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Quotes

June 12, 2010

Earlier today I was looking through some notes I took on David McCullough’s great biography of John Adams. I found there a few quotes from Adams about his love of reading. He was an avid reader who had a very substantial library—far more the exception than the rule in his day. Here is how he spoke of how reading ranked in his life in terms of priority.

I want to see my children every day. I want to see my grass and blossoms and corn … But above all, except the wife and children, I want to see my books.

As with Adams, my books are among my greatest pleasure and when I find I do not have time to read, I miss it a lot. There is pleasure to be found both in the books and in the experience of reading them. A day without a book is just not quite the same as a day with at least an hour or two spent reading.

Adams also said this about the way he did his best thinking:

The only way to compose myself and collect my thoughts is to set down at my table, place my diary before me, and take my pen into my hand. This apparatus takes off my attention from other objects. Pen, ink, and paper and a sitting posture are great helps to attention and thinking.

I, too, find that I can get very little thinking done, and cannot hold my attention for long, if I do not do my thinking with the assistance of pen, ink and paper (or the digital equivalent—a word processor and a keyboard). I love reading, I love writing and, like Adams, I love words. So I suppose one of the reasons I enjoy reading about Adams is that I feel a real affinity with him on that level.

June 06, 2010

As you know, I enjoy looking for written prayers to pray as my own. I found this one at the web site for the Canadian and American Reformed Churches. It is a prayer meant to be prayed in the evening before retiring to bed. And it’s a good one, I think. It thanks God for the day, it seeks to add his blessing on all that has been done, it seeks his forgiveness for what has been sinful, and it asks for his continued blessing.

Merciful God, in whom is no darkness at all, we come before You at the end of this day. We thank You that You have given us strength for our daily work, and have guided us safely through this day. Bless what was good in our labour and conduct.

Since You ordained that man should labour during the day and rest at night, we pray You to give us peaceful and undisturbed rest so that we may be able to take up our daily task again. Command Your angels to guard us and cause Your face to shine upon us. We cast all our anxieties on You, for You take care of us.

June 05, 2010

Earlier this week I read the book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr—the guy who wrote the infamous article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” It’s a fantastic book and addresses many of the kinds of questions I’ve been asked and (hopefully) answering in my own book. Seriously, you should consider reading it.

Carr looks primarily to what the internet is doing to our brains, to the way we think and even to the way we perceive ourselves. And inevitably he spends quite a bit of time looking to the history of communication, including the book. And here are a few of his thoughts about what makes the book such an amazing invention, especially when compared to digital readers. In them he captures just a bit of my passion for books.

It’s not hard to see why books have been slow to make the leap into the digital age. There’s not a whole lot of difference between a computer monitor and a television screen, and the sounds coming from speakers hit your ears in pretty much the same way whether they’re being transmitted through a computer or a radio. But as a device for reading, the book retains some compelling advantages over the computer. You can take a book to the beach without worrying about sand getting in its works. You can take it to bed without being nervous about it falling to the floor should you nod off. You can spill coffee on it. You can sit on it. You can put it down on a table, open to the page you’re reading, and when you pick it up a few days later it will still be exactly as you left it. You never have to be concerned about plugging a book into an outlet or having its battery day.

The experience of reading tends to be better with a book too. Words stamped on a page in black ink are easier to read than words formed of pixels on a backlit screen. You can read a dozen or a hundred printed pages without suffering from the eye fatigue that often results from even a brief stretch of online reading. Navigating a book is simpler and, as software programmers say, more intuitive. You can flip through real pages much more quickly and flexibly than you can through virtual pages. And you can write notes in a book’s margins or highlight passages that move or inspire you. You can even get a book’s author to sign its title page. When you’re finished with a book, you can use it to fill an empty space on your bookshelf—or lend it to a friend.

May 30, 2010

While skimming through some of those books that showed up last week (see yesterday’s post) I came across some great information about Robert Murray McCheyne. This is drawn from Mike Sarkissian’s book Before God and really challenged me as I prepared to preach today in Sarnia, Ontario. It shamed me with my own lack of preparation, my own (relative) prayerlessness in approaching the pulpit. I need to be more like McCheyne!

The time McCheyne spent before the Lord gave him a better perspective of the high calling God had placed upon him as a shepherd of God’s people. He was known for saying, “I have no desire but the salvation of my people, by whatever instrument.” Little did he know, McCheyne would be an instrument God would use for centuries to come. His time with God in prayer and meditation manifested itself in a passion for souls and effective preaching.

Dr. Estrada explained the depth of McCheyne’s personal holiness in relation to bringing forth the Word of God to his congregation:

His preaching and all other activities were preceded by long periods of prayer. He kept by this rule: ‘that he must first see the face of God before he could undertake any duty.’ ‘I ought to spend the best hours of the day in communion with God. It is my noblest and most fruitful employment, and is not to be thrust into any corner.’ Both in his preaching and teaching he was very much concerned with feeding the congregation with the ‘whole counsel of God.’

McCheyne preached the Word of God with a certain gravity and solemnity. He sought after the unction of the Holy Spirit and spoke intently to his congregation. His pulpit was said to have been wet with his tears as he urged people to commit their lives to Christ. This seriousness to the calling of God would bring forth much fruit for the Kingdom.

May 27, 2010

Craig Venter has recently claimed to have created artificial life. His name showed up in a book I read and reviewd not so long ago and I have received permission to post an excerpt from that book—Who Made God? by Edgar Andrews (read my review or read my interview with the author).

This excerpt begins on page 194 if you’re looking for it in your copy of his book.

Life in a cake mixer

We shall spend this chapter in pursuit of the jellypod. That’s my pet name for Haldane’s ‘minimal organism’ — the simplest entity that could be called ‘living’ and which we discussed briefly at the start of chapter 12. No disrespect is intended; jellypod is just more memorable than ‘minimal organism’.

In chapter 12, having pointed out the enormous complexity of even the simplest life-form known to us today, we put the jellypod on one side to seek out the essence of physical life. This turned out to be organised information — something, moreover, that cannot be stored, transmitted or put to work without the use of communication or ‘language’. This is just what we would expect on the biblical hypothesis of God, since the Bible attributes both the origin and maintenance of the natural world to God’s ‘spoken word’ — a metaphor that embraces the twin ideas of command and communication. It is no surprise, therefore, that the molecular foundations of life are stacked full of information and bear all the marks of advanced language.

May 22, 2010

This week, while reading Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed, I came across a quote I wanted to share with you. Here Sibbes offers a sharp warning against anyone who would resist Christ’s mercy. There are not too many people today who will preach what he teaches here.

There are those who take it on themselves to cast water on those sparks which Christ labors to kindle in them, because they will not be troubled with the light of them. Such must know that the Lamb can be angry, and that they who will not come under his scepter of mercy shall be crushed in pieces by his scepter of power (Psa. 2:9). Though he will graciously tend and maintain the least spark of true grace, yet where he finds not the spark of grace but opposition to his Spirit striving with them, his wrath, once kindled, shall burn to hell. There is no more just provocation than when kindness is churlishly refused.

When God would have cured Babylon, and she would not be cured, then she was given up to destruction (Jer. 51:9). When Jerusalem would not be gathered under the wing of Christ, then their habitation is left desolate (Matt. 23:37,38). When wisdom stretches out her hand and men refuse, then wisdom will laugh at men’s destruction (Prow. 1:26). Salvation itself will not save those that spill the medicine and cast away the plaster. It is a pitiful case, when this merciful Saviour shall delight in destruction; when he that made men shall have no mercy on them (Isa. 27:11).

Oh, say the rebels of the time, God has not made us to damn us. Yes, if you will not meet Christ in the ways of his mercy, it is fitting that you should ‘eat of the fruit of your own way, and be filled with your own devices’ (Prow. 1:31). This will be the hell of hell, when men shall think that they have loved their sins more than their souls; when they shall think what love and mercy has been enforced upon them, and yet they would perish. The more accessory we are in pulling a judgment upon ourselves, the more the conscience will be confounded in itself. Then they shall acknowledge Christ to be without any blame, themselves without any excuse.

If men appeal to their own consciences, they will tell them that the Holy Spirit has often knocked at their hearts, as willing to have kindled some holy desires in them. How else can they be said to resist the Holy Ghost, but that the Spirit was readier to draw them to a further degree of goodness than was consistent with their own wills? Therefore those in the church that are damned are self condemned before. So that here we need not rise to higher causes, when men carry sufficient cause in their own bosoms.

Harsh words? Yes, they are. But necessarily so.

May 02, 2010

After a while I start to feel lazy when posting quotes and prayers from other people. But this prayer from Scotty Smith is a good one. I love his prayers for their humanness. I like The Valley of Vision as much as the next guy, but somewhere along the way the prayers take on a kind of formality, presumably in the antiquated language. But here in Scotty Smith’s prayers there is something I can identify with much more. There an informality, a hesitation (check out all those ellipses) that seems just like the way I pray.

This prayer is premised on Isaiah 26:3-4: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.”

Most kind and trustworthy Father, you haven’t promised me a storm-less, hassle-free disappointment-empty life. You offer me no formulas for decreasing the probability of sad things happening around me or disillusioning things happening to me. But you have promised me something that transcends the chaos and fear of uncertainty.

April 25, 2010

Today at church we were introduced to a new hymn—at least one that was new to me. Titled “Pleading for Mercy” it is one of Newton’s Olney Hymns (#45 if you must know). And it’s a good one, too. Josh, our leader worshipper, composed a tune for it, altered a few of the lyrics, combined some of the verses, and so on. The end result was very powerful—as powerful as just about any of Newton’s hymns, I think.

