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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Better sit down for this one . . . or stand.

Exclusive! James White Reported to Have Shaved Head Bald
PHOENIX, ARIZONA

In recent photos taken this week, Christian apologist, radio commentator and founder of Alpha & Omega Ministries, James White reportedly had his head shaved. White was seen entering a small local Phoenix establishment known as "Charlie's Barber Shop" at approximately 8AM on Monday morning. He then asked the head barber, Charlie Forsyth, to "give him the regular."

Get the scoop here!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Take a look-see . . .

For a moment there I thought it was going to be Rick Warren . . .

Expectation

"Some people come to church with a thimble and then spill it on the steps when leaving." (John MacArthur)

Monday, February 26, 2007

A peek into my berry bucket.

I’ve determined that as much as one enjoys trampling through the sweltering humid triple-digit summers of the South-east in a long-sleeve shirt, battling mosquitoes and fire-ants (through the sting of sweat in one’s sun-glassed eyes); as much as one enjoys reaching through the briars and the brambles, deep into bushes where the rabbits only go; as much as one enjoys the pain of berry-picking for the sole purpose gaining the pleasures of those berries pick’d, so one enjoys the pain and pleasure of reading Jonathan Edwards. Each time I sit down with my big book of Edwards (pick a volume), I brace myself for the next plunge into the briar patch.

While taking a short quote from Edwards is near impossible, here are some points that left their deep scratches on me. Here’s a peek into my berry-bucket: in the first set, are some selected points concerning judgment; in the second set, some just should either quit going to church . . . or start going.

From his sermon on “The Final Judgment: The World Judged Righteously by Jesus Christ,” Section II contains the following points:

  1. The Privacy Policy at Judgment [my title]. Edwards describes the Judgment as a glorious display of God’s majesty and dominion, and these will be more glorious because judgment will be open, public and solemn. God is glorified when man is stripped of his chance to glorify himself, just as he has done on earth in public or in secret. That God should judge each person publicly not only is an exercise of his dominion, but brings everything in high position (namely, pride) into abject humiliation. Where once God’s dominion was questioned, opposed or ignored, it is now “openly discovered.”
  2. The Reason for Judgment: to display God’s majesty and glorify His righteousness. When man is called to give account, the justice of God will be most glorious; giving to every person what is due by His righteousness--every objection removed, every conscience satisfied, every blasphemy silenced and every reason for praise by saints and angels discovered.
  3. “[T]he irregularities which are so open and manifest in the world, should, when the world comes to an end, be publicly rectified by the supreme governor . . . . This world is a world for confusion. It has been filled with irregularity and confusion ever since the fall. And the irregularities of it are not only private, relating to the actions of particular persons, but states, kingdoms, nations, churches, cities, and all societies of men in all ages, have been full of public irregularities. The affairs of the world, so far as they are in the hands of men, are carried on in the most irregular and confused manner. Though justice sometimes takes place, yet how often do injustice, cruelty, and oppression prevail!”
  4. “By a public and general judgment, God more fully accomplishes the reward he designs for the godly, and punishment he designs for the wicked.” Read Esther 6 and 7 to catch a glimpse of how this will look.

Section III describes the role of Christ in judgment: “Why is Christ appointed to judge the world rather than the Father or the Holy Ghost?”

  1. He’s Man Enough [again, mine] “He who is in the human nature, should be the judge of those who are of the human nature.” Really think that one over—sort of makes you want to think twice about the way we carry on in life, doesn’t it? We, who have bodies, will on the Day of Judgment stand before the glorified man Jesus, who we will see with our eyes and hear with our ears the Supreme Judge.
  2. “Christ has this honor of being the judge of the world given him, as a suitable reward for his sufferings.” Once He lived and moved among men in veiled glory will now be seen unveiled and full of glory—those who spat upon Him will see Him as those who love Him will see Him.
  3. “It is needful that Christ should be the judge of the world, in order that he may finish the work of redemption . . . . Raising the saints from the dead, judging them, and fulfilling the sentence is part of their salvation. And therefore it was necessary that Christ should be appointed judge of the world, in order that he might finish his work (John 6:39, 40, chap. 5:25-31).”
  4. “It was proper that he who is appointed king of the church should rule till he should have put all his enemies under his feet. In order to which, he must be the judge of his enemies, as well as of his people.”
  5. Saints Need Him to Be Judge [me, again]. “It is for the abundant comfort of the saints that Christ is appointed to be their judge. The covenant of grace, with all its circumstances, and all those events to which it has relation, is every way so contrived of God, as to give strong consolation to believers: for God designed the gospel for a glorious manifestation of his grace to them. And therefore everything in it is so ordered, as to manifest the most grace and mercy.”
  6. “That Christ is appointed to be the judge of the world will be for the more abundant conviction of the ungodly. It will be for their conviction that they are judged and condemned by that very person whom they have rejected, by whom they might have been saved, who shed his blood to give them an opportunity to be saved, who was wont to offer his righteousness to them, when they were in their state of trial, and who many a time called and invited them to come to him, that they might be saved.”

