Saturday, December 17, 2011

Voddie Baucham - Family Shepherds

(my Amazon review of Voddie's latest book 'Family Shepherds')

Voddie Baucham’s “Family Shepherds” gives a good amount of really good material for fathers who want to step up in taking the initiative in leading their wives and children spiritually, and while I really enjoyed the various steps offered in the book, and usually enjoy everything I read from Voddie, with this I came away feeling that it didn’t go quite far enough or deep enough.

Voddie outlines the importance of the role of family shepherd and lays out, among other things, the importance of family worship, the primacy of the marriage relationship, training and discipline of children, as well as regular corporate worship. All of these are great, but so many of these sections seemed superficially breezy without really packing in material that men need to hear. The assumption I had with this book is that shepherding is a responsibility that many men have neglected in recent years, thus the importance of this book was calling and guiding men back to this task. An excellent intention, but so many parts of the book, such as the importance of catechism, left me a little dry, as Voddie speaks of the importance of catechism, but then leaves the section with “do your research to find the best catechism to fit your doctrine.” What? This struck me as a cop-out. Again, in today’s world Dad’s aren’t doing this, so why would he leave this point so open-ended? So, are fathers just supposed to jump onto Google and look up whatever catechism they can find? Rather, instead of skimping, Voddie could have easily jumped into the importance of something like the 1689 London Confession, or the Westminster standards, or any Biblically-solid catechism to help men get started, instead of leaving them dry. I would have loved more here, even as an appendix, with a sage hand pointing to some sound sources to get started.

Likewise, addressing the importance of singing hymns as a family: an excellent point, yet WHAT hymnals? Why does Voddie leave it to fathers to know what song books to use? Should we just go to Lifeway and pick up a generic “hymnal” on the shelves, just because some of the songs look “Biblical”? Why not offer up some specific examples, such as the Trinity hymnal, and justify it with some of the many reasons that back this a solid, Scripturally-sound hymnal to incorporate? We use, and love, the trinity hymnal, but it’s details like that which would have really served to help point men to the right resources. Our Trinities are a little worn, and I’m always open to find other Biblically-solid hymnal to incorporate, so why couldn't there be more specific examples here?

I do agree with Voddie’s remarks about the “3-legged stool, and think that is a good outline, but I found his second requirement for church leaders as being “Godly, manly pastors and elders” to be a little bit skimpy in his description. “Manly” elders? Pastor/theologians who come to mind that I greatly appreciate, such as Wayne Grudem and Edmund Clowney, aren’t exactly the model of what I consider “manly”, but rather as examples of well-educated teachers with an extraordinary understanding of the Bible. I think one of the issues I have with this Voddie’s comment on elders, as well as with Grace Family church in general, is the practice of lay-eldership, or men without formal seminary training, serving as elders and teaching. “Manliness” isn’t that big of a concern to me as much as men serving that are “not a novice” (1 Tim. 3:6 - νεόφυτος) if I'm expected to submit myself and my family to their training. Lay elders who work full-time in the market and then are expected to teach on weekends is no different than asking a guy who read a bunch of books on heart surgery to do your triple-bypass. Maybe this sounds harsh, but I don’t believe that deacon-qualified men should serve as elders, and Voddie could have put a little more Scriptural backing into what the Bible really says about the role of an elder, above and beyond just “manliness”.

The Michael Pearl/pelagianism discussion (p. 116-118) was an entertaining detour. I’m amused (and a little alarmed) by this bearded, knife-throwing arminian, so it was interesting to to read Voddie’s attack on Pearl’s skewed behaviorism model. Voddie was right on spot regarding discipline, and this day and age, there can’t be enough said about the need for Biblically-consistent discipline of children. The extensive references to Cotton Mather’s teaching were a perfect outline to follow, and I really gained a lot from that particular section.

Family Shepherds is definitely worth the read, but again, it didn’t go far enough for me. Sadly, I was also disappointed that there was virtually NOTHING about the father as the homeschooling leader. This was a notably huge absence, as I firmly believe that one of the family shepherd’s principle responsibilities is to be actively involved in the homeschooling of the children - and I don’t mean necessarily teaching every subject, but rather being extremely well-aware of what the curriculum is, including the worldview of the curriculum and the Biblical orientation it follows, and offering as much support as possible to the mother who labors to educate the children. A family shepherd, on a day off for example, should be completely capable of sitting down, picking up a teachers instruction manual, and jumping right in to be able to help guide and instruct their child, just as competently as the wife does, without excuse. A family shepherd should actively be seeking out ways to incorporate additional education after work, on weekends, etc, whenever possible, with a positive, engaged interest in the love of learning in their children. As a personal aside, I also believe that a family shepherd should be capable of picking up a spatula every now and then, being able to navigate a grocery store, and also change a diaper or two (thousand.) Family shepherds should loathe the Asherim that is television.

At the close of Family Shepherds, I found that even the resources in the appendix were disappointing, as these “tools” seemed more like copy-and-paste excepts from Grace Family’s weekly bulletin, and felt more like a promotional vehicle for the church, and less of actual family shepherd tools. While I respect all that is put into the Grace Family church bulletins, to me, far more practical that simply seeing the list of family names to pray for would be to see, for instance, how do some of the different families of Grace Family conduct family worship? What are some of the general outlines that they follow? What songs do they use? Any Biblical study material they could recommend? Particular catechism? If (according to the appendix) the officers of Grace Family supposedly call/visit their members once a month, then there should be a wealth and bounty of practical examples to share of family worship framework examples, right? (e.g. “Jim and Tammy” follow this particular model: Jim opens with prayer, their oldest daughter plays a solo hymn on the piano, the oldest son reads a chapter from Old Testament, father then reads a study guide based on the chapter, etc, etc. Another model is the Smith family, that uses this general outline: etc, etc...) Again, this book exists because Dad’s aren’t naturally performing as family shepherds today - so give Dad’s more resources and actual tools and examples to help them! I seriously don’t think Voddie could have overdone it with examples. Pack in more punch, instead of leaving me dry, which is how I felt at the end of reading.

A side-note on the graphic design, when I took the book out of the Amazon envelope, I was studying the lower middle portion of the book for awhile, as it appeared initially that mold spots were growing on the cover (had the book been damaged at the Amazon factory with moisture?) Apparently that’s the design, but the seeming appearance of mold dots on a smooth paperback cover didn’t make a great initial impression.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Luke 10:25-37 and Richard Baxter

I've been reading Richard Baxter's 'The Reformed Pastor' recently, and even from a lay perspective I'm just amazed at the wealth of value in this book.  What I find so fascinating is Baxter's focus on the pastor who visits, teaches and knows his congregation on a personal level, which is something so uncommon with so many churches that I've been to.  Baxter emphasizes personal catechizing and instructing of the flock, and this particular book addresses not only the many benefits of this approach, but even takes the time to respond to common objections to this approach.  Do pastors even do as Baxter suggests, and keep a book with a list of their people, with "notes of their character and necessities?"

This could be a misapplication, but I thought of Baxter during the reading of Luke 10:25-37 this weekend on the Lord's day.  The text describes the priest that walks past the mortally-injured man, crossing by on the other side so as to avoid personal contact.  Is it that much of a stretch to apply that to pastors who teach once a week yet distance themselves from personal contact during the week with laity?

