Thursday, January 31, 2008


1. A Horse and His Boy by Lewis
2. The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the Sixteenth Century by Old
3. 100 Cupboards by Wilson


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

God the Liberal

I said last week that this table is political. Here, our King calls us to his table and communes with us as his subjects, and we enact our loyalty and allegiance to our King. But this table also reveals God’s political bias. We tend to divide politics into conservative and liberal, and this means different things for different areas of life. But this table is a picture of what God expects of his people. Here God gives us himself, he gives us back to one another, he gives us the world, he gives us his joy and forgiveness. And he gives it all liberally, freely, with open hands. God is our great King, and he keeps giving week after week, day after day. The beggar mentality sees food, hordes it, and scarfs it down because it does not believe there will be more even though the King will be coming by again very soon. But notice how God deals with us. We are all poor beggars in need of mercy, in need of grace, and God comes with open hands and gives and gives and gives. The unrepentant heart does not realize that this is simply the way God is and continues to horde, continues to covet, continues to steal from fellow beggars. But the repentant heart suddenly realizes or comes to realize over a period of time that this is just the way God is. And this realization turns him or her into royalty, into nobility. Because when you realize that all you have is from the King, and the King keeps giving, then you are free to give, you are freed to care for others. You are freed not to worry about what you will eat, what you will drink, what you will wear. The King will provide all these things and more. And so it is here at the Eucharist. Here the King gives you himself; all that is his is at your disposal. In other words, in this sense the liberals are right. The way to deal with poverty is to pile gifts and riches and blessings on those without. The problem with most liberals is that they don’t know what good gifts, true riches, and real blessings are. But our God has them all at his disposal, and he invites us to his feast. So come, eat, drink and rejoice.


Third Sunday after Epiphany: Exodus XX.15: Eighth Commandment

Opening Prayer: Almighty God, we come before you as your people, bought and purchased with the blood of Christ. We are your possessions, your holy ones, and therefore we submit ourselves to you. We know that true freedom is found in your life, and therefore we ask that you would bestow that life upon us even more now by the working of your Spirit. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!

We come now to the Eighth Commandment which prohibits stealing. Here the reality of private property is established, but since we serve the Trinity, our understanding of possessions must necessarily be patterned after the God of Scripture.

Free to Serve
Numerous theologians and commentaries have noticed that the Bible repeatedly focuses on kidnapping as a significant part of the eighth commandment. Our passage protects runaway slaves (23:15-16), but the law flatly prohibits kidnapping and the slave trade in both the Old Testament (Ex. 21:16, Dt. 24:7) and New Testament (1 Tim. 1:10). In other words, stealing is ultimately a sort of enslavement. Remember that it was Yahweh who delivered Israel from being slaves in Egypt, and he freed them in order that they might serve him (Ex. 20:2). Freedom is not abstract; it is a highly personal reality. There is no freedom in absolute isolation. The Trinity is ultimate freedom, and there the persons give themselves to one another and defend the honor and glory of one another. Because we are God’s nobility, he bestows gifts upon us. He gives us work, food, clothing, housing, a wife, a husband, children, health, safety, and so many other good gifts. Stealing a man or woman or child is ultimately stealing from Yahweh; stealing someone’s possessions is stealing a gift that God has given them to serve him and others with.

Restitution is not penance. Restitution is not “paying for” your sin/crime; it is not appeasing God with good works. Restitution is the embodiment of repentance to the extent possible. It is embracing God’s justice. To repent is to turn away from a particular kind of sin and turn toward righteousness (e.g. Eph. 4:20-32). This means that repenting of particular sins often entails restitution. When someone has lied, they repent by not only confessing that they lied but also by telling the truth (it may also include financial restitution). The principle of restitution is ultimately embodied in the doctrine of the atonement. The wages of sin is death, and Jesus paid this penalty on our behalf on the cross (punishment) and brought us back into fellowship with God (restoration). This justice is the standard of God’s dealings throughout history (e.g. Gen. 9:6, Ex. 21:23-25, Jer. 50:29, Obadiah 15). This means that God calls his people to imitate him in this. This requires: First, restoration of accidental damage or loss (Ex. 21:28-36; 22:10-15). Second, a thief is to restore double what has been stolen and in certain cases four or five times what was stolen (Ex. 22:1, 4, 7, 9). The thief who steals and confesses must restore what he has stolen plus 20% (a tithe on the double payment due by the unrepentant thief) (Lev. 6:1-7). But if the atonement is the ultimate example of this restitution justice then it is clear that this is really nothing less than love. When we have wronged a brother or sister, love not only confesses the wrong, love takes upon one’s self the loss in order to restore the offense. This is why the prison system is so unfortunate: where restitution allows for personal offences to be repaid and reconciliation to take place, prisons create this impersonal “society” that debts cannot really be paid to.

Conclusions and Applications
First, our passage in Dt. 23:24-25 distinguishes between property damage/theft and negligible “neighborly use.” Just as it is not a crime for a neighbor to pick a few heads of grain in a farmer’s field, it is not a sin (or crime) to accidentally walk off with the bank’s pen, borrow a paper clip and forget to return it, or pick up change off the ground. Conversely, we should not be annoyed at but rather welcome this kind of “neighborly use” by others. God requires his people to be open handed just as he is (Dt. 15:7ff), and some tender consciences need to be told to let these things go.

Second, we need to be aware of the sort of theft that we are most likely tempted to commit. The prophets have harsh words for the rich: exploitation of the poor and the ignorant is stealing (Amos 8:4-6, Matt. 23:14), withholding wages from workers is stealing (Jer. 22:13-17, Js. 5:4), and refusing to care for widows and orphans is stealing (Ex. 23:11, Dt. 15:8, 11). Neglecting to tithe is stealing from God (Mal. 3:8). More generally, we must insist that certain forms of interest/usury are theft (Dt. 23:19-20), even if you’re wearing a suit and tie and call it “property tax” or “eminent domain.” If it results in forcing owners out of their homes it is stealing.

We serve the God who redeems us (1 Pet. 1:18-19). But this character of God’s is fundamental to the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Spirit eternally give themselves up for one another, eternally free the other persons of the Trinity to use their gifts. You are called to imitate the Trinity in this: love the gifts of your neighbor, rejoice in what God has bestowed upon those around you, and give liberally.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Father, we thank you for how you have blessed with so many good things. Teach us rejoice in these gifts and rejoice in the gifts you have given others. Empower us to give ourselves up for our neighbors, our friends, and even our enemies, that we might show your grace and mercy to all even as you have done as much for us.


