Archive for August, 2009

a cool and unexpected article from the L.A. Times. Notice how Professor Creasy recognizes scripture as one, uninterrupted whole rather than separate books. He recognizes how important it is that we grasp the narrative of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. Very good, passionate stuff

By WILLIAM LOBDELL
June 17, 2000

Before UCLA professor Bill Creasy started working on his doctorate in medieval literature, a friend warned him, “Don’t waste your career being the world’s leading expert on a third-rate Victorian poet. Choose a major author or a major work.”

“So I chose God and the Bible,” Creasy says. “God’s a world-class poet.”

By day, Creasy, 52, is a popular English professor at UCLA. By night–and early mornings and weekends–he’s a tireless Bible scholar and teacher with a vision: to teach the Good Book cover to cover, verse by verse to as many people as he can.

“The curtain goes up in Genesis and goes down in Revelation. It’s a very linear story,” Creasy says. “You can’t possibly understand Revelation without reading the 65 books before it.”

Ten years ago, he launched his first Bible study in the basement of St. Paul the Apostle church in Westwood. Today he logs more than 2,500 miles a month driving across Southern California (plus flying to Arizona on Fridays) and teaching nine weekly Bible classes to more than 3,000 people.

In Orange County, he lectures Monday nights at a packed Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Tustin. In September at Mission Parish Church in San Juan Capistrano, Creasy will be starting a class that also will be broadcast over the Internet (http://www.logosmin.org).

Creasy uses rich storytelling, encyclopedic knowledge and a good dose of humor to teach the Bible as literature. His goal is to get his students “inside the narrative,” just as they would with any book, instead of “standing outside the text.”

“The people in the Bible are as real to me as you are,” Creasy says. “And I think I make them come alive in class.”

The problem that most people have studying the Bible, Creasy contends, is that they read it in bits and pieces.

“It’s like listening to a Beethoven symphony a few bars at a time in random order,” Creasy says. “It’s pretty, but . . . ”

read the whole thing here

preached by Iain Boyd on Aug 30, 2009

Another fine Puritan theologian. Below Clarkson discusses the issue of “soul idolatry” (his term) by which he means the internal acts of the soul “when the mind is most taken up with an object and the heartand the affectiosn set upon it.” His diagnosis is insightful and convicting and teaches us a wealth about the substance of true worship of God.

There is a twofold worship due only to God–

1. External, which consists in acts and gestures of the body. When a man bows to or prostrates himself before a thing, this is the worship of the body. And when these gestures of bowing, prostration are used, not out of a civil, but a religious respect, with an intention to testify divine honor, then it is worship due only to God.

2. Internal, which consists in the acts of the soul and actions answerable thereto. When the mind is most taken up with an object and the heart and affections most set upon it, this is ‘soul worship’—and this is due only to God. For He being the chief good and the chief end of intelligent creatures, it is His due, proper to Him alone, to be most minded and most loved. It is the honor due only to the Lord to have the first, the highest place, both in our minds and hearts and endeavors.

Now according to this distinction of worship, there are two sorts of idolatry–

1. Open, outward idolatry, when men, out of a religious respect, bow to, or prostrate themselves before anything besides the true God. This is the idolatry of the heathen, and in part, the idolatry of papists.

2. Secret and soul idolatry, when the mind is set on anything more than God; when anything is more valued than God, more desired than God, more sought than God, more loved than God. Then is that soul worship, which is due only to God.

Hence, “secret idolaters” shall have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. Soul idolatry will exclude men out of heaven as well as open idolatry. He who serves his lusts is as incapable of entering heaven, as he who worships idols of wood or stone!

Before we come to confirm and apply this truth, it will be requisite to make a more clear discovery of this secret idolatry. In order thereunto, observe, there are thirteen acts of soul worship–

1. ESTEEM. That which we most highly value, we make our God. For esteem is an act of soul worship. Worship is the mind’s esteem of a thing as most excellent. Now the Lord demands the highest esteem, as an act of honor and worship due only to Himself. Therefore, to have an high esteem of other things, when we have low thoughts of God, is idolatry. To have an high opinion—of ourselves—of our abilities and accomplishments—of our relations and enjoyments—of our riches and honors—or those that are rich and honorable—or anything of like nature, when we have low opinions of God, is to advance these things into the place of God—to make them idols and give them that honor and worship which is due only to the divine Majesty. What we most esteem—we make our god. If you hold other things in higher esteem than the true God, you are idolaters (Job 21:14).

2. MINDFULNESS. That which we are most mindful of—we make our God. For to be most remembered, to be most minded, is an act of worship which is proper to God, and which He requires as due to Himself alone (Ecc. 12:1). Other things may be minded; but if they be more minded than God, it is idolatry—the worship of God is given to the creature. When you mind yourselves, mind your estates and worldly interests, mind your profits or pleasures more than God—you set these up as idols in the place of God.

