Monday, July 31, 2006
Love "does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful" (1 Cor. 13:5, ESV).
From lecture eight: "The Spirit of Charity the Opposite of a Selfish spirit."
The resources of the universe move at his bidding, and he can easily command them all to subserve your welfare. So that, not to seek your own, in the selfish sense, is the best way of seeking your own in a better sense. It is the directest course you can take to secure your highest happiness. When you are required not to be selfish, you are not required, as has been observed, not to love and seek your own happiness, but only not to seek mainly your own private and confined interests. But if you place your happiness in God, in glorifying him, and in serving him by doing good, — in this way, above all others, will you promote your wealth, and honor, and pleasure here below, and obtain hereafter a crown of unfading glory, and pleasures forevermore at God’s right hand. If you seek, in the spirit of selfishness, to grasp all as your own, you shall lose all, and be driven out of the world at last, naked and forlorn, to everlasting poverty and contempt. But if you seek not your own, but the things of Christ, and the good of your fellowmen, God himself will be yours, and Christ yours, and the Holy Spirit yours, and all things yours. Yes, “all things” shall be yours; “whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21, 22).
Sunday, July 30, 2006
God’s Household Rules: Marriage and Family (1)
1. Since Ephesians 4:17, Paul has been exhorting us to live distinctly as Christians, and not like the world. In the section we just finished studying, Ephesians 5:5-21, he’s emphasized four reasons or motivations or incentives for our pursuit of holiness, our quest for godliness.
2. Last week, we came to the end of that section, in Ephesians 5:18-21. Paul’s final appeal to us to live the Christian life in this passage (rounding out  the anticipation of the final judgment;  our new identity in Christ; and  wisdom) is based upon the reality of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer, indeed upon the filling of the believer by the Holy Spirit.
3. In fact, we said that there is no factor more important in our quest for godliness than the filling of the Holy Spirit. Note: by filling of the Spirit, I take Paul to be referring here (in Ephesians 5:18b) to an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all believers, which has the effect of assuring and maturing, forming character, making the heart a suitable habitation for Christ, and producing Spiritual fruit. Paul wants and expects all believers to experience this ongoing filling, to long for it and to depend on it.
Outline/Diagram of the argument of Ephesians 5:18-21
I. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation,
II. but be filled with the Spirit,
A. 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
B. singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
C. 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God . . .
D. 21 and be subject to one another [or, better, subjecting yourselves] in the fear of Christ.
Ephesians 5:21 "and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."
I. The Consequence of the filling of the Spirit -- mutual subjection
[Living by the Spirit’s maturing influence involves/entails mutual subjection]
II. The Content of mutual subjection
[Self-denying, other-serving subjection/committing to the service of others]
21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
III. The Context of mutual subjection
[This willing, mutual servitude is to be done with sheer awe/esteem/fear of the greatest Servant]
Saturday, July 29, 2006
If we are God’s new community, then what should our family life look like. How are we to be different from the world? Paul tells us here. He deals with husbands and wives, parents and children, and masters and servants – the sphere of the household in biblical and Mediterranean culture.
The timeliness of this for us is obvious. Our culture can’t even seem to define marriage! Much less agree upon the dynamics of husband-wife marital roles and the discipline of children. Ephesians 5:21 provides us with a framework for understanding this whole section, so we are going to spend some time on it Sunday.
British Pastor Stuart Olyott puts the pasaage in perspective and provides a helpful description of the flow of argument in Ephesians 4-6 when he says: "The apostle Paul has made it clear that Christians live differently from other people. When they are together, their behaviour contrasts sharply with the social behaviour of the unconverted (4:1-16). When they are surrounded by the men and women of the world in daily life, their conduct remains distinct (4:17-5:21). Paul is now going to tell us that they also live in a radically different way at home (5:22-6:9).
It is fairly easy to live the Christian life at church. It is much more difficult to do so in the world. But the hardest place of all to live as a Christian is at home. This is why the apostle comes to this subject last of all." (Alive in Christ, 121)
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
It was to combat Arianism that the Council was convened. The anti-Arians were led by Alexander, the Bishop of Alexandria and following him, by Athanasius. For them it was an issue of the future of Christianity. If Christ were not God, he could not be the revelation of God. If Christ were not God, men and women had not been redeemed by God. If Christ were not God, believers were not united to God. If Christ were not God, Christians had no right to worship him. To do so would be to revert to paganism and idolatry.
If Christ were a creature, no matter how exalted, or even a kind of inferior deity (god, but less than the sovereign Lord of Creation of Providence) worship of him would be entirely illegitimate. The Nicene Creed therefore insisted that Jesus Christ was “of one substance with the Father [Latin consubstantialem Patri, Greek original homoousion].”
