Agonizomai: October 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Gleanings 9:340
If the Word of God is preached in its fullness, with all humility and love, then God will see to it that the people He is drawing to Christ will hear. Sadly, what too often happens is the very opposite. In our apostate unbelief we dilute the word in order to make it attractive enough for people to come. The flesh is always corrupt, and it is still only the spirit that gives life.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Romans Chapter 1
Pauls Gospel, Paul's Testimony Part 1
The Effectual Call

Thank the Lord that, until this time, Paul was prevented (v. 13), even though eager (v.15), from going to Rome to preach the gospel to them. Whatever loss the Romans suffered by being deprived of Paul’s presence was God’s gift to the church catholic in posterity, because Paul was moved to commit to writing the very gospel that he would have preached in person to the Romans. Paul knew it was God’s will that he could not get to Rome (v. 10), because he had come to understand that…
…in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. {Romans 8:28}
The proof of Paul’s gospel – the one he is about to unfold from Chapter 1, verse 16 onwards – the proof is found in this introduction, where he openly and almost unconsciously displays towards the saints his faith in the God of his salvation as it is being worked out in his own life. Some of those elements are:
• The effectual call of God
• Jesus believed as Messiah, Son of God and Son of man
• The Lordship of Christ
• Sovereign Grace
• Faith and Obedience
• Belovedness in Christ
• Peace with God
• Gratitude towards God
• Praying in God’s Will
• Mutual Encouragement of the Saints
• Duty and Worship

The effectual call (vv. 1, 7)

Romans 1:1, 7 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God...7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

And the word “called” appears twice in this introductory part of the first chapter. Paul describes himself as “called to be an apostle” (v.1), and he describes all the believers in Rome as “called to be saints” (v.7). From the outset we can see that Paul understood that God works by calling people – from the highest to the least – whether apostles or apple-pickers. Beyond this “calling” he shows us that God calls His people for a purpose; Paul was called and “set apart for the gospel of God” (v.1) and the Roman believers were called to partake in the “obedience of faith” (v. 5) which Paul’s obedience to his own call was purposed by God nourish.

Every believer there ever was has been called by God. We shall see in Romans 9 (much later) that this call is the result of God’s choice. The call described here is what has become known as the “effectual call”. Elsewhere, the Bible speaks of a general call, or “invitation”, which goes out to many.
Many are called but few are chosen {Matthew 22:14}.
This truth about God’s calling is foundational to Paul’s gospel, otherwise it would not appear so early on in its presentation. In fact, it is impossible to understand the gospel properly without accepting a proper Biblical view of God as the One in charge of all things, including salvation – even though it is worked out through the free acts of men. If God is not absolutely and finally in sovereign charge of all things from start to finish then, quite simply, He is not God. He is something less than God – and that is a contradiction in terms. Conversely, if man is not truly a free moral agent then God cannot justly hold him accountable, and thus punish him, for his sins. We will try to hold onto both of these truths as we progress through the study.

From the outset, we need to see that, though the gospel itself is to be preached in all the world (thus calling many), it is only ever heard and obeyed by those whom God effectually calls, because they were chosen.
But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." {John 6:36-40}

…but you (the Jewish leaders) do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. {John 11: 25-28}

But he (Jesus) said to him, "A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; and at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for all is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported this to his master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’" {Luke 14:16-24}
The compulsion in the original language of the gospel is literally “make it necessary for them to come in”. It is not by outward force – not by an overriding of the will that they are brought. Similarly, all believers come because it was “made necessary” for them to come through a combination of providence, preaching and the working of the Holy Spirit. The result was that they consented to come, but their coming was both ordained and orchestrated by God.

Rather than horror at this doctrine, we should be greatly comforted. For, if God set His love upon us and placed us in His Son while we were rebels against Him, then is it not reasonable to believe that He will keep us in His Son? Yes, we must persevere, we must keep on until the end, we must abide in Him – but in the end do we not do so because we believe that He is keeping us? Isn’t that what it’s all about – abiding in His love through growing faith, which spurs us to deeper and deeper loving obedience – which in turn keeps us faithful until the end? Unlike much in the modern gospel, we see that true salvation begins and ends entirely with God.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Romans 1: 1-15 - Summary Chart

It is highly recommended that you download the following chart from here, and keep it for reference. It will be much easier to follow both the podcast and the blog entries if you do so.

To see a larger view on line, double click the image.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Romans Introduction Part 4
Law and the Saint

Law and the Saint

No cry has gone up more in Christendom than that of “Legalist!” – especially, it seems, in the present age. Unless, perhaps, it be that of “Antinomian!” For there are two errors that all Christians must guard against, namely:
• That of still trying to justify ourselves to God by keeping rules, leading to dead works.

• That of using Christian liberty to justify a lifestyle of license, leading to spiritual anarchy.
Neither is right, yet there is a tendency to fall off into one error or the other. The way is indeed narrow, as our Lord Himself described it. It does no good simply to throw names at our Christian brothers and to dismiss them as legalists or as libertines. Such behaviour speaks a lot about what we are, but it does not come to grips with what God says. Paul spends considerable time in Chapter 6 referring to the (Mosaic) law and makes this statement:
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! {Romans 6: 14-15}
And later in the same chapter:
…having been set free from sin, (we) have become slaves of righteousness. {Romans 6: 18}
We shall try to get at the root of what God is speaking to us through Paul so that we understand what freedom is and what it is not – how Paul can regard himself as…
“…not under the law, yet not being without law toward God, but under the law of Christ,” as he does in {1Corinthians 9: 20-21}.
So we will encounter many great doctrines of the faith in Romans, as you would expect, and we will be challenged to deepen our relationship with God through coming to grips with them. And, if we come honestly looking for God to teach us, we shall find that He changes us in the very process. We will press in as we are commanded to do, but it will be God Who will change us from glory to glory, as He always planned to do from eternity.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Does God Predestine Some Men to Hell?
Double Double Toil and Trouble
Is Predestination Double?

