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Archive for November, 2008


Buy this book, you all.

Buy this book, you all.

I mentioned the Reformissionary’s Big 5 Books series before.  I thought I’d cover evangelism.  Steve McCoy limited it to evangelism- so I can’t put down any books on apologetics.  I’m in trouble.

This doesn’t count, but it does have evangelism in the title: Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer.  He defends Calvinism from the various charges that it stifles evangelism.  What stifles evangelism in the sinful hearts of those called to evangelism.  Also not counting because the author is considered to be fuzzy on justification, but it is a book I found helpful is The Call of Grace: How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and Evangelism by Norman Shepherd.  Reminds me that as a Presbyterian, making disciples started with my children’s baptism (Mt. 28).

Books on My To Read List:

If you have any recommendations- put them down.  I obviously don’t know everything, which extends to every worthwhile book.

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With my Presbytery exam tomorrow- here is some more stuff to chew on.

 

Chapter XIII: Of Sanctification

132. Define sanctification? It is a free grace of God whereby we are made to die more and more to sin and live more and more to righteousness.

133. What means does God use in sanctification?  God uses the means of Scripture, sacraments, prayer, providence and the other members of the Body in sanctification.

134. In what sense is the believer sanctified in this life?  We are sanctified progressively but imperfectly.  We will make real progress as our struggle with sins shifts from surface sins to heart sins.  We are often more aware of our sin as a result, and more aware of our need for Christ.

135. Why is sanctification a work and not an act?  It is not accomplished through an instantaneous blessing, but is a process with many ups and downs.  This keeps us humble and dependent upon Christ.

136. Distinguish sanctification from justification?  Justification is an act & perfect involving our position before God- we are declared righteous; sanctification is a process and imperfect until glorification involving our persons before God- we become like Christ.  Justification is the basis for our sanctification.

137. How does the law of God relate to our sanctification? The law of God continues to reveal our sin that we might repent, and reveals what pleases God.  It has no power to change our behavior- that power comes from the Spirit who leads us into greater obedience.

138. Who is the sole author or sanctification?  God who works in us through the Holy Spirit

139. What is perfectionism? What are its expressions today? Perfectionism is the erroneous teaching that we can achieve a state, in this life, in which we know longer sin (often deemed consciously).  It is often seen as a second blessing.  It is expressed today in theologies that minimize the sinfulness of sin by focusing on outward manifestations of sin- the holiness movements, Pentecostalism.

140. Distinguish a Reformed view of sin from other views.  In the Reformed view sin is an inward orientation to worship idols rather than the one, True God.  Sins proceed from our corrupt nature (sin because we’re sinners).  In other views, sins are seen as corrupting us (sinners because we sin).  It is largely externalized and manageable as a result.

141. Distinguish progressive and definitive sanctification.  Definitive sanctification occurs as an aspect of our conversion where we are positionally sanctified as belonging to God.  Progressive sanctification is the process in which we become more like Christ experientially.

142. In what way, if at all, is sanctification by grace?  It is all of grace (Galatians 3)- Christ works in us by the Spirit to apply the work of redemption to us.

143. What is the believer’s role in sanctification?  Our role is to make use of the means of grace by faith- trusting God to work in us to accomplish His sanctifying work.

(more…)

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Here is one guy’s take on the election and its meaning.  The presentation is fun.

On a different note- at the end of Wednesday evening’s Law and Orderseason premiere we overheard the following: “Mr. McCoy, any truth to the rumor that you’ve been invited to join the Obama administration?”  Wonder if they had 2 different voice overs, or actually think Obama will have conservatives in his administration.  Just to make us go “hmmmm”.

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We Red Sox fans have gotten a bit spoiled in the last few years.  With much better teams, they’ve won a few more Gold Glove awards than in years past.  Dustin Pedroia became the first Red Sox second baseman to win the award since 1972.  Yep, 36 years.

Dustin had more errors (6 to 4) and a slightly lower fielding percentage than the A’s Mark Ellis (.992 to .993).  But he also had 165 more chances than Ellis.  He made great strides in the second half of the season.  Remember, this guy moved to 2nd base not too long ago after playing shortstop most of his life.  That reminds me of Youk, who played 3rd most of his life before having to learn 1st in the big leagues.

