Sunday, March 30, 2014

Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 13

~~His Deity
Lord’s Day 13
33. Why is He called God’s “only begotten Son,”
since we also are the children of God?

Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of
God,[1] but we are children of God by adoption,
through grace, for His sake.[2]
[1] Jn 1:1-3, 14, 18, 3:16; Rom 8:32; Heb 1; 1 Jn 4:9; [2]
Jn 1:12; Rom 8:14-17; Gal 4:6; Eph 1:5-6; 1 Jn 3:1

34. Why do you call Him “our Lord?”

Because not with silver or gold, but with His
precious blood,[1] He has redeemed and purchased
us, body and soul,[2] from sin and from all the power
of the devil, to be His own.[3]

[1] 1 Pt 1:18-19; [2] Acts 2:36; 1 Cor 6:20, 7:23; 1 Tim
2:5-6; Tit 2:14; 1 Pt 2:9; [3] Col 1:13-14; Heb 2:14-15

Friday, March 28, 2014

Commentary on Lord's Day 12


Question 31. Why is he called Christ, that is, anointed?

Answer. Because he is ordained of God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Ghost, to be our chief Prophet and teacher; who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption, and to be our only High Priest, who, by the one sacrifice of his body, has redeemed us, and makes continual intercession with the Father for us; and also to be our Eternal King, who governs us by his word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in the enjoyment of that salvation he has purchased for us.


Jesus is the proper name of the mediator; Christ is, as it were, an additional appellation; for he is Jesus in such a manner that he is also the Christ, the promised Saviour and Messiah. Both titles designate his office, yet not with the same clearness; for whilst the name Jesus denotes the office of the mediator in a general way, that of Christ expresses it more fully and distinctly; for the name Christ expresses the three parts of his office, viz: prophetical, sacerdotal, and regal. The name Christ signifies the anointed. Therefore, he is Jesus the Saviour, in such a manner that he is Christ, or the anointed, having the office of one that is anointed, which consists of three parts, as has just been remarked. The reason why these three things are comprehended in the name of Christ, is, because prophets, priests and kings were anciently anointed, by which was signified both an ordination to the office, and also a conferring of those gifts which were necessary for the proper discharge of the duties thereby imposed. Therefore, we thus conclude: He who is to be a prophet, priest, and king, and is called the anointed, he is so called on account of these three offices. Christ was to be a prophet, priest and king, and is called the anointed. Therefore, he is called the anointed, or Christ, on account of these three, so that these parts of the office of the mediator are expressed in the one title of the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed. In discussing this question of the Catechism, we must enquire:

          I.      What is meant by the anointing of Christ, seeing the Scriptures no where speak of his being anointed?
          II.      What is the prophetical office of Christ?
          III.      What is the priestly office of Christ?
          IV.      What is the regal office of Christ?


Anointing was a ceremony by which prophets, priests and kings were confirmed in their office by being

Thursday, March 27, 2014

World Vision's Reversal--Links

For your reading, here are a few thoughts on World Vision's reversal of its new hiring policy.

Justin Taylor has a good summary here.

Al Mohler has an update of his critique here.

Kevin DeYoung writes on the reversal and why the policy is still worthy of discussion here.

Mike Witmer writes about "unringing the bell" here.

Denny Burk writes about World Vision's return to a biblical view of marriage here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Did Adam Exist

Did Adam Exist?
by Vern S Poythress
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Christian Answers to Tough Questions series from Westminster Seminary Press and P&R Publishing is a blessing to the church.  These short booklets provide just what they promise, Christian answers to tough questions.  Vern Poythress offers guidance to the reader on navigating the debate over a historical Adam and if humans evolved from a common ancestral group of primates.

This volume deals with the historicity of Adam but instead of offering an argument strictly from Scripture, Poythress chooses to interact with the science of the debate and interpret the science in light of Scripture.  This approach is particularly appealing to those who enjoy the world of science and are convinced that the realm of the natural sciences lie as much within the scope of God’s sovereign reign as any other part of creation.

Poythress covers genetics and scientific investigation.  His point about data interpretation is applicable not just to the issue of Adam and origins, but to everything.  When looking at the commonly cited statistic of chimps and humans genome being 99% identical and why this statistic is often misleading and misunderstood Poythress writes that,
“(t)he data from the human-genome project and similar projects for chimpanzees and other animals has to be interpreted. It does not interpret itself.”

Not only that, but Poythress addresses well the interpretations that are made from genetic similarities.

“The most striking genetic similarities between humans and chimps lie in many of the protein-coding regions within the dnA. That is understandable from the standpoint of design because proteins are the backbone of chemical machinery inside a cell.”

Poythress continues, highlighting some flaws that show themselves in certain conclusions of naturalism and her proponents.

“(I)n the midst of rapidly expanding research, popular claims made in the name of science easily fall victim to one of three failings: they overreach or exaggerate the implications of evidence; they misread the significance of technical research; or they argue in a circle by assuming the principle of purely gradualistic evolution at the beginning of their analysis.”

This is a great booklet to engage the debate of origins and a great example of how to interact with scientific research and propositions from a Christian worldview.  Read and enjoy.

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Articles on World Vision

World Vision USA has altered their employee handbook to allow them to hire members of committed same-sex unions.  As I noted on Twitter, I find their rationale incoherent, but not terribly surprising.
Of the various threads I could take up, though, I want to focus on the decision which many conscientious Christians who deeply disagree with World Vision USA’s decision now face:  should they continue on supporting the child that they had been, or should they send their donations elsewhere?  world vision
It’s important to note that the question is not strictly financial.  As with many organizations, the funds an individual contributes in support of a child do not go to that child directly.  They are “pooled” and sent to support the community which the child lives in.  Similarly, the contributions are used to justify additional grant money from governments that are thrown into the various pools as well, all of which provides help for the community and from which the child benefits indirectly.  This is not uncommon:  it allows World Vision to maximize the impact of the money by focusing on the structural issues within a community that contribute to everyone’s flourishing.
Kevin DeYoung also has some great thoughts over at

The Worldliness in World Vision’s New Hiring Policy

World Vision, one of America’s largest Christian charities, is now open to hiring gays and lesbians. In yesterday’s surprise announcement, first reported by Christianity Today in an exclusive interview with World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns, the Christian humanitarian organization explained that it will no longer prohibit its more than 1,100 American employees from homosexual activity, provided same-sex intercourse happens in the context of a legal marriage (as is sanctioned by the state of Washington where World Vision is headquartered).
According to Stearns, the move amounts to nothing more than a “very narrow policy change” which was not motivated by any outside pressure, only a desire to foster Christian unity. For Stearns and World Vision, the issue of homosexuality is something good Christians disagree on, just like they disagree on whether to dunk or sprinkle in baptism. “I think you have to be neutral on hundreds of doctrinal issues that could divide an organization like World Vision,” Stearns explained.

Jared Wilson adds some good thoughts as well.

Division Begins with The Departure from the Truth

Do two walk together,
unless they have agreed to meet?

– Amos 3:3
Christians who affirm the normative, traditional, historical, orthodox view of the Bible’s teaching on various sins are always accused of being divisive when in sticking to their affirmations they must disassociate with those who don’t.
It’s a disingenuous claim, however, since unity could have been preserved so long as the agreement did. But when one changes a mind on such matters the division has begun with them (1 Corinthians 1:10), not the one who says, “Ah, you’ve changed the rules; you’ve changed the agreement.” It would be like the adulterer calling after his wife as she’s walking out the door in anger and shame that she’s being divisive.
The person who objects is often told they are “singling out” this particular sin as over-important, as more important than unity! But it is not those who protest who are singling out particular sins. It is those bringing the revision, the ones asking, “Did God really say…?”, the ones who suggest it should now be normal what we previously agreed was objectionable who are singling it out, elevating it above the agreement. They are the ones making it the sticking point.

