A Little Book on the Christian Life

Image result for a little book on the christian life

I just finished reading this book last night. It’s by John Calvin (really, it’s an excerpt of his Institutes that authors/translators have made into its own treatise, as it’s THAT good). It’s no secret now that I’m a fan of Calvin.

Here’s a quote to whet your appetite (one out of many…I had post-it notes ALL OVER the book with sections I thought I might share on this blog. Painfully, I limited it to to one.). I appreciate how he describes the tensions and balance of striving toward the goal, while also understanding that perfection won’t be reached this side of Heaven:

“Of course, none of us is capable of running swiftly on the right course while we remain in the earthly confinement of our bodies. Indeed, most of us are so oppressed with weakness that we make little progress– staggering, limping, and crawling on the ground. But let us move forward according to the measure of our resources and pursue the path we have begun to walk. None of us will move forward with so little success that we will not make some daily progress in the way. Therefore, let us keep trying so that we might continually make some gains in the way of the Lord, and neither let us despair over how small our successes are. For however much our successes fall short of our desire, our efforts aren’t in vain when we are farther along today than yesterday. So let us fix our eyes on the goal with sincerity and simplicity, aspiring to that end–neither foolishly congratulating ourselves, nor excusing our evil deeds. Let us press on with continual striving toward that goal so that we might surpass ourselves– until we have finally arrived at perfection itself. This, indeed, is what we follow after and pursue all our lives, but we will only possess it when we have escaped the weakness of the flesh and have been received into His perfect fellowship” (p. 16-17).

“Jesus Loves the Little Children”

Image result for jesus loves the little children bookI just finished “Jesus Loves the Little Children: Why We Baptize Children” by Daniel R. Hyde. If you’re looking for a short (key word being short, as I do better with short books these days), concise book on this topic, I highly recommend it. However, I must acknowledge that the issue of infant baptism can be very controversial and express that my goal in posting is not to offend or divide. But with this baby boy on the way (eek!), I wanted to make sure I really combed the Scriptures and read from trusted theologians to help discern, as best I can, what the Lord says about it. We may disagree, beloveds, and that is okay. I pray our unity in Christ would not be marred!

My general feeling after reading this book has been excitement over such rich nuggets of wisdom. And so what to do with this excitement (I know I’m nerdy)??? ūüôā I MUST share it with you! Hyde says these things way better than I could, so I’ve picked out a few choice quotations that may bless you and ones that I, selfishly, want to record so I can go back to them in the future. Bravo to you if you get through them all, bravo still if you just skim through them, and bravo to you even if you bow out now. It’s always great to have you visit inkdrops, whether you linger or dodge quickly in and out. Enjoy, beloveds!

Quote 1:

“While we have said that baptism is a sign of God’s saving grace, baptism does not necessarily follow chronologically after a sinner is saved…Since baptism is a tangible way that we have experienced the grace and mercy of God in Christ, it can be a very emotional aspect of our experience as Christians. Many of those for whom this book is intended were baptized as adults in a public setting. I share the same experience. Yet we must not think that our personal experience of testifying to God’s grace before many fellow believers is the litmus test of anyone’s theology of baptism. While baptism can be an intensely moving experience, it doesn’t mean adult baptism is the best way or the only way God intends this sacrament to be used….

…the New Testament does not teach that there is necessarily a chronologically simultaneous relationship between the reception of the sacrament and its spiritual benefits. Consider the way a person heard the Word preached. That person may hear hundreds of sermons before ever receiving the benefits promised in the preached Word. I can testify to this. I grew up in a Christian home, heard Bible stories, attended Sunday school, prayed with my family, heard the Scriptures read, but did not consciously come to faith until I was over seventeen years old. Are we then to conclude that everyone must undergo years of hearing the Word first and before coming to faith? The answer is no. One’s personal experience is not to become the doctrine of the church….Just as the Word of the gospel might be preached to someone at one point but the benefit of salvation may come at a much later point, so too it is with baptism. A long period of time may pass between the time a child receives baptism and the time God brings that child to a saving knowledge of the truth of which baptism is a picture.” (pp. 25, 26)

Quote 2:

In reference to 1 Corinthians 7:14 when Paul says a believing spouse can sanctify an unbelieving spouse:¬†“With regard to children, this text reorients us from an individualistic mindset to a covenantal mindset. Scripture makes it clear that God is a covenant making God, and covenants include children. Thus our individualistic ideas of “making Jesus our personal Lord and Savior” and having a “personal relationship with Jesus” must be augmented. While we and our children are personally to embrace God’s promises, the fact remains that God chooses to work through families. Thus 1 Corinthians 7:14 says that children of believers, or even just one believer, are “holy” to the Lord. Just as the children of Israel were called “holy seed” (Ezra 9:2; Isa. 6:13), so too the children of believers are called “holy” in the new covenant era.” (p. 41)¬†

