Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Not all questions are good questions. And despite what your grade school teacher may have told you, there are stupid questions. And there are also ungodly questions which undermine God's church. We have seen in recent years how certain leader's questions, when they are continually posed and systematically asked, are not really questions at all but are statements about what that leader thinks about a topic. To emphasize this, Scott Oliphint, in his book entitled The Battle Belongs to the Lord, discusses the serpent's questioning of Eve and the resultant truth for the church:
No doubt Satan knew exactly what God had said. His question was not one of simple curiosity. He was after much more than information. The way in which he got his answers is instructive because it was so subtle. The serpent was able, in asking the question, to manipulate Eve's own concerns. By asking the question in the way that he did, he was able to focus her concern on his deception. He was able to get Eve to question God's command to her. First came the question, then the blatant opposition. Only after getting Eve "on his wavelength," so to speak, was he able to present to her the "other" option: "You will not surely die" (3:4).

This is how attacks and assaults operate within the Christian church, within Christian teaching and Christian institutions. They tend to work, subtly and almost undetectably, to bring us into their context of concern. They begin with subtle questions or "concerns." Underneath such questions lies a denial of biblical truth. If we begin to entertain those questions, we can, almost unconsciously, be involved in the same denial. Once there, such questions, with their subtle denials, can begin to "drip" into the foundation of our most cherished commitments in order to make those commitments, if possible, rot away. (Oliphint, K. Scott. The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2003. Print. 48) 

Sometimes, a question is not just a question! We must be wary of question that, whether intended by the one who asks or not, undermine or deny biblical truth. There are honest questions that need honest answers. But there are also questions which, even in their consideration, erode and eat away at the foundational truths of Christianity. God help us be discerning in the recognition of the difference between the two.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Who is up for being demolished?

We all are, that's who.

Dr. Jim Hamilton explains in his book Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches:

How will you fare before the wrath of God? Do you think status or influence or wealth or greatness is going to help you on that day? There is only one shelter from the wrath of God on that day-the shelter of the cross of Jesus Christ. Only those who believed that Jesus died to pay the penalty for their sins, that he rose to conquer sin and death, only those who trust Jesus will be sheltered by Jesus from divine wrath on that day.

Interestingly, the gospel is the great leveler of humanity in the same way that God's wrath is. The gospel declares that only Christ can save and that nothing you bring makes you closer to God. Money doesn't put you closer to God. Power doesn't, influence doesn't, greatness doesn't, freedom doesn't. The only thing that brings you closer to God is faith in Jesus Christ. Your pride will be demolished one way or the other. Do you want it demolished right now by the cross and the gospel, or do you want it demolished on the last day of the wrath of the lamb. 

(Hamilton Jr., James M. Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 185) 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Secular writers and the Spirit of God

John Calvin affirms that grace is evident in knowledge of all sources:
Whenever we come upon these matters in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God's excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God. (Institutes 2.2. 15)
This should give us a sense of gratitude for the light that radiates from humanity, whether it be sacred or secular.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Better to honour God than win

This was posted by Dr. Jim Hamilton Jr. at his blog For His Renown awhile ago and it is worth reading and re-reading, especially if you have kids in sport!

Here’s the guest post I was invited to contribute to the Family Ministry Today blog:

I love basketball and baseball. I love leaving it all on the court. I love the exhilaration of teamwork, the ball off the sweet spot, the basketball whispering through the net, the discipline to play defense, after-practice ground balls (or free throws), staying in the hitting cage until the hands bleed or the coach can’t throw anymore or the daylight is gone. And I love to win.

These things aren’t on the surface for me. They’re in me bone deep because they’re all wound up with my relationship with my dad. Growing up, my dad was my hero. He was also the high school basketball coach, and I think he worked (and works) harder than anyone else I know. My dad loved me and made sacrifices for me, and I wanted to please him. The best way to do that, I thought, was to lead the team my dad coached to the state championship. At some point, I think 8th grade, I promised I would do it: I told my dad that we would face Corliss Williamson’s Russellville Cyclones in the State Championship, and that we would win.

I failed. We weren’t even close. We didn’t even get to play in the state tournament my senior year. My mom was a great comfort in those days, and she had long been planting seeds, saying things like “basketball isn’t everything.” One day those seeds would bear fruit.

I’m sad to say that along the way I adopted an “anything-to-win” mindset. Thankfully, there were lines that I couldn’t cross, lines that have been obliterated at every level in recent years. Lines that only need the name Barry Bonds mentioned for you to know what I’m talking about.

