It’ll turn you on your head.

The Second Adam and the New Birth by M.F. Sadler

This book finished the job blowing my former paradigms of baptism away. It is solid in its handling of Scripture and assembles an impressive arsenal against the view that baptism is merely symbolic. It is neither Roman Catholic nor baptistic in its view of baptism; rather it treats the doctrine biblically without falling into any particular ditch. My only caveat is that it gives away too much regarding the doctrine of eternal election, which the author states that he believes wholeheartedly.

Would that all clerks were so bold for Christ

Two of my favorite writers, Peter Leithart and Doug Wilson have written about the Kim Davis situation in Kentucky. Pastor Wilson wrote of the importance of viewing this not as a religious vs. secular case, but a religion A or  religion B case. Dr. Leithart wrote about how the case could give a wide degree of religious liberty in time, but too many on the right and the left have been quick to speak against her.

Those articles are worth reading, and for myself I would add that I appreciate Mrs. Davis. There is much misinformation and disinformation about her (such as the fact that she has been married four times, all of which took place before she became a Christian). She is under attack because she is standing for her constitutional rights. Yes I said constitutional rights. The first amendment gives someone the freedom from having to endorse what they believe is wrong, and having your name appear on the bottom of a homosexual marriage license is in her mind (and mine) an endorsement. It is no different than me endorsing a check to a friend that I know he would use to pay for a prostitute. I wouldn’t do that and she should not be forced to either. The question isn’t why did she do it. It is, “Why isn’t any other county clerk willing to do this?” The answer is that we are, by and large, cowards. We can’t imagine doing anything that won’t at least gain us immediate martyr status with “our”crowd.

At this point I am going to suggest something that I’ve not heard anyone say: please pray for Kim Davis. She is the scourge of the left (understandable) and right (crazy!). She needs strength, patience, and continued grace in the face of spiritual and emotional assault. Pray that God would send her encouragement and wisdom (James 1:3-8). Pray that God would raise up many more men and women like Kim Davis in positions of authority who will stand in the power of the Spirit. And finally, pray that God would give us all courage to stand for righteousness in the face of trials.

Those things that remain

A world is dying. That’s how it feels at least. Recently I spoke to an elderly friend in central Europe whose local church was shut down by the state. The reason: the church was not making a profit. The church is small and mostly an elderly congregation and facing liberalizing tendencies within its leadership. It is indirectly controlled by the state and, while it could make ends meet, didn’t bring in enough to the coffers of the larger denomination.

The church now sits vacant, with a “For sale” sign in front. “It isn’t just our church,” my friend said, “churches are closing down right and left.” “The Roman Catholics are worse off than we are. They are closing many many churches in the area. It’s not just in Europe. One very old church in my area, less than five years removed from building a new building in a nice area, closed its doors. I don’t know the story but I could guess: internal problems that no one could/would deal with.

It’s discouraging to hear of such situations. Long-established churches are closing in Europe at a rapid clip. Many conservative congregations that remain open have been under siege for decades by liberal theology and can only find pastors that support heretical liberalism.

Despite the temptation to melancholy, hope remains. That is in the resurrection of Christ. I remember N.T. Wright quoting Leslie Newbegin when responding to the question as to whether he was an optimist or a pessimist, “I am neither. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.” I’m not saying it’s time to hold up in our enclaves and wait for death. I mean resurrection power remains.

The Spirit of God is alive and well within the body of Christ. The problem is that He is not working like we might wish or expect. We have been used to patterns in the past and He is not working in such a way now. What should we expect, He is a creator after all, not an imitator. He loves to show death and resurrection over and over, but it does not look the same. The patterns in the Bible continue (exile and return, creation and new creation, death and resurrection, etc.) but there are always tweaks. To use a poor metaphor, it’s like a football coach with a specific number of offensive plays, but he runs them from so many formations, sets, and motions that it’s impossible to guess what he will do next.

I can struggle at times because being a Christian today looks so different than it did twenty or thirty years earlier. Satan’s assaults are coming from different directions. The reliable forts that existed in my grandmother’s generation (strong family bonds, neighborhood involvement, community-wide church involvement) are being removed.

So what is there to do? As our Lord said to the church at Sardis, “strengthen those things than remain.” There is much to fight for. Marriage is not dead; we must continue to fight for it. The blood of millions of aborted babies cries out. Will we continue to pray and give and work to end the slaughter? Our children must be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord lest they fall into the hands of the enemy. There is evangelism and discipleship that must take place.

We don’t know how the Lord will accomplish His will, but we know it will be done. The fact that the battlefield terrain is different is no reason to become discouraged. God always preserves His remnant through judgment.  The question is, “Will I be a faithful servant until the end or will I remain in discouraged paralysis like the fearful servant?”

Biblical wisdom for pastors

The Country Parson: His Character and Rule of Holy Life (1842)The Country Parson: His Character and Rule of Holy Life by George Herbert

This is an excellent advice book for young ministers. Written for pastors in the Anglican church, some details may not apply to other denominations, but on the whole, it is full of wisdom. It describes areas from preaching and counseling, to a minister’s humor and how he should govern his household. I plan on reading this many times in the future.

I hit the mother lode!

I developed an appreciation for Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones after hearing so many of my long-distance mentors (Doug Wilson, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, etc.) speak highly of him. He was a great preacher but for a long time the availability of his sermons was severely limited, as in one sermon a week made available and the previous week’s sermon removed.

I recently checked again and found that all of his sermons are now online for free from the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Trust. This is a blessing I plan on taking advantage of.

A few rays of hope

The Natural Family Where It Belongs: New Agrarian Essays
by Allan C. Carlson

This is a good sampling of Dr. Carlson’s work. It includes brief biographies, sociological research on the family, and historical overviews. It (as is normal for Dr. Carlson) is short on application, but does give hope for the future of the family.

View all my reviews

In good company

William Cowper struggled throughout his life with depression. It wasn’t nearly as well-understood then as it is now. Yet this man, who didn’t take medication for his condition, was a gifted poet. Throughout his hard life, he remained faithful to God and his struggles deepened his poetic gifts.

One of his poems that always encourages me is “God moves in a mysterious way.” It is neither stoic nor fretful, but displays submission and thankfulness to God for trials of all sorts. I recently came back to this poem and it blessed me yet again.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

If you’ve ever faced trials and wondered what God was doing, you’re in good company with this godly man. But keep trusting Him; in time He will work it together for good.

Where are we now?

“As I said the other day, when the Republican governor of Arkansas can flip-flop overnight when Wal-mart executives clear their throats, you know once and for all who wields the real power in the Republican Party.” – Rod Dreher, from The American Conservative

The blessingsof our daily tasks

While reading a meditation by Abraham Kuyper here, I was impressed by several insights he drew from the text about the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. One of those insights deals with how the shepherds performing their tasks in obscurity. He said that if they hadn’t been doing their jobs, they would have missed the glorious message from the angelic hosts. I would add that in this they also were made the first human heralds of the Incarnation.

We all have daily tasks, just like those shepherds did. What is the payoff? It is in these tasks that God comes to us. Think of Peter, James, and John. They were about their daily routing of cleaning their nets when Jesus called them. Elisha was plowing in the field when God’s calling came to him through the prophet Elijah. It is easy to become discouraged in our work routines. We don’t think that our work accomplishes anything; but in doing this work, you avail yourself to the ministry to which God has called you, prepared you, and empowered you.

Your vocation enables you to be salt and light in the world. Don’t despise it.

He knew what it’s like

“Many pastors keep themselves clean in their bodies

But they are cumbered with covetousness, they cannot drive it from them.”

– Piers Plowman, Passus 1