Archive for January, 2007

Placarding the Wrong god

January 31, 2007

So I was driving in Pensacola yesterday, and I saw one of those church signs. Now let me say that I am not favorably disposed to church signs with sayings on them. Seeing so many has prejudiced me against them, I suppose.

Try this one on for size: “Interested in going to heaven? Apply inside for flight training.”

Now, do I really need to mention how trivializing, how absurd, how small this is? It is no wonder that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is so monstrously belittled in our culture. He is monstrously belittled in the church. And then that shrunken god is placarded in front of traffic as if he were something to brag about.

I am convinced that the soul of contemporary evangelicalism, unfortunately, shows through. This is no Holy God to fear and love and before whom to humble oneself. This is no God of glory and of grace. This is the god of the glib, the god of studied nonchalance, the god who gives you cool stuff.

Paul wrote in Galatians 3:1 that he clearly placarded Christ as crucified in his preaching. What about that for church advertisement?

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A Glorious Covenant Continuity

January 31, 2007

In Psalm 78:1-7 the Psalmist observes that one of the crucial elements in determining a nation’s future prosperity and continuance is a clear understanding of God’s dealings with it. We are commanded to teach our children the glorious things that God has done in the past in order that they might know and declare them to their children. All this with the ultimate end that they might set their hope in God (v. 7).

You see here a glorious covenant continuity: Four generations are mentioned and involved in the continuation of covenant culture. This indicates that one of the critical factors in the preservation and promotion of Biblical faith and the blessings that accompany covenant faithfulness is a clear sight and understanding of the great works of God in the history of the nation.

from “The Importance of History” by Steve Wilkins

I am a Scot

January 31, 2007

My name is Alan Brown Stout Jr. My paternal grandmother was born Mary Brown in 1912 in the town of North Berwick Scotland into the proud Clan MacMillan. She immigrated here with her parents when she was a young girl. She married my grandfather, English bloodlines, long settled in America. They were the personification of the Acts of 1707.

The diverse folks at MereComments (link to the right) have tipped me off to the possible dissolution of said Acts. Long live Scotland! FREEDOM! (No disrespect to Poppy)

al sends

He Loves

January 30, 2007

I often ask my children, “Why do you love me?” My objective when I ask them this question is more than getting them to say nice things about dear old dad. I want them to see that the only reason they love me is because I loved them first. That love was relayed to them by actions I took as they grew. I fed them, snuggled their necks, changed their diapers and told them repeatedly how much I loved them. I did this while they were incapable of doing much for me. Sure they cooed and grunted but that only goes so far. They learned to love me even before the really knew me.

Jonathan Edwards explained the third person of the Trinity as the being of eternal love between the Father and the Son.

This is the eternal and most perfect and essential act of the Divine nature, wherein the Godhead acts to an infinite degree and in the most perfect manner possible. The Deity becomes all act, the Divine essence itself flows out and is as it were breathed forth in love and joy. So that the Godhead therein stands forth in yet another manner of subsistence, and there proceeds the third Person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, viz., the Deity in act, for there is no other act but the act of the will. (J.E. An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity)

This love amongst the Godhead is shared with us. We love because He first loved us, John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, wrote . This love of God is not a warm fuzzy. It is action. God’s love does!

The psalmist responds to this love of God by returning love back to Him:

Psalm 116

1I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
2Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

In the redeemed the love of God is reciprocated. In the wicked His love is reason for presumption and blasphemy.

Jesus loved the unredeemed. John Gill believed it was Jesus in his humanity that loved the unconverted like the rich man in Mark 10. Let’s see:

17And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

It seems to me that Jesus is not so easily bifurcated. He is literally fulfilling the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, while showing this man his sin (human?). He then teaches His disciples a lesson about who He was and what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ (teaching with authority – divine authority).

As Jesus watched the rich man walk away the Lord explained how hard it was to enter heaven when you are rich. Here is the rest of the teaching:

26And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

It is possible for God. Yet this possibility is wrapped up in Jesus. He called Peter to follow Him and provided Him with the faith to do so. He is the one who literally took the last and made them first: A tax collector, some fisherman, etc.

28Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

God was present with the Rich Man. God loved Him and did not save Him. God loved the man and did not flinch in condemning his hypocrisy at the same time. Calvin on verse 21:

Thus the question is answered, How was it possible that Christ should love a man who was proud and a hypocrite, while nothing is more hateful to God than these two vices? For it is not inconsistent, that the good seed, which God has implanted in some natures, shall be loved by Him, and yet that He should reject their persons and works on account of corruption.