Quote 3:

“Even as infants do not understand what it means to be a sinner, to place their faith in Jesus, and to live godly lives, so they do not need to understand what baptism is about. Put plainly, we do not need to know what it means to be a sinner in order to be a sinner. On the other hand, they are received in the grace of Christ’s covenant people even before they can know what that means. Infant baptism, then, is a testimony to the sovereignty of God’s grace, in which he loved us before we loved him (1 John 4:10)….In baptism, we see that God always initiates grace! He “came” to us first in eternity in his plan of election; he comes to us in the power of the Holy Spirit in regenerating us from death to life; and he comes to us before we were even able to believe in him, by giving us the gift of faith so we may be justified. So too in baptism he comes to us first, even as we were helpless children, making a promise of grace to us.” (p. 52)

 

Overflow Is No Deficiency

“Surely, it is no argument of [neediness] in God that he is inclined to communicate of his infinite fullness. It is no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain, that it is inclined to overflow.” – Jonathan Edwards

 

John Piper alerted me to this quote yesterday, in reference to why God, if He was perfect, complete, and utterly happy in Himself (the Trinity) decided to create the world and man. Piper highlighted the fact that when things are full, complete, good and joyous, the result is it overflows. It abounds. It’s uncontainable. When one is full, our good and right tendency is to share that fullness with others.

As Ransom and I prepare for our son to arrive, there have been those normal vacillating moments from elation all the way to fear of loss. Elation at the privilege to be designated by God as authorities and caretakers of this precious soul. Elation at the thought of meeting our little boy, knowing him, loving him, forgiving him, confessing to him, teaching him, learning from him, and the list goes on. But there is also this fear of a sense of loss in the sweet marriage relationship Ransom and I share. It won’t be “just us” anymore. My attention will be more divided now. There will be another man in my life (albeit, not prioritized as highly as Ransom) vying for my attention. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want the beloved intimacy Ransom and I share to change in any way. Can you catch the faint whiff of selfishness in there? It’s easy to miss and it’s only one layer in this complex heart, but what a joy it is to confess and repent those faint whiffs when the Spirit is gracious to reveal them!

BUT, God has used this quote to enter into that fear and smash it to pieces. If Ransom and I have experienced something good, joyous, full, and satisfying, shouldn’t it be our tendency, our delight to share it with children? It is good and right that our intimacy should extend to them. We want our fountain to be an overflowing, abundant one…not simply a “working” fountain.

I’m not saying that this fear (or other fears) won’t sound good to my heart anymore. But I have been encouraged that this new chapter of sharing the love Ransom and I have been gifted in our marriage, is good and right. This is the way God does relationship and I want to follow in His footsteps. It is a lovely reminder for my heart to settle into this metaphor and it’s a challenge to share open-heartedly, with welcome and abandon, the love we have with our son. Help me to do so, Lord. Amen!

Remember Me

“Remember Me” by Andrew Peterson

Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom
Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom

Who can ascend the hill of the Lord?
The one who utters no untrue word
Whose hands are clean, whose heart is pure
Who can ascend that hill?

There is none righteous, no not one
We are prodigal daughters and wayward sons
We don’t know the half of the hurt we’ve done
The countless we have killed

Our priests are cheats, our prophets are liars
We know what the law requires
But we pile our sins up higher and higher
Who can ascend that hill?

And I am a sheep who has gone astray
I have turned aside to my own way
Have mercy on me, Son of David
Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom
Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom

Now hear the voice of the Word made man
The spotless sacrificial Lamb
“A body You gave me, here I am
I have come to do Your will”

And no one takes my life, you see
I lay it down now willingly
And I will draw all men to me
When I ascend that hill

On Sunday You came as a King
On Monday washed the temple clean
On Tuesday You told of what will be
On Wednesday You waited patiently
On Thursday You said it is time
I’ll drink this cup ’cause it is mine
On Friday, Lord, You poured the wine

Like a thief on the cross, as He hung there dying
For crimes, there were no use denying
While the righteous Judge hung right beside him
How could I not recognize You?
How could I not recognize You?
How could I not recognize… my Lord?
My Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom
Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom

Just days ago the sky was stone
The trees were standing stripped to the bone
You could hear creation groan