Video from Impact Week in Brazil--Embrace Brasil

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 12

~~His Title
Lord’s Day 12

31. Why is He called “Christ,” that is, Anointed?

Because He is ordained of God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit[1] to be our chief Prophet and Teacher,[2] who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption;[3]  and our only High Priest,[4] who by the one sacrifice of His body, has redeemed us,[5] and ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father;[6] and our eternal King,[7] who governs us by His Word and Spirit, and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.[8]

[1] Ps 45:7 [Heb 1:9]; Isa 61:1 [Lk 3:21-22, 4:18]; [2]
Deut 18:15 [Acts 3:22]; [3] Jn 1:18, 15:15; [4] Ps 110:4
[Heb 7:17, 21]; [5] Heb 9:12, 10:11-14; [6] Rom 5:9-10,
8:34; Heb 9:24; 1 Jn 2:1; [7] Zech 9:9 [Mt 21:5]; Lk 1:33;
[8] Ps 2:6; Isa.61:1-2; Mt 28:18-20; Jn 10:28; 1 Pt 2:24;
Rev 12:10-11, 19:16

32. But why are you called a Christian?

Because by faith I am a member of Christ[1] and thus a partaker of His anointing,[2] in order that I also may confess His Name,[3] may present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him,[4] and with a free conscience may fight against sin and the devil in this life,[5] and hereafter in eternity reign with Him over all creatures.[6]

[1] Acts 11:26; 1 Cor 12:12-27; 1 Jn 2:20, 27; [2] Joel
2:28 [Acts 2:17]; 1 Jn 2:27; [3] Mk 8:38, 10:32; Rom
10:9-10; Heb 13:15; [4] Rom 12:1; 1 Pt 2:5, 9; Rev 1:6,
5:8, 10; [5] Gal 5:16-17; Eph 6:11; 1 Tim 1:18-19; [6] Mt
25:34; Eph 6:12; 2 Tim 2:12; Rev 3:21

Friday, March 21, 2014

Commentary on Lord's Day 11



Question 29. Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is, a Saviour?

Answer. Because he saveth us, and delivereth us from our sins; and likewise because we ought not to seek, neither can find salvation in any other.


The second part of the Creed, which now follows, treats of the mediator. The doctrine of the mediator consists of two parts: the one has respect to the person of the mediator; the other to his office. These two articles are concerning his person; and in Jesus Christ his only begotten son, our Lord, who was conceived by the the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. The four following articles which bring us down to the article of the Holy Ghost, treat of the office of the mediator. The office of the mediator consists of two parts: his humiliation or merit; and his glorification or efficacy. Now as it respects his humiliation, Christ is meritorious; as it respects his glorification, he is efficacious. The fourth article treats of his humiliation: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; he descended into hell. The fifth and sixth treat of his glorification: The third day he arose from the dead; ascended into heaven; sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. The seventh which refers to his coming to judge the world, respects the consummation of his glory, when God will be all in all.
It appears from what has now been said with what great wisdom the articles of the Creed were written, and how well they are arranged in reference to the question of the mediator. The humiliation which is the first part of his office, has these grades: he suffered, was crucified, dead, buried, and descended into hell. We descend gradually from one degree to another until we reach the lowest point of his humiliation, which is found in the article of his descent into hell. The other part of his office, which is his glorification, ascends gradually from the glory which is less to that which is greater until it reaches its highest point, in his exaltation at the right hand of God. The same order and wisdom appear in the first part of the Creed, and also in the third where we have enumerated in the most beautiful order and succession, the benefits which Christ purchased and applies unto us by the Holy Spirit, and which is, as it were, the fruit of the preceding articles. The office of Christ differs from his benefits as cause and effect, or as antecedent and consequent. The benefits are the things themselves which Christ has purchased for us, and which he bestows upon us, such as remission of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation. His office is the obtaining and bestowment of these things.
And in Jesus: that is, I believe in Jesus Christ. The words, I believe, are to be repeated, because as we believe in God, the Father, so we also believe in the Son of God, according to what is written: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me.” “I and my Father are one.” “This is the word of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” “That all men should honor the Son as they honor the Father.” (John 14:1; 14:11; 10:30; 6:29; 3:36; 5:23.) This is a sure and well-grounded argument in support of the true Divinity of the Son; for faith under this form is worship due to God alone.
Touching the name Jesus, which we are here to consider, we must not merely enquire into the etymology of it, what it imports, but we must consider more especially the office of the mediator, which is signified therein. The word Jesus (in Greek ιησούς, and in Hebrew Jehoseuah or Jesehuah) signifies a saviour, or the author of salvation, which God himself ascribes to the mediator in the new Testament. The true etymology or import of the word was given by the angel when he said, “his name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21.) The Son of God is, therefore, called Jesus, the Saviour in respect to his office, because he is our mediator, and saves and delivers us from the evil both of guilt and punishment; and that truly, because he is an only and perfect Saviour. The salvation which he offers is righteousness and eternal life. This is inferred from the name itself, because he has not the name without the thing, but on account of the office.
Obj. But many others have also had the name of Jesus, as Joshua, the leader of the children of Israel, &c. Therefore nothing can be inferred and argued from the name itself. Ans. Others have had this name because they were typical saviours, foreshadowing the true saviour. And if it is objected that the parents of Joshua, when they gave this name to their infant son, could not have expected that future deliverance would have been brought to Israel through him, we reply that God knew it, and directed their wills in so naming the child. The difference, however, between other saviours and this Jesus is great. 1. Others had this name given them fortuitously by the will of men, but this Jesus was so called by the angel. 2. Others were typical; this Jesus is the appointed and true saviour. 3. God merely conferred temporal blessings upon his people through other deliverers; this Jesus frees us not only from bodily and temporal evils, but also from the evils both of guilt and punishment. 4. Other deliverers were only instruments and ministers through whom God bestowed these temporal blessings; this Jesus is the author not only of all the good things which respect the body and this life, but also of those which respect the soul and the life to come.
The Son of God is, therefore, called Jesus by way of pre-eminence to indicate thereby that he is the true saviour. This is evident,
1. Because he saves us from the double evil of guilt and punishment. That he saves us from the evil of guilt is testified by the angel who said, “he shall save his people from their sins.” That he frees us from the evil of punishment may be inferred from the fact, that if sin be taker away, punishment, which is the effect of sin, must also be taken away: for if the cause be removed the effect must also be removed. The people whom Jesus saves are all those that believe, and those only. He is the saviour only of such as believe, because it is only in them that his end is obtained. He established a church in the world to gather and save men; but upon this condition, that they apprehend the benefits which he offers, and are thankful to him for them.
2. Because he is an only saviour. For as our mediator is only one, so Jesus must also be our only Saviour, according to what is declared in many places of Scripture: “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” “God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” “I, even I am the Lord, and beside me there is no saviour.” (Acts 4:12. John 3:18. 1 John 5:11. 1 Tim. 2:5. Is. 43:11.)
Obj. The Father and the Holy Spirit also save us. Therefore the Son is not an only Saviour. Ans. It is true that all the persons of the Godhead are engaged in the work of our salvation, but there is a distinction as to the manner in which they save us. The Father saves us through the Son as the fountain of salvation. The Holy Spirit saves us as being the immediate agent or accomplisher of our regeneration. The Son saves us by his merit, as being the only Saviour, paying a ransom for us, giving the Holy Spirit, regenerating and raising us up unto eternal life. The efficacy of our salvation is therefore common to the three persons of the Godhead; but the manner is peculiar to the Son. Again, the Son is called the only Saviour in opposition to all creatures. He, therefore, excludes all creatures, but not the Father, or the Holy Spirit, as it is said, “No man knoweth the things of God, but the Spirit of God;” (1 Cor. 2:11.) from which we are not to infer that the Father and the Son do not know themselves, for the Spirit is here compared with creatures, and not with the Father and the Son.
3. He is a saviour in two respects, by his merit and efficacy. He saves us by his merit or satisfaction, because by his obedience, suffering, death and intercession, he has merited for us remission of sins, reconciliation with God, the Holy Spirit, salvation and eternal life. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world,” that is, for the sins of all sorts of men, of whatever age, rank, or place they may be. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.” “Through the obedience of one, many were made righteous.” “The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” (1 John 2:2; 1:7. Rom. 3:25; 5:19. Is. 53:5.) He also saves us by his efficacy, because he has not only, by his merits, obtained for us remission of sins, righteousness and that life which we had lost, but he also grants and applies unto us the whole benefit of redemption by virtue of his Spirit through faith. For what he has merited by his death he does not retain to himself alone; but confers upon us. He did not purchase salvation and eternal life (which he had) for himself, but for us, as our mediator. Therefore he reveals unto us the will of the Father, institutes and preserves the ministry, through this he gives the Holy Spirit and converts men, collects a church, bestows all good things necessary for this life, defends his church against all her enemies, finally raises up in the last day to eternal life, all those that believe in him, and delivers them from all evils, whilst he casts all his and their enemies into everlasting punishment. To accomplish all these things is the work of the true God, who alone is almighty. In short, his efficacy regenerates us by his word and Spirit in this life, and preserves those that are renewed, lest they fall again, and at length raises them unto eternal life. These passages of scripture speak of this revelation and regeneration. “No man knoweth who the Son is but the Father, and who the Father is but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” “There is another that shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” “I will send the Holy Spirit unto you from the Father.” “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men—some pastors, and teachers, &c. He ascended above all heavens that he might fill all things.” “The Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the Devil.” (Matt. 11:27. John 1:18. Matt. 3:11. John 15:26. Eph. 4:8, 10, 11. 1 John 3:8.) Concerning the preservation of them that believe, the following passages may be cited: “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me,” &c. “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” “I will not leave you comfortless.” “I and the Father will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:1; 18:23. Matt. 18:20.) Of his raising us up unto eternal life, these passages of Scripture speak: “I will raise him up at the last day.” “No one shall pluck my sheep out of my hand.” “And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” When he shall have subjected all things unto himself, he shall present before God a glorious church, which he has gathered from the beginning to the end of the world. (John 6:54; 10:28, 29. 1 Cor. 15:28. Eph. 5:27.) From what has now been said we may perceive that the gift of the Holy Spirit is also a part of our salvation, and that this ought to be accomplished through the mediator; for the Holy Spirit renovates the heart by abolishing sin, which being abolished, death must also, necessarily, be abolished. It was for this destruction, or abolishing of sin and death, that Christ came into the world.
4. He saves us fully, and perfectly, by commencing salvation in us in this life, and at length consummating it in the life to come. This he does, because his merit is most perfect, and that for two reasons, as has already been explained: First, because he is God. “God purchased the church with his own blood; (Acts 20:28.) from which it appears that his satisfaction surpasses the punishment and satisfaction of all the angels; and secondly because of the greatness of the punishment which he endured for us. He also saves us in the manner just specified, because the salvation which he confers upon us is most full, and complete: “Ye are complete in him;” (Col. 2:10;) that is, ye have all things which pertain unto everlasting blessedness, and are made the complete and happy sons of God through and on account of Jesus Christ: “For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fullness dwell.” “The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God cleanseth us from all sin.” “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” “But this man, because he continueth for ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.” “Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.” (Col. 1:19. 1 John 1:7. Rom. 8:1. Heb. 7:24.)
The sum of all that has been said concerning the name of Jesus, may be briefly reduced to these questions: 1. Who is he that saves us? The Son of God is our Jesus, or Saviour. 2. Whom does he save? His people, that is, all and only the elect given to him by the Father 3. From what evils does he save us? From all sins, and from the punishment of sin. 4. In what manner does he save us? In two ways; by his merit and efficacy, and in each way most perfectly.
Now, therefore, what is the meaning of this article, I believe in Jesus? It means, 1. I believe that there is a certain Saviour of the human race. 2. I believe that this person, Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, is this Saviour, of whom the Father declared from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Matt. 3:17.) God therefore will have him to be worshipped and honored: “He that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father which hath sent him.” (John 5:23.) 3. I believe that this Jesus, by his merit and efficacy, delivers us from all evils, both of guilt and punishment, by commencing this salvation in us in this life, and consummating it in the life to come. 4. I believe that he is not only the Saviour of others, whom he has called into his service, but that he is also my only and perfect Saviour, working effectually in me here, and carrying on until the day of full redemption what he has commenced.

