Friday, February 29, 2008

A New Inner Relish




Dane Ortlund, doctoral student at Wheaton College Graduate School, has a new book on Jonathan Edwards' insight into the powers of Christian experience. You can find out more, with reviews, here.

The power never appears except in . . .

"The miracle of the early Church was a partial fulfillment of Christ's expressed purpose about setting the earth on fire. . . . What we know is that it was the incendiary character of the early Christian fellowship which was amazing to the contemporary Romans and that it was amazing precisely because there was nothing in their experience that was remotely similar to it. Religion they had in vast quantities, but it was nothing like this. . . . The metaphor of the fire would be meaningless without the fellowship, because it has no significance for merely individual religion, as it has none for merely ceremonial religion. Though it is, of course, impossible to have a committed church with uncommitted members, the major power never appears except in a shared experience. . . . It is almost impossible to create a fire with one log, even if it is a sound one, while several poor logs may make an excellent fire if they stay together as they burn. The miracle of the early church was that of poor sticks making a grand conflagration."

Elton Trueblood, The Incendiary Fellowship, pages 107-108.

Hyper-individualistic Christianity, however intense and euphoric, does not catch fire. It is churches that spread the prophesied fire.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Well done, man!

And here's another awesome guy

Gotta love this guy too

Whoever he is (or was), I love this guy

I do not believe it, though I often hear it

"Much of the outlook of American churches today can be capsulated in the phrase 'liberty, equality, fraternity,' which James Fitzjames Stephen over a century ago called the Religion of Humanity: 'It is one of the commonest beliefs of the day that the human race collectively has before it splendid destinies of various kinds, and that the road to them is to be found in the removal of all restraints on human conduct, in the recognition of a substantial equality between all human creatures, and in fraternity or general love.' He added, 'I do not believe it.' Neither does anyone with eyes to see and even a trace of common sense. The Religion of Humanity is not Christianity or Judaism but tends to oust those religions or soften them to irrelevance."

Robert H. Bork, Slouching Toward Gomorrah, page 294.

"Is it you, you troubler of Israel?" 1 Kings 18:17

In 1744 the President and faculty of Harvard went on record against George Whitefield, stating,

"In regard to the danger which we apprehend the people and churches of this land are in on the account of Rev. Mr. George Whitefield we have tho’t ourselves oblig’d to bear our testimony, in this public manner, against him and his way of preaching, as tending very much to the detriment of religion and the entire destruction of the order of these churches of Christ, which our fathers have taken such care and pains to settle, as by the platform, according to which the discipline of the churches of New England is regulated: and we do therefore hereby declare, that we look upon his going about, in an itinerant way, especially as he hath much of an enthusiastic turn, utterly inconsistent with the peace and order . . . of these churches of Christ . . . ."

I thank Andre Seu for reproducing this extract: Link.

Settled church order, the discipline of the churches, peace and order. I'm all for it. Really for it. Don't want the opposites of it. But daring new delivery systems (itinerant preaching -- gasp!) and unembarrassed passion for Jesus (an enthusiastic turn) -- well, if I had to choose, give me the latter any day.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A whole committee of selves

"We are trying to be several selves at once, without all our selves being organized by a single, mastering Life within us. Each of us tends to be, not a single self, but a whole committee of selves. There is the civic self, the parental self, the financial self, the religious self, the society self, the professional self, the literary self. And each of our selves is in turn a rank individualist, not cooperative but shouting out his vote loudly for himself when the voting time comes. . . . We are not integrated. We are distraught. We feel honestly the pull of many obligations and try to fulfill them all. And we are unhappy, uneasy, strained, oppressed, and fearful we shall be shallow. For over the margins of life comes a whisper, a faint call, a premonition of richer living which we know we are passing by."

Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion, pages 114-115.

"An inexpressible mercy"



"God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:5

"The Comforter gives a sweet and plentiful evidence and persuasion of the love of God to us, such as the soul is taken, delighted, satiated withal. This is his work, and he doth it effectually. To give a poor sinful soul a comfortable persuasion, affecting it throughout, in all its faculties and affections, that God in Jesus Christ loves him, delights in him, is well pleased with him, hath thoughts of tenderness and kindness towards him; to give, I say, a soul an overflowing sense hereof, is an inexpressible mercy."

John Owen, Works, II:240.

When Grace dances

"If there when Grace dances, I should dance."

Edward Mendelson, editor, "Whitsunday in Kirchstetten," W. H. Auden: Collected Poems, page 745.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Now this . . .

The following has nothing to do with anything, except happy memories of my misspent 50s behind the wheel of an awesome Camaro Z-28:

No scar?

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot or side or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be
And pierced are the feet that follow Me
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who has nor wound nor scar?

Amy Carmichael, Toward Jerusalem, page 85.

Destroying historic Christianity from within?

"I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." 1 Corinthians 2:2

"So many Christians today identify themselves with some 'single issue' (a concept drawn from politics) other than the cross, other than the gospel. It is not that they deny the gospel. If pressed, they will emphatically endorse it. But their point of self-identification, the focus of their minds and hearts, what occupies their interest and energy, is something else: a style of worship, the abortion issue, home schooling, the gift of prophecy, pop sociology, a certain brand of counseling, or whatever. Of course, all of these issues have their own importance. Doubtless we need some Christians working on them full time. But even those who are so engaged must do so as an extension of the gospel, as an extension of the message of the cross. They must take special pains to avoid giving any impression that being really spiritual or really insightful or really wise turns on an appropriate response to their issue.

I have heard a Mennonite leader assess his own movement in this way. One generation of Mennonites cherished the gospel and believed that the entailment of the gospel lay in certain social and political commitments. The next generation assumed the gospel and emphasized the social and political commitments. The present generation identifies itself with the social and political commitments, while the gospel is variously confessed or disowned; it no longer lies at the heart of the belief system of some who call themselves Mennonites.

Whether or not this is a fair reading of the Mennonites, it is certainly a salutary warning for evangelicals at large. We are already at the stage where many evangelical leaders simply assume the message of the cross, but no longer lay much emphasis on it. Their focus is elsewhere. And a few, it seems to me, are in danger of distancing themselves from major components of the message of the cross, while still operating within the context of evangelicalism. It is at least possible that we are the generation of believers who will destroy much of historic Christianity from within -- not, in the first instance, by rancid unbelief, but by raising relatively peripheral questions to the place where, functionally, they displace what is central. And what shall the end of this drift be?"

D. A. Carson, The Cross & Christian Ministry, page 63.

The Bible and Literacy

"Literacy became virtually universal in Western civilization when and where it began to seem essential for people to be able to read the Bible. All the immeasurable practical benefits that came with mass literacy, its spectacular utility, awaited that unworldly stimulus. Clearly mere utility is not sufficient to sustain it at even functional levels, though the penalties of illiteracy are now very severe."

Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, page 9.

Previews of coming attractions: 5

Monday, February 25, 2008

Previews of coming attractions: 4

Previews of coming attractions: 3

Previews of coming attractions: 2

Previews of coming attractions: 1

Previews of coming attractions

"The kings of the earth will bring their glory into [the holy city], and its gates will never be shut by day, and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it." Revelation 21:24-27

I am grateful that the Mega-Blender of modernity will not mush into blurry loss the fascinating human cultures God has raised up. The gospel promises us that the glories of the various human cultures, purified and consecrated, will be brought into heaven as tribute to the One who really values us. The delights of human creativity we see, therefore, are previews of coming attractions in heaven. And we will have the time of our lives, for his glory.

The next posts might whet our appetites for heaven. At least, they will remind us of the all-surpassing goodness of our Savior King.

Opposite premises, opposite problems

"Altruism has always been one of biology's deep mysteries. Why should any animal, off on its own, specified and labeled by all sorts of signals as its individual self, choose to give up its life in aid of someone else? Nature, long viewed as a wild, chaotic battlefield swarmed across by more than ten million different species, comprising unnumbered billions of competing selves locked in endless combat, offers only one sure measure of success: survival."

Lewis Thomas, Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony, page 101.

For the evolutionist living in the combat zone described above, the question that demands an answer is, Where did love come from? For the Christian living in a universe radiant with the glory of the Lord, the question that demands an answer is, Where did selfishness come from?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The deep happiness of heaven

"Let us look at our lives in the light of this experience [in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10] and see whether we gladly glory in weakness, whether we take pleasure, as Paul did, in injuries, in necessities, in distresses. Yes, let us ask whether we have learnt to regard a reproof, just or unjust, a reproach from friend or enemy, an injury, or trouble, or difficulty into which others bring us, as above all an opportunity of proving how Jesus is all to us, how our own pleasure or honor are nothing, and how humiliation is in very truth what we take pleasure in. It is indeed blessed, the deep happiness of heaven, to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is lost and swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all."

Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, page 83.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The lunar eclipse: Psalm 148:3 in action

Nothing is more odd

"We are indeed an odd army, a motley crew, an unlikely fragrance whose weapon and strategy is to live out what it means to be forgiven through love. Nothing is more odd to a self-centered world than sacrificial love; nothing is more incomprehensible to the fallen heart than withholding revenge and offering the other cheek and carrying the burden of the abuser an extra mile."

Dan Allender, Bold Love, page 146.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Save your life! Move to Tennessee.

What are we teaching our children?

"What recreations and amusements children are permitted to enjoy is a very difficult matter for parents to decide, and needs guidance from God. It is a matter not only of where we allow our children to go but when. The real test of whether our pleasures are right or wrong is when they happen to clash with Church. What then do we do? I have little fear for any, young or old, whatever pleasures they may allow themselves, who, when a clash occurs, put Christ and his Church first. But it is a deeper question than pleasure. It is not merely Christ versus enjoyment, but Christ versus self. When we have some special call upon our time which concerns our personal advantage, what is it that suffers? Is it our work or our leisure evenings, or our attendance at God's house? There are only two real excuses for non-attendance at God's house: (1) our own indisposition, (2) the needs of others. There is no other that God will accept."

Rev. William Still, in a letter to his congregation, April 1948, quoted in Letters of William Still, page 27.

I rarely hear pastors today calling their people to unswerving commitment to their church. Maybe we pastors are shy about this for understandable reasons. But let's be careful. Our people will give themselves to something. Are the alternatives liberating and Christ-exalting and non-oppressive and bright with eternal glory? When was the last time we spent an evening vegging out in front of the TV and came to the end and said, "Man alive, that was awesome! I can't wait to do that again"? And when was the last time we spent an evening in prayer with our church family and came to the end and said, "Criminey, what a waste of time. And to think I could have stayed home and watched Wheel of Fortune"? My brother pastors, are we leading our people to the fullness their souls long for?

And what kind of foundations are we laying for the next generation? In our present patterns of Christ-intensity and church-laxity (a kind of religion we see nowhere in the New Testament), what are we teaching our children? When was the last time, dads, that we said to our family with tender good cheer, "I know we're a little tired this evening. But we do wonderful things even when we're tired. Jesus will give us the strength. So here we go, ya'll. See you in the car in five minutes"? Or are we, in effect, instructing our children to live self-centered lives that say to Jesus "You died for your church, but we will not live for her"?

It isn't a new problem, but it is clearly addressed. "I have no one like [Timothy], who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 2:20-21). Notice the logic embedded there: "your welfare" = "the interests of Jesus Christ." And "[Epaphroditus] nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me" (Philippians 2:30). "The work of Christ" = "your service to me."

If we honor the Groom, we'll love the Bride. The two go together in the redemptive ways of God.

Timothy Dwight (1752-1817), a leader in the Second Great Awakening, taught his generation to sing:

I love thy Church, O God,
Her walls before Thee stand
Dear as the apple of Thine eye
And graven on Thy hand.

For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my cares and toils be given
'Til toils and cares shall end.

Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise.

What are we teaching our generation? And tomorrow's?

The glory of Christ extinguished

"You, in the first place, touch upon justification by faith, that first and keenest subject of controversy between us. Is this a knotty and useless question? Wherever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown."

John Calvin, quoted in John C. Olin, editor, A Reformation Debate, page 66.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bishop or priest?

The book Rules For Radicals (1971) by the radical leftist Saul Alinsky, recommended to me by one of the most effective evangelist/organizers I've ever met, includes this aside:

"Each year for a number of years, the activists in the graduating class from a major Catholic seminary near Chicago would visit me for a day just before their ordination, with questions about values, revolutionary tactics, and such. Once, at the end of such a day, one of the seminarians said, 'Mr. Alinsky, before we came here we met and agreed that there was one question we particularly wanted to put to you. We're going to be ordained, and then we'll be assigned to different parishes, as assistants to -- frankly -- stuffy, reactionary, old pastors. They will disapprove of a lot of what you and we believe in, and we will be put into a killing routine. Our question is: how do we keep our faith in the true Christian values, everything we hope to do to change the system?' That was easy. I answered, 'When you go out that door, just make your own personal decision about whether you want to be a bishop or a priest, and everything else will follow.'"

Saul Alinsky, Rules For Radicals, page 13.

