May 2006

I was gripped most by the section in the Affections “Gracious affections soften the heart, and are attended with a christian tenderness of spirit.” The comparison between a broken heart and the child-likeness of believers is wonderfully done. Here are some excerpts for your daily reading / meditations:

“Gracious affections are of a quite contrary tendency [than false affections]; they turn a heart of stone more and more into a heart of flesh. Holy love and hope are principles vastly more efficacious upon the heart, to make it tender, and to fill it with a dread of sin, or whatever might displease and offend God; and to engage it to watchfulness, and care, and strictness, than a slavish fear of hell. Gracious affections, as was observed before, flow out of a contrite heart, or (as the word signifies) a bruised heart, bruised and broken with godly sorrow; which makes the heart tender, as bruised flesh is tender, and easily hurt. Godly sorrow has much greater influence to make the heart tender, than mere legal sorrow from selfish principles.
“The tenderness of the heart of a true Christian, is elegantly signified by our Saviour, in his comparing such a one to a little child… A little child has his heart easily moved, wrought upon, and bowed: so is a Christian in spiritual things. A little child is apt to be affected with sympathy, to weep with them that weep, and cannot well bear to see others in distress: so it is with a Christian; John 11:35, Romans 12:15, I Corinthians 12:26. A little child is easily won by kindness: so is a Christian. A little child is easily affected with grief at temporal evils, or any thing that threatens its hurt: so is a Christian apt to be alarmed at the appearance of moral evil, and any thing that threatens the hurt of the soul. A little child when it meets enemies, or fierce beasts, is not apt to trust its own strength, but flies to its parents: for refuge so a saint is not self-confident in engaging spiritual enemies, but flies to Christ. A little child is apt to be suspicious of evil in places of danger, afraid in the dark, afraid when left solitary, or far from home: so is a saint apt to be sensible of his spiritual dangers, jealous of himself, full of fear when he cannot see his way plain before him, afraid to be left alone, and to be at a distance from God…”


Since last September I have been slogging my way through Jonathan Edwards’ The Religious Affections. I expected Edwards to be deep and somewhat dense when Jerry Bridges told me last summer that Edwards was tough for him to understand! I am pressing on and hoping to finish sometime soon.
If you are not aware of who Edwards is, he was a pastor when the Great Awakening was sweeping across America. He has been called the Mount Everest of theologians, with Calvin and Luther being the foothills. He has been argued as the best philospher in American history.
His most famous, though just a fraction of his work, is enclosed in a sermon entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. It’s a shame that this is all most people know of Edwards since the delivery of the sermon and the response to the sermon is rarely, if ever, put into context. The message takes up about 4 pages out of more than 1700 in Edwards’ works (and that is not even his complete works), and Edwards’ talk of heaven was much bigger and more emphasized than his Hell. Critics say Edwards was not loving because he gave a sermon on Hell. However, when Edwards preached this message to a congregation that had not changed in light of the revival of the Great Awakening, people cried out, “What must I do to be saved?” He did not tell them what they wanted to hear; he told them what they needed to hear.
Now that Edwards has been at least slightly vindicated, let’s get back to The Religious Affections. The Affections was written to help instruct pastors, etc. what to look for in a true convert when the Great Awakening was spreading through the nation. It has a short introduction of terms, and is then broken down into three sections. The first section describes the affections, the emotions, in Christianity and their importance to it. The second section identifies certain traits or emotions and how they may, but are not necessarily, evidences of true Christianity. The final section is the longest, and there Edwards lays out what are the affetions that are truly Christian, for example: Affections from the Holy Spirit soften rather than harden the heart; they promote the spirit of love, meekness, forgiveness, quietness, mercy as appeared in Christ; and they are attended with humiliation. Edwards warns against trusting visions and dreams to give assurance of salvation or favor with God, but he affirms the true Christian affections- grief over sin, humility (becoming less while God becomes greater), weeping with those who weep, rejoicing in the truth, joy, etc.
I commend this book, with its difficulties, to my brothers and sisters. Don’t expect it to be easy, but do expect it to be deep, thoughtful, and weighty.
More details to come from within the book soon…

