September 2006

30 Sep 2006

We’ve had our Vitamix 5000 for perhaps 6 months, and the verdict is in: big thumbs up. I’ve never been the biggest fan of fresh fruit, but throw it all in a blender with some ice and I can gulp down 3 servings at a time! Get whatever frozen fruit you want, let it thaw for a half hour, and throw it in with some flavored low-fat yogurt (which actually tastes good in a smoothie) and a piece of chopped fresh fruit. Or skip the yogurt and add a tablespoon of juice concentrate for a bit of sweetness. Or use sweet-tasting fruit like a banana and you don’t need the juice. I vary the Frankenstein concoctions each day: one day it’s blueberries, strawberries, and a banana, another it’s pineapple and mango and peaches. You can throw a little of pretty much anything that is good for you that you don’t like into a smoothie, let the blender do its thing, and you don’t even taste it. Once you get used to the gig, it takes 5 minutes a day to prepare and gobble down a lot of nutrition for the Lord’s temple. I’m not going to say it beats eating chocolate cake, but man… Where has this thing been all my life?

The Vitamix isn’t a cheap blender, but we’re persuaded that it’s a quality investment. With a powerful motor, a 7year warranty, and lots of rave reviews, we think it’ll last longer than buying 3 cheap blenders (that can’t hack the tough chop work) over the next 10 years.

27 Sep 2006

And [the Pharisees] said to him, The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink. And Jesus said to them, Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. -Luke 5:33-35

The late William Hendriksen commented:

The important truth which Jesus here reveals and which makes the passage so practical and filled with comfort especially for today is that for those who acknowledge Christ as their Lord and Savior the proper attitude of heart and mind is not that of sadness but that of gladness. If it be true that “God with us” (Immanuel) spells joy for believers, should not “God within us” (the situation on and after Pentecost) awaken in every child of God joy unspeakable and full of glory? It was in order to bring such abounding joy that Jesus came on earth and that he, through his sacrificial death, brought salvation full and free. See Luke 2:10: “good tidings of great joy”; 24:52 “they…returned to Jerusalem with great joy”; John 15:11 “that your joy may be full”; 17:13: “that they may have my joy made full in themselves.” The apostles learned that lesson (Rom 5:11; 15:13; Gal. 5:22; Philippians, the entire epistle; 1 Peter 1:8; 4:13; 1 John 1:4; 2 John 12). -New Testament Commentary on Luke, p. 310

Or as the Psalmist so beautifully put it:

They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. -Psalm 36:8

24 Sep 2006

Anyone who has been to a nominal Christian funeral knows what happens there. After we are told that the dearly departed lived life with gusto, it’s time for noble comments about eternity. The weight of a thousand past funerals will be remembered and earnestly repeated along with religious bits-and-pieces picked up from the popular culture. Sentimental songs with vague spiritual aspirations will be played. We may hear the syrupy agnosticism that assures us that the departed is immortal “because he lives on in our hearts and minds.” Then comes Hallmark-card Christianity of the “he’s smiling down on us now” variety, and the pastor seals the deal by speaking of salvation without repentance, Christ without the Cross, and love without holiness. Yea, we are afflicted by the trials of life, but don’t worry… it’ll all pan out in the end, when God will wipe away every tear.

Bob Dewaay notes that one of Rick Warren’s oft-repeated errors in The Purpose Driven Life is stating Scriptures intended for believers as if they are intended for all. This is what happens at funerals. The 23rd Psalm or Isaiah 40 or Revelation 21:4 is read indiscriminately, without explanation, to both believers and unbelievers. It surely happens for various reasons. Some pastors are deceivers of the flock, weaving a drowsy spell like the evil queens of fairy tales. Others may just not want to get into unpleasant stuff with mourning people.

This reluctance to speak the whole counsel of God seems to me a travesty that endangers souls. To use Psalm 23 as an example, Scripture is clear that the Lord will not lead the unbeliever beside the still water. Only believers will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Per 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, God will inflict “vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” It is only in hearing this very bad news that the unrepentant will be led to seek the very good news, the righteousness of Christ that covers us from God’s righteous wrath.

