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Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 19

The first apology which discontent makes is this; I have lost a child. Paulina, upon the loss of her children, was so possessed with a spirit of sadness, that she had liked to have entombed herself in her own discontent; our love to relations is oftentimes more than our love to religion.

1. We must be content, not only when God gives mercies, but when He takes away. If we must “in every thing give thanks,” (1 Th. 5. 18) then in nothing be discontented.
2. Perhaps God hath taken away the cistern, that he may give you the more of the spring; he hath darkened the starlight, that you may have more sun-light. God intends you shall have more of himself, and is not he better than ten sons? Look not so much upon a temporal loss, as a spiritual gain; the comforts of the world run dregs; those which come out of the granary of the promise, are pure and sweet.
3. Your child was not given but lent: “I have, saith Hannah, lent my son to the Lord;” (1 Samuel 1. 28) she lent him! the Lord hath lent him to her. Mercies are not entailed upon us, but lent; what a man lends he may call for again when he pleases. God hath put out a child to thee a while to nurse; wilt thou be displeased if he takes his child home again; O be not discontented that a mercy is taken away from you, but rather be thankful that it was lent you so long.
4. Suppose your child to be taken from you, either he was good or bad; if he was rebellious, you have not so much parted with a child, as a burden; you grieve for that which might have been a greater grief to you; if he was religious, then remember, he “is taken away from the evil to come,” and placed in his centre of felicity. This lower region is full of gross and hurtful vapours; how happy are those who are mounted into the celestial orbs! The righteous are taken away, in the original it is, he is gathered; a wicked child is cut off, but the pious child is gathered. Even as we see men gather flowers, and candy them, and preserve them by them, so hath God gathered thy child as a sweet flower that he may candy it with glory, and preserve it by him forever. Why then should a Christian be discontented? why should he weep excessively? “Daughters of Jerusalem weep not for me, but weep for yourselves;” (Lu. 23. 28) so, could we hear our children speaking to us out of heaven, they would say, weep not for us who are happy; we lie upon a soft pillow, even in the bosom of Christ; the Prince of Peace is embracing us and kissing us with the kisses of his lips; be not troubled at our preferment; “weep not for us,” but weep for yourselves, who are in a sinful sorrowful world: you are in the valley of tears, but we are on the mountain of spices; we have gotten to our harbour, but you are still tossing upon the waves of inconstancy. O Christian! be not discontented that thou hast parted with such a child; but rather rejoice that thou hadst such a child to part with. Break forth into thankfulness. What an honour is it to be a parent to beget such a child, that while he lives increaseth the joy of the glorified angels, (Lu. 20. 10) and when he dies increaseth the number of the glorified saints.
5. If God hath taken away one of your children, he hath left you more, he might have stripped you of all. He took away Job’s comforts, his estate, his children; and indeed his wife was left, but as a cross. Satan made a bow of this rib, as Chrysostom speaks, and shot a temptation by her at Job, thinking to have him shot to the heart; “curse God and die:” but Job had upon him the breast-plate of integrity; and though his children were taken away, yet not his graces; still he is content, still he blesseth God. O think how many mercies you still enjoy; yet your base hearts are more discontented at one loss, than thankful for an hundred mercies! God hath plucked one bunch of grapes from you; but how many precious clusters are left behind?
You may object, But it was my only child, — the staff of my age, — the seed of my comfort, — and the only blossom out of which my ancient family did grow.
6. God hath promised you, if you belong to him, “a name better than of sons and daughters.” (Is. 56. 5) Is he dead that should have been the monument to have kept up the name of a family? God hath given you a new name, he hath written your name in the book of life; behold your spiritual heraldry; here is a name that can not be cut off. Hath God taken away thy only child? he hath given thee his only Son: this is a happy exchange. What needs he complain of losses, that hath Christ? He is his Father’s brightness, (He. 1. 3) his riches, (Col. 2. 9) his delight. (Ps. 42. 1) Is there enough in Christ to delight the heart of God? and is there not enough in him to ravish us with holy delight? He is wisdom to teach us, righteousness to acquit us, sanctification to adorn us; he is that royal and princely gift, he is the bread of angels, the joy and triumph of saints; he is all in all. (Col. 3. 10) Why then are thou discontented?
Though thy child be lost, yet thou hast him for whom all things are loss.
7. Let us blush to think that nature should outstrip grace. Pulvillus, an heathen, when he was about to consecrate a temple to Jupiter, and news was brought him of the death of his son, would not desist from his enterprise, but with much composure of mind gave order for decent burial.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. 

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking, famous doubter of God's existence (or importance) has died

This blog is normally reserved for the Sunspots column on Wednesdays, and one such was published earlier today. But the death of Stephen Hawking is important enough that I'm also publishing a link to a post, from a few years ago, which analyzes Hawking's thought.

Thanks for reading.

Sunspots 668

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: (And Christianity) A Christianity Today author, an expert on Madeleine L'Engle, discusses what she hopes is not lost in the film version of L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. (She had not seen the film, which opened on March 9.)

Christianity: A Relevant writer says that God takes happiness seriously, and that we should, too.

(and Computing) A blog post documents that some Christian (?) leaders are deliberately inflating their social media follower numbers.

(and politics) Relevant reports that officials of the National Association of Evangelicals, and of the Southern Baptist Convention, are urging Congress to adopt some solution for the so-called Dreamers.

Relevant also reported that Wayne State University has refused to allow Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship on campus, because IVCF requires its leaders to be Christian. IVCF sued, and, two days later, Christianity Today reported that the ban was dropped.

Christianity Today reports that a Christian Canadian couple had their foster children removed because they wouldn't teach them about the Easter Bunny. But that decision was overturned.

Ken Schenck makes his annual Biblical argument for women in ministry.

"We truly ought to give thanks to God that we are not more gorgeous than we are—or more intelligent, or more creative, or more rich, or more influential, or more wise, or more whatever ..." from an article in Christianity Today.

He Lives discusses the history of sola scriptura, as part of a series on biblical inerrancy, what it is and what it means.

Politics: The New Scientist reports that fake news travels much faster than real news.

Science: Gizmodo reports that older termites are placed in more risky situations, including in battles.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 18

Use III. A Suasive to Contentment.

It exhorts us to labour for contentation; this is that which doth beautify and bespangle a Christian, and as a spiritual embroidery, doth set him off in the eyes of the world. But methinks I hear some bitterly complaining, and saying to me, Alas! how is it possible to be contented? “The Lord hath made “my chain heavy;” he hath cast me into a very sad condition.”

There is no sin, but labours either to hide itself under some mask; or, if it cannot be concealed, then to vindicate itself by some apology. This sin of discontent I find very witty in its apologies, which I shall first discover, and then make a reply. We must lay it down as a rule, that discontent is a sin; so that all the pretences and apologies wherewith it labours to justify itself, are but the painting and dressing of a strumpet.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Sunspots 667

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: Weekend Fisher has a good meditation on competition, from a Christian perspective, posted during Lent, and, as she notes, between the Winter Olympics and March Madness.

Education: National Public Radio reports that Dolly Parton has spearheaded a long effort, which, so far, has resulted in 100 million books being made available to children.

Finance: (and politics) An article in Bloomberg examines what US companies are doing with their tax savings. Not very much is going to employees. About twice as much is going to stockholders as to investment in upgrades, research, and such.

Food: Relevant reports on the fanciest McDonald's in the US.

Health: National Public Radio says that North Americans put their backs at risk because of their postures when bending over.

(and/or politics) Gizmodo, and other outlets, report on a study that says there are fewer gun injuries while the National Rifle Association convention is being held, presumably because the attendees aren't using their guns during that time.

History: Gizmodo reports that a 131-year-old message in a bottle has been found.

Humor: (and politics) National Public Radio reports on the annual Gridiron Dinner, giving many of the jokes, by President Trump and others.

Politics: A Pew Research poll shows that white evangelicals want more gun control, too.

Scientific American on how the Trump administration is letting public lands be exploited, and wilderness destroyed.

Science: According to The Atlantic, over half of the genes of common fruit flies have analogs in humans.

Gizmodo reports that termites have been placed in the same group of insects as cockroaches.

Christianity Today (!) reports that many environmental scientists are experiencing sadness and depression, because of the accelerating damage to the environment, caused by humans.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Monday, March 05, 2018

Perhaps people should post the greatest commandments, not the Ten Commandments?

Greatest Commandments: summary of the Law

The Greatest Commandments. (Or the greatest attitudes to have!)

The Ten Commandments have often been posted in people's yards, and other places. But I've never seen these two commandments, to unselfishly love God, and other people, in anyone's yard, nor seen a movement to post them in courtrooms, even though the Bible says that they are the greatest commandments.

With the attitudes needed to keep these two great commandments, keeping the Ten Commandments will take care of itself. I hope I have these attitudes.

Lest there be any doubt, I have nothing against the Ten Commandments!

For another post on this topic, see here.

Thanks for reading, and looking.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 17

If men are rich, they learn to be covetous; thirsting insatiably after the world, and by unjust means scraping it together; their “right hand is full of bribes,” as the Psalmist expresseth it. (Ps. 26. 10) Put a good cause in one scale, and a piece of gold in the other, and the
gold weighs heaviest. There are, saith Solomon, four things that say, “it is not enough:” (Pr. 30.15) I may add a fifth; the heart of a covetous man. So that neither poor nor rich know how to be content. Never certainly since the creation did this sin of discontent reign or rather rage more than in our times; never was God more dishonoured; you can hardly speak with any, but the passion of his tongue betrays the discontent of his heart; everyone lisps out his trouble, and here even the stammering tongue speaks too freely and fluently. If we have not what we desire, God shall not have a good look from us, but presently we are sick of discontent, and ready to die out of an humour. If God will not forgive the people of Israel for their lusts, they bid him take their lives; they must have quails to their manna. Ahab, though a king, and one would think his crown-lands had been sufficient for him, yet is sullen and discontented for Naboth’s vineyard. Jonah though a good man and a prophet, yet ready to die in a pet; and because God killed his gourd, kill me too, saith he. Rachel, “give me children, or I die;” she had many blessings, if she could have seen them, but wanted this contentation. God will supply our wants, but must he satisfy our lusts too? Many are discontented for a very trifle; another hath a better dress, a richer jewel, a newer fashion. Nero, not content with his empire, was troubled that the musician had more skill in playing than he. How fantastic are some, that pine away in discontent for the want of those things which if they had, would but render them more ridiculous!

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.

Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Worship ideas from Leviticus 1-8

Worship in Leviticus

We aren’t bound by OT Law. Acts 15:7b Peter rose up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the nations should hear the word of the Good News, and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just like he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you tempt God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” [All scripture from the World English Bible, public domain, and, except when otherwise indicated, from Leviticus.]
Acts 15:19 [James speaks] “… my judgment is that we don’t trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood.

In his The Bible Jesus Read: Why the Old Testament Matters, Philip Yancey reminds us that the OT teaches us something that we need to hear: The world revolves around God, not around us. In another book, he says that God kept trying to reach us, first revealing Himself as the Father, in the OT, then as the Son appearing on earth as a man, and now through the Holy Spirit, who lives in us. We need those reminders, and without the Old Testament, we wouldn't have them.

Perfect sacrifices, when offering: Leviticus 1:3 “‘If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. [3:1 and 3:6 also say “without blemish.”]
1:10 “‘If his offering is a burnt offering from the flock … a male without blemish.
I need to give God my best.

