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Showing posts from 2009

God Gives Grace

Quote of the day:
"God receives none but those who are forsaken, restores health to none but those who are sick, gives sight to none but the blind, and life to none but the dead. He does not give saintliness to any but sinners, nor wisdom to any but fools. In short: He has mercy on none but the wretched and gives grace to none but those who are in disgrace."
Martin Luther

Mary's Song

During our Christmas Concert Sunday night I talked about the first Christmas carol, Mary's Magnificat. We tend to go to extremes concerning Mary. We either venerate her to the point of worship (and forget that she was herself a sinner in need of a Savior) or we dismiss her (and forget that she is blessed among women). I recently discovered Luci Shaw's Mary Song which beautifully portrays the ponderings of Mary's heart.
Mary's Song
...by Luci Shaw

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest...
you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so light it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world. Charmed by doves' voices,
the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,
all …

Web Junkies

How much time do I spend on the internet? Probably more than I should. One of my heroes, J. I. Packer, has some words of advice for all of us web junkies:
I'm amazed at the amount of time people spend on the internet. I'm not against technology, but all tools should be used to their best advantage. We should be spending our time on things that have staying power, instead of on the latest thought of the latest blogger—and then moving on quickly to the next blogger. That makes us more superficial, not more thoughtful.
Here's an idea--why not dive into a good book by Packer? I think they have "staying power." Here's a list of books by Packer that I would recommend:
Knowing God
Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs
Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life
Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God
Growing in Christ
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
Knowing God's Purpose for Your Life
Praying: Finding O…

Being Outdoors

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Yesterday, Heather, the kids and I spent the day with my mom and dad at John Pennekamp National Park. (pictures are on their way!) It was a gorgeous day to be in the Keys and we spent it (how else?) on a boat--a glass-bottom boat to be exact. We saw sting rays, nurse sharks, barracuda, sea turtles, and tons of fish and coral. It was great to be out on the sea and even better to be with family. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Being outdoors reminded me of one of the wisest things I have ever read on dealing with discouragement or depression written by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (c. 1880):
He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy. A day's breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours, ramble in the beech woods' umbrageous calm, would sweep …

Album of the Year (2008)

If I were to vote for album of the year, it would be Come Weary Saints from Sovereign Grace Music. Each song has been been remarkably timely and encouraging during a particularly trying time. My three favorite tracks are...

I Have a Shelter

Steve & Vikki Cook and Bob Kauflin

I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows

I have a shelter in the storm
When all my sins accuse me
Though justice charges me with guilt
Your grace will not refuse me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
Who bore my condemnation
I find my refuge in Your wounds
For there I find salvation

I have a shelter in the storm
When constant winds would break me
For in my weakness, I have learned
Your strength will not forsake me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
The One who bears my burdens
With faithful hands that cannot fail
You’ll bring me home to heaven

© 2008 Inte…

The First Thanksgiving without My Mom

A very long while ago, Paul asked me if I wanted to be a "guest blogger". I declined. I didn't have anything to say. (Shocking, I know.) Tonight, I am having a hard time sleeping, so I thought I would give it a try. Here goes....

Grief is a funny thing. I have compared it to an ocean often in the past 9 months since I have experienced it in a new way after my moms death. It was incredibly choppy the first several weeks. As the months went on it became easier on a daily basis. Then those waves would come... almost out of nowhere. It just rolls right over you sometimes with an almost shocking intensity.

So, tonight is one of those nights. I knew it was coming. I've known for about a month now, wondering when it would hit and dreading it. Here it is. My first Thanksgiving without her. And this Thanksgiving particularly, I would really like to share with her. I really, really miss her. I feel like part of my history went with her. No one can answer "D…

Don't Go to Church?

Jeff Purswell is a pastor at Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, MD and serves as the Dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College. He saw a bumper sticker the other day that read "Don't go to church - be the church."
Here are his thoughts:
Now, despite the element of truth (God’s people are the church), there are all kinds of things wrong with this statement. But behind the words is obviously someone’s disappointment (and possibly disillusionment) with organized Christianity. And although I’d guess that many Christians would reject this false choice, their attitude to Sunday gatherings of the church may reveal a similar apathy.

