Sunday, November 30, 2008
The first candle of the Advent wreath symbolizes hope and anticipation. Isaiah the prophet prophesied to the Israelites that “the Lord Himself shall give you a sign, behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14).
Israel as a nation had rebelled against the Lord. Isaiah condemns the empty sacrifices and rituals into which so many of the people had fallen. Yet he tells them what will please the Lord: “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean, put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good.” (Isaiah 1:16,17a).
There was hope for Israel and there is hope for us as His people. We too, have turned away from God. But Isaiah tells us Immanuel shall come-“God with us.” The Israelites could not save themselves, nor can we. But Isaiah gives us hope: “Come now and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18a).
On this, the first Sunday in Advent, may we cling to the Lord, who alone is our strength, our Redeemer, our hope.
by Elaine Kester
Monday, November 24, 2008
I took over the job of designing the bulletins for the church worship services. I also plan on regularly drawing (and sometimes finding when I don't have time) illustrations for the covers that relate to either the sermon, the scripture readings for the day, or the church calendar. Here are the three for the weeks I have designed the bulletin.
The first is an illustration ofthe parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-32. I didn't illustrate this one, I found it in an old book.
The second is an illustration based on two scripture texts, Isaiah 2:1-5 and Matthew 5:14-16.
The third is based on the sermon text for this past Sunday, 2 Kings 2:23-25.
I will continue to post these as I make them from week to week.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
I thought this post from Doug Wilson has some good thoughts on the upcoming Halloween happenings.
"What to avoid. We want parish parties, not pious parties. So when neighborhood trick or treaters come to your door, I would encourage you to give them more candy than unbelievers give, as opposed to a glare and/or a tract about the fires of hell. We want to behave during this time in such a way that their celebrations are revealed as far more anemic than ours (not to mention twisted and gross). We do not want our parish parties to be a cheesy alternative, a sort of faux-Halloween. It should be a true All Hallow’s Eve, a true Reformation Day blow-out."
Read the whole thing.
Monday, September 29, 2008
This post from May 2007 by Steven Wedgeworth is among my all time favorite blog posts. It is a nice summary of God's purpose for the world.
"Christianity is a comedy, whereas all false religions are tragic. This means that Christianity moves. Christians smile and laugh, as we follow after the God who dances. Our God sings too, as the Word is enveloped in Breath. Breath is moving air, song: glorified speech. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus who pictures the Father.Read the whole thing.
To be like God is our telos, and so Man sings and dances. He stumbles at first and hits flat notes, but this is but the beginning. There’s 30,000 years to go after all. Infinity knows no ceiling, and thus we practice on. We sing about creation. We sing about the exodus. We glorify the Torah in the Psalms. And the Bible continues still."
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I want to share some links with you that totally just blow my mind.
- This post is a must read: Everything’s Bigger Than You Can Imagine (or, Why I Love Astronomy)
- If that was not enough check this out: Universcale
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”
I think this commentary from John Piper is fitting:
“The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). That is why all the universe exists. It’s all about glory. The Hubble Space Telescope sends back infrared images of faint galaxies perhaps twelve billion light-years away (twelve billion times six trillion miles). Even within our Milky Way there are stars so great as to defy description, like Eta Carinae, which is five million times brighter than our sun. Sometimes people stumble over this vastness in relation to the apparent insignificance of man. It does seem to make us infinitesimally small. But the meaning of this magnitude is not mainly about us. It’s about God. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” says the Scripture. The reason for “wasting” so much space on a universe to house a speck of humanity is to make a point about our Maker, not us. “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these [stars]? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).
The deepest longing of the human heart is to know and enjoy the glory of God. We were made for this. “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth . . . whom I created for my glory,” says the Lord (Isaiah 43:6-7). To see it, to savor it, and to show it—that is why we exist. The untracked, unimaginable stretches of the created universe are a parable about the inexhaustible “riches of his glory” (Romans 9:23). The physical eye is meant to say to the spiritual eye, “Not this, but the Maker of this, is the Desire of your soul.” (Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, pg. 14)
Friday, June 13, 2008
From The Devil's Dictionary
An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver.
