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not born like a king

"These two details--the necessity of a manger and the lack of room with normal society-- are both significant and unexpected.  Why would God's own Son, the expected Davidic Messiah, be born in such a way?  This scandalous set of circumstances points forward to Jesus's future rejection by his own people and the shame and embarrassment of death on a cross.  The unexpected setting of Jesus's birth also anticipates the unexpected way in which Jesus would go about putting things right in God's creation.  His life and death did not match people's expectations.  He wasn't born like a king; he didn't live like a king; and he certainly didn't die like a king.  He was nonetheless God's promised and long-awaited King."   --From The First Days of Jesus , by Andreas Kostenberger and Alexander Stewart (Crossway, 2015).

child dedication

Our baby (or child) dedication service is one way parents can a) give public thanks to the Lord for the young life entrusted to them; b) request prayer for their child and for them in their roles as parents; and c) to publicly dedicate (set apart) their child and themselves as belonging to the Lord for his service and glory. Normally, we read something like the following at that time... "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD…" (Psalm 127:3)  God has gifted our families -- and this church -- with children.  They are entrusted to us that we might lead them to the knowledge of God through the Lord Jesus.  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”   (Deuteronomy

praying the Lord's prayer

The prayer below is a paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6), based upon the Westminster Shorter Catechism as adapted by Matthew Henry .  Language is modernized.  Our Father in heaven , we come to you as children to a Father able and ready to help us.   We implore you, let your name be sanctified ; enable us and others to glorify you in all things by which you have made yourself known, and dispose of all things to your own glory.   Let your kingdom come; let Satan’s kingdom be destroyed, and let the kingdom of your grace be advanced; let us and others be brought into it, and kept in it, and let the kingdom of your glory be hastened.   Let your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven ; make us by your grace able and willing to know, obey, and submit to your will in all things, as the angels do in heaven.   Give us this day our daily bread ; of your free gift let us receive a adequate portion of the good things of this life, and let us enjoy your blessing with

pride humbled

Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws.   "At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?"  At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added

certainty

God's authority

"Beyond all doubt, biblical religion is authoritarian in nature.  The sovereign God, creator of the universe, Lord of  history, dispenser of destiny, determines and rewards the true and the good.  God commands and has the right to be obeyed,  and the power also to punish the disobedient and reward the faithful. "Behind God's will stands omnipotent power.  The  notion that the individual subjectively determines what is ultimately good and evil, true and false, not only results in an  encroaching nihilism, but also presupposes the illusion of a godless world.  God can be ignored only if we assume the autonomy of the world.   "But it is God who in his purpose has determined the existence and nature of the world.  The divine sovereignty extends to every sphere of life--the sphere of work, whether in the laboratory or in the forum; the sphere of love, whether in the home or in neighbor-relations; the sphere of justice, whether between the nations or in local cities an

my way of seeing things

But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:4-6 ESV)  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools...   (Romans 1:21-22 ESV) "Their [ Adam & Eve's ] disobedience entailed two things that are now characteristic of all of us as humans. On the one hand, for each of us, sin is the claim to the right to myself, and so to my way of seeing things, which—far more than class, gender, race and generation—is the ultimate source of

differences

Enjoyed listening to this 9Marks interview between Mark Dever and Carl F. H. Henry in 1997.  This would be six years before Henry's death in 2003.   Dever asked Henry to identify some differences that he sees in evangelicalism between today and earlier in the 1950 and 60s.  Two points came out:  1) Earlier there was a need to call evangelicals, who had largely withdrawn from the culture, to be more active in, and engaged with, the culture. Today the problem, Henry says, is to get the contemporary culture -- very much degenerated -- out of the evangelical.  2) In the 1950s and 60s evangelicals saw that they needed one another and so worked together.  Today, Henry said, they do not feel that they need each other the way they needed each other then.  Too many evangelicals and churches are pursuing their own agendas and individual ministries apart from a relationship to the wider body of evangelicalism.  Listen to the full interview here .  

