Saturday, March 28, 2009

God's Providence

An incident happened this evening that reminded me of how God's providence is always wise and purposeful, even if it appears to be a nuisance to us at the time. I wonder, how many times has God saved our lives by what we saw as an annoying traffic jam or a misplaced wallet? Not all His reasons need be that dramatic, of course. And of course, He doesn't ever to reveal them to us, as it is our job to follow His Word and trust in Him in all circumstances. But I do know that many things that seem insignificant to us are very significant in the plan of God. And I marvel at those times when God reveals at least some portion of those reasons!

I was cooking some spaghetti, and I was draining it into the sink. Except that, somehow, the noodles slid out from under the strainer lid and into the disposal! I was a bit frustrated and decided not to make more noodles but just eat the other food I'd prepared. I was about to put the spaghetti sauce back in the fridge when I decided I'd throw it out, since there was only a little bit left and my goal was to use it up tonight. The reason I needed to use it up was that it was opened. Then it dawned on me..."I wonder if this would have been good to eat anyway?" The expiration date was this coming September, but, after doing a quick Google search, I realized I should have thrown it out several weeks ago! (Don't worry, I make sure the stuff I bring to church potluck is extra fresh...) I probably would have gotten sick off of it! (Well, ok, only God knows, but this is just my educated guess as to what might have been the reason).

I'm reminded of a story Mark Chanski cited in a blog article:

The legend says that Genghis Khan, the Mongol king of the 13th century, was out hunting one hot summer day with his favorite hawk perched on his wrist. Parched with thirst, the king sought out a source for a cool drink. At last, to his joy, he saw some water drop by drop trickling down over the edge of a rock cliff. The king leaped from his horse, took a little silver cup from his hunting bag, and held it so as to catch the slowly falling drops.

It took a long time to fill the cup; and the king was so thirsty that he could hardly wait. At last it was nearly full. He put the cup to his lips, and was about to drink, when all at once the air whirred, and the cup was knocked out of his hands, spilling the precious water on the ground. It was his pet hawk who’d spoiled his drink! It flew back and forth a few times and perched on some high rocks. The king picked up the cup and again held it to catch the trickling drops. When it was half full, the thirsty king lifted the cup to his mouth. But before it touched his lips, the hawk swooped down again and knocked it from his hands. Now the king was angry. He tried again, and for the third time the hawk kept him from drinking.

This enraged the king. “How do you dare act so?” he screamed. Then he filled the cup again, but before he tried to drink, he drew his sword, and when the hawk swooped down, the king struck his bird with the blade. “That is what you get for your pains,” shouted the king. But this time his cup had fallen out of reach between two rocks. So the king climbed up the cliff to drink right from the source. At last, he reached the top and beheld a pool of water. But what was lying in the pool, and almost filling it? It was a huge, dead snake of the most poisonous kind. The king stopped, forgot his thirst, and thought only of the dead bird lying on the ground below him. "The hawk saved my life!" he cried, "and how did I repay him? He was my best friend, and I have killed him."

Praise God that He is sovereign over all things, even down to the last detail!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Devil Votes Christian Values: Why We’re Tempted to be Glorified Satanists Rather than Crucified Followers

This past week, Dr. Russ Moore preached an excellent chapel message on Matthew 4:8-17.

Satan is not fearful of external conformity to rules. Not even of external conformity to the rule of Christ, provided there is no cross. Satan does not mind family values, as long as what you ultimately value is the family. Satan does not mind social justice, as long as you see justice as most importantly social. Satan does not tremble at a Christian worldview. He will let you have a Christian worldview, as long as your ultimate goal is viewing the world.

If Jesus will receive the kingdoms of the world, this crafty serpent thinks, then he can hand them to Him apart from the shedding of blood at the cross, apart from the overthrow of the demonic powers through the empty tomb, apart from a reconciliation between a holy God and a renegade humanity. If he can just bypass the cross and get to the Kingdom apart from the cross, then he will have everything that he wants.

