Knock Loudly at the Door of Grace

praying

It is not that a person should shout, or scream, or be very loud, in order to prove that they are in earnest. But it is desirable that we should be hearty and fervent and warm — and ask as if we were really interested in what we were doing! It is the “effectual fervent” prayer that “avails much.” This is the lesson that is taught us by the expressions used in Scripture about prayer. It is called, “crying, knocking, wrestling, laboring, striving.”

This is the lesson taught us by scripture examples. Jacob is one. He said to the angel at Penuel, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” Genesis 32:26. Daniel is another. Hear how he pleaded with God: “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for your own sake, O my God.” Daniel 9:19. Our Lord Jesus Christ is another. It is written of him, “In the days of his flesh, he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears.” Hebrews 5:7.

Alas, how unlike is this to many of our supplications! How tame and lukewarm they seem by comparison. How truly might God say to many of us, “You do not really want what you pray for!” Lets us try to amend this fault. Let us knock loudly at the door of grace, like Mercy in Pilgrim’s Progress, as if we must perish unless we are heard. Let us settle it in our minds, that cold prayers are a sacrifice without fire. Let us remember the story of Demosthenes the great orator, when one came to him, and wanted to plead his cause. He heard him without attention — while he told his story without earnestness. The man saw this, and cried out with anxiety that it was all true. “Ah,” said Demosthenes, “I believe you now!”

Adapted from J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer

3 Quotes on Expository Preaching

holding-bible-lr

There are few subject related to public ministry more critical than preaching. Here are three quotes I’ve found from some of my favorite theologians on the subject:

The size of the text is immaterial, so long as it is biblical. What matters is what we do with it. Whether it is long or short, our responsibility as expositors is to open it up in such a way that it speaks its message clearly, plainly, accurately, relevantly without addition, subtraction or falsification. In expository preaching preaching the biblical text is neither a conventional introduction to a sermon on a largely different theme, nor a convenient peg on which to hang a ragbag of miscellaneous thoughts, but a master which dictates and controls what is said.

John Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today

Whatever the reason, however, the results are unhealthy. In a topical sermon the text is reduced to a peg on which the speaker hangs his line of thought; the shape and thrust of the message reflect his own best notions of what is good for people rather than being determined by the text itself. . . In my view topical discourses of this kind, no matter how biblical their component parts, cannot but fall short of being preaching in the full sense of that word, just because their biblical content is made to appear as part of the speaker’s own wisdom. . . That destroys the very idea of Christian preaching, which excludes the thought of speaking for the Bible and insists that the Bible must be allowed to speak for itself in and through the speaker’s words. Granted, topical discourses may become real preaching if the speaker settles down to letting this happen, but many topical preachers never discipline themselves to become mouthpiece for messages from biblical texts at all.

J.I. Packer, The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art

To me still, I must confess, my text selection is a very great embarrassment. . . . I confess that I frequently sit hour after hour praying and waiting for a subject, and that this is the main part of my study; much hard labor have I spent in manipulating topics, ruminating upon points of doctrine, making skeletons out of verses and then burying every bone of them in the catacombs of oblivion, sailing on and on over leagues of broken water, till I see the red lights and make sail direct to the desired haven. I believe that almost any Saturday in my life I make enough outlines of sermons, if I felt the liberty to preach them, to last me for a month, but I no more dare to use them than an honest mariner would run to shore a cargo of contraband goods.

C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students

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Talking Galatians with J.V. Fesko

Kevin Fiske:

KF: How important is the Old Testament to Paul’s discourse as he writes this letter?  Would you briefly touch on some of the more prevalent OT motifs that Paul incorporates, and how they enrich our understanding of the redemptive work God has done for us in Christ?

JVF: Paul’s Bible was his Old Testament. If you were to ask him to quote the Bible, he would have undoubtedly quoted the Old Testament. If you pricked his finger, he bled Old Testament Scripture, themes, and its narratives. At a number of points Paul cites a series of Old Testament texts in his discussion of justification by faith alone, such as Deuteronomy 27:26, Psalm 143:1, Habakkuk 2:4, Leviticus 18:5, Deuteronomy 21:23, Genesis 12, 15, 17, 22, Joel 2:28, and Isaiah 32:15 (Gal. 3:10-14). He cites at least seven different Old Testament texts, if not more, in the span of five verses. Paul also refers to the Genesis narrative with his appeal to Hagar and Sarah as types that represent Mt. Sinai and Zion (the Jerusalem above) (Gal. 4:21-31). And at key points Paul employs language that is evocative of Israel’s Old Testament exodus and wilderness wanderings when he characterizes the law as something that held Israel in captivity and bondage (e.g., Gal. 4:8ff), but through Christ they have been set free to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16ff). In a word, the reader of Galatians really has to know his Old Testament to appreciate fully Paul’s epistle.

