Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Bruised Reed Chapter 12

Sibbes continues in discussing the government of Christ upon the throne of our hearts. In this chapter he expounds upon the second conclusion derived from this truth. The point in this section will be to show that the government of Christ "in his church and in his children is wise and well-ordered."

Quick Outline:
  • Judgment and Wisdom
  • The Need for Heavenly Light
  • Where Christ's Government is Set Up
  • How Christ Governs Us
  • The Effects of this in Practice

Sibbes begins by showing that spiritually regenerate men, because Christ has rule in their heart, will have a correct judgment upon spiritual matters. He does make a disclaimer that, "truth is truth, and error, error, and that which is unlawful is unlawful, whether men think so or not." A wise man, when Christ has the rule in his heart, will agree to these things. Therefore, we must "let truth have full scope without check or restraint, and let Satan and his instruments do their worst, they shall not prevail."

This then is the importance of receiving "heavenly light". If we have not been given the Spirit of truth then we will not be able to make correct judgments as we ought. Christ so works in our hearts and forms in us correct judgments that we often can be mistaken in thinking that "that good which is in [us] and issues from [us] is from [ourselves], and not from the powerful work of grace." Only through heavenly light being imparted will men have sound judgment.

Because of this we come to understand that "wherever true wisdom and judgment are, there Christ has set up his government, because where wisdom is it directs us, not only to understand, but to order our ways aright". What happens, then, is that Christ not only teaches that which we should do we are taught the very act of doing it. So that we are "not only taught that [we] should love, fear, and obey, but [we] are taught love itself, and fear and obedience themselves.

But how does Christ do this you ask? He does this by not only shining on us the light of understanding but by also doing a work upon our hearts to cause us to treasure that truth. If Christ does not do this might work by His Spirit then the truth "does us no good, but helps to condemn us." Unless Christ comes in and does this work we will not be wise and will have no true judgment, Christ must overcome Satan and take charge of our souls.


There is little that needs to be discussed from this chapter, it is all pretty straight-forward. One wonders how different our approach to sharing the gospel, preaching, writing, etc. would be if we really believed what is in this chapter. If we really believe that it takes a work of the Spirit to understand and treasure truth, then we would not be so surprised by the "ignorance" of the world. Why are we so surprised that some politicians argue for the killing of babies? Why are we so surprised that homosexuality is celebrated? Why are we so surprised that Christ is not treasured?

If we really get what Sibbes is saying here then we will preach the truth as it stands and not try to twist the truth so that men might accept it easier. The truth is they probably will accept it, because it is adulterated, tainted, and no longer the truth; that is what unregenerate men love to swallow--falsehood. Therefore, out of deep love we must be passionate about proclaiming the truth, all the while trusting in the sovereign mercy of God to soften men's hearts.

Pearls and Diamonds:
"Truth is truth, and error, error, and that which is unlawful is unlawful, whether men think so or not." (p.84)
"Let truth have full scope without check or restraint, and let Satan and his instruments do their worst, they shall not prevail..." (p.85)
"There is no natural proportion between an unsanctified heart and a sanctified judgment." (p.89)
"When the judgment of Christ is set up in our judgments, and thence, by the Spirit of Christ, brought into our hearts, then it is in its proper place and throne. Until then, truth does us no good, but helps to condemn us." (p.89)
"And Satan by corruption gets all the holds of the soul, till Christ, stronger than he, comes and drives him out, taking possession of all the powers and parts of soul and body to be weapons of righteousness, to serve him." (p.90)

Today in Blogworld 1/30 & 31

Jonathan Leeman continues blogging through Willow Creek's REVEAL. Today he gives us Part 9.

Denny Burk responds to Rick Warren on The Colbert Report. So do I.

There is also a very good disussion on praise songs at Old Truth. There is some very good information on the history of praise songs. It would be interesting to contrast this with the history of hymns. I find it quite funny that sometimes our arguments over praise songs are the same as they were 250 years ago with hymns. Nonetheless, the point is really good that our music should be heady and hearty.

Steve Camp has a great article on the Sinfulness of Original Sin, along with a song [poem] in the post.

Mark Driscoll offers help to preachers setting a preaching schedule. (HT: Micah)

I think you are going to be seeing quite a bit of discussion coming out of Bethlehem in the coming days concerning interacting with Muslims. Piper offers answers to "How shall we love our Muslim neighbors". As always Christ is at the center.

Something that is pretty cool is the 9Marks report card. Very interesting stuff. Much can be learned in the first couple of pages as well. (HT: JT)

In other 9Marks news I can't help but wonder how Dever's statement, here,will fly in the SBC. Apparently Dever will continue cooperating with Acts29. His statement is excellent.

Dr. Mohler discusses an often ignored voice in the abortion debate, it is the voice they do not want to hear, the dad's.

Rick Warren on the Colbert Report

I was wondering when someone was going to pick up on this. Two nights ago Rick Warren was the guest on The Colbert Report. I wanted to post quickly on this but felt it wise to wait until someone else "broke the story". This morning Denny Burk did just that. It is with much trepidation that I offer my critique. I do not want to be unfair to Rick Warren, and have my critique lost on the person or even worse turn into sinful slander. After watching this it broke my heart. I was infuriated, full of pain, and all sorts of emotions. I want to use such strong words as, "Rick Warren abandons the gospel", but I am not sure that is wise or totally accurate. Nonetheless I urge you to watch the clip. Here are my critiques:

There are a few minor critiques that taken by themselves probably would not have necessitate a post. These are not major issues, but still in my passion to be ever truthful I must mention them.

  1. Warren's conclusion on God's purpose for Creation is typical modern evangelicalism. God created the world just for me and so he could love me. Now, God did create the world with a secondary purpose of creating us to display and give His love to us (not to mention other attributes). But the primary purpose (which Warren does not mention) is that God created the world and the galaxies and everything to display His splendor and His worth. When we put ourselves as the central purpose for Creation we open the door for neutering the gospel.
  2. This is very minor and really a point of semantics, but I did not appreciate Warren's definition of fundamentalists as "someone that stops listening". It depends on what you mean by fundamentalist. Do you mean going back to the fundamentals and keeping essential these fundamentals? If so, then Warren is saying that the framers of the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed are people that stop listening. Carl Henry is a person that stops listening. The list could go on and on, so his definition is not helpful and can be harmful to the discussion.
  3. Warren's doctrine of eternity is also suspect. I am not certain where he gets the idea that life is a practice ground so we are not a doofus in heaven.
  4. His statement about his book being historical Christianity made simple is very debatable. Saying there is nothing in that book that historical Christianity has not taught for 2,000 years is actually a little off. Actually, as we will see in a moment, the problem so often is not that he says things that are unorthodox; it is that often he fails to say things that are orthodox.
  5. Warren saying I have connections at the end about getting Jesus on the show. I understand that he was just joking, and I'm sure given the situation I may have made the same joke. Perhaps I was just so upset at this point that it caused me to boil over, but I found the way he said that highly arrogant.

There are also a few major errors in Warren's presentation. Most of which lie in what Warren failed to say. Bryan Chapell tells a story in his book Christ-Centered Preaching that has stuck with me. Many times in his seminary classes Chapell has played a tape of a preacher's morning meditations. They all nod in agreement. When Chapell says that this man is the leader of a local cult, his students are always astonished. They argue that he clothes his heresy. Then Chapell says, "The radio preacher has not hidden his heresy; he exposes it every time he speaks in what he fails to say. The real problem is that evangelical preachers inadvertently and so frequently present such similar messages that Christians fail to hear the difference between a message that purports to be biblical and one that actually is."(p.267-268, First Edition) What did Rick Warren fail to say?

