Luther’s “Tabletalk” – “Hard Heads Need Sound Knocks”

It has been a month since I posted a quote from Martin Luther’s Tabletalk. Because of my previous post, we will continue with the “theme” of God’s Word and reference that section of Luther’s “TT” again. Here are a few more “gems” from the great Reformer:

 

XLVIII.

God alone, through his Word, instructs the heart, so that it may come to the serious knowledge how wicked it is, and corrupt and hostile to God. Afterwards God brings man to the knowledge of God, and how he may be freed from sin, and how, after this miserable, evanescent world, he may obtain life everlasting. Human reason, with all its wisdom, can bring it no further than to instruct people how to live honestly and decently in the world, how to keep house, build, etc., things learned from philosophy and heathenish books. But how they should learn to know God and his dear Son, Christ Jesus, and to be saved, this the Holy Ghost alone teaches through God’s Word; for philosophy understands naught of divine matters. I don’t say that men may not teach and learn philosophy; I approve thereof, so that it be within reason and moderation. Let philosophy remain within her bounds, as God has appointed, and let us make use of her as of a character in a comedy; but to mix her up with divinity may not be endured; nor is it tolerable to make faith an accidens or quality, happening by chance; for such words are merely philosophical—used in schools and in temporal affairs, which human sense and reason may comprehend. But faith is a thing in the heart, having its being and substance by itself, given of God as his proper work, not a corporal thing, that may be seen, felt, or touched.

XLIX.

We must know how to teach God’s Word aright, discerningly, for there are divers sorts of hearers; some are struck with fear in the conscience, are perplexed, and awed by their sins, and, in apprehension of God’s anger, are penitent; these must be comforted with the consolations of the gospel. Others are hardened, obstinate, stiff-necked, rebel-hearted; these must be affrighted by the law, by examples of God’s wrath: as the fires of Elijah, the deluge, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the downfall of Jerusalem. These hard heads need sound knocks.

L.

The gospel of the remission of sins through faith in Christ, is received of few people; most men little regard the sweet and comfortable tidings of the gospel; some hear it, but only even so as they hear mass in popedom; the majority attend God’s Word out of custom, and, when they have done that, think all is well. The case is, the sick, needing a physician, welcome him; but he that is well, cares not for him, as we see by the Canaanitish woman in Matthew xv., who felt her own and her daughter’s necessities, and therefore ran after Christ, and in nowise would suffer herself to be denied or sent away from him. In like manner, Moses was fain to go before, and learn to feel sins, that so grace might taste the sweeter. Therefore, it is but labor lost (how familiar and loving soever Christ be figured unto us), except we first be humbled through the acknowledgment of our sins, and so yearn after Christ, as the Magnificat says: “He filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away,” words spoken for the comfort of all, and for instruction of miserable, poor, needful sinners, and condemned people, to the end that in all their deepest sorrows and necessities they may know with whom to take refuge and seek aid and consolation.

But we must take fast hold on God’s Word, and believe all true which that says of God, though God and all his creatures should seem unto us other than as the Word speaks, as we see the Canaanitish woman did. The Word is sure, and fails not, though heaven and earth must pass away. Yet, oh! how hard is this to natural sense and reason, that it must strip itself naked, and abandon all it comprehends and feels, depending only upon the bare Word. The Lord of his mercy help us with faith in our necessities, and at our last end, when we strive with death.

The Bible Translated – the “Grand Lever”

A week ago today, our Bible study group at Faith PRC had a man who works for Wycliffe Bible translators give a presentation on his work in the African state of Cameroon. For 35 years this man and his wife have been dedicating their lives to the cause of translating the Bible into the language of these poor and spiritually blind people. Their work has involved incredible sacrifices and painstaking efforts, due not only to the people’s poverty but also to the fact that they had no written language. Keith and his wife had to learn the native tongues and culture thoroughly and then develop their own linguistic tools before they could even begin to translate the Word of God for these people. But now they see fruit on their labors. The NT and parts of the OT have been translated and they have taught the people to read their own language. And receiving the Bible for the first time, the people are hungry for God’s Word and are coming to see Christ the Savior.

