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Quotes

October 05, 2014

This week I stumbled across one parent’s attempt to bring reason and discipline to her children’s use of digital media. To help them learn how to use their devices well, Susan Maushart has instituted “The Ten Commandments For Using Modern Media.” Here they are:

  • Thou shalt not fear boredom
  • Thou shalt not “multitask” (not until thy kingdom come, thy homework be done)
  • Thou shalt not WILF (WILF describes the “What Was I Looking For” phenomenon of using Google to look for one thing, and then burning two hours hunting down random and unimportant facts)
  • Thou shalt not text and drive (or talk, or sleep)
  • Thou shalt keep the Sabbath a screen-free day
  • Thou shalt keep thy bedroom a media-free zone
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s upgrade
  • Thou shalt set thy accounts to “Private”
  • Thou shalt bring no media to thy dinner
  • Thou shalt bring no dinner to thy media.

I’ve got to say: Those aren’t too bad…

September 28, 2014

This week I dug up an interesting quote from Charles Spurgeon. He was thinking about the easy-believism of his day. A vast quantity of people professed faith in Christ, but so few showed compelling evidence of genuine salvation. Spurgeon reflected on this and on those parts of the Bible claiming that Christians will necessarily suffer. And then he said this:

I am glad that there is some trouble in being a Christian, for it has become a very common thing to profess to be one. If I am right, it is going to become a much less common thing for a person to say “I am a Christian.” There will come times when sharp lines will be drawn. Some of us will help draw them if we can. The problem is that people bear the Christian name but act like worldlings and love the amusements and follies of the world. It is time for a division in the house of the Lord in which those for Christ go into one camp and those against Christ go into the other camp. We have been mixed together too long.

And I guess he was wrong, at least to some degree. Because today there are still so many—too many—who call themselves Christians even though they display so little evidence to back their profession. Those sharp lines remain to be drawn.

September 21, 2014

I have found myself intrigued by a new book by Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks titled Churches Partnering Together. I guess the title says it all—it is about developing bonds between churches so different congregations, and their leaders, can be on mission together. In one chapter the authors discuss the inevitability of confrontation and I appreciate their counsel on positive confrontation. They begin with Galatians 6:1-2: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” And then they provide seven conditions for confrontation which apply not only to conflicts between church leaders, but between all Christians:

  1. It should be done between “brothers.” This sets the tone for the conversation. You’re family, which implies that you have an unbreakable bond with each other. No matter what happens in the conversation, your commitment to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ will remain.
  2. The other person must be “caught in transgression.” The sin must be clear and present, not just assumed and implied. This is particularly true when confronting someone’s underlying motivations, which are extremely hard to discern.
  3. It should be done by “spiritual” people. This means you need to be operating in the Spirit’s power, not out of anger and frustration.
  4. The goal should be to “restore” the other person to a healthy relationship with God and to restore unity to the partnership. If your primary goal is to get the other person to stop aggravating you or to get him to conform to your personal preferences, you’re not ready to do this. Go back to condition 2.
  5. It should be done in a “spirit of gentleness.” A harsh rebuke almost never brings someone closer to Jesus. It only erects walls between his people.
  6. You must “keep watch on yourself” during the whole process. When the other person reacts defensively and questions your judgment, morality, and right to question him (as he might), you’ll be tempted to respond in pride and arrogance. You’ll want to start using all the ammunition you’ve been storing up in your mind over the years, reminding the other person about all the ways he’s offended you, failed you, and disappointed you. Did you notice all those “you’s”? They have nothing to do with restoring the other person, and therefore no place in your conversation.
  7. Be ready to “bear one another’s burdens” over the long haul. The process of restoration probably won’t happen overnight. Offer your ongoing love, support, and gentle accountability to your partner. Help him take concrete steps to overcome the sin through God’s Spirit-empowered grace, which is the “law of Christ.”

They close the section with this: “The further you get into kingdom partnership, the harder it will be to avoid differences and even conflict. But if, by the Spirit, you come out on the other side with your partnership intact, then you will probably start seeing God work in ways that you never thought possible. Remember the need and opportunity that brought you together, and work hard to see the gospel advance because of your shared commitment to the mission God called you to pursue.”

August 10, 2014

There are few areas of the Christian life where there is a wider gap between what Christians want to do and what Christians actually do than in this area: memorizing Scripture. We all know that we should, we all have some appreciation of the benefits, and we would all love to be released from the guilt of doing it so little. Here, courtesy of Donald Whitney and his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (now in a brand new edition), are 5 great reasons to memorize Scripture today.