As, pent in an aquarium, the troutlet
Swims round and round his tank to find an outlet,
Pressing his nose against the glass that holds him,
Nor ever sees the prison that enfolds him;
So the poor debtor, seeing naught around him,
Yet feels the narrow limits that impound him,
Grieves at his debt and studies to evade it,
And finds at last he might as well have paid it.
-Barlow S. Vode
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I saw this a few weeks ago and wanted to share it here and just remembered it now. This quote is from an upcoming book by Doug Wilson on Hebrews.
“We are dealing here with deep forgiveness. The Lord Jesus did not come, live a perfect life, die on the cross and come back from the dead in order to dab around the edges of our wound. Our complicity in the sin of Adam, and our continuing screwed-up-ness required a great remedy, which could not be had apart from the work of a great Savior. But remember that Jesus is saving us from our sins, and not merely from the consequences of our sins. And one of the central sins he is saving us from is the sin of the double standard — wanting to receive forgiveness on easy terms, and wanting to extend it with the heart of a stickler for justice. We want to borrow easily, and lend with difficulty. We want our fingers open to receive, and our fist clenched for giving. But Jesus has given us fair warning that we do not receive forgiveness on our terms. Not at all. In the Lord’s prayer, we are taught to say this to God — ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors’ (Matt. 6:12). ‘Dear God, please harbor toward me all the thoughts I harbor toward others.’ Do the words stick in the throat? ‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart’ (Matt. 18:21-35). Forgiving others is not optional. This is the very heart of the gospel message.”
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Since I don't think pastor knows how to add links to his posts yet I have added the link in his post to the article he referenced on the REC website. You can find that article, which is a short, but fairly detailed study on bacteria transmittal through the common cup, here: Common Cup Bacteria Study (pdf)
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Many Reformed Episcopal Churches on the East Coast formed during the 1870s and 1880s. Until recently, most of them used the small communion cups with grape juice. How far back does this practice go? I heard of one or more cases of a Reformed Episcopal Church locating an old communion chalice in a neglected corner of the sacristy. It hadn't been used in decades. We know that the common cup with wine was the universal practice for centuries in the Church.
When did many Protestant churches switch from wine to grape juice, and from the chalice to the individual cups? The first chapter in a book called "Whitebread Protestants" by Daniel Sack answers those questions. Since Scripture seems to encourage the use of wine in many passages, the prohibitionists had to come up with an interesting interpretation, thus the two-wine theory. There is wine, and then, there is another wine; two wines. Any time you see a positive reference to wine in the Bible, it must refer to grape juice, or the first kind of wine; whereas those instances you run into a negative reference refers to real wine, the second kind of wine.
As for the texts of the Lord's institution of the Supper, listen to what one two-wine theory clergyman held:
"We cannot conceive of Christ bending over such a beverage in grateful prayer. The supposition is sacilegious. The imputation is blasphemous. No cup that can intoxicate is a cup of blessing, but a cup of cursing. It does not belong to a eucharistic feast, but is the fit accompaniment of scenes of revelry and riot."
The history of Dr. Thomas Welch and his invention of the grape soda to replace wine in communion is a fascinating read. Dr. Welch had to find a way to stop the grapes from fermenting.
As for the individual cups, the germ theory of contacting sickness was the primary factor. Sack says, "the common Communion cup mirrored general practice. Most Americans were used to drinking out of a common cup, whether at a community well or in a railway waiting room. With little concern for cleanliness and little understanding of the trnsmission of disease, few people saw any reason not to use the same cup."
Here are my opinions: In response to this objection, the REC official web site has an article that makes the case that using the common cup does not transmit disease, and one should not fear to partake of it. Just as the one loaf of bread symbolizes the unity of the body of Christ, so the one cup does the same.
As for wine in the Bible, the temperance movement was wrong exegetically. Christ obviously used wine in the institution of the Supper and in the miracle of water into wine at Cana. Drunkenness is a terrible sin, but to attempt to become more holy than Jesus on this issue by prohibiting wine altogether seems legalistic. The Church gets into trouble when she contradicts Scripture in her worship practices.
