August 2014

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Not all dads bring roadkill home in plastic bags...

Last night I had the pleasure of watching a good portion of a very strange film with my father as he struggles to recover from prostate cancer surgery. Unfortunately, he is among the 1 in 50 who have complications with their intestines "waking up" after surgery. It's been difficult to sleep and he's eaten almost nothing.

Sermon notes: Galatians Series, Number 14...

...the second any man is justified outside of grace, by a work—whether that work is circumcision, or a good deed that calls forth from God something called congruent merit, or a work of repentance, or a work of mustering up or guarding faith, or a work of choice that God meets halfway with faith (most of which, it must be acknowledged, comes from Him but some of which must come from us); to the degree that any man is justified outside of or in addition to God’s grace, we are under the Law and must fulfill every one of its infinite number of conditions.

In other words, we are lost eternally, without God and without hope in the world.

Why?

Because God in His infinite mercy has decreed that “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”

So we read in the Heidelberg Catechism:

Question 60: How are you righteous before God?

Answer: Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. In spite of the fact that my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have not kept any one of them, and that I am still ever prone to all that is evil, nevertheless, God, without any merit of my own, out of pure grace, grants me the benefits of the perfect expiation of Christ, imputing to me his righteousness and holiness as if I had never committed a single sin or had ever been sinful, having fulfilled myself all the obedience which Christ has carried out for me, if only I accept such favor with a trusting heart.

NOTE: This is number 14 in a series on Galatians. If this is your first time reading sermon notes here, please take time to read a helpful explanation at the bottom of this post...

Reformed worship (III): the ministry of the Spirit in preaching...

(NOTE: This is the third post in a series on Reformed worship. Here are the firstsecondfourthfifth, and sixth.)

We have shown how Calvin and his fellow Geneva reformers were willing to live without weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper, yet there was not one service ever held in Geneva and her surrounding parishes that failed to place the reading and preaching of God's Word front and center. So why the growing shift to an emphasis of the sacraments in worship, over and against preaching?

There are many contributing factors, but one is in reaction to the American church of the twentieth century. In many corners, the church started taking on the naturalistic and materialistic culture around it, broadly accepting the mistaken theology that the Lord’s Supper is merely a memorial ordinance—a good way for us to rehearse in our minds what Jesus did for us long ago. Thus, as we started to rediscover the spirituality of the sacraments, we again recognized that Jesus Christ is really and spiritually present in the sacraments and, in them, He gives us Himself for our spiritual food. This is good, but in this...

Reformed worship (II): Covenant Renewal Worship's sine qua non...

(NOTE: This is the second post in a series on Reformed worship. Here are the firstthirdfourthfifth, and sixth.)

We have seen that in the services of Reformation Geneva presided over by John Calvin and his fellow reformers, there was never a service without preaching, whereas the administration of the Lord’s Supper was rare. Now at this point, Reformed men committed to what Jeff Meyers promotes as "Covenant Renewal Worship" would lodge a strong protest. Since Covenant Renewal's innovations are primarily sacerdotal in emphasis, drawing their inspiration from Old Testament sacrificial worship, they would claim preaching merely sets the Table, with the real meal being the Lord's Supper.

If those still committed to historic Reformed liturgy were to respond noting that Geneva's worship didn't have weekly Communion, Covenant Renewal men would be quick to point out Calvin himself preferred the weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper. "Covenant Renewal Worship is merely Genevan worship as Calvin himself would have ordered it had he been able to do so," they would say.

This argument is reminiscent of feminists who assure us Jesus would have had women among His Twelve if the culture of His time had been as progressive as ours. "Alas, people back then hadn't evolved as much as we have, so Jesus had to tread lightly," they tell us.

To which we would respond, "Are you serious? All through His life Jesus took on every evil. He was no respecter of persons. He died at the hands of the rich and powerful, but now you're telling me He didn't have the faith or courage to oppose the oppression of women, and that's the reason He chose men for His inner circle of Twelve?"

Concerning the order and priorities of Reformed worship, it's less important to consider what Calvin preferred than what he was willing to live without. The news isn't that Calvin would have preferred weekly Communion—everyone knows that. The real news is that when Calvin presided over services in Geneva...