Question 30. Do such then believe in Jesus the only Saviour, who seek their salvation and happiness of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else?

Answer. They do not; for though they boast of him in words, yet in deeds they deny Jesus, the only deliverer and Saviour: for one of these two things must be true that either Jesus is not a complete Saviour, or that they, who by a true faith receive this Saviour, must find all things in him necessary to their salvation.


This question is proposed on account of those who glory in the name of Jesus, and yet, at the same time, seek their salvation, either wholly or in part in some other place without him, in the merits of the saints, in the indulgences of the Pope, in their own offerings, works, fastings, prayers, alms, &c., as do the Papists, the Jesuits, and other hypocrites of a similar cast. We must therefore enquire, whether these persons believe in Jesus as the only Saviour, or not. It is answered, that they do not believe in him, but that in very deed they deny him, however much they may boast of him in words. The substance of this answer is included in this syllogism, drawn from the description of an only and perfect Saviour: Whosoever is a perfect, and only Saviour, he does not confer salvation with others, nor in part only. Jesus is a complete and only Saviour, as we have shown in the exposition of the former question. Therefore he does not confer salvation in connection with others, nor in part only; but he alone confers it entire, and in the most perfect manner. Hence we justly conclude that all those who seek their salvation wholly or in part somewhere else, in reality deny him to be an only and perfect Saviour. Or, we may put it in this form: Those who seek salvation elsewhere than in Christ, whether in the saints, or in themselves, &c., do not believe in Jesus as an only Saviour. The Papists and Jesuits, who look upon their works as meritorious, do this. Therefore they do not believe in Jesus as their only Saviour. The minor proposition is acknowledged by them; and as to the major, it is clearly evident from the description which we have given of a perfect Saviour.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Commentary on Lord's Day 10


Question 27. What dost thou mean by the providence of God?

Answer. The Almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea all things come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.


Intimately connected with the doctrine of the creation of the world, is the subject of the providence of God, which is nothing else than a continuation of the creation; because the government of the world is the preservation of the things created by God. We are not to imagine, therefore, that the creation of the world is like the building of a ship, which the architect as soon as it is completed, commits to the government of some pilot; but we must hold this as a most certain truth, that as nothing could ever have existed except by the creating power of God; so it is impossible that any thing should exist, even for a moment, without his government and preservation. It is for this reason that the scriptures often join the preservation and continual administration of all things with their creation. Hence we cannot have a full and correct knowledge of the creation unless we, at the same time, embrace the doctrine of divine providence, concerning which we must inquire particularly.

