Archive for September, 2009

In history there are few Christian thelogians who thought as deeply about the intersection of desire and the Gospel as the Puritans. The only other that I can think of who did so as profoundly was perhaps Augustine, particularly in his Confessions and Homilies on the Gospel of John. In modern times, C.S. Lewis and John Piper have expended a good deal of thought, effort, and paper exploring the intersection of desires and the Gospel. Nevertheless, this intersection seems to have occupied a whole generation of theologians (the Puritans) and they not only drew from the wealth of great Christians who had gone before them, but like iron sharpening iron they drew from one another. Why spend time resurrecting old theology, particularly the theology of folks with such a tainted name as “Puritan.” Well, first off it is valuable in and of itself. Secondly, we in North America live in a committed capitalistic culture, whose market shares deal in selling desire. As a culture, one could say we run on desire. Therefore, it is imperative that you and I learn what the Gospel does and has to say about our desires. In my opinion no one does it better than the Puritans. Which, after a long introduction brings me to the post below. It is worth spending some time thinking through what is being suggested by Chalmers and by all means click through to read the whole thing.

Under the impulse of desire, man feels himself urged onward in some path or pursuit of activity for its gratification. The faculties of his mind are put into busy exercise. In the steady direction of one great and engrossing interest, his attention is recalled from the many reveries into which it might otherwise have wandered; and the powers of his body are forced away from an indolence in which it else might have languished; and that time is crowded with occupation, which but for some object of keen and devoted ambition, might have drivelled along in successive hours of weariness and distaste – and though hope does not always enliven, and success does not always crown this career of exertion, yet in the midst of this very variety, and with the alternations of occasional disappointment, is the machinery of the whole man kept in a sort of congenial play, and upholden in that tone and temper which are most agreeable to it.

Insomuch, that if, through the extirpation of that desire which forms the originating principle of all this movement, the machinery were to stop, and to receive no impulse from another desire substituted in its place, the man would be left with all his propensities to action in a state of most painful and unnatural abandonment. A sensitive being suffers, and is in violence, if, after having thoroughly rested from his fatigue, or been relieved from his pain, he continue in possession of powers without any excitement to these powers; if he possess a capacity of desire without having an object of desire; or if he have a spare energy upon his person, without a counterpart, and without a stimulus to call it into operation.

The misery of such a condition is often realized by him who is retired from business, or who is retired from law, or who is even retired from the occupations of the chase, and of the gaming table. Such is the demand of our nature for an object in pursuit, that no accumulation of previous success can extinguish it – and thus it is, that the most prosperous merchant, and the most victorious general, and the most fortunate gamester, when the labour of their respective vocations has come to a close, are often found to languish in the midst of all their acquisitions, as if out of their kindred and rejoicing element. It is quite in vain with such a constitutional appetite for employment in man, to attempt cutting away from him the spring or the principle of one employment, without providing him with another. Thu whole heart and habit will rise in resistance against such an undertaking. The else unoccupied female who spends the hours of every evening at some play of hazard, knows as well as you, that the pecuniary gain, or the honourable triumph of a successful contest, are altogether paltry. It is not such a demonstration of vanity as this that will force her away from her dear and delightful occupatiou. The habit cannot so be displaced, as to leave nothing but a negative and cheerless vacancy behind it – though it may so be supplanted as to be followed up by another habit of employment, to which the power of some new affection has constrained her. It is willingly suspended, for example, on any single evening, should the time that wont to be allotted to gaining, require to be spent on the preparations of an approaching assembly. The ascendant power of a second affection will do, what no exposition however forcible, of the folly and worthlessness of the first, ever could effectuate.

And it is the same in the great world. We shall never be able to arrest any of its leading pursuits, by a naked demonstration of their vanity. It is quite in vain to think of stopping one of these pursuits in any way else, but by stimulating to another. In attempting to bring a worldly man intent and busied with the prosecution of his objects to a dead stand, we have not merely to encounter the charm which he annexes to these objects – but we have to encounter the pleasure which he feels in the very prosecution of them. It is not enough, then, that we dissipate the charm, by a moral, and eloquent, and affecting exposure of its illusiveness. We must address to the eye of his mind another object, with a charm powerful enough to dispossess the first of its influences, and to engage him in some other prosecution as full of interest, and hope, and congenial activity, as the former.

read the whole thing here

More from DesiringGod‘s conference on John Calvin. This time from Sam Storms on the resurrection, the “final act in the theatre of God”. Click here for the whole thing.

On August 5, 1563 Calvin wrote a letter to the wife of one of the Reformation leaders in France. She was experiencing physical illness and he wrote to her, “They [our physical afflictions] should serve us as medicine to purge us from worldly affections and remove what is superfluous in us. And since they are to us the messengers of death, we ought to learn to have one foot raised to take our departure when it shall please God.”

I read that a few weeks ago and I began to ask myself, “Do I live with one foot raised in expectation of seeing my Savior face to face?” Calvin did, I’m convinced. And there is ever so much of living now in expectation of that day that we can learn from him.

Why is Calvin such a helpful guide for us in this area? I’ll mention four reasons:

First, Calvin is a pilgrim on this earth, as Julius Kim told us last night. Calvin speaks often in his commentaries of being a sojourner on this earth. Two of the more recent biographies about Calvin highlight this theme. One title is, “John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor” (W. Robert Godfrey). Another is “John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life” (Herman J. Selderhuis).