Speaking of Youk, he didn’t repeat at first base.  I’ve never thought of Carlos Pena as an outstanding defender- but he’s made improvements.  Better than Youk?  Doubt it, but Kevin spent a fair amount of time at 3rd this season due to Mike Lowell’s injury.  So I completely understand the choice of Pena over Youk.  This is not like last year when I thought Coco got robbed.

Dustin has a good mindset about this.

“I really didn’t think much about it,” Pedroia said on a conference call. “I was kind of still a little upset after the way the season ended, watching the World Series. I’m definitely excited. I’ve been getting text messages all day.”

Here’s hoping this is the first in a number of them for Mighty Mouse.  But he might not be done with awards this season- as he is one of the leading candidates for the AL MVP.  And just think, in May of 2007 most people thought this guy wouldn’t make it in the majors and were ready to give up on him.

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Change.  I remember hearing about changing how politics was done.  Hearing about reaching across the aisle.  Stuff like that.

CHICAGO – Barack Obama is signaling a shift in tactics and temperament as he moves from candidate to president-elect, picking sharp-elbowed Washington insiders for top posts. His choice Thursday for White House chief of staffRahm Emanuel, a fiery partisan who doesn’t mind breaking glass and hurting feelings — is a significant departure from the soft-spoken, low-key aides that “No-Drama Obama” has surrounded himself with during his campaign.

And transition chief John Podesta, like Emanuel, is a former top aide to Bill Clinton and a tough partisan infighter, though less bombastic than the new chief of staff.   Podesta was President Clinton‘s chief of staff, and several other former Clinton aides are on Obama’s short lists for key jobs, …

In contrast to Obama’s collegial style and that of his top campaign advisers, Emanuel is known as a foul-mouthed practitioner of brass-knuckled politics who relishes both conflict and publicity. He once mailed a dead fish to a political foe.

But he also earned a reputation for pragmatic efficiency, whether the goal was winning House elections for Democrats or working with Republicans to enact Clinton’s centrist political agenda.

“Rahm knows Capitol Hill and has great political skills,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “He can be a tough partisan but also understands the need to work together.”

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio was less kind. He called his appointment an “ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil and govern from the center.”

Sounds like change means a return to the Clinton-era: partisan insiders who step on toes rather than persuade people.  I guess I’m a little confused.  I’m not sure that was what people signed up for.  How long ’til the disillusionment sets in?

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Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith is a much needed book.  I needed to read it, and I can see how many in the churches I’m familiar with need to read it as well.  It is short, well-written, well-illustrated and keeps pointing the reader to Christ.  What more could you want?

Tim uses the Parable of the Lost Sons to examine the heart of the the Christian message.  He examines the Parable in the context of his audience in Luke 15.  He also compares and contrasts it with the parables that precede it (the lost sheep and the lost coin), to get the message ‘right’.  And that message is that both sons were lost- one thru license and the other thru legalism.  While we see the licentious brother return home (much like the sinners how heard Jesus and placed their trust in Him), while the elder brother resents the father’s grace (much like the Pharisees who were listening).  We just aren’t sure how he responds, so the question bounces back on all those elder brothers- will you enter the joy of the Father or maintain your ‘rights’ and sit alone and angry?

In this process Keller redefines both sin and lostness (as I’ve addressed in a previous post).  He doesn’t redefine so much as deepen our understanding of these concepts, expanding them so we can recognize how easily we can sin and appreciate our tendency to wander back into self-reliance.

Keller points us to the True Elder Brother, Jesus, who left the Father’s side to seek and save the lost.  We can only return home because He left, and lost His life.  This helps us to redefine, or deepen our understanding of, hope.  This hope culminates in the Feast of the Father- a picture of heavenly celebration.

In the process, Keller draws upon the thinking of Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther among others.  The last is particularly important since Luther understood too well that legalism is the default mode for most of us.  We quickly lapse back into the sins of the elder brother (pride, self-righteousness, lack of compassion).  He illustrates with movies (both popular and obscure) as well as novels that have captured people’s attention through the years.

So I found the book to be both convicting and comforting, humbling and encouraging.  Yes, big sinner.  Yes, bigger Savior who continues to change my heart so it resembles His.  This quote is one from the final chapter gives us something to chew on:

I have explained in this book why churches- and all religious institutions- are often so unpleasant.  They are filled with elder brothers.  Yet staying away from them simply because they have elder brothers is just another form of self-righteousness.  Besides that, there is no way you will be able to grow spiritually apart from a deep involvement in a community of other believers.  You can’t live the Christian life without a band of Christian friends, without a family of believers in which you find a place.

