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Quotes

July 25, 2009

As George Whitefield sailed from his native England to Georgia where he was to be a missionary, he ministered to those on board the ship. Here is an excerpt from his journal where he discusses a ministry encounter with a particularly willful child:

Had a good instance of the benefit of breaking children’s wills betimes. Last night, going between decks (as I do every night) to visit the sick and to examine my people, I asked one of the women to bid her little boy say his prayers. She answered his elder sister would, but she could not make him. Upon this I bid the child kneel down before me, but he would not till I took hold of his two feet and forced him down. I then bid him say the Lord’s prayer (being informed by his mother he could say it if he would), but he obstinately refused, till at last, after I had given him several blows, he said his prayer as well as could be expected and I gave him some figs for a reward.

Commenting on this, Arnold Dallimore says (quite rightly) “this action seems both foolish and cruel by today’s standards and it is not in any attempt to excuse it that we notice that it was in keeping with the customs of those times. … We must deplore both the custom [of attempting to conquer a child’s will] and Whitefield’s action on the basis of it.”

This brief encounter aside, Whitefield’s period of ministry upon the boat is remarkable and this brief journey was used by God to call many to Himself through His humble but flawed servant.

July 19, 2009

Today is the Lord’s Day and I thought I’d pass along some advice pertaining to the day. It comes courtesy of Donald Whitney. His book Simplify Your Spiritual Life offers a long series of short chapters, each offering wisdom on a specific part of the Christian’s walk with the Lord. And here he offers some valuable wisdom for getting the most out of your Lord’s Day. This is something I read quite a few years ago now and it really did help restore in my mind the value of this day, a day that is a special gift of God.

*****

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the biblical term Sabbath? Many people, including those familiar with the New Testament, may think first of legalism. That’s because nearly every mention of “Sabbath” in the Gospels has to do with the Pharisees accusing Jesus of violating their manmade rules. God’s original intention, however, was for the Jews to “call the Sabbath a delight” (Isaiah 58:13). He meant for each of them on that day to “delight [themselves] in the Lord” (verse 14). Far from being a day to dread because of its restrictions, God designed the Sabbath to be a delightful day, the best of the week.

If that was true in the Old Testament, how much more should those who know God through Christ and have His Holy Spirit find delight in “the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10)?

How do we do this? As I mentioned in the previous chapter, there are differing views on what the Bible teaches about the Lord’s Day. But those rooted deeply in Scripture would agree on at least these two principles (though some would argue for much more): First, our greatest privilege and most important responsibility on the Lord’s day is to worship Him with His people. Not only was the Old Testament Sabbath a day of worship, but we have the apostolic command about “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:24). And the apostolic example associated with this command is worship “on the first day of the week” (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).

Second, all our activities on Sunday should reflect the fact that it is “the Lord’s day” (over and above the fact that, according to Psalm 118:24, every day is “the day which the Lord has made”). As you would expect, the practical aspects of what this means are very personal and intensely debated. In general, I think it means devoting ourselves to the pursuit of those things that promote the enjoyment of God. This also includes those activities that edify our church and family, extend the kingdom of God, and refresh our souls and bodies.

Years ago I began to delight in the Lord’s Day much more intentionally. One change was to redirect the time I spent watching sports on Sunday afternoons. It wasn’t because I don’t like viewing sports on TV anymore, for I enjoy that as much as ever. Rather, I stopped watching in order to turn to activities that would better restore my soul and recreate my body. People speak of “vegging” in front of the television. Staring at a screen for hours may not make us more tired, but neither does it invigorate us. Unlike taking a nap, a prayer-walk, reading the Bible or other good book alone or with family, or having a time of spiritual fellowship with other believers, we don’t feel refreshed after an afternoon of TV-watching.

Imagine living to age seventy and spending every Lord’s Day in the ways I’ve suggested. You’d experience ten years of worshiping the Lord with His people, reading great literature, playing with your children or grandchildren, taking walks, enjoying fellowship, and taking naps. Does this sound like a burden to you? Most people dream of a life like this. It’s the kind of life you can enjoy when you delight in the Lord’s Day.

