Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bring the Strangers Home

How sweet and aweful is this place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores!

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May with one voice, and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

Author: Isaac Watts, c. 1707

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Every Sin Is Vertical

"Every sin is first vertical, no matter how thunderous the horizontal implications of it are. Every act of human wickedness committed against another human being starts with the breaking of intimate, vertical relationship with God. To experience victory over sin, we need a greater love for him than we have for ourselves, and his divine grace is the only thing that has the power to produce that kind of love in us." -- Paul David Tripp

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How Can We Tell When God Is Really at Work?

An insightful post from Ray Ortlund, Jr., based on the teaching of Jonathan Edwards:

"In The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Jonathan Edwards pulled out of 1 John 4 the biblical indicators that God is at work, even if the people involved are complicating it with their own imperfections and eccentricities.  And we do complicate it.  In this life, the work of the gospel is never pure, always mixed.  The light of God does not stream in unfiltered by us.  To some extent, we even block it out.  We are sorry for that.  But we do not need to be stuck in analysis-paralysis.  The real work of God is discernible, within all the mess, in four ways:

"One, when our esteem of Jesus is being raised, so that we prize him more highly than all this world, God is at work.

"Two, when we are moving away from Satan’s interests, away from sin and worldly desires, God is at work.

"Three, when we are believing, revering and devouring the Bible more and more, God is at work.

"Four, and most importantly, when we love Jesus and one another more, delighting in him and in one another, God is at work.

"Satan not only wouldn’t produce such outcomes, he couldn’t produce them, so opposite are these from his nature and purposes.  These simple and obvious evidences of grace are sure signs that God is at work, even with the distractions we inevitably introduce.

"Biblical, fairminded discernment keeps our eyes peeled for fraudulence but also frees us, and even requires us, to rejoice wherever we see the Lord at work.  Indeed, that is the real purpose of discernment — not to fasten on whatever is wrong, but to rejoice in and promote whatever is right.

"After all, God is at work."

-- Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Monday, January 26, 2015

If Man Knew Who He Truly Was...

'“The Christian man,” Gaudium et Spes tells us, is “conformed to the likeness of that Son Who is the firstborn of many brothers.” Christ “fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” and is “Himself the perfect man.” His life is man’s paradigm and the virtues are the template for how Christ, the perfect man, lived.

'The commandments are not arbitrary “does and don’ts.” Rather, they are the way man would naturally live—if man knew who he truly was. Those who have virtue will spontaneously live in accord with the commandments. They are not perceived as impositions that deny us pleasure, but as safeguards against harming ourselves and others. Such was the case with Christ.' -- Daniel Mattson

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Church and 'Cultural Relevance'

"....The Bible doesn’t want to speak to the modern world; the Bible wants to convert the modern world."

"Our time as preachers is better spent acculturating modern, late-twentieth-century Americans into that culture called church. When I walk into a class on introductory physics, I expect not to understand immediately most of the vocabulary, terminology, and concepts. Why should it be any different for modern Americans walking into a church?

"This is why the concept of 'user-friendly churches' often leads to churches getting used. There is no way I can crank the gospel down to the level where any American can walk in off the street and know what it is all about within 15 minutes. One can’t do that even with baseball!" -- William Willimon

...from his truly prophetic essay, "The Culture Is Over-rated"

Friday, January 23, 2015

Practically Unbelieving

“There is one particular sin you must be greatly troubled for, and yet I fear there are few of you think what it is. It is the reigning, the damning sin of the Christian world, and yet the Christian world seldom or never thinks of it. And pray what is that? It is what most of you think you are not guilty of, and that is the sin of unbelief.”

Treating God as unreal at a functional level in our hearts and lives and churches and strategies (Ray Ortlund's comment).

“Most of you have not so much faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the devil himself. I am persuaded the devil believes more of the Bible than most of you do.” -- George Whitefield

For Ray Ortlund's entire post regarding Whitefield's 'Archaeology of Repentance', click here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Moral Momentum in Our Lives

"Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible."

-- C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity

The Bible and the Voice of God

"When the Bible is truly taught then the voice of God is truly heard." -Alistair Begg

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Preaching: God's Present Voice

"To be effective the preacher's message must be alive; it must alarm, arouse, challenge; it must be God's present voice to a particular people."

-- A.W. Tozer

Monday, January 19, 2015

Conservative? Radical?

“Every Christian should be both conservative and radical; conservative in preserving the faith and radical in applying it.”

–John R. W. Stott

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sobering words from John Calvin, to pastors

“It is no light matter to be a representative of the Son of God, in discharging an office of such magnitude, the object of which is to erect and extend the kingdom of God, to procure the salvation of souls which the Lord himself hath purchased with his own blood, and to govern the Church, which is God’s inheritance.”

Friday, January 16, 2015

What is prayer?

"Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to his Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God."

— John Bunyan
(Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1991), 13

Thursday, January 15, 2015

God the Judge...and Father

“To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.”

–J. I. Packer

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Story of Human History

“Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

–C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reasons to Rejoice

"There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice."

-- John Calvin