Friday, January 31, 2014

What Is Even Sadder Than Being a Lost Sheep?

It is a very sad thing to be a lost sheep that has gone astray; it is much, much sadder still to turn into a stubborn "mule" who refuses to be helped or saved. (Ps. 32:9-10)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Yielding to God's Providence"

"Nothing whatever, whether great or small, can happen to a believer, without God’s ordering and permission.

"The providential government of God over everything in this world is a truth of which the Greek and Roman philosophers had no conception. It is a truth which is specially revealed to us in the word of God. Just as the telescope and microscope show us that there is order and design in all the works of God’s hand, from the greatest planet down to the least insect, so does the Bible teach us that there is wisdom, order, and design in all the events of our daily life. There is no such thing as ‘chance,’ ‘luck,’ or ‘ accident’ in the Christian’s journey through this world. All is arranged and appointed by God. And all things are ‘working together’ for the believer’s good. (Rom. viii. 28.)

"Let us seek to have an abiding sense of God’s hand in all that befalls us, if we profess to be believers in Jesus Christ. Let us strive to realize that a Father’s hand is measuring out our daily portion, and that our steps are ordered by Him. A daily practical faith of this kind, is one grand secret of happiness, and a mighty antidote against murmuring and discontent. We should try to feel in the day of trial and disappointment, that all is right and all is well done. We should try to feel on the bed of sickness that there must be a ‘needs be.’ We should say to ourselves, ‘God could keep away from me these things if He thought fit. But He does not do so, and therefore they must be for my advantage. I will lie still, and bear them patiently. I have ‘an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure.’ (2 Sam. xxiii. 5.) What pleases God shall please me.’”

- J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)
Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: For Family and Private Use, pp. 61-62.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Envy's Errors

"Envy fails to rest in the fact that God never fails in a promise, never gets a wrong address, and always gives what is best." -- Paul David Tripp

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Reserved Seat

"God makes man in His image, but man may not replicate that image as the center of his worship. Of course, Israel had to be taught that God is an invisible Spirit, not a material being. But there was a further reason. God claimed a monopoly on His own self-revelation. He would appear to men as He chose, not as they might imagine. The empty seat above the ark was reserved for the One who was to come."

— Edmund P. Clowney
"The Unfolding Mystery"

Sunday, January 26, 2014

When I can call God "Father"...

"If an earthly father watches over his children with unceasing love and care, how much more does our heavenly Father? Abba, Father! He who can say this, hath uttered better music than cherubim or seraphim can reach. There is heaven in the depth of that word—Father! There is all I can ask; all my necessities can demand; all my wishes can desire. I have all in all to all eternity when I can say, “Father.” "

-- Charles Spurgeon

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Fully pleasing to Him"

..from Ray Ortlund, Jr.:  

“. . . so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him.”  Colossians 1:10

We should not be afraid of this clear biblical teaching.  It does not counteract the gospel in our lives; it is the sweet fruit of the gospel in our lives.

The good news of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from all our works, is thrilling.  The message of forgiveness, acceptance, adoption, all by radical divine grace — I never get tired of hearing it and preaching it.  It is oxygen to me.  Every day.  I hope it means that to you too.

But this grace is also a power that transforms.  It both reassures us and changes us.  Both/and.  How else can we account for the New Testament?

“Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”  Ephesians 5:10

“We ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.”  1 Thessalonians 4:1

“Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”  1 John 3:22

This is not legalism.  The One whose mercy flows freely to the undeserving is not a machine.  He is not a mechanical Grace Dispenser.  He is a person.  His smile is not an all-approving grin.  He has moral sensitivities.  We please him, and we displease him, moment by moment.  Within the gospel framework of his grace, inside the relationship of his fatherly acceptance, he is fully capable of confronting us.  Not rejecting us, not casting us off, but correcting us.  Because he’s a good Father.