The description of this work made us realize how difficult it is to bring God’s Word to the nations, what a great good it is when the Word is brought to the people in their own language, and how blessed we are to have the Bible translated in our own tongue for hundreds of years now. Have we forgotten or neglected this great blessing? The devotional below from “Grace Gems” providentially came into my mailbox last Saturday, Nov.26, 2011. I post it today to remind us children of the Reformation just how much we owe to the Bible in English. Let us thank God today for this blessed gift, and for the Spirit that has opened our eyes to the glories of His grace in Jesus Christ!

The grand lever which overthrew the Pope’s power

(J.C. Ryle, “Practical Religion” 1878)

The history of the middle ages is one of ignorance and superstition! Darkness covered the whole professing Church–even a darkness that might be felt. The doctrines of the Gospel lay buried under a dense mass of human traditions!
Penances,
pilgrimages,
indulgences,
relic-worship,
image-worship,
saint-worship, and
worship of the Virgin Mary
–formed the sum and substance of most people’s religion!
The church was made an idol!
The priests usurped the place of Christ!

And by what means was all this miserable darkness cleared away? The grand lever which overthrew the Pope’s power, was the translation of the Bible into the native languages!

By the reading of the Bible, the public mind became gradually pervaded with the principles of true religion.
Men’s eyes became thoroughly open.
Their spiritual understandings became thoroughly enlarged.
The abominations of popery became distinctly visible.
The excellence of the pure Gospel became a rooted idea in their hearts.
It was then in vain for Popes to thunder forth excommunications. It was then useless for Kings to attempt to stop the course of Protestantism by fire and sword. It was all too late! The people knew too much! They had seen the light. They had heard the joyful sound. They had tasted the truth. The sun had risen on their minds. The scales had fallen from their eyes. The Bible had done its appointed work within them–and that work was not to be overthrown. The clock could not be turned back. A mental and moral revolution had been effected by God’s Word!

“Reading from Across the Canyon”

I have been reviewing with you the new book on reading by Tony Reinke titled Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Crossway, 2011). Chapter 4 carries the above title and instructs us in the importance of reading with a Biblical worldview. By this Reinke means that we have to have the basic, propositional truths about God, ourselves (man), and the world we live in before us when we read. This worldview will give us discernment, enabling us to judge critically both Christian and non-Christian authors and books.

 

Scripture provides us with the only cohesive and consistent worldview. Scripture equips us to evaluate what we read in books, and helps us better perceive truth wherever it appears.

Christians can read a broad array of books for our personal benefit, but only if we read with discernment. And we will only read with discernment if the biblical convictions are firmly settled in our minds and hearts. Once they are, we have a touchstone to determine what is pure gold and what is worthless (p.59).

 

And a bit later Reinke adds this:

The bigger point is that by clutching tightly to a worldview that is informed by Scripture, we set the agenda. The author will not be allowed to lead us along blindly. We read more safely when our understanding of Scripture is sharp. As we mature here, the mist in the canyon will lift and we will better understand the gap that separates us from a majority of contemporary authors. Once we can clearly see the ravine, a large library of literature is unlocked for our benefit, and we can read from a safe distance (pp.60-61).

 

From there Reinke instructs us in what books to avoid. But I will save this for another post. Do you see better now why we need a “theology of reading”?

Published in: on November 29, 2011 at 12:21 PM  Leave a Comment  

King James Bible at 400 – National Geographic Magazine

King James Bible – Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine.

Even National Geographic magazine has called attention to the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible this year with an article in the November issue. I must say, it is a rather strange yet interesting article, written by British author Adam Nicholson, who also penned the book God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible (HarperCollins, 2003). Nicholson focuses on the influence the KJB has had on the English language as well as on cultures – both positive and negative (the latter in his estimation). His approach is rather unique as you will see from the quote below and the rest of the article. Follow the link above to read the full article.

Rome Wager stands in front of the rodeo chutes on a small ranch just outside the Navajo Reservation in Waterflow, New Mexico. He is surrounded by a group of young cowboys here for midweek practice. With a big silver buckle at his waist and a long mustache that rolls down on each side of his mouth like the curving ends of a pair of banisters, Wager holds up a Bible in his left hand. The young men take their hats off to balance them on their knees. “My stories always begin a little different,” Brother Rome says to them as they crouch in the dust of the yard, “but the Lord always provides the punctuation.”

