Thrice Justified

“Every man that is saved is justified three ways: First, meritoriously, by the death of Jesus Christ: “It is the blood of Jesus Christ alone that cleanses us from all sin.” Second, instrumentally, by faith; faith is the means or instrument whereby the merits of Jesus Christ are applied to the sinner’s heart: “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Third, we are justified declaratively; name, by good works.; good works declare and prove to the world that our faith is a true saving faith. “Was not Abraaham jusiefed by works And again, “Show me thy faith by thy works.”

–George Whitefield

Joy in Others

“But few are arrived to such a  degree of charity or love, as to rejoice with those that do rejoice, and to be as thankful for other mercies as their own. This part of Christian perfection, though begun on earth, will be consummated only in heaven, where our hearts will glow with such fervent love toward God and one another, that every fresh degree of glory communicated to our neighbor will also communicate to us a fresh topic of thankfulness and joy.”

–George Whitefield

The Power of the Tongue

Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.  –Proverbs 18:21

Everyone carries a vital and a lethal weapon. Words change people. They encourage, inspire, correct, inform and compel. They also humiliate, tear down, hurt and destroy.

Some people are ignorant of the effects of their words. They speak death and then say, “Was it something I said?” The critical spirit is often critical of everything but itself. Part of growing in wisdom is understanding what words accomplish, and taking responsibility for what is said.

Solomon’s application is wonderful. Some might shrink back from the power of words and go mum. But those who love the Word and the way He made the world love this feature. Life is in the power of the tongue, which means we have the power to give life, and to put to death evil and accusatory words. Those who love it will eat it fruits. They will give life and taste that same life as they do so.

 

 

Christian Nurture by Horace Bushnell

20816513I read this on Kindle and enjoyed it so much I ordered one with poundage.

This book was so good because Bushnell takes the opposite tack to the vast majority of Christian parenting books. Rather than highlight all the hardships, heavy lifting, uncertainties, and qualifications that make parents feel like raising their kids to love God and walk with him is an exploding minefield, Bushnell takes the Bible’s promises, lobs them up off the glass, catches and slams them home. It’s fun to watch.

The book could be summarized as “I will be your God, and you will be my people” applied to the family. Like he did with Abraham, God calls men and women and their households into covenant with him. Bushnell is not sentimental about kids or about how hard parenting can be, so he avoids presumption. The only way kids follow the Lord is by faith, but faith works by love in raising them. He addresses baptism and church membership, the problem of denying children the Lord’s Supper, Christian education, holidays, hypocrisy, the Sabbath (“a day of humanity”), family prayer and all sort of possible objections.

In such a thorough and serious book, one of the best thing is the impression Bushnell gives of the light, joyful, and gracious environment of the Christian home. You wouldn’t know it by looking at picture to your upper left, but if he put into practice what he wrote, this is a happy man whose house you’d be glad to visit. Christians who are serious about discipleship often create a laborious and fussy atmosphere–let’s make the kids memorize the Catechism all day on Sunday! Bushnell reveals this for what it is: disobedient and counterproductive.

The only regret about this book is that it’s 300 pages long with 130-year-old 19th century prose. That will scare many off who would benefit enormously from it. Take up and read.

Christmas is Potent

This is a season of adoration for Jesus. We remember that though his parents were poor, shepherds heard and wise men traveled from the east. We sing and celebrate and give. We call out for peace on earth. People are nicer to each other during the holidays. It’s the season you can give something to your postman and he won’t wonder if you are a terrorist.

These are wonderful parts of the season, but they’re not the only ones. We remember that Jesus was born a king, a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and his birth brought rivalry and bloodshed. When the wise men kept Herod from finding Jesus, Herod had every male child under two years old in Bethlehem murdered. Rachel wept for her children and refused to be comforted, because they were no more.

Jesus was born a child and yet a king, and as a king he immediately had enemies, the kind that kill for power. Christmas, and celebrating it, is inescapably political. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal—they’re not bullets and ballots—but spiritual and mighty for pulling down strongholds. This includes our prayers, our songs, our joy and celebrations. It includes the preaching of the Gospel.

