…a faithful Father

We recited the answer to this question from the Heidelberg Catechism in church today:

26. Q. What do you believe when you say: I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?

A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and all that is in them, and who still upholds and governs them by His eternal counsel and providence, is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father. In Him I trust so completely as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul, and will also turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this life of sorrow. He is able to do so as almighty God, and willing also as a faithful Father.

Beautiful, and oh so true.

Now is what we have…”

god-at-workFrom God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.:

…Christians need to realize that the present is the moment in which we are called to be faithful. We can do nothing about the past. The future is wholly in God’s hands. Now is what we have. The future-oriented obsession of today’s culture pushes our attention and our good works to the future, to what we are going to do later. We must ‘live in the hour that has come,’ says Wingren. ‘That is the same as living in faith, receptive to God, who is present now and has something he will do now.’

This means that vocation is played out not just in extraordinary acts–the great things we will do for the Lord, the great success we envision in our careers someday–but in the realm of the ordinary. Whatever we face in the often humdrum present–washing the dishes, buying groceries, going to work, driving the kids somewhere, hanging out with our friends–this is the realm into which we have been called and in which our faith bears fruit in love.

“But what God did about us was this…”

mere christianityFrom C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:

Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.

What you would have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what God did about us was this. The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man — a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.

 

a book recommendation

johnAs folks around the world and web remember R.C. Sproul’s life and influence, I’d like to point you to one of his books that you may not have encountered. This past fall, I went through his commentary on John very slowly – a chapter a day – and I highly recommend it as a devotional. Here are a few passages I marked along the way:

All light finds its origin in Jesus Christ, who is the fountain of all truth.

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Therefore, if you have in your heart today any affection for Christ at all, it is because God the Holy Spirit in His sweetness, in His power, in His mercy, and in His grace has been to the cemetery of your soul and has raised you from the dead. So you are now alive to the things of Christ and you rejoice in the kingdom into which He has brought you.

[I love that phrase “…to the cemetery of your soul and has raised you from the dead.” I didn’t need to be persuaded or wooed to come to Christ. I was doornail dead and had to be brought to life.]

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The whole of Scripture speaks to us of the love of God for His people, but so often we fix our attention on God’s love for us that we forget that the ground of that love is the love that the Father has from eternity for His Son. Remember, we’re not the natural children of God. We’re the adopted children of God, and even our election must always be understood to be in the Son.

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We have to keep a close watch on what we do in worship, asking ourselves: “Is this according to the truth of God? Is this God’s teaching in His Word?” Our worship must be based on God’s self-revelation in Scripture. He is truth and His Word is truth.

[This is completely counter-cultural.]

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The deepest theological question that I can think of, the one for which I have no adequate answer, is the question, “Why me?” My students come to me with all kinds of conundrums from theology, but they rarely ask, “Why did God save me?” It sometimes seems as if we’re thinking: “Why wouldn’t He save me?” Yes, we have little aphorisms such as, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Do we really believe that? Are we really amazed by the measure of grace God has poured out on us? Can we say with John, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on its, that we should be called children of God!”

“Why me?” indeed. Why do I live in a time where solid, rich biblical teaching is at my fingertips day and night? Why was I “introduced” to R.C. Sproul’s teaching as a very young woman so that I could benefit as I grew in my relationship with Christ?

Amazing grace.

 

“…they were written down for our instruction…”

My reading through the Bible has recently taken me through 1 Samuel and some corresponding Psalms. I have been struck (not for the first time) by David’s trust in God and the resulting obedience, even while his life was threatened by Saul. David refuses to kill Saul when he has the chance, and I can’t say that I would have done the same.

Consider David’s thoughts in Psalm 34:

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

He acknowledges how his God delivers those who cry out to him, and he has actual experience with this. These words are pouring out of a soul that knows and loves God. He’s a refugee; God is his refuge.

And yet, this David is the same man we know will go on to seek another man’s wife with such fervor that he has the man killed to get what he wants. Clearly, something changed. At some point he began to believe that he did lack something (someone) that God had not provided.

I now have to preach to myself: ย Anne, take heed lest you fall. I’m not sure I have the faith David showed when he did not take the opportunity to kill Saul in the cave, but I am reminded that I have ability to fall from what faith I DO have. I, too, have tasted the goodness of the Lord and seen His provision over and over again. Yet, I forget.

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
~~Corinthians 10:11-13

I am thankful for God’s Word and my access to it. I’m thankful that it is living and active. And I’m thankful that He is faithful.

 

“…since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world …”

mere christianityApropos of just about everything these days, here is C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more — food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.

“…God will make us good because He loves us…”

mere christianityFrom C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:

As long as the natural life is in your body, it will do a lot towards repairing that body. Cut it, and up to a point it will heal, as a dead body would not. A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble — because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.

That is why the Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or — if they think there is not — at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.

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“How arrogant is that?”

johnFrom John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) by R.C. Sproul:

I’m sure you’ve seen the popular bumper sticker that says, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” How arrogant is that? We need a new bumper sticker, one that says: “God says it; that settles it.” It doesn’t matter whether I believe it. It’s settled long before my assent. If God Almighty opens His holy mouth and declares something, we don’t need another witness. It’s over.

 

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“…win the first battle of the day by knowing where the true battlefield is.”

[a repost from September 2013]

quietplaceFrom The Quiet Place: Daily Devotional Readings by Nancy Leigh DeMoss:

…by the time you get up in the morning, an unseen battle has already been raging for hours in the heavenlies. Within the mystery of God’s sovereignty, He has given the forces of hell the temporary right to contend with Him and His own. And you as His child start each day in the crossfire of this cosmic duel.

On the face of things, it may only seem like a lack of desire to spend time alone with the Lord in prayer and His Word. It may feel like the press of the day’s upcoming schedule, disturbing your thoughts before your feet hit the floor. It may sound like the typical morning review of ongoing issues with your marriage, your children, your job, your general life situation.

What it may not seem like is what it actually is: the presence, activity, and involvement of Satan’s forces, drawing you away from God, wrestling you back down into fear, doubt, discouragement, and sinful reactions.

So stand to your feet. Recognize the real enemy. Invite your victorious Lord into this challenge. And win the first battle of the day by knowing where the true battlefield is. Consciously take your place within the ranks of the One before whom even hell’s most defiant warriors must ultimately concede defeat.

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What would change in your approach if you remembered that the real enemy is not the people, things, and circumstances in your life?