28 November 2009

Packer on the Christmas Spirit

As we begin the Christmas season we would do well to remember the following from J.I. Packer's Knowing God:...The Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round. It is to our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians....go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord's parable, seeing human needs all around them, but...averting their eyes, and passing by on the other side. That is not the Christmas spirit. Nor is it the spirit of those Christians - alas, they are many - whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the sub-middle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves.

The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor - spending and being spent - to enrich their fellowmen, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others - and not just their own friends - in whatever way there seems need. There are not as many who show this spirit as there should be (page 56).

Lord's Day 47 Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day 47

Scripture Readings: Psalm 99; 1 Samuel 12:1-15

Q. 122.Which is the first petition?
A."Hallowed be thy name"; that is, grant us, first, rightly to know thee, and to sanctify, glorify and praise thee, in all thy works, in which thy power, wisdom, goodness, justice, mercy and truth, are clearly displayed; and further also, that we may so order and direct our whole lives, our thoughts, words and actions, that thy name may never be blasphemed, but rather honoured and praised on our account.

For study and reflection:
What are we really trying to express in this phrase?

26 November 2009

Have a Great Thanksgiving!

A few Thanksgiving thoughts while you enjoy family and turkey...

Psalm 34
1 I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

A few more Thanksgiving exhortations can be found here, here and here. Have a great day.

24 November 2009

23 November 2009

Reason for Thanks

An outstanding sermon from First Thessalonians...

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21 November 2009

Lord's Day 46 Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day 46

Scripture readings: Luke 11:1-13; Ephesians 1:1-6; 1 John 3:1-12

Question 120. Why has Christ commanded us to address God: "Our Father"?
Answer. That at the very beginning of our prayer he may awaken in us the childlike reverence and trust toward God which should be basic to our prayer, which is that God has become our Father through Christ and will much less deny us what we ask in faith than our human fathers and mothers will refuse us earthly things.

Question 121. Why the words "in heaven"?
Answer. These words teach us not to think of God's heavenly majesty as something earthly, and to
expect everything for body and soul from God's almighty power.

For study and reflection:
What Scripture verses remind us that we should approach God in a child-like fashion?
Why do we not pray to Mary as the Roman Catholics do?

18 November 2009

Covenant Theology Study 4

This is the fourth class in a series on Covenant Theology given by Rev. Scott R. Wright of Redeemer Church (PCA) in Hudson, Ohio.

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17 November 2009

Just $68 Gets You a Case

Have you seen this? Just 68 bucks gets you a case of Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. A great little devotional book and it's great one to give away. From the DG website:

It feels too early to talk about Christmas, but it is fast approaching.

The merchandising world has been thinking about Christmas all year and is about to overwhelm us with its annual advertising blitz. Soon the season will be in full swing with traditional gatherings, company and school parties, greeting cards, decorations…

Yet in the midst of the breathless hustle and bustle stands Jesus, almost obscured, but not quite. And for those who have eyes to see him, Christmas provides a rare cultural opportunity to point him out to others who can’t see him (yet).

This Fall and Christmas we want to help you reach out to your neighbors, your co-workers, and those who visit your church. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ is simply a meditation on Jesus Christ. The chapters are short. The tone is worshipful. The subject is essential.

Our prayer is that many believers and unbelievers will read this book. We pray that afterwards, when they sing “O come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord,” they will sing with a new sense of wonder and profound joy.

I encourage you to order a case (DG will take donations less than $68) and share this book. Give it away and be an encouragment to others. Revitalize your own spiritual life while helping others to do the same.

16 November 2009

The Servant's Touch

The first sermon in a series on First Thessalonians.

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New Issue of Themelios is Available

The latest issue of Themelios is available for download here. Articles by Truman, Carson, Ortlund and Grudem. Looks excellent.

