Ordinary Time

January 8, 2015 in Bible - NT - Matthew, Bible - OT - Psalms, Church Calendar, Creation, Newsletter, Providence

Greetings and blessings as we enter into Ordinary Time. There are two sessions of Ordinary Time in the Church Year. The first is this that we have entered which spans from Epiphany to Ash Wednesday. The second follows Trinity Sunday in the Spring and continues until Advent. The majority of the year, therefore, is Ordinary Time – it is the time of slow and steady growth at the hands of our wise and loving God.

Jesus reminds us in His parables that the kingdom of God is like planting and harvesting a crop – it grows slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, but always persistently. God is at work. Consequently, the color for Ordinary Time is green – the color of plant-like growth.
Appropriately this Sunday we recite the 11th question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q: What are God’s works of providence?
A: God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions.


The Living God is the Lord of all; He is sovereign. Not only did He create all things in the beginning, He continues to sustain them by His Almighty Hand. Providence is what separates us from Deists. Deists want a god who created but who is no longer involved in the history of the world and creation. But the Living God is not like this. It is He who causes the earth to rotate on its axis; He who supplies the birds of the air with food; He who directs the molecular structures of every created thing. “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps 115:3).

Because our Lord is Sovereign and in control of all, all those who have Him as our Father through faith in His Son Jesus, can have great confidence. We can rid ourselves of worry and anxiety – God is in control. “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29–31) Praise God!

God’s Delight in His Work

December 7, 2014 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Christmas, Church Calendar, Creation, Quotations
Proverbs 8:30–32 (NKJV)
30 Then I [Wisdom] was beside [the Creator] as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men. 32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.
As we continue in Advent to anticipate the arrival of Christmas and the birth of the Christ Child, I would remind you that children love times of celebration like Christmas. While adults often grow tired, kids never tire and long for the celebration. “When are we going to get the tree? When are we going to put up the lights? When are we going to open presents?”
We see in our text from Proverbs today that the delight and energy and joy of children reveals God’s own delight in all His work. God never tires of causing the earth to spin like a top; never tires of flapping the wings of a bird; never tires of causing the grass to sprout from the earth; never tires of sucking water out of the earth through the roots of a tree and turning the nutrients into apples that people can eat. All these works of the Lord reveal His untiring joy and laughter, reveal His delight in all His work, His faithfulness and uprightness. Chesterton explains in his book Orthodoxy:
“A man [typically] varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into a [bus] because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the [river] goes to [the sea]. The very speed and ecstacy of his life would have the stillness of death. The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. it may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

And so reminded that we have sinned and grown old, that we have become bored and complacent with the marvelous world that God has made and in which He has placed us, that we have complained rather than overflowed with thanksgiving, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.

Existentialism and the Transgendered Movement

June 10, 2014 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Church History, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Creation, Homosexuality, Politics, Quotations, Sanctification, Sexuality

Below are notes from my sermon on Sunday endeavoring to highlight the connection between Existentialism and the transgendered movement and the way in which this deviates from the special creation described in Genesis 1-2; we might also add how demeaning the transgendered movement is to folks caught in its snare. May God have mercy upon us.

