Tuesday, December 29, 2009

God Gives Grace

Quote of the day:
"God receives none but those who are forsaken, restores health to none but those who are sick, gives sight to none but the blind, and life to none but the dead. He does not give saintliness to any but sinners, nor wisdom to any but fools. In short: He has mercy on none but the wretched and gives grace to none but those who are in disgrace."
Martin Luther

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mary's Song

During our Christmas Concert Sunday night I talked about the first Christmas carol, Mary's Magnificat. We tend to go to extremes concerning Mary. We either venerate her to the point of worship (and forget that she was herself a sinner in need of a Savior) or we dismiss her (and forget that she is blessed among women). I recently discovered Luci Shaw's Mary Song which beautifully portrays the ponderings of Mary's heart.
Mary's Song
...by Luci Shaw

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest...
you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so light it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world. Charmed by doves' voices,
the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,
all years. Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught
that I might be free, blind in my womb
to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Web Junkies

How much time do I spend on the internet? Probably more than I should. One of my heroes, J. I. Packer, has some words of advice for all of us web junkies:
I'm amazed at the amount of time people spend on the internet. I'm not against technology, but all tools should be used to their best advantage. We should be spending our time on things that have staying power, instead of on the latest thought of the latest blogger—and then moving on quickly to the next blogger. That makes us more superficial, not more thoughtful.

Here's an idea--why not dive into a good book by Packer? I think they have "staying power." Here's a list of books by Packer that I would recommend:
Knowing God
Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs
Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life
Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God
Growing in Christ
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
Knowing God's Purpose for Your Life
Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight (with Carolyn Nystrom)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Being Outdoors


Yesterday, Heather, the kids and I spent the day with my mom and dad at John Pennekamp National Park. (pictures are on their way!) It was a gorgeous day to be in the Keys and we spent it (how else?) on a boat--a glass-bottom boat to be exact. We saw sting rays, nurse sharks, barracuda, sea turtles, and tons of fish and coral. It was great to be out on the sea and even better to be with family. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Being outdoors reminded me of one of the wisest things I have ever read on dealing with discouragement or depression written by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (c. 1880):
He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy. A day's breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours, ramble in the beech woods' umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of [people] who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind's face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Album of the Year (2008)

If I were to vote for album of the year, it would be Come Weary Saints from Sovereign Grace Music. Each song has been been remarkably timely and encouraging during a particularly trying time. My three favorite tracks are...

I Have a Shelter

Steve & Vikki Cook and Bob Kauflin

I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows

I have a shelter in the storm
When all my sins accuse me
Though justice charges me with guilt
Your grace will not refuse me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
Who bore my condemnation
I find my refuge in Your wounds
For there I find salvation

I have a shelter in the storm
When constant winds would break me
For in my weakness, I have learned
Your strength will not forsake me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
The One who bears my burdens
With faithful hands that cannot fail
You’ll bring me home to heaven

© 2008 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (ASCAP)/Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

Oh the Deep, Deep Love

Original Words by Samuel Trevor Francis (1834-1925). Music, chorus, and alternate words by Bob Kauflin.

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me
Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of Your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Your glorious rest above

Oh the deep, deep love
All I need and trust
Is the deep, deep love of Jesus


Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Spread His praise from shore to shore
How He came to pay our ransom
Through the saving cross He bore
How He watches o’er His loved ones
Those He died to make His own
How for them He’s interceding
Pleading now before the throne

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It’s an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Mighty Savior, precious Friend
You will bring us home to glory
Where Your love will never end

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).

As Long As You Are Glorified

Mark Altrogge

Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt

Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified

Are You good only when I prosper
And true only when I’m filled
Are You King only when I’m carefree
And God only when I’m well
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The First Thanksgiving without My Mom

A very long while ago, Paul asked me if I wanted to be a "guest blogger". I declined. I didn't have anything to say. (Shocking, I know.) Tonight, I am having a hard time sleeping, so I thought I would give it a try. Here goes....

Grief is a funny thing. I have compared it to an ocean often in the past 9 months since I have experienced it in a new way after my moms death. It was incredibly choppy the first several weeks. As the months went on it became easier on a daily basis. Then those waves would come... almost out of nowhere. It just rolls right over you sometimes with an almost shocking intensity.

So, tonight is one of those nights. I knew it was coming. I've known for about a month now, wondering when it would hit and dreading it. Here it is. My first Thanksgiving without her. And this Thanksgiving particularly, I would really like to share with her. I really, really miss her. I feel like part of my history went with her. No one can answer "Did I do that when I was little?" or a host of other questions I wish I would have asked her about.

She was really a remarkable woman. She loved God. She trusted God. She didn't always understand what He was doing, but she was His and that was enough. She instilled in me a love for His church as I watched her serve it with joy and make it a priority in our home. I am really grateful for that. She modeled faith and trust in a remarkable way.

I was reading through Psalm 103 this past week. It has always been my favorite Psalm and I have loved it at Thanksgiving time especially as it reminds us to talk to our souls: "Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits." The Psalmists goes on to list several which are truly incredible and reason for exuberant praise. However, something new struck me in my reading this time:

"As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children." vs 15-17

The notes in my study bible says this: "The song reaches its crescendo here: amid the shortness of human life (vv. 15–16), God's steadfast love for his faithful is everlasting (v. 17a), bestowing on them the privilege of nurturing those who will be his people in coming generations (vv. 17b–18). This psalm goes beyond that, however: the faithful expect that God sets his saving love on their children's children. This is the crowning privilege that God gives to his faithful: though their lives are short and appear almost insignificant, they may still contribute to the future well-being of the people of God by their godly and prayerful parenting and grandparenting."

I couldn't help but think of my mom when I read that. She is gone, but God gave her the amazing privilege of contributing to the future well-being of the people of God by her Godly example. He graciously put me into a covenant home, redeemed my life from the pit and crowned me with love and compassion (vs 4 & 5). My children have also been given that blessing and because God's steadfast love is from everlasting to everlasting I can trust that their children and the generations after them will be a part of that. Her life, with all its struggles as a single mom, was incredibly significant because God had placed His everlasting love on her. I'm grateful for her and MORE grateful for a God like this who redeems broken things and turns a life that seems insignificant into something of incredible worth and value. I pray earnestly He does that in my life as I seek to train my children to love, obey, honor and adore their God. The thought that He could do this is incredibly humbling. Only by His grace will what I do contribute to the future well being of the people of God - I am so very well aware of that. I want it, though. I want to make more of Him and less of me.

So, all that to say, I am grateful God gave me Barbara Strom to nurture me. She didn't do it perfectly, but she did it well. She relied on God's grace. She left a Godly example for me to follow as I am in the middle of nurturing my own children. I wish she was still here. I miss her incredibly.

I'll probably wake up in the morning and regret posting this. I'll think it sounds too sappy or something - but it's been good for my soul. Missing her makes me long for heaven more. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't Go to Church?

Jeff Purswell is a pastor at Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, MD and serves as the Dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College. He saw a bumper sticker the other day that read "Don't go to church - be the church."
Here are his thoughts:
Now, despite the element of truth (God’s people are the church), there are all kinds of things wrong with this statement. But behind the words is obviously someone’s disappointment (and possibly disillusionment) with organized Christianity. And although I’d guess that many Christians would reject this false choice, their attitude to Sunday gatherings of the church may reveal a similar apathy.

