Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Serious Business

"Joy is the serious business of Heaven." --C.S. Lewis

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Incarnational Paradox

"The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God." --C.S. Lewis

Friday, December 26, 2008

So Complete a Salvation

"You shall call His name Jesus--for He shall save His people from their sins" Matthew 1:21

Our salvation from the love of sin is effected by Christ's taking up His abode in our hearts, "Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). This takes place at our regeneration.

Our salvation from the penalty of sin was secured by Christ's sufferings on the Cross where He endured the punishment due our iniquities. Herein is our justification.

Our salvation from the power of sin is obtained by the gracious operations of the Spirit, whom Christ sends to His people. This is accomplished during our practical sanctification.

Our salvation from the presence of sin will be completed at Christ's second advent, "We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like His own!" (Phil. 3:20, 21). And again we are told, "We know that when He shall appear--we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). This is thus consummated at our glorification.

Oh how great a salvation--a full and complete salvation. It is all of Christ, from beginning to end!
--Arthur Pink

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dangerously Right

The great English journalist, novelist, and wit, G.K. Chesterton once said, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” By that he did not mean that mediocrity was acceptable. By no means. He was a man whose entire life and career was a testimony to excellence.

Chesterton was surely among the brightest minds of the twentieth century—a prolific journalist, best-selling novelist, insightful poet, popular debater, astute literary critic, grassroots reformer, and profound humorist. Recognized by friend and foe alike as one of the most perspicacious, epigrammatic, and jocose prose stylists in the entire literary canon, he is today the most quoted writer in the English language besides William Shakespeare. His remarkable output of books—more than a hundred published in his lifetime and half again that many afterward—covered an astonishing array of subjects from economics, art, history, biography, and social criticism to poetry, detective stories, philosophy, travel, and religion. His most amazing feat was not merely his vast output or wide range but the consistency and clarity of his thought, his uncanny ability to tie everything together. In the heart of nearly every paragraph he wrote was a jaw-dropping aphorism or a mind-boggling paradox that left readers shaking their heads in bemusement and wonder.

Still, he insisted, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” What he meant was simply, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing.” If a thing is worth doing, but for the lack of resources; it is still worth doing. If a thing is worth doing, but for the lack of popular support; it is still worth doing. If a thing is worth doing, but for the lack of practical experience, or the lack of adequate facilities, or the lack of sufficient funds, or the lack of anything other material advantage; it is still worth doing. If a thing is worth doing, it is simply worth doing. No matter what.

Of course, there is one little problem with such a philosophy: it is bound to get you into trouble. And lots of it. Guaranteed.

Indeed, anyone who acts on principle is sure to attract criticism. Anyone who determines to follow a course of action is going to meet with opposition. It doesn’t matter what the course of action is and it doesn’t matter what the decisions are. Any course of action and every decision is liable to come under fire. People can only argue with a stated position. Critics can only rail against actual programs. Opponents cannot oppose nothing. In the same way that they cannot fight something with nothing, they cannot fight nothing with something.

That means that if you want to remain in everyone’s good graces you’ll have to make sure to do nothing whatsoever, decide nothing whatsoever, and stand for nothing whatsoever. To not do the thing worth doing is always safer and more popular.

Of course, it is also wrong.

As Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed, “Better faithful than famous. Honor before prominence.” Likewise, James A. Garfield claimed, “It is a greater honor to be right than to be president—or popular, for statesmanship consists rather in removing causes than in punishing or evading results—thus, it is the rarest of qualities.” Both men would have wholeheartedly agreed with Chesterton’s maxim. And as a result, both men were reviled. Indeed, both men were ultimately shot down by assassins—Garfield succumbed to his wounds while Roosevelt survived.

Doing the right thing is dangerous. It is bound to rankle the ire of some. It is bound to enrage others. It is bound to provoke a ferocious reaction. It always has. It always will.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Watchman for the "Mouth Gate"

"Do not speak evil against each other, brethren." James 4:11

That which the Scriptures forbid here, is the saying of anything, be it true or false, to the harm of another. God requires that our words should be governed by "the law of kindness" (Proverbs 31:26), and anything which would hurt or injure the reputation of another, is to be rigidly shunned. Whenever I cannot speak well of my brother or sister, I must say nothing at all. To speak evil of others, proceeds from ill will or malice--desiring that they should be made odious in the esteem of others.

It is devilish to take delight in exposing the faults of fellow-Christians, and stirring up prejudice and bitter feelings against them (Rev. 12:10). God requires that our words should agree with love--as well as with truth. Since Christians are brethren, the last thing they should be guilty of is defaming one another!

Except where the glory of God plainly requires it, and the good of that person demands it--we must refrain from all evil speaking of others. If we are duly occupied with and humbled over our own many faults--we shall have neither time nor inclination to dwell upon or publish those of others! If we properly heed the exhortation of Philippians 4:8, we shall cultivate the habit of admiring the graces in our brethren--instead of being like filthy flies, settling on their sores!

