Saturday, May 19, 2018

Don't Reject Jesus!

That, of course, is exactly what the US Episcopal Church has done by changing the wedding vows in their church order from "union of husband and wife" to "union of two people."

This rebellion against God is so pervasive in entertainment and culture that some believers are susceptible to the idea that it is a small issue that we need to flex upon in order to have influence with others.

But, for those who are genuine Christians, there is no room to flex.
Matthew 19:4-6 And [Jesus] answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
If we can't trust that Jesus is right about the basis of marriage in the creation, the purpose of marriage in joining one man to one woman, and the nature of marriage as a covenantal joining conducted by God Himself...

...then why would we trust that Jesus is right about the basis, purpose and nature of His cross?

We trust Him about our eternal salvation and blessing. Let us also trust Him about this great earthly blessing of marriage.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What's a "Traditional" Presbyterian? And how does "Reformation" back to the "truly" traditional boundaries happen?

I found it helpful to read [this article] by Dr. Benjamin Shaw from GPTS.

Of course, there are many more particular issues that could be added to the few that he mentions: idoltraous images of Christ, the lack of evening services and midweek prayer meetings, the de-emphasis upon preaching, the emphasis upon music, the use of choirs, the wearing of clerical garb, etc.

But so much of what is traditional was "born yesterday" in the history of the church, and especially of Presbyterian--and that for good reason. Not only does it fail to be biblical; but, in so many cases, the new "tradition" either implicitly obscures or explicitly counteracts something biblical and important.

As I was reading Dr. Shaw's article, I felt a kinship in his experience. The church I grew up in was EPC, not mainline.

And the seminary I went to actually had me read for class many of the volumes in which I discovered that you could substitute the phrase "liberal Presbyterian" for the phrase "traditional Presbyterian" in most people's thoughts and dialogue, and almost always be more theologically and historically accurate.

But, after reading the article, I find myself wondering if there aren't a great many people who look at those liberal and spiritually unhealthful (and in some cases, simply wicked) "traditions," and think that they are important components of our faith that ought to be celebrated, rather than recent intrusions that need to be purged.

That brings me to the main point of his article. It isn't just for the PCA. It stands for all of us. In doctrine, worship, morality, and polity--as in much of the rest of life--if we don't understand why the boundaries are there, we are precisely those for whom the boundaries are most necessary!

Reformation is a long work. In the age of imperfection (until the Lord returns), it is a lifetime work for every believer, every elder, every congregation. In reforming particular things, it can be a work that spans generations.

Along the way, there is much educating to do. Sometimes, people just have never been exposed to the biblical teaching. And there is much loving to do. There are folks who either can't--or, more often, will never exert the mental effort to--understand why something ought to be changed. But they will tolerate much, if they know that you love them.

But in all Reformation, as we marvel at the holiness of God and honor that holiness by a relentless pursuit of being biblical...

let us also marvel at the patience of God. How very much of what we have held dear turns out in actuality to offend Him and deserve wrath!

And how marvelous that, for the sake of His Son, and the love in which He sent Him, He has patiently borne with all these failings... continuing to extend to us the sacred indwelling and powerful working of His Holy Spirit!
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also... the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect... And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will... But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
2Timothy 2:1-2, 2:9-10, 2:24-26, 3:14-4:2

Monday, April 2, 2018

Why my family refers to "Easter" day as "The Lord's Day" and to Easterized celebration as "Fertility Fest"

A friend, whose thoughtfulness and sincerity I very much appreciate, posted on Facebook:
Can't enjoy a single holiday without 30 knowitalls coming out of their parents basements to warn us about the "pagan roots" of it. "Don't eat peeps, that's honoring Ishtar the fertilizer bunny god from 4000 b.c., I bet you didn't know that huh" Thanks... I do now...
I started to comment, but the comment got longish. And, since I've been misunderstood on this point more than a few times, I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts in a more easily searchable location.

There's a difference between important knowledge and being a know-it-all. So, I hope that you'll receive this as one and not the other. We're actually studying Romans 14 this week with our church/family, and the reminder that our heart and consideration for others in the midst of disagreement is vital to recognizing and treating them as those who belong to the Lord. The Lord's providential timing is marvelous!

There are multiple fertility deities in the ancient near-east that go by similar names. Oestre, Estare, Ishtar, Ashteroth, Ashera, etc. They all have a resurrection / fertility-renewal feast in the spring. You can imagine what fertility cult celebration of renewed fertility might involve... not particularly godly (believe it or not; peeps isn't the worst thing humans have indulged in during springtime celebrations).