  1. Jesus. The only mention of Jesus came from the lips of Colbert when he asked, "If we ask Jesus to come into our life will he?" To which Warren responded, absolutely. That's good, and maybe this should be in the minor section. Because we do not always have to mention the name of Jesus (although it certainly would be a good practice). Where I have a problem with his lack of mentioning Jesus is in the next points
  2. Twice it was as if Stephen Colbert (or perhaps the Holy Spirit) were begging Rick Warren to preach the gospel. When Colbert asked, "Am I living my purpose", or "what is the purpose of everyday" that was an invitation to preach the biblical gospel. Warren could have easily spoke of Creation (but again remember his purpose for Creation is not God revealing His glory, but us) then moved into our sinning against our Creator. (This would not have been as awkward as it seems because you could have easily used Colbert's "am I living my purpose" as a launching point). After briefly (it would have to be brief, yet pointed, given the format) discussing the aspect of sin you could preach the Cross. Fairly easy within about a minute. Yet what did Warren do? He did not even mention Jesus, sin, God's glory nothing. He told Stephen Colbert that as long as he is being a good doofus then he makes God smile. What?!? Where does he get the notion that God gets enjoyment out of watching you be you? Colbert being Colbert would be blaspheming God and trampling His glory. God does not enjoy that!

That is enough of a critique. Where does this philosophy come from and what can we do not to slip into it? I believe it is a rejection of the truth behind 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 as well as a rejection of the many places in Scripture that we see God's Word and His Gospel is His power unto salvation to those that believe. Warren has the underlying philosophy that we have to "make the gospel simple". There is a part of that which is true, but what often happens is that in "making the gospel simple" we neuter it of any value. In which case we end up preaching on things like purpose and fail to mention the name of Jesus nor be faithful to the biblically revealed Gospel. When men feel like they have to dress up the gospel to make it attractive interviews like this are all you are going to get.

Earlier I mentioned Denny Burk breaking the story. His belief is that Warren should not have even attended the show, so as not to cast his pearls before swine. That very well may be true, but Warren did not cast any pearls. This may be controversial but I am also not so sure that Colbert is swine. I am not sure I would go so far as to say Warren should not have appeared on the show. Maybe not. Maybe. What I do believe is that if were going to go on the show he should have not felt the need to clothe the gospel and preach it unadulterated. I've rambled enough, here is the video, tell me what you think:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Today in Blogworld 1/29

I was very excited to see that C.J. Mahaney has entered the blogosphere. Tony Reinke from the Shepherd's Scrapbook will be assisting him in this endeavor. I have been very blessed by the ministry of Mahaney the past few months and look forward to many thought provoking, Christ-centered posts. It doesn't look like they have comments yet but I hope they allow them soon. That's one thing I wish DG's blog offered more of.

Noel Piper gives 7 steps to becoming a better writer.

Nathan Busenitz from Pulpit magazine shares with us a few quotes on ministry. I remember awhile back reading the one on there by John Owen that kicked me in the face. "A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more."

Trevin Wax has a very thought-provoking thank you to his parents for not letting him dull his mind with Nintendo.

Randy Alcorn continues his series on longing.

The Bruised Reed Chapter 11

Chapter 11 begins a new section in Sibbes work. We now move from the bruised reed and the smoking flax to consider Christ's gracious government. This gracious government is where Christ will set up "absolute government in us which shall prevail over all corruptions." The chapter will serve us to make certain that we do not get the cart before the horse. Sibbes reminds us again that justification leads to sanctification and not the opposite.

Quick Outline:
  • Christ's Judgement Established in Us
  • Christ's Mildness and His Government
  • Pardon Leads to Obedience
  • Justification Leads to Sanctification

What is meant by the text in Isaiah 42:3..."he will faithfully bring forth justice" (or in the KJV that Sibbes would have used, "he will bring forth judgment unto victory)? Sibbes believes that it is speaking of Christ's rule in the believers heart. As Christ is seated on the throne of our hearts (keep in mind this was written before the Spirit-Filled Life tracts), his judgments become our judgments. What is taking place is that the Spirit of God is changing our affections.

Sibbes then sets forth to show various conclusions from this text. The first will be dealt with in this chapter and the others later. That first conclusion is that, "Christ is mild in the way that we have seen so that he may then set up his government in those whom he is so gentle and tender over". The reason then for our pardon is to secure our obedience. This then is a fitting judgment as to whether or not we can claim the mercy of Christ; are we desiring to follow Christ in obedience? As Sibbes says, "None ever did truly desire mercy for pardon but desired mercy for healing."

The chapter closes with the truth that justification leads to sanctification. Even in this title we can discern two things. One, justification comes before sanctification. Therefore, sanctification can never be the grounds for justification. Two, justification will lead to sanctification. Therefore, justification will never be alone. Sibbes expounds upon this and cautions us to remember four things.
  1. The first and chief ground of our comfort is that Christ as a priest offered himself as a sacrifice to his Father for us.
  2. When we are overtaken with sin we must remember to come back to Christ for mercy
  3. When we become cold in affection the best way to warm ourselves is at the fire of Jesus' love and mercy.
  4. We are ruled by a spirit of love. His subjects are voluntaries.

As he closes Sibbes has a little doctrine to teach about the last (and actually preceding) points. Loving Jesus and freely following him and taking up his yoke is not something that natural man will do or can do. "Our disposition must be changed...they seek for heaven in hell that seek for spiritual love in an unchanged heart."


I really appreciate this chapter and Sibbes' desire to make certain that we not get the cart before the horse. I also am very thankful that Sibbes concluded with reminding us that unless our hearts are regenerate we will never love Christ. That is what will keep all of these things turn into legalistic duties to perform. It is only out of regenerate heart, and living that springs from that heart, that we will be able to love Christ as we ought.

I have not studied in depth Isaiah 42:1-3, but I do wonder if Sibbes' interpretation of this verse is accurate. Is this "rule" speaking of Jesus' government in our heart? What do you think?

Also, on page 80 when Sibbes says, "This also shows that those are misled that make Christ to be only righteousness to us and not sanctification, except by imputation, whereas it is a great part of our happiness to be under such a Lord...", who do you see as his "enemy" in this section? Who is the polemic against? Is it Catholicism? Or is it those that make grace cheap?

Pearls and Diamonds:

" is most necessary that the Spirit should alter the taste of the soul so that it might savour the things of the Spirit so deeply that all other things should be out of relish."

"None ever did truly desire mercy for pardon but desired mercy for healing."

"They seek heaven for hell that seek for spiritual love in an unchanged heart."

Christian Star...A Contradiction in Terms

"This is a point that our generation cannot afford to ignore. Why is it that we constantly parade Christian athletes, media personalities, and pop singers? Why should we think that their opinions or their experiences of grace are of any more significance than those of any other believer? When we tell outsiders about people in our church, do we instantly think of the despised and the lowly who have become Christians, or do we love to impress people with the importance of the men and women who have become Christians?"
D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, p.29
Amen! I fear that those of us in the "Reformed Camp" can gravitate towards the same thing. Some follow Piper, some follow Sproul, some follow Carson, some follow Christ...(By no means is this anything against Piper, Sproul, or Carson). We must be careful not to make "stars" out of our heroes of the faith. Remember that their light is borrowed. Let us magnify the grace of God in the life of a high school janitor as much as we do in the life of our first baseman. Let us boast in the Cross through the lives of the clean-up crew as much as the keynote speaker.
UPDATE: Also, I want to point out what I mean by the title. I am not saying that one cannot be a "star" and a Christian at the same time. What I am saying, and believe Carson is saying, is that at the point in which the "stardom" is the attracting power it fails to be Christian.

The Bruised Reed Chapter 10

When I first received this book I became very excited about reading Chapter 10. I have always wondered what the apostle meant by quenching the spirit. It was my hope that Sibbes would exposit that and lead me into this truth. I am a little disappointed that my original hopes were not granted, yet at the same time Sibbes has done a wonderful job of presenting for us ways that men "offend deeply against this merciful disposition of Christ".

Quick Outline:

  • False Despair of Christ's Mercy
  • False Hope of Christ's Mercy
  • Resisting Christ's Mercy
  • Presuming on Christ's Mercy
  • Seeking Another Source of Mercy
  • Mistreating the Heirs of Mercy
  • Strife Among the Heirs of Mercy
  • Taking Advantage of the Bruised
  • Despising the Simple Means of Mercy

Sibbes has been very gracious in his words up to this point. He has labored to portray the astonishing grace and mercy of our Savior. He has said such sweet things as, "there is more mercy in Christ, than sin in us". Yet there are those that "offend deeply against this merciful disposition". Sibbes now discusses the various ways that we might offend Christ deeply.

