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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Meditations on Reformed Worship 

My new book is available!  It's on the subject of worship, from a Reformed perspective.  I'll post the description from the book page:

Worship matters. We were created to be in relationship with God, in fellowship with Him, and to do so together with His people. The basic, bedrock promise of the Bible story from beginning to end is, "I will be your God, and you will be My people, and I will dwell in your midst." Corporate worship at its best is the closest experience of that eternal reality we will experience in this life. Over time the most accurate insight into a church's theology is their worship- what they do, what they sing, what they say, and the heart with which they do it. When you believe you are going to meet with God, you show everyone most accurately what you think about Him.  
God being God, and we being creatures, and especially creatures in a sinful and fallen state, it must be the case that God will define how that relationship looks. Therefore we look to Scriptures to define worship for us, and not our own imaginations or the opinions of men. A child does not define his relationship with his father; much less can we tell our Creator how we will relate to HIm! But He has graciously and lovingly instructed us in His Scriptures in the principles that should drive our worship.  
God is glorious, and good, and beautiful! And He has done marvelous things for us. Worshiping Him is an honor, a joy and a privilege, and carries great benefits for us as well. Interfacing directly with God through Biblical worship reveals our own nature, since we are in His image, and what we learn and experience in worship will shape our very hearts, to be more like Him in every way. And that is the purpose of our existence.  
This book is a series of essays on the subject of worship. Why do we worship? What principles drive and inform our worship? What are the different elements of a worship service and why do we do them? Throughout, we intend to go beyond going through the motions to see the heart of why we do what we do in worship. The theology of the Reformed branch of the Protestant Reformation informs us throughout.

It will be available on Amazon.com shortly as well.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Board games 

I got a new board game a couple days ago- Stone Age.  I've played it twice with the kids and it's great.  It's a resource management and worker placement game, and I really enjoy it.

I love playing games with the kids.  I think it's really valuable.  There's all sorts of things to learn and benefit from in a good game.  In Stone Age, you have to roll dice and divide by different numbers depending on what resource you're collecting.  So it works math skills, strategic thinking and planning ahead.  But besides that, most games I play with the kids give opportunities for lots of character building.  How to win and lose gracefully, how to follow rules, how to control temper and pride- I think these are all really valuable lessons.  I can observe my kids and see areas of their character where they need some growth.  And we just get to spend time together and have fun as a family.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Boredom 

What if you never got bored of things?  What if the same sunset that delighted you one day delighted you just as much the next day?  Or even more?  What if one particular piece of music just never got old?  What if you could pick a well-balanced meal that you loved and eat it and only it for a hundred years and never get tired of it?

Would that not significantly change the way one perceives the prospect of eternal life?  Perhaps the very existence of boredom, of the thirst for novelty, is a product of man's fall into sin.  I don't know.  I can't think of any Scriptures to support this one way or another.  It's just a thought.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fellowship 

If you are not learning to get along with other Christians, then you are not learning to be a Christian at all.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Values that Shape Us 

The Atlantic has published a really valuable article for understanding ISIS.

One thing that makes Protestantism superior to Catholicism is the burning of heretics.  Now of course the Protestants burned heretics along with the Catholics, but a Protestant can denounce the action, while a Catholic can't.  Heretics were burned by order of popes and councils, for example the Council of Constance which burned John Huss to death.  And in Roman Catholic theology, councils of the church are infallible.  I can say that the Genevan church was wrong to burn Servetus.  But the Roman Catholic can say no such thing about the Council of Constance.

Muslims have a similar problem.  No matter how modern and moderate a Muslim becomes, he cannot escape the example of Allah's true prophet, who held slaves, who married a nine year old, who practiced all sorts of barbarities.  The Islamic State says that anyone who rejects crucifixions and slavery rejects Islam, because it is to reject the practice of Muhammad and the teachings of the Koran, and they have a point.  As Christians, however, we can never go wrong by returning to the example of our founder, Jesus, whose values and teachings have shaped the modern world, values by which the members of that modern world judge people like ISIS even if they do not acknowledge the source of those values.

