27 February 2012

Stilling the Storm - Mark 4:35-41

    On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
(Mark 4:35-41 ESV)

24 February 2012

Kindles, Books and Reading

Old books are like old friends. They love to be revisited. They stick around to give advice. They remind you of days gone by. Books, like friends, hang around. - Kevin DeYoung

Being a theological bibliophile I was attracted to Kevin DeYoung's post from which the above comment is taken.  No, there is nothing like holding that book in your hands and delving into the riches of it's pages. Nothing like it at all. If I have an earthly attachment to any possession it is my books. Some of those old books have been pulled off the shelf numerous times to remind me of the pleasures inside.  But unlike Kevin, my devotion is now split between books and the Kindle. I know it doesn't have the same appeal, the same feel, the same look or even the same smell. But it does have a convenience factor I can't deny. Its great to head off to worship or Bible study and have four translations of Scripture, the Hebrew OT, the Greek NT and dozens of other reference works all in one hand. And, let's not forget, these same works are usually less expensive than their real life counterparts. So, I'm not quite ready to throw away the virtual book for the actual book. I've found friends in both worlds and I think they'll both hang around for some time.

23 February 2012

Complaining Lately?

Joe Thorn writes

In fact, your complaining about the small stuff is more dangerous than complaining about the big, because life is made up of the small stuff. Tragedies punctuate periods of your life, but it is the smaller inconveniences that make up the bulk of your existence, and this is what most people will see you handle. Those situations are the most obvious testing ground of your faith. If God’s grace is big enough for you to handle the big problems, why isn’t it enough for you to walk meekly though the smaller issues? (As quoted in Gospel Gripped by Matt Perry. Thanks guys!)

If this is you as it is so often me, let's repent of our complaining and start focusing on the Gospel, eh?

20 February 2012

Privately to His Own - Mark 4:33-34

    With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
(Mark 4:33-34 ESV)

18 February 2012

Old Hymns

A thoughtful conversation...

Old Hymns for Our Day from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

New Stuff at the Bookstore

Click over to the book store and see what's new. Many new books have been added. We appreciate your support & please let us know what you think and how we can serve you better.

Free Me From the Insanity of Sin

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Prov. 12:1
The ear that listens to life-giving rebuke will dwell among the wise. Prov. 15:31
Heavenly Father, I’ll never tire of thanking you for the joy of calling you Father—Abba, Father. There’s no greater privilege; there’s no safer refuge; there’s no bigger honor… there’s no better address than to call your heart my home. It’s all of grace, from beginning to end, it’s all of grace.

Once I was separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in the true Israel, a foreigner to your promise-filled covenants, without hope and without you in the world. But through the work of Jesus, you brought me near—you made me one of your beloved children (Eph. 2:12-13). I worship, praise, and adore you, for such a rich standing in grace and such secure place in your family.

You are the most loving and engaged Father ever. It’s only because you love us as your children that you discipline us as you do (Heb. 12:4-11). All of your rebukes are “life-giving;” all of your discipline is soul delighting; all your reproofs are heart liberating. None of them are meant to be guilt inducing, shame producing, or contempt fueling. You humble your children, but you don’t humiliate us. You’re firm but never harsh.

On the cross Jesus exhausted the punishment we deserve. Now you incessantly delight in us—even when you confront expose immaturity and confront our irresponsibility. That’s why I’m a foolish man to play dodge ball with the convicting work of your Holy Spirit. You only purpose our freedom through the gospel. I’m a simpleton and stupid when I get defensive and try to make excuses for myself. What’s to defend? Indeed, “stupid” has nothing to do with my IQ, my SAT score, or my GPA from various schools. Stupid is what I am when I hate correction, despise your discipline, or run from your admonitions.

