is the God-man set upon the throne to rule over all of heaven and earth.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I Will Sing My Maker's Praises

What glorious hymns and psalms we are learning to sing!  What a blessing to recover the psalms and hymns of the reformation, when the Word was given back to the people and the opportunity to enter into the worship of God was restored in all of the grace that comes from believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.

A new hymn that we have been learning as a congregation, “I Will Sing My Maker’s Praises” is such a grand example.  I want to point it out because, as we are learning it, sometimes it is hard to pause and consider all of the rich words while learning the tune.  And the hymn needs a bit of explanation, especially the last line sung repeatedly at the end of each verse.

And so the instruction:  “God’s great love abides for aye.”  We don’t sing “aye (eye)” as though it means “Yes” – and we aren’t saying it like or neighbors, the Canadians, “aye” in some kind of “don’t you know” manner – that would not make sense.  We sing, “Aye (rhyming with Day)”  because this is old English for “forever.”  God’s great love abides forever.  God’s great love abides for aye.

OK – so get over that as you sing through the hymn – you’ve probably been wondering what in the world you meant as you sing.  Or did you?  That’s my next point – it’s hard to know all you are meaning as you are singing a new song.  So listen to just the words of some of the hymn for just a moment.

“I will sing my Maker’s praises – and in Him most joyful be – For in all things I see traces – Of His tender love to me – Nothing else than love could move Him – With such sweet and tender care – Evermore to raise and bear – all who try to serve and love Him.  All things else have but their day – God’s great love abides for aye (forever).” – and that is just one of six glorious, theologically and emotionally packed verses.

This song is a great hymn of thanksgiving and adoration of all that God has done for us – for you and for me… - consider verse two –
“Yea, so dear did He esteem me that His Son He loved so well – He hath given to redeem me from the quenchless flames of hell.  O thou Spring of boundless blessing, How could e’er my feeble mind – of Thy depth the bottom find – Tho’ my efforts were unceasing?  All things else have but their day, God’s great love abides for aye (forever).”

Each verse is thick with truth and passion.  It reminds me of the Psalms we are learning to sing – give yourself to the singing and praising and praying to God in this service.  He has called You.  He has received You in Jesus Christ.  He loves you fully in the Son.  And He has sent His Spirit to cry out in your hearts as you sing – “Abba Father.”  Welcome to throne of Jesus Christ.  Welcome to the King of love.

Irreversible Order

"Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; Christianity does not begin with an urgent imperative." - Carrick, IP, p27.

King of All Nations

Frame makes an important point about the universal kingship of the Lord.  This has ramifications on any "two kingdoms" idea where Christ is considered to be King only of the church or spiritual realm.  I quote Frame below, including the verse references for emphasis - 

"God's throne is the ark of the covenant, between the cherubim and beside the book of the covenant.  As the Lord, the King controls his realm and speaks with authority.  He also stands with his people, to pretect and defend them, to provide justice and mercy.

But God is King not only of Israel, but of all the nations, indeed of the whole earth

Exodus 15:18 (NKJV)
18 “The LORD shall reign forever and ever.”

Psalm 22:28 (NKJV)
28 For the kingdom is the LORD’s, And He rules over the nations.

All of Psalm 96, 97, 98, 99, and 145 (ok, so I won't write these all out)

God rules all because he is God and brings all things to pass, but also...because he is related to the whole creation by covenant." - Frame, ST, p92.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Invitation to What?

"Evangelistic preaching has too often consisted of a prolonged appeal for decision when the congregation have been given no substance upon which the decision is to be made.  But the gospel is not fundamentally an invitation to men to do anything.  It is a declaration of what God has done in Christ on the cross for their salvation." - Carrick, IP, p26.

Especially, the more liberal we become, denying the truths of Christ's deity, physical resurrection, substitutionary atonement (which requires acknowledgment of our sin and sinful nature), and the like, the more the gospel sounds like nothing more than any other self-help tactic or "good" advice - which is actually horrible advice.  That is not good news.

Both Suffering and Victory in this Age

In the dynamic nature of the kingdom of God present and still coming, Frame continues,

"Some theologians present the semi-eschatological age as a time of suffering, pain, and defeat.  Others present it as a time of victory for the gospel.  In fact, both positions are correct.  The history of the church has been full of suffering and persecution.  But the blood of the martyrs has been the seed of the church, and often the worst persecutions have given rise to the strongest churches.  And through history, Christian people have brought profound change to society, in the treatment of widows and orphans, the growth of learning, and the development of democracy, to mention only a few areas." - Frame, ST, p91.