July 18, 2009

Just a few weeks ago Keith and Kristin Getty released Awaken the Dawn, a new album of contemporary hymns. As I understand it, the album will be available on iTunes and other stores in a couple of weeks. For now you’ll need to buy it direct. Many of the hymns are written by Stuart Townend, set to music by Keith and sung by Kristin (or that’s how I understand the workflow). There are quite a few excellent songs on the album and at least four or five I’d like us to add to the list of songs we sing at church (“Come People of the Risen King,” “Creation Sings the Father’s Song,” “By Faith,” etc).

Here is one that may be my favorite (and not just because of the amazing fiddle playing). It is called “When Trials Come.” It speaks of God’s presence, his comfort, his faithfulness, through times of trial and toil.

When trials come no longer fear
For in the pain our God draws near
To fire a faith worth more than gold
And there His faithfulness is told
And there His faithfulness is told

Within the night I know Your peace
The breath of God brings strength to me
And new each morning mercy flows
As treasures of the darkness grow
As treasures of the darkness grow

I turn to Wisdom not my own
For every battle You have known
My confidence will rest in You
Your love endures Your ways are good
Your love endures Your ways are good

When I am weary with the cost
I see the triumph of the cross
So in it’s shadow I shall run
Till He completes the work begun
Till He completes the work begun

One day all things will be made new
I’ll see the hope You called me to
And in your kingdom paved with gold
I’ll praise your faithfulness of old
I’ll praise your faithfulness of old

You can hear a clip of it here.

July 12, 2009

While our church focuses its teaching on verse-by-verse exposition, through the summer we often break for short topical series. This summer Julian (the associate pastor (is that his job title? Something like that) at our church) is preaching a series on spiritual friendship, looking at friendship in the light of the church’s core values.

At his blog he has been posting some great quotes from Hugh Black’s book Friendship, published by Joshua Press. I have blatantly stolen a few favorites and am printing them here for your benefit.

*****

‘The very existence of the church as a body of believers is due to this necessity of our nature, which demands opportunity for the interchange of Christian sentiment. The deeper the feeling, the greater is the joy of sharing it with another. There is a strange felicity, a wondrous enchantment, which comes from true intimacy of heart, and close communion of soul, and the result is more than mere fleeting joy. When it is shared in the deepest thoughts and highest aspirations, when it is built on a common faith, and lives by a common hope, it brings perfect peace. No friendship has done its work until it reaches the supremest satisfaction of spiritual communion.’

*

‘We cannot live a self-centred life, without feeling that we are missing the true glory of life. We were made for social intercourse, if only that the highest qualities of our nature might have an opportunity for development. The joy, which a true friendship gives, reveals the existence of the want of it, perhaps previously unfelt. It is a sin against ourselves to let our affections wither. This sense of incompleteness is an argument in favour of its possible satisfaction; our need is an argument for its fulfillment. Our hearts demand love, as truly as our bodies demand food.’

*

The world thinks we idealize our friend, and tells us that love is proverbially blind. Not so: it is only love that sees…. We only see what dull eyes never see at all. If we wonder what another man sees in his friend, it should be the wonder of humility, not the supercilious wonder of pride. He sees something which we are not permitted to witness. Beneath and amongst what looks only like worthless slag, there may glitter the pure gold of a fair character. That anybody in the world should be got to love us, and to see in us not what colder eyes see, not even what we are but what we may be, should of itself make us humble and gentle in our criticism of others’ friendships. Our friends see the best in us, and by that very fact call forth the best from us.

*

There is nothing so important as the choice of friendship; for it both reflects character and affects it. A man is known by the company he keeps. This is an infallible test; for his thoughts, and desires, and ambitions, and loves are revealed here. He gravitates naturally to his congenial sphere. And it affects character; for it is the atmosphere he breathes. It enters into his blood and makes the circuit of his veins. All love assimilates to what it loves. A man is moulded into likeness of the lives that come nearest him.

*

Friends should be chosen by a higher principle of selection than any worldly one, of pleasure, or usefulness, or by weak submission to the evil influences of our lot. They should be chosen for character, for goodness, for truth and trustworthiness, because they have sympathy with us in our best thoughts and holiest aspirations, because they have community of mind in the things of the soul. All other connections are fleeting and imperfect from the nature of the case.

July 11, 2009

I often share Puritan prayers on Sundays. This week, though, it seemed appropriate to post a prayer for the Lord’s Day Eve—Saturday night. I often find myself telling young people that, if they wish to make Sunday a meaningful day of worship and fellowship, they need to plan ahead and not stay up until 3 in the morning. A prayer like this, I think, helps orient the heart toward the day to come.

