Monday, October 25, 2010

vivification

Continuing my arranging of notes by Dr. John Hannah, from our recent spiritual life conference.  [See previous post.]  Now his section on "vivification", or what God gives us and what we do related to the new life being manifested in us: 

8. Vivification: How do you get good thoughts into your mind? How do I determine what is right to think about since the spiritual life is so connected to mental activity? This is vivification, doing those things that promote and help us to grow. A healthy spiritual life is the result of healthy thoughts. But, how do I get healthy thoughts in a God-opposing world?

“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, what ever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

a)    Right thoughts require virtuous input: This is the place of the Bible.  If you desire to think correct thoughts, you must good ideas in your mind. You simply cannot avail yourself to what is not there.

1)    It not about the length of time in reading daily; it is about frequency.
2)    It is not about remembering what you read. Remember that growth is only seen over time with time-lapse photography.
3)    Slowly and carefully read a verse or paragraph, but read daily until it becomes a habit.
4)    If reading is hard, get tapes or a CD and listen. Most drive to work; use the time to think good thoughts.


b)    Right thoughts require the mental expression of good ideas; good ideas come from good input.

1)    Meditation, thinking about God intentionally. Try to think about the passage of Scripture you read for the day.

2)   Memorize Scripture.
3)    Prayer, verbalizing your thoughts to God.
•    Make a list of prayer needs.
•    Pray through portions of Scripture (the phrases of Psalm 23 or Matthew 6, the Lord’s model prayer).
•    The posture of prayer is not important.
•    The place of prayer is at your discretion.
•    The length of prayer is not the point. Is it sincere and God-focused?
•    Some people pray best with another or others. Join a prayer group.
4) Hearing, listening to thoughts about God.
•    Regularly attend to the preaching and teaching of the Bible.
•    Reading good books; listen to tapes or CDs, such as…
          Donald Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life (NavPress, 2003)
          Ken Gire, The Reflective Life (Chariot Victor Publications, 1998).
         Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (NavPress, 1978).
•    Get into a Bible study.
•    Attend the Lord Supper meeting regularly.
5)    Right Thoughts require good company.
•    Engage with Christian friends and fellowship.
•    Make a friend so that you can share your thoughts.
•    Become active in your church.
•    Experience the Lord’s Day as a time of rest and refreshment.
6)  Right activities promote right thoughts.
•    Consider assisting a teacher in a Sunday School class.
•    Think about a short-term missions trip.
•    Engage in a serious class at church.
•    Find a widow or orphan to help, become a surrogate parent.

 

c) Concluding thoughts on vivification:

1)   Growth is a process; a tree does not become mature in a day. The spiritual life is a marathon, not a sprint; it is a life-long process.
   
2)    None of us can do all these things. We must have limited, reachable goals for ourselves. We must endeavor to do what we can rather than too much.  Remember the goal is progress, not perfection.

3)    When you stop doing what you should, start over again. When we fail, simply start over again. Henry Ford said it well, “Success in progressing from one failure to the next without a loss of enthusiasm”. You may fail, but do not quit! The chief characteristic of the saints’ life is not how well we are doing, but what we do when we are not doing well.

4)    The Lord is more interested in the development of our lives as spiritual mirrors than we. Therefore, He brings things into our lives both negative and positive events to shape and mold us. Pain and disappointments are wonderful surgical tools in the hands of an infinitely wise, all-powerful, and deeply loving friend (Gen. 49:20, Ex. 3:10, Judges 6:3).

5)    There are several positive ingredients of a maturing Christian walk, though there are no hard and fast rules about frequency, posture, location, or duration. These include Bible reading, meditation, and memorization; prayer; Christian fellowship; attendance to preaching and the sacraments; and expressing faith in service to others.
 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sheaffer Lifetime Balance, 1930-31

Haven't posted here on fountain pens in a while...  

Here's a flea market find that I'm putting back in my rotation for daily use.  It's a Sheaffer Balance, with gold-filled Lifetime nib, fine.  It's a standard size pen, made in a marine green marbled celluloid, which is a pleasure to look at and to write with.  Uses a lever filling system (and internal bladder, which is relatively easy to replace).  

