Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Thingish Thoughts?

I was reading to my daughter tonight and came across a quote from a classic source that fits my experience with blogging quite nicely:

"... when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it. "

- From Pooh Invents a New Game by A.A. Milne
And now for something really controversial …

On the weekend, I saw a cup blowing across the road. It wasn’t just any cup, it was a Roll Up the Rim to Win! Cup. Woo Hooo! I hadn’t realized that the contest was on again, turn the car around! The GCCL (Great Canadian Christian Lottery) is back.

Then my sanity came back and smacked me upside the head:
- Tim Hortons is a mega corporate animal – Canada’s answer to Wal-Mart (yes, we have a Wal-Mart in little old Edson too). Shocking claim, is it not? Check this out, doubters! Watch out my American friends, they’re coming!
- I’m not that crazy about Tim’s Coffee
- I’m too fat to be walking by donuts or – gulp – their maple pecan Danish.
- I can’t afford to buy coffee every day
- I never win anything
- Their prizes are no big deal anyway. GM SUVs, bah.

…. Wait a second. I see they’re giving away a Toyota RAV4 this year.

I’ve gotta go. I think I have some visiting to do this morning. Perhaps in a coffee shop, or somewhere.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Follow Up on the Discipline Issue

Have you ever noticed that when you buy a new car that you suddenly notice that there are lots of people that drive the same model in the same colour? Since I posted on church discipline yesterday, I’ve noticed a few blog posts on discipline and membership matters. James Spurgeon over at Pyromaniacs has posted a series on church membership that has been excellent. See the latest post here. For a longer, more complicated post on this issue, see Tom Ascol at the Founders Ministries Blog. Of course, I always take every opportunity to plug the 9 Marks ministries site. Here’s the starting page for the 7th Mark – Church Discipline.

There is so, so much that could be said about church discipline. I’m not going to say it here. However, I do encourage you to think through these issues. Particularly read through the relevant passages – Matthew 18:15ff; Romans 16:17-19; 1 Corinthians 5, 2 Corinthians 2; Galatians 6:1-2; Titus 3:10-11 and others. Disciplined Christians and disciplined churches are the subject of many, many passages. There are related passages, such as ‘weaker brother’ discussions in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and the Pastoral Epistles. As you read the New Testament, take note of how often sound doctrine and holy living are themes. I read Acts 20:17-38 at our annual meeting. The Apostle Paul was most concerned about the health and welfare of the churches that he saw established by God’s power. Watch, guard, keep, care – those are ministry priorities in Gospel-centered ministry.

Patti raised a good point in the comments on my last post. Personalities do make things complicated. I tend to be to be too cautious to confront. Others have a gift for confrontation! As a pastor – even a somewhat timid one – I much prefer a person who speaks plainly about their concerns than those who keep things bottled up for the sake of peace. Unspoken ‘concerns’ eventually bubble out in gossip and/or hard feelings.  I’d rather hear about it early on, even if it does raise my blood pressure temporarily. ‘Offensesensitivity’ (to borrow a word from Opus the Penguin) is a disease in the church. Everyone has touchy moments, but thin skin is epidemic in some Christian circles.  

What’s the solution?

Good, robust, biblical theology. Isn’t it always?

P.S. I will finish my series on the Composite Society soon. The next post is proving to be a challenge. Why do I do this to myself?

Sunday Sermon Summary – February 26th

The longer I pastor my church, the more I appreciate the importance of the local church. Yes, I’m biased – I love my church. The preparation for last week’s sermon made me very conscious of the fact that I don’t love it enough.

The text was Matthew 18:15-35 – the Lord’s teaching on dealing with individual sin, the authority of the church and God’s mercy and judgment. I thought I knew this text – it is certainly familiar. However, I was convicted in the preparation and in the delivery as I realized that I haven’t taken the church seriously enough.

First, when Jesus gave the well-known three-step procedure for dealing with sin, he didn’t give an option for the offended party to just leave it alone. Sin in the church is a big deal. If the one sinned against tries to bury the matter, he is hurting the church. If, when confronted by the individual and two or three witnesses (step one and two, respectively) and does not listen, then the private matter becomes a public matter.