In mercy, not in wrath, rebuke
Thy feeble worm, my God!
My spirit dreads thine angry look,
And trembles at thy rod.
Have mercy, Lord, for I am weak,
Regard my heavy groans;
O let thy voice of comfort speak,
And heal my broken bones!

By day my busy beating head
Is filled with anxious fears;
By night, upon my restless bed,
I weep a flood of tears.
Thus I sit desolate and mourn,
Mine eyes grow dull with grief;
How long, my Lord, till you return,
And bring my soul relief?

Satan, my cruel and envious foe
Insults me in my pain;
He smiles to see me brought so low,
And tells me hope is vain,
But hence, though enemy, depart!
Nor tempt me to despair;
My Savior comes to cheer my heart,
The Lord has heard my prayer.

O come and show thy pow’r to save,
And spare my fainting breath;
For who can praise thee in the grave,
Or sing thy name in death?
Since Jesus shared our flesh and blood
Then died the death we fear,
Removed the guilt wherein we stood
Our Father draws us near.

April 24, 2010

Yesterday I read Maggie Jackson’s book Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. In the book she shows how life today offers many more distractions than at any other time in history and how this may lead us into a new dark age. While I’m not quite sure I agree with all the talk of a dark age, certainly she makes many valid points along the way.

One way this societal distraction manifests itself is in the way we eat. Meals are no longer times to be spent with family savoring good food. Rather, they are times to quickly and effeciently refuel. In 2006, she points out, 1,347 products with “go” on the label debuted on the global market, a nearly 50 percent increase from the previous year. We can get our coffee on the go, our cereal on the go and everything else that we find we need.

She writes about Dr. Rapaille, a French-born consultant with a doctorate in medical anthropology who says, “Americans say ‘I’m full’ at the end of a meal because … [their] mission has been to fill up their tanks; when they complete it, they announced that they’ve finished the task.”

Here are a couple of other noteworthy and ponder-worthy snippets of her screed against eating on the go:

We need handheld, bite-size, and dripless food because we are eating on the run-all day long. Nearly half of Americans say they eat most meals away from home or on the go. Forty percent of our food budgets are spent eating out, compared with a quarter in 1990.3 Twenty-five percent of restaurant meals are ordered from the car, up from 15 percent in 1988.

Now we’ve left the fork behind, the casualty of a time-pressed age. But while we again eat with our hands, we’re rarely touching our sustenance. Wrappers, packaging, cans, straws, and the pace of life keep us from directly connecting with food until it’s halfway down our gullets. And the food itself, of course, is many steps removed from the drippy, messy, and sometimes wholly recognizable fare that graced many a groaning table of the past. In the name of civilization, we’ve moved toward clean, processed, and unobtrusive foods. A quiet fill-up, that’s what people tell [researchers] that they want. Nothing smelly, crackling, or noisy. We want food that takes a backseat to life-and we want it solo.

April 18, 2010

Here is another prayer from pastor Scotty Smith. This one deals with Christ’s active advocacy as he sits (or stands) at the right hand of the Father.

Most loving Lord Jesus, this scene in Stephen’s costly discipleship profoundly underscores what a wonderful, merciful and engaged Savior you really are. At the climax of his stoning he sees you standing at the right hand of the Father—rising for the very occasion of his greatest challenge, and soon to be realized death. Oh indeed, you are the Good Shepherd who cares, not the wicked hireling who disregards the plight of your lambs…

May this image supplant every wrong notion I’ve ever had about you “sitting at the right hand of the Father.” Your “sitting” doesn’t speak of passivity or inactivity. On the contrary, you are “sitting” as one in session—as the One already enthroned as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. When you completed your work of redemption for us on the cross, then and only then, did you take your seat at the right hand of God the Father, celebrating the victory of your cry, “It is finished!” And since that time all of your enemies are becoming your footstool, as your kingdom advances in time and space (Hebrews 10:12-13, John 19:30).

Jesus, forgive me for ever thinking that you’ve forgotten about me… don’t really care about me… or have even abandoned me. I confess that sometimes, especially when life seems the hardest… most unfair… most alone… most broken, in those times I entertain these foolish, unfounded, disbelieving notions.

So, God the Holy Spirit, continue to work in my life as you did in Stephen’s. Open the eyes of my heart to see more and more of the glory and grace of Jesus. Let me always be seeing “heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God,” no matter if the sky is filled with the most foreboding, dark, threatening clouds imaginable, or if the sky is totally cloudless and is as Carolina blue as it is capable of being… just let me see Jesus, and it is enough.

And as I pray this for myself, I also include friends and family who are in the midst of very hard providences or the seductions of ease and prosperity. Glancing at Jesus will never be enough for us… ever keep us gazing. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ most glorious and grace-full name.

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