Well, both "positions" are not really represented enough in this paragraph to determine if they both are, or even could be, correct (Frame is just being gracious).  For at their core, a pessimistic view of the future of this world verses an optimistic view of the future of this world cannot both be held.  It is true, however, that we should expect suffering and victory in this age.  And that is a difference from the final consummation when there will be no more suffering, no more tears.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Gospel Indicative and Then Gospel Imperative

"Indeed, the theology of the New Testament can be summarized by the following sequence:
1.  Indicative - "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor 15:3)
2.  Imperative - "Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15)
3.  Indicative - "we...died to sin" (Rom 6:2)
4.  Imperative - "Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin" (Rom 6:11)
...The indicatives and the imperatives of the gospel do indeed lie in each other; they are interwoven and intertwined" - Carrick, IP, p23.

I would only add that the movement from indicative to imperative is only accomplished by grace through faith.  We are not responding to the good news except God is at work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:12b-13).

But Has the "Age to Come" Really Come?

Even though the kingdom of God has come in Christ (Matt 3:2, 4:17, 12:28), and Christ has been raised to God's right hand where he has authority over all, there seems to be something not right, not "yet" so to speak.

"Yet some biblical expectations for the last days and the kingdom are still unfulfilled.  The bodily resurrection of the just and the unjust has not taken place.  The return of Christ and the final judgment remain future.  The saints pray, "Thy kingdom come".  That prayer assumes that the coming of the kingdom is future to some extent, though the prayer contains petitions for the near future, not only for the ultimate consummation." - Frame, ST, p89.

And this relates to what he spoke of earlier:  the dynamic and dramatic nature of the present kingdom of God.  There will be real ups and downs.  There are real promises and there are real unfulfilled manifestations of those promises, with real and hard consequences of those unfulfilled promises.  And yet, there is a real change in the universe because we live in the "age to come."  Rulers have been put down and no longer have the kind of control they did.

The leaven is spreading.  The story is unfolding.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Triumphant Indicative

Pulling from Machen's "Christianity and Liberalism," Carrick sifts out three wonderful, pithy quotes - 

"Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative"

"Christianity is a religion founded not on aspirations, but on facts..."

"The liberal preacher offers us exhortation...The Christian evangelist...offers...not exhortation but a gospel." - from Carrick, IP, p7

The gospel is not first of all something to do; it is first of all something which has been done.

Has the "Age to Come" Come?

In discussing the Two Ages (as in for instance Jesus' words in Matthew 12:32, "either in this age or in the age to come."), Frame notes that the "age to come" is the age of fulfillment and in some sense occurs after our death and God's final judgment.

He goes on, "But the remarkable thing about NT teaching, in contrast with the Jewish conception, is that in one sense the "age to come" has already appeared in Christ.  Believers in Christ are those "on whom the end of the ages has come" (1 Cor 10:11).  The closing of the holy places in the temple to worshipers is symbolic of the present age, so that when the veil is torn and we enter boldly into God's presence through Christ, another age has begun (Heb 9:8-9).  Christ "has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (9:26).  For believers, then, the "coming age" has begun in Christ.  He has dealt with sin once for all." - Frame, ST, p89.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Liturgical Mobile Home Parks

"So instead of building so many liturgical mobile home parks, we really ought to be praying for a Category 5 revival." - Wilson, Against the Church, p20.

I am so grateful for the recovery of Covenant Renewal Worship and a high view of Lord's Day Worship.  I am so grateful for a sober, reverent, Word-centered worship service and for the (slow) recovery of Psalm singing.

But I really, really want a Category 5 revival.  Come, Lord Jesus.

In God's Economy, One Event Foreshadows Another

"So in Scripture one event will picture, foreshadow, even motivate another event a thousand years later.  The rebellion of Israel against God in the wilderness (Num 14) is a warning to Christian believers in the first century AD (Heb 3:7-19).  Indeed, the accounts of that ancient history have the purpose of edifying believers in the new covenant period (Rom 15:4)." - Frame, ST, p88.