To fight such apathy, we all need a biblical perspective on what is taking place on Sunday—a perspective that can transform our attitude toward “going to church.” And it’s this perspective that the writer of Hebrews gives us when he describes the ongoing worship service we join when we gather to worship each Sunday.

Mount Sinai and Mount Zion

In Hebrews the writer presents a striking contrast between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, between the experience of the people of God under the old covenant and their experience under the new covenant.

In verses 18–21 the writer recounts the gathering at Mount Sinai (as recorded in Exodus 19). After their deliverance from Egypt, God gathered his people and made a covenant with them. He constituted them as a nation, his very own people.

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”

Now look at the gathering at Mount Zion described in verses 22–24:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

What a contrast.

At Mount Sinai everything served to emphasize the chasm between God and these people. At Mount Zion everything encourages us to come boldly into God’s presence. There, at Mount Sinai, the scene itself is frightening—fire, darkness, gloom. Here, at Mount Zion, is a gleaming city, the New Jerusalem, the place where God dwells with his covenant people.

At Mount Sinai the sounds are frightening—whirlwind, trumpet blast, unutterable words. At Mount Zion is the sound of exuberant and celebratory praise.

At Mount Sinai was a solemn gathering filled with fear. Here at Mount Zion is a joyful assembly of those whose names are forever written in the Lamb’s book of life.

There at Mount Sinai was a picture of the unapproachability of God’s holy presence. But here at Mount Zion is a picture of full access into the presence of God through the mediator Jesus Christ.

Now think about your church. Think about the people with whom you serve, live, and worship. Have you fully grasped just what your local church is and what it’s doing on a Sunday morning? Your local church is one authentic, visible manifestation of the entire people of God for all time. It is a part of the heavenly throng that even now is worshiping before the throne of God. And we get to be part of that!

Think about this gathering, which includes—

Angels. We are worshiping with creatures before whom we would be tempted to fall down in terror and worship, if we could see them.

The spirits of the righteous-made-perfect. Here are the heroes from Hebrews 11—Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and David—mighty men of God, mighty prophets who trusted God, so endued with power that they stopped lion’s mouths and put foreign armies to flight. We are worshiping with them.

Faithful saints. These men and women endured torture and refused deliverance if it meant compromise. They chose a stoning pit or a chopping block before they would deny Jesus. And if they survived, they joyfully embraced poverty, deprivation, and persecution. They feared God and they feared sinning more than they feared man—all so that they might receive something better. And when we worship, we join them before the throne of God, who remains “a consuming fire” (v. 29).

We come to Jesus. He is there, our mediator, whose sprinkled blood cleanses us from sin. His blood “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (v. 24). Abel’s blood cried out for judgment, but Jesus’s blood cries out for mercy.

Sunday Morning

So back to your home church this upcoming Sunday. When you enter and the music begins, what are you more aware of? Is it the song set? the musicians? the mix? Does the worship band wow you? Does the routine bore you?

Or do you perceive something beyond all this?

Your church is one authentic manifestation of the entire people of God that right now is worshiping before the throne of God. That is the reality of new covenant worship. And when we begin to wrap our minds around that, there springs to mind a thousand reasons to rejoice, to praise, and to sing; and to renounce flippancy, self-display, selfishness, superficiality, sloppiness, and thoughtlessness.

Before the God who is a consuming fire, we don’t shuffle in casually. We don’t demand our artistic preferences. We don’t merely gather with our friends. We don’t merely sing together. As the people of God, we enter into the very presence of God. Encountering God in this way is the very nature of the church. By definition, to be the church is to gather in God’s presence and to worship God together. And when we begin singing, we join the glorious worship that takes place unceasingly before the throne of God.

This is true regardless of how we feel, who leads worship, what songs we sing, or how we think worship went. There is something incredible happening on Sunday morning!

Be the church and go to church. Something eternal is going on in there. Don’t miss it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

John Donne

John Donne (1572-1631) was an English poet and a churchman famous for his spellbinding sermons. Here are some of my favorite John Donne quotes and poems.
Our critical day is not the very day of our death, but the whole course of our life: I thank him, that prays for me when my bell tolls; but I thank him much more, that catechizes me, or preaches to me, or instructs me how to live.

John Donne: Sermons.

The whole life of Christ was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr . . . His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas-day and his Good Friday are but the evening and morning of the one and the same day.

John Donne: Sermon of Christmas-Day, 1626.

The Father was pleased to breathe into his body [of man] in the creation; the Son was pleased to assume this body in the redemption; the Holy Ghost is pleased to consecrate this body by his sanctification. The consultation of the whole Trinity is exercised upon the dignifying of man's body.

John Donne: Sermons.

Meditation XVII (No Man Is An Island)

No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.

Holy Sonnets: Batter my heart, three-person'd God

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Doctrine Is the Drama

Quote of the day--"It it is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality, unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and incompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.... ...Theologically this country is at present is in a state of utter chaos established in the name of religious toleration and rapidly degenerating into flight from reason and the death of hope."
— Dorothy L. Sayers (Creed or Chaos?)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Economic Good News

The financial crisis of 2007–2009 has been called by leading economists the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It contributed to the failure of key businesses, declines in consumer wealth estimated in the trillions of U.S. dollars, substantial financial commitments incurred by governments, and a significant decline in economic activity. The International Monetary Fund estimated that large U.S. and European banks lost more than $1 trillion on toxic assets and from bad loans from January 2007 to September 2009. These losses are expected to top $2.8 trillion from 2007-10. U.S. banks losses were forecast to hit $1 trillion and European bank losses will reach $1.6 trillion. Many causes have been proposed, with varying weight assigned by experts. Certainly high among the causes would be a lack of responsible management, a shortage of high ethical standards, and widespread greed run amuck.

There is some good news. There seems to be a movement toward more responsible management. More than 1600 business school grads since early 2009 have now signed an oath on "Responsible Value Creation." Their promise is to lead organizations "for the greater good" rather than just their own benefit. In this way they are modeling Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve.

These men and women with MBAs desire to create value, build wealth, and use money for the greater good rather than contribute to a hedonistic lifestyle and culture where people are "enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures." I encourage you to consider taking this oath or recommending it to those you know in the business world.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Doxology

The Lord's prayer ends how it began: with God. "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen." The kingdom refers to God's all embracing control over all of his universe. He created the world, so he has the right to rule the world--and, in fact, does. More particularly, his kingdom denotes his design to redeem a people for himself by overthrowing the rule and dominion of Satan. Having asked for God to bring that about, the prayer concludes by asserting its reality: the kingdom is his. J. I. Packer comments:
Satan, the prime example of how sin breeds cunning but saps intelligence and rots the mind, does not accept that the Lord is king in this basic sense, and would dismiss this doxology--indeed, all doxologies--as false; but Christians know better, and praise God accordingly.

The power is God's as well. God can do anything in accord with his nature. There is no power that can overthrow the rule of God Almighty. Jesus came into the world to destroy the works of the devil and his naive claim to power (1 John 3:8). Derek Thomas provides this helpful summary:
What needs do you have? The kingdom and power are the Lord's to provide!
What sins have you confessed? The kingdom and power are the Lord's to pardon!
What temptations threaten to undo you? The kingdom and power are the Lord's to protect you!

