Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy "Black Friday" one and all. I've been short on posting lately partly because of my in-laws being in town, and partly because I've been overwhelmingly exhausted. My sister-in-law's first question, of course, is "Are you pregnant?" To which I can answer with a confident negative at the moment. So I've started taking iron. It may be helping. I did not have the steady headache today that I had yesterday and the day before. This morning I had the day off and somehow managed to sleep until 10:30, which is practically unheard of in my little world. And in spite of that I was still exhausted all day.

By way of update: we spent Thanksgiving with Paul's family, at his brother's house eating the traditional fare. Then we took a plate over to my mother and watched her eat it. Later we played Cranium Pop Five with Pat and Andi, and Terry and Dixie. After my in-laws headed back to their hotel, we played a game of the Bible Edition of Outburst, which was especially fun. Then Paul and I came home and watched an episode of Eureka, Season 2 on DVD, which his parents so kindly loaned to us. My kids are gone off to separate places, Gina to L.A. to spend the holiday with her Italian relatives, Tony to Modesto to visit with his girlfriend's relatives. Hopefully Christmas will find us all together here at the house.

Here are my in-laws:
Don't they have kind faces? You can tell here, too, how much Paul looks like his mother.

Black Friday

It's living up to it's name. So far here in the "Excited States of Hysteria" (a term I first heard today, in an unrelated blog comment from a native Canadian) the shopping death toll stands at three. What can I say? What can anyone say to a nation of people who trade their lives for baubles?

"Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.'" Matthew 16:24-27

The only thing worth trading our life for is Christ. Everything else, is baubles.

Speak of the devil

It's Thanksgiving weekend. My in-laws are in town. We're having a great time; but it's not blogging time. That'll have to wait. For now, John Piper takes a pretty good stab at a difficult question: Why doesn't God just eliminate the devil now?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Twelfth Sign (part 2)

Well, I finally made it, just about two weeks behind the pack, though I’ve no idea where the rest of the pack is. This was our final reading from Jonathan Edwards’ work, Religious Affections, the most recent classic in Reading the Classics Together over at (Next week we being Lewis'classic, Mere Christianity.)

I’ll admit, this last assignment seemed like the longest of all the readings. It took me over two weeks to read, and toward the beginning I really had a hard time slogging through. However, that didn’t last too long; and ultimately I was rewarded for sticking with it. I had another run-in with his system of numbering points, only this time I abandoned trying to make sense of his outline.(Again, I don’t recommend reading Edwards at bedtime. I only do, because that’s often the only time I can spare.)

I will summarize his ideas below, mainly with quotes. I apologize for the length, but It's tough to narrow down 80 pages of meat.

First, Edwards considers “Christian practice and an holy life, as a manifestation and sign of the sincerity of a professing Christian, to the eye of his neighbors and brethren. And that this is the chief sign of grace in this respect…” He refers at this point to Matt. 7:16, 20; 12:33, and Luke 6: 44: “'Every tree is known by his own fruit.' ...Christ nowhere says, ye shall know the tree by its leaves or flowers, or ye shall know men by their talk, or ye shall know them by the good story they tell of their experiences, or ye shall know them by the manner and air of their speaking, and emphasis and pathos of expression, or by their speaking feelingly, or by making a very great show by abundance of talk, or by many tears and affectionate expressions, or by the affections ye feel in your hearts towards them: but by their fruits shall ye know them; the tree is know by its fruit; every tree is known by its own fruit.” Then, referring to Matt. 5:16 he says, “Here Christ directs us to manifest our godliness to others. Godliness is as it were a light that shines in the soul: Christ directs that this light should not only shine within, but that it should shine out before men, that they may see it.” And, in reference to James 2: 18, he has this to say: “A manifestation of our faith without works, or in a way diverse from works, is a manifestation of it in words, whereby a man professes faith. As the Apostle says, 'What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man SAY he hath faith?' (ver.14). Therefore here are two ways of manifesting to our neighbor what is in our hearts; one by what we say, and the other by what we do. But the Apostle abundantly prefers the latter as the best evidence.”

“Persons in a pang of affection may think they have a willingness of heart for great things, to do much and to suffer much and so may profess it very earnestly and confidently; when really their hearts are far from it….Passing affections easily produce words; and words are cheap; and godliness is more easily feigned in words than in actions. Christian practice is a costly laborious thing. The self-denial that is required of Christians, and the narrowness of the way that leads to life, don’t consist in words, but in practice. Hypocrites my much more easily be brought to talk like saints, than to act like saints.”

He then goes on to clarify first: that true Christian practice must not exclude a profession of faith, “So that if any man should say plainly that he was not a Christian, and did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, or a person sent of God; these rules of Christ and his apostles don’t at all oblige us to look upon him as a sincere Christian.”