All of these listed have one thing in common, they reject Christ in his mercy. Whether it be disbelieving him to be merciful, presuming upon his mercy while living in sin, or treating others without mercy. All of these have at their foundation a misunderstanding, or even outright rejection, of the mercy of Christ.

The man that has a false despair is not trusting in Christ's mercy and is therefore quenching the Spirit. The man that has a false hope of Christ's mercy is drawing further away from Christ into the shackles of sin, and is therefore quenching the Spirit. Some even go so far as to resist the mercy of Christ, because they will not be troubled with the light of these sparks of grace. Others will presume upon Christ's mercy. Much like those that have a false hope, because of our carnal disposition we can still struggle with presuming upon his mercy.

Even in the midst of our spanking Sibbes stops to remind us of the mercy and power of Christ in holding us. Sibbes reminds us of all the "means whereby Christ preserves grace": Holy communion (in which I believe Sibbes is referring to fellowship with other believers, especially at the Lord's Table), holy duties, the gospel ministers of Jesus and His gospel, and the fact that grace is strengthend by the exercise of it. Yet all of these are not what sustains us but the means that Jesus uses to do so; therefore let us glory and boast in Him!

After Sibbes reminds us again of the keeping power of Jesus he takes up again pointing out the ways that we can quench the Spirit. Some men will forsake the mercy of Christ by searching out other sources. Did not the Israelites do this often? Do we not still? Another way that we deeply offend the merciful disposition of our Lord is in our merciless acts towards other believers. This seems to be Sibbes point in the last few pages of this chapter. And finally, he points out that we are quenching the Spirit when we despise the simple means of mercy.


This is a great chapter. Timmy Brister has some excellent discussion on this chapter as well. There are a few things left for us to discuss from this chapter. It is a longer chapter (especially for Sibbes) and it is packed with thoughts. Here are a few questions for us to ponder:

  1. In his section on resisting Christ's mercy, Sibbes seems to be suggesting that the Holy Spirit can be resisted. We know that Sibbes was a Puritan that held dearly to the doctrines of grace. What then would be his thought on irresistible grace? Does this statement not contradict irresistible grace: "If men appeal to their own consciences, they will tell them that the Holy Spirit has often knocked at their hearts, as willing to have kindled some holy desires in them. How else can they be said to resist the Holy Ghost, but that the Spirit was readier to draw them to a further degree of goodness than was consistent with their own wills?"

    Our understanding of this question will reveal whether or not we really understood what the Puritans and early Reformers meant by irresistible grace. If we fail to preach as Sibbes did here, I believe we abandon what the Scriptures reveal that there is a sense in which the Spirit of God is actively rejected and resisted. Yet, we must also understand as Sibbes did that there is an effectual drawing of men that will not be resisted. Thoughts?

  2. When Sibbes says, "what spirit shall we think them to be of that take advantage of the bruisedness and infirmities of men's spirits to relieve them with false peace for their own worldly ends...", do you see modern evangelicalism, or even the SBC? (I point out the SBC because that is where God has planted me). Are we not doing what Sibbes says here if we take sinners that are bruised and weak and we quickly lead them through a prayer and do whatever we can to alleviate their bruising even if it means giving them false peace? Are we not sometimes very quick in bringing men on to make "decisions" so that we can pad our numbers? Sibbes begins railing against popery. My question is, are we that far removed from popery?

Pearls and Diamonds:

"None are damned in the church but those that are determined to be..." (p.67)

"...all comfort should draw us nearer to Christ" (p.68)

"Infirmities are a ground of humility, not a plea for negligence, nor an encouragement to presumption." (p.71)

"One word spoken in season will do more good than a thousand out of season." (p.74)

Self-Disclosure Meme

I was shocked to see my name at the bottom of Timmy Brister's self-disclosure meme. What an honor! I am supposed to disclose 7 facts about myself that few people would know and then tag 7 other people to do the same. This actually is more difficult than I had imagined. So, even though this will probably serve no grand purpose here are my 7 things:

  1. I used to love books as a young child then in junior high I began to abhor books and the whole process of learning. I was not a very good student in high school, and had probably did not read an entire book until my senior year. I still suffer consequences from my lack of paying attention. (If anyone is ever annoyed by my inappropriate uses--or lack of--commas, this is why). Only by the grace of God using a professor named Dr. Barrett did my early passion for learning reignite.

  2. Along the same lines I had no clue what the word "meme" was until this little project. If you asked me what a meme was I probably would mispronounced it and said that it is a character on the Drew Carey Show. Which leads to my third thing...

  3. I am a pretty big fan of Drew Carey. His show really goes in the gutter and he is a somewhat vile man himself, but for some reason I like him. I used to watch a few episodes of the Drew Carey Show every day in high school. I guess I did not have much of a life because...

  4. My first girlfriend was in 8th grade, and that was not serious. I really never had a serious girlfriend until my junior year. I wish I had never had a girlfriend until my wife, but God's grace is sufficient.

  5. I used to dream of being a professional athlete. Which is kind of funny if you know that I am 5'8, 150 pounds. (Probably around 125-130 in high school and college). I practiced baseball for hours a day, throwing a baseball against a concrete slab while standing about 3 feet from it to help my reflexes. It did seem to work, I could have played college baseball for a couple of minor schools. However, the Lord saved me and had different plans for my life.

  6. When the Lord first began working in my life I was a huge fan of TBN, Jesse Duplantis, etc. I even remember thinking that I should as an act of faith not wear my contacts on my drive to school. That would have been really dumb because I cannot see the big E on the eye charts. I would have killed myself or someone else, probably. I was also a passionate Arminian and was not "converted" to the doctrines of grace until college when I tried writing a scholarly paper to refute it. So I used to be passionate about many things I now passionately oppose.

  7. At one point in my life I owned a cd of 2Pac , the Spice Girls, New Kids on the Block, Kris Kross, Ozzy Osbourne, DC Talk, BB King, The Bee Gees, and Vince Gill all at the same time. This may be 8 but along the same music lines; I once stole a piece of candy from Ten Shekel Shirt, a Christian band. So, if you ever read this...sorry!

So, there you go. 7 things about me that you probably did not know. There is probably much more. I have done many stupid things in my life. Now I have to think of 7 other people, some that probably do not know me but I read their blogs.

Garrett, Jimmy, Brian Thornton, Ray Ortlund, Jr., Tom Ascol, Tony Reinke, and has anyone tagged JT yet?

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Bruised Reed Chapter 9

At the end of Chapter 8 Sibbes admonished us to believe Christ and not Satan. He was helping us to see that we need to continue in our duties and bank on the mercy of Christ. In this chapter Sibbes is going to add to that thought.

Quick Outline:
  • How We Should Think of Christ
  • When Christ Seems to be an Enemy
  • When Doubt Assails Us

One of the primary things that Satan attempts to do in the life of the believer is put a wedge between us and Christ. He often does this by causing us to think poorly of Jesus. Yet, we should abhor such ridiculous notions and fixate on the biblical Christ.

But still sometimes Satan causes us to view Christ as an enemy. He especially does this when God is legitmately displaying to us his fatherly displeasure. Yet we must be careful in how we view Christ; even when he seems like an enemy. We should take heart even in this season of displeasure and know that, "He cannot restrain his bowels of mercy long".

Although these things are true, doubt still sometimes overcomes us. What do we do in those times? Sibbes gives wonderful God-centered, Christ-honoring, advice. "Cast yourself into the arms of Christ, and if you perish, perish there. If you do not, you are sure to perish. If mercy is to be found anywhere, it is there". After saying this it is as if Sibbes knows people will still question whether they might be accepted into the arms of Christ; they feel themselves not to be smoking flax. The author then reminds us that, "when he [Christ] goes before us by kindling holy desires in us, he is ready to meet us in his own ways". This very doubt is the act of Christ kindling a holy desire. And when we see that holy desire we can rest assured that Christ is ready to meet us there.


