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One of my favorites.  Sorry (for me) to see his passing.

From Geoffrey Himes in the Washington Post,

When Ralph Stanley died on Thursday at age 89, we lost more than the last surviving founding father of bluegrass. We lost one of our last links to a pre-television America.

He was a short, gaunt man in a white cowboy hat and gray suit, his features seemingly chipped from granite with a stony gaze to match. When he sang “O Death” at Wolf Trap in 2006 as part of the Great High Mountain Tour, Stanley’s scratchy high tenor made the Grim Reaper sound like an acquaintance of long standing. This traditional lament had revived his career when he sang it in the Coen brothers’ 2000 movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” but Stanley’s ghostly vocal made clear that the song was older than that movie, older than the whole history of talking movies.

Even in the 21st century, there was an echo in his voice of 19th-century mining and lumbering (his father worked in an old-fashioned sawmill) and of the 17th-century songs that immigrants from the British Isles brought to the Appalachian Mountains. It was in the southwest corner of Virginia, in Dickerson County under the shadow of Clinch Mountain, that Ralph Stanley was born on Feb. 25, 1927. Together with his brother Carter, two years older, Ralph learned the eerie harmonies of a cappella Sacred Harp singing in church and the spry rhythms of old-time string-band music at dances.

Read the rest.

packerIf we recognize the covenantal character of the sacrament of Baptism, and follow the teaching of Articles 25 and 27, and go in principle with the first of view of baptismal regeneration that was set out above, we shall see the rite as given by God to focus and confirm faith in Jesus Christ and the gospel, and in the reality of the new covenant that binds God and ourselves to each other. We shall see Baptism as given to symbolize and pictorialize God’s bestowal of the key 7 promised blessings of the gospel (union with Christ in resurrection life in his body, the church; forgiveness of sins, through the cross; and adoption as God’s sons and heirs; as Article 27 states); and to assure believers that these blessings are theirs now. But then, what was said earlier about infant Baptism might seem to need revisiting. Can it really be appropriate, after all, to baptize babies who are not yet capable of faith, and to pray for them as regenerate persons once they have been baptized, as has been standard Anglican practice historically?

Read it all.

Around-the-Horn[1]Garrison Keillor: Bob McDonnell and Rolex Christians
Jesus didn’t wear a Rolex. He did not hit up the Pharisees for thousands of shekels so the apostles could have rib-eye steak and a 35 B.C. cabernet at the Last Supper.

Pope Francis Denounces the Prosperity Gospel
via Vatican Radio: [The Pope] criticized the so-called “theology of prosperity”— according to which “God shows you that you are just if He give you great riches,” saying those who follow it are mistaken. The problem lies in being attached to wealth, because, as the Pope recalled, “You cannot serve both God and riches.” These become “chains” that “take away the freedom to follow Jesus.”

Feeling Good vs Doing Good
 “What prompts people to rally around destructive policies? The answer, I think, is that many people make up their minds on the issues of the day not according to the facts, but according to how it makes them feel about themselves.”

Majority of American Christians Do Not Find Bible Reading and Church Attendance as Essential
When you imagine “a week in the life of a Christian” you might imagine a church visit, an occasional Bible reading before bed, and some community involvement after school or work. However, this is not likely the case, if American Christians act in accordance with what they find essential to their faith.

You Are Not Your Sexuality
It’s no longer news that Western culture has undergone a dramatic sea change in its attitude toward homosexuality. Less often noted is where a key impetus for this change has come: the power of narrative.

J.B. (Joseph Barber) Lightfoot (13 April 1828 – 21 December 1889) was Bible Scholar, theologian and Bishop of Durham. 

Psalm 8:3-4
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained . . .”


JB Lightfoot
Could any paradox be imagined greater than this — this contrast between the insignificance of man’s self and the preeminence of man’s destiny? No interval of time or transference of scene, no contrast of persons or of circumstances, has tarnished its freshness or robbed it of its power. Nay, must we not rather confess that, as the world has grown older, the chasm between the greatness and the meanness of man has widened, and the paradox has increased from age to age?

