Thursday, November 29, 2012

Peace Makes Rich

What a gift peace is -- peace with God, peace with our conscience, peace with our fellow man.
Matchless gift, this peace.    The absence robs food of flavor, robs shelter of warmth and robs labor of satisfaction.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Charge your conscience....."

Owen takes seriously the battle against sin.   Doing so, he maintains, requires us to weigh seriously the holiness of the law:

Bring the holy law of God into your conscience, lay your corruption to it, pray that you may be affected with it.  Consider the holiness, spirituality, fiery severity, inwardness, absoluteness of the law, and see how you can stand before it.  Be much, I say, in affecting your conscience with the terror of the Lord in the law, and how righteous it is that every one of your transgressions should receive a recompense of reward.  (page 103, Overcoming Sin and Temptation edited by Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic)
One great tool to this end is the Westminster Larger Catechism in its section on the law of God.  If you are as prone to self-righteousness as I am, this may aid in the cure.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Power of Panting

Today I struck gold while reading Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen (get the one edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor, Crossway publishers).  Actually every time I read it I strike gold. One of the best veins yet.Under the heading Constantly Long and Breathe After Deliverance from the Power of Sin, Owen says:

Longing desires after anything, in things natural and civil, are of no value or consideration, any further but as they incite and stir up the person in whom they are to a diligent use of means for the bringing about the thing aimed at. [To translate, longing for an ice cream cone is of little value unless it compels you to get your wallet and drive out to the DQ.] In spiritual things it is otherwise.  Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that has a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after. 
Further he says:
Strong desires are the very life of that 'praying always' [Luke 21:36] which is enjoined us in all conditions, and in none is more necessary than in this; they set faith and hope on work, and are the soul's moving after the Lord.
And as a warning:
Assure yourself, unless you long for deliverance you shall not have it. 
Take comfort, then. If you are panting after  God and always feel you do not have enough, this is a great sign of grace in your life and a cause for rejoicing.

God my refuge

God, in His mercy,  exposes our sin so we see its evil.  He forgives our sin so we no longer bear its guilt.  And he purifies us from sin so we are protected from its danger.   

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cottage Cheese and the French Revolution

This week we took some cottage cheese out of the refrigerator.   My daughters told me it was not good anymore.  I skimmed off the top and set it back on the table assuring everyone.

"It is fine now.   I took the top off."

To which Ruthiey replied:

"Yeah, that's what they said during the French Revolution too."

To which we howled in laughter.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Steps in Response to Criticism

"Be slow to speak (James 1:19). 
Don’t interrupt or respond too quickly. Let them finish. If you speak too quickly you might speak rashly or in anger."
This is just one of the excellent steps Altrogge gives for responding to criticism.  Read the other 11  here:

10 Zingers

Admittedly, I nabbed this off Tim challies' blog (and he nabbed it off The Gospel Coalition blog).   Too good to ignore.  These are questions we can (humbly, calmly, and respectfully) ask prochoice people.  I'm giving you a bite here.   For the whole pie, click here:

8. You describe abortion as a “tragic choice.” If abortion is not morally objectionable, then why is it tragic? Does this mean there is something about abortion that is different than other standard surgical procedures?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weak and Dark Soul

"Every unmortified [not put to death] sin will certainly do two things: it will weaken the soul and deprive it of its vigor.  It will darken the soul and deprive it of its comfort and peace."
If, by God's grace, this frightens you, you could learn more in John Owen's Overcoming Sin and Temptation.
(Crossway publishers, edited by Kapic and Taylor).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Help! Decisions!