Since the Lord changed my heart and mind towards the doctrines of grace (some call it Calvinism) one aspect of my walk with Christ has changed significantly, that of assurance. I am not so sure that if you reject the doctrines of grace that Sibbes statements here will hold much water. Perhaps it will still be accepted but I am not sure that it would go quite as deep. (Maybe some of my Arminian readers would be interested in showing faulty thinking here).

Now, lest I be misunderstood, what I am not saying is that accepting the doctrines of grace is the grounds for our assurance. What I am saying, and what I believe Sibbes is arguing, is that our assurance--and our hope when doubt assails us--is that what Christ has started He will close. When Sibbes says, "The least love we have to him is but a reflection of his love first shining upon us", he means something really loaded and profound. If we can see but a spark of grace in our hearts (even the smallest spark or desire for Christ) we can be certain that it was implanted there by God. (This comes from a true understanding of the depravity of man and that any spark is there because God put it there). Therefore, we can also take heart that Christ is going to finish this work that he has started. Even if we love him a little, that is a reflection that he has shined his love upon us. Knowing that His love being cast upon us (in the way Sibbes means "love" here) we can be assured that we belong to Jesus, and if we belong to Jesus then we have the greatest comfort. Therefore, in the midst of doubtings we must believe Christ (the gospel) and not the lies of Satan.

Pearls and Diamonds:

"Cast yourself in the arms of Christ, and if you perish, perish there." (p.65)

"The sighs of a bruised heart carry in them a report, both of our affection to Christ, and of his care to us." (p.66)

"God sees fit that we should taste of that cup of which his Son drank so deep, that we might feel a little what sin is, and what his Son's love was. But our comfort is that Christ drank the dregs of the cup for us, and will [relieve] us, so that our spirits may not utterly fail under that little taste of his displeasure which we may feel." (p.66)

McCheyne Reading Plan: January 28

Disclaimer: In posting these thoughts, questions, and ramblings I feel it wise to give a disclaimer. There are many people that are far more knowledgeable and gifted in expositing the Word of God than I. These thoughts are not intended to be in-depth analysis of the text. They are thoughts. They are questions. They are ramblings. It will be a display of what God is teaching me through His Word. In depth study will be done at a different time. It is also good to know the author's goal. 1) To be accountable in reading through Scripture. 2) To share these thoughts with others. Possibly for someone else's edification; possibly for my own. 3) To glorify God through His Word. 4) To spur one another on in taking up Scripture and reading! So without further ado, here are today's readings:

Matthew 17:

That must have been a phenomenal thing to see Jesus in his glory. I wonder how they knew it was Moses and Elijah. Name tags? Did they hear Jesus referring to them by name? What language did they speak? What did they talk about? So, many questions none of them of much significance.

I wonder why Peter was never given an answer to his request. He was wanting to build tents for each of them. I notice that he asks, "If you wish" and also refers to him as Lord. So, even though he is making three tents it is not as if he is saying Moses, Elijah, and Jesus are on the same plain. He is still referring to Jesus as Master and he asks him the question not Moses and Elijah.

That would have been very terrifying, but I wonder why they were so shocked. Did they not already see this as something really significant because Jesus is kind of glowing? Oh, that the voice of God would make me tremble as it did these men!

How did John the Bapitst "restore all things"?

After reading the story of the Demon-Possessed Boy I find myself wishing I had never heard charismatic watered down preaching. It seems to close my eyes to the text. I find myself reading things like this with their lens...knowing they are most often wrong, I go the other way and end up being blind to the meaning of the text. Lord, help me see what you are saying here. I bet there is something cultural here that I do not understand. I do not think that Jesus is literally saying that becasue we believe enough we can move stuff like mountains. He is speaking figuratively, but yet does the principle stand? What is to be said of "nothing will be impossible for you". I want to have biblical faith. I do not want to have a stick in the mud anti-supernatural faith, nor do I want to be a chicken-clucking charismatic. Lord, help me to see and live the balance.

I think this temple tax might be something that helps us in debates concerning our freedoms. Did Jesus have to pay tax? Of course not. He is free. Did he pay tax not to give offense? Yes. Should we sometimes not use our freedom so as not to give offense? Yes. Does his paying taxes cause him to deny the gospel and slip into legalism? No. We have much to learn here.

Acts 17:

I wonder why the Jews gave Paul a hearing for three straight Sabbaths. It is also significant that what Paul used was not fancy rhetoric or even rabbinical writings. Paul reasoned with them "from the Scriptures".

"These men who have turned the world upside down"...what a stirring statement. Is it my pride that wants to follow suit or is it a holy ambition? Lord, if the world be turned upside down let it be for the sake of and glory of Jesus Christ. May he be the only boast of the generation that is "turned upside down".

v.9 Did Jason bribe them?

How are the Jews of Berea more noble? 1) Received the word with eagerness 2) examined the Scriptures daily. There is much to be said about this. They received the word. They did so with eagerness. They examined the Scriptures. And they did so on a day to day basis. Their passion for truth is astounding.

Is my spirit provoked in a city full of idols?

v.21 in some way sounds like us in America. We spend all of our times searching for novelty. May the gospel penetrate this culture as well. Lord, help us to "teach strange things" and not be irrelevant by our undiscerning pursuit of relevancy.

It's not as if the Athenians are actually worshipping the living God. They are "worshipping" an unknown God...and Paul sees this as a bridge to preach the gospel.

Paul starts his gospel "presentation" with teaching on Creation. Would they have readily believed this? Probably not. I notice throughout this section that the God that Paul is proclaiming is a massive contrast to the gods that they were so passionately worshipping.

I think the full meaning of verse 27 escapes me.

Paul also bridges with common things in their culture. But notice what he uses is "morally neutral". It's not as if Paul goes to the sex temples or engages in idolatry with them. He uses morally neutral things that can bridge the gap.

Repentance is a command. v30

Is it significant that Paul only speaks of this unknown God and does not refer to Jesus by name but merely describes Him?

Genesis 19:

I lost an angel somewhere. Earlier there were three now two. Where did the third go?

v.5 has always astonished me at the audacity of these men to make such a request. It beautifully shows the depth of our depravity (although I am sure that even these men were restrained from being as wicked as possible).

Lot's solution has always bothered me as well. Rather than having them sleep with his angelic guest he offers his daughters. Yet even this does not appease them. They want the angels.

Before I chide the sons-in-laws for thinking Lot was jesting, I have to confess I see myself in these men. I am so turned away from emotionalism that sometimes I would not listen to such a "prophecy". Again, as I prayed earlier--I need balance and growth in this.

I wonder if men that are so passionate about preserving man's "free will" (that's in quotation marks because it is typically a misunderstanding of true biblical freedom) see these men as being dishonoring and unloving to Lot and his family. I can see myself again here. If the Lord had not "seized me" with his mercy and brought me "outside the city", I would still be in my sin. I am glad that the Lord's mercy is so powerful that it changes me and keeps me from treasuring my sin and causes me to delight in Christ.

I think there is a type in Lot escaping to this city of refuge. I am jogging my memory but I think this is spoken of somewhere else in a more profound way.

What would sulfur and fire rain have been like?

Why a pillar of salt? Is this literal? Does this stem from the destruction? Those are not as significant as the message of this text. We must never look back after the Lord has delivered us. I would not go so far as to make this a type of those that "lose their salvation", yet I do believe we need to heed the warning.

It looks like Lot ended up moving out of Zoar and living in the hills, even though at first he made the request not to.

Esther 1:

v4 Kings of earth even in all their splendor are exhaustible in 180 days. It will take the Lord all of eternity to "show the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness."

I wonder was Queen Vashti only lovely to look at because the king was "merry with wine".

It's pretty neat that the King's consul (even though not acting the most merciful) is thinking through the ramifications of his decision. If he lets her get away with this it will have adverse affects. We as leaders should always think through the outcome of our decisions. Our disobedience has a counter effect on others as well as ourselves.

