Prayer for a Wine Tasting Party

O blessed Lord, your riches abound far higher than the fortunes of Abraham and Solomon for you own the cattle on a thousand hills. Your majesty is adored by every square inch of creation for even the invisible things bow down before you. As we gather this evening to celebrate the wonder of the incarnation, we are celebrating the bond of peace you established when you entered the world.

We give thanks that we are not bound by Nazarite vows, nor the impositions of men that bind our conscience. We drink wine tonight for you are a God of absolute freedom and where there is liberty there is love and peace and truth and righteousness. Guard us against abusing your gifts, especially the gift of gratitude. May we see your gifts, enjoy them and give thanks to the giver of all good things. Far be it from us to turn our backs to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose name is blessed and worthy to be praised. So we pray, give us hearts that abound with thanksgiving.

May we drink believing that our very bodies and souls are in communion with you. We drink in the name of your covenant promises which are yes and amen. As we sing cheers with every glass of wine may our fortunes be passed down to our children and our children’s children, may gratitude overflow, may the laughter of the saints outlast and outlive the laughter of the oppressors and persecutors, may your church sing as choirs of angels in exaltation, may wine gladden our hearts, food fill our bodies, and carols fill this house with your presence.

We pray these things in the name of the Lord of glory, the Savior of Israel, the prince of Salem, the Lion of Judah and the One who exults over us with singing, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Planning for 2019

It’s the third day of Christmas and I am finishing up some work before some hard deadlines. But I am already looking to next year. I journal at least three times a week–try this new year– and it helps me keep track of my progress.

As I read through my accomplishments this morning I looked back at some my goals at the beginning of 2018. In short, I essentially failed to accomplish all of them as intended. I did not read as much as I wanted, I did not write as much as I wanted, I did not pray as much as I wanted; in sum, I probably accomplished 30% of my goals for 2018. I confess my goals were fairly noble like reading 45 books (including some novels and poetry).

Though I failed to achieve my noble goals, I view it as a success. After all, I accomplished 30% of them. I could have lived all of 2018 aimlessly and purposelessly. But God wants your plans to succeed (Ps. 20:4), which implies there are plans made. It’s true that I set a fairly high standard and fell short, but I knew I was going to fall short at some level. But the planning ahead was fundamental to achieving the 30%. Had I not stopped to think late 2017 about how 2018 would unfold I would have entered the year without goals and agendas.

It’s quite easy to mock resolutions, but resolutions mean you have certain goals in mind; a healthy story you are trying to experience which will better your life and your family’s. This is why the Puritans journaled vociferously and wrote remarkably lengthy resolutions (see Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions).

So it is entirely true that God has a habit of shattering our well-laid out plans, but he also has a habit of honoring well-laid out plans. Therefore, plan. Plan for the coming year. Plan to love God, your family and your church and fill those days with ardent productivity.

Doing Away with Sentimentalism during Christmas

Steve Wilkins writes in his helpful article:

Observing Christmas as a season helps us to move beyond the sentimentalism that has become so much a part of “Christmas” and commemorate the true significance of Jesus’ birth. It enables us to see that Jesus’ coming truly transforms all things. It marked the end of the old world (under the dominion of sin and death) and the beginning of the new. And it reminds us of our new identity and purpose. We are now children of the King and are called to rejoice and give thanks and show the world the new destiny that now has come in Him. To celebrate for twelve days (as opposed to one) enables us to realize afresh the significance of what happened in Bethlehem and it declares to the world the remarkable reality that Jesus has destroyed the works of the devil and established a kingdom that shall have no end.

The Gnostic Advent

Christmas begins on Tuesday and it lasts for 12 days. Some criticize Advent as gnostic. “Advent is too immaterial and Christians want nothing with immateriality. We want the physical things like eggnog and gifts under the tree. So, why wait? Some would say? “Why not start celebrating Christmas early and get rid of this mysticism of Advent?”

Every year I hear this type of argument the more committed I am to the blessings of Advent. Call me stubborn, but I think Advent is as material as John leaping in Elizabeth’s womb, as material as tears of those waiting for Messiah to come, as material as getting together for dessert and singing of Advent hymns. Let’s be honest: Advent is only gnostic to those who want it to be gnostic.

I pray this season with all its rich texts about judgment and grace, waiting and deliverance, hope and joy was everything it was meant to be for you and your loved ones. I pray Advent prepared you to embrace these twelve days of Christmas with great rejoicing.

Membership in the Local Church

Our congregation was enriched yesterday with a whole lot of faces who made vows before God and man to join our local church. In my exhortation to the new members I noted:

“To be joined to a local church is one of the most counter-cultural decisions you will ever make and I am sure glad you have not allowed modernity’s individualism to shape your view of the Church.”

