But Christ has done for Christians even far more than that. He has given to them not only a new and right relation to God, but a new life in God’s presence for evermore. He has saved them from the power as well as from the guilt of sin.
The words of Jesus on the Cross, ‘It is finished.’ The death was followed by the resurrection, and the resurrection like the death was for our sakes.does not end with the death of Christ; it does not end with the triumphant
Jesus rose from the dead into a new life of glory and power, and into that life He brings those for whom He died. The Christian, on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work, not only has died unto sin, but also lives unto God.”
—J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism
Thursday, April 30, 2009
The author, in his early 30’s, is a newly married (less than two years) itinerate Bible teacher, who spent about a decade in the hope of finding a suitable wife. The book is a reflection of that journey - a compilation of lessons learned during his hopeful preparation, punctuated with a series of love notes written to his future, yet-to-be-discovered, wife. It reflects the yearning of a youthful romantic Christian young man; and in that sense it is quite sweet. It has much of the idealism one would expect from the writings of a dreamy single man and a newlywed. But it also offers, some pretty sound biblical principles for those looking toward marriage. I would suggest this book to youthful not-yet-marrieds for its emphasis on sexual purity and integrity, the joys to be found in Christian marriage, as well as some good guidelines for marital conduct. But I would recommend it with a caveat: Married people are sinners, which at times can make marriage almost unbearably painful. Though Christian marriage really can be and often is as lovely as this book presents it to be, it is seldom as easy.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." 1John 4:16-21
On Monday I wrote a bit about what love is, and what it represents - the genuineness of our profession of faith. What I did not dwell on is a particular evidence of its absence: fear - fear of judgment - from God and man. Just as our genuine love for God reveals itself in love for God and our brethren, so our fear of God's wrath toward us often reveals itself in our dread of God and of man. Our love for the invisible God leads to our love for visible mankind. Our dread of God leads to dread of man. When we are confident of our place as beloved children of the almighty King, we feel free and safe to approach God boldly and love men fearlessly. When we are insecure in the love of God, there is no sense of safety to be found for us anywhere, and mankind can inspire the greatest of terrors. I know.
Sometimes, for any number of reasons, I will begin to doubt my position in Christ. It may be some sin I find myself repeating. It may be some bad attitude. It may be a sin from my past or decision I've made which I fear has left me doomed to be out of God's "perfect" will for the rest of my life. But, whichever it is, it leaves me suddenly and inexplicably afraid. I'll be afraid that perhaps I'm not God's child, that I'm a fraud - which makes sense in that frame of mind. But what comes from that, you might not expect and so not make the connection: the fruit of cowering from the invisible God is almost invariably the fear of man.
When I turned to Christ over four years ago, it didn't occur to me for a moment that God would not forgive me and accept me. I was bold to share the news about this almighty and forgiving God. I loved to talk about Him to anyone who would listen. I hardly gave a thought to what folks would think of me. I loved just about anyone I bumped into. It wasn't long, however, before legalism began to creep in. It feels right, after all, to try to pay God back for all He's done. We can't really expect to get all that for nothing, right? Somewhere, somehow, and gradually, things began to change. I began to put my trust in my obedience rather than His unmerited favor. I began to judge other Christians who seemed less "spiritual". This felt pretty good for a while, that is until I could no longer live up to my own standards of spirituality. Matthew 7:1-2 says, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." I don't believe that Jesus is speaking here only to the final judgment. I know, because I've been subjected to this measure of judgment in this life, and the heavy dread that comes with it - the fear of the wrath of God and man. I fear God's judgment and man's. Let me say, this fear is not conducive to love for God or man. No one loves the one they are afraid will destroy them.
So what hope is there for ones like me, ones who've grown fearful again of God and men? There is only one hope - the only hope there ever was - and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. He died for sinners. He paid the penalty for sin - my sin - all my sins. He paid for the ones I sinned before I trusted Him, and He paid for the ones I still commit during all the moments when my trust is imperfect. I need Him now as much as the day I first trusted Him. I need a Savior today as much as that day. And if I trust in His great love, and His great sacrifice on the Cross, then I can know once more that I am "accepted in the Beloved" and run into God's loving embrace instead of cowering from His presence in fear. If I trust in His acceptance, I need never fear the rejection of any man (or woman). "If God is for me, who can be against me?...Who shall bring any charge against God's elect?... Who is to condemn?" Only God can judge me, and if He has acquitted me then I am acquitted indeed. There is no higher court which can be appealed to. I'm truly free. I'm free to love others with no fear of rejection, because I know I'm accepted by the Savior of my soul.
