Friday, April 30, 2010

Pride Lamented

Oft Have I Turned My Eyes Within
Samuel Stennett, 1727-1795

Oft have I turned my eyes within,
And brought to light some latent sin;
But pride, the vice I most detest,
Still lurks securely in my breast.

Here with a thousand arts she tries
To dress me in a fair disguise,
To make a guilty wretched worm
Put on an angel's brightest form.

She hides my follies from mine eyes,
And lifts my virtues to the skies;
And, while the specious tale she tells,
Her own deformity conceals.

Rend, O my God, the veil away,
Bring forth the monster to the day;
Expose her hideous form to view,
And all her restless power subdue.

So shall humility divine
Again possess this heart of mine,
And form a temple for my God,
Which He will make His loved abode.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Persistent and Gracious Confrontation of the Lord

This post from Ray Ortlund on God's persistent confrontation of Jonah is just too good not to share:

The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea. Jonah 1:4

The lot fell on Jonah. Jonah 1:7

The Lord appointed a great fish. Jonah 1:17

The word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time. Jonah 3:1

The Lord God appointed a plant. Jonah 4:6

God appointed a worm. Jonah 4:7

God appointed a scorching east wind. Jonah 4:8

The Lord has more ways of confronting me than I have ways of evading him.

Expository Listening

There are hundreds of books on preaching but not very many on listening to preaching. So when I come across one that looks helpful, I want to make others aware of it. Tim Challies has a brief review of Ken Ramey's new book, Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God's Word, which looks to be one of those. You can read Challies' review here.

Other helpful resources for listening to sermons include Christopher Ash's booklet, Listen Up: A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons and the first chapter ("A Healthy Church Member Is an Expositional Listener") in Thabiti Anyabwile's little book, What is a Healthy Church Member?. I highly recommend both of these.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Cross: A Manifestation of Love and an Averting of Wrath

From my favorite chapter in Knowing God ("The Heart of the Gospel"):
The wrath of God is as personal, and as potent, as his Love; and, just as the blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus was the direct manifesting of his Father's love toward us, so it was the direct averting of his Father's wrath against us.
--Quoted in J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sinners and Saints

Kevin DeYoung, reflecting on Luther's famous phrase, simul iustus et peccator (at the same time, justified and a sinner):

On this side of heaven, we will always be sinning saints, righteous wretches, and on occasion even justified jerks.

--Quoted in The Good News We Almost Forgot, Kevin DeYoung

Monday, April 26, 2010

Embracing the Mystery of Compatibility

An excerpt of a letter from Charles Hodge to John Broadus (Jan. 6, 1857):
I can not fathom the mystery connected with God's sovereignty and man's accountability.
-- Quoted in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009, Greg Wills (which I am thoroughly enjoying!)

Friday, April 23, 2010

David's Lord and Gideon's Friend

By Whom Was David Taught?
William Cowper, 1731-1800

By whom was David taught
To aim the dreadful blow,
When he Goliath fought,
And laid the giant low?
No sword nor spear the stripling took,
But chose a pebble from the brook.

'Twas Israel's God and King,
Who sent him to the fight,
Who gave him strength to sling
And skill to aim aright;
Ye feeble saints, your strength endures,
Because young David's God is yours.

Who ordered Gideon forth,
To storm the invader's camp,
With arms of little worth -
A pitcher and a lamp?
The trumpets made his coming known,
And all the host was overthrown.

O! I have seen the day,
When, with a single word,
God helping me to say,
"My trust is in the Lord,"
My soul has quelled a thousand foes,
Fearless of all that could oppose.

But unbelief, self-will,
Self-righteousness, and pride,
How often do they steal
My weapon from my side!
Yet David's Lord and Gideon's Friend,
Will help his servant to the end.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Evil Dwelling within Me

The following quote from Luther is an excellent reminder of how vile our own hearts are:
I am more afraid of my own heart than of the Pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great Pope, Self.

--Martin Luther

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Misunderstanding the Meaning of Faith in God

J.I. Packer said the following in 1973, but sadly it is just as true today (if not more so):
Modern muddle-headedness and confusion as to the meaning of faith in God are almost beyond description. People say they believe in God, but they have no idea who it is that they believe in, or what difference believing in him may make.