To fight such apathy, we all need a biblical perspective on what is taking place on Sunday—a perspective that can transform our attitude toward “going to church.” And it’s this perspective that the writer of Hebrews gives us when he describes the ongoing worship service we join when we gather to worship each Sunday.

Mount Sinai and Mount Zion

In Hebrews th…

John Donne

John Donne (1572-1631) was an English poet and a churchman famous for his spellbinding sermons. Here are some of my favorite John Donne quotes and poems.
Our critical day is not the very day of our death, but the whole course of our life: I thank him, that prays for me when my bell tolls; but I thank him much more, that catechizes me, or preaches to me, or instructs me how to live.

John Donne: Sermons.

The whole life of Christ was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr . . . His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas-day and his Good Friday are but the evening and morning of the one and the same day.

John Donne: Sermon of Christmas-Day, 1626.

The Father was pleased to breathe into his body [of man] in the creation; the Son was pleased to assume this body in the redemption; the Holy Ghost is pleased to consecrate this body by his sanctification. The consultation of the whole Trinity is exercised upon the dignifying of man's body…

The Doctrine Is the Drama

Quote of the day--"It it is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality, unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and incompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Ch…

Economic Good News

The financial crisis of 2007–2009 has been called by leading economists the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It contributed to the failure of key businesses, declines in consumer wealth estimated in the trillions of U.S. dollars, substantial financial commitments incurred by governments, and a significant decline in economic activity. The International Monetary Fund estimated that large U.S. and European banks lost more than $1 trillion on toxic assets and from bad loans from January 2007 to September 2009. These losses are expected to top $2.8 trillion from 2007-10. U.S. banks losses were forecast to hit $1 trillion and European bank losses will reach $1.6 trillion. Many causes have been proposed, with varying weight assigned by experts. Certainly high among the causes would be a lack of responsible management, a shortage of high ethical standards, and widespread greed run amuck.

There is some good news. There seems to be a movement toward more responsi…

The Doxology

The Lord's prayer ends how it began: with God. "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen." The kingdom refers to God's all embracing control over all of his universe. He created the world, so he has the right to rule the world--and, in fact, does. More particularly, his kingdom denotes his design to redeem a people for himself by overthrowing the rule and dominion of Satan. Having asked for God to bring that about, the prayer concludes by asserting its reality: the kingdom is his. J. I. Packer comments:
Satan, the prime example of how sin breeds cunning but saps intelligence and rots the mind, does not accept that the Lord is king in this basic sense, and would dismiss this doxology--indeed, all doxologies--as false; but Christians know better, and praise God accordingly.
The power is God's as well. God can do anything in accord with his nature. There is no power that can overthrow the rule of God Almighty. Jesus came into the wor…

Everyone Must Live for Something

Quote of the day--"Every human being must live for something. Something must capture our imagination, our heart's most fundamental allegiance and hope. But, the Bible tells us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that object will never be God Himself." Tim Keller in Counterfeit Gods
Get the book here.

Temptation

While I was in college, I was told a story of two brothers from Tennessee who received a surprising gift from their father. Their dad brought home a lion cub to the farm as a pet for the boys. They were thrilled of course, but soon realized that the cub was growing and needed a pen of its own. They built a cage for the lion and all was well, until one day they discovered the heads of chickens scattered around the yard. Right away the boys realized that the lion was responsible, but how was he killing the chickens. They decided to set up surveillance. Hidden behind some bushes they saw the lion in its cage feigning sleep. Soon chickens were approaching the lion's cage and poking their heads through to eat from the lion's feeding trough. First timidly, then with abandon, the chicken gorged themselves. At that moment, the lion swiped at the chicken's head and it went sailing through the air and into the yard. The chicken would then run around like the proverbial chicken with …

Forgive Us

There once was a boy that was quizzed by his father about the sermon he had just heard. "What was the preacher talking about?"
"He was preaching about sin," the boy replied.
"What did he say about it?" asked his dad.
"He was against it," the boy answered.

