More on Sunday Observance from John J. Timmerman

The fundamental outline of Sunday, its mood, church services, and dominant activities were not enormously changed by the thirties and forties. What is certain is that none of us has escaped the indelible impressions of that Sunday. To me the Sunday of my boyhood in Iowa and my youth in New Jersey meant two things supremely. Sunday was to be markedly different from Thursday in church attendance and in other activities which should be spiritually centered, positively contributory to the distinctiveness of the day. The second, in that honorific and stilted phrase, was the preaching of the word. The latter is still, however brilliant or bumbling it may be, the heart of Sunday services. I am thankful for the spiritual insight and inspiration I have received over the years from many sermons. To have attended half of them would have impoverished me; to have fragmented the spirit of the day with antithetical secular diversions would have made it almost indistinguishable from Thursday (p.63).

Markings on loong journey-TimmermanTaken from the essay “Whatever Happened to Sunday?” in Markings on a Long Journey: Writings of John J. Timmerman. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982.

For my previous post from this article, go here (Oct.15, 2014).

Running Toward the Plague: Christians and Ebola

Running Toward the Plague: Christians and Ebola.

Antoine plague-3rd centuryAs the news around the world and in our own country swells with reports of the spread of the ebola virus, I found this brief commentary about how Christians have reacted to plagues throughout history to be a welcome perspective.

Not only is this 21st century plague a sign of our Lord’s coming and the judgment of death He justly brings on sinners (including ourselves apart from His grace!); it is also an opportunity for Christians to show their true colors and minister to their neighbors, believing and unbelieving. Some are showing this already, especially in West Africa.

If ebola came to our neighborhood, would we be willing to do the same? Are we not the only ones who can offer real, abiding comfort and hope – for the living as well as the dying? Something to think about today and in the days ahead.

Here’s a segment of this article; find all of it at the link above.

Between 250 and 270 A.D. a terrible plague, believed to be measles or smallpox, devastated the Roman Empire. At the height of what came to be known as the Plague of Cyprian, after the bishop St. Cyprian who chronicled what was happening, 5,000 people died every day in Rome alone.

The plague coincided with the first empire-wide persecution of Christians under the emperor Decius. Not surprisingly, Decius and other enemies of the Church blamed Christians for the plague. That claim was, however, undermined by two inconvenient facts: Christians died from the plague like everybody else and, unlike everybody else, they cared for the victims of the plague, including their pagan neighbors.

This wasn’t new—Christians had done the same thing during the Antonine Plague a century earlier. As Rodney Stark wrote in “The Rise of Christianity,” Christians stayed in the afflicted cities when pagan leaders, including physicians, fled.

For yet another story and perspective on Christians and ebola, see this Christianity Today story (dated Oct.15, 2014).

A Church for Exiles by Carl R. Trueman | First Things

A Church for Exiles by Carl R. Trueman | Articles | First Things.

FirstThings-Sept-Oct2014In the most recent issue of First Things (August-Sept., 2014; published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life and dominated by Roman Catholic thinkers and writers – a rather striking periodical for this article) Dr.Carl Trueman (professor of church history at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia) has a powerful piece on “why Reformed Christianity provides the best basis for faith today”.

The article is titled “A Church for Exiles”, and as Trueman explains, the Reformed faith has all the history, doctrines, liturgy, fortitude and stamina to endure the present circumstances faced now by the church in America, namely, exile from the public square.

You may not agree with all that Trueman states here, but I find his thinking highly significant and relevant to our situation and much in line with our own “world and life view”. There is no idle talk of “cultural transformation” here, based on a “common” grace and common ground with the world. Rather, it is a call for the Reformed church to be solidly and plainly Reformed, as God has called her to be according to His Word.

I give you but a small part of Trueman’s article here; and I strongly urge you to read all of it at the “FT” link above.

 

We live in a time of exile. At least those of us do who hold to traditional Christian beliefs. The strident rhetoric of scientism has made belief in the supernatural look ridiculous. The Pill, no-fault divorce, and now gay marriage have made traditional sexual ethics look outmoded at best and hateful at worst. The Western public square is no longer a place where Christians feel they belong with any degree of comfort.

For Christians in the United States, this is particularly disorienting. In Europe, Christianity was pushed to the margins over a couple of centuries—the tide of faith retreated “with tremulous cadence slow.” In America, the process seems to be happening much more rapidly.