I’ll take it further.  The One who is for us (Romans 8:31) can also bluntly say, “I have something against you” (Revelation 2:4, 14, 20).  The One who will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) is also quite capable of saying to us, “We need to have a serious talk.  It’s time for you to make some changes.  If you will listen and follow, I will continue to use you.  If you turn away, I will set you aside.”  All he wants to take from us is “what is dishonorable” (2 Timothy 2:21) anyway – the things in ourselves we can’t approve of either.  What’s so bad about that?

But here is what I’m wondering.  Is the only message we’ll hear and receive the word of justification and acceptance and affirmation?  What if our Savior wants to get up in our faces about things in us that displease him?  Will we dismiss that message as legalism?  We can turn it into legalism.  If we respond to the rebukes of Scripture as occasions for self-invented virtue, discounting the finished work of Christ on the cross, then it is legalism.  But that is not what the Bible is saying.  The Bible is alerting us to the heart of our Father, a heart that is wounded by our sins and follies, a heart that is pleased with our humility and obedience.  He feels the one, he feels the other.  This is part of the New Covenant message to God’s blood-bought people.  Will we receive it?

I remember my dad mentioning a close friend of his who was in spiritual trouble.  My dad said something like, “I wonder if he has so offended the Lord that the Lord has turned his face away.”  Only God knows what was really going on in that man’s experience.  But my dad’s intuition may have been right.  Our Judge who justifies us is also our Father who disciplines us (Hebrews 12:3-11).

If your theology includes the message of justification by faith alone, I hope you never back off from that.  I hope you keep that message central.  But I also hope your theology includes another message – the grace of obedience fully pleasing to the Father.

-- ..from Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Law Continually Sends Us to the Gospel

"It has been the frequent temptation of the church to become antinomian (i.e., anti-law) when she discovers the wonder of the gospel.  When Christians learn that the way to stand before God is by faith in the grace of Christ and not by faith in their own inner or outer works, they are tempted to hate the law for having taught them that salvation depends upon our obedience to its teachings.  But the Reformation rediscovered in Paul that we must let the law continually do its stripping, condemning, accusing work on us so that we might continually flee to the gospel, seek its resources, and walk in its powers.  Without the law we will feel little need for the gospel; without knowing our sickness we will not seek the Physician."

-- Frederick Dale Bruner, "The Christbook: Matthew 1-12," p. 94 (Eerdmans)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Your greatest temptation?

"Your greatest temptation isn't some horrible sin, but the sneaky distrust that creeps in your heart, saying your Savior isn't enough." - Judah Smith

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"The cross saved; the cross saves"

"It cannot be over-emphasized that we have not seen the full meaning of the cross till we have seen it as the center of the gospel, flanked on the one hand by total inability and unconditional surrender and on the other by irresistible grace and final preservation.

"Christ died to save a certain company of helpless sinners upon whom God had set his free saving love. Christ’s death ensured the calling and keeping — the present and final salvation — of all whose sins he bore. That is what Calvary meant, and means. The cross saved; the cross saves."

— J. I. Packer
A Quest for Godliness

Monday, January 20, 2014

Among the saints?

“May a merciful God preserve me from a Christian Church in which everyone is a saint!  I want to be and remain in the church and little flock of the fainthearted, the feeble and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who sigh and cry to God incessantly for comfort and help, who believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

-- Martin Luther, in Luther’s Works (St. Louis, 1957), XXII:55.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Captivated by His Beauty

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him;
Joyful choose the better part.

Idols oft they win thee, charm thee
Lovely things of time and sense;
Gilded thus does sin disarm thee,
Honeyed lest thou turn thee hence.

What has stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty
But the sight of peerless worth ...

...Not the crushing of those idols
With its bitter void and smart [pain],
But the beaming of His beauty
The unveiling of His heart.

Who extinguishes their taper [candle]
Till they hail the rising sun?
Who discards the garb of winter
Till the summer hath begun?

