Nature is not our “mother” but our sister….

As the media continues to wig-out over our wintry weather, and as pop culture fills 1439189_60768599terabytes of social media with pictures and captions expressing weather weariness, Christians should remain vigilant not to use the pagan language referring to nature as our “Mother.”

I was reminded of this as I read the latest dispatch from The Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College. Just today Dr. Gary L. Welton, an assistant dean and professor of psychology at GCC wrote a great little essay: “Mother Nature? Nature is Not Our Mother.” It’s more than a boiler-plate warning; he shares some interesting insights, stirred by the old G. K. Chesteron. Welton writes —

G. K. Chesterton, however, wrote in “Orthodoxy” that, “The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister.” He argued that because we share the same father, we are siblings. Nature has no authority over us. “Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.”

He also quotes James Fennimore Cooper as he elaborates on the whole sibling idea. But he does arrive at an important consideration:

Although the analogy of nature as our sister works better than the analogy of nature as our mother, there is a sense in which the analogy falls short. In the creation mandate, we are instructed to have dominion over nature. My parents never gave me any dominion over my sister. Although there are a few times I tried to establish such dominion, she never allowed it. Our charge to have dominion over nature is not consistent with the sister analogy.

This is timely stuff from the helpful Vision & Values team at GCC. I suggest you subscribe to their emails. At least click on over and read Welton’s essay (just a page or so long), here.

~ pdb

Ten Great Questions for A New Year

(From: DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed)

Ten Questions for the New Year

I have used these reflection questions in the past. As we begin a new year, I find them still remarkably relevant. Even though the questions are particular to a husband, father, and pastor, you may be able to put them to good use as well.

1. Am I spending time slowly reading God’s word and memorizing Scripture?

2. Am I having consistent, focused, extended times of prayer, including interceding for others?

3. Am I disciplined in my use of technology, in particular not getting distracted by emails and blogging in the evening and on my day off?

4. Am I going to bed on time?

5. Am I eating too much?

6. Have I exercised in the last week?

7. Am I patient with my kids or am I angry with them when they disobey or behave in childish ways?

8. When at home, am I “fully present” for my wife and family or are my mind and energy elsewhere?

9. Am I making sermon preparation a priority in my week or am I doing other less important things first?

10. Have I done anything out of the ordinary to cherish and help my wife?

from Kevin DeYoung

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Duties to a Shepherd

Many good reflections about the nature of pastoral ministry in a local church, have emerged in connection with the retirement of John Piper from Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis, MN) after 30+ years there. He wrote a ‘Final Open Letter to My Flock’ in which he expressed his thankfulness for blessings received as a shepherd of the Lord’s flock there. Excerpts include these:
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As far as I know every biblical blessing that a flock owes its shepherd you have given to me during our life together.

• You received my preaching as the word of God; it became active in you, and transformed our life together (1 Thess. 2:13).

• You responded supportively to my leadership knowing I would have to give an account for your souls, and you helped me do this ‘with joy and not with groaning, for that would have been of no advantage to you’ (Heb. 13:17).

• I have spoken freely to you, and opened my heart to you, and been vulnerable with you; and you have cared for me, and opened your hearts wide to me also (2 Cor. 6:11–13).

• You have never assumed that I was above the need for encouragement, and have turned this church into a place where we have been ‘mutually en- couraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine’ (Rom. 1:12).

• You have not muzzled this ox, but have shared all good things with him who teaches. I have never been in need (1 Tim. 5:18; Gal. 6:6).

• You have multiplied my joy with your biblical faithfulness, for ‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth’ (3 Jn 1:4).

• You have treasured Christ and become the mirror of his worth. And for that you are my ‘hope and joy and crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming’ (1 Thess. 2:19).

“How Does Jesus Come to Newtown?”

In light of today’s horrific events in Connecticut, Pastor John Piper has written the following at his Desiring God blog.

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We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize . . . but one who in every respect has been tested as we are. ~ Hebrews 4:15

[Piper:]
Mass murder is why Jesus came into the world the way he did. What kind of Savior do we need when our hearts are shredded by brutal loss?

We need a suffering Savior. We need a Savior who has tasted the cup of horror we are being forced to drink.