Our 20-year old daughter Ruthiey came home with a big decision to make.  She had asked for time off of work for an extended hike on the North Shore in Minnesota.  But she had already taken a month off, and her managers said that if she took off additional time, she would need to put in her resignation.
She has worked there for a couple of years and feels ready to move on.  But she does not have alternatives in place.  We talked about her need for routine and what other options were available, but I was pleased to hear my husband say, “We are not going to make this decision for you.”
We want our kids to make good decisions, so we’re tempted to make them for them.  But is that helpful in the long run? James Van Fleet, in The 22 Biggest Mistakes Managers Make, says “…you will never be able to develop a complete sense of responsibility in a person until you force him to make his own decisions.” (Of course we are not talking about very young children.  They should learn to obey specific rules.)
Leaders take responsibility.  Leaders must be decisive.  How will we raise children who are decisive?
Some decisions are moral decisions.   For these we must teach our children the Word of God so they can discern between right and wrong.  But that is not the subject of this post.
To give our older children opportunity to make decisions while they are still under our guidance and protection, we can use what Van Fleet calls mission-type orders – where you tell a person what you want done but not how to do it!  By doing this, you
…open the door wide for your …[child] to use his initiative, his imagination, and his ingenuity to solve the problem you’ve given him.
I dislike being micro-managed and enjoy a project much more if I have room to make decisions.  Our children are no different.  Let them decide what size bowl to use for the cookies or how to organize the garage.
And what about those times in life when one feels stuck, and a major life decision needs to be made between a number of legitimate options?  Dr. James Greer gave us some decision-making tools that we are passing on to our children.
  1. Definitions: write out your problem concisely — one sentence if you can.
  2. Blue sky. List all possible alternatives, even those that initially seem wild. If they are not sinful, they are options.
  3. Build alternatives, thinking through all of the implications and consequences. Gather lots of information and seek counsel. Remember that there are always trade-offs with any choice.
  4. Through all of this, articulate and write down your values and their order of priority: church, marriage, education of children, financial aspects, stewardship of gifts, extended family, stability, etc.
  5. Give all of this process time; allow for a time of incubation. Keep a notebook to record priorities, alternatives and information gathered. Do not let emotions drive you away from good process. Pray through each step.
Ruthiey decided to forego the hike and keep her job.  Now she has time and a place to build alternatives.
 O LORD, bless us to raise decisive children for your glory.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thanks that is 30 years overdue.

This week I wrote a letter to Reformed Book Services, a book store in Ontario, that had a significant impact on my life some 30 years ago:

 To Whom it may Concern,

I have for some time wanted to thank you for being an instrument in God's hands for my salvation.

Thirty years ago I had graduated from Calvin College and was living in Toronto.  The tidy structure of school was gone, and I was fearful and bewildered.

Some years earlier, a friend had introduced me to a devotional  -- all excerpts from works of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Delighting in Lloyd-Jones' understanding of depression, I later purchased Spiritual Depression at a used book store, .  A summer free of commitments yawned before me, and when I drove past your store, I decided to stop in.   There I saw volumes of sermons on Ephesians by Lloyd-Jones.   Reading them and taking notes on the sermons seemed a good way to pass some of the summer.

Though I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church, I had a woefully inadequate view of my sin before a holy God.  Sin was robbing banks, stealing someone's spouse,  and stabbing people in back alleys.  Surely it was not a word to describe me through and through.

But God had been gently and surely convicting me of my love for recognition (glory-stealing) and a lack of love for others.  As I read Lloyd-Jones on Ephesians two,  I came to the sentence about not being able to be found unless we are lost.  God showed me his glory and I knew myself to be a sinner before a glorious and mighty GOD.  (I weep as I write).  

I had hoped to be a writer, but then and there I gave my writing and my future to the Lord.  I told him that I wanted to live for his glory. I told him that if my writing was not for his glory, I wanted none of it.

Some years later I married and God gave us eight living children.  God has given me a small place to be faithful in, a perfect place.  I am glad to be his daughter and to have him as my Father.  

And I am grateful for the day he led me to to buy Lloyd-Jones at your store.   May God continue to bless your business for his glory.

For the King,
Jeannette Paulson

Friday, September 7, 2012

Moral Decisions

What if we are not sure of what is right or wrong in a particular situation? Saint John says that sin is lawlessness.  God's law defines sin.  I find the Westminster Larger Catechism  list of what the law commands and forbids very instructive.  It is a careful study of scripture. For example, do you think of  "undue delay of marriage" as a violation of the seventh commandment?  It is. Many of life's decisions would be clearer if we were better students of the word.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Freud... and religion as neurotic disease

 I have never heard the Freudian view of religion expressed as clearly as in J.H. Bavinck's The Church Between Temple and Mosque
In recent times an even more pernicious verdict has been given on religion. Freudian psychology put forward the hypothesis the religion is a neurotic disease. The god whom we adore, on whom we feel dependent, whom we fear and whom we love, is nothing but a gigantic projection of the father image of our youth. In a healthy mind this image dissolves naturally, and the “ego,” the feeling of self-reliance, takes its place. But due to all kinds of circumstances this father image in some people does not disappear, but it is projected and becomes a god. This projection is, of course, harmful for the development of one’s personality, and people will never become sound and mature men and women as long as they live under the spell of this self-made god.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Always tempting

John Owen in his book Overcoming Sin and Temptation does not underestimate the power of sin:
Sin is always acting, always conceiving, always seducing and tempting....There is not a a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so while we live in the world....there is no safety against it but in a constant warfare."
Do we take sin that seriously?  Would we be getting beat up less if we did?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"I don't remember starving...."

