“Beautiful Beyond Description”

I’m just back from a Jonathan Edwards conference in Durham. The last talk was superb and I thought I would share its outline with you [plus a few random thoughts of my own].
It called to mind an article I read on a BBC website some years ago on what makes a person beautiful. “True beauty”, said the author, “is about symmetry, balance and harmony”. He went on to illustrate this with precision line drawings and pencil sketches of Leonardo Da Vinci. “Every model” he asserted “when you look at their face, jaw, eyes and cheekbones, will have angles that are symmetrical and identical on both sides” [Just by the way, this is a dim, distant, paraphrase]. What depressed me the next morning, as I looked in the mirror, was a nose bent in the middle and one eye higher than the other – I decided I would settle for a little inner beauty!
Our conference speaker at Durham made exactly the same point. He illustrated balance, with all parts working harmoniously, in the abseiling activity of an arachnid descending from its thread, and spinning its silky web. ‘Thus’, he provisionally concluded, ‘we see the glory of divine beauty in nature through the […]


How to Read Revelation

Of all the many and various obstacles that stand in the way of people reading and profiting from the book of Revelation, perhaps one of the greatest is the bizarre, head-scratching imagery of the book. But there is a key that will unlock this closed door—and it’s a key you’ve had in your pocket all along. It’s called the Old Testament.
There are more OT references in Revelation than in any other NT book. Just how many there are exactly depends on how you count them and what you regard as an OT reference. The of range estimates varies from 394 up to more than 1,200. Whatever the precise number, you can’t go more than couple of verses without finding an allusion or an echo or a quotation from the OT.
So if the imagery in Revelation seems strange to us, I think it’s mainly because we don’t know the OT well enough. One like a son of man among the lampstands, the four horsemen riding different coloured horses, the mark of the beast, seven trumpets, seven plagues, the new heavens and earth, a great red dragon, the new Jerusalem adorned with precious stones… The OT must be the first place we […]


Trinitarian Controversy: Necessary Sharpening or Unnecessary Strife?

Sometimes the unfortunate idiomatic expression: “Boys will be boys,” is used to excuse turning a blind eye to the irresponsible behavior of some. After all, what more can you expect from boys? Well, if I can borrow that phrase and adjust it slightly, I suppose one might excuse their deaf ear when it comes to certain theological controversies determining that: “Theologians will be theologians.” There seems to be a certain expectation that theologians will raise mountains out of molehills, create crises out of theological thin air, and make every point of doctrine and endless potential for dilemma. I understand and am not completely unsympathetic toward those who see many theological controversies as a hopeless labyrinth of details lacking practical value.

But not every controversy is a mere “quarrel of words.” The history of the church testifies that out of our greatest strife we have been most sharpened. While those who engage in the debates might do a better job communicating to observers the value and worth of their discussions, so too those who tend to be disinclined shouldn’t be quick to dismiss all arguments as an “unhealthy craving for controversy” (1 Timothy 6:4). Perhaps we can all do better at learning […]


Friction

Recently I was out in the woods hauling some things with a wheelbarrow. As I tromped down the hill, with the weeds, grass, and briars brushing against my legs and arms, I was concerned about getting poison ivy. Then I remembered seeing this video about how to never contract it again (proving Facebook does have some value!).

The message of the video, delivered by Dr. Jim Brauker, is that the urishiol oil in poison ivy must remain on your skin for some time to create the itchy rash. Since this oil is undetectable to the eye and adheres to the skin, it is easy for it to remain on your body. Using very visible axle grease to demonstrate, in the video Brauker shows different ways you get the oil on your skin and then, with his hands and arms blackened by the grease, goes inside to clean up. Brauker uses different soaps and proves that none of them is the true answer to getting rid of the oil. The key is (you guessed it from the title) friction. He uses soap and running water with a cloth, and carefully cleans the axle grease off by rubbing it. He explains in the video that most people get […]


A Catechism for the Very Youngest

Many of our readers are familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which B.B. Warfield notes is definitely worth learning, but definitely not very easy. Many families use the shorter catechism as a regular part of their devotions, family worship and theological training of children. Others are also familiar with the First Catechism – a form of the shorter catechism designed for younger children.

When our children were very young (able to speak a few words, but certainly not sentences), I found even the First Catechism to be a little unwieldy for them. And so we began to put together a short catechism for very young children.