In the 20th century there emerged an incredibly influential philosophical movement known as Existentialism. This movement is the driving force behind much of the political and moral disarray occurring today – though most people are unaware of these philosophical underpinnings. Existentialism grew out of the teachings of the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre explains existentialism thus:
Atheistic existentialism, which I represent…states that if god does not exist, there is at least one being [man] in whom existence precedes essence… This means that, first of all, man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards defines himself. If man, as the existentialist conceives, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be. Thus, there is no human nature, since there is no God to conceive it. Not only is man what he conceives himself to be, but he is only what he wills himself to be after this thrust toward existence. Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.      Jean-Paul Sartre
And, Sartre would go on to declare, you can make of yourself whatever you want – the important thing is to do, to will, to make of yourself something, anything. You define; you decide; existence precedes essence. Existentialism! You popped on the scene and now you have to figure out who you are and what you are going to be.
Notice the way this philosophy drives our current cultural debates – even in our local government school system and the push to make the schools endorse transgenderedism: Are you born male? It matters not – you can choose to be female. Are you born female? It matters not – you can choose to be male. Choose. It’s all in the choosing. There is no god who defines us; no higher standard that bounds us. You exist – you were born this way. But that doesn’t define who you are. Your essence is something you choose – and all that matters is the choosing.
But let me suggest that this is the very thing symbolized by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Sartre is the serpent of the 20thcentury. He has tempted us to be “like god” – to define good and evil for ourselves; to say what is and what is not good and noble and right; to live autonomously as a law unto ourselves. But in the end, this will lead to death – indeed it already has: the deaths of millions of children still in the womb.
You see, Sartre and Peter Singer (Utilitarian Philosopher at Princeton) are of a piece. “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself,” Sartre pronounces. Or as Singer would have it: “Once the religious mumbo-jumbo surrounding the term “human” has been stripped away, we may continue to see normalmembers of our species as possessing greater capacities of rationality, self-consciousness, communication, and so on, than members of any other species; but we will not regard as sacrosanct the life of each and every member of our species, no matter how limited its capacity for intelligent or even conscious life may be.” For they must be able to choose; they must be able to make something of themselves.
So what are we to think of a human being who cannot articulate that choice? What are we to think of those who are suffering from dementia or cerebral palsy or madness – or perhaps even religious mumbo-jumbo? After all the Soviets determined that religious belief was a mental abnormality that needed to be cured; and Richard Dawkins has said much the same. So what are we to think of such human beings? They are expendable – for they lack the features that we (the elite like Peter Singer) have determined are meaningful for life.
But this is absolutely foreign to the Word of God. God defines us. We enter into the world pre-defined. Essence precedes existence. We have some form of essentialism not existentialism! God defines you – you are a human being, made in God’s image, invested with dignity and honor not because of what you have done but because of what you are. God has made you and crafted you and breathed into you the breath of life.
If you are male, God made you male and gives you a distinct calling to be a man. If you are female, God made you female and gives you a distinct calling to be a woman. You cannot redefine these things. The definition has already been established. So receive who you are; receive it as a gift from God and rejoice in it. God made you a man; made you a woman. Rejoice, give thanks, and sing! You bear the very image of God, an image that cannot be taken away.

You can’t redefine but you can rebel like Adam and Eve. But the result of rebellion is death, destruction, judgment. There is no third option.

The Covenant of Life

June 10, 2014 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Covenantal Living, Creation, Creeds, Federal Vision, King Jesus, Lord's Day, Marriage, Quotations, Sanctification

The Westminster Larger Catechism (modern version by the EPC):

Q. 20. What was God’s providence relating to the humans he created? 

A. God providentially put Adam and Eve in paradise and assigned them the job of taking care of it. He gave them permission to eat everything that grew, put them in authority over all the creatures, and established marriage as a help for Adam. God allowed them to have fellowship with him, instituted the Sabbath, and made a covenant of life with them on the condition of their personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience. The tree of life was a sign guaranteeing this covenant. Finally, God told them not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or they would die.

The Edenic Covenant: Covenant of Works or Covenant of Grace?

June 9, 2014 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Covenantal Living, Creation, Creeds, Federal Vision, King Jesus, Law and Gospel, Old Testament, Quotations, Sacraments, Sanctification

     “The Adamic covenant should not be considered in such narrow terms that it is seen only of the eating prohibition and its consequences. It is also improper to call this covenant a covenant of works. The implication then would be that other covenants are not covenants of works, or that this covenant, which obviously had its inception before the Fall, is not a covenant of grace. Then grace can only be evident in matters which have to do with redemption, which is a post-fall activity.
     “Such distinctions should be abandoned. All covenants between God and man should be seen as covenants of grace. The metaphor of covenant portrays a relationship between a sovereign and a vassal. The sovereign is under no obligation to initiate this arrangement. That he does so is a matter of grace. But the vassal is going to benefit from such an arrangement.
     “When we see the first biblical covenant in this light we will find that it frees us from the problems introduced by a covenant of works concept. First, it removes the idea that Adam could have worked for his salvation.
     “Second, it puts the entire original creation into a different perspective. The creation, with Adam as its head, is seen to be under covenant obligation to the Creator-Sovereign.
     “Third, there are implications, in an original Creator-creation covenant, for the concept of free will. Is a creation which is in covenant relationship free to do whatever it wants? When man and the rest of creation with him chose to disobey the creator this was an act of rebellion. It was willful breaking of the creation covenant.
     “The covenant with Abraham, Aaron (Levi) and David are covenants of promise. God promises to do something for Abraham, Aaron or David and their descendants. But when we consider what happened to some of their descendants we find that God rejected them and God stated that they had broken his covenant. Implicit in every covenant is the obligation of obedience. Along with promise-covenants is the understanding that those to whom the promises come must obey the Lord. Failure to obey marks the one under promise-covenant oath a rebel.” John M. Zinkand, Covenants: God’s Claims (Sioux Center, IA: Dordt University Press, 1984), pp. 54-55.