favorite biographies

I was asked recently to suggest some biographies that I have read and would recommend to others. Most of the biographies that I have read are about men, and specifically, theologians and pastors, and sometimes soldiers.  I read biographies to find people to emulate and to serve as historical mentors.  Here are my top ten biographies, in alphabetical order... Augustine of Hippo: A Biography , by Peter Brown. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy , by Eric Metaxas.  Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life , by Colin Duriez. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther , by Roland H. Bainton. Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret , by Howard Taylor and Geraldine Taylor.  Jonathan Edwards: A Life , by George M. Marsden. (Or, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards , by George M. Marsden). Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones , by Iain Murray. (Either the two-volume original set or the new one-volume edition.) Robert E. Lee on Leadership: Executive Lessons in Character, Courage, and Vision ,

ABCs of living like Christ

"Let the one who says he abides in Him, walk in the manner in which He walked."   ( 1 John 2:6  NAS) Jack Hall, former VT professor and long-time member of BCF, spoke briefly during Sunday announcements about our upcoming conference...    One of the themes of the upcoming conference is "Living with a Missional Mindset," that is, seeking to l ive in such a way as to draw people to Christ with every encounter. I n other words, emulate Christ.  So, to figure out how well you are doing in that regard, let's go through the alphabet using words that describe Jesus's character or personality, and then assess in your own mind how you measure up.... A mazing/assuring B old in testimony C aring/compassionate D ivine/dependable E nergizing F aithful G enerous H oly/helpful I nfallible/immaculate J ust K ind/source of all knowledge L oving M ajestic/magnificent N eeded O mnipotent/omnipresent/omniscient P owerful/parental Q uiet R ejuvenating

creation of marriage - quotes and links

“God created man good and after his own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that they might rightly know God his creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.” ( Heidelberg Catechism , 1563, Q#6.) "It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing to a young bride and groom from his prison cell in Nazi Germany in 1943) "A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers."  (Ruth Bell Graham) “...most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide range of outcomes.”  -- National Review   “According to new research, states with a high concentration of married couples experience faster economic growth, less child poverty and more economic mobility than states where fewer adults are married, even after

the law commands and makes us know

The Law commands and makes us know  What duties to our God we owe;  But ’tis the Gospel must reveal  Where lies our strength to do His will.   The Law discovers guilt and sin  And shows how vile our hearts have been;  The Gospel only can express  Forgiving love and cleansing grace.   What curses doth the Law denounce  Against the man that fails but once!  But in the Gospel Christ appears,  Pard’ning the guilt of numerous years.   My soul, no more attempt to draw  Thy life and comfort from the Law.  Fly to the hope the Gospel gives;  The man that trusts the promise lives. ~ Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

a prayer before the sermon

a wedding declaration

At weddings where I am the officiant, I usually open with this statement about marriage... Marriage is the creation of God.  It is the lifelong and exclusive bond between one man and one woman who vow to live together as husband and wife for the rest of their lives.  It was established by God from the beginning for the first human couple and their descendants, as it says, (Genesis 2:24)  "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." Despite the rise and fall of civilizations, marriage has been held in high honor throughout all history and all cultures.  In biblical revelation, both the prophets of the Old Testament and apostles of the New Testament affirm marriage to be a sacred  bond.  The Lord Jesus himself taught the highest standards regarding marriage and brought blessing and joy to a marriage celebration that he attended. Why did God ordain marriage?  God created the institution of marriage to d

a true myth

In J. R. R. Tolkien's biography by Humphrey Carter, the author records for us this conversation between Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.  Lewis at this point is still a skeptic, believing Christianity to be only a myth...  “But,” said Lewis, “myths are lies, even though lies breathed through silver.”   “No,” said Tolkien, “they are not.  ...just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about truth.  We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a 'sub-creator' and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbor, while materialistic 'progress' leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.”   “You mean,” asked Lew

being known

"What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it--the fact that he knows me.  I am graven on the palms of his hands.  I am never out of his mind.  All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters." ~ J. I. Packer, Knowing God , p. 41.

