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Quotes

December 21, 2008

Earlier this year John Naish, a British journalist, released a book titled Enough (which does not seem to be widely available in the United States). He subtitled the book, “Breaking free from the world of more.” He uses the book to encourage people to stop when they have enough—enough stuff, enough food, enough work, enough information. There were parts of the book I thought were much better than others; one part I thoroughly enjoyed was his discussion about information and the incredible volume of information we are exposed to today. In one part of this chapter he writes about his approach to tackling information overload. I thought I’d share that with you.

It involves fighting—and here’s my own new word—infobesity, by restricting one’s data diet. There are compelling reasons. The glut of information is not only causing stress and confusion; it also makes us do irrational things such as ignore crucial health information. The British Government’s latest survey on our food-buying patterns shows that while we are given more information than ever about healthy eating, our consumption of fresh food has fallen. This is partly because we are too busy getting and spending to enjoy the simple pleasures of cooking. But Catherine Collins, of the British Dietetic Association, says that info-overload is often to blame for this food-choice paradox: “We are so informed that we can’t be bothered.” That’s a fantastic slogan for the twenty-first century. We are so wired to gather information that often we no longer do anything useful with it. Instead of pausing to sift our intake for relevance and quality, the daily diet of prurient, profound, confusing and conflict information gets chucked on to a mental ash-heap of things vaguely comprehended. Then we rush to try to make sense of it all…by getting more.

As I read this, I thought of the Golden Labrador Retriever (i.e. Golden Lab), that ridiculous (but family-friendly) breed of dog that has a far bigger stomach than brain. The Lab, or at least the Labs I’ve known, cannot be trusted around found. They will eat until they are sick, throw up, and eat some more. Indefinitely. Some dogs have more common sense; they will eat for a while and save a portion of their food for another time. Not so the Lab. It will eat, and eat, and eat.

I do wonder if we are this way with information today—we eat and eat and eat, never pausing to digest, rarely showing any sensible moderation.

December 13, 2008

It will come as no surprise to you that atheists are becoming increasingly militant in their stand against theism in general and Christianity in particular. This militancy is often taking the form of mock horror and dripping sarcasm. I find it valuable every now and again to read quotes like this one from Sam Harris, author of Letter to a Christian Nation. Why? Well, I suppose it helps me remember the old adage—the truth—that the Christian faith always has and always will appear foolish to those who, blinded by their sin, refuse to acknowledge their Creator. Quotes like this do not rock my faith; instead, they strengthen it.


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.

November 22, 2008

Here is another prayer from The Valley of Vision. I think this one has somehow struck me deeper than any other in the book. This confession both shames and encourages me: “I am not yet weaned from all created glory, honour, wisdom, and esteem of others, for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do.” Here it is, a prayer that God would remove the dark guest who haunts me.


O Lord,

Bend my hands and cut them off, for I have often struck thee with a wayward will, when these fingers should embrace thee by faith.

I am not yet weaned from all created glory, honour, wisdom, and esteem of others, for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do.

Let me not only speak the word sin, but see the thing itself.

Give me to view a discovered sinfulness, to know that though my sins are crucified they are never wholly mortified.

Hatred, malice, ill-will,vain-glory that hungers for and hunts after man’s approval and applause, all are crucified, forgiven, but they rise again in my sinful heart.

O my crucified but never wholly mortified sinfulness!
O my life-long damage and daily shame!
O my indwelling and besetting sins!
O the tormenting slavery of a sinful heart!

Destroy, O God, the dark guest within whose hidden presence makes my life a hell.

Yet thou hast not left me here without grace; The cross still stands and meets my needs in the deepest straits of the soul.

I thank thee that my remembrance of it is like David’s sight of Goliath’s sword which preached forth thy deliverance.

The memory of my great sins, my many temptations, my falls, bring afresh into my mind the remembrance of thy great help, of thy support from heaven, of the great grace that saved such a wretch as I am.

There is no treasure so wonderful as that continuous experience of thy grace toward me which alone can subdue the risings of sin within:

Give me more of it.

November 16, 2008

I have the privilege of preaching tonight on the topic of the Trinity. It seemed appropriate, then, that I would combine this topic with the prayers I often post on Sundays—prayers drawn from The Valley of Vision. This prayer is the first in the book and is known simply as “The Trinity.” What a great prayer it is.

Three in One, One in Three, God of my salvation,

Heavenly Father, blessed Son, eternal Spirit,

I adore thee as one Being, one Essence,
one God in three distinct Persons,
for bringing sinners to thy knowledge and to thy kingdom.

O Father, thou hast loved me and sent Jesus to redeem me;

O Jesus, thou hast loved me and assumed my nature,
shed thine own blood to wash away my sins,
wrought righteousness to cover my
 unworthiness;

O Holy Spirit, thou hast loved me and entered
my heart, implanted there eternal life,
revealed to me the glories of Jesus.

Three Persons and one God, I bless and praise thee,
for love so unmerited, so unspeakable,
so wondrous, so mighty to save the lost
and raise them to glory.