…But of this I am convinced: Reformed Christianity is best equipped to help us in our exile. That faith was forged on the European continent in the lives and writings of such men as Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. It found its finest expression in the Anglophone world in the great Scottish Presbyterians and English Puritans of the seventeenth century. It possesses the intellectual rigor necessary for teaching and defending the faith in a hostile environment. It has a strong tradition of reflecting in depth upon the difference between that which is essential and that which, though good, is inessential and thus dispensable. It has a historical identity rooted in the wider theological teachings of the Church. It has deep resources for thinking clearly about the relationship of Church and state.

…We do not expect to be at the center of worldly affairs. We do not imagine ourselves to be running indispensable institutions. Lack of a major role in the public square will cause no crisis in self-understanding.

This does not arise from indifference or a lack of substance, but instead from clarity and focus. Doctrinally, the Reformed Church affirms the great truths that were defined in the early Church, to which she adds the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone. She cultivates a practical simplicity: Church life centers on the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, prayer, and corporate praise. We do not draw our strength primarily from an institution, but instead from a simple, practical pedagogy of worship: the Bible, expounded week by week in the proclamation of the Word and taught from generation to generation by way of catechisms and devotions around the family dinner table.

Government to Farmers: Host Same-Sex Wedding or Pay a $13,000 Fine

Government to Farmers: Host Same-Sex Wedding or Pay a $13,000 Fine.

marriagepic-1It has been some time since we posted something related to the Christian and contemporary culture, a feature we try to post on Saturdays. I saved this a few weeks ago when it appeared as a brief commentary on “The Daily Signal” (August 19, 2014). This article also shows how far government is going to force people to accept the homosexual agenda. Not only are the rights of private citizens trampled on, but God’s Word is openly defied.

May God enable His faithful church and people to be a voice crying in the wilderness of our wicked society.

For more on this story, visit the link above. From the first part of it we quote here.

Should the government be able to coerce a family farm into hosting a same-sex wedding?

In a free society, the answer is no. Family farms should be free to operate in accordance with the beliefs and values of their owners. Government shouldn’t be able to fine citizens for acting in the market according to their own—rather than the government’s—values, unless there is a compelling government interest being pursued in the least restrictive way possible.

But the New York State Division of Human Rights doesn’t see things this way. On August 8, it fined Cynthia and Robert Gifford $13,000 for acting on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman and thus declining to rent out their family farm for a same-sex wedding celebration. The Human Rights Commission ruled that “the nature and circumstances of the [Giffords’s] violation of the Human Rights Law also warrants a penalty.”

This is coercive big government run amok.

Ordinary Christian Work – Tim Challies

Ordinary Christian Work by Tim Challies | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August 2014As we noted last week when we introduced the August issue of Tabletalk, the featured articles all cover the theme of “the ordinary Christian life”.

Pastor Tim Challies wrote the second main article on the ordinary Christian and his work, and it is a fine summary of how believers ought to view and carry out their daily labors in Christ’s kingdom.

If you are feeling down and discouraged because you judge your work doesn’t matter or is too insignificant, read this to refresh your soul and strengthen your hands for extra-ordinary service! This is a must read as we start the work-week!

I give you a snapshot of Challies’ article here. Read the rest at this Ligonier link (or the one above):

Of the many legacies of the Protestant Reformation, few have had greater and wider-reaching impact than the rediscovery of the biblical understanding of vocation. Before the Reformation, the only people with a vocation or calling were those who were engaged in full-time church work—monks, nuns, or priests. As Gene Veith writes in God at Work:

The ordinary occupations of life—being a peasant farmer or kitchen maid, making tools or clothing, being a soldier or even king—were acknowledged as necessary but worldly. Such people could be saved, but they were mired in the world. To serve God fully, to live a life that is truly spiritual, required a full-time commitment.

As the Reformers looked past uninspired traditions in their return to the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word, they found that full-time ministry was a vocation, but it was by no means the only vocation. They saw that each of us has a vocation and that each vocation has dignity and value in the eyes of the Lord. We can all honor God in the work we do.

Yet that old tradition is never far off, and if we do not constantly return to God’s Word and allow it to correct us, we will soon drift back.

The Fifty Best Books of the 20th Century | Intercollegiate Review

The Fifty Best Books of the 20th Century | Intercollegiate Review.

