Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Calvin on Why We Pray

“But if God knows what things we have need of, before we ask him, where lies the advantage of prayer? If he is ready, of his own free will, to assist us, what purpose does it serve to employ our prayers, which interrupt the spontaneous course of his providence? The very design of prayer furnishes an easy answer. Believers do not pray, with the view of informing God about things unknown to him, or of exciting him to do his duty, or of urging him as though he were reluctant. On the contrary, they pray, in order that they may arouse themselves to seek him, that they may exercise their faith in meditating on his promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them into his bosom; in a word, that they may declare that from Him alone they hope and expect, both for themselves and for others, all good things. God himself, on the other hand, has purposed freely, and without being asked, to bestow blessings upon us; but he promises that he will grant them to our prayers. We must, therefore, maintain both of these truths, that He freely anticipates our wishes, and yet that we obtain by prayer what we ask. As to the reason why he sometimes delays long to answer us, and sometimes even does not grant our wishes, an opportunity of considering it will afterwards occur.”

John Calvin
Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, volume 1

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Quick Thought About Our Differences

You and I might very well come from different types of cultural backgrounds. Your skin color may be different than mine and we might be different genders. We might disagree on sports, art, politics, morality, religion, and just about everything else. We might each live our lives in a totally different fashion, with completely different understandings of what’s right and wrong, even true and false.

I want you to know something about me though. Even though I passionately hold to those things which I believe to be true, I am 100% committed to this fact: No matter who you are or how you live your life, you are created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully made, and worthy of my respect as such. Please forgive me when I fail to live up to this ideal, and know that those who do not espouse such belief, do not act in the name of Christ, no matter what they may claim.

I'd love to really get to know you, and have you know me. Where we differ, let's at least try to better understand one another. We don't need to agree in the end, but perhaps we can avoid the almost reflexive vilifying of each other that is all too common in our culture. And where we do happen to find common ground, let's commit to working together for what we agree is the common good. 

No doubt, we will continue to disagree on any number of issues, ideas and areas of belief.  But if such a mindset and practice as I've outlined here were to become commonplace, the world--though still far from perfect--would certainly be more pleasant. That would be nice. And I think that's something on which we can all agree.

Friday, May 15, 2015

On the Importance of Reading Church History

“When I started reading (The Descent of the Dove by Charles) Williams, I was a sectarian, ‘related’ only to a small coterie of people who lived and thought and prayed like me.  When I finished, I was part of a congregation centuries deep and continents wide.” 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tim Keller on Prayer

"To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule--it is a failure to treat God as God."

Tim Keller
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter: Tragic Mistake or Deeper Magic?

Here is a nice video that Stephen Altrogge put together for Easter, poetically discussing the deeper magic* of Easter.

*-Whenever you can invoke The Chronicles of Narnia, that's a winner in my book!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why Does the Resurrection Matter?

This great video was put together by the folks at Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis. May it be a blessing to you this Easter.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Cross

As finite beings...
  • We can not bridge the infinite chasm that separates us from a holy God. 
  •  We can not pay the infinite debt that God is due on account of our sin. 
  •  We can not convey the infinite glory that God possesses.
But Christ can...and did…on the cross.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Jesus Outside the Lines

After much anticipation on my part, my copy (finally!) arrived. I can't wait to dig into this new book by my friend and former pastor, Scott Sauls.

Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides is advertised as being for those who are "weary of us against them," instead showing how "Jesus offers us a way forward-- away from harshness, caricatures, and stereotypes." Sounds like a book that Scott would be the perfect guy to write, and it sounds awfully good to me!

