Tuesday, June 30, 2009

To be dreaded


"One of the greatest errors to be dreaded and watched and prayed against is that of excessive caution, under the guise of prudence, in anxiety to avoid giving offense to worldly people who never can be reconciled, by all you can do, to anything in the shape of a revival of religion."

William C. Burns (1815-1868), Scottish minister, missionary to China, writing in The Revival of Religion, page 350.

Disorderly saved


"It's better that men should be disorderly saved than orderly damned, and that the Church be disorderly preserved than orderly destroyed."

Richard Baxter, quoted in Geoffrey F. Nuttall, Howel Harris: 1714-1773, page 42.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Change



"I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, and it shall be no more." Ezekiel 21:27, AV

Living and dying in Christ


Josh Harris has graciously posted a link to a letter my dad wrote to the family before he died. You can link here.

The day dad died two years ago, and he knew it was the day of his release, he called the family to his bedside at the hospital. Sadly, Jani and I were in Northern Ireland that day. But after the family sang hymns and read Scripture together, dad spoke patriarchal blessings to each one. Then he pronounced upon them the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24-26. Then he fell asleep.

My dad lived and died a man in Christ, full of the Holy Spirit, to the praise of the glory of God's grace.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

So full of life


"[Athanasius'] approach to miracles is badly needed today, for it is the final answer to those who object to them as 'arbitrary and meaningless violations of the laws of Nature.' They are here shown to be rather the re-telling in capital letters of the same message which Nature writes in her crabbed cursive hand, the very operations one would expect of Him who was so full of life that when He wished to die He had to 'borrow death from others.'"

C. S. Lewis, Introduction to St. Athanasius on the Incarnation, page 9.

Set before your eyes


"Call to mind the fearful calamities of the church, which might move to pity even minds of iron. Nay, set before your eyes her squalid and unsightly form, and the sad devastation which is everywhere beheld. How long, pray, will you allow the spouse of Christ, the mother of you all, to lie thus prostrated and afflicted -- thus, too, when she is imploring your protection, and when the means of relief are in your hand?"

John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church, pages 197-198.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Car Show


Click here to see photos from Saturday's Benefit Car Show at Immanuel Church. Great cars, great new friends, practical help for political refugees who have come to Nashville. Thanks to all who participated.

Everyone on level ground

A pastor in Toronto writes,

"I pray for the day when transvestites [and other gay people] can walk through our church doors and be greeted with genuinely warm smiles and Christian love. But before that day is likely to happen, they will need a Christian friend whom they have grown to trust; a person they know would never invite them to a place where they are going to be hurt or embarrassed publicly; a place where everyone is on level ground before the cross of Christ because all are sinners; a place where no one person’s sin is made out to be more repugnant than another’s; a place where all sinners can sit under the uncompromised preaching of holy Scripture and hear of the world’s only Savior and salvation in his name alone."

HT: Tim Challies.

Back from Vail

Top-line thought from Vail:

I love being involved with Acts 29. It is a privilege to lock arms with these heroic men for Christ. I want to give my life to this. It feels like revival. Imperfect, of course, but powerful with the power of the gospel. And I long for more gospel power for Nashville, for sure. Bring it on.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Off to Vail

Off to Vail, Colorado, with Jani for a few days of R&R with other Acts 29 pastors and wives. Thanks for checking in. God bless.

Oldie of the week

Saturday, June 20, 2009

There in heaven


"There, in heaven, this infinite fountain of love -- this eternal Three in One -- is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it, as it flows forever. There this glorious God is manifested and shines forth in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love!"

Jonathan Edwards, "Heaven is a world of love," Charity and its Fruits, pages 327-328.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Boldness


"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John . . . . 'And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.' . . . And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness." Acts 4:13, 29, 31

"Boldness" is the key word in Acts 4. The apostles had not been bold. Now they were, having seen the risen Christ and having been drenched with the Holy Spirit. But they needed still more boldness.

After the Council ordered them to shut up about Jesus, they were dismissed. Walking back through the streets of Jerusalem and seeing their faces on wanted posters here and there, they gathered with their friends to pray. What miracle did they ask God for? Not that the wanted posters would disappear. They prayed for the miracle of more boldness. And God gave it.

"Boldness" is a biblical word. That means God defines it. We are not bold witnesses when we think we're being bold; we are bold witnesses when God thinks we're being bold, when God looks down on us and turns to the angel Gabriel and says, "Gabriel, look at those guys. Now that's what I call bold!"

For people like us, that's a miracle. And God works miracles.

A red-hot lie


"Often the doctrine of 'Christ for me' appears common, well known, having nothing new in it; and I am tempted to pass it by and go to some scripture more taking. This is the devil again -- a red-hot lie. 'Christ for us' is ever new, ever glorious. 'Unsearchable riches of Christ' -- an infinite object, and the only one for a guilty soul."

Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M'Cheyne, page 152.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Either God or total collapse


"Pseudo faith always arranges a way out to serve in case God fails it. Real faith knows only one way and gladly allows itself to be stripped of any second way or makeshift substitutes. For true faith, it is either God or total collapse. And not since Adam first stood up on the earth has God failed a single man or woman who trusted him."

