Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mirrors of Christ

Men are mirrors, or “carriers” of Christ to other men. Sometimes unconscious carriers. This “good infection” can be carried by those who have not got it themselves. People who were not Christians themselves helped me to Christianity. But usually it is those who know Him that bring Him to others. That is why the Church, the whole body of Christians showing Him to one another, is so important. C.S. Lewis

Letting Your Light Shine
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” ―Matthew 5:16

O Lord, as You sent Christ to the world, so now You send us to represent Him; to reflect His image; to show His love. Having been engrafted into His Body by our baptism, help us to remember that we are always in Him and that we are always being watched by the world. Amen.

Advent Action
At night, turn out all the lights and sit in the darkness for a few moments. Then turn on one lamp and see what a difference one light makes. Remember, like Christ, you are a light to the world.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Eternity Steps Into Time

 Jesus came into the world to enable God to take on the likeness of a man, in order that thenceforth men and women might be encouraged to aspire after the likeness of God. Eternity steps into Time, and Time loses itself in Eternity. Hence Jesus; in the eyes of God a man, and in the eyes of men and women; God.

In humanistic times such as ours, a young woman would regard a message from the Angel Gabriel that she might expect to give birth to a son to be called the Son of the Highest as ill-tidings of great sorrow and a slur on the local family planning center. As a matter of fact under existing conditions it is extremely improbable that Jesus would have been permitted to be born. Mary's pregnancy, in poor circumstances, and with the father unknown, would have been an obvious case for an abortion; and her talk of having conceived by the Holy Spirit would have pointed to the need for psychiatric treatment, and made the case for terminating her pregnancy even stronger. Our generation, needing a saviour more, perhaps, than any ever other, would be too humane to allow one to be born, too enlightened to permit the light of the world to shine in its darkness.

It was precisely to replenish the world's stock of faith that the Bethlehem birth took place. Seen with the eyes of faith, the shepherds rejoice, wise men prostrate and offer gifts, the very stars rearranged to guide them. Seen with the eyes of faith everything falls perfectly in place, faith being the key which enables us to decipher God's otherwise inscrutable communications.

Malcom Muggeridge, Jesus - the Man who Lives

The Magnificat

46 And Mary said:
          “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47      And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48      For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
          For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
49      For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
          And holy is His name.
50      And His mercy is on those who fear Him
          From generation to generation.
51      He has shown strength with His arm;
          He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52      He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
          And exalted the lowly.
53      He has filled the hungry with good things,
          And the rich He has sent away empty.
54      He has helped His servant Israel,
          In remembrance of His mercy,
55      As He spoke to our fathers,
          To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
―Luke 1:46-55

Father, we thank You for sending Your Son to take on our flesh; to be our Mediator and Savior. We are grateful for Your faithful servant, Mary, who remembered Your covenant promises and who, by faith, walk with You and delivered Her son and our Lord. Teach us to know and remember Your promises to us and grant us the faith to see beyond the moment and to stand firmly on Your word. Amen.

Advent Action
List tree promises from God’s word that provide comfort and hope to you and your family.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Trading Mirth for Madness

"You cannot be too solemn about golf to be a good golfer; you can be a great deal too solemn about Christianity to be a good Christian. You may put into your neckties solemnity, and nothing but solemnity, because neckties are not the whole of your life—at least, I hope not. But in anything that does cover the whole of your life—in your philosophy and your religion—you must have mirth. If you do not have mirth you will certainly have madness." G.K. Chesterton, Lunacy and Letters

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3

Grant us, O God who hung the stars, a holy sense of humor akin to humility; that having a sane estimate of who we are in Christ and who Christ is as your Son, we might allow ourselves and others to try and to fail. Let us walk humbly today. And let humility grow in us habits of patience, kindness, and love—love that is not irritable, or arrogant, or resentful, or rude.

Advent Action
Bless someone this week for the love of Christ through an act of service done in kindness and humility. Take out the trash every night; fix something for someone; rake leaves or shovel snow for a neighbor; offer to baby-sit for a friend. Smile while you work—especially at yourself. While you are “doing your good deed,” repeat a Christ­mas verse or a line from a carol as a prayer.

[From: Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton]

Christin's Quote Book

  • A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. – Herm Albright
  • Fortune does not change men; it unmasks them – Suzanne Necker
  • If you speak the truth, have a foot in the stirrup. – Turkish proverb
  • They always talk who never think. – Matthew Prior
  • There are two ways of telling the truth: anonymously and posthumously. – Thomas Sowell

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Origins of Advent

This is the first Sunday of the Advent season, which marks the beginning of the new Church year. Happy New Year! Advent is an individual, ecclesiastical, and national liturgy, but as is true of all liturgy or form, it can point to a true or a false declaration. There is much in the national liturgy that points away from the advent of Christ. Is this a season which simply culminates in the Christian equivalent of “Independence day”; another paid holiday; another day off; another day or season of self-indulgence, or should we see the annual celebration of Advent as much more? This is the season that marks the days leading up to the moment in history when God became a man, celebrating the greatest gift ever given.

