John Knox’s marriage proposal to Elizabeth Stewart

Four years after the death of his first wife, John Knox met his second soon-to-be wife, Elizabeth Stewart, and the proposal took place at the dinner table.

“Addressing himself to the young lady, he said ‘My bird, are you willing to marry me?’ She answered, “Yes, Sir, only I fear you’ll not be willing to take me.’ He said, ‘My bird, if you be willing to take me, you must take your venture of God’s providence, as I do. I go through the country sometimes on my foot, with a wallet on my arm, a shirt, a clean band, and a Bible in it; you may put some things in it for yourself, and if I bid you take the wallet, you must do it, and go where I go, and lodge where I lodge.’ ‘Sir,’ says she, ‘I’ll do all this.’ ‘Will you be as good as your word?’ ‘Yes, I will.’

Upon which, the marriage talk was concluded, and she lived happily with him, and had three daughters from him.”

As described by Mr. Robert Millar, minister of Paisley, to the historian of “The Sufferings of the Church of Scotland,” Mr. Wodrow, on November 15, 1722. [via thisday.pcahistory.org]

If any smart aleck tries this move with my daughter while I’m eating dinner, I’ll politely excuse myself from the table and throw him under a bus.

Dear son: your dad is messed up

Your mother and I are counting down the days until you shake the hospital room with your first wail. Our home is a small one, and sometimes our bouncing dog makes it seem smaller, but you are most welcome to fill it with your little giggles, abrasive screams and tender tears. We love you.

Here’s something you should know: much of our world is made up of appearances. From advertising, to entertainment, to the small talk of social interactions, it seems that putting on masks and pretending to be a different ‘you’ is quite common. Most everyone has a shinier version of themselves which they put on and off, depending on who’s taking notes at the time.

But I don’t want you to see me in my shiny armor. (I’d rather get rid of it, really.) Instead, I want you to see me the way my Saviour sees me. It’s the only accurate portrayal of who I am. When you look up at me, look for these things:

  1. Your dad is a sinner. He’s messed up. God created him with a beautiful purpose: to know & worship the Triune God. But your dad missed the mark. Repeatedly. And purposefully. Your dad wasn’t an awesome person with just a few faults. He was faulty all over. He was like 200 lbs of swiss cheese, bespeckled with holes. Drained of any righteousness and yet overflowing with pride.
  2. Jesus Christ saved your dad. And saved is a pretty big word. It’s the words loved, rescued, washed, freed, adopted, and called all rolled into one! A whole bunch of wonderful things happened to your dad — yet none of it happened because of your dad. God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved me, rescued me in Jesus Christ. He bought a slave and promptly called him ‘My child’. I hope to share this story with you many more times.
  3. Your dad keeps messing up. It’s frustrating, I know. Just ask your mom. Your dad messes up more often than you do in your cute little diaper. Before God’s eyes, your dad is completely blanketed by the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ. And the Holy Spirit is molding and shaping me. But you’ll see this over and over again: when you compare your daddy to Jesus, there’s a huge gap. Dad doesn’t mirror his Saviour perfectly. However, your parents find relief, forgiveness and comfort in Someone Who is perfect. Someone Who not only began a good work in us, but will complete it.
  4. God is pouring this thing called grace on your dad and, boy, does he need it. Grace is the sharpening tool, the correcting rod, and the comforting blanket. I need grace because Jesus Christ is the only standard — the only appearance — that God is pleased to see. There’s nothing that pleases our Father more than His Son. And grace is how God is making His children become more like His Son. Grace is the fuel that motivates the Christian in his Heavenward journey.

Here’s your dad in his true colors: sinner, growing, depending and needy of grace. So your dad isn’t the defining item in your family. He can’t fix everything, protect everybody, or meet every need every time for everybody for all eternity. He certainly doesn’t have all the answers. Only God Himself can make worthwhile change in your dad, your mom and you. Only God can fix our sick world and its messed-up values. Only God can make something beautiful out of our messed-up stories.

Welcome to our home, baby. It must be a place of  broken hearts and not shiny masks. Hearts that find their meaning in the only Father worth knowing.

“Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.” - J. Gresham Machen

Many Christians rush to develop what they will call a “Christian worldview” by arranging isolated Christian truths, doctrines, and convictions in order to create formulas for Christian thinking. No doubt, this is a better approach than is found among so many believers who have very little concern for Christian thinking at all; but it is not enough.

Albert Mohler, via albertmohler.com

Mr. Hoover, if you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you and you have to battle with only one of them.

Calvin Coolidge, to Herbert Hoover, via futilitycloset.com

Our first problem is that our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered. We are more concerned about our own “victory” over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God.

- Jerry Bridges, “The Pursuit of Holiness” via mikeleake.net

Worth a read

Pr. Jeff Amsbaugh reflects on what must change within the fundamentalist movement. His post is directed at young Baptist preachers, but is worth a read by everyone who has (or had) interaction with fundamentalists.

