Friday, October 31, 2008
...looks like we need to move to southern California.
My book-buying habits lately have concentrated solely on upgrading my exegetical library. I did manage to sneak in Saved by Grace, which is the most recent work of Herman Bavinck translated for the English world. Other than that, I have been searching over the online used book outlets to find some precious out-of-print classics, as well as some newer stuff. For my sermons I have been studying through Ephesians (current series) and Jonah (future series); and for personal pleasure I have been studying through Philemon. Below are a few of my recent acquisitions (by author):
EPHESIANS: Eadie, Marcus Barth, Paul Bayne (a Puritan writer recently reprinted by Tentmaker), Hodge, Dunn, & a couple of volumes by Lloyd-Jones (I refuse to buy the cheap paperbacks by Baker, yet the hardcover volumes by Banner of Truth are not sold on this side of the Atlantic).
JONAH: Simon, Wolff, Fairbain (also a Puritan recently reprinted by Tentmaker), & Allen.
PHILEMON: Vincent, Muller, Lightfoot, Marcus Barth, Fitzmyer, C.F.D. Moule, Ironside, Attersoll (Puritan, facsimile copy), William Jones (Puritan, facsimile copy), and Daniel Dyke (Puritan, facsimile copy).
I also added a few misc. commentaries on Colossians, 1 Corinthians, Leviticus, and Romans.
And then my wife called a family meeting and I had my debit card priviledges temporarily suspended...
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Apparently my hiatus from blogging, e-mail, and all Internet activities caused me to miss the news that Christian History and Biography has went defunct. Of all the Christian magazines to which I subscribe, this was certainly my most favorite.
I didn't even get the privilege of receiving the last issue, though I did receive (it seems) a complimentary subscription to Christianity Today (which I already had). At least for now we are able to buy past issues, so hopefully I will be able to fill out my collection.
I have to admit the most irritating part of this whole fiasco was the decision to stop at issue #99. Seriously! Come on CH&B, are you telling me you couldn't hold out for an even 100? Give us at least some sense of numerical resolution.
Sadly, another example of the Evangelical disregard for the wisdom of the past for the peddled junk of the present. Er, I mean 'feel free to subscribe to Today's Christian Woman or Leadership Journal. All good stuff, I'm sure.'
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
A couple of days go by, and it's already Wednesday. I realize I have not yet started on Sunday's sermon, so my time get's crunched with exegetical work on the upcoming text. Then, of course, there is the Sunday evening sermon and the Adult Sunday school class.
Oh yes, and who could forget the administrative meetings, the phone calls, the lunch appointments, the prayer with the spouse who is losing her husband, the council offered to a father whose boy is on drugs, the search for wisdom as I try to reconcile two mutually-offended parties within the church, the budget overviews, the early evening counseling, the mid-evening family time, and the late evening study sessions. As the midnight sky looms overhead I realize that my hectic day pushed prayer to the corner, so I fall on my knees and beseech the face of God on behalf of my little flock.
I look at the clock, its 2:30 am---the 6:00 am alarm will soon be ringing in my ears, so I best get to bed.
Perhaps I'll blog tomorrow....
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
The Phantom: Barack Obama is secretly a devout muslim who will install Islamic law once elected President. His "muslim-sounding" name, along with some association with Islam in his childhood home, is enough to rekindle the Medieval fears of the invasion of the Turks. I spoke with one pastor several days ago who has a ministry with Muslims in the Detroit area. He is convinced that Obama's seeming liberalism is merely a "cover" for his extreme Islamic beliefs. I receive countless e-mails with similar statements, and blogs are quick to make such connections. While it is true that Obama had strong exposure to Islam in his family, it is also true this was a very liberal version of Islam. Obama's family was marked more by agnosticism (both Christian and Islamic versions) than anything that resembled devout faith. Entire sectors of the Christian community have become obsessed with a non-existant phantom. Because of this, they have missed the real danger---which is the elephant in the room!
The Elephant: Barack Obama is a committed secular humanist who will use the language of religion (any religion) while simultaneously undermining the role of religion in the fabric of our culture. Secual humanism is the philosophical school to which Obama is fanatically committed. To secular humanists, religion is the 'opium of the people'. Unlike the radical Marx who soought to undo faith via a frontal assuult, Obama is willing to use the language of religion to acheive his political ambitions while simultaneously shifting religion into a position of cultural irrelevance. Never before in our country's history have we encountered a presidential candidate who used so much religious language while meaning it so very little. Barack is extreme in desire to marginalize religion and faith. Faith and morality, to Obama, is something to be sequestered to the domain of one's private life and should not be allowed to enter into the public square.
