Fun Facts From Church History: Calvin’s Advice to a Depressed Woman

On 7 June 1553 Calvin writes

farel_telling_calvin_geneva“Although I am not so devoid of pity as not to feel deeply moved at seeing you in still closer confinement, yet I cannot cease to exhort you to arm yourself so much the more with constancy, as the trial becomes more terrible; since when Satan and the enemies of the faith press us most without, then is the time for us to use the grace of God. St. Paul glories that, though he was in prison and in chains the doctrine which he preached was not bound, but free and operative. And indeed as the truth of God, far exalted above the world, reaches even up to heaven, it cannot be subjected to the pleasure and tyranny of men. However then the devil may labor to oppress us with troubles, let our hearts expand so much the more through faith, that we may the better repel his attacks. Our Lord has lately afforded us many examples, and still gives us them daily in various places. They ought to shame us; for if we faint at the stroke of the rod, while others tremble not at death, how shall we be able to excuse our slothfulness?

You have thought it impossible to sustain such severe struggles in your house; but you know that the Son of God has given us warnings, in order that nothing of this kind, we being thus prepared, may shake our resolution. And reflect still further, that this is not the end, but that God is now only gently trying you, He himself bearing your weakness, and being ready so to do till you have become sufficiently strong to endure his inflictions. But, whatever may happen, allow not yourself to be depressed either through negligence or despair.

Many are conquered because, while flattering themselves, they suffer their zeal to grow cold; others, on the contrary, are so terrified not to find in themselves the strength which they hoped to possess, that they sink and give up all for lost. What should we do then? Let us animate ourselves by the consideration of God’s promises, which will serve us as a guide and raise our thoughts to heaven, that we may learn to despise this vain and transitory life; and let us again meditate on his threatenings, that they may inspire us with dread of his judgments. If you feel not your heart moved as it ought to be, seek help from him, without whom we can do nothing; strive to overcome your coldness and weakness, till you discover traces of improvement.

“Much foresight is necessary in this labor. On the one side, you ought unceasingly to sigh, and to cherish such sorrow of heart for your condition, and such anguish for your wretchedness, as to leave you no rest; and, on the other, you should not doubt but that God, however little appearance there may now be of it, will give you strength in due time. It must not discourage you to behold the poor church of God so suffering, and the pride of its enemies increasing with their cruelty. Rather wonder that this is so new to you; for the thought should never have been absent from your heart, that we ought to become more and more like the image of the Son of God, and to bear patiently the reproach of his cross till the day of our triumph come.

Neglect not this, but let it serve for your encouragement in the fulfilment of your course, for you will have still further trials to endure. If I hear that you are deprived of the little freedom left you, but do not cease to preserve a right disposition, nor prove unfaithful to Him, who so well deserves that his honor should be worth more to us than all besides, then will my joy be more complete. But even now do I rejoice in the good confidence which I have in you. Do not therefore distress me by deceiving this hope, still looking as you should ever do to our good God, and our Lord Jesus, who has shown how dear we are to Him, by offering up himself for our redemption.

So bear yourself therefore as to shame Satan and his ministers, who have hoped to trample your faith in the dust. But since such a victory requires a greater strength than you possess, flee to our good Lord Jesus, who is made to us of God for righteousness, that in him we may be able to do all things. I on my part will pray God that it may please Him so to pour the grace of his spirit into your soul, that you may experience what it is to be strengthened by God and to glorify him. I will beseech him to take you into his holy keeping, and to defend you against the rage of the wolf and the cunning of the fox; wherefore I commend myself in humility to your benevolence and your prayers.”

Believe More Boldly Than You Sin

luther_melancthon2That’s the meaning of Luther’s famous line to Melanchthon:

Esto peccator, et pecca fortiter ; sed fortius fide et gaude in Christo, qui victor est peccati.

Luther isn’t advising sin (as the dull of mind believe) – he is advising bold faith- a faith more bold THAN sin.  A faith, in short, which OVERCOMES sin by its very boldness and power.

If people are going to pretend-quote Luther they should at least have the respect to do it right.

NPR Is Wrong, People Aren’t Moving ‘Away’ From Religion…

They’re moving towards secularism which is itself a religion, of self.   They’ve simply replaced God with an idol- and that idol is themselves.  Everyone, you see, has a god.  Some the true and living God and others a false god, an idol.

