31 December 2012

God's Final and Perfect Word to His Children - Sermon from Hebrews 1:1-4

    “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
    (Deuteronomy 17:18-20 ESV)

    “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
(Deuteronomy 18:15-18 ESV)

    Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
(Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV)

28 December 2012

26 December 2012

Walking in Him

    Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
(Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)

24 December 2012

God For Us

    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
    “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
        we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    (Romans 8:31-39 ESV)

Another Side to the Christmas Story

Here's a side to the Christmas story that isn't often told: Those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb, were made so that nails might be driven through them. Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day walk up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross. That sweet infant's head with sparkling eyes and eager mouth was formed so that someday men might force a crown of thorns onto it. That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day be ripped open by a spear. Jesus was born to die. (John MacArthur, God With Us, Zondervan, 1989, p. 116.)

So then...

The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity – hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory – because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross. (J.I. Packer, The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations, ed. Mark Water, 2000, Baker, p. 159.)


All we could ever imagine, could ever hope for, He is… He is the Prince of Peace whose first coming has already transformed society but whose second coming will forever establish justice and righteousness. All this, and infinitely more, alive in an impoverished baby in a barn. That is what Christmas means – to find in a place where you would least expect to find anything you want, everything you could ever want. (Michael Card )

23 December 2012

Always Winter, Never Christmas?

This Gospel anticipates a world far different from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, where it is “always winter, and never Christmas.” The promise of the Gospel is that it is “always Christmas.”  To be “in Christ” is to enjoy each morning as a Christmas morning with the family of God, celebrating the gift of God around the tree of life. (Kevin VanHoozer, This We Believe, John Armstrong and John Woodbridge, ed. Zondervan, 2000, p. 76.)

21 December 2012

The Riches of Assurance

    For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
(Colossians 2:1-5 ESV)

19 December 2012

God With Us

    Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
    “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
        and they shall call his name Immanuel”
    (which means, God with us).
    (Matthew 1:18-23 ESV)

18 December 2012

17 December 2012

We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful

This will be a sorrowful Christmas for many in Newtown and, indeed, around the country. This is almost an unbelievable tragedy and yet the bigger question, as we look down through man's past, is why does not happen more? That it does not happen more in our safe, little American towns makes it all the more tragic when it does. And so, we search for answers. Our secular media interviews myriads of psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health workers in an effort to help their viewing American public come to terms. Yet, there are no answers without Christ. It seemed appropriate for one news channel to report that Newtown folks would be gathering at the local church for prayer and comfort but returned to the secular purveyors of mental health for the "how's and why's." Indeed, an increased use of the adjective evil has been heard repeatedly on the news channels. But I think the term is unjustified, for at its root it must be defined in Biblical terms, without properly defining and employing its opposite defined in the same manner. Douglas Wilson nails it

It is not possible to build a culture around a denial of God-given standards, and then arbitrarily reintroduce those standards at your convenience, whenever you need a word like evil to describe what has just happened. Those words cannot just be whistled up. If we have banished them, and their definitions, and every possible support for them, we need to reckon with the fact that they are now gone. Cultural unbelief, which leads inexorably to cultural nihilism and despair, is utterly incapable of responding appropriately to things like this, while remaining fully capable of creating them. In the prophetic words of C.S. Lewis, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Doug Wilson

So this is a good time to reflect but not just on the tragedy but on the Maker and Creator of the universe. The One who will bring justice for the sufferers of this situation. The One who will make all things right at the end of time. And the One who comforts the broken and hurting now.

So we must confess that while the spirit of Christ is alive in the world, the spirit of Herod is not yet gone. And the only way to expel that kind of darkness is to boldly proclaim that Jesus came into this world precisely to destroy this kind of darkness through His death and resurrection. He was born in Bethlehem from Mary, and He was born again in Jerusalem, the first born from the dead. His grave, just like Mary, was full of grace. - Doug Wilson

15 December 2012

When should we suffer, when should we disobey?

When should we suffer, when should we disobey at the hands of our civil leaders? These are questions we need to consider as the day is coming soon and perhaps for many of us it is already here, when we'll have to decide. This fascinating discussion fleshes out some of the distinctions and considerations we need to make.

14 December 2012

If You Persevere

    And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
    (Colossians 1:21-23 ESV)

A Good Time for Grieving

Wonderful post from Desiring God on grieving during the Christmas season. Jon Bloom writes

Christmas is actually a very good time for grief. Because sorrow has a way of disbursing fantasy nonsense and pointing us to what the birth of Jesus was all about: death’s destruction (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Be encouraged friends. Life on this planet is short and our Lord fulfills His promises to us. Read the entire post here and be blessed.

13 December 2012

Herman Bavinck

Herman Bavinck
Christianity does not introduce a single substantial foreign element into the creation. It restores what was corrupted by sin. It atones for the guilty and cures what is sick; the wounded it heals.

Today we celebrate the birthday of Herman Bavinck. A favorite theologian of  many, he lived from 1854 to 1921 and is notable for work titled, The Doctrine of God. For more on Bavinck check the Bavinck website here.

