Sunday, May 31, 2009

Everybody Dance Now

I don't know about you, but I was curious about who this group was that defeated the surprise phenomenon, Susan Boyle, in the Britain's Got Talent competition. It was no small feat, but I've managed to find three of the performances which had not yet had the embed function disabled, and collected them here. I've got to say, with no dishonor intended toward Miss Boyle, their victory was no fluke. They earned the prize.

In case you haven't been acquainted, let me introduce you to Diversity:

I've repaired the link for liberal at Liberty. I apologize for the inconvenience. You would think that by now I would know to check these things before I put them up!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A liberal at Liberty

What happens when a liberal college student decides to learn by experience, fairly, open-mindedly, and respectfully, what the world of fundamentalist Christianity is all about by attending for a semester the most conservative fundamentalist university you could probably imagine? Well, he writes a book, as you might expect, and talks about it on NPR.

Science for Saturday

Here's something cool to think about while you're splashing in the pool or creek on this hot, hot weekend:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Do not put the Lord your God to the test....

What about Gideon? He put the Lord to the test and everything turned out fine. Have you ever known, through the word of God, exactly what God would have you do or not do, but "put out a fleece" anyway - just to be sure? Well, the temptation to do this is very strong, and I have found myself putting out my own modern-day "fleece" a few times over the years. The temptation to look for signs and read omens is strong in the hearts of men, even in our more "sophisticated" days; and I have been acquainted with many Christians who still practice versions of this. So what are we to make of Gideon? Here's a response to that question from Daniel Block at Koinonia

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lessons learned from Luther on the everyday glorifying of God

As a believer, my most frequent prayer, and the prayer I hear my husband pray most frequently as well, is that we will glorify God in all that we do. And though we pray wholeheartedly, and seek to live to that end, we often at the same time wonder what on earth that means, and what it looks like. We've no way to measure, really, whether or how that prayer is being answered. We know we will never be great names like Martin Luther, or John Calvin, or John Wesley, or Charles Spurgeon, or Billy Graham, or John Piper, or ....fill in your favorite if I've left him out. So what does a God-glorifying life look like for ordinary folks like us? And here is where Martin Luther has left us a great legacy - the hope of glorifying God from our place of seeming obscurity.
"Our expression 'vocational guidance' comes directly from Luther. God has called men to labor because he labors. He works at common occupations. God is a tailor who makes for the deer a coat that will last for a thousand years. He is a shoemaker who provides boots that the deer will not outlive. God is the best cook, because the heat of the sun supplies all the heat there is for cooking. God is a butler who sets forth a feast for the sparrows and spends on them annually more than the total revenue of the king of France. Christ worked as a carpenter....The Virgin Mary worked, and the most amazing example of her humility is that after she had received the astonishing news that she was to be the mother of the Redeemer, she did not vaunt herself but went back and milked the cows, scoured the kettles, and swept the house like any housemaid. Peter worked as a fisherman ....

As God, Christ, the Virgin the prince of the apostles, and the shepherds labored, even so must we labor in our callings. God has no hands and feet of his own. He must continue his labors through human instruments. The lowlier the task the better. The milkmaid and the carter of manure are doing a work more pleasing to God than the psalm singing of a Carthusian. Luther never tired of defending those callings which for one reason or another were disparaged. The mother was considered lower than the virgin. Luther replied that the mother exhibits the pattern of the love of God, which overcomes sins just as her love overcomes dirty diapers."

from Here I Stand, a Life of Martin Luther, by Roland H. Bainton

The lowest common denominator

I've found it to be the case that who I am, and how I behave, in my most difficult relationships, is the most reliable measure of my character.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The law and the gospel

"The law is for the self-righteous, to humble their pride: the gospel is for the lost, to remove their despair." -C.H. Spurgeon
HT to Bryan Gumpy

Thank God for the Gospel!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Death is not dying

It may not look like it, but I'm dying. No, not in the way you're thinking. It may not seem like it, but you are dying too. All of us are dying. From the moment of our birth, our end is inevitable. We may, perhaps, be able to delay it; but we cannot escape it. And yet, by the grace of God and the sacrifice of His Son, even Death, our great enemy, is made to serve us. How can that be? Well,
"I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

"Death is swallowed up in victory."
"O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:50-57)
And so, I hope you will take the time to watch Rachel Barkey, a 37 year old
mother, terminally ill with cancer tell her story, and share her faith and the
reason for her great hope.