Today in Blogworld 1/28

Last week John Piper responded to "A Common Word". Piper, articulated what many of us believed about the document--it borders on betraying the gospel and is not helpful in evangelism (my words not his). Today, Rick Love, a signer of the document gives his reasons why. He has a few well crafted arguments. However, one that I disagree with concerns the question of whether or not the Muslims worship the same God as Christians. Here is part of his answer:

"Christian and Muslim views of God are similar in that we both worship the one true God, creator of the heavens and the earth. We both believe this God will judge all peoples at the end of history. We both believe this God has sent His prophets into the world to guide His people. Christian and Muslim views of God differ primarily regarding the Fatherhood of God, the Trinity, and especially regarding the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I believe that Muslims worship the true God. But I also believe that their view of God falls short of His perfections and beauty as described in the Bible. Thus, I try to model my approach to Muslims after the apostle Paul who said to the Athenians: “What you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you" (Acts 17:23)."

My problem with his statement is that it does not match up with what Jesus' said in John 8:19, 42, and 14:6 (among many others). If Jesus is the only way to the Father; if you cannot be said to love the Father unless you love Jesus; if you do not know the Father unless you know Jesus; then how in the world can we say that "Muslims worship the true God". According to Scripture they do not even know the true God because they reject Jesus. How can you worship (and by that I mean truly worship) that which you do not know? Perhaps if he would have said, "I believe that Muslims sincerely believe they worship the true God" then I could agree, but not as it now stands.

Said at Southern has a wonderful discussion going on centered upon the question, "Do You Believe in the SBC?"

Craig Brian Larson has a solid article on Preaching that Promotes Self-Centeredness. (HT: Transforming Sermons) If you are a preacher of the gospel you should read this post. If you listen to preaching you should read this post.

Being a new parent I found this post extremely helpful in knowing how best to care for Isaiah. If you are a parent I would suggest reading this article, very helpful stuff. Actually, anybody should read this post, it is very humorous. (HT: Challies)

Al Mohler has a great commentary on the effects of divorce in older people: Old and Alone?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Amazon Reviews

You may remember my 2008 Reading Plan. If I read all of those books I will have read 40. I am hoping to add to this big goal is 100, my lower goal is 50. In reality it might be something in between the two. Another goal that I have is to post a review on every book that I read in 2008. So far I have reviewed Spurgeon by Dallimore and Newton by Aitken. I am also posting these reviews on Amazon; it would be greatly appreciated if you would visit each review and say whether or not it was helpful. Spurgeon here, Newton here. In the future you will see the Amazon permalink on every review.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Bruised Reed Chapter 8

I had to read this chapter a couple of times. It is loaded with knowledge. Up until this point it is as if Sibbes has been giving us a few quick powerful jabs, it appears that in this chapter he is sizing us up (laying the foundation) for a knockout punch. Although this chapter is not the knockout punch itself, I believe it will serve to build a foundation for that later on. Maybe if Sibbes were here today he would prefer I say hugs instead of knockout punches, but maybe not, there is a reason why we are called bruised reeds.

Quick Outline:

  • We Should Persist in Duties
  • Overcoming Discouragements
  • The Source of Discouragements
  • Some Uneasy Feelings Removed
  • What are Sins of Weakness?

Sibbes' main concern in this chapter is to keep us from discouragement and to encourage us to press on in our duties despite our hearts being "altogether averse to them". He first gives four reasons; paraphrased they are:

  1. If we do not corruption will gain ground
  2. God strengthens us as we go about our duties
  3. Obedience is most direct when there is nothing to else to sweeten it
  4. Reward follows work; the fruit of our labor will be sweet
Sibbes then offers help in overcoming discouragements. As always he points us to Jesus and the mercy of God therein. In order to most effectively help us he sets about to show us that the Godhead is not the source of our discouragements. "Discouragements, then, must come from ourselves and from Satan, who labours to fasten on us a loathing of duty." Christ has came to free us from these discouragements, yet, "in some such ignorance of that comfortable condition we are in under the covenant of grace as to discourage them greatly". Because of this we must understand three things about our weaknesses: 1) they do not break covenant with God 2) they do not exclude us from mercy 3) If Christ is not merciful to the weak then he will have no one to serve him.

The central thing that Sibbes wants us to understand in this chapter is that, "weaknesses so considered, although a matter of humiliation and the object of our daily mortification, yet may be consistent with boldness with God, or is a good work either extinguished by them or tainted so far as to lose all acceptance with God." In other words weakness, even though it should be battled, does not exclude us from the merciful care of the Lord.

The last part of this chapter honestly confuses me and is difficult for me to summarize. Basically Sibbes closes by teaching us on the sins of infirmity. He shows us four things that we must understand about sins of weakness (they appear to be qualifications). 1) There must be a life of grace begun 2) there must be a sincere and general bent to the best things 3) there must be a right judgment, allowing of the best ways, or else the heart is rotten 4) there must be a conjugal love of Christ.

All of this is to show us that if we have these qualifications, then "Christ counts it his honour to pass by many infirmities, nay, in infirmities he perfect his strength." Or again, "if there be any bruised reed, let him not make an exception of himself, when Christ does not make an exception of him.


There is quite a bit in this chapter that is worthy of discussion. It is loaded with much foundational information; but it seems to me that the most important thing that Sibbes is trying to establish is that if Christ accepts us then we ought to "accept" ourselves. This must be taken carefully otherwise it will drift into New Age heresy. His main point is that we find ourselves accepted in Christ and live in that.

Here are a few questions for us to discuss. 1) Do you agree with Sibbes statement that, "Obedience is most direct when there is nothing else to sweeten the action"? 2) Do you agree with Sibbes statement that "God's children never sin with full will..."? 3) What would you say is Sibbes' key thought in this chapter?

Pearls and Diamonds:
"..none have abilities so meagre as to be beneath the gracious regard of Christ. Where it pleases him to make his choice and exalt his mercy he passes by no degree of understanding, though never so simple." (p.57)

"What course shall such take to recover their peace? They must condemn themselves sharply, and yet cast themselves upon God's mercy in Christ, as at their first conversion. And now they must embrace Christ the more firmly, as they see more need in themselves..." (p.61)

"Therefore, if there be any bruised reed, let him not make an exception of himself, when Christ does not make an exception of him." (p.61)

REVIEW--Spurgeon: A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore

Author: Arnold Dallimore

Pages: 252

Publisher: Banner of Truth

Price: 11.99 USD

Genre: Biography

Quick Summary:

In the past I have read Iain Murray’s The Forgotten Spurgeon and Spurgeon vs. Hyper Calvinism. Both of these works were excellent at getting to know the theology that drove the man. Yet their purpose was not to tell the life story of the man. Dallimore does just that. He says his goal will have succeeded if many “come to know him better and are both instructed and inspired by his powerful example”.

Dallimore begins his biography by showing the preparation of the man. This serves to help us see the foundation that was built in this mighty man of God. Young Charles had studied and read extensively on the Puritans. Certainly, they (along with Spurgeon’s passion for Scripture) were used by God to develop at a young age the passionate theology of Spurgeon. It is because of the “boy and his books” that Spurgeon became the “prince of preachers” that labored to earnestly contend for the faith.

In this shorter biography Dallimore will lead us from the boy preacher at Waterbeach to the embattled veteran defender of biblical faith against the onslaught of New Theology. We read of his early labors at the New Park Street Chapel to his thriving services at the famous Metropolitan Tabernacle. Dallimore champions throughout this work the exhausting labors of Charles Spurgeon. It is telling that after his death it took many men to carry on that which Spurgeon started and they still were not able to fill his shoes. We are introduced to many friends and even a few in opposition to Spurgeon. We also are honored to meet in these pages Spurgeon’s admirable wife Susannah.

Dallimore closes with a beautiful chapter on Spurgeon’s funeral. He writes as if he were there and takes the reader into the funeral services. I found myself holding back tears, mourning the loss of this wonderful saint. Therefore, I find as I close the book, that Dallimore has succeeded. I feel as if I know Spurgeon better, but more importantly I have been instructed and inspired by his powerful example.

