Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2018

cross and manger

Carl Trueman explains Martin Luther's "theology of the cross"... "The theology of the cross is more than just a way of looking at God, however. For Luther, it brings to the fore both the depth of God’s love for sinful humanity, that God himself was willing to undergo such suffering, weakness and humiliation on behalf of helpless sinners, and also underlines that suffering and weakness is a central part of the Christian’s strength experience here on earth. In Christ, God has so identified himself with humanity as to become one with fellow humans. He has endured not only the mundane inconveniences of our existence but has even suffered in a supreme sense on our behalf, that suffering which is captured in a deep and inexplicable way in the cry of dereliction on the cross. These are, of course, deep theological waters, but for Luther the crucial dimension of God’s saving power was precisely this profound humiliation of himself in human weakness. He had a saying: Don’t

sufficiency of Christ and his Word

I have often thought of the similarity between the person of Christ and the written Word of God.  There is a duality of natures in each: Christ has two natures, divine and human; he is the God-man.  The Scriptures have dual authorship, again divine and human.  They are at the same time the words of human authors and the word of God as inerrant Author.   Christ himself is called the Word (John 1:1ff) and the Scripture is considered the living voice of God (Heb 3:7; 4:12).  Both are the revelation of God's character and will to us.  We do not know Christ apart from his recorded word (the Apostles' witness in Scripture; John 17:8), and we do not understand his written Word apart from submission to the Lord himself (John 5:39-40).  Author James White notes that this similarity also relates to the sufficiency of each for the life of the believer:  "I have often preached that Christ is a perfect Savior, that He possesses the power and the nature to save without fai

best reading -- part 3

Since the snow is still coming down outside, I'll continue the reviews of the 12 best books I read (or am still reading) in 2018.   Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason , by R. C. Sproul and Keith Matheson (Baker Books, 2014).  Excellent interaction with  issues related to chance, design, and causality, especially as put forward by proponents of the new physics.  Many years ago in seminary I had an  interest in this field and so did graduate research under Norman Geisler on "Reason, Rationality, and the New Physics."  I muddled through that  research and so, it's a great joy to find R. C.'s acumen put to this topic.  His classical training (and influence from John Gerstner, I would suppose) is so  helpful in making sense of the quantum world.  Or rather, making sense of those who are making nonsense of the quantum world.  Excellent  apologetic work on the value of logic, causality, and the scientific method.  Solar Queen (1956) and

best reading -- part 2

Continuing with the list of twelve best books I read this past year...   The Everlasting Man , G. K. Chesterton (1925).   I studied this work with a reading group I attend.  In his unique way of thinking and writing,  Chesterton deals with how Christianity, and Jesus in particular, is the fulfillment of the religious hopes of philosophers and pagans down through  history.  It's a very winsome presentation of historic Christianity.  This book was instrumental in moving C. S. Lewis from atheism to faith.  Lewis  wrote, "I read Chesterton's Everlasting Man and for the first time saw the whole Christian outline of history set out in a form that seemed to me to  make sense..."   Enough said.  The Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-42 , by Ian Toll (W. W. Norton & Co., 2012).  And I'll add to this the second of his trilogy,  The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-44 (Norton, 2016).  These are riveting narratives of the war agai

best reading in 2018

So, I made a list of the twelve best books I read this past year.  I don't know why I do this, but it seems appropriate to share this, rather than, say, my favorite dog videos or Instagram photos of what I'm eating tonight.  So, in no particular order I'll dive in:  Setting Our Affections upon Glory: Nine Sermons on the Gospel and the Church , by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Crossway, 2013).  At least once each year I  find myself reading a book of sermons preached by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981).  Simply put, he's just in a category by himself and his  sermons always feed my soul, as well as stimulate thought and affections.  Snippets: "There is only one thing [ the Christian can ] do with time, and  that is to take it and put it into the grand context of eternity."  And, "The great need of the church today, in our sadness and in our slowness, is to  discover the secret of the burning heart." The Christian View of Man , by J. Gresham Machen (Banner

why he came

Jesus made it clear that he came to our world on a mission .  His incarnation, and his life here, were filled with purpose.   By studying statements he  made that are recorded in the gospels we can see the purpose behind his coming.   Phrases like, "I came that..." or "I was sent to..." or "for this  purpose I..." will help us see what that is.  Below are listed ten statements the Lord made about his purpose for coming to earth.  (Parallel statements from the synoptic gospels are included in the parentheses.)   1)  To fulfill the Law and Prophets :   "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill  them."  (Matthew 5:17*) 2)   To proclaim the good news of the kingdom :   "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for  this purpose." (Luke 4:43; cf. Mark 1:38) 3)  To bring division and a sword:   "I have

