Tuesday, October 30, 2012

what God says to the snow and rain, and why



God thunders wondrously with his voice; 
he does great things that we cannot comprehend.  
For to the snow he says, 'Fall on the earth,' 
likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.  
He seals up the hand of every man, 
that all men whom he made may know it.  
Then the beasts go into their lairs, 
and remain in their dens.  
From its chamber comes the whirlwind, 
and cold from the scattering winds.  
By the breath of God ice is given, 
and the broad waters are frozen fast.  
He loads the thick cloud with moisture; 
the clouds scatter his lightning.  
They turn around and around by his guidance, 
to accomplish all that he commands them 
on the face of the habitable world.  
Whether for correction or for his land or for love, 
he causes it to happen.  

(Job 37:5-13 ESV)

Friday, October 26, 2012

what union with Christ means


We await salvation from Christ 
because he makes us,
ingrafted into his body, 
participants not only in all his benefits 
but also in himself.

If you contemplate yourself, 
that is sure damnation. 
But since Christ has been so imparted to you 
with all his benefits 
that all that is his is made yours – 
that you are made a member of him, 
indeed one with him – 
his righteousness overwhelms your sins; 
his salvation wipes out your condemnation; 
with his worthiness he intercedes 
that your unworthiness may not come before God’s sight.

Surely this is so: 
We ought not to separate Christ from ourselves 
or ourselves from him. 
Rather we ought to hold fast bravely with both hands 
to that fellowship by which he has bound himself to us.

Christ is not outside us 
but dwells within us. 
Not only does he cleave to us 
by an indivisible bond of fellowship, 
but with a wonderful communion, day by day, 
he grows more and more into one body with us, 
until he becomes completely one with us.

(John Calvin, from The Institutes of the Christian Religion)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

shelter-seeking trust

Herman Bavinck on the relationship between faith and assurance (or certainty, as truth relates to us)...


"Faith is certainty and as such excludes all doubt. Whoever is stricken by guilt and crushed and honestly seeks refuge in Christ is already a believer. To the degree that he exercises a shelter-seeking trust he also possesses an assured trust.  How else would a sinner convicted of his own guilt ever dare to approach God and evoke His grace unless in the depth of his heart, without being consciously aware of it himself, he shared in the certainty of faith and the hope that the Father of Jesus Christ is merciful and great in loving kindness? ...

"The assured trust is thereby included in this shelter-seeking trust. And both develop together. The stronger the shelter- seeking trust becomes, the stronger becomes the assured trust.  And if the latter is small and weak, we may confidently conclude that the first too is needy and incomplete. Faith, therefore, does not attain certainty regarding itself through logical reasoning nor through constantly examining itself and reflecting on its own nature. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason hardly helps to establish our certainty. But certainty flows to us immediately and directly out of faith itself. Certainty is an essential characteristic of faith; it is inseparable from it and belongs to its nature. ...

"Just as the Israelites in the desert were healed not when they looked into themselves but when they looked up at the raised snake, so the believer becomes sure of his salvation when he expects it not from his faith but through faith from God's grace.  ...

"It doesn't rest on human reasoning, but on the Word, the promises of God, the gospel, which poses no conditions but only proclaims that everything has been accomplished. All we have to do is enter into that accomplished work and rest in it for eternity.  ... 

"The priests or the guardians of the spiritual life only granted believers the right and the freedom of spirit to believe as the end product, the fruit of a series of good works or genuine inner experiences. Faith was separated from its object—the grace of God in Christ—by a long list of activities, and it was duty-bound to constant examination of and reflection on its own development. Seeking in vain within itself and in the tossing waves of experience that which it could only find outside of itself in Christ, faith lost its certainty. By its very nature and essence faith can find rest in nothing but a word from God, a promise from the Lord. Any other ground makes it shaky, because it is human and therefore shifting and unreliable. Only a word from God can give life to our souls and provide an immovable foundation for the building of our hope. When all human things obtruding between God's grace and our faith are eliminated, and when our faith fastens on God's promises directly and immediately, then faith will be certain and unshakable."

--Herman Bavinck, The Certainty of Faith

Saturday, October 20, 2012

no other stream -- do not dare not to dare



"If you're thirsty, you may drink.”

They were the first words [Jill Pole] had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. 


Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink,” and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man's. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.


“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.


“I'm dying of thirst,” said Jill.


“Then drink,” said the Lion.


“May I - could I - would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.


The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.


The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.


“Will you promise not to - do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.


“I make no promise,” said the Lion.


Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come  step nearer.


“Do you eat girls?” she said.