But I write these words on an April day
And the earth is drinking the early rain
The hills remember green again

And we’ve heard this story all our lives
Still, we feel the pain of the crucified
And the end still comes as a surprise

But before the breath there in the tomb
Before our joy sprang from the womb
You saw a day that’s coming soon
When the Son will stand on the mount again
With an army of angels at His command
And the earth will split like the hull of a seed
Wherever Jesus plants His feet

And up from the earth, the dead will rise
Like spring trees robed in petals of white
Singing the song of the radiant bride

And we will always be, always be, always be with the Lord
We will always be, always be, always be with the Lord
We will always… (we will always be, always be)
Be with Jesus (always be with the Lord)

My Lord, remember me (we will always be, always be)
When You come into Your kingdom (always be with the Lord)
Lord, remember me (we will always be, always be)
When You come into Your kingdom (always be with the Lord)

Michael W. Smith Wins the Christmas Music Trophy

Merry Christmas Eve Eve, beloveds! Today is the first time I’ve ever heard this song and¬† I knew I had to share it with you. It has made me cry and it keeps making me cry. I feel like this song should simultaneously be belted in a musical, sung in a church, and cried out in a quiet room in a quiet house next to a well-worn Bible to an audience of One.

I pray you can take a moment today to stop, calm your heart, and enjoy “the wondrous child” who “knows your joy and feels your suffering.” Thank you Michael W. Smith and Michael McDonald!

Another Anti Self-Esteem Post

Image Source: Psychology Today

I’ve blogged on disliking the goal of boosting one’s self-esteem before, but I’d like to add another analogy to the mix. I hope it’s helpful to you, beloveds. When I was growing up, the conversation of battling low self-esteem problems was highly popular. Though the term may not be as front-and-center right now, I think the underlying notion of “self-esteem issues” remains fixed in our current culture: We hear the call to think positively of ourselves, we must build ourselves up, do what’s best for you and only you, etc. And while these aren’t horrible things in themselves, I think this type of thinking and particularly counseling from this type of perspective is misleading and harmful. If these things become the main focus, they ultimately leave us feeling empty (we know that our “self” is tainted by sin and no amount of positive thinking can hide that), it tempts us toward self-centeredness and pride (where does our need/dependence on God come into play?), and though there may be immediate/temporary boosting effects from positive self-talk, it offers no lasting hope (again, we find that we continue to fail and our salvation has to come from a Source outside of ourselves). Good ole’ John Piper in “Don’t Waste Your Life” has an apt analogy:

“For most people to be loved is to be made much of. Almost everything in our Western culture serves this distortion of love. We are taught in a thousand ways that love means increasing someone’s self-esteem. Love is helping someone feel good about themselves. Love is giving someone a mirror and helping him like what he sees.

This is not what the Bible means by the love of God. Love is doing what is best for someone. But making self the object of our highest affections is not best for us. It is, in fact, a lethal distraction. We were made to see and savor God– and savoring him, to be supremely satisfied, and thus spread in all the world the worth of his presence. Not to show people the all-satisfying God is not to love them. To make them feel good about themselves when they were made to feel good about seeing God is like taking someone to the Alps and locking them in a room full of mirrors.”

I love that Alps/Room full of mirrors analogy! It captures the problem well. To clarify, I don’t validate self-hatred. Some could argue that my position leads us to hate and despise ourselves. That is not at all what I’m advocating for here. We are made in God’s image and because of that we are inherently valuable. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” ¬†(Ephesians 2: 10). If we are in Christ, when God sees us, He sees Christ. We are clothed in His robes of righteousness. Keeping with the Ephesians 2 passage, but before we received Christ, we were in sin: “And you were¬†dead in the trespasses and sins¬†in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following¬†the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in¬†the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2).¬†That’s why, beloveds, I hope to emphasize with others and remind myself that my sin and failure is important to see (not to wallow in it NOR to wish it away), as it drives me to the beauty and amazing saving grace of Jesus Christ. The final result is, as Piper says, to worship and savor and delight in God Himself. To love Him is to truly love ourselves! Awareness, confession and repentance of sin is actually good because it drives us to see our insufficiency and need for Christ. He then begins to take the starring role in our lives.

Romans 5:6-11 connects this transition from sin leading to God honoring worship and rejoicing:¬†“For¬†while we were still weak, at the right time¬†Christ died for the ungodly.¬†For one will scarcely die for a righteous person‚ÄĒthough perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die‚ÄĒ¬†but¬†God shows his love for us in that¬†while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.¬†Since, therefore,¬†we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from¬†the wrath of God.¬†For if¬†while we were enemies¬†we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by¬†his life.¬†More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received¬†reconciliation” (my italics).

