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Quotes

November 08, 2009

For some time now pastor Scotty Smith has been posting prayers at his blog. This one, in particular, caught my attention as a prayer that could come from the heart of any believer.

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Heavenly Father, how I long for the Day when I will no longer be tempt-able, deceive-able, or even capable of worshipping any other “god” but you. I so look forward to an eternity of giving you the adoration, affection, attention and allegiance of which you alone are worthy. No one cares like you. No one understands like you. No one redeems like you. No one loves like you. No one restores like you. There is no God but you.

In Jesus, you have already given me a new heart and have placed your Spirit in me. In Jesus, you have already turned my heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25-27). In Jesus, you have already given me a heart to know and love you (Jeremiah 24:7). In Jesus you have already written your law upon my heart (Jeremiah 31:33). In Jesus, you have already given me a perfectly forgiven heart.

YET, it is not a fully perfected heart. The battle for my heart’s daily worship continues, and will continue until the Day Jesus returns to finish making all things new. Thus, the warning to keep myself from idols has never had more meaning, Father. Help me discern which “idols of the heart” (Ezekiel 14:4) I am most susceptible to trusting in, rather than you. When I don’t think you are “enough,” where do I take the worship you deserve—where do I go for life, deliverance and salvation?

Sometimes the collaboration and conspiracy of the duplicity within me… the world around me… and the devil, invisible to me, is overwhelming… I need the gospel every minute of every hour.

I praise you for the assurance that I am already one of your “beloved children.” You cannot love me more than you already do, and you will never love me less, for you love all of your children just as much as you love your beloved Son, Jesus. Surely the gospel, this gospel, will win the day, my heart and the entire cosmos. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

October 18, 2009

The prayer immediately before a sermon is one where the congregation is prone to drift off. This prayer is usually a minister’s plea for God to grant him words to speak and for God to grant the ability to hear and understand for those who listen to the sermon. I’ve noticed, though, that when I am the one who is to preach immediately afterward, this prayer takes on a new dimension of desperation. The one standing in the pulpit (hopefully) has a real sense of his unworthiness, his unsuitableness, his inability to do in his own power the task he is called to do. This morning I will be preaching at a church nearby and already I feel that sense of inability and already I’m turning to God to grant me strength. This prayer from The Valley of Vision has given me words to speak to God to ask for his help.

*****

Unchangeable Jehovah,
When I am discouraged in my ministry and full of doubts of my self,
fasten me upon the rock of thy eternal election,
then my hands will not hang down,
and I shall have hope for myself and others.
Thou dost know thy people by name,
and wilt at the appointed season lead them out of a natural to a gracious state by thy effectual calling.
This is the ground of my salvation,
the object of my desire,
the motive of my ministry.
Keep me from high thoughts of myself or my work,
for I am nothing but sin and weakness;
in me no good dwells,
and my best works are but sin.
Humble me to the dust before thee.
Root and tear out the poisonous weed of self-righteousness,
and show me my utter nothingness;
Keep me sensible of my sinnership;
Sink me deeper into penitence and self-abhorence;
Break the Dagon of pride in pieces before the ark of thy presence;
Demolish the Babel of self-opinion, and scatter it to the wind;
Level to the ground my Jericho walls of a rebel heart;
Then grace, grace, will be my experience and cry.
I am a poor, feeble creature when faith is not in exercise,
like an eagle with pinioned wings;
Grant me to rest on thy power and faithfulness,
and to know that there are two things worth living for:
to further thy cause in the world,
and to do good to the souls and bodies of men;
This is my ministry, my life, my prayer, my end.
Grant me grace that I shall not fail.

October 04, 2009

This is one of my favorite prayers in The Valley of Vision. It is a prayer for family, asking God not only for grace in raising a family in a way that brings him glory but also asking God for grace in the lives of other family members. I think it is notable that a prayer for family first begins with soul-searching prayer about self. In fact it moves seamlessly from adoration of God to confession of sin to petition that God will grant grace to overcome sin (and especially sin related to ones ability to effectively relate to family) and finally to prayer for those family members. It is a beautiful, powerful prayer.

