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Quotes

September 17, 2011

In reading In Light of Eternity, a biography of Leonard Ravenhill, I came across the name Samuel Chadwick. Chadwick was a Wesleyan minister who did the bulk of his ministry in the early 20th century. He was a mentor to Ravenhill and had a deep impact on his life. I found a couple of his quotes on preaching particularly helpful and challenging:

I would rather preach than do anything else I know in this world. I have never missed a chance to preach. I would rather preach than eat my dinner, or have a holiday or anything else the world can offer. I would rather pay to preach than be paid not to preach. It has its price in agony of sweat and tears and no calling has such joys and heartbreaks, but it is a calling an archangel might covet; and I thank God that of His grace He called me into this ministry. Is there any joy like that of saving a soul from death? Any thrill like that of opening blind eyes? Any reward like the love of little children to the second and third generation? Any treasures like the grateful love of hearts healed and comforted? I tell you it is a glorious privilege to share the travail and the wine of God. I wish I had been a better minister, but there is nothing in God’s world I would rather be.

And a second quote:

Nothing makes for a preacher’s effectiveness more than a true conception of his calling. He is a messenger. That which he speaks is not his own. He is not at liberty to criticize, modify, or tamper with that which is entrusted to him; neither has he any right to withhold it from any person to whom it is sent. But he is neither a postman nor a phonograph. He delivers an open message which he has received from God for men. His first business is to wait for his message, and his next is to see that it is faithfully delivered.

September 11, 2011

Yesterday I came across a quote by Richard Ganz that really jumped out to me. He is dealing with the frustration we often feel when we read the gospels. We read of Jesus’ disciples and see how time after time they just completely failed to understand who Jesus was and what he was up to. Ganz offers a biblical perspective:

We look back at the disciples, and we wonder, “What in the world was wrong with them? How could they not get it?” The reality is quite the opposite. We should ask instead, “How could they get it?” It is impossible. It is beyond comprehension. The Old Covenant sacrifices, as powerful a pointer as they were, had a limited purpose. Their purpose was simply to show us how even the most rational and beautiful picture of grace—a blood sacrifice for sin—falls flat in front of what Jesus actually did.

Jesus trained men who, because of their background, should have been ready for the great blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. They weren’t. They were still utterly incapable of “getting it” just from the facts. This is understandable. The ultimate fact is that it is absolutely impossible to come to an understanding of God’s grace just from an assessment of the facts.

There is nothing in human experience alone that can awaken a person to the full reality of God’s grace. What Jesus did for us, the grace that His life and death is for us, is eternally impossible to fully comprehend. The fact that people like us will live with God FOREVER is purely His gracious gift to us. Sadly, even though we know so much about grace, we continue to make obeying rules the high watermark of our lives, rather than grace.

The disciples did not catch on because they could not catch on. Even for these men, who walked and talked with Jesus, it took a supernatural awakening for them to see who Jesus was and to turn to him as Lord. In that way, their path was not a whole lot different from our own.

September 04, 2011

A few nights ago a friend shared a powerful little piece of writing that deals with the incarnation of Jesus. A bit of research shows that it comes from the end of a song by the rapper Json; this song closes with an extended quote from John Piper. For now, here it is. It seemed poetic, so I put it in the form of verse.

In order for Jesus to suffer and die,
He had to plan way ahead of time
because he couldn’t die.

Immortal, He didn’t have a body
And yet he wanted to die.
For you.

So, He planned the whole thing
by clothing himself with a body,
so that He could get hungry
and get weary
and have sore feet.

The incarnation of Jesus is the preparation
of nerve endings
for the nails,
the preparation of a brow
or thorns pressed through.

He needed to have a broad back
so that there was a place
for the whips.

He needed to have feet
so that there was a place
for spikes.

He needed to have a side
so that there was a place
for the sword to go in. 

He needed to have fleshy cheeks 
so that Judas would have a place to kiss 
and there would be a place for the spit 
to run down that the soldiers put on him. 

He needed a brain and a spinal column
with no vinegar and no gall,
so that the exquisiteness of the pain
could be fully felt.