Eat the Fat and Drink the Sweet

Epiphany is the manifestation of God in Christ. We celebrate the coming of the Magi as the revelation of God as King over all the nations. We celebrate the baptism of Jesus as the revelation of the Trinity, and God’s intentions to cleanse us from out sin. We also celebrate Christ’s first miracle, turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana. There are a number of layers that episode in John, but we should not fail to notice that Jesus does not just any water to perform his miracle; he uses the water that had been set aside for purification. In other words, in that miracle, Jesus takes the old Jewish purification rites and turns them into the wine of a marriage feast. This does not mean that God is unconcerned about purification and cleansing; it means that God is revealing more fully how he intends to cleanse us, how he intends to deal with our sins, and overcome our weakness. God’s way purification and cleansing is through the joy and gladness – but not mindless joy or forced smiles. In Nehemiah 8, when the people hear the law and it is explained to them, they, like all people should, realized how short they have come. They realize their need for cleansing, their need for forgiveness, and their need for purification and the text says that they wept. But God sent them home not to mourn but he said: “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” You are gathered here in the presence of God with all of your challenges, with all of your fears, with all of your needs, with all of your burdens, with all of your hurts, pains, and guilt, but you are called upon to put it all down. We are not here to grovel and moan and steep in our weakness. You are called to confess your sins and then hear God’s promise of forgiveness and believe it and rejoice. This day is holy to our Lord; eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared. For the joy of the Lord is your strength.


All Baptism is Infant Baptism

I want to direct this meditation in two directions this morning. First, to the saints of Holy Trinity: To some of you, it may seem a little odd to be having a baptism of this gentleman that we have just met a week or two ago. But the lesson that has just been read and others like it record the apostolic pattern of baptism. Paul explained that salvation is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and after speaking the word of the Lord to the jailor, he was baptized at that very hour, in the middle of the night! Jesus sent his apostles and ministers out into the world to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them. This means that baptism ought not ordinarily to be the culmination of much study and training; rather it is the beginning of a life of discipleship, the enrollment in the school of Jesus. But this fact is actually re-enforced every time we have an infant or small child baptized. It was Jesus who said that “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me” (Mt. 18:4-5). Jesus says that everyone who enters the kingdom of heaven enters as a child. In other words, every baptism is an infant baptism. Everyone who desires to come to God must come as a little child. This is why baptism comes at the beginning of discipleship and should happen as soon as possible. Whether a person is 2 weeks old or 30 years old or 60 years old when God interrupts a person’s life with his grace, that person enters the kingdom as a child, as an infant, completely new, completely helpless, completely dependent on the kindness and mercy of God. Salvation is all of grace. A forty year old can no more save himself than a two week old.

And it is in this light that I exhort you, Rocky. I call upon you to recognize that you are coming to God as a child. You come in need of forgiveness. You come in need of cleansing. You come in need of wisdom. You come in need of new life. And as a minister of the gospel, I have been authorized to declare to you that all of these things are found in the Lord Jesus Christ. And I call upon you to believe this. Believe it deep down in your bones. Your salvation, your forgiveness, your justification, all that God promises to give you is a free gift given you for the sake of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You cannot earn any of this. All of our best deeds are still filthy rags before the perfect holiness of our God. This baptism is your assurance that God forgives. He promises to remove your sin as far as the east is from the west, and from the moment of your baptism, you must know and believe that you are a beloved son of God and Dayla is a beloved daughter of God. This is the gospel, the good news, Rocky. And it is good news for you. Believe this good news, embrace it, and give thanks.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!


Friday, January 25, 2008

For Opa

My daughter takes all comers. You should have seen that poor boy when she was done with him.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Promises and Election

Some in the recent presbyterian debates have suggested that God has given us the covenant and the sacraments, and that it is not really our responsibility to search the secret things of God. We don't have access to the list of the elect to glory. We have God's Word. We have baptism and the Eucharist, and these are God's sure promises to us. Bucer clearly taught similarly when he said regarding infant baptism, "It is the church's task to follow God's promises, not election, not attitude of the heart." Elsewhere, in a marginal notation, he says, "In conferring sacraments, regard is to be had to God's promise, not to election" (Wright, 101).


Early Bucer

More from D.F. Wright:

He quotes Bucer in his Ephesians commentary of 1527 as saying, "Faith and the Spirit are God's gift; he bestows them when he sees fit, not at our word. Certainly those who, as believers already, were baptized by the apostles, had previously been sealed by the Holy Spirit and received faith: what then did baptism or the word of the baptizer confer on them? So too our infants: if they were chosen of God before the foundations of the world were laid, the Lord will grant them the Spirit and faith when he sees fit, but our washing them with water will not for one moment grant them faith or God's Spirit - as some important persons affirm, no less ill-advisedly than irreligiously" (97). The rhetorical question in the above paragraph seems to imply a negative answer. To the adult already converted, baptism would seem to "confer" nothing.

Similarly, in the mid-1520s, Bucer explained to Luther that he found comfort in the fact that baptism was "external" for since the baptism of adults would "comply better with Scripture and the church's primitive usage, 'nevertheless we should not be too reluctant to concede this to the general consensus, that we baptize infants.'" (98).

Wright notes, as we have previously seen in Grund und Ursach, that Bucer attributed passages like Titus 3:5-6 and Ephesians 5:25-26 to "the baptism of Christ who baptizes with the Spirit, and not by baptism of a human being baptizing with water" (98).

In 1527, Bucer suggests that they baptize infants mostly for the peace of the church, but "if it required something different, we would not be at all reluctant to delay baptizing infants, while ever acknowledging that our children are holy and belong to Christ's until as adults by their own lives they show it to be otherwise" (98).

Likewise in Grund und Ursach, Bucer insists that this controversy over infant baptism is of minimal importance. He says that if there is "someone who delays baptism and desires to do so among those with whom he lives, without destroying love and unity, we in no way desire to quarrel with him about this, nor to condemn him... 'The kingdom of God is not eating or drinking,' neither is it baptism with water..."

Obviously things have changed between this point in the mid-1520s and the mid-1530s where infant baptism is required by church statute.


Bucer on Baptism and the State

Turns out I do have some of David Wright's work on Bucer in the form of Martin Bucer: Reforming Church and Community.

