Monthly Archives: December 2010
A hymn new to my favorites:
Jesus, I am resting, resting,In the joy of what Thou art;I am finding out the greatnessOf Thy loving heart.Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,And Thy beauty fills my soul,For by Thy transforming power,Thou hast made me whole.
Jesus, I am resting, resting,In the joy of what Thou art;I am finding out the greatnessOf Thy loving heart.
O, how great Thy loving kindness,Vaster, broader than the sea!O, how marvelous Thy goodness,Lavished all on me!Yes, I rest in Thee, Belovèd,Know what wealth of grace is Thine,Know Thy certainty of promise,And have made it mine.
Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,I behold Thee as Thou art,And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,Satisfies my heart;Satisfies its deepest longings,Meets, supplies its every need,Compasseth me round with blessings:Thine is love indeed!
Ever lift Thy face upon meAs I work and wait for Thee;Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,Earth’s dark shadows flee.Brightness of my Father’s glory,Sunshine of my Father’s face,Keep me ever trusting, resting,Fill me with Thy grace.
Words: Jean S. Pigott
It is God who justifies. (Romans 8:33)
Behold the eternal security of the weakest believer in Jesus. The act of justification, once passed under the great seal of the resurrection of Christ, God can never revoke without denying Himself. Here is our safety. Here is the ground of our dauntless challenge, ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies.’ What can I need more? What more can I ask?
If God, the God of spotless purity, the God of inflexible righteousness, justifies me, ‘who is he that condemns?’ Sin may condemn, but it is God that justifies! The law may alarm, but it is God that justifies! Satan may accuse, but it is God that justifies! Death may terrify, but it is God that justifies! ‘If GOD is for us, who can be against us?’ Who will dare condemn the soul whom He justifies?
How gloriously will this truth shine forth in the great day of judgment! Every accuser will then be dumb. Every tongue will then be silent. Nothing shall be laid to the charge of God’s elect. GOD Himself shall pronounce them fully, and forever justified: ‘And those He justifies, He also glorifies.’
– Octavius Winslow, Morning Thoughts (February 1)
Christmas Eve I saw a stable, low and very bare, A little child in a manger. The oxen knew Him, had Him in their care, To men He was a stranger, The safety of the world was lying there, And the world’s danger.
– Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, “The Stable”
Driving around yesterday listening to Christmas music I actually listened closely to the lyrics of a song I’ve heard for years: “Here Comes Santa Claus.” This little ditty includes lines like:“Get in bed and cover your head, for Santa Claus is coming tonight.”“Say your prayers because Santa Claus comes tonight.”
Does this strike anyone else as more than a little creepy? Is this jolly Saint Nick we’re talking about here, or an axe murderer?
That got me thinking about the real Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra in the 300’s. Aside from his reputed generosity, history tells us he was a staunch defender of Christian orthodoxy, especially the article of the Trinity. Arius was the heretic du jour then, arguing that the Son was not equal to the Father. Legend has it that Nicholas was quite agitated by this. So agitated was he, that one tale has it that Nicholas went to the ecumenical Council of Nicea and was so incensed by Arius’ assault on the trinitarian nature of God he crossed the room and slapped him in the face. (This is apocryphal, of course. There are pretty decent records of the Nicean Council and none of them indicate this happening.)
But this gets me thinking. If we’re going to make Santa Claus into some kind of boogeyman, instead of telling kids they should be good or Santa won’t bring them presents, why don’t we tell them they should watch their doctrine closely or Santa will punch them in the face?
I’m going to run …
The danger in the seasonal celebration is that we cave to sentimentality and rote nostalgia and thus forget that the meek and mild baby in a manger was nothing short of the opening salvo in the kingdom of heaven revolution consisting in God personally invading earth.
We will toss around words this month like “spirit,” “grace,” “peace,” and “hope.” The Bible will not let us have these ideas merely as ideas, as things. They are personal. Thus: “He himself is our peace” (Micah 5:5; Eph. 2:14) and “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Let’s not mess with ethereal virtues, no matter how Christianly gauzed. Leave ethereal virtues to vague saviors. Our Savior is incarnate!