A return to the common cup with wine is the ideal. Read "Whitebread Protestants" for a wonderful and entertaining historical overview.
Rev. Paul S. Howden
Thursday, May 15, 2008
As I was reading the BCP Daily Office Lectionary today I came across Psalm 135 which starts with saying:
Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD, who stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God! Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession.
This reminded me of something C.S. Lewis said in an essay “The Problem of Praise in the Psalms” (found in Reflections on the Psalms pp. 90-98). Concerning God commanding us to praise God throughout the bible particularly in the Psalms Lewis says:
"We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence or delightfulness; we despise still more the crowd of people round every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify that demand.
Thus a picture, at once ludicrous and horrible, both of God and His worshippers, threatened to appear in my mind. The Psalms were especially troublesome in this way – ‘Praise the Lord,' 'O praise the Lord with me,' 'Praise Him.' . . . Worse still was the statement put into God's own mouth, 'whoso offereth me thanks and praise, he honoureth me' (50:23). It was hideously like saying, 'What I most want is to be told that I am good and great.' . . . It was extremely distressing. It made one think what one least wanted to think. Gratitude to God, reverence to Him, obedience to Him, I thought I could understand; not this perpetual eulogy."
This to Lewis was a problem, a stumbling block; why would it be good for God to do what we find as a weakness in other people? I suspect that more than a few people have this same problem but lack the ability to articulate it as well as Lewis could. Lewis goes on to give a solution to this seeming problem.
"But the most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or anything – strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless . . . shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses [Romeo praising Juliet and vice versa], readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. . . . Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. .
. . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: 'Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?' The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value...
...I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . .
If it were possible for a created soul fully . . . to 'appreciate', that is to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression, then that soul would be in supreme beatitude. . . . To see what the doctrine really means, we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God – drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable, hence hardly tolerable, bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression, our joy is no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds. The Scotch catechism says that man's chief end is 'to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Yesterday was a great Lords day at church! We celebrated Pentecost, were visited by our presiding bishop, Reverend Riches with a following reception and it was mothers day. Bishop Riches' sermon was great and I hope I can get my hands on a copy to post on the website and share a portion of it real presence in the Eucharist on the blog here. I have been so blessed by the observance of the church calender this past year and a half of attending Grace REC. It emphasizes key biblical truths that we always need to be reminded of (2 Peter 1:12-13). With that said I found this post by Peter Leitheart to be a great exhortation on the importance of observing Pentecost.
"In Jesus are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, but if the
Spirit has not come, what good is all that heavenly treasure to us earth-bound
folk? If the Spirit has not come, all that Jesus is and has remains stored
away in heaven, and who can climb up to heaven to bring it down?"
Friday, May 9, 2008
In his downloadable PDF, Andy Farmer (pastor of discipleship and counseling at Covenant Fellowship Church), expresses important values to be affirmed by Christian artists. Read the whole document, which contains supporting quotes from people like Francis Schaeffer, Leland Ryken, Charlie Peacock, Harold Best, and others.This is some really good stuff. As an artist myself it is always good to get a Christian exhortation to do good art. I really like points 2, 4 and 9 because they are points that you don't hear made often. In fact most people these days believe the opposite, even among Christians.
- Christian artists should view their talent as a gift from God and see its use ultimately as worship to God.
- A Christian artist should have a sober assessment of his gift and neither over-estimate the opportunities it should given him or undervalue the contribution he can make with it.
- The most authentic Christian art results from our joy in Christ overflowing into Christian art, not our strategies to do art that is Christian.
- Creating art is an expression of faith and obedience, not of compulsion or identity.
- The Christian artist should see his art as a way to love God, his people, and the world.
- The Christian Artist sees the sovereign hand of God in both his opportunities and his obstacles.
- The Christian artist is committed to truth in the way he lives and what he creates.
- While the Christian artist is under no burden to make all of his art explicitly Christian, it would be an unbiblical use of his gift to intentionally create a body of work without reference to Christ.
