Thursday, October 31, 2013

Both God's Holiness and His Love

“If we stress the love of God without the holiness of God, it turns out only to be compromise.  But if we stress the holiness of God without the love of God, we practice something that is hard and lacks beauty.  And it is important to show forth beauty before a lost world and a lost generation.  All too often young people have not been wrong in saying that the church is ugly.  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we are called upon to show to a watching world and to our own young people that the church is something beautiful.

Several years ago I wrestled with the question of what was wrong with much of the church that stood for purity.  I came to the conclusion that in the flesh we can stress purity without love or we can stress the love of God without purity, but that in the flesh we cannot stress both simultaneously.  In order to exhibit both simultaneously, we must look moment by moment to the work of Christ, to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Spirituality begins to have real meaning in our moment-by-moment lives as we begin to exhibit simultaneously the holiness of God and the love of God.”

-- Francis A. Schaeffer, "The Church before the Watching World" (Downers Grove, 1971), page 63.

HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fearless in the Judgment?

“In the righteousness of Christ we stand without fear, as Christ would stand without fear, before the judgment seat of God.” -- J.G. Machen

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Jesus Calling"?

Michael Horton and Tim Challies have written helpful, critical reviews of Sarah Young's book, "Jesus Calling."   I share their concerns, especially about the underlying premise of the book.  Here are some thoughts of my own:

"The central concern that people that I have with this book relates to a crucial contrast that is profoundly disregarded in "Jesus Calling", namely, at a particular point in time, and in a particular place Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:6) and at another time, and in another place he said, “It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35) and at still another time and place he said, “…Do not be afraid. I am the First and Last.” (Rev. 1:27)

In each of these Biblical examples the Lord Jesus said/spoke those words at a particular place in a particular time in history. However Jesus has never “said” (giving that word the very same meaning), “Many people are so preoccupied with future plans and decisions that they fail to see choices they need to make today.” (from the book “Jesus Calling”, reading for Oct. 27) nor did he ever say “I am pleased each time you initiate communication with Me” (“Jesus Calling”, reading for Nov. 1) nor has he said, “A thankful attitude opens windows of heaven” (“Jesus Calling” reading for Nov. 22).

If all that Ms. Young is intending to say is that her devotional writings are personal, experiential interpretations and applications of God’s inscripturated Words/truth that would be very different. But in what she actually writes in the preface to her book, I, along with the reviewers I’ve cited, think that she’s saying much more. She writes of receiving messages from God, which she presents in the book, and then says these messages are “written in first person, with ‘I’ designating God.” And so, according to her, in the daily devotional messages contained in her book, God is speaking, which is essentially the same claim made by the writer to the Hebrews about the Word of God received in Scripture through prophets and the Son (and his apostles) – Heb. 1:1-2; 2:3.

It is also very sad and troubling to read in the preface, “I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more.” In other words, the Bible is simply not enough. The Bible is insufficient for being the catalyst for real and experiential and life-changing encounter with God. In that perspective, Ms. Young seems to be very much at odds with the psalmist (Ps. 19:7-14 and Ps. 119).

I’m sure that the book has been helpful to many because much of what she says is, in fact, Scripturally true, and therefore beneficial and encouraging. But for these two reasons: that her book is confused and mistaken in its claims to be God’s words, and that the book is based on the premise that the inspired Word of God contained in Holy Scripture is insufficient and inadequate to produce the divine result of real communion with God, I think it is certainly fair to characterize it as ‘dangerous.’

Monday, October 28, 2013

Crying Out to God

“Paul cried out for release.  ‘I besought the Lord thrice that it might depart.’  He records the repeated entreaty without any regret, with no trace of a feeling that he ought to have endured in silence.  ‘Learn to suffer without crying out’ is a noble precept — as regards ‘cries’ to man, which are often better forborne.  But the maxim has no bearing upon cries to God, to the Christ of God.  Too ready, too outspoken, too confiding we cannot be in ‘telling Jesus all.’  Such ‘crying out’ will not weaken us; it will only strengthen us.  For it is the outgoing of our soul not only to infinite kindness, but at the same moment to infinite wisdom and strength.  It is taking refuge in the Rock.  It is ‘coming to the Living Stone.’  And that is the way to become ‘living stones’ ourselves, by contact, by contagion.”