I was listening to a radio program where it was cited that attending a church service at least once a month is considered “normal.” Yikes! From his sermon, “A Warning to Professors; or, The Great Guilt of Those who Attend on the Ordinances of Divine Worship, and Yet Allow Themselves in any Known Wickedness,” Edwards gives us this doctrine: “When they that attend the ordinances of divine worship allow themselves in known wickedness, they are guilty of dreadfully profaning and polluting those ordinances.” Those who make a show of wicked living both before and after attending a wedding, baptism, communion, prayer, singing praise, hearing preaching, attending confession, receiving admonition, excommunication, even participating in government, are guilty of irreverence and contempt of God, of mocking God, allowing what is holy to be made common, and giving other wicked people reason to do the same.

Here are some questions for self-examination Edwards has designed. I present them in bullet-form for easier consideration (like being whacked in the face with a tree-branch):

  • Do you not even the same day that you come into God’s house, and to his ordinances, allow yourselves in known sins?
  • Do you not with consent and approbation think of the sinful practices, in which you allow yourselves, and in which you have been exercising yourselves in the week past?
  • Do you not the very day in which you attend ordinances, allowedly please and gratify a wicked imagination?
  • And are you not then perpetrating wickedness in your thoughts, and contriving the further fulfillment of your wickedness?
  • Yea, are you not guilty of these things sometimes even in the very time of your attendance on ordinances, when you are in the immediate presence of God?
  • And while others have immediate intercourse with God, and you likewise pretend to the same?
  • Do you not, even in these circumstances, allow yourselves in wicked thoughts and imaginations, voluntarily wallowing in known wickedness?
  • Are not some of you guilty of allowedly breaking God’s holy Sabbath, in maintaining no government of your thoughts, thinking indifferently about anything that comes next to mind; and not only thinking, but talking too about common, worldly affairs?
  • And sometimes talking in such a manner, as is not suitable even on other days, talking profanely, or in an unclean manner, sporting and diverting yourselves in such conversation on God’s holy day?

Yea, it is well if some have not been thus guilty in the very time of attendance on the ordinances of worship. Examine yourselves, how it has been with you.”

God forgive our softening.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

O, World of "Londoners!"

“Londoners” by Oswald Chambers (written April 4, 1894 at age: 20)

Busy, driving, rushing Londoners,
Driven, palefaced, wiry blunderers,
Striving ever,
Praying never,
Busy, driving, rushing Londoners.

Thoughtless, flippant, godless Londoners,
Tricky, gasping, cruel plunderers,
“Doing” ever,
“Done by” never,
Thoughtless, flippant, godless Londoners.

Tired out, weary, haggard Londoners,
Beer-sopped, feeble, worn-out conjurers,
Struggling ever,
Resting never,
Tired out, weary, haggard Londoners.

Silent, lifeless, buried Londoners,
Death and Time have proved true sunderers,
Gone for ever,
Remembered never,
Silent, lifeless, buried Londoners.

Friday, February 23, 2007

More on Mules

Early this month, our brother Scott helped us remember how “God loves Mules, but Don’t Be One” from Psalm 32:8-11.


Thanks, Scott.


I came across this poem by Marion Susan Campbell:

“I thought is strange He asked for me,
And bade me carry Him;
The noblest one of all the earth
Into Jerusalem!

But rumor goes He loves the meek
And such on him might call;
That may be why He trusted me,
The humblest beast of all.

Yet though He was so great and wise,
Unequaled in His might,
I scarcely knew I bore a King,
So light He rode—so light!

They sang Hosannah in the streets,
But I have heard men say
The only time they praised their King
Was when He rode that day.

Men pushed and shouted all around,
The air was thick with cries;
They spread their garments at my feet,
And palms before my eyes.

They strewed the narrow road with boughs,
And barred my path again—
But the tenderest hand I ever felt
Was on my bridle chain.”

Charles Spurgeon gives us the following thought in his incredible sermon, “The Lowly King” concerning Zechariah 9:9: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation, lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass."

“Now, this riding of Christ upon an ass is remarkable, if you remember that no pretender to be a prophet, or a divine messenger, has imitated it. Ask the Jew whether he expects the Messiah to ride thus through the streets of Jerusalem. He will probably answer "No." If he does not, you may ask him the further question, whether there has appeared in his nation anyone who, professing to be the Messiah, has, at any time, come to the daughter of Jerusalem "riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." It is rather singular that no false Messiah has copied this lowly style of the Son of David.”

