Happy Reformation Day!

492 years ago today Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, unknowingly becoming the catalyst for the Reformation. Robert Gebel has written this song to commemorate that pivotal event in history. A special thanks to Mark Gibson for finding this in cyberspace.

The Reformation Polka
by Robert Gebel

[Sung to the tune of “Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious”]

When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law;
While Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian! Oh…

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St. Peter’s profits soared,
I wrote a little notice for the All Saints’ Bull’tin board:
“You cannot purchase merits, for we’re justified by grace!
Here’s 95 more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!” Oh…

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

They loved my tracts, adored my wit, all were exempleror;
The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor.
“Are these your books? Do you recant?” King Charles did demand,
“I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!” Oh…

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Duke Frederick took the Wise approach, responding to my words,
By knighting “George” as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.
Use Brother Martin’s model if the languages you seek,
Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek! Oh…

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Let’s raise our steins and Concord Books while gathered in this place,
And spread the word that ‘catholic’ is spelled with lower case;
The Word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets his chance,
So come on, Katy, drop your lute, and join us in our dance! Oh…

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Mid-life Crisis?

A man was at a party and jokingly said that he was going through a “mid-life crisis” and his wife quickly retorted, “Mid-life crisis! Who do you know that lived to be 110?” I now relate to that old story since yesterday I turned fifty-five (for those of you who went to public school as I, that’s one-half of 110).

I realize that statistically speaking I will never become a centenarian (unless the Lord should will it) so I have come to grips with the fact that my life on earth is more than half over. I am not complaining, for if I have learned anything in my fifty-five years on earth, it is that every day that I live is a gracious gift from God.

The challenge is to learn to appreciate every day that one has been given and live it to the glory of God. And, not only live it to the glory of God by desiring to do all that God has commanded in His Word, but to take the time to enjoy Him as you do so. May give us all the grace to live to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

Tuesday Hymns: “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness”

I spent last week in central Texas with the family on vacation; thus, there was no Tuesday Hymn on my humble blog to peruse. Now, however, I am back in the saddle again, ready to get back into my daily routine of ministry. Sunday, I stayed home with the boys from corporate worship (see earlier post) because of bronchitis (theirs, not mine) and the hymn we sang as we gathered to worship in our living room was Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness, which is our Tuesday Hymn for this week.

Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, a Lutheran pietist from Germany, wrote the words to this hymn in 1739. He was a nobleman who allowed a group of Moravians to settle on his land, building a village called, Hernnhut, meaning “the Lord’s watch.” He spent his life ministering, not only to those settlers, but to others, by sending missionaries out into the world from Greenland to South Africa. A later missionary, William Carey, admitted using Zinzendorf’s model in the founding of his English Baptist Missionary Society which sent him to India in 1793.

The hymn speaks of the Christian’s hope in the finished work of Christ for his eternal salvation. It is Christ’s keeping of the Law of God on our behalf that provides for the forgiveness of our sins, and our being declared righteous in God’s sight through faith in Him. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states (Q. 33): “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”

As J. Gresham Machen telegraphed to his friend, Professor John Murray, right before his death, “So thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.” The hymn is normally sung to the tune GERMANY

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress; ’midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in Thy great day; for who aught to my charge shall lay? Fully absolved through these I am from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

When from the dust of death I rise to claim my mansion in the skies, ev’n then this shall be all my plea, Jesus hath lived, hath died, for me.

Jesus, be endless praise to Thee, whose boundless mercy hath for me—for me a full atonement made, an everlasting ransom paid.

O let the dead now hear Thy voice; now bid Thy banished ones rejoice; their beauty this, their glorious dress, Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness.

Musings from Home on the Lord’s Day

Here I am sitting at home on the Lord’s Day instead of worshipping with God’s people. It seems so strange, and I confess quickly that I do not like hate it. We were on vacation and our youngest son came down with acute bronchitis in Austin (everyone should spend a couple of hours at an urgent care facility in a city far from home), so we packed up and headed for Pine Ridge. Since I am technically still on “vacation” and was not expected to be at worship anyway, I volunteered to stay home with the sick boys (the other one has a red throat and is coughing now) and let Dixie (my wife) go to church (since she is the one who always has to miss when someone is sick).

In a few minutes the boys and I will stop and spend some time reading God’s Word, maybe sing a hymn or two, work on catechism questions, and pray. It will do, and is necessary in our present condition, but it can never substitute for the time spent worshipping a holy God with God’s people.

It is amazing to me that some people do this on purpose (stay at home on the Lord’s Day) simply to sleep in, go to a soccer or softball tournament, watch football (and I love football), or any number of other earthly pursuits. One misses out on so much to gain so little. God has given us one day in seven to gather with God’s people, to hear His Word read and proclaimed, to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, to pray, and to take advantage of the sorely needed sanctifying means of grace in our lives. The writer of Hebrews spoke well when he wrote, 

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;  24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,  25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

God actually gave us two reasons why remembering His Day is so important for our spiritual well-being. The first is that God set this “one day in seven” pattern at His creation of the heavens and the earth: 

8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  9 “Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.  11 “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Secondly, this day has been set aside because we have been delivered from our life of sin under the wrath of God:

12 ‘Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.  13 ‘Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  14 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.  15 ‘And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

So, when sickness or some other providential hindrance strikes, do the best you can to “remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy,” but if at all possible, take advantage of the means of grace that God has provided for your sanctification on this day of “rest and gladness.”

They are Precious in His Sight

A friend of mine sent me an interesting video (Thanks, Kenneth) about two families and their experience raising children who have disabilities. It is a segment hosted by Joni Earickson Tada and can be found here. (Disclaimer: I don’t endorse all the theological beliefs of those interviewed but have great admiration for the love they show to their children.)

As I watched the video I was reminded once again that all children, even those who struggle with learning or can’t learn, bear the image of God, and should be allowed to experience life as fully as possible. They may struggle with language, or may need someone to care for them to some degree for the rest of their lives, but they are precious in God’s sight and are able to love and be loved, to experience joy and sadness, and to relate to all those that God has placed around them. God has a loving, holy, and eternal purpose for allowing the struggles that they (and the ones who care for them) face which we may never come to understand on this side of the new heavens and the new earth, but He is God, and we are not.

As the father of a son with autism spectrum disorder, the watching of this video reminded me of two very important truths: what a blessing my son is to me, and how caring my wife is. While I struggle with my son’s learning issues, and wonder about his future; I do so as I go about my daily duties; studying, visiting the hospital, preparing for my Lord’s Day responsibilities, and providing for my family. My wife, on the other hand, is battling his issues face to face with him at home. Thank you, Dixie, for all of the things that you have given up in order to teach him at home. I know that it has not been easy teaching him history, math, and other various school subjects, but you have taught him what matters most: that he is loved by his family, his church, his friends, and, most of all, by his Creator and Redeemer. You have learned well the lesson of Romans 8:35-39:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Happy 99th Birthday, John Wooden

Today marks the 99th birthday of basketball coaching legend, John Wooden. In his 27 seasons of coaching the UCLA Bruins he won ten NCAA titles (at one time he won seven titles in a row), and 664 games, eventually becoming known as the “Wizard of Westwood.” (To put this into perspective, coach Mike Krzyzewski has won three and Dean Smith two titles.) One of the amazing traits of his success was that he managed to win all of those ballgames, and national championships without the use of profanity, or allowing his players to use profanity.

In a world in which profanity is now commonplace, and civility rare, Wooden’s deportment seems peculiar at best. One hears (or reads) crude language everywhere: in blogs, on Facebook, on television, in movies, and surprisingly even in pulpits (a la Mark Driscoll and Mark Driscoll wannabes). It all seems to be driven by a desire to be “cool” or to use the newest buzzphrase, “to speak the language of the culture.”

One must understand that I am not advocating a Christianity consisting of “Don’t drink, or smoke, or chew, or run around with girls who do.” People are not made right with God by the things they do, or don’t do, since the Bible tells us “by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Gal. 2:16) We are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone, but because we have been justified, our longing should be, “in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit” to “endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ.” (PCA Book of Church Order, Membership vows)

Included in “living as becomes the followers of Christ,” should be a desire to follow the Scriptural injunction, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:4) We should do this not as a legalistic following of a moralism, but out of a sincere desire to bring glory and honor to our Lord. I have no idea whether John Wooden is a believer or not, but our modern culture could learn much from the way this man lived his life with class and respect.

(Side note: For all of you who think Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player who ever lived, please remember that Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double for the entire 1961-62 season: 12.5 rebounds, 11.5 assists, and 30.4 points a game, and that Bill Russell won the MVP award five times, and won 11 NBA championships in his 13 year career.)