And further, that if a profession is made, it must not be lacking in any of the essentials of the faith. “If we take only a part of Christianity, and leave out a part that is essential to it, what we take is not Christianity; because something that is of the essence of it is wanting…..Thus it is essential to Christianity that we repent of our sins, that we be convinced of our own sinfulness and that we are sensible we have justly exposed ourselves to God’s wrath, and that our hearts do renounce all sin, and that we do with our whole hearts embrace Christ as our only Saviour, and that we love him above all, and are willing for his sake to forsake all, and that we do give up ourselves to be entirely and forever his, etc.”

He clarifies secondly that the profession must be accompanied by “a visibly holy life”. He gives a rather lengthy summary of what the Christian life looks like, which was essentially a single page summary of the entire book up until this point, and concludes it with this statement: “…in general, a manifestation of the sincerity of a Christian profession in practice, is far better than a relation of experiences.”

And a third and final point of clarification is “that no external manifestations and outward appearances whatsoever, that are visible to the world are infallible evidences of grace. These…are the best that mankind can have; and they are such as to oblige Christians entirely to embrace professors as saints, and love ‘em and rejoice in ‘em as the children of God, and are sufficient to give them as great satisfaction concerning them….But nothing that appears to them in their neighbor, can be sufficient to beget an absolute certainty concerning the state of his soul: for they see not his heart, nor can they see all his external behavior; for much of it is in secret, and hid from the eye of the world: and ‘tis impossible certainly to determine, how far a man may go in many external appearance and imitations of grace, from other principles.”

In other words, if the profession is right, and the life, so far as we can tell, is godly, then we can do no better in identifying someone as a brother or sister in Christ, and should embrace them as such – though it is no sure guarantee.

Having shown from Scripture and reason that Christian practice is the greatest and most reliable evidence of grace we can look for in the lives others, Edwards moves on to prove that it is also the evidence by which to evaluate our own lives. He refers to 1 John 2:3: “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (See also: Gal. 6:4; Ps. 119:6; Mt. 7:19-20.)

In this section I found some of the richest bits, particularly as pertains to trial and temptations. Since there are more than forty pages left in the chapter at this point, I’m going to let Edwards do most of the talking through a series of quotes.

“…a man’s actions are the proper trial what a man’s heart prefers….The main and most proper proof of a man’s having an heart to anything, concerning which he is at liberty to follow his own inclinations, and either to do or not to do as he pleases, is his doing of it….Godliness consists not in an heart to intend to do the will of God, but in an heart to do it.”

'Tis therefore exceeding absurd, and even ridiculous for any to pretend that they have a good heart, while they live a wicked life, or don’t bring forth the fruit of universal holiness in their practice.”

“The things that put it to the proof whether men will prefer God to other things in practice, are the difficulties of religion…these things are all over the Scripture called by the name of trials or proofs. And they are called by this name, because hereby professors are tied and proved of what sort they be, whether they be really what they profess and appear to be; and because in them, the reality of a supreme love to God is brought to the test of experiment and fact; they are the proper proof, in which it is truly determined by experience, whether men have a thorough disposition of heart to cleave to God or no…. So the difficulties of religion are called trials, because they try those that have the profession and appearance of saints, whether they are what they appear to be, real saints.”

“If ‘trial of sincerity’ be the proper name of these difficulties of religion…the result of the trial or experiment (that is persons’ behavior or practice under such trials) is the proper and eminent evidence of their sincerity. For they are called trials or proofs, only with regard to the result, and because the effect is eminently the proof, or evidence. And this is the most proper proof and evidence to the conscience of those that are the subjects of these trials. For when God is said by these things to try men, and prove them, to see what is in their hearts, and whether they will keep his commandments or no; we are not to understand, that it is for his won information, or that he may obtain evidence himself of their sincerity (for he needs no trials for his information); but chiefly for their conviction, and to exhibit evidence to their consciences…it was to discover to themselves, that they might know what was in their own hearts….holy practice under trials is the highest evidence of the sincerity of professors to their own consciences.”

“Seeing therefore that these are the things that God makes use of to try us, ‘tis undoubtedly the surest way for us to pass a right judgment on ourselves, to try ourselves by the same things. These trials of his are not for his information, but for ours; therefore we ought to receive our information from thence. The surest way to know our gold, is to look upon it and examine it in God’s furnace, where he tries it for that end that we may see what it is.”

“If we would see the proper nature of anything whatsoever, and see it in its full distinction from other things; let us look upon it in the finishing of it. The apostle James says, ‘by works is faith made perfect’; and introduces this as an argument to prove that works are the chief evidence of faith, whereby the sincerity of the professors of faith is justified (James 2).”

“Indeed, in many of these places, love to the brethren is spoken of as a sign of godliness; and…there is no one virtuous affection or disposition so often expressly spoken of as a sign of true grace, as our having love one to another: but then the Scriptures explain themselves to intend chiefly this love as exercised and expressed in practice, or in deeds of love.”

