Monday, January 16, 2017

Bird Tragedy

Geerhardus Vos

Ye birds, no fence can bar you out,
Whether of steel or stone,
From any garden of delight
Ye choose to make your own.

Yours were the freedom of the fields,
Could ye beware the nets,
Which, to beguile your innocence,
The crafty fowler sets.

Yours is the sky up to the clouds;
But from huge birds of prey
Is no defence: they lurk and watch,
Swoop down and clutch and slay.

One moment, and a feathery ball
Floats fluttering on the air;
No one knows, did it reach the earth,
Or, if it did so, where.

Should by incalculable chance
It light upon the spot,
Where hung the sheltering mother-nest,
The place would know it not.

What a pathetic tragedy,
That such things should befall,
In ways so disproportionate,
The big upon the small!

Come, hear the Preacher of the Mount
His wonder-sermon preach:
“No sparrow falleth to the ground
Outside my Father’s reach.”

Ye more than sparrows through his grace,
All your anxiety,
Your heights and depths, your falls and flights
He has in memory.

All creatures are, with Him compared,
Mere nothings; none the less
He can reclaim a ravished bird
From next to nothingness.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What does "Rising from the Dead" Mean?

Mark 9:9-10  And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.  And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.
Jesus took James, John, and Peter up on the mount where they saw the glory of Jesus. They also saw Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah and heard God the Father say "This is my beloved Son: hear him." Pretty amazing. Jesus told them not to tell anyone about what they saw until after he rose from the dead. They began talking among themselves about "what the rising from the dead should mean." That is amazing too. How much clearer could Jesus have been? He said "until the Son of man were risen from the dead" and the disciples wondered what He meant. Jesus couldn't have spoken the truth any plainer but the disciples wouldn't hear. They had their own presuppositions about what was going to happen next.  They had their own way of thinking about how the world works.

What Jesus told them didn't fit into their system. They believed at any time, Jesus was going to go into Jerusalem and take over. Any day now, Jesus was going to be King. Soon, they thought, Jesus was going to crush the Roman Empire and set Israel free. But their notion of what was going to happen did not coincide with the truth. Jesus was going to die, and they didn't want to hear it. So they didn't hear it, even when Jesus told them as much.

We might shake our heads at the dullness of the disciples, but is it any different than how we can approach the Bible? When we come across a command that we don't like or a truth that makes us uncomfortable, do we believe the plain truth we read? Or, do we do a word study to try and figure out what it REALLY means? The truth can be unsettling when we come to see that it goes against our preconceived notions. It can turn our world upside-down.

The disciples could have asked Jesus what he meant. They also could have compared what they heard with other messages He had given. When a confusing passage presents itself, compare Scripture with Scripture. Yes, do a word study if you don't understand what you are reading, but study to understand, not to explain away. Unbelief takes clear passages and makes them fuzzy, confusing, and nuanced. When God rebukes you or the culture you love, don't start looking for a way out of believing. Don't twist the truth in order to ignore the truth and harden your heart. When God rebukes your lifestyle; when God rebukes your view of marriage, don't rebel against the Lord by looking for a way to make God always agree with you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Word and sanctification

"Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of Scriptural means. The “means of grace” are such as Bible reading, private prayer, and regularly worshiping God in Church, wherein one hears the Word taught and participates in the Lord’s Supper. I lay it down as a simple matter of fact, that no one who is careless about such things must ever expect to make much progress in sanctification. I can find no record of any eminent saint, who ever neglected them. They are appointed channels through which the Holy Spirit conveys fresh supplies of grace to the soul, and strengthens the work which He has begun in the inward man. Let men call this legal doctrine if they please — but I will never shrink from declaring my belief that there are no “spiritual gains without pains.” Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual, that he can get on without them."

JC Ryle - Holiness 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Neglecting the Gift - Tuesday with Timothy #58

1 Timothy 4:14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

God gave Timothy a gift and it was his duty not to neglect it. This is a spiritual verse and something unique went on here. The gift isn't unique, but prophetic entrance into the work is.  When the presbytery laid hands on Timothy, there was a prophecy concerning his ministry. The assurance of God's calling and hand on his preaching was a gift not to be set aside or forgotten. 

