An Advent Lesson on Gratitude

Some words from John Calvin to meditate on this season, which for us should be a season marked primarily with thanksgiving:

“For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.” Luke 1:49-50

“If our hearts and minds were truly stirred by the thought of God’s particular gifts and mercies to us, we would most certainly be led further, to the point where we would praise him overall for his power and goodness.” “When, however, we are dealing with God, thee is nothing about Him which does not humble us in the presence of his transcendent majesty, and which does not testify in some way to his glory. His power, wisdom, infinite kindness, and righteousness are brilliantly displayed both in heaven and on earth. God’s name will always be holy. Only our ingratitude stops us giving the honour he deserves, and our ingratitude will not go unpunished.”

“All of us, I repeat, must not only praise God for the good things he has given us and for the blessings he has poured out on us; we must also take a longer view, and observe the evidence of his kindness on every hand, so that our mouth may always be open to glorify him. This should also be the mark of our common unity. We prove that we are true members of the church when we rejoice in our neighbor’s prosperity, just as we ought to show sympathy when they suffer trouble. For whoever rejoices in another’s prosperity is at the same time led to glorify God. This is the proper way to apply Paul’s injunction in the first chapter of 2 Corinthians: ‘Let thanks from many lips be given to God when good is done to any of his servants.’ “

 

“We can thus be sure that God’s goodness is always open to us, and that He will not cease to guide us both in life and death, until he has accomplished our salvation. This is because God cannot be defeated. his purpose is constant: always he continues to do good for us, for his generosity knows no bounds, and his gifts and graces are without repentance, as Paul assures us in the eleventh chapter of Romans.

In order to share in God’s gifts, we must first begin with the promise he holds out to us. We must lay hold of it by faith, and allow it to take firm root within us. For only through faith can we remain obedient to God and walk in his fear… The fear of God which Mary speaks about here is the fear that keeps covenant with God.”

 

“The fact that God takes and chooses instruments at will does not undermine our claim that it is he who does all things. We humans, however, are so wicked, that whenever we see lesser means operating we assume that God is idle in heaven! And we are so mindless that when our hunger is fully satisfied by the bread that comes from the earth, we do not have the wit or wisdom to look up and give God thanks!”

May we be drawn to walk this Advent season with wide-open eyes and grateful hearts. This is the only response for all of those who have seen Him, the Son of God, in the Garden of Eden, in the Wilderness, in Bethlehem, on the Cross and in our daily lives reigning with glory.

Peace, 

Becky

An Advent Lesson on Friendship

Source

As I was taking out the books we have for the season, I came across a favorite of mine: Songs of the Nativity: Selected Sermons on Luke 1&2 by John Calvin and decided that I wanted to re-read this Advent (I had not read it since 2010).

The first sermon corresponds to the passage of Luke 1:39-44 in which Mary rises after receiving the amazing news the angel brought to her, and goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. As I read the passage and Calvin’s comments I could not help but see how much we can learn here about godly friendships (I am aware that Mary and Elizabeth were not friends but cousins, however the principle is the same). When Elizabeth comes and hears what the Lord is doing in Mary’s life she -filled with the Spirit of God- praises God and calls Mary blessed. She knows that God has chosen to give her cousin a greater gift, and she rejoices with her and praises God for that miracle.

If we have been born again, we have already been filled with the Holy Spirit, and that is what can make us be good friends to our sisters and brothers in Christ. It is because Jesus is in us that we can rejoice when we see the gifts our Father has bestowed upon our friends, and can honestly rise up and call them blessed.

Mary receives the not-ordinary-at-all news from the angel: she will be the one to bear the Son of God in her womb! And her first response once the angel departs is to run and seek her friend -and cousin- Elizabeth. Oh, how wonderful it is when the Lord gives us a blessing, an unexpected grace that we cannot keep silent about, and we just want to run to our closest friend and share the joy of that blessing with her. And what a comfort it is to know that our friend will certainly rejoice with us and will call us blessed.

I love that Calvin points that “whenever we speak about what God has done, we should strive to show how much we depend on him alone, and how all we have comes freely from his bountiful hand.” We must never forget that, for if we do we might fall in the temptation of boasting and wanting our friends to see us and not our Father, the Giver of all the good things and gifts He has chosen to freely give us.

How much we still need to learn about how to be good friends to others. Sometimes, I think, it is easier to mourn with our friends in their losses and trials than to rejoice with them in their prosperity and victories. How much we need to learn from Elizabeth; she has her own miracle growing in her womb, and yet, she does not try to compare her gift with Mary’s. Because she a woman filled with the Spirit of God, she rejoices with her and assures her one more time of the Word of God. She speaks God’s promises to her friend and humbles herself as she rejoices to see how the Lord has dealt with both of them.

This season as we start to re-read the story of the Incarnation, it would do us well to remember that, as Calvin writes, the Spirit not also gives us different gifts but “works in each of us, sometimes more fully, sometimes less, in order to teach us that all things come from Him, and that on Him alone we depend.”

Many times we respond in arrogance when we see how the Lord blesses our friends and secretly murmur and point to their many faults, but Calvin reminds us, “The fact that others might have faults should make us still more humble…To see the gifts which God has given to our fellow men ought to stir us up to greater zeal.”

When we grow and really practice this “Elizabeth principle,” when we learn to value God’s gifts in our friends and we bless them and bless the One from whom all blessings flow, then this attitude “will help maintain unity and harmony among us, as we better learn to bear with one another… So a bond of peace and brotherhood exists whenever we make the most of the gifts God apportions those around us.”