Wright notes that under Bucer's direction, the Strasbourg church ordinance of 1534required that "all children born to citizens must be baptized as infants" (96). Infants were required to be brought within six weeks of birth upon threat of punishment, including banishment, if parents refused. Bucer saw this requirement not merely as a theological necessity but more broadly as essential to the "preservation of the unified Christian community." Even appealing to Plato, Bucer justified the baptism of children of "godless parents" by appealing to the fact that children "belong more to the 'respublica' ('der gemein und stadt') than to their own parents" (97).


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Bucer on Baptism

What is quite striking about Bucer's theology of baptism is the differences between his Grund und Ursach (c. 1524) and his commentary on the Book of Common Prayer (c. 1549). As Steven pointed out in the comments below, it is generally recognized that there was considerable development in Bucer's baptismal theology throughout his ministry. Initially, he studied under Luther, then under Zwingli, and towards the end of his ministry was again working closely with Luther. In his early ministry, he faced the greatest hostility from Roman Catholics and (apparently) misunderstood Lutherans. Later, he faced the growing pressures of the Anabaptist movement.

Here are a few selections from his Commentary on the Book of Common Prayer:

1. Discussing the proper days for the baptism of infants, Bucer recommends having baptisms on feast days when the entire church is most likely to be present This is desirable so that the people of the church may be reminded of their own baptism and "the covenant of salvation [foederis salutis] which he undertook in his baptism." Furthermore, it is fitting that fellow members of Christ "should be present in good numbers when one of their children, born to eternal death, is to be born in the church to everlasting life and taken into the number of the sons of God. In this way they may pray God for that benefit and at the same time confer [una conferant] it upon him through the minister in the company of Christ's church..." Bucer goes on to say that at the same time, the infant and those witnessing the baptism are received into one another, being mutually bound by the "obligations of Christian fellowship." Presumably, Bucer has the "covenant of salvation" previously mentioned in mind here. Finally, on the same subject, Bucer says that these things ought to be taught to the ministers performing the baptisms since many of them are more interested in all the extra trappings and theatrics than "for the things which belong to baptism and rebirth [regenerationis]." Of note here is that while regeneration and baptism are distinguished, there appears to be little (if any) separation in time. Clearly, the "covenant of salvation" is contracted in the rite of baptism, but the congregation is also to pray for "that benefit," which presumably is "life everlasting" and adoption as a son of God, and that benefit is in fact to be conferred upon the infant by the minister "at the same time." Obviously, Bucer is not qualifying and distinguishing the "sign" and its "effects" with the same scrupulousness evidenced in the earlier writings found in Grund und Ursach.

2. Bucer comments on a later section and agrees that baptism of infants should be sought from a minister and it ought to be done so in a timely fashion. He also says that they ought to make their request "respectfully" since "unless men show the greatest respect for the mysteries of Christ they receive them to their judgment." This seems to be quite a bit different from the earlier sentiment where Bucer suggested that improper baptisms or baptisms of non-elect were just "wasted water," nothing but "water and prayer." Here, there is not merely the risk of getting wet and wasting a few words; here Bucer says that one risks judgment if proper respect is not offered the "mysteries of Christ."

3. Bucer says that there is no need to retain the older practice of baptizing infants at the door of the church. Bucer seems to think that this part of the ceremony was meant to underline the fact that infants are conceived and born in sin. Bucer says that while this is true and in fact explicitly recognized by the prayers and very act of baptism, the fact that the children of the faithful are "holy" should also be emphasized and "therefore [they] have the right to be taken into the church and to be sanctified in baptism." For this reason Bucer favors bringing the infant all the way into the church, into the midst of the gathered assembly. He says that baptizing at the door is among those "theatrical actions" which merely complicate the ceremony, and "the proper duty of Christians is to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, and to do nothing on any occasion, least of all at the holy mysteries of our redemption and rebirth [regenerationis] to eternal life, which is imprudent and careless..." Preserving this simplicity and performing the baptism in the midst of the people will increase the common understanding of the sacrament and "reverence for this first and greatest [huius summi, et primi] sacrament" will be restored. It is rather striking that Bucer calls baptism the "first and greatest sacrament."

4. Against the consecration of baptismal water, Bucer insists that "baptism is the sacrament of washing away sins ... because the Lord gained it for us not only by his baptism in the Jordan but also and much more by the baptism of the cross." And Bucer explains that "although water is used in baptism to confer [conferendam] the washing away of sins, yet this effect is not the work of water but of the Lord Christ." Later, commenting on another section with regard to the same idea, he explains that sacraments are not material elements which may be charged (consecrated) with some kind of power that is then transferred to people, but rather "sacraments exist in their use, they are actions, by which the Lord gives remission of sins and the communion of himself to his people, not to water, not to bread and wine: and these gifts are made when these signs are set out and received in conjunction with his word and in obedience to his commands." Clearly, Bucer has continued to preserve some of his old baptismal theology in so far as the action of the sacrament is dependent upon the work of God and not some quality resident in the sacramental elements.

5. Finally, it is interesting that towards the end of Bucer's comments on baptism, where he focuses his attention on catechesis and confirmation, he suggests that many confirmations result from merely parroted answers to questions and not necessarily true professions of faith. While he says that these children ought to be prayed for and given access to the common prayers and praises of God's people (regardless of "their age and degree of faith"), until they are obviously displaying "the fruits of the spirit, the giver of new birth [Spiritus Regeneratoris fructus, lit. "the fruits of the Spirit of Regeneration"]." He explains that they should not yet make confessions of faith since "the covenant of salvation [foedus salutis] is established by God by people who understand it and desire it..." Again, with regard to children/catechumens Bucer insists that they ought not be permitted to the Eucharist or "full communion of Christ" those who show by their lives either an abundance of the works of the flesh or a lack of the fruits of the spirit and ought to remain among the catechumens "until the Lord directs them to receive fully the rebirth [regenerationem] which he offered them in baptism and to make progress in their behavior [vita]." Here, Bucer comes closer to reestablishing some of those older distinctions, but they appear to be in some tension with his other comments in this document. Perhaps the most obvious is the "covenant of salvation" language. Earlier he identified entrance into that covenant as occurring at baptism, and explicitly at the baptism of infants. Here he says that the covenant is with those who have sufficient understanding to make an intelligent and meaningful profession of faith. Likewise, it is unclear how regeneration/the new birth is conferred in baptism on the one hand but also merely offered to be received fully at some later point in life. Bucer says that this distinction between the "undoubted people of God and those who in effect declare that they are not yet of his people [i.e. children/catechumens]" will not be harmful to the state or society since "this distinction is commanded by God, who cannot command anything which is not beneficial..." Bucer then cites 2 Cor. 6 and Matthew 18 for the need for church discipline as well as Lev. 26, Acts 2 and 5, and 2 Thess. 3 in support of his claim. And yet one wonders how baptism can be a means of uniting the infant to the people of the church, being received by those already in communion and regarded as a "son of God" and at the same time still be considered "not yet of his people."