The Christian church at its very best attempts to emulates the true principles and practices of its founder.  Muslims at their best ignore the values of Islam's founder and adopt the values of the founder of Christianity instead.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The New Testament Sabbath 

The purpose of the Sabbath Day was never intended to teach people to rest in God one day of the week and to trust their own hard work the other six.  That day was a token, a sign teaching them to trust God every day.  It is to me so sad to see that just like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, some of the most careful and scrupulous observers of Sabbath days today think that by their effort to scrupulously keep the Sabbath they are earning God's blessings, and their legalistic attitudes are seen the rest of the week in their frantic activity trying to do everything perfectly.

The New Testament Sabbath is the reality of which the Old Testament Sabbath was just a sign.  The New Testament Sabbath is the resting in Christ and His salvation every day, and doing it whether one is at church, at work, at play, or wherever.  It is not the observance of a day- those ceremonies passed away with Christ.  It is the observance of a mindset, one of faith and trust with God, every day.

Peace with God is the Key to Everything Else 

Most of what people spend their lives doing is trying to overcome the effects of the curse without ever actually dealing with the curse itself.  The reason we are separated from one another, why people are hateful and envious of one another, why people are at war with themselves, engage in destructive behaviors of substance abuse, drunkenness, promiscuity and the like, why nations go to war, why people wreck the planet, wreck their families, wreck their own bodies- all of it is because they are alienated with God.  The rest of that is God's curse on us for rebelling against Him.  So it is absolutely futile to try to solve any of those other problems without solving the one big problem.  We're not stronger than God, and we will never defy His curse against us.  So people work hard, or chase pleasure, or get educations, or lose themselves in entertainment,  all to try to feel peace and happiness in their lives, or at least avoid pain.  But they will fail, because God is God and He will execute His judgment.  If we accept reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ, though, the rest of it will all fall in line.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Political Correctness Built-in Self-Justification 

The great thing about political correctness is, that as long as your social experimentation continues to produce bad results and therefore produces people who sensibly point out the failures of your social experimentation, you can continue to blame the failures of your social experimentation on the bigotry of the people with the temerity to point it out.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Bet on the Proven Winner 

Two thousand years ago, when Christianity first came into the world, all the smartest, most educated, most powerful, richest and most admired men around believed it to be ridiculous nonsense, and said so loudly.  With long tradition, majority opinion and all the latest thinking behind them, they argued that men ought to worship the gods of the Roman pantheon as these had obviously led to the success of the Roman Empire, and that all the world believed in either the Roman gods or something very similar, and that this new religion was suitable only for the most ignorant and weakest in society, that it was a religion for slaves and women.

Now, two thousand years later, those arguing against Christianity are often the most educated, most powerful and most successful.  They have the wealth and prestige of the universities and governments of the world behind them.  Most of the most famous artists and musicians and scholars agree.  And they argue that Christianity is a religion for the ignorant and hateful, that it is absurd and cannot be taken seriously.  Yet their views of ethics and reality are far closer to Christianity than were those of Christianity's opponents from two thousand years ago.  Christianity's opponents have conceded much ground to Christianity, while Christianity continues as it always has.  Christianity has drastically altered the intellectual landscape of the world, and continues to do so.  People will continue to mock, but historically it has been the worldview of those who mock and ridicule Christianity which ends up on the dung-heap of history.

Christianity, this religion of women and slaves, is pretty much the same as it was two thousand years ago, and continues to cast down all opposition, continues to spread into all the world, not because of the prestige and status of those that champion it, but because it is true.  Jesus said that His kingdom would prevail and the gates of hell would not stand against it.  We have a two thousand year track record of victory, from 120 believers representing less than a millionth part of the world's population to two billion believers representing a third of that population, to confirm the truth of what He said.  Remember that the next time some rich, famous or prestigious person calls Christianity ridiculous and predicts its imminent demise.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

What Are You Looking Forward To? 

From Jay Adams:

Forget your New Years’ resolutions; they come from you. These wonderful events mentioned by Peter are no resolutions—they are the promises of God. 


