Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Dorothy L. Sayers on Tolerance

I know that it is pretty well-known, but I love this quote:
In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.
HT Ian Garrett (JPC)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Whitecross: McCheyne on Church Discipline

This is another cracker from Whitecross (there are a few earlier posts of similarly exciting anecdotes & stories).

I'm thinking George Crowder will love this!
At an ordination of elders, Robert Murray McCheyne of Dundee made the following statement. 'When I first entered upon the work of the ministry among you, I was exceedingly ignorant of the vast importance of church discipline. I thought that my great and almost only work was to pray and preach. I saw your souls to be so precious, and the time so short, that I devoted all my time and care and strength, to labour in word and doctrine. When cases of discipline were brought before me and the elders, I regarded them with something like abhorrence. It was a duty I shrank from; and I may truly say it nearly drove me from the work of the ministry among you altogether. But it pleased God, who teaches His servants in another way than man teaches, to bless some of the cases of discipline to the manifest and undeniable conversion of the souls of those under our care; and from that hour a new light broke in upon my mind, and I saw that if preaching be an ordinance of Christ, so is church discipline. I now feel very deeply persuaded that both are of God—that two keys are committed to us by Christ, the one the key of doctrine, by means of which we unlock the treasures of the Bible, the other the key of discipline, by which we open or shut the way to the sealing ordinances of the faith. Both are Christ's gift, and neither is to be resigned without sin.'

Thursday, March 15, 2007

John Piper Reflecting on his Father's Death

Look here for a very touching post.

In fact, I've just added Girltalk to my bloglinks - it is from Carolyn Mahaney and her three married daughters, and looks great. The 'If women ruled the world' moment here is worth a quick giggle!

And then resolve to have people say and do those sorts of things when you die, and to work for others so you can say / do them for them too...

Kris Lundgaard 'The Enemy Within' (IV)

Quite a few poems / hymns in a row, so it is time for more Lundgaard / Owen for my encouragement and edification, and hopefully yours too. This is a cracking chapter!

No Idle Mind

We need to use the right tools in our fight against sin. Thus Rom 8:13 says "if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live" Our job is to kill the flesh; our tool is the Spirit in us.

But how do we use the tools we have? The great tools available are meditation and private prayer - which we should do in a way specifically designed to destroy the flesh: 'In this meditation and prayer we compare our hearts to the Scriptures, comparing our lives to what we find there.' (71)

But we'll never do this without keeping three things in mind:
  • Meditate on God with God - filling your mind with his glory & character & love & beauty & exellency & so on...
  • Meditate on the Word in the Word - never studying the Bible to find tit-bits, never aiming for something clever to say at home group, and never without praying for the Spirit's help, which he loves to give...
  • Meditate on yourself in the Word with God - the great strength of these times of meditation and prayer is their ability to expose our inner sinfulness at work, as the Spirit uses the Word to shine light into any inner darkness...
'Without these, prayer is not prayer. Without these purposes and longings, your prayers and meditations won't bring any glory to God, and they won't make you holy or fill you with joy.' (72)

Remember that the flesh is a wounded animal - it will not sit quietly and let you meditate on it any more than the average wounded Tiger will. You must expect it to scratch and claw, hating the light. Expect four claws in particular:
  • Aiming at your Weakness - you need to rest, you're too tired, etc... 'If you don't imbed it in your mind that prayer and meditation are indispensable, and seek God's grace every day to resist the sluggishness of your body, then you will hit the snooze button all morning rather than kneel before the throne. And if you snooze, you lose.' (74)
  • The Tyranny of the Urgent - you need to work hard to be respected in the office, and you need time with other people, etc... 'Is it likely that God would call you to do more than he gives you time to do? No one who believes God is good and wise could answer yes. So when it seems that you don't have enough time to do your work, care for your family, love your friends, and devote yourself to prayer and meditation, the problem isn't God's providence. The problem may be that you've taken on yourself more than God intended.' (74-5) What normally ends up going? That very thing most designed to damage the flesh.
  • The Duty Swap - which argues that praying with the family, or going to church is enough Christian activity, and you don't need this private soul-searching meditation. If you fall for this, you're stuffed!
  • The Big Promise - you can do that next week, just get through these exams or reports or garden projects or hard weeks with the kids, or whatever... 'This is the cheer of the perennial loser: "We'll get 'em next year!"' (75)
Is this too hard? 2Tim 1:7 "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline." Remember the reward, from 1Cor 15:58 "My dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know your labour in the Lord is not in vain."

Lundgaard's final reflection question is worth quoting in full:
Meditate on your self with God in his Word. Do you pray fervently and meditate on God in his Word? Do you search the Scriptures in order to know Christ? Has spiritual decay set in? Has your mind, in one way or another, shirked its duty?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Montgomery Hymn on Prayer

Another excellent hymn on prayer, this time from James Montgomery (HT Stu Dean again).

It fits really well to Crimond (The Lord's My Shepherd) - and I think the first line of the second verse a particular highlight.
Lord, teach us how to pray aright,
With reverence and with fear;
Though dust and ashes in Thy sight,
We may, we must draw near.

We perish if we cease from prayer;
O grant us power to pray;
And when to meet Thee we prepare,
Lord, meet us by the way.

God of all grace, we come to Thee
With broken, contrite hearts;
Give what Thine eye delights to see,
Truth in the inward parts.

Faith is the only sacrifice
That can for sin atone;
To cast our hopes, to fix our eyes,
On Christ, on Christ alone.

Patience to watch, and wait, and weep,
Though mercy long delay;
Courage our fainting souls to keep,
And trust Thee though Thou slay.

Give these, and then Thy will be done,
Thus, strengthened with all might,
We, through Thy Spirit and Thy Son,
Shall pray, and pray aright.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cowper Hymn on Prayer

I was tempted to title this 'on a hymn and a prayer' but thought it a little too cheesy!

Thanks to Stuart Dean who put me onto this great hymn from William Cowper about prayer - which fits well to the tune Duke Street (Fight the Good Fight).

We sang it during our church weekend away, which focused on prayer - Stu's excellent teaching should shortly be available to download here.

Verse 5 is, as Jam Carey (one of our elders at Christ Church, Mayfair) observed at the weekend, an absolute cracker, and very fair rebuke!

I think the whole thing's great...
What various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy seat;
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there.

Prayer makes the darkened cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright;
And Satan trembles, when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel’s side;
But when through weariness they failed,
That moment Amalek prevailed.

Have you no words? Ah, think again,
Words flow apace when you complain;
And fill your fellow creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.

Were half the breath thus vainly spent,
To Heav’n in supplication sent;
Your cheerful song would oft’ner be,
“Hear what the Lord has done for me.”

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

True Freedom Trust

I'm a big fan of the True Freedom Trust, whose website is here.

Pete Jackson's post here is very helpful if you want to think about how Conservative Evangelicals can get better at loving, serving, ministering to etc etc those sexually attracted to the same sex

Monday, March 05, 2007

John Humphrys

This Telegraph article is fascinating - John Humphrys reflecting on the UCCF Reasonable Faith debate which he chaired last week: William Lane Craig vs Lewis Wolpert.

Friday, March 02, 2007

What Has Excited You This Week?

We were asked to chat about this briefly to our neighbours at the start of College chapel today, and I was saying that my studies in the Psalter this week have moved from examining the theme of God's presence (my chapter 3) to that of God's Messiah (chapter 4). I wrote this at the end of chapter 3:
In sum, the most high, Zion-temple-dwelling God is present on earth with people by word and actions for their differentiation: redemption or condemnation, blessing or curse.

As our next chapter will show us, the Psalms’ writers and editors would not have us leave a discussion of God’s presence without recalling Emmanuel, God With Us. The omnipresent, all-seeing Son became a baby in the dimly lit stable; the Word laid aside glory and power that his voice and actions might be seen on earth; and he came to distinguish, to judge, to separate sheep and goats. The Psalter’s theology of the presence of God must draw us to [see] Jesus.
And I've just written this about the Messiah (the references in brackets are to the psalms I'm summarising):
The Messianic Plea Psalms speak in their own right, teaching of life after death possible by trusting the LORD (16), the guarantee of a massive congregation eternally praising one saved through death (22), the vicarious suffering of one both on behalf of God and the people (69) and of great betrayal through which God’s enemies are beaten and the betrayed is vindicated (109).

Likewise the Messianic Royal Psalms speak of one who rules the nations (2), the great bridegroom-king gloriously united with his bride (45), the blessings experienced under the rule of God’s righteous king (72), the steadfast love and faithfulness of YHWH which means that though the Messiah be temporarily spurned, there is hope for his return (89), the eternal king-priest’s enthronement and triumph (110) and the fulfilment of YHWH’s promises: Kingship, Temple and Zion (132).
Exciting, or what!

Cheesy Verse of a Great Hymn?

We all know this great hymn:
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
thy power throughout the universe displayed:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God; to thee,
How great thou art, how great thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze;

Then sings...

But when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
sent him to die-I scarce can take it in
that on the cross, our burden gladly bearing,
he bled and died to take away our sin;

Then sings...

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
and take me home-what joy shall fill my heart!
Then shall I bow in humble adoration,
and there proclaim: My God, how great thou art!

Then sings...

Russian hymn
tr. Stuart K. Hine (1899-1989) altd.
But I have to confess that vs 2 has always struck me as the weakest. A bit cheesy, a slight embarrassment, to be honest... Until today, that is!

Because it is all about Christ. I've no idea if that's deliberate or coincidental - a great example of coincidence being when God decides to remain anonymous.

Going line by line:
  • When a Christian sees woods, they (presumably) might remember the great tree in which all birds will seek refuge.
  • And who is like a bird, protecting chicks under wing-coverings? To whose glory do birds sing? What song does the whole creation sing?
  • Lofty mountains isn't a difficult one to someone writing a long dissertation on the Psalms.
  • And rivers are not unheard of in the Bible, speaking of Spirit-blessing.
But you can push all this, can't you? I wish that I knew the Bible better, and understood Jim Jordan's stuff, but I'm sure we can probably say something like this:
  • Tree of tragedy, exaltation and enthronement.
  • Bird of Spirit-life-breath.
  • All on a mountain-tabernacle, where we see the great eternal Tabernacle.
  • Dying for that river of Spirit-blessing to flow, purchasing and guaranteeing that eternal river-garden-mountain-city...
Not such a bad verse now, is it!