Charles Spurgeon said a century ago, “Everywhere is apathy. Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false. A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject; only, the shorter it is the better.” That is the theme in a two-dvd set by John MacArthur entitled Does the Truth Matter Anymore? I am very grateful to the friend that loaned it to me. I also have been challenged by MacArthur’s emphasis on doctrine and his stressing that the Word of God be preached as it is. The results are in God’s hands. In the dvds, MacArthur parallels the influence of modernism in the church in Spurgeon’s day to the emphasis today on pragmatism.
Spurgeon saw the slippery slope of modernism eroding away the integrity of the church from the inside out. But what is modernism? Simply put, modernism was the ideal at the end of the 19th century that the church not stress doctrine so much, but just try to love each other more. It sounds great. Yet it created a breeding ground where its leaven went into the church and worked its way through so that tenets central to the faith like the Sovereignty of God, the virgin birth of Christ, original sin, etc. came under fire. Whole denominations were wiped out by the modernist epidemic. Much of Europe stands as spiritual wasteland because of modernism and many churches have become museums- crypts where spiritual corpses handle the Word of the Living God. In the dearth of conviction of sin and the teaching and living out of objective truth, morality has spiraled downwards in those places as well.
In modern times, MacArthur warns us about the rising tide of pragmatism in the church. And what is pragmatism? Pragmatism is being user-friendly. It means putting more emphasis on marketing than faithfully preaching the Word of God. It means catering to the carnal interests of church members; if the people aren’t coming to church, the church should just have more activities, open a cappuccino bar, and not try to worry about doctrine, but keep the messages short so people can get out and have a nice Sunday lunch.
The prevelance of pragmatic thought has shaped how we view the success of a mission or a church. Now, the success of a mission is deemed effective based on the number of people who simply “make a decision for Christ.” The Puritans, by contrast, simply considered their mission successful if they were faithful to the Word of God.
I am sad. It seems pragmatism and modernism have so pervaded much of the church that many are afraid to call heretical teaching’s into question. “Well, you may not like his views… But to call him a heretic?” I talk to brothers and sisters who like to read popular “Christian” books, with little depth. One conceded, “yeah, a lot of the stuff that guy says is way out there, but I like some of his thoughts”. “Well even if this and that are wrong, God can still use it.” God spoke through an ass to Balaam, so obviously he can use teachings stricken with spiritual cyanide, but does that give us an excuse to ignore doctrine and embrace every movement that comes along?
I close with some of the words that have especially convicted me on how to approach my time and selection of what I read, “Before picking up a book, ask yourself: Would Christ approve of this book? Will it increase my love for the Word of God, help me to conquer sin, offer abiding wisdom, and help me to prepare for the life to come? Or could I better spend time reading another book?” -Joel R. Beeke
Bury yourself in the wisdom and love of God of the saints: Augustine, Cavlin, Luther, Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael, C.S. Lewis, John Bunyan, John MacArthur, John Owen, Elisabeth Elliot, and many others.

I went for a run yesterday and on my way back, around 5 pm, I saw a dove under some shrubs with a worm in its mouth. That’s interesting I thought. A little later I went for a walk and saw a robin with a worm hanging from its beak after 8 pm. The second bird made me think about this again. I guess it disproves that old adage, “The early bird gets the worm.”
What conclusion could we draw from this? Well my first thought, being the overly analytical, overly spiritual man I have been called, has been to point to one of Christ’s parables. Jesus, in explaining the reward of heaven, showed that the workers who toiled in the field all day (the birds getting up early) would receive the same reward from their Master as those workers who had just started tending the field before the day ended (the birds getting their worm at the close of the day). The essential thing is that they enter Christ’s labor field. So, whether you have been a Christian 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years, your reward is enterity with Christ in heaven, and the “least in heaven” is greater than the greastest man born of a woman (Luke 7:28). Though this passage sparks a tangent and could well be material for another or several more blogs- Christ’s words that the least in heaven implies that there are degrees among those in heaven. This is extremely subordinate to following Christ, but what causes one to be greater or lesser in heaven?
The limiations to these parallels are obvious- the birds getting up early do not have to toil all day once they find their food and also, the birds getting up early receive their reward before the other birds even start to labor, while in the parable the first workers got paid last. However, I was suprised to see the late bird getting the worm and wanted to share my excitement.

Finding reformed baptist churchs similar to my church is a great joy. When visiting, it really turns that business trip weekend into an opportunity to learn from brothers and sisters you’ve never met before, and may not meet again til Glory.

Today I went to this church here in Florida. A great little congregation of warm hearted folks, who love the Lord. I didn’t make it to the main service (as a road closure, getting lost, running out of toll money, driving through a part of Orlando I’d call Vanity Fair, and other providences prevented me), however I did get to share in the Bible study/sermon processing session following.

While there are many stories here to share (such as meeting a couple on staff w/ Wycliffe and sharing lunch with them, I’ll fill you and Stacey in Eegana), there is one lesson among many worth sharing now.

Simply, what do you talk about with someone you’ve never met before, and may never see again when you just have 15 minutes? Here’s what the answer shouldn’t be, I think: Work, hobbys, people.

I missed a tremendous opportunity to have deeper fellowship with some of these brothers by failing to ask just some simple questions, How did Christ get ahold of your life? How do you understand God’s providence in leading you to himself?

It is that simple, the depth of our fellowship could have gone far beyond the “what do you do?” “what do you don’t?”, yada yada yada.

I need not keep this lesson for roadtrips either! What if I apply this in my own church? I get an opportunity to chat with a fellow, what is more pertinent than Chirst?! Tell me about Christ’s work in your life brother!