Recalculating: How Study Bibles Can Limit Bible Study

Jen Wilkin:

If I am not careful, they can mask my ignorance of Scripture and give me a false sense that I know my way around its pages. I do not labor for understanding because the moment I hit a hard passage, I immediately resolve my discomfort of feeling “lost” by glancing down at the notes. And hearing their authoritative tone, I can grow forgetful that they are, in fact, only man’s words—commentary, an educated opinion, profitable but not infallible.

$5 Friday at Ligonier

This week’s selections includes Dr. Sproul’s Knowing Christ: The I AM Sayings of Jesus, and Think Like a Christian teaching series (download), and A Holy Ambition: To Preach Where Christ Has Not Been Named (paperback), among many other items. Sale ends at midnight (Eastern Time).

5 Reasons Why I’m Going to Seminary

Dan Darling:

Over the past year I have prayed long and hard about going back to school to pursue my Master’s of Divinity. I’ve sought the counsel of perhaps a dozen pastors and Christian leaders. I’ve researched schools, financial options, and everything related to seminary. I have come away feeling moved of God to pursue a Master’s of Divinity degree. The school that I ended up choosing, based on a variety of factors, is Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Choosing the school was the hard part, with several other schools very closely “in the running” if you will. I’m excited and a bit nervous. I haven’t been in school for about ten years. There is a significant financial obligation. And, I’m a busy man already with my role as senior pastor at Gages Lake Bible Church, and author, and a husband of one and a father of four.

So why attend seminary? Well, in true blog fashion, here are five reasons.

Putting the Art Back in “How Great Thou Art”

Kyle Hatfield:

God loves music. He created it. The problem is that sometimes us Christians act like we hate the art of song. That must be the case, for how else could we justify the mass production of what attempts to pass for “Christian” radio these days?

Theological Famine Relief and Christian Identity

Bridges 364

One of the things I’m so thankful for is the gift of beneficial resources God has blessed us with in North America. We have so many wonderful, God-glorifying books and resources at our finger tips and we should thank God for these things. But God has not given these things to us for our benefit alone. Thousands of pastors all around the world have virtually no access to any sort of theological education.

That’s why I’m incredibly excited about The Gospel Coalition’s International Outreach:

As God directs and equips, The Gospel Coalition’s international mission is to see thousands of congregations in Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe receive solid biblical teaching from their leaders, because of new access to theological resources, both physical and digital, in helpful languages and formats. . . .

The focus of our work is in launching Relief Projects consisting of physical and digital resources in English, Spanish, Russian, French, and other languages. The scope of the need is larger than any single ministry can fill. We are looking for partners to help us cultivate relationships, develop and deliver resources, mobilize networks, and build support. We want to connect with donors, churches, translators, publishers, missions senders, and goers who sense a call to engage in Theological Famine Relief. You can help us to create and deploy these resources where they are most needed around the world.

One of the ways they’re seeking to equip pastors is with a terrific book from Cruciform Press (the publisher of my first two books and where I work part time handling some of their marketing): Who Am I?: Identity in Christ by Jerry Bridges (reviewed here).

This is a book all about who we are in Christ, one of the most critical things any Christian needs to understand. But, as my friend Tim Challies recently pointed out, it can take years (if ever) for many of us to “get” this, depending on the teaching we receive and the books we read. That’s where Bridges’ book serves as a wonderful gift to the Church, both here in North America and around the world, as he unpacks the following eight truths:

  1. I Am a Creature
  2. I Am in Christ
  3. I Am Justified
  4. I Am an Adopted Son of God
  5. I Am a New Creation
  6. I Am a Saint
  7. I Am a Servant of Jesus Christ
  8. I Am Not Yet Perfect

I can think of few resources outside of Scripture that would be a more helpful gift for pastors in need of Christ-exalting resources to increase their own understanding and share with their congregations.