I found myself believing




"During this long stay in the hospital, I suffered a mild depression, and often when Caroline visited me I would, unaccountably, burst into tears. Father Howell, the Rector of Saint Chrysostom's Church, also visited me, and once when at my bedside he prayed for my recovery, I choked up and wept. The only prayer that I knew word for word was the Pater Noster. On that day and in the days after it, I found myself repeating the Lord's Prayer, again and again, and meaning every word of it. Quite suddenly, when I was awake one night, a light dawned on me, and I realized what had happened without my recognizing it clearly when first it happened. I had been seriously praying to God.

Here after many years of affirming God's existence [at a philosophical level] and trying to give adequate reasons for that affirmation, I found myself believing in God and praying to him. . . . With no audible voice accessible to me, I was saying voicelessly to myself, 'Dear God, yes, I do believe, not just in the God my reason so stoutly affirms, but the God to whom Father Howell is now praying, and on whose grace and love I now joyfully rely.'"

Mortimer J. Adler, A Second Look in the Rearview Mirror, pages 276-277.

The supply in Christ

"The duties that are required of us are not proportioned to the strength residing in us but to the supply laid up for us in Christ."

John Owen, Works, IX:109.

Never better

"Be not afraid at His sweet, lovely and desirable cross, for although I have not been able because of my wounds to lift up or lay down my head but as I was helped, yet I was never in better case all my life. . . . He has so wonderfully shined on me with the sense of His redeeming, strengthening, assisting, supporting, through-bearing, pardoning and reconciling love, grace and mercy that my soul doth long to be freed of bodily infirmities and earthly organs, so that I may flee to His Royal Palace, even the Heavenly Habitation of my God, where I am sure of a crown put on my head and a palm put in my hand and a new song in my mouth, even the song of Moses and of the Lamb, so that I may bless, praise, magnify and extol Him for what He hath done to me and for me. . . . Farewell, my children, study holiness in all your ways, and praise the Lord for what He hath done for me, and tell all my Christian friends to praise Him on my account. Farewell, sweet Bible, and wanderings and contendings for truth. Welcome, death. Welcome, the City of my God where I shall see Him and be enabled to serve Him eternally with full freedom. Welcome, blessed company, the angels and spirits of just men made perfect. But above all, welcome, welcome, welcome, our glorious and alone God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost; into Thy hands I commit my spirit, for Thou art worthy. Amen."

Last and dying testimony of John Nisbet (1627-1685), quoted in Jock Purves, Fair Sunshine: Character Studies of the Scottish Covenanters, pages 92-93.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Only the wounded, the broken-hearted

"In Love's service, only the wounded soldiers can serve."

Thornton Wilder, quoted in James S. Stewart, The Wind of the Spirit, page 155.

"All gracious affections that are a sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy, are broken-hearted affections."

Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections, Part III, Section 6.

"Kill our children, burn our houses, only spare us _____________"

Hmmm. How to fill in that blank?

"Having heard much of Mr. Rogers of Dedham, [Dr. Thomas Goodwin] took a journey . . . to hear him preach on his lecture day. . . . Mr. Rogers was . . . on the subject of . . . the Scriptures. And in that sermon he falls into an expostulation with the people about their neglect of the Bible; . . . he personates God to the people, telling them, "Well, I have trusted you so long with my Bible; you have slighted it, it lies in such and such houses all covered with dust and cobwebs; you care not to listen to it. Do you use my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer." And he takes up the Bible from his cushion, and seemed as if he were going away with it and carrying it from them; but immediately turns again and personates the people to God, falls down on his knees, cries and pleads most earnestly, "Lord, whatever thou dost to us, take not thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses, destroy our goods; only spare us thy Bible, only take not away thy Bible." And then he personates God again to the people: "Say you so? Well, I will try you a while longer; and here is my Bible for you. I will see how you will use it, whether you will love it more . . . observe it more . . . practice it more, and live more according to it." By these actions . . . he put all the congregation into so strange a posture that . . . the place was a mere Bochim [Weeping], the people generally . . . deluged with their own tears; and he told me that he himself, when he got out . . . was fain to hang a quarter of an hour upon the neck of his horse weeping before he had power to mount."

Quoted in J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, pages 97-98.

Theological humility, spiritual hunger

"Now, if anyone should ask me now this [the believer's tasting of the risen Christ at the Lord's Table] takes place, I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare. And, to speak more plainly, I rather experience than understand it."

Calvin, Institutes, 4.17.32.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The power of Romans 8

"Robert Bruce, the disciple of John Knox and Andrew Melville, died at Kinnaird on July 27th, 1631. He had come to breakfast and his younger daughter sat by his side. As he mused in silence, suddenly he cried, 'Hold, daughter, hold; my Master calleth me.' He asked that the Bible should be brought, but his sight failed him and he could not read. 'Cast me up the eighth of Romans,' cried he, and he repeated much of the latter portion of this Scripture till he came to the last two verses: 'I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' 'Set my finger on these words,' said the blind, dying man; 'God be with you, my children. I have breakfasted with you, and shall sup with my Lord Jesus this night. I die believing these words.'"

Marcus L. Loane, The Hope of Glory, page 160.

"Now take it all to hell!"

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us." Galatians 3:13

Martin Luther's commentary on this verse suggests God the Father, out of love for sinners, laying upon his crucified Son the iniquity of them all with an assertion like this: "You be Peter the denier, you be Paul the persecutor, you be David the adulterer, you be Ray all-of-the-above. I make their guilt your guilt. Now take it all to hell!" And Christ did. The cross took him deep into the hell of God's curse. Then on the third day he rose again -- but not with our guilt. The cross had taken it far away, and it isn't coming back.

See Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, page 272.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Chivalry




"What is meant by chivalry? . . . It was the code of conduct evolved for the knights of the Middle Ages, that is to say for an elite and increasingly hereditary class of warriors; it accepted fighting as a necessary and indeed glorious activity, but set out to soften its potential barbarity by putting it into the hands of men committed to high standards of behavior. . . . The ideal knight was brave, loyal, true to his word, courteous, generous and merciful. He defended the Church and the wrongfully oppressed but respected and honored his enemies in war, as long as they obeyed the same code as he did. Failure to keep to accepted standards meant dishonor, to which death was preferable."

Mark Girouard, The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman, page 16.

Yes, yes, I know. We don't live in nineteenth-century England but in twenty-first century urban, secular, postmodern Wherever. But, if we are Christians, we will resist the corrosive, everything-debunking cynicism of our times. Isn't the glory of our gracious Warrior enough to put some idealism back into us? Isn't Christ glorious enough to set us apart for chivalry and knighthood and honor and bravery and selflessness and dignity and manhood? Let's be careful not to fall short of our high calling just by laughing off greatness in an unthinking echo of the despair of our times.

Rise up, O men of God!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Get out!"

The tragic emptiness of a gospel-deficient hospital chaplain is exposed by a guilty man terrified of death. May God make us clear about Christ to the dying people around us.

