Thursday, December 31, 2009

Some Favorite Children’s Quotes from 2009

Each year at this time I try to reflect over the past year using notes I have kept through the year and discussion with the family. I find it a helpful and meaningful exercise. I also find myself wishing I kept better notes through the year. This year I noticed that I recorded more direct quotes from my children. Here are some favorites from this year which do not require a lot of background to appreciate.

Abigail while looking at one of her Bible story books: “Dad, why did God have to die?”

Matthew while walking behind geese at Pickwick: “I guess geese never do get potty trained”

Matthew after spotting a snake in the pool at Pickwick: “Dad, there’s some sort of reptile in there.”

Nathan, in a discussion of the horrors of war, after a younger brother said he would just play dead in a battle: “But what about your honor!”

Abigail singing: “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy ending!”

Abigail singing: “Silent Night, Holy is come.” Pretty good theology really.

Abigail with her arms around me, to Tammie, “Mama, this is my man!’ :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas
from the Van Nestes

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Calvin on Joy in the Christmas Message

If you have read John Calvin but have not read from his sermons, you have missed his best. I have been edified this past week in reading from Songs of the Nativity, a new translation of selected sermons from Luke 1&2 (only one of which has previously appeared in English).

In commenting on the angel’s announcement of “good news of great joy” in Luke 2 Calvin stated:

“Since the angel invites us to rejoice at the coming of Christ, not in any ordinary way but with unbounded delight, let us make the most of the message. What can we say about this joy? If we involve ourselves in worldly pleasures and are wholly absorbed by our own wants, we will never rejoice in the grace of Christ. Let the shepherds instead be or example. Their earthly lot did not change, despite the fact that they had heard the angel’s word and had witnessed the birth of God’s Son. They went back to their flocks exactly as before; they continued to live as poor men, guarding their herds. In terms of the flesh and of this passing world they gained nothing from the privilege which we read about here. For all that, they were full of joy. Theirs is a lead we should follow. For although the gospel might earn us neither wealth nor fame, and although it might not bring us gratification or amusement, nevertheless we should be glad that we are the objects of God’s favour. This is where true blessing and happiness lie, and where real rest is found.”
The joy of the Christmas message is available to all who will believe. This joy is in no way dependent on our circumstances. Praise be to God!

Monday, December 21, 2009

J B Phillips on Communion and Unity

“Holy Communion is intended surely for all those who love our Lord and Saviour in sincerity and truth. This Mystery cannot be ‘cornered’ by any denomination and reserved exclusively for the use of its own members. We are one in Christ, whether we like it or not, and whether we approve of the other denominational tradition or not. Unless we are prepared to say that those nurtured in a different branch of the Christian Church are not Christians at all, I, for one, cannot see by what right I exclude my fellow Christian from Communion with our common Lord.” (60)

“For what it is worth, I would make a strong plea that we do not exclude from the Lord’s Table in our Church those who are undoubtedly sincere Christians.” (61)

J.B. Phillips, Appointment with God;: Some thoughts on Holy Communion

Sunday, December 20, 2009

J B Phillips on the Value of Communion

"We really show irreverence, we really dishonor Christ, when we refuse to believe that His Life, with its transforming and activating powers, can be resident in such people as ourselves.” (32)

“It is obvious that the Christian life can be maintained without Holy Communion at all. Indeed, it is so maintained, for example, both by the Quakers and by the Salvation Army. But it is surely not the normal, surely not the ‘Catholic’ way (in its proper sense), in which the Spirit has led the Church through the centuries. A man may lead a happy and useful life with only one lung, or with part of his internal organs removed by surgery, but that is not the norm. Obviously it is possible for God to give His grace in a dozen different ways, but it is difficult to see why Christ instituted this particular means of spiritual nutrition unless it had a particular point and purpose for the vast army of His future followers. Indeed, it is true to say from experience that Christians, unless they are prejudiced, or conditioned by their upbringing, are drawn intuitively toward Holy Communion. Their own natural spiritual hunger draws them instinctively toward the holy provision of the Lord’s Table.” (33-34)

