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Quotes

August 19, 2012

Here is some wisdom from Mark Dever, drawn from What Is a Healthy Church?. He offers up six considerations for before you decide to leave a church and four to apply if you decide that you must leave.

Before You Decide to Leave

  1. Pray.
  2. Let your current pastor know about your thinking before you move to another church or make your decision to relocate to another city. Ask for his counsel.
  3. Weigh your motives. Is your desire to leave because of sinful, personal conflict or disappointment? If it’s because of doctrinal reasons, are these doctrinal issues significant?
  4. Do everything within your power to reconcile any broken relationships.
  5. Be sure to consider all the “evidences of grace” you’ve seen in the church’s life—places where God’s work is evident. If you cannot see any evidences of God’s grace, you might want to examine your own heart once more (Matt. 7:3-5).
  6. Be humble. Recognize you don’t have all the facts and assess people and circumstances charitably (give them the benefit of the doubt).

If You Go

  1. Don’t divide the body.
  2. Take the utmost care not to sow discontent even among your closest friends. Remember, you don’t want anything to hinder their growth in grace in this church. Deny any desire to gossip (sometimes referred to as “venting” or “saying how you feel”).
  3. Pray for and bless the congregation and its leadership. Look for ways of doing this practically.
  4. If there has been hurt, then forgive—even as you have been forgiven.

August 12, 2012

I have been reading a lot of history and biography in recent weeks, from books on the history of Mormonism to books portraying characters as diverse as Abraham Lincoln and Queen Elizabeth II. One thing that has stood out to me in my reading is how seldom unbelieving authors accurately portray the beliefs of Christians. I read only some of Mary Rubio’s Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings (a fitting read while on Prince Edward Island) before coming across this quote:

The Presbyterian church was located in the centre of the community, on land provided by Maud’s Mcneill clan. The Presbyterian Church was organized democratically, with power resting at the local level: historically, in Scotland, it had been a hothouse of violent internal feuds. Indeed, in Cavendish, there was also a Baptist church—founded by disgruntled Presbyterians—at the other end of the village. Serious doctrinal differences divided the two churches. The Baptists believed in salvation from sin by the ritual of immersion and public confession. Presbyterians thought sinful man could not achieve salvation so easily: many still believed in “Predestination,” the doctrine holding that man was inherently sinful, and only God determined who would be “saved.” These “Elect” (the “chosen ones”) were believed to be picked by an omnipotent God’s arbitrary will and pleasure—not necessarily by their good deeds in life. Still, children were taught to behave themselves, as there was no point in taking chances. Bad behavior suggested exclusion from the “Elect.”

I hardly know where to begin! Rubio is a lifelong scholar and student of her subject’s life, yet she could hardly have packed more mistakes into such a small paragraph. I suppose you might say that Presbyterian churches are “organized democratically” and you might say that “power rests at the local level,” but that requires some degree of nuance since Presbyterian churches are not independent and the quote suggests. Baptists do not believe in salvation by immersion and confession and, in fact, are very likely, especially in that day, to believe just what Presbyterians believe about predestination. Speaking of which, no Presbyterian (or Baptist, for that) holds that God chooses his people by “arbitrary will and pleasure.” The word “necessarily” should necessarily be removed when she seems to suggest that some Presbyterians would hold that God chooses on the basis of works. I also doubt too many genuine believers were raising their children to put on a good show because bad childish behavior suggested exclusion from the “Elect.”

This is just one example of the many, many faulty attempts I’ve witnessed.

August 05, 2012

I have been reading Jeremy Walker’s The Brokenhearted Evangelist and in that book he includes a powerful section dealing with the importance of prayer in the practice of evangelism. After quoting John Sutcliff, who cries out against lukewarmness, Walker asks and answers this question: How do we keep our prayers fiery?

How do we keep our prayers fiery? By engaging in hand-to-hand combat with Satan’s hosts, for those who are yet under his dominion. Why do we keep our spiritual weapons sharp? So that we can fight. How do we learn how to use those weapons? When we engage with lost men. Where are our graces brought to their highest pitch and exercised to their greatest degree? It is often when we are locked in mortal combat for the salvation of a soul. Where are our minds fired with holy truth so that we begin to understand, to press, and to be in earnest? When are our hearts most ablaze with love for Jesus Christ? When, in short, are we most alive as Christians? With the possible exception of the gatherings of the saints for worshiping God, it is when we are involved in the life business of the redeemed men and women of Jesus Christ, engaging with transgressors and seeking their salvation for the glory of God in Jesus Christ. There is little that so elevates us—that so engages the totality of our redeemed humanity—as the holy cut and thrust of evangelism. Nothing so casts us upon the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Nothing so reminds us of our need and sends us in desperation to God for increased measures of His Spirit as the reality of wrestling for souls.