22 Sep 2006

Last year I killed comments on le Pipe (as the French would call it) due to spam. Well, a year has passed and anti-spam tools have markedly improved. While comments will remain off for most posts, I may open them for select future posts (just as they are open for the previous post). So… I have added a comments link at the bottom of each post next to the category listing. This link will be disabled on posts where comments are off.

Now, allowing comments raises the question of what you allow on your site. If someone puts up an “Arianism is cool” post, or something reeking of the spirit of the age, does the wise man remove it or let it be? It can get tricky. Exceptions abound. And so all I will say is is that I will arbitrarily remove stuff that I think is harmful to others. Who am I to judge or squelch dissent? None but the tinpot dictator of this modest venture, and as such I’m responsible to be salt and light (and to keep others from stumbling) to the best of my God-given abilities. And so it shall be.

21 Sep 2006

Kind reader, I have opened the comments on this entry because I’d like your input on something that has long vexed me: What does the Christian do when invited to a funeral or wedding where the pastor is a woman or a known heretic? How about a non-Christian funeral or wedding?

I have traditionally attended heterodox religious events as long as the church nominally holds to Christian creeds. The Unitarian church is out. A Methodist service “pastored” by a woman with two last names or an Episcopal service led by John Spong are in. At the Catholic church I may join in with agreeable parts of the service and remain silent during the rest. If a woman or blatant heretic is officiating at a liberal Protestant church, I don’t participate other than sitting or standing with the congregation so as not to be an eyesore (in the case of the pastorette, no matter what her beliefs, non-participation is an unobtrusive way of not recognizing her authority).

In light of 1 Cor 10:20-22, though, is this too arbitrary or liberal?

20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

The great Charles Hodge comments on v20:

It was of great importance for the Corinthians to know that it did not depend on their intention whether they came into communion with devils…but [instead] what they did… A man need not intend to burn himself when he puts his hand into the fire; or to pollute his soul when he frequents the haunts of vice. The effect is altogether independent of the intention… This principle applies with all its force to compliance with religious rites of the heathen at the present day. Those who in pagan countries join in the religious rites of the heathen, are just as much guilty of idolatry, and are just as certainly brought into fellowship with devils, as the nominal Christians of Corinth, who, althought hey knew that an idol was nothing… yet frequented the heathen feasts. The same principle also applies to the compliance of Protestants in the religious observances of Papists. Whatever their intention may be, they worship the host if they bow down to it with the crowd who intend to adore it. By the force of the act we become one with those in whose worship we join.

Of course, our intention when attending these events is to mourn with those who mourn and celebrate with those who celebrate. However, in doing so do we commit idolatry and fellowship with devils despite our intentions? Note: I will remove comments supporting feminism or other heresies.

20 Sep 2006

One thing a reading of history shows is that the grand old past usually wasn’t all that grand. In all times and all ages, the church has been troubled and vexed by apathy and apostasy. One episode, recounted in Murray’s great book, “Evangelicalism Divided,” concerns Frederick the Great (1712-86):

Athough he has been brought up in a nominal Reformed faith, Frederick the Great (as he became known) was a thorough rationalist and patrol of ‘free thought.’ The sight of a cross, it was said, was enough to make him blaspheme. On one occasion when he was declaiming against Christ and the Christian religion during a dinner he observed an apparent lack of sympathy on the part of one of his guests, Prince Charles of Hesse. To an enquiring question from the king, the prince replied: ‘Sire, I am not more sure of having the honour of seeing you, than I am that Jesus Christ existed and died for us as our Saviour on the cross.’ After a moment of surprised silence, Frederick declared, ‘You are the first man who has ever declared such a belief in my hearing.’

17 Sep 2006

For the past year or two I have developed a keen interest in Byzantium. For 800 years it shielded Europe’s eastern flank from the Arabs and Turks, even though much of its time was also spent battling Bulgars, Slavs, Venetians, and Normans to its west. Warts and all, Byzantium is perhaps the closest parallel to Gondor, a buffer for Western Middle Earth against Mordor’s incursions. Byzantium survives today in Eastern Orthodoxy and modern Greece, where most of its descendants ended up after mass emigrations stemming from failed Greek excursions into Anatolia (nee Asia Minor, now the Asian portion of Turkey) after the first world war.

