Archive for the 'Covenant of redemption' Category

A Book for Couple of Family Devotions

February 18, 2009

book-training-hearts-teaching-minds1At bedtime, Terri and I observe a time of devotion. We’ve been doing this for some time and it has added something very important to our marriage. I can’t imagine our life without it. A good devotion helps a couple reflect on the day gone by and plan for the one to come. A good devotion points us towards God, reminds us of his goodness, clarifies his Law, underscores his grace, and leads us into fuller praise and prayer. And, hopefully, does so in a clear, simple way that is devotional, not academic.

With this criteria for assessing the value of a devotional in view, I recommend Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade. It is simply superb. Terri and I have received many blessing  for this plain little book. The format is straightforward: there is a short devotional for each day of the week (except Sunday) and each week has a theme. The weekly themes are based on the Westminister Shorter Catechism (a method of teaching Christians knowledge about God through questions and answers).

From start to finish the book takes about two years to go through, but as I say, the reading for each day is more than manageable. It takes us about ten minutes per night to complete that night’s devotion.

Starr Meade, the author, is easy to read and only rarely uses jargon. When she does, she clearly explains the jargon so that you understand what it means and why it is important to understand the idea the word conveys. It is very, very user-friendly. Again, it is not a text book, it is a devotional.

For Terri and I, devotions have become a time to take stock of our day, the words we said (or didn’t say), the actions we took (or didn’t take), the thoughts and feelings that went on. Since no one is ever perfectly perfect even for an hour (‘If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves…’, 1 John 1.8), the devotion becomes the moment when we confess our sins to our gracious heavenly Father and seek his forgiveness. It also is the moment when we renew our pledge to follow his Son and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds usually cites one or two verses of the Bible per day. The Bible reading are the centre of each devotion.

Click here for more details about the book.

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Five Common Mistakes Christians Make in Judging their State of Grace

February 17, 2009

flavel-john-flavelJohn Flavel, an English puritan pastor who worked in the port city of Dartmouth, often encountered Christians who severely doubted their salvation. He saw that there were Christians who, despite the genuineness of their conversion, were still plagued by soul-destroying doubts. As a good and kindly shepherd of his flock, Flavel responded with clarity of thought, compassionate advice, and faithfulness to the Word. I’ve taken the liberty of paraphrasing this wonderful saint.

1. Don’t question your salvation simply because sometimes you involuntarily sin.

Iniquities prevail against me; you atone for our transgressions (Psalm 65.3).

It’s never okay to sin, but the fact that Christians do sometimes sin does not mean that they are fake Christians. Rather, it means that we are in that in-between state where are redemption is promised but not fully realized. The consummation of our redemption is a future event that will come about in full-measure in the life eternal, when we are with God. When we sin, we are to repent and, then, trust that God, who is merciful, forgives us.

2. Don’t question your salvation simply because the circumstances of your salvation are different from the circumstances that marked the conversion of other Christians.

Some well-meaning Christians, who know the precise day, hour, and minute of their rebirth by the grace of God, will act as though their experience is the only true type of conversion. This may throw some others, who are not so sure when moment of salvation occurred, for a loop.

3. Don’t question your salvation simply because you don’t feel the same sense of joy that other Christians experience.

The new birth is not always marked by feelings of joy. Just as many Christians can’t pin-point the moment when God made them new, so, too, many Christians are not swept away by wave after wave of bliss when they are reborn. For them, it is a quiet event that has gone, to their natural eyes, unnoticed and unheralded. Nevertheless, if God has done it, it is as real and precious as an ‘extravagant’ conversion.

4. Don’t question your salvation simply because people who are obviously not Christian seem to live better than you.

The author of Psalm 73 suffered a similar problem, only worse. He saw wicked people prospering in their wickedness, bragging about their lifestyle, and daring God to zap them if he was real. After seeing this terrible spectacle, the psalmist cried out to God. The Lord revealed himself to the psalmist in the worship of the Temple. We’re not exactly sure how God showed himself, but it may have been as the psalmist viewed the sacrifice. Did he catch a glimpse of Christ, prefigured in the atoning act of the sacrifice? Did he see the mercy of God, as well as his terrible justice, in the slaughter of the innocent animal? We can’t be sure, but we do know that God granted him understanding. And the psalmist was then able to sing a hymn of praise and adoration to his Lord and Savior. Although the wicked sometimes prosper–and, as a result–confuse the righteous–in the end, God will right the wrongs done in this life. God will vindicate his people.

5. Don’t question your salvation simply because you are not growing in the same areas as other Christians.

How does God Convey His Grace to Us?

February 13, 2009

Herman Bavinck

bavinckHerman Bavinck was one of the great Christian thinkers of the last half of the 19th century. He had important things to say about Scriptures and the Word of God. In saying them, he didn’t mince words, but pointed out errors. So, his criticisms of Roman Catholicism are said to point out deviations from the truth, as it is revealed in God’s word. For Bavinck and other Protestants, the Word of God stands head-and-shoulders above the authority of the church and, at the same time, is the foundation of the church. This is a long quote, but worth every word.

…(T)he relationship between Scripture and the church is totally different in Protestantism than in Roman Catholicism. In Rome’s view the church is anterior to Scripture; the church is not built upon Scripture, but Scripture arose from the church; Scripture does indeed need the church, but the church does not need Scripture. The Reformation, however, again put the church on the foundation of Scripture and elevated Scripture high above the church. Not the church but Scripture, the Word of God, became the means of grace par excellence. Even the sacrament was subordinated to the Word and had neither meaning nor power apart from that Word. Now, in accordance with Christ’s ordinance, that Word was indeed administered in the midst of the congregation of believers by the minister, but this did not alter the fact that the Word was (also) put into everyone’s hand, that it was plain to everyone who studied it with a desire for salvation, that it exerted its power not only when it was proclaimed in public but also when it was studied and read at home. In that way Christians, who accepted that word with a believing heart, were liberated from sacredotalism. No longer did any person or thing stand between them and Christ. By faith they appropriated the whole of salvation, and in the sacrament they received the sign and seal of that reality. Thus the Reformation changed the Roman Catholic doctrine of the means of grace.’ (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4, pp. 444-445).