Friday, June 28, 2013

And Yet His Mercy Condescends

Awake, Awake! O Heart of Mine!
Fanny Crosby, 1820-1915

Awake, awake, O heart of mine!
Sing praise to God above;
Take up the song of endless years,
And sing redeeming love!
Redeemed by Him who bore my sins,
When on the cross He died;
Redeemed and purchased with His blood,
Redeemed and sanctified.

Redeemed by Him, my Lord and King,
Who saves me day by day;|
My life and all its ransomed powers
Could ne’er His love repay.
And yet His mercy condescends
My humble gift to own;
And through the riches of His grace,
He brings me near His throne.

O love, unchanging, love sublime!
Not all the hosts above
Can reach the height or sound the depth
Of God’s eternal love.
This wondrous love enfolds the world,
It fills the realms above;
’Tis boundless as eternity;
Oh, praise the God of love!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How Should Same-Sex Marriage Change the Church's Witness?

Russell Moore provides a helpful reminder of what has (and has not changed) since yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage and how the church should respond:
Same-sex marriage is headed for your community. This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing. It’s a time for forgiven sinners, like us, to do what the people of Christ have always done. It’s time for us to point beyond our family values and our culture wars to the cross of Christ as we say: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

And that’s good news.
Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Audio of "Marriage on the Line Event"

The Supreme Court is supposed to issue a ruling today regarding same-sex marriage.  If it is affirmed by the Court, how should the church respond?  That's the question that was discussed in the Marriage on the Line Event sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Panelists include Russell Moore, David Platt, J.D. Greear, Susie Hawkins, and Paige Patterson.  

The audio of that discussion can be heard here.     

Monday, June 24, 2013

That "Old Book Smell"

The Smithsonian Magazine on why old books smell the way they do:
Smell is chemistry, and the chemistry of old books gives your cherished tomes their scent. As a book ages, the chemical compounds used—the glue, the paper, the ink–begin to break down. And, as they do, they release volatile compounds—the source of the smell. A common smell of old books, says the International League for Antiquarian Booksellers, is a hint of vanilla: “Lignin, which is present in all wood-based paper, is closely related to vanillin. As it breaks down, the lignin grants old books that faint vanilla scent.”

A study in 2009 looked into the smell of old books, finding that the complex scent was a mix of “hundreds of so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the air from the paper,” says the Telegraph. Here’s how Matija Strlic, the lead scientist behind that study, described the smell of an old book:
A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness, this unmistakable smell is as much a part of the book as its contents.

Friday, June 21, 2013

And Still New Beauties May We See

Father of Mercies, In Thy Word
Anne Steele, 1716-1778

Father of mercies, in Thy Word
What endless glory shines!
Forever be Thy name adored
For these celestial lines.

Here may the wretched sons of want
Exhaustless riches find;
Riches above what earth can grant,
And lasting as the mind.

Here the fair tree of knowledge grows
And yields a free repast;
And richer fruits than nature shows
Invite the longing taste.

Amidst these gloomy wilds below,
When dark and sad we stray,
Here beams of Heaven relieve our woe,
And guide to endless day.

Here springs of consolation rise
To cheer the fainting mind,
And thirsty souls receive supplies,
And sweet refreshment find.

Here the Redeemer’s welcome voice
Spreads heavenly peace around
And life and everlasting joys
Attend the blissful sound.

Oh, may these hallowed pages be
Our joy by day and night,
And still new beauties may we see,
And still increasing light.

Divine Instructor, gracious Lord,
O grant our fervent prayer,
Teach us to love Thy sacred Word,
And view the Savior there.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Reflections from the 2013 SBC

Below are links to encouraging and hopeful reflections from this year's annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.  The first is from J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church, and the other two are from Nathan Finn, professor of church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Thy Providence My Life Sustains

When All Thy Mercies, O My God
Joseph Addison, 1672-1719

When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I’m lost
In wonder, love and praise.

Thy providence my life sustained,
And all my wants redressed,
While in the silent womb I lay,
And hung upon the breast.

To all my weak complaints and cries
Thy mercy lent an ear,
Ere yet my feeble thoughts had learned
To form themselves in prayer.

Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart conceived
From whom those comforts flowed.

When in the slippery paths of youth
With heedless steps I ran,
Thine arm unseen conveyed me safe,
And led me up to man.

Through hidden dangers, toils, and deaths,
It gently cleared my way;
And through the pleasing snares of vice,
More to be feared than they.

O how shall words with equal warmth
The gratitude declare,
That glows within my ravished heart?
But thou canst read it there.

Thy bounteous hand with worldly bliss
Hath made my cup run o’er;
And, in a kind and faithful Friend,
Hath doubled all my store.