I failed my dad, but even in failing to win that state championship, he knew I loved him. I said it with words. He heard it more clearly spoken by all those summer days in the gym doing dribble drills, shooting more shots than I could count (counting a bunch of them trying to track shooting percentage—I had this big chart on the wall in my room), running the stairs, working out in strength shoes, doing everything I possibly could to improve. I’d seen my dad work, and I did my best to follow in his footsteps.

One afternoon the summer before last my sons and I were playing wiffle-ball in the backyard with the kid who lives next door. Something happened that triggered a realization in my mind. Seeds planted by my mother, watered by the word of God, suddenly sprouted, pushing up through the soil of my thinking. I don’t remember if the game had ended and my son was on the losing side or if it was just a tight play that went against him, but he threw a fit like the world had ended and all was lost. I recognized the sentiments and the behavior, and I could tell you worse stories about my own actions when I was 15 not 5, things that took place in settings more significant than the backyard. Suddenly I knew, I think for the first time, what my behavior had implied, and what my son’s showed in that moment.

All at once I realized that the antics were announcing that the most important thing in the world was performance and the outcome of this silly game. As I took my son in my arms that afternoon, a phrase came to my lips that expressed something I should have known long before: it’s more important to honor God than to win.

If athletics are going to be anything other than a training ground for thuggery, athletes have to know that it’s more important to honor God than to win. For kids to accept the bodies they’ve been given and refuse performance-enhancing drugs, they have to know that it’s more important to honor God than to win. For us to be able to honor our opponents whether we win or lose, we have to know that it’s more important to honor God than to win. For sports and competition to bring out the best—rather than the worst—in us, we have to go at it like it’s more important to honor God than to win.

It’s more important to honor God than to win. If I love my dad by giving it all I’ve got, but I dishonor God along the way, all I’m left with is an emotional connection to idolatry—and the idol of sports and the relationships associated with it will let us down every time. But if I seek to honor my father and mother because I’m seeking to honor God, the emotional connection is not empty and hollow but solid and everlasting in its shared experience of the two great commandments. We love God by loving people, by playing hard, by soaking ourselves with sweat and disregarding screaming lungs and skinned knees and reaching, striving, straining, winning or losing, for the praise of the one who is worthy.

The great goal of competition is not, therefore, victory. No, victory must be redefined as winning or losing (with all our might) in a way that honors God, because it’s better to honor God than to win.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reflecting on condescension leads to worshp

I have posted quite a few quotes and ideas that have risen out of my reading of Scott. Oliphint's wonderful book God With Us. So much of what that book has to share resonates with me; it has both intellectual and affectional traction. I'm going to continue referring to it and sharing quotes from it over the next few weeks.

The following quote summarizes the idea of God's condescension in terms of his relationship, a covenantal one, with human beings. The fact that he relates to us, or even that we exist, indicates that He has condescended.

In a more general sense, the fact that God interacts at all with creation presupposes his covenantal character. Once he determines to relate to us, that relation entails that he take on properties that he otherwise would not have had. He limits himself while remaining the infinite God. The fact that he is Creator means that he is now related to something ad extra to which he was not related before. (188)

What an awesome God! This "stooping" of God to covenant with mankind, this condescension of God in the act of creation, makes him appear wonderfully loving and amazingly glorious to me. But He did not stop there. The great condescension with which God would bless the world is seen in the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, session, and return of Christ. I am left with a desire to worship this incredible God!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Quotes from The Legacy of Sovereign Joy

Here are some quotes from the Introduction of The Legacy of Sovereign Joy (Piper, John. The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God's Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006. Print.):

God ordains that we gaze on his glory, dimly mirrored in the ministry of his flawed servants. He intends for us to consider their lives and peer through the imperfections of their faith and behold the beauty of their God. (17)

From David, the king, to David Brainerd, the missionary, extraordinary and incomplete specimens of godliness and wisdom have kindled the worship of sovereign grace in the hearts of reminiscing saints. (17)

Of course, Augustine is not alone in mingling a deep knowledge of grace with defective views and flawed living. Every worthy theologian and every true saint does the same. Every one of them confesses, “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12). But the famous flawed saints have their flaws exposed and are criticized vigorously for it. (27)

There are life-giving lessons written by the hand of Divine Providence on every page of history. (37)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ransom in Mark 10

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:45 ESV)

To bring this discussion to a close: the natural meaning of the ransom saying is that Jesus' death was in the stead of the many, He was to give His life instead of their lives, and we see no reason for abandoning this interpretation. It may or may not be easy to integrate this into some theory of the way the atonement works, but either way we are not justified in evading the plain sense of the Greek. (Morris, Leon. The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965. Print. 38)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Benefits of beholding