Baxter also emphasizes to me the problem I see with lay elders leading a church.  Our previous church planted a sister congregation, pastored by two non-seminary educated men.  And while I do agree there are occasionally rare exceptions of remarkable men who have pastored without seminary (Spurgeon) the bigger problem I see with this model is, these two men both have full-time jobs, a commute, and wives and children to devote time to (in addition to sermon preparation, in addition to the administration of the church.)  How on earth could they practice a Richard Baxter-level of attention to the members of their congregation when their days are already packed full?  They couldn't, and I think this speaks to the negative aspect of expecting laity to pastor, when it should be the responsibility of a full-time dedicated elder/teacher.

Baxter has really shaken the pastoral paradigm for me, and I'm really wondering why there isn't more shepherding of church members like this.  Maybe there are just no shortage of objections, like "I do not thing that God doth require that we should thus tie ourselves to instruct every person distinctly, and to make our lives a burden and a slavery."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Billy Sunday

We've been reading the biography of evangelist Billy Sunday during our family worship time at night, and it's been an interesting insight into one of the popular "revivalists" during the early part of the 20th century (although, obviously, no one can plan a "revival".  Only the Holy Spirit brings a genuine revival in a believer's heart, in God's perfect timing.  But all the same, it's good to read about folks like this who make up the tapestry of Christian history).  The story is entertaining and lively in describing how Billy was a popular baseball player-turned-evangelist, and how he translated his baseball player flair into his evangelical revivals.  Situated in the Prohibition era, the bio describes Billy's crusade against the alcohol industry, having himself struggled with drinking during his time as a baseball player.  The description of his mannerisms and methodologies are colorful, describing Billy jumping about on stages and calling folks to follow the "sawdust trail", but his theology can, at times, be lacking (e.g. using a revival tent as a vehicle to encourage men to go off to fight in the first World War?)  Likewise, there's a crudeness of some of his message content, often resorting to using goofy slang and childish name-calling, versus simply preaching the message of Christ (Gal. 3:16).  Sadly, as the book nears the close we learn that due to Billy (and his wife) spending long times on the road away from his children, leaving them at home in the care of a housekeeper, that ultimately all of his four children died early, with two of his boys sinking into alcohol that ultimately took their lives (sadly ironic, in light of Billy's crusades against liquor).  If anything, that's probably the principle message I took away from this text: while evangelism and ministry is important, don't pursue this at the cost of your obligation to shepherding your own family.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What's More Important than a Wedding?

Voddie Baucham is right on with the message from Ruth chapter 4 and correcting the false mindset that prioritizes the wedding as more important that marriage itself, instead illustrating how a Christian marriage represents the redemptive model of Christ and his love for his bride, the church. Voddie contrasts the message of modern culture of $25-30k weddings, with weddings also being the culmination or highest-point of a modern relationship, with the story of Ruth and Boaz, a message not of a fairy-tale wedding but rather Boaz as redeemer-kinsman, the obligation and commitment to Levirate marrriage, the genealogy and lineage unfolding to David and subsequently Christ, and the ultimate message of redemption from the book of Ruth.

Friday, September 30, 2011

No Room for Personal Vengeance - Voddie Baucham - Romans 12:19-21

Here's a link to a recent message by Voddie on Romans 12: 19ff. His message centers on the theme of vengeance and how we are not to repay evil for evil, as the attitude of "avenging ourselves" of a wrong-doing ultimately puts us in the place of God. With vengeance, Christ's death was not enough, and we are insisting on adding another death to Christ's. Rahter, our attitude should be one of compassion for our enemy: "if they are hungry, give them something to eat" rather than seeking revenge.

It was interesting to me in the message how Voddie did seem to dodge to topic of how it's apparently ok to defend yourself. So while we shouldn't avenge ourselves, there's nothing wrong with shooting and killing someone who breaking into our home? I've got some issues with that. Voddie made an illustration of the veteran who comes home, unable to sleep with the thoughts of people he killed in foreign lands, so I wonder, how is that any different than killing another person in self-defense? More and more I'm seeing defense as something the magistrate provides, and I think he could have gone further with this message to extend Paul's message in Romans 12, of "overcoming evil with good", to include challenging those who are ready and willing to shoot and kill anyone who breaks into their house. I would have also liked to have heard him extend this message into the topic of Christians serving in the military, and if doing so is consistent with Romans 12, but he'd likely be stepping on a few too many toes with that one...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


At "Theological word of the day" (one of my favorite sites) the word of the day is paedocommunion, which "describes the practice of allowing infants or small children to the Lord’s communion table."  As someone who personally sees infant baptism as something NOT in Scripture, I've long wondered why Presbyterians and Methodists don't also practice paedocommunion as well, or feeding the elements to babies as well.  It wouldn't be any different than infant sprinkling: the baby has no idea what's going on, has no understanding of the nature of sin, and basically an ordinance is incorrectly applied to someone who doesn't understand what's going on.  So why don't ALL churches that sprinkle babies also feed the communion bread to those "covenant babies" as well?  There's a pretty substantial inconsistency going on there.  As a reformed baptist, I believe that the table, and baptism, are ordinances that should NOT be observed by someone until they are at an age of maturity to understand the true meaning of what Christ established in these ordinances.  Anything else would be heretical.

I've wondered:  If a church practices paedocommunion, what happens with a parent that is exclusive breast-feeding a child?  Would they introduce foods like this when the child is only consuming the mother's milk?  Would they be forced to observe this as part of the "sacrament" of the church?

Monday, September 26, 2011

2010 Fall Anabaptist Identity Conference

I was recently listening to a number of messages from the 2010 Fall Anabaptist Identity Conference, which offers a large number of downloadable MP3s.  The message that I just listened to was Believer's Baptism - A Fundamental in the Separation of Church and State, which prevented a solid Scriptural defense of believer's baptism (although how any paedobapist can profess to defend this practice from Scripture is totally beyond me...)

Anyhow, from the message you see how the Anabaptists draw a strong distinction of church and state (which considering my growing disillusionment with all things political, this is something I'm finding more and more easier to agree with.)  And on the topic of a state church, you can't have a true state church without infant baptism, compromising the requirements of membership in order to just bring more people into the church.  On church and state, the question is asked: if all society is in the church, then where is the world, of which we are to be separate?

The church is to teach of the intention of making disciples.  Who should be baptized?  Disciples.  We are commanded to teach all nations, a command observed everywhere, and our message is not to change until the end of the age.  We should not teach based on assumptions or traditions, but on the Word of God.

Where in Scripture has Christ commanded infant baptism?  He hasn't.  Scripture says to repent and be baptized.  Unless there is genuine repentance, no baptism.  Paedobaptists will sometimes misquote Matt. 19:14, of “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven", saying that Jesus here is allowing children into the kingdom of heaven via infant baptism.  But if this passage is about infant baptism, and the disciples were familiar with this, then why did they object to the children going to Jesus?  There is a distinction between "blessing" and "baptism".  Additionally, how could they be baptized into the kingdom, if according to v.14 the kingdom already belongs to them?

Paedobaptists also misapply Col. 2:11, "In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ," in drawing an incorrect association with circumcision and baptism.  Water baptism was never intended to replace circumcision, and while circumcision was done by the hands of men, baptism is about internal change, and operation of God alone.  And if this parallel is to be drawn, it is notable that Abraham was circumcised AFTER his faith, not before.  Additionally, appeals to traditions, in addition to being a fallacy of special pleading, run into a difficulty when you find traditions such as described in the Didache.  Are infants really supposed to fast two days prior to baptism?