The glory is also his. The word glory speaks of "weight" and "worth." Glory can be defined as God's essential being. It is synonymous with who and what God is. The doxology is therefore attributing, not only rule and might to God (kingdom and power), but also divinity. To say that all glory belongs to him is the same as saying, He is the Lord!

It is noteable then that when John wants to convey to us that Jesus is none other than God, he declares, "we have seen his glory." Paul writes along the same lines: "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Finally, the doxology declares that God has his kingdom, power and glory forever and ever. God is outside of time. Time itself is part of the created order of things. He is not subject to the ravages of time. He is unchangeable, utterly dependable, always the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Because God will never change, we know that our relationship with God as his children will never change.

Amen is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning "truth" or "firmness." Jesus used it to emphasize some important truth he was about to speak ("Amen, Amen" or "Verily, verily" as the King James Version rendered it). Saying "Amen" to this prayer (or any other) asserts our conviction that everything in it is our longing. We are saying, "This is my prayer. These petitions express the longing of my heart. This is my confession of faith, my record to what is essential and true." Amen.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Everyone Must Live for Something

Quote of the day--"Every human being must live for something. Something must capture our imagination, our heart's most fundamental allegiance and hope. But, the Bible tells us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that object will never be God Himself." Tim Keller in Counterfeit Gods
Get the book here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Temptation

While I was in college, I was told a story of two brothers from Tennessee who received a surprising gift from their father. Their dad brought home a lion cub to the farm as a pet for the boys. They were thrilled of course, but soon realized that the cub was growing and needed a pen of its own. They built a cage for the lion and all was well, until one day they discovered the heads of chickens scattered around the yard. Right away the boys realized that the lion was responsible, but how was he killing the chickens. They decided to set up surveillance. Hidden behind some bushes they saw the lion in its cage feigning sleep. Soon chickens were approaching the lion's cage and poking their heads through to eat from the lion's feeding trough. First timidly, then with abandon, the chicken gorged themselves. At that moment, the lion swiped at the chicken's head and it went sailing through the air and into the yard. The chicken would then run around like the proverbial chicken with its head chopped off and fall to the ground.

The amusement of this (true) story wears off when we see how it parallels our temptations to sin. Satan lures us to taste the forbidden and let's us fulfill our craving until we lose our heads. Peter instructs us: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

How are we to guard against temptation? Jesus warned his disciples: "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation" (Matthew 26:41) The last petition of the prayer he taught his disciples is, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Jesus is teaching us to pray for protection when we find ourselves faced with situation and enticements that would drag us away from loyalty to him. He was tempted in all points as we are--yet without sin. Jesus answered each temptation with truth from God's Word. He resisted the liar by speaking truth.

We will fall to temptation unless we see our need for God to protect us from it. We need to recognize our weakness. We must never think that we cannot be tempted in certain ways. We must never say, "That could never happen to me." John Owen warns:
Do not flatter yourself that you can hols out against temptation's power. Secret lusts lie lurking in your own heart which will never give up until they are either destroyed or satisfied. "Am I a dog, that I should do this thing?" asks Hazael (2 Kings 8:13). Yes, you will be such a dog, if you are like the king of Syria. Temptation and self-interest will dehumanize you. In theory we abhor lustful thoughts, but once temptation enters our heart, all contrary reasonings are overcome and silenced.

John Bunyan, in 1684, published a short article to be posted on the walls of homes called A Caution to Stir Up to Watch Against Sin. The second verse (of the sixteen-verse poem) goes like this:
Sin, rather than ‘twill out of action be,
Will pray to stay, though but a while with thee;
One night, one hour, one moment, will it cry,
Embrace me in thy bosom, else I die:
Time to repent [saith it] I will allow,
And help, if to repent thou know’st not how.
But if you give it entrance at the door,
It will come in, and may go out no more.

Why do we have to go through temptation? Why is there still a struggle? Derek Thomas answers: "God allows us to experience...temptation's attraction because he wants to engage us in living the Christian life. He actually wants us to battle because it is through the experience of battle that we often grow. Just as unused muscles atrophy, so spiritual maturity is stunted by passivity. God wants to develop in us the skills of resisting the devil so that he will flee from us (cf. Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9)."

How do we resist the devil? How did Jesus respond to temptation?
1. He recognized the devil's subtle villainy. "Surely God wants you to eat. Why don't you just turn these stones into bread? Use your miraculous powers for self-satisfaction." Most temptations are subtle.
2. Jesus asserted the truth of God's Word. He charged and rebuked Satan out of the Scriptures. Jesus replied that he needed (to trust and obey) God's Word more than physical nourishment.
3. Jesus recommitted himself to God. He had come, not to do his own will, but the will of his Father. We are to follow the same example. It is interesting that Jesus quotes Deuteronomy, the book of covenant-renewal, which taught him to yield his entire life to God and his ways. Saying "No!" to temptation means saying "Yes!" to God's will.

It is the grace of God, Paul says, that "teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:12-14).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Forgive Us

There once was a boy that was quizzed by his father about the sermon he had just heard. "What was the preacher talking about?"
"He was preaching about sin," the boy replied.
"What did he say about it?" asked his dad.
"He was against it," the boy answered.

The fifth petition is "Forgive us our sins (or debts)." Sin is not pleasant or popular, but we ignore it to our peril. If we don't deal with our own sin it will swallow us up. Go wrong here, and everything else is warped. Make light of sin and you make light of God's holiness and his love. Jesus came and gave his life to deal with our sin.

David dealt forthrightly with his sin and expressed great grief at having disobeyed God by his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of Uriah:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
(Psalm 51:1-5)

In this short passage there are three words about sin, three about forgiveness, and three about God's grace. The word "sin" conveys the idea of failing to hit the target or of coming short. The word "iniquity" means a distorting, a bending out of shape. The word "transgression" involves a willful rebellion, of knowing that a thing is wrong but doing it anyway.

The three words that teach about forgiveness show us what God must do to deal with sin: "blot out...wash away...cleanse." These words come from the ceremonial system, where they refer to rites that allow a person to come safely into God's presence. They focus on the inner condition that the ceremony points to. Sin makes us unclean and unfit to enter the presence of God. Forgiveness comes at a cost. A sacrifice must be made. God provided the sacrifice by sending his Son to die in our place.

The three words that show us the riches of God's grace "mercy, unfailing love and compassion." Mercy is unmerited favor. Unfailing love (perhaps the richest word in the whole Bible--hesed) speaks of God's covenant commitment to do as he promises no matter what. Compassion reminds us of God's passionate and ever-flowing love.

Sin is an ongoing concern of the Christian life. Question: Why do we need to pray for forgiveness? Answer: Because we keep on sinning! Sin is a debt we owe God. Every failure to perform renders us culpable. As the Prayer Book puts it: "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done..." Sin is a failure to meet our obligations.

If we don't realize why Jesus came into this world as a man and why we need him as our Savior, then we haven't yet considered the greatness of the weight of our sin. It is a cancer, a parasite that will undo us unless it is removed. The greatness of our sin shows us the greatness of our Savior. Through his life and death he rescued us from sin's penalty. We are no longer under condemnation. Through his Spirit we are being rescued from sin's power. We are no longer under sin's dominion. Through his resurrection we will one day be rescued from sin's presence. We will no longer sin!