And, most soberingly, he adds:

“…men’s practice is the only evidence, that Christ represents the future judgment as regulated by, in that most particular description of the Day of Judgment, which we have in the holy Bible….At the Day of Judgment, God for the manifestation of his righteous judgment, will weigh professors in a balance that is visible. And the balance will be the same that he weighs men in now….Hence we many undoubtedly infer, that men’s works (taken in the sense that has been explained) are the highest evidences, by which they ought to try themselves. Certainly that which our supreme Judge will chiefly make use of to judge us by, when we come to stand before him, we should chiefly make use of, to judge ourselves by. If it had not been revealed in what manner, and by what evidence the Judge would proceed with us hereafter; how natural would it be for on to say: ‘O that I know what token God will chiefly look for and insist upon in that last and decisive judgment: and which he expects that all should be able to produce who would then be accepted of him, and according to which sentence shall be passed; that I might know what token or evidence especially to look at and seek after now, as I would be sure not to fail then.’ And seeing God has so plainly and abundantly revealed what this token or evidence is; surely if we act wisely, we shall regard it as of the greatest importance.”

As I said, this reading was lengthy. And since the groundwork has mainly been laid, I will present his next points very briefly. He goes on to explain that “Christian practice is the sign of signs”; that “there is no one grace of the Spirit of God, but that Christian practice is the most proper evidence of the truth of it….the proper trial and proof of them is in their exercise in practice….So it is with all the virtues of the mind. The proper trial and proof of them, is in being exercised under those temptations and trials that God brings us under, in the course of his providence…"

“Practice is the proper proof of the true and saving knowledge of God…”

“Holy practice is the proper evidence of repentance.”

“Holy practice is the proper evidence of a saving faith.”

“Practice is the best evidence of a saving belief of the truth.”

“Practice is the most proper evidence of a true coming to Christ, and accepting of, and closing with him.”

“Practice is the most proper evidence of trusting in Christ for salvation.”

“Practice is the proper evidence of a gracious love, both to God and men.”

“Practice is the proper evidence of humility.”

“This is also the evidence of the true fear of God.”

“…the proper evidence of true thankfulness…”

“So the proper evidence of gracious desires and longings…to stir up persons earnestly and thoroughly to seek the things they long for.”
“Practice is the proper evidence of a gracious hope.”

“A cheerful practice of our duty and doing the will of God, is the proper evidence of a truly holy joy.”

“Practice also is the proper evidence of Christian fortitude.”

And to sum up this point:

“Whatever pretenses persons may make to great discoveries, great love and joys, they are no further to be regarded, than they have influence on their practice….Our wisdom and discerning, with regard to the hearts of men, is not much to be trusted. We can see but a little way into the nature of the soul, and the depths of man’s heart. The ways are so many whereby persons’ affections may be moved without any supernatural influence, the natural springs of the affections are so various and so secret, so many things have oftentimes a joint influence on the affections, that imagination (and that in ways innumerable and unsearchable), natural temper, education, the common influences of the Spirit of God, a surprising concourse of affecting circumstances, and extraordinary coincidence of things in the course of men’s thoughts, together with the subtle management of invisible malicious spirits; that no philosophy or experience will ever be sufficient to guide us safely through this labyrinth and maze, without our closely following the clue which God has given us in his word….But if we had got into the way of looking chiefly at those things, which Christ and his apostles and prophets chiefly insisted on, and so in judging of ourselves and others, chiefly regarding practical exercises and effects of grace, not neglecting other things; it would be of manifold happy consequence; it would above all things tend to the conviction of deluded hypocrites, and to prevent the delusion of those whose hearts were never brought to a thorough compliance with the strait and narrow way which leads to life.”

And there’s so much more. But, if anyone is interested in more, I recommend turning to the book itself, and starting from the beginning. I can guarantee, if you are a Christian, you will be challenged and humbled. You will not remain unchanged; and if you are a false professor of faith in Christ (and you somehow manage to get through this work), you will be left with no more illusions.

(All emphasis is mine.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Clearly I'm not alone.

The enemy prowls around, and it can feel - in my self-centered soul - that I'm the single focus of his evil intentions. I can also feel - in my self-centered soul - that I'm the only one who names the name of Christ who gropes through such dreadfully dark places from time to time. So now I give thanks to God for the encouragement of brothers and sisters in Christ(those dead and those still living) as we walk through our "dark night of the soul". Today Tim Challies posted this prayer from the Valley of Vision:

O Lord,

Bend my hands and cut them off, for I have often struck thee with a wayward will, when these fingers should embrace thee by faith.

I am not yet weaned from all created glory, honour, wisdom, and esteem of others, for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do.

Let me not only speak the word sin, but see the thing itself.

Give me to view a discovered sinfulness, to know that though my sins are crucified they are never wholly mortified.

Hatred, malice, ill-will,vain-glory that hungers for and hunts after man’s approval and applause, all are crucified, forgiven, but they rise again in my sinful heart.

O my crucified but never wholly mortified sinfulness!
O my life-long damage and daily shame!
O my indwelling and besetting sins!
O the tormenting slavery of a sinful heart!

Destroy, O God, the dark guest within whose hidden presence makes my life a hell.

Yet thou hast not left me here without grace; The cross still stands and meets my needs in the deepest straits of the soul.

