Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Lifting up for the Downcast - Conclusion

I completed this book last night, and it was quite a struggle. I outlined the reasons for my difficulties in previous posts, but conclude that it was all well worth the effort. Sometimes the most valuable gems lie deepest in the earth!

I haven't spent much time blogging this month, but feel that I should leave you with a little bit of Bridge for your edification:

Suppose you were invited to a great feast, and some of the dishes were not so well dressed or cooked as you might desire, would you find fault? would you complain? No; why? Because this feast costs you nothing. The master of the feast may find fault, but you are a guest and it costs you nothing, and therefore you have no reason to complain. Beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ is the great master of the feast, and of all the comforts which you have, and He has paid all your reckoning. There is nothing for you to pay; and if you bring your prayers, your tears, your obedience, as matter of payment, they will not be taken. No, saith Christ, I have paid all Myself; witness these empty purses, these empty veins of Mine. As for you, O my friends, you are welcome, but you have nothing to pay, not a penny, not a farthing. I say there is a condition that a godly man can fall into, but there is some mercy that is mixed with it, and Christ has paid the reckoning for the mercy too; surely then, the people of God have no reason to be discouraged by reason of their condition. (pg. 238)

But suppose I be in Christ or I be not in Christ, believe or not believe, what then? If yet you do not believe, if yet you be not in Christ, if yet you be not godly, this doctrine from the Lord holds forth an invitation to you to come unto Jesus Christ: for if a man be in Christ, and be godly, then he has no reason to be discouraged whatever his condition be. If a man be not godly, he has no reason to be encouraged, whatever his condition be. On the one hand there lie all encouragements, on the other hand there lie all discouragements. Now, therefore, in the name of the Lord, do I here, this morning, lay before this congregation life and death; encouragement on the one hand, and discouragement on the other hand. And if there be an adulterer, a swearer, a lying child, or a stealing servant; if there be a poor wanton, a sabbath breaker, an opposer of God here; I beseech you, in the Lord, come unto Jesus Christ. By all these encouragements that I have been speaking of, by all the mercies of the new covenant, and by the salvation of thine own soul, man or woman, I beseech you come unto Jesus Christ. Oh that, men and women would give no rest to themselves, till they have made their peace with God, and till they have gotten into Jesus Christ. (pg. 260)

And, what I read to our church prior to business meeting last night:

Faith gives a man the true prospect of things, past, present and to come, and of things as they are. All of our fears and discouragements arise from this, that men do not see things as they are. If evil be stirring, they think it is greater than it is. If good be stirring, they think it is less than it is. If a man be in temptation, then he loses sight of his former experiences, and so he is much discouraged. If a man be under a desertion, he loses sight of what is present, of what God is to him, and of what he is to God; and so he is discouraged. If a man be under an affliction, he loses the sight of the end and the issue of the affliction, and so he is disquieted. But now when faith comes, it opens a man's eyes to see things that are invisible; it is the evidence of things not seen: "By faith, Moses saw him that was invisible." (pg. 268-269)

Thirteen sermons, preached 360 years ago, by a preacher to a people all long since gone to eternity, all as "relevant" as ever, and all based on Psalm 42:11:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Anglicans and the Lambeth Conference

I don't know how long this BBC video link will be up, but the video is very instructive, especially the last words:

"They need to repent, and they need to come to Christ."

Excellent Advice for Christian Bloggers and Internet Commenters

CAMPONTHIS: BATTLES IN THE BLOGOSPHERE...when conflicts arise, how should we respond and work towards resolve?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Another disgraced "minister"

From Fox News:

Preacher Arrested in Church After Wife's Body Found in Freezer

The story speaks for itself, but if I was warped, I might say that maybe he was keeping her on ice until he could get down to Lakeland, Florida so that Todd Bentley could raise her from the dead.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I would really like to know...

...what the Biblical text was for the sermon this day.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Lifting up for the Downcast - How to Read

I had posted earlier about my difficulty with this month's reading of William Bridge's A Lifting up for the Downcast. While I am back on track, this has only been due to the fact that I sat down and marked up my book, dividing it into segments for each day, and have then forced myself to complete each day's assignment.

Note that my difficulties in staying on track have been twofold:

1) Every page provokes thoughtful consideration, and
2) The language is typically 17th century, and archaic.

