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Tuesday
Dec152009

The Legacy of the Reformation

Now, of course that is a very broad topic, and much too big for this little old blog.  However, this morning, as I read through a transcript of a lecture by Dr. David Calhoun on the subject, I thought of a few things.  His purpose in the lecture was to summarize some of the major effects of the Reformation.

The thing that struck me was the fact that the Reformation created the Pastor/Scholar.   In the years immediately preceeding the Reformation, the Catholic clergy were notoriously ignorant by and large.  Some monks were totally illiterate as were many parish priests.  Their job was fairly clear:  to administer the sacraments and hear confession.  There was not the same kind of responsibility of a priest in this age that there would come to be.  With the growth of Protestant denominations came scholarship. 

There were a number of formal confessions drawn up at this time, which demonstrates that scholarship.  There was the Augusburg Confession, the Book of Concord, the Westminster Confession, the Gallican Confession, the Belgic Confession, Helvetic Confessions, and the Heidelberg Confession.  Even the Catholics followed suit with the Council of Trent, just to name a few.  These were draw up as Protestant denominations began to develop their distinctive differences.  Of course, this meant that the Church as a whole was seen as fractured.  Religious toleration was not very widespread at this time, and many saw this division as a very bad thing.

For us here in the 21st Century, the legacy of scholarship is invaluable to us.  We still draw on these confessions.  While we ought not to elevate a confession above the Word of God, these confessions were just as valuable to the Church as a whole as were the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed earlier in the history of the Church.  It is indeed important for a doctrinal system to be articulated.  We must know what we believe.

The scholarship and the participation of the pastor in scholarship had the impact of making faith more a matter of just what went on inside the parish churches and great cathedrals.  The spread of biblical scholarsip and the efforts for pastors to teach the ordinary people helped to emanicpate religion from being confined to just the inside of a building.  That a pastor had a home and family as opposed to being cloistered inside a monastery or a cathedaral also helped religion to exist in the ordinary.   This focus on scholarship also flowed over into the spiritual life of Protestants.  The Word of God was the central focus of the Christian life in the Protestant mindset, not the sacraments, which was the focus of Catholic life.  This scholarship, this tendency toward study was not only good for growth in understanding of the Scriptures, but it would affect the spread of education throughout the Protestant world.

Of course, this is only one little piece of the legacy of the Reformation, but when I read about all of those confessions, it really struck me how very fortunate we are that we have such a rich heritage of study to draw upon.

Monday
Dec142009

The love in chastisement

In two of the chapters of Spiritual Depression, Lloyd-Jones discusses the chastisement of the Lord.  Christians often become discouraged and depressed because they find themselves in hard circumstances.  They may fail to see the fact that the circumstance is a chastisement from the Lord, and that it is a reflection of God's love for us.   Lloyd-Jones begins with referring to Hebrews 12:5-11.

In the chapter  called "In God's Gynmasium," the reader is warned about having a wrong reaction to times of God's chastiement.  First, we may not take the circumstance seriously.  We are told not to despise the chastening of the Lord.  Neither should we just ignore it.  Better to examine ourselves to discern why we are going through that circumstance.  The second wrong reaction is to allow the chastening circumstance to weigh us down; to allow it to crush us.  We may wallow in the circumstance and say, "Woe is me, what shall I do?"  The Christian is not to do that.  We have means at our disposal to deal with trial, and we must utilize them.  The final wrong reaction is to become bitter.  In the same passage from Hebrews, in verse 15, we are cautioned against becoming bitter.  Bitterness is deadly:

Some people react to the trails and troubles and chastisements of life by becoming bitter.  I know nothing that is so sad in life, certainly nothing saadder in my life and work and experience as a minister of God, than to watch the effect of trials and troubles upon the lives of some people.  I have known people who, before the misfotrunes befel them, seemed to be very nice and friendly, but I have observed that when these things happen to them they become bitter, self-centered, difficult -- difficult even with those who try to help them and who are anxious to help them.  They turn in on themselves and they feel that the whole world is against them.  You cannot help them, the bitterness enters into their souls, it appears in their aces and their very appearance.