Believer's baptism is making a covenant before men, and being willing to give up everything (as the early radicals were when they defied the infant baptism traditions of the state church.)  Infant baptism, on the other hand, includes sinners by design.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus by John M. Frame

I received the booklet 'Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus' by John M. Frame from RTS and thought it was excellent. I thought this part was especially note-worthy:

"If you try to minister to people without a solid knowledge of God’s Word and an ability to apply it to human needs, you are worse than a physician who treats people in medical ignorance. Worse, because the consequences can be eternal.

Thinking as such does not distort or deny the Word of God; sin does. The anti‑intellectual too often focuses on only part of the problem, the depravity of the intellect, minimizing the effects of sin in other areas of life. On the other hand, in doing so he overlooks significant God‑given tools of sanctification and thus loses the full impact of the Word upon him. But one with a fully biblical concept of theology will use all these means to apply the Word to God's people. We should use to the fullest all the tools of learning: linguistics, archaeology, reason, imagination, logic, and so on.

Through such theology we will become more obedient, and through obedience we will become better theologians. If theology is a confrontation with the living God in His Word, then we dare not bring before Him any less than our best. To do so is sinful complacency, arrogant pride."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

131 Christians Everyone Should Know - Book Review

Review of 131 Christians Everyone Should Know that I just posted over at Amazon.

"131 Christians..." really proved to be something of a hit or miss title for me.  I started to incorporate it as part of our family worship, but ultimately abandoned it entirely for a number of reasons.  First is that most of these biographies, far from being captivating insights into these people's lives, actually reads like a droll, static textbook from a secular college.  Even otherwise exciting accounts of people like Hudson Taylor and David Livingston are here presented as somewhat cold and factual, without some of the more exciting episodes or accounts of the miraculous (Taylor in particular, whom I've read a number of biographies of, has some thrilling accounts of God's miraculous provisions, but the 'Christian History' editors decided to leave those out, which is a little bit telling of the ambiguity of their genuine Christian perspective.

The thing I realized is that this isn't "131 Vibrant, Faithful Christians of a Solid, Biblical Testimony", but rather a breezy overview of 131 folks, some stupendous (Calvin), some not so (Finney), that these editors somehow thought worth of writing dull biographies of.  The flavor seems cold on Calvinism, mild on the historic misdeeds of Roman Catholicism, and at times leans favorably towards mystical flavor - which today appeals more to the new agey crowd (and shoppers at Lifeway stores) but not necessarily to me.

Notably missing, much to the detriment of this book, were Christians like John Owen, Richard Baxter, J. Gresham Manchen, Martyn-Lloyd Jones, Cornelius Van Til, or even missionaries like Amy Carmichael or George Mueller, and yet the book included T.S. Elliot and Billy Sunday?

Most troubling is the inclusion of Henry VIII, who's section the editors ridiculous titled as "Defender of the Faith" (a title given to Henry by a Pope, mind you.)  Henry was a murderous adulterer, with an awful track record and hardly what I'd consider a "Christian" that I "must know".  I'm surprised the authors of the book didn't give "Bloody Mary" a chapter with another Papal-approved title such as, "Mary, Darling of Roman Catholicism".  The lack of genuine Christian history is really showing here as the authors completely overlooked Lady Jane Grey, Henry VIII's martyred daugher who had a powerful testimony of faithfulness during her short life, and would truly belong in a book about Christians that you should know.  This book is genuinely about "Man for All Seasons" bad theological history going on here.

One star simply because this serves as a mediocre overview of some historical figures throughout church history, but there have been far better biographies written.  In fact, much more highly recommended would be John Piper's Christian Biographies at Desiring God.  These are far more energetic, emotional and edifying, unlike what the Christian History editors have presented here.  In fact, some comments from Piper on Erasmus really seem to fit the spirit of how the writers presented this "131 Christians" book.  These Christian History edits, as with Erasmus, seem to have a "touch of irony, a superior ambiguity", as if "to be dogmatic about the full theology of Christ was to be distasteful, below the best, elite humanist heights."  I think Piper nailed it with Erasmus, and the glove fits this stale title as well.

Skip it, and check out Piper's bios instead.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'Family Driven Faith' by Voddie Baucham

I just finished Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham, a book I actually read most of a few years ago, but I finally got around to finishing.  There is a lot to really enjoy from this book, primarily being the theme of calling fathers back to leadership and discipleship of their families and the centrality of family worship in the home.  Indeed, it wasn't until at Voddie's church and hearing Don Whitney visit and talk about the importance of family worship as a regular, focused feature of the Christian home, that we started implementing this as well.  We've visited with friends who, following dinner and games would welcome us into their family worship, for hymns and Bible study, and its a wonderful blessing (plus it gives you ideas of things to incorporate into your own family worship as well.)
Voddie's focus on this in the book is wonderful, although I wish he could have gone a little bit deeper.  To be honest, sadly, I think the idea of worship in the home is such a completely lost concept in mainstream Christianity that a book like this almost needed "baby steps" of how to get started.  For instance:

  • Catechisms - Which catechisms should be used?    Which ones skipped?  How much?  Which ones are best for which age groups?
  • Hymns - Which hymnals?  which are good, which are worth skipping?
  • Bible study guides - There are a gazillion to choose from, and I've been blessed by studies like the Big Book Of Questions & Answers About Jesus by Sinclair Fergusen, but I'd love to know of others.  

True, Scripture reading is always going to be enough, but like that Ethopian talking to Phillip in the book of Acts, sometimes it helps to have someone explain a certain book to you.
Those are the types of things that went through my head while reading Family Driven Faith.  For any parent looking to revitalize the home as a place of worship, and to work to cultivate a genuine faith and Biblically-centered worldview with their children, this book is worth checking out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Essential Anabaptist Mennonite Doctrines and Practices

A link to some of the Essential Anabaptist Mennonite Doctrines and Practices.  While some of it is still hit or miss for me, I think they are one of the few groups that gets it right with head coverings, family and church/state relations, etc.

Biblical Genres

  • Legal
  • Narrative
  • Poetry (songs, praise, laments, stanzas of Hebrew thought)
  • Wisdom literature (Proverbial wisdom)
  • Gospels - both doctrine and narrative.
  • Logical Discourse - the epistles.  Books like Romans.
  • Prophetic - future prophecy.  Vast have already happened.
The epistles are primarily Paul.
  • Expository - expounding various turths and doctrines
  • Hortatory - "Go out and do" (indicative vs. imperative)
Structural analysis - every writing has a structure that can be observed.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

John G. Payton Biography

Here's a link to an excellent message about the life of John G. Payton. What's so noteworthy about Payton's life isn't just his own remarkable mission work to the New Hebrides, but the details of the powerful Christian walk that John's father James had. Per the message, James never felt a specific calling into the ministry and did not intrude into it, but he Biblically guided his own children with a tremendous amount of prayer for them, and a message like this really speaks especially to fathers specifically as to the impact that your shepherding and guidance has on the life of your own children.

1 John 3:3-9

(This is from a devotion I wrote for Alpha-Omega a few years ago...)

And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning The Son of
God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. [1 John 3:3-9 NAS]

This passage speaks about how all of our own efforts to purify ourselves are completely futile.  Works-based righteousness will NEVER succeed in making us righteous in God's eyes.  Ultimately, our righteousness is only obtained through the work of the Holy Spirit, calling us repentance and belief in Christ alone.  Sanctification is God working in us, and us manifesting outwardly that inward working of the Holy Spirit. The legalist would say, "I obtained righteousness myself, and God is happy with what I achieved", when in actuality, the correct attitude of the believer should be one of "God DID IT within me, and I'm forever grateful that he overcame my own sinful, fallen nature in order to do it." One of the things that makes Christianity distinct from all other religions of the world is God's perfect grace, and that our salvation is not based on our own works and perfecting of ourselves, but rather its God who alone perfects us.

