My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

31 October 2005

Happy Reformation Day!

30 October 2005

Sunday Hello's

Hello readers, I hope you are well.

This morning Pastor Long preached on Christ's invitation to the thirsty, "come to Me and drink." He lined out clearly at least seven ways the world is led to thirst (e.g., our finiteness, our loneliness, our failures). And then he showed how the world has answers for each of these thirsts: for our finiteness, we mock; for our loneliness, we fornicate; for our failures, we read self-improvement books. But Jesus is the only final and full answer to the thirsts of humanity; the catch, though, is the humility it takes to come to Christ, the admission that there's nothing left, no more tricks up my sleeve, no more reasons to believe in myself.

I'm beginning to be more and more convinced of the centrality of humility to the godliness we are called to in Christ. We've seen it several times throughout Proverbs that God loves the humble but rejects the proud (this will be part of my sermon tonight), that fearing the Lord (how humbling is that!) is the beginning of wisdom. Beyond our fundamental orientation to God, though, humility seems to be the key in all relationships - just as pride is most often the harbinger of strife in relationships. In humility, we're convinced of both God's greatness and our ungreatness, of Christ's majesty and our unworthiness. In humility, we actually do consider others more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3,4).

It's not that the world never attempts humility, they just do it pridefully; humanitarianism is one of our century's greatest sermons. But the world gets humility wrong because it still places someone, anyone, something, anything as the central, glorious, and majestic reality other than God. It sure sounds humble when we see men and women giving their whole lives to serve people in other countries through the Peace Corps. But apart from Christ, there is no true humility in it; either they are doing it to secretly bolster their case in God's courtroom, or because they really believe that humanity is the best thing going. Whether ultimately serving ourselves or serving others without respect for their Creator, pride reigns during these last days.

But in Christ we have the keys to humility. We have the powerful, fruit-bearing Spirit of Christ. We have the revelation of God made clear to our hearts, the revelation of the Awesome and Holy One. We have weekly worship, which is nothing if it is not an act of great humility. And we have the best reason to serve others selflessly: because of whose they are, because of who made them and owns them.

Several times during our sermon series in Proverbs, I've told the congregation that humility is simply an accurate view of reality, an accurate assessment of who God is and who we are. So may God make our hearts and minds see clearly what is real and true and may He save us from delusions about ourselves or others.

I'm preaching tonight about foolishness (yes, again). Turns out Proverbs keeps bringing up this subject for some good reasons. It makes it somewhat easier to read Proverbs when we remember that it is a collection of wisdom from a father to a son. All good fathers know how often they must repeat themselves for the message to sink, for their sons to get it; for truths and matters not natural to us, repetition is key.

God knows this because, well, He made us. And so He repeats Himself to us. Every week, in fact, He repeats Himself to us, showing forth the gospel in His worship, calling us to remember and review through the sacraments what He has done for us. There really aren't that many novelties in Scripture; for most of you there aren't that many sermons you haven't heard before. But that's really okay. The idea of preaching is not entertainment, but feeding. You didn't sit down to breakfast this morning and think, "Well, I ate yesterday. This is getting so repetitious." Likewise, we don't sit at the Lord's feet on Sunday and think, "Well, we heard about Christ last week, I could totally be watching a football game now."

This is not to say that we don't learn new-to-us information from Scripture; but it is to say that one of preaching's most important jobs is not lecturing, but reminding. That is what I am, a reminder. An aid in remembrance. Sure, you'll learn, because you haven't learned everything yet. But more than that, you'll be reminded, called back by a loving and graciously repetitious Father. Teenagers may be notorious for rolling their eyes when parents repeat themselves - do we commit the same sin to our Father by wanting something new instead of something old? Do we roll our eyes by not submitting to the Scriptures we have heard from childhood?

28 October 2005

worship predictor

For the coming Sabbath morning:

104 (in the Psalm Settings book)

Pastor Long will preach on John 7:32-39 and I'll be preaching through the remainder of Proverbs 17 in the evening.


