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Pink: The Enormity of Our Depravity January 26, 2009

Posted by heldveld in A.W. Pink, Antithesis, Law/Gospel.
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There is a far greater malignity in sin than is commonly supposed even by the majority of church members. Men regard it as an infirmity, and term it a human frailty or hereditary weakness. But Scripture calls it “an evil thing and bitter” (Jer. 2:19), an abominable thing which God hates (Jer. 44:4). Few people think of it thus; rather the majority regard it as a mere trifle, a matter of so little moment that all they have to do is cry in the hour of death, “Lord, pardon me; Lord, bless me,” and all will be eternally well with them. They judge sin by the opinion of the world. But what can a world which “lieth in wickedness” (I John 5:19) know about God’s hatred of sin? It does not matter what the world thinks, but it matters a great deal what God says about it. Others measure the guilt of sin by what conscience tells them—or fails to! But conscience needs informing by the Bible. Many uncivilized tribes have put their girl babies and old people to death, and conscience did not chide them. A deadened conscience has accompanied multitudes to hell without any voice of warning. Tens of thousands of religionists see so little filth in sin that they imagine a few tears will wash away its stain. They perceive so little criminality in it that they persuade themselves that a few good works will make full reparation for it.

A.W. Pink
The Doctrine of Human Depravity
Complete Book Available Online

If we don’t understand the enormity of our depravity, how will we be drawn to Jesus as our saviour?


Piper: The Pleasures of God December 11, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, John Piper.
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pipertpofgodI’ve had this book sitting on by shelf for almost two years and have finally got around to reading it. I’m not sure why I waited so long; maybe I was overloading on Piper books (3 last year) or had some other theological question I desired to read a book on, but I am thankful that I finally did get around to it. This book has a lot of what I, and I assume most of Piper’s many other fans, have come to enjoy most about his books- They are written in a warm easy to read style, with tons of scripture references and great anecdotal references to the lives of other Christians.

In the introduction Piper asks:

“Do you feel loved by God because you believe he makes much of you, or because you believe he frees you and empowers you to enjoy making much of him? It is the difference between the modern world where all terminates on self and the Biblical world where all terminates on God” (pg. 11-12)

So then if our world terminates on God and “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love” with God being the most excellent thing to love, what is God like? What aspects of God bring him pleasure? We need to know God to truly love him. Through 10 chapters Piper guides us through God’s pleasure in his various attributes and actions. Helping us to get a better Biblical understanding of the nature of God. The subtitle of the book ‘Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God’ describes well the subject of this book.

While all chapters are helpful, I found myself gain the most from four in particular:

Chapter 4 ‘The Pleasure of God in His Fame’– This chapter really opened my eyes to an attribute that I never really thought about before. He uses the story of Samuel and the Exodus to make his main point and ends with a hopeful yet challenging call to missions. How true that God desires his name to be known through out the world.

Chapter 8 ‘The Pleasure of God in the Prayers of the Upright’– Why pray? This can be a tough question for Calvinists since we know that God is sovereign and unchanging.  So does prayer ‘change things’ or not. Piper shows that changing things is not the point ‘Prayer is his delight because prayer shows the reaches of our poverty and the riches of his grace”.  God commands our prayer so we learn to rely on him our creator, sustainer and redeemer.

Chapter 9 ‘The Pleasure of God in Personal Obedience and Public Justice’– In this chapter he examines 1 Samuel 15:22 “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offering and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” Since the answer is no this leads to the questions of Why does God delight in obedience and is that good news. He gives several reason for God’s delight in obedience but one convicting reason for God’s pleasure is that disobedience is idolatry, which enthrones man “obedience, being the exact opposite , in all these things enthrones and honors God. Therefore God has great pleasure in obedience.”

Yet we know we can’t keep the law so is this bad news for us? Not really, Piper explains several points but hits big with the fact that the obedience that God loves is the obedience of faith “True saving faith is not the kind of belief in facts of the gospel that leaves the heart and life unchanged’. We see that our faith gives us salvation first and foremost but it also gives us the desire to obey and honor our Savior.

Chapter 10 ‘The Pleasure of God in Concealing Himself from the Wise and Revealing Himself to Infants’– Piper breaks this out by basically showing how ‘infants’ are those who rely on God while the ‘wise’ rely on themselves. He closes this chapter with a call to both study the word and pray for illumination as the two work together in growing our understanding. He also stresses how God needs to be central in all Christian scholarship.