I. EACH NEW DISCOVERY HAS DEPRESSED THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF MAN IN THE MATERIAL UNIVERSE.

1. Astronomy has taught us our insignificance in space.

2. Geology teaches us our insignificance in time.

3. The microscope discovers to us miniature worlds, crowding under our eyes, countless in number, and each thronged with a dense population of its own.

4. The anatomist dissects and the chemist analyses the human body. Man is found to be compounded of just such substances as the brute, the tree, the stone. There is absolutely nothing besides.

5. If there is nothing in the component elements of the human frame which accounts for the preeminence of man, we may at all events look for an explanation in some peculiarities of structure. But the naturalist will tell us that all attempts at classification with a view to separating man off by a broad line from the lower creation fail signally.

II. THE MATERIALIST WILL BE CONTENT TO SAY, “WHAT IS MAN? An insignificant atom in time and space. And the son of man? An organism like other organisms.” But the believer is constrained to add, “Lord, that Thou art mindful of him! Lord, that Thou visitest him!”

1. The believer may boldly claim science herself as his teacher, for it has accumulated evidence at every step that, as a thinking, hoping, aspiring, progressive being he is quite unique in God’s creation. The Psalmist thought of man’s dominion over the beasts, birds, fishes of the sea. We have lived to witness his sovereignty over the elemental powers of nature — he can order the lightning, weigh the sun, make the vapour his slave.

2. Yet this subjugation of the powers of nature is only the earnest of greater things to come. Apostles and evangelists saw the true fulfilment of the Psalmist’s prophetic saying in the ultimate and supreme destiny of mankind, as realised in the person and work of the one representative Man. The song of the Psalmist falls on the ears of Christians now with a fuller cadence, swelled with the experience of nearly thirty centuries, and prolonged into the hopes of eternity.

 

You never forget a pile of amputated limbs. Or, at least, Walt Whitman never did.

ddayThis grisly sign of war was one of the first sights that greeted Whitman in 1862, when he went to the Civil War battlefield at Fredericksburg, to look for his wounded brother George. As he later recounted it, he saw “a heap of amputated feet, legs, arms, hands, &c.,” a pile so large he described it as “a full load for a one-horse cart.”

For Whitman, this heap of limbs became a representative image of the Civil War, which he imagined as unnaturally cutting off states from the nation. Indeed, the fragmented republic and its piecemeal human bodies weighed heavily upon Whitman, who carried with him the memories of countless amputations and deaths he had seen while volunteering in the military hospitals.

As we approach Memorial Day, a day whose origins lie in the American Civil War, we have an opportunity to reflect on how and why we remember the dead. Walt Whitman offers us his own answer, emerging from his own confrontation with the terrible violence and the human cost of war. For Whitman, memorializing the war in his writing allows him to both recall and “re-member” the broken bodies of the fallen—and in doing so, to act out a kind of healing for them and for their country.

Read the rest.

Around-the-Horn[1]Judge Dread :: More Madness on the Road to Serfdom
We should all reflect on the significance of this case because it has far-reaching legal and cultural implications. Can one not hold public office in the United States now unless one is committed to the latest ideological fad, regardless of whether that fad is actually relevant to one’s work? Could one be a public school teacher—or a teacher of any government accredited school for that matter—without subscribing ex animo to whatever the creed of the day happens to be? And where will this end? Given the Unholy Trinity’s ability to defy democracy and transform our world according to its own tastes, are private persons any safer in the long term than public employees?

The Moral Revolutionaries Present Their Demands: Unconditional Surrender
Now that the moral revolutionaries are solidly in control, what is to be demanded of Christians who, on the basis of Christian conviction, cannot join the revolution? The demands have now been presented, and they represent unconditional surrender. The latest terms of surrender were delivered last week by Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Devotional Theology: An Introduction
Looks like a good, practical series: “In recent years, however, there have been extravagant measures taken by women to try to “get more” of God; to hear from Him; to know Him better. Some of these efforts have ranged from painfully shallow to downright heretical. From the fallible, presumptuous words of Jesus Calling to the dangerous practice of contemplative prayer, eager Christian women everywhere are desperately seeking to know God better. However, the one thing we’re lacking is the one thing that’s sitting right under our noses—the Word of God; and further, a right understanding and application of it.”

