A Different Kind of Profanity (David Prince)

What would you do if one of your children walked in your house and spoke a string of four-letter words? What would you do if one of your children walked in your house grumbling? I fear that most of us would drop everything and confront their intolerable use of four-letter words (and rightly so) but would say nothing about the grumbling or maybe say something like, “I am sorry you are having a bad day.” You may say, “Yes, but the four-letter words are profanities.” So is grumbling.

We tend to reason that grumbling is not a big deal because it is not actually doing anything it is simply talk. In contemporary American culture grumbling is often ingrained as a way of life and many treat it as harmless personal therapy. We tend to rename it as something like venting in order to remove the stigma. Grumbling is so habitual that we often miss the irony of our words when we stand in front of closets full of clothes and murmur that we do not have anything to wear. Or when we stand before refrigerators packed with food and say we don’t have anything to eat.

In the Bible, grumbling is described as corrosive. A grumbling spirit never stays self-contained but begins to infect all aspects of life and thought with an entitlement worldview. Parents who model grumbling or treat it as acceptable when their children grumble are placing their kids in character quicksand. Grumbling and thankfulness cannot coexist. One always vanquishes the other. A grumbler becomes immune to gratitude because no matter what happens circumstances will always bump up against our personal desires.

In Exodus, the Israelites leave Egypt walking between sovereignly walled up water; then, within one month of that event the awe-inspired gratitude is erased. Why? They are thirsty (Ex 15:22-17:7). The irony that they saw the power of a God who can control the Red Sea and now a bit of thirst has them complaining should not be lost on us. Moses had courageously been used by God to confront Pharoah and lead the n…

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‘Tis the Season (Nick Batzig)

Sinclair Ferguson has recently released his second advent themed book, Love Came Down. Together with his previously published Child in the Manger, this has quickly become one of my favorite sources for advent meditations. That is not at all surprising, as I have found Sinclair’s advent sermons to be among the most thought provoking and spiritually enriching. There are gold nuggets in all of them. For instance, in one of his sermons on the virgin birth, Sinclair explained, “If God was to speak the language and the mathematics and the physics that was necessary to express creation out of nothing and virginal conception, our minds would seek to expand to their limit–to take it in until we reach the the point that we said, ‘I’m sorry that I asked the question. I am just a man or a woman, a boy or a girl. This is too great for me!’ And you see, that’s the point that we come to recognize that here is the difference between the believer and the unbeliever. That’s the point where the believer is content to say, ‘You are God and I am not, and I’m content that it should be that way.’ Whereas the unbeliever will say, with Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘If there is a God who can do such things, how can I bear not to be that God; and so I will not believe.’ Yes, it is an amazing, supernatural miracle; but like God’s great works-creation, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection-done safe from men’s prying eyes. He brings light out of darkness. He brings His Son into the dark womb of a virgin.”Dr. Ferguson preached a significant number of advent sermons during his time at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC. He has also preached a few in St. George’s Tron in Glasgow, Scotland and in St. Peter’s Free Church in Dundee, Scotland. You can find these messages below:
 

St. Peter’s Free – Carol Service (Matthew 2:1-12)
The Night Before Christmas
The Incarnate Word (John 1:14)
Led by Another Way (Matt. 2:1-12)
The Rejected Word (John 10:1-13)
The First Woman i…

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Virgins Don’t Conceive, Unless…! (Nick Batzig)

I love the ease with which C.S. Lewis answered objections to the Scriptural record of the the miraculous conception of the virgin Mary. In Miracles: A Preliminary Study, he wrote:”You will hear people say, ‘The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility’. Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the course of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it. A moment’s thought shows this to be nonsense: and the story of the Virgin Birth is a particularly striking example. When St Joseph discovered that his fiancée was going to have a baby, he not unnaturally decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynaecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men. No doubt the modern gynaecologist knows several things about birth and begetting which St Joseph did not know. But those things do not concern the main point–that a virgin birth is contrary to the course of nature. And St Joseph obviously knew that. In any sense in which it is true to say now, ‘The thing is scientifically impossible’, he would have said the same: the thing always was, and was always known to be, impossible unless the regular processes of nature were, in this particular case, being over-ruled or supplemented by something from beyond nature. When St Joseph finally accepted the view that his fiancée’s pregnancy was due not to unchastity but to a miracle, he accepted the miracle as something contrary to the known order of nature. All records of miracles teach the same thing.
C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 73-74….

