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Heart Aflame - August 15, 2010

Psalm 91:14-15

"Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name."  Here it is noticeable that God, in declaring from heaven that we shall be safe under the wings of his protection, speaks of nothing as necessary on the part of his people but hope or trust.  We must rest with a sweet confidence in God, and rejoice in his favour.  The language implies that we must be continually surrounded by death and destruction in this world, unless his hand is stretched out for our preservation.  Occasionally he assists even unbelievers, but it is only to his believeing people that his help is vouchsafed, in the sense of his being their Saviour to the end.  Their knowing the name of God is spoken of in connection with their trust and expectation; and very properly, for why is it that men are found casting their eyes vainly round them to every quarter in the hour of danger, but because they are ignorant of the power of God?  They cannot indeed be said to know God at all, but delude themselves with a vague apprehension of something which is not God, a mere idol substituted for him in their imaginations.  As it is a true knowledge of God which begets confidence in him, and leads us to call upon him; and as none can seek him sincerely but those who have apprehended the promises, and put due honour upon his name, the Psalmist with great propriety and truth represents this knowledge as being the spring or fountain of trust.

He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  The Psalmist now shows more clearly what was meant by trusting in God, or placing our love and delight in him.  For that affection and desire which is produced by faith, prompts us to call upon his name.  This is another proof in support of the truth, which we had occasion to touch upon formerly, that prayer is properly grounded upon the word of God.  We are not at liberty in this matter to follow the suggestions of our mind or will, but must seek God only in so far as he has in the first place invited us to approach him.  The context, too, may teach us, that faith is not idle or inoperative and that one test, by which we ought to try those who look for Divine deliverances, is, whether they have recourse to God in a right manner.


Worry: its causes and its cures

That is the focus of the fourteenth chapter of Lloyd-Jone's second volume in the Studies on the Sermon on the Mount.  This whole chapter was quite convicting, as are most of them, because I tend to worry.  Lloyd-Jones points out that worry is always a failue to grasp and apply our faith.  He goes on:

Faith does not work automatically.  How often have we seen that during these studies.  Never think of faith a something put inside you to work automatically; you have to apply it.  Faith does not grow automatically either; we must learn to talk to our faith and to ourselves.  We an think of faith in terms of a man havin a conversation with himself about himself and about his faith.  Do you remember how the Psalmist puts it in Psalm 42?  Look at him turning to himself and saying, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul?  ad why art thou disquieted within me?'  That is the way to make faith grow.  You must talk to yourself about your faith.  That is the way to make faith grow.  You must question yourself as to what is the matter with your faith.  You must ask your soul why it is cast down, and wake it up!  The child of God talks to himself; he reasons with himself; he shakes himself and reminds himself of himself and of his faith, and immediately his faith begins to grow.  Do not imagine that becuse you became a Christian all you have to do is to go on mechanically.  Your faith does not grow mechanically, you have to attend to it.

Well, I've already got the talking to myself down pat; I've been doing that for years.  I guess what is more important is what the conversations consist of.


An off day

I'm having a rather off day today, and I had planned on posting another snippet of B.B. Warfield, but I woke up late, and didn't have enough time to read much this morning.

Last night, I took a walk, and I listened to a favourite recording, so I shall leave that with my blog today.

Dan Fogelberg passed away in December 2000. His recording The Innocent Age remains my favourite one.


Personal choice, the new virtue?

Today, a friend of mine on Facebook made an observation about the inconsistency that is apparent when women who are pregnant have themselves photographated with a very huge, unclothed belly, but object and become offended if a women who is not pregnant has herself photographed in the same way.  I think his observation is worth considering.

I would never have bared my belly for a photograph when I was at full term of my pregnancy.  I am just not that made that way.  I won't wear tank tops that show my bra straps, nor will I wear low cut or plunging necklines or short shorts.  It's not like I couldn't.  I'm not as slim as I was when I married, but I still wear a size 8.  I choose not to because of a sincere desire to be modest.  Since I became a Christian, it is just something that is important to me.   So, no, I don't understand the belly shots of women who are at full term pregnancy.  Pregnancy is beautiful, to be sure, but I think this friend's question was a valid one.  I don't think the beauty of pregnancy means we can just throw away being circumspect about how we display our bodies during that time.

