Two sides of creatureliness

For quite some time I’ve really appreciated the idea of creatureliness.  I’m not sure where I first heard the term;  I don’t recall ever seeing the idea discussed in print, though I suppose I may have–my memory is not the best.  However, I DID see the word this morning as I was reading The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul (a good book–I recommend it).  He has some good thoughts about the idea of creatureliness…some of which I had not previously considered in the way he does.  In fact, I would sort of say that, while I had previously understood one aspect of creatureliness, he presents a different but very important way of thinking about this concept.  Here, then, is a brief discussion of creatureliness, in two parts.

Part 1 (the part of creatureliness I previously understood):

God created all things in the way that He chose.  When created things (i.e. creatures) live according to the way He designed, we not only bring glory to Him but also find blessedness, peace, and fulfillment.  One way we live according to God’s design is by flourishing and growing in the places He puts us and the ways He tells us we should.  For instance, we can:

  • pursue wisdom

  • pursue the knowledge of Him

  • pursue spiritual growth

  • be fruitful and multiply

  • love and serve others

  • be creative

  • MANY more!

Another way we live according to God’s design is by accepting–even embracing–our limitations.  This means that we can bring glory to God and rejoice in doing things that we might not otherwise think about in that way:

  • going to sleep on time and resting our bodies properly (side note: C. J. Mahaney’s book Humility: True Greatness has a brief but very good discussion of this.)

  • stopping work for rest, food, and of course worship

  • taking care when we are sick

  • not trying to take on more work than we can handle, and not thinking of our work as over-important (i.e. limiting self-imposed stress)

In these ways, recognizing and embracing our creaturely status can help us to live well in the ways that God intended for us.  It brings Him glory because by doing these things, we demonstrate that we recognize His wisdom in giving us all that we need for life and godliness. It brings us peace because we are rejoicing in what God has given us to do, and not attempting to reach beyond our limits.  (Of course, I do not mean we must settle for complacency and mediocrity!  We can reach far, and pursue true human greatness while still recognizing the bounds of our humanity!)  There are a variety of exciting implications for recognizing and living according to our creaturely status.    

Part II (another side of creatureliness):

After reading Sproul, I think the above understanding of creatureliness, while important and correct, is just a little bit too one-sided.  Even though it acknowledges God as creator, it focuses on us:  what we do (or should do), and why we can rejoice in our limitations.  Yet our understanding of creatureliness should begin not with the creature, but with the Creator.  Sproul writes:

…the clearest sensation that human beings have when they experience the holy is an overpowering and overwhelming sense of creatureliness.  That is, when we are aware of the presence of God, we become most aware of ourselves as creatures.  When we meet the Absolute, we know immediately that we are not absolute.  When we meet the Infinite, we become acutely conscious that we are finite.  When we meet the Eternal, we know we are temporal.  To meet God is a powerful study in contrasts

 

Being reminded that we are creatures is not always a pleasant thing.  The words of Satan’s original temptation are hard to erase from our minds. “Ye shall be as gods” (Gen. 3:5, KJV).  This ghastly lie of Satan’s is one lie we would dearly love to be able to believe…

Death reminds us that we are creatures.  Yet as fearsome as death is, it is nothing compared with meeting a holy God.  When we encounter him, the totality of our creatureliness breaks upon us and shatters the myth that we have believed about ourselves, the myth that we are demigods, junior-grade deities who will try to live forever.  (R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, 2nd edn.  Tyndale, 1998, 54-55)

Thus, understanding God and His holiness implicitly makes us understand our creatureliness.  This is good and right–but not easy!  It is easier, I think, to start with our lack and then think about ways we can excel.  Yet when our focus is on God, it still brings the peace and joy of creaturely living that I described above in Part I–but, I would say, it brings that peace and joy more fully because the joy is not in our life, but in God’s power and our participation in His plan for all things.I am sure there is more to be said about creatureliness.  But perhaps this is a good start.  May God grant that we see His holy transcendence and have a correct estimate of ourselves in comparison–nevertheless rejoicing because He has bountifully given us His favor and an inheritance forever with Him through His Son.

