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December 13, 2009

You know that every now and again I like to post a prayer here. Sometimes it is a prayer from long ago, sometimes it is a prayer that is much more recent. This week I was looking at pastor Scotty Smith’s blog and came across a great prayer—one I could fully identify with and one I so badly needed to pray, too. Smith based it on this passage: “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:16-19).

Here is his prayer:

*****

Dear Lord Jesus, I’m very much convicted by and drawn to Mary’s response, early in her journey of nursing you and knowing you—the very God who created all things, sustains all things and makes all things new. She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

“Hurrying off” like a shepherd to tell others about you has always been easier for me than sitting still… and letting you tell me about yourself.

It’s always been easier for me to talk than to listen, to stay busy than to relax, to be “productive” than to be meditative… I confess this as sin, Lord Jesus. This isn’t okay. It can be explained, but not justified. For knowing about you is not the same thing as knowing you. An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart.

To know you IS eternal life, and I DO want to know you, Lord Jesus, so much better than I already do. Lead me in the way of treasuring you in my heart and pondering who you are… and pondering everything you’ve already accomplished through your life, death and resurrection… and everything you’re presently doing as the King of kings and Lord of lords… and everything you’ll be about forever in the new heaven and new earth, as the Bridegroom of your beloved Bride. There’s so much to treasure and so much to ponder…

It’s not as though I’m a stranger to treasuring and pondering, for I treasure and ponder a whole lot of things, Lord Jesus—things, however, that lead to a bankrupt spirit and an impoverished heart.

May the gospel slow me, settle me and center me that I might be able to say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:25-26).” So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

August 02, 2009

This is one of my favorites from The Valley of Vision as much for the concept of the prayer as its actual words. This is a prayer meant to follow prayer. Read it and I’m sure you’ll see, as I do, just how weak and listless my prayers actually are and how much even my best efforts in prayer and praise and petition are in need of God’s grace. Bewail your prayers and thank God that he hears them and answers them nonetheless.

*****

O God of grace,
I bewail my cold, listless, heartless prayers;
their poverty adds sin to my sin.
If my hope were in them I should be undone,
But the worth of Jesus perfumes my feeble breathings, and wins their acceptance.
Deepen my contrition of heart,
Confirm my faith in the blood that washes from all sin.
May I walk lovingly with my great Redeemer.
Flood my soul with true repentance that my heart may be broken for sin and unto sin.
Let me be as slow to forgive myself as thou art ready to forgive me.
Gazing on the glories of thy grace may I be cast into the lowest depths of shame.
and walk with downcast head now thou art pacified towards me.
O my great High Priest,
pour down upon me streams of needful grace,
bless me in all my undertakings,
in every thought of my mind,
every word of my lips,
every step of my feet,
every deed of my hands.
Thou didst live to bless,
die to bless,
rise to bless,
ascend to bless,
take thy throne to bless,
and now thou dost reign to bless.
O give sincerity to my desires,
earnestness to my supplications,
fervour to my love.

October 05, 2007

“Which of you, intended to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost?”

Today (a day late, for which I apologize) those of us who are engaged in this project to read some great Christian classics together are going to be looking at the fourth chapter of J.C. Ryle’s Holiness. You can read more about this effort here: Reading the Classics Together. Even if you are not participating, please keep reading. I’m sure there will be something here to benefit you.

To this point Ryle has covered Sin, Sanctification, Holiness and The Fight. This week he progresses to “The Cost.” In this chapter he examines the cost that will come with the fight for personal holiness. “What does it cost to be a true Christian? What does it cost to be a really holy man? This, after all, is the grand question. For want of thought about this, thousands, after seeming to begin well, turn away from the road to heaven, and are lost for ever in hell.”

Summary

The chapter follows this outline:

  1. The Cost of being a Christian
    1. Self-Righteousness
    2. Sins
    3. Love of ease
    4. Favor of the World
  2. The Importance of Counting the Cost – The example of those who did not
    1. The first generation of Israelites in the wilderness
    2. Some of the hearers of Jesus
    3. King Herod
    4. Demas
    5. Hearers of famous evangelical preachers
    6. Some under the influence of evangelical revivals
    7. Some children of religious parents
  3. Some Hints – Count and Compare
    1. Profit and Loss
    2. Praise and Blame
    3. Friends and Enemies
    4. Life now and Life to come
    5. The pleasure of sin and the happiness in God’s service
    6. The trouble of true Christianity and the trouble of the grave
    7. The number that turn to Christ and the number that turn away from Christ
  4. Application
    1. Does your religion cost you anything?
    2. Consider the cost God paid to save your soul.
    3. If you have counted the cost then persevere to the end.

Discussion

This chapter is, in my estimation, the most unexpected of the lot. This is not to say that it is out-of-place, but more that if I had seven things to say about holiness, I’m not sure that I would have thought that “the cost” merited consideration. However, having read it, I definitely agree that it is worth considering and has a place in the book.

The point that particularly caught my attention was the simple fact that personal holiness will cost a man his sins. This is obvious, to be sure, but still profound. We might think that, as Christians, it would be easy to rid ourselves of our sin. But this is too often not the case. “Our sins are often as dear to use as our children: we love them, hug them, cleave to them, and delight in them. To part with them is as hard as cutting off a right hand, or plucking out a right eye. But it must be done.” It is amazing how tightly we cling to our sins and how much we treasure them. I think of Gollum of Lord of the Rings fame, cooing to and cuddling his precious ring, desiring that ring more than anything. And yet that ring was destroying him from the inside out. That ring eventually led to his death. And our sin can be just like this—almost a precious possession that we love like life itself. But as we pursue holiness we will need to rid ourselves of even our most treasured sins.

I suspect that, for many men, these are sins of lust. Many men harbor lust in their lives, considering it a harmless distraction, whether it involves pornography or even just stolen glances at attractive women. I will leave it to women to consider the favored sins that they are most commonly attracted to. As you think about this (whether you are a man or a woman), you may wish to consider reading Jerry Bridges’ Respectable Sins as it deals with a very similar topic.

So here, in an unexpected chapter, I found something to meditate upon and something to apply to my life. And best of all, it was something that collided perfectly with what I was reading by an author who wrote over a century later. I love it when that happens!

Next Time

We’ll continue the book next Thursday (October 11) with the fifth chapter (“Growth”). If you’ve committed to join in this reading project, please keep reading and be prepared to discuss it!

Your Turn

I am interested in hearing what you took away from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Don’t feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or gave you pause or confused you.