If this is true of God in how He weaves and repeats story, then it follows on the micro level that all of our stories are doing the same thing.  We are playing out certain characters, revealing certain truths about God and His ways, as we live our lives.  It is also true in this dynamism that we can change.  We can begin as the villain and end as the hero, or vice versa.  We can be the antagonist or the protagonist.  We have a role to play but we will play a role and we will not thwart God's plans.

God the Spirit and Preaching

"This emphasis upon the Spirit of God in preaching is of crucial importance.  The preaching of the Word of God must never be construed as simply a matter of orthodoxy; orthodoxy is indeed essential in preaching, but so too is the Spirit of God.  Equally, the preaching of the Word of God must never be construed as simply a matter of means; means are indeed essential in preaching, but so too is the Spirit of God." - Carrick, IP, p6.

In the spirit of Charles Spurgeon, having completed my exegesis and sermon prep, certain of my understanding of the text in its proper context, of sober homiletical work and prayerful consideration of my congregation, I climb up into the pulpit pleading, "I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit."  If He does not work, there will be no work.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How Does God Preach?

"The Scriptures demonstrate that God is a communicating Being (i.e. Heb 1:1-2a).  Thus God himself, who created man in his own image and endowed him with that marvelous creativity that is able to invent language, has himself harnessed and utilized language in the process of revelation.  The question, then, is:  What patterns or structures has God himself harnessed and utilized in speaking to men?...

...The central thesis of this book is that the essential pattern or structure which God himself has utilized in the proclamation of New Testament Christianity is that of the indicative-imperative." - Carrick, IP, pp4-5

God, who is the Word, loves language.  I am not sure I would say that He "harnesses" language (it gives the impression that "language" is a thing out there, outside of God), but He is the master of language use and communication.  Looking at how God preaches is a good study in learning how to preach.

Liturgy as Hiding Place from God

"My friend Toby Sumpter, no enemy of robust liturgy, once wrote:  "When people come to our church 'for the liturgy' I think I will begin asking how frequently they use porn, yell at their wife, or tell lies."  On a related note, Mark Galli, in his defense of liturgy, noted that "it should not surprise us that the liturgy is also one of the best places to hide from God."  It sure is." - Wilson, Against the Church, p16.

Reminds me of the woman at the well, when confronted by Jesus about her sin, begins to discuss theology and liturgy ('where should we worship') with Him.

How Long, O Lord?

Chapter 5 of Frames "Systematic Theology" begins a discussion of "The Kingdom of God."  While viewing the Covenants of God as the normative constitution of God's people, the Kingdom describes the dynamic movement of history (p87).

God could have brought the redemption, and even the final resurrection and glorification, of all mankind about in a very short time period - it seems to us.  But He has decided not to.

"Why he chose to stretch out the drama of salvation over so long a time is a mystery.  The length of this time is related to other mysteries of Scriptures, such as the problem of evil.  We would not cry, "How long, O LORD?" if God had determined to complete his purposes in an instant, and the sting of pain and suffering would be much less if God were to abbreviate his story to a few decades.  But God's decision is clear:  that the history of redemption will take millenia, leaving space for dramatic movements, ups and downs, twists and turns, longings and astonishments.  Salvation is to be a great epic, not a short story.  God will glorify himself, not by measuring his kingdom in time spans appropriate to human kings, but by revealing himself as "king of the ages" (Rev 15:3 - NIV)." - Frame, ST, p88.

And maybe that is part of the mystery, simply that.  Jesus Christ, we find, is King of kings, and Lord of lords, measuring that Kingship and Lordship over epochs of time and space.  We will see it far more clearly then, at the end, that Jesus was Lord of all.  But we will see it because it will have dynamically taken place in the time and space He created.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Eating Together; Remembering Together

Partaking at the Table is a privilege which is given to us individually.  If you have been baptized into the Lord Jesus, then you are summoned here to this Table to partake – and communion with the Lord at this Table is a great blessing for each one who comes and does so.

But there is another aspect of partaking here – and it is not an individual partaking.  The Bride of Christ is here as well, partaking of the meal with her Bridegroom.  We are the bride of Christ, but only corporately, only as we are bound together as one body in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are celebrating and remembering and communing in what Christ has done over all the world over all of history and into all of the future.  We are remembering a story and entering into a story and perpetuating the Story into the future – a future which is ours to enjoy together in Christ.  Come and partake; come and tell that story; come and welcome to Jesus Christ.  