A constant view of the glory of Christ will revive our souls and cause our spiritual lives to flourish and thrive. Our souls will be revived by the transforming power with which beholding Christ is always accompanied. This is what transforms us daily into the likeness of Christ. So let us live in the constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, and power will then flow from him to us, healing all our declensions, renewing a right spirit in us and enabling us to abound in all the duties that God requires of us. (Law, R. J. K. The Glory of Christ. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994. Print. 167)

We see in this excerpt by John Owen that there are many benefits to beholding the glory of Christ:
  • revival of our souls
  • spiritual flourishing
  • daily transformation to Christlikeness
  • power flowing to us from Christ
  • healing of declensions
  • renewed spirits
  • abounding in our God-given duties
Aside from the fact that this is what we ought to do, let us consider the benefits as a means of encouraging us to behold Him!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Apologetics and repentance

The idea of repentance has a distinctly intellectual side to it. Of course, that does not make it coldly intellectualistic; repentance has much more to it than simply a change of mind. But its focus is on the mind. Repentance means, at least, that our mind-set must change with respect to a certain lifestyle or way of thinking. Repentance, as we will see, must be part of our apologetic appeal. We dare not simply think that our responsibility in apologetics is to show that some deity might exist somewhere. Our responsibility is to tell the truth, the truth about Christianity, including the truth that God now "commands all people everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). We seek and desire, in defending the faith, to see a change of mind in those to whom we speak.

(Oliphint, K. Scott. The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2003. Print. 5)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review – Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches

     How many times have we been told not to judge a book by its cover? This sage advice applies to everything from automobiles to Zambonis and from airplanes to zeppelins. And it also happens to be true for the popular vehicle of written words; books. This saying applies to more than books; that is clear. But it also applies to books. Such is the case for Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches. On the back of the dust jacket appears the following: "BY PASTORS FOR PASTORS". This might lead the average layperson to determine that this book is not for them. However, judging this book by these words on its cover would be a mistake. One needs to read the small print. The complete sentence on the dust jacket reads: "The Preaching the Word series is written BY PASTORS FOR PASTORS and their churches." This book is indeed for the churches, and the people in them, as well as the clergy. In Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, Dr. Jim Hamilton Jr. has written a book, comprised of a collection of sermons, that exposits the canonical Revelation in a manner that is thorough, engaging, and practical. The format of this book and the structure of its chapters ensure a comprehensive account of this intriguing apocalyptic prophetic epistle.

    As mentioned, this book is a collection of sermons. These 37 sermons were preached at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky and the thoroughness of this work is largely due to the fact that it is a compilation of preached homilies. The sections of Scripture considered in each chapter, which corresponds with a sermon on the passage selected, are successfully initiated in an introduction which includes several components. The sermons begin with an attention-grabber, often allusions to historical events and other works of literature or perhaps personal anecdotes from the author's life. I found these "hooks" very well done. They accomplished the goal they were intended for. I found myself immediately intrigued in the Scripture passage under consideration while wanting to continue reading through the sermon. The sermon introductions indicate the main point of the verses as well as making the readers aware of the need that the text addresses. Finally, the opening places the particular passage into its context in the larger book of Revelation. The repetition of this process throughout the 37 sermons was very helpful. I found that my overall understanding of the book of Revelation increased as I read the main idea of each section and was taught where it fit into the larger scheme of this last book of the Bible. The comprehensiveness of Hamilton's teaching was aided the body of the sermon which not only includes a thorough explanation of what the passage actually said, but also offers an abundance of application to people in all walks of life. A conclusion with a restatement of concepts already covered along with many memorable illustrations filled out this already extensive treatment. The thoroughness of Hamilton's expositions of this New Testament writing might have been overwhelming were it not for the engaging style in which the book was written.

    Stylistically I found this book to have a conversational feel to it. I suppose that should not be unexpected as these were oral presentations in their original form. Nevertheless, it seemed as though I had sat down for a coffee, on my dime of course, with the theologian and enjoyed the ensuing discussion centered on the last book of our Bible. It was a one-way conversation mind you, but imagine sitting at a table with a dark roast in hand and inquiring of Hamilton, "What do you think of this portion of chapter 3?" This would immediately be followed by a 10 or 15 minute explanation in which the doctor's passion and exuberance for the topic was clearly evident. That is something like the experience I seemed to have as I read this book. The aforementioned passion of the author for this topic is impossible to miss and adds to the inviting impression that this book elicits. Adding to the engaging quality of this book was its irenic tone. Considering this topic is one of great controversy, Hamilton does an admirable job of clearly and unapologetically offering his interpretation of passages while doing so in a conciliatory manner. While approaching the text from a historic premillennial position, Hamilton never writes disparagingly of other eschatological views and on several occasions produces a perspective which could be appreciated by all interested parties. The conversational style of the writing and the gracious tone of the author, mixed with a strong sense of passion, is one of the books endearing qualities. Its practical suggestions of application are the final qualities we will consider.