I was reading some of Calvin's remarks on the book of I John, and he makes the observation that John "plainly declares that the hearts of the godly are so effectually governed by the Spirit of God, that through an inflexible disposition they follow his guidance" Calvin later continues that "God testifies that he gives a new heart to his children, and promises to do this, that they may walk in his commandments.

We as believers should all take comfort in knowing that God's grace is sufficient in our lives, and that our righteousness is not dependent at all upon us or our works, but instead is solely a gift of God through Christ
Jesus our Lord.

Q&A with Dr. Waldron and John Divito

Some fair observations made about the FIC model (although right off the bat Dr. Waldron gets it wrong by pronouncing Dr. Baucham's name as "VAH-dee". The rejection of systematic age-segregation ministry could be seen as overreacting, yet at the same time Voddie makes good points in that, if this system works, why do so many kids in this model turn from their faith when they go off to college.

I would agree with the observation that FIC churches reject nurseries for babies. I have no problem with nurseries, and one of the things I found with Voddie's church was that even though there was no nursery per se, there would still be a gathering of women in the back room on any given Sunday with their fussy babies, so why not just make an accommodation for them?

Now one thing I think Dr. Waldron did miss was that FIC model churches ofter place a much stronger emphasis on father-led worship in the home, particularly encouraging the daily practice of family worship (more than just simple, trite and irregular devotional times). I had never heard of this prior to attending Voddie's church and it definitely introduced a very important practice into our own home, with daily hymns, Bible reading and prayer as a family.

Q&A with Dr. Waldron and John Divito | Waldron on the Family Integrated Church from MCTS on Vimeo.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Mother Goose is a Witch"

Interesting sermon on various overt and subtle occult references in a number of familiar book titles. Although some of this at times sounds a little extreme or over-reactive, I think there are some fair points made here by Pastor Faust (a curiously-ironic name considering the subject matter) about examining all aspects of what books (namely, fairy tales) are allowed in ones house. Of course the Harry Potter/Twilight books are (rightly) condemned, but Pastor Faust goes further into the deeper content and history of works like Mother Goose and McGuffy Readers, etc. The biggest take-away is to really examine everything that you allow into your house under the close scrutiny of Scripture in light of 2 Corinthians 6:17 and caution to "touch not the unclean thing".

What's strange, in light of the creepiness of so much of the content discussed, is that I have no idea how this one appeared on my MP3 player, as I have no memory at all of ever downloading this (a providentially-mislabeled SermonAudio title, perhaps?). Ah well, worth checking out.

Lady Jane Grey: A Woman of Whom the World was not Worthy

Pastor Justin's message about Lady Jane Grey, whom I had never heard of previously. This was a wonderful message, and a humbling reminder of standing strong for the gospel, even when you are presented with a simple avenue of escaping persecution by renouncing faith. A message really worth listening to.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

GFBC Annual Spring Conference 2011 with Conrad Mbewe

Our family was blessed to be able to attend one of the sessions of Grace Family Baptist's Annual Spring Conference for this year, and the following are some of the notes that I took. Pastor Conrad Mbewe was the guest speaker, visiting from Kabwata Reformed Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia, Africa (more about him at his blog here).

Pastor Mbewe spoke on the topic of authority and submission. Opening with I Peter 3:13-17, the Apostle Peter is writing to the dispersia of Pontious, Galatia, and believers scattered all over various countries. Peter teaches with a focus on salvation, which is the organizing principle of their lives. As obedient children, so we should be holy, living lives consecrated to God - lives distinct from the Gentiles (the unbelieving world.)

In Ephesians 5, we are instructed to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. Col. 3:18 also emphasizes submission, that God has established an order to his people. We honor and respect God by respecting an honoring those in authority over us. We are to be subject, not for America's sake, but for the Lord's sake. We are keeping the vertical plane in the right place.

The question becomes, what if the leader is a despot? This was not a new issue at the time, and Peter addresses the subject of suffering at the hands of the unjust. In doing what is right we might be called upon to suffer for it.

In I Pet. 2:17, we read about being subject to every institution. Submission and authority is a not a side-issue, but rather is at the center of godliness and holiness. Our individual holiness pours into other areas of life.

Peter avoids splitting the hairs of obeying issues such as national vs. state, but rather gives blanket instruction to honor all authority. When Paul speaks of submitting to leaders, we are indirectly submitting to God, and in Paul's situation, he wasn't talking about a Christian leader but rather a despot and a tyrant. National and state leaders that rule are servants of God (I Pet. 2). These governors ensure the way that we live with one another, and uphold laws against those who break them, punishing those who do evil and praising those who do good. Rom. 13 - rulers are ultimately servants for our good. Pay taxes, respect and honor those in authority, as submission to authorities pleases God.

My notes were a little scattered, as we had some kid issues, but there were also a few notes on marriage, and that the one who brings up together in marriage is God. Our vows are made to Him, and we do not need a civil magistrate. We register to satisfy the laws of the land. We should be careful not to use the freedom that we have in Christ to breach the laws of the land.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

General notes on Greek Orthodoxy

Some notes I jotted down listening to a Carl Trueman lecture on the Medieval Church:

Greek Orthodox/Eastern Orthodox:
- High view of the Trinity.
- Highly-elaborate ritual and liturgy.
- Importance placed on icons, with theological arguments made for why dieficiation is given to these (vs. perceiving them as graven images)
- To Eastern Orthodox, icons are an idealized, divinized portrait of what they represent, with a theosis present, or a taking of God's power.  With relics, there is something ontalogically transforming the item (similar to the human body of saints, hence why relics are important.)

Of course I disagree with their view of relics, but I did find it interesting to understand a little bit more of the background as to why they believe this.  I visited a Greek Orthodox church ages ago, and noticed the elaborate ritual.  I was impressed by the importance placed on head coverings, as this was something mandated for all women visiting, as the church adhered to a very high-view of I Cor. 11 (in many ways this was important for me in researching deeper into the head covering issue - that, and Sproul's comments on the topic.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

Ideal for family worship, the Jesus Storybook Bible is an excellent retelling of many of the principle stories of the Bible.  This was used as part of this year's Family Camp, with each lesson taught at camp punctuated with some of the audio from this series.  The narration is actually fantastic:  read by David Suchet (the Inspector Poirot actor), the reading is very dramatic and entertaining, and appeals both to kids and adults (some of the narration is actually pretty funny.)

There's also a deluxe edition that includes a book with the CD narrations.  Eventually I'll get around to linking some of the sermon notes from family camp.  Every year its a tremendous blessing to be able to head out to do some camping and enjoy the teaching and fellowship, and I look forward to the family camp time each year.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Revelation 14 and "For all the Saints"

A favorite hymn of mine from the Trinity Hymnal that we sang tonight is 'For All the Saints', a hymn with a melody and lyrics that are just beautiful.  I'm particularly in awe of the lyrics from the last verse:

From earth's wide bounds,
from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl
streams in the countless host,

Singing to Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost,
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The verses speak of the gathering of the saints from the furthest reaches, brought in through the "gates of pearl" and singing praises to the Triune God.  Beautiful hymn and such a blessing to sing this during time of worship.