Acceptable Liturgy

"The Bible teaches that the basic division in liturgical worship is not between high and low or between traditional and contemporary, but rather between acceptable and unacceptable.  And the only thing that can make it acceptable is pure, unfeigned, evangelical faith in Jesus.  Anything else is on its way to the Bad Place." - Douglas Wilson, "Against the Church", p15.

So helpful.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Lesser Magistrates and Learning from the Left

We need to learn some things from the leftist progressives.  They are undermining the rule of law in state after state by borrowing from Calvin's doctrine of lesser magistrates.

Washington State is an obvious example.  It is not legal in the state of Washington to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes.  All of this is taking place while it remains a federal crime to do the same.  The lesser magistrate is taking on the federal king.

A similar tactic is taking place with regard to the same sex mirage laws (thank you for the slang Douglas Wilson).

What if we did the same thing?  What if we worked to ban abortion in a city or a county, declaring abortion to be a crime in those smaller jurisdictions?  What if it was labelled as murder on the law books?  What if towns and city councils worked to establish a "not in our city" mentality with regard to abortion?

Of course, we have been trying to do just that with regard to the homosexual laws - and we have been losing more and more.  But I believe some of why we are losing is because Christians do not understand the principles of lesser magistrates and biblical resistance of civil law.  

This is something we need to study, recover, and put back into our arsenal.  For the kingdom.

And to the Young Men

Young men – in the past Lord’s Days I have addressed the little children and then their parents.  This morning, I am addressing you in particular, although the applications can go to everyone.  Who are the young men?  I have in mind those who are 15 years and older.

David, either remembering his youth, or writing in his youth, said, “How can a young man cleanse his way?  By taking heed according to Your word.  With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!”

The Word regularly commands to our weaknesses – and if you are a young man you are prone to wander – you are most likely in need of some serious cleansing and not just physical – you need to hear the command to take heed to the Word of God – because you forget it and forget about it often.

This is the way God has made and is making young men.  They are growing strong.  They find they can beat up or break down a lot more than they ever could.  Their youth and growth gives them more and more energy and their bodies are telling them to go out and take dominion – they are telling them that they can and that they should.
All of this energy – all of this strength – all of this confidence – all of these new opportunities – and where is the wisdom young man, where is the wisdom?

If you do not take heed according to God’s Word, if you do not seek it with all of your heart, if you do not acknowledge your sins and your temptations honestly before God, if you do not die to all of what God has given to you so that you do not make it an idol, you will die in the things God has given to you.  That which has been granted to you as gift will become a curse.

But if you see everything that has been given to you and all that you are becoming and will become – and if you lay it all out before the Lord in the light of His Word – He will grant You wisdom and He will bless the labor of your hands.  He will teach you through fiery trials how to walk through temptations and come out stronger, wiser, and more devoted to Him – and more thankful.  Come and worship your God.  Come and die.  Come and take up your cross and follow Jesus.  He will be more than life to you – and you will slay dragons with Him.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Isaiah and the Simplest Outline

How could we make the simplest outline of the book of Isaiah.  Clearly we have chapters 36-39, a predominantly prose portion, sandwiched between all the rest, which are mostly prophetic, poetic preaching.

Chapters 1-35 - Judgment Upon Old Jerusalem
Chapters 36-39 - Historical Attack and Deliverance
Chapters 40-66 - Comfort and Deliverance for the New Jerusalem

Friday, May 16, 2014

The First Stirring Chords of the Overture

"Hear, O heavens!  Listen, O earth!  For the LORD has spoken" (Isaiah 1:2).

Barry Webb says, "These opening lines are like the first stirring chords of the overture to a great oratorio.  They summon us to listen and give us the first indication of the character of the work we are about to hear."

And like a great piece of music, there may be several movements which will sound different.  Isaiah is like that.  This prophet ministers over several decades and so of course there are many different movements within this great piece.  But he says it himself in 1:1 - "The vision..."  Not, the visions, but one vision.

Isaiah - a grand piece of many movements.  But all one piece.  All one composer.  All one vision.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Seeing the Truth; Knowing the Counterfeit

Isaiah saw the LORD high and exalted, full of glory and over the whole earth.  And so when Sennacherib's men stood at the gates of Jerusalem claiming that the great king of Assyria was coming and that the City was at the mercy of said king, Isaiah knew it was a lie.