--J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 159

Packer goes on to give four reasons why people are so confused:
  1. People have gotten into the practice of following private religious hunches rather than learning of God from his own Word
  2. People think of all religions as equal and equivalent - they draw their ideas about God from pagan as well as Christian sources
  3. People have ceased to recognize the reality of their own sinfulness, which imparts a degree of perversity and enmity against God to all that they think and do
  4. People today are in the habit of disassociating the thought of God's goodness from that of his severity

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Ultimate Mark of Conversion

The following is a quote taken from Mack Stiles' new book, Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel. I am almost through with the book, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have found it both helpful and valuable. This book could be used by an individual as well as a group - all of which would be informed, equipped, and encouraged to be better evangelists.
"The ultimate mark of conversion, as I've heard Mark Dever rightly say, is not walking an aisle, but picking up a cross."
Justin Taylor has several endorsements of the book posted on his blog here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Christopher Ash's The Priority of Preaching

Speaking of preaching, I was very pleased to see that one of the book give-aways at Together for the Gospel last week was Christopher Ash's book, The Priority of Preaching. You may remember a few previous posts I wrote back in the Fall on Christopher Ash's work - one here on the Priority of Preaching and one here on Listen Up: A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons. Both of these are excellent resources.

Christopher Ash works with The Proclamation Trust and directs the Cornhill Training Course (a training course for preachers in the UK).

Simplicity in Preaching

The Banner of Truth has recently published in booklet form J.C. Ryle's address on Simplicity in Preaching. I highly recommend this little treatise - for preachers young and old alike. You will find an abundance of wisdom and common sense in these 22 pages. Here is a summary of the five points he discusses in the booklet:
  1. If you want to attain simplicity in preaching, you must have a clear knowledge of what you are going to preach.
  2. If you would attain simplicity in preaching, you must use simple words.
  3. If you would attain simplicity in preaching, you must seek to acquire a simple style of composition, with short sentences and as few colons and semicolons as possible.
  4. If you would attain simplicity in preaching, aim at directness.
  5. If you would attain simplicity in preaching, make abundant use of illustration and anecdote.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How God Answers Prayer for Grace and Faith

These Inward Trials
John Newton, 1725-1807

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and ev'ry grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.

'Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He I trust has answered prayer,
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He'd answer my request,
And by His love's constraining pow'r
Subdue my sins and give me rest.

Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry pow'rs of hell
Assault my soul in ev'ry part.

Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Humbled my heart and laid me low.

"Lord, why is this," I, trembling, cried;
"Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?"
"'Tis in this way," the Lord replied,
"I answer prayer for grace and faith."

"These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free,
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou may'st find thy all in Me."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Away for a Few Days (T4G)

I'll be away for a few days at Together for the Gospel, so I'll be taking a break from blogging until Friday. Be sure to check back then.

Warfield on Believing Jesus and the Bible

Here is B.B. Warfield succinctly stating why the loss of biblical authority is the road to theological liberalism:

He who no longer holds to the Bible of Jesus - the word of which cannot be broken - will be found on examination no longer to hold to the Jesus of the Bible.

--B.B. Warfield

Quoted in the Introduction of B.B. Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thought, Gary Johnson, ed.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Excellencies of Christ

Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned
Samuel Stennett, 1727-1795

To Christ, the Lord, let every tongue
Its noblest tribute bring;
When He's the subject of the song,
Who can refuse to sing?

Survey the beauties of His face,
And on his glories dwell;
Think of the wonders of His grace,
And all His triumphs tell.

Majestic sweetness sits enthroned
Upon his awful brow;
His head with radiant glories crowned,
His lips with grace o'erflow.

No mortal can with Him compare,
Among the sons of men;
Fairer He is than all the fair,
That fill the heavenly train.

He saw me plunged in deep distress,
He flew to my relief;
For me He bore the shameful cross,
And carried all my grief.

His hand a thousand blessings pours
Upon my guilty head;
His presence gilds my darkest hours,
And guards my sleeping bed.

To Him I owe my life and breath,
And all the joys I have;
He makes me triumph over death,
And saves me from the grave.

To heav'n, the place of His abode,
He brings my weary feet;
Shows me the glories of my God,
And makes my joys complete.

Since from His bounty I receive
Such proofs of love divine;
Had I a thousand hearts to give,
Lord, they should all be Thine!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pain, Providence, and the Present Tense

We sing these words but too often without thinking about them:
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

(Horatio Spafford, 1873)
Notice the present tense - it is well with my soul. Not it will be well. Not it used to be well. But it is well. That is the faith we ought to have in a providential God, even in the midst of pain.