Luke 15:11-32 and "The Prodigal God: Finding Your Place at the Table"

We've been using Tim Keller's "The Prodigal God: Finding Your Place at the Table" as a component of our nightly family worship, and its quite excellent. Keller's manner of teaching is remarkably accessible, and it's clear how, as gifted he is in teaching, how he could bring this type of teaching style to a church in the heart of New York.  The DVD features a 30-min session of Keller's teaching on the parable of the Prodigal son from Luke 15:11-32, and gives emphasis to the fact that the parable isn't just about the younger son who runs away, but rather more shockingly is the role of the older brother - the one who, on the return of the younger son, refuses to be a part of the celebratory meal.  In the situaion with both sons there is rebellion against the father:  the younger son (indentified with the "sinners" and tax-collectors listening to Christ) flees to pursue his own interests and desires then returns in repentance, while the older son complains of his faithfulness to follow the rules and restrictions of the house all along, and expresses no joy at the return of the younger brother (the older brother being a a reflection of the Pharisees and teachers of the law - faithful to legalistic standards without a genuine love of the father.)
The DVD also features shorter segments that correspond with sections of the discussion guide, with plenty of thoughtful questions that can be discusses

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

1Timothy 3:6 and Non-seminary Trained Lay Elders

A couple thoughts of mine on the topic of lay-elders. Just sort of hammering out some thoughts here, as it's a topic I'm still digging through Scripture to resolve. I grew up Presbyterian, where the church organization would feature a senior "teaching elder" accompanied by a number of lay elders, who were generally NOT seminary-educated but were simply full-time doctors or plumbers or whatever and who served as elders once a week, basically. Over the last few years I've really started to question this practice, because it seems to me that this invariably leads to a system of unqualified men serving in leadership roles in the church, and I wonder if this goes against a part of what the Apostle Paul described to Timothy as requirements for what the elder role should be, namely this particular passage:

1 Timothy 3:6: "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil."

That term "new convert" in the ESV is νεόφυτος (neophytos) in Greek, meaning one who has recently become a Christian, but I think that the KJV rendering of this term is interesting, and telling, in that it uses "novice." And while I'm sure there are lay officers installed that have a solid Christian walk (and perhaps some Seminary education) it makes me wonder what the danger is in trusting the leadership of the church to men who haven't really been thoroughly tested in the faith through the rigors of seminary dedication (particularly in the Presbyterian situation where, as I recall, lay elders would teach/lead worship). I don't believe that seminary is mandatory, but it definitely plays a big part in training up men who have solid, comprehensive understanding of not just exegeting scripture, but church history, systematic theology, hermeneutics, counseling, teaching, etc.

Oak Ridge Reformed Baptist, where is attend now, is led by a plurality of two extremely-gifted teaching elders, one fully-seminary educated and the other very close. This model of multiple teaching elders seems like the right direction for a number of reasons: first, because, as I understand it, the term for overseer, ἐπισκοπή, is generally used in the plural in Paul's epistle to Timothy. I think there are other spots in the New Testament that talk about multiple men leading specific churches. But the second reason is that it appears that there's something of a blessing in relaxing the practice of only one guy being the "ringleader" of the church, and instead dividing up the teaching and leadership responsibilities between two or more men. Speaking as laity, I can see how that should mean less burden exclusively placed on one man, but rather one or more men work together, support each other, share teaching responsibilities together, handle issues of the church together, etc. Having become part of a model of elder plurality, I can't see ever going back to the singular model again.

That being said, I'm reminded of the last church we attended. Good ministry with solid teaching by two very talented seminary-educated men. But one of the things they did, which I found a little questionable, was the planting of an off-shoot church work led by two men who were NOT seminary educated, and who were instead privately educated by the church leadership prior to being installed at the church plant. I had some trouble with this, in that I think this goes against I Tim. 3:6 cited above: again, this seems to speak of installing "novices" in place of men who have undergone 2-3 years of dedicated, focused seminary training. The heavy-duty reading, the rigorous exegesis, the Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic, the living-breathing God's word. A man who dedicates those years of time to seminary reminds me of how the prophet Elijah had to spend 3 years living in the wilderness, waiting and trusting in God, or how the Apostle Paul spent 14 years in the desert drawing close to God before his ministry work began. There's something there about the importance of dedication, training, preparedness, that you don't pick up studying theology in someone's home. I could be wrong, but I'll say this much: when Pastor Justin comes back to visit from Southern to teach, it's such a blessing to be able to glean from the knowledge and understanding that God is cultivating in him during his seminary studies. Seminary education is so foundation to what the elder role needs to be.

Paul's warning in I Tim. 3:6 speaks of someone who is newly-planted that, in their immaturaity, risks being puffed up with pride. But more than that, I would be concerned that an inexperienced elder is just not tested, and would not be prepared for every situation to be expected as an elder, be it experience in teaching adn answering difficult questions, being able to provide deep, sound expositions of text, or even the ability to faithfully and Biblically offer council. I just can't see that being cultivated out of a dedicated seminary experience.

It's like the situation of needing heart surgery: I could go with the man who's studied the body in school for several years and has gained extensive, valuable experience, or the nurse who has watched, been involved, and participated in, heart surgery, but never went to school for it. Or even the intern - with some school but not the full training and degree. If I needed the surgery, I would INSIST on the doctor, not the nurse or the intern.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Psalm 127:5 in the ESV and "What He Must Be..."

I've been reading "What He Must Be... If He Wants to Marry My Daughter" by Voddie Baucham, and really enjoying this title. So much of this instruction is directly relevant to my own situation of not only preparing and direction my own children spiritually for their future spouses, but also in terms of cultivating an understanding of what to be looking for in future sutors.  I will likely have more to post about this book later.

We attended Voddie's church in Houston a couple years ago, and other than a few minor doctrinal issues I think he's a fantastic teacher, and what he covers in this book will definitely be considered controversial by many, both in and out of the church.  Not many people like to hear someone defend and encourage the principle that a potential son-in-law, other than just being an upright individual with a genuine Christian faith, must also be a man who loves and craves having children.  In a day and age where some evangelicals like to dismiss the creation mandate, I love reading from the occasional pastor who defends (and encourages) believers to have large families.

Especially interesting to me was Voddie's elaboration on Psalm 127:5 (the "quiver" passage) from the ESV.  As he states in the book (pg. 123-124) there are many translations of the Bible that render this passage, speaking of the blessing of children, as "blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them".  But the ESV picks up a missed nuance, "Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!"  Voddie points out the crucial distinction: "this rendering paints the picture of a man who desires children, who seeks children.  What a scathing rebuke to those in our culture who do not value children."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dr. Michael Barrett on the King James Version

A fair, although imperfect, defense of the AV. I find the King James often difficult to read due to the changes in the English language, and the effort Dr. Barrett describes to pick up the "specialized jargon" for the AV isn't really worth it - I'd rather expend those energies into learning the Greek. The message isn't without some not so subtle biases (newer texts being "dumbed down" you know, etc) but at least Dr. Barrett doesn't seem to go into any of the silly "double-inspiration" goofiness, but there are shades of this with some of his remarks about inspiration and preservation. The only Greek text then for the AV translators was apparently the best per Garrett, but seems as if I've heard different things from James White on the topic of KJVO. In any case, listen and hear for yourself.