The fifth petition is "Forgive us our sins (or debts)." Sin is not pleasant or popular, but we ignore it to our peril. If we don't deal with our own sin it will swallow us up. Go wrong here, and everything else is warped. Make light of sin and you make light of God's holiness and his love. Jesus came and gave his life to deal with our sin.

David dealt forthrightly with his sin and expressed great grief at having disobeyed God by his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of Uriah:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my t…

Our Daily Bread

What does "Give us today our daily bread" mean? It means that we are asking God to take care of all our physical needs. The Bible teaches us that God not only created all things but provides for their needs as well.
All look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. (Psalm 104:27-28)

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. (Psalm 145:15-16)

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why…

Thy Will Be Done

It is striking to me that the prayer Jesus taught his disciples focuses chiefly on God and not us. The first three petitions concern God: his name, his kingdom, his will. This is in sharp contrast with the way I normally pray--too often my prayers are self-centered and egotistical. A failure to give God the glory due him and seek our own glory (be our own God) is at the heart of our sin-marred lives. This petition is meant to bring us to a place of surrender--to pray as Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, "Not my will, but yours be done."

But how are we to determine God's will? Some say that the will of God can be discerned through impressions on the mind or emotions. This usually leads to thought about God's will in terms of what best pleases us. Others think they have a direct line of communication with God that enables them to speak with confidence about knowing the will of God concerning some matter. Others read into unusual events the voice of God directin…

A Parable

There was a splendid fishing trawler docked at a seaport near some of the world’s richest fishing grounds. The large boat was well equipped with everything necessary for netting, landing, and preserving fish. On a regular basis, the officers and crew gathered for instruction in fishing theory. Afterwards they discussed with zeal and intelligence the various approaches to fishing. Sometimes they invited professors from the marine biology academy nearby to offer special lectures. Some maintained that the only way to fish was to anchor and pray that the Lord would send the fish into the nets. Few of these men attended the prayer meetings called for this purpose. Several argued for friendship fishing, noting that fish are easily frightened. Others held to the position that it is best to seek out the young ones, otherwise they will soon swim away into the deep.

In the meantime, day after day the other fishing boats went out early in the morning and returned at evening loaded with fish. The …

Lunch with Charlie

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Heather and I recently took a quick trip to NY. We saw a lot of the city in just a couple of days, but one of the highlights was meeting Charlie Drew for lunch. Charlie is pastor of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church near Columbia University. I highly recommend Charlie's book A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World. It presents a comprehensive and clear Christian perspective on life calling--a great book to give to college student or read yourself!

Thy Kingdom Come

The second petition of the Lord's prayer, "Thy kingdom come," encapsulates the entire purpose of God in the world. Why did Jesus come into the world? What is the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament? What is the function and role of the church in God's redemptive plan? What is God doing in the world today? All of these questions revolve around the kingdom of God. It has been said that this petition is at the heart of the message of the Bible.

Derek Thomas in Praying the Saviour's Way, gives the following explanation of "Thy kingdom come":
First, this petition alludes to the sovereign rule of God as King over the entire universe. The Lord who merely speaks all things into existence at the creation is King. His word is authoritative and powerful.

Second, this petition alludes to the covenantal rule of God over his people... On every page of the Old Testament there is the expectation that God is working out a plan and purpose in which he is …

Telescope Magnification and Microscope Magnification

The fist petition of the Lord's Prayer is "Hallowed by thy name." What does "hallowed" mean? We don't use the word that often. Does it have something to do with Halloween? Actually, both words have hallow (from the Old English word halgian) as their root, meaning "to regard as holy." So how do we regard God's name as holy? One translation puts it, "May your name be honored" (NLT). Eugene Peterson's The Message reads, "Reveal who you are." In English, the verb form of holy is sanctify, meaning "to set apart." Peter says, "Set apart Christ as Lord" (1 Peter 3:15). We are to revere God--to exalt him above everything (and everyone) else.

But how can we sanctify God? Can we make him more holy and majestic than he is? John Piper's distinction between telescope magnification and microscope magnification is helpful here. There's telescope magnification and microscope magnification, and it's blasph…

Our Father

How are we to pray? Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer (or perhaps better the Disciple's Prayer, because Jesus did not pray the Lord's Prayer himself--the petition for forgiveness would not have applied to him since he was without sin).