“…we can accept the cordial of God’s free forgiveness and reinstatement. There is no question of our deserving such generous love, but it is a fact of life of which we can be quite sure.” (57)

J.B. Phillips, Appointment with God: Some thoughts on Holy Communion

Saturday, December 19, 2009

J B Phillips on Awareness of Others in Communion

I have discussed at various other times the importance of the corporate element of our worship. This is also true in communion, as Phillips notes in these quotes:

“Christians of every kind need to beware of pietistic individualism, and this no less true at the focal point of worship than at any other place in the Christian life.” (26-27)

“Holy Communion is surely always falling short of its true purpose if it fails to produce some sense of solidarity with our fellow worshippers.” (28)

Part of the point according to 1 Cor 11 is awareness of our fellow members of the congregation. We often miss this in our individualistic practice of shutting everyone else while we individually commune with God. This is why at our church we have gone to keeping our eyes open and drawing attention to the fact that we partake of these elements together, as one body reaffirming faith in this one Savior who has made us all part of His one Body.

J.B. Phillips, Appointment With God: Some Thoughts on Holy Communion

Friday, December 18, 2009

J B Phillips on Lack of Appreciation of Communion

Following on from yesterday’s post, Phillips in these quotes diagnosed (50+ years ago) a problem which is common in evangelical churches. I cite these quotes as a part of the call to reconsider our practice of communion so that we might appreciate anew the value of this practice which Christ Himself commanded, and which He apparently thought we would benefit from.

“But, if the truth were told … there is a good proportion of people to whom Communion is very little more than a sacred duty. . . . They continue to be Communicants out of a sense of duty or loyalty, but somehow the glowing, precious secret which is plainly experienced by others seems to elude them.” (5)

“But we cannot make any progress spiritually without the most uncompromising honesty. We could save ourselves and the Church at large a great deal of unhappiness, unreality, and inward dissatisfaction if we dared to use the clean cold sword of truth. If Communion is in fact largely a disappointment to us, let us have the courage to admit to ourselves and to God that this is so.” (6)

“The early Christians found their deepest fellowship with their unseen Lord as well as with one another in what began as a very simple rite.” (11)

“To put it quite bluntly, evangelical Protestants have been so busy saying what the Holy Communion is not that they have left themselves sometimes with a sterile bundle of denials, and very little positive doctrine.” (12)
J.B. Phillips, Appointment With God: Some Thoughts on Holy Communion

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Communion & Imagination

Yesterday I read J. B. Phillips little book from 1956, Appointment With God: Some Thoughts on Holy Communion. Phillips is best known for his interpretive translation of the New Testament. He was an Anglican priest so I knew I would have some differences with him on this topic, but I have appreciated his writing ability so I was intrigued by the book when I saw it. In the end I was not disappointed. I plan t post a few quotes over the next few days.

In this post, I will just draw attention to an introductory comment Phillips made. He mentioned that he wrote the book “to show how, for Christians who are prepared to use their minds and imaginations, it [communion] can deepen and enrich their spiritual lives” (vii). This comment grabbed me. Surely this exposes one reason why so many today fail to see the value or to appreciate the wonder of communion. We are not training people in the biblical value of and use of the imagination. You can’t read the imagery of the Psalms, the prophets, the parables of Jesus or Revelation and miss the use of words to stir the imagination. Too many evangelicals are scared of the imagination, imagining it to be in opposition to historical fact. But there need be no contradiction here. We have abandoned one important aspect of the mind and are the poorer for it. We desperately need to reclaim a sanctified imagination.

(previous post on preaching & imagination)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 Bibles and Bible Reference Survey Article

This year’s article surveying new study Bibles and Bible reference works for Preaching Magazine has just gone online. As with previous articles I have focused on study Bibles and commentaries though I also comment on surveys, dictionaries, and some works of biblical theology, biblical languages and church history.

