Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday is not just a second Saturday

solid pastoral wisdom from Ray Ortlund, Jr....

If we would stop treating Sunday as a second Saturday, one more day to run to Home Depot, one more day for the kids’ soccer games, another day for getting ready for Monday, if we would rediscover Sunday as The Lord’s Day, focusing on him for just one day each week, what would be the immediate impact between today and one year from today?

By one year from today, we will have spent 52 whole days given over to Jesus.  Seven and a half weeks of paid vacation with Jesus.

He’s a good King.  Maybe we should put him first in our weekly schedules.  Not fit him into the margins of our busy weekends, but build our whole weekly routine around him.
Just a thought.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The source of temptation's power

"The power of all temptations is the prospect that it will make e happier.  No one sins out of a sense of duty....  The Word helps me stop trusting in the potential of sin to make me happy.  Instead the Word entices me to trust in God's promises.'"

-- John Piper

Friday, September 28, 2012

God Is Also Glorified in His Wisdom

"We are puzzled sometimes because God could have shown his power by preventing tragedies and healing diseases, but chose not to. But power isn’t his sole attribute. He is also glorified in showing his wisdom. Sometimes in this life, but one day in his presence, we will marvel at his wisdom in not preventing certain evils that he used, in ways we could never have imagined, for our ultimate good."

 ~ Randy Alcorn

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Because God is God

“In the last resort forgiveness is always due to God’s being what he is, and not to anything that man may do.  Because God is God, he must react in the strongest manner to man’s sin, and thus we reach the concept of the divine wrath.  But because God is God, wrath cannot be the last word.  ‘The Lord is good; his mercy endureth forever’ (Ps. 100:5).”

-- Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Grand Rapids, 1965), page 154.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Christianity is an education itself

"God has room for people with very little sense, but He wants everyone to use the sense they have. The proper motto is not, 'Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever [intelligent],' but 'Be good, sweet maid, and don't forget that involves being as clever [intelligent] as you can.'

'God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all....

'One reason why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself."

-- C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity" (New York: MacMillan, 1956), p. 61

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Luther on Resisting the Devil

". . . . When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell.  What of it?  Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means.  For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf.  His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Where he is, there I shall be also.’”

-- Martin Luther, in Theodore G. Tappert, editor, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel (Philadelphia, 1955), pages 86-87.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Freedom Requires Virtue

‎"A notion of ... freedom organized around achieving a good life can devolve into nothing more than a selfish and atomistic freedom from constraint. Such freedom will not last, because it cannot sustain itself. Should we set out to write the laws of politics based on experience and insight, surely one of them would look something like this: Freedom and virtue necessarily travel together. If a people possesses virtue, it has the capability to be free. The reverse is also true. If a people lacks virtue, then it will not be free for long. The choice is simple. We may govern ourselves, or we will be actively governed by the state." -- Hunter Baker, in his review of "A Free People's Suicide" by Os Guinness

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Because He Is Alive Forever

"Of first and basic importance is that the gospel centres on a life, namely the risen life of Christ. Without the resurrection of Jesus the death of Jesus would have no meaning and the cross would be devoid of its power. The crucified Christ whom Paul preached is the crucified and risen Lord.

"The uniqueness of the resurrection of Jesus does not lie just in his coming back to life, miraculous as that was. Jesus was no Lazarus, who came back to life only to die again. No, the uniqueness of the resurrection of Jesus lies in his having been raised to life and being alive for ever. Jesus is alive, and will be for all eternity.

"Because he is alive, not only sin but also death have been dealt with for ever. The resurrection of Jesus is the only hope for mortal men and women."

— Paul Beasley-Murray
The Message of the Resurrection
(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), 127

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Trusting God...Renouncing Retaliation

“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 (Nashville, 1996), page 302.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Who holds the helm of the universe?

"What a wonderful thought that is, that the whole course of human affairs and of natural processes is directed by Him who died upon the cross!  The helm of the universe is held by the hands which were pierced for us….