When we use this prayer as a pattern for our own, we begin by addressing God, 'Our Father in heaven' (Matt. 6:9). This is how Jesus constantly addressed God, and how because of Jesus we can address him too. The beloved Apostle John tells us how it is possible that we can call God our Father: "To all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). But do we recognize the significance of being able to address God this way? John later writes in astonishment, "See (Behold!) what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!" (1 John 3:1).
J. I. Packer, in Knowing God, wrote:
You sum up the whole of…

Praying the Savior's Way

I am amazed at the sheer selfishness of much of my praying (when I actually get around to praying!). Far too often, I rush into asking God for things or asking for God's help to do this or that, without first being amazed that I can address God at all!

Making prayer about what God can do for me--my wants and needs, my anxieties and cares, my agendas and to-do lists--reveals that I am once again putting myself at the very center of things. The Bible calls this idolatry. Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that man's heart is a perpetual factory of idols. The idols of my heart often reveal themselves in my spoken and unspoken prayers.

Derek Thomas in his helpful book on the Lord's Prayer called Praying the Saviour's Way gives some penetrating questions to analyze our prayers.
Are they worshipful?
Are they God-centered?
Are they focused on the kingdom of God?
Are they humble and not presumptive?
Do they reveal an increasing sense of our sinfulness?
Is their c…

The Incredible Universe

Some time ago an article appeared in the National Geographic entitled "The Incredible Universe," by Kenneth F. Weaver and James P. Blair. It included this paragraph:
How can the human mind deal with the knowledge that the farthest object we can see in the universe is perhaps ten billion light years away! Imagine that the thickness of this page represents the distance from the earth to the sun (93,000,000 miles, or about eight light minutes). Then the distance to the nearest star (14-1/3 light years) is a 71-foot-high stack of paper. And the diameter of our own galaxy (l00,000 light years) is a 310-mile stack, while the edge of the known universe is not reached until the pile of paper is 31,000,000 miles high, a third of the way to the sun.
As incredible as the universe is, what's more amazing is that God created it all with the power of His Word. And what's even more amazing is that we can know this God personally. The Creator is our Redeemer. This is what He says:
&qu…

Truth and Power

An astute friend pointed out a concern about my reference to John Wesley's "heart strangely warmed" experience at the point of his conversion. Here is a quote he passed along from How Wide the Divide? a Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation by Craig Blomberg and Stephen Edward Robinson:
"Joseph [Smith] confessed a greater affinity for Methodism than Presbyterian or Baptist thought prior to his supposed encounter with God (Joseph Smith History 2:5-Il). Is it a coincidence that Mormonism subsequently turned out to be closer to Methodism than to its Protestant competitors on a whole host of doctrines, from denying the major tenets of Calvinism (predestination, original sin, eternal security) to affirming the strong call for holiness and moral perfection? Even the testimony of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, that he found his heart “strangely warmed” at his conversion is reminiscent of Mormonism’s “burning in the bosom.” None of these were issues that concerned t…

Heart Strangely Warmed

On May 24, 1738, John Wesley famously attended a meeting of the Moravian society in Aldergate Street which lead to his understanding and embracing the gospel for the first time. Here is a description of that evening from Wesley's journal:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
If you haven't ever read Luther's Preface to Romans that Wesley refers to in his journal, I recommend that you take the time to do so. Here is how it begins.
This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian&…

Seeing Jesus

I received an email from Paul Miller this morning. Paul is the executive director of seeJesus, a ministry that produces some great small group material. Paul's passion for people to see Jesus comes out as he describes a meeting he had with some seminary professors:
This summer I took two seminary professors that I know to lunch and asked them, “Has the church missed studying the person of Jesus? I know of only three books or articles in the last 500 years that have thoughtfully studied what Jesus is like as a person.” After about an hour discussion one said, “Yes, I guess it slipped through a crack.” At which point I about jumped out of my chair, “A crack?! It is a huge hole! How could we have missed something so fundamental?”
Then I read this from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening:
This morning we must endeavor to ascend the mount of communion, that there we may be ordained to the lifework for which we are set apart. Let us not see the face of man to-day till we have seen …