Concerns with the Covenant of Works

June 9, 2014 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Covenantal Living, Creation, Faith, Federal Vision, Law and Gospel, Quotations, Sanctification

     “The disadvantage of the phrase covenant of works is that it has led to a controversy over the nature of the covenant agreement between God and Adam. Two problems especially have entered the discussion: (1) The terminology is reminiscent of a commercial exchange. This suggests that eternal life is a kind of commodity, and that if Adam pays the price, “perfect obedience,” “works,” or “merit,” God will turn that commodity over to Adam and his posterity. (2) The works are Adam’s works, not God’s, so one gets the impression that Adam is left entirely on his own. These two contentions are used to maintain a clear contrast between works and grace.
     “Certainly the focus of the Edenic covenant is on what Adam does rather than on God’s action as the ground of Adam’s blessing or curse. And certainly whatever blessing Adam received would have been appropriate to his obedience: he would have deserved the blessing. But it would be wrong to claim as in issue 2 above that had Adam successfully resisted temptation, God would have had nothing to do with it. It was God who created Adam and all his surroundings. God made him in his image and made him his vassal king over the earth. God gave him abundant food and drink, a wife, and above all fellowship with himself. And indeed Adam’s decision was foreordained by God, as we will see. As for issue 1, Adam did not earn any of these things by his works. These were gifts of God’s unmerited favor. So if Adam had passed his test successfully, he would not have boasted as if he had done it all on his own. he would have praised God for his unmerited favor. The term covenant of works, therefore, may mislead us by suggesting that Adam possessed an autonomy that no other creature has ever possessed. Best to regard this covenant, like the others, as a sovereign blessing of God, calling Adam and Eve to respond in obedient faith.
     “There is, however, nothing wrong with what the Westminster Standards actually say about the covenant of works. So we say nothing wrong when we use the phrase as did the Westminster divines. But when we choose extrabiblical language to describe biblical truths, we should take into account the impressions that this language would be likely to make on contemporary readers. And indeed there are some problems of possible misunderstandings and misuses of this language, such as issues 1 and 2 above. I do not, therefore, object to the phrase covenant of works as long as the use of that phrase is kept within the limits of the Westminster definitions, but I prefer to refer to the covenant under discussion as the Edenic covenant.” John Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 65.

Two Humanities, Two Representatives

May 18, 2014 in Baptism, Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Creation, Easter, Eschatology, Judgment, Meditations, Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:20–28 (NKJV)
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
Today we continue to make our way through 1 Corinthians 15 in celebration of Eastertide, the time of year when we are invited to give special focus to the significance of Easter, the significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Here Paul unfolds for us the point that we endeavored to make last week: there is an indissoluble connection between the resurrection of Jesus and our resurrection. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, we shall rise from our graves. Jesus came, Paul tells us, as a Second Adam, head of a new and renewed humanity. While the sin of the First Adam plunged not only himself but all humanity into death and judgment, the resurrection of the Second Adam, Jesus, brings new life not only to Himself but to all those who are in Him.
What this means is that throughout history there are two humanities: the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; the sheep and the goats; the circumcised and the uncircumcised; the wheat and the tares; those who have the First Adam as their representative before God and who will, therefore, face death and judgment; and those who have the Second Adam as their representative before God and who will, therefore, inherit eternal life and salvation.
You see, when Jesus returns in glory, every human being shall be made to appear before our Creator – and when we appear before Him, there will be but two fundamental groups of men and two spokesmen. There will be those who stand with the First Adam and who say to God through their representative, “I will rule my life by my own standards; I will be my own authority.”Then then there shall be those who stand with the Second Adam and who say to God through their representative, “All glory be to You, O Lord; for you have created me so I will live for your glory not my own.”
So in which group shall you be found? Will you stand with the First Adam? Will you stand in rebellion against God, choosing your own way and ignoring the commandments of God? Or will you stand with the Second? Will you stand in submission to God, choosing His way and treasuring the commandments of God? These are our two options; these are the two spokesmen. You must choose one to speak for you; there is no viable third option.
Of course, there are those who try to fool God; there are those who unite themselves with the Second Adam in baptism but who really embrace the life of the First. But on the final day there will be no fooling God or others. He knows the Adam with whom you identify.