Despite some confusion as to the exact meaning of the Latin term substatia—the Greek church understood it differently to the Western church—the intent of the phrase was clear enough. In employing the word hmoousion it identified itself with the language of Athanasius and against Arius. Arius had used a similar term, one which included the Greek letter iota – homoiusios, which meant that Jesus was similar to the Father but the equal with the Father. It had given rise to the saying, “Not an iota of a difference.”
But one little letter made all the difference in the world. It’s inclusion denied the full deity of Jesus Christ, something which for Nicea called into question the very survival of the Christian gospel.
We can be grateful today for providence of God that gave to the church the Nicene Creed, maintining for us the full deity of Jesus Christ.
Monday, July 24, 2006
His post reminded me that I did not spend much time during the message in providing you an exegetical and biblical theological argument for my minimalist definition/description of the filling of the Spirit. This whole issue is complex and fascinating, but the core matters relating to it are both clear and important.
So, just to be clear, by filling of the Spirit, I take Paul to be referring here (in Ephesians 5:18b) to an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all believers, which has the effect of assuring and maturing, forming character, making the heart a suitable habitation for Christ, and producing Spiritual fruit. Paul wants and expects all believers to experience this ongoing filling, to long for it and to depend on it.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Some of you asked if I'd put this quote of Spurgeon's about the naturalist, John James Audubon (1785 - 1851).
You may, perhaps, have read the life of Audubon, the celebrated American naturalist. He spent the major part of his life in preparing a very valuable work on the birds of America. He tracked these birds into their remotest haunts, painted them from nature, lived in the cane-brakes, swamps, and prairies – even among the red men, exposed to all kinds of dangers – and all simply to become a complete ornithologist. When he was in Paris, collecting subscriptions for his new work, his diary was full of wretchedness – there was nothing in Paris for him’ and the only bright dream that he had was when he saw the stock-pigeons building their nests in garden of the Tuileries. The broad streets, the magnificent palaces, the pictures of the Louvre, these were all nothing to him – the stock-pigeons everything. He came to London, and he was equally dull there. Not a single incident shows a comfortable frame of mind, till he sees one day a flock of wild geese passing over the city. He wrote in London a paper on birds; and he says ‘While I am writing I think I hear the rustle of the wings of pigeons in the backwoods of America.’ The man’s soul was full of birds, nothing but birds; and of course he became a great naturalist. He lived and he was willing to die for birds. We need to muster a band of ministers who live only for Christ, and desire nothing but opportunities for promoting His glory – opportunities for spreading His truth – opportunities for winning by power those whom Jesus has redeemed by His precious blood. Men of one idea – these are they that shall do exploits in the camp of Israel
Cited in G. Holden Pike, Life and Work of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 2 Vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 2:352
1. Motivations are important. Businesses work hard to give their employees motivation for productivity. God loves us very much and so he gives us many reasons or motivations or incentives or arguments for the living of the Christian life.
2. In Ephesians 5:5-21, Paul sets forth four motivations to godliness. Today we’ll look at his fourth and final one – the filling of the Holy Spirit.
3. Every since Ephesians 4:17, Paul has been exhorting us to live distinctly as Christians, and not like the world. In Ephesians 5:5-21 he’s emphasizing the reasons or motivations for our pursuit of holiness, our quest for godliness
4. Over a month ago (how time flies!), we looked at Ephesians 5:5-7, where Paul stated the first motivation to godliness – the anticipation of judgment. Paul wants us to live realizing that there will be a divine accounting of our living. There is a coming judgment.
5. Then, we looked at Paul’s second motivation in this section (found in Ephesians 5:8-14). This motivation or incentive to holiness doesn’t look to the future (like the first one), but to the past and present. It has to do with our new identity as "light in the Lord" or "children of light." Basically, Paul says: Remember what you were and what you are now, by grace. And then live like who you are.
6. Last week, we turn to Ephesians 5:15-17, where Paul encourages in the way of godliness by appealing to the fact that God has made his people wise by grace, and thus we are to walk in that wisdom. Paul’s argument is simple, God has made you wise, by the Gospel, so live as wise people. What does that look like? The wise are (1) careful how they live – it matters to them; (2) they understand the preciousness of time – they seek to make good, Gospel use of it; and (3) they have grown to understand the will of God – by reading, hearing and doing it.
7. This week, we come to the end of this section, in Ephesians 5:18-21. Paul’s appeal to us to live the Christian life in this passage is based upon the reality of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer, indeed upon the filling of the believer by the Holy Spirit. Notice, there are two imperatives and five participles: (1) do not get drunk but do (2) be filled, followed by (1) speaking, (2) singing, (3) making melody, (4) giving thanks and (5) being subject (or submitting) to one another.
