Archive for the ‘Devotionals’ Category

And the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings consisting of great joy which shall be to all the people. Because born to you this day is a savior who is the anointed Lord in the city of David. And this is the sign for you: You shall find a baby snugly wrapped and lying in an animal’s feed box” (Luke 2:10-12; translation ours).

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It is the redeeming contrast of Christmas that people find difficult to handle, if they see it. The contrast between who Jesus is and how He appeared in Bethlehem of Judea.

Heralded to watching shepherds by heaven’s angelic host, this baby is a savior who, finally, will deliver Israel from her sin and guilt. This savior has been anointed (christos) as Lord in David’s city, whereby God is fulfilling the promises He had made long ago to David’s house. This is who He is.

But how does He appear in Bethlehem?

To the shepherds was given the sign of Israel’s coming salvation from sin and guilt through this savior and this Lord in David’s line. “You shall find a baby snugly wrapped and lying in an animal’s feed box.” Put simply, His appearance clashes severely with His identity.

And that is both the redemption and the offense of Christmas.

For, you see, it is a sign of ordinariness and impoverishment. Like every baby, this Jesus is wrapped tightly, for warmth and security, in strips of cloth that serve as His receiving blanket. Likely because the place where Joseph and Mary had been living for some time now was overcrowded, the only place to lay this royal child was a feed box. That’s all they could afford, so poor they were.

Precisely in this contrast between the glory of this savior’s birth-announcement and the cold indigence of His birth lies the secret of Israel’s joy and ours. Because the fact that a baby thus heralded by angels lay in such impoverished circumstances is presented as the sign of His work as redeemer. Born a King, without a crown. Anointed a Lord, without subjects. Who ever heard of a savior from sin having a feed box as his crib? For His life’s work, He would earn His crown and gather His subjects, as He grew up, moving from His feed box to His cross. That work is our redemption!

Again, here is both the redemption and the offense: His feed box and His cross were, so to speak, made of the same wood!

During Jesus’ life, the Jewish leaders simply couldn’t put it together, His identity and His appearance. Among their favorite weapons was the genetic fallacy: “We know where this fellow grew up, his background and family pedigree. He cannot be the Son of God.” Their escalating unbelief drove them, finally, to remodel His crib into a cross, fit just for Him. The same wood, mind you, because it was the same redeeming, offensive contrast that joined Good Friday to Christmas! Jesus’ appearance and “background” simply didn’t match His claims.

So the meaning of the Christmas sign, given to the shepherds, proclaimed to us, is this: to understand our Savior’s crown, you must know His cross, following Him believingly along His costly route from Bethlehem to Calvary.

Are you satisfied with the redeeming contrast of Christmas between Jesus’ appearance and His identity? Are you satisfied enough not to soften the edges, not to air-brush the portrait of “baby Jesus” so He looks cute and cuddly enough for people without faith to like Him? Do you believe that your salvation rests squarely upon the fact that His ordinary birth in circumstances of stark poverty was truly and exactly like any other human birth?

If so, then move beyond the satisfaction born of faith, to rejoicing with the angels and the shepherds, with Mary and the wise men. For this savior is truly Israel’s only Savior from sin and guilt, and David’s Lord of glory and triumph. This Jesus is our Savior and Lord!

(This meditation appeared originally in the Mid-America Messenger, newsletter of Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Dyer, Indiana)

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This book is a collection of sermons preached and published by the author, suitable for reading in public worship and for personal devotions. The sermons cover the Old Testament book of Jonah.

For information on purchasing this newly published ebook, go here.

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Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the death of Professor Dr. Klaas Schilder (19 December 1890 – 23 March 1952). During his life, he was a biblical, Reformed, Calvinist pastor, theologian, and churchman.  As a controversial polemicist, he was (and is) as maligned and misunderstood by his despisers as he was (and is) appreciated by his beneficiaries. Especially today in North America, people could profit significantly from his cultural, ecclesiastical, and theological insights.

There is enough information available online to supply a rudimentary portrait of his life and work, a reliable entrée into his heart and mind.

So today we wish instead to introduce our readers to the sagacious side, the provocative persona, of Klaas Schilder.

For that, we draw from a little paperback collection of Schilderian aphorisms that was published in the early 1980s, entitled Aforismen (Goes: Oosterbaan & Le Cointre, 1983). In 1952 and 1954, two volumes had appeared, entitled Tolle Lege (Take and Read), containing a number of Schilder’s pithy sayings on such topics as Prayer, Culture, Covenant, Preaching, Satan, and the like. In his preface to the first volume, Schilder wrote:

The author is aware that ‘aphorisms’ of the kind collected here, if they are not to cause injury, can be set only before ‘friends’; for only friends are so familiar with the surroundings and context of someone’s selected sentences that they will be able to sense the husterēma, that which is lacking.

To enhance our remembering, on this anniversary date, of one of the most significant Reformed theologians of the twentieth century, we offer in English translation some of our favorites among the publisher’s choices from KS’s own selection. (Numbers in parentheses indicate page numbers in the 1983 paperback. The enumeration of the aphorisms is mine.)

Each of these chosen on purpose, for your munching pleasure!