Jesus came to bear our sins, and to bring justice for the meek. Isaiah 11:4-5: “With righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”

Remember that Christmas is potent, and your job is to keep it that way. So be kind, be generous and merciful, and be bold with the gospel. The King of kings, salvation brings. Let loving hearts enthrone him.

Wisdom from Proverbs

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. 

–Proverbs 18:1

People who isolate themselves often do so because of some rejection or offense, or perceived rejection or offense, they have experienced. Think of those estranged from family members, from friends, or from the church. Feeling hurt and sad makes us want to go it alone, to forsake the cost of connection because connection to anyone or anything risks the potential of pain and loss. You can’t even buy a goldfish without the possibility it will die unexpectedly.

When we are hurt and turn inwards to isolation, it feels safe and protected. What can hurt us when we’re alone? Who can question our wisdom when there are no contradicting opinions? It seems wise and conservative. But Solomon points out it’s nothing of the kind. It’s actually a bold rebellion against sound judgment. When you make decisions with no one’s input but your own, chances are your selfish desires are driving. No man is an island, and the one who thinks he is will be more convinced of his own wisdom even as he sets himself against the very thing.

As he says elsewhere, in a multitude of counsellors there is safety.

On the Mars Hill Meltdown

Mars Hill Church announced on Friday that it will dissolve and the 13 remaining campuses will either become particular churches or close. This is great news because, as the announcement states, ministry will be local–local decisions, local missions.

Where else would ministry take place? Can you worship globally? Well, you can bless someone on the other side of the world through your local worship, but only if that worship actually occurs where you are. Howdy, neighbor. But when the local church is controlled by central headquarters, and that authority is concentrated among three guys, your local impact is hamstrung.

There is nothing wrong with a mega church, but where you have a mega church, you better have mega elders. Paul appointed elders in every church, and he told Titus to do the same (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). This really ought to be the bottleneck of church growth. It’s not hard to get a lot of people in the building–dude, did you hear the band? But it takes time to develop elders–disciples who make disciples. God can grow men up quickly, but that timetable isn’t attached to the logistics of the next campus.

An elder “watch[es] over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Heb. 13:17). He’s not so much a bookkeeper, board-member, or vision-setter, though all those things are good in their place. He’s a shepherd who knows the sheep by name. How do we know this? Because an account will be given, and souls are counted for by ones. When Jesus asks you to tell him about Johnny, you better know who Johnny is.

A friend of mine who understands church leadership met with Driscoll when the church was first blowing up, I think when it was around 800 people. At that time there were three elders. It became apparent that my friend’s idea of what an elder does, and what Driscoll thought one does were worlds apart. He was really encouraged by the growth, whereas he should have been terrified.

There is currently a pig-pile building on top of Driscoll and all sorts of rotten fruit flying his direction. I don’t want any part of that and am grateful for his years of ministry and am disappointed at the loss of such an incredible preacher in Seattle. Anyone who doesn’t feel that loss should revisit Philippians 1:15-18 until they do: “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

It would be a good time for Mark to become presbyterian and submit to godly leaders, but the same call goes out to all Christians. “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7). The most important thing about your church isn’t the programs or buildings or whether all your chums are there. The question is do they have qualified leadership, and can I know those leaders in order to imitate their faith and way of life?

Many who had bad experiences in the church struggle to connect again. It’s easy to be critical of the church. It’s easy to replace it with your friends, your small group, your bonfire and busy weekend, with individual daily devotions or whatever thing keeps you on spiritual life-support. But Jesus gave us Word and Sacrament in the local church that gathers on the Lord’s Day to worship Him and serve one another. May every former Mars Hill campus surge with life and the lost sheep of house of the new Israel be found.

Deeper than Tears

“Any alleged Christianity which fails to express itself in gaiety, at some point, is clearly spurious. The Christian is gay, not because he is blind to injustice and suffering, but because he is convinced that these, in the light of the divine sovereignty, are never ultimate. He is convinced that the unshakable purpose in the divine rule in all things, whether of heaven or earth (Eph. 1:10). Though he can be sad, and often is perplexed, he is never really worried. The well-known humor of the Christian is not a way of denying the tears, but rather a way of affirming something which is deeper than tears.”

-Elton Trueblood