From time to time, Lane Chaplin posts some interesting material on his YouTube Channel by Mark Keilar of Cross TV. This piece explains the proper Biblical understanding of Double Predestination, instead the the caricature that is so often put forward by some.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Romans Introduction Part 3 - Election


Another doctrine we must touch upon in any study of Romans - one that has been neglected and even vilified in recent years - is that of God’s sovereignty in salvation. When we eventually come to Chapter 9 we will find the some of the clearest and most incontrovertible statements upon the sovereign right of God to save whom He pleases, and to pass over all others without in any way compromising His love, holiness and justice.
So it (election unto salvation) depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy. {Romans 9:16}
I have had people say to me about this specific passage that, “Yes, yes I know what it says…but I believe such and such…” as if their own personal feelings and opinions carried more authority than the words of God Almighty. It is hard teaching for the rebellious and wicked human heart to accept. It is repulsive to the natural man in all of us. But it is a prime example of those things in the Bible that we must accept because it is true (because God said it) regardless of how we feel. Let the Word of God change us, but let us never change the Word of God. Let God be true and every man a liar. {Romans 3:4}

As we examine this teaching we shall see how it is linked to all the other elements of salvation from the depravity of the human heart, where the helplessness of man is shown - to the need for the righteousness of God to be imputed, Whose character alone can stand the consuming fire of His holiness. We shall see how we are placed in the cleft of the Rock (which is Christ) by God – and how He covers us with His hand so that we may not die in His presence. We shall come to realize that it is God’s salvation from start to finish – His grace, His mercy, His righteousness, His will, His unbounded love, His plan and purpose, His beginning and end – and that the full and final accomplishment of it does not depend in any way upon His creatures – though He requires of them that they strive to enter in at the strait gate and to walk in the narrow way.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. {Hebrews 4:12}

"I know that thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of thine can be thwarted.” {Job 42:2}

I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has made it so, in order that men should fear before him. {Ecclesiastes 3:14}

I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I gird you, though you do not know me, that men may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am the LORD, who do all these things. {Isaiah 45: 5-7}

And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, 'What hast Thou done?' {Daniel 4:35}
We shall see that, when God at last moves our hearts to come to Christ, all we can bring is our own rebellion, failure, hatred, lostness and abject need – and then receive freely what is freely given – a full and utterly unmerited salvation that finds its source deep within the counsels of God from eternity, and that is effected in the loving gift of God’s Son.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

There is No Injustice with God
Romans 9:14-18 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, [1] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Now, here (when you have 60 mins to spare) is one of my favorite preachers - Doug VanderMuelen of Community Baptist Church in Fargo, ND preaching on the above passage....

I like his gentle tone and his love for the truth. I think I've got the second part but, boy, the first part...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Romans Introduction Part 2 - Sanctification


This brings us to another often misunderstood aspect of salvation, with which we will eventually be dealing – that of sanctification. I am sure that many of us know that the Bible presents our salvation in three aspects, all of which are represented in Romans. These are “justification, sanctification and glorification”. They represent our deliverance from the penalty, the power and the presence of sin respectively.

We will eventually run into Paul’s great assertion that:
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. {Romans 8:28-30}
All of this caps off a passage dealing with the believer’s struggle with the old nature and its constant warring against the spirit. But again, much in the modern gospel minimizes this great struggle. Many believe that once we are saved (by which they mean justified) that the struggle is over, and they believe this because the exhortation to take up the daily battle, to abide in Christ, and to put to death the lusts and deeds of the old nature, is ignored in many pulpits.

We have millions of professors of the faith in churches who, not having been taught the doctrine of sanctification properly, or not having it applied specifically to them by their shepherds, are spiritual babies, never growing in their faith. All the key words and external behaviours are there. They make a pretty picture. But their lives are otherwise indistinguishable from those who are in the world because there is little understanding of the pilgrimage of the Christian soul.

If the message is preached to the sheep, and they are still slow to grow, then we must exercise loving patience and not be carried away into callous berating and frustration by our own thoughtless zeal. But preached it must be! For the preaching of it is one of the main means that God has ordained to grow His children.

But we can see that, contrary to the struggle of sanctification being an onerous and intimidating thing, it is both joyful and liberating, for the result depends not upon our efforts (though struggle we must) but upon the exceedingly great and encouraging God of the promises, Who is at work in us to bring to completion that good work that He started, and in Whom we trust. This is how we agree with our Lord when He calls His yoke easy and His burden light, or the Apostle John when he confirms that the commands of God are not burdensome.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. {1John 5:3}
They are not burdensome to the one in whom God has placed a new heart. They are, however, odious to those whose hearts have never truly been converted through repentance of sin. A truly converted man will love Psalm 119, but a mere pretender – one who got in over the wall – will loathe it. And some modern adherents will be utterly perplexed when they read…
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. {Psalm 119:18}

Great peace have those who love thy law; nothing can make them stumble. {Ps 119:165}
False professors have rebellion in their hearts still, and misled modernists, some of whom live only in the New Testament, have often learned a freedom that utterly misses the responsibility of love.

And so we will see that justification and sanctification are all of a piece – that though we sometimes treat them separately there is no actual separation between them. Those who were justified will be and are being sanctified, because these terms are aspects of the same salvation. Consequently, along with the Apostle John, we shall ask hard questions as to what it means when a person claims to be justified yet shows no progress in sanctification, but rather showing a preference to remain worldly

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Horse and Cart
Repentance and faith, new obedience and perseverance, are not conditions of interest in the covenant of grace (for then it would be a covenant of works); but consequences, and tokens, of covenant interest...