HT to Wanna Walk Along & Alpha & Omega Ministries

Trust in God alone

“Saving belief is not mere mental assent, but a believing in – a living in – the knowledge of that news. It is a leaning on, a relying on. We must come to grips with the fact that we are unable to satisfy God’s demands on us, no matter how morally we try to live. We don’t want to end up trusting a little in ourselves and a little in God; we want to realize that we are to rely on God fully, to trust in Christ alone for our salvation.”

-Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 41.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A dose of Luther's courage

"You ask me what I shall do if I am called by the emperor. I will go even if I am too sick to stand on my feet. If Caesar calls me, God calls me. If violence is used, as well it may be, I commend my cause to God. He lives and reigns who saved the three youths from the fiery furnace of the king of Babylon, and if He will not save me, my head is worth nothing compared with Christ. This is no time to think of safety. I must take care that the gospel is not brought into contempt by our fear to confess and seal our teaching with our blood." -Martin Luther
I like to hope I would face the threat of a horrific death with the courage Martin Luther did back in his day. But for today I will gratefully settle for the courage to go and do my daily work with joy and a thankful heart.

"One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much." (Luke 16:10)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

True spirituality

I've got another busy work-day today and no time to write. But here's a word of encouragement I found in my inbox this morning:

True spirituality is not a superhuman religiosity; it is simply true humanity released from bondage to sin and renewed by the Holy Spirit. This is given to us as we grasp by faith the full content of Christ’s redemptive work: freedom from the guilt and power of sin, and newness of life through the indwelling and outpouring of his Spirit.”

- Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 19-20.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gospel obedience - it's not what you might think

Obedience must be in and through Christ. ‘He hath made us accepted in the beloved’ (Eph. 1:6). Not our obedience, but Christ’s merits procure acceptance. In every part of worship we must present Christ to God in the arms of our faith. Unless we serve God thus, in hope and confidence of Christ’s merits, we rather provoke Him than please Him. As, when king Uzziah would offer incense without a priest, God was angry with him, and struck him with leprosy (see II Chron. 26:20); so, when we do not come to God in and through Christ, we offer up incense to Him without a priest; and what can we expect but severe rebukes?”

- Thomas Watson, “Obedience"

(emphasis mine)

Monday, May 18, 2009

The offense of the Cross

After our Sunday evening Bible study, Paul and I had a lengthy discussion with our pastor and a few others in the room regarding the nature of Communion, or the Lord's Supper, if you prefer. It was a fascinating and thought provoking discussion comparing the various non-Catholic views. My husband, holds to the Lutheran belief commonly referred to as consubstantiation. Though sympathetic to his view, I have a more "Reformed" perspective, more like Calvin's than the bare "memorial" view associated with Zwingli and adhered to by the bulk of modern evangelicals. This is the first time, however, that I've devoted such extensive thought to the matter. I've found it a very edifying subject for study; and as I said, it has provoked a lot of thought, on a variety of related themes - blood for instance.

There is something innately horrifying about blood, something offensive. My sister faints at the sight of it, hers or anyone else's. My son hated the mere mention of the word "blood" when he was a little boy - probably still does. It's as if we know instinctively what Scripture tells us: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood..." (Lev. 17:11). We recoil at seeing blood spilled - life pouring out.

Then, as though to bolster our natural revulsion, when God singled out a people upon the earth to call His own He gave them commands concerning blood. "It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood." (Lev. 3:17) And, "Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people." (Lev. 7:27) There were also commands regarding "blood guilt", and the blood of the animal sacrifices was to be sprinkled on the altar. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Heb. 9:22b). At first glance it seems a strange thing that blood, that dreadful sight, would be required for forgiveness. Yet when we remember that the penalty for sin is death, it stands to reason that the cure for sin would be the stuff of life. But I've digressed.

My point here is blood, and offense. By the time of Christ there had been centuries of history and tradition and law regarding blood. And then comes Jesus, performing miracles, teaching the people, attracting multitudes who hung on His every word, and to this Jewish crowd He said: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." (John 6:53-56) At this saying His disciples began to grumble; and Jesus responded, "Do you take offense at this?..."(v.61) He goes on to explain that He's speaking spiritually, but most cannot get past the original offense and, "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him." (v.66).

