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Before the end of the year, I hope to have reread Calvin’s Institutes. This morning I completed Book 1, which concludes with Calvin’s teaching on God’s providence.
To aid me in my readings, I am using David Calhoun’s fine devotional volume on the Institutes. I found these words especially helpful:
The doctrine of providence for Calvin is not so much a matter of explanation of what happens as it is a confession of faith. It does not answer all our questions, but it enables us to live without answers until the time comes when we will live without questions.
Calvin’s understanding of the Bible’s teaching on providence has immensely practical application. “Gratitude of mind for the favorable outcome of things, patience in adversity, and also incredible freedom from worry about the future all necessarily follow upon this knowledge [of the promises and examples of scripture]” – words that prompt Calhoun to offer this sage pastoral counsel:
Make three lists: the things that have worked out well for you, the troubles you are now facing, and the things you are worried about. Express your gratitude to God for the things in the first list. Ask God for patience for the things in the second list. Cross out the things in the third list, and enjoy the “incredible freedom from worry about the future” that is yours as a Christian.
The hymn writer expresses well the comfort that belongs to the believer who trusts in his all-sovereign King and loving heavenly Father:
Whate’er my God ordains is right,
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet am I not forsaken,
My Father’s care
Is round me there,
He holds me that I shall not fall,
And so to Him I leave it all.
David B. Calhoun, Knowing God and Ourselves: Reading Calvin’s Institutes Devotionally (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2016), 73,75.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill; trans. Ford Lewis Battles; vol. 1 (Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1960), 219.
Samuel Rodigast, “Whate’er My God Ordains is Right,” trans. Catherine Winkworth, in Trinity Hymnal, no. 108.
Today many Western Christians celebrate Ascension Day, an annual reminder that forty days after his resurrection Christ ascended into heaven (Acts 1:1-11). As a Presbyterian minister, I am not bound by any church calendar. Still, the day prompts me to reflect on Christ’s ascension. When in the pulpit the following Lord’s Day, I preach on the ascension of Christ and on Pentecost the next week. Like the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, Christ’s ascension and Pentecost are unrepeatable events in the stunning history of God’s mighty work to redeem sinners.
The Heidelberg Catechism asks: “How does Christ’s ascension into heaven benefit us?”
First, he pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of his Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven– a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven. Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirit‟s power we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God‟s right hand. (Q&A 49)
An English Prayer Book offers a fitting prayer:
Almighty God, we believe that your only begotten Son ascended into heaven: grant that in our hearts and minds we may also ascend there and dwell continually with him, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I believe Christ ascended into heaven!
I am thrilled about the forthcoming publication of Francis J.Grimké’s “Meditations on Preaching” by Log College Press.
In the third volume of his collected works, Grimké (1852-1937) spoke frankly about the minister’s moral character:
A minister who is but poorly equipped intellectually, educationally, but who is of good moral character, and of real piety, is greatly to be preferred to the man, however well equipped intellectually and educationally, but who is of questionable character, whose ways are crooked. The one may have to be tolerated, the other should never be: the ministry of the one may result in good, of the other only harm can come. Such a minister discredits the gospel, and becomes an obstacle in the way of the progress of the kingdom of God. A godless minister, an immoral minister, should be nowhere tolerated, should be driven out of all of the churches. We need in the ministry, intelligent men, educated men, but above all God-fearing men,—morally clean men. Where such is not the case, the responsibility rests upon the officials of the churches, and ultimately upon the people who fill the pews and who furnish the means for carrying on the work in the churches. The toleration of immoral, godless ministers is always, therefore, a reflection upon the character of the people themselves, and is a pretty good index of their own characters.*
Grimké served as pastor of Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C . First year preaching students at Reformed Theological Seminary Jackson are introduced to his life, ministry, and writings through Thabiti Anywabile’s The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors.
*Francis J. Grimké, The Works of Francis J. Grimké, vol. 3, ed. by Carter G. Woodson (Washington, D.C.: The Associated Publishers, Inc., 1942), 121.
John Johnson lectures on pastoral leadership in African American churches. His presentation is full of informative history and practical exhortations to loving and courageous pastoral leadership.
Pastor Johnson has served St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Starkville, Mississippi for 17 years. On Easter he preaches his first sermon as the newly elected pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.
Talkative: “What difference is there between crying out against, and abhorring of Sin?Faithful: Oh! a great deal: A man may cry out against Sin, of Policy, but he cannot abhor it but by virtue of a godly antipathy against it: I have heard many cry out again Sin in the Pulpit, who yet can abide it well enough in the Heart, House, and Conversation.
Reformed Theological Seminary welcomes Dr. L. Michael Morales as our guest speaker for the 2018 Biblical Theology Conference in Jackson, MS, March 21 to 22. This year’s conference is entitled “A Biblical Theology of the Book of Numbers” and includes three lectures presented by Morales. Following lunch, there will be a Q&A discussion.
Dr. L. Michael Morales, Professor of Biblical Studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has served as an adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary since 2011. He has also served as a teaching elder in the PCA and has authored three books, including, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? He is married to Elise and they have four children: Armando, Diego, Alejandro, and Andres.
Wednesday, March 21:
11:00am -12:00pm | Grace Chapel
Lecture #1: “The Paradigm of Israel’s Camp in the Wilderness”
12:00pm -12:45pm | Patterson’s Porch
Lunch and Q&A
6:30pm -7:30pm | First Presbyterian Church
Lecture #2: “The Priesthood of Israel’s Camp in the Wilderness”
Thursday, March 22:
11:00am -12:00pm | Grace Chapel
Lecture #3: “The Purity of Israel’s Camp in the Wilderness”