Thursday, June 30, 2011

Meet J.C. Ryle (If you haven't already)

A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit. He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing: and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives, or whether he dies—whether he has health, or whether he has sickness—whether he is rich, or whether he is poor—whether he pleases man or whether he gives offence—whether is he thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish—whether he gets blame, or whether he gets praise—whether he gets honour, or whether he gets shame—for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God’s glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it—he is content. He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in the burning, he has but done the work for which God appointed him. Such a one will always find a sphere for his zeal. If he cannot preach, work, and give money, he will cry, and sigh, and pray . . . . If he cannot fight in the valley with Joshua, he will do the work of Moses, Aaron, and Hur, on the hill (Exodus 17:9-13). If he is cut off from working himself, he will give the Lord no rest till help is raised up from another quarter, and the work is done. This is what I mean when I speak of “zeal” in religion.
J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 1959 ed. p. 130.
Cited on p. 173 of Knowing God, by J. I. Packer

John Charles Ryle (1816-1900)
First Anglican Bishop of Liverpool

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

God Has Said All He Meant to Say

"As David Wells has observed, many churches today profess the sufficiency of Scripture while their practice belies that profession. 'For evangelicals, this has taken the form of using polling, marketing, and business know-how to adapt Christian faith to generational niches. It has also involved recasting Christian faith in therapeutic terms for those who have left a moral world and inhabit a psychological world.' In these ways we may think we have made the Bible 'relevant', but we have only denied its sufficiency. In the desperate pursuit of the 'very latest thing,' the culture sets the agenda for the church and the principle of sola scriptura has morphed into sola cultura". Taken from "Modern Reformation" Magazine, Nov-Dec 2010 Edition, page 17

In other words, God by His word the Bible, and not the culture, determines what is relevant and what "works". Or, as the Modern Reformation article also says, "The gospel is not obliged to meet the world's cravings; it is designed to challenge them. The message of sin and salvation is irrelevant only to a church that has abandoned its calling in pursuit of worldliness. The church must draw a distinction between what the world considers relevant and what is truly relevant. The Bible fulfills needs in which the world is not interested."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Heavenly Father's Gift to Me on this Father's Day

Joah and Daddy

Take a look at if you have any interest in our Father's Day celebration. The post, by my wife, is called "For All His Heart -- A Father's Day Wish". Be sure to view the video at the bottom. Clearly my daughter thinks too highly of me. Nevertheless, it makes a dad feel good.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Brief Reflection on My 40 Years "Under the Sun"

Then I looked again at vanity under the sun -- Ecclesiastes 4:7

Becoming good, not being right -- that's the theme of my next 40 years, or ever how many years (or days) I am given by God. I love doctrine. I've spent quite a bit of energy to learn it. It informs us concerning the nature and ways of God Himself. It's critical. However, I fear that I have thought better than I have lived. 

"This is the will of God -- your sanctification. . ." (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Yes, it's true, there are many texts that command us to think rightly about God, to grow in our knowledge of Him, and to guard the truth. The Apostle Paul calls the church "the pillar and buttress of the truth" (1 Ti 3:15). But he also says that as those who know and hold out the truth we should be "blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Php 2:15).

My hope and prayer for any future I have under the sun is to become a better shiner by becoming a purer person. I won't stop learning doctrine. There's much more for me to know about God and His ways. For in sanctification, we are being made good as God is good, not good in some generic sense. Without growth in doctrinal understanding, there is no true improvement. So the focus must be on learning it to live it. I'm thinking of an application intensive maturing. Perhaps another term for this is simply Christian discipleship. Too many times I have studied Scripture in order to teach it, not do it, not taking the time to think through the implications of that particular Bible text for me and my family. I want to be more deliberate in the doing. This is God's will (Ja 1:19-27).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Loving Ourselves the Most as the Essence of Sin

This is the biblical indictment -- that it is our sinful nature to "exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature, rather than the Creator, who is forever praised. Amen" (Ro 1:25). Or as Jesus put it, "We love darkness rather than light because our deeds are evil" (Jn 3:19). As someone who has recently read Moby Dick, I enjoyed and benefited from Jim Hamilton's analysis of the novel: what Herman Melville had to say about God, His sovereignty, and our place in His world; through the eyes of a man named Ishmael, about a rebel named Ahab, and his hatred of his smallness. You can read it here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Relationship Between Being Forgiven and Getting Better

I commend to you Tullian Tchividjian's blog post which is a response to an earlier post by Kevin DeYoung (You can link to DeYoung's original post from Tullian's blog). Go here.

Then, to read DeYoung's response to Tullian's response, go here.

Actually, reading these blogs is a good example of the effort required to become more like Jesus. It doesn't just happen. There is a balance to believing and striving. The reading is included in the striving. We can't become holy if we are content with what we currently understand about God and our relationship to Him. Progress in godliness demands training (1 Ti 4:7) and an increasing knowledge (2 Pe 3:18). Thank God for helpful teachers like Tullian and Kevin.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Help for Fruitful Thinking & Faithful Living

We all live in the light, or darkness, of what we believe about God. Whether you're a Christian, atheist, Buddhist, agnostic, Muslim, whatever. All of our lives are lived out as a response to our conception of God. In other words, we believe certain things about Him (or we believe He doesn't exist), and so we live accordingly. We are made (by Him, for all the atheists) so that we have no options here. We are all worshipers. That's our nature. We worship the Creator or a creature (see Romans 1 & 2, Ecclesiastes 3, etc). We all adore something. We can't help ourselves.

So to help us worship well by better understanding the God who made us and is redeeming some of us, I offer this testimony: that no resource outside of Scripture itself has helped me think more accurately about God than Modern Reformation Magazine. What a gift it is! It has proven useful to God Himself in shaping my understanding of His character and ways, especially His ways called redemptive history. 

Jesus says knowing the truth sets us free. Truth, known, is transformational. Modern Reformation (MR) is a wonderful tool that helps me get to know God better by understanding His Word better. Most of what I read are tools for this purpose. They are not extras, added to the Bible's teaching. They are instruments for helping me know what God has said in the Bible. They serve my sanctification as my teachers. I thank God for them.

I hate that this is necessary, and perhaps it isn't. But in case it is, let me say to you that MR is not what might be called an "easy read". It's a theological magazine, though not a theological journal. It is written for the Christian in the pew. But it does not cater to our self-help tendencies. It is written in part to say to us that we can't help ourselves in the ways that matter most. It is written to help us know God better. So there's lots of pages in it about God, not us. After all, the Bible is about God, not us. I hope you'll give it a try, even if it means stopping current reads to make time for MR.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Whom is the Bible About?

For my 3 year old daughter's answer, visit my wife's blog ( where she captured the profound reply on video. And I suggest you read the accompanying article also.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Snapshots of Life

A special breakfast in bed -- Kit Kat candy
Tess fancies herself a doctor (both MD and veterinarian). She has bandaged the booties of these recently injured animals.
Joah is growing up -- 4 months old yesterday.