*****

O SOVEREIGN LORD,
Thou art the Creator-Father of all men, for thou hast made and dost support them;
Thou art the special Father of those who know, love and honour thee,
who find thy yoke easy, and thy burden light,
thy work honourable,
thy commandments glorious.
But how little thy undeserved goodness has affected me!
how imperfectly have I improved my religious privileges!
how negligent have I been in doing good to others!
I am before thee in my trespasses and sins,
have mercy on me,
and may thy goodness bring me to repentance.
Help me to hate and forsake every false way,
to be attentive to my condition and character,
to bridle my tongue,
to keep my heart with all diligence,
to watch and pray against temptation,
to mortify sin,
to be concerned for the salvation of others.
O God, I cannot endure to see the destruction of my kindred.
Let those that are united to me in tender ties
be precious in thy sight and devoted to thy glory.
Sanctify and prosper my domestic devotion,
instruction, discipline, example,
that my house may be a nursery for heaven,
my church the garden of the Lord,
enriched with trees of righteousness of thy planting,
for thy glory;
Let not those of my family who are amiable, moral, attractive,
fall short of heaven at last;
Grant that the promising appearances of a tender conscience,
soft heart, the alarms and delights of thy Word,
be not finally blotted out,
but bring forth judgment unto victory in all whom I love.

October 03, 2009

Here is some food for thought from John Stott. It comes courtesy of The Cross of Christ.

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The kind of God that appeals to most people today would be easy-going in his tolerance of our offenses. He would be gentle, kind, accommodating. He would have no violent reactions. Unhappily, even in the church we seemed to have lost the vision of the majesty of God. There is much shallowness and levity among us. Prophets and psalmists would probably say of us, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” In public worship our habit is to slouch or squat; we do not kneel nowadays, let alone prostrate ourselves in humility before God. It is more characteristic of us to clap our hands with joy than to blush with shame or tears. We saunter up to God to claim his patronage and friendship; it does not occur to us that he might send us away. We need to hear again the Apostle Peter’s sobering words, “Since you call on a father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives. . in reverent fear.” (I Peter 1:17) In other words, if we dare to call our judge our Father, we must beware of presuming on him. It must even be said that our evangelical emphasis on the atonement is dangerous if we come to it too quickly. We learn to appreciate the access to God which Christ has won only after we have first cried, “Woe is me for I am lost.” In Dale’s words, “It is partly because sin does not provoke our own wrath that we do not believe that sin provokes the wrath of God.

September 27, 2009

I have (slowly) been reading Bruce Gordon’s new biography of Calvin (titled simply Calvin) and recently came to a chapter describing the situation in France during Calvin’s ministry in Geneva. As a Frenchman, Calvin’s influence spread beyond Geneva and into his native land. There Protestants, some connected to Calvin and others not, were being killed as part of a systematic effort to root out the seditious faith. Many were hunted down, tortured and executed.

This short description of such an occasion comes from the pen of Eustache Knobelsdorf, a Catholic German who was studying in Paris. He witnessed the execution of a Protestant in 1542 and wrote out an account. I reproduce it here because it stands as a testimony of God’s truthfulness when he says that he will care for his own, not necessarily by avoiding the fire, but sometimes through the fire.

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I saw two burnt there. Their death inspired in me differing sentiments. If you had been there, you would have hoped for a less severe punishment for these poor unfortunates. … The first was a very young man, not yet with a beard, he was the son of a cobbler. He was brought in front of the judges and condemned to have his tongue cut out and burned straight afterward. Without changing the expression of his face, the young man presented his tongue to the executioner’s knife, sticking it out as far as he could. The executioner pulled it out even further with pinchers, cut it off, and hit the sufferer several times on the tongue and threw it in the young man’s face. Then he was put into a tipcart, which was driven to the place of execution, but, to see him, one would think that he was going to a feast. … When the chain had been placed around his body, I could not describe to you with what equanimity of soul and with what expression in his features he endured the cries of elation and the insults of the crowd that were directed towards him. He did not make a sound, but from time to time he spat out the blood that was filling his mouth, and he lifted his eyes to heaven, as if he was waiting for some miraculous rescue. When his head was covered in sulphur, the executioner showed him the fire with a menacing air; but the young man, without being scared, let it be known, by a movement of his body, that he was giving himself willingly to be burned.

September 26, 2009

Here’s a thought-provoking quote from Todd Gitlin, author of Media Unlimited. In just a few words he shows the emptiness of the pursuit of more and the emptiness of the promise of consumerism.

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[T]he Great Depression was a turning point, frightening workers with the burden of an impoverished free time. After World War II, pent-up consumer demand for a high-consumption way of life was boosted by government subsidies (via the low-interest mortgages and expensive highways that helped suburbanize the country). The die was cast: the public would choose money over time, preferring to seek its pleasures and comforts in the purchase of goods guaranteed to grow ever more swiftly obsolescent rather than in the search for collective leisure—or civic virtue…

Of course, the curious thing about consumer pleasures is that they don’t last. The essence of consumerism is broken promises ever renewed. The modern consumer is a hedonist doomed to economically productive disappointment, experiencing, as sociologist Colin Campbell writes, “a state of enjoyable discomfort.” You propel your daydreams forward, each time attaching them to some longed-for object, a sofa, CD player, kitchen, sports car, only to unhook the desires from the objects once they are in hand. Even high-end durable goods quickly outwear the thrill of their early arrival, leaving consumers bored—and available. After each conquest comes a sense of only limited satisfaction—and the question, what next?

