Electrical work calls me to Detroit again this week. Hopefully it will not be as bad as the picture shows (although we did have a mess on our hands when we first started this job!). But I plan to stay at my blogger’s post too, since I have saved up some material for the week. If the computer is working at the hotel, and available, I should be able to get this out. If not, I have loaded a WordPress app onto my Blackberry phone. I am SO tech saavy. But saavy doesn’t mean I will be able to figure it out and post through my phone! So, stay tuned! Don’t go away! If nothing else, you can get caught up on some old posts. Thanks again for all your support and encouragement. I’m still enjoying the world of blogging! CJT
For this final Monday of February I post one more of the fictional (but entirely realistic!) “Letters from the Abyss” taken from this month’s Tabletalk (see the previous Monday posts this month for some of the others we’ve looked at). This one is written by Dr. Derek Thomas, who is Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and minister of teaching at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss. His letter touches on a matter of serious importance and consequence in our day, especially for us men – sexual temptation. I pray it convicts you, as it did me, of the need to battle this satanic device with renewed resolve in utter dependence on the grace of God.
I post the entire letter here but include the link, so that you may also read others in this collection.
by Derek Thomas
Our Dear Temeluchus,
We are very pleased with the success you have had appealing to this young man’s sexual appetite. Telling him that every other young man is viewing pornography was a good move, and ensuring that he turned down the offer to block particular internet sites was crucial. Having his friends mock the very idea of sexual purity as prudish and “puritan“ was a stroke of genius. And how did you manage to get a Christian counselor to say that experimentation would ensure a more balanced and healthy attitude toward sex? You are showing great promise, our young trainee. However, you must not allow too much time to elapse with this young man because the enemy will be attempting to undo your efforts. Here are some tried-and-true methods you should also consider:
(1) Keep reminding him that his conversion has little or nothing to do with his body. If he gratifies himself, fine, so long as, afterward, he feels repulsed about his body. Guilt is a good thing. It keeps him away from the enemy. So, drive a wedge between his inner and outer self as much as you can. Let him read all the spiritual books he can find so long as he can indulge himself afterward. Whatever you do, don’t let him pray about sex or talk to the enemy about it. Tell him that sex is a private matter. Don’t let him believe that he can share everything with the enemy. Let him believe that this is a secret — natural — part of his life.
(2) Allow him some success from time to time. If not, he may turn to more drastic measures that will be beyond your ability to counter. Let him think that he is gaining for a few weeks, and then — perhaps when he is away traveling on business — concentrate all your efforts to bring him down. This way, he’s sure to think the enemy hates him and he must win His favor once more. Show him how difficult — impossible — the task is, and let him think that he’ll get no help from the enemy.
(3) Oh, and make sure that if he tries to read that dreadful book by John Owen on mortification, that you underline how dense and difficult it is — full of long sentences and awkward subordinate clauses. Keep whispering “legalism“ in his ear. That should do the trick.
For your listening pleasure today (and, of course, the praise of our God!) we post this video of a young organist named Gert playing improvisations on Psalm 25 from the Dutch Psalter. Nothing sounds like the old Dutch psalms on the king of instruments! Enjoy! And be filled with praise!
We return to the psalms today to help guide us into the true, spiritual worship of our Triune God. Psalm 25 is our next psalm to consider. It is a psalm of David and according to my notes, an acrostic poem, which means that each verse begins with the consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, like Psalm 119. Let’s put this Word of God (Christ) before our eyes:
Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
2O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
3Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
4Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.
5Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
6Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
7Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.
8Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
9The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
10All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.
12What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
13His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.
14The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.
15Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
16Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
17The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.
18Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
19Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
20O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.
21Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
22Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.
One of the things that strikes me in this psalm is that David wrote this with a teachable spirit. Five (5) times he uses the word “teach”. In addition, he uses the words “show” and “guide”. Clearly he wants the God of his salvation to teach him things. What things? His own sin, God’s ways/paths, His truth, His covenant, etc. He is like a young child hungry for instruction, craving to be taught. And he sees God as his all-sufficient, all-knowing, wise Instructor, able to give him the teaching he needs and wants. Out of this strong desire David petitions the Lord, asking Him to grant what he seeks.
As we enter the Lord’s house today, this is the spirit we must all have – young and old, for believers are all children of God: “Teach me, show me!” May we come in this way and with these petitions.