July 29, 2012

In his much-praised book Killing Calvinism, Greg Dutcher writes about the tendency many Calvinists may have to be more enamored by their theology than by God himself. I suppose this may be a temptation for those who adhere to any faith or any system of theology, but it does seem particularly prevalent among Calvinists. At the close of a chapter he offers this helpful prayer:

Mighty God,

Thank you for giving me eyes, ears, memory, and intellect. You have enabled me to see the wonder of your sovereign mercy throughout your Word. Had you not chosen me, I would not be your child. Had you not loved me first, never would I have loved you at all.

May I never be more enamored with the theology that helps me see these things clearly than with seeing you. Forgive me for the times when I have made my understanding of you and your saving ways an idol rather than an aid.

When others see me, may they see a person completely captivated by your glory and humbled by your mercy.

For Jesus’ sake, amen.

July 28, 2012

In her book A Place of Quiet Rest, Nancy Leigh DeMoss includes several chapters on prayer. In a chapter titled “The Privilege of Prayer” she discusses a period of prayerlessness in her life and her growing conviction that she had to get to the root of it. “As God opened my eyes to this matter of prayerlessness, I asked Him to let me see it from His point of view. Here is what I wrote in my journal one day when God first began to deal with my heart.” She does not attempt to provide a doctrine of prayer or prayerlessness as much as a reflection on what prayerlessness means in her own life. I found it very helpful.

Here is what she says:

I am convicted that prayerlessness …

  • is a sin against God (1 Samuel 12:23).
  • is direct disobedience to the command of Christ (“watch and pray,” Matthew 26:41).
  • is direct disobedience to the Word of God (“pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • makes me vulnerable to temptation (“watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation,” Matthew 26:41).
  • expresses independence—no need for God.
  • gives place to the Enemy and makes me vulnerable to his schemes (Ephesians 6:10-20; Daniel 10).
  • results in powerlessness.
  • limts (and defines) my relationship with God.
  • hinders me from knowing His will, His priorities, His direction.
  • forces me to operate in the realm of the natural (what I can do) versus the supernatural (what He can do).
  • leaves me weak, harried, and hassled.
  • is rooted in pride, self-sufficiency, laziness, and lack of discipline.
  • reveals a lack of real burden and compassion for others.

July 22, 2012

The Lord calls us to work hard to rest well. Scotty Smith recently shared a prayer on this very subject that looks to what he calls “a glorious paradox and beautiful irony.” He bases it on words from Hebrews 4 (which I’ve included at the end). Here is what he prays:

Heavenly Father, what a most glorious paradox and beautiful irony this portion of your Word presents. You’re calling us to work diligently, to invest great effort, to strive with all our might to rest from our works that we might enter the rest of your work. Work hard to rest well. Work hard to cease working.

Once again I’m confronted with how the gospel contradicts the fundamental way I’ve been trained to approach every sphere of life—athletics, education, finances, career, reputation. “Do it the good ole’ fashioned way—earn it.” “God helps those who help themselves.” “You’ll always get what’s coming to you.” “You can do anything you set your mind to do.” These mantras have been my motivation for much of life; but they also been my madness, because performance-based living never really brings rest, just more restlessness.

Father, because the gospel is true, fortunately, I didn’t get what’s coming to me. You gave that to Jesus at the cross. You put my sin on him. You punished him with the punishment I deserve. And in exchange, you’ve given me what I never could’ve earned: complete forgiveness, the righteousness of Jesus, and your permanent favor resting on me.

You don’t help those who help themselves. You help those who admit they can’t help themselves. Salvation is of the Lord! There’s no greater rest than to know you are at peace with me—to be certain that you are resting and rejoicing in great love over me.

Jesus, you created the world in six days and then entered a Sabbath rest. Likewise, when you died on the cross, securing our salvation and the restoration of creation, you cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Your work was over and you rested, and now we enter your rest. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah!

Our never-ending work is to hear and believe this gospel. “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29). What a most liberating vocation you have given us. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and gracious name.

Here is the text for the prayer:

“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest. … So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:1-3, 9-11).