Senator Obama has many admirable qualities. When comparing apples to apples, there is much to make the Illinois senator worthy of consideration to be the next president of the United States. Conservative rightly abhor his extreme support of abortion rights. That is, in and of itself, enough to make many professing believers in Jesus run the other direction on election day. However, there is a more subtle evil that too many Christians fail to recognize. Underneath the eloquence, behind the 'presidential demeanor', and just beyond the intellectual competence is a marxist/humanistic worldview that is the most rabidly anti-religious system of thought in the history of humanity.
Obama is not a Muslim. How much better it would be if he were.
Monday, October 13, 2008
I've always felt sorry for blond women. Not because they are somehow inferior, but because they are the target for an entire genre of humor. The number of "blond jokes" certainly numbers into the thousands, and blond women everywhere have been permanently type-cast as beautiful yet bumbling idiots. They are portrayed as lacking understanding of even the most basic of things.
Unlike the mythological "blondie" of comedy club humor, Paul wants believers to have understanding. He calls on us to have insight and perception regarding the things of God. The phrase "will of God" in Scripture, when not referring to God's soveriegn will, generally refers to his moral or ethical will. In other words, Paul is urging Christians to understand the teaching of Scripture and to live according to those teachings.
The Greek word 'behind' the English term "understanding" literally means "union" or "to join together. In the ancient world, it could be used of two armies coming together to battle, two individuals coming together in marriage, or two streams joining to make a river. It came to mean "to perceive" and "to accept something by hearing". Paul is calling for a "joining" of Scripture and heart. It is only when we come into union with the word of God that we can begin to understand God's will for our life. The psalmist declares, I have hid your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Non-believers, by definition, lack this understanding because they have removed the word of God from their lives. By contrast, believers are called to grab hold of the word of God with both hands and soak it into their minds and hearts like a sponge.
Christian, join your heart to the word of God.
Friday, October 10, 2008
This coming Sunday I will be preaching on the subject of God's will (as part of our ongoing sermon series through Ephesians 4-6). The key verse states, "Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:17). The meaning of the biblical phrase "will of God" or "will of the Lord" is generally misunderstood by contemporary believers. One commentator writes,
“Usually when Christians speak of discerning the will of the Lord, they have in mind God’s will regarding major decisions about a spouse or a career. This is not what the text is about. The text is more concerned about God’s intent for the way we live every day, about what is pleasing to him. Perhaps we would not have so much trouble in finding God’s will for important decisions if we were more accustomed to discerning his will throughout life, making our lives conform to the pattern Christ has given us” .
God is not playing “peek-a-boo” with his children. In Isaiah 45:19 God promises us that “Ihave not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob,‘Seek Me in vain’”. Instead, God clearly reveals his will for his children. Psalm 119:9 states, “How shall a young man direct his way? By attending to your word, O Lord”. The “will of the Lord” then refers to Jesus’ moral will for all who become his disciples. Believers are here taught to focus on the redemptive work of Christ and recognize the way of holiness, righteousness, and truth that Christ’s redemption has made possible. The will of the Lord is that believers walk according to this ‘holiness, righteousness, and truth’. The contemporary obsession with ‘divine guidance’ in life’s major decisions fails to recognize:
(a) the profound freedom Christ offers believers,
(b) the radical implications of the will of God for all areas of life—both major and minor,
(c) the scriptural meaning of the phrase “will of God/will of the Lord”.
Personalized concerns about ‘guidance’ may actually be evidence of foolishness as it distracts us from the life-changing power of God’s will correctly understood. “The ‘will of God’ is God’s gracious saving plan” which involves “the formation of a people into the likeness of Christ who will be pure and blameless on the final day.”
Except for the last 100 years (or less), the Church has always understood this. Only recently have we twisted the phrase "will of God" to mean the pursuit of some sort of subjective guidance for a decision. The Westminster Catechism (Question 93) asked, "What is the moral law". It's answer is illuminating:
"The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, direction and binding every one to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul and body, (Deut. 5:1–3,31,33, Luke 10:26–27, Gal. 3:10, 1 Thess. 5:23) and in performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he oweth to God and man: (Luke 1:75, Acts 24:16) promising life upon the fulfilling, and threatening death upon the breach of it. (
It is God's will that mankind be holy. He has called upon his creation to bring him glory and pleasure by living according to his holy word. In Christ, the effects of the Fall have been undone so that all who believe may understand and live according to this revealed will. The "will of the Lord' is no a subjective supernatural guidance for some specific decision in life. Rather, it is the life-transforming & divinely-gifted ability to consistently and continually lives as one who has been redeemed by Jesus Christ.
God isn't playing "peek-a-boo" with his will. He has offered it objectively to all who are willing to pick up and read his Word, who will offer their lives as living sacrifices to the Savior, and who will pursue a lifestyle of love and holiness which is pleasing to him.