I'm frankly not sure how I started to listening to this - somehow I stumbled across this while browsing some messages on Harold Campings 5/21 doomsday silliness. Saturday works for me for judgment day, but if not it will be a good day for grilling out.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Next Story - Tim Challies - Genesis 1:28 and Sloppy Exegesis

What follows is my brief review of Tim Challies "The Next Story"

Tim Challies isn't offering anything ground-breaking here: the basic requisition I took was that as a Christian should use discernment with the world of rapidly-changing technology.  Sure. 
But some better exegesis of Genesis in the first chapter would have made a much better lasting impression. In the first chapter, Tim Challies speaks about the creation mandate from Genesis 1 and refers to this as " WAS supposed to be fruitful and multiply." "Was"? Maybe I missed the part in Scripture where this divine injunction was rescinded. He then goes on to make the somewhat ridiculous statement that this mandate has less to do with having children and more to do with "developing the social world by building families, churches, cities, etc." The creation mandate is, at its core, about FILLING the earth, not just Challie's notions about utilizing technology for practical purposes and promoting human flourishing.  That sort of chucked me off early into the reading.

I think there's a bigger issue at state here, overlooked by Challies, and that's that evangelicals today have bought into the secular ideas of being "responsible", limiting their children to 2-3, so that more personal time and resources can be devoted to the latest Sheepware that the Apple store rolls out, so that then technology becomes THE big issue to be concerned about.  But far more important than irrelevant shifting technological patterns would be shifting DEMOGRAPHIC patterns. The Muslims of Europe understand this and are continuing to produce sizable families... are Evangelicals even aware of this or are they too caught up in updating their Facebook profile or being concerned about the irrelevent use and misuse of technology, all of which would be rendered completely useless if and when the power is ever knocked out.

Questions for a Prospective Pastor

A friend sent me a link to these prospective Questions for a Prospective Pastor and I wanted to include them here as a reference.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

1 Corinthians 7:13–14, Piper and Infant Baptism

John Piper has an interesting and brief post here addressing I Cor. 7:13-14, one of those "proof" texts used by paedobaptists. I like Piper's response - I just wish that he didn't teach that paedobaptist believers should be allowed to become members of Baptist churches without being baptised as believers (in other words, baptized correctly.)

Money Matters and Christian Giving - Pastor Michael Phillips

Pastor Michael Phillips, in this series on money, offers and sound and practical overview of how the believer should approach money matters. This message linked below is from the section of this series on giving, and his teaching on this matter is excellent.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Matthew 24:36, Harold Camping, Judgment Day and Jeremiah 29:11

Well, I just noticed a billboard the other day more or less stating that Harold Camping has again figured out the date for Judgment Day, apparently on May 21st.  I doubt it, but it will still be interesting to see what happens, particularly because I'm still between jobs right now, and that would solve the problem of getting the mortgage paid this month.

I write most of these blogs as a storage place for theological notes and musing - mostly for myself - but on the off-chance someone is visiting and reading this, I would greatly appreciate prayer for my recent interviews.  There is that uncertainty to the future (unless you're Harold Camping) in which you don't know what God's plans are, but instead of silly predictions, I take comfort in passages such as Jeremiah 29:11, that gives the assuranc:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Minister's Prayer Life - Paul Washer

I've listened to a number of Paul Washer's mp3 messages before and find him to be a fascinating and convicting teacher. Granted, there is an exuberance that can sometimes distract, but the passion with which Washer teaches on concepts such as the importance and vibrancy of prayer are deeply convicting. This message especially is one worth checking out.

This was one part that really struck me: "Today there is not battle fought in this pulpit. It was fought this morning at five o'clock. It was fought in prayer. It is won in prayer. The thing is done in prayer."

Pastor Washer will make note in this message of his lack of seminary/expository experience while building on the importance of prayer - not as a rote activity but a solid component of the life of every believer. "You know, I hear it very common today even among ministers. They say, 'Well, I don’t really have a specific time of prayer. I just kind of pray all the time.'  I do not believe that because I have learned that practicing the presence of God and practicing prayer, it is a learned discipline. It comes from tarrying with your God. What else would you want to do? What other greater privilege has been granted you than to tarry with God, to worship him, to cry out to him, to commune with him?"

Friday, April 29, 2011

Schleitheim Confession (Anabaptist, 1527)

Link to the Schleitheim Confession, an earlier Anabaptist confessional document.  I don't profess to agree with all of it, but I've got a strange interest in the anabaptists lately (maybe because I'm technically a twice-baptized person myself: once the wrong way (baby) and once the right way (believer)).

I Timothy and Plurality of Elders - Notes from Macarthur

Some quick notes I took from a sermon by John Macarthur on the issue of eldership.  In I Timothy we read the Apostle Paul writing to Timothy at the church in Ephesus and giving instructions about restoring Biblical eldership.  Macarthur describes how the Bibles speaks of elders as a plurality of men, and not a "lone wolf" pastor in charge.  Paul's letters teach of elders in a plural sense, and say nothing of a pyramid layout or pecking order to this - no ruling man or board of men in charge.  The idea of a "senior pastor" is not in Scripture.

Coming from a Presbyterian background, I've long had struggles with the concept of "lay eldership", or elders who are full-time lawyers or pediatricians during the week, giving their trades full-time focus, but then along comes Sunday and then they are somehow qualified to serve as officers of the church?  And what happens in a situation where someone in the congregation needs immediate crisis counciling?  "Sorry, I have a busy work day at the office and can't help you."  The office of elder should be a full-time, dedicated role held by men with a seminary education.  Its one of the things I love about Oak Ridge Reformed Baptist, in that there isn't a "senior pastor" but rather two men who take on the eldership responsibilities together.  I'm fairly certain this is consistent with how the Bible described it should be.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Musing about Seminary

Going to Seminary
I would love to go to seminary one day, but the logistics of doing it with family seem completely unrealistic. Plus I've never really felt a calling to the ministry, but rather just a love of the Word and of a deeper understanding of exegeting Scripture, the original languages, church history and the nuiances of systematic theology. Maybe someday - it might make for a nice retirement goal... :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

"People of the Church" by L. C. Rudolph

We just finished reading People of the church (Covenant life curriculum) by L. C. rudolph as part of our family worship time, and the text, albeit very brief, offers a decent and compact overview of some of the principle followers of Christ throughout Church history, including Calvin, Polycarp of Smyrna, Columba of Iona, etc.  Ideal for family worship and young listeners, the text offers a glipse into their lives and details some of their accomplishments, in addition to their trials and persecutions.  I wasn't able to find much about it online, but there's a link to Amazon above where it can presumably be found used.  Well worth it.

A Boatload of Bahnsen

There's a wealth of free Greg Bahnsen articles available here. Linking to it, simply so I'll remember to get around to it when I get more reading time...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Michael Phillips - History of the Anabaptists

Pastor Michael Phillips offers a nice overview in this MP3 of the Anabaptist movement, both the origin and early history of this group as well as an exploration of some of their key teachings. Speaking as an "anabaptist" (one twice baptized - once the wrong way as a little devil of a baby, once the right way as a professing believer) I really admire the convictions of the early believers who took a stand for their convictions, often with their lives sacrificed as a result.

Pastor Phillips talks about Conrad Grebel, a student of Zwingli in the 16th century. Zwingli was assailing the catholic mass at that time, as something not found in Scripture. Grebel took that a step further and applied that same reasoning logically to infant baptism as well. What is fascinating is that Zwingli privately agreed, yet hypocritically he publically supported paedobaptism. And sadly at that time it was the city council that stood in judgment over the matter, with Zwingli's backing, when truthfully Christ is the only head of the church. Grebel was arrested, imprisoned, but ultimately able to flee and continue to spread the word. The message also continues into details about Felix Manz and also Michael Sattler, the later who faced a brutal torture and execution simply because he taught and believed in the Scripturally-correct mode of baptism.