So I plead with you, when you’re reading the Bible and you read texts like: “He loved you and gave himself for you,” you wouldn’t go too fast over it. Linger, linger, linger, and plead with Jesus that your eyes would be opened.

August 28, 2011

How can I know that I’m a Christian? This is a question most of us have faced at one time or another, and even if we have not asked it ourselves, it’s likely that someone has asked for our help in wrestling through it. I recently came across an article from Michael McKinley that provides an interesting counter-question: How Can I know that I’m not a Christian?

In II Corinthians 13:5, the apostle Paul commands his readers: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

OK, that seems straightforward enough.  But what does it mean to examine yourself?  What should you be looking for?  How do you know whether or not you are “in the faith”?  What is the “test” that we might fail?  I wrote Am I Really a Christian? in order to try to help answer these questions.

Well, we should all hope that we pass “the test” (again, Paul’s words, not mine!).  And Scripture gives us a few things to look for that would indicate that in fact we are not “in the faith”.  A few examples:

You’re not a Christian if you don’t believe true doctrine: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” (I John 4:2-3)

You’re not a Christian if you enjoy sin: “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (I John 2:4-6)

You’re not a Christian if you don’t persevere: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (I John 2:19)

You’re not a Christian if you don’t love others: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (I John 4:7-8)

You’re not a Christian if you love your stuff more than you love Jesus: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

August 14, 2011

Here is something worth meditating on for those who are in pastoral ministry. In his contribution to the book Reforming Pastoral Ministry, Art Azurdia shares some of the temptations that are particularly strong in the ministry of the gospel.

To be sure, the minister of the Gospel is vulnerable to trials and temptations distinct to his calling:

jealousy (“Why are his gifts more esteemed than mine?”)

bitterness (“Why does the congregation criticize everything I do?”)

fear (“Will they leave the church if I teach particular redemption?”)

depression (“Will this church ever grow?”)

grief (“Why have there been so few conversions?”)

frustration (“Why does the board appear to distrust my motivations?”)

doubt (“Why has God caused such suffering in the life of this family?”)

anxiety (“How will we ever afford to send our children to college?”)

sexual indiscretion (“Why does it seem that my wife is not as responsive to me as other women in the church?”)

despondency (“Why doesn’t the congregation love Jesus with greater fervor?”)

desperation (“Have I rightly discerned my call to ministry?”)

It is imperative, then, for pastors to structure their lives in order to insure that ample time is given in prayer for the protection and promotion of their own spiritual condition.

August 08, 2011

Twitter TThere are many different reasons to use Twitter; there are many different good reasons to use Twitter. Some use it for pure entertainment value; some use it to share news and information; some use it to relate to other people. These are all equally valid. There are a precious few people who use Twitter to encourage others in the Lord. These are people who put in some extra effort to package truth in 140 characters or less. And for that reason I think they all merit a “follow.” Here are 5 people who encourage me 140 characters at a time:

@JohnPiper

Lord, give me a heart that will sing praise to you after a beating, in prison, at sleepless midnight. (Acts 16:25)

One of the great benefits of vacation is that there are no deadlines for being done with devotions.

After calming the sea he said, “Why are you afraid?” Not because Christians never drown. But they are safe in drowning.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore, go.” You are universally and infinitely authorized.

@BurkParsons

Our only path to freedom is surrender of self and only path to peace is death to self, and the Holy Spirit lightens the only path to both.

Lord, you owe us nothing but give us everything, beyond our imaginations. We owe you everything but give you nothing.

Humility doesn’t come by acting to make ourselves seem humble to others but by striving to forget ourselves for others.

Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use @twitter.

August 07, 2011

Yesterday I came across the name Polly Carey—the sister of the missionary William Carey. I read only a couple of sentences about her and her dedication to prayer. I had to know more. It didn’t take long to find an broadcast from Joni Eareckson Tada in which she discusses Polly. Here is an excerpt of the transcript:

[William] Carey started out as a British cobbler, a shoemaker, who felt a deep burden for the nations of the world.  He made a globe map of the world out of leather, tacked it up on his wall, and then, while he worked on shoes, he prayed for the various nations.  Eventually, the Lord made it possible for William Carey to go to India as one of the first missionaries to that land.  God gifted Carey with tremendous abilities.  In fact, he translated the Bible into 37 different Indian dialects. 