By necessity the comments are brief. I hope that the article will be helpful to pastors and others teaching the Bible as they consider which of the recent books might be helpful to them in their ministries.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Forgiveness of Sins Covers It All

A few days ago I saw this quote on Ray Ortlund’s blog. It has given me so much enjoyment and blessing that I wanted to pass it along. This is classic Luther!

It is the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel. If I can hold on to the distinction between law and gospel, I can say to him any and every time that he should kiss my backside. Even if I sinned I would say, ‘Should I deny the gospeI on this account?’ . . . Once I debate about what I have done and left undone, I am finished. But if I reply on the basis of the gospel, ‘The forgiveness of sins covers it all,’ I have won.”

Martin Luther, quoted in Reinhard Slenczka, “Luther’s Care of Souls for Our Times,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 67 (2003): 42.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Value of Family

“When the Bible paints the picture of the happiest men on Earth with the most far-reaching impact on history, it does so in the context of family life, meal time, and the blessing of children (Psalm 127, 128). . . . Sometimes the most important thing happening in the world is the couple deciding to adopt a baby, or the child honoring his mother, or the daughter repenting to her father. Sometimes it is a little boy who waits patiently down the road for his daddy to return form work so that he can simply hold the hand of the most important man in his life. These are the moments that really matter – the ones that will count in eternity. They are the everyday victories of the Christian life that will one day fill the heart of the old man with joy as he looks back on a life well spent. That is why, when the world has passed away, and the trends of this present culture are long since forgotten, those simple acts of love, done in the name of Christ and for His sake by a mother to her child, or a brother for his sister, will retain value with the saints in eternity.”

Douglas W. Phillips, The Little Boy Down the Road: Short Stories & Essays on the Beauty of Family Life (xxi-xxii)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Value of the Psalms

Richard Hooker on the Psalms:

“The choice and flower of all things profitable in other books the Psalms do both more briefly contain, and more movingly also express, by reason of that poetical form wherewith they are written . . . What is there necessary for man to know which the Psalms are not able to teach? They are to beginners an easy and familiar introduction, a mighty augmentation of all virtue and knowledge in such as are entered before, a strong confirmation to the most perfect among others. Heroical magnanimity, exquisite justice, grace moderation, exact wisdom, repentance unfeigned, unwearied patience, the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of wrath, the comforts of grace, the works of Providence over this world, and the promised joys of that world which is to come, all good necessarily to be either known or done or had, this one celestial fountain yieldeth. Let there be any grief or disease incident into the soul of man, any wound or sickness named, for which there is not in this treasure-house a present comfortable remedy at all times ready to be

(cited in A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms. Reprint. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1982; viii)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Value of the Rural Church

For a few years now I have been wanting to write an essay on the value of rural churches and the need to appreciate them- for pastors to see them as valuable and not simply stepping stones to something really important.

So I was delighted to see Tim Keller’s recent post on this very topic and Eric Smith’s reflections of Keller’s comments. I encourage you to read both (neither are very long).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Beware Presumption

Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is truly a treasure trove of practical and pastoral wisdom for the Christian life. I am reading it again to my boys, this time in the new edition edited by C. J. Lovik. Tonight we read the following portion which is really a good reminder:

“But as for footmen like you and me, let us never desire to meet with the enemy or presume ourselves able to do better when we hear about the struggles of others. When we hear of others who have been sorely tested, let’s not be deluded by thoughts of our own manhood, for those who do so are often the ones who have the worst time of it when they are tested.” (p. 182-83)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

ChristianAudio Download Sale

Christianaudio is having an amazing sale that lasts through December 4. Most of their digital downloads are on sale for $7.49 including works from Charles Dickens, Wendell Berry, Eugene Peterson, John Piper (a number of Piper’s are free), and others. This is a great opportunity to get some good audio books at great prices. I have purchased downloads from them before and have been pleased.