This pen was manufactured in the U.S. in 1930-31.  I got it from a flea market for $3.  In my opinion American Sheaffers had excellent nibs, smoother generally than Parkers. 


Read more about the history of the Sheaffer Balance here

Friday, October 22, 2010

glorifying God in spiritual growth

Continuing to edit notes from John Hannah's teaching on spiritual life [see previous post]...

6.    What does God do to cause us to glorify Him more?

a)    God graciously redeems us from sin’s condemning power and grants us the Holy Spirit. He provides the basis for spiritual growth (John 3:6).

b)    God provides His children with protective mercies and preservation.

c)    God chastises us to curb our dangerous tendencies and humble us. This is often expressed in the consequences of moral failure. For the child of God, this action is always remedial in nature, never punitive (Heb.12:5-6).

d)    God brings disappointments into our lives to shape us spiritually in that the design is that through them we depend on the Lord more (John 9:1-3).

e)    God uses the evil actions of others upon our lives to shape us to reflect His glory (Genesis 50:20).

f)    God helps us to understand that this world is but a shadow of a world yet to come. This gives us perspective of the things we see. Like Abraham, we “seek after a city whose builder and maker is God”.

7. What should we do to cause ourselves to glorify God more? Radiating the character of God involves positive action and negative action: Vivification and Mortification, the positive increase of spiritual strength and dying progressively to sin. 
 
“Sanctification has a double aspect.  Its positive side is vivification, the growing and maturing of the new man; its negative side is mortification, the weakening and killing of the old man” (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life [1990]).  Some initial observations follow…

a)  The spiritual life requires discipline; it is hard work and is a product of time and repetition. The spiritual person is described in Hebrews 5:13 as one whose “senses are trained to discern good and evil”. Habits are routines that are not easy, but over time become a delight. What you are doing is replacing one set of routines for another. Love makes the burdens of habit-building less a burden.

b)  We are individuals, so remember that we connect with the spiritual disciplines in different ways, proportions, and times in our lives. By personality and spiritual giftedness, we are naturally given to some disciplines more than others. Our goal should be to incorporate those disciples we find helpful and needed at different times in our lives.

c)    Length of time in devotional exercises not an issue and often detrimental, particularly if we do not progress slowly. What we most value is not what we most invest time in doing; it is what we think about and most frequently return too.

d)    Remember, generally, we are better at doing than being. However, it is dangerous to confuse the two. Doing is important because it is evidence of a spiritual reality in our lives, but it must grow out of a relationship that is rooted in a love relationship.

e)    Do not be discouraged by the fact that you simply cannot do one or another of the disciplines no matter how hard you try. Some cannot memorize Scripture; some find fasting unimportant; some find it hard to pray; some find it hard to read the Bible daily.  The important thing is to find something that you can start doing; the spiritual life is a process (what you can manage at 25 is surely not the same as 65!).

f)    Do not get discouraged by your lack of doing it right; it is more important to be doing. No one has their act together; we all have areas of spiritual success, areas needing improved discipline, and areas of failure. Join the “club” of fallen, redeemed humanity!

g)    Discipline is a fruit of a love relationship; the deepest issue is that of love. It is not about how well we are doing; it is all about loving. Love is not merely an emotion; it is a state of being. That state for us is the presence of the life of God, the Holy Spirit, in our very beings.  Do not become discouraged by what you cannot do; delight in what you can and in the progress you see over time. This is not “bean counting,” it is a love relationship.

[More to come...] 



Friday, October 15, 2010

working through some notes

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"  "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.  (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

Some notes from the Spiritual Life Conference with John D. Hannah...

1.  There is a lot of confusion in the churches concerning the practical side of walking with the Lord. Some teachers paint an idealized picture that simply is fiction, yet such teachers can lead the serious listener to guiltiness and the naive to misplaced confidence.

2.  Walking with God must begin with the recognition four things:

a)  We must become students of our God and ourselves (the mental).
 

b)  We must come to grips with divine sovereignty and splendor (the
ever-first priority).
 

c)  We must realize the fact that the struggle with sin is an ongoing,
never-in-this-life over (the ever-present fact of sin).
 

d)  We must constantly remember that we are “in Christ;” we are perfect in the mind of God (the wonder of redemption).