But William Carey didn’t do all of these things through his own power.  While he labored in the distant land of India, back in England, William Carey had a sister whom he affectionately called Polly – Polly was bedridden and almost completely paralyzed for 52 years.  William wrote to Polly all about the details of his struggle to create primers and dictionaries in the various Indian dialects, as well as the difficulty of figuring out how to get these books typed and printed.  And with every letter from William that she received, Polly lifted these needs up before the Throne.  Every day for 52 years, she faithfully prayed for her brother.

Now I don’t have to tell you that really inspired me.  There she is Polly for all intents and purposes a quadriplegic, unable to walk or use her hands.  But that didn’t paralyze her prayer life.  And, oh, were William Carey’s efforts blessed by God – not only was India reached for Christ, but what he did became a model for modern missionaries even to this day… all because a paralyzed woman prayed.

A lot of people know about the work of William Carey, but not many people know about the sister behind the scenes whose prayers guaranteed the success of his efforts.  Polly’s testimony tells me that the life of any Christian can have huge repercussions for the kingdom.  Think of it:  if God can use bedridden quadriplegics to open doors to the Gospel around the world, what can He do through your prayers?!  Little wonder the Bible says, “Pray without ceasing.” … for God knows what great things are accomplished when people pray.

What an amazing testimony. Should we be surprised that the Lord chose to do such great things through William Carey when he had such a prayer warrior pleading with the Lord for his work?

July 31, 2011

This morning Joshua, our lead worshipper, introduced a new song to the congregation. An adaptation of an old Wesley hymn, it has been modernized and has been recently recorded by Matthew Smith. It is titled “Calmer Of My Troubled Heart (Hallelujah).” You can find it on his Road Sessions Collection CD.

The lyrics are simple. You can hear the melody on YouTube (this is a rough cover of the song, but I wanted to link to that rather than the album version someone else dumped on YouTube, presumably without permission).

Calmer of my troubled heart
Bid my unbelief depart
Speak, and all my sorrows cease
Speak, and all my soul is peace.

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
 Hallelujah

Comfort me when e’er I mourn
with the hope of Thy return
And til I Thy glories see
Help me believe in Thee

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
 Hallelujah

July 24, 2011

This is quite a powerful little quote from a book titled Men of The Word which is edited by Nathan Busenitz and which includes contributions from a long list of writers. This excerpt is from a chapter titled “Real Men Flee Temptation” and is written by Andrew Gutierrez.

In the first century AD, crowns were awarded to victorious military leaders, champion athletes, and dignitaries. In Paul’s farewell to his beloved disciple he wrote of receiving such a reward from Jesus Christ. Think of the impact that thought must have had on Timothy. How encouraging would it be for him to hear his mentor’s final words to him, which conveyed confidence and joy in Jesus Christ? Paul’s hope, as expressed in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, reminded his protege of the reason that he was fighting as a soldier and striving as an athlete. In spite of being in prision about to die, the apostle exulted, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” No matter what the struggles looked like for Timothy, he could overcome temptation because of the hope he had in Christ.

History tells us that Timothy died while trying to stop people from engaging in idolatry at a pagan feast. As he proclaimed the true gospel, he was severely beaten by the angry crowd and died two days later. Timothy gave up his life so that Christ would be glorified. He exhibited faithfulness and courage to the end.

As we flee from sin and pursue holiness in our own lives, let’s follow the example of Timothy. By relying on God’s strength, reminding ourselves of the gospel, and running away from sin and toward righteousness, we too can experience a life of spiritual victory. The road will not always be easy, but our faithfulness will be well-rewarded. One day, we will stand before Christ. Then sin and temptation will be no more. As we look forward to that day, we can rejoice with Paul in knowing that “the Lord will rescue [us] from every evil deed, and will bring [us] safely into His heavely kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18).

July 17, 2011

Here is a wise word from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, from his work Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure. It will help to know that the biblical context for what he is writing here is Psalm 42.

The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.

 
The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet priase Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’.

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