Wager, a Baptist preacher now, is a former bull-riding and saddle-bronc pro, “with more bone breaks in my body than you’ve got bones in yours.” He’s part Dutch, part Seneca on his father’s side, Lakota on his mother’s, married to a full-blood Jicarilla Apache.

He tells them about his wild career. He was raised on a ranch in South Dakota; he fought and was beaten up, shot, and stabbed. He wrestled and boxed, he won prizes and started drinking. “I was a saphead drunk.”

But this cowboy life was empty. He was looking for meaning, and one day in the drunk tank in a jail in Montana, he found himself reading the pages of the Bible. “I looked at that book in jail, and I saw then that He’d established me a house in heaven … He came into my heart.”

The heads around the preacher go down, and the words he whispers, which the rodeo riders listen to in such earnestness, are not from the American West: They are from England, translated 400 years ago by a team of black-gowned clergymen who would have been as much at home in this world of swells and saddles, pearl-button shirts and big-fringed chaps as one of these cowboys on a Milanese catwalk. “Second Corinthians 5. ‘Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.'”

Here is the miracle of the King James Bible in action. Words from a doubly alien culture, not an original text but a translation of ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, made centuries ago and thousands of miles away, arrive in a dusty corner of the New World and sound as they were meant to—majestic but intimate, the voice of the universe somehow heard in the innermost part of the ear.

Preserving Wonder in Our Worship of God – Carl Trueman

Problematic Analogies and Prayerful Adoration by Carl Trueman | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

One of my favorite theological writers had an article in this month’s Tabletalk, and as usual, it was stimulating to the mind and to the heart. Dr. Carl R. Trueman, professor of historical theology and church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, wrote the above-titled article, in which he warns us about using analogies to explain the deep doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation of Christ. He points out that our analogies often lead us away from the very truths we are trying to explain and understand, and that we need to preserve the element of mystery so that we may be filled with awe-struck wonder in our worship of God and of our Savior. I believe his points are well worth our considering, and so I quote a portion of the article. You may certainly read the rest at the link above (at Ligonier’s site).

Vital to worship is the acknowledgment of the vast difference that exists between God and His human creatures. Part of that difference is the fact that He is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, while we are creatures and sustained in our being by God. Part of it is moral: He is holy, but we are sinful. Part of it has to do with salvation: He is the gracious Savior, and we are vessels of grace. In all three categories, mystery and incomprehensibility provide the backdrop to His action in history.

The doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation guard that mystery because they state biblical truth in a way that is not reducible to the categories of our finite minds. The result of that for the Christian is surely not to be confusion but adoration. The failure of our intellects to penetrate these mysteries is vital to our Christian lives because that very failure is what drives us to our knees in gasps of adoration, praise, and wonder.

My conviction is that analogies blunt this. By reducing the distance between creation and God, they somehow make Him more manageable, more amenable to our ways of thinking, and thus take some of the urgent spiritual hunger away from our praise and adoration. This is not to argue for fideism, to say that the more mystical our faith, the greater our praise. But it is to say that there is an appropriate place for mystery and uniqueness that must be maintained if our worship is to be truly Christian. The task of the teacher is not to explain the Trinity or incarnation, or reduce them to creaturely categories; it is rather to point to the splendor of the same as a means of provoking awe and wonder in the congregation.

When we talk of God, we should remember we walk on holy ground. We can go only so far before we have to stop and fall on our faces in adoration. As Gregory Nazianzus, an early church father, said of God as Trinity: “Every time I think of the One, my mind is drawn to the Three; yet every time I think of the Three, my mind is drawn to the One.” He could not explain the Trinity; he could simply worship and adore the Three in One and the One in Three. The mystery, the boundary of incomprehensibility, was to him a reminder that he was not God. The maintenance of such a boundary is crucial. Let us not allow any attempt to communicate the faith to become by accident a means for domesticating the faith.

The Discipline of Learning – Donald Whitney

The Discipline of Learning by Donald Whitney | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

As I usually do on Sunday’s before our public worship times, yesterday I read articles from this month’s Tabletalk. Two of them I refer to in today’s posts. The first is this one by Dr. Donald S. Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He has been writing a series of articles this year for “TT” covering the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life (prayer, Scripture reading and meditation, journaling, etc.). For November he wrote the above-titled article, about the importance of being disciplined learners. Below are just a few of his thoughts; you may read all of them at the link above (at the Ligonier site). May his words encourage us to be diligent in our learning, so that we continue to grow up in Christ our Savior. That certainly includes reading good Reformed literature!

