Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Do Christians Sing When They're Together?

"Why do Christians sing when they are together? The reason is, quite simply, because in singing together it is possible for them to speak and pray the same Word at the same time; in other words, because here they can unite in the Word."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Creeping In of Self-Applause

My God! How Perfect Are Thy Ways!
William Cowper, 1731-1800

My God! how perfect are Thy ways!
But mine polluted are;
Sin twines itself about my praise,
And slides into my prayer.

When I would speak what Thou hast done
To save me from my sin;
I cannot make Thy mercies known
But self-applause creeps in.

Divine desire, that holy flame
Thy grace creates in me;
Alas! impatience is its name,
When it returns to Thee.

This heart, a fountain of vile thoughts,
How does it overflow?
While self upon the surface floats
Still bubbling from below.

Let others in the gaudy dress
Of fancied merit shine;
The Lord shall be my righteousness,
The Lord for ever mine.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Visiting a Place Called Calvary

"Every time we look a the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size."

--John Stott, The Message of Galatians

HT: Of First Importance

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reminder: CLC at 2PC

Just a reminder about the Christian Life Conference this weekend at Second Presbyterian Church with Mark Dever and Harry Reeder.

To see my previous post with more details, click here. To go to 2PC's conference site, click here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

But Spring Shall Certainly Succeed

On cold, wintry days, it's important to remember that spring will come!

Waiting for Spring
John Newton, 1725-1807

Though cloudy skies, and northern blasts,
Delay the gentle spring a while;
The sun will conqu'ror prove at last,
And nature wear a vernal smile.

The promise which, from age to age,
Has brought the changing seasons round,
Again shall calm the winter's rage,
Perfume the air, and paint the ground.

The virtue of that first command,
I know still does and will prevail,
That while the earth itself shall stand,
The spring and summer shall not fail.

Such changes are for us decreed;
Believers have their winters too;
But spring shall certainly succeed,
And all their former life renew.

Winter and spring have each their use,
And each, in turn, His people know;
One kills the weeds their hearts produce,
The other makes their graces grow.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Infiniteness of the Inner Relationships of the Bible

"As a whole the Scriptures are God's revealing Word. Only in the infiniteness of its inner relationships, in the connection of Old and New Testaments, of promise and fulfillment, sacrifice and law, law and gospel, cross and resurrection, faith and obedience, having and hoping, will the full witness to Jesus Christ the Lord be perceived."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Friday, January 21, 2011

Looking at the Cross

In Evil Long I Took Delight
John Newton, 1725-1807

In evil long I took delight,
Unaw'd by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp'd my wild career.

I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

Sure, never till my latest breath
Can I forget that look;
It seem'd to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt, and own'd the guilt,
And plung'd me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did;
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.

A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid,
I die that thou mayst live."

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
(Such is the mystery of grace,)
It seals my pardon too.

With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is fill'd.
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill'd.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Deeper Problem Solved by the Gospel

"We have all heard the gospel presented as God's triumphant answer to human problems - problems of our relation with ourselves and our fellow humans and our environment. Well, there is no doubt that the gospel does bring us solutions to these problems, but it does so by first solving a deeper problem - the deepest of all human problems, the problem of man's relation with his Maker. And unless we make it plain that the solution of these former problems depends on the settling of this latter one, we are misrepresenting the message and becoming false witnesses of God - for a half-truth presented as if it were the whole truth becomes something of a falsehood by that very fact."

--J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Experiencing Wonder in the Ordinary

A great line from the conclusion of Nathan Schlueter's article, "The Romance of Domesticity: Marriage Thrives in Reality, Not in Our Dreams," in the recent issue of Touchstone:
The romance of domesticity must be rooted in a culture that nurtures our ability to experience wonder in the ordinary.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Christian Needs Another Christian

"But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others....Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God's Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Monday, January 17, 2011

Celebrating MLK Day

In my opinion, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is still one of the great pieces of American oratory.

And his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is still one of the great pieces of American Christian ethics. But on this, the 25th anniversary of MLK Day, I want to quote from what might be a lesser known piece of his, "Paul's Letter to American Christians."

But America, as I look at you from afar, I wonder whether your moral and spiritual progress has been commensurate with your scientific progress. It seems to me that your moral progress lags behind your scientific progress. Your poet Thoreau used to talk about "improved means to an unimproved end." How often this is true. You have allowed the material means by which you live to outdistance the spiritual ends for which you live. You have allowed your mentality to outrun your morality. You have allowed your civilization to outdistance your culture. Through your scientific genius you have made of the world a neighborhood, but through your moral and spiritual genius you have failed to make of it a brotherhood. So America, I would urge you to keep your moral advances abreast with your scientific advances.

