Archive for March 2009

Lessons From The Cleft

March 29, 2009

I mentioned in my last post that our third child was born with a unilateral cleft palate and a unilateral cleft lip nearly 13 years ago. We were church planters in Montana at the time. Our son’s birth with the defect was a tremendous surprise, may I even say a shock, since ultrasounds had not indicated any problems.

My wife and newborn had to stay in the hospital for a few days longer than is usual for a new mother and baby because of the baby’s eating issues. Cleft palate and lip babies have difficulty nursing and the doctors wanted to monitor his food intake and weight.

During those first days I asked the Lord many questions about why our son had been born with the defect. Our first two children had been born completely developed. Was this judgment on my sins, my wife’s? Did environmental factors have anything to do with it?

One morning I was driving to the hospital to see my wife and new son. Again, I was asking the Lord, “Why was he born with a defect?” Then, the LORD answered me. In my spirit, yet as if  I was hearing audible words, He asked me, “Do you remember the blind man in John 9 that the disciples of Jesus brought to Him for healing? Their question was, ‘Because of whose sins was this man born blind? His parents or his?’ What was His answer to them? He said, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.’ ”

The LORD said to me, “Nathan’s birth with the defect may have been a surprise to you, but it was not to me. I created Nathan this way and I gave him to you with the cleft for a reason. Accept My will, trust Me, rest in Me, and let Me receive the glory.” The relief and confidence and sense of anticipation regarding His will and activity that flooded my spirit was overwhelming. The weight of question and worry disappeared. It was if the Bitterroot Peak in my rear-view mirror vanished. It was powerful!

The LORD has displayed His works and glory in our son in many ways since that day in July 1996.

We returned to Texas when Nathan was six weeks old to receive medical and surgical care from a cranio-facial reconstruction specialist and his team in Dallas. When we moved back to Texas all we knew of the doctor was his name, address, telephone number, and date of our first visit. Today, I can share with you that in God’s sovereignty our son was referred to, and has been cared for, by one of the world’s foremost cranio-facial reconstruction surgeons! The specialist is Kenneth Salyer (retired December 2006). We are now under the care of the physician who was Dr. Salyer’s associate.

Our son has had a total of five surgeries, several orthopedic appliances (mouth pieces), and several sets of ear tubes. We are, even now, preparing for another set of tubes. We will have one or two more reconstructive surgeries before he is man.

Over the years the Lord has given us the opportunity to minister to and pray with other families, at the hospital, Ronald McDonald’s House, and in our community, who had and have children who were born with defects and health issues. A father from Tupelo, Mississippi cried in my arms over the condition of his daughter. My wife has ministered to international student wives who have given birth to cleft palate and cleft lip babies. Through it all we have been able, by God’s grace and in His Spirit, to comfort others with the same comfort with which God has comforted us (II Corinthians 1:4).

Our son’s birth with a cleft palate and cleft lip was a shock to us. It caused us a great deal of concern and sadness when we thought about the surgeries and discomfort that he would have to go through, both physically and emotionally. But, it has taught us much about the Lord’s sovereignty and greatness and the mystery of His will and thoughts which are said in Scripture to be very deep. We know more today than ever the truth that He works all things together for His glory and the good of those are His and called according to His purposes.

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“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

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Learn more about Dr. Kenneth Salyer and his medical practice by visiting the website of International Cranial Institute in Dallas. You can read about Salyer under the “Meet the Surgeons” heading.

Also read an article here about Egyptian twins who were born joined at the top of their skulls and separated by Dr. Salyer and his team during a 33 hour surgery.

 

 

 

 

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Adam Passed It Down

March 27, 2009

Institutes 2.1.5 – 2.1.8

In the early 2000’s, when my parents passed away, I inherited some furniture, old jewelry, some paintings, and their outstanding debt. But this wasn’t the first time I had ever inherited anything. When I was born in the early 1950’s, I inherited something from another “parent” by the name of Adam. It was original sin.

In the previous reading of the Institutes, Calvin taught us that the essential nature of sin is disobedience. Calvin spends this reading teaching us about original sin and how it has spread from Adam throughout humanity.

Calvin begins by saying that “As Adam’s spiritual life would have consisted in remaining united and bound to his Maker, so estrangement from him was the death of his soul.”

When Adam sinned, the image of God in which he had been created was effaced and he lost the godly wisdom, virtue, justice, truth, and holiness that were his in his original state. When he sinned, he “involved his posterity also, and plunged them (you and me) in the same wretchedness.”