I thank thee that my remembrance of it is like David’s sight of Goliath’s sword which preached forth thy deliverance.

The memory of my great sins, my many temptations, my falls, bring afresh into my mind the remembrance of thy great help, of thy support from heaven, of the great grace that saved such a wretch as I am.

There is no treasure so wonderful as that continuous experience of thy grace toward me which alone can subdue the risings of sin within:

Give me more of it.

And to this I can add my hearfelt, "Amen".

Don't be a curmudgeon!

Our little church is on the verge of going confessional*. What that means, to those unfamiliar with the term, is that we are about to adopt a formal confession of faith, in particular the 1689 Baptist Confession of faith. We are in the process of reviewing it individually as members in order to determine if there are any portions with which we are not in full agreement. When we do adopt it, either in full or with modifications, it will become the profession which must be adhered to by anyone desiring the office of elder within the church. (Prospective members will not need to hold to this fuller confession, but to our church's much simpler affirmation of faith statement.)

With this in mind, I found an article in the August edition of Tabletalk Magazine called "This We Believe" by Carl R. Trueman extremely helpful. His is an excellent argument on behalf of creeds and confessions, which, I think, we would all do well to read. I've reproduced it below. (All emphasis is my own.)

Many evangelical Christians are instinctively suspicious of the whole idea of creeds and confessions, those set forms of words that certain churches
have used throughout the ages to give concise expression to the Christian faith. For such people, the very idea of such extra-scriptural authoritative statements of faith seems to strike at the very heart of their belief that the Bible is the unique revelation of God, the all-sufficient basis for our knowledge of Him, and the supreme authority in matters of religion.
Certainly, creeds and confessions can be used in a way that undermines the orthodox Protestant view of scripture. Both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches invest such authority in the declaration of the institutional church that the church creeds can seem to carry an authority that is derived from the church's approval rather than conformity with the teaching of Scripture. Evangelicals are right to want to avoid anything that smacks of such an attitude. Yet I would like to argue that creeds and confessions should fulfill a useful function in the life of the church and in the lives of individual believers.

First, Christians with no creed simply do not exist. To declare that one has "no creed but the Bible" is a creed, for the Bible nowhere expresses itself in such a fashion. It is an extra-biblical formulation. There are really only two types of Christian: those who are honest about the fact they have a creed and those who deny they have a creed yet possess one nonetheless. Ask any Christian what they believe, and, if they are at all thoughtful, they will not simply recite Bible texts to you; they will rather offer a summary account of what they see to be the Bible's teaching in a form of words which are, to a greater or lesser extent, extra-biblical. All Christians have creeds - forms of words - that attempt to express in short compass great swathes of biblical teaching. And no one should ever see creeds and confessions as independent of Scripture; they were formulated in the context of elaborate biblical exegesis and were self-consciously dependent upon God's unique revelation in and through Scripture.
Given this fact, the second point is that some Christians have creeds that have been tried and tested by the church over the centuries, while others have those that their pastor made up, or that they put together themselves. Now, there is no necessary reason why the latter should be inferior to the former; but on the basis that there is no need to reinvent the wheel, there is surely no virtue in turning backs on those forms of sound words that have done a good job for hundreds of years in articulating aspects of the Christian faith and facilitating its transmission from place to place and generation to generation. If you want to, say, reject the Nicene Creed, you are of course free to do so; but you should at least try to replace it with a formula that will do the job just as effectively for so many people for the next 1,500 years. If you cannot do so, perhaps modesty and gratitude, rather than iconoclasm, are the appropriate responses to the ancient creed.

Third, the creeds and confessions of the church offer us points of continuity with the church of the past. As I noted above, there is no need to reinvent Christianity every Sunday, and in an anti-historical, future-oriented age like ours, what more counter-cultural move can we as Christians make than to self-consciously identify with so many brothers and sisters who have gone before? Furthermore, while Protestants take justifiable pride in the fact that every believer has the right to read the Scriptures and has direct access to God in Christ, we should still acknowledge that Christianity is first and
foremost a corporate religion. God's means of working in history has been the church; the contributions of individual Christians have been great, but these all pale in comparison with God's great work in and through the church as a whole. This holds good for theology as for any other area. The insights of individual teachers and theologians over the centuries have been profound, but nothing quite matches the corporate wisdom of the godly when gathered together in the great councils and assemblies in the history of the church.

This brings me to my fourth point: Creeds and confessions generally focus on what is significant. The early creeds, such as the Apostles' and Nicene are very brief and deal with the absolute essentials. Yet this is true even of the more elaborate statements of faith, such as the Lutheran Augsburg Confession or the Westminster Confession of Faith. Indeed,when you look at the points of doctrine that these varous documents cover, it is difficult to see what could be left out without abandoning something central and significant. Far from being exhaustive statements of faith, they are summaries of the bare essentials. As such , they are singularly useful. Evangelicals should love the great creeds and confessions for all of the above reasons. Yet we should ultimately follow them only so far as they make sense of Scripture, but it is surely foolish and curmudgeonly to reject one of the primary ways in which the church has painstakingly transmitted her faith from age to age.