By the way, NPR has a whole concert from Son Volt, available for download or just to listen online. You can thank me later.

27 October 2005

Music - blues

Buddy Guy has a new album out, Bring 'Em In, consisting mostly of duets with some heavy hitters (Santana, John Mayer). Here's a great interview/concert with David Dye over at the WorldCafe. I've got several of his albums and recommend them highly, perhaps skipping over the risque songs (there's usually one on each album).

One of the great things about Buddy Guy is that he's a real, living connection to the old blues of the South. But he's one of the great modernizers of the blues (inspiration to Hendrix & Clapton), hence a career of some acoustic blues, some live blues, and many collaborations with contemporary non-blues artists. The other great thing is that he rocks. Really. You don't believe me? He plays a polka dot guitar!

It's probably obsequious to link to another blog more than once a week, but this here is another funny and encouraging post from Peter Leithart. Covenant families, rejoice and conquer.

26 October 2005

Book Review - Jesus is the King of Soul

Art & Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts

Hilary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin

Other than a belief that Christ is King over oils on canvas and kiln-fired sculptures, I’m not sure why the relationship of the church to the art world keeps getting stuck in my craw – I am not an artist nor do I have grandiose plans to become one – but there it is and so I keep reading. Thus the reason for my purchase and reading of Art & Soul – money and time well spent.

The authors are both Christians deeply involved in the art world, committed to doing and teaching art from a Christian worldview; Brand is a photographer and laborer in supporting Christian artists, Chaplin teaches philosophical aesthetics at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. They are also both Britons, which colours (ahem) the book well.

Art & Soul’s layout is very satisfying with glossy pages, frequent interruptions for artwork and comments, and wide margins giving great quotes from other authors and space for my notes (those quotes, by the way, are so good that I hope to do another post quoting the quotes). The book’s inception was as a study guide for artists and has evolved gracefully into a well-planned book. Part 1 speaks about different tugs at the Christian artist: postmodernism, the general quest for spirituality, and a suspicious church. Part 2 discusses how the Bible and Biblical themes (God, sin, redemption) should impact art. Part 3 discusses and defends some questions Christians often have about art – is art a valid vocation? What is the right place for art? Part 4 speaks to the difficult question of how we assess art, and part 5 points to specific applications and callings for Christians in the arts.

The first highlight was the discussion of the church’s suspicion towards and misuse of the arts. Is it perhaps because the Protestant church (and particularly the evangelical wing), having abandoned the arts some centuries before, no longer has any understanding? Between that quote and some heart-rending quotes from artists hung out to dry by their churches, I’m convinced this is an important issue. In reviewing the church’s history in the arts, I was glad to be reminded both of the excesses of hyper-Puritanism and the balance of Calvin himself, who said that art is a faculty worthy of commendation. I’m also convinced that, in the area of the arts, playing it safe – as the conservative evangelical church has done for a century – simply won’t cut it and doesn’t honor Christ as King.

Next, their thoughts on Scripture and art were well-done, despite than their mistaken dismissal of the 2nd commandment. Here I was convinced that art doesn’t have to be beautiful, in the classic sense of beauty, because we live in a world that longs for beauty while being mired in ugliness. This versus the tendency in Christians to try and make things neater and tidier than they really are. Good art can reflect bleakness and alienation, which in the end make redemption all the more sweet; this thought was well-balanced by stating that bleak art should contain some idea of the possibility of redemption or it becomes a Biblical untruth.

There’s some good philosophy here and there (how Romanticism created the cult of the Artist, why dualism must be defeated by the doctrine of Christ’s kingship, what integrity really means), some really cool artwork, helpful hints for dolts like me when looking at art (we need to develop a Christian way of seeing. For each of us, growing up into spiritual and aesthetic maturity will mean developing disciplined habits, an alert mind and a playful spirit), a thoughtful discussion on art’s rightful place (helpful and reflective, but can’t save anybody), and a few chapters of rather heady art philosophy and interpretation.

