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Tim Challies

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January 25, 2009

Today is widely regarded as the best Sunday of the month at Grace Fellowship Church. We gather in the morning for our regular morning service but afterward, instead of going our separate ways, we enjoy a potluck fellowship lunch. Following that, we have a brief second service that culminates in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. I thought this was an appropriate prayer for any of us who are preparing to enjoy Lord’s Supper on this Lord’s Day. It is drawn from The Valley of Vision.

God of all good,
I bless thee for the means of grace;
teach me to see in them thy loving purposes
and the joy and strength of my soul.

Thou hast prepared for me a feast;
and though I am unworthy to sit down as guest,
I wholly rest on the merits of Jesus,
and hide myself beneath his righteousness;
When I hear his tender invitation
and see his wondrous grace,
I cannot hesitate, but must come to thee in love.

By thy spirit enliven my faith rightly to discern
and spiritually to apprehend the Saviour.
While I gaze upon the emblems of my Saviour’s death,
may I ponder why he died, and hear him say,
‘I gave my life to purchase yours,
presented myself an offering to expiate your sin,
shed my blood to blot out your guilt,
opened my side to make you clean,
endured your curses to set you free,
bore your condemnation to satisfy divine justice.’

Oh may I rightly grasp the breadth and length of this design,
draw near, obey, extend the hand,
take the bread, receive the cup,
eat and drink, testify before all men
that I do for myself, gladly, in faith,
reverence and love, receive my Lord,
to be my life, strength, nourishment, joy, delight.

In the supper I remember his eternal love,
boundless grace, infinite compassion,
agony, cross, redemption,
and receive assurance of pardon, adoption, life, glory.
As the outward elements nourish my body,
so may thy indwelling Spirit invigorate my soul,
until that day when I hunger and thirst no more,
and sit with Jesus at his heavenly feast.

December 31, 2008

Yet another year is giving us its last gasps. Tonight we’ll celebrate the passing of an old year and the dawning of a new one. It is a good occasion, a good opportunity, to reflect on the year that was and the year that will be. To that end, here is a prayer drawn from The Valley of Vision. It shares hope and encouragement for the new year. It is a good one to include in your prayers as you look forward to 2009.

O Lord,
Length of days does not profit me
except the days are passed in Thy presence,
in Thy service, to Thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from Thee,
but may rely on Thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth Thy praise;
testify Thy love,
advance Thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with Thee, O Father as my harbour,
Thee, O Son, at my helm,
Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to Thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.

Give me They grace to sanctify me,
Thy comforts to cheer,
Thy wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.
May Thy fear by my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.

December 28, 2008

Let me share again today a prayer from The Valley of Vision that great collection of Puritan prayers. This one seems appropriate as we approach the end of another year and look forward to the year beyond.

O Love beyond Compare,
Thou art good when thou givest,
when thou takest away,
when the sun shines upon me,
when night gathers over me.
Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,
and in love didst redeem my soul;
Thou dost love me still,
in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.
Thy goodness has been with me another year,
leading me through a twisting wilderness,
in retreat helping me to advance,
when beaten back making sure headway.
Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past.
I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.
If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation,
thou wilt be with me in them;
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation,
I shall not drown;
If I am to die,
I shall see thy face the sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot,
grant me grace that my faith fail not;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
I can make no stipulation;
Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,
as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.
November 22, 2008

Here is another prayer from The Valley of Vision. I think this one has somehow struck me deeper than any other in the book. This confession both shames and encourages me: “I am not yet weaned from all created glory, honour, wisdom, and esteem of others, for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do.” Here it is, a prayer that God would remove the dark guest who haunts me.

O Lord,

Bend my hands and cut them off, for I have often struck thee with a wayward will, when these fingers should embrace thee by faith.

I am not yet weaned from all created glory, honour, wisdom, and esteem of others, for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do.

Let me not only speak the word sin, but see the thing itself.

Give me to view a discovered sinfulness, to know that though my sins are crucified they are never wholly mortified.

Hatred, malice, ill-will,vain-glory that hungers for and hunts after man’s approval and applause, all are crucified, forgiven, but they rise again in my sinful heart.