In summary:

  1. We must not live in fear of our friends.
  2. We must not encourage ‘hero worship’.
  3. We must recognize the usefulness of unity. (“We must believe that compassion is not compromise.“)
  4. We must recognize the glory of grace. (“When Christianity becomes nothing more than an itemized list of abstinences, then nothing is done to address heart attitudes.“)
  5. We must recognize holiness does not sprout from legalistic lists.
  6. We must seek to abolish the problem of pride.
  7. We must recognize that attempts to satisfy the flesh will only lead to exhaustion & frustration.

I’ve noticed a common theme amongst well-adjusted kids. The theme seems to be this: Great kids come from families in which parents are real about their shortcomings. They come from families who live and believe in grace.

Donald Miller, via storylineblog.com

Though one may excel in heroic virtures, yet all his virtues are mere fumes, which shine before the eyes of men, except the object be to obey God.

- John Calvin

Stop being good | A Homeschooler Manifesto

Many Christian homeschoolers have lived with the expectation that they must be good. Dress good. Talk good. Live good. Just be good.

Sometimes this expectation was implanted by themselves. Sometimes by family, a church or community leader. Regardless, can we all just admit that this expectation is never fully met? You try and try and try to be good and then discover the bar was set much higher than you at first expected or were taught. No matter how good you are, someone will have a verse to throw at you, a standard to compare you to or a coffin to nail you in.

As they grow older, many homeschoolers respond by either adopting stricter regulations or going bezerk and throwing all standards to the air. Both are sad conclusions.

So here’s the deal, guys: stop being good. Let that load drop from your back. Stop carrying it. Leave it alone and step away.

___________________________

The Bible describes that moment when Jesus said “No one is good, save God” and the rich, young ruler piped up: “Well, I’ve kept all the commandments from my youth up.” Perhaps he was a homeschooler. But he certainly was convinced of his own goodness. Therefore he didn’t have much need for Christ.

Because doing good things — helping the elderly cross the street, giving cookies to your neighbor, wearing dress pants and a tie as pijamas — doesn’t require anything special. Anyone can do that. God didn’t send His only begotten Son to die on the cross in order to allow us to help the elderly & bake cookies.

Instead, through Christ’s perfect goodness and sacrificial death, we are enabled — let this soak in — to be righteous. This is key. Righteous is a whole different standard.  Nobody can be righteous on their own; we need God’s grace for this. So Christ’s righteousness is transferred to our account so that “Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). This is wonderful! We can stop trying to be pretty mediocre humans because the perfect Son of God gave Himself for us so that He could rectify us from the inside out. And this means:

  • God loves you because of Christ and not because of any single one of your good deeds.
  • God accepts you because of Christ and not because you keep trying so hard.
  • God is changing you to be more like Christ because He is faithful, and not because you are focused on being a role-model for homeschoolers everywhere.
  • God still loves you because of Christ even when you really mess up.

Here’s the point: go ahead and keep doing good things. Please bake those cookies. But PLEASE, stop finding your identity in that. “I talk a certain way / dress a certain way / sing a certain way — certainly I am a good person.” Stop thinking that you are defined by what you DO. The Good News of the Gospel is that we are defined by Him, not us. God calls us to chase after Him and seek His holiness out of loving obedience and in joyful response to the Cross of Christ. Which means that as we help that elderly lady cross the street, we do so joyfully because God has been good to us — not in order to validate our own goodness.

Listen: stop being good. That’s never enough. It never was. I’m sorry you wasted so much time being so focused on that. Repent of being satisfied in that. Get to know Christ. Be righteous before Him. Find satisfaction in Him. Be complete in Him. Be swallowed up in His righteousness. And let that holy transformation be the motivation of your Christian walk and never again the goal of your good deeds.

[Inspired by Bryan Chapell's timely talk: https://vimeo.com/5173082]

The moment without fear.

How wonderful it is to find yourself in a moment without fear. And in that fleeting moment, paint! carve! sing! act! write!

A large portion of my younger years was spent beneath the cloud of pending doom. The cloud of pending doom casts a shadow upon fresh, bright moments by suggesting that someone somewhere will look upon this bright moment and frown. Someone will say words that strike you deeper than you might be willing to admit. Someone won’t like what you’ve made. Someone you admire will be annoyed about what you created. Or apathetic.

It’s no wonder that I often found myself carrying a tripod out into the outskirts of town to film videos about little red riding hood and visible ninjas.  It was there — against the backdrop of nothing and with no one watching — that I found an escape from beneath the cloud of fear.

Living in fear of what others will think is a terrible way to administer your life. Fear doesn’t breed faithfulness. It only leads you deeper into the dungeon of believing you can please everyone all the time.

“Crucifying the defensive impulse is so difficult because it essentially means choosing to allow others to misunderstand you, misjudge you, and even malign you.” –  Jared Wilson

C. S. Lewis: Repetition, monotony and growing old

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A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.

It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

- C. S. Lewis, Orthodoxy, via superheroincasualclothes

Christians need the Gospel, too

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The Good News of God’s saving grace is not restricted to lost souls who are far from God and deep in vice. The power of God’s amazing grace must also be preached to those who are already redeemed.