Yet, as I told my wife a couple of weeks ago, the reading gets easier once you recognize that this book is a collection of sermons, and that Bridge writes as he must have delivered these messages. Bridge writes something like this: The cat is in the house. That cat is securely in the house. That black cat is firmly ensconced in the yellow house, the yellow house with a white fence. Yes, the cat is in the house. That might be somewhat exaggerated, but look at the following actual example:

If Christ therefore forsakes His people for a moment, that He may not forsake them for ever, and has a design of love, and nothing but love, upon them in His forsaking; then have they no just cause for their discouragement. Now I ask, what is the reason why God forsakes His people for a time, or a moment? Has He any design but love? Does he not withdraw Himself from them, that he may draw them to Himself? Does He not hide His face for a moment, that He may not turn His back upon them for ever? Does He not forsake them for a moment, that they may die unto all the world, and long after heaven, where there is no forsaking? Does He not forsake them for a moment, that they may die unto the way of sense, and learn to live by faith, which is the proper work of this life? Does He not forsake them for a moment, that in this winter of their desertion, the weeds and vermin of their sins may be killed and mortified? Does He not forsake them for a moment, that He may see their love to Him? In the time of His presence we have the sense of His love to us; but in the time of His absence, then He sees, and we ourselves have the sense of our love to Him. Does He not therefore foresake them for a moment, that their very joys and comforts may be more fervent, exalted and enlarged? It is our nature to rejoice most in a comfort, when it is redeemed from the hand of death, and recovered after being lost. (pg. 176-177, emphasis added)

Note the repetition, building to a crescendo. Once you discern his cadence, his rythm, then, at least to me, it is easier to read this work.

Remember, you have only 10 days left to register for the opportunity to win Meet the Puritans.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


An excerpt from today's Wall Street Journal article by Vauhini Vara, entitled "Moral Dilemma: When Weddings Are a Career Risk":

The Rev. Greg Comella, a Catholic priest and professor at a theological union in Berkeley, Calif., made the opposite decision from Ms. Lindsay. (a United Methodist minister who has decided to perform same-sex weddings in violation of UMC rules.) Last month, a former student, who has known Father Comella nearly 30 years, asked him to officiate at his same-sex wedding. Father Comella, 61, wrestled with this question but decided not to do it. If he were excommunicated, he would no longer be able to effect change through teaching, he says. It was also a personal decision: He has Parkinson's disease and worries about losing his health care benefits. "I felt guilty for letting them down and not being able to be more courageous," he says. (emphasis mine)

Just a couple of thoughts that came to mind as I was reading the WSJ over a cup of coffee early this morning:

1) If he isn't in agreement with his church's teachings, and teaches contrary to them while representing his church in an official capacity, then isn't he at risk of excommunication regardless of his practice? Otherwise, why would he care for his communicant status?

2) Wouldn't it be more "courageous" to be in compliance with Biblical standards rather than changing cultural expectations?

I have a feeling that same-sex "weddings" are going to result in a great winnowing of the wheat from the chaff.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A reminder: Take heed lest you fall

It used to be that "Pastor" and "Reverend" meant something. Is it any wonder that these terms are prone to ridicule today?

Pure Church: "Reverend" Jesse Jackson?

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Lifting up for the Downcast - Humility vs. Discouragement

Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! - Psalm 100:2, ESV

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you - 1 Peter 5:6, ESV

A man is to be humbled, and not discouraged; not discouraged and yet to be humbled! What is the difference between these two, being humbled and being discouraged?

When a man is humbled, truly humbled, the object of his grief or sorrow or trouble is sin itself, as a dishonour done unto God. The object of discouragement is man's own condition, or sin producing that condition, the ultimate object of discouragement being a man's own condition. When a man is discouraged, you will always find that his trouble is all about his own condition. Oh, says a discouraged person, I have sinned; I have thus and thus sinned, and therefore my condition is bad, and if my condition be bad now, it will never be better; Lord, what will become of my soul? His trouble is always about his own condition. But when a man is grieved and truly humbled for sin, his trouble is about sin itself, as a dishonour done unto God. To clear this by Scripture: you know Cain was discouraged , but Cain was not humbled. How may that appear? Cain was troubled about his condition. Ah, says he, my punishment is greater than I can bear. On the other side, the poor prodigal was humbled, but not discouraged. How may that appear? His trouble was about his sin, and not about his condition: "I will return unto my Father (says he), and I will say unto him, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and I am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants." (pg. 81)

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart....we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed - 2 Cor 4:1, 7-9, ESV

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Free Book

I was fortunate to be chosen at the end of May as the recipient of several books from Reformation Heritage Bookstore as a result of my participation in the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge. One of these is Meet the Puritans by Beeke and Pederson. I already own a copy of this magnificent book, and have decided that I am going to give away this pristine extra copy (I haven't even drooled on it!). I will even pay the shipping stateside, and will consider paying shipping overseas if it won't break the bank.