Root and Fruit

We're going through Romans on Wednesday night at Redlands Community Church (our new church home). Ken Boodhoo and Jerry Frye are doing a great job walking us through this monumental book. When we got to chapter 2 verses 6-10 we were somewhat puzzled. Here's what it says:
God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Our question was this: Is this a contradiction of being "saved by grace through faith...not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9)?
We need to give Paul some credit. He isn't…

Infinite Grace

Elisabeth Elliot has lost two husbands. Jim Elliot was martyred in Ecuador in 1956 while seeking to make contact with the Auca (now known as Huaorani). Her second husband, Addison Leitch, died of cancer in 1973. During his illness, he struggled with depression and guilt. She ministered to him by reminding him of God's amazing grace. Here are her reflections:
When my husband was near death from cancer, depression often seemed to overwhelm him like great black waves, and he was at times convinced (we know the source of this conviction) that his sins were unforgivable.

"Do you really think God can forgive my sins?" he would ask, for he felt that his sins were out of all proportion to the light that had been given him as a Christian (a Christian home, a Christian education, a wide sphere of Christian service).

The popular notion of somehow "balancing" our good deeds against our sins will not hold much reassurance for any of us when we face the final truth. Then we nee…

Preach Christ or Go Home

Darryl Dash passed on this advice from Spurgeon:

Of all I would wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, PREACH CHRIST, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our great, all-comprehending theme. The world needs to be told of its Savior, and of the way to reach him…Blessed is the ministry of which CHRIST IS ALL.

This advice shouldn’t be necessary. What else is there to preach about? To quote Spurgeon again, “No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”

A Fellow Missionary

On Sunday, we had the privilege of having John Grotenhuis in our home. John serves with Middle East Reformed Fellowship in Eritrea. His work there amazes me. Before he was deported, he cared for a household of 15. On many days he would spend 6-8 hours gathering (begging for) food for them. Usually he would bring back bread. An egg was a treat. He left behind a fledgling church that is still meeting in the house. He asked us to pray that the Holy Spirit would do his work of grace in the hearts of those new to the gospel and that God would provide their daily bread.

L-O-V-E

Love is an amazing thing. When you see it truly demonstrated between two people you can't help but be moved. I'm amazed at how Heather continues to show me love even when I continue to be a jerk.

God's love to us is an astounding thing. When you understand how he demonstrated his love by giving his life for us you can't help but be moved. John records how Jesus "loved [his] disciples to the end" in John 13. "He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin...to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him." The Master serving the disciples in this way is astounding. George Herbert, the Welsh poet and priest, wrote about this kind of love:
LOVE (III)

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning

How to Know God

While I was in college, my mentor recommended that I read Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot. The book challenged my faith like no other had up to that point. After reading it, I wasn't sure I knew God--not in the way Jim Elliot did at least. Ever since then Elisabeth Elliot has become a mentor of sorts to me. I've read almost everything she has written and she still challenges my faith. Here's a classic example:
The only valid test of love is obedience. Take one thing commanded and start doing it. Take one thing forbidden and stop doing it. Then we are on the sure road to knowing God. There is no other.
I would add that this is his commandment, "that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us" (1 John 3:23).

Easter Wings

George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh poet, orator and priest. Richard Baxter said of him, "Herbert speaks to God like one that really believeth a God, and whose business in the world is most with God. Heart-work and heaven-work make up his books." Here's another of his well-known poems from The Temple (1633).
Easter Wings

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With thee
Oh let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With thee
Let me combine
And feel this day thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

A New Found Favorite

George Herbert, a metaphysical poet of the 17th century, was also an English country priest. His poetry mixes the complexities of his era with profound, often moving, spiritual reflection. Several are meditations on his role as a pastor.

Here's his poem "Aaron" about the need for another to cover his 'profaneness' and clothe him in a holiness which cannot come from his own works. He's referring to the Old Testament priest Aaron's garment worn in worship and sacrifice. (Thanks to Drew Field for calling my attention to this wonderful poem.)

