Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Great post by Dane Ortlund

Why Do We Need So Many Books on the Gospel

By Dane Ortlund

After all, after 2,000 years, don’t we know by now what the gospel is? Haven’t we “been-there-done-that”? Why do we need one book after another on the same old topic?

  1. Because the gospel is “of first importance” (1 Cor 15:3). In describing his ministry—a ministry that communicated “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)—Paul described it as testifying “to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

  2. Because you’re going to roll out of bed tomorrow a functional Pharisee. The instincts beneath your instincts, the impulses way down deep inside you, are law, not gospel. A good night’s sleep, not a heretical sermon, is all it takes to forget the gospel of grace.

  3. Because the gospel is disputed and debated today. What is the gospel? What are the implications of the gospel? What is the relationship between the gospel and the kingdom of God? How does the gospel relate to growth in godliness? What is the connection between the gospel and community? These questions need answers from different people, with different voices and different backgrounds, who love the same gospel.

  4. Because the church is always one generation away from losing the gospel. Every generation must rediscover the glories of free grace for itself.

  5. Because for every book exulting in or explaining or defending the gospel, a hundred more roll off the press which, wittingly or unwittingly, distract us from that which is of first importance.

  6. Because the gospel is the central message of the entire Bible. Jesus said that even Moses was writing, ultimately, about him (John 5:46). The last verse of the Bible sums up the core message of the Bible: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev. 22:21).

The gospel is the scandalous news that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, our disobedience cannot dent God’s approval of us and our obedience cannot help God’s approval of us, as we look in trusting faith to Christ. And the priority of this gospel, the functional need of the gospel, the contesting of the gospel, the retaining of the gospel, the constant sidelining of the gospel, and the unified biblical testimony to the gospel all unite to say—yes, we need more books on this gospel.

Dane Ortlund is senior editor in the Bible Division at Crossway and blogs at Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Content not yourselves ...

"Content not yourselves with being in a state of grace, but be also careful that your graces are kept in vigorous and lively exercise ..." Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor.

Take a moment this morning to consider if indeed you are keeping your graces in a vigorous and lively manner. Are you pursuing Christ in the myriad of means He has made available to you? Are you devoting your time to the cultivation of your inner man? Are you reading, thinking, talking, and singing about the glorious gospel? Find ways, be they ever so brief or seemingly insignificant, to exercise and inflame the work of God in your life. Today is a good day for that!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Happy Birthday G. K.!

G. K. Chesterton was born this day in 1874. He was a truly great mind who saw things and thought things in such a unique way that he is referred to as the Prince of Paradox and the Apostle of Common Sense. His book Orthodoxy is often considered his great work. Having read that book, however, I would recommend two other books for the uninitiated. Both books are by Dale Ahlquist and they give the reader an overview of Chesterton, both his beliefs and his life: Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton and G. K. Chesterton: Apostle of Common Sense.

Here is a little poem by Chesterton that I really enjoy and have used in teaching poetry to my grade 11 academic students:

G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Here are two other related posts from this blog:

Chesterton on Post-modernism

Chesterton on Generalists

Friday, May 27, 2011

The theology of glory vs. the theology of the cross

The theology of glory sees God everywhere, in glory and in power, and presumes to ascend self-confidently to God by means of experience, rational speculation, and merit. It is the religion of the natural man or woman. By contrast, the theology of the cross sees God only where God has revealed himself, particularly in the weakness and mercy of the suffering. Only when we learn to despair of ourselves, to suffer our own nakedness in God's holy presence, to renounce our righteousness and listen only to God's Word, are we enabled to recognize God as our Savior rather than our just judge and holy enemy. We rise up to God in pride, while God descends to us in humility. We look for God in powerful places; in health, wealth, and happiness; in perfect families and prosperous nations, but God is truly to be found in the weak things of the world. (Horton, Michael Scott. A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006. Print. 37)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Take heed of yourselves

From The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter:

See that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls. Take heed to yourselves, lest you be void of that saving grace of God which you offer to others, and be strangers to the effectual working of that gospel which you preach; and lest, while you proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior, your own hearts should neglect him, and you should miss of an interest in him and his saving benefits. Take heed to yourselves, lest you perish, while you call upon others to take heed of perishing; and lest you famish yourselves while you prepare food for them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Walter Marshall's 11th Direction

