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Quotes

November 28, 2010

Today the majority of those who read this site will be heading to church to hear a pastor preach the Word of God. A while back I jotted down several quotes about the Bible and thought I’d share them today. Hopefully many of you can read them before hearing the Word preached today. Each of these is worth reflecting on:

“One of the many divine qualities of the Bible is that it does not yield its secrets to the irreverent and the censorious.”
J.I. Packer

“The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”
AW. Tozer

“I hold that the words of Scripture were intended to have one definite sense, and adhere rigidly to it—To say the words do mean a thing merely because they can be tortured into meaning it is a most dishonorable and dangerous way of handling Scripture.”
J.C. Ryle

“Inasmuch as all Scripture is the product of a single divine mind, interpretation must stay within the bounds of the analogy of Scripture and eschew hypotheses that would correct one Biblical passage by another, whether in the name of progressive revelation or of the imperfect enlightenment of the inspired writer’s mind.”
—The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

“We approach Scripture with minds already formed by the mass of accepted opinions and viewpoints with which we have come into contact, in both the Church and the world.It is easy to be unaware that it has happened; it is hard even to begin to realize how profoundly tradition in this sense has moulded us.”
J.I. Packer

“God sometimes blesses a poor exegesis of a bad translation of a doubtful reading of an obscure verse of a minor prophet.”
—Alan Cole

I especially enjoyed Cole’s quote as I think all of us can think of times we have unintentionally misinterpreted something in the Bible, yet God has been good to us to bless us despite ourselves. J.C. Ryle’s quote stands as a warning that to use the Bible flippantly and outside of proper methods is both dishonoring and dangerous. The Chicago Statement reminds me that Scripture must (and will) interpret Scripture, not correct it.

The Bible is the way God has chosen to reveal himself to us. What a privilege that today we can hear him speak.

November 27, 2010

Here’s another of Scotty Smith’s prayers that I particularly enjoyed. As I’ve said before, what I like about these prayers is how real they are; they’re not full of fancy words and Christianese. They’re not too polished or perfect—they’re just heartfelt prayers. If you didn’t read it a couple of days ago, be sure to read A Prayer About My Dad’s Welcome Home.

In the meantime, here is “A Prayer About Jesus’ Tenacious Questioning.”

Jesus, we’re always vulnerable to the destructive power of sin, but it seems like we’re especially vulnerable when there’s some kind of emotional upheaval in our hearts. Like Cain, when we’re angry and sulking about something or someone (Abel), we can be easily “had” by sin, giving into its desire—its seductive and destructive ways. O for the Day when the season of sin’s pleasure will be ended forever (Heb. 11:25; Rev. 21:1-5).

Jesus, thank you for tenaciously pursing us and asking searching questions like, “Why are you angry?”, or, “Why are you so downcast?”, or “What do you fear?”, or “Why are you so quiet and distant?” Though you know the answer to these and every question you ask, we probably don’t. Gracious heart-knower, show us our hearts… show me my heart. What are these emotions really saying? What sins are waiting to take these feelings and have a destructive field day?

I wish we only had to think about the sin that’s crouching just outside the door—the tempter and temptress without just waiting to pounce. But the truth is, Jesus, until you return to finish making all things new, we’ve got to be wise to the sin that’s crouching inside of us, as well. Like Paul, the very things we don’t want to do, we still do… and the very things we want to do, they’re not easily done. We long for more freedom to live and to love as we’re loved by you.

How I praise you there’s no condemnation hanging over me for my sin… for you hung on the cross in my place. How I praise you that to be tempted is not an act of sin, for even you, Jesus, were tempted. I would despair if this were not the case. You have mastered sin for us. You’ve exhausted its penalty and broken it’s power. Sin will not have dominion over us ever again.

In this good news… in this gospel.. I trust today. As you show me my vulnerable heart, Jesus, show me your compassionate and loving heart ten times over. That will more than meet my need. So very Amen, I pray, in your strong, present and redeeming name.

November 21, 2010

As you know, I often post a prayer on Sunday morning—a prayer drawn from any number of sources. This week I’m turning again to Scotty Smith, pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN. This week he wrote one and posted it to his blog. He titled it “A Prayer About God’s Delight and Our Hope.” It’s a prayer I found myself praying to the Lord on my behalf, for the struggle Smith confesses here is a struggle I fight through as well.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:10-11

Compassionate Father, once again, I come before you as a repeat offender… a man suffering from doxological dementia… one of your beloved children who gives you multiplied opportunities to demonstrate the wonder of your “unlimited patience” (1 Tim 1:16). I’m a perpetual candidate for summer school in the gospel. I demonstrate this in many ways.