Well may we pray, "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord! Keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3
--Arthur Pink

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Losses and Crosses

"Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord's sending, and come to us with wise design." --C.H. Spurgeon

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ill Is No Ill

"It is impossible that any ill should happen to the man who is beloved of the Lord; the most crushing calamities can only shorten his journey and hasten him to his reward. Ill to him is no ill, but only good in a mysterious form. Losses enrich him, sickness is his medicine, reproach is his honour, death is his gain. No evil in the strict sense of the word can happen to him, for everything is overruled for good. Happy is he who is in such a case. He is secure where others are in peril, he lives where others die." --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 100:4

“Give thanks to the Father Who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:12

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His Name; make known among the nations what He has done. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:8,34


“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” --Ambrose of Milan

“It ought to be as habitual for us to thank as to ask.” --C. H. Spurgeon

“Be thankful, therefore, for the least benefit and thou shalt be worthy to receive greater.” --Thomas à Kempis

Monday, November 17, 2008

Faith in Adversity

"No flowers wear so lovely a blue as those which grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam so brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky; no water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity." --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Untried Faith

"Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators." --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Melting the Heart

"Though repentance is the act of man--yet it is the gift of God. It requires the same power to melt the heart--as to make it." --William Secker

Saturday, November 15, 2008

William Cowper

William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) was born on this day in Great Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire in 1731. His father was a chaplain to George II. Despite bouts of depression, he became a renowned poet and hymn-writer. With John Newton, he compiled two volumes of sacred texts--which included such hymns as There is a Fountain Filled With Blood, Lord, My Soul with Pleasure Springs, and O for a Closer Walk with God. All are wonderful expositions of the Gospel. I think my favorite though, is God Moves in a Mysterious Way:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Profitable Affliction

Sin is pleasant--but unprofitable. 
Affliction is unpleasant--but profitable. By affliction, the Lord separates the sin that He hates--from the soul that He loves. He sends affliction--to take the dirt of the world out of the hearts of His children! "Before I was afflicted I went astray--but now I keep Your word!" Psalm 119:67

As waters are purest, when they are in motion--so saints are generally holiest, when in affliction. Some Christians resemble those doltish children, who will learn their lessons--no longer than while the rod is on their backs! In the greatest affliction--the Lord has sealed the sweetest instruction, "It was good for me to be afflicted--so that I could learn Your statutes!" Psalm 119:71

Many Christians are not bettered by the judgments they see when they have bettered by the judgments they have felt. The gold is refined by being in the furnace! Likewise, with the Christian, "I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!" Isaiah 48:10
-- William Secker

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Kind of Outlier

“I’ve always been a kind of outlier between the practical and the pious. I have a liking for both. I can’t get people with both about me so either I have the pious that look down on practicality as a secular thing, or the practical that nauseate the piety” --Grace Chalmers

The World's Deadly Potion

"Flee from youthful lusts--and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace." 2 Timothy 2:22

Flee from youthful lusts and worldly delights. These bees carry honey in their mouths--but they have a sting in their tails! When this Jael brings forth her milk and her butter--then beware of the nail and the hammer! Death is in the pot--while you are tasting the soup!

The world always presents a deadly potion--in the gilded cup of worldly pleasure. If the cup is sinful--do not taste it; reason forbids you to taste known poison! The fish is caught upon the hook--by leaping at the bait! Sin is like a river, which begins in a quiet spring--but ends in a tumultuous sea.
--William Secker

Monday, November 10, 2008


In the world, forgiveness is the end of a process. In the church, it is the beginning of a process.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Oh, For Such

"Prayer should be the breath of our breathing, the thought of our thinking, the soul of our feeling, the life of our living, the sound of our hearing, and the growth of our growing. Prayer is length without end, width without bounds, height without top, and depth without bottom; illimitable in its breadth, exhaustless in height, fathomless in depths, and infinite in extension. Oh, for determined men and women who will rise early and really burn for God. Oh for a faith that will sweep into heaven with the early dawning of morning and have ships from a shoreless sea loaded in the soul's harbor ere the ordinary laborer has knocked the dew from the scythe or the lackluster has turned from his pallet of straw to spread nature's treasures of fruit before the early buyers. Oh, for such." --Homer W. Hodge

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Knowing God

"What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the 'eternal life' that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God. What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives Him most pleasure? Knowledge of Himself." --J.I. Packer

Grace Abounding

"Where sin abounded--grace did much more abound!" Romans 5:20

We have one hard lesson to learn, that is--the evil of our own heart. We know something of it--but it is needful that we should know more; for the more we know of ourselves--the more we shall prize and love Jesus and His salvation. The more we know Him--the better we will trust Him. The more we trust Him--the better we will love Him. The more we love Him--the better we will serve Him. This is God's way. We are not called to buy--but to beg; not to be strong in ourselves--but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. He is teaching us these things, and I trust he will teach us to the end.

Do not be surprised to find us poor, helpless, and vile. All whom God favors and teaches--will find themselves so. The more grace increases, the more we shall see to abase us in our own eyes!

What we find in ourselves by daily experience, will humble us--but not discourage us. For if our Physician is almighty--our disease cannot be desperate. Our sins are many--but His mercies are more. Our sins are great--but His righteousness is greater. When our sins prevail, remember that we have an Advocate with the Father, who is able to pity, to pardon, and to save to the uttermost! Think of the names and relations which Jesus bears to us. Does He not call Himself--a Savior, a Shepherd, a Friend, and a Husband? Has He not made known unto us His love, His atoning sacrifice, His righteousness, His promises, His power, and His grace--and all for our encouragement? It is better to be admiring the compassion and fullness of grace which is in our Savior--than to dwell and pore too much upon our own poverty and vileness.

