Due to work obligations in northern Michigan, I will be away from my PC and WordPress for a few days. So, no posts for a day or so. Quit pouting. But don’t quit reading! I’ll be back. D.V.
Al Mohler has another interesting commentary on the recent study and report on marriage in this country that was done by Time and the Pew Research Center. Though he makes a wrong and unnecessary reference to “common grace” in his comments (marriage is, in fact, a good gift of God, also to the unbelieving, but it becomes a curse to them when they abuse His gift and refuse to follow His rules for it – that can hardly be called “grace” – not even if it is “common”!), still he has worthwhile things to say. And his summary of the study on marriage is indeed revealing. So, read discerningly; understand the report in the light of Scripture (your good, Calvinist “glasses”); and yes, commit to answering Time‘s question with good Reformed reasons. CJT
Here’s the opening to Mohler’s blog commentary:
“When an institution so central to human experience suddenly changes shape in the space of a generation or two, it’s worth trying to figure out why.” Belinda Luscombe of TIME magazine made that observation in the course of reporting on a major study of marriage undertaken by TIME and the Pew Research Center. In the cover story for the magazine’s November 29, 2010 edition, Luscombe summarizes their findings with a blunt statement: “What we found is that marriage, whatever its social, spiritual, or symbolic appeal, is in purely practical terms just not as necessary as it used to be.”
Without doubt, marriage has been utterly transformed in the modern world. In Western nations, the concept of marriage as a sacred covenant has given way to the idea that marriage is merely a legal contract. The limitation of sexual intercourse to marriage went the way of the Sexual Revolution, even as the ideal of permanence gave way to no-fault divorce and serial monogamy. And as for monogamy, that may be on shaky ground, too. These days, you can’t take anything for granted.
As I have noted here previously this month, Ligonier’s November Tabletalk is devoted to the subject of “College and the Christian”. While some of the feature articles are better than others, all have been helpful in pointing out the dangers that today’s college scene (Christian and secular) presents to our covenant children, and in prescribing ways for them not just to survive but to thrive. Such an article is the one I have “pressed” for this blog post. Pastor Scotty Smith (Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN – PCA) writes out of the conviction that we must be proactive in preparing our young people for college – hence his title – we must act of our faith and not fear. He develops three main thoughts in his brief article. I want to quote the last part of it, because I personally found this one of the hardest and yet most important to maintain with college-age young people. His words are direct and challenging. I believe you will profit from them too, even if your children are younger. Take the time to read his complete article at the link below. It will only take a few minutes of your time – good time! CJT
Honest, Grace-Infused Community
Relationships, relationships, meaningful relationships. I don’t know of any generation more hungry and more in need of substantive, grace-infused relationships than this one. Not only must we wrap the truth of the gospel around their hearts, we must wrap our arms around them and enter into their brokenness, struggles, and longings (see 1 Thess. 2:8).
As parents, do our children see us still needing the gospel? Are they catching the contagion of repentance as a way of life in our homes? As pastors, mentors, and disciplers, do our parishioners and protégés hear brokenness in our prayers? Do they see vulnerability when they are with us? Are we giving them our hearts or just books and advice on moral reform?
Should the time come when our children find themselves “coming to their senses” in some “far away country,” will their inclination be to come and find the welcoming heart of God where we live, or will they avoid the self-righteous elder brother in us?
Maybe the final word is this: Let’s protect this upcoming generation of young people by preparing them in the gospel so much earlier and so much more thoroughly than we were.