Remove the junk: 1:14 “‘If his offering to Yahweh is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall offer his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons. 15 The priest shall bring it to the altar, and wring off its head, and burn it on the altar; and its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar; 16 and he shall take away its crop with its filth, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, in the place of the ashes
"with its filth!" should be taken away. God is a holy God.
No yeast, no honey: 2:11a “‘No meal offering, which you shall offer to Yahweh, shall be made with yeast; for you shall burn no yeast, nor any hone.
I can't explain either of these prohibitions, as the Bible doesn't do so. But one possible lesson from this is that, if I have a conviction (say that I shouldn't drink coffee (!)) which I believe is God-given, I should stick to it, even if others don't share it, or I can't explain it.
First fruits: 2:14 “‘If you offer a meal offering of first fruits to Yahweh, you shall offer for the meal offering of your first fruits grain in the ear parched with fire, bruised grain of the fresh ear.
I think it's a good practice to have devotions early in the day. (I know that that's impossible for some people.) It's also a good practice to give offerings and tithes before we start paying our bills, or buying other things.

Even when you didn’t realize you had sinned: 4:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘If anyone sins unintentionally, in any of the things which Yahweh has commanded not to be done, and does any one of them: 3 if the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer for his sin, which he has sinned, a young bull without blemish to Yahweh for a sin offering.
5:2 “‘Or if anyone touches any unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean animal, or the carcass of unclean livestock, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and it is hidden from him, and he is unclean, then he shall be guilty.
I have a hard time with that one, but it's there. These commentaries make sense to me:

David Jamieson, Commentary on Leviticus 4 (public domain) All sins may be considered, in a certain sense, as committed "through ignorance," error, or misapprehension of one's true interests. The sins, however, referred to in this law were unintentional violations of the ceremonial laws,--breaches made through haste, or inadvertency of some negative precepts, which, if done knowingly and wilfully, would have involved a capital punishment.

And Matthew Henry wrote this:

But if the offender were either ignorant of the law, as in divers instances we may suppose many were (so numerous and various were the prohibitions)

Continuous: 6:9 “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law of the burnt offering: the burnt offering shall be on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning; and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it. 12 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it, it shall not go out; and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning: and he shall lay the burnt offering in order upon it, and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.
The application is obvious!

No fat, no blood: 7:23 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘You shall eat no fat, of bull, or sheep, or goat. 24 The fat of that which dies of itself, and the fat of that which is torn of animals, may be used for any other service, but you shall in no way eat of it. 25 For whoever eats the fat of the animal, of which men offer an offering made by fire to Yahweh, even the soul who eats it shall be cut off from his people. 26 You shall not eat any blood, whether it is of bird or of animal, in any of your dwellings. 27 Whoever it is who eats any blood, that soul shall be cut off from his people.’”
I'm not aware of any church that makes a big deal out of eating only meat which has had the blood drained from it. Note that James also mentioned blood. Blood was crucially significant, in both the Old and New covenants. (See below) That must be honored. Perhaps I should be more wary of consuming blood.
As for fat, James didn't forbid that. Although Leviticus says not to eat it, that seems to have changed by New Testament times. There are references to eating from a "fatted calf" (KJV and NKJV language) in Luke 15 and Matthew 22, in celebration, by Jesus, himself. 
Consuming too much fat, or the wrong kinds, may be bad for our physical health.

Cleansed: 8:6 Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water. 7 He put the coat on him, tied the sash on him, clothed him with the robe, put the ephod on him, and he tied the skillfully woven band of the ephod on him, and fastened it to him with it. 10 Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and sanctified them. 11 He sprinkled it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its vessels, and the basin and its base, to sanctify them. 12 He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head, and anointed him, to sanctify him.
God is holy!
Blood is symbolic: 8:22 He presented the other ram, the ram of consecration: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 23 He killed it; and Moses took some of its blood, and put it on the tip of Aaron’s right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot. 24 He brought Aaron’s sons; and Moses put some of the blood on the tip of their right ear, and on the thumb of their right hand, and on the great toe of their right foot; and Moses sprinkled the blood around on the altar.
Again, the significance of blood, symbolically cleansing the priests. 

Thanks for reading!