Augustus Toplady

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Romans Introduction Part 1 - Depravity

For the next couple of posts or so, I propose to take Paul’s theme and to use it to lightly turn over the soil of some of the elements of Paul’s gospel. The word “gospel” is an olde Englishe one meaning “good news”. Most of us know those jokes that present punch lines involving “the good news and the bad news” – but how many of us stop to wonder – to truly wonder - why the gospel is “good news”? Oh, you might say – “It is good news because Jesus came to save us and He died on the cross for our sins and He rose again and when we believe in Him we are saved.” Yes indeed. But saved from what? “From our sins,” you say, “Our sins are the bad news.” And I say, “Amen.”


But we will see when we delve into the first three chapters of Romans what God means when He calls us sinners. Not the weak and watery, man-pleasing pap that is fed to those with itching ears, that wants not to offend the world with the truth, and which has crept gradually and silently into churches under the guise of “seeker sensitivity”. We will spend considerable time on the doctrine of depravity. For some of you it may be uncomfortable, monotonous – even depressing. Three whole chapters on the sinfulness of man! Many weeks of pounding in the same drab, dreary negative nail, blow upon blow! What’s the point? The point is that this is how Jesus, our Lord, explained the gospel to Paul {Galatians 1: 11-24}. It is no use being saved unless you have an understanding and an appreciation of what you have been saved from. It is no use preaching salvation to men unless they are given some sense of their awful and helpless condition, and of their need for that salvation.

[Now let me stop here for a moment and explain that no preacher or teacher, no matter how articulate, no matter how clear, no matter how dynamic – has any power or ability to save anyone. The result doesn’t depend upon the messenger. Only God, by the operation of His Holy Spirit, can actually save. He does this when He puts a new heart within someone, grants them repentance and faith, and opens their eyes to Christ so that they receive Him. But the chief means God uses is the preaching of the gospel by men to men. So we must preach Christ, but only the Holy Spirit can make Him visible to anyone. In this way all the glory is God’s and all the wonder is ours.]

This doctrine of sin has received short shrift in many modern pulpits, including some I've sat under. Though the word itself is still occasionally mentioned – there is little if any communication of what sin is, how God regards it; of how a single act of sin has destroyed and enslaved and corrupted a world full of people and utterly ruined the entire race of men. In today’s churches it is often thought to be too negative – too much of a turn-off – too unappealing to the lost to portray them to themselves as depraved sinners without hope or God in the world, rebellious, resistant and even rejecting His grace and His mercy.

And, for professors of the faith, it has been regarded
as failing to appropriate the grace of the gospel, as too backward looking, too negative, to remind churched people in anything but a cursory way of the malevolence within them, from which God has saved them – and which still dwells in them, warring ceaselessly with the spirit. Countless ministers have been deceived into this kind of behaviour, and have become derelict in their duty to present the whole counsel of God. They have succumbed because of the insanely self-contradictory idea that we must make what God says palatable to unbelievers who by nature hate every word that comes from His mouth – or we must make it smooth and agreeable to professors, lest we offend them and they go elsewhere.

So, instead of churches being separated from the world and acting as a light set on a hill they have catered to the world, using worldly means and values to bring worldly people into the church. And what we have used to bring them in we must now outdo in order to keep them in. It is insanity, but churches are striving to make themselves appealing to the world, which is exactly the opposite of what they were established to do. Believers who need building up (make disciples, Jesus commanded) are neglected in favour of keeping the worldly entertained. To cap it all off many preachers have mistakenly oversimplified the nature of God by preaching only His love, and virtually nothing of His holiness. Let us not throw out preaching the love of God, but rather let us add to it the preaching of fallen man’s true peril and the saints’ great need for watchfulness.

Isn’t this what God says? In the one complete and clear explanation of the entire gospel that He has given to us, God spends three whole chapters right off the bat, making sure we understand the lostness, depravity and sin of all humanity – and its utter depths – the enslavement of the human will to sin and self, so that no man anywhere seeks after God. This is the gospel, or rather the beginning of the gospel. It is the place where every soul that ever came in through the narrow gate has had to tread. Oh, there are many who go in by the broad gate that leads to destruction upon the wide way – never having been convicted of their sin and thus never having repented. But if they go in by that gate, never having been warned because we never told them, then they will still perish, but God will require their blood at our hands. If, as we all once did, they race like lemmings towards their own destruction, heedless of the love of God in Christ because they are heedless of their own need for Him, then there is many a preacher and many a saint who will be sorely chastised by His God for not telling them the whole counsel of the Almighty.

Paul spends three chapters on sin, and in the first third of the epistle mentions law 38 times before he ever once mentions the word “love” in Chapter 5. But when Paul brings us in Chapter 8 to the full panoply of God’s love in justifying his elect, it is, of course one of the most triumphal, liberating, exultant, joyful passages in the whole of the Bible. It is like the sun bursting through the darkest clouds:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. {Romans 8:35-39}
We see that the gospel is presented to men by first letting them know what they are, and only then by making known the mercy and love of God in Christ. Be our sins ever so black, be they ever so depraved – yet the blood of Christ is sufficient to wash us white as snow. In the true Biblical gospel we are given the Misery of man, the Majesty of God and the Mercy of Christ. Or, as D.L. Moody preached – the Ruin (of sin), our Redemption (in Christ) and our Regeneration (by the Holy Spirit)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Here are ALL of the Charts for the Romans Study