‘Tis the look that melted Peter,
‘Tis the face that Stephen saw;
‘Tis the heart that wept with Mary
Can alone from idols draw.

Draw and win and fill completely,
Till the cup o'erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols
Who have companied with Him?

Chorus: Captivated by His beauty
Worthy tribute haste to bring;
Let His peerless worth constrain thee,
Crown Him now unrivaled King!

-Miss Ora Rowan (1834-1879)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Psalms: An Anatomy of the Soul

"I call the Psalms the anatomy of all parts of the soul, for not an affection will anyone find in himself, an image of which is not reflected in this mirror." - John Calvin

Friday, January 17, 2014

Rest in Him

"Rest in Him and you will be rested. Why do you go off to the rough paths? Where will you go? The good that you love is from Him, but it is good and pleasing only so far as it is considered in relation to Him. But if you abandon Him, the love you direct towards anything that is from Him will be unrighteous, and the object of your love will righteously be bitter to the taste." -- Augustine, "Confessions" (4.12.18)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"How can you find a happy life where there is no life?"

"The good you love is from him, but only in so far as it is used for him is it good and sweet. But with justice will it become bitter, if you, as a deserter from him, unjustly love what comes from him. Whither do you walk, farther and farther along these hard and toilsome roads? There is no rest to be found where you seek it: seek what you seek, but it lies not where you seek it. You seek a happy life in the land of death, but it is not there. How can you find a happy life where there is no life?"  -- Augustine, "Confessions"

-- quoted in an excellent blog post by Chuck Colson

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Spiritual Poverty of the West

" American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God's creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding one thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims.

"Subsequently, however, all such limitations were eroded everywhere in the West; a total emancipation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming ever more materialistic. The West has finally achieved the rights of man, and even excess, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistic selfishness of the Western approach to the world has reached its peak and the world has found itself in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the celebrated technological achievements of progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the twentieth century's moral poverty, which no one could have imagined even as late as the nineteenth century...."

-- "A World Split Apart" — Commencement Address Delivered At Harvard University, June 8, 1978

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"The Lord will fight for you..."

"...Calling the military chiefs from the crowd, [Joshua] orders them to step forward and face these Amorite kings, presumably bound and lying on the ground. Joshua tells these leaders of Israel to put their feet on the necks of these kings, and then he proclaims,

"'Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lᴏʀᴅ will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.' (Joshua 10:25)

"And he means it. All Israel’s enemies — God’s enemies — will ultimately be defeated. Even in the darkest days, when it seems evil is prevailing, it’s not. It can’t. Why?

"Because long before the chiefs of Israel put their feet on the necks of these foes, God promised us One who would put his foot on the neck of our greatest foe.

"This is where Joshua 10 is pointing...."

For the rest of this encouraging article from Desiring God, click here....

Monday, January 13, 2014

Can you trust Him?

“Those hands that keep a million worlds from spinning into oblivion were nailed motionless to a cross— for us.  .  .  . Can you trust him?” -- Elisabeth Elliot

(quoted by Timothy Keller in "Walking with God through Pain and Suffering", p. 174). 

Where is lasting hope to be found?

"Lasting hope is always found vertically; all the horizontal places you will look for hope are, like you, broken and groaning for redemption." -- Paul David Tripp

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"There is but a step..."

“‘Today,’ says our Lord to the penitent thief, ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’  He names no distant period.  He does not talk of his entering into a state of happiness as a thing far away.  He speaks of today, ‘this very day in which you are hanging on the cross.’

How near that seems!  How awfully near that word brings our everlasting dwelling-place!  Happiness or misery, sorrow or joy, the presence of Christ or the company of devils — all are close to us.  ’There is but a step,’ says David, ‘between me and death.’  There is but a step, we may say, between ourselves and either paradise or hell.”

-- J. C. Ryle, "Holiness" (Old Tappan, n.d.), page 193.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fear of the Future

“Although it is very right to think about the future, it is very wrong to be controlled by it.

