Happy Birthday John Calvin…

July 10th marks the 501st birthday of John Calvin, born in 1509 in France. Let us thank God for this great brother and his insights into the Word of God — and be encouraged by his bold declaration of the doctrines of grace.

“Calvin wrote as one who loved God, one who knew what it meant to be loved by God, and one who could explain with profound theological depth the biblical message of God’s sovereignty in salvation.”
(Jonathan Parnell, Desiring God).

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Happy New Year!


from calvinisticcartoons.blogspot.com

Love the church…

Dr Derek Thomas recently wrote of his love for the church – I couldn’t agree more! Ponder his warm, even passionate words…

“Love me, love my dog,” they say, and my poor dog has been sick all summer and continues to be in bad shape. But it is not dogs I am writing about here; it is the church. Jesus seems to say, again and again: “Love me, love my church.”

Something is terribly wrong when professing Christians do not identify with the church and love being a part of her. Something is wrong when professing Christians fail to be passionate about every aspect of the church and long to invest themselves in her, taking all that the church represents and does to heart. Listen, for example, 1187054_hdr_churchto the way Paul instructs the Ephesians: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).

I fell in love with the church the moment I was converted as a freshman in college in 1971. Having never attended any church until then, I discovered a community that was, to me, like a family: caring, loving, and nourishing. The church I found was able to tell me that I was wrong about some things without driving me away. I knew that I was loved. The church showed me acts of kindness and fellowship that I recall with affection to this day. I was introduced to expository preaching from the start – a style of preaching that puts the Bible above the personality and idiosyncrasies of the preacher. I discovered communal prayer times, and joyful singing, all of which have been the mainstay of my Christian life ever since. True, I have had my share of worship wars, when Christians disagree over important things and sometimes trivial things; but for all that, I have taken delight in her rituals of song and sacrament, prayer and proclamation, more times than I can relate. I love the church. I fully endorse Calvin’s way of putting it (and the shadow of Cyprian that lies behind it): “For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels” (Inst. 4.1.4). In the church, I have discovered saints and angels (though not, as far as I know, real angels). I have witnessed deeds of extraordinary kindness done to myself and to others, and I have been the beneficiary of kindnesses done to me by those who remained anonymous.

Yes, there is a dark side to the church as there is to all things in this fallen world. The church is not perfect. It has her share of malcontents and killjoys, her energy-sapping attention-getters and despondent hearts. Adullam’s cave has nothing on some churches I have seen, but none of this robs me of my love for the church. Even at her most eccentric – the King James Version’s rendition of 1 Peter 2:9 as “ye are … a peculiar people” is painfully accurate, if quaint — she is still Christ’s body. “Love me, love my church” is what Jesus seems to say in the Bible. I would not have it any other way. Would you?

Happy 500th birthday, John Calvin!

Calvin painting, Schenectady, NYThe great preacher & theologian of the Protestant Reformation, JOHN CALVIN, was born on July 10, 1509 — exactly five hundred years ago today! Praise God for this man and his ministry which reformed the church and changed the face of western civilization.

John Piper’s recent article in WORLD magazine cites…

…Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism given at Princeton Seminary in October 1898. Kuyper was a pastor, a journalist, the founder of the Free University of Amsterdam, and Prime Minister of the Netherlands:
Calvinism has liberated Switzerland, the Netherlands, and England, and in the Pilgrim Fathers has provided the impulse to the prosperity of the United States.”

Kuyper closed his lectures with a claim that for many today sounds preposterous. Do not write him off. Get the book Lectures on Calvinism, and test these words, spoken to Americans in 1898:

“In the rise of your university education . . . in the decentralized . . . character of your local governments . . . in your championship of free speech, and in your unlimited regard for freedom of conscience; in all this . . . it is demonstrable that you owe this to Calvinism and to Calvinism alone.”

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BANNER: 7 Characteristics of Calvin’s ministry

Pastor Ian Hamilton (a Banner Trustee, and author, as a Scot serving a church in Cambridge, England), also spoke (twice) at the recent Banner of Truth Trust Minister’s Conference — once on Calvin as a Pastor, and then bringing the closing sermon of the conference from 2 Corinthians 4.

calvin painting_2In the first, Hamilton listed for us “7 Characteristics of Calvin’s Ministry” —

1/ It was carried out with a view of Christ as Chief Shepherd.