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Introducing: The Book

For those who read e-texts:



(HT: Jonathan Edwards Center)

Failing systems, part 2

Responding to my last post, one reader commented on the section dealing with the failure of Psychology with the following:

Certain paradigms of psychology (specifically the psychoanalytic and humanistic you mentioned) do not lend themselves well to science. That said, there are models, such as the cognitive-behavioral model, that are far from pseudo-science. The CBT model fairs so well in its attempts to demonstrate statistical significance in therapy, that is has even rivaled and surpassed the efficacy of many psychotropic medications. This is not some contrived psycho-philosophical idealogy that some Austrian intellectual pulled from a half-baked positivism; this is science. Is it an end-all answer? Absolutely not; but, if you are proposing that a nouthetic model is the only way to go, then I would ask that you take a second look at what you are considering.”

I would like to underscore two features: first, the posts I am making at present have nothing to do with counseling, but rather theology. This is in response to John Calvin’s axiom, that “Knowledge of God and Knowledge of Ourselves are Mutually Connected.” Note, how “it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity.”i Second, the reader is aware of the contribution of nouthetic counseling and calls for a reconsideration, but on what basis? Furthermore, as demonstrated in my post, I pointed out that psychology as is practiced today is nebulous and cannot provide an answer—my reader has agreed psychology is not an end-all answer. And I do contend that nouthetic model is “the only way to go” on the basis of finished work of Christ Jesus.

Here is an opportunity to point out that the first chapter of Calvin’s Institutes is often considered to be psychological, but that was far from his intention in writing. One individual posts a very compelling case as to how “John Calvin Led Me to Repent of Christian Psychology.” Wherein the soul is touched, there is psychology. But now that we’ve catalogued failures of other systems of self-understanding, we would be amiss if we did not now consider God’s perspective.

Theologically, we are still able to say that that “anthropology is the study of man” in terms of a literal definition. Man’s creation, existence and purpose has only one logical explanation — God the uncreated Creator. The Scriptures clearly and distinctly teach that God created man, that he is the result of an act of immediate divine creation. How can we trust God’s perspective as recorded in the Bible?ii First, the Bible records a certain, verifiable history. The facts recorded in the Bible, including the creation and probation of man, lie at the foundation of God’s whole revealed plan of redemption. Second, the Bible records the appropriate and necessary introduction to verifiable history. The whole of scripture rests upon the record of the work of creation. Third, the Bible quotes itself and is quoted by people throughout history as being the true account of the creation of the world. All evidence which goes to support the divine authority of the Bible sustains the historical verity of that record.

To be fair, we should mention some opposing viewpoints. The Atheist may reflect one of three standpoints, the first of which states that man is made ex nihilo, out of nothing from nothing and for no reason. This is significant because many cultures of the world, while claiming some level of theism, hold to this viewpoint. The premise is that man is the result of eternal matter, matter that was always there and would always be there, a swirling mass that eventually produced man. African theologian John Mbiti describes an example of this thinking in folk religion: heaven and earth were joined together by a rope. The inhabitants of both worlds went up and down the rope. One day, two brothers came down from the society in the sky, but one returned there and the other remained on earth. The brother who remained here had sons who in turn founded different tribes.iii The story does not really tell us where man can from. The account assumes the inhabitants were already there. Where did the rope come from? Who put it there? The story only tells us that the inhabitants of two ancient worlds settled in one place or another.

A second and third atheistic approach contends that man is either the result of eternal dualism, the result of good and evil eternally battling back and forth and in the course of battle man somehow came into being (this can be seen in many religious writings of the world as well, which at this point begs the question, “can the approach really be atheistic?”); or, that man is the result of eternal purposelessness, and there is nothing for him.

Consider further Evolutionary Pantheism or polytheism. Pantheism states that all is god and any distinction between man and God is eliminated in an ever-changing cosmos. Many Oscillating Big-Bang theorists reside here with the idea that man is a molecule of “godness” or a piece of reality. Nothing different about man from everything else. Polytheism attempts to show that man is God’s representative of the forces of the cosmos. This was a dominant pre-Darwin (1859) idea.

Theistic teaching even has some competing views: that man is intentional, created in the image of one God; or, man is a mistake, the result of forces at work in the world—and if man is a mistake, then woman was more of a mistake! Egyptian mythology teaches that man came from Ra and purpose or meaning does not come from life, but death, when one’s ka talks with the gods before the person enters the afterlife.

The Babylonian mythologies tell how the gods fought because someone was making too much noise and it was from the bodies of the dead gods laying around (zodiac), that the universe was formed and Man came from one of the bodies.

The Greeks give us many different stories, but the theme remains common: everything was basically created by gods sleeping around with each other (procreation results in creation); and, when jealousy ensues, more creation happens! As gods fight they get cut to pieces and their destroyed genitals become man. But what value is placed on man here? Man made from blasted god genitals?