I must say that when I read that passage, I could see myself quite clearly.

Lloyd-Jones says that if we react in one or more of these three ways, the chastising circumstances will not help us, and that is what they are there for.  We must ask ourselves why we are going through these things.  They will not work upon our hearts if we do not recognize them for what they are.  Hebrews 12:6 tells us that God loves whom He chastens.  That is important to remember.  We seem to equate the love of God with happy and fuzzy circumstances.  A bad thing happens and we automatically see God in a negative light.  We treat Him with a combative heart.  I know; I have done it.  Of all three of those wrong reactions, I am sure I have been most guilty of the third.

It's kind of interesting that these verses came up and the principle of God showing love through chastening was part of my reading, because just last week, Rebecca made the same point in my comments box at another post.  It was really serendipitous.

I can quickly be dragged down because of my circumstances.  But it does not have to be that way.  By reacting to them correctly, I can quickly discern that God may be using them for my chastening, and that the chastening is evidence of His love for me.  In the end, I will be thanking Him for the circumstance.  The chastening leaves us wiser than when we began and knowing more about His character.

Sunday
Dec132009

Advent Week 3

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around,
And glory shone around.

“Fear not!” said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind.
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind
To you and all mankind.

“To you, in David’s town, this day
Is born of David’s line
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign,
And this shall be the sign.

“The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid,
And in a manger laid.”

Thus spake the seraph and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God on high,
Who thus addressed their song,
Who thus addressed their song:

“All glory be to God on high,
And to the Earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from Heaven to men
Begin and never cease,
Begin and never cease!”

 

Luke 2:8-20

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.



Thursday
Dec032009

Check Our Motive

In the chapter entitled "Weary in Well Doing," Martyn Lloyd-Jones points to a few reasons why Christians may become weary in their Christan lives. It is this weariness that contributes to a feeling of spiritual depression. In circumstances where we feel weary in our Christian lives, Lloyd-Jones suggests we first examine ourselves to see if we can determine why we are feeling weary. Part of this self-examination involves checkout our motives for service. If we have the wrong motive, it will be no surprise when we do become weary in well-doing.

 


I must ask myself why I have been doing this work and what has really been my motive. I have been active and I have enjoyed doing the work, but now I find it has become a burden. And now comes this question. Why have I really been doing it the whole time? It is a terrible question that, because it may be the first times we have ever asked it. We have taken all for granted and assumed that our motive was pure. But we find that it was not. Some people work for the sake of the thrill and the excitement. There is no question about it at all. I have seen people very actively engaged in Christian work because there was a certain amount of excitement in it. Here are some people who are not happy unless they are doing something, and they do not always realize that what they are out for is the thrill and the excitement of the activity. As certainly as we live in that way we will get exhausted, we will become tired, and equally certainly our greatest enemy will come in, and that is self. We have really been doing all that we have been doing, to say to ourselves: 'How wonderful you are and how much you do.' Self says that we are important. We have to admit that it has not all been for the glory of God, but for our own glory. We may say that we do not want the praise and that 'to God be the glory,' but we like to see results and we like it to appear in the papers and so on - self has come in and self is a terrible master. If we are working to satisfy and please self in any shape or form, the end is always going to be weariness and tiredness. How important it is to ask ourselves the motive in connection with the work!

I have to say that I am someone who likes to keep busy. There was a time when I was juggling far more in the Church than was good for my family or for me. It was for the thrill of feeling "competent" to accomplish a lot. Sometimes, when a woman stays at home full-time, we feel like we have to "justify" our existence by showing all those working mothers that we're not just wasting our time. How God-honouring is that? It wasn't.

I'm sure that I will always need to check my motives.

Thursday
Dec032009

This is just a test

I hope I don't get sick of pink.