A Sense of History and a Sense of Destiny
We must know where we have come from if we’re to have any hope of knowing where we’re going. This is why our doctrine of origins is so vitally important. I’m not simply speaking of the origins of the Christmas holiday, but of what lies behind it. So, what is the origin of the advent of Jesus Christ, and how important is the advent?

The Advent Story is the Most Ancient Story
It’s not simply an isolated story alongside many other stories, it’s the central story around which all else revolves. To miss it, is to miss everything. It’s a story that starts before human history began, since Christ was “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4). “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’ ” (John 8:58). It’s a story that embraces all of human history, for we were “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.” Human history is the story of redemption. Moreover, it’s a story that is still being told. This is the good news—the Gospel—God delivering on His promise. To understand this story is to understand where we came from, where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.

Pastor Booth, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Nacogdoches, TX

Object of Love
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” ―1 John 4:9-11

O Lord, as we enter a new Church year help us to refocus our attention on Your greatest gift to us, Your Son and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Establish in us an awareness of His presence and His importance for our whole life. May we come to think of our own lives in terms of His life and sacrifice for us. Remind us that He came to save us from our sins, to reconcile us to You, and transform us into His image. AMEN.

Advent Action
Give an unexpected gift to someone this advent season (you don’t have to wait for Christmas Day). The gift doesn’t have to be expensive (it can be homemade); but your gift should be thoughtful. Giving, in imitation of God, is an act of love.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy New Year!

Tomorrow starts the new Church year. I have previously offered a collection of Advent/Christmas Readings (which has been updated for 2011), and which you can download HERE. Since some of you have used these readings in the past, I plan to offer a new set of daily readings this year on the blog. I will write some of them and others will be taken from noted writers like Chesterton, Lewis, Sayers, Muggeridge, etc. Each reading will begin with a devotional thought, followed by a Scripture reading, prayer and suggested advent action. I hope these will be useful to you and your family.

Advent is a period of great anticipatory joy—it’s a time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ arrival in Bethlehem as a helpless infant. In the Western liturgy, Advent begins four Sundays prior to December 25—the Sunday closest to November 30. Because Christmas falls on a different day of the week each year, the number of days varies from year-to-year. This year, since Christmas is on a Sunday, the Advent Season is at its longest (28 days).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Permission Granted

I have faults, short-comings, quirks, failures, oddities, annoyances, inconsistencies, immaturities, insecurities and disappointments. Oh, and I’m a big sinner too. There, I said it, and I hereby grant you permission to say it about me as well. That’s right, you can talk about me; you can even talk about me even behind my back. You’re likely going to do it anyway and probably already have (if you know me). That’s what people do; they talk about people. Now I don’t want to unduly surprise you, but folks are talking about you as well. They do it a lot. You’re an interesting person, and we want to figure you out; we want to learn from you, even from your shortcomings. In some ways (perhaps), we want to be more like you. In other ways, we hope to avoid being like you. This is one of the reasons God puts us in families, churches and communities. We learn a lot from one another; positively and negatively.

Now, with that permission granted, I do have a few guidelines for your conversation about me. As you talk about my sins (and other deficiencies), please do not sin yourself.

  1. Speak the truth, but speak it in love (Eph. 4:15).
  2. Make sure your criticisms are constructive (Eph. 4:29).
  3. If you’re angry with me, come see me soon (Eph. 4:26), I don’t want the devil to get between us and hurt our relationship. You can talk to me about me.
  4. Allow yourself no gossip, giving or receiving (1 Tim. 5:13).
  5. Guard your heart, remember grace, mercy and kindness, and grant me the benefit of the doubt (Eph. 4:31-32).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

An Act of Thanksgiving to God for Great Blessings

O God, it is good to be alive, and numbered with
the men whom thou hast made:
I thank thee for thy gift of life.

O God, it is good to have the power of thought, and
to seek and learn and know:
I thank thee for thy gift of mind.

O God, it is good to dwell beneath the sun in the
world which is thy handiwork:
I thank thee for earth's beauty, and thy rule
within its laws.

O God, it is good to come to each new day, and to
find the passing years a cure for wounds innumerable,
I thank thee for the ministries of time.

O God, it is good to count in word and deed
for ends beyond our own:
I thank thee for thy use of me if I have been
of any service to thy purposes.