Behold the truth.  Study Him.  Know Him intimately.  And then, when the counterfeits squeak, you will know them for the liars they are.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Techies But No Orators

"In a highly scientific, industrialized, and technological age, which has produced very few great orators in the realm of politics and very few great preachers in the church, we should not underestimate the potential significance of the study of rhetoric for the preacher" - John Carrick, The Imperative of Preaching, p2.

New Covenant - External and Internal

"So as with the other covenants, it is possible for someone to join the new covenant community externally without the new heart that defines that covenant.  He may be baptized and profess Christian doctrine.  But if he lives a life of sin, he shows that he does not have the new heart that is the mark of the new covenant.  He has wrongly entered the covenant community and ought to be disciplined by the body.  He has become a Christian externally, but without inward change." - Frame, ST, p81

While straightforward, reformed, evangelical doctrine, this is actually a very controversial way of looking at the New Covenant in our circles.  Some would argue that there is no "inward" or "heart" change in the new covenant believer because we are still the same person.  Rather, we are indwelt by the Spirit and then discipled by Him as we mature.  If we reject this discipleship, we prove ourselves to be apostates and not of the final elect.

This way of looking at the New Covenant has some strength to it.  It discourages peering into hearts or even a temptation to do so.  On the other hand, it seems to contradict many portions of Scripture which speak of a new man, a new nature, a new creation that we have become in Christ, and warn of lips that speak the praise of God while hearts are full (inwardly) of defilement and lusts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Jesus is Both Word and Sacrament

Word and Sacrament.  Word and Table.  That is what goes on in this service of Covenant Renewal.  Sometimes there has been an argument about which should take preeminence – the Word or the Table.

But that is to get the point of Word and Sacrament mixed up.  The two are not at odds with one another.  The two are working together.  Fighting over the importance of Word and sacrament is like fighting over cooking and eating – but who would want to do that?

In both Word and at this Table we come to Jesus.  He is the Word.  He is the Bread and Wine.  No one partakes of Jesus in these things without faith.  But with faith, the preached Word is Christ, the Bread His body, the Wine His blood.  And faith comes by hearing and you have heard.  Believe and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Definite Atonement and Public Worship

Those who are gathered before the throne of God are the elect of God, the saints of God, those for Whom the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ has been applied.  This is the doctrine, the teaching of definite atonement and is the teaching of Scripture.

But definite atonement should never be thought of as “tiny atonement” (HT Doug Wilson).  Actually, in Revelation, we see two aspects of the atonement.  The reality of its definiteness is seen in the specific number allotted to each tribe – twelve thousand from each, no more, no less.  This is symbolic of its specificity and its definiteness.  But the extent of the atonement is seen when John turned and looked.

What did he see?  He saw a multitude that no man can number.  This was a fulfillment of what had been promised to Abraham.  Abraham, look at the stars – count the sand on the seashore.  Can you do that?  So shall your descendants be.

And this is why this service of worship is an open, public event – even though it is for Christians.  What are we saying when we worship in this way?  We are declaring that God sent His only Son, not to condemn the world but rather that the world would be saved through Him.  Jesus has come.  The world has been saved.  The world is being saved.  Reconciliation is here.  Friendship with God is being brought about.

The author of Hebrews says that while we are told that Jesus rules over all the earth at the right hand of the Father subduing all things, we do not yet see this subduing.  But we do see Jesus, made a little lower than the angels, suffering on the cross, now high and lifted up, crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

This is the glorious Good News of the Gospel – we have come to worship the Savior of the world.  We have come to declare and renew our allegiance.  But we have also come at His command that He might manifest His gracious glory to the nations in and through us – for they all must come too.  Come and worship our Lord; come and worship theirs.

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Kind of End to the Mosaic Covenant

"Scripture speaks of an "end" only to the Mosaic covenant:  after quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34, the writer to the Hebrews says:  "In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete.  And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away."  (Heb 8:13).

It is the Mosaic covenant that is becoming obsolete and ready to vanish.  The book of Hebrews banishes all nostalgia of Jewish Christians' wanting to return to the old ways of the Mosaic era." - Frame, ST, p74.