For this last Sunday in November we appropriately consider the beautiful, personal thanksgiving testimony of David in Psalm 18. In this lengthy psalm (also recorded in 2 Sam.22) David thanks and praises God as he rehearses His mercy and power in delivering him from his enemies, especially Saul. He overflows with what God is and has been to him – his Rock, Fortress, Deliverer, Strength, Buckler, Horn of his salvation, and High Tower – and what He has done for him – hearing his cries for help, unleashing the powers of creation against his foes, delivering him from their power, rewarding him for his righteousness, and setting him in a large place. As we meditate on this Word of God, we must think of Christ and His church, for notice how David ends the psalm: “Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore” (v.50). Ultimately this is Christ the Messiah (anointed King), THE Seed of David (see Gal.3:16), the Head of the church, Whom God delivered from all His enemies (sin, death, the grave, Satan, the ungodly world) and to Whom He gave the victory in His resurrection and ascension (Eph.1:19ff.). So that this is OUR psalm of thanksgiving for what God has done for us in His Son, our Savior. May we celebrate Christ’s triumph – and ours – this Lord’s day, and worship our great and glorious God Who truly is “worthy to be praised” (v.3).
Here is the entire psalm – read it and sing it!
I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.
2The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
3I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
4The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
5The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
6In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
7Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
8There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
9He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
10And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
11He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
12At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
13The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
14Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
15Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.
16He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
17He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
18They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.
19He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
20The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
21For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.
23I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
24Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
25With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
26With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
27For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.
28For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
29For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
30As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
31For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?
32It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
33He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
34He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
35Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.
36Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.
37I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
38I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.
39For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
40Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.
41They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not.
42Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
43Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.
44As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
45The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.
46The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
47It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.
48He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
49Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.
50Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.
Next, let’s meditate on this fitting commentary of J.Calvin on the first verse, “I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.”
It is to be observed, that love to God is here laid down as constituting the principal part of true godliness; for there is no better way of serving God than to love him. No doubt, the service which we owe him is better expressed by the word reverence, that thus his majesty may prominently stand forth to our view in its infinite greatness. But as he requires nothing so expressly as to possess all the affections of our heart, and to have them going out towards him, so there is no sacrifice which he values more than when we are bound fast to him by the chain of a free and spontaneous love; and, on the other hand, there is nothing in which his glory shines forth more conspicuously than in his free and sovereign goodness. Moses, therefore, (Deuteronomy 10:12,) when he meant to give a summary of the law, says,
“And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require
of thee but to love him?”
In speaking thus, David, at the same time, intended to show that his thoughts and affections were not so intently fixed upon the benefits of God as to be ungrateful to him who was the author of them, a sin which has been too common in all ages. Even at this day we see how the greater part of mankind enjoy wholly at their ease the gifts of God without paying any regard to him, or, if they think of him at all, it is only to despise him. David, to prevent himself from falling into this ingratitude, in these words makes as it were a solemn vow, Lord, as thou art my strength, I will continue united and devoted to thee by unfeigned love.
And, finally, may we sing this versification of Psalm 18 from Part 1 of Isaac Watts “Psalms and Hymns”:
|Thee will I love, O Lord, my strength,
My rock, my tower, my high defence:
Thy mighty arm shall be my trust,
For I have found salvation thence.
|Death, and the terrors of the grave,
Stood round me with their dismal shade;
While floods of high temptations rose,
And made my sinking soul afraid.
|I saw the op’ning gates of hell,
With endless pains and sorrows there,
Which none but they that feel can tell;
While I was hurried to despair.
|In my distress I called my God,
When I could scarce believe him mine:
He bowed his ear to my complaint,
Then did his grace appear divine.
|With speed he flew to my relief,
As on a cherub’s wing he rode;
Awful and bright as lightning shone
The face of my deliverer, God.
|Temptations fled at his rebuke,
The blast of his almighty breath;
He sent salvation from on high,
And drew me from the deeps of death.
|Great were my fears, my foes were great,
Much was their strength, and more their rage;
But Christ, my Lord, is conqueror still,
In all the wars that devils wage.