Tuesday Hymns: “Whate’er My God Ordains is Right”

Samuel Rodigast (1649-1708), was a German Lutheran minister and the conrector (vice principal) of the Greyfriars Gymnasium in Berlin. In 1675 he wrote the hymn, Whate’er My God Ordains is Right , to encourage a friend of his named Gastorius, who had become seriously ill. The hymn reminds us that God is sovereign, that He always does what is best for us (despite the fact that it may be painful), and that He is always faithful to “those who are called according to His purpose.” It is usually sung to the tune WAS GOTT TUT which has been traditionally attributed to Severus Gastorius himself.

I will never forget singing this hymn with the small group that had gathered under the breezeway at Reformed Presbyterian Church after Hurricane Rita in 2005. We met outside because there was still no power in Beaumont, and I testify that this hymn will always be special to me, not just for the message of God’s sovereignty and grace, but also the encouragement it brought to my heart on that Lord’s Day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: His holy will abideth; I will be still whate’er He doth, and follow where He guideth. He is my God; though dark my road, He holds me that I shall not fall: wherefore to Him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: He never will deceive me; He leads me by the proper path; I know He will not leave me. I take, content, what He hath sent; His hand can turn my griefs away, and patiently I wait His day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: though now this cup, in drinking, may bitter seem to my faint heart, I take it, all unshrinking. My God is true; each morn anew sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart, and pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: here shall my stand be taken; though sorrow, need, or death be mine, yet am I not forsaken. My Father’s care is round me there; He holds me that I shall not fall: and so to Him I leave it all.

“We preach Christ crucified”

Monday was a sad day for my family (and many others) as we drove to Temple, Texas for the funeral of Laura Loper Parker. She was a precious lady whose love for the Lord had a positive effect on all those who knew her, especially her husband, Roy Parker, a Southern Baptist pastor of almost forty years. Seeing Roy again brought back many memories of my days as a teenager, and the profound influence he and Laura had on many who were members of the McDonald Memorial Baptist Church in Orange, Texas.

Those memories brought to my mind once again how God uses people to accomplish His purposes on this earth. Yes, He is the one who builds His church so that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” but He uses people as the means whereby He does that great work. That beautiful passage in Romans 10 speaks about His plan of action: 

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:12-15)

It is through the “foolishness of preaching” that God has chosen “to save them which believe.” (1 Cor. 1:21) Thus, I am grateful for the faithful men that God has raised up to preach His Word, and, I am also grateful for all of those ladies who have been used of God to teach their children (and others’ children) the truth of the Gospel of grace.

May God raise up a new generation of pastors and teachers to preach, not clever stories or emotional anecdotes, but the pure, unadulterated Word of God, since we are “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23-25)

May the Lord continue to grace His church with those whose hearts have been changed by His grace, and who are committed to the truth of His Word.

Tuesday Hymns: “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul”

I remember, as a child, being told that the phrase which I was so fervently singing on that Sunday morning was supposed to be “power in the blood,” not “fire in the blood.” (I am not even going to begin to try to figure out the theological implications of my five-year-old version of that old hymn!) Some hymns just connect with children as today’s Tuesday Hymn did with my youngest son. Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul was one of those songs we would often sing during our family worship time because it was Caleb’s favorite hymn. This rendition of the 146th Psalm reminds us that God is the sovereign Lord of the universe, and that all that we have comes from Him. It is usually sung to the tune of RIPLEY, the present arrangement going back to The Psalter, 1912.

Hallelujah, praise Jehovah, O my soul, Jehovah praise; I will sing the glorious praises of my God through all my days. Put no confidence in princes, nor for help on man depend; he shall die, to dust returning, and his purposes shall end.

Happy is the man that chooses Israel’s God to be his aid; he is blessed whose hope of blessing on the Lord his God is stayed. Heav’n and earth the Lord created, seas and all that they contain; He delivers from oppression, righteousness He will maintain.

Food he daily gives the hungry, sets the mourning pris’ner free, raises those bowed down with anguish, makes the sightless eye to see. Well, Jehovah loves the righteous, and the stranger He befriends, helps the fatherless and widow, judgment on the wicked sends.

Hallelujah, praise Jehovah, O my soul, Jehovah praise; I will sing the glorious praises of my God through all my days. Over all God reigns forever, through all ages He is King; unto Him, your God, O Zion, joyful hallelujahs sing.