* There is no factor more important in our quest for godliness than the filling of the Holy Spirit.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, . . .
* Not don’t drink, but don’t get drunk
II. Be filled with the Spirit (18b) [A Command for Christian intemperance]
18 . . . but be filled with the Spirit,
(1) assures and matures, forms character; (2) our desire, our thirst for this kind of filling
A. Speaking to one another (19a) [encouraging mutual exhortation]
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, . . .
* Addressing/Exhorting/Encouraging one another with Scriptural songs and songs that are scriptural to adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.
B. Singing/making heart-music to God (19b) [Whole-souled, God-centered devotion]
19 . . . singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
* Addressing our gracious God with praise from the depths of our hearts
C. Giving thanks to God (20) [Father-focused, Christ-enabled gratitude]
20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
* Thanking God, our Father, for everything, in Jesus’ name
21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
* Self-denying, mutual submission for the purpose of mutual edification out of reverence for Christ
Saturday, July 22, 2006
But as nothing is more contrary to the human spirit than to submit to others, he recalls us to the fear of Christ, who alone can tame our fierceness, that we may not refuse the yoke, and subdue our pride, that we may not be ashamed of serving our neighbors.
Friday, July 21, 2006
It used to be that parents joked about using the "one-eyed babysitter"--the television--to keep their young children occupied. Today, there are several different one-eyed sitters, and it's less of a joke and more a way of life, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The study, which focused on parents with children from 6 months and 6 years of age, concluded that parents today use electronic media "to help manage busy schedules, keep the peace, and facilitate family routines such as eating, relaxing, and falling asleep."
In a typical day, 83% of the children studied use screen media, and they average just under two hours per day. One in three of the children had a TV in their bedroom, including 43% of the children ages 4 to 6. Thirty-two percent of children in this age range live in homes where the a television is on all or most of the time, and 30% live in homes where the TV is on during meals all or most of the time.
Read more here.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
I remember it well. I was "sweet sixteen" and a black and white TV, with terrible picture quality and even worse audio relayed the famous words, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
That was July 20, 1969, the words uttered by Neil Armstrong of the Apollo 11 crew.
It still captivates me. Man's appetite for exploration, to explore the vast universe which God created, most of which is inaccessible to us. I wonder if, in the new heavens and new earth, cosmology will be essentially the same as this one, with sin and its effects removed. I wonder if we will be subject to a different physics than the one we currently understand? Perhaps then, we may be able to visit the cosmos in a way that Jesus glimpses when he appears and disappears after the resurrection.
Just a thought!
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
"All in all, a blog is no place for the misanthropically inclined. Charlie Brown used to say, 'I love mankind; it's people I can't stand,' and I have discovered that in the blogosphere, people—in Mr. Brown's subtle sense of the word—are pretty much inescapable. Many's the time I have found myself hunched over my keyboard, my hands frozen above it, trying to decide which of two replies to make: the one assuming that my interlocutor is morally compromised, or the one assuming that he is invincibly ignorant. In such circumstances it's always best just to get up and walk away, not darkening counsel by words without knowledge, or without charity anyway."
"Chalk this up, if you will, to deficiencies in my Christian character. But even for those more saintly than myself— and there are a few—the blogosphere inevitably accelerates the pace of debate to the timetable of daily journalism."
"In terms of how they treat substantive ideas, blogs are not very different from newspapers: they present an idea and then move on, as quickly as possible, to the next idea. Perhaps there can be, later on, some brief acknowledgment that that idea wasn't treated fully and adequately—but, as the newsreel in Citizen Kane reminds us, Time is On The March, and bloggers are under enormous pressure to march along with it."
"The very notion of a blog (originally a 'web log') is that of a diary, a periodic account of what's happening in someone's life or someone's mind, which is why one of the most delightful sites to emerge from this new technology is the one that posts, in classic blog format—even with comments, though they are called 'annotations'—the diary of that great observer of 17th-century social life, Samuel Pepys (www.pepysdiary.com). No one seems to be willing to chew over even a very substantive blog post for very long: instead, we want new ones. Otherwise our rss readers won't have anything to tell us, will they?"
"Blogs remain great for news: political, technological, artistic, whatever. And they provide a very rich environment in which news (or rather 'news') can be tested and evaluated and revised, as we have seen repeatedly, from cnn's firing of Eason Jordan to the discrediting of Dan Rather's story on President Bush's National Guard service. But as vehicles for the development of ideas they are woefully deficient and will necessarily remain so unless they develop an architecture that is less bound by the demands of urgency—or unless more smart people refuse the dominant architecture."