Memorization Supplies Spiritual Power. “When Scripture is stored in your mind, it is available for the Holy Spirit to bring to your attention when you need it most.” No wonder, then, that David write, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” “A pertinent scriptural truth, brought to your awareness by the Holy Spirit at just the right moment, can be the weapon that makes the difference in a spiritual battle.”

Memorization Strengthens Your Faith. “Memorization strengthens your faith because it repeatedly reinforces the truth, often just when you need to hear it again.” But it can only reinforce truth that you have already committed to memory.

Memorization Prepares Us for Witnessing and Counseling. “Recently, while I was talking to a man about Jesus, he said something that brought to mind a verse I had memorized. I quoted that verse, and it was the turning point in a conversation that resulted in him professing faith in Christ. I often experience something similar in counseling conversations. But until the verses are hidden in the heart, they aren’t available to use with the mouth.

Memorization Provides a Means of God’s Guidance. David wrote, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” “Just as the Holy Spirit retrieves scriptural truth from our memory banks for use in counseling others, so also will He bring it to our minds in providing timely guidance for ourselves.”

Memorization Stimulates Meditation. “One of the most amazing benefits of memorizing Scripture is that it provides fuel for meditation. When you have memorized a verse of Scripture, you can meditate on it anywhere at any time during the day or night.” Then you can be like David who exclaimed, “Oh how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day.”

Here is a final call to action:

The Word of the Word is the “sword of the Spirit,” but if there is no Bible physically accessible to you, then the weapon of the Word must be present in the armory of your mind in order for the Spirit to wield it. Imagine yourself in the midst of a decision and needing guidance, or struggling with a difficult temptation and needing victory. The Holy Spirit enters your mental arsenal and looks around for available weapons, but all He finds is a John 3:16, and Genesis 1:1, and a Great Commission. Those are great swords, but they’re not made for every battle.

The only solution is to commit to memorizing the Word of God. For God’s sake, as an expression of your desire to be used by him, fill up that arsenal.

August 03, 2014

Earlier this week I found myself combing through some favorite John Owen quotes. Owen is easily one of the most quotable Puritans (not to mention one of the most prolific with the pen!). Here are a few great quotes:

Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes. He who hath once smitten a serpent, if he follow not on his blow until it be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel. And so he who undertakes to deal with sin, and pursues it not constantly to the death.

Then, a list of seven things that Christ is:

  1. He is the Way; men without him are Cains, wanderers, vagabonds:—
  2. He is the Truth; men without him are liars, like the devil, who was so of old:—
  3. He is the Life; without him men are dead, dead in trespasses and sins :—
  4. He is the Light; without him men are in darkness, and go they know not whither:—
  5. He is the Vine; those that are not grafted in him are withered branches, prepared for the fire:—
  6. He is the Rock; men not built on him are carried away with a flood:—
  7. He is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the author and the ender, the founder and the finisher of our salvation. (HT)

And a few others:

Without absolutes revealed from without by God Himself, we are left rudderless in a sea of conflicting ideas about manners, justice and right and wrong, issuing from a multitude of self-opinionated thinkers.

How can we possibly believe the promises concerning Heaven, immortality, and glory, when we do not believe the promises concerning our present life? And how can we be trusted when we say we believe these promises but make no effort to experience them ourselves? It is just here that men deceive themselves. It is not that they do not want the Gospel privileges of joy, peace and assurance, but they are not prepared to repent of their evil attitudes and careless life-styles. Some have even attempted to reconcile these things and ruined their souls. But without the diligent exercise of the grace of obedience, we shall never enjoy the graces of joy, peace and assurance.

A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.

July 27, 2014

Today I have the privilege of preaching, and preaching to many who do not yet know God. These words from Philip Ryken (drawn from his excellent commentary on Luke) have added urgency and motivation. Here he explains Luke 13:22-30, where Jesus explains that many will seek to enter and will not be able.

What terrible suffering there will be for everyone who gets shut out from God’s kingdom. To make sure we know what is at stake, Jesus speaks with perfect clarity: “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourself cast out” (Luke 13:28). Jesus was speaking plainly about the pains of hell.

Hell will be a place of anguish and affliction. It will be a place of remorse, as people cry bitter tears of grief for all that they have lost. It will be a place of rage, as they gnash their teeth in angry defiance of God. It will be a place of regret, as people mourn the folly of their unbelief. Apparently they will have some awareness of what they are missing. Jesus describes them standing outside his kingdom and looking in to see the prophets and patriarchs. They watch the guests arrive to feast in the house of God.

