The Prayers of J. Calvin (28)

JCalvin1On this last Sunday of July 2016 we return to our series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-seventh lecture and the prayer that concludes it (slightly edited). This lecture covers Jeremiah 7:5-11, which includes Calvin’s comments on 7:11, “Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD”:

And he [God] adds, ‘In this house, which is called by my name,’ that is, which has been dedicated to Me; for to call God’s name on the Temple means nothing else but that the Temple was consecrated to Him, so that He was there worshiped.

When God is truly worshiped, they who seek Him find that He Himself is present by His grace and power. As then God commanded the Temple to be built for Him, that He might there be worshiped, He says His name was there called, that is, according to its first and sacred appointment.

Absurdly indeed did the Jews call on His name, for there was in them no religion, no piety: but according to God’s institution, His name was called upon the Temple, as He had consecrated it to Himself. Hence, God reminds them of the first institution, which was holy and ought to have continued inviolable: ‘Know ye not, that this place has been chosen by Me, that My name might there be invoked? Ye stand before Me in the holy place, and ye stand polluted; and though polluted, not with one kind of vices but My whole law has been violated by you and my Tables despised, yet yet stand!’

We hence see the design of the prophet: for he condemns the effrontery and frowardness of the Jews, because they thus dared to rush into God’s presence in all their pollutions (p.373).

And this is the prayer with which Calvin concludes this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that as Thou buildest not at this day a temple among us of wood and stones, and as the fullness of Thy Godhead dwells in Thine only-begotten Son, and as He by His power fills the whole world, and dwells in the midst of us, and even in us, – O grant, that we may not profane His sanctuary by our vices and sins, but so strive to consecrate ourselves to Thy service, that Thy name through His name may be continually glorified, until we shall at length be received into that eternal inheritance, where will appear to us openly, and face to face, that glory which we now see in the truth contained in Thy gospel. -Amen

Let’s Visit New York’s Nearly Secret Botanical Library – Smithsonian

Are you a fellow gardener as well as a book aficioando? Do you love the world of plants as well as that of writing?

NY-Botanical-libraryWhat if you could visit a library filled with books on plants of all kinds housed in a botanical garden? “If only!”, you may say.

Well, there is such a place, and the Smithsonian website recently featured it (July 15, 2016). This special botanical library is nestled in New York City and as you can see from the picture, it is a beauty.

This is how the Smithsonian post introduced the story:

There are people, and then there are plant people. You know the ones—they stop to smell every flower, rhapsodize over trees and bushes and want to know everything about botany. Plant people’s happy place is in a garden or another bastion of the great outdoors, but one of New York’s hidden treasures might convince them to head inside. That’s because, as Katherine Brooks reports for The Huffington Post, a building in the Bronx is home to more than a million fascinating books and documents about plants.

It’s called the Mertz Library, and Brooks characterizes it as “the library hiding in a garden hiding in New York city.” Tucked into the grounds of the New York Botanical Garden, the stately building is home to one of the world’s largest collections of books and materials about plants. It’s a place where you can pore over everything from field notes from 19th-century gardeners to vintage seed catalogs, even flower illustrations that are centuries old.

Shall we take a tour of it today? Yes, we can, thanks to this three-minute video from the library and its archivist!

Source: Go Inside New York’s Nearly Secret Botanical Library | Smart News | Smithsonian

Published in: on July 29, 2016 at 12:56 PM  Leave a Comment  

Justin Martyr – Apology (2)

Twenty-first-century Christians can learn much from the lives and writings of the early believers and church fathers. Especially is this the case when it comes to facing persecution – and facing it biblically.

Justin-MartyrThe “Apology” (that is, defense of the faith and life of Christians) of Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165) is a model of Christian witness to the unbelieving world and the persecuting state. In the weeks and months ahead we plan to post some sections from his apologies (first and second). For links to his writings, visit this site.

This is taken from chapter four of Justin’s first apology:

CHAPTER IV — CHRISTIANS UNJUSTLY CONDEMNED FOR THEIR MERE NAME.

By the mere application of a name, nothing is decided, either good or evil, apart from the actions implied in the name; and indeed, so far at least as one may judge from the name we are accused of, we are most excellent people. But as we do not think it just to beg to be acquitted on account of the name, if we be convicted as evildoers, so, on the other hand, if we be found to have committed no offence, either in the matter of thus naming ourselves, or of our conduct as citizens, it is your part very earnestly to guard against incurring just punishment, by unjustly punishing those who are not convicted. For from a name neither praise nor punishment could reasonably spring, unless something excellent or base in action be proved.

And those among yourselves who are accused you do not punish before they are convicted; but in our case you receive the name as proof against us, and this although, so far as the name goes, you ought rather to punish our accusers. For we are accused of being Christians, and to hate what is excellent (Chrestian) is unjust.

Again, if any of the accused deny the name, and say that he is not a Christian, you acquit him, as having no evidence against him as a wrong-doer; but if any one acknowledge that he is a Christian, you punish him on account of this acknowledgment. Justice requires that you inquire into the life both of him who confesses and of him who denies, that by his deeds it may be apparent what kind of man each is.

For as some who have been taught by the Master, Christ, not to deny Him, give encouragement to others when they are put to the question, so in all probability do those who lead wicked lives give occasion to those who, without consideration, take upon them to accuse all the Christians of impiety and wickedness.

And this also is not right. For of philosophy, too, some assume the name and the garb who do nothing worthy of their profession; and you are well aware, that those of the ancients whose opinions and teachings were quite diverse, are yet all called by the one name of philosophers. And of these some taught atheism; and the poets who have flourished among you raise a laugh out of the uncleanness of Jupiter with his own children. And those who now adopt such instruction are not restrained by you; but, on the contrary, you bestow prizes and honours upon those who euphoniously insult the gods.

How Not to Read a Classic – L.Ryken

GuidetoClassics-LRykenAs we continue to look at Leland Ryken’s recent publication A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we are ready to move into chapter 5, where Ryken begins to answer the question, How should we read the classics of literature?

In this chapter, “How Not to Read a Classic”, you will see that he answers this negatively first of all. He makes his point under six (6) headings, which we will simply list today:

  1. Bad Practice #1: Treat the reading of a classic as a solemn duty – something that you are required to do instead of desire to do.
  2. Bad Practice #2: Read the classics primarily for their ideas.
  3. Bad Practice #3: Assume that the classics are totally different from other literature.
  4. Bad Practice #4: View the classics as being sacred and beyond criticism.
  5. Bad Practice #5: Read only Christian classics.
  6. Bad Practice #6: Resolve to see only what the author and original audience saw in a classic.

We may examine some of these in more detail in a later post, but for now let’s benefit from an experience of author Flannery O’Conner Ryken includes in a sidebar in connection with #2 above:

Fiction writer Flannery O’Conner wrote a very helpful book of Christian literary theory titled Mystery and Manners. On the subject of not allowing ideas to supersede our enjoyment of literature, she wrote, ‘Last fall I received a letter from a student who said she would be “graciously appreciative” if I  would tell her “just what enlightenment” I expected her to get from each of my stories…. I wrote her back to forget about enlightenment and just try to enjoy them.

So, yes, by all means read a classic this summer! And do so for the pure enjoyment of it! 🙂

Need a place to find free classics online? Try this link.

Published in: on July 27, 2016 at 7:07 AM  Leave a Comment  

Note to Self: Welcome (Hospitality)

Begin by reading Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2.

Dear Self,

Hospitality… is the will of God for you. God commands you to be hospitable. …He calls you to be hospitable because he himself is a welcomer of strangers and loves the sojourner.

…Throughout history, God has called his people to welcome outsiders into their cities, homes, and lives. Israel was commanded to practice hospitality with their Jewish neighbors but also to welcome, care for, and bless those who visited their cities. Likewise, the church is also commanded to welcome both believers and unbelievers.

…The most basic idea behind hospitality is to care for outsiders in a way that you would care for insiders. You welcome them. So, when was the last time you invited outsiders into your home? Into your busy life? Outsiders are not those close to you but those who are not yet a part of your life. This includes people at church you have not taken the time to meet as well as your neighbors and coworkers you do not yet know. They may be outside or inside the kingdom, but they are currently outside of your ministry influence.

Of course there is no better picture of hospitality than what we find in the gospel, for in the gospel God calls those who were not his people, ‘My people.” By faith we are orphans who have been adopted into God’s family, made coheirs with Christ, and are promised a place at his table in the kingdom to come. God has accepted you and welcomed you in Christ. You know what it is to be an outsider and yet received as an insider, so you should be ready to show others what that kind of grace looks like on a smaller scale in your home.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.22 “Welcome” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.81-82.

Let the Church Be the Church – R.C. Sproul

TT-July-2016Yesterday before one of our worship services, I re-read in the July issue of Tabletalk Dr. R.C. Sproul’s article in his usual rubric “Right Now Counts Forever.” In it Sproul explains what the church is following the inspired apostle’s teaching in the book of Ephesians.

“What Is the Church?” is a good reminder of what biblical ecclesiology is (the doctrine of the church) and what makes the church what she is (and must always be).

Below is part of what Sproul writes on this vital subject, including some good applications to the times in which we live. For the full article, visit the Ligonier link at the end.

The Apostle Paul explains the doctrine of the church so that we might understand what God has done and so that we may understand who we are. And in calling us to understand who we are and what we’re called to do, Paul says that we’re the church. We’re the church that God ordained from the foundation of the world. We’re His people; we’re His household, so let the church be the church.

We’re living in a time of crisis. Many Christians are decrying the decadence of American culture and complaining about the government and its value system. I understand that, but if we want to be concerned for our nation and culture, our priority must be the renewal of the church. We are the light of the world.

Government merely reflects and echoes the customs embraced by the people in a given generation. In a real sense, our government is exactly what we want it to be, or it wouldn’t be there. Change in culture doesn’t always come from the top down. It often comes from the bottom up. The change we need to work for, chiefly, is renewal within the church. As the church becomes the fellowship of citizens of heaven who manifest what it means to be the household of Christ, and when the church walks according to the power of the Holy Spirit—then the people of God will shine as the light of the world. When people see that light, they will give glory to God (Matt. 5:16). This will change the world. But Paul says, first of all, let the church be the church. We must remember who we are, who the foundation is, who the cornerstone is, who the head of our building is, who the Lord of the church is.

And then he makes these concluding comments:

Do we love the church? I doubt if there have been many times in our history when there has been as much anger, hostility, disappointment, and disillusionment with the institutional church as there is today. It’s hard not to be critical of the church because in many ways the church has failed us. But if the church has failed, that means we have failed. We are called to serve the church in the power of God the Holy Spirit.

We, the church, have been made for this task by the indwelling presence and power of God’s Spirit. Yet, we are called not so much to rise up but to bow down. And if we bow down to our Lord, as Paul says in Ephesians 3:14, the church will be the church, and our light will pierce the darkness.

Source: What Is the Church? by R.C. Sproul

The Divine Will – The Valley of Vision

ValleyofVisionOn this Sunday morning we consider another Puritan prayer devotion from the book The Valley of Vision edited by Arthur Bennett (Banner of Truth, c.1975).

This prayer is taken from the first section “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and is titled “The Divine Will.”

The Divine Will

“O Lord,

I hang on thee; I see, believe, live when thy will, not mine, is done;

I can plead nothing in myself in regard of any worthiness and grace, in regard of thy providence and promises, but only thy good pleasure.

If thy mercy make me poor and vile, blessed be thou!

Prayers arising from my need are preparations for future mercies;

Help me honor thee by believing before I feel, for great is the sin if I make feeling a cause of faith.

Show me what sins hide me from thee and eclipse thy love;

Help me to humble myself for past evils, to be resolved to walk with more care,

For if I do not walk holily before thee, how can I be assured of my salvation?

It is the meek and humble who are shown thy covenant, know thy will, are pardoned and healed, who by faith depend and rest upon grace, who are sanctified and quickened, who evidence thy love.

Help me to pray in faith and so find thy will, by leaning hard on thy rich free mercy, by believing that thou wilt give what thou hast promised;

Strengthen me to pray with the conviction that whatever I receive is thy gift, so that I may pray until prayer be granted;

Teach me to believe that all degrees of mercy arise from several degrees of prayer, that when faith is begun it is imperfect and must grow, as chapped ground opens wider and wider until rain comes.

So shall I wait thy will, pray for it to be done, and by thy grace become fully obedient.”

You may find all these devotionals on the Banner of Truth website.

The Perfect Game (Baseball) – T. Challies

Last week Friday following the annual MLB All-Star game and break, Tim Challies posted this wonderful article on why he perceives baseball to be “the perfect game.” Since it has been a while since I spoke of this game that I also love (other than my annual summer baseball “read”), and since Challies says it so well, I will simply let him speak of the perfection of this amazing sport.

By the way, speaking of the All-Star game, did you notice that the entire starting lineup of infielders for the National League was made up of Chicago Cubs?! And did you know that one of them (Kris Bryant) hit a home run?!

O, and did you notice that these Cubs are still in first place in their division, 6.5 games ahead of their rival Cardinals?! It is, indeed, a good year to be a Cubs’ fan! Hang in there, Cubbies!

Below is the beginning of Challies’ article; find the rest at the link that follows.

Baseball returns this evening from its annual mid-season classic. As the teams prepare to take the field I find myself thinking about the game I love, the game that has gripped and fascinated me for as long as I can remember. It is, to my mind, the best sport, the perfect game.

As a child I dreamed of mastering baseball and spent hundreds of sunny summer afternoons chasing the perfect fastball, the perfect swing, the perfect one-hopper from left field to the plate. When night came I fell asleep listening to Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth as they called the highs and lows of the Toronto Blue Jays and when sleep took me I dreamed of taking my rightful place on my team—George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Dave Stieb, and me. Eventually childish fantasy gave way to adult reality but even broken dreams did nothing to temper my passion for the game. A son was born and soon I began to introduce him to my game and to my team.

The cycle began anew. What is it about this game? Why is it that every April I feel a new optimism, a new hope, a new excitement for a new season? Why is it that every October I find myself longing for just a few more games, a few more series? Why do I have such love for this game?

Source: The Perfect Game

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Published in: on July 22, 2016 at 11:50 AM  Leave a Comment  

Justin Martyr – Apology (1)

Twenty-first-century Christians can learn much from the lives and writings of the early believers. Especially is this the case when it comes to facing persecution – and facing it biblically.

Justin-MartyrThe “Apology” (that is, defense of the faith and life of Christians) of Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165) is a model of Christian witness to the unbelieving world and the persecuting state. In the weeks and months ahead we plan to post some sections from his apologies (first and second). For links to his writings, visit this site.

This is taken from chapter three of Justin’s first apology:

CHAPTER III — CLAIM OF JUDICIAL INVESTIGATION.

But lest any one think that this is an unreasonable and reckless utterance, we demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated, and that, if these be substantiated, they be punished as they deserve; [or rather, indeed, we ourselves will punish them.] But if no one can convict us of anything, true reason forbids you, for the sake of a wicked rumour, to wrong blameless men, and indeed rather yourselves, who think fit to direct affairs, not by judgment, but by passion. And every sober-minded person will declare this to be the only fair and equitable adjustment, namely, that the subjects render an unexceptional account of their own life and doctrine; and that, on the other hand, the rulers should give their decision in obedience, not to violence and tyranny, but to piety and philosophy. For thus would both rulers and ruled reap benefit. For even one of the ancients somewhere said, “Unless both rulers and ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.” It is our task, therefore, to afford to all an opportunity of inspecting our life and teachings, lest, on account of those who are accustomed to be ignorant of our affairs, we should incur the penalty due to them for mental blindness; and it is your business, when you hear us, to be found, as reason demands, good judges. For if, when ye have learned the truth, you do not what is just, you will be before God without excuse.

Word Wednesday: Candle – Rev.W. Langerak

StandardBearerThe latest biblical word study has been published in the July 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer. This time Rev. W. (Bill) Langerak writes about the meaning and significance of the word “candle.”

We make it our Word Wednesday feature today. May his thoughts enlighten your mind and encourage you to shine as lights in this world of darkness.

Candle

The candle is a significant biblical picture.  This should not be that surprising, since for thousands of years candles were a prominent appliance in the everyday life and even worship of the church.  The fact that candles have little practical value and use today does not diminish their continued spiritual significance as an enlightening symbol for us.

   In general, the candle symbolizes the presence, life, and knowledge of God.  In a real sense, God gives to every man a candle.  The spirit of man (that God breathed into him in the beginning) is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly (Prov. 20:27).  But such light is not grace to all.  God’s presence indeed gives life and knowledge, but it also condemns man and his use of that life as unrighteous, unthankful, and wicked.  There is no reward to the evil man, and in anger the Lord shall put out the candle of the wicked (Prov. 24:20; Job 21:17).  His sentence upon man’s kingdom and culture of sin is that “the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee” (Rev. 18:23).  Only in Christ is God’s presence a candle of grace.  Knowing this, the believer joyfully exclaims, “Thou wilt light my candle; the Lord God will enlighten my darkness” (Ps. 18:28).  This candle of the righteous shines so he can walk in darkness (Job 29:3).  The smoking flax (wick) of this candle the Lord will never quench (Is. 42:3).  And the candle of the virtuous woman goes not out by night, not merely because her godly care knows no limits, but because she lives constantly in the light of God’s gracious presence.

   The candle is also a glorious picture of the church.  A notable feature in the tabernacle was the menorah, a splendid seven-branched candlestick.  It is mentioned 22 times in the Torah, including how the Lord ordered it to be crafted out of pure gold, decorated with gold almond blossoms, and fueled by the purest olive oil (Ex. 25:31-35).  When moved, it was to be carefully wrapped in fine blue cloth, protected in a leather case, and carried on a pole.  When at rest in God’s house, it was to be lit every night. And on the day of dedication, the Lord gave special instruction from behind the veil that its candles were to be mounted to illuminate the way to His mercy (Num. 7:89-8:4).  Night and day, the Lord was always home, blessing His covenant people with the light of His Spirit, guiding them to His unfailing grace through His atoning sacrifice.

   This picture finds further development in the new covenant vision of the seven golden candlesticks (Rev. 1:11-13).  Here, the candles represent more clearly, not simply the presence of God with us, but the church itself as she lives in the world—distinct yet united, imperfect yet glorious in righteousness and works of holiness, by Christ in their midst by His Spirit (Rev. 1:20).  As a candle, the church is a continual witness to the grace and glory of God enlightening them before the whole earth (Rev. 11:4).  And if any particular church stubbornly refuses to be such a witness by leaving her love for the Lord to walk with the world in unrighteousness, the Lord can and does remove such a candle out of its place (Rev. 2:5). 

   As candles lit by the Holy Spirit of Christ in the midst of a world dark with sin, the true church and her members have only one purpose:  to broadcast the light in us of the power of God’s grace to forgive sins, sanctify, and give eternal life.  Unlit candles are useless.  So are flickering ones.  To shine brightly, the whole body must be full of light.  Take heed, therefore, that the light in you be not darkness (Luke 11:35-36).  Equally useless are bright candles hidden in foolishness, fear, or shame.  Candles are not meant to be placed under a bed or a bushel (Mark 4:21).  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world; a city set on an hill that cannot be hid.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16). 

   Yet, in spite of their significance and value here, in the new creation all this changes.  There will be no candles there.  Not one.  Why?  Because there in Jesus’ presence, there shall be no night, only day; and no darkness, only light (Rev. 22:5).

For more such word studies from the Scriptures, visit this section of the PRC website.