Remember that He has loved us with an everlasting love--and therefore in loving-kindness has drawn us to Himself. He will surely accomplish that which He has begun. Nothing which can be named or thought of--shall ever be able to separate us from Him! This persuasion will give us strength for the battle! This is the shield which will quench the fiery darts of Satan! This is the helmet which the enemy cannot pierce! We may be strong, therefore--not in ourselves--but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Remember, the growth of a believer is not like a mushroom--but like an oak, which increases slowly indeed--but surely. Many suns, showers, and frosts, pass upon it before it comes to perfection. And in winter, when it seems to be dead--it is gathering strength at the root. We must be humble, watchful, and diligent in the means, and endeavor to look through all, and fix our eyes upon Jesus--and all shall be well.

--John Newton

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Food to Our Souls

"I have met many preachers who have appeared to be rather more wise than warm, rather more positive than humble, rather more faultfinding than lively, and rather more disposed to talk of speculations than experience. However, let us give ourselves to the study of the Word, and to prayer; and may the great Teacher make every Scriptural truth food to our souls." --John Newton

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jesus Reigns

"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, rules and reigns!" Revelation 19:6

He who once bore our sins, and carried our sorrows--is seated upon a throne of glory, and exercises all power in heaven and on earth! Thrones, principalities, and powers, bow before Him! His providence pervades and manages the whole universe, and is as minutely attentive to every part--as if there were only a single object in His view! From the tallest archangel--to the smallest ant or fly--all depend on Him for their being, their preservation, and their powers. He directs the sparrows where to build their nests, and where to find their food. He over-rules the rise and fall of nations; and bends, with an invincible power, and unerring wisdom--all events to His sovereign will! So that while many intend other outcomes--their designs all concur and coincide in the accomplishment of His holy will.

Jesus restrains with an almighty hand--the still more formidable efforts of the powers of darkness. Satan with all his hosts cannot exert their malice a hair's-breadth beyond the limits of His permission!

This omnipotent Savior is the head and husband of His believing people. How happy are those whom it is His good pleasure to bless! How safe are those whom He has engaged to protect! How honored and privileged are those to whom He is pleased to manifest Himself, and whom He enables and warrants to claim Him as their Friend and eternal potion!

Having redeemed them by His own blood--He esteems them as His treasure, His jewels; and protects them as the pupil of His eye! They shall not lack any good thing. They need not fear. His unerring eye is upon them in every situation; His ear is always open to their prayers; and His everlasting arms are under them for their sure support! On earth He guides their steps, controls their enemies, and directs all His dispensations for their spiritual good. While in heaven He is pleading their cause, preparing a glorious home for them, and communicating down to them reviving foretastes of the glory which they shall shortly enter into!
--John Newton

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Contentment of Good King Wenceslas

"Contentment can be no passive thing. It is not mere acceptation, rather it is the healthy embrace of both the duty to serve on the one hand and the joy to receive providence on the other. Contentment is not self-satisfaction; it is selflessness." --Duke Wenceslas of Bohemia

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Disputes and Controversies

"I am weary of theological controversies and disputes, and desire to choose for myself, and to point out to others, Mary's part--to sit at Jesus' feet, and to hear His words. I cannot, I must not, I dare not--be contentious! Only, as a witness for God, I am ready to bear my simple testimony to what I have known of His truth, whenever I am properly called to it." --John Newton

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Free Grace of God

"By the grace of God I am what I am!" 
 1 Corinthians 15:10

”The true Christian is sensible and mindful of 
indwelling sin. He confesses that in everything 
he comes exceedingly short, and that his best 
services are not only defective--but defiled. He 
accounts himself as an unprofitable servant--and 
is abased in his own eyes. He knows that all that 
distinguishes him from the vilest of men--is the 
free grace of God!”

“He derives all his hope and comfort, as well as his 
strength--from Jesus, whom he has known, received 
and loved, and to whom he has committed his soul. 
He renounces all confidence in the flesh, and esteems 
all things as loss--compared to the surpassing greatness 
of knowing Jesus Christ his Lord, for whose sake he has 
lost all things--considering them rubbish, that he may
gain Christ!”
--John Newton

Monday, October 20, 2008

No Surprises

"This poor fallen world in which we live oft appears to us as a labyrinth, a maze, a puzzle, full of unexpected surprises, deep disappointments, sudden setbacks, and paralyzing uncertainties. Yet, it is so only from our temporal perspective. With God, and for the purposes of His Kingdom and His Covenant, there are no surprises. He is Lord. And He is Lord over all. Therefore, I may freely yield my all and all, regardless of my apparent circumstances." Jan Amos Comenius

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Richard Steele on Victory

"Read and think; read and pray; then live by His grace."