     Hamilton does an excellent job of demonstrating how the Biblical book of Revelation can be a very practical book. Revelation soars to inestimable heights when it talks about such things as the throne room of God. It plunges to incalculable depths when it speaks of the bottomless pit. It would be understandable if one thought that this writing of the Apostle John was an impractical flight of fancy in the dreamscape of this disciple. But Hamilton grounds the apocalyptic letter with a solid sense of its applicability to everyday life. Hamilton does this effectively in two ways that I found compelling. The first is his desire to draw out a gospel call from the passage he is dealing with. Whether it be a cry for repentance based on terribleness of the tribulations ahead or a presentation of the beauty of the world to come, Hamilton shows the reader how Scripture, even seemingly fanciful passages, can apply to the unbeliever in a real and tangible way. I appreciate how Hamilton responsibly brings God's Word to bear on the heart and soul of the unregenerate. This was far more nuanced and thoughtful than a "turn or burn" slogan-esque approach. It reads as a sincere appeal to those who do not know the Lord. Similarly, Hamilton determinedly demonstrates to believers the practical import of this book and its various sections. It could be a very straightforward application such as taking Jesus' appeal for repentance from one of the seven churches and employing that as a similar request for all of us to repent. It might be something less obvious like a call to worship the greatness of God based on Yahweh's superiority when compared to an already incredibly impressive archangel. Hamilton finds creative and stirring ways of applying the Scripture to our lives which is no small feat considering the topic at hand. Hamilton walks us through, or perhaps talks us through, the head-heart-hand paradigm taking the theoretical into the practical.

     Covering the content of the biblical book of Revelation thoroughly, engagingly, and practically, Hamilton's contribution to the Preaching the Word series is well worth reading. Though this would surely be a valuable resource for the preachers and pastors of Christian churches, it is no less valuable to all students of God's Word. God sovereignly delivered the wonderful prophetic book of Revelation to us in the Bible, and in Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches Hamilton has helped us all in our understanding about, rejoicing in, and applying of the "revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place" (Revelation 1:1 ESV). I highly recommend this book.

Before you read the book being reviewed here, allow me to make a suggestion. There is something you can do, a pre-reading exercise if you will, that I think will heighten your enjoyment while reading this book and simultaneously enrich your edification having finished the book. You should watch a particular video of the author discussing the end times with some other theologians. The first time I encountered Dr. Jim Hamilton was when I viewed a Desiring God video in which he was on a panel discussing eschatology with John Piper, Doug Wilson, and Sam Storms. This video gives you an indication of the infectious passion that Hamilton has for this topic and I think that will have a beneficial effect as you read the book. The video is called An Evening of Eschatology and you can view it here: An Evening of Eschatology.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What will it take to pry you free from the world?

What will it take to pry you free from the world? When I ask this question, I am not talking about freedom from life in this world. I am talking about freedom from a worldly point of view.

What will it take to set you free from the world's idolatries-what will it take to keep you from trusting in things that are not gods at all? What will make you free from the world's immoralities-what will it take to make you untouched by the lust for smut that the world peddles and with which worldlings ruin their lives? What will it take to liberate you from the world's false perspective on the way things are-the perspective that assumes there is no god, there is no revelation of truth in the Bible, and there will be no judgment?

I'll tell you what it will take: it will take seeing God as he is. Beholding God will break the chains of idolatry because when you see God, you see what Deity is, and that exposes the idols as worthless and unworthy of trust. Beholding God will purify you from immorality because when you see God you see what beauty and faithfulness are, and that exposes the ugliness of adultery. Beholding God will give you new lenses through which to look at the world because God himself defines reality.

(Hamilton Jr., James M. Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 130)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Colossal Vision

Tony Reinke posted this:

G. K. Chesterton, in his defense of humility, concludes this way:

Humility is the luxurious art of reducing ourselves to a point, not to a small thing or a large one, but to a thing with no size at all, so that to it all the cosmic things are what they really are—of immeasurable stature.

That the trees are high and the grasses short is a mere accident of our own foot-rules and our own stature. But to the spirit which has stripped off for a moment its own idle temporal standards the grass is an everlasting forest, with dragons for denizens; the stones of the road are as incredible mountains piled one upon the other; the dandelions are like gigantic bonfires illuminating the lands around; and the heath-bells on their stalks are like planets hung in heaven each higher than the other.

Between one stake of a paling and another there are new and terrible landscapes; here a desert, with nothing but one misshapen rock; here a miraculous forest, of which all the trees flower above the head with the hues of sunset; here, again, a sea full of monsters that Dante would not have dared to dream. These are the visions of him who, like the child in the fairy tales, is not afraid to become small.