Monday, October 20, 2008

Romans - General Introduction - Part 2

In the course of studying to know what God has said – especially in Romans – we are likely to come across some things that are either hard to understand or difficult to accept. This is what the Bible calls “meat”. Meat contains more nutrition than milk, but it can be hard to chew and to digest. So let us state right from the outset that the rule must always be that the Word of God is the supreme authority – even when we don’t like what it says, and even when what it says goes contrary to our own “experiences”. This will be difficult for some, but perseverance and obedience in this will be blessed by God – Who would have His children to know and worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Some of the deeper things that present challenges to our finite and darkened understanding include:
• The doctrine of imputation – whereby the sin (or righteousness) of a representative is attributed to others.
• The doctrine of original sin – whereby the sin nature of one being is passed to all his descendants.
• The doctrine of the total depravity of man – in which man is described as impotent to effect any move towards God that would be effective in securing his salvation – even though he has a duty to do so.
• The doctrine of Christian liberty and the Christian’s relationship with the (moral) law.
• The doctrine of the sovereignty of God in salvation – His absolute right to save those whom He wills, and not to save others.
There are now, as there have often been in the past, disagreements among godly men on some of these things. But godly debate is not wrong. In fact it is necessary so that we can test our belief and our understanding to see if we are truly convinced of what we believe, and if it stands the scrutiny of our brothers. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” {Proverbs 27:17}

On the other hand, some of these things have been badly neglected, misunderstood and even misrepresented in recent times – to the great detriment of Christ’s church and His work. There has been a decided “dumbing down” of the gospel, in the process of which large numbers of supposed Christians have de-emphasized doctrine in favour of mere experiences. Such a road is ripe for heresy and disaster. Already there is a vast network of “Christian” organizations that have banded together not on the basis of common doctrine, but on the basis of a common experience, and they are drawing many away from existing congregations into their own errors.

The stamp of this study will be that God’s truth, and not our own experiences, is the anchor of our faith. Those of you who may have been unduly influenced by the dilutions and misrepresentations in much of the modern “gospel” may struggle with this. You need to. For nothing less than your immortal souls is at stake. You may already be able to gauge from this introduction whether or not the subject matter of this study is going to be too deep or too hard, or too controversial or too contradictory to your own preferences.

I urge you to prayerfully consider what the Lord would have you to do – whether to continue in what may cause you great struggle, but result in much fruit – or whether to cut and run while the going is good. For you will be getting a gospel that will either be at odds with much of what you have been taught, or will address things that seem utterly new and foreign to what you have been hearing. There is nothing new, but there is truth that has been ignored, sidelined, underplayed or omitted, and it will challenge the limits of your submission to God and His Word to learn and/or recover these things.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Can-Do Christianity
It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we mistake panic for inspiration. That is why there are so few fellow workers with God and so many workers for Him. We would far rather work for God than believe in Him.

Oswald Chambers - "My Utmost for His Highest" - June 1st

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Romans - General Introduction - Part 1

This letter was written by Paul the Apostle from Corinth about 57 AD, towards the end of his 3rd missionary journey. Paul would depart from Corinth making his way back to Jerusalem, stopping at Miletus to encourage and admonish the Ephesian elders.

Romans is the most complete and thorough explanation of the gospel to be found anywhere in one place in the Bible. It is a great treatise - the great Christian treatise - on the state of mankind, the need for salvation and how that salvation comes to men. It explains the true nature of the relationship between God and His creation and how that creation should relate to Him. It is all about righteousness; who has it, who doesn’t, who needs it, how to get it and what happens if you don’t. Every believer should make it a goal to know this book so well that he is familiar with the entire outline and the main arguments.

The great subject of Romans is, of course, righteouness, but the theme is stated in Paul’s own words halfway through the first chapter, where he says:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." {Romans 1:16-17}
In other words, the gospel reveals how the righteousness of God can be imputed to Jews and Gentiles alike, through faith. This is the simplicity which is in Christ. Any child can receive Him with the very minimum of information, when he repents of his evil and believes that Christ died to save him from his sins.

We may be tempted to ask, then – why such a deep, convoluted and intense theological treatment of salvation as we find in Romans is needed at all. If a child can receive Christ upon the clear and simple presentation of the facts of the gospel, why do we need all this talk of depravity and justification and law and election and reprobation? Why go on at great length about Israel and Gentiles and ancient history when the coming of Christ has ushered in a new dawn with the age of grace? Why bother with all this dull doctrine when we now have the Holy Spirit to excite us, and to lead us with visions and dreams and words of knowledge and wisdom?

The answer is, of course, that while we are all received into Christ as little children, and were all baptized into the same Spirit, we are to grow up into Christ by the help of the same Spirit, through the knowledge of the Word. For, curiously, I find that the better I know and obey the scriptures, the more I am led by the Spirit.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. {Romans 15:4}
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. {2Timothy 3:16-17}
How would it be if our children never learned to walk, to feed themselves, or to use a toilet – but preferred instead to lie around on the floor enjoying their so-called innocence, even as their bodies grew and changed? Just as babies need to grow and to mature – and in the process to learn and handle more and more complex information and tasks – so we need to grow spiritually. Even the Lord Jesus Himself “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” {Luke 2:52} He spent time in the Temple learning the things of God, and was indignant when his parents seemed not to understand this. {Luke 2:49}

The written Word contains both milk and meat. It is manna – bread from heaven – because it is truly “every word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God.” {Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4}. It is what God has said about His Son. When we open the Bible we break bread; we partake in the remembrance of Christ and we are fed on His body for, through it, the Holy Spirit feeds us on the Living Word, by which we grow up into Him.

We did not enter Christ in order to remain spiritual children and be fed only upon milk. And so, we ought to emulate our Lord by studying about our heavenly Father and His Son through the scriptures that He has given to us, so that we may become like His Son – holy, submissive, obedient and devoid of self-directedness. There is vastly more to know of God than we shall ever find out, even in eternity. He is infinite; we are finite. He could therefore fill us to the fullest with the things of Himself an infinite number of times, and we should still not know quantitatively all there is to know about God. But thank the Lord, we can know right now what we need to know about Him qualitatively – including His love, holiness, grace, faithfulness and mercy.

