God sees us praying (or not)

Manton Monday — Insights from puritan Thomas Manton

One of the great encouragements for keeping up our prayers comes from the instructions of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:6   “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” esv. Jesus reminds us that our heavenly Father sees us. Of course, such a fact will unsettle those who neglect prayer (or do worse things, thinking no one sees them). Puritan Thomas Manton speaks of both consequences of the fact that “God sees” us in secret  — Manton

Here are the encouragements to this personal, private, and solitary prayer, taken from God’s sight, and God’s reward. From God’s sight, [He observes] thy carriage; the posture and frame of they spirit, the fervor and uprightness of heart which thou manifest in prayer is all known to Him. Mark, that which is the hypocrite’s fear, and binds condemnation upon the heart of a wicked man, is here made to be the saints’ support and ground of comfort — that they pray to an all-seeing God (1 John 3:20, “…for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything…”). Their heavenly Father sees in secret; He can interpret their groans, and read the language of their sighs. Though they fail as to the outside of a duty, and there be much brokenness of speech, yet God sees brokenness of heart there, and it is that He looks after. God sees.

[Works, Vol. 1, page 9]


Omnipotence & Redemption

Here is a fine excerpt from a chapter on God’s Power, written by John Frame, in The Doctrine of God. It brought me to pause and praise our mighty Lord.

Redemption itself contradicts all human expectations. It is God’s mighty power entering a situation that, from a human viewpoint, is hopeless. God comes to Abraham, who is over a hundred years old, and to Sarah, far beyond the age of childbearing, and He promises them a natural son. Sarah laughs. But God asks, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14). God’s omnipotence intervenes, and Isaac is born. The omnipotence is the power of God’s covenant promise. The Hebrew text literally r1413842_61268220eads, “Is any word of God void of power?” God’s powerful word comes into our world of sin and death and promises salvation. Isaac will continue the covenant, and from him, in God’s time, will come the Messiah, who will save His people from their sins. When the Messiah comes, He will be born, not to a barren woman like Sarah, but to a virgin — an even greater manifestation of God’s omnipotence. So to Mary the angel echoes God’s promise to Abraham: “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:36).

So God’s word never returns to Him void (Isa. 55:11). It is His omnipotence, doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. Apart from God’s power, we could expect only death and eternal condemnation. But he brings life in the place of death. So the resurrection of Christ becomes a paradigm of divine power in Ephesians 1:19-23. A God who can raise people from the dead can do anything. He is a God who is worthy of trust.

[page 526]

Doctrinal sermons?

A generation or two ago, Thomas Murphy wrote:

It is taken for granted that the sermon in which there is much doctrine must necessarily be dry, unspiritual, full of sectarianism and almost necessarily incomprehensible…. In fact there can be no preaching without doctrine…. The attributes of God, the mysteries of the Trinity, the fall of our race, the incarnation, life, death, and ascension of Christ, salvation by his blood, faith, conversion, the Church, the resurrection, judgment, heaven and hell — what are all these but doctrines?

[from Pastoral Theology, quoted by Dr Joel Beeke in “How To Evaluate Your Sermons” in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Jan. 2011)

If the foundations be destroyed…

The Psalmist asks (and answers) this vital question: If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
PSALM 11:3.

This Psalm refers to some unknown episode in the life of David, when such terrible things were taking place that is seemed that ‘the foundations’ of society were being destroyed. So, he cries out in grief in the third verse: ‘If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?’

Perhaps it was a time of national and moral shaking; when the institutions you were brought up to trust in, seemed to have been taken over by evil powers, seeking with all their might to uproot that which was holy, good, and true. Hebrews 12:26 and 27 speak of such times of dreadful shaking, in these words: ‘Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven . . . this word . . . signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.’

