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Showing posts from 2014

best of 2014

Here is my very own modest contribution to the best new Christian books of 2014. Caveat: I do not read many just-published books, so it's not a long list.  And one of these books was published in 2013 (Thornbury); one is a new translation of Calvin's Institutes from 1541; and one, The Sense of Style , is not a Christian book.  So there are three new Christian books from 2014 I can recommend.   I have enjoyed all these books, though, and have included snippets of the publishers' blurbs with the titles.  God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World ,   by David F. Wells.  In God in the Whirlwind , Wells explores the depths of the paradox that God is both holy and loving, showing how his holy-love provides the foundation for our understanding of the cross, sanctification, the nature of worship, and our life of service in the world. What’s more, a renewed vision of God's character is the cure for evangelicalism’s shallow theology, with

the headline above all headlines

"For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts..." (Psalm 95:7-8 ESV) "If the living God should address mankind in any fleet moment at any point in space with but a simple sentence, with even one single Thus saith the Lord! what intelligent person would not stop, look and listen?  Yet in his revelation God has published news incomparably important to every generation, past and present, of momentous value to each of us who lives in this present opportunity for decision.  God's disclosure for us involves not simply a definitive word about the past and a remarkable declaration about the climactic future but has superscribed a decisive now .  Its dateline included today (this very day); God's disclosure is not exhausted by the revelation given once upon a time and then and there .  God has your and my personal benefit in view as present-moment objects of his address.  T

authority but not oppression

"When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, 'Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.'" (John 13:12-14) "There is no compromise to the hierarchic superiority of Jesus.  He is Lord and Teacher, and they are right to call him so.  But, as such, he washes the feet of his disciples. Compare also Jesus' words about himself as the Good Shepherd, who gives his life for the sheep (John 10:1-18). "I conclude that the honor of the fifth commandment [ "Honor your father and mother..." ] is a complex honor.  Certainly the inferior must show honor to the superior, in all spheres of legitimate authority.  There is a hierarchy, an authority structure.  But in the overall relationship, the superior must care most, not for himself, b

blessed among women

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." (Luke 1:39-45 ESV) "We must therefore be quite clear about why Elizabeth calls Mary blessed.  It is because of the grace of God's Son whom she bore; and grace is something we all have in common with her.  So what this passage reveals is that, while God was pleased to exalt the Virgin, having chosen her for the preciou
Nice use of glass and steel at the Carilion NRV Hospital. 

happy Thanksgiving!

covenant presence

"Covenant presence, then, means that God commits himself to us, to be our God and to make us his people. He delivers us by his grace and rules us by his law (so covenant presence presupposes control and authority; we have seen earlier that they imply presence), and he rules not only from up above, but with us and within us.   "Recognizing God’s lordship affects the way we understand the world. If God is in control of the world, then the world is under his control. If God is our supreme authority, then he has the right to tell us what to believe. And if he is present everywhere, our attempts to know the world ought to recognize that presence. The most important fact about anything in the world is its relationship to God’s lordship." (John Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief )

faith shapes culture

"Even avowed atheists, at the end of the day, still have to come up with some sort of placeholder for the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus Christ in order to explain how the universe got here. For instance, what is Richard Dawkins’s reverential treatment of Darwinian natural selection if not an attempt to suggest that something other than the God of the Bible—in this case, the laws of biology—is absolutely necessary to explain the origin, diversity, and beauty we find on planet earth and in the cosmos? Throughout the course of human civilization, what has been seen as ultimate has been worshipped. And that which is worshipped always makes demands upon its followers. In that sense then, everyone is religious. Dawkins’s god may not be personal, but his worldview bears the marks of religious fervor. He has a list of orthodoxies and is quick to cast out heretics from his midst. Despite earnest attempts to do away with religion in modern times, it cannot and will not go away. Fa

confession leads to joy not despair

“If you are truly trusting in Christ, you can’t confess a sin for which God has not provided forgiveness in Jesus.  Indeed, if you work at the discipline of confessing your sin, it should not lead to despair at all, but rather to rejoicing over the extent of God’s love to you in Christ.” (Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence, from  It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement )

dealing with anger

10 Ways to Pray

the thought world

And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:4-8 ESV) "The Christian life, true spirituality, always begins inside, in our thought world." (Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality , p. 122)