September 19, 2009

I’ll be honest. What first stood out to me about this prayer (drawn from The Valley of Vision) was the title, “A Colloquy On Rejoicing.” I immediately looked up colloquy and found that it is simply a kind of formal conversation and that the word is often used in a religious context. So it makes good sense here. This prayer represents a Christian’s conversation with himself as he reflects on his desire, his responsibility, to rejoice in all that God is and in all that God has done.

Remember, O My Soul,
It is thy duty and privilege to rejoice in God:
He requires it of thee for all his favours of grace.
Rejoice then in the Giver and his goodness,
Be happy in him, O my heart, and in nothing but God,
for whatever a man trusts in,
from that he expects happiness.

He who is the ground of thy faith
should be the substance of thy joy.
Whence then come heaviness and dejection,
when joy is sown in thee,
promised by the Father,
bestowed by the Son,
inwrought by the Holy Spirit,
thine by grace,
thy birthright in believing?

Art thou seeking to rejoice in thyself
from an evil motive of pride and self-reputation?
Thou hast nothing of thine own but sin,
nothing to move God to be gracious,
or to continue his grace towards thee.
If thou forget this thou wilt lose thy joy.
Art thou grieving under a sense of indwelling sin?
Let godly sorrow work repentance,
as the true spirit which the Lord blesses,
and which creates fullest joy;
Sorrow for self opens rejoicing in God,
Self-loathing draws down divine delights.
Hast thou sought joys in some creature comfort?
Look not below God for happiness;
fall not asleep in Delilah’s lap.
Let God be all in all to thee, and joy in the fountain that is always full.

September 12, 2009

Here is a great (and famous) quote from Mortimer Adler’s classic How To Read a Book.

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There are two ways in which one can own a book. The first is the property right you establish by paying for it, just as you pay for clothes and furniture. But this act of purchase is only the prelude to possession. Full ownership comes only when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it is by writing in it. An illustration may make the point clear. You buy a beefsteak and transfer it from the butcher’s icebox to your own. But you do not own the beefsteak in the most important sense until you consume it and get it into your bloodstream. I am arguing that books, too, must be absorbed in your blood stream to do you any good.

Confusion about what it means to “own” a book leads people to a false reverence for paper, binding, and type — a respect for the physical thing — the craft of the printer rather than the genius of the author. They forget that it is possible for a man to acquire the idea, to possess the beauty, which a great book contains, without staking his claim by pasting his bookplate inside the cover. Having a fine library doesn’t prove that its owner has a mind enriched by books; it proves nothing more than that he, his father, or his wife, was rich enough to buy them.

There are three kinds of book owners. The first has all the standard sets and best sellers — unread, untouched. (This deluded individual owns woodpulp and ink, not books.) The second has a great many books — a few of them read through, most of them dipped into, but all of them as clean and shiny as the day they were bought. (This person would probably like to make books his own, but is restrained by a false respect for their physical appearance.) The third has a few books or many — every one of them dog-eared and dilapidated, shaken and loosened by continual use, marked and scribbled in from front to back. (This man owns books.) …

But the soul of a book “can” be separate from its body. A book is more like the score of a piece of music than it is like a painting. No great musician confuses a symphony with the printed sheets of music. Arturo Toscanini reveres Brahms, but Toscanini’s score of the G minor Symphony is so thoroughly marked up that no one but the maestro himself can read it. The reason why a great conductor makes notations on his musical scores — marks them up again and again each time he returns to study them—is the reason why you should mark your books. If your respect for magnificent binding or typography gets in the way, buy yourself a cheap edition and pay your respects to the author.

September 07, 2009

Today is Labor Day, a holiday here in Canada, and it seemed a good opportunity to post a short excerpt from Wayne Grudem’s book Business for the Glory of God. In this book Grudem seeks to show the moral goodness of business and one of the ways he does that is by discussing the goodness of the employer/employee relationship. Here is what he says:

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Employer/employee relationships provide many opportunities for glorifying God. On both sides of the transaction, we can imitate God, and he will take pleasure in us when he sees us showing honesty, fairness, trustworthiness, kindness, wisdom and skill, and keeping our word regarding how much we promised to pay or what work we agreed to do. The employer/employee relationship also gives opportunity to demonstrate proper exercise of authority and proper responses to authority, in imitation of the authority that has eternally existed between the Father and Son in the Trinity.