God does not wish His children to be ignorant of Him. He wants us to study what He says about Himself and about His plan for His creation and His creatures – and He gave us His Word so that we could do that. He will not force us. But it will please Him if we are found striving to know Him better. And the way He has given for us to do this is from the record He has made of all He has done in His creation, through His Son.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Making Booth a Prophet?
"I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century (i.e. the 20th century) will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell."

William Booth - General of the Salvation Army

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Romans - A Foreword

The Romans are coming, the Romans are coming....

I am about to begin blogging on the first three chapters of Romans. These are only part of a larger, as yet unfinished, study of the whole book. As stated before, I will be covering only the first three chapters - but I will sometimes refer to other parts of the book where there is a relevant or interesting connection.

In following along with the comments on Romans, it will be extremely helpful to have the charts I designed to summarize the content. These are in Word format. Pictures of these will be posted from time to time, along with links to an archive where they can be viewed, downloaded and printed.

The first of these charts is a general overview of the entire book of Romans, which is given below:

Double click the image for a larger view of the chart. Download the chart in MSWord format here, and keep it handy. It, and others that will follow, really will help you to find and keep your bearings.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

1Corinthians by Chapter (MSWord Format)

Here are the notes for the 1Corinthians study in MSWord format, organized by chapter. Download them if you wish - just don't alter the content or otherwise violate the CC License. There will be slight variations from the text which was published on the blog.

Audio files of the entire project can be found at the Public Archive under this bookmark, and are subject to the same CC Licensing terms. They are not as well organized as the text files. If anyone would like a CD with all the audio files arranged by chapter and section, I'm willing to try burning a disc and sending it to you. Just drop me a line by email.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

1Cor 16:19-24 - Adieus and Anathemas

19-24 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Although this form of greeting is fairly standard with Paul, the felicity of it is wonderful to behold in view of the matters that have been addressed. Paul practices what he preaches. He reflects His Saviour. While unafraid to rebuke and admonish where warranted, he knows that such chastisements must not be allowed destroy hope, or the sense of love that lies at the root of all that Paul wishes for the Corinthian church.

The Corinthians undoubtedly knew Priscilla and Aquila because they had emigrated to Corinth when the Jews were expelled from Rome {Ac 18:2} and had accompanied Paul from thence to Ephesus {Ac 18:18}. I suppose the tent makers union had to stick together!

Paul is careful to take over from his amanuensis long enough to lend unmistakable authenticity to the letter by finishing it up in his own handwriting, which many in Corinth would have recognized. By this the Apostolic authority of its contents could not be legitimately questioned.

And finally, though Paul is conciliatory and gentle in the general tone of his greeting, he nevertheless lets his severity show with an anathema upon any who do not love Christ. Obviously he means any in the church, professing to be Christians. Paul’s attitude towards outsiders is always that they must be lovingly evangelized, not anathematized. His severest rebuke is not to the unreached lost, but upon the pretenders, the fakes, the false, the deceivers within the church. This stern warning would not offend any true believer because a true believer’s love for Christ would want the purity of the body to be maintained, for His sake.

And that seems to be an appropriate coda to a letter that has come to grips with some very serious issues that were indeed threatening the purity of the church at Corinth.

For the ears of the true saints there is the invocation of the grace of the Lord by and in which all Christians abide in His love.

(This brings the 1Corinthians study to an end. Next on the agenda is the first 3 chapters of Romans)

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Balanced View of Emotion in Religion
To feel God’s love is very precious, but to believe it when you do not feel it, is the noblest. He may be but a little Christian who knows God’s love, but he is a great Christian who believes it when the visible contradicts it and the invisible withholds its witness.

C. H. Spurgeon

Sunday, October 12, 2008

1Cor 16:17-18 - Quiet, Humble, Faithful Men

17-18 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men.

Paul was at Ephesus when this epistle was written, and it seems most probable that these three Corinthian churchmen carried to Paul the letter earlier alluded to {1Co 7:1} - and that they also bore this letter back to Corinth. Their accompaniment of the letter obviously gave opportunity for a fuller and more personal report to Paul on the state of the church in Corinth, and of the influences that were at work there.

These were undoubtedly stable and humble men who would neither exaggerate nor slander other folk, and who would have no axe to grind but that Christ be glorified in the conduct of His church. Paul was obviously blessed by the nature of their company and they clearly encouraged Paul in his longsuffering and patient love for the troubled congregation. In appreciation of their fair-minded, honest, loving and truthful representations Paul once more exhorts the Corinthians to see these qualities in such men as worthy of notice, and of making them the sort of people to whom submission with the hearing ear would be wise.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

There Goes the Neighborhood
Due to the fact that I have recently mentioned "death" 59 times, "dead" 20 times, "hell" 4 times and "dangerous" at least once, this blog has earned the following rating from the computer at "What's My Blog Rated?":

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Apparently, mentions of God, Jesus, grace, love, forgiveness, redemption and resurrection don't count for anything on the rating scale. [/smile]

HT to Derek at Theoparadox for this little time-waster.

Friday, October 10, 2008

1Cor 16:13-16 - Real Biblical Manhood

13-16 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love. 15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and labourer.

Just as not all who are of Israel are true Israel, so not all who are in the visible church are true saints of God. So this command to "stand firm in THE faith, and to act like men and be strong" is addressed, as was the whole epistle, to those who have ears to hear - the true saints, whoever they may be, amongst the whole mass of the members. By way of reminder, this is how Paul addressed the epistle at the outset...
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours... {1Co 1:2}
Obviously the false teachers and deceivers, and some of the deceived are not included in this number. But how are the true saints to be distinguished? They are known by what they believe and by the fruit that right belief produces, through the Holy Spirit, by the obedience of faith. This is why Paul starts with watchfulness and standing in THE faith. Not standing in faith - any old faith, vague faith, the belief that even demons can have, or the faith that many people have in whatever their own particular God is. John Bright once said of Disraeli, for example, "He is a self-made man, and he worships his creator."

