Saturday, January 31, 2009

The worm that never dies

Another formative moment, following on the last I wrote about (see yesterday's post), was when I went to the home of friends in Maryland to hear the late Dr. John Gerstner talk about Jonathan Edwards' view of hell. I know, it doesn't sound like a fun night's entertainment, but it was in the context of a bible study, and it was such a tremendous opportunity to meet and listen to Dr. Gerstner! He began by stating that Christ talked far more about hell than anyone else in the bible, and went on to exposit many passages. He explained how Edwards understood the passage in Matthew where Jesus describes "the worm that never dies," and the "fire that is never quenched". The worm continues to eat at the soul and the fire to burn because for eternity the person in hell continues to hate God and rebel against him. And there, but for the grace of God, would each of us be.

What struck me that night for the first time, was not so much the philosophical ramifications of this truth, but that fact that *I* should be heading for such torment. But I'm not. God snatched me from the fire, and saved me, through nothing in me. Only because he chose to love me and save me. Wow. When I really grasped that, I couldn't stop crying, thinking of the magnitude of God's gift to me. I was overcome by gratitude.

My copious tears worried our hostess, however. She asked if I was alright, and was I afraid of hell. I told her no, I was overcome by God's goodness in saving me from it. Her dear husband said, "Well, we should all cry about that on a regular basis!"

To be continued...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Predestination: the bible is full of it.

In our Sunday School class, we are reading a light but interesting book about the resurgence of Calvinism among Evangelicals. It's title is Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists, and it is written by Collin Hansen. This is a quick read, and interesting to discuss in the context of our own church, and how we address trends in our culture. It also provides a nice break from the heavy-duty fare we've covered the last several years: The Westminster Confession, then the Larger Catechism, the book of Job, and John Owen's Mortification of Sin. Phew!

One of the appealing things about Hansen's book is that I see myself in many of the anecdotes. As I was reading today, Hansen said that for many young Calvinists, though they had known Christ prior to understanding Reformed theology, that understanding energized and renewed their life. This reminded me of several instances in my own life when, my understanding of the gospel was broadened and my life changed by it. I thought it might be fun to briefly chronicle some of these times.

In 1979, my soon-to-be-husband and I attended Intervarsity's Urbana Missions Conference. A couple of things happened there that were life altering for me. Dave and I had been discipled by a couple from his church who were Reformed, and I had been exposed to the teaching of Scripture, but my Roman Catholic, individualistic, Arminian self was kicking against the goads. As a matter of fact, I had decided to stop reading any books of the bible that even mentioned predestination. I had cut myself down to Psalms and Proverbs, but even there it kept raising its ugly head. At Urbana, the first thing that got my attention was the morning bible studies taught by John Stott from the book of Romans. I remember distinctly realizing by the end of the week that my choice was either to embrace what Scripture clearly said, or to deny it.

We attended Urbana with our dear friends Barb and Randy Greenwald (and their infant daughter, Adria). At some point I was walking around the exhibit hall with Randy, and we were discussing predestination. He paused and said, "Come with me." He introduced me to a Dr. Barker (I'm now not sure which Dr. Barker this was, but at the time I had no knowledge of any Dr. Barkers...) and said, "Chris has a question for you." So, being ever naive and bold, I said to this Doctor of Theology, "Do you really buy this predestination stuff? I mean, it seems so counter-intuitive. Why would you want to believe such a thing?" His answer was so simple. He replied that the bible was full of predestination, so he had no choice. He had no choice, and neither did I. At the end of the week, I remember kneeling with Dave in the lobby of one of the dorms on the UI campus, and committing myself to following God through His Word, and asking God to help me to love the truth about Him, even Predestination, which I hated at that time.

So, I left that important week as a different person than I had entered it. I came to grips with the fact that to reject the doctrines of grace was to reject Scripture. I could no longer have it both ways, and pick-and-choose what I wanted to believe. I either had to accept Scripture and all it said as authoritative, or I had to reject it. I prayed fervently for God, who in His sovereignty had revealed the truth of His Word to me, to make me love those truths. And He has been gracious to answer that prayer. Predestination, which once was odious to me, is now a precious picture of the amazing love of a sovereign God for me, who has nothing to deserve it. It reminds me that I did nothing to earn my salvation, and therefor can do nothing to lose it, either. What comfort this brings.

To be continued...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Come for Me

Come for Me by Charlie Hall

Jesus come take me away, I long to see Your face
This world is broken yet beautifully made,
Jesus come take me away
Jesus I’ll patiently wait, till like a vapor I’ll fade
Help me fulfill all your dreams for these days,
Jesus I’ll patiently wait

You’ll come again with a shout,
like a thief in the night you’ll come riding on clouds
Finally the voice I have followed for life
has a glorious face that is lit up with light
And you’ll come for me, no more pain, peace,
No more fear, release
just lost and consumed with my glorious King,

And you’ll come for me

Jesus today I am tired, I need your music to come and inspire
I give myself to be refined in this fire,
but Jesus today I’m so tired

Come for me

You can listen to this lovely song here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Myb thoughts on this blustery winter day in New Mexico are wandering far and wide. I've been doing work with my hands (luandry and quilting) and that always inspires a variety of mind work. Here are a few things that have crossed my path:

John Piper has some thoughtful resources on the abortion topic. He offers 15 Pro-life Truths, as well as thoughts on being a pro-life Christian under a pro-life president.

I found this article by Robert Kaplan on the topic of torture to be thought-provoking.

I really enjoyed this article by Mike Adams about his new grading strategy: one that will reflect the new president's economic policies...

Here is a frightening story about brainwashing taking place on our college campuses *outside* of the classroom.

And finally, for something a bit lighter, how about this article regarding items lost or found in books?

May you all stay warm and cozy today, Gentle Readers.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The tongue

"A sharp tongue is the only edge tool that grows keener with constant use"

-- Washington Irving, "Rip Van Winkle"

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sabbath Sentiments

Give to our God Immortal Praise by Isaac Watts, 1719

Give to our God immortal praise;
Mercy and truth are all His ways:
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song.

Give to the Lord of lords renown,
The King of kings with glory crown:
His mercies ever shall endure,
When lords and kings are known no more.

He built the earth, He spread the sky,
And fixed the starry lights on high:
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song.

He fills the sun with morning light;
He bids the moon direct the night:
His mercies ever shall endure,
When suns and moons shall shine no more.

The Jews He freed from Pharaoh’s hand,
And brought them to the promised land
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song.

He saw the Gentiles dead in sin,
And felt His pity work within
His mercies ever shall endure,
When death and sin shall reign no more.

He sent His Son with power to save
From guilt, and darkness, and the grave
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song.

Through this vain world He guides our feet,
And leads us to His heav’nly seat
His mercies ever shall endure,
When this vain world shall be no more.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Less is more

"Before he is 18, no one has time to do more than a few things well;
therefore, better to teach a few subjects thoroughly than to force a
child to be a mediocrity in many subjects, destroying his standards,
obscuring the nature of mastery, and concealing the measure of his
~David hicks, Norms and Nobility

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More on abortion

On this important anniversary day of the Roe v. Wade decision, several excellent things are being posted. I hope you will use this, Gentle Readers, to inform yourselves and join in the battle. Here are just a few of them:

*Robert George writes about what was wrong with the Roe decision here.

*James Kushiner discusses abortion at Touchstone Magazine.

*Justin Taylor lists several excellent sources here, and talks about one way to make a difference here.

*John Ensor provides some excellent thoughts at

*Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade, offers an affadavit describing the facts of her involvement with the case here.

*Tabletalk Magazine offers free video streaming of R. C. Sproul's teaching here.

Inaugurations and anniversaries

This week has seen the inauguration of a new president, and the hope of change in the air. I have to side with Jon Stewart in this instance, however (watch here), that the words are just words no matter who says them, and what has been said so far hardly constitutes change. (And see a brilliant commentary on President Obama's words here.)