What the Transgender Bathroom Debate Means for You
A very good article from Russell Moore: “In the meantime, what should the church do? First, we must bear witness to the goodness of what it means to live as creatures, not as self-defining gods and goddesses.” 

The Vanity of Conspiracy Theories and the Banality of Real Evil
Now that the Republicans are a handful of delegates away from nominating an ostensible conspiracy theorist* to be their candidate to lead the free world, it’s worth recalling this insightful post by Carl Trueman from  a few years ago. . .

What is the Internet’s Favorite Book?
Which is the better book: War and Peace or installment one of The Hunger GamesIf you ask a book reviewer or look at any of the “Best Book” lists compiled by  critics, you would say War and Peace. But what if you asked everyday readers on the Internet?

 

 

bryanMT PLEASANT, SC – Monday May 23, 2016, clergy and lay delegates from the Diocese of the Carolinas voted unanimously to elect Bishop David C. Bryan as the first Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of the Carolinas.

Bryan has served as Bishop of the Southeast (PEARUSA) Network since September 2013.This Network, one of three in PEARUSA, is part of a missionary district established by the Anglican Province of Rwanda in the United States.

This June, Archbishop Rwaje of Rwanda will formally hand over all three networks to Archbishop Foley Beach and the Anglican Church in North America. Two of the networks will become dioceses. The clergy and churches in Bishop Bryan’s network will have the opportunity to become part of an already existing Diocese of the Carolinas under Bishop Steve Wood.

“It’s the right thing for us to do here in the Carolinas,” Bryan said. “The clergy who elected me as their bishop agreed with me that we didn’t need another diocese. I am personally looking forward to working with Bishop Steve Wood and sharing episcopal ministry with him.”

The clergy and parishes in Bishop Bryan’s PEARUSA network will have until July 1 to apply for admittance into the Diocese of the Carolinas.

“I’m excited about the possibilities ahead,” Wood responded. “Bishop David and the clergy of his network are teaching all of us about humility and passion for gospel unity. The vote last night, I think, tells it all. Our clergy and lay delegates are excited about coming together.”

Archbishop Beach added, “Archbishop Rwaje and the House of Bishops of Rwanda want our Anglican witness of Jesus Christ in North America to be strong. I believe what Bishop David and the Southeast (PEARUSA) Network is doing demonstrates that witness boldly and courageously in the Carolinas.”

Related to the actions of the Southeast (PEARUSA) Network, Bishop Thad Barnum has accepted the position of Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of the Carolinas where Bishop Barnum has established an Office of Clergy Care attending to the personal and spiritual well-being of the clergy.

+Thad and his wife Erilynne have four grown children and eleven grandchildren. They reside in Pawleys Island, SC

+David and his wife Nancy have three grown children, with two married and one engaged. They reside in Columbia, SC.

+Steve and his wife Jacqui have four grown children and two grandchildren. They reside in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

edwardsI intend to show how we may definitely conclude that God is at work. I want to show the signs which Scripture says are clear evidence that God is at work. We will then be able to use these signs to judge any work without fear of being misled.

I propose to look only at those signs given in 1 John 4. That is because this chapter deals with this question plainly and more completely than any other part of the Bible. So let us look at the signs in the order they are given in the chapter.

1. When esteem for the true Jesus is raised

If a persons esteem of the true Jesus is raised, it is a sure sign that the Spirit of God is at work. By the true Jesus, I mean this: that Jesus was born of a virgin and crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem; that He is the Son of God and the Savior of men as the gospel declares.

This sign is given by the apostle in 1 John 4:2-3: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” This implies acknowledging more than that there was such a person as Jesus who appeared in Palestine and did those things that the Bible says. It implies acknowledging that He was the Christ, the Son of God, chosen to be Lord and Savior.

This word acknowledge is important. In the New Testament it means much more than merely admitting.” It implies knowing something and being willing to declare it in praise and love. For example, Matthew 10:32 says, “Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” People may praise their own false Christ while having no respect at all for the true, historical Jesus. Indeed, they are led away from Him. But no spirit can give testimony to the true Jesus, or lead men to Him, except the Spirit of God.

