Eugene Peterson’s Advice to Seminary Students

Originally posted on Lucid Theology:

Eugene Peterson’s advice to seminary students:

Eugene_Peterson (1)“I’d tell them that pastoring is not a very glamorous job. It’s a very taking-out-the-laundry and changing-the-diapers kind of job. And I think I would try to disabuse them of any romantic ideas of what it is. As a pastor, you’ve got to be willing to take people as they are. And live with them where they are. And not impose your will on them. Because God has different ways of being with people, and you don’t always know what they are.

“The one thing I think is at the root of a lot of pastors’ restlessness and dissatisfaction is impatience. They think if they get the right system, the right programs, the right place, the right location, the right demographics, it’ll be a snap. And for some people it is: if you’re a good actor, if you have a big smile, if you…

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Much Ado about the Sabbath

highplainsparson:

True words.

Originally posted on Gairney Bridge:

The difference between the Puritan Sabbath and the Continental Sunday should not be exaggerated, especially so far as the actual practices of churches in the Reformed tradition are in view. To be sure, at the confessional level, there are differences, although these, too, are not as substantial as sometimes maintained. The Three Forms of Unity, the confessional standards of Continental Calvinism, do treat the Sabbath much less extensively and with a somewhat different accent than the Westminster Standards. But in the main, especially beginning in the seventeenth century following the Synod of Dort, British-American Presbyterianism and Continental Calvinism became of one mind on what Sunday observance should look like: in view of the continuing validity of the fourth commandment, Sunday is to be a day of rest from our daily work, devoted primarily to the worship of God.

Richard Gaffin, “Westminster and the Sabbath” in The Westminster Confession into the…

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Fatherly Punishment: Zechariah Devotional, part 12, chapter 8:10-17

God reminds us through the prophet Zechariah that blessing comes to those who learn from His loving chastisement, not to those who obstinately continue as if nothing has happened when He punishes us as our Father.  If we love God and are thankful to Him, it will show in our obedience to Him, in reflecting His justice, love and mercy to others, especially in the Church of Christ.

Zechariah 8:10 For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbour.

11 But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the Lord of hosts.

12 For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.

13 And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.

14 For thus saith the Lord of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the Lord of hosts, and I repented not:

15 So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.

pruned vines in May, Wikimedia Commons

For God’s people, (which in Old Testament times was the nation of Israel, and is now known as the Church of Jesus Christ, made up of Christians of every nation), sin angers God.  When we stray against God, he sends his rod to chasten us, not out of hatred, but out of His fatherly love, in order to correct our attitude and restrain our bad behavior.  There are times, as in the history of God’s people Israel recounted in the words of the prophet, when we provoke God’s anger through sin.  Chief among these sins is the sin of idolatry, of having false gods.  This can be the blatant idolatry of bowing down to false gods represented by images invented by man’s imagination, as the Jews engaged in before they had been taken to exile in Babylon, or it can be in the more subtle form of the rule of other life priorities in our hearts, the place where God’s rule is meant to be seated and expressed in our life together as the Church.  These other priorities may be money, work, family, or community, which are blessings if used for God’s glory, when they are not allowed to take priority over God in our lives and hearts, but are idols if they are allowed to be more important to us than him.  God forebears for a long time in the face of such idolatry, when he allows the material blessings to continue.  But sooner or later out of love our Father removes certain blessings in order to discipline His people, to teach us to be more faithful to Him as His obedient child, noted in verse 10 above as the removal of economic blessing and the introduction of strife between the people.  But as with any loving father, His punishment does not last forever.

There is a blessing promised, when the Church will flourish and Her hard times will be remembered no more, as even bystanders looking from the outside see that God is in her midst to bless and keep her.  This blessing involves a remnant being kept by God from among the people, while those who remain in their sinful rebellion, who, instead of repenting of their sin and learning from God’s punishment, continue obstinately in their former ways, are cut off from the people of God.  The promised blessing is for those who prove to be faithful as a result of God’s chastisement, who learn obedience to Him from it.

