30 May 2009

And Can It Be

Al Mohler calls the hymn, "And Can It Be" a "lyrical exercise in systematic theology." And so it is. Read the lyrics carefully today and ponder what God has done for us as you ready your heart and mind for worship this Lord's Day.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

'Tis mystery all: th'Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father's throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race:
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

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

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Lyrics by Charles Wesley

Lord's Day 22 Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day 22

Scripture Readings: 1 Corinthians 15:12-19; 2 Corinthians 5:18; Philippians 1:21-24

Question 57. How does "the resurrection of the body" comfort you?
Answer. Not only will my soul be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head, but even my very flesh, raised by the power of Christ, will be reunited with my soul and made like Christ's glorious body.
Question 58. How does the article concerning "life everlasting" comfort you?
Answer. Even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, so after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever.

For study and discussion:

Do you spend time thinking about death? If not, why not?
What makes the doctrine of the resurrection so cool?

27 May 2009

Presbyterianism and the Church of Scotland and....

The recent Church of Scotland decision has certainly created much clamour in the blogosphere. I think Carl Trueman nailed it in his post here. I know, I know, someone out there is saying you always take CT's side and besides, what do you know as an outsider. Yes, I put my hand up to both accusations. I am not inclined to waste time with non excepted procedures, i.e., the petition. But I won't be the first person either, though, to throw stones at those who stay in the CoS and fight. (Go get 'em.) Nevertheless, Trueman has made a point I believe. He concludes his post this way:

I was asked by one C of S person, angry about my criticism of the petition, what I would suggest as the way forward. Well, just for starters, before launching any public campaign, I would have looked at the history of those churches and institutions that have turned themselves around to see what actually works as opposed to what merely seems like a good idea at the time — say, the Missouri Synod Lutherans, the Southern Baptist Convention, Southern Seminary, and even my own small place, Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia). The changes in those places had a number of things in common: the reformers organized and prepared for every eventuality, putting into place safety nets and multiple `Plan Bs’, they identified the places where influence could be wielded, mastered procedure, fought like the blazes when they had to, stood strong and immovable in the face of violent opposition, and outmanoeuvred their opponents by continual attention to meeting agendas, points of order, procedural matters, and long-term coordinated strategy. They did not waste time and energy on irrelevant sideshows like rhetorical petitions that merely provided the material for public relations disasters. And guess what? In each case it actually worked. In fact, this way of approach sounds very like the strategy which frankly outflanked and then crushed the ill-prepared evangelical assault at last week’s C of S GA. It would seem that angry but sincere petitioners generally lose, while sincere but canny parliamentarians generally win. The C of S evangelicals need new leadership that understands Presbyterian polity, the importance of procedure and, crucially, how institutions work and can therefore be changed.

Be sure to read the entire post here and scroll down to read some of the interesting comments on both sides of the argument.

25 May 2009

A Dark Day in Scotland Indeed

The Church of Scotland has voted to allow a homosexual to minister in Aberdeen. A grave decision and a dark day in Scottish history as Derek Thomas has so aptly put it. It certainly looks like the the COS may be headed for schism. Read more here.

23 May 2009

Lord's Day 21 Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day 21

Scripture Readings: Matthew 16:13-28; Ephesians 2:11-22; Acts 20:17-32; Acts 8:4-24; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Peter 1

Question 54. What do you believe concerning "the holy catholic church"?
Answer. I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. Moreover, I believe that I am and forever will remain a living member of it.
Question 55. What do you understand by "the communion of saints"?
Answer. First, that believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all his treasures and gifts. Second, that each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members.
Question 56. What do you believe concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?
Answer. I believe that God, because of Christ's atonement, will never hold against me any of my sins nor my sinful nature which I need to struggle against all my life. Rather, God by grace grants me the righteousness of Christ to free me forever from judgement.

For study and discussion:
Can a faithful church survive through history if its not a creedal church? Why or why not?
What is the difference and the importance between catholic church and Catholic church?
Can one be a Christian and not belong to a local church?

21 May 2009

On Fellowship

Wednesday, May 18, 1743. I have no fellow Christian to whom I might unbosom myself and lay open my spiritual sorrows and with whom I might make take sweet counsel in conversation about heavenly things and join in social prayer. (From The Life of David Brainerd, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol.7, pg.207.)