My song for ever shall record
That terrible, that joyful hour;
And give the glory to the Lord,
Due to his mercy and his power
This week I added a new link to my blog – Chapel Library (www.chapellibrary.org – I have it under “Reformed/Christian Books). For some years now I have been receiving their materials, especially their “Free Grace Broadcaster” quarterly magazine. Chapel Library is a ministry of Mount Zion Bible Church in Pensacola, FL. They publish a variety of materials (booklets, books, pamphlets, sermons, reprints, etc.) in English and in Spanish, with a strong sovereign grace focus (They particularly like Arthur Pink’s works, as well as those of the Puritans and Spurgeon). Their “Free Grace Broadcaster” magazine is a fine collection of sermons and articles on a theme (the latest is on Union with Christ – excellent!). Their purpose is not only to produce good reading materials for believers, but also for these to be used for evangelism. They send many of their publications to prisoners and, in fact, have a Bible instruction class for them.
One of the best things about their publications is that they are FREE! They will add you to their mailing list for the FGB without charge, and you will receive notice of other special offers which they will mail to you absolutely free! You may also download any number of materials from their website, or read them in pdf format online. They always have a special quarterly offer – this last one was for a free hardback book entitled God’s Gospel of Grace. Of course, it is good to support ministries like this with gifts, because nothing is ever totally free. I encourage you to visit their website, sign up to receive the FGB, and send a gift.
Thank you for your interest. And blessed reading! CJT
P.S. Here is a quote from A.Pink’s “Surpassingly Wonderful Union” (with Christ) in the latest issue of the FGB:
The union between Christ and His Church is so real, so vital, so intimate that God has never viewed the one apart
from the other. There is such an indissoluble10 oneness between the Redeemer and the redeemed, such an absolute
identification of interest between them, that the Father of mercies never saw them apart. He never saw Christ as
“Christ” without seeing His mystical Body; He never saw the Church apart from its Head. Therefore, the Holy Spirit
has delighted to emphasize this wondrous and glorious fact in many Scriptures. In connection with Christ’s birth we
read, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same”
(Heb 2:14)…We are told that when the Savior was nailed to the tree “our old man was crucified with him” (Rom 6:6).
We are told that when He expired at Calvary “if One died for all, then all died” (2Co 5:14). We are told that when He
was revived, we were “quickened together with Christ” (Eph 2:5). He did not rise again as a single and private person,
but as the Head of His Church: “If ye then be risen with Christ” (Col 3:1). Nor is that all: in Ephesians 2:6, we are told,
“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” O how surpassingly
wonderful is the Christian’s oneness with Christ!
Looking to give a good book or two, or perhaps a nice music cd, for Christmas this year? (And what better gift could there be?!). Tim Challies (www.challies.com – see link on my main page under blogroll) posted a useful list yesterday with specials deals from Christian publishers and music stores (as well as Amazon) for this “Black Friday” and for “Cyber Monday” coming up. There are links to the sites right in his post, or you may also find some of them on my main page under the “books” section (right-hand column). Check back on his page throughout the weekend, as he will be updating the list and the deals as more become known. Happy shopping (I already had my fun and found a few great deals for gifts :) )! Spend wisely, support Christian ministries, and give gifts that keep on giving! CJT
Here’s the intro to his post:
Black Friday & Cyber Monday are upon us. Black Friday is the traditional after-Thanksgiving day to take advantage of great sales. Cyber Monday is the Internet equivalent, the day that online retailers tend to do big sales of their own (though many online stores offer deals on both days).
I am working to collect details of deals on Christian books and music (and other things as I come across them). So check back here on Friday and Monday to find out where you can save some money this Christmas season.