Brothers and sisters, are you afraid? Are you afraid of God? Are you afraid of me, or anyone else you know? Believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and fear no more. Love God and man - fearlessly.
Monday, April 27, 2009
“Sometimes with great effort (most church members) can be maneuvered into some active role in the church's program, like a trained seal in a circus act, but their hearts are not fully in it. They may repeat the catchwords of the theology of grace, but many have little deep awareness that they and other Christians are 'accepted in the beloved.' Since their understanding of justification is marginal or unreal - anchored not to Christ, but to some conversion experience in the past or to an imagined state of goodness in their lives - they know little of the dynamic of justification. Their understanding of sin focuses upon behavioral externals which they can eliminate from their lives by a little will power and ignores the great submerged continents of pride, covetousness and hostility beneath the surface. Thus their phariseeism defends them both against full involvement in the church's mission and against full subjection of their inner lives to the authority of Christ." , Dynamics of Spiritual Life. (ephasis mine)I've been this person. Every so often I need to examine myself that I'm not this person again. I hate the thought that I've once again begun deceiving myself. It is easy to hide behind the externals of the Christian life and forget the greatest thing, that we and other believers are "accepted in the Beloved". We are among His dearly beloved and painfully purchased bride; we are his adopted sons, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and as such we are called to love each other. What God has cleaned we are not to call unclean (Acts 10:15). When we remember this, we remember that each and every believer was specifically chosen by God and set apart for His purposes (Jn 15:16). And so I will ask myself again today: Am I a Child of God?
"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. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.So I ask myself, is my love only talk? Is my mouth wide open speaking words of love, but my heart and purse-strings pulled tightly shut? Or is it possible that my purse is open, but my heart shut up tight? (If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1Co. 13:3) Perhaps I love only in deed, but not in truth. These are difficult questions to answer. What will love from the heart look like?
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:18
"Love is patient and kind;And so, where do all these questions find me this Monday morning? They find me falling short, and so convicted. They find me agreeing with God - which is what repentance is - that His Word is true and right and lovely. They find me desiring to live out these words in my life and among my brethren. May His grace bring it to pass in my life. May he make it so in yours as well.
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends..." 1 Co. 13:4-8a
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us....If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." 1 John 4:7-12; 20-21
(Please note, I am not discounting our call to love our enemies here, simply speaking directly to our mandate to love the brethren in particular.)
Saturday, April 25, 2009
---John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis
Creation teaches us about its Creator. It is a revelation of His invisible attributes. Before there was Scripture, there was creation. Since Scripture, creation yet remains a testimony to those without the written Word. It holds all accountable to the Creator. It does not deceive us in what it reveals about Him; but we deceive ourselves when we refuse to see Him in it.
As Paul says:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So They are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." Romans 1: 18-23
HT to James White for the Calvin quote.
Do you have a real pastor?
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Thanks to my dear Paul for this little gift:
And, if you like hip-hop, take a minute to see what my girl, Gina, sent me. It is Gwen Stefani having a bit of post-modern fun with the goat-herd song.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Count your blessings
See what God hath done:
Dixie (my mother-in-law) is out of the hospital after nearly dying on Thursday from an allergic reaction to a medication meant to treat a mild infection. (She spent almost the entire time we were down south in intensive care. Because I had a cough I was only able to visit her once, though I'm incredibly thankful for that one visit.)
I got to spend a lot more time with my Terry, my father-in-law, in one to one conversation than I ever have in the past.
We made the 1000 mile trip there and home safely with tires down to the wear-bars and no air conditioning during record high temps for April.
The first day there a friend from church called to give Paul a lead on a job. Another friend from church called just to say she loved us and was praying for us. In fact, Paul has had several phone calls from friends as far away as New York wishing him well.
When we got home we learned that unemployment benefits would provide much more than we anticipated. Losing our home no longer seems as imminent a threat as it did yesterday.
A dear friend and client called me today while I was driving north on I-5 to ask me if it would help us financially if she paid us for the next few months in advance. When I hung up, my eyes welled up with unexpected emotion for the kindness of friends.
Though I was never able to shake the cough entirely, I was able to spend almost 5 days without severe allergies. (Now that I'm back in Chico, so are the allergies, with a vengeance!)