When that time, which should be taken up with thoughts of God, is spent in thoughts of other things—when God is not in all your thoughts—or if He sometimes is there, yet if other things take a higher place in your thoughts—if when you are called to think of God—as sometimes every day we should do with all seriousness—if ordinarily and willingly you make these thoughts of God give place to other things, it is idolatry.

If either you do not think of God or think otherwise of Him than He is—think Him all mercy, disregarding His justice—think Him all pity and compassion, disregarding His purity and holiness—think of His faithfulness in performing promises, not at all regarding His truth in execution of threatenings—think Him all love, not regarding His sovereignty—this is to set up an idol instead of God. Thinking otherwise of God than He has revealed Himself—or minding other things as much or more than God—is idolatry.

3. INTENTION. That which we most aim at, we make our God. For to be most intended is an act of worship due only to the true God. For He being the chief good—He must be the chief end. Now the chief end must be our chief aim—it must be intended and aimed at for itself; and all other things must be aimed at for its sake in a subserviency to it.

Now, when we make other things our chief aim or main design, we set them up in the stead of God and make them idols. When our chief design is to be rich, or great, or safe, or famous, or powerful—when our great aim is our own ease, or pleasure, or credit, or profit and advantage—when we aim at, or intend anything more, or anything as much, as the glorifying and enjoying of God—this is soul idolatry. (more…)

For all you guys who jumped on the “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy” bandwagon but never read him, here’s your chance.  You’ll find him enormously difficult in diction and thought, nevertheless terribly rewarding.  I remember when I finally fought my way through “The End for Which God Created the World,” which was nothing short of mind blowing.  These few paragraphs below are intellectually and spiritually enriching, where Edwards takes such opposing thoughts as “highness” and “condescension” or “justice” and “grace” and shows how they meet in perfect union in Christ Jesus.

There is a conjunction of such excellencies in Christ as, in our manner of conceiving, are very diverse one from another. Such are the various divine perfections and excellencies that Christ is possessed of. Christ is a divine person, and therefore has all the attributes of God. The difference between these is chiefly relative, and in our manner of conceiving them. And those which, in this sense, are most diverse, meet in the person of Christ. I shall mention two instances.

There do meet in Jesus Christ infinite highness and infinite condescension.
Christ, as he is God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth; for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is higher than the heavens, and higher than the highest angels of heaven. So great is he, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before him; all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and the light dust of the balance; yea, and angels themselves are as nothing before him. He is so high, that he is infinitely above any need of us; above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to him; and above our conceptions, that we cannot comprehend him. Prov. 30:4 “What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Our understandings, if we stretch them never so far, cannot reach up to his divine glory. Job 11:8 “It is high as heaven, what canst thou do?” Christ is the Creator and great Possessor of heaven and earth. He is sovereign Lord of all. He rules over the whole universe, and doth whatsoever pleaseth him. His knowledge is without bound. His wisdom is perfect, and what none can circumvent. His power is infinite, and none can resist Him. His riches are immense and inexhaustible. His majesty is infinitely awful.

And yet he is one of infinite condescension. None are so low or inferior, but Christ’s condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of them. He condescends not only to the angels, humbling himself to behold the things that are done in heaven, but he also condescends to such poor creatures as men; and that not only so as to take notice of princes and great men, but of those that are of meanest rank and degree, “the poor of the world,” James 2:5. Such as are commonly despised by their fellow creatures, Christ does not despise. I Cor. 1:28 “Base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen.” Christ condescends to take notice of beggars Luke 16:22 and people of the most despised nations. In Christ Jesus is neither “Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free” (Col. 3:11). He that is thus high condescends to take a gracious notice of little children Matt. 19:14. “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Yea, which is more, his condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures, those that have no good deservings, and those that have infinite ill deservings.

Yea, so great is his condescension, that it is not only sufficient to take some gracious notice of such as these, but sufficient for every thing that is an act of condescension. His condescension is great enough to become their friend, to become their companion, to unite their souls to him in spiritual marriage. It is enough to take their nature upon him, to become one of them, that he may be one with them. Yea, it is great enough to abase himself yet lower for them, even to expose himself to shame and spitting; yea, to yield up himself to an ignominious death for them. And what act of condescension can be conceived of greater? Yet such an act as this, has his condescension yielded to, for those that are so low and mean, despicable and unworthy!

Such a conjunction of infinite highness and low condescension, in the same person, is admirable. We see, by manifold instances, what a tendency a high station has in men, to make them to be of a quite contrary disposition. If one worm be a little exalted above another, by having more dust, or a bigger dunghill, how much does he make of himself! What a distance does he keep from those that are below him! And a little condescension is what he expects should be made much of, and greatly acknowledged. Christ condescends to wash our feet; but how would great men, (or rather the bigger worms,) account themselves debased by acts of far less condescension!

