Thursday, April 23, 2009

Our Knowledge of God's Sovereignty Linked To Our Thanksgiving, Worship and Prayer To Christ - John Calvin

Wow - this guy was smart! (Pregnant pause). I know that was a dumb statement to post on a blog...but consider the source. As I read chapter 2 of his Book I of his "Institutes" one cannot help but be both blown away and sent into a place of worship as Calvin speaks to the knowledge of God's sovereignty over all things...and its promotion of prayer, thanksgiving and worship!

"We must be persuaded not only that as he once formed the world, so he sustains it by his boundless power, governs it by his wisdom, preserves it by his goodness, in particular, rules the human race with justice and judgment, bears with them in mercy, shields them by his protection; but also that not a particle of light, or wisdom, or justice, or power, or rectitude, or genuine truth, will any where be found, which does not flow from him, and of which he is not the cause; in this way we must learn to expect and ask all things from him, and thankfully ascribe to him whatever we receive...For until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that naught is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; no unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity."

Oh Lord may our entire happiness be in you Jesus!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Question Of Getting To Know Ourselves & John Calvin

I first began reading John Calvin while I was in seminary - mostly reading excerpts from his "Institutes of Christian Religion." Today, while in my study - I pulled it off the shelf again and began to read Chapter 1 of the first book of his Institutes. There I found a great answer to a very common contemporary question, "How am I to get know who I am?" His first "Book" in the Institutes is all about our knowledge of God. The first chapter is entitled, "The Knowledge of God and of Ourselves Mutually Connected. Nature of the Connection." (Great title!) There Calvin does not lead us to subjective answers to this question but instead calls us to meditate on the "face of God." (Now, if you haven't read it...the whole nature of this post will be for you to spend sometime reading him and meditating on the truths of just his first chapter).

Calvin calls us to meditate on God and when we do so - we find much about ourselves. Not that as we look into the "face of God" through the lens of Scripture that we somehow see ourselves as though looking into a mirror. No - but through looking upon His greatness, His majesty, His power, His holiness, His beauty, etc. we then are enabled to be humbled to begin on the pathway of "getting to know ourselves." He writes:

"For, since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure: just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white...So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods."

This is why I love John Calvin, because he loves the "Greatness of God." Oh friend - in all our searching - may our hearts ache for the knowledge of God! May I ache for the knowledge of the Holy beyond knowledge of myself! And when we learn of the holy - I am driven to look for a Substitute and there at the Cross is mine! The One Who "got to know us" - by being made one of us - the Perfect Man - Jesus Christ! May we spend our days as we "know ourselves" finding ourselves running to the Cross - and there by the work of the Spirit, we are made to know ourselves changing into His likeness! Too often - I have a high view of myself and a low view of God. Oh what a day that will be when we see "true white" - - and rejoice in His purity, unlike anything we could ever imagine! For now, we only see particular "hues" - but all by grace we will see Him - we will then know Him.

I will end this post with this quote: "Though the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, due arrangement requires that we treat the former in the first place and then descend to the latter." May we treat "the former" - God in the first place and then - and only then descend to the latter!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Books For Shepherds

Hey folks I know it has been a while since I have posted. We just got back from the Pastor's Conference with Sovereign Grace Ministries this last week - which was an outstanding time. I have gone to many Leadership Conferences in the past with SGM, but I have to say this was just such an outstanding time. The care we received from CJ and others was so very helpful and enriching. There was a special emphasis this year on growing as shepherds - specifically to those who are suffering. It was both sobering, helpful and refreshing to go back to our churches, seeking to follow The Chief Shepherd - Jesus as we seek to care for the flock the Lord has entrusted with us to led. It was a great time and I just want to say thank you so very much for all your prayers for Dave and I as we went.

On this front - I have been reading - somewhat devotionally - Alexander Strauch's book, "Biblical Eldership" for several months now. It has been such a helpful and sharpening tool for my thinking and practice as an "under shepherd" of God's people. Likewise, a new one from the New Studies in Biblical Theology entitled, "Shepherds After My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions And Leadership in the Bible." by Timothy Laniak. I have only begun to study certain chapters but the one on Mark's gospel - which is simply outstanding! Enjoy!