Oct 232009

Quite the week…

There is nothing more fearsome than having to stand up to ones heroes.

I’ve been sick to my stomach over publicly disagreeing with those whose opinions and praise would matter most to me.

R. Scott Clark, Martin Downes, Carl Trueman, and Mike Horton are men whose works occupy prominent places in my library and in my mind.

They are my intellectual and spiritual superiors to a laughable degree.

Yet, there is a spirit of sectarianism and elitism running through all of our sects and their elite that is not of God and it grieves me to the point of courage.

When we gather together in our personal sects, whether we are Reformed, Lutheran, Calvary Chapel, or garden variety Baptist…we speak of our brethren with contempt.

I have heard it in Geneva, I’ve heard it in Costa Mesa, and we hear it all day online.

Division is not necessarily a bad thing…it proves that which is right and highlights the various gifts that God has given to different parts of the Body.

When we have contempt for one of those parts we are loathing ourselves because all of the Body and all of those gifts and emphases are part of who we are as a whole.

None of us have it all down…even if our confessions give us the false security that we do.

I know that the most doctrinaire members of each group think me a fool and maybe even an apostate for seeking fellowship with the whole Body.

However, until convinced by Scripture that one group has received the whole pure truth, I’ll consider myself a fool for Jesus and hang with whoever will have me.

While we found new ways to divide and criticize each other over things like J.I. Packers legacy and how far evangelicalism has strayed from orthodoxy, the real issue of the day was rearing it’s head in Michigan.

The students and faculty of Calvin College are battling with the board of trustees over a statement concerning homosexuality and same sex marriage.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the defining issue for the church and culture today.

If we give in to the cultural mandate to incorporate that which the Bible calls an abomination into the life and standards of the church we lose not only our moral and spiritual standards, we lose our positions on the inerrancy and authority of Scripture.

When that happens, all is lost.

This does not mean that we do not continue to struggle with the issues, it does not mean that we give license to those who want to deal with the issues and the real people involved in less than a gracious and godly fashion.

It means we refuse to compromise on what the historic, orthodox church has already agreed to according to Scripture.


I listened to Dave Rolph’s teaching Wednesday night live on the internet.

I did so partly because I’ve been worried about his health and partly because nobody can soothe my soul like Rolph.

He does something amazing and I wish others in the pulpit would emulate him.

He assumes his congregation is intelligent.

I know that sounds odd, but many pastors avoid going too deeply into certain issues because they believe their people will get lost in the depths.

Rolph assumes his folks can handle hard concepts and his messages therefore speak in a more profound manner to what the text is teaching.

He won’t appreciate me mentioning this, but it really was striking to me and a lesson worth emulating.

That’s all…as you were.

Oct 222009

Short and sweet:

Tim Keller is interviewed by Christianity Today about his new book Counterfeit Gods (HT: Justin Taylor) which is also reviewed by Tim Challies. And, there are 150 Keller sermons free for download (HT: Mike Pohlman).

The two newest Church Planting Network podcasts from Daniel Fusco, with Tim Brown and Brian Brodersen.

A new science-fiction show, Flash Forward, challenged ERunner’s faith.

Doug Wilson and Christopher Hitchens debate religion at The Huffington Post (HT: Desiring God).

Driscoll tells you pastors who to look out for when choosing leaders.

Skye Jethani: Atheists have fundamentalists, too.

Jonathan Leeman tells us to beware our seminary professors. Owen Strachan comments.

Jason Boyett on Rich Mullins.

Shaun Groves get witnessed to at his own concert.

Jim Hamilton interviews Tom Schreiner.

Brad Hightower at 21st Century Reformation riffs on an Ooze article by Todd Hunter regarding what is wrong with emergent.

Anvil shooting. Because we’re always serious around here 😉

Oct 202009

Dr. John Frame has taken Dr. Michael Horton to the woodshed in a big way.

His review of Horton’s “Christless Christianity” is a gentle rebuke of epic worth.

Many of you know that I have been increasingly concerned over the division and sectarianism in my own tribe.

Dr. Frame has expressed these issues for me (and I hope others) in a way we needed to hear.