Whenever I feel disconnected from you or get disappointed with me… whenever I experience the accusations and condemnation of the enemy… whenever I see other believers more zealous… missionaries more passionate… young converts more committed… or friends more generous… my default mode is to lace up my running shoes and get busy for you.

Instead of coming to you for fellowship and renewal in the gospel, I start running to do something to fuel my pride and tame my conscience. I put my good feelings ahead of your declared delight. I put pleasuring me ahead of pleasuring you.

For as you tell us in this Scripture, you don’t find any pleasure or delight in the strength and movement of our “legs”—in what we can do for you. You find great pleasure as we put our hope in what you’ve done for us in Jesus. Indeed, where can we find your unfailing… unwavering… unending love? Only in the gospel of your grace. This is counterintuitive and contrary to the way I’m wired and the way the world works… literally the way the world works.

Astonishing… to fear you is the beginning of wisdom… and we fear you the most when we hope most fully in your unfailing love for us in Jesus. Father, should we forget where we parked our cars… the address of our homes… or even our own names, may we never forget this glorious gospel. So very Amen, we pray, in Jesus’ most merciful and grace-full name.

November 20, 2010

A few days ago Randy Alcorn posted a quote from a book I’ve often recommended—William Farley’s Gospel-Powered Parenting. In this brief excerpt Farley says that your marriage preaches, that it exists to declare something. And here is what he says:

“This mystery [marriage] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Here is Paul’s point. From before time began, God had marriage on his mind. He was preparing a bride for his Son, whom he would marry forever. It would take the crucifixion and resurrection of the Groom to bring this marriage to pass. Think of it. God created the most intimate human relationship, marriage, to speak of the intimacy of his relationship with his church.

God created the institution of human marriage to reflect, or mirror forth, this eternal union. In other words, human marriage exists to point men and angels to the eternal marriage of Christ and his church. The gospel made this divine marriage possible. Here is our point: human marriage exists to preach the gospel. It exists to illustrate the fruit that should follow the preaching of the gospel in the church.

To whom does our marriage preach? Of course, the first audience is God and his angels. They watch and rejoice, or if our marriage is a war zone, they grieve.

Who is the second audience? Most of us think first about our non-Christian neighbors. Maybe they will see our attempts to model Christian marriage and want the gospel? They might, and we hope they will, but actually they are the third audience.

The second audience, usually overlooked by most Christians, is our children. What is our marriage telling them about Christ and his bride? They see it all. They hear our fights. They absorb our attitudes. They know who or what really sits on the throne of our lives. They watch how we handle resentment. They hear the way we talk to each other. They know when we hear the Sunday sermon and apply it. They also know when we ignore it.

The message that our marriage preaches either repels or attracts our children. God wants your child to watch your marriage and think, “I want a marriage like that, and I want the God that produced it.” Or, “When I think of the beauty of the gospel, I think of my parents’ marriage. I want to be part of a church that is loved by God the way my dad loves my mother. I want to be part of a church that finds its joy in submitting to Christ as my mother joyfully submits to my father.”

November 14, 2010

I very much appreciated this prayer written by Pastor Scotty Smith. It’s a prayer that teaches theology in an area where there is great confusion—the will of God. I won’t introduce it any further than that.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Sovereign Father, this promise brings me immeasurable peace, humility, and joy. You’re vitally engaged in determining and directing every one of our steps. You’re working all things together after the counsel of your will. You’re working in all things for your glory and for our good. You open doors no man can shut and you shut doors no man can open. Indeed, you’re no mere life coach, you’re the Lord of all things… including me.

Many years I labored under the arrogance and anxiety of assuming that if I prayed hard enough and long enough… that if I was really filled with and “tuned” into the Holy Spirit, I could know the specifics of your will for my life… well in advance of any decision that needed to be made. Of course, my assumption was that if I was in your will, life would be enjoyable, pleasant and hassle-free.

If I bought the right car, it would never break down…If I bought the right house, the roof would never leak… If I married the right person, we would never disagree… If I went to the right college I’d get the right job and life would be all-right... If I sent my kids to the right school, they would never act out and would end up on the mission field. If all of this was true, I wouldn’t really need you.