Also for our meditation John Calvin has good thoughts on vss.4,5:
Thus the meaning is, Whatever may happen, suffer me not, O Lord, to fall from thy ways, or to be carried away by a wilful disobedience to thy authority, or any other sinful desire; but rather let thy truth preserve me in a state of quiet repose and peace, by an humble submission to it. Moreover, although he frequently repeats the same thing, asking that God would make him to know his ways, and teach him in them, and lead him in his truth, there is no redundancy in these forms of speech. Our adversities are often like mists which darken the eyes; and every one knows from his own experience how difficult a thing it is, while these clouds of darkness continue, to discern in what way we ought to walk. But if David, so distinguished a prophet and endued with so much wisdom, stood in need of divine instruction, what shall become of us if, in our afflictions, God dispel not from our minds those clouds of darkness which prevent us from seeing his light? As often, then, as any temptation may assail us, we ought always to pray that God would make the light of his truth to shine upon us, lest, by having recourse to sinful devices, we should go astray, and wander into devious and forbidden paths.
The above is the title of the chapter in Kevin DeYoung’s new book on the Heidelberg Catechism, The Good News We Almost Forgot (Moody 2010), dealing with Lord’s day 2, Q&A’s 3-5. Our pastor is preaching on this tonight in Faith PRC, and I want to keep reading and quoting from this brief commentary as we make our way through the catechism again. Here is Lord’s day 2:
Question 3. Whence knowest thou thy misery?
Answer. Out of the law of God. [a]
Question 4. What doth the law of God require of us?
Answer. Christ teaches us that briefly, Matt. 22:37-40, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. [b] This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Question 5. Canst thou keep all these things perfectly?
The first thing we need in order to experience the comfort of the gospel is to be made uncomfortable with our sin. The comfort of the gospel doesn’t skirt around the issue of sin, or ignore it like positive thinking preachers and self-help gurus. It looks at sin square in the eye, acknowledges it, and deals with it. While many people will tell us to stop focusing on sin and to lighten up because we aren’t ‘bad’ people, the Catechism tells us just the opposite. In order to have comfort, we must first see our sin-induced misery (p.25).
And the way we see our misery is through the law. …The law doesn’t inspire me to be a better me or find the god within me. The law beats me down and shows me how miserable I am. In all the fussing over the Ten Commandments in courthouses and school buildings in this country, have we forgotten that the law is more than a great set of principles? Yes, the law has a lot of great principles, and all of them are intended to show us how great we are not (p.26).
…Many people, well-meaning church leaders included, are eager to boil down Christianity to the great commandments, or the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes, or Micah 6:8, or some other powerful summary of God’s ethical intentions. But if all I have are God’s ethical intentions for my life, I’m in a worse fix than simply losing my tail like Eeyore. My own efforts to be a good person are, in comparison to what God requires of me, positively miserable. I’ll be damned, discouraged, and dismayed if being a follower of Jesus means nothing but a new set of things I’m supposed to do for Him. Instead, my following Jesus should be, first of all, a declaration of all that He has done for me (p.27).
Good food for thought for today and everyday. May the preaching we hear today make us uncomfortable (miserable!) in our sin, so that we come to find the only comfort of belonging to Jesus our faithful Savior. He has done it all to save us – suffered the punishment for our disobedience (s) and given us a perfect obedience by keeping the law of love perfectly. Thanks be to God for His wonderful grace!
And finally on our culture focus today, you may have heard the news this week that President Obama has told the Justice Department that his administration will stop trying to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. Though we are not surprised to see this action, it is indeed sad to witness. And we as God’s people are called to speak out against such acts of treachery against God and His Word. Dr.Al Mohler once again posts an outstanding comment on his blog about this news, calling it what he does in his title. Here are a few paragraphs from his post; kindly read the entire thing at the link below.
The most immediate meaning of this announcement is two-fold. In the first place, it means that the constitutionally appointed defender of the nation’s laws, the Attorney General of the United States, has now been ordered to cease defending this single law in the courts. That alone is almost surely sufficient to spell the doom of DOMA in short order.
In the second place, this announcement means that President Obama and his advisers now believe that the full legalization of same-sex marriage is both inevitable and without major political risk to the President and his plans for re-election. That, in itself, represents a moral earthquake. The President clearly believes that a sufficient number of Americans will either support or accept same-sex marriage — and this comes just a few years after a majority of the states passed constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage, and most by huge margins.
The President has made his decision. The Attorney General has now made his announcement. Mark your calendars for yesterday. That day now represents a tragic milestone in the betrayal of marriage.