How galling it will be for them to know that they themselves were once on the guest list, but that they declined the free invitation of Jesus Christ. They had once been close to eternal life, yet now they will end up so far away from God! “To have been so near to Christ on earth,” writes David Gooding, “without receiving him and without coming to know him personally, and therefore to be shut out for ever from the glorious company of the saints, while others from distant times and cultures have found the way in—who shall measure the disappointment and frustration of it?”

As much as anything else, hell will be a place of lost opportunity. This conversation started with a question about how many people would be saved. Rather than talking about numbers, Jesus confronted the crowd with their own need to find the one narrow door to salvation. What he especially emphasized was the need to find that door before it is too late. People wanted to know how many (how many people would get in), but Jesus wanted them to think about how soon (how soon the door would close for all eternity).

Time is running out. There is a time limit on the free offer of salvation.

July 20, 2014

In R.C. Sproul’s book The Glory of Christ, he focuses on the moments of great glory in the life of Christ—a life marked by so much that was inglorious and not at all befitting the King of Glory.

A crucial aspect of Jesus’ humiliation was the hiddenness of His glory. His identity was often concealed. We hear the protests from the wounded egos of famous people when they are not recognized. They complain, “Don’t you know who I am?” It is humiliating to them to go unrecognized. Because people do not recognize them, they feel treated beneath their dignity. If any human being was ever subjected to such repeated indignities during His life, it was Jesus. During His earthly ministry the ones who most often and most clearly recognized Him were the demons from hell.

Some time ago I read the book and wanted to share some of my favorite quotes:

Every human being longs for a savior of some type. We look for someone or something that will solve our problems, ease our pain, or grant the most elusive goal of all, happiness. From the pursuit of success in business to the discovery of a perfect mate or friend, we make our search.

We are not merely redeemed by the death of Christ; we are also redeemed by the life of Christ. His death on the cross reveals the nadir of His humiliation as He bears the curse for us. But that is only part of His redemptive achievement. It is not enough for us merely to have our sins atoned for. To receive the blessings of the covenant we must possess real righteousness. We need what we cannot supply for ourselves. This merit of righteousness is earned for us by Jesus’ life of perfect obedience.

Some argue that the purpose of miracles is to demonstrate the existence of God. But this reverses the role miracles play in the Bible. Before a miracle can be perceived as a miracle, the existence of God must be established first. It is the existence of God that makes miracles possible in the first place.

God is so holy that He cannot gaze upon sin. It is repugnant to His eyes. Before Jesus ascends to the cross He is altogether lovely in the sight of the Father. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person. As such Christ is, in the eyes of the Father, a thing of unspeakable beauty. He is the Father’s beloved. 

On the cross Jesus becomes in the sight of God the most grotesque display of ugliness imaginable. He is now polluted with the cumulative filth of the sin He bears for His sheep. Now the Father breaks fellowship with Him; He averts His divine glance; Jesus as the very incarnation of sin is consigned to the outer darkness.

July 13, 2014

Who is the most important person in your church? On one level it’s kind of a silly question to ask. Yet in his book Healed at Last, Scott Blackwell provides an answer that is both sweet and encouraging. He tells about his friend Steve who has been profoundly disabled since birth.

He has been forever wheelchair-bound, and his arm and head movements are often uncontrolled or controlled with difficulty—especially when he gets excited. His speech is difficult to understand, and his vocabulary is limited. Because he was born in the 1950s, those who cared for him made certain assumptions about his ability to learn, respond and understand. He was institutionalized and given minimal stimulation and therapy—such was the state of rehabilitation for the profoundly disabled back then. It was assumed he would never be able to read, so he was never taught. Now, in his fifties, Steve is thoroughly dependent on the aid of others. He requires assistance to eat, drink, bathe, dress, toilet, and so on. Steve also constantly battles the kind of respiratory and gastro-intestinal disorders that life lived full-time in a wheelchair bring. All this is so much more difficult to witness knowing that trapped within Steve’s dysfunctional body is a sharp and inquiring mind that was left untended and ignored for years.

Yet, as Blackwell points out, Steve finds joy despite such severe challenges.

Steve is the most joy-filled and enthusiastic believer in Jesus I think I’ve ever met. He’s bright, intelligent, witty, stubborn, passionate and compassionate. He holds down a job and, every time I talk with him, he insists that he is far too busy. His grin and his “G’day” is one hundred percent genuine for every person he meets. He insists on having his Bible open at the right passage with the rest of us, even though he cannot read it. The phenomenal thing about Steve is that somehow he manages to view every day of struggle as another day of triumph, and this he does, by his own testimony, through his faith in Christ. Hope and trust in God’s promises burn brighter in Steve than in anyone else I’ve ever met. In our church it’s impossible to preach about the return of Jesus, or the great resurrection day, or even death, without being interrupted by the man in the front who is madly flailing his arms around and shouting with excitement, “No more chair!”