This book has been great discussion fodder for our weekly discipleship group dinners. It provides some ideas to sink your teeth into and to chew, and also prods you to figure some more things out. All in all, a successful and helpful book. Should you buy this book? If you’re interested or involved in the arts, or a pastor/elder/parent to artists, absolutely. Be aware that you won’t (shouldn’t) agree with every theological and Biblical point made and that the writer’s standards may be different than yours. Beyond those caveats, I recommend this book with a good amount of glee.

25 October 2005

celebrity conversions

I read it in the editorial to the latest Books & Culture and was reminded this morning by an email from a friend: Anne Rice, of vampires and vixen fame, has converted (or returned) to Christianity. She grew up Catholic, but clearly rejected that for a while. Now she's back. Her latest book, Out of Egypt, chronicles Jesus' 7th year on earth, narrated by the Christchild Himself. Sounds interesting.

(I can't get the link to work, but you can cut & paste this into your address bar:

Here's my two responses:

1. Praise the Lord, who draws all His children out of Egypt, even Gentiles and vampires!

2. Like you, I suppose I'm not holding my breath, waiting expectantly for sudden, Biblical greatness from Rice. It is interesting, though, how the evangelical world often responds to announcements of celebrity conversion - they get greatly excited and shove those celebrities out in the spotlight, as if to say, "See, we've got cool people too!" Problem is, a young believer is a young believer, regardless of celebrity status; and if no one takes the time to disciple Rice (or Deion Sanders), they're just not going to be all that helpful in building the kingdom, privately or publicly.


Here's the sermon from Sunday morning. I was fairly nervous preaching this passage, because of the sensitivity I wanted to have to deal with "gray hairs" and "glory" - but even more because I desperately want people to get the heart of this passage, that through Christ, God's wisdom transforms everything and sets the church free from thinking and acting like the world.

(I'm not sure why, but the mp3 cuts off the intro & scripture reading. Oh well.)


Here's a short, funny and thoughtful post from Peter Leithart. Apparently, it would be good if our daughters knew more than just cooking and cleaning. Who knew?
The wife and I watched Hotel Rwanda last night. I'm a little conflicted; it was a pretty well-made movie, but I kept thinking that, to get the impact that genocide ought to have, I needed more than just a microcosm of the story. While they did give some of the history between the Hutu and Tutsi (sp?) people, more would have helped.

Don Cheadle was great; I was glad to see him doing a public service announcement at the beginning of the dvd about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. But back to Rwanda - I had a couple disturbing thoughts. The first was that all this happened while I was in high school, and I can't remember hearing a single thing about it (not that I was a newshound or anything). Did anyone else follow this story when it was going on? The second was that I am unable to emotionally comprehend genocide. I don't know what it's like to have anyone close to me killed; much less can I begin to comprehend what it would be like to have everyone around me killed. Does this mean I'm desensitized or that there's things we're not meant to fully comprehend until they happen near us?

The movie is, I think, trying so hard to be a message that it misses out some on being a movie (for other examples of this, see almost every "Christian" movie ever made). I would have been much more moved by a simple, vivid documentary of the Rwandan genocide. All in all, though, it's worth seeing, even if only to remember what happened. Caveat: It does play into the "anti-west" of modern Hollywood, but our reaction (or lack thereof) to genocide probably makes a good case for being just a little anti-west.

On Sunday we had 8 college students over for lunch. We all shared our testimonies and it turned out that everyone around the table grew up in a covenant home; some were drawn to Christ later than others, but that covenant family played a central role in the conversion of each of us around the table. One particular family has three kids here at school, and they were each there - each of them believed and repented after their mother explained the gospel to them (for two of them, it was after a spanking!).