In his work on sanctification entitled The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, author Walter Marshall delivers 14 directions towards our sanctification. Direction 11 is as follows:
Endeavour diligently to perform the great work of believing on Christ in a right manner, without any delay; and then also continue and increase in your most holy faith, that so your enjoyment of Christ, union and fellowship with Him, and all holiness by Him, may be begun, continued and increased in you.
His thrust in this direction is fairly straightforward in explanation: believe! However,in application we all know this is easier said then done. Marshall quickly recognizes this in his writing.
Believing on Christ is a work that will require diligent endeavour and labour for the performance of it. We must labour 'to enter into that rest, lest any man fall by unbelief' (Heb. 4:11). We must 'show diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end, that we may be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises' (Heb. 6:11, 12). It is a work that requires the exercise of might and power, and therefore we have need to be 'strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inward man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith' (Eph. 3:16, 17).
Thought, admittedly, this is work that requires 'diligence', 'might', and 'power', it is also 'easy', 'pleasant', and 'delicious' as is seen in the passage that follows the portion above.
I confess it is easy, pleasant and delicious in its own nature, because it is a motion of the heart, without any cumbersome bodily labour; and it is a taking Christ and His salvation as our own, which is very comfortable and delightful; and the soul is carried forth in this by love to Christ and its own happiness, which is an affection that makes even hard works easy and pleasant; yet it is made difficult to us by reason of the opposition that it meets with from our own inward corruptions, and from Satan's temptations.
Easiness, pleasantness, and deliciousness is countered by the difficulty presented by our sin and Satan which oppose our believing. In explaining the difficulty further, Marshall writes,
It is no easy matter to receive Christ as our happiness and free salvation, with true confidence and lively affection, when the guilt of sin lies heavily on the conscience and the wrath of God is manifested by the Word and terrible judgements - especially when we have been long accustomed to seek salvation by the procurement of our own works, and to account the way of salvation by free grace foolish and pernicious; when our lusts incline us strongly to the things of the flesh and the world; when Satan does his utmost, by his own suggestions, and by false teachers, and by worldly allurements and terrors, to hinder the sincere performance of this duty.
So it is easy, but difficult. And Marshall ends this section by returning to the easiness that is only found by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
It is so difficult a work that we cannot perform it without the mighty working of the Spirit of God in our hearts, who only can make it to be absolutely easy to us, and does make it easy, or allow it to be difficult, according as He is pleased to communicate His grace in various degrees to our souls.
Let us pray for grace towards our believing!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Need a reading list?

How about this list of essays and sermons: READ!

What It's All About

This is the prime way of honouring God. We do not so glorify God by elevated admirations, or eloquent expressions, or pompous services of Him, as when we aspire to a conversing with Him with unstained spirits, and live to Him in living like Him.

AW Pink

Monday, May 23, 2011

I couldn't do the transcript thing!

I know there are a lot of excellent preachers who write out their entire sermon as a complete transcript. I have never done this, but decided to try it this past Sunday when I preached at Sovereign Grace Church Toronto. Most of the sermon was in my notes in point form, as I usually do, but the final application I had written in full. Didn't work. I stuck with the transcript for one paragraph and then departed. Well, it was worth a try.

At any rate, I thought I would post up some of what I wrote out.

Here it is:
Four or five years ago God began a fresh work in my life. It was the same work He'd always been doing, but it came with a new vigour and seriousness. I began to 'work out my salvation', knowing that it was God who worked in and through me, with increased motivation. I began to study the Word and, in particular, I began to evaluate my beliefs in light of His Word. I held to many doctrinal positions by default; they were handed down to me and, for the most part, I had accepted them with with little reflection or discernment. But the Holy Spirit was helping me to think and study hard about what I believed and to challenge those things I had blindly incorporated into my Christian framework. interestingly, with the hard thinking, learning, and re-learning came a raising of my affections for Christ. A renewing of biblically-informed emotions that delighted in Christ was a noticeable outworking of thinking and studying. And this led to changes in behaviour that are fruit of the Spirit's work.

In the midst of revolutionary shifts in thinking doctrinally, I read The Cross-Centered Life by C. J. Mahaney. God used this little gem of a book to set my life on what I refer to as a gospel-centered, cross-centered, Christ-centered trajectory. I became enthralled, or re-enthralled, with the doctrines which Paul labels 'of first importance'. Jesus Chris, His incarnation, His perfect life lived, His atoning death, and His consummating resurrection once again were preeminent in my heart and mind. I am so grateful for this grace of God in my life.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A great Sunday!

It's turning out to be a pretty good Sunday!