We could say that the gift was the message that was preached to Timothy when he was ordained, but that would be reading our traditions back into the text, i.e. a charge to the preacher, charge to the church, and there isn't anything in Scripture that says there was a preached charge at an ordination service. I remember the message preached to me very well and some of the things said still spur me on in the ministry today, but reading our traditions back into the text is backwards. The gift was, in part, boldness, courage, confidence, power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:6). The Holy Spirit provides the power and the ability to minister the word and do the work of a pastor. The Holy Spirit gives a man the ability and the desire to preach. The ability to read the text and mine it for the treasures of Christ and then tell others about it. To clearly communicate the mystery of Christ Jesus and expound the message to where others can understand. Paul knew this was a gift and asked the church at Colossee to pray that he would be able to use this gift (Colossians 4:3-5) 

Writing to the Church in Colossee, Paul has a final word to a man named Archippus.  He instructed him to "Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it."  The ministry that Achippus had was given to Him by the Lord, the head of the church. This is a gift and it is a privilege.  Any man in the ministry must view preaching as both a gift and a privilege. and the gift isn't to be neglected by not using the gift or not improving the gift. I don't believe it is spiritual not to try to improve your spiritual gifts. To be wise and diligent in getting better. If you preach, you should always try to be a better preacher. Improve in knowledge, improve in practice, improve in delivery. Seek to use the gifts that God has given you. It is a sad state when a man who is gifted doesn't use those gifts or doesn't make full use of the gifts.

Next time, I want to get a little deeper in to the elders and the laying on of hands.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Beowulf: Seamus Heaney

So. The Spear-Danes in days done by
And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those prince's heroic campaigns.

There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.
this terror of the hall-troops had come far.
A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on
as his powers waxed and his worth was proved.
In the end each clan on the outlying coats
beyond the whale - road had to yield to him
and begin to pay tribute.  That was one good king.

The new verse translation of the epic Beowulf is outstanding. I listened to an audio book from the library. Listening to Heaney read it was really great. It was meant to be heard, and Heaney has done a great job in translating this verse, and reading it to give the feel of a storyteller.

Monsters, fighting, war, heroes and kings. If that's your kind of story, you'll like it. Don't judge the poem by the movie and if you have never seen the movie, be thankful for that mercy.

Here is what it may have sounded like when it was first told. Beowulf was written in Old English. I love to hear the sound of Old English. I wonder what a sermon would sound like?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

You are Not your Own.

"If we, then, are not our own but the Lord’s, it is clear what error we must flee, and whither we must direct all the acts of our life.

We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds.
We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us…
We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us forget ourselves and all that is ours.

Conversely, we are God’s:

let us therefore live for him and die for him.
We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions.
We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal.

O, how much has that man profited who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken away dominion and rule from his own reason that he may yield it to God! For, as consulting our self-interest is the pestilence that most effectively leads to our destruction, so the sole haven of salvation is to be wise in nothing and to will nothing through ourselves but to follow the leading of the Lord alone."

John Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion III.VII.I.,

Friday, January 6, 2017


 Obadiah is a short book of the Bible, just 669 words in length. It the end of a long, sad story. The rivalry between Jacob and Esau comes to a conclusion. Obadiah is a prophesy is against the Edomites. The name Edom means "red" and originates from Esau. Genesis 25:30  "And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom." Esau came home from a hunting trip very hungry. So hungry, he sold his birthright to his younger brother Jacob for a bowl of red pottage. The name stuck with him for the rest of his life. His decedents were always reminded what Esau forfeited for the lust and desires of the flesh. This was just one big event in a rivalry that began in the womb (Gen 25:22).  The twin boys, Jacob and Esau started their struggled in their mother Rebekah's womb. God said that the elder would serve the young, and from the boys would come two nations. Esau was born first, which was important in the days of birthrights and blessings; but Jacob was the chosen one.

The parents had committed a terrible mistake; they had divided affections among the boys. Isaac loved Esau because he was a hunter, but Rebekah loved Jacob. After the sold birthright, Jacob made things worse by stealing Esau's blessing.  Esau went to get venison for his dying father before receiving his blessing. Rebekah and Jacob conspired to trick blind Isaac into giving him the blessing instead of Esau. Jacob deceived his father and stole the blessing. This was the last straw for Esau who vowed to kill Jacob after the time of mourning their father was over. Rebekah sent Jacob away to her brother to hide from Esau.

While Jacob was fighting with his father-in–law, slaving away for his daughters, Esau's family and influence grew. Esau left home and inhabited  Mount Seir, formerly inhabited by the Horites,  now known as Edom.  The Bible tracks Jacob and his family through the rest of the book of Genesis and Exodus. Meanwhile, Esau's nation grows in the Mountains of Edom. Centuries later, when Moses asked the King of Edom to allow Israel to pass through their country to get to the land promised to Jacob, the king refused passage (Numbers 20:14-22).