The night before we left town, Paul set me up with Facebook and Twitter accounts. Unexpectedly, even though I'd not provided my maiden name, my favorite teacher from high school found me. High school was a nightmare for me. He was one person I knew cared, though I never expressed to him how much he meant to me, or confided in him in any way for that matter back in the day. I was stunned at how much he remembered, and how accurately. He is a devout believer. Now, after all these years, I am his sister in Christ.
Upon our return there was not a single vagrant-mobile parked within sight of our house. (More on that another time perhaps.)
My husband is playing Dwight Yokum in the next room - Guitars & Cadillacs....:-)
“The prophets searched. Angels longed to see. And the disciples didn’t understand. But Moses, the prophets, and all the Old Testament Scriptures had spoken about it — that Jesus would come, suffer, and then be glorified. God began to tell a story in the , the ending of which the audience eagerly anticipated. But the Old Testament audience was left hanging. The plot was laid out but the climax was delayed. The unfinished story begged an ending. In Christ, God has provided the climax to the . Jesus did not arrive unannounced; his coming was declared in advance in the Old Testament, not just in explicit prophecies of the Messiah but by means of the stories of all of the events, characters, and circumstances in the Old Testament. God was telling a larger, overarching, unified story. From the account of creation in Genesis to the final stories of the return from exile, God progressively unfolded his . And the Old Testament account of that plan always pointed in some way to Christ.”
~ Tremper Longman Hope in the Midst of a Hostile World (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2006), x.(foreword) in George M. Schwab,
Monday, April 20, 2009
Here's a quote:
In The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges provides two scenarios and then a question. In the first, he describes a good day. “You get up promptly when your alarm goes off and have a refreshing and profitable quiet time as you read your Bible and pray. Your plans for the day generally fall into place, and you somehow sense that presence of God with you. To top it off, you unexpectedly have an opportunity to share the gospel with someone who is truly searching. As you talk with the person, you silently pray for the Holy Spirit to help you and to also work in your friend’s heart.” We’ve all had days like that. But we’ve also all had days like this: “You don’t arise at the first ring of your alarm. Instead, you shut it off and go back to sleep. When you awaken, it’s too late to have a quiet time. You hurriedly gulp down some breakfast and rush off to the day’s activities. You feel guilty about oversleeping and missing your quiet time, and things just generally go wrong all day. You become more and more irritable as the day wears on, and you certainly don’t sense God’s presence in your life. That evening, however, you unexpectedly have an opportunity to share the gospel with someone who is really interested in receiving Christ as Savior.” Bridges then asks if you would enter into those two witnessing opportunities with a different degree of confidence. Think about it for a moment. If you’re like most Christians, I suspect you would feel less confident about witnessing on a bad day then on a good day. You would feel less confidence that God would speak in and through you and that you would be able to share your faith forcefully and with conviction.
Why is it that we tend to think this way? According to Bridges, we’ve come to believe that God’s blessing on our lives is somehow conditional upon our spiritual performance. In other words, if we’ve performed well and done our quiet time as we ought to have done, we have put ourselves in a place where God can bless us. We may not consciously articulate this, but we prove that we believe it when we have a bad day and are certain that on this day we are absolutely unworthy of God’s blessings. This attitude “reveals an all-too-common misconception of the Christian life: the thinking that, although we are saved by grace, we earn or forfeit God’s blessings in our daily lives by our performance.”
Greg Johnson of St. Louis Center for Christian Study wrote an interesting tract entitled “Freedom from Quiet Time Guilt.” Johnson wrote about something I had only recently realized myself. “That half hour every morning of Scriptural study and prayer is not actually commanded in the Bible.” Imagine that. He goes on to say, “As a theologian, I can remind us that to bind the conscience where Scripture leaves freedom is a very, very serious crime. It’s legalism rearing its ugly little head again. We’ve become legalistic about a legalistic command. This is serious.” We have somehow allowed our quiet time, in its length, depth or consistency, to become the measure of our relationship with God. But “your relationship with God—or, as I prefer to say, God’s relationship with you—is your whole life: your job, your family, your sleep, your play, your relationships, your driving, your everything. The real irony here is that we’ve become accustomed to pigeonholing our entire relationship with God into a brief devotional exercise that is not even commanded in the Bible.” So what, then, does Scripture command? It commands that the Word of God be constantly upon your heart. You are to pray, to read the Scripture and to meditate upon it, but you are to do so from a joyful desire, and not mere performance-based duty. You are to do so throughout your whole life, and not merely for a few minutes each morning. Like Johnson, you will come to realize that the “goal isn’t that we pray and read the Bible less, but that we do so more—and with a free and needy heart.”
