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Be anxious for nothing

The chapter, "The Peace of God," in Martyn Lloyd-Jones's Spritual Depression was probably one of my favourites.  He begins with reference to Philippians 4:6-7:

 Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus.

I tend to be an anxious person.  I have had many, many exhortations over the years about the wrongness of anxiety, about how being anxious wastes time, and how anxiety is not productive.  I have always believed that myself; I am fully aware of the negatives of my anxiety.  Yet, I still struggle with anxiety.   The way Lloyd-Jones puts it sheds new light on that.  He spends quite a bit of time emphasizing that the source of our own anxiety lies within us, our hearts and minds.  He then says something that could describe my own thoughts during a time of anxiety:

People tend to say to those wretched people who are anxious and worried:  'You must not worry, it is wrong to worry, and all the worry in the world will not make any difference.'  Now that is perfectly true, it is sound common-sense.  The psychologists in their turn say:  'Do not waste your energy.  The fact that you are worrying is not going to affect the position at all.'  'Ah, yes,' I say, 'that is right, and that is perfectly true; but you know, it does not get at the source of my trouble for this good reason.  I am concerned with what may happen.  I agree when you put it to me that worrying is not going to affect the position, but the position remains and it is the position that is causing me this anxiety.  What you say is perfectly true but it does not deal with my particular situation.'  In other words, all these methods fail to deal with the situation because they never realize the power of what Paul calls 'the heart' and 'the mind' -- these things that grip us.  That is why none of the psychology and common sense methods are finally of any use.

So, what is Lloyd-Jones's answer?  It is found in the phrase "Let your requests be made known to God."  He then goes on to discuss that when we go before the Lord in prayer, it ought to be a process.  First, we must recognize that we are before the face of God, and we must worship.  He goes so far as to say that even before we begin to put our petitions before the Lord, we must simply worship Him because the act of prayer puts us before the throne of God.  Secondly, after worship, we bring our petitions before him, and then we demonstrate thanksgiving.

Then, Lloyd-Jones says something that I think some people in my own church would find problematic.  It is worth thinking upon.  The last part of the verses in Philippians says that God will grant us peace that passes all understanding and that will keep our hearts and minds, the very source of our anxieties.  He says this:

I must say a word about 'keeping' your hearts and minds.  It means garrisoning, guarding - a number of words can be used.  It conjures up a picture.  What will happen is that this peace of God will walk round the reamparts and towers of our life.  We are inside, and the activities of the heart and mind are producing those stresses and anxieties and strains from the outside.  But the peace of God will keep tham all out and we ourselves inside will be at perfect peace.  It is God that does it.  It is not ourselves, it is not prayer, it is not some psychological mechanism.  We make our requests known unto God, and God does that for us and keeps us in perfect peace.

The phrase "it is not prayer" would have many people in a tizzy.  "Of course, it is prayer that does it!" would be the objection.  "Prayer changes things," is a very common phrase at my own church.  I think I understand what Lloyd-Jones is getting at.  The very act of praying is not what will change us.  If that is the case then  we may be relying on a psychological thing; we comfort ourselves that we are doing something about our situation, so we are not anxious any longer.  What Lloyd-Jones is getting at, I believe, is that the change comes from God.  I think he is emphasizing that the prayer takes us before God who is the source of our peace.  I think there are times as Christians when we believe we are depending upon God, but in reality we are depending on a psychological thing instead.



I liked this

I am about halfway through John Frame's The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.  It is a very challenging book.  You can tell as you read it that he is schooled in philosophy.  I have not shared much of what I am reading because it takes a while to digest much of what he says, and this is definitely a book I will have to read again.  It is a book I would absolutely love to take and read with a group of people, but I have a feeling that won't be happening any time soon.

The section I am reading at the moment is called "The Normative Perspective - The Use of Scripture."    Frame begins this section with a discussion of the trend toward anti-abstractionsim in theological thought.  I won't try to re-cap what he says, because it is far too lengthy.  I guess the most simple summary of the points he makes is that approaching theological thought in a purely abstract way or a purely concrete way is impossible.  The two work together.  His point is that in recent years, the trend toward anti-abstraction has been a negative one with regard to theological thought.  This concluding passage is an excellent re-cap and I liked it:

A biblical epistemology set us free to reason abstractly (recognizing the limitations of abstractions) and to seek (relative) concreteness (realizing that we will never escape entirely the abstract nature of finite thought).  It reminds us never to seek our ultimate epistemological security in either the abstraction or conreteness of our own thinking but to seek it in the infallible certainty of God's own Word.  Sinful thought-patterns always tempt us to think that we need something more secure than that or at least something in our own thought that provides us with an infallible access to the infallible Word.

The next section he discusses is the perspectival approach to biblical knowledge, and it was an excellent section, too.  My goal was to have this book finished by the end of the year, but I'm not sure I will make it. 



Ring out, wild bells

A Christmas poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be. 


By the way, folks.... 

Thanks to those of you who were so encouraging about my new space  here.  The nice thing about Squarespace is that there are a variety of nice templates to use.  

Thanks again for those who came by to check it out!


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.