“We need these lessons today, when many teachers are trying hard to drive all that is spiriutual and Divine out of creation and history, and to set up a merciless law as the only God.  Nature is terrible and stern sometimes, and the course of events can inflict crushing blows; we do not have the added horror of thinking both to be [random,] controlled by no will.

“Christ is king in either region, and with our Elder Brother for the ruler of the land, we shall not lack grain in our sacks, nor a Goshen to dwell in.

“We need not people the void, as these old heretics did, with imaginary forms, nor with impersonal forces and laws – nor need we, as so many are doing today, wander through its many mansions/[rooms] as through a deserted house, finding nowhere a Person who welcomes us; for everywhere we may behold our Saviour, and out of every storm and every solitude hear his voice across the darkness saying, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’”

 – Alexander MacLaren, p. 81, Colossians comm.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Sanctification for Ordinary Life"

"...Christian worship gathered around Word and table is not just a platform for our expression; it is the space for the Spirit’s (trans)formation of us. The practices of gathered Christian worship have a specific shape about them—precisely because this is how the Spirit recruits us into the story of God reconciling the world to himself in Christ. There is a logic to the shape of intentional, historic Christian worship that performs the gospel over and over again as a way to form and reform our habits. If we fail to immerse ourselves in sacramental, transformative worship, we will not be adequately formed to be ambassadors of Christ’s redemption in and for the world. In short, while the Reformers rightly emphasized the sanctification of ordinary life, they never for a moment thought this would be possible without being sanctified by Word and sacrament.

Embedded in this intuition is a helpful, even prophetic, corrective to our triumphalist tendencies. The Reformed vision of cultural renewal can breed its own sort of “activism,” a confidence in our work of cultural transformation. In fact, we can sometimes become so consumed with “transforming culture” and pursuing shalom that our well-intentioned activity becomes an end in itself. We spend so much time being the church-as-organism that we end up abandoning the church-as-institute. Not only do we emphasize that all of life is worship, we come up with self-congratulatory quips that look down on worship as “pietistic,” as a retreat from the hard, messy work of culture-making.

But as Kuyper himself emphasized, there is no way we are going to persist in the monumental task of kingdom-oriented culture making if we are not being habituated as citizens of the King...."

To read the rest of James K.A. Smith's excellent essay, go here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Word, Spirit...Experienced Reality

"Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction". (1 Thess 1:5)

The message of the gospel is truth accompanied by experienced reality. It did indeed come ‘in word,’ meaning in the form of proclaimed truth, as a message from God himself (see 2:4 and 13). But for this appeal the proof is in the eating. Thus it was not ‘in word alone.’ God verified its truthfulness by a display of his own power through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

— Gordon Fee
God's Empowering Presence
(Grand Rapids, MI: Hendrickson, 1994)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

John Newton on How Faith Faces a Trial

Concerning a believer, Newton writes, "...his faith upholds him under all trials, by assuring him, that every painful dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of his love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings, are appointed by Infinite Wisdom, and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him, according to his need.

"Thus, his heart being fixed, trusting in the Lord, to whom he has committed all his concerns; and knowing that his best interests are safe; he is not greatly afraid of evil tidings, but enjoys a stable peace in the midst of a changing world. For, though he cannot tell what a day may bring forth, he believes that he who has invited and enabled him to cast all his cares upon him, will allow nothing to befall him but what shall be made subservient to his chief desire—the glory of God in the sanctification and final salvation of his soul.

"And if, through the weakness of his flesh, he is liable to be startled by the first impression of a sharp and sudden trial, he quickly flees to his strong refuge, remembers it is the Lord's doing, resigns himself to his will, and patiently expects a happy outcome."