Belief itself - faith itself - means absolutely nothing - nada! It is right belief that saves and sanctifies because it is belief in the truth, which is a Person, Who can be received personally and testified to historically. There is but one gospel - that which was first delivered to the saints by Jesus and the Apostles - that is laid out in Holy Scripture and opened to the hearts of men by the Holy Spirit.

Wherefore, Paul exhorts them to be watchful. He doesn’t say this in order to keep them busy. Nor does he say it merely for effect. There is an enemy out there and in here. He slips in the back door, over the wall, through the cracks. He comes in winsome, smiling, helpful, outwardly good people. He comes with plausible arguments. He hides drops of venom in pots of honey. He may initially look like Jesus even though he is another Jesus. Only watchfulness (and prayer, which is implied in the term) can guard against such. Only the right gospel, the true facts and the Apostolic doctrine (the teaching from the facts) can dispel what is false. The knowledge of the real thing is a strong physic against error.

Paul’s exhortation for the believers to stand strong and acquit themselves as men has nothing to do with machismo. The way a Christian is strong is to know that he is weak, and to stand by the power of He Who is able to make him stand. Any other form of standing is ripe for a fall. When we think that it is we who stand, rather than God Who upholds us, we have lost our way already. Our duty is indeed to stand, as Paul exhorts the Ephesians to do (Eph 6:10-18) - but see how we are to stand, in the whole armour of God, undergirded with all-prayer. We are the jelly inside the metal suit, supplicating God for grace to be found standing. And when we are so found, we have done only our duty, and all thanks are due to God, with no congratulation is due to ourselves. Of course, God Himself is free to commend any as He sees fit - but that is His business and His prerogative - and it will never happen to one who is self-congratulatory, puffed up or strong in any but the strength that God supplies, as captured in Charles Wesley’s hymn, "Soldiers of Christ Arise".

The Biblical man is not full of male bravado, but filled with the masculinity of Christ. The same Christ who could weep for the lost and rebuke the arrogant. The same Christ who had great time at celebrations and displayed great patience for children, yet did not suffer fools gladly, and loathed hypocrites. The same Christ who made woman as a helpmeet for man, under man’s headship, and yet always treated the women he met with dignity, respect and compassion. The same Christ who preached the kingdom of God to all along the way, yet never compromised the truth in order to spare the feelings, or to avoid the wrath, of His hearers. This is acting like a man - standing upon God’s word, ready to give account for the hope that is within, yet with gentleness and respect.

And being a man is acting in love. Paul is formally addressing men here, and not women. Men are the leaders in the congregation, just as God had commanded and ordained. Paul assumes without question that he is addressing men with his admonishments - in the expectation that those leaders will read the letter aloud to all – to both men and women - and then lead all by example, and by demonstrations of loving grace and support for all in their charge. Truth, godly leadership, total dependence upon God and love - these are the ingredients of the formula that Paul lays down for the health of the church. And this is a church in great need of returning to and staying upon the course.

Paul’s exhortation for the Corinthians to hearken to Stephanas and his household is based upon two things, namely - the steadfastness of their commitment and the length of their witness. These are among qualities elsewhere commended in the selection of elders. It’s pretty straightforward really - novices and those who may talk a lot, but as yet bear no lasting fruit and show no love, humility and service to the congregation, ought not to be given much shrift. Listen to the humble, fruitful people who have consistently shown the evidence of Christ in them.

Note the terminology that Paul uses - ..."be subject to such as these"... The Greek word is hupotasso, coming from military terminology referring to the organization of military units under a commander. Remember yet again that the major theme of this epistle is order and self-control, under God’s ordained structure. For this to work there must be submission, and the only way submission works in the church is for it to be something that is offered, rather than something enforced. Note that submission is not blind obedience. It is the willing deference to the authority of those who have demonstrated, and who maintain a devotion to the truth for the service of the saints, in love.

Of course, deference goes beyond just the leadership. We are to consider others as better than ourselves and to subject ourselves to all the saints in love, insofar as they are in the faith, holding fast to the truth.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Parsing the Posts
Here is the Wordle Solution for Agonizomai's latest blog posts. Double click the picture for larger view.

Some pretty good Biblical words, eh? I would have preferred "grace" to have more prominence than "law", and that "death" was smaller than "resurrection" - but I assume the process doesn't lie and that it fairly represents the latest subject matter.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

1Cor 16:10-12 - Church Politics Ab Ovo

10-12 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers. 12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will {Or God’s will for him} to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

We see that Paul had stated his intention to send Timothy already in this letter, {1Co 4:17} and Luke records the fact that Timothy and Erastus did, indeed, go to Macedonia. {Ac 19:22} This visit on the part of Timothy was largely because Paul himself would not be making the journey in the near future.

We know that Timothy was young for a leader. This is why Paul appeals to the responsible elements in Corinth not to let anyone despise Timothy. For sure, there are many elements there that would not hesitate to zero in on any perceived shortcoming in anyone, particularly someone chosen by Paul. The early church in general, and in Corinth as the poster boy, was not a homogeneous bunch of touchy-feely people sitting around a camp fire singing Cumbayah. It was a spiritual battleground then, as now. There were critical, divisive, false, sniping, destructive elements of all stripes - many outwardly wise and loving while, having crept in unawares, they were working to destroy the church from within. Some deceiving and some deceived.

