Sometimes we take exception. Sometimes we make one.

“Look at the Birds of the Air”


Years ago while I was attending seminary, small groups of students would get together with one of our professors on a regular basis for prayer. We would often meet outside, since the weather was almost never an issue in Southern California.

On one such occasion we were struck by the sound of all the birds around us singing. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the birds seemed to be everywhere, and they were all singing their little hearts out. It was as if nature itself was putting on a little concert for us.

Our professor used it as opportunity to give us an object lesson from the Scriptures. He reminded us of the words of our Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body…

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It is exceedingly difficult, if not altogether impossible in our present state, for us to form any adequate conception of the most excellent and glorious endowment of man in his first estate

Reformedontheweb's Blog

It is exceedingly difficult, if not altogether impossible in our present state, for us to form any adequate conception of the most excellent and glorious endowment of man in his first estate. Negatively, he was entirely free from sin and misery: Adam had no evil ancestry behind him, no corruption within him, nothing in his body to distress him. Positively, he was made in the image and likeness of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, endued with a wisdom and holiness to which Christians are as yet, in themselves, strangers. He was blest with unclouded communion with God, placed in the fairest of environments, given dominion over all creatures here below, and graciously provided with a suitable helpmate. Fair as the morning was that blissful heritage into which Adam was estated. Made “upright” (Eccl. 7:29) and endowed with full ability to serve, delight in, and glorify his creator.

Arthur W…

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Have you been born again?

Reformedontheweb's Blog

Another question should help you; it is this, Have you been born again? I refer you again to the Epistle to the Galatians, which I would like every anxious person to read through very carefully. There you will see that Abraham had two sons: one of them was born according to the flesh; he was Ishmael, the child of the bondwoman. Though he was the firstborn son, he was not the heir, for Sarah said to Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall net be hei with my son, even with Isaac.” He who was born after the flesh did not inherit the covenant promise. Is your hope of heaven fixed on the fact that you had a good mother and father? Then your hope is born after the flesh, and you are not in the covenant. I am constantly hearing it…

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“The Word Did Everything”


The European Reformation (Cameron)John Murray calls the 16th century Protestant Reformation “the greatest event for Christendom in the last 1500 years” (Collected Writings of John Murray Vol.2, p.203). The rediscovery of the gospel of God’s grace in Christ turned the world upside-down and changed all of subsequent history.

How does one explain the remarkable power and effect of the Protestant Reformation?

After all, the reformers had none of the technological advantages that we enjoy today, such as the internet, cell phones, radio, television, rapid transit, etc.

They had to rely on the pen, the printing press, and the preaching of the Word of God.

And they faced constant opposition and even violent persecution from many who were in positions of great ecclesiastical and political power.

So what was the secret of the Protestant Reformation’s success? Luther himself writes,

“I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught…

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“David, you know what you did wrong there?”

I am well qualified to describe the emotions that question invokes. I have heard it from parents, teachers, coaches, and employers furiously and frequently.

I never liked the phrase and I utilize it now with my only warrant being that sometimes the critic and the question did help me.

Sometimes it did not help. Sometimes I knew what I did wrong and sometimes I did not. Sometimes my critics were wrong. Sometimes their attitude was wrong. All told I was a better son, student, player, and employee for it.

Recently, David Platt, a megachurch pastor had his Sunday morning service visited by the President of the United States. This on a day that Evangelist Franklin Graham had requested churches to pray for the President.

David quickly decided to call the President to the platform and, with the Bible in one hand and the other on the President, offered a touching extemporaneous prayer.

Some cheered at this and some chafed at it, both in the congregation present that day and in the wider Evangelical world. The reaction ran the gamut. The vitriol was staggering. David apologized to any members of his church who were offended.

In full disclosure I am not a “never Trumper” nor am I an “ever Trumper.” My first reaction was to commend David for the respect he showed the President and for the opportunity he seized to pray the Gospel.

However…. I must now ask, “David, you know what you did wrong there?”

Of course, I offer this counsel to younger men who may have similar, albeit lesser opportunities. Consider this:

1. When faced with a quick judgment always consider there is at least a third option. Never pray extemporaneously in a political setting – I tempted to say in any public setting – always read a prayer in such situations. Write one, download one, quote a Psalm in prayer – never pray extemporaneously. Hand the prayer off to a staff member or a deacon. Step out of the limelight deliberately and selflessly.

2. Do not bring celebrities to the platform. Recognize the honored guest if you must; have them stand where they are; pray for them where they are. The image of standing by the President, laying hands on him, as it were, is a powerful photo opportunity – and a wrong one I think.

3. Do not ignore the context of such an event. Franklin Graham had issued an appeal to pray for the President in the face of his political enemies. This was a calculated, not a casual visit; supporters and opposers of the President were much too invested in this – for or against.

4. When you have made a decision, stand by it. If you made an unpopular decision, stand by it. Rebuke those who over-react. Tell the “never Trumpers” AND the “ever Trumpers” to both calm down.

I am thankful that this event did bring attention to the Gospel. Everyone knows the political divide in this country; not everyone knows the eternal divide between the saved and the lost.

And of course I know that someone, perhaps correctly, can now respond to my blog and ask me, “David, you know what you did wrong there?” 😉

Marriage and the 7th Commandment


In the previous post in this series going through the ten commandments, we began to look at the 7th commandment, which simply says, “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14, ESV)

We saw last time from the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew chapters 5 through 7), that Jesus taught that this commandment forbids not only the outward act of adultery, but even the inward disposition of lust in the heart as well. To look at another person with lust in your heart is to commit adultery in your heart (Matthew 5:28).

