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Archive for October, 2008


Tim Keller’s book is finally released (now I can use my gift certificate).  The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith is now available for only $11.97 at WTS Books.

From WTS Books:

For skeptics, Keller gave The Reason for God. For sinners (all of us!): the extravagant grace of The Prodigal God. Fall in love with the gospel—for the first time or all over again

This short book is meant to do no less than lay out the essentials of the Christian message, the gospel. It can therefore serve as an introduction to the Christian faith for those who are unfamiliar with it or who may have been away from it for some time.

This volume is not just for seekers, however. Many lifelong Christian believers feel they understand the basics of the Christian faith quite well and certainly don’t think they need a primer. Nevertheless, one of the signs that you don’t grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you think you do. Sometimes long-time church members find themselves so struck and turned around by a fresh apprehension of the Christian message of grace that they feel themselves to have been essentially “reconverted.” This book, then, is written to both curious outsiders and established insiders of the faith, to both the people jesus calls “younger” and “elder” brothers in his famous Parable of the Prodigal Son.

His title has been somewhat controversial since some people have focused on the most common meaning of “prodigal.”  Those might be the people who most need to read this book.

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I’ve started to use one of my devotionals again.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been in that routine.  I think trying to do the Pilgrim’s Progress devotional with the wife “ruined” me for awhile.  We tried to read it at night which is just not the best time for her to think.

The Reformissionary has a number of Big 5 Lists, and one of them is devotionals.  I figured that I might list my favorite devotionals here, perhaps people didn’t know they existed.  I’ll also list some that I’m very interested in reading some day.  I’m focused only on ones that cover a full year- though some great shorter ones exist.

My favorites:

  • The Christian in Complete Armour: Daily Readings in Spiritual Warfare by William Gurnall, edited by James Bell, Jr.  Bell breaks up Gurnall’s classic work into 365 daily readings.  Great stuff!  It is not in order, but I often found that what I was reading is exactly what I needed to read that day.  Though it is October, I’m jumping in because I need some godly encouragement.
  • Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional by Martin Luther edited and modernized by James Galvin.  Here Luther is pounding the gospel into our heads each day- or so it seems.  I received my copy as a gift from a congregant.  And a great gift it was.
  • Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon.  I gave away Morning by Morning to my congregants one year.  Spurgeon is full of insight and nearly always puts us to Christ.  You can’t go wrong with the Prince of Preachers.  [okay, he didn’t get the baptism thing, but I still love him]
  • Day By Day with the Early Church Fathers by Christopher Hudson.  Some great wisdom from the early church fathers.  It is easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of writings.  Here you get the best in digestible portions.
  • Day by Day with John Calvin.  There are a few different Calvin devotionals.  This one draws from all his writings, containing much of the best Calvin wrote.

Future Purchases:

  • Day by Day with Jonathan Edwards by Randall Pederson.  Edwards has had a profound influence on my thanks to Sproul and Piper.  It would be great to spend a year with the greatest theological mind God ever gave America.
  • Day By Day with the English Puritans by Randall Pederson.  This would serve as a great intro to the Puritans for those who haven’t met them yet.  A steady diet of godly wisdom for those of us who do appreciate them.
  • A Year with C.S. Lewis.  I don’t always agree with this literary giant of the 20th century, but he is often insightful.  I could think of few better people to sit with for a year.  Too bad we couldn’t sit at the Bird & Babe for a pint and puff of a fine cigar while we’re at it.

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Still working through the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Here are the sections on the Covenant and Christ our Mediator.

Chapter VII: Of God’s Covenant with Man

80. What is a covenant (in terms of God’s relationship with man)?  It is a bond sealed in blood by which God has redeemed His people, and outlines how we are to live as His people.

81. What is meant by the “covenant of works” (or, “of life”)? Does it have a present validity?  It was the covenant under which Adam lived in the Garden.  It is the covenant under which we all fell into sin with him.  All who are in Adam remain in the covenant of works and shall experience the just condemnation due them.