Peter Hitchens, Younger brother of the late Christopher Hitchens, is a brilliant writer.   In the village that I grew up, the store and garage were closed on Sunday, and none of the farmers harvested on the Lord's Day.  Here he laments the opening of supermarkets on Sunday:

"Those who thought Margaret Thatcher was a conservative should have realised she wasn’t when she wrecked the British Sunday.

Is there anyone who really needs supermarkets and other big stores to be open on Sunday? I don’t remember starving back in the old days when such shops were closed.

As for it being vital to our economy, Germany – whose economy is vastly healthier than ours – has the strictest Sunday closing laws in the world.
Doesn’t every home need a still, untroubled day of rest, when everyone can relax at the same time?

Even Joseph Stalin, at the height of his Marxist rage against private life, failed to abolish the Sabbath. It took Britain’s Tories to succeed where he failed.

And now, after an ‘experiment’ in longer Sunday hours during the Olympics (and what have the Olympics to do with Sunday shopping in the first place?), Downing Street is talking about extending it.
This will mean more pressure on shop workers to work on Sunday, and more small shops put out of business by the incessant greed and ruthlessness of the supermarkets."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Glorious Family History

I don’t really know what first got me interested in church history, but I suspect  that my parents are largely responsible.   They both cared deeply about the church and truth.

When I was about 10, I remember one Halloween going with my parents and siblings  to see a film about Martin Luther.   My parents explained to us that it was actually Reformation Day,  the day that Martin Luther nailed the 95 Thesis on the door of the church in Wittenburg.  

My parents wanted us to know church history.   Knowing church history gives hope.  We see the church prosper and decline, but through the darkest days God is preserving, protecting and building.

With books like Trial and Triumph, we can teach church history even to small children. The author, Richard M. Hannula,  calls church history  ”family history.” With a few pithy, pointed stories he captures the lives of 46 major Christians.  I am as enthralled as my children.

Hannula starts with PolycarpTaught by the Apostle John,  Polycarp was arrested at 86 years of age and brought to the arena.  Because Christians refused to bow down to pagan gods, they were considered godless.   When instructed to point to the Christian prisoners and say, “Away with the godless,” Polycarp pointed instead to the pagan crowds and said “Away with the godless.” He was burned to death. But the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Rome was unable to stamp out the church; it only grew.

Or consider Patrick.  Kidnapped from England, he found himself hungry and cold, tending sheep on the rocky hills of Ireland.  Hatred and plans of revenge sustained him.  But he began to be convicted of his own sin, and to sense God’s fatherly care.  He escaped but could not forget the pagan Druid priests, the dark superstitions and animal sacrifices of the Irish.    He returned to fearlessly bring glaring gospel light for 40 years.  Thousands came to Christ and many young Irish men became missionaries.

Ambrose was Governor of Milan when the church pressed for him to be the new bishop.  He hid in a friend’s house and pleaded with the emperor to be excused.  But the emperor urged him to stand, and  Ambrose stood — even refusing communion to Emperor Theodosius after he refused to repent for a massacre in Thessalonica.  When the emperor pleaded the sin of David, Ambrose urged the repentance of David.  The emperor later confessed his sin before the church and made a law to regulate the punishment of citizens.

I want our children to know about Polycarp, Blandina,  Patrick, Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Waldo,  and other brave Christians who stood and even spilt their blood for truth.   With God’s blessing, it will give hope and ballast. Passing on what my parents gave me,  I will tell our children their family history.

I pray they will see themselves a part of something glorious.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Edwards on Doing Good

  First, what a great honor it is to be made an instrument of good in the world. When we fill up our lives with doing good, God puts the high honor upon us off making us a blessing to the world, an honor like the one He put upon Abraham when He said, “I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)
Charity and Its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

At Home with Muslims

 I grew up in an isolated Christian village in Canada. It was in my school textbooks and National Geographic that I first saw pictures of mosques, women in Burkas and men dressed like Jesus.  It seemed strange and far away.

