Friday, December 31, 2010

A Prayer for the New Year

From The Valley of Vision:

O Lord,
Length of days does not profit me
except the days are passed in Thy presence,
in Thy service, to Thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from Thee,
but may rely on Thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth Thy praise;
testify Thy love,
advance Thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with Thee, O Father, as my harbor,
Thee, O Son, at my helm,
Thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to Thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.

Give me Thy grace to sanctify me,
Thy comforts to cheer,
Thy wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.

May Thy fear be my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Long December

An excerpt from the song "A Long December" by Counting Crows (Recovering the Satellites album, 1996):
It's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last.
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass.
And this may be my favorite line from the song:
The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters but no pearls.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Russell Moore on "Christlessness Is Peace"

Russell Moore provides a very thoughtful reflection on the true peace that Christ brings (and the means by which he brings it). Here's an excerpt:
The sound of Christmas, in the biblical text, isn’t the sound of sleigh-bells jingling, but the clanging swords and strangled babies and demon screams. It’s awful.

But in the midst of all that horror, there’s peace. This peace isn’t tranquility and stillness, but the dynamism of the shalom of God’s new creation. It is not merely the perfunctory “good will to men” but peace between the ruler of the universe and those “with whom he is pleased” (Lk. 2:14).

In the gospel, that peaces comes only through war. This isn’t violence, the way we think of it, flesh and blood against flesh and blood. It is the Spirit of Jesus marching as to war against the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). It is the blood of Christ silencing the accusations of the ancient dragon (Rev. 12:10-11). This is why the Apostle Paul can say, without contradiction, that the “God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20).

Read the whole reflection here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Rise, the Woman's Conquering Seed!

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Charles Wesley, 1707-1788; alt. George Whitefield, 1714-1770

Hark, the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Christ, by highest heavn adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail th'incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Hail, the heav'n born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris'n with healing in his wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home!
Rise, the Woman's conqu'ring Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent's head!
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Adam's likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thine image in its place;
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love!
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the Heavenly Man:
Oh, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart!
Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gospel Math

"Jesus plus nothing is everything. Everything minus Jesus is nothing.''

--Randy Alcorn, "Dethroning Money to Treasure Christ Above All" in For the Fame of God's Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper

Put another way:
Jesus + nothing = everything

Everything - Jesus = nothing

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dethroning All Secondary Treasures

"[Jesus] calls all of us to a life of dethroning all secondary treasures in order to elevate him as our primary treasure. If we value anything or anyone more than we value Jesus, we are not his disciples."

--Randy Alcorn, "Dethroning Money to Treasure Christ Above All" in For the Fame of God's Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Bottom of Every Sin

"The desire to be God rather than to serve God lies at the bottom of every sin that anyone has ever committed. Sin isn't first rooted in a philosophical debate of the appropriateness or healthiness of a certain ethic. No, sin is rooted in my unwillingness to find joy in living my life under the authority of, and for the glory of, Another. Sin is rooted in my desire to live for me. It's driven by my propensity to indulge my every feeling, satisfy my every desire, and meet my every need."

--Paul David Tripp, Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy

Friday, December 17, 2010

This Year's Advent Hymn

All People of the Coming King
© 2010, M. Justin Wainscott

All people of the coming King,
All servants of the Lord,
Come, lift your voices, let us sing
With hearts in one accord:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

In Bethlehem the angels praised
The birth of Christ our King;
So let us now with voices raised
Rejoice with them and sing:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Oh, marvel in the mystery
Of Jesus' virgin birth;
To God all praise and glory be,
And peace o'er all the earth.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

His first advent salvation wrought
By dying on the tree;
Yet He, through resurrection, bought
For us eternity.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

To Him who came and conquered sin,
Triumphant and supreme;
To Him who'll one day come again,
We sound this joyous theme:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

And when He comes, our King, to reign,
And earth and heav'n be new;
Then may the sound of this refrain
Our longing hearts renew:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Great Spoil to be Found in Scripture

"I rejoice at your word
like one who finds great spoil."
(Psalm 119:162)

I wonder if our all too often joyless reading of the Scriptures is due to the fact that we don't approach them with the wide-eyed wonder and excitement of discovering a great treasure. There is spoil to be found and joy to be had for those who will hunt it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Unfolding the Word of God

"The unfolding of your words gives light..." (Psalm 119:130).

This is not just a promise for preachers and teachers (though it certainly has profound implications for us). But it is also a promise for everyone who will open the Bible, ask the Spirit to unfold the truth of what is there, and then bask in the warm glow of the light of the gospel.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Spread Gospel Tidings All Around

Immortal God in Mortal Flesh
Advent 2008, M. Justin Wainscott

Immortal God in mortal flesh,
Our Lord has come to earth.
Incarnate God, He came to bring
The gift of second birth.