Yes, and there was a fiery judgment awaiting all who refused to listen to the sermon to the Hebrews.  AD 70.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Gracious Mosaic Covenant

Exodus 19:4–6 (NKJV)

4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

Frame comments - "Notice here that the covenant begins with the grace of God, his sovereign work in delivering Israel from Egypt and bringing her to himself." - ST, p72.

Which is also how the Ten Commandments begins.  All Grace.  "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."

Gracious God.  From first to last.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Let the Parents Come

Last week I addressed the children in the Call to Worship.  This Sunday I’d like to address the parents of those children.

As we will see in the sermon this morning, this gathering is the most important gathering you will attend this week.  It is the high point of the week even though it is on the front end, on the first day of the new week.

And while many of you have heard this truth before and nod your heads in agreement, you know as well as I do how hard it is, how tempting it is, to neglect the truth of a matter so that it doesn’t make its way down into your bones, changing the way you live, think and speak about such truth.  How much more for your children who are watching you carefully and, just as the Lord has created them, imitating you in your lifestyles.

This isn’t a call for perfect parenting.  It is a call for Christ-centered, honest, discipleship-oriented parenting.  They are not only your children.  They are your younger brothers and sisters in the faith.  They look up to you and they will imitate your love and devotion to the Savior if it is sincerely displayed throughout the week.  This doesn’t mean living perfect lives without sin.  It means acknowledging sin, praying together for mercy and grace, seeking forgiveness, letting love cover an immeasurable multitude of sins, and quickly forgiving others because you know you are swimming in an ocean of grace.

It means giving thanks always for everything.  It means trusting and entrusting God with everything.  It means knowing how much you need to join with the saints and come to renew covenant with your God and with His people.  It means helping those around you prepare to come and do the same.

Birthrate Evangelism

A recent news article said, 

Couples in the world's five biggest developed economies - the United States, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom - had 350,000 fewer babies in 2012 than in 2008, a drop of nearly 5 percent. The United Nations forecasts that women in those countries will have an average 1.7 children in their lifetimes. Demographers say the fertility rate needs to reach 2.1 just to replace people dying and keep populations constant. - (link to article)

Economic fear and a pessimistic view of the future is part of the reason for the birth rate decline.  But what is just as true is the lack of value placed upon what the Bible teaches about families.  The promises of the covenant are no longer believed, and the value of having a large family as the Lord allows is not understood while the cost of doing so is still recognized.

The good news is that as Christians reclaim the promises of the covenant and have kids, faithfully train them up in the Lord, we are able to make huge gains in the discipleship of our countries in just a couple of generations.  Of course that means you have to believe that there are a couple of generations left.

And we have been told to believe these promises for a thousand generations.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A More Christian Europe?

"In most of Europe the fertility rates have dropped far below replacement levels with the impending consequence of rapidly declining "native" populations, foretelling a Sweden without Swedes and a France without French.  What has gone little noticed is that the Europeans who go to church are continuing to have children to such an extent that this factor alone could result in a far more religious Europe." - Stark, TC, p384-5.

Could this be one of the keys to faithful, long-term missionary work in post-Christian nations?  Have babies and save the world.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Myth of the "Dark Ages"

Stark dares historians to be honest about what he claims they know - there were no "Dark Ages."

"Ironically, the most beneficial factor in the rise of Western civilization was the fall of Rome!...(which) released the tax-paying millions from a paralysing oppression, (hence) many new technologies began to appear and were rapidly and widely adopted with the result that ordinary people were able to live far better, and, after centuries of decline under Rome, the population began to grow again.  No longer were the productive classes bled to sustain the astonishing excesses of the Roman elite, or to erect massive monuments to imperial egos, or to support vast armies to hold Rome's many colonies in thrall.  Instead, human effort and ingenuity turned to better ways to farm, to sail, to transport goods, to conduct business, to build churches, to make war, to educate, and even to play music." - Stark, TC, pp239-240.

He then goes on to argue that later, historians and gullible tourists note the great monuments and palaces of Rome and compare them to the provincial communities such as medieval merchant towns and are wrongly far more impressed with the former.  Intellectuals, especially those with anti-religious, pro-enlightenment biases, refused to notice the enormous progress that took place in music, art, literature, education and science, along with the nuts and bolts of real, common life.

During the so-called "Dark Ages," Europe actually took such a great technological and intellectual leap forward that it found itself ahead of the rest of the world. (Stark, p240).