"The difficulty with people who are prey to these fears is that they are controlled by the future, they are dominated by thoughts of it, and there they are wringing their hands, doing nothing, depressed by fears about it. In fact, they are completely governed and mastered by the unknown future, and that is always wrong. To take thought is right, but to be controlled by the future is all wrong.”

-- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:  "Spiritual Depression" p. 98.

The life-giving Word

"...In his natural state the unregenerate man suppresses every aspect of God's natural and special revelation.  The evidence in him, around him, and in Scripture is sufficient and final.  There is no weakness in the evidence.  The problem is that man cannot see.  He doesn't need more evidence; he needs new birth.  The living, abiding Word of God as self-attestingly sure, blessed by the regenerating activity of the Holy Spirit, is his only hope."

-- James M. Grier, "Essays on the Christian Worldview"

Thursday, January 9, 2014

James M. Grier on "Faith"

"Belief in God as He is revealed in Jesus Christ is the very essence of faith.  To believe in God implies trusting Him, being loyal to Him, obeying Him and loving Him.  Faith is the cardinal allegiance in life.  It is the response to the first commandment in the Ten Words, 'Thou shalt have no other god before Me...'  It is the answer to the initial petitions of the Lord's Prayer, 'Hallowed be Thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.'

"Faith is the central allegiance that gives meaning and significance to all of life.  Loss of faith implies movement to meaninglessness, the loss of the point of all things, the loss of the significance of one's actions.  This loyalty to God as revealed in Christ is not one among many loyalties in life.  It is the loyalty, the ultimate trust in God that gives meaning to all of life."

-- James M. Grier, "Loving the God of Truth" p. 143

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Reading the Bible Like Jesus: Matt. 22:31"

...from Thabiti Anyabwile:

"Reading the Bible is difficult work. Or at least it can be if we intend to do more than simply read it for enjoyment or duty. There are many things we have to overcome in order to read effectively: the flesh, fatigue, distractions, time pressures from various sources, cold hearts, clogged ears and so on. Even when we overcome all these obstacles of the world, the flesh and the devil, we still find our Bible reading needs adjustment in order to read as Jesus read.

"Consider for example Jesus’ interaction with the Sadducees about the resurrection in Matthew 22:23-33. The Sadducees try to trip Jesus up with a question about a woman who marries seven brothers. They don’t believe in the resurrection and suppose that such a situation would obviously falsify the resurrection since she can’t be the wife of seven men in heaven. Here’s how Jesus replied:

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you  not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at His teaching.

“Ouch” to verse 29. That must have stung the Sadducees.

"Then notice what Jesus does. In verse 30 he answers the silly question about marriage in heaven. If they knew the Scriptures and God’s power they would know that marriage is earthly but our heavenly existence is of another sort altogether when it comes to relationships.

"But verse 31 is where Jesus teaches us to read the Bible. Notices specifically the question, “have you not read what was said to you by God…?” Jesus presupposes two things here that help us to read our Bibles.

"First, Jesus suggests we should read our Bibles as a present tense, personal address. “What was said to you….” The text he quotes is Exodus 3:6, where God speaks to Moses from the burning bush. But Jesus says the Sadducees should have understood that as an address to them centuries later! That text had their names on it. And so every text we read, properly interpreted, has our name on it, too. It is addressed to us personally, even though it is not primarily about us. How would we read our Bibles differently if we approached it as if it were addressed to us? At the very least we would be enabled to approach the Bible with a new sense of personal investment and a sense of the Bible’s enduring relevance.

"Second, Jesus suggests we should read our Bibles as a conversation with the living God. Notice again: “What was said to you by God…”. Then consider the Master’s quote of Exodus 3:6 to prove that God “is not the God of the dead, but the living.” God lives and He speaks. Most fundamentally we are not being addressed by human authors when we read the Bible. We are being addressed by the living God. At least that’s how Jesus read the Bible. The Exodus account becomes a word from God in print addressed to Sadducees and Christians centuries later. Jesus presumes we should hear God’s voice and discover God’s mind when we read our Bibles. Our reading is God speaking. That makes sense if we understand that God breathed out the Scriptures as the true Author (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

"There are a couple things I have to do in order to hold onto these realities.

