Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"The Father of Calvinism"

Today in 1551, one of the gentler souls of the Reformation died at the age of sixty. His name was Martin Bucer and he was the leading Reformer in the strategic city of Strasbourg, capital of the territory of Alsace. Older biographies refer to him as The Father of Calvinism.

Bucer’s contribution to the spread of the Reformation is often neglected by contrast with that of Luther and Calvin, both of whom he knew. The former he heard in 1518 while serving in the Dominican cloister at Heidelberg. Luther was explaining his understanding of “justification (salvation) by faith alone” before the officials of the Augustinian order. Bucer withdrew form his orders in 1521 and became one of the first Protestant ministers to marry. He was duly excommunicated and immediately sought refuge in Strasbourg. It was in this city, over a dozen years later, that John Calvin (recently exiled from Geneva) came into contact with him. Bucer undoubtedly shaped Calvin’s understanding of many important themes, especially the latter’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper. His ecumenical spirit, especially in his attempts to reconcile Zwinglians and the Lutherans, brought him criticism from both sides. Luther (as was his wont) said of the attempt: “It is better for you to have your enemies than to set up a fictitious fellowship.”

Bucer’s final years were spent as Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge, England, where his influence on Thomas Cranmer brought about reform of the the ill-conceived “First Book of Common Prayer” in 1549. The language of the Second edition (1552) was to prove enormously influential in the utility of the English language.

Following his death, Queen Mary (in 1557) ordered that his body be exhumed and burned and his tomb demolished. Her successor, Queen Elizabeth 1st, ordered that his honors be restored at Cambridge.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Word from John Wagner

I just got a great letter from our own "missionary to Scotland" - John Wagner. John has now been ordained in the Free Church of Scotland. He sent me a DVD of his ordination service at the Inverness Free North Church last September, as well as the February 2006 issue of the official Free Church denominational magazine The Monthly Record which has a brief article (and picture!) on page 10 covering the event. I've put these in the church library so that all can view them.

The DVD begins with a brief message from Reverend John Ross on facing the challenges of Christian ministry (Greyfriars Free Church, Inverness); then a singing of Psalm 22; the history of the call as read by Reverend Angus Macrae (Clerk of Presbytery of Inverness, Lochaber and Ross and minister of Dingwall Free Church); reading and affirmation of the Free Church of Scotland formula of subscription (Reverend John Ross), affirimation by members and adherents of the presbytery; address to the Reverend John Wagner by Reverend John Mackay (Glenurqhart and Fort Augustus); address to the congregation by Reverend David Meredith (Smithton Free Church, Inverness); and the official ordination ceremonies conclude with a singing of Psalm 122.

There is then a welcome by the Reverend Ronald MacKay (minister of Inverness Free North); a welcome and gift presentation by Gavin Sutherland (Elder, Invernss Free North and Chairman of Madras Street Committee); a response by myself; speeches by Reverend Ruairidh MacRae (Paisley Free Church, Paisley), Reverend John MacPherson (Elder Memorial Free Church, Leith) and Reverend David Robertson (St Peters Free Church, Dundee ). The speeches were all delivered in good humour and the closing prayer is by Reverend Ronald MacKay.

John says: "I found this evening incredibly moving and I am very grateful that it was recorded on DVD. The video quality is rather poor but the audio is fine and hopefully you'll be able to play it without any problems from DVD 'region codes' which restrict playback to country of origin. It works fine on my new Dell laptop purchased last summer in the USA but I'm not sure about American DVD players. The singing in the church was amazing that evening . . . ."

John, we are proud of you, and praying for you.

Mississippi Cloning Ban

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council reports that:

Mississippi Senate to vote on human cloning ban
on Tuesday, February, 28February 24, 2006

The Mississippi Senate Public Health and Welfare committee will vote on HB 1202 (human cloning ban) on Tuesday, February, 28. This bill is a true cloning ban. The Mississippi House passed this bill by an overwhelming margin and so it is now in the hands of this committee.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Nehemiah (5)

In a final look at Nehemiah's prayer (see posts below for the first four in this short series) we examine one more word that summarizes this model prayer. Having looked at the prayer from the point of view of four epitomizing words (spontaneity, stamina, shape and structure), our final word is success.

At first, the word "success" sounds too worldly, too commercial to apply to prayer. It sounds like something that might emerge from the sordid amalgam of business stratagems applied to the church. But by "success" we mean something a little different. This prayer achieved its intention. It accomplished its goal. God answered this prayer!

But it did achieve this answer quickly!

Close readers of Nehemiah will note that a time interval occurs between the first and second chapters. There is, in fact, a gap of four months. The structured, disciplined prayer of chapter 1 provides the springboard for the impulsive prayer of chapter 2 for King Artaxerxes to send him to Jerusalem. Having initially heard through his (biological?) brother that things were going badly in Jerusalem Nehemiah planned just how he will get there. He has no earthly hope, of course, He's a servant to the Babylonian King, after all, many hundreds of miles away from Jerusalem. If he is to get back there, it will be by divine intervention.

Learning to wait for God's providential opportunities is one of prayer's most difficult lessons. And waiting for God to answer our prayer is another difficult lesson that, somehow, does not get easier as we grow closer towards heaven! We still tend to think that if we were in charge, we could see to it that the answer would be given in a more timely fashion. Such is our arrogance, and learning to "wait on the Lord" (one of the Bible's charming phrases) is a life-long lesson learned by fits and starts.

Nehemiah was not praying for himself and that might make it even more difficult to see why God would make him wait. To make us wait for things we ask for ourselves is much easier to understand; God might be testing our selfish motivation. But why the delay when the prayer is for someone else? Alas, "ours not the reason why" and we must learn to trust God, no matter what happens.

Praying for others brings its own rewards. "I seldom made an errand to God for another," said Samuel Rutherford, "but I got something for myself."

Nehemiah's prayer was for the good of Jerusalem, God's church. In answering this prayer, Nehemiah's life changed completely. I often wonder, did Nehemiah have any idea what he was praying for? Did he imagine the change that would result in his life as a consequence? It certainly brought him into increased usefulness and growth in grace. And his life was never the saem again.

Prayer for others made him strong in the Lord. Being made to wait made him stronger. Receiving an answer must have made him long to be in God's presence more:

'For who knows the power of prayer,
but wishes to be often there?'


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mission Mile Fun Run/Walk and 5K is Back on

We thought we were going to have to cancel, but now it's back on. We'll start at 9:45am - less than half an hour! Come on down!

Mission Mile for All Ages Fun Run/Walk* & 5k Run*

Walk with a missionary, run, skip, skateboard, push a baby stroller or wheelchair...everyone come be a part!

11:00 Churchwide Cookout in Miller Hall* ($2 each, $10 family max)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Sex on the College Campus

Joe Holland has just tipped me off on an article by Brent Bozell read it here on "sex education" on the college campus. Parents need to keep up with this stuff. Would make for a great conversation with your teenager or college student.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

PCRT in Jackson - Bob Godfrey

It's all about missions this week at FPC, but don't forget the PCRT in a month! One of the great speakers we'll have here is Bob Godfrey. Bob is a friend and fellow Alliance Council member. He's also President of Westminster Seminary in California, where he's taught church history since 1981. Once upon a time he taught at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (where my Anne did her MA), and also at Stanford University, and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is a minister in the United Reformed Churches.

As a Professor of Church History he helps students see God’s truth alive in the life of the church, shaping its worship, piety and theology. He encourages students to reflect on the ways in which different cultures have influenced the development of the church throughout its history. He has spoken at many conferences including ones sponsored by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, and Ligonier Ministries.

He is the author of An Unexpected Journey, Reformation Sketches, Pleasing God in Our Worship and God’s Pattern for Creation. He has written chapters or articles in John Calvin, His Influence in the Western World; Through Christ’s Word; Theonomy: A Reformed Critique; The Agony of Deceit; Roman Catholicism; Sola Scriptura!; The Practice of Confessional Subscription; The Coming Evangelical Crisis; and in such journals as Archive for Reformation History, Sixteenth-Century Journal and Westminster Theological Journal.

Bob and his wife Mary Ellen have three grown children. We can't wait for him to speak here in Jackson!

Nehemiah (4)

Having looked at “spontaneity” and “stamina” as reflective of Nehemiah’s prayer, two more words come to mind: Shape and Structure.

Many Christians are afraid of applying rigorous analysis to the shape of prayer. It seems to call into question the liberty of the Holy Spirit in our praying. It vitiates against some dearly held principles that prayer should be unreflective and spontaneous—an outpouring of the heart to God. Doesn’t the Bible promise somewhere that the Holy Spirit will give us words to say when we pray? Indeed it does and in moments of anguish, when we are beside ourselves and unable to think straight, this is reassurance of the first order. But there are times when we need to reflect on our praying, shape it in a certain way, do what Jesus told his disciples to do when giving them the Lord’s Prayer as a model, “Pray like this…” (Matt. 6:9).

Nehemiah's prayer is, then, a model of how to pray in the sense of providing us with a model as to the shape and structure of our prayers. And what is the shape of this prayer? It starts with worship where Nehemiah traces God's greatness (1:5). Nehemiah's theology—his view of God specifically—moulds his prayer; thoughts about God in God's presence, mined from the Scriptures where he has revealed himself most clearly are turned into worship and adoration and praise. Then, in true “gospel fashion” (thoughts of God remind us of our sin and need) Nehemiah engages in an outpouring of personal and corporate guilt, confessing sin: “We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded “(1:7). The way to pray aright is to remember that apart from the grace of God in the gospel we have no right to pray! Why should God listen to us? And, this side of the empty tomb, we say “in Jesus name” to reinforce the point that it is only because of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf that we can come into the presence of a holy God. What we ask for is evidently not what we deserve. In place of wrath we need mercy; in place of condemnation we need ongoing assurance that we are forgiven and accepted in Christ; in place of hell which is our deserved destiny we crave for what Philip Doddridge called 'the charming sound' of grace which assures us of salvation, sonship, and security.

Only after worship and confession does Nehemiah ask for anything in particular (1:8ff). This is always the way we should pray on more formal occasions, when we have time for prayer, considered prayer. Worship first, then intercede. It is the weakest part of our praying. We are too quick to ask—like impatient children we think of ourselves too much.

Nehemiah's prayer is a bold one: he calls upon God to remember what he has promised! (1:8). 'Remember' is a key word in the book of Nehemiah (see, 4:14; 5:19; 6:14; 13:14, 22, 29, 31). And here’s a principle we should always bear in mind: that Bible writers were at least as clever as we are! No, Nehemiah did not think that God had actually forgotten. God does not forget! But it is part of the testing of faith that we should have to ask him for what he has already promised. Nehemiah and the people he represented were in covenant with God who had given his word. Nehemiah is basing his request on what God had pledged. No one saw this better than John Calvin. We are 'not to ask any more than God allows. For even though He bids us pour out our hearts before Him, He still does not indiscriminately slacken the reins to stupid and wicked emotions.' (Institutes, 3.20.5).

We are to pray for what God has promised, but only for what he has promised. “To pray rightly is a rare gift,” Calvin concludes, because it demands a sensitivity to the content of Scripture. But when such sensitivity is achieved, how liberating prayer can be! Psalm 119 which rings the changes upon Scripture in 170 out of its 176 verses, is also a lesson in prayer for eleven times its prayerful confidence is based on God's promises: God is to answer 'according to Your word' or 'according to Your promise' (Psa.119: 25, 28, 41, 58, 65, 76, 107, 116, 154, 169, 170).

“But you promised!” That’s a mighty thought, isn’t it?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Incarnate Complementarity

Photo from Star-Telegram.com

Alright, I admit it. I watch Olympic couple’s figure skating.

I don't follow it with the passion of some folks, and I know none of the technical terminology, but the combination of technique, athleticism, and sheer beauty amazes me. But last night while I was watching the finals, I was struck by something more important. While misguided academics and theologians point us to the “freedom and fairness” found only in egalitarianism and androgyny, couple's figure skating reveals a different approach: complementarity. Couple’s figure skating incarnates complementarity. Men and women are fundamentally different; they are designed that way.

As John Piper writes, “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead; provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships." On the other hand, “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman's differing relationships."

A picture is worth a thousand words.



Monday, February 20, 2006


Joe Holland has just drawn my attention to this World magazine article on "Facebook." You can click here here to read the article on Facebook. By the way, the William Denney quoted in the article is from Jackson, often came to FPCJ Youth activities and is the son of Sam Denney, a local pediatrician and committed Christian. This is a good thing for parents to know about and reflect on.

Living "sub specie aeternitatis"

Some of you asked me to "post" this photograph and text of a gravestone for three brothers who died in infancy within a week of each other. Two were evidently twins. I referred to it last night in the sermon as an example of how a former generation lived "in the light of eternity". The text is difficult to read in places, but the gist of it is as follows:

Here lies the bodies of three brothers
Sons of Richard and Mary Savage
Who were interred within ten days
***** to this stone
August 31 1784 aged 7 years, 3 Mo. 10 days
1784 aged 3 years 6 months
Sept 9 1784 aged 3 years 6 months
Beneath the surface of the turfed earth
Enwrapped in silence and the arms of death
Exposed to Worms he’s three once charming Boy
The Fathers Comfort and the Mothers Joy
These youths at once fair fruit and Blossoms bore
Much in possession in expectance more
Twou’d grieve you tender reader to relate
The hasty strides of unrelenting fate
Dire decree at human art was vain
The power of medicine failed the healing train
But happy youths by death made truly great
Had life been lengthened to its utmost date
What had they known but sorrow Pain and woe
The Curse entailed on Adam’s race below
They’re only safe who through death’s gates have passed
And reached those joys that evermore will last
Now vain is man How fluttering are his joys
Which what one moment gives the next destroys
Hope and Despair fill up his round of Life
And all his joys are One continual strife.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Doing Missions Paul's Way

I have loved 2 Corinthians ever since I first became conscious that God was calling me (me!) into the ministry. There are days when I feel so utterly inadequate to speak for Jesus (“we are ambassadors for Christ” 2 Cor. 5:20) that I, well, want to “give up”. But I’m in good company, for even the mighty Paul felt that way. The grammarians suggest that when Paul exhorts the Corinthians (twice!) not to lose heart (2 Cor. 4:1, 16), he is actually engaging in an example of litotes—the use of a negated antonym to make an understatement or to emphatically affirm the positive. In other words, he is saying, “I’m often given to losing heart, you understand.” Imagine!

2 Corinthians 4 is our text tomorrow evening. It is my contribution to the 2006 Missions Conference. As a church, we have the honor of hosting many missionaries over the next few days, missionaries who are (if truth be told) war-weary and in need of reassurance, rest and revitalization. However, we often do missionaries a disservice, thinking that what we want them to tell us are extravagant success stories of thousands of professions so that we in turn may think that our money is being well spent. It is a cruel expectation, liable to all kinds of abuse and decidedly not glorifying to God. What if Paul were to address us next week and tell us of the response to his ministry in Corinth: that he was the victim of abuse, one-upmanship, lies and jealousy. His last visit to the city required him to hot-foot it out of there. Would we support him?

My aim is to give three principles of godly service and ministry—doing missions Paul’s way. Actually, the title is: “Sovereign Seeks Helpers Unconcerned for Personal Gain: Must be willing to die for the Cause.”

As it happens (I love saying that as a Calvinist!) our good friends Tim and Sarah Horne, e-mailed me just as I was in the middle of preparation and needing an illustration of missionaries at the forefront of an intense spiritual battle who need our encouragement. So, Tim and Sarah—you’re my illustration! It is my prayer that God would uphold you in the midst of the war and that as you smell the burning flesh all around, your eye will catch a glimpse of the glory that shines in the face of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

John Piper - "Don't Waste Your Cancer"

I quoted from John Piper's Don't Waste Your Cancer in the Wednesday evening message. Many of you wanted to read it in its entirety. Here it is. And here's a taste of his ten points:

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Nehemiah (3)

Spontaneity in prayer may cloud the secret of Nehemiah's godliness; his instinctive response in a corner was the result of a life in constant touch with God. Behind this particular incident lay a disciplined, resolute 3-month period of intense prayer (see the dates in 1:1 and 2:1). A second word now comes to mind: stamina.

Stamina, or perseverance, in prayer is something Jesus urged that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Stamina lies behind David and Daniel's greatness: “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” (Psa. 5:3); “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.”(Dan. 6:10).

If you have ever listened to a great pianist or cellist play at a concert, you will be impressed, as I invariably am, by their seemingly effortless dexterity; fingers move with natural ease. Yet behind this display of spontaneity lies a lifetime devoted to painstaking discipline. Daily practice in chromatic scales is as dull as ditch-water! Yet, without it, greatness is unachievable. The same is true for athletes. There can be no success at any given moment without disciplined training. I speak not from experience here, but observation!

The disciplines of a godly life are equally learned by arduous repetition and refinement of godly behavior. If we only pray when we feel like it, we will never attain the heights that God intends for us—and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Stamina—stickability is another word for it—emerges later on in Nehemiah's story. Faced by what James called “trials of various kinds” (Jam. 1:2), which, for Nehemiah, included: ridicule (4:1-3), discouragement (4:10-12), financial bondage (5:1-5), subtlety (6:1-4), slander (6:5-7) and intimidating letters (6:19), the book of Nehemiah consistently encourages prayer.

Discipline! That is what we need. It is, however, such a strict, off-putting word. But, as John Owen remarks, “unless the most fruitful ground be manured, it will not bring forth a useful crop.'”

Honesty will demand that it is just here that we fail so miserably. And Nehemiah has much to teach those who are willing to learn.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day and Those Sexy Puritans

In his recently published book, The Genuine Article: A Historian Looks at Early America, Edmund Morgan entitles one of his chapters, "Those Sexy Puritans." Echoing themes from his earlier book, The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England, Morgan once again debunks the myth that the Puritans were ascetic kill-joys.

Let's hear from the Puritans themselves.

"Thou must be my valentine." John Winthrop took the time to write this to his wife, Margaret, on February 14, 1629, as he was in the midst of preparations to embark for the New World. While he is away he promises that "Mondays and Fridays, at five of the clock at night, we shall meet in spirit till we meet in person."

Anne Bradstreet, America's first English speaking poet and Puritan by conviction, wrote, "To my Dear and Loving Husband" from the Mass. Bay Colony (seventeenth-century):

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompetense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Thomas Hooker, a minister in the Mass. Bay Colony (seventeenth-century) wrote:

“As a wife deals with the letters of her husband that is in a far Country; she finds many sweet inklings of his love, and she will read these letters often, and daily: she would talk with her husband a far off, and see him in the letters, Oh (saith she) thus and thus he thought when he wrote these lines, and then she thinks he speaks to her again.”

“The man whose heart is endeared to the woman he loves, he dreams of her in the night, hath her in his eye and apprehension when he awakes, muses on her as he sits at the table, walks with her when he travels. . . . she lies in his Bosom, and his heart trusts in her, which forceth all to confess, that the stream of his affection, like a mighty current, runs with full tide and strength.”

Jonathan Edwards on his wife, Sarah (eighteenth-century):

“They say there is a young lady in [New Haven] who is beloved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or another invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything except to meditate of him. . . . Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her conduct; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful if you give her all the world. . . . She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind. . . . She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.”

Matthew Henry comments on Genesis chapter 2:21-24 (eighteenth-century):

“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Nehemiah (2) again!

My second part in the series on Nehemiah mysteriously disappeared! I now understand that Blogger went down last weekend and several blogs published during this period (including my own) went missing. The problem was that I did not have "an original" and it has taken me until this afternoon to find the time to re-write it! But, here it is! Part 3 will appear tomorrow sometime, perhaps. Maybe!

Nehemiah, a high-grade slave in the Persian royal palace, is what Bunyan might have called a Mr. Giant-at-Prayer. Frequent communion with God in prayer made him what he was and in this he has much to teach us that will help and hurt. We would do well to follow his example for, as many have had cause to repeat, “There is nothing that tells the truth about us as Christians so much as our prayer life.” The short-lived but useful servant of God, Robert Murray McCheyne, gave expression to this though by saying, “What a man is on his knees before God, that he is—and nothing more.” God has given us men like Nehemiah as “witnesses:” rebuking, exhorting and encouraging as the Holy Spirit sees fit (c.f. Heb. 12:1).

Four words spell out what we need to learn. The first of them is:


The opening chapters of Nehemiah underline the importance of prayer in the life of God's children. It comes “spontaneously” to Nehemiah—spontaneous because it reflects something of the disciplined nature of Nehemiah’s life. “Spontaneous” prayer reflects a habit of disciplined prayer. He prayed like this in a moment of crisis because he was always praying. He grew to be the man of prayer that he became because he was always climbing.

One day Nehemiah hears bad news about the construction work in his home city of Jerusalem. The delegation, which included a man called Hanani (who may have been Nehemiah's biological brother [Neh. 1:2; c.f. 7:2]) brought news of enemies—Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem to give them their names. Eighty years had passed since Cyrus' decree granting exiles the right to return to Jerusalem so that the temple and city walls might be re-built. Sixty years later came another expedition led by Ezra to enforce the law of Moses in the city. Twenty years have passed, and the delegation to Babylon reports the ruined state of Jerusalem's walls. Hinderers are to partly to blame. God’s people have been cowed by their threats.

Nehemiah is sad and he shows it. As the cupbearer to the King—Artaxerxes—it was Nehemiah’s business to look cheerful! Nehemiah probably was unaware of Assyrian imperial policy to allow subject cities to regain their self-respect by having autonomy as soon as possible. When Nehemiah made his request to King Artaxerxes that he be allowed to return to Jerusalem he was, quite literally, taking his life in his hands; he became 'dreadfully afraid' not knowing then that this was perfectly in keeping with what the King had planned. Thinking the moment right, though potentially life-threatening, Nehemiah “prayed to the God of heaven” (Neh. 2:4). The moment could only have lasted a few seconds at most. More than likely he did not close his eyes or make any outward impression of prayer. He simply sent up an “arrow-request” to his Father in heaven.

For Nehemiah, it was the most natural thing to do.


Derek - Co-star of a new blog

Our own Derek Thomas is now part of a triumvirate over at the irish-reformation site. Check it out.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Piper on the Mohammed Cartoon Controversy-Protests

John Piper has written a brilliant Christian response to the over-the-top reaction all over the Muslim world to the cartoons posted in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. I quoted from it in last night's sermon. Here is a link to it, and some choice quotes. Piper says:

"What we saw this past week in the Islamic demonstrations over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad was another vivid depiction of the difference between Muhammad and Christ, and what it means to follow each. Not all Muslims approve the violence. But a deep lesson remains: The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different reactions to mockery."

"If Christ had not been insulted, there would be no salvation."

"This was not true of Muhammad. And Muslims do not believe it is true of Jesus. Most Muslims have been taught that Jesus was not crucified. . . . An essential Muslim impulse is to avoid the “ignominy” of the cross."

That’s the most basic difference between Christ and Muhammad and between a Muslim and a follower of Christ. For Christ, enduring the mockery of the cross was the essence of his mission. And for a true follower of Christ enduring suffering patiently for the glory of Christ is the essence of obedience."

"When Muhammad was portrayed in twelve cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the uproar across the Muslim world was intense and sometimes violent. Flags were burned, embassies were torched, and at least one Christian church was stoned. The cartoonists went into hiding in fear for their lives, like Salman Rushdie before them. What does this mean?"

"It means that a religion with no insulted Savior will not endure insults to win the scoffers. It means that this religion is destined to bear the impossible load of upholding the honor of one who did not die and rise again to make that possible. It means that Jesus Christ is still the only hope of peace with God and peace with man. And it means that his followers must be willing to “share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10)."

By John Piper. ©Desiring God. Website: http://www.desiringgod.org/. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 888.346.4700.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The PCRT is coming to Jackson!

I'm in LA until early Wednesday morning for a meeting of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and so far the meeting has been very helpful. Do visit the CBMW website to find out more about this important organization.

But what I want to do now is remind you of the upcoming PCRT in Jackson. The dates for the PCRT (Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology) are Friday to Sunday, March 24-26, 2006. I'll attach the schedule below. Register now at the Alliance website

2006 PCRT Schedule - Jackson, MS

Friday, March 24

8:00-9:00 a.m. Pre-Conference Registration
9:00 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Pre-Conference, Philip Ryken
City on a Hill: A Biblical Vision for the 21st Century Church

5:30 p.m. Conference Registration
7:00 p.m. Opening of the 2006 PCRT First Address: What Jonah Learned, Sinclair Ferguson

Saturday, March 25

8:00 a.m. Late Registration
9:00 a.m. Second Address: Total Depravity, Philip Ryken
10:00 a.m. Third Address: Unconditional Election, Sinclair Ferguson
11:00 a.m. Question & Answer Session
12:00 p.m. Lunch (at local restaurnats)
2:00 p.m. Fourth Address: Limited Atonement, Richard Phillips

3:15-4:30 p.m. Seminars
Humble Suggestions for Reforming Worship, Richard Phillips
The Westminster Assembly, Sinclair Ferguson
John Knox: A Reformed Biography, Ligon Duncan

4:30 p.m. Dinner (at local restaurants)

6:30 p.m. Sacred Concert

7:00 p.m. Fifth Address: Irresistible Grace, Robert Godfrey


10:30 a.m. Sixth Address: Perseverance of the Saints, Robert Godfrey

*PCRT joins each host church's Sunday morning worship services for the final address.

Trinity Presbyterian Church5301 Old Canton RoadJackson, MS 39211www.trinitychurchpca.com
Nursery: Call Donna Kuiper at 601-977-0774 x. 342 by March 13th to register, children up to 6 years, $7/hour with a 3 hour minimum.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

What Teenagers Believe

Many of you are already familiar with the research of Dr. Christian Smith, Stuart Chapin Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His conclusion that many American teenagers are unknowingly committed to "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" is well known. In the latest issue of Books & Culture, Michael Cromartie interviews Dr. Smith. It's well worth a look: http://www.ctlibrary.com/26528.

Worthy of Praise

First Presbyterian Church, Gulfport, Mississippi

Praise God for His blessings over the past few days!

Last Friday night, Dr. Randy Stinson filled in for Dr. Al Mohler at the annual Mid-South Men's Rally and his preaching on fatherhood was piercing and timely. He hit a home run. Men, don’t forget his point that “only masculinity teaches masculinity.”

On Sunday, I traveled to the gulf coast to preach at First Presbyterian Church, Gulfport. I went to Gulfport expecting to find devastation and discouragement. I found trust, faithfulness, anticipation, and excitement. I traveled to Gulfport hoping to encourage and minister to hurting people. Yes, they are struggling. Many are homeless; many have lost everything. Many are living in FEMA trailers. But they ministered to me in ways that I will never forget. They are displaying the reality that the church is people, and every member of the body of Christ needs every other member of the body of Christ. They had one simple request: "Don't forget us." If any of you ever have the opportunity to enjoy their fellowship, even for a few hours, you will know that forgetting them would be impossible. Being in their presence was a humbling experience. They are very special people. Be sure to keep Guy Richard, their Senior Minister, in your prayers.

Today, the Reverend Mr. Joseph Wheat, the Senior Minister at Highlands Presbyterian Church, spoke to a packed house at our monthly Men of the Covenant luncheon. He emphasized the importance of a "functional" faith in God's sovereignty, an everyday commitment to God's sovereignty that manifests itself in every thought and action. Do you really believe in God’s sovereignty? How does that belief change your actions?

"Then David said to his son Solomon, 'Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished'" (1 Chron. 28:20).