Father, you’re certainly honored when we work hard to make good plans, in keeping with our understanding of the Scriptures. It’s important for us to seek and heed, wise prayerful counsel of good and godly friends. But help us to live with more confidence that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, not a consulting partner… a very present Lord, not an absentee landlord… the reigning King, not an impotent bystander. Because of Jesus, I’m confident your will is being done… on earth as it is in heaven.

Free us to accept that many times your will leads to great suffering and pain. It’s called the cross. But the cross and resurrection go together. Hallelujah! What a most glorious and gracious Father you are. So very Amen, we pray, in Jesus’ exalted and very present name.

(link)

November 13, 2010

Rummaging through old files this week I came across a strange one. Back in April of 2007 I submitted the final manuscript for The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and my friend/pastor Paul Martin decided to commemorate the occasion with a song (which he came to my home to perform). And quite a ridiculous song at that (because this is what he does). This little ditty is set to the tune of the theme for the “Beverly Hillbillies.”

Let me tellya story about a man named Tim
Poor web designer barely kept his figure slim
Then one day he posted pictures of his dog
And up from the ‘net came a bubblin’ blog
Weblog that is
Ee-lectronic gold
 Ethereal thoughts…

Well the first thing ya know Ol’ Tim’s an uber-blogger
There aren’t any words that rhyme with uber-blogger
He thought, “Writing books is where I ougtta be!”
So he loaded up his thoughts and called his pal J.T.
Justin Taylor that is
Piper’s guy
Influential Crossway Editor…

So Tim pitched the book and Crossway gave him cash
He bought himself a camera, then played Balderdash
The next thing you know, it’s March the thirty-one
And Tim’s little book isn’t even nearly done
Busted, that is
Wasted opportunity
Time to pay back the advance…

Well Tim hatched a plan and told his lovely bride
He used his discernment and a trailer-load of pride
He gathered up old blog posts and gave ‘em a new look
Then he sent it off to Crossway and called it his “New Book”
Deception, that is
Easy money
 Milking Americans…

The Discipline of Discernment!”

November 07, 2010

I recently happened across an interesting quote from John MacArthur’s book Hard to Believe. The premise of the book, which flies in the face of the church growth movement, is that it is not at all easy to be saved—it is actually very difficult. A few weeks ago I mentioned how important Ashamed of the Gospel was in my spiritual development at the time that I transitioned from mainstream theology [back] into Reformed theology. Hard to Believe came a little after that, but was very reassuring to me as I continued to grapple with the issues.

And here is what MacArthur says:

*****

October 31, 2010

This week I received Heart Cries to Heaven, a new book from DayOne that is a compilation of prayers composed by David Campell, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Carlisle, PA. One of those prayers stood out to me as I considered the week to come in which Americans will head to the polls and elect their new representatives. Here is a “Prayer for Godly Leaders.”

*****

Our great and gracious God,

We pray that you will give us leaders who fear your name. We ask for those who are in authority over us

that they may be men and women of Christian integrity,
men and women imbued with the principles of the Word of God,
who will themselves walk in your ways and set an example in public office.

We ask, Lord, that you will not give us up to the sway of those who care nothing for you and for your laws.

Give us godly leaders, we pray.

We pray, too, for godly leaders within the church.

We pray for the reformation of the visible church and for great revival within its midst. May those who are in the positions of leadership manifest the same qualities that we see manifest supremely in our Lord Jesus Christ, and that, under the leadership of such men, your church would flourish.

Give us all grace, we pray,

Everyone who is a member of this congregation or of another congregation, to be a good and faithful servant of Jesus Christ, each one of us. We pray that you will bless our time together to that end.

We pray that you will stand with your servant as he opens up the Word,
That you will put words in his mouth,
That you will give to us illumined minds and hearts,

and we pray that you will make that Word
written upon our hearts
and make our time together to be truly
a means of grace,
that we, in this week that is before us, may
walk in your ways.

Hear us, O God, we pray, and these prayers and the many others that in the silence of our hearts we would lift to you, the omniscient God.

Hear us, for Jesus’ sake.
 Amen.

October 24, 2010

Earlier this week I was skimming back through William Farley’s book Gospel-Powered Parenting by (which I reviewed here) and happened across his discussion of “Gospel Fathers.” In this section he discusses the importance of godly, masculine men within a church body. He starts out by quoting a selection of lines from Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow:

You cannot have a thriving church without a core of men who are true followers of Christ. If men are dead, the church is dead…

If we want to change the world, we must focus on men…

When men are absent and anemic the body withers…

The church and the Titanic have something in common: It’s women and children first. The great majority of ministry in Protestant churches is focused on children, next on women…

Men don’t follow programs; they follow men. A woman may choose a church because of the programs it offers, but a man is looking for another man he can follow.

