Family Worship Guide for Family Devotions October 30 – November 5

Here is a link to this week’s pdf containing Scripture readings, Bible memory, prayer requests and catechism questions.

October 30 – November 5 Family Worship Guide

Teach your children well!

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Looking for a City

 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.  Hebrews 11:8-10

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.  Hebrews 11:13-16

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.  Hebrews 12:22-24

This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken–that is, things that have been made–in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:27-29

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:12-14

When I sense the need for food for the soul I often turn to Hebrews. A theme that I have frequently meditated on is “the city” in Hebrews.

Dispensationalists are fond of saying that Israel was God’s earthly people, while the church is God’s heavenly people. But like so many other Dispensational teachings, such a notion is flatly contradicted by the New Testament. Yes, Abraham journeyed to the land of promise. And yes, there is a land of promise. But Abraham did it because he was looking for the eternal city- not any on earth.

Such a desire characterized all the Old Testament faithful. Even those who lived their entire lives in the “promised land” desired something better: a heavenly country. They clung to the promise that God was building them a city. Think about it, if living in the Promised Land was the ultimate blessing of God, what need was there for faith? If they already had all that God promised, why look forward to anything else?

The church too, as sons of Abraham by faith (Rom. 2:28, 29; 4:11-16; Gal. 3:7-9, 13-14), “seek the city that is to come.” Yet the church has the awesome privilege of partaking of the blessings of that city spiritually now. The church, as she gathers for worship, is not alone. She is not isolated. The church gathered for worship is spiritually joined by angels and the souls of the departed in the great heavenly worship of God.

“The city” is the result of the fall. I like to say the first city was founded by a murderer and it went downhill from there (Gen. 4:17). The city is a feeble substitute for the relationship, provision, and security that man once had in God. As kooky as one-world government conspiracy theorists are, there is a biblical foundation to such concern. When men seeks to unite, it is for the purpose of uniting against God.

But God redeems the city. In His grace he is gathering together a multitude from every nation, tripe, people, and language. With one voice they will all join together saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” This is the city that people of faith long for. This is the city that people of faith anticipate as they gather together to worship.

 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Revelation 21:2-3

Questions of the Lord

I don’t care too much for maxims or clichés as they often seem to obscure understanding more than illuminate. But one that has stuck with me from my college counseling classes is, “Accusations harden the will but questions convict the conscience.” I ran into several convicting questions during my morning Bible reading:

 Luke 6:46  “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

Numbers 14:11  And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?

Hebrews 12:7  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Malachi 1:6  A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.

Proverbs 20:9  Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”?

An interesting study would be the questions of Jesus. While there are notable exceptions (e.g. Matt. 16:3-14), it seems that Jesus often uses questions for just this purpose- to cause a man to examine himself and see the true nature of his failings. Just looking at Luke 5-6 I notice:

 Luke 5:22-23  When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?

Luke 5:34  And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?

Luke 6:3-4  And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?”

Luke 6:9  And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?”

Luke 6:33-34  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.

Luke 6:39  He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?

Luke 6:41  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

When the Lord starts asking questions things might not be going too well for you.

Faith

I have commented on several occasions about the Bible reading plan I am using and the benefit it offers of seeing the Scripture in multiple places. Today the first 3 readings struck a chord.

First up was Luke 5. Jesus told the disciples to drop in their nets for a catch. Peter, an experienced fisherman, wondered at the point since they had toiled all night and caught nothing. But he considered the source, “But at your word I will let down the nets.” Peter knew it was pointless, but he also knew the One who gave the command. A man with leprosy came to Jesus knowing the Lord could heal him. A paralytic was brought to Jesus by his friends. Jesus saw their faith and forgave the paralytics sin. And then Jesus healed the man to show that he was indeed God who could forgive sins.

Next up was Numbers 13. After seeing the ten plagues the Lord visited on Egypt; after seeing the Red Sea parted; after seeing the Lord come down on Sinai; after eating the Manna; after seeing the Lord judge the sin of Nadab and Abihu, of Miriam and Aaron; the people come to the border of the promised land. Ten of the spies sent into the Lord falter in their faith, give a bad report, and discourage the people from entering the land.

