Apocalyptic Carols

First_Nowell_stainer What do Christmas carols make you think of? Luke 2? Manger scenes? Candle-lit Christmas Eve services? Turkey dinners with family? That’s what they do for most people. Few of us think, “Oh, Christmas carols = the sky being peeled back and saints being caught up in the clouds.”

It is true that the nativity is the main theme of carols. Several carols also point to Calvary: “Then let us all with one accord/ Sing praises to our heavenly Lord/ That hath made heaven and earth of nought,/ And with his blood mankind hath bought” (“The First Nowell”).

But some of the best-known carols make reference to the second coming. Continue reading

Challies, Voskamp, and All Us Girls

Tim Challies found out the hard way last week that criticizing Ann Voskamp makes you a lot of enemies – fast. So let me start by saying that I have no problem with Ann Voskamp. If you want to read her, please do. I’m an English major, and I understand the draw of a well written book. In fact, Ann Voskamp’s style reminds me of Joan Didion’s in The Year of Magical Thinking – a book also dealing with grief (far from any sort of Christianity), which I found fascinating.

What concerns me about the whole situation is that Tim Challies had to write his review. It’s Reformed evangelicals who read his blog, and he directs his writing to them. Continue reading

What is Man?

A reflection by John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan (1796-1870), converted from atheism to faith in Christ, and a life of gospel service:

“Here we are, with the heavens above our heads. What are we? Men. How came we to be men? What is man? How came he to be? And to be as he is? We are on the earth, and the beasts can’t ask any questions; the heavens are above us, and the eagle soaring into them can’t ask any questions. ‘In the beginning God created’ — man is God’s image on earth; man, the divinely-formed microcosm, of the dust of the earth and the breath of God. Continue reading

Doctrine vs Practice?

Many of us tend, at least at times, to make a dichotomy between Christian doctrine and practice, as if they are opposed, rather than being a divinely ordained team, working in a beautiful, powerful harmony. Reading the Scriptures should quickly convince us otherwise. The Old Testament and the New, gospels and epistles, each part of Scripture displays in its own way the intimate, living connection between doctrine and practice. Wherever the church, by grace, prospers and flourishes, doctrine and practice are understood as inseparable.
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Florus on Freedom in Christ

The “dark ages” were the era of Viking invasions, illiteracy, and disease. Did vibrant Christianity exist in Europe during this early medieval period? Yes. Despite rising Romanism and pagan superstition there was more biblical Christianity than we tend to think. Here is one Christ exalting sermon clip:

“God created all humans with free will. But because through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, so that it passed to all human beings, in whom all have sinned (Rom. 5:12), free will was vitiated and corrupted in the whole human race by merit of his fall, that is, to the downfall of iniquity and so that it is free for this alone. But for acting well, that is, for the exercise of virtue and good work, it is not sufficient in any way for one to rise up or become strong unless it is restored, illuminated, and healed through the faith of the one mediator of God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5) and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, just as the Savior himself promises in the Gospel, when he says: If the Son will set you free, you will be truly free (John 8:36). And the apostle says: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17).

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O Sweet Exchange!

A beautiful testimony to the person and work of Christ, and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, is found in the Letter to Diognetes. The authorship of this second century writing is uncertain. The writer gives himself the title “Mathetes”, meaning “a disciple”, but is otherwise unknown. Despite the lack of clarity of authorship, scholars agree that this work was penned sometime between 125 and 200 AD — several generations after the death of the last apostle, John. “Mathetes” writes,

“When our wickedness had reached its height, and its wages – punishment and death – were clearly hanging over us, the time arrived which God had appointed beforehand, for Him to manifest His own kindness and power. He revealed how His love had such an overwhelming regard for the human race, and that He did not hate us or thrust us away or remember our sins against us, but showed great longsuffering and patience with us. He Himself took upon Himself the burden of our transgressions; He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the Holy One for sinners, the Blameless One for the wicked, the Righteous One for the unrighteous, the Incorruptible One for the corruptible, the Immortal One for mortals. For what else could cover our sins except His righteousness? Who else could justify wicked and ungodly people like us, except the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable work! O blessings that surpass all expectation! The wickedness of the many has been swallowed up in a single Righteous One; the righteousness of One has justified a multitude of transgressors! Even before Christ came, God showed us that our nature was incapable of achieving life. Now, having revealed the Savior, Who is able to save what could not previously be saved, God has willed by these truths to persuade us to trust in His kindness, and to reckon Him as our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counsellor and Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honor, Glory, Power and Life, so that we should have no anxiety about mere food and clothing…”

“I do not speak of things strange to me, nor do I aim at anything inconsistent with right reason, but having been a disciple of the Apostles, I am become a teacher of the Gentiles. I minister the things that are delivered to me… For who that is rightly taught and begotten by the loving Word, would not seek to learn accurately the things which have been clearly shown by the Word to His disciples… For whatever things we are moved by the will of the Word commanding us, we communicate to you with pains, and from a love of the things that have been revealed to us.”

Epistle to Diognetes [c.160]