While the anabaptists were not without faults theologically, one of the interesting points made by Pastor Phillips is that, while there will be Judases in baptist churches, these are NOT ones that are deliberately brought in, whereas in the paedobaptising congregations, as he puts it in the message, the practice was that of "sprinkled water on the heads of little devils and brought into the church". Strong, true, but accurate.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Corrie Ten Boom: Keeper of the Angels Den

We recently read  together as part of our family worship time a biography of Corrie ten Boom, a brave Christian woman who helped hide Jews in Holland during WWII, and this particular biography, while ultimately a wonderful ending, illustrates the very dark turn of events that took place in the life of Corrie ten Boom during the Nazi occupation of Holland during this timeframe, and her eventual experience as a German captive as a result of helping to hide Jews in “the angels Den”, a hidden room within her home. The biography starts out with some of the more cheerful details of Corrie's earlier family life and then slowly unfolds into the details of the war spreading its way across the peaceful holland countryside and the gradual transformation of life for the Dutch, particularly the Jews of Holland who were more and more villified by the Nazis. Corrie, her father and siblings agree to work as part of the resistance and in addition to helping procure food rations for those starving they also find the means to build a hiding place in their home for persecuted Jews. Eventually the gestapo find out about this, and what follows are a series of dark chapters describing the inhuman prison conditions that would eventually take the life of Corrie's father and older sister. Corrie survives, is eventually released and returns to Holland, where she devotes the remainder of her life helping those devastated by the Nazi occupation. She also wrote her memoirs in the classic “the Hiding Place” and also traveled extensively, speaking and lecturing, while giving away most of her money to help those in need.

An excellent, albeit darker, entry in the Janey and Geoff Benge series of the heroes of the christian faith, and one that spurned a lot of discussion following the reading, particularly on the them of gratitude and really appreciating what you have. Don't like dinner tonight? Imagine eating black toast and a cup of watery coffee and that's all you get. Not enough pillows? Imaging a straw mat covered with lice, etc. One recurring statement from the book was from Betsie's older sister, during the hardship of imprisonment, when she said that “We must tell them there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper.” From a concentration camp stronger words could not be spoken.

Another passage that stuck with me (that a previous reader of this book marked with a star) were the words of Casper ten boom, in reference to the demands of the Gestapo not to shelter Jews and the concern of his family, “Never forget”, he said, his blue eyes shining, “What a privileged family we are.” In light of so many forms of persecution that afflict the church of Christ today, these words ring with so much importance to all of us.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Luke 6:46

While having coffee at the cafe in the local United Methodist church, at the sanctuary entrance they have a large display (with expensive-looking video and music, etc) to solicit for various questions about who they think God is, questions about the faith, etc, with a bunch of verses listed on sheets of paper with space provided so that you can "sketch or write you(sic) answer on this page." What's amusing about these questions is that one of the verses is Luke 6:46:
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?"

For a United Methodist church, with its generally wonky theology, I thought that this is quite ironic that they would choose this particular Luke text as a question.

(Strangely, the wireless internet connection wasn't working today at the UM church cafe, but this wasn't a big deal since I wanted to work on some C# coding with a book that I've been studying, plus I packed along my MP3 player to listen to a Mark Dever 9Marks interview, so all is well. I think the UM staff is on to me and shut it off just for my sake... :)

Also ironically is that in this interview I'm listening to with David Wells they've been discussing the state of the culture and how America is what could be considered predominantly "spiritual" and how this puts the Christian message in a much different context - closer to the Nchurch as it was in the context of Acts. That "spiritual" direction describes a lot of how it feels walking through in this UM church - spiritual flavoring but no high-view of scripture, no Scripturally-sound doctrine, etc.

They do have a nice cafe though with half-decent coffee.  Just would have been nice had the WiFi been working...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ephesians 1:1-14

(The following is a devotional I wrote during my time as the central mailer with Alpha-Omega fan magazine.  Just pasting it here as I clean out some old jump drives on my desk...)

Ephesians 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Paul's text to the Ephesian church speaks of the blessing of our adoption and redemption, as well as the glories of our being predestined for an eternal inheritance. Reading this passage, and knowing the value that Christ has put on our lives, we are obligated to use our earthly time wisely and effectively, which brings me to the topic of time, and our usage of the limited time that we have.

Although as a concept this can be difficult to fully grasp, time is a convention created by God, and that belongs to God. As such, we should use time in accordance with His will, and not that of our own. And while this does apply to time lost due to sinful behavior, it also applies as well to non-moral behavior. Consider, we can sometimes wind up spending (or more accurately, wasting) life's precious time with watching television (a rerun of a sitcom we've already seen a half dozen times already), video games (you don't need another game of Tetris, Rob), exercise, or even sitting motionless rocking in a chair. Time is a very easy commodity to waste.

In every manner which we use time, we could question if we are using our time wisely as well as to the best of our abilities. Even work itself can be time poorly spent if our working is simply an excessive pursuit of overtime in an attempt to amass money, or when done only for material pursuit and to the detriment of spiritual growth and family commitments.

Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote an excellent sermon on this very topic called "The Preciousness of Time" that's worth reading.  Edwards addresses the topic so much better than I, and while he makes no references to 'Tetris', he does point out a number of important considerations, not least of which is consideration of how precious time is to those who have come to the end of it. Those of us who aren't in that situation should appreciate what it would be like to be at our last days, and make the most of the time that we have. The internet is the pinnacle of time-wasting, with surfing, social networking, online gaming, etc, all being capable of burning up time which is a very precious commodity.  I've personally felt the soul-draining experience of time wasted with online gaming, as well as the regret of lost time that can never be regained.  Reading this text in Ephesians, we as Christians are given a clear picture of Christ's amazing love for us, and how important we as the elect are to him.  Knowing this, we are obligated to look at our lives and how we spend out time, and make the most of the time we've been given.

Time is short, and time cannot be recovered.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dr Lloyd-Jones documentary on George Whitefield

Pastor Justin posted this on Facebook and it's good enough that I'd like to share it here as well.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Brother Andrew - Dan Wooding

We recently read the biography/life story of Brother Andrew by Dan Wooding, and greatly enjoyed this story.  While serving as a biography, Christian testimonial and an account of high-danger evangelical missions, the book remains a very entertaining account from cover to cover, and serves as a powerful reminder of the power of prayer, and of God's deliverance from situations of seemingly impossible peril.

One of the people mentioned in the nook really caught my attention, and probably stood out to me more than anything else in the book.  Brother Andrew recalls his time with William Hopkins (aka "Uncle Hoppy") during his time staying at the headquarters of the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade.  Brother Andrew notes that:

"I soon learned that Uncle Hoppy gave away ninety percent of his income to various missions.  And whenever he found a tramp in need of accomodation, he just took him home with him and he and Mrs. Hopkins cared for that down-and-outer."