Reformed worship (I): the sacraments and preaching...

(NOTE: This is the first post in a series on Reformed worship. Here are the secondthirdfourthfifth, and sixth.)

Calvin and the Genevan reformers worked to reform every aspect of Rome's doctrine and practice, and this was especially true of worship.

Leaving behind the priorities of the New Testament church, the worship of medieval Rome was deformed beyond recognition. Whereas the Jerusalem church's first devotion had been the teaching of the Apostles,1 Rome displaced preaching with the idolatry of the Mass. Read Calvin on many passages of Scripture and his opposition to Rome’s sacramentalism is front and center. Here is an excerpt from a sermon on Galatians 2:14-16:

But the good works which they (Rome) set afore us are, that we must go devoutly to Mass ...and do this and that. So then, all these hypocrites which will needs become righteous by their own works, have nothing but gewgaws [trinkets, showy trifles] and dotages: and yet for all that, they think themselves so holy and perfect, that nothing is amiss in them. They think that God ought to content himself with the great number of murlimews and countenances which they make. But that is not the coin wherewith he must be paid, for his law is spiritual. He looketh not upon the outward gesture, nor upon the things that carry a fair gloss before men, insomuch that if men set their minds too much upon his own Ceremonies, he rejecteth it utterly: And that is a thing well worthy the marking. For men seek still some startinghole, that they might not yield themselves to the obeying of God: and they bear themselves in hand, that when they have once dispatched their fond devotions, then they are well discharged and all the rest of their sins must be forgotten, because they ransom them by that means.

His text is the Holy Spirit's declaration that man is “not justified by the works of the law" and this is the occasion for Calvin to condemn “hypocrites" for their habit of “set(ting) their minds too much upon (God's) own ceremonies." Yes, Calvin recognizes the Lord's Supper is a ceremony commanded by our Lord that gives grace to those who discern the Lord's Body rightly, yet he warns those "setting their minds too much upon" it that God does not accept their ceremony, but "rejecteth it utterly." Heart religion is dependent upon the grace of the Holy Spirit and Calvin points out how men turn from it to ceremonies, thinking their ceremonies are God's Own currency. Didn't He Himself institute them?

In the time of Christ, the church's priests and Bible scholars made a show of obeying God by circumcising foreskins, yet they disdained the work that is dependent...

On women's moral agency: Are women human?

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

The genesis for this post comes from many directions, some cultural, some from the church, and some personal (and thanks to Tim and Terri for helping with some examples).

Many times I have been in elders meetings where the topic of a failed or failing marriage has come up and, almost invariably, the man is the villain and the wife is the suffering saint. The frequency of this scenario makes you want to ask whether women are just more holy than men? Could any of the failures be the wife's fault? Even a little bit? Granted, as the head of the home, the man is responsible for the state of his marriage and the discipline and instruction of his children, but fault is something different. Although the man is responsible to deal with the sin in his home, he's not the only sinner.

In bringing up this topic, I am not trying to redress an imbalance by launching a backlash. That would be wrong and silly. Rather, I’d like to challenge the pastors and elders and teachers amongst us really to examine what we believe about the moral agency of women. If problems in the home are always the man’s fault, we don't really believe women are human. Part of being human is moral agency—making real choices that are right, wrong, or somewhere in between—and then being held responsible for those choices. God cursed Eve...

Leithart among the Baptists: in understanding, be men...

Over the past couple of months I've felt testy about the naive souls who blather on about the Rev. Dr. Peter Leithart's blatherings on "the future of Protestantism." Sure, I get why BIOLA paid him to come. Chesterton spoke about the Academy's penchant for the hip and chic. He pointed out that all scholars' talk about what is latest and best is "merely a giggling excitement over fashion." There's no denying that, among Baptists-gone-to-seed, Peter Leithart is the focus of a certain degree of giggling excitement.