          I.      Is there any providence of God?
          II.      What is it?
          III.      What does it profit us?

The first and second of these propositions are considered under this question; the third will be considered when we come to treat the twenty-eighth question of the Catechism

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Taking God at His Word

Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and MeTaking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kevin DeYoung is one of my favorite authors and his works prove themselves time and again to be immensely approachable but not light.  He covers topics with a striking balance of depth and clarity and I am time and again blessed by his work, be it published books, blog articles, or sermons and lectures.  This time DeYoung sets out to tackle the topic of God’s Word.  This is a subject of great breadth that you would think could not be covered very well in just 130 pages, but that is just one of many pleasant surprises DeYoung delivers to his reader in Taking God at His Word.

From the beginning it is apparent that DeYoung’s ultimate aim is not the head of his reader.  He will address doctrine, often and explicitly, but these aspects are means to an end.  His aim is something far greater than simple mental assent.  He begins his work with Psalm 119 because, more than just sound doctrine about the Word of God, he wants the reader to have stirred affections for the Word of God. “Too often, Christians reflect on only what they should believe about the word of God. But Psalm 119 will not let us stop there. This love poem forces us to consider how we feel about the word of God.”

DeYoung gives the Spirit-inspired psalmist as an example of how we are to desire the Word of the Lord.

Over and over, the psalmist professes his great love for the commands and testimonies of God (vv. 48, 97, 119, 127, 140). The flip side of this love is the anger he experiences when God’s word is not delighted in. Hot indignation seizes him because of the wicked, who forsake God’s law (v. 53). Zeal consumes him when his foes forget God’s words (v. 139). The faithless and disobedient he looks upon with disgust (v. 158). The language may sound harsh to us, but that’s an indication of how little we treasure the word of God. How do you feel when someone fails to see the beauty you see in your spouse? Or when people don’t see what makes your special-needs child so special? We are all righteously indignant when someone else holds in little esteem what we know to be precious. Extreme delight in someone or something naturally leads to extreme disgust when others consider that person or thing not worthy of their delight. No one who truly delights in God’s word will be indifferent to the disregarding of it.

DeYoung clearly articulates the traditional Protestant understanding of Scripture as the inerrant Word of God.  He also does well in clarifying what is meant by this and its differences from the caricature often attributed to this position by its detractors as a mechanical dictation with no respect for the humanity and personality of the scribes who did the recording.

Inerrancy means the word of God always stands over us and we never stand over the word of God. When we reject inerrancy we put ourselves in judgment over God’s word... Defending the doctrine of inerrancy may seem like a fool’s errand to some and a divisive shibboleth to others, but, in truth, the doctrine is at the heart of our faith. To deny, disregard, edit, alter, reject, or rule out anything in God’s word is to commit the sin of unbelief.

Furthermore he adds,

The phrase “concursive operation” is often used to describe the process of inspiration, meaning that God used the intellect, skills, and personality of fallible men to write down what was divine and infallible. The Bible is, in one sense, both a human and a divine book. But this in no way implies any fallibility in the Scriptures. The dual authorship of Scripture does not necessitate imperfection any more than the two natures of Christ mean our Savior must have sinned.

DeYoung outlines the majority of his book based on the acronym SCAN and devotes a chapter each to the attributes of Scripture of sufficiency, clarity, authority and necessity. “Or to rearrange the order of the attributes, we could say: God’s word is final; God’s word is understandable; God’s word is necessary; and God’s word is enough.”

DeYoung points out that sufficiency is the aspect of the doctrine of Scripture with which those who believe in the Bible are most likely to struggle.

If authority is the liberal problem, clarity the postmodern problem, and necessity the problem for atheists and agnostics, then sufficiency is the attribute most quickly doubted by rank-and-file churchgoing Christians. We can say all the right things about the Bible, and even read it regularly, but when life gets difficult, or just a bit boring, we look for new words, new revelation, and new experiences to bring us closer to God.

DeYoung’s quote from Calvin summarizes his argument for the clarity of Scripture. “God does not propound to us obscure enigmas to keep our minds in suspense, and to torment us with difficulties, but teaches familiarly whatever is necessary, according to the capacity, and consequently the ignorance of the people.”

DeYoung makes strong arguments for the necessity of a proper belief in the clarity of Scripture and argues that there is much at stake, including human freedom, human language, and knowing what God is like and who God is for.  I am still torn as to whether DeYoung overstates his point a bit in this section or if I just do not have a firm grasp on the gravity and scope of this particular position.

DeYoung’s chapter on authority is wide-ranging, addressing tradition and Tradition, natural and special revelation, and the difference between Sola Scriptura and solo scriptura.  His position is not hard to guess based on his being a minister of a reformed church but what the chapter lacks in surprise it makes up for in solid, clear, Biblical arguments for the authority of Scripture over Tradition, the Roman Catholic position, and experience, the Protestant Liberal position.

Not only are the Scriptures clear and authoritative and sufficient, they are absolutely necessary.  “The Scriptures are our spectacles (to use Calvin’s phrase), the lenses through which we see God, the world, and ourselves rightly. We cannot truly know God, his will, or the way of salvation apart from the Bible.”  Why?  Because, apart from God’s condescending revelation of Himself to us, we can never ascend into the heavens to know Him.  We cannot, as Michael Horton likes to say, overcome the estrangement that exists between us, created and fallen beings, and the Creator who is sinless and holy.  He must make Himself known and He does this, ultimately and perfectly in His Son, and as a record of this and a revelation in its own right, through the Scriptures.

So where do we go to learn the things God has revealed? Do we look to the trees? What about the inner light? How about community standards? Maybe human reason and experience? The clear testimony of 1 Corinthians is that only God can tell us about God. Just as the spirit of a person discloses the thoughts and feelings and intentions of that person, so also no one can make known the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11). The only Being knowledgeable enough, wise enough, and skillful enough to reveal God to you is God himself.

Taking God at His Word culminates with an argument for a high view of Scripture supported by pointing to Christ and His own personal view of Scripture as revealed in Scripture.  He argues that we, as Christians, should hold the same position on the Bible as Christ showed Himself to have(makes sense, right?).  While I might disagree with some of the particulars, for example his take on Christ’s reference to Jonah precluding any reading of Jonah apart from literal history, I feel DeYoung made a great case, from the Scriptures, that Christ held to an extremely high view of the written word of God and, accordingly, so should we.

DeYoung closes his work, as he regularly does, with an admonition.  This one is simple.  Stick with the Scriptures.  He gives many reasons why but this admonition, for the believer, is clear.  Come to the fountain and thirst no more.  Come to the feast and hunger no more.  Come and be filled.  Stick with the Scriptures.  That is where we find Jesus.  For what more could we ask?

Taking God at His Word is a great defense of a traditional Protestant position on the Scriptures but, more importantly, is a great encouragement to trust in and seek the Lord diligently in the Scriptures.  Refreshing, challenging, and encouraging, this book will bless whoever takes the time to read it.

I received an ARC through Crossway’s Beyond the Page program to offer a review.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

The Final Days of Jesus

The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever LivedThe Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived by Andreas J. Köstenberger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crossway recently released a new work from Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor entitled The Final Days of Jesus.  Through this work the authors seek to provide an organized and devotional look at the final week of the life of Christ.  Kostenberger and Taylor offer the reader a guided tour of Passion Week that is accessible, organized, and stirring.