By now you know I like lists such as these. They help me (and, I trust, you too) to see the bigger bigger of significant literature in our time and in times past. This post was recently made on the Intercollegiate Review website (July 14, 2014), a conservative publication for students. I found this list to be worth noting here. This is how “IR” introduced the post:

On the eve of the new millennium, the Intercollegiate Review published a list of the fifty worst and fifty best books of the 20th century.  Although now approaching fifteen years since publication, this list tells us much about our recent historical inheritance, and provides a valuable reminder of the vitality of conservatism and the errors of liberalism.

Abolition of man-CS lewisSo which are these books? Here is “IR’s” introduction to the top non-fiction titles of the previous century, and the first five on that list. For the rest, visit the link above.

I might add, that this list would make a good place to start if you are interested in reading broadly – and the Reformed Christian ought to do this. You will also notice several titles of significance to the Christian faith on this list.

Prominent on the “Best” list, on the other hand, are many volumes of extraordinary reflection and creativity in a traditional form, which heartens us with the knowledge that fine writing and clear-mindedness are perennially possible.

 

1. Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (1907)

Pessimism and nostalgia at the bright dawn of the twentieth century must have seemed bizarre to contemporaries. After a century of war, mass murder, and fanaticism, we know that Adams’s insight was keen indeed.

2. C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (1947)

Preferable to Lewis’s other remarkable books simply because of the title, which reveals the true intent of liberalism.

3. Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952)

The haunting, lyrical testament to truth and humanity in a century of lies (and worse). Chambers achieves immortality recounting his spiritual journey from the dark side (Soviet Communism) to the—in his eyes—doomed West. One of the great autobiographies of the millennium.

4. T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays, 1917–1932 (1932, 1950)

Here, one of the century’s foremost literary innovators insists that innovation is only possible through an intense engagement of tradition. Every line of Eliot’s prose bristles with intelligence and extreme deliberation.

5. Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History (1934–61)

Made the possibility of a divine role in history respectable among serious historians. Though ignored by academic careerists, Toynbee is still read by those whose intellectual horizons extend beyond present fashions.

Supreme Court rules ObamaCare provision can’t force some employers to cover contraception | Fox News

Supreme Court rules ObamaCare provision can’t force some employers to cover contraception | Fox News.

hobby_lobby_300x225Since we have been following the case of Hobby Lobby (owned by the Green family who are Christians) against the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”), I thought it good to report that yesterday the Supreme Court of our land ruled in favor of the company by a 5-4 vote. This vote also affects other Christian-owned companies who were fighting this mandate, including AutoCam here in Grand Rapids.

In this news report, Fox News reports on the meaning and significance of this decision. For the full story, follow the link above.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that certain “closely held” for-profit businesses can cite religious objections in order to opt out of a requirement in ObamaCare to provide free contraceptive coverage for their employees.

The 5-4 decision, in favor of arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby and one other company, marks the first time the court has ruled that for-profit businesses can cite religious views under federal law. It also is a blow to a provision of the Affordable Care Act which President Obama’s supporters touted heavily during the 2012 presidential campaign.

“Today is a great day for religious liberty,” Adele Keim, counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which represented Hobby Lobby, told Fox News.

Five Questions for Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay Marriage – Kevin DeYoung

Five Questions for Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay Marriage | TGC.

marriagepic-2Also this week, pastor Kevin DeYoung posted these vital questions for those in the Christian camp who support homosexual marriage (June 17, 2014). They are compelling and help define the stand we must make on the basis of God’s Word.

Here is his introduction; visit the link above to read his five questions:

So you’ve become convinced that the Bible supports gay marriage. You’ve studied the issue, read some books, looked at the relevant Bible passages and concluded that Scripture does not prohibit same-sex intercourse so long as it takes place in the context of a loving, monogamous, lifelong covenanted relationship. You still love Jesus. You still believe the Bible. In fact, you would argue that it’s because you love Jesus and because you believe the Bible that you now embrace gay marriage as a God-sanctioned good.

As far as you are concerned, you haven’t rejected your evangelical faith. You haven’t turned your back on God. You haven’t become a moral relativist. You’ve never suggested anything goes when it comes to sexual behavior. In most things, you tend to be quite conservative. You affirm the family, and you believe in the permanence of marriage. But now you’ve simply come to the conclusion that two men or two women should be able to enter into the institution of marriage–both as a legal right and as a biblically faithful expression of one’s sexuality.

