Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mail Call

Don't ya love it when you forget you ordered something and it just shows up in your mailbox out of the blue? Yesterday, in addition to the platinum credit card offers (yeeeeah, right) I received the latest DVD from The Apologetics Group, Marks of a Cult: A Biblical Analysis.

As you see from the cover, apparently mathematics is cultic. As a liberal arts kind of guy, I always not-so-secretly suspected that, but it's good to have proof. Sorry Kletois, Scribbles, and Ministerius Tobeus. :)

As with their Amazing Grace: The History & Theology of Calvinism, the DVD is well made, informative, and just a tad over-produced. They don't spend quite as much time with the graphics and music--or in the uncomfortably long skits--in this DVD. The "Talking Head" experts they had were all top-notch and well used ('tho I think they could've used a little more Dr. White and a little less of a couple of others, but that's just personal preference). Well worth the time to watch--for a good primer on what is a cult, some basic teachings of some of the major cults around us, and some quick Biblical responses.

By the way, for readers in my neck of the woods: inspiration struck me about halfway through watching this yesterday (I was multi-tasking...not shirking too much on the deadline stuff) and our Bible Study voted to watch this starting next week. Giving me a few more hours as I wrap up this term. It's bite-sized enough for the kids who attend to get something out of, and meaty enough for some good discussion for the adults. We will only take 2 weeks on this one, so don't miss out!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Inspired by the Expanding Ones

one of my all time faves:

The Guppy
by Ogden Nash

Whales have calves,
Cats have kittens,
Bears have cubs,
Bats have bittens,
Swans have cygnets,
Seals have puppies,
But guppies just have little guppies.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ordinary Means for a Great Day

What then is the first key to a Christian family's spiritual health?...Simply, the first and primary key to your family's spiritual health is a commitment to the weekly public worship services of the church. The most important single commitment you have to make to ensure your family's spiritual well-being is to regular, consistent attendance at public worship.

Sound far-fetched? I'll say it even stronger. I have yet to meet a person for whom it could not be said that all of his problems, personal, marital, familial, or vocational would not be solved by such a commitment. I do not believe that the person for whom this is not true exists. By saying so, I do not minimize the seriousness of the problems that people face. Rather I maximize our confidence in the power of the gospel. So I'll say it again: we do not know of anyone of whom it could not be said, if only he were in worship week in and week out, fifty-two weeks a year, year after year, his problems would be basically solved.
More and more I'm convinced that Terry Johnson is 100% right there. I grow in this confidence weekly, if not daily. I see the positive (and negative) proof in my life and the lives of others. I see people, families, souls destroyed by lack of this commitment; and people, families, and souls built up, restored, and made whole--not to mention holy--by this commitment. [N.B. please note he said "services"--that's plural, that's all of 'em]

It's not the programs, it's not the conferences, special speakers, books, events, CDs...it's not the "WOW! Factor." Nothing zippy or dramatic that brings lasting spiritual growth. It's the ordinary stuff.

Ordinary Means. (not ordinary as in dull, ordinary as in normal) Church attendance; the Word read and preached; baptism; the Lord's Supper; prayer; singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; fellowship and discipline. The routine, the week-in and week-out work of the Church. That's how Christian people, Christian families, Christian disciples are built.

Yesterday was one of those days that underlined this for me. Highlight of the day was something I'd long prayed for: a new family in our church repented of their former Baptist life and had the remainder of their household baptized. In the morning, our pastor preached a decent sermon (not his best, but decent). In the evening, our seminarian gave our pastor some much needed time off to care for himself and a sick family and delivered an okay exhortation (some improvement there...but far to go). Singing of great songs of the faith. Lots of fellowship--the relaxed chit-chatty kind, the encouraging kind, the iron sharpening iron kind. Sadly, no Lord's Supper this week--that would've sealed it as a perfect day--we're still a 1x a month. But hey, we'll get there...

And now, because of that, I have no doubt that I can get through this many deadline/little sleep/many miles of travel/big stress week without a scratch.

Glory to God for the ways he takes care of His own with the ordinary things.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Evangelical Hypocrisy

Tim Challies nails it. A+ Moves to the top of the class (not a big move for Tim, but still, trying to praise the guy...)

