Sunday, June 29, 2014

Thought for the Lord's Day - #60

For how in general doth the Holy Spirit teach us and enable us to pray? It is by these three things.

(1.) By giving us a spiritual insight into the promises of God and the grace of the covenant, whereby we know what to ask upon a spiritual view of the mercy and grace that God hath prepared for us.

(2.) By acquainting us with and giving us an experience of our wants, with a deep sense of them, such as we cannot bear without relief.

(3.) By creating and stirring up desires in the new creature, for his own preservation, increase and improvement.

And in answer unto these things, consisteth his whole work of sanctification in us. For it is his effectual communication unto us, of the grace and mercy prepared in the promises of the covenant through Jesus Christ; hereby doth he supply our spiritual want, and sets the new creature in life and vigour. So are our prayers an extract and copy of the work of the Holy Spirit in us, given us by himself.

And, therefore, by whomseover he is despised as a Spirit of supplication, he is so as a Spirit of sanctification also.

Now consider what it is that in your prayers you most labour about? Is it not that the body, the power, the whole interest, of sin in you may be weakened, subdued, and at length destroyed? Is it not that all the graces of the Spirit may be renewed daily, increased and strengthened, so as that you may be more ready and prepared for all duties of obedience? And what is all this but that holiness may be gradually progressive in your souls, that it may be carried on by new supplies and additions of grace, until it come to perfection?
- John Owen
Or, A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit,
Wherein an Account is Given of His Name, Nature,
Personality, Dispensation, Operations, and Effects;
His Whole Work in the Old and New Creation is
Explained; and the Doctrine Concerning it Vindicated

(I added the paragraph breaks for clarity)

Worth Waiting For

The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.
On June 6, 2004, Rev. David A. Bass applied the waters of baptism to our son Arnold (he'd be the one in red there).  The grace offered and exhibited to him then was conferred to him recently.  This morning, he made his public profession of faith and was made a member of the fellowship the rest of us joined last year.

Again, seeing this was a privilege I don't deserve.  Helping him to this stage has been a blessing (though, honestly, not one I always remember to see as such).  He took a big step in improving his baptism this morning, but he has many others before him, Lord willing.  Hopefully, his mother and I can continue to help him in this lifelong effort, but our hope and trust is that he who began a good work in Arnold will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

This is just me talking about my convictions.  This is not a reflection of the beliefs of the Fellowship to which I currently belong.  In the incredibly unlikely event that any other member of this Fellowship is reading this, do know that I am not seeking to foment any type of rebellion against the statement of faith there.  If God, in His mercy, grants a change in the Fellowship's position on the sacrament, I will welcome it, but I will not have had a hand in it beyond my prayers that He would sanctify the body by His truth.  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Thought for the Lord's Day - #59

...there is no faith without God's word, for of his faithfulness we cannot be convinced, until he has spoken. And this of itself is abundantly sufficient to confute the fiction of the sophists respecting implicit faith; for we must ever hold that there is a mutual relation between God's word and our faith. But as faith is founded chiefly, according to what has been already said, on the benevolence or kindness of God, it is not every word, though coming from his mouth, that is sufficient; but a promise is necessary as an evidence of his favor. Hence Sarah is said to have counted God faithful who had promised. True faith then is that which hears God speaking and rests on his promise.
-John Calvin

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Offspring had a good day yesterday, pt. 2

The Princess (who can feel free to skip this post) was supposed to go to Church Camp yesterday. But her mom and I decided this weekend that she and her brother wouldn't be attending for reasons that I don't want to get into here, essentially it boils down to some differences between American Evangelicals and Reformed Christians (iow, we can be uptight about worship and sacramentology).

It would've been her first time going away for something like this, and she was really looking forward to it. But it was the right call -- even though it carried the special kind of difficulty only known to Dads of daughters with fully-functional nasolacrimal ducts. But the three of us talked about it, and she understood our thinking.

A couple days later, for fun I read the Offspring questions 107-110 of the Larger Catechism -- not really to teach them anything, but to make them appreciate that they're memorizing the Shorter Catechism 49-52 instead. Still, something must've clicked as I rushed though that.