It was a great picture of the crown of glory that the kids of the covenant are (Pro. 17:6); I preached on that verse Sunday morning. It's so important to remind the mothers among us that they are not busy-for-now and can hope to do ministry in the future. They are on the frontlines of Christ's kingdom building. Each diaper, meal, soccer transportation and band-aid are a part of growing the next round of arrows. Everyone once in a while, it's just good to be reminded, it's good to lift our heads up and look down the road a little to see what the fruit of our labors will be. This lifting the head is one of God's great purposes for Sabbath-keeping.

21 October 2005

More Music

You've probably heard of Alison Kraus & Union Station, for some the definitive new bluegrass band. They are indeed great and if you dig really good, not-too-twangy bluegrass, you should check out their recent live album.

One of the things that makes Union Station so good is that Kraus is able to get, hands down, the best players in the business. Dan Tyminski, Ron Block, Barry Bales - these guys are at the top of their craft. But those three don't yet match the genius and mastery of AKUS' dobro player, Jerry Douglas. Douglas has won the Musician of the Year at the CMA awards and has singlehandedly transformed the dobro from a little-known, little-used instrument to the new lead instrument in many bluegrass bands.

Lookout for Hope is a recent solo debut. While it has some bluegrass tunes, it's a much broader album, diving into jazz, folk, and Appalachian tunes. He's got some really great guests (James Taylor, Bryan Sutton, Chris Thile from Nickel Creek), but what shines is his great playing. Because it's played with a slide, the dobro is an already expressive instrument, but the dynamics of Douglas' playing really squeeze amazing tones and emotion out of that wood box.

So, if you're looking for something a little bluegrassy, but not too much, and if you appreciate really good picking, this is the guy for you.

20 October 2005

Worship Predictor

Here's the story for Worship on Sunday

Psalm 19A
Sermon: Proverbs 16:31-17:6 "Christ Changes Everything"

In the evening, Graeme the Australian intern will be preaching on Psalm 63 & our relationship to the Lord.

19 October 2005

God Hates...

It's happened a couple times in the past few weeks. I'll be driving along, minding my own business, pausing on the dial to listen to some Christian radio (because NPR is doing its fund-drive month) only to hear a preacher say something like this: Did you know God hates religion? That's right, He hates religion! But He looooves relationship!

Now that's just not right. Somehow in their need to distinguish Christianity from other religions, some feel they must go further (much further) than Scripture goes. Where in Scripture, pray tell, does it say that God hates religion? What is clear in His Word is that God hates religiosity, He hates the appearance, the pretense, the shell of religion without the heart (Ps. 40:6). But to say that God hates religion is flatly unscriptural: James tells us Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (Jas. 1:27) There it is, God loves religion, good religion.

In hoping to win converts by emphasizing a relationship with Jesus (a valid and Biblical concept), we cannot deny that God has called us to a religion. Following Christ is a religion as well as a saving relationship through the Holy Spirit. We don't need this relationship-only idea to separate Christ-followers from the rest of the world. God does that quite well Himself, thank you. The Christian religion is different, not because it isn't a religion, but because the God of the Bible is a God who forgives (Mic. 7:18), a God incarnate, a God joined to His creation in order to save it (1 Jn. 4:2). Our response to such a God? Live up to the calling with which we have been called - live out the good religion!

Like Islam and Mormonism and Buddhism, Christianity is a religion. The difference is not categorical, it's qualitative. The difference is that following Christ is the right and true religion.

new urbanism

My wife and I have similar desires, I think, for a living environment. Problem is, some of our dreams are directly opposed to each other. Often we think how great it would be to live in the country, to raise our family on a few acres of land and have space to stretch and play. Other times, we think how great it would be to live nearby everything we need, to be within walking distance to most stores, most neighbors, and the church.

Unbeknownst to me, this second desire has a name: the new urbanism. Rather than blabber, here's a great article I found about it (from Of Kirk and Ale), with comments about why Christians should support this new thinking and some links to other interesting sites.

18 October 2005


It's been a while since I've recommended any music. And Tuesday's a great day for it.