82. What is meant by the “covenant of grace”?  It is covenant in which Jesus is offered as our Redeemer who perfectly obeyed in our place  that we might receive covenant blessings, and died in our place suffering the penalty for our sins committed under the covenant of works.

83. Explain the statement that there is one unified covenant of grace with various administrations. Distinguish from dispensations. The revelation of that covenant was progressive and expansive.  Each successive covenant provided greater clarity and blessing rather than replace previous covenants.  In dispensationalism, each successive dispensation replaces the previous dispensation.

84. What are the signs and seals of the covenant? Circumcision and Passover in the OT; Baptism & the Lord’s Table in the NT

85. Are you personally committed to covenant theology? Yes.

 

Chapter VIII: Of Christ the Mediator

86. Why is the office of Christ as Mediator necessary for the salvation of God’s elect?  Apart from the work of a Mediator, we perish in our sins.  God is just and he can’t just wipe the slate clean.  Someone must be punished for our sins, and we need real obedience to receive covenant blessings.

87. Could God have pardoned sin without Christ’s sacrifice?  No, for no mere man is able to perfectly obey God but sin each day in thought, word and deed.  God is just and must punish sin.  No other substitute was available.

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My mission is nearly accomplished.  Today I passed my oral examination by the credentials committee in the local Presbytery.  I need to be licensed to serve as Stated Supply for the church I’ve been preaching for this Fall.  All I have left is the examination on the floor of the Presbytery.  It has been good for me to brush up on the Westminster Confession of Faith in anticipation of receiving a call.  Maybe anticipation is the wrong word- there is nothing immanent at this time.  I’ve talked preliminarily with a few churches, but they are all in the early stages of their processes.  As Tom Petty sang, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

Here’s my notes on the Fall of Man.  “Enjoy.”

Chapter VI: Of The Fall of Man, Of Sin, and Of The Punishment Thereof

69. Is the fall in some inscrutable way encompassed in God’s decree?  Yes

70. What is original sin?  It refers to the guilt and corruption of the whole nature has as a result of Adam’s sin.

71. What are the effects of the fall?  We experience bondage to sin and misery.

72. What is meant by “Original sin”?  It refers to the corruption of our whole nature (every part of us) as a result of Adam’s disobedience.  Our sins flow out of this corruption.

73. Is it necessary to believe in a literal fall? Why?  Yes, it is necessary to believe in a literal Fall.  This is the clear testimony of Romans 5 by which we learn that the reason we all experience sin & misery is the same way in which we experience salvation in Christ- federal headship.

74. Is guilt transmitted biologically? No, there is no sin gene.  We are guilty because our covenant representative, Adam, sinned.  He acted on our behalf, not just as a private person, in the Garden.

75. What is meant by total depravity? Are you committed to this doctrine?   Every aspect of our person has been corrupted by sin.  We are unable to perform any spiritual good or contribute anything for salvation.  Yes I’m committed to this doctrine.

76. How can original sin be reconciled to the common notion of justice, human or divine?   It is just because Adam acted as our covenant representative.  We are so connected to him that we experience the consequences of all his actions.  Were he to obey we would have experienced great blessing.  This is the same process by which we benefit from Christ’s obedience and suffering.  As a result, God is both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Christ Jesus.

77. Explain Adam’s federal headship and the imputation of sin.  Adam acted, not just on his own behalf, but as our legal representative before God.  As a result, all those whom he represents receive the consequences of his actions.  Just as the President has the power to declare war such that all citizens are at war (or a treaty), we receive blessing or curses based on the actions of Adam our representative.

78. How is the corrupt nature affected by regeneration?  Our corruption is pardoned and mortified in Christ.  It still remains, and plagues us, but God now enables us to repent and believe.

