Friday, June 7, 2013

"Spiritual Birthday"

The Son of God Loved Me and Gave Himself For Me


The first Friday in June, 1974 at 9:00 p.m.

And there they preached the Gospel. (Acts 14:7)

_That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us. And truly, our fellowship is with with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

_This is the message that we have heard of Him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

_If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

_I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

I Love Him. 
I love Him because He first Loved me, 
And purchased my salvation on Calvary.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us 
that we should be called the sons of God: 
therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, 

and it does not yet appear what we shall be: 
but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; 
for we shall see him as he is.  I John 3:1,2

Above are some significant scriptures, and a praise chorus, that are meaningful to me,  that relate to that time, 39 years ago.

Monday, April 22, 2013


"Overwhelmed with God's Creative Brilliance"

Painting by Albert Bierstadt

(Click on image to enlarge)

For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies:

Christ, Our God, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise

For the wonder of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and dale and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light:

Christ, Our God, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child;
Friends on earth and friends above;
For all gentle thoughts and mild:

Christ, Our God, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise

For Thy Church that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering upon every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love:

Christ, Our God, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise

For Thyself, best gift divine,
To our race so freely given;
For that great, great love of Thine,
Peace on earth and joy in heaven:

Christ, Our God, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise

(Lyrics by Folliott Sandford Pierpoint)
Here is the tune from Cyber Hymnal (click)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

NOT BY FAITH ALONE ? An old objection , revisited

St. James and St. Paul Battling it Out on Justification

 In October of 2010, I wrote a blog post answering an atheist friend who claimed that the Bible contradicted itself by teaching in one place (Romans 3 & 4) that Justification is by faith apart from works, and in another place (James 2) that " works a man is justified, and not by faith only." 

Recently, on the Reformed Forum Facebook page, someone posted the following:
I believed and taught "justification by faith alone" for over 20 years as an elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and as the adult Bible class teacher in my church. But on September 30th 2011, I was looking for the verse in the Bible that said justification is by faith alone. So, I typed "faith alone" in an online Bible search engine. That search has opened my eyes and brought me closer to God. My hope is that searching to find what the Bible actually says about "faith alone" will do the same for you. Here is the link that started my search: May God Bless You

This seasoned Presbyterian elder & bible class teacher apparently had never seen a copy of the Westminster Confession & Catechisms, nor was he aware of the classic Roman Catholic objection to the doctrine of "Justification by Faith Alone" that he had taught for over 20 years. While he approaches the Justification issue from a different direction than my atheist friend (he is not arguing a contradiction between Paul and James), the ground of his supposed refutation is the teaching found in in the epistle of James. So my answer below still applies.

Here is an edited version of the post I wrote two and a half years ago in answer to the atheist's objection.

The question is: Does the Bible teach that we are saved by Faith Alone, or a combination of Faith and Works? It gets complicated when it appears that two authors of New Testament epistles have different views on the matter.

There are two keys to understanding what some claim is a "contradiction" between Paul's and James' teaching on "justification," and they are easily discerned by reading their respective arguments.
1. The first key is the different senses in which each is using the word JUSTIFICATION (and it's variants: "justify" and "justified") Paul is talking about being declared legally righteous in God's sight, while James is talking about a person's actions backing up, or justifying, his verbal profession of faith.
2. The second key is this: What errors are each refuting? Paul is arguing (Romans 1:16-5:2) against the notion that there is something we can do that contributes meritoriously to our being declared legally righteous before God. James is arguing (James 1:22-2:26) against antinomianism. That is the notion that the life of someone who posesses true faith in Christ will not necessarily exhibit works as evidence of (justification of) that faith. "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
Notice also how Paul (in Romans 4) and James (in James 2:21-24) each use different incidents in Abraham's life to illustrate their respective points. See how these two narratives from Genesis 15 & 22, as cited by Paul and James, complement and support each other.
The law of (non-)contradiction is:
"A" can not be "non-A" at the same time and in the same sense.
I have shown that Paul and James were each using the word "justification" in a different sense. Therefore, there is no contradiction.
The debate is still a live issue today however. The slogan of the Reformers, "Salvation by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, because of Christ Alone, for the Glory of God Alone" is challenged  not only by Roman Catholics, but various sects such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons and even segments of Evangelicalism. Skeptics see the issue as a contradiction in the Bible, nullifying it's authority.
Reformed churches have consistently believed and taught that God graciously saves us solely through faith in Christ and His perfect life and His death on the cross on behalf of sinners. We believe that this faith is a gift from God and is a faith that produces works necessarily.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. __Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV
Cartoon by Richard Gunther

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The End is Near (but maybe not as near as you think)



Last year we had the flap over the Mayan calendar. But, I've got news.

My copy of the Book of Common Prayer (1892 edition - Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America) lists all of the dates upon which Easter will fall beginning in 1786 and ENDING IN 2013. This is no time to panic, however, as the church calendar doesn't turn over until Advent.

 Of course, the P.E.C.U.S.A could have been prognosticating the time of the denomination's own demise; or maybe they were *Dispensationalists and figured that the RAPTURE of the Church had to happen some time before Advent in 2013.

Most likely, though, they figured that a newer edition of the B.C.P. would eventually be printed with an updated Table To Find Easter Day.

*(Spell Check suggest that "Dispensationalists" should read, "Sensationalists.")

Friday, March 8, 2013

We Named Him "Ginger Cat"

An old, beat-up, one-eyed cat came into our lives last year, homeless, and malnourished. We already had five cats, who were all born in our house, and we did not need another. I did remember seeing this same orange cat with a big head walking around the neighborhood from time to time over the years. He was now in pretty bad shape, and apparently unable to hunt, or to defend himself. I decided to give him some water and dry cat food before sending him on his way, but by then it was too late. Ginger Cat had won our hearts.