What about Woman? The Greeks could not decide on a story, so they give us two: that woman was created as crafty and deceitful, for the purpose of getting revenge against another god; and/or, Jupiter (Zeus) made the first woman and sent her to Prometheus and his brother, Epimetheus as punishment because they had stolen fire from heaven; the woman was sent to be punishment for man.iv

These are nice stories, but they do not tell us who man is. They tell us that God (or gods) created man as other things were created and there exists no distinction between man and everything else. Again, John Mbiti sums up many African Traditional Religions in one phrase on this point: man fell down from the sky or the heavensv. Navajo tradition says that man came up through holes from under the ground and is no more than a toad.

Monotheistic teaching is unique compared to other religions and philosophies. Look at what Biblical Creation shows, that God is distinct and has created distinctly. The Biblical story gives man dignity despite the fact that it was written about the same time of some of these other accounts. What makes the Biblical record different? First, look at God’s nature: He is pure, holy, righteous, just and not at all comparable to the creator of the other stories. While man’s perspective says that the immorality of the gods was the immorality of the people, God’s perspective says that man is to be like His creator (we will cover this later). While man’s perspective says that the gods tired of man’s problems, they desert man, leaving to go to another place far away from man. The Bible shows that God did not retreat but became man to deal with man’s problems.

What does God say?

Gen 1:27 “God created man in his own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.” (NASB)

Gen 9:5-7 "Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man. As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it." (NASB)

What does the world say when God is not in the picture?
1) Life is cheap.
2) If you are not special, you are nobody.

Conclusion:
1. “We are told to think of ourselves first and are shown how to get on top by using and manipulating others, by intimidating before being intimidated. We are told how to be successful and how to be number one. We are counseled to find meaning in the heritage of our family and ethnic roots, with the expectation that finding out where we came from will help explain where we are and perhaps where we are headed. But such approaches give only a psychological gloss that helps cover, but does not help remove, the underlying problem of meaning in life.

Others set about trying to establish their worth by works righteousness, some even becoming heavily involved in church work and other Christian activities. They look for praise and commendation, and before long they are entrapped in the same kind of hypocritical religious games that characterized the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. As their self–satisfaction grows their spiritual lives shrivel, because such effort feeds the flesh and cripples the soul.
But every human effort at self–improvement or self–satisfaction—no matter what its religious covering may be—is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Genuine and lasting satisfaction is never achieved, and increased achievement only brings increased desire. More importantly, the guilt and fear that cause the dissatisfaction are suppressed but not alleviated. The longer such superficial games are played, the deeper become the depression, anxiety, and feelings of guilt.

The only way a person can achieve a true sense of self–worth, meaning, and significance is to have a right relationship to his Creator. A person without Christ has no spiritual value, no standing before God, no purpose or meaning in the world. He is like “chaff which the wind drives away” (Ps. 1:4).

A Christian, however, is a child of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. If he has no comprehension of those blessings he needs to understand the position he already has in his Savior. To give such Christians the right understanding of their position and possessions is the foundational thrust of Paul’s Ephesian letter.”vi

2. “This saying, that a man can by his own effort and good works acquire salvation, is foolish and absurd so long as the man is not born again. World-rulers and teachers of morality say, “Become good by doing good,” but this is what I say, “Become good yourself before doing good works.” When that new and good life has been entered upon, good deeds will be the natural result.
It is only a fool that will say that a bitter tree by constantly bearing fruit will at last become sweet. As a matter of fact a bitter tree can become sweet by being grafted on a sweet tree, so that the life and qualities peculiar to the sweet tree will pass into the bitter one and its natural bitterness will pass away. This is what we call a new creation. So too the sinner may have the desire to do what is right, and yet the only result is sin; but when he repents and by faith is grafted into Me the old man in him dies, and he becomes a new creature. Then from this new life which has its origin in salvation good deeds come forth as fruit, and this fruit abides for ever.”vii

“What you believe is a matter of life and death. Many years ago medical doctors believed sickness was caused by something in the blood. Although this is true, doctors in those days did not understand how to cure what was wrong in the blood. Because of this they believed that when a person got sick, enough blood should be removed from the person to take away the sickness. This was actually done by a medical doctor to George Washington, the first president of the United States. Washington had a sickness in his old age. The doctor who treated Washington wanted to save his life but he actually killed him by bleeding him to death because what he believed was wrong!

This can also happen in spiritual matters. It is possible to be very sincere but to be sincerely wrong, resulting in eternal death. In John 8:24 Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am the one I clam to be you will indeed die in your sins.”viii

************
iJean Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translation of: Institutio Christianae Religionis.; Reprint, With New Introd. Originally Published: Edinburgh : Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1846. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), I, i, 2.
ii Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1871.
iii Mbiti, John. Concepts of God in Africa. London: SPCK, 1970. p. 165
iv Bulfinch’s Mythology, http://www.bulfinch.org/fables/bull2.html
v ibid.
viMacArthur, John. Ephesians. Includes indexes. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1986.
vii Singh, Sadhu Sundar. At the Master’s Feet. London: Fleming H. Revell: 1922.
viii O’Donovan, ibid.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Why I read Calvin and the other big books

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2)

Reading an author’s introductory remarks brings great light to the purpose of writing. One truly cannot fully appreciate a work without hearing what the author says of his motivations, influences and reactions. Take for example Richard Wright’s novel “Native Son.” This work cannot be understood correctly without knowing who Bigger Thomas to the author and what his role is in the story—these comments are made in the introduction. There is no place for such explanation in the body of the work. A good introduction (and a good preface) provides the key to show how a work is to be read.