- The Christian artist rejects the worldly concept of artist as an outsider and embraces his place among God’s people in the local church as essential to his life and gifting.
- The Christian artist should not ignore his personal responsibility to evaluate the theological soundness of his work.
- Because the Christian artist trusts God, he will battle selfish ambition, competition, and any pretense of entitlement in regard to his art.
- The Christian artist will see the evaluation of others as an essential help in both growing in their art and assessing its fruitfulness.
- The Christian artist will resist elitism and care about the accessibility of his art to the average Christian in the congregation
- The Christian artist must never confuse the joy of creativity with the joy of knowing and pleasing God.
With that said, I would however clarify or expand on a few points the first being general, then some specifics.
First, I wanted to note that these points seem to be specifically directed toward the "fine arts" including music, literature, painting, film etc. Most people would understand it that way anyway, but I note that because some of these don't apply to more general uses uses of art. Borrowing from Gene Veith from his book State of the Arts, he makes the point that there are different kinds of art.
- There is the broad classification of seeing all work or vocations as an artform, this is what Veith says: "To fully comprehend the scope of art and its place in the human scene, we need to recover the view of art as pertaining to any creative human labor... this view of art restores dignity to the whole range of human work. Running a business, working on an assembly line, framing a house, serving a client, teaching a class - such vocations, and indeed all vocations, involve a God-given creative faculty that is different only in kind from that of the greatest painters, writers and musicians."
- Then there is the functional arts, joining the aesthetic and the practical; things like architecture, graphic design, illustration, or even engineering.
- There is also decorative arts, which would be art that isn't really functional and isn't intended for anything more than to make an environment more aesthetically pleasing and beautiful.
- Last is the fine arts; here is what Veith says: "Although the decorative and the functional can have aesthetic meaning, some works are made for their aesthetic meaning alone. These are the "fine arts." A quilt may be beautiful, but its purpose is to keep someone warm. A house may have a striking design and an attractive decor, but it exists not merely to be attractive but to provide shelter. A painting in a museum, on the other hand, exists in its own right, with no other purpose than to be beautiful and to be meaningful. It is an object for contemplation."
Now on to some of the specifics from the list above.
Number eight says:
"While the Christian artist is under no burden to make all of his art explicitly Christian, it would be an unbiblical use of his gift to intentionally create a body of work without reference to Christ."I don't really disagree with this statement, depending on what exactly the writer means, but I would word it better. This statement seems to imply that at least some of your art should be explicitly Christian, and therefore have explicit reference to Christ. If that is what the authors intent was, I would disagree. I think that a Christian painter for example, can paint only beautiful landscapes with no explicit reference to Christ his whole career, and still honor Christ with his artwork, as long as he is doing it to God's glory. The key criteria for a Christian creating artwork is to ask, Is it true and does the it communicate that truth in an effective and lawful way? These are important because if it is true, then in that way it does have indirect reference to Christ, because I think it was Van Til who said "all truth is God's truth." It also needs to be able to be communicated in a way that represents that truth by abiding by God's law in the execution itself. So back to our example of the landscape painter, if his paintings truly are beautiful recreations of God's creation then this does represent biblical truth and therefore Christ indirectly. So beautiful landscape paintings could lead one to meditate on God's creation and see God's creative work. Though it might seem like an inconsequential point I make it because I think that it could unnecessarily bind the conscience of an artist. So to sum up the point I am trying to make; sometimes the only difference between the artwork done by a Christian and that done by a non-Christian is that one is done to God's glory and one is not.
Number thirteen says:
"The Christian artist will resist elitism and care about the accessibility of his art to the average Christian in the congregation"Now I certainly agree with the sentiment here but I think more needs to be said on this point. I think the point trying to be made here is to do away with the idea that the average person doesn't and shouldn't understand "fine art." A few things need to be considered on this point though. First is the fact that most times, the average person in the Christian congregation is artistically illiterate. The problem is not elitism, but lack of education in the church with regards to understanding art and creative analysis. So the artist needs to consider their intended audience and speak in their language, but in such a way that still challenges their understanding. I think the error of this statement becomes apparent if it is reworded to replace Christian artist with Christian author. The question for the author is always "who is my audience." The accessibility of the content and language will depend on whether the work is intended for scholars or lay people. So while I agree that there is always a temptation to "elitism" in the art world, I also think there is more to consider than just the surface issue that if people don't "get it" then the problem is elitism.