Six brief points will help us to open up this 11th Psalm…

(1) A time of shaking…
(2) David tells us to look to God…
(3) Why is God allowing such moral evil at the roots of the foundations?
(4) How do we know what is wicked and what is righteous?
(5) Our attitude to those struggling with sin, and to those who argue in favour of unchastity (i.e., against the clear teaching of Scripture on the matter)
(6) What must the righteous must do when the foundations are destroyed?

*read the whole here

The Banner of Truth posted this sermon by Dr. Douglas F. Kelly, Professor of Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, preached in Holyrood Abbey Church of Scotland, Edinburgh, during evening worship, Sunday 29 May 2011.

“Why Christians Sing”

Bob Kauflin on: The Three R’s: Why Christians Sing…

Christians sing together during corporate worship gatherings. Colossians 3:16-17 [below] helps us understand why. Paul tells us that worshiping God together in song is meant to deepen the relationships we enjoy through the gospel. This happens in three ways (or three R’s):

1. Singing helps us remember God’s Word.
Paul says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly…singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” The “word of Christ” mostly likely means the word about Christ, or the gospel. Songs whose lyrics expound on the person, work, and glory of Christ tend to stay with us long after we’ve forgotten the main points of the sermon.

2. Singing helps us respond to God’s grace.
While no one is exactly sure what “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” refers to, we can at least infer some kind of variety in our singing. No singular musical style captures either the manifold glories of God or the appropriate responses from his people.

We’re also told to sing with “thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Singing is meant to be a whole-hearted activity. Emotionless singing is an oxymoron. God gave us singing to combine objective truth with thankfulness, doctrine with devotion, and intellect with emotion.

3. Singing helps us reflect God’s glory.
Doing “everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,” implies bringing God glory. Worshiping God together in song glorifies God for at least three reasons. First, it expresses the unity Christ died to bring us. Second, because all three persons of the Trinity sing (Zeph. 3:17; Heb. 2:12; Eph. 5:18-19). Finally, it anticipates the song of heaven when we’ll have unlimited time to sing, clearer minds to perceive God’s perfections, and glorified bodies that don’t grow weary.

Worshiping God in song isn’t simply a nice idea or only for musically gifted people. The question is not, “Has God given me a voice?” but “Has God given me a song?”

If you trust in the finished work of Christ, the answer is clear: Yes!

So remember His Word, respond to His grace, and reflect on His glory.

Original post here

Colossians 3…
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…

Thinking, in order to love God more…

I’ve recently been immersed in the book THINK, The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, by John Piper (Crossway, 2010). It is hard to set down! He answers so many of my questions about reading, thinking and their role in loving and serving God. He does at times use those trademark (long) descriptive propositions, but carefully (and usually exegetically) presents each part of the proposition revealing the whole thing to be truly profound and helpful.

In this book, Piper suggests that loving God with the mind meansthat our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things. (p. 19).

At the head of chapter one he quotes puritan Thomas Goodwin:

Indeed, thoughts and affections are sibi mutuo causae — the mutual causes of each other; “Whilst I mused, the fire burned” (Psalm 39:3); so that thoughts are the bellows that kindle and inflame affections; and then if they are inflamed, they cause thoughts to boil; therefore men newly converted to God, having new and strong affections, can with more pleasure think of God than any.

As he ends chapter two (on Jonathan Edwards’ contributions), Piper rightly observes, What an amazing example of ‘both-and’ — strong emotions for the glory of God based on clear biblical views of the truth of God. This is the very effect of Piper’s book on me so far.

It is a gourmet bit of writing, rich with biblical sweetness and much nutrition for the mind and soul. I’ll have to share more with you soon…


Timeless wisdom meets social media

Tim Challies brings Solomon like wisdom to bear (quoting Proverbs) on the modern use of social media in his post today. If you blog (or read lots of blogs), post comments, or use Facebook, et cetera, please take a prayerful read through these points. It’s so timely, I’ve quoted the whole thing below. ~ pdb

There are many who doubt or downplay the relevance of the Old Testament to our times. Those people have probably never taken the time to read the book of Proverbs. I read from Proverbs almost every day and I am continually amazed at just how relevant this book is. It seems that wisdom is timeless. The lessons David taught Solomon speak to myself and my children as much as they did to the men and women of ancient Israel. The wisdom of God given to Solomon continues to ring loud and clear in my heart.