The Christian life not only begins with learning, it proceeds through a process of lifelong learning. This includes deeper discoveries of intimacy with God, an ever-growing grasp of the Bible and its doctrines, a greater awareness of our sin, an increased knowledge of the person and work of Christ, further implications of what it means to follow Him, and more. A mature understanding of these things does not come quickly or without effort. Simply put, it is impossible to grow into a Christlikeness one knows nothing about. By the Spirit’s power, we must learn what Christlikeness means and how Jesus wants us to follow Him. We learn this through the Bible, of course, but it involves learning nonetheless.

Those whom the Bible considers wise and intelligent understand this. According to Scripture, “The wise lay up knowledge” and “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Prov. 10:14; 18:15). So the primary measurement of wisdom and intelligence is not your IQ or GPA but whether you pursue knowledge, that is, whether you discipline yourself to continue learning the things of God throughout your life.

Intentional Learning

A hunger to learn the Word of God, the ways of God, and the will of God expresses a hunger for God Himself. Those who love God long to be taught about Him and from Him. That doesn’t mean all Christians are to manifest an affinity for learning exactly the same things and in identical ways. But it is true that apathy toward learning the things of God is a mark of those who do not know God.

We are blessed to live in a time when the means of and opportunities for expressing a love for God through learning greatly exceed our ability to take advantage of them. But all these profit little if a person doesn’t pursue them. This is why learning must always be a discipl ine, for a person can be surrounded by wisdom and knowledge yet live without their riches if he or she does not possess the discipline to learn them.

Thus, learning is indeed a gospel driven spiritual discipline; those who are not exerting themselves to learn the things of God will gain spiritual and biblical knowledge only by accident or mere convenience. By contrast, intentional learners will seek to learn the things of God and will do so individually as well as with the church, disciplining themselves to learn from those who are gifted by God and recognized by the church as teachers.

Psalm 57 – Choral Evensong

Psalm 57 – YouTube.

For our music meditation on Psalm 57 today we hear a form which we are not accustomed to hearing – Anglican chant – yet one which is simple in style and faithful to the text of Scripture. This evensong is based on the second half of Psalm 57. May the words awaken in us the desire to have hearts fixed on praising God this day.

 

This is the information that accompanies the video:

Anglican Chant Setting Sung during Choral Evensong at Trinity Cathedral (Episcopal) in Cleveland, Ohio May 19, 2010 Trinity Chamber Singers Horst Buchholz, Choirmaster Nicole Keller, Organist

J.Calvin on Psalm 57

For our continued meditation on and edification from Psalm 57, let’s “hear” these words of John Calvin on vss.7 and 9. :

 

7. My heart is prepared, O God! Some read fixed, or confirmed, and the Hebrew word נכון, nacon, bears that signification as well as the other. If we adopt it, we must understand David as saying that he had well and duly meditated upon the praises which he was about to offer; that he did not rush into a hurried and perfunctory discharge of this service, as too many are apt to do, but addressed himself to it with steadfast purpose of heart. I prefer, however, the other translation, which bears that he was ready to enter upon the service with all cheerfulness and cordiality. And although, wherever this spirit is really felt, it will lead to steadfastness of religious exercise, it is not without importance that the reader should be apprised of the force of the word which is here employed in the Hebrew. The ready heart is here opposed by David to the mere lip-service of the hypocrite, on the one hand, and to dead or sluggish service, on the other. He addressed himself to this voluntary sacrifice with a sincere fervor of spirit, casting aside sloth, and whatever might prove a hinderance in the duty.

9. I will praise thee, O Lord! among the peoples. As the nations and peoples are here said to be auditors of the praise which he offered, we must infer that David, in the sufferings spoken of throughout the psalm, represented Christ. This it is important to observe, as it proves that our own state and character are set before us in this psalm as in a glass. That the words have reference to Christ’s kingdom, we have the authority of Paul for concluding, (Romans 15:9,) and, indeed, might sufficiently infer in the exercise of an enlightened judgment upon the passage. To proclaim the praises of God to such as are deaf, would be an absurdity much greater than singing them to the rocks and stones; it is therefore evident that the Gentiles are supposed to be brought to the knowledge of God when this declaration of his name is addressed to them.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 57

Psalm 57 is another amazing prayer/song of the psalmist David set in the context of his persecution and flight from king Saul. You will see immediately its appropriateness for worship, especially in the second half of the psalm (See also Psalm 108:1-5):

 

Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.