A. W. Tozer, "True Faith Brings Committal," In The Root of the Righteous, pages 49-50.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Happy people sing


"We have already seen that in 1537 one of the four foundations for the reform of the Church was congregational singing. . . . We have seen in effect that Calvin placed singing at the heart of his theology of the Church. The reason is not far to seek. To put it with the utmost simplicity: The Church is the place where the Gospel is preached; Gospel is good news; good news makes people happy; happy people sing. But then, too, unhappy people may sing to cheer themselves up."

T. H. L. Parker, John Calvin, page 87.

Who was it?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Little moments of decision


"Your danger and mine is not that we become criminals, but rather that we become respectable, decent, commonplace, mediocre Christians. The twentieth-century temptations that really sap our spiritual power are the television, banana cream pie, the easy chair and the credit card. The Christian wins or loses in those seemingly innocent little moments of decision.

Lord, make my life a miracle!"

Raymond C. Ortlund, Lord, Make My Life A Miracle, page 151.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Less polished, more honest

Filling voids


"All sins are attempts to fill voids." Simone Weil

We might try to fill the voids we so deeply feel by doing bad things or by doing good things. When we salve the ache in our hearts, which only God himself can satisfy, by doing good things, we then feel proud and think God owes us and we get angry when he doesn't fork over. When we salve the ache within by doing bad things, we feel shamed and think God despises us and slink away from him in bitterness and cynicism. But we are the ones complicating our souls.

Filling the void with anything but God is a sin. Sin can involve doing a good thing, or sin can involve doing a bad thing. But only God can comfort us. Only God can fill our souls with the magnitude of the One we long for. And he does, freely, on terms of grace. "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God." 1 Peter 3:18

To be empty and disappointed and brokenhearted does not disqualify you from God. It means God is near, if you'll have him.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Five strong weapons against error


"We must beware how we conduct ourselves in religious controversies with unbelievers and heretics. . . .

We owe it to the erring, first of all, to pray earnestly that the good God may enlighten them with the same light with which he blessed us . . . .

In the second place, we must give them a good example and take the greatest pains not to offend them in any way . . . .

In the third place, if God has given us the gifts which are needful for it and we find the opportunity to hope to win the erring, we should be glad to do what we can to point out, with a modest but firm presentation of the truth we profess, how this is based on the simplicity of Christ's teaching. . . .

To this should be added, in the fourth place, a practice of heartfelt love toward all unbelievers and heretics. . . . To insult or wrong an unbeliever or heretic on account of his religion would be not only a carnal zeal but also a zeal that is calculated to hinder his conversion. . . .

In the fifth place, if there is any prospect of a union of most of the confessions among Christians, the primary way of achieving it, and the one that God would bless most, would perhaps be this, that we do not stake everything on argumentation, for the present disposition of men's minds, which are filled by as much fleshly as spiritual zeal, makes disputation fruitless. It is true that defense of the truth, and hence also argumentation, which is part of it, must continue in the church together with many other things instituted to build it up. . . . Nevertheless, I adhere to the splendidly demonstrated assertion of our sainted [Johann] Arndt in his 'True Christianity,' 'Purity of doctrine and of the Word of God is maintained not only by disputation and writing many books but also by true repentance and holiness of life.' . . .

From all this it becomes apparent that disputing is not enough either to maintain the truth among ourselves or to impart it to the erring. The holy love of God is necessary."

Philip Jacob Spener, Pia Desideria, pages 97-102.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Christ in print


"On these pages you will find the living Christ and you will see Him more fully and more clearly than if He stood before you, before your very eyes."

Erasmus' preface to his Greek New Testament, quoted in Earl D. Radmacher, editor, Can We Trust The Bible?, page 92.

. . . and the believing criminal


"All human selves, with all the powers of remembering, relating, learning, purposing and enjoying that make us who we are, survive death, and by dying are actually set free from all shrinkings of personal life due to physical factors -- handicaps, injuries and deteriorations of body and mind; torture and starvation; Alzheimer's disease, Down syndrome, AIDS and the like. This was true for both Jesus and the believing criminal to whom he said, as crucifixion drained their lives away, 'Today you will be with me in paradise'; and it will be just as true for you and me."

J. I. Packer, "Did God die on the cross?", Christianity Today, 5 April 1999, page 70.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Apostolic times today


"The history of [the Northampton revival written by Jonathan Edwards], having been extensively circulated, produced a general conviction in the minds of Christians that the preaching of the gospel might be attended by effects not less surprising than those which followed it in apostolic times. This conviction produced an important change in the views and conduct both of ministers and churches."

S. E. Dwight, quoted in A. Skevington Wood, The Inextinguishable Blaze, page 62.

How would we ministers and churches change, if we were possessed by the conviction that our gospel preaching might work with power so surprising it would have to be compared with apostolic times? What difference would that conviction make in us right now, before seeing evidences of revival? What would we give up? What would we embrace? What price would we pay in advance? What benefits would we begin receiving immediately?

Edwards' narrative is available here.

Cheap terms


"Remember, then, . . . you were all told what you ought to think concerning Jesus Christ. If you now perish, it will not be from lack of knowledge. I am free from the blood of you all. You cannot say I have been preaching damnation to you. You cannot say I have, like legal preachers, been requiring you to make bricks without straw. I have not bidden you to make yourselves saints and then come to God. I have offered you salvation on as cheap terms as you can desire. I have offered you Christ's whole wisdom, Christ's whole righteousness, Christ's whole sanctification and eternal redemption, if you will but believe on him. If you say you cannot believe, you say right; for faith, as well as every other blessing, is the gift of God. But then wait upon God, and who knows but he may have mercy on thee."

George Whitefield, quoted in J. C. Ryle, The Christian Leaders of the Last Century, page 50.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Make no little plans


"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans. Aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us."

Daniel Burnham, architect of Chicago, quoted in Charles Moore, Daniel H. Burnham: Planner of Cities, II:147.

"Give me one hundred preachers"


"No, Aleck, no! The danger of ruin to Methodism does not lie here. It springs from quite a different quarter. Our preachers, many of them, are fallen. They are not spiritual. They are not alive to God. They are soft, enervated, fearful of shame, toil, hardship. . . . Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth."

John Wesley, writing at age 87 to Alexander Mather, quoted in Rev. L. Tyerman, The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, III:632.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Zeal and resolve


The righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

"Two things urgently needed in ministers, if they would attempt great advances for the kingdom of Christ, are zeal and resolve. Their influence and power for impact are greater than we think. A man of ordinary abilities will accomplish more with zeal and resolve than a man ten times more gifted without zeal and resolve. . . . Men who are possessed by these qualities commonly carry the day in almost all affairs. Most of the great things that have been done in the world, the great revolutions that have been accomplished in the kingdoms and empires of the earth, have been primarily owing to zeal and resolve. The very appearance of a intensely engaged spirit, together with a fearless courage and unyielding resolve, in any person that has undertaken leadership in any human affair goes a long way toward accomplishing the intended outcome. . . . When people see a high degree of zeal and resolve in a person, it awes them and has a commanding influence upon them. . . . But while we are cold and heartless and only go on in a dull manner, in an old formal round, we will never accomplish anything great. Our efforts, when they display such coldness and irresolution, will not even make people think of yielding. . . . The appearance of such indifference and cowardice does, as it were, call for and provoke opposition. Our misery is lack of zeal and courage."

Jonathan Edwards, "Thoughts on the Revival," in Works, I:424, paraphrased.

Whenever the righteous are bold as a lion, the impact for Christ is unmistakable.

Oldie of the week

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tolerance, despair


"In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair. . . . the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die."

Dorothy Sayers, quoted in D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God, page 53.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Do you realize?


"Were you a likely candidate for salvation? Yet didn't God save you? And while he may have used some human instrument, don't you see that he would have saved you with or without any instrument? And haven't you seen other 'impossible' brothers and sisters delivered likewise by the incredible power of the invisible God?

Do you realize from whence you came? You were in the grip of hell. Demons had wrapped their chains about you. The god of this world had blinded your understanding. Yet God struck off your chains and the face of Christ illumined your soul. The damned around you are no more damned than you were, their chains no thicker, their darkness no deeper. Nor is the power of Christ to save them one whit less."

John White, The Golden Cow, pages 151-152.

Up in our faces, down into our hearts

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Being hated for His sake is an honor



HT: Jared Wilson.

Spurgeon on repentance


"Remember that the man who truly repents is never satisfied with his own repentance. We can no more repent perfectly than we can live perfectly. However pure our tears, there will always be some dirt in them; there will be something to be repented of even in our best repentance. But listen! To repent is to change your mind about sin, and Christ, and all the great things of God. There is sorrow implied in this; but the main point is the turning of the heart from sin to Christ. If there be this turning, you have the essence of true repentance, even though no alarm and no despair should ever cast their shadow upon your mind."

C. H. Spurgeon, All Of Grace, page 70.

The order is reversed


"Today only the young hothead still attempts to carry faith out into the secular world. Most believers are as used to being frisked by secular society's reality guards as they are to being checked for weapons on boarding an aircraft . . . . The founder of McDonald's hamburgers was recently quoted as saying, 'I speak of faith in McDonald's as if it were a religion. I believe in God, family and McDonald's -- and in the office that order is reversed.'"

Os Guinness, The Gravedigger File, page 63.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Luther on preaching


"The office of preaching is an arduous office, especially when it is like what Paul encountered here [in 2 Corinthians]. I have often said that, if I could come down with good conscience, I would rather be stretched upon a wheel or carry stones than preach one sermon. For anyone who is in this office will always be plagued; and therefore I have often said that the damned devil and not a good man should be a preacher. But we're stuck with it now."

John W. Doberstein, translator, Luther's Works, Volume 51: Sermons I, page 222.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The renunciation of violence


"Without entrusting oneself to the God who judges justly, it will hardly be possible to follow the crucified Messiah and refuse to retaliate when abused. The certainty of God's just judgment at the end of history is the presupposition for the renunciation of violence in the middle of it."

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, page 302.