First, I have to keep reminding myself that God is alive and that He is talking to me. I find it so easy to approach the Bible as a book written by dead men. That’s not my self-conscious approach; it’s a creeping assumption that keeps dulling my mind. I keep forgetting that God is speaking to me, personally, as I read His word. I find myself thinking that God is speaking generally, to no one in particular, about things in general. I need to ready my mind with a sense of His addressing me personally and specifically or my Bible reading grows cold.

"Second, I need to speak more often of my Bible reading as “God talking.” I should more frequently say about my Bible reading, “God told me…” or “God said….” I tend to say, “he Bible says” or “Paul says,” which is fine, but it misses the deeper spiritual reality. If  I have read my Bible well–as a personal address from God to me with a prayerful response and consideration–then I have been in conversation with God.  We shouldn’t use the phrases “God said” or “God told me” to speak primarily of subjective impressions, as so many do. We should primarily speak this way about our Bible reading, where God speaks infallibly and most clearly. I need to remind myself that I not only talk to God a lot in prayer, but He talks back to me in Bible reading.

"Jesus is teaching me to read the Bible better than I have. I don’t know about you… but I need it."

-- Thabiti Anyabwile

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Overly Confident Atheism

This is not an easy read, but it's some very insightful analysis, again, from Ross Douthat of the New York Times:  "The Confidence of Jerry Coyne"

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Pulpit is the Prow of the World

“The pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part.  All the rest comes in its rear.  The pulpit leads the world.  From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt.  From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds.  Yes, the world is a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete.  And the pulpit is its prow.”

-- Herman Melville, Moby Dick (Boston, 1892), page 42.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Luther on What to Do in the Face of Trouble

Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.  Psalm 118:5

“Note the great art and wisdom of faith.  It does not run to and fro in the face of trouble.  It does not cry on everybody’s shoulder, nor does it curse and scold its enemies.  It does not murmur against God by asking, ‘Why does God do this to me?’ . . . Faith does not despair of the God who sends trouble.  Faith does not consider him angry or an enemy, as the flesh, the world and the devil strongly suggest.  Faith rises above all this and sees God’s fatherly heart behind his unfriendly exterior. . . .

"Do not sit by yourself or lie on a couch . . . . Do not destroy yourself with your own thoughts by worrying.  Do not strive and struggle to free yourself, and do not brood on your wretchedness, suffering, and misery.  Say to yourself: ‘Come on, you lazy bum; down on your knees, and lift your eyes and hands toward heaven!’  Read a psalm or the Our Father, call on God, and tearfully lay your troubles before him. . . . It is his desire and will that you lay your troubles before him.  He does not want you to multiply your troubles by burdening and torturing  yourself.  He wants you to be too weak to bear and overcome such troubles; he wants you to grow strong in him.  By his strength he is glorified in you.

"Out of such experiences men become real Christians.  Otherwise, men are mere babblers, who prate about faith and spirit but are ignorant of what it is all about.”

-- Martin Luther on Psalm 118:5

HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr. and Eric Ortlund.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Word as Inspiration for Worship

“What if the word of God was enough to inspire passionate worship among his people?” -- David Platt

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Great Goals for the New Year

 "Walk more closely with God. Get nearer to Christ. Seek to exchange hope for assurance. Seek to feel the witness of the Spirit more closely and distinctly every year. Lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily threatens you. Press towards the mark more earnestly. Fight a better fight, and war a better warfare every year you live. Pray more. Read more. Subdue self more. Love the brethren more. Oh that you may endeavor to grow in grace every year, that the end of your Christian course may be better than the beginning!" ~ J.C. Ryle