Bucer on Baptism

I just got back from a week-intensive course down in Columbia, SC with Hughes Oliphant Old. The course was on Baptism in the Reformed Tradition. One of the Reformers we looked at was Martin Bucer. Bucer was a pastor in Strasbourg for a number of years, mentored Calvin for the few years he was there, and later spent time in England as Cramner was preparing to publish the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer. Old pointed us to Bucer's Grund und Ursach as one of the most important works of Bucer on his reforms of worship and the sacraments. The translation of this work is titled Basic Principles by Ottomar Frederick Cypris. We also looked at Bucer's commentary on the Book of Common Prayer translated by E.C. Whitaker.

Several things that I found interesting:

1. In Grund und Ursach Bucer insists that there are in fact two baptisms spoken of in the New Testament. He defends this claim from the words of John the Baptist which distinguish his baptism of water with Christ's baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. He also notes that Jesus repeats this same idea just prior to his ascension in Acts 1. Bucer says that John, the apostles, and the Church throughout the ages baptize with water, but the baptism with the Spirit is only performed by Christ. He follows this up with a brief overview of the passages which speak of baptism throughout the rest of the New Testament, identifying which baptism is being spoken of in each. So for instance, Bucer says that the baptism to which Peter invites the crowd in Acts 2:38 is a the spirit baptism of Christ, "that is, admit that you are in need of repentance and be baptized in the name of Christ, that is, with faith through the name of Christ you will receive forgiveness of sins, and then you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Likewise, 1 Peter 3:21, Ephesians 5:26, and Titus 3:5 are references to the baptism of Christ. Bucer explains that "if one reads concerning pardon or forgiveness of sins, it should be ascribed to the baptism of Christ."

2. As noted above Bucer argues that John's baptism was the same as our water baptism. Therefore, with regard to the much argued text in Acts 19:5 where disciples of John are said to be (re)baptized, Bucer strains the Greek to suggest that there is a significant difference between being baptized "with" the baptism of John and being baptized "into" (Gk. "eis") the baptism of John. The latter, which is the language of Acts 19:5, Bucer insists, means that they did not have a full understanding of what John taught. They "had not been baptized with the baptism of John but only, as the text says, into the baptism of John, just as if the baptism of water were sufficient in itself. For this reason the Apostle had to point them to Christ and therefore he also allowed them to be baptized into Him." (emphasis his) Otherwise "they would have had a greater knowledge of Christ and His baptism, which is done through the Spirit." Bucer points out that John clearly preached concerning the Spirit and yet these disciples did not know anything about the Holy Spirit.

3. Bucer cites Romans 6:3-4 and Galatians 3:27 to emphasize the fact that Christ cleanses people through faith in his death and resurrection. It is not absolutely clear but appears that Bucer means for his readers to understand baptism in those passages to refer to the inner, spiritual baptism that Christ alone performs. At the same time, Bucer at one point says that "he who is baptized correctly confesses that he is a child of anger, thoroughly unclean, but believes that Christ will cleanse him from all sins." This almost sounds like he's referring to the "correctness" of water baptism. And again later, he says that "the enlightened achieve this faith through baptism. And therefore, to the external baptism we should ascribe the forgiveness of sins as nothing more than a symbol." Likewise, with regard to the words of Ananias to Paul, "Arise and be baptized and cleansed from your sins and call on the Name of the Lord," Bucer says that Ananias "referred not only to the baptism with water alone, but rather through it to the baptism of the Spirit." This sounds rather close to the language of Westminster regarding the "spiritual union" in sacraments bewteen "the sign and the thing signified" where the names and effects of one may sometimes be attributed to the other (WCF 27.2).

4. One of the challenges that the Reformers faced was the popular understanding of many in their day that baptism was absolutely necessary for salvation. Thus, it became increasingly common for midwives to baptize newborn infants moments after birth to ensure that the grace of baptism had been conferred and salvation secured. The Reformers generally rejected this practice and while they insisted on the importance of baptism as soon as possible after birth, simultaneously maintained, as Bucer says, that "God does not limit his mercy to water."

5. The other extreme that the Reformers faced came in the form of the Anabaptists who rejected the baptism of infants. To this, Bucer points out not only the household baptisms in Acts, but also the swiftness of baptism in the New Testament. He notes that the Philippian jailor was baptized immediately after hearing the gospel and could not have had much understanding. We could point to the Ethiopian eunuch in this same regard. Likewise those who came to the baptism of John surely had a fairly limited understanding of the Kingdom that John was proclaiming. Bucer says that the disciples even baptized people like Simon the magician who had no faith at all, and the disciples themselves are said to have had only "childlike faith." Bucer says that since we do not know who God has chosen and who God has rejected, "we should refuse no one whose godless life is not immediately known to us, whom we could no longer consider to be a little lamb." Bucer basically says that we should baptize anyone who asks or is willing who does not show obvious signs of being in open rebellion or high-handed sin. He closes his case for baptizing children by saying that children are to be baptized "regardless of the fact that with some the water is wasted, as it was wasted on Simon the magician and many others." He seems to being saying that Anabaptists are making too big of a deal about baptism since it is merely a sign or a symbol. He asks, "Why make such a fuss about over a lot of water? . . . And even if we should baptize some billy-goats whom Christ would not have baptized through His Spirit, all that is involved is a lot of water and prayer." Again, he says, "for we prove most diligently that baptism with water does not save, but only the spiritual baptism of Christ, which is its true meaning, and for which one we should pray."


Israel as the Wine of God's Fury

In Jeremiah 25:15ff, the prophet describes how Yahweh will make the nations drink the wine of his fury. But this all follows on the heels of the promise that Jerusalem will go into exile for 70 years. The implication is that Israel is the wine of God's fury. Israel will be scattered into the nations, and those nations will become drunk (with Israel) and vomit (25:27). God's judgment will fall on his people at Jerusalem, and those cursed people will be taken into all the nations of the earth. But God has every intention of saving his people, and he will therefore fight for them and deliver them from the bellies of the nations. "Then I will bring them up and restore them to this place" (25:22). And of course it is difficult to miss the Jonah story wound through this.