O God, it is good to rejoice and to be glad,
I thank thee for each person, for each experience of life,
that has brought me happiness.

O God, it is good to feel the disciplines
that school the spirit,
I thank thee for the trials and troubles
which have wrought in me some hardihood of soul.

O God, it is good to have thine everlasting arms
beneath us,
I thank thee now for all thy mercies,
both temporal and spiritual,
those I have known, those I have not recognized,
wherewith thou hast upheld me in
thy wisdom, power, and love.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heav'nly host:
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Miles Lowell Yates (1890-1956)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Deep Grace

To be gracious is nice, attractive and pleasant. But to extend true grace (in the biblical sense), is far deeper than a mere social grace; it’s even more than undeserved favor. We’ve all been the recipients of kindness or gifts that were not particularly deserved; blessings that seem to come from nowhere. For these we should be grateful and, as a matter of course, we should frequently be the source of such blessings to family, friends and strangers. Deep grace takes it several steps further; this kind of grace is ill-deserved favor. It’s what Jesus extends to His people on the cross. He shows favor to those who have really offended and sinned against Him, and He shows that favor at His own expense.

6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. ―Romans 5:6-11

If the offended God, who is holy and perfect, can extend His grace (His ill-deserved favor) to sinners like us, then what should we, the recipients of such grace, extend to those who have sinned against us? Are we full of His deep grace? This has some very practical applications for all of us. As imitators of our heavenly Father, we should be the picture of deep grace. We should be people who are not primarily concerned about demanding justice for ourselves, but rather extending grace―ill-deserved favor―toward those who have offended us. That’s not to say that offenders should not repent of their sins, confess them, and ask for forgiveness (that does make reconciliation much easier). Godly grace, however, lays down its life even while the sin is still present; it takes the hit; it pays the price. Grace is motivated by love for the object of grace. It’s a sacrifice (which is what love is); it’s a free gift for the good of its recipient. The giving of this kind of grace is an act of self-denial in pursuit of peace. Jesus was our Peace Offering. He bore our sins in His body. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). When the grace comes first (as it did with Christ), then it is common for the sinner to come to see his sins in the light of grace.

This is an issue that comes up repeatedly in all of our lives. In a fallen world there are lots of sins and sinners. We are offenders and we are sometimes the offended. And so we must regularly ask: Who do you need to be reconciled with and what price are you willing to pay to accomplish that reconciliation? What price did Christ pay to be reconciled with you?

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. ―Ephesians 4:30-32―5:1-2

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Loving the Real Jesus

It’s fairly easy to love the abstract, invisible Jesus. He never gets in the way; He never tells us what to do; and He’s there when we need Him. Of course, this is the Jesus of our imagination, not the Jesus that reveals Himself in the Bible.

Now the real Jesus expects considerably more. He calls us to things like sacrifice, suffering and self-denial. He places us in His Body; a Body of real people with names and personalities and He insists that we love them, and forgive them, and put up with them, and honor them, etc. Moreover, Jesus says that there are two primary ways that people will know that we love Him. First, if we love Him we keep His commandments” (John 14:14), and His commandments are not burdensome to us (1 John 5:3). All of His commandments are concerned with loving God and loving our neighbors. Second, we love Him when we love one another (John 13:35). The invisible realities of the heart are always seen: “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).

The Bible gives us some powerful metaphors that teach us how we’re to express our love for Jesus. The first one is seen how we conduct ourselves as members in the household of God (Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 3:15). This is not the invisible church, but the church where you’re a member; the place where people have names and faces; even the ones that are hard to love. We love Jesus when we love His Body. The second metaphor is similar, in that we are to love the bride of Christ, (which is the Church). Now she still has spots and blemishes, but Jesus is at work removing those and is busy beautifying His bride (Eph. 5:25-27). A third picture of our love for Jesus is seen in how we treat His brethren. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matt. 25:40).

All the expressions of love (i.e., sacrifice), that are shown toward those in the church are the true expression of love for Jesus; anything less is less. In other words, if we don’t love the church (i.e., the Body, the bride, the household), then we don’t really love Jesus at all.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Christin's Quote Book

  • Before borrowing money from a friend, decide which you need most. – Unknown
  • Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not re-heat his sins for breakfast. – Marlene Dietrich
  • It’s a sad house where the hen crows louder than the cock. – Scottish Proverb
  • The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. – Flannery O’Connor
  • Experience is a good teacher, but she sends in terrific bills. – Minna Antrim