This petition not only reconciles us to God, but is meant to reconcile us to one another: "Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors." There is clearly a link between the two. Jesus presses the truth home by adding, "If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).

This brings up several questions. Is forgiveness conditional? Do we extend forgiveness to the repentant only? Is there a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation? One thing is abundantly clear--there must never be on our part an unwillingness to forgive. Whatever obstacles there may be on the part of the offender in receiving forgiveness--we, on our part, must always be ready to forgive.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Our Daily Bread

What does "Give us today our daily bread" mean? It means that we are asking God to take care of all our physical needs. The Bible teaches us that God not only created all things but provides for their needs as well.
All look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. (Psalm 104:27-28)

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. (Psalm 145:15-16)

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34)

We pray for God to supply our daily needs so that we come to know that he is the only source of everything that is good.
[God] has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. (Act 14:17)

[God] himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. (Act 17:25)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

If God is going to give us all these things, why do we need to pray for them? Because by praying we realize that neither our work or worry nor God's gifts can do us any good without his blessing.
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked; (Psalm 37:16)

Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:1-2)

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

By praying to God for our daily provision we are showing our dependence upon him for our every need. We need his help to give up our trust in creatures and to put our trust in him alone.
Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall. (Psalm 55:22)

This is what the LORD says:
"Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He will be like a bush in the wastelands;
he will not see prosperity when it comes.
He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you."
So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thy Will Be Done

It is striking to me that the prayer Jesus taught his disciples focuses chiefly on God and not us. The first three petitions concern God: his name, his kingdom, his will. This is in sharp contrast with the way I normally pray--too often my prayers are self-centered and egotistical. A failure to give God the glory due him and seek our own glory (be our own God) is at the heart of our sin-marred lives. This petition is meant to bring us to a place of surrender--to pray as Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, "Not my will, but yours be done."

But how are we to determine God's will? Some say that the will of God can be discerned through impressions on the mind or emotions. This usually leads to thought about God's will in terms of what best pleases us. Others think they have a direct line of communication with God that enables them to speak with confidence about knowing the will of God concerning some matter. Others read into unusual events the voice of God directing them in one way or another. Others seek to block out all the noise by making their minds 'blank' so that God can fill them. Does God intend to guide us through these subjective means--through a variety of impressions, urges, dreams and promptings of intuition?

We have been taught the Scripture is our only rule for faith and practice. The Bible is to be our guide. The apostle Paul put it this way: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God gave us his Word to instruct, convince, heal and equip us so that we might live the life he intends. Scripture instructs us concerning God's will: Scripture read, Scripture preached, Scripture interpreted, Scripture applied, Scripture hidden in our hearts, Scripture lived out in our lives.

But is the Bible really relevant to our lives in the 21st century? The truth is that there isn't an aspect of our lives that doesn't fall under the scope of what the Bible teaches. God's will is to be discerned from the Scriptures, either expressly or by inference. The Bible may not tell you which pair of shoes to by, or who to marry, or whether to be a lawyer or a linebacker. But the Bible does give us principles by which to make these decisions. We are to use our common sense, seek the advice of others, and heed to voice of conscience. The subjective nudges that we sense are no more than a conscience which has been trained by Scripture to recognize God's way as opposed to the world's way. "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it'" (Isaiah 30:21).

Derek Thomas in Praying the Saviour's Way writes that discovering God's will involves four things:
1. Asking what most glorifies God in any particular action and always choosing the best.

2. Studying Scripture to see what it has to say, either directly or by good and necessary consequence.

3. Using our minds and rational faculties: that is, employing the maxim of Psalm 32: 'I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you' (vv. 8-9). Too many errors come at this very point.

4. Only having done these three things first should we ask what 'burdens' God may have placed on our hearts, or what providence may have 'cornered' us into allowing no room but to go in a certain direction.

Going back to the Lord's prayer, we must be ready to give up our will and yield to God's. We must be prepared to discover that God's will may be the opposite of what we desire. We will never go wrong when we pray for what God has promised.

He promised his presence ("I am with you always..."). He promised to accept those who come to him ("those who come to me I will in no wise cast out"). He promised comfort to those who come to him in need ("as one who is comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you"). He promised mercy and pardon for those who call on him ("I have blotted out your transgression and your sins: return to me"). He promised safety to the righteous ("No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague will come near your tent"). He promised protection ("He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways"). He promised strength ("they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength"). He promised wisdom ("He gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding"). He promised eternal life ("this is the promise that he promised us, even eternal life").
All of these promises (and more) are granted through Jesus. "For all the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen, to the glory of God by us" (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Submitting to the will of God is always difficult. Taking up our cross and denying ourselves is never easy. Doing the will of God is often a process of submission that takes some time. We must deal with the intrusion of our sinful responses to God's will: stubbornness, distrustfulness, anger and resentment, all of which make the process even more difficult. The will of God for our lives is hardly ever revealed in full at any one time. God give us sight of only so much of his will as we are able to take in at the time. The issue is whether we are willing to submit and obey the will of God that has become clear to us. That is the point of the prayer: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Parable

There was a splendid fishing trawler docked at a seaport near some of the world’s richest fishing grounds. The large boat was well equipped with everything necessary for netting, landing, and preserving fish. On a regular basis, the officers and crew gathered for instruction in fishing theory. Afterwards they discussed with zeal and intelligence the various approaches to fishing. Sometimes they invited professors from the marine biology academy nearby to offer special lectures. Some maintained that the only way to fish was to anchor and pray that the Lord would send the fish into the nets. Few of these men attended the prayer meetings called for this purpose. Several argued for friendship fishing, noting that fish are easily frightened. Others held to the position that it is best to seek out the young ones, otherwise they will soon swim away into the deep.

In the meantime, day after day the other fishing boats went out early in the morning and returned at evening loaded with fish. The officers and crew often analyzed the catches of the other boats. “Mostly culls, easy catches of surface fish,” they said. “Their boats are not as sound as ours. Their nets leak and their engines are net kept up. Their refrigeration systems are bad, so that what they catch they can never keep long enough to get it to the cannery.”

Yet the trawler remained tied to the dock with heavy lines. The engines never roared into life.

One day, a young crewmember was called before the captain and the crew. He had been critical of the continuing education program and very frustrated by the ship’s inactivity. “Why do we always sit here tied to the dock? Why do we study fishing theory without going out into the deep? Why do we watch others fish and never fish ourselves? I know other ships are not as well equipped as ours, but isn’t what they do imperfectly better than what we don’t do at all?”

Some wanted to fire the young man right on the spot. Others argued caution. A committee was selected to study the matter. That was five years ago.

(Source: Letter from Ray Cortese)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lunch with Charlie


Heather and I recently took a quick trip to NY. We saw a lot of the city in just a couple of days, but one of the highlights was meeting Charlie Drew for lunch. Charlie is pastor of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church near Columbia University. I highly recommend Charlie's book A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World. It presents a comprehensive and clear Christian perspective on life calling--a great book to give to college student or read yourself!

Thy Kingdom Come

The second petition of the Lord's prayer, "Thy kingdom come," encapsulates the entire purpose of God in the world. Why did Jesus come into the world? What is the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament? What is the function and role of the church in God's redemptive plan? What is God doing in the world today? All of these questions revolve around the kingdom of God. It has been said that this petition is at the heart of the message of the Bible.

