31 December 2008

Whitefield's Journaling Suggestions

Recently I've taken to keeping a journal. I find it a good way to sort out my thoughts and bring some rough ideas into focus, especially in those areas that make life difficult. Journaling is recommended by Donald Whitney in his Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Whitney points out that George Whitefield had a list of criteria that he referred to each night for an evaluation of his experiences and actions each day (page 204). So long as we don't get morbidly introspective, using Whitefield's list could be invaluable. His list is as follows:

Have I,
1. Been fervent in prayer?
2. Used stated hours of prayer?
3. Used ejaculatory prayer each hour?
4. After or before every deliberate conversation or action, considered how it might tend to God's glory?
5. After any pleasure, immediately given thanks?
6. Planned business for the day?
7. Been simple and recollected in everything?
8. Been zealous in undertaking and active in doing what I could?
9. Been meek, cheerful, affable in everything I said or did?
10. Been proud, vain, unchaste, or enviable of others?
11. Recollected in eating and drinking? Thankful? Temperate in sleep?
12. Taken time for giving thanks according to (William) Law's rules?
13. Been diligent in studies?
14. Thought or spoken unkindly of anyone?
15. Confessed all sins?

Certainly good things to consider each day as we end this year and start another in God's good and wise Providence.

30 December 2008

Trueman Book Recommendations

Anyone who has read this blog before has likely picked up on the fact that I truly enjoy the work of Carl Trueman. He's a compelling lecturer and author in my opinion and as such I was happy to come across some book recommendations he made during his Nine Marks interview with Mark Dever. Really good stuff and I look forward into digging into some of these that I don't have & for those I have, reacquainting myself with the theological meat found within their pages.

The Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch
The European Reformations by Carter Lindberg
Here I Stand - A Life Of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton
Martin Luther: A Life (Penguin Lives) by Martin Marty
Anything by John Owen
Body of Divinity, Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer by Thomas Watson
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall
Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
Human Nature in Its Fourfold State by Thomas Boston
The Bruised Reed And Smoking Flax (1878) by Richard Sibbes
The Pilgrim's Progress (Hendrickson Christian Classics) by John Bunyan
The Holy War by John Bunyan
Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen
Anything by Don Carson particularly Letters Along the Way, The Cross and the Christian Ministry
Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life (Lives of the Left) by E. J. Hobsbawm
Cultural Imperialism by Edward Said

26 December 2008

On the Discipline of Worshiping God

The spiritual discipline of publicly and privately worshiping God is one of the means He has given us to receive the grace to grow in Christlikeness. As we grow stronger in the worship of God, we grow stronger in the likeness of Christ. Perhaps President Calvin Coolidge said much more than he realized when he asserted, "It is only when men begin to worship that they begin to grow." - from The Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney, page 91.

25 December 2008

Advent Devotions Christmas Day

Thursday, December 25th
Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12 - The Birth of Jesus

Luke 2:1-20
1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Matthew 2:1-12
1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Taken from Covenant, Winter 2008

24 December 2008

Advent Devotions Wednesday, Dec. 24th

Wednesday, December 24th
John 1:1-14 - Word Made Flesh

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Taken From Covenant, Winter 2008

23 December 2008

Advent Devotions Tuesday, Dec. 23rd

Tuesday, December 23rd
Matthew 1:18-25 - Savior from Sin

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 20But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

22 December 2008

Advent Devotions Monday, Dec. 22nd

Advent Devotions Monday, Dec. 22nd
Luke 1:39-80 - The Tender Mercy of God

39And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. 46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 54He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. 56And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
57Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 58And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. 59And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 60And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. 61And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. 62And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 63And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 64And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. 65And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. 66And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
67And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, 68Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 69And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 70As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 74That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 76And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 77To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 80And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.

21 December 2008

Advent Devotions Sunday Dec. 21st

Sunday Dec. 21st
Luke 1:5-38 - Son of the Most High

5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. 8And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 18And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings. 20And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. 21And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. 23And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. 24And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
26And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
From Covenant, Winter 2008

20 December 2008

Reading Calvin?

The guys over at the Ref 21 blog are promoting the reading of Calvin through 2009. Not a bad idea, eh? Take look here for the info. Lig Duncan lists 10 reasons to read Calvin (wow, do we really need 10?). Here's his top 6:

1. Because it the most important book written in the last 500 years.
2. Because it is foundational for every Reformed systematic theology ever since.
3. Because Calvin was the best exegete in the history of Christianity.
4. Because Calvin is one of the five greatest theologians in Christian history.
5. Because he wrote it as a "sum of piety" not as an arid, speculative dogmatic treatise.
6. Because it gave J.I. Packer the idea for "Knowing God."

Advent Devotions Dec. 21st through Dec. 25th

Sunday, December 21st
Luke 1:5-38 - Son of the Most High

Monday, December 22nd
Luke 1:39-80 - The Tender Mercy of God

Tuesday, December 23rd
Matthew 1:18-25 - Savior from Sin

Wednesday, December 24th
John 1:1-14 - Word Made Flesh

Thursday, December 25th
Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12 - The Birth of Jesus

From Covenant, Winter 2008

The Latest Issue of Themelios

The latest issue of Themelios is available. Looks to be another good read published by the boys at The Gospel Coalition. Don't miss it.

19 December 2008

Moving On...