Thanks to Justin Taylor for drawing my attention to this.

Freedom

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

First of all, if you don't like country music, you are forgiven. But you must perform deeds in keeping with repentance (Acts 26:20) and download "Freedom," sung by Kenny Chesney and written by the brilliant Tom Douglas:

Link

Now that that's taken care of, here's a question to provoke us all: Do the words "set free" (Romans 8:2) describe your life, my life? In his book Leading Out Of Who You Are, pages 120-121, Simon Walker tells us that, when he asks leaders to list things about themselves they would change if they had the freedom of spirit to do so, he says that people feel exhilarated just making a list of such wonderful things that could become theirs. "It is almost as if they dare not believe it is true."

All the dreary thoughts and patterns and oldness and disappointment and failure and what's-the-use despair that holds us back -- Christ has set us free from it by uniting us with his all-sufficient righteousness. But this freedom must not remain a "positional truth" only. That is the force of Galatians 5:1. It is for the exercise of freedom, the enjoyment of freedom, the spreading of our wings and soaring, that Christ freed us from the endless scrutiny and curse of the law.

Let's give ourselves permission to change and grow and stretch and risk and try new things and fail and laugh and try again and find a way and then rejoice in that. Today you can make the devil break out in a rash. Assert your freedom in Christ.

And listen to more country music.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

2 Timothy 2:15

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Do your best -- An all-out effort measured by who you are, not by who you aren't.

to present yourself -- He may put you before masses or before a few. But you are available for whatever role he thinks is most strategic for the redemption of the world in your generation. You are "ready for every good work" (verse 21).

to God -- Not to people, primarily, but to God, who knows quality work when he sees it.

as one approved -- By God's standards, which will wonderfully satisfy your own conscience.

a worker -- Not a big talker, a dreamer, a theorist, but a lover of solid accomplishment.

who has no need to be ashamed -- The closer his work is inspected, the better it gets. Nothing hidden, except more quality.

rightly handling the word of truth -- Do not swerve from the truth (verse 18) for quarrels about words (verse 14) or irreverent babble (verse 16). Stay centered on the gospel and tell it to them straight: industrial-strength grace pouring out on sinners through the finished work of Christ on the cross.

I thank C. J. Mahaney for inspiring me to think more closely about this verse:

Link

Friday, February 15, 2008

Recent ruminations

1. I want to live in new freedom, with happy disregard for old restrictions which were not of God and never breathed life into me anyway. Galatians 5:1

2. I believe that life's deepest relationship is trust, which is why God asks for it. Trusting God is the platform on which everything desirable can and will happen. Jeremiah 17:5-8

3. When I see things truly, I see life as a gift, God continually pouring out his bounty into my open hands, not a bargain, God occasionally forking over my hard earned pay. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

4. I prefer to focus on the Glory in Christian people rather than the weakness of the jars that contain the Glory. The ordinariness of our clay is obvious; the presence of the Glory is amazing. 2 Corinthians 4:7

5. I believe there is more grace in Christ than there is sin in me. Someone put it this bluntly. I can't remember who. Romans 5:20

6. The longer I live the more I doubt that we understand the gospel as clearly as we think we do. Our problems are not fundamentally personal (If only we were nicer people, it would all get better). Our problems are rooted in bad theology. We live in a mental universe of crime and punishment where everything makes sense and blaming is the obvious thing to do, not the real universe of grace and glory where Christ so forgives us as to free us from our compulsive finger-pointing. If our theology brought into clearer focus the grace of Christ, with its emotional and social implications, it would transform our relationships with one another. Galatians 2:11-21

A victory Christ can give us today



William Whiting Borden (1887-1913), heir to the Borden Dairy fortune, already a millionaire in high school, graduate of Yale, gave himself wholeheartedly to Christ with this life motto: "No reserves, no retreats, no regrets." He died a missionary to Muslims in Egypt.

Dr. Samuel Zwemer, who knew Borden well, said this at the funeral: "He won the victory over his environment. By some the victory has to be won over poverty; by others over heredity or over shame and temptation; but Borden won the victory over an environment of wealth. He felt that life consisted not in 'the abundance of things a man possesses' but in the abundance of things that possess the man."

Quoted in Mrs. Howard Taylor, Borden of Yale '09, pages 279-280.

O Christ, give us privileged Western Christians the victory over our environment of wealth!

The dread soul-crisis was past

"The atheistic taunts of his cruel master sunk his before-dejected soul to the lowest ebb; and though the hand of faith still held to the eternal rock, it was a numb, despairing grasp. Tom sat, like one stunned, at the fire. Suddenly everything around him seemed to fade, and a vision rose before him of one crowned with thorns, buffeted and bleeding. Tom gazed in awe and wonder at the majestic patience of the face; the deep, pathetic eyes thrilled him to his inmost heart; his soul awoke as, with floods of emotion, he stretched out his hands and fell upon his knees -- when, gradually, the vision changed; the sharp thorns became rays of glory; and in splendor inconceivable he saw that same face bending compassionately towards him, and a voice said, 'He that overcometh shall sit down with me on my throne, even as I also overcome and am set down with my Father on his throne.'

How long Tom lay there, he knew not. When he came to himself, the fire was gone out, his clothes were wet with the chill and drenching dews; but the dread soul-crisis was past, and in the joy that filled him he no longer felt hunger, cold, degradation, disappointment, wretchedness. From his deepest soul, he that hour loosed and parted from every hope in life that now is, and offered his own will an unquestioning sacrifice to the Infinite."

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, or, Life Among The Lowly, pages 554-555.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The outgushing of that ocean

"Nor must we overlook the grand source of encouragement to a returning soul -- that which springs from the cross of Christ. But for a crucified Savior, there could be no possible return to God; in no other way could he consistently with the holiness and rectitude of the divine government, with what he owes to himself as a just and holy God, receive a poor wandering, returning sinner. Mere repentance and humiliation for and confession of sin could entitle the soul to no act of pardon. The obedience and death of the Lord Jesus laid the foundation and opened the way for the exercise of this great and sovereign act of grace.

The cross of Jesus displays the most awful exhibition of God's hatred of sin and at the same time the most august manifestation of his readiness to pardon it. Pardon, full and free, is written out in every drop of blood that is seen, is proclaimed in every groan that is heard, and shines in the very prodigy of mercy that closes the solemn scene upon the cross. O blessed door of return, open and never shut, to the wanderer from God! How glorious, how free, how accessible! Here the sinful, the vile, the guilty, the unworthy, the poor, the penniless, may come. Here too the weary spirit may bring its burden, the broken spirit its sorrow, the guilty spirit its sin, the backsliding spirit its wandering. All are welcome here.