Number fourteen says:
"The Christian artist must never confuse the joy of creativity with the joy of knowing and pleasing God."My only comment on this is to say that these two things can be one and the same. Again I don't disagree with what is being said here but I want to avoid the temptation of pitting the joy of creativity against the joy of knowing and pleasing God. This is a lesson I learned well from John Piper. To reword the famous Eric Liddell quote to fit this context "God made me creative. And when I create I feel His pleasure." If that is our attitude then it is great to find our joy in God through our joy in Creativity.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
"Christians are apt to feel discouraged when they reflect on the extensive prevalence of error compared with the limited success of the true religion, and despondingly inquire, 'By whom shall Jacob arise? For he is small.' But if they can only have faith in the mediatorial dominion, they may dismiss their fears, and confidently rely in, not merely the preservation, but the triumphant success and universal establishment of the church."
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I am reading through Postmillennialism by Keith Mathison. I am finding this book a very good, systematic introduction to postmillennialism. I found this passage a very encouraging reminder during an election year, and especially one with such an undesirable outcome no matter how you vote in my opinion. Not to mention the fact that if feels like we are the verge of a depression. Here is what Mathison says:
"Postmllennialism teaches that the kingdom grows entirely supernaturally. Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish the regeneration necessary for the spread of the kingdom, and only Christ can supernaturally judge those who resist His work. The efforts of man to further God's Kingdom apart from His power are utterly futile.
The preaching of the gospel is God's ordained means of spreading the kingdom. When the church remains faithful to her calling to preach the word, administer the sacraments, and worship God in Spirit and in truth, the kingdom grows. When individual Christians fulfill their calling in every area of life and bring glory to God, the kingdom grows. When the church begins to believe that it can bring about lasting change through political means, the growth of the kingdom is drastically slowed. Politics and legislation cannot take the place of regeneration.
This is not to say that national governments are outside the boundaries of the messianic kingdom, for they are not. Christ is their ruler, and they should acknowledge that in their actions and in their legislation. But while the church and the state are both under the messianic authority of Christ, they have different spheres of authority and different responsibilities. The church is neither the state nor a political party. It has a message for states and political parties, but if these fail to perform their God-given responsibilities, the church is not authorized to step in and exercise those duties. Postmillennialism renounces all political or earthly attempts to further the messianic kingdom and relies solely upon the supernatural work of God." (pg. 192-193)
Let us not forget, our King Jesus is on his throne and is ruling the nations now. We must put our hope in God's appointed means for answering The Lords Prayer. Politics and civil government are not God's means of transforming nations, they are man's means. The gospel transforms nations, that is God's way. Lately, I have often found myself thinking, "if only so and so would get elected the economy would be in better shape and we would be able to stop legal infanticide." I would get despondent at the reality that any good candidate most likely won't even come close to winning. I need this reminder that what we need is not better policy, but more Spirit wrought regeneration of individuals and families and churches. This then will pour out into all areas of life.
Unfortunately the church seems to have sold her birthright for a bowl of stew. Let us take back the authority God has given us and get our hands dirty looking for Christ's lost sheep.
"Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matt. 9:35-38)
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
"As I'm writing this column for the Financial Post, I am simultaneously editing a page on Wikipedia. I am confident that just about everything I write for my column will be available for you to read. I am equally confident that you will be able to read just about nothing that I write for the page on Wikipedia."This is a good example of bias coming through on even user created and edited content. There are a couple interesting things about this. This just goes to prove the point that no matter what you read it is all biased. Even in a format like this, which would seem most likely to support a "neutral" position due to the open checks and balances by users, neutrality is a myth. We also see an example of how unscientific some of these global warming advocates are, they can't allow even the slightest scrutiny. If only people would just take a little time and not buy every thing they are sold by the media. Don't get me wrong, there may indeed be some sort of global warming. But even if that could be proven, it still needs to be shown that it is caused by humans, and it also has to be shown that it is a bad thing. I for one wouldn't mind a little more warmth in NEPA. As far as I'm concerned it might be an answered prayer; "thy kingdom come."