14 November 2009

Fluff, It's All Fluff

Fluff, it's all fluff. I'm referring to the article by the Rev. Kenneth W. Chalker that appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Saturday, November 14. The Rev. Chalker rambles through his article, Even in difficult times, there's much to be thankful for, citing his pastoral visits to an ailing parishioner ("Its just not fair") and pointing out several national and local horrors of late. Chalker laments, In this year when many of us are sick at heart for grieving loved ones of the murdered and wounded, when many of us are bummed out by continuous word of local corruption in government, such superficial cliches as "the sun will come out tomorrow" or "God does not give us anything we cannot handle" are not particularly helpful in rekindling a grateful heart. The truth we all intuitively know is that clouds over Cleveland are plentiful in November. And there are many things we cannot "handle." Lots of things are unfair. Rev. Chalker never ceases to amaze me and this article hasn't let me down. He goes on to say that, Good does triumph over evil. Hate does not ultimately win and that he doesn't want to offer cliches of his own. However, what strikes one most is the complete lack of Biblical support for his opinions and any Biblical help or comfort for facing these difficult times (what time in history hasn't been difficult?). The best he can offer is from his ailing parishioner from his sick bed: ...he affirms that people are basically kind, that there is a remarkable and resilient spirit animating our human flesh that is the source of our freedom and love of liberty and each other. What? Is that the best he can do? I thought cliches weren't called for in this situation.

It's truly astonishing that the Rev. Chalker does not offer one piece of Biblical support for his opinions or spiritual comfort for his readers in this article. The Bible is not mentioned at all. God is only mentioned in a cliche that he tells us won't rekindle a grateful heart. That's it, God mentioned once in passing and no Scripture. I'm not really sure of what his point is. Surely I was not encouraged after reading it. I can't see how anyone else was either. Fluff, it's all fluff.

May I suggest that during these awful times that we need to seek out the Lord and bend our knee to Him. He is our only hope in good times or bad. Certainly Scripture tells us we should expect suffering - we live in a sinful world (1 Peter 3:14, 17, 4:15-16, 19; Hebrews 11:25; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9; 2Corinthians 4:16-17). If Christ suffered shouldn't we also expect to? But praise God, for He is our only hope (Romans 12:12).

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Lord's Day 45 Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day 45

Scripture Readings: Psalm 16; Matthew 6:1-5; Romans 8:26-30

Q. 116.Why is prayer necessary for Christians?
A. Because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us: and also, because God will give his grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of him, and are thankful for them.

Q. 117.What are the requisites of that prayer,which is acceptable to God, and which he will hear?A. First, that we from the heart pray to the one true God only,who has manifested himself in his word, for all things, he has commanded us to ask of him; secondly, that we rightly and thoroughly know our need and misery, that so we may deeply humble ourselves in the presence of his divine majesty; thirdly, that we be fully persuaded that he, notwithstanding that we are unworthy of it,will, for the sake of Christ our Lord, certainly hear our prayer, as he has promised us in his word.

Q. 118.What has God commanded us to ask of him?
A. All things necessary for soul and body; which Christ our Lord has comprised in that prayer he himself has taught us.

Q. 119.What are the words of that prayer?
A. Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

For discussion:
Should we continue to pray the Lord's Prayer?
How can we "pray without ceasing"?

12 November 2009

8 Reasons to Have a Facebook Account

I recently came across a blog post on why we (or at least the author) shouldn't have a Facebook account. After considering the author's reasons and knowing many others would agree with his reasons and have other reasons, I thought I'd give a quick run down on why I (we), as Christians, should have a FB account or at least be understanding of those who do.

8. Though I don't need up to the minute reports on what's going on with my friends, it's often cool to know what's happening in their daily lives. It allows me to become a deeper part of their lives & I can also pray for needs that arise suddenly during their day. If their comments are banal and boring I can skip to the next message. After all, not all my friends are sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for my next post either. But that does not diminish my desire for their friendship and communication at whatever level that is. I've often been helped and inspired by messages that I have received throughout the day that otherwise I would not have benefited from. Likewise it's also great to see new photos friends post of special and not so special events.

7. I don't have a constant need to share what's going on in my life but I do like to share what's happening at varying levels of frequency. I may post 3 times a day or not at all. Some of my FB friends post countless times a day (often by Tweeting). If someone isn't interested (I know - who wouldn't be interested in my life?) they can just skip to the next message on the wall. I'm not so vain as to think everything I do should be shared on FB and if I do post it's not big deal if my friends skip it - I don't know anyway. I like to post photos as well. It keeps others up to date visually and makes them envious of how I've aged so well.