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Under Orders

"It was not accident that brought Rebecca to the well to welcome Abraham's servant (Gen. 24), or that sent Joseph into Egypt (Gen. 45:8; 50:20: 'God meant it for good'), or guided Pharaoh's daughter to the ark among the flags (Ex. 2), or that, later, directed the millstone that crushed Abim­elech's head (Judges 9:53). or winged the arrow shot at a venture to smite the king in the joints of the armor (I Kings 22:34). Every historical event is rather treated as an item in the orderly carrying out of an underlying Divine purpose; and the historian is continually aware of the pres­ence in history of Him who gives even to the lightning a charge to strike the mark (Job 36:32)."
B.B. Warfield

Saturday, November 19, 2011


The Apostle Paul instructs Pastor Timothy in some of his tasks as a pastor when he says to him (and to all pastors): “reprove, rebuke and exhort will all longsuffering and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). As ministers of the Word and Sacraments this pastoral work comes in many forms: from the pulpit, the lectern, articles and books, and in this case, a pastoral blog. Reproof, rebuke and exhortation involves both positive and negative words, all of which have as their goal the formative (positive) discipline in the lives of God’s people. Most issues cut across the board, but certainly some will apply more or less to a given individual at a particular time. Sometimes we’ll be reminded of what we already know, sometimes we’ll be convicted, and sometimes we’ll feel encouraged. Each of these, when received with a humble heart, will move us forward in our sanctification.

Charles Spurgeon wrote a couple of books titled: John Ploughman’s Talks, and John Ploughman’s Pictures. In the preface to the latter volume, he said: “Ploughman is a name I may justly claim. Every minister has put his hand to the plow; and it is his business to break up the fallow ground.” Here is a sample of his opening chapter:

Last time I made a book I trod on some people’s corns and bunions, and they wrote me angry letters, asking, “Did you mean me?” This time, to save them the expense of a halfpenny card, I will begin my book by saying

Whether I please or whether I tease,
I’ll give you my honest mind;
If the cap should fit, pray wear it a bit,
If not, you can leave it behind.

No offence is meant; but if anything in these pages should come home to a man, let him not send it next door, but get a coop for his own chickens. What is the use of reading or hearing for other people? We do not eat and drink for them: why should we lend them our ears and not our mouths? Please then, good friend, if you find a hoe on these premises, weed your own garden with it…. so, though I am not a hatter, I will again turn cap-maker, and those who have heads may try on my wares; those who have none won’t touch them. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's Dominion We're After

But it is dominion that we are after.
Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after.
Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after.
Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest.
That's what Christ has
commissioned us to accomplish.
We must win the world
with the power of the Gospel.
And we must never settle
for anything less.
George Grant

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How Do You Look? Changing the Inside First (3 of 3)

God’s Work of Changing Us Begins Where it is the Ugliest and Most Corrupt:
  • He renews our hearts “ the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)
  • He renews our minds, (Rom. 12; Eph. 4)
  • He makes us new creatures, (2 Cor. 5:17)
  • He conforms us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29)
  • We are His workmanship (Eph. 2:10)

God Changes the Outside Last:
  • “As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake.” (Ps. 17:15)
  • “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2) 

We might go on focusing on the outside. We might impress our friends. And we might even deceive ourselves. But until we own-up to what we look like on the inside we can never be helped. If we ever get a glimpse of how ugly we really are, then we will flee to the only remedy which is Christ.

The mirror of the heart is God’s Word:
  • “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:23-25)
  • “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter)
  • “Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Then stand back and see God’s transforming grace! He will take the dirty and make it clean. He will take the ugly and make it beautiful. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How Do You Look? The Inside Story (2 of 3)

We may make light of the physical since in reality it’s the least of our problems. But when we pull back the curtain of our physical bodies, there’s no more room for light-heartedness. Suddenly, things become dark and serious, and we stand naked before God.

Scripture Paints an Ugly Picture of Us
  • Heart“The heart is more deceitful than all else an is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer.17:9); “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceeds the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23)
  • Mouth and tongue: “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.”  (James 3:6)
  • Mind:  “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor: 4:4)
  • Feet: “Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths.” (Rom. 3:15-16)
  • Thoughts and intentions: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5)
  • The whole body: “And you were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Eph. 2:1)
  • General: “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19); “Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:7-8)

The Bible is Describing Each of Us
This is not just some people, somewhere, a long time ago, this is the mirror that exposes each of us for what we are on the inside. We spend a lot of time trying to impress other people, but God is not impressed.
  • “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”  (John 5:44)
  • “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (2 Cor. 10:18).
  • “For who regards you as superior?  And what do you have that you did not receive?  But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor.4 :7)
  • “Then it came about when they entered, that he looked at Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.’  But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam.16:6)

You can wash and powder a hog, but he's still a hog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How Do You Look? (1 of 3)

You’re Standing in Front of The Mirror:

  • Hair: too curly, too strait, too thick, too thin, wrong color, or perhaps you just don’t have any.
  • Face: too round, too long, lopsided, nose is crooked, ears stick out, lips too thick or thin.
  • Body: too tall, too short, to fat, too skinny, legs too long, no neck, sway-backed, hunch-backed, pigeon-toed, knock-kneed, or bow-legged.
  • General: something is either too big or too little, or you have a blemish, or a scar, or perhaps a birthmark that looks like a pig in the middle of your back.
  • Other: you’re clumsy, slow, weak, dumb, or born without a personality.

