A lofty goal of setting all 150 psalms…

The church needs to be singing the Psalms. There is a range of expression, emotion, and intensity in those inspired songs that must find a place in our worship today. If we do the hard work of setting the psalms with singable, beautiful, and modern melodies, we’ll realize how indispensable these texts are for the proper reverence of God and for the encouragement of God’s people. To that end, my friends at Clearnote Church have set a lofty goal of setting all 150 psalms, but they need your support.

Here is an example of their great work (Psalm 3)… Continue reading

…like a roaring lion…

Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Many of us erroneously assumed that when we came to faith, our trials would immediately cease. What we may not have understood is this: before we came to faith, the enemy of our souls, Satan, was perfectly content with us. He was our master and we were loyal subjects. When we came to faith, we got traded to a new team, so to speak, and became loyal to our Creator. Now the enemy of our souls, Satan, had to start training his guns on us. His rage, rather than his quiet rule, is now what we receive. Remember, Scripture says, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We are also exhorted, as Christians, to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). You see, the devil is a schemer and his rage is particularly directed against those who know Jesus, his enemy.

Now, think a bit about the context of Luke 4… Continue reading

Pick your Bible reading program: 88-day or whole-year…

BibleReading2015Read God’s Word once, or twice, or four times through next year. Both suggested programs are straight through the Bible…

88-day (pdf)

Whole Year (pdf)

More creative options here.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

Calvin: "I could hear God’s beating a drum in the breezes…"

261174Theodore Beza carried on the work of the church and academy in Geneva after John Calvin went to be with the Lord. Only three months after Calvin’s death in 1564, Beza published the first edition of his biography of John Calvin, The Life of John Calvin. The following section of Beza’s work stood out to me. No longer do we read providence the way our Reformed fathers in the faith did. These are the same men who taught us to see God’s Word as the only infallible revelation, yet they were willing to read God’s providence through means in His creation in a manner that many of us would refuse and rebuke. Here’s the passage I’m speaking of…

The following month, Calvin suffered an attack of gout which lasted several days. This was so severe that on the 18th, which was the day set for the examination of pastors in preparation for the Christmas communion service, they gathered in his room while he stayed in bed.

There had been a fierce gale blowing all night long and it continued to increase in fury as the day went on. The wind continued to rage all the next day, which was a Saturday, before dying down on the Sunday. In the presence of the assembled ministers, Calvin remarked on the force of the wind and uttered words which were to prove true in the days that followed. ‘I do not know what it is,’ he said, ‘but all last night, as I listened to this wind, it seemed to me as if I could hear God’s beating a drum in the breezes. I cannot get the thought out of my mind that something important is happening.’ Now, ten or twelve days later, the news reached us that the battle of Dreux had been fought on Saturday, 19 March and, whatever else one may say about it, there is no question that in that battle God rose up against the enemies of his church.

Calvin is guarded about the way he speaks of his impressions, his reading of God’s providence in the storm that raged outside his bedroom windows, but he nonetheless concludes that the fierceness of the unrelenting winds meant something. Beza goes on to say that those impressions Calvin received by his reading of the winds were confirmed.

Now, of course, there could be all kinds of abuses of this kind of reading of God’s creation. If you are inclined to need a sign from God for each, for some, for even one of your decisions, serious or mundane (Mark 8:12)—should I turn right or should I turn left?—you are prone to read too much into a lightning bolt, a friend’s words, or the color of the sunset. You should get back to the Word.

Yet, I think Presbyterians are inclined to the opposite extreme. We are inclined to think that the lightening which frightened Luther was happenstance, delightful coincidence. Or the circumstances that detoured Calvin to Geneva into the merciless counsel of William Farel were, again, wonderful coincidence. Luther had no right, we reason, to believe God was speaking to him through a means outside of His Word. Luther would beg to differ. And Calvin, as we read this history in Beza’s Life, would too. He is willing to give a place to God speaking through His providence in His creation. This speech is not specific or infallible or authoritative, as is God’s Word, but it does comport with a wholesome doctrine of God’s providence—that all things come to pass according to the free and immutable counsel of His own will. God was speaking, at least to Calvin, by means of a fierce gale of wind on that day in 1562. Calvin heard God’s drum beating in those winds. The details were hidden, the specifics were not manufactured by Calvin, but he was confident enough to believe the winds indicated something of God’s work…so confident that he spoke of this impression before the gathering of Geneva’s pastors, after having spent the whole night wondering about it.

I wonder at the response if we said something similar in a session meeting or on the floor of a presbytery meeting?

Would that we had a similar awe in God’s providence—that “the heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1).

The Devil, bless his heart, and his cute little flaming arrows…

A pastor takes thirty minutes or–if due to strength and an heartlessness unwilling to yield to the influence of ovens filled with perfectly cooked pot roasts–forty-five minutes each week to develop the hearts and minds, the affections and attitudes, of all the members of the church through the preaching of God’s Word.

Of course, there should be other times for preacher-man to dig and disciple–lunches, office visits, home groups, and invitations to his home for meals. Woe to the church whose shepherd only gives attention when the sheep are all in the pen and he’s got his clean dress robes on. But that’s not today’s point….

