Thursday, May 31, 2012

What would make you happy?

"It is often tempting to try to strike bargains with God, but life is not a series of strategic negotiations with God; it is a moral drama of wisdom and foolishness, right and wrong, true and false, and good and evil. It plays itself out in even the most mundane situations of our daily lives. At the center of this moral drama is what defines our happiness. Perhaps there is no more important human thought than, “If I had _________, then I would be happy,” because what holds your happiness controls your heart, and what controls your heart conditions your emotions, commands your choices, and shapes your behavior. Because of this, God will not bargain with us. He knows that unless we find our ultimate happiness in him, we will become hopelessly enslaved to things that can never deliver the life that we are seeking. These false messiahs always disappoint us, leaving us more despondent, bitter, and ultimately morally bankrupt. In the purest of jealousies, God fights for our souls, refusing to participate in any bargain that would tempt us to search for life outside of him."

-- Paul David Tripp, "Lost in the Middle" (pp. 152-153). Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Truth Obeyed Will Heal"

J. I. Packer:

"'Truth obeyed,' said the Puritans, 'will heal.' The word fits, because we are all spiritually sick — sick through sin, which is a wasting and killing disease of the heart. The unconverted are sick unto death; those who have come to know Christ and have been born again continue sick, but they are gradually getting better as the work of grace goes on in their lives.

"The church, however, is a hospital in which nobody is completely well, and anyone can relapse at any time. Pastors no less than others are weakened by pressure from the world, the flesh, and the devil, with their lures of profit, pleasure, and pride, and, as we shall see more fully in a moment, pastors must acknowledge that they the healers remain sick and wounded and therefore need to apply the medicines of Scripture to themselves as well as to the sheep whom they tend in Christ's name.

"All Christians need Scripture truth as medicine for their souls at every stage, and the making and accepting of applications is the administering and swallowing of it."

-- J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 1990, reprint (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 65, paragraphing added.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

For Pentecost Sunday

"There is no deeper revelation of the Spirit beyond the revelation of the Bible. The authentic work of the Spirit is seen, not when people get excited by some new message or miracle, but rather when their eyes are opened and their hearts are filled with an ever-deepening appreciation of the Bible's teaching about what God has done for them in Christ and a growing longing to live in light of all they have received from him."

-- Vaughan Roberts. Authentic Church: True Spirituality in a Culture of Counterfeits. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2011

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"Our inconsolable secret"

"What Augustine knew is that human beings want God…God has made us for himself. Our sense of God runs in us like a stream, even though we divert it toward other objects. We human beings want God even when we think that what we really want is a green valley, or a good time from our past, or a loved one. Of course we do want these things and persons, but we also want what’s behind them. Our inconsolable secret, says C.S. Lewis, is that we are full of yearnings, sometimes shy and sometimes passionate, that point us beyond the things of earth to the ultimate reality of God."

-- Cornelius Plantinga

Friday, May 25, 2012

Forgiveness: welcome to a new life

"You see, God’s promise of forgiveness is a welcome to new life. It is an invitation to leave regrets behind and to get up and live again. It is a God-given opportunity to do new and better things. God’s grace gives us new moments to plant new seeds that will lead to a new harvest of good things. Because of God’s promise of forgiveness, you can look your failure in the face and not be overwhelmed or paralyzed. He lifts your burden of guilt and regret and welcomes you to plant and harvest once again."

-- Paul David Tripp,  "Lost in the Middle" (p. 127). Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

You can't turn off worship...

"You can’t turn off worship. It’s your basic human wiring. To not worship is to not live. It’s like a garden hose stuck on full blast. You can aim it at the grass, the car, or the shrubs, but you cannot stop its flow. Or you might imagine yourself as a sort of human billboard, always advertising what you find to be important, valuable, worthy. What you pay attention to, how you spend your time, the way you work, how you relate to others in your life—all these things broadcast your heart’s worship, making visible and advertising what is most important to you. God created you to broadcast him."

-- Mike Wilkerson, "Redemption" (p. 29). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"...that unworldly stimulus..."

“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 (Boston, 1998), page 9.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

He is looking down the road for us...

‎"There are many professing Christians who are emotional atheists. 'We may hold onto orthodox ideas about [the Father], but our hearts disconnect,' says Mike Wilkerson; 'our affection cools; we just don’t trust him.' We assume too readily that it is impossible for us to turn back to the face of the Father, but there actually is good news for people just like us. Like the father in the story that Jesus told about the prodigal son, He is looking down the road for us." -- Douglas Wilson, "Father Hunger"

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Nature of Idolatry

"Granting something ultimate value does not necessarily mean attributing a set of metaphysical divine attributes; the act of granting ultimate value involves a life of devotion and ultimate commitment to something or someone.