Today, at Church In The Oaks, Pastor Garry Milley will be preaching at his official induction service. Church In The Oaks has been without a lead pastor since September of 2009. You can listen to several of Dr. Milley's sermons delivered at Church In The Oaks at the CITO Study Center.

Along with that excitement, I have the opportunity to preach at Sovereign Grace Church Toronto. SGCT is pastored by Tim Kerr and it is a wonderful church that I have had the opportunity to visit a number of times. Pastor Tim is a friend and mentor and I have really enjoyed fellowshipping with his congregation.

I pray your Sunday will be a blessed day!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Learn your theology first

Michael Horton encourages us to learn theology, particularly in regards to suffering, before the suffering begins:

Where all of this leads is to a conviction that learning the theology is very difficult to do in the trial itself. It is not a good time for being taught. The wounds are too open to the elements. This doesn't mean it cannot be done, but it is more difficult, at least for many. (Horton, Michael Scott. A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006. Print. 18)

Friday, May 20, 2011

An Eschatological Discussion -- Part 3

There is a Hermeneutic Principle that is very helpful when we are trying to iron our our Eschatology. Easily stated the principle is this: Allow the clear, simple, and explicit to
interpret the unclear, complex, and implicit. There are passages in the bible that are more clear than others. We need to understand the complex in light of the simple, not the other way around. If we have to stretch the interpretation of an otherwise clear, straight-forward passage to accommodate our interpretation of a less clear passage, we are mistaken.

I have heard this referred to as theologically analyzing the text. We have all seen places in scripture that seem to contradict another portion of scripture. Well what do we do in that case? We interpret scripture with scripture. Where else is this doctrine taught? Are there four passages that seem to say one thing and only one that seems to teach a different idea? Well in that case we interpret the isolated scripture through the lens of what the rest of scripture teaches.

I agree with this method. Think for a moment about the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. If we were to read this parable plainly, then Jesus is teaching that salvation comes by our involvement in social justice (feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless etc.) If we were to read that text in isolation, we could make an argument for justification by works. However, we know that scripture teaches justification by grace through faith alone. Despite the imbalance in the specific references, we must also weigh the clarity of the verses. Matthew 25 tells that story in the form of a parable, a story form in which Jesus teaches kingdom principles through narrative. That is a less-clear text about justification than Ephesians 2:8 where Paul is simply in the middle of a theological discourse and says that it is by grace we are saved through faith.

Kik relies on this principle a lot throughout his book.

If you have a moment, read through Matthew 24.

Verse 34 is an interesting verse: "Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place."

That seems straight forward enough, but do we really think that everything Jesus said in Matthew 24 prior to verse 34 was fulfilled in the lives of the generation living when Jesus spoke these words?

Kik says: "Many commentators see that the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Jewish economy adequately fulfills the words of Matthew 24:4-28, but the great majority cannot grant it of verses 29-31. These words, they say, can only find fulfillment at the second coming of the Lord and have nothing whatsoever to do with the destruction of the Jewish dispensation and the city of Jerusalem... The honest conclusion then is: Our Lord was mistaken [or] he meant something else by 'generation'"

He goes on to say that some commentators will say that the word generation could also be translated "race" referring to Israel as a nation. The Greek word 'genea' is used 8 other times in the book of Matthew however, and always refers to a specific generation. In fact, in all of scripture this word is never used to mean anything other than a literal generation. Therefore if we must take the word literally, we must take the sentence in which Jesus uses it literally and infer that all he had spoken in Matthew 24 up until that point was fulfilled within the generation living while he spoke the words.

SO what is so hard about Matthew 24:29-31?

29"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

Oh, right. That. Yeah, that sure sounds like the second coming to me.

Kik disagrees.

"The word immediately binds this verse to the events which are described in verses 4-28. You cannot excise this verse from the events mentioned previously... Of course you could say immediately does not mean immediately, just as generation does not mean generation. That seems like a rather dishonest way to get out of a seemingly difficult passage..."

Kik interprets this passage as referring to the passing away of Judaism. It describes the eclipse of the Old testament dispensation and with it Jewish glories and privileges.

He goes on to reference Isaiah 13:10 (describing God's judgment against Babylon), Isaiah 34:4-5 (God's judgment against Idumea) and Ezekiel 32:7-8 (in a Lament against Egypt) saying that they all use similar language (stars light being withheld, stars falling from heaven and the earth and/or heavens shaking). His argument is that if God would use such strong language in his judgment against these nations, how much more would he use it in describing the downfall of his own chosen nation of Israel?

