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A Catechism for Girls and Boys

Part II: Questions about The Ten Commandments

47. Q. What does the third commandment teach us?
        A. To reverence God’s name, word, and works.

(Click through to read scriptural proof.)

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Back Again. Sort Of, Maybe

I got back from my unexpected trip to Minnesota yesterday afternoon. I picked up a nasty cold while I was travelling, the garden really needs to come in, and I’m scheduled for a bit of gum surgery this weekend. Not to mention that the house could use a thorough cleaning.

I’ll get back to regular blogging as soon as I can.


Blog Break

My dad passed away early yesterday morning. I’ll be travelling to Minnesota later this week and don’t plan to post here until I return home. 


The Cross of Christ: The Problem of Forgiveness

This week’s reading for Reading Classics Together at Challies.com was chapter 4, The Problem of Forgiveness from John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. This chapter tackles the question of why it is impossible for God to forgive us without Christ’s sacrifice for sin. Why can’t God just forgive us in the same way that we are required to forgive others?

Stott gives two quick answers and then uses the rest of the chapter to explain them more. Anyone who thinks it God can just forgive us without the sacrifice of his Son does not yet understand the gravity of our sin or the majesty of God.

The problem of forgiveness is constituted by the inevitable collision between divine perfection and human rebellion, between God as he is and us as we are.

In order to carefully examine these two things—the seriousness of sin and the majesty of God—Stott takes the bulk of this chapter to think through four biblical ideas with the reader. 

  • The Gravity of Sin: “Every sin is a breach of what Jesus called ‘the first and great commandment,’ not just by failing to love God with all our being but by actively refusing to acknowledge and obey him as our Creator and Lord. … Sin is not a regrettable lapse from conventional standards; its essence is hostility to God (Rom. 8:7), issuing in active rebellion against him.”
  • Human Moral Responsibility: “…Scripture invariably treats us as morally responsible agents. … Our responsibility before God is an inalienable aspect of our human dignity.” 
  • True and False Guilt: “The Bible takes sin seriously because it take humanity seriously. As we have seen, Christians do not deny the fact—in some circumstances—of diminished capacity, but we affirm that diminished responsibility always entails diminished humanity. … [T]o be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ‘ought to know better,’ is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image.”
  • God’s Holiness and Wrath: God’s wrath “is his holy reaction to evil.” “God’s holiness exposes sin; his wrath opposes it.” Stott lists a few metaphors used in the Bible to illustrate for us that “sin cannot approach God” and that “God cannot tolerate sin.” First, God is said to be high, which the biblical authors use to show his transcendence (or “otherness”).  Second, God is far away from us, so that sinners cannot approach him. Then there are light and fire, two things that make close approach impossible. Last, there is the metaphor of sinners being vomited, showing that God finds sin repulsive.

Those who have a biblical view of God’s wrath and human sin understand the need for the cross. Our sin and God’s wrath stand in the way of our forgiveness, and some sort of satisfaction for sin is necessary. That takes us to next week’s reading, chapter 5, Satisfaction for Sin.


A Simple Gift

I have a friend and I love to watch her eat. Every bite is a bit of joy. If I were to bring her a couple of cherry tomatoes from my patio tomato plants, she’d look them over. “Oh my,” she’d say, “aren’t those beautiful.” And she’d smell them and pick one up with her long piano fingers and pop it in her mouth. Then she’d chew it in slow motion. “So sweet. Absolutely lovely.”

When we go on hikes, she stops at every wildflower, remembering what it is called and remarking on its color. Everything takes longer and sometimes, though I try not to show it, I grow impatient. But mostly I find her delight in the simple gifts to be contagious.

She had very little when she was a child and she is thankful for everything. I put those two phrases in one sentence because I believe they are related. Having in abundance can make contentment hard to come by. When much is given, much may be expected, or even, perhaps, demanded. But those who have little know everything is a gift.

Sometimes when I put my Thankful Thursday posts together, I am embarrassed that there is so much ordinary and so little extraordinary. I worry that it might be boring. Not to me, because when I write, for instance, “I’m thankful for fresh cabbage from the garden,” I really am thankful for my cabbage. After all, I planted the seedlings and watched them grow. I saw the heads form and become more compact through the weeks. I’ve held that perfect head of garden cabbage in my hands; I smelled it; I know it’s a beautiful thing. But the reader? Why would anyone else care about my cabbage?

But I’ve learned from my friend to be thankful for simple things. Her delight is contagious; maybe mine will be, too. I also hope that I am learning, like Paul, that 

we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content (1 Timothy 6:7-8 ESV).

What is contentment but settled thanksgiving for the gifts God has given us? Doesn’t being content with food and clothing mean being so thankful to our heavenly Father for providing them that we do not yearn—at least too much—for more?

So yes, I’m thankful for the cabbage in my garden and the cabbage in my fridge. God provided them to sustain me and to give me joy.

And maybe he gave them to me to teach me a few things about himself. Don’t my cabbages demonstrate that there is design in the rhythm of the created order? The summer rain and summer sun do their work and I have tasty cabbages that display in their own small way the purposeful nature of God who keeps things rolling along. What’s more, they assure me that this God who accomplishes what he decides to do takes care of his creatures, including me. 

A simple gift is never just a simple gift. I’m thankful for that, too.

Throughout this year I’m planning to post a few thoughts of thanksgiving each Thursday along with Kim at the Upward Call and others.