“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.


"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.


"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.


"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."


"There is no other stream," said the Lion.


(C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, chapter 2)

[The phrase "do not dare not to dare" comes from a similar scene in The Horse and His Boy, chapter 14:] 


Then Hwin, though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh, and trotted across to the Lion. 

“Please,” she said, “you're so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I'd sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.”

“Dearest daughter,” said Aslan, planting a lion's kiss on her twitching, velvet nose, “I knew you would not be long in coming to me. Joy shall be yours.”

“Now, Bree,” he said, “you poor, proud frightened Horse, draw near. Nearer still, my son. Do not dare not to dare. Touch me. Smell me. Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers. I am a true Beast.” 

“Aslan,” said Bree in a shaken voice, “I'm afraid I must be rather a fool.”

“Happy the Horse who knows that while he is still young. Or the Human either…” 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

the ten commandments

...from a Christian, Spirit-filled perspective (from Dan Mock's sermon today):


With that in mind, that the 10 commandments are a result of intimacy with God, I want to refocus them for you from a Christian, Spirit-filled perspective:

When you love me with your whole heart:

1. You will delight in me alone because I AM your All in All.

2. You won’t need pictures or statutes or anything else as a surrogate for me in your worship because I fill your mind, your heart and your imagination with my steadfast love.

3. You will treat my name as sacred because my name is the most special word that crosses your lips.

4. You will spend a whole day with me each week because you trust me enough to know that I’ll provide you with everything you need through the other 6 days.

5. You will honor your father and mother because you know that that relationship is a tangible representation of our relationship.

6. You won’t murder because you see my handiwork and the vestiges of my image in everyone.

7. You won’t commit adultery because you know that that relationship is also a tangible representation of our relationship. Just as you delight in me alone, you delight in your spouse alone.

8. You won’t steal because you trust, as your Provider, that I meet all your needs.

9. You won’t lie to your neighbor because you know that I delight in the truth.

10. You won’t covet your neighbor’s possessions because you are completely satisfied in me and with me.

--Dan Mock, BCF sermon 10/14/2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

today's quotes


“For when death had entered into the human race through man’s disobedience, it was fitting that life should be restored through the obedience of man. When the sin which was the cause of our condemnation had its beginning from a woman, it was fitting for the author of our justice and salvation to be born of a woman. Since the devil, when he tempted man, conquered him by the tasting of a tree, it was fitting for him to be conquered by man’s bearing of suffering on a tree. And a good many other things, when we consider them carefully, show the inexpressible beauty of our redemption, thus accomplished.” 

(Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo

“No matter how many strong enemies plot to overthrow the church, they do not have sufficient strength to prevail over God’s immutable decree by which he appointed his Son eternal King.”  

(John Calvin, quoted by Eric Alexander in The Supremacy of Jesus Christ in John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

why the universe is comprehensible


Newton’s law of gravity says that the force of attraction between two objects is proportional to the product of their masses divided by the square of the distance between them.  But these words do nothing more than describe the equation: 

F = G{m1m2}/d2 

That is, the law itself is a mathematical expression. The whole of nature appears to be built out of mathematical Legos! You may ask why my verbal statement of the law isn’t just as good as the mathematical equation. Couldn’t the maths be nothing more than shorthand — just a convenient way to write down the law? 

Actually, no. To be meaningful, the verbal statement has to include words such as ‘is’ (implying an equality), ‘proportional’, ‘product’ and ‘squared’ — mathematical language which demonstrates that the law is essentially mathematical, not verbal. 

The fact that the structure of the physical cosmos is fundamentally mathematical is really strange — because mathematics is entirely a construct of the human mind! 

When I was a child it was popular to build ‘cat’s whisker’ or crystal radio detectors — simple non-powered devices that could pick up the invisible radio waves that filled the room. Success depended on establishing a sensitive contact between a natural mineral crystal such as galena and a thin metal wire (the ‘cat’s whisker’) and was often a matter of luck. So why is the human mind able to ‘tune in’ to the cosmos in such a remarkable way by using the ‘cat’s whisker’ of mathematics? Is it, like the crystal radio signal, just a matter of luck? Or is there some reason why conscious thought connects us so perfectly with the physical structure of the universe? 

I need hardly point out that the hypothesis of God provides a ready answer. If God created the universe and the laws that govern it; and if man is made in the image of God as a rational, intelligent being; then it is clearly possible — even necessary — for man to ‘think God’s thoughts after him’ (Kepler) and ‘know the mind of God’ (Hawking). If God is a mathematician, man will also be a mathematician. 