Another possible implication is simply the inevitability of Israel reaching the nations. Her mission as the priestly people of God to serve and instruct the nations is being carried out in the exile regardless of the unfaithfulness of Israel. This does not exempt Israel from punishment but reveals God's ability to continue with his plan of discipling the nations. He will descipline the nations through Israel whether she is sick or healthy.


Scribblative Agincourting

And speaking of new blogs... My friends Doug Jones, Rusty Olps, and Brendan O'Donnell are also up to some fun here.


BH Blog

My friends at Biblical Horizons have started a blog.

Take a peek.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Sing Louder

Many of you may have heard by now that a couple of weeks ago we found out that one of the twins had died. If you read this blog with any frequency you may remember that my wife was expecting twins (AKA: "Mark" and "Johnny"), but the ultrasound at her 20 week appointment revealed that one of the twins had died. We know that the remaining, living twin is a girl. She seems to be doing fine, though the doctors want to monitor her development and growth closely over the coming weeks and months. We would ask you to join us in prayer for this little girl that she would be preserved safe and healthy and that she would have no complications.

Times like these are of course given to us by our faithful Father because he loves us and wants us to become more like him. Romans 5, in the midst of unpacking the doctrine of justification by faith, explains that because of justification, tribulations should produce perserverance, character, and even hope. One of the reasons God gives hardships is to make his people more hopeful. He wants us to have bigger hearts, deeper imaginations, and expect greater things from him. James begins his epistle with a similar statement, insisting that trials should make us joyful since we know that God intends to teach us patience so that we might be perfect and complete, not lacking anything. This can mean nothing less than God expects us to respond with praise and thanksgiving. In other words, he wants us to sing louder.

As Christians, we hate death. It is the last enemy that will be destroyed, and therefore we will not make peace with that enemy. At the same time, we are not sentimentalists, and we will not act as though there is something unfair about God's dealings with us. We have seen a number of obvious blessings already in these days. God has been supremely kind and good to us; he has protected us from many dangers, and we are thoroughly thankful. We are very hopeful that we will soon meet our daughter and that she will be healthy and strong, and we know that we will meet her twin, Anastacia Ruth, her 'resurrection friend', later, in God's good timing.

Thank you for your prayers and kind words. God is good.


The Politics of the Eucharist

As we come to the Lord’s table once again this week it is good to be reminded that we are coming to sit at our King’s table. This means among other things that we are all monarchists. We sit down here at this table in the kingdom of God, and Jesus is our King. We sit here together and feast upon bread and wine, the body and blood of our King. By feasting here together we are making a political statement. And it is important that we understand the politics of the Eucharist especially since we live in a nation that serves politics and democracy as gods in our various pantheons. We are Christians, and this means that we have a King who rules our land already. He is free to set up judges and presidents, and it is right and proper for Christians to live faithfully in the societies they inhabit. But our King does not have to run for re-election every four years. Our King is a Jewish man who was born, died, and rose again about 2000 years ago. We believe that this same man ascended into the heavens and has been sitting on the throne of the universe ever since. As the culture around us begins to get whipped up into their religious frenzy over the political process, you must remember that we do not serve those gods. This does not mean that we do not care about politics. The point is that we refuse to worship at their shrines and offer sacrifices to their deities. Yes, cast your votes, be god fearing citizens of the land, seek the welfare of your nation. But remember that this meal is a far more effective political tool than all the lawn signs and bumper stickers of the world. Here you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes; here, you proclaim that there is another king, one Jesus; here the Lord gives himself to you, strengthening you with his life, in order to make you faithful citizens of his kingdom. Seek his kingdom first, and all of these things shall be added to you.


Second Sunday after Epiphany: Exodus XX.14: Dt. 22:13-30

Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, you promise to give wisdom to those who ask, and therefore we ask for wisdom now. We are gathered here to submit to your word, and to conform our lives to your instructions. Give us not only hearts that are ready to obey, but eyes to see and understand what so many do not understand in our day. Through Christ.

We considered last week the idea of loyalty and fidelity particularly through the idea of belonging and possession. This wisdom of God is quite different from the wisdom of the world. This is quite different from the counsel that says: ‘do what works for you,’ ‘do what feels good,’ or ‘as long as you’re happy.’

Basic Principles
Moses establishes a number of foundational principles of marriage in this passage. First, it is a man who takes a wife, and a father who normally gives his daughter in marriage (Dt. 22:13-16). This is based on the pattern of creation where the man leaves his father and mother, and cleaves to his wife (Gen. 2:24). Normally, sons leave; daughters are given. This also means that the father is held responsible for the sexual purity of his daughter (Dt. 22:15-16, 21). This difference between men and women is often scorned and ridiculed as outdated, but as Christians committed to the Bible we must not apologize for any of it. Third, purity before marriage is the norm, and honesty is absolutely essential (Dt. 22:14-19). Fourth, infidelity in marriage is considered a most grievous crime and may result in the death penalty (Dt. 22:21-22, 24-25). This is at least in part due to the symbolism involved. It is also bound up with the theme of ownership and possession found in the gospel. Finally, because a woman represents her father or her husband proper boundaries must be respected. Seducing or raping a daughter, wife, or betrothed woman is a sexual assault not only on the woman involved but also the father (22:19, 29). This seems to be the reason for the conclusion of the chapter prohibiting marrying one’s mother, which is uncovering a father’s nakedness (22:30).

The Logic of Infidelity
Romans 1 is an important chapter explaining the logic of sin. Paul says that the root of all kinds of sin is the refusal to glorify God and be thankful (Rom 1:21). This ingratitude reveals itself in a culture of homosexuality. Paul begins with homosexuality and ends with those who are unmerciful, but the order is striking. He does not seem to be saying that being unmerciful might lead to homosexuality, rather, he is saying that homosexuality is already a foundational element in the entire list of sins. Homosexual literally means “same sex.” Homosexuality is not merely a particular sexual act; it is a lifestyle of self love. Gratitude receives life as a gift, believes that the Giver is faithful, and begins giving self away. The homosexual mindset doesn’t trust the Giver, doesn’t give thanks, and clings to self for fear of losing it. Jesus says that this is the sure way to lose your life: homosexuality is suicidal. But giving self away, losing your life for others is the way to save your life, to find your life (Mt. 16:25). The love of another requires the giving up of self, loyalty to the other. Thus, a breach of this loyalty is ultimately a refusal to give one’s self away. It is an act of love for one’s self.