Pastors, Satan doesn't mind if you preach on the decrees of God with fervor and passion every single week, provided that you do not ever preach the Gospel of the cross. Homeschooling moms, Satan does not mind if you teach your children all the books of the Bible and all the Ten Commandments and all of the Catechism, provided you do not teach them the Gospel of a bloody cross. He will let you, ministers of the Gospel, he will let you get what it is that you want, no matter what that is: sanctity of marriage, environmental protection, orphan care, all of these good and wonderful things. He will allow you to gain those things, provided you do not preach and proclaim and live through the power of a cross that cancels his power of condemnation. He so fears the Gospel, Christ crucified and raised from the dead, that he is willing to surrender his entire empire just to appease the threat of it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Man's rebellion

Judge questions mental state of Allen Twp. man who says he's "sovereign"

But how many who laugh do the same thing, only spiritually?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sabbath meditations

In his book The Ten Commandments, Thomas Watson gives four areas in which we should meditate on the Lord's Day:

Get upon the mount of meditation, and there converse with God. Meditation is the soul’s retiring within itself, that, by a serious and solemn thinking upon God, the heart may be raised up to divine affections. It is a work fit for the morning of a Sabbath. Meditate on four things.

(1) On the works of creation. This is expressed in the commandment. “The Lord made heaven and earth, the sea,’ &c. The creation is a looking glass, in which we see the wisdom and power of God gloriously represented. God produced this fair structure of the world without any pre-existent matter, and with a word. ‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.’ Psa 33: 6. The disciples wondered that Christ could, with a word, calm the sea, but it was far more astounding with a word to make the sea. Matt 8: 26. On the Sabbath let us meditate on the infiniteness of the Creator. Look up to the firmament and see God’s wonders in the deep.’ Psa 107: 24. Look into the earth, where we may behold the nature of minerals, the power of the loadstone, the virtue of herbs, and the beauty of flowers. By meditating on these works of creation, so curiously embroidered, we shall learn to admire God and praise him. ‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works, in wisdom hast thou made them all.’ Psa 104: 24. By meditating on the works of creation, we shall learn to confide in God. He who can create, can provide; he that could make us when we were nothing, can raise us when we are low. ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.’ Psa 124: 8.

(2) Meditate on God’s holiness. ‘Holy and reverend is his name.’ Psa 111: 9. ‘Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil.’ Hab 1: 13. God is essentially, originally, and efficiently holy. A11 the holiness in men and angels is but a crystal stream that runs from this glorious fountain. God loves holiness because it is his own image. A king cannot but love to see his own effigies stamped on coin. God counts holiness his glory, and the most sparkling jewel of his crown. ‘Glorious unholiness.’ Exod 15: 2: Here is meditation fit for the first entrance upon a Sabbath. The contemplation of this would work in us such a frame of heart as is suitable to a holy God; it would make us reverence his name and hallow his day. While musing; upon the holiness of God’s nature, we shall begin to be transformed into his likeness.