We recently visited Greece (more on that, perhaps, at a later time), and I had a long conversation with an Athenian cab driver who burned on the topic. Istanbul is Constantinople! The Turks are squatters! This nice man refuses to visit Hagia Sofia, burning with indignation that the Turks use it as a museum. “Better a museum than a mosque,” I said, to which he grudgingly assented. After he claimed Antioch for Greece — in southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border — I said, “Well then don’t you want all of Anatolia?” No, he replied, just areas important to Eastern Orthodoxy. We didn’t get into what those lands were, but presumably the western lands of the seven churches of the Revelation, roughly those areas remaining after the 11th-century debacle at Manzikert. Ask any Greek, he said, and see if they do not agree. A few other Athenians I asked offered similar opinions.

All of which leads to something I have been thinking about lately: the ceaseless movement of Christianity. The church started in Palestine, but today not many Christians live there. Asia Minor was perhaps the great focus of early church history, yet now Turkey is 99% Muslim. The sites of the great early councils are ruins overseen by the Turks. All of the great ancient Eastern sees have long since fallen to unbelievers; few Christians remain in any of them. Rome solidified its denial of the Gospel at Trent. Europe was once the bastion of Christianity but now appears to be in a long spiritual decline. For a century America has been ascendant in its influence, but Christianity is spreading now into Africa, China, even India, and we see so many signs of evangelical degeneracy in the states (typified by the church growth movement). And so Christianity is not an American birthright. It seems as if the church has always been here and always will be, but so it probably seemed at Ephesus and Antioch and a thousand other cities. Short of repentance the American church may one day be under the boot of pagans and persecutors as the Holy Spirit moves on to other lands. Thanks be to God that we still have faithful churches here. It should never be taken for granted.

13 Sep 2006

I had a discussion with some folks in Grand Rapids, Michigan, recently. I was speaking on sola gratia, and one fellow was upset.

He said, “Are you trying to tell me that in the final analysis it’s God who either does or doesn’t sovereignly regenerate a heart?”

And I said, “Yes,” and he was very upset about that. I said, “Let me ask you this: are you a Christian?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “Do you have friends who aren’t Christians?”

He said, “Well, of course.”

I said, “Why are you a Christian and your friends arent? Is it because you’re more righteous than they are?” He wasn’t stupid. He wasn’t going to say, “Of course it’s because I’m more righteous. I did the right thing and my friend didn’t.” He knew where I was going with that question.

And he said, “Oh, no, no, no.”

I said, “Tell me why. Is it because you are smarter than your friend?”

And he said, “No.”

But he would not agree that the final, decisive issue was the grace of God. He wouldn’t come to that. And after we discussed this for fifteen minutes, he said, “OK! I’ll say it. I’m a Christian because I did the right thing, I made the right response, and my friend didn’t.”

What was this person trusting in for his salvation? Not in his works in general, but in the one work that he performed. And he was a Protestant, an evangelical. But his view of salvation was no different from the Roman view.

-R.C. Sproul from the Pelagian Captivity of the Church

10 Sep 2006

G.I. Williamson is a former OPC minister and author of various study guides of Reformed confessions. Here are some goodies from his Westminster Confession study guide.

On Liberty (XX):

Examples of rules which are contrary to the Word of God are prohibitions requiring total abstinence from the use of certain material things. … However, in not one case is it possible to show that such abstinence is required of God [Rom 14:14, 20]… It is true, of course that once a person has allowed his conscience to be bound by such a (false) rule, he cannot partake of the forbidden thing without sinning. [Rom 14:14, 20, 23]. … It is never right to do what we believe to be wrong, even when we believe a thing to be wrong without good reason. But even if a person faithfully obeys his conscience and scrupulously observes a rule forbidding the use of a material thing, he is still guilty of sin. He is guilty of the sin of allowing someone other than God to impose a rule upon his conscience. To this it is objected that without such rules…the only possible result will be “all-out intemperance.” … We shall only say here that it is extremely dishonoring to the Spirit of God to maintain such an objection. For this objection is tantamount to saying that a man-made rule will keep a Christian from sin better than the Holy Spirit who dwells in him.