Even These “So-called” Physical Defects Come From God
  • “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker; an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth!  Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’...” (Isa. 45:9)
  • “And the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I the Lord?’“  (Ex. 4:11)

We may kid around a bit about all this, but the truth of the matter is that many are quite angry with God concerning the hand they’ve been dealt. But this body is but a dim reminder of our real condition. If your body and mind were suddenly made perfect they couldn’t remain that way for a moment. The reason being that the body is but a container, and the container is affected by that which it holds.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Christin's Quote Book

  • Work as if you didn’t need the money, love as if you’ve never been hurt, and dance as if no one’s watching. – Unknown
  • Our names are labels, plainly printed on the bottled essence of our past behavior. – Logan Pearsall Smith
  • Men show their character in nothing more than by what they think laughable. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Popularity?  It’s glory’s small change. – Victor Hugo
  • The fruits of philosophy are the important thing, not the philosophy itself. When we ask the time, we don’t want to know how watches are made. – Georg Christopher Lichtenburg

How May God Be Known?

“How can we discover whether there is a God at all? I have something rather simple to say about that question at the very start. It is something that seems to me to be rather obvious, and yet it is something that is quite generally ignored. It is simply this—that if we are really to know anything about God it will probably be because God has chosen to tell it to us. Many persons seem to go on a very different assumption. They seem to think that if they are to know anything about God they must discover God for themselves. That assumption seems to me to be extremely unlikely. Just supposing for the sake of argument that there is a being of such a kind as that He may with any propriety be called “God,” it does seem antecedently very improbable that weak and limited creatures of a day, such as we are, should discover Him by our own efforts without any will on His part to make Himself known to us. At least, I think we can say that a god who could be discovered in that way would hardly be worth discovering. A mere passive subject of human investigation is certainly not a living God who can satisfy the longing of our souls... A divine being that could be discovered by my efforts, apart from His gracious will to reveal Himself to me and to others, would be either a mere name for a certain aspect of man’s own nature, a God that we could find within us, or else at best a mere passive thing that would be subject to investigation like the substances that are analyzed in a laboratory. I think we ought to stick to that principle rather firmly. I think we ought to be rather sure that we cannot know God unless God has been pleased to reveal Himself to us.”

―J. Gresham Machen, The Christian Faith in the Modern World

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Progress and the Fall

Without the doctrine of the Fall all idea of progress is unmeaning. [Some] say that there was not a Fall but a gradual rise. But the very word "rise" implies that you know toward what you are rising. Unless there is a standard you cannot tell whether you are rising or falling. But the main point is that the Fall like every other large path of Christianity is embodied in the common language talked on the top of an omnibus. Anybody might say, "Very few men are really Manly." Nobody would say, "Very few whales are really whaley."

If you wanted to dissuade a man from drinking his tenth whisky you would slap him on the back and say, "Be a man." No one who wished to dissuade a crocodile from eating his tenth explorer would slap it on the back and say, "Be a crocodile." For we have no notion of a perfect crocodile; no [record] of a whale expelled from his whaley Eden. If a whale came up to us and said: "I am a new kind of whale; I have abandoned whalebone," we should not trouble. But if a man came up to say, "I am a new kind of man. I am the super-man. I have abandoned mercy and justice"; we should answer, "Doubtless you are new, but you are not nearer to the perfect man, for he has been already in the mind of God. We have fallen with Adam and we shall rise with Christ; but we would rather fall with Satan than rise with you."

G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cutting Across the Lines

“In the church at Antioch the Christians included Jews and Gentiles and reached all the way from Herod’s foster brother to the slaves; and the naturally proud Greek Christian Gentiles of Macedonia showed a practical concern for the material needs of the Christian Jews in Jerusalem. The observable and practical love among true Christians that the world has a right to be able to observe in our day certainly should cut without reservation across such lines as language, nationalities, national frontiers, younger and older, colors of skin, levels of education and economics, accent, line of birth, the class system in any particular society, dress, short or long hair among whites and African and non-African hairdos among blacks, the wearing of shoes and the non-wearing of shoes, cultural differentiations and the more traditional and less traditional forms of worship.”
Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the 20th Century, p. 140.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Hot Tub Experience

“…the hot tub experience is sensuous, relaxing, floppy, laid-back: not in any way demanding... but very, very nice, even to the point of being great fun.”