2/ Love to Christ is the animating principle of ministry; our motive.

3/ It reflects the servanthood of Christ.

4/ A conviction that preaching and teaching the gospel is the primary task of the pastor; in season, and out of season he preaches the Word. *NB: The preacher has two voices: one to feed the sheep, and one to frighten the wolves.

5/ Much use of pastoral visitation, house to house.

6/ He never wearied of telling believers to get out of themselves and in to Christ!

7/ A ministry shaped and impregnated with the overflow of his own union with Christ.
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O Lord Jesus, help me, and my fellow pastors, in our frailty and feebleness to serve You and Your flock better. For your glory, Lord. Amen.
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How does a godly heritage help us?

The 2009 US Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference last week began with a sermon by Mark Johnston on Hebrews 13:7. That text and some of my notes follow….

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (esv)

This year we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of the great Reformer, theologian & pastor, John Calvin. Is it right to celebrate and remember such men? Yes! Why?

(1) As an encouragement to persevere. All those named in Hebrews 11 endured, and embody great faith in God.

(2) As a model of faith & life. Despite some differences in cultural and historical contexts, we are instructed to learn what we can from those who’ve gone before. See Calvin’s personal godliness (amidst ongoing illnesses and the threats on every front).

(3) As those who lead us to Christ!. They do not rally men to themselves, but lead them to Christ — who is the same, yesterday, today and forever!

Amen. pdb

Ten Lessons from Great Christian Minds

robin-hood-statueFrom philosophy professor James Spiegel (via JT):

Augustine (5th century): Remember that you are a citizen of another kingdom.

Martin Luther (16th century): Expect politicians to be corrupt.

Thomas Aquinas (13th century): God has made himself known in nature.

John Calvin (16th century): God is sovereign over all, including our suffering.

Jonathan Edwards (18th century): God is beautiful, and all beauty is divine.

Thomas a’Kempis (15th century): Practice self-denial with a passion.

John Wesley (18th century): Be disciplined and make the best use of your time.

Fyodor Dostoevsky (19th century): God’s grace can reach anyone.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (20th century): Beware of cheap grace.

Alvin Plantinga (21st century): Moral virtue is crucial for intellectual health.

Read the whole post to get the bigger picture.
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Ligonier concluded

Yup, it ended — and it was so rich I could hardly do it justice in a simple blog entry! But I’ll try!

FRIDAY AM — The conference theme (holiness) was taken up in reference to the Trinity this morning: Sinclair Ferguson, Holiness of the Father; Steve Lawson, Holiness of Jesus; and Alistair Begg, The Holy Spirit.

FRIDAY PM — After lunch there was a spirited Q&A time led by RC Sproul himself, then a very well organized session by Thabiti Anyabwile on Sin & the Holiness of God, from Numbers 25. He outlined the chapter and his address as follows:

Horrible Context (vv 1-6)
Height of Conflict (vv 7-9)
Honorable Commendation (vv 10-13)
Harrowing Condemnation (14-18)

pastor-t-website1After he gets underway (some joking around) this is perhaps one of the best sessions to watch or hear (see below). He is full of numbered observations and pointed applications. [I will share most of this on Sunday night at CPCC.]

Friday night featured the renowned Dr. D. A. Carson speaking on “A Holy Nation.” He brought a great depth of exegesis and theology to bear — connecting OT and NT so wonderfully — and also pressed us with clear and challenging application questions.

SATURDAY — Some of the best was saved for the last day… as Dr Robert Godfrey and Dr. Derek Thomas spoke on Holiness and the Cross (from Isaiah), and, The Necessity of Sanctification (from 1st Peter 1) respectively.

“The moral imperatives of the Bible stand upon gospel indicatives.” (DT)

The closing address was from RC Sproul on Holiness, Wrath & Justice (from 1st Chronicles 13).

“Our culture is thoroughly familiar with the tune ‘Amazing Grace’ but it does not believe grace is ‘amazing’ anymore.” (RCS)

YOU CAN SEE & HEAR THESE GUYS TOO… The video for all of the sessions is currently available for free from the LIGONIER SITE (here). Rich, soul food!