And the notion of a bloody sacrifice is still shocking and offensive to this day. It is so earthy and barbaric - and yet, so is our sin. The penalty must fit the crime. We are a bloody and foul people (if you don't believe that, just read the news). We are hardly less primitive than in the days of Christ, and no less obscene. And so, we too are in need of a sacrifice as offensive as our sin. Only the blood of the sinless and eternal Lamb of God, can cleanse us from the guilt of our sin. And thus we can sing of the most offensive thing as though it were truly lovely - and it is.

There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in His day;
And there have I, though vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its pow’r,
Till all the ransomed church of God
Are safe, to sin no more.

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

William Cowper, 1771

Do I offend?

Over the last several months I've learned some valuable lessons about the grace of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ from professor (Reformed Theological Seminary) and radio host Steve Brown. Because of his strong stand against legalism and hypocrisy within the church, he receives his share of criticism and unfounded (but understandable) accusations of anti-nomianism. Most recently he's faced some rather harsh criticism for having reviewed Paul Young's book The Shack favorably. This review led to substantial financial support being withdrawn from his ministry. Let me go on the record at this point by saying I am no fan of that book. My orthodox and theological way of thinking can not tolerate Young's "artistic license" with the Trinity, or his unqualified disdain for Christian establishments of higher learning. My review of The Shack, were I to review it, would not be favorable; and I would no doubt receive considerable criticism from its fans. That said, I know several dear and devoted Christians who absolutely loved the book. My point here is not to criticize them, their discernment, or the book itself. Rather, I'd like to focus on the lesson Steve Brown learned from the incident.

If I had to choose one of Aesop's fables that represents my life experience it would be the one with the old man, the young boy and the donkey. You know the one....The old man rides the donkey and gets criticized for making the boy walk. Then the boy rides the donkey and is criticized for making the old man walk. Then they both ride and are criticized for overburdening the beast. In the end the boy and old man are found to be carrying the donkey. No matter how I try, I always seem to offend someone. And that, apparently, has been Steve Brown's experience as well. So, since offense is an inevitability, what are we to do? Here are a few "rules" Steve came up with to guide him in his public ministry:

As you know, I’m not into rules, but I’ve decided to make four rules for myself. You might want to adopt these rules or write your own. These are necessary because I’ve decided that, no matter what I do, I’m probably going to offend somebody. So here are my rules:

Rule #1: Offend people…but offend them for the right reasons.

I’m probably the most opinionated friend you have. I have an opinion on everything from Obama (didn’t vote for him) to global warming (I’m cold) to Christian music (I like Bach). I know what I like, I know what I don’t like and, frankly, I’m right about almost all of my opinions. It’s hard to be right all the time and it’s, also, quite irritating to those of us who are right to have people who aren’t right contradict us.

But there is something harder than that. It is trying to discern what my opinion is and what is God’s opinion, what is true and what is surmise, what is important in terms of my Christian witness and what is not important. I’m still working on it but, at minimum, I’ve decided that Obama, global warming and Christian music aren’t hills I will fight and die on for Jesus.

Rule #2: Offend people…but make sure they understand why they are offended.

You’ve heard the statement that someone can tell people “to go to hell with such skill that they will look forward to the trip.” I can do that if I work at it and that’s scary.

I know you won’t believe it, but I really don’t like offending people. I have this desire to be liked, affirmed and admired. It’s hard to maintain that when one is talking about hell.

I still remember this. I allowed my late friend, Rusty Anderson, to attend Skeptics Forum—a ministry I did for a number of years in which, aside from myself, only unbelievers could attend—on the condition that he keep his mouth shut. I was being so very sensitive and kind, and Rusty did well keeping quiet…until that third meeting. He just couldn’t do it anymore. I still remember the sound of his hand hitting my desk and his words, “I’m tired of this nonsense. You guys are lost for eternity and are going to hell, and that bothers me. I’ve grown to sort of like you and I don’t want to go to heaven without you.”

I thought that the whole ministry had just come to an end. Just the opposite happened. That night several of the skeptics signed their names on the Lamb’s book of life.