“Many today want Christianity to be like that, and labor to make it so. The ultimate step, of course, would be to clear church auditoriums of seats and install hot tubs in their place; then there would never be any attendance problems....”

“But if there were no more to our Christianity than hot tub factors—a self-absorbed hedonism of relaxation and happy feelings, while dodging tough tasks, unpopular stances, and exhausting relationships—we should fall short of biblical God-centeredness and the cross-bearing life to which Jesus calls us, and advertise to the world nothing more than our own decadence.”

―J.I. Packer 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Church Attendance (10 of 10)

From a piece written by Greg L. Bahnsen, titled: “Is It Our Moral Obligation to Attend Church?”

Assembling For, and Participating in, Worship is Explicitly Required
The New Testament normative pattern, then, is for God’s people to gather together on the Lord’s day as “the church” for the specific purpose of worship as defined by God’s word (praise, corporate prayer, hymns, Scripture reading, authoritative preaching, and the Lord’s Supper) under the oversight of the elders.

It is nothing less than the moral obligation of believers to attend these worship assemblies and not have other interests or activities take priority over them―precisely because assembling for worship is a matter of obedience to God’s word, rather than personal discretion.

The New Testament, no less than the Old, requires us to assemble for the purpose of worship. This was the apostolic pattern, as we see in these words: “If therefore the whole church be assembled together..., so he will fall down and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed” (1 Cor. 14:23-25).

The New Testament explicitly commands that we not voluntarily absent ourselves from the church’s recognized gathering for ordained worship. “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works, not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another” (Heb. 10:24-25).

When we miss attending the church’s worship service or do not participate in its activities, we are not living up to the Scriptural command for us to stand together in worship: “that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6; cf. Eph. 5:19-21). It is expected that believers will regularly partake of the Lord’s Supper (Jn. 6:53; 1 Cor. 10:17; 11:24-26), and when it is served, the New Testament exhorts believers to (examine themselves and thereby) actually participate in the eating and drinking (1 Cor. 11:27-28).

We conclude by seeing, therefore, that congregational worship is not a matter of entertainment and personal discretion (e.g. "shall we go to church or brunch this morning?"). Nor is it an informal get-together with other Christian friends where religious activities take place (e.g., "we met at their house, sang together and prayed"). God's holy and authoritative word says more.
Scripture makes it our moral obligation not to forsake the assembling of God's flock "as the church" for the specific purpose of corporate worship, as defined by the Lord, under the leading of the shepherds. If we profess to obey Him in all things, let us not be lax or self-willed especially at this important point! It is the highest privilege of the Christian to stand with fellow believers as God's redeemed people, in His presence, to render to Him the praise, adoration and worship which are due to His name. It is preparation for eternity.

[1] The Old Testament festivals of firstfruits and pentecost (looking forward to Christ's resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit) were celebrated on the first day of the week (Lev.23:11, 16, 35, 39). Likewise, the new creation began on the first day of the week, having been brought about by Christ's resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-28; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:13-19).
2.That is, a time of instruction based upon God's revealed word. This entails a number of things, including:
(1) "exhortation" (PARAKLASIS; Rom. 12:8; 1 Tim. 4:13; 1 Thess. 2:3; cf. Acts 13:15; 1 Cor. 14:3; Heb. 13:22), which involves beseeching men in earnest (e.g., Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 5:20);
(2) "teaching" (didasko; Acts 18:11; 1 Tim. 4:13; 6:2; 2 Tim. 2:2; cf. 1 Cor. 14:9), which includes authoritatively laying down the truth (1 Tim. 4:6) and delivering commands (1 Tim. 4:11); and
(3) "proclamation" (karusso) - a word which was used to cover a wide variety of discourses; the preaching of the prophets to God's people (Joel 2:1 LXX), synagogue lessons among the Jews (Acts 15:21; Rom. 2:21; cf. Lk. 4:19, 21; Mk. 1:39; Acts 9:20), evangelistic heralding to unbelievers (Matt. 4:17; 20:7, 27; Lk. 24:47; Acts 8:5; 1 Cor. 1:23), and the declarations of the full theological system to believers (Acts 20:20, 25, 27), proclamations within the Christian assembly (2 Cor. 11:4), words entailing comfort and exhortation among converts (1 Thess. 2:9-14) or against heresy in the congregation (1 Cor. 15:11ff.), and pastoral addresses to professing believers who are tempted to turn away from sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2-4).
The recent, novel opinion that authoritative preaching of a sermon (exhortation or lesson monologue) is inappropriate within a Christian assembly of believers has no linguistic or theological basis in Scripture, as we see above. Note the example of Paul in Acts 20:7-9. We read that he "discoursed"; according to Kettle, the Greek word refers here to "the delivering of religious lectures." Further, we read that Paul continued his "speech" past midnight; the Greek word (LOGOS) does not (especially unqualified, in the singular, and with definite article) mean dialogue or joint discussion, but an individual's oral presentation, message, or statement (cf. Mk. 2:2; Matt. 15:12; Lk. 1:39; Jn. 4:41; Acts 10:44; 15:32).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Church Attendance (9 of 10)

From a piece written by Greg L. Bahnsen, titled: “Is It Our Moral Obligation to Attend Church?”

