Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"The central characteristic of our religion...."

“The free gift of God is an absolutely unaccountable event in the life of every man who accepts it.  It is not the natural working out of a principle, but it is a thing that happens.  But that happening in the soul is the result of a happening in the sphere of external history.  The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  There we have the central characteristic of our religion; the central characteristic of Christianity is that it is not founded merely upon what always was true but primarily upon something that happened — something that took place near Jerusalem at a definite time in the world’s history.  In other words, it is founded not merely upon permanent truths of religion but upon a ‘gospel,’ a piece of news.”

-- J. Gresham Machen, God Transcendent (Edinburgh, 1982), page 39.  Italics his.

Monday, July 30, 2012

An Instrument of God's Shalom

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


-- attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"You must be born again"

“You must be born again.”  John 3:7

You.  This is personal.  If I change the subject to someone else’s need, that could be evidence I have not been born again.  If I confess my own desperate need for God, that could be evidence I have been born again.

Must.  This is authoritative.  If I resent the must, that could be evidence I have not been born again.  If I rejoice that God is actually opening a door for me, that could be evidence I have been born again.

Be born again.  This is passive.  I need a miracle.  I need God to call into existence within me a new aliveness to God, such as I cannot conjure up out of my own good intentions.  In fact, my eternal destiny hangs on something only God can do for me.

“It is a noteworthy and striking fact that no doctrine has excited such surprise in every age of the Church and has called forth so much opposition from the great and learned as this very doctrine of the new birth.  The men of the present day who sneer at conversions and revivals as fanaticism are no better than Nicodemus.  Like him, they expose their own entire ignorance of the work of the Holy Spirit.”

-- J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John 1:1-10:9 (Grand Rapids, n.d.), page 139.  Style updated.

HT:  Ray Ortlund, Jr

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Trust, Hope, Obey

‎"By repenting of our hope in the promises of this world – the greatest of which become merely rusted metal and short-lived pleasures – and trusting in God's promises, we develop a new lifestyle of growing obedience to God, rather than following the cadence of our culture. And as our hope in God increases, our obedience to his commands becomes more consistent."

— Scott Hafemann, "The God of Promise and the Life of Faith"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Trusting Christ...Trying to Do All He Says

“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.” -- C.S. Lewis

Monday, July 23, 2012


‎"Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength." — C .H. Spurgeon

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Forsaking all to follow Him

By the sight of the transcendent glory of Christ, true Christians see him worthy to be followed; and so are powerfully drawn to him; they see him worthy that they should forsake all for him: by the sight of that superlative amiableness, they are thoroughly disposed to be subject to him, and engaged to labor with earnestness and activity in his service, and made willing to go through all difficulties for his sake. And it is the discovery of this divine excellency of Christ that makes them constant to him: for it makes a deep impression upon their minds, that they cannot forget him; and they will follow him whithersoever he goes, and it is in vain for any to endeavor to draw them away from him.

— Jonathan Edwards, quoted by Stephen Seamands in Give Them Christ
(Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 23

Friday, July 20, 2012

"The True Knight Is Risen"

At first glance, I didn't like a title that compared the Lord to a fantasy superhero, but then I read the blog post itself, and appreciated its Biblical wisdom.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Midsummer Madness"

"Midsummer Madness" by A.W. Tozer

This is a longer than normal post, but it's a classic, timely challenge to Christians and churches by A.W. Tozer on one of the ways that it seems the world has squeezed us into its mold:

"As the sun makes its annual climb up from the south, a strange restlessness comes over those of our citizens who live north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and by the time summer has finally arrived this has increased into a pathological condition which turns the country into one vast cage of waltzing mice. A kind of madness grips the populace, and then begins that four-month frenzied effort on everybody’s part to get somewhere other than where he is. No one stops to ask what it is all about, but practically everyone who is not in the hospital or in jail joins the general stampede from everywhere to anywhere and return. An irresistible impulse picks up most of us like grains of dust caught by the wind, and spins and churns us about dizzily and dangerously till the first frost comes to ripen the pumpkin and drive home the trailers.

Changing times
The sturdy old deacon who spent his entire life in the same county where he was born has passed and gone for ever. He existed before the days of the modern nomad. Changing times have eliminated him as surely as the buggy shed and the hitching post. His chief use now is to decorate a museum along with the three-toed horse and the dinosaur. His basic error was that he failed to take a vacation. He needed a change and a rest, also a bit of recreation: but not having heard of these wonderful aids to health and longevity, he kept his nose to the grindstone, raised ten healthy children, worked his own farm, attended the Baptist Church four times a week, and managed also to read one or two good books a month. Though he had failed to relax properly at yearly intervals, he could still shoot a squirrel out of a chestnut tree at a hundred yards without glasses and chin himself a dozen times running when he was eighty-seven. When he finally died he was mourned sincerely by his family and a host of real neighbours who had learned to appreciate his sterling worth by living beside him for a lifetime. How anyone can claim that his grandson, who changes apartments every two years and spends his summers roaring through the landscape in a cloud of fumes, is his equal in manly character is beyond comprehension. Goldsmith’s famous lines come back to trouble the serious minded:
Ill fares the land,
to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates,
And men decay.