*****

Another week has gone and I have been preserved
in my going out,
in my coming in.

Thine has been the vigilance that has turned threatened evils aside;
thine the supplies that have nourished me;
Thine the comforts that have indulged me;
Thine the relations and friends that have delighted me;
Thine the means of grace which have edified me;
Thine the Book, which, amidst all my enjoyments, has told me that this is not my rest,
that in all successes one thing alone is needful, to love my Saviour.
Nothing can equal the number of they mercies but my imperfections and sins.
These, O God, I will neither conceal nor palliate, but confess with a broken heart.

In what condition would secret reviews of my life leave me
were it not for the assurance that with thee there is plenteous redemption,
that thou art a forgiving God,
that thou mayest be feared!

While I hope for pardon through the blood of the cross,
I pray to be clothed with humility,
to be quickened in thy way,
to be more devoted to thee,
to keep the end of my life in view,
to be cured of the folly of delay and indecision,
to know how frail I am,
to number my days and apply my heart unto wisdom.

July 05, 2009

This morning, as most of the readers of this site head to church to worship the Lord, it seemed appropriate to post a few words on worship. These words come courtesy of D.A. Carson and his book Worship by the Book. Here Carson has just offered a definition of worship and he is now expanding upon it, challenging the reader to pursue true worship.

*****

In an age increasingly suspicious of (linear) thought, there is much more respect for the “feelings” of things - whether a film or a church service. It is disturbingly easy to plot surveys of people, especially young people, drifting from a church of excellent preaching and teaching to one with excellent music because, it is alleged, there is “better worship” there. But we need to think carefully about this matter. Let us restrict ourselves for the moment to corporate worship. Although there are things that can be done to enhance corporate worship, there is a profound sense in which excellent worship cannot be attained merely by pursuing excellent worship. In the same way that, according to Jesus, you cannot find yourself until you lose yourself, so also you cannot find excellent corporate worship until you stop trying to find excellent corporate worship and pursue God himself. Despite the protestations, one sometimes wonders if we are beginning to worship worship rather than worship God. As a brother put it to me, it’s a bit like those who begin by admiring the sunset and soon begin to admire themselves admiring the sunset.

This point is acknowledged in a praise chorus like “Let’s forget about ourselves, and magnify the Lord, and worship him.” The trouble is that after you have sung this repetitious chorus three of four times, you are no farther ahead. The way you forget about yourself is by focusing on God—not by singing about doing it, but by doing it. There are far too choruses and services and sermons that expand our vision of God—his attributes, his works, his character, his words. Some think that corporate worship is good because it is lively where it had been dull. But it may also be shallow where it is lively, leaving people dissatisfied and restless in a few months’ time. Sheep lie down when they are well fed (cf. Psalm 23:2); they are more likely to be restless when they are hungry. “Feed my sheep,” Jesus commanded Peter (John 21); and many sheep are unfed. If you wish to deepen the worship of the people of God, above all deepen their grasp of his ineffable majesty in his person and in all his works.

We do not expect the garage mechanic to expatiate on the wonders of his tools; we expect him to fix the car. He must know how to use his tools, but he must not lose sight of the goal. So we dare not focus on the mechanics of corporate worship and lose sight of the goal. We focus on God himself, and thus we become more godly and learn to worship—and collaterally we learn to edify one another, forbear with one another, challenge one another.

June 28, 2009

In his book The Truth of the Cross, R.C. Sproul spends some time discussing the human condition and as he does so he uses three biblical concepts: debtors, enemies, and criminals. The Bible describes all 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:

Sin As…ManGodChrist
DebtDebtorCreditorSurety
EnmityEnemyViolated OneMediator
CrimeCriminalJudgeSubstitute

He concludes this: “Christ, then, is the One Who made satisfaction. By His work on the cross, He satisfied the demands of God’s justice with regard to our debt, our state of enmity, and our crime. In light of the facts of God’s justice and our sinfulness, it is not difficult to see the absolute necessity of the atonement.”

What a great Savior!