Meanwhile, the sage whose faith is in magnitude and ambition is, like a giant, becoming larger and larger, which only means that the stars are becoming smaller and smaller. World after world falls from him into insignificance; the whole passionate and intricate life of common things becomes as lost to him as is the life of the infusoria [minute aquatic creatures] to a man without a microscope. He rises always through desolate eternities. He may find new systems, and forget them; he may discover fresh universes, and learn to despise them. But the towering and tropical vision of things as they really are—the gigantic daisies, the heaven-consuming dandelions, the great Odyssey of strange-coloured oceans and strange-shaped trees, of dust like the wreck of temples, and thistledown like the ruin of stars—all this colossal vision shall perish with the last of the humble.

Friday, February 17, 2012

When the going gets good!

Gratitude of mind for the favorable outcome of things, patience in adversity, and also incredible freedom from worry about the future all necessarily follow up this knowledge [the knowledge that God's providence includes his sovereignty in our times of prosperity]. Therefore whatever shall happen prosperously and according to the desire of his heart, God's servant will attribute wholly to God, whether he feels beneficence through the ministry of men, or has been helped by inanimate creatures. (Institutes 1.17.8, emphasis mine)

    Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV, emphasis mine)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Your best life now?

Make no mistake about it: your best life is not now. Your best life will begin when the skies are split by the shout of the archangel. When you patiently endure whatever afflictions you face in your life, you follow in the footsteps of the Old Testament prophets, the Lord Jesus, and his disciples.

(Hamilton Jr., James M. Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 44)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tired of the church?

In his classic work called The Glory of Christ, John Owen asks the question: "Have we been weary of God?" Actually, the way he words the question is interesting in itself. The complete question is, "Have we been weary of God, when really we ought to be weary of ourselves?" That statement alone points to the underlying truth of the issue. Nevertheless, Owen continues with the subject at hand.

Owen discusses some of the ways in which we show we are growing weary of God; finding no joy in religion, giving up holding family devotions, and neglect in attending public worship. Specifically on public worship, he writes, "You show your weariness also by neglecting attendance at public worship. You used to find public worship a joy, but now, what a weariness it is!"

John Owen thus makes a connection that we too often do not have the courage to make either when it comes to ourselves or whether we are considering our brothers and sisters in the faith. Owen equates weariness with the church with weariness with God. "Things [including weariness with public worship] show that you are indeed getting fed up with God."

We don't often make the connection that Owen makes. We get fed up with the church and we blame the church for the problem instead of diagnosing that the problem may very well lie in our own hearts. Does the body of Christ tire you out? Are you wearied with the Lord's bride? Take heed of your heart and ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern whether in actuality you have grown weary with God.

Next week I'll share Owen's remedy for weariness with God.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Looking to the revelation of God in Christ

We know that our foundation for knowledge is in God's revelation to us. But, particularly when it comes to a knowledge of God, one of the things we must do is look to the quintessential revelation of God in Jesus Christ. In him we have the perfect union of God and creation in the uniting of the two natures in one person. So, if we want to know how God can relate to his creation, we should look to the example of that relationship in the person of Christ. In him we have the picture of God's covenant with his people. Because Christ is the union of two natures, he brings together, in a way that only God could accomplish, the union of both "I will be your God" and "you will be my people". In Christ, we have both "our God" and "his people". (Oliphint, K. Scott. God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Recommended listening: Desiring God's 2012 Pastor's Conference

I spent the better part of my weekend driving to and from Ajax, Ontario from my home in London, Ontario. Two of my daughters play on the same ringette team and they had a tournament in Ajax. It is a 2+ hour drive one way, and I was scheduled to make this drive 4 times; twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday.

With over eight hours of driving ahead of me, I decided to download some listening material as a means of redeeming my time in the van. Desiring God's 2012 Conference for Pastors was what I decided to listen to.

I was particularly interested in this conference because two of its participants, Pastor John Piper and Pastor Doug Wilson, are two preachers who resonate with me and from whom I have received much of in the way of teaching through their books, writings, videos, and audio messages.

Here is the line-up of addresses from the Pastor's Conference:
  • Father Hunger in Leading the Home by Doug Wilson 
  • Lessons on Biblical Manhood Learned from his Father by Crawford Lorritts 
  • Being and Building Men for the Local Mission by Darrin Patrick 
  • Father Hunger in Leading the Church by Doug Wilson 
  • “The Frank and Manly Mr. Ryle” — The Value of a Masculine Ministry by John Piper 
  • Pastoring with Vision, Creativity, and Courage in Hard Places by Ramez Atallah 
  • The Supremacy of Christ in All of Life: The Pastor and His Worldview by Doug Wilson and John Piper 
  • Speaker Panel: John Piper, Crawford Loritts, Darrin Patrick, Doug Wilson, Ramez Atallah 
I strongly recommend the the last two talks in the above list.
All of the messages and discussions can be dowloaded for free, in either audio or video format, or can be accessed online at the following link: Desiring God 2012 Conference for Pastors.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

An early manuscript

This is interesting:

Dr. Wallace: Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered?