Well, my friend was castigated by a woman who told him that he needs his morality checked, and that it was a "personal choice" that needed to be left unjudged.  She then went on to compare this photographing thing to breastfeeding in public.  I don't think the two are exactly the same, because most women I know who breastfeed in public are quite discreet about it.  And one is a necessity at times, the other is not.

What struck me, and this has cropped up a few times recently, is how "personal choice" has become some kind of sacred cow.  Our personal choice is exalted as the thing which needs to be closely guarded and protected.  Who cares if our personal choice means a choice that has life altering consequences or is fairly benign?  We guard it as if it is a virute, as if it is a God-given right.

Personal choice is not virtue.  It isn't even consistently a good thing.  Often, our personal choices are based in selfishness and self-indulgence.  Personal choice does not always take into consideration our neighbour, our family, or anyone else around us.  To guard our personal choice too closely is quite simply pride.  If everyone put his personal choice first, what would that look like?  Well, take a look around.  We all know where that leads.

If someone wants to do what he wants to do, go ahead and admit it.  To make it seem like "personal choice" is some kind of virtue is simply misleading.


The Trials of Church History

My friend loaned me a little book called The Trials of Theology, which contains an article by Carl Trueman about the trial of church history.  The editors of the book open Dr. Trueman's chapter with this comment:

The study of theology may be 'dangerous business' - but what could possibly be dangerous about church history?!  Surely it is tame by comparison.  Why then a chapter about its 'trials?'

In his essay, Trueman begins by pointing out that  most people believe that the study of church history is a rather irrelevant one, one that it is disconnected from the study of theology in general.   Being a church historian, he obviously does not agree with the sentiment.  What he does in this essay is comment on two of the strengths of studying church history, followed by some of the difficulties that can arise with church history.  This morning, I want to share some of what he says about the strengths of church history.

First, he talks about the nature of Christianity:

Simply put, Christianity is not invented afresh every Sunday but what is read, sung, preached, and prayed in churches around the world stands within an established tradition; and church history allows us to understand how that tradition has come to take the form it has.

Take, for example the language of the Trinity with which typical believers will be familiar.  Typically, Trinitarian language speaks of God as three persons, one substance.  Such terminology is not specifically biblical, but the church has universally come to regard the terms as encapsulating important biblical concepts.  Why has it done this?  Why has the church come to use language which is not found in the Bible to express this important truth?  Well, the answer is that it is rooted in the creed approved by the church at the Council of Constantinople in 381; and the reason why this creed has the form and terminology which it does have can only be fully appreciated when the various debates and discussions about what exactly the Bible taught about God's being and nature have been examined.

Secondly, he points to the fact that the study of church history gives perspective on the present day church.

Studying history then is like emigration or extended foreign travel, only cheaper and generally less inconvenient.  It gives the student the opportunity to visit another time another place, another culture; and in so doing the student (hopefully) becomes more aware of hos the particulars of geographcal and chronological location come to shape and influence the way people think.  Thus at a time when 'contextualisation' is a popular contemporary cliche and shibboleth, history should really be coming into its own:  study of contexts is, after all, something that the historians have done for centuries.

I guess history in general seems rather inconsequential to many in a day and age when today's technology will be considered outdated in twelve months, or when the trivial elements of the lives of movie stars are termed "news" and followed along with as if they were earth shattering.  Who cares about the history of western civilization when there are exposes out there about the colour of Lady Gaga's nail polish?   I can honestly say that studying church hisotry, seeing how doctrines came to be hammered out and elucidated has given me a better understanding of them.  And of course, we don't look for the better understanding for its own sake.  We look for better understanding that we may gain a heart of wisdom.