In closing another thing that I like about this book (and other books by Piper again) is that they awaken in me a desire to read the Bible more. He quotes so much scripture highlighting its depth and wisdom.  You soon become aware that these short quotations are but a sample of the feast.

It is available from Westminster Book Store

Calvin and the Power of Preaching God’s Word December 5, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Calvin, Joel Beeke, Richard Phillips.
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“Calvin preached from the Bible every day, and under the power of that preaching the city began to be transformed. As the people of Geneva acquired knowledge of God’s word and were charged by it, the city became, as John Knox called it later, a New Jerusalem from which the gospel spread to the rest of Europe, England and the New World.

– James Montgomery Boice ‘Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?’


Interesting enough, I came across this great quote in both of the books I’m currently reading; Richard Phillips’ ‘Zechariah’ from the Reformed Epository Commentary series and Joel Beeke’s ‘Living for God’s Glory’.

Richard Phillips explains that pre-Calvin Geneva was an immoral city and that Calvin’s preaching changed the face of the city. This shows the sanctifying effect of Biblical preaching. In ‘Living for God’s Glory the quote is from a chapter by Robert Oliver on Reformed preaching. In that context we see how Calvin’s preaching of the Bible lead to the spread of the gospel.

It’s wonderful to see a historical example of the power of preaching the word.  Most importantly for the salvation of individuals but, also to the improvement of society.

Haggai on Today’s Economy? December 4, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Haggai, Scripture.
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Haggai 1:2-11(English Standard Version)

2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’ “3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”

The book of Haggai is written at the time when the Jews were returning to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon. One of the tasks of the returning Jews was to rebuild the temple. We see that God has with held good things from his people “because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”  This really struck me as I think about the ‘ruin’ of today’s church; more entertainment than worship, more pop psychology than God’s wisdom- where to stop? All the while so many of us (I’m guilty but changing) place much concern on our own homes, wealth and families to the neglect of God’s.

I’m not sure why as a Calvinist I have trouble placing God behind the bad and good things that happen in today’s world, a sovereign God obviously controls all. My guess is that I don’t want guess God’s motives or tie worldly blessing too close to God’s real blessings. Yet could this neglect be leading to our current economic woes?

My prayer is that by whatever means used God will bring a revival of true religion to his church.

Mohler: The Empty Promise of Meditation November 24, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Al Mohler, Blog Spotting.
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Al Mohler has posted some great thoughts on how meditation has been entering the church.

Some quotes from the article:

The Bible does speak positively about meditation.  In the Psalms, David sings of meditating on the Law of God day and night.  The biblical concept of meditation is not without reference to thought and content.  To the contrary, it is about thinking that is directed by the Word of God — scripturally saturated thought.

This is almost the exact opposite of Eastern meditation, which sets the emptying of the mind as its goal.  The Eastern concept of emptying the mind is just not anything close to the biblical vision of filling the mind with the Word of God.

We live in a world so shaped by therapeutic concerns that most people never stop to wonder if God is dealing with them in their stress, their distress, their haunting thoughts, their cluttered minds. An attempt to empty the mind might well be an effort to listen to the self when we should seek to hear from God.

For an example see the February 2008 edition of the ‘Today’ devotional published by the Christian Reformed Church. Ugh.

Van Til & Berkhof: Foundations of Christian Education November 21, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Christian Education, Christian Parenting, Cornelius Van Til, Louis Berkhof.
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christian_edThis book is a collection of essays that were delivered as addresses to Christian Educators in the 1930’s. In the introduction Dennis Johnson, the editor, mentions that these essays deal mostly with the ‘why’ and not the ‘how’ of Christian education. I was a little disappointed, but truly that was what I expected. That being said I’m still looking for a good book on the ‘how’ of Christian education in an effort to evaluate Christians schools as a parent. If you know of one please comment. Yet despite this small disappointment regarding what was not found in the book the topics the authors do cover are informative and helpful in discerning the need for Christian education.

Since I have been doing a lot of thinking and research on this subject I hope to do a series of posts on the individual essays in this book. Therefore in this post I will not go into too much detail on the content of the essays.