Note: Several websites (NT Blog, Gospel Coalition, Andreas Köstenberger, Evangelical Textual Criticism, Hypotyposeis, etc.) have been writing about Dan Wallace's comments to Bart Erhman about the discovery of several New Testament papyri. Dr. Wallace has already written a summary of the debate, and below he clarifies what these papyri might mean.
On 1 February 2012, I debated Bart Ehrman at UNC Chapel Hill on whether we have the wording of the original New Testament today. This was our third such debate, and it was before a crowd of more than 1000 people. I mentioned that seven New Testament papyri had recently been discovered—six of them probably from the second century and one of them probably from the first. These fragments will be published in about a year.

These fragments now increase our holdings as follows: we have as many as eighteen New Testament manuscripts from the second century and one from the first. Altogether, more than 43% of all New Testament verses are found in these manuscripts. But the most interesting thing is the first-century fragment.
It was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers. He said he was ‘certain’ that it was from the first century. If this is true, it would be the oldest fragment of the New Testament known to exist. Up until now, no one has discovered any first-century manuscripts of the New Testament. The oldest manuscript of the New Testament has been P52, a small fragment from John’s Gospel, dated to the first half of the second century. It was discovered in 1934.

Not only this, but the first-century fragment is from Mark’s Gospel. Before the discovery of this fragment, the oldest manuscript that had Mark in it was P45, from the early third century (c. AD 200–250). This new fragment would predate that by 100 to 150 years.

How do these manuscripts change what we believe the original New Testament to say? We will have to wait until they are published next year, but for now we can most likely say this: As with all the previously published New Testament papyri (127 of them, published in the last 116 years), not a single new reading has commended itself as authentic. Instead, the papyri function to confirm what New Testament scholars have already thought was the original wording or, in some cases, to confirm an alternate reading—but one that is already found in the manuscripts. As an illustration: Suppose a papyrus had the word “the Lord” in one verse while all other manuscripts had the word “Jesus.” New Testament scholars would not adopt, and have not adopted, such a reading as authentic, precisely because we have such abundant evidence for the original wording in other manuscripts. But if an early papyrus had in another place “Simon” instead of “Peter,” and “Simon” was also found in other early and reliable manuscripts, it might persuade scholars that “Simon” is the authentic reading. In other words, the papyri have confirmed various readings as authentic in the past 116 years, but have not introduced new authentic readings. The original New Testament text is found somewhere in the manuscripts that have been known for quite some time.

These new papyri will no doubt continue that trend. But, if this Mark fragment is confirmed as from the first century, what a thrill it will be to have a manuscript that is dated within the lifetime of many of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection!


Friday, February 10, 2012

The living death of his own soul

In his Gothic novel about the hedonistic Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde penned a line that caught my attention. Towards the end of his life, the protagonist Gray began to contemplate his many years of fulfilling every desire of his soul in his pathetic pursuit of pleasure. Still unrepentant for all of his misdeeds, the main character was burdened by something; "It was the living death of his own soul that troubled him."

This sentence jumped off the page as I read and I immediately recognized that Wilde had done a wonderful job of describing the life of those who don't know Christ. Just like the novel's anti-hero, unregenerate people exist on this earth as souls in a state of living death.

The Bible says that all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and this sin has brought with it death; "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" (Romans 5:12 ESV). Even as we live, we live in a soul-state of death. Without Christ, we are dead to God, without hope in this world (Ephesians 2:12).

In that futile state, even the seemingly "good" deeds we do are nothing more than dead works (Hebrews 6:1). Paul the apostle put it very succinctly; even though we lived, "death reigned" (Romans 5:17). And that is where we were, dead to God and alive to sin.

Fortunately, God did not leave his elect in that state of living death. God saved us. Paul tells us, "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses" (Colossians 2:13 ESV).