The death of Jesus was the opening and the emptying of the full heart of God; it was the outgushing of that ocean of infinite mercy that heaved and panted and longed for an outlet; it was God showing how he could love a poor, guilty sinner. What more could he have done than this? What stronger proof, what richer gift, what costlier boon, could he have given in attestation of that love?

Now it is the simple belief of this that brings the tide of joy down into the soul. It is faith's view of this that dissolves the adamant, rends asunder the flinty rock, smites down the pyramid of self-righteousness, lays the rebellious will in the dust, and enfolds the repenting, believing soul in the very arms of free, rich and sovereign love. Here too the believer is led to trace the sin of his backsliding in its darkest lines and to mourn over it with his bitterest tears,

'Then beneath the cross adoring,
sin doth like itself appear,
when, the wounds of Christ exploring,
I can read my pardon there.'

If the Lord has restored thy soul, dear reader, remember why he has done it -- to make thee hate thy sins. He hates them, and he will make thee to hate them too. And this he does by pardoning them, by sprinkling the atoning blood upon the conscience, and by restoring unto you the joys of his salvation. And never is sin so sincerely hated, never is it so deeply deplored, so bitterly mourned over, and so utterly forsaken, as when he speaks to the heart and says, 'Thy sins are forgiven thee, go in peace.'"

Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, pages 183-184.

Tears, a sign of life

"Walking along a narrow, dimly lit road late one night, a rather stern-faced gentleman was struck by a passing car and sent hurtling through space. In the morning he was found, stiff and cold. His heartbeat was undetectable, due to a strange, Hitchcock-like affliction triggered by the impact; so he was taken to the morgue and laid out on a slab. From all outward appearances he was dead, and had been for some time. He would have been removed to a cemetery and with all proper respect buried alive, save for one small detail that went unnoticed by everyone but a morgue attendant. The detail -- a tear that occasionally ran down the cheek as if in a rush to get out of sight.

To present-day critics, the church is like that pedestrian lying beside the dimly lit road late at night. They say the church is dead or dying . . . . What they fail to see is that one small detail, the tear."

Paul G. Johnson, Buried Alive, page 9.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On whose terms?

"'Yes, but how long could I endure such a life?' the lady continued passionately, almost in a frenzy. 'That's the most important question. That's the most painful of all my questions. I shut my eyes and keep asking myself: how long could I endure that way of life? If the patient whose sores you were tending should fail to respond with immediate gratitude, were on the contrary to start tormenting you with his caprices, neither valuing nor acknowledging your humanitarian services, start shouting at you, making rude demands, even complaining to the authorities (as often happens with the very sick) -- what then? Would you continue to love, or not? And -- imagine, to my disgust, I already know the answer: if there were anything that could immediately dampen my 'active' love for humanity, it would be ingratitude. In other words, I work for payment, I demand instant payment, that is, to be praised and paid with love for my love. I am incapable of loving on any other terms!'"

Ignat Avsey, translator, Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Karamazov Brothers, page 71.

"I am eager . . . ." Romans 1:15

Paul, a compelling man of the gospel

"St. Paul appealed to the feelings of others by projecting his own. He did this both in words and actions. In his words he expressed himself to suit the occasion either fervently, vividly, directly, soberly, gently, sympathetically, intimately, affectionately, ardently, joyously, reverently, enthusiastically or concernedly, and once censoriously (Acts 23:3). His words were accompanied at times by smiles or tears, strength or weakness, prayer or song, courage or self-control, loud cries or quiet conversations, urgent restraints or welcoming gestures, impassioned eloquence or reasoned persuasion.

The feelings aroused by St. Paul in others were various and led to a variety of actions. Some of these feelings are very complex, others less so: love, joy, sympathy, thankfulness, contentment, longing, comfort, trust, wonder, reverence, confidence, generosity, hopefulness, cheer. On certain occasions he purposefully aroused shame, indignation, fear, surprise, dissension, acquiescence. He sought to secure an absence of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, railing and malice. He received some responses from the feelings of others which he did not seek and which were undesirable: envy, jealousy, hate, mocking."

Howard Tillman Kuist, The Pedagogy of St. Paul, pages 112-113.

Food in hunger

"There is as much in our Lord's pantry as will satisfy all his bairns [children], and as much wine in his cellar as will quench all their thirst. Hunger on, for there is food in hunger for Christ. Go never from him, but fash [annoy] him (who is yet pleased with the importunity of hungry souls) with a dishful of hungry desires, 'til he fill you."

Samuel Rutherford, The Loveliness of Christ, pages 19-20.

We had found the meaning of fellowship

"Over ten years ago, when a friend challenged me to put into practice the Christian faith I professed, the first step that came clearly to my mind was to unburden myself completely to my wife of many thoughts, memories, fears and failures, which I had never mentioned to her. Such a step seemed impossible to me. I felt I would lose her confidence. We had been very close, and loved each other deeply. We used to discuss everything, . . . . But it is one thing to speak on the level of ideas, and it is an altogether different thing to speak of one's own soul. When I took this step, my wife answered me, 'Now I can be of some help to you!' And she opened up to me in return. We had found the meaning of fellowship."

Paul Tournier, Escape From Loneliness, page 46.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Amusement in providence



Malcolm Muggeridge: There was an incident which, trivial in itself, played quite a part in my decision not to become a Catholic. . . . It was when I was rector at Edinburgh University, and I ran into a row there which you might have heard of when I was asked, as rector, by the students --

William F. Buckley, Jr.: To supply contraceptives.

MM: That's right -- to recommend that the students should be given, unquestioningly, free supplies of contraceptives by the university medical unit. I refused to do this and there was a hullabaloo. And I thought to myself, "Well, there are a thousand Catholics in the university, and they'll be on my side anyway. I've got a thousand men on my side." What happened was that the first big blast against me was a letter in The Scotsman by the Roman Catholic chaplain at the university, saying what a monstrous thing this was that I had done.

WFB: Excuse me, but why was it monstrous?

MM: It was monstrous, according to him, because it accused the students of wanting to be promiscuous. But in a letter I wrote in answer to it, I said I wondered what the Reverend Father thought they wanted the contraceptives for. Was it to save up for their wedding day? He offered no answer to that. But then I thought that somebody would give him a very big reprimand. No such thing happened. Then I thought he'd almost certainly become a bishop. But that didn't happen either. What has happened is the perfect payoff of the whole episode: He's now rector of Edinburgh University.

William F. Buckley, Jr., On The Firing Line, pages 458-460.

Nearly Valentine's Day

Come, let me take thee to my breast,
And pledge we ne'er shall sunder;
And I shall spurn as vilest dust
The warld's wealth and grandeur;
And do I hear my Jeanie own
That equal transports move her?
I ask for dearest life alone
That I may live to love her.

