A Shot of Encouragement

The Clean Sea Breeze of the Centuries

Perhaps my favorite Preface of all time is that by C. S. Lewis for On the Incarnation by Athanasius. Here’s an example, on why we should read old books:

“Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.”

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Bellyaching Bucket

I’ve mentioned it a few times recently, but I keep thinking about it, I keep having opportunities to try it, and I keep thinking that it could really work.

What I’m about to say connects with the image used in Revelation 1 for the churches. The image that Jesus uses for the churches is a lampstand, a light giver. Jesus told His disciples that they were the light of the world, and collectively our light should shine brighter.

How do we give off light? I suppose it is somewhat verbal, especially when we have opportunity to name names for why we do what we do. We believe in and love and live for Jesus Christ the Lord. But the light is also behavior; the light of life should be visible. Look at the light.

In Philippians Paul exhorted the Christians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, reminding them that God was working in them, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (2:12-13). What does His good pleasure look like in conduct?

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (2:14-15)

If you want to live straight among the crooked, don’t bicker about everything. If you want to be pure, give thanks. That’s the opposite of “grumbling,” which is a muttering (in Greek goggusmos, an onomatopoetic word that sounds like what it refers to) of disappointment and dissatisfaction. Paul identifies the no-complaint zone: this “twisted generation.” So your context for complaining is covered.

Do people grumble about their spouse? Their kids? Their job? Their government? Their president? Their age? Their future? They do, and we should not. We are the light of the world, so don’t put a bellyaching bucket over your light.

Every Thumb's Width

Capitulators, Warriors, and Reconcilers

The Evangelical Reconcilers

This is an interesting take on three approaches that Christians take to culture, in particular, to Western society. I haven’t spent much time among self-identified capitulators, nor for that matter among the warriors. I have spent most of my life among the reconcilers, as defined by this article, though those most of those guys would not identify themselves as such. I think the reason for that is because many of these orthodox Evangelicals are fighting, and their claim is not untrue. They are fighting the spiritual war, at least as they understand it and for which there is a kind of biblical defense (i.e., Ephesians 6:10-20; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). They are fighting against capitulators in the church (those who “affirm with their generous overlords the unworthiness of conservative evangelicals to be tolerated”), and they are fighting against sin in souls by proclaiming the cross. Calling them reconcilers is not quite accurate, though I can see from Wolfe’s perspective how he tags them as such.

The whole article is worth your time to read, and it provides an opportunity to consider what sphere(s) a faithful disciple of Christ should seek (and expect?) to influence. It’s connected to our Kuyperian-sized blind spot. I do agree that our goal should not be to make ourselves “harmless to the regime.” Jesus is Lord.

A Shot of Encouragement

Quite a Tongue

The kind of preacher to aspire to be, as Augustine confessed to the Lord about Ambrose:

“His gifted tongue never tired of dispensing the richness of your corn, the joy of your oil, and the sober intoxication of your wine.”

Lord's Day Liturgy

No Greater Harbor

If a harbor would be home to many ships, its shore must be broad. If a man would be host to many for a meal, he must not only have a large table, he must also have a large heart. As one of your shepherds, I love you, but the head of this communion table is Jesus Christ, the one who love us and freed us from our sins. His heart is great.

God has the greatest love. His love is constant; He is love according to the apostle John, and that is always true among the three Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, from before the world began. His love is potent; He does not just love those who love Him, He loves His enemies who hated Him out of rebellion and adopts them as His own. His love is costly, nowhere shown in its worth more than at the cross where Jesus took our sin on Himself, the just for the unjust.

The apostle Paul knew that it takes God’s own Spirit to teach us about God’s love, and it will still be more than we can fathom. Paul prays that God would strengthen us in power that we would have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19a).

When preaching on this passage, John Bunyan asked,

Couldst thou (sinner) if thou hadst been allowed, thyself express what thou wouldst have expressed, the greatness of the love thou wantest, with words that could have suited thee better?

All Loves Excelling, 37

In other words, if you could ask to be loved, could you have asked for more? The heart of Christ is great and great with love, and He invites us to commune with Him.

A Shot of Encouragement

The Lost Gift

Because sin darkens the minds of unbelievers (Ephesians 4:18), does that mean that they can’t discover any true things in science?

“No, the real darkening of sin is found in something completely different, in our having lost the gift to comprehend the true context, the proper coherence, the systematic unity of things. We now view things just outwardly, not in core and essence; hence also, each thing individually, not things together in their connection and origin in God.”

—Abraham Kuyper, “Common Grace in Science,” A Centennial Reader
Lord's Day Liturgy

Don’t Forget That

In a recent sermon I made the case that the worst sin in the modern world is the sin of living as if God is irrelevant. Another name for this is unbelief. Yet another biblical way to describe it is forgetting God.

God’s people were exhorted not to forget Him in the Law.

Take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Deuteronomy 6:12)

The history books of the Old Testament record forgetfulness.

The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and Asheroth. (Judges 3:7)

Not only the Jews, but all peoples were threatened about forgetfulness in the writings.

the wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God. (Psalm 9:17)

Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! (Psalm 50:22)

The prophets also admonish the forgetful:

For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; (Isaiah 17:10)

I, I am he who comforts you;
who are you that you are afraid of man who dies,
of the son of man who is made like grass,
and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. (Isaiah 51:12-13)

Murder, theft, adultery, lying, coveting, homosexuality, idolatry, and forgetfulness of our Maker, these are all sins. Which means that Jesus had to die for our forgetfulness. But also, Jesus died for our forgetfulness. Let us not forget that.

A Shot of Encouragement

A Real Crack-Up

Loving our kids and teaching them to respect life has consequences.

“If you pray for Roe to be overturned, and for the issue to be returned to the states, you are praying for the eventual crack-up of the 50 state union. It may happen with a whimper or a bang, but one thing is sure and certain. Respect for life and love of death are incompossibilities. We cannot vote them into a mutual respect and acceptance any more than we can vote to have water flow uphill.”

—Douglas Wilson, The UnRoeveling of America
The End of Many Books

Beauty Matters

by Steve Turley

This is short, good, and would have been even gooder (sic)(in my opinion) if it had been shorter. 

The first part of the book is gold. Does beauty belong with truth and goodness? True! Should we get better at seeing how beauty helps us love what is truly lovely? For real, it matters, and how much more so in a society schooled in subjectivity and sentimentality! Should we think about the best ways for our classrooms to commend beauty? Amen, so let it be.

It’s the second half of the book that I was less encouraged by, even though the author was trying to give some examples. But do we need to think about the Whiteboard-as-Altar to get the message? Hmmmm…. Would God be more pleased with our commendations of beauty if we held science classes in gardens?

3 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

The Abolition of Sanity

by Steve Turley

You could read Lewis’ The Abolition of Man without reading this. You should not read this without reading Lewis (and while you’re at it, That Hideous Strength). That said, there’s no harm in reading this, especially if it reminds you to go and read Lewis.

2 of 5 stars