Have you listened to saxophonist John Coltrane's Blue Train album? I cannot claim to be an expert on American Jazz, but I am quite sure that this album (his first solo effort after departure from Miles Davis' and Thelonious Monk's bands) stands at the top of "must haves" for any jazz fan. And for some non-jazz fans.

Many think of John Coltrane (1926-1967) and "unlistenable" or "difficult" comes to mind. Later in his career, he continued to develop his modal/free forms of jazz and, probably also due to the influence of much drug use, alienated many listeners. That said, this album is fantastic and truly genius material. It showcases his unique ability to "stack chords" while holding out the melody.

Coltrane is one of those few instrumentalists that I can hear and immediately identify by his unique sound. That by itself is reason to applaud. Beyond that, this album's songs are consistently quality-ridden and groovy. Here are the players: Coltrane, Lee Morgan (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Paul Chambers (bass), Kenny Drew (piano), Philly Joe Jones (drums). Dig it.

p.s. - a new recording of Coltrane's work with Thelonious Monk has been unearthed and cleaned up (hint hint for Christmas shoppers).

17 October 2005

Good morning

I hope your Monday is going well. This past weekend I was part of a visitation team to the Sycamore RP Church in Kokomo, IN; a visitation team is sort of like an elder visitation for a whole church. It was, without reservation, a greatly encouraging time. Every church goes through dark times, but this just isn't that time for this congregation. God is clearly working a spirit of love among them, a love of husbands for wives and respect of wives for husbands, a depth of holiness among the youth that I believe is uncommon, a love for the preaching of the Word and worship.

Plus, we got to hear Barry preach on Sunday. He is working through a series on the Psalms in the life of Christ ("Heart Songs of the Savior"). The basic premise is that Psalms were first written to be the songs of the coming Savior. We sing them secondarily, we sing them through Christ, united to the Savior whose songs they are.

He preached on the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the frightening passage where Jesus promises that He will turn many away on the last day. He says, "Depart from me, you workers of wickedness", which is a quote either from Psalm 6:8 or 119:115.


This brings me to my desire to follow up a couple of points from my last post on psalmody.
  • Some will argue against exclusive psalmody because of the current trend in protestant and even reformed churches against psalmody. There are indeed many Godly men and women who have studied the issue and come down on the side of hymnody. A couple responses: while there is some power to this argument, it is a distant, secondary concern compared to "what sayeth the Scriptures?"

    But this is not to deny the importance of the interpretation of the church - fact is, if we are going to count up exclusive psalmists vs. non-exclusivists, we will learn that the impression that the church has always favored hymnody is a false impression. This is to say, if we are going to count up the heavy hitters of church history, even within the reformed branch, exclusive psalmists take the day. Far more Godly men and women throughout the history of the church have seen and practiced the Scriptural call to sing the songs of the Savior.

  • Another rebuttal to psalmody is the argument that there are Scriptural examples of non-Psalms being sung in the worship of the church, after the closing of the book of Psalms (I highlight this point, because I believe there were non-Psalms sung in the worship of God's people before the book of Psalms was closed).

    This argument I simply disagree with; the examples (that I can find or have heard) of such songs fall into a couple categories. The first category is simply poetic praise, which we in turn mistakenly assume must have been sung in worship. Mary's magnificat falls into this category, but I would ask the reader to note that Luke 1:46 clearly says that Mary said these things, she did not sing them. The second category is passages like Philippians 2 and 1 Timothy 3:16; in these passages and others, Paul's writing takes on a far more poetic tone, and many commentators have thought he was either (1) writing a new hymn, or (2) quoting a hymn currently sung by the church. There is simply no evidence to support either of those interpretations of Paul's poetic passages. In fact, there is greater internal evidence to show that Paul was simply plumbing the depths of his own vocabulary and writing abilities to attempt to express heavenly truths in their glorious beauty.