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Keeping the Para- in the Para-Church (Brian Cosby)

I benefit from a number of para-church ministries, and I’m grateful for those who serve as leaders and volunteers of those groups for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. Over the years, however, I have become increasingly aware of my generation’s low-committal, take-it-or-leave-it approach to the local church and have wondered about the actual biblical basis for many of these para-church groups that functionally usurp the ministry, worship, and fellowship of the local church.

While para-church ministries might have their place–and the perceived failure of the local church in reaching certain targeted demographics is not a justifying reason–the fact remains that those para-church ministries that do not intentionally and functionally come alongside the local church find little to no foundational support from Scripture. They are simply not the God-ordained, God-established institution here on earth called to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 3:12), the pillar and buttress of truth (1 Tim. 3:15), the bride and body of Christ (Eph. 5:23-27; Rom. 12:5), of which God has given overseers (Acts 20:28) and directives on worship and ministry (1 Cor. 14:26-40).

Some para-church organizations and ministries are great and serve a specific purpose. I’m thinking specifically about collaborative ventures, such as The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and Ligonier Ministries, or efforts to pull combined resources for larger targeted projects. While many like these have legitimate goals, I’m specifically targeting those para-church organizations that supplant or usurp the weekly ministry of the local church and its ministry. Functionally, they end up serving as a “replacement” for the ministry of the church.

Although many para-church ministries will often vocally support the local church, I would venture to say (from my experience over the years) that many are content to let their ministry practically replace the church. A …

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Souls Always Need More Curing (Nick Batzig)

David Powlison, in his excellent book Seeing With New Eyes, touches on the reality of indwelling sin–particularly with regard to what we believe and how it impacts our actions. Powlison rightly insists that all believers live in a tension between the flesh and the Spirit in this life. Employing the illustration of “competing voices” he writes,”In each saint, the cravings and works of indwelling sin grapple against the Holy Spirit’s desires and fruit (Gal. 5). It is no surprise, then, that in life stories you often notice competing voices jostling for the final say. A transcription of what takes place in a person’s soul reads like a courtroom drama where different witnesses tell contradictory stories about what happened.”He then gives the following example:”A man may repent of a criminal lifestyle and find genuine new life in Christ. But, at the same time, in the name of Christ he embraces a bizarre eschatological scheme and a political conspiracy theory. He may genuinely turn from violence and drug addiction–high hosannas! At the same time he may become newly self-righteous toward former partners-in-crime and adopt the abrasive manner of the person who led him to Christ–a Bronx cheer for such results. Souls are cured, but they also sicken in new ways. Souls always need more curing.”I was struck with the profound simplicity of the last two sentences. “Souls are cured, but they also sicken in new ways. Souls always need more curing.” Who among us could be so blind to the fact that our souls are constantly in need of more curing? The reality is that most of us are not readily aware of our need for more curing–particularly when it regards a self-righteous attitude or posture toward others who are struggling with sins other than our own at present. This, in turn, reminded me of one of Jonathan Edwards’ reflections on the reality of self-righteousness in the lives of believers. In his sermon, “Bringing the Ark to Zion a Second Time,” Edwards wrote: “A man is…

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Singing from Mary’s Sheet (Christina Fox)

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1: 46-55)

This familiar Christmas passage is often called Mary’s Song or the Magnificat which is Latin for magnify. Mary sings this song in response to Elizabeth’s exclamation of blessing to her when she arrived for a visit and when John the Baptist leapt in Elizabeth’s womb, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary sang this song to magnify or to extol God. When we magnify something, we make it bigger, so we can better see it. Like a magnifying glass. Or when someone is put up on the jumbotron at a ball game, so everyone can see their silly dance. In the case of this song, Mary is narrowing in on the greatness of God. She is filled with wonder at what God is doing and can’t help but bubble over into praise.

What makes this song all the more remarkable is the challenges and trials she likely went through before her visit to Elizabeth. She had probably been ostracized by many in her community. We don’t know how her family responded, but they had every legal right to reject her, or worse. We know from the book of Matthew that Joseph wanted to divorce her after he heard the news of her conception. We should also remember where Israel is in her history. Since the exile, they have not had a king on the throne. The pr…

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The Statement on SJ&G Explained: Article 12, Race/Ethnicity (Craig Mitchell)

[Editorial Note: This is the eighth post in a series of posts in which we have invited the authors of “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” to expound upon the statement’s affirmations and denials. We encourage our readers to take the time to read through our prefatory editorial note at the beginning of the first post prior to reading through subsequent posts in the series.]
Statement 12: Race/Ethnicity
WE AFFIRM God made all people from one man. Though people often can be distinguished by different ethnicities and nationalities, they are ontological equals before God in both creation and redemption. “Race” is not a biblical category, but rather a social construct that often has been used to classify groups of people in terms of inferiority and superiority. All that is good, honest, just, and beautiful in various ethnic backgrounds and experiences can be celebrated as the fruit of God’s grace. All sinful actions and their results (including evils perpetrated between and upon ethnic groups by others) are to be confessed as sinful, repented of, and repudiated.