* Although my husband and I no longer (as of 2010) attend a "confessional" church, I do continue to recognize the unique value creeds and confessions provide in educating the church and the important role they have played in her history.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Too tired to come up with any original thoughts -

again, so........ever wonder what the internet is doing to your brain? Me either. But now that there's this fascinating little scientific report available, I can say it's really interesting: . Take a look!

The old grey mare,

she aint what she used to be; and she don't want to be what she was.

I'm tired, overworked, but otherwise pretty happy. I'd rather be this way, than the hopeless, unsaved wretch I was four years ago. The holidays are coming, and there's not much rest in sight, but God has never failed to give me the grace to do what He's given me to do. Everybody wants a clean house for the holidays, and I'm a gal that makes houses clean - well, except my house.

That's all I've got. Told you I was tired.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ever just feel crummy about yourself?

Well, I do, and apparently John Piper is no stranger to this helpless, pointless emotional state. Here's a really helpful little blog entry to help address this condition:

A small ray of hope...

in the right to life struggle. Here's the link to an encouraging, albeit strange, story of the conversion of a Serbian from an abortionist to a pro-life advocate: I'll leave you to puzzle out the theoligical issues on your own time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I got tagged for a book meme.

By David over at

"Here's how it works: I am supposed to pick up the nearest book with at least 123 pages, turn to the 123rd page, find the 5th sentence, and then post the three sentences immediately after that. "

So, I'm seated dead even in between a set of Funk & Wagnalls Dictionaries, and Martin Luther's, Bondage of the Will. For the sake of making it potentially interesting, I've chosen the latter. Here are my three sentences:

"But even supposing the same works be attributed to God and to man - what do these similitudes prove? Nothing more, than that the creature co-operates with the operating God! But are we now disputing about co-operation, and not rather concerning the power and operation of 'Free-will,' as of itself!"

How do you like them apples?

It is now my duty to tag 5 more hapless victims. Let me not be found to be slack in any duty!

I tag:

If anyone else wants to play, jump right in. If anyone doesn't, my feelings will be fine.

Religious Affections, the Twelfth Sign, Part 1

Apparently, and without realizing it, I fell a week behind in our on-line reading group over at We are reading through Jonathan Edwards’ work Religious Affections. This last section, because of its length, has been divided into two readings. This is Part One of the final section: The Twelfth Sign.

Edwards’ personal genius and orderly mind is becoming overwhelmingly evident, as he begins to gather all the ends from all the previous signs and uses this last sign as a drawstring of sorts to pull up and tie the whole great bundle together. This last sign is connected with and comprises every one previous. All the signs seem to be melding together into a very cohesive whole, the summation of the Christian life. I can think of little to add by way of commentary, so what follows will be mainly a compilation of quotes. For the sake of clarity, I will italicize my own words.

"Gracious and holy affections have their exercise and fruit in Christian practice. I mean, they have that influence and power upon him who is the subject of ‘em, that they cause that a practice, which is universally conformed to, and directed by Christian rules, should be the practice and business of his life."

"This implies three things; (1) That his behavior or practice in the world, be universally conformed to, and directed by Christian rules. (2) That he makes a business of such a holy practice above all things; that it be a business which he is chiefly engaged in, and devoted to, and pursues with highest earnestness and diligence… (3) That he persists in it to the end of life…through all changes, and under all trials, as long as he lives.

"’Tis necessary that men should be universally obedient"
This means the true Christian life does not consist in merely picking and choosing what sins we are willing to part with, and what Christ-like activities we are willing to participate in, as it suits us. Rather:

"If one member only be corrupt and we don’t cut it off, it will carry the whole body to hell (Matt. 5:29-30). Saul was commanded to slay all God’s enemies; the Amalekites; and he slew all but Agag, and the saving him alive proved his ruin….it is necessary that men should part with their dearest iniquities, which are as their right hand and right eyes, sins that most easily beset them, and which they are most exposed to by their natural inclinations, evil customs, or particular circumstances, as well as others."

"…his obedience must not only consist in negatives, or in universally avoiding wicked practices, consisting in sins of commission; but he must also be universal in the positives of religion. Sins of omission are as much breaches of God’s commands, as sins of commission….he is falsely said to be of a conversation that becomes the gospel, who goes thus far and no farther; but in order to this, it necessary that he should also be of a serious, religious, devout, humble, meek, forgiving, peaceful, respectful, condescending, benevolent, merciful, charitable and beneficent walk and conversation."

"So it oftentimes is with sinners: they are willing to part with some of their sins; but not all: they are brought to part with the more gross acts of sin; but not to part with their lusts, in lesser indulgences of ‘em. Whereas we must part with all our sins, little and great; and all that belongs to ‘em….Thus there may be a force parting with ways of disobedience to the commands of God, that may seem to be universal, as to what appears, for a little season; but because ‘tis a mere force, without the mortification of the inward principle of sin, they will not persevere in it; but will return as the dog to his vomit; and so bring on themselves dreadful and remediless destruction. There were many false disciples in Christ’s time, that followed him for a while; but none of them followed him to end; but some on one occasion, and some on another, went back and walked no more with him."

