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Candice Watters and Carolyn McCulley

Candice Watters and Carolyn McCulley are co-guests on a pair of episodes of the Focus on The Family radio program with Dr. James Dobson. Each has written a provocative and helpful book on singleness and the process toward marriage (should God bring it to pass). Their conversation with Dr. Dobson is stimulating and insightful as to how single women can (a) pursue mature and fruitful femininity (irrespective of their marital state), (b) help make marriage happen, and (c) not live as if their lives are on hold.
I tried to walk the fine line in a Boundless article I wrote a few months ago. Here was my conclusion:

An essential aspect of loving singles is being open to helping them in the process toward marriage, while recognizing:
* our relationship with Christ is more important than our marital state
* some singles are uniquely gifted to remain single for greater kingdom effectiveness
* many singles struggle profoundly with loneliness, lust, fornication, and the like, and welcome (or should welcome) loving, gracious, and balanced input on the process toward marriage from Christians who care about their souls and their bodies
* for most, marriage will be a means of profound sanctification, and they ought to responsibly (and diligently) move in this direction even as they embrace other adult responsibilities
* just as God ordains the ends, He ordains the means. The means may include overcoming your fear and telling a girl how you feel. They may include giving a guy a chance, even though you grew up seeing your parents go through a divorce, and you’ve closed your heart like a shell.

2009 West Coast Conference – Breakout Session – Jason Stellman

The Rev. Jason Stellman is the pastor of Exile Presbyterian Church in the Seattle area. He is the author of a new book entitled Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet, available from Reformation Trust.
In this breakout session, Stellman unpacked a chapter in his book Dual Citizens.
Our desire for eternal life is there in our hearts from the beginning. God has put eternity in our hearts. We are hard-wired for heaven and nothing less will truly satisfy us. This flies in the face of the “Jesus is better than drugs” version of evangelism. Because of why God has made us and what He has made us for, we don’t need to deny that other things in creation can bring true pleasure even now. But something much better awaits. Creation itself is groaning until the sons of God are revealed.
Peter Kreft: “Escapism is an accurate description of other-worldliness if one knows that this other world does not exist. But if the other-world (heaven) does exist, than disbelieving in it is escapism.”
The desire for life beyond the grave — the deep longing — is something we hold in common with the unbeliever. In fact, we know something about them that they might not know as well. The problem with the world isn’t always that the world is evil per se, it is that the world is ultimately unworthy of our affections.
May we love our neighbors and help them to see what they were truly made for.

Ligonier West Coast Conference – Session 3 – Q&A Begg & Horton

For Dr. Horton: “You said that we are not an extension of Christ’s kingdom. How does that cohere with our being the body of Christ? Our being the hands and feet of Christ, as it were?”
HORTON: We bear witness to the redemption that Christ has wrought. Yet we are co-workers with Christ, because we are proclaiming him. The difficulty is that sarx and soma are sometimes confused. We are not made one flesh with Christ. We are made one with Christ by the Spirit. He is the first-born from the dead. We have an organic, covenantal relationship, but there is not a fusion between the believer and Christ.

“What is our (the church’s) relationship to Israel?”

HORTON: There is a difference of opinion among Reformed believers about the relationship between the church to ethnic Israel. I myself did a “flip” on Romans 9-11. “Thus all Israel will be saved.” I don’t think we should go back to some sort of rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. I don’t think the largely Gentile church replaces Israel. The grafting in of the Gentiles is the fulfillment of the promises to Israel.
My old view is that there was no future for ethnic Israel; everything was happening now in the church (nothing more than a “remnant” of Israel being saved). But now I am more open to their being a future outpouring of God on the people of ethnic Israel. I was moved toward this view by folks like Ribberbos and Hodge.
BEGG: I agree with much of what Mike just said. And it is not a simple replacement theology.

“How does the Jewish view of substitutionary atonement differ from the Christian understanding?”

BEGG: The Old Testament people were looking forward and we’re looking back.

From Sproul to Horton: Was salvation a different economy back then?