In the first section two essays lay out the necessity for and uniqueness of the reformed education. Van Til writes on ‘Antithesis in Education’ and Berkhof contributes ‘Being Reformed in Our Attitude Toward the Christian School’. These were probably the most important essays in the collection as they form the foundation for the rest of the book. Johnson comments in the introduction that this was his reason for including them first as opposed to at the end as they appeared in the first edition.

The second section is on the Doctrinal Foundations of Christian Education. Van Til has essays in this section titled ‘Creation: The Education of Man – A Divinely Ordained Need’, ‘Faith: Faith and Our Program’, and ‘Eternal Life: The Full-orbed Life’. The eternal life essay is a great reminder of where our priorities need to be even in education.  Berkhof’s essays cover ‘Covenant: The Covenant of Grace and Its Significance for Christian Education’ (my favorite), and ‘Authority: The Christian School and Authority.

Overall I enjoyed Berkhof’s essays more than Van Til’s. That may be because I’m a bit ‘Van Tiled’ out, after just finishing Bahnsen’s Vantil’s apologetic so Berkhof’s information may have seemed that much fresher. Those familiar with Van Til’s apologetic arguments will find what he says here familiar. This means Van Til’s arguements are tied very closely to his philosopy, which I beleive to be Biblical, but it was helpful to have Berkhof argueing more directly from the text.

This book is unfortunately no longer in print. I obtained by copy on eBay from the seller ‘grape-soda’ who has a good selection of Christian books and provided excellent service. It is a helpful resource to those in favor of Christian education as well as providing many thinking points for those who may be undecided or against the idea.

Ryken: 1 Timothy – Reformed Expository Commentary November 5, 2008

Posted by heldveld in 1 Timothy, Book Reviews, Philip Ryken, Reformed Expository Commentary.

This is the second of the Reformed Expository Commentary series that I have read (see my review of James). As with the first I found this volume to be engaging and insightful. It definitely has deepened my knowledge of 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy is a pastoral epistle written primarily to young pastor Timothy, but Ryken shows from several passages that the letter was intended for the entire church. So even though many of the chapters would find direct application to pastors, elders and deacons all church members can learn for the requirements of these offices. Further 1 Timothy is very practical book making it easy to make direct applications to the Christian life. To this point Ryken’s commentary draws out many important points on subjects such as prayer and money. We are also reminded of or need to care for the poor and our pastors .

While practical application of the Christian faith is predominate the book still instills the beautiful gospel message. Chapter 2 ‘Mercy for the Worst of Sinners’ which covers 1:12-16 is very touching. It is a great assurance to the Christian that God in his love has mercy on the worst of sinners. Although most of us have a hard time seeing the apostle Paul as the chief of sinners his words certain show his understanding of total depravity.  This is truley good news to us all. I have to admit I may have been close to shedding a tear after reading this one. It was that moving.

I Timothy also lays out a good deal of Christian doctrine. First in showing us that salvation in Christ is what should be first and foremost. It also expounds on the proper use of the law through three basic principles; 1 to show sin 2. to restrain evil and 3. to show the Christian way of life.  Perhaps most importantly we are seen that we must hold to the orthodox faith.

“Orthodox Christianity is not to be reinvented, re-envisioned, or reinterpreted; it is to be cherished, guarded, and defended.”

There were a couple of times I did question what the author was saying.  First I’m not sure I agree with is Ryken’s promotion of the office of deaconess. Though I will admit I have not researched the issue deep enough to say definitively ‘I disagree’, my leaning is to disagree. At one point he makes reference to the ‘age of dinosours’ so I’m not sure if he holds to a non-24 hour interpretation of the creation days. Not that crucial to an understanding of I Timothy, but I’ll admit I lean strongly to the 6/24 view.

It is available from Reformation Heritage Books

Beeke: Puritan Child-Rearing (Part 2) October 27, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Christian Education, Christian Parenting, Joel Beeke, Puritans.
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The second part of Dr. Beeke’s Puritan Child Rearing teaching series has been posted.

Listen Here

As with the first, it is packed with thought provoking and challenging information for today’s families. It is interesting how different from today’s views of the family were those of the Puritans. There is so much we can learn from them as we navigate modern society.

Here are a few of the points that I really appreciated:

  1. Salvation and Godliness were the main purpose of education.
  2. The father was expected to lead family worship and catechize his children.
  3. Discipline was to be balanced and designed to break the will but not the spirit.