Please consider helping The Gospel Coalition make 3000 copies of this wonderful book available to our brothers and sisters in the global church by donating to TGC’s relief project.

Pain is a Wonderful Symptom

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The world, it is obvious, has fallen into this primary and fundamental error, an error which one could illustrate in many different ways. Think of a man who is suffering from some painful disease. Generally the one desire of such a patient is to be relieved of his pain, and one can understand that very well. No-one likes suffering pain. The one idea of this patient, therefore, is to do anything which will relieve him of it. Yes; but if the doctor who is attending this patient is also only concerned about relieving this man’s pain he is a very bad doctor. His primary duty is to discover the cause of the pain and to treat that.

Pain is a wonderful symptom which is provided by nature to call attention to disease, and the ultimate treatment for pain is to treat the disease, not the pain. So if a doctor merely treats the pain without discovering the cause of the pain, he is not only acting contrary to nature, he is doing something that is extremely dangerous to the life of the patient. The patient may be out of pain, and seems to be well; but the cause of the trouble is still there. Now that is the folly of which the world is guilty. It says, `I want to get rid of my pain, so I will run to the pictures, or drink, or do anything to help me forget my pain.’ But the question is, What is the cause of the pain and the unhappiness and the wretchedness? They are not happy who hunger and thirst after happiness and blessedness. No. `Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness : for they shall be filled.’

Adapted from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

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Jesus’ Doctrine of Scripture

Kevin DeYoung:

On Sunday I finished aneight week sermon series on the doctrine of Scripture. In this last sermon I encouraged the church to have the same doctrine of Scripture that Jesus did. If he his our Lord and our Master—even if he were only a great teacher—surely we want his view of the Bible to be our view of the Bible.

After working through four main texts (John 10:35, Matthew 5:17-19; 12:38-42; 19:4-5) I provided a summary of Jesus’ doctrine of Scripture.

Cookie Monster: “Share it Maybe”

Because we have young kids, Sesame Street is kind of a staple in our house. Check out the new parody song by Cookie Monster:

[tentblogger-youtube -qTIGg3I5y8]

Together for Adoption 2012

Last year I had the chance to live blog the Together for Adoption conference and it was a terrific, spiritually-edifying experience. Here are a few details regarding this year’s conference:

The primary objective of our September 14-15 national conference is to take Christians deeper into God’s story of Adoption to give hope and practical tools to walk with deep joy through “the sufferings of this present time” (Romans 8:18-23) for God’s glory and the good of orphans around the world. God’s work of adoption within the world is a story that encompasses all of human history, from its pre-temporal beginnings when God predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to the renewal of the heavens and the earth. From the Apostle Paul’s perspective, Adoption is the story that makes sense of the universe, that makes sense of our broken lives and gives the existence of all creation ultimate meaning.

…Join us September 14-15 in Atlanta for Together for Adoption National Conference 2012. Over 1,000 people will gather together at Cross Pointe Church to explore God’s Story of Adoption for a Broken World.

Humility: This, Not That

Jared Wilson:

The gospel is a great humbler, empowering us with such confidence that we become clear-minded about ourselves, as Paul urges in Romans 12:3. Compare and contrast these two stories.

The New Sexual Identity Crisis

Jeff Buchanan:

We live in a culture addicted to identity labels. We seek to summarize everything essential about an individual in a word, phrase, or 140 characters. With every label and category there comes another level of segregated identity, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of sexual identity.

A Surrendered Will is a Free Will

disciple-clem

This past week I finally got around to reading Disciple: Getting Your Identity from Jesus by Bill Clem. While the book didn’t have me at “hello” as they say (more on that when I eventually review the book), the further I read it, the more impressed I become. Clem gets the tension that we all feel in our discipleship journey well and he’s able to articulate it well.

For example, how many of us haven’t been frustrated at one time or another about the idea that God does indeed have a determined plan for all of creation—one that cannot and will not be hindered. We wrestle with questions of free will, choice and (as some have put it), whether or not God gets what God wants. Some camps have, in an effort to respond to the tension, wound up subscribing to peculiar ideas about God that suggest that He grows and changes in His understanding—that, in effect, He is not as all-knowing as He claims.