In my twenties I went to Reformed Bible College.   One professor who had ministered in the Middle East for 12 years,  taught a courses in Islamics. His heart for the Muslims inspired mine. For the first time in my life I wanted a world map on my wall.
I also wanted to go as a single missionary to the Middle East.  God closed that door,  but I did not forget the Muslims.  Homeschooling,  we would read aloud stories of missionaries who had gone to the Middle East.   One of our favorites is Tales of Persia by William M. Miller.   A more recent publication is Tales That Teach.  For a number of years we prayed for Yemen, and we supported a missionary family in Pakistan.
When we moved to the Twin Cities, I discovered that there are about 70,000 Somali Muslims here, as well as many Muslims of other ethnic groups.
If this seems foreign to you and to your children, here is what you can do right now:
John Folmar  says of this of witnessing to Muslims  (and in my experience this is true):
... I find it's much easier to talk to a Gulf Arab about Jesus than it is to talk to another American about Jesus. Muslims claim to revere Jesus as one of their prophets, and their culture and language are infused with religion, so it's simple to talk with them about religious things, correct misunderstandings, and proclaim the good news.
Feeling at home with Muslims will take time. And lots of prayer.  We need to understand what they believe in order to answer the lies they have been told.  Some of the best tools to teach you how to witness to Muslims are
If this seems too hard, hear Spurgeon talk about the great commission:
 'I will do as much as I can,' says one. Any fool can do that.  He that believes in Christ does what he can not do, attempts the impossible and performs it."

I used to only see Muslim women in pictures.  Now I see them in my rearview mirror, walking down my street and at the drug store.  My heart is stirred.  I want to welcome them to this land that seems strange and sometimes hostile to them. Most of all, I want to extend the welcome of Jesus who said, "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."

Spurgeon on War

When thou sleepest, think that thou art resting on the battlefield; when thou walkest, suspect an ambush in every hedge. —C.H. Spurgeon

Tears in the Morning

Watch this video -- even if you don't have time to read the good article.   An orchestra on the train?

Good Answer

"[Tim] Keller was addressing the cultural objections people have to the Bible, e.g. sexual mores, marriage, patriarchy, etc.  He pointed out that what his audience in NYC would consider oppressive sexual ethics would be considered liberal in the Middle East.  He asked them to consider what culture 100 years ago would not have objected to in the Bible that they object to, and what they don't object to now that may be considered ignorant and backward by their great grandchildren.

"He said if the Bible is from God and not from culture, wouldn't we expect that it would conflict with every culture at every time?  And that is what we see.  If it was produced merely by men living in a particular culture, it would reflect a particular culture rather than conflict with it.  So rather than cultural objections working against the Bible, it's actually an indication that it stands outside of culture  And that's a line of argument that the Bible is from God, not man."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Answer to a Question

What do you do when someone sins against you but will not acknowledge it?  Someone asked me this recently and this was my answer:

Dear friend,

I do believe that God at times brings a number of difficult things together in our lives when he is about to do something deep and good.  Have you ever heard the prayer of Puritan Samuel Rutherford?

"Lord, cut,
Lord, carve,
Lord, wound,
Lord, do anything
that may perfect
Thy Father's image in us
and make us meet for glory."

It is a hard prayer.  I have prayed it more than once.   It shows a heart more ready to be purified than comfortable.   And that, of course, is uncomfortable.

If I were you, I hope I would begin by thanking the Lord for the trials.   Perfume is only extracted by crushing the petals of the flowers.

Secondly I would ask God to search my heart, to try my thoughts to see if there is any wicked way in me.  (Ps. 139)   We are all much worse than we think, and Christ said that we could not even accurately see the faults of others until we had opened ourselves to God's searching eye upon our own sin.  I once prayed those verses from Psalm 139 for one month, and God was very faithful to show me sin that I never knew I had.   It was healing to own it and confess it.

Next I would pray for clarity about what is sin on the part of my neighbor. Sometimes we have misjudged or judged without charity.

I have recently been reading Jonathan Edwards's Charity and Its Fruits.  It is worth its weight in gold --and more.  Though I have not finished it yet, what I have read has provided conviction of sin and a deeper desire for godliness.  I would highly recommend it.   