"There is no privacy: all conversations are utterly public. The arrogant, the ignorant, and the bullheaded constantly threaten to drown out the saintly, and for that matter the merely knowledgeable, or at least overwhelm them with sheer numbers. And the architecture of the blog, with its constant emphasis on novelty, militates against leisurely conversations. It is no insult to the recent, but already cherished, institution of the blogosphere to say that blogs cannot do everything well. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought."
Read the entire article here (it's worth signing up for!).
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Soon, contact was made with Huldrych Zwingli (1484 - 1531) and Martin Bucer (1491 - 1551), and further studies greatly influenced Bullinger's understanding of the Lord's Supper. (He would later be hugely influential, along with John Calvin, in the publication of the Consensus Tigurinus, a document on the Lord's Supper).
Meanwhile, Bullinger's father, a priest also announced his Protestant convictions. His common-law marriage to Bullinger's mother was not an uncommon practice in Europe despite Catholic teaching on priestly celibacy. Renouncing his priestly orders and getting officially married, Bullinger's parents thus joined their son in the cause of the Reformation. This in turn led Bullinger to marry a former Nun (as Luther had done), Anna Adlischweiler. The marriage was by all accounts a very happy one. They had eleven children! All the sons became pastors.
In 1531 he began his life's task in the church at Zurich. Bullinger's writings and correspondence reveal a man of irenic temperament, influencing the cause of the Reformation in England perhaps more than any other European reformer. According to William Cunningham of the Free Church of Scotland, "the actual theological views adopted by Cranmer and embodied in the Thirty Nine articles, more nearly resembled in point of fact, the opinions of Bullinger than those of any other eminent man of the period." (The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation, 190).
Bullinger's writings were many. He was one of the author's of the First and Second Helvetic Confessions. From 1550 to 1560 there were in England 77 editions of Bullinger's Latin Decades and 137 editions of their vernacular translation House Book, a treatise in pastoral theology! His sermons were required reading by Anglican clergy of this period.
Bullinger's last days were filled with suffering. In 1562 he wrote to a friend: "I almost sink under the load of business and care, and feel so tired that I would ask the Lord to give me rest if it were not against his will." In 1564 and 1565 he nearly died from the plague, which took from him his wife, three daughters, and a brother-in-law. In all his sufferings he bore his burdens with great patience and submission to the will of God. Though often lonely, he continued his labors until death overtook him.
Bullinger died on September 17, 1575 after suffering intensely from calculus, a disease which was probably what we would now call kidney and bladder stones, for which there was no cure in the 16th century. His youngest daughter, Dorothea, cared for him in his last years. When near death, he assembled the pastors of Zurich about him and exhorted them to purity of life, unity among the brethren, and faithfulness in doctrine. He warned them against temptation, assured them of his love, thanked them for their kindness towards him, and closed with a prayer of thanksgiving.
After shaking hands with all of them with tears, he bade them farewell -- as Paul did with the elders at Ephesus. He died reciting Psalms 51, 16, and 42, the Apostles' Creed, and the Lord's Prayer.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Love "is not arrogant  or rude" (1 Cor. 13:4-5, ESV).
From lecture seven: "The Spirit of Charity is an Humble Spirit."
They shall know by what they see and by what they feel, when the sentence comes to be executed on them, that God is indeed above them, and they are as nothing before him, as is said by the prophet Ezekiel (Eze. 7:27) — “According to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the Lord.” But though they shall so clearly and so terribly see that God is infinitely above them in greatness, yet they will have no humility. They will see themselves at an infinite distance from God, but their hearts will not comply with that distance, and feel as is answerable to it.
Because they will not see God’s loveliness, they will not know their infinite distance from him in this respect, and therefore will not be led to humility. And this their experience shows, that it is a sense of the infinite distance of the creature from the Creator in loveliness, that causes true humility. This it is that causes humility in the angels in heaven and in the saints on earth. And since it is a sense of God’s loveliness that works humility, we may hence learn that divine love implies humility, for love is but the disposition of the heart toward God as lovely. If the knowledge of God as lovely causes humility, then a respect to God as lovely implies humility. And from this love to God arises a Christian love to man. Therefore it follows, that both love to God and love to man, the union of which is the very thing the apostle calls charity, alike imply humility.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
1. Motivations are important. Businesses work hard to give their employees motivation for productivity. God loves us very much and so he gives us many reasons and motivations for the living of the Christian life.
2. In Ephesians 5:5-21, Paul sets forth four motivations to godliness. Today we’ll look at his third one – wisdom.
3. A month ago (how time flies!), we looked at Ephesians 5:5-7, where Paul stated the first motivation to godliness – the anticipation of judgment. Paul wants us to live realizing that there will be a divine accounting of our living. There is a coming judgment.