UPDATE: link fixed, thanks travelin'fool

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy April 15th

"A man condemning the income tax because of the annoyance it gives him or the expense it puts him to is merely a dog baring its teeth, and he forfeits the privileges of civilized discourse. But it is permissible to criticize it on other and impersonal grounds. A government, like an individual, spends money for any or all of three reasons: because it needs to, because it wants to, or simply because it has it to spend. The last is much the shabbiest. It is arguable, if not manifest, that a substantial proportion of this great spring flood of billions pouring into the Treasury will in effect get spent for that last shabby reason."
--Nero Wolfe

Friday, April 14, 2006

Q&A Time

On April 14, 1648 the Westminster Assembly of Divines presented its Catechisms to Parliament.

These two documents are some of the best tools for Christian teaching ever produced since the time of the apostles--probably safe to eliminate "some of" there, come to think of it.

Richard Baxter wrote,

If the Westminster Assembly had done nothing more than produce the Shorter Catechism they would be entitled to the everlasting gratitude of the Christian church...next to the Bible, it was probably the best book in the world.
G. I. Williamson concurs
The Shorter Catechism was the final product of the Assembly and-in my judgment at least-its crowning achievement. The Christian church in nearly two thousand years has produced nothing better than this Catechism, and it has few, if any, equals.
Here's an article I wrote in '03 on the subject of catechesis (back when I was capable of doing more than short blogish things)--didn't spend a lot of time on formatting, etc. So it's kinda ugly.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Big Day

Frodo's moved up from T-Ball this year--now in Machine-Pitch ball. Major step. Had an exhibition game Saturday that displayed how much he has to learn this year. First real game was Monday--that didn't go so well, either.

But tonight...Strike Out in the first (couple of foul tips), RBI Double in the 5th, and a Lead-Off Single in the 6th. 2 Runs scored.

Proud Papa doesn't quiet say enough.

At this rate I'll be a Unitarian in May

Tonight I attended a worship service of a cult, then went to a Wesleyan-Arminian institution, to use their Roman Catholic resources (and a couple of neo-orthodox ones, too) to help me write a paper for my Confessional Presbyterian seminary.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Lighter day...just editing and reading. Tomorrow is reading, studying and writing, tho. So..ack. (soooo grateful that my inlaws just donated a spare coffee pot to us...ol' reliable gave up the ghost today.) But today, it's all about a couple of easily-made deadlines.

In honor of the lightness of the day, here's some funnies:

Not a post on the Lord's Day

ooops...got a little distracted by my devotional reading today...Archibald Alexander's Thoughts on Religious Experience and a nap that got a bit out of control this afternoon. Didn't quite get to the whole switching the Day of Rest post like I'd intended. Very sorry.

Ah well, at least I don't have to deal with another firestorm this week :) (feel free to keep the other going).

BTW, the Alexander book is just what I needed to read. Experimental/Experiential (take your pick), thoughtful, great mix of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, Calvinism with shoe leather. Basically, Alexander is looking at the Christian life--conversion, both in childhood or later--what's it really like? What should we see/not see? What's the nature of regeneration? He sees so clearly the danger and weaknesses of religious movements/practices that were still in their nascent form in his day, and sadly we can now see "all grown up." If only the church (both presbyterian and others) had listened...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Congrats to polymathis!

Sounds like a rough couple of days, but very much worth it.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Lord's Day: Does God Have to Repeat Himself?

The first objection I heard to a Reformed lesson on the Christian Sabbath/The Lord's Day was, "Y'know, the 4th commandment is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated in the New Testament." I've heard it too many times to count in the 9.5 years since. And of all the objections to the observance of the Day of Rest that I encounter, this is the...well, can't think of a polite way to say this, it's the lamest. It's also very odd that this is generally spouted by the same people that are generally pretty worked up about the posting (or lack thereof) of all 10 in public buildings. Wouldn't it be more consistent for them to slip an ellipsis in between "in vain" and "V. Honor" (maybe ellipses don't look good in marble?)? But I digress...

[sidebar: this is why I love the informal nature of blogs, I don't have to run to my thesaurus to come up with a nice way of saying that idea is vacuous and foundationless. I can just call it lame--and I can ramble at will :) ]

I have a two-fold, un-scholarly response to this "objection." There are probably more that could be given, but these work for me.

1. So what? How many of us parents have ever uttered, "How many times have I told you..."? Once was enough for Ward and June Cleaver, shouldn't it be enough for our Heavenly Father? How many times does God have to say something for it to stick?

For that matter, does this rule apply only to the 10 Commandments? Off the top of my head, I don't remember something like, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Gen 1:28) showing up anywhere after, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ..." [feel free to fill up the comments section with evidence that my memory is faulty...I'll gladly eat those words.]