After telling more about Steve’s deep faith and his sure hope that one day he will stand on his feet before his Savior, Blackwell says this:

Personally, I think it is possible that this makes Steve the most important person in our church. Once, during a rare moment of melancholy, he asked me why I thought God had caused him to live out his life in a chair. I thought for a long time before I said I didn’t know for certain, but that maybe his disability and his chair were meant for our teaching, blessing and benefit. I suggested that, possibly, it was God’s intention that through Steve our church might learn great lessons about patience, love, endurance, joy, compassion, hope and faith. I said to him (and I believe it is true) that he is perhaps our most dynamic and effective evangelist and pastoral worker. His look of surprise and shock actually made me laugh out loud. It had never occurred to him that this was what he was for us. He was just Steve.

Through my friend Steve, God has worked wonderful deeds of spiritual growth and maturity in our church.

July 06, 2014

I am not the every-week preacher at Grace Fellowship Church, but this week have the privilege of proclaiming God’s Word. I am looking forward to it and find myself longing for unction—what E.M. Bounds refers to as that indefinable, indescribable something. Here is what he says about unction:

Unction is that indefinable, indescribable something which an old, renowned Scotch preacher describes thus: “There is sometimes somewhat in preaching that cannot be ascribed either to matter or expression, and cannot be described what it is, or from whence it cometh, but with a sweet violence it pierceth into the heart and affections and comes immediately from the Word; but if there be any way to obtain such a thing, it is by the heavenly disposition of the speaker.”

We call it unction. It is this unction which makes the word of God “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It is this unction which gives the words of the preacher such point, sharpness, and power, and which creates such friction and stir in many a dead congregation. The same truths have been told in the strictness of the letter, smooth as human oil could make them; but no signs of life, not a pulse throb; all as peaceful as the grave and as dead. The same preacher in the meanwhile receives a baptism of this unction, the divine inflatus is on him, the letter of the Word has been embellished and fired by this mysterious power, and the throbbings of life begin — life which receives or life which resists. The unction pervades and convicts the conscience and breaks the heart.

This divine unction is the feature which separates and distinguishes true gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting the truth, and which creates a wide spiritual chasm between the preacher who has it and the one who has it not. It backs and impregns revealed truth with all the energy of God. Unction is simply putting God in his own word and on his own preachers. By mighty and great prayerfulness and by continual prayerfulness, it is all potential and personal to the preacher; it inspires and clarifies his intellect, gives insight and grasp and projecting power; it gives to the preacher heart power, which is greater than head power; and tenderness, purity, force flow from the heart by it. Enlargement, freedom, fullness of thought, directness and simplicity of utterance are the fruits of this unction.

What of unction? It is the indefinable in preaching which makes it preaching. It is that which distinguishes and separates preaching from all mere human addresses. It is the divine in preaching.

June 15, 2014

I’m hardly alone in expressing love and admiration for Charles Spurgeon. He had a way with words that is nearly unsurpassed in the history of the church. These words about prayer and the Lord’s Prayer are powerful and challenging.

I very much question whether this prayer was intended to be used by Christ’s own disciples as a constant form of prayer.

It seems to me that Christ gave it as a model, whereby we are to fashion all our prayers, and I think we may use it to edification, and with great sincerity and earnestness, at certain times and seasons. I have seen an architect form the model of a building he intends to erect of plaster or wood; but I never had an idea that it was intended for me to live in. I have seen an artist trace on a piece of brown paper, perhaps, a design which he intended afterwards to work out on more costly stuff; but I never imagined the design to be the thing itself. This prayer of Christ is a great chart, as it were: but I cannot cross the sea on a chart. It is a map; but a man is not a traveler because he puts his fingers across the map. And so a man may use this form of prayer, and yet be a total stranger to the great design of Christ in teaching it to his disciples.

I feel that I cannot use this prayer to the omission of others. Great as it is, It does not express all I desire to say to my Father which is in heaven. There are many sins which I must confess separately and distinctly; and the various other petitions which this prayer contains require, I feel, to be expanded, when I come before God in private; and I must pour out my heart in the language which his Spirit gives me; and more than that, I must trust in the Spirit to speak the unutterable groanings of my spirit, when my lips cannot actually express all the emotions of my heart.

Let none despise this prayer; it is matchless, and if we must have forms of prayer, let us have this first, foremost, and chief; but let none think that Christ would tie his disciples to the constant and only use of this. Let us rather draw near to the throne of the heavenly grace with boldness, as children coming to a father, and let us tell forth our wants and our sorrows in the language which the Holy Spirit teacheth us.

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