So today as we confess our sins, let me remind you to confess them in the Name of Jesus Christ, trusting in Him as your representative. Only in this way shall we rise unto life on the Last Day. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord.

What was God to do?

May 14, 2014 in Atheism, Book Reviews, Church History, Creation, Cross of Christ, Eschatology, Human Condition, King Jesus, Quotations, Trinity, Word of God

I’m doing sermon prep on the Image of God and recalled this glorious passage from Athanasius:

     What was God to do in the face of this dehumanising of mankind, this universal hiding of the knowledge of Himself by the wiles of evil spirits? Was He to keep silence before so great a wrong and let men go on being thus deceived and kept in ignorance of Himself? If so, what was the use of having made them in His own image originally? It would surely have been better for them always to have been brutes, rather than to revert to that condition when once they had shared the nature of the Word. Again, things being as they were, what was the use of their ever having had the knowledge of God? Surely it would have been better for God never to have bestowed it, than that men should subsequently be found unworthy to receive it. Similarly, what possible profit could it be to God Himself, who made men, if when made they did not worship Him, but regarded others as their makers? This would be tantamount to His having made them for others and not for Himself. Even an earthly king, though he is only a man, does not allow lands that he has colonised to pass into other hands or to desert to other rules, but sends letters and friends and even visits them himself to recall them to their allegiance, rather than allow his work to be undone. How much more, then, will God be patient and painstaking with His creatures, that they be not led astray from Him to the service of those that are not, and that all the more because such error means for them sheer ruin, and because it is not right that those who had once shared His Image should be destroyed.
     What, then, was God to do? What else could He possibly do, being God, but renew His image in mankind, so that through it men might once more come to know Him? And how could this be done save by the coming of the very Image Himself, our Saviour Jesus Christ? Men could not have done it, for they are only made after the Image; nor could angels have done it, for they are not the images of God. The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man made after the Image.
     In order to effect this re-creation, however, He had first to do away with death and corruption. Therefore He assumed a human body, in order that in it death might once for all be destroyed, and that men might be renewed according to the Image. The Image of the Father only was sufficient for this need.

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, Trans. Anonymous. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1977) 40-41.

Our Incomprehensible Creator

April 7, 2014 in Book Reviews, Church History, Creation, Fabulosities, Sovereignty of God
This last Sunday I quoted from the book On the Trinity by the early church father Novatian (c. 200-258). The passage discusses the inability of we finite beings to either comprehend or explain God fully. Here is the quotation in full – this is an updated translation from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5:

Therefore, the mind of man cannot fully comprehend God in His being and nature, nor can our tongues adequately express the wonder of His majesty. For when conceiving and speaking of His majesty, all eloquence is mute and all mind impoverished. For He is greater than mind itself; nor can it be conceived how great He is, seeing that if it could, then He would be smaller than the human mind that conceived Him. He is greater, moreover, than all speech, nor can He be fully declared; for if He could, then He would be less than the speech which encompassed and contained Him. For whatever can be thought concerning Him must be less than Himself; and whatever can be declared must be less than Himself …For if the keenness of our eyes grows dull on looking at the sun, so that the brightness of the rays prevents us from gazing upon the orb itself, the keenness of our mental perception suffers the same thing in all our thinking about God, and in proportion as we give our endeavors more directly to consider God, so much the more the mind itself is blinded by the light of its own thought. What could you possibly say then that would be worthy of Him? He is more sublime than all sublimity, higher than all heights, deeper than all depth, clearer than all light, brighter than all brilliance, more splendid than all splendor, stronger than all strength, mightier than all might, more beautiful than all beauty, truer than all truth, more enduring than all endurance, greater than all majesty, more powerful than all power, richer than all riches, wiser than all wisdom, kinder than all kindness, better than all goodness, juster than all justice, more merciful than all mercy. Every kind of virtue must of necessity be less than He, who is the God and source of all virtue.