O my crucified but never wholly mortified sinfulness!
O my life-long damage and daily shame!
O my indwelling and besetting sins!
O the tormenting slavery of a sinful heart!

Destroy, O God, the dark guest within whose hidden presence makes my life a hell.

Yet thou hast not left me here without grace; The cross still stands and meets my needs in the deepest straits of the soul.

I thank thee that my remembrance of it is like David’s sight of Goliath’s sword which preached forth thy deliverance.

The memory of my great sins, my many temptations, my falls, bring afresh into my mind the remembrance of thy great help, of thy support from heaven, of the great grace that saved such a wretch as I am.

There is no treasure so wonderful as that continuous experience of thy grace toward me which alone can subdue the risings of sin within:

Give me more of it.

November 16, 2008

I have the privilege of preaching tonight on the topic of the Trinity. It seemed appropriate, then, that I would combine this topic with the prayers I often post on Sundays—prayers drawn from The Valley of Vision. This prayer is the first in the book and is known simply as “The Trinity.” What a great prayer it is.

Three in One, One in Three, God of my salvation,

Heavenly Father, blessed Son, eternal Spirit,

I adore thee as one Being, one Essence,
one God in three distinct Persons,
for bringing sinners to thy knowledge and to thy kingdom.

O Father, thou hast loved me and sent Jesus to redeem me;

O Jesus, thou hast loved me and assumed my nature,
shed thine own blood to wash away my sins,
wrought righteousness to cover my

O Holy Spirit, thou hast loved me and entered
my heart, implanted there eternal life,
revealed to me the glories of Jesus.

Three Persons and one God, I bless and praise thee,
for love so unmerited, so unspeakable,
so wondrous, so mighty to save the lost
and raise them to glory.

O Father, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast given me to Jesus, to be his sheep,
jewel, portion;

O Jesus, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast accepted, espoused, bound me;

O Holy Spirit, I thank thee that in fullness of
grace thou hast
exhibited Jesus as my salvation,
implanted faith within me,
subdued my stubborn heart,
made me one with him for ever.

O Father, thou art enthroned to hear my prayers,

O Jesus, thy hand is outstretched to take my

O Holy Spirit, thou art willing to help my
infirmities, to show me my need,
to supply words, to pray within me,
to strengthen me that I faint not in

O Triune God, who commandeth the universe,
thou hast commanded me to ask for those
things that concern thy kingdom and my soul.

Let me live and pray as one baptized into the
threefold Name.

October 01, 2008

The best defense is a good offense. You’ve probably heard that phrase before. As far as I can tell, it was coined by the Prussian military historian, theorist and tactician Carl von Clausewitz (a name I’m quite sure I haven’t written since military history classes way back in my college days). Since then it has been applied to all kinds of situations far beyond the military. It has also been turned around so occasionally you will hear people say, “the best offense is a good defense.” Today we most often hear in the phrase in the context of sports and this was the context in which I heard it applied in a sermon a few weeks ago. I got thinking about the phrase and realized how applicable it is to the Christian life.

When it comes to sports, it is often the case that a strong offense is the best defense. After all, a team with strong offensive production denies the other team the ability to control the ball and to tally points. The phrase works well in sports like soccer or hockey where, especially in the game’s closing minutes, a team will attempt to control the ball (or puck) for long periods, knowing that this will keep the other team from scoring. But maybe it works best in football. Football is a sport I used to watch a lot (far too much, really) and there were several occasions where I saw those games where the first possession would last an entire quarter, or very close to it. As the team marched slowly up the field, with play after play, they maintained possession of the ball. The defensive team remained on defense and had no opportunity to put any points on the board. Of course many teams have this down to an art and in the game’s closing plays have mastered the ability to take large chunks of time off the clock while accomplishing little more than keeping the ball out of the other team’s hands. In this case offense serves as defense. The offensive team plays defensively, not attempting to score points as much as they try to keep the other team from getting control of the ball.

The more I live this Christian life, the more I see that there is truth in that old and worn phrase. The best defense really is a good offense. The best way to protect my heart and life is to be constantly on the offensive. It is in those times that I ease off, those times where I grow complacent and disinterested, that I am most prone to sin. It is in those times that I begin to lose battles. The words of 1 Corinthians 10:12 come to mind: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” When I think I can stand on my own power I am priming myself for a great fall.

Remaining on the offensive is a lifelong process and one that is surprisingly uncomplicated, at least the way I see it. I thought about it for a time, asking “how can I stay on the offensive?” It’s simple, I think. God gives us the tools we need to stay on the march (You’ll be glad to note, no doubt, that I resisted retaining the sports metaphor and saying that he gives us the “playbook…”). He gives us his Word, the Bible, which is the sword of the Spirit. He gives us prayer which helps us submit ourselves to his will and to plead for those things which please him. He gives us Christian community as the natural context to grow in our knowledge of him and to grow in personal holiness as our sin is lovingly brought to our attention. And he gives us the preaching of the Word which pierces our hearts and arms us for conflict.

So if I wish to remain on the offense and thus maintain the best defense, I need to study the Bible, asking God to help me understand and apply it. I need to remain in a constant posture of prayer, sharing my burdens with God and seeking His face. I need to commit to my local church and to the community God has established there. And I need to rejoice in the preaching of the Word, letting God’s Word penetrate my heart and my life.

In all of these things I am actively putting aside sin, actively seeking God, actively pursuing holiness. I am on the offensive against sin, against Satan and against the old man. I am depending on God, relying on his strength, and trusting in his sovereignty.

It is a worthwhile question, I think. Am I on the offensive or am I showing complacency, allowing myself to fall back to a defensive posture? It is a question I have to ask myself often.

September 28, 2008

Here is another prayer drawn from The Valley of Vision. It is a prayer of penitence. What particularly appealed to me in this prayer was the first section which sets much of a days’ sin in the neglect of private prayers. “My first sin of the day leads into others…” I think every Christian can identify with this and pray with this old Puritan, “O quicken my conscience to feel this folly, to bewail this ingratitude.”

O Lord of grace,
I have been hasty and short in private prayer,
    O quicken my conscience to feel this folly,
    to bewail this ingratitude;
My first sin of the day leads into others,
    and it is just that thou shouldst withdraw
    thy presence
    from one who waited carelessly on thee.
Keep me at all times from robbing thee,
    and from depriving my soul of thy due worship;
Let me never forget
    that I have an eternal duty to love, honour
    and obey thee,
    that thou art infinitely worthy of such;
    that if I fail to glorify thee
I am guilty of infinite evil that merits infinite punishment,
    for sin is the violation of an infinite obligation.
O forgive me if I have dishonoured thee,
Melt my heart, heal my backslidings,
    and open an intercourse of love.
When the fire of thy compassion warms my
    inward man,
and the outpourings of thy Spirit fill my soul,
    then I feelingly wonder at my own depravity,
    and deeply abhor myself;
    then thy grace is a powerful incentive
    to repentance,
    and an irresistible motive to inward holiness.
May I never forget that thou hast my heart
    in thy hands.
Apply to it the merits of Christ’s atoning blood
    whenever I sin.
Let thy mercies draw me to thyself.
Wean me from all evil, mortify me to the world,
    and make me ready for my departure hence
    animated by the humiliations of penitential love.
My soul is often a chariot without wheels,
    clogged and hindered in sin’s miry clay;
Mount it on eagle’s wings
    and cause it to soar upward to thyself.

September 21, 2008

Today is going to be a busy day. Our church is having a members’ meeting in the mid-afternoon, which means that we’ll have only a couple of hours after morning worship before heading back to church first for the meeting and then for evening worship. And then, after it all, we have a small group of sorts to attend. Put it all together and it is going to be a busy day, though a blessed one, I am sure. Yesterday evening I opened The Valley of Vision to see what prayers I could find that would seem appropriate for so busy a day. But before I found one that fit that particular mold, I found one that seemed more than a bit strange. It is a prayer that is meant to follow prayer. I’ve never heard of such a thing, but I enjoyed the prayer and thought I would share it with you. The author has certainly tapped into the Christian’s inability to do anything—even something that seems to “holy” as prayer—without needing the presence and power of God.

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.