This is Keller’s hope- to transform the church and society as we recognize our frequent relapses into self-righteousness and rely more fully and completely on the only Savior- Jesus.  I think this is must reading for pastors, church leaders and ordinary Christians.  It is accessible to all- so don’t shilly-shally (as Steve Brown would say) and drink deep and drink often.

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Some timely thoughts from the Puritan William Gurnall for my needy heart.  They are from the Christian in Complete Armour daily devotional.  Perhaps some others need to hear them too.

The grace which God has given you is a sure pledge that more is on the way.

God is not a loan shark who will only lend you money with the hope you will be able to repay.  God gives grace with the full knowledge we will need more, and more, and…  That he has provided grace in the first place (will not he who did not spare his own Son, but offered him up for us all…) proves more is to come (give us all we need).  Christ sits upon the throne of grace- seek him!

The same faith which caused you to work against your sins as God’s enemies will undoubtedly move Him to work for you against them. … The reason so many Christians complain about the power of their corruptions lies in one of two roots- either they try to overcome sin without acting on the promises, or else they only pretend to believe.

Faith praises God in sad conditions. … Faith can praise God because it sees mercy even in the greatest affliction. … Will we let a few present troubles become a grave to bury the memory of all His past mercies?  What God takes from us is less than we owe Him, but what He leaves us is more than He owes (us).

I really like that last series.  It was a great struggle in my heart to think that we might lose our home in this time of transition.  I saw that it had become an idol, but one that filled me with fear and despair.  I had to remember that God owes me NOTHING.  All I have is His, and He is free to give and take away as He sees fit.  It is a difficult thing getting to that place of acceptance.  And it happened just before I read that, oddly enough.

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I was not raised in a family that understood the gospel and raised children with a God-ward orientation or focused on our hearts.  As I seek to raise the 2 little lives (with more to come?) He has placed in my care, I recognize I need help.  I found Shepherding a Child’s Heart to be helpful.  So when Ted & Margy Tripp released Instructing a Child’s Heart, I believed it would be helpful for me.

I was not wrong.  Unlike the previous book, which focused on corrective discipline, this book focused on formative instruction-

“Formative instruction gives children principles and absolutes by which to live- hooks to hang life on.”

They address 5 goals for formative instruction, and the call to formative instruction from Deuteronomy 6, communicating formative instruction, and topics including authority, sowing & reaping, a vision for God’s glory, the importance of the church and ultimately the centrality of the gospel.  The book is humbling, as I reckon with how often I fail as a parent (therefore the gospel is for me too!).

This is a very good book, but not a perfect book.  There are statements they make that I would disagree with, as in Shepherding a Child’s Heart.  One of those was in the chapter on authority.  There is much in that chapter that is good, true and right.  But not this:

There is a popular method of child management that powerfully illustrates my point.  “Honey, you can wear the red shirt, the green shirt, or the blue shirt.  It’s up to you.”

It does not occur to a three-year-old that there are more than three shirts in the closet.  He makes his choice.  Mother is indifferent to which shirt the child chooses.  All are equally appropriate.  On the surface it seems like a win, win.  The child feels like he is a decision-maker, mother gets him to wear something appropriate, and there is no fight.  What could be better than that?

While all that sounds very good and quite enlightened, in reality the subtext for the child is, “You are the decision-maker here.  You have the right to choose.  I may suggest the various alternatives, but it is your right to choose.”

As made in God’s image, our children need to learn to choose wisely.  There is no magical age at which this happens.  We are to teach them how to make decisions while under authority.  The parent here sets the proper boundaries, and provides some freedom.  My 3-year-old knows she has more than 3 shirts in her closet.  My child is not my slave, though she is my responsibility.  I must teach her about living under authority- but an authority that loves and nurtures her (and him), not one that will squelch.  Refusing to teach them to make decisions within boundaries, in my opinion, gives them an unhealthy view of authority.  Obviously the Tripps disagree with me.

You don’t have to agree with every jot and tittle to find a book helpful.  I still found it very helpful, and CavWife plans on reading it too.  Some of what was helpful was the discussions about how we tend to reinforce our children’s idols, as well as the culture’s and our own as parents.  Part of good, godly parenting is to turn from our own idols, helping them to see their own idols and to lay hold of Christ instead.  The gospel is not a parenting add-on, but at the very core of parenting.

Paul found joy in the gospel and never moved beyond the gospel because he knew the gospel was the power of God for salvation- including everything fron initial calling by grace, to justification, to ultimate glorification.  We never move beyond the centrality of the gospel.

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Yes, I’ve fallen behind on posting these answers to my study questions on theology from the Westminster Confession of Faith.  I’ve got to make progress prior to my examination before Presbytery next week.

Chapter XI: Of Justification

119. Use Scripture to accurately define justification? In Romans 3-5 justification is to be declared righteous.  We are all guilty and condemned, but God has provided Jesus as the sacrifice of atonement.  Though he had previously not punished sin, he punished the sin of the elect in Christ.  This righteousness is received by faith in Christ & his work.  In 2 Cor. 5 he who was without sin became sin that we might become the righteousness of God.  In Galatians 2 we see that Christ has borne the curse of us.

120.Distinguish the element of pardon from the more comprehensive doctrine of justification.  Pardon means that God has released us from the debt we owe due to our disobedience.  We are forgiven.  This is but a part of justification.  Innocence is not sufficient, but to enjoy fellowship with God we must be righteous.  God imputes the obedience of Christ to us.

121.What is meant by the imputation of righteousness?  God reckons Christ’s obedience to us.

122.Distinguish imputation from infusion of righteousness.  Imputation is a transfer of merit (or sin) from one person to another (our sin was imputed to Christ).  It refers to our position before God.  Infusion is the process in which God makes a person righteous in their conduct- experientially.  This happens in sanctification.

123.What is the ground for justification?  The active & passive obedience of Christ.

124.How is faith related to God’s act of justification? Faith is the instrumental means of our justification.  We receive Christ’s righteousness when we believe in Him.  Faith is not an act of righteousness.

125.What is the difference in the justification of believers under the Old Testament and the New Testament?  In the OT it was foreshadowed in the sacrificial system.  It was always by faith, as Paul notes in Romans 4 (quoting Gen. 15)- “Abraham believed and it was imputed to him as righteousness.” In the NT it is accomplished in the obedience & sacrifice of Christ.  The content of our faith has been progressively expanded and made more clear until God’s final revelation in Christ.

126.What happens when a Christian sins after his has been justified?  God continues to pardon those sins when we confess them because of the work of Christ (1 John 1-2).

 

Chapter XII: Of Adoption

127.What are the privileges of the children of God? They have his name placed upon them, receive the Spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace through prayer, are pitied, protected, provided for and chastened by the Father until such time as we inherit the promises of eternal salvation.

128.What is adoption? Support with Scripture.   In adoption we are made full sons, with rights of inheritance, with Christ.  The Spirit is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Ephesians 1).  The Spirit testifies to us that we are indeed God’s children (Romans 8) and helps us to pray to our Father.

129. What is meant by “sealing”?  The Spirit is the seal or mark of God’s ownership, that we are under his authority and protection.

130. Is anyone a true child of God if he is not chastened for disobedience?  No, they are called illegitimate children (Heb. 12 & Proverbs 3).  God proves his love by working to conform our character to his. 

131. What is the significance of the word “Abba”?  It is the Aramaic word for “Father” or “Dad”.  The Spirit prompts us to see God not just as a holy God and Lord, but as a Father who is kindly disposed toward his children.

 

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Steve Brown interviews Dan Allender on leadership and his book Leading with a Limp.  Here are some snippets to pique your interest.

“There is a lack of truth in all of us.”

He discusses how the double life created by posturing acts like an acid that destroys faith.  That lack of truth leads us to deny the difficulty of our crises, betrayals etc.  We pretend we have it all together, largely because we give people too much power over us.

“I’m honest, but only about what I want to share. … Honesty is part of the grace of the hound of heaven, …”

“I got to a point (in reading leadership books) … there were a lot of glorious trees cut down unnecessarily for alot of leadership stuff.”

“The gospel is about good sex.  The gospel is about good drinking.  The gospel is about what you smoke and how well you smoke it.  So the question ultimately becomes how do the pleasures that God have given us in the world, how do we bring to him our pleasures as we engage his pleasure. … It changes how we live it and offer it to others.”

