Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Luther on the Christological Center of the Scriptures

"He who would read the Bible must simply take heed that he does not err, for the Scripture may permit itself to be stretched and led, but let no one lead it according to his own inclinations but let him lead it to the source, that is, the cross of Christ. Then he will surely strike the center."

--Martin Luther

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's Funny Because It's True

This humorous description of the growth of Baptists is sad but true:
Our numbers can be at least partially explained. Like cats, we multiply by fighting. One Baptist, a believer; two Baptists, a church; three Baptists, a church split.
--Ralph Wood, "My Water, His Wine" in July/August 2011 issue of Touchstone

Friday, August 26, 2011

Plead His Promise, Trust His Grace

Surely Christ Thy Griefs Has Borne
Augustus Toplady, 1740-1778

Surely Christ thy griefs has borne;
Weeping soul, no longer mourn:
View Him bleeding on the tree,
Pouring out His life for thee;
There thy every sin He bore;
Weeping soul, lament no more.

All thy crimes on Him were laid:
See, upon His blameless head
Wrath its utmost vengeance pours,
Due to my offence and yours;
Wounded in our stead He is,
Bruised for our iniquities.

Weary sinner, keep thine eyes
On th' atoning sacrifice;
There th' incarnate Deity,
Numbered with transgressors, see;
There, His Father's absence mourns,
Nailed and bruised, and crowned with thorns.

See thy God His head bow down,
Hear the Man of Sorrows groan!
For thy ransom there condemned,
Stripped, derided, and blasphemed;
Bleed the guiltless for the' unclean,
Made an offering for thy sin.

Cast thy guilty soul on Him,
Find Him mighty to redeem;
At His feet thy burden lay,
Look thy doubts and cares away;
Now by faith the Son embrace,
Plead His promise, trust His grace.

Lord, Thine arm must be revealed,
Ere I can by faith be healed;
Since I scarce can look to Thee,
Cast a gracious eye on me:
At Thy feet myself I lay;
Shine, O shine, my fears away!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Key to C.S. Lewis

Gene Edward Veith on "The Key to C.S. Lewis" in Tabletalk:
...Lewis was a complex thinker with a wide-ranging sensibility. He was both logical and wildly imaginative, conservative and a non-conformist, a devout Christian whose faith was never stodgy or limiting, but stimulating and liberating. And I think I have found the key to understanding Lewis in all of his complexities and in all of his different kinds of writing....

...Christianity offers not only a world view but a sensibility, a way to think and to feel. Lewis addresses both the head and the heart. He is an apologist for reason, romanticism, and — what holds them together — Christianity.
Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Piper on a Lesson Learned from Lewis

I am grateful for a friend and church member passing this quote along to me. It's a quote by John Piper, reflecting on what he learned from C.S. Lewis (and it's a great follow-up to yesterday's post):
He has made me wary of chronological snobbery. That is, he showed me that newness is no virtue and oldness is no vice. Truth and beauty and goodness are not determined by when they exist. Nothing is inferior for being old, and nothing is valuable for being modern. This has freed me from the tyranny of novelty and opened for me the wisdom of the ages.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lewis on the Dangers of Novelty in Worship

C.S. Lewis, from Letters to Malcolm, on novelty in worship and the need for permanence and uniformity:
It looks as if they [Anglican clergymen] believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain—many give up churchgoing altogether—merely endure.

Is this simply because the majority are hide-bound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best — if you like, it “works” best — when, through familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping….

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude the question, “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.”

Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put. But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship.

Friday, August 19, 2011

None Can Ever Ask Too Much

Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare
John Newton, 1725-1807

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay.

Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.

With my burden I begin:
Lord, remove this load of sin;
Let Thy blood, for sinners spilt,
Set my conscience free from guilt.

Lord, I come to Thee for rest,
Take possession of my breast;
There Thy blood-bought right maintain,
And without a rival reign.

As the image in the glass
Answers the beholder’s face;
Thus unto my heart appear,
Print Thine own resemblance there.

While I am a pilgrim here,
Let Thy love my spirit cheer;
As my Guide, my Guard, my Friend,
Lead me to my journey’s end.

Show me what I have to do,
Every hour my strength renew:
Let me live a life of faith,
Let me die Thy people’s death.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Service Without Faith

"Till men have faith in Christ, their best services are but glorious sins."

--Thomas Brooks

Monday, August 15, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Payment God Cannot Twice Demand

Faith Reviving
Augustus Toplady, 1740-1778

From whence this fear and unbelief?
Hath not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was charged on Thee?

Complete atonement Thou hast made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whate’er Thy people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place
If sheltered in Thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with Thy blood?

If Thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand—
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.

Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest!
The merits of thy great High Priest
Have bought thy liberty;
Trust in His efficacious blood,
Nor fear thy banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for thee!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Christian Reflections on Down Days in the Market

I was encouraged and edified by this reflection on the stock market's recent drops by one of our church members, Chad Wilson:

Many of us have 401K’s, IRA’s and even College Savings Funds that have been pummeled by wave after wave of bad news in the past week. Sudden moves in the market often solicit anxious thoughts. Questions arise like: “What if my savings dwindles to nothing?” “How can I be joyful with all this bad news on the economy?” “Is there any hope anywhere?”

In times like this, it is good to be reminded of 1 Peter 1:3-5 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled,unfading, kept in Heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Here are some lessons from this verse that are worth remembering:

1. When we feel hopeless, we can be reminded that God has given us hope – not in a stock market rebound, but in His Son Jesus Christ. It is a living hope that does not ebb and flow depending on the events of the day.

2. Our lasting inheritance is not our Retirement Plan (important though that may be). Our True inheritance is in Heaven. There is never any risk of our Heavenly inheritance falling, fading, or vanishing.

3. God is the great guard of our eternal inheritance. Your financial adviser and the best asset allocation strategy in the world are not capable of perfectly guarding you and your future. Only God, by his power can guard your eternal future.

I certainly don’t intend to minimize the importance of wise decision making when it comes to our Earthly inheritance. I do intend to remind us that there is a much more important Heavenly inheritance that has been forever secured for the Children of God by the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let that comfort you on down days like today. It isn’t the first, and it won’t be the last.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Sweet Stench of the Gospel

To some the gospel is the sweet smelling fragrance of life; to others it is the stench of death. The same gospel is simultaneously a message of salvation and judgment.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Historicity of Adam and the Basis for the Gospel

"Why must God the Son become incarnate, live our life, die our death, and be raised for our justification? Scripture's answer is clear: We need a redeemer because Adam as the first man and covenantal head of the human race brought sin, death, and destruction into this world, and it is only by the last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, that it can be paid for and reversed. The fact of human sin and death is grounded in a real, historical Adam who was created upright and morally good, but in history revolted against God and by that action took down the entire human race with him. If this is denied, the basis for the gospel is undercut, and the entire Christian position is destroyed."

--Stephen Wellum, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (Spring 2011)

Monday, August 1, 2011

When First Things Are Put First

A wise and helpful reminder from C.S. Lewis:

"When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased."