Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A new daily devotional blog: http://devotionalonjesus.blogspot.com/

Please note- I am writing a new daily devotional blog for those interested:  http://devotionalonjesus.blogspot.com/

The focus in the winter, and fall will be on the gospels- and will include quotes from Calvin. 
The writings leading up to Easter will focus on the scriptures on healing, helping, and forgiveness. 
I am wrigint this spring blog on healing because of the many dealing with suffering and sickness that I know who are looking for hope from God.  We all suffere some time. And we all need God's mercy and help every day.

May God's grace and peace be with you!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

12/31/09 Colossians 3:17- End of Calvin's 500th year devotional

(The older and respected Calvin in Geneva)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/31- Col. 3:17 Calvin’s Life- summary

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Calvin abridged: This passage is similar to one in Ephesians (5:20). Life should be lived in such a way that whatever we say or do may be wholly governed by the authority of Christ, and may have an eye to his glory as the target. We may gain two things from this: 1) that all our goals may set out with prayer to Christ, and may be subservient to his glory; and 2) From this prayer comes God’s blessing, which supplies us with the basis for thanksgiving. It should also be observed that we must give thanks to the Father through Christ, as we obtain through him every good thing that God confers upon us.

Thoughts: Looking back on Calvin’s life (on this 500th anniversary year), we can see a life well lived. It was not that Calvin was perfect by any means- he would readily admit his sin and failures. He often is over-blamed by those who would like to criticize him (for example with Servetus- though he was not in control of the councils of Geneva that put him to death- his enemies were; or some interpret him as a puritan, when he was more flexible- for example sailing on Sundays on Lake Geneva). Calvin truly did some remarkable things- tremendously influencing democracy and added energy to the decline of feudalism by his idea of a representative government in church and town; influencing capitalism with his looser ideas on loaning money and time (think Swiss clocks and banks); his continual concern to make the world and society a better place as part of the Christian life (for example starting Geneva University and seminary, the hospital in Geneva, his sheltering exiles, and concern for the poor). Certainly Calvin provided the intellectual basis for the reformation. His thoughts on the third use of the law, providence, predestination and the ordering of church life have not been exceeded. He was tireless in his writing yet deep in his thinking- often considered the most brilliant mind of his day.
So this brings in our passage of the day. As we end a year and end this year of daily study with Calvin, it is important that we see his target (or mark). The target or aim of our life should be outside of ourselves, or even outside this passing world. There is no greater aim than the glory of God. We can look back on the past year with regret and readily see our own failures. While it is important to confess and forgive these, it is also very important to ask-“How have I honored God this year?” Then, we should seek to glorify God in our words, and our deeds in 2010.
This is the end of my blog on Calvin’s 500th year. I will be doing another daily devotional blog with the same format- scripture, even briefer comment from Calvin (or sometimes another source- a little more flexibility- as Calvin does not always comment on every passage), my thoughts trying to apply scripture to today and a prayer. The blogspot is http://devotionalonjesus.blogspot.com . Thank you to all who have read this devotion. May God bless you with a great heart.

Prayer (From Calvin’s motto): “I offer you my heart, Lord, promptly and sincerely.”

NOTE: I AM WRITING ANOTHER DAILY DEVOTIONAL BLOG: http://devotionalonjesus.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

12/30/09- Andrew Brought Peter, John 1:35-42

(Calling of Andrew and Peter- Caravaggio c. 1600)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/30- John 1:35-42
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!" 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means "Teacher"), "where are you staying?"
39 "Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).
Calvin abridged: 36- “Behold the Lamb of God”- When John saw that he was approaching the end of his ministry, he worked hard to resign his office to Christ. We also see here the small beginnings of the Church- two unknown poor men. John had prepared disciples for Christ, but only now the Church began to be collected by Christ. Within a short time, without human aid, the kingdom spreads in a wonderful and incredible way. The main reason John says these words is to direct our attention to find in Christ the forgiveness of sins. 38- “What do you want?” This is a kind and gracious invitation, and shows us that we do not need to fear that Christ will withdraw from us, or keep us at a distance- provided that he sees that we want to come to him; but he will stretch out his hand to assist us. :Where do you stay”- reminds us we do not need to be satisfied with window-shopping, but we should seek his dwelling that we may be his guests. It was getting late, but the disciples still sought to know more. We should learn that we do not need to follow Christ only when it is convenient for us. For the rest of this chapter we hear how first Peter and then Nathanael were gradually drawn to Christ. Andrew sets us an example of faith- that does not seek to put out the light, but spread it in every direction. Andrew was scarcely a spark, yet he sought to enlighten his brother. We should learn from Andrew who cared for his neighbor, taking him by the hand and inviting them to come to the Lord (Isa. 2:3). Jesus changes the name of Simon to Peter (or Cephas) which means rock. All the godly are called to be stones fitted for the building of the temple of God. But Peter is not a substitute for Christ- and people should not make a stone a head. Christ simply means that Peter is made a new man.
Thoughts: Andrew brought Peter, his brother. Philip brought Nathanael, his friend. The most effective kind of evangelism is person to person- one on one. There is a place for evangelism on the internet, or the broadcast waves or talking to strangers about our faith. But the best place, and the place allowed to us by government and others is one on one. We live in a culture in which we are encouraged not to evangelize. The government wants to be areligious (secular), and people want to be just left alone in their sin and darkness. When believers are excited about their relationship with Christ, they look for opportunities to share their excitement and joy and invite others to “come and see.” We do not have to be experts in the faith to share our faith—anymore than a blindman who now sees does not need to know the mechanics of how his vision came back to recommend the physician to another. In 2010, a great goal would be for us to look for opportunities to share our faith and take them.

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you have drawn us to yourself- using other people. Help us to be used to point the way to others.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

12/30/09- John 1:43-51 Prejudice in Calling

(The Fisherman's House in Bethsaida- now in ruins)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/30- John 1:43-51
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me." 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." 46 "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip. 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit." 48 "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." 49 Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel." 50 Jesus said, "You believe [a] because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that." 51 He then added, "Very truly I tell you,] you will see 'heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on' the Son of Man.
43 “Follow me”- Philip was inflamed by this single word to follow Christ- showing how effective the word of God is. But this call is not universally answered, for God addresses many who do not respond. So external preaching in itself is unfruitful except for rendering the reprobate without excuse. We need to pray that God’s power will be effective for us as well. 33 “Bethsaida”- God was good to the city choosing three out of it. Later Christ curses the city (Mt. 11:21; Lk. 10:13). When God brings some out of a nation of ungodly and wicked people, we ought to view it as if they were brought from the lowest hell. 45 “Philip found Nathanael”- These are the small beginnings of the Church. Philip had the same desire to reach others that Andrew had. His modesty should be noted too- he seeks nothing else than to have others learn along with him. “We have found…Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph”- Here Philip declares he has faith, but he has two inaccuracies: he says he is from Nazareth and is from Joseph. But he was still able to point Nathanael to Jesus of Bethlehem. We should learn that some of the least educated among us are more effective than the greatest theologians who hold the truth in a haughty way. So if any share Christ ignorantly we ought to not disdain them- provided they direct us to Christ. 46- “Can anything good come out of Nazareth”- Nathanael almost loses his opportunity for faith because of his pride and prejudice. Instead he responds to Philip who said, “Come and see” and so he came to see he was the King of Israel. Jesus said that he would see “angels ascending and descending on the Son of God.” We should not focus on how or when this happened to Nathanael but the meaning behind this- which seems to infer that the angels ascend and descend on Christ’s body, the Church, and that heaven is not opened to us (Gen. 28:12), so that we are fellow-citizens and companions to angels (Eph. 2:19), and that they, as guardians of our salvation, descend from the blessed rest of heaven to ease our distress.
Thoughts: We should not limit what God can do through someone from a certain place. In the south, the first question we often ask is, “Where are you from?” Jesus came from the middle of nowhere. Yet certainly he knew Hebrew and the scripture and the leaders of the Church were astounded at his learning at twelve. This story is a check on presuming and prejudice. Some would say that Jesus was from Bethlehem not Nazareth. But years before people said the same thing about David- that he was just a young shepherd boy and not from the big city. The challenge to Nathanael is our challenge too- to open our minds enough to come and see, and let God’s Spirit move us.
Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to not presume against you, or to cherish prejudice in my heart towards others.

Monday, December 28, 2009

12/28/09 Luke 5:1-11 Calling of Apostles

(Calling of Peter and Andrew)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/28- Luke 5:1-11
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." 5 Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will fish for people." 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Calvin abridged: The lake is called the Sea of Galilee which among the Hebrews is called “Chinnereth” or corrupted to Gennesaret, while the bank near Tiberius labels part of the lake “Tiberias.” It was not unusual for fishermen not to catch something and then finally catch something in one throw. But this was a miracle in that they had caught nothing all night and suddenly a great multitude was caught in their nets- enough to fill the ships. Peter called Jesus “Master” because he respected his authority highly. If Peter obeyed him so quickly when he did not yet know who he was, no apology can be given for our disgraceful conduct. For we call him our “Lord” our “King” and our “Judge” ,and his commands and rewards are clearer for us, but we do not move a finger to perform our duty. The design of this miracle was to let others know Christ’s divinity and to encourage Peter and the others to become his disciples. 5:8- Peter fell in awe and fear before Christ, but Christ told him to “fear not.” Thus Christ sinks his own people in the grave, that he may afterwards raise them to life. This was a special call to be apostles of Christ, for not all are commanded to leave their parents and former occupations and follow. Some are called to be a part of the flock and he assigns them to their own special place. Christ selected men who were rough, uneducated and inferior in many respects that he might train and renew them by the power of his Spirit- so that these might excel all the wise of the world. Thought he chose the uneducated, he did not leave them in that condition- but taught them. So, this is not a rule to be anti-intellectual. There are too many who think that the more they are ignorant of literature, the closer they are to the apostles. He chose these in part to show the world that heaven is not open to only the educated (yet Paul was highly educated).

Thoughts: It is important to be faithful and fruitful- that has been the theme at my church during 2009. Here the disciples were faithful to Jesus, even though it made no sense (“but because you say so”). Because they were faithful to his voice, then they were fruitful as well. This is true of any ministry that we have. To answer our calling only by doing what makes sense- and not obey- then we will be frustrated and fruitless. Peter fell on his knees in worship – and Christ did not refuse his worship, but encouraged them to follow him. This passage teaches us to not only listen to Christ, but also to worship Him as our true Lord.
Prayer: Lord, as the year ends, help us to have ears to hear your voice speaking to us, and give us grace that we will long to do your will.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

12/27/09 Mark 1:19,20 "Dropping the Nets"

(Fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee in our day)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/27- Mark 1:19,20
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Calvin abridged: The first thing that stands out here is the power of Christ’s voice. It is not his voice alone- but his voice along with the inward address by the Holy Spirit. Ministers can learn from this passage to lay aside other endeavors and devote themselves fully to the Church to which they are appointed.

Thoughts: Calvin lived in a small house with borrowed furniture. No doubt, he could have made money (especially at the end of his life) off of his name. Instead, he simply sought to serve God, and he avoided much criticism that would have hurt his ministry and legacy. Calvin, instead sought to elevate God instead of himself (and so he was buried in an unmarked grave). There is also no doubt that he gave himself tirelessly to the work of the Lord. Some falsely think Calvin was always involved in politics. Calvin’s two political struggles were 1) that the Church be given the right to excommunicate- and that the state should not have this right. And 2) that the state help the poor, exiled, and oppressed. Calvin never held political office, in fact, he wasn’t made a citizen until Christmas Day of 1559 (five years before his death). But leaders sought his advice because of his dedication, faithfulness, integrity and love for God. When Christ calls us- through His Spirit, then we need to stop what we are doing and respond to Him.

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to listen to your call today and respond.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

12/26- Mark 1:14-18, Dropping our Nets

(William Borden- the heir who left it all to be a missionary)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/26- Mark 1:14-18 (Beginning of Jesus in the Gospels 7)
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!" 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
Calvin abridged: John was thrown into prison for a reason (Luke 3:19; Matthew 14:3; Mark 6:17). That is that Herod was fearing a popular insurrection so he shut up John in the castle of Macherus. It is well known that Herod, though he had been married to a daughter of Aretas, King of Arabia, fell in love with Herodias, his niece, and carried her off by fraud. [John rebuked such things and was imprisoned (cf. Josephus 18:4:6)]. History shows what sort of award awaits faithful and honest ministers when they rebuke vices, especially from tyrants. Pride of this sort is found in everyone, for scarcely one in a hundred handles being rebuked well. John is an illustrious example of that moral courage. All pious teachers ought not to hesitate to incur the wrath of the great and powerful. The one who accepted by everyone does not honestly serve God. Christ entered the exercise of his office when he arrived in Galilee. The summary of the teaching of Jesus is not different from what was taught by John: for it consisted in two parts
1) repentance and 2) the kingdom of God is at hand which is the announcement of grace and salvation. God sometimes invites us to repentance and nothing more. Later on it is clear that conversion and newness of life are the gifts of God (Rom. 6:4). This is intended to let us know that while our duty is commanded of us, the grace and power to obey are also offered at the same time. Repentance is connected with faith- not just for renewal but also that we might serve God in holiness and righteousness. There is a special relationship between faith and forgiveness, seen in the doctrine of justification by faith (Rom. 5:1). God offers to us a free salvation that we might turn to him and live to righteousness. Accordingly, he calls us to deny the flesh. “The kingdom of God” is the Gospel; for it is in the preaching of the Gospel that the kingdom is set up. In no other way does God reign among people. It is also evident, how horrible human life is without the Gospel.
Thoughts: John’s imprisonment set Jesus free to start preaching the same message, but even more powerfully. Sometimes when those we admire cannot work others take up their mantle even more powerfully. Peter and Andrew were disciples of John (John 1:40,41), but this is the instance in which they went from part-time disciples to full time leaders. They gave up their trade of bringing fish into the boat for bringing people into the kingdom. Jesus said the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Jesus needs the best people who are willing to sacrifice it all to follow him. I am reminded of William Borden, heir of the Borden dairy fortune- and a promising Yale graduate, who gave it all up to be a missionary to the people of Egypt, only to die there at twenty-five. Yet Borden’s last breath indicated he would have done it again. The inscription on his grave says, “Apart from faith in Christ there is no explanation for such a life.” The world would have us cling to our nets and make bigger ones. Christ invites us to drop our simple nets that entangle us and invest ourselves in what is of eternal importance. While some are called full time into such great work, all of us are encouraged to do a little fishing for souls.

Prayer: Help us all to hear the call to care for the souls of others. Give us grace to quit going our own way to go yours.

Friday, December 25, 2009

12/25- Calvin Gets Citizenship- Merry Christmas

(16th century Geneva)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/25- John 1:14- Calvin’s Citizenship on Christmas Day!

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Calvin abridged: When he was clothed in the flesh, he showed himself openly to the world. This is an unutterable mystery. The word denotes a real being or subsistence in the essence of God. He uses the word “flesh” instead of “human” to show what a mean, despicable condition the Son of God descended into for our account. The two natures of Christ were so united in his person – that Christ is one and the same true God and true man. The unity of this person does not hinder the two natures from remaining distinct so that his Divinity retains all that is peculiar to itself, and his humanity hold whatever belongs to it. When it says the word was made flesh it makes it clear that it is impossible that he who is now a man could be any other than he who was always the true God, since it says that God was “made” man. But Christ, who was the word, did not cease to be who he formerly was. “we beheld his glory” Christ was known to be human in such a manner that he exhibited in his Person something far more noble and excellent. He calls him “the only begotten” (TNIV “one and only”) because he is the ony Son of God by nature, placing him above all people and angels, and all creation. “Full of grace” He could have chosen another quality of his majesty, but it is by grace that we obtain an advantage for our faith- and Christ is the inexhaustible fountain of grace. This “grace and truth comes from Jesus Christ” is repeated later in contrast with the law. So here the meaning is that the apostles acknowledged Christ to be the Son of God, because he had in himself the fulfillment of the spiritual kingdom. He is the Redeemer and Messiah. (Calvin’s Commentaries abridged).

Thoughts: John Calvin was a refugee for many years in Germany, Italy, and Switzerland since 11/1/1533. He spent much of his time as an exile in Geneva. The people of Geneva even kicked him out once. But on Christmas day in 1559, toward the end of his life, he became a citizen of Geneva. What a meaningful thing! Jesus became a citizen of this earth on Christmas day- becoming one of us. Calvin finally became one with the people of Geneva, that he had served for so many years. Calvin imitates Christ by coming, sacrificing, being persecuted, yet continuing to love his people. While our ultimate citizenship is in heaven and here we will always be strangers and pilgrims, it is also true that Christ came to our earthly home because he cares about our earthly lives. Christ is our greatest Christmas present. In imitation of this the people of Geneva gave a present to Calvin. In this day of overindulgence (even in a recession), and some having to cut back- it is important to remember that this world is not our home- we are true citizens of heaven. Yet, it is also a gift of God when we are loved by other human beings and welcomed in. When so many are gathered in families this Christmas, let us love them as Christ loved us- not only coming to them, but serving them in love, turning the other cheek when we are criticized, and seeking to build them up. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

12/24- John 1:12,13 Christmas Means we can be Adopted

(Thornwell Home children acting out Christmas story)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/24- John 1:12, 13
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

Calvin Abridged: That we might not stumble at the rejection of Christ, the Evangelist exalts above heaven the godly who believe in him; For he says that by faith they obtain this glory of being reckoned the children of God. “Power” (exousia) means right or claim. It is not that He gives the ability to choose to be a child of God, but God’s grace takes the unclean and profane who have been condemned to perpetual blame, lying in the darkness of death, and gives them the honor and privilege to become God’s children. This highlights God’s grace. Having been engrafted into Him, He now adopts us. An incredible change took place when “out of stones” Christ “raised up children of God” (Mt. 3:9; Col. 1:12). 13- “born not of natural descent” refers to those who think they have inherited Christ by their family. We inherit Him by the renewal of the Holy Spirit. It is only after we have believed that we began to be children of God. If we examine ourselves, we will find nothing that is worthy of being called a child of God except what Christ has bestowed upon us.

Thought: It is early Christmas Eve morning as I write this. I am reminded as I read these verses and think of Christmas of the carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” that says, “Where meek souls will receive him still the dear Christ enters in.” The holy child descended to earth when he was born and He descends to us that we might be born again. Christmas means we have a change to be adopted- to be children of God. We who were orphans with little hope and little known love, have been taken in by the richest, most blessed person in the universe. While we may be poor now, and life is rough now, the fruits of our adoption- our inheritance, looms before us. Our hope is not in the dirt of the orphanage here (the earth), but in the One who adopts us.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for making us your own. Help us to live grateful lives because you came.

Christmas Eve services at Lake Murray Presbyterian tonight: 5:00 (children’s); 7:00 (candlelight and full choirs); 11:00 (candlelight/communion).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12/23 John 1:11 He came to his own

(local monk walking in first century house recently uncovered in Nazareth)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/23- John 1:11

11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Calvin abridged: Here is displayed the absolutely desperate wickedness and malice of human beings. Some would interpret this verse as saying: “When Christ came down into the world, he did not enter into another person’s territories, for the whole human race was his own inheritance.” But I believe a better interpretation is that this refers specifically to God’s chosen people. The Son of God had chosen a home for himself in one nation. But when he appeared there, he was rejected showing the full wickedness and blindness of people. But in doing this, he removes possible offense toward the people of God. For if he was despised and rejects by that nation to which he was especially promised, who would have believed he would be the Redeemer of the whole world? Here both the noun and verb are emphatic: “He came.” This is a new and extraordinary kind of presence so that we might have a closer look at him. “Into his own”- God adopted a particular people into his family. Christ was first offered to his own household, and had the right to this throne. God complains similarly through Isaiah: “The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master’s crib, but Israel does not know me” (Isa. 1:3). Though he has dominion over the whole world, yet he represents himself to be especially the Lord of Israel whom he had collected into his sacred fold.

Thoughts: Jesus came to us. That is what we celebrate at Christmas. This was not a fairy tale- or anything like the myths of Greek or Indian mythology where God comes down in human form. He came into real history. Yesterday it was announced that archaeologists had discovered a house from the time of Jesus in Nazareth- probably one of fifty in the town. It gives us a glimpse of the kind of house Jesus lived in- see link to pictures: (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/21/AR2009122100706.html?hpid=sec-religion). He came to real, specific places, spoke to eyewitnesses who testified to his coming, his dying, and his resurrection. Even Roman historians mention his coming. Like Josephus (ca. 90 A.D.) or Tacitus- who writing about 90 A.D. said, “Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius”.

Prayer: Lord, when you come to us, open our ears that we might hear your voice; open our eyes that we might see you at work in our lives; soften our hearts that we might respond. Thank you that you came at Christmas, and you are alive and come to us still.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12/22- John 1:10 The Pot Not Recognizing the Potter


Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/22- John 1:10
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.”

Calvin Abridged: He accuses people of ingratitude, because of their own decision, they were so blinded that the light they enjoyed was unknown to them. This is true of every age of the world; Before Christ came in the flesh, his power was displayed everywhere; and the daily effects of this ought to correct the stupidity of all people. What can be more unreasonable than to draw water from a living stream but never consider its source? No proper excuse can be made for the ignorance of the world in not knowing Christ, before He came. It is laziness and wicked stupidity for those who had the opportunity to see Him by his ever-present power to ignore Him. Never was Christ absent from the world, but people surrounded by the rays of his light, ought to lift their eyes towards him. So those who reject Him (in every age) are to be blamed.

Thoughts: Christ made the world, but the world rejected Him. Colossians 1:16,17 says, “All things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” We are the defective toy of the toymaker. We are all part of the “island of misfit toys.” We do not recognize the One who made us- though He became recognizable. The pot does not recognize the potter, though the potter comes to it. God shows us He wants to know us and us to know Him, yet we do not see. Ironically, in our own day, it is a growing trend to believe that while there is a pot, there is no potter at all. In our day in the West, we foolishly not only passively don’t recognize him, but we actively rebel against the idea of recognizing him. Still, the great and wonderful mystery is that God loves us, despite our sins and our rebellions. He continues to try to mold us and shape us into vessels He can use for his purposes.

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes that I might see you, and recognize your hand in my life. Thank you for coming that I might know you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

12/21/09 John 1:8,9 The true Light

(sunrise on Lake Murray, SC)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/21/09
John 1:8,9
8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. John 1:8,9

Calvin Abridged: 8- “He was not the light” The Evangelist did not want the Baptist’s excessive brightness obscuring the glory of Christ. Some gazed upon the Baptist but neglected Christ; just as some enraptured with the dawning of the day, would not desire to turn their eyes to the sun. All the godly are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8) since they are enlightened by the Spirit, they see for themselves, and also direct others by their example to salvation. The apostles are also called light (Mt. 5:14) but who is the only eternal source of illumination. 9- “The true light”- The Evangelist is not contrasting the true light from the false, but distinguishing Christ from all others (including angels and humans). Just as the moon and the earth reflect a different source of light, so Christ is the eternal source- the true light that gives light. From the light of Christ the rays are diffused over all mankind. Humans are different from animals in that they can distinguish between right and wrong in their conscience. This is speaking not of salvation, but the common light of nature; no person, despite their wisdom’s best efforts, will penetrate into the kingdom of God. The light of reason that God gave us is obscured in thick darkness, ignorance, and errors so that there are only a few sparks left.

Thoughts: Whatever light we have as humans comes from God. He gives us light, truth, and our minds. It is a faith statement to say that all we have is a gift from God, and we are not here by accident or act of chaos. Today is the shortest day of the year (and the longest night). Let us remember the light of the world today. [For those in Chapin/Irmo- come to the Longest Night service 6:00 to pray for light, hope, truth to come to our land and to our people).

Prayer: Lord, you are the light, and we are drawn to your light. Let your light shine through us to others this time of year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

12/20/09- John 1:6,7 Witness to the Light

(john in the wilderness by Isaacs)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/20/09
John 1:6,7
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.

Calvin Abridged: Not only did Christ exhibit himself to be seen by human beings, but he chose also to be made known by the testimony and doctrine of John as his herald so that they might more willingly receive the salvation offered by him. This witness of John was not need for Christ but for us. He was sent by God. Some boast that they were sent by God when they are not. John means “acceptable to God” 7- “He came for a testimony”- He was called to prepare a Church for Christ, by inviting all to Christ. He did not come on his own.

Thoughts: John was sent from God to point others toward the light. His message was basically, “The Light is coming… The Light is coming… the light has come…” He was trying to get people to look away from the darkness of sin, and repent (turn around) and look toward the light. Today we need a John the Baptist to wake us up. We need someone to say we are heading in the wrong direction, away from God and toward our own selfishness and our own hell. But not many are bold enough to speak. In a world of evil, the good go into hiding and are not as bold. We need someone like Elijah (a forerunner of John) that would stand up against a hundred false prophets to say there is only one true God.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for those who boldly witness for you. Help me to be bold for you this week.

Friday, December 18, 2009

John 1:4,5 Christ as the Inconquerable Sun

(Christ as the Inconquerable Sun)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/19/09
John 1:4,5
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Calvin abridged: Now John attributes to him, not only creation, but the preservation of all things created.
It is not that God suddenly exercised his power in a way that quickly flickered away, but it is a regular, steady order of nature (Heb. 1:3). If his continued inspiration did not invigorate the world, everything that lives would immediately decay (Acts 17:28). The life is what people have that excels animals; namely reason so that we may acknowledge Him. 5- “And the light shines in the darkness”- There are many passages of scripture that speak of our blindness in which our reasoning fails miserably. “the life” is more than motion and breathing. The light originally given to us has turned to darkness, yet not completely. For in the thick darkness of the human mind, some remaining sparks of darkness shine. The light which still dwells in us consists first when we possess some seed of religion; and secondly the distinction between good and evil that is engraved in our consciences. But religion degenerates into monstrous superstition, and conscience perverts every decision. Natural reason will never direct people to Christ; and prudence for regulating lives and cultivating arts and sciences all pass away without much advantage.

Thoughts: In Jesus is the life that shows us the way. He is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6). The light is not overwhelmed by darkness, but conquers the darkness. When the sun rises, it is not that darkness conquers the sun, but the sun conquers darkness. So Jesus coming into our world is like the unconquerable sun, that cannot be extinguished. Malachi says (in 300 B.C. writing about the messiah) that the sun of righteousness will come. Hark the Herald Angels Sing says, "Hail the heaven born prince of peace, hail the sun or righteousness." Christmas was picked as December 25 for many reasons (first record of it was 225). It was nine months after the date of conception March 25. Winter solstice was December 25 in the Julian calendar, and it also was teh festival of the inconquerable sun. Christians saw that this was a similar idea to the light of the world coming into the world.

Prayer: Conquer our darkness with the light of your life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

12/18/09 John 1:2,3

(square in Bethlehem- with Ben and Kay)

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/18

2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:2,3)

Calvin Abridged: The Speech always was and he was with God; so that it may be understood that the beginning was before all time. He now proved the Divinity of the Speech from his works. The Father made all things by the Son, and that all things are by God through the Son. Nothing can be taken away from the credit of Christ. He has made all things without exception.

Thoughts: If Jesus is eternal and Jesus created the world, then Jesus is certainly God. Jesus once said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” For that people picked up rocks to stone him because as they saw it a mere mortal claimed to be God. To claim to be eternal, in itself was a claim to be God. Yet there is also a distinction made between the Father and the Son. Being with God means you were there, but it also implies you are different from the other person. It makes no sense to be with yourself. Jesus is God, but He is separate from the Father. These verses give us a glimpse into the most powerful being in the universe: his eternity, his power to create, and how He operates in cooperation with the Son.

Prayer: You are worthy of our worship and adoration. You are from forever and have made all things form eternity.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

12/17/09- John 1:1 The Word is Jesus


Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/17/09
John 1:1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Calvin Abridged: In this introduction he brings out the Divinity of Christ, in order to inform us that he is the eternal God, who was shown in the flesh (1 Tim 4:16). The purpose of this passage is to show that it was necessary that the restoration of humankind be accomplished by the Son of God. By his power all things were created; by his breath all creatures are given life and energy. He is the Word or Speech of God, because 1) He is the eternal wisdom and will o God; and 2) He is the image of his purpose. He does not ascribe to the Word a beginning of time, but says that he was from the beginning. Augustine says this beginning has no beginning; It would have been absurd for the Evangelist to say the Speech was always with God, if he had not some kind of subsistence peculiar to himself in God.
That there may be no remaining doubt, the Evangelist asserts that he is God. If the Word/Speech is God, then we do not need to call into question His eternal existence.

Thoughts: Jesus is the Word of God. This tells us about Jesus, and about the Word. The Word comes from God eternally. The Word of God is not false or deviating from Him. Human words can betray and be false, but God’s Word, like His promises are true, certain, and reliable. This passage tells us Jesus is eternal, and He is the God-man.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

12/16- Revelation 20:1-4, The milennium

(Risen Christ, Gerard David)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth. Eschatology- the last things.

12/16- The Millennium

1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. 4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Calvin abridged: The chiliasts limited the reign of Christ to a thousand years. The Apocalypse from which they draw a pretext for their error does not support them. The number 1,000 does not apply to their eternal blessedness of the church but only the various disturbances awaiting the church while still on the earth. Scripture says there is no end to the blessedness of the elect or the punishment of the wicked (Mt. 25:41,46). If our blessedness is temporary then the Kingdom has an end too.

Thoughts: The thousand year reign has been a great debate in the church of America. I knew the Reformed and Bible Presbyterians split because of how they viewed when the millennium would occur. Calvin tended to be an amillenialist who believed the church’s reign on earth was a long period of time at the end of which God comes back. A thousand years is not 1,000 365 days and nights. It is a symbolic time period. There has to be some way in which we describe the interim period between Christ’s resurrection and his coming again. It is described by the kingdom’s reign. Jesus said the kingdom is at hand, but he also hinted that it wasn’t here in fullness- but would be when he came back at the end of history. Jesus himself didn’t speak of a thousand year reign distinguished from his spiritual kingdom that is “within you.”

Prayer: Lord, your kingdom is here, but your kingdom is not yet here. Reign in my life today, and help me to look for your complete reign to come.

Monday, December 14, 2009

12/15- Matthew 19:28,29 Rewards in Heaven

(Paradise Regained, William Blake)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth. Calvin's eschatology.

12/15- The Rewards we Receive in Heaven
Matthew 19:28,29
28 Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Calvin Abridged (From III.25.10) God contains the fullness of all good things in himself like an inexhaustible fountain. Nothing beyond Him is to be sought by those who strive after the highest good or any part of happiness. Thus God tells Abraham, “I am your very great reward (Gen. 15:1). David says similarly, “The Lord is my portion, a godly lot has fallen to me” (Ps. 16:5,6). Peter declares we are to be partakers of the divine nature (2 Pt. 1:4). This happens because “He will be glorified in all his saints” (2 Th. 1:10). The Lord shares his glory, power, and righteousness with the elect. He gives Himself to be enjoyed by them, and makes them one with Himself.
God gives different gifts to his saints, unequally, as God does in this life. Christ told the apostles they would sit judging the twelve tribes (Mt. 19:28). Paul knew that he too had a crown (2 Tim. 4:8). Jesus promised them a hundredfold and eternal life (Mt. 19:29). Christ gives different gifts here, but perfects this variety in heaven.
Few out of a large multitude care how they are to go to heaven, but all long to know beforehand what takes place there. Almost all are lazy and don’t want to struggle against evil, while already picturing themselves with imaginary victories.

Thought: It is not wrong to think of God’s rewards for us. God gives all the right to heaven who are elect. It is like the ticket in is the same price, but there are different levels of seats inside. There are consequences for our actions, as well as rewards for our actions. The Christian idea is unlike the Muslim idea of reward. It is not like all the things you refrained from (sexual immorality especially) you will receive in heaven. Rather it is a recognition of the completion and perfection of what we have done on earth. It is an acknowledgement that God's way and rules were righteous and true and best for us. Calvin doesn't go into particulars about heaven, but speaks only where scripture speaks.

Prayer: You are our very great reward, Lord. Help us to focus on pleasing you, the giver of everlasting rewards.

12/14/09- The Second Coming of Christ

(Last Judgement- Fresco by Michelangelo)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth. This week: Calvin on Eschatology.

12/14- The Second Coming
Matthew 24:31-35
31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
Calvin Abridged (from Commentary on the Harmony of the Gospels): Believers, in order to encourage themselves to a holy and upright conduct, ought to contemplate with the eyes of faith the heavenly life, which, though it is now concealed, will be revealed at the last coming of Christ. Christ will immediately set up his throne without delay (“and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne”). He writes this to encourage the disciples so that they would not grow weary at the delay of his coming. Though Christ reigns in heaven at the right hand of the Father, yet he has not erected his throne in the eyes of the people of earth. What we experience by faith now as a taste will have its full effect. Now Christ reigns to restrain his enemies and protect the Church, but then he will appear openly, to establish a perfect order in heaven and earth, to crush his enemies under his feet, to assemble his believing people to partake of an everlasting and blessed life, to ascend to the judgment seat. It will be made clear why the kingdom was given to him by the Father. “Come in glory” contrasts with when he walked this earth as a mortal and a despised servant, concealing his glory. 32- “All nations will be assembled before him”- The disciples would have been satisfied that their nation alone was delivered from oppression. But Christ’s kingdom is much larger, and He will judge the whole world. To encourage them in holiness, he assures them that the good and bad will not share alike, but there will be a separation [as sheep from goats]. His kingdom is fully established when the righteous receive a crown of glory and the wicked are punished with the reward they deserve. Today the sheep and the goats, the righteous and the wicked are mixed together in the same flock of God (cf. Ezek. 34:18). Believers 1) ought not to think their lives to hard even if it is mixed with the wicked who annoy or attack them; 2) should watch out that they are not infected with the vices of the wicked; 3) need to know their holiness and work is not wasted. 34- “Come, you blessed by my Father”- Christ has a purpose here; he wants his disciples to rest satisfied now with hope, that they have peace as they look for the heavenly kingdom. He also encourages them to work earnestly and not become wearied. Salvation comes from a higher course- from the blessing of the Father. “Come you who are blessed” is taken from natural life (eg. Laban to Abraham’s servant- Gen. 24:31). The salvation of the godly begins with the undeserved love of God which had been preparing the kingdom from the beginning of the world, and now invites us (and predestines us) into that kingdom of life. Christ doesn’t give the kingdom to them as if they earned it, but as an inheritance is given to heirs. This preparation makes our salvation certain and encourages us to persevere with hope.
Thoughts: I can remember sitting in seminary (my last and seventh year- getting my doctorate) and being shocked that one of my professors actually believed in the second coming of Christ. Even though it is a part of the ancient creeds (Apostles and Nicene) and it is throughout the teachings of the Old and New Testaments and on the lips of Christ himself. There are just so many who believe God doesn’t really do anything supernatural, why would they believe in the ultimate supernatural thing- His coming into history one more time but in glory and power. There is an illusion in the western world that we want this life to go on forever. We disguise aging (makeup, contacts, false teeth, Botox, coloring for our hair). We disguise death by embalming, makeup, and we do not have the all night wakes (not that I really want that). But this life, if we look closely, has a lot of problems. There is no family that is immune from craziness or sin (so evident in the holidays). There is an illusion that God does not care or is powerless to help us. But there will come a time when God sets everything straight. The political maneuvering to get ahead in this world, and its subjectivism, will be brought low. How I have longed for referees to be really fair and see the call really clearly. How I long for the Heisman votes to be done correctly. Our judgments are clouded, the best person often does not win, and the wicked are sometimes lifted up. But we reap what we sow. We see glimpses of this now (a la Tiger Woods- the greatest golfer giving up golf for past sins; and a potential presidential candidate- Sanford- being rebuked). Yet sometimes the wicked appear to get away with things, and the righteous are oppressed. But God is not dead nor doth He sleep. Heaven is our hope, He comes one day to set it all straight.
Prayer: Your presence, Lord, corrects wrongs and strengthens us to do what is right. Help us to be away of your presence with us now, and to long for your full presence praying, “Come Lord Jesus!”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

12/13 1 Cor. 15 The Resurrection of the Body


Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/13-
13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 35 But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. (1 Cor. 15:13,14, 35-38)

Calvin abridged: It is difficult to believe that bodies, when consumed with rottenness, will at length be raised up in their season. Scripture provides two helps by which faith may overcome this great obstacle: one in the parallel of Christ’s resurrection; the other in the omnipotence of God…In sowing, he tells us, we discern an image of the resurrection, for out of corruption springs up grain. (III.25.3,4)

Thoughts: I have heard some say that the resurrection of the body simply meant the resurrection of our personality. Some have wondered how it could be possible. Yet science gives us an image of remaking bodies out of DNA (think of Jurassic Park) and some have said they have cloned animals out of DNA. The soul lives on, and we shall be renewed. The God who made all things is able to make us anew with our old parts or new ones. Our hope remains that this life is not all there is.

Prayer: Thank you that our faith has a goal. Thank you that our hopes are filled with hope.

12/12- Union with Christ a Foretaste of the Resurrection

(Communion icon, united with Christ)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/12/09- Union with Christ as a foretaste of the resurrection.

8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

Calvin abridged: None but Plato recognized our highest good as union with God, and he only saw it dimly…On this earthly pilgrimage we know this [union with God] as the sole and perfect happiness. But this happiness kindles our hearts more and more each day to desire the full fruition . So we who desire union with Christ should raise our thoughts toward our resurrection.

Thought: For Calvin, the goal of this life is to glorify God. But a spiritual goal is to seek to be united with Christ. This union he learned in part from Bernard of Clairvaux’s writing on spirituality. We are to seek to be close to Christ so that our will becomes his will (Thy will be done). We actually get close to Christ when we long for Him. We long for His presence in our lives now, and long for His presence with us in heaven. This seems so foreign to secular thinking which longs for more of the world, and holds onto life with all our might as if it was the highest, eternal good. Some have said that if we focus on heaven we become no earthly good. C.S. Lewis once wrote that those who focused on heaven most did some of the most good for our world because we want to make this world like th next (thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven). Yet, right now we have an opportunity to have a taste of heaven by being united with Christ by recognizing we are his children (adoption), by joining with him in baptism, by uniting with him in communion, and living for him (his will becoming our will), facing our crosses with him (Gal. 2:20), and being finally united with him in death. We are clothed in him now, and he connects us to the Father as the high priest. My daughter, Rebekah, says we are united with Christ in appreciation. If a policeman jumps in front of us and takes a bullet meant for us, we want to know about that policeman's life, and are forever grateful. So Christ has died for us. In heaven we will be fully united to Him.

Prayer: May we draw closer to you this advent season, Lord, as you drew close to us. May we be so united to you that your thoughts become our thoughts, your will our will, your goals our dreams.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

12/11- What Happens at Death

(Soul Carried to Heaven)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/11- Calvin on Eschatology-

Psalm 49:15- 15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.
Matthew 10:28 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Ecclesiastes 12:7 7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

John Calvin (Psychopanachea): The Human Soul. Some, while admitting it to have a real existence, imagine that it sleeps in a state of
insensibility from Death to The Judgment-day, when it will awake from its sleep; while others will sooner admit anything than its real existence, maintaining that it is merely a vital power which is derived from arterial spirit on the action of the lungs, and being unable to exist without body, perishes along with the body, and vanishes away and becomes evanescent till the period when the whole man shall be raised again. We, on the other hand, maintain both that it is a substance, and after the death of the body truly lives, being endued both with sense and understanding. Both these points we undertake to prove by clear passages of Scripture. Here let human wisdom give place; for though it thinks much about the soul it perceives no certainty with regard to it. Here, too, let Philosophers give
place, since on almost all subjects their regular practice is to put neither end nor measure to their dissensions, while on this subject in particular they quarrel, so that you will scarcely find two of them agreed on any single point! Plato, in some passages, talks nobly of the faculties of the soul; and Aristotle, in discoursing of it, has surpassed all in acuteness. But what the soul is, and whence it is, it is vain to ask at them, or indeed at the whole body of Sages, though they certainly thought more purely and wisely on the subject than some amongst ourselves, who boast that they are the disciples of Christ.

Thoughts: For the next few weeks, I want to look at Calvin’s view of the last things (eschatology). That is the end of the world, the return of Christ, the last judgment, and the end of a person’s life. Today, we’ll look briefly at one of Calvin’s basic and early works that helped determine his theology and eventually the Institutes- Psychopanachea (soul sleep). Calvin did not doubt that the soul was part of life, and the soul is separated from the body at death. He was firmly against the idea that there is no soul, or that the soul dies with the body or sleeps until the resurrection. For Calvin to depart means to be with Christ. There is no purgatory, limbo, sleep-state afterwards. When we die, our soul departs and is with Christ. Many people have asked me this question- “What happens to me after I die?” The answer is clear from scripture- we go to be with our Lord, and share in his glory. This is not a secondary hope for Calvin, but a source of great encouragement amidst a hard life.

Prayer: Thank you for the hope of eternal life, Lord. May I find strength to endure and follow you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

12/10- Thy Kingdom Come

(Peacable Kingdom- Edward Hicks)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

2/10- Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Mt. 6:12)

Calvin Abridged: He is said to reign among us, when we voluntarily devote and submit ourselves to be governed by him, placing ourselves under the yoke, and renouncing our desires. Our nature is corrupt and we oppose the justice of God and consequently obstruct or disturb his reign as soldiers of Satan. By this prayer we ask that he may remove all hindrances, and may bring all peole under his dominion and may lead them to mediate on the heavenly life. This is done partly by the preaching of the Word and partly by the secret work of the Spirit. The voice without the Spirit is ineffectual and does not pierce hearts. The kingdom of God is opposed to all disorder and confusion. Good order is not found in the world except when God regulates human schemes and dispositions. So the beginning of the reign of God in us is the destruction of the old man, and the denial of ourselves, that we may be renewed to another life. Another way He reigns is by compelling rebels to obey his justice (Heb. 10:13). The kingdom of God is continually growing and advancing to the end of the world, so we must pray that it will come. To whatever extent iniquity is in the world, so the kingdom is not yet come.

Thoughts: Calvin believed the kingdom of God was advancing more and more. After World War I and II, many doubted this. Watching America’s lackadaisical spirituality and rise in immorality, it would be easy to think the kingdom is not advancing. Yet it is within our generation that we can say there are professing Christian believers in every country of the world (in fulfillment of Mt. 24:16 and 28:19,20). Yet the kingdom is not come until sin is gone. In America we play a game. We blame the Sandifers and the Tiger Woods without openly blaming the act of adultery, or saying what the basis for blaming it is. We want morality and an ordered society, but we don’t know why (or we won’t explore why) we want it. There is inside of us a longing for the kingdom of God to come and God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. So today we should seek His kingdom in our own lives, and submit to His rule. The reign of Christ comes one heart at a time, but also by a great movement of the Spirit. So we are not only to try for the kingdom, we are also to pray for the kingdom to come. Calvin would also add that we should think on the kingdom that is- in heaven, and model our desires after that kingdom.

Prayer: Today, Lord, use me to further your kingdom. Break into my heart and the lives of those around me with your loving and just reign.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

12/9- Seek the kingdom


Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11/25- Matthew 6:28-34 (Luke 12:29-32)
28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Calvin abridged: Believers ought to rely on God’s fatherly care, to expect that he will give them what they feel to be necessary, and not to torment themselves with unnecessary anxiety. Luke tells us the pagan world runs after food and drink. When people do not admit that the protection of the world belongs to God, they fret and tease themselves with never-ending uneasiness. Worry about centuries from now leaves no room for the providence of God. This is a rebuke of excessive curiosity; for it leads us to bring upon ourselves uneasiness to no purpose, and voluntarily make ourselves miserable. “Each day has enough trouble of its own”- means that we should not attempt to carry our foresight beyond the limits of our calling. It does not condemn every kind of care, but just the care beyond limits. Another argument for restraining excessive anxiety about food is that such anxiety shows neglect of the soul and heavenly life. Nothing restrains our excessiveness than meditation on the heavenly life. The kingdom of God consists of newness of spiritual life (righteousness). “all these things will be given to you as well”- indicates that the things of this life are extra additions, and ought to be considered inferior to the kingdom of God. Luke 12:32 says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” How could God refuse food to those whom he has adopted? “little flock” is a reminder that we are precious to him and do not need to fear running out of food.

Thoughts: God who is King, cares for his kingdom. When we forget this, or do not trust or seek His kingdom- we naturally worry. In our recession, many have lost their jobs, and are cutting back on excesses- especially at Christmas. We had a children’s sermon at our church, and the children were presented a list of things and asked if they were wants or needs. On the list were swimming pools, extra clothes, classes to help them in their after-school activities (like dance classes, football lessons). They all said they were necessities. Unfortunately, we haven’t taught our children the difference between extras and basics, and now that cutbacks have to come for some, they are having a tough time. We can be like Martha and worry about many things when only one thing is needed- that is the seeking of God’s kingdom. We seek the kingdom today in a time in which many do not seek it. For that reason it should be sought even harder and more earnestly by the remnant who do seek it. The kingdom is at hand, Jesus said. But we are still to seek it. The kingdom is in our midst, but we are still to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” As we seek His kingdom the obsession with the current world fades into the background.

Prayer: Help me to seek and to find your kingdom, Lord. Help me to seek your presence as King of my life.

12/8- Mark 10:28-31- Leaving The World Behind for a Crown

(Christ the King with 24 thrones around him- orthodox)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Mark 10:28-31 (Mt. 19:27-30; Lk. 18:28-30, 22:28-30)

28 Then Peter spoke up, "We have left everything to follow you!" 29 "Truly I tell you," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
Matthew 19:28: 28 Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Luke 22:28-30: 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Calvin abridged: Peter basically compares himself and the other disciples to the rich man who had turned aside from Christ to follow the world. He inquired if their leaving all their property to follow Christ would mean they would be restored to a better condition. Certainly if some reward had not been reserved for the disciples, it would have been foolish for them to change the course of their life. They make a mistake in that they demand a payment when they are still in the midst of the war. 28- Christ warns them that the glory of his kingdom, which at that time was still hidden, was about to be revealed. If this was true of Christ who was in a humble estate, they should also endure and partake with him in his humility until they can take part with him in his glory. By assigning them twelve thrones (Mt. 19:28) he puts them in the highest seats of the royal council. Twelve were chosen because Christ was sent to gather a remnant from his people. Though the kingdom of Christ was shown in some respects by the preaching of the Gospel, there is no doubt Christ was speaking of the last day. “At the renewal of all things”- The world began to be renewed at the first coming of Christ when the darkness of death began to change to the light of life. Christ cautions them from raised expectations by distinguishing between the beginning and completion of his reign. Luke 22:28-30 is a continuation of this same discourse on the rich young ruler and leaving things. “Stood by me in my trials” could be translated “remained steadfastly with me in my temptations”. These temptations are the ones Christ and the apostles faced together where their faith and patience were actually tried. “I confer to you a kingdom”- Here he not only makes them judges, but kings, for he shares with them the kingdom which he received from the Father. To eat and drink at his table is saying the same thing. God permits his people to be severely afflicted, yet he never abandons them, or leaves them without his assistance. Those who willingly lose all for Christ’s sake will be more happy in this life than if they had retained them. What he promises about being rewarded “a hundred times”- appears to not agree with our experience; for many who have been deprived of parents, children, other relatives- who have been made widows, stripped of their wealth for their testimony- are so far from recovering their property, that in exile, solitude, and desertion they have a hard struggle with severe poverty. But God’s immediate grace cannot compare to all the wealth of the world, for his grace relieves our sorrow. Though unbelievers flourish, they do not know what will happen to them the next day, and must be tossed about by perplexity and terror so that they cannot truly enjoy their prosperity. Yet God gladdens his people so that they are able to be thankful and value what little they have. Though believers endure the cross, so sweet is God’s seasoning of grace that their condition is more desirable than the luxuries of kings. “Many who are first will be last”- Christ exhorts those who have begun well to persevere, and reminds them of runners who started well but did not finish well (as Paul reminds us that not all who run obtain the prize- 1 Cor. 9:24). We are to forget what is behind and press on toward the prize- our crown (Phil. 3:13,14).
Thoughts: Perhaps the spiritual laziness of our day is there because many have not left anything for Christ, and not many take a stand for Him. The apostles dropped their nets to follow Him. Calvin was an exile who gave up his monthly pay of the church to be true to his faith. He was writing to many exiles who came to him in Geneva- some nobles, some formerly wealthy- who gave it all up to believe the scriptures. The Christmas-spiritual “Rise up Shepherd and Follow” says, “You’ll forget your flocks you’ll forget your herds”. The Christian who tries to hold onto the world and follow the morning star of Jesus is like someone trying to go into space in a rocket that is anchored to the launching pad. Repentance means leaving our own way of thinking (which we tend to justify) and give it up for Jesus. The Church today brings the mud of the world into the clear water of Christ, and the world sees muddied water. We need to listen to Him and repent of our sins. We want to be first in the world and first for Christ. But in a world that is steadily going astray, such a desire for worldliness pulls us down. One of the great things in America is the generosity of the people at Christmas. Generosity helps us to not be a hoarding, grumpy Scrooge, but it also helps us let go of the world’s hand a bit to grab the hand of Christ.

Prayer: God, you so loved us by sending your Son- who left his throne for us. Give us grace to let go of our petty kingdoms here that we might focus on the kingdom to come- a crown laid up for us.

Monday, December 7, 2009

12/7/09 Leviticus 19:11-18 Loving Neighbor

(Justin Pepper Toy Drive last year- Toys were given to Thornwell Home for Children, Newberry Boys Farm, Christgate, Sistercare and more- in Memory of Justin Pepper who gave toys to Thornwell on his birthday- Just was 11 when he died a little over two years ago).

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11/23- Leviticus 19:11-18

11 " 'Do not steal. " 'Do not lie. " 'Do not deceive one another. 12 " 'Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD. 13 " 'Do not defraud your neighbors or rob them. " 'Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight. 14 " 'Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD. 15 " 'Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. 16 " 'Do not go about spreading slander among your people. " 'Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am the LORD. 17 " 'Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. 18 " 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Calvin abridged: 18- “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our mental obligation to our neighbor, which could easily take many pages, is summed up on one sentence here. We are not only inclined to love ourselves more than we should, but al our energy is given toward this. Self love is the blinding parent of all iniquities. When we are focused on loving ourselves we forget and neglect our brothers and sisters. God, in order to turn us away from self-love has given us a substitution for ourselves- our neighbors, whom we are to love no less than ourselves. Paul points out love does not seek its own (1 Cor. 13:5). Our neighbors are not only those with whom we have a connection, but all are neighbors without exception. The whole human race forms one body and we are all members- bound together by mutual ties; Even those most alienated from us, should be cherished and aided even as our own flesh- this was illustrated by the Good Samaritan who teaches us to care even for sojourners and strangers (Lk. 10:30).

Thoughts: This passage in Leviticus is almost another second table of the law (like the last five of the ten commandments) that focuses on our relationship with others. These are laws of the kingdom that teach us how to act and distinguish ourselves from those not in the kingdom. It adds some things- defrauding neighbors; holding back wages earned; caring for the handicapped; being fair to both poor and rich; rebuking your neighbor- so that you will not share in their guilt. In a troubled time, in which so many are not walking in God’s way (and don’t care about the way of the Lord), it is important for Christians to stay true to their God and themselves. One of the great Christian phenomena of the last couple of decades is the movement to build new houses or renovate houses for the needy- most of whom the builders do not know. Since 1976 Habitat for Humanity has built 350,000 homes in the name of our Lord for our neighbors. This is new housing for 1.75 million people. Our church works with GOoDWorks annually to renovate homes, and will send youth on a mission trip to Asheville with Re-creation to work on home renovations over Spring Break (our mission money helps both causes). Homes are a concrete, visible memorial to Christians loving their neighbors- and fulfilling the law above in a positive way. The Justin Pepper Toy Drive and our Giving Tree, and Operation Christmas Child are also concrete ways we help children we do not know at Christmas. But loving neighbors is accomplished often in the little every day things of service and kindness.

Prayer: Help us, O God, to see your image in our family members, friends, those who live beside us, and even in strangers. Help us to respect and even love people because you have made them and your image is in them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

12/6/09 Daniel 4:30-34 A Humbled King

(Nebuchadnezzar humbled by William Blake d. 1827
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

12/6- Daniel 4:30-34
30 He [Nebuchadnezzar] said, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?" 31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, "This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes." 33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. 34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.

Calvin Abridged: “Is not this the great Babylon I have built” Here is not open blasphemy, but a claiming of supreme power as if he were God! He boasts of the magnificence of his city as if he wished to raise it giant-like to heaven. By claiming all things as his own, he robs God of all honor. Scholars agree that Semiramis built the city, but Nebuchadnezzar, improving the city, basically erased the credit due to the founder, as many are likely to forget those on whose shoulders we stand. Unless God builds the city the laborers labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). God everywhere says he is the enemy of the proud (Psalm 18:27; Jas. 4:6; 1 Pt. 5:5). We cannot set ourselves up even a little without declaring war on God for all energy and power spring from him. Our life is in his hands; we are nothing and can do nothing except through him. Many times rulers place God somewhere below them and above the people. They think the people are subject to God, but they are exempt.

Thoughts: Daniel had predicted the king would do just this. Daniel had counseled that the king repent and in contrast to relishing in his comfort, security, luxury, and pride to give to the poor. Nebuchadnezzar like many emperors began to think of himself not only as a great king, but as a god. I think of those who really believe they are self-made. I also think of the New Age religion which tells people that they are gods. Nebuchadnezzar was humbled (like Shelley’s Ozimandias- whose kingdom had turned to sand with age), and so all of us are humbled by either the destruction of our little kingdoms or death itself.

Prayer: You alone, O Lord, are worthy of glory, honor, power, and might for you alone have made all things. Our greatest accomplishments would not be possible without you.

Friday, December 4, 2009

12/5/09 Mark 4:26-34 The size of the kingdom

(Yoido Full Gospel Church- largest church in the world)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Mark 4:26-34

26 He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." 30 Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade." 33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
Calvin abridged: By these parables Christ encourages his disciples not to be discouraged or to turn back because of the small beginnings of the Gospel. Many unbelievers despise and ridicule the Gospel because the ministers who preach it are of low rank or reputation. This leads ewak minds to despair of the Gospel’s success. The kingdom of God is compared to a small mustard seed or to leaven- which though small spreads its influence. We need to think on the boundless and incalculable power of God, which created everything out of nothing, and every day raises up things that do not exist (1 Cor. 1:28). Leaven sometimes is taken as a bad thing (Mt. 16:11; 1 Cor. 5:6) but not here.
Thoughts: Jesus explains a lot about the kingdom of God here. First the kingdom of God starts small and grows large- as Abraham was a beginning in the Old Testament. Jesus is a beginning in the New Testament. The kingdom grows even when we are not active in making it grow. Perhaps a lesson should be learned to not be so consumed with the size of the Church. I have heard some 1,000 member churches brag on their size, but compared to some 10,000 member churches that is nothing. In Korea they have 20,000 member churches and even a 830,000 member church. Size is a proud thing. The kingdom of God does not care about being small or big, but cares about reaching souls. So we should be more careful about our faithfulness, than about how big or small we are.

Prayer: Lord, may the nugget of your kingdom grow in me, into a large kingdom.

Don;t forget the Justin Pepper Toy Drive this morning 8:00- 12:00 at LMPC gym.

12/4- Isa. 6:1-10The majesty of God, Our Poverty and our Calling

(Isaiah by Raphael)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11/19- Isaiah 6:1-10

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" 9 He said, "Go and tell this people: " 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' 10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed."

Calvin abridged: “Holy, Holy, Holy”- Though the angels describe One God in three persons (it is impossible to praise God without also uttering the praises of the Father, Son, and Spirit); yet this passage mainly tells us of the angels’ repetition and unwearied perseverance. “The whole earth is full of his glory”- means that God’s glory shines in every region and was not just confined to Israel. “Woe to me…for I am a man of unclean lips”- The Prophet was so terrified by seeing God that he expected his immediate destruction. People are swelled with vain confidence in their wisdom or strength until they encounter God. But when we have seen God, we begin to feel and know what we really are. So humility springs from our dependence on God. Whenever the godly fathers saw God, they broke out into similar words (Judges 13:22). Until our minds earnestly draw near to God, our life is a proud delusion. But when God draws near to us, he brings light with him, so that we may perceive our worthlessness, which we could not formerly see because of a false opinion of ourselves. The Prophet mentions his lips as unclean because as a Prophet his tongue was most valuable to him and consecrated to God. “I dwell among a people of unclean lips”- he includes himself as an individual in the midst of the common people. God is our judged and nothing is concealed or unknown to Him. In His sight our “purity” is impure. And if this happened to the Prophet, what should we think of ourselves? So the lips of all people are impure and polluted until the Lord has cleaned them. “Whom shall I send?” This passage reminds us that Isaiah was not chosen at random, but that the Lord chose and appointed him. God, who knows all things, has no need to make an inquiry; but that we should see that God acts with thought, he accommodates himself to the way people normally speak. “Who will go for us”- this passage points to the Three Persons of the Godhead, since it is a plural number (cf. Gen. 1:26). “Here am I”- such a quick reply shows how faith elicits cheerfulness; for the one who recently lay like a dead man dreads no difficulty. We cannot undertake anything in a proper manner without the certainty of our calling, otherwise we will hesitate at every step. It is also important to our confidence that we know we have the necessary gifts that God has given to us to fulfill our calling. The Prophet is ready to obey the commands of God. Isaiah was called to teach not just for a moment but for sixty-six years to a people who would not listen but harden their hearts. We ought earnestly beware of despising God when He calls.

Thoughts: This is one of the great passages of scripture. It teaches the majesty of God. The “us’ here is the royal, majestic plural (and I believe it does infer the trinity too). It gives us a glimpse of heaven where the focus of life is clear and is centered on God who is absolutely worthy of our praise. In comparison to God’s glory and majesty we are nothing, and our sinfulness is clear and our pretensions and masks are stripped away. Yet God is still able to cleanse us, call us, and use us. When God is willing to do this, we should not hesitate to respond to Him. Isaiah had a terrible calling- speaking to an obstinate people who would eventually kill him. For most of us, our calling is much easier but less responsible. Yet we too are encouraged by this passage to see God’s greatness, our smallness, and the importance of the work God calls us to do—whatever that may be.

Prayer: Today, Lord, I recognize your majesty and my own sin. Today I am here for you. Use me as you will.