HORTON: Paul contrasts the Mosaic law with the Abrahamic promise. The contrast is between the conditions by which the Israelites could stay in the land (Mosaic law) and how an individual can be saved (Abrahamic promise). Abraham was saved by grace alone through faith alone.
For Begg: You quoted Karl Barth. Was Barth correct when he wrote that Christ was “the elected man” and that all people are “in Christ.”
BEGG: Yes, Christ was the elect man. But not all people are in Christ.
SPROUL: Barth said he wasn’t a universalist, but he was. He said that God’s “yes” extends to everyone; although we can resist it, God will triumph over it.

“Could you please expound on what the federal vision is? It is tearing up my church.”

HORTON: Federal vision is an over-reaching against what is perceived as a baptistic tendency to see the sacraments as merely signs. And the over-reaching ends up viewing baptism as (essentially) regenerative. In contrast, Reformed theology has classically understood there to be a distinction between the covenantal community and those who are indeed regenerate.
So you go to Hebrews 6 and you see language of “tasting, participating.” But “like dry ground drinking in the rain often, it doesn’t bear fruit…..but we are confident of better things with you, brothers, things that accompany salvation.”
Federal Vision folks define justification differently. Classically, Reformed theology believes that saving faith is a resting and receiving. It doesn’t (itself) include obedience.
SPROUL: Though Federal Vision is not monolithic, there is a tendency to overlap the visible church and the invisible church. So you can be in the “invisible church” and then fall out of it.
Federal Vision is often confused with the new perspective on Paul; they are not the same. The PCA studied both of them and came to the conclusion that both of them are outside the historical norm.
“Should we be praying for material needs (our daily bread), or should we not be anxious about such things, and rather pray for spiritual needs?”
BEGG: There is a simplicity to asking God to meet our basic needs. Particularly in what we call the third world. We should not be anxious about our material needs, but rather pray about them (along with spiritual needs) and then thank God as He provides.
“How do we interact at the graveside with the death of a loved one who was not a Christian?”
BEGG: I never want to guild a lily. I don’t want to appear to have a theology for one party and a different theology for another party. My approach is to affirm for the person left behind the availability of and the character of God in relationship to them. As believers, we should enter into the heartache and the loss. Often our deportment at such times will convey more of what is useful in the moment. We may need to wait for much later to say more.
SPROUL: You weep with those who weep. But people in this country believe in justification by death. They don’t believe in hell and they don’t believe in a last judgment. Jesus talked more about hell than heaven. So somehow, even as we weep with those who weep, and while we don’t want to be harsh, we need to get that message out too.
“Should my husband and I leave our church….”
BEGG: Yes. (joking)
SPROUL: If you aren’t in a church that is serious about the gospel and the sacraments and church discipline, you need to be in a church that feeds you the truth of God.
“Why would our current church service be patterned after a covenant renewal ceremony, when that only happened a few times a year in the Old Testament?
SPROUL: It happened more than a few times a year. Joshua 24 is a good example of it. But covenant renewal was also associated with succession — with passing down the baton to the next generation.
I once suggested that the Lord’s supper was both a covenant renewal and a dynastic succession event. Jesus “turned us over” to the Holy Spirit. And Jesus used covenant renewal language when he instituted the new covenant. What do you think of that?
HORTON: Yes. And it is important to establish which covenant is being removed. There are some covenants in this world that are negotiated. But a suzerain didn’t negotiate the terms of the covenant: You obeyed or you were out.
Briefly, there is a similarity between Genesis 15 and the Sinaitic covenant. God says “I will do this…” (promise). And God (rather than Abraham) walked between the body parts (as the weaker king normally would). Then at Sinai, Israel makes a promise, and they (Israel) fail to keep it. And then at the Lord’s supper, Jesus promises to walk through the pieces on their behalf (“my blood, for you.”) Jesus pays for their failure to keep the covenant.
“Is the Mosaic covenant a republication of the Adamic covenant?”
HORTON: We all agree that there is a distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. But is the Mosaic covenant a republication of the covenant of works? Yes, and at a different stage in redemptive history. Adam was in a covenant of works individually. Israel was in a covenant of works as a nation. Israel was called to be a replica of what the kingdom of God would look like. That was why it was important for Israel to obey everything that God specified.