If it sounds good to you too, join me in checking out it out. Watch the video below and pick up your copy while they're still in stock so you don't have to wait like I did! Endorsements, a sample chapter, and study materials that go along with the book are also available here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

N.T. Wright on the Problem of Evil

"We are not told—or not in any way that satisfies our puzzled questioning—how and why there is radical evil within God’s wonderful, beautiful, and essentially good creation. One day I think we shall find out, but I believe we are incapable of understanding it at the moment, in the same way that a baby in the womb would lack the categories to think about the outside world. What we are promised, however, is that God will make a world in which all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well, a world in which forgiveness is one of the foundation stones and reconciliation is the cement which holds everything together. And we are given this promise not as a matter of whistling in the dark, not as something to believe even though there is no evidence, but in and through Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, and in and through the Spirit through whom the achievement of Jesus becomes a reality in our world and in our lives. When we understand forgiveness, flowing from the work of Jesus and the Spirit, as the strange and powerful thing it really is, we begin to realize that God’s forgiveness of us, and our forgiveness of others, is the knife that cuts the rope by which sin, anger, fear, recrimination and death are still attached to us. Evil will have nothing to say at the last, because the victory of the cross will be fully implemented."

N.T. Wright

Friday, December 19, 2014

Straight No Chaser...The Twelve Days of Christmas

Here's another of the songs I try to share each Christmas. It's a different take on a familiar tune...and it's a whole lot of fun!

Missing the Point of Christmas

This is a reprint of a post from December 12, 2012

The other day I was at the store looking at cards when I saw a pretty, red and gold card with the following acrostic emblazoned upon its front:

Holy One

I was thankful that amidst all the commercialization and materialism of Christmas, someone had remembered the Reason for the Season (do I need a little TM after that?). I couldn't help but shake my head in dismay though when I opened the card to find this inside:

Did you catch the word that set me off?


Too often we (even we, in the Church) think of God as being like Santa Claus, keeping two lists: "Naughty" and "Nice." The whole point of Christmas though is that not one of us is good enough to attain "Nice" list standing. What we (each and every one of us) DESERVE is nothing less than the convicting judgment of a righteous God, who perfectly understands how very short we fall from the standard of holiness that is required of us.

But that's the great thing about Christmas. In it we see the grand manifestation of the grace of God in the fact that he did not give us what we DESERVE. Rather he took on human flesh that he might live the perfect life we fail to live, and die the atoning death we DESERVE to die. You see, for those who trust in Christ, God doesn't keep a record of your naughtiness to hold against you. Rather, he has worked graciously, savingly, forgivingly, "canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross." (Colossians 2:14)

It's understandable that non-Christians would miss the point of Christmas. But if you call yourself by the name of the One who was laid in a manger over 2000 years ago, please don't make that same mistake.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What Christmas is All About

My daughter is in the fifth grade. It seems like it was a LONG time ago when I was that age--probably because it was! Two things in particular stick out in my memory from that year: 1) I remember the St. Louis Cardinals winning the 1982 World Series, and 2) I remember taking part in a play at school. It was a production of It's a Charlie Brown Christmas and I played the role of Linus.

Linus was of course the most challenging part in the production because I had a monologue that was much longer than any of the lines other characters had. In that monologue, Linus explains what Christmas is really all about. It was my favorite part of the whole production then, and it still is now each time I watch the cartoon production of  It's a Charlie Brown Christmas on TV.

It was a lot to memorize when I was eleven, but with blanket in hand, I was up to the task. The great thing though is the fact that it wasn't only a line in a play, it was gospel truth, a direct quote from the second chapter of the Luke. Merry Christmas to you all and may each of you know the joy that comes with knowing the true meaning of Christmas.

A Christmas Letter

Genealogy is one of my favorite hobbies. I find it especially gratifying to get acquainted with ancestors that I otherwise could never have known. For instance, I never met my great-grandfather, Frank J. Scribner (he died four years before I was born), but I am quite certain that I would have greatly enjoyed him. Not only did he share my ministerial calling, but by all accounts he was a kind, intelligent and loving man.

One of the primary means through which I have gotten to know him is through reading his journals, sermons and various personal correspondences. Among these are this Christmas letter which he penned 57 years ago, and which I enjoy reading annually this time of year. I hope you will enjoy reading it and be blessed by it as well.