Instead, why don't we just rest on, "the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Is. 40:8)? And we shouldn't forget, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matt 5:17-18).

2. Bzzzzt! Sorry, thanks for playing. Are you sure you've read the thing? 'Cuz it's all over the place. Especially in those first few books--y'know the ones with all the red letters.

Jesus spent a whole lot of time correcting misapprehensions regarding the Sabbath, did he not? Why spend all that time doing so, if he was just going to eliminate the whole thing in a couple of years? Why would his apostles bother recording these teachings if they were obsolete by the time they set pen to papyrus? Why does he assert his lordship over the day, when it's time is almost gone?

I just stumbled onto this passage by Iain D. Campbell (while looking for something else) that fits perfectly right here.

But over what is Jesus claiming lordship? Over an Old Testament icon which he was intending to demolish? It makes no sense at all to say that the Sabbath was merely an Old Testament provision, one of the shadows and types which were to be done away in Christ. For Jesus to claim sovereignty over the Sabbath implies that the Sabbath remains under his jurisdiction.

It seems to me that we often fail to do justice to this great statement on the lips of Jesus. How can the Sabbath be altogether dispensed with by Jesus if he is Lord over it? Jesus does not say that he was Lord of the Sabbath, but that he is Lord of the Sabbath! If language means anything, then in Mark 2:28, Jesus is implying the permanent nature of the Sabbath as something over which he, as universal and eternal Son of Man has absolute authority. The day is his, as much now as ever. As long as Jesus continues to be Son of man, he continues to be Lord of the Sabbath.

This is no indication, of course, of which day is to be marked out as the Sabbath in the New Testament age. That has to be established on other grounds. But it is a clear indication of the fact that Jesus has not abrogated the Sabbath--he has not cast it into some Old Testament oblivion. The thinking that suggests that the Sabbath is gone cannot be accommodated with the claim the at Jesus makes here. If he is Lord of the Sabbath, then the Sabbath remains.
Jesus claims Lordship over the day, he attacks the legalistic misapplications of the Law by the Pharisees and other hypocrites. But He keeps the Sabbath. And He expects us to do the same.

One more example of presence of the 4th Commandment in the New Testament, and I'll call this rant done. Hebrews 4:9 tells us, "So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." That word translated "Sabbath rest" (sabbatismos) is a nifty little hapax legomenon that shows up in its verb form in the Septuagint, describing observing/keeping the Sabbath. Why use this word, in the middle of a passage about rest where the author had been using katapausis? Dr. Pipa sums it up pretty well:
The uniqueness of the word suggests a deliberate, theological purpose. He selects or coins sabbatismos because, in addition to referring to spiritual rest, it suggests as well an observance of that rest by a "Sabbath keeping." Because the promised rest lies ahead for the New Covenant people, they are to strive to enter the future rest. Yet as they do so, they anticipate it by continuing to keep the Sabbath.
A. W. Pink puts it in starker terms:
Here then is a plain, positive, unequivocal declaration by the Spirit of God. "There remaineth therefore a Sabbath-keeping." Nothing could be simpler, nothing less ambiguous. The striking thing is that this statement occurs in the very epistle whose theme is the superiority of Christianity over Judaism; written to those addressed as "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." Therefore, it cannot be gainsaid that Hebrews 4:9 referred directly to the Christian Sabbath. Hence we solemnly and emphatically declare that any man who says there is no Christian Sabbath takes direct issue with the New Testament Scriptures.
Let's repeat that last sentence one more time for emphasis: "Hence we solemnly and emphatically declare that any man who says there is no Christian Sabbath takes direct issue with the New Testament Scriptures."

'nuff said.

(sure, there's a whole lot of issues I left untouched on this topic. This one bit of bombastic turgidity can't cover it all...hopefully I'll get to those sometime.)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

at my wit's end

Last night I was looking at how much I have to accomplish in the next 26 days, and it freaked me out. I knew it was all coming, but it crystalized for me then.

I honestly expect to fail. I'm not going to get it all done. But will do what I can to prove myself wrong.

The crunch of deadlines, the horribly realistic prediction, and the dread what of comes after that has left me churlish, testy, and irritable at best. (I won't go into the worst)

Expect this blog to pretty much go into a coma for awhile, except on Sundays--I might throw up a Lord's Day reflection or two (as my restrictive legalistic point of view prevents me from doing my homework)*, I have to curtail my online activity greatly. Not greatly. Almost totally. If you need me, pop off an email, I'll get to you sometime.