There meet in Jesus Christ, infinite justice and infinite grace.
As Christ is a divine person, he is infinitely holy and just, hating sin, and disposed to execute condign punishment for sin. He is the Judge of the world, and the infinitely just Judge of it, and will not at all acquit the wicked, or by any means clear the guilty.

And yet he is infinitely gracious and merciful. Though his justice be so strict with respect to all sin, and every breach of the law, yet he has grace sufficient for every sinner, and even the chief of sinners. And it is not only sufficient for the most unworthy to show them mercy, and bestow some good upon them, but to bestow the greatest good; yea, it is sufficient to bestow all good upon them, and to do all things for them. There is no benefit or blessing that they can receive, so great but the grace of Christ is sufficient to bestow it on the greatest sinner that ever lived. And not only so, but so great is his grace, that nothing is too much as the means of this good. It is sufficient not only to do great things, but also to suffer in order to do it, and not only to suffer, but to suffer most extremely even unto death, the most terrible of natural evils; and not only death, but the most ignominious and tormenting, and every way the most terrible that men could inflict; yea, and greater sufferings than men could inflict, who could only torment the body. He had sufferings in his soul, that were the more immediate fruits of the wrath of God against the sins of those he undertakes for.

read it all here

As I draw near to the end of Watson’s “The Great Gain of Godliness” I am finding more and more worth posting, and I’m only posting maybe 1/4 of what I find! Just so we’re all clear, by “jewels” Watson means “Christians” which we learn are not by made by creation but by regeneration. Enjoy.

Firstly, God makes up his jewels at the day of DEATH. Then he makes the saints’ graces, perfect. For this reason the departed saints are called “just men made perfect” (Heb. 12:23). Sin so mixes with, and dwells within a Christian—that he cannot write a copy of holiness without blotting it. Grace, though it abates sin—yet it does not abolish corruption. But at death God makes up his jewels—he perfects the graces of his people. Will not that be a blessed time, never to have a vain thought again, never to be within the sight of a temptation, or the fear of a relapse?

This, I think, may make death desirable to the godly; then the Lord will complete the graces of His children! They shall be as holy as they desire to be, and as holy as God would have them to be! How will God’s jewels sparkle–when they shall be without flaws! In that day of death when God makes up his jewels, the saints light will be clear, and their love will be perfect!

Their light will be clear. They shall be so divinely irradiated, that they shall know the “deep things of God”. They shall in this sense be “as the angels” (Matt. 22:30). Their faculty of thought shall be raised higher and made more capacious! Through the crystal glass of Christ’s human nature, the saints shall have glorious transparent sights of God! They shall know as they are known (1 Cor. 13:12); a riddle too mysterious for us mortals, if not for angels, to expound!

In that day the saints love will be perfect. Love is the queen of the graces—it outlives all the other graces. In this life, our love to God is lukewarm and sometimes frozen. A believer weeps that he can love God no more. But at the day of death, when God makes up his jewels—then the saints’ love shall be seraphic! The spark of love shall be blown up into a pure flame! The saints shall love God—as much as they desire! They shall love him superlatively and without defect—they shall be made up wholly of love. Oh, blessed day of death! When God shall make up his jewels, the saints graces shall shine forth in their meridian splendor!

Secondly, God makes up his jewels at the day of the RESURRECTION. Then he makes the saints bodies perfect. These, like sparkling diamonds, shall shine in glory! At the resurrection God is said to change the bodies of the saint, “He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own!” (Phil. 3:21). How will he change them? Not that they shall be other bodies than they were before. The substance of their bodies shall not be changed—but the qualities. As wool, when it is dyed into a purple color, is not altered in the substance—but in the quality, and is made more illustrious. Just so, God in making up his jewels, will cause a greater resplendency in the saints bodies than before.

When God makes up the jewels of the saints bodies at the resurrection, they shall be perfect in four ways:

1. In amiability or sweetness of beauty. Here the bodies of the righteous are often deformed. Leah has her weak eves, and Barzillai has his lameness; but at the resurrection the bodies of the saints shall be of unspotted loveliness. And no wonder, for they shall be made like Christ’s glorious body (Phil. 3:21).

2. When God at the resurrection makes up the jewels of the saints bodies, they shall have perfection of parts. Their bodies in this world may be maimed and disfigured; but in the day of the resurrection they shall have all the parts of their bodies restored (Acts 3:21). Such as have lost an eye, shall have their eye again; such as lack a leg or an arm, shall have their arm again.

3. When God makes up the jewels of the saints bodies at the resurrection, they shall be swift and lively in their motion. Here on earth, the bodies of the saints move heavily—but then they shall be sprightly, and move rapidly from one place to another. Here the body is a weight; in heaven it shall be a wing!

4. When God makes up the jewels of the saints bodies, they shall be immortal. The body once glorified, shall never be subject to death! “For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die!” (1 Cor. 15:53). Heaven is a healthy climate; no death-bell goes there. This mortal body shall put on immortality.