Father, I want to be at home among the wise—to dwell, fellowship and linger there. So whether you speak to me from your Word by the voice of your Spirit—or through my spouse, colleagues, children, or friends, I’ll trust you for a humble heart and submissive spirit. By the grace, truth, and power of the gospel, free me from the insanity of sin, that I live and be to the praise of the glory of your grace. So very Amen I pray in Jesus’ life-giving name. - Scotty Smith

16 February 2012

A Confession of Faith

Confession of Faith

We believe in God the Father, who delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col 1:13).
We believe in God the Son, even Jesus, who commands us to repent “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17).  His kingdom is a matter of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17) and it belongs even to children and those who receive it like a child (Lk 18:17f).
We believe in God the Holy Spirit, who blows where He wishes to give life for “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3).
We believe this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Mt 24:14).  People will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God (Lk 13:29).  We rejoice in this, for “Blessed is everyone eats bread in the kingdom of God!” (Lk 14:15) 

- Rev. Scott R. Wright, Redeemer Church (PCA), Hudson, Ohio

15 February 2012

Sealing of the Spirit - Ephesians 1:11-14

    In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:11-14 ESV)

14 February 2012

A Confession of Sin

Confession of Sin

Our Father, we have sinned against you by indulging our fallen nature and failing to be diligent.  With shame we confess that we have not sought to preserve and increase our neighbor’s wealth, and have tried to enrich ourselves in selfish and sinful ways, especially at the expense of others.  We have been extravagant with ourselves and stingy with those in need.  All too often we have been wasteful of your good gifts, reckless with our own possessions, and uncontrolled in our spending.  We have acted on impulse and have not lived by principle.  As a result we have allowed material things to master our affections and we have fallen into idolatry.  Father, please forgive us for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

- Rev. Scott R. Wright, Redeemer Church (PCA), Hudson, Ohio 

09 February 2012

Understanding Sabellianism or Oneness vs. Trinity part II

Last time we looked at Sabellianism (or, as some know it today, the Oneness view), it's definition and errors through the eyes and pen of B.B. Warfield. Today, let's have a closer inspection of the Trinity from the late Robert Shaw. From his exposition on chapter 2 of the Westminster Confession dealing with the Trinity, he wrote

Before proceeding to establish the doctrine, we must explain the terms employed. The word Godhead signifies the divine nature. This is a scriptural term.–Rom. i. 20; Col. ii. 9. In the Scriptures, and, agreeably to them, in our Confession, Godhead denotes that infinite, eternal, and unchangeable nature, or essence, which is not peculiar to the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Ghost, but common to all the three. The distinction in the Godhead is characterised by the word person. ...When we say that there are three persons in the Godhead, the word person signifies a distinction which we do not pretend to explain, but which does not intrench upon the unity of essence."

There are many passages in the Old Testament which prove a plurality of persons in the Godhead, such as those passages in which one divine person is introduced as speaking of or to another. To these we can only refer.–Gen. i. 26, iii. 22, xi. 7; Ps. xiv. 6, 7, cx. 1; Isa. vi. 8. All these texts plainly point out a plurality of persons in the Godhead. But it is evident from Scripture, not only that there is a plurality, but also that there is a Trinity, or only three persons in the Godhead. This is plain from Isa. lxi. 1, where our Divine Redeemer thus speaks: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me," &c.

In the New Testament he finds that in, Lord's baptism we have a plain intimation of the mystery of the Trinity.–Matt. iii. 16, 17. The Father, by an audible voice from heaven, bears testimony to the incarnate Redeemer; the Son, in human nature, is baptised by John; and the Holy Spirit: descends upon him in a visible manner. Hence the primitive Christians used to say to any who doubted the truth of this doctrine, "Go to Jordan, and there you will see the Trinity." Plainer still is this truth from the form of words appointed to be used in Christian baptism,–"Baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." - Matt. xvi. 19. To baptise in the name of one, is to baptise by his authority, and dedicate to his service. This is competent only to a divine person. Now, if the Father, in whose name we are baptised, be a person, so must the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for we are baptised in their name, as well as in the name of the Father. The apostolic benediction furnishes another proof of a Trinity: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all."–2 Cor. xiii. 14. "This is evidently a prayer, which it would be impiety and idolatry to address to any other but God. Yet three persons are distinctly addressed, and consequently are recognised as possessed of divine perfections; as knowing our wants, and hearing our requests, and able to do what we ask; as the fountain of all the blessedness implied in the terms, grace, love, and communion." We have a most explicit testimony to this doctrine, 1 John. v. 7, "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one."