Worship Assemblies are Not Just Any Gathering of Believers
In the New Testament, those assemblies which constituted the corporate worship of God were understood as something clearly distinct from informal household fellowship and eating, even though the worship assembly may have been in an actual home. Paul distinguishes between “the Lord’s Supper” at the assembly and the ordinary meals in one’s house (1 Cor. 11:20, 22).

Being in “the church” at worship is, thus, something more than any normal gathering with other believers―even if at the gathering we engage in eating, singing, and prayer. This is evident from the way Paul speaks, for instance, in 1 Corinthians 14:35. He differentiates the situation of a woman asking question at “church” from her asking them “at home.”
Moreover, despite the fact that “the church” is the body of believers (i.e. the people), Paul uses the following language: “it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church.” The expression “in the church” cannot mean within any gathering of believers, or else women would be prohibited from ever speaking when other Christians are present! “In the church” obviously denotes the assembly of believers for the special purpose of ordained worship.

Worship assemblies for Christians are to be characterized by good order, not confusion (1 Cor. 14:26, 33, 40). Thus New Testament congregational worship is led and governed by the overseers (elders who “take care of the Church of God,” 1 Tim. 3:4-5). That this is the rule for New Testament worship is illustrated by the fact that Paul wrote to deliver instructions for the life of the church, including its corporate worship services, to pastors like Timothy (e.g. 1 Tim. 2:1,8,11; 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2).

These pastoral letters had as one of their purposes that men “may know how they ought to conduct themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15). In short, the assembling of God’s flock is under the oversight of the shepherds (1 Peter 5:-12) who “preside” over it in all matters, including worship (1 Thess. 5:12-13; Acts 20:28).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Church Attendance (8 of 10)

From a piece written by Greg L. Bahnsen, titled: “Is It Our Moral Obligation to Attend Church?”

The New Testament Normative Example
Regarding the Old Testament Sabbath, New Testament believers confess that Jesus Christ is “the Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). In the New Testament age, it is thus appropriately called “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). Scripture shows that since the Lord’s resurrection, this day has been changed from the last to the first day of the week. The Old Testament festivals of firstfruits and Pentecost (looking forward to Christ’s resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit) were celebrated on the first day of the week (Lev.23:11, 16, 35, 39). Likewise, the new creation began on the first day of the week, having been brought about by Christ’s resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-28; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:13-19).

Regarding the Old Testament temple, New Testament believers confess that they themselves now constitute “the temple of God” wherein God’s Spirit dwells (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Pet. 2:5). The outward trappings of Old Covenant worship have changed in the days of the New Covenant. The basic moral obligation of “holy convocation” has not.

The early church of Jesus Christ regularly gathered together as “God’s temple” for corporate worship, daily at first (Acts 2:46) and eventually weekly on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2), “the Lord’s day.” The early church did not break with the long standing requirement, revealed previously in God’s word, for believers to participate in worship assemblies―even when they saw their New Covenant practice (outwardly changed) against the background of the Old Covenant pattern.

The priestly ritual of the temple has passed away, to be sure; yet, God’s New Covenant people looked at their practice of worship in the light of it. For instance, “through Him (Christ) then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name” (Heb. 13:15), or again “you are a spiritual house for a holy preisthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

From various indications in the New Testament we learn what constitutes the congregational worship of the New Covenant people of God. It includes at least the following items:

1.    Praise to God (Heb. 13:15; 1 Peter 2:9 [Is. 43:21]),
2.    Corporate Prayer (1 Tim. 2:8; Cf. Phil. 4:6)
3.    With Congregational Amens (1 Cor. 14:16),
4.    Hymns (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19),
5.    Scripture Reading (Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:13),
6.    Preaching (1 Tim. 4:6-16; 2 Tim. 4:2; Acts 20:7-9).
7.    The Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Cf. 1 Cor. 11:20).

We should remember that God’s word is normative for us; it is a law, even when not prefaced with a formula such as “Thou shalt do...” What we find in the New Testament practice of worship, accordingly, is the standard of worship to which we must adhere.