Check out Clem’s response to this tension:

Most of us wrestle with the legitimacy of God’s having a preset story line, and we experience much drama as we seek to exercise our will. One of the main reasons for such a faith-challenging struggle is that we define choice or free will as “the ability to determine an outcome between two or more options.” We reason, “If God already has the story line established, I must not have a free will.” But this is not the model Jesus gave us in the garden (Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). Jesus did not need the power of contrary choice to join God in his story as a willful participant. Jesus modeled that a surrendered will is a free will. His free choice was to do what he most wanted to do; that is, Jesus most wanted to do what the Father wanted him to do; he surrendered his will to the Father’s will. (pp. 80-81)

There is a lot of wisdom in these words that is well worth considering: what would our lives look like if we shifted our mindset from “free will” being about choosing between options to recognizing that a heart given life from the Holy Spirit, despite the tension of our ongoing battle with sin, has one primary desire—to do the will of the Father.

Would we look at our circumstances differently? Would we perhaps grumble less? Would we find more reasons to rejoice throughout the day?

What would it look like for you?

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Theology Of Glory Vs.Theology Of The Cross

Tullian Tchividjian:

It is not exactly breaking news to say that our culture has an aversion to suffering, regardless of how inescapable it may be. This is because we—you and me—have an aversion to suffering. Who wants to suffer? But the conscious avoidance of pain is one thing; the complete intolerance, or outright denial of it, is another.

The Torching of Earthen Vessels: A Reply to Frank Turk

Matt Anderson:

It’s oddly fitting that while we were examining whether and how patriotism is compatible with Christianity on the Fourth of July, Frank Turk of the Pyromaniacs was torching my book.

“Torching,” for those who are keeping score at home, is a figure of speech. At least I am pretty sure it is. Judging by the review itself, I wouldn’t be half surprised to learn he actually pulled out the gas and matches. In short, he really did not like it.

Making Sense of Scripture’s ‘Inconsistency’

Tim Keller:

I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.” Most often I hear, “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts—about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what you want to believe from the Bible?”

Asking the Wrong Question in Salvation

Dan Darling:

“So you mean I can do whatever I want and still be a Christian?” I’ve been asked that question numerous times when sharing the gospel. It’s a hard question to answer and mostly, up until recently, I would answer with a “Yes, but.” sort of vague statement. Yes, technically, grace covers all of your sins, post salvation. But you shouldn’t think this way because you should live for Jesus out of appreciation for what He did for you.

But I’m finding that’s a terrible response to an even more terrible question.

Book Review: Called to the Ministry by Edmund Clowney

called-to-the-ministry-clowney

I’ve heard there’s an unwritten rule that at one time or another, nearly every Christian man asks the question, “Am I called to the ministry?” Some guys see what their pastors do on Sundays and think it looks easy (pastors reading this, you can laugh now), but others just feel this compulsion to preach the Word of God and see people grow in their faith.

But whether we’re asking legitimately or not, we should seek out the answer—what does it mean to be called to the ministry, and how do I know if I am? One of the best resources I’ve found for this question is Edmund Clowney’s Called to the Ministry. In 90 pages, Clowney examines the call—but not simply the call to ministry, but the call from which it precedes.

Your Call is a Call to Christ

Clowney argues that before we start asking questions about a call to ministry, we must first understand our fundamental calling as Christians. Whether or not there’s a desire for a particular expression of Christian ministry, we have to recognize that it’s not separate from our identity in Christ.

“There is no call to the ministry that is not first a call to Christ,” he writes. “You dare not lift your hands to place God’s name in blessing on his people until you have first clasped them in penitent petition for his saving grace. Until you have done that the issue you face is not really your call to the ministry. It is your call to Christ” (p. 5).

While it might seem obvious that someone desiring to be a pastor ought to be a Christian, it’s certainly not always the case. One only has to look at the example of Simon the Magician in Acts 8:9-25, who is said to have believed and been baptized, but when he sees the Holy Spirit given by the laying on of hands, he offered money for the ability to do the same.

