Works of Providence


Blogging the Institutes

Quotes taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition) by John Calvin

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

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For in ruling over mankind he so orders his providence that, although he is commonly and in every way kind and generous to all, he daily reveals his righteousness to the good whom he guides, and his judgment to the wicked. For the retribution which he metes out for sin is neither secret nor hidden.In the same way he appears as the sure protector and guardian of innocence, for through his blessing he gives prosperity to the good, assists them in time of need, relieves their suffering, remedies their misfortunes, and ever and always provides for their salvation.

Calvin answers a question I think many ask themselves at one time or another: Does God still judge sin? The response Calvin gives is an emphatic “yes!” We see it everyday when justice is served to those who have been caught in their crimes. We know it subconsciously when someone is struck down suddenly in their prime who has reveled in unrepentant immorality.We see his generosity every time we experience a joy of everyday life: the warm embrace of a loved one, the abundance of food on our table, the sturdy shelter over our heads. We feel his kindness when those who’ve been served with injustice are consoled, comforted and supported by those who’ve reached out in compassion for their plight. By providence we mean that God works His will through the everyday course of events and circumstances in the world. God is sovereign and works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11-12). If this were not so God would cease being God. He would not then be worthy of our worship. Continue reading

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The Uncelebrated Birthday


Our family will be observing a special birthday this Sunday. It will be different from all others. There won’t be a colorfully decorated cake to cut. We won’t have any candles to blow out. There will be no stack of presents to unwrap. The sounds of laughter, clapping and singing won’t be heard. No pictures will be taken, no lasting memories will be made. It will be a birthday empty of celebration, yet full of sorrow.

It is the third birthday of my grandson, Nash. He won’t be present. He has fled his mortal shell. The victim of a horrific act of evil, our little red-headed boy was taken from us far too soon. We feel the sting of his loss anew every single day. The weekends are far too quiet. The house far too clean. His toys far too dusty. His birthday also marks the sixth month anniversary of the incident that took his life. The pervasive sense of sadness and loss will never leave us. It is here to stay; a cold companion who hovers in the shadow of our daily lives.

It’s difficult to process all the images and emotions of that fateful time in late October. I cried like a baby at his beautiful funeral service. The tears have never flowed so freely as it did watching the captured memories of his brief life come across the screen. The procession to the grave site was a surreal experience. Flanked by hordes of bikers (there to shield us from potential protesters) we drove by the university where I work. There, outside to my left at the football stadium I saw something I’ll never forget. The entire football squad stopped practice, faced the procession, took a knee and bowed their heads in unison. I trembled in awe at the show of respect for our grandson. I’ll always treasure that moment.

At the conclusion of the graveside services a strange sensation came over me. As the line of people paying their respects to the family dwindled, a wave of peace washed over my spirit. It didn’t make sense to me. In the midst of my lowest moment, staring at the miniature casket about to be lowered into the ground, my faith in God and His goodness stood unshaken. The tangle of mixed emotions momentarily confused me. The new sentiment didn’t make sense to me within that context. It didn’t compute. Peace? At at time like this? How? Why? I couldn’t fight it. I couldn’t reason it away. It just was. God, in that moment granted me a peace that surpasses all understanding. Honestly, that sense of acceptance and tranquility has never left me. I think I know why. Continue reading

Reflections of God’s Glory


Blogging the Institutes

Taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition) by John Calvin

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

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…whichever way we turn our eyes, there is no part of the world, however small, in which at least some spark of God’s glory does not shine. In particular, we cannot gaze upon this beautiful masterpiece of the world, in all its length and breadth, without being completely dazzled, as it were, by an endless flood of light. Accordingly, in Hebrews the apostle aptly calls the world the mirror of things invisible, because the structure of the world serves as a mirror in which we behold God, who otherwise cannot be seen (Heb 11:3).

The whole purpose of the material creation is to reflect the glory of the invisible God. His glory sparkles in the heavens above, through the warm brilliance of the sun, the cold beauty of the moon and the twinkling shimmer of the stars. It shines forth in the world below, from the rolling hills of green to the ubiquitous oceans of blue. It breaks out from the flight of birds in the air to the fleeting beasts of the field to the swarming fish of the sea. His likeness reflects most clearly in the form of man, crafted lovingly by the Maker’s hand to be His image bearer to all creation.

The Fall brought man low, blighting and obscuring God’s glory to the point where it no longer shines brightly as a light in our dim, myopic vision. All of creation mourns the darkness to which man has plunged it (Rom 8:22). Our blindness and intentional ignorance will not stand up in God’s court. He has revealed enough of Himself to condemn the entire human race for refusing to honor His majesty. Continue reading

This Present Evil Age


Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

Any Christian should be quite familiar with this well-worn text of Scripture. We’ve probably all been convicted by its strong words at one time or another during our walk with Christ. Vanity Fair has seduced its fair share of prospective pilgrims throughout history. The question I have now in my 3rd decade on the narrow path isn’t how much love I have for the world, it’s more along the line of How much hate I have for the world, and is it OK to hate the world we live in?

I think I’ve always had a fundamental distaste for the modern age in which we live. From a very young age I’ve always been fascinated with different time periods. I romanticized the various epochs in my vivid imagination growing up. I loved the eras of ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and especially the medieval period in Europe. This fact was confirmed just a few days past when I visited my first Medieval fair. Good times.

I think that’s why I play video games – particularly role-playing games. I’m thoroughly enthralled at the ability to be transported to another time and place. Sometimes people ask why I still play video games at my age. My answer is simple: They take me someplace else. Continue reading

Permissibility of Polygamy & Adultery


Bible Inquiries & Explanations

Q: Why was adultery and polygamy allowed to happen so freely prior to the 10 commandments?

A: As a start I should begin with what Scripture reveals as God’s plan for human flourishing and how polygamy and adultery don’t conform to said plan.

God created woman from the rib of the first man and presented her to him. Adam proclaimed her to be bone of his bone and the flesh of his flesh and he called her woman because she was taken out of man. The Bible then states:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24 ESV)

Notice the specific use of the singular nouns – one man shall cleave to one wife and the two become one flesh.

Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, reiterated this great truth in the gospels:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt 19:3-6 ESV)

Continue reading

True Godliness


Blogging The Institutes

Excerpts taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition) by John Calvin

Translation by Robert White

Chapter 1: The knowledge of God

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The believing heart does not haphazardly forge for itself some kind of god. Rather it looks to him who is the true and only God. It does not ascribe to him whatever qualities it pleases but is content to take him as he shows himself to be: it is always careful not to depart from God’s will through headstrong pride. Knowing him thus, and understanding that he governs all things by his providence, it confidently accepts him as guardian and protector, and thus entrusts itself to his keeping, since it knows him to be the author of all that is good.

A contrite heart doesn’t work to construct a god acceptable to its own liking. On the contrary it willingly accepts the testimony of Scripture of who God is, of what it tells us is pleasing and acceptable to Him. A believing heart is a trusting heart. God’s providence over all creation and world events gives Christians security and comfort. This faith helps believers overcome sufferings and trials. They are ordained by God for His purposes and our eternal good (Rom 8:28 ESV). Continue reading

Twin Evils of False Religion


Blogging the Institutes

Excerpts taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin

Translation by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

Post #5

It is easy indeed to see how, the victim of its own empty illusions, superstition mocks God whenever it tries to please him. It only fastens on the things which God expressly says mean nothing to him. It ignores those which he has commanded and which he has said are acceptable to him; or else it openly rejects them. Therefore all who, wishing to honour God, set up religions of their own devising, are merely worshiping their own fantasies. For they would never have ventured to trifle with God if they had not first fashioned him according to their whims.

Superstitious worship is the first of two great evils Calvin identifies in the realm of professing Christianity. Superstition is an irrational belief usually founded on ignorance or fear and characterized by obsessive reverence for omens, charms, etc. People will focus on the dice rolls of fate, accompanied by  serendipitous trinkets, prophetic words and meaningless rituals. They believe these things will increase their chances at good fortune  and a favorable countenance from the god of their fevered imaginations. Such a nebulous, hopeless ploy at finding comfort and approval in falsehood is the height of human folly. God is not pleased by our cleverly devised fables. Continue reading