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Archive | Biblical Studies

Rock Solid Resurrection Theology

We stood in the cemetery. My then-five-year-old daughter listened as I explained the resurrection – its reality and its glory. “But, Dad,” she interrupted, “how are they going to make sure they don’t hit their heads on the rocks when they get up?” Great question! We quickly segued to a discussion of the resurrection body (cf. John 20:26, 1 Corinthians 15:35-49) and of headstones.

Headstones bear witness to future generations of those who have lived in the past. For Christians, they testify that these bodies will rise when Jesus returns in glory. Sadly, recent generations have resorted to simple blocks of granite with basic information: names and dates. I suppose simplicity avoids excess. But isn’t there something profound about the messages engraved on headstones of previous generations? They bore artistry and quoted Scripture or other wise sayings that drew out something of the nature of the ones buried there.

Totaled Image Bearers

With this entry, I’ll begin a series of meditations upon the meaning and application of essential   Calvinistic beliefs.    I hope these thoughts will encourage all who read and be a particular encouragement to those grappling with Calvinism or wrestling with the claims of Christianity in general.  (Note:  Sorry for the formatting issues -I’m still learning!)

Calvinists subscribe to what are popularly called the Doctrines of Grace. These are summarized in five headings and planted in the acronym TULIP. This entry will deal with the T: Total Depravity.

The Psalter: Smartphone of the Soul

Smartphones order our lives helpfully, or at least they can. In one tiny device, we carry a phone, a camera, an alarm clock, a web browser, an atlas, a notebook, a mailbox, a calendar, a library, an audio and video player, and a million apps that do everything from forecasting the weather to finding a spouse. Yet, their small screens and tiny keyboards limit their usefulness. These devices certainly fall short of desktop capacity. On the other hand, their portability makes them far more powerful for the user than a desktop most of the time.

These tools enrich life and make it more efficient. Like every great human idea, they simply copy God’s pattern. God gives us everything we need for life and godliness in his book. But, it’s hard to memorize the whole thing, and it’s not always portable. It’s the desktop. So, the Lord placed the smartphone of the soul right in the center of Scripture.  It’s 150 chapters long, and touches every human need. It does not carry all the details of the whole book, but its impact on the soul is often greater.

Priceless words about the Psalms

An interlude in the blog series on Calvinism – here are wonderful, heart-felt and heart filling words regarding our Savior’s relationship to the Psalms –

“Here the language of the Bible comes to meet the very thoughts of our hearts before these can even clothe themselves in language and we recognize that we could not have expressed them better than the Spirit has expressed them for us . . . Our Lord himself, who had a perfect religious experience and lived and walked with God in absolute adjustment of his thoughts and desires to the Father’s mind and will, our Lord himself found his inner life portrayed in the Psalter and in some of the highest moments of his ministry borrowed from it the language in which his soul spoke to God, thus recognizing that a more perfect language for communion with God cannot be framed.”   

 – taken from “Songs from the Soul” preached by Geerhardus Vos in 1902.  The sermon can be found in Grace and Glory: Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary, The Banner of Truth Trust,Carlisle,PA:  1994.

Using Commentaries In Your Devotions?

Occasionally, I am part of discussions about whether or not it is helpful or appropriate to use commentaries as part of personal devotions. Here is Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield’s (1851-1921) opinion which was originally delivered in a lecture to new students on September 20, 1903. Special thanks to Pastor David Hanson who passed this on after reading it in The Savior of the World. The chapter is titled: “Spiritual Culture in the Theological Seminary.”

Why Sophia’s Baptism Matters

 Sophia  is a wonderful little baby. She is bright eyed, taking in the world around her. When the psalms are sung in worship sometimes I can hear her worshiping with us in her own infantile chirps and coos. A smile is the  typical response that she gives when you look at her. Sophia in many ways is a typical happy baby.

To the left is the baptismal font at the congregation in which I am the minister. This Lord’s Day, November 27, 2011,  the sacramental waters of baptism will be sprinkled onto baby Sophia. Baptisms are always wonderful events in the life of the covenant community, but at least for me, and my congregation, the baptism of Sophia matters.

You see, Sophia is a citizen of the United Kingdom who is living in the San Fernando Valley. That may not seem to “matter” since much of Southern California is made up of immigrants of various stripes. But the baptism of Sophia matters because at least for me, and maybe even my congregation, it is evidence that the Word of God is being demonstrated in an obvious way as the Lord Jesus Christ builds His Church in our midst.

“So shall He sprinkle many […]

Hope

I recently asked a burdened believer what I could do to help. “Just give us hope!” came the reply.  All of us struggle with unrealized desires, some of which deeply burden the soul. Perhaps those that are most difficult are those in which there is no evident sin standing between us and our desire. Physically ill and disabled bodies ache as the soul groans: “Why? How long?” Young people, both men and women, say: “I thought I’d be married by now.” Couples cry out: “When will God give us children?” The unemployed ask: “Why won’t you give me work, God, to support my family?”

Meditating on Death

The world is loud. And crowded. We surround ourselves with people and noise and busyness (you’re likely listening to something while reading this and will probably read something else while reading this, too). The clamor and commotion add up to more than mental flightiness–they add up to a hell-bent distraction from eternal things. Those great things we do and surround ourselves with–all the music and talk shows, all the home improvement and sports–are things the enemy would love to keep flashing in front of our face, like the magician’s waving hands keeping us from seeing life disappear in front of us.

A Blessing Over Them

Jesus had fully identified with his Twelve. He had sent these disciples out on a mission. And now he was trying to draw away for focused time with his men. Perhaps these tired men were looking forward to the rest and clarity of Jesus’ classroom.

But we see in Luke 9:10-17 that the crowds had followed him to that distant place. A place far away from the infrastructure and markets needed to support the needs of such a crowd. Nevertheless, Jesus — a model of hospitality (see 1 Tim. 3:2) — “welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing” (Luke 9:11).

What a gracious man the Christ must have been! His life was structured and disciplined from one vantage point, but from another it was chaotic and fluid, always responding to the needs of those around him. He was never hurried, but he was proactive in ministering to the individual needs of people. He was warm. He loved these people whom He created and had come to redeem. He prayed for their souls and multiplied five loaves and two fish to meet their physical needs.

Inerrancy

I remember the day in the 1990s I jumped online to browse seminary websites. It was a research project with profound consequence!

I was a teenager part way through Bible College. I was poor and desperately wanting to be married – so I was thinking hard about my professional future. I had some level of interest in pastoral ministry but also some big questions. That day I browsed the mission statements of Princeton and Yale  and others seminaries  looking for a clear statement of their institutional stance on the Bible. I was sorely disappointed. Lots of requests for money (no tuitions rates) but nothing (that I found) clearly presented what these institutions believed about the Book of books!