Monday, May 5, 2008
This morning I finished reading Douglas Wilson's "Letter from a Christian Citizen." It is Wilson's response to atheist Sam Harris' book, "Letter to a Christian Nation." This short book was more accessible and enjoyable than Wilson's correspondence with atheist Christopher Hitchens.
For example, Harris claims that 350,000 species of beetles in the world casts doubt on creationism. Wilson responds, "...why this should count as an argument against the triune God of Scripture, I surely don't know. I am a diehard creationist, and I think it is the coolest thing in the world that our God created that many different kinds of beetles." pp. 89-90.
Pastor Paul Howden
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Sunday, April 13, 2008
"For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water."
A quick reading of this passage tells you that James is not at all joking about the importance of taming our tongue. In fact when I read this passage I am rebuked because my tendency is always to neglect this small member and fall into the trap that James is warning us of. Sure the tongue is small, but it is strong. When I was reading this passage I wondered what is the underlying theology in what James is saying here. As I thought about this subject I realized an important truth about the nature of God himself that helped me see why godly speech is so important.
God reveals Himself to us, and He does this in different ways. We know that He reveals Himself to us through creation, and through his mighty works that we can see and observe, but the main way that God reveals himself to us is through speaking to us. God himself is the word as it says in John 1. In fact without verbal communication we would not be able to understand God’s other forms of revelation rightly. This is the same with us as Gods image bearers. People can know us through seeing our works, but they can only find out what motivates us through us speaking to them. Joe the Atheist could help a poor orphan, and Evan the Christian can do the exact same good work. The watching world can't know the difference unless we speak up about why we do the things we do. Words are what reveal who we truly are on the inside. As Jesus said "from the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." This is why James says with such zeal “My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” He sees the hypocrisy in our speech and knows that we are not only representing and revealing who we are through what we say, but as image bearers and especially as Christians who have God’s Spirit in us, we are to represent God when we speak. So when we speak sinfully we bring dishonor not only on ourselves but on God. Let us use our tongues for blessing, let our speech be to the lifting up of His Great Name. Strive for sanctified speech.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."
Pastor made mention in Sunday school last week of his desire to eventually sing the psalms in church. I would love that so much because the Psalms were intended to be sung not just read. I know there are difficulties with singing them, mainly getting everybody familiar with them and that they are so long, but I believe that psalm singing is something missing in churches these days. I found this video on YouTube and though it was absolutely beautiful. Read along with the text below as you listen to it.
1 THE Lord, even the most mighty God, hath spoken : and called the world, from the rising up of the sun unto the going down thereof.
2 Out of Sion hath God appeared : in perfect beauty.
3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence : there shall go before him a consuming fire, and a mighty tempest shall be stirred up round about him.
4 He shall call the heaven from above : and the earth, that he may judge his people.
5 Gather my saints together unto me : those that have made a covenant with me with sacrifice.
6 And the heavens shall declare his righteousness : for God is Judge himself.
7 Hear, O my people, and I will speak : I myself will testify against thee, O Israel; for I am God, even thy God.
8 I will not reprove thee because of thy sacrifices, or for thy burnt-offerings : because they were not alway before me.
9 I will take no bullock out of thine house : nor he-goat out of thy folds.
10 For all the beasts of the forest are mine : and so are the cattle upon a thousand hills.
11 I know all the fowls upon the mountains : and the wild beasts of the field are in my sight.
12 If I be hungry, I will not tell thee : for the whole world is mine, and all that is therein.
13 Thinkest thou that I will eat bulls' flesh : and drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer unto God thanksgiving : and pay thy vows unto the most Highest.