Here is what Edwards says about censoriousness:
"....censoriousness judging evil of others when evidence does not oblige to it, or in thinking ill of them when the case very well allows for thinking well of them; when those things that seem to be in their favor are overlooked, and only those that are against them are regarded, and when the latter are magnified, and too great stress is laid on them."

If we conclude that we have indeed been sinned against, then we should pray for God to help us to be long-suffering.    Let me quote Edwards again:

"He, therefore, who exercises a Christian long-suffering toward his neighbor, will bear the injuries received from him without revenging or retaliating, either by injurious deeds or bitter words.  He will bear it without doing anything against his neighbor that shall manifest the spirit of resentment, without speaking to him or of him with vengeful words, and without allowing a vengeful spirit in his heart or manifesting it in his behavior.  He will receive all with a calm,undisturbed countenance, and with a soul full of meekness, quietness and goodness.  This he will manifest in all of his behavior to the one who has injured him, whether to his face or behind his back.... We should not cease to love our neighbor because he has injured us.  We may pity him for it, but not hate him for it.... The duty we are speaking of also implies that in many cases, when we are injured, we should be willing to suffer much in our interests and feelings for the sake of peace, rather than do what we have opportunity, and perhaps the right to do in defending ourselves."

This does not mean that rebuke is never in order.  And neither do we need to gush over this neighbor as if they were a long-lost friend.    

Isn't this amazing stuff?  I think it would greatly benefit you to read and perhaps journal  though Edwards.  Another book that comes to mind is Mute Christian Under the Rod  ($5.00 at Reformation Heritage Books).  It is a book on how to benefit from trials in our lives.

Let me know if this helps at all.  If you have more specific questions, shoot me an email or give me a jingle.

Friday, June 1, 2012

If it is on R.C.Sproul's "Top Ten," I want it on my list too.

I am talking of book lists.  Whether yours is mental or written doesn't matter, but I hope you are intentionally planning books to read.  And good ones.   Life is short.  Books are friends and we are all subject to peer pressure.

Jonathan Edwards's Charity and Its Fruits is worth its weight in gold --and more.  Though I have not finished it yet, what I have read has provided conviction of sin and a deeper desire for godliness.

Allow me to quote a little section on censoriousness:
"....censoriousness judging evil of others when evidence does not oblige to it, or in thinking ill of them when the case very well allows for thinking well of them; when those things that seem to be in their favor are overlooked, and only those that are against them are regarded, and when the latter are magnified, and too great stress is laid on them."

 If charity is that without which nothing else counts for eternity, we had better take a few hours to understand what it means.  Edwards is a faithful teacher.

I Challenge You

This week I was talking to a friend who was relishing the extra time summer gives us to read. I challenged her to read at least one Puritan this summer.   I challenge you too.

John Piper said of the Puritans: "As furnaces burn with ancient coal and not with the leaves that fall from today's trees, so my heart is kindled with the fiery substance I find in the old Scripture-steeped sermons of Puritan pastors."

Puritan literature, says Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson in Meet the Puritans:

  • shapes life by Scripture
  • marries doctrine and practice
  • focuses on Christ
  • shows how to handle trials
  • show us how to live in two worlds
  • show us true spirituality
If you have never read any of the Puritans, Beeke and Pederson suggest starting with one of these five:
  • Thomas Watson's Heaven Taken by Storm
  • John Bunyan's The Fear of God
  • John Flavel's Keeping the Heart
  • Thomas Brooke's Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices
  • Richard Sibbes's Glorious Freedom
If you want to read a book about the Puritans, try one of these:
  • Leland Ryken's Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were
  •  Peter Lewis's The Genius of Puritanism
  • Erroll Hulse's Who are the Puritans? and what do they teach?
  • J.I. Packer's A Quest for Godliness: The Piritan Vision of the Christian Life
If you take me up on this challenge, please let me know.   If you have reservations about the Puritans, let me know that too.   I will do my best to answer them.
Blessings on your summer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Reckless Abandon

Reckless Abandon is the story of David Sitton, who went to the unreached people of Papua, New Guinea.  This makes a marvelous read aloud for children and clearly demonstrates the power of the gospel to overcome formidable darkness..
One paragraph jumped out and choked me.  It has everything to do with raising and training children:

"I didn't go charging ahead, ready or not, into the next lesson.  The end goal was not an abundance of information for the brain, not even biblical information.  The goal was transformation of life.  A lesson wasn't learned until it was implemented into consistent practice.  A forgotten lesson was a useless one."

"I wish I had done better."