Ten thousand thousand precious gifts
My daily thanks employ;
Nor is the last a cheerful heart
That tastes those gifts with joy.

When worn with sickness, oft hast Thou
With health renewed my face;
And, when in sins and sorrows sunk,
Revived my soul with grace.

Through every period of my life
Thy goodness I’ll pursue
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.

When nature fails, and day and night
Divide Thy works no more,
My ever grateful heart, O Lord,
Thy mercy shall adore.

Through all eternity to Thee
A joyful song I’ll raise;
For, oh, eternity’s too short
To utter all Thy praise!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Timothy George on "A Tale of Two Demons"

Timothy George, in his A Tale of Two Demons article in First Things, provides a fascinating contrast between the recent actions of Pope Francis in praying for a demon-possessed man in Mexico and the recent (heretical) sermon preached in Venezuela about a demon-possessed girl by Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA. In concluding, he states:
There is a wider angle to this tale of two demons. It is worth noting that Pope Francis came from the global South to the heart of Europe to confront demons, whereas Bishop Schori traveled from North America to Venezuela to cast the demons from the text—without the benefit of an exorcism. There is some irony in this: a prominent representative of the rarified, Enlightenment-based religion of the North peddling a domesticated version of the Gospel in the global South. As we know, the Christianity thriving there is increasingly Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Pope Franciscan-Catholic. Like the robust faith of the New Testament, this kind of affective Christianity embraces the charismatic, the visionary, and the apocalyptic. These are all held in deep suspicion by those who still find spiritual warmth in the dying embers of rationalist religion. As Kenya’s Musimbi Kanyoro wrote, “Those cultures which are far removed from biblical culture risk reading the Bible as fiction.”
The entire article is worth reading.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Jesus, the Capital Figure of the Bible

John Newton on proclaiming the whole counsel of God, and doing so because it proclaims Christ from all of Scripture:
The whole Scripture, as it consists of histories, prophecies, doctrines, precepts, promises, exhortations, admonitions, encouragements, and reproofs, is the proper subject of the gospel ministry; and every part should in its place and course be attended to; yet so that, in every compartment we exhibit, Jesus should be the capital figure, in whom the prophecies are fulfilled, the promises established; to whom, in a way of type and emblem, the most important parts of Scripture history have an express reference; and from whom alone we can receive that life, strength, and encouragement, which are necessary to make obedience either pleasing or practicable.

--John Newton, from The Letters of John Newton

Friday, June 7, 2013

Having This I Need No More

Precious Bible, What a Treasure
John Newton, 1725-1807

Precious Bible! what a treasure
Does the Word of God afford.
All I want for life or pleasure,
Food and med’cine, shield and sword:
Let the world account me poor,
Having this I need no more.

Food to which the world’s a stranger,
Here my hungry soul enjoys;
Of excess there is no danger,
Though it fills, it never cloys:
On a dying Christ I feed,
He is meat and drink indeed.

When my faith is faint and sickly,
Or when Satan wounds my mind,
Cordials, to revive me quickly,
Healing med’cines here I find:
To the promises I flee,
Each affords a remedy.

In the hour of dark temptation
Satan cannot make me yield;
For the Word of consolation
Is to me a mighty shield
While the scripture truths are sure,
From his malice I’m secure.

Vain his threats to overcome me,
When I take the Spirit's sword;
Then with ease I drive him from me.
Satan trembles at the Word:
’Tis a sword for conquest made,
Keen the edge, and strong the blade.

Shall I envy then the miser
Doting on his golden store?
Sure I am, or should be, wiser,
I am rich, ’tis he is poor:
Jesus gives me in his Word,
Food and med’cine, shield and sword.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Defying Gravity, Delighting in Grace

Grace and Gravity 
M. Justin Wainscott, 2013 

Grace and gravity, 
both of them forces 
far beyond our control. 
Grace and gravity, 
both of them laws 
learned through pain. 
Grace and gravity, 
both of them instruments 
employed by God, 
but in very different ways. 

Gravity’s pulling us, 
always downward. 
Grace is lifting us, 
always heavenward. 
Gravity says, 
“What goes up 
must come down.” 
But grace says, 
“Who falls down 
must be lifted up.” 

Gravity seems 
to work against us. 
But grace is always 
working for us. 
Gravity’s a force 
we like to defy. 
But grace is a gift, 
a wonderful gift, 
in which we ever 
only want to delight.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Humility and Art

It takes humility to make great art, to recognize that there is something (and Someone) outside ourselves that is far greater than we will ever hope to be.  All the more so for the Christian, who knows and believes that God is the best and most creative Artist of us all.  C.S. Lewis understood this, and it's why he made this statement in a 1975 journal article:
The greatest poems have been made by men who valued something else much more than poetry.

--C.S. Lewis