Rule #3: Offend people…but make sure they “see” what offends them.

As much as I hate it, there is something about me that ticks people off. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but I’m working on finding out. I want to say to people (the way I did with what Tony Campolo said above), “Look, I didn’t say that. Jesus did. I don’t care so much what you think of me, but don’t let me get in the way of Jesus. He can be your best friend or your worst nightmare, but get beyond me and look at him. He’s worth more than a passing glance.”

Rule #4: Offend people…but make sure they understand that you’re offended too.

Given that I’m so opinionated, I have a tendency to pretend that I don’t struggle with the truth in general and uncomfortable truth in particular. It is here that I (and maybe you, too, sometimes) get into trouble. When we speak truth to power, to peons, kings or paupers, or to the famous or not-so-famous, there needs to be an addendum, to wit, “Don’t you hate it? Me too!”

We are not outsiders of the human race. We are needy almost all the time, afraid and still struggling with our own sin. People get offended when we act like their mother or, worse, like an expert who is trying to “fix” them. Maybe a bit more identification with the human race is in order.

Well, those are my rules. As I work to put something together that really speaks to them, I’m going to try and remember my rules. Who knows? I might offend less and bless more.

Now, go out and offend someone…but do it right. Okay?

(Emphasis in bold is mine.)

I, too, hate to offend. I do all I can to speak in ways that will not be offensive, and yet people are consistently offended by me. I do all the self-examination and ask my husband to tell me honestly what he sees in me that offends. I've tempered my approach, tried to limit myself to things worth fighting for, etc. And so, like Steve Brown, I need to accept that people will be offended, but make sure that it is not me giving offense, but the gospel. The gospel is offensive enough without me adding to it. And if I ever do find myself completely inoffensive - well it may be because I've left the gospel behind.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Science Saturday

Okay, admit it, one of the best feelings in the world is cornstarch and water. Well, it's not just a great feeling; it's a great mystery. Bear with my science geekiness for a bit. It's definitely worth it. Oh, and if you're in any way involved in homeschooling, watching is mandatory.

From my windows

Today I've decided to deviate from my normal routine to take a look out of my windows (literally and figuratively) at my little world.

I hardly know what to say or how to begin. When we bought our home, it was 2007, and hints of whispers of a possible recession were all we heard. It was also the beginning of prices falling - a slight recession perhaps. The sellers market was waning. A good time to buy thought we. We didn't have much, but we had jobs and a decent down payment. Our home was in a poorer part of town, not the poorest, but a poor neighborhood that seemed to be undergoing that charming process of gentrifying. It is amazing what two years and an economic downturn can do to one corner of a community, in this case ours.

We've had repeated bouts of graffiti on the structures along our alley and all the businesses visible from our front yard. That our own garage was spared by the grace of God was evidenced by a single black spot of what appears to be the final dying breath of paint from the offending can. (I should add here, by way of thankfulness, that our city has a graffiti removal worker who comes and does a decent job of cleaning it up within just a few days of the report. I have their number stored in my cell phone.)

We've had ongoing problems as well with the indigenous and migratory indigent population in our area. These are those whose behavior is so bad they have even managed to wear out their welcomes in the local shelters and soup kitchen. Oh, in case you're wondering how I could know such a thing, it's because I've heard them yelling and fighting about it in front of my house, blaming each other for why they are not allowed back. "You're the reason I'm not allowed back at the f******g Jesus Center any more!!!..." they accuse. I can also testify to it because they camp in front of my house with their vehicles and carry on their verbal abuse and profanity with their windows wide open for anyone within a half-block to hear. These are ones so troublesome the police have actually called me for assistance in keeping them updated. They invite their friends and occasionally hold drinking/drug parties in front of our house as well. Thankfully our current "visitors" of the last three days (see picture), have not had any parties.

Then I found this in the local paper this morning:

Suspects as young as 13 arrested in connection with robbery, beating

By GREG WELTER - Staff Writer

CHICO — Suspects 13, 16 and 18 years old have been arrested in connection with a May 2 robbery and beating on Columbus Avenue that left a 19-year-old Chico State University student unconscious.

The adult was identified as Demetrious Jackson, of Chico. The others weren't identified due to their age.