Over 1,000 years later, when Jerusalem was attacked and looted by her enemies the Edomites did not come to her aid. Instead they laughed and gloated at their destruction (Obadiah 10-12). The Edomites were proud because they lived in the fortress-like shelter of the mountains. They were well protected and felt safe in the rocks. Obadiah comes to pronounce the final judgment on Edom. Their fortress was not good enough place to hide from the judgment of God. Edom's bitterness soured the soul of generations of people. Bitterness is a sin that hangs on to past wrongs and ends up only harming yourself.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Arrow and the Song

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807—1882)

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Have you not read? by Lewis Kiger

“Have you not read?” was one of the frequent sayings of our Lord. When confronted with error, He would often reply by asking this question. It was an upright assumption that those who claim to know the will of God would also know the Word of God. Yet the Lord recognized that many who thought themselves to be right with God not only did not know God’s will, but they did not rightly understand God’s Word.

It should be the desire of every born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ to know God’s will which is revealed through His Word. We live in an age when we have more access to the Bible than any other group of disciples of Christ. Walk the aisles of the average Christian bookstore and you will find hundreds and hundreds of Bibles to choose from. Dozens and dozens of different versions litter the shelves. I would dare say that the majority of the readers of this paper have multiple copies of the Bible sitting in your home right now.

More than that, we have the Bible in electronic form at our fingertips. Most of us have some kind of Bible App on our phones. We have Bible software on our laptops. And anytime you want to know what the Bible has to say about any subject, all you have to do is “Google it.”

And yet for all that, there is more Biblical illiteracy in America today than ever before. The average church-goer today is not familiar with the Bible. Few of them know the difference between the book of Judges and Jeremiah.

I am going to make what should be a very obvious statement: if you are a Christian, you should love the Bible. At least seven times in Psalm 119 the Psalmist said he loved the law and precepts of God. This is how every believer should feel. Rather than finding reading the Bible a drudgery, we should consider it a delight. 

This book brings us to God. It is the Revelation of God to us. It is His Divine Love, letter drafted in the pages of eternity past, for every one of His children. It will keep us from that which will harm us and bring us into closer fellowship with Him.

Yet I am afraid, that the Very Word of Life, the Bible, is perhaps the most neglected book we own.

Did you know that the average reader, not the exceptional, but just the average reader, can read through the entire Bible in one year; by simply reading 10 minutes a day, every day? Yet every survey done of Evangelicals tells us again and again, that God’s people simply do not read God’s Word. The percentage of confessed believers who have actually read the entire Bible is embarrassingly low. How can we know the mind of God, if we are not familiar with the Word of God?
Consider this staggering statistic: if young people would spend just 10 percent of the time reading their Bible that they now spend on electronic media everyday, they could read the entire Bible in just 4 months. But do you realize that those numbers are almost the same for adults?! The average adult today spends hours every day on social media, surfing the internet or some form of electronic media. Yet, we seemingly cannot find 10-15 minutes on a day-by-day basis to familiarize ourselves with what our Creator has said to us.

I do not intend this article to be a sharp rebuke, but an eye-opening encouragement. While it may seem a daunting task, you can read your Bible. Let 2017 be the year that you finally commit yourself in word and deed to reading the blessed entirety of God’s Holy Word.

There is a sanctifying influence to the Word of God that we deny ourselves when we do not have a daily intake of the renewing power of the Word. The Bible will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from the Bible.

The words of eternal life are found in this Sacred Book. A careful and continued study of the pages of the Bible will lead you to the Person and Work of Christ. Jesus said in John 5:39, “Search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life. And they are they, which testify of me. “

Etched in black and white on the pages of the Bible are the words that are able to make you wise unto salvation. If you do not know Jesus Christ, read the Bible. It will teach you of your Creator and of the dearest friend you could ever have.

Pastor Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Job, Humbled (Job 42: 1– 6)

"When Job says he repents, he does not mean the friends have been right all along, that Job has secret sins and finally has to admit them and repent. He maintains his integrity at the end as he has all along. But he realizes he has been presumptuous: he has spoken of things he does not understand and has overreached himself (42: 3). Now in the presence of the living God he bows down in silent worship. And that is a good thing! For Job to be brought low so that he despises himself and exalts God is not a bad thing.

