Web Excursions are links and websites that we’ve stumbled across today that we hope will be a blessing to you.
The Unconverted Calvin – The Reformed confessions have very little to say about conversion per se. And when they do, they mean something very different from contemporary evangelical usage which regards conversion as synonymous with an instantaneous new birth or ‘born again’ experience.
Tragic Worship – Carl Trueman: “The problem with much Christian worship in the contemporary world, is not that it is too entertaining but that it is not entertaining enough. Worship characterized by upbeat rock music, stand-up comedy, beautiful people taking center stage, and a certain amount of Hallmark Channel sentimentality neglects one classic form of entertainment, the one that tells us, to quote the Book of Common Prayer , that ‘in the midst of life we are in death.’ It neglects tragedy. “
Credo Magazine: Churchy Gimmicks: Has the Church Sold Its Soul to Consumerism? (PDF) – The Evangelical church in the twenty-first century has in many ways absorbed the consumeristic mentality that is so prevalent in the culture. Churches approach worship as if they were selling a product and the attendee were the consumer. Since the product is up for sale, churches must show that their product is more entertaining than anything else the world has to offer. Therefore, churchy gimmicks are the name of the game. Whatever keeps people coming back for more takes first priority and becomes the controlling principle for all things church-related. The preaching must be relevant, the music must entertain, and church events must keep people on the edge of their seat. If the church doesn’t sell itself, then it will be out of business.
The Donkey Driven Church – “The Kingdom of God advanced, in the days of Christ, with our Lord’s riding on the back of a donkey. The Kingdom advanced in lowliness and by unassuming means.”
Predestination: Don’t Say a Word About It Until… – Christians need to talk about and pastors need to preach predestination. But as you may know, there’s no more surefire way to create awkward silence among family and friends than to say, “Hey everyone, let’s talk about predestination.”
Idolatry in Corporate Worship – “While I don’t want to minimize the importance of faithful planning, musical skill, and wise leadership, our greatest problem when it comes to worshiping God doesn’t lie outside us, but within our own hearts. It’s the problem of idolatry.”
Coming Soon – “Ordinary” by Michael Horton – “Radical. Crazy. Transformative and restless. Every word we read these days seems to suggest there’s a ‘next-best-thing,’ if only we would change our comfortable, compromising lives. In fact, the greatest fear most Christians have is boredom–the sense that they are missing out on the radical life Jesus promised. One thing is certain. No one wants to be ‘ordinary.’”
The Christian Faith: Calvinism is Back – In America's Christian faith, a surprising comeback of Calvinism is challenging the Jesus-is-your-buddy gospel of modern evangelism.
What’s So Special About John Calvin? – "Calvin is worth rediscovering because, for him, piety was broader and deeper than what we usually mean by piety or spirituality today. Like the ancient fathers, his view of piety encompassed doctrine and life. John Calvin knew no division of mind and heart or creeds and deeds."
How Did Jesus Read the Old Testament? – So, how did Jesus read the Old Testament? Did He read it as a book of morals or character development? Did He read it like the Pharisees and Scribes read it? Far from it! Jesus read the Old Testament as the Covenant revelation of God written to Him and about Him. We have frequently rushed to this latter part and rightly rejoiced in the fact that Old Testament was written about Jesus, but have failed to see that, at the same time, it was written, first and foremost, to Jesus.
The Threefold Division of the Law (PDF) – Reformed theology teaches a threefold division of the Mosaic Law into the moral, the civil and the ceremonial. This free book by Jonathan Bayes shows such a division pre-dates the Reformation and more importantly, that the Bible itself makes such distinctions.
Repent of Lent: How Spiritual Disciplines Can Be Bad for Your Soul – It seems as though there is a growing cultural awareness of “giving up” things for Lent. Lent has a certain cache; It’s cool, like a cleanse, only involving God, and prayer. Our tolerant society broadly embraces asceticism, at least the temporary sort that doesn’t hurt too much, or just enough whip your body or soul into shape. Lent is mainstream enough even in our post-Christian culture for there to be water-cooler humor about “giving up fasting for Lent.” The problem with even the evangelical, self-imposed fast is that it creates a little law for us to obey, a rule that is within our reach. It is, not surprisingly, a law of our own making, for the law of God — love God and neighbor with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength — is impossible to obey, even for a moment. If we fulfill our personal law, we have confirmed ourselves in the conceit that we aren’t so badly off after all.
Re-Framing Reformed Baptist Doctrine – Tom Chantry: "It is my firm opinion that John Frame is one of the most dangerous characters in the broadly Reformed world today.
The Most Important Overlooked Doctrine? – "Without hesitation, I would suggest that it is the doctrine of definitive sanctification."