Yes, I talked theology and subculture kind of stuff, which was encouraging, and the small group time was sweet as we opened the Word together and processed the sermon (that I had missed, but pieced together from the anecdotes), but by grace, let’s press for depth to the exalting of Christ in his work.

Perhaps I am over-reacting and expecting too much from time with others, but in the least I (and perhaps others) could be more discerning and prayerful before entering into fellowship.

Enough talk about predestination, it is time to bring a noncontroversial topic to the forum: my thoughts on modesty. The subject was spurred on by some thoughts I had yesterday in reading through a friend’s humble endeavor to explain the whys and hows of modesty.
First of all, I would like to say I do not include many of my sisters in Christ in the category of being immodest. Not only are their clothes, actions, and approaches honoring to God, but their inward nature of a quiet heart, a gentle spirit, and genuine compassion makes their outward beauty even more extrinsic. The lack of conceit among them is truly elegant. I have been struck dumb on more than one occasion over the past several years as I have seen the sincerity in faith of my sisters who love God.
Now onto business. Instead of delving into the, “what is too tight?” or “how much skin is too much?” I would like to ask some questions that come to my mind and lead the conversation back to God. The questions here are applicable to a broad spectrum of sisters in Christ and a gauge for men to see if they would be worthy of the affections of such a woman.
By the clothes a woman wears, the questions arise: What kind of attention does she draw to herself? Does she really have the freedom to wear whatever she wants, or does she indict herself with the sin of conceit?
In the long-term, it is good for a woman to ask what quality of men look at her and are bold enough to approach her. Will a man who looks at her first for her external beauty be a man who wrestles with God for her welfare, day and night on his knees? Will he be a man who is not afraid to cry in front of her and to try as best he can to understand and work side by side with her, leading her? Will she attract a man who will cradle her head against his shoulder as she cries? Will he be a man who will raise up their children in love, teach them, rebuke them, discipline them, read to them, play with them and stay up at night to wait for them when they go astray? Will he be a man who will kneel beside her and serve her when she is sick, when her feet are swollen, when her hair is disheveled and she is so congested that she never imagines herself pretty then? Will he be one to know her inner radiance? Will he be a man who will still be enraptured by her in thirty or forty years when her loins have been girded up with gristle like a pork chop, when her knees have gone bad, when she has gained extra weight, and will he still have eyes only for her??
The kind of bait a woman throws into the water is specific to the fish she will attract. If she throws out a line laden with bare shoulders, flirtatious glances, and provocative gestures, the fish will probably be a sucker and suck. The fish (metaphorically speaking) may be one who cares first about his ego, about what video games he is playing, about getting home in time to watch tv shows or sports- ie. ‘shut up honey, don’t talk, I am busy,’ a man who is amused by toilet humor and disgusting jokes (yes even some Christian, or “Christian” men), pessimism and destructive criticism. It may be a man who cannot deal with his rejections and hardships, but turns to alcohol to numb his pain and dull his mind, staying that dreaded task of meditating, thinking, and engaging the conflicts and emotional disconnects strewn throughout his life.
But if the line is laden with the inward clothing of compassion and kindness, a heart of love, this woman will likely find a man, the like of which there are few in this world.
Finally, brothers and sisters, do you really believe God has the best for you and will give that to you as you focus first on Him?? Do you believe that the same God who said, “Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find,” will not be able to give you much more if you seek first after God and sincerely aim to please God? Let us seek to follow that God!

I breathed deeply as I looked ahead. I stared out a glass pane in front of me, transfixed by our speed of ascent; the ships in port grew smaller and smaller. The ground began to shake beneath my feet as we rose. Inches of metal beneath my feet separated me from death.
As I went to the top of the Space Needle in Seattle, I found myself reliving my hatred of suspended heights. How could the workers in it and the rest be so oblivious to how the observation deck swayed at the top? Of course it was constructed with safety in mind and sound engineering principles, but being 500 feet from land still does not allow the amount I am convinced in my mind to transcend into my stomach. But then I remembered that just the day before I sat inches from the window of the airplane at a height of 40,000 feet and temperature of -80 F! A break in that glass and a giant pressure vacuum ensues, temperature plummet in the cabin, Oxygen becomes scarce, and a life threatening situation is imminent. Yet this caused me the least concen.
The fact is this: every single day we live, we are given the breath of God. Greek mythologies devised their own philosophy to comprehend this phenomenon. They created three muses: one drew out the cord of life, the second measured it, and the third cut it. Christ asked his followers, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt 6:27). We are to live to God as best we can. Somewhere above, the days of our lives are measured out. We may have the security of the ground beneath our feet or be only inches from death, but neither the danger of the one nor the safety of the other is any final guarantee; God will take us when he takes us. By knowing God, we may know our fraility, but by knowing that and knowing God, we may rest content more than the workers on the top of the towers who trust in man’s strength, having an eternal assurance.

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