We understand that for us to go around thinking we are worms in relation to our fellow human beings is a destructive thing. That kind of inferiority complex, pathological low self-esteem, is not to be encouraged....But in the presence of the living God, to bow down low and to grasp how great he is and how small I am is a healthy thing— because it is true. It is a mark of the love of God that he brings Job low, for this is where a creature ought to be.
That is true for us as well. We often pray for success, both for us and for others; we pray for good exam results, for good job offers, etc. And yet so often success leads to pride, and pride to self-confidence, and self-confidence to independence from God, and independence from God leads to Hell. The most deeply compassionate and merciful thing God can do is to humble us and bring us low so that we bow before him and lean on him and trust him. That is the first mark of the compassion of God: he loves enough to humble us, as he humbled Job, under his mighty hand. Perhaps for some of us there has been, or there will be, a time in life when everything goes wrong. A time perhaps of pain and failure, even of disaster and misery. And it may be that God in his compassion is bringing us low so that we will lean on him alone. This was for Job a hard truth, but it was nonetheless a mark of the mercy of God that he would bring Job very low."
Ash, Christopher. Job: The Wisdom of the Cross

Monday, December 26, 2016

Full Fathom Five

By William Shakespeare
(from The Tempest)
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that does fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! Now I hear them -- Ding-dong, bell.

HT: Joffre the Giant

Friday, December 23, 2016

Arachaic Language

In the introduction to the New City Catechism, Tim Keller writes about why they used the language of the old 400+year catechisms instead of modernising them.

"Although it may make the content seem less accessible at first glance, the language of the original texts has been retained as much as possible throughout the commentaries and prayers.

When people complained to J.R.R. Tolkien about the archaic language he sometimes used, he answered that language carries cultural values and therefore his use of older forms was not nostalgia—it was principled. He believed that older ways of speaking conveyed older ways of understanding life that modern forms cannot convey, because modern language is enmeshed with modern views of life.

As an example, Tolkien points to a passage in The Lord of the Rings where members of the Fellowship are choosing weapons and the (archaic) wording runs as follows: "Helms too they chose." Some (wrongly) class the wording as an "inversion", since normal order is "They also chose helmets" or "They chose helmets too." But, Tolkien comments that modern English has lost the trick of putting the word that one desires to be emphasized (for pictorial, emotional, or logical reasons) into prominent first place, without the addition of a lot of little "empty" words. The much terser and more vivid ancient styles often convey gravity and meaning in a way they would not were they modernized. (See Tolkien's letter to Professor Hugh Brogan in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter, published by Houghton Mifflin, 1981.)"

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Reading - Tuesday with Timothy #57

1 Timothy 4:13-16  Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

Until the apostle Paul came back, Timothy had a charge to stay steadfast in the faith and apply himself to certain duties and spiritual disciplines. The first duty mentioned, is that he was to give attendance to, or apply himself and give heed to reading. Reading and preaching go hand in hand. The pastor has to apply himself to the study of God's Word. You cannot expound and explain that which you don't know. You cannot tell others what God has said if you don't know yourself what God has said. Some say that this refers to the public reading of Scripture, but there is not really any reason that it is limited to public reading. Certainly it isn't excluded, but the focus, I believe, is on Timothy's soul and his ministry at this time. Read the Bible over and over. Read in studying to preach. Read for the good of your own soul. Read from the pulpit. Read in the study, read at home. what Not just speed reading, but to read and the pause and mediate on the Scripture. Consider what has been read and compare with other passages of Scripture. Read the passage in context to the immediate verses, and then in context to the whole book, then in context to the whole Bible. To do this, you need to be familiar with the Bible. True Christianity does not keep people from learning and from knowledge. True Christianity promotes learning, promotes knowledge.

Timothy needs to apply himself to exhortation and to doctrine. Don't separate the two. You are not a seminary professor. Good doctrinal preaching will lead to worship. Good doctrinal preaching will have application. Doctrine. Devotion. Doxology. Too many preachers will tell you what you have to do without telling you why. Too many sermons are all exhortation without any doctrinal foundation to rest it upon. Follow Paul's example in most of the epistles. There is a foundation of doctrine, and then a "therefore". Because this doctrine is true, this is how you apply it. The popular model of preaching today is that you tell the truth and let the Holy Spirit apply it. I think this is a result of mega-churches and online ministries where the pastor doesn't want to apply to an assembly because the hope is the sermon will get downloaded a million times. Don't apply a sermon to what is going on today because when someone listens to the radio or MP3 in six moths, that will be out of date. That wasn't how Jesus preached (Luke 13:4). Or the church is so big, the pastor doesn't know how to apply it because he doesn't know the people. Yes, the Holy Spirit knows the issues of the church and He can and does apply the truth to the heart. But the Holy Spirit has called the pastor to exhort. That is the pastors job.

In reading and the personal study of God's Word, preach to yourself first. Apply the truth to your own heart. Repent of your sins. Then present what you have first received. Listen to your own preaching in the study and apply the truths you are going to proclaim to your own heart first, and then proclaim those blessed truths to others.