The Ploughshare Must be Sent Deeper

This is my heart’s cry:  That the ‘ploughshare’ be sent deeper.  That my love for Christ is not an emotional medley of hearsay theology, but that it might be rooted and grounded in the eternal Truths of His Word.  My heart aches while considering how so few desire to pursue a clearer picture of the Heavenly One, the Holy One, the Savior, the Righteous God.  We squeeze out our tears and lift up barren hands on Sunday… then go on as if He did not give us anything at all… as if His radical plan of salvation is worthy of a few twinges of grateful (perhaps guilty) acknowledgment.  How hollow is our ‘religion’?  How fair-weather is our ‘friendship’ with Christ?

 

I speak as one who would be condemned, not as the condemner.  He knows my heart well, how desperately wicked, how futile my efforts to grasp eternity would be, if not for the Spirit working in me, if not for the finished work of Christ that brings the sinner into favour with God. (Bonar)  How far exceeding is His grace to make Christ the perfect substitute on our behalf that we might approach Him as our Abba.  Do we contemplate the marvel of the gospel enough?  Or is it worn and wearisome to us?

 

Is it enough to be recognized and commended as a believer, impressing with outward professions of faith but void of inward reformation and renewal?  Does it suffice to be warmed by the coziness of a loving Christ and yet be offended by the scope of His Sovereignty and wrath?

 

I’m echoing the words of Horatius Bonar, a 19th-century preacher, in his book “Everlasting Righteousness”:

Religion is fashionable in our age…But… Is it that of apostles and prophets?  Is it the calm yet thorough religion which did such great deeds in other days?  Has it gone deep into the conscience?  Has it filled the heart?  has it pervaded the man?  Or has it left the conscience unpacified, the heart unfilled, the man unchanged, save with some external appliances of religiousness, which leaves him hollow as before?  There is at this moment many an aching spirit, bitterly conscious of this hollowness.  The doctrine, the profession, the good report of others, the bustle of work, will not fill the soul.  God Himself must be there, with His covering righteousness, His cleansing blood, His quickening Spirit.  Without this, religion is but a shell:  holy services are dull and irksome.  Joy in God, which is the soul and essence of worship, is unknown.  Sacraments, prayer-meetings, religious services, labours of charity, will not make up for the living God.

May His Word so deeply probe, penetrate, excavate our hearts that stubborn roots of unbelief may be ripped out and replaced by a humble, ‘more excellent’ treasure.

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Let Us Hate Sin

This reminded me how great my sin is and how unfathomable His love:

“And let us learn from the story of the passion always to hate sin with a great hatred.  Sin was the cause of all our Savior’s sufferings.  Our sins twisted the crown of thorns; our sins drove the nails into his hands and feet; on account of our sins his blood was shed.  Surely the thought of Christ crucified should make us loathe all sin.  As the Church of England Homily of Passion says so well: “Let this image of Christ crucified be always printed in our hearts.  Let it stir us up to the hatred of sin, and provoke our minds to the earnest love of Almighty God.”

~ J. C. Ryle (Expository thoughts on the Gospel)

Taken from “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross” edited by Nancy Guthrie

“Don’t Waste Your Womanhood” by Amaka Akobundu

I thought this was an article worth preserving and sharing especially in light of how womanhood and the role of womanhood is viewed even in the Christian church today.
As Christian women in today’s culture we seem to be having an identity crisis. With the development of the feminist revolution, we have been robbed of our distinctive makeup and calling as women. The measure of a woman’s value has been likened to her role in the community and workplace, and little or no value is placed on the role of women in the home. This confusion on the calling of women is not only predominant in the secular world, but has also infiltrated the church, the body of Christ. As Christian women today, we need to be willing to turn back to the authority of God’s word and embrace God’s priority for our lives and to live out the beauty of womanhood as God created it to be so that we can be an example of godly women to the world. In order for us to understand womanhood as God intended it to be, where better to look than in the word of God, the Holy Scriptures? Susan Hunt, a pastor’s wife and the former Director of Women’s Ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America, said this:

“It is time for women of biblical faith to reclaim our territory. We know the Designer. We have His instruction manual. If we don’t display the Divine design of His female creation, no one will. But if we do, it will be a profound testimony to a watching, needy world.”