This is what Calvin does for his readers in his Prefatory Address. Immediately the author at the doorstep explains the work in its final form is not what he originally set out to write, and so he greets the reader. His purpose is two-fold: to supply the people of France with spiritual food and drink, and to inform his main reader, the King of France, with knowledge as to what doctrines are causing his enemies to be inflamed. “See,” he says, “why all ranks unite with one accord in condemning our persons and our doctrine!” He will go on to say that those who accuse them of holding condemned doctrine are the self-same ones who are practicing it!

A few years back, the manufacturers of a well-known brand of beer never knew whether their parade in Waco, Texas, helped their cause or hurt it. The parade was the beginning of a five-day appearance of the famed hitch of eight immense Clydesdale horses, and was planned with all possible advance publicity. The horses led the parade, pulling a giant wagon of dummy beer cases. But the parade had a surprise ending.

A trailer truck, bearing a demolished automobile, with ketchup-splattered young people hanging from its windows, followed close behind. Placards proclaimed that beer and automobiles equal death. For three hours, as the parade advanced its way through Waco’s business district, the deadly reminder of highway death trailed the beer advertising. As thousands of people paused to admire the horses, they gasped in horror at the view of havoc caused by drunken driving. Four university students in the car played their roles so well that many believed the car actually contained corpses. City police granted the same rights to the dry campaigners as to the Anheuser-Busch display.

Following the float was a string of cars carrying signs telling of the devastating effects of alcohol. A number of policemen along the way voiced their approval of the float—they had seen with their own eyes many similar wrecks—and greeted the dry campaigners with handshakes.

This is what Calvin is doing. He is not parading before France’s (or our) eyes a novelty, that is a parade of new ideas; rather, he is coming along behind and beside those who are bringing true devastation, exposing what the truly new ideas are bringing to town. He parades the errors of doctrinal enemies by cataloging their own errors by their own admission! Sounding much like Luke in his epistles to Theophilus, Calvin strongly encourages the King to investigate doctrine itself.

Be encouraged that we should not be surprised to hear echoes of conversations like these even today. Just 30 years ago our concerns were against Liberalism; now, our own time is occupied with “conversing” with an emerging new liberalism that is seeking to do the very things even the Church Fathers stood against. Hear Solomon remind us, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Where do our contemporary concerns lie but in what authority have the scriptures, and how Christ is and to what effect has His work accomplished and for whom. Today we do church in the context of an extinguished hell, the worship of worship, the veneration of placations and seek to satiate the entertainment-hungry masses.

The true religion which is delivered in the Scriptures, and which all ought to hold, they readily permit both themselves and others to be ignorant of, to neglect and despise; and they deem it of little moment what each man believes concerning God and Christ, or disbelieves, provided he submits to the judgment of the Church with what they call10 implicit faith; nor are they greatly concerned though they should see the glow of God dishonoured by open blasphemies, provided not a finger is raised against the primacy of the Apostolic See and the authority of holy mother Church.11 Why, then, do they war for the mass, purgatory, pilgrimage, and similar follies, with such fierceness and acerbity, that though they cannot prove one of them from the word of God, they deny godliness can be safe without faith in these things—faith drawn out, if I may so express it, to its utmost stretch? Why? just because their belly is their God, and their kitchen their religion; and they believe, that if these were away they would not only not be Christians, but not even men. For although some wallow in luxury, and others feed on slender crusts, still they all live by the same pot, which without that fuel might not only cool, but altogether freeze. He, accordingly, who is most anxious about his stomach, proves the fiercest champion of his faith. In short, the object on which all to a man are bent, is to keep their kingdom safe or their belly filled; not one gives even the smallest sign of sincere zeal.”[1]

That Calvin’s concern was against the Romish church alone is narrow in scope, for I am convinced that even Calvin was sounding a warning to search the scriptures, that one should arm himself with truth against any and all enemies as found within the opinionated ranks of men. Error is error is error. Calvin’s own reaction against “the new” was later neatly summed by Spurgeon: "I cannot agree with those who say that they have 'new truth' to teach. The two words seem to me to contradict each other; that which is new is not true. It is the old that is true, for truth is as old as God himself.”