Here’s a sample;

“He comes on to the reader as a generic Protestant Christian with a passion for the historic doctrines of the atonement and of justification by faith alone. He writes engagingly. Naturally, then, other Protestants tend to resonate to his arguments. But Horton is not just a generic Protestant or even a generic Reformed theologian. He holds certain positions that are not warranted by the Reformed Confessions and which in my mind are not even Scriptural. To review, he advocates the following:

1. Attention to ourselves necessarily detracts from attention to Christ.

2. We should not give attention to the way we communicate the gospel, or to making it relevant to its hearers.

3. God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are a zero-sum game. The idea that man must do something compromises the absolute sovereignty of God.

4. God’s work of salvation is completely objective, external to us, and not at all subjective, internal to us. (Here he backtracks some.)

5. God promises us no earthly blessings, only heavenly ones, and to desire earthly blessings is a “theology of glory,” deserving condemnation.

6. Law and gospel should be utterly separate. There should be no good news in the bad news and no bad news in the good news.

7. Preaching of the gospel must never use biblical characters as moral or spiritual examples. Nor must it address practical ethical issues in the Christian life.

8. A focus on redemption excludes a focus on anything else.

9. In worship and in the general ministry of the church, God gives and does not receive; the congregation receives and does not give.

10. Analysts of the church must compare the Church’s focus on Christ with its focus on other things, rather than considering that many of these other things are in fact applications of Christ’s own person and work.

Horton considers adherence to these principles essential, so that departing from them constitutes Christlessness, and failure to emphasize them sufficiently leads to a false gospel. But not one of these principles is found in any Reformed confession. (#6 is found in the Lutheran confessions, but it is controversial among other Protestants.) And in my view, none of them are Scriptural.

So Christless Christianity is essentially an evaluation of the American church, not from the standpoint of a generic Protestant theology, but from what I must regard as a narrow, factional, even sectarian perspective. Readers need to understand this. If we remove #1-10 as measuring sticks for the American church, the church does not look nearly as bad as Horton presents it.

There is great danger here of further division within the body of Christ, as if there were not already enough. Arguments over redemptive-historical preaching (#7) have already split congregations apart. When one group presents these principles as the only orthodox position, but others (understandably) are not convinced, and the principles themselves are often unclear, we have a recipe for disaster.

And the church would do well, in my judgment, not to add principles 1-10 to its creed. The results could include intentional irrelevance (1-2), especially on social matters (5, 7, 8), Christian passivity (3, 9), intellectualism and impersonalism in our relation to God (4, 9), artificiality in preaching, not drawing on the richness of Scripture (2, 6-8), elimination of lay ministry (9), and poor theological analyses and evaluations of the church (10).

So I must render a negative verdict on this book, though commending the author’s passion for the purity of the church and for the gospel. In doing this, I must disagree with many friends and respected colleagues, who have commended this volume lavishly. They should have known better.”

John MacArthur needs to read this too…I need to read it again.

Oct 202009

“¶ Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”
(1 Timothy 5:17 ESV)

October is “Clergy Appreciation Month”.

Monday is usually the day I’m on the phone with pastors all over the country and Monday night is when I want to break down and cry for the men I’ve spent the day with.

There’s a lot of brokeness among my brethren.

If you have a pastor who loves God, loves you, and is faithful to his calling, take some time to thank him this week.

It can make a big difference….

Oct 192009

Ҧ For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
(Galatians 5:13–15 ESV)

Before I begin to relieve the rage straining against my stitches, please watch the following video where the esteemed Dr. Carl Trueman assesses the more esteemed Dr. J.I. Packer as a “failure”.

Trueman was commenting on his “contribution” to a tribute book released recently.

Packer is being skewered by the Truly Reformed here and here as well.

It’s hard to decide if I want to punch somebody or just cry over the state of our hearts.

Packer is a failure according to Trueman because he didn’t write a monument to his intellect and never wielded the power that he could have.

All J.I. Packer has done is teach more people  more (sound) theology than anybody in the last hundred years.

He embraced the calling that God gave him, not the ones that smaller men wanted him to fulfill.

According to Trueman, Packer taught him more theology than anybody…and Trueman is the dean of Westminster Seminary.

He has done so with humility and grace and great love for the church.

