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Quotes

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!

June 13, 2009

Here is a brief quote taken from John Newton’s A Review of Ecclesiastical History which was published in 1769. It strikes me that the words he wrote them are perfectly applicable today:

Whenever and wherever the doctrines of free grace and justification by faith have prevailed in the Christian Church, and according to the degree of clearness with which they have been enforced, the practical duties of Christianity have flourished in the same proportion. Wherever they have declined, or been tempered with the reasonings and expedients of men, either from a well-meant, though mistaken fear, lest they should be abused, or from a desire to accommodate the gospel, and render it more palatable to the depraved taste of the world, the consequence has always been, an equal declension in practice. So long as the gospel of Christ is maintained without adulteration, it if found sufficient for every valuable purpose; but when the wisdom of man is permitted to add to the perfect work of God, a wide door is opened for innumerable mischiefs.
June 07, 2009

I mentioned a week ago that last week had been a long and difficult struggle to find joy. W week later I feel that God has really brought me through a tough time, but a time that was not in any way useless or wasted. This morning, when I sat down with The Valley of Vision, I came to the prayer titled “Contentment.” It ministered to me this morning. Isn’t it funny how a prayer can be such a great opportunity to learn? The author of this prayer writes about deliverance from trials, the fight against sin and the joy to come. Read it! Pray it!

*****

Heavenly Father,
If I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty,
make my heart prize thy love,
know it, be constrained by it,
though I be denied all blessings.
It is thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants,
for by these trials I see my sins, and desire severance from them.
Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations,
if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil,
and be delivered from it with gratitude to thee,
acknowledging this as the highest testimony of thy love.

When thy Son, Jesus, came into my soul instead of sin
he became more dear to me than sin had formerly been;
his kindly rule replaced sin’s tyranny.
Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued
I must not only labour to overcome it,
but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it,
and he must become to me more than vile lust had been;
that his sweetness, power, life may be there.
Thus I must seek a grace from him contrary to sin,
but must not claim it apart from himself.

When I am afraid of evils to come,
comfort me by showing me that in myself
I am a dying, condemned wretch,
but in Christ I am reconciled and live;
that in myself I find insufficiency and no rest,
but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace;
that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good,
but in Christ I have ability to do all things.
Though now I have his graces in part,
I shall shortly have them perfectly in that state
where thou wilt show thyself fully reconciled,
and alone sufficient, efficient,
loving me completely, with sin abolished.
O Lord, hasten that day.

May 31, 2009

Through the past couple of weeks I have been fighting for joy, fighting to find joy in the journey. It has been one of those times that I’ve been longing for God but have seemingly found so little of him. And so this morning, when I opened up The Valley of Vision, as I so often do on a Sunday morning, I was encouraged by this prayer titled “Longings After God.”


My dear Lord,
I can but tell thee that thou knowest
I long for nothing but thyself,
nothing but holiness,
nothing but union with thy will.
Thou hast given me these desires,
and thou alone canst give me the thing desired.
My soul longs for communion with thee,
for mortification of indwelling corruption,
especially spiritual pride.
How precious it is to have a tender sense
and clear apprehension of the mystery
of godliness,
of true holiness!
What a blessedness to be like thee
as much as it is possible for a creature
to be like its Creator!
Lord, give me more of thy likeness;
enlarge my soul to contain fullness of holiness;
engage me to live more for thee.
Help me to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences,
and when I feel at ease after sweet communings,
teach me it is far too little I know and do.
Blessed Lord, let me climb up near to thee,
and love, and long, and plead,
and wrestle with thee,
and pant for deliverance from the body of sin,
for my heart is wandering and lifeless,
and my soul mourns to think it should ever
lose sight of its Beloved.
Wrap my life in divine love,
and keep me ever desiring thee,
always humble and resigned to thy will,
more fixed on thyself,
that I may be more fitted for doing and suffering.

May 30, 2009

A little while ago I was sorting through my files and found a document where I had jotted down quotes from four different books I had read at just about the same time. They are vastly different books so it was kind of interesting to me to see the juxtaposition between each of the quotes.

The first quote is from God’s Bestseller, a biography of William Tyndale written by Brian Moynahan. The author, comments about Thomas More’s bloodlust when considering heretics. More thought that, for too long, heretics (i.e. Protestants) had been “mollycoddled, allowed to escape through recantation and faggot-carrying, and in this the bishops and the church officers were ‘almost more than lawful, in that they admitted him to such an abjuration as they did, and that they did not rather leave him to the secular arm.’” He goes to explain this curious phrase.