Conclusions & Applications

We need selfless Dads. As we work at building a biblical Christian culture, it takes time, energy, and effort to lead families. Recognize your responsibilities and do not shirk them. Don’t be frustrated if there are not immediate results. Remember that God blesses faithfulness over the long haul.

We need selfless sons. Young men, you must not only cultivate purity, you must be preparing for marriage. This means that you must not be lazy. Learn to work hard now, and in particular, to obey your mother cheerfully. Prepare yourself to show honor and respect to the father of a young woman you are interested in.

We need selfless daughters. Young ladies, do not be consumed with silly things, but use your time and gifts wisely now. Pursue education: you will one day be mothers who will play important roles in the lives of your children. Remember to serve others in your dress. Trust your father’s wisdom and counsel, and do not settle for young men who do not respect your father.

Finally, if ingratitude is the basis for homosexual culture, then gratitude must be the basis for God-glorifying culture. Giving thanks means rejoicing in the wife of your youth. Giving thanks means recognizing that God does not meet us where we should have been. He meets us where we are, and his grace is sufficient.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Gracious Father, we thank you for your faithfulness to us. We thank you that you are giving God, that you gave us your Son and gave us your Spirit, and that you have bestowed abundant kindnesses upon us. Teach us to be a grateful people. Teach us to rejoice in the food you put on our table, our families, our cars, our clothing, our spouses, our callings, and use this gratitude and joy to overwhelm the boring culture around us.


Daughters of the King

In 1 Peter 3 and 1 Timothy 2 there are exhortations to women and wives in particular. In both places the apostles address the clothing and adornment of women. The fact that this comes up twice in the New Testament by two different apostles means that it is something that needs to be addressed, and that God thinks it’s worth repeating and thinking about. While men are rightly exhorted to maintain purity and flee from lusts, women need to be exhorted to flee from temptations to be lusted after. God made men to want to desire a woman, and conversely, he made women to want to be desired by a man. Of course this is a Creation design which is meant to be fulfilled in marriage. But the sinful hearts of men and women twist this to their destruction. And this tendency in women reveals itself in the need for male attention. Sometimes it shows up when young girls are eager to talk to their father’s friends or sit in their laps. Sometimes a young lady is flirtatious and overly chatty. It may mean that she dresses ostentatiously or immodestly. Other times it is less obvious. A girl may designate herself matchmaker and begin trying to hook up all her friends. Or what is becoming increasingly common; young ladies try to dress up like it’s Halloween all the time. Sure, they may not look like a Valley Girl or a Prom Queen, but they’re still crying out for attention, love, and security beneath all that black makeup. Girls that are tomboys are really after the same thing. Of course, every woman is different, every young lady has particular gifts, callings, likes and dislikes. But you are called to adorn yourself with grace and gentleness, and you must cultivate a godly disdain for the lies the world is busy throwing at you. Learn to mock the pictures you see in the magazines at the checkout counters. Make fun of their foolishness, their stupidity, their emptiness. You are daughters of the King. You are his prized possessions. He has adorned you with his own righteousness. Do not wish that you could wear the rags of those beggars out there.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Feast of Love

Throughout the Song of Songs, there is a continuous focus upon the feast of love. The king brings his bride to his banqueting table and rejoices over her (Song 2:4). The lover cries out that his spouse’s love is better than wine (Song 4:10). Her lips taste like honey, and there is milk and honey under her tongue (Song. 4:11). The bride is a garden full of pleasant spices and fruits, and she invites her husband to eat of its fruits (Song. 4:16). The bride cries out to her friends that her lover’s mouth is sweet (Song. 5:16). Again, the man says that his wife’s navel lacks no blended beverage (Song 7:2). He says that her breasts are clusters of the vine, sweet fruits which he feasts upon (Song 7:7-8). Much of this imagery should remind us of various Scriptural motifs. God created a garden in the beginning of the world and filled it with fruits and spices. When God brought his people into the Promised Land, he brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, a land with large clusters of grapes. Throughout the narrative, there are many references to architectural imagery: towers, battlements, cedars of Lebanon, and precious stones and carvings all of which remind us of the tabernacle, the temple, and the city of Jerusalem where God came to dwell with his people, a return to the garden paradise. The Song of Songs is in this sense a love song between God and his people. It is a glorious record of the intimacy that God seeks with his people, his bride, the Church. It is therefore no surprise that at the center of our worship, at the center of our communion with God, our husband, there is a meal, a feast, a banqueting table. Your God rejoices over you here; your God delights in you and the Scriptures compare it to enthusiastic love making. This is your God who has flung your sin from you as far as the east is from the west. Your God is faithful and loyal, and he only has eyes for you. Therefore come to the feast; let go of your fears, your worries, your doubts. You are forgiven, and Christ our God rejoices over you.


First Sunday after Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord: Exodus XX.13

Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we come before you as people who are immersed in a confused culture. We know that you have given us a wonderful gift in the marriage covenant, and that we are called to rejoice in the gift of sex. Teach us now by your Word and Spirit. Take away any false assumptions and teach us wisdom. Amen!

We come now to the seventh commandment. Biblical discussion of sex is perhaps one of the most glaring voids in the modern Church. The culture around has held the monopoly on this subject for so long, many Christians do not even know where to begin. But just because the world cannot stop talking about sex does not mean that it understands. Sexual wisdom begins with the fear of Yahweh, and sin always breeds confusion. The law of God gives understanding and clear thinking (e.g. Ps. 19:7).

Who Do You Belong To?
Adultery is essentially treason to the marriage covenant. In general, the command applies to all sexual immorality, and specifically, it applies to unfaithfulness in marriage. The prohibition against adultery, as with all of the other commands, brings with it a positive command requiring loyalty to the spouse that God has given. Even though the context sounds strange to modern ears, the requirements of Moses that wives be treated with dignity and justice do not degradate women as mere ‘property’. Rather, they raise the idea of “belonging” or “possession” to a position of honor and glory. It is a glory to belong. It is a well known fact that in the ancient world many people (including Israel) practiced polygamy. Yet, it is equally clear that God placed restrictions on marriage in order to discourage this practice and encourage the creational norm of monogamy (e.g. Ex. 21:10). Our passage in Deuteronomy does the same. Moses requires that marriage be thoughtfully considered and not rushed into (Dt. 21:13). Likewise, the son of an unloved wife may not be passed over for inheritance rights (Dt. 21:16-17). This not only discourages a man from favoring a wife, but ultimately it discourages a man from putting himself in this situation to begin with. But the point of this discouragement is the Biblical teaching that marriage is a certain kind of possession but not that kind.