6. Because most of my friends have an account and they could let me know what's going on doesn't mean they will or are obligated to. By the time I might see them the flame has probably died down and I've been left outside in the cold. I'm not saying I need to be informed of everything but if something is posted on FB I can then be up to date and in the know. FB has kept me in the loop on conferences, podcasts, new blogs and more. Without it I'd be missing, at least what I consider, good up to date information. Besides, if something is urgent I'm going to get a phone call or email anyway, right?

5. Farmville - or should it be called Wasteville. I have to agree that these and other FB games are a waste of time. As Christians we have no time to waste. Staying in touch with friends near and far is one thing, playing silly games is another (can you tell I have an opinion on this?). I cringe when I get an invite to Farmville or Mafia Wars and very eagerly & happily hit the ignore button. C'mon folks, don't you have something better to do? Did you spend an equal amount of time memorizing Scripture today as you did playing Farmville? 'Nuf said. Use your time wisely on FB - make friends and stay in touch with them.

4. People accept Facebook and other social networking sites without due consideration - that's true. Should it's proper use be ignored because of that? I don't think so. For every blessing in this world there seems to be an evil that accompanies it. Social networking should be done Biblically and modestly. It should be noted that FB friends will never replace a real friend and/or one on one time with a friend. It's not Biblically a suitable replacement anymore than internet church replaces actual attendance with a congregation on Sunday morning. Nevertheless, the improper use of FB in this manner doesn't discount its value. I've made many new friends on FB and hope to make more.

3. Addiction to FB is a possibility. So is blogging, writing, talking on the phone, listening to music and a host of other good things done to the extreme. As noted earlier, we need to use our time wisely, in every area. If you can control yourself in other areas of God given enjoyment then time on FB shouldn't be an issue.

2. Don't let pride get in the way. If you had reasons before not to have a FB account but have changed your mind because of its benefits, by all means go for it.

1. I do(n't) want Facebook friends. Well, I wouldn't want my only friends to be FB friends but having them certainly doesn't hurt. Having true friendships as Christ did will never happen only on the internet. We're encouraged to foster deeper friendships in the NT and so we should. I will always first pursue in person, actual friendships. Human contact is critical. However, I have got to know several people on FB and have benefited by their friendship and all that attends that friendship. I've been exposed to good things that I otherwise would have missed. The use of FB has allowed me to regularly stay in touch with a friend in Texas, renew old friendships from years ago, stay in touch with church family during the week, and strike up new friendships with like minded folks from whom I have learned a great deal.

11 November 2009

Another Meltdown?

In an article on the Christian Post Professor Donald A. Luidens is quoted about the RCA, "Listen. Do you hear them? Those are the gentle, mournful sounds of a denomination imploding..."The denominational craft has carried us far, but its time is up. It has sprung debilitating leaks which can no longer be plugged. ..."It was here; it flourished; it ministered; it floundered; and then it was gone ... It is time to look for a new vehicle, or collation of vehicles, to move the church faithfully and compellingly into the twenty-first century." Sometime ago I was a member of an RCA church and experienced what Luidens here speculates.

The articles continues, Amid years of contention between liberals and conservatives over issues such as the civil-rights movement, women's ordination and evangelism with regard to social witness, Luidens says "loyalists" emerged to keep the denomination together. They were more dedicated to denominational survival than to ideological purity, he notes. ...Moreover, Luidens points out from studies of RCA members that many in the Reformed churches have little knowledge of the doctrinal standards of the denomination, including the Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of the Synod of Dort, and Belgic Confession. Though there is a high level of assent to such doctrinal verities as the sovereignty of God, the divinity of Christ and the important of the Bible, the Hope College professor found that there is also a widespread affirmation that personal actions and beliefs are central to determining their eternal fates and that Christianity is not the only route to eternal life. ..."What emerges from these data theologically, then, is a generic form of American evangelicalism with a thin Calvinist overlay," he says. I can't help but to agree and hence after much soul searching determined it was time to jump ship and seek a new port. I can attest to his comment that many in the Reformed churches have little knowledge of the doctrinal standards of the denomination, including the Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of the Synod of Dort, and Belgic Confession. They weren't taught or mentioned and no one seemed to care.