Doug Wilson on his blog “Blog and Mablog” has an excellent little post explaining why Christians should oppose collective bargaining in the workplace, as practiced and defended (especially lately) by labor unions. Here is an excerpt:
So there is absolutely nothing wrong with employees collectively deciding that conditions on the job are horrendous, and deciding en masse that they don’t want to work there anymore. And there is no problem with them negotiating with the owner from that collective position. Say they are asking for a raise, or for safer working conditions. That is fully legitimate as well. What is not legitimate is for them to lock up the job they have abandoned as though they are the owners of it. To refuse to work a job that you simultaneously lay claim to is a claim of ownership, which in this case is a false claim.
This sin (and it is a sin) is in evidence when strikers attack what they call “scabs.” Scabs are workers looking for employment, and the horrendous conditions on the abandoned job would, in their instance, be an improvement.
In other words, collective bargaining is nothing but extortion, and Christians should do everything in their power to have nothing to do with it.
This past Wednesday, Feb.23, the Foundry at The Heritage Foundation published another good article on why government unions have led to the bankruptcy of many states, and why we are seeing crises arise as states fight to restore their budgets (witness the outcry from public union employees in Wisconsin). Here is a snapshot of this article; read the rest at the link below:
How did this happen? Why did so many state and local governments not only spend too much today but promise future spending far beyond the means of taxpayers to pay for it? Government unions. And across the country, legislators and governors are beginning to fight back.
The professional left (including the AFL-CIO, the SEIU, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the NEA, AFSCME and President Barack Obama) is trying to portray these budget battles as an assault against all unions. But as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R), who is pushing legislation to curtail government union bargaining power, explained last night, this is just plain false:
“The bill I put forward isn’t aimed at state workers, and it certainly isn’t a battle with unions. If it was, we would have eliminated collective bargaining entirely or we would have gone after the private-sector unions. But, we did not because they are our partners in economic development. We need them to help us put 250,000 people to work in the private sector over the next four years.”
Before the month is over – and February is flying by! – I wanted to call attention to another fine article in this month’s Tabletalk. “Confessions of a Bibliophile” is written by Keith Mathison and relates not merely his love of reading but the importance of reading good books for the right purpose. I commend it to you at the link below, giving you this taste of it in these paragraphs:
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a bibliophile is “A lover of books; a book-fancier.” Although this is a helpful definition, I’m not entirely sure I want to refer to myself as a “fancier” of anything. I’m from Texas. We either like something or we don’t. We don’t “fancy” things. It’s…unnatural.
However, I do love books, or perhaps, I should say more precisely, I love to read. Always have. When I was a child, I devoured books. Tom Sawyer, the Hardy Boys, anything I could find. When visiting relatives, I would read whatever they happened to have on the shelves, whether Reader’s Digest or Dr. Seuss. I enjoyed them all, but I was especially in love with offbeat stories.
…If I might offer a word of advice and encouragement to my fellow bibliophiles, it is this: As Ecclesiastes reminds us, “Of making many books there is no end” (12:12). Millions of books have been published, and thousands more are published every year. We cannot read them all, so it is best to read the good ones. If you don’t know which books are the good ones, seek the advice of mature Christians. Find recommended reading lists by churches and ministries you trust.
Finally, while we read to learn about our God and His works of creation and redemption, we must not allow a love of reading to supplant our love for Christ. If we do, our books, even our Christian books, become nothing more than idols. All the reading in the world, if it does not ultimately promote our love of Christ and our brethren, is nothing but futility.
David Pierce at the blog “Digitizd: Live Digitally”, which is devoted to helping people make use of the world of digital technology, has a wonderful little piece about rediscovering the joy of reading books the old-fashioned way after a trip to a local bookstore that was selling out. It is titled “The Feeling of Reading a Book”. This is part of what he had to say:
I buy books almost exclusively online, and mostly through Amazon. I read on my iPad, or my iPod Touch, or my Android phone; most of the paper books I own are little more than decoration, sitting on my bookshelf to make me look all literary and stuff. I love reading digitally because it means I can read anywhere, on a device I’d be carrying with me anyway, and I can have a ton of books to read at once.
But as I held books that were thirty years old yesterday, flipping the dusty pages, reading autographs and inscriptions, and admiring cover art, I realized I’m missing something. There’s something, something I can’t explain, about the way a book feels to hold and read that no digital version can match. Yesterday I felt like I was holding a story, an entire world ready for me to explore—I’ve never felt that way on my iPad.
I’m certainly not the only person feeling this way, but I’d never really noticed it until yesterday, after months of reading digitally and not picking up a paper book at all. I picked up a book called “New York in the World War,” that felt fragile, cared-for, and old. Five minutes of reading felt completely different than the same words would have on my iPad’s screen.
Read the rest at the link below. And do what David did – head to your local bookstore (only before it goes out of business!), and experience anew the wonderful feeling of reading a book.🙂