Let us labor to he in the number of God’s jewels, that when the Lord shall make up his jewels, he may perfect our souls and bodies in glory

Question: How shall we know that we are in the number of God’s jewels?

Answer: Have we holiness? “But we are washed—but we are sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11). We are not God’s jewels by creation—but regeneration. If holiness sparkles in us—it is a sign we are God’s jewels; and then when God comes to make up his jewels, he will put glory upon our souls and bodies forever!

read the rest here

a hymn

Afflictions, though they seem severe;
In mercy oft are sent;
They stopped the prodigal’s career,
And forced him to repent.

Although he no relentings felt
Till he had spent his store;
His stubborn heart began to melt
When famine pinched him sore.

“What have I gained by sin, he said,
But hunger, shame, and fear;
My father’s house abounds with bread,
While I am starving here.

I’ll go, and tell him all I’ve done,
And fall before his face
Unworthy to be called his son,
I’ll seek a servant’s place.”

His father saw him coming back,
He saw, and ran, and smiled;
And threw his arms around the neck
Of his rebellious child.

“Father, I’ve sinned—but O forgive!”
I’ve heard enough, he said,
Rejoice my house, my son’s alive,
For whom I mourned as dead.

Now let the fatted calf be slain,
And spread the news around;
My son was dead, but lives again,
Was lost, but now is found.

’Tis thus the Lord His love reveals,
To call poor sinners home;
More than a father’s love He feels,
And welcomes all that come.

Not much, apparently. I remember the first time I read Augustine’s “The Spirit and the Letter” in the spring of 2004. It started a trajectory in my life and in my thinking that was nothing short of life changing as it was a reintroduction to the Gospel. The excerpt below is from the introductory bits of Augustine’s “Spirit and the Letter”. I’ve lifted it off of the NewAdvent website so that I wouldn’t have to type it out of my church father’s edition. The NewAdvent translation is at times a bit dissapointing, but you’ll still get the gist either way. Below Augustine is combating the Pelagian heresy by exploring what is called “the use of the law.” By the law, Augustine means the commands of God, that is “do this,” or “don’t do that.” In our fallen human nature, Augustine believes that unless we are assisted by divine grace no good can come from us. So what’s the point of saying “don’t do this,” or “do that?” This is the “letter that kills,” that is, the law only brings guilt and shame for those who can’t accomplish it. Augustine contrasts this (as St. Paul does!) with “the Spirit which gives life.” For Augustine, the Spirit is God’s power freely given to transform dead, sinful hearts into new living hearts. The Spirit is received when the Gospel (“Christ died for sinners”) is proclaimed and believed in. You can read his whole work here. Don’t worry, it’s short 🙂

For that teaching which brings to us the command to live in chastity and righteousness is the letter that kills, unless accompanied with the spirit that gives life. For that is not the sole meaning of the passage, The letter kills, but the spirit gives life, 2 Corinthians 3:6 which merely prescribes that we should not take in the literal sense any figurative phrase which in the proper meaning of its words would produce only nonsense, but should consider what else it signifies, nourishing the inner man by our spiritual intelligence, since being carnally-minded is death, while to be spiritually-minded is life and peace. Romans 8:6 If, for instance, a man were to take in a literal and carnal sense much that is written in the Song of Solomon, he would minister not to the fruit of a luminous charity, but to the feeling of a libidinous desire. Therefore, the apostle is not to be confined to the limited application just mentioned, when he says, The letter kills, but the spirit gives life; 2 Corinthians 3:6 but this is also (and indeed especially) equivalent to what he says elsewhere in the plainest words: I had not known lust, except the law had said, You shall not covet; Romans 7:7 and again, immediately after: Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Romans 7:11 Now from this you may see what is meant by the letter that kills. There is, of course, nothing said figuratively which is not to be accepted in its plain sense, when it is said, You shall not covet; but this is a very plain and salutary precept, and any man who shall fulfil it will have no sin at all. The apostle, indeed, purposely selected this general precept, in which he embraced everything, as if this were the voice of the law, prohibiting us from all sin, when he says, You shall not covet; for there is no sin committed except by evil concupiscence; so that the law which prohibits this is a good and praiseworthy law. But, when the Holy Ghost withholds His help, which inspires us with a good desire instead of this evil desire (in other words, diffuses love in our hearts), that law, however good in itself, only augments the evil desire by forbidding it. Just as the rush of water which flows incessantly in a particular direction, becomes more violent when it meets with any impediment, and when it has overcome the stoppage, falls in a greater bulk, and with increased impetuosity hurries forward in its downward course. In some strange way the very object which we covet becomes all the more pleasant when it is forbidden. And this is the sin which by the commandment deceives and by it slays, whenever transgression is actually added, which occurs not where there is no law. Romans 4:15

-Augustine, “On the Spirit and the Letter” ch. VI

Watson’s extended treatment of Mal 3.16-18 in his short book “The Great Gain of Godliness” reaches a truly wonderful crescendo in this section. Watson talks of the “book of remembrance” where the names and the deeds of the saints are recorded. But what are the deeds of the saints? Nothing less than God’s free grace! His free grace is actuallytheir good works, which Watson describes as “trophies of God’s mercies.” I picked this book up a short time ago and I’m so thankful I have. You can buy it online if you absolutely must have paper in your hands (like me!) or you can read the whole book online by clicking here.

“Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord hearkened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. “They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my jewels. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Malachi 3:16-18

A. The first of the good effects of the saints piety—is that God REGARDED it. “The Lord hearkened and heard.” These blessed ones in the text were speaking and thinking of God—and he did not turn away his ear from them, as if he had not minded them. But he hearkened and heard; which expression denotes both diligence and delight.

1. It notes the diligent heed God gave to these saints—he “hearkened”. Here was attention of ear, and intentness of mind. Hearkening is the gesture of one who intently listens to what another says.

2. God’s hearkening shows the delight he took in the holy dialogues of these saints. He was pleased with them; they were to him as a sweet melody.

God takes special notice of the good which he sees in his people. The children of God may perhaps think that God does not regard them: “I cry unto you—and you do not hear me” (Job 30:20). The church complains that God shuts out her prayer (Lam. 3:8)—but though God is some times silent—he is not deaf! He takes notice of all the good services of his people: “The Lord hearkened and heard.”

Why is it that God takes such notice of his people’s services?

First, not from any merit in them—but the impulsive cause is his free grace! The best duties of the righteous, could not endure God’s scales of justice—but God will display the trophies of his mercy. Free grace accepts—what stern justice would condemn!

Secondly, God’s taking notice of the good in his people, is through Christ! “He has made us accepted—in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6). Or, as Chrysostom renders it, he has made us “favorites”. Through a red glass everything appears of a red color. Just so, through Christ’s blood, both our persons and duties appear ruddy and beautiful in God’s eyes!

Thirdly, God takes notice of the services of his people—because they flow from the principle of grace. God regards the voice of faith: “O my dove … let me hear your voice; for sweet is your voice” (Song of Sol. 2:14). The services of the wicked are harsh and sour—but the godly give God the first-ripe cluster (Mic. 7:1), which grows from the sweet and pleasant root of grace.

Susan…if it was so easy why did 350 people view it before you finally got it?  Smarty pants.  I’ll bring your book to you on Sunday.  Well done!  Sorry Greg, you missed it by nineteen seconds.  Bummer!  Maybe that deserves a consolation prize.

The Oxford Martyrs were tried at University Church of St Mary the Virgin, the official church of Oxford University on the High Street. The martyrs were imprisoned at the former Bocardo Prison near the still extant St Michael at the Northgate church (at the north gate of the city walls) in Cornmarket Street. The door of their cell is on display in the tower of the church.

The martyrs were burnt at the stake just outside the city walls to the north, where Broad Street is now located. Latimer and Ridley were burnt on 16 October, 1555. Cranmer was burnt five months later on 21 March 1556.

A small area cobbled with stones forming a cross in the centre of the road outside the front of Balliol College marks the site. The Victorian spire-like Martyrs’ Memorial, at the south end of St Giles’ nearby, commemorates the events. It is claimed that the scorch marks from the flames can still be seen on the doors of Balliol College (now rehung between the first and second quads).

The Martyr's Cross

The Martyr's Cross

I have long wondered how internet video chat, anonymous blogging, online video gaming, role playing and a whole host of other modern innovations would contribute to a subconscious feeling of disembodiment. Once you and I separate ourselves from the notion that we were made by a creator which invests us with transcendent meaning and purpose, what intellectual resources do we have left to draw on to preserve our sense of self, mentally, physically and spiritually? It seems that’s what Bruce Willis’ new film “Surrogates” is clicking into. I’ll be interested to see what they make of it. Check out the official preview below.

If you’re clergy (especially Steve Wood!) then you can’t guess!!!!  I want to know what it is, along with a brief paragraph describing the history behind it.  The winner will receive a free copy of “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea” by Alister Mcgrath.

What is this thing?

What is this thing?

The following is an excerpt from Horatius Bonar’s commentary on the Book of Revelation.  Reading the Puritan authors for me is often a bittersweet experience.  I derive such joy from their devotional writtings and yet at the same time I realize that their’s was a special generation that has not been replicated since.  I long to see men and women of such thoughtfullness, joy, and passion for Christ and his Gospel.  Perhaps that’s why I post them so frequently!  Maybe some of their thoughtfullness, joy, and passion will rub off on some of you, spawning a resurgence of their great faithfulness.  Check out all of Bonar’s commentary on Revelation by clicking here

I. What is this grace of the Lord Jesus Christ? Free love! Divine favor, unbought, unsolicited, and undeserved! With this the Bible begins, and with this it ends. The free love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! This is the ‘good news’ which the messengers of God have brought to us; the ‘good news’ which the cross of Christ has made available and accessible; the ‘good news’ which remains ‘good’ to the last, unchanged and unweakened by the lapse of time. The gospel has not become a dried-up well or broken cistern. The free love of God, coming to us through His Son, has not been exhausted or made less free. In these last days, we can take up the old message of grace to the sinner, and sound it abroad as loudly and as freshly as at the first.

No delight in the death of the wicked! Delight in his turning from his ways and living! Yearning over the impenitent, tears for Jerusalem sinners, stretching out of the hand to the rebellious, invitation upon invitation to the weary; the open door, the universal call, the beseeching to be reconciled, the pressing of the cup of life to the lips of a thirsty world—all this, continued to the last, marks he unutterable compassion of God to the sinner, the riches of the divine grace, the boundless fullness of God’s heart, as it pours out its longings, and proclaims its long suffering to the chief of sinners. Return to your Father’s house, and be blessed! Come, and be forgiven! Look, and be saved! Touch, and be healed! Ask, and it shall be given!

II. How this grace has been shown. In many ways, but chiefly in the Cross. The words of Christ were grace—the doings of Christ were grace—but at the cross it came forth most fully. Grace all concentrates there—grace shines out there in its fullness. The cross is the place and pledge of grace. The cross did not make or originate the grace; but it made it a righteous thing that grace should flow out to us. It threw wide the gates of the storehouse; it unsealed the heavenly well. From the cross comes forth the voice of love, the message of grace, the embassy of peace and reconciliation. This grace flows everywhere throughout a guilty earth; but its center is the cross; and only in connection with the cross is it available for and accessible to us. The ‘it is finished’ of Golgotha was the throwing down of the barriers that stood between the sinner and the grace.

The grace itself was uncreated and eternal; it did not originate in the purpose—but in the nature of God. Still its outflow to sinners was hemmed in by God’s righteousness; and until this was satisfied at the cross, the grace was like forbidden fruit to man. Divine displeasure against sin, and divine love of holiness, found their complete satisfaction at the altar of the cross—where the ‘consuming fire’ devoured the great burnt-offering, and gave full vent to the pent-up stores of grace. The love of the Father, giving His son, was there. The love of the Holy Spirit, by whom a body was prepared for Him, and by whom ‘He offered Himself without spot,’ was there. The cross is the great exhibition of the grace!

III. How we get this grace. Simply by taking it as it is, and as we are; by letting it flow into us; by believing God’s testimony concerning it. Grace supposes no preparation whatever in him who receives it, but that of worthlessness and guilt, whether these be felt or unfelt. The dryness of the ground is that which fits it for the rain; the poverty of the beggar is that which fits him for the alms; so the sin of the sinner is that which fits him for the grace of Christ. If anything else were needed, grace would be no more grace, but would become work or merit. Where sin abounds, there it is that grace much more abound. How many are shutting out the grace by trying to prepare themselves for it! Open your mouth wide and I will fill it, is all that God asks. Our thirst may be but the thirst for happiness; our hunger may be but the hunger of earth; our feelings may be altogether unspiritual; our sense of sin nothing—yet all this does not make us less qualified for Christ’s free love, or that free love less immediate or less bounteous in its flow. In the belief of God’s testimony to the grace of His Son, we let in the grace, and become partakers of the pardon and the joy.

read the rest of this passage here

If you’ve been following the news, you would know that the ELCA  (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) recently voted to allow non-celibate homosexual clergy to be ordained in that denomination.  John Piper, Senior Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis recently caused no small amount of controversy with his blog post entitled “The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality”.  Here is an excerpt:

I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, “That looks serious.”

It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,

On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.

The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.

According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.

The eyewitness of the damage continues:

This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.

The time: 2PM.

The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.

As one can imagine, backlash from Piper’s comments was swift and severe.  He issued a clarifying statement here that is worth the read before anyone renders judgment on his remarks.  Piper’s comments will no doubt be the central focus for many of you as you read this post, however I would ask that you think beyond his remarks for a moment to ask a deeper question than whether or not “God sent the tornado.”  While assessing the responses to Piper’s controversial remarks, I found an interesting comment by someone posting on the Associated Baptist Press website.  The comment is cut and pasted exactly as I found it on the website.

This is very interesting. How is God suppose to speak to the Lutherans? The Bible you say, well they reject its clear teachings. Perhaps supernaturally through the weather. . . no, according to liberals God can’t do that either. So how does God speak to a liberal denomination?