The structure of this work is basically a harmony of the Gospels focused on the week of His passion with extensive commentary on the biblical text.  The Final Days of Jesus does a great job examining, but not exceeding, the text.  Oftentimes there is a temptation when commenting on Scripture to be definitive in places that one cannot honestly be definitive.  Authors will often also read into motives and mentality in places where the Scriptures do not comment in order to make a point.  I was pleased to not encounter these eisegetical events in The Final Days of Jesus.

This book is simple.  It is clear.  It is basic, both in a common sense and a classical sense.  All this book seeks to do is to allow the reader to see and understand what the Scriptures record and it does just that.  In doing so, it allows the reader to be gripped by the world changing story of the death and resurrection of the Son of God.
This work is beneficial in a number of ways.  The Final Days of Jesus is a great work to introduce someone to the events of Jesus’ week leading up to Jesus’ work on the cross.  It also serves as a great work to read in preparation of the celebration of our Lord’s death and resurrection.

Kostenberger and Taylor’s guided tour of the Passion narrative is well worth being read and enjoyed.

I received a review copy of the book from Crossway in order to offer an honest review.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 11

~~Of God the Son and our Redemption His Name
Lord’s Day 11
29. Why is the Son of God called “Jesus,” that is,Savior?

Because He saves us from all our sins,[1] and because salvation is not to be sought or found in any other.[2]

[1] Mt 1:21; Heb 7:25; [2] Isa 43:11; Lk 2:10-11; Jn 15:4-5; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Tim 2:5

30. Do those also believe in the only Savior Jesus,who seek their salvation and welfare from “saints”, themselves, or anywhere else?

No; although they make their boast of Him, yet in their deeds they deny the only Savior Jesus;[1] for either Jesus is not a complete Savior, or they who by true faith receive this Savior, must have in Him all that is  necessary to their salvation.[2]

[1] 1 Cor 1:12-13, 30-31; Gal 5:4; [2] Isa 9:7; Mt. 23:28;
Jn 1:16; Col 1:19-20, 2:10; 1 Jn 1:7

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Held and Kept--By CH Spurgeon