Yesterday, when her friends were posting statuses and pics to Facebook about getting ready to leave, etc., what's my little girl do? She posts:

Q. 108. What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A. The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.
We didn't prompt it, didn't push it -- didn't even see it 'til a couple hours later, actually. Honestly, I didn't even try to convince her we were right in our thinking -- we just explained our position and that we thought it was important -- the Spirit did the rest to her conscience.

I'm not posting this to brag on her, really. But when I read that post, I choked up a little. She's such a precious gift, and seeing the Spirit work in her as He is doing is such a privilege. More than a miserable sinner like me deserves, that's for sure. And I'm glad for the opportunity to express my gratitude for that display of grace.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Offspring had a good day yesterday, pt. 1

Frodo's been helping out with an elementary school robotics camp that Arnold's attending. That's really all I can say because I haven't witnessed any of it, and what they've talked about has been beyond my ken. Sorry, guys, just nothing for me to talk about.

Samwise, on the other hand, has been really pushing himself with his guitar lately, learning gobs and gobs of songs. He seemed pretty stoked yesterday for me to hear what he'd worked on -- Precious Death's "You Can't Break Me." He's not done with this by any means, but was still excited to show it to me. I was excited because I've been trying to get him to pay attention to Precious Death for at least 5 years. Give it a listen (sorry for camera work, was really just going for audio, but it was okay enough to go with this format, I thought)
(if you want to hear the original -- and see the lyrics -- click here)

Now we just need someone to provide the vocals. Maybe Frodo can do his Christian Bale Batman for the verses.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Thought for the Lord's Day - #58

God saw it needful for Adam to have a Sabbath in paradise. And if it were needful for him that was without sin, and had no clog of corruption to hinder him; nor ill example to seduce him; yet (l say) if he had need of this (as God in his wisdom saw he had) because his calling (though followed without tediousness) would yet partly have withdrawn his heart, that he could not so freely and wholly have given himself to the praising of God, and considering of his power, wisdom, and goodness; and therefore was to set one day apart from all works of his vocation, that he might wholly addict himself to religious and holy exercises, and with greater liberty and comfort do them; then what need have we, and how far is our necessity greater which are burdened with many corruptions of our own, and have temptation from many ill [precedents], and many allurements of the world, to pull our hearts from the worship of God, which are men of polluted lips ourselves, and dwell among people of polluted lips; and which cannot without far greater distraction, and weariness also, follow our callings. If Adam had need of a Sabbath when he had no corruption to hinder him, how much more have we, which both within and without are beset & on every side compassed with such strong impediments from ourselves and others, that when we have a Sabbath to bestow wholly and only on godliness and religion, can hardly and with much ado keep our hearts from wandering after the world and earthly things? If Adam had need in his innocence of this help, then no man in this world is so strong, as that he for that cause might exempt himself from keeping a Sabbath.

- John Dod
A Plain and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandments 
(hat tip: The Westminster Standards)

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Thought for the Lord's Day - #57

Let Christians rejoice that, if a subtle, cruel, active, and powerful enemy is continually prowling about, the eye of infinite wisdom and love rests ever on them, the arm of never-tiring omnipotence is ever around them to protect and defend them.  The lion of hell is a chained lion, a muzzled lion, to Christians.  He may alarm, but he shall never devour them.  His chain is in the hand of his conqueror and their Lord.  It was very natural for Peter to put his brethren in mind of their great enemy.  He must have often thought of the words of our Lord Jesus, 'Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.' His experience is full of warning and encouragement.  It proves that if Christians are not cautious, though the lion of hell shall not be permitted to devour them, he may inflict wounds of which they will bear the marks till the close of life; and it finely illustrates our Lord's declaration,--'I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.' Neither their own heedlessness, nor the malignity of their infernal foe, shall be able to accomplish their destruction.  Let him, then, that is born of God, 'keep himself, that the wicked one touch him not,' and let his joy, that he has a better keeper than himself, even the keeper of Israel, who never slumbers nor sleeps, not produce security, but encourage vigilance.  God keeps his people, not without but through their own watchfulness.
- John Brown (1784-1858)
The Christian's Great Enemy:
A Practical Exposition of 1 Peter 5:8-11

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Thought for the Lord's Day - #56

long one today . . . sorry. But it's a good one, couldn't stop myself. But I guess, if you're in a rush -- just the first paragraph will do.