I have been involved in discipline situations, but I don’t think I’ve done a great job over the years communicating the destructive nature of unresolved interpersonal sin. I need to know my sheep better and ask difficult questions more often.

I don’t want to leave the impression that we have a church full of unfinished business – we don’t. I am coming to the realization that I am more a product of our privatized, individualistic culture than I thought. The fact that ‘we belong to each other’ in the church (Romans 12:5) has serious implications for the elder’s oversight of the church. Responsibility for keeping watch over the flock involves confronting sin in the church according to the parameters of the authority of the church.

The word ‘church’ only appears twice in the Gospels – in Matthew 16:18 and here in Matthew 18:17. In the first instance, the context is Peter’s confession and our Lord’s subsequent statement concerning Peter’s authority to bind and loosen – the keys of the Kingdom. The passage in Matthew 18 makes it clear that this authority is not limited to Peter alone. The New Covenant church – the post Acts 2 church – had not yet begun at this time. However, Jesus’ teaching is unfolding to encompass the gathered body’s authority when dealing with matters of judgment within the church. This authority and function of the church is revealed even more in the time of the Apostles’ ministry in Acts and the Epistles.

Commentators have used a lot of ink discussing the tense of the words ‘whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” My understanding of this is that Jesus said that Heaven’s decision stands with the church, but we must remember that the binding and loosing authority is God’s first, not ours. In other words, Heaven doesn’t conform to the church’s decisions on earth. The church conforms to the authority of Heaven. That is the source of the church’s authority.

The authority of the church has often been abused, on the local level in power struggles and favoritism. This abuse has also occurred when the church has gotten wrapped up in worldly power and politics. However, the church has real authority and responsibility to use with humility and wisdom for the sake of a disciplined church that is growing in grace and purity for God’s glory.
The parable of the wicked servant is a chilling reminder that God will not be mocked. If a person confesses that they believe the Gospel and continue on a self-centered way, they betray that they have not been saved by God. True conversion results in new life. We are not saved by what we do, but our salvation produces fruit. One of the evidences of that grace of God is a love for the people of God.

When we regularly see Christ presented before us, we will remember the immensity of God’s love, mercy and grace. This astonishing generosity of God seen in the Gospel will put everything else in perspective. There is no better way for my church and I to grow in love, grace and witness than to be constantly confronted by our crucified, risen Lord.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


We had our Annual Meeting last night (I capitalize because it’s always a Big Deal – to me at least). I always get nervous about the Annual Meeting because administration is not my strong point. I always worry about missing things. I worry about controversy. I worry about questions that I can’t answer. I worry about convicting questions about people that I should know more about. I worry that I worry when I know I shouldn’t worry (Philippians 4:6-7). I worried more than usual this year for two reasons.

First, we had a big, ugly happening in our town last year – centered on our church and Christian school. I haven’t blogged on it and I won’t blog on it. In broad strokes, let me say it was regarding a very involved member of our church that was sexually exploiting a young person. Charges, sentencing, church discipline have all taken place. The perpetrator has moved to a different community with his family. After sentencing, it made a front page headline in the Edmonton Journal. It was hard to write a paragraph that acknowledged that reality in our church life without unnecessarily poking at fresh wounds (I don’t want to do that here, either).

Secondly, I – among others – believe it is time to seriously consider hiring a family ministries pastor. Multiple staff would be a first for me. I have sought advice on how to best bring this up to the congregation. I don’t want to push the agenda, but I don’t want to let it slide.

With such a nervous ramp-up to this years meeting, why did I title this post ‘Thankful’? I’m thankful because of God’s faithfulness expressed through the people of this church. The unity and good spirit at the church is very encouraging, given the tough year last year especially. Giving was amazing last year. There was very little controversy at the meeting (a little regarding some proposed renovations, but that’s it).

Most of all I’m thankful that God is good even when I have so little faith. I tend to get tied-up in knots for no good reason. A little tension is good – after all, even the Apostle Paul was anxious about his churches (2 Corinthians 11:28).

Is anxiety about God’s work and God’s people a bad thing? Not if it drives the pastor to watch, pray and preach. I did my little devotional last night on Acts 20:17-38 – Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesians elders. Now, I’m no Apostle Paul. I don’t weep, work, pray and warn my people enough for one thing. I’m not an Apostle for another.

As I reflected about my level of concern for my people, I was reminded of a quote from Mark Dever. I think I’ve posted it here before, but it bears repeating:
I remember reading a quote by John Brown, who, in a letter of paternal counsels to one of his pupils newly ordained over a small congregation, wrote, "I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ, at his judgment-seat, you will think you have had enough." As I looked out over the congregation I had charge of, I felt the weightiness of such an accounting to God.
There is useless worry and there is constructive concern. I hope that 2006 will produce more of the latter and less of the former in the pastor of Edson Baptist Church. I am very thankful to be here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Anabaptists, Baptists and the Reformation

This being a meager little blog, I run the risk of oversimplification when I bite off such big topics. No, scratch that. What I am doing on this Composite Society theme is gross oversimplification. Why don’t I recommend a book? Here’s one. If fact, if what I’m told is true, this book is unique. If anyone else has a source that explains this Unitary Sacral Society / Composite Society issue other than Verduin’s book, The Anatomy of a Hybrid, I’d love to hear about it. You won’t find Verduin’s book new in bookshops – online or otherwise. That’s why I linked you to www.abebooks.com. Anatomy is a fascinating read, even if you don’t agree with all of its conclusions (I don’t).

From the time of Constantine, there have been dissenters that decried the corruption that magisterial power inevitably brought to the church. These dissenters were all over the map theologically. However, when the non-conformists were complaining about the USS relationship between the church and the state, they were barking up the right tree.

History has not been kind to these dissenters. If, when you don’t conform, the government burns you and all your records, it’s hard to make a big splash, legacy-wise. God had his purposes in these dark times, and God’s Word and Christ’s Church have survived.

Fast-forward to the 16th Century. Here we meet the Anabaptists – reviled by the Roman Catholic and Protestant authorities alike. These peaceful dissenters were the predecessors of the Mennonites, the Amish and the Hutterites today. To give you an idea of what these people were up against, consider this: Of eight leaders who met to discuss the movement in 1523, not one was alive by the end of 1528.

Even today, if you hear a Lutheran or Reformed theologian talking about Anabaptists, you’ll likely hear scorn and contempt (there are, thankfully, exceptions). Extreme representatives of the movement, like Thomas M√ľntzer, gave their opponents the opportunity to tar all Anabaptists with the same brush and dismiss them (or worse). If you want to know more about Anabaptist beliefs, check out the Schleitheim Confession of 1527.

I was born into a Mennonite home. I’m a Reformed Baptist now, and I don’t agree with Anabaptist positions on pacifism and soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). Like many reactionary movements, they reacted too far in the direction of individualism and away from a catholic (small ‘c,’ as in universal) view of the church. I would argue, with the Anabaptists, however, that the 16th Century Reformation didn’t reform far enough in terms of redefining the church/state relationship in biblical terms. I will concede, gladly, that Providential Timing is everything, however!

What was it about the Anabaptists that incited such hatred from the religious/civil authorities? If you take a quick look at the history, you might say ‘believers’ baptism.” Yes, Anabaptists incurred the wrath of the authorities because they would not baptize their infants (that’s where they picked up their name – a term of derision that means “non-baptizers”). Infant baptism was a mark of civil identification as it was church identification. However, the issue was deeper than the mark of baptism. Anabaptists were hated because they believed that a church could be made up of truly regenerate members. They thought that a church was defined by something much narrower than the ‘parish’ concept allowed. Again, there is a spectrum on this point – even Calvin taught that one of the marks of a true church was discipline. Anabaptists usually applied this discipline quite rigidly, however.

The Anabaptists, then, had the audacity to say that church members must be demonstrably different than the world around them. Remember, the world around them at the time was virtually all ‘church.’ They were pronouncing their judgment upon the mainline church by their separate life and morality. This attempted separation between the ‘worldly’ and the ‘spiritual’ was highly offensive to the leaders of the day and to most of the general population.

What about the Baptists? I have about two more paragraphs before this post becomes too long. There are many varieties of Baptists, but one of the distinguishing marks of Baptists – historically – is this very idea of a regenerate, disciplined church membership. In highly culturally diluted areas – where almost everyone is a ‘good Baptist’ – this distinctive must be recovered. The right understanding of ‘church’ can only be recovered by a return to a biblical understanding of the church-creating Gospel. I don’t think I would be going too far to say that this need for reformation is why both Founders Ministries and Nine Marks Ministries were developed.

I’m itching to draw some conclusions regarding this topic of the relationship between Christianity and civil societies, but I have two more background topics to put on the table first: The effect of the Enlightenment and the influence of Islam. Please stay tuned.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sunday Sermon Summary - February 19

Is it possible to do an ‘overview’ message on only 28 verses? Yes, preachers have done single messages on whole books of the Bible, and even on the whole Bible. But 28 verses?

In my series on Matthew, I have been amazed at how densely packed the text is in this Gospel. In those 28 verses – Matthew 17:14-18:14 – I could have preached quite a long series of messages. I felt this morning that I just did a ‘fly-over,’ an aerial picture of this passage in 40 minutes.

Sandwiched between the account of the Transfiguration and our Lord’s instruction regarding forgiveness and discipline, the thread that ties the seemingly random events and teaching of this passage together is Jesus’ teaching on faith. Here’s my outline:
  1. Faith for our Bodies – 17:14-21

  2. Faith for our Finances – 17:24-27

  3. Faith in God’s Judgment – 18:6-9

  4. Faith in God’s Love – 18:10-14

  5. Faith of a Child – 18:2-5

  6. Faith in the Cross – 17:22-23

For my introduction, I contrasted the teaching of the all-too popular ‘Word-Faith’ teachers with the biblical understanding of faith. Our Lord’s person and work is a fitting object for our faith. Our own conjured up power to believe is bankrupt from the get-go.

Our Scripture reading was Hebrews 11:1-16. What is striking about that passage is that none of the heroes received what they were looking for in this life – again, contrast the claims of the ‘Word-Faith’ teachers. Also – a la John Piper – Hebrews 11:6 reminds us of the important fact that the benefactor gets the praise and glory. If we hold up the size of our faith to God and say, ‘what a good boy am I,’ we are totally missing the point of faith.

I haven’t done a Sunday Sermon Summary for a while. Last week I preached on the Transfiguration from Matthew 17:1-13. Our gracious people received the message well, but I felt that I was in way over my head. How can I communicate the glory of God in such passages? Preaching is humbling business at the best of times. There are some particularly glorious passages that make me particularly aware of my need for mercy, and my need to spend more time on my knees before Sunday comes.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Biblical Development and Christian Origins of the Composite Society

Assuming that my readers now know the difference between a Unitary Sacral Society and a Composite Society, let me ask a question: Was the society of Old Testament Israel a USS or a Composite Society?

If you believe it was an example of a USS, you would be mostly right. Certainly, the religion and the civil society were one and the same – there was a marriage of ‘church and state,’ if you will. My fudge in using the word ‘mostly’ in the first sentence of this paragraph will twig the alert reader to the fact that there are qualifiers. Here are a few:
  • Old Covenant Israel was not just any human society. God put this people together supernaturally for a redemptive purpose for the whole world.

  • National Israel served as a type of Christ and Christ’s New Covenant people, made up of Jews and Gentiles from all nations – a kingdom that belongs to no particular earthly kingdom (including physical Israel). In other words, the USS, Israel, carried the seeds of the Composite model of the people of God within all the kingdoms of the world.

  • God, as the One True Living God, ruled His people directly for the first several centuries. He raised up rulers and judges, but God was recognized as King (when Israel was doing well, at least).

  • Even when Israel cried out for a king so that they could be like the other nations (1 Samuel 8ff), we are told that the true King of Israel was the Lord Himself.

  • Evidence of God’s particular rule of Israel was indicated in specific incidents that highlighted the superiority of ‘sacral/spiritual rule’ over civil authority. Examples:

  • Saul was rejected as king largely because he presumed to take the role of a priest (1 Samuel 13:9 and context).

  • Uzziah was a good king for many years, but “when he was strong, he grew proud to his destruction” (2 Chronicles 26:16 ESV). Again, he presumed the role of a priest – like Saul had – and was judged by God. God afflicted him with leprosy for his intentional confusion of spiritual and civil authority. Those 80 brave priests (26:17) knew their sacred/secular categories!

Consider the role of prophets and priests in Israel compared to the kings. Even David deferred to Nathan in the matter of building the temple (2 Samuel 7). The first time David asked the prophet about the temple, Nathan said, “sure, King, go ahead, do whatever you think is best” (my loose paraphrase). But then, Nathan enquired of the Lord and God said that David was not to build the temple. David accepted this. Can you imagine any other king in a USS falling in line behind a prophet? An Egyptian, Assyrian or Philistine king could have wiped out any prophet or priest that stood in his way. Who would have stopped him? Of course, at its worst moments, the kings did control the prophets in Israel and Judah. At least they thought they did (see 1 Kings 22 – that’s another story altogether!).

Of course we must recognize that the real Composite Societies were many centuries away from Old Testament Israel, but it is worth reflecting of the seeds of separation that are present even in the Old Covenant testimony.

The New Testament is where we really see the distinction between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world come to the forefront. There are many, many examples of this:

  • The nature of our Lord’s Kingdom and Messianic reign in His earthly ministry and in the present age since Pentecost. There is an ‘already/not yet’ aspect, of course, but Jesus did say that the Kingdom had arrived – with Him!

  • The testimony of Christ and the Apostles to the believer’s relationship with the state demonstrates a separation between the kingdoms of God and man (‘render to Caesar’ – Luke 20:25; Romans 13, 1 Peter 2). Christians are responsible to be good citizens, but our first allegiance is to the Kingdom that is ‘not of this world.’

Throughout Christian history, believers who stood firm for the distinction between the kingdoms of men and the Kingdom of God suffered terribly at the hands of those who would not recognize the difference. For centuries, the worst persecution came from the official church. This was the cost of being ‘strangers and aliens’ on earth. The story of some of these dissenters is the subject of the next post.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

USS and Composite Societies – Part I: Definitions and Description

In seminary, my history professor, Dr. Kenneth Davis, taught us to recognize the significance of our Western, Composite Societies. The Great Experiment of the government of the USA was unique in the history of the world, though the seeds of this system were planted in Europe centuries earlier. Other Western and developing nations around the world have followed this experiment in democracy, though there are variations in detail in different countries.

Christians need to recognize the wisdom of Composite Societies. History teaches us that this form of society will not continue unless people fight for it. I am launching a five part series on this important worldview issue with this post.

  1. Definitions and Description

  2. The Biblical Development and Christian origins of the Composite society

  3. Anabaptists, Baptists and the Reformation

  4. The Enlightenment – Borrowed Capital of the Christian Worldview.

  5. The USS, Secularism and Islam – Understanding the Times.
A Composite Society means that the people governed by a common political system, living under a common flag have many expressions of religion and culture. A democratic government is essential to a Composite Society. The phrase ‘separation of church and state’ is an indicator of this system, however misunderstood and misapplied that phrase is these days (that’s another story altogether).

There are differences in composite societies. For instance, Canada is more of a ‘Multicultural Mosaic’ – at least since the Trudeau era (1968 and following). The Mosaic model says, be a Canadian – embrace ‘da Canadian values’ – but hold onto your distinct culture and religion on Canadian soil. Historically, the United States has been more of a ‘Melting Pot’ (though it is much more multicultural than it used to be). The melting pot model says, yes, hold onto your religion and culture privately, but learn English and adapt to and embrace the American culture. In modern, liberal democratic societies, multiculturalism is winning the day (that, too, is another story for a later post).

Freedom of religion and freedom of expression in composite societies means that the description of a ‘Christian country’ under this system is not accurate. Composite societies cannot be defined by one particular religion. Of course, the dominant religious and/or cultural group will have significant influence. For the Western world, the dominant religion is secular humanism. Not by numbers, perhaps, but by influence in the power centers of media, education and government.

Living as we do in a Composite society, it is easy to forget that throughout history and around the world, most societies have considered the religious and the civil branches of government to be one system – The Unitary Sacral Society (USS). This means that it has combined a single, religion (the sacred = sacral) with the government system. Thus, the king and the highest religious official are either the same person or the king pulls rank over the highest religious officials.

In the most primitive tribes, the chief and the witch doctor / priest preside over the same system. Which one has the most power is irrelevant for this model – they are both in the same system.

In more sophisticated systems, such as the Roman Catholic Church in Medieval Europe, the Emperor and the Pope presided over the same system. During some periods, the Emperor had more power. Other times, like the ‘Golden Age’ of the 13th Century, the Pope and the Church had supreme power.

In secular systems, like Communism, the USS model still fits. Have you seen the religious fervour of Communist rallies and propoganda? The religion and civil government are uniformly applied in Communist countries.

Even in the Ancient Roman Empire – an apparently Composite Society – the Unitary Sacral Society won the day. This was true under pagan Emperors and under the ‘Christian’ Emperors alike. Even though ‘The Peace of Rome’ allowed conquered religions to keep their religion and culture, they were coerced to bow to Roman gods – including the Emperor – first.

In the post-Constantine Roman Empire, toleration of Christians (313) soon became intolerance of any other religion (c. 380, officially). History teaches us that politics of expediency inevitably swallows up religion and culture into the USS system.

As evangelical Christians in a Composite society, we need to understand and defend our freedom to be Christians – to worship as local churches, to evangelize and do Christian service. We need to be thankful for our inheritance of freedom and take note of the warning signs in the world. The instinct of human society runs towards an oppressive, pragmatic USS model. If we want to keep our Composite Society, we’re going to have to learn what we have to lose and fight to hold onto the vision of our founding fathers from Europe, the USA and Canada.

Next Time: Part II: The Biblical Development and Christian origins of the Composite society

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Pyro on Proverbs

The book of Proverbs has always been something of a mystery to me. I’ve read them several times, but I don’t really understand the genre. I’m not proud of this fact. I’ve known people that have taken seminary courses on this fine book and have benefited greatly. I’d like to someday. When I went to ACTS, a few returning students spoke very highly of a course on Proverbs they had taken with a prof that wasn’t there anymore. I really do need to do some work on this book in the near future.

What primed the pump for this confession was a blog. Dan Phillips over at Pyromaniacs has done an excellent series on Proverbs (Part I, Part II, Part III).  I highly recommend these ‘pump-primers.’ The comments are quite interesting, too, though, not surprisingly, they’re not always on topic.

Messing with the Template

My family didn’t like my last template, so I’m trying again. Maybe I’ll learn html someday. Maybe I’ll learn to play the piano. Maybe I’ll weigh 180 someday. Sigh.

I did save my links in a word document this time. Last time I had so start from scratch. Live and learn.

My little girls are celebrities. Okay, pretty small-scale celebrities (nothing personal, Angie), but I've never been on a magazine cover! They're cute, aren't they? They get it from their mother.

Homeschooling Horizons' site is here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

More on Revolution

About six weeks ago, I did a post on George Barna’s latest book Revolution. An excellent review by Dr. Albert Mohler is now available. There is a follow up post on the review by Dr. Mohler at the Together for the Gospel Blog as well.