Held and Kept
Nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.—(2 Timothy 1:12.)
An interpretation has been put upon this passage which I think is not its meaning, but still, it may be. Paul had been speaking to Timothy of the trust which had been committed to him, namely, the preaching of the Gospel, and the word here used might be rendered, “I know that He is able to keep my deposit.” The Gospel was a deposit put into the hands of Paul. He was very careful of it, and anxious about it. Just then he was persecuted, and was likely to die. All the fury of the Roman Emperor was put forth to crush Christianity; but Paul said, “I know that Christ is able to keep my deposit; He is able to keep that Gospel which He has committed to my charge. I shall not labour in vain. Though I be cut off, others will be raised up to continue the good work. Christ’s cause is safe enough in His own hands, for He is able to preserve it, and He will.”
Now, we certainly have the same consolation at all times. We meet with persons who say that Popery is coming back, and that there are coming all sorts of evil days. Well, I believe that Christ is able to keep His own Gospel alive in the world; that He is stronger than Satan, and that the victory is not doubtful. The day shall surely come when, in spite of the efforts of adversaries of truth, King Jesus shall reign throughout the earth. Let us banish our dark suspicions and be of good courage.
Still, I do think that that is a far-fetched meaning, and that it would not strike a reader. It seems to me that the Bible was intended for common people’s reading, and that its meaning lies generally upon the surface, except where the truth taught is exceedingly deep and mysterious. Would it not occur to anybody reading this that Paul meant that he himself, his body and soul, had been committed by himself in faith to the hands of Christ, and that he felt quite safe there; that, whatever occurred, Jesus was able to keep him until that day. Well, we will take that as the meaning, and we shall notice in our text, first, what the apostle had done: he had committed his soul to the keeping of Christ; and then, secondly, what he knew—he knew whom he had believed; and then, thirdly, what he was sure of—that Christ was able to keep him, and, fourthly, what, therefore, he was—he was not ashamed.
First, what Paul had done. He had committed himself to the keeping of Christ. He felt that his soul was very precious. Do you all feel that? Do we, any of us, feel the preciousness of our immortal natures as we should? Are we not too often asking, “What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?” as if spirits whose existence is coeval with that of God, that shall live throughout eternity, were to make these the main enquiries, eating and drinking and clothing. I am afraid we do not, any of us, value our souls as we should. Still, if by grace we have been taught as Paul was, we do value them: we want to see them in safe keeping. But Paul knew that his soul was in danger. He perceived the evil within him and the temptations outside of him. Do we feel that as we should? Are we aware of our many dangers? Some men act as if they were not in an enemy’s country at all, but as if the temptations of the world which would destroy them were really their friends, as if sin were no injury, and to bring upon one’s self the anger of God were no peril whatever. Paul, however, saw that his spirit was in danger, and, valuing it much, he desired to see it safely housed. He felt also that he could not keep it. Alas! how many think they can. Where the apostle trembled, there are some that will presume. They feel as if they could well enough preserve themselves without divine help; but ah! it is not so. Left alone, the priceless treasure of our soul will assuredly be lost: it will become the prey of Satan. How shall a man be able to preserve his own soul? Paul, knowing all this, had, therefore, gone and committed his soul as a sacred deposit into the sure keeping of the Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour.
This is the great act of faith. This is what some of us did—what all of us did when we were first brought to Christ. We had done henceforth with trusting in ourselves, and we trusted in Him. And this is what we are doing every day, if we are believers. I love every morning to put myself again into the dear hands of the Crucified with all that concerns me and all that belongs to me, for when I feel that everything is there, this church there, and all the work of God there, then I feel it is safe. But ’tis ill to live an hour as your own keeper, or to have anything that you are to keep yourself. It is sweet and blessed and happy living when you have left everything in the hand of Christ Jesus, and are, therefore, free to serve Him, and joyfully to go about doing His will. I suppose, if Paul had to explain what he meant, he would tell us that he left himself in Christ’s hands, as a sick man leaves himself in the hands of the physician. “There,” saith he, “my disease is grievous, and I do not understand it, but, good Master, Thou hast much skill in anatomy and also in medicine: do as Thou wilt with me.” This is what a Christian has done—he has left himself as a sick soul in the hands of the Good Physician.
Then, mark you, he takes the Good Physician’s medicine. Some divorce faith from works in such a way that it is not faith at all. For if I trust a physician I take his medicine, I follow his prescriptions. My soul is left with Christ as a physician, and I desire, therefore, to do what He bids me. Our soul will be healed assuredly if we are really thus trusting to the Great Physician’s care.
Paul meant that he trusted himself again as one trusts all his needs in the hands of another—as the sheep trusts itself with the shepherd. It is not the sheep’s business to provide for itself; the shepherd does that. So do we. If we are as we should be, we are trusting ourselves as to all our soul’s needs in the hands of Jesus. He is our shepherd, and we shall not want. But you know the sheep follow the shepherd whithersoever he goeth. They keep at his heels. And so must we (if our faith be true and real) keep close to the dear Redeemer and follow where He leads the way. If we have not truly committed ourselves to His keeping; if we pick and choose our own pathway and run hither and thither, we are self-willed, but if we have indeed the desire to follow closely where He guides us we have committed ourselves to Him as to a shepherd.
Then Paul had committed himself to Jesus as a captain commits his vessel to a pilot. “This is a new river to me,” says he. “I have never traversed it. There are shoals and narrow channels. Pilot, thou knowest the way up to the city. Take the helm and steer my vessel safely.” So amidst the shoals and quicksands of this mortal life we know not our way, but we leave ourselves in our great Pilot’s hands—the Pilot of the Lake of Galilee, the Lord High Admiral of the Seas, with whom there were many other ships in the day of storm. He guides us and leads the way. Then in trusting Him we do His bidding—reef sail and do whatsoever He commands us; and we are not truly trusting if we are not also obedient in the trust.
And, brethren, we have committed ourselves to Jesus in the same way as a person who has a case in law committs himself to his advocate. If he be a wise man and hath a good advocate he never interferes. You have heard, I know, the story of Erskine. When he was pleading for a man upon a capital charge, the man wrote upon a piece of paper—“I’ll be hanged if I don’t plead for myself,” and Erskine simply wrote upon the paper, “You’ll be hanged if you do.” This is much the case with us. Jesus Christ pleads for us and, if we think we can plead for ourselves, we shall lose our souls, but if we leave Him to speak for us, He knows how to baffle all the devices of Satan. The Lord that hath redeemed us will rebuke our adversary, and we shall come clearly out of every suit before the bar of God, if we leave our souls in the hands of Christ Jesus.
We have also left ourselves there as a defenceless nation may leave itself in the guardian care of a great captain and his soldiery. We cannot resist our spiritual foes. If we go out against them, we shall be as stubble to the flame. Our shield is God’s anointed, and the breaker is gone up before us. He clears the way and smites our foes hip and thigh with a great slaughter, and though they come against us like a flood, His blood-stained hand uplifts the cross and backward they fall before Him. For who can stand against the Christ of God? Committing our souls, then, to His keeping as the defenceless to the care of the guardian, the great act of faith is done. But then the defenceless abide in their city. They are obedient to those who protect them. And such must our faith be if it be at all the faith of the Apostle Paul.
I should like to ask of all my audience to-night—as I have already asked of my own heart—each one, “Have you trusted your soul in the hands of Jesus? Have you committed it to Him to keep as a sacred deposit?” If you have not, I pray that you may do it this night, ere your eyes be closed in sleep. But if you have done so, do it again and continue still to do it. You will, if you have done so before, have learnt already how sweet a thing it is. Do it again, and trust your Lord with all that has to do with you. Cast your burden upon Him—your little burdens as well as your great ones. Commit all your wants and all your cares, for time as well as for eternity; commit your body and your soul, your children and your goods and all that you have into the same hands; for where your treasure is there your heart will be. If you will trust all with Christ, you will love Christ better than all, and all you love you will love because He keeps all for you. You will, if you be rich, find Christ in all, and if you be poor you will find all in Christ, and the difference is not much. Only commit all to that dear, faithful hand. This is what the Apostle did.
Now, the second thing is what the Apostle knew. “I know,” said he, “whom I have believed.” How often we hear Scripture misquoted! For instance, we hear persons say, “I know in whom I have believed.” That is not Scripture. What do you want to put in that little word “in” for? It is “I know whom I have believed”; and there is a difference there. It is not to know that we trust in Christ, but to know Christ Himself. That is the great thing. Paul did not trust in an unknown Saviour. He knew the Christ he trusted in; He was a personal acquaintance of his. Do we know Christ? For you may say you trust Christ, but that is not the faith that will save. It is really trusting; it is trusting in Him as one you know to be real—a real Christ, a real Saviour. How did Paul know Christ? He knew Him, first, because Christ had met with him on the way to Damascus. Christ has never met with us precisely in that way and spoken to us out of Heaven, but there was a time when He met us.
Dost mind the place, the spot of ground
Where Jesus did thee meet?
Yes, peradventure, you know it well to-night. You remember when first He unveiled His lovely face, and you saw lines of love in that dear countenance.
Paul knew the Saviour, next, because no doubt he had gathered all he could about Him; he had intimate acquaintance with Luke; he had the means of knowing—did know—Mark, and no doubt he spoke with Matthew; and with John he was familiar. Though Paul had not been with our Lord in the days of His flesh, yet he treasured up all the incidents which he might have heard from others; and with such as might have written in his day he was no doubt familiar. Well, even in this way, we know whom we have believed. I hope you are close students of God’s Word, beloved, if you have trusted Christ. Try and know all you can about Him Whom you trust. You must trust Christ because He is revealed in Scripture; but, the more you know Him, the more easy it will be for you to trust Him. The employment of a Christian should be to make his acquaintance with Christ more full. Knowing something of Him, he should every day add something to what he knows, till he can with greater emphasis say, “I know whom I have believed.”
For Paul knew the Lord, next, by personal communion with Him. Many and many a time had the Lord spoken with Paul. In his secret chamber, in prayer, Paul had risen up to the heights of communion with Jesus. In sacred praise and rapt devotion I have no doubt that of times the Apostle felt that whether in the body he could not tell or whether out of the body, for Jesus Christ had revealed Himself so fully to him.
Dear Christian brethren, I am afraid we do not give time enough for communion with Christ in these days. Our Puritan forefathers had their hours of devotion every day. We are so busy now—so very busy! Is it not a busy sort of idleness that neglects the Saviour? We are getting rich, perhaps; but is that a true richness which does not make us rich towards God? We seem to know everybody now-a-days but Christ. And there are some Christians that I wot of who know doctrines but do not seem to know Christ. They can a hair divide between the west and north-west side in theology, but yet in their spirit they seem as if they had no love, and, therefore, do not, cannot know Him. And some there are that know biographies, and know about the various sects of the Church, and know the history of the Church, and know I know not what besides. But the main thing is to know Him. It were a life-long study to gaze upon His blessed person, and to know Him as God the Man, to know Him from head to foot, from glory to shame, to know Him in Bethlehem, and to know Him on Calvary, to know Him in glory and to know Him in His second advent. This is the sciences of sciences, the highest of all attainments. Would God we stuck to this. The Christian should make Christ his classics, Christ his crowning study. Christ should be the very soul of poetry, the very essence of philosophy—to know Him. How can this be except we have more fellowship with Him?
The Apostle knew Christ, moreover, by experience. He had tried Him and had tested Him, and there is nothing like this. “I know whom I believe. I remember,” the Apostle might have said, “when I was in the deeps and the ship was near being wrecked. I know how the Lord stood by me in the chill midnight. I know Him: He forsook me not. I know how He cheered my heart on the way to Rome when He sent the brethren to meet me at Appii Forum. I know He stood by me when I faced the lion-like emperor, and how I was able to speak the right word, and so my life was then preserved.” Such a one as Paul the aged shivering in his loathsome dungeon, yet with his heart warm with love to his Master, writing his epistle and bowing his knee every now and then unto the God and Father of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, feeling that his dungeon glowed till it was infinitely brighter than the golden house of Nero with the glory of the Crucified—he knew his Master; he knew He was a firm friend, knew He kept His word, knew that that sweet word, “Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world,” was fulfilled, and therefore he said, “I know Whom I have believed.”
Now I speak to a great many that have believed in Christ. I hope the most of you have; but do you know Him? Do you know Him? It is not necessary when you trust your money to a banker that you should know the banker. If he is a man of good repute, it does not matter about personal knowledge, though I daresay, if you knew him personally, you would feel all the more confidence. But in the matter of Christ Jesus an unknown Saviour is to a great extent a doubting Saviour. Your faith will lack force, it will be sure to become weak, unless ignorance be chased away and you know your Lord. “I know Whom I have believed.” Do seek to know Him; and may this table to-night help you to know Him better. When we eat of the bread and drink of the cup, may those instructive emblems bring Jesus near to us, and may we know Him even better than we have known Him at the best before.
And now, thirdly—here is the point—what the Apostle was sure of. He was sure that Christ was able to keep that which he had committed to Him. And I suppose Apostle was sure of. He was sure that Christ was able to keep that which he had committed to Him. And I suppose every one of us would say that we are sure of it, too. But we act sometimes as if we were not so sure. We are full of doubts and fears and mistrust, which ought not to be.
Now mark, first, Paul knew the ability of Jesus to keep souls that were committed to Him. He knew that He was God: who can defeat the Deity? He knows that as Man and Mediator all power was given to Him in Heaven and earth, and, if all power be with Christ, what power can there be that can stand against that? Nay, what power is there, if He hath all power in Heaven and earth? He knew that if our danger arose from our past sins Christ could meet that, for He had offered an all-sufficient atonement. He knew that if the danger arose from the demands of the law Christ could meet that, for He is “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.”
He knew, moreover, that Christ was so infinitely wise that He could foresee and remove all dangers. If it was Paul’s lot to be sifted in a sieve, he knew that Christ would pray for him that his faith fail not. The prescient eye of our great High Priest foresees the evil, and provides for it ere it comes. He is able to save us in a thousand dangers, and He is able to keep far from us all foes. The keys of death and hell swing at His girdle, and the government is upon His shoulder. We need not fear, therefore, all our enemies, whether they be men or fallen angels, or death itself. Christ, having all power, is able to keep us against all such dangers.
This Paul knew; but the point about it was not only that he knew Christ could keep souls, but “that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” You remember Bunyan’s expression where he says, “These are but generals: come to particulars, man.” And, oh, it is grand to come to particulars in the Gospel. It is a general fact that Christ can keep souls, but it is a particular fact and a precious fact for me to know that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him. I can believe for everybody sometimes; but faith to believe for myself—that springs out of personal knowledge of Christ, for he that can say, “I know Whom I have believed,” can say, “I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” Your soul, whatever its peculiarities, your case whatever its dangers, is safe enough in the hands of Jesus. Do you believe this?
If so, note again, the Apostle believed that Jesus was able to keep him then—“that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him”—able now—now that I am in this dungeon, now that I shall soon have to be executed: He is able to keep me. Do you know it is so easy to say that He was able to keep us years ago, and so easy to hope that He will be able to keep us by-and-bye, but to rest on Him now, to believe that this billow will not swamp the ship, that this fire will not consume me, to look at this present trial and to feel that now by God’s grace one could “break through a troop, or leap over a wall”—this is the grand thing.
I used to know a countryman who told me this. He was an aged man, and he said, “Sir, all through the winter I wish I could have a job at reaping. I feel that if I had an opportun[1]