I pray that as we look into God’s word, that He will reveal so much to us and open the eyes of our hearts that we might see wondrous things from His law.

So let’s start from the beginning; let us take a look at the creation story, and more precisely the creation of the woman. Man and woman were both created in the image of God,

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

After the Lord had created the man from the dust of the ground and placed him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it, He said,

“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him. And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:18, 21-22)

I’ll say this; when God created the male and the female, He created them with the Cross in mind. Now I’m sure some of you reading this are wondering what I could possibly mean by that. How does the fact that God created them male and female have anything to do with the Cross? Let’s take a look at the New Testament, Ephesians 5:31 to be precise:

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

I’m sure that verse looks familiar to most of you. Paul quoted Genesis 2:24 when he was writing to the Ephesians about marriage. Why did he do this? Contrary to popular belief, marriage between a man and a woman was not an after-thought on God’s part as something to apply to the meaning of Christ’s death on the Cross. It was not a post-fall institution. It goes way back to the beginning; before the fall. He quotes God, and then goes on to say in verse 32 of Ephesians 5, “This is a great mystery but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” That is an amazing interpretation of marriage and of the differences between male and female. The distinctions between manhood and womanhood display the most important thing in the whole universe – God displaying His grace to us through Jesus Christ sacrificing His life for His bride, the Church. The distinct roles of a man and woman in relationship to each other provide a picture of who God is and how He relates to His people. Jesus is equal with God the Father yet is submissive and responsive to Him. God the father loves the Son and exalts Him. This pattern is repeated in the relationship between Christ and the church; Christ provides loving, servant leadership and the church responds with respect and submission as His bride (Ephesians 5:22-33). The relationship between a man and woman at every level has been distorted by sin but as believers we are called to relate according to the Creator’s plan instituted in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world (Genesis 2:15-25). This plan is marked by a holy reciprocity in which the husband’s love awakens a responsive submission from the wife just as the wife’s respect and appreciation draws from her husband leadership and love.

So what is the ultimate meaning of true womanhood? John Piper defines it as this: “True womanhood is a distinctive calling of God to display the glory of His Son in ways that would not be displayed if there was no womanhood.” Maleness and femaleness display the glory of Christ in relationship to His blood-bought bride. I don’t know about you but that leaves me in awe of the glorious Creator who created man in His own image; male and female He created them.

In light of all this, how then do we waste our womanhood? We waste our womanhood when we don’t see how God’s glory is displayed in the distinct roles of the man and woman. We waste our womanhood when we see being a woman as merely a difference in our biology and physical attributes. True womanhood is so much more than that as we saw earlier. We also waste our womanhood when we see it as being interchangeable with manhood. Man and woman, husband and wife, headship and submission, are no more interchangeable than Christ and the Church are interchangeable. They are NOT interchangeable. We can learn from Adam and Eve what happens when roles are reversed. The account of the Fall points out the role reversal that occurred when Adam knowingly allowed himself to be led into sin by his wife. God had originally instructed Adam concerning the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17), and the Lord clearly placed the ultimate responsibility with Adam (Romans 5:12, Genesis 3:17). This does not, in any way, suggest that the woman is less intelligent or more easily deceived than the man. The woman was not an afterthought and the word helper does not imply inferiority. Designed as the perfect counterpart of the man, she is neither inferior nor superior to the man, but she is alike an equal to the man in personhood, while different and unique in her function. God created the woman to complete, complement and help the man. She was created from and for the man and is the glory of the man (1 Corinthians 11:7-9). Don’t miss the point of your womanhood, because when you do, you diminish the glory of Christ in your life.

Clothing and Character?

Just have to share this post.  

Honestly, as my children get older and more aware of their counterparts, I will have to be careful about taking them to the mall. Last month, I met friends with their kids for lunch at the mall and then proceeded to take some of the kids  home with me to play.  During the short jaunt from the food court back to the parking lot, we were barraged with sexual images aimed at the youth: “Look left, kids!  Oops, look to the right!  Yikes!  Close your eyes!”  