3.  Some preliminary observations about the spiritual life:

a)  The Christian life is a mental struggle. What you entertain, what you
focus upon, is what you will become and do. Therefore, right thoughts
are of utmost importance.


b)  The spiritual life boils down to actions based on priorities. The
internal manifests itself in the external.


c)  Walking with God is a process; we are all on a journey. There is no
beatific plateau in this life. There are plateaus, but life is exceedingly
complex.
 

d)  It is confusing to realize that there are godly people believing very
diverse things about how to walk with God. This suggests that the key
ingredient is not any particular method. All methods entail “trust and
obey;” that is the insight of all of them.

4.  What does it mean to glorify God? How can finite creatures glorify God when we have absolutely nothing to offer Him, even on our better days?

a)  The fundamental dilemma: a command that is impossible. How can
God show forth himself in the creature since we have been blighted and twisted within? What did God give us in our blightedness?


b) The term “glory” in Scripture literally means “heavy,” something deep and profound ("awesome"). It has two primary meanings in Scripture: it is used as a synonym for the character of God (Ps.8:1); and it can mean the outward shining of inward characteristics, the effulgence or manifestation of God’s character (Ezek 43:2). 
 

c)  What is God’s final, chief, and ultimate end (Rom.11:36)?
“All things,” the whole, the totality.
“From” -- he is the origin (John 1:3).
“Through or by” -- he is the sustainer.
“To or for” -- he is the goal.
“Him,” the focus, repeated four times.
See also Is.48:11, Rev.1:8.
A Fact: Life is not about us!

5.  Five key questions and answers:

a)  What does it mean to glorify God? God is glorified in his creation
when it reflects His character. We are to be mirrors of what God has
granted to us of Himself by the Spirit. We glorify God when we reflect the beauty of God's character back to God. Does God see God when he looks at me?


b)  What is the point of the Bible? The focus of the Bible is the glorification of God; the Bible begins and ends with divine and creaturely harmony. The fall brought disharmony, but God is sovereign and patiently bringing a restoration when creation will glorify Him fully once again. Christ, the anticipated lamb, came in the incarnation, and purchased a people for God by paying the debt that prevented their assimilation into God‘s family and God declared them righteousness in Christ. God, by His Holy Spirit, is drawing the redeemed family together. When complete the “garden” will be perfectly restored. God will be eternally glorified in his creatures.


c)  What is the experience of redemption? The experience of redemption is an affectionate embrace of the beauty of Christ, a life of transforming delight in God as revealed in Christ.


d)  What is the nature of the indwelling of the Spirit? The Spirit resides within us morally. Indwelling is in the nature of the nine fruit of Spirit (e.g., love, joy, etc).


e) What is the practical import of all this? The Bible reveals Christ who makes the spiritual life possible through His death for us. The experience of redemption is a sense of awe in the wonder of divine forgiveness and the beauty of a wonderful savior. Salvation is the life of God, the Spirit, within us. The indwelling Spirit is the basis of glorifying God because God beholds the Spirit in us in His glorification. It is the life of the Spirit’s moral character that we are to reflect.


Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16 ESV)
 




[more to come]


 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

a mighty magnet

I enjoyed this word from C. H. Spurgeon, from Faith's Checkbook:

"And I, if l be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me"   (John 12:32)

Come, ye workers, be encouraged. You fear that you cannot draw a congregation. Try the preaching of a crucified, risen, and ascended Savior; for this is the greatest "draw" that was ever yet manifested among men. What drew you to Christ but Christ? What draws you to Him now but His own blessed self? If you have been drawn to religion by anything else, you will soon be drawn away from it; but Jesus has held you and will hold you even to the end. Why, then, doubt His power to draw other? Go with the name of Jesus to those who have hitherto been stubborn and see if it does not draw them. No sort of man is beyond this drawing power. Old and young, rich and poor, ignorant and leaned, depraved or amiable--all men shall feel the attractive force. Jesus is the one magnet. Let us not think of any other. Music will not draw to Jesus, neither will eloquence, logic, ceremonial, or noise. Jesus Himself must draw men to Himself; and Jesus is quite equal to the work in every case. Be not tempted by the quackeries of the day; but as workers for the LORD work in His own way, and draw with the LORD's own cords. Draw to Christ, and draw by Christ, for then Christ will draw by you.