On Divorce (XXIV):

…Christians, by reason of the sinful propensities remaining in them, are apt to invent arguments to justify divorce for other than [the two Biblical reasons, adultery and abandonment]. For example, when fidelity to the marriage requirements entails heartache and suffering, many a Christian has tried to justify separation and divorce… Others have secured divorces from spouses that are imprisoned or hospitalized. But… the path of obedience is often the way of self-denial and the bearing of reproach and suffering for the glory of God.

On Baptism (XXVIII):

We must not limit the efficacy of baptism to the moment of administration. … [W]e cite the case of Jacob and Esau. (1) Both were given the sacrament by divine commandment. (2) Esau never received the grace of which he had the sign and seal. And (3) Jacob did not experience the efficacy of the sacrament until his conversion many years later… The purpose of baptism is not to effect union with Christ but rather to confirm and testify such. …[B]aptism testifies that God gives union with Christ to whom he will, as he will, and when he will. … Baptism, like circumcision, may have no effect on some people. But infant baptism, like infant circumcision, does have a profound effect upon some who are converted long after they are baptized. … For one cannot experience the efficacy of baptism prior to baptism… p. 215

And this on the use of grape juice (XXIX):

[T]hose who ordinarily use leavened bread and grape juice out of mere convenience we will not condemn. But if the decision to use grape juice instead of wine is based on the influence of the Temperance Movement, we must regard this as seriously unbliblical. It is a false doctrine, a legacy from the ancient Gnostics, to locate sin or evil in material things. The cause of the sin of drunkenness was located by Christ in man’s depraved heart (Mark 7:14-28), not in wine.

07 Sep 2006

I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. -Matthew 26:29

Matthew Henry comments:

Dying saints take their leave of sacraments, and the other ordinances of communion which they enjoy in this world, with comfort, for the joy and glory they enter into supersede them all; when the sun rises, farewell the candles.

05 Sep 2006

Here you go. Get crackin’, it’s gonna take awhile!

03 Sep 2006

At the time of the Reformation the (Turkish) Ottoman Empire reached its greatest heights. After smashing what little remained of the 1000-year Byzantine Empire in the mid-15th century, the Turks made huge inroads into southeastern Europe until they were finally checked at the gates of Vienna in 1529 (as much by the weather as the defenders). These Islamic advances caused great concern in Europe. Luther thus wrote, more than once, about them, and his reflections point us in the right direction.

Since the Turk [Muslim] is the rod of the wrath of the Lord our God and the servant of the raging devil, the first thing to be done is to smite the devil, his lord, and take the rod out of God’s hand, so that the Turk may be found only, in his own strength, all by himself, without the devil’s help and without God’s hand. This should be done by the pious, holy, precious body of Christians. They are the people who have the arms for this war and they know how to use them. If the Turk’s god, the devil, is not beaten first, there is reason to fear that the Turk will not be so easy to beat.

Now the devil is a spirit who cannot be beaten with armor, muskets, horses, and men, and God’s wrath cannot be allayed by them, as it is written in Psalm 33, “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man; but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” Christian weapons and power must do it. Here you ask, “Who are the Christians and where does one find them?” Answer: There are not many of them, but they are everywhere, though they are spread thin and live far apart, under good and bad princes. Christendom must continue to the end, so it must be possible to find them. Every pastor and preacher ought diligently to exhort his people to repentance and to prayer. They ought to drive men to repentance by showing our great and numberless sins and our ingratitude, by which we have earned God’s wrath and disfavor, so that he justly gives us into the hands of the devil and the Turk. And so that this preaching may work the more strongly, they ought to cite examples and sayings from the Scriptures, such as the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the children of Israel, and show how cruelly and how often God punished the world and its lands and peoples. And they ought to make it plain that it is no wonder, since we sin more grievously than they did, if we are punished worse than they.

This fight must be begun with repentance, and we must reform our lives, or we shall fight in vain… [F]or God is devising evil [punishment] against us because of our wickedness and is certainly preparing the Turk against us, as he says in Psalm 7, “If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and strung his bow; he has prepared his deadly weapons.” … After people have thus been taught and exhorted to confess their sin and amend their ways they should then be most diligently exhorted to prayer and shown that such prayer pleases God, that he has commanded it and promised to hear it, and that no one ought to think lightly of his own praying or have doubts about it, but with firm faith be sure that it will be heard. -from “On War Against the Turk”