Let us be those who learn the lessons that God gives us opportunity to learn, teachably, receptive to what He instructs us in his word and by the events that transpire, for we know that He is in sovereign control of everything that happens to us.  God teaches us in his word, and applies it to our lives often through the events that transpire.  Let us be open to what He has to teach us so that we will receive the spiritual peace and prosperity that He promises, which is so much better than even material blessing.

16 These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:

17 And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.

The blessing of God is received in thankfulness when we keep His commandments.  When we speak the truth to one another, love truth, and make just and right decisions as His Church, it shows that we are His people, beloved by Him, chastened but not killed, walking in thankful obedience in response to His grace to us.  When we love our neighbor and keep our word, for His glory, out of thankfulness for the blessings He has showered upon us, it shows His work written upon our heart, that we have been taught of Him and know Him.

 

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Please Don’t Say These Six Things at My Funeral

highplainsparson:

A good corrective to modern funerals.

Originally posted on :

funeralThere will come a day, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, when the man in the coffin will be me. They say the dead don’t care, but I’m not dead yet, so as long as I’m still alive, I’d like to have some say in what goes on at my funeral. And, truth be told, I think the dead do care. Not that they will be privy to the details of what happens at their own funerals, but they still care about the world, about their family, about the church. The saints in heaven continue to pray for those who are still on their earthly pilgrimage, so how could they not care about them?

Because I do care now, and will care even after I’m with the Lord, here are some things I hope and pray are not said at my funeral. I care about those who will be there, about what…

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Zechariah Devotional, part 11, chapter 8:7-9, Strength from Heaven

God chastens his own as a loving father punishes his children.  He does it not to hurt us, but to help and heal us when we go astray.  If we keep focused on the salvation that God has promised us, the eternal life that we have to look forward to in him, this will spur us to achieve great things as his Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit, as the grace of God and our thankfulness to him spur us to good works.  The special promise remains with us, that God is our God, and we will be his people forever.

Zechariah 8:7 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country;

And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.

God has caused his people to be taken captive, the northern tribes by Assyria, and Judah by Babylon, and now Judah has been restored to the land.  Now God gives a more general promise to save his people wherever they might be, from the east to the west, from anywhere on earth.  At no time in the Bible’s history were the northern tribes of Israel restored to the land of Israel, or enabled to gather to Jerusalem for Passover and other feast days, but they were intermingled as an ethnic group with the Assyrians until they ceased to exist.  This promise, then, concerns something greater.  In the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which is the Church, Israel restored at Pentecost (Acts 1:6-8), all of God’s chosen ones of every nation from everywhere under heaven, that is, spiritual Israel, will be saved from all their enemies that oppress them: especially, death, sin and the devil.

Jerusalem was the place of God’s presence among his people Israel in Old Testament times.  This presence is now found in the New Jerusalem, the Church of Jesus Christ, where God indwells and communes with His own (Revelation 21:2).  It is in the Church of Jesus Christ that truth and righteousness are found, for in her his word is proclaimed and his law is kept.  We who gather to this Church enjoy a special relationship with God that the rest of the world does not, to have him not just as God, but to be his people and to have him for our God forever.

Though we walk through life as a valley of tears, struggling against indwelling sin, suffering from death and disease, and being tempted and buffeted by Satan, yet God has saved us from being slaves to these things.  The living hope that we have in him sustains us through all the difficulties of the Christian life.  Though all of the world may be against us, yet our happiness in God is secure, knowing that He is present among us, especially when we gather to worship every Lord’s Day as his people, and that He will be our God forever.  Though our enemies are stronger than we, we feel secure knowing that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.

“Building of Solomon’s Temple” Comestor’s Bible, 1450, Wikimedia Commons

God’s grace strengthens us for the work that he would have us to do together.  His peace enables and invigorates us to build his temple.  Although Christ is the builder of his Church, yet he gives us an important role in the work, that of proclaiming the free grace of God in Jesus Christ to sinners of every category and walk of life, and of growing up together in him by his word and Spirit, and walking in mutual discipline according to the law of love.  God’s salvation is assured.  With the outcome secured, we are free to work.  It is hard work, but worthwhile and refreshing.  There is no more important or worthy labor on earth than to work for the purity, peace, and prosperity of the Church.  It is vital, and wonderful.