God opened (or closed) the door – We’ve all heard someone say something like this: “I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out, but then God opened a door for me to go.” Or perhaps just the opposite: “I was all set to do that, but then God closed the door.” What do you think about that language? Is it legitimate? Just evangelical-ese?
I Love a Church That Sings Badly – Tim Challies: "These people do not know how to sing. Most of them sing quietly. They sing without a lot of skill. They depend upon instrumentation to help carry them. But the reason they sing so poorly is that there are so few among them who are mature in the faith; there are so few among them who have been raised to hear those songs week by week from their youngest days. This is a church where the gospel is being preached in the worship services and where the people are taking that gospel to those who live nearby. The gospel is doing its work, many are being saved, and they are coming to those Sunday services to pour out their praises to God. This church sings so poorly because they evangelize so well."
Your Testimony Is Not the Gospel by R.C. Sproul – we shouldn’t confuse our personal testimonies with the gospel. Sharing our personal testimonies is not evangelism. It’s merely pre-evangelism, sort of a warm-up for evangelism. Our testimonies may or may not be significant or meaningful to those with whom we are speaking. There are lots of folks who can relate to my story; they say, “Yeah, I know what he’s talking about because I used to live like that too.” But not everyone can relate to my story. In any case, the gospel is not what happened to R.C. Sproul.
Wynter At Large: Background to The Gospel of Mark: “Date” – Ay Wynter begins his study of the Gospel of Mark, he first briefly examines the evidence for the various dates at which the book could have been written.
Work That Makes a Difference – I think of Jesus the carpenter. The Son of God had created humanity, he had created the earth, he had created the cosmos, and for most of his life on earth he created household furniture. But I don’t think he grumbled about it. I think he did it to the glory of God.
The Panic Button – There are certainly churches that need to change and that need to change drastically. The Bible calls for repentance and for reformation. Churches who are unfaithful to their calling and commission must change. Churches aware of sin in their midst and compromises in their doctrine and practices must change. But we must not change due to fear and we must not alter due to the pressures of society. Every pressure we feel to change must be produced by the weighty pressure of exegesis and not the enormous pressure of an empty pew. Before we push that panic button, let’s remember it’s been there for a long time and let’s remember how faithful men responded in the past.
What Are We Missing In Our Worship: The Confession of Sin – "We are Gospel people, so we are a confessing people–quick to recognize our sin and quick to receive the assurance of God's grace in Christ Jesus. We need it not only in our closets, but also in our gatherings. We need it not only in the past, but also in the present. We need it not only sporadically, but weekly. We all need it. The flippant Christian needs to be reminded each week. The sluggard needs to be exhorted each week. The weary one needs to be comforted each week. The doubting soul needs to be assured each week. The unrepentant heart needs to be confronted each week. I need it each week. The people under our care need it each week. We need it together. Whether our service is Presbyterian, Baptist, or Independent, traditional, contemporary, or blended, it should have this element. For Christian worship, a confession of sin with its accompanying assurance of pardon is elemental."
Nunc Super Tunc: Is the ‘Now’ Superior to the ‘Then’? – "American Christians have a lot of virtues but historical mindedness isn’t one of them. As Americans we like to think that we’re the first to do most things but history demonstrates that to be false. We’re not the first Christians. We’re part of an ancient and widespread family. For those who identify with the Reformed tradition and confession, we are part of a particular branch of that family and we have our own history, our own theology, piety, and practice. It is a mixed history but we cannot possibly know who we are or why we think and act as we do if we do not know that history. As in any case, it is imperative that, in order to understand oneself, one must understand one’s family history. So it is with us. We did not invent the Reformed faith. Indeed, in many important ways it created us. Before go about re-creating the faith in our own image, let us learn our family history and heritage so we can read the bible with the family and we can work intelligently and thoughtfully with the inheritance we’ve received."
Whose Worldview Part 2 – "Most worldview champions would probably argue doctrine does matter to one’s worldview. But, if this is the case, then how Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox, much less Lutherans, Calvinists, and Pentecostals, share a worldview is unclear. At best, it seems contemporary evangelicals use the idea of Christian worldview much like liberal Christians once used the phrase “Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man”—a large accommodating umbrella sheltering delimited political and social expressions of Christianity. Theological details matter peripherally to the big-picture picture possibility of redeeming the culture. Building and managing cultural unanimity take priority over disciplined habits, to some even boring habits, of older theological forms. These older theological forms gave rise to confessions and creeds. They speak to particular details, but at price worldview proponents do not want to pay, namely, the collapse of consensus and visible unity in a democratized religious climate."