The commentor’s question is terribly relevant.  Many people, gay and straight will be tremendously offended at the slightest notion that God sent the tornado to Minneapolis as a warning.  Many Christians have long since given up the notion that God would communicate to us in such violent and destructive ways.  So the question then remains, if not through tornados, how then does God communicate to us?

In the Anglican tradition, we would typically say that God communicates to us through Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.  Many contemporary Anglican priests and bishops falsely assume that in the Anglican tradition Scripture, Tradition and Reason are on equal footing.  But this is not so.  When Hooker coined the three strands of rope he was forming a hermeneutical principle.  That principle was the whole council of Scripture, understood traditionally by the church catholic, and assessed by the faculties of our minds.  Hooker’s three strands were a means of interpreting Scripture, which he and the Anglican tradition have always regarded as the highest authority.

So back to the question of how God communciates with us, let us begin with Scripture.  It is important to note that by and large the main protagonists in the Episcopal Church have jettisoned Scripture as a source of authority.  Consider this statement from the Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson:

“We worship a living God, not one locked up in the Scripture of 2,000 years ago.” (Bishop Gene Robinson, Nov 4th 2008)

So it is clear as I read the Bible that truth is an unfolding reality and is not simply fixed or circumscribed at a particular moment or by the pages of Scripture itself. The Holy Spirit can transcend the words that the Holy Spirit has in­spired and lead us to new understand­ings and new appreciations.” (Former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold,comments following the House of Bishops meeting January 2005, Religion and Eth­ics Newsweekly)

What about tradition?  Since God does not communicate to us through Scripture, is it possible that he might communicate to us through the traditions of the church?  Well, once again this proves quite difficult for many progressive Christians to stomach.  I’ve chosen the following statements chiefly because they are doctrines which the church has held throughout her history that are currently repudiated by leading members of progressive theological movements within the Episcopal Church.  Consider these statements:

“The story of Jesus’ bodily resur­rection is, at best, conjectural; that the resurrection accounts in the four Gospels are contradictory and confusing… the significance of Easter is not that Jesus returned to actual life but that even death itself could not end the power of his presence in the lives of the faithful.” (Bishop John Chane, Bishop of Washington, D.C., Easter sermon in 2002)

“I would choose to loathe rather than to worship a deity who required the sacrifice of his son.” (Bishop John Spong, retired Bishop of Newark, Why Christianity)

“ I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to God ex­cept through me.’ The first thing I want you to explore with me is this: I simply refuse to hold the doctrine that there is no access to God except through Jesus.”  (The Rev. Dr. George F. Regas, Rector Emeritus All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, California, April 24, 2005, guest sermon at Washington National Cathedral)

To avoid mass stereotyping, I would say that at least amongst the individuals listed above neither Scripture or Tradition is seen as a vehicle for communication between God and man.  So what does that leave us with?  In the Anglican tradition it would leave us with an appeal to reason.  Already we are misusing this “third strand” since it is disconnected from the previous two.  And that is the danger of it.  When you disconnect reason from the two outside sources, which act as checks and balances then all you are left with is individualism.  To be frank, you are left with no higher authority than the authority of self.  Therefore, the feelings and thoughts of the individual become the only avenue through which a liberal denomination is able to communicate with God.  At this point I can anticipate the obvious objection.  TEC nor ECLA acted as individuals, but rather they acted collectively as a community of individuals who shared common convictions.  Yet is it not possible for communities to wrongly discern God’s will?  For example, did not the Christian Chruch wrongly condone slavery?  Did not the state Church of Nazi Germany wrongly support the National Socialists?  My question remains, what happens if a community of individuals wrongly discerns God’s will?  What happens if they get it wrong?  What avenue do they have left for God to correct them?

I would argue that once one abandons Scripture one is in a difficult position.  Once one abandons tradition then you are in a hopeless position.  Once one appeals only to reason, then you are in a tragically arrogant position.  You have made yourself the ultimate authority and neither Scripture, nor the Saints whether living or dead have any authority over you.  You are an island, a “silent planet” as C.S. Lewis once said, where God is neither heard from nor spoken to.   May God deliver each of us from such a fate.

Below is an excerpt from an essay written by Michael Milton, President and Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte N.C.  The essay “The Once and Future Calvin” is an interesting read although at times the author’s fawning adoration of Calvin and the New Calvinism might make you a bit quesy, like when your buddy gushes on and on about his new girlfriend.  Nevertheless, the exerpt below is an informative few paragraphs on the influence the “new Calvinism” is having on the worldwide Anglican Communion, particularly those influenced by African Anglicanism.  Of the notable “Calvinists” listed below you’ll notice Archbishop of Uganda Henry Luke Orombi, who made the trip all the way from Uganda to Geneva to celebrate Calvin’s 500th anniversary.  You’ll also notice that the author does the unfashionable thing (unfashionable since the current Anglican theologcial scene is dominated by Anglo-Catholics), and notes the great extent which Calvin’s theology had on the formation of the Anglican prayerbooks as well as the 39 Articles of Religion.