Richard Steele on Forgiveness

"It is the hypocrites on all sides that make our wounds incurable. Surely where the mind is sound and the heart sincere in the main, grains of allowance should be granted for some errors of the understanding and failings in the conduct--lest we deal with others as we would be loath to be dealt with either by God or men."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Christ, Our All in All

"But from Him you are in Christ Jesus--who for us became wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." 1 Corinthians 1:30

"Wisdom outside of Christ--is damning folly! Righteousness outside of Christ--is guilt and condemnation! Sanctification outside of Christ--is filth and sin! Redemption outside of Christ--is bondage and slavery!"
--Robert Traill

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Calvin on Contentious Critics

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1

"James here refers not to the men who perform public duties in the Church, but to those who usurp to themselves the right to pass censure on others. These are the critics, who like to be regarded as the shepherds of morality. They turn the fault-finding look of superiority upon others. Alas, it is an innate condition of the human make-up, to make one’s reputation by scoring off other folk.

Note that James is not discouraging those fraternal admonitions, which the Spirit so much and so often presses upon us, but is condemning an excessive passion, which springs from self-seeking and pride, whereby one man inveighs against his fellow, speaks against him, sneers at him, snaps and rummages about to find something to use to his harm--be it but hearsay.

It is usually the case that persistent critics of this sort make wild claims in hunting down the faults of others. Such is the immoderate and arrogant behavior from which James bids us to turn back.

Such critics, after all, give themselves a hard standard when they force everyone’s words and deeds to the utmost rigor; they do not find pardon, who cannot bear to pardon another.”
--John Calvin

Old Yet New

“Dogmatics is and ought to be divine thought totally entered into and absorbed in our human consciousness, freely and independently expressed in our language, in its essence the fruit of centuries, in its form contemporary.” --Herman Bavinck

Monday, October 6, 2008

Adorning the Gospel

"Adorn the doctrine of God
 our Savior in all things." Titus 2:10

“Our duty is to adorn the gospel by our lives. 
We are thus to make the gospel attractive and lovely in the eyes of beholders. When there is a beautiful harmony and a lovely proportion between Christ’s doctrine and our practice--then do we walk suitably to the Lord of glory.” --John Flavel

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The World's Theology

"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." Romans 1:22

”The world's theology is easy to define. It is the view that human beings are basically good, that no one is really lost, that belief in Jesus Christ is not necessary for salvation.” --James Montgomery Boice

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Parish Vision

He Must Increase--But I Must Decrease

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men--to be seen by them." Matthew 6:1

One of the most difficult lessons to learn, is self-effacement. It seems to us, that we have a right to put our name on every piece of work we do, and to get full honor for it. We like people to know of the good and virtuous things we do--the kindnesses we show, our gifts, our sacrifices, and our services. Self always dies hard.

John the Baptist, in his life and ministry, illustrated the grace of self-effacement as few other men have done. When he first began to preach, great throngs flocked about him. But when Jesus came--the crowds melted away from John and went after the new preacher. John rejoiced in seeing Jesus thus honored, though at the cost of his own fame. "He must increase--but I must decrease" was his answer, when his disciples grew envious of the Galilean Rabbi. He understood that the highest use to which his life could be put--was to add to the honor of his Master. He was glad to be unnoticed, to have his own name extinguished, that the glory of Christ might shine the more brightly.

Renunciation of self should characterize all who follow Christ. They should seek only to get recognition for Him, willing for themselves to be unrecognized and unhonored. Yet not always are the Master's friends content to be nothing--that the praise may be given to Christ. Too often do they insist upon having their own name written in bold letters on their work. It would be the mark of a higher degree in spiritual attainment, if we were willing to be anonymous in every service for Christ.

Not only should we do all our work for the divine approval--but we should not be seeking to get our own name on what we do. If it is done solely for the honor of Christ, why should we be solicitous to have everybody know our part in it? Should it not be honor enough--to have Christ accept our work and use it?

Only what we do for the honor of Christ--is really gold and silver and precious stones in the spiritual building; all the rest is but wood, hay, and stubble, which cannot abide.

Are we willing to do deeds of service and love, and then keep absolutely quiet about what we have done? Is there not among us, too much of the spirit which our Lord so severely condemned--sounding a trumpet before us--when we are going out to do some deed of charity, some act of kindness?

"Everything they do--is done for men to see." Matthew 23:5
--J.R. Miller

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The School of Suffering

"It was good for me to be afflicted--so that I could learn Your statutes." Psalm 119:71

Most of us need the chastening of affliction. 
Pain is wonderful revealer. It teaches us many 
things we never could have known, if we had 
not been called to endure it. It opens windows 
through which we see, as we never saw before--the beautiful things of God's love. 

Many of the finest things in character, are the 
fruits of pain. Many a Christian enters trial--cold, 
worldly, unspiritual--and emerges from the 
experience a little later, with spirit softened, 
mellowed, and spiritually enriched. 

Sanctified afflictions soften the harshness and 
sharpness of one's character. They consume the 
dross of selfishness and worldliness. They humble 
pride. They temper carnal ambitions. They quell 
fierce passions. They show to us the evil of our 
own heart, revealing our weaknesses, faults, and 
blemishes--and making us aware of our spiritual 
danger. They discipline the wayward spirit.

Sorrow draws its sharp ploughshare through the 
heart, cutting deep and long furrows--and the 
heavenly Sower follows with the seeds of godly 
virtues. Then by and by, fruits of righteousness 
spring up. 

Sorrow has a tenderizing influence. It makes us 
gentle and kindly toward each other.