Sunday, April 19, 2009
So Paul and Terry (my father-in-law) have been visiting the hospital morning and evening while I stay here catching up on reading and dinking around on the Internet.
So, yesterday afternoon Terry directed us to the money they'd been saving up to spend on us when we came down for our now-cancelled vacation in June. Dixie wanted us to spend it on our trip, and most particularly at the used book store that's going out of business up the road. And that's what we did. I highly recommend taking a bloody-sounding allergic cough to book sales. It keeps the competition (I mean fellow shoppers) from elbowing you. It gives you whole rows to yourself, for the most part. Anyway, we got lots of books, a few for the business, a bunch for Paul, and a couple for me.
Look what I got!:
You likely have no idea how rare it is to come across anything specifically "reformed" in nature in a used bookstore. The closest thing is the occasional book authored by John MacArthur or R.C. Sproul, but these are usually more general titles. So this book by Boettner was a real find. I wanted to run about squealing, but I figure my coughing was probably already obnoxious enough. (Gosh, in Chico, everyone in the whole town walks around hacking and sneezing all spring! Here in O.C. I haven't seen a single tissue.)
The Bill Bryson book was a surprise that Paul found for me. It's A Short History of Nearly Everything. Paul had checked it out from the library recently and just raved about it. Now I can read it at my own leisurely pace. (I don't fare well with library books, for two reasons: it often takes me more than the alloted time or two to read them; and I can't write in them.)
The Luther biography by Bainton is a standard I can't believe we didn't already own as part of our collection of all things Luther.
The other, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, is a work that caught my eye for three reasons: 1) It has to do with C.S. Lewis and we'd never seen it before, 2) It's authored by a man with my maiden name, same uncommon spelling and all, and 3) It is a fascinating topic. Lewis is known as a medievalist, and also is somewhat notorious among evangelicals for his unorthodox stance on purgatory. So, I am very interested to learn about his perspective on the Catholic church.
We also found another Luther biography: Luther, by those who knew him - edited by Elizabeth Rundle Charles; and a classic of theological debate: Kerygma and Myth, by Rudolf Bultmann and Five Critics. All very exciting indeed!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Well, I don't claim to have it all figured out now. If I did I think I would be entitled to a lot of money. But I don't. What I do understand now is this little bit: that suffering, for reasons only barely comprehensible to me, is part of God's eternal plan. When He created this earth, He was not taken aback by what became of it. He created it knowing full well all that would transpire, and with the full intention of revealing Himself as a God who is Himself willing to suffer for and alongside His creatures. God sent His Son to be "the first-born among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). In Christ, our purpose in creation is fulfilled - if indeed we suffer with Him (Romans 8:7). God intends to have many sons who, like Christ, reflect the image of God as the God who sacrifices Himself. God is interested in seeing this unique characteristic of His glory reflected in those of us who are truly created in His image and after His likeness. God is creating a people of Christ-like character. He is adopting people of every race and tongue and transforming them into sons of God.
We welcome your continued prayers, as we trust God during this trying time. Let me also take a moment to mention how proud I am of Paul. He handled his lay-off like a man of faith - very graciously and with compassion for the fellow who had to do the dirty work. He's gotten much feedback already about how much he's missed. And we've been overwhelmed by the compassion and kindness of friends. We've even recieved long distance phone calls from friends we've not spoken to in a long time. Also, Paul had already found three job vacancies for which he qualifies which he intends to apply for as soon as we return home. (Thank you Ginger for springing to action as you did!) We don't know how all this will turn out, but our prayer is that God be glorified every step of the way, and that we not lose sight of our Goal.
On a lighter note, while we were traveling we got news from the kids that Mango, the magnifi-cat, had escaped and was under the house. Mango is royalty at our place and so everyone was distraught. The decision was made that the four hours Tony had spent crouched at the foundation with a can of tuna was sufficient effort. We told him to go to bed and worry about it in the morning. Gina, who is also house-sitting for us, took the dogs out to do their business when she woke up and heard the cat meowing. She called for him and he came right out. Apparently staying out all night was not the fun time he'd hoped for. Hopefully he's learned his lesson.
