September 2013

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Book recommendations: Baxter's Reformed Pastor and Shusaku Endo's Silence...

It seems inane to say so when so many others have said the same so often for so many centuries, but having recently led our Pastors College men through Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor, I was reminded how central to the development of my work as a minister of the Word Baxter has been. After seminary, I read The Reformed Pastor, followed quickly by Baxter's Autobiography, and it's impossible to overstate the impact both had on my pastoral conscience and commitments these past thirty years. Page after page, I see my markings and marginal notes and think to myself, "that's where I learned that" and "that's why I think that way!"

Whether you're a deacon, pastor, or elder, if you haven't read Baxter's Reformed Pastor, buy it now and read it yesterday! Then preach on Acts 20 and you're good to go! (Or to sit down and mourn and cry and beat your breast and confess your failures to the Chief Shepherd, asking for His mercy and renewed commitment to faithfully shepherd Christ's Church which He bought with His Own precious blood.)

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Speaking of books, I also just finished Silence by Shusaku Endo and recommend it to our good readers. (I was up staying with my brother, David, for a couple days and pulled it from his bookshelves, so thank David for the recommendation.) Silence is said to be the masterpiece of Japan's most respected novelist and the work is a fictionalized account of the great persecution Christians suffered in Japan during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries...

Please pray for Pastor Abedini...

So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:41)

Pastor Saeed Abedini is suffering in an Iranian jail for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please pray for him. You can find out more about Pastor Abedini here on FB.

Tonight, Daddy belongs to her...

Now tell me, at the end of your life, what is it you will have chosen instead of gobs and oodles and scads of children? Didn't you know God Himself says "Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them?"

Christian Medical and Dental Association doesn't want abortion to divide Christians...

Then they themselves also will answer, "Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?" (Matthew 25:44)

(NOTE: CMDA's president, vice-president, and midwest regional director have all responded to the content of this post by attacking the gifts and character of the young dental student whose teaching on abortion CMDA had disciplined—as outlined below. We have now published a follow-up post in which we document CMDA's defense, responding with a careful and detailed demonstration of their attack's errors of fact.)

Walmart has an unimpeachable return policy. Read about it on their national website. It is one of the most generous in the industry, but it's only as good as the implementation at your local Walmart when you try to get a refund. If every Walmart were free to reject returns, the official policy wouldn't be worth the paper it was printed on. This is true of every national organization with local branches. The acid test of a national policy is its local implementation.

This is seen all the time with parachurch ministries. For example, the national office of Inter-Varsity was unwilling to discipline a local chapter that promoted homosexuality. Similarly, although the PCA issued a fevered condemnation of Federal-Vision theology at the national level, she hasn't been able to find any local individual who holds to what she condemned. Men tried for Federal-Vision leanings are always exonerated.

The most recent example is the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA). Officially opposed to abortion since 1985, CMDA punished a man who taught their curriculum and position on abortion in one of their local Bible studies. When their official position against abortion becomes painfully local, they undermine it. They are prophets at a distance, but at home they desire peace.

Case in point: a godly, irenic dental student (let's call him John*) attending a CMDA Bible study was asked to take over teaching the study...

If you live in Western Michigan...

This is a pic of members of the congregation of Christ the King Church in Ferry Michigan. At the invitation of Pastor Jeff Swanson, I will be preaching at Christ the King next Lord's Day, September 29, 2013, at 9:45 AM. Following worship, I will be sharing some thoughts on fatherhood.

Christ the King is a congregation of Tyndale Presbytery of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches. Ferry is halfway between Ludington and Muskegon and here are directions. If you're nearby, I hope you'll join us.

Grandchildren...

Here are the thirteen grandchildren God has blessed us with, at a birthday party at our house last night. Our eldest grandchild, Jonathan Ummel, is holding day-old Jerome Weeks. 

Children are a blessing from the Lord: Jerome Alexander Weeks...

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. (Psalms 127:3)

This morning at 3 AM, Jerome Alexander Weeks was born to our son-in-law and daughter, Lucas and Hannah Weeks. Jerome joins two brothers and one sister, Aubrielle holding Jerome, and twelve other grandchildren with three on the way. Mother and son are doing well, praise God!

Faithful preaching...

Balak, the King of Moab, looked out over the hordes of God's people spread out across the land adjoining his nation, and he sent off for the prophet Balaam to come and curse the people of God:

Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed. (Numbers 22:6)

And:

Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt and they cover the surface of the land; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I may be able to fight against them and drive them out. (Numbers 22:11, 12)

Again and again, Balak demanded Balaam curse the sons of Israel, and again and again Balaam blessed them. What strength every pastor should take from the repeated statements of Balaam in the face of his king's wrath...

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Theological critique of Escondido Two Kingdoms theology (X): "There is no such thing as a secular society."

In its use of society as the foundational term for human community, modern political philosophy conceives of civic life on the pattern of a group of acting subjects in a purely human space. The ever recurring image of such a group is one of players around a table. As Thomas Hobbes wrote, "It is in the laws of a commonwealth, as in the laws of gaming: Whatsoever the gamesters all agree on, is injustice to none of them." It is to be found again in the work of Adam Smith, who speaks of the "great chess-board of human society." The image loses its metaphorical self-consciousness and becomes conceptually foundational in later authors. John Rawls' description of the original position provides a good example. And history takes political theory seriously. Our political communities have become "societies" resembling ever more closely a club of gamblers.

For the game to be fair, it must be secular. The space of our democratic societies is flat. Nobody is allowed to stand higher than others. The first to be excluded is the One Above, especially when people claim to have received from him some message or mission that puts them closer to his divine reality—and thus higher... {C}

To all those who examine life...

Some of our best friends are philosophers...

"Sound well all your pipes..."

Philip Moyer, the choral director at Clearnote Church, Bloomington, found the following in Robin Leaver's The Theological Character of Music in Worship. The poem was inscribed on an organ at the Frauenbergerkirche in Nordhausen around 1658.

Sound well all your pipes
To glorify God alone,
Fill, with your sounds,
The Church, the house of the Lord,
And also diligently rouse
The mouths and tongues of the people,
That they with understanding,
And from the bottom of their hearts,
Sing the Psalms of David
And the spiritual songs
Of Dr Luther's composition,
Simply and without ostentation.

From strange melody,
From all false doctrine,
From Calvinistic screaming,
Lord, preserve us evermore.

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All the little morality plays of immoral journalists...

Here's a piece by my son Taylor's favorite sports writer, Rick Reilly, mocking the show-trial of the Redskins by our Fourth Estate pharisees.

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