So two years after the Torrey Honors Program's Mark Reynolds leaves, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (renamed "BIOLA") brings Peter in to tell them who they are and where they're heading. Not surprisingly, Peter is bubbly-hopeful about his abilities to heal the division between Protestant, Reformed, Presbyterian, and Presbyterian Church in America churches, and the Vatican.

Honestly, this is news? Has anyone been awake the past ten years? If news, I'd put it on the order of "dog bites man."

Leithart and his buds are just riding the shirttails of Richard John Neuhaus, Chuck Colson, Bill Bright, and Pat Robertson...

Eighty-one year old man rescued by sons and grandsons...

What struck me about this story forwarded by son Taylor is how quickly Grandpa returned to work after being buried to his fingertips in a sixty-five foot diameter grain bin.

He was initially taken to a local hospital, but airlifted to an Indianapolis hospital after he began coughing up blood, apparently from the pressure of that much corn on his chest, said 46-year-old son, Steve White.

After leaving the hospital Tuesday, Bill White eagerly returned to work Wednesday, helping troubleshoot a problematic irrigation system on his family farm near Switz City, some 60 miles southwest of Indianapolis.

"My dad, he's 81 years old, but he's 10 times tougher than the average guy. He's one of the toughest guys I've ever seen," Steve White said Wednesday afternoon, adding that his father is feeling fine aside from some respiratory troubles.

 

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My bad: on making theological retractions

“My bad,” is a pretty common expression when playing pick-up basketball. If you make an errant pass or let your man drive around you or lose the ball off the dribble, the standard way to acknowledge your error is simply to say to your teammates, “my bad.”

Contrary to Erich Segal, marriage means always having to say you’re sorry. Segal wrote this inanity because, as Sir Elton John puts it, "'sorry seems to be the hardest word." To say "my bad" to my wife is hard, but repentance is the privilege of the Christian and God has set things up so that "my bad" and "sorry" are a necessary part of the grease that keeps a marriage running smoothly.

In marriage, "sorry” can cover a whole multitude of issues, all the way from putting the wrong piece of clothing in the dryer to dropping a plate to an angry outburst.  But … How does a pastor or theologian say "sorry" or "I was wrong?" And if you’re a published author, it gets even more complicated.

I remember one time hearing a pastor … 

An open letter to a dear soul caught in transsexualism...

There's been a discussion with a transsexual named "Phoebe" going on in another place on this blog, and just now I posted this comment there that I also want to post here for your (I trust) edification.

* * *

Dear Phoebe,

Really, as others have said, the central issue is whether you are a follower of Jesus Christ and, therefore, a member of His Church? From that everything else flows, and in one of two directions—to Hell or to Heaven. By "follower" we mean "disciple" who is under the discipline of obeying everything He commands. His commands pertaining to the sexuality He gave us are particularly important for us to obey because sexuality is our very core. Nothing is more fundamental to God's creation of us than the sexuality He assigned us from our conception and to rebel against His gift is to repudiate His authority.

There are churches where you'll be accepted just as you aren't. To your face they'll be really sweet and try really really hard to overlook your deformities, acting as if everything is natural, so what's the biggie?

But what you really need and should want is a church where people don't accept you, but rather...

Republicans and the middle class...

For Biblical reasons, I am neither a Democrat nor a Libertarian. Not a Democrat because Democrats run every campaign on envy, sexual perversion, and bloodlust. Thus a vote for the Democratic ticket is the open denial of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And not a Libertarian because I've noticed their commitment to freedom causes them to cower before the druggie, sexual pervert, and bloodlust lobby. Liberty trumps God's Moral Law, turning upside down what the Holy Spirit reveals concerning the purpose of all civil authority (what we call "government"):

...it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. (Romans 13:4-6)

God ordains governors and the taxes we pay to the end that...

Mall bans private prayer...

Before powerwalking, some Christian women made a little circle and began praying for God's blessing on their time together. But a mall policeman cut their prayer short, telling them prayer was prohibited on mall premises. The women appealed to the mall manager who came and assured them the mall policeman was right: prayer was not allowed inside the mall.

This led one of the women to ask it the prohibition of prayer extended to asking Gods' blessing over the food in their food court? The manager said such prayers...

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