Idols are not anything, but demons are something, and they masquerade as idols to be sacrificed to (1Cor 10:18-20). So, I would be careful of the fertility symbols (bunnies, eggs), and of a name that is etymologically connected to possibly the name of an ancient demon that has deceived so many into so much sin for thousands of years.

I personally am opposed to observance of the day at all not due to its pagan origins (the sovereign God of all providence does not find it challenging to use a pagan to produce something good), but due to its man-made origins.

I see repeatedly in Scripture the principle that anything of a religious nature that is invented by man is idolatry. And, since, by Christ's glorious finished work, the Lord obsoleted all of His own religious days that looked forward to Christ, I have an even stronger aversion to the creation of new religious observance days.

That said, there are a large number of believers who wish to unitedly celebrate the resurrection in a special way once a year. I think that we have already been given 52 such glorious days that cannot be improved upon. The Lord has created the Lord's Day for us! Who can better it? This is also why I don't like to say "Sunday" (God has given the Lord's Day its name), or "Resurrection Sunday" (does that mean there are 51 Lord's Days that are somehow "less resurrectiony"?). I don't despise you if you do. Don't worry that I think less of you, and please don't judge me for my practice either!

If you're going to observe the day though, may I suggest going with an ancient, if plain, a name that has been used in some Eastern churches for generations? "The Feast of the Glorious Resurrection"

(btw--I love non-religious, non-"holy" holidays... commemorating events, celebrating life, rejoicing over relationships... that's all fantastic stuff. Just don't feel like you have to make up a religious reason for it... leave the invention of religion to God alone. Man-made religion only succeeds in taking the things that God values as most important and devaluing them. Case in point: pharisees who had lots of well-meaning ideas but for the most part lost love of man and God to the point that they both failed to recognize the Christ and hated Him to the point of murder. Easy to bash them, so let's not turn around and be like them!)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

2018.01.18 Devotional Gleanings

Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him. Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming! Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!”
Genesis 37:18-20
The precious doctrine of God's all-sovereign will is the biblical answer to the problem of evil. Here we have where they meant it for evil, but the testimony of 50:20 is that God meant this for good. Even through the wickedness that the wicked do, the good God is always doing good. And the final piece of that goodness will be to punish the wickedness of the wicked!

    “Why did I not die at birth?
    Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?
    Why did the knees receive me?
    Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?”
Job 3:11-12
Here are the first in a long series of questions that Job has throughout the book. God's answer? "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (38:4). Indeed, this is the foundational answer to any of us, whenever we question the providence of God.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
    ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
    But their heart is far from Me.
    And in vain they worship Me,
    Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”
Mark 7:5-8
What dangerous thing it is when a clever idea becomes a tradition. As the weightiness of the tradition increases, the importance to us of Scripture decreases, until we begin to lay aside God's commandments, and that dreadful sentence sounds in heaven, "Their heart is far from me, and in vain they worship me."

For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:22-25
When God finally gives a man a right heart toward His law, it is evidence that he now has peace with God, but it brings him directly into a war with his sin. Battle is not pleasant, but victory is sure!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018.01.17 Devotional Gleanings

But on this condition we will consent to you: If you will become as we are, if every male of you is circumcised, then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us; and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. But if you will not heed us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.”
And their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. So the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. He was more honorable than all the household of his father.
Genesis 34:15-19
The abuse of covenant signs for false moral superiority and to wield as a tool against others is as old as covenant signs.

Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.”
And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments.
Genesis 35:1-2

How is it that foreign gods lasted so long in Jacob's house, with his knowledge? Many a sad tale can be told of the spiritual state of a man's household simply because he tolerated it. But how much more marvelous, then, is the patience of God who brings Jacob back to when he at first began to know God and invites him to worship. Let us put away all that is against the Lord, and come back to Bethel, where we first knew Him, and worship!

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.
Job 1:1
Let all prosperity gospel, material and spiritual, die here. God's own topic sentence for the book of Job is a quadruple statement of his godliness. Yet, he is plunged into the second-most terrible material pain and spiritual darkness in all the Bible. The most terrible? The only One in Scripture we know for sure to have been most godly, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Who is there who will take a brother in great distress and tie upon his back the burden of being of stronger faith or purer character than the man whom the Lord Himself introduces with a quadruple statement of godliness?! Let such a brother never think that he is being a 'friend'!

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job 2:9-10
What a frightful thing is a spiritually unstable wife, who counsels her husband from passion rather than patience! She is unto him such a spiritual calamity that Satan attacked Job, in part, by leaving his wife alive!

So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”
Mark 5:12
Even if the Lord should providentially assign unto us a messenger from Satan that He refuses to take away for a time (2Cor 12), let us remember that they can only do unto believers what Christ intends for our good. They are on their faces before Him as condemned beggars!