AARON

HOLINESS on the head,
Light and perfection on the breast,
Harmonious bells below raising the dead
To lead them unto life and rest.
Thus are true Aaron's drest.*

Profaneness in my head,
Defects and darkness in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest :
Poor priest! thus am I drest.

Only another head

What Are You Looking At?

In A Lamp for My Feet, Elisabeth Elliot writes about a photograph that was taken while she was a missionary in Ecuador. It's a close-up of a scorpion on a screened window. It takes up the whole frame of the picture. Nothing of the pineapple fields or wide river outside the window can be seen. She writes:
When the eye of the heart is fixed on the world and the self, everything eternal and invisible is blurred and obscure. No wonder we cannot recognize God--we are studying the scorpion. Instead of gazing at Him in all his majesty and love, we peer at the screen, horrified at what we see there.
We shouldn't be oblivious to the horrible things we see around us, but we can't lose sight of what we can only see by faith. With God in view everything else takes it's proper place. So what are you looking at?

The Real Girl

Heather and I recently saw "Lars and the Real Girl" based on the recommendation of a friend. A lonely guy orders a silicon girl through the internet--not a movie we would normally watch. But this was one of the most moving movies we've seen in quite a while. It's all about community. Lars is scarred by the death of his mother and can't stand to be touched by anyone, so he orders a plastic girlfriend for himself. The funny thing is that the whole town goes along with it and makes 'Bianca' feel very welcomed. You'll have to watch the movie to see how it turns out. It shows the transforming power of community in an amazing and hilarious way. Here's the trailer.

Spiritual Maturity

This past Sunday we heard a message from my friend T. J. Campo, senior pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian. His theme of spiritual maturity has been challenging and encouraging me all week. Here are my notes:
Spiritual maturity stems from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jesus showed that people can't get to God. God had to come to us.
Jesus' resurrection makes him more than a spiritual leader. It validates his claim to be God in the flesh.
Spiritual maturity is knowing what the Son of Man is doing. He is renewing all things--righting all wrongs.
Working for God is really cooperating with God in his renewing work.
There can be no spiritual maturity where there is no spiritual life.

Four incentives for spiritual maturity:
1) Remember my weakness when left to my own will power vs. grace.
2) See how Jesus kisses away our self-inflicted wounds.
"Your denials will not defeat my plan for you."
"It's not about your failures--it's about my grace."
3) Jesus Christ…

Nothing Seems to Be Happening

This week has tried my patience. I heard back from two more churches that I'm no longer on their list of candidates. So I wait and pray, but nothing seems to be happening. Then I read this from Elisabeth Elliot:
At times nothing seems to be happening. So it must be for the bird that sits on her nest. Things are apparently at a standstill. But the bird sits quietly, knowing that in the stillness something vital is going on, and in the proper time it will be shown. It takes faith and patience for the bird, and such faith and patience never seem to waver, day after day, night after night, as she bides the appointed time.

Restless and doubtful we wonder why we have nothing to show for our efforts, no visible evidence of progress. Let us remember the perfect egg--unchanged in its appearance from the day it is laid. But while the bird waits faithfully, doing the only thing she is required to do throughout those silent weeks, important things are taking place.

I wait for the Lord. My soul w…

I Have a Shelter

You can download for free one of my current favorite songs from Sovereign Grace's new album, Come Weary Saints. Each song on the recording has spoken deeply to Heather and I. Here are the lyrics from "I Have a Shelter" by Steve and Vicki Cook, and Bob Kauflin:

I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows

I have a shelter in the storm
When all my sins accuse me
Though justice charges me with guilt
Your grace will not refuse me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
Who bore my condemnation
I find my refuge in Your wounds
For there I find salvation

I have a shelter in the storm
When constant winds would break me
For in my weakness, I have learned
Your strength will not forsake me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
The One who bears my…

Hast Thou No Scar?