Well Supplied

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), who wrote  such beloved hymns as “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Joy to the World,” also wrote hundreds of hymns which are virtually unknown.Three of his lesser-known hymns are based on the well-known Psalm 23…and each one is a precious reminder of the wonder of having the Lord God as our Shepherd.  Below are the first stanzas from each of these three hymns.  Given the uncertainty of the world in which we live, and both the physical and spiritual needs we all have, these are stanzas well worthy of our contemplation!  I have bolded the wording which has had the greatest impact on my heart today. The phrase in italics comes in a close second.  The result:  Greater stillness of heart and trust in God’s care.

My Shepherd is the living Lord; Now shall my wants be well supplied; His providence and holy word Become my safety and my guide. My Shepherd will supply my need, Jehovah is his name; In pastures fresh he makes me feed, Beside the living stream. The Lord my Shepherd is, I shall be well supplied; Since he is mine and I am his, What can I want beside?

A Needed Reminder

This evening as I was reading chapter two of a new book entitled Helpful Truth in Past Places written by Mark Deckard, I encountered a series of principles he quotes from a lecture given by Sinclair Ferguson.  Although all of these principles are well known to me and established in my heart through many scriptural passages and examples, I found myself thinking how quickly and easily these truths can fade from conscious thought.  And so, to help me reestablish these truths…and hopefully, to also encourage you…here are ten of Ferguson’s thoughts:

  • God is in control of his universe.
  • God is working out his perfect purposes.
  • God is not my servant.
  • God’s ways are far more mysterious and wonderful than I can understand.
  • God is good–all of the time; I can trust him–all of the time.
  • God’s timetable is not the same as mine.
  • God is far more interested in what I become than in what I do.
  • Freedom from suffering is not part of the promise of the Christian gospel.
  • Suffering is an integral part of the Christian life.
  • God’s purposes, not mine, are what bring him glory.

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.  Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.  Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 

Let the favor of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands…yes, establish the work of our hands!

Psalm 90:14-17

 

 

Who can compare?

Yesterday was a wonderful day. . .so wonderful that I’ve had a hard time deciding which was the REAL highlight of my day: reuniting with some of our church family from South Carolina, hearing RC Sproul and Mark Dever speak, or noticing some lilies of the valley (our wedding flowers) blooming out my window!!

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Jeremy and I have been married 12 years and I’ve tried growing these flowers before, and it has just never worked. We’ve lived seven different places, and this location is, by far, the worst location of those seven, when it comes to nature (we are in the city in a tiny apartment). But outside my little kitchen window I can see a mass of these beautiful flowers, just growing wild on a CLIFF pushing through wild ivy and other stuff!  It feels like a special gift straight from the God who made me and knew I would see it as a personal gift from HIM (Matthew 6:25-34).  RC Sproul and other great men spoke to over 7,000 people today, BUT God, HIMSELF speaks straight to me. . . how can that compare???  My heart worships more humbly tonight.

New!

With the coming of the new year, I am reminded of the good gift of newness.  New books, new places, new-fallen snow, new clothes, new ideas…there is an anticipation, an unspoiled-ness about “new.”  

As we celebrate the new year, let us remember that God is the Master at making new things:

  • He created all things.  He continues to create even today. (We’re looking forward to some good friends’ new babies in 2010!)  
  • His mercies are new every morning. (Lam. 3:22-23)  
  • He gives new spiritual life to His people (”Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Rom. 6:4; “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Cor. 5:17)

God’s people look forward to a new heaven and a new earth. He will be with us, and will make all things new. (Rev. 21)  As we anticipate the time when He returns (see Adina’s post below) and makes ALL things new, we rejoice in the new things He has already given.  May you and yours see His abundant blessings this new year.

Meditations on the Preciousness of Christ

When we speak of something as being “precious” we usually mean that it is very dear to our heart, and thus, greatly loved or treasured.  It is something that has great value to us…something which we are careful not to waste, ignore or treat carelessly.

“Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious…”

- 1 Peter 2:7

For each of us, the Christmas season is a good time to pause and ask:Is Christ precious to me?  How do I know?  What evidence do I have that He istruly precious to my heart?   Do I ever regard or treat Him as less than precious?In the book entitled The Precious Things of God, Octavius Winslow provides many wonderful meditations on the preciousness of Christ.   I would like to share a few of his thoughts with you over the month of December.  It is my hope that these meditations will result in a more passionate love for Christ, in an increased joy as we celebrate His birth, and in a greater anticipation of His next advent!

Meditation #1 on the preciousness of Christ:

But to whom is Christ precious?  This is a most important question.  He is not so to all.  It is a privileged class, a peculiar people, a little flock,few and scattered, hidden and unknown, who feel the Saviour’s preciousness.  Only to the believer is Christ precious…

-Octavius Winslow

Meditation #2 on the preciousness of Christ:

How precious, then, is our Lord Jesus as ‘bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.’  Think of His perfect humanity–

a humanity free from sin, and therefore capable of dying for the ungodly,–

a humanity laden with sorrow, and therefore capable of sympathizing with the afflicted.

 Precious to our hearts as God–precious as Man–

precious as both united in one–

inconceivably and eternally precious is He,

whose name is ‘Wonderful,’ to His believing saints.

-Octavius Winslow

May your heart be moved by gratitude and love as you ponder meditation #3 on the preciousness of Christ:

“In the hour of adversity, of trial, of sorrow, oh, how precious is Christ in the experience of the believer!

It would seem, beloved, as though we had never really known Him until then. Certainly, we never knew from experience that there was so much that was human, tender, and compassionate in His heart until sorrow touched our own…

Precious humanity!  that bears each burden, that is touched with each infirmity, that soothes each sorrow, and that succors each temptation of His people.”

-Octavius Winslow

Meditation #4 on the preciousness of Christ:

 “Who, then, is the Lord Jesus Christ?  In common parlance, men term Him, ‘our Saviour.’  But do the great body pause and reflect who Christ really is?  Do they regard Him and the CREATOR of this world–of all worlds?  of their being–of all beings?  Do they consider that ‘all things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made?’
But what a grand and glorious truth is this to the believing soul–the absolute deity of the Saviour–the essential Godhead of Christ!
...
Precious in His Deity–
Precious as ‘God over all, blessed for evermore.’
-Octavius Winslow

The Family Tree

I’ve been crisscrossing the southeast on road trips this spring.  What beautiful drives - tree lined roads, hills…I love it! 

To pass the time, I sometimes listen to talks that I’ve downloaded to CDs, and I’ve listened to some of Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s Henry Forums.  Recently, I enjoyed hearing “Out of Africa: Biblical Christianity in Zambia” by Conrad Mbewe.  During the first part of this talk, Mbewe highlights how the gospel first came to his region of Africa and how Christianity spread there throughout the last couple hundred years.  Often, he describes how one individual specifically impacted the life of another, who in turn had an impact on another person or group, and so on.

This got me thinking about the importance of geneaologies.  Just as people often want to fill in their biological heritage (learning that their great great grandfather was the first settler of a town, etc.) I think it is perhaps even more important to consider one’s spiritual heritage in not only general but also specific terms. 

It encouraged me to hear how the Lord specifically worked through the everyday lives of individual believers in Africa through many years to do what has developed into a great work.  It is so encouraging to consider the many saints that have taught and discipled me personally, and think of those believers earlier this century that blessed, exhorted and strengthened them, and then of those earlier believers who taught, wrote, sang, discipled and loved that generation…and so on… 

Throughout history, God has ever continued to work through His people.  And, by His grace, He will continue to work through me.  When I think of the larger picture of this “family tree” that He is growing up on this earth it spurs me on to continue pursuing Kingdom purposes even through the hard, difficult or seemingly fruitless times.  The tree is not fruitless.  The tree is growing.  The tree has deep roots.

Accustomed to Greatness?

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For those of us who have grown up in strong Christian homes, or who have been believers for many years, the greatness, majesty and unsearchableness of God can come to be almost as commonplace as chocolate chip cookies and a hug from mom. We serve a great God. We know it. We tell others.

However, just as easily as we can tell of His greatness, we can cease to wonder at it. We take for granted the power God displays in creation. We tell the stories of the battle of Jericho or the raising of Lazarus but too easily tell them with the same admiration we might display for a beautiful new building. It’s not that we aren’t impressed by God, it’s just that we have allowed His greatness to become common place.

One of my sister, Connie’s, photos (taken at dawn from the top of a mountain) reminds me how easily we can cease to wonder at things that are “wonder” full: things like the sun and clouds…and the God who made them.

Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
That an abundance of water may cover you?. . .
Who can number the clouds by wisdom?. . .
Does the hawk fly by your wisdom,
And spread its wings toward the south?
Does the eagle mount up at your command,
And make its nest on high? . . .
Have you an arm like God?
Or can you thunder with a voice like His?
Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor,
And array yourself with glory and beauty.
[Selected verses from Job 38-40]

May we never cease to wonder at the greatness of our God!