Derek Thomas in Praying the Saviour's Way, gives the following explanation of "Thy kingdom come":
First, this petition alludes to the sovereign rule of God as King over the entire universe. The Lord who merely speaks all things into existence at the creation is King. His word is authoritative and powerful.

Second, this petition alludes to the covenantal rule of God over his people... On every page of the Old Testament there is the expectation that God is working out a plan and purpose in which he is gathering a people to himself and over which he intends to exercise his rule...The church of the New Testament is the gathered people, the seed of Abraham: 'If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise' (Gal. 3:29).

Third, this petition alludes to God's intention to overthrow all of Satan's pretension to power...'The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work' (1 John 3:8). 'And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross' (Colossians 2:15).

Fourth, this petition alludes to the as yet incomplete nature of the kingdom of God. We live as Christians...in the time between the two great advents of Christ. The Incarnation is past; the Second Coming is future. The kingdom of Christ has come and the kingdom of God is yet to come! There is 'now,' but there is also a 'not yet'...The decisive battle has been won, but the ultimate victory celebration must await the final triumph of Christ in the establishment of the new heavens and new earth...In personal terms, this means that although the decisive change has taken place in our regeneration and union with Christ (we are not, nor can ever be, what we once were), the change is incomplete. We are sinners still, and hence we feel the pull of sin that would (if it could) drag us down so as to deny Christ entirely. We wrestle, then, against the world, the flesh and devil and cry out for deliverance.

Praying this petition of the Lord's Prayer, then, has in view the ultimate triumph of Christ in the gathering of the church, as well as the visible defeat of Satan in our own lives as we struggle with ongoing sin. Every victory against sin and Satan is an advancement for the kingdom of God.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Telescope Magnification and Microscope Magnification

The fist petition of the Lord's Prayer is "Hallowed by thy name." What does "hallowed" mean? We don't use the word that often. Does it have something to do with Halloween? Actually, both words have hallow (from the Old English word halgian) as their root, meaning "to regard as holy." So how do we regard God's name as holy? One translation puts it, "May your name be honored" (NLT). Eugene Peterson's The Message reads, "Reveal who you are." In English, the verb form of holy is sanctify, meaning "to set apart." Peter says, "Set apart Christ as Lord" (1 Peter 3:15). We are to revere God--to exalt him above everything (and everyone) else.

But how can we sanctify God? Can we make him more holy and majestic than he is? John Piper's distinction between telescope magnification and microscope magnification is helpful here.
There's telescope magnification and microscope magnification, and it's blasphemy to magnify God like a microscope. To magnifiy God like a microscope is to take something tiny and make it look bigger than it is. If you try to do that to God you blaspheme. But a telescope puts its lense on unimaginable expanses of greatness and tries to just help them look like what they are. That's what a telescope is for.
When we pray "Hallowed be Thy name" it is not that God is made more holy than he is, but that he is more holy than we have imagined him to be. We are to pray that he will be more glorious, more beautiful, more wonderful, more magnified in our eyes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Our Father

How are we to pray? Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer (or perhaps better the Disciple's Prayer, because Jesus did not pray the Lord's Prayer himself--the petition for forgiveness would not have applied to him since he was without sin).

When we use this prayer as a pattern for our own, we begin by addressing God, 'Our Father in heaven' (Matt. 6:9). This is how Jesus constantly addressed God, and how because of Jesus we can address him too. The beloved Apostle John tells us how it is possible that we can call God our Father: "To all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). But do we recognize the significance of being able to address God this way? John later writes in astonishment, "See (Behold!) what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!" (1 John 3:1).
J. I. Packer, in Knowing God, wrote:
You sum up the whole of the New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator.
Sinclair Ferguson, in Children of the Living God, wrote:
You cannot open the pages of the New Testament without realizing that one of the things that makes it so "new," in every way, is that here men and women call God "Father."
Derek Thomas wrote in Praying the Saviour's Way:
To be able to call God, 'Father,' is what the message of the New Testament is principally about...The Fatherhood of God, or its corollary, our sonship or adoption, is the very heartbeat of the new covenant.
So Christ commanded us to call God "our Father." Why did he do so?
The Heidelberg Catechism answers the question this way:
At the very beginning of our prayer Christ wants to kindle in us what is basic to our prayer--the childlike awe and trust that God through Christ has become our Father. Our fathers do not refuse us the things of this life; God our Father will even less refuse to give us what we ask in faith.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Praying the Savior's Way

I am amazed at the sheer selfishness of much of my praying (when I actually get around to praying!). Far too often, I rush into asking God for things or asking for God's help to do this or that, without first being amazed that I can address God at all!

Making prayer about what God can do for me--my wants and needs, my anxieties and cares, my agendas and to-do lists--reveals that I am once again putting myself at the very center of things. The Bible calls this idolatry. Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that man's heart is a perpetual factory of idols. The idols of my heart often reveal themselves in my spoken and unspoken prayers.

Derek Thomas in his helpful book on the Lord's Prayer called Praying the Saviour's Way gives some penetrating questions to analyze our prayers.
Are they worshipful?
Are they God-centered?
Are they focused on the kingdom of God?
Are they humble and not presumptive?
Do they reveal an increasing sense of our sinfulness?
Is their chief end to glorify God?

When I ask these questions about my prayers, they are too often sorely lacking. For example, many of my prayers become a series of medical reports. Prayers about health concerns are not wrong, of course. But without worship and adoration and praise and thanksgiving accompanying them, they become self-centered in an unhealthy way--as I'm praying for health! Derek Thomas comments:
The very sickness which solicits the prayer may well have been sent to make us focus on the Sender, that in our frailty we might acknowledge his sovereign purpose and worship him accordingly. "Some graces grow best in winter," wrote Samuel Rutherford, "and some prayers mature when life is bitter."

There is no better model for our prayers than the prayer Jesus taught his disciples:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Amen.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Incredible Universe

Some time ago an article appeared in the National Geographic entitled "The Incredible Universe," by Kenneth F. Weaver and James P. Blair. It included this paragraph:
How can the human mind deal with the knowledge that the farthest object we can see in the universe is perhaps ten billion light years away! Imagine that the thickness of this page represents the distance from the earth to the sun (93,000,000 miles, or about eight light minutes). Then the distance to the nearest star (14-1/3 light years) is a 71-foot-high stack of paper. And the diameter of our own galaxy (l00,000 light years) is a 310-mile stack, while the edge of the known universe is not reached until the pile of paper is 31,000,000 miles high, a third of the way to the sun.

As incredible as the universe is, what's more amazing is that God created it all with the power of His Word. And what's even more amazing is that we can know this God personally. The Creator is our Redeemer. This is what He says:
"With my own hands I founded the earth, with my right hand I formed the expanse of sky; when I summoned them, they sprang at once into being..." Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, "I am the Lord your God, I teach you for your own advantage and lead you in the way you must go. If only you had listened to my commands, your prosperity would have rolled on like a river in flood and your righteousness like the waves of the sea..." (Isaiah 48:13, 17, 18, NEB).