Now we believe in liberty as guaranteed by the Constitution and the inalienable right of every man to do as he likes as long as he stays within the law. If most of the population choose to forsake their homes and spend all their spare time scudding between filling stations, there is nothing we can do about it. To protest about it is to blow against the wind or shout against the tide. However, some of us old-fashioned throwbacks to a saner if slower age may be forgiven if we indulge in a few honest tears for the havoc this midsummer madness works among the churches of this hectic day.

Crippled churches
Even though the vacation habit is a craze and a curse, even though millions each season take long and expensive vacations from nothing more strenuous than loafing, we are still willing to
concede that there might be some therapeutic value in a vacation trip where and when needed. I would surely not begrudge the hard-working man or woman a rest from the daily grind. But the sad truth is that the vacation habit, plus the habit of making weekend trips throughout the summer season, has worked to practically paralyse the church of God for several months out of the year. Some churches close altogether, some are forced to give up evening services for the duration of the summer, and many are compelled to join with several other churches in union services in order to have an attendance large enough to justify a meeting. Even full-gospel churches and tabernacles are seriously crippled, the finances go into the red, the morale suffers and faith burns down to a grey ash.

It is hard to understand how a follower of Christ can justify himself in laying down his cross so frequently and so shamelessly in this day of the world’s judgment. The army of the Lord is the only army on earth where the soldiers expect a four-month furlough in time of war. It is an ironic fact that in the very months of the year when Satan is the busiest the children of God are the laziest. He reaps her harvest during the summer season, while the poor overburdened heirs of the ages crisscross the continent at eighty miles an hour in a grim effort to relax. If someone should remind me that it is during the summer that the great conventions and camp meetings are held, I would reply that a ten-day period of fun at a camp meeting is a poor substitute for a summer of faithful service back at the home church.

It is a pitiful thing to see on any summer Sunday morning a discouraged Sunday school superintendent standing before the tattered remnant of his school, trying to appear cheerful with half of his teachers missing. And it is a tragicomic sight to see a peripatetic playboy of the church getting down on his knees on a Saturday afternoon to thank God for that prosperity which enables him to desert the house of God more frequently than he was able to do in his leaner years, and prays for ‘journeying mercies’ as he speeds away from his post of duty to commune with nature among sardine cans.

That the church of Christ should so completely succumb to this midsummer madness is proof enough of our low spiritual condition. It is little wonder that the people of the world smile cynically when we come back and go to work on them after the cool weather sets in. They do not take us seriously, and we have ourselves to thank for their attitude.

Our need
We need a revival! We need a revival of consecration to death, a revival of happy abandonment to the will of God that will laugh at sacrifice and count it a privilege to bear the cross through the
heat and burden of the day. We are too much influenced by the world and too little controlled by the Spirit. We of the deeper life persuasion are not immune to the temptations of ease and we are in grave danger of becoming a generation of pleasure-lovers. Any who disagree with this conclusion are within their rights, and I would be the last to deny them the privilege. But in the name of a thousand struggling churches and disheartened pastors, may I not plead for a little more loyalty to the local church during this season of difficulty?
May God raise up a people who will consult their pleasures less and the great need more. I know of one successful layman who refuses again and again to take perfectly legitimate pleasure trips because he cannot bring himself to leave his class of adolescent Sunday-school boys. May God multiply such men and women among us till the reproach of Egypt is rolled away and man’s confidence in us is restored.

-- A.W. Tozer

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Living Under God's Revelation

"Christian values . . . cannot be accepted as a superior utilitarianism, just as a means to an end. The biblical message is truth and it demands a commitment to truth. It means that everything is not the result of the impersonal plus time plus chance, but that there is an infinite-personal God who is the Creator of the universe, the space-time continuum. We should not forget that this was what the founders of modern science built upon. It means the acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord, and it means living under God's revelation. Here there are morals, values, and meaning, including meaning for people, which are not just a result of statistical averages. This is neither a utilitarianism, nor a leap away from reason; it is the truth that gives a unity to all of knowledge and all of life. This second alternative means that individuals come to the place where they have this base, and they influence the consensus. Such Christians do not need to be a majority in order for this influence on society to occur."

-- Francis Schaeffer, "How Should We Then Live?"

Saturday, July 14, 2012

He makes all things new

"The miracles of Jesus are signs of the right order of things. Jesus was not so much turning things upside down as turning them rightside up or, at least, giving his followers glimpses of the rightside up. The miracles of healing, deliverance, provision, and resurrection all reveal that God, through Jesus, is making all things new, that he is restoring what once was unbroken."

— Matt Chandler
The Explicit Gospel
(Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2012), 107

Friday, July 13, 2012

"How faith works"

A helpful, balanced, Biblically-rich article from S. Lewis Johnson regarding the relation between faith and works, justification and sanctification, etc., especially in relation to the "Lordship Salvation" controversy:   from CT online....."How Faith Works"

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"The Tragedy of the Dumb Church"

This blogpost focuses on one of the most crucial (but largely unrecognized) problems plaguing the evangelical church today....an intelletcual lazinesss, including related to the Bible and theology, that falls far short of loving the Lord with our minds.

"The Tragedy of the Dumb Church"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

'Without holiness, no one will see the Lord"

“. . . the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  Hebrews 12:14

“No unclean thing, nothing that defileth or is defiled, shall ever be brought into the glorious presence of this holy God.  There is no imagination wherewith mankind is besotted more foolish, none so pernicious, as this, that persons not purified, not sanctified, not made holy in this life should afterward be taken into that state of blessedness which consists in the enjoyment of God.  There can be no thought more reproachful to his glory, nor more inconsistent with the nature of the things themselves, for neither can such persons enjoy him, nor would God himself be a reward unto them.  They can have nothing whereby they should adhere unto him as their chiefest good, nor can they see anything in him that should give them rest and satisfaction, nor can there be any medium whereby God should communicate himself unto them, supposing them to continue thus unholy, as all must do who depart out of this life in that condition.  Holiness, indeed, is perfected in heaven, but the beginning of it is invariably and unalterably confined to this world, and where this fails, no hand shall be put into that work in eternity.”

-- John Owen, Works (Edinburgh, 1981), III:574-575.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A key reason that we gather to worship

"The world is constantly telling us lies: 'God doesn't exist.'  'It's all about you.'  'Sin has no consequences.'  'This is all there is.'  'The more you own, the happier you'll be.'

"In the face of these lies, we gather as the church to proclaim the truth.  We gather to declare -- to ourselves, to each other, and to God -- what we know to be eternal reality.  There is one God, who is sovereign over the universe and every detail of our lives.  We have rebelled against him.  He sent his Son to die in our place for our sins.  And through Jesus Christ we have forgiveness and peace with God."

-- Bob Kauflin, "Worship Matters" (Crossway), p. 134

Sunday, July 8, 2012

For my dry and empty, barren soul...

“I can feelingly say, he has proved himself stronger than I and his goodness superior to all my unworthiness.  He tells me (and enables me to believe it) that I am fair, and there is no spot in me.  Though an enemy, he calls me his friend; though a traitor, a child; though a beggared prodigal, he clothes me with the best robe and has put a ring of endless love and mercy on my hand.  And though I am sorely distressed by spiritual and internal foes, afflicted, tormented and bowed down almost to death with the sense of my own present barrenness, ingratitude and proneness to evil, he secretly shows me his bleeding wounds and softly and powerfully whispers to my soul, ‘I am thy great salvation.’  His free distinguishing grace is the bottom on which is fixed the rest of my poor weary tempted soul.   On this I ground my hope, often times when unsupported by any other evidence, save only the Spirit of adoption received from him.  When my dry and empty barren soul is parched with thirst, he kindly bids me come to him and drink my fill at the fountainhead.  In a word, he empowers me to say with experiential evidence, ‘Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ Amen and amen.”

-- Joseph Hart (1712-1768), quoted in Peter C. Rae, “Joseph Hart and His Hymns,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 6 (1988): 22-23.

HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Let me be a man of one book

"To candid,reasonable men I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought: I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God; just hovering over the great gulf, till a few moments hence I am no more seen -- I drop into an unchangeable eternity! "I want to know one thing, the way to heaven -- how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way: for this very reason he came down from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God! I have it. Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one book...." -- John Wesley

Monday, July 2, 2012

Three Lies the Devil Wants You to Believe

from Ray Ortlund, Jr.:

It is very much in the devil’s interests that we despair.  If he can get us to believe these three demoralizing lies that he loves to whisper into our thoughts, our powers for Jesus are greatly diminished.

Lie #1: “You’re a hypocrite.  Sure, you’re serving Jesus.  But you don’t really mean it, you phoney.  You might as well give up.”

Answer: “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20).  “I do not even judge myself. . . . It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).

Lie #2: “You’re a loser.  You’ve ruined your life.  You’ll never amount to anything for the Lord.  You might as well give up.”

Answer: “. . . the poor, . . . the brokenhearted, . . . the captives, . . . that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.  They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations” (Isaiah 61:1-4).

Lie #3: “You’re small.  You’re so buried under the debris of our complex and crowded culture, you’ll never make an impact.  You might as well give up.”

Answer: “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:28-29).

The perfect church service...

‎"The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God." — C.S. Lewis