O Father, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast given me to Jesus, to be his sheep,
jewel, portion;

O Jesus, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast accepted, espoused, bound me;

O Holy Spirit, I thank thee that in fullness of
grace thou hast
exhibited Jesus as my salvation,
implanted faith within me,
subdued my stubborn heart,
made me one with him for ever.

O Father, thou art enthroned to hear my prayers,

O Jesus, thy hand is outstretched to take my
 petitions,

O Holy Spirit, thou art willing to help my
infirmities, to show me my need,
to supply words, to pray within me,
to strengthen me that I faint not in
 supplication.

O Triune God, who commandeth the universe,
thou hast commanded me to ask for those
things that concern thy kingdom and my soul.

Let me live and pray as one baptized into the
threefold Name.

October 19, 2008

In his sermon this morning our pastor quoted John Paton’s Autobiography (still in print almost 120 years after it was first published). It’s a quote I’ve heard often and one that has stirred me every time. It describes Paton leaving his home in Torthorwald to attend missionary school in Glasgow (just to get to the train he had to walk some forty miles). His godly father accompanied him for the first portion of the journey. Here is what happened:

My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene. For the last half mile or so we walked on together in almost unbroken silence - my father, as was often his custom, carrying hat in hand, while his long flowing yellow hair (then yellow, but in later years white as snow) streamed like a girl’s down his shoulders. His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me; and his tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain! We halted on reaching the appointed parting place; he grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said: “God bless you, my son! Your father’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!”

Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted. I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him - gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I rounded the corner and out of sight in instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for time. Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dike to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dike and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he gazed eagerly in my direction for a while he got down, set his face toward home, and began to return - his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me. I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as he had given me.

October 12, 2008

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving up here in Canada and we’ll be gathering with family to celebrate the day. I thought it would be appropriate to offer this prayer, drawn once more from The Valley of Vision.

O My God,
You fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
My heart admires, adores, loves You,
For my little vessel is as full as it can be,
And I would pour out all that fullness before You in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with You
Ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
Ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
Ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
Crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless You for the soul You have created,
For adorning it, for sanctifying it,
Though it is fixed in barren soil;
For the body You have given me,
For preserving its strength and vigor,
For providing senses to enjoy delights,
For the ease and freedom of limbs,
For hands, eyes, ears that do Your bidding;
For Your royal bounty providing my daily support,
For a full table and overflowing cup,
For appetite, taste, sweetness,
For social joys of relatives and friends,
For ability to serve others,
For a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
For a mind to care for my fellow-men,
For opportunities of spreading happiness around,
For loved ones in the joys of heaven,
For my own expectation of seeing You clearly.
I love You above the powers of language to express,
For what You are to Your creatures.
Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

October 05, 2008

I’ve met Terry Stauffer a few times—at Together for the Gospel and at least one or two other conferences. He has been a regular commenter at this blog and maintains a blog of his own. He serves as pastor of Edson Baptist Church in Edson, Alberta. Earlier this week I was shocked to receive an email from my pastor pointing to this entry on Terry’s blog. “Last night at about 4:45 our precious 14 year-old daughter Emily was attacked and killed as she was out for a walk. We don’t know a lot of details, but we know that two young men came upon the scene right away, but it was too late for Emily.” On Friday the Staffer’s celebrated Emily’s life and said their goodbyes to her.

Capture.JPGThrough it all, the Stauffer’s have, at least publicly, been pillars of strength; they have been showing such clear evidence of the grace of God in their lives. They have been quoted widely in the media and clips from the funeral have been broadcast across the nation.

Here are a few words from the grieving mother:

“If it was not for the prayers of God’s people and for the arms of God holding us up, we would be puddles on the floor. God gives strength to the weak, and we are weak,” said Emily’s mother, Juanita Stauffer.

“I heard about another father this week, who said he gave the eulogy for a child, and he said, ‘You know it wasn’t hard. I could talk about my child forever.’ And when I heard that, I thought, that is so true. I could talk about Emily for a long time, and I probably will,” she said.

And from heart-broken father:

“Emily loved Jesus. But now her faith has turned to sight,” he said. “The dream is over. The endless day has begun.”

“When Emily’s death was confirmed on Saturday night, I was shocked and bewildered. And when I got on my knees, all I could pray was, ‘Oh Lord, help, help, help,’” he said.

“But right into that, one of my first thoughts was, ‘If this gospel I’ve been preaching is not true today, it was never true at all.’”

God is carrying us. He is using our family, church family and friends. God is also carrying us by His promises which were precious last week and tested and precious this week.

That gospel he has preached for so many years is true; it is the gospel that saved Emily, the gospel that will sustain this family without her, and the gospel that will reunite them in that endless day. May God continue to bless and to sustain the Stauffers and may He continue to magnify Himself through them.

