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Friday
Mar052010

If you read one blog post today ... 

Make it the one at  Terry Stauffer's.  Terry has linked there the interviews he and his wife Juanita did with 100 Huntley Street about the death of their daughter, Emily.  Juanita has them linked at her blog, too.

I first came connected with Juanita through a homeschool e-mail support group and blogging.  My husband and I both became acquainted with Terry through blogging as well.  When Terry came here to Ontario two years ago for a conference, we were blessed to sit and enjoy a meal with him. 

Thanks to Rebecca for drawing them to my attention.  I knew from Juanita's Facebook that they would be up and available to see soon, and was wanting to see them.  I think it was well done.

Tuesday
Mar022010

A movement of spiritual revival

Who were the Puritans and what was their purpose?  Those are two questions that some may have.  J.I. Packer provides answers to both questions in his book A Quest for Godliness.  In the chapter "Puritanism as a Movement of Revival," Packer first defines the terms "puritanism" and "revival," and then proceeds to discuss what kind of revival it was.

Puritanism, he says,  was a movement in the 16th and 17th centuries in England which pursued church reformation above and beyond that which was seen under Elizabeth I.  There were various groups involved, clergy and laity alike, but all were united by three things:  a shared biblical Calvinistic conviction, a shared desire for ridding the church of popery, and a shared literature, which was catechetical, evangelistic and devotional.

Revival, Packer says, is a Spirit-led work of God which brings dead spirituality to life.  There is a renewal of a living faith into those who are unmotivated in their faith.

In revival, God makes old things new, giving new power to law and gospel and new spiritual awareness to those whose hearts and consciences had been blind, hard and cold.

The Puritans wanted revival above all else.  They wanted to see the Engish church rise spiritually, and they saw personal holiness as crucial to that end.  This personal revival was accomplished with the help of the written word.  Puritans promoted books of sermons, evangelistic books, books that outlined the standards of conduct, and books that gave comfort and assurance of one's faith. 

The literature as a whole is remarkably homogeneous, and its purpose is constant - to induce faith, repentance, assurance, and joyful zeal in the life of pilgrimage, conflict and good works to which the saints are called; in other words, to create and sustain a spiritual condition for which revival is the truly appropriate name.

And of course, the Word of God was crucial.  This was where the pastoral efforts toward renewal came into importance.  People were taught by pastors through preaching of the Word and by the personal relationship between the pastor and his people.  Packer gives three examples of men who were examples of this, Richard Greehnam, Richard Fourclough, and Richard Baxter.  Preaching and pastoral care were the business of these three men.

I was quite struck how this revival was a revival centred around the written word.  Books and sermons were key to revival.  I thought about how this has actually occurred in my own life.  When I began homeschooling, in 2000, books were a focus, and spiritual training of my children became more of a focus.  I began to think seriously about what I knew about my faith and about certain frustrations I had.  This was when I re-discovered my Calvinistic roots.  When I was a young Christian, I sat under the ministry of a man who was most definitely Calvinistic.  There was an interval of time after he was no longer my pastor when I didn't sit under such a pastor, but homeschooling circles and book suppliers are ready with resources with regard to such things, and I found myself reading quite a little bit.  I don't know as if I experienced a "revival" necessarily, but books and study definitely were beneficial to my spiritual life.  And I would definitely say that being more attentive to personal holiness was very important in my life.

Today, we live in a world of visual images.  I wonder how this can be used to promote the kind of revival that the Puritans were seeking, one that is focused on personal holiness as a means to church renewal.  It seems like with the plethora of resources, especially online, revival is possible.  At the same time, however, the question of a common purpose is crucial.  The Puritans were united in their pursuits.  With the information glut out there, I would imagine that there are purposes and goals galore out there, some of them more biblical than others.

The focus of this book is that Packer sees the Puritan mind as instructive to us.  As far as pursuing literature that is devotional, evangelistic, and catechetical, I think I've benefitted from such a model.