Take the matter of Apollos, for example, who is mentioned in verse 12. Apollos was an Alexandrian, schooled in fine Greek oratory and skilled in its use. He was a smoothie compared to Paul. Some think that because of the "high" Greek used in Hebrews that Apollos was the author of that book, because Paul’s Greek in his general epistles is, by contrast, rather uncultured.

So Apollos would have been just the fellow to appeal to the high-minded factions in Corinth - those who value the outward things rather than content. Many would have welcomed Apollos for the wrong reasons, and it seems that Apollos was aware of this when he refused to go to Corinth. A strong urging from Paul did not move Apollos. We aren’t told specifically why he refused, and Paul does not leave us with the impression that Apollos was being difficult. Apollos was willing to visit and minister in Corinth (he will come when he has opportunity) but just not at that time. Since context is always important, it is no stretch to see his reluctance as an unwillingness to lend his presence to any faction that might take advantage and use it to undermine Paul’s discipline and correction of their chaotic and blameworthy disorder.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Value of Your Contribution
If heaven could be obtained by human endeavours, then it must either be of little worth, or they must be of great value. But He who puts an estimate upon all things according to their true value, has said, "When ye have done all those things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do'." We are not only unprofitable when all is to be done, but when all has been done. We are unprofitable to God, because He is necessarily and eternally blessed without us; we are not profitable to ourselves, because without Him we shall be everlastingly cursed in ourselves.

William Secker, "The Nonsuch Professor"

Monday, October 06, 2008

1Cor 16:5-9 - A Man's Mind Plans His Way
... But The Lord Directs His Steps (Reprise)

5-9 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

When he first starts to let them in on his plans it looks like Paul is presumptuous about what he will and will not be doing. But that would be our mistaken conclusion. All these plans come under the attitude of mind expressed in that little codicil in verse 7 - "if the Lord permits".

We should know and understand by now, if we know Paul’s theology at all, that not only are all his plans subject to the Lord’s will, but they are, underneath, moved by His will. Outwardly there is the appearance of chopping and changing and frustration and uncertainty - but underneath it all are the everlasting arms. Underneath it all the Lord is directing the steps of the will of the man. By faith, Paul understands that God is at work in and through him to do His will and that God alone decides what will and will not come to pass, including those things that he (Paul) purposes. And it is all working together for his good even though he often does not see the big picture, as God does.

Paul’s comings and goings, and their attendant plans no doubt changed quite frequently, as the Lord’s providence unfolded. Thus, it appears that in the lost (unpreserved) letter referred to earlier {1Co 5:9} Paul may have intended to go to Corinth before going to Macedonia as can be deduced by his later letter {2Co 1:15-16} - but the plans changed for unspecified reasons. Indeed, some in Corinth (probably some of the false teachers) took opportunity to impugn and attack Paul for putting them on the back burner as far as a visit was concerned, such that Paul justified himself in the second letter to the Corinthians, as earlier indicated.

Paul’s life was just like ours in this respect - that he looked to God and made decisions based on his understanding of God’s will, stood ready for God to override, and prepared for the flack of all those who looked upon the outward things with coloured, self-serving or ignorant eyes. Paul stood or fell to His Master and to no one else and he gladly paid the price. There were adversaries without and there were adversaries within. This was no idyllic cake-walk - no ethereal, spiritualized, gauzy tip-toeing through the tulips. The early church was a minefield - a fifth-column infiltrated, mole penetrated, writhing, seething pottage of conflict and opposition. And it was all the time under threat of persecution from without.

In other words, the servants were not greater than their Master. As they hated Him, so they hated the church. As they betrayed Him, so they betrayed the church, including those who broke bread with all. Just as today, when the threat was from outside - from the world - the church fared well because people counted the cost and their genuineness was apparent; persecution purified and purged the professors. Just as today, one of the greatest threats came not from without, but from within - with all manner of subtle heresies, false teachers and schisms. Times are not better today. Heresies are not fewer. Where the body is, there the vultures gather. Lack of vigilance draws them closer, but they are ever there.

Whatever Paul means by a wide door opening in Macedonia, we can see that wherever there is the greatest activity of the Holy Spirit there is the greatest opposition of the devil. If he is not bothering us it is likely because we are not a threat to him. If we have no spiritual battle it is likely that we have no spiritual life worthy of attracting the foe's attention.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Prayer Request
Some of you already know that my son-in-law died suddenly a year ago last August, when he drove his motor scooter into the back of a city truck in Vancouver. He was a great person. Over 700 people from all over the world attended his funeral. His life had touched hundreds for good in his church and his community. He was, perhaps, careless in the end, but God purposed even that carelessness for good, to call him home.

My daughter, who is a believer, has been and still is, going through the grieving process with her two children, now aged 7 and 14. Subject to all the human elements, including the roller coaster of questions and feelings, she has been trusting God throughout and, as a result, growing in grace and in her knowledge of Him - and I thank God for these blessings. Here is a picture of the whole family.

There remains, however, one especial difficulty which is having a serious effect on her health and peace for which I ask my readers and listeners to intercede in prayer - and that is this:

My daughter and her husband are/were both veterinarians. Just prior to his death, my son-in-law had bought into a local practice and, for technical reasons, my daughter was a silent partner in his participation. Soon after his death it became clear that the partnership at the practice was going to go out of its way to take advantage of the situation and make it difficult for my daughter to recover a fair value for their investment. This has been confirmed in many ways since then, through demonstrated evidence of a deliberate spirit of noncooperation, obfuscation, delay and obstruction - presumably in the hope that she will either go away or settle for way less than she is due.

I can't think of anything more wicked or more likely to attract the wrath of God than to willfully add to the suffering of widows and orphans through greed. Though it is hard, I believe she has been praying for them. But now her health is beginning to fail and she is losing her way.

Cutting to the chase, I am asking for your prayers for her and the children - for a fair, equitable and timely resolution to the whole matter - and for forgiveness and light for my daughter's antagonists.