--  H. C. G. Moule, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (London, 1962), page 117.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"You are God's beloved child"

"Have you heard God’s blessing in your inmost being? Are the words, ‘You are my beloved child, in whom I delight’ an endless source of joy and strength?

"Have you sensed, through the Holy Spirit, God speaking them to you? That blessing — the blessing through the Spirit that is ours through Christ — is what Jacob received [see Genesis 28], and it is the only remedy against idolatry. Only that blessing makes idols unnecessary.

"As with Jacob, we usually discover this only after a life of ‘looking for blessing in all the wrong places.’ It often takes an experience of crippling weakness for us to finally discover it. That is why so many of the most God-blessed people limp as they dance for joy."

— Tim Keller, "Counterfeit Gods"

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Convictional, Kind People

"Christ has not called us to be nice people [who don't confront culture], but Christ has called us to be kind people. He's called us to be convictional people and kind people who love those who are around us. And even when we are standing up for what we believe in, we're standing up for what we believe in as those who are offering redemption and reconciliation and the mercy of Christ." -- Russell Moore

Friday, October 25, 2013

Revolt Against What's Good for Us

"A basic principle of Christian theology was once written into the moral immune system of Western civilization—what God commands and institutes is what leads to genuine human flourishing. Our civilization now lives in open revolt against that affirmation." ~ Albert Mohler

Thursday, October 24, 2013

God and Our Longings and Desires

"I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion—which raises its head in every temptation—that there is something else than God—some other country . . . into which He forbids us to trespass—some kind of delight which He “doesn’t appreciate” or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it. The thing just isn’t there.

"Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as He can, or else a false picture of what He is trying to give us—a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing...He knows what we want, even in our vilest acts: He is longing to give it to us. He is not looking on from the outside at some new “taste” or “separate desire of our own.”

"Only because He has laid up real goods for us to desire are we able to go wrong by snatching at them in greedy, misdirected ways. The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. That is why I say there can be good without evil, but no evil without good. You know what the biologists mean by a parasite—an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse."

-- C.S. Lewis,  "The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume II: Family Letters 1905-1931"

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"A Life of Thankful Discontentment"

"The Christian life should be a state of thankful discontentment or joyful dissatisfaction! We live every day thankful for the amazing grace that fundamentally changes our lives, but we should not be satisfied.

"Why not? Because, when we look at ourselves honestly, we have to admit that there is still need for personal growth and change. We are not yet all that we could be in Christ. We are thankful for the many things in our lives that would not be there without His grace, but we should not settle for partial inheritance. We should want nothing less than all that is ours in Christ!

"In this sense, God does not want us to be content with less than what He wants for us. He calls us to continue to wrestle, meditate, look, consider, resist, submit, follow, and pray until we have been completely transformed into His likeness."

— Paul David Tripp and Timothy S. Lane
"How Christ Changes Us By His Grace"
The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Spring 2005)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Claims of Jesus

"Jesus’ claims are particularly unnerving, because if they are true there is no alternative but to bow the knee to him." -- Timothy Keller

Monday, October 21, 2013

Our Lord's Wrestling Hand to Hand

“By his wrestling hand to hand with the devil’s power, with the dread of death, and with the pains of hell, Jesus Christ emerged victorious and triumphed over them, that in death we may not now fear those things which our Prince has swallowed up.” -- John Calvin

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Church's Mission: An Explosion of Joy

“There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of ‘the missionary mandate.’ This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.”

– Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (p. 116)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Salvation Through Substitution

"We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at its center the principle of 'satisfaction through substitution,' indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution.... The theological words 'satisfaction' and 'substitution' need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstances be given up.

"The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us."

-- John Stott, "The Cross of Christ"

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Shepherd (a poem based on Psalm 23)


This Shepherd
He is mine
My Hero
My Everyday God.

I need a Provider
  a Protector,
  a Guide...
He is.

He restores,

He sees my suffering,
And He Is There.

He chose me to be...
  His treasured friend,
  His honored guest.

He bestows on me

He pursues me with
  goodness and

Now and forever...
This Shepherd is Mine

-- Sheila Elizabeth Rynbrandt

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Motivation for True Obedience

"Until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that naught is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; no, unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity."

— John Calvin
"Institutes of the Christian Religion"

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Whom will you believe?

“So now, turn from your conscience and its feelings to Christ, who is not able to deceive. My heart and Satan, however, who will drive me to sin, are liars. . . . You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord, who receives sinners, preaches to you. . . . Therefore, you are able to fight with your conscience by saying, ‘You lie. Christ speaks the truth, and you do not.’”

-- Martin Luther

Monday, October 14, 2013

To Live for Happiness...or Meaning?

"Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who survived three years in the Nazi death camps, observed how some of his fellow prisoners were able to endure the horror and pass through it while others could not. The difference came down to what Frankl called meaning. The problem is that contemporary people think life is all about finding happiness. We decide what conditions will make us happy and then we work to bring those conditions about.

"To live for happiness means that you are trying to get something out of life. But when suffering comes along, it takes the conditions for happiness away, and so suffering destroys all your reason to keep living. But to “live for meaning” means not that you try to get something out of life but rather that life expects something from us. In other words, you have meaning only when there is something in life more important than your own personal freedom and happiness, something for which you are glad to sacrifice your happiness."

-- Timothy Keller,. "Walking with God through Pain and Suffering" (pp. 70-71). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

"God Moves in a Mysterious Way"

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

(author unknown)

Saturday, October 12, 2013


"Eternity shall be at once a great eye-opener and a great mouth-shutter." ~ Jim Elliot

Friday, October 11, 2013

Surprised by Suffering?

“Why should we be surprised, then,... that our lives are often filled with darkness and pain? Even God himself in Christ did not avoid that. But though God’s purposes are often every bit as hidden and obscure as they were to Job and to the observers at the foot of the cross, we— who have the teaching of the Bible and have grasped the message of the Bible— know that the way up is down. The way to power, freedom, and joy is through suffering, loss, and sorrow.”

-- Timothy Keller, "Walking with God through Pain and Suffering"

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Enlist Under the Banner of Christ

"If you wear the livery [i.e., servant's uniform] of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains. There never was his like the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. His service is life, peace, and joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus Christ!" -- Charles Spurgeon

Monday, October 7, 2013

Orthodoxy in Community

“One cannot explain the explosive dynamite, the dunamis, of the early church apart from the fact that they practiced two things simultaneously: orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of community in the midst of the visible church, a community which the world could see.  By the grace of God, therefore, the church must be known simultaneously for its purity of doctrine and the reality of its community.  Our churches have so often been only preaching points with very little emphasis on community, but exhibition of the love of God in practice is beautiful and must be there.”

-- Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church before the Watching World (Downers Grove, 1971), page 62.
HT:  Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Cross As the Way to Peace

"Look steadily at Jesus on the cross, if you want to feel inward peace. Look to anything of your own, and you will never feel comfortable. Your own life and doings, your own repentance and amendment, your own morality and regularity, your own church-going, your own Bible-reading and your prayers, your own almsgiving and your charities, – what are they all but a huge mass of imperfection? Rest not upon them for a moment, in the matter of your justification. As evidences of your wishes, feelings, bias, tastes, habits, inclinations, they may be useful helps occasionally. As grounds of acceptance with God they are worthless rubbish. They cannot give you comfort; they cannot bear the weight of your sins; they cannot stand the searching eye of God. Rest on nothing but Christ crucified, and the atonement He made for you on Calvary. This, this alone is the way of peace."

~ J.C. Ryle

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Great Exchange

"This is what happens when we become Christians. Christ assumes our liabilities and graciously gives us his assets."

— Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp
"How People Change"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Story of God -- the Restoration of Creation

"If you read the Bible from cover to cover you realize that it narrates (proclaims!) a true and cohesive story: the good news that through Jesus Christ God has entered history to liberate and renew the world from its bondage to sin and suffering.

"This is the story of God, who pursues the restoration of his creation at the cost of his own life. He is making all things new (Rev 21:5)! That’s the simple and yet profound, life– and world-altering plotline of the Bible."

— Michael R. Emlet
(Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2009), 41

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Borrow a Song from Tomorrow

"Is there nothing to sing about today? Then borrow a song from tomorrow; sing of what is yet to be. Is this world dreary? Then think of the next." -- Charles Spurgeon