Pssst everyone....Monday is Paul's birthday. If you know him, please wish him well.
Friday, April 17, 2009
So tonight we went to Farmers' Market and came home and set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for me. Pretty cool, huh? I'm not sure what they're for yet, but I'll catch on soon enough. You can see my Twitter in my sidebar here. If you want me to friend you on Facebook and I haven't tried already, it may be that I don't know your last name or something. Just shoot me an e-mail or leave me a comment.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Then of course the question of will comes up. "Man has a will after all. God won't force anyone," is the argument. Well, that, too, rather misses the point. The will is the problem. The will is not free. It is the servant of a depraved and sin-loving heart. And it's true, God will not force that heart to love what it hates, as though a forced love would be any love at all. When God overwhelms a soul with His saving grace it is not by force. It is as if there was a beauty so great it could overwhelm blindness with sight. It's like the voice of Christ overwhelming the deafness of the dead ears of Lazarus so that he not only heard but lived. This is the miracle of new birth. It completely converts the evil heart of man from a hard stony thing to a warm and beating one, responsive, hungry for the beauty of the One who transformed it.
Do you not believe such things happen - that unwilling wills can be changed willingly by an overwhelming force? Well, I God gave us a beautiful metaphor of his irresistible grace in front of the watching world this week. You've likely heard by now of the phenomenon named Susan Boyle.
When you watch, look at the faces of the audience and judges - cruel and mocking, poised to strike. Then watch what happens as those hard hearts are overwhelmed. Be warned, you'll need a hanky.
We are viewing things quite calmly and circumspectly at the moment - knowing full well God's hand is in it. We have been praying about many things, all of which would involve drastic change to resolve. And so here we are, looking at a future on earth as uncertain as it's always been, but secure in God's hand.
We would welcome your prayers for work and ongoing peace of mind.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The good news is I should be able to watch all the video my friends' post, as well as download iTunes, Twitter, Facebook..... Now I can be as geeky as I want. And I won't have to restart 6 times a day! Who knows what exciting things will be afoot for the blog. So, friends, wish me well. Lord willing, next time you here from me it'll be through a whole new brain.
Monday, April 13, 2009
One thing I noticed as my kids went through school was a near absence of instruction in grammar. (This was even the case in our homeschooling years.) My own early school memories are heavy laden with the parsing of sentences - as early as second grade we were circling, underlining, double-underlining, and drawing arrows. Yet I found out later, particularly with my son, this sort of teaching has been virtually abandoned. A couple of years ago my teenage son spent a year in independent study. This was my first real exposure in several years to the type of education he was receiving. I found myself for the first time since he was in kindergarten correcting his work. Though he was a strong reader, his understanding of grammar was abysmal. I thought it might just be his own weakness, and made sure to see he was provided with a remedial grammar text, which he found very difficult. "Well", I thought, "I guess it's not that big a deal." (Interestingly, Spanish was one of the classes in which he could make no headway. I found this very puzzling, since language studies always seemed quite easy to me. I supposed he'd just not inherited that particular ability.)
Then my daughter decided to change her major in college. Having loved the two linguistics classes she took in the course of her Liberal Arts major, and having hated all the would-be-teacher classes, she opted to move from a teachers' track to a major in Linguistics. This seemed a very good fit. She would, however, have to take a language. She had taken a couple of relatively successful years of Spanish in high school, but was for some inexplicable reason adamantly opposed to continuing. She rejected Italian, which would have seemed a logical choice, seeing as she has family in Italy. So, Paul and I, both having taken several years of German in our school days, and having found it a very straightforward language to learn, and wanting to be helpful, recommended it to Gina. Oh boy! She entered into one of the first true intellectual challenges of her educational life. She really began to struggle. And the reason became clear very quickly. She didn't understand the parts of speech. She had no understanding of grammar. Fortunately she was taking a class in grammar concurrently with her first semester in German. If it weren't for that she may have floundered. Allow me to boast in my daughter for a moment: She got 100% on her first German mid-term!
So, what's this all about, and what brought this on you may wonder. Today I was reading the Koinonia blog and happened upon an entry by Bill Mounce, who has published a "new" New Testament Greek grammar text. This caught my eye for a couple of reasons: #1. He's on course to rival J. Gresham Machen's legendary text, which is the text I used in college. #2. Well, one of the primary reasons this text became necessary. Read on and you'll see what I mean. I've highlighted the passages pertinent to this discussion.