  • Finally, I'd like to simply point again to Pastor York's comments on Sunday morning, that the Psalms are the songs of Christ. They express the heart of the Son toward the Father, they reveal the heart of our Savior like no other passages in Scripture, they were what He grew up singing, they were what His mother sang to Him when He was a baby, they were what He used to debate with the leaders in the temple at the age of 8, at many important points in His ministry they were what He used to teach and prophesy. Even Christ, the very Word of God, never felt a need to compose new hymns for worship, never felt He was missing out, because He had the complete manual of praise already recorded. Two applications:

    If the Psalms were good enough for the Lord of lords and King of kings, how can we say or believe or practice anything different?

    By abandoning exclusive psalmody, the church has lost the most significant way the Scriptures give us to learn of the heart of our King. We have many of the facts of Christ's life recorded for us, but His spiritual biography, so to speak, is in the Psalter. And when we sing those songs - for they are meant to be sung, not just read - we're singing as those united to the Savior whose words they are; our hearts, not just our minds, are instructed in the passion, pains, and love of the Savior. This simply cannot be accomplished through the words of men.
Happy singing!

13 October 2005

worship predictor

Here are the psalms we'll be singing Sunday morning:


Pastor Long is preaching on John 7:14-31 and I'm preaching in the evening on Proverbs 16:16-30.


On a rabbit path: I love the way Garrison Keillor signs off each day on the Writers' Almanac - "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch." ...a wonderfully warm and Christlike view of good life.


Sorry I haven't written anything all week. I have two excuses. The first is that the internet at church is down, and while I could post at home, I generally like to do whatever blog-writing I do in the late afternoons at church.

Second, I had such a hard time getting my sermon finished last week that I've really been hitting the books hard this week.


I had a great moment yesterday. Whilst studying Ephesians 2:1-10 for Bible study last night, I was meditating on verse six: [God] raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus...I was thinking about the already-and-not-yet of being seated with Christ in heaven, pondering what that meant for life today and tomorrow.

And according to providence, it just so happened that I was listening to some of the worship from the last RP International Conference. There I was, listening to 2500 people sing God's songs (the Psalms), slowly turning up the volume until the pastor upstairs (the most senior pastor) must have wondered what was going on, reveling in the sheer glory of so many voices joined together to praise God. "This is what it means," I thought, "to be seated in the heavenlies." It means I'm not where I am, that where my final home is, where my Savior is, I'm not. The place I'm most at home in this world, then, is when I'm worshipping with God's children. This is the part of world-life that most closely touches and best approximates what being eternally "seated in the heavenly places" is like.

Part of the reason for this not-so-astounding revelation was hearing so many voices singing the Psalms. I don't often take time in this blog to encourage hymnists to sing the Lord's songs, but let me say that you don't know what you're missing. John's Revelation has several heart-rending pictures of what heaven will be like, when the countless multitude joins together to worship the Lamb standing as one slain. And they will sing a new song (Rev. 5:9); not new as in "never been sung before" but new as in "the fulfillment of every heart changed by God."
(See Psalm 40:3, where David speaks of being given a new song by the Lord.) They're singing the Psalms, written by the inspiration of the Spirit; they might be singing new psalms, but until we get there and receive those new, inspired songs from the Spirit, we are called to stick with the 150 which God promised were sufficient for this life.

Yes, I believe the church is required by Scripture to sing only the Psalms in worship to God. But I also believe the church should only want to sing the Psalms in worship to God because they are the most heavenly songs we can sing. They are the songs of our homeland.

09 October 2005

Sunday Hello's

It's been a while since we've had any Sunday posts, reflecting the fact that the Fall is quite the busy time around here. The college kids come back and we've got Bible studies, Sunday lunches, discipleship groups, workshops, and so on, in full and wonderful swing. The small group Bible studies are up and going; this time around I'm leading the "central" study at the church. Three of the four Bible studies are studying Ephesians, a marvelous letter built on what Sinclair Ferguson calls the "gospel grammar" - that is, Paul lays out first the facts, wonderful and mysterious, of the Triune God and His salvation, then he gets to the "what now."