Spread gospel tidings all around;
Let sinners celebrate!
For Christ was born to save us all
From sin's condemning fate.

In mercy, God has sent His Son
To bear the curse of sin;
To hang condemned on Calv'ry's cross,
And pardon sinful men.

This precious Babe of Bethlehem
Will be forever blessed;
He ransomed us from hell's domain
To enter heaven's rest.

So to our great Immanuel,
Glad songs of praise we'll sing.
From now and through eternity,
He'll reign, our saving King.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Cradle and the Cross

"The crucial significance of the cradle at Bethlehem lies in its place in the sequence of steps that led the Son of God to the cross of Calvary, and we do not understand it till we see it in this context."

--J.I. Packer, Knowing God

HT: Of First Importance

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Undated Promises

"Though we find promises of God throughout Scripture, they don't come with specific dates and times. Therefore, when our circumstances contradict God's character and promises, we're tempted to supply God with a time frame and demand that He fulfill His promises according to it....It takes faith to wait tranquilly for something for which we have a promise from God, but no date."

--C.J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Dangerous Prayer

"Thy kingdom come is a dangerous prayer, for it means the death of your own sovereignty. It means your life will be shaped by the will of another. It means that you will experience the messiness, discomfort, and difficulty of God's refining grace. It means surrendering the center of your universe to the One who alone deserves to be there. It means loving God above all else and your neighbor as yourself. It means experiencing the freedom that can only be found when God breaks your bondage to you! It means finally living for the one glory that is truly glorious, the glory of God."

--Paul David Tripp, Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Condescension of the Christ

Sing Highest Praises to Our King
M. Justin Wainscott © 2009

Sing highest praises to our King,
Who left His throne above;
And clothed Himself in flesh to bring
The blessings of His love.

The glory He had long enjoyed,
He humbly set aside;
How great the means which Christ employed
To save a sinful Bride!

In Bethlehem by virgin birth,
As prophets did foretell;
Our God descended to the earth,
And didst among us dwell.

Yes, see Him in the manger lay,
But let us ne’er forget;
This precious Child was born to pay
Our cursed, sinful debt.

This perfect Lamb for sinners slain,
Who died and rose again,
Now sits on David’s throne and reigns
In vict’ry over sin.

So let our longing hearts all burn
With zeal for Christ our King,
And for the day of His return,
When He shall reign supreme!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

A truly beautiful portion of Scripture set to a truly beautiful piece of music:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Mirror Into Which We See Ourselves

The following poem may look a bit lengthy, but I assure you it reads quickly and it is well worth the time it may take you to get through it. Let it be a balm for your soul; drink deeply from it; and rejoice in the grace of the gospel.

Aren't You Glad You're Not Like David?
Paul David Tripp, in Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy

Aren't you glad you're not like David,
Such blazoned sin, how could he?
Aren't you glad you're not like Saul,
Making up his own rules; what was he thinking?
Aren't you glad you're not like Cain,
Violence against his own brother?
Aren't you glad you're not like Rebekah,
Such planned deceit?
Aren't you glad you're not like the Israelites,
So easily seduced by idols?
Aren't you glad you're not like Absalom;
How could he be so jealous?
Aren't you glad you're not like Elijah;
How could he forget God, be so depressed?
Aren't you glad you're not like Nebuchadnezzar;
How could he be so obsessed with power?
Aren't you glad you're not like Samson;
How could he be so easily deceived?
Aren't you glad you're not like Jonah;
How could he run from the Father's call?
Aren't you glad you're not like the Pharisees,
So religiously right yet spiritually wrong?
Aren't you glad you're not like Judas,
Selling the Messiah for a little bit of silver?
Aren't you glad you're not like the Corinthians,
So much better at division than at serving the Lord?
But wait.
You are like them, and so am I.
There is simply no denying it.
Their stories are a mirror into which we see ourselves.
We too are jealous and easily deceived.
We too are proud and obsessed with power.
We are better at division while we run from God.
We too get angry and get seduced by idols.
In sorrow we must say,
We stand with David,
And Saul,
And Rebekah,
And Jonah,
And Elijah,
And the rest.
These stories are for us to look into and see us,
So that we are not able to buy into
The lie of our own righteousness.
But instead,
Run to His mercy,
Hold onto His unfailing love,
And finally rest
In His great compassion.
Aren't you glad you can step out of the darkness of self-deceit,
And admit who you are?