Two Peas in a Pod

March 31, 2008

What is the difference between Jeremiah Wright and Fred Phelps? Nothing as far as I have been able to  determine.

Fred Phelps

Here are a few ways they are similar though:

1. Both men teach hate rather than “what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).

2. Both men have shown a complete disregard of the Gospel Message.

Jeremiah Wright


3. Neither man would know what Biblical evangelism was if it jumped up and bit them on their nose.

4. Both men are perfect examples of the necessity of Church Discipline.


The Annunciation of the King

March 31, 2008

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Traditionally, on March 25th each year, the Church remembers the Annunciation or revelation by the angel Gabriel to Mary (the mother of Jesus) that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God . This date is used because it annunciation comes exactly nine months before December 25th when the birth of Jesus is celebrated. Some traditions will  adjust the actual date of the remembrance of the Annunciation when March 25th falls on a Sunday or during Holy Week or Easter Week.

Regardless of the date we remember it, this is an event that should be memorialized in our devotions and meditations for it is one of the greatest mysteries of our faith: The Incarnation, literally the enfleshment of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. This is how the Apostle John described it:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1,14).

Though born of a woman, the man Jesus would be called (for He was God) the Son of the Most High; He is both truly man and truly God. Each of these two natures, both retaining their own properties, are together united in one subsistence and in one single person, Christ Jesus.

Consider the Confession (Definition) of Chalcedon:

Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these “last days,” for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness.

We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten – in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the “properties” of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one “person” and in one reality. They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers has handed down to us.

Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

Doubting Doubting Thomas

March 29, 2008

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.

Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

(John 20:24-29)

The Sunday following the resurrection of our Lord is sometimes called St. Thomas Sunday because of the events described in John 20:24-29. Because the Apostle Thomas said (v 25) “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe”, he has also became known throughout history as Doubting Thomas. Because of these words the phrase ‘Doubting Thomas’ also entered into the popular vocabulary to describe anyone who refuse to believe something without direct, personal evidence. Charles Dickens may have named the character of the harsh skeptic in Hard Time for These Times in whose mouth he placed the words “…what I want is Facts…nothing but Facts…” Thomas for this very reason. No doubt many sermons this Sunday will focus on John 20:25 and similar parallels will be drawn about the Apostles Thomas’ words of “unbelief”.caravaggio024

There are many works of art that also depict the events described in John 20: 24-29. One of the most famous is shown  on the right by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio from the early 17th century. Like the sermons which will focus only on the Apostle Thomas’ skepticism, this painting, though seemingly beautiful, is completely wrong.

Many will consider the words of Thomas quoted in verse 25 this Sunday but forget about Peter’s three time denial of Jesus (Matthew 26: 69-75). Many will wonder at Thomas’ skepticism but forget how all the disciples fled into the darkness of unbelief on the night of His arrest (Mark 14:50-52). Few if any will note that even though The Risen Savior had already appeared to all except Thomas (who was absent) the disciples still met behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). The skepticism of unbelief was not only Thomas’ problem but the defining characteristic of Jesus’ followers from His arrest in the garden until this very moment!

Yes, Thomas doubted, but so too did all the others. The message of John 20: 24-29 then is not as much about Thomas’ unbelief as it is about the faithfulness of God even in the face of unbelief and fear.  Prior to His arrest, Jesus prayed

“While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:21).

On the eight day following the resurrection, for the first time since before the arrest, all of the disciples were together in one place. Now God would show His faithfulness to all those who had been given to Him and “not one of them”, including Thomas, would be lost.

Mary Magdalene responded to the presence of the Risen King by attempting to cling to Him (20:17) and scripture says the disciples were glad (20:20) when Jesus appeared to them. The Loved One is alive! The natural response in such circumstance is to try and cling to Him. The Master has risen! Naturally, feelings of gladness would wash over all those who, less than 24 hours before, were weeping from despair.

Thomas’ natural response was to not believe unless he could place his finger into the mark of the nails and his hand into His side. Instead, Thomas, like all the others, did not doubt, but believed (20:29), what his eyes had seen. Unlike all the others however, Thomas did not respond naturally, but in worship of The King, for it was only from his mouth that we hear the declaration “My Lord and my God”!

School of Prayer – Lesson 1

March 29, 2008

Thoughts about  Lesson I of With Christ in the School of Prayer:

School of PrayerOnly after “He ceased” praying did the disciples ask the Master to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). The text does not indicate if the disciples were praying with Jesus on this occasion, only that they waited until he had stopped praying before they approached Him with this request: “Teach us to pray”. By this time the disciples had seen and heard the King’s prayer life often: in the wilderness and  in the mountains, in private and in public, at His baptism and, now, with His followers (Luke 5:15, 6:12, 3:21, and 9:18). Up to this point, Jesus had taught His disciples many things but not yet had He instructed them pertaining to prayer: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

This request is itself a prayer. Simple, unadorned, directed. It is a prayer born, as is all true prayer, out of poverty, a Kingdom prayer of “the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). It is a prayer that will, when answered, satisfy those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) . It is a prayer the Teacher will answer because it is admission of ignorance and dependency: “Teach us”.

It is also a prayer of boldness and confidence. Though the disciples waited until the Lord has ceased praying, they were not afraid to present Him this petition. Having asked, they did not doubt that their request would be answered for:

Nothing delights Him more than to find those whom He can take with Him into the Father’s presence, whom He can clothe with power to pray down God’s blessing on those around them, whom He can train to be His fellow-workers in the intercession by which the kingdom is to be revealed on earth.  He knows how to teach.  Now by the urgency of felt need, then by the confidence with which joy inspires.

Lord, teach us to pray! Amen.

e-Resource Tip: Faith By Hearing Blog

March 28, 2008

Faith By HearingIf you haven’t already discovered it, check out the Faith by Hearing web log.


Faith by Hearing is designed to collect and categorize the ever-growing availabilty [sic] of great Reformed and conservative evangelical audio preaching & teaching that has a high view of God and Scripture.

The content is as rich as any other resource of it’s kind that I have found and it is better organized than most. This is one web site you will want to visit over and over again.

School of Prayer – Class Now Forming

March 26, 2008

And of all the traits of a life LIKE CHRIST there is none higher and more glorious than conformity to Him in the work that now engages Him without ceasing in the Father’s presence—His all-prevailing intercession.  The more we abide in Him, and grow unto His likeness, will His priestly life work in us mightily, and our life become what His is, a life that ever pleads and prevails for men.

(from the Preface of With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray, 1895)School of Prayer

With Christ in the School of Prayer has been around for more than 100 years and I only just now managed to find it. I’m a little slow like that sometimes, but what a find! It is challenging, engaging, thoughtful and thought provoking. Although I have not yet finished reading it, I believe this work will find a permanent home in my book shelf and be added to my daily devotional for a long time to come.

It is in the Public Domain and an electronic version of it can be found here; thankfully, it is also still in print.

The book is divided into 31 short “lessons” and I plan to blog through each of them. I’m pretty excited about the class now forming With Christ in the School of Prayer. Come and join me as I “enroll my name among those who confess that they know not how to pray as they ought,” I’m told there is plenty of room in His class!

Lesson I

Blessed Lord! who ever livest to pray, Thou canst teach me too to pray, me too to live ever to pray.  In this Thou lovest to make me share Thy glory in heaven, that I should pray without ceasing, and ever stand as a priest in the presence of my God.

Lord Jesus!   I ask Thee this day to enrol my name among those who confess that they know not how to pray as they ought, and specially ask Thee for a course of teaching in prayer.  Lord! teach me to tarry with Thee in the school, and give Thee time to train me.  May a deep sense of my ignorance, of the wonderful privilege and power of prayer, of the need of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prayer, lead me to cast away my thoughts of what I think I know, and make me kneel before Thee in true teachableness and poverty of spirit.

And fill me, Lord, with the confidence that with such a teacher as Thou art I shall learn to pray.  In the assurance that I have as my teacher, Jesus who is ever praying to the Father, and by His prayer rules the destinies of His Church and the world, I will not be afraid.  As much as I need to know of the mysteries of the prayer-world, Thou wilt unfold for me.  And when I may not know, Thou wilt teach me to be strong in faith, giving glory to God.

Blessed Lord! Thou wilt not put to shame Thy scholar who trusts Thee, nor, by Thy grace, would he Thee either.  Amen.

R.C. Sproul Interviews Ben Stein – Expelled

March 26, 2008

An intelligent and thoughtful interview from the Ligonier Ministries Blog:


“About six weeks ago, Mr. Ben Stein joined Dr. R.C. Sproul for a delightful and stimulating conversation about the current state of free scientific inquiry in academia. We have posted the video below.”

Related: Ben Stein: Expelled