Police believe the same group may be responsible for a similar robbery and beating April 15, which left a 27-year-old university student unconscious on a bike path south of West Eighth Avenue.

On Thursday a task force of officers formed to investigate recent attacks around Chico State University, dubbed the "bike path robberies," developed leads in the two cases, the most vicious among 14 reported since early April.

Jackson was arrested Thursday afternoon at his Hickory Street home, where some evidence from the May robbery was found. Also Thursday afternoon, officers responded to an address on Locust Street, where boys ages 13 and 16 were arrested in connection with the brutal robbery. Later Thursday police arrested another 16-year-old boy in connection with the robbery. He was already in juvenile hall on unrelated charges.

A laptop computer taken from the victim in the April robbery was recovered at a Columbus Avenue address on Thursday. The discovery led to a 13-year-old boy in Oroville, who allegedly sold the laptop to a Chico resident.

While investigating on Columbus, another boy, also 13, was arrested on probation and gang-related charges not

connected with the robberies. Five of the males arrested Thursday are persons of interest in the April 15 robbery, but none have yet been named as suspects.

"We were very excited to make these arrests," said Chico police Sgt. Rob Merrifield. "Of all the recent bike path area robberies we're investigating, these were the most violent," he said. Jackson was booked into the Butte County Jail in Oroville on charges of second degree burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. His bail was set at $80,000.

The minors were booked into juvenile hall.

Note the emphasis in bold. Locust is our street. It's only a few blocks long. Those were "children". I read the story aloud to Paul. He began singing, "I believe the children are our future...."

There is only one hope for our future. Clearly we can not place our hope in children. They have no more magic in them then we did. (Judging by the article above, they may even have less.) They are sinners just like us. Sin is the disease. There is only one cure. Jesus Christ is our only hope. The gospel our only hope for lasting change in this increasingly hopeless world.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Meet my resident genius

Rather than leave my blog dark today, I thought I'd point you in the direction of my husband's blog. Just as my mental lights have dimmed over the last couple of days, someone flipped his genius switch to the "ON" position. I recommend you head on over and poke around his brightly lit cranium. Today he's on about Alexander Woollcott. Don't know who that is? Don't worry, Paul will take care of that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

With broken hearts

How do you speak to the world about abortion - or any other sin for that matter? With humility and broken-hearted love. Here's a fine example:

HT to Barry at Who Am I?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Oh, and one more thing

“All change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out of the changes that understanding creates in your heart. Faith in the gospel re-structures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting.”

- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (new York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 121.

Reflections from Mothers' Day

Yesterday, for Mother's Day, we did what we do every Sunday. We went to church. We came home and I made lunch for my husband and 18 year old son. Then we brought my mother a restaurant lunch, just like we do every Sunday; and my 20 year old daughter came with us. We did not bring anything special. My mom throws away cards immediately after looking at them and doesn't like plants or flowers or chocolates, just Mountain Dew and visits - which is what we did bring. When we left her place, Gina took Paul and I to B&R for ice cream for my Mothers' Day treat, which was a pleasant surprise. When we got home later I found a card and a PayDay bar from Tony and his girlfriend. This, too, was a pleasant surprise. Over the years I've learned to expect nothing from Mothers' Day. It's been many, many years since I was married to the father of my children, who is traditionally the one whose job it is to make sure Mothers' Day is special while the children are small. It's also been many years since my children were in school or programs in which making Mothers' Day crafts is part of the curriculum. And, so, I've learned to let it be whatever it turns out to be. It is, after all, just another day.
Yesterday, however, on the way to get ice cream, I got to thinking about my children, and how glad I am that (for the most part) they treat me with respect and are tenderhearted toward me, and even (for the most part) with each other. 365 days a year of love and respect for me and each other means far more to me than one day of special treatment. I'm no fool. I know it's a heck of a lot easier to put on a big deal once in a while than to be day in and day out loving, respectful, and reliable. I also know which behavior is representative of true, heartfelt love. Then I thought of my mother, of how hollow my Mothers' Day well wishes would be to her if for the rest of the year I neglected her and was unkind and disrespectful, which (for the most part) I am not. How empty it would be for me to neglect her all year and then show up on that day which society had imposed with a great spray of flowers and gifts and a flourish, to wish her well and say I love her. What good is that kind of love. Our love for someone is spoken in loud words, written in large letters, in the things we do and say every day. And so I don't feel robbed on Mothers' Day if it's not much different than every day.
So in the parking lot of an ice cream shop my mind turned to Hosea 6:6:
"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."
And Isaiah 58:4a, 6-7:
"Behold, you fast only to quarrel and fight and to hit with a wicked fist.Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high...
Is not this the fast this I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness,to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free,and to break every yoke?Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house;when you see the naked, to cover him,and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?"
I felt as though I was given a peek into the heart of God. He is not interested in our shows. He wants us to love Him and our brethren from the heart. It is offensive to him when we offer him outward displays for the world to see, when in our hearts there is no true devotion or love. He is not fooled when we show up on, Easter and Christmas, feast days and sabbaths, but show him no honor or tender love for the rest of the year. When we bite and devour, hate and suspect our brothers and sisters in Christ, whom He purchased with His own blood, and make outward demonstrations of love toward Him, He is not impressed. He sees the truth. He knows how we really are. In truth if our "relationship" with God is charactarized by outward displays of devotion, but private disregard of him and the brethren we have reason to fear. "By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil; : whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother." 1 John 3:10
The heart of a child of God is inclined to daily love and faithfulness which displays itself in private devotion and heartfelt love for, and commitment to, the brethren. The heart of a child of God recognizes its own unworthiness and truly understands what an undeserved act of grace it was and is that he is now called a child of God. The heart of a child of God feels compassion for other sinners, and recognizes that His brothers and sisters in God were likewise chosen, not for their own merits, but by the sovereign will of God - that Christ shed His blood for them - that they are precious to the heart of their dearly beloved Father. That is why the child of God loves not only God, but His children.
"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Gal. 5:18-24