If Solomon were alive today and we were to ask him how we are to relate to one another in this digital world, if we were to ask him how we can honor God in our use of all these social media available to us today, here is how he might respond.

Count to ten before posting, sharing, sending, submitting. “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him (29:20).” How many arguments could be avoided and how many relationships saved if people were only a little less hasty with their words? Before posting an article or before replying to a Facebook status, it is always (always!) a good idea to re-read what you have written and consider if your words accurately express your feelings and if expressing such feelings is necessary and edifying. And while I’m on the topic, a spell-check doesn’t hurt either.

Leave the fool to his folly. “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself (26:4).” There are times when it is best to leave a foolish person to his own devices rather than to try to change him. Sometimes it is best just to leave him alone rather than providing him more ammunition to work with. This means that it may be best to ignore the troll, to leave a rebuke unanswered, than to bait him and to suffer his wrath.

Expose folly. “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes (26:5).” Here it is—undeniable proof that the Bible contradicts itself! Are we to answer a fool according to his folly or not? Evidently this “contradiction” is deliberate and is in the Bible to show that there is no absolute law in this situation. There are times when folly must be exposed, either if the fool is one you believe is honestly seeking after wisdom, or if his folly will damage others. If a fool is impacting others, drawing them into his foolishness, he must be exposed for the sake of the church’s health.

Know when to walk away. “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet (29:9).” There are times when you need to walk away instead of carrying on an argument. Foolish people have no real desire to learn or to be wise. Instead, they only seek opportunities to loudly proclaim the folly. Walk away so you can have peace. Shut down, log off, erase—do what you need to.

Be careful what you read. “Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool (26:8).” Be careful whose words you read and whose wisdom you trust. Foolish men may seem wise, but they will still lead others astray. If you give honor to a foolish man by reading and soaking in his words, you are as foolish as a person who binds his stone in a sling, rendering the sling useless and leaving himself defenseless.

Avoid the gossiper. “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body (29:22).” There are many web sites, blogs and Twitter accounts dedicated almost entirely to gossip, to sharing what is dishonorable rather than what is noble. Avoid these people and their gossip!

Be humble. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips (27:2).”“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor (29:23).” Let others praise you. If you never receive praise from anyone, especially from those who are wise, it may be a good time to examine your heart and examine if you are walking in the ways of wisdom. Those who are humble and lowly in spirit will receive honor while the arrogant will be brought low.

Mind your own business. “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears (26:17).” If you have ever grabbed a dog by the ears you know it will inevitably bring trouble. Grabbing a strange dog by the ears will bring even more trouble. Stay out of other people’s fights rather than wading into them as if they are your own. There may be times to wade into a theological dispute or to try to mediate a disagreement in the blogosphere, but wisdom would usually tell you to mind your own business.

Don’t be a troublemaker. “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling (26:27).” Those who exist only to bring trouble to others will pay a price. And unfortunately, on the Internet there are many of these people. Don’t be one!

Examine why you write. “A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike (27:14).” The proverb speaks of a quarrelsome wife, but it could as easily apply to anyone. If you are writing merely to be quarrelsome or because you enjoy an argument, perhaps it is best to find something else to do. “As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.” Do not be the kind of person who kindles strife for his own enjoyment.

Be careful what you teach. “Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit, and the blameless will have a godly inheritance (28:10).” Those who choose to teach others accept a grave responsibility; if they mislead others, they must expect that there will be consequences. Be careful what you teach, what you share, what beliefs you express. Remember that your words are public and that they may remain available forever. [I take this to heart, along with JAMES 3:1]

Walk with the Lord. “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (28:26).” And here is the key to everything else. Trust in the Lord rather than in yourself. Walk with the Lord and in the ways of wisdom taught in the pages of the Bible. Be a wise man or woman of the Word, rather than a fool who trusts in his own wisdom (or lack thereof). Arm yourself with spiritual maturity, with true wisdom, before venturing into the world of social media.