Young people aren’t abandoning faith- they are replacing faith in God with faith in themselves.  Sadly what they don’t realize is that such a faith will never truly help them, any more than a drowning man can be his own life-preserver.

luther5Faith in self- it’s the most foolish of all ‘faiths’.  As Luther observed-

Many a one thinks that he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and, possessions; he trusts in them and boasts of them with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one. Lo, such a man also has a god, Mammon by name, i.e., money and possessions, on which he sets all his heart, and which is also the most common idol on earth. He who has money and possessions feels secure, and is joyful and undismayed as though he were sitting in the midst of Paradise. On the other hand, he who has none doubts and is despondent, as though he knew of no God…

So, too, whoever trusts and boasts that he possesses great skill, prudence, power, favor, friendship, and honor has also a god, but not this true and only God. This appears again when you notice how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are because of such possessions, and how despondent when they no longer exist or are withdrawn. Therefore I repeat that the chief explanation of this point is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart entirely trusts…

Thus it is with all idolatry; for it consists not merely in erecting an image and worshiping it, but rather in the heart, which stands gaping at something else, and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils, and neither cares for God, nor looks to Him for so much good as to believe that He is willing to help, neither believes that whatever good it experiences comes from God.

Ask and examine your heart diligently, and you will find whether it cleaves to God alone or not. If you have a heart that can expect of Him nothing but what is good, especially in want and distress, and that, moreover, renounces and forsakes everything that is not God, then you have the only true God. If, on the contrary, it cleaves to anything else, of which it expects more good and help than of God, and does not take refuge in Him, but in adversity flees from Him, then you have an idol, another god.

But You See, The Thing Is, You Just DON’T!

Jesus said something very peculiar to his disciples, didn’t he, when he opined ‘if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, be removed into the sea, and it will obey you’.  Ever since then, people have made the mistake of believing that Jesus wanted them to have ‘more faith’ (as though managing to have more of something ephemeral were at all possible, like having more ‘love’ or more ‘patience’).

It has not occurred to most, it seems, that having ‘more’ faith is something of which we are just not at all capable.  Just how does one have ‘more faith’?  Has anyone ever explained that sufficiently, or even carefully?  Not to my satisfaction and if you’re honest, probably not to yours either.

So I would like to suggest that many have read Jesus wrong.  He is not at all encouraging MORE faith- he is pointing out very sensibly that IF we had so much as a speck of faith, we COULD command mountains, etc.  The fact that we DON’T command mountains means that we have even LESS faith than a speck, and THAT is exactly what he wants us to know.

Quite plainly, he’s telling folk ‘you don’t have any faith to speak of.’  And that’s the real truth.  We don’t.  And when we try to ‘have’ more we just fail.  And then we feel faithless (because we are) and then we feel even worse (which we should) until, finally, we come to our senses and realize that he has faith aplenty for us and on our behalf.

And before you get all fired up in disagreement, you silly thing, realize that Paul understood things JUST this way.  Do recall his (and yes, Ephesians is Paul’s) – ‘For by grace are you saved, through faith.  And that not of your selves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one has anything to boast about.’

Faith is a gift which Another holds in trust for us.  Whew.  That, frankly, is quite a relief.  It means that faith is given to us and we neither manufacture it nor muster it up.  Faith is the gift of God.  And gifts are given to whomsoever the giver wishes.

If one has faith (which none of us do in and of ourselves) then that very faith is God’s magnanimous act of kindness.  We don’t need to have it in the volume of a seed.  Christ has it in plenitude and it is operative in us by virtue of him.  Anyway, the truth is, you see, you just don’t have any at all.  Stop worrying, then, about getting more- and trust the one who has enough already, for you.

Look, I’ve Got No Quarrel With Bachmann’s Faith…

I’m glad of it.  Truly.  I wish every politician had deep, real, abiding, substantive faith.  I just don’t think she’s smart enough to be President.  That’s all.

The leader of the House’s Tea Party Caucus said conservatives have to stand against federal takeovers of U.S. industries, including the automotive, banking and insurance industries the government bailed out during the recession.  “And we can’t settle when it comes to America standing up for our greatest ally in the world, Israel,” Bachmann said.

Having faith may qualify you to be a good Christian, but it doesn’t make you a good politician.  I wish we lived in a world where it did.  But we don’t.  We don’t even live in the ‘best of all possible worlds’.  But being a Christian Zionist makes you a theological ignoramus.  And I just won’t vote for one of those.  Ever.  Besides, she’s absolutely deranged if she thinks Israel is an ally.  Allies help.  How has Israel helped us aside from not launching an attack on Iraq while we were preparing to invade to denude Saddam of all those WMD’s he had…

Bachmann is a good person (so far as that word can be used of any person).  But she’s not presidential.  Sorry.

Mind you, that’s not to say Obama is.  He lacks both faith and spine.  And there isn’t any other politician known to me who is suited for the office.