John Piper – A Tribute to His Father

John Piper:

My father was the happiest man I have ever known. Not that he never grumbled (he was a golfer who lost a lot of balls). But he was rooted so firmly in the glory of God’s grace that nothing could keep him down for long.

Read the whole thing.

Krauthammer Reacts To Sotomayor Pick

Columnist Charles Krauthammer discusses the identity politics of Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor. He also discusses how the Sotomayor selection may placate the left-wing of President Obama’s party:

King Alfred of Wessex, A Great Leader

Gene Veith writes a short, interesting piece for Tabletalk magazine on the Christian leadership exhibited by King Alfred of Wessex. Alfred assumed the throne in AD 871 at the age of twenty-two. Almost immediately, the Vikings invaded England, and Alfred responded by unifying the various tribes against the common threat. Breaking from the pattern of past leaders, Alfred later codified the rule of law to end the socially debilitating vengeance practices perpetrated by family against family. But Alfred also Christianized the law, writes Veith:

He began his written code with the Ten Commandments, followed by the Golden Rule of Jesus. He replaced the blood feuds with a system of fines that would be enforced not by individual avengers but by the king and his officers. He instituted a judicial system, including trial by jury.

Alfred was an example of a young Christian man who “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (I Timothy 4:12).
It just so happens that Alfred is also the name sake of the institution (and the town!) where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree, Alfred University. Alfred (like many other universities) no longer bears any distinctive Christian moorings, but there is a statue of King Alfred on the campus that served as a helpful rendezvous spot for my friends and I when I was there. For any other Alfred University alumni out there, you’ll doubly enjoy Veith’s summary of King Alfred’s distinguished Christian leadership.

Obama as Notre Dame Commencement Speaker

Sarah Pulliam of Christianity Today interviews Francis Beckwith about Notre Dame’s controversial decision to invite President Barack Obama to speak at their May 2009 commencement service and to receive an honorary doctorate in law. Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Seminary, and David Dockery, President of Union University, also chime in.

Ligonier National Conference – R.C. Sproul (II)

