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Quotes

January 16, 2010

Here is some food for thought as we prepare to hear the Word preached this Lord’s Day. These quotes are drawn from a book I just read (that will be released some time in the spring) titled Expository Listening. Do you know not only what a privilege there is in hearing the Word, but also what a responsibility? Here is what three Puritan pastors had to say in that regard:

Richard Baxter:
Remember that all these…sermons must be reviewed, and you must answer for all that you have heard, whether you heard it…with diligent attention or with carelessness; and the word which you hear shall judge you at the last day. Hear therefore as those that are going to judgment to give account of their hearing and obeying.

Thomas Watson:
You must give an account for every sermon you hear….The judge to whom we must give an account is God…how should we observe every word preached, remembering the account! Let all this make us shake off distraction and drowsiness in hearing, and have our ears chained to the word.

David Clarkson:
At the day of judgment, an account of every sermon will be required, and of every truth in each sermon….The books will be opened, all the sermons mentioned which you have heard, and a particular account required, why you imprisoned such a truth revealed, why you committed such a sin threatened, why neglected such duties enjoined….Oh what a fearful account!

January 10, 2010

Every now and again I like to post a prayer here. This one is drawn from Pastor Scotty Smith. He titles it “A Prayer About Heart Care.” It seems an appropriate prayer for the beginning of a new year.

*****

Heavenly Father,

The YMCA’s, health clubs and fitness centers are presently burgeoning with post-holiday-feasting traffic. We’re ready to leave the sugar/butter/carbohydrate binge of the past six weeks for the purge of cardio-care and sweat. Indeed, the beginning of a new year usually brings all kinds of resolutions including ones related to getting into shape and taking care of our “ticker.” Certainly, this is a good thing, for stewardship of our hearts and health does bring you glory.

Yet I’ve never been more aware that spiritual formation based on the “binge and purge” cycle simply will not do. My heart needs to be strengthened by the grace of the gospel all year long. I cannot afford periods of “cruise control” when I leave the banquet of your love for the buffet of wanna-be “comfort foods”. Just like the physical heart you’ve given me, the muscle of my “spiritual” heart will atrophy if I do not steward it well.

Here’s my thanksgiving. I praise you for the “means of grace”—the good gifts you’ve freely given us to help us grow in grace. Thank you for the Bible, your very Word, through which you reveal yourself. Thank you for prayer, meditation and corporate worship, by which you meet with us and commune with us. Thank you for the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, these tangible expressions of your covenant love. I praise you that I do not need to take out any kind of membership or join a club to take advantage of these and other wonderful “means of grace.”

Here’s my prayer. Because you love me, let me feel like the moron I am when I avoid the means of grace—when I simply do not take advantage of the primary ways my heart can be strengthened by your grace. By the convicting work of your Holy Spirit, let me far be more concerned about a flabby graceless-heart than bigger love handles. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

January 09, 2010

I was running back through some old notes on Jonathan Edwards’ The Religious Affections today and came across a couple of great quotes. I thought I’d share them with you as worthwhile reflections for a Saturday evening. May they stir your heart, your affections, as you prepare to dedicate a day to making much of God.

*****

The more a true saint loves God with a gracious love, the more he desires to love him, and the more uneasy is he at his want of love to him; the more he hates sin, the more he desires to hate it, and laments that he has so much remaining love to it; the more he mourns for sin, the more he longs to mourn for sin; the more his heart is broke, the more he desires it should be broke the more he thirsts and longs after God and holiness, the more he longs to long, and breathe out his very soul in longings after God: the kindling and raising of gracious affections is like kindling a flame; the higher it is raised, the more ardent it is; and the more it burns, the more vehemently does it tend and seek to burn.

Spiritual good is of a satisfying nature; and for that very reason, the soul that tastes, and knows its nature, will thirst after it, and a fullness of it, that it may be satisfied. And the more he experiences, and the more he knows this excellent, unparalleled, exquisite, and satisfying sweetness, the more earnestly will he hunger and thirst for more, until he comes to perfection. And therefore this is the nature of spiritual affections, that the greater they be, the greater the appetite and longing is, after grace and holiness.

January 02, 2010

Today I encountered, “A Time To Talk,” a little poem by Robert Frost. I’d suggest that, unlike some poetry, it needs little explanation. A little reflection wouldn’t hurt, though.

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

December 20, 2009

Here is a hymn we’ve only begun to sing recently at our church. It’s an old one and, I assume, one that may not have had a great melody (since Josh, our lead worshiper, has composed his own melody for it—I wish I had a recording so you could hear it). We sang it today after meeting with Christ in Hebrews 1. It was the perfect ending to our service.

Face to face with Christ my Savior,
Face to face, what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ, who died for me?

Refrain
Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory
I shall see Him by and by!

Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkening veil between,
But a blessed day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.

What rejoicing in His presence,
When are banished grief and pain;
When the crooked ways are straightened,
And the dark things shall be plain!

December 19, 2009

I read a great quote earlier this week on Timmy Brister’s blog and thought it was worth sharing. It comes from D.A. Carson (in his book The Cross and Christian Ministry). What struck me about these words was just how many of these ways of destroying a church I’ve witnessed either up-close or from afar. As soon as we remove the cross from the center of all the church is and does, something will inevitably rush in to replace it.

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.

December 06, 2009

Today I want to post a helpful little article excerpted from one of George Whitefield’s sermons. I post this primarily for my own benefit as one who sometimes struggles mightily in listening to and applying God’s Word as it is preached. But I know I am not alone in this and trust that you, too, may benefit. In this sermon Whitefield exposited Luke 8:18 where Jesus said, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen.” These pearls of wisdom will help you listen to sermons in a way that will bring great blessing to your soul. Or as Whitefield said, “Here are some cautions and directions, in order to help you hear sermons with profit and advantage.”

1. Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty. To enter His house merely to have our ears entertained, and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be highly displeasing to the Most High God, as well as unprofitable to ourselves.

2. Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God. If an earthly king were to issue a royal proclamation, and the life or death of his subjects entirely depended on performing or not performing its conditions, how eager would they be to hear what those conditions were! And shall we not pay the same respect to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and lend an attentive ear to His ministers, when they are declaring, in His name, how our pardon, peace, and happiness may be secured?

3. Do not entertain even the least prejudice against the minister. That was the reason Jesus Christ Himself could not do many mighty works, nor preach to any great effect among those of His own country; for they were offended at Him. Take heed therefore, and beware of entertaining any dislike against those whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers over you.

Consider that the clergy are men of like passions with yourselves. And though we should even hear a person teaching others to do what he has not learned himself, yet that is no reason for rejecting his doctrine. For ministers speak not in their own, but in Christ’s name. And we know who commanded the people to do whatever the scribes and Pharisees should say unto them, even though they did not do themselves what they said (see Matt. 23:1-3).

4. Be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think. Preferring one teacher over another has often been of ill consequence to the church of God. It was a fault which the great Apostle of the Gentiles condemned in the Corinthians: ‘For whereas one said, I am of Paul; another, I am of Apollos: are you not carnal, says he? For who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but instruments in God’s hands by whom you believed?’ (1 Cor. 1:12; 2:3-5).

Are not all ministers sent forth to be ministering ambassadors to those who shall be heirs of salvation? And are they not all therefore greatly to be esteemed for their work’s sake?

5. Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered. When our Savior was discoursing at the last supper with His beloved disciples and foretold that one of them should betray Him, each of them immediately applied it to his own heart and said, ‘Lord, is it I?’ (Matt. 26:22).

Oh, that persons, in like manner, when preachers are dissuading from any sin or persuading to any duty, instead of crying, ‘This was intended for such and such a one!’ instead would turn their thoughts inwardly, and say, ‘Lord, is it I?’ How far more beneficial should we find discourses to be than now they generally are!

6. Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon, to endue the minister with power to speak, and to grant you a will and ability to put into practice what he shall show from the Book of God to be your duty.

No doubt it was this consideration that made St. Paul so earnestly entreat his beloved Ephesians to intercede with God for him: ‘Praying always, with all manner of prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and for me also, that I may open my mouth with boldness, to make known the mysteries of the gospel’ (Eph. 6:19-20). And if so great an apostle as St. Paul needed the prayers of his people, much more do those ministers who have only the ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.

If only all who hear me this day would seriously apply their hearts to practice what has now been told them! How ministers would see Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven, and people find the Word preached sharper than a two-edged sword and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil’s strongholds!

November 28, 2009

A friend sent me this poem/hymn. I thought you’d enjoy it as I did.

*****

When sins and fears prevailing rise,
And fainting hope almost expires;
Jesus, to Thee I lift mine eyes,
To Thee I breathe my soul’s desires.

Art Thou not mine, my living Lord;
And can my hope, my comfort die,
Fixed on Thy everlasting word,
That word which built the earth and sky?

Since my immortal Saviour lives,
Then my immortal life is sure;
His word a firm foundation gives -
Here let me build, and rest secure.

Here let my faith unshaken dwell;
Immovable the promise stands;
Not all the powers of earth or hell
Can e’er dissolve the sacred bands.

Here, O my soul, thy trust repose;
Since Jesus is for ever mine,
Not death itself, that last of foes,
Shall break a union so divine.

Anne Steele, 1760
No. 623 in “Our Own Hymnbook”

November 15, 2009

Last week I posted a prayer by pastor Scotty Smith. Today it seemed like it would be good to post another one. This one stood out to me as one I needed to pray—a prayer about impossibilities. It is based on these words: “Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.’” (Luke 18:27)

*****

Merciful and mighty, Lord Jesus, how I need to wrestle with this hope this day. First of all, I want to thank you for the freedom the Scriptures give me to be honest about situations which are impossible to me. It’s so good to know that the gospel calls us to hope, not to hype… to believe, not to make believe… to intercession, not to presumption.

The disciples were vexed over a camel making it through the eye of a needle with greater ease than a rich man making it through the door into your kingdom. Sarah laughed at the thought of having a baby in her nineties. Mary was shocked at the thought of giving birth to you, as a virgin, and understandably so.

But because you did come to us, Jesus, in a most improbable, impossible-to-mere-man way, I am more inclined to say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant… may it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). And because you did overcome death and evil through your resurrection, I am more ready to say with Paul, “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). And because “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18-19), I will flee today to take hold of the hope offered to me in the gospel—a firm and secure anchor for my soul, which is floating on a sea of seeming impossibilities.

Lord Jesus, I’m asking you to breathe new life into the hearts of some of my friends who are in the paralyzing lockdown of shame, guilt, contempt and utter despair. Bring your resurrection power to marriages of friends that are, at best on life support, and others that are about to be rolled into the morgue.

For my friends who have spent everything they have on a multitude of doctors and cures, but are not better at all, have mercy Jesus, have mercy, I ask. For me, Jesus, please give me the assurance that you really are at work in my life—freeing me from the idols of my heart for the passions of your heart and kingdom. Whatever is impossible with me, is more than possible with you. So very Amen, I pray, in your anchor-for-my-soul, Name.

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