This from Bayly Blog about a message to children:
"There is so much freedom we have.  It is never a freedom to sin, but a freedom to explore the world, to study it, to exercise creativity.  I don't want them to operate out of fear but out of confidence.  I wish I had done better."

Puritan Wisdom

The law sends us to the gospel, that we may be justified, and the gospel sends us to the law again to inquire what is our duty, being justified.
Sanuel Bolton

Monday, May 21, 2012

Spurgeon on the Puritans

In 1872, Spurgeon said, "We assert this day that, when we take down a volume of Puritanical theology we find in a solitary page more thinking and more learning, more Scripture, more real teaching, that in whole folios of the effusions of modern thought.  The modern men would be rich if they possessed even the crumbs that fall from the table of the Puritans."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Joseph Alleine's Useful Questions for Self-examination

Useful Questions for Self-examination adapted from Joseph Alleine
Ps. 4:4 Commune with your hearts upon your beds.

Was I sleeping when I should have been praying?  Ps.5:3
Have my prayers been full of wandering thoughts? Jer 12:2
Have I neglected or read God's Word to not profit?Deut. 17:19
Have I digested the last sermon I heard? Have I repeated it  and prayed over it? Ps.1:2
Have I denied myself in any way this day for God? Luke 9:23
Have I overslept in a world full of needs? Col.4:5
Have I been selective about whose company I keep, including characters in the movies I watch and books I read? Prov.13:20
Have I neglected some duty or sinned against my parents or siblings? Eph.6:1-3
Do I lightly brush off my sins? Ps.38:4
Do I mourn for the sins of the land? Ez.9:4
Do I refrain from doing what I know or fear to be sin?  Ps.119:101,104
Have I prayed thoughout the day? Neh.2:4,5
Has God been far from my thoughts? Ps.16:8
Have I disciplined my thoughts? Ps.119:113
Have I nurtured pride or wrong passions?  James 4:5-7
Have I bridled my tongue? James 1:26
Have I spoke evil of no man? Titus 3:2
Has the law of the Lord been in my mouth as I sat in my house, went by the way, was lying down and rising up? Deut.6:6,7
When I have talked to people, have I said something of God and left some good savor behind? Ep.4:29
Did I sit down with a higher purpose than a pig at the trough ( fill my stomach); did I eat and drink for the glory of God?
1 Cor.10:31
Did I eat more than I needed to? 2 Peter 1:6
Did I participate in the dinner conversation with no mention of God?  Luke 7:36ff; 19:1ff
Was I merely going through the motions when I asked God's blessing and gave thanks for the food? Col.3:17
Did I work hard?1 Cor.7:17
Did I cheat anyone? 1Thes.4:6
Did I lie? Ep.4:25
Did I make promises and not keep them? Ps.15:4

I am aiming for 1,000.

Inspired by Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, I am listing things that I am thankful for.  I hit 261 yesterday.  I like this discipline because it gives me practice in something I do very poorly on my own.
Here are some of my latest entries:

249   red tulips and Abdullah chocolates for Mother's Day
250   my weakness and fear draws out your sympathy, Lord.
254   lily of the valley in a small canning jar
255   sleep on the couch to mend my deep weariness after Abigail's surgery to remove tonsils and adenoids
256   sore leg to remind me of my frailty
257   Joseph Alleine's Useful Questions to direct my repentance  (see next post)
261   new granola recipe

Envy and I have been friends too long....

In any discussion about taking dominion, the first battle ground is our own hearts.  Solomon said "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
We all know of powerful leaders who had no self control. Alexander the Great is said to have drunk himself to death,  Hitler was obsessed with chocolate cherries (liqueur-filled), and many politicians have straying eyes and hearts.
This is a huge topic, but no small issue of our heart involves thankfulness. Here I'm going to talk about one of its opposites: envy.
Recently, one of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies, admitted that he has had a long friendship with envy.  The discovery surprised him.  It disgusted him. He went on to describe the discovery of envy in himself and in Biblical characters, and God's view of it, how envy behaves and then the desires of envy, and how to kill it.
Webster's defines envy this way:
To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another 
I confess  that I have made the same foolish choice of friends. Though I did not see it,  my  envy was in coveting the leadership of men other than my husband.    I would read on family life and think that we should order our home in the same way.  I told my husband so.   As you can imagine,  he received this as criticism after criticism; a huge vote of no confidence.  Finally he asked me to stop reading those books unless we could read them together.    
One book he might not have minded me reading and studying is Shawn Lantz' Bible Study called Living with Unmet Desires.