Tim Keller has a great little book about this (see below). I’d definitely recommend it to anyone intrigued by this conversation!¬†We shouldn’t desire great self-esteem nor should we hate ourselves, our aim is self-forgetfulness as we desire God’s glory most of all. We become less and He becomes more in our hearts and lives. God, please help us point people away from themselves and to You, Creator of the Alps (more satisfying than the Alps could ever hope to be) and the most glorious of all.

In the Words of Satan by the Arrows

This reminds me a bit of C.S. Lewis’s tack when he wrote “The Screwtape Letters.” I love the jazzy style of music here juxtaposed with the atrociousness¬†of Satan’s twisted plans. I’m thankful for “the God in Heaven who loves us, who yearns for us, and who gives us the freedom of forgiveness and truth.”

One New Thing for 2016

New Year’s Resolutions. Though many fade away¬†by February, I love how some people continue to make them every year and give it their all. I’m joining the club!

This year I am going to try and give God 1.5-2 hours a day. I know this won’t be possible everyday, and I may not reach 2017 with much success at this. But it will be my main mission. Why, you ask? Well, one of my favorite bloggers, The Peaceful Wife, wrote this and I don’t think I can explain it¬†better than her:

“I must very consciously set aside time for God and seek to make Him my priority. I need a minimum of about 30 minutes, but I do much better if I have 1.5 -2 hours per day with God. I want to seek many more of the 1.5-2 hour times this year.

I have to have that time with Him alone where I sit at His feet, allow Him to restore my spirit, and drink Him in. I must have time to recharge, to praise Him, to thank Him, to seek Him, to get to know Him more, to desire Him above all else, and to be filled with His Spirit.

If I attempt to minister when I am spiritually depleted and I am operating in my own strength, I will not be a blessing to anyone – and I may actually hurt other people more than help them.” -The Peaceful Wife: April Cassidy

quiet time bibleI¬†admit, I feel anxious in sharing this resolution because of possible judgments made by you, beloveds. I know it’s silly, but I fear you thinking I’m not busy enough, not working hard enough in life if I have 1.5-2 hours free to spend with God. I want to explain myself, but I’m painstakingly going to resist because another sub-goal/resolution of mine is to fear people less and fear God more. So with that, beloveds, know that I love you and I am thankful for you! And feel free to keep me accountable with this resolution…I need all the help I can get!

Surprise Snow

Ransom and I should have checked the weather before driving to¬†Buffalo this Friday. But our judgment was “clouded” (I’m my Father’s punny daughter) because we had to run pre-Christmas errands,¬†and we were dazed by the opportunity for a work break.¬†Plus, it had been 60 degrees less than 5 days prior. We¬†never expected¬†a snowstorm.

Halfway there, the snow began. It was a beautiful addition to the gorgeous backdrop of north western NY. Large, lonely fields welcoming the white, silent fluffiness. The snow wasn’t¬†menacing; magical and mesmerizing. It began to rekindle my hopes¬†for a White Christmas.

We did our shopping thang, and by the end, my feet were aching from the boots I wore. #comfortoverfashionnexttime #ineverlearn. Finally we collapsed in the car, content with our bargains and buys, and began the 1.25 hour drive home. I groaned glancing at the dashboard clock to find it was way later than planned. And then, I neglected my navigating duties at the exact moment our exit passed by, setting us back an extra 15 minutes.

That’s when the¬†snow started up again. Harder, heavier, and darker. This was a different kind of breed than earlier in the day, in the sunlight. I began reading a book aloud to distract us from the storm and to entertain Ransom. But soon, it became dangerous and we needed to turn the lights off for better night vision.

I was too nervous to keep reading anyway, although I¬†sort of missed the safety I found in the world of our book. When I wasn’t reading anymore, I had to focus on the GPS, tracking the number of miles ’till home. There were still way too many for my liking.

It kept getting worse. The GPS took us back a different way than we came, through isolated back-roads. We’re still not sure why. We got stuck on an uphill, tires spinning. I tapped¬†the accelerator as Ransom got out and pushed us up and over the hill.

We swerved around a turn and almost swung¬†into a deep ditch. We were silent and about 30 seconds¬†later Ransom said seriously, “I thought we weren’t going to make that turn.” We got stuck on another hill. No houses in site. We’re in the boonies, remember. ūüôā Ransom pushed us up the hill again. We moved as slowly as possible. A few cars whizzed past us (did they have snow tires?). We soon hit the 1.25 hour mark and we still had a long way to go.