 

The third passage was Hebrews 11. I trust that little needs to be said about such a well known chapter. In all three places the message is the same: faith works. Peter dropped the nets into an empty lake because he had faith in the Lord who commanded. The children of Israel failed to enter God’s rest because they did not believe the God who promised. By faith Abel offered; Noah constructed; Abraham obeyed and offered; Moses left and returned to Egypt…and left again; Rahab welcomed the spies.

Faith is not something merely abstract, intellectual, internal, or even spiritual. Faith can be seen. Faith shows itself. It works. Faith is not something instantaneous or self-contained. It continues. It is tenacious. Faith continues to work even when the Lord does not miraculously provide, heal, or deliver. For it is by faith:

 Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated– of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Faith abides.

Proverbs 16: The Providence of God and Treachery of the Wicked

The book of Proverbs begins and ends with blocks of connected material. Chapters 10-29, however, are what the title of the book suggests: assorted proverbs. Yet even within this wisdom casserole there are verses that are thematically connected.

Proverbs 16 is commonly a source for verses on the providence of God. There are several verse that speak to God’s complete control over all things: the words of man, the steps of man, the falling of the lot. Indeed the Lord has made everything for his purpose (16:1, 4, 9, 33).He is the great Sovereign King over all creation.

In Proverbs 16:27-30 there is an extended meditation on a particular type of person:

 A worthless man plots evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.

A dishonest man spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends.

A man of violence entices his neighbor
and leads him in a way that is not good.

Whoever winks his eyes plans dishonest things;
he who purses his lips brings evil to pass.

The word that summarizes this meditation is treachery. The character of this man is worthless, dishonest, violent. His speech is destructive and divisive. But worst of all he is invasive and secretive.

Paul writes, “The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.” In sports, there is the “clubhouse cancer.” On the job there is “that guy.” There are some people who are loud and obnoxious in their sourness toward humanity.

Proverbs 16 is not talking about those people. Proverbs 16 it talking about someone accepted among us. He influential and trusted enough to separate close friends. He is trusted enough by his neighbor to be led astray. He is the most dangerous type of man because he is not what he appears to be. He is liar and deceiver, and like the father of lies, he transforms himself into a messenger of light.

What are the righteous to do when the treachery of the treacherous is revealed? I would suggest taking comfort the teaching of a verse already mentioned:

 The LORD has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble. (Proverbs 16:4)

The Lord has a purpose for all things: even the sin of the wicked. Treachery hurts. But Jesus knows its pain. God used the most sinister treachery imaginable to set in motion the event that would save humanity. Treachery is the bruising of the heel that reminds us that the crushing of the head is sure to follow.

Human Sacrifice in Uganda and an Even Greater Number of Atrocities in Another Nation

What year is this again? Yesterday I heard a chilling report on human sacrifice in Uganda. I heard it on a BBC  radio program. The BBC has been on this story for awhile. Here is a portion of the report that I heard.

(WARNING GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION OF UTTER WICKEDNESS)

 At our next meeting, Awali invited us into his shrine, which is traditionally built from mud bricks with a straw roof. Inside, the floor is littered with herbs, face masks, rattles and a machete.

The witch doctor explained that this meeting was to discuss the most powerful spell – the sacrifice of a child.

“There are two ways of doing this,” he said. “We can bury the child alive on your construction site, or we cut them in different places and put their blood in a bottle of spiritual medicine.”

Awali grabbed his throat. “If it’s a male, the whole head is cut off and his genitals. We will dig a hole at your construction site, and also bury the feet and the hands and put them all together in the hole.”

The attacks have created a climate of fear

Awali boasted he had sacrificed children many times before and knew what he was doing.