I think the core of what he says there is found in the final paragraph. Men don’t follow programs; they follow men. Farley wants to make sure that we understand what this does not mean. “We are not talking about ‘macho’ behavior. Machismo is a perversion of biblical masculinity. In fact, it usually occurs because men feel insecure about their masculinity.” The simple fact is that men want to follow men—real men, admirable men, men who are worth following.

The point of it all? If you want to have a solid church—a church that has strong, masculine men within it (which is the exception rather than the rule within the Evangelical church) you need to have strong, masculine, godly leadership. Without this kind of leadership a church will inevitably wither and fade.

October 23, 2010

Daniel Doriani’s commentary on James is one of the relatively few commentaries I’ve read cover-to-cover. It’s one I enjoyed a lot. In his discussion of the final portion of James 5, I found an interesting story that I thought I’d share with you. As I read it, I though of my continuationist (charismatic) friends. It is my experience that these people often typify cessationists like myself as those who do not believe in supernatural or miraculous healings. But this just isn’t the case. The disagreement really arises over whether or not the spiritual gift of healing is operative in the church today. I believe in heailngs, not in healers, so to speak.

This quote describes something that happened in a conservative, Reformed, Presbyterian context and something that I think is consistent with cessationist theology (even though cessationists may have some disagreement about what James refers to by anointing a person with oil). Doriani is not the only Reformed Presbyterian who has experienced this kind of blessing.

During the autumn when I first studied James in earnest, a friend suffered a viral infection of the heart. While it was not a heart attack, it mimicked many of the symptoms of one. My friend felt listless; he looked gray and lifeless. One day at church, I told him that James 5 instructs elders to lay hands on the sick and to pray for their healing; I suggested that he call the elders for that very purpose. Two weeks later, he told me he wanted to proceed. No one in our church had done this before, so we did something very Presbyterian: we studied the matter another six weeks and hoped he didn’t die in the meantime.

At last, we appointed a night for prayer and the elders gathered. Our church’s pastor (I was a college professor at the time) summoned the elders. Before we prayed, he told us not to expect a dramatic physical healing, since God heals in many ways. I appreciated his motive, but there was no need to restrain my enthusiasm; my doubting heart was already skeptical enough…

…My friend knelt down in the middle of a circle of elders. We anointed him with oil, laid lands on him, and began to pray. Since I had started the process, I was appointed to offer the closing prayer.

As soon as we began to pray, I had an overwhelming sense that God was, at the moment, healing my friend. My arms felt what I can only describe as bolts of fire pushing through them. As I grasped my friend’s shoulder, heat and energy burned my hand. I felt that my one hand could lift all of his 230 pounds to the ceiling or push him through the floor if I wished.

I knew God was healing him. I wanted to shout, “We must stop praying that God will heal John and start praising God that he has healed him.” But I was too astonished, too ensure of my sensations, to say a word to anyone that night. For four days, I kept my experience to myself.

Four days later, after church, my friend beckoned me with a wild grin, “Dan, watch this.” At once, he dashed up a flight of steps. I dashed after him and met him at the top. He smiled, “And I’m not even breathing hard.”

I knew it,” I exclaimed, and told him what I had felt a few nights earlier. And he told me, “I knew it too.”

Since that day, I have joined elders to lay hands on the sick and pray for them. I have never again felt the fire. And while I occasionally feel a flood of warmth and emotion, I have learned that my feelings and God’s healings have no connections. A small number have experienced immediately healing from serious illness. More have recovered gradually and under the care of physicians. Many have found spiritual healing—great peace and spiritual renewal in times of crisis and suffering, whether they recovered physically or not. And some have apparently gained no physical or spiritual benefit at all.

A page later he provides an interesting and important clarification about what James says about healing and something that is consistent with cessationist beliefs.

Sick men and women call the elders as a group. They do not call those with a gift for healing; rather they call all to pray for healing. James says the prayers of a righteous man are effective. Since the first qualification for an elder is holiness—not social standing or theological acumen—the prayers of elders are effective. The elders pray for healing, not for miracles. It doesn’t matter if a healing is quiet or splashy, True healings garner all the attention they need.

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