Thursday, July 18, 2013

Oh Luther, How Good of You

I have determined to finish reading Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will before the arrival of firstborn son - mostly because 'It's now or never' (kind of), but also because I believe that somehow it will make me a better mama. Good theology is good for most things. So in those rare moments when mental clarity and need for couch-time collide, I pick it up. This morning, I lighted on a section that was worth the whole book to me. Luther was explaining what it means that all men "fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
"Now, he who glories in God is he who knows for sure that God looks on him with favour, and deigns to regard him kindly, so that what he does is pleasing in God's sight, and what does not please God is borne with and pardoned....This is the glory of those who have faith in God. To those that are without it belongs confusion of face, rather than glory, in God's presence. But Paul here says that men are wholly devoid of this glory. And experience proves that they are."
"And if this glory is wanting, so that a man's conscience dare not say with sure confidence: 'this pleases God,', it is certain that he does not please God! For as he believes, so is he... For it is precisely the sin of unbelief to doubt the favour of God, inasmuch as God would have His favour believed in with the fullest certainty of faith."
The difference between a believer and an unbeliever is that that the one has a Mediator - Christ Jesus - by which he is confident of God's constant loving favour, and the other does not. If I believe that Jesus Christ is a sufficient Mediator and yet do not believe that  I am entirely within the favour of God because of Him, I have not yet believed savingly. I start giving God glory when I believe that because Christ has died, He may be pleased with me, and because He has declared Himself ready to be so, He is.

I guess that's the gospel, isn't it? Sometimes it's most awesome when it kind of creeps up on you in a drawn-out theological argument and then explodes in your face like a pinata full of better things than candy.

Thanks for beating the pinata till the candy came out, Martin Luther. God gave you one of the best hammers. I can't wait to give some of this stuff to baby.

(Also, thank you J.I. Packer and O.R. Robertson for translating this stupendous book into English.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

What Happened to Margalo - Part 4

[You may recall from the last chapter that the Summer family was watching a fierce storm. The story continues.]

A small brown sparrow, caught in the wet gusts of wind found herself being blown hopelessly farther from her shelter in the eaves of Mr. Groves barn. Her name was Margalo, and she had come from New York city to the countryside several months before, where she had befriended Mr. Grove’s pigeons who invited her to stay with them. This morning Margalo had gone out before the storm to visit her friend Cosette the mourning dove, who lived in a snug little clump of white pines near the river. Cosette was nesting and had sat comfortably on her single egg in its sparse nest of twigs while she and Margalo conversed. They had exchanged bits of poetry (they were both proficient poets) and Margalo had brought a tidy bunch of grass seed stalks as a gift for her friend. Cosette was very grateful for these, as she  had been sitting on her egg and was able to go out less and less in recent days.
“I do believe - though of course not meaning to alarm you” Cosette had said in her meek, cooing voice, “that there is a hawk in our – our vicinity. I espied him swooping low above the tops of the pines yesterday afternoon, as the sun sank below the western horizon,
‘cov’ring the land,
with bountiful hand,
in tinctures of amber from regions sublime’.

Cosette paused, savouring this new poetic utterance and continued. “And I do believe, not discounting the ‘tinctures of amber’  in the air, that it was a red-tailed hawk. Oh dear!”
“Oh dear,” echoed Margalo. Then she had looked at the sky and said, “Oh dear!” again, for dark clouds had begun to roll the light out of the sky. “I really must return to Mr. Grove’s barn without delay!”
“Do be careful, my cherished friend!” Cosette had said mournfully, as Margalo fluttered her wings with a final “Goodbye” and rose through the whispering pine branches into the damp, darkening air. The wind had begun to blow in fierce gusts before Margalo had gotten very far, driving her from her course, and then the rain had begun, making her way even more obscure. Now, Margalo did not know where she was. The Grove’s farm was nowhere in sight. She could see, however, the wide gray river in the distance, hazy and tossing in the rain, and knew that she must get her bearings and a proper command of her now soggy wings before she got too close to it. Rivers were nice to follow when flying north or south, or to perch in twiggy tree branches above the water where it flowed quietly. But the river was not quiet now, and if Margalo could not find a landing place, her weary, wet wings would give out - and she must not be above the rushing, deep river if that happened.

Margalo realized that she was rapidly approaching a large spruce tree. It was waving its shaggy wet branches in the wind and looked like a formidable giant, but Margalo knew that inside the spruce tree there would be shelter and some degree of dryness, so she made a desperate effort to fly toward it. Fortunately, the tree was in the general direction of the wind, so the desperate effort was not very desperate after all, and soon Margalo was resting safely within the prickly gray green boughs where only a few drops of rain plopped through now and then.  She fluffed out her sodden feathers and huddled close to the trunk, where, lulled by the darkness and gentle swaying of the spruce tree, she fell asleep.