What I Enjoyed:

Probably Dallimore’s best chapter is the conclusion. It was a wonderful idea to close a work on the life of Spurgeon as those that loved him did at his funeral. Dallimore causes the reader to feel as if you are sitting in a seat mourning with the rest of the crowd some 120 years ago. Knowing that Spurgeon’s ministry was based upon “knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified” causes those that are preachers, like myself, to be inspired and instructed. It fills us with a passion and a boldness to do the same.

As you read the biographies of Spurgeon, as well as Jonathan Edwards, one cannot help but feel saddened by a personal lack of labor and fervency in worship of our great God. After reading Dallimore’s work on Spurgeon I am encouraged by the words of McCheyne, "How feeble my spark of Christianity appears beside such a sun! But even his was a borrowed light, and the same source is still open to enlighten me."

What I Disliked:

In the beginning Dallimore, in my opinion, seems a little too uncritical in his praises of Spurgeon. This tends to be a theme throughout the work, but that is often to be expected in biographies. I would love to see biographies about men that desire nothing but seeing Jesus magnified having that same desire in honoring the man.

Another smaller area of criticism would be that while Dallimore proposes to give us a “definitive treatment given to his theology and preaching methods”, I do not see that in this work. Iain Murray does a much better job.

Yet for Dallimore’s overall purpose, of being a somewhat introduction to Spurgeon and dealing with his entire life in a short setting, he does a wonderful job. I find it difficult, other than that which is mentioned, to offer much disapproval.

Should You Buy It:

It is a wonderful work, for that reason I give a wholehearted “yes” to buying it. However, if you are wanting to buy a book dealing with his theology and preaching methods, Dallimore might not be the best place to go. I would suggest buying this book to be introduced to Dallimore’s life, but as an accompaniment I must encourage the reader to buy Iain Murray’s works on Spurgeon.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 01/25

This would perhaps be better titled Today and Yesterday in Blogworld. Business did not allow me to do as much posting yesterday.

Steve Camp has an excellent, though somewhat lengthy, article on holiness. I love how Steve introduces this: "They say when Leonardo Davinci painted his famous Last Supper he had little difficulty with any of it except the faces. Then he painted the faces in without too much trouble except one. He did not feel himself worthy to paint the face of Jesus. He held off and kept holding off, unwilling to approach it but knowing he must. Then in the impulsive carelessness of despair, he just painted it quickly and let it go. “There is no use,” he said. “I can’t paint Him.”I feel very much the same way about explaining the holiness of God. I think that same sense of despair is on my heart. There isn’t any use for anybody to try to explain holiness. The greatest speakers on this subject can play their oratorical harps, but it sounds tinny and unreal, and when they are through you’ve listened to music but you haven’t seen God."

Thabiti has a couple of good posts. One is on Jerry Bridges Four Ways to Live. The other discusses Carefulness in Treating Sin.

Jonathan Leeman continues blogging through REVEAL. Today we are treated to Part 7 and Part 8.

Scott Lee discusses the Task of a Faithful Shepherd and John MacArthur discusses the pastor's job as More Than Just a Preacher.

Here are a couple of good quotes one by MLJ the other by Thomas Brooks. Martyn Lloyd-Jones quote hits me pretty hard. "You can be so interested in great theological and intellectual and philosophical problems that you tend to forget that you are going to die." (HT: DG)Brooks tells us the mark of true humility. “Remember this—all the sighing, mourning, sobbing, and complaining in the world, does not so undeniably evidence a man to be humble, as his overlooking his own righteousness, and living really and purely upon the righteousness of Christ.” (HT: Of First Importance)

Jimmy, actually a guy I went to college with, has a great post on lessons from The Young Physician. No, not Jesus. He is referring to a Resident Doctor that had learning unconnected with real life. Jimmy uses this experience to give sound advice to us young ministers.

Terry Rayburn asks whether or not we have two natures. His answer is no. This keeps coming up I am sensing that the Lord is prodding me to study this in depth.

And lastly, Denny Burk absolutely disgusts me. OK, not actually him, he is pretty cool. What disgusts me is the truth of his latest article: Yale Students Celebrate Abortion Rights. Apparently they celebrated with comedy skits and mock abortions. Truly disgusting.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

McCheyne Reading Plan: Finishing Nehemiah

Disclaimer: In posting these thoughts, questions, and ramblings I feel it wise to give a disclaimer. There are many people that are far more knowledgeable and gifted in expositing the Word of God than I. These thoughts are not intended to be in-depth analysis of the text. They are thoughts. They are questions. They are ramblings. It will be a display of what God is teaching me through His Word. In depth study will be done at a different time. It is also good to know the author's goal. 1) To be accountable in reading through Scripture. 2) To share these thoughts with others. Possibly for someone else's edification; possibly for my own. 3) To glorify God through His Word. 4) To spur one another on in taking up Scripture and reading! So without further ado, here are today's readings:

Nehemiah 9:

What a day...1/4 of the day spent in confession and worship, another quarter spent reading the Word.

What are the stairs of the Levites?

This is such a great proclamation. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. In other words we are going to bless you with everything that we have for all eternity and that will not put a dent into the amount of blessing and praise that you are worthy of. I wonder if I really believe this? Lord, give me more faith. Give me faith to believe and treasure your supreme worth.

It is amazing to see how Nehemiah sees God in every aspect of history. It is important for us to praise the Lord for all of his acts in history. It seems like many of the greatest doxologies come in response to reviewing all of God's mighty acts in history. Something about seeing that God is in control and glorious over all creation that causes us to abound in worship.

v.20..."you gave your good Spirit to instruct them" The Holy Spirit was active even in the OT.

"delighted themselves in your great goodness"...I wonder if they were delighting in God Himself or the goodness of his gifts?

This cycle that we see in the history of Israel breaks my heart and sickens me...because it all too often is a reflection of my own relationship with the Living God. He blesses, I enjoy, I rebel, He rescues, I enjoy, I rebel, He rescues...and on and on.

I love Nehemiah's heart in verse 32-33. He is praying that God not forget them in all their struggle yet he never accuses the Lord of injustice. "We've got what we deserved, therefore our only hope is your mercy".

Nehemiah 10:

You have to respect the dedication of these men, but knowing the history of mankind, they are signing their names to a curse. They will not be able to keep this covenant. Yet by faith many will be delivered because Jesus Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.

You can see in this covenant, though good and pleasing to the Lord, seeds of the Pharisees.

What is the wood offering?

"We will not neglect the house of our God". Something about this statement catches my attention, but I am not sure what yet.

Nehemiah 11:

A huge list of names comprises this chapter. Two questions come to my mind. What is the significance of living in Jerusalem, and why are they praised for moving there? Is it because this is what communicated that they were faithful to rebuilding the temple and city of God? The other question is what are the diverse stories behind all of these people?

Nehemiah 12:

More people that I have no clue who they are.

I bet dedicating the wall was a very fun and significant thing for the people.

I wonder what songs they sang.

"...for God had made them rejoice with great joy...and the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away." Certainly when the Lord makes us rejoice it will spread far away. Lord, cause us in our day to rejoice with great joy!

Nehemiah 13:

v.3...the sounds incredibly racist, but we must remember that foreign people came with foreign gods. It is more a rejection of these gods than the people. Yet, we must understand that the Jewish people were often times very ethnocentric. Was this good or bad? It depends. Is it at the expense of evangelism? Then it is bad. Is it for the sake of holiness and purity? Then it is good.

v.8 This furniture throwing must have been something to behold.

It is refreshing to hear of someone that sees something going awfully wrong and quickly labors to make things right.

What was wrong about lodging outside the wall?

One thing that seems to be throughout this is the prayer of Nehemiah that God might remember his works and grant him mercy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Bruised Reed Chapter 7

I am not certain that I have shared this story with anyone yet except my dear wife. I am always a little negligent to share stories like this because they could have adverse effects. Nonetheless, I will share. About 8 months ago as I was taking the shower I felt as if the Lord said to me, "Mike, Satan is going to sift you..." Since, I do not watch the 700 Club and go to a Southern Baptist Church I thought nothing of this. It was only a few days later when I began experiencing extreme...shall I call it temptation?....persecution?...doubts?...depression?...whatever we shall call it I began battling even the vilest atheism, which led to distress, which led to questioning my salvation, which led to despair, and I truly was "being sifted". So, I can certainly relate to this chapter. 2 things the Lord used to stir my heart during this trial. 1) Psalm 103, especially verse 14. "For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust." 2) A deeper understanding of the imputed righteousness and justification of Jesus Christ. In some ways this too is the balm that Sibbes proposes to apply to weary souls.