 

Call me a prude but the indecency that screams out from these store displays (and half-naked models in the doorways distributing perfume samples) is yet another lure to compromise our children’s hearts and minds.  Sometimes, I focus on my holy tirade and shake my righteous fists while complaining about “what’s happening to our culture and children!?”  But, this article has given me much to think about.  It’s much easier to have a legalistic criterion (length, flesh-to-fabric ratio etc) than it is to biblically measure the moral impact of a piece of clothing.  Perhaps some might think I’m taking it to far.  That’s why I’m glad for this article.  Read it and leave some comments for discussion!

 

Clothing and the Character of the Child
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31ST, 2008

     Guest Post by Dr. Timothy Paul Jones

Our daughter Hannah is rapidly closing in on thirteen years of age. She is tall for her age. Her dark curls and tawny skin mirror the features of the birthparents who brought her to a Romanian orphanage when she was eight months old. Hannah has been part of our family since she was seven years old. She is the apple of her Daddy’s eye, the princess of her Daddy’s heart, and—at this moment—she’s in need of some new clothes. In our household, this means a Daddy-Daughter Date Day, primarily because, in our family, Dad tends to have more patience than Mom when it comes to the quest for appropriate clothing.

And so here I am, meandering into a local mall, hoping that this year’s range of suitable selections is better than last year’s.

It isn’t.

The jeans that are long enough for Hannah’s ever-lengthening legs seem to have gained this extra length by trimming too many inches off the top. The sweatpants that fit her best have “PINK” emblazoned across the backside. And the messages that glitter on the chests of several otherwise-appropriate shirts lead to immediate vetoes from our household’s executive branch: “I Want What I Want Now,” one hoodie declares, while a nearby t-shirt boasts, “I Have an Attitude and I Know How to Use It.” “Sooner or Later I’ll Get What I Want,” another sweatshirt announces. Interestingly, the brand names on the tags are “Personal Identity” and “Self Esteem”—almost as if Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud crept in during the manufacturing process and retagged the clothes to resolve adolescent girls’ supposed identity crises. To Hannah’s credit, she takes it all in good humor, knowing from past experience that, once a veto has been declared, her father will not budge.

By this point, a good many readers have likely identified me as some sort of development-squelching fundamentalist prude. I’ve heard the protests before, as a pastor, children’s minister, and youth minister—more from parents, oddly enough, than from children: “Come on, it’s just the kids’ clothes. Why make such a big deal about it? Let them wear what everyone else is wearing! If we don’t let them dress that way, they won’t be able to fit in.”

I’ve even had one parent couch his protest in evangelistic terms: “If I don’t let my daughter wear the same clothes as everyone else, no one will listen to her when she tries to witness at school.” Somehow, I cannot imagine that the low-slung waistline on his daughter’s jeans led any male in her school to anything but the most prurient interest in God’s created order.

So why am I so unyielding on this issue?

Simply this: The clothes that our children wear do not merely cover the nakedness of their flesh; they shape and reflect the contours of our children’s souls. (emphasis mine) What I encourage my child to wear is a statement not merely of fashion but of theology and axiology—and this link between our theology and our wardrobes is not a recent phenomenon.

The foliage that Adam and Eve clutched against their groins in the shadow of the Tree of Knowledge made a profoundly theological declaration. Those mute leaves pronounced the primal couple’s intent to cover their sins with their own efforts and experiences. In this, those leafy aprons spoke in unison with the Gnostics of the second century, with Pelagius in the fourth, and with the theological liberalism of the modern era, all seeking some path to holiness other than divine propitiation. The second ensemble of clothing in the Garden of Eden was no less theological—the flesh and fleece of a freshly-slaughtered beast, a covering given by grace which declared beyond any doubt the divinely-ordained link between sin and death.