And here, Shaw addresses the crux of the matter

Nor is the doctrine of the Trinity a mere-speculation. On the contrary, to use the language of Dr Dick, "without the knowledge of this doctrine it is impossible to understand the grandest of the works of God–redemption,–in which the three persons act distinct and conspicuous parts. We are called to contemplate the love of the Father, the condescension of the Son, and the gracious operations of the Spirit. Redemption is not the work of a solitary agent, but of three, all concurring in the salvation of our perishing race. Hence we owe gratitude to each of the persons of the Godhead distinctly, and are bound to give to each the glory to which he is entitled. We are baptised in their name, and consecrated to their service; and our prayers are addressed not to God absolutely considered, but to the Father, through the Son, and by the assistance of the Holy Ghost. It appears, therefore, that the Christian system of duty is founded upon this doctrine, and that without the belief of it there can be no acceptable religion. So far is it from being useless, that it is the very foundation of practical piety." Shaw, Robert; Charles River Editors; Hetherington, WM M. (2011-09-11). The Reformed Faith: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 1076-1125). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

Therefore, in it's relation to redemption, a critical knowledge and acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity is paramount. This is why the the Elephant Room discussion between Driscoll and Jakes has drawn so much attention and rightfully so. If Jakes espouses something other than the doctrine of the Trinity as found in the Westminster Confession and explained briefly above (manifestations vs. persons), he is not preaching the true Gospel of Christ found in the Scriptures and misleading a great many souls astray.

For a more thorough review if this issue, check out this post at the Gospel Coalition. And, if someone is still saying, "What's the big deal?," take a look at this.

08 February 2012

07 February 2012

Understanding Sabellianism or Oneness vs. Trinity

In light of all the FB talk on Jakes, Driscoll and the Elephant Room recently, perhaps it would be helpful to have a look at the Oneness vs. Trinity controversy which is also known as Sabellianism. Keeping in mind how this effects our view of the Trinity and why should we care, let's see what B.B. Warfield had to say

...On the other side the party of Sabellianism was at work, so called after a certain Sabellius who lived in Rome at the beginning of the third century. Sabellius held that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were but three names for one and the same God — a God who had made Himself known thus successively as His revelation progressed in various forms and manifestations. In the form of the Father, accordingly, God was operative as Creator and Lawgiver. Thereupon He worked as Redeemer in the form of the Son. And He now works in the form of the Holy Spirit as the Re-creator of the church. 
While Arianism tries to maintain the oneness of God, by placing Son and Spirit outside the Divine being and reducing these to the level of creatures, Sabellianism tries to arrive at the same end by robbing the three persons of the Godhead of their independence. This it does by metamorphosing the persons into three successive modes of revelation of the same Divine Being. In the first tendency the Jewish, deistic, rationalistic mode of thinking comes to expression rather characteristically, and in the second the idea of Pagan pantheism and mysticism. The moment the church set about giving itself a fairly clear account of the truth which was later stated in the confession of the Trinity of God, these two other tendencies arose alongside at the right and left, and they accompany the confession of the church to this day. Always and again the church and each one of its members must be on guard against doing injustice on the one hand to the oneness of the Divine Being, and on the other to the three Persons within that Being. The oneness may not be sacrificed to the diversity, nor the diversity to the oneness. To maintain both in their inseparable connection and in their pure relationship, not only theoretically but also in practical life, is the calling of all believers. 
In order to satisfy this requirement, the Christian church and Christian theology in the early period made use of various words and expressions which cannot be found literally in the Holy Scriptures. The church began to speak of the essence of God and of three persons in that essence of being. It spoke of the triune and the trinitarian,or of essential and personal characteristics, of the eternal generation of the Son and of the proceeding of the Holy Spirit from the Father and from the Son, and the like. 
There is no reason at all why the church and the Christian theology should not use such terms and modes of expression. For the Holy Scripture was not given to the church by God to be thoughtlessly repeated but to be understood in all its fulness and riches, and to be restated in its own language in order that in this way it might proclaim the mighty works of God. Moreover, such terms and expressions are necessary in order to maintain the truth of Scripture over against its opponents and to secure it against misunderstanding and error. And history has taught throughout the centuries that a lighthearted disapproval and rejection of these names and modes of expression leads to various departures from the confession. 
At the same time, we should, in the use of these terms, always remember that they are of human origin and therefore limited, defective, fallible. The church fathers always acknowledged this. For example, they held that the term persons which was used to designate the three ways of existence in the Divine Being did not do justice to the truth in the matter but served as an aid towards maintaining the truth and cutting off error. The word was chosen, not because it was accurate in every respect, but because no other and better was to be found. In this matter again the word is far behind the thought, and the thought is far behind the actuality. Although we cannot preserve the actuality in any but this inadequate form, we may never forget that it is the reality itself and not the word that counts. In the dispensation of glory other and better expressions will certainly be laid upon our lips (emphasis mine). Bavinck, Herman; Hendryx, John (2011-11-01). Herman Bavinck: Selected Shorter Works (Kindle Locations 2062-2072). Monergism Books. Kindle Edition.