1. “The human person is not reducible to a blob of nature, but is an office-bearer, whose natural gifts are supposed to function according to an official mandate” (17).

2. “A Paradise lost and a Paradise regained, and the path lying between the two, are not a matter of ‘favor’ [Dutch: gunst] as much as they are a matter of mandate, order [Dutch: bevel], and commandment” (17).

3. “In the notion of office, people encounter God’s primeval claim on human beings” (17).

4. “Politics and church are two, aren’t they? Yes, of course, indeed they are. But life is one” (24).

5. “Nowhere can the church avoid political issues, because they touch upon the deepest principles. The question is simply whether the church is willing to prophesy in terms of these issues and dares to employ the power of the keys. Yes, dares—because she must” (24).

6. “The absence of vice is not the presence of virtue” (29).

7. “We must continually keep in view that a church is a gathering of believers, not a gathering of people who think alike on scientific issues” (32).

8. “When people took the ‘covenant of grace‘ as their starting point for the doctrine of the covenant, things went awry; only when people took hold of the issue at the beginning, with the ‘covenant of works,’ did the business get back on track” (36).

9. “Let us never forget that ever since the beginning, the sum total of humanity was placed in a covenant with God” (36).

10. “A covenant never lives by ‘give and take,’ it does not live by ‘yes and no.’ ‘Covenant’ means: everything or nothing. It is never a contract” (37).

11. “Anyone who construes the promise as the basis of the demand rises up once more to weary us with his pet little notion of a covenant made only with the elect that comes into existence through and after the renewal of the heart” (38).

12. “Religion in a human being cannot be equivalent simply to being raised up passively and receptively into a state of peace; for the covenant posits a person’s activity as condition for covenant concourse. A person’s entire existence participates in this activity, including one’s thinking and willing” (38).

13. “The method is wrong that applies a statistical measure of so much percent ‘law’ and so much percent gospel, so much percent threat in contrast to so much percent ‘comfort.’ For wherever the law is proclaimed purely, the final tally is: one hundred percent law, since there we have one hundred percent gospel” (40).

14. “Irony is the strength of the weak, sarcasm is the weakness of the strong” (92).

15. “Irony is always a certain victory. But sarcasm is the certain defeat, except it imitates the gesture of the victor” (92).

16. “Faith is indeed a gift of our covenant God, but it is simultaneously a condition that he establishes. A condition established for us in order to arouse in us a sense of responsibility, to stimulate and even to preach that awareness. Not an Arminian condition, but rather a Reformed condition” (94).

17. “Anyone craving isolation is sick. Anyone not daring to be isolated when compelled to be so, is more sick” (95).

18. “Christ loved the poor, but not poverty. Making rich—that is God’s work” (96).

19. “The gospel posits no condition of any kind, it asks nothing, it demands nothing, except this: that it be accepted in the obedience of faith” (96).

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“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”

– Albert Einstein

I first heard this Einstein quote recently—on New Year’s eve, in fact—while enjoying an episode of the gripping TV series, White Collar. Neil Caffrey (Matt Bomer) was trading quips from famous people with his friend Mozzie (Willie Garson), and this one popped out.
I chuckled aloud, because it struck me as funny. My chuckling turned to pondering. And now to writing.
Here, then, a few sparse reflections about time.
As they say in cyberspeak: FWIW.
1. Because time is an element essential to creation, I’m convinced that the “end” of history (the “Last Day”) will not be the end of time.
2. Time matters. Which means: it matters to God. One Reformed theologian has even written a book about the history of heaven, clearly suggesting that God’s existence and heaven’s reality are not timeless (K. Schilder, Wat is de hemel?; English: What Is Heaven?).
3. Time and change are correlative. This means that they belong together, that one cannot exist without the other. Original creation, therefore, involved change. Which is not the same as decay. So it seems obvious that the new earth will also involve change. Hmmm, wonder what it’ll be like growing without growing old?
4. Speaking of the calendar, have you noticed that more often nowadays, printed calendars begin their weeks with Monday and end them with Sunday? What worldview lies embedded in that, do you think?
5. Oh, and you knew, of course, that Adam and Eve’s first day was a day of rest? Re-creation follows that pattern exactly! Grace / salvation / rest before . . . work / service. And that too is a worldview!
6. The quality of time will be altered, however, at the Last Day. I’m convinced of this by Ecclesiastes 3 (ESV):
A Time for Everything

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Alternatively, you might enjoy this reverie from the past:

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“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst'” (John 19.28).

Last night’s Scripture readings and sermon set me to thinking.

The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ on the cross are scattered across the pages of the Gospels. The list of seven is a composite arrangement, and the number is symbolic of the perfection of the Savior’s suffering. Here they are:

1. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23.34).
2. Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23.43).
3. Woman, behold, your son! . . . Behold, your mother! (John 19.26-27).
4. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27.46; Mark 15.34).
5. I thirst (John 19.28).
6. It is finished (John 19.20).
7. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit! (Luke 23.46).

It was #5 that caught my ear, my attention.