Monday, September 17, 2012

"The Soul's Espousals to Christ"

“In this spiritual espousal or marriage relation between Christ and his people, there is a giving of themselves each to the other.  Christ, on the one hand, gives himself unto the soul.  ‘I will be yours,’ says he to the soul, ‘yours to love you, to save you, to make you happy in me and with me.  I, with all my riches and treasures, will be fully and forever yours.’ . . . And Oh, how sweet is this language!  What can Christ give to poor souls like himself?  In giving himself, he gives the best gift that either heaven or earth affords!  In giving himself, he gives life, he gives peace, he gives grace, he gives righteousness, he gives the favor of God, he gives heaven, he gives all.  Oh, sweet gift!  On the other hand, the soul, by way of return, gives itself to Christ.  ‘I will be thine,’ says the soul to Christ.  ‘I will be for thee and not for another. . . . Sweet Jesus, such as I am and have I give to thee.  I am a poor, a sorry gift,’ says the soul, ‘infinitely unworthy of thine acceptance.  My best is too bad, my all is too little for thee; but seeing it is thy pleasure to call for and accept of such a gift at my hands, I do, with my whole soul, give myself, my strength, my time, my talents, my all, forever to thee.’”

-- Edward Pearse, The Best Match, or, The Soul’s Espousals to Christ (Morgan, 1994 reprint), pages 5-6.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

We are the late-comers slipping into creation's choir...

"The creature has no voice of its own. It does not point to its own picture. It echoes and reflects the glory of the Lord. It does this in its heights and its depths, its happiness and its misery. The angels do it (and unfortunately we have almost completely forgotten that we are surrounded by the angels as crown witnesses to the divine glory). But even the smallest creatures do it too. They do it along with us or without us. They do it also against us to shame us and instruct us. They do it because they cannot help doing it. They would not and could not exist unless first and last and properly they did this and only this. And when man accepts again his destiny in Jesus Christ in the promise and faith of the future revelation of his participation in God's glory as it is already given Him here and now, he is only like a late-comer slipping shamefacedly into creation's choir in heaven and earth, which has never ceased its praise, but merely suffered and sighed, as it still does, that in inconceivable folly and ingratitude its living center man does not hear its voice, its response, its echoing of the divine glory, or rather hears it in a completely perverted way, and refuses to co-operate in the jubilation which surrounds him. This is the sin of man which is judged and forgiven in Jesus Christ, which God himself has made good and cast behind man's back. It is this which in Jesus Christ has once for all become his past. In the eternal glory before us it will not exist at all even as the past. In the eternity before us the groaning of creation will cease, and man too will live in his determination to be the reflection and echo of God and therefore the witness to the divine glory that reaches over to him, rejoicing with the God who Himself has eternal joy and Himself is eternal joy."

-- Karl Barth

(Note, I have read very little of Barth, and am not endorsing his overall theology, or view of revelation, but in this quote I thought he wrote compellingly concerning Scriptural themes.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

"This man receives sinners and eats with them." Luke 15:2 

"Observe the condescension of this fact. Jesus, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, who towers above all other men—this Man receives sinners. This Man, who is no other than the eternal God, before whom angels veil their faces—this Man receives sinners. It requires an angel's tongue to describe such a mighty stoop of love. That any of us would be willing to reach the lost is nothing wonderful—they are, after all, our own race; but that He, the offended God, against whom the transgression has been committed, should take upon Himself the form of a servant and bear the sin of many and be willing to receive the worst of sinners—this is marvelous." - Alistair Begg

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"The Evangelical Jesus Prayer"

A heartening article from Christianity Today on "the sinner's prayer":

"Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"...Theologian, May I Have a Word?..."

"The question is never if you're a theologian, but whether or not you're a good one."   Good insights in this interview of Kelly Kapic, professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"A real Person, doing things to you"

"A real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers is doing things to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago. It is a living man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural man in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has...."

~C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity"

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Transformation the Church Needs

"The transformation the church needs is the kind that results from beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18–4:6). This glory of God is a saving and judging glory—an aroma of life to those being saved and death to those perishing (2 Cor. 2:15–16), and this saving and judging glory is at the center of biblical theology. If there is to be a renewal,it will be a renewal that grows out of the blazing center that is the glory of God in the face of Christ."

-- James R. Hamilton Jr.,  "God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology" (Kindle Location 623). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Church Liked by the World?

“That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon (John 15:18-19)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Look up!

"Cultivate the habit of fixing your eye more simply on Jesus Christ, and try to know more of the fullness there is laid up in Him for every one of His believing people.

"Do not be always poring down over the imperfections of your own heart, and dissecting your own besetting sins.

"Look up.

"Look more to your risen Head in heaven, and try to realize more than you do that the Lord Jesus not only died for you, but that He also rose again, and that He is ever living at God’s right hand as your Priest, your Advocate, and your Almighty Friend.

"When the Apostle Peter “walked upon the waters to go to Jesus,” he got on very well as long as his eye was fixed upon his Almighty Master and Savior. But when he looked away to the winds and waves, and reasoned, and considered his own strength, and the weight of his body, he soon began to sink, and cried, “Lord, save me.” No wonder that our gracious Lord, while grasping his hand and delivering him from a watery grave, said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Alas! many of us are very like Peter–we look away from Jesus, and then our hearts faint, and we feel sinking."   (Mat. 14:28–31).

— J. C. Ryle
"Our Profession"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ripened, sharpened thinking

“People who are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the gospel have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking.  The result is that the arena of creative thinking is vacated and abdicated to the enemy.”

-- Charles Malik, “The Other Side of Evangelism,” Christianity Today, 7 November 1980, page 40.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"All Dressed Up with Nothing to Say"

"Christians ought to be engaged with culture, so we can challenge it, re-make it and -- at times -- bear prophetic witness against it."  A very worthwhile essay from Eric Tonjes

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tozer on the Abuse and Over-use of Entertainment

A German philosopher many years ago said something to the effect that the more a man has in his own heart, the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man.

If this is true (and I believe it is) then the present inordinate attachment to every form of entertainment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.

Schleiermacher held that the feeling of dependence lies at the root of all religious worship, and that however high the spiritual life might rise, it must always begin with a deep sense of a great need which only God could satisfy. If this sense of need and a feeling of dependence are at the root of natural religion, it is not hard to see why the great god Entertainment is so ardently worshiped by so many. For there are millions who cannot live without amusement; life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable; they look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics as a dope addict looks to his daily shot of heroin. Without them they could not summon courage to face existence.

No one with common human feeling will object to the simple pleasures of life, nor to such harmless forms of entertainment as may help to relax the nerves and refresh the mind exhausted by toil. Such things, if used with discretion, may be a blessing along the way. That is one thing. The all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live is definitely something else again.

The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin. The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern men. It has been built into a multimillion dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character than any other educational influence on earth. And the ominous thing is that its power is almost exclusively evil, rotting the inner life, crowding out the long eternal thoughts which would fill the souls of men, if they were but worthy to entertain them. The whole thing has grown into a veritable religion which holds its devotees with a strange fascination; and a religion, incidentally, against which it is now dangerous to speak.

For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was - a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability. For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers. So, today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God. Many churches these days have become little more than poor theaters where fifth-rate "producers" peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.

The great god Entertainment amuses his devotees mainly by telling them stories. The love of stories, which is a characteristic of childhood, has taken fast hold of the minds of the retarded saints of our day, so much so that not a few persons manage to make a comfortable living by spinning yarns and serving them up in various disguises to church people. What is natural and beautiful in a child may be shocking when it persists into adulthood, and more so when it appears in the sanctuary and seeks to pass for true religion.

Is it not a strange thing and a wonder that, with the shadow of atomic destruction hanging over the world and with the coming of Christ drawing near, the professed followers of the Lord should be giving themselves up to religious amusements? That in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood and clamor for religious toys?

"Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach. The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned! For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim." Amen. Amen.

-- A.W. Tozer,  "The Great God Entertainment," in The Root of the Righteous (US) (Milton Keynes: Authentic Media, 2009), 22-25.

The Gospel and the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Cross

Justin Taylor summarizes D.A. Carson, and others, on the various aspects of the Gospel.