The Gospel of Belonging
Sinful man hears the word ‘possession’ and immediately tends to run in a couple of directions. He may begin thinking about how he can get more. This mindset results in polygamy or a string of broken relationships. Or, it may result in various forms of tyranny. Husbands think that this means bossing their wives around. Wives manipulate their husbands, nagging them, harping on them, or using sex as leverage. Both of these tendencies are fundamentally adulterous, treasonous, and disloyal. Paul says that the real authority that resides in marriage is one which is mutual and requires giving (1 Cor. 7:2-4). Having a husband means that she has authority over her husband’s body, and having a wife means that he has authority over his wife’s body. This is because marriage is always a picture of the gospel. The gospel is the good news that Jesus is King, and this King has come and freed his people from death and sin and darkness and brought them light and life and forgiveness. This good news comes to you in the midst of your sin. You did choose him, but he chose you in order that you might go and bear fruit (Jn. 15:16). The Christian gospel of our victorious King bestowing a kingdom upon his people is the pattern of Christian marriage.

First, recognize where true wisdom is found. The gospel is the wisdom of God and the foolishness of those who are perishing. Believe the gospel: there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Jesus died for sexual sins; by his stripes you are healed. Learn the gospel inside and out, and think through, pray through the gospel that you might be wise and understand the mystery (Eph. 5:32). Adultery begins in the heart (Mt. 5:28); therefore confess your sins, believe that you are forgiven, and plead with God to deal with you.

Second, cultivate loyalty. Do this because God is already fiercely loyal to you. The God who has died for you and for your sins, calls you to follow him in this. This is the way to life. And loyalty is not merely the lack of treason. Enact your loyalty; live it out. In another discussion of sexual purity, Paul condemns going to a temple prostitute because Christians have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). And lastly, do not say, I will change when he does or she does. This is a Pelagian gospel. All of you belong to God; you are his possessions because he died and won you when you were still in your sins. And all of you who are married belong to your spouse. Therefore rejoice in your wife; rejoice in your husband. Your God rejoices over you.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Almighty God, make us a faithful and loyal people: loyal to you and loyal to one another. Teach us to rejoice in you as a faithful bride, and in so doing, make us a community that rejoices in your good gifts. Teach us to glory in the bodies you have given us that we might be faithful to you in all things.


The Revelation of Loyalty

This Lord’s Day we remember and celebrate the baptism of the Lord Jesus. In that baptism we see God having become man in Christ undergoing a baptism for the remission of sins. The sinless one is baptized for forgiveness of sins. This is a wonder and a glory, but it is a visible sign to us that our God has come down to us and taken upon himself even the likeness of sinful flesh. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. Furthermore, it is in this context, immediately following Christ’s baptism for forgiveness, that the Father declares, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. God the Father rejoices over his Son in a moment of great humility, in a moment when Jesus has taken upon himself the symbol of the need of salvation. Finally, it is in this moment that not only is Jesus revealed as God’s beloved Son and our brother in human flesh, but the entire Trinity is revealed as the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove. The fact that the Trinity is revealed here, in this moment of the baptism of Jesus is a glorious picture of the gospel for us. The Trinity, that endless and eternal communion of love and loyalty, is revealed in the baptism for the remission of sins. Because you belong to Christ, you are in the beloved. Because you were baptized, you are a walking revelation of the Trinity. In your baptism, you were declared forgiven and righteous because you were united to the Righteous One. You have been united to that endless eternal communion of love and loyalty. Therefore put away your treason. Put away your infidelity. Put away your lust. Stop wishing you were somewhere else. Drop your discontentment. You are in the presence of the Trinity, the loving community of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Here is fullness; here is goodness. Here are pleasures forevermore.


The Childish Commission

We have considered the Epiphany of God this morning, the manifestation of God as a human, but not merely a human, a human child. God’s infinite wisdom is manifest in the childlike audacity and daring of an infant playing near a viper’s den, a toddler leading wild animals about and teaching their children to play together. Jesus came as the Child King and played with the great serpent, even Satan, the devil, and having charmed that snake, crushed his head in the cross. But Jesus is the Child King of God, and he leads his people in this same kind of conquest of the world. If Jesus came doing childish things like playing with wild animals, he has likewise sent us into the world to play with snakes and wild animals. He sends us into the world and commands us to fear not for he will be with us. Even the serpents will not harm us. Whether they be old family tensions, financial troubles, coworkers, employers, or any other challenges or hardships, we serve the Child King who plays with danger and is not afraid of the risks. But ultimately we should expect no less from the God who manifests his wisdom to us week after week by giving us a meal like this. Here, God gives us a bite of bread and mouthful of wine and says, every time you do this, you proclaim the victory of God. This could only be dreamed up by a child, a child who does not read the Wall Street Journal or pay attention to international politics or watch the Dow Jones Industrial averages or follow the latest blog controversy or keep up with our petty squabbles and fights. Only a kid would decide that he was going to take over the world with a little bit of water, a little bit of bread, and a little bit of wine. And that is precisely what he is doing. We serve the God who has been manifest as the Child King. Therefore come, eat and drink and be merry because nothing can stop him.


Epiphany Sunday: Isaiah 11

Opening Prayer: Christ, our Mighty God, we worship you as the Child who was born at Bethlehem and worshiped by the wise men of the East. We worship you as the Child who taught the scribes and theologians. We honor you as the young boy who reminded his parents that he was always about his Father’s business. And we ask you to teach us now. Rule us by the rod of your mouth. Amen!

Today is Epiphany Sunday. It is the culmination of our celebration of Christmas with the saints throughout the world. It is the feast of the manifestation of God as a Child.