Here is what you need to do to be eligible. Post a comment to this thread between now and the end of July stating that you want to be considered. I will pick one entry at random, using some type of sophisticated methodology (possibly involving a mayonaisse jar on Funk & Wagnall's porch) at the beginning of August.

Just post a comment, you don't even need to write anything profound. Make sure that you provide your email address so that I will be able to contact you to obtain your shipping information.

Don't thank me, thank Timmy Brister and the good folks at Reformation Heritage. Better yet, give thanks to God.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Lifting up for the Downcast - Faith, not Feeling

But someone may say, I have reason to be discouraged, for I have no sense and feeling of God's love. We do not live by feeling, but by faith. It is the duty of a Christian to begin with faith, and so to rise up to feeling. You would begin with feeling, and so come down to faith; but you must begin with faith, and so rise up to feeling. (pg. 59)

Good words to remember in our "feel good" culture.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Lifting up for the Downcast - Introduction

This seventh book of the Puritan Reading Challenge is going to be the most challenging to date. It is only the 4th of the month, and I know that I am already behind in my reading since I have just now completed chapter one (through page 28).

The book of which I speak is William Bridge's A Lifting up for the Downcast, a series of sermons on Psalm 42:11. Bridge (1600-1671) is another English non-conformist minister who endured the persecutions of the 17th century, at one point fleeing to Holland where he served with Jeremiah Burroughs. Bridge served, prior to his excommunication for his non-conformist beliefs, at Norwich, a town familiar to me since I lived for 18 months in its vicinity in Norfolk.

This book is a compilation of 13 sermons that Bridge preached at Stepney, London, in 1648. Once again I am overwhelmed at the systematic exposition of Scripture of these Puritan divines. However, this leads to me being already behind in my reading this early in the month.

Let me state that I am not behind due to the fact that I haven't been reading, or due to the fact that this book is 287 pages (thus necessitating approximately nine pages per day). The reason why I am behind, and anticipate remaining behind, is due to the fact that each page requires thoughtful analysis and reflection. I am finding it impossible to read a single page without significant mental interruption to process what I am reading. Couple this with the fact that this work is more archaic in style than the others that we have read to date, and I am hoping that July ends up having 50 days just so that I can finish!

Due to the fact that I made a commitment to read these works, and not necessarily to blog on them, it has become apparent to me that my spiritual life would be better served by concentrating primarily on the reading alone. However, before I drop out of sight, let me share the following:

But I pray tell me, did those who have had all this trouble, did they purchase or buy their peace at the hand of Christ with all this trouble? or did Christ give them that peace and comfort freely? Buy it! you reply, no surely; they did never purchase it, never buy it, but Christ gave it them freely. Why, if Christ gave it them freely after all their trouble, why may He not give it you after less trouble? I have read, and so have you, in the gospel, a parable about two that came into the vineyard to work; the one in the beginning of the day, who bare the heat of the day, and the other at the latter end of the day; and both had a penny. When they were both paid, he that was there at the beginning of the day, murmurs, saying, I have been here all this day, and I have borne the heat of the day, and I have but a penny; and the other, that came in at the latter end of the day, has a penny as well as I. The man that had been there working at the beginning and in the heat of the day, murmurs; but he that came at the latter end, he did not murmur, nor say, Surely, my penny is naught, because I have a penny given me, as well as he that hath borne the heat of the day. If any should complain, those that have borne the heat of the day, that have been much troubled, should in reason be the persons. But has the Lord taken you, and given you a penny, the same peace with him who bare the heat of the day; and will you complain, and say, Surely, my penny is false coin, and my peace naught, because I have not endured so much trouble as another has? (pg. 21-22)

It is going to be a tough slog, but I think that it will be worth the effort to digest this work.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

An Update

Even though I finished reading John Owen's Mortification of Sin, I have not posted on it for more than two weeks. During that time we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, and hosted an event attended by approximately 50 family members and friends at which we renewed our vows. Hectic is the single word that I would use to describe the past three weeks, and as a result I am not even going to attempt to catch up on posting my thoughts on last month's reading.

Onward and upward, we move on to William Bridge's A Lifting Up for the Downcast, a series of 13 sermons on Psalm 42:11. Hopefully I will be more diligent in my postings here during the month of July.

(When you look at the funny hat I am wearing, just remember the two words that keep you married for 30 years: "Yes Dear".)