An earlier version was originally posted on 12/20/12.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Blessed are the Peacemakers

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus famously proclaims, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9, ESV). In the wake of all that occurred last night in Ferguson, it seems to be quite the appropriate message for us today.

When Jesus spoke of peacemakers, he no doubt had in mind the concept of shalom (Hebrew for "peace"). What we need to keep in mind though is what exactly is encapsulated in shalom. Cornelius Plantinga states the following: 

"The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, whole ness and delight -- a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as it's Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be."

So while it is right for us to be against rioting, arson and looting, it is not enough for our peacemaking to end there. We must also be against systemic injustice, racism, division and oppression. We must realize that it is not enough to try to KEEP peace, especially when true peace doesn't actually exist. We must strive to MAKE peace. 

We need to humbly admit that our point of view just might not always be the point of view of ultimate truth. We must demonstrate empathy before leaping right to judgment. When we can't understand how there could be any logical explanation for a person's actions, that should cause us to wonder if there's a piece of the puzzle we don't see or at least don't fully understand. This involves great deals of listening before speaking; patiently asking for explanation instead of quickly offering criticism; humbly asking God to give us the vision to see where peace needs to be made, the wisdom to know how we should respond, and the courage to follow through with action.

Peacemaking is hard work. It is at times painful. It is always costly. It certainly was for Jesus, the true Son of God, the ultimate peacemaker. He, at ultimate cost to himself, not only KEPT peace, but MADE peace. May we prayerfully and humbly seek to follow his example.

"For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." (Ephesians 2:14-16, ESV)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Can Leviticus Actually Be Good News?

It was said of Willie Mays that his glove was the place where triples went to die. I suppose it could be said that Leviticus is the place where Bible reading plans go to die.

Many a person has begun a Bible reading plan at the start of a new year with high hopes and the best of intentions. Things generally begin well. The stories found in Genesis keep things moving along and the mighty acts of God in Exodus usually keep the reader on track. 

Then something happens. That something is Leviticus. With all of its detail and minutiae regarding ceremonial law, many a reader simply loses interest. What, after all, does all of it have to do with the Gospel?

Against the backdrop of this reality comes a new commentary on Leviticus  by Dr. Jay Sklar from IVP's Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series. Jay is Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, where I took two semesters of Hebrew from him. As unbelievable as it may seem, each class period could truly be classified as a devotional experience. If a man can turn the study of Hebrew into a devotional experience, he can no doubt show us how the Gospel sings in Leviticus. That, after all, is what it is intended to do. 

He begins by pointing us to a vital, though often overlooked fact: Leviticus can only be properly understood in light of the story that immediately precedes it.
The story immediately before Leviticus is one in which the Lord redeems the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and enters into covenant relationship with them. They are to be his ‘treasured possession’ who are to fulfill a special role: being a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’, and in this way spreading the Lord’s kingdom of justice, mercy, goodness and love in all the earth. What is more, they are to do this with the Lord himself dwelling in their midst in the tent of meeting. If you were an Israelite, all of this would lead to some burning questions: How in the world can the holy and pure King of the universe dwell among his sinful and impure people? How can he live here, in our very midst, without his holiness melting us in our sin and impurity? And how can we live as his people in such a way that we really do extend his holy kingdom throughout the earth?
Leviticus answers these questions.
But that’s not all Leviticus does.
(I)t also casts a vision that takes the Israelites back to the Lord’s intent for humanity from the beginning of the world: to walk in rich fellowship with their covenant King, enjoying his care and blessing, and extending throughout all the earth his kingdom of justice, mercy, kindness, righteousness, holiness and love.
And all the while Jay reminds us, “If what we see in the Old Testament  is an acorn, what we see in Jesus is a magnificent oak. This is especially true for the themes of Leviticus.”

I am very thankful to have this commentary on my bookshelf and I highly recommend that you do the same.