Dr. R.C. Sproul closed out the conference speaking on the theme A Consuming Fire: Holiness, Wrath and Justice.
Very few believe in the holiness of God. And if they do, few add the concept of justice to holiness. And fewer have a concept of the wrath of God. It is far more common to believe that the love of God trumps the justice and the wrath of God. We generally assume grace. We no longer think grace is amazing. We no longer think God is holy, or a God of justice, or a God who expresses wrath.
Dr. Sproul took us to I Chronicles 13:1-12. He noted that when he was in seminary he was taught that passages such as this, where God suddenly kills a person, demonstrate that the God of the Old Testament is incompatible with the New Testament emphasis on the love of God in the teaching of Jesus. But let’s at least look at the story.
Uzzah is driving the cart which is carrying the ark of God, and when the car tips he instictively reached out to keep the arc from falling. Now some say, “Actually, Uzzah just had a heart attack.” Others say, “This just represents the dark side of Yahweh.” But we can get some help from Numbers 4. We see that the Kohathities had an elaborate process of carrying the holy vessels using poles. The details were so that humans could never actually touch them (verse 15). Given that Uzzah had this reponsibility of driving the cart, we can infer that he was probably a Kohathite. His sin, as Jonathan Edwards once preached, was the sin of arrogance.
We don’t know what was in the strange fire. But it was not offerred according to God’s command. See Gospel Worship, by Jeremiah Burroughs, for a great exposition of this text. In light of our crisis of worship, this is a book that every Christianity today needs to read.
Note that with Uzzah, David got a bit upset. And here we see that Aaron gets upset. Moses is able to calm him down by reminding him of what the Lord had said: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”
But the story goes on. God (through Moses) instructs that the bodies be removed from the camp. The two deceased priests had profaned God’s camp with their false worship. Furthermore, God forbade that public lamenting take place for them (“Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die.”)
The imagery employed in Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God. In that sermon, he employed numerous metaphors, all of which had Scriptural origin. One of them is that of a dam breaking. People are storing up wrath against the day of wrath. And another is of a spider’s web, holding sinners up by a single thread. And that single thread is held by the hand of God. We rightly remember the sermon’s topic as the wrath of God. But even moreso it is a sermon about the grace of God–holding people up from the pit, and preventing their immediate destruction.
Sadly, some believe in a “god” of love from whom there is nothing to fear. But this “god” is a figment of imagination. Edwards wisely reasoned with the people of his day: “Give me one good reason you are still alive today and not dead and in hell already.” Apart from the grace of Christ, we cannot.
Dr. Sproul recounted the story of when he was first teaching at the college level. He had 250 freshmen and he explained that there would be 5 essays to write during the semester and they all needed to be on time barring extraordinary circumstances such as a death in the family. The first deadline came, and 25 weren’t done. They begged for mercy and received it, with the warning that it shouldn’t happen again. The next time, 50 were late. And the time after that, 100 were late. Eventually, when mercy was refused, they retorted “that’s not fair.” They had totally confused mercy and justice. The first time, they were amazed by grace. The second time, they assumed it. By the third time, they demanded it as an entitlement, as an inaliable right.
Some in this room may be close to their own deaths, and to the terrors of hell thereafter. I beseech you to be covered with the righteousness of Christ and to escape for the righteous wrath of God. Receive the mercy and grace He offers to you today in Jesus Christ.

Ligonier National Conference – Steve Lawson

Steven J. Lawson is the senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., and serves on the ministerial board for Reformed Theological Seminary and the board of directors for the Master’s College and Seminary. Dr. Lawson has also authored many books including Famine in the Land, Foundations of Grace, and The Expository Genius of John Calvin.