"Absolute value can be conferred on many things... In this extension of worship, religious attitude is perceived not as part of metaphysics or as an expression of customary rituals, but as a form of absolute devotion, an attitude that makes something into a godlike being.

"What makes something into an absolute is that it is both overriding and demanding. It claims to stand superior to any competing claim.... Any nonabsolute value that is made absolute and demands to be the center of dedicated life is idolatry."

-- "Idolatry" by Moshe Halbertal and Avishai Margalit (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1992), pp.245-246. (in a footnote, p. 181, of Tim Keller's "Counterfeit Gods")

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Holes in your soul?

"...And sitting there before the window, I’m struck, a comet blazing across the empty dark of my life. All those years thinking I was saved and had said my yes to God, but was really living the no. Was it because I had never fully experienced the whole of my salvation? Had never lived out the fullest expression of my salvation in Christ? Because I wasn’t taking everything in my life and returning to Jesus, falling at His feet and thanking Him. I sit still, blinded. This is why I sat all those years in church but my soul holes had never fully healed...."

-- Ann Voskamp, "One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are" (p. 40). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Right now counts forever"

“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”  2 Corinthians 5:10

"This is our ultimate accountability.  Let’s get ready.  Let’s live with intentionality.  Let’s live in repentance.  Let be aware, moment by moment, that right now counts forever.  What we think, what we say, what we feel, what we do and don’t do — we matter.  We matter to Christ.  We will matter forever.  And very soon we will “report in.”

"This is solemnizing.  This is dignifying.  It is also encouraging.

"What if, as you stand there before Christ your Judge on that great and final day, surrounded by all the redeemed, each one awaiting his or her moment before the Lord — what if, standing there before him, he asks, “Everyone, I want to know who among you appreciated this person’s ministry?  Who would like to bear witness to how he helped you for my sake?”  And no one says anything.  Total silence.  Awkward silence.  Everyone is embarrassed.  Everyone is thinking, “Would somebody please say something?”  You are standing there wondering, “So my entire life comes down to this?  What a failure I am!”  Only one voice breaks that terrible silence.  The Lord himself stands and says, “Well, I appreciated his ministry!”

"It’s an improbable scenario.  But putting it like that does isolate the most urgent question of all.  Is the approval of Jesus enough for you and for me?  Do we love him enough, do we revere him enough, that his judgment is the one we’re living for?

"We care what others think.  We want to please them (1 Corinthians 10:33).  But whose opinion will count forever?"

-- Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What are you becoming?

"A person will worship something, have no doubt about that....  That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character.  Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming."

 --- Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in "Almost Christian" (the opening quotation of the chapter: 'Worshipping at the Church of Benign Whateverism')

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Generational blackmail?"

"It seems like every other day I'm told another reason why young people are leaving the church: because Christians fight too much, or because Christians are too political or anti-gay or don't care about social justice.  Millennials, we're told, are leaving the church because the church won't bless their cohabitation or provide them with contraception for pre-marital sex. They're leaving because they don't care about fights over creation/evolution or abortion or worship style or what have you.  In sum, it seems we're regularly informed that if the church doesn't change, young people are going to leave.

"And what exactly are we supposed to do with these claims?  I think the upshot is pretty clear.  Indeed, am I the only one who feels like they're a sort of bargaining chip--a kind of emotional blackmail meant to get the church to relax its commitments in order to make the church more acceptable?

"Could we entertain the possibility that millennials might be wrong?"

-- James K.A. Smith

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Are you happy in the Lord?

"According to my judgement the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you, the Lord's work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself!

"Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life. This has been my firm and settled condition for the last five and thirty years. For the first four years after my conversion I knew not its vast importance, but now after much experience I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ: the secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experimental acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself."

-- George Mueller, Autobiography of George Mueller, or A Million and a Half in Answer to Prayer, compiled by G. Fred Bergin (Denton, Tex.: Westminster Literature Resources, 2003), ix. 2:730-731

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The most cheerful act of your whole life

"If you have ever truly believed in Jesus Christ, my friends, it has not been the languid act of a cold, impenitent, unwilling heart—but your whole souls have exerted their utmost vigor in it, and it has been the most cheerful, animated act of your whole lives!

"When God shined into your hearts, to give you the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ, when you received the first glances of his glorious righteousness, and heard, as with new ears, the offer of it in the gospel—stand, and pause, and recollect—what were your sentiments, and the temper of your heart in that important and memorable hour?