4. Last week, we looked at Paul’s second motivation in this section (found in Ephesians 5:8-14). This motivation or incentive to holiness doesn’t look to the future (like the first one), but to the past and present. It has to do with our new identity as "light in the Lord" or "children of light." Basically, Paul says: Remember what you were and what you are now, by grace. And then live like who you are.
5. This week, we turn to Ephesians 5:15-17, where Paul encourages in the way of godliness by appealing to the fact that God has made his people wise by grace, and thus we are to walk in that wisdom.
Ephesians 5:15-17 15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
I. God has made Christians wise, by the Gospel (15b) [You are wise]
15 Therefore . . . walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
II. Because God has made us wise by his grace, we are to live as those who are wise, to live out wisdom (15b) [So walk (live) as wise]
15 . . . walk . . . as wise
What does this practical wisdom look like?
A. The wise . . . are careful how they walk (15a)
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, . . .
B. The wise . . . make the most of their time (16a)
16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
C. The wise . . . understand and do the will of God [by reading, hearing and doing it] (17b) 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
They wanted to have a reputation for being godly. The plan was to sell some land which they owned and give everything – all of it -- to the church; but they lied. They kept a sizable chunk of the proceeds in their pockets. They lied publicly before the representatives of Christ, who were the apostles. Peter's words to Ananias were these, "How is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit? . . . You have not lied to men but to God" (Acts 5:3). We are told that Ananias heard those words and fell down dead and so did his wife three hours later when she repeated the lie. It was a warning to the whole church not take for granted the privileges of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and to speak with integrity and judgment day honesty as the members of Christ to the representatives of Christ.
What do we make of a passage like this?
If the Bible is true (and it is!), it should at the very least induce us to reverence. There are times when it is appropriate to tremble in the presence of God!
Thursday, July 13, 2006
"What was the explanation for the confidence of these early believers as they came to God in prayer? Their secret was that they knew God. The primary purpose of the Christian message is to bring us to a knowledge of God, and for some extraordinary reason this truth has been forgotten. Some people think that the Christian faith should give some wonderful thrill and experience. It may or may not do that. Others say that the aim of Christianity is to give me assurance that my sins are forgiven. I quite agree, but that is only a step. The ultimate object of the Christian faith is to bring us all to a knowledge of God. If we have not come to this knowledge, then, to say the very least, our Christianity is defective. These early Christians had a living, vital assurance. There was no panic, nothing frantic, nothing excitable about them; they were as cool as could be, and in this quiet confidence they spoke to God and knew him."
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
"Love does not envy or boast" (1 Corinthians 13:4b, ESV).
From Lecture Six: "Charity Inconsistent with an Envious Spirit"
The spirit of envy is the very contrary of the spirit of heaven, where all rejoice in the happiness of others; and it is the very spirit of hell itself — which is a most hateful spirit — and one that feeds itself on the ruin of the prosperity and happiness of others, on which account some have compared envious persons to caterpillars, which delight most in devouring the most flourishing trees and plants. And as an envious disposition is most hateful in itself, so it is most uncomfortable and uneasy to its possessor. As it is the disposition of the devil, and partakes of his likeness, so it is the disposition of hell, and partakes of its misery. In the strong language of Solomon (Pro. 14:30), “A sound heart is the life of the flesh; but envy is the rottenness of the bones.”
It is like a powerful eating cancer, preying on the vitals, offensive and full of corruption. And it is the most foolish kind of self-injury; for the envious make themselves trouble most needlessly, being uncomfortable only because of others’ prosperity, when that prosperity does not injure themselves, or diminish their enjoyments and blessings. But they are not willing to enjoy what they have, because others are enjoying also. Let, then, the consideration of the foolishness, the baseness, the infamy of so wicked a spirit, cause us to abhor it, and to shun its excuses, and earnestly to seek the spirit of Christian love, that excellent spirit of divine charity which will lead us always to rejoice in the welfare of others, and which will fill our own hearts with happiness. This love “is of God” (1 John 4:7); and he that dwelleth in it, “dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Five young graduates of a seminary in Switzerland, all of them in the early twenties, had returned home to Lyons, France after spending a little time in Geneva with John Calvin. On their return, they were arrested and imprisoned. It was April, 1552. There began a series of letters, correspondence between these five young men and Calvin. Calvin writes, urging them to be bold and keep the faith. Various appeals are made and the young men are shipped off to a dungeon in Paris, and eventually, in March 1553, they were sent back to Lyons again. During this time, they wrote several letters. In one of them, they say this:
We are bold to say and affirm that we shall derive more profit in this school for our salvation than has ever been the case in any place where we have studied . . . we testify that this persecution in prison is the true school of the children of God, in which they learn more than the disciples of the philosophers ever did in their universities. Indeed, it must not be imagined that one can have a true understanding of many of the passages of Scripture without having been instructed by the Teacher of all truth in this College, prison...