The little phrase, ‘leave him to the secular arm’ is very much less innocent than it seems. In legal terms, a prisoner was ‘relaxed’ after the Church had found him guilty of heresy. This did not involve a period of rest and relaxation for the unfortunate, of course, far from it. It meant that the Church authorities ‘relaxed’ their hold on him by transferring him to the secular authorities for execution. The ritual handing over was designed to preserve the principle that Ecclesia non novit sanguinem, the Church does not shed blood. It provided an ecclesiastical fig leaf, since laymen carried out the actual burning, but it was a singularly transparent one. No churchman exonerated the Pharisees for the death of Christ on the grounds that they had merely handed Jesus to Pilate for sentencing, and that Roman soldiers had performed the crucifixion.

The second quote is taken from Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation, a book that is intended to be “a measured refutation of the beliefs that form the core of fundamentalist Christianity.”

According to a recent Gallup poll, only 12 percent of Americans believe that life on earth has evolved through a natural process, without the interference of a deity. Thirty-one percent believe that evolution has been “guided by God.” If our worldview were put to a vote, notions of “intelligent” design would defeat the science of biology by nearly three to one. This is troubling, as nature offers no compelling evidence for an intelligent designer and countless examples of unintelligent design. But the current controversy over “intelligent design” should not blind us to the true scope of our religious bewilderment at the dawn of the twenty-first century. The same Gallup poll revealed that 53 percent of Americans are actually creationists. This means that despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of life and the greater antiquity of the earth, more than half of our neighbors believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue. Those with the power to elect our presidents and congressmen—and many who themselves get elected—believe that dinosaurs lived two by two upon Noah’s ark, that light from distant galaxies was created en route to the earth, and that the first members of our species were fashioned out of dirt and divine breath, in a garden with a talking snake, but the hand of an invisible God.

Among developed nations, America stands alone in these convictions. Our country now appears, as at no other time in her history, like a lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant. Anyone who cares about the fate of civilization would do well to recognize that the combination of great power and great stupidity is simply terrifying, even to one’s friends.

Forty-four percent of the American population is convinced that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next fifty years. According to the most common interpretation of biblical prophecy, Jesus will return only after things have gone horribly awry here on earth. It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen—the return of Christ. It should be blindingly obvious that beliefs of this sort will do little to help us create a durable future for ourselves—socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically. Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency. The book you are about to read is my response to this emergency…

The third quote is only brief, but profound. It is drawn from David Wells’ Above All Earthly Pow’rs.

This moment of tragedy and evil [the events of September 11] shone its own light on the Church and what we came to see was not a happy sight. For what has become conspicuous by its scarcity, and not least in the evangelical corner of it, is a spiritual gravitas, one which could match the depth of horrendous evil and address issues of such seriousness. Evangelicalism, now much absorbed by the arts and tricks of marketing, is simply not very serious anymore.

And finally, a quote from John Blanchard and Dan Lucarini’s Can We Rock the Gospel, which attempts to expose rock music’s impact on worship and evangelism. The book is premised on the view that rock music is dividing the church, destroying local congregations and turning Christian against Christian in arguments about musical styles. They ask, given rock music’s well-earned “worldly reputation…”

Why do worship leaders, evangelists or church musicians work so hard to perfect the use of it? To accommodate this inconsistency, Christian rock apologists have had to construct a new faith system to offer religious cover to those who do so. This system requires adherence to one or more of the following credos:

  • God created all music—therefore rock music was inspired by him.
  • Although rock may have been corrupted by bad people, we have the power to redeem it for God.
  • Music itself is neutral and amoral, and only the lyrics matter. Therefore, there is no such thing as “evil” or “good” music.
  • The end justifies the means—if it brings someone to Christ, God can use it. If it brings me into God’s presence during worship, it must be from God.

The lyrics of Christian rock songs may in and of themselves be respectful of God and Christian principles, but can anyone honestly say that these Christians have created a “new” song, or that their music compositions are inspired by God rather than by men? The evidence suggests otherwise and leads us to believe that Christian rockers are simply copying and imitating a music style that was created and inspired by men who in their lust for freedom—for sex, freedom to get high on drugs anytime they please, freedom to seek a god of some sort through altered states of consciousness, and freedom from any kind of authority—have rejected the God of the Bible.

