The First Commandment – John Calvin


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The authority of the Law being founded and established, God delivers his First Commandment–

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

The purport of this commandment is, that the Lord will have himself alone to be exalted in his people, and claims the entire possession of them as his own. That it may be so, he orders us to abstain from ungodliness and superstition of every kind, by which the glory of his divinity is diminished or obscured; and, for the same reason, he requires us to worship and adore him with truly pious zeal. The simple terms used obviously amount to this. For seeing we cannot have God without embracing everything which belongs to him, the prohibition against having strange gods means, that nothing which belongs to him is to be transferred to any other. The duties which we owe to God are innumerable, but they seem to admit of being not improperly reduced to four heads: Adoration, with its accessory spiritual submission of conscience, Trust, Invocation, Thanksgiving. By Adoration, I mean the veneration and worship which we render to him when we do homage to his majesty; and hence I make part of it to consist in bringing our consciences into subjection to his Law. Trust, is secure resting in him under a recognition of his perfections, when, ascribing to him all power, wisdom, justice, goodness, and truth, we consider ourselves happy in having been brought into intercourse with him. Invocation, may be defined the retaking of ourselves to his promised aid as the only resource in every case of need. Thanksgiving, is the gratitude which ascribes to him the praise of all our blessings. As the Lord does not allow these to be derived from any other quarter, so he demands that they shall be referred entirely to himself. It is not enough to refrain from other gods. We must, at the same time, devote ourselves wholly to him, not acting like certain impious despisers, who regard it as the shortest method, to hold all religious observance in derision. But here precedence must be given to true religion, which will direct our minds to the living God. When duly imbued with the knowledge of him, the whole aim of our lives will be to revere, fear, and worship his majesty, to enjoy a share in his blessings, to have recourse to him in every difficulty, to acknowledge, laud, and celebrate the magnificence of his works, to make him, as it were, the sole aim of all our actions. Next, we must beware of superstition, by which our minds are turned aside from the true God, and carried to and fro after a multiplicity of gods. Therefore, if we are contented with one God, let us call to mind what was formerly observed, that all fictitious gods are to be driven far away, and that the worship which he claims for himself is not to be mutilated. Not a particle of his glory is to be withheld: everything belonging to him must be reserved to him entire. The words, “before me,” go to increase the indignity, God being provoked to jealousy whenever we substitute our fictions in his stead; just as an unfaithful wife stings her husband’s heart more deeply when her adultery is committed openly before his eyes. Therefore, God having by his present power and grace declared that he had respect to the people whom he had chosen, now, in order to deter them from the wickedness of revolt, warns them that they cannot adopt strange gods without his being witness and spectator of the sacrilege. To the audacity of so doing is added the very great impiety of supposing that they can mock the eye of God with their evasions. Far from this the Lord proclaims that everything which we design, plan, or execute, lies open to his sight. Our conscience must, therefore, keep aloof from the most distant thought of revolt, if we would have our worship approved by the Lord. The glory of his Godhead must be maintained entire and incorrupt, not merely by external profession, but as under his eye, which penetrates the inmost recesses of his heart.

From Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin, 1559

Words that Sting – How to handle destructive criticism like Jesus


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Book Review

Words That Sting: How to handle destructive criticism like Jesus by John Stange. Amazon Digital Services, Inc., November, 2010.

According to the book description ” Stinging words. Insult. Crass commentary. At one point or another, each of us has had to deal with the harsh words of a critic. Throughout the course of His earthly ministry, Jesus faced the same thing. This book examines six specific ways Jesus handled the stinging words of His critics and offers us helpful suggestions that we can use when we face ours”. This short 100 page book uses personal stories from the life of the author to illustrate his six points. Along the way he also throws in a Bible verse or two.  According to the author, the six ways Jesus handled his critics which we can use are:

  1. Jesus did not let criticism stop Him from speaking the truth.
  2. Jesus did not let criticism deter Him from fulfilling the Father’s will.
  3. Jesus confronted criticism gracefully and thoughtfully.
  4. Jesus considered the source of His criticism.
  5. Jesus examined the motives of His critics.
  6. Jesus did the opposite of what His critics wished.

 My Rating: 2 Stars

  1. The Bad:

The biggest problem with the book is that everything the author wrote about how Jesus handled His critics could also have been written about Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Mohamad Ali. The words were safe and they were motivational but, at best, they were subjective and non-analytical in relation to the Biblical text. The booklet gave you a safe, friendly Gumby-like Jesus. A your-best-friend Jesus. The Jesus that is popular on the motivational speakers circuit but not the Jesus of Scriptures.

The other problem with the booklet is closely related to the first one. It was full of emotional appeals and neatly wrapped solutions. It appealed, in my opinion, to our ability to fix our problems and ended up being a ‘how-to’ book. I didn’t see the Gospel. I was not left with an awe for the God who cleansed the temple, who felt the agony of Roman nails driven into His flesh, or who hung naked on a cross and endured the mockery of those around him. There was no prayer, no fasting, no proclamation, and ultimately no healing. 

  1. The good:

I think most people will probably like this booklet. There is nothing in it that is going to offend anyone. The personal stories are not tear jerkers but they are uplifting and relatable. The author’s writing style is clear and he comes across as someone you would enjoy getting to know.

The booklet really does approach the level of being a good read if you are in the market for something quick and motivational. If, however, you are looking for a book with the word ‘eternity’ written on its spine, you can do better by reading something else.

My Rating System:

0 Stars — (Hereinafter referred to as a Billy Madison) This is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. This book is rambling, incoherent, and / or does not contain anything  that could be considered a rational thought. I am now dumber for having read it. I award it no points, and may God have mercy on the soul of anyone that reads it. (A misquote from Billy Madison)

1 Star – Better than a Billy Madison, not recommended though.

2 Star – Approaches the level of being a good book but, overall, you can do better by reading something else.

3 Stars — this is a good book and I recommend it.

4 Stars – Very good book and I highly recommend it.

5 Stars – Outstanding and, in my opinion, the book is a must-read.

The Ugly Face of Modern Martial Art



ImageThere are three stages of martial art training, Physical, Philosophical, and Application. Although millions of people train, most stay within the first stage.

The original Grandmasters were highly educated scholars and philosophers who understood all three stages. Since that time, politicians, businessmen, and even religious leaders slowly changed martial arts to suit their purpose. They emphasized the first stage, and promoted tournaments, trophies, and sports to make money and gain international recognition.

Since they did not understand all three levels, up to 80% of modern martial artists and Instructors have failed to develop the calm, kind attributes of their predecessors. All you need do is look at martial art magazines. You almost never see a calm, controlled, confident individual. The majority of the cover pictures are of men snarling with mean, ugly looks on their faces. The association of machismo with martial arts is based solely on first stage understanding. If these people ever moved through the second and third stages, they would understand how superficial was their present view of martial arts.

Martial art training was designed to help you find “yourself.” What is your potential? How can you use your body? How can you use your mind? How can you apply your training to improve your life? Without going through these three stages you never understand your full potential in life.

From ‘The Stages of Training‘ by Grandmaster Kim Soo.

Top Word for 2013 Isn’t


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The top word of the English language for 2013 isn’t even a word. It’s a number – “404”. Coming in at number 2 was the word “Fail”. Given that both words mean the same thing, it may be easy to conclude that the English speaking world is tending toward pessimism. I think it’s more likely though that this interesting convergence of the top two words for 2013 is probably indicative of the increasing centrality of the gadgets of technology in our culture.