What mother would not be filled with satisfaction in a child who displayed such fruit? And so is our Father in heaven pleased.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For mothers and other sinners

Here are some words of exhortation and comfort from an Irish Calvinist to all of us who have fallen short in motherhood or any other thing:

The gospel message is not a call for us to get busy doing the best we can to please God but rather a call to realize our sinfulness and to trust upon one who truly did please God. In other words, the essential message of Christianity is never about what you and I can do but about what God has done in Christ!

Sadly many professing Christians have unwittingly wandered to Sinai and tried to package it as good news. Do you not still see the bright lightening and the dreadful mountain wrapped in smoke? Do you not hear its trumpet blast, peals of thunder, and knocking of Moses’ knees? As God descends upon this Mountain to proclaim his inflexibly rigid standard of righteousness he is to be seen as holy, unapproachable, and worthy of awe.

This is devastating. If you ask Christians what we are all about many will give this summary of the Law [Mat 22.37-40]. This should not be. After all, if it was all about what you do why would you need Jesus? A sinless substitute sounds kind of unnecessary if you have the ability to earn God’s favor. This is exactly what Paul wrote in Galatians:

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal 2.21)

It is frighteningly alarming that we can so easily and quickly forget about our need for Christ’s righteousness. How in the world can a humbled sinner stand for one second clinging to self-righteousness before God almighty?

Romans 3 shows that the proper working of the Law brings about a posture of silent humiliation before God’s Law (Rom. 3.19). This is our disposition. We are lacking righteousness, turning away from ourselves, and looking for help. And there stands the beloved Son of God. He is not lacking righteousness. He has ‘fulfilled all righteousness’ for the sinner. In his life he perfectly obeyed the law of God, always doing what is pleasing to his Father (Jn. 8.29). Then he gave up his life to pay the due penalty for sinners (Rom. 6.23; 2 Cor. 5.21).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

100 years before I was born...

people were disregarding out of hand those who study the Word of God in a critical and scholarly fashion as cold and un-spiritual. It just goes to show how true it is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The following quote is pulled in its entirety from the blog of Christian apologist James White.

[I]t has been painful to hear earnest and real desire definitely to study the Word of God regarded and termed by some, as being "occupied with the letter of Scripture." But do those who say this know what they mean? They speak of principles, and of having their minds occupied with Christ; but how do we obtain true principles except from God's revelation in the Word? and how does the Spirit lead the mind to be occupied with Christ, except from the definite truth of Holy Scripture? In fact, those who thus speak, putting the spirit in contrast to the letter, appear not to know what they are discussing; and as to Scripture itself, by paying but little heed to what they call "the letter," they really disregard so far what the Spirit has there set forth. "But oh! (they say) this head-knowledge, this intellectual study of truth! how it lead our minds away from Christ!" It is true that there may be mental intelligence with but little spirituality; but it is equally true that if we obey God we shall never neglect the words of His Scripture.