This is indeed a powerful dairy entry. Brainerd was not married and ministered alone to the Indians which accounts for his lonliness here. This entry reminds me of the fact that I do have friends that I can share the very things with that Brainerd was longing for. We can talk casually and seriously about spritual issues. And we can pray together. My hope is that you do as well. If you do, then enjoy these sweet times that are likely far too few. If you do not, make yourself available and open to someone and develop that Christian friendship. Be sure to attend Sunday School and other church meetings. Get to know people and make those connections. There is a reason that we are not to forsake the assembly, and though Brainerd had good reason, he was feeling the emptiness that comes from lack of fellowship.

20 May 2009

On Anxiety

Recently I was listening to a Mark Driscoll sermon on anxiety which was a blessing. A few thoughts arose from that sermon that we should keep in mind. We need not fool ourselves - we all have anxiety from time to time or we would not be exhorted "to be anxious for nothing." Driscoll in his usual fashion draws us out of our self deception on this issue and reminds that anxiety is a sin and needs to be stopped. It is not something to be controlled nor is it something to be overlooked when we're stressed out. We are simply told, and with good reason, do not be anxious about anything (Php 4:6). Why? Verse 7 of Phil. 4 gives ample reason, And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Is this not what we all desire, peace of God? This is really a trust issue for us that we all must face. We must respond to God, not our circumstances. Spurgeon said it this way, A doubting, fretful spirit takes from us the joys we have. You have not all you could wish, but you have still more than you deserve. Your circumstances are not what they might be, but still they are not even now so bad as the circumstances of some others. Let's take another look at why we get stressed out and anxious then repent of this sin. We can then give praise to our God and Saviour who so graciously forgives.

18 May 2009

I Hate the Benediction

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25

Well, no, I don't hate the benediction. But there is a piece of me that's sad when I see my pastor's arms go up to give the benediction. When I know the Sabbath is over. When I know I have to wait another week to see all these people that I care about. When I know there are six days I have to endure away from the comfort the Lord gives us on each Sabbath. The Sabbath is, indeed our little piece of heaven here on earth. Let us thank the Lord for own church congregation, our pastor, elder and deacons. Thank Him for a place to meet no matter how humble or grand that place may be. Let us thank Him that He is in our midst when we come to worship Him and though our worship be imperfect, it is acceptable to our merciful and loving God.

From the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Q. 115. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.

Q. 121. Why is the word Remember set in the beginning of the fourth
A. The word Remember is set in the beginning of the fourth commandment,a partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it, and, in keeping it, better to keep all the rest of the commandments, and to continue a thankful remembrance of the two great benefits of creation and redemption, which contain a short abridgment of religion; and partly, because we are very ready to forget it, for that there is less light of nature for it,f and yet it restraineth our natural liberty in things at other times lawful; that it cometh but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it; and that Satan with his instruments much labor to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.

16 May 2009

You Need To See This...

If you have not seen this Piper video, please watch it and pass it on. Its time we stop fooling ourselves about our new President.

Lord's Day 20 Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day 20

Scripture readings: 1 Corinthians 12:1-27; John 14: 16-26; 15:26-16:15; Romans 8:1-17

Question 53. What do you believe concerning "the Holy Spirit"?
Answer. First, the Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is eternal God. Second, the Spirit has been given to me personally and, by true faith, makes me share in Christ and all his blessings, comforts me, and remains with me forever.

For discussion and reflection:
Should more emphasis be put on the Holy Spirit in Reformed churches today?
Does Pentecostalism put too much stress on the Holy Spirit?

13 May 2009

Only from Carl...

Given the choice - and there is always a choice -- I'd rather just be despised for being a brazen conservative with looney theology, than a duplicitous conservative with looney theology.

Only from the pen of Carl Trueman can such an indomitable statement be made. I love it. Lest I be accused of quoting him out of context, read the entire article here. Enjoy.

10 May 2009

Dwelling In The House of The LORD

Sunday, The Lord's Day, is our little piece of heaven every week. And so it should be as we strive to keep it holy. I often think on Psalm 27:4 as I get ready and drive to church. It encapsulates what may of us desire - spending eternity in the house of the Lord. We have no real idea what that will actually encompass, as we live in a world and in bodies that are so caught up in sin. But we do know enough from Scripture that it has become our deepest desire and our strongest yearning. Let us rejoice as we head off to church today and think on the glory of spending eternity with our Saviour.