In Colossians 3:1 Paul exhorts us to seek the things that are above. Calvin said that in doing so we can “embrace our identity as sojourners in this world without being bound to it.”

In Hebrews 11 the author refers to the patriarchs’ desire for a better country, a heavenly one. Calvin wrote on Hebrews 13:14, “We should consider that we have no fixed residence but in heaven. Whenever, therefore, we are driven from place to place, whenever any change happens to us, let us think about what the author teaches here, let us think that our abode is not on earth…they that enjoy a common life here believe that they have rest on this world. It is profitable for us, who are prone to sloth and have often become comfortable in this world, to be tossed to and fro.”

Lest you be misled, when Calvin talks about turning our eyes away from earth and toward heaven, you should never think that he was somehow some sort of other-worldly dualist who despised God’s creation. Far from it. Whenever Calvin talked about his passion to leave this earth and go to heaven, it was driven by 1) his hatred of sin, 2) his own bodily suffering, and 3) his desire to see God.

Calvin was not negligent toward matters of this life or basic responsibilities. Think of his remarkable productivity. This is no other-worldly dualism. This is no “Left Behind” escapist mentality. He knew the better country he desired was the new earth.

Jesus Christ on Trial (Phil 1.18-21)

Posted: September 28, 2009 by limabean03 in Uncategorized

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Preached by Rob Sturdy on 9-27-09

I have excerpted below from Lewis’ classic work Mere Christianity. The following paragraphs are for me, some of the most significant of the whole book. Admittedly, I stopped right when it gets good, but perhaps I will post that as well when my fingers are rested a bit

The better stuff a creature is made of- the cleverer and stronger and feer it is- then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best- or worst- of all.

How did the Dark Power go wrong? Here, no doubt, we ask a question to which human beings cannot give an answer with any certainty. A reasonable (and traditional) guess, cased on our own experiences of going wrong, can, however, be offered. The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first- wanting to be the centre- wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught to the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake. (The story in the Book of Genesis rather suggests that some corruption in our sexual nature followed the fall and was its result, not its cause.) What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was theidea that they could “be like gods”- cold set up on their own as if they had created themselves- be their own masters- invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history- money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, empires, classes, slavery- the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

The reason why it can never succeed is this. Godman us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on Gasoline, and it would not run on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended- civilisations are built up- excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfich adn cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans.

C.S. Lewish, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan 1977) pg 54-55

Is there a God and why does it matter?

Posted: September 28, 2009 by limabean03 in The Awakenings Course, Uncategorized

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The first of an eight week course called “Awakenings”

As many of you remember, wildfires ravaged Horry County just a few months ago. Trinity made an appeal to raise funds for relief and encouraged people to give to the Red Cross. We received much support from people all over the country and even all over the world! Included in this effort were our good friends from St. Andrews, Mt. Pleasant, who generously contributed $2000 to the cause. After weeks of careful searching and prayer to see where the funds raised could best be used, we heard of a young woman who was the single parent of two girls. The fire consumed all of their possessions and disastrously, the family had no insurance. Even before the fire the family was living in extreme poverty, with no electricity or running water. It literally took us months to find this woman and even more time to make the arrangements to assist her. But I am pleased to report that with the help of Allison D’Aurizio and Rick Spradlin the ball is finally rolling. You could not even imagine the logistical hurdles involved in this project. Nevertheless many of the pieces are now in place and we intend to “adopt” this family and get their lives back up and running (this time with electricity and running water). In the weeks ahead you will hear of more ways you can assist this family, but for now I’ve included a picture of the family’s new trailer which is used but in good condition. We will rally the Trinity men in the week’s to come to make a few minor improvements and will arrange some kind of introduction so that the relationship between the family and the church can begin.

I am tremendously grateful that once again, God has given us the opportunity to give a new life to a family as a demonstration of the spiritual new life he has given each of us in the Gospel. Praise God!

trailer

Below is an excerpt from a letter by Bishop David Anderson of the AAC. In the paragraph below he bluntly lays out the big elephant in the room in the Diocese of S.C. No doubt some people will be offended by Bishop Anderson’s remarks, but in my opinion they are reality. There are tough times in store for the Diocese of S.C. in the coming months. Please do pray for your clergy and most of all pray for Bishop Lawrence to continue to navigate these incredibly choppy waters.

In the Diocese of South Carolina, there is a dilemma. Some congregations are ready to bolt, even though they have an orthodox bishop, +Mark Lawrence. If Bishop Lawrence is willing to take SC out of TEC, he has the SC courts to back him, and it seems that almost all of his parishes would follow him. If he chooses to stay and TEC continues on its present trajectory, he risks seeing a steady erosion of some of his larger parishes. This in time would leave him with the remaining balance tilted toward the more liberal parishes who want to stay in TEC, significantly reducing his options. Our take on the situation is that the strategic time for Bishop Lawrence to act is in the next three or four months, and if he sends a clear message that departure consideration is on the table, most of his parishes would wait for him. Bishop Lawrence has done one of the best analysis of the wreck of the Episcopal Church by current liberal leaders, and he is widely known to be solidly orthodox. It may be that this is a Kairos moment that has now been presented to him. Pray for him earnestly.

read the whole letter here