You see, the Gospel writer John, who had crafted his narrative in terms of Jesus’ signs and sayings, seems fascinated with water. Jesus’ first miracle turned water into wine. Jesus told his nighttime visitor Nicodemus of the need to be born of water and Spirit in order to enter God’s kingdom.

It is John who tells of an encounter between Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew, and a woman from Samaria, a Samaritan (John 4.1-26). They met at a well, she to draw water, he to give it. Scratching her itch to know who he was, Jesus identified himself as the source of living water: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4.13-14).

Again, it is John who tells us of Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem for the Jewish Feast of Booths. On the last day, at the climactic moment of the entire festival week, Jesus stood up to shout, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'” (John 7.37-38). John reminds us that Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit who would later be poured out on believers at another feast, the Feast of Pentecost.

And then on the cross, Jesus cries, “I thirst!”

The Living Water suffers thirst.

This, as someone has pointed out, was for Jesus preeminently a spiritual problem. Of course thirst is a natural response. Yet, for Christ, as for every human being, the spiritual is present in the natural, and God demands to be served in the natural functions of life. The natural is immediately related to the spiritual.

Jesus’ cry, “I thirst,” is an achievement, a redemptive accomplishment. Two clues in the text show this. (1) He uttered this cry once he knew “all was now finished.” And (2) he uttered this cry “to fulfill the Scripture.” Even at this moment of intense distress preceding his death, Jesus was dying as he had lived: submitting himself fully and willingly, thoroughly and fatally, to Scripture. The Savior’s living and dying were so punctiliously Scriptural!

With this saying, Jesus is busy working. Indeed, people are being saved by the active suffering of their Mediator! Even − especially − when he thirsts!

Tomorrow the sun will rise, and the grave will open. What was parched will become quenched, the barren will become fertile. Weeping will turn to dancing, and sorrow to joy. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

(With assistance from “Christ Adapting Himself to His Death,” Christ Crucified, by K. Schilder, translated by Henry Zylstra [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1940], chapter 18, 427-446.)

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Today (Saturday) we are preparing for Sunday. In an earlier post today, we commented in another context about Leviticus 19.35-37:

You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the LORD.

As we get ready for the Lord’s Day tomorrow, let’s meditate together on this passage for a few moments.

(Incidentally, among the books that have become so valuable to me because of their formative influence is The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, by Vern Sheridan Poythress [Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991]. Though he doesn’t discuss Leviticus 19.35-37 directly, we highly recommend his approach, one we would describe as a gospel-driven, Christ-centered understanding and use of the Torah.)

Briefly, then, as we study the gospel of grace in the law of honesty, we observe that God’s redeemed people are

  1. Taught the principle of honesty in terms of public life (v.35);
  2. Motivated for honesty in terms of personal redemption (v.36); and
  3. Called to extend honesty in terms of whole-life piety (v.37).

When Israel came to live in Canaan, and did business with both fellow Israelite and pagan neighbors, she was called to demonstrate her identity as the people of the LORD in her commercial transactions. Her deliverance from the Egypt’s bondage was her national birthday, the day she received new life, literally and figuratively. Living with her covenant LORD had always been the purpose and destination of that deliverance, of her wilderness training, of Mount Sinai’s thunder and smoke, and of the dry crossing through the Jordan.

But death stalked Israel from the moment of her birth. It was as though a mighty dragon was always nearby, waiting to devour and destroy Israel by seducing her to live in Canaan’s ways (think Rev. 12.1-6). As the people of life, she was always tempted by death. As the people of freedom, she was always lured by the chains of idolatry.

Honesty in commercial transactions — using fair and honest weights and measures — was (and is!) both symbolic and symptomatic.

Economic honesty is symbolic because it corresponds to reality. Today’s acronym for this is WYSIWYG: what you see is what you get. Honesty in economics and commerce operates in terms of reality, real-ness, integrity. The openness and transparency that economic honesty permits and fosters enhance life and freedom. This is true personally and publicly.

Honesty is symptomatic because it discloses underlying fundamental, systemic integrity. Honesty in commerce is related to honesty in marriage, and honesty in speech.

Of all people, God’s people are best equipped by grace to live honest lives. Their deliverance by God shows them why they need not be afraid — and fraud is rooted in fear! The God who delivers will not abandon those he has set free. Relying on him liberates us from the need to manipulate, to cheat, to defraud, and to take advantage of others.

In other words, commercial and economic honesty is the embodiment (enfleshed form) of gospel grace in personal dealings and public life.

This Lord’s Day, give thanks for the LORD’s gracious provision in Jesus Christ, which permits and enables us to practice economic integrity, confident that the LORD will bless such obedience, despite its temporary costs, with lasting joy and inner peace.

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Welcome to Cosmic Eye, the premier blog sponsored by Worldview Resources International!

We hope to provide a number of resources on this blog, some of them unique, others similar to what’s out there already.

Part of the uniqueness involves the perspective on the world that comes with being a Reformed Protestant Christian disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bear with us as we learn the ropes, finding our blogosphere voice and learning what makes for good cyber style.

There’s no shortage of stuff out there to read and process, so we’ll try not to waste your time, and instead give you something to munch on for a moment, a month, or more.

Your suggestions are most welcome!

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