Some things are just plain difficult to do. Know what I mean? Leaving a church is one of those things. It has come time for us to leave the church we’ve been attending but I leave with a glad and grateful heart. We are returning to a church we attended some years ago but I wish to focus at this moment not on where we’re headed but what we’re leaving behind. The Pastor and congregation of Sovereign Grace Church Cleveland are some of the most wonderful gracious folks I’ve ever met. In a difficult time in my life they were there for me and were a great encouragement. The Pastor (I hope I’m not embarrassing him) was a great help to me and a wonderful preacher. So why leave? For purely doctrinal reasons only. I am not a Baptist and I’m not Charismatic (not even a tiny bit). I lean always to the Regulative Principle and desire a more formal style of worship. So, we leave but we leave taking with us good memories and retaining a good relationship with those we leave behind. Thanks SG Cleveland for all you’ve done.

13 December 2008

R.C. Sproul on Santa Claus

Doesn't Santa Claus paganize or at least trivialize Christmas? He's a myth, and his very mythology casts a shadow over the sober historical reality of Jesus. Not at all. Myths are not necessarily bad or harmful. Every society creates myths. They are a peculiar art form invented usually to convey a message that is deemed important by the people. When a myth is passed off as real history, that is fraud. But when it serves a different purpose it can be healthy and virtuous. Kris Kringle is a mythical hero, not a villain. He is pure fiction -- but a fiction used to illustrate a glorious truth.
What about the historical origins of Christmas as a substitute for a pagan festival? I can only say, good for the early Christians who had the wisdom to flee from Mithras and direct their zeal to the celebration of the birth of Christ. Who associates Christmas today with Mithras? No one calls it "Mithrasmas."

Read the entire excellent article here.


Advent Devotions Dec. 14th through Dec. 20th

Sunday, December 14th
Isaiah 49:1-7; 50:4-11 - Servant of Kings, Sustainer of the Weary

Monday, December 15th
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 - Suffering Servant and Lamb of God

Tuesday, December 16th
Jeremiah 23:1-6; 33: 14-19 - Righteous Branch

Wednesday, December 17th
Ezekiel 34:1-31 - The Good Shepherd

Thursday, December 18th
Daniel 7:9-14 and Micah 5:2-5a - The Son of Man and Ruler of Bethlehem

Friday, December 19th
Zechariah -:9-10; 12:10-13:1 - King on a Donkey and Pierced Firstborn

Saturday, December 20th
Malachi 3:1-4; 4:1-6 - Covenant Messenger and Sun of Righteousness

From Covenant, Winter 2008

Image credit

10 December 2008

Valuable Use of Time?

C.J. Mahaney took some time to quote R.C. Sproul recently on time management and a couple of points really caught my attention. Point #4 was, ...use your leisure time for pursuits that are life enriching. Leisure time is often spent on avocations. Reading is a valuable use of time. It enriches life to read outside of your major field or area of expertise. Augustine once advised believers to learn as much as possible about as many things as possible, since all truth is God’s truth. Other avocations that are enriching include the arts. I like to study the piano and I dabble in painting. No one will ever mistake me for a serious musician or an accomplished artist. But these avocations open up the world of beauty to me that enhances my view of God and His manifold perfections. I also enjoy working cross-word puzzles to warm up the little gray cells and to expand my vista of verbal expression. This is the manner in which I have been pursuing my leisure activities (I'm delighted R.C. approves). I spend time reading and try to spend it by reading several areas of study and not limiting myself to just one subject or area. And, if you play guitar like me you know it is great for private worship and opening the my mind to another area of life that can be enjoyed.

Point 6 was just insightful, ...use drive-time for learning. Driving a car is another mechanical function that allows the mind to be alert to more than what is happening on the roadway. The benefits of audio tape can be put to great use during these times. I can listen to lectures and instructional tapes while driving, thereby redeeming the time. I drive quite a distance to work and always felt that it was such a waste of time. Over the last 2-3 years I've spent listening to sermons and lectures and indeed, the Bible. This is a fantastic means of making good use of drive time. Can't afford to download the whole Bible right now? You can download just the Psalms and Proverbs for only 5 bucks from Crossway. Read the whole post here and see where else, like me, you can make better use of the short time that God has given us.

06 December 2008

More Books and Reading

Any blog on reading always catches my eye and I'm uncontrollably drawn to it. Justin's Buzzard Blog has a post on 20 books that should be read in your twenties. My twenties are just a memory now (distant memory, that is) but I was happy to see that have read and actually have in my library six of the twenty and have my sites on a few more on the list. Check it out here even if you are a few days, years or decades (like me) past your twenties.

And on the subject of books, Stephen Nichols, author of Getting the Blues, reviews Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction: Christianity and the Battle for the Soul of a Nation by Rodney Clapp. Its an interesting review and the book is now on my Amazon wish list (should any of my family of close friends be reading this).

Psalm 92

Its a cold frosty morning here & mornings are a good time to reflect and give thanks to our gracious Lord. Mornings, thankfulness, music and singing always make me think of the first few verses of Psalm 92. One of my goals is to spend more to time in meditation & so to meet that goal Psalm 92:1-4 will be my meditation for the weekend.

Psalm 92:1-4
1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

Advent Devotions Sunday Dec. 7 thru Saturday Dec. 13

Sunday, December 7
Psalm 16 & Job 19:23-27 - Holy One and Resurrected Redeemer
Monday, December 8
Psalm 22 - The One Forsaken By God
Tuesday, December 9
Psalm 72 - Royal son, Deliverer of the Afflicted
Wednesday, December 10
Psalm 110 - Preist and Lord at God's Right Hand
Thursday, December 11
Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7 - Immanuel, Might God and Prince of Peace
Friday, December 12
Isaiah 11:1-10 - The Branch from Jesse's Root
Saturday, December 13
Isaiah 42:1-10 - Covenant and Light of the Nations
Taken from Covenant, Winter 2008