Quick Outline:
  • Temptations Which Hinder Comfort
  • Weakness Should Not Keep Us From Duty

Sibbes hope in this chapter is to give abundant help to those that are brought low by stronger objections and secret thoughts. He will deal with four different temptations which often hinder the believers comfort. They are: 1) Some believe since they have not full assurance that they should have none. 2) Their performances are weak. 3) Haunted by hideous representations of their imaginations. (I believe this is similar to what I experienced a few months ago). 4) Because the heart becomes more troubled by corruption the soul becomes more weary.

While not using these very words Sibbes seems to give the same advice that brought me through this valley. His advices is that first we remember that God remembers us and our frame and that he accepts even the weakest groan from the believer. Also, we should see our battle with sin and its corruption as evidence that we are indeed regenerate. And we can see as a foundation for all of these that our hope rests in the grand mercy of Jesus in imputing to us His righteousness and making it our own.

Sibbes, as Puritans often reasoned, encourages us to continue in our duties even in our weakness. Many that are discouraged simply give up. But Sibbes spurs us in the opposite direction: "we should not avoid good actions because of the infirmities attending them." Much of his argument can be summed up by saying, "Let us not be cruel to ourselves when Christ is thus gracious." Within Christ mercy is the abundant hope for weary souls.


There is no greater hope when our souls are weary than being cast upon the mercy of Jesus Christ. Sibbes does a wonderful job of helping those that are "cruel to [themselves]" to see that Christ accepts but the least glimmer of "good". As Sibbes says, "Christ looks more at the good in them which he means to cherish than the ill in them which he means to abolish". Oh, what comfort these words are.

I doubt that one appreciates this chapter unless you have been brought through the fire. I would say that I have only a glimpse of experience of this very thing. Yet that glimpse has caused me to treasure Christ more and myself much less. While I would never desire for you to go through the pain of "sifting" I certainly pray for you to bear its fruit. So, because the fruit only comes through the rain, I pray that Lord might put as through whatever trials necessary to bring about our treasuring Him most.

Some questions come from this chapter. 1) Has there been a time in your life when this chapter either was, or would have been, very helpful? Have you had the experience of "temptations which hinder comfort"? How did Christ bring you through? 2) Do you find this chapter comforting?

Pearls and Diamonds:

"It promotes humiliation to know the whole breadth and depth of sin."

"Our chief comfort is that our blessed Saviour, as he bade Satan depart from him, after he had given way awhile to his insolence (Matt. 4:10), so he will command him to be gone from us, when it shall be good for us. He must be gone at a word. And Christ can and will likewise, in his own time, rebuke the rebellious and extravagant stirrings of our hearts and bring all the thoughts of the inner man into subjection to himself. "

"...none are so aware of corruption as those whose souls are most alive."

"These stirrings of spirit touch the heart of God and melt him into compassion towards us, when they come from the Spirit of adoption, and from a striving to be better."

"Let us not be cruel to ourselves when Christ is thus gracious."

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 01/23

Tony Kummer encourages nursery workers by highlighting seven reasons why nursery work is vital to your church's ministry.

Timmy Brister is blogspotting the Puritan Reading Challenge. There are several links here to people that have taken the challenge and are blogging through it. I was excited to see that Borrowed Light is on that list. Thanks for the link Timmy!

Yesterday I linked to Michael Spencer's 12 Calvinists 12 Churches question. Today (actually last night) Spencer gave his response.

Frank Turk has an excellent article on....I guess you could say the problem of evil. But it cuts much deeper. It deals with depravity. It deals with our response to "sinners". Here is a wonderful excerpt: "So to ask the question, "Why does God allow?" has to go back to the issue of "What is God allowing?" The glib answer to the question is, "God is allowing evil deeds," but in fact God is allowing us to prove that we are what He has said we are. God tells us we are sinners -- and has provided the perfect Law to prove it to us. And in that, the solution God has on-tap is wrath against sin." Read more...

Challies addresses discouragement with the Church and encourages us to keep our Hand to the Plow.

Finally, John Piper has responded to the article A Common Word Between Us and You. Piper expresses his disappointment with many (some of his friends) that signed the document. I too was shocked to see some of the names that signed this article. Piper, as always, does an excellent job of displaying Christ as the supreme treasure for the nations, and helps us see the deception and lack of help this article provides. The video below is about 9 minutes but it is wonderful:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

McCheyne Reading Plan: Still Catching Up

Disclaimer: In posting these thoughts, questions, and ramblings I feel it wise to give a disclaimer. There are many people that are far more knowledgeable and gifted in expositing the Word of God than I. These thoughts are not intended to be in-depth analysis of the text. They are thoughts. They are questions. They are ramblings. It will be a display of what God is teaching me through His Word. In depth study will be done at a different time. It is also good to know the author's goal. 1) To be accountable in reading through Scripture. 2) To share these thoughts with others. Possibly for someone else's edification; possibly for my own. 3) To glorify God through His Word. 4) To spur one another on in taking up Scripture and reading! So without further ado, here are today's readings:

Matthew 16:

I wonder if they had the "red sky at night sailors delight, red sky in the morning sailors take warning" saying back in Jesus' day? I'm not certain that they would have had "sailors" so I doubt it. But nonetheless, I've always found this verse kind of neat because I've heard sayings about a red sky at night and in the morning.

What is the sign of Jonah?

I love these little narrative interjections. "The disciples forgot to bring bread". Certainly it serves as a fitting transition and teachable moment, but it does a wonderful job of showing the disciples humanity and Jesus' patience with them.

The disciples continue to view things extremely literally. We should be cautious of doing the like.

In what way should we warn people as Jesus did to beware of the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees? Who are these groups in our day?

I wonder if Jesus' question, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is", would have sounded weird. Is he referring to himself or the "Son of Man" spoken of in the Scriptures? Is this the same as asking "Who do people say that I am" or is it asking "How do people describe the Son of Man spoken of in Scripture? I prefer the latter. I believe Jesus is saying, "How do people interpret the OT Son of Man". They then respond by the common beliefs in the day. (Jeremiah actually seems strange in this context). Then Jesus says, but who do you say that I am. Again the stress would not be on who do you...but rather who do you say that I am. I could be wrong though. He could be contrasting the "peoples" reception of Jesus with that of the disciples.

Peter replies that Jesus is the Christ the son of the Living God, and apparently knowledge of this only came because God revealed it to Him.

This verse (18-19) has been the subject of much debate. Is the rock Peter or faith? What are meant by the gates of hell? (Since when are gates active, so that the rock must withstand it?) What are the keys? What authority is given? Is it given to Peter? Is it given to His successors? Is it given to all those people of faith? It is not the place here to answer these questions.

It has always seemed strange to me that Jesus is so passionate about the disciples not telling people that he is the Christ. I know that we are not to conceal him now. It's painfully ironic that when Jesus urged people to conceal Him they could not do so. When Jesus commands us to spread His fame to the nations we eagerly desire to obey his first instruction to tell no one. Lord, help us to be faithful in proclaiming you in your fullness.

It is so funny that Peter rebukes Jesus. After he makes this amazing confession, we know that he knew who Jesus was. What boldness to rebuke God. But I wonder, how many times have I done the same? Am I not doing as Peter did whenever I question His wise counsel? Am I not rebuking God when I whine at his sovereign actions? And Peter's problem is ours--thinking of the things of man instead of the things of God.

After Jesus tells of His suffering He urges us to follow Him in this. As I look over this text I am forced to wonder whether or not I have "lost my life" for Jesus' sake. Can I be said to be a doulos?

Why is it that sometimes it sounds like works play a very important role? Why is it that we will be repaid for "what we have done"?