Indeed, English speaking Christianity is seeing a great resurgence of Calvinism it may not look like what we are used to, it may not pass muster with most of our faculty at RTS, or at Covenant or Westminster but it is surely under the larger umbrella of Calvinistic movements. And who is to say that what starts out in one way may not end up looking another way? At least you would grant me that the germ of John Calvin’s theology is there: the doctrinal, cultural and even pietistic shades of this great man’s catholic Christianity.

But is the “future Calvin” heartier than only these hopeful movements in an otherwise bland and even broken evangelical Western Christianity? Calvinism, as it did when the magisterial Reformer was on the world stage, is spreading to other places in our own generation; and one of those places is the new Canterbury. We know that John Calvin and Martin Bucer and John Knox all had a significant part to play in the formation of The Book of Common Prayer. And we know that the Church of England’s Thirty Nine Articles of Religion are part of the doctrinal and confessional bedrock for our own Westminster Standards. Today, in the midst of the collapse of the Episcopal Church in the USA, a phoenix is rising. Splintered now into groups like CANA and AMIA, Anglican Archbishops like Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda and Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Gregory Venebles of the Anglican Southern Cone of America are all faithful Thirty Nine Article of Religion leaders and are emerging as confessional leaders in this nation and in the West. They all view America as ground for evangelism and their movements are growing. And this is the new Canterbury in our midst. The old Canterbury still exists, but is more the bastion for Western, secularized, Enlightenment-ridden religion. The new Canterbury has a robust devotional life; an early church-like fire that is causing the Gospel to spread through church planting and through revitalization work in old Western nations like ours, as well as in older Colonial forms that need reviving. This is the new Canterbury. And as Calvinism impacted the old Canterbury, so it is providing the theological engine for this tremendous movement in our generation. In our own seminary, we are meeting even now to form an Institute for Anglican Studies to help meet the growing need to provide theological education and vocational preparation for this movement.

As we consider what God is doing in America through the Calvinistic Anglicans, we must also look to England. For not only is the New Canterbury coming, but also the “ancient-future” York is already here! In England, we can behold the current Archbishop, John Sentamu, of Uganda, holding up the historic Prayer Book faith of J.C. Ryle. Indeed, in Sentamu’s inaugural sermon, the Anglican Archbishop pointed to the writings of Michael Ramsey of Canterbury from 1960:

“He was speaking of the stupendous missionary century that saw the wonderful spread of Christian faith in Africa and Asia by missionaries from these islands, and compared it to the spiritual decay in England. He longed for the day in England when the Church would learn the faith afresh from Christians of Africa and Asia. He ended his address by saying, ‘I should love to think of a black Archbishop of York, holding a mission here, and telling a future generation of the scandal and the glory of the Church.’ Well, here I am.”

Powerful. And unstoppable.

We can expect more of this Anglican Calvinistic health in the world in days to come. Who would have thought that an increasing number of Latimer’s and Ridley’s and Ryle’s sons would be leading the way, on fire with the doctrines of grace, in the 21st century? But who would have thought that the continuing Episcopal Church in America and the Church of England in that “green and pagan” land would be led by Africans and Asians and South Americans to revive a truly Calvinistic Prayer Book movement? This is a work of God in our midst. And it is wondrous in our eyes.

read the whole essay with footnotes by clicking here

Rosemary Port, a formally anonymous blogger was recently unmasked by Google when the internet search company was forced to reveal her real name during a defamation lawsuit.  Port’s blog “Skanks in NYC” was responsible for maliciously slandering model Liskula Cohen among others.  Port is currently planning to sue Google for “outing” her.  What is interesting about this case is Port’s assumption that since the internet can mask her identity, she should not be held responsible for her speech.  Irresponsible speech posted on the internet anonymously is nothing new.  In fact it is becoming increasinlgy common (see cyberbullying).  But what is so interesting about the internet is that it provides a loss of inhibition that was previously reserved only for those under the influence of alcohol.  At least when someone drank too much they can blame their irresponsible behavior on the alcohol.  But apparently we fallen human beings don’t need alcohol to prompt us to be malicious.  All we need is anonymity.

hat tip: kendall

Google is to be sued for $15 million (£9 million) by an anonymous blogger who was unmasked by the internet search company.

Rosemary Port said that Google had failed to protect her right to privacy when the company obeyed a court order to reveal her name after she used her blog to accuse a former Vogue model of being a “psychotic, lying, whoring … skank”.

Liskula Cohen, 36, won a landmark case in a New York court last week, forcing Google to disclose the online identity of Ms Port, 29, a Fashion Institute of Technology student, who created her “Skanks in NYC” blog a year ago using Google’s Blogger.com program.

Legal experts said that the ruling stripped away some of the anonymity provided by the web, making people who post offensive blogs, videos or tweets more responsible for their anonymous statements.

read it all here