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Quotes

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?

April 26, 2009

In his little book Fear Not!, an examination of death and the afterlife from a Christian perspective, Ligon Duncan writes about the horrors of hell. Having done so, he offers a final reflection on the ultimate difference between heaven and hell. And, though I’ve read extensively, I do not recall ever hearing someone express it quite like this. These are words that are worthy of some reflection. Though he has already discussed hell, there is one more thing he wishes to say.

*****

It is a surprising thing to note, because so often we speak of hell as a place where God is not. Let me, however, say something provocative. Hell is eternity in the presence of God without a mediator. Heaven is eternity in the presence of God, with a mediator. Hell is eternity in the presence of God, being fully conscious of the just, holy, righteous, good, kind, and loving Father’s disapproval of your rebellion and wickedness. Heaven, on the other hand, is dwelling in the conscious awareness of your holy and righteous Father, but doing so through a mediator who died in your place, the One who absorbed the fullness of the penalty of your sin. Heaven is eternity in the presence of God with the One who totally eradicated sin from your life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hell is eternity in the presence of God without a mediator. Heaven is eternity in the presence of God with a mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.

April 19, 2009

It has been too long, I think, since I’ve posted a prayer from The Valley of Vision. This one, titled “Humility in Service,” seems appropriate for a Sunday morning as the day will undoubtedly bring us many opportunities to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ and many opportunities to share the Good News with those who do not yet know the Lord.

Mighty God,

I humble myself for faculties misused,
opportunities neglected,
words ill-advised,
I repent of my folly and inconsiderate ways,
my broken resolutions, untrue service,
my backsliding steps,
my vain thoughts.

O bury my sins in the ocean of Jesus’ blood
and let no evil result from my fretful temper,
unseemly behaviour, provoking pettiness.

If by unkindness I have wounded or hurt another,
do thou pour in the balm of heavenly consolation;
If I have turned coldly from need, misery, grief,
do not in just anger forsake me:
If I have withheld relief from penury and pain,
do not withhold thy gracious bounty from me.

If I have shunned those who have offended me,
keep open the door of thy heart to my need.

Fill me with an over-flowing ocean of compassion,
the reign of love my motive,
the law of love my rule.

O thou God of all grace, make me more thankful, more humble;
Inspire me with a deep sense of my unworthiness arising from
the depravity of my nature, my omitted duties,
my unimproved advantages, thy commands violated by me.

With all my calls to gratitude and joy may I remember
that I have reason for sorrow and humiliation;

O give me repentance unto life;

Cement my oneness with my blessed Lord,
that faith may adhere to him more immovably,
that love may entwine itself round him more tightly,
that his Spirit may pervade every fibre of my being.

Then send me out to make him known to my fellow-men.

April 18, 2009

The following quote comes from Iain Murray’s book Evangelicalism Divided (on page 291 if you must know). I think it offers good food for thought (even on a Saturday morning).

The ecumenical call [in the mid-20th century] was not for truth and salt; it was supremely for oneness: the greater the unity of ‘the Church’, it was confidently asserted, the stronger would be the impression made upon the world; and to attain that end churches should be inclusive and tolerant. But it has never been by putting unity first that the church has changed the world. At no point in church history has the mere unity of numbers ever made a transforming spiritual impression upon others. On the contrary, it was the very period known as ‘the dark ages’ that the Papacy could claim her greatest unity in western Europe.

So if we would have true unity, we must have theology. We are to share, profess and enjoy unity with other believers, even those who do not share certain “lesser” doctrines. This is not to imply that any doctrine is unimportant, but simply that some are more important than others. J.C. Ryle wisely observed that believers should “keep the walls of separation as low as possible, and shake hands over them as often as you can.” But there are times when we must reject supposed unity because of the higher importance of truth and sound doctrine. To repeat Murray’s words, “it has never been by putting unity first that the church has changed the world.” Nor will it ever be.

April 11, 2009

A few days ago, while studying 1 Timothy, I came across an interesting portion of Philip Ryken’s commentary and I thought I’d share it with you. Ryken comments on 1 Timothy 1:17, those verses that inspired a classic hymn of the Christian faith: “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Here is what Ryken says:

*****

Demetrius was right to be worried. The Ephesian silversmith made shrines for the goddess Artemis, and what kept him up at night—worrying about his job security—was the rapid growth of Christianity in his city.

Up until a missionary named Paul arrived, the silver trade in Ephesus had been rather lucrative. The worship of Artemis “brought no little business to the craftsmen” (Acts 19:24). But Christianity meant the end of idolatry, and this posed a threat to their livelihood. So Demetrius called the silversmiths together and said:

Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship. (Acts 19:25-27)

The silversmiths wanted to defend the honor and majesty of their queen. More importantly, they wanted to keep their jobs. So “when they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ So the city was filled with the confusion” (Acts 19:28-29). A massive protest was held in the giant theater of Ephesus. For two straight hours, as many as twenty thousand people shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:34).

Eventually the city clerk was able to quiet the crowd. He said: “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky?” (Acts 19:35). Yes, the whole world did know this, for the temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was 425 feet long and 220 feet broad, with 127 columns of white marble, each 60 feet high. It took two centuries to build it. Edwin Yamauchi calls it “the largest structure in the Hellenistic world and the first of such monumental proportions to be built entirely of marble.” Inside stood the ancient and enormous statue of Artemis herself.

The goodess seemed immortal, but Demetrius was right to be worried. The coming of Christ meant the end of the Artemis. She has now been tossed on the scrap heap of history. With the exception of a few scattered columns on a plan near Ephesus, the last fragments of her temple—a handful of coins and a few broken columns—are now on display in the basement of the British Museum in London.

The death of Artemis has turned Paul’s doxology into a hymn of triumph…

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