May this Advent be a season of seeing Him again in His Word, and seeing Him in the gifts He has freely given our friends,

Becky

Celebrating the Excellencies of His Name -Jesus’ Name is a Holy Name-

One of my favorite books to read this time of the year is Songs of the Nativity; Selected Sermons on Luke 1 & 2 by John Calvin, this week I read a passage which I want to share with you as we consider the Names of our Savior:

“He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” Luke 1:49

“The holiness of God’s Name is something so sacred and so exalted that it should stir us up to pay Him homage, and should move us to such reverence that every time we thought and spoke about Him we recognized Him as the source of all that is good. Conversely, God’s name is profaned whenever we disparage him, by treating him as an idol, a lifeless object, or whenever we fail to to value Him as He deserves. God’s name is holy when, as the Psalm says, He is everywhere extolled, and His praise is spread throughout all the earth.

“God’s name will always be holy, Only our ingratitude stops us giving Him the honour He deserves, and our ingratitude will not go unpunished.

“We pray every day ‘Hallowed be your name’… God’s Name is called holy in order that we might learn to fear him in all humility, and to never think of Him without also tasting His powers. We must aim to know Him as He deserves to be known, and to so yield to the authority of His Word that we tremble before it.”

Blessed be the Name of our Lord!

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Find the index to the series here.

Calvin on Psalm 103

 

Psalm 103 (ESV)
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!

v. 2 “It is our own ingratitude which hinders us from praising God, not his lack of goodness towards us. Although He blesses us so that we may praise Him, our shameful listlessness buries in our hearts his innumerable benefits. The memory of them should cause us to praise.”

 

v. 3 “… reconciliation is the fountain from which all his benefits flow.(and though they do not taste it, his goodness also extends to the ungodly)”

 

v. 4- 5 “…when our physical bodies grow weak and decay, we are renewed to a better life. There is therefore no reason for us to be troubled by failing strength, for we continue to be sustained by the Spirit in our old age.”

 

v. 6 “[W]e are taught patience when we are unjustly assaulted, for God covers us with the shield of his justice.”

 

v.7- 8 “There is nothing better to build up our faith and excite our praise that this knowledge of his goodness, wisdom, righteousness and mercy. Nevertheless, there is no worse fault in us than that devilish arrogance which robs God of his glory.

v.9-10 “If it were not for God’s mercy, our sins would shut the door against God’s goodness… However, this pardon is is the special privilege of his children, for towards those who hate him he is an avenging God  (Deut 5:9 contrast Isa. 54:7)”

v. 11- 12 “(God’s mercy) only reaches us because our guilt is taken away and our sins are blotted out.David makes it clear he is speaking of God’s children -those who fear him- and not humanity in general.”

 

v. 13 “Righteousness is imputed to those who submit to his word.”

 v. 14- 16 “The more despicable  we are -we are but dist- the more inclined is God to be merciful to us.”

 

v. 17- 18 “By taking our children’s children into his care, he shows how precious to him is our salvation.
…Faith and prayer are the required responses to the covenant of grace.
…Many are quick to talk about God’s law’s, but their feet are slow and their hands are heavy when it comes to the reality of spiritual service”

 

v. 19- 22 “by recounting the divine benefits and magnifying the extent of his empire, David’s purpose was to stimulate himself and all the faithful to ever more fervent praise.”

Sisters, let us join the heavenly beings, the heavens, all of God’s creation and bless our Lord’s name who is worthy to be praised!

Alleluia!

Becky

Calvin on Piety

I want to share with you some excellent quotes from my reading corner about the meaning and importance of a word that we have almost forgotten and need to use more often: PIETY

The book: Living for God’s Glory by Joel R. Beeke
Chapter 13, Calvin’s Exalting Piety

“For him [Calvin], piety was not only a positive trait, it was the essence of true biblical Christianity. For him, theological understanding and practical piety, truth and usefulness, were inseparable.”

 

“In the preface of his Institutes, which he addressed to King Francis I, Calvin says that the book’s purpose is solely to transmit certain rudiments by which those who are touched with any zeal for religion might be shaped to true godliness [pietas]”

 

“For Calvin, piety designates a proper attitude toward God, and obedience to Him. Flowing out of the knowledge of who and what God is (theology), piety includes heartfelt worship, saving faith, filial fear, prayerful submission, and reverential love.”

 

“In his first catechism, Calvin writes, ‘True piety consists in a sincere feeling which loves God as Father as much as it fears and reverences Him as Lord, embraces His righteousness, and dreads offending Him worse than death.'”

 

“Such piety embraces all life. Calvin writes, ‘The whole life of Christians ought to be a sort of practice of godliness'”

 

The goal of piety is to recognize and praise the glory of God -glory that shines in God’s attributes, in the structure of the world, and in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ… As a result the pious man’s deepest concern is God himself and the things of God -God’s Word, God’s authority, God’s gospel, God’s truth. He yearns to know more of God and to commune more with Him.”

But how do we glorify God? Calvin writes, ‘God has prescribed for us a way in which he will be glorified by us, namely, piety, which consists in the obedience of his Word… Obedience to God’s word means taking refuge in Christ for forgiveness of our sins, knowing Him through the Scriptures, serving Him with a loving heart, doing good works in gratitude for His goodness, and exercising self-denial to the point of loving our enemies. This response involves total surrender to God Himself, his Word and His will (see Romans 11: 33-12:2)”

 

“The believer who excels in piety learns to grasp Christ so firmly by faith that Christ dwells within his heart, though He remains in heaven. The pious live by what they find in Christ rather than  by what they find in themselves.”

May His grace abound!

Becky