Friday, August 31, 2012

He Smiles, and My Comforts Abound

A Sovereign Protector I Have
Augustus Toplady, 1740-1778

A sovereign protector I have,
Unseen, yet forever at hand,
Unchangeably faithful to save,
Almighty to rule and command.
He smiles, and my comforts abound;
His grace as the dew shall descend;
And walls of salvation surround
The soul He delights to defend.

Inspirer and hearer of prayer,
Thou shepherd and guardian of Thine,
My all to Thy covenant care
I sleeping and waking resign.
If Thou art my shield and my sun,
The night is no darkness to me;
And fast as my moments roll on,
They bring me but nearer to Thee.

Kind author, and ground of my hope,
Thee, Thee, for my God I avow;
My glad Ebenezer set up,
And own Thou hast helped me till now.
I muse on the years that are past,
Wherein my defense Thou hast proved;
Nor wilt Thou relinquish at last
A sinner so signally loved!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Seeing More and More of My Own Insufficiency

An excerpt of a letter from William Carey to his father, which left me saying, "I can relate!": 
I see more and more of my own insufficiency for the great work I am called to. The truths of God are amazingly profound, the souls of men infinitely precious, my own ignorance very great. . . .

--Faithful Witness: The Life and Mission of William Carey, Timothy George

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Soul Shall Glow with Gratitude

The Evil Heart Made New
Augustus Toplady, 1740-1778

Astonished and distressed,
I turn mine eyes within:
My heart with loads of guilt oppressed,
The seat of every sin.

What crowds of evil thoughts,
What vile affections there!
Distrust, presumption, artful guile,
Pride, envy, slavish fear.

Almighty King of saints,
These tyrant lusts subdue;
Expel the darkness of my mind,
And all my pow'rs renew.

This done, my cheerful voice
Shall loud hosannas raise;
My soul shall glow with gratitude,
My lips proclaim Thy praise.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shepherds Feeding the Sheep or Clowns Entertaining the Goats?

Charles Spurgeon spoke these prophetic words in the 1800s.  It's sad how true they have become in our own day.
A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Word He Has Spoken Shall Surely Prevail

Begone Unbelief
John Newton, 1725-1807

Begone unbelief, my Savior is near,
And for my relief will surely appear:
By prayer let me wrestle, and He wilt perform,
With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.

Though dark be my way, since He is my Guide,
’Tis mine to obey, ’tis His to provide;
Though cisterns be broken, and creatures all fail,
The Word He has spoken shall surely prevail.

His love in time past forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink;
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,
Confirms His good pleasure to help me quite through.

Determined to save, He watched o’er my path,
When Satan’s blind slave, I sported with death;
And can He have taught me to trust in His Name,
And thus far have brought me, to put me to shame?

Why should I complain of want or distress,
Temptation or pain? He told me no less:
The heirs of salvation, I know from His Word,
Through much tribulation must follow their Lord.

How bitter that cup, no heart can conceive,
Which He drank quite up, that sinners might live!
His way was much rougher, and darker than mine;
Did Jesus thus suffer, and shall I repine?

Since all that I meet shall work for my good,
The bitter is sweet, the medicine is food;
Though painful at present, wilt cease before long,
And then, O! how pleasant, the conqueror’s song!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lamenting a Human Loss

I read Steve Baarendse's Why I'm Not on Facebook: An Open Letter to Christian College Students in Touchstone a few months ago and found it enjoyable and thought-provoking, though I admit I'm neither a Facebook user nor a college student.  Still, I thought it was a fair and reasonable critique of social media, without being completely negative or dismissive.

So now that Touchstone has made it available online (and since colleges are about to begin another academic year), I though I'd draw your attention to it for your own consideration.  After providing thirteen reasons why he's not on Facebook, Baarendse draws the following conclusion:
You may think I’ve exaggerated some of these points. Perhaps I have. Yet I’m not trying to be mean-spirited or a fear-monger. I’m not even urging you to give up Facebook. I can see how an active Facebook account may be necessary for thriving in today’s world. No doubt it’s futile to wish our culture back to the technological simplicity of the Little House on the Prairie or Walden Pond. So be it. Then the question for Christians becomes: How do we use social media responsibly, especially in view of our calling as students? Answering this will require great discernment. At the very least, I would be especially wary of using it to air your personal laundry, or for chatting with a friend two rooms down the hall.

Given the ever-greater share of our waking moments that today’s virtual media demand, I think it’s important to discuss this issue as a learning community. Let’s agree that the danger doesn’t necessarily lie in our tools, but in our lack of self-control, which can make us the slave of our tools. Just as we can overeat in the cafeteria, so we can over-consume in our use of technology. Our hearts, Calvin helpfully reminds us, are idol-factories. Even good things can become addictive if not used in moderation. Here in college, you have a unique opportunity to focus your attention on learning. It’s a time for you to grow deep character roots and develop the resources of mind you will use for the rest of your life. But this kind of rich development might require that, for extended periods, you turn away from the 24/7 chatter that’s roaring down the Facebook pipe, clamoring for your attention.