November 25: Some deals are already active, so I’m updating regularly.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindess and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Ps.103:1-5
Now enjoy this video of the classic Thanksgiving hymn (click on the link below). CJT
As we close out this brief series on the story of the English Pilgrims who landed in Cape Cod Bay, MA in November of 1620, we want to take a look at what Godfrey Hodgson has to say about the “first” Thanksgiving meal that supposedly was held by the Pilgrims with Indians in attendance (which was actually a year after the Pilgrims had settled Plymouth, i.e., in the Fall of 1621). Edward Winslow, one of the Pilgrims fathers who wrote an eyewitness account of that initial harvest celebration, spoke of the modest harvest and feast they had that year:
Our corn (i.e., wheat – CJT) did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good…. Our harvest being got in, our governor sent four men on fowling (i.e., bird hunting – CJT), that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labours. …At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninty men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on then governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty (Winslow is writing to encourage other sin England to join them – CJT), pp.ix-x, A Great and Godly Adventure.
About this report Hodgson has this to say:
The feast Edward Winslow described has come to be called the First Thanksgiving, and accounts from serious histories to commercial Web sites date the origins of Thanksgiving to the fall of 1621. Generations of Americans have been taught that the Thanksgiving meal of today not only celebrates that feast, shared with the Indians, but replicates its menu. It is clear that neither of these beliefs is true. There were no turkeys. Or cranberry sauce or pumpkin pies. Nor did the Pilgrim Fathers call themselves Pilgrims at the time, and strictly speaking they weren’t Puritans either.
…What we are seeing, when we sit down to a Thanksgiving turkey, is a prime example of what historians have come to call ‘the invention of tradition.’ There is absolutely no harm in that. Indeed, Thanksgiving is one of the most innocent and happiest of American traditions. If it is not true, as the Italian proverb says, it is well invented. But again, it was not invented all at once. it did not spring full grown from the imagination of a seventeenth-century Pilgrim Father.
The companions who splashed ashore some three-quarters of a mile through the freezing waters of Provincetown bay, and later threaded their way in a small dismasted boat and a snowstorm through the sandbanks of Plymouth harbor, had no grandoise plans. Their was, from one point of view, a modest enterprise. …They set about building no more than a village, and what mattered to them was that they were gathering together a church, their church.
…The most beloved of America’s festivals celebrates an achievement of true moral grandeur. The story of how a bare hundred men, women, and children landed on the unwelcoming shores of what came to be called New England, how they lost half their number to illness within a few months, and found themselves among a Native American population that was itself stricken by epidemic disease, is a story of heroic courage to rank with the greatest epics of antiquity. The Pilgrims …showed a mixture of sheer guts, good sense, and sober self-restraint that is wholly admirable (ix-xx).
I would only add, and a strong faith in their sovereign God, Who marvelously guided them and provided for them, even through darkest times and circumstances. No wonder they were filled with humble gratitude and celebrated God’s goodness. May we too this Thanksgiving!
For our second installment in this short series about the English Pilgrims who came to America in 1620 to establish a colony to practice their distinctive Protestant/Separatist faith without the oppression of King James, we quote again from the interesting book A Great and Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving by Godfrey Hodgson (Public Affairs, 2006). Here too the author summarizes the true nature of the thanksgiving which these new settlers experienced and expressed when they had landed safely in Provincetown, MA. With all the American embellishments to this story and with all the extravagant traditions which now embrace our celebration of Thanksgiving Day, it is good to reflect on the pilgrim spirit of gratitude as Hodgson relates it:
The celebration of Thanksgiving recalls, across almost four centuries, something of the emotions felt by the first successful European settlers as they looked back on what they had achieved, and what their God had vouchsafed them since they began life in an unfailiar continent so full of danger and promise. It seemed proper to remember the nation’s forefathers, and what came to be called Thanksgiving was often called Forefathers’ Day. Years after he led his companions ashore, to express those feelings William Bradford (one of the leaders of the Pilgrims – CJT) reached instinctively for the sonorous language of the Old Testament.
May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness, but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity…. Let them therefore praise the Lord, because he is good: and his mercies endure forever. Yea let them which have been redeemed of the Lord show how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor…. Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness and His wonderful works before the sons of men (p.ix).
If you are interested in a few nice websites about the history of the Pilgrims and Plymouth Plantation, here is a list of a couple I found helpful: