Category Archives: Pleasure of God

John Calvin on Piety

From the Institutes (I.II.1):

“By piety I mean that union of reverence and love to God which the knowledge of his benefits inspires. For, until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that [nothing] is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; nay, unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity.

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The Story of Adam

apples.jpgJournal Entry for March 3, 2008

Genesis 3-4; Colossians 1

The story of the garden, it seems to me, is the story of man’s two deepest desires: A desire to live in paradise, in a state of complete peace, comfort, and bliss; and a desire for self-rule and autonomy. Adam and Eve’s choice was a simple one: They could seize power (seemingly) and be expelled from paradise, or they could choose to submit to God and enjoy the utopian benefits.

Adam (literally in the Hebrew: “human”) has become our representative head, and we are complicit with him, both in that he chose exactly what we would have chosen had we been there instead of him and in that every human being since Adam has had to make essentially the same choice: Submit to God and enjoy the benefits of submission, or rebel and dare the consequences.

In a sense, it is not only the choice of our lives, but it is also the choice we make moment by moment: Will I obey and enjoy the fruits of righteousness, or will I disobey and reap the penalties of rebellion? Like Adam, I know the penalties of my sin, and like him my flesh often blinds me to what I know to be good. When I sin, I know it will be distasteful and will be bitter in the end. But I end up believing the empty promises sin makes. Adam and Eve wanted to eat the fruit that looked good and remain in paradise. I want to do what feels good in the moment and remain in intimacy with God.

So, God has set before me a long series of choices today. God, I pray for your grace and wisdom so that I would choose submission to you, knowing that it is the highest, most pleasurable good, rather than choosing sin, knowing that it is only a hollow and fleeting ‘good.’ May I enjoy the peace and joy and life of righteous decisions today.

Big Sky: Day 2

dsc04681.jpgAs I write, I am deeply enjoying the first hints of the sunrise, coming up over the Beartooth range to the east (pictured is the view out of our bedroom window). I am enjoying fellowship with the Father and Son already as I admire his handiwork and praise him silently, sipping coffee and enjoying his word.

I began today with this beautiful and very fitting prayer from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, called “The Broken Heart”:

“No day of my life has passed that has not proved me guilty in thy sight.
Prayers have been uttered from a prayerless heart;
Praise has been often praiseless sound;dsc04688.jpg
My best services are filthy rags.

Blessed Jesus, let me find a [shelter] in thy appeasing wounds.
Though my sins rise to heaven, thy merits soar above them;
Though unrighteousness weighs me down to hell, thy righteousness exalts me to thy throne.
All things in me call for my rejection,
All things in thee plead my acceptance.
I appeal from the throne of perfect justice to thy throne of boundless grace.

Grant me to hear thy voice assuring me:
that by thy stripes I am healed,
that thou was bruised for my iniquities,
that thou hast been made sin for medsc04692.jpg
that I might be righteousness in thee,
that my grievous sins, my manifold sins, are all forgiven,
buried in the ocean of thy concealing blood.
I am guilty, but pardoned,
lost, but saved,
wandering, but found,
sinning, but cleaned.

Give me perpetual broken-heartedness,
Keep me always clinging to thy cross,
Flood me every moment with descending grace,
Open to me the springs of divine knowledge,
sparkling like crystal,
flowing clear and unsullied
through my wilderness of life.”

The sunrise is filling the room now and is deeply stirring my affections for my Creator.

The Immense Weight of Glory

As we all eagerly wait with bated breath to see whether my wife responds to your inquires about her thoughts on obligatory expressions of gratitude in the form of thank you cards, I would like to take a moment to make a public confession.

It is a difficult and embarrassing confession, and while I have not been a communicant in the Roman Catholic church for over a decade now, if ever there were a sin for which I desperately needed confession, penance and absolution, this might be it. Here goes:

I claim to be a Calvinist but I have never read the Institutes.

(deadening, horrifying, awe-struck silence)

You heard it right, folks. The man who has at various times over the last 8 years gone so far even as to name his fantasy football team the “Ragin’ Calvinists,”* and who has been dubbed a master of softball Calvinism (my homeruns are predestined) has never read Calvin’s most defining work, Institutes of the Christian Religion, in its 1,300 page entirety. I have read significant portions here and there and have culled its teachings from secondary sources. But, alas, these are feeble excuses at best. My penance will be to integrate short readings from said epic theological treatise into my devotional times so that I might complete my study of the work, and with clear conscience declare myself a Calvinist (or not), Lord willing, before settling into the geriatric ward.

What I read this morning delighted my heart:

“Since the perfection of blessedness consists in the knowledge of God, he has been pleased, in order that none might be excluded from the means of obtaining felicity, not only to deposit in our minds that seed of religion of which we have already spoken, but so to manifest his perfections in the whole structure of the universe, and daily place himself in our view, that we cannot open our eyes without being compelled to behold him. His essence, indeed, is incomprehensible, utterly transcending all human thought; but on each of his works his glory is engraven in characters so bright, so distinct, and so illustrious, that none, however dull and illiterate, can plead ignorance as their excuse.

Hence, with perfect truth, the Psalmist exclaims, ‘He covereth himself with light as with a garment’ (Psalm 104:2); as if he had said that God for the first time was arrayed in visible attire when, in the creation of the world, he displayed those glorious banners on which, to whatever side we turn, we behold his perfections visibly portrayed. In the same place, the Psalmist aptly compares the expanded heavens to his royal tent, and says, ‘He layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind,’ sending forth the winds and lightnings as his swift messengers. And because the glory of his power and wisdom is more refulgent [=brightly shining] in the firmament [=sky], it is frequently designated as his palace.

And, first, whenever you turn your eyes, there is no portion of the world, however minute, that does not exhibit at least some sparks of beauty, while it is impossible to contemplate the vast and beautiful fabric as it extends around without being overwhelmed by the immense weight of glory. Hence, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews elegantly describes the visible worlds as images of the invisible (Heb. 11:3), the elegant structure of the world serving as a kind of mirror, in which we may behold God, [who is] otherwise invisible” (51).

*Trademark, Ragin’ Calvinists Football Club. My current team, the Evil Beavers, is 2-0 on the season, by the way.

Gratefully Dependent

We haven’t gotten much sleep lately.

Every new parent dreams of having one of those (sadly mythical) newborns who sleep through the night within a matter of days, but we are not among them. Owen provides all sorts of entertainment in the wee small hours of the morning, my favorite trick being the one where he needs to be changed 15 minutes after we finally have fallen back to sleep, and as we’re changing him he takes a leak on himself (or on the closet door, which is a good 3 feet away), or forcefully dispenses mustard-poo onto the changing table, which is usually followed closely by him yakking used milk onto said table. A few times I have almost fallen onto the floor laughing in the middle of the night, astounded at my son’s excretory prowess.

At any rate, Leslie and I have been given a fresh opportunity to cherish God’s good gift of sleep. I’ve been trying to fight my grumpiness about a lack of consistent sleep with C.J. Mahaney’s excellent counsel from his book, Humility: True Greatness: “Don’t just fall asleep but seize the moment to weaken pride and cultivate humility by acknowledging that you are not self-sufficient, you are not the Creator. Sleep is a daily reminder that we are completely dependent upon God.”

It is all too easy for me to begin to think of myself as autonomous when I have everything I need. It is easy for me to begin to think of myself as my own ultimate provider; that I am self-sufficient. It is easy to begin to play lip-service to God, only half-heartedly thanking him for “providing this meal” because I am too cognizant of the fact that I paid for it and my wife prepared it, when in reality God provides my income and my ability to earn it. And He provided Leslie with everything she needed to prepare the food, including an able mind, body, and servant heart.

But when something I need (like sleep) is temporarily removed, my thanksgiving can become authentic again because I fully realize that “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and that “He upholds the universe [including my frail, dependent body] by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3).

I give thanks to God that He has made me utterly dependent on him, and that He is utterly dependable. I thank Owen for reminding me of that.