We fed and cared for Ginger Cat and his condition greatly improved. He resumed patrolling the neighborhood, as he had been doing for many years, but our house was now his home, where he was loved and fed. I made him up a place to sleep in the garage for when it was cold or stormy, but mostly he liked to sleep in the cat-cube on the front porch bench. We sometimes found Ginger napping on the living room sofa, or in one of the beds. He was very affectionate, and always up for a "head butt" or a good scratching.  On many mornings, I would sit on the front porch bench with my coffee, and Ginger Cat would snuggle up next to me and watch the birds in the yard.

Last Saturday afternoon, I watched Ginger head out across the back yard on one of his walks around the neighborhood, and I fixed him up a bowl of cat food for when he came back hungry. I put it in a zip-lock bag and set it in the fridge. I don't know why he didn't come back later that day, but it was not unusual for him to stay out until the next morning. The following day he had still not shown up, and I later found out that on Sunday at about midnight Ginger Cat had been attacked and killed by a dog, about two or three blocks away.

We miss Ginger Cat very much, and we treasure the memories of all the good times we shared with this wonderful friend.

"Good Bye, my beloved, beat-up, old, one-eyed friend. I will never forget you."

Photos by Michael Boyd and Rebekah Fusina

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Said "good bye" to a friend

This is Ginger Cat with me on the front porch bench two months ago.

Saturday, February 16, 2013




Have mercy on me

A sinner

Luke 18:13

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fourth Sunday in Advent 2012

The Collect

O LORD, Raise up, we pray thee, thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

The Epistle

Philippians 4:4-7:
   4Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
   5Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
   6Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
   7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The Gospel

(John 1:19-28)
This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”  And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”  They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”  Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”  He said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.  They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”  John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.  It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”  These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Second Week of Advent: Thursday's Reading


ISAIAH 49:1-7

Listen to me, O coastlands,
and give attention, you peoples from afar.
The Lord called me from the womb,
from the body of my mother he named my name.
2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword(a);
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow(b);
in his quiver he hid me away.
3 And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
4 But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity(c);
yet surely my right is with the Lord,
and my recompense with my God(d).”

5 And now the Lord says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord,
and my God has become my strength—
6 he says:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel(e);
I will make you as a light for the nations(f),
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth(g).”

7 Thus says the Lord,
the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation,
the servant of rulers:
“Kings shall see and arise;
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;
because of the Lord, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

a. He conquers through preaching.
b. The words are effective.
c. The Lord rejected.
d. Vindicated after death and resurrection.
e. To reconcile Jews with God.
f. He will bring the Gospel to the Nations...
g. ...through the church.


-Scripture translation: ESV

-Selected reading from Christ in Christmas: A Family Celebration 
(C)1989 by Ligoner Ministries

-Footnotes from  New Geneva Study Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 
(C) 1995 by Foundation for Reformation


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A National Day of Prayer and Humiliation

Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day

The following document has often been confused with Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation. Lincoln believed that the civil war was God's judgment on the nation for it's sinfulness. And in an omimous echo of the words of the King of Nineveh in Jonah 3:7-8, Lincoln made this proclamation of a national day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer.


Washington, D.C.
March 30, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

  A Proclamation.  

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.


And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.


And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!



It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.


Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.


All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.


In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.


Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

From: Holidays /

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Honesty and the Ninth Commandment"

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.
___Billy Joel

Billy Joel is searching for some honesty. All he wants is someone to believe. Don't we all? Or do we sometimes just want someone to tell us what we want to hear? Are we all too eager to hear promises that only confirm again what we want to hear, whether it is true or not?  Billy Joel has heard the empty promise before, and wants none of it:

I can always find someone
to say they sympathize.
If I wear my heart out on my sleeve.
But I don't want some pretty face
to tell me pretty lies.

In the art of persuasion, how often do we misrepresent the truth in overt or subtle ways. This phenomenon seems to become pandemic during election seasons.

The ninth commandment reads simply, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16 and Deuteronomy 5:20). Some concise lists of the 10 Commandments just say, "Do not lie." The Westminster Larger Catechism explains the deeper meaning and implications of this commandment in light of the "whole counsel of God" in the Bible.   

This is the text of the catechism's treatment of the ninth commandment. For ease of reading, I have not included references to the many scripture proof texts here. For study purposes, it would be good to obtain a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith with Catechisms that has footnotes for all the scripture references. Some editions have the proof texts themselves printed out below the catechism questions.

Q. 143. Which is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Q. 144. What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
A. The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbour, as well as our own; __appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbours; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocence; ___a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; __discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers; __love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requires; ___keeping of lawful promises; __studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.

Q. 145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are,

all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; ___giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; ___passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil;_ rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; ___forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; ___speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; ___speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; ___misconstruing intentions, words, and actions; ___flattering, vain-glorious boasting; ___thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; __denying the gifts and graces of God; __aggravating smaller faults; __hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; __unnecessary discovering of infirmities; __raising false rumors;: __receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; ___evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; ___breach of lawful promises; ___neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Loveliness of Christ

"...[Christ] is altogether lovely in his person: he is Deity dwelling in flesh, John 1:14. The wonderful, perfect union of the divine and human nature in Christ renders him an object of admiration and adoration to both angels and men, 1 Tim. 3:16. God never presented to the world such a vision of glory before. Consider how the human nature of our Lord Jesus Christ is overflowing with all the graces of the Spirit, in such a way as never any of the saints was filled. O what a lovely picture does this paint of him! John  3:34, 'God gives the Spirit [to him] without limit.' "
________John Flavel (from "Christ Altogether Lovely")