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Quotes

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.

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:

*****

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.

*****

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.

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