If we have been regenerated-born again-than we are no longer living that ersatz life of deadness. We are "made alive". Interestingly, because of death-Jesus' death on the cross-we no longer are dead to God and alive to sin. Rather, the contrary is true; "For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17 ESV)

Christians no longer share in Dorian Gray's living death. Christians now reign in life being in a state of death towards sin but alive unto God!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The solution for feeling burdened

Maybe you feel that the things your church needs from you are a burden. Your turn in the nursery comes around so often. You keep waiting for someone else to wipe up the tables after the potluck lunch, but no one else steps forward.
The solution for these "problems" is not for the church to hire nursery workers so we don't have to be bothered with that problem. Nor, in my opinion, is it for us to stop doing those bothersome potluck lunches. The solution is for us to think on the gospel. When we meditate on the gospel, we become people who want to lay down our lives for others the way Jesus laid down his life for us. We become people who want to serve others the way the King served us.
Some day we will wish we served others more. Some day we will wish we had rejoiced at every opportunity to make sacrifices for the church's needs. The church is the discipleship program that God has given to his people. When the church meets, discipleship is happening as those who are farther along in Christlikeness act like Jesus on behalf of those who have farther to go. We all have a long way to go; so we should look around and observe the way other people are acting like Jesus, then imitate them. He didn't come to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). He was the greatest and he was the servant (Matthew 23:11). The idea is for all of us to be living out Christlikeness for the benefit of others, so other people will see what it means to look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). The church lives out discipleship, and Christ is glorified.

(Hamilton Jr., James M. Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 68-69, emphasis mine)

Well, this excerpt came with some conviction as I prepared this post. I hope it offers you some conviction if needed, some encouragement that is always needed, and a solution when the weight seems too heavy. Remember, think of the gospel.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Uncertain future events

As all future events are uncertain to us, so we hold them in suspense, as if they might incline to one side or the other. Yet in our hearts it nonetheless remains fixed that nothing will take place that the Lord has not previously foreseen. (Institutes 1.16.9)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How can we behold the glory of Christ?

John Owen, in his work The Glory of Christ, addresses a question dealing with the means and methods of beholding the glory of Christ:
How then can we behold the glory of Christ? We need, firstly, a spiritual understanding of his glory as revealed in Scripture. Secondly, we need to think much about him if we wish to enjoy him fully.
In regards to his first point-having a spiritual and Scriptural understanding-he writes, "If we are satisfied with vague ideas about him we shall find no transforming power communicated to us." Thus, our primary need in beholding the glory of Christ is an understanding that is both spiritual and Scriptural. "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV) Without the imparting of a revelation from the Holy Spirit-the regeneration of our spirits initially and a revelatory illumination continually-we have no hope of beholding his glory. Furthermore, the primary source of this knowledge is Scripture. We need to be in God's Word if we wish to behold the glory of the Son of God.

To his second point, thinking much about him, Owen declares, "But when we cling wholeheartedly to him and our minds are filled with thoughts of him and we constantly delight ourselves in him, then spiritual power will flow from him to purify our hearts, increase our holiness, strengthen our graces, and sometimes fill us 'with joy inexpressible and full of glory'". From earlier on in this treatise on Christ's glory we are convinced of the author's stance that transformative workings of God such as a purified heart or an increased holiness are only worked in us through the beholding of Jesus' glory. Therefore, he writes here that the results described come from beholding his glory, and to behold his glory we must cling wholeheartedly and think thoroughly and delight constantly; that is we need to "think much about him".

Our beholding of Christ is a twofold process, one foundational and the other dependent on the first. The spiritual work of God is essential to us beholding Christ. We can not accomplish this by ourselves. But, God, having done a work in us, requires us to work in him by clinging and thinking and delighting on Christ. This is the path to beholding the glory of Christ.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Oliphint on the goal of theological study

... we should not succumb to the temptation to think that just because we are trying to be careful in our articulation of the person of the Son of God, the matters we are discussing have no practical import and we are attempting to exhaust what is altogether incomprehensible. We should keep in the forefront of  our minds that the driving force behind a proper articulation of the incarnation and of Christ was the hope that the church would know and understand him better, and in knowing and understanding him better, be better able to serve and worship him-both in life and in thought. (Oliphint, K. Scott. God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 136, emphasis mine)

What Oliphint has touched upon here in regards to theological study on the incarnation is indeed true of all study on God related fronts. The hope is, and it should be the case that, careful work in these areas leads to worship and service in deed and thought. I contend that this is true, and depend on God's grace for the realization of it in my own life.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Though the game itself doesn't always justify the hype, the commercials are usually pretty good:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Oscar Wilde, Dorian Gray, and John Owen on Sin

From Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray we read,

Basil would have helped him resist Lord Henry's influence, and the still more poisonous influences that came from his own temperament.
For those of you unfamiliar with this story, here is a quick summary:
The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Basil is impressed by Dorian's beauty and becomes infatuated with him, believing his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil's, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's world view. Espousing a new hedonism, Lord Henry suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfillment of the senses. Realizing that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian (whimsically) expresses a desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than he. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, plunging him into debauched acts. The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging.