I know this is a bit off topic, but someone asked the other day about the history behind my grammar and suggested that people might be curious. So for what it’s worth, here it is.
has never been my strong suite. In high school I memorized tons of poetry and found it easy to do, but when it came to just individual words, well, I’m not wired that way. This made high school Latin especially difficult. What I discovered about myself, however, was that I like charts; and if I could lay things out visually in a way that made sense to me, paradigms and the such were much easier to learn. So I became the chart maker in Latin, and many of my fellow students adopted my charts in preference to our text.
I learn Greek at Western Kentucky University with a totally inductive text, of John. I enjoyed the exposure to the biblical text, but the lack of structure was the undoing of the class. through the first semester we switched to Machen’s text and used both texts to get through the two semester class. And once again I started making charts.
When I started teaching Greek at Rockmont College (now I used Machen. It is a really good book, but I quickly learned that the students Machen taught were not the same as the students I was teaching, most notably the lack of . ) in 1982,
I went the next year to Calvinist in a Wesley school — which is a practice I recommend to Reformed schools as well). I tried Machen, Wenham (who does a great job at teaching English), and a few others, but went back to Machen. And as is often the case with Greek teachers, I started making my own supplementary materials. After a few years my syllabus was larger than Machen itself, and with a grant from the school I decided to start writing my own grammar, again, another thing that most Greek teachers have done. (I was the token
I tried to meld the best of my experiences into one Among others, this meant teaching English first, trying to write a text that could teach itself if necessary, be sensitive to the common struggle with rote memory, to constantly remind students why they are spending all this time, and to have some fun in the process..
When I approached Zondervan with the product, it was met with some hesitancy. I still remember sitting in a restaurant next to APU with Stan Gundry (now an executive VP at Zondervan) and Ed van der Mass, my editor, talking through the needs of the market. Stan said that he wasn’t sure the market needed another — a statement I have often used in teasing him — but with strong support from Ed, Zondervan agreed to publish the book.
It was in a sense the Machen was the dominant grammar (and was very good), but he was addressing a type of student that no longer existed (for the most part). Machen did not have to deal with students who barely knew what a dependent and subordinate construction was. Secondly, computer-aided learning tools were just becoming a possibility, and FlashWorks and ParseWorks were inviting tools for weary teachers (along with all the sample quizzes and tests). Thirdly, the price of Machen’s book was sky-rocketing without any revisions or additions; teachers were frustrated with the publisher’s policies. And finally, Jack Kragt, the person at Zondervan who marketed the book, tried a new method of getting the word out. He was much more aggressive and innovative. All of this went together to make a very successful rollout of the book.. The timing could not have been better for me.
So, the loss of grammar as a course of serious instruction is widespread - so widespread in fact that it's threatening to render a landmark text like Machen's obsolete. You certainly can't expect a structure built on a flimsy foundation to stand. The ability to communicate clearly and precisely so as to avoid misunderstanding depends upon clarity of speech. Improper use of grammar is not only annoying, it leads to ambiguities and confusion. I think of men like John Owen and Jonathan Edwards who were laborious even in the defining of their terms, so that their intricate ideas would not be muddied with uncertainties but understood with clarity. I cannot help but wonder what happens to the minds of people who are unable to follow complex chains of thought in speech or writing, merely because they do not understand the relationships between different parts of speech. Not only will such people not be able to benefit from some of the worlds greatest works of literature, they will not be able to understand the reasoning of the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Romans. I wonder what else the next generations will lose as a result of the loss of grammar.
This is all very exciting for me, but has contributed to the kind of dreams I'm prone to where I spend the entire night planning and packing for a trip even though I don't know when the flight leaves, or where my tickets are, or how to get to the airport, etc. (I also have dreams where I'm cleaning a house and every time I round a corner I happen upon a new room, usually a large bathroom, which I'd forgotten about and even though it's getting dark outside, I can't leave until it's clean.)
So, this is the time when you can smell dinner cooking, but know it's still a ways off. In the meantime I'll try to keep a tray of appetizers out, to take the edge off.