God acted upon this man. God loved this man. Go and do likewise.

al sends

A Solemnizing and Galvanizing Recovery

January 29, 2007

“It is imperative that the doctrine of covenant succession be recovered in our churches. Its loss has deeply diminished the church’s appreciation of and wonder over the liberality and perfection of divine grace. Further, the appropriation by faith of this divine promise and summons is the means appointed to furnish the church with generation after generation of great multitudes of Christian servants and soldiers who reach manhood and womanhood well taught, sturdy in the faith, animated by love for God and man, sophisticated in the ways of the world and the Devil, polished in the manners of genuine Christian brotherhood, overshadowed by the specter of the Last Day, nerved to deny themselves and take up their cross so as to be counted worthy of greater exploits for Christ and Kingdom. Presently the church not only suffers a terrible shortage of such other-worldly and resolute Christians, superbly prepared for spiritual warfare, but, in fact, is hemorrhaging its children into the world. Christian evangelism will never make a decisive difference in our culture when it amounts merely to an effort to replace losses due to widespread desertion from our own camp. The gospel will always fail to command attention and carry conviction when large numbers of those who grow up under its influence are observed abandoning it for the world…inscribing the doctrine of covenant succession upon the heart of family and church must have a wonderfully solemnizing and galvanizing effect. It will set Christian parents seriously to work on the spiritual nurture of their children, equipping them and requiring them to live the life of covenant faith and duty to which their God and Savior called them at the headwaters of life. And, ever conscious of the greater effect of parental example, they will forsake the easy way, shamelessly and joyfully to live a life of devotion and obedience which adorns and enables the faith in the eyes of their children. This they will do, who embrace the Bible’s doctrine, lest the Lord on the Great Day should say to them: ‘You took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them to idols.'”

from “The Presbyterian Doctrines of Covenant Children, Covenant Nurture and Covenant Succession” by Robert S. Rayburn

Slippery Hearts vs. Strong Assurances

January 29, 2007

Christ Jesus took human flesh to His divine person and suffered and died and rose again in order to redeem and restore a people for His name. That people is the church, His body. You are united to that body by faith in Him.

Our hearts are so prone to unbelief. We sin and we doubt and we second-guess ourselves. How do I know that I am part of the church so that I am sure Christ died for me? We tend to look to our conversion experience or to the state of our heart and try to discern if we really believe. If I really believe, then I must truly be in Him.

The New Testament certainly commands us to test ourselves as to whether we are in the faith. But if we think that what we do is to test ourselves, and then if we pass the test and are sure that we are really Christians, then we may come to the Lord’s Table, then we have it exactly backwards.

Instead, we come to the Lord’s Table and then we are assured and confirmed that we are truly in Him. In the strength of that confirmation, you go away from His table ready to do battle with sin and unbelief. Subjective ways of finding out whether you are in Christ have their place. But you have an objective way of knowing that you are in Christ. You come to the table as a member of Christ’s church. You don’t have to trust to the shakiness of your experience or the slipperiness of your sinful heart. You have been baptized into the Triune name of God; therefore, bearing His name, you come to the Lord’s Table and by being at the Lord’s Table you are strengthened to believe and confirmed to be in Christ.

So all of you who are in Christ’s church, come to the table. Receive the gift of God for your souls. Receive the body and blood of our Lord, which will build you up in your holy faith and confirm you in Him. Christ has died and ever lives for your life.

Come, taste and see that the Lord is good.

Answer the King When He Calls

January 29, 2007

Consider the purpose of the call to worship. The call to worship is a basic feature of most liturgies, in which the minister reads some portion of Scripture that features God inviting His people to come worship Him. Each week in our church the first thing you hear is a portion of God’s Word in which God speaks to you and invites you to come and assemble and praise Him.

Now if you think carefully about this, you will see that it is a good and necessary thing. You and I are shockingly wicked and corrupt, and thus our natural impulse is to turn away from a holy God. Even as Christians we sin and we dread God’s displeasure.

But what is God’s basic disposition toward us, His children? Is God a wrathful Judge for us? Is God an angry whirlwind of fury from which we must shrink because of our sin? Should we never dare to come before God when we have sinned?

The glorious truth of the gospel is that through Christ and the blood of His cross, God is no longer a wrathful Judge but is our loving Father, and we are His beloved Sons. Therefore we may (and we must) come before Him with joy and not with dread, with expectation of blessing and not cursing. So the call to worship is a summons from your Father to come and appear before Him, with a gospel promise of comfort and forgiveness underlying that summons.