(by Tim Challies)

At “The Banner” Conference 2010

After a long drive on Tuesday — including the annual traffic tie-ups around Scranton, PA (30 minutes stalled on an interstate highway while workers picked up cones) — I arrived at the campus of Messiah College just in time for the annual Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference. The Banner of Truth Trust is a book publisher based in Edinburgh, Scotland, which features wonderful Christian writings from the past and present with a theologically reformed point of view. Anything they publish is worth reading, and some of my most cherished books have their logo (George Whitefield preaching) on the spine!

This is my 19th annual conference. I dearly love the fraternal relationships here, the sweet times of worship (hundreds of men singing psalms & hymns), and, of course, the passionate preaching of God’s Word from esteemed brothers from around the world. 19 years ago Pastor Irfon Hughes brought me here from New England where I was serving at the time. Irfon is featured in a promotional video clip HERE (and at the bottom of that same web page, you can see me in a photo — blue shirt carrying my briefcase over my shoulder!). Irfon is not here this year; he is missed. I am also missing my dear friend (and Banner founder) Iain H Murray this year.

I have seen some dear old brothers, and met some new ones, too. The older ones are like familiar fixtures in my world of friends — bringing the comfort of familiar faces, and remembrance of many shared joys and tears; the new acquaintances are like a welcome, fresh breeze, as I get to hear new stories of the work of grace in their lives. I am encouraged each year at what God is doing in so many places in our land, especially in the younger generation (I can speak like this now that I am 50 years old!).

This is so much more than a conference with plenary sessions, and a bookstore of resources — it is a reunion of friends and colleagues, a time of deep theological thinking, a season of physical refreshing (on a beautiful campus), and, sweetest of all, a closer encounter with the Lord my God. The Spirit of God is working on me here — through the Word preached, and through the ministry of many dear brothers.

Pray that I learn what the Spirit is teaching me, and consecrate myself afresh to the service of my Lord Jesus Christ — for the glory of God the Father.


Hosting a ne’er-do-well?

Author Jim Elliff recently shared an article entitled, Public Debate with Bart Ehrman in Seminaries: A Bad Decision. I agree. I also think his reasons can help us avoid unprofitable engagements with other ne’er-do-wells….

Here are Elliff’s main points. (Read the rest here)

First, because Ehrman is a false teacher and we are forbidden to give such men a forum to express their views.

Second, because the minority position almost always gains some followers regardless who wins the debate.

Third, because debates are not always won on the basis of truth alone.

Fourth, because many of the listeners will not have the opportunity to sort out confusing aspects of the debate with professors or knowledgeable persons.

Fifth, because doubt is insidious.

*Hey, if you Twitter, you should follow Jim there: jimelliff

From “Happy-Clappy” to hungering for theology

Dr Michael Horton recently made this observation in discussing what this generation wants from a local church…

A lot of younger evangelicals were reared in “happy-clappy” churches with theater seating, a praise band, singing off the wall (both literally and figuratively). They are looking for reverence, history, mystery and transcendence. A lot of them are looking for doctrine, too, oddly enough. According to one Wall Street Journal study, in fact, the number one element that young urban professionals in New York said they would look for if they decided to go back to church: theological discussion groups! I guess I’m getting older.

To me, the megachurch movement was contemporary, but now it’s old news and the generation that was raised in it is now looking for something more serious, meaningful, beautiful, and truthful. Of course, “mystery” and “transcendence” can be a dangerous drug as well, if the object is something other than the Triune God and His revelation in Jesus Christ.

RISKING THE TRUTH, by Martin Downes (Christian Focus, UK: 2009), page 48.