Browse Worthy: Trinitarianism and Complementarianism (Continued)

Some other articles have appeared that I believe shed some further, needed light on the discussion of the Trinity that I chronicled here last week. As I share these links, let me add a thought or two to highlight the issue for those who may not understand its importance. The danger in trying to be simple is that I will not be able to convey all the complexities of the matter and the problems that arise from a lack of doctrinal precision. That is why you should read the links.

At the heart of this discussion are two basic matters. First is the use of the term “eternal submission.”  This phrase is being used to describe the relationship between God the Father and God the Son before the incarnation. By this phrase its proponents mean that the Son has forever been in obedience to the Father. The problem with this concept is that it begins to create a divide into the oneness of God, as by implication it would mean that the divine Father and divine Son have differing – if not different – wills. Yet as the articles below remind us, orthodox truth from confessions throughout the centuries have always upheld that God is […]


The Lord’s Supper is a Heavenly Meal

In the Lord’s Supper, we look back upon Christ’s sufferings. We know that communion is a memorial meal that we do, as Jesus instructed, “in remembrance of me.” We understand that the broken bread and poured wine represent the body and blood of Jesus, who died on the cross for his people. So we look back in remembrance in the Lord’s Supper.

Yet we must also look ahead. For the Lord’s Supper is an eschatological meal. Eschatology is the study of the last things. By using this word to describe the Lord’s Supper, we mean that when participating in it we are to be looking ahead to the end of earth’s history, the day of the Final Judgment, and the eternity of heaven. How do we know this? In the words of institution in the Lord’s Supper that Paul gives us, he tells the church that “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (I Cor. 11:26). Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we should be remembering he is coming again. We are saying in its observance, “He is coming! Jesus is coming back again!”

The book of Revelation helps us to understand this […]


Browse Worthy: Trinitarianism and Complementarianism

A fascinating debate is taking place on the blogosphere regarding the Trinity. Initiated by a defense of the complementarian view (that men and women have differing yet complementary roles in the home and church) that used the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son, the discussion has turned into a interesting dialogue with men like Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware on the one side and Liam Gollagher and Carl Trueman on the other.

I bring this to your attention and link to these posts not because of a morbid curiosity to see brothers debating or an enjoyment in wrangling over words. Rather, I do so because getting the Trinity right is foundational to Christianity. Also, this discussion serves as an example of how we must be careful in seeking to support one doctrinal position that we do not stretch other tenets to a breaking point.

Below I simply list the columns with the author and dates so you can follow the flow of the discussion. The first three posts set some historical context, as this matter has been under discussion for some time and these works are referred to in some of the current posts. If other links become available, I may add to […]


Help! I Struggle With My Pastor’s Preaching

Call me an old school Presbyterian but in my estimation there is nothing as important as the preaching of God’s Word. I don’t think it was overbold for PT Forsyth to suggest: “With its preaching Christianity stands or falls.” Preaching is not merely an appendix to the many activities of the church, an ancillary support to a pastor’s more important tasks, or a supplement for the spirituality of a congregation. It stands at the center. It is the primary method God uses to give faith (Romans 10:17), to save sinners (1 Corinthians 1:21), and to spiritually strengthen (Romans 16:25). It’s for this reason the Westminster Shorter Catechism says: “The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.” That’s why it can be such a spiritual crisis when people struggle with their pastor’s preaching.

I was recently speaking with a friend who was dealing with this problem. For some time he has not felt overly encouraged or built up by the preaching in his local church. It’s not that there’s false doctrine being preached or anything […]


Browse Worthy: Living Christianly

A smattering of recent posts that will encourage you in your walk with Christ!

The Ten Pleasures

David Murray restates the Ten Commandments by beginning each one with the word “enjoy.” No, he is not trying to give a sugary, Joel Osteen-esque new translation of them. Rather, he is reminding us that the commandments, summarized by Christ as loving God and loving our neighbor, have a positive application that should result in us experiencing the answer to the first catechism question.

Girl in the Picture

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in fewer words than that Emily Thomes adds to the picture by telling the story of her remarkable conversion. Both look and read, then marvel over the power of the gospel once again!

One Facebook, Two Worlds, Three Problems

Trevin Wax explains how our Facebook feed is feeding our biases, and how it can impact true public discourse. He gives some ideas on how to overcome the divide.

Why Go to Church? 50+ Things You Miss Out On By Not Attending Church

The title says it all!

Christian Funerals Can Be Too Happy

I have often thought this and have written about it here and here. Love the direct simplicity of this post.