We laugh at the number of books Packer has written forwards to…until we think of what that endorsement and that time meant to the persons who wrote those books.

Not long ago, J.I. Packer took the time to speak to me… an absolute nobody…and made me feel important, as if I had something to give to the Body of Christ.

He taught me, he inspired me, and his humility puts me to shame when I so often am anything but humble.

He has done likewise for thousands.

Now…he’s a target.

There was a time when spiritual giants walked among us, but their ranks have been thinned by small hearted men and women with large rocks and larger egos.

Thinking themselves Davids, they are really Shimeis.

From the intellectual ghetto of Lighthouse Trails to the hallowed halls of Reformed seminaries, sectarianism and heartless religion are choking the Spirit out of the church.

When we fail to celebrate the life and accomplishments of giants like Packer, don’t be surprised when God allows spiritual midgets to rule the day.

May God grant us mercy…and more men, great and small, who only seek to hear His calling for His glory.

Oct 182009

What did you teach?

What did you learn?

Did you hear the Gospel?

We continue in the Heidelberg Catechism:

Question 57. What comfort does the “resurrection of the body” afford thee?

Answer: That not only my soul after this life shall be immediately taken up to Christ its head; (a) but also, that this my body, being raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ. (b)

(a) Luke 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Philip.1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philip.1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (b) 1 Cor.15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Cor.15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. Job 19:25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: Job 19:26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. Philip.3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Question 58. What comfort takest thou from the article of “life everlasting”?

Answer: That since I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, (a) after this life, I shall inherit perfect salvation, which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man” to conceive, and that to praise God therein for ever. (b)

(a) 2 Cor.5:2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: 2 Cor.5:3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. (b) 1 Cor.2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Oct 182009

A Prayer For Hard Times

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Merciful Father, You know how difficult these days are for me.

In Your holy Word You have promised to hear those who cry unto You in the day of trouble.

Listen to my cries for mercy and send me help from the sanctuary of Your grace.

Preserve me from bitterness of spirit and rescue me from every temptation to despair.

Calm my frustration with the knowledge that my life is secure in Your redeeming love, for I am baptized into the death and resurrection of Your Son.

Draw me out of self-centered worry, which stifles faith, and cause me to take comfort in the great and precious promises that You have made to me and all believers in the Gospel.

Sustain and strengthen me under every cross and affliction, that Your grace might be made perfect in my weakness.

Give me confidence to pray without losing heart and to trust in Your mighty deliverance according to Your good and gracious will.

Father, into Your hands I commend myself. Hear me, for the sake of Your Son, who alone is my Brother and Savior.


Oct 162009

Just a quick word this morning…

A word that I hate.


For the second time in as many years, the Lord has showed me that in every way possible, we, I… am fragile.

Before I submitted my body to the surgeon for repair, I needed to have submitted my soul to the Great Physician.

Because I have always believed so strongly in my flesh I ignored the increasing pains and obvious problems in both body and soul…I could take it….I could handle it.

Maybe not…

Both have now gone under the knife.

I have been assured by both the surgeons, earthly and Great, that I will recover.

Both have also assured me that I should have taken care of these problems long ago.

Just a word to the wise and tough…you’re fragile too.

In other news…

The PP.com is in process of coming back and we should be back on the mothership soon.

J.I. Packer on the problem of biblical illiteracy:

“I hesitate to allocate the blame specifically on one group alone. But I would start by saying Christian parents simply haven’t stressed to their children the importance of the Bible being their favorite book. That’s where it starts.

Then, in the churches I’d blame pastors who are not stressing the fact that if you are to be a Christian, you should, as I like to say, have the Bible ‘running out of your ears’. Most people only read a certain number of verses for some devotional thoughts, not to know what the book is actually saying.

And then I’d blame modern culture which aggressively distracts the people from becoming really literate in anything, not just the Bible. It is partly due to modern life being filled with so many things, you know, but also the attitude that you can get by in this world with only a smattering of knowledge about anything. As Christians, we are to be different than the world around us. In particular, we are to attain a fuller knowledge of the Word of God, whereas the world around us hasn’t got a fuller knowledge of anything.”

The italicized words tell the whole story.

Back to convalescence….