Of course, with this tone of feeling, all critical study of Scripture is decried; it is de
emed a waste of time. Even the study of the Word of God in the original Hebrew and Greek is spoken of as if it were a secular occupation. The English Bible is thought to be enough for teachers and taught alike; and thus they remain alike uninstructed. And if the original languages are looked at, exact scholarship is deemed superfluous. How different is this from the real study of God's Word; from using and valuing each portion, however minute, as being from Him, and as being that of which He can unfold to us the meaning by the teaching of His Spirit.... All diligent and careful inquiry, and laborious examination of authorities, so as to know what were the very words in which the inspired writers gave forth the Scripture, is regarded as merely intellectual and secular. But is this a healthy tone of thought? Should not those who believe in the Divine authority of Holy Scripture know that they ought not to neglect its critical study? And if it be truly inspired, ought they not to feel that it is of some importance to inquire what is its true text—what, as far as existing evidence can show, were the very words in which the Holy Ghost gave it forth?

Most difficult is it to arouse Christians in general to a sense of the full importance of critical study of Scripture; and especially is this the case when dreamy apprehensions are cherished, and where vague idealism has taken the place of truth, and sentimental asceticism is the substitute for Christian holiness.

There may be an external knowledge of Scripture where there is no spiritual life or light; but
that is no reason for cherishing what is supposed to be spiritual in contrast to the words of inspiration. Such a contrast cannot really exist. He who truly loves the Lord Jesus Christ, and is guided by His Spirit, will be the most subject to that which is written in the Word. True acquaintance with Scripture is the best check to mere sentimental emotion. —The Hope of Christ's Second Coming, S. P. Tregelles (Greek scholar), 1864, pp. 80-2 (All emphasis in bold is mine.)

From time to time I come upon books, writings, sermons, and even individuals that express distrust or disdain for the Bible scholarship, saying that we should instead just let the Spirit guide us - implying a mystical sort of leading which cannot be obtained through the study of Scripture. Yet it is this very Spirit that inspired the words of Scripture; and it is through the Word of God that the Spirit works in the lives of believers. The Word of God is the work of the Holy Spirit, and the means by which He leads us. Its deep and careful study is not to be mocked, dismissed, or neglected.

In Christ we are more than forgiven

“The voice that spells forgiveness will say: ‘You may go: you have been let off the penalty which your sin deserves.’

But the verdict which means acceptance [justification] will say: ‘You may come; you who are welcome to all my love and my presence.’ “

—Sir Marcus Loane, quoted in John Stott, The Message of Romans (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 110

(HT to:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Learning about repentance with Luther

I'm thoroughly enjoying my read through Roland Bainton's, Here I Stand, a Life of Martin Luther. It is a fine piece of writing, about an extraordianry man. What I think I'm enjoying most is watching Luther's understanding of the gospel develop and mature steadily and so rapidly that he seems to be always one step ahead of his opponents. It worked to his advantage, of course, that communications of his day were limited by the speed of printing presses and horses. By the time his famous 95 Theses were published, distributed, and brought to the attention of Rome, his theology and concerns about the Church had already grown beyond the objections and accusations that would finally wind their way back to him.

