Confessions of an eavesdropper

campfireI have to confess to being an eavesdropper, especially when I am on a camping trip. Tents have thin walls and people sit around campfires talking about all sorts of things – and I listen.

One conclusion that I have come to is that all people are religious. They speak (around the campfire) on all sorts of issues; the danger of red meat, politics, music, world events, tv – all with such an evangelical passion it is hard to maintain ones own faith while listening to these impassioned discourses.

John Calvin spoke of a “sensus divinitatus” – a sense of the divine. In simple terms it is the idea that every human is created with a sense of God. We in turn fill that hole with many “gods” of our making – hence the evangelical passion when discussing gluten free foods – or whatever.

In our rationalistic C21st lifestyle we have made an art of magnifying the trivial. Celebrities take on an air that neither their intelligence or contribution to the human race deserve. Foods and brands receive more airtime than they need. Sport is a whole area of irrational magnification of its own! However, in that process we have reduced the historical and traditional understanding of the Biblical God to the dust pile.

Yes, I am with Calvin. We can discover the majesty, power and awe of God in creation. But to understand His message for us personally we need to turn to His revelation of Himself in Scripture and discover the plans and fulfillment of those plans in the person of His son Jesus Christ.

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For Whom Would Calvin Vote in the US Election?

The other day I reflected how it must be difficult for committed Christians to vote in the US election (and in most other countries) as neither candidate has a well developed biblical worldview. ( See “Rulers Beware”). So I thought, who would John Calvin vote for if he could?

While living in the city of Geneva (now in Switzerland), Calvin made sure the poor didn’t starve or get turned away from hospitals. He promoted job growth and interest-free charitable loans, and taught the wealthy to lead humble lifestyles and avoid expensive jewellery so they could use their money to give generously to poor refugees fleeing religious persecution.
Calvin’s system worked so well that there were no beggars on the streets, and in 1554 one observer called Geneva “the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the apostles.’

From: Charity and the Protestant Reformation

From a social justice perspective Calvin may have been attracted to the Democrat point of view. “Obamacare” may have been a positive measure in his eyes and even investing in jobs growth would have received a warm response. (I’m sorry, American brothers and sisters, Calvin had a definite socialist slant!)

However I am also sure that “gay marriage” and the right to abortion would have horrified him.

This highlights the dilemma for the conservative evangelical Christian. The polarisation of policies in which there is good and bad on both sides makes voting such a treacherous issue. Each way I turn there is a nasty compromise. My vote may save a child from abortion but if the social policies are absent he may be left to a life of unemployed crime with minimal healthcare. I know that that is facetious but I am trying to make a point: to vote in a God honouring way is nigh on impossible if there is not a God honouring candidate for whom to vote. That means men and women need to stand up as candidates for the whole counsel of God – not just the ear tickling policies. This would give Christians someone to vote for – even if they weren’t elected.

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A Quote: What We Owe God

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.

John Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion,Signalman Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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The Father Sacrificing Dignity

Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. 2 Sam 6:14&15

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. John 19:23

Rembrandt’s “The Prodigal Son. Courtesy: Google Images

On Sunday evening I heard a young man preach his first sermon. It was on the prodigal son. There was much to commend but one phrase leapt at me. When the father ran towards his returning son the young preacher stated that “he sacrificed his dignity.” It was one of those phrases that invites immediate reflection and meditation. The further I thought about it the greater the realisation that more God has dealt with a rebellious and sinful humanity the more our heavenly father sacrificed his dignity – set apart the honour and glory that is His due and came into our chaos to free us from our self inflicted mess.

What we see a glimpse of in David, and the dad of the prodigal son, we see perfectly in Christ. The son, whose rightful place was and is beside the father, came to earth as a human being and died at our hands so that our condemnation would dealt with. That is sacrificing dignity – sacrificing all that is rightfully his for the our sake.

But, I thought, do I really comprehend this sacrifice? Do we as the church understand this? I am thinking particularly of the middle class church in which appearance, reputation, success and honour are so important. If Jesus sacrificed, not just his dignity, but his life for us, how I do I/we reflect that reality in the way I/we “live” our Christian lives and “live” church?

Inspired by Rembrandt’s painting of the prodigal son, the respected Catholic theologian, Henri Nouwen left his University post and began caring for, and cleaning up after, mentally ill patients. Nouwen glimpsed what my young friend alerted me to on Sunday night – to be Christlike requires us to sacrifice our dignity. To be like Jesus means to sacrifice all for the kingdom – even what people think of us!

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Stars and Sand

Seeing that nobody corrected me I thought I had better do it myself.

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A Friday Photo

Farel, Calvin, Beze, Knox

Part of the Reformation Wall in Geneva

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Enduring Persecution for Christ


“Therefore, on seeing how the Church of God is trampled upon in the present day by proud worldlings, how one barks and another bites, how they torture, how they plot against her, how she is assailed incessantly by mad dogs and savage beasts, let it remind us that the same thing was done in all the olden time. It is true God sometimes gives her a truce and time of refreshment, and hence in the Psalm above quoted it is said, “He cutteth the cords of the wicked”; and in another passage (Psalm cxxv., 3), “He breaks their staff, lest the good should fall away, by being too hardly pressed.” But still it has pleased Him that His Church should always have to battle so long as she is in this world, her repose being treasured up on high in the heavens. (Heb. iii., 9.)

Meanwhile, the issue of her afflictions has always been fortunate. At all events, God has caused that tho she has been prest by many calamities, she has never been completely crusht; as it is said (Psalm vii., 15), “The wicked with all their efforts have not succeeded in that at which they aimed.” St. Paul glories in the fact, and shows that this is the course which God in mercy always takes. He says (I Cor. iv., 12) that we endure tribulations, but we are not in agony; we are impoverished, but not left destitute; we are persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but we perish not; bearing everywhere in our body the mortification of the Lord Jesus, in order that His life may be manifested in our mortal bodies. Such being, as we see, the issue which God has at all times given to the persecutions of His Church, we ought to take courage, knowing that our forefathers, who were frail men like ourselves, always had the victory over their enemies by remaining firm in endurance.”

(2011-03-24). The World’s Great Sermons, Volume 01 Basil to Calvin (Kindle Locations 1881-1893). . Kindle Edition.

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