Prophecies of a Child
We have read and heard the prophecies many times from Isaiah. Isaiah rebukes Ahaz’s insolence for refusing to request a sign of his deliverance and declares that that a virgin will conceive and bear a Son who will be Immanuel (Is. 7:13-14). Of course the immediate context and application of this prophecy regards the threat of invasion in Jerusalem from the alliance of the kings of Israel and Syria (Is. 7:1). Isaiah promises that this threat will be undone by the nation of Assyria (Is. 7:7-9, 17). The immediate fulfillment of the prophecy is recorded in the birth of Maher-shalal-hash-baz (8:1-3). “Swift Plunder” is the child born to the “prophetess” who will still be a toddler when the judgment falls. Yet, there is clearly more to be fulfilled beyond this. Assyria’s banks are going to overflow and come up even against Jerusalem (8:7-8), but in the midst of that threat, the rod of the oppressor will be broken because of Immanuel (8:9-10, 9:1-5). Isaiah’s train of thought has not been broken: Immanuel is the Child born of the virgin, and therefore he declares the same point again. Unto us a Child is born who will be the King of Israel (9:6-7). This Child’s empire is to emerge in the midst of great turmoil and unrest (9:18-21), and the rod of Assyria is to be broken even as it deals out Yahweh’s judgment (10:12, 15). The remnant of Israel will return to “Mighty God” – the Child Immanuel (10:21, cf. 9:6). Yahweh again declares that Jerusalem must not fear; Assyria will strike Zion but she will be hewn down (10:24, 33-34).

The Branch and the Child
It is in this context that Isaiah declares that a rod and branch will grow up from the stem of Jesse (11:1). The forest of Assyria grown upon in Palestine will be hewn down, and from this clear cut, a branch will grow up. This branch will be the Child who will judge not by sight or sound but in righteousness (11:3-4). It is a Child who will slay the wicked, a Child who will lead lions and leopards and lambs (11:5). A nursing Child will play in the cobra’s hole and reach his hand down into a viper’s den (11:8). Not only is this a prophecy of ultimate peace and righteousness, this is the prophecy of what that Child Immanuel is like. Only a Child who doesn’t look or listen would do those things! This Child will be a new Moses who will lead a new Israel in a new Exodus, gathering a people from the four corners of the earth (11:11-15, 12:1-2). The central issue at hand is who does Israel trust? Israel trusted Damascus and Judah will trust Assyria (10:20), but Yahweh calls them to put their trust in a Child, a Child who does childish things.

Conclusions & Applications
In Revelation 12, John picks up on this imagery describing the birth pangs of the woman whose Child was to rule all nations with a Rod of iron. This Child who is born to rule all the nations is taken up to heaven to sit on God’s throne (Rev. 12:5). John says that the Emperor of the world is a Child. In other words, for God to become man is for God to become young; it is for God to become a little kid. And John says that this Child is now in heaven ruling the world. The fate of the world rests upon the shoulders of a Child. We serve the Child King.

But the glory of the gospel is that God calls upon us to follow this Child as our King. Jesus is the Child who came to play in the viper’s den of Israel. John the Baptist called first century Israel a brood of vipers. And Christ himself calls them serpents and vipers (Mt. 12:34, 23:33). Jesus spent much of his ministry mingling with the outcasts, but tax collectors were predators and the antagonism between Jew and Gentile was about like a lion and a lamb. Jesus is the Child King who put his hand right into our world. He is the little child who came and began leading lions and leopards and bears around and teaching their offspring to play together. Ultimately his childlike behavior got him killed, but that has hardly fazed him.

And you are called this same childlike peace making. Your King has gone before you. He is oblivious to your excuses and all the risks. He doesn’t care that it has never worked before. He doesn’t care that you say it is impossible. He is a Child utterly intent upon filling this world with his peace and righteousness. We serve a Child who rules the nations, and you cannot argue with a Child. You are therefore called upon to follow this child in the coming year into whatever challenges he brings you.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Gracious Father, we praise you for your Son, the Child King who rules the nations. We thank you that our world is in the hand of this Child. Make us like this Child, your Son, teach us to become little children that we might enter your Kingdom. Give us this courage and make us fearless as we trust in you.


The Wisdom of Youth

Some sins haunt Christians. They are old sinful patterns: Lust, bitterness, anger, harsh words; they are like old friends. And sinful people fall back into those patterns, those ruts without any effort. There is a kind of comfort, a kind of predictability in old sin. You’ve done it a hundred times before, you’ve said those words a thousand times before, you’ve had that argument and those thoughts many times before. And there’s a certain sick delight found in doing, saying, thinking evil if only for a few moments because, well, it feels like old times; it’s familiar, safe, and predictable. She’ll say that and I’ll say this, we’ll storm out and then in about forty five minutes we’ll make up. It’s just the way we do things, you say. But your way of doing things is an affront to the God of grace. Your old ways, your familiar ways, your old sinful patterns are not to be seen as old friends but fierce enemies. God was not manifest in this world as an old man stuck in his ways. He was not manifest in this world as the good old days, as predictability, or familiarity. God was manifest as a child. He was revealed to the world as new life, as a new beginning, a fresh start, a brand new history. You serve the eternal God, the Ancient of Days, who was revealed and manifested as a baby. Therefore put to death the deeds of the flesh. Utterly repudiate your old ways, put away your lust, put away your anger, and let go of that bitterness. Put it all down now. If the Ancient of Days can become young, then you can teach old dogs new tricks. You are coming into the presence of the God of the universe, the God who was revealed and was manifest as a child. And if the incarnation is the youthfulness of God, then you are all called to become like your God. Put away your old ways for they are growing old and dying; put on newness of life, put on youthful vigor, righteousness, peace, love, and joy. We, with the wise men of the East, worship God as a Child on this Epiphany Sunday. Therefore learn this wisdom.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Books Read in 2007

1. Muslims and Christians at the Table by McDowell and Zaka
2. Islam by Braswell
3. Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport by Mouw
4. Paul and First-Century Letter Writing by Richards
5. The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation by McGrath
6. Scripture Alone by Sproul
7. The Christians as Romans Saw Them by Wilken
8. How We God the Bible by Lightfoot
9. The Binding of God by Lillback
10. The Magician's Nephew by Lewis
11. Themes and Variations for a Christian Doxology by Old
12. Lord of the Temple by Lohmeyer
13. Leepike Ridge by Wilson
14. On the Incarnation by Athanasius
15. The Vision of God by Lossky
16. The Person of Christ by Macleod
17. The Love of Learning and the Desire for God by Leclercq
18. The Bible and the Liturgy by Danielou
19. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by Lewis
20. The Work of Christ by Letham
21. The Mystery of Christian Worship by Casel
22. Perspectives on the Word of God by Frame
23. The Face of Truth by Edgar
24. Prince Caspian by Lewis
25. Evangelical Ethics by Davis
26. The Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bks. 2 & 3) by Calvin
27. How Long O Lord? by Carson
28. The Heart and Hand of God by Walker
29. The Ten Commandments by Douma
30. Grace and Christology in the Early Church by Fairbairn