This is reminiscent of a pastor I heard recently exclaim that the Reformed Baptist position is “new” and is therefore worthy of suspicion and distrust. I testify that up until five years ago I (having been raised Baptist) had never heard of the Founders, so the concept was new, but only to me. That part of recent history was for me clouded over by the rantings of the Fundamentalists against Liberals, and vice versa. The point I am trying to make is that some things are so basic they cannot be improved. How can something so old be new? When it becomes so obscure that when reintroduced, it is almost unheard of, and the reality can be quite sobering.

[T]he mark of sound doctrine given by our Saviour himself is its tendency to promote the glory not of men, but of God (John 7:18; 8:50). Our Saviour having declared this to be test of doctrine, we are in error if we regard as miraculous, works which are used for any other purpose than to magnify the name of God.13 And it becomes us to remember that Satan has his miracles, which, although they are tricks rather than true wonders, are still such as to delude the ignorant and unwary. Magicians and enchanters have always been famous for miracles, and miracles of an astonishing description have given support to idolatry: these, however, do not make us converts to the superstitions either of magicians or idolaters.”[2]

Understand that I do not stand in defense of Calvin (he himself wrote for no defense, but for Confession), for a few centuries have passed in which much greater men than I could certainly do an astounding job. I do stand on the side of truth and I stand against the side of error. When those who teach sound doctrine are maligned, then my ministry is to stand with them. Truth needs no defense; rather, I needed defense by the truth! When Calvin speaks truth, I will be found standing. When Calvin errs, then I will be reminded that he himself is now in the presence of truth. When I err, I will be corrected, having learned through this course of study.

It was not my intention to read Calvin. Through my schooling I can say I’ve been exposed to so many positions and to the consternation of some, have never been able to say I am of this or that persuasion. Systems as produced by writers have always been to me the records of individual understanding and were never intended to be the sole rule of faith and practice. Furthermore, I’ve always read what others say through those systems; but, I’ve always discovered the greatest joy and confidence in returning to the Bible with my opinion in-hand on this or that matter, to make certain I am properly aligned with scripture.

I found the necessity to read Calvin out of my close brushes with Bunyan and other classical writers, as well as this (new to me) “reformed” position historically enjoyed even by Baptists. Spending so much time with Jonathan Edwards almost demands that one read Calvin to understand his position; however, the primary reason I am reading Institutes at this time is that as I’ve read Edwards, I’ve been keenly impressed with the disciplines of sitting down (with the intention to read the Bible thoroughly), praying intentionally, thinking thoroughly and writing well. As I’ve considered the paper trail of Bunyan and hold the volumes of Edwards, I see the looming tomes of Baxter and others ahead (!) I see not pages to be turned, but men who practiced regularly sitting, reading, praying, thinking and making significant contributions. I am becoming more convinced how these men deserve to be heard as unique disciple-makers of Christ. Literature was less in their time, so they did not spend as much time letting others do their thinking for them. Calvin and other men like him were not spoon-fed with footnotes and softened by short publications of humanistic placations. They went to their Bibles and set the example for others to do the same.

************

10 “Ut aiunt,” not in Ed. 1536.
11 No part of this sentence from “provided” is in the Ed. 1536.

[1]Calvin, Jean, and Henry Beveridge. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translation of: Institutio Christianae religionis.; Reprint, with new introd. Originally published: Edinburgh : Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1846., vi. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

13 13 No part of the passage, beginning above, “The deception,” &c., is in Ed. 1536.

[2]Calvin, Ibid.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Decision

A railway worker in charge of a drawbridge took his small son to work with him one day. Immediately after a large ship had passed under the up-raised bridge, the worker started to lower it for a rapidly approaching train. As he set the machinery in motion, he heard a scream of pain, and turned to see that his son had fallen into the huge gears.
In split second, the worker realized he had a choice to make: reverse the gears, free his son and wreck the train; or, allow his son to be crushed so the train could pass in safety. As the train roared over the bridge, drowning out the screams of his son, the passengers on the train waived joyfully at the worker, unaware of the sacrifice he had made for them.

In the same way today, so many people go roaring joyfully through life, waving at God, unaware of the sacrifice He made of His Son.

Friday, February 16, 2007

How To Receive Counsel

Thanks to The Old Paths:

A pastor had just concluded family worship, and was in his study reading a portion of the works of Archbishop Leighton, when he was called down to see a visitor. Descending to the parlour, he found Mr. G. standing before the mirror, with his hat in one hand…As they met, the young man with a confident air, said, “Mr. P., I have called to converse with you about your sermon last Sabbath.”

“I am glad to see you,” said the pastor mildly; “be seated, and tell me your wishes.”
“Well, sir, you insisted upon repentance and faith as first duties. I was not entirely satisfied with your reasoning. I have some points of difficulty which embarrass me. Perhaps you can so explain them as to relieve me.”

Mr. G. then proceeded to state his difficulties, not in the clearest terms, but in a manner that exhibited some forethought and contrivance. They were certain metaphysical questions which have been a thousand times answered to the satisfaction of all honest minds, but which have been continually the pretexts for impenitence and unbelief.