This week also sees another anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, with its ensuing slaughter of innocents. Unfortunately, President Obama has weighed in with action on this already. While President Obama's defense and promotion of abortion comes as no surprise, I am saddened to see this as one of his first official acts. It causes me to fall on my face before God and ask for mercy for our nation, and guidance for our President. It is difficult to see a man who is being hailed as a great milestone of healing in our country begin his term with promoting slaughter of the defenseless.

And yet, I am praying for President Obama. As it says in proverbs, the heart of the king is in the hands of the Lord, so I am not without hope. I agree with what Os Guiness said in USA today:
My own desired outcome would be for all Americans to face up to the reality of our culture warring impasse, dig deep in our spiritual and historical resources, and work together with the president for a painful reconciliation and the possibility of a "new, new birth of freedom." A city on a hill, as Jesus of Nazareth said long before John Winthrop and Ronald Reagan, "cannot be hidden." The world watches and waits to see whether what our Founders called the "new order of the ages" can still live up to its promise in this stirring new day.

(Read the whole thing here.)

In an interesting discussion of the inauguration, the safe landing of Flight 1549 on the Hudson, and the patience of God, Pastor John Piper says:
As much as I reject Obama’s stance on abortion, I am thankful to the bottom of my soul that an African-American can be President of United States. The enormousness of it all is unspeakable. This is God’s doing. The geese were God’s doing. The landing of Flight 1549 was God’s doing. And the Obama presidency is God’s doing. “He removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21).

And I pray that President Obama has eyes to see. The “miracle on the Hudson” and the “miracle in the White House” are not unrelated. God has been merciful to us as a nation. Our racial sins deserved judgment a thousand times over. God does not owe America anything. We owe him everything. And instead of destruction, he has given us another soft landing. We are not dead at the bottom of the Hudson.

O that Barack Obama would see the mercies of God and look to the One whose blood bought everlasting life for all who trust him. The parables of God’s mercy are everywhere. The point of them is this: God is a just and patient Ruler, and Jesus Christ is a great Savior. Turn. Turn. Turn, O President of the United States and passengers of this planet.

(Read the whole thing here.)

Amen and amen.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A note about John (Calvin, that is...)

Some here have expressed interest in reading through Calvin's Institutes this year, as Dave and I are doing. I am going to try to write about it on Sundays at my other blog, but because we are traveling this weekend, I've posted my favorite excerpts there today. If any of you would like to post your favorite passages, or share things that have touched or encouraged or challenged you, please do so!

Wednesday without Words

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thinking about Islam

I tend to agree with those who see a clash of cultures as inevitable in our world. The recent rioting in Ft. Lauderdale has been a near-to-home example of the forces at work. I have found several interesting and helpful sites lately for understanding Islam better, and preparing as Christians to confront this challenge in a loving and gracious but bold way.

*Here is an interesting lecture by Dr. Michael Haykin. (Thanks to JT)
*Here is documentary entitled, "Islam: What the West Needs to Know", which came my way via a young man who works with Summit Ministries.
*Here is an interesting article by Gene Veith over at the Tabletalk blog.

Monday, January 12, 2009

More Miscellany

I have been storing miscellany in my bookmarks for months without finding the energy or time to share them all. So how about if I get a few more dusted off and pulled from the files...

I haven't made any snide comments about "global warming" in a long time. But I loved this recap of the Worst Climate predictions of last year. And how about this prediction?

And in the "You've got to be kidding" category, how about plastic surgery for the dead? Is that denial, or what?!

And in the quirky, interesting things category, how about hearing recordings of some great authors? Check out this page at First Things (with thanks to CM), or how about fascinating footage of interviews done by Mike Wallace long ago? I watched the one with Margaret Sanger, and found it interesting.

And Switchfoot has a greatest hits album out. How did I get that old?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sabbath Sentiments

I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art

From the Strasbourg Psalter, 1545, attributed to John Calvin

1. I greet Thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only trust and Savior of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;
I pray Thee from our hearts all cares to take.

2. Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place;
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of Thy pure day.

3. Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
Oh comfort us in death's approaching hour,
Strong-hearted then to face it by Thy power.

4. Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast Thou and no bitterness;
Make us to taste the sweet grace found in Thee
And ever stay in Thy sweet unity.

5. Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
Oh grant to us such stronger help and sure,
That we can boldly conquer and endure.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


The new year will bring a change of administration with it for the US. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the evils of abortion will remain and grow. If you think Planned Parenthood offers good services to children in need, think again. Support for abortion has become entirely entrenched in the party of power. I am afraid abortion will thrive under an Obama presidency. And if you don't understand why I think abortion is so wrong, I challenge you to read and watch here. And if you want some good responses to a common pro-choice argument, see here.

We all need to be in prayer for our nation in this time of transition. And speaking of prayer, here are six good ways to hinder yours.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Jolting interpretations

Great theology, like the Bible in which all great theology is soaked, is essentially transhistorical and transcultural, and interprets us, joltingly sometimes, as we seek to interpret it.

~J. I. Packer, “Foreward”, A Theological Guide top Calvin’s Institutes: Essays and Analysis, ed. by David W. Hall and Peter A. Lillback

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Institutes

Dave and I have taken the plunge and are attempting to read Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion this year, along with the gentlemen over at Reformation21. And if you are wondering why on earth we would try to do that, read J. I. Packer's take on the importance of the institutes:
For Calvin, the angle of these pastoral presentations was just as
important as their substance. Doxological theocentrism shaped everything.
His compassionate concern that everyone should know God’s
grace was rooted in a deeper desire, namely that everyone should glorify
God by a life of adoring worship for the wonder of his work in creation,
providence, and salvation, fully recognizing the realities that the Reformational
slogans sola Scriptura, solo Christo, sola fide, sola gratia, and soli
Deo gloria, were put in place to guard. Knowledge of God as Creator
and Redeemer, holy, just, wise, and good, comes to us by Scripture
alone, not by our own independent insight or guesswork. The blessings
of redemption—reconciliation with God, the gift of righteousness
and sonship, regeneration, glory—come to us by Christ alone, not by
any fancied personal merit or any priestly mediation on the part of the
church. Christ and his gifts are received by faith alone, not earned by
effort. That very faith is given to us and sustained in us by grace alone, so
that our own contribution to our salvation is precisely nil; all the glory
for it must go to God alone, and none be diverted to us. We are simply
the sinners whose need of salvation is met by the marvelous mercy of
him who “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom.
8:32 esv).
~ J. I. Packer, "Foreward", A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes

So, we are off and running, and looking forward to a year of learning and being challenged. Won't you join us?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sabbath Sentiments

Another Year Is Dawning by Francis Havergal (1874)

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Meandering thoughts for the new year

I always find it a rather melancholy thing to take down the Christmas decorations. Everything looks so bare. This is particularly so when the decorations are removed the day after all the children leave, and our home seems especially quiet. Somehow it seems like we have stripped everything bare, and loneliness has come to stay.

So, since today is a melancholy day, instead of coming up with self-centered resolutions, I am borrowing some resolutions and reminders from others, for my own benefit, and to share with you, Gentle Readers.

Here are 7 reasons to remember to say "Lord willing" when talking about future plans. This is a good reminder as we head into a new year full of plans.

Here are some excellent reminders on how to spend our time well, from one of my favorite theologians (Dr. R. C. Sproul).

Here are five reasons blogging improves your writing. You all will have to judge if it has helped me or not.

Here is an excellent reminder of what the object of our worship should be in the new year, and always. Pastor Currid always gives encouraging thoughts on this blog. Here is another regarding humility.

Geoff at Be Thou My Vision lists several of Jonathan Edwards' resolutions. I listed these in their entirety last year at this time. They are always excellent to review.

This weekend I am renewing my prayer notebook-- a three-ring binder where I keep prayer requests under various categories. I will get it up-to-date and resolve to be better organized in my prayer life yet again. (This is a yearly resolution, with no end in sight in this world...) And I will begin a two-year cycle of reading through the bible. I have a lovely notebook I will try to take notes in as I read.

What are your resolutions as we begin a new year? May we all draw closer to God this year, and may we see the further coming of His kingdom, free from melancholy and longing.