 Snodgrass, NIV Application Commentary, Ephesians, 308.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Several years ago a traveling circus came to town and our three children begged to see it. Loading up the family van, we traveled downtown to the auditorium and were amazed at the show. In amazement at what they were seeing, our children’s eyes were about as large as the elephants! I still remember my daughter gripping my arm tightly as a small man maneuvered across a thin wire from 50 feet in the air. “Oh daddy, he is going to fall”, she cried. “No”, I replied, “he is being very careful. See how he is watching his steps?” Relieved for the moment, my daughter was able to continue looking on.
One of the great Reformers of the church once said, “If you look closely to ascertain why men pardon themselves of many offenses so easily, and why they imagine that God does not think about them, you will find that it springs from sheer carelessness.” Far too many believers carelessly live the Christian life. We forget how easy it is to fall into sin or lose sight of the prize before us. How is it that we, as John Calvin once said, “esteem the salvation of our souls as nothing” while becoming obsessed with “mere nothings and trifles, things that vanish away”? This lack of focus and concentration is a devilish fog. We think because we have professed faith we are somehow immune from evil. But if we are to be the light in the world, we must be vigilant that darkness take no quarter within us. As one commentator asked, “If believers are bound to dispel the darkness from the hearts and lives of others, how carefully should they be not to be dark themselves?” We will fall unless we concentrate ever so forcefully upon the thin wire of holiness under our feet.
Christians, watch your steps
avoids hindrances in accomplishing what he has to do.
Everyone ought to possess this caution.
This is a characteristic of wise men.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Once I took my two boys to a local high school football game. Sitting in the stands, while sipping soda and wolfing down a slimy hotdog, we watched our home team get pounded. However, the scoreboard wasn’t nearly as important as spending time with my two little men. During the third quarter, my attention was pulled away from the field and towards a family sitting a few rows down. Apparently some sort of argument had ensued, and we watched as mom, dad, and kids all began to throw curse words and insults at one another. Erupting with anger, the husband shoved his wife in the face and began verbally abusing the woman. The children followed suit, some joining mom’s insults against dad, and other’s joining his side by cursing at mom. Evil finds its way even into football games.
When Paul tells us that the days are evil, he is not talking about time itself. As Chrysostom says, it is not the essence of time that is evil but rather the things transacted in it. Every day is filled with countless violations against God’s gracious rule. For this reason David wept and cried “rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law” (Psalm 119:136). The presence of evil should cause us to grieve and mourn—but it should also rouse us to action. God will not allow evil to continue forever, and as such its days are literally numbered. In the face of such overwhelming and relentless evil, and in light of only a finite amount of time, Paul urges believers to use all available time for service to the Lord. Elsewhere, the apostle tells us that the “appointed time” grows very short (1 Cor 7:29); therefore, we must seize opportunities while they last. Evil will only be overcome if goodness is passionately and aggressively lived out.
Christians, do good in the face of evil.
The moments for sowing on receptive soil in such evil days
being few, seize them when they offer themselves.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Recently our family gathered to watch old home movies. My children grew excited as they saw smaller versions of themselves on the screen. Amy and I quickly became lost in fond memories of holding our little babies and listening them say their first words. One of the films recorded me holding my youngest son, throwing him into the air to his delight and giggles, and then coddling him in my arms. Longingly, I look down at my hands and whispered "where does the time go?"
God want believers to have a biblical view of time. It is a precious commodity, and must be treated as such. Today I met with a dear saint who has been diagnosed with cancer. With only months to live, she has become fully aware of time's limited supply. The King James Version renders the above verse as "Redeeming the time". It was a marketplace place term used by merchants who would buy products and goods. Scripture is telling believers to "buy up" time--that is, to treat it as something valuable and use it well. Matthew Henry tells us that "our tie is a talent given us by God for some good end, and it is misused, and is misspent and lost when it is not employed according to his design." Only a fool would allow a precious, expensive object to be wasted and thrown away. It is the wise Christian who can recognize and appreciate the value of time, who will take hold of it, make whatever sacrifice to make it their own, and use it to its fullest advantage.
John Calvin warned his congregation against fillings their lives with "mere nothings and trifles". It is far to easy to consume our lives with little pleasures--all of which are good in and of themselves. Chocolate is simply superb, but a diet consistently chiefly of the decadent-divinity would only harm the body. We fill our lives with pleasures and enjoyments all the while claiming Christian liberty. But here Scripture is calling on Christians to remember their sacred task: there is an evil world, and we only have a limited amount of time to serve the King.
Christians, redeem your time.
losing of the time, which we cannot recover afterwards.
- John Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians