The Veterans Affairs Secretary is in hot water and all the while he is instructing us about glory and repentance.

VA Secretary, Robert McDonald has apologized for lying about his service in the special forces. He recently was serving food to a homeless man in Los Angeles when he told the man that he also served in the special forces. The cameras were rolling and caught the exchange. The news did some digging and found out that he never actually served in this capacity.

As a result, Secretary McDonald issued a statement where he stopped short of the issue while tipping his cap to his “error.” He said, “I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces. That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement…I have great respect for those who have served our nation in special forces.”

Continue Reading…

The American Sniper movie continues to draw crowds to theaters several weeks after its release. It’s not surprising that people are drawn to the story of military dominance in Chris Kyle’s career. Part of this draw is the continued prevalence of terror in the news coupled with the fact that the Iraq war was such recent memory. It feels like the ongoing struggle, which is so often tragic, is being played out before our eyes. It is like we have a reserved seat for the action.

But there was something more at play for me—and I will admit that it took me off guard—it was the realized gravity of the film.

Continue Reading…

I love this story and the way that RC Sproul tells it in his book Willing to Believe.

In 1505 Martin Luther entered the monastery in Erfurt. He was ordained in the chapel used by monks of the Augustinian order. When he was ordained neither Luther nor anyone else knew what this event would mean for him, the church, or the world. It was an intersection of time destined to change the course of history forever. One hundred years earlier the Bohemian reformer Jan Hus had been burned at the stake for heresy. Hus said to the bishop who had ordered his execution, “You may cook this goose, but there will come a swan who will not be silenced.” Hus was making a play on words with this prediction. The name Hus in the Czech language means “goose.”

In the summer of 1996, I led a tour that followed the footsteps of Luther. Celebrations were scheduled all over Germany in commemoration of the 450th anniversary of Luther’s death. Posters were widely displayed bearing the likeness of Luther against the backdrop of a swan. The German people saw Luther as the fulfillment of Hus’s prophecy, as the incarnate swan who was to come.

The circumstances of Luther’s ordination were marked by a double irony. When Luther prostrated himself with arms outstretched in the form of the cross, he was lying at the base of the chapel’s altar. The floor was made of stone. The exact spot where Luther lay was marked by an inscription in the stone indicating who was buried directly beneath the spot: the very bishop who had ordered the execution of Jan Hus. It is a great temptation to revise history and ascribe to the bishop an appropriate response to Hus’s words that a swan would come. I would like to think the bishop replied, “Over my dead body!” Indeed it was over his dead body that the swan was ordained. Willing to BelieveSproul (p. 48)

At the conclusion of Martin Luther’s masterful book The Bondage of the Will he reveals some compassionate pastoral care to those who may be struggling with the ethical implications of the biblical teaching concerning sin, grace, and free will. Keep in mind that this is some 300 pages after he has absolutely shredded any notion of harmony between free-will and the gospel. In his shredding he was, let’s just say, forceful. This is what makes this compassionate nugget at the end so compelling.

He writes:

Keep in view three lights: the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory (this is common and a good distinction).

By the light of nature, it is inexplicable that it should be just for the good to be afflicted and the bad to prosper; but the light of grace explains it.

By the light of grace, it is inexplicable how God can damn him who by his own strength can do nothing but sin and become guilty.

Both the light of nature and the light of grace here insist that the fault lies not in the wretchedness of man, but in the injustice of God; nor can they judge otherwise of a God who crowns the ungodly freely, without merit, and does not crown, but damns another, who is perhaps less, and certainly not more, ungodly.

But the light of glory insists otherwise, and will one day reveal God, to whom alone belongs a judgment whose justice is incomprehensible, as a God Whose justice is most righteous and evident–provided only that in the meanwhile we believe it, as we are instructed and encouraged to do by the example of the light of grace explaining what was a puzzle of the same order to the light of nature. Bondage of the Will, p. 317

As Christians we are to thread all of our questions, concerns and frustrations through the needle of the Word of God. This (Rom. 12.1-2) is to form, shape, and renew our minds. When, even after this, we find ourselves confused or conflicted we can do no better than to rest in God’s wise, good, and unchanging character as we await “the day”.

In light of the brutal murder of 21 Christians in Egypt this weekend, I received a good question yesterday about suffering: “How do we apply the passages on persecution when we in the West don’t have much of it?”