(3) Meditate on Christ’s love in redeeming us. Rev 1: 5. Redemption exceeds creation; the one is a monument of God’s power, the other of his love. Here is fit work for a Sabbath. Oh, the infinite stupendous love of Christ in raising poor lapsed creatures from a state of guilt and damnation! That Christ who was God should die! that this glorious Sun of Righteousness should be in an eclipse! We can never admire enough this love, no, not in heaven. That Christ should die for sinners! not sinful angels, but sinful men. That such clods of earth and sin should be made bright stars of glory! Oh, the amazing love of Christ! This was Illustre amoris Christi mnemosynum. Brugensis. That Christ should not only die for sinners, but die as a sinner! ‘He has made him to be sin for us’ 2 Cor 5: 21. He who was among the glorious persons of the Trinity, ‘was numbered with the transgressors.’ Isa 53: 12. Not that he had sin, but he was like a sinner, having our sins imputed to him. Sin did not live in him, but it was laid upon him. Here was an hyperbole of love enough to strike us with astonishment. That Christ should redeem us, when he could not expect to gain anything, or to be advantaged at all by us! Men will not lay out their money upon purchase unless it will turn to their profit; but what benefit could Christ expect in purchasing and redeeming us? We were in such a condition that we could neither deserve nor recompense Christ’s love. We could not deserve it; for we were in our blood. Ezek 16: 6. We had no spiritual beauty to tempt him. Nay, we were not only in our blood, but we were in arms against him. ‘When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son;’ Rom 5: 10. When he was shedding his blood, we were spitting out poison. As we could not deserve, so neither could we recompense it. After he had died for us, we could not so much as love him, till he made us love him. We could give him nothing in lieu of his love. ‘Who has first given to him?’ Rom 11: 35. We were fallen into poverty. If we have any beauty, it is from him, ‘It was perfect through my comeliness which I had put upon thee.’ Ezek 16: 14. If we bring forth any good fruit, it is not of our own growth, it comes from him, the true vine. ‘From me is thy fruit found.’ Hos 14: 8. It was nothing but pure love for Christ to lay out his blood to redeem such as he could not expect to be really bettered by. That Christ should die so willingly! ‘I lay down my life.’ John 10: 17. The Jews could not have taken it away if he had not laid it down. He could have called to his Father for legions of angels to be his life-guard; but what need for even that, when his own Godhead could have defended himself from all assaults? He laid down his life. The Jews did not so much thirst for his death, as he thirsted for our redemption. ‘I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?’ Luke 12: 50. He called his sufferings a baptism; he was to be baptised and sprinkled with his own blood; and he thought the time long before he suffered. To show Christ’s willingness to die, his sufferings are called an offering. ‘Through the offering of the body of Jesus.’ Heb 10: 10. His death was a free-will offering. That Christ should not grudge nor think much of all his sufferings! Though he was scourged and crucified, he was well contented with what he had done, and, if it were needful, he would do it again. ‘He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.’ Isa 53: 11. As the mother who has had hard labour, does not repent of her pangs when she sees a child brought forth, but is well contented; so Christ, though he had hard travail upon the cross, does not think much of it; he is not troubled, but thinks his sweat and blood well bestowed, because he sees the man-child of redemption brought forth into the world. That Christ should make redemption effectual to some, and not to others! Here is surprising love. Though there is sufficiency in his merits to save all, yet some only partake of their saving virtue; all do not believe. ‘There are some of you that believe not.’ John 6: 64. Christ does not pray for all. John 17: 9. Some refuse him. This is ‘the stone which the builders refused.’ Psa 118: 22. Others deride him. Luke 16: 14. Others throw off his yoke. ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ Luke 19: 14. SO that all have not the benefit of salvation by him. Herein appears the distinguishing love of Christ, that the virtue of his death should reach some, and not others. ‘Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.’ 1 Cor 1: 26. That Christ should pass by many of birth and parts, and that the lot of free grace should fall upon thee; that he should sprinkle his blood upon thee; ‘Oh, the depth of the love of Christ!’ That Christ should love us with such a transcendent love! The apostle calls it ‘Love which passeth knowledge.’ Eph 3: 19. That he should love us more than the angels. He loves them as his friends, but believers as his spouse. He loves them with such a kind of love as God the Father bears to him. ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.’ John 15: 9. Oh, what an hyperbole of love does Christ show in redeeming us! That Christ’s love in our redemption should be everlasting! ‘Having loved his own, he loved them unto the end.’ John 13: 1. As Christ’s love is matchless, so it is endless. The flower of his love is sweet; and that which makes it sweeter is that it never dies. His love is eternized. Jer 31: 3. He will never divorce his elect spouse. The failings of his people cannot quite take off his love; they may eclipse it, but not wholly remove it; their failings may make Christ angry with them, but not hate them. Every failing does not break the marriagebond. Christ’s love is not like the saint’s love. They sometimes have strong affections towards him, at other times the fit is off, and they find little or no love stirring in them; but it is not so with Christ’s love to them, it is a love of eternity. When the sunshine of Christ’s electing love is once risen upon the soul, it never finally sets. Death may take away our life from us, but not Christ’s love. Behold here a rare subject for meditation on a Sabbath morning. The meditation of Christ’s wonderful love in redeeming us would work in us a Sabbath-frame of heart.

It would melt us in tears for our spiritual unkindness, that we should sin against so sweet a Saviour; that we should be no more affected with his love, but requite evil for good; that like the Athenians, who, notwithstanding all the good service Aristides had done them, banished him out of their city, we should banish him from our temple; that we should grieve him with our pride, rash anger, unfruitfulness, animosities, and strange factions. Have we none to abuse but our friend? Have we nothing to kick against but the bowels of our Saviour? Did not Christ suffer enough upon the cross, but we must needs make him suffer more? Do we give him more ‘gall and vinegar to drink?’ Oh, if anything can dissolve the heart in sorrow, and melt the eyes to tears, it is unkindness offered to Christ. When Peter thought of Christ’s love to him, how he had made him an apostle, and revealed his bosom-secrets to him, and taken him to the mount of transfiguration, and yet that he should deny him; it broke his heart with sorrow; ‘he went out and wept bitterly.’ Matt 26: 75. What a blessed thing is it to have the eyes dropping tears on a Sabbath! and nothing would sooner fetch tears than to meditate on Christ’s love to us, and our unkindness to him.