Thus in my arms, wi' all thy charms,
I clasp my countless treasure;
I'll seek nae mair o' heaven to share
Than sic a moment's pleasure;
And by thy een, sae bonnie blue,
I swear I'm thine forever!
And on thy lips I seal my vow,
And break it shall I never.

Robert Burns, 1759-1796

You must forget

"It is not sufficient for any man to run well for a season only. Whatever your attainments may be, and whatever you may have done or suffered in the service of your God, you must forget the things that are behind, till you have actually fulfilled your course and obtained the crown."

Charles Simeon, quoted in Handley C. G. Moule, Charles Simeon, page 166.

Nobody builds equity serving God. It's all of grace. So yesterday doesn't matter any more. Today is a new day to live for Him.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Beatitudes of the present age

Congratulations to the entitled, for they grab what they want.
Congratulations to the carefree, for they shall be comfortable.
Congratulations to the pushy, for they shall win.
Congratulations to the greedy, for they shall climb the food chain.
Congratulations to the vengeful, for they shall be feared.
Congratulations to those who don't get caught, for they shall look good.
Congratulations to the argumentative, for they shall get in the last word.
Congratulations to the popular, for this world lies at their feet.

The gospel of Jesus is more than a few handy tips for improving our lives this week. It is a whole way of life grounded in a whole view of history, with a glorious future renewing the creation through his death and resurrection. His promises are worth living for, no matter what the cost now. But he is not the only one making us promises. The world has its version of events, its eschatology, its promises of reward. We face a decision.

But have you ever met one person who bought into this world's Beatitudes and came to the end a satisfied, radiant, optimistic, wise, attractive person? May God save us from this world-promising-but-world-defrauding world through his Christ-exalting, world-redeeming gospel.

An essential part of our eternal happiness, beauty, energy

"Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body -- which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy."

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, page 77.

May God be glorified through his gift of our bodies -- which he certainly will be.

Free to be fully human

". . . in the area of our relationship with God, true spirituality is seen in lives which by grace are free to be fully human rather than in trying to live on some higher spiritual plane or in some grey negative way."

From the website of L'Abri Fellowship:

http://www.labri.org/history.html

How can we ever say No to such a gracious Creator and Redeemer? Let's love him heartily and enjoy his goodness at all levels of his grace outpoured.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Valentine's Day

"Horowitz has analyzed this phenomenon [the 'gender war'] in a short essay, 'V-Day, 2001' . . ., that discusses demonstrations sponsored by Jane Fonda in 2001. It was an effort by feminists across the country to transform Valentine's Day, a millennia-old celebration of romance and friendship, into 'Violence Against Women Day,' a mass indictment of men. Horowitz shows that, like all radical faiths, the V-Day religion is rooted in resentment and hate. 'Those who are saved are saved only because others are damned.' Adding race, gender and sexual orientation to 'the struggle,' kitsch marxism is able to identify even more social 'enemies' and to ascribe more inequalities to the society under attack."

Jamie Glazov, in the Introduction to David Horowitz, Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey, page xxxi.

All false gospels shame, oppress, destroy and damn. Only the lovely gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ creates -- among other very human wonders -- true romance. Men are saved as men. Women are saved as women. They find themselves anew. They fall in love with one another. They marry in blazing passion and total commitment. They live it out day by day, imperfectly but wonderfully. They glorify the Lover of their souls.

Hooray for romance, a sacred gift of Christ!

Christianity or morality?

"Christianity is confused with morality. It has been very common in this country in all ranks of society. It is what is sometimes called 'public school religion,' which was started by Dr Thomas Arnold of Rugby. His idea of Christianity was that 'it is morality touched with emotion,' nothing more! The Christian is the perfect little gentleman, the man who does not do certain things!

But that is not Christianity; that is not the kingdom of God. You can do that yourself. Yet that is what Dr Arnold taught; it is nothing but ethics and morality, a negative, cold, miserable religion, something that was always prohibiting everything and never giving anything at all.

Now it is a part of the preaching of the gospel to say things like that. I do not defend the Victorians; I think they did great harm to the kingdom of God. They really did bring it down, most of them, to the level of morality and respectability and they made their Sunday a cheerless joyless day. . . .

So, according to them, Christianity is that which makes men and women miserable, which makes them feel that they are always failures. They try to be better, and they cannot succeed, but they must go on trying because it is the only way to get into the kingdom of God, to get into heaven. It is by your life and your own activities that you do it; so you go on trying and trying and, in the words of Milton, you 'scorn delights and live laborious days,' ever trying but never succeeding."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Kingdom of God, pages 73-74.

"Weary, working, burdened one, wherefore toil you so?
Cease your doing; all was done long, long ago.

'Til to Jesus' work you cling by a simple faith,
'doing' is a deadly thing, 'doing' ends in death.

Cast your deadly 'doing' down, down at Jesus' feet;
stand in him, in him alone, gloriously complete."

James Proctor, "It is finished"

"Better to break his neck"

"The preacher must show by his life that he also is obedient to the Word he preaches; his life must ratify his doctrine. In fact, the first obedience must come from himself, for he has no right to command the people anything which he is, at the least, not trying to obey himself. Calvin shows by his continual use of the pronoun 'we' in his sermons that his words are addressed as much to himself as to the congregation. Woe to the preacher if he does not set an example of holy obedience and reverence towards the Word of God that he proclaims. 'It were better,' Calvin declares passionately, 'for him to break his neck going up into the pulpit, if he does not take pains to be the first to follow God.'"

T. H. L. Parker, The Oracles of God: An Introduction to the Preaching of John Calvin, pages 59-60.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Isn't it wonderful?



Isn't it wonderful how God brings forth children? And isn't it wonderful how our nation protects these wee ones from harm?

Your youth shall be renewed

"You are surprised that the world is losing its grip, that the world is grown old? Think of a man: he is born, he grows up, he becomes old. Old age has its many complaints: coughing, shaking, failing eyesight, anxious, terribly tired. A man grows old; he is full of complaints. The world is old; it is full of pressing tribulations. . . . Do not hold on to the old man, the world; do not refuse to regain your youth in Christ, who says to you, 'The world is passing away, the world is losing its grip, the world is short of breath. Do not fear, your youth shall be renewed as an eagle.'"

Augustine, quoted in Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, pages 297-298.

One of the best things that could happen

". . . one of the best things that could happen to many believers would be for them to be led to give away, all at one time, a substantial part of their savings. That is, they should give a substantial part of their capital. Why? Because there is something about giving away a sizable percentage of one's money -- and, of course, the amount would vary entirely from one individual to another -- that is spiritually invigorating. And there is seldom a case in which a large gift does not throw the Christian back on the Lord and increase the feeling that He is all wonderful and that He is more than able to care for the one who trusts Him. I have seen this happen in many instances. And I have never known a true Christian to be sorry for even the most sacrificial giving afterward."

James Montgomery Boice, Philippians: An Expositional Commentary, page 290.

The passion of Christ and his Father

"'The passion of Christ and his Father is to reach a lost world. For a pastor to embrace this same passion is to make him appear suspect in the best of evangelical churches.'

When I share this conviction around the country at pastors' conferences, I find unanimous agreement and identification with this statement. After all, it is 'shallow teaching' that reaches the lost, while mature believers need the 'deeper truths' that they hire pastors to deliver. And who's for being shallow instead of deep?

'It's unacceptable to leave the ninety-nine to look for the lost. Church members are very forbearing and forgiving regarding the neglect of the lost; while extremely impatient and unforgiving regarding the neglect of the righteous.'

Think of a continuum on which the left end represents an extremely effective 'home' function of a church, and the right end represents an extremely effective 'mission' function. After journaling these thoughts, I decided to evaluate the church I pastor in light of this continuum. Believing a healthy and balanced church would find its X placed in the center, I had to honestly admit that our X was placed well left of center -- being far more effective as a home to God's people than as a mission to the unchurched.

Through the years, we have had numerous people leave our church feeling that their needs as believers had not been met, and frankly, many of them had legitimate complaints. Yet what grieves me the most is that never during those years has anyone so much as complained about our ineffectiveness as a mission. Many have left for personal reasons; none have departed because we failed to care for the lost. When have you ever lost a member because your church was failing to effectively reach the lost?"

Randy Pope, The Prevailing Church, pages 32-33.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Now I ask for God"

"For the first two or three years after my conversion, I used to pray for specific things. Now I ask for God. Supposing there is a tree full of fruits, you will have to go and buy or beg the fruits from the owner of the tree. Every day you would have to go for one or two fruits. But if you can make the tree your own property, then all the fruits will be your own. In the same way, if God is your own, then all things in heaven and on earth will be your own, because he is your Father and is everything to you . . . . So ask not for gifts, but for the Giver of gifts; not for life, but for the Giver of life -- then life and the things needed for life will be added unto you."

Sadhu Sundar Singh, quoted in B. H. Streeter and A. J. Appasamy, The Message of Sadhu Sundar Singh, page 74.

"The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things, he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may lose he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately, forever."

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, page 20.

"'God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.' This qualification must render the person that has it excellent and happy indeed, and doubtless is the highest dignity and blessedness of any creature. This is the peculiar gift of God, which he bestows only on his special favorites. As to silver, gold and diamonds, earthly crowns and kingdoms, he often throws them out to those whom he esteems as dogs and swine."

Jonathan Edwards, Works, II:50.

Leave therefore the streams

"God is goodness itself, in whom all goodness is involved. If therefore we love other things for the goodness which we see in them, why do we not love God, in whom is all goodness? All other things are but sparks of that fire, and drops of that sea. Seest thou any good in the creature; remember there is much more in the Creator. Leave therefore the streams, and go to the well-head of comfort."

Richard Sibbes, Works, V:282.

Always an adventure

"Law can be mastered. A man may acquire merit by conforming to it. He knows the precise requirements that are demanded of him. But grace is always an adventure. No man can say where grace will lead him. Grace means an ever deepening experience of the presence and the blessing of God."

Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, page 111.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Prepared to die for one another

"It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. 'Only look,' they say, 'look how they love one another' (they themselves being given over to mutual hatred). 'Look how they are prepared to die for one another' (they themselves being readier to kill each other)."

Tertullian, quoted in Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, page 308, footnote 55.

"Play it again, Sam"

Once again, Sam Storms has sent out a profound, soul-freeing message via email. This morning's is entitled "The Treasure, quite simply, is Christ." It is part of a series on 2 Corinthians.

Even for Paul, gospel ministry could be like river-rafting -- a wild ride up and down, including "honor and dishonor, slander and praise, treated as impostors and yet true," and so forth (2 Corinthians 6:8-9). What stabilized him? What sweetened him? What was that inner spring of personal renewal that wouldn't let him quit in disgust but, far from it, kept lifting his heart into joy and freshness? What treasure did his heart lay hold of that more than offset the buffetings and losses and humiliations of his ministry? "The Treasure, quite simply, is Christ."

Paul tried to please everyone in every way (1 Corinthians 10:33). He was a softie, accommodating people's prejudices as much as he could. In his respect for people of all types, he thought carefully about how to avoid unnecessary collisions with their pre-set "truths" about life, how to fly in under their radar and surprise them with the goodness of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:32). What a sweetheart this man was. But pleasing people was not his ultimate aim.

His ultimate aim was "to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him" (Colossians 1:10). Sometimes people weren't pleased with Paul. It hurt him deeply (2 Corinthians 2:4). But it did not embitter him. Why? Paul found that Jesus is not hard to please. His yoke is easy. He is slow to anger and quick to forgive. He receives a modest effort, sincerely offered, as well pleasing in his sight. Jesus is such a good boss to work for. We are always drawn back to him and comforted.

The approval of Jesus, everflowing in our justification and readily given -- he is so humble -- in our service, is priceless, for he himself is priceless. His gracious smile puts heart back into us and gives us energy for more and more ministry. We hope to please people for his sake, but we are not devastated when they are displeased, as long as we have the "Well done" of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Sam, for reminding me today of the supreme value of Jesus. How freeing.

You can check out Sam's excellent ministry at:

http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/

Weary of life

"Low-sunk life imagines itself weary of life, but it is death, not life, it is weary of."

George MacDonald, quoted in C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald: An Anthology, page 63.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Mercy every minute

"We are all prodigal sons, and not disinherited; we have received our portion, and misspent it, not been denied it. We are God's tenants here, and yet here, he, our landlord, pays us rents; not yearly, nor quarterly, but hourly and quarterly; every minute he renews his mercy."

John Donne, quoted in Thomas C. Oden, Classical Pastoral Care, III:285.

Strange pleasure, but real

"There is a pleasure in being to a certain degree agitated by events."

Boswell, upon hearing of the death of Alexander, Earl of Galloway, whom he much admired.

Letters from my dad - 1968

"Dear Bud,

You are about to go on the football field. I am cramming for my sermon tomorrow. I'd rather be there right now, but I'm praying the Lord will protect you from injury and keep you faithful in attitude as you play. Be rough and tough but like Christ in spirit. Be enthusiastic. That's what you are.

So we'll wait for a call -- of victory on this homecoming.

Blair got beat by PHS last night, 10-7. Bad breaks all the way. They are the much better team. Need to be tough five minutes longer. That's what USC is. They wear down the opposition and beat them in the last five minutes. That's a good principle for us, isn't it? Hang in there, never say die, and soon the opposition begins to fumble and throw wild and they've had it. Well, enough. Just want to say I'm with you!

Love,

Dad"

Letters from my dad - undated

"Bud,

The chapter 'The Migration of Ideas' is a classic. I've read it over and over.

History is about all of life, or should be. Segmenting life leaves us with tunnel vision. That's why a liberal arts education is so important. That's why in theological education we need the whole shot - breadth and width and depth.

I examined a guy for ordination the other day. He was shortchanged and I had to tell them and him he was not prepared for ministry to a congregation. A nice guy, but that won't make it. The following week I examined another who really had a fine grasp of theology, church history, practical theology, etc. He's young and stumbling a bit but will do well. He's prepared.

I loved that sentence, 'The emptier people's minds are, the more easily they are thrown into chaos.' And 'It's hard to kill a good idea. Good ideas outlive the individual.' There is a moral foundation to the world.

Thanks for the paper, Cap.

Dad"

Letters from my dad - undated

"Hi Jan and Bud,

I am flying home from Kansas where Anne and I were seeing the Vetters and ministering. Anne is still there. So it's home for me, to have a wedding tomorrow. It's been a fine trip. God gave us a great time at the 4C's annual meeting at Estes Park. That was a super time. Great people, no politics, but sweet fellowship. I like that group.

I am thrilled at the way the Lord has given me preaching. God takes care of us. It's affirmation when I was suspecting I was through for anything significant. You know how I've felt. God keeps us from trusting in man, a system, a group, a school of thought. They are all inadequate and need to be appreciated but held very loosely.

How I love you guys. You are so supportive. I could weep with gratitude to God.

Dad

P.S. I am weeping -- for you and in gratitude and loneliness too I guess."

Dad understood the deeply personal impact of the gospel: "Be . . . tenderhearted." Ephesians 4:32

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Letters from my dad - 1984

"Hi you two,

Happy anniversary! Have some fun and celebrate.

About your future -- I have this deal with God, that for a large decision, I want an unmistakable leading any way he chooses. But I want to KNOW that it's right and his own will. So I ask him to make it clear in some way. Shoot, that's not a problem to him. It's not playing games with God either. Signs are all through the Scripture. People who put them all down mystify me. Now, we can get ridiculous with this guidance thing, but, my stars, he loves us and knows how confusing things get for us. So I am asking him to make his way for you very clear any way he wants to do it. Then you will know. When I was perplexed about going to Christiana, he made it very clear with a most remarkable series of events. When we went to Scotia, the same thing, and to Lake Avenue.

Be open to do whatever God wants, and you will know when you need to know.

God has given you a vision to go after a God-sized task, and he will see you through. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord!

Dad -- Amen!!"

Website

The new website of Immanuel Church is now functioning and building:

http://www.immanuelnashville.com/

We thank Jacob Wiley and Melinda Perry for working so well on this. Jacob's site is:

http://www.eyescreamdesign.com/

More to come.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Letters from my dad - 1984

"Dear Jan and Bud,

Your letter came about the extra year. A shocker! Probably more of a shocker to you than to us. We are very concerned about how you are taking this, both of you. I'm so sorry. I have a deep feeling of disappointment in my tummy. You are so very far away for so long.

Well, I've tried to get perspective and come back again to God, the great Arranger of our lives. He in love and wisdom has acted again without consulting me! One day we will look back and say he was right again. But right now it is very disappointing.

Bud, I remember watching the Ph.D. guys at Princeton go through agony. I thought the price of a Ph.D. was very, very high. And yet, that's what makes it special. So you are paying your dues.

We go to India in February. Could we go through London and up to you then? Let's think and pray.

Loving you from here,

Dad"

Letters from my dad - 1982

"Dear Jan and Bud,

I am in the air flying home after four days ministering in Des Moines. The D.M. Covenant Church where I grew up is very precious to me. There my parents presented me to the Lord. I grew up being loved by God's family. I received the Lord's grace and publicly confessed him. I was called to minister. I honor and love them. How precious is the Church and our churches. There is fussing and all that junk. Some crab and criticize. But Jesus is walking among the candlesticks.

Our love to you and all the dear children. We'll miss you on Thanksgiving Day. You are loved.

Dad"

Letters from my dad - 1979

"Bud,

I just read your Romans 8:28-30 New Year's sermon preached here [at Lake Avenue Church] years ago. I am so blessed, I have to stop my own writing and say how I admire and love you. What clear thinking! 'He's my son!! I am so privileged. Romans 8:28 is my experience too.'

See you soon.

Dad"

Dad was an off-the-charts encourager. I did not deserve it. But he made it the emotional environment of our relationship.

Letters from my dad - 1969

"Hi Skip,

Hear me now. Don't bog down with that fatigue. Dig in. That's life. You can refuel by God's grace. Fatigue causes half-heartedness, squelches desire and results in a dullness that helps no one. So down with fatigue!

How? Rejoice! You get tired quickest cuz you hurt inside, so rejoice inside.

Rest. Relax in the love of God and take heart that Romans 8:28 is gold, pure gold.

That's my sermon, cap.

Boy, we love you. You are the greatest. I'll be in Wheaton Nov. 13. I'd love to attend a football practice.

HIT 'EM!! You be tougher than the other guy, and tougher five minutes longer!

Gotta fly. God bless you with stacks of joy.

Dad"

Let everybody else vanish

"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

"One is struck with the personality of this text. There are two persons in it, 'you' and 'me.' . . . Jesus says, 'Come to me, not to anybody else but to me.' He does not say, 'Come to hear a sermon about me' but 'Come to me, to my work and person.' You will observe that no one is put between you and Christ. . . . Come to Jesus directly, even to Jesus himself. You do want a mediator between yourselves and God, but you do not want a mediator between yourselves and Jesus. . . . To him we may look at once, with unveiled face, guilty as we are. To him we may come, just as we are, without anyone to recommend us or plead for us or make a bridge for us to Jesus. . . . You, as you are, are to come to Christ as he is, and the promise is that on your coming to him he will give you rest. That is the assurance of Jesus himself, and there is no deception in it. . . . You see there are two persons. Let everybody else vanish, and let these two be left alone, to transact heavenly business with each other."

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament, I:171.

"Well, I'm back."

I love Sam's comment at the end of the Ring Trilogy. It conceals so much, it suggests so much.

Jani and I enjoyed four days in Vermont with students from Princeton University and the Christian Union there. What an exciting privilege.

But we're glad to return to the place of Christ's regular appointment for us here at Immanuel Church. Back to work!