Worship is defined, not by personal whims and religious imagination, but solely by the revealed word of God (cf. Col. 2:23). Thus the second commandment forbids us to devise, use, or approve of any religious worship which is not instituted by God Himself―as well as prohibiting us from neglecting, or taking away from, that worship which God has ordained (Ex. 20:4-6; cf. Lev. 10:1; Deut. 4:2; 32:46; Matt. 15:9; 28:20).

Therefore, our obligation to gather with God’s people for worship must be understood and measured by the elements of New Testament worship set forth above. If we are doing what God requires of His people, we engage in worship assemblies which are characterized by praise, corporate prayer, hymns, Bible reading, authoritative preaching, and the sacraments.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Piney Woods Family Camp 2011

What a great weekend at our Piney Woods Family Camp! I’m beyond blessed with such a faithful congregation. All the other families from our CREC Texas congregations (and our Louisiana friends) are also a tremendous encouragement. Thanks to everyone who participated and helped make it a success and a joy. It’s a privilege to worship and serve with such folks!

Christin's Quote Book

  • This review is a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham. – Review of a Woody Allen movie
  • May those that love us love us, and those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts.  And if He does not turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles, so we’ll know them by their limping. – Old Gaelic song
  • People hate those who make them feel their own inferiority. – Lord Chesterfield
  • The gentle mind by gentle deeds is known. For a man by nothing is so well betrayed as by his manners. – Edmund Spenser
  • Man only can be aware of the insensibility of man towards a new gown. It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire. – Jane Austen

Church Attendance (7 of 10)

From a piece written by Greg L. Bahnsen, titled: “Is It Our Moral Obligation to Attend Church?”

Old Testament Law, Piety, and Prophets
The Mosaic law commanded God’s people to gather together for corporate worship and the hearing of God’s word (e.g., Deut. 12:5-12; 31:11-12). Indeed, the law of God required that the weekly Sabbath in particular be a “holy convocation” (Lev. 23:3). Regardless of outward circumstances (e.g., seventh-day Sabbath, a localized central tabernacle), the worship required in the Old Testament law entailed the basic moral element of assembling with God’s people to hear His word and praise His name.

The religious piety of the Old Testament saint was evident in his desire to “Render unto Jehovah the glory due unto His name, bring an offering, and come before Him; Worship Jehovah in the beauty of Holiness” (1 Chron. 16:20; cf. Ps 96:8-9). The believer is eager to worship in the midst of the assembled people of God. David the Psalmist wrote, “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the assembly will I praise Thee” (Ps. 22:22). “I will give Thee thanks in the great assembly; I will praise Thee among the people” (Ps. 35:18; cf. 116:12-17). Many of the psalms emphasize the fact that David worshipped along with a congregation of other believers (e.g., Ps. 42:4; 55:14; 122:1; 132:7).

David’s inspired testimony shows that his desire for congregational worship is normative for all God’s people, He declared to all believers; “O come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker” (Ps. 95:6), “Come before His presence with singing...Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Give thanks unto Him and bless His name (Ps. 100:2,4), “Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the seat of the elders” (Ps. 107:32). “Praise ye Jehovah, Sing unto Jehovah a new song and His praise in the assembly of the saints” (Ps. 149:1).

Old Testament prophecy likewise shows us that those who are true believers will desire to assemble with God’s people to hear His word and praise His name in congregational worship. For instance, Isaiah the prophet indicated that converts to the Lord would join themselves to the corporate worship of God’s people in “Jehovah’s house of prayer” (Is. 56:6-7; quoted by Jesus in Mark 11:17).

One of the burdens of Malachi’s prophecy was that the corrupt worship among the Jews of his day would, in the future age of God’s advent, be replaced with pure worship among the Gentiles in every place (Mal. 1:11; 3:3-4).

Therefore, the law, piety, and prophecy of the Old Testament all combine to point us to our moral obligation to gather together with God’s people for worship.

“But that was the Old Testament, with its Jerusalem temple and seventh-day Sabbath,” someone might complain. This complaint diminishes the full authority of God’s inspired word. Referring to the Old Testament, Paul taught “every scripture is inspired and is profitable for...instruction in righteousness? (2 Tim. 3:16). Of course, changes from the covenantal administration and foreshadows of the Old Testament to the redemptive realities of the New Testament must be recognized (much of the book of Hebrews serves this very purpose).

Nevertheless, Jesus obliges us to submit to the continuing validity of “every jot and tittle” of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17-19), and Paul teaches that “whatever was written previously in the Old Testament was written “for our instruction” (Rom. 15:40. In that light, we would naturally expect that the moral obligation of corporate worship which is taught in the Old Testament will continue into the New. God continues to call a people for himself in the New Testament, and God surely continues to be worthy of their praise.