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Quotes

March 07, 2010

Lately I’ve been sharing a few of the hymns and songs we sing at Grace Fellowship Church that are original or somewhat rare. Here is one written by Joseph Hart in the mid-1700’s. We sing it to a new melody written by our lead worshiper and use one of the verses as a chorus. I am particularly drawn to the third stanza: “Convince us of our sin / Then lead to Jesus’ blood / And to our wondering view reveal / The mercies of our God.” How beautiful is that?

Here is the hymn:

February 21, 2010

Here is one more little nugget I pulled from R.C. Sproul’s The Truth of the Cross as I read through it last week.

Early in the book he spends some time discussing the human condition and as he does so he uses three biblical concepts: debtors, enemies, and criminals. The Bible describes each of us in these terms. What Sproul does here, and this really helped it hit home for me, is show how it is always the Father who has been offended and the Son who intercedes. We have committed crimes against God and are, thus, justly termed criminals. The Father stands as Judge, passing the just sentence of death. But Christ stands between us and the Father, acting as substitute. Our sin puts us in debt to God so that we are debtors to Him. God is the creditor who demands repayment, but Christ stands in as surety. And sin puts us at enmity with God, making us His enemies. He has been violated by our sin, but Christ intercedes as mediator, opening the way between man and God.

Sproul breaks this down into the following simple table:

February 20, 2010

Earlier this week I read, or re-read, actually, R.C. Sproul’s The Truth of the Cross (an ideal book to read before Easter should you wish to prepare your heart to celebrate). In a chapter looking at the Scriptural motifs of blessing and curse, he looks at the fulfillment of the rite of circumcision.

*****

The sign of the old covenant was circumcision. The cutting of the foreskin had two significances, one positive and one negative, corresponding to the two sanctions. On the positive side, the cutting of the foreskin symbolized that God was cutting out a group of people from the rest, separating them, setting them apart to be a holy nation. The negative aspect was that the Jew who underwent circumcision was saying, “Oh, God, if I fail to keep every one of the terms of this covenant, may I be cut off from You, cut off from Your presence, cut off from the light of Your countenance, cut off from Your blessedness, just as I have now ritually cut off the foreskin of my flesh.”

February 13, 2010

This week I read Jaron Lanier’s book You Are Not a Gadget. Though often quite obscure, the book does offer a lot of opportunity for reflection on the way technology is impacting our lives. He has written what is probably the cleverest Preface to a book I’ve ever read (and, if I do say so myself, I’ve read a lot of prefaces. Or is that prefi?). He offers a unique perspective on the harsh reality of just how his book will be consumed. I thought you’d enjoy it.

*****

It’s early in the twenty-first century, and that means that these words will mostly be read by nonpersons—automatons or numb mobs composed of people who are no longer acting as individuals. The words will be minced into atomized search-engine keywords within industrial cloud computer facilities located in remote, often secret locations around the world. They will be copied millions of times by algorithms designed to send an advertisement to some person somewhere who happens to resonate with some fragment of what I say. They will be scanned, rehashed, and misrepresented by crowds of quick and sloppy readers into wikis and automatically aggregated wireless text message streams.

Reactions will repeatedly degenerate into mindless chains of anonymous insults and inarticulate controversies. Algorithms will find correlations between those who read my words and their purchases, their romantic adventures, their debts, and soon, their genes. Ultimately these words will contribute to the fortunes of those few who have been able to position themselves as lords of the computing clouds.

The vast fanning out of the fates of these words will take place almost entirely in the lifeless world of pure information. Real human eyes will read these words in only a tiny minority of the cases.

February 07, 2010

Every now and again I like to post a song we’ve sung at church that may not be widely-known. Here is one we sing quite frequently. Titled “Wide Open Are Your Hands,” it was written by Bernard of Clairvaux back in the 10th century and translated from Latin in the 1800’s. The chorus was added by my friend Julian and the music (for which, unfortunately, I do not have a recording) was composed by the guys who lead us in worship.

*****

Wide open are your hands, paying with more than gold
The awful debt of guilty men, forever and of old.
Ah, let me grasp these hands, that we may never part,
And let the power of their blood sustain my fainting heart.

To you I lift my hands in heartfelt song and praise
For steadfast love which won my heart, for never-ceasing grace.

Wide open are your arms, you welcome all who come;
To take to love and endless rest each of your chosen ones.
Lord, I am sad and poor, but boundless is your grace;
Give me the soul-transforming joy for which I seek your face.

To you I lift my hands in heartfelt song and praise
For steadfast love which won my heart, for never-ceasing grace.

Draw all my mind and heart up to your throne on high,
And let your sacred cross exalt, my spirit to the sky.
To these, your mighty hands, my spirit I resign;
For me to love is Christ alone, to die is only gain.

To you I lift my hands in heartfelt song and praise
For steadfast love which won my heart, for never-ceasing grace.

January 31, 2010

Today at church we sang a new song, “Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn).” It is another joint effort between Stuart Townend and Keith & Kristyn Getty. Written specifically for reflection before partaking in the Lord’s Supper, it focuses beautifully on the purpose and importance of Communion.

Here it is:

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us: and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.
So we share in this Bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

The body of our Saviour, Jesus Christ,
Torn for you: eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life,
Paid the price to make us one.
So we share in this Bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of love
Around the table of the King.

January 24, 2010

Yesterday I began reading Michael Emlet’s CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet. Just eight pages in I had to stop and reflect on this quote. Though targeted primarily at those who are in vocational ministry, I immediately saw its application even to my task as a father.

*****

A temptation in ministry is to think that just because we prepared a Bible study, a sermon, or a discipleship appointment (or wrote a book like this!), we are deeply engaging with the God of the universe. But that’s not necessarily true. It’s easy in ministry to live more as a ‘pipe’ than a ‘reservoir.’ That is, it’s easy to live merely as a conduit to others of the transforming truths of God’s Word, rather than as a changed and transformed reservoir who overflows with lived-out gospel truth. You wouldn’t imagine cooking meal after meal for your family without sitting down to enjoy that nourishment, would you? To paraphrase James 1:22, let’s not merely be hearers or speakers or counselors of the Word, but doers, first and foremost.

January 17, 2010

I believe I may have posted this little poem once before. But today, for some reason, I found myself thinking of it and thought it would be fun to post once more. It was written years ago by my great grandfather (a man I never knew) who pastored an Anglican congregation in the Eastern part of Quebec. The poem is called “O Little Child of Salem.” If I recall correctly, my mother found this in some of her grandfather’s things left behind when he died. What draws me to it as poetry is the way the first three stanzas are so perfectly completed in the last. What draws me to it as theology is the great hope of the resurrection.

O little child of Salem
Why weep ye so today?
I weep the gentle master
Who wiped my tears away.
Last night in Joseph’s garden
All cold and white he lay,
And now my heart is breaking
While other children play.

O little maid of Jairus,
Why weep ye so today?
Your dusky lashes trailing
The cheeks of ashen grey.
I weep the mighty master
Who waked me from my sleep,
But now in Joseph’s garden,
He slumbers, still and deep.

O Mary, timid Mary,
Why weep ye so today?
I weep the gentle Saviour,
Who took my sins away.
My spices all are gathered
To grace the rocky bed,
For now in Joseph’s garden,
My Lord is lying dead,

O child, O maid, O Mary,
Lift up your eyes and see,
The lilies all a-rocking,
In winds of Araby.
The turtle-dove is calling,
The birds are singing gay,
And there in Joseph’s garden,
The stone is rolled away.

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.

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