The God who has rescued us in our rebellion is the commanding presence in the universe. Nothing disproves him. Rather, everything reveals his glory. The prosperity (i.e., peace) we know in Him is not seasonal, but perpetual. And His righteousness covers our sin again and again like the waves of the sea.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Truth and Power

An astute friend pointed out a concern about my reference to John Wesley's "heart strangely warmed" experience at the point of his conversion. Here is a quote he passed along from How Wide the Divide? a Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation by Craig Blomberg and Stephen Edward Robinson:
"Joseph [Smith] confessed a greater affinity for Methodism than Presbyterian or Baptist thought prior to his supposed encounter with God (Joseph Smith History 2:5-Il). Is it a coincidence that Mormonism subsequently turned out to be closer to Methodism than to its Protestant competitors on a whole host of doctrines, from denying the major tenets of Calvinism (predestination, original sin, eternal security) to affirming the strong call for holiness and moral perfection? Even the testimony of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, that he found his heart “strangely warmed” at his conversion is reminiscent of Mormonism’s “burning in the bosom.” None of these were issues that concerned the ancient Jews or Central Americans who populate the pages of the Book of Mormon, but they all fit the religious climate of nineteenth-century North America very readily."

There are problems with both Methodist and Mormon theology. Some of them are mentioned in the quote. However, there is a difference between a genuine conviction of the Holy Spirit and a "burning in the bosom."
An example of the former would be what happened during Jesus' exposition of Scripture on the road to Emmaus in which he explained to Cleopas and another disciple that all of the Old Testament reveals God's redeeming work through himself. Afterward, they said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" (Luke 24:32)
Another example would be on the day of Pentecost. The apostle Peter preached to the crowd that had gathered about Jesus' death and resurrection. When he pointed out (twice) that those present were culpable in Jesus' death "they were cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37).
The disciples hearts "burned within them." The Jews were "cut to the heart." In both examples, people are moved viscerally by the truth of Scripture. But notice that it is based on the objective truth of Scripture, not just a subjective feeling. Now back to John Wesley and Joseph Smith. My contention would be that one of these was a genuine conviction of the Holy Spirit (in Wesley's case) and one false (in Smith's case). One was brought about by the truth of the gospel being expounded from Romans. In this case a subjective feeling was based on objective truth. Mormons reverse this, basing truth on subjective feelings. Potential converts are coached to suspend judgment concerning theological or historical problems with Mormonism until they receive the appropriate "testimony" or emotional confirmation of the "truth" of Mormon doctrine.
This leads to subjective interpretations of Scripture that very often depart from the historic Christian faith. R. C. Sproul gives some helpful instruction on how to avoid this in Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (pp. 27-28):
Subjectivism has been the great danger of private interpretation...Believers are free to discover the truths of Scripture, but they are not free to fabricate their own truth. Believers are called to understand sound principles of interpretation and to avoid the danger of subjectivism.
In seeking an objective understanding of Scripture we do not thereby reduce Scripture to something cold, abstract, and lifeless. What we are doing is seeking to understand what the Word says in its context before we go about the equally necessary task of applying it to our lives. A particular statement may have numerous possible personal applications, but it can only have one correct meaning.

Notice that we do not "reduce Scripture to something cold, abstract, and lifeless." It is a living document. It cuts as well as heals. It is truth and it is power. As I said on Sunday, Christianity is the intersection of truth and power. The Bible never pits objective truth against subjective reality, truth against the spirit. In fact, there is no Spirit power without truth, for the job of the Spirit is to take truths about Jesus and make them vivid, glorious and affecting to our hearts (John 16:13-14). The Spirit gives us power by making the truth of God shine and empower us. As Tim Keller states:
We can think of the Spirit as "fire," but the truth of God's Word as "firewood." Without both wood and fire, you don't have a fire!

We need both.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Heart Strangely Warmed

On May 24, 1738, John Wesley famously attended a meeting of the Moravian society in Aldergate Street which lead to his understanding and embracing the gospel for the first time. Here is a description of that evening from Wesley's journal:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

If you haven't ever read Luther's Preface to Romans that Wesley refers to in his journal, I recommend that you take the time to do so. Here is how it begins.
This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out my service and, with this preface, provide an introduction to the letter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one can gain the fullest possible understanding of it. Up to now it has been darkened by glosses and by many a useless comment, but it is in itself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entire Scripture.

The full text can be found here. Then take Luther's advise and dive into the book of Romans yourself.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Seeing Jesus

I received an email from Paul Miller this morning. Paul is the executive director of seeJesus, a ministry that produces some great small group material. Paul's passion for people to see Jesus comes out as he describes a meeting he had with some seminary professors:
This summer I took two seminary professors that I know to lunch and asked them, “Has the church missed studying the person of Jesus? I know of only three books or articles in the last 500 years that have thoughtfully studied what Jesus is like as a person.” After about an hour discussion one said, “Yes, I guess it slipped through a crack.” At which point I about jumped out of my chair, “A crack?! It is a huge hole! How could we have missed something so fundamental?”

Then I read this from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening:
This morning we must endeavor to ascend the mount of communion, that there we may be ordained to the lifework for which we are set apart. Let us not see the face of man to-day till we have seen Jesus. Time spent with Him is laid out at blessed interest. We too shall cast out devils and work wonders if we go down into the world girded with that divine energy which Christ alone can give. It is of no use going to the Lord's battle till we are armed with heavenly weapons. We must see Jesus, this is essential.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Root and Fruit

We're going through Romans on Wednesday night at Redlands Community Church (our new church home). Ken Boodhoo and Jerry Frye are doing a great job walking us through this monumental book. When we got to chapter 2 verses 6-10 we were somewhat puzzled. Here's what it says:
God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Our question was this: Is this a contradiction of being "saved by grace through faith...not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9)?
We need to give Paul some credit. He isn't into contradicting himself. Tim Keller in his study on Romans, explains.
Paul [in the above verses] is dealing with good works as the test on the day of judgment, NOT good works as the basis of salvation with God. A good way to illustrate the difference is--the apples on an apple tree prove life, but they don't provide life. The apples are the test that the tree is alive, but it is the roots which pull in nourishment. In the same way, faith in Christ alone provides new life (brings it in from God), but a changed life of righteousness is what proves we have real faith.

So how do we know if our heart is right with God or not?
Verse 7 gives tests that indicate a person is right with God: "persistence in doing good" means that doing good and living well has become a persistent pattern; "seeking glory, honor and immortality" means that these qualities that come from life with God. The person who is right with God does not do good deeds for their own sake. He or she wants to become a particular kind of person--one like God.
Verse 8 gives tests that indicate a person is not right with God: "self-seeking" is the tell-tale sign. It means to have a spirit of self-will, or self-glorification. This is something that can be pursured either through being irreligious and licentious, or through being moral and religious and upright; "rejecting the truth and follow evil" means that there is an unwillingness to be instructed and to learn from God's truth. A lack of teachability, a refusal to submit to truth outside one's own convictions and heart [shows that one is not right with God.]

Monday, August 17, 2009

Infinite Grace

Elisabeth Elliot has lost two husbands. Jim Elliot was martyred in Ecuador in 1956 while seeking to make contact with the Auca (now known as Huaorani). Her second husband, Addison Leitch, died of cancer in 1973. During his illness, he struggled with depression and guilt. She ministered to him by reminding him of God's amazing grace. Here are her reflections:
When my husband was near death from cancer, depression often seemed to overwhelm him like great black waves, and he was at times convinced (we know the source of this conviction) that his sins were unforgivable.