Luther was a man bound up by the fear and guilt that almost inevitably accompany a religious system designed to appease God by works. As a man originally trained in law, he took the requirements of God's law and the rules of the Church very seriously. He saw the Law of Moses as a dreadful and impossible thing which the Sermon on the Mount only expanded to the deepest reaches of the soul, leaving him helpless to ever please God. In Luther's words,
"This word is too high and too hard that anyone should fulfill it. This is proved, not merely by our Lord's word, but by our own experience and feeling. Take any upright man or woman. He will get along very nicely with those who do not provoke him, but let someone proffer only the slightest irritation and he will flare up in anger,...if not against friends, then against enemies. Flesh and blood cannot rise above it."
It's becoming clear to me why his commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Galatians has become one of the most treasured gems of Luther's legacy. It flowed from the heart of a man, who, not unlike the apostle Paul, understood the depths of his soul, the dark and hopeless state of sinful man, and his absolute inability to merit God's favor. As Paul was a Pharisee among Pharisees, Luther was a monk among monks. As he said,
"I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who know me will bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work."
Luther came to understand that no one but Christ Himself could ever meet the requirements of God's law, let alone treasure up merit sufficient for the salvation for others. This led him to question the validity of the doctrine of purgatory and particularly, as we see in the 95 Theses, the system of indulgences. His questioning was problematic enough, but, as I said, Luther's theology was rapidly evolving as discoveries in Scripture led to one doctrinal adjustment after another. To quote Bainton, "Ideas were so churning within him that new butter always came out of the vat." So before his Theses had engendered a response from Rome, he'd already progressed to a new set of assertions. These turned up in his Resolutions Concerning the Ninety-Five Theses.
"Luther had made the discovery that the biblical text from the Latin Vulgate, used to support the sacrament of penance, was a mis-translation. The Latin for Matt. 4:17 read penitentium agite, 'do penance,' but from the Greek New Testament of Erasmus, Luther had learned that the original meant simply 'be penitent.' The literal sense was 'change your mind.' 'Fortified with this passage,' wrote Luther to Staupitz in the dedication of the Resolutions, 'I venture to say they are wrong who make more of the act in Latin than of the change of heart in Greek.' This was what Luther himself called a 'glowing' discovery. In this crucial instance a sacrament of the Church did not rest on the institution of Scripture."
"Glowing" indeed. This truth warms my heart with hope. My access to the favor of God is not earned by acts of penance, but comes through a change of mind - or you might say a change of heart. Repentance is a change of mind from an attitude of opposition against God to humble agreement with Him. It is deep and vital understanding that His judgments against us are righteous and true, and that only the righteousness that Christ provides is sufficient to gain favor for us in the sight of the almighty and holy God. Repentance acknowledges that "Salvation is of the Lord" and abandons self-effort.

What a blessed hope Luther returned to the world.

A gospel reminder and encouragement

to start a very busy day:

“Do not worry about what you feel. The truth about you is glorious. If you are in Christ, rise to it ‘o’er sin and care. Take your full salvation and triumph and prevail.”

- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 2002), 175.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

John Newton on finding God's will

I've just finished reading Kevin DeYoung's book, Just Do Something, a Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will. I plan to gush about - I mean - review it in the near future. But for now, here are a couple of quotes from John Newton (writer of Amazing Grace) which I found there. These speak particularly to the practice some make of removing a Scripture from its context and intended use, in order to construe it as direct personal guidance from God.

"I remember, in going to undertake the care of a congregation, I was reading, as I walked in the green lane, 'Fear not, Paul, I have much people in this city.' But I soon afterward was disappointed to find that Paul was not John and that Corinth was not Warwick."

"Others, when in doubt, have opened the Bible at a venture and expected to find something to direct them in the first verse they should cast their eye upon. It is no small discredit to this practice that the heathens, who knew not the Bible, used some of their favorite books in the same way...for if people will be governed by the occurrence of a single text of Scripture, without regarding the context, or duly comparing it with the general tenor of the word of God, and with their own circumstances, they may commit the greatest extravagances, expect the greatest impossibilities, and contradict the plainest dictates of common sense, while they think they have the word of God on their side."

"In general, he [God] guides and directs his people by affording them, in answer to prayer, the light of his Holy Spirit, which enables them to understand and to love the Scriptures. The Word of God is not to be used as a lottery; nor is it designed to instruct us by shreds and scraps, which, detached from their proper places, have no determinative import; but it is to furnish us with just principles, right apprehensions to regulate our judgments and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

May your heart worship

Thanks to my friend, Deb, at Counting My Blessings, for this one:

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding." Job 38: 4

Something delightful for a Saturday Morning

Do you love music? Do you love to dance? Do you love science?
Do you love God's creation? How about animals? I thought so.

So I would be doing all of you a disservice if I did not provide you with the following link. I wanted to embed the videos, but, alas, was not allowed. So read the story, and watch both videos, for the sake of science, and for the joy of it.