I've heard from a couple places of the idea of a reverse tithe, or the idea of giving away 90% of your income and living on the 10%.  Rick Warren, of Purpose Driven Life fame, supposedly follows this model (and seems to be gettin by ok).  This model of stewardship is one of just incredible faith in God's provisions, and I've prayed for the faith and ability to give like this someday myself.  Another section caught my attention:

"When a tramp would stop him in the street and ask for money, he would immediately dig deep into his pocket and hand over some cash.  'But Uncle Hoppy, he will only use it to buy more booze,' I would protest.  My English friend looked at me, as if I shouldn't have questioned his action.  'Andrew, the Bible tells us to give to those that ask, and that's what I'm doing.  You should always do the same.  Don't question their motives."

I've been thinking about that, as there are a number of folks to solicit for money along the I-45 over-passes, and like Brother Andrew, I've had the same thoughts about where the money goes to.  At the same time, I think Uncle Hoppy does make a fair point to consider, as no one can really know for certain what those individual motives would be.

We've moved on to a bio of Corrie ten Boom, but I'd like to revisit the Brother Andrew story someday and check out God's Smuggler.  His story is a very inspiring one, and makes for excellent supplemental material for family worship time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Westminster Shorter Catechism MP3s

Link to the Westminster Shorter Catechism on MP3. The divines are an exceptional way to study and retain the key doctrines of the Christian faith, and are mostly accurate (with exceptions like #95 which is just flat wrong.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What a Father Looks for in a Suitor - Voddie Baucham

Excellent sermonaudio message by Dr. Voddie Baucham speaking at Mount Zion Bible church. The message is packed with solid instructional teaching on Christian characteristics that a father needs to look for in a suitor, but beyond just this, gives guidance for daughters in terms of what they should look for, as well as for son in terms of what they should be. I think Voddie is right on with this, as it is just dangerous to just send our children out into the world, with a worldly philosophy of, "they are 18, so 'leave and cleave' and send them out into the world", leaving it to them to find a mate without parental guidance in finding a suitor - and not just seeing out characteristics such as "handsome" or "witty", but rather be an individual with a heart for Christ and passion for nurturing his wife and guiding her sanctification, in addition to a commitment to shepherding their children's hearts as well. Excellent and timely teaching.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Greek to Me

I found a fun text on learning Koine greek at the library today called Greek to Me, by J. Lyle Story and Peter Allen Miller.  I've only just started into this, but what's fun about this guide to learning Greek is that it's built largely around learning by visual representations.
For instance, a term like e-gei-row, that means "I raise up."   By using somewhat silly visual representations you can build these into the memory.  This is ideal for me as a visually-based learner.  The text is pretty easy for a beginner to follow, and the cartoons are cute as well.

Various Random Sermon Notes

I'm not sure where these notes came from, but I think they are worth jotting down here:

Under what circumstances do you leave a church?

  • When there is heresy being taught or committed by the leadership (and don't leave a church without indicating to leadership where and how heresy has been taught.)
  • Unqualified leadership (and I'd add UNDER-qualified leadership.  We left a church over this issue, and one of these days I will jot down notes in terms of why I think that ALL teaching elders need to be seminary-educated or actively pursuing a seminary education.)

Can a man with an unbelieving wife who leaves him become an elder?

  • Is this man above reproach?
  • Does he "stay with" his wife, even when she's gone? (staying committed to HIS marriage vow, til death does them part, and not remarry?)

The Lord's Supper, as observed by denominations like Methodists

  • Methodists allow for a strange teaching along the lines of a "half-way covenant", allowing people thinking of becoming believers to eat the meal.  Believers should actually iron out the implications and decide for themselves prior to taking of the elements.

Church Membership

  • I Cor. 12 speaks of being "members" of Christ's body.
  • In the book of Acts, there are examples of the church knowing it's numbers and people.
  • In the Old Testament, there is a clear demarcation of God's people.
  • " Re-sacrifice" never appears in Ignatius and the early fathers.
  • The 11th century sees the first appearance of transubstantiation.
  • Aquinas took from Aristotle the idea that the inner "essence" changes into Christ.
  • Per Catholic teaching, the elements still maintain the look and taste of bread, which is part of the "double miracle" of transubstantiation.

  • The paedobaptist view was challenged by credobaptists in the first few centuries. 
  • The 1st century saw the baptism of believing children (notes are a little sketchy here - I didn't grab a source.)
  • The Didache talks about baptism taking place in flowing water following fasting (hence implied it was intended for an adult.)

    Psalm 139:23-24

    Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me."

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    What is a "Confessional" Church?

    I recently found a website for a Reformed church that listed it as a "Confessional" one, and I honestly wasn't sure what this meant, so I did a little research.  Initially, I thought that "confessional" merely referred to a church that followed the teaching of the Westminster Divines, but it's actually more than that.  A confessional church is one that adheres to the divines (with larger and shorter catechisms), but also to the Three Forms of Unity as well, which is composed of the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dordrecht and the Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles and Nicene creeds, etc.).  All good and sound doctrines - in fact we've been using the Heidelberg catechism as part of our family worship, and, notwithstanding the errors about infant baptism, it's a solid overview of the tenants of the Christian faith.)

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Acts 20:27, Westminster, and a Flyer in the mail from some local Woodlands church

    I periodically get mailings from a fairly large, amusing Woodlands church that we visited once years ago, so I wanted to jot down a couple of thoughts about this church, because around the same time I ironically also received a copy of Westminster Today in the mail, and there couldn't be a more stark day-and-night difference between these two sources.  The Woodlands church that sent the flyer is an insanely massive Willow Creek-style establishment, and equally as shallow.  The pastors, husband and wife both, advertise various series on life issues and what not, and from our one visit there, it's a church clearly build around entertainment with very shallow teaching.  In fact, during our visit a majority of the service was taken up with parading children on the stage for them to donate money - not for the widows and orphans - but rather to finance some sort of structure for the church (the spirit of Tetzel is apparently alive and well...)

    On the other side of the coin was the WTS magazine, that was a much more enriching read, particularly Dr. Carl Trueman's article on pg. 6 (the article can be read here.)  One the subject of large, shallow churches, I think that Trueman's comments, on the subject of declaring the whole counsel of God, are particularly appropriate in terms of the aforementioned flier:

    This brings me finally to the question: how can I know that my church is teaching the whole counsel of God as Paul understood it? There are various tell-tale signs that such might not be the case: if your minister spends more time talking about politics than Jesus Christ; if he spends more time telling you what you need to do, rather than telling you what God in Christ has done; if he is always focusing on the latest cultural fad rather than upon the priorities of scripture—these are all indicative of a ministry that is probably not preaching the whole counsel of God, however wide-ranging the topics covered may be. It is not breadth of topic but rather narrowness of focus upon God and his revelation that is, paradoxically, a sign that more of the whole counsel is actually being covered.

    The Stires - Missionaries to Albania

    Here's a link to the blog run by the Stires family, a missionary family that visited Oak Ridge last summer.  From what they described, the country of Albania was decimated following the communist regime that held sway in the country, and living conditions to this day remain far from ideal.  Please pray for their mission work in this country.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    The Big Book of Questions and Answers About Jesus - Sinclair Ferguson

    Two books that we use as a part of our family worship are Big Book Of Questions and Answers and Big Book Of Questions & Answers About Jesus.  Dr. Ferguson is an amazing teacher, both his doctrinal teachings for adults as well as his teaching material for kids.  We are currently using the Big Book of Q&A About Jesus nightly, and I like the way the material is broken down into a Scriptural study about an aspect of Jesus life, followed by a question to consider, an activity and closing prayer.  Combined with hymns and Scripture reading, this makes for an excellent addition to daily family worship time.  Highly recommended.