"Do you really think God can forgive my sins?" he would ask, for he felt that his sins were out of all proportion to the light that had been given him as a Christian (a Christian home, a Christian education, a wide sphere of Christian service).

The popular notion of somehow "balancing" our good deeds against our sins will not hold much reassurance for any of us when we face the final truth. Then we need grace, infinite grace, and plenty of it.

It is there for us--mighty waves, deeper and stronger than our blackest despair.

I had to remind my husband of what he knew very well intellectually: that his particular sins could not possibly exhaust the grace of God.

"God's act of grace is out of all proportion" to our wrongdoing (Rom 5:15 NEB).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Preach Christ or Go Home

Darryl Dash passed on this advice from Spurgeon:

Of all I would wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, PREACH CHRIST, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our great, all-comprehending theme. The world needs to be told of its Savior, and of the way to reach him…Blessed is the ministry of which CHRIST IS ALL.

This advice shouldn’t be necessary. What else is there to preach about? To quote Spurgeon again, “No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Fellow Missionary

On Sunday, we had the privilege of having John Grotenhuis in our home. John serves with Middle East Reformed Fellowship in Eritrea. His work there amazes me. Before he was deported, he cared for a household of 15. On many days he would spend 6-8 hours gathering (begging for) food for them. Usually he would bring back bread. An egg was a treat. He left behind a fledgling church that is still meeting in the house. He asked us to pray that the Holy Spirit would do his work of grace in the hearts of those new to the gospel and that God would provide their daily bread.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

L-O-V-E

Love is an amazing thing. When you see it truly demonstrated between two people you can't help but be moved. I'm amazed at how Heather continues to show me love even when I continue to be a jerk.

God's love to us is an astounding thing. When you understand how he demonstrated his love by giving his life for us you can't help but be moved. John records how Jesus "loved [his] disciples to the end" in John 13. "He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin...to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him." The Master serving the disciples in this way is astounding. George Herbert, the Welsh poet and priest, wrote about this kind of love:
LOVE (III)

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.

Jesus went on to instruct his disciples, "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How to Know God

While I was in college, my mentor recommended that I read Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot. The book challenged my faith like no other had up to that point. After reading it, I wasn't sure I knew God--not in the way Jim Elliot did at least. Ever since then Elisabeth Elliot has become a mentor of sorts to me. I've read almost everything she has written and she still challenges my faith. Here's a classic example:
The only valid test of love is obedience. Take one thing commanded and start doing it. Take one thing forbidden and stop doing it. Then we are on the sure road to knowing God. There is no other.

I would add that this is his commandment, "that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us" (1 John 3:23).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Easter Wings

George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh poet, orator and priest. Richard Baxter said of him, "Herbert speaks to God like one that really believeth a God, and whose business in the world is most with God. Heart-work and heaven-work make up his books." Here's another of his well-known poems from The Temple (1633).
Easter Wings

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With thee
Oh let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With thee
Let me combine
And feel this day thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A New Found Favorite

George Herbert, a metaphysical poet of the 17th century, was also an English country priest. His poetry mixes the complexities of his era with profound, often moving, spiritual reflection. Several are meditations on his role as a pastor.

Here's his poem "Aaron" about the need for another to cover his 'profaneness' and clothe him in a holiness which cannot come from his own works. He's referring to the Old Testament priest Aaron's garment worn in worship and sacrifice. (Thanks to Drew Field for calling my attention to this wonderful poem.)

AARON

HOLINESS on the head,
Light and perfection on the breast,
Harmonious bells below raising the dead
To lead them unto life and rest.
Thus are true Aaron's drest.*

Profaneness in my head,
Defects and darkness in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest :
Poor priest! thus am I drest.

Only another head
I have another heart and breast,
Another music, making live, not dead,
Without whom I could have no rest:
In Him I am well drest.

Christ is my only head,
My alone only heart and breast,
My only music, striking me e'en dead ;
That to the old man I may rest,
And be in Him new drest.

So holy in my Head,
Perfect and light in my dear Breast,
My doctrine tuned by Christ (who is not dead,
But lives in me while I do rest),
Come, people; Aaron's drest.


* drest = archaic English for 'dressed'. Referring to Exodus xxviii. 29-37.
Source: Herbert, George. The Works of George Herbert in Prose and Verse.
New York: John Wurtele Lovell, 1881. 276-277.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What Are You Looking At?

In A Lamp for My Feet, Elisabeth Elliot writes about a photograph that was taken while she was a missionary in Ecuador. It's a close-up of a scorpion on a screened window. It takes up the whole frame of the picture. Nothing of the pineapple fields or wide river outside the window can be seen. She writes:
When the eye of the heart is fixed on the world and the self, everything eternal and invisible is blurred and obscure. No wonder we cannot recognize God--we are studying the scorpion. Instead of gazing at Him in all his majesty and love, we peer at the screen, horrified at what we see there.

We shouldn't be oblivious to the horrible things we see around us, but we can't lose sight of what we can only see by faith. With God in view everything else takes it's proper place. So what are you looking at?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Real Girl

Heather and I recently saw "Lars and the Real Girl" based on the recommendation of a friend. A lonely guy orders a silicon girl through the internet--not a movie we would normally watch. But this was one of the most moving movies we've seen in quite a while. It's all about community. Lars is scarred by the death of his mother and can't stand to be touched by anyone, so he orders a plastic girlfriend for himself. The funny thing is that the whole town goes along with it and makes 'Bianca' feel very welcomed. You'll have to watch the movie to see how it turns out. It shows the transforming power of community in an amazing and hilarious way. Here's the trailer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spiritual Maturity

This past Sunday we heard a message from my friend T. J. Campo, senior pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian. His theme of spiritual maturity has been challenging and encouraging me all week. Here are my notes:
Spiritual maturity stems from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jesus showed that people can't get to God. God had to come to us.
Jesus' resurrection makes him more than a spiritual leader. It validates his claim to be God in the flesh.
Spiritual maturity is knowing what the Son of Man is doing. He is renewing all things--righting all wrongs.
Working for God is really cooperating with God in his renewing work.
There can be no spiritual maturity where there is no spiritual life.

Four incentives for spiritual maturity:
1) Remember my weakness when left to my own will power vs. grace.
2) See how Jesus kisses away our self-inflicted wounds.
"Your denials will not defeat my plan for you."
"It's not about your failures--it's about my grace."
3) Jesus Christ is alive and knows where the fish are.
4) You will change and will become like me by grace and the Spirit.

Three indications of spiritual maturity:
1) A lack of self-confidence...Peter is no longer impressed with Peter.
2) Real sorrows over failings...Peter was grieved.
3) Real failings...Peter was not perfect, but useful.
A useful life is lived close to the cross.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nothing Seems to Be Happening

This week has tried my patience. I heard back from two more churches that I'm no longer on their list of candidates. So I wait and pray, but nothing seems to be happening. Then I read this from Elisabeth Elliot:
At times nothing seems to be happening. So it must be for the bird that sits on her nest. Things are apparently at a standstill. But the bird sits quietly, knowing that in the stillness something vital is going on, and in the proper time it will be shown. It takes faith and patience for the bird, and such faith and patience never seem to waver, day after day, night after night, as she bides the appointed time.