When the employer/employee arrangement is working properly, both parties benefit. This allows love for the other person to manifest itself. For example, let’s say that I have a job sewing shirts in someone else’s shop. I can honestly seek the good of my employer, and seek to sew as many shirts as possible for him along with attention to quality (compare 1 Tim. 6:2), and he can seek my good, because he will pay me at the end of the week for a job well done. As in every good business transaction, both parties end up better off then they were before. In this case, I have more money at the end of the week than I did before, and my employer has more shirts ready to take to market than he did before. And so we have worked together to produce something that did not exist in the world before that week—the world is 500 shirts “wealthier” than it was when the week began. Together we have created some new “wealth” in the world. This is a small example of obeying God’s command to “subdue” the earth (Gen 1:28) and make its resources useful for mankind. Now if we multiply that by millions of plants, millions of workers, and millions of different products, it is evident how the world gains material “wealth” that did not exist before—new products have been created by an employer hiring an employee to manufacture something.

Therefore if you hire me to work in your business, you are doing good for me and you are providing both of us with many opportunities to glorify God. It is the same way with hiring people to produce services—whether hiring teachers to teach in a school, doctors to care for people in a clinic, mechanics to fix cars, or painters to paint houses. The employer/employee relationship enables people to create services for others that were not there before.

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And so, as Christians, we know there is dignity in labor; there is dignity in being an employee or an employer. So as we rest for our labors today, we can rest knowing that tomorrow we return to a good and noble task.

September 06, 2009

I have unashamedly stolen this quote from my friend David. He shared it at his blog earlier this week and it struck me how so much of what we are sure we know about history is wrong. In fact, so much of what we know about life is wrong. We hear things and assume after a while that they are true but do not investigate for ourselves. Ask the average person what they know of Puritans, and what they know of the Puritans and sex, and I am quite convinced that they will tell you things that are just plain wrong. As this quote shows, the Puritans were hardly Puritanical when it came to their attitude toward sex.

Catholic doctrine had declared virginity superior to marriage; the Puritan reply was that marriage “is a state . . . Far more excellent than the condition of single life.” Many Catholic commentators claimed that sexual intercourse had been the resultof the Fall and did not occur in Paradise; the Puritan comeback was that marriage was ordained by God, “and that not in this sinful world, but in paradise, that most joyful garden of pleasure.”
   . . .
   Given the Catholic background against which they wrote and preached, the Puritans’ praise of marriage was at the same time an implicit endorsement of marital sex as good. They elaborated that point specifically and often. This becomes clearer once we are clued into the now-outdated terms by which they customarily referred to sexual intercourse: “matrimonial duty,” “cohabitation,” “act of matrimony,” and (especially) “due benevolence.”
   Everywhere we turn in Puritan writing on the subject we find sex affirmed as good in principle. [William] Gouge referred to physical union as “one of the most proper and essential acts of marriage.” It was Milton’s opinion that the text “they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) was included in the Bible
to justify and make legitimate the rites of the marriage bed; which was not unneedful, if for all this warrant they were suspected of pollution by some sects of philosophy and religions of old, and latelier among the Papists.
William Ames listed as one of the duties of marriage “mutual communication of bodies.”
   So closely linked were the ideas of marriage and sex that the Puritans usually defined marriage partly in terms of sexual union. [William] Perkins defined marriage as “the lawful conjunction of the two married persons; that is, of one man and one woman into one flesh.” Another well-known definition was this: Marriage
is a coupling together of two persons into one flesh, according to the ordinance of God. . . . By yoking, joining, or coupling is meant, not only outward dwelling together of the married folks . . . but also an uniform agreement of mind and a common participation of body and goods.
   Married sex was not only legitimate in the Puritan view; it was meant to be exuberant. Gouge said that married couples should engage in sex “with good will and delight, willingly, readily, and cheerfully.” An anonymous Puritan claimed that when two are made one by marriage they
may joyfully give due benevolence one to the other; as two musical instruments rightly fitted do make a most pleasant and sweet harmony in a well tuned consort.
Alexander Niccholes theorized that in marriage “thou not only unitest unto thyself a friend and comfort for society, but also a companion for pleasure.”
   In this acceptance of physical sex, the Puritans once again rejected the asceticism and implicit dualism between sacred and secular that had governed Christian thinking for so long. In the Puritan view, God had given the physical world, including sex, for human welfare.

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