This hereditary corruption is known as Original Sin, and is said by Calvin, to mean the deprivation of our natures that were “formerly good and pure.” It is, according to Augustine, “an innate corruption” that is ours “from the very womb.” (2.1.5)

In 2.1.6, Calvin writes that “…in regard to human nature, Adam was not merely a progenitor (a biological ancestor), but, as it were, a root, that, accordingly, by his corruption the whole human race was deservedly vitiated (debased morally).”

So, we do not sin because we choose to imitate Adam, like a child imitates his father’s mannerisms, we sin because it is our nature to sin.

It is here that Calvin quotes Scripture and contrasts Adam and Christ:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned; even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:19-21)

Calvin’s comment on this is that ” … the righteousness of Christ, and thereby life … were lost in Adam that they might be recovered in Christ, whereas sin and death were brought in by Adam that they might be abolished in Christ.”

The discussion continues with a reference to I Corinthians 15:22 which says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.”

The phrase, “… in Adam all die …” is interpreted to mean “… that he by sinning not only brought disaster and ruin upon himself, but also plunged our nature into destruction; and that not only in one fault, in a matter not pertaining to us, but by the corruption into which he himself fell, he infected his whole seed.” If this were not true, Paul could never have said “that all are ‘by nature the children of wrath,’ (Eph.2:3) if they had not been cursed from the womb.”

Calvin expresses this in his typically unique way when he says, “from a corrupt root corrupt branches proceeding, transmit their corruption to the saplings which spring from them.” (2.1.7)

In 2.1.5, Calvin spoke of original sin and made a brief, yet, pointed comment about it. In the final section of this reading, 2.1.8, Original Sin is given more of a “textbook” definition.

Original sin, then, may be defined a hereditary corruption and depravity of our nature, extending to all parts of the soul, which first makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which in Scripture are termed works of the flesh. (2.1.8)

The Bible teaches us that all are born with this sin nature, that we all come short of the glory of God. For this we deserve His holy wrath and punishment. We are also taught that God loves us and has proven this by the fact that He sent His only begotten Son to live a holy live and then give it on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins. That forgiveness of sins, a reconciliation to Holy God, and a new nature are ours by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

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When our third child was born, he was born with a birth defect. At some point in his development in his mother’s womb, the middle third of his cranio-facial structure stopped developing. When he came forth from the womb, he had a unilateral cleft palate and a unilateral cleft lip. The defect was classified as being moderate. He has had five surgeries, with a couple of more to go, but his condition is 100% correctable. In fact, even now, most people cannot tell he was born with an issue.

The doctors told us that cleft palates and cleft lips are a genetic defect. Since neither my wife nor I had the defect, it came down one of our family lines through us to our son. He inherited a defective gene.

When our son was born, he was born with another issue. It was not a material or physical defect; it was a spiritual issue. He was born with “original sin.” A sin nature inherited from Adam. This condition could not be corrected or remedied by surgeries or orthodonic appliances. It was only made right when, by the grace of God, our son came to know Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Lord.

Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

(II Corinthinas 5:17)

Ligonier’s “Holiness of God” Conference

March 25, 2009

Ligonier Ministries has recently conducted its 2009 National Conference. “The Holiness of God” was the conference theme.

The Ministry has posted videos of presentations made during the conference. Speakers include men such as Alistair Begg, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, R.C. Sproul, and Derek Thomas. Videos of several Question and Answer periods are also posted.

The set of videos will be available on the Ligonier website for a limited time and can be viewed here.

I would ask you to join me in watching the videos over the course of the next week or so. As we do, may the LORD use the messages to give us a deeper and more profound understanding of God and His holiness. May He draw us closer to Himself in relationship and reverence.

“For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy.”

(Leviticus 11:44a)

Man, Know Thyself

March 25, 2009

Institutes 2.1.1 – 2.1.4

In Book 1 of the Institutes, Calvin taught us about God the Creator. In Book 2 Calvin will teach us about “God the Redeemer in Christ.”

Calvin begins his teaching on God’s redemption in Christ with a discussion of man and man’s desperate need to rightly know himself and his need for a Savior.

There are two ways, we are told, that man “knows” himself. There is the “wrong” way and there is the “right” way.

The “wrong” way tells man that he innately possesses “excellence and dignity” (2.1.1) and can “rest in himself.” (2.1.2.)

Owing to the innate self-love by which all are blinded, we most willingly persuade ourselves that we do not possess a single quality which is deserving of hatred; and hence, independent of any countenance from without, general credit is given to the very foolish idea, that man is perfectly sufficient of himself for all the purposes of a good and happy life.”

There were “certain philosophers” in Calvin’s day who taught men this and there are certainly men today who teach it to those who desire is to have their ears tickled, their egos inflated and their minds flattered. (2.1.2)

Speaking of those teachers and preachers who expound such a man-centered philosophy and theology, when they pronounce a discourse “which flatters the pride spontaneously springing up in man’s inmost heart, nothing seems more delightful. Accordingly, in every age, he who is most forward in extolling the excellence of human nature, is received with the loudest applause.” (2.1.2)

Calvin says that this belief in the innate excellence of self drowns “in perdition all who assent to it. For what avails it to proceed in vain purpose, and, at the very outset, prove deficient and destitute both of sound intelligence and true virtue, though we still confidently persist till we rush headlong to destruction?”

Calvin’s warns us against this vain pursuit.

Whosoever, therefore, gives heed to those teachers, who merely employ us in contemplating our good qualities, so far from making progress in self knowledge, will be plunged into the most pernicious ignorance.” (2.1.3)

So, the “wrong” way of “knowing” oneself is self-deluding and destructive.

But, Calvin informs us, there is a “right” way for man to “know” himself and we know this way by the grace of God.

Calvin writes in 2.1.1 and 2.1.3 that the beginning of a “right” knowledge of ourselves is to reflect on two truths:

  1. The “primeval dignity” – the excellence of our nature – that God bestowed on man when man was first created. It was a dignity that depended entirely on God. From this original condition man has fallen.
  2. Since Adam’s fall into sin, there is nothing about who we are, nothing about anything that we do, that gives us cause to boast or place confidence in ourselves.

Reflecting on our original “primeval dignity” and our current condition resulting from sin, we are humbled and “inflamed with new desires to seek after God, in whom each may regain those good qualities of which all are found to be utterly destitute.”

To me this simply means that man is a sinner in need of a Savior.

These two truths will annihilate all confidence that we have in ourselves and will urge us to “meditate on divine worship and the future life” that is ours by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

In the final section of this reading, Calvin speaks about the sin that plunged man into his fallen state. What was the sin? It was simply disobedience, the abandoning of the command of God and a revolting against God’s authority over our lives.

The strongest curb to keep all of his (Adam’s) affections under due restraint, would have been the belief that nothing was better than to cultivate righteousness by obeying the commands of God, and that the highest possible felicity was to be loved by him.” (2.1.4)

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The Bible says,

“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” II Corinthians 3:5

Embrace This

March 21, 2009

Institutes 1.18.3 – 1.18.4

Here are several quotes from Calvin as he continues to talk about the LORD’s will.

… the will of God is not at variance with itself. It undergoes no change. He makes no pretence of not willing what he wills, but while in himself the will is one and undivided, to us it appears manifold, because, from the feebleness of our intellect, we cannot comprehend how, though after a different manner, he will and wills not the very same thing.” (1.18.3)

Since, on account of the dullness of our sense, the wisdom of God seems manifold, (or, as an old interpreter rendered it, multiform) are we, therefore, to dream of some variation in God, as if he either changed his counsel, or disagreed with himself? Nay, when we cannot comprehend how God can will that to be done which he forbids us to do, let us call to mind our imbecility, and remember that the light in which he dwells is not without cause termed inaccessible, (I Tim. 6:16) because shrouded in darkness.” (1.18.3)

What should a believer’s response be when life seems to be at odds with what the Bible teaches about God and His will?

Our true wisdom is to embrace with meek docility, and without reservation, whatever the Holy Scriptures have delivered.”

W. A. Criswell Sermon On Election

March 19, 2009

I was delighted to find a series of four videos of W.A. Criswell preaching a sermon entitled, “The Effectual Calling of God.”

Criswell pastored First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas for over 50 years and was considered to be the the “Grandfather of the Southern Baptist Convention Conservative Resurgence” in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the sermon, Dr. Criswell makes reference to many passages of Scripture along with lyrics from hymns written by Issac Watts and Josiah Conder. He also quotes Charles Spurgeon at several points in his message.

The sermon was preached at First Baptist Church Dallas on June 5, 1983.

You can find the sermon on the Founders Ministries Blog, March 7, 2009, here. Additional sermons by Dr. Criswell can be found at the Criswell Sermon Library.

Help Me Read

March 17, 2009

Please help me earn rewards for free books, to read and review, by visiting the on-line Monergism.com bookstore by clicking on the Monergism icon at the bottom of the right-hand side bar on this page and the on-line Westminster Bookstore here or by clicking its icon at the bottom of the side bar. Thank you.

Read on.