And that is how he came. He knew what this world needed. Not a comedian. Not a sports hero. Not a movie star. Not a political genius. Not a doctor. Not even a pastor. The world needed what no mere man could be.

The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Mere suffering would not do. Mere sovereignty would not do. The one is not strong enough to save; the other is not weak enough to sympathize.

So he came as who he was: the compassionate King. The crushed Conqueror. The lamb-like Lion. The suffering Sovereign.

Now he comes to Newtown, Connecticut.

READ THE WHOLE THING HERE.

[Piper’s concluding thought]
The God who draws near to Newtown is the suffering, sympathetic God-man, Jesus Christ. No one else can feel what he has felt. No one else can love like he can love. No one else can heal like he can heal. No one else can save like he can save.

PS: I would encourage you to search the Desiring God website for additional helpful, biblical thoughts on the topic of “suffering”.

Tony Reinke

Slow is bad in the modern vernacular, but around this time of the year the slow celebration of Advent serves as a reminder of just how right and precious slow is the plan of God. Take the lesson from Octavius Winslow and the words he penned in his book The Glory of the Redeemer (1844):

The entire theocracy of the Israelites was interwoven with a system of symbols and types of the most significant and instructive character. It was thus the wisdom and the will of God that the revelation of Jesus to the Church should assume a consecutive and progressive form. Not a sudden but a gradual descent to the world, marked the advent of our adorable Redeemer.

The same principle of progressiveness is frequently seen in a saving discovery of Christ to the soul. Not by an immediate and instantaneous revelation, not by a single glance of the…

View original post 255 more words

Thoughts on the Presidential Election

Like so many I was stunned and saddened by the election results on Tuesday night. And I am terribly sad not because my choice for office lost but because of the awful repercussion the re-election of such a liberal administration will bring to our land. Actions have consequences; elections have consequences.

Insightful analysis is made by Dr Al Mohler here; let me share a few excerpts with you (emphasis added).

Evangelical Christians must see the 2012 election as a catastrophe for crucial moral concerns. The election of President Obama returns a radically pro-abortion President to the White House, soon after he had endorsed same-sex marriage. President Obama is likely to have the opportunity to appoint one or more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they are almost sure to agree with his constitutional philosophy. …
Clearly, we face a new moral landscape in America, and huge challenge to those of us who care passionately about these issues. We face a worldview challenge that is far greater than any political challenge, as we must learn how to winsomely convince Americans to share our moral convictions about marriage, sex, the sanctity of life, and a range of moral issues. This will not be easy. It is, however, an urgent call to action.

Christians must now pray for our President, he also reminds us, citing 1 Timothy 2:1-2. You can read all of Dr Mohler’s thoughts here. (Some have labeled the election in even stronger spiritual terms, such as Tom Chantry at his blog).

Wednesday night at our church prayer meeting, I wanted to address these concerns, and move beyond political language and context. So I shared two verses from the Bible, from Isaiah 3:10-11. This was the text chosen by the puritan Thomas Watson for his farewell sermon, when hundreds of “non-conformist” pastors were ejected from their churches in 1662. This passage of Scripture gives clear words of encouragement for the righteous, and, words of woe for the wicked.

“10 Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,
for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
11 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.”

Those who are walking uprightly, by the mercy and grace of the Lord, have much for which to be thankful! And horrible circumstances around us cannot change that. Our God also gave us Romans 8:28 in the New Testament, to emphasize His sovereignty and His good designs for His people in all circumstances. Yet, evidently, believers must be told these things. Repeatedly.

This text from Isaiah 3 also puts forward a warning to the wicked, to those who do not walk rightly with their God – such as those who destroy life in the womb, and who boldly promote immorality as marriage, etc. Things will not go well for you, says the Lord. There will be an accounting.

The New Testament text to keep in mind here, for Americans and people everywhere, is from Galatians 6:7-10

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Amen.
pdb

UPDATE: Further post-election help for Christians (“Dear Post-Election Self, Reading this letter, you know which man will reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years….”) can be found from Colin Hanson here.

Did Jesus have a wife?