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
Psalm 27:4

09 May 2009

Evangelicalism - A Historical Study

One piece of history that I have been studying lately is the birth, growth and theology of Evangelicalism. I've read a few books and numerous articles. Early on, late C17 to early C18, Mark Noll tells us of some transformations that took place in practical religion in his book, The Rise of Evangelicalism. These transformations seemed to involve several tendencies:

-Christian faith redefined from correct doctrine to correct living
-A shift from godly order as the church's concern to godly fellowship
-A change "from authoritative interpretation of Scripture originating with ecclesiastical elites toward lay and more democratic appropriation of the Bible"
-A move from obedience to expression
-Music performed by disciplined musicians to music "as a shared expression of the people"
-"From preaching as learned learned discourses about God toward preaching as impassioned appeals for "closing with Christ'"
(page 52)

At least some of these sound famaliar don't they?

This history fascinates me as just the very term itself, Evangelicalism, is pregnant with meaning. I don't care for the term as I often associate it with all that is wrong with the church today. Perhaps I take that feeling too far but I tend to agree with Darrell Hart that the term should no longer embraced. I look forward to continuing this study of church history that surrounds the people and events in Evangelicalism. Any thoughts?

Lord's Day 19 Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day 19:

Scripture Readings: Colossians 1:9-20; Ephesians 4:1-16; Matthew 25:31-46

Question 50. Why the next words: "and sits at the right hand of God"?
Answer. Christ ascended to heaven so that he might show there that he is head of his church, and that the Father rules all things through him.

Question 51. How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?
Answer. First, through his Holy Spirit he pours out his gifts from heaven upon us his members. Second, by his power he defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.

Question 52. How does Christ's return "to judge the living and the dead" comfort you?
Answer. In all my affliction and persecution I may await with head held high the very Judge from heaven who has already submitted himself to the judgment of God for me and has removed all the curse from me. He will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but he will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven.

For discussion and study:
In what specific ways do we think differently knowing that the Holy Spirit pours out his gifts upon us?
Is there any practical import of this doctrine?

08 May 2009

A Bit of Renegalia

Yes, if posting seems a bit sparse lately, well, you're right. I've been spending time on two blogs instead of one, my church has moved into a new building where I have taken on new duties, one of those is working on the church's website - updating and learning as I go - and I'm still hunting for a job. Throw in the added duty of becoming a deacon (I had the privilege years ago and have been nominated again), my Day Planner fills up quick but, you know, not always with the things I want to do. Nevertheless, the Lord still seems to show me that I can be confidant where I'm headed and assured of a good result when I get there. Life is full of ups and downs but God is good and blesses us far more than we realize. This morning I read Psalm 38 and of particular note was vss. 9 & 15.

9 Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.
15 For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.

The Lord knows the pain in our hearts as well as our desires. We need to wait patiently on him for those answers we desperately want. He is our only source of comfort - rely on him, my friend.

Check out my other blog and leave a comment. I'd like to hear from you.

02 May 2009

Ferguson & Flavel on Union with Christ

A few salient thoughts from Sinclair Ferguson on union with Christ...

To follow that up we have a new book published, The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety, John Flavel's Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ by J. Stephen Yuille. This looks to be another must buy, at least for me and maybe for you as well. Tony Reinke throws in his two cents on this here. This is an often overlooked doctrine which many of us, myself included, should spend some time studying.

Lord's Day 18 Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day 18:

Scripture Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Colossians 1:13-23; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28

Question 46. What do you mean by saying, "He ascended to heaven"?
Answer. That Christ was taken up from the earth into heaven before the very eyes of his disciples and remains there on our behalf until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
Question 47. But isn't Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?
Answer. Christ is truly human and truly god. In his human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit he is never absent from us.
Question 48. If his humanity is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren't the two natures of Christ separated from each other?
Answer. Certainly not. Since divinity is incomprehensible and everywhere present, it must follow that the divinity is indeed beyond the bounds of the humanity which it has taken on, and is nonetheless ever in that humanity as well, and remains personally united to it.
Question 49. How does Christ's ascension to heaven benefit us?
Answer. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father. Second, we have our flesh as a full guarantee in heaven that Christ our head, will also take us, his members up to himself. Third, he sends us, as a guarantee on earth, his Spirit by whose power we seek what is above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God, and not things that are on earth.

For Study & Discussion:
Why is it so important that Christ sits at God's right hand?
In what ways is this doctrine misrepresented or simply not believed today?