Here are some examples of passages that are commonly referred to:

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” (Philippians 1:29)

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10–12)

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)

Continue Reading…

As a pastor my life is characterized by an incessant longing for people to taste and see the goodness of God’s grace in the gospel. I pray for it, plan for, organize events to promote it, and even dream about it. I want to see the gospel come to our city and our church. I want evident gospel renewal.

In Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities, there is a memorable scene where a large cask of wine is dropped and broken in the street. The cask had burst like a walnut shell and gushing all over the stones in the street. Dickens goes on to write:

All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. The rough, irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed, one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures that approached them, had dammed it into little pools; these were surrounded, each by its own jostling group or crowd, according to its size. Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women’s heads, which were squeezed dry into infants’ mouths; others made small mud-embankments, to stern the wine as it ran; others, directed by lookers-on up at high windows, darted here and there, to cut off little streams of wine that started away in new directions; others devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish. There was no drainage to carry off the wine, and not only did it all get taken up, but so much mud got taken up along with it, that there might have been a scavenger in the street, if anybody acquainted with it could have believed in such a miraculous presence.

Continue Reading…

“How did the Holy Spirit work in the Old Testament and how is this different from the New?” Surprisingly, this is a question that I have gotten many times as a pastor. And, it is an important question. After all, we are talking about the activity of God in history, specifically salvation history. Believers should ask the question and pastors should be able to answer it.

Dr. Jim Hamiliton aims to help both. In this book God’s Indwelling Presence he embarks upon a study of the Holy Spirit’s activity in salvation history. To do this Hamilton had to interact with the work of indwelling, regeneration, baptism, and empowering. While the author spends sufficient time working through each, he spends most of his time contending that while old covenant believers were regenerated by the Holy Spirit they were not indwelt. This ministry (indwelling) is specific to the New Covenant. In an interesting disclosure he writes,

As I embarked upon this study I planned to argue that Old Testament saints were indwelt, but the evidence to the contrary forced me to abandon that position. Those who hold that old covenant believers were indwell have not given satisfactory explanations of the salvation-historical aspects of John’s Gospel, particularly 7:39 and 16:7.

A strength of this work is Hamilton’s detailed work in the text while maintaining a strong emphasis upon biblical theology. He dives deeply underwater to find textual treasure but then comes up to the surface after every find to show how it connects to both “shores” of the Bible. Even with the discontinuity that he finds between the testaments he shows the continuity in the types/shadows and themes. By doing this the author not only teaches us systematic / biblical theology but also hermeneutics.

In Old Testament times, God dwelt among his people, first in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:8; 29:45; LEv. 26:11-12), then in the temple (Acts 7:46-47). In the New Testament are, believers are themselves the temple of the living God (1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; 1 Peter 2:5). Indwelling does exist in the old covenant, but it is not each individual that is indwelt. In the old covenant God indwelt the temple. In the new covenant the people of God are the temple, and God dwells in them.”

I picked up this book to sharpen my understanding of how the Holy Spirit works in salvation history. Through his own conclusions and interactions with others on this topic I have achieved my objective. The book is technical, however, Hamilton’s lucid writing style and brevity (200 pages) makes it quite accessible.

Discounted copies (including Kindle) are available at Amazon.

I really appreciated this brief video from The Gospel Coalition. Bryan Chapell, Mike Bullmore, and Alistair Begg discuss some important reminders concerning the process of sermon prep. I am thankful for these guys, who, being veterans are willing to share with a younger generation.

In particular, I liked Begg’s words here:

Each week I…

  • Pray.
  • Think myself empty.
  • Read myself full.
  • Write myself clear.
  • Pray myself hot.
  • Be myself.
  • Forget myself.

Here is more from this group (RSS readers may have to click through to the site to view the video)

And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.” (Mark 14:53)

At the trial of Jesus we have him being led to the chief priest. Here we have  a very ironic scene that is both historically and theologically charged.

In the Bible we understand that everything ultimately points to the person and work of Christ (Lk. 24:26-27, 44-47). The Old Testament is laden with shadows pointing forward to the substance which is Christ (Col. 2:16-17). As question 19 in the Heidelberg Catechism say, “God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets and foreshadowed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; and finally God fulfilled it through his own beloved Son.”

So here in this scene we have Jesus standing before the high priest. Or, we might say, the substance (Jesus) standing before the shadow (high priest).

Continue Reading…