Let our hands be strengthened and not slack off in this work.  If we allow our own prejudices and preferences to take hold, instead of adhering steadfastly to the word of truth, and the rule of righteousness that God has completely given in the Holy Scriptures, Christ’s Church will be structurally damaged and her construction stymied.  But with God’s grace in our hearts, obedience to his word as the only rule for everything we do in the Church, and love for one another in the unity that God’s truth brings, we will engage in this work with pure intentions and a singularity of purpose, that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will yield great blessing in the building project, as Christ’s own rule (contained in the Holy Scriptures) is gloriously kept and displayed in us as the Church to a watching world.

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Preacher in the hands of an angry church: the fall of Jonathan Edwards

highplainsparson:

Encouraging material for any pastor.

Originally posted on Grateful to the dead:

Minister. Thinker. Revivalist. America’s greatest theologian. “Homeboy” to today’s Young Reformed. Hero. Icon.

Failed pastor.

Why exactly was Jonathan Edwards, godfather of American evangelicalism, ejected from his own congregation–the church he had served faithfully for over twenty years? And what happened next? How did he respond? I explored these questions in an article for Leadership Journal:

[For a few reflections on what Edwards could still mean to the church today, see this post. For his claim to the title "father of evangelicalism," see this one. On Edwards as the original "ancient-future" evangelical, see here.]

Preacher in the Hands of an Angry Church
by Chris Armstrong

As messy dismissals of ministers go, the 1750 ejection of Jonathan Edwards by his Northampton congregation was among the messiest. The fact that it involved the greatest theologian in American history—the central figure of the Great Awakening—is almost beside the point…

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Precious Promises: Zechariah Devotional, Part 10

Zechariah Devotional, Part 10

God’s promises sometimes seem far-fetched, especially when they are very different from what we see in our daily lives.  It is often hard to believe God’s promises when they so contradict what may seem to appear before our eyes.  In our passage (chapter 8), Zechariah received a word of encouragement from the Lord to His people.  Let us recall that in the previous century they had gone through some very tough times and been ransacked by wicked nations, but God’s promise for a future salvation brought a sustaining blessing that carried them through to those times ahead.

Again the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying,

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.

Thus saith the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain.

These verses speak of God as a jealous God.  We may often be accustomed to think of jealousy as a negative personality trait or a form of insecurity, but there is a such thing as righteous jealousy.  A woman with a cheating husband has a right to be jealous for his affection.  And just as you would not want to mess with a mama grizzly bear’s cubs, so God’s tender affection for his chosen ones burns with hot fury against any who would come against us.  Israel may have been punished by the Lord’s fatherly hand by evil nations, but woe to those nations!  It would be better for them if they had never existed than to face the jealousy of God for his chosen ones.  He who was angered by Israel’s past sins will not be angry forever.  This applies to the Church, which is the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), today as much as it did in Zechariah’s day.  He will yet establish Zion.  God is jealous for His people and will never utterly forsake them, but will raise them in Christ and bless them forever.

As the Church of Jesus Christ, it seems like we are a dim light shining in an ocean of darkness.  So many churches have lost the last flicker that remained of their light, whether through compromising the pure word of God in order to conform to the world, or by outright closing their doors.  But God is jealous for His Church, which is Mt. Zion, the New Jerusalem. (Hebrews 12:22, Revelation 21:2.)  The Lord who has established her has promised to yet build her so that she continues to be the place of His presence with men. (Matt 16:18)  Though the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ is experiencing difficult times, there is a promise of future blessing to come.  Let this be a comfort and sustaining source of joy for us when we think about our place in this world as the mountain of God on earth, the place of His presence and glory.  Let us continue diligently in worshiping God and doing everything that Christ commanded, knowing that our God does not dwell in buildings made with hands, but in the hearts and praises of his people gathered in His name.

This mountain of God is to be called a “place of truth.”  The Church is where God’s truth is proclaimed and believed.  The word of God is central to her worship, and the Holy Scriptures are the sufficient standard and regulative norm of all of her activities.  We can be sure of God’s presence as long as the truth of his word is proclaimed among us.  Where His word if faithfully proclaimed, that is where He is.  Unto this mountain which is the “place of truth” we must gather and never forsake it.