The following timely article is from Peter Williams the Warden of a leading, Christian post-graduate study center in England called the TYNDALE HOUSE. It possesses one of the finest libraries for biblical research in the world, packed with specialist material on the language, culture, history, and meaning of the Bible. This article clarifies what the news media have only made unclear: this fragment does not support the modern, non-sensical notion that Jesus had a wife.

The Web is by now awash with stories of an ancient text in which Jesus says ‘my wife’. The story which broke yesterday in the New York Times and some other sources, is being carried today by outlets too numerous to list. Some of the reporting is responsible, but not all. Consider this extract from The Daily Mail: “If genuine, the document casts doubt on a centuries old official representation of Magdalene as a repentant whore and overturns the Christian ideal of sexual abstinence.”

We are of course in a context where there is so much ignorance of basic facts about Christianity that even when the media properly relay facts they get completely distorted and misunderstood in popular perception. This can be seen in the way derivative media put spin on the story and in the online comments below the news items.

The papyrus at the centre of the publicity

Here we try to establish a few facts.

The scholarly article upon which almost all knowledge of the fragment is based is here [at Harvard].

What do we know from this? Continue reading

Mocking Muhammad Vs. Mocking Christ – A Deep Difference

The headlines are full of the violent reprisals of the defenders of Muhammad.

David Mathis asks, what, then, does it mean when Muhammad’s followers begrudge him the kinds of mockery Jesus embraced, and taught his followers to likewise embrace?

In a briefly and timely article, which gleans from the wisdom of John Piper’s writings, Mathis reminds us of a deep — and beautiful — difference between Jesus and Muhammad: Jesus definitely intended to be mocked, humiliated — and killed.

Jesus is unique. And Christians believe there is a divine beauty in the mocking that he willingly subjects himself to by becoming man — because it’s a mocking and reviling and bruising and dying that is for us and for our salvation.

There is also significance to our (non-violent) response when our Savior is despised: “Jesus’s uniqueness and beauty is on display if his followers respond with grace when he is reviled.”

Read the whole thing at the Desiring God blog.

A brief prayer for Sanctity of Life Sunday…

Almighty God, our Father in heaven,
We praise You as Creator of heaven and earth, the Maker of every living thing.
We worship You as those whom You have redeemed by the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We thank you for this company of believers, and for a new year in which to serve and glorify You.
We pray, Father, that we would know the meaning of ‘being in the world, but not of it’ and that we’d live to please You in all things.

Human life at 12 weeks

We pray, Lord, that Your people would see what love and justice demand of us regarding the sanctity of life, and the defeat of abortion in our land.
Protect every unborn child we pray!
Stir Your people to lives of action and deeds of compassion.
To that end, give us a fuller measure of Your Holy Spirit we ask.
In all things, Lord, keep us faithful to Your Word, and in step with Your Spirit.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Amen.

Happy New Year 2012 AD

What a blessing to be given a new year. May we each be grateful to God, and intentional in making the most of our time (Psalm 90:12 & Ephesians 5:15-16).

As for “celebrating” — I’m glad we do so! Here is a bit of timely background from Dr George Grant from his blog:

The celebration of the New Year did not occur on the first day of January until after the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582—and even then only in France, the northern Italian city states, Portugal, and in the Spanish nations of Castile and Aragon. The new calendar was not accepted until 1600 in Scotland and 1752 in England and America.

From the earliest days of the Roman imperial calendar the New Year was celebrated on March 25—which is why September, October, November, and December are derived from the Latin words septem (seven), octo (eight), novem (nine), and decem (ten).

Throughout Christendom, January 1 was instead celebrated as a day of renewal midway through the Yuletide season—it was thus a day for vows, vision, and vocation. It was on this day that guild members took their annual pledge, that husbands and wives renewed their marriage promises, and that young believers reasserted their resolution to walk in the grace of the Lord’s great Epiphany.

In Edinburgh beginning in the seventeenth century, revelers would gather at the Tron Church to watch the great clock tower mark the last hours of Christmastide—which was the inspiration behind the much more recent Times Square ceremony in New York. In Edinburgh, of course, the purpose was not merely to have a grand excuse for a public party, but was a way for the whole covenant community to celebrate the grace of Epiphany newness.