"…it is necessary that they prosecute the business of religion, and the service of God with great earnestness and diligence, as the work which they devote themselves to, and make the main business of their lives. All Christ’s peculiar people, not only do good works, but are zealous of good works (Titus 2:14)….Christians in their effectual calling, are not called to idleness, but to labor in God’s vineyard, and spend their day in doing a great and laborious service... Slothfulness in the service of God, in his professed servants, is as damning, as open rebellion: for the slothful servant is a wicked servant, and shall be cast into outer darkness among God’s open enemies (Matt. 25: 26-28)."

"Every true Christian perseveres in this way of universal obedience, and diligent and earnest service of God, through all the various kinds of trials that he meets with, to the end of life."

I found this bit regarding temptations/trials is really helpful:

"By trials, here I mean, those things that occur, and that a professor meets with in his course, that do especially render his continuance in his duty, and faithfulness to God, difficult to nature. These things are from time to time called in Scripture by the name of trials, or temptations (which are words of the same signification). These are of various kinds: There are many things that render persons’ continuance in the way of their duty difficult, by their tendency to cherish and foment, or to stir up and provoke their lusts and corruptions. Many things make it hard to continue in the way of duty, by their being of an alluring nature, and having a tendency to entice persons to sin; or by their tendency to take off restraints and embolden ‘em in iniquity. Other things are trials of the soundness and steadfastness of professors, by their tendency to make their duty appear terrible to ‘em, and so to affright and drive ‘em from it: such as the sufferings which their duty will expose ‘em to; pain, ill will, contempt, and reproach, or loss of outward possessions and comforts. If persons, after they have made a profession of religion, live any considerable time, in this world which is so full of changes, and so full of evil, it can’t be otherwise, than that they should meet with many trials of their sincerity and steadfastness."

I’ve learned through personal study that in the original language this word translated variously as "trials" and "temptations" is one and the same word, translated differently based upon the context. And in actual experience it is much like that. Whether a circumstance is to us a trial or a temptation depends ultimately upon the context of our heart toward it, whether it tends to entice us, or whether to discourage us.

And as regards backsliding, he has this to say:

"True saints may be guilty of some kinds and degrees of backsliding, and may be soiled by particular temptations, and may fall into sin, yea great sins; but they can never fall away so, as to grow weary of religion, and the service of God, and habitually to dislike it and neglect it; either on its own account, or on account of the difficulties that attend it: as is evident by Gal. 6:9; Rom. 2:7; Heb. 10:36; Is. 43:22; Mal. 1:13. They can never backslide, so as to continue no longer in a way of universal obedience; or so, that it shall cease to be their manner to observe all the rules of Christianity, and do all duties required, even the most difficult, and in the most difficult circumstances….Nor can they ever fall away so, as habitually to be more engaged in other things, than in the business of religion; or so that it should become their way and manner to serve something else more than God; or so as statedly to cease to serve God, with such earnestness and diligence, as still to be habitually devoted and given up to the business of religion."

"Hence saving affections, though oftentimes they don’t make so great a noise and show as others; yet have in them a secret solidity, life and strength, whereby they take hold of, and carry away the heart, leading it into a kind of captivity (II Cor. 10:5), gaining a full and steadfast determination of the will for God and holiness….holy affections have a governing power in the course of a man’s life."

"What makes men partial (as opposed to universal) in religion is, that they seek themselves, and not God, in their religion, and close with religion, not for its own excellent nature, but only to serve a turn. He that closes with religion only to serve a turn, will close with nor more of it than he imagines serves that turn; but he that closes with religion for its own excellent and lovely nature closes with all that has that nature: he that embraces religion for its own sake, embraces the whole of religion."

"No wonder that a love to holiness, for holiness’ sake, inclines persons to practice holiness, and to practice everything that is holy. Seeing holiness is the main thing that excites, draws and governs all gracious affections, no wonder that all such affections tend to holiness. That which men love, they desire to have and to be united to, and possessed of. That beauty which men delight in, they desire to be adorned with. Those acts which men delight in, they necessarily incline to do."
(In sayings like this Edwards' powerful influence on John Piper's work is clearly evident.)

"True grace is not an unactive thing; there is nothing in heaven or earth of a more active nature; for ‘tis life itself, and the most active kind of life, even spiritual and divine life. ‘Tis no barren thing; there is nothing in the universe that in its nature has a greater tendency to fruit. Godliness in the heart has as direct a relation to practice, as a fountain has to a stream, or as the luminous nature of the sun has to beams sent forth, or as life has to breathing, or the beating of the pulse, or any other vital act…"

"From what has been said it is manifest, that Christian practice or a holy life is a great and distinguishing sign of true and saving grace. But I may go further, and assert, that it is the chief of all the signs of grace, both as an evidence of the sincerity of professors unto others, and also to their own consciences."