Photo: Lukas Van Dyke

Pastor Lawson’s assignment was to address The Legacy of John Calvin. This is no doubt a daunting task, since Calvin’s influence was massive. Even Spurgeon said of Calvin, “Among all those who have been born of women, there has not risen a greater than John Calvin. No age before him ever produced his equal, and no age after has ever produced his rival.” Calvin stood at the head waters of the Reformation, and we know stand down stream.
Lawson provided a few headings to help us get a grasp on John Calvin’s legacy.
I. A Theological Standard
Calvin was the architect of reformed theology — he was the standard even in his day. Luther was a volcano, spewing out numerous fiery ideas. But Calvin was the systematizer — he arranged and ordered the theology of the Reformation. Lloyd-Jones that apart from Calvin, the Reformation would have died out by the end of the 16th century.
First, there was The Institutes of The Christian Religion. It was a theological tour de force written when he was 25-26 years old, and published a year later. He had been a Christian for only one year prior to writing it. Whereas Rome charged the Reformation as a theological novelty, Calvin’s work showed that in fact Rome was the novelty. It was the Reformation that was properly built upon the Scriptures and the church fathers. Calvin gave structure to the great truths of the faith.
Calvin taught the doctrines of grace. Calvin covered 75% of the Bible just with his commentaries alone – thousands of pages of published verse-by-verse analysis of Scripture. He wrote catechism and tracts. So his writings were diverse in their form and content. Calvin taught the doctrines of grace, and believed that God alone saves. In matters of the trinity, providence, justification by faith alone, the nature of the church, Calvin was a pillar bearing witness to the truth: the exegete of the Reformation. Calvin combated the church-state union of the Roman Catholic Church, and other false doctrines.
Calvin gave “a pattern of sound words” on just about every topic. Future confessions and future catechisms would in reality stand on the shoulders of John Calvin.
II. A Christian (Reformed) World-View
Calvin’s teaching caused believers to live out their belief in a practical, life-changing way. A reformed world-view emerged from Calvin’s teaching. The sum of this view was Soli Deo Gloria. Calvin taught that every activity that humans pursued should be done to the glory of God. “For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things.” Warfield said, “No man had a more profound view of God than John Calvin.” Calvin taught that a man could no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic could remove the sun by scribbling the word “darkness.”
Calvin saw every attack on justification by faith as an affront to the glory of God. Ditto for transsubstantiation, indulgences, and other Roman teaching and practices. Rome’s was a man-centered theology. What drove John Calvin was zeal for the glory of God. So it is only natural that over all his theology would be “the glory of God.” Calvin wrote: “We are God’s. Therefore, let us live for Him and die for Him.” The relentless pursuit of the glory of God, for Calvin, was manifest in six areas:
A. A Protestant Work Ethic
Before the Reformation, the doctrine of vocation was thought to be exclusively for the clergy. Calvin’s teaching on work elevated all areas of lawful work to a level of dignity, worth and value. Every calling of God was sacred for Calvin. This dignified work, and imbued energetic industry, whereby common labors were being done unto the Lord. Calvin thought that all watch makers (for example) would give an account to God someday for every watch they made.
B. Education
Calvin taught that it was glorious to love God with all of one’s mind. Education in Calvin’s day was an elitist institution, only for monks or priests. But Calvin developed the Geneva Academy: the college and the seminary. His desire was that every person be properly trained for whatever work God had called them to do. Calvin beleived in a “learned laity” that would excel in their work for the glory of God. Thomas Jefferson actually tried to purchase the Geneva Academy and bring it to the USA. That’s how impressed he was with it.
C. Society — Law and Order
Calvin thought there were various uses for the law. The law displayed the glory of God, it revealed the righteous standard of God, and showed us our need for a Savior. But it also provided a guideline for living. It was in the law that Calvin found a pattern for “the punishment fitting the crime,” for the protection of the weak, and for the preservation of life. Mankind must not be left to natural law — the law written on man’s heart.
D. Free market capitalism
At the heart of a free market was the recognition of certain virtues: hard work, the right to private ownership, private investment, the blessing of God upon one’s labor, risk taking, the nobility of profit, the importance of caring for the poor out of own’s profit. Wherever Calvinism went, productivity, industry, and a society growing in wealth could be found. This is a part of Calvin’s legacy.
E. A Reformed Church
Due to the influence of Calvin, the church in Geneva was Reformed, and that, too, would spread elsewhere. The Scripture was primary. Preaching was central to the life of the church–Calvin moved the pulpit to the center of the church’s archetecture. Every architectural line would aim toward a pulpit with an open Bible. Calvin fenced the Lord’s supper to believers. Church discipline was practiced. A separation of church and state: each would look after their own domain. The church was led by Jesus Christ, not a Pope who could somehow speak infallibly. Pastors/teachers — a plurality of elders. The regulative principle.
F. Democratic Society and Personal Liberty (A Decentralized Republic)
Calvin wrote on the dangers of an absolute monarchy. He wrote on the need for “checks and balances.” Calvin even argued for branches of government — a symmetry and balance that would provide stability. He called for a balance between divine sovereignty and human sovereignty. Calvin called for the greatest allegiance to be given not to any earthly authority, but to God alone.
Just as their should not be the autonomy of one pastor, Calvin believed in a plurality of democratically elected leaders who could direct the laws of a nation. Such ideas were influential in Calvin’s day, and in the birth of the United States of America as well.
III. An International Influence
Geneva had become a refuge city for many who had escaped from Bloody Mary and other oppressors. Many would later return to their homeland and spread the Reformation. They become convinced that humans were mere stewards of the mysteries of God — they returned to England, to France, and to other regions — some to face the death of martyrs.
Calvin begot Calvinists — men and women with a “can do” attitude in life and ministry. They would perculate throughout the Roman Empire. It went into France — by 1562, Calvin’s influence was massive (several hundred Reformed churches). In that day, about 10% of France were open confessors of Reformed teaching (this in spite of France being an officially Catholic nation which persecuted detractors).
Calvinism was taken to national politics in the idea that “The Law is King” (rather than “The King is Law”). The Geneva Bible, and the Westminster Confession of Faith, and later the Puritans — all this came from the legacy of Calvin. Oliver Cromwell, who sought a constitutional republic to replace the monarchy of England. No Calvin, no Cromwell; no Cromwell, no Constitution; no Constitution, no US Constitution. It was Calvin’s ideaology which influenced the pilgrims who came to America. The earliest and most influential settlers in the United States were Calvinists. They brought with them the Bible and the Reformed theology of Calvin. That theology was dominant in New England.
President John Adams noted that religious liberty owed much respect to the legacy of Calvin. Even Jefferson, a deist, was impressed at what the Geneva Academy produced. The great colleges of New England (Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth) were originally founded to train Calvinistic preachers. The Declaration of Indepence was written largely by Presbyterian elders who did not want a monarch to rule over them.
George Bankcroft, a noted US historian, has written about Calvin: “Calvin was the founder of popular education, the free school. The Plymouth settlers were Calvinists. He that would not honor the memory of Calvin knows but little of the origin of America’s religious liberty.”
The two leaders of the Great Awakening (George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards), who would launch a strong missionary movement, were committed Calvinists. This was a huge influence for John Carey and Andrew Murray — men who gave their lives to missionary activity, entirely undergirded by the truths of the doctrines of grace: that God had elected a people for Himself from the foundation of the world. The truth cannot be ultimately resisted by the sinful heart. God would build his church.
Time does not permit to the listing of the great scientists who were influenced by Calvin’s world view. Reformed Baptist, Reformed Independents, Dutch Reformed, and numerous other Calvinistic denominations and high-profile Calvinistic leaders today: so much so that Time magazine has recognized Calvinism as one of the ten major ideas changing the world.
What is the future of Calvinism beyond our day? It shall endure until the end of the ages, because biblical Calvinism is nothing other than the preaching of the Word of God. The Word of God, and its preaching, shall endure forever.