Additionally, Clowney reminds us our personal calling as Christians is one of service in the likeness of Christ. This does not mean, obviously, that we suffer to bear the sins of others—something that is impossible for anyone but Christ—but “we must suffer for the sake of others, for all those who will form the church of Christ, his body” (p. 17). It means using the gifts and opportunities that God has given you in his service, even when it costs you. [Read more…]

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Reformed and Baptist: the third wave

Jeremy Walker:

In the discussion of what it means to be Reformed, and in the consideration of what it means to be a Reformed Baptist (or whatever else you wish to call us), I generally find that there is a gap on the spectrum that is overlooked or quickly dismissed, the gap that tends to be brushed over with the suggestion that there are Reformed Baptists who are not quite (or at all) Pipettes or a certain brand of Southern Baptists or Acts 29 types or SGM guys, but who actually – to use Carl’s words – “hold to more traditional forms of worship and polity.”

The Fearful Pastor

Paul Tripp:

Perhaps this is an infrequently shared secret of pastoral ministry; that is, how much of it is driven not by faith in the truths of the Gospel and in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, but driven by fear. It is very tempting for the pastor to load the welfare of the church on his shoulders and when he does, he ends up being burdened and motivated by an endless and every-changing catalog of “what ifs.” This never leads to a restful and joyful life of ministry, but rather to a ministry debilitated by unrealistic and unmet goals, a personal sense of failure and dread.

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iFaith: Connecting With God in the 21st Century by Daniel Darling – $2.99

Preach The Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes by Leland Ryken & various – $3.99

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Compelled: Living the Mission of God by Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation – $2.99

Vintage Church: Timeless Truths and Timely Methods by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears – $3.99

4 Sources of Christian Encouragement

Tim Challies:

When you come across the word encourage in Scripture, the sense is make strong, usually in regards to strengthening a person’s resolve so that he will press on in following the Lord. When you understand that meaning, you see that every Christian needs continual encouragement as he lives this Christian life. It is helpful to look at the things the Bible points to as sources of encouragement. Here are four that are drawn from the New Testament.

9 questions to ask when studying the Bible

studying-the-bible

One of the things I love about the Puritans is their commitment to the study of Scripture. When you read the works of the Puritans (and those heavily influenced by them), like Richard Baxter, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards and so many others, it’s clear that they thought deeply about the Scriptures and their application in a way that many of us—even the most committed—struggle to in the same fashion. According to Allan Harman in Matthew Henry – His Life and Influence, their approach basically took into consideration the following questions (I’ve included my own commentary with each):

1. What do these words actually mean?

This might seem incredibly obvious, but it’s worth noting that in periods prior to the Reformation, many Christian teachers interpreted Scripture allegorically (which is fine to do when the Scriptures themselves give you the freedom to do so). But one problem with this approach is that it can quickly lead to the obscuring of the author’s intended message. Whatever conclusions we come to about a text, we have to start with what the author originally intended his audience to hear.

2. What light do other Scriptures throw on this text?

No passage of Scripture should be interpreted in a vacuum. Doing so rarely leads to a right conclusion about the author’s intent in writing it and the passage’s application for us today. When we come across texts that seem to conflict with one another (say, for example, John 1:1 and Deut. 6:4), we need to remember that if the Bible is truly inspired by God, if God is its ultimate source, then, generally speaking, there is no apparent conflict that can’t be explained without jumping through too many hoops (even if it’s simply acknowledging the truth of Deut 29:29).

3. Where and how does it fit into the total biblical revelation?

Just as a passage of Scripture should be interpreted in light of the author’s original intent and other relevant passages of Scripture, we also have to be careful to make sure we’re clear on how it fits into the “big story” of the Bible.

4. What truths does it teach about God, and about man in relation to God?

This is a wonderful diagnostic question for us because, just like the ones prior, it leads us closer to the point of all Scripture. This is where so much of our interpretation falls short today, where we put ourselves as the primary object of every text, where the Bible always and consistently puts God as primary and truths we learn about ourselves in the process are always in light of our understanding of God. If our understanding of a text isn’t first and foremost leading us to a greater understanding of the God who inspired it to be written, then we’re probably off in our interpretation.

5. How are these truths related to the saving work of Christ, and what light does the gospel of Christ throw upon them?

For me, this is probably the most crucial question—if as Jesus said, all Scripture is about Him (cf. Luke 22:37; 24:44; John 5:39), then it is our duty to make the connection to the gospel plain for our hearers and/or readers.

6. What experiences do these truths delineate, or explain, or seek to create or cure?

The Puritans were unrelenting about the need for application in teaching. And this is the first point reminds us that there is a response that the text demands. Our job is to find out what it is. The following questions drill deeper into this one.