true and false spirituality

"Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God." (Colossians 2:16-19 ESV)(See also 2:20-23)  False spirituality described in Colossians 2:16-23 .  Here are some of the "isms" we face today... This passage also gives characteristics of true spirituality ... Christ's death applied to all of our life , from birth to death. After conversion we are not on probation or justified by our behavior. True spirituality is lived in the light and power of Christ's perfect, complete,

reformation day

The photo above is of the Luther Monument in Worms, Germany.  Learn more about it here .  In celebration of Reformation Day, here are a few quotes from Martin Luther (apologies for some lacking source citation):  "Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God's grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God's grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire." (Introduction to the Commentary on Romans ) "We find no rest for our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace." ( Commentary on Galatians ) “He who believes God

WSC on the Lord's prayer

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.   Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.   Give us this day our daily bread, and  forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.   And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV) There's a wonderful summary of the meaning of the Lord's prayer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism ... “Our Father in heaven ...” teaches us firstly to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence as children to a father able and ready to help us; and secondly, that we should pray with and for others. (Six requests follow...) 1) “ Hallowed be your name ...” we pray that God may enable us and others to glorify him in all in which he makes himself known; and that he would overrule all things for his own glory. 2) “ Your kingdom come ...” we pray that Satan's kingdom may be destroyed, that the kingdom of grace may be advanced and ourselves and others b

priorities in prayer (from Paul)

We just finished several Sunday evenings studying, and then applying in prayer, the things that the Apostle Paul prayed for the churches he wrote to.    Here in bullet summary are the prayer points found in the Pauline epistles... o Thanksgiving for God’s work in them o For them to know God’s will with wisdom o To walk worthy of (live up to) our calling o To live a life pleasing to God o To grow in the knowledge of the Lord o For God to give power for every good work o To be sanctified (beautified) by the Lord o That God be glorified in & by them o Wisdom and revelation in knowing God o To be enlightened to know spiritual blessings o To be strengthened by the Spirit inwardly o Ability to understand the love of God o Love to abound more, with discernment o To prove the surpassing value of Jesus o To bear the fruit of righteousness through Christ o To render acceptable service to God’s people o Deliverance from evil pl

truth about nature of reality

"...the Christian message offers the missing piece deleted by naturalism - the personal, infinite Creator God who stands above nature and has spoken. This points first, not to a religious truth, but a truth about the nature of reality; that is, the world is one way if God is there, and it is another way if He is not . However, our voice in the name of truth will have little weight if our theology has no edge and we do not order our lives any differently than those without the truth." (Bruce A. Little, "Theology Engaging Culture" )

calvin's prayer

This is John Calvin's prayer at the beginning of his short work, The Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life , published in 1550.  This was a portion of the larger Institutes that was published as a brief manual for the spiritual life of the believer. 

Sunday notes (Jim Krouscas)

Some Sunday quotes & notes  from the sermon by Jim Krouscas.  "Two natures beat within my breast. The one is foul, the other blest. The one I love, the one I hate; The one I feed will dominate." "To be In Christ – that is redemption; but for Christ to be IN YOU – that is sanctification! To be IN CHRIST – that makes you fit for heaven; but for Christ to be IN YOU – that makes you fit for earth! To be in Christ – that changes your destination; but for Christ to be IN YOU – that changes your destiny! The one makes heaven your home – the other makes the world His workshop."  (Ian Thomas, The Life of Christ in the Life of the Believer ) Treasuring Christ.  Because of Christ... 1) I am a recipient of God’s mercy. (Col 3:6) 2) I am a new person. (Col 3:3) 3) I am being renewed in the knowledge of God. (Col 3:10) 4) I am part of the universal Body of Christ. (Col 3:11) 5) I am chosen by God. (Col 3:12) 6) I am holy. (Col 3:12) 7) I am loved. (Co

moment by moment

Here is Francis Schaeffer on the unity of what salvation is...  "[ Salvation ] is a single piece, and yet a flowing stream.  I became a Christian once for all upon the basis of the finished work of Christ through faith; that is justification.  The Christian life, sanctification, operates on the same basis, but moment by moment.  There is the same base (Christ's work) and the same instrument (faith); the only difference is that one is once for all and the other is moment by moment .  The whole unity of biblical teaching stands solid at this place.  If we try to live the Christian life in our own strength we will have sorrow, but if we live in this way, we will not only serve the Lord, but in place of sorrow, he will be our song.  That is the difference.  The 'how' of the Christian life is the power of the crucified and risen Lord, through the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit, by faith moment by moment ."   (Italics in the original) (Francis Schaeffer, True