9Marks Journal: Advice For Younger Pastors

The latest 9Marks eJournal is chalk full of great articles that are particularly suited for younger pastors.
A Pastor’s Priorities For Day One
So you’re a brand new pastor. What do you do when you show up at the office on Monday?
By Bob Johnson

The Goals and Benefits of an Installation Service

More than a formality, an installation service gives you a chance to set the tone for your pastorate and begin the work of shepherding.
By Aaron Menikoff

Steps for Dealing with Difficult Leaders

What do you do when influential members of your church are—shall we say—less than helpful?
By Ken Swetland
Dealing with Bad Documents
You’re the pastor now, but the church constitution is clunky and the statement of faith is almost heretical. What do you do?
By Greg Gilbert

Is This a Hill Worth Dying On?

Some pastors make every dispute a hill to die on; others wouldn’t fight to save their grandmother’s life. Schmucker offers some guidance.
By Matt Schmucker
What I CAN and CANNOT Live With as a Pastor
What issues are worth fighting—or leaving—over? Are there any criteria?
By Mark Dever
Love the Church More than its Health
Pastors need to love the people in their church more than their dream of a healthy church.
By Jonathan Leeman
Should Pastors Change Anything in the First Year?
An old maxim says, “If you don’t change something in the first year you never will; and whatever you change in the first year will be a mistake.” Is that right?
By Phillip Jensen
One from the Vault: Mark Dever’s classic article from 2000, How to Change Your Church
Young Pastors: How Do You Persevere?
WWJD—What Would Jim Do?
James Montgomery Boice’s successor shares a few lessons he learned from watching a master.
By Philip Graham Ryken
Shepherding and Trust
A church doesn’t learn to trust its pastors overnight; he better be in it for the long haul.
By Robert Norris
A Pastor For Now
Why Mark loves the pastorate, but will be happy to proceed to what’s next.
By Mark Dever

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