WE DENY that Christians should segregate themselves into racial groups or regard racial identity above, or even equal to, their identity in Christ. We deny that any divisions between people groups (from an unstated attitude of superiority to an overt spirit of resentment) have any legitimate place in the fellowship of the redeemed. We reject any teaching that encourages racial groups to view themselves as privileged oppressors or entitled victims of oppression. While we are to weep with those who weep, we deny that a person’s feelings of offense or oppression necessarily prove that someone else is guilty of sinful behaviors, oppression, or prejudice.

 

 

In 1 Samuel 16:6-7, we read, “When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of…

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The True Measure (Jason Helopoulos)

Big works of God in this world begin small with ordinary people of God working for the glory of God. Many hands make light work. And many hands accomplish much work. This is how revivals begin, Reformations are launched, churches are established, missions are founded, and cities and countries and the world are changed. The ordinary people of God working for the glory of God.

Every member ministering according to our ability is the calling of the church (Nehemiah 3, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, etc.). Every member! We easily fall into the trap of thinking the work of God is specialized work for those who possess a special calling. Yet, the Scriptures make it clear that all are called to service. We all serve as ministers of the gospel and all have our part to play. In fact, as Paul points out in Ephesians 4, pastors and teachers are simply to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” We are all to engage in the work. And when we do, mighty things are accomplished.

But as James Montgomery Boice once said, “It is said that today the churches resemble more than anything else a football game played in a large stadium. There are 80,000 spectators in the stands who badly need some exercise, and there are 22 men on the field who badly need a rest.”1Now, some may not have the gifts of others. All cannot be the eye or the ear. Some members remain less visible than others in the body, but none are less important. All are needed–doing their best to labor for the sake of the Kingdom according to their gifts and stage in life.

John Newton wrote a helpful letter along these lines. In his day, George Whitefield was the great celebrated pastor. God used Whitefield mightily and his was a household name. In a letter John Newton wrote to a fellow pastor, he commented:

“One man, like Whitefield, is raised up to preach the gospel with success through a considerable part of the earth. Another is called to the humbler service of sweeping the streets, or cleaning this great minister…

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New Vos Biography (Nick Batzig)

Our friends at the Reformed Forum have recently published a quality hardback biography of the father of Reformed biblical theology, Geerhardus Vos, by Danny Olinger. Danny is an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as general secretary for the OPC committee on Christian education. You can find out more about this wonderful new volume here. A promotional video about it is available here.

Tolle lege!…

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Reigning Omnipotent in Every Place (Ligon Duncan)

When–in the Institutes of the Christian Religion (1.15.1)–John Calvin turned his attention to the creation of mankind, he did so with a view to further elaborate his assertion that we cannot have a clear and complete knowledge God unless we have a corresponding knowledge of ourselves. Calvin did not have in view here some sort of an introspective, therapeutic journey of self-discovery. He meant knowing humanity as created and fallen. We can’t properly appreciate man as created without understanding man as fallen, and we need to understand man as fallen in light of what he was when originally created.One reason this is important is because we have a tendency to blame God for our own evil – excusing our sin with “I’m only human” or “To err is human.” But this is to place our sin at God’s feet. So, Calvin said: “Since, then, we see the flesh panting for every subterfuge by which it thinks that the blame for its own evils may in any way be diverted from itself to another, we must diligently oppose this evil intent. Therefore we must so deal with the calamity of mankind that we may cut off every shift, and may vindicate God’s justice from every accusation” (1.15.1, Battles trans.)

Calvin (1.15.2) flatly asserted the obviousness of man as body and soul (theologians call this view of humanity “dichotomy,” as opposed to “trichotomy” which holds that we are made up of “body, soul and spirit” differentiating the latter two). He then proceeded to argue for the immortality of the soul from 1. Our conscience’s perception of right and wrong, dread of guilt and fear of punishment for evil. 2. The “many pre-eminent gifts of the human mind, superior to that of animals. 3. Our ability to conceive of God and the supernatural, and to discern what is right, just and honorable. 4. Our mental activity when asleep, in which we sometimes conceive of things that have never happened, or that will happen in the future. 5. Copious arguments from specific t…

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