recognizing God's lordship

"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and I am God."   (Isaiah 43:10-12 ESV) "Recognizing God’s lordship affects the way we understand the world. If God is in control of the world, then the world is under his control. If God is our supreme authority, then he has the right to tell us what to believe. And if he is present everywhere, our attempts to know the world ought to recognize that presence. The most important fact about anything in the world is its relationship to God’s lordship... "Naturalistic thought believes that all persons in the world are the product of impersonal forces, and that they can

greatest work of the Spirit

"He [ the Holy Spirit ] will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."  (John 16:14-15 ESV) "Getting the glory of Christ before your eyes and keeping it there — is the greatest work of the Spirit that I can imagine.”  (C. John Miller, The Heart of a Servant Leader )

the unsearchable riches of Christ

"To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ..." (Ephesians 3:8 ESV) "...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." (Colossians 2:2-3 ESV) Jeremy Walker writes... Who can appreciate the wonder of the good news in Christ Jesus? Who has exhausted those precious promises? Who has understood all those shining certainties which are “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ to the glory of God, this revelation of life abundant that Christ has brought in and with Himself (2 Cor. 1:20) Paul has recorded in scant outline in this letter to the Ephesians only some of the unsearchable riches of Christ. He is scratching the surface, picking up a few of the diamonds that lie in the topsoil. He could

highlights from life in Christ (Jeremy Walker)

Enjoying Jeremy Walker's book, Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ (Reformation Heritage Books, 2013).  Here are some of my highlighted excerpts... If you will not look to Christ, then you cannot be saved. If you have not looked to Christ, then you are not saved. But if you will look to Christ, you must be saved. If you have looked to Christ, you are saved. ...there are many who doubt this offer. Some torture themselves with fears that perhaps, after all, they were not included in this grand invitation or encompassed by this gracious command. The church is to believe this promise, both for ourselves—we are to trust Him exclusively—and for others—we are to offer Him universally. We are to put no human limitation on divine redemption. Christ makes no exceptions: He says to any sinner, man or woman, boy or girl, “Look to Me and be saved.” We are not to refuse Christ because of our sin when Christ has not refused us on account of it. It is sinn

finding a good master

Everybody ends up serving somebody or something in life!  Make sure you find a good master! (Hint: see John 10:10-11)

highlights from Loving God (Bernard of Clairvaux)

Here are some excerpts from On Loving God , by Bernard of Clairvaux:  You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. I answer, the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due to Him is immeasurable love. He gave Himself for us unworthy wretches? And being God, what better gift could He offer than Himself? Hence, if one seeks for God's claim upon our love here is the chiefest: Because He first loved us (I John 4.19).   But it is hard, nay rather, impossible, for a man by his own strength or in the power of free-will to render all things to God from whom they came, without rather turning them aside, each to his own account, even as it is written, For all seek their own' (Phil. 2.21); and again, The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth' (Gen. 8.21). His Body sown in the grave has blossomed in the Resurrection (I Cor. 15.42); and in like manner our valleys and fields which were barren or frozen, as if dead, glow wi

Jesus died for my good works too

I made the statement last week that "Jesus died not only for my sins but also for my imperfect good works." The Apostle Paul prayed for the believers at Colossae that they "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work..." (1:10)  The problem that all of us face as believers is that even our best works are tainted with sin, with impure motives and designs. How can we ever truly please God with our feeble attempts at good? There is great liberation in knowing that God views not only our past rebellion but all of our works through the lens of his Beloved Son.  The blood of Jesus cleanses us even as we are walking "in the light" (1 John 1:7).  We can please him! The Westminster Confession states in Chapter 16...   VI. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovea

5 important words to know

This from John MacArthur, quoted in David Kingston's sermon this Sunday.  In justification, the sinner stands before God as the accused and is declared righteous. In redemption, the sinner stands before God as the slave and is granted freedom by ransom. In forgiveness, the sinner stands before God as a debtor, and the debt having been paid is forgotten. In reconciliation, the sinner stands before God as an enemy, and is led to peace as a friend. In sonship, the sinner stands before God as a stranger and is adopted as a son.

support for Israel?