Over the years I have heard stories and met individuals who refused to join a church for a host of reasons. Some had been attending a particular church for over ten years and yet, refused to become a member.

In some cases, they have some fear of submitting to anything; some are said to be waiting for the right time; others are still hurting from some past church experience and are now forever fearful of a repetitive cycle; still, some are just naive of what membership means altogether.

My encouragement to those engaged in a local church, committed to a local body, a regular attender of a local congregation, fed by a local pastor, enriched by local fellowship, is to walk up to the pastor as soon as possible and say: “How can I formally join this body?”

It is entirely possible that after such commitment to membership occasions might arise where you will have to leave to another church and memberships will be transferred. This is all possible. But what you cannot do is act as if you can benefit from a local body, enjoy the blessings of family life and yet refuse to formally join such a body.

You cannot claim the universal church by despising its expression in the local church.

Greg Bahnsen and his Adversaries

I find this paragraph from David Bahnsen–Dr. Bahnsen’s son– fascinating:

Greg Bahnsen was a person who had very, very few enemies in the unsaved world. Then correspondence between dad and Gordon Stein may have been an exception, but the treatment he received from scores and scores of ideological opponents on the OTHER side of the antithesis was nearly always filled with respect, collegiality, and poise. Frankly, the vast majority of correspondence I read with non-Reformed Christians was often the same – even if the subject of the correspondence was disagreement over a matter of ideology – respect, collegiality, warmth. The ugly stuff was always from those who were closer and closer to his various distinctives. I couldn’t explain this to you if I tried because no one has ever explained it to me. But when I talk about the way Dallas Willard, Richard Mouw, Father Neuhaus, and others interacted with him, not to mention dozens of unsaved intellectuals, it was like a different world when you start reading the correspondence with people in his own “camp”. I take that at the very least as a testimony to his scholarly caliber and his own respectful demeanor.

Abortion’s Shifting Strategy

My associate pastor has a great post on how the abortion philosophy has changed. Here is his conclusion:

This was a bridge too far, and proponents of abortion set their argument for abortion on a new moral foundation. Abortion is good, and it is good in and of itself. The killing of your child is a thing to be celebrated. You should SHOUT YOUR ABORTION. Let the world know what a good thing it is to kill your baby. Better for him, better for the mother, better for society. Abortion is no longer a necessary evil – it has become a moral imperative.

Today we write hymns about our abortions. We set up virtual shrines with ultrasound images of our babies so we can speak to them about how grateful we are to have the right to kill them. We demand that fetus joins us in our worship of self.

Ten Quotes from Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

  1. Cross providences are sent by God to work some noble good for saints.
  2. A saint conflicts against sin universally, the least sin as well as the greatest.
  3. Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched. If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter.
  4. At one time he (Satan) will fix men’s eyes on others’ sins than their own, that he may puff them up.
  5. Remember this, that your life is short, your duties many, your assistance great, and your reward sure; therefore faint not, hold on and hold up, in ways of welldoing, and heaven shall make amends for all!
  6. Repentance is the vomit of the soul; and of all purgatives, none so difficult and hard as it is to vomit.
  7. Humility can weep over other men’s weaknesses, and joy and rejoice over their graces. Humility will make a man quiet and contented in the lowest condition, and it will preserve a man from envying other men’s prosperous condition (1 Thess. 1:2, 3).
  8. The Spirit of the Lord is your counselor, your comforter, your upholder, your strengthener. It is the Spirit alone, who makes a man too great for Satan to conquer. ‘Greater is he who is in you, than he who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4).
  9.  …solemnly to consider, That the spiritual riches of the poorest saints infinitely transcend the temporal riches of all the wicked men in the world; their spiritual riches satisfy them; they can sit down satisfied with the riches of grace that are in Christ, without earthly honors or riches.
  10. The saints’ motto in all ages has been ‘Laboremus’—let us be doing.

Kevin Hart’s Desecration of the gods

To step outside of the politically correct sphere is becoming a gigantic threat to anyone who dares touch on the ideological latitudinous of celebrity culture. Whether one uses humor or shares his convictions about a topic, if he touches on the sacrament of ungodly sexuality, his career suffers a thousand deaths.

Actor and comedian Kevin Hart, who was invited to host the Oscars, and who considered this “the opportunity of a lifetime” suffered such death when a decade ago he tweeted:

“Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my
daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head &
say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay.’”

He dared, as a comedian in his late 20’s, to desecrate the holy of holies of the gods of diversity. Hart has since declared he has evolved on the issue and no longer holds to such declarations. Still, the gods show no mercy; even though Hart has achieved the apex of financial success; even though he has already shown on many occasions his ability to play within the temple with other toleration citizens. But the celebrity culture knows no grace; their gods demand perfection ten years ago and ten years henceforth. R.I.P. Hart.

Catholicity, Orthodoxy, and Lordship