"Was not their language, ‘When I see your glory, O lovely Savior, I most cheerfully consent to the method of salvation revealed in the gospel, not only because I must—but because I choose to do so. I see it is a scheme well ordered in all things, and sure, and therefore it is all my salvation and all my desire. I would not only be saved—but I would be saved by you, blessed Jesus! I am willing, I am desirous, that you, and not I, should have the glory of it. Pardon is sweet to a guilty criminal; salvation is sweet to a perishing soul; but oh! pardon by your righteousness, salvation through your grace, this is doubly sweet!’"

— Samuel Davies
"The Nature of Justification, and the Nature and Concern of Faith In It"

Friday, May 11, 2012

Centering your life on God and his love...

"You shall have no other gods before me. (Ex. 20:3)
“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 Jn. 5:21)

'Most people think of sin primarily as breaking divine commandments, but the very first commandment is to “have no other gods before me.”

'So, according to the Bible, the primary way to understand sin is not just the doing of bad things, the making of even good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose and happiness than your relationship to God.

'Only if your identity is built on God and his love and grace can you have a self that can venture anything, face anything.' (Tim Keller)

The Alternative?: Living in Idolatry (‘God-substitutes’)

Here is a list of various ‘god-substitutes’ and the particular kinds of brokenness and damage that each one brings into a life:

· If you center your life and identity on your spouse, you will be emotionally dependent, jealous, and controlling. The other person’s problems and flaws will be overwhelming to you.

· If you center your life and identity on your family and children, you will try to live your life through your children until they resent you or have no self of their own. At worst, you may abuse them when they displease you.

· If you center your life and identity on your work and career, you will be a driven workaholic and a boring, shallow person. At worst you will lose family and friends and, if your career goes poorly, develop deep depression.

· If you center your life and identity on money and possessions, you’ll be eaten up by worry or jealousy about money. You’ll be willing to do unethical things to maintain your lifestyle, which will eventually blow up your life.

· If you center your life and identity on pleasure, gratification, and comfort, you will find yourself getting addicted to something. You will become chained to the ‘escape strategies’ by which you try to avoid the hardness of life.

· If you center your life and identity on relationships and approval, you will be constantly overly hurt by criticism and thus always losing friends. You will fear confronting others and therefore will be a useless friend.

· If you center your life and identity on a ‘noble cause,’ you will divide the world into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and demonize your opponents. Ironically, you will be controlled by your enemies. Without them, you have no purpose.

· If you center your life and identity on religion and morality, you will, if you are living up to your moral standards, be proud, self-righteous, and cruel. If you don’t live up to your standards, you guilt will be devastating.

In pride we become obsessed with whatever interferes with people making much of us.

Our besetting sins are warning signs that our characteristic idolatry is at work.

‘Only if your identity is built on God and his love and grace can you have a self that can venture anything, face anything.’

-- based on chapter 10 (“The Problem of Sin”) of Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God” (Dutton)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Healthiest People Are the Ones Who Praise the Most

They tell of the power of your awesome works— 
    and I will proclaim your great deeds. 
They celebrate your abundant goodness 
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.    Psalm 145:6-7

"Some people are never satisfied. They think others drive too slow and eat too fast. They're convinced government is crooked, the schools are worthless, and the church is full of hypocrites. Something is wrong with every sermon these people hear, every program they see, every dish of food they are willing to try.

"Such people seem to spend the whole of their sour little lives in front of a complaint window. They are like the pessimistic farmer who had six chickens hatch one morning. He was inconsolable. When someone asked him what was wrong, he replied bitterly: 'I had six chickens hatch this morning, and now all of 'em have died but five.'

"Open, grateful human life resounds not with complaints but with praise. The healthiest people are the ones who praise the most. Family, friends, books, sports, music, nature --all these draw praise from healthy people. 'Did you see that? Wasn't it great!' 'Did you hear what she did for her sister? Isn't she a generous person?'

"But Christians reserve their highest praise for the goodness and greatness of God. The psalms ring with it: 'The Lord is great and greatly to be praised! Praise the Lord!' At creation, says the Book of Job, 'the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy.'

"Praise is a way of expressing awe and admiration for the stunning greatness of God and his deeds, and for the ingenious ways in which God keeps fitting his help to our need. Our prayers ought to include some hearty praise. But whether in prayer or other speech, our praise of God may never be glib. Some people say 'Praise the Lord!' with no more reverence than they lavish on 'Have a nice day!'

"Not that. Our praise of God must be both candid and thoughtful. For praise of God is the very music of heaven...."

-- Cornelius Plantinga, "Assurances of the Heart" (pp. 66-67, Zondervan: 1993)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What it means to live in hope

"If you are God’s child, you have hope because God is hope, and you have a hope that will last forever because he has defeated the one thing that stands between you and forever: death.

"Sadly, many of us who by God’s grace have been given hope don’t live as if we have it. We look for hope where hope can’t be found. We place our hope in things that can never deliver. We live hopelessly because we fail to live with forever in view. We live for the next vacation, the next thrilling experience, the next stunning achievement. We put our hope in the hands of flawed and finite people, burdening our relationships with expectations that they can never deliver. We ask inanimate objects to give us a reason to get up in the morning, but they never can.

"Sure, the things in which we put our hope give us a temporary buzz and a temporary rest, but reality always hits. These things all disappoint us in the end. No matter how wonderful the situations in our life are, no matter how beautiful our possessions are, no matter how exciting our experiences are, no matter how fulfilling our accomplishments are, and no matter how loving the people in our lives are, they will only satisfy us temporarily. They simply cannot carry our hope. How different would your life and mine be if we remembered that everything that exists in the created world is meant to be a finger pointing us to the only place where hope can be found?"

-- Paul David Tripp,  "Forever: Why You Can't Live Without It"  Zondervan.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The beginning of God's new world

"Jesus’ resurrection was the event that marked the beginning of God’s new world and gave them hope that God would one day vindicate all His chosen people by reversing the curse of death, raising them bodily from the dead, and giving them eternal, incorruptible, and transformed bodies. Though the old age of sin and decay continued on, the new age had begun. "

— Trevin Wax
Counterfeit Gospels
(Chicago, Ill.: Moody Publishers, 2011), 163

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Your faith was born in blood and sweat..."

“The cross is practical, it is God moving in love to meet violent men and women, facing violence and suffering for us.  Your faith was born in violence.  The Christian is not scared when the whole world is shaking.  Your faith was born on Calvary.  It can stand anything.  It is an all-weather faith.

Don’t imagine you can only be a Christian when everything is smooth.  Christians shine better when everything is just the opposite.  Your faith was born in blood and sweat in the loneliness of Calvary.  You can stand any test.”

-- Bishop Festo Kivengere, When God Moves in Revival (Wheaton, 1973), page 16.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

In rebellion against the rebellion

"The world’s illegal rebellion [against God] is illegitimate. It certainly feels real, of course—IS real—but it doesn’t change the reality that God is still Ruler of everything. Though people may think they have rebelled, they have not—and cannot—ultimately escape the fact that King Jesus still is sovereign. And though we feel outnumbered and highly unpopular at times by clinging to our Christian ideals, though we make ourselves subject to all kinds of criticism and misunderstanding by resisting the widely held opinions of our friends and neighbors, we can’t help but recognize a tension that keeps us from following where the leader of this rebellion wants to take us. As much as we may feel obligated by our family histories, or as willing as we may be to at least consider the validity of these differing viewpoints, there’s no common ground for us to stand on. Our aims are incompatible. As Christians, we don’t join an illegitimate rebellion. Instead, we live for King Jesus in contrast to those around us. We live in loyalty to the very One the world rebels against. We’re in rebellion against the rebellion."

-- Ed Stetzer, "Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation"   (pp. 5-6). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Agents of God's Kingdom

"It is wrong when churches are filled with people who seemingly haven’t changed their loyalties. People who have a religious veneer but live like everybody else. People whose goals and values are little more than “baptized” versions of the world’s goals and values. People whose citizenship has been supernaturally transferred into the kingdom of God but who choose not to live like loyal subjects of the King. People who have been rescued from the death trap of the world’s domain. But for what? To sit around in church and think they’re doing God a big favor by being there? To have the same basic take on everyday life as the people they work with and live around? Not if they knew whose kingdom they were in, what it cost to put them there, and what it means to be an agent at his command."

Ed Stetzer,  "Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation" (p. 20). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Faithful Presence...Heaven's Preview

"Our faithful presence here on earth should provide a glimpse of what the life of heaven is like. We are to be a fragrance of the new world that is coming and a warning of the accompanying judgment. The church is the society where the kingdom of Jesus Christ is manifested and extended."

— Trevin Wax
Counterfeit Gospels
(Chicago, Ill.: Moody Publishers, 2011), 165

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The most important thing about you...

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. . . . For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. . . . Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is.  Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God.”

A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York, 1961), pages 9-10.