Although most in the world don't ever want anyone telling them how to live their lives, there is a certain temptation present amongst protestant-evangelicals to only want someone to tell them what to do. But Paul (and God, ahem), are not satisfied to just hand us the Christian book of lists. We are meant to believe in, to revel in, the gospel of Jesus Christ, that glorious freedom which comes only through grace & by faith. And only after we see the truths of the gospel are we called to change our lives. If preachers preach application without the facts of the gospel, if we skip to the "now don't do a, b, or c" without the wonder of God come in the flesh, we become fundamentalists, in the bad sense of that word; i.e., we become the current, conservative version of the Pharisees, who were all sorts of interested in purity, but never had the foundation of purity figured out.


Just because I'm in the habit of agreeing with my friend Micah, I'll point you to his recommendation of two publications: Paste Magazine & Mars Hill Audio Journal (who, by the way, is having a clearance sale right now on past overstocked CDs). I've got the magazine on my amazon wishlist and can only hope that some kind family member remembers me come Christmastime.

A church building I drive by on the way to our building, Calvary Chapel, was torched by an arsonist very early Friday morning. We saw it this morning on our way to worship and it was quite the humbling site. The pastor lost his library and decades of sermon notes; the congregation lost its place of worship, at least for a time. Some in that church family are probably discouraged, but I hope not. We prayed this morning for our brothers and sisters there, that this would be a taken opportunity to show the world that bricks and trusses and computers and parking lots - these aren't the church. They are merely conveniences, things which may or may not help us minister more effectively. The church is the body of Christ, the called out, covenant community. The church is the church whether she's in some air-conditioned brick building, whether she's in the highlands of Scotland on a wet fall day, or whether she meets in a most secret basement of a Chinese province.

Due to no coincidence, a few minutes before I saw the burned-out church, I backed our minivan up into our car. No horrible things, just some nice big scratches and a few value-destroying dents. I winced and then reminded myself that I had to lead worship in twenty minutes and simply couldn't afford the spiritual energy it would take to groan or get mad. And then we saw the church.

Thank God for the perspective renewal that the Sabbath brings us. This day meant to remind us that life is not about me, that buildings and cars are simply conveniences, that possessions are given to help me be more like Christ. As Calvary Chapel continues & thrives after this fire, Christ will prove His promise to Peter through this part of Christ's church. Of far less importance, I am reminded that God's purposes for my life included a few dents in the car and that, even through this, He will use me for His kingdom. And just as Calvary's loss is put into perspective by the eternal character of worship, so my life-view must be shifted and re-oriented every Sunday. How great is our need for the Sabbath!

08 October 2005

The Proverbial King

Tomorrow night, I'll be preaching on Proverbs 16:1-15, the last six verses of which deal with the king whose "mouth does not sin in judgment." I'll be making the argument that these verses are best understood to describe the perfection of Christ's current and coming reign over this, His kingdom.

No believer would deny that Christ is King, yet many today deny that His kingship extends over all. Many deny that nations have a duty to recognize Christ as their head, others say that Christ is king, yes, but just over the church. But if you look at the first ten verses of Proverbs 16, you'll see that they focus on the sovereignty of God, and then lead into these verses on the righteous King. Christ as King and God as Sovereign are not two different things; Christ as King is the redemptive evolution of the sovereignty of God. It makes God's sovereignty no less worldwide or powerful; but it focuses that sovereignty, even more, on the building up of His church.

In session meetings, we often end our prayers in the "name of Christ, who is King and Head of His church." This is why we follow Christ, because we are His and He is ours. We are His sheep, He is our Shepherd. We are His family, He is our provider. We are His subjects, He is our King. That is a fact worthy of celebration.

06 October 2005

worship predictor

Here are the psalms we're singing this Sunday morning:


Pastor Long will be preaching from John 7 and I'll be preaching from Proverbs 16:1-15.
I find Peggy Noonan's column to be often helpful, well-thought, and well-written. Today, she's writing about the President's latest nomination to the land's high court. You ought to bookmark her site and let her make you think.