Confession 

"Show your wounds to the Lord, the most excellent physician, and seek remedy from Him.  Show them to Him, who does not reproach but most gently heals."  John Chrysostom, on the value and importance of confession of sin to God.

Irony 

It's kind of funny when atheists post amazing pictures of the natural universe on Facebook or their websites and think that's supposed to detract somehow from the glory of the One who made the universe.  The more incredible we realize the universe to be, the less likely it is that it just accidentally happened.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Desperate Counter-attack 

From the Aquila Report, here's a great example of the dishonest tactics so often used to attack Christianity.  I think it should be taken as an unintended compliment, a tribute to the importance of Christianity.  If Christianity were irrelevant and dying, there'd be no need to go to all this effort.  That someone is willing to throw away their own intellectual credibility to make attacks like this just shows that it really does matter, and that the author of such attacks has very personal, non-intellectual reasons for being so desperate to find reasons not to submit to Jesus Christ.  Why not just ignore Jesus?  Because they can't.  This article feels to me like Hitler's last desperate attempts to defend Germany when his own generals all knew they were defeated.

At any rate, Michael Kruger does a great job of dismantling arguments that anyone with even a passing familiarity with church history would know were nonsense.  This is one really important reason to study church history, as we are doing at Christ Reformed- to recognize the foolishness of these kinds of slanders.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

It is impossible to consistently believe in unguided evolution. 

If unguided evolution is true, then unguided evolution formed my brain.
If unguided evolution formed my brain then theism is false. (since theism entails the claim that God formed my brain)
If I believe in theism, then my brain has produced a false belief.
If my brain has produced a false belief, then unguided evolution formed my brain to produce a false belief.
If unguided evolution has formed my brain to produce false beliefs, then I cannot be confident that anything I believe is not also false, including unguided evolution.
Therefore, it is impossible to believe in unguided evolution, since the belief in unguided evolution entails the belief that I cannot truly know anything.

Secular Humanism can only live as a parasite on Christianity 

Secular humanism might be described as the philosophical belief that all human beings have value and dignity, which is inherent rather than defined by supernatural beliefs or religious dogma.

A couple of interesting points about secular humanism-
-It shares a number of beliefs with traditional Christianity, especially the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of a human being.
-It provides no basis for that belief; no way of proving that humans do have any inherent value, other than their desire that it be so.
-Historically, it arose in areas (western Europe and America, specifically) with deep Christian roots.

I conclude that secular humanism is a Christian heresy; meaning a belief system which is a distortion of Christian belief.  Secular humanism is an attempt to get the benefits of Christianity without paying the price, the price of submission to God.  It is the belief that the blessings that have come to the world through Christianity can be enjoyed while rejecting the supernatural basis for those beliefs.  It is a house built on sand, a philosophy with no epistemological foundation.

Even as secular humanists mock and deride Christianity, the fact is, that secular humanism could not exist without Christianity.  It is like a parasite.  It depends on a steady influx of people who accept the Christian belief in the inherent dignity of human beings.  But since it rejects the basis for that belief (that man was created in the image of God), it cannot actually inculcate that belief itself.  It can provide us with no reason why all human beings should have any particular worth, since in its philosophy we are all just matter.  Why should one collection of organic matter be more important than another?  Or why is organic matter of more inherent worth than non-organic matter?  And why should I view people of different genders or races as of equal value?  If Christianity were ever somehow to cease to exist, so would secular humanism, and the world would lapse back into barbarism and savagery.  Fortunately, that cannot happen, as God is God and has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.

Secular humanism, therefore, is a great deal like the pagan attempts in late antiquity to stem the growing influence of Christianity by aping Christianity's success.  Julian the Apostate tried to encourage pagan temples to emulate the moral virtue and charity of the Christian clergy.  He failed, because paganism lacks any real reason to do those things.  Secular humanism will fail for the same reason; moral behavior and charity toward others can only really be grounded in the truth of a Creator that made us all in His image.

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