67493Having become with us the Son of Man, He has made us with Himself sons of God. By His own descent to the earth He has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, He has bestowed on us His immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, He has made us strong in His strength. Having submitted to our poverty, He has transferred to us His riches. Having taken upon Himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, He has clothed us with His righteousness.

John Calvin; Institutes of the Christian Religion

Ballad of the Goodly Fere

Ezra Pound's Captivating Portrait of Jesus

The Ballad of the Goodly Fere

by Ezra Pound
Simon Peter speaking after the Crucifixion.

Ezra Pound. Ballad of the Goodly Fere

Ezra Pound. Circa 1967: portrait of american poet, editor and critic Ezra Pound (1885-1972) sitting at a restaurant table. (Photo by Horst Tappe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.) Ezra pound

(Fere=Mate, Companion.)

Ha’ we lost the goodliest fere o’ all
For the priests and the gallows tree?
Aye lover he was of brawny men,
O’ ships and the open sea.

When they came wi’ a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
“First let these go!” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Or I’ll see ye damned,” says he.

Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
“Why took ye not me when I walked about
Alone in the town?” says he.

Oh we drank his “Hale” in the good red wine
When we last made company,
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
But a man o’ men was he.

I ha’ seen him drive a hundred men
Wi’ a bundle o’ cords swung free,
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.

They’ll no’ get him a’ in a book I think
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.

If they think they ha’ snared our Goodly Fere
They are fools to the last degree.
“I’ll go to the feast,” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Though I go to the gallows tree.”

“Ye ha’ seen me heal the lame and blind,
And wake the dead,” says he,
“Ye shall see one thing to master all:
‘Tis how a brave man dies on the tree.”

A son of God was the Goodly Fere
That bade us his brothers be.
I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men.
I have seen him upon the tree.

He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free,
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
But never a cry cried he.

I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men
On the hills o’ Galilee,
They whined as he walked out calm between,
Wi’ his eyes like the grey o’ the sea,

Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
Wi’ twey words spoke’ suddently.

A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea,
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

I ha’ seen him eat o’ the honey-comb
Sin’ they nailed him to the tree.

(For those who don’t know Pound’s work, he was quite the controversial figure – a giant in his art and a lighting rod politically. I remain amazed that some of the most touching pictures can emerge from the most conflicted hearts and imaginations – Jeff)

David VanDrunen on Soli Deo Gloria

God’s glory alone, and that of no creature, is the supreme end of all things.

God's Glory Alone - Vandrunen soli deo gloria

The following is from David Vandrunen’s  God’s Glory Alone—The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life: What the Reformers Taught…and Why It Still Matters, part of Zondervan’s Five Solas series.

Protestants commonly speak of the “five solas of the Reformation,” but we often forget that the Reformers themselves never sat down and adopted these five slogans— sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria— as the official mottos of the Reformation movement. At first, this sounds a little disappointing. We like to think we’re adopting the very same set of phrases that Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and their colleagues bequeathed to their spiritual posterity.

It really shouldn’t disappoint us at all. People may have begun speaking of the “five solas of the Reformation” only long after the Reformation itself, but each of these five themes does in fact probe the heart of Reformation faith and life in its own way. The Reformers may not have spoken explicitly of “the five solas,” but the magnification of Christ, grace, faith, Scripture, and God’s glory— and these alone— suffused their theology and ethics, their worship and piety. Christ alone, and no other redeemer, is the mediator of our salvation. Grace alone, and not any human contribution, saves us. Faith alone, and no other human action, is the instrument by which we’re saved. Scripture, and no merely human word, is our ultimate standard of authority. God’s glory alone, and that of no creature, is the supreme end of all things.

How we like to think that there’s something for us to add to the satisfaction and obedience of Christ or to the inspired word of the prophets and apostles, and even that God is wonderfully honored by our contribution. But the Reformers perceived that the perfect word and work of Christ— precisely because they are perfect— need nothing to supplement them. Anything that tries to supplement them, in fact, challenges their perfection and thus dishonors God’s word and work in Christ. If the Roman Catholic doctrine of authority and doctrine of salvation are true, all glory thus does not belong to God alone. And God, Scripture tells us, will share his glory with no other (Isa 42: 8).

We might think of it in another way. By holding forth soli Deo gloria as the lifeblood of the solas, we remind ourselves that the biblical religion recaptured by the Reformation is not ultimately about ourselves, but about God. Our focus so easily becomes self-centered, even when we ask the same important questions that occupied the Reformers: Where can I find God’s authoritative revelation? How can I escape the wrath of God? What must I do to be saved? The other four solas provide necessary and life-changing answers to such questions, but soli Deo gloria puts them in proper perspective: the highest purpose of God’s plan of salvation in Christ, made known in Scripture, is not our own beatitude, wonderful as that is. The highest purpose is God’s own glory. God glorifies himself through the abundant blessings he bestows upon us.

VanDrunen, David (2015-12-01). God’s Glory Alone—The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life: What the Reformers Taught…and Why It Still Matters (The Five Solas Series) (p.13-16). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.


Delay and Disappointment, Counsel from John Newton


Wise Counsel, published by Banner of Truth, is a collection of letters written by John Newton to John Ryland Jr. Ryland met Newton when he was 15 and Newton was 43. It was a mentoring relationship that would enrich Ryland’s own pastoral ministry in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. On this occasion, Ryland was disappointed in the delay of finding a wife and establishing a family. He was on his third prospect and things were moving slowly. Newton responds here to his complaint.

Poor dear Lad,

I must refer the long delay, and every other possible grievance, to the scriptures of truth. If we were not creatures we might have a right to choose, if we were not sinners we might perhaps venture to complain of sufferings. If the Lord were not wise he might mistake our case; if He were not good he might deal hardly with us. If this life were our all, delays and crossings for one, two or three years would be of great importance. But reverse all these suppositions, say that we are creatures, sinful pardoned creatures, bought with the blood of Jesus, that our Saviour is our shepherd, that He is infinitely wise and good in himself, and has engaged his wisdom and goodness in our behalf; that He suffered for us, and calls us by grace that we may sufler for him (Acts 9:16); say further that every event we are concerned in is under his immediate direction, and all to work for good, that what we call heavy is light and the long and tedious but momentary, as to our true existence and when compared with the weight of glory, and the length of eternity to which they lead. Let all these truths be planted like so many cannon in your defence and see whether self will and unbelief will dare to look them in the face.

John Newton Delay and Disappoinment

John Newton

When Demosthenes’ was asked, ‘What is the first, second, and third qualification of an Orator?’, he is reported to have given the same answer to each, ‘Action’. I may say the same of submission to the will of God in a Christian; it is the chief ornament of his profession, and it includes the whole of it. It is the fairest fruit, and the surest criterion of true faith. In how many books and sermons is faith so confined to the business of acceptance with God, as if it had little else to do. But surely faith owns his hand, trusts his management, and yields to his . disposal.

If the Lord had called us to dungeons or flames for his sake, we know we ought not to refuse, and we hope his grace would have been with us according to our day. But we are not appointed to these hard services. He gives us health, liberty and many comforts, especially the comfort and honour of preaching his gospel. But in a few things he crosses or delays our inclinations, telling us at the same time that it is for our benefit, that we shall find his season the best, and that he will withhold nothing that is truly good. He gives us so to speak 96 or 97 blessings in hand, 3 or 4 he bids us wait for, but because we have not the whole hundred and all at once, we forget the value of the rest, we grieve and despond; the sun shines upon us in vain. Alas, what wayward, perverse, unreasonable children are we.

John Ryland Jr. Delay and Disappoinment

John Ryland Jr.

We talk of a cross but we would have a cross of our own choosing. So a child would consent to take physic* that is if he might choose something not disagreeable to his palate, and be allowed to call it physic, he would take it and say, ‘Now am not I a good boy to take physic so readily?’ But it happens that most of the medicines both for bodily and spiritual maladies are bitter.

After all I trust the Lord will support and carry you through all. These things will humble your spirit, and give a mellowness to your preaching. It is in this way of service, that the Lord bestows the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season to weary souls. The Lord be with you. Cheer up, and all shall be well.

(*Physic – Medicine)



The Judgement Seat of Christ

A sober reminder from Charles Spurgeon that we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ.

C.H. Spurgeon on the Judgement Seat of ChristA sober reminder from Charles Spurgeon that we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ.

Now, the most important thought connected with this to me, is that I shall be there; to you young men, that you will be there; to you, ye aged of every sort, that you, in propria personce* —each one shall be there.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Are you rich? Your dainty dress shall be put off. Are you poor? Your rags shall not exempt you from attendance at that court. None shall say, “I am too obscure.” You must come up from that hiding place. None shall say, “I am too public.” You must come down from that pedestal. Everyone must be there. Note the word “We.” “We must all appear.”

And still further note the word, “Appear.” “We must all appear.” No disguise will be possible. Ye cannot come there dressed in masquerade of profession or attired in robes of state, but we must appear; we must be seen through, must be displayed, must be revealed; off will come your garments, and your spirit will be judged of God, not after appearance, but according to the inward heart. Oh, what a day that will be when every man shall see himself, and every man shall see his fellow, and the eyes of angels and the eyes of devils, and the eyes of God upon the throne, shall see us through and through.

“…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”

Spurgeon, C. H. (1872). “The Great Assize” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 18, pp. 582–583). London: Passmore & Alabaster.

* propria personce – “in one’s own person or character : personally; especially : without the assistance of an attorney.” – Webster

My 2016 Bible Engagement Plan

This is how I plan to engage with the Scriptures this year.

Man with BibleI wanted to share with you my plan for engaging with the Bible this year. There are five important components: reading, memorizing, meditating discovering and sharing. Here’s how I do all five.

1) Reading
For reading, I’m using the Robert Murray M’Cheyne plan. This takes you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in a year. I don’t spend a lot of time checking cross references or chasing down a topic. This is breadth reading to keep the scope of the Bible in front of me. Don’t misunderstand. I fully expect to be edified and encouraged as the Holy Spirit highlights His Word as I read. I’ll make a note of something that stands out in order to pursue it later.

