Faith & Hope For A New Year

FaithHopeDear Zion,

The month of January is named for the ancient mythical character named Janus, a figure drawn with two faces – one face looking back into the past, and the other looking forward into the future. I don’t know about you, but that is often how I feel during January: one eye looking backwards at the year of 2015 as it has come to an end, and one eye looking ahead, wondering and praying about what 2016 will bring. As you ponder and pray about God’s work in your life in the year ahead, and evidences of His grace from the close of 2015, do you tremble?

Zion_Arch_CircleI know I do. The close of a year brings with it memories that leave me nearly speechless. There were uncounted blessings in 2015, each of which were undeserved gifts of grace. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above from the Father of Lights, in Whom there is no shadow of change or turning” (James 1:17). Have you awakened to the sheer number of blessings of 2015? But I also tremble at the undeserved mercies that built up over a year of needing His forgiving love. Each year that passes marks 365 days of falling deeper into the debt of grace, having been desperate for the cleansing blood of Jesus. Without His majestic mercy, none of us could get through one day, let alone an entire year! “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3).

It helps us to look backwards into a year spent and look forward into the year ahead if we think about the Christian blessings of faith and hope. These twin virtues from God help us deal with the past (faith) as well as the future (hope). And God’s Word often puts them together, like in I Thessalonians 1:3, “your work of faith… and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,” or even closer in I Peter 1:21, “your faith and hope are in God.”

We talk a lot about biblical faith, but what is the difference between faith and hope? And how does faith inform our past, and hope inform our future? Continue reading

Your Doctrine Of The Trinity Is Not Missional Enough

TrinityMissionsHere’s Kostenberger on Trinity and missions:

Rather than being one of several aspects or implications of John’s trinitarian theology, mission was shown to be the nexus and focal point of his presentation of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, individually and in relation to one another. Hence it can truly be said, not only that John’s mission theology is trinitarian (which in and of itself is a significant statement), but that his trinitarian teaching is part of his mission theology – a truly revolutionary insight.

The insight is revolutionary because, if heeded, it calls the church to focus its major energies on acting on and acting out her Lord’s commission, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (20:21), in the power of the Spirit, rather than merely engaging in the study of God or cultivating personal holiness (as important as this may be within the larger framework presented here). The insight is revolutionary also because a proper understanding of John’s trinitarian mission theology ought to lead the church to understand its mission in trinitarian terms – that is, as originating in and initiated by the Father (the “one who sent” Jesus), as redemptively grounded and divinely mediated by Jesus the Son (the “Sent One” turned sender, 20:21), and as continued and empowered by the Spirit, the “other helping presence,” the Spirit of truth. Continue reading

An Unfortunate Plagiarism

Plagiarism is wrong, because it takes what belongs to another – a violation of the eighth commandment – and it does not give full credit to my neighbor’s reputation – violating the ninth. There’s also the tackiness.

So I was deeply disappointed to learn that I had recently engaged in plagiarism of the most unfortunate kind. At our recent Faith & Work seminar, I had been unpacking I Corinthians 15:10 with regard to our subject, which says in part, “on the contrary, I worked harder than them all, though it was not I, but God’s grace that is within me.” Building off that truth to our topic, I made the following point:

Grace is opposed to earning,

but grace catalyzes effort.

FaithWork_800I made that point repeatedly. And it was not my point to make. Continue reading

Cultural Faithfulness Through Divine Summons

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We need to be reminded that whenever we cease to offer resistance, to compromise with the world, then we are the victims of the world. The only way for us, is to be summoned again and again, and to summon ourselves again and again!, to the unchanging and unalterable norms of behavior, established by God and therefore regulated of life, in all circumstances and conditions.

John Murray The Lord’s Day – It’s Blessing, Sanctity Sermon on Genesis 2:2

Dissecting Hope

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john_owen2Hope is a glorious grace, whereunto blessed effects are ascribed in the Scripture, and an effectual operation unto the supportment and consolation of believers. By it are we purified, sanctified, saved. And, to sum up the whole of its excellency and efficacy, it is a principal way of the working of Christ as inhabiting in us: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Where Christ evidences his presence with us, he gives us an infallible hope of glory’ he gives us an assured pledge of it, and works our souls into an expectation of it.

Hope in general is but an uncertain expectation of a future good which we desire; but as it is a gospel of grace, all uncertainty is removed from it, which would hinder us of the advantage intended in it. It is an earnest expectation, proceeding from faith, trust, and confidence, accompanied with longing desires of enjoyment… Gospel hope is a fruit of faith, trust, and confidence; yea, the height of the actings of all grace issues in a well-grounded hope, nor can it rise any higher (Rom. 5:2 – 5).

The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded

Calvinist Influence on Worship in England

Calvin_HeaderTo what extent, if any, should Anglican and Reformed models of worship overlap? As to their differences – first, what are they; and secondly, are they material or formal? And if the differences are real – it seems fairly clear that on something as fundamental as the Regulative Principle of Worship, the two streams diverge – how should we handle influences and reactions?

As the 42nd PCA GA approaches, this question will grow slightly more important as different pockets within the denomination come into contact with each other. Some of these intersections will create snark:

And others will strive to mingle, as noted in this article from a largely appreciative perspective, “Thoughts Concerning the Influence of the Anglican Tradition on Contemporary Reformed Liturgical Practice.

My own opinion is both neophyte and (reactionary) cautious. Continue reading

Reformed In America Media Online

ReformedinAmericaA fantastic gathering in the Midwest had recently taken place, and now the videos are online. A big thank you to the host churches, as well as D.G. Hart and Alan Strange.

Now you’ve got your viewing/listening content set for the next few hours. Enjoy!

Session 1 | Alan Strange The Tumultuous Beginnings of American Presbyterianism

Session 2 | D.G. Hart The Challenge of Americanism

Continue reading