But God’s commandment against adultery also shows us something about the importance and sanctity of marriage, something which by any objective standard has fallen on hard times in our day.

Despite what you may have heard, God is not ant-sex. The Bible is not anti-sex. Christianity is not anti-sex. But sex is intended solely for…

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Adultery and the Seventh Commandment


Ten Commandments WatsonIn our series of brief studies going through the ten commandments we now come to the seventh commandment, which says,

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14, KJV)

This commandment (like the rest of the ten commandments) is what I like to call an “umbrella category.” What I mean by that term is that this commandment represents a particular category of sins or transgressions, and so there are many different ways that a person can break it.

The seventh commandment, simply put, forbids sexual immorality of all kinds.

In the sermon on the mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) the Lord Jesus put it this way:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27–28, ESV)

Here Jesus teaches us the proper…

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The Benefits of Christ’s Resurrection (Heidelberg Catechism Q.45)


Every Easter Sunday Christians all around the world turn their attention to what the Scriptures say about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and with good reason. Without the resurrection of Christ on the third day, there really is no Christianity.

In 1 Corinthians 15:17 Paul goes so far as to say, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”(ESV)  Faith in a dead Savior is useless because a dead Savior is no savior at all, and saves no one!

At Easter we often spend time thinking about the historical fact of the resurrection of Christ, which is a good thing – Paul says that it is one of the truths of the Christian faith that is “of first importance” (v.3-4). The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ are essential to the gospel itself.

In his…

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Letter to a Young Preacher


A Book Review of Schipper’s Commentary on Ruth

Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. By Jeremy Schipper. Anchor Yale Bible 7D. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016, 221 pp., $65.00.
This is volume 7D in the Anchor Yale Bible Series whose general editor is John J. Collins. Jeremy Schipper is an associate professor of the Hebrew Bible at Temple University. This volume replaces an earlier commentary by Edward F. Campbell Jr. Though replacing Campbell, a great literary debt to the earlier author is acknowledged. Schipper also wrote Disability and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant.
This is a project with very high production values. With a respected imprint and impressive credentials at the authorial, editorial, and publisher levels, this volume is a worthy addition to the Anchor Yale Bible Series. The avid reader will appreciate the print (although a slightly larger type font would have been better), binding, and jacket aesthetics that always enhance the reading experience. With the deluge of digital media, I respect the effort to provide quality in print media represented in this book.
With more than fifteen pages of bibliography and significant indices, this work presents itself as a substantial contribution to the analysis, exegesis, and application of Ruth. Schipper includes an extensive introduction that examines the cultural backdrop of the story. This is marked by painstaking research. A new translation is offered that bears a distinct colloquial tone. Schipper offers this thesis of his commentary:
It concentrates on the nature of relationships in Ruth. Among other things, a focus on relationships foregrounds the negotiations throughout the book of ability, asymmetrical authority, blessings and their absence, divine activity, ethnicity, exogamy, gender, hesed, household structures, human desires, impover- ishments, labor, patriarchy, religious expression, responsibilities of the clan, sex- uality and status, among other topics. (p. 29)
Schipper writes, even when dealing with fairly technical matters, in a readable style. He presents his comments systematically and coherently. He also displays considerable fluency in Hebrew, deftly opening linguistic keys in the text, especially identifying figurative language. He concludes that all the conversations in Ruth are spoken as poetry. He highlights wordplay by uncovering alliteration, anagrams, assonance, puns, and rhymes:
To be clear, one cannot verify whether these literary effects reflect authorial intent or whether the author was even aware of them. Thus, I do not endorse Campbell’s claim that the literary crafting of the book reflects the fact that the author “was a genius.” Further, other scholars have noted many, if not all, of the literary efforts that I discuss. I only claim that my translation has benefited from the ingenious analyses of Ruth by many scholars before me, including Campbell. Nevertheless, there is at least hard evidence that the narrative style creates a number of these literary effects for the commentator to exploit. (p. 7)
This book includes much background material, and in doing so could be a valuable tool for connecting the reader to the time period of Ruth. However, there is no connection in the book to the master theme of all Scripture, which is Christ. Schipper has no listing in the index for “Christ,” “Jesus,” or even “Messiah.”
And while Schipper does not address the metanarrative of Christ in Ruth, he readily finds opportunity to discuss what he considers a significant error:

Instead of ahistorically assuming that all texts reflect on or two constant sexual identities, queer readings foreground how interpretive strategies may uncritically privilege certain relationships over others, be it Ruth and Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, or some other relationship. To be clear, noting the tendency toward heterosexual-normative interpretations of Ruth does not mean that mapping other under- standings of sexual desire onto the characters is any less presumptive. (pp. 37– 38)

Schipper does concede in his preface that he intends to offer no “definitive word on the book of Ruth that forecloses all other exegetical possibilities.” Rather, he says, “I aim to provide detailed discussions of the text in order to assist readers in asking whatever questions they may have about the book and its contents more precisely, including the many important questions that I have not anticipated” (p. xi).
From a larger perspective, it is apparent Schipper accepts the value of the ancient document that Ruth appears to be and acknowledges its presentation of the providence of God in some form or fashion. However, Schipper never discusses the inerrancy or infallibility of the text. He does not reject inerrancy; he never addresses the matter. He presents Ruth as a fascinating ancient Near Eastern document of uncertain composition as to date, authorship, or even genre. In that case, the value of this commentary is lessened by the fact that it presents Ruth as a short story of modest interest and importance, except as an opportunity to discuss current socio-economic or sexual ethics implicit in another text from antiquity.
David Pitman

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