May 17, 2009

Here is another selection from Arthur Bennett’s The Valley of Vision. This old prayer confesses to God a reliance on self, and as it does so, it teaches both the folly of such reliance and the joy of relying fully on God. “When thou art angry towards me for my wrongs I try to pacify thee by abstaining from future sin.” Who can say that he has not, at one time or another, done this same thing? For those who stumble this way, read the prayer and make it your own.

*****

My Father,
When thou art angry towards me for my wrongs
I try to pacify thee by abstaining from future sin;
But teach me that I cannot satisfy thy law,
that this effort is a resting in my righteousness,
that only Christ’s righteousness, ready made,
already finished, is fit for that purpose;
that thy chastising me for my sin is not
that I should try to reform, but only
that I may be more humbled, afflicted, and separated from sin,
by being reconciled, and made righteous in Christ by faith;
that a sense of my sufficiency and ability in him
is one means of my being immovable;
that I can never be so by resting on my own faith,
but by trusting in thee as my only support, by faith;
that if I cast away my faith I cast away thee,
for by faith I apprehend thee,
and as thou art very precious,
so is my faith very precious to me;
that I fall short of the purity thou requirest,
because in thinking I am holy I do not
seek holiness, or, believing I am impotent, I do no more.
Humble me for not being as holy as I should be,
or as holy as I might be through Christ,
for thou art all, and to possess thee is to possess all.
But to make the creature something
is to make it stand between thee and me,
so that I do not walk humbly and holily.
Lord, forgive me for this.”

May 03, 2009

Here is another prayer from Arthur Bennett’s The Valley of Vision. This is a prayer titled simply “Happiness.” As I read the prayer I was particularly drawn to these words: “How precious is time, and how painful to see it fly with little done to good purpose! I need thy help.” How much time I waste and how painful it is to me to see if fly on by, wasted, unused, with little done to good purpose.

*****

O Lord,
Help me never to expect any happiness
from the world, but only in thee.

Let me not think that I shall be more happy
by living to myself,
for I can only be happy if employed for thee,
and if I desire to live in this world
only to do and suffer what thou dost allot me.

Teach me
that if I do not live a life that satisfies thee,
I shall not live a life that will satisfy myself.

Help me to desire the spirit and temper of angels
who willingly come down to this lower world
to perform thy will,
though their desires are heavenly,
and not set in the least upon earthy things;
then I shall be of that temper I ought to have.

Help me not to think of living to thee
in my own strength,
but always to look to and rely on thee
for assistance.

Teach me that there is no greater truth than this,
that I can do nothing of myself.

Lord, this is the life that no unconverted man
can live,
yet it is an end that every godly soul
presses after;

Let it be then my concern to devote myself
and all to thee.

Make me more fruitful and more spiritual,
for barrenness is my daily affliction and load.

How precious is time, and how painful to see it fly
with little done to good purpose!
I need thy help:

O may my soul sensibly depend upon thee
for all sanctification,
and every accomplishment of thy purposes
for me, for the world,
and for thy kingdom.

May 02, 2009

Last week I read a short biography of John and Betty Stam, missionary martyrs to China. Stay tuned for a review. In that book, written by Vance Christie, was a poem and the story that inspired it. I thought I’d share that today.

*****

The poem, entitled “Afraid?” was written by Presbyterian missionary E.H. Hamilton following the recent martyrdom of one of his colleagues, J.W. Vinson, at the hands of rebel soldiers in northern China. A small Chinese girl who escaped from the bandits related the incident that provided the inspiration for Hamilton’s poem.

“Are you afraid?” the bandits asked Vinson as they menacingly waved a gun in front of him.

“No,” he replied with complete assurance. “If you shoot, I go straight to heaven.”

His decapitated body was found later.

Afraid? Of what?
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid? Of that?

Afraid? Of what?
Afraid to see the Saviour’s face,
To hear His welcome, and to trace,
The glory gleam from wounds of grace,
Afraid? Of that?

Afraid? Of what?
A flash - a crash - a pierced heart;
Brief darkness - Light - O Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid? Of that?

Afraid? Of what?
To enter into Heaven’s rest,
And yet to serve the Master blessed?
From service good to service best?
Afraid? Of that?

Afraid? Of what?
To do by death what life could not -
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid? Of that?

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