Using biblical characters, Shawn exposes the many faces of envy or jealousy.  Because sin cripples and paralyzes us, it needs to be exposed.  And confessed.    Shawn takes us deep by identifying four core issues of a jealous heart:
  • God, can I trust You?
  • God, do You love me?
  • God, are You good?
  • God, are You just?
Ask yourself what you believe about God.  If you want to go deeper, study the Bible.  There we see God and ourselves more clearly,  and we learn to trust and know God better.   Listen to the testimony of Shawn Lantz:
Oh, my sweet friend, God's Word has absolutely changed my life.  His Word is the biggest delight of my life.  It has brought me such healing in so many places---places I didn't even know needed healing.  I respected Christ before, I was even afraid of Him and His wrath, but I have since fallen in love with Him.... It's the only relationship I have that gives me more to give to everyone else.  I can never get to the bottom of Him.  He is the most exciting, creative, beautiful, romantic, holy Being I have ever encountered and I am crazy about Him. 
I am thankful that God exposed my ungratefulness and envy, and gave me grace to see things from my husband's perspective.  Envy and I have been friends too long and I am plotting murder. If I am to rule my home well,  God must be my portion.  No one satisfies like him. Discontent comes from wanting people to be God to me. And intense joy comes in trusting that it is in perfect wisdom and justice that God has ordered my life.  He has gracious, eternal purposes in calling me to rule in this house, with this good man, and these dear children.
Taking dominion starts with keeping the heart. For God.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Little Red Hen and Welfare

I recently blogged on this subject

The Little Red Hen and Welfare


You can use children’s stories to teach complicated but important truths about welfare. Take, for example, the hard-working Little Red Hen.
The Little Red Hen believes the proverb, “He who does not work shall not eat.” In the story, we see her heroically planting, tending, harvesting and preparing wheat all by herself. At the end, she and her chicks enjoy the warm bread.  The idle dog, cat and turkey  smell the fresh bread, but don’t receive a crumb.
Ask your child what would happen the next spring when it is again time to plow and sow.  Will the dog, cat and turkey sit idle? They will run for their hoe and get busy. The Bible says “The working man’s hunger drives him on.”
As a twist, let’s think of a different plot. Watch the Little Red Hen setting the steaming loaf on the table before her chicks. Suddenly the farmer bursts in.  Seeing the dog, cat and turkey drooling in the corner, he shouts, “Little Red Hen, give them their fair share.”  Reluctantly cutting the loaf in fourths, the Little Red Hen passes it out.
Now what do you think will happen in the spring?  The incentive to work has been destroyed. Soon the farm will be impoverished. When the farmer cannot satisfy everyone, there will be protests.
Now let us say that the Little Red Hen represents the family and the farmer is the government.
R.J. Rushdoony says,
The family is a God-ordained institution and one of its basic functions is welfare.
Scripture teaches this.  Jesus did not want any gifts from people who were neglecting to care for their parents. And Paul says that one who does not provide for his own household is worse than an unbeliever.  To new believers he says they should steal no more but work with their hands to give to those in need.
Further, let us learn from history.   Rushdoony says,
No system devised by man or the state can ever replace the family in its efficiency and success in creating social stability and strength while supporting and educating virtually all the children of the land.  [In contrast, the]  state system of welfare has in every age been productive of social disorder and delinquency.
By providing welfare, the state, God-like, promises to provide for all needs.  But it cannot. Then the disappointed pick up stones. The “welfare mobs” of Rome became increasingly difficult to satisfy. Because of this difficulty, emperors moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople and then split it also to reside in Ravenna.
Do these mobs sound eerily familiar? Holland, Greece, France, and the United States have these welfare mobs too.  
Rushdoony warns,
We are penalizing responsibility and subsidizing irresponsibility, and, in the process, inviting God’s judgment.
Greek demonstrators throw fire bombs at riot police during violent protests in central Athens
Greek demonstrators throw fire bombs at riot police during violent protests in Athens.Photograph: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images
Use the Little Red Hen to teach your children that God has put the family in charge of welfare. Teach them to be content and hard-working. Teach them to fear God and be generous. You will bless all of society.
It is right that the Little Red Hen enjoy her steaming wheat bread with her chicks.   There are more hoes in the shed, and no reason why the dog, the cat and the turkey shouldn’t enjoy a steaming load of their own.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When hatred is right.