But if there is no God, and man is an accident of evolution, there is not the slightest reason why we should be able to make sense of, or even recognize, the mathematical structure of the universe.

--Edgar Andrews, from Who Made God?  

Photo above from thebrickbible.com

Monday, October 8, 2012

people-pleasing...

...is a perennial and serious problem in ministry.  It's like the best man in a wedding trying to get the bride to like himself more than she likes the groom.  This quote was shared with me by a friend in ministry...


At the same time, it is important  that the spiritual director be vigilant that he is not assailed by a desire to please others, or else even though he might carefully penetrate the things of the internal life and provide for what is necessary of external concerns, he seeks the love of the laity more than he seeks the Truth; or supported by his good works and appearing otherworldly, his love of self separates him from his Creator. For he is the enemy of the Redeemer, who through the good works that he performs desires to be loved by members of the Church rather than by Him. For indeed, a servant is guilty of adulterous thoughts if he desires to please the eyes of the bride when he is sent by the groom to offer gifts. 

Gregory the Great, ca AD 600 in The Book of Pastoral Rule

We need to be more like John the Baptist...

"The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.  He must increase, but I must decrease."  (John 3:29-30 ESV)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

faith, a moral choice


"[The gospel] assumes nothing on his part other than that he is a sinner who needs reconciliation and peace and salvation. And it promises and gives these to him by way of faith and repentance. In both respects the gospel answers to the most perfect and beautiful idea of religion we can form for ourselves. For on the one hand it is nothing but the good news of grace and salvation. It doesn't pose a single demand—not of age or generation, of race or language, of class or wealth. It poses no conditions, it asks nothing, it demands nothing, it is no law but the opposite of all law. It is broadly human and completely universal, because it presupposes nothing but what is common to all men, namely, the need to be freed from the misery of sin. In accordance with this, on the other hand, the gospel con­fronts man with nothing but a moral choice, the choice to accept the gift of God's grace in faith or to spurn it in hardness of heart... 

"The choice for or against the gospel involves a moral decision because the promises embraced in the gospel exclude all compulsion. No one is made to believe against his will. Faith is a function of understanding that has been moved to acknowledge the truth of the gospel by the will. The whole man is therefore involved in believing—with his reason, with his will, with his heart, in the core of his being, in the deepest part of his existence. Knowing himself to be guilty and lost, man, in faith, surrenders himself wholly to God's grace in Christ. He ceases fighting the war he has long been waging in his conscience against the witness of the Holy Spirit. He leads all his thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. As we said earlier, what is at issue in religion is always the highest interest, the highest good man recognizes for himself, for his own life, for the preservation of his soul. The Christian religion teaches us that the highest good for man is found in God alone, in fellowship with Him, in heavenly salvation. Faith is a thoroughly personal matter, a retying of the bonds that tie the soul to God, a renunciation of all creaturely things to place all one's trust in God, whether in life or death. Faith is an inattention to the things one sees in order to take into account those that are invisible but yet eternal and imperishable."


--Herman Bavinck, from The Certainty of Faith. 


what is meant by 'science explains'?


"When we say ‘science explains’ something we usually mean that there exists a scientific description of the phenomenon in question. Thus the force of gravity — rather important since it keeps us from bumping around on the ceiling like helium balloons — can be expressed by a simple mathematical formula. The formula equates the gravitational force between two objects to the product of their masses multiplied by a universal constant (the ‘gravitational constant’) and divided by the square of the distance between them. But does the equation ‘explain’ why you don’t bump your head on the ceiling? Not really. It tells us there is a force that keeps your feet on the ground, but you knew that already. It also quantifies that force, allowing us to calculate its strength in any particular case, which is extremely useful. But it doesn't tell us why there is such a force, why it follows an inverse square law, and why the ‘gravitational constant’ has the value that it does. The equation is a description of gravity rather than an explanation."


--Edgar Andrews, from Who Made God? 

Monday, October 1, 2012

every enemy of joy overcome


"Here in the cross is where every enemy of joy is overcome:
divine wrath, as he becomes a curse for us; 
real guilt, as he becomes forgiveness for us; 
lawbreaking, as he becomes righteousness for us; 
estrangement from God, as he becomes reconciliation for us;
slavery to Satan, as he becomes redemption for us; 
bondage to sin, as he becomes liberation for us; 
pangs of conscience, as he becomes cleansing for us; 
death, as he becomes the resurrection for us; 
hell, as he becomes eternal life for us." 

— John Piper, from When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy, p 91.  Quoted by Of First Importance.