12 December 2012

The Innkeeper

You've likely have seen this but for those of you who have not, this is too good not to share...

11 December 2012

A Prayer for Setting Our Hope on Future Grace

 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, and being sober-minded; set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Pet. 1:13   

 Heavenly Father, you won’t let us get away from thinking about your grace, for even one minute. And let me hasten to say, thank you, thank you, thank you. Grace at the beginning, middle and end—it’s all about your generosity towards us in Jesus.  
     I praise you for finally convincing the legalist and performer in me, that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. And I praise you for the ongoing schooling in the sufficiency of your grace, for all the broken things in my life: broken relationships, broken health, broken promises, broken church—broken me.   
     And now I praise you for commanding me to set my hope on yet-to-be-received grace—the unleashed fullness, the unfettered wonder, the undiminished glory of your contra-conditional love for us in Jesus. There is no God like you—no other God so immeasurably generous with helpless, rebellious, ill-deserving people like us.   
     Father, help me to remember that this hope-setting command is just as much a command to be obeyed as “Do not lie, do not steal, and do not covet.” You are serious about where we set our hope, for you know if we don’t set our hope on your grace, we will set it somewhere else: on saviors that cannot save, on people who are not God, on gospels that are not gospels, on idols that will ultimately fail us.   
     Father, I’ve never so looked forward to the Day when Jesus will be fully revealed—when the firstfruits of grace will give way to the full harvest of grace; when, as the Bride of Christ, we will enter the perfections of life in the new heaven and new earth. Until that Day, deploy us more fully into your story of redemption and restoration.    
     Where would you have us work for justice and beauty? Where would you have us show the daily-ness of your mercies and prove the wonders of your love? May the gospel enable us to walk more humbly with you, our God, as we serve the least and the lost. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ trustworthy and triumphant name. - Scotty Smith

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

10 December 2012

"God to Us" Christmas (1)

    I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
    (Galatians 4:1-7 ESV)

07 December 2012

Christ's Preeminence pt. 3

    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
    (Colossians 1:15-20 ESV)

06 December 2012

Eternal Generation of the Son

Allow me to again promote another Reformed Forum podcast. This time on the subject of Christ's eternal generation. The discussion explains the great import and confusion around this critical doctrine. Invest the time to listen. It won't be wasted.

From their website...

On this episode, we discuss the eternal generation of the Son of God within the context of Trinitarian theology and church history. The subject of the Son’s relationship to the Father is no less important today than it was during the Council of Nicea in 325. Nonetheless, several evangelical scholars have rejected the doctrine. Listen as we discuss what the doctrine means, its importance, and the theological consequences for rejecting it.

04 December 2012

John Flavel and Union with Christ

Last September the Reformed Forum crew had a fascinating and enlightening podcast concerning John Flavel & Union with Christ. Well worth listening to. And while you are there perhaps you can support the RF guys with a small donation.

From the Reformed Forum website...

Rev. William R. Edwards speaks about John Flavel and union with Christ. Edwards has written an article titled “John Flavel on the Priority of Union with Christ: Further Historical Perspective on the Structure of Reformed Soteriology” in Volume 74 (2012) of the Westminster Theological Journal. In the article, Edwards demonstrates several interesting 17th c. formulations of the doctrine of union with Christ. In doing so, Edwards brings his findings into present discussion on the subject.

03 December 2012

Temptations to Sin

    “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
    (Mark 9:42-50 ESV)

02 December 2012

A Prayer for the First Sunday in Advent

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
(1 Peter 1:10-12 ESV)

Dear Heavenly Father, it’s the first Sunday in Advent, a season of anticipation and celebration—a time to reflect on every good thing you’ve already done for us in Jesus, and the glorious things yet to be realized.

You’ve made promises you alone can keep; you give peace that can be found nowhere else; you’ve pledged a hope you alone can fulfill.  We praise you; we bless you; we worship you. As Advent progresses, fill us to overflowing with gratitude, humility and joy.

Father, grant us intense longings—like the ones that filled the heart of the prophets. The promise of grace and the Spirit of Christ thrilled them, as they anticipated the era of the Messiah—the time when you would begin to make all things new through Jesus.

And grant us joy-filled intrigue, like that felt by the angels. Your heavenly servants were overwhelmed as they pondered your unfolding story of redemption and restoration, for men and creation. We are the people the prophets were speaking about. We are the people angels envied. Hallelujah, many times over!

Lord Jesus, multiplied “glories” have already come to us, and many, many more will follow, all because of the sufferings you offered on our behalf—once and for all. Indeed, every promise God has made finds its “Yes!” in you. May this entire Advent season bring us back to your manger, back to your cross, back to your empty tomb; and moving forward with you into your new creation story.
Long expected Jesus, you have come and you are coming again. You are the desire of every nation; you are the joy of every longing heart. By your all sufficient merit, you have raised us and you will raise us yet. So very Amen we pray, with gratitude and anticipation, in your loving and triumphant name. - Scotty Smith

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