And they went on:
It is true that one can have some knowledge of Scripture and can talk about it and discuss it a great deal; but this is like playing at charades. We therefore praise God with all our heart and give Him undying thanks that He has been pleased to give us by His grace not only the theory of His Word, but also the practice of it, and that He has granted us this honour - which is no small thing for us who are vessels so poor and fragile and mere worms creeping on the earth…
And how had they been taught this?
By bringing us out to be His witnesses and giving us constancy to confess His Name and maintain the truth of His Holy Word before those who are unwilling to hear it - indeed, who persecute it with all their force - to us, to say, who previously were afraid to confess the truth even to a poor labourer who would have heard it eagerly.
On May 16, 1553 they were told to prepare for death. And these five young men were taken out and burned at the stake.
That is boldness! That is what shakes the world!
Monday, July 10, 2006
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Children of Light
Motivations are important. Businesses work hard to give their employees motivation for productivity. God loves us very much and so he gives us many reasons and motivations for the living of the Christian life.
In Ephesians 5:5-21, Paul sets forth four motivations to godliness. Today we’ll look at his second one.
The last time we were together in the book of Ephesians, we looked at Ephesians 5:5-7, where Paul stated the first motivation to godliness – the anticipation of judgment. Paul wants us to live realizing that their will be a divine accounting of our living. There is a coming judgment.
His point is stark and clear: No unrepentant sexually immoral person has the rewards/blessings of the kingdom (5) [Whatever they claim, those who live an immoral life, show that they are not in the kingdom of grace] 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. * Every Christian knows what? – that no one who lives a life of unrepentant sexual immorality is a citizen of God’s kingdom, is a part of the true church, is a recipient of the gift of salvation.
Paul’s second motivation doesn’t look to the future (like the first one), but to the past and present. It has to do with our new identity as "light in the Lord" or "children of light."
Ephesians 5:8-14 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you."
Motivation #2 – Your new identity – Remember what you were and are. Live like who you are.
I. Remember what you were, and what you are now, by God’s grace (8a)
8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord . . .
II. Live out what you now are, by God’s grace – Be who you are/do what you are (8b) 8 . . . walk as children of Light . . .
III. What is the fruit of light? (9)
9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), . . .
IV. The children of light love to live for the Father’s pleasure (10)
10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
V. What does living for the Father’s pleasure look like? (11-14)
11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you."
Friday, July 07, 2006
When Christians Steal
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
Ephesians 4:28 (ESV)
But this verse points . . . the theft of God’s glory in the forfeiture of a life in God’s service.
When Paul wrote to believers in and around the city of Ephesus, he knew that special emphasis on applying the eighth commandment (“You shall not steal”) would be needed. That was because at the heart of the Ephesian metropolis stood the temple of Diana, the pagan mother goddess of the earth. As the exceedingly tolerant deity of all living things, neither Diana nor her cultic priests discriminated between the kinds of offerings that poured into the temple walls or the sources from which they came. For this reason, the house of Diana ironically became simultaneously the regional treasury as well as a hideout and safe haven for criminals, murderers, and other thugs. As a result, the streets surrounding the temple proved unsafe for the general citizenry as a robber village grew in the shadow of the great edifice. Diana worship, so it seemed, was a religion tailor-made for thieves.
Not so with Christianity. Paul explained to the Ephesians that the new life in Christ stood in sharp relief to the ethics of pagan religion whose adherents “walk . . . in the futility of their minds” (v. 17). A lifestyle of thievery could not find sanctuary in the Church—the house of worship of the true, living God. No longer could religion be used as a cloak for selfish designs and dishonest gain. On the contrary, biblical fidelity required “putt[ing] off the old self” (v. 22) and being “renewed in the spirit of your minds” (v. 23). The believer’s life must now be a life for others. Such a transformation required a counter-cultural morality: one labors in order to “share with anyone in need” (v. 28). To put it negatively: the refusal to share is the decision to steal.
Paul’s principle, therefore, involves a much broader range of activity than the routine definition of theft (i.e., having one’s hand caught in the cookie jar). It means that the Christian’s life must follow this maxim: work in order to give away. If, as John Calvin once said, the definition of sin is robbing God of His glory, then the description of stealing is keeping for oneself what God intends for him to give away. For some, this may be stinginess with time. For others it might include a grudging parting with money, possessions, or for some Americans . . . trophy homes.
