The Winter of Life


Antonio Vivaldi was an Italian composer of the Baroque Period (1699-1750) who wrote over 500 concertos during his lifetime. Granted, some say he wrote one concerto 500 times but I digress (I also disagree). One morning this week as I was getting dressed I was listening to his most famous work, “The Four Seasons,” and I began to think about my life. The average male lifespan in the United States is 78.74 years as of 2015, and if that, in God’s providence, works out for me than I am officially in the “winter” of my life. I entered it when I turned fifty-nine.

The Bible speaks in general of the length of a man’s life in the old King James language as being “threescore and ten” years and “if by strength, fourscore” years. (Psalms 90) On my next birthday I will be sixty-four so the shadows are beginning to lengthen for me. So how should I face these wintry years?

First of all, I should be grateful to God for the years that I have already experienced. Every day is a gift from God that I didn’t earn and didn’t deserve; yet, He, in His grace, has chosen to bless me with almost sixty-four years of these “days of grace.” As I look back I see all the joy and love that I have experienced and I have much for which to be thankful.

Secondly, I need to live my life now to the fullest for the glory of God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us that “man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” and that is true whether I am in my thirty-third year or my sixty-third. Yes, “my back is a little stiff and there are some lines around my eyes” as Randy Stonehill sang, but I can still love, pray, worship, grow, serve, etc., maybe not at the same level as I once was able, but I can do what I can in the Lord’s strength.

Last of all, I need to look with joy toward the future. It is true that my body cannot do what it once did, and I sometimes have to struggle to remember a name, or a word, or a…what was I talking about? Anyway, I need to remember that God is in control, and that I can trust Him to guide me through the possible difficult days of what President John Adams would call my “dotage” just as He did the difficult days of my youth; and that He is also the one in charge of bringing me from this “present evil age” into the “age to come.



Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 10

Q. 10. How did God create man?

A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

Question 10 moves beyond creation in general and speaks specifically of God’s creation of man. Man is not an accident emerging out of some naturalistic cosmic soup after billions of years of cause and effect, but a direct creation of God. The catechism lists the characteristics of Mankind in his pre-Fall condition: (1) Mankind is made up of male and female, equal in worth, yet different and complementary to one another, (2) Mankind was made in God’s image and thus his knowledge was not deceitful, his righteousness was not as filthy rags, and his holiness was without blemish, and (3) Mankind was the pinnacle of creation with dominion over everything else.

The Scriptural assessment of man’s condition before sin entered the world is very succinct and direct, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14)

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 9

Q. 9. What is the work of creation?

A. The work of creation is God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

Question 8 has spoken of God fulfilling His purposes through the works of creation and providence, and Question 9 gives us a definition of the work of creation. In the 21st century there are theologians who do back flips trying to squeeze Genesis 1 and 2 into a paradigm whereby there is room for some form of evolutionary process. The Westminster divines saw no need to do so (granted, they lived 200 years before Charles Darwin took his little trip on the H. M. S. Beagle).

They speak of four characteristics which describe God’s work of creation: (1) He made all things of nothing. (2) He did it by simply “speaking” the heavens and earth into existence. (3) He did it in the space of six days. (4) Creation in its original form (before the fall of man) was “very good.”

On my ordination exam I was asked what view the Westminster Standards had of creation and I responded by quoting this catechism answer. I was informed by the chairman of the committee (a man I like and respect very much, by the way) that the PCA allowed for four different views of creation to which I responded, “That wasn’t the question that was asked.” I have no problem accepting the Biblical record in its most straightforward sense and would shout a hearty “Amen!” to the Standards’ particular view of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth.

“Lord, I thank You that You created everything “ex nihilo” and that You saw fit that I too might have life (physical and spiritual) and have it more abundantly.”

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 8

Q. 8. How does God execute his decrees?

A. God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

Question 7 of the catechism has stated that nothing can happen outside of the perfect will of God; as Isaiah 46:9-10says: “remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” Question 8 explains exactly how God works out his eternal purposes: “God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence.”

Questions 9-11 will explain more in detail what God’s works of creation and providence are.

“Lord, thank you that there are no such things as ‘accidents.’ Help us to rely on the truth that you are at work in everything that comes into our lives.”

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 7

Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?

A. The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

The heart of this question in my humble opinion is: “Is God really God?” If God is not sovereign over everything that happens, then He is really not God. As Dr. R. C. Sproul has said, “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.”