In no other 
school, do our hearts learn the lessons of patience, 
tolerance, and forbearance so quickly--as in the 
school of suffering.
J.R. Miller

Spurgeon: This Morning's Exhortation

It is not left to our own option whether we shall praise God or not. Praise is God’s most righteous due, and every Christian, as the recipient of his grace, is bound to praise God from day to day. It is true we have no authoritative rubric for daily praise; we have no commandment prescribing certain hours of song and thanksgiving: but the law written upon the heart teaches us that it is right to praise God; and the unwritten mandate comes to us with as much force as if it had been recorded on the tables of stone, or handed to us from the top of thundering Sinai.

Yes, it is the Christian’s duty to praise God. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute obligation of his life. Think not ye who are always mourning, that ye are guiltless in this respect, or imagine that ye can discharge your duty to your God without songs of praise. You are bound by the bonds of his love to bless his name so long as you live, and his praise should continually be in your mouth, for you are blessed, in order that you may bless him; “this people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise”; and if you do not praise God, you are not bringing forth the fruit which he, as the Divine Husbandman, has a right to expect at your hands.

Let not your harp then hang upon the willows, but take it down, and strive, with a grateful heart, to bring forth its loudest music. Arise and chant his praise. With every morning’s dawn, lift up your notes of thanksgiving, and let every setting sun be followed with your song. Girdle the earth with your praises; surround it with an atmosphere of melody, and God himself will hearken from heaven and accept your music:

“E'en so I love thee, and will love,
And in thy praise will sing,
Because thou art my loving God,
And my redeeming King.”

Psalm 55

Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”

Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues; for I see violence and strife in the city. Day and night they go around it on its walls, and iniquity and trouble are within it; ruin is in its midst; oppression and fraud do not depart from its marketplace. For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God's house we walked in the throng. Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.

But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. God will give ear and humble them,
he who is enthroned from of old, Selah because they do not change and do not fear God.

My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. But you, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Are You Living For?

What are you living for? Most, perhaps, live to enjoy present things as 
much as possible--and to escape hell at last. Have your ideas, your hopes, your aspirings--ever 
risen beyond these two things?

Are you living only for SELF? Is that all? What a poor object--what a 
base and narrow aim! What an insignificant, empty, hollow being is yours--wasted, shriveled, useless! "My purpose is to give life in all its fullness" John 10:10.

What stands between you and that life? It is SELF! What separates you from God? It is SELF--your love of self, your admiration of self, your confidence in self. It is SELF which is blinding 
and bewildering you! What is it that is dragging you down, and making you cleave to the dust? It is SELF! And what is it that will before long be your everlasting ruin? It is SELF!

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wants 
to come with Me--he must deny himself, take up 
his cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).
Horatius Bonar

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

True Progressivism

"The antiquary of tradition is the preserver of all that is right and good and true. It is the wisest and most progressive of all the human impulses—for it guarantees continuity for the uncertain days of the future. Let every man and woman warmly embrace the lessons of the past." Calvin Coolidge

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Real Change

“The Holy Spirit’s office, as defined by the Bible itself, is not to make known to us any truths which are not contained in the Bible; but to make clear to our understandings the truths which are contained in it that we might realize them experientially. The Word of God is called the sword of the Spirit. It is the instrument by which the Spirit worketh. and He worketh anew at all times and all places consistent with His Revelation. Thus, the Spirit is always provoking us toward change, growth, and the fulfillment of calling. Anything less and anything more is surely not of the Spirit.” Thomas Chalmers


"Therefore if any man is in Christ--he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

"How comprehensive the words--how vast the change! The effect produced by the new birth is radical and thorough: The HEART, once so hateful and hating--has now become a fountain of sweet waters, transmitting its pure and holy streams throughout the whole soul, changing the entire conduct of the individual, and working out, in its degree, a universal holiness of his whole being. The WORLD he once loved--is now as a crucified thing. The PLEASURES he once indulged--have lost their charm. The SINS he once committed--are now loathed and forsaken. The SOCIETY he once enjoyed--no longer attracts or pleases.

The new birth will be manifest in our Christ-like temper and mind and spirit . . . the moroseness and churlishness, the pride and selfishness, the worldliness and frivolity, the levity and man-pleasing, which cropped up so luxuriantly from the soil of our unsanctified heart--will now, in a great measure be supplanted by the fruits of righteousness springing from a heart which has been changed, sanctified, and occupied by the Spirit of God. The walk and conversation of a renewed man, will be the outward and visible reflection of an inward and invisible grace.