July 15, 2012

While John Newton will always be known as the man who wrote “Amazing Grace,” that is just one of hundreds of hymns he penned. Another beautiful and powerful hymn of comfort and assurance is “Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart.” I have it on good authority that it will be on the next album by Indelible Grace; it was also on one of Red Mountain Music’s albums (you can hear it below). Read these lyrics as a poem or read them as you listen to the song.

Pensive, doubting, fearful heart,
Hear what Christ the Savior says;
Every word should joy impart,
Change thy mourning into praise:
Yes, he speaks, and speaks to thee,
May he help thee to believe!
Then thou presently wilt see,
Thou hast little cause to grieve.

“Fear thou not, nor be ashamed,
All thy sorrows soon shall end
I who heav’n and earth have framed,
Am thy husband and thy friend
I the High and Holy One,
Israel’s GOD by all adored;
As thy Savior will be known,
Thy Redeemer and thy Lord.

For a moment I withdrew,
And thy heart was filled with pain;
But my mercies I’ll renew,
Thou shalt soon rejoice again:
Though I scorn to hide my face,
Very soon my wrath shall cease;
‘Tis but for a moment’s space,
Ending in eternal peace.

When my peaceful bow appears
Painted on the wat’ry cloud;
‘Tis to dissipate thy fears,
Lest the earth should be o’erflowed:
‘Tis an emblem too of grace,
Of my cov’nant love a sign;
Though the mountains leave their place,
Thou shalt be for ever mine.

Though afflicted, tempest‐tossed,
Comfortless awhile thou art,
Do not think thou canst be lost,
Thou art graven on my heart
All thy walls I will repair,
Thou shalt be rebuilt anew;
And in thee it shall appear,
What a God of love can do.

July 12, 2012

Here is something to ponder as you close your eyes at the end of this day and prepare to open them to a new day tomorrow. Consider the marvelous privilege that is yours for the taking tomorrow morning.

Think of it: The Lord Jesus Christ is willing to meet with you privately for as long as you want, and He is willing—even eager—to meet with you every day! Suppose you had been one of the thousands who followed Jesus around for much of the last three years of His earthly life. Can you imagine how excited you would have been if one of His disciples said, “The Master wants us to tell you that He is willing to get alone with you whenever you’re willing, and for as much time as you want to spend, and He’ll be expecting you most every day”? What a privilege! Who would have complained about this expectation? Well, that marvelous privilege and expectation is always yours.

Drawn from Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney.

July 08, 2012

There are a few hymns—just a few—that have been written to be sung as a petition to God immediately before the minister opens God’s Word. A favorite of mine is John Newton’s “Prayer for the Ministry of the Word.” It can be sung to any number of tunes including “Amazing Grace.” The best lines come right at the end. After asking that God would bless both the preacher and the hearers, the song concludes that if God is to do all this, “So shall the benefit be ours / And thou shalt have the praise.”

Thy promise, LORD, and thy command
Have brought us here today;
And now, we humbly waiting stand
To hear what thou wilt say.

Meet us, we pray, with words of peace,
And fill our hearts with love;
That from our follies we may cease,
And henceforth faithful prove.

Now, LORD, inspire the preacher’s heart,
And teach his tongue to speak;
Food to the hungry soul impart,
And comfort to the weak.

Furnish us all with light and power
To walk in Wisdom’s ways;
So shall the benefit be ours,
And thou shalt have the praise.

July 01, 2012

Alex Montoya’s Preaching With Passion is a defense of preaching and a practical how-to. One of Montoya’s concerns is that the preacher preach with authority. Here is a short quote in which he writes about the importance of serving as an ambassador of the Lord.

Listen to what Lloyd-Jones says, and dare never to be wishy-washy again:

The preacher should never be apologetic, he should never give the impression that he is speaking by their leave as it were; he should not be tentatively putting forward certain suggestions and ideas. That is not to be his attitude at all. He is a man, who is there to “declare” certain things; he is a man under commission and under authority. He is an ambassador, and he should be aware of his authority. He should always know that he comes to the congregation as a sent messenger.

Hence, as an ambassador,

  • preach the Word of God authoritatively, and use the expression “Thus saith the Lord”;
  • preach to represent your Lord authentically (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-4);
  • preach in the second person; do not be afraid to say, “you!”;
  • preach to apply the text; a prophet speaks to his generation (cf. Luke 3:10-14);
  • preach for a personal and visible response; refuse to let people “hesitate between two opinions” (cf. 1 Kings 18:21);
  • preach to be clearly understood and not to please the audience; and
  • preach fearlessly and flawlessly; don’t let the messenger influence the message negatively (cf. 1 Tim. 4:11-16; 2 Cor. 13:10).

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