Saturday, December 22, 2007


One of our dogs did not make it home from their night-time hunt last Wednesday. No sign of him since; he is most likely dead--a victim of the coyotes who live across our creek, with whom our dogs were "singing" the night of his disappearance. Of all our "mutts" Wilbur was a favorite to both me and my wife. At the same time, I could not choose one of the remaining six to exchange for Wilbur's return.

Both of us are pretty sad about losing this charming, frisky little dog, but yesterday and today, God has spoken to me about the state of my heart in view of this situation. Events like this sometimes help us focus on just what is important in our lives. I am literally "mourning" the loss of a dog, even to the point of tears. OK, how does that fit in with the overall approach to life which I am demonstrating, day in and day out?

My Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is despised and rejected by most all the population of this country and the world. Am I mourning that state of affairs?

During the hour it has taken me to put this post together, over 6000 souls have gone out into eternity. Statistically, most of them were lost and are now in Hell. Every day, over 150,000 people die, going into eternity, mostly unprepared, lost forever. Am I mourning over those who will die tomorrow, and next week, and next year (56 million!)......most of them dying without Christ?

I am involved in ministry to men in prison. Their lives are shattered, families destroyed, children forever affected. Just as in the "free world" a remnant has been called out, been born again by the Spirit of God, and we try to teach these men and disciple them. In a unit with 300 inmates, we might see 20 or so in a worship service. Those other men, some might be saved, most probably not. How great is my burden for them?

With these questions on my heart, I say "Thanks, Wilbur! You were a good companion, and now when I remember you, I'll have some better perspective on my life"


Today I read ahead in Spurgeon's Daily Readings, including the one for Evening on Christmas Day:

"And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually." —Job 1:5

What the patriarch did early in the morning, after the family festivities, it will be well for the believer to do for himself ere he rests tonight. Amid the cheerfulness of household gatherings it is easy to slide into sinful levities, and to forget our avowed character as Christians. It ought not to be so, but so it is, that our days of feasting are very seldom days of sanctified enjoyment, but too frequently degenerate into unhallowed mirth. There is a way of joy as pure and sanctifying as though one bathed in the rivers of Eden: holy gratitude should be quite as purifying an element as grief. Alas! for our poor hearts, that facts prove that the house of mourning is better than the house of feasting. Come, believer, in what have you sinned to-day? Have you been forgetful of your high calling? Have you been even as others in idle words and loose speeches? Then confess the sin, and fly to the sacrifice. The sacrifice sanctifies. The precious blood of the Lamb slain removes the guilt, and purges away the defilement of our sins of ignorance and carelessness. This is the best ending of a Christmas-day—to wash anew in the cleansing fountain. Believer, come to this sacrifice continually; if it be so good to-night, it is good every night. To live at the altar is the privilege of the royal priesthood; to them sin, great as it is, is nevertheless no cause for despair, since they draw near yet again to the sin-atoning victim, and their conscience is purged from dead works.

Gladly I close this festive day,
Grasping the altar's hallow'd horn;
My slips and faults are washed away,
The Lamb has all my trespass borne.

Last night in one of our prison services I preached on Lev 16, the Day of Atonement, specifically about the High Priest removing his usual attire, the glorious robes of his office, and putting on the comparatively plain white linen of the other priests, prior to entering the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of his people. How this pictures the Lord of Creation laying aside His eternal glory:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
(Php 2:7)

Now, having made Atonement for the sins of His people, He has ascended on high--

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God (Heb 10:12)

and now, this is our standing:

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
(Heb 10:19-22)

To me, the essence of the Incarnation: He came to do the Work of the Great High Priest.

At the close of the service, Carolyn sang this song, which seemed perfect for the occasion:

Before The Throne Of God Above
(by Charitie Lees Bancroft, Vikki Cook)

Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is "Love,"
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

Chorus 1:

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav'n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

Verse 2:
When Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.

Chorus 2:
Because the sinless Saviour died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me.
to look on him and pardon me.

Verse 3:
Behold him there! the risen Lamb,
my perfect, spotless Righteousness,
the great unchangeable I AM,
the King of glory and of grace!

Chorus 3:
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ, my Saviour and my God
with Christ, my Saviour and my God

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Timmy Brister has designed a reading program for next year, one which will take you through some of the great Puritan writers. Here's a link to his outline and reading list:

I'm going to give it a go, with some modification since I have recently read some of the John Owen and Richard Baxter.

Here's a quote from his blog indicating the first two of five reasons why we should read the writings of these men:

First, the Puritans had a relentless pursuit of God. In their writings you will find believers who knew their God deeply through a rich God-centeredness that affected every area of their lives. We are living in a day where it is hard to find folks who know their God well. Second, the Puritans were physicians of souls. These men studied themselves and had a real, experimental knowledge of Christianity. Nowhere will you find more “uses” and applications for your life than in their writings. Not only did they know God well, they knew the minds, hearts, and consciences of men well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Beyond Amazing Grace

In his old age, when he could no longer see to read, John Newton heard someone repeat this text, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor 15:10). He remained silent a short time and then, as if speaking to himself, he said, "I am not what I ought to be. Ah! How imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be. I abhor that which is evil, and I would cleave to that which is good. I am not what I hope to be. Soon, soon I shall put off mortality and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Though I am not what I ought to be, what I wish to be, and what I hope to be, yet I can truly say, I am not what I once was, a slave to sin and Satan. I can heartily join with the apostle and acknowledge, 'By the grace of God, I am what I am'.

From THE GRACE OF CHRIST by William Plumer

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Calvinism vs Arminianism

First, a few random observations:

This battleground is noted more for emotion than intellect. Otherwise Godly people seem to think it's OK to ditch any pretense of Christian charity and brotherly love when engaging on this subject.

Some of the most outspoken critics of Arminianism 1.) do not have a clear idea of what Arminians really believe and, 2.) Cannot spell Arminian and do grave injustice to the people of Armenia. (It's really tough for me to take seriously someone who wants to discourse on a subject they can't even spell correctly)

Entirely too many "critics" of calvinist theology cannot, do not, and/or will not make any distinction between hyper-calvinism, classical calvinism, and what I call "Baptist calvinism"--rather, they lump them all together and push them off to perdition. Like many critics of Arminianism, lots of these folks don't have a clue what calvinists really believe--they just know it's bad because someone told them it was.

There are several "streams" of theology in the calvinist camp. Mike Hess blogged on these recently here

Though I have a foot in several of those streams, I guess I fit best into what Mike calls the Young Fundamentalist group....which is funny in that I am far from young! I felt particularly comfortable with his statement on dispensationalism:

"do not take the Scofield/Chafer route of dichotomizing the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven but would still see a distinction between the Church and Israel."

I am also comfortable with the Reformed stream and the Fundamentalist stream with regard to the Ten Commandments and Sabbatarianism, which is contrary to the position of John MacArthur and my own church (which is mostly in Group #6 with some #5 and #2) I don't think it's anything to have a stroke over. I just cannot swallow thinking that, in effect, says: God gave 10 Commandments. 9 of them are applicable today, are part of His Moral Law; but the Fourth Commandment is just "ceremonial law" and has no standing in the Age of Grace. How can anyone say that?

On the subject of Arminianism, my blogging friend and brother in Christ, Billy Birch has put together a treasure trove of studies on classical arminianism. You can find it here.

If one is going to be opposed to arminianism, he should study it and know what it is he's opposing! Brother Birch and I are poles apart theologically but get along nicely. These acid-tossing brawls on this topic are a disgrace to the cause of Christ; both sides need to demonstrate more civility and grace.