Although I believe the thesis of Barna’s book is wrong and even dangerous, I also think that there is a potentially positive flipside. Those readers who love the church may be disturbed by Barna’s assertions and driven to rethink their doctrine of the church in light of what the Bible actually teaches. This hope is based on the clarity that the church gained in defining crucial doctrine throughout history as it confronted challenges to orthodoxy. Call it the church’s debt to heresy.

In response to Barna’s thesis, I hope many are driven to the Bible first, but I also hope they are driven to such books as Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Mark Dever), The Deliberate Church (Mark Dever and Paul Alexander) and The Church by Edmund Clowney (stick with Dever and co. regarding Baptism, however).

Given my study and experience of the local church, I am more convinced than ever that the hope for authentic evangelism lies with healthy local churches – healthy in the sense of the biblical marks of a true church.

Much as a wise sawyer knows to stop and sharpen his saw, we need to be sharpened in our fellowship with other believers as we gather and grow more mature around the Gospel (Ephesians 4:1-16). More than this, participation in the local church is an essential component of Christian discipleship. If we don’t love the Bride of Christ – the people for whom Christ died – do we really know Christ? Christians need the spiritual food, accountability and discipline of the local church as we seek to glorify God and be salt and light to a dark and decaying world.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reflections on a Future ‘Antiques Road Show,’ c. 1889

Another Excerpt from Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog):

"(A)ll our art treasures of to-day are only the dug-up commonplaces of three or four hundred years ago. I wonder if there is real intrinsic beauty in the old soup-plates, beer-mugs, and candle-snuffers that we prize so now, or if it is only the halo of age glowing around them that gives them their charms in our eyes. The "old blue" that we hang about our walls as ornaments were the common every-day household utensils of a few centuries ago; and the pink shepherds and the yellow shepherdesses that we hand round now for all our friends to gush over, and pretend they understand, were the unvalued mantel-ornaments that the mother of the eighteenth century would have given the baby to suck when he cried.
Will it be the same in the future? Will the prized treasures of to-day always be the cheap trifles of the day before? Will rows of our willow-pattern dinner-plates be ranged above the chimneypieces of the great in the years 2000 and odd? Will the white cups with the gold rim and the beautiful gold flower inside species unknown), that our Sarah Janes now break in sheer light-heartedness of spirit, be carefully mended, and stood upon a bracket, and dusted only by the lady of the house?
That china dog that ornaments the bedroom of my furnished lodgings. It is a white dog. Its eyes are blue. Its nose is a delicate red, with black spots. Its head is painfully erect, its expression is amiability carried to verge of imbecility. I do not admire it myself. Considered as a work of art, I may say it irritates me. Thoughtless friends jeer at it, and even my landlady herself has no admiration for it, and excuses its presence by the circumstance that her aunt gave it to her.
But in 200 years' time it is more than probable that that dog will be dug up from somewhere or other, minus its legs, and with its tail broken, and will be sold for old china, and put in a glass cabinet. And people will pass it round, and admire it. They will be struck by the wonderful depth of the colour on the nose, and speculate as to how beautiful the bit of the tail that is lost no doubt was.
We, in this age, do not see the beauty of that dog. We are too familiar with it. It is like the sunset and the stars: we are not awed by their loveliness because they are common to our eyes. So it is with that china dog. In 2288 people will gush over it. The making of such dogs will have become a lost art. Our descendants will wonder how we did it, and say how clever we were. We shall be referred to lovingly as "those grand old artists that flourished in the nineteenth century, and produced those china dogs."
The "sampler" that the eldest daughter did at school will be spoken of as "tapestry of the Victorian era," and be almost priceless. The blue-and-white mugs of the present-day roadside inn will be hunted up, all cracked and chipped, and sold for their weight in gold, and rich people will use them for claret cups; and travellers from Japan will buy up all the "Presents from Ramsgate," and "Souvenirs of Margate," that may have escaped destruction, and take them back to Jedo as ancient English curios.
At this point Harris threw away the sculls, got up and left his seat, and sat on his back, and stuck his legs in the air. Montmorency howled, and turned a somersault, and the top hamper jumped up, and all the things came out.
I was somewhat surprised, but I did not lose my temper. I said, pleasantly enough: "Hulloa! what's that for?"
"What's that for? Why - "
No, on second thoughts, I will not repeat what Harris said. I may have been to blame, I admit it; but nothing excuses violence of language and coarseness of expression, especially in a man who has been carefully brought up, as I know Harris has been. I was thinking of other things, and forgot, as any one might easily understand, that I was steering, and the consequence was that we had got mixed up a good deal with the tow-path. It was difficult to say, for the moment, which was us and which was the Middlesex bank of the river; but we found out after a while, and separated ourselves."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bloggity Blog Blog Blog