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Able to the Uttermost: Twenty Gospel Sermons (pp. 157–165). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against WorryOverwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry by Perry Noble
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My child will be going to a church camp this summer.  That terrifies me.  As a former youth worker who has spent much time in youth and children’s ministry I know the damage that can be done by many well-intentioned camps.  Much rides on the main speaker and how he is going to approach certain aspects including the mandatory (cultural, not Scriptural) altar call.  I began researching the speaker for this camp, including looking for the people that he quotes, reads, follows on blogs/twitter/etc.. This is often a good way to get a gauge on someone that you may not know much about.  Birds of a feather, right?  This speaker had two names that were vaguely familiar to me, Steven Furtick and Perry Noble.

I couldn’t remember much about Perry Noble but I did remember that his name had bad connotations in my thinking.  It so happened that NetGalley had an ARC of his forthcoming book and I figured this would be a good opportunity to check out some of his work.

Noble’s newest book is titled Overwhelmed.  It is on the topic of busyness and stress and fear and disappointment and, well, being overwhelmed with life and all that it brings.  This is an important topic because it is hard to live in this world and not experience this feeling, this burden.

Noble offers some great advice on how our perspective affects our experience.  “If we constantly focus on our circumstances, we will be overwhelmed.”  Noble encourages the reader to shift their focus away from their circumstances and towards God, the One who deserves our undivided attention.  He also encourages the reader to see what God is using their circumstances for and how their pains and trials exist to grow and train them. “I was looking to Jesus to change my circumstances; He was trying to change me.”

One of the highlights of the book is that Noble doesn’t minimize the experience of each individual, even if from a global perspective the things that often overwhelm us seem pretty trivial.  This is important because God deals with us in the same way.  He doesn’t look at our hurt and our fear and say, “Huh, don’t you know that this person or this group or this period in history had it much worse”.  No, He meets us where we are like a loving Father and gives us perspective, but in a healing and restorative way.  God does not deal with us with an “others have it worse, get over it” approach and we shouldn’t deal with others in that way either.  Noble does not tell the reader to look at the plight of others and count their blessings of their own circumstances.  Nope, he says to take the focus off of circumstances and place them firmly on God

“Crazy as it may seem, the best way to conquer feeling overwhelmed is to take our eyes off whats consuming us and get a bigger picture of what’s really important.  One of the main ways we accomplish this is by changing our perspective so we can get a true sense of God’s character.”

Noble returns over and again to the unbelievers need to believe the Gospel.  While repentance does not get much space, Noble is explicit and persistent about the need for a person to come to Christ in faith.
Over and again Noble harps on the fact that the Christian life is not “easy” and, rather, is one of suffering.  While there are times where what he says could fit well in Smiley J. Houston’s next best-seller, Noble is adamant that the reader know that a life of following Christ is likely to be hard, uncomfortable, and suffering-filled.  In this vein, Noble hits over and over again on the indwelling sin in believers and in the church corporate and how we should be a refuge for those who are, with us, pilgrims on the way and works in progress.  One of the main ministries of the church is to show grace to each other and that is important to Noble and it is critical to the health of any Christian body.

Noble deals well with the topic of depression.  He deals with depression and how it is mishandled in the Church.  This seems to be an area that God led him through and allowed him to suffer through in order to minister to others.  His counsel on depression is honest, wise and biblical.  He encourages the reader to fix their eyes upon Christ, knowing that even in the midst of their despair that “as long as Jesus is alive, there is always hope.”

Noble’s answers on how to deal with issues are often strikingly biblical and Christ-centered.  Depression and hopelessness?  Remember that “as long as Jesus is alive, there is always hope.”  Feelings of anxiety and fear?  Focus on the character of God, how He is good and holy! “Holiness and goodness are not what He does but rather who He is.  And  He can’t cease to be who He is.”  Beyond that, God is near and “God’s presence is greater than our problems.”

When Noble is on-topic and dealing with practical cures for being overwhelmed this book flourishes and offers much hope and great benefit.  However, there is much in the book, and Noble’s teaching as a whole, that is concerning and cause for hesitation.

How Noble interacts with the Old Testament narratives as a whole is misguided.  They are used as a sort of sermon illustration for how to be not overwhelmed.  This is shown in one statement like, “The biggest lesson we can learn from Daniel’s life is that correct thinking leads to correct actions.”  Noble’s interpretation of the focus of Daniel and Job is a type of pragmatic moralism that fits in well with the prevailing motif of Western church culture, what Smith refers to as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Also, Noble’s interaction with indwelling sin and a person’s identity would seem to preclude an understanding of the believer as simul lustus et peccator, that is simultaneously just and sinner.  In fairness, nowhere in the book does he explicitly reject this, but his language seems to indicate an inherent opposition to this understanding of the believers experience.  This rejection logically leads to the Gospel being viewed as a ticket in, useful to become saved but rather unnecessary once one is a believer.  The Gospel becomes superfluous in the ongoing life of the believer.

