Wednesday, December 31, 2008

January 1- The Main thing according to Calvin

January 1st, 2009
Scripture: Philippians 3:10 (TNIV) I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Dr. John Leith, my mentor at Union Seminary, made this astute observation about Calvin:The key to understanding Calvin’s theology is to be found in the opening words of The Institutes: “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings for the other is not easy to discern” (1.1.1). Calvin then goes on to say that “it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face” (1.1.2). [This personal relationship between God and human beings] must also be interpreted in the light of Calvin’s intense and vivid awareness of the holy or the presence of the living God. The church is the community that stands in the presence of the Wholly Other, the creator of heaven and earth…Everything Calvin wrote presupposes the presence and activity of the living God in immediacy and power.” (Leith, John Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life pp. 13,14).

I hear a lot today that it is impossible to know God. God is so numinous and mysterious and awesome (or we are so small, finite, sinful)- some say. But we can know Him according to the scriptures- (I like the Johanine writings here: John 7:28,29; 8:55; 14:9; 17:3; I John 4:8f). But just because I know some of God certainly doesn’t mean I know all of God. But because I don’t know all of God doesn’t mean I don’t know some of God. I know my wife, Kay. We have been married for 28 years. Yet there are parts of Kay that are unpredictable, mysterious. That is a good thing! Yet to say because I do not know Kay totally I do not know here at all is silly. In fact, this whole Christmas deal we just experienced is a celebration that God accommodated God’s self into human form so we might know Him.

Geneva Catechism (of Calvin): Q.1- What is the chief end of human life?
A.- To know God by whom men were created.

So 2009 is a year I hope I can grow in my knowledge of God and my knowledge of who I am as a human being. I really cannot know who I am if I do not know that God made me in God’s providence, loves me in God’s unconditional care, and calls me in God’s sovereign purpose. I think Calvin is a good spiritual director for this knowing God and knowing human beings better.

Free Web Site Counter

Free Counter

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Intro and Calvin on economic gloom and joy

July 10 is John Calvin's 500th birthday (ie. he was born 7/10/1509)

Many people don't like Calvin- but they have never read this man they don't like. Yet, the western world, and really the whole world was deeply effected by Calvin's ideas. He was a great thinker for his time. My hopes are to put some of his writings out there.

The good thing about blogs- is they are much freer- cost and restrictions. I don't want to go through the trouble of footnotes, turabian, etc. This is NOT an academic blog- just some devotional writings using scripture and Calvin as a jumping off point.
Princeton Seminary :// and Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals are doing fine blogs of reading through the Institutes in a year. The Institutes are great academic reading, but Calvin had a lot to say about living the Christian life too. I am a pastor, and my concern is to have folks apply scripture to everyday life. This was Calvin's goal as well. I also recognize the irony of Calvin. He would not want any attention given to him-good or bad.This is evident because his grave is unmarked. He would want the attention to go to God.
Yet it is just this that makes Calvin so likeable.
"No one of those who preceded him," says Florimond de Raemond, "excelled him in writing well; and few since have approached him in beauty and felicity of language."

The real blog begins January 1st. Til then... a quote for our economic gloom and doomers:
"To crave wealth and honor, to demand power, to pile up riches, to gather all those vanities which seem to make for pomp and empty display, that is our furious passion and our unbounded desire. On the other hand, we fear and abhor poverty, obscurity and humility and we seek to avoid them by all possible means. How restless people they tire themselves out in their efforts to obtain the objects of their ambition and avarice, and then again to avoid poverty and humility. If godfearing people do not want to be caught in such snares they must pursue another course: they should not hope or desire, or even think of prosperity without God's blessing. We may believe that everything depends upon divine blessing alone...on the other hand, his blessing will find a way to make us happy and prosperous, whatever adversities may come." Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life 1550 VIII.
Panic over a recession and an economic downturn is rampant. It drives the price of oil to an all time high and then a ten year low three months later. It makes the price of gold and silver explode. The prosperity gospel (the idea that believers automatically prosper) is seen for its shallowness.
Habakkuk said (3:17,18), "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in God my Savior- the Sovereign Lord is my strength." Christian joy and blessing is not found in the things of this world alone. We have a joy- as Calvin pointed out- that no one can take away!