As a parent, and as a child, as a brother, a sister--so let your light shine, so let your life evidence its reality, so let your religion be visible in its lowliness and gentleness, its lovable and loving spirit, as to command from all who see it, the admiring exclamation, "Behold! he is a new creature; old things have passed away; all things are become new!"
Octavius Winslow, 1864

Monday, September 15, 2008

Growing Into Christ's Image

“We should get it settled in our minds, that the purpose of God for our life on earth, is to have us grow into Christ's image. We are not in this world merely to accomplish a certain amount of work--but to be fashioned into strength and beauty of character. If we would always remember this, we would not be perplexed so often by the mysteries of our lives. If joy is ours--it is to make us better and a greater blessing to others. If sorrow is ours--it is to purify us and bring out some line of Christ's image in us more clearly. If our hopes are disappointed--it is because God has some better things for us, than that which we so earnestly desired. If we are called to endure pain--it is because the best in us can be called out only by pain. If bereavement comes and we are left without the strong human arm we have leaned upon heretofore--it is because there are elements of strength in our life, which never could be developed unless the human supports were taken away. If our burdens are heavy--it is because we grow best under burdens. If we are wronged by others--it is to teach us better, the great lessons of patience and sweet temper. If our circumstances are uncongenial and our condition hard--it is that we may be disciplined into self-control, and may learn to be content in whatever state we are in. The Master is always teaching us new lessons, making us into the beauty of the pattern He has set for us, and preparing us for greater usefulness and better service.” J.R. Miller

God's Attributes

“Of all the essential characteristics of God’s being and nature, the greatest are His aseity, His simplicity, and His immutability. His aseity is His self-existence or pure-existence--thus, God identifies Himself to Moses as the “I Am that I Am.” His simplicty is His indivisibility--since God is pure existence, pure actuality with no potentiality, He is necessarily simple and indivisible. God's indivisibility follows also from His immutability, for if God could be divided, He could change--but God is unchangeable by nature. His necessity is His non-contingency--God is by nature an absolutely necessary Being. His immutability is His unchangeability--God cannot acquire anything new, since He could not be better or more complete; therefore, God cannot change. This reality immediately leads to each of the other attributes--His eternality, His unity, His infinity, and His morality--provoking us in heart and mind to exclaim with joy, how great is our God; how altogether-other is He.” Abraham Kuyper

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Past and Future

"Studying the past is merely one of the ways to wisely approach the future--it's just so much more reliable than all the other ways." Archie Roosevelt

Overheard at Starbucks

“How do you protest when a Unitarian family moves into your neighborhood? You burn a question mark on their lawn.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Need for Parish

The nation's mega-church movement may actually be facing mega-trouble says a new report from USA Today. Attendance is down, scrutiny is up, costs are skyrocketing, and spiritual effectiveness is plummeting. As my friend, Bing Davis, has said, "More than ever, we need parish, i.e. a place to make real, long-lasting, kingdom-oriented relationships, not only with one another but with our neighbors, whoever they may be."

Building Parish

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Forward and Back

"People will not look forward to posterity who will not look backward to their ancestors." Edmund Burke

Thursday, September 4, 2008


James R. White, author of The Forgotten Trinity sagely observes, "Entire sections of the modern church are functionally non-Trinitarian. I did not say anti-Trinitarian, for that would involve a positive denial of the doctrine. Instead, while maintaining the confession that the Trinity is true, many today function as if the Trinity did not exist. It has no impact on their theology, their proclamation, prayer, or worship."

Once upon a time, long ago and far away, nearly all Evangelical and Protestant churches sang the Doxology every Sunday. Most also sang the Gloria Patri and recited either the Apostles or Nicene creed. Not any more. In our rush to be relevant, contemporary, and accessible we have all but abandoned our trinitarian foundations--to our great peril. We have become functional Unitarians.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Foundations for Parish Life in Africa

Friedrich Ramseyer and his wife Victoria, departed to become missionaries at Kumassi on the West Coast of Africa on this day in 1869. Because their preaching was perceived to be a threat to the Narideggi chieftain, Prempeh, and his hoard of witchdoctors, the couple was kidnapped after only a few months and then held in captivity for four years. Finally rescued in 1874, the Ramseyers left Africa to recover in England.

For the next twenty-two years, the Ramseyers prayed that God would provide a way for them to return. Meanwhile the denizens of Kumassi groaned under the oppression of their bloodthirsty king. Prempeh made a practice of killing a slave each night following a lavish feast, solely for his own perverse entertainment. Once a year during a "festival of yams," he immolated six hundred of his subjects in a grisly celebration. He had even gone so far as to slaughter four hundred virgins in order to give the walls of his palace a rich red color by mixing their innocent blood with the mortar.

Yielding to the Ramseyers' incessant lobbying and cajoling, the British imperial forces returned to the region in 1895. They immediately deposed the tyrant-king. Soon after, the residents of Kumassi welcomed the missionaries back as long-departed friends, where they worked for another twelve years restructuring the Narideggi society, establishing a foundation for covenant community, and developing an indigenous law code that would, at long last, fully respect the sanctity of life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Heaven or Hell?

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Monday, August 25, 2008

A New Beginning

On this day in 1560, Presbyterianism was formally recognized in Scotland.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

A person travels the world over
In search of what he needs
And returns home to find it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Chick-Fil-A-Church

Franchising the church? According to a deeply troubling article in the current online issue of Slate, franchising remote video-feed sites is the latest and greatest idea to emerge from the mega-church movement. Oy veh!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Humbling Difference

"There is an amazing and humbling difference between the conviction we have of the beauty and excellence of Divine truths--and our actual experience of their power ruling in our hearts. We are poor inconsistent creatures, and find we can do nothing as we ought--but only as we are enabled by God's grace." John Newton

Friday, August 8, 2008


“Amusement must never become an end in life. It
must always be a means, a help on the way--just 
as sleep is, just as rest is. An hour's amusement, 
should be to you, just what a night's sleeping is. It 
should make you stronger, clearer-headed, braver, 
calmer-souled, more hopeful, more earnest, more 
enthusiastic--inspiring you for godly living. Anything which leaves a taint of impurity upon the 
life, or starts a thought of impurity in the mind, 
anything which degrades or debases the soul--is 
an unfit and unworthy amusement for a Christian. 
Christian amusements must be such, as do not 
harm spiritual life; they must be means of grace.

’Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever 
you do--do everything for God's glory!’” J.R. Miller

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why We're Losing the Julies of this World

Julie R. Neidlinger, editor of the Lone Prairie online magazine has nailed it. In her article, Why I Walked Out of Church she describes the disaffection so many young Americans have with the modern Evangelical church, "the coffee bars in the foyer, the casual attire, the buzz words, all the programs and activities imaginable, the big-screen video monitors, the contemporary music," all of it.

She confides that a recent World Magazine cover story about "NextGen Worship" actually "inspired a strong desire to smack the pastors depicted in the article and in the photos. The cover photo alone enraged me, with the pastor wearing baggy jeans and untucked button-up shirt with flip flops and an ear microphone. Later, the same guy is shown out front of a church holding a paper Starbucks-like cup of coffee. Could he try any harder to be lame? I'd have liked to have taken that cup of coffee and dumped it on his head. But it's nothing personal against that guy or his beliefs or sincerity. It's an anger at something else."

She goes on to say, "I'm not going to be one of those starched-collar Christians who, based on personal preference, say that this is a sign we're going to hell in a handbasket and that all things are wrong unless they are done as they were with the Puritans. What I'm saying is that I can't stand the phoniness, or trendiness, or sameness that the church seems to catch onto at the tail end, not even aware of how lame it is. The fact that this is not only actually successful in appealing to people, but attracts them, also disgusts me. It makes me want to throw up. It's buying into some kind of lie or substitution of cool culture as being relevant when it isn't."

Then she says, "If I see another cool Bible college student or pastoral studies major wearing the hemp choker necklace, flip-flops, open-at-the-collar shirt that's untucked, and baggy jeans, saying words like dude and sweet, I will kick their ass. It's like the Christian version of annoying hipsters, an overly-studied and homogenized with-it faux coolness."

Amen and amen. I agree 100%.

What she longs for, she says, is her "home town church" filled with "ordinary, uncool people" who actually "know each other." In other words, as my friend Bing Davis has said, "what she is longing for is parish."

Neidlinger's article is a classic. But her longing is even more classic. May God bring that same realization to modern Evangelicals--before it is too late and all the "Julies" of this land "walk out of church" too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Prayer without Ceasing

“Direct my footsteps according to Your Word; let no sin rule over me." Psalm 119:133

According to J.R. Miller in his classic devotional work, In Green Pastures, this prayer from the Psalmist truly ought to always be on our lips. 
Indeed, he said, “We should get our direction from God, not once in our life only, when we first give ourselves to Him; not at the opening of each day only, as we go forth 
to the day's task; not merely at the beginning of each new piece of work or of each fresh task--but every moment, for each step. That is what walking with God means. 

We may make this so real, that we shall look up 
into God's face continually, asking: What next, dear Lord? What shall I do now? Which course 
shall I take today? How shall I do this duty? 

If we can but have God's guidance and help for 
the little short steps--we need not fear for the 
long miles--the great stretches of road. If each step is of His directing--the long miles will be 
paths of His choosing.”

Therefore, let us all make this our regular, constant, insistent, unceasing supplication: "Direct my footsteps according to Your Word;
let no sin rule over me."

Thursday, July 31, 2008


"Attachment to the soil is an inescapable aspect of the healthy psyche. Uprootedness is a kind of psychosis—sadly, rampant in our community-less society." Martin Lembec

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Gargantuanism Epiphany

The “parish life” dictum of Thomas Chalmers—“Gargantuanism and the care of souls cannot co-exist"—was borne out recently by no less an authority on gargantuanism than Bill Hybels and his Willow Creek franchise.

Last year, the church released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry. Essentially, they wanted to know what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not. The results were published in a book, Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking,” and “mind blowing.”

According to Hawkins, “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This has been Willow’s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs and activities. People participate in these programs and activities. The outcome is supposed to be spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”

Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that, “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”

Speaking at the church’s Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings of the shocking study, “Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.”

Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, it is obvious why Hybels called this research “the wake up call” of his adult life. What’s not so obvious is why the rest of the church has failed to share in his gargantuanism epiphany.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yearning for the Transcendent

Ed Stetzer, Director of LifeWay Research, was surprised by a recent survey which found that unchurched people between the ages of 25 and 34 were nearly twice as likely as those older than 70 to prefer ornate, Gothic church exteriors: "We expected they'd choose the more contemporary options, but they were clearly more drawn to the aesthetics of the Gothic building that the run-of-the-mill, modern church building."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pastoral Letters

There is an excellent review of three recent collections of letters by stalwarts of the faith at The Shepherd's Scrapbook. All published by Banner of Truth in the last two years or so, the works include The Letters of John Newton, The Letters of Thomas Chalmers, and The monumental , Letters of Samuel Rutherford.