And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
Mark 6:2-3
Dear preachers, if a congregation, that has had Christ Himself directly deliver the sermon, can respond to what they themselves admit is the most powerful message they ever heard by taking offense at the preacher's person, do not be surprised when the same occurs with you!

Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.
Mark 6:14, 29
Herod knew they had taken the body of John to bury and so perceived expectation of resurrection. Let us who hope for the resurrection of the dead take care what is done with our corpses!

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.
Romans 5:10
Let those who believe in Christ for forgiveness of sin marvel. They have not received merely a dead atonement, but a living Redeemer who, having once atoned for them, now works for them and in them forever and ever by His almighty power!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018.01.16 Devotional Gleanings

Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children... Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
Genesis 32:11, 24-26
Up until this point, Jacob saw himself as the primary obtainer of his blessings and Esau as his primary danger. He was wrong on both counts. God's phyiscal "answer" to Jacob's prayer was to keep him up all night, exhaust him, and debilitate him. It is by grace that we obtain any blessing. And, it is also God with whom, primarily, we must wrestle in our lives... a wrestling survivable only in Christ!

And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that
    ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
    And hearing they may hear and not understand;
    Lest they should turn,
    And their sins be forgiven them.’ ”
Mark 4:11-12
The plainness of the parables exposed that lack of understanding comes not from the complexity of the material but from hardness of heart. The clarity of Scripture is a precious doctrine, regained in the Reformation; but, let us acknowledge what it means about our minds and hearts, and let us ever be pleading with the Lord for light and life to overcome our dullness and deadness.

Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.”
Mark 4:24
The Savior teaches us to put effort into meditating upon the Scriptures.

And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Mark 4:41
Though they knew Him yet but a little, we can learn much from these disciples who knew at least enough to fear the Lord Jesus rightly with the fear of God.

What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.
Romans 3:1-2
How great is the history of God's mercy to the nations that billions now possess what was the chief blessing of the Jews! There is no greater worldwide mercy-mission than the translation of the Scriptures into the tongues in which they are still lacking; and, it is a great spurning of God's mercy if we fail to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest those Scriptures.

As it is written:
    “There is none righteous, no, not one;
          There is none who understands;
    There is none who seeks after God.
          They have all turned aside;
    They have together become unprofitable;
    There is none who does good, no, not one.”
          “Their throat is an open tomb;
    With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
    “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
          “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
          “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
          Destruction and misery are in their ways;
          And the way of peace they have not known.”
          “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3:10-18
Let the myth of good people die here. Let the myth of bad things (even the judgment of Hell) happening to good people die here.

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Romans 4:5
In Christ the righteous, God justifies the ungodly. That truth which, by its illogic, has scandalized the Papists for 500 years, has also--by that same illogic--delighted believers since Adam began to hope in the seed of his wife.

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;
Romans 4:16-17
God made dirt into man and commanded light to exist. Scripture stirs sinners up to faith in the promise of Christ by pointing to Genesis 1-2 as literal, historical record.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018.01.15 Devotional Gleanings

Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s... And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?”
Genesis 31:19, 30
Alas! How the wickedness of our idolatrous hearts has dulled our minds. Gods who cannot even protect themselves from being stolen are no gods at all. Who would want to steal them or care that they had been stolen? And yet it is so with all of our false hopes, purposes, and delights. Lord have mercy upon us!

Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, “Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king’s behalf, is standing at the house of Haman.” Then the king said, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided.
Esther 7:9-10
Let the people of God never fret over the direction of current events. Though the gallows are prepared for them, nothing is ever so secure as their souls in the hands of their Redeemer. And though their enemies act with apparent impunity, the Lord shall surely bring them to justice.

And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:27-28
Our Lord created the Sabbath for our good, just as He, the Lord of the Sabbath, came for our good. But just as there are many who attempt to redefine the mission of Christ to terms that better suit their whims, let us not be surprised if there are many who attempt to redefine the nature of the Sabbath to terms that better suit their whims.

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
Romans 2:4-5
When I do not suffer immediate consequence for sin, does this new display of wondrous mercy propel me to repentance? If not, let me fear greatly, for it may be not only that I am self-deceived, but that I am continuing to store up against myself still more wrath for the day of judgment!

in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Romans 2:16
It is a part of the gospel that God will judge our secrets. We must have an atonement great enough to exhaust all of the secret sins of our hearts. There can be no such remedy but the cross of Christ!

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Romans 2:28-29
That which a divinely ordained Levitical priesthood and divinely good law could not accomplish for us and in us, is the sure work our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Heb 7:11-19)!