Richard Sibbes gives six reasons for hating sin:
".... hatred is a more rooted affection than anger; anger may be appeased, but hatred is against the whole kind."

The cure for self-pity

An audio series we purchased recently had some sobering words about self-pity and gives incentives for living in faith with resolve.  I blogged on it here:



Our youngest daughter has thoroughly enjoyed doing her dishes ever since an audiobook series called “Voices from the Past” came in the mail.  This series,  read by Victoria Botkin,  features five different women from America’s past.  The stories are gripping with both humor and heartbreak, but I want to look at what they teach about self-pity, faith and resolution.


Self-pity is  resigning ourselves to the difficulties of life without hope of deliverance.    Job said, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”  We should expect difficulty.  But where can we take refuge in the storm?
Nanny Alderson, who had her dream home burned to the ground by Indians, warns of the danger of self-pity:
I was beginning to feel sorry for myself, the lowest state which a woman’s mind can fall.
Another women, Elinore Stewart,  widowed with a young daughter, went west to homestead.  She says,
…when we become sorry for ourselves we make our misfortunes harder to bear because we lose courage.  We can’t think without bias.
If you could watch yourself as you watch  a play, would you like the character you are?  Nobody likes a cowardly, sniveling, half-hearted, self-pitying character.  Rather, we love a character who rises above his circumstances, is persistent, faithful, hopeful, courageous and energetic.  We love a character who does right even when everyone around is doing wrong.
However, if we are full of self-pity, how will we be rescued?


Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb.11:1)
We must have faith.
Either all we have is here and now, and then there is a lot to feel sorry about… or there’s the possibility of a glorious afterlife that makes everything today look different.
Only God can give us eyes to see the power, beauty and grace of Christ who can deliver us from the greatest of storms — the wrath of God that we are under because of our sin.    Only Christ can remove our sin and secure our eternal rest.
Seeing differently, we act differently.  Now we can move from the defeat and hopelessness of self-pity to the hope and purpose of living by faith.  In Him we are adopted, empowered and given glorious work.    And his compensations for our labors , though mostly delayed, are outrageously generous.  
This faith steels our resolve.


Having resolve is having fixed purpose of mind, settled determination.
Puritan Thomas Brooks had that faith that steels resolve:
Your life is short, your duties many, your assistance great and your reward sure; therefore faint not, hold on and hold up, in ways of well-doing, and heaven shall make amends for all.
Eliza Pinckney is another women featured in “Voices from the  Past.”   She had faith, and it made her  energetic and creative in the face of heavy trials. In the absence of her father, while caring for a sick mother, Eliza managed three plantations, developed a highly marketable dye, and planted an oak grove for future ship building.  Every morning she would read a list of resolutions she had written.  I cannot resist sharing a few excerpts.
She is careful of her doctrine:
I am resolved to believe in God; that he is, and is a rewarder of all that diligently seek him….to believe in him, to fear him and love him with all the powers and faculties of my soul. To keep a steady eye to his commands, and to govern myself in every circumstance of life by the rules of the gospel of Christ…
She purposes not to be anxious:
I am resolved by the Divine will, not to be anxious of doubtful, not to be fearful of any accident or misfortune that may happen to me or mine, not to regard the frowns of the world, but to keep a steady upright conduct before my God, and before man, doing my duty and contented to leave the event to God’s Providence.
She is careful of her heart:
I will not give way to any the least notions of pride haughtiness, ambition, ostentation, or contempt of other. I will not give way to envy, ill will, evil speaking, ingratitude, or uncharitableness in word, in thought, or in deed, or to passion or peevishness, nor to sloth or idleness, but to endeavor after all the contrary virtues, humility,charity, etc, etc, and to be always usefully or innocently employed.
She purposes to be a faithful wife:
To pray for [my husband], to contribute all in my power to the good of his Soul and to the peace and satisfaction of his mind, to be careful of his health, of his interests, of his children, and of his reputation; to do him all the good in my power; and next to my God, to make it my study to please him.
To read the complete list of resolutions, go here. 
Seeing the courage of  these pioneer women in the middle of crushing hardship make me ashamed of my self-pity.  They inspire me to walk by faith and to persevere.
And listening to their stories makes doing dishes much more fun.