Lastly, Kik brings up Peter and Pentecost. "Peter states that the events of the day of Pentecost fulfilled the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32, which [Peter] quotes in these words: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, and I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my hand-maidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'

In Joel two things were prophesied: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and judgment upon Israel... Quoting both elements of the prophecy, Peter indicates that both elements had now been fulfilled. "

What I find attractive about Kik's exegy of Matthew 24 is that he interprets the poetic language and metaphors about what things will be like using the clear and straightforward instructions of Jesus.

He takes clearly what seems plain, and applies interpretation to the figurative language which needs to be dug in to.

Where is he going with this? Well at this point in the book Kik is deconstructing the ways pre and amillennials have traditionally applied meaning to passages that reference the second coming of Christ. Because Postmillennialism is off in left field so to speak (in terms of popularity in modern evangelicalism) before he gets in to the meat, he has to loosen the grip these other traditions have on the way we are reading and interpreting scripture.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

An Eschatological Discussion -- Part 2

Initially when I looked in to the differing views of the millennial reign of Christ, my study was limited to Premillennialism and Amillennialism. This is, in part, due to my closest friends in the faith holding one of those two views but also because those two views were what my two favourite (at the time) contemporary Christian authors John Piper and Sam Storms held to.

Though Jonathan Edwards was a postmillennialist, and his views are shared in a book like "The End for which God Created the World", the first book I picked up that explicitly taught a postmillennial position was J. Marcellus Kik's work "An Eschatology of Victory".

For anyone reading this who did not have 2 hours to kill and did not watch John Piper's round table discussion, here is a quick link to a one page summary of the orthodox positions as they refer to the millennium.

Postmillennialism reminds us that there is a difference in language and in teaching between two kingdoms: The Messianic Kingdom and the Consummate Kingdom:

Kik writes:
....Revelation is concerned almost entirely with the Messianic kingdom which begins in time and ends in time. For instance, the "thousand-year" period of Revelation 20 cannot refer to the consummate kingdom because it commences in time with the binding of Satan and ends in time with the short period of the release of Satan. It deals with time before the last judgment. Also the Messianic kingdom, as such, ceases to exist, as is clearly indicated in I Cor. 15:24-28 where it is stated: "Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom of God, even the Father....And when all things shall be subdued unto Him then shall the Son also himself be subdued unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all." The eschatology of the Old Testament is chiefly concerned with the Messianic kingdom, and its types speak of the Messianic kingdom. The predictive didactic elements of the New Testament prophecy deal with the Messianic Kingdom. The consummate kingdom is not the great object of Old Testament prophecy or New Testament prophecy.

I am going to pull out a couple of interesting arguments from Kik's work hoping our readers and my fellow bloggers have some time to add to the discussion. I will post a point, hope and pray discussion follows and then post another:

1. The Crushing of the Head of the Serpent

The curse of Satan in Genesis 3:15 speaks of the crushing of the serpents head and speaks of defeat. The language used about the serpent eating dust in his defeat in the preceding verse is language used throughout scripture (particularly in Psalms and Isaiah) concerning the defeat of enemies.

What is interesting is how Paul describes this event in Romans 16:20: "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."

Reading literally, Kik argues that Paul is telling his readers that Satan is defeated, not through a cataclysmic event, but by the feet of Christians. God crushes Satan (alluding to the Gen. 3 "bruising defeat") by means of the feet of Christians on the earth. Rev. 12 also describes the defeat of Satan describing, again, that it is by the means of Christians that God destroys Satan, here it is stated that the tools they use for this task is the "blood of the lamb" (work of the cross) and the "word of their testimony" (the gospel).

Both of these instances seem to indicate it is by means of the church that God intends to crush Satan. In Luke 10 Jesus is rejoicing at the successful ministry done by the seventy two disciples he sent out to preach the gospel. He says that he saw Satan cast down and that they had authority over serpents... a sort of picture of what happens as the gospel is preached successfully.

He also cites Colossians 2:15, 1 Cor. 15, Heb. 2:14 and 1 John 3:8 and says "To say that the defeat of Satan will only come through a cataclysmic act at the second coming of Christ is ridiculous in light of these passages. To think that the church must grow weaker and weaker and the kingdom of Satan stronger and stronger is to deny that Christ came to destroy the works of the devil... and it dishonors the first coming of Christ."

I would be lying if I said this wasn't alluring. The idea that the Great Commission was a literal and achievable command is exciting!

I think it is important to note that Kik is not arguing that we can usher in a return to sinlessness or perfection. My heart has been regenerated, I have received Christ's righteousness and he has nailed my sin to the cross through his substitutionary atonement... but I am not sinless, nor am I perfect.

To say that the gospel can be spread throughout the whole world and the nations can become disciples seems impossible... which gives us a much longer term vision of the world.

The questions that may be swirling around in your head may be: "what does a 'Christian world' look like? 80%, 90%, 100%?" or "is this a militant spreading of the Christian worldview or just peaceful gospel?" or other passages may come to your mind about tribulation and suffering... "how much will Christians be 'sharing in the suffering of Christ' in a Christian world?"

Don't worry. They are swirling around my head to...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Eschatological Discussion

When I first became interested in theology, it seemed as though Eschatology was one of my favourite points of interest, as well as one of my favourite discussions to get involved in. Recently I have been guilty of calling this field of study a peripheral issue and taking less interest in it than I once did.

I was recently challenged by a friend and mentor who said that if God's Sovereignty is a central issue because it reminds us who is in control, who is "driving this boat" so to speak, then Eschatology is a central issue because it tells us where he's taking everything... or "where he's driving the boat."

I have considered myself a "soft Amillennialist", though I am fully aware that my favourite dead theologian (Jonathan Edwards) was a post-millennialist and my favourite alive theologian (John Piper) is a historic premillennialist.

Jude and I have often talked about how often our studies in theology come down to which experts we are going to trust because we have less access to historical research and less knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. Certainly to say guys like Piper, Packer and Grudem are more intelligent than me is like saying Jude can defeat me in an arm wrestling match -- the statement is true but fails to communicate how outmatched I am.

While it remains true some issues need me to trust the fallible research of men (for example the complimentarian expert argues that women were educated when the New Testament was written and egalitarian experts argue they were not... both citing historic evidence to prove their statement), I am convinced that I need to open up my bible and prayerful wade through the text as best I can. It is not sufficient for me to call myself a "soft amillennialist" because belief without conviction is prone to apathy.

So... all that to say, I am waist deep in to a book called "An Eschatology of Victory" by J. Marcellus Kik that I have been finding incredibly challenging and refreshing. Over the next few days I am going to post some of my recent thoughts on my journey to find a hard position on one of the three orthodox stances.

The following is a video from Desiring God ministries in which John Piper mediates a discussion between Sam Storms (representing Amillenialism), Jim Hamilton (arguing for premillennialism) and Doug Wilson (who takes a postmillennial stance).

I think that Jim is rather abrasive and continues to push his point of the literal reading of Rev. 20 without responding well to counter-points. I think Storms articulates himself best, but I imagine he's hard to argue with (For example: "Well, to believe that I'd have to abandon my belief in biblical inerrancy", to which Piper responds, "Good grief Sam!"). I find Doug to be the most warm character of the three and I think he argues himself well, but once Piper jumps in to back Jim against Doug he seems to back away.

Video removed due to lag... just google: "An Evening of Eschatology"

A Fickle Heart

I have begun to read a book on suffering by Michael Horton called A Place for Weakness. Interestingly, I received this book free because I joined Tim Challies' Friends of the Blog. It is a great way to support a solid blog and receive a bunch of swag. Anyways, here is a quote from Horton's book that I find very convicting. I have the fickle heart that the author describes in this excerpt. I'm praying God will replace a fickle heart with a resolute one as I continue on my journey.
But precisely because life is both tragedy and comedy, it is more apparent to us than ever that our hearts are fickle. When life goes well, we wonder how it could be better ("Sure, the manna is okay, but can he give us meat?"). When things head south, we challenge God's fatherly care ("Did he bring us into this desert to die?").

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Despair, guilt, and remorse in Frankenstein

We are studying Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in the grade 11 english class I teach. I am thoroughly enjoying reuniting with this 'old friend' that I first encountered in college. One of the many wonderful attributes the author displays in this classic is a keen and penetrating understanding of the visceral reality of guilt, despair, and remorse. Shelley clearly has a grasp, likely through her personal experiences, of these emotions. In the following excerpt, Victor Frankestein laments the death of his younger brother, the guilty verdict and death sentence of a framed friend, all due t the actions of the creature he created and its actions which he was morally resposible for. Enjoy the fine writing and gratefully bask in the truth that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

During this conversation I had retired to a corner of the prison-room, where I could conceal the horrid anguish that possessed me. Despair! Who dared talked of that? The poor victim, who on the morrow was to pass the dreary boundary between life and death, felt not as I did, such deep and bitter agony. I gnashed my teeth, and ground them together, uttering a groan that came from my inmost soul. Justine started. When she saw who it was, she approached me, and said, "Dear Sir, you are very kind to visit me; you, I hope, do not believe that I am guilty."

I could not answer. "No, Justine," said Elizabeth; "he is more convinced of your innocence than I was; for even when he heard that you had confessed, he did not credit it."

"I truly thank him. In these last moments I feel the sincerest gratitude towards those who think of me with kindness. How sweet is the affection of others to such a wretch as I am! It removes more than half my misfortune; and I feel as if I could die in peace, now that my innocence is acknowledged by you, dear lady, and your cousin."

Thus the poor sufferer tried to comfort others and herself. She indeed gained the resignation she desired. But I, the true murderer,
felt the never-dying worm alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation. Elizabeth also wept, and was unhappy; but her's also was the misery of innocence, which, like a cloud that passes over the fair moon, for a while hides, but cannot tarnish its brightness. Anguish and despair had penetrated into the core of my heart; I bore a hell within me, which nothing could extinguish. We staid several hours with Justine; and it was with great difficulty that Elizabeth could tear herself away. "I wish," cried she, "that I were to die with you; I cannot live in this world of misery."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Brandon Phillips and The Essential Owen

I have often shared with you posts from The Puritan's Woodshop which is a blog maintained by Brandon Phillips. It is a great blog and is worth checking regularly. I noticed today where Tim Challies mentions Brandon's other blog, The Essential Owen (also shared on this blog), in his daily 'A La Carte' post. That should increase the traffic!

Good for Brandon and good for all those who check out his blog. Links to the blog are below.

The Puritan's Woodshop

The Essential Owen

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pastor Garry Milley at Church In The Oaks

The four writers of this blog attend Church In The Oaks in London, Ontario. Today, CITO welcomed our new head pastor, Dr. Garry Milley, for his first service as our pastor. Though the official induction service is not until next week, we enjoyed his first Sunday with us.

The following is a bio of Dr. Milley:

Garry E. Milley was born and raised in Newfoundland. He is the eldest son of the late Pastor E. R. Milley. In his early years in the ministry, Garry served as chaplain to Memorial University, pastored Bethel Pentecostal Church in Grand Bank and then came back to St. John’s as the Program Director for Youth for Christ. In 1981 the Board of Governors of EPBC asked him to come to teach. For the past 25 years he has been a Professor of Church History. He is the author of several books and many articles. He has national and international experience as a Bible conference and camp meeting speaker. His wife Christine is from St. John’s. She is a graduate of Eastern Pentecostal Bible College. She is a gifted children’s teacher and pastoral care worker. They have three adult children, Erika (Mrs. Jonathan Massimi), Andrew and Philip.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Interesting Article on Gay Marriage and Sports

From the Calgary Herald:

Marriage debate bodychecks sports figures

By Susan Martinuk

Don't try to debate a controversial social issue on Twitter.

That's the take-away message from today's column, which runs the gamut from hockey to same-sex marriage to Donald Trump and the philosopher Voltaire. Who would ever have guessed that these items would appear in the same column?

It all started when the NHL's Sean Avery appeared in a video for the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign, stating, "I'm Sean Avery and I'm a New Yorker for marriage equality. I treat everyone the way I expect to be treated and that applies to marriage."

Suddenly, Avery, who is known more for creating controversy than his actual hockey ability, was being celebrated for bringing positive attention to an issue that hasn't had much exposure in professional sports.

But a Canadian sports agent named Todd Reynolds had a different opinion. Reynolds, whose agency represents about 10 NHL players, posted the following message on Twitter: "Very sad to read Sean Avery's misguided support of same gender 'marriage.' Legal or not, it will always be wrong."

Not surprisingly, criticism and hate-filled comments began to roll in Reynolds' direction. So he tweeted again: "To clarify. This is not hatred or bigotry toward gays. It is not intolerance in any way, shape or form. I believe we are all equal . . . But I believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. This is my personal viewpoint. I do not hate anyone."

And that's when Rogers Sportsnet television host Damien Goddard entered the fray, tweeting in support of Reynolds with the comment, "I completely and wholeheartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage."

The very next day, Rogers Sportsnet played the Donald Trump card and fired Goddard. Of course, the official, public explanation was that "it had become clear that (Goddard) is not the right fit for our organization." But those words didn't exactly cover the giant same-sex marriage elephant that stood in the locker-room.

So much for Voltaire and his, "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" quote that is supposedly a bedrock principle of freedom of expression.

Before the hate mail starts flowing in my direction, let's consider the fact that this issue remains controversial and divisive.

A 2010 Angus Reid Global Monitor poll showed only 36 per cent of American respondents believed that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. In Canada, that same poll showed that 61 per cent support our current laws, which allow same-sex marriage.

That means the comments made by Reynolds and Goddard would have the support of 64 per cent of Americans and 39 per cent of Canadians. Such numbers are by no means insignificant.

Gay marriage even remains controversial in the liberal mecca of California, where a 2008 vote on the issue resulted in a prohibition on the legalization of such unions. Gay marriage is legal in Canada, but it remains illegal in 41 states of the United States. A 1996 U.S. federal law called the Defense of Marriage Act remains in place and it defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

Most troublesome is the generalized assumption that Reynolds and Goddard are homophobic and Rogers' apparent acceptance of the idiotic notion that no one should ever have to be offended by what they hear. Reynolds, in particular, made it clear that his issue was with the act of marriage and not with individual homosexuals.

Ironically, a Canadian broadcaster would rather toss aside the whole idea of free speech than risk offending anyone.

Purging those who disagree with the current zeitgeist doesn't exactly make Rogers Sportsnet the poster child for tolerance or freedom of speech.

The idea that we can express conflicting ideas is supposedly at the heart of the right to exercise freedom of speech. But that individual right is lost when we shut down ideas we disagree with and society's freedom itself is diminished when the public loses access to all ideas in a public debate.

Susan Martinuk's column appears every Friday.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Friday, May 13, 2011

Looks like blogger is up and running!

It's the end of the day, but I'll leave you with a quote anyways:

Had He emptied the full vials of His wrath upon the world, sweeping it before the fury of His anger, and consigning it to woeful and eternal punishment, it would not have presented to the universe so vivid, so impressive, and so awful a demonstration of the nature and glory of His holiness, of His infinite abhorrence of sin, and the necessity why He should punish it, as He has presented in the humiliation, sufferings, and death of His beloved Son. - Octavius Winslow

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

With Courage Rekindled

We have been forewarned that
an enemy relentlessly threatens us,

an enemy who is the very embodiment of rash boldness,
of military prowess,
of crafty wiles,
of untiring zeal and haste,
of every conceivable weapon
and of skill in the science of warfare.

We must, then, bend our every effort to this goal:
that we should not let ourselves be overwhelmed by

but on the contrary,

with courage rekindled stand our ground in combat.

Since this military service ends only at death,
let us urge ourselves to perseverance.
conscious of our weakness and ignorance,
let us especially call upon God's help,
relying upon him alone in whatever we attempt,
since it is he alone who can supply us with counsel and strength,
courage and armor.
(Institutes I, xiv, 13, line breaks mine)

A miserable, worthless kind of faith

O what a miserable, worthless kind of saving faith is this, that cannot fit a believer to practise in a gospel manner on the most pure and powerful principles of grace, but rather leaves him to work on legal principles, which can never bring him to serve God acceptably out of love! - Walter Marshall

A faith that leaves you trying to earn your salvation has left you where you were before you were saved in regards to fitting you to live a godly life. A legalistic approach to gospel-living is doomed to fail. If good works could get it done, we would not need grace. The only hope for godliness in our daily lives is a faith that rests solely on the grace of Christ; this provides the motivation and the means whereby we are sanctified.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I am thanking God today for 15 years of grace-filled marriage to a grace-filled woman who shares a grace-filled life with me.

All I know is grace!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Beale and Trueman: “Scripture: God Speaks”

I have listened to the messages from several Clarus conferences and they have all been excellent. I have not listened to these, but I'm guessing they will also be great. I found this at Between Two Worlds:
Trent Hunter:

Clarus is Latin for clear, bright, or radiant. From April 29-May 1, believers from Albuquerque, NM, and the surrounding Southwest region gathered at Desert Springs Church for Clarus ‘11, a Regional Conference of The Gospel Coalition.

This year’s theme, “Scripture: God Speaks,” focused our attention on the subject of the Bible, God’s Word written. Our speakers, G.K. Beale and Carl Trueman, both professors at Westminster Theological Seminary, approached this theme from a variety of angles: what Scripture says about itself, how Christians have understood the nature of Scripture throughout history, the effects of meditating on Scripture, the need to defend Scripture, how the Scriptures persevere us in suffering, how Jesus fulfilled Scripture, why and how Scripture is meant to be preached, and how Scripture shapes Christian marriage.