Why is this the case? It is because the devil has a bitter and unchanging hatred for the real Jesus, especially as Savior. He passionately hates the story and the doctrine of redemption. Satan would never work in men to produce honorable thoughts of Jesus, nor cause them to value His commands. The Spirit that turns men’s hearts to Christ is not the spirit of the serpent that has such an unchanging hatred toward Him.

When we look at anything that is happening in the religious world, and need to pass judgment, the first question we must ask is, “Are these people coming to love, honor, and esteem the real Lord Jesus more than ever?” If people are being convinced of their need of Christ and led to Him; if their belief that Christ appeared in history is strengthened; if they are more convinced than ever that He is the Son of God sent to save sinners; if they acknowledge that He is the only Savior and they need Him desperately; if they appreciate Him more than they did, and love Him too, then we may be quite sure that it is the Holy Spirit who is at work!

2. When Satan’s kingdom is attacked

The Spirit of God must be at work if the interests of Satan’s kingdom are opposed. This is a sure sign. Satan’s kingdom encourages sin and encourages men to cherish worldly lusts. The Holy Spirit does not.

This sign is given in 1 John 4:4-5: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” The apostle is here comparing those who are influenced by two opposite kinds of spirits. One spirit is true, and the other is false.

John shows the difference like this: one spirit is from God and so overcomes the spirit of the world. The other spirit speaks about and relishes the things of the world. Here, the spirit of the devil is called the one who is in the world. This is the difference between Christ and the devil. Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), but Satan is called, “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4).

We know what the apostle means by “the world” or “the things that are of the world” from his own words in 1 John 2:15-16: ““Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.”” Clearly, he means everything to do with sin and includes all men’s corruptions and lusts–everything they look to for satisfaction.

So, from what the apostle says here, we may safely conclude that if a people:

have their love of ordinary, worldly pleasure, profits, and honors lowered;

are weaned from eagerly chasing such things;

have a deep concern about eternity and the eternal happiness that comes through the gospel;

earnestly begin to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness; and

are convicted of the ugliness and guilt of sin, as well as the misery to which it leads, then the Spirit of God must be at work.

We cannot believe that Satan would convict men of sin and awaken the conscience. The conscience is God’s representative in the soul. It can do Satan no good to make its light shine brighter. It is always in his interest to keep the conscience quiet and asleep. When conscience is awake, everything that Satan wants to accomplish is hindered.

When he is out to lead men further into sin, would the devil first open their eyes to see its ugliness? Would he make them afraid of sin? Would he make them mourn over past sins? Would he show them that they need to be delivered from sin’s guilt? Would he make them more careful about everything they do, to ensure there is no sin in it? Would the devil lead them to avoid future sins and make them more careful to avoid his own temptations? If a man thinks the devil acts like this, I wonder what he uses for brains!
But some may argue that the devil may even awaken a man’s conscience in order to deceive him–that is, to make him think he has been saved while he is still in his sin. To argue like this is futile. It is to argue that Christ was making a mistake when He told the Pharisees that Satan would not cast out Satan (Matt. 12:25-26). Remember, the Pharisees believed that the spirit at work in Christ’s ministry was the devil.

A man with an awakened conscience is the hardest man in the world to fool! The more awake a sinner’s conscience is, the harder it is to quiet it down until it is really delivered from sin. The more a conscience is aware of the greatness of man’s guilt, the less likely he is to be satisfied with his own righteousness. Once a man is thoroughly frightened by a sight of his own danger, he will not believe himself truly safe without good grounds. Awakening a conscience in this way is not likely to confirm a man in his sin. On the contrary, it is likely to lead to sin and Satan being driven out.

So, whenever we see people made aware of:

the ugliness of sin;

God’s anger against sin;

their own natural lostness because of sin;

their own need of eternal salvation;

their need of God’s mercy and help; and

their need to do what God has commanded in seeking salvation, we may certainly conclude that it is the Spirit of God at work!