June 27, 2009

I thought you would enjoy this quote from Jim Andrew’s Polishing God’s Monuments (one of my favorite books from a couple of years ago). This book, which offers “pillars of hope for punishing times” tells Andrews’ story of faith and perseverance through almost unbelievable suffering. This man writes from hard experience and here he offers sound, biblical wisdom.

*****

When the Lord’s ways do not neatly conform to our pat little paradigms of what seems (to our fallible minds) right and just, and good and faithful, it says something about human nature that usually the first thought that comes to mind is that something is wrong with God. Somehow the last thing that occurs to us is that God is simply too big for our small boxes. It is imperative at such times that we learn to be humble, not haughty. God always deserves the benefit of the doubt. And, faith always pleads with us, “Dear soul, trust in God’s power, trust God’s wisdom, trust God’s goodness, trust God’s faithfulness—even though to your mixed-up, emotionally over-charged mind he doesn’t seem to be living up to his resume or promises. Just do it anyways.

Christian common sense should also remind us that divine revelation is always a far more reliable barometer of reality that our personal perceptions, distorted as they are by how we think a moral and upright God is obliged to behave in this situation or that. Friends, my advice is this: discount personal feelings—rest in the biblical facts. Don’t always be awash in how things seem; anchor your faith on how divine revelation says they are. Never allow blind emotions to float you off into the open sea of doubt.

With that adjustment, one can trust his goodness even when God may not seem to be good; one can trust his wisdom even when he may not seem to be wise; one can trust he is acting in character even when he may not seem to be measuring up to his own revealed profile; one can trust his power even when it seems he is weak; one can trust his faithfulness even when it seems he is not being faithful.

June 21, 2009

Here is another great Puritan prayer, this one beseeching God to allow the Christian to live a life filled with prayer, filled with grace, filled with the Spirit. What a perfect prayer to make your own on this Lord’s Day!

*****

Great God,
in public and private, in sanctuary and home,
may my life be steeped in prayer,
filled with the spirit of grace and supplication,
each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood.
Help me, defend me, until from praying ground
I pass to the realm of unceasing praise.
Urged by my need, invited by Thy promises,
called by Thy Spirit,
I enter Thy presence, worshipping Thee with godly fear,
awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory,
but encouraged by Thy love.

I am all poverty as well as all guilt,
having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee,
but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith,
pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities,
rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me,
and satisfy thy justice.
I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace,
that, although the lest sin deserves infinite punishment
because done against an infinite God,
yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible,
there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep.
Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits,
by causing Thy goodness to pass before me,
by speaking peace to my contrite heart;
strengthen me to give Thee no rest
untiI Christ shall reign supreme within me
in every thought, word, and deed,
in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world,
works by love, fastens me to Thee, and ever clings to the cross.

June 14, 2009

The following quote is from the pen of Horatius Bonar (1808 - 1889), the great Scottish preacher, poet, author and hymn writer. It talks about the nature, the true nature, of unbelief. It’s worth reading and pondering.

*****

In all unbelief there are these two things—a good opinion of one’s self and a bad opinion of God. Man’s good opinion of himself makes him think it quite possible to win God’s favor by his own religious performances; and his bad opinion of God makes him unwilling and afraid to put his case wholly into His hands. The object of the Holy Spirit’s work (in convincing of sin) is to alter the sinner’s opinion of himself, and so to reduce his estimate of his own character that he shall think of himself as God does, and so cease to suppose it possible that he can be justified by an excellency of his own. The Spirit then alters his evil opinion of God, so as to make him see that the God with whom he has to do is really the God of all grace.

But the inquirer denies that he has a good opinion of himself and owns himself a sinner. Now a man may SAY this, but really to KNOW it is something more than SAYING. Besides, he may be willing to take the name of sinner to himself, in common with his fellow-men, and yet not at all own himself such a sinner as God says he is—such a sinner as needs the cross, and blood, and righteousness of the Son of God. It takes a great deal to destroy a man’s good opinion of himself; how difficult it is to make a man think of himself as God does! What but the almightiness of the Divine Spirit can accomplish this?

Unbelief, then, is the belief of a lie and the rejection of the truth. Accept, then, the character of God as given in the gospel; the Holy Spirit will not give you peace irrespective of your views of God’s character. It is in connection with THE TRUTH concerning the true God, “the God of all grace,” that the Spirit gives peace. That which He shows us of ourselves is only evil; that which He shows us of God is only good!

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