15 And call upon me in the time of trouble : so will I hear thee, and thou shalt praise me.
16 But unto the ungodly said God : Why dost thou preach my laws, and takest my covenant in thy mouth;
17 Whereas thou hatest to be reformed : and has cast my words behind thee?
18 When thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst unto him : and hast been partaker with the adulterers.
19 Thou hast let thy mouth speak wickedness : and with thy tongue thou hast set forth deceit.
20 Thou satest, and spakest against thy brother : yea, and hast slandered thine own mother's son.
21 These things hast thou done, and I held my tongue, and thou thoughtest wickedly, that I am even such a one as thyself : but I will reprove thee, and set before thee the things that thou hast done.
22 O consider this, ye that forget God : lest I pluck you away, and there be none to deliver you.
23 Whoso offereth me thanks and praise, he honoureth me : and to him that ordereth his conversation right will I shew the salvation of God.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Let's see if we can finally get the ball rolling with updating this blog. I figured a good way to jump into this would be to share some links to some great books available online for free through Google books. I have a feeling that this Google books thing is going to be a great resource once it starts catching on and more people begin to upload books for free. I will share some of the gems I have found so far. What I have posted below are full books, there are also a lot of books that gave a sample view so one could test drive the book before purchasing it.
The Private Devotions of Lancelot Andrewes
by Lancelot Andrewes
This is a great book that I have used lately in my devotions. Some of the most beautiful prayers I have ever read.
by Douglas Wilson
I am reading this right now with my wife, and it is great so far. Doug Wilson is great on all things family related, as you will see by the next few books I am about to link to. Wilson also has another book on marriage available as well once you finish this one, it is called For a Glory and a Covering: A Practical Theology of Marriage. I haven't read this book but I have listened to the sermons that this book was based on. Great stuff!
by Douglas Wilson
I finished reading this in the hospital after the birth of my first son. This book not only greatly helped shape my understanding of raising a boy, it also helped me understand some things I am lacking and that I need to work on to be a better man. If you have sons, or ever plan to, read this!
Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-woman Man
by Douglas Wilson
This book is excellent. It is written primarily for men. Wilson is very straight forward and scriptural in dealing with all types of sexual sin, from lust and pornography to sodomy. If you are a man that struggles with sexual sin this is a book I suggest you read. It was also designed to be used by fathers to instruct their sons and give them biblical counsel on being a one woman man.
Praise Her in the Gates: The Calling of Christian Motherhood
by Nancy Wilson
This one is by Doug Wilson's wife. I haven't read it but it is highly recommended by my wife. And once you finish that you can read another one by Nancy called Building Her House.
Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History
by Richard Hannula
From the book description, "In this collection of forty-six brief biographies for children, Hannula sketches the stirring trials and triumphs of many famous and some lesser known figures in our family of faith -including Augustine, Anselm, Luther, Bunyan, and CS Lewis." This says it is for children, but if you are like me and are a little behind on some of the history of these great heroes of our faith, then this seems like it is a good place to get a short bio and get caught up.
Trinity and Reality: An Introduction To The Christian Worldview
by Ralph Allan Smith
I haven't read this yet either but from a quick skim through it seems like a good book on how the doctrine of the Trinity affects all of reality and isn't just some mere doctrine to be debated but one that should flow into everything we do and think.
The Victory According to Mark: An Exposition of the Second Gospel
by Mark Horne
Exactly what the title says, an exposition of Mark.
An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles: Historical and Doctrinal
by Edward Harold Browne
I haven't read this but it comes recommended by Pastor Howden. Here is what he says "This is a hefty tome that explains the Reformational doctrines of Anglicanism. The citations from the Early Church and Reformers on any given subject make this a very valuable tool."
The Baptized Body
by Peter J. Leithart
A short book examining the Biblical texts on baptism and its efficacy.
The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity
by Richard Hooker
This is the blurb on this book from the gracerec.org website: "In these difficult to read tomes, Richard Hooker forges the via media of Anglicanism, a middle way between the extremism of the Puritans, on the one hand, and the errors of the Church of Rome, on the other"
The Works of Thomas Cranmer...
by Thomas Cranmer
Some Thomas Cranmer on the Lord's Supper. Haven't read this yet but it looks like a good resource to have at hand.
That should be enough to keep everybody busy for a while.