I was also troubled with Noble’s recounting of a story of an elderly lady who was offended by him early in his ministry.  Noble had spoken of a woman’s water breaking from the pulpit and this older saint was offended that he had done so.  Noble attributes this to the fact that people are often fake in churches and don’t want to deal with anything that is messy.  He never seems to consider the fact that it might have more to do with understanding what is appropriate in a corporate worship setting or a mixed setting or a multi-generational setting and what is not.  This is, of course, the man who later would utilize AC/DC’s Highway to Hell in an Easter worship service and see no problem with it even when confronted by other pastors.  If only he would have listened to this elderly saint rather than judge and mock, he might not have slid so far down into the pits of cultural engagement means sacrilege.

Beyond that, Noble shows his anti-intellectual, experience driven bias.  “Somehow church has become a place where we don’t want to hear about real issues or relevant struggles or sins we’ve been dealing with all week long. We’d rather hear obscure history lessons, Greek and Hebrew word training, and lots of quotes from dead white guys.”

This false dichotomy of theology vs application, engaging the head vs engaging the heart, creeds vs deeds, depth vs relevance is pervasive in our Christian sub-culture and leads to the sheep not being equipped to live a life of faith.  It leads to disciple-less churches, a problem even Bill Hybells has recognized and sought to rectify.  Noble would do well to take a cue from this pioneer of seeker-sensitive and add some meat to the milk so that his flock might grow in their faith and be able to stand on their own.  Keeping people ignorant has always been a way to control and pastors do not seek to exercise this type of abusive control over their flocks.

After spending pages using his church’s numerical growth, Noble then offers this very troubling statement:

“As our attendance increased and awareness about our church spread, it became obvious that some people who called themselves Christians didn’t like what we were doing or how we were doing it. As a result, a flurry of criticism and personal attacks came my way.”

This is disconcerting for a number of reasons.  First off, there is the implicit understanding that numerical growth equals proof of Gospel fidelity.  Take a trip to Houston and check out Reliant Stadium on a Sunday morning and this will prove to be an unnecessary conclusion.  For Noble, obviously if people are coming it has to be of God.  This Gospel of William James that bows itself to the idols of pragmatism and numbers is false and dangerous.  To see how numbers are not equal to fidelity just look at the earthly ministry of Jesus and how many times the masses abandoned Him.

Secondly, it is a bad place to be where you can honestly argue in your heart that someone who criticizes you and disagrees with you is an unbeliever.  Those who “called themselves Christians” dared to question the great Perry Noble.  This is cult-logic and I hope that this is not how he truly thinks or operates.(In fairness, I have no reason to believe he does. His language in these situations does concern me however.)

Chapter 26 is a great example of the good and bad of this books.  The points he makes about God’s love are priceless and encouraging and Scriptural, but his use of Daniel’s narrative like a fabel to get there is unhelpful and causes Daniel to be the focus, not Christ.  This way of using Scripture to make a point always puts a bad taste in my mouth.

Noble’s interaction with the Apostle John is  ridiculous.  It is built on conjecture and the desire to make points rather than actually engaging the text properly.  Noble imagines some things and presents them as unassailable fact. John gave himself a nickname, Peter and Andrew were fishermen because they were rejected, John was “religious”, that is self-righteous.  (Noble follows the contemporary antithesis between religion and faith/relationship) Noble knows this because he is able to see the intentions behind John’s actions even though the Scriptures do not reveal them.  This may make for entertaining reading and great stories, but it is not necessarily based on Scripture.  At all.  It is always dangerous to reach beyond what God’s word says in order to make a point and Noble makes a habit of this.  Sometimes the point is great, but that doesn’t excuse his handling of the Scriptures, which is poor at many points.

This book offers some very practical helps on dealing with an overwhelmed life and is wildly encouraging at parts (especially how he addresses depression), but there are too many negatives to be able to recommend it.  If you are looking for a good book on how to deal with an overwhelmed life I would suggest Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung.
I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley for review purposes.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Exploring Grace Together

Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the FamilyExploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family by Jessica  Thompson

Two things to know up front: 1) I am always looking for good resources to utilize in family devotions/discipleship of my children and 2) Jessica Thompson co-authored one of my all-time favorite books, Give Them Grace.  Give Them Grace was used by the Lord to re-frame how I interact with my children and refocus my efforts and attention on preparing my children to receive the Gospel rather than be nice, neat, rule-keeping citizens.  When I had the chance to get a review copy of a new work by Jessica Thompson designed for family worship I could not wait to enjoy some grace saturated devotionals with children and my wife.

This work is perfect for family worship. The devotionals are short and use a narrative format that really engages young minds.  Thompson includes some questions that are probing and thought provoking.  The kids love it and so do we.  It is focused on grace which is great because, to be honest, I do not need much assistance with drilling the Law into my children.  I am a pro at that.

This work is not comprehensive.  It is a terrific supplement to a Bible reading program but it will not replace your children’s Bible study.  Here is an example of one of the devotions to get a better idea of the contents.

The Secret
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.--Romans 8:38–39

Paige has a secret. The secret is about something she has done. She has done something very wrong, and her secret is making her feel awful. She feels that she can’t tell people, because they won’t love her anymore. She is really scared of getting into loads and loads of trouble, too. So Paige keeps her secret hidden away in her heart. And although she never speaks of it, it is always there, like a giant mountain that she just can’t seem to get away from. Everywhere she turns, it seems as though the giant mountain is right in front of her, threatening to hurt her. Paige thinks that nothing she can do will make the mountain go away. Paige is right—there is nothing she can do, but there is something God has already done.

Paige needs to hear Romans 8:38–39. Paige especially needs to hear the very end of this passage, “. . . nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What Paige doesn’t believe is that even though her secret is big, God’s love for her is even bigger. God’s love makes the biggest secret mountain seem like a tiny anthill when compared to his love.
He promises that nothing will change his love for you if you are one of his children. There is nothing and no one stronger or bigger than God’s love for his family. His love never stops; it never gives up on you. The things you do can’t make him love any less. All you have to do is believe he is as loving as he says he is, even though you know you don’t deserve his love. He loves you because he sees you in Jesus Christ. That means that when he looks at you, he sees only his perfect Son, Jesus. You see, not only is God our treasure, but we are his treasure too. His love for his treasure is perfect, and it never changes—ever. Kind of hard to believe, right? Our God is just that good and that kind.

1) Do you have a big secret mountain that seems so big that nobody can love you?
2) Do you believe that there is something one of God’s kids could do that would make God love him less?
3) Do you understand what the Bible means when it says, “. . . in Christ Jesus our Lord”? If not, ask the adult reading with you to explain it.
(Pages 23-25)

I hope you can see from the devotional above how beneficial this work is for children.  But I also hope you can see how wildly encouraging and edifying it is for the adults who are leading and participating with it.  While this work is geared towards children, the truths she communicates are those life-changing, soul-saving, dead man-raising eternal truths of Scripture that cannot help but build up those who have ears to hear.  Time and again I was being ministered to greatly as I worked through this book.

Thompson covers many topics.  Discouragement, fear, dealing with those you cannot get along with, praying and a lack of desire to, and many others.  The recurring theme is grace.  Grace heals.  Grace encourages.  Grace cures.  Grace motivates.  This book is all of grace and is all about reflecting all glory back to the One to whom it is deserved.
This is a truly encouraging and edifying book for families to enjoy together.  It is always good to see just how amazing God’s grace is and how much His grace transforms who we are.  Get a copy of Exploring Grace Together and then do just that with your family, explore God’s amazing grace together.  While you’re checking out, grab a copy of Give Them Grace and see what it does to your parenting and to how you interact with others.

I received a review copy of this book through Crossway’s book review program.

Content taken from Exploring Grace Together by Jessica Thompson, ©2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187,

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