book of acts intro

The book of Acts is an historical narrative written by Luke -- actually, it's  part 2 of his writings, with the Gospel of Luke being part 1.  It's a  chronicle of the early church from the ascension of our Lord Jesus to  Paul's first imprisonment in Rome.  It's called the "Acts of the Apostles",  but could easily be called the "Acts of the Holy Spirit" as the Lord is growing his  church with great power.  It's a book about faith, boldness, spiritual power, and the various  kinds of difficulties and persecution that the church receives. Transition .   But it's more than a mere history of the early church.  It's a book of  transition, from a small Jewish movement in Israel to a primarily Gentile  (non-Jewish) world movement expanding into the Roman world.  There's  also a transition from the Apostles in Jerusalem, Peter being prominent,  to the Apostle Paul and his companions in mission across the  Mediterranean.  We begin to see a d

the gospel of the prophets

For those of us reading through the Bible in 2018, we are nearing completion of the Old Testament and 3/4 of our way through the Bible! Historical note .  In moving from Zephaniah to Haggai you have jumped seventy years from the beginning of the exile of the Jews (and the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC) to the return of the exiles from Babylon back to Jerusalem.   Hence, the last three books of the Old Testament are called the "post-exilic prophets", which is a phrase you can use at almost any social gathering and people will take notice.   Mountain peaks.  The theme of Zephaniah is "the day of the Lord".   The day of the Lord usually refers to a period of cataclysmic judgment, and in reading the prophets one is not sure whether it is some calamity soon to come, like the fall of Jerusalem, or a great end-time, cosmic event.  Students of the Bible sometimes call this the "mountain peaks of prophecy" or "telescoping" prophecy.  [ See graphic belo

wisdom from will rogers

"It's a good thing we don't get all the government we pay for." "Last year we said, 'Things can't go on like this', and they didn't, they got worse." "This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer."   "There is nothing so stupid as the educated man if you get him off the thing he was educated in."    "Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."   "We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others."   ~ Will Rogers (1879--1935) 

problems with God's sovereignty

All of us at one time or other have had problems with understanding or accepting the doctrine of God's sovereignty.   J. I. Packer writes that sovereignty means that "God reigns."  He continues, "...we are constantly told in explicit terms that the Lord (Yahweh) reigns as king, exercising dominion over great and tiny things alike."  ( Concise Theology , p. 33)  The Westminster Shorter Catechism speaks of the decrees of God as "His eternal plan based on the purpose of His will, by which, for his own glory, He has foreordained everything that happens." (P&R, 1986) Here's a sampling of passages: "Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps."  (Psalm 135:6 ESV)  "...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?

a complete salvation

"And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." (John 1:16 ESV) "...who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places..." (Ephesians 1:3 ESV) "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. "  (Colossians 2:9-10 ESV) Your whole conduct through life depends upon the nature of the salvation of which you are a partaker by grace. Is it not a complete salvation—an absolutely perfect work—yes, the greatest work of God, because all the rest comes from it, and leads to it?  Is it not the infinitely wise plan of the eternal Trinity, for which everlasting glory is to be given to every divine attribute? Attend, O my soul, to the Scripture account of this salvation. Review the glory of it. Read again and again the revealed descriptions of it, till your heart be satisfied that this salvation is as perfect and complete as the Lord

before you leave a church

All of us in pastoral ministry have met with people who want to leave our churches.  The precipitating cause, or reasons, may be any one of a number of complaints, hurts, or differences.  Sometimes I've responded to these sessions with grace, gentleness, and compassion.  Sometimes, not so much.   Let me be clear that I'm not speaking about people who move away or people who have a real doctrinal or moral difference, but people who for one reason or another are not satisfied at one evangelical church and would rather go to another church in the same community.    Now, I believe people are free to go anywhere they want, no arguments there.  But here are five things I think should be considered before you leave one church for another:   1)  Remember that your leaving will hurt people.   That's just the nature of relationships in community.  All of us remember those times in our youth when we were romantically interested in someone and that person said to us, "I thin

safe at sea

"And so Noah was safe when the flood came; and was the great type and instance too of the verification of this proposition; he was put into a strange condition, perpetually wandering, shut up in a prison of wood, living upon faith, having never had the experience of being safe in floods. And so have l often seen young and unskilled persons sitting in a little boat, when every little wave sporting about the sides of the vessel, and every motion and dancing of the barge seemed a danger, and made them cling fast upon their fellows; and yet all the while they were as safe as if they sat under a tree, while a gentle wind shook the leaves into a refreshment and a cooling shade: And the unskilled, inexperienced Christian shrieks out whenever his vessel shakes, thinking it always in danger, that the watery pavement is not stable and resident like a rock; and yet all his danger is in himself, none at all from without: for he is indeed moving upon the waters, but fastened to a rock: faith

Ezekiel's temple and the city to come

There is little agreement among Bible scholars regarding interpretation of the last nine chapters of Ezekiel. It is, after all, a vision (40:2). How much of it is symbolic? Is any of it to be taken literally? Bob Utley at gives five possible interpretations of what this temple is: 1. It was never meant to be literally fulfilled, but was a literary way to reverse chapters 8-11. It was written to encourage the exiles. 2. It was conditional prophecy to which the Jews did not respond appropriately (i.e., sin of the post-exilic period, cf. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi). 3. It was to be fulfilled in the return from the Exile under Zerubbabel (prince of Judah, seed of David) and Joshua (seed of the last high priest before the exile). 4. It was fulfilled in Herod’s temple. 5. It will be fulfilled in an eschatological temple. Interpretation #5 might also be subdivided into two further possibilities: a) it is a temple in Israel during the Millennium (Rev. 20), what some

why I disabled comments on facebook

Update 9/14/2018 : imagine my chagrin when I discovered that you can't disable comments on Facebook!  Notifications, yes.  You can block others one at a time, but you can't stop comments wholesale.  In light of this I will either disable or delete the account entirely, or most likely, just use it for family, humor, and non-controversial stuff and post the articles I am reading somewhere else...  "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."  (James 1:19-20 ESV) I'm increasingly convinced that social media is not contributing to a reasoned and civil discourse in our country.  Recently, a popular (popular with some, and unpopular with many others) pastor/theologian posted a number of theological statements about social justice as taught in the Bible.  There was a lot of material to evaluate.  But social media posts came out -- both vehemently for

dogma and the church

Good theology is sound doctrine (teaching) about the truths of God, man, sin, and salvation.  It has almost always been forged in the heat of controversy, usually in the form of movements and teachings which challenge orthodoxy (sound teaching).  So, in response, distinctions must be made, and errors called out.  Below are a few excerpts from G. K. Chesterton's discussion about the early church and why it had an interest in dogma and heresy. ..  "Now that purity was preserved by dogmatic definitions and exclusions. It could not possibly have been preserved by anything else.  If the Church had not renounced the Manicheans it might have become merely Manichean.  If it had not renounced the Gnostics it might have become Gnostic."                  "The creed declared that man was sinful, but it did not declare that life was evil, and it proved it by damning those who did. The condemnation of the early heretics is itself condemned as something crabbed and narrow; but

church not a supermarket

"Many churches became more like voluntary associations: a supermarket of personal spiritual identities." "A church that fails to diagnose its own cultural infections will be absorbed into the bloodstream of this age that is passing away." "The church is neither a central agency with branch offices nor a group of individuals who decide to follow Jesus and therefore decide to start a church. Rather, it is a supernatural and eschatological reality that descends from heaven in the power of the Spirit through the means of grace (see Rev 21:9 – 27)." "Just as each believer’s salvation finds its origin in God’s sovereign grace, so too the church collectively is the result of God’s gracious plan, not ours. It is not simply a voluntary association that exists as the result of people choosing the same preferences." "Its words and actions are always provisional and fallible — ministerial, but not magisterial. The church is the servant, not th

a worthy cause

"To hear the voice of God in Holy Scripture oneself, and to help others to hear it, is a worthy cause to which to devote one’s resources; to be commissioned to devote them to this cause is a sacred trust, not to be undertaken lightly, not to be refused irresponsibly, but to be fulfilled thankfully."  ~F. F. Bruce, concluding sentence from In Retrospect , quoted by Timothy Grass in F. F. Bruce: A Life (Paternoster, 2011).

the nature of grace

"Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit . . . with the princes of his people." (Psalm 113:5–8)  "This psalm is about the nature of grace: the stooping of the Most High. It has been said that if you don’t understand this psalm, you don’t understand any of the psalms. In Psalm 113 God is pictured as the Almighty— El Shaddai —who brings praise to his all-powerful name. God’s name is so great that it requires that even the enemies of God—the nations (you and me)—be brought in. This is the gospel: those who are far off are brought near by the blood of the cross. Praise is a form of sanity where you suspend thoughts of the future and dwell in the eternal now lifting up God as the center. True praise involves paying attention to God with a surrendered heart. Even to glance at us requires God’s condescension. What we might expe

generalizing generations

There's some good insight in these articles (cited below) on the way we speak of "generations" and how we dismiss views based upon perceived generational differences... "There are, in fact, no 'generations' except in the biological sense. There are only categories and crises of temperament [which] crisscross and defy and deny chronology."  ( Cynthia Ozick )  Note to boomer self: not all boomers are boomers...  "Almost all of the truly interesting so-called Boomers, that is to say, are in fact anti-Boomers."  ( Joshua Glenn )   "When you’re noticeably younger than the people we tend to see in leading roles on TV and in the movies, or noticeably older, your age is registered and then deployed as a causal agent — almost always in order to dismiss your ideas."  ( Alan Jacobs ) I am reminded again (in the last verse of the Old Testament) just how the work of God in conversion changes the way we view those older and younger than our

reading jeremiah

"I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.  I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.   I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul."  (Jeremiah 32:39-41 ESV) Throughout his ministry Jeremiah reveals how people tend to "heal wounds lightly" (See chapters 6--8).  To say that "mistakes were made" is a useless band-aid.  Idolatry, for example, is a serious breach of a covenant relationship with the Lord.  It's like adultery to marriage.   To confess sins superficially in order to feel better is not the same thing as true repentance, which is forsaking sins -- often painful -- in order to actually live better.  The Lord, through Jeremiah, often uses t