Monday
Mar012010

In honour of the Doctor

Justin Taylor reminds us that today is the 29th anniversary of the death of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  He recommends some bios of the Doctor, which I heartily recommend also.  The two volume set by Iain Murray will introduce you not only to an extraordinary preacher, but also an exceptional writer, Murray himself.

In honour of the Doctor, I want to share something from my current "Doctor" read, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount  This comes from the chapter dealing with one of the Beatitudes, "blessed are they that mourn."

Let us, then, try to define this man who mourns.  What sort of man is he?  He is a sorrowful lman, but he is not morose.  He is a sorrowful man, but he is not a miserable man.  He is a serious man, but he is not a a solemn man.  He is a sober-minded man, but he is not a sullen man.  He is a grave man, but he is never cold nor prohibitive.  There is with his gravity a warmth and attraction.  This man, in other words, is always serious; but he does not have to affect that seriousness.  The true Christian is never a man who has to put on an appearance of either sadness or joviality.  No, no; he is a man who looks at life seriously; he contemplates is spiritually, and he sees in it sin and its effects.  He is a serious sober-minded man.  His outlook is always serious, but because of these views which he has, and his understanding of truth, he also has a ' joy unspeakable and full of glory.'

Sunday
Feb282010

Heart Aflame - February 28, 2010

Psalm 19:7

The law of the Lord.  While the heavens bear witness concerning God, their testimony does not lead men so far as that thereby they learn truly to fear him, and acquire a well-grounded knowledge of him; it serves only to render them inexcusable.  It is doubtless true, that if we were not very dull and stupid, the signatures and proofs of Deity which are to be found on the theatre of the world, are abundant enough, to incite us to acknowledge and reverence God but as, although surrounded with so clear a light, we are nevertheless blind.  This splendid representation of the glory of God, without the aid of the word, would profit us nothing, although it should be to us as a loud and distinct proclamation sounding in our ears.  Accordingly, God vouchsafes to those whom he has determined to call to salvation, special grace, just as in ancient times, which he gave to all men without exception evidences of his existence in his works, he communicated to the children of Abraham alone his Law, thereby to furnish them with a more certain and intimate knowledge of his majesty.  Whence it follows, that the Jews are bound by a double tie to serve God.  As the Gentiles, to whom God has spoken only by the dumb creatures, have no excuse for their ignorance how much less is their stupidity to be endured who neglect to hear the voice which proceeds from his own sacred mouth?  The end, therefore, which David here has in view, is to excite the Jews, whom God has bound to himself by a more sacred bond, to yield obedience to him with a more prompt and cheerful affection.

Further, under the term law, he not only means the rule of living righteously, or the Ten Commandments, but he also comprehends the covenant by which God has distinguished that people from the rest of the world, and the whole doctrine of Moses, the parts of which he afterwards enumerates under the terms testimonies, statues, and other ames.  These titles and commendations by which he exalts the dignity and excellence of the Law would not agree with the Ten Commandments alone, unless there were at the same time joined to them a free adoption and the promises which depend upon it; and, in short, the whole body of doctrine of which true religion consists.

Saturday
Feb272010

Perplexed

I'm working on preparing to teach at the ladies' bible study on March 22nd.  My very good friend has asked me to fill in her for her for that date.  I'm going to be focusing on Exodus 16 and 17.  I was checking out some cross references and this was one I was directed to, Numbers 20:1-13:

Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.  10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.

This was not the first time that the people grumbled against Moses because they were in the desert and were thirsty. God had provided amply for them by giving them manna and quail and he had given them water.   Moses had seen that God provided, and Moses understood what the consequences of disobedience were.  I don't understand why Moses deviated from God's instructions.  Why did he strike the rock when God clearly said for him to speak to it?  Was Moses fed up with the people and frustrated?  I might strike at a rock if I'm angry.

Scripture doesn't tell us what Moses' motives were, but we know the consequences of his actions.  I guess one could chalk it up to Moses simply behaving as we all do.  And of course, ultimately, we see that despite the actions of the people, God still led the people into the Promised Land.  His purposes won't be thwarted.