So we see here that Jakes' "manifestations" appears to be just another way of purporting three modes or rather three successive modes of the Diving Being (hence the other term, modalism). The Trinity, as we commonly accept it, is an historic belief set forth in early church councils and best stated by the Westminster Confession II. 3

In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, not proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

So we have clear language here in the Confession as just what and how the Trinity is understood and accepted. We'll look more at this next time.

05 February 2012

Tired? Need Hope? Need Strength?

 The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40-28-31
Gracious Father, this was one of the first Scriptures I memorized as a young believer, yet reading it today is like finding a new treasure in an old field; fresh cut flowers in the corner of a dusty attic; a cool fountain of grace in a dry desert of brokenness. That’s one of the things I most love about your Word. It’s never antiquated, redundant or irrelevant, but always timely, trustworthy and faith-building. You’re the God who speaks in specifics and without stuttering. You’re the Father who knows what we need even before we ask, and who provide before we ask.

This passage from Isaiah is underlined multiple times in my favorite Bible, and for good reason. It reminds me that you’re not like me (Hallelujah!), in so many ways. You never get tired or weary. I do and I am. Accepting limitations, finiteness, and weakness has never been one of my strengths. But I must. Since youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall, why do I think I’m exempt from “running on empty” and hitting a wall?

Father, I’m not asking to soar like an eagle, as fun as that might be; and I’m not seeking to run like a marathoner, though I’d love to. Just walking upright with a renewed heart, a steady gait, and a replenished energy will be enough.

My hope is in you, loving Father, merciful Abba—the God who brings refreshment into the wilderness; the generous Lord, who promises sufficient grace for every day and each exigency; the Almighty God who makes mountains dance and trees clap their hands.

Right now I look to you for all the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical strength I’ll need to live out the implications of the gospel just today. I’m not depleted, though heading there, but I have no doubts about your great compassion for me in Jesus. Give me deep sleep and refreshing naps. Make fresh fruit be as appealing as carrot cake and fudge pie. Don’t let me talk myself out of exercise.

Because Jesus embraced the ultimate weakness and weariness of the cross, I’m confident of your burden-bearing love. I may be weary in my servanthood, but I’m thriving in my sonship. Nothing can separate me from your love; not unreasonable people, nor unlimited needs, nor unfinished tasks. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ tender and triumphant name. Amen. - Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith is Founding Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition.

02 February 2012

The Trio of Diminutive Swine

Way too funny...

The Gift of the Spirit

    For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
(Ephesians 1:15-23 ESV)

01 February 2012

By afflictions, troubles, distresses, and dangers

Thomas Brooks
By afflictions, troubles, distresses, and dangers—the Lord teaches his people to look upon sin as the most loathsome thing in the world, and to look upon holiness as the most lovely thing in the world. Sin is never so bitter, and holiness is never so sweet, as when our troubles are greatest and our dangers highest. By afflictions the Lord teaches his people to sit loose from this world, and to make sure the great things of that other world. By affliction God shows his people the vanity, vexation, emptiness, weakness, and nothingness of all created things—and the choiceness, preciousness, and sweetness of communion with himself, and of interest in himself. "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word." Psalms 119:67. "I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75

Thomas Brooks (2010-06-09). A Word in Season to Suffering Saints (Kindle Locations 272-278). Unknown. Kindle Edition.