(All emphasis mine.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gina's birthday

Paul and I both had today off, which was out of the ordinary. We had waffles for breakfast then hurried around to get errands finished before our appointment with the washer repairman, sometime between 1-3. He was a pleasant fellow, who informed us that the leak was coming from just where I thought it was (and was really hoping it wasn't). Then he quoted a couple of hour's labor, which I thought sounded about right. Then told me that the gasket did not come as just a gasket, but it came all of one piece with half the drum. So, instead of a rubber seal, I have to purchase a $179 half-drum (plus tax), with it's seal, making the repair, plus the cost of today's visit about $400. He also suggested I may be able to slow the leak, or perhaps stop if for a while by tightening the bolts (which I would have done by now if I actually owned a socket wrench, which I must have left behind when I moved). So, our plan of attack is to borrow my brother-in-law's socket wrench and see if we can slow the thing down, at least temporarily, until we can decide whether to buy a new machine or not.
Then we went
downtown for a little walk, then to my mom's, and then rushed home to make Gina's birthday dinner. Tony and Erica joined us. Her special request was honey-mustard chicken. I served it with rice and brocolli. It was wonderful. I also rushed at the same time to whip up a cake. As you'll see from the picture, I haven't baked a cake in quite a few years and only just discovered I did not have two matching cake pans, and had already used the appropriately sized flat pan for the chicken. I also found I did not have enough frosting for two layers! So, I layered the cake in the style of a very short Incan pyramid and frosted only the top. It was astonishingly ugly and absolutely delicious. Gina, as always, was a complete sport about the whole thing. For her gift we had ordered her a pair of Tom's shoes on-line. That was her only request. She loved them, tried them on, and discovered they'd sent her one size six shoe, and one size five. As always, she was a complete sport about the whole thing and intends to exchange them for a pair with two size sixes. After this, they all left to go to her party, a no-parent affair.

So I cleaned the kitchen, made popcorn, and Paul and I watched a movie about Beethoven: Immortal Beloved. It was beautiful and desperately sad. Is it appropriate to tell if my husband cries at a movie? Well, I guess I won't tell, just in case it's not. And I did three leaky loads of laundry, and now must go to bed.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

On November 10...

five hundred and twenty-five years ago was born a man who, by the providence of God, changed the world, Martin Luther. On that same date twenty years ago was born my daughter, Gina. What the hand of providence has in store for her remains to be seen, but, ironically enough and in spite of her Italian heritage, she will soon begin studying German, as part of her new major, Linguistics. My hope is that she, too, will leave a beautifully indelible little footprint of her own on the history of humanity.

Friday, November 7, 2008

More treasures from the obscure book pile

This time it's from a pamphlet called Treasures dated March 1955 and distributed by The Hoover-Miner Funeral Home in Wabash, Indiana.

Man Wanted!
Wanted: A man for hard work and rapid promotion; a man who can find things to be done without the help of a manager and three assistants.
A man who gets to work on time in the morning and does not imperil the lives of others in an attempt to be first out of the office at night.
A man who listens carefully when he is spoken to and asks only enough questions to ensure the accurate carrying out of instructions.
A man who moves quickly and makes as little noise as possible about it.
A man who looks you straight in the eye and tells the truth every time.
A man who does not pity himself for having to work.
A man who is neat in appearance.
A man who does not sulk for an hour's overtime in emergencies.
A man who is cheerful, courteous to everyone, and determined to make good.
This man is wanted everywhere. Age or lack of experience does not count. There isn't any limit, except his own ambition, to the number or size of the jobs he can get. He is wanted in every business.
----Industrial Management Bulletin

Finding little treasures

Last night I was plugging away at my obscure book stack. This is an odd assortment of books I need to put on-line for sale, but which are not straightforward and require more research than normal. These tend to get set aside to deal with later. Well, it's later and I'm dealing with them; and that's not really the point anyway. The point is, people leave things in books. I've got quite a collection of odd little bits I've found in books, which I don't really have the heart to throw away - a strange little treasure trove. Last night I pulled out a book that I know has been sitting for over a year waiting to be put online. The book once belonged to a Quaker minister, now deceased. That much I know. Inside was a clipping. Here's what it said:

Rev. C.E. Carlson
Missionary, Church of the United Brethren

"What attracted me to Christianity," said an African pastor to me, "was seeing one of your missionaries, a person of different race and from another country, washing and dressing those awful ulcers which our people have and which we refuse to touch."