I have found all three of these handsome volumes enormously helpful. Indeed, I have returned to them again and again for refreshment, Gospel hope, and pastoral vision. Despite the fact that at times the prose in these letters is far richer than that to which we have become accustomed, I highly recommend them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Multiply or Divide

In his final sermon, Chalmers exhorted his hearers in London, “The Church of Jesus Christ will either multiply or divide.” This is as true of a national church as it is of a local church. The Gospel will not remain still. Therefore, if a church does not go forth to the ends of the earth, aggressively pursuing the task of multiplication, the exponential growth of the Kingdom, rather than the arithmetical growth of the Kingdom, it will surely divide. And the splitting and re-splitting and re-re-splitting of our Reformed communions is sad testimony of this truth.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Problematical Indifference

“There is not, of course, any difficulty in explaining the indifference of the modern secular mind to Chalmers, neither is it surprising that churchmen of liberal persuasion should lack enthusiasm for his memory. What is more problematical is the question why evangelical Christianity itself should have made so little of him these many years.” Iain Murray

Friday, July 11, 2008

Geographies of Nowhere

“If the church of Jesus Christ does not become central to the life of growing cities then the cities will become mere geographies of no singular place.” Thomas Chalmers

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Renovation of the World

“Jesus Christ dies, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. This is a truth, which, when all the world shall retrieve it, all the world will be renovated.” Thomas Chalmers

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Induction and Deduction

“It is not possible to maintain orthodoxy through induction. Instead, orthodoxy must naturally be deductive--rooted in the rightful elucidation of the Holy Scriptures. Herein is the first principle of ecclesiology.” Thomas Chalmers

A Double Portion

“To know Chalmers is to love him, and to wish to be like him. Those to whom the cause of Christ is dear can but seek that a double portion of his spirit should be upon them.” Adam Philip, Foreword to Thomas Chalmers: Apostle of Union

Monday, July 7, 2008

True and Permanent Rest

“On the system of ‘Do this and live,’ no peace, and even no true obedience, can ever be attained. It is ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ When this belief enters the heart, joy and confidence enter along with it. The righteousness we try to work out for ourselves eludes our impotent grasp, and never can a soul arrive at a true and permanent rest in the pursuit of this object.” Thomas Chalmers

Large Vision

“Regardless of how large, your vision is too small.” Thomas Chalmers

New College Edinburgh

Ply the Truth

“It is only the gospel of Jesus Christ which has the power to deter the effects of the looming Modern disaster, and all of the ministrations of the state will only portend to the undoing of the family, the rescinding of initiative, and recoiling from human dignity. If we wish slaves, then let the government do its work, but if we wish men, then let us ply the truth.” Thomas Chalmers

No Singular Place

“If the church of Jesus Christ does not become central to the life of growing cities then the cities will become mere geographies of no singular place.” Thomas Chalmers

By Dint of Steady Labor

“It is by dint of steady labor—it is by giving enough of application to the work, and having enough of the time for the doing of it—it is by regular painstaking and the constant assiduities—it is by these, and not by any process of legerdemain, that we secure the strength and staple of real excellence.” Thomas Chalmers

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Pastoral Husbandry

"Now, in our large towns, we have the ministerial service without the pastoral; and we all know what a loose and precarious connection between ministers and people this has given rise to. It forms a most imperfect spiritual husbandry—just as much so as if in natural husbandry the whole of the agriculture were confined to the mere casting of the seed upon the ground, without any preparation of the soil before, without any inquiry or care about the progress of the vegetation afterwards, although the rains of heaven, which easily might have been drained off, should destroy the rising crop, or the fowls of the air, which might have been easily scared away, should devour it. The scanty and uncertain produce from such mere scatterings as these, will represent the scanty and uncertain produce of all our city sermons. There has been little or no preparation of the soil for them beforehand, in a rising generation trained by religious schooling, or taught in the bosom of well ordered families; and no surveillance, whether by the pastor or his associates, afterwards, as in those good old days when it was not thought enough that ministers should preach, but that elders should “seek the fruit of it among the people,”—armed with authority enough to put down those moral nuisances which multiply now without check and without control on every side of us."

"There is a wide, and, under the present system of things, an impracticable gulf of separation between the clergyman and the families of his territorial charge; and even should his church, Sabbath after Sabbath be filled to an overflow by people not his own, he, on the one hand, can take no adequate weekly cognizance of them—nor, on the other, can he do aught to stem or make head against that practical heathenism, which is taking deeper root, and every year becoming more inveterate and hopeless within the limits of his own peculiar vineyard. Let the patronage be as righteous as it can, there is not a city-population what will not rapidly degenerate under the regimen of well-served pulpits and ill-served parishes. The word that is sounded forth may be carried far and wide, as by the four winds of heaven, and even descending here and there upon individual consciences, may cause that the town shall not be spread, but, if I may use the expression, be spotted with Christianity; just as in savage islands, where, with the distribution, such as it is, of the vegetable family under the random play and operation of nature’s elements still we might behold occasional tufts of richest luxuriance, or surpassing loveliness and verdure—yet the island after all is a howling desert; the town after all is a moral wilderness."
Thomas Chalmers

Friday, July 4, 2008

Preaching Above the Roar

“Gospel preaching always requires great courage, both to execute and to tolerate, for it must ever needs be a running toward a lion’s roar.” Thomas Chalmers