Nobody asked for any excuses, but here they are anyway. My blogging has been light lately because:
  • I’m too busy reading other people’s blogs

  • I’ve been reading the political news more closely lately. Certain events lately may even drive me – Mr. Formally non-partisan – to post a political opinion piece.

  • Our church annual meeting is coming up soon

  • After many years I’m following hockey again because my son is into it this year

  • My preparation for preaching and Bible Study has been particularly challenging these past few weeks – Matthew on Sunday mornings and a systematic theology study on Wednesday nights. Matthew is a hard book to preach through, but rewarding (at least for me – there were several glazed over stares out in the pews at about 12:05 last Sunday).

  • I have some excellent new books to finish (I just ordered three more yesterday).

  • My late night blogging hasn’t materialized lately. By the time everyone else is in bed, I’ve been pooped enough to join them (that is, join them in the practice of going to bed, not join them in bed – all six of us would be a little crowded).

I still like blogging, but it’ll have ebbs and flows as life happens. I’ll keep throwing stuff out a few times a week, but sometimes – like tonight – it’ll be weak. It was a dark and stormy blog. Suddenly, a post rang out . . .  (Courtesy of my 13 year-old son from the supper-table conversation this evening).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dever on Discipline at Duke St.

If you have been following the Together for the Gospel Blog, you will know that Mark Dever has recently been ‘across the pond.’ If you would like to hear a message from that trip, you can find one at the Duke Street Church website, or just click here (select 'January' from the drop-down box). If you want to hear messages by Dr. Dever at his home church (Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.), you can find them here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Moving Mom

We moved my mom from Edmonton to Edson on Friday. So, instead of being two hours away, she’s about three minutes away. It was nice have her at church today. We had her over for dinner afterwards. The move itself went well – we had lots of help. Two of my brothers and their wives came to help get mom settled in as well. She’s getting around much better after her hip surgery in December, but there’s still room for improvement. I was pretty useless for moving stuff – my arm will be weak for quite a while yet, I think. I wandered around getting in people’s way while they were carrying the heavy stuff. I do my part. I got to drive a friend’s truck – a long-box crew cab GMC with a Duramax (360 h.p. and 650 ft. lbs., for those who care) and 6-speed Allison pulling a 24 ft. stock trailer. It is a real Cowboy Cadillac. My friend is really trusting – the truck had 820 km on it when I picked it up. I’m very thankful nothing went wrong, thankful for friends and family, and thankful that mom is in Edson now.

Dr. Mohler on Reading

Dr. Mohler’s latest post at the Together for the Gospel Blog is a great read. The best line is to pastors regarding reading occasional bad theology to keep up with the latest heresies: “Be brave and go into a Christian bookstore.” I was in a big Christian ‘marketplace’ last week with a man from our church. I always forget what vacuous places they are until I walk around again – thousands of book and there’s nothing there! In June, 2004, I had the opportunity to shop at the SBTS bookstore (Dr. Mohler’s school). What a treat! They had some schlock – for the purposes of research, don’t ya know – but tons of good theological books.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"On the other hand, Bozo the Clown has much to teach us about Christian Education"

My apologies to Gospel-centered CE people out there. We need more of you! No apologies to these folks, however. Sheesh!