Sinclair Ferguson brings it home:
[R]emember that there isn’t a thing, a substance, or a “quasi-substance” called “grace.” All there is is the person of the Lord Jesus — “Christ clothed in the gospel,” as Calvin loved to put it. Grace is the grace of Jesus. If I can highlight the thought here: there is no “thing” that Jesus takes from Himself and then, as it were, hands over to me. There is only Jesus Himself.
Don’t thingamatize Christmas. Take it personally.
An example via Justin Taylor:
Robbie Low, writing in Touchstone (June 2003), points to an interesting 1994 study in Switzerland about the connection between the churchgoing habits of fathers and mothers and the effect on their children when they are grown.
Here’s a summary:
In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.
A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!
The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is …
From John Piper’s 2008 Together 4 the Gospel Conference message titled “How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice”. Christ is supreme because:
He is God’s final revelation He is the heir of all things He is the creator of the world He is the radiance of God’s glory He is the exact imprint of God’s nature He upholds the universe by the word of His power He made purification for sins He sits at the right hand of the Majesty He is God enthroned forever with the scepter of uprightness He is worshiped by angels His rule will have no end His joy is above all other things in the universe He took on human flesh He was crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering He was the founder of our salvation He was made perfect in all of his obedience by his suffering He destroyed the one who had the power of death He delivered us from the bondage of fear He is a merciful and faithful high priest He made propitiation for sins He is sympathetic because of His own trials …
One thing that I love about C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength is just how classic it is. I don’t mean “classic” as it is popularly used. What I mean by “classic” is that it is so steeped in the Romantic and the poetic culture of greater literary times that it has reached, about sixty years after its initial publication, transcendent status. Especially in terms of Christian fiction
This novel, the final installment in Lewis’s Space Trilogy (of which Perelandra, the second installment, is the best episode and the true masterpiece of the trilogy), is by its author’s intention a genre novel. Yet compared to the genre novels today, whether they are “Christian” or not, it is so high above them, so impossibly better, it’s a wonder modern readers even bother with it at all. But I know some still do, and that is probably most due to Lewis’s rightful status as the most important and influential Christian thinker of the twentieth century.
The passage I want to share is rather long, so I better cut to the chase. When I encountered this part of the story, wherein the novel’s heroine Jane Studdock has her “official” conversion experience, I was so overwhelmed with not only how brilliantly and artfully Lewis conveys it but also with how authentically and truthfully he does so. This scene of transformation verifies Lewis’s genius. But I especially want to mention how it would never fly in today’s Christian fiction. When characters “come to the Lord” in fiction these …
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
– 1 Peter 1:10-12
“. . . the subsequent glories,” plural.
There is one gospel. But it teaches me so many new things about itself and the God it reveals every time I sit and stare at it (like those gaze-happy angels). I’m loving this about the gospel, about how every facet of the same diamond offers a different vision. In Christ, Jonathan Edwards says, we find “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies”.
In our first believing in the gospel we have all we need for all eternity, but there is always more to have, more to know, more to learn. God is the deepest of deeps, and in constant gospel-gazing we deepen in our knowledge of and affection for him.
“His death was not simply the messy bit that enables our sins to be forgiven but that can then be forgotten. The cross is the surest, truest and deepest window on the very heart and character of the living and loving God; the more …
Kevin Larson has a good piece at The Resurgence today called Why You Should Raise Up Preachers in Your Church. Here are his reasons:
You need a break
You need to share
You need some sympathy
You are called to equip
Check out the article in full to see his exposition and explanations.
I’d like to add a few more reasons why pastors should be sharing their pulpit as part of the cultivation of elders/leaders.
1. If you don’t, you’re complicit in wasting other men’s preaching/teaching gifts. (This ties into Larson’s point on equipping.)
2. It is unhealthy for a church to become dependent on one man/voice. Your church needs to know that it is the Bible properly taught that is their source of strength, not a particular man and only that man teaching it. This is the inner error in many video venue enterprises. Some will say the satellite would not be viable without the “celebrity” preacher preaching, in which case I think it could be argued that if it could not survive without a particular person’s voice, it is not viable to begin with. (What happens if that pastor has a heart attack? Does every satellite shut down? Or do they just play old videos?) At my church, I want to share the pulpit so that the body benefits from multiple voices among us and so they do not get to equating worship with my voice.
3. You need to sit under gospel-centered preaching and receive.This is something I really need to work on. At the …