It was treacherous. I prayed aloud a lot. I kept thanking God for getting us past the next hill, the next turn. I was suddenly amazed to find we were getting closer to home. But we had one more hurtle ahead of us. A long, steep downhill preceded our street. I would have preferred an uphill where Ransom could push us up. But we¬†started down and we¬†started to lose control of the car. It was steeper than we remembered.¬†We were going to go down fast and we would probably start spinning, ending up who knows where down at the bottom. Thanks be to God, a driveway appeared and Ransom made a split-second decision to¬†steer¬†us into the direction of the driveway. Our¬†car gained traction and we parked in a stranger’s long driveway.

At that point we were close enough to home to walk, so we left an apologetic note in their door, promising to pick up our car as soon as the storm let up. We gathered our things and walked home, arriving almost 3 hours later.

Phew. My adrenaline is pumping just remembering that anxious-ridden drive. But I want to express my¬†thankfulness, beloveds. I am thankful for God’s protection. He kept us from danger countless times on that drive. I am thankful for my husband, Ransom. He stayed calm for the two of us, made wise decisions, and gave all he had (even brute force) to get us home. I am thankful for the life God has given us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. It’s experiences like these that help remind us just how small we are and how big He is. Just how out of control we are and how in control He is. We very well could have crashed at the bottom of the hill, if that was His will. But that doesn’t change the fact that even then, He is the same loving and caring God.* Ultimately, I am thankful God¬†is the only refuge for our souls, our safe place, our eternal peace. Christ has and will ultimately silence the waves (and¬†the snow), making it magical and mesmerizing¬†again! Thank you God, for your Fatherly care on this life journey and for one day guiding us to home sweet home again.

snow falling

*Nancy Guthrie says this well-Jesus protects us from the Evil One and Judgment:

“The fact is, God cares more about our spiritual health than our physical health. Our bodies are going to die. Our souls are going to live forever. And God’s ability to protect our souls from eternal judgment and eternal death is more significant than his ability to protect our bodies from disease or death. Trapped in these bodies and in this time, it is hard for us to grasp. So in our prayer requests for safe travel and physical health, and in our more desperate prayers amid great difficulties, we try to apply to our bodies his promises of protection for our souls, and we’re left disappointed, accusing him of falling down on the job. But we will continue to be disappointed in him until our value system lines up with his, until we value the eternal life of our souls more than the limited life of our mortal bodies, until we understand that God’s primary agenda is kingdom building. It may cost us our very lives, and he is okay with that…

...God knows that you and I need protection from judgment, which is going to fall, flowing out of divine justice. So he sent us a Protector in the form of a vulnerable baby, a Savior who is no less than his own Son. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). As we hide ourselves in the person and work of Jesus, we find shelter from the sure and certain judgment of the last day…

So can I expect God to protect me, and anyone devastated by a tragedy as big as Katrina? Absolutely! I’ve come to see that his “protection plan” is more vast and far-reaching than my shallow expectations once defined. I see now that God’s promises for protection go much deeper than protecting my body or my agenda or my plan for my life. I can rest easy. I’m protected.” –“Can I Really Expect God to Protect Me?” by Nancy Guthrie

 

Father, Help Me To…

Prayer by Bryan Jeffery Leech

Father, help me to TALK like a Christian:

to speak in such a way that I build up another person’s confidence in himself, instead of tearing down his reputation.

Father, help me to DRIVE like a Christian:

to be watchful and careful lest I cause harm to someone else on the highways.

Father, help me to GIVE like a Christian:

without thought of return, without anyone knowing what I do, and with Your approval as sufficient reward.

Father, help me to DRESS like a Christian:

by not attracting attention to myself for being too fashionable or too causal; and help me to show by my appearance that I want people to know me for what I am inside myself.

Father, help me to SLEEP like a Christian:

at peace with myself because sin is forgiven; and at peace with others because I do not allow my anger to last through a day.

Father, help me to EAT like a Christian:

to eat healthily, to eat moderately, to eat gratefully, giving thanks to You who provide my food, and for the one who prepares my food.

Father, KEEP ME from being so pious that I keep You out of the practical areas of life. Be with me when I am alone, and when I shed my inhibitions, lest in those moments I cancel out all that I seem to be when I’m on my best behavior.

Father, I ASK THIS because I follow a Master who was never guilty of the slightest wrong-doing, and who always showed His love in the small details of living. Amen.