And if you don't know the painful context that birthed the words to that now-famous hymn, then click here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Don Whitney on "Learning to Pray Scripture"

For those of you in and around Jackson, TN, Don Whitney (author of the classic, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life) will be leading a seminar titled "Learning to Pray Scripture" on Thursday, April 8, at Union University (1:00-3:00pm at Luther Hall). It is free and open to the public. If you have the opportunity to go, I would highly recommend it. I think you'll find Dr. Whitney to be an extremely helpful teacher on this extremely important subject, and I think you'll find this to be time well spent.

For more information about this event, check out Ray Van Neste's blog.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Poetry, Imagery, and the Economy of Words

Good poets provide rich imagery with their words, carefully crafting phrases that capture the reader's imagination. And because they have to be more economical with their words than writers of prose, they often employ the use of imagery in order to say more with less.

Take, for instance, the imagery captured in the words David used in Psalm 7:14 (italics added):
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
Notice not only the vivid and progressive imagery - from conception to pregnancy to giving birth - but also how succinctly he was able to express this thought, in contrast to the prose of James 1:14-15 (which describes a similar progression but with twice as many words and with a different resulting triad - desire, sin, and death instead of evil, mischief, and lies):
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
It's not that one is necessarily better than the other; both are the authoritative Word of God. It's just a reminder of how much truth is packed into just a few words and images used by a skilled poet. And it's also a reminder to read the poetry of the Scriptures slowly and carefully - meditating on the rich imagery contained therein.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Poem for Opening Day

Today is Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season, which (in my opinion) ought to be a national holiday. In celebration of this great day, I offer the following poem from John Updike.

John Updike, 1932-2009

It looks easy from a distance,
easy and lazy, even,
until you stand up to the plate
and see the fastball sailing inside,
an inch from your chin,
or circle in the outfield
straining to get a bead
on a small black dot
a city block or more high,
a dark star that could fall
on your head like a leaden meteor.

The grass, the dirt, the deadly hops
between your feet and overeager glove:
football can be learned,
and basketball finessed, but
there is no hiding from baseball
the fact that some are chosen
and some are not - those whose mitts
feel too left-handed,
who are scared at third base
of the pulled line drive,
and at first base are scared
of the shortstop's wild throw
that stretches you out like a gutted deer.

There is nowhere to hide when the ball's
spotlight swivels your way,
and the chatter around you falls still,
and the mothers on the sidelines,
your own among them, hold their breaths,
and you whiff on a terrible pitch
or in the infield achieve
something with the ball so
ridiculous you blush for years.
It's easy to do. Baseball was
invented in America, where beneath
the good cheer and sly jazz the chance
of failure is everybody's right,
beginning with baseball.

--Taken from Endpoint and Other Poems, John Updike

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Hymn

Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Christ is risen indeed!

To Jesus Christ, Our Living Lord
© 2009, M. Justin Wainscott

To Jesus Christ, our living Lord,
This grateful song we bring;
For He has conquered sin and hell,
Removed death's awful sting!

With steadfast hope and boundless joy,
We celebrate today;
The bonds of death are broken all,
The stone's been rolled away!

Death's hostile hold could not contain
His power o'er the grave;
Christ rose again in victory,
Our wretched souls to save!

No longer slaves to fear and death,
Triumphant let us be;
The victory that Christ has won,
He won for you and me!

Though death's the final enemy,
Its end is drawing nigh;
And though it's reigned for far too long,
It too shall surely die!

So let us all with cheerful hearts,
Be free from anxious gloom;
Let's set our minds on Christ above,
And on His empty tomb!

Let's think on heaven's blissful joy,
And on the death of death;
For that shall be our blessed hope,
When draws our final breath!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Surveying the Wondrous Cross

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

More Cross-Centered Quotes

Here are a few more cross-centered quotes to help you reflect on the cross of Christ on this Maundy Thursday:
"The traveler through the Bible landscape misses his way as soon as he loses sight of the hill called Calvary." (J.I. Packer)

"Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came;
Ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!" (P.P. Bliss)

"The debt was so great, that while man alone owed it, only God could pay it." (Anselm)

"The glory of the gospel is this: the One from whom we need to be saved is the One who has saved us." (R.C. Sproul)

"My sin - oh, the bliss of this glorious thought:
My sin not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"
(Horatius Spafford)