In addition to a panel discussion led by Ryan Kelly, both men spoke a total of four times. For those who couldn’t join us, video will be available in the weeks to come, and audio is available now:

G.K. Beale

Carl Trueman

  • Like Sheep without a Shepherd” (Mark 6:30-44)
  • Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    God's Pleasure and Pain in Osama bin Laden

    With the news of Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALS this past week a lot of conversation has been sparked as to how Christians should react to such an event. From conversations that I've had personally with friends and family I can say first hand that there are mixed emotions. On the one hand, this is the same man who is responsible for orchestrating the most deadly terrorist attack ever on American soil. On the other, he was a man who had no relationship with Christ and who will now spend an eternity in torment and anguish, separated from God.

    So there are clearly two sides to this complex coin from a human perspective, but how does God see it? What does he think about all this?

    Ezekiel 18:23–Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

    Genesis 9:6–Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

    On the surface these verses look to be contradictory, but at the heart of them is the display of God's infinite glory and justice! John Piper has a fantastic article on this tension found here.

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    What's the alternative

    I like this post by Justin Taylor:

    A quote from Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology had a significant impact on me the first time I read it several years ago:

    . . . In criticism it is not sufficient to find flaws in a given view.

    One must always ask,

    “What is the alternative?”


    “Does the alternative have fewer difficulties?”

    John Baillie tells of writing a paper in which he severely criticized a particular view. His professor commented,

    “Every theory has its difficulties, but you have not considered whether any other theory has less difficulties than the one you have criticized.” (p. 61)

    The following little clip of Phil Donahue interviewing Milton Friedman is a good example of this principle at play.

    My point of posting this is not to defend capitalism (though I believe it can be defended from a biblical worldview.) But the main reason for posting it is that is serves as a nice illustration of the fact that criticizing a theory is insufficient if one’s alternate theory is equally weak or worse.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    D. A. Carson on Praise

    From The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus by D. A. Carson:
    "Christians today ought to therefore avoid two sad extremes. One extreme depreciates any sturdy study of biblical truth, dismissing it as unspiritual, and preferring to shout loud praises with worked-up responses and clich├ęs - as if the magnitude of the glory we offer Jesus turns on the decibel levels (or the depth of ignorance masked by self-professed faith). The other extreme depreciates spontaneous joy in worship and all corporate enthusiasm, dismissing such things as mere emotion, and preferring solemn and distinctively intellectual contemplation of propositions about Jesus - as if the magnitude of the glory we offer Jesus turns exclusively on how many truths the mind can formulate." (151)

    "...we who are believers must learn to glorify Jesus by increasingly apprehending as much graciously revealed truth as we can, forging it into our lives until it both transforms us and prompts spontaneous and enthusiastic praise." (152)

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Deep, durable delight

    More from Storms in A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ:
    The joy that Paul has in mind is a deep, durable, delight in the splendor of God that utterly ruins you for anything else. Its a whole-souled savoring of the spiritual sweetness of Jesus that drives out all competing pleasures and leads the soul to rest content with the knowledge of God and the blessings of intimacy with him. This is the kind of joy that, rather than being dependent on material and physical comfort, actually frees you from bondage to it and liberates you from sinful reliance on worldly conveniences and gadgets and gold." (Storms, C. Samuel. A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. Print. 57)

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    The Spirit as Guarantee

    In his two-volume devotional on Second Corinthians entitled A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ, Sam Storms comments on the idea of the holy Spirit as our 'guarantee' as it appears in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, "And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee."

    Storms writes, "In other words, when you become consciously and experientially aware of the presence within of transcendent deity, of a joy that is inexpressible and full of glory, of a power that triumphs over the allure of fleshly lusts, of a delight that is sweeter than the passing pleasures of sin, of a satisfaction that puts earthly success to shame, you are sensing, if only in small measure, what will be yours in infinite and unending degree in the age to come!"

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    Shakespeare and Psalm 46

    From Miscellanies:

    A few curious facts to consider:

    • The Authorized Version was first published 400 years ago, in 1611.

    • In 1611 William Shakespeare was 46 years old.

    • In the AV translation of Psalm 46 …

      • … the 46th word from the top is translated “shake” (v. 3)

      • … the 46th word from the bottom is translated “spear” (v. 9)

    It is highly doubtful this was pulled off by Shakespeare himself. But perhaps this was the work of a sneaky translator or editor? Perhaps this acknowledges Shakespeare’s literary influence on the AV translators? Or perhaps this is just a mere coincidence of great statistical proportion? We will probably never know.