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Sunday
Jul232017

Daily Readings - John 14:1-6

J.C. Ryle - Daily Readings
John 14:1-6

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)

Christ is 'the way' -- the way to heaven and peace with God. He is not only the guide and teacher and lawgiver, like Moses; he is himself the door, the ladder, and the road through whom we must draw near to God.

Christ is 'the truth' -- the whole substance of true religion which the mind of man requires. Christ is the whole truth and meets and satisfies every desire of the human mind. 

Christ is 'the life' -- the sinner's title to eternal life and pardon, the believer's root of spiritual life and holiness, the surety of the Christian's resurrection life. He that believeth on Christ hath everlasting life. The root of all life, for soul and for body, is Christ.

Forever let us grasp and hold fast these truths. To see Christ daily as the way, to believe Christ daily as he truth, to live on Christ daily as the life -- this is to be a well-informed, a thoroughly furnished, and an established Christian.

Friday
Jul212017

It's about the distortion

If you have not read J.I. Packer's 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know, do it. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Packer is always worth reading. This book was first published in 1981 and it is as current now as it was then.

The chapter which discusses the word "devil" is excellent. As Christians we know about Satan, but as Packer rightly points out, there is often an imbalance. We are either so consumed with Satan that we forget Christ's victory at the cross, or we are so apathetic about Satan that we give him the victory. Packer points out that our wrong ideas about God will affect our ideas about Satan:

. . . if, with many, we should imagine God as every man's heavenly uncle, a person whose job (not always too well done)is to help us achieve our selfish desire for irresponsible fun and carefree comfort, we shall think of Satan as merely a cosmic sour-puss whose sole aim is to thwart our plans and spoil our pleasures. 

"Cosmic sour-puss." I like that. Packer's terms may not be frequently used today, or may seem tame compared to some of the earthier ways we may use to describe things, but I love it.

Further, Packer points out that Satan wants to distort truth. Often, it is better than outright perpetration of lies. Shades of error mixed in with shades of truth is an effective way to distract us.

Satan tries both to trap us into what is formally wrong and also to distort enough of what is formally right in our habits and actions to make it wrong in its effect. Thought without action, love without wisdom, love of truth with unrighteousness, conscientiousness with morbidity and despair, selectiveness in one's concern for what is true and right, are samples of this kind of distortion. If we watch against Satan at one point on the battlements of our living, he will try to break in at another, waiting for a moment when we feel secure and happy, and our defences are likely to be down. So it goes on, all day and every day

Understanding Satan is crucial to our life of faith. If we don't properly understand the threat, we will be complacent. Sometimes, Christians don't want to talk about evil, but what need is there for a Saviour if there is no sin or no Satan?

Sunday
Jul162017

Daily Readings - John 13:31-36

J.C. Ryle - Daily Readings
John 13:31-36

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you love one another (John 13:34)

Let us note that our Lord does not name gifts, or miracles, or intellectual attainments, but love, the simple grace of love, a grace within reach of the poorest, lowliest believer, as the evidence of discipleship. No love, no grace; no regeneration, no true Christianity!

Let us note what a heavy condemnation this verse pronounces on sectarianism, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, party spirit, strife, biterness, needless controversy between Christian and Christian.

Let us note how far from satisfactory is the state of those who are content with sound doctrinal opinions and orthodox correct views of the gospel, while in their daily life they give way to ill-temper, ill-nature, malice, envy, quarrelling, squabbling, bickering, surliness, passion, snappish language and crossness of word and manner. Such persons, whether they know it or not, are daily proclaiming that they are not Christ's disciples. It is nonsense to talk about justification and regeneration and election and conversion and the uselessness of works, unless people can see in us practical Christian love.

Saturday
Jul152017

Reflecting on "writers write."

A while back, Tim Challies wrote a brief article about how writers write. That reminded me of an anecdote a teacher shared with me from Mordecai Richler. Apparently, in front of an audience (students, if I remember correctly) Richler was asked for advice about how to write. He said to just write. Simple as that.

When people ask me what I do, I don't tell them I'm a writer. Even though I write a lot, that is not my occupation, and I know what they mean when they ask that question. I have been writing in some form since I got my first diary as an adolescent girl. Some of those hard backed black notebooks made their way into the fire at some point (something I wish now I had not done), but many of them live in a box in my attic. Hopefully, the mice haven't got into that box.

If we tell people we're writers, they assume we are paid for writing; that we have articles and books to show our work. My daughter, between undergraduate, Master's and PhD student years, spent ten years writing, and yet she wouldn't tell you she's a writer. She's a writer and researcher at her job today, but she probably wouldn't say that she's a writer per se.

In the past couple of years since I've begun seminary, I've written a lot. And I've written things that are much bigger and more complicated than a blog post. But I don't tell people I'm a writer. I write every day. In fact, I have a "Daily Writing Log" in my bullet journal, where I keep track of the goal I have set to write every day. But I don't tell people I'm a writer.

Sometimes, it really stands out to me how wage-driven we are. Of course, it's a necessity to have a wage. We all must eat. But we are more characterized by our earning power than anything else. To say I'm a stay-at-home mother says something about my wage earning potential, i.e. it's zero. We often treat people who have jobs which command a high wage differently than others. We make assumptions about people based on their employment. And yes, our employment is a huge part of who we are, because it is the majority of our daily lives.

Writing is a big part of what I do. I think in words, and when I'm reading, I'm often thinking about writing. But I don't say I'm a writer. I don't know if I ever will unless I produce something more than research papers. Until then, I will likely continue to tell people I'm a student. Telling people that will probably be easier on them then telling them that I've spent the last 28 years contributing nothing financially to my family other than a tax break for my husband. I have, however, produced a lot of writing in that time.

Friday
Jul142017

What is worldliness?

I love the book of I John. There is so much being taught there, and one of those important teachings is found in 2:15: "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

What does it mean to love the world? What is wordliness? We all like to put our own spin on it, satisfying our own personal convictions. Thus, wordliness becomes for some a retreat from things like dancing, movies, or various forms of books and music. The problem is, though, that there are times when we may indeed shun such things but actually love the world very much.

J.I. Packer, in his book 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know, gives some helpful comments about what it means to be worldly:

Wordliness means yielding to the spirit that animates fallen mankind, the spirit of self-seeking and self-indulgence without regard for God. Whether a man is worldly thus depends, not on how much enjoyment he takes from the good and pleasant things of this life, but in the spirit in which he takes it. If he allows these things to enslave him (I Cor. 6:12) and become a god -- that is, an idol, -- in his heart (Col. 3:5) he is worldly. If, on the other hand, he is disciplined in his use of them, not indulging to the detriment of his own or others' edification (I Cor. 10:20-23; 8:8-13) nor losing his heart to them, but receiving them gratefully as God's gift and a means for showing forth His praise, thanking God for all pleasant occupations and all delightful experiences, and not letting the merely good elbow out the best, then he is not worldly, but godly.

Of course there are some things which we don't partake of because they are not inherently good, like pornography, for example. There is no "disciplined" use of such a thing. It is bad to begin with. Listening to rap music which exalts objectification of women or violence against them is not inherently good, but to suggest that the genre itself is worldly is not accurate. Disclaimer: I don't like rap music myself. I'm only using it as an example.

I really liked this comment:

Again, it is not worldly to be praised; but it is worldly to live for men's compliments and applause, and to find one's highest happiness in the thought that one has gratified men, rather than in the knowledge that one has done God's will. Worldliness is the spirit which substitutes some earthly ideal, such as pleasure, or gain, or popularity, for life's true goal, which is in all things to praise and to please God.

I had a Sunday school student once who said "I want to be famous when I get older." He didn't state a particular skill or activity he wanted to engage in that would make him famous. He just wanted to be famous. That kind of thinking is everywhere: the desire to be noticed. That is at the heart of reality television shows where people portray their lives for everyone to see, including the really bad parts. The principle of doing something simply because we love to do it, and do it well, has been lost in the world today. To work simply for the recogntion is a worldly activity.

It always comes back to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: what is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We are less likely to be worldly if this is our goal. And that means checking our motives. That is something I know I need to do regularly.