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Thursday at the Ligonier Conference

A quick commute from the suburbs south of the city brought me to the huge campus of the First Baptist Church of Orlando, the site of the 2009 Ligonier Conference. Most of today was a pre-conference program celebrating the legacy of John Calvin (born 500 years ago this July).

First up was the scholarly Dr Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, speaking on Calvin as a Preacher and Teacher. An excellent blog posting (here) by Tim Challies will give you a fine summary of the address.

Second up, was Dr Ligon Duncan (“Al Mohler’s Presbyterian twin brother”). Although perhaps not as “famous” as some of the other speakers, Ligon Duncan has become one of the better preacher/teachers I seek to sit under. he is clear and compelling with his topics — and this morning’s message (“Calvin & the Christian Life”) was a particular blessing for me, nearly bringing me to tears. The main component here is the call to piety, including self-denial and a view of cross-bearing as part of the normal Christian life (not the exception). Ligon also gave this word of encouragement: “The Christian life is not characterized by perfection, but by spiritual growth.” What timely words in this address for this preacher!

Third: My esteemed friend from Michigan, Dr Joel Beeke, was asked to lead a breakout session during the lunch hour on “Lessons from Calvin on Prayer.” This was superb, and most useful!

chick-fil-aDid I mention that this conference has arranged for a “Chick-fil-A” supplier to offer food on campus this year? Great sandwiches without the wasted time of driving around a strange town looking for a meal! One for Lunch and another for dinner; I’m set!

Thursday afternoon: back-to-back we had Dr Sinclair Ferguson on “The Doctrines of Grace” and Pastor Steve Lawson on “The Legacy of John Calvin.” Ferguson was good, and Lawson was good (and loud — the sound system’s fault, I think). I would dare say that Lawson’s summary of the legacy of this great man (“man of the millennium” by many accounts) is most excellent; I hope it gets published. He even quoted the TIME top ten item that I highlighted earlier in the month…. [see March 14th below]

The afternoon and the Calvin mini-conference ended with a Q&A session. HERE is a summary/transcript of most of the questions compiled by Tim Challies…. including this opening question:

WHY IS CALVIN STILL IMPORTANT 500 YEARS LATER?
Ferguson – because he was really the first great biblical exegete. Other theologians made a mark here and there, but none so great as Calvin. He had a genius for being to capture what the text was saying and what its implications were.
Lawson – Location, location, location. He finds himself in an important historical context in the greatest forward movement of Christianity since the second century. It was a perfect time for Calvin’s ideas to explode in a way that could influence successive generations unlike those that had come before. There was a kind of domino effect from Calvin on down through history.
Mohler – Calvin really was the combination of the systematician and the preacher. As great as Luther may have been, he did not leave behind a systematic theology. In Calvin’s day, to consider what was at stake, the crucial question surrounded what was the true church. We still talk about Calvin today because we face many of the same challenges today that he faced in his day. No one answered these questions with the quintessential clarity of Calvin.
Duncan – Calvin taught the people who in turn taught the successive generation so that people who were influenced by Calvin may not have even know his name. He was training the best of the current generation to train the next generation. It was only centuries later that we began to understand the magnitude of what he had done.

The main conference formally began this evening with two addresses: first, Dr R.C. Sproul on “The Holiness of God” focusing on Isaiah 45:1-8, “I am the LORD and there is no other God.” This was a fine weaving of exposition and theology. How do we define the holiness of God? Three classical methods (and examples) were shared, which also led to much adoration and praise of our great God. Second address tonight, was R. C Sproul Jr. on “Family Worship of the Holy God” — a topic he has covered here before. Tonight he opened Exodus 3 (Moses before God at the burning bush).

God has poured out timely and rich blessings from His Word today, and has refreshed many. Truely: “morning by morning new mercies I see.” [paraphrase of Lamentations 3]

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Calvinism on TIME’s Top 10?

Yes, TIME magazine has a new top ten list, and look at #3ineocalvinism_03231

What’s Next? The global economy is being remade before our eyes. Here’s what’s on the horizon:

1. Jobs Are the New Assets
2. Recycling the Suburbs
3. The New Calvinism
4. Reinstating The Interstate
5. Amortality
6. Africa: Open for Business
7. The Rent-a-Country
8. Biobanks
9. Survival Stores
10. Ecological Intelligence

The actual article is not that great (its a bit shallow), but the fact we’re being noticed and seen in terms of impacting the world around us — great!

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