05 October 2005

Book Review

On the Incarnation

St. Athanasius (298-373 a.d.)

“a small thin man with a beautiful face, piercing eyes, and a mysterious aura of power which affected even his enemies.”* To such a man as this the church today owes a long-forgotten debt of gratitude. Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, is best known for this work, On the Incarnation, and its contribution to the fight against Arius’ heresy. As Arius fought strongly for his belief that Christ wasn’t divine – rather, that He was derived from the Father and thus not eternal – Athanasius formulated the earliest and possibly the best defense for the divinity of Christ. From the distance of 2000 years, it’s entirely possible to not realize that this man often stood against the whole force of the church, that at times it seemed he was the only one defending the Scriptures and Christ’s deity. He was often, as his motto has come to prove, contra mundum (against the world). His biographer notes that if we wish to understand the secret of Athanasius’ contentment and glory in the midst of persecution, we need only to read this book.

This small book (72 pages in my copy) warmly and systematically sets forth the Christ of Scriptures. Athanasius begins in the garden of Eden, proving from man’s fall why it was necessary for Christ to come as a man: God had set His image in man and He would most be glorified by restoring and reviving that image, which could only be done by one like us, indeed one of us. It was impossible, therefore, that God should leave man to be carried off by corruption, because it would be unfitting and unworthy of Himself.

Through many short chapters, Athanasius begins to reveal the greatness of Christ through this amazing act of sacrifice and obedience. How great is the love of God, who would come as man, Creator coming as creation because of love! It’s hard to imagine anyone reading these beginning chapters without having a spring of awe and love well up within them for this Christ: For by the sacrifice of His own body He did two things: He put an end to the law of death which barred our way; and He made a new beginning of life for us, by giving us the hope of resurrection.

It was our great and terrible condition which made the incarnation necessary. It was the greatness of Christ’s love and the truth of His divinity which made it work. For so many parts of the Christian walk – our identity, discipleship, honor, purpose & mission – for all this, Christ’s incarnation is key. And for the incarnation, His Godhood is paramount.

Christ came as a man to be visible to us in our weakness of faith. His miracles proved His divinity, His presence the very revelation of God (Col. 1:15). Athanasius builds on these wonderful truths by describing the effect and importance of the death and resurrection of Christ. He answers questions like, Why did Christ have to die? Why did He have to die on the cross? Why wait for 3 days in the ground? (Each of these mini-chapters ought to be enough to give us pause, pondering what manner of love this is.) What has the resurrection done for the saints? But now that the Saviour has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they did they do not perish…

Athanasius then gives time to answer the arguments of the Jews and the Greeks against Christ’s deity and resurrection. For the Jews, he proves Christ’s divinity from the Old Testament (Isaiah 53 in particular), from His miracles in their midst, from the perfection of His fulfillment of David’s reign. For the Greeks, he shows how reasonable it was for the Word (logos) to be made flesh – even how being made flesh was the key to the salvation of mankind (Therefore He put on a body, so that in the body He might find death and blot it out). Christ is also shown forth through the power and sanctifying of His church. The purpose of defending and proving Christ? Worship, then, the Saviour “Who is above all” and mighty, even God the Word

He ends by pointing Christians from the truths of Christ past to the truths of Christ future; we have not learned until our lives are changed now and our hearts are set on the hope we have in the return of Christ.

This is a truly wonderful book; measured against today’s books, it may be just a little hard to understand. But measured against books of antiquity, it is both deep and clear, like a mountain lake. Because of its place in church history, because of the warmth and devotion used in commending Christ our Savior, it deserves a place on your bookshelf. If my goal as a pastor is to proclaim Christ, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, I cannot do much better than commending this book to you. Separated by language and continents and ages, it is still abundantly clear that this is a book from a man who loved Christ with his whole heart, and a book that drives us to the same. It can be found free here, but if you’re like me (I’m very sorry), you’ll want your own copy.

*Nick Needham, 2000 years of Christ’s Power, vol. 1, page 208.