And let’s not forget the basic movement of worship. The basic movement is not our coming and serving God. In worship God comes and meets with us to serve us. He welcomes us to confess our sins and in love He delights to forgive us. He summons us to give Him praise, and in love He delights to receive it. This is all because we are in Christ, and so we are precious sons to Him.

So when you hear the call to worship, know that the Holy God of the universe, the Lord of lords, is summoning you so that He can show you His kindness in Christ. The good news is that you are accepted in Christ. Because you are accepted and righteous in Him, God delights to receive you in worship. So answer the call. Let His call supersede your fears and your coldness and your dullness and your anxiety over your sin. God welcomes you and summons you.

He is the King. It is best to answer the King.

Recovering Covenant Succession

January 27, 2007

Martin Luther famously said,

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

I believe that is true. And I believe one of the key battlefields of our day is the battlefield of raising the children of the church in faithfulness to God’s Word. I’m not sure that many Christians see this as the battlefield of the day. The church is bleeding – and not just trickling but gushing – her children to the enemy.

George Barna conducted research in 2006 that examined the spiritual lives of young adults whom he calls twentysomethings. He was looking to see how many people in their mid and late 20s were spiritually connected – that is, going to church, reading the Bible and praying (a pretty minimal standard) – after having contact with the church earlier in life. He found that 20% of people in their mid and late 20s who had had no contact with a church in their teen years had remained spiritually unconnected. Another 20% of these young people had significant involvement in a church in their teen years and remained spiritually connected in their 20s.

But 60% – 3 out of 5 – of people in their mid and late 20s had had significant involvement in a church as a teenager, but once they reached adulthood they had left the church and had abandoned any spiritual devotion that they displayed earlier in life. That is just one statistical indication, but it makes the point. If Barna is right, the church is losing the vast majority of her children. Who knows how many of those children will ever return to the church of their parents?

This is where the battle is raging.

Alongside evangelism and missions, God’s plan for the success of the gospel in the world, reaching all the way back to Adam and Eve, is for man to fill and take dominion over the earth through bearing a godly seed. That seed will walk in the way of his father, be loyal to the God of his father, disciple the nations for Christ through the bearing of more godly seeds in more godly homes who for generations live under the banner of Jesus Christ. This is covenant succession.

And if there will be light after darkness in our day, there will be a recovery of covenant succession.

Resting

January 26, 2007

The folks at TeamPyro are taking a break.  Phil, may I offer you a bit of Puritan Poetry to calm those frayed nerves?

What Love is this of thine, that Cannot bee
In thine Infinity, O Lord, Confinde,
Unless it in thy very Person see,
Infinity, and Finity Conjoyn’d?
What hath thy Godhead, as not satisfide
Marri’de our Manhood, making it its Bride?

Oh, Matchless Love! filling Heaven to the brim!
O’re running it: all running o’re beside
This World! Nay Overflowing Hell; wherein
For thine Elect, there rose a mighty Tide!
That there our Veans might through thy Person bleed,
To quench those flames, that else would on us feed.

Oh! that thy Love might overflow my Heart!
To fire the same with Love: for Love I would.
But oh! my streight’ned Breast! my Lifeless Sparke!
My Fireless Flame! What Chilly Love, and Cold?
In measure small! In Manner Chilly! See.
Lord blow the Coal: Thy Love Enflame in mee.

By Edward Taylor

Al sends

King Jesus

January 26, 2007

Who is your King?

I was on the radio the other day and an older lady called in to voice concerns about the state of our society. She said we had left the Bible behind, going on to list some of the areas where America is not in agreement with “the Standard.” She said:

“We took prayer out of the public schools…” Well, prayers to a generic god don’t do much good anyway. No big loss there.

“We are killing our unborn children” For which God is judging us.

“We are going to allow homosexuals to marry.” There is the judgment of God I was talking about.

“We cannot say the pledge of allegiance to the flag any more.” Ummm…

Here is an interesting report from WorldPublicOpinion.org. On page 29 of the PDF document you will find this graphic:

       National, Religious, Global

OK. I live in the South. Down here Proud to Be an American is sung as offertory. Like the dear lady from the radio, we just know that America is God’s country and we are His special people. But are these numbers accurate?  Only 6%!!!

I don’t think you can find America in the Bible (apologies to the Van Impes) anymore than you can find an admonition to say the pledge.  I do find that King Jesus has moved your citizenship.  While you may be an American, British or Iranian passport holder your loyalties to country are carried out under the Lordship of Christ.   

Phil 3:20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Do you think of yourself as primarily a Christian?   

Al sends