7. For what practical purpose do they stand in Scripture?

All the truth contained within Scripture is there to train us in godliness that we may be equipped for every good work (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17). Therefore, there’s always going to be a practical takeaway for us.

8. How do they apply to myself and others in our own actual situation?

This isn’t “what does the text mean to me” but “how does this text apply to my specific situation.” Some passages aren’t immediately applicable, and thus stand as “preventative medicine” for the day in which they are required.

9. To what present and human condition do they speak, and what are they telling us to believe and do?

This is the most important question we can ask when it comes to right application; there is no human condition that isn’t fundamentally addressed in the Word of God because it all stems from one root (the Fall). And ultimately, our primary response and application is always to repent and believe the gospel. Train-wrecked marriages, work issues, parenting… all of it can and is centered in the gospel, and that should be our primary call to application.

While these questions are quite simple, the answers we find by studying the Bible in light of them is extremely helpful.

What questions do you use to assist your study of Scripture?

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What Would I Do If My Daughter Told Me She Was Gay?

Stephen Altrogge:

My oldest daughter, Charis, is four, so hopefully we’re a little while away from having any sort of sex talk. But at some point in the future I’m sure I’ll be talking to Charis, along with the rest of my kids, about sexuality, and there’s the possibility that one of my kids will experience homosexual attraction.

What would I do if Charis told me that she was experiencing homosexual attractions?

The End of eBooks

Porter Anderson:

Why is there a widely perceived assumption that more important work goes into books? Why are only “ego noise” and other less worthy writings considered right for the Net?

Embracing a Pastoral Approach

Kevin DeYoung:

I’m a pastor. Have been for ten years. Best job I can imagine. I get to serve the God I love and work with the things our God loves most deeply: his word and his church. As the Senior Pastor of University Reformed Church I am 100% in favor of being “pastoral.”

So long as the word means what the Bible means for it to mean.

What is Evangelistic Preaching?

David Murray:

There has been a welcome resurgence of expository preaching in the Reformed church over the last 20-30 years, and especially of “consecutive expository preaching” – preaching through books of the Bible, verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter. But together with that resurgence of consecutive expository preaching, there has also come a decline in what I would call “converting evangelistic preaching.”

Complementarianism for Dummies

Mary Kassian:

I’ve read several posts on the internet lately from people who misunderstand and/or misrepresent the complementarian view.  I was at the meeting, 25 years ago, where the word “complementarian” was chosen.  So I think I have a good grasp on the word’s definition.

Not Above or Below, But From the Side

holding-hands-small

Adam lost a rib, but he got a better thing out of it, even a help meet for him. Thus God uses [is accustomed] to deal with his children: they lose sometimes some of their creature-comforts; but then perhaps they get more of the Creator’s comforts, and that’s a blessed exchange. This bone was taken out of Adam’s side, fitly noting the woman’s place; not out of his head, to be above him; not out of his feet, to be trampled on by him; nor from before him, as his better; nor from behind him, as his servant;—but out of his side, to be equal with him; near his heart, for he owes her love; under his arm, for he owes her protection. Surely they forget from whence the woman was taken, that carry themselves haughtily and abusively towards their wives.

Philip Henry, as published in Matthew Henry – His Life and Influence by Allan Harman (Kindle Edition)

The Beginning of Backsliding

praying

It is a miserable thing to be a backslider. Of all unhappy things that can befall a person, I suppose that it is the worst. A stranded ship, a broken-winged eagle, a garden overrun with weeds, a harp without strings, a church in ruins, all these are sad sights — but a backslider is a sadder sight still. A wounded conscience — a mind sick of itself — a memory full of self-reproach — a heart pierced through with the Lord’s arrows — a spirit broken with the inward accusation — all this is ataste of Hell. It is Hell on earth.

Truly that saying of the wise man is solemn and weighty, “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.” Proverbs 14:14. Now what is the cause of most backslidings? I believe, as a general rule, one of the chief causes is neglected private prayer. Of course the secret history of falls will not be know until the last day. I can only give my opinion as a minister of Christ, and a student of the heart. That opinion is, I repeat distinctly — that backsliding generally first begins with neglect of private prayer.

Adapted from J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer