Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Blueprint for Blogging: Trivium + One

In an attempt to regularize my blogging and find my blogs purpose and groove; I am going to attempt to make weekly posts relating to four major categories of classical education. Three out of the four of these categories fall under the historical title know as the "Trivium." The word trivium is a Latin word meaning "three ways" or "three roads." This term was used to describe the foundational curriculum used in medieval universities and consisted of grammar, rhetoric and logic.

Having grown up in the public school system I found parts of this historical foundation of education to be either taught poorly or not at all. For example, I was never taught even a semblance of logic. Most of what is taught in public schools today is teaching kids what to think and not how to think or communicate what they are thinking in a reasonable and logical manner.

The trivium is like a three legged stool. Removing anyone of these legs, I think, seriously limits a persons ability to operate in this complex world where we are being fed billions of bits of information and hundreds of arguments everyday.

The trivium was preparatory work for a curriculum that would follow known as the "quadrivium" which, as you may have guessed, means "four ways" or "four roads." The four roads of the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy) were in turn considered preparatory work for the study of philosophy and theology.

Because so much of philosophy is grounded in logic, I will prefer to see the two together (the exception to this is studying the history of philosophical thought and theory over time). I mentioned a fourth area of classical education which, in my perspective, should be included alongside the trivium from the very beginning of a persons education--theology. Theology is both the ground that the legs of the trivium stand on and the seat that the trivium supports. The purpose of the legs of the stool (of the trivium) is to aid our understanding of God, and without God as the ground below; rhetoric, logic and grammar would fall to the ground in splinters.

Since the term quadrivium already describes specific areas of study, one cannot lump theology in with the trivium and call it that. Perhaps I will do some brainstorming and come up with a new term to describe the study of the trivium alongside of theology.

All that said, I still plan on completing the series on sin that I started as a part of the study of theology. Alongside that series I will post other theologically related things as well as things pertaining to logic, grammar and rhetoric. Don't be scared off if you think topics like grammar and rhetoric are irrelevant to your life. We all speak and read even if some of us do not spend a lot of time writing. There are applications to be found for understanding more about grammar and rhetoric in everyone's life. I intentionally left the subject of logic out of those last two sentences because EVERYONE can benefit from the study of arguments and thinking since we hear and use arguments, and think, all the time. Logic, also called "reason" by some, could well be argued to be employed in the study of grammar and rhetoric since we use thought processes to understand grammatical concepts and words that ultimately are employed in speech. Isaac Watts, in his book entitled Logic, says this about logic:

Now the design of Logic is to teach us the right use of our reason, or intellectual powers, and the improvement of them in ourselves and others. This is not only necessary in order to attain any competent knowledge in the sciences, or the affairs of learning, but to govern both the greater and the meaner actions of life. It is the cultivation of our reason by which we are better enabled to distinguish good from evil, as well as truth from falsehood; and both these are matter of the highest importance, whether we regard this life, or the life to come.

The pursuit and acquisition of truth is of infinite concernment to mankind. Hereby we become acquainted with the name of things both in heaven and earth, and their various relations to each other. It is by this means we discover our duty to God and our fellow-creatures; by this we arrive at the knowledge of faith in divine revelation, as well as to understand what is revealed. Our wisdom, prudence, and piety, our present conduct and our future hope, are all influenced by the use of our rational powers in the search after truth.
I do not claim to be a master of any of these four areas of study and fully expect to learn a great deal as I post and (hopefully) read your comments. Don't be afraid; I will try my hardest to communicate some of the seemingly more complex things in terms anyone can understand.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Copying and Journaling the Scriptures With the 17:18 Series From RHB

Early on in my new life in Christ I had started the practice of copying large portions of Scripture for the sake of study, meditation, memorization and devotion. At first I did this on simple notebook paper and kept the copies and notes in a three-ring-binder. This system never worked too well as when I wrote on the pages they would begin to tear from the binder. I then moved to regular notebooks, but found this to be cumbersome and eventually stopped the practice altogether though I had found it to be extremely helpful.

A couple of days ago I received the new catalog from Reformation Heritage Books in which I found a product that will, much to my delight, enable me to restart this old practice of copying and taking notes on the Scriptures. RHB now offers hard-cover, journal like books designed specifically for copying and taking notes on whole books of the Bible called The 17:18 Series. Here is their description of the formatting of the books:

Each book is organized so that you can write out your very own copy of Scripture.You will be writing the Bible text only on the right hand page of the book. This should make for easier writing and also allows ample space on the left page to write your own notes and comments. From time to time a question or word will be lightly printed on the left page; these questions are to aid in further study, but should not interfere with your own notes and comments.
Each book is very nicely labeled on the outside for easy storage and retrieval on any bookshelf. Right now you can purchase the Proverbs volume or the Galatians through Thessalonians volume for only $10 each! The catalog also shows that you can purchase volumes for John, Romans, 1 Timothy-Hebrews and James-Jude.

I highly recommend this resource and look forward to using it myself to the glory of God! I also think this would be a great thing to leave to your children someday if you have them.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Best and Primary Argument for The Inerrancy of Scripture: The Gospel

Questioning or denying the inerrancy of Scripture is tantamount to attempting to remove the support structures from a large high-rise building while believing that the building will continue to stand unaltered. For centuries now the presupposition of the inerrancy of the Scriptures has been the foundation on which the salvation of innumerable souls, the continuance and form of the Church and western civilization was built. One cannot expect; therefore, that one can assault this vital substructure and not see the world as we know it come crashing down.

The attack on the inerrancy of the Scripture; however, seems to be only a proxy war being waged with a greater “enemy” in mind for those who have taken up arms against it. Efforts to undermine the inerrancy of the Bible with textual criticism and by pointing to seemingly apparent contradictions really are just a slight of hand meant to distract from the real, foundational premise used to assert the perfection or inerrancy of the Scriptures that is in the crosshairs—the one, perfect God is the author of the Bible and therefore the Bible is as perfect as He is perfect. The greater enemy of those who deny the inerrancy of Scripture is none other than God Himself. Arguments regarding the inerrancy of Scripture; therefore, lead (should lead) instantaneously back to the doctrine of whether or not the Bible is the word of God.

If God is indeed the primary author of the Bible, all facts and questions must be assessed in light of what that Bible makes undeniably clear about Him. Instead of subjecting the Scripture to the litmus test of flawed, subjective, often emotionally motivated human reason; we must look at every phrase, proposition, scientific and historical fact in light of the nature and character of God. The argument would look something like this: if God is, and God is X and God authored the Scriptures, then the scripture is (or isn’t) inerrant.

In my experience, arguments against the inerrancy of Scripture start from a primary motivation to either disprove that God exists at all or to argue against the holy and delightful perfection of His character. It is here, then, that all our manpower and weaponry should be employed; namely, in proclaiming the existence, perfection and greatness of God, thus proving the inerrancy of the Scriptures. This is where Jesus Christ and the cross come in, that is; this is where the gospel comes in, but I’ll return to that shortly.

Most of those who subscribe to the fact that the Scriptures are inerrant agree with Wayne Grudem’s definition of inerrancy from his Systematic Theology which states “The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.” Those who scoff at this definition do so with rather illogical arguments. Many of these arguments are formed by attempts to demand of the Bible what no one demands of normal, acceptable speech and writing. Examples of these illogical arguments would include assaulting historical figures that appear to be inaccurate. When one says “140,000 people were killed in the tsunami” we do not take them literally. It would be rather amazing if exactly 140,000 people died in that tragic catastrophe. Normal conventions of speech allow for this sort of rounding as well as using what Grudem defines as “loose or free quotations.” As an example, Grudem says this:

Consider this sentence: “Elliot said that he would return home for supper right away.” The sentence does not quote Elliot directly, but it is an acceptable and truthful report of Elliot’s actual statement to his father, “I will come to the house to eat in two minutes,” even though the indirect quotation included none of the speaker’s original words.


Often an understanding of historical forms of written and verbal speech, especially in their original culture and language, can dispel many of these seemingly apparent errors in the Scriptures. Yet despite giving plausible and even convincing technical arguments for the inerrancy of Scriptures, especially in problem areas; those who deny the inerrancy of Scripture are most often left unconvinced and usually come up with new reasons to reject the Bible and the God of the Bible. If this is the case, and it often is, then perhaps there is a more base reason for why the inerrancy of Scripture is dismissed. The apostle Paul gives us the clearest reason:

But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:7-14)

The inability to accept the inerrancy of the Scripture traces directly back through these branch issues of grammar, semantics and statistics to the very root problem; if you do not believe God exists and is the author, then you will not know the author and you will not know His character. If you do not know His character, you will not understand how His absolute, sovereign and glorious perfection could never produce a work filled with lies or errors. Furthermore, not having the Author present to explain His work is sure to lead to not understanding the Scriptures and eventually to deciding that it is flawed. One then comes full-circle as the belief in a flawed work leads to either a belief in a flawed God or a God that does not exist at all. If one approaches the Bible with a desire to prove that God does not exist or is flawed, then that is certainly what they accomplish time and again. How, then, do we respond to those who reject the inerrancy of Scripture and therefore the inerrancy of God Himself? Once again, Paul provides us with an answer:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)


What arguments will be most effective against refutations of the inerrancy of Scripture? I think it is clear. No matter how much we may try to prove plausibly and convincingly (that perceived errors in the Scriptures are not errors at all by addressing grammar and conventions of speech); at the end of the day the best and most effective argument for the inerrancy of Scripture is the cross of Christ—the gospel. In Paul’s day, what we call Scripture now was largely (excluding the Old Testament) the message he and others were preaching—Christ crucified. Backing up a few verses from those quoted above we see Paul saying this:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)


What men were refuting in Paul’s time regarding the inerrancy of Scripture was the very message of the gospel itself. On what grounds did they dispute the inerrancy of what we now call the (New Testament) Scriptures? Was it not on the grounds that God was not the author of this new covenant and that Jesus was not from God? Even today Jews will still ask for signs to prove that Jesus was the Christ and “Greek” (gentiles) will ask for wisdom, that is, convincing arguments. How shall we respond? “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”

Both the existence and perfect character of God are most perfectly displayed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Any other argument employed to prove the inerrancy of the Scriptures and, more importantly, the perfection of its Author will always fail in comparison to God’s supreme argument for His existence, goodness and supremacy. Paul knew this and resolved to not let the gospel become a sub-argument, but the primary argument. Though men may reject the gospel and therefore God and the inerrancy of His Scriptures, the fact still remains that the greatest and most powerful “argument” we have for the inerrancy of the Scriptures is still the gospel. This gospel is that Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to glorify God by dieing on the cross to forgive our sins and bring eternal life to mankind; namely, to know and find ineffable joy in God forever.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Call To Self-Examination: Research In Progress

Just wanted to let those of you know who are following my series on sin that I have not abandoned it. I want my conclusions to be accurate and thorough so I am currently in the process of gathering and sorting through texts relating to sin. I am hoping to post my first installment very soon. In the meantime stay tuned as I will be posting various other things that will hopefully be interesting, encouraging and perhaps sometimes a little bold and challenging.

For example, I plan on posting a little excerpt from a paper I am working on arguing that the primary purpose of the institution of the covenants is:

The glorification of God (the creator of the covenants) by means of us knowing, and thus enjoying Him, through union with Him forever by His grace in Christ Jesus.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Arise and Illuminate: Final Verse

I completed the final verse of the hymn. Here it is:

Illuminate, O Lord of all with glory undefined
Come manifest your Father’s name you had before all time
Arise to bring us grace and peace, deliver us from strife
To know you is our greatest joy, this is eternal life.

Arise And Illuminate

Here's an attempt I made at writing a hymn a couple years ago. The lyrics are inspired by Isaiah 60:1-3 and Colossians 3:1-3. I thought I had written a 4th verse but I think I didn't finish it and thus can't find it. My plan for the fourth verse was to have content in it inspired by John 17, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.

Arise, O’ heart of mine, from muck and mire and woe
Be done with worthless earthly things and hurry to the throne
For you have died and in him rest who dwells at His right hand
And there with Christ in heaven above you do already stand.

Arise, O’ sleeping flame, ignited by His call
From ash and dust burst forth again fed by the All in All
Shine brightly now upon a stand for everyone to show,
The glory of sufficient grace and heights within the lows.

Illuminate, O’ child of God, Christ’s radiance display
With unveiled face be now transformed into the light of day.

Though darkness reign o’er all the earth have faith and be not shocked
If all the nations of the earth and kings to you do flock.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Drowning In Abundance

I have recently been reading The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel. In chapter four Flavel discusses God's providence in relation to our employment/work in this world. There is an interesting subsection in this chapter wherein Flavel shows that God's providence is displayed "in making your calling sufficient for you." The essence of this section could easily be summed up with the words of Paul where he says "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Php. 4:12&13).

What caught my attention most about this section was Flavel's warning regarding being consumed by your work:

And yet do not be so intent upon your callings [jobs] as to make them interfere with your general calling. Beware you do not lose your God in the crowd and hurry of earthly business. Mind that solemn warning: 'But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition' (1 Tim. 6. 9). The inhabitants of Oenoe, a dry island near Athens, bestowed much labor to draw in a river to water it and make it fruitful. But when the sluices were opened, the waters flowed so abundantly that it overflowed the island and drowned the inhabitants. The application is obvious. It was an excellent saying of Seneca: 'I do not give, but lend myself to business.'
Ultimately Flavel is making the point that we should be satisfied with the occupation that He has given us and not want more because more does not equate to better. On the flip side, don't desire a job with less work or that pays less because God's providence has placed you in it and He will provide you with the strength to accomplish the work and use the abundance rightly.

Abundance, argues Flavel, can drown out that which is most important to your joy--God. Work at your occupation giving thanks to God that He has given it to you so that you can help others, not starve yourself and so that you are not idle and therefore more prone to sin that often accompanies such idleness. Don't, however, work for abundance just for the sake of abundance or you may find yourself in the same position as the Oenoeans.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Call to Self-Examination: Considering How To Arrive at a Concise, Biblical Definition of Sin

As established in my introductory post; we have no lack of definitions of sin either amongst the theologians, the secular critics of the idea of sin, or among average people who haven’t given it much thought. The seriousness of these definitions varies widely. Some people’s definition of sin simply equates sin to spilled milk and nothing more than an accident that need not be fretted or cried over. Others define sin as a breaking of some list of agreed wrongs or evils, or not doing a list of good, that is, the breaking or not fulfilling of some code of law. Perhaps one of the most popular definitions of sin among modern, evangelical Christians describes sin as simply “missing the mark.”

Most of these definitions of sin are, regrettably, simply a matter of opinion or a regurgitation of what they have heard others define sin as being. Others attempt to define sin by looking at a few passages of the Bible and thus come to quick and incomplete or shallow definitions of sin. To come to a right, concise and most fundamental definition of sin; one must consider more than just the meaning of the word “sin” in the original Greek and Hebrew that the Bible was written in. One must also look at such things as: examples of people sinning, things that the Bible directly calls sin, what sin is contrasted with, penalties for sinning, Biblical prescriptions of how to deal with or respond to sin, any definitions that the Bible might give for sin (i.e. by saying “sin is” or “…is sin”), what causes sin, and examples of what has happened to people who have sinned. Moreover, how does what we know about the character and nature of God effect our definition of and response to sin?

Given the amount of information that must be considered in order to arrive at a right definition of sin; I will be presenting this data over multiple posts, since I know that no one reads blogs that are either long or contain an overwhelming amount of information and complex arguments. As a general format for these posts I will use the aforementioned list of things one must consider to come to a more comprehensive and concise definition of sin.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Call to Self-Examination for the Sake of God's Glory: Introduction

Introduction

Sin. What is your first reaction to the sight, sound or thought of this word? Do you scoff at the term thinking it an antiquated legal term relevant only to the men of the past who drained the blood of bulls and lambs in an attempt to drain their own guilt? Perhaps you acknowledge that sin is "bad," and recognize that you need to deal with it, but feel that it is impossible to ever accomplish any significant victory over known, reoccurring sins and thus you have, to a large degree, given up on fighting it? Maybe you are of the sort that jokes about your sin as an attempt to show others that you are humble or "just like them?" When you see this word do you think of yourself first, or someone else? Does this word cause sorrow that leads you into self-centeredness and thus pity and depression instead of God-centeredness and thus victory, joy, hope and more faith?

At it's very root, what is sin and therefore how should we respond to it? In the following posts I would like to take a serious look at what the Bible clearly and vividly says about what sin is, and from that extrapolate how we should view and respond to the presence of sin in our life and the lives of others. In this series I hope to clearly and vividly show the serious, gross, despicable, vile nature of sin and why we should all take serious, Biblical and God enabled steps to rid ourselves of every semblance of it so far as God gives us the power to do so.

In the next post I will begin this discussion by answering the question, "What does the Bible most clearly teach that sin is?" In defining what the Bible says sin is, that will naturally, I hope, cause us to respond to it as we should and thus I will move into what the Bible says about how we must respond to sin. I hope you will join me in this discussion with your comments and questions.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Negligent Hearing: A Thousand Lost Sermons

"Take heed how you hear. This is the warning of Christ to his disciples, after they hear the parable of of the seed (Luke 8:18)...When I consider how many labourers God has sent to his vineyard, and yet how little fruit it yields to the sower, I cannot impute it to lack of teaching, but to the lack of hearing...to a kind of negligent hearing [so that] a thousand sermons have been lost and forgotten, as though they had never been preached at all. The devil ....labours all he can to keep us from hearing. To effect this, he keeps us at taverns, at plays, in our shops...He casts fancies into our minds, drowsiness into our heads, sounds into our ears, temptation before our eyes...He infects us with prejudice of the preacher... or takes us to dinner, or pastime, to remove our minds, that we should think no more of it."

-Henry Smith (1620–1668) "The Art of Hearing."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dreary Flickerings Over Who Knows What

"My Dear Wormwood...

The Christians describe the Enemy [God] as one 'without whom Nothing is strong.' And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man's best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing [italics added]. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,

Your affectionate uncle
Screwtape"

(C.S. Lewis; The Screwtape Letters, pg. 64-65.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Codex Sinaiticus Online

Just wanted to let those of you Biblical Greek aficionados know, who didn't know already, that the Codex Sinaiticus is now available for viewing online. This is a great opportunity to look at this amazing manuscript! For those of you who aren't familiar with the manuscript and would like to know more about its importance please click here. If you would like to view the manuscript click here or on the image of the text above. Of course I prefer a Bible without the apocryphal books and an OT translated from the Masoretic text, but this text is still immensely important to studies of Biblical Greek.

Friday, July 10, 2009

John Calvin: Only as Relevant as He Was Biblical and Therefore Still Relevant

Here's a most excellent post by Pastor Kevin DeYoung on John Calvin and why a 500 year old figure still holds the interest of so many. Below are a few excerpts. You can read the whole thing at his blog DeYoung, Restless and Reformed.

"Calvin’s confidence was in the Word of God, and that’s why his theology and vision of the world continues to capture the minds and hearts of people in the 21st century. That’s why five hundred years later we remember his birth. That’s why Calvin the preacher and expositor has millions more spiritual children than Erasmus the scholar and hermeneutical skeptic. Strive for relevance in your day, and you’ll may make a difference for a few years. Anchor yourself in what is eternal and you may influence the world for another five centuries.

I’m all for young people dreaming big dreams. Go out and change the world. Make a difference. Discover a cure for cancer. Write a best-selling novel. Become president. But remember, your “glory” (and mine) will not last. Your great accomplishments will fall away–either in your lifetime, or in a generation, or at the end of all things.

No one will care about your GPA and SAT scores in ten years. If you win a state championship, you’ll be forgotten the next year you don’t. Your beauty will get wrinkles and trim figure plump. Write a great book and it will gather dust in a library some day. Have a big famous church, it won’t last forever. Be an important person in your field, you still be unknown to over 6 billion people in the world. Build an amazing house, it will crumble some day, if it doesn’t go into foreclosure first. All of our achievements and successes are destined to be like dead grass and faded flowers.

But...the word of our God stands forever. The word about Babylon in Isaiah 40 stood firm. and so will his word in our generation. All God’s declarations about himself and his people are true. All his promises will come to pass. Our only confidence is in the word of God. John Calvin was a man, an imperfect, sinful man, but a man that God used enormously because he put his confidence in the word of God."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Sanctification of Your Studies

It is all too common in this modern age for there to be a separation between theological studies and all others studies, especially the sciences. Even in our studies of theology, whether it be a casual reading of the Bible or in depth exegesis, we approach "it" much as a forensic scientist, a morgue technician or a medical student approaches a dead body. Our study of God is reduced to the study of yet another subject or specimen. Our purpose, therefore, becomes to understand as opposed to knowing. The forensic scientist does not know the subject on the cold steel table. He or she does not know their favorite color, what gives them joy or what makes them sad. To them the subject need not be alive because their interest in them is only to understand scientific facts about their physiology and anatomy.

Is this the way you approach God? Is He just another subject for you to understand, a specimen to dissect to prove to others and yourself that you "know" God? The "study" of God is not a study of a cadaver. Have you not heard?

"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" (Psalms 42:2)

Our God is a living God and so is His Word.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

God is more alive than you and I have been or ever will be. We find our life in Him as does all of creation. If this is so, then both our "study" of God Himself and of His creation are like getting to know ones own father or a dear friend. Does anyone study their friends or dearest loved ones as a mere subject to be well versed in? More importantly do you want people to know simple facts about you or to really truly know you? If a book were written about you, and someone read it would you consider it to be acceptable for them to say they know you? I don't think so.

If creation finds its life in God, then a study of creation is a study of God as well. All of creation tells us something unique about the Artist who created it. The Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691) says this about the study of God and His creation in "The Reformed Pastor":

"It is the work of Christ to bring us back to God, and to restore us to the perfection of holiness and obedience; and as he is the way to the Father, so faith in him is the way to our former employment and enjoyment of God. I hope you perceive what I aim at in all this, namely, that to see God in his creatures, and to love him, and converse with him, was the employment of man in his upright state; that this is so far from ceasing to be our duty, that it is the work of Christ to bring us, by faith, back to it; and therefore the most holy men are the most excellent students of God's works, and none but the holy can rightly study them or know them. 'His works are great, sought of all them that have pleasure therein;' but not for ourselves, but for him that made them. Your study of physics and other sciences is not worth a rush, if it be not God that you seek after in them. To see and admire, to reverence and adore, to love and delight in God, as exhibited in his works--this is true and only philosophy; the contrary is mere foolery, and is so called again and again by God himself. This is the sanctification of your studies, when they are devoted to God, and when he is the end, the object and the life of them all."

If at first we come to know God through His Word and Spirit, and truly come to "admire, to reverence and adore, to love and delight in God" then we will also come to adore the great works of His hands, as though creation were another book of His. Are physics and other sciences so separate a study from theology if they are in essence a study of God Himself? Baxter thinks not.

"Theology must lay the foundation, and lead the way of all our studies. If God must be searched after, in our search of the creature, (and we must affect no separated knowledge of them) then tutors must read God to their pupils in all; and divinity must be the beginning, the middle, the end, the life, the all, of their studies. Our physics and metaphysics must be reduced to theology; and nature must be read as one of God's books, which is purposely written for the revelation of himself."

So in summary, first, do not approach the "study" of God as the forensic scientist does his most recent dead body or as mere facts. To "study" God is to come into a deeper friendship and enjoyment of God Himself. Approach your reading of the Bible and theological studies prayerfully asking God that you might come to better known, adore and delight in Him.

Secondly and lastly, do not see the study of created things, whether it be physics, metaphysics, mathematics or anything else as a study separate from your getting to know and worship God more correctly. Come to your studies prayerfully asking God that you might better know, adore and delight in Him just as you do in your studies of His Word. As you do this you will come to see and know God in all things. You will see Him as the all in all, and your observations and enjoyment of the world around you will serve to deepen your relationship with God rather than distract from it. Satan will loose one of his greatest tools in this modern, busy world--the power of distraction. The world is God's and everything in it. Sanctify your studies.

~Quotes from "The Reformed Pastor" by Richard Baxter; Banner of Truth Trust, pg. 58-59.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

New Creation's Sun

Here is some powerful imagery from the English Puritan author George Swinnock (1627-1673). We are not nearly thankful enough for the guiding and warming light that is God's Word!

"Consider what a distinguishing mercy and precious treasure the Word of God is, how without it you would have forever been both unholy and unhappy, and how by it you may eternally be both gracious and glorious. Without question you will find cause to bless the Giver for such a rare and profitable gift. The apostle ranks this favor among the blessings of the highest form: 'What advantage hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision?' (Rom. 3:1). The answer is chiefly, that unto them were committed the oracles of God. The psalmist, mentioning this mercy, concludes with 'Praise ye the Lord' (Ps. 147:19-20). The light of the sun, moon, and stars is of such concern to men, that without them the beauty of the old creation would be buried in darkness, and therefore the children of God have given the Most High the credit of those greater and lesser candles (Ps. 136:7-9)...The light of God's law and Word is of infinitely more worth, for by it the glory and beauty of the new creation, and that curious piece of man's redemption, is seen and known. What honor God deserves for this favor!"

~George Swinnock; Works of George Swinnock (vol. 1; London: James Nichol. 1868), 163-164.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bible Works 8 Contest

Check out this link for directions on how to win the new Bible Works 8 Bible software. This is some of the best Bible software on the market and contains some awesome new resources and features. There's a few simple steps to entering to win.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Exceeding Pleasure of Self-Denial


Here is a quote from the Puritan author Jeremiah Burroughs I read recently:

"Oh, that you would test the ways of God, tasting to see that He is good! If your hearts were such that you would be satisfied without earthly pleasures, it would make the moderation of them more pleasant than the excess. You would find more pleasure in the very act of self-denial than in all the pleasure of your lives, and if there is so much enjoyment in denying false pleasure, what joy is there in enjoying true pleasure? Surely God has pleasure enough for you, if you had a heart to trust Him with your pleasure; you shall only lose your sin, not your pleasure. Bernard has a notable expression: "If you are willing to sacrifice your Isaac (which signifies laughter), your Isaac, which is your pleasure, shall not die." It is the ram, that is, your stoutness of spirit, your selfishness, that shall die. Isaac shall live, and you shall have pleasure still.

Do not harbor ill thoughts of God, to think that He is an enemy to your pleasure and delight. He does not delight to grieve your spirit. If you would trust Him with your pleasure...You must trust God with your soul's eternal condition; will you not trust Him with your pleasures? Do you think Christ came to die and shed His blood to bring you into a worse condition than before? Oh no, certainly Christ did not come to take away any pleasure from His people, but to bring them the pleasures of heaven, and of earth too, as far as they are needful. Is it not true that you should have pleasure when you are reconciled to God, and not when you are an enemy?"


-Jeremiah Burroughs; Moses His Choice, With His Eye Fixed Upon Heaven

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Calvin's Tracts and Letters

This year marks the 500th anniversary of John Calvin. In honor of this anniversary many resources, articles and conferences have been made available. Among those resources is a 7 volume set of Tracts and Letters written by or to John Calvin in the 16th Century. Here is Christian Book Distributor's description of the set:

Long unavailable, this collection of Calvin's tracts and letters will delight those who admire the great 16th-century reformer. Three volumes of tracts offer insight into Calvin's thought on a range of thorny issues, including his disagreements with Rome. Four volumes of letters document his correspondence with kings, princes, friends, fellow reformers, and common people. Seven hardcovers, from Banner of Truth.
I am pretty excited about these being made available and look forward to reading them. Click on the cover of the book to check out CBD's price for this set. The 7 volumes can also be purchased alongside of Calvin's Commentaries and Institutes for a VERY reasonable price. This is quite an opportunity for those who have an interest in Calvin's long-enduring effect on the Church.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Purely Delightful: The Benefits and Joy of Reading the Puritans

There are three major things that I seek to foster and maintain everyday: 1) an awareness of the presence, nature, promises and character of God, 2) an awe and feared-filled response to that awareness and 3) an appropriate and passionate response to God in all of the particular responsibilities, interactions and pleasures of the day.

The first and greatest way I perpetuate these three things throughout the day is a steady flow of scripture intake. When I realize both the source and consequent authoritative nature of the scriptures; I have found that I feel a great sense of security, clarity and peace. We are a generation of information. We all, very literally now, have it right at our finger tips. For most now, there is seemingly (emphasis on seemingly) no need to actually learn anything. Why learn something when you can pull up the information in seconds on your mobile device?

What is our obsession with having information so readily and instantaneously? Besides numerous other reasons, I would say that much of it has to do with creating a sense of security for ourselves and having more control through the power of remaining informed. In fact I would say the number one reason that many people stay silent or don't assert themselves in situations is due to a lack of confidence in knowing how to contribute in a valuable way. Information, or truth, is vital to every daily operation and to our joy. The more someone knows about something or someone the more they tend to respond appropriately.

Truth inspires, directs and comforts us. Truth also confronts us and causes us to change when necessary to avoid potential disobedience, harm or destruction even. Given the overwhelming power and necessity of knowing truth; we must love both the acquisition and dissemination of it. Truth, or Jesus, is the most valuable thing we can acquire and at the same time the most valuable thing we can offer anyone.

This leads me to one of the other most influential ways in which I cultivate those the three things mentioned above--reading the writing of the Puritans. Now I must say up front that I certainly read more than just the Puritans and also seek wise counsel from the living and not just the dead. That said, however, I would like to share with you some reasons why I find reading Puritan writing so influential to my growing in godliness. To do this I would like to share with you one of the six characteristics of Puritan literature that Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson (authors of the book "Meet the Puritans") put forward as why Puritan literature is so beneficial and profitable:


"2.[of six] They marry doctrine and practice. The Puritans did this by addressing the mind, confronting the conscience, and wooing the heart.


Addressing the mind. The Puritans refused to set mind and heart against each other but taught that knowledge was the soil in which the Spirit planted the seed of regeneration. They viewed the mind as the palace of faith. "In conversion, reason is elevated," John Preston wrote. Cotton Mather said, "Ignorance is the mother not of devotion but of heresy."


The Puritans understood that a mindless Christianity fosters a spineless Christianity. An anti-intellectual gospel quickly becomes an empty, formless gospel that doesn't get beyond "felt needs." That's what is happening in many churches today. Tragically, few understand that if there is little difference between what Christians and unbelievers believe with their minds, there will soon be little difference in how they live. Puritan literature is a great solution to this problem.


Confronting the conscience. The Puritans were masters at naming specific sins, then asking questions to press home conviction of those sins. As one Puritan wrote, "We must go with the stick of divine truth and beat every bush behind which a sinner hides, until like Adam who hid, he stands before God in his nakedness."


Devotional reading should be confrontational as well as comforting. We experience little growth if our consciences are not pricked daily and directed to Christ. Since we are prone to run for the bushes, we need daily help to be brought before the living God, “naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). In this, no writers can help us as much as the Puritans.

Engaging the heart. It is unusual today to find books that feed the mind with solid biblical substance and move the heart with affectionate warmth, but the Puritans do both. They reason with the mind, confront the conscience, and appeal to the heart. They write out of love for the souls of readers. They set forth Christ in His loveliness, moving us to yearn to know Him better and live wholly for Him.”

It is certainly needless to say that God uses other things in my life and the lives of others to grow us in godliness, however; I have found that usually these things are just another way of God giving us an opportunity to come to learn more truth, respond to it or to share it with others. The Puritanical emphasis on the marriage of doctrine (truth) and practice, as described by Beeke and Pederson, is like the meeting of a low pressure system and a high one that creates a wind or storm of divine awareness, reverence, repentance, awe, adoration and action.

Each week I hope to share with you a little from various different Puritan writings that have thus far impacted me the most. I think (and pray) you will find them as stirring as I have.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Daily Bible Reading and Keeping a Journal/Commentary


Those who know me know that I am a man of systems. The more complex and busy life gets the more intentional and creative my systems tend to get. Just as we have variable and fixed expenditures in life, so to are there some aspects of being a disciple of Jesus Christ that can be variable and some that must remain fixed.

I think it is hardly debatable that Bible reading is one of those disciplines that we should not be casual about and must remain fixed. All authentic, vibrant and fruitful discipleship flows from a deepening revelation and relationship with the Triune God. Although it is true that God often reveals Himself to us in a variety of ways; there is no clearer and more objective way that He does so than by His perfect Word.

The Word, then, should be more precious to us than any other thing we possess. If our joy is always relative to how satisfied in and dependent on God we are; then knowing, studying and meditating on the Word of God should be of the highest priority.

I have developed my own little system to make sure that I regularly study and meditate on God's Word. I use a daily Bible reading plan that takes me through 4 biblical categories of reading each day. I personally use the ESV Study Bible Reading Plan. ESV has several reading plans for you to choose from that help immensly in guiding your daily reading. I read from 4 places in the Bible each day, and usually spread it out to 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon or evening. Sometime I do just 1 in the morning, 1 in the afternoon and 2 in the evening. Being in God's Word all day has a dramatic effect on my thought and prayer life and thus affects the way I act during the day as well. Sometimes the daily reading has provided me with just the right verse to share with a believer who needed encouragement or an unbeliever.

Besides just reading God's Word daily with the help of a reading plan; I also journal or commentate on the reading for each day. I personally go verse by verse and so it ends up being a nice little commentary for me to go back and read each year and I get to write new notes for each verse each year. As the years go on you can look at the several different comments you have written for the same verses and compare them. This exercise of writing also helps you to retain much of what you read and stores it in your head throughout the day. I use a 3-ring binder with dividers and section titles to maintain my journal/commentary. It is cheap and it's easy to add and remove pages for more writing or to file away old entries.

This sort of journaling is also a great thing to leave your children. It teaches them the value of journaling for the purpose of godliness and they will have all of your journaling notes to look at someday.

If you struggle with maintaining a discipline of steady Bible reading, perhaps a more intentional system is just the thing you need!

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Another Hallelujah

Here is an entry from my journal yesterday:

I Love you Lord with all my heart
You've given me a brand new start
And I just want to s
ing this song to you

It goes like this the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
My heart and soul are praising Hallelujah!

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I know that you're the God above
You're filling me with grace and love
And I just want to say thank you to you

You pulled me from the miry clay
You've given me a brand new day
Now all that I can say is Hallelujah!

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

As I listened to those words from Lincoln Brewster's version of "Another Hallelujah" while I stared out over Lake Josephine; it felt as though every pour on my skin might turn into millions of little mouths all shouting the chorus "Hallelujah!"

The trees that framed the lake seemed to join in the praise with its' leaves looking like hundreds of clapping hands as the wind whipped through them. Even the lake itself seemed to prostrate itself before the Lord over and over as its waves crashed on the shore one after another. It's as if nature perpetually hears the music that the angels worship to in the heavens and is forever responding and joining in the adoration of its' Sovereign King and Maker. When all mp3 players and radios turn off, and when all church worship services end, the heavenly chorus continues unceasingly crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah."

No matter where and when we are; we are all privileged, welcomed and called to join in this celestial song!



Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Satisfaction in Affliction Silences The Wicked


I am currently reading "All Things For Good" by the puritan author Thomas Watson which is an exposition of Romans 8:28:

"And we know for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

In chapter 2, "The Worst Things Work For Good to the Godly," Watson says this on how afflictions work for good to the godly:

"Afflictions work for good, as they put to silence the wicked. How ready are they to asperse and calumniate the godly, that they serve God only for self-interest. Therefore God will have His people endure sufferings for religion, that He may put a padlock on the lying lips of wicked men. When the atheists of the world see that God has a people, who serve Him not for a livery, but for love, this stops their mouths. The devil accused Job of hypocrisy, that he was a mercenary man; all his religion was made up of ends of gold and silver. 'Doth Job serve God for naught? Hast not thou made a hedge about him? Etc. 'Well,' says God, 'put forth thy hand, touch his estate' (Job 1.9). The devil had no sooner received a commission, but he falls a breaking down Job's hedge; but still Job worships God (Chap. 1.20), and professes his faith in Him. 'Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him' (Chap. 13.15). This silenced the devil himself. How it strikes a damp into wicked men, when they see that the godly will keep close to God in a suffering condition, and that, when they lose all, they will hold fast their integrity."

I took away a few amazing things from this spectacular paragraph:

1. Affliction is good because it gives us the opportunity to prove that our love for God is not based on possession or earthly well-being.
2. Affliction is good because it confounds and confuses the wicked who don't understand the nature of true, godly love. The wicked think that all things must be done with a motivation of personal gain and are amazed when the saints rejoice in affliction and "loss" when they are seemingly gaining nothing.
3.Affliction is good because it gives great opportunity for great glory to God who upholds and gives joy to the righteous in affliction and proves His great and all-surpassing worth.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Surrender All To You

I've been revisiting some of Lincoln Brewster's stuff lately. I love his worship music in general and this song, Surrender, in particular:

I'm giving you my heart, and all that is within
I lay it all down for the sake of you my King
I'm giving you my dreams, I'm laying down my rights
I'm giving up my pride for the promise of new life

And I surrender all to you, all to you
And I surrender all to you, all to you

I'm singing You this song, I'm waiting at the cross
And all the world holds dear, I count it all as loss
For the sake of knowing You for the glory of Your name
To know the lasting joy, even sharing in Your pain


And I surrender all to you, all to you
And I surrender all to you, all to you

The lyrics for this song were inspired by the following passage:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:7-11)

I have always particularly liked this passage because it captures 1) the theme of this blog and 2) a resounding theme of my life; Jesus Christ is a treasure worth more than all of the rubbish this world has to offer, and I would gladly give it all up to know and be satisfied by Him even if it means suffering great loss in this age. This being the case; I surrender all (which really is nothing of any value whatsoever) to Jesus in order to show Him and the world His all-surpassing worth. You can listen to the song below.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Treasure of Ideas; Part 2

In part 1 of this topic I discussed, out of Isaac Watts' book "Logic: The Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry After the Truth" the importance and advantages of pursuing and accumulating ideas or information about the world in which we live. After listing some of the main advantages of accumulating ideas; I would like to now move on to talking about which kinds of ideas are most important for us to pursue. On that topic Watts says the following:

"Furnish yourselves with a rich variety of ideas; acquaint yourselves with things ancient and modern; things natural, civil, and religious; things domestic and rational; things of your native land, and of foreign countries; things present, past, and future; and above all, be well acquainted with God and yourselves; learn animal nature, and the workings or your own spirits.

You will tell me, perhaps, that you design the study of law or divinity; and what good can natural philosophy or mathematics do you, or any other science, not directly subordinate to your chief design? But let it be considered, that all sciences have a sort of mutual connexion; and knowledge of all kinds fits the mind to reason and judge better concerning any particular subject.

And more especially let those ideas be laid up and preserved with the greatest care, which are most directly suited, either to your eternal welfare as a Christian, or to your particular station and profession in this life; for though the former rule recommends a universal acquaintance with things, yet it is but a more general and superficial knowledge that is required or expected of any man, in things which are utterly foreign to his own business; but it is necessary you should have a more particular and accurate acquaintance with those things that refer to your particular province and duty in this life, or your happiness in another [heaven, eternity].

There are some persons who never arrive at any deep, solid, or valuable knowledge in any science, any business of life: because they are perpetually fluttering over the surface of things in a curious and wandering search of infinite variety; ever hearing, reading, or asking after something new, but impatient to labour to lay up and preserve the ideas they have gained: their souls may be compared to a looking-glass, that wheresoever you turn it, it receives the image of all subjects, but retains none.

In our younger years, while we are furnishing our minds with a treasure of ideas, our experience is but small, and our judgment weak; it is therefore impossible at that age to determine aright concerning the real advantage and usefulness of many things we learn. But when age and experience have matured your judgment, then you will [should] gradually drop the more useless part of your younger furniture [ideas] and be more solicitous to retain that which is more necessary for your welfare in this life, or a better [heaven]. Hereby you will come to make the same complaint that almost every learned man has done after long experience in study, and in the study human life and religion [namely God]: Alas! How many hours, and days, and months, have I lost in pursuing some parts of learning, and in reading some authors which have turned to no other account but to inform me, that they were not worthy my labour and pursuit!"

I apologize for the length of the quote, but wanted to make sure I did justice to Watts' point regarding which ideas are most valuable for us to pursue. As with the last point, let me suggest a few major things to take away from Watts' conversation on obtaining a treasure of ideas:

1. Variety: The first bit of advice that I think is important to take away from Watts' discussion is that there is a great benefit in gathering information about a variety of ideas. To some this may seem silly, and some may even comment that all of our attention should be focused on spiritual matters. Although there is no doubt that our minds should be set on things above and not on things below; I think it is equally true that to have an appreciation of and a recognition that all things here on earth were created by the God who is "above" will actually aid us in keeping our minds set on things above. Instead of allowing the things of this world to distract us, having a correct appreciation of the things of this world in relation to their Creator will greatly increase our appreciation, praise and thanksgiving of God.

A second benefit to gathering a variety of ideas about things is an increased ability to interact and communicate with other believers and non-believers. As we come to see all things in Christ, we increase our ability to discuss Christ in all situations in life and thus bring glory to God by spreading the gospel.

Having a variety of ideas also increases our ability to use practical illustrations to communicate the truths of God just as Jesus Himself used practical illustrations (parables, similes and metaphors) to communicate truths about Himself and the Father.

2. Most Valuable: Watts' first suggestion regarding what ideas to obtain suggests that we acquire a general knowledge about a large variety of things. On this point Isaac makes sure to note that when we obtain ideas about a large variety of things we are merely coming to a general knowledge about such things, not becoming experts on all things. Moving on Watts urges that the ideas that we should focus our efforts on are those which are most important and most valuable.

What ideas, then, are more important to know than information about God Himself and that which impacts our eternity? Ideas about all of the things of this world will certainly pass away and are very temporal in both their usefulness and ability to satisfy, but ideas (or an intimate relationship and acquaintance) about God are both eternally useful and eternally satisfying and therefore are worth our attention and efforts more than anything else.

Watts also implores the hunter of the treasure of ideas to focus on those things which are most relevant to his or her position in life. Do everything you do with all your heart as unto the Lord. The better you are at your job, marriage or parenting the more you are glorifying God.

3. Grow Up: When we are young it is important for us to begin to take in a great deal of information and ideas as we come to understand how to live in the world that God has brought us into. As we grow up, however, we should come to see that learning some things is more important than learning others. If we refuse to let go of these childish ideas of what is important (i.e. the notion that being a kid is just all about having fun and being entertained and satisfied but not having any grasp of the truth or responsibility) we will find ourselves neglecting things of eternal importance. Are the only books you read books that entertain? Grow up. Do you spend all of your "free time" watching TV or indulging in mindless and purposeless hobbies? Grow up.

It is true that God wants us to enjoy the life He has given us, but if we constantly make a dichotomy between God and fun, we will be saying that knowing God, obeying Him and sharing Him with others is not fun and that God Himself is not fun. We can still do our hobbies and such but we must beware that they do not become more time consuming or satisfying than knowing God as that would become nothing less than idolatry and selfish indulgence. Jesus Christ came down from the perfect sweetness and divine entertainment of the heavens to glorify God and show us love; should we not follow His example?

In the next section I will end by giving some advice, from Watts, on some very helpful methods for gaining and retaining a wealth of ideas. I promise the third post will come much quicker than the second followed the first!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Over My Head

Ok, so before I post the second part to my last post; I wanted to break a second to post one of my favorite songs from my one of my favorite worship groups.

The song is called, "Over my Head" by the group Starfield. If you have never heard them before or have neglected listening to them; I really suggest you look into them. Every song they write seems to project solid truth, deep adoration and obvious humility.



Lyrics:

"Over My Head"

After the words have all been said
After the songs are sung
I realize I've only but just begun
Trying to wrap my mind around
Extravagant love come down
Leaves me undone
Finds me with nothing to say

The reach of Your fame
The power in Your name
Your glory surrounds me
It's over my head
It's over my head
The shame of the cross
For all that it cost
This friendship astounds me
It's over my head
It's over my head

Unquenchable songs and endless praise
A million tongues poised to sing
Could still not convey
The worth that Your name deserves
Beauty for ashes
Joy for pain
Mercy instead of my blame
Ruins me for more
I'm lost in Your presence, Lord

Hallelujah...

Lost for the words to say
I'm left here in disarray
Waiting for You, waiting on truth
I've thrown reason overboard
Knowing that there's still more
I don't yet believe, I can't even perceive
I can't seem to understand
Can't seem to find my way
It's over my head, it's over my head
Learning this mystery
Trust what I cannot see
It's over my head, it's over my head
The wonder of all You've made
Foundations Your hands have laid
Bringing me back to my knees, to my knees
I'm lost for the words to say
Lost for another way
Bringing me back to my knees, to my knees
I'm lost for the words to say
Lost for another way
Ruined for anything other than Your love
I'm desperate to know You, Lord
Desperate for what's in store
Finding my hope in only You, in only You
Take me beyond this door
Lead me to something more
Open my heart up for more of You, more of You

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Treasure of Ideas; Part 1

Although I love authoring blogs that are my own original ideas; I also love to pass along the valuable jewels that are the product of another person's laborious mining of the truth.

Today I would like to commend to you some of the thoughts of the old hymn writer Isaac Watts. Most are likely to be familiar with his hymn "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross." Besides writing hymns, Watts also wrote what is essentially a text book on Logic, or what he calls "the right use of reason in the inquiry after the truth."

Why should we learn, what should we learn and how should we learn it? Should we be passive or active/intentional learners? Is there a difference? These are some of the fundamental questions that Watts addresses.

In the following quotes from Isaac Watts; I want to show, from his writing, how important it is that we intentionally pursue gaining new ideas, what kind of ideas are most important to obtain, and a few methods by which we can better gain and retain these important ideas.

I'll deal first and only with the importance/advantages of pursuing these ideas in this blog and split the other 2 topics into following blogs.

Importance/Advantages of Pursuing Ideas

"Such a general acquaintance with things will be of very great advantage.

The first benefit is this: it will assist the use of reason in all its following operations; it will teach you to judge of things aright; to argue justly, and methodise your thoughts with accuracy. When you shall find several things akin to each other, and several different from each other, agreeing in some part of their idea and disagreeing in other parts, you will arrange your ideas in better order, you will be more easily led into a distinct knowledge of things and will obtain a rich store of proper thoughts and arguments upon all occasions.

Another benefit of it is this: Such a large general acquaintance with thing will secure you from perpetual admirations and surprises, and guard you against that weakness of ignorant persons, who have never seen any thing beyond the confines of their own dwelling, and therefore they wonder at almost every thing they see; every thing beyond the smoke of their own chimney, and reach of their own windows, is new and strange to them.

A third benefit of such a universal acquaintance with things is this: it will keep you from being too positive and dogmaticial, from an excess of credulity and unbelief, that is, a readiness to believe, or to deny, every thing at first hearing; when you shall have often seen, that strange and uncommon things, which often seemed incredible, are found to be true: and things very commonly received have been found false."

Isaac Watts; Logic: The Right Use of Reason In the Inquiry After the Truth

Let me suggest some key things to take away from Watts' listed benefits of gaining a "treasure of ideas."

1. Gaining new ideas (knowledge, especially pertaining to God) helps us make better judgments about things. We are all faced with important decisions day in and day out. Without a sufficient amount of information; we are certainly doomed to make uninformed and therefore poor judgments. Watts will explain sources we should consider when pursuing this treasure of ideas (in order to make those good judgments) in our section on "methods by which we can better gain and retain these important ideas."

2. Gaining new ideas will keep you from admiring things that have little real value in life. It will also keep you from being too surprised by things that you are unacquainted with and will keep you from being skeptical and critical of things that you have never been exposed to.

3. Gaining new ideas will keep one from becoming too overly confident and therefore judgmental based upon the information they have acquired. This will, in part, happen because as a result of gaining new ideas; one should learn that they knew less about things than they originally realized. This should lead to the conclusion that one should be slower to judgment because there may yet be new ideas or information they have not yet obtained and therefore cannot pass judgment without sufficient information.

Furthermore, becoming more acquainted with ideas (especially information regarding God in His character and nature) will keep one from unbelief. Following that same line of thought; when we increase our treasury of ideas, we will find certain things less unbelievable and realize that things we have too easy believed are, in actuality, false.

God has given us information and the ability to gain and retain it. As such, we should take full advantage of the time and opportunities that God gives us to advance our knowledge of important ideas. In the next section on "what kind of ideas are most important to obtain" we will look more closely at what sorts of ideas we should be investing the majority of our time gaining and retaining.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Enraptured by Christ

I am currently reading "The Assurance of Our Salvation: Exploring the Depths of Jesus' Prayer for His Own" which is a study of the book of John, chapter seventeen. As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones goes through the first five verses of the chapter, he says these provocatively magnificent words:

"If you read the lives of the saints who have gone before us in this world, you will find that they spent most of their time in talking together about Jesus...It seems to me that this is the note that we must recapture, and that there is no real hope for revival and true awakening until we come back to this. And the way to do that is to study the Scriptures, to spend our time in reading and meditating upon them and then in humbling ourselves in worship and in adoration before such a marvelous truth. Now I am not saying this in a theoretical manner for I am anxious to be extremely practical. No, I advocate this because, apart from anything else, the real cure for most of our subjective ills is ultimately to be so enraptured by the beauty and the glory of Christ that we will forget ourselves and will not have time to think about ourselves at all. Now that is a bit of good psychology...We are living such a ridiculous type of life that our nerves are tired and frayed, and as a result we are all of us concerned about self, and the great problem is how to get away from it.

The high road to that is to be absorbed by someone else, something outside oneself, which is so glorious and wonderful that, without knowing it, we forget all about ourselves. This can happen as you look at some marvelous scenery, or fall in love and forget yourself; well, multiply that by infinity and look into the face of Jesus Christ and catch something of his glory, and I assure you that most of the 'mumps and measles of the soul' will automatically be cured and you will find yourself in a healthy condition, mentally, spiritually and even psychologically."