The quote above is an indication of Dorian's recognition that his friend and artist Basil was certainly a better influence than was the despicable Lord Henry. However, this line intrigued me for a different reason. I was interested in the fact that Wilde, through his character Dorian, realized that the "more poisonous influences" do not come from outside of us but instead are generated within us.

I think this is exactly right. We often want to blame external things for our sins: "This person's actions caused me to sin"; "I wouldn't have acted in such an inappropriate manner if this didn't happen to me first"; or "I'm the way I am because of my parents".

When it comes to sin, we so often want to play the victim.

However, the Bible directs our hypocritical gaze in another direction. James 1:14-15 is as follows, "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death."(James 1:14-15 ESV)

The Bible says the desire, or in Wilde's words the "evil influence", to sin is our own. It does not come from without but from within. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick".

The remedy for sin is not a finger-pointing, blame-directing attributing of culpability to something outside of ourselves. This will never free us. We need to realize that sin dwells within us. But the remedy cannot be found with this recognition alone.

John Owen, in his classic The Mortification of Sin in Believers, directs us well:
Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of thy sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and thou wilt die a conqueror; yea, thou wilt, through the good providence of God, live to see thy lust dead at thy feet.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Little Cyclones

This is from Tony Reinke:

C. S. Lewis on “Little Cyclones” (Young Boys)


As the father of two spirited boys, aged 10 and 4, I chuckled at these excerpts from the letters of C. S. Lewis, writing as a 55-year-old “crusted old bachelor.” (There’s some fine parenting advice mixed in here, too.)

December 21, 1953 [Letters, 3:389–390]:
We have had an American lady staying in the house with her two sons aged 9 1/2 and 8. I now know what we celibates are shielded from. I will never laugh at parents again. Not that the boys weren’t a delight: but a delight like surf-bathing which leaves one breathless and aching. The energy, the tempo, is what kills.
I have now perceived (what I always suspected from memories of our childhood) that the way to a child’s heart is quite simple: treat them with seriousness and ordinary civility — they ask no more. What they can’t stand (quite rightly) is the common adult assumption that everything they say should be twisted into a kind of jocularity.

December 23, 1953 [Letters, 3:394]:
We have not much news here; the chief event has been that last week we entertained a lady from New York for four days, with her boys, aged nine and seven respectively. Can you imagine two crusted old bachelors in such a situation? It however went swimmingly, though it was very exhausting; the energy of the American small boy is astonishing.
This pair thought nothing of a four-mile hike across broken country as an incident in a day of ceaseless activity, and when we took them up Magdalen tower, they said as soon as they got back to the ground, ‘Let’s do it again!’ Without being in the least priggish, they stuck us as being amazingly adult by our standards and one could talk to them as one would to ‘grown-ups’ — though the next moment they would be wrestling like puppies on the sitting room floor. The highlights of England for them are open coal fires, especially if they can get hold of the billows and blow it up…

December 26, 1953 [Letters, 3:396]:
My brother and I have just had the experience of an American lady to stay with us accompanied by her two sons, aged 9 1/2 and 8. Whew! Lovely creatures — couldn’t meet nicer children — but the pace! I realize have never respected young married people enough and never dreamed of the Sabbath calm which descends on the house when the little cyclones have gone to bed and all the grown-ups fling themselves into chairs and the silence of exhaustion.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dry and Useless Doctrine

Beholding the glory of Christ is more than beholding correct and accurate doctrinal concepts of Christ. It must be. It is certainly that, but it is more than that. There are, I'm sure, many unregenerate people who could formulate and articulate an acceptable doctrine of Christ; but this is not beholding his glory. There must be, along with a right understanding of the doctrines of Christ, a real and living relationship. We must be regenerated if we would truly behold "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV)

Jown Owen writes,
Men may still hold a right doctrine of Christ; but beholding the glory of Christ does not lie in remembering doctrine. Men may have the outward form of godliness but no longer have the encouragement of Christ's presence and glory ... without his presence with us and without a sight of his glory, all doctrinal knowledge of him is dry and useless. Any view we have of his glory is but fanciful imagination or superstition without any transforming power. But if we behold his glory we grow more and more in grace, holiness and obedience. 

(Law, R. J. K. The Glory of Christ. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994. Print.109-111)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Orthodox christology

... there is absolutely no question that what orthodox christology has always taught is that God came down in the second person of the Trinity, who was and remains fully God, and he took on created attributes and properties without thereby in any way changing his essential deity. To think, as some do, that because God interacts with creation he must necessarily change or in some way limit his essential deity, is in effect to fail to see God's condescension, climactically the incarnation, for what it is. While we cannot comprehend just what it means for one person to fully possess two distinct natures, we must affirm it in order for the gospel, in its fullest biblical sense from Genesis to Revelation, to be what it is. (Oliphint, K. Scott. God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 122)