The man who knows himself to be reconciled to God through the death of Christ knows also that he is no longer his own, for he has been bought with a price. And to him there are no longer Europeans, Asiatics, Africans, South Sea Islanders - they are all men for whom Christ died. With that knowledge in his heart, and constrained by the love of Christ, only one thing remains for him to do: to find ways and means of acquainting men with the wonderful news that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not inputing their trespasses unto them." (II Cor. 5:20)

Doctrinal differences aside, his point is well-taken. He's speaking of the mission field, but every one of us who is a true Christian is a missionary wherever God has placed us. Ever since I've been a Christian I've been a bit troubled by our tendency to avoid our very own brothers and sisters in Christ who are sick, or even in deep emotional pain. I understand the desire to avoid getting sick oneself (and I'm not recommending taking your cough & raging fever with you to church on a Sunday morning to get comfort), but if we view our own brethren in the faith, who could really use our help and comfort as potential contagions and sources of discomfort to us, what does that say about us? One of the stories that impressed me most from the life of John Calvin was that when the plague visited his community and he was asked to leave, for his own safety, he refused, because the place of suffering was where he was most needed. Jesus touched the lepers, the unclean. We are his body. Let us be willing to do the same.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A few new pics

Here's our tertiary form of income - the used book business. Always in need of more shelf space, and more books of course.

And a half-way decent picture of what has to be the most unphotogenic dog I've known, little Schubert. We keep saying we should have named him Stimpy, like in the cartoon. (I've only ever seen that cartoon a handful of times, while walking past a TV, but when Paul said it, I knew exactly what he talking about.) You can't tell it from this picture, but he has that desperate, wild-eyed look about him half the time. You can also see in this shot the absolutely dreadful wallpaper that we vowed would be the first thing to go when we moved in over a year ago. We've learned to mostly ignore it. It's now about 4 projects down on the list.

And here are all the creatures who look to me for food, except Tony. They're all on the bed, looking very well-fed. Our house teems with life.

Further exhortations to prayer

Before the election I wrote about the importance that we Christians take our role in our government seriously. I trust that on Tuesday we all did just that.

Today, now all that is said and done, I'd like to exhort us not to forget Scripture's own exhortation:

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1Tim.2:1-4)

Let us (and I do mean me) make this a priority for our daily prayers "first of all". As encouragement to that end I've provided a link to an excellent post regarding how to pray for our next president. If you have the time, I recommend following his links, which provide excellent insight into the heart of what it is to be an African-American Christian in the current climate.

Something for the stocking perhaps?

Here's a review of what sounds like an absolutely wonderful book, A Faith Worth Sharing, by C. John Miller. This is something for my Christmas list. Check it out. Maybe it will be one for yours as well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I had my big job today, then went straight to the polls, just before a line began to form. So that's done and I can rest safe in God's sovereignty - and put some pictures online. Paul's been at it again with the camera. He takes pictures of the oddest things, but sometimes they're kind of wonderful.
Can you see the pewter dutch boy & girl salt & pepper shakers peeking out from behind the plant on the windowsill?
That's Mango on the bed. We call him the magnifiCat, for obvious reasons. He's like royalty around here. And that's our bed. It's pretty much all there's room for in our tiny bedroom. Well, and my heap-O-books.
Lastly, these are pictures from our front porch. That long wall across the street is the back wall of a motel. The part you see on the bottom picture is where we looked out one morning to see the giant grafitti words: "Savage Indian Nation". And here I was all this time thinking I was in America, or maybe the motel is built on ancient tribal land. Well, the city cleaned it right up - another reason to be thankful for government.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A tired old post...

from a tired old gal. My days "off" are often more hectic than the days I work. Today I did banking, book packing and shipping, Mom's monthly trip to the lab, gave Mom a haircut, and drove Tony around on errands - and all this in the pouring down rain (well, not the haircut). Dinner tonight was really good, thanks to a variation on something Angela suggested the other night (it involved chicken and butter and balsamic vinegar, which I adapted to include a cream sauce with tarragon, mmmm). And Paul and I are still watching old Twilight Zone episodes. What I hadn't remembered, I guess because it was the air we breathed back in the day, was how cold war oriented that show was. It really is a dominant theme. Which reminds me of when I was in 1-3 grades in L.A. (this would be 1970-73)and having air raid test sirens go off during school. We would have to crouch under our desks. Everyone knows how effective that particular posture is for protection agains nuclear holocaust. But I digress. Tonight we watched two episodes, one about the gruesome behavior of friends during an emergency when only one family had a bomb shelter. The other was about remembering the German holocaust. It was strange to think the episode was produced less than two decades after WWII. It suggested in the end that endless torment for those responsible would be justice. Definitely not something that would be produced these days.

I just finished up reading through my voter's guide. I've been procrastinating; and after reading it I can honestly say I don't blame myself. I should have allowed easily twice the time I did for reading it. It was huge. As it is I didn't read it cover to cover. I skimmed then slowed down when I got to the parts that seemed most important. I think I've been able to arrive at decisions that my conscience will let me live with. It's tricky reading the arguments for and against the propositions. I would think, "Oh, that sounds like a good thing." Then "Oh, no it's a bad thing" when I got to the rebuttal,and back and forth. Yet in reading both sides I felt like I could get down to the bottom of things. It's always best to listen to both sides of an argument carefully before deciding a matter. My knee-jerk reactions are not always reliable or helpful.

Bit of good news: Tony got his first official job, as in fill out application, go to interview, get hired, kind of job. It's at the mall, at Zumies. We're very happy for him.