How I Justify a First-Day Christian Sabbath – 'Reformed Christians pride themselves on their commitment to the Bible as their ultimate authority for faith and practice. But not all our beliefs and practices seem self-evidently biblical to non-Reformed believers. One striking example is our view that the first day of the week, i.e., the “Lord’s Day,” is in fact a “Christian Sabbath.” All agree that God explicitly commanded Israel to observe a seventh-day Sabbath (Exod 20:8-11). But where in the NT are Christians explicitly commanded, “Remember the first day as a Sabbath to the Lord”? Nowhere. That raises the question, How may a Reformed believer defend the notion of a first day Christian Sabbath?'
Why I Love an Evening Service – "Perhaps the best part of having an evening service is that, just as the morning service allows you to begin the day worshiping God with his people, the evening services allows you to close the day worshiping God with his people. "
Resisting a Diet of False Illusions – So my question to you is this: Do you prize every given opportunity to hear God’s Word in your church? You could read this as a rebuke, and in measure you might be right. But see this rather as a loving exhortation to hunt out every opportunity to sit under the ministry of God’s Word. Not because I am worth hearing; but because God himself speaks to us by his Spirit through his Word.
Learning from William Carey – "We are firmly persuaded that Paul might plant and Apollos water, in vain, in any part of the world, did not God give the increase. We are sure that only those ordained to eternal life will believe, and that God alone can add to the church such as shall be saved. Nevertheless we cannot but observe with admiration that Paul, the great champion for the glorious doctrine of free and sovereign grace, was the most conspicuous for his personal zeal in the word of persuading men to be reconciled to God."
The Lord’s Day and Discipleship – Pastors can be reticent to speak about the Lord’s Day, fearing perceptions of legalism or self-aggrandizement. But we need to be reminded through teaching and the example of church officers of the importance of the Lord’s Day for Christian discipleship. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27). The Lord’s Day is designed by God to bless us. It is foundational to our Christian discipleship.
A Pill Could Help You Acquire Perfect Pitch – Soon, we'll all be singing better.
How Should We Preach Christ in Every Sermon? OT Historical Narrative – The narratives of Scripture present a challenge to the preacher to be true to the text, the redemptive-historical context, and the analogy of faith. However, because we know the covenantal, law-gospel, justification-sanctification theology of all the Scriptures, we can justly preach Christ in all the Scriptures. Each sermon must have enough of the gospel to save the sinner and to edify the saint through the preaching of Jesus Christ Himself.
What Christians Should Stop Saying – "To say something was a 'God thing' seems to draw lines of distinction between what God is and is not involved in that Scripture itself does not draw. I rarely hear anyone use this phrase when speaking of a particularly difficult or trying or devastating circumstance. We generally apply it only to the victories. The truth is, all of those are His things. "
Lloyd-Jones On Antinomianism – "A very good way of testing any view that you may hold is this one: Is this view humbling to me, glorifying to God? If it is, it is probably right. You won’t go far wrong if whatever view you are holding is glorifying to God, humbling to man. But if your view seems to glorify you and to query God, well (there’s no need to argue or to go into details) it’s wrong. It’s a very good universal rule–that!"
The Chief End of Man’s Salvation: God’s Glory – "Why do you want eternal life? Simply to avoid the pains of hell? Simply to be with your loved ones who have gone before? Simply to enjoy the beauty of a new heavens and a new earth? Where is God in that picture? According to the imagery employed by the Prophet Isaiah and later by the Apostle John, God Himself will be at the center of our solar system in the new heavens and new earth (vv. 19-20; cf. Rev. 21:23; 22:5) and our entire existence will forever revolve around Him! If that’s what you’re living for, then you have a handle on the gospel. If that’s not what you’re living for, then you have not yet appreciated the gospel’s chief end."
How To Read The Whole Bible in 2014 – "But the point is not merely to read the whole thing to say you’ve done it or to check it off a list. The Bible itself never commands that we read the Bible through in a year. What is commends is knowing the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and meditating or storing or ruminating upon God’s self-disclosure to us in written form (Deut. 6:7; 32:46;Ps. 119:11, 15, 23, 93, 99; 143:5)."
Homeschoolers and Legalism – "The covert form of legalism I am explaining can lead to traditional legalism. And it may be described as a tendency toward legalism. It could be called nascent legalism or maybe virtual legalism. It is when the law is so emphasized as to drown out other biblical truths (such as love). Or when application of God's law effectively bind consciences, whether intentionally or not. Or when the motivation of gratitude is turned into guilt, fear or a judgmental mindset."
9 Reasons to Pray – "We would be overwhelmed in the present if we knew how purposeful…God has made our prayers"