Pastors have mere minutes each week to preach God’s Word. As those minutes pass by, a desperate sense of urgency often comes over me. The world, the flesh, and particularly the devil are doing their best to ruin everything at that moment. But, those three enemies don’t really need that moment. They’ve had so much other time to teach. So many are comfortably numb from the 60-hour sermon they’ve already received during the hours preceding Sunday worship… Continue reading

Wifely Wednesday: Remembering the Purpose of Christ's Birth…

photoAll of our children have names taken from Bible characters. It is our family tradition on birthdays to read the Scripture passage from which we chose the birthday child’s name. One unexpected blessing in this is that we have a birthday during the Christmas season, and the passage we read is from Christ’s resurrection. I love the reminder during Advent that Christ did not come to stay a little baby, but to grow up, live a perfect life, and die for us.

John 20:1   Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2 So she *ran and *came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and *said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also *came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he *saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes.

11   But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she *saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

Five more reasons you should read the whole Bible next year…

1. What?! You say you are a follower of Jesus Christ and you haven’t (or don’t) read His Book?!

2. You’ve got the time to do it. Seriously. You do. You just don’t want to.

3. You need some convincing arguments. When the fam gets together for Christmas dinner, and you don’t have any good ones…that’s becoming an embarrassment. “I think Jesus said something somewhere about abortion er something…”

4. The Bible is not on television. Don’t tell me it is.

5. You’ll be left in the dust. Even my eight and ten year-old children read the whole thing this year. And they read the NASB, not some bowdlerized version like the NLT or ESV.

Five reasons you should read the whole Bible next year…

BibleReading2014_Page_11. God wrote the Word.

So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:19-21).

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

2. The Word of God is powerful.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

3. The Word of God will root out godless traditions from your life.

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. “For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother;thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that (Mark 7:9-13).

4. You’ve been commanded to devote yourself to the Word of God.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you,… (Col. 3:16).

5. You will be happy when you meditate on the Word of God.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).

Here’s a reading plan that will take you through the OT and NT simultaneously. Do it!

Five more reasons…

Wifely Wednesday: Bible Memory System…

BibleMemoryWe have always integrated Scripture memory into our homeschool curriculum, but I’ve never been very good at helping the children retain the verses. In other words, we never truly memorized them, since they would leave our minds shortly after we finished them. By God’s good providence I stumbled upon a great little system for memorizing Scripture with the children that not only has us learning new verses each week, but does a great job of reinforcing old verses with constant review. And I can confidently say after about four months of using it that it really works! Even the preschoolers can say many of the longer verses now, simply because they’ve heard them often enough. I love that it is very simple and usually takes less than five minutes a day. Of course it takes longer on the day a new verse is introduced simply explaining and teaching the verse. But after that, a few minutes each morning is all it takes to hide those words in our hearts. While we use it for homeschool, I can imagine that it would fit very well into any time of family devotion, and would benefit the adults as well as the children.

Rather than try to outline all the details of the system, I encourage you go to the Simply Charlotte Mason website and check it out! I used the printable divider cards available on the page, which have worked very well. We did remove the Saturday and Sunday files, since we only use this during the homeschool week. For the actual verses, I usually use the ones that the older children get from their Sunday school teacher. However, the list provided on the webpage would also be a great place to start. Our box is not full yet, but it is great fun to see more and more cards being added each week.

Easy obedience…

Putting to death our longstanding lusts and habitual sins is warfare—minute by minute engagement with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Suffering persecution with faith is warfare. But not all parts of Christian obedience are warfare. Some are a walk in the park…

Reading Scripture on a regular basis is easy obedience. We sit down, grab a Bible, and dedicate a tiny fraction of our day’s time to the treasure of God’s Word. There is rich blessing in that devotion (Rev. 1:3). So many other books and programs demand our attention, none of which are “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). If it is mindless entertainment we desire, the living and active and sharp will be seen as dead and inactive and dull.

Tithing is easy obedience. One tenth of your income is not yours; it is God’s (Mal. 3:8-12). Actually all of it is God’s but He generously asks only for a tithe. When the check is deposited in the bank account, ten percent, before taxes, is not yours for bills, recreation, mortgage, groceries, or any other thing. Your right hand just gives it while your left hand is busy with other things (Matt. 6:3). If you have strapped yourself with obligations before you considered the tithe, you will find this obedience a burden. If money is your god, tithing will be hell.

Church attendance is easy obedience, unless you live in Pakistan or China. The elders of the church have set times when the members of the church are called to worship the Savior of their souls (Heb. 10:24-25). When we take vows of membership, we commit ourselves to support the church in its worship to the best of our ability and to submit to the government and discipline of the church, part of which is the regular ministry of the Word on the Lord’s Day. So, we get up and simply get our bodies to church. There are few more disappointing parts of the pastoral ministry than having prepared a sermon, a sunday School or small group lesson with particular sheep in mind only to find they have chosen something else over worship and the Word.