Setting aside the issue of biblical interpretation for the moment, let me ask five questions.

 

Nine statements by Obama made a mockery of God’s Word

Nine statements by Obama yesterday made a mockery of God’ ….

On Wednesday of this week I received this notice from the American Family Association. It points out how our president in a speech the day before openly defied the teaching of God’s Word on marriage and godly sexuality by boasting about the homosexual agenda he has promoted since becoming our nation’s leader. And this from a professing Christian who claims to be following holy Scripture and representing our Lord! He may mock but God is not mocked!

As we continue to watch the rapid anti-Christian moral decline in this land, we need to be courageous in defending and teaching the truth of God’s Word and we need to be mighty in prayer for the church, as well as for our leaders.

Here is the first part of the AFA post; find the rest at the link above.

June 18, 2014

Yesterday, President Barack Obama spoke at an LGBT fundraiser in New York City. You can watch or read the entire speech here.

I thought you might like to know what he said, so here are a few excerpts from the transcript of his speech:

- The day that the Supreme Court issued its ruling, United States v. Windsor, was a great day for America.

- So Pride Month is a time for celebration, and this year we’ve got a lot to celebrate.  If you think about everything that’s happened in the last 12 months, it is remarkable.  In nine more states you’re now free to marry the person you love – that includes my two home states of Hawaii and Illinois. The NFL drafted its first openly gay player. The U.S. Postal Service made history by putting an openly gay person on a stamp – the late, great Harvey Milk smiling from ear to ear.

- When I took office, only two states had marriage equality.  Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia do.

- But because of your help, we’ve been able to do more to protect the rights of lesbian and gay, and bisexual and transgender Americans than any administration in history.

Same-Sex Relationships: In Churches, Change Is Coming, But Slowly

Same-Sex Relationships: In Churches, Change Is Coming, But Slowly.

Want to know another way in which homosexual rights advocates are pushing their agenda (full acceptance in society and in the church) in our present culture? Pay attention to what is being published – by the major publishing houses (secular) and, more noteworthy, by Christian/evangelical publishing houses.

Bibles Yes to Same-SexPublisher’s Weekly has a religious book news edition, and it recently referenced some significant publications in the church world on this issue. We ought to be aware of the continued compromise by the church on this matter, and we ought to commend those who continue to hold to the Bible’s unchanging standards (God’s Word!) on sexuality – including Dr.A.Mohler (see below).

I quote from a portion of the news item below. You will find all of it at the link provided above.

Just as attitudes toward homosexuality have shifted greatly in the wider culture, change is coming in Christian churches too, though at a relative snail’s pace. Churches worry today about stemming the tide of young refugees from the pews, and intolerance toward gays is a key issue: a 2011 survey by the Barna Group found that 59% of young Christians say they leave churches in part because of sexual intolerance; polls by both the Pew Research Center and the Public Religion Research Institute found almost two-thirds saying homosexuality should be accepted by society and the church.

David Maxwell, executive editor at Westminster John Knox Press (of the liberal Presbyterian Church U.S.A. denomination), says those who have grown up in more conservative churches are looking to liberal Christian and general interest publishers for books that reflect their evolving views, citing their June book, The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart by Mark Achtemeier (see Reviews, May 12).

More disturbing for conservative Christians are books supportive of same-sex relationships from evangelical publishers. In May, Convergent—an imprint of the Christian publishing division of Penguin Random House—published Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, in which he explores the Bible in its historical context and concludes that the few scriptural passages referring to homosexuality have been wrongly and selectively interpreted. That drew impassioned responses: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Press quickly published God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, the first in its new Conversant e-book series.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the seminary and editor of the essay collection, deplored Vines’ assertion that Christians can maintain a “high view” of the authority of scripture while rejecting traditional interpretations of its teachings. Mohler also called it “distressing” that an evangelical house published the book, and other groups and organizations have piled on; in May the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) also denounced the book and the publisher. Stephen Cobb, chief publishing executive for the Christian imprints of Penguin Random House, notes that the four imprints he oversees—WaterBrook, Multnomah, Convergent, and Image—have distinct editorial identities and do not all fit under the conservative “evangelical” umbrella.

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