If Oxford’s halls had been rigged with Wi-Fi and Facebook sixty years ago, would we have Narnia or Middle Earth? Lewis and Tolkien had a wonderful social network: the Inklings. They had a chat room: the Eagle and Child, where you could run your finger along the wood grain of the benches, hear the tinkle of cutlery, smell the smoke from Jack’s pipe, and catch an elfin twinkle in Tollers’s eye as he clears his throat and reads: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” The Inklings were real friends with real faces discussing real books. Is it wrong to lament a human loss here?
To read the entire letter, click here

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tim Hawkins' Ode to Chick-fil-A

Many of you have likely seen this video before, but with the recent controversy involving Chick-fil-A, I thought it was a good time to watch it again (and get a good laugh on a Monday).

Friday, August 10, 2012

By Faith the Promised Seed He Viewed

On Man, in His Own Image Made
John Newton, 1725-1807

On man, in His own image made,
How much did God bestow!
The whole creation homage paid,
And owned him lord below.

He dwelt in Eden's garden, stored
With sweets for every sense;
And there, with his descending Lord,
He walked in confidence.

But, oh, by sin how quickly changed!
His honor forfeited,
His heart from God and truth estranged,
His conscience filled with dread!

Now from His Maker's voice he flees,
Which was before his joy,
And thinks to hide, amid the trees,
From an all-seeing eye.

Compelled to answer to his name,
With stubbornness and pride,
He cast on God Himself the blame,
Nor once for mercy cried.

But grace, unasked, his heart subdued,
And all his guilt forgave;
By faith the promised Seed he viewed,
And felt His pow'r to save.

Thus we ourselves would justify,
Though we the law transgress;
Like him, unable to deny,
Unwilling to confess.

But when, by faith, the sinner sees
A pardon, bought with blood,
Then he forsakes his foolish pleas,
And gladly turns to God.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

No Arrogance Beside the Cross

As an illustration of cross-centered humility in one of his exegetical works, Don Carson tells of the opportunity he had to interview Dr. Carl Henry and Dr. Kenneth Kantzer, two of the most influential evangelical theologians in America in the last century.  Near the end of the interview, he asked them:
You two men have been extraordinarily influential for almost half a century.  Without wanting to indulge in cheap flattery, I must say that what is attractive about your ministries is that you have retained integrity.  Both of you are strong, yet neither of you is egotistical.  You have not succumbed to eccentricity in doctrine, nor to individualistic empire-building. In God's good grace, what has been instrumental in preserving you in these areas?
Carson then reports the following:
Both sputtered in deep embarrassment.  And then one of them ventured, with a kind of gentle outrage, "How on earth can anyone be arrogant when standing beside the cross?" 

Monday, August 6, 2012

DeYoung on the Three R's of Christian Engagement in the Culture War

Kevin DeYoung is not only a very gifted writer, he is also a balanced and thoughtful pastor-theologian.  His recent post regarding the cultural controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A and homosexual marriage is evidence of that.  He offers 3 R's for Christians as we consider how best to respond to this and similar situations.
  1. No retreat.
  2. No reversal.
  3. No reviling.
The entire post is brief, and his explanation of each R is well worth reading.  To do so, click here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Triumph in Almighty Grace

Stand Up, My Soul, Shake Off Thy Fears
Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Stand up, my soul, shake off thy fears,
And gird the Gospel armor on,
March to the gates of endless joy,
Where thy great Captain-Savior’s gone.

Hell and thy sins resist thy course,
But hell and sin are vanquished foes;
Thy Jesus nailed them to the cross,
And sung the triumph when He rose.

What though the prince of darkness rage,
And waste the fury of his spite,
Eternal chains confine him down
To fiery deeps and endless night.

What though thine inward lusts rebel,
’Tis but a struggling gasp for life;
The weapons of victorious grace
Shall slay thy sins, and end the strife.

Then let my soul march boldly on,
Press forward to the heav’nly gate;
There peace and joy eternal reign,
And glitt’ring robes for conquerors wait.

There shall I wear a starry crown,
And triumph in almighty grace,
While all the armies of the skies
Join in my glorious Leader’s praise.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Liturgy of Narcissism

Paul Clark has a great post on the narcissistic mindset that marks much of what passes for worship these days.  Here are a few excerpts:
[A]iming for emotional manipulation simply to evoke feelings is valueless for Christian worship.  Oh, it can certainly be effective, even when it is completely lame.  Sadly, its most powerful effect may be that persons think just because they felt something, evoked by sad or glad songs, goosebump-producing video, or loudly authoritative preaching, they have had a spiritual encounter.  Placing the name of Christ in the midst of such emptiness seems nothing short of sacrilege.  Far too often the point of such liturgy is simply a view of self, albeit the self we think we want to see.  We start with a big song, move through stages to get to a “just me and God” moment.  If we get there, we fool ourselves to think we are satisfied, only to find we quickly thirst again.  And rightly so, for no religious feeling will ever suffice.


Biblical worship seeks to frame the connection of God and man.  Faith is rooted in Biblical truth.  God Incarnate is among the worshipers.  The Spirit’s work empowers Word, said and sung, to engage hearts and minds.  The resultant vision is Christ Jesus.  Worshipers depart to serve, patterning life and love after the One they have seen by light of Spirit and the Word.  Rather than seeing a “better me” I have seen a perfect, Risen Christ.

God, help us to form our worship that we may be formed to better see and reflect Jesus.
To read his post in its entirety, click here.