I have heard people say that God is sovereign over the big things, but not sovereign over the little things, but are not the “big” things made up of the “little” things? As the children rhyme states so well:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

While God is never the author of sin, even sin is under His control. As Joseph said to his brothers after they had sold him into slavery, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:19-20) And, of course, the ultimate example is found in Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost when he clearly states that men crucified Jesus with their evil hands but it was done within the predetermined plan of God, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23)

“Lord, thank You, that You ‘cause all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those called according to His purpose.’”

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 5 and 6

Q. 5. Are there more Gods than one?

A. There is but one only, the living and true God.

Q. 6. How many persons are there in the godhead?

A. There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

I believe these two questions should be looked at together since they present two very important aspects of “what man is to believe concerning God.” At the heart of the Biblical doctrine of God is the fact that He is one God. Deuteronomy 6:4 clearly states: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The Bible makes no effort to prove the existence of God; it simply begins with the assumption that He exists, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Moses drove this fact home to the children of Israel when he proclaimed, “know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” (Deuteronomy 4:39)

Although the oneness of God is proclaimed throughout Scripture we clearly see that the Father is called God, the Son is called God, and the Holy Spirit is called God. We are told to pray to “Our Father who art in heaven.” When John began his Gospel describing Jesus he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In Titus 2:13 Jesus is called “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

As for the Holy Spirit, in Acts 5:3-4 we read: “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’” In verse 3 it speaks of Ananias lying to the Holy Spirit and in verse 4, He is called God.

So, how can God be both one, and, yet, exist in three Persons? I can’t explain it, but it is the clear testimony of Scripture, and the Catechism states it well that “these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” As I have stated earlier, our God is an infinite God and is bigger than we can ever understand, but He is One in whom we can put our trust.

“Lord, we thank You that You have chosen to reveal Yourself to us, even though You are far too great for us to ever comprehend.”

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 3

Q. 3. What do the scriptures principally teach?

A. The scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

The Bible has several purposes as we are told in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work,” but the Catechism speaks of two primary ones.

First of all, it teaches us what we are “to believe about God.” It is important to remember that the Bible is not man’s ideas about God, but God’s self-revelation of Himself to man. These words are as the above Scripture says, “God-breathed.” If we desire to know what God is like we need to look no further than His written Word.

Secondly, it tells us of “what duty God requires of man.” In other words, it tells us of God’s Law. It tells how we are to live as God’s creation. God has given us a summary of this Law in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 6. This summary has historically been called The Ten Commandments. Jesus, then, gave us a further summary of The Ten Commandments in Matthew 22:37-40 when He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

“Lord, thank you for the fact that when we could not keep your Law, you sent your only begotten Son to keep it on our behalf. Thank you for the righteousness of Christ.”

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 2

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

A. The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Question #1 of the Catechism tells us of our purpose here on earth and in eternity: “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Question # 2 tells us where we are to look for direction in glorifying God and enjoying Him forever…we are to look to God’s Word, the Bible. We are not to trust in our feelings or our experiences, and we definitely get in trouble when we try to “follow our hearts,” but we are to look to His word which is a “lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path.” It is there where we discover what is right and wrong, what is sin and righteousness, and what pleases God and what brings His disfavor upon us. It is in God’s Word that we are told of His grace, and what it means to trust and rest in what God has done for us in Christ.

“Lord, in 2013, may we not be led by the world, the flesh, and the devil, but may your Word be the final authority in our lives as we seek to glorify You and enjoy You forever.”

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question #1: What is the chief end of man?

Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

What do Presbyterians believe?

I have often been asked by my Baptist friends (and others), “What do Presbyterians believe?” I sometimes respond by asking, “What do Baptists believe?” because I know that there are many diverse views across the broad spectrum of Baptist life. It is somewhat similar in the realm of Presbyterianism, since there are some Presbyterian denominations that have long since left the land of Biblical Orthodoxy. I am a member of the Presbyterian Church in America which claims:

The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America, which is subject to and subordinate to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the inerrant Word Of God, consists of its doctrinal standards set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith, together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Book of Church Order, comprising the Form of Government, the Rules of Discipline and the Directory for Worship; all as adopted by the Church.

Of these documents describing the beliefs of Biblical Presbyterians, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, being written to educate lay people and their children in matters of doctrine, is an excellent tool to teach Biblical truth simply and directly. Therefore, I thought that I would, over the course of 2013, attempt to regularly post the questions and answers of the Catechism so that interested readers can get an understanding of these doctrines that have changed so many lives down through the centuries. I hope this exercise will be both educational and encouraging for all who take the time to read this blog.