79. Is punishment eternal?  Yes, just as eternal life is eternal.  God is just and will only punish sin perfectly, either in Christ or in the person.

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First it was Tom Brady.  His knee injury ended his season and their hopes for a return to the Super Bowl.  Prior to Monday’s game it was announced that Laurence Maroney was done for the year with a shoulder injury. His injury is not as crippling to the team since they have plenty of running backs.  If Sammy Morris did a bigger number on his knee than he did on the Bronco’s defense (racking up 138 yards in the FIRST HALF), then New England is in trouble.  But if he bounces back, Jordan comes back, and they don’t have to rely on an undrafted rookie free agent, the Patriots’ running game can still be very productive.  That means that Matt Cassel can be productive despite his superb ability to take a sack instead of dumping the ball off.

During the game Rodney Harrison was carted off the field.  Word today is a torn quadriceps, and he’s done for the season- and perhaps his career.

Football is a brutal sport.  The Patriots are not the only team to suffer so many season-ending injuries.  They can quickly put a cap on championship hopes (unless that player is Jeremy Shockey).  There are no guarantees in life, and especially in sports.  Injuries are part of the game, and affect the outcome of many a game or season.  They humble us, or should.  They display the fleeting nature of life, and the precarious nature of success.  They also provide obstacles that can build character, or reveal weakness of character.  Injuries also allow someone else the opportunity to rise to the occasion (think Tom Brady or Lou Gehrig).  Life is just as unpredictable of those sports we follow.

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Here are my study notes on these topics.  The same caveats apply (see Considering the Scriptures).

Chapter IV: Of Creation

50. What is God’s work of creation? God’s work of making all that exists outside of Himself in the span of 6 days ex nihilo.

51. What is meant by the creation of man in God’s image?  We were made to reflect his glory as his representatives.  We shared in his communicable attributes.

52. What was man like in his original state?  Dependent upon God, they were righteous and holy but mutable.

53. Are any of the various theories of evolution compatible with the Biblical doctrine of creation?  Small scale evolution- which occurs within a species- is compatible with the Biblical doctrine of creation.  Large scale evolution – which occurs between species- is incompatible with the Biblical doctrine of creation.

54. Do you believe in creation Ex Nihilo? Yes.

55. Do you believe in special creation of Adam & Eve?  Yes.

56. Do you believe in a historical fall?  Yes.  Paul treated it as a historical fall in Romans 5.

57. What is the purpose of God in creation? To display His glory.

58. What is your view on the nature of the six days of Genesis 1?  24-hour days.

59. Do you believe the Confession teaches a literal six 24-hour day view of creation?  Yes, it clearly does.  As a doctrinal statement it does not use figurative or metaphorical language.

60. In light of God’s wisdom, power and goodness in the original creation, how do you account for the fall?  He also wanted to reveal the glory of His mercy, compassion, justice and wisdom.

 

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Ran across this in my reading this morning.  Great stuff!

“Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer’s soul and they promote satisfaction.  We are not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration, and the Christian who goes a long time without the experience of heart warming will soon find himself to be tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God.  The soul is so constituted that is craves fulfillment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual one … The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of the Savior’s presence.  When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers.”  Maurice Roberts, quoted in Instructing a Child’s Heart, from The Thought of God.

He says the same things as Thomas Chalmers in The Expulsive Power of a Greater Affection, but from a different angle.  Chalmers puts it in terms of sanctification- how we put our sinful desires to death.  Roberts puts it in terms of avoiding spiritual declension and danger.  One for growing in Christ, the other for maintaining spiritual vitality.  If we are not often pursuing our satisfaction, delight, in Christ, we will be in danger of seeking it in earthly things.

Think for a moment of how pervasive it is.  Many church-goers don’t really have a vital relationship with Christ.  It is more pragmatic than dynamic.  So they find themselves drinking from the cesspools of society- wrapped up in the pursuit of wealth, sensuality, power, entertainment etc.

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