In the chapter 2 of Titus, the apostle insists that “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared” in order to save but also to teach (instructcorrect)  how “we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world”. Put another way, Christ’s death on the cross served two purposes: to redeem depraved sinners & then continually empower those redeemed saints towards God-glorifying works.

Our Saviour Jesus Christ [...] gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:13,14)

At redemption, the christian’s thirst for the Gospel is drenched — but not quenched! There’s not a moment where a child of God might say, “I’ve learned enough; let me walk alone.” God’s grace is both the Hand that saves us from the pit as well as the Hand that lovingly leads the way.

If you are struggling with the how or why of living “soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world”, perhaps you are searching for these answers in the wrong place. Go back to the beginning, where the Pilgrim’s burden was lifted, and find the purpose & power for Christian living in the grace of Calvary’s cross.

// This great article goes deeper on the subject: Gospel-driven Sanctification by Jerry Bridges. Be sure to read his testimony in the opening paragraphs.

The top 5 songs that will melt your romantic heart

These aren’t power ballads which inspire you to hug the nearest telephone pole (♩ ♪ You raise me uuuuuuppp! ♫ ♬) but soft waltzes that will croon your melancholic heart into a dreamy blob of blubber. The key thing here is the acoustic touches and lifelong lyrics.

If – Bread

And I love you so - Don McLean

Beside you - Tal Bachman

Anna’s Song – John Denver

And I love her – The Brothers Four

God allows His children to suffer — but only for a while.

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 1 Peter 5:10

Wherever you’re at right now, realize that God’s grace does lead some of us into suffering. It is an invalid idea which suggests that God’s grace makes life a bed of roses. Instead, grace will lead God’s people through trials and persecution but only for a while. How long is “a while”? Consider this: our entire lives are but a moment when compared with the eternal glory to which we are called.

The apostle Peter would abhor the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” because it denies that God’s grace has a purpose for those who are not prospering. Would you be perfected, stablished, strengthened and settled by God’s grace? Then wait a while as all grace works His Will in you.

No matter where you are, may you be “under the mighty hand of God” (v.6) which guides His dear children toward eternal comfort. Need you greater proof that “He careth for you” (v.7)?

Jump-start your creativity » Learn

[This is part 2 in a three-part miniseries about creativity. Check back next week for part 3 or subscribe to listen in.] 

Creativity isn’t stagnant. It is fluid, taking various shapes and sizes according to different contexts. And so are creative people. They learn new tricks, experiment with new technology and toy around with new concepts daily. They tinker. For them, learning is not a classroom activity. It is a lifestyle.

After humbly acknowledging your limits, set out to learn more. Be a sponge, little padawan, and soak up learning. Place yourself in situations where you must become a shape-shifter. Sign up for a drama class or arts course, especially if you don’t care for either. Watch speeches on YouTube and take notes. Volunteer at a hospital, a library or a museum. Follow creative blogs. Write a small how-to about something you understand. Travel to uncommon places. Talk to uncommon people. A lot of things will wash past you but specific quotes and ideas will stick.

Know this: if you put yourself in the way of learning,  you will eventually find yourself in the midst of doing.

So easily we fall into the rut of doing only those things we like. We must go beyond and do things that make us feel weird. We must explore unfamiliar territory. Yes, you will feel out of place. Yes, some of your friends won’t understand. But you are stretching your mind and flexing your creative tissue. Stay at it. How can you connect the dots if you haven’t seen the dots up close?

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. — Steve Jobs

Jump-start your creativity » Humility

[This is a three-part miniseries about creativity. Check back next week for part two or subscribe to listen in.] 

According to some, creativity is like a photogenic face: everyone else has it — except you. If you weren’t born with it, tough luck. Grow a beard to cover up that scowl.

I disagree. And so does history. Few men are born genius. Most must try, try again until the idea finally takes and bit by bit the pieces come together. This is how most ideas are born.

If you struggle with a lack of creativity, I would first recommend you be humble about it. And I don’t mean humblebrag. Stop bemoaning your lack of imagination. Instead, honestly realize that you are not the next Newton, Einstein or Steve Jobs. And be ok with that.

Humility allows us to find our footing. It gives us our starting point. If you aren’t the next Stephen King, then don’t feel pressured to write a novel just yet. Write small stories. Poems. Children’s books. Let your reality dictate your first steps. If you don’t have an awesome camera, use what you do have. A silly point-and-shoot. A cheap Kodak throwaway. Your iPhone camera.

Certainly, dream big. Aim for the moon. Plan for wonder. But notice how races are set up: everyone starts together. On the same line, side by side. There’s little applause at the starting line, and no medals. Be humble enough to be counted among the guys who — shoulder to shoulder — are starting out alongside you.

Humbly admit your weakness and humbly list your strengths. Don’t shout them from the rooftops. Coax them in silence. Start small. Find your bearings, discover what is at hand. The most amazing creativity can spring from the commonplace. Yet too often we discard what is commonplace because it’s not “creative enough”.

To think out of the box, you must first discover which box you’re in.

It’s worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. - Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes via brainpickings.org