in order to rule, he must serve

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep [ preserve, guard ] it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."   (Genesis 2:15-17 ESV) "Adam had to subdue the earth and have dominion over it, and this he must do in a twofold sense: he must cultivate it, open it up, and so cause to come up out of it all the treasures which God has stored there for man's use; and he must also watch over it, safeguard it, protect it against all evil that may threaten it, must, in short, secure it against the service of corruption in which the whole of creation now groans. "But man can fulfill this calling over against the earth only if he does not break the bond of connection which unites him with heaven, only if he continues to believe God at His word and to obey His

the future not an open question

" [Christianity] insists upon a purposive and moral as over against a purely mathematical universe; it insists upon a personal God, as against impersonal ultimates whether of space-time or √©lan vital variety; it insists upon a divine creation as over against a naturalistic evolution; it insists that man’s uniqueness is a divine endowment rather than a human achievement; it insists that man’s predicament is not an animal inheritance nor a necessity of his nature but rather a consequence of his voluntary revolt against God; it insists that salvation can be provided only by God, as against the view that man is competent to save himself; it insists that the Scriptures are a revelation lighting the way to the divine incarnation in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of mankind, as against the view that they stand among many records of religious experience without a difference in kind; it insists that history is bound up with man’s acceptance or rejection of the God-man, rather than that hist

human significance

"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?"  (Psalm 8:3-4 ESV) "We must not belittle man's achievements. In science, for instance, man's achievements demonstrate that he is not junk, though the ends to which he often puts them show how lost he is.  Our forefathers, though they believed man was lost, had no problem concerning man's significance.  Man can influence history, including his own eternity and that of others.  This view sees man, as man, as something wonderful. "In contrast to this there is the rationalist who has determinedly put himself at the center of the universe and insists on beginning autonomously with only the knowledge he can gather, and has ended up finding himself quite meaningless. It comes to the same thing as Zen-Buddhism, which expresses so accurately the view of modern man: '

a dozen books

I was asked recently to come up with a short list of Christian books that have impacted my life, being books that I would also heartily recommend others to read.  I would add that such books should be read more than once.  And we should intersperse newer works with older works. They are as follows:  Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together .  Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541). Coleman, Robert. Master Plan of Evangelism . DeYoung, Kevin. Taking God at his Word . Keller, Tim. The Reason for God . Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity .  Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Evangelistic Sermons .  Luther, Martin. Commentary on Galatians .  Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism . Packer, J. I. Knowing God .  Schaeffer, Francis. True Spirituality . Stott, John.   The Cross of Christ. Addendum : I also recommend that you read -- and seek to master -- the works of one author, or a few authors, who wrote deeply on biblical and theological topics.  Over the past f

vestiges of beauty and creativity

“And God saw everything that he had made and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31) “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter” (Psalm 74:16–17) Randy Alcorn writes,  Eden has been trampled and vacated. Nevertheless, in nature and art and music we see and hear vestiges of God’s beauty and creativity.   To study creation is to study the Creator. Science should be worshipful discovery because the heavens and all creation declare God’s glory (Psalm 19:1).  God reveals His character in flowers, waterfalls, animals, and planets. God’s name is written large in nature in His beauty, organization, skill, precision, and attention to detail. He’s the Master Artist. We’re told that God’s “invisible qualities” can be “clearly seen” in “what has been made” (Romans 1:20).  This is God’s general revelation. Eden has been trampled, torched, savaged and vacated

the blessing of being human

And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28 ESV) Here is an excerpt from "The Blessing Of Being Human" , a sermon from Genesis 1:28-31.  Here's the outline of the passage... • Fruitfulness (v. 28a)  • Dominion over creatures (v. 28b) • Provision of food (v. 29) • Provision for creatures (v. 30) • A very good creation (v. 31)   "The blessing of being human is fulfilled ultimately by God’s Son , the Lord Jesus, who was prophesied to be the blessing  that would come to all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:2-3), and the King, the one like a Son of Man, who would come to  establish his righteous rule and subdue the earth (Daniel 7:13-14).    "Though being in nature God, he took on a human nature (Philippian 2:6-7), and being made

he created it, and did not let it go

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." (Revelation 4:11 ESV) "The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all." (Psalm 103:19 ESV) "To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:17 ESV) Understood in this way, the doctrine of creation and providence is rich in encouragement and comfort.  There is so much in life that is oppressive and that robs us of the strength to live and to act.  There are the adversities and disappointments which we meet on life's way.  There are those terrible calamities and disasters which sometimes cause hundreds and thousands of lives to be lost in nameless anguish.  But life in its ordinary course also can sometimes raise doubts in the mind about the providence of God.  Is not mystery the portion of all mankind

everything matters

he created them male and female

Here are some helpful articles regarding a complementarian view of men's and women's roles in marriage and ministry... A Vision for Biblical Complementarity . "Over the years I have come to see from Scripture and from life that manhood and womanhood are the beautiful handiwork of a  good and loving God." (John Piper) Unwilling to twist Scripture.   "And I must confess: attitudinally, I am an egalitarian. I find what scripture says on these matters very difficult to swallow  at times. However, I am positionally a complementarian because I can’t go against my conscience. For me at least, to read  these passages in an egalitarian way is to do some exegetical gymnastics in which one twists and turns the text to conform it  to their views. I may not be comfortable with my complementarian position, but I am unwilling to twist scripture into  something that it does not say."  (Daniel Wallace, Professor of New Testament, Dallas Theological Seminary) On 1 Timo

all three

In the Old Testament there were three key individuals who were mediators between the people and God: the prophet (who revealed God's will to them), the priest (who interceded for and represented people before God), and the king (who ruled the people with God's law, being under it himself).  These are sometimes called anointed ones, because they were installed into their office (or, role) by being anointed with oil or with the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes an individual might have two of these roles:  Melchizedek  was a priest and a king,  David was a king and a prophet, Ezekiel was a priest and a prophet .    As the Old Testament story unfolds, especially in the prophetic books, we see that God was foretelling and preparing for one person to come who would unite all three offices in himself.  He would be the Anointed One (Heb., messiah ; Gr. christos ).  It might be diagrammed this way... Herman Bavinck summarizes why it was necessary for God's Son, coming into the w

to dwell in the house of the Lord

"One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple."  (Psalm 27:4 ESV) "To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life means to be so vividly conscious of our fellowship with the living God that every morning, noon and night our thoughts go out to Him, that we hear his voice in the soul, that we are aware of his holy Presence within, experience his workings in our heart and in our conscience, and that we carefully avoid the things which we would not dare to do if God stood before us and spoke to us." (Abraham Kuyper, To Be Near Unto God )

anvil and hammer

Last eve I paused beside the blacksmith's door,    And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime; Then looking in, I saw upon the floor,    Old hammers worn with beating years of time. "How many anvils have you had," said I,    "To wear and batter all these hammers so?" "Just one," said he, and then with twinkling eye,    "The anvil wears the hammers out, you know." "And so," I thought, "The Anvil of God's Word    For ages skeptic blows have beat upon, Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,    The Anvil is unharmed, the hammers gone."                         "The Anvil of God's Word" by  John Clifford, D.D. 

do the next thing

"Do the Next Thing" was an anonymous poem that was  one of Elisabeth Elliot's favorites.  It's a good word for today as we often become overwhelmed with details or paralyzed with too many options.  We may want to see the outcome more clearly before we act.  Yet this poem reminds us there is a place for simple, faithful duty.  We need to act upon God's clearly-given will. "Just do the next thing..."  At an old English parsonage down by the sea, there came in the twilight a message to me. Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven. And all through the hours the quiet words ring, like a low inspiration, ‘Do the next thing.’ Many a questioning, many a fear, many a doubt hath its quieting here. Moment by moment, let down from heaven, time, opportunity, guidance are given. Fear not tomorrow, child of the King, trust that with Jesus, do the next thing. Do it immediately, do it with pr

the gospel beautifies the church

Here are some great snippets from Ray Ortlund, Jr., from  The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (Crossway, 2014)  . .. I want to be really forgiven of my real sins by a real Savior. God's final category for you is not your goodness versus your badness, but your union with Christ versus your distance from Christ. The beauty of human relationships, is the first thing that outsiders are likely to notice when they enter a church. The household of God must offer a clear and lovely alternative to the madness of this world. We either proudly believe we are too good to be judged, or we proudly believe we are too bad to be saved. When a whole church luxuriates in Christ alone, that church embodies a gospel culture. The beauty of love is the crown of a well-taught church. The gospel never advances without someone paying a price. The greatness of Christ creates courage in us.