2I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.

3He shall send from heaven, and save from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.

4My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.

5Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth.

6They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah.

7My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.

8Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.

9I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations.

10For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds.

11Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: let thy glory be above all the earth.

 

You will notice that Psalm 57 is a personal resolve on David’s part to exalt and worship the mighty God of his salvation. Yes, it is also a prayer for God’s mercy in the face of grievous persecution (note his language in vss.3-4, 6) and for deliverance from these foes (Saul and his hosts). Yet David is also brimming with confidence in his God, certain of His help and salvation. He pleads for mercy knowing that the Lord’s wings shelter him (v.1). He cries out to God knowing it is this God who performs all things for him and Who will save him (v.2). God will deal with the enemy who would swallow him up, sending out His mercy and truth for his good (v.3). And so, in spite of the attempts on his life and the hurtful words against him, David aspires to one thing – to see his God exalted, and to praise Him among the people. Twice he specifically prays for this (vss.5,11). In this regard his heart is steadfast (v.7).

 

What a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, and what a model for us! We must not forget to see Christ, our suffering Savior, in this psalm. It is He who was preeminently persecuted when He came in our flesh to redeem us. He experienced the full hatred and wrath of wicked men against God and man. He suffered at the hands of evildoers as no one else ever had or will. And in the end He was crucified, hung up for public shame and mockery. Yet even this was not the heart of Jesus’ suffering for us. That was his suffering of the wrath of God against our sins; His bearing of the everlasting punishment of our sins; His going to hell for us. And through it all our Savior too desired one thing – the exaltation and worship of God. In the midst of all his suffering He did not seek his own well-being but the glory and praise of his Father. For this he too prayed, even out of the depths, and this he practiced perfectly all his life.

 

And therefore, in and through Jesus Christ, we also can and will pray confidently in our sufferings and praise God out of our own depths of pain and persecution. God’s grace and mercy to us through our Savior not only motivates us to do so; it enables us to do so. So are you experiencing great suffering today? Is your way difficult, filled with trials and temptations? Are you burdened with care, heavy with pain and sorrow? Make your refuge in the shadow of your Father’s wings and cry out to Him for mercy in confidence of faith! And yes, let your heart be fixed in worshiping the God of your salvation! Pray for His exaltation and His praise, even out of your pain and persecution! For His mercy toward us in Christ is great! And He has saved us and will yet save us – unto everlasting life and everlasting worship of Him in glory. Today let us sing and give praise to this mighty and merciful God of ours. And in that way have a foretaste of our everlasting worship.

Most Tweeted Moments

Most Tweeted Moments.

 

In our other look at cultural trends/events on this Saturday I found this little item to be interesting and significant. Not just because tweeting on Twitter is so popular after only 5 years, but also because Twitter has become a glimpse into what our culture sees as important history and events. So, take a guess as to what has been judged most significant by the Twitter standard and then read the post “The 10 Most Tweeted Moments of All Time” (that being the last five years!). Here’s how the story begins:

 

Twitter, the micro-blogging site started in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, sees roughly 5 billion tweets every month, according to the company.

It’s a social circle that has advertisers giddy with possibility, sparking talk of sky-high valuations on Wall Street and in secondary market circles.

See The 10 Most Tweeted Moments >

What makes Twitter so popular is simple: people tweeting.

So what makes a moment worth tweeting about? The most tweeted moment in recent memory occurred earlier this month, when Apple Chairman and cultural icon Steve Jobs passed away. The site experienced traffic of more than 6,000 tweets per second, causing many users to notice system delays and slowness.

Even so, such a news-making event, especially within social networking circles, was not the most tweeted moment of all time. So what was?

The following is a list of the 10 most recent record-breaking moments on Twitter, as measured in tweets per second.

Published in: on November 26, 2011 at 11:41 AM  Leave a Comment  
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