2) Memorizing
There are few things more valuable a believer can do than memorize scripture. I don’t mean just a quick review and quote it the same day thing. I mean living with a passage (1-3 verses) for a week and letting it wrestle with your heart. I use the Fighter Verses app from Desiring God ministries. (Android App, Hard Copy, Online) The app is a great resource, well laid out with links to different memory helps as well as connections to messages preached on the memory passage by John Piper. The selection is excellent and runs in 5 year cycles. I do my best to memorize each week’s passage.

3) Meditation
Meditation follows on naturally after memorization. I usually have the passage memorized the first day of the week and the rest of the week is spent visiting that passage repeatedly to both seal it to my mind and interact with it in my heart and mind. As the week progresses I find that I see the facets of the passage more clearly and I am greatly convicted, convinced or comforted by what I mediate on. Donald S. Whitney provides some great tips for meditation here.

4) Discovering
As a preaching and teaching pastor I need to be fed myself on on a consistent basis! I love to discover new nuggets of spiritual truth from others that nourish my own spirit. I read a lot but two tools I try to review each day are the Tabletalk Magazine from Ligonier Ministries and the Explore App from The Good Book Company. Tabletalk features a daily reading as well as excellent longer articles on a theme each month. You can get a subscription to the print edition (which is what I prefer) or the online digital edition. I love the Explore App. It’s a great addition to my daily routine. The app connects you to monthly readings that work through books of the Bible for 1.99 a month. These resources keep me discovering and rediscovering helpful insights from God’s Word.

5) Sharing
This is one of the best things I do all week. The Bible tells us that we are to grow up, speaking truth to one another in love. This is one of my favorite passages:

“…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:14-16 ESV)

This kind of speaking is not primarily correction or rebuke (which many people tend to focus on!) but affirming sound doctrine to one another so that we are not “carried away” by “every wind of doctrine.”

Every Wednesday night, I gather with a few other men for something we call SHAPE. The acronym lays out what we do for 90 minutes. As we gather, usually in a public spot, we grab coffee, catch up a bit and then pray, asking the Lord’s assistance to highlight a particular passage of just a 1 to 3 verses for each of us as we read. For almost 45 minutes the table is quiet as each of goes through the SHAPE model. Here it is:

S) Scripture – Write the passage out in a SHAPE notebook.
H) Hermeneutics – Make note of the hermeneutic context – who, what, where, when and why?
A) Application – Make notes of how the passage is applying to you.
P) Prayer – Write out a prayer based on your application.
E) Exhort – Share an exhortation with your brothers based on your insights.

After 45 minutes or so, we work around the table with each person sharing their discovery, application and exhortation with the group. I always come away enriched from these evenings. That’s why they have been a regular part of my week for the last 8 years.

That’s my routine. I hope it provides some encouragement and ideas for your own. Let me know what you do! I’d love to hear how other folks are walking out this important aspect of our walk with Christ.

Andrew Murray on Prayer

In true worship the Father must be first, must be all.

andrew.murray“While we ordinarily first bring our own needs to God in prayer, and then think of what belongs to God and his interests, the Master reverses the order. First Thy name, Thy kingdom, Thy will; then give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us… In true worship the Father must be first, must be all.”

~ Andrew Murray


Peter J. Leithart: How God Fixes Things

"If God - the living God - were to get busy fixing things, they may not like the way He goes about fixing things."

Paradise Lost: Illustrations by Gustave Doré

Paradise Lost: Illustrations by Gustave Doré

This article by Peter J. Leithart appeared today on the First Things website. I thought it’s an excellent response to recent headlines. 

The cry has come up from our national journalogians at the NYT and the Post: “God isn’t fixing this. No more prayers. Let’s get some action.”

If God – the living God – were to get busy fixing things, they may not like the way He goes about fixing things.

He isn’t a safe and distant God. He doesn’t stay politely above the fray. He takes sides. For some, this is appalling. For believers, it’s the ground of our hope. Early or late, the Judge of all the earth will do right.

Sometimes, so the Apostle Paul says, He judges by turning people over to their passions and sins. He turns idolaters to their idolatry. He turns people over to unnatural sexual desires. He turns the violent to their violence, until they eat one another alive.

As Psalm 18 puts it, He is pure with the pure, just with the just; but with the perverse He is a God of twists and turns, a trickster to beat all tricksters.

And that raises the frightening prospect that what our elites see as evidence of God’s absence is precisely the opposite. Perhaps all the visible slaughter of the past few years is the result of God turning us over to the bloodsport we like so much. Those stats about gun deaths – they pale to nothing next to the stats for abortion.

Perhaps we are seeing the living God’s answer to our prayers. Because if believers are praying aright, we are praying for the Lord’s Advent: “For He comes, He comes to judge the earth. He comes to judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”

And if that’s what is going on, then no legislation in the world can fix this. Only God can, the living God, the God who hears and answers prayer.

Written by Peter J. Leithart

A Misplaced Thanksgiving

(Luke 18:9-14)

A Misplaced Thanksgiving

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(Luke 18:9-14 ESV)