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Quotes

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)

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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.

November 15, 2009

A little while ago I read Warren Wiersbe’s book 50 People Every Christian Should Know. Just the other day I was tidying up my bookcases and noticed a toothpick sticking out of the book. I opened it to the page marked by the toothpick and found a quote I guess I must have been hoping to come back to. Turns out it’s a good one. It comes from a chapter devoted to Alexander Whyte. Here it is:

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The sales manager of a successful Christian publishing house tells me that pastors are not buying books. “Most of the books sold in Christian bookstores are sold to and read by women,” he said. If our pastors are not using their valuable time for study, what are they using it for? Perhaps Whyte had the answer: “We shroud our indolence under the pretext of a difficulty. The truth is, it is lack of real love for our work.”

Alexander Whyte loved books, and he read them to his dying day. The Puritans in general and Thomas Goodwin in particular were his main diet. But he also thrived on the mystics and the princes of the Scottish church, such as Samuel Rutherford. Whyte constantly ordered books for himself and his friends in the ministry. However, he cautioned young pastors against becoming book-buyers instead of book-readers. “Don’t hunger for books,” he wrote a minister friend. “Get a few of the very best, such as you already have, and read them and your own heart continually.” Whyte often contrasted two kinds of reading—“reading on a sofa and reading with a pencil in hand.” He urged students to keep notebooks and to make entries in an interleaved Bible for future reference. “No day without its line” was his motto. He wrote to Hubert Simpson: “for more than forty years, I think I can say, never a week, scarcely a day, has passed, that I have not entered some note or notes into my Bible: and, then, I never read a book without taking notes for preservation one way or another.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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