So I’ve given up hope that America has anyone worth electing.  Faithful or not.

Politicians and Their ‘Theology’: Manipulating a Gullible Public

Yahoo news has a nice essay on politicians and their faith.   I’ll just mention it and let you read it for yourself.  My reason for pointing it out is to take it as an opportunity to remind folk that politicians don’t HAVE theology, they USE theology to garner votes.  They manipulate gullible voters into believing that their faith is important to them.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been an authentically genuine believer in the White House since Jimmy Carter.  The rest, since, only put on the facade of faith because they saw it as politically expedient.

The only ‘theology’ politicians hold is the ‘theology’ of deception and manipulation.  Don’t let them fool you.  ‘By their fruits you will know them.’

It’s Better to Pray to God than to a Saint or at some Shrine

Because you don’t have to go on pilgrimage to pray to God. And the consequences of trudging off to a spot of idolatry can be hazardous to your health…

Man on Pilgrimage of Thanks after Recovery from Car Crash is Run Over And killed after only a mile into his journey. How very unfortunate: A year earlier, he had been injured in a road accident and made a full recovery. So the man decided to make a pilgrimage to a shrine to give thanks for his survival – only to be knocked down and killed by a car less than a mile into his trek. The 40-year-old Spanish man died instantly after being hit by the vehicle just 20 minutes into his journey. Two women walking with him wer … Read More

via Fr Stephen’s Blog

Christians Keep Being Targeted in Iraq

Barbaric murderers.

Via Yahoo News: Kirkuk, Iraq – Fifteen people were wounded on Tuesday by a car bomb targeting a Syrian Catholic church in Kirkuk in northern Iraq, a police officer and a priest said. The bomb exploded at the Holy Family church in the north of Kirkuk at about 5:30 am (0230 GMT), wounding 15 people including church staff and people in neighbouring houses, the high-ranking officer in the Kirkuk police said. The officer, who spoke on condition of … Read More

via Fr Stephen’s Blog

Another Pagan Anglican Priest

This guy should be removed from his office today. Not because of his acts but because of his words. Any priest who states that the God of the Bible is wicked and perverse has no business being a priest. Let him join the tribe of angry atheist ex Christians. But kick him out of the Church first.

To allow him to remain in the priesthood is a travesty and an injustice.

Rector Burns Bible Pages   What a wicked man! The Church in Wales says it is investigating after a Gwynedd rector burnt some pages from the Bible. The Reverend Geraint ap Iorwerth of St Peter ad Vincula Church, Pennal, also cut up pages from the King James Bible to create an artwork. Unveiling it at a church event, he said it revealed a “cruel and vile God”. The Bishop of Bangor said: “Destroying parts of the Bible we don’t like is disrespectful and will offend many … Read More

via Fr Stephen’s Blog

If They Don’t Believe in Jesus…

They aren’t members of the Church anyway. Regardless of what they might ‘believe’.

Swedish Church Members 'Don't Believe in Jesus' Only 15 percent of members of the Church of Sweden say they believe in Jesus, and an equal number claim to be atheists according to the results of a recent survey. I don’t even know what to say… I mean, what’s the point? Church without Jesus?! More than 10,000 members of the Swedish Church participated in a comprehensive membership survey carried out over the past year and dubbed “Member 2010” (Medlem 2010). According to the survey, 15 percent … Read More

via Fr Stephen’s Blog

People Please, Obama isn’t a Muslim

Early Christians Worship in the Catacombs of S...

Of course, if his willingness to participate in worship is any indication, he isn’t what you could really call a very faithful Christian either.  He seems instead to be one of those people who occupy the fringes of faith.  Christianity is ok with him, but it isn’t worth much time, effort, energy, or commitment.

There are a lot of American’s who share the fringes of faith with Obama.  The Easter and Christmas ‘Christians’ of course come right to mind.  But the ‘Christians’ who dollop into worship every now and then when they have nothing better to do are of the same sort.

You know the type: they show up, they sit there a while, they never open their hymnals, never enter into prayer, pay scant attention to the sermon, drop perhaps a whole dollar in the offering plate, avoid Sunday School, and can be counted on to do absolutely nothing when the time comes for it.

Let’s just face it- 90% of those who call themselves Christians are Obama Christians.  Christians for whom it just really doesn’t matter much at all.  Christians who don’t aspire to be Christ like.  Christians who pay no mind to the teaching of Scripture.  Christians who don’t even know that as members of the body of Christ, they have obligations.  Yes, obligations.

Obama isn’t a Muslim.  But he’s not much of a Christian either.  And neither are most.