Later in the Torah, the Israelites received a command from God to stitch tzitzitin the corners of their robes, entwining a cerulean thread in each tassel. And what was the rationale for this divinely-ordained fashion statement? “That when you shall see them, you may remember all the commandments of the Lord, and not follow your own thoughts and eyes, going astray after others” (Num. 15:39). What the children of Israel wore on their bodies reflected and shaped the disposition of their souls.

This principle is no less true for my child this afternoon at Oxmoor Mall.

The sweatpants with “PINK” plastered across the posterior declare far more than a child’s preferred pastel hue; they present as public property a part of the body that ought to be preserved as private property. The three-inch gap between shirt and jeans devalues the child by turning her body into a tool to attract the opposite gender’s attention instead of a vessel of beauty for the glory of God.

The t-shirt with “I Love My Dad Cuz He Spoils Me” emblazoned across the chest links love with what I can get out of a relationship—and lays the foundation for the relational disposition that has landed millions of couples in divorce court over the past half-century. “My Smile Gets Me What I Want” scrawled up the leg of a pair of pajamas implies that it is acceptable to exploit physical beauty as a tool to manipulate others. When a sweatshirt declares “Remember Me: I’ll Be Famous,” this comes with a tacit implication that the superficiality of celebrity might be a valid and viable goal for life. The hoodie that reads “I May Be Small But I’m the Boss” presents rebellion against parental authority as something to elicit a lighthearted smirk instead of loving discipline.

Please understand my point here: I am not claiming that clothing, in itself, causes children to behave badly—that would be tantamount to declaring it was the presence of fruit in the garden that caused Adam and Eve to sin. And I’m not suggesting that children’s clothing must be unfashionable for them to be holy. What I am suggesting is that these fusions of cotton, polyester, and iron-on transfers are not values-neutral. They are declarations of what we believe, what we value, and what we expect our children to believe and to value.

So what can parents do?

(1) Set clear standards and say no. This isn’t easy. A few weeks ago, I said noto a ballet leotard because it didn’t meet our family’s standards for modesty. No other leotards were available at the dance supply store. As such, my veto resulted in a rather unpleasant chain of events that ended with some crying and behavioral consequences—and with a clear awareness that we will not compromise our family’s standards. Truthfully, I wanted to say yes. In the short term, it would have resulted in far less stress to give the go-ahead to that particular leotard. But, as Hannah’s father, I bear primary responsibility before God for my child’s spiritual formation. And so I said no—firmly, gently, in love—because the long-term building of Hannah’s character matters more to me than the momentary calm that compromise could have achieved.

(2) Recognize that what is emblazoned on your children’s clothing is likely to be expressed at some point in their behavior. If the child’s t-shirt says “Blame It On My Sister,” why are parents shocked when their son eventually tries to avoid responsibility for his actions, even if that means resorting to deception? If you purchase clothes for your son that declare his ideal day to consist of sleeping, eating, and playing video games, why be surprised when he’s living in your basement two decades from now, still expecting you to pay his bills while he sleeps, eats, and plays video games? “But what the shirts say—they’re just joking,” parents respond. “You’re not supposed to take them seriously!” And perhaps the clothing manufacturers do intend such statements to be taken with a grain of salt. But history suggests that, what one generation smirks at, the next generation accepts as an inescapable state of affairs.

(3) Admit that the need for peer popularity is over-rated. Another primary cop-out from parents: “But my child has to dress this way to fit in at school.” In the first place, such a statement implies that the authority of the peer group matters more than the wisdom of the parents or the Word of God. In the second place, this implies that you would want your offspring to “fit” into a group that evidently bases its valuation of a child on that child’s clothing. Yet, even if we bypass these faulty foundational principles, there’s still a problem with this line of thinking: The idea that this type of peer popularity is necessary for healthy development is a recent phenomenon, rooted more in the social function of the American school system than in any perennial truths about human nature. In fact, despite decades of family fragmentation, the way that a child is accepted in his or her family remains far more important for the child’s development than acceptance or rejection at school. I’m not suggesting here that you should work to make your child unpopular with peers—but such acceptance is far less crucial than we’ve been led to believe.

And so Hannah and I traipsed out of the department stores and headed upstairs to the Chinese buffet, carrying far fewer outfits than we first intended—but they are well-chosen, stylish yet modest and devoid of devaluing messages. Now, if someone can locate a light-blue leotard for my child that isn’t low-cut in the top or high-cut in the legs, we’ll be set for one more year.

Reading to Know Christ

*Title edited: it was bothering me to have the Lord’s name so flippantly stated in the title.*
I have been truly enjoying reading my Bible – yes, it’s only been a week since I’ve started chronologically!  I’ve never used a study Bible before to read through the year, I’ve always had what I call a ‘no-cheat’ Bible with only references and lots of margin to write in!  It’s a treat to have some additional insights along the way. 
This morning’s Revive Our Hearts key quotes set the tone for reading and studying God’s precious Word.  I wanted to share their thoughts:
  • “The Bible does not thrill. The Bible nourishes. Give time to the reading of the Bible and the recreating effect is as real as that of fresh air physically.” (Oswald Chambers)
  • God loved us so much He gave us this Book to show us His heart, to teach us His ways, to teach us His plan.
  • Don’t miss the point of Bible study. Don’t miss the point of Bible reading. Don’t just consider it as something to check off your to-do list. The purpose of getting into the Word is to meet Jesus.

The full version is here.

Comparing the “Institutes” Translations

Copying for future reference from today’s “Blogging the Institutes” post.

Translations of the Institutes

Posted: 05 Jan 2009 06:07 PM CST

A reader asked about the different English translations of Calvin’s Institutes. Any translation would probably be serviceable in understanding Calvin’s main intent. We will be using the Battles/McNeill translation for blogging through the Institutes. There are four main English translators/translations: 

  • Thomas Norton (1561)
  • John Allen (1813)
  • Henry Beveridge (1845)
  • Ford Lewis Battles (1960)

In one of his lectures on the Institutes, Professor David Calhoun gave the following overview:

The first was Thomas Norton back in the sixteenth century. Calvin was very fortunate with his first English translator. Norton did an exceptionally good job. Very soon after the completion of the Institutes in 1559, which was written in Latin, it was translated by Calvin into French and then quite soon into English. John Allen was the second translator. John Allen and Henry Beveridge were both nineteenth-century translators. The Beveridge translation is still in print. It was until fairly recently anyway. Those are not bad but not very good either. Ford Lewis Battles’ 1960 translation is the one that we are using. Even though it has been criticized some, it is by far the most superior translation that we have at present.

And here is J. I. Packer’s typically concise take:

No English translation fully matches Calvin’s Latin; that of the Elizabethan, Thomas Norton, perhaps gets closest; Beveridge gives us Calvin’s feistiness but not always his precision; Battles gives us the precision but not always the punchiness, and fleetness of foot; Allen is smooth and clear, but low-key.

Some readers may be interested in this site by the late Professor David F. Wright, who was collecting and correcting mistranslations from the Battles translation.

Am I a Selfish Little Clod?

A wife writes to her imprisoned husband, Christopher Love, a 17th-century Puritan martyr with powerful and heavenly-minded words as he awaits execution for false charges while demonstrating unshakeable faith.  She beseeches him not to be overly concerned for herself or their numerous children.  Rather, she reminds him of the incomparable riches of glory that await him and urges him to look ahead. 

“Thy Maker will be my husband, and a Father to thy children.  O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations. I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ… Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory… Thou leavest friends on earth to go to the enjoyment of saints and angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect in glory…If natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that spirit of grace that is within thee will quell then, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above.” ~ Mary Love

The rest of the letter demonstrates an amazing trust in the good and wise God who decreed that this ‘little stroke’ should separate them earlier than they might have expected.  Reading passages like these make my heart cry out, “What has changed?  Where is faith like this now?  Lord, grant me even a small fraction of this kind of faith!”

I’m reminded of a quote I read earlier of those who live life with a heavenly mindset and those who fuss and fidget away every precious earthly moment:

“This is true joy in life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a  feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” ~ George Bernard Shaw (quoted in Crazy Love by Francis Chan)

Lord, please help me live in light of eternity.

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