A local pastor explains the reason for such atrocity in Uganda:  “They have a belief that when you sacrifice a child you get wealth, and there are people who are willing to buy these children for a price. So they have become a commodity of exchange, child sacrifice has become a commercial business.”

It is estimated that well over 1,000 children have been sacrificed in the past several years. I cannot fathom the depravity of heart that would use the sacrifice of children to gain fortune, appease the gods. Hearing the report made me feel I was living in a different place, a different age.

But here, today, October 13, 2011,  in America 2,800 humans will be sacrificed to the gods Prosperity, Convenience, and Reputation.

 Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.

Forty percent of pregnancies among white women, 67% among blacks and 53% among Hispanics are unintended. In 2008, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million in 2000. However, between 2005 and 2008, the long-term decline in abortions stalled. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions occurred.

Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder– no end to the prey! Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. With their idols they have committed adultery, and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they had borne to me. (Nahum 3:1; Isaiah 59:7; Ezekiel 23:37)

For more on human sacrifice in Uganda see this report.

For more on the even bloodthirstier nation of America see this one.

The Presbyterian & Reformed on Creation: Slouching toward Evolution

I am neither Presbyterian nor Reformed, but I continue to gain much and have much of my thinking shaped by those who are. But there is a current of thinking swelling up that I hope to fall into. Certain people with a platform continue to dismiss the historical reliability of Genesis 1-11. They continue to question the Church’s traditional, literal, young-earth, interpretation. As this post links too, William B. Evans is another who has laid his cards on the table. Men like Evans make intellectual appeal to science and ancient literature and tell us that our interpretation must take these things into account.

Carlton Wynne eviscerates such thinking:

The need of the hour, it seems to me, whether we are discussing the relative merits of competing creation views, confessional subscription and interpretation, or any other related issue, is to state as clearly and as boldly as we can that the authoritative nexus of meaning–the divinely sanctioned access point for the meaning of a biblical text–lies within the canon of Scripture itself and not in reference to anything extra-biblical, especially apparent similarities with ANE literature. This is an indispensable corollary to Scripture’s authority and sufficiency that we lose to our epistemological and hermeneutical peril. On a related note, however informative ANE literature may be for studying isolated texts, we cannot allow it to norm our reading of Scripture nor determine what Scripture, as a whole, is. The book of Hebrews alone, with the scant authorial and extra-biblical contextual evidence available to us today, ought to check our dependence on background studies for interpreting the Scriptures and lead us to read it, and every other biblical text, ultimately in light of its canonical perspective and place in the unfolding organism of special revelation.

The denial of the plain meaning of Genesis 1-11, the denial of the Church’s historical understanding of Genesis 1-11, is a denial of sola Scriptura. I am not sure how Wickipedia can understand sola Scriptura- “Sola scriptura is the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative word of God, is the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all—that is, it is perspicuous and self-interpreting“- and men like Meredith Kline, Bruce Waltke, Tremper Longman, and William B. Evans cannot. Is the Bible able to stand on its own? Can the Bible offer its own authoritative interpretation? That is the question here.

Evans and his cohorts say Moses was only using faulty ancient tradition. Evans and his cohorts say the Westminster divines were relying on faulty science. I heard the exact same thing in 2009 when I was involved in a reading group of Calvin’s Institutes: passages in which Calvin clearly demonstrated a belief in a young-earth, 6-day creation, were acknowledged with the comment that Calvin was only depending on the science of his day. Apparently Moses was proficient enough to write Scripture, but not truth. Apparently Calvin was discerning enough to see errors in Rome, but not the “science of his day.” The Westminster Assembly was able enough to set creedal standards that guided a denomination for 350 years, but not able to know what they were really talking about.

So the problem with Moses, Calvin, the Westminster Assembly et al. was that they all were held captive to the thinking of their day. None of them were able to penetrate the fog of their own age’s ignorance. They were all slaves to the thought of their contemporaries. Am I the only one on whom this irony is not lost? Evans charges the ancients with communal ignorance as he embraces the wisdom of this world.

Zeitgeist is not all it is cracked up to be.