I am impelled to write you concerning the responsibilities laid upon you to live as Christians in the midst of an unChristian world. That is what I had to do. That is what every Christian has to do. But I understand that there are many Christians in America who give their ultimate allegiance to man-made systems and customs. They are afraid to be different. Their great concern is to be accepted socially. They live by some such principle as this: "everybody is doing it, so it must be alright." For so many of you Morality is merely group consensus. In your modern sociological lingo, the mores are accepted as the right ways. You have unconsciously come to believe that right is discovered by taking a sort of Gallup poll of the majority opinion. How many are giving their ultimate allegiance to this way.

But American Christians, I must say to you as I said to the Roman Christians years ago, "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." Or, as I said to the Phillipian Christians, "Ye are a colony of heaven." This means that although you live in the colony of time, your ultimate allegiance is to the empire of eternity. You have a dual citizenry. You live both in time and eternity; both in heaven and earth. Therefore, your ultimate allegiance is not to the government, not to the state, not to nation, not to any man-made institution. The Christian owes his ultimate allegiance to God, and if any earthly institution conflicts with God's will it is your Christian duty to take a stand against it. You must never allow the transitory evanescent demands of man-made institutions to take precedence over the eternal demands of the Almighty God.

Click here to read the entire thing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Little Mirror of My Own Depravity

Lessons in Parenting, Lessons in Theology
M. Justin Wainscott, 2011

How humbling it is
to see my own depravity -
my own stubborn defiance
toward You, O Lord -
reflected back to me
in the defiance of my child.
What patience You have!
And what fools we are!

Truly, how foolish of me
to think that You have anything
but my best interests at heart.
All my rebellion is but
ignorance and unbelief -
ignorance of Your wisdom
and a lack of trust
in Your steadfast goodness.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pastors Must Possess Both Maternal and Paternal Qualities

From John MacArthur's chapter, "The Pastor as Leader," in For the Fame of God's Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper:
Every true leader and shepherd of God's flock must possess both maternal and paternal qualities....He is at once tender and loving like a nursing mother, as well as firm and courageous like a confident father.

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Illustrious Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

How Is Our Nature Marred By Sin
Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

How is our nature marred by sin!
Nor can it ever find
A way to make the conscience clean,
Or heal the wounded mind.

In vain we seek for peace with God,
By methods of our own;
Jesus, there's nothing but Thy blood
Can bring us near the throne.

The threatenings of the broken law
Impress our souls with dread;
If God His sword of vengeance draw,
It strikes our spirits dead.

But Thy illustrious sacrifice
Has answered these demands;
And peace and pardon from the skies
Come down by Jesus' hands.

'Tis by The death we live, O Lord!
'Tis on Thy cross we rest;
Forever be Thy love adored,
Thy name forever blest.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Church: The Kingdom of Heaven through Earthly Institutions

For those of you in and around the Memphis area, you might want to check out this conference (the theme and speakers are great, Red Mountain Music breathes new life into old hymn texts, admission is free, and 2PC always does a great job hosting this event).
This year's annual Christian Life Conference at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, TN, features Mark Dever and Harry Reeder, exploring "The Church: The Kingdom of Heaven through Earthly Institutions." The dates are January 28-30, 2011.

For more information about the speakers, click here.

For the schedule, click here.

For information about Red Mountain Music, who will be leading the music and playing in concert on Saturday night, click here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pleasing the Father

"The person who knows that he is a beloved son does not do good to earn his father's acceptance. He does good because he knows it pleases his father."

--Neil H. Williams, "The Theology of Sonship"

HT: Of First Importance

Monday, January 3, 2011

Listening Precedes Preaching

We Speak Because We've Listened
M. Justin Wainscott, 2011

Much more is learned by listening
than by talking;
from open ears
rather than an open mouth.
In fact, it ought to be a rule -
and a rule which we should follow -
that speaking be preceded
by attentive listening.
Anything significant
that ever has been said
(or that ever will be said)
is the fruit of much listening.
And preaching is no different.

Good preaching is the product
of good listening - to God and His Word.
We preachers sit before
an open Bible - listening;
listening for God to speak
what He has already spoken.
Then, and only then,
do we stand before His people
and open our mouths.
We speak because
we first have listened.
And our listening
qualifies us to speak.