Familiarity Missing the Joke

“One reason for our failure to laugh [at the humor of Jesus] is our extreme familiarity with the received text. The words seem to us like old coins, in which the edges have been worn smooth and the engravings have become almost indistinguishable. . . . The main effort must be an effort on the part of the contemporary student to confront Christ as actually portrayed rather than as we have imagine Him to be. Only then will we feel the sharpness of His wit.”

-Elton Trueblood, The Humor of Christ, pp. 18-19

Pauline Sculpture

“They tell us that Calvinism plies men with hammer an with chisel. It does;  and the result is monumental marble. Other systems leave men soft and dirty; Calvinism makes them of white marble, to endure forever.”

-Henry Ward Beecher

First Culture

The first and foremost culture in anyone’s life is that of the home. Pascal said “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” This makes it sound like we’re supposed to be able to stare contentedly at the white wall of our basement.

Perhaps he is right in the sense that we should be able to sit alone and think about what we’ve learned rather than needing the boob tube to keep us occupied, but we ought to be far more interested in making home a place of wisdom, laughter and life.

Many parents regret the fact that their teenage (or soon to be teenage) kids are never at home. But rarely do they regret the type of place the home has become–one that the kids don’t want to be in. Home is the place where kids are taught and shaped, and the father as the head of the home has the responsibility to make that culture what it ought to be.

Reactionary parents will tend to ban all kinds of stuff from the home. If their kids’ friends are all reading 50 Shades of Garbage, they’ll be sure that it never gets mentioned at the dinner table, and thereby cement everyone’s ignorance. The only place the kids will learn to think about it is in the gossip of their peers at school.

Parents who instead build a culture at home will be glad to talk about it, understand why people are attracted to it, and come to wise and settled conclusions. This will require the attention and investment of parents who will need to learn about things their kids are encountering. If they’re lazy and simply dismiss whatever is out there, the kids will eventually explore it anyway and either lack the ability to discern good and evil, beauty and schlock, or will imitate the parents in proud dismissal, not of the world or even in it–above the whole thing.

Building a culture at home means parents are presenting something, playing offense and not just defense. Yes, turn the TV and lame music off. But then read good stories, watch good movies, listen to good and fun music. A vibrant life at home flows from the gospel like water running downhill. When sin is repented of and confessed, people live, and are glad to live together. This is why Paul can say “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil 4:8).

 

Your Prayers Smell Good

In Revelation 5:8, the four living creatures have “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Geerhardus Vos comments, “That the altar of incense has its place nearest to the curtain before the ‘holy of holies’ signifies he religious specificness of prayer as coming nearest to the heart of God. The offering was of a perpetual character. The notion of the grateful smell of the burning incense in the nostrils of Jehovah is somewhat removed from our own taste of religious imagery, but should not on that account be overlooked.”

Prayer is one of the guiltiest neglects of the Christian’s life. One friend told me he hears nothing on the other end, as if God might be expected to speak on the other end of a phone call. Of course God “answers” prayer through Providence, which is to say He acts, using our prayers to shape the story of the world.

The best and easiest motivation for prayer is God’s pleasure in it. We know what’s it’s like to enter a room filled with good food. That’s what our prayers are like in the ‘nostrils’ of God. He wants us to pray.

 

Not Jesus’ Tat

Revelation 19:16, speaking of Jesus, says “On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Recently some have asserted that we are looking at Jesus’ tattoo. See there, right next to that robe, the Lord’s ink? Well, no. Jesus is on his white horse, his eyes like a flame of fire, ready to do battle, and under his robe are, well, his trousers–not his bare legs and a long stretch of thigh it would take to write “King of kings and Lord of lords”.

There may be better arguments for the lawfulness of tattoos (like a great removal service in the heavens that leaves no scars), but Jesus is not hitching up his robe to give John that revelation.

 

 

No Such “Thing” as Grace

This by way of Tony Reinke:

“There is nothing between the person of the Lord Jesus and the person of the believer as that union and communion develops and grows. I think this is a very important thing for us to grasp. Let me put it the way I sometimes put it: The union with Christ we have is not that we somehow or another share His grace. Because – follow me carefully – there actually is no ‘thing’ as grace. That actually is a Medieval Roman Catholic teaching. There is a ‘thing’ called grace that can be separated from the person of Jesus Christ. It is something Jesus Christ won on the Cross and He can bestow it on you. And there are at least seven ways it can be bestowed on you and they all, as it happens, turn out to be in the hands of the church. And you can have this kind of grace, and this kind of grace, and this kind of grace … There is no such ‘thing’ as grace! Grace is not some appendage to His being. Nor is it some substance that flows from us: ‘Let me give you grace.’ All there is is the Lord Jesus Himself. And so when Jesus speaks about us abiding in Him and He abiding in us – however mysterious it may be, mystical in that sense – it is a personal union. Do not let us fail because of the abuse of expressions. Do not let us fail to understand that, at the end of the day, actually Christianity is Christ because there isn’t anything else. There is no atonement that somehow can be detached from who the Lord Jesus is. There is no grace that can be attached to you transferred from Him. All there is is Christ and your soul.”

-Sinclair Ferguson on John 15 at the Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference in Grantham, PA this Spring.

All Hat, No Cattle

Sin is a punishment as well as a disease. It is false pleasure, and what truer misery is there than false joy? It is like the pleasure of the man who receives much money, but it is all counterfeit, or the pleasure of the man who dreams of a feast and awakes so hungry and vexed that he could eat his dream. For this reason sin should be doubly hated, because it is ugly and false, because it defiles and mocks.

–Ralph Venning, The Sinfulness of Sin, p. 209-10

Now That I’m a Christian

Now That I'm a Christian: What It Means to Follow JesusNow That I’m a Christian: What It Means to Follow Jesus by C. Michael Patton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very good introduction and call to discipleship. Aside from erroneously stating that some people (infants, the “mentally unable” and those who die in their mothers’ wombs) are incapable of faith, this book is accurate, sturdy and accessible. I like the way he talks about Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, not ignoring their errors but charitably acknowledging their faith. This book is only missing more of what Ian Murray calls the Puritan hope–confidence in the success of the great commission.



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Communion Every Week

Using phrases like “covenant renewal worship” can make worship start to sound complicated, esoteric, academic, and jargony.

But worship is not like that, so we should keep it simple. God forgives sinners, so we confess. He listens and speaks to us, so we pray and hear his word. God is our Father who provides and Friend who enjoys us, so we eat with him.

Adam and Eve had the tree of life. Worshipers in the old covenant had portions from peace offerings when they were able to make it to the temple. We have bread and wine every week, the body and blood of Christ, in the Lord’s Supper.

This is wonderful, and by faith it’s yours. Hear Solomon: “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do” (Eccl. 9:7).

Restoration

I will heal their apostasy;
    I will love them freely,
    for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
    he shall blossom like the lily;
    he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
his shoots shall spread out;
    his beauty shall be like the olive,
    and his fragrance like Lebanon.
They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
    they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
    their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Hosea 14:4-7