I've never understood how verse 28 is fulfilled? I think it is speaking of either Jesus' death, resurrection, or ascension.

Acts 16:

"A Jewish woman who was a believer"...does this mean believer in Christ? It seems from here and other places in Scripture that Timothy's mom was a follower of Jesus.

Why did Paul circumcise Timothy because of the Jews but not Titus?

We are still seeing churches increase daily. Lord, bring this movement to us!

"Forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the work in Asia." Many questions arise from this. How do you know when the Holy Spirit is forbidding you? Why did He forbid them to "speak the Word"? Did he have a specific place for them to go? We should always be waiting for the Spirit's urging to know where to preach the gospel and apparently where not to.

Again Paul begins his ministry at a religious place. Synagogues, places of prayer, etc. seem to be where he preached the gospel first in a city.

The Lord opened her heart...unless He had certainly Lydia would not have believed. Lord, open hearts in our community, and help us hear the cries of them when you bid us to proclaim the gospel.

Why do we see households baptized when one believes?

Divination is probably a reality. It's not as if people are faking (though many probably are). It's just that they are demonized.

I find this story funny about Paul being annoyed. I wonder why it was so annoying. Why did he wait so long to cast it out? Why only after annoyance?

Certainly Paul's experience of affliction here in Philippi will serve a great purpose later in comforting them when they are afflicted.

Even after beatings and imprisonment the joy of the Lord (and perhaps even the desperation of the situation) draws Paul and Silas to sing hymns. Nonetheless these were clothed in Scripture and probably many Psalms. The guards listen and were certainly influenced.

Again we see "believe, and you will be saved "and your household". But the next verse says the word was spoken to them and your household. "He rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God". Let us rejoice in our salvation Lord.

This seems really stubborn of Paul. Is he being stubborn or does he see a greater purpose of God in this. Certainly Paul is not infallible. I think sometimes we read Acts and everything Paul did and assume that everyone of his actions is right.

Genesis 18:

Is this three the Trinity? I am a little confused by this dialogue. How did Abraham know it was the Lord?

A new term for menopause..."the way of women has ceased to be with her". I like reading some of the euphemisms in the Bible.

I wonder what this dialogue between laughing Sarah then embarrassed and fearful Sarah was like. What was God's response in this. Is he a little angry at her unbelief? Understanding and almost laughing Himself?

This chapter for some reason seems really strange to me. God is walking to Sodom to see if its as bad from this angle as it is from heaven.

Now, verse 22 really confuses me. The men leave, Abraham stays before the LORD? Are these men incarnations of God or not (there is a theological word for this, but for the life of me I can not think of it)?

We see the display of God's righteousness in sparing Sodom if one righteous man is found. He is doing this through all of history and the book of Revelation even as he pours out his bowls of wrath and offers more and more time for repentance (all the while knowing that many will never repent, yet still showing mercy and offering grace to display his mighty justice).

The Bruised Reed Chapter 6

In this chapter Sibbes will discuss the marks of the smoking flax. This is a great chapter to read whenever we are questioning our salvation. Sibbes seems to have had many people in his ministry that where bruised reeds and smoking flax. He has much wisdom in directing them. This chapter is helping me as a minister in addressing they youth that come to me with doubts. It also encourages me when I might have "fits of melancholy" myself.

Quick Outline:

  • Our Rule is the Covenant of Grace
  • The Presence of the Heavenly Fire

Whether Sibbes was one himself or dealt with many of the like, he accurately portrays "those that are given to quarrelling with themselves". It seems as if the entire chapter is devoted to such dear saints that "delight to be looking on the dark side of the cloud only". I have had seasons in my life where I felt this described me so this chapter serves as "balm to my soul".

Because so many ministers do not follow Chapter 5 I believe Chapter 6 becomes necessary. Because some ambassadors are "overbearing, setting up themselves in the hearts of people where Christ alone should sit as in his own temple" many young (and weaker) believers begin to have false reasoning. They begin to falsely reason that, "because our fire does not blaze out as others, therefore we have no fire at all". Sibbes in this chapter hopes to combat such false thinking.

He does so first by reminding us that believers are under the covenant of grace and not under the law. Sibbes points us to the fact that the Law demands perfect obedience from the heart, and violation of that results in a terrible curse. Moreover, the Law provides no strength. Contrast this with the merciful Savior. "Christ comes with blessing after blessing, even upon those whom Moses had cursed with healing balm for those wounds which Moses has made." Therefore, as we look at such a great Savior we must "look to grace in the spark as well as in the flame".

Sibbes then gives us 10 rules for the presence of the heavenly fire. They are:

  1. If there be any holy fire in us, it is kindled from heaven
  2. The least divine light has heat with it in some measure
  3. Where this heavenly light is kindled, it directs in the right way
  4. Where this fire is, it will sever things of diverse natures, and show a difference between such things as gold and dross.
  5. So far as a man is spiritual, so far is light delightful to him.
  6. Fire, where it is present, is in some degree active
  7. Fire makes metals pliable and malleable
  8. Fire, as much as it can, sets everything on fire
  9. Sparks by nature fly upwards
  10. Fire if it has any matter to feed on, enlarges itself and amounts higher and higher, and, the higher it rises, the purer the flame.

The key thing to note from this chapter is that "we must look to grace in the spark as well as in the flame". This is the entire point of Sibbes exposition. He is leading us from the beginning stages of the spark through the spark aflame. At the beginning he speaks tender words of encouragement to any believer that has but even a small spark of grace. But as Sibbes closes he raises the bar. " argues a false heart to set ourselves a low standard in grace and to rest in beginnings, alleging that Christ will not quench smoking flax".

Thinking in such a way helps us in our spiritual walk to strive toward more holiness. It also helps in ministering to the needs of others. Sibbes keeps us from being too severe and censuring those that do indeed have a spark of grace, and yet he also keeps us from being comfortable in beginnings.

Pearls and Diamonds:

"We must beware of false reasoning, such as: because our fire does not blaze out as others, therefore we have no fire at all." (p.35)

"We must look to grace in the spark as well as in the flame. All have not the like strong, though they have the like precious, faith." (p.36)

"Weak light produces weak inclinations, strong light, strong inclinations." (p.38)

"Where fire is, in any degree, it will fight everything contrary to it...grace will never join with sin, any more than fire with water." (p.41)

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 01/22

Today is a sad day in history. 35 years ago today Roe v. Wade was passed, setting way for the slaughter of numerous "innocent" babies. There are several articles and challenges addressing this issue today. Justin Taylor uses an excerpt from Piper's book A Hunger for God to challenge us to fast for the little ones. JT also provides a graphic that helps us visualize what 46 million looks like. He has also recently interviewed Robert George on abortion and politics. There is also a graphic video that shows actual abortions. I could hardly bare to watch. You can access that video here: (Warning: This is Very Very Graphic!)

(HT: Denny Burk)

John Ensor does offer some encouragement and challenges us to pray for the Third Wave in the fight to end abortion. Denny Burk also provides a sunday school lesson on the Sanctity of Life. After experiencing the birth of our child, I just do not get it (and even before). I can have sympathy with the teenage girl struggling with making a decision. She is only a child herself. I can sympathize (but of course not agree) with her decision. I can sympathize with the rape victims. I can sympathize but not agree. But what baffles my mind is the politicians and the entire movement itself. How in the world can we hold to such a ridiculous practice and allow it to be legal?

Dan Phillips has posted the third part to his "Preaching the Good News"? Earlier he gave us a snippet of an "evangelism" tract left at his door step. He asked what we could tell about the group that left it. Then he told us it was the Mormons. Today he considers some of the implications of this discussion.

I have been reading about the life of Charles Spurgeon. The fuel that drove his ministry was laboring in prayer. So I believe it is not a coincidence that the MacArthur article today is on Praying Without Ceasing.

Jonathan Leeman continues to blog through Willow Creek's REVEAL. Today he considers mutli-campus churches.

Finally, the IMonk has created an interesting discussion about 12 Churches and 12 Calvinists. What would happen? This lends itself to being a great discussion.


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