The pastor heard him patiently, and when he had finished, inquired, “Mr. G., are you prepared for death and the final judgment?”

“I cannot say that I am,” was the reply.

The pastor remained silent for a short time, and then said, “Let us pray.” With this he knelt, and presented the case before God, including all the difficulties suggested, and the concession which had been made, and invoked the power of the Holy Spirit to open the man’s eyes and show him his ruined condition. The prayer was fervent, solemn, and earnest.

Mr. G. retired rather abruptly, and afterwards complained to his friends that the pastor evaded all argument, and resorted to prayer as a subterfuge. But that prayer was more effectual than controversy. The man was deeply disturbed, and found no rest until, as a penitent sinner, he threw himself before the mercy-seat, and sought forgiveness through the mediation of Christ. About three weeks afterwards he called again to see his pastor, and confessed that his motives in seeking the former interview were wrong, and that he had wickedly misrepresented the treatment of his case.

In a letter to his pastor he says, “I was much displeased with your sermon, because I felt it to be true, and I called upon you, hoping by discussion to perplex you, and thus ease my own conscience. I was vexed to find that you understood me, and therefore took me to the throne of grace, the very last place where I wished to go. After such a prayer, I could not enter into argument. I saw that the real difficulty was between my own soul and God. I hated myself, and you too, and for several days behaved like a madman. But the Holy Spirit triumphed, and I am a brand plucked out of the fire. Oh, that prayer! I shall never forget it, nor him who offered it.”

Thursday, February 15, 2007

1.1.1

Since the 12th century the English language has enjoyed the word “wisdom” as the fruit of the root “wis,” an archaic word which means “to know.” So, in a manner of speaking, humankind has been on the seemingly never-ending, ever-winding Yellow-brick road, braving the journey with our companions in this small world for the single purpose that we may someday meet the “Wis.” Then what? Go back to Kansas? What ultimate deliverance is mankind seeking in the quest “to know?” Release from ignorance?

The object of knowledge is allusive; though, when we speak of wisdom, we refer to that object that embodies the accumulation of all that is learned philosophically, scientifically and theologically. Immediately the dilemma arises in that our collective knowledge philosophically and scientifically originates out of ourselves; that is, within the framework of mankind. So what have we learned other than what someone else thinks? Is this wisdom?

Solon of Athens gave us, “Know thyself.” What is the lesson of this wisdom when one sets out to master himself and discovers that he is more unknowable and unpredictable than he once thought? Where does this wisdom lead and what benefit does this knowledge bring? I believe Chilo of Sparta saw the flaw of Solon and stated, ”Consider the end.” Consider Sir Edmund Hillary who, after being asked why he climbed Mount Everest, answered, “Because it is there.” Hillary may have discovered physical attributes about himself that even he had not known before, but what did that knowledge do for Hillary over the course of his life? What contribution does that knowledge make to mankind? Nothing, beyond the fact that Hillary (as any other climber) needed a Sherpa to make the ascent. Nobody asks them why they climb Everest (medicine says “because they can,” money says “because they will,” and world view says, “out of respect.”)

I contend that the more one knows about himself, the more needy one becomes of himself and the more he owes to those around him. Isn’t it true that if one discovers all and true wisdom in his knowledge that he owes his secrets to all mankind? Thales of Miletos may caution, ”Who hateth suretyship is sure.” This can be translated as, “Come under a pledge, and mischief is at hand;” or, “Wretched pledges, for the wretched, to be pledged.” This is harder to hear, as Thales contends that Bythus (“bath” or water, the first principle of all things) is our Father, and Bythus is a jealous and angry vengeful scoundrel. Let us listen to Tertullian ask:

Now, pray tell me, what wisdom is there in this hankering after conjectural speculations? What proof is afforded to us, notwithstanding the strong confidence of its assertions, by the useless affectation of a scrupulous curiosity, which is tricked out with an artful show of language? It therefore served Thales of Miletus quite right, when, star-gazing as he walked with all the eyes he had, he had the mortification of falling into a well, and was unmercifully twitted by an Egyptian, who said to him, “Is it because you found nothing on earth to look at, that you think you ought to confine your gaze to the sky?” His fall, therefore, is a figurative picture of the philosophers; of those, I mean, who persist in applying their studies to a vain purpose, since they indulge a stupid curiosity on natural objects, which they ought rather (intelligently to direct) to their Creator and Governor.i

But the gods were nothing (literally) to Thales. Bias of Priene recognizes the logical step that actually shows hope in taking us somewhere by acknowledging, “Most men are bad.” Again, we may ask what we may take away from this teaching: avoid most people? Perhaps when Cleobulos of Lindos put forth ”The golden mean,” he meant that men should keep “The Golden Rule.” What is that rule? Is it simply, “Avoid extremes,” or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you;” or, “An it harm none, do as thou wilt?” Whatever you do, as Pittacos of Mitylene would summarize, “Seize Time by the forelock.” Horace echoed, “Carpe Diem,” to which the Victorian essayist Hilaire Belloc responded, “While you are dreaming of the future or regretting the past, the present, which is all you have, slips from you and is gone.”ii

So, what is the lesson of wisdom at this point? I believe we have learned that keeping any of these axioms would have one living at the center of himself, missing the treasure of the present in laying a-hold of the eternal! The Universe cannot consist of multiple centers—every 13 year-old is learning that lesson! What wisdom is gained when, at the end of life, the surprises we learn of ourselves (presuming we’ve not learned anything else at all) cannot pass from one to another and one has built nothing of lasting value?