Amy Carmichael was an Irish missionary in India, who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She served in India for fifty-five years without furlough and authored many books about the missionary work there. One story of Carmichael's early life tells that as a child, she wished that she had blue eyes rather than brown. She often prayed that God would change her eye color and was disappointed when it never happened. As an adult, however, she realized that, because Indians have brown eyes, she would have had a much more difficult time gaining their acceptance if her eyes had been blue.
In 1931, Carmichael was badly injured in a fall, which left her bedridden much of the time until her death. She died in India in 1951 at the age of 83. She asked that no stone be put over her grave; instead, the children she had cared for put a bird bath over it with the single inscription "Amma", which means mother in the Tamil.
One of Amy's more well-known poems is called …

Rutherford's Letters

Samuel Rutherford is one of my favorite authors. He was a Scottish Presbyterian theologian and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. Rutherford's political book Lex, Rex (meaning "the law [and] the king" or "the law [is] king") was an explicit refutation of the doctrine of "Rex Lex" or "the king is the law." His argument against "Rex Lex" was based on Deuteronomy 17, and it supported the rule by law rather than rule by men, based on such concepts as the separation of powers and the covenant, a precursor to the social contract.
His devotional books are more widely known, including Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself and his Letters. Concerning his Letters, Charles Spurgeon wrote: "When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men." Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“…

Kingdom-oriented Prayers

My prayer-life needs work. Most of us, if we're honest, would say the same. I haven't met anyone who would say their prayer life needs no improvement. It helps to know that Christ is even now interceding on my behalf. He stands before the Father pleading my cause. If the Lord's prayer is to be our pattern, I should likewise be pleading Christ's cause to the Father. My most fervent times of prayer have been asking the Father to fulfill his promises to his Son. This type of prayer, of course, affects me, my loved ones and my circumstances. Spurgeon wrote of kingdom-oriented prayers in Morning and Evening:
Remember that the same Christ who tells us to say, "Give us this day our daily bread," had first given us this petition, "Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." Let not your prayers be all concerning your own sins, your own wants, your own imperfections, your own trials, but let them climb the starry lad…

I Will Accept You

Spurgeon's Morning and Evening are sent to me every day via email. This is tonight's devotion--a must read:
The merits of our great Redeemer are as sweet savour to the Most High. Whether we speak of the active or passive righteousness of Christ, there is an equal fragrance. There was a sweet savour in His active life by which He honoured the law of God, and made every precept to glitter like a precious jewel in the pure setting of His own person. Such, too, was His passive obedience, when He endured with unmurmuring submission, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, and at length sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane, gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked out the hair, and was fastened to the cruel wood, that He might suffer the wrath of God in our behalf. These two things are sweet before the Most High; and for the sake of His doing and His dying, His substitutionary sufferings and His vicarious obedience, the Lord our God accepts us. What a prec…

Semper Reformanda (Always Changing)

At the end of The Final Battle, the last of The Chronicles of Narnia, Eustace, Jill, Poggin and Tirian are urged to go further up and further in. This is seen as the great adventure awaiting those who are loyal to Aslan, the Christ figure in the story. But this journey doesn't start after this life is over. We are called to go further up and further in starting now. It's otherwise called growing up or maturing. This process isn't painless. It involves change and change never comes easy. Some of us hate it. Sue Cameron writes:
Remember what it was like being born? You don't recall the bright lights, the screaming? The whole process would be much nicer without the stage known as transition. It's the most intense, demanding and productive part. Hard? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. New life will not emerge without transition.
What's true during our initial entry into daylight continues as we mature: Times of transition are some of the most difficult and challenging peri…

Knowing God and Knowing Ourselves

Everyone needs something that keeps them going--a drive that presses them on. For some it is their families. For others it is their job. Still others have a hobby or love of sports that keeps them motivated. All these things have an important place in my life, but the greater motivation is described in the Bible in several ways: "Christ in you the hope of glory" "to know you and the power of the resurrection" "crucified in Christ...therefore Christ now lives in me" "you shall be my people and I will be your God." All of these Biblical phrases can be summed up by saying that my greatest motivation in life is knowing God. But to know God, I must know myself. And to know myself rightly I must know God. This is what Calvin says at the beginning of his Institutes. Blaise Pascal shows how Christ is central to this knowing God and knowing ourselves:

“Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness
makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness
without kno…