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I’m not sure if enjoying is the right word.  I guess the right word would be benefitting.  I am greatly benefitting from my reading of The Prodigal God by Tim Keller.  He is able to expand on some ideas found in his sermons on the Parable of the Lost Sons.  He develops a better understanding of both sin and lostness.

We tend to tie sin in with rebellion- which it is.  But sin is craftier than that.  It can look like obedience!

It is not his sins that create the barrier between him and his father, it’s the pride he has in his moral record; it’s not his wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast of the father.

His obedience produces a pride that keeps him apart from his father and younger brother.  Sin can work thru “obedience” to keeps us from Christ and His people.  We seek to save ourselves.  This is the work of the religious fanatic Martin Luther said lives in each of us, the default of our hearts, trying to earn merit before God.

You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws.  If you do that, then you have “rights.”  God owes you answered prayer, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die.  You don’t need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior.

Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.

Keller continues to say that these 2 conditions are not equal.  It is easier for the licentious to see his sin and seek to return home.  The legalist thinks he already is home!  He is more blind to his sin because he looks so good.

What are the signs of an elder brother (legalist, self-righteous, Pharisee)?

The first sign you have an elder-brother spirit is that when your life doesn’t go as you want, you aren’t just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter.

Keller notes this can function in 2 ways.  If I perceive I have been obedient- I am angry with God and rage against him.  If I perceive I have not been obedient- I am angry with myself and become filled with self-loathing.  Hey, been there, done that- and still take trips there.

(more…)

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On the way to the office I listened briefly to talk radio- and some people see this election as a potentially a sign of the apocolypse.  Some prominent pastors are less than interested in the election- seeing no connection between the Kingdom and our nation.

Both extremes really miss the point, and ignore some significant biblical data we need to believe so it shapes us.  I want to meditate briefly on part of Ephesians 1.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

  • Paul gives us an insight into his prayer life- his adoration, thanksgiving and petition in connection to the Ephesian church.
  • Paul wants them to know the Father better, and asks that the Father would send the Spirit to give them wisdom and revelation.  We now have all the revelation we need in the Scriptures, but we need the Spirit to illumine them for us that we might fear God and gain true wisdom.
  • Paul wants them to behold their great hope, the glorious inheritance of the saints.  This world ain’t it, folks.  It’s good, and we can enjoy it- but we look for the City whose builder and architect is God (Heb. 11).  This life is filled with ups and downs- if we have a clear sense of the hope to which we are called, those ups and downs will not overwhelm us and lead us to either forget God or despair.
  • Christ, by the powerful working of the Spirit, has been raised, exalted and seated at the right hand of the Father.  He rules, above all powers- earthly and otherwise- as the Father’s vice-regent.
  • Jesus reigns in THIS PRESENT AGE, and in the one to come.  He’s not in the throne room biding his time.  He reigns NOW.
  • He reigns now for the good of the church.  Not necessarily our nation or any other nation.  But he does rule over the affairs of this, and every other nation, for the well-being of the church.  What happens on the political scene has ramifications for the church.  In our finitude we can’t always reckon them properly.  What is good for a nation can be bad for the church; and vice versa.
  • I don’t know how this, or any, election will pan out.  We all have hopes and fears in that regard.  But, Jesus is in control of them for the GOOD of the church.
  • The visible church in America may shrink in the years to come- particularly if our “best life now” is revealed to be a false hope (which it is).  Worldly cares may cause many to leave the visible church (Matthew 13:20-22).  But I think that actually strengthens the church, and reveals the real difference between the church and the world- enabling our mission to be that much clearer and significant.
  • So, today we are called to vote (if you haven’t already and have the legal right to vote) and each of us is called to trust Jesus to do that which is right and good.

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Hope you are having, or have had a great Reformation Day.  Here’s my Reformation Day sermon from a few years ago- From Rags to Righteousness

Tonight we took the kids to a Fall Festival/Trunk or Treat event at a local baptist church.  They had a great time, especially CavGirl.  They had 2 Moonwalks (aka bouncy machine), a hay ride, some emergency vehicles and plenty of candy.  I think we got some great photos, but I haven’t downloaded them.  Maybe soon.

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