A few years after the English evangelist William Booth began his East End London Mission, he stumbled upon a better name while writing his 1878 annual report. “We are,” he wrote, “a Salvation Army.” Dedicated to saving lost souls through both preaching and meeting people’s physical needs, this Christian organization with a faux military structure became a worldwide phenomenon. Soon after the name change, Booth adopted the following motto: “Heart to God, hand to man, saved to serve.” And so it must be for all believers. The new life in Christ inevitably calls forth two seminal questions: “What shall I give up? And to whom shall I give?”
Thursday, July 06, 2006
That phrase is thought to have been derived from the burning of John Huss, an event that occurred today in 1415, when the Bohemian (Czech) Reformer, was burnt to death. Apparently, "Huss" is (or was) the Czech for "goose"!
Having insisted on "communion in both kinds" (the Catholic church had restricted the use of "the cup" for priests alone), and that the office of the Pope was of human rather than divine origin, Huss found himself at the mercy of conspiratorial claims to the papal office. The papacy had moved its official seat from Rome to France. It was the period of the "great schism" when there were three popes all claiming the right of office ( a bit of a problem for the doctrine of an unbroken succession from Peter).
Huss taught theology at the University of Prague and was also the preacher of Bethlehem Chapel in the city (to a congregation of 3,000). The story is predictable: his gospel preaching was condemned as heretical, his books were burned, religious services were banned in the city of Prague so long as Huss remained. Huss left Prague to relieve the people of the ban. His refusal to go to Rome for trial resulted in his excommunication.
Eventually, at the Council of Constance, Huss, having been promised a fair trial, was found guilty and burned.
Huss, sick and physically wasted by long imprisonment, illness, and lack of sleep, protested his innocence and refused to renounce his alleged errors unless he could be shown otherwise from Scripture. To the council he said, "I would not, for a chapel full of gold, recede from the truth." "I will gladly die."
Formally condemned, he was handed over to the secular authorities to be burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. On the way to the place of execution, he passed a churchyard and saw a bonfire of his books. He laughed and told the bystanders not to believe the lies circulated about him. Arriving at the place of execution, he was asked by the empire's marshal if he would finally retract his views. Huss replied, "God is my witness that the evidence against me is false. I have never thought nor preached except with the one intention of winning men, if possible, from their sins. Today I will gladly die." The fire was lit. As the flames engulfed him, Huss began to sing in Latin a Christian chant: "Christ, Thou Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me."
A church emerged following the death of Huss known as the Czech brethren and later the Moravians.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
The Gospel of Judas
Women Leading in the Church
The New Perspective on Paul
"The Federal Vision"
Introducing: Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
Introducing: CWiPP (Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet)
Introducing: CBMW (The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)
There’s something about Mary, and Mary . . .
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
"Witherspoon, John (1723-1794), was the sixth president of Princeton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and from 1776 to 1782 a leading member of the Continental Congress. He came from Scotland in 1768 to assume the presidency of the college and held office until his death a quarter of a century later.
"A graduate of the University of Edinburgh, who received an honorary doctorate from St. Andrews in 1764, Witherspoon had become widely known as a leader of the evangelical or 'Popular Party' in the established Church of Scotland, of which he was an ordained minister. The trustees of the College first elected him president in 1766, after Samuel Finley's death; but Mrs. Witherspoon was reluctant to leave Scotland, and he declined. Thanks very largely to the efforts of Benjamin Rush 1760, then a medical student at Edinburgh, she was persuaded to reconsider. Informed that Witherspoon would now accept the call if renewed, the trustees again elected him to the presidency in December of 1767.
Read more about Witherspoon here. And here. And here. And here (you'll have to register to read the whole article). Read and Witherspoon, Princeton and the American Revolution here.
Monday, July 03, 2006
I have great, wonderful news to share. The Free Church of Scotland General Assembly unanimously voted to sanction our church plant in Dunfermline as an official church extension charge. The night the General Assembly met to consider amongst other things the Dunfermline church was easily one of my best moments in ministry. I was encouraged, excited, and truth be told relieved to see such overwhelming commitment to promoting the ministry of this church plant. What this means is that the Free Church of Scotland will now begin a search process geared to appointing a Scottish minister for the Dunfermline church and that the denomination is committing to financially resourcing this ministry for the next 5 years. In this system what happened at the General Assembly was the grand seal of approval and structurally established the needed resources for the church's ongoing development. We are thrilled and thankful. I suppose part of me is still trying to come to grips that it has actually happened. Please make no mistake, however, this is still very much a beginning for this church here in Dunfermline. From our point of view as missionaries, however, what we see now is that our work of helping the national church begin, develop and mature church work has reached a pivotal moment. What we longed to do-start something that Scottish believers will carry on and move forward has happened in a significant manner. Without all of your support, prayers, and encouragement we would have never reached this moment. Thank you for being used by God to help make all of this possible. Would you please pray specifically for this process of appointing a Scottish minister. Obviously this is going to be a major factor in the future of the church and we are praying that God would clearly bring a minister to Dunfermline who is excited and equipped for this young church.