Meditating on a Lord’s-day morning on Christ’s love, would kindle love in our hearts to him. How can we look on his bleeding and dying for us and our hearts not be warmed with love to him? Love is the soul of religion, the purest affection. It is not rivers of oil, but sparks of love that Christ values. And sure, as David said, ‘While I was musing the fire burned’ (Psa 39: 3), so, while we are musing of Christ’s love in redeeming us, the fire of our love will burn towards him; and then the Christian is in a blessed Sabbath-frame, when, like a seraphim, he is burning in love to Christ.

(4) On a Sabbath morning meditate on the glory of heaven. Heaven is the extract and essence of happiness. It is called a kingdom. Matt 25: 34. A kingdom for its riches and magnificence. It is set forth by precious stones, and gates of pearl. Rev 21: 19, 21. There is all that is truly glorious; transparent light, perfect love, unstained honour, unmixed joy; and that which crowns the joy of the celestial paradise is eternity. Suppose earthly kingdoms were more glorious than they are, their foundations of gold, their walls of pearl, their windows of sapphire, yet they are corruptible; but the kingdom of heaven is eternal; those rivers of pleasure run ‘for evermore.’ Psa 16: 11. That wherein the essence of glory consists, and makes heaven to be heaven, is the immediate sight and fruition of the blessed God. ‘I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.’ Psa 17: 15. Oh, think of the Jerusalem above!

This is proper for a Sabbath. The meditation of heaven would raise our hearts above the world. oh, how would earthly things disappear and shrink into nothing, if our minds were mounted above visible things, and we had a prospect of glory! How would the meditation of heaven make us heavenly in our Sabbath exercises! It would quicken affection, would add wings to devotion, and cause us to be ‘in the Spirit on the Lord’s-day.’ Rev 1: 10. How vigorously does he serve God who has a crown of glory always in his eye!

When I Consider Your Heavens

When Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old mentioned the title of his second Mullins lecture, I was greatly intrigued. Knowing that the majority of SBTS students do not hold to the Lord's Day as the Christian Sabbath, I wondered what would be said. I really wish the audience questions had been recorded, since I would have loved to hear them. But, as they say, "somebody's gotta work!"

The lecture was honestly different than what I anticipated, though. I had never really heard someone discuss the Sabbath as remembering and appreciating God's physical creation. It makes total sense, but I think this is because Christ's saving work, resurrection, and the new creation are the predominant themes in the Bible and in apostolic preaching. But then again, we aren't gnostics. God does give us all things richly to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). God's creation is a good thing (Gen. 1:31), and we can see His power and majesty displayed in it (Rom. 1:20). As Dr. Old pointed out, many of the Psalms glorify God for His handiwork and call upon all things to glorify God. Sure, Christ's redemption is obviously going to be the primary focus of our minds and hearts, but, like the Psalmist, I can also consider creation and ask, "Who are we, Lord, that You are mindful of us?" (Psalm 8).

Perhaps this has never been so true in my own life as on a Lord's Day while on the Alpha & Omega apologetics cruise to Alaska several years ago. We were headed through the Northwest Passage, and, as is common, it was stormy. After we met for worship, I decided to go and get some fresh air by walking around the outer deck of the ship. The ocean was slate gray, and the choppy waves went as far as the eye could see. It caused me to meditate upon how small the ship was, and how small I was on it. God's majesty was displayed in the wind and the waves and the sea, but God's mercy and love was also displayed by the fact that I was standing there glorifying Him for all of it! To think that God had all of creation to praise Him (He didn't even have to create that, since He had the fellowship of the Son and the Spirit!), and yet He chose to redeem a remnant of fallen man, who had placed a curse upon the creation that God made!

This reminds me of the excellent sermon Pastor James preached last Lord's Day on Romans 8:18-25: Longing For Deliverance

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mullins Lectures: Hughes Oliphant Old

Hughes Oliphant Old, professor of Reformed Worship at Erskine Seminary, taught three lectures for Southern Seminary's Mullins Lectures series. Here are the mp3s. If you only have time for one, listen to the one on Preaching as Communion!

Preaching as Telling the Story of God’s Mighty Acts of Redemption

Preaching as Remembering the Sabbath to Keep it Holy

Preaching as Communion

(The second lecture deserves some comments, but I will write a separate post for that...)