Organized Religion?

When someone tells me, “Oh, that’s interesting. So you prefer the disorganized kind?”

The conversation normally goes somewhat quiet when I ask that question. Usually most people have not thought about the matter to any great degree.

Yet, if we were to understand that WE and our feelings and opinions are not what matters on this issue – that we are not the center of the universe and in fact, that God has the right to orchestrate worship as He sees fit.. I know, what a concept!!… but yes, were we brave enough to stop and ask God’s opinion, seeking to find out what pleases Him, we would not read far in our Bibles before finding out that worship is to be carried out His way on His terms.

Remember Cain and Abel? Remember how one sacrifice was accepted by God (Abel’s) and the other was not (Cain’s). Remember the Tabernacle? Remember that His instructions had to be followed precisely and meticulously? Talk about organization… Entire books of the Bible were dedicated to revealing His precise instructions. God is holy and is to be treated as such by those seeking to approach Him in worship. Failure to do so had severe consequences. Nadab and Abihu were struck dead by God for seeking to design their own methods of worship. After their deaths, no one in Israel (including Aaron their own father) was allowed to even mourn their loss (Leviticus Chapter 10). Remember that?

Leviticus 10 reads: 1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.” 5 So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the Lord has kindled. 7 And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.

8 And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses.”

Frightening stuff, yes? Actually, its meant to be. It is a fearful thing to come before God in worship. All of us will be consumed if we do not come His way, on His terms, and by means of the sacrifice He has authorized. (see Hebrews 10:19-22)

So back to our discussion – were we to seek God’s thoughts on the matter, one of the many things we would find is that He loves the corporate worship gathering of His people, greatly preferring it to all of our private spiritual devotions combined.

“The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.” (Ps. 87:2-3)

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25, 26)

This is just the starting point of course, but rather than taking a poll of the community to ask for people’s personal preferences, its time we come on our knees humbly before God and with open Bibles ask Him, “What pleases You God? What is a true Church in Your eyes? What is Your view of worship? What isn’t?”

I hope that each of us are prepared to obey Him when He tells us the answers.

Friday Round Up

(1) A Reminder – in case you were not aware (the blog has been down for 5 of the last 7 days): I was interviewed by Pastor Kevin Boling on the “Knowing the Truth” Broadcast about my book “Twelve What Abouts” (and the subject of Divine election) last week on a radio station covering all of South Carolina and parts of neighboring states. Dr. R. C. Sproul’s CD series The Promise Keeper: God of the Covenants is available in the Ligonier Friday $5 sale (normally $38). In this series, Dr. Sproul demonstrates that the one, true Promise Keeper always keeps His promises. He explains how God, throughout history, has fulfilled His promised plan of redemption in and through His people.

There are other very useful materials available today also. Check out the $5 Ligonier sale here.

(3) Talking about Divine election, Modern Reformation magazine interviewed Dr. J. I. Packer some time back. There was an interesting exchange on the subject:

MR: Dr. Packer, what exactly do people mean by unconditional election?

Packer: It is a phrase which folk use to express this thought: that because we sinners are helpless, God has to take all the steps that are necessary in order to bring us to faith and fellowship with himself and finally to eternal life. Unconditional election is the name for the choice God makes to do that in any particular case, and it has to be unconditional because if God waited for man to merit it, he would wait forever.

MR: Dr. Packer, why do we need an election?

Packer: Because we will never be saved unless God chooses to save us. Election leads to the saving action of God in his lordship, and if we were left to ourselves we would never respond to God on our own at all. This is what people don’t seem to appreciate, that all of us by nature are anti-God in our deepest instincts (see Romans chapter 3). We don’t always realize this because many of us think we are seeking God, and frankly, people want a God they can manage and manipulate and have as a safety net. Those are facts about human life, and very familiar facts. But when it is a matter of responding to the real God and responding in a way that he calls for –that is by humbling ourselves before him, learning to trust his word absolutely, turning from sin, taking our hands off of the reins of our own life and letting him be in control –we wake up to the fact that we don’t like this at all and we shy back from it. That is our nature. So you see, God has to take action otherwise we shall never come to him at all because that is the state in which fallen humans find themselves.

MR: Doesn’t this detract from our responsibility to respond to the gospel? If I’m one of the elect, God will save me, and if I’m not I cannot be saved anyway so why worry about it?

Packer: No, that isn’t the way to look at it because God has made us folk who act of their own will and he keeps us that way. And so he takes account of us for the things that we have done because they really were our own actions. The fact that we haven’t got it in us to respond to God in a positive way doesn’t mean that we don’t choose not to respond to God. We do choose not to respond to God, and it’s for that choice that we’re responsible before him. The truth about us is that we are like drowning folk who can’t swim and left to ourselves would just go under and eventually not come up again. God takes action, as it were, to dive in, swim to us, grab hold of us and save us. Election, as we said a moment ago, is his decision to do that, and in his lordship and power he does it, and so our salvation is entirely due to him. But all the time we are responsible for being the people that we are, drowning in our own moral mess.

MR: Isn’t foreknowledge the basis of election? Didn’t God choose us because he looked down into the future and foresaw that we would believe in him?

Packer: He foreknew us all right, but he foreknew us as we are by nature, that is, he foreknew us as folk who wouldn’t respond to him unless he first changed our heart, so he chose us to have our hearts changed. But it’s all his initiative, all his sovereignty first to last. The Bible describes this human condition in many ways. It tells us that we are spiritually blind, spiritually deaf, our hearts are hard–that is to say we are unresponsive to God, and we are spiritually dead. The Bible says all those things. You couldn’t express the thought of unresponsiveness more strongly.
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Did people and dinosaurs live together?

the Kulta of Australian aborigines, St. George and the dragon, and of course many Chinese legends. Often, the anatomical descriptions given are consistent, even though they come from separate continents and various times. These depictions match what we know from the fossil evidence of certain dinosaurs. Thus, dinosaurs are known directly from their fossils, and indirectly from cave drawings, tapestries, textiles, figurines, carvings, bas reliefs, and many oral and written eyewitness accounts, most of which are quite old.