September 28, 2008

Here is another prayer drawn from The Valley of Vision. It is a prayer of penitence. What particularly appealed to me in this prayer was the first section which sets much of a days’ sin in the neglect of private prayers. “My first sin of the day leads into others…” I think every Christian can identify with this and pray with this old Puritan, “O quicken my conscience to feel this folly, to bewail this ingratitude.”

O Lord of grace,
I have been hasty and short in private prayer,
    O quicken my conscience to feel this folly,
    to bewail this ingratitude;
My first sin of the day leads into others,
    and it is just that thou shouldst withdraw
    thy presence
    from one who waited carelessly on thee.
Keep me at all times from robbing thee,
    and from depriving my soul of thy due worship;
Let me never forget
    that I have an eternal duty to love, honour
    and obey thee,
    that thou art infinitely worthy of such;
    that if I fail to glorify thee
I am guilty of infinite evil that merits infinite punishment,
    for sin is the violation of an infinite obligation.
O forgive me if I have dishonoured thee,
Melt my heart, heal my backslidings,
    and open an intercourse of love.
When the fire of thy compassion warms my
    inward man,
and the outpourings of thy Spirit fill my soul,
    then I feelingly wonder at my own depravity,
    and deeply abhor myself;
    then thy grace is a powerful incentive
    to repentance,
    and an irresistible motive to inward holiness.
May I never forget that thou hast my heart
    in thy hands.
Apply to it the merits of Christ’s atoning blood
    whenever I sin.
Let thy mercies draw me to thyself.
Wean me from all evil, mortify me to the world,
    and make me ready for my departure hence
    animated by the humiliations of penitential love.
My soul is often a chariot without wheels,
    clogged and hindered in sin’s miry clay;
Mount it on eagle’s wings
    and cause it to soar upward to thyself.

September 21, 2008

Today is going to be a busy day. Our church is having a members’ meeting in the mid-afternoon, which means that we’ll have only a couple of hours after morning worship before heading back to church first for the meeting and then for evening worship. And then, after it all, we have a small group of sorts to attend. Put it all together and it is going to be a busy day, though a blessed one, I am sure. Yesterday evening I opened The Valley of Vision to see what prayers I could find that would seem appropriate for so busy a day. But before I found one that fit that particular mold, I found one that seemed more than a bit strange. It is a prayer that is meant to follow prayer. I’ve never heard of such a thing, but I enjoyed the prayer and thought I would share it with you. The author has certainly tapped into the Christian’s inability to do anything—even something that seems to “holy” as prayer—without needing the presence and power of God.

O God of grace,
I bewail my cold, listless, heartless prayers;
their poverty adds sin to my sin.
If my hope were in them I should be undone,
But the worth of Jesus perfumes my feeble breathings, and wins their acceptance.
Deepen my contrition of heart,
Confirm my faith in the blood that washes from all sin.
May I walk lovingly with my great Redeemer.
Flood my soul with true repentance that my heart may be broken for sin and unto sin.
Let me be as slow to forgive myself as thou art ready to forgive me.
Gazing on the glories of thy grace may I be cast into the lowest depths of shame.
and walk with downcast head now thou art pacified towards me.
O my great High Priest,
pour down upon me streams of needful grace,
bless me in all my undertakings,
in every thought of my mind,
every word of my lips,
every step of my feet,
every deed of my hands.
Thou didst live to bless,
die to bless,
rise to bless,
ascend to bless,
take thy throne to bless,
and now thou dost reign to bless.
O give sincerity to my desires,
earnestness to my supplications,
fervour to my love.

September 14, 2008

Continuing this theme of Sunday prayers, here is a wonderful prayer drawn once more from The Valley of Vision. This prayer is titled “Regeneration” and you may recognize it as the foundation of the Sovereign Grace song “O Great God.” I read this one yesterday and was just drawn to the amazing descriptions the beautiful language and the deep spiritual truths.

O God of the highest heaven,
occupy the throne of my heart,
take full possession and reign supreme,
lay low every rebel lust,
let no vile passion resist thy holy war;
manifest thy mighty power,
and make me thine forever.
Thou art worthy to be
praised with my every breath,
loved with my every faculty of soul,
served with my every act of life.
Thou hast loved me, espoused me, received me,
purchased, washed, favored, clothed,
adorned me,
when I was a worthless, vile soiled, polluted.
I was dead in iniquities,
having no eyes to see thee,
no ears to hear thee,
no taste to relish thy joys,
no intelligence to know thee;
But thy Spirit has quickened me,
has brought me into a new world as a
new creature,
has given me spiritual perception,
has opened to me thy Word as light, guide, solace, joy.
Thy presence is to me a treasure of unending peace;
No provocation can part me from thy sympathy,
for thou hast drawn me with cords of love,
and dost forgive me daily, hourly.
O help me then to walk worthy of thy love,
of my hopes, and my vocation.
Keep me, for I cannot keep myself;
Protect me that no evil befall me;
Let me lay aside every sin admired of many;
Help me to walk by thy side, lean on thy arm,
hold converse with thee,
That I may be salt of the earth
and a blessing to all.

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