Theology presses in from outside. We may be helped to transition with “He that knows not and knows not that he knows not; He is a fool—shun him! He that knows not and knows that he knows not; He is simple—teach him! He that knows and knows not that he knows; He is asleep—wake him! He that knows and knows that he knows; He is a wise man—follow him!”

Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence” instructs from 1 Corinthians 1:29-31 that man must (as an imperative) look beyond himself for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. The Christian is to be knowing above what he knows now; he is to be made right because he is all wrong; he is to be set apart and escape conformity; he is NOT to go back home in Ruby Slippers as the Christian follows no Yellow-Brick Road that he may finish where he began.

Many would like to think that John Calvin is the man behind the curtain and cry out against him as the manipulator of the “Wis.” I can say I am approaching Calvin’s Institutes honestly, for in all my studies, I’ve read about Calvin—I’ve never read him. I've only read those who've read him. So far, I can say he has done nothing save direct our consideration to the source of true and solid wisdom, and this wisdom consist in the knowledge of God. Once we understand the benefits of our God who is relational, then we can know ourselves.

When President McKinley took the oath of office as President of the United States, he prayed publicly: “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, that is so great.” Though he held the highest American honor possible, he was deeply conscious of his responsibility; and also felt his need of divine assistance. This is where we need to be and this where Calvin begins, with a deep consciousness that the sum of all wisdom is found outside man.

The truth is plainly stated. This is true psychology: the study of the soul cannot be practiced until one has first consulted its Creator.

************

i Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997.

ii Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Satisfied, Ec 7:1. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1990.

Making life a prayer

“Lord, help me to glorify thee;
I am poor, help me to glorify thee by contentment;
I am sick, help me to give thee honour by patience;
I have talents, help me to extol thee by spending them for thee;
I have time, Lord, help me to redeem it, that I may serve thee;
I have a heart to feel, Lord, let that heart feel no love but thine, and glow with no flame but affection for thee;
I have a head to think, Lord, help me to think of thee and for thee;
Thou hast put me in this world for something, Lord, show me what that is, and help me to work out my life-purpose: I cannot do much, but as the widow put in her two mites, which were all her living, so, Lord, I cast my time and eternity too into thy treasury; I am all thine; take me, and enable me to glorify thee now, in all that I say, in all that I do, and with all that I have.”

(Spurgeon, Morning and Evening Feb. 15)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Just an old-fashioned love song.

I greet Thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only trust and Savior of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;
I pray Thee from our hearts all cares to take.

Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place;
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of Thy pure day.

Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
Sustain us by Thy faith and by Thy power,
And give us strength in every trying hour.

Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast Thou and no bitterness;
O grant to us the grace we find in Thee,
That we may dwell in perfect unity.

Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
Lord, give us peace, and make us calm and sure,
That in Thy strength we evermore endure.

(attributed to Jean Calvin)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

FBC Columbia is on the NET!

Stop by and see the new website for First Baptist Church in Columbia! And make certain you catch us online through Live Broadcasts and our growing new and soon-t0-be growing archive!

Can you tell I'm excited?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Top 7 Signs Your Pastor Needs a Vacation

7. His first words to the congregation on Sunday morning are "All right, listen up you heathens..."

6. He falls asleep during his own sermon.

5. He shows up for Sunday service wearing Bermuda Shorts and a Tank Top.

4. Every time his pager goes off, he shouts, "Why can't they just leave me alone?!"

3. Announces baptismal services will be at the Grand Canyon.

2. You go to his office for counseling and pour your heart out to him and he says, "Sounds like a personal problem to me."

1. For the past two months he has preached the same sermon every Sunday.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

If only to preach like him . . .

Spurgeon (1834-1892):

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Me:

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Pure and Genuine Religion

" . . . pure and genuine religion, namely, confidence in God coupled with serious fear—fear, which both includes in it willing reverence, and brings along with it such legitimate worship as is prescribed by the law. And it ought to be more carefully considered that all men promiscuously do homage to God, but very few truly reverence him. On all hands there is abundance of ostentatious ceremonies, but sincerity of heart is rare."

Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Translation of: Institutio Christianae religionis.; Reprint, with new introd. Originally published: Edinburgh : Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1846. (I, ii, 2). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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