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Archive for July, 2013

Mom and Dad

Well, here we are… the bridge between July and August has come.  While growing up, this always meant a celebration. You see, July 31st is my mom’s birthday (1942-2004) and the 1st of August is my dad’s birthday (1940).

In their honor, I share a message I recently listened to from Chip Ingram on his radio program, Living on the Edge. The series on the Ten Commandments was entitled God’s Boundaries for Abundant Living.   Part II of his message, “A Word to Families in an Age of Chaos,” dealt with the fifth commandment:  Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long (Exodus 20:12).

“To honor” – to respect, to speak well of, wanting to please – I do.

Here’s Ingram’s outline:

I.       What does it meant to “honor” your parents?
II.      Why did God give this command?
III.     What does it look like to “honor” our parents?
IV.     Are there times when we can’t honor our parents?
V.      Application questions

I.  What does it mean to “honor” your parents?

A.  Definition: “Honor” literally means “to be heavy, glorify, to ascribe value and worth, to respect, to hold in high regard.”

B.  How is this word used in the Old Testament; the exact same Hebrew word and same form?

1. Leviticus 10:3 awe, respect, fear as in given to God

2. Deuteronomy 23:19 – praise, enhancing the reputation of, speaking well of

3. 1 Samuel 2:29-30 – wanting to please, wanting to obey someone in a relationship

II.  Why did God give this command? 

A.  The family is the foundation for human relationships.

1.  The family is the glue of humanity; as the family goes so goes the nation

2.  Biblical definition of family?  A man and a woman in a monogamous, covenant (vs. contractual)* relationship for life and their offspring, both natural and adopted

B.  The family is the foundation for respect of authority

1.  Latin word for “parent” means “in loco Deo,” “in the place of God.”

2.  Learning to obey a parent (in loco Deo) whom they can see, helps them to obey a God they cannot. 

C.  The family is the foundation of human development. 

1.  Sociologists agree that the most socializing agent in the whole world is the family (for better or worse).

2.  The family gives us our views of self, of life, our sense of being loved, of self-esteem, sexual intimacy, and moral values.

III.  What does it look like to “honor” our parents?

A. As a child… I honor my parent by obeying them. 

1.  Upon hearing their word, I do what they say. 

2.  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4).

3.  The only commandment given specifically to children in the Bible – obedience. 

4.  Three elements:

a.  Immediate (“Delayed obedience is disobedience” Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo)

b.  Complete (Matthew 21:30-32)

c.  With a good attitude

B.  As a young person… I honor my parents by respecting and cooperating with them.

1.  Honoring looks different as we grow.  There is a maturity and growth toward independence, but I am still in my parent’s home or care (ex: away at college)

2.  Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old (Proverbs 23:22).

     If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness
(Proverbs 20:20).

C.  As an adult… I honor my parents by affirmation and provision.

1.  How do I affirm my parents?

a.  By your godly character and life

     The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son
will be glad in him (Proverbs 23:24).

b.  By your actions, how you communicate thoughtfulness (ex: cards, letters, and calls)

     Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,when it is in your
power to do it
(Proverbs 3:27).  

c.  By making requests (ex: asking for prayer, asking their advice).  You don’t have to necessarily always take their advice, but ask what they think.  One can be in a wheel chair and still give counsel.    

2.  Provision? 

a.  Non-nogotiable.  Along with all other plans one makes, make financial and
mental plans to provide for the welfare of one’s parents in their latter years.

 

      But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God (1 Timothy 5:4).

 

       But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8)

 

b.  Note to parents:  Since our children will be morally responsible for our care, we should consider how we can prepare for those years so we don’t wipe our children out, asking how can I set my life up in such a way that I’m not too much of a burden?

IV.  Are there times when we can’t honor our parents?  Four things that take priority:

A.  The priority of salvation – in putting our faith in Christ, we may need to go against the desires and wishes of our parents (Matthew 10:34-35).  

B.  The priority of service.  Not in a hypocritical or overly-spiritualized manner (ex: Matthew 15:1-9), but there are times when we are called to serve God and leave house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for the Lord’s sake and for the gospel (Mark 10:29-30).  

C.  The priority of marriage.  When a parent would seek to put a wedge between their child and their spouse.  Ingram:  “If you want to pit me against my wife, hear me, you lose.  If you want a relationship with me, it’s me, my wife, and our family; if you want it with me alone, you lose it all”  (Ephesians 5:31-33).

D.  The priority of wisdom (Proverbs 9:7-9).

1.  At times we may need to honor the office of the parent, but we must protect our family (ex: if the parent is a mocker, is hostile, has an affecting alcohol or drug addiction, will swear or drink in front of grandchildren, does not filter media content, manipulates, etc.) 

2. It may be necessary to in effect say, “Look; the door is always open,  but until this is resolved, we won’t be back.”  Then pray.

V.  Application questions, adapted

A.  Reflect on why God makes the family such a high priority?

B.  What are the temptations to interpret the fifth commandment in light of our culture’s view of both authority and aging?

C.  Consider about which aspects of “honoring” your parents do you feel good.  Which aspects need some attention?  How will you address these?

D.  Where do you find it difficult to know exactly what honoring your parents look like?  Of what might Scripture or the body of Christ inform you?

* Thank you to Pastor Dave Monreal for distinguishing between a contractual (legal) agreement and a covenantal relationship in his 06.23.13 sermon “The True Design for Marriage” (10:00). Biblical marriage is meant to be a covenantal relationship, but many in our day treat it only as a contractual agreement.

A contractual agreement is a legal understanding.  Winston Smith in his book Marriage Matters  identifies a contract as a formal agreement “to give to get.”  It is often put into place to manipulate others or to assure fair play.  It conveys, “If you do your part, I’ll do mine.”

In contrast, a covenant marriage is entered as two people make vows to each other before the Lord; they willingly invite the Lord into their public agreement. Their vows, then, are a pledge to self and a vow before God, regardless of how one’s spouse responds in that circumstance. It is a pledge of sacrificial love.

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baby-and-ipad

Doctors in South Korea are sounding the alarm to an increase in patients they are seeing who exhibit a decline in cognitive abilities which are “more commonly seen in people who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness,” according to an article printed in the U.K. newspaper, The Telegraph, and reported in WORLD magazine (07.27.13).

What is the source of this “irreversible damage” as German neuroscientist and brain researcher, Manfred Spitzer, has stated?  The overuse of smartphones and other digital devices.  It is being called “digital dementia” and it is believed to be the result of the under-use by children with still-developing brains of the right side of the brain where concentration occurs.  Indeed, 18% of South Korean youths, ages 10 to 19, claim to use their smartphones more than seven hours a day!

Few would deny that digital and media technologies have improved our lives in many ways, but there are those urging parents to use caution when equipping their children with digital toys, games, computers, and smartphones literally from infancy. Take for example the thousands of apps aimed at children (from learning games to cartoons) or Fischer Price’s Apptivity Cases and Apptivity Gyms (for babies who can’t even sit up yet).  In fact a 2012 survey conducted by the U.K. supermarket chain, Asda, and reported by ABC News, found that smartphones are replacing pacifiers, soft toys, and bottles as the soother of choice for fussing children (27% to 25, 21, and 9%, respectively). Of the 1650 mothers surveyed, 40% claimed to limit digital device use to 10 minutes, but fully 10% admitted to allowing their children play with their phones for up to two hours at a time!  Spitzer warns that “digital media are detrimental to learning and thus to the mental development of babies,” even warning against delayed language development by users of Baby TV or the Baby Einstein DVD’s.

Other concerns in our digital age include increased childhood obesity as well as a lessening capacity for youth to make contingency plans.  Where people of a “certain age” have grown up making plans like: “If we get split up, where should we meet?”  “If x is unavailable, should I look for something else?”  “If I have car troubles, I plan to do x, y, and z.”  Youth who have grown up connected to their digital devices subconsciously make the assumption that an instant answer can always be found at their fingertips if Plan A doesn’t work out.  This, of course, works only if the person one means to call can be reached in the moment of crisis.

Spitzer warns against the pressure to provide “media literacy.”  I know even in the private school where I teach, we’re quite concerned that parents are aware of our use of technology in the classroom.  We want parents to put their minds at ease that even in our small school, their child will receive access to current technology.   However, Spitzer believes that the idea of “media literacy” suggests to especially insecure parents from socially deprived backgrounds that “they would do something good if they invested their scarce money in rapidly obsolescent hardware and software”.  What many parents fail to realize is that “the new computer at home will hurt their child’s development at school.”  In other words, what they so desperately want for their child, competitive mental development and acuity, they lose by such a heavy reliance on digital media.  Where American schools are spending more and more of their budgets to equip their classrooms with the latest and greatest digital devices (ex: individual laptops or IPads for all), Spitzer is lobbying to have them removed from German classrooms.

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Lighthouse-in-Fog

Amidst political correctness and national worship of the god Tolerance (who desires all men to know him by the name “Acceptance”), how is the Christian parent to guide the little ones at their knees?  As Dana has said, in these darkening days, the world will do what the world will do, but the Church will have to decide what it believes and who is Lord.  We will certainly need to parent counter-culturally and we will necessarily look peculiar to the world around us if we are to shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, among a crooked and twisted generation. (Philippians 2:15-16)  

In her July 15th blog post, Luma Simms offers a guidepost for naturally and purposefully training our children in those first lessons of gender, or “heart identities” as she calls it, before the conflicting messages of our day have opportunity to present themselves.  Her post is included below in its entirety. 

Training Heart Identities in Boys and Girls

Boys are different than girls. It’s plain in the Bible and plain in our everyday experience as parents.

I have five children. The first three are girls; the last two are boys. They are different! There is no question that each child is unique. There is no question of the heterogeneity in temperament, interests, skills, gifts, weaknesses, areas of sin, areas of obedience, and more. Yes and amen. God is not in the business of creating a monolithic people. But from birth, the boys, as boys, were intrinsically different than the girls.

My husband and I parent on many levels. There are places where our parenting is the same across the board (no one is allowed to say “shut up” to anyone else). Then there are aspects which are dependent upon personality (the child’s personal strengths and weaknesses). And then there are areas which are dependent upon the specific sex (the boys can play dolls with their sisters, but they need to play roles as boys or men).

Cultivating Identity

The aim is to deliberately parent our children in such a way that reinforces their gender and gives them contentment in how God created them.

Now it does not mean we make shallow, meaningless rules like girls can’t climb trees or boys can’t play house. We are living every day in the thick of parenting girls and boys. Reinforcing their girlhood and boyhood is a heart issue. It is not necessarily what they are playing; it is what identity they are cultivating in the play.

Helpers and Protectors

Our kids’ play has proven to be a great opportunity to reinforce the beauty of God’s good gift of gender.

When my husband gets on the floor and pretends to be a dragon, he asks our oldest son to protect his sister. This is a way to train the boys to protect and guard. But he also turns it around so that sister can have a chance to defend herself and come to the rescue of her brother. You may wonder what the difference is. It’s subtle and inward. The difference is in the heart role we encourage them to take: When a sister is saving the brother and helping to kill the “dragon” (their daddy), she is doing it from the intrinsic identity of helper. She is helping her brother by coming to his rescue, and she is exercising dominion over the “wicked dragon” by slaying him. However, when a brother is coming to the rescue to save his sister, he is doing so from the intrinsic identity of protector.

There are times when the same outward action is properly motivated by completely different inward thought and heart orientation. The brothers and sisters can both do the same thing, but do them from different motives and self-understanding. And teaching this is part of teaching gender identity to our children. This is part of what I mean when I say we reinforce who God created them to be. It is about heart orientation (see Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 7:21; 12:34).

From Deep to Deep

If we want boys and girls to be content in their gender — content in who God created them to be — the answer isn’t about what they can and can’t play with or whether or not they should get a different kind of education. It is heart training that will help our boys grow up to be men and our girls grow up to be women, both of which are two distinctly glorious realities in creation. Therefore, what this comes down to is a heart orientation that is intrinsically tied to each gender. Why? Because gender is an intrinsic, objective reality that comes from deep within our personhood. Gender, either masculine or feminine, is spiritual, psychological, physiological, and emotional. There is a feminine glory and a masculine glory — both God-made for his glory. It is this high aspiration that we want our children to increasingly grasp.

Therefore, training their heart to orient properly to the things around them will help them, by the grace of God, to understand the masculine and feminine qualities of creation, to understand their sexuality as adults, and seek a marriage union which is compatible spiritually, intellectually, and physically. It is a matter of the heart that will help them understand true equality before God and labor side-by-side with others and their spouses to bring the light of the gospel to those around them. Heart training is what equips them to identify and exercise vocation, value family life and children, and above all, follow robustly after Christ, their Creator and Redeemer.

The Beautiful Genius of Creation

Such heart training should not be heavy-handed. Our little boy doesn’t get scolded immediately for putting on his older sister’s high-heeled shoes. We aim to parent with grace and reasonableness. We gently guide that little toddler toward an appropriate pair of big shoes he can play with and take that opportunity to remind him that the other ones belong to his older sister.

Given the empirical evidence that faces me from sun-up to sun-down every day, there is no other logical and intellectually honest conclusion I can arrive at: Boys and girls are different. This intrinsic diversity, alongside its amazing harmony, is fundamental to the beautiful genius of God’s creation of his image-bearing human race. Especially, in our age of gender confusion, we want to give special vigilance to our boys and girls understanding who God made them to be.

Our parenting, we hope, is neither stifling nor obtuse. Quite the opposite. Within the life-giving boundaries God has placed in creating girls and boys, our children can enjoy their gender and wield their identities for God’s glory and their everlasting joy.

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ship in fog

For over 15 years, Dana and I have relied on WORLD magazine for news we wouldn’t readily see elsewhere.  We’ve found it to be consistent in overlaying a biblical, kingdom perspective to events around the world. 

This week’s issue (07.27.13) has a short article entitled, “Questionable Care.”  It seems that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is concerned that young LGTBQ patients receive judgment-neutral care or “non-judgmental” care when seeing their doctors.   They have written new policy to this effect in their June trade journal Pediatrics. The policy warns doctors against “internalized homophobia and heterosexism in the office setting.”  The phrase “homophobia” has been thrown around for quite some time, but “heterosexism”?  According to the policy , it is “the societal expectation that heterosexuality is the expected norm and that, somehow, LGBTQ individuals are abnormal.”

The idea is that doctors should be careful not to intimate in any way that there is a historically traditional lifestyle choice.  It is recommended that doctors display a rainbow decal in their offices and ask gender-neutral questions (“Tell me about your partner”).

Of course nothing but kindness and professionalism would be recommended in this space, but as Michelle Cretella, Vice President of the American College of Pediatricians (ACP), the alternative association to the AAP, has said, the idea that “all non-heterosexual attractions are normal and unchangeable” is disputed.  This echoes what I have worried about in our age of blind acceptance.  What may well be a normal, lingering teenage curiosity, mixed with unfamiliar hormones, will be too easily embraced at this vulnerable age, an age which lacks both perspective and trusted voices to help sort through their confusion.  Meanwhile, popular media will continue its social engineering and with the latest Supreme Court ruling (06.26.13), public schools will likely contribute to this confusion as well, making it harder for pre-teen, teen and young men and women to sort through the messages they are receiving.  It seems inevitable that reading and literature, as well as history, health, and science curricula will highlight only the positive aspects of the LGBTQ lifestyles.  And what will our dear brothers and sisters of faith and conscience do then? 

Despite the emotional and spiritual costs that a life of embracing any sin brings, for the sake of political correctness, the AAP is calling medical doctors to turn a blind eye to the health risks of a homosexual lifestyle.  These risks are enumerated in a Family Research Council article which is supported extensively by a well-documented bibliography.  The growing, not diminishing, practice of unprotected sex as well as large-scale homosexual promiscuity (despite the monogamous public face) continue to contribute to the contraction of numerous sexually transmitted diseases (HIV, HPV, Hepatitis C, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gay Bowel Syndrome, Genital Ulcer Disease, Anal Cancer, etc.).  Elevated violence among gay partners, compulsive behaviors (regarding alcohol, drugs, food, money, etc.), elevated suicide attempts, and a notably reduced life expectancy (in one demographic, 8 – 20 years less than the general population), are all good reasons for a medical doctor to advocate for the traditional and historically mainstream lifestyle to their patients who exhibit and articulate genuine confusion. 

We expect our doctors to warn us against destructive behaviors like smoking, over eating, or stress, but in these muddled days when up is down, in is out, and right is wrong, as long as a patient feels good about themselves, optimum health is not to be a medical doctor’s priority.  We know, though, that it is not loving to watch another pursue a self-destructive course without a word of caution or clarity.  Many, I fear, will receive only acceptance when a caring challenge might save these young people from a life of emotional, spiritual, and yes, physical suffering.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”  (Matthew 18:6)

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forget-me-notIII

Have you ever passed or seen a nearby police car and in that moment you look down to see that you’ve been riding the gas peddle more heavily than you ought?  Then on the same trip, your path crosses another police car or one turns onto the street behind you and, hopefully, you find yourself grateful that the first car caused you to adjust your pace down before this second close encounter.  I usually see that as grace in my life.

 

I’m wondering if the same early-alert for my benefit is not being offered me by Charles Spurgeon.  Anyway, it’s caught my attention.  Spurgeon discusses first the “delightful and profitable occupation” of reading Christian biographies.   However, it is not only the great heroes of faith in which God is at work.  Spurgeon directs us to look also to our own lives and “forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2).

 

“Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least as full of God, as full of His goodness and of His truth, as much a proof of His faithfulness and veracity, as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before? We do our Lord an injustice when we suppose that He wrought all His mighty acts, and showed Himself strong for those in the early time, but doth not perform wonders or lay bare His arm for the saints who are now upon the earth. Let us review our own lives. Surely in these we may discover some happy incidents, refreshing to ourselves and glorifying to our God. Have you had no deliverances? Have you passed through no rivers, supported by the divine presence? Have you walked through no fires unharmed? Have you had no manifestations? Have you had no choice favours? The God who gave Solomon the desire of his heart, hath He never listened to you and answered your requests? That God of lavish bounty of whom David sang, “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things,” hath He never satiated you with fatness? Have you never been made to lie down in green pastures? Have you never been led by the still waters? Surely the goodness of God has been the same to us as to the saints of old.”

 

Curiously (or Providentially), I am finding Spurgeon’s challenge to take inventory and “not forget” echoed on a few fronts.  I’m reading in Deuteronomy these days.  It’s Moses’ swan song really.  He condenses the previous 40 years into a single history to both remind and encourage Israel who are now on the doorstep of Canaan, the promised land.  “Forget not” (4:9, 4:23, 6:12, 8:11, 8:14, 8:19, 9:7) and “remember” (5:15, 7:18, 8:2, 8:18, 15:15, 16:3, 16:12, 24:18, 24:22) are major themes that keep running through the book of Deuteronomy.  In Moses’ instructions to the Jewish nation, I am reminded again to forget not.  Moses first reminds the Israelites of the singularity of Yahweh, but then gives this sobering warning:

 

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life (Deut. 4:7-10).

 

I want to heed this message because it is coming to me from a third source also as I am reading through Paul E. Miller’s book “A Praying Life.”  In his chapters on cynicism (a trait, I confess, I recognize all too well), Miller challenges the cynic to a watchful optimism and to “trust that God sees what I see.  In fact he sees beyond what I see.  He sees the whole story and is completely trustworthy to be at work on a grand scale, in the minutia, and even in my own life” (p.84).  Miller would have me, the cynic, be on the lookout for those in whom God is working, a reminder that Aslan’s on the move not only on the world’s stage, but in the very details of my life.  In response to this awareness, Miller directs the believer to cultivate a thankful spirit:

 

“Now years later, I still begin my [morning] prayer times by reflecting… I drift through the previous day and watch God at work.  Nothing undercuts cynicism more than a spirit of thankfulness.  You begin to realize that your whole life is a gift” (p.89).

 

This resonates with me as Dana and I have been reminded again and again during the past 5-7 years in which our family’s manufacturing business has been reeling from the effects of the housing crisis.  The verses that convicted us early on in this trial were also from Deuteronomy – 28:47-48.  These verses were given as a warning to Israel of the lack to come, if they did not serve the Lord their God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity.   Knowing I am the child of this same Yahweh, I discern His heart from these verses—it is pleasing to Him when we respond in joy and gladness when He brings us abundance.  To do this at all well, I must train myself to note and recite the litany of the Lord’s work in my life, His goodness, truth, faithfulness, and veracity, as Spurgeon puts it. 

 

This is easier said than done for us creatures of clay.  How many of us upon reading Spurgeon’s questions or in wanting to praise God in our own prayer closets come up blank?  How can that possibly be?  The Lord works daily in our lives, personally on our behalf and that of our families, yet we come up blank when trying to enumerate his goodnesses in our lives?  I am ashamed to even write it.  But I write with purpose: to remind myself of my infinite tendencies to forget and to challenge myself to keep my eyes peeled and to not only articulate, but also write down the steady stream of graces I receive from the hand of my careful and faithful Father.

 

Spurgeon concludes with a reminder that our “remembering” is to the greater glory of God:

 

“Let us, then, weave His mercies into a song. Let us take the pure gold of thankfulness, and the jewels of praise and make them into another crown for the head of Jesus. Let our souls give forth music as sweet and as exhilarating as came from David’s harp, while we praise the Lord whose mercy endureth for ever.”

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Supremacy of Christ

(1)  Colossians 1:15-19

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

(2)  Abraham Kuyper’s famous quote:

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!”

(3)  Heidelberg Catechism, question 27 

Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?

A. God’s providence is His almighty and ever present power,[1] whereby, as with His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures,[2] and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty,[3] indeed, all things, come not by chance[4] but by His fatherly hand.[5]

[1] Jer. 23:23, 24; Acts 17:24-28.
[2] Heb. 1:3.
[3] Jer. 5:24; Acts 14:15-17; John 9:3; Prov. 22:2.
[4] Prov. 16:33.
[5] Matt. 10:29.

(4)  Pastor John Piper, The Supremacy of Christ.  Sermon jam by Brent Fischer.

 

 

 

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beggar
Pastor Alistair Begg invites all who will, to come to Christ, but he gives this warning:  Those who would come to Christ must come to him as beggars, begging for a crust of bread.  Of course, this is the difficulty of the gospel for many.   We want so desperately to make the case for ourselves, to present our well-lived lives (if they are well-lived) and deny the sin that so easily entangles.  For those of us tempted to underestimate the affront that our sin is to a holy God, Pastor James MacDonald reminds us we need only consider the dire means by which our sins were paid.

In truth, there is not a thing we bring to the table of our salvation, nothing to recommend us before the throne of God.  This, of course, includes our very faith which is “not your own doing; it is the gift of God.[1] Until God caused light to shine in my darkened understanding or made my blind eyes see the truth of my sin and the glory of the Gospel, until he breathed onto the dry, dead bones of my soul, neither repentance nor faith could be born in my heart and life would not have occurred.  After all, I was dead in my trespasses and sins, [2] and dead men are unable to seek or choose or believe lest they first be quickened.

 —

Charles Spurgeon would have us marvel at this, though:  We come as beggars, but are adopted as children, and there is nothing our Father will withhold from his children.  Spurgeon’s own wonder at this, excerpted from the on-line devotional Morning and Evening, is shared by Nick Roarke on his wonderful blog Tolle Lege:

 

“And the glory which Thou gavest me I have given them.” — John 17:22

banquet table“Behold the superlative liberality of the Lord Jesus, for He hath given us His all. Although a tithe of His possessions would have made a universe of angels rich beyond all thought, yet was He not content until He had given us all that He had.

It would have been surprising grace if He had allowed us to eat the crumbs of His bounty beneath the table of His mercy; but He will do nothing by halves, He makes us sit with Him and share the feast.

Had He given us some small pension from His royal coffers, we should have had cause to love Him eternally; but no, He will have His bride as rich as Himself, and He will not have a glory or a grace in which she shall not share.

He has not been content with less than making us joint-heirs with Himself, so that we might have equal possessions. He has emptied all His estate into the coffers of the Church, and hath all things common with His redeemed.

There is not one room in His house the key of which He will withhold from His people. He gives them full liberty to take all that He hath to be their own; He loves them to make free with His treasure, and appropriate as much as they can possibly carry.

The boundless fullness of His all-sufficiency is as free to the believer as the air he breathes. Christ hath put the flagon of His love and grace to the believer’s lip, and bidden him drink on for ever.

For could he drain it, he is welcome to do so, and as he cannot exhaust it, he is bidden to drink abundantly, for it is all his own. What truer proof of fellowship can heaven or earth afford?

When I stand before the throne
Dressed in beauty not my own;
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart;
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.

–Charles Spurgeon, “June 30 –  Morning” in Morning and Evening (Geanies House, Fearn, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 1994),  382.

[Hymn: When This Passing World is Done]

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founding fathers
It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.

Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren’t nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.

The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that “the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stocking was nothing to them.” All discussion was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.

On the wall at the back, facing the President’s desk, was a panoply-consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it “in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!”

Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissention. “Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York.”

Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase “by a self-assumed power.” “Climb” was replaced by “must read,” then “must” was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called “their depredations.” “Inherent and inalienable rights” came out “certain unalienable rights,” and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.

A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.

Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: ” I am no longer a Virginian, Sir, but an American.” But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.

Much To Lose

What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock, and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?

I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.

Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half -24- were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, 9 were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.

With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th century.

Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so “that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward.” Ben Franklin wryly noted: “Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.” Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: “With me it will all be over in a minute, but you , you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone.

These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember: a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.

They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics, yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.

It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers (it was he, Francis Hopkinson – not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag).

Richard Henry Lee, A delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks:

“Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law. The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost. If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens.”

Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.

William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers’ faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, “but in no face was he able to discern real fear.” Stephan Hopkins, Ellery’s colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”

“Most glorious service”

Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.

– Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered and his estates in what is now Harlem, completely destroyed by British soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.

– William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin.

– Philips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.

– Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.

– John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.

– Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.

– Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton’s parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.

– Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington’s appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.

– George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.

– Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.

– John Martin, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were: “Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country.”

– William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.

– Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage he and his young bride were drowned at sea.

– Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where they were singled out for indignities. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.

– Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson’s palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, “Why do you spare my home?” They replied, “Sir, out of respect to you.” Nelson cried, “Give me the cannon!” and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson’s sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson’s property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50.

Lives, fortunes, honor Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

And, finally, there is the New Jersey Signer, Abraham Clark.

He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship “Jersey,” where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons’ lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man’s heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each and every one of us down through 200 years with the answer: “No.”

The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. “And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

By Rush H. Limbaugh, Jr. (yes, father to that Rush)

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