Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Book on the Church Fathers

Michael Haykin has written a new book that looks to be a helpful and accessible introduction to the Church Fathers. If you want to gain some insight on this important period of the church's history, this book would be a very good starting point.

Here are a few recommendations:

“Haykin has given us a user-friendly introduction to the early centuries of the Christian church. He illustrates the key elements of the church’s teaching by referring to the lives and teachings of major figures of the time, most of whom are little known to nonspecialists. Ordinary people need to know about these things, and this book is a great place to begin.”

-Gerald Bray
, Research Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School

“This gem of a study sparkles with polished clarity. Michael Haykin has skillfully unearthed buried treasures among early church leaders. As an experienced guide, he has drawn from his own personal journey and decades of scholarly research. He presents valuable Patristic insights into apologetic engagement, missional work, spiritual formation, use of Scripture, theological discourse, communal worship, personal piety, and approaches to suffering and martyrdom. From the apostolic fathers to the apostle to Ireland, Haykin’s investigations masterfully apply classical wisdom to contemporary concerns.”

-Paul Hartog
, Associate Professor, Faith Baptist Theological Seminary

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Beginning of the Death of the Spiritual Life

"He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon no longer be listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words....Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Friday, March 25, 2011

Let God Be True and Every Man a Liar

The God I Trust Is True and Just
Joseph Hart, 1712-1768

The God I trust is true and just;
His mercy has no end;
Himself has said my ransom's paid,
And on him I depend.

Then why so sad, my soul? Though bad,
Thou hast a Friend that's good;
He bought thee dear (abandon fear);
He bought thee with his blood.

So rich a cost can ne'er be lost,
Though faith be tried by fire;
Keep Christ in view; let God be true;
And every man a liar.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Importance of Possessive Pronouns

"The life of Christianity consists in possessive pronouns," said Martin Luther. In other words, it's not enough to say, "Christ is a Savior." We must say, "Christ is my Savior."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Power of Poetry

On Poetry
Justin Wainscott, © 2011

Have you ever noticed
that when people want to say
something significant,
something memorable,
something striking,
they reach for poetry
rather than prose?

Think of life's most
meaningful moments -
graduations, weddings, funerals.
Think of history's most
stirring speeches -
political, religious, dramatic.
What do most of these
hold in common?
The presence of poetry.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Signs (and Non-Signs) of the Times

"When Jesus' disciples ask him for signs of the end, Jesus does an odd thing. He spends a long paragraph telling them all the events that are not signs of the end.

Ever the subtle doctor of souls, Jesus knows what he is doing. When the world becomes chaotic and frightening, even the calmest people are tempted to go apocalyptic.

The Dow is down 2,000 points! China is catching up with the US! Global temperatures continue to climb! We face a health care crisis! Iran is getting nukes! Stars are falling from the sky, and the moon is turning to blood!

Jesus says, Calm down. Do not be afraid. Worlds do come to an end, and ultimately, this creation will yield to a new creation. But the end is not yet. That guy carrying the sign, 'The end is nigh' - he's the false prophet.

Reading the signs of the times is important. Knowing the non-signs is, however, a more basic skill."

--Peter Leithart, from the "Quodlibet" section of Touchstone

Friday, March 18, 2011

In Honor of My Grandmother

My grandmother turned 97 years old this week, and this is one of her favorite hymns.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Joseph Scriven, 1819-1866

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you;
You will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear.
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer;
Rapture, praise and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Poetic Wisdom of Proverbs

The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.

--Proverbs 4:18-19

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grace Yields Humble Service

"Self-justification and judging others go together, as justification by grace and serving others go together....Once a man has experienced the mercy of God in his life he will henceforth aspire only to serve. The proud throne of the judge no longer lures him; he wants to be down below with the lowly and needy, because this is where God found him."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Monday, March 14, 2011

Poetry and Science

From the "Quodlibet" section of the most recent issue of Touchstone:
When the spring breeze comes through the window of my library and billows the curtains, or I see the breath of God make the trees outside dance, I wonder about wind. I think briefly about oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrogen, whatever. But when I reach for an explanation, I don't reach for science. I wish I were a poet. I feel poetic.