The Bible states that “every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind” was created by God on Day Six of the creation week (Genesis 1:25)—including dinosaurs. On this same day, the first man and woman were also created (Genesis 1:26-27). Over 1,600 years later, Genesis 8:15 records that a pair of each land-dwelling animal “wherein is the breath of life”—again including dinosaurs—were taken aboard an ark that would have held over 101,000 square feet of floor space. This ensured that a remnant would be preserved through the worldwide watery destruction that fossilized many pre-Flood dinosaurs.

The book of Job refers to a creature called behemoth. With a massive size and a tail like a cedar tree, its description matches that of a sauropod dinosaur. God calls it to Job’s attention with the words “Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee” (Job 40:15). Thus, this statement affirms that both behemoth and man were made on the same day. Ezekiel, James, and Paul refer to the book of Job, authenticating its reliably historical testimony.

The fact that dinosaur femur soft tissues have been described as “still squishy” and contain recognizable blood cells also confirms the recency of dinosaur fossil deposition. Science continues to demonstrate that dinosaurs did not predate humans, and that dinosaur kinds did not go extinct (if they all have) until after the Flood, which occurred only thousands of years ago.

Sinclair Ferguson Interview

Welcome back all effectualgrace readers. I have missed you.

Due to technical issues with the server (other than for a few hours last Friday) this entire blog site has been down for the last 5 days. Hopefully things are more stable now. Perhaps we should look at it as the equivalent of a summer vacation, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

I can think of few things better as a first post after this prolonged absence than an interview with Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. Senior Minister at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, a professor of Systematic theology, a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow, as well as a prolific author whose books include By Grace Alone and In Christ Alone, Dr. Ferguson has an extensive ministry in the Body of Christ. I always enjoy hearing his strong Scottish accent as well as his profound insights into the Scriptures.

The following interview lasts just under 40 minutes. In the first 17 minutes, Dr. Ferguson recalls some of the details of his conversion and call to Christian ministry and then continues with some sound advice for those considering pastoral ministry.

Again, welcome back. Enjoy!

Ten Tips for Greater Reading Comprehension

Brian Dempsey:

1. “Never read a book without a pen in your hand.” ~ Benjamin Franklin – That’s great advice whether you write in your books or take notes in a notebook. Personally, I write, scribble, highlight, argue and draw symbols in all my books.

2. Read a whole paragraph / section BEFORE you stop to highlight or take a note. Don’t stop right when you see something interesting; keep reading to get the “big picture” or context of what stood out to you. Then “reread” when you make your notes.
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A walking biological laboratory…

From the000 germ species live in and on healthy people by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer

They live on your skin, up your nose, in your gut – enough bacteria, fungi and other microbes that collected together could weigh, amazingly, a few pounds.

Now scientists have mapped just which critters normally live in or on us and where, calculating that healthy people can share their bodies with more than 10,000 species of microbes.

Don’t say “eeew” just yet. Many of these organisms work to keep humans healthy, and results reported Wednesday from the government’s Human Microbiome Project define what’s normal in this mysterious netherworld.

One surprise: It turns out that nearly everybody harbors low levels of some harmful types of bacteria, pathogens that are known for causing specific infections. But when a person is healthy – like the 242 U.S. adults who volunteered to be tested for the project – those bugs simply quietly coexist with benign or helpful microbes, perhaps kept in check by them.
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Inhabitants of South Carolina and Planet Earth

I would greatly value your prayers for Thursday morning.

I am scheduled to be interviewed for an hour, SC on a 50,000 watt station covering all of South Carolina and parts of North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.

The program will air live from 11:00am – 12 noon EST on Christian Talk 660AM and 92.9FM. Additionally, the program is broadcast live nationally via live webcast on Sermon Audio dot com. –

Even so, come Lord Jesus

Jonathan Edwards, preaching on Sept. 19, 1746, at the ordination service of Samuel Buell, the dear friend of David Brainerd:

In that resurrection morning, when the Sun of Righteousness shall appear in the heavens, shining in all his brightness and glory, he will come forth as a bridegroom; he shall come in the glory of his Father, with all his holy angels.

And at that glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ, shall the whole elect church, complete as to every individual member and each member with the whole man, both body and soul, and both in perfect glory, ascend up to meet the Lord in the air, to be thenceforth forever with the Lord. That will be a joyful meeting of this glorious bridegroom and bride indeed. Then the bridegroom will appear in all his glory without any veil: and then the saints shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and at the right hand of their Redeemer. . . .

Then will come the time, when Christ will sweetly invite his spouse to enter in with him into the palace of his glory, which he had been preparing for her from the foundation of the world, and shall as it were take her by the hand, and lead her in with him: and this glorious bridegroom and bride shall with all their shining ornaments, ascend up together into the heaven of heaven; the whole multitude of glorious angels waiting upon them: and this Son and daughter of God shall, in their united glory and joy, present themselves together before the Father; when Christ shall say, ‘Here am I, and the children which thou hast given me’: and they both shall in that relation and union, together receive the Father’s blessing; and shall thenceforward rejoice together, in consummate, uninterrupted, immutable, and everlasting glory, in the love and embraces of each other, and joint enjoyment of the love of the Father.

–Jonathan Edwards, ‘The Church’s Marriage to Her Sons, and to Her God,’ in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 25: Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758 (Yale University Press, 2006), 183-84