Friday, April 10, 2009
I happened today upon an article in a Reformed Baptist publication in which James White addresses this very matter. I hope you'll take some time to read it reflectively. For those unfamiliar with the Reformed view of the atonement, this will serve as a concise introduction which is also respectful in its disagreement with those who differ. If the only knowledge you have of the Reformed view is what you've heard from its critics, it's likely your view is based a caricature and you would benefit in your understanding to learn from a proponent. As Os Guinness says, "...each faith should speak for itself rather than being understood through the words of outsiders or critics. This is partly a matter of elementary fairness and partly a response to some evident unfairness - some faiths are notorious for spending more time attacking the supposes inadequacies of their rivals' views than in setting out their own." Should you read, reflect, and still disagree, you will nonetheless come away with heightened respect, understanding, and Christian charity for those with whom you differ.
Blessings to you this Good Friday and may the blood of the Crucified One cleanse you from all sin.
But what of the sign of Jonah - 3 days and 3 nights? That did perplex me for some time. Anyone who knows me well knows my bent toward literalism. It's taken these four years since my conversion to begin to absorb and appreciate the figures of speech and less than literal language frequently used in Scripture. I don't use hard literalism in my own daily speech, yet I'll hold Scripture to a different standard, applying wooden interpretations to Scripture - not unlike those who insisted against all evidence to the contrary that earth really is the center of our universe, because "the Bible says so". Yet we understand now that is not what the Scripture was saying at all. We tend to forget that in Scripture God communicates to humans through humans using humanity's own languages, styles, and patterns of speech. That is why the Bible is full of poetry, and narratives, and proverbs, and teachings and more.
That said, it was also clear to me that though the sign of Jonah troubled me, it clearly did not trouble the gospel writers. They wrote it and held to it after Jesus was in the tomb for Friday and Saturday nights only. They did not see it as a conflict at all. So what's up with that? Well, for a long time I just didn't know. So I tucked that Jonah passage away and stuck to the ones I did understand and that has carried me through just fine. The bulk of the passages regarding the timing of the resurrection (see Luke 9:22; 24:21,46; Acts 10:40; 1 Cor. 15:4) refer to it as "the Third Day". Now this is easy enough to grasp. Friday was the first day, Saturday the second, and He was raised on the third. I've been happy enough with that and still am. But, I'm also happy that today I received an article via e-mail which let me take the sign of Jonah off the shelf and put it back into commission. Now I get it. The article follows. If you've been wondering, perhaps it will clear things up for you, too.
Posted: 08 Apr 2009 06:44 AM PDT
Scripture clearly predicted in Matthew 12:40 "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, so the will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (cf. Jonah 1:17). But if our Lord was crucified on "Good Friday," that would not leave 72 hours (24 hrs. x 3 =72), but instead probably something more like 38 hours for our Lord to be in the tomb (Friday afternoon til midnight, 7-9 hours + Saturday 24 hrs. + four or five hours on = 36-38 hours total. That certainly does not equal three full days and three full nights of 72 hours.
However, notice I inserted the words "full" in each case, which of course is the way a Westerner would take a statement like "three days and three nights," but Scripture did not use this expression in the same way some of us might use it. However, what we miss is the fact that "three days and three nights" was a stereotypical phrase that allowed the full day and night to be counted when any part of that time was included.
For example, 1 Samuel 30:12 has the same formula of "three days and three nights" used by the Egyptian, whom David found as he was pursuring the Amalekites, who had captured and made off with all the women, children and elderly people David had left in his temporarily adopted home of Ziklag. The Egyptian turned out to be a slave to an Amalekite, who abandoned him when he became ill "three days ago" (1 Sam 30:13). The words translated by the NIV as "three days ago," literally translated from the Hebrew read: "Today is the third [day]" (Hebrew: hayyom sheloshah). Thus, he too used the "three days and three nights" stereotype formula, but clearly he did not mean three full days and three full nights, for on that very day, it was only day three!
Therefore, in accordance with this example and several others in Scripture, a part of a day, night, or year could be counted as a full day or night or year. Likewise, Solomon's navy was gone for three years (1 Kings 10:22), but it becomes clear that any part of a year counted as one year; thus his ships left about the fall of the year, were gone all the next year and returned in the third year about Passover time.
Therefore, it is not necessary to move the crucifixion back to "Good Wednesday" or "Good Thursday" in order to account for the 72 hours.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
"I've been listening to a lecture series on grace these last few months. I found it really difficult to accept in the beginning. It seemed too good to be true. I will listen again in the future, because it's still so hard to believe. But it's changed my life. It's kind of like when I first learned the Doctrines of Grace, it felt almost as if I'd never really heard the Gospel before.