Yes, even if their bodies are affected and they cry out or scream or faint. Yes, even if they go into fits or are affected in other dramatic ways. Those things do not count at all.

3. When people come to love the Scriptures more

When men are persuaded to love the holy Scriptures more, and to trust their truth and divine origin more, it is certainly the Spirit of God at work. This is the sign the apostle gives us in 1 John 4:6: ““We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.” This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”

When he says, “We are from God,” he means, “We are the apostles God has sent to teach the world His doctrines and commands.” This argument extends to all those God has appointed to deliver to His church its rules of faith and practice. That is to say, it covers all those apostles and prophets that God has inspired to write the Scriptures.
The devil would never try to produce such a respect for God’s Scriptures. A spirit of delusion will not persuade men to listen to God for direction. The devil does not say, as Abraham did, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them” (Luke 16:29). Nor will he say the words that came from heaven about Christ, “Listen to him” (9:35).

Would the spirit of error, wanting to deceive men, turn them to God’s infallible Scriptures? Would he lead them to get to know those Scriptures well? Would the prince of darkness lead men to the light of the Sun in order to promote his kingdom of darkness? The devil has always shown how much he hates the Bible. He has always done all he can to put out its light and lead men away from it. He knows that this is the light that will overthrow his dark kingdom.

He has had much experience of the power of Scripture to defeat his purposes and thwart his designs. It is a constant plague to him. It is the main weapon that Michael uses in his war with Satan (Jude 9). It is the sword of the Spirit that pierces him and conquers him (Eph. 6:17). It is the sharp sword that we read about that comes from the mouth of the One on the horse with which He smites His enemies (Rev. 19:15).

Every text of the Bible is a torment to the old serpent. He has felt its stinging smart thousands of times. He is therefore at war with the Bible and hates every word in it. We may be quite sure he will never try to persuade men to love it or value it.

It has often happened in history that many sects of enthusiasts have undervalued the written Word of God. They set up some other authority that is over the Scripture. That still happens today. But when men come to value the Scriptures more, not less, then the Spirit of God is certainly at work.

Read the last two signs of true revival.

 

Sam Storms is the St. Andrew’s New Wine speaker this August 25th – 27th.  Great teacher.  Good man.  Sign up, you will be blessed.

Here’s a recent sermon he preached on the topic, Jesus the Healer (notes available here).

Text: James 5.13-18; Matthew 21.12-17

Preached: February 7, 2016

Location: Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Sam Storms is lead pastor for preaching and vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City. He is a TGC Council member and the author of many books, including Packer on the Christian Life and Pleasures Evermore. He serves as president-elect of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Around-the-Horn[1]The Rise of the Anti-Culture
Carl Trueman has a nice article over at First Things addressing the Christian’s inability to engage culture, not because the culture war is lost, but because culture as we have thought and spoken of it has collapsed: “For to engage a culture there must first be a culture to engage. And, as the ever-incisive Anthony Esolen has pointed out on numerous occasions we no longer have a culture. What we really have is an anti-culture.”

Seeing Christ in All of Scripture
I was visiting a LifeGroup last night and a man who had grown up in the faith made a comment that I (we) often hear at SA, “I have read the Bible my whole life and I have completely missed what you (and the other clergy) see in the text.  And once you say it, it’s so obvious I can’t believe I’d never noticed it.” So, how do we see what we see in Scripture?  Here’s an exceptional resource from Westminster (a free download – and worthy of discussion in your LifeGroups) to help you along in understanding Scripture.

Youth Ministry in a Secular Age
A great read for all parents – and those in church leadership.

A Confession of Liberal Intolerance
God-bless Kristof, he usually gets around to telling the truth.  It may take him a decade or so, but he gets there.  Hard to believe he’s just recognizing this reality, but having recognized it – and now written about it – took guts.

Restroom Laws and Jim Crow
In American, even the restroom has become a place for politics.

Donald Trump’s Feud with Russell Moore Reveals Evangelical Fault Lines
Trump would be hard-pressed to go after a finer man than Russell Moore.  This from TIME: “Donald Trump escalated his fight with Washington’s evangelical leaders on Monday by attacking the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm. “’Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!’”