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Heart Aflame - May 2, 2010

Psalm 45.

Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear:  Forget your people and your father's house.  the king is entralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.  This passage contains a remarkable prophecy in reference to the future calling of the Gentiles, by which the Son of God formed an alliance with strangers and those who were his enemies.  There was between God and the uncircumcised nations a deadly quarrel of separation which divided them from the seed of Abraham, the chosen people (Eph. 2:14); for the covenant which God has made with Abraham shut out the Gentiles from the kingdom of heaven till the coming of Christ.  Christ, therefore, of his free grace, desires to enter into a holy alliance of marriage with the whole world, in the same way as if a Jew in ancient times had taken to himself a wife from a foreign and heathen land.  But in order to conduct into Christ's presence his bride, chaste and undefiled, the prophet exhorts the Church gathered from the Gentiles, to forget her former manner of living, and to devote herself wholly to her husband.  As this change, by which the children of Adam begin to be the children of God, and are transofmred into new men, is a thing so difficult, the prophet enforces the necessity of it the more earnestly.  In enforcing his exhortation in this way by different terms, hearken, consider, incline your ear, he intimates, that the faithful do not deny themselves, and lay aside their former habits, without intense and painful effort; for such an exhortation would be superfluous, were men naturally and voluntarily disposed to it.  And, indeed, experience shows how dull and slow we are to follow God.

By the word daughter, the prophet gently and sweetly soothes the new Church; and he also sets before her the promise of a bountiful reward, to induce her, for the sake of Christ willingly to despise and forsake whatever she made account of up to now.  It is certainly o small consolation to know that the Son of God will delight in us, when we shall have put off our earthly nature.  In the meantime, let us learn that to deny ourselves, is the beginning of that scacred union which out to exist between us and Christ.  By her father's house and her people is comprehended whatever men have belonging to themselves; for there is no part of our nature sound or free from corruption.


The thing about mothering ... 

It's always a helpful thing to be given advice and assistance from other mothers.  I have found that very helpful at all stages during my almost-21 years of mothering.  Sometimes, though, the advice just doesn't do it, because kids are all different and what works for some may not work for other.  I know from having spoken to teenagers that being lumped in the same category as one's own sibling can be frustrating, never mind being lumped in with kids in general.  Little Johnny may not care to be treated as an individual when he's four, but when he's fourteen, it is an issue.

So, yes, while the advice is good -- and there are mothering books out there galore, and mothers galore who will advise -- I have found one thing to be far more compelling in my own life.

Are you ready?  It's earth shattering ... well, maybe not... I'm just being overly dramatic.

What I learn about who God is and who I am and what is the nature of sinful man has been far more helpful in advising me in the parental role than just about any piece of advice anyone has ever given me.  Mothering books, full of practical tips and helps are good, but there is no substitute for a deep study of who God is and who we are.  One thing about mothering is that it reveals how truly selfish we can be.  That may sound odd, because when we think of mothers, we generally think of them staying up late with illness and the like.  We do indeed do that.  But we are, at heart, selfish, sinful beings, and learning how to deal with my own heart is the first step toward guiding and helping my children and coping with the stress that is involved.

If I was to suggest a book to give a mother for Mother's Day, this is what it would be:    The ESV Study Bible.


Heart Aflame - April 25, 2010

Psalm 39.

I said, "I will watch my ways."  Since it was so hard a task for David to restrain his tongue, lest he should sin by giving way to his complaints, let us learn from this example, whenever troubles molest us, to strive earnestly to moderate our affections, that no impious expression of dissatisfaction against God may slip from us.

My heart grew hot within me.  The more strenuously anyone sets himself to obey God, and employs all his endeavours to attain the exercise of patience, the more vigorously is he assailed by temptation:  for Satan, whilst he is not so troublesome to the indifferent and careless, and seldom looks near them, displays all his forces in hostile array against that individual.  If, therefore, at any time we feel ardent emotions struggling and raising a commotion in our breasts, we should call to remembrance this conflict of David, that our courage may not fail us, or at least that our infirmity may not drive us headlong to despair.

Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro.  There is nothing substantial in man.  His life fanishes away before it can be known.  David declares of every man individually what Paul extends to the whole world when he says 1 Corinthians 7:31, "The fashion of this world passes away."  Thus he denies that there is anything abiding in men, because the appearance of strength which displays itself in them for a time soon passes away.

Save me from all my transgressions.  In asking to be delivered from his transgressions, the Psalmist ascribes the praise of righteousness to God while he charges upon himself the blame of all the misery which he acknowledges that he is justly chargeable with manifold transgressions.  By this we must be guided, if we would wish to obtain an alleviation of our miseries; for, until the very source of them has been dried up, they will never cease to follow on another in rapid succession.  If God should begin to deal with us a ccording to the strict demands of the law, the consequence would be, that all would perish, and be utterly overwhelmed under his wrath.  The only remedy by which men are cured of pride is when, alarmed with a sense of God's wrath, they begin not only to be dissatisfied with themselves, but also to humble themselves even to the dust.


John Owen looking forward?

In Packer's book, A Quest for Godliness (which I generally look at on Tuesdays), there is a chapter called "The Spirituality of John Owen."  I'm enjoying so much this introduction to Owen, as I look ahead to tackling his book The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

I love it when someone who lived hundreds of years ago says something that sounds like it could have been  written today.  The following quotation is is an example of that.  It is in the context of Packer discussing the reality that the process of sanctification will be a battle against the world.  Here is Owen:

The world is at present in a mighty hurry, and being in many places cut off from all foundations of steadfastness, it makes the minds of men giddy with its revolutions, or disorderly in the expectations of them .. hence men walk and talk as if the world were all, when comparativey it is nothing.  And when men come with their warmed affections, reeking with thoughts of these things, unto the performance of or attendance unto any spiritual duty, it is very difficult for them, if not impossible to stir up any grace unto a due and vigorous exercise.


The Puritan View of Assurance

The goal of the chapter "The Witness of the Spirit in Puritan Thought" is to examine what the Puritans taught with regard to the Spirit's work in assurance of salvation.  As with much of Puritan thought, their views on this were not shallow or simple.  What they defined as "assurance" was more than just the knowledge that someone had been born again:

It is evident that 'assurance' to the Puritans was something quite other than the 'assurance' commonly given to the convert of five minutes' standing in the enquiry room ('You believe that John 1:12 is true and you have "received him?"  Then you are a son of God').  The Puritans would not have called mere formal assent to such an inference assurance at all.  Professions of faith, they said, must be tested before they may be trusted, even by those who make them; and assurance, to the Puritan, was in any case more than a bare human inference; it was a God-given conviction of one's standing in grace, stamped on the mind and heart by the Sprit in just the same way as the truth of the gospel facts was stamped on the mind when faith was born, and carrying with it the same immediate certainty. 

A lady I know believed that her brother was born again.  For over forty years, there was absolutely no fruit in his life.  She insisted that the lack of fruit was not a problem because God has a "keeping power" over someone who professes faith but, as she says, "never lived it." 

Of course, no one knows what was on his heart at the momenet he died, but from what I knew, the only thing that indicated a conversion was his own testimony about something that happened over forty years before.

I'm pretty sure that the Puritans would not have considered this a good situation.