Works come naturally to us as women - it's what we're often valued for - and how we rate our own worth as human beings and rank ourselves among other women. We think that Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 are for us and obsess over them, forgetting there's a whole huge Bible for us. All that doctrine is for us too. The Gospel is for us women too!
I think of Martha all the time. If she'd been serving out of the joy of knowing Christ, she wouldn't have been judging her sister for not being in "her place", and probably would have been sitting alongside her at the feet of Jesus resting from her labors and learning about God's grace. There's a place in the Gospel for good works, but if we find ourselves beating ourselves and our sisters up for not doing what we think "should" be done, those are not the kind of works that qualify as good. Good works come from the freedom that is in Christ and from the joy of the Gospel.
It wasn't just the Arminian churches we used to attend that focused on works, though they tended to be even more focused on externals. I see it all the time in reformed circles, and women are the worst. We pride ourselves on our doctrinal rightness and high regard for and obedience to Scripture, while at the same time we are turning the New Covenant into a new kind of legalism. We get all hung up on wallowing in our sinfulness, looking for evidences of grace in our lives - feeling that our spirituality is measured by our level of introspection, self-examination, and mourning/grieving over our sin - and forgetting the Gospel - that Jesus Christ bore the penalty for every one of them. (I feel I can say all this because I've gone down that road many times, and have ended up depressed, discouraged and judgmental, serving God out of guilty feelings rather than the faith and joy of a forgiven sinner. Life becomes one big should rather than one big want to.) We devote ourselves to the Doctrines of Grace but forget about grace altogether. If the Gospel is really good news why are we kicking ourselves, beating ourselves up and feeling inadequate and discouraged all the time. We need to just agree with God (that's what repentance is - a change of mind) about our attitudes, acknowledging when they are sinful, seek forgiveness and trust in that very forgiveness and move on in joyful service - even if we have to repeat the cycle a hundred times in one day.
Sister, it's dreadfully hard to undo a lifetime of seeking God's favor by our works. (And it doesn't help that we feel so spiritual when we're doing it!) I know. So hang in there. And don't be surprised that the more you learn about God's grace the more you find legalism everywhere in Christian circles. When I see it in a friend I usually just remind them of the Cross, where all our sins are atoned for, that Christ purchased God's favor for us, and that nothing we could ever do could ever add to or take away what Christ accomplished there. Whenever I do, I see the joy and enthusiasm of the Gospel come right back to that person - every time. Remember, His load is easy and His burden light. If you're feeling like you're laboring under a heavy load, you've forgotten about grace.
Oh, if I sound preachy it's because I am. I'm preaching to myself. The Gospel is the hardest thing in the world to believe. We have to hear it all the time.
Hang in there sister and don't let anyone lay a burden of guilt on you!"
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
"We have no government armed with powers capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."Our system of government was designed with the understanding that it would be governing those already governed to an even greater degree by religious faith and conscience. Without these forces as cement, the entire structure begins to crumble.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
When I said goodnight to Tony at about midnight he informed me that Erika (his girlfriend) had texted him that she'd just thrown up. Not two minutes later I received a text from Gina saying she just threw up. I went to bed with a headache. I woke at 2 am and spent the next four hours almost entirely in the bathroom. I did not want to bother Paul because he had to work in the morning. He woke up early and, rather than go to work, spent several hours in the bathroom. The illness ran like clock-work with each of us falling ill just about 48 hours after exposure to Tony. He left to go back to school Thursday morning with everyone he loves and cares about at home decimated. He said he felt like he'd left a trail of destruction. And in a way he did, but as it always is with Tony, he didn't mean to. And of course, none of this was his fault. When he came home he was kind enough to bring me Alka-Seltzer and soda-crackers and take the dogs out to do their business.
Paul and I spent the day together side by side in bed racked with aches and pains, dozing on and off, completely unable to assist one another in any way, discussing things like how nice it was that he'd just mowed the lawn the day before so it looks pretty when I look out the window, and what a cozy room our room is for a sick person, and how nausea is the single worst human feeling. And we wouldn't be Paul and Laurie Mathers if we didn't discuss death. (You are all my witnesses that Paul is not allowed to pass before me unless it is completely out of his control.)
So, now we're both on the mend but as weak as kittens. I woke up feeling like a human again and wanting to do normal things, but without the strength. So I think by tomorrow we'll be back to normal.
And thanks to everyone who prayed for us!