I posted a video on Facebook in support of Israel keeping current boundaries rather than reverting to those of 1948.  A friend  posted the following in answer... "Bogus. They are in violation of international law. The U.S. Knows it. That's why our embassy is in Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem. They are harassing and killing Christians, Palestinian and otherwise. Anyone who goes there with their eyes open and talks to people, especially in the West Bank will see clearly what the situation is. Our support of Israel is a huge reason for much of the international hatred of our country worldwide." Now I don't usually debate issues on Facebook, but thought I might respond to this, or maybe just to say what I mean, and don't  mean, about supporting Israel. I do not support or approve of everything that Israel does, any more than I do for our own country. Israel offers freedom of religion within its boundaries, but I know that there are restrictions in outreach.  And

deadly boredom

"Acedia" n. "spiritual or mental sloth; apathy." From Gr. "listlessness; without care." (From The New Oxford American Dictionary )  "As acedia, boredom is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. It deserves the honor. You can be bored by virtually anything if you put your mind to it, or choose not to. You can yawn your way through Don Giovanni or a trip to the Grand Canyon or an afternoon with your dearest friend or a sunset. There are doubtless those who nodded off at the coronation of Napoleon or the trial of Joan of Arc or when Shakespeare appeared at the Globe in Hamlet or Lincoln delivered himself of a few remarks at Gettysburg. The odds are that the Sermon on the Mount had more than a few of the congregation twitchy and glassy-eyed. To be bored is to turn down cold whatever life happens to be offering you at the moment. It is to cast a jaundiced eye at life in general including most of all your own life. You feel nothing is worth getting excite

providing a glimpse

no gift better than himself

" The motive for loving God is God Himself. I spoke truly, for He is as well the efficient cause as the final object of our love. He gives the occasion for love, He creates the affection, He brings the desire to good effect. He is such that love to Him is a natural due; and so hope in Him is natural, since our present love would be vain did we not hope to love Him perfectly some day. Our love is prepared and rewarded by His. He loves us first, out of His great tenderness; then we are bound to repay Him with love; and we are permitted to cherish exultant hopes in Him. 'He is rich unto all that call upon Him' (Rom. 10.12), yet He has no gift for them better than Himself. He gives Himself as prize and reward: He is the refreshment of holy soul, the ransom of those in captivity. 'The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him' (Lam. 3.25). What will He be then to those who gain His presence? But here is a paradox, that no one can seek the Lord who has not already found

Colossians 1 prayer

Here's a way to pray for someone this week, based on Colossians 1:9-12... Here's a PDF sheet of four of the above.  And here's the sermon behind the graphic.

prophet, priest, and king

Been reading some recent posts about the three Old Testament offices (roles) that Christ fulfilled -- that of prophet, priest, and king. Bavinck addresses this beautifully in volume III of his Dogmatics , but here is a summary excerpt from Our Reasonable Faith ...  "We need a Christ who is all three [offices] at once.  We need a prophet who proclaims God to us, a priest who reconciles us with God, and a king who in the name of God rules and protects us.  The whole image of God must be restored in man -- knowledge, yes, but also holiness and righteousness.  The whole man must be saved, according to soul and body, according to head and heart and hand.  We need a Savior who redeems us perfectly and entirely and who fully realizes in us our original purpose.  Christ does this.  Because He Himself is prophet, priest, and king, He in turn makes us prophets, priests, and kings unto God and His Father (Rev. 1:6)."  (Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith , p. 335)

the glory of the church

He [Jesus] said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"   Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:15-18 ESV) "How clear that no other institution in all the world is comparable to the Christian church in point of glory!  The glory of the greatest, wealthiest, most powerful and most resplendent empire of all history was as nothing, yes less than nothing, in comparison with the glory of the church of Christ. "Small wonder that of all the countless organizations in the world the Redeemer fondly claims only the church as his very own.  'Upon this Rock,' said He, 'I will build my church .' The church alone is 'his body

all races

"[ you ] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all."  (Colossians 3:10-11 ESV) "The ultimate solution to the race problem is found in Christianity.  No matter how great the differences among the races may be, in Christ they are one, and believers of all races are members of His body."   (R. B. Kuiper, The Glorious Body of Christ, p. 282)

habakkuk 2:14

HDR photo I took of the ocean from the Outer Banks, NC, this summer.  Just needed this verse to complete the idea.