On top of the General Assembly's commitment to the work here we have also elected our first elder for the Dunfermline congregation. Alex MacRitchie was elected on 17 June and will be a wonderful leader and servant for the congregation here. In the midst of Alex's election we had a mission team from Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church (Ridgeland, MS) join us for 10 days of outreach and inreach ministry. This mission team helped us distribute information about our church throughout the neighborhood surrounding the hotel (around 800 homes) where we have our services. When we did this distribution last year a young family started attending the church and have now been coming essentially every Sunday for a year! A mom with her teenage daughter worshipped with us this year after receiving the information about our church during the door-to-door work. Please pray God will draw them into our fellowship as well. We also did our second annual prayer walk through the city centre of Dunfermline during the mission week. I'm positive that everyone who participated in the prayer walk was impacted by reading Scripture and praying God's heart for our city and its people as we literally witnessed the place and the people.
Most of you will know that in addition to our church plant work here in Dunfermline that I am also the Mission to the World Team Leader for ministry throughout Scotland. I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from this opportunity to participate in Kingdom building efforts throughout Scotland over the past two years. As a team we are in a transition process as two short term missionaries who have been here for over two years are completing their work and returning to the USA. Would you please pray for our team that we will have clear insight into how we can best serve Christ's cause here as missionaries and that he will promote and expand the various works that we are engaged in. Finally, would you pray for us as a team as we are 'losing' some of our trusted friends and valued co-workers that we would realize and cherish the certainty that in truth we do not labor here alone but that our Savior constantly goes before us.
Perhaps the next news you receive from us will hopefully declare the arrival of our son. Liz will be 36 weeks on Saturday and is quite ready for this baby to be born. With Annabel and Samuel Liz felt great throughout the whole pregnancy and was doing stuff like aerobics almost up to delivery. Well, things are a little different this time. Did I mention Annabel and Samuel? Having two little kids hanging on her and wanting loads of her attention all the time has definitely had an impact. Would you please pray for Liz' strength and energy for the rest of the pregnancy? She is an amazing wife and mother. We would both be encouraged to know many of you are praying for her (and us) in the weeks to come.
"Church and State"
My wife, Cindy, took this photograph from the inside of a colonial era Presbyterian Church in New England
(Click on the photo to enlarge)
Elias Boudinot is an unfamiliar figure to most Americans. Born in Philadelphia in 1740, Boudinot served as a delegate from New Jersey to the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1778 and again from 1781 to 1784. In 1783, as president of the Continental Congress, he signed the Treaty of Paris and was for a time President of the United States in Congress Assembled. After the Constitution was ratified, he served as a U.S. Representative from 1789 to 1795. He was later appointed Director of the United States Mint. He was also a committed Presbyterian. In an address to the Oration Society of Cincinnati on
“The late revolution, my respected audience, in which we this day rejoice, is big with events, that are daily unfolding themselves, and pressing in thick succession, to the astonishment of a wondering world. It has been marked with the certain characteristics of a Divine over-ruling hand, in that it was brought and perfected against all human reasoning, and apparently against all human hope. . . . Divine
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Being deeply conscious of the content of the precious gospel that is entrusted to us to make known to all men is, sadly, insufficient, of itself, to drive us into action. Even concentrating on the direct command of the Lord Jesus to all of us who truly love Him and have put our whole trust in Him and in His sacrifice on Calvary, to go to all peoples, all ethnic groups, throughout the world and to proclaim the gospel to them, even this appears insufficient, of itself, to motivate to action. Christians are so gripped by a defensive mechanism to protect themselves from hurt that they will not take the risk. What then will motivate us to obey our Lord and Master? What will motivate us to take seriously the fact that all men outside of Christ are lost and going to a Christless eternity? What will cause us to weep over the frantic state of the world today, sliding ever more deeply into a morass of sinfulness and wickedness, deliberate godlessness, unbelief and error, calling black white, and mishandling the Word of God? Only as we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to change us into the likeness of Christ, truly giving us ‘the mind of Christ’ that we might think as He thinks, love as He loves, weep as He weeks – only then will we be motivated to move out, as Christ left haven to become flesh and dwell among us. Only then will we be willing to be spent and not count the cost." [Helen Roseveare, Digging Ditches: The Latest Chapter of an Inspirational Life (Tain, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2006), 129-130].