Restless and doubtful we wonder why we have nothing to show for our efforts, no visible evidence of progress. Let us remember the perfect egg--unchanged in its appearance from the day it is laid. But while the bird waits faithfully, doing the only thing she is required to do throughout those silent weeks, important things are taking place.

I wait for the Lord. My soul waits,
and in His word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more
than watchmen for the morning.
--(Ps 130:5, 6 RSV)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I Have a Shelter

You can download for free one of my current favorite songs from Sovereign Grace's new album, Come Weary Saints. Each song on the recording has spoken deeply to Heather and I. Here are the lyrics from "I Have a Shelter" by Steve and Vicki Cook, and Bob Kauflin:

I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows

I have a shelter in the storm
When all my sins accuse me
Though justice charges me with guilt
Your grace will not refuse me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
Who bore my condemnation
I find my refuge in Your wounds
For there I find salvation

I have a shelter in the storm
When constant winds would break me
For in my weakness, I have learned
Your strength will not forsake me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
The One who bears my burdens
With faithful hands that cannot fail
You’ll bring me home to heaven

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hast Thou No Scar?

Amy Carmichael was an Irish missionary in India, who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She served in India for fifty-five years without furlough and authored many books about the missionary work there. One story of Carmichael's early life tells that as a child, she wished that she had blue eyes rather than brown. She often prayed that God would change her eye color and was disappointed when it never happened. As an adult, however, she realized that, because Indians have brown eyes, she would have had a much more difficult time gaining their acceptance if her eyes had been blue.
In 1931, Carmichael was badly injured in a fall, which left her bedridden much of the time until her death. She died in India in 1951 at the age of 83. She asked that no stone be put over her grave; instead, the children she had cared for put a bird bath over it with the single inscription "Amma", which means mother in the Tamil.
One of Amy's more well-known poems is called "Hast thou no scar?"
Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Rutherford's Letters

Samuel Rutherford is one of my favorite authors. He was a Scottish Presbyterian theologian and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. Rutherford's political book Lex, Rex (meaning "the law [and] the king" or "the law [is] king") was an explicit refutation of the doctrine of "Rex Lex" or "the king is the law." His argument against "Rex Lex" was based on Deuteronomy 17, and it supported the rule by law rather than rule by men, based on such concepts as the separation of powers and the covenant, a precursor to the social contract.
His devotional books are more widely known, including Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself and his Letters. Concerning his Letters, Charles Spurgeon wrote: "When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men." Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“You will not be carried to Heaven lying at ease upon a feather bed.”

“When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord's choicest wines.”

“After winter comes the summer. After night comes the dawn. After every storm, there comes clear, open skies.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kingdom-oriented Prayers

My prayer-life needs work. Most of us, if we're honest, would say the same. I haven't met anyone who would say their prayer life needs no improvement. It helps to know that Christ is even now interceding on my behalf. He stands before the Father pleading my cause. If the Lord's prayer is to be our pattern, I should likewise be pleading Christ's cause to the Father. My most fervent times of prayer have been asking the Father to fulfill his promises to his Son. This type of prayer, of course, affects me, my loved ones and my circumstances. Spurgeon wrote of kingdom-oriented prayers in Morning and Evening:
Remember that the same Christ who tells us to say, "Give us this day our daily bread," had first given us this petition, "Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." Let not your prayers be all concerning your own sins, your own wants, your own imperfections, your own trials, but let them climb the starry ladder, and get up to Christ Himself, and then, as you draw nigh to the blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, offer this prayer continually, "Lord, extend the kingdom of Thy dear Son." Such a petition, fervently presented, will elevate the spirit of all your devotions. Mind that you prove the sincerity of your prayer by laboring to promote the Lord's glory.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I Will Accept You

Spurgeon's Morning and Evening are sent to me every day via email. This is tonight's devotion--a must read:
The merits of our great Redeemer are as sweet savour to the Most High. Whether we speak of the active or passive righteousness of Christ, there is an equal fragrance. There was a sweet savour in His active life by which He honoured the law of God, and made every precept to glitter like a precious jewel in the pure setting of His own person. Such, too, was His passive obedience, when He endured with unmurmuring submission, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, and at length sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane, gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked out the hair, and was fastened to the cruel wood, that He might suffer the wrath of God in our behalf. These two things are sweet before the Most High; and for the sake of His doing and His dying, His substitutionary sufferings and His vicarious obedience, the Lord our God accepts us. What a preciousness must there be in Him to overcome our want of preciousness! What a sweet savour to put away our ill savour! What a cleansing power in His blood to take away sin such as ours! and what glory in His righteousness to make such unacceptable creatures to be accepted in the Beloved!

Mark, believer, how sure and unchanging must be our acceptance, since it is in Him! Take care that you never doubt your acceptance in Jesus. You cannot be accepted without Christ; but, when you have received His merit, you cannot be unaccepted. Notwithstanding all your doubts, and fears, and sins, Jehovah's gracious eye never looks upon you in anger; though He sees sin in you, in yourself, yet when He looks at you through Christ, He sees no sin. You are always accepted in Christ, are always blessed and dear to the Father's heart. Therefore lift up a song, and as you see the smoking incense of the merit of the Saviour coming up, this evening, before the sapphire throne, let the incense of your praise go up also.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Semper Reformanda (Always Changing)

At the end of The Final Battle, the last of The Chronicles of Narnia, Eustace, Jill, Poggin and Tirian are urged to go further up and further in. This is seen as the great adventure awaiting those who are loyal to Aslan, the Christ figure in the story. But this journey doesn't start after this life is over. We are called to go further up and further in starting now. It's otherwise called growing up or maturing. This process isn't painless. It involves change and change never comes easy. Some of us hate it. Sue Cameron writes:
Remember what it was like being born? You don't recall the bright lights, the screaming? The whole process would be much nicer without the stage known as transition. It's the most intense, demanding and productive part. Hard? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. New life will not emerge without transition.
What's true during our initial entry into daylight continues as we mature: Times of transition are some of the most difficult and challenging periods of living. If we're unwilling to endure them, we'll never progress down the narrow channel that leads to maturity.

Semper Reformanda is a commitment passed down from the Reformers that we do well to remember. 'Always reforming' can be translated 'always changing.' We can't make our way through life without change. We move, we change jobs, we lose jobs. We lose our health. We lose mothers and fathers, we lose spouses. We sometimes lose children. But what if these hard changes are part of the further up and further in process? What if God uses these troubling transitions to open the doorway to greater joy? Jesus said it best: "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Knowing God and Knowing Ourselves

Everyone needs something that keeps them going--a drive that presses them on. For some it is their families. For others it is their job. Still others have a hobby or love of sports that keeps them motivated. All these things have an important place in my life, but the greater motivation is described in the Bible in several ways: "Christ in you the hope of glory" "to know you and the power of the resurrection" "crucified in Christ...therefore Christ now lives in me" "you shall be my people and I will be your God." All of these Biblical phrases can be summed up by saying that my greatest motivation in life is knowing God. But to know God, I must know myself. And to know myself rightly I must know God. This is what Calvin says at the beginning of his Institutes. Blaise Pascal shows how Christ is central to this knowing God and knowing ourselves:

“Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness
makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness
without knowing God makes for despair.
Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because
he shows us both God and our own wretchedness.
Wretchedness induces despair.
Pride induces presumption.
The Incarnation shows man the greatness
of his wretchedness through the
greatness of the remedy required."
Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662