Friday, October 03, 2008

1Cor16:1-4 - Doshing Out the Denarii

1-4 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

Now this chapter, devoted to what we might call "housekeeping" matters, marks the end of doctrinal teaching and polemic correction in 1 Corinthians. That doesn’t mean there is nothing to learn, but it does mean that we should be careful about inferring from it any general practices or commandments where no such universal instructions are intended.

For example, today most congregations meet on the first day of the week (Sunday), just as they did from the earliest times. Naturally, then, this is a convenient time to take up a collection from the members. But the similarity does not infer that what we do is obedience to a rule laid down here. The collection spoken of here is for the saints in Jerusalem and not for the local assembly. Times were difficult everywhere, but they were particularly hard for the Jerusalem church because of virulent Jewish opposition. Paul was encouraging all the churches to send support to the Jerusalem church and this was but one church so exhorted.

Whatever they laid aside for their brothers and sisters in the Holy Land was in addition to the local giving that all churches ought naturally to do. The support of the local ministry and of widows and orphans in the local congregation was also important, but was not even touched upon here. One assumes that it was so self-evident that generosity of spirit and selfless giving were a natural fruit of true faith that Paul needs not bring it up. And today, when we give, we still do make provision to help our fellows on the mission field, or in ministries elsewhere. But Paul is not making this a rule of the church that when we get together on Sunday we have to take up a collection. We may give freely at any time, including Sundays.

In fact, do you note the absence of any reference to the tithe? Paul simply says, "each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper." So this cannot be used to support the tithing of the congregation. Tithing is a poor thing to insist upon because human nature will quickly get in the habit of feeling pretty good about giving 10% when it could easily give much more. And it also puts undue pressure on weak or impecunious brothers. I wish that all those ministers who pull out the annual drubbing about tithes, or who try to wring out more by similar means for building funds would instead preach Christ and let the Holy Spirit move people to give out of love and gratitude, rather than guilt.

Paul certainly takes up the mantle of authority and leadership that his apostleship implies. First he speaks of having directed the churches in Asia and then he commands the Corinthians in the same way. He tells them what to do, how and when to do it. Finally, he says he will send their money to Jerusalem, along with their designates, but that if it is deemed necessary for him to go personally, it is they who will accompany him. Whatever one makes of this, there is an unmistakable air of authority here.

The kindness and severity of Paul are matched by his meekness and authority. What does this signify? Of whom are we reminded? Why do we see these things in Paul and who is to be credited for them? Whom do we see when we see these things in Paul?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Blog Improvement
Just a quick note to readers of the blog. I have installed code for Reftagger on the blog. It will work for all posts from this date on.

My thanks for the tip go to a blogger posting under the name "Truthstands" in the comments section at this Pyromaniacs post.

This Bible Quote (Deut 29:29) will give you and idea of how it will display from now on when you "mouse over" Bible references on this blog. However, if you are reading this blog on the Feedburner site, the "mouse over" feature won't work. You can't have everything.

The Prodigal Returns
I got back from England last week, but have not been feeling well since then. As a consequence I haven't really done much with the blog apart from letting the pre-prepared posts self-publish.

The funeral for Mom was strange - a bit formal - and with an obsequious High Anglican Priest named Father Williams, who reminded me a bit of his namesake, zany commedian Kenneth Williams, playing a version of Dickens' Uriah Heep.

But the important thing is not how I felt about it all, but that my Father was satisfied with everything, and that it was one stage completed in the necessary process of his grieving for a great loss. Here is a picture of the immediate family taken just before the procession to the chapel.

That's Dad on the left looking younger than me, even though he's 88 years old. I'd like to say that it's because I have higher mileage, but that wouldn't be true. Dad worked in factory under dreadful conditions until he was about 32, then as a mailman for 30 years when mailmen didn't have cars but bicycles. All this was after spending 6 years in the army, two of them in action where he was wounded and returned to the front lines after three months.

Who are the others? My older (yes older) brother, Peter, is the one in the back wearing glasses and standing immediately behind his wife. To his left is his son-in-law. All the others are Peter's children. Peter was, and still technically is, a member of the HSAUWC organization (Moonies, to the uninitiated). It's both shameful and troubling that he is a far better person than me, despite all my professions of faith. He is patient and kind and tolerant and meek - all qualities that elude me. But that's for another time.

In case you don't believe how incredibly youthful and vital my Dad is for a man of 88, here's a picture of him in the pub, the Poacher's Pocket, where we went for lunch and a great pint of English Bitter a few days before I came back.

Not everything was love and roses during my visit. I have tried countless times to share the gospel with my Father and I tried again while I was there. I try always to let him be the one that touches on God or spirituality before I have at it and this was no exception. But he is an incredibly stubborn man, styling himself as an intellectual (reads Zola and Hugo and George Eliot) and is massively influenced by the worst elements of modernism, rationalism and the enlightenment. The fruits of the German School of Higher Biblical Criticism have permeated into his thinking like ground water - not because he has read them, but because their influences percolated down into the society he grew up in, and bore their poison in the 70 years or so following their propagation among the clerisy.

To cut a long story short, I went with the idea of tenderly comforting my Dad with thoughts of Christ and wound up berating him for his intransigence. Great witness, eh? But at least I left him with the unmistakable reassurance that I love him, as I hope this picture shows.

Nevertheless, my being able to express at all any true feeling of affection in outward ways is the fruit of the Christ that I so poorly represent. I dread to think how much worse I would have been if the Lord had not saved me and gone to work on my character. Amazingly, He shines even in my darkness, and I thank Him for the grace shown to my Father in so many ways during this difficult time.

I'll try to get back in the swing of things here at the blog. The Romans 1-3 study is coming up and I'm not completely ready, so I'll have to buckle down.