This mountain of God is a holy place.  It is “set apart” for Him, which is the meaning of the word holy.  In the Church of Jesus Christ, common worldly ways of doing business do not hold sway, but only the commandments of the Lord administered through the offices He has appointed.  The Church is holy because it has been set apart by God for himself.  Just as the whole is holy, the individual members of the body are holy.

Do you think of yourself as set apart for God in day to day work and activities?  Although Christians must and do engage in lots of things that are very common ways of life even for non-Christians, like work, recreation, family ties, etc., yet the Christian is set apart for the Lord.  There should and must be a noticeable difference in the way that we do things versus the way the world does things.  This comes out especially in motives.  Whereas those of the world are looking out for their own self-interest as commonly understood, their safety and income, those belonging to the Lord are firstly and foremostly concerned with minding the things of God.  They are “set apart”, holy, and consecrated to Him so that nothing will entice them to do something contrary to the glory of God.  And, although we all fail deeply in many ways all the time, there is a high calling to holiness in Christ for all who are in him.  Let us be diligent to be holy, to be consecrated to God when we gather to worship as His church and also in whatever we do in life, for this is God’s work in us, to make of us this mountain his holy place.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.

And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the Lord of hosts.

God confronts the doubting spirit of His people.  They had been in a state of war and slavery for so many years that it was almost too much to imagine children playing in the streets and old men and women alive in the city.  It is hard to imagine such things when all the old people have died and the young children cannot be allowed to play outside.  The modern culture that surrounds us commonly looks down upon children and the elderly.  Yet despite what our modern culture would have us to believe, having children is a blessing from God, and so is living to an old age.   What is impossible for us to imagine is possible with God.  His miracles are far beyond any of our expectations.  There will come a day, God says, fulfilled by Christ for His Church, when peace will be won and victory so established that His kingdom reigns in majesty, symbolized here by the peaceful and unworried presence of children and old men.  While this prophesied blessing is partly fulfilled in the kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth, especially in the churches where His word is purely preached and the sacraments administered with discipline, the full fulfillment must await the consummation, when Christ Jesus will return.  Every tear will dry from our eyes and all will experience God’s peace.  On that day, and we will not have to worry about any enemies harming us, and perfect peace and happiness will reign forever.

God’s gracious plan in Christ brings peace to us that we can now only taste a little and imagine, but someday we will dine on the full meal.  We can trust it because it is God himself who has promised, as unlike what we see before our own eyes as it may be.  We can work diligently building His holy Temple assured that He who has promised will bring it to pass in His own timing.  Thank God for this precious promise.  Let it sustain us in difficult times.

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Perkins on the Power of the Word Preached

apuritansmind.com

Finally Perkins speaks of the vitality of the Word of God (p. 647, The Art of Prophesying).  It is endowed with virtue in its operation.  This means that the Word has a vitality, a power to convince the hearers of its truth and to bring about that which it promises.  We notice that others in the history of preaching have spoken of this virtue or vitality of God’s Word.  It is a fundamental concept for understanding the Puritan School of preaching, because it is on this insight that the confidence of the preacher is built.  He does not have to rely on the arts of oratory, although he may use them, because the power of the preaching is not in the preacher but in the Word itself.

Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church: Vol IV, the Age of the Reformation, 265.

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The Holy Spirit in the Church Today

The Holy Spirit fills and animates the body of Christ, regenerating her and sanctifying her, filling her with the fullness of Christ and growing her up to his stature.  The Holy Spirit works conviction of sin, faith, and repentance unto life individually and corporately.  He is particularly responsible for any success in all the work of the church.

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The Scriptures Are the Church’s Only Final Rule

IMG_6769The Scriptures are the Church’s charter and foundation, her only final rule for faith and practice.  All that the church does is to be regulated according to the doctrine and practical instructions given in the Scriptures.  Since the Scriptures are her only warrant for ecclesiastical authority, she is not to transact anything not clearly addressed by them.  The conscience of Christians is free from all doctrines and commandments not specifically provided in the Scriptures in matters of faith and worship, and free from anything contradicting the Scriptures in other life matters.

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