Poetry as a mode of explanation. That's an ancient and medieval instinct. Lucretius chose poetry as the vehicle for exploring the nature of things because it sweetened the hard doctrines of his Epicurean atomism. But he also thought poetry was a suitable, even revelatory, medium of explanation. Apparently, so did David, and Isaiah, and the author of Job, and Jesus, and John on Patmos.

Grateful for all the gains of science, I cannot help but wonder what we have lost in the several centuries since science secured its monopoly of explanation.

--Peter Leithart

Friday, March 11, 2011

Can the Ear of Sovereign Grace Be Deaf When I Complain?

Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul
Anne Steele, 1716-1778

Dear refuge of my weary soul,
On Thee, when sorrows rise,
On Thee, when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies.

To Thee I tell each rising grief,
For Thou alone canst heal;
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief,
For every pain I feel.

But oh! when gloomy doubts prevail,
I fear to call Thee mine;
The springs of comfort seem to fail,
And all my hopes decline.

Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust;
And still my soul would cleave to Thee,
Though prostrate in the dust.

Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face,
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace,
Be deaf when I complain?

No; still the ear of sovereign grace
Attends the mourner's prayer;
Oh may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there!

Thy mercy seat is open still,
Here let my soul retreat;
With humble hope attend Thy will,
And wait beneath Thy feet.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Concentrating Inward Before Spreading Outward

"I am one of those who still believes that the key to the present situation is the individual local church. It is possible for a revival, if we are waiting and praying for it, to start at any moment. Before we think about planning and organizing in order to reach the outsider, let us concentrate upon our own churches. Are our own churches alive? Are our people real Christians? Are they such that in their contacts with others they are likely to win them for Christ and to awaken in their hearts a desire for spiritual things? That would be my word to you today; that instead of spreading outward, we should concentrate inward and deepen and deepen and deepen our own spiritual life, until men here and there get to the place where God can use them as leaders of the great awakening which will spread through the churches and through the land."

--D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (speaking in 1943)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Era of the Ear, Not the Eye

"People say this is a visual age. Every age is a visual age. We are made to crave the immediacy of sight. We naturally desire to see God immediately, but that blessing was taken from us at the fall. We live in salvation history in the era, not of the eye, but of the ear. One day that glorious immediacy of seeing God will be restored to us - that is the climax of the Bible! That is the consummation we find in Revelation 22:4 - we shall see God!"

--Mark Dever

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Hymns That Keep On Going

One of our church members brought this recent Christianity Today article to my attention. It's a survey of the 27 songs that have continued to make the cut of mainline Protestant hymnals generation after generation, and it's really quite interesting. Check it out here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Thing That Empties Churches

The following quote is from a letter written by a British missionary in 1941 in response to an article published in the British Weekly as to why churches were generally empty in England. Her answer rings true today as much as it did in 1941.
No, the thing which has emptied churches is lack of need of God. A man conscious of the sin of his soul seeks God and does not wait to be attracted by church stunts. But the knowledge of good and evil has been lost in a welter of words....What must be rediscovered is God's attitude to sin.

Mary Burton
--Quoted in D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith (1939-1981), Vol. 2, Iain Murray

Friday, March 4, 2011

O for Grace Our Hearts to Soften!

One There Is, Above All Others
John Newton, 1725-1807

One there is, above all others,
Well deserves the name of Friend;
His is love beyond a brother's -
Costly, free, and knows no end;
They who once His kindness prove,
Find it everlasting love.

Which of all our friends, to save us,
Could or would have shed his blood?
But our Jesus died to have us
Reconciled in Him to God.
This was boundless love indeed!
Jesus is a Friend in need!

O for grace our hearts to soften!
Teach us, Lord, at length to love;
We, alas! forget too often
What a Friend we have above.
But when home our souls are brought,
We will praise Thee as we ought.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Strong Enough to Exult in Monotony, or the Eternal Appetite of Infancy

"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, 'Do it again'; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE."

--G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Our God, the Poet

What beautifully comforting and vividly poetic words the Lord uses in this promise of his Word:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.

--Isaiah 35:1-2a

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Way God Works

"God's Word has always been His chosen instrument to create, convict, convert, and conform His people....The way God works is through the agency of His Word."

--Mark Dever