Faith presents the Christian with a cloud of witnesses to whom the promise hath been fulfilled; and these as great sinners as himself is. Scripture examples are promises verified.  They are book-cases, which faith may make use of by way of encouragement, as well as promises.  God would nev­er have left the saints’ great blots to stand in the Scriptures, to the view of the world in all succeeding generations, had not it been of such use and advan­tage to tempted souls, to choke this temptation, which of all other makes the most dangerous breach in their souls—so wide sometimes, that despair itself is ready to enter in at it.  Blessed Paul gives this very reason why such acts of pardoning mercy to great sin­ners are recorded, Eph. 2  He shows first what foul filthy creatures himself and other believers contem­porary with him were before they were made par­takers of gospel grace.  ‘Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh,’ Eph. 2:3; and then he magnifies the rich mercy of God, that rescued and took them out of that damned desperate state.  ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,... hath quickened us together with Christ,’ ver. 4.

And why must the world know all this?  O, God had a design and plot of mercy in them to more than themselves—‘That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness to­ward us through Christ Jesus,’ ver. 7  Wherever the gospel comes this shall be spoken of, what great sins he had forgiven to them, that unbelief might have her mouth stopped to the end of the world, and this ar­row which is so oft on Satan’s string made headless and harmless.  God commanded Joshua to take twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan and set them up.  And observe the reason, ‘That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?  Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever,’ Joshua 4:6, 7.  Thus God hath, by his pardoning mercy, taken up some great notorious sinners out of the very depths of sin, who lay at the very bottom, as it were, of hell, swallowed up and engulfed in all manner of abomination; and these he hath set up in his word, that when any poor tempted souls to the end of the world—who are even overwhelmed with fears from the greatness of their sins—shall see and read what God hath done for these, they may be relieved and comforted with these examples, by God intended to be as a memorial of what he hath done for others in time past, so a sign what he shall do, yea, will, for the greatest sinners to the world’s end, upon their repen­tance and faith.  No sins, though as great and many as the waters of Jordan themselves, shall be able to stand before the mercy of God’s gracious covenant, but shall all be cut off and everlastingly pardoned to them.

O who can read a Manasseh, a Magdalene, a Saul, yea, an Adam—who undid himself and a whole world with him—in the roll of pardoned sinners, and yet turn away from the promise, out of a fear that there is not mercy enough in it to serve his turn? These are as landmarks, that show what large bound­aries mercy hath set to itself, and how far it hath gone, even to take into its pardoning arms the great­est sinners, that make not themselves incapable thereof by final impenitency.  It were a healthful walk, poor doubting Christian, for thy soul to go this circuit, and oft to see where the utmost stone is laid and boundary set by God’s pardoning mercy—farther than which he will not go—that thou mayest not turn in the stone to the prejudice of the mercy of God by thy own unbelief, nor suffer thyself to be abused by Satan’s lies, who will make nothing to remove God’s land‑mark, if he may by it but increase thy trouble of spirit, though he be cursed for it himself.  But if, after all this, thy sins seems to exceed the proportion of any one thou canst find pardoned in Scripture —which were strange—yet faith at this plunge hath one way left beyond all these examples for thy soul’s succour, and that is to fix thy eye on Christ, who, though he never had sin of his own, yet laid down his life to procure and purchase pardon for all the elect, and hath obtained it; they are all, and shall, as they come upon the stage, be pardoned.  ‘Now,’ saith faith, ‘suppose thy sins were greater than any one saint’s; yet are they as great as all the sins of the elect to­gether?’  Thou darest not surely say or think so.  And cannot Christ procure thy pardon, who art but a sin­gle person, that hath done it for so many millions of his elect?  Yea, were thy sins as great as all theirs are, the sum would be the same; and God could forgive it if it lay in one heap, as well as now when it is in several.  Christ is ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,’ John 1:29.  See here all the sins of the elect world trussed up in one fardel, and he carries it lightly away into the land of forgetfulness. Now faith will tell thee, poor soul, that the whole vir­tue and merit of Christ’s blood, by which the world was re­deemed, is offered to thee, and shall be com­municated to thy soul in particular.  Christ doth not retail and parcel out his blood and the purchase of it, some to one and some to another; then thou mightest say something; but he gives his whole self to the faith of every believer.  All is yours, you are Christ’s.  O, what mayest thou not, poor soul, take up from the promise, upon the credit of so great a Redeemer?
 - William Gurnall
The Christian in Complete Armour