However, Bradley G. Lewis, professor of Economics at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., thinks otherwise: The glue that once held the RCA together may have eroded, but Lewis suggests that new glue is already forming. Lewis sees hope in some of the new developments including: the new array of options for training ministers in Word and sacrament, coached clergy networks that offer support and encourage accountability, general synods that have given greater voice to delegates, greater dialogue between conservatives and liberals on what they've learned from visiting Christians in other countries, and foreign churches seeking partnerships with the RCA. I do so hope he is correct. These areas were truly lacking during my short tenure in the denomination. Doctrinally it was an abyss.

Indeed, the RCA ship as they knew it in 1970 or 1980 has imploded, Lewis affirms. But the current RCA vessel is nowhere near the ocean bottom, he suggests.

In the final analysis, it is for those within the denomination to determine if a lifeboat is necessary or if they should just jump ship swim for their lives. I hope they can swim.

09 November 2009

Good Stewards

A fine sermon given by the Rev. Scott R. Wright on the occasion of elder and deacon ordination and installation at Redeemer Church (PCA).

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07 November 2009

Lord's Day 44 Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day 44

Scripture Readings: Colossians 2:20-3:17; 1 John 5:1-4

Q. 113.What does the tenth commandment require of us?
A.That even the smallest inclination or thought, contrary to any of God's commandments, never rise in our hearts; but that at all times we hate all sin with our whole heart,and delight in all righteousness.

Q. 114.But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?
A. No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all the commandments of God.

Q. 115.Why will God then have the ten commandments so strictly preached, since no man in this life can keep them?
A.First, that all our lifetime we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin,and righteousness in Christ; likewise, that we constantly endeavour and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God, till we arrive at the perfection proposed to us, in a life to come.

For reflection:
What is different about this commandment from the other nine?

05 November 2009

Accepting the Risk

John Piper's book Don't Waste Your Life is a must read as we as American Christians spend an exceptional amount of time wasting away our lives. We spend inordinate amounts of time on an array of time consuming tasks and hobbies that are completely useless for the Kingdom. Conversely, we need to step out in faith and take the risks that we have been trained or simply innately feel we need to avoid. Yet those risks are the very tasks of life we should be contemplating. Consider just the following two sentences (of many just as powerful) from the chapter, Risk is Right - Better to Lose Your Life Than Waste It:

And what if a successful risk would bring great benefit to many people, and its failure would bring harm only to yourself? It may not be loving to choose comfort or security when something great may be achieved for the cause of Christ and for the good of others.

That should hit us like a ton of bricks. We usually consider risks in light of our family or employment which provides security and comfort. However, we are never promised comfort and no matter how we try to hide behind a perceived biblical call for security, it just can't be found in the pages of Scripture. Taking risks is. Stepping outside the camp, that is, outside our comfort zone and below our financial happiness target is within the Christians' mandate. We should all read this little tome and evaluate where we are lacking. What part do you & I play now in bringing in the kingdom? What part would you & I play if we would take that risk?

May we all count the cost and then take the risk.

04 November 2009

Counting the Cost

Have we counted the cost to follow Christ? Or, is the Christian life a barrier against the outside forces of evil we don't like? Is worship a weekly gathering of saints or is it a social club that insulates you from the ugliness of those people you don't like? John Stott tells us in his Basic Christianity that....The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half-built towers - the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. For thousands of people still ignore Christ's warning and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so called "nominal Christianity." In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a descent, but thin, veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved; enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great, soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism.

The message of Jesus was very different. He never lowered his standards or modified his conditions to make his call more readily acceptable. He asked his first disciples, and he has asked every disciple since, to give him their thoughtful and total commitment. Nothing less than this will do
(page 108).

These are powerful words written to us in a time when we need to count the cost for following Christ. Is Christ your hobby or your passion?

T4G 2010

Together for the Gospel: T4G 2010 Conference from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

02 November 2009

Suffering Saints

One of the finest sermons on suffering I've ever heard given by Pastor Scott R. Wright of Redeemer Church (PCA) Hudson, Ohio.

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T. David Gordon Lectures at the Northern Ohio Reformed Fellowship Reformation Conference

Below are the lectures from the Northern Ohio Reformed Fellowship Reformation Conference featuring Dr. T. David Gordon.

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