Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ten Characteristics of Grace

Characteristic #1

The first and possibly the most fundamental characteristic of divine grace is that it presupposes sin and guilt. Grace has meaning only when humanity is seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation, and liable to eternal wrath. It is precisely because people today have lost sight of the depths of human depravity that they think so little of divine grace. What makes Paul's declaration that we are saved "by grace" so significant is his earlier declaration that we were "dead" in trespasses and sins, "gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature" (NIV), "carrying out the desires of the body and the mind," and that we were by nature children of divine wrath (Eph. 2:1-10).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


In reading A Praying Life(Miller, Paul E. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2009. Print.), one of the most convicting aspects of the book was its confrontation of cynicism in the life of the believer. Miller sees the cynical tendencies of North America as a major stumbling block to prayer. I agree with him; I have first hand experience with cynics. I see one in the mirror every day.

I often accuse others, not to their face mind you, of impure motives and believe they are working an angle. And yet, I attribute to myself the purest of motives and the integrity associated with authentic living.

Cynicism is a prayer killer. It jumps from "God will never do what I ask him" to "God did that in spite of my weak prayers and would have done it anyways".

This is a far cry from the reckless, passionate, child-like approach that Jesus takes in prayer. Perhaps that is why we are called to be child-like; cynicism is rarely found in young ones.

Consider this quote from A Praying Life:


Our personal struggles with cynicism and defeated weariness are reinforced by an increasing tendency toward perfectionism in American culture. Believing you have to have the perfect relationship, the perfect children, or a perfect body sets you up for a critical spirit, the breeding ground for cynicism. In the absence of perfection, we resort to spin-trying to make ourselves look good, unwittingly dividing ourselves into a public and private self. We cease to be real and become the subject of cynicism.

The media’s constant Monday-morning quarterbacking (“this shou1dn't have happened”) shapes our responses to the world, and we find ourselves demanding a pain-free, problem-free life. Our can-do attitude is turning into relentless self-centeredness.

Psychology’s tendency to hunt for hidden motives adds a new layer to our ability to judge and thus be cynical about what others are doing. No longer do people commit adultery out of lust-they have unmet longings that need to be fulfilled.

Cynicism is the air we breathe, and it is suffocating our hearts. Unless we become disciples of Jesus, this present evil age will first deaden and then destroy our prayer lives, not to mention our souls. Our only hope is to follow Jesus as he leads us out of cynicism. (82)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


As American Christians [and Canadian Christians I would argue], we celebrate the idea that "all men are created equal." This statement from our Declaration of Independence is grounded in the biblical teaching that every person in the world has been formed in the image of God and therefore has intrinsic worth. It's a beautiful idea.

Subtly, however, this quality of persons shifts into an equality of ideas. Just as every person is equally valued, so every idea is equally valid. Applied to faith, this means that in a world where different people have different religious views, all such views should be treated as fundamentally equal.

In this system of thinking, faith is a matter of taste, not of truth. (Platt, David. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2010. 141)

All ideas are not created equal; some ideas are better than others.

This week one of my daughters questioned me on how we could be confident that what we believed was right. She commented that other people had other religious beliefs that they believed were true. She also noted that other religions had their own scriptures and that they would use those writings to support their thinking. She queried: "Why should we as Christians have confidence we are right?"

To her general question, I gave her a personalized answer: "If you want to be sure what you believe is true, you need to do 2 things. First, you need to pray to God and ask him to convince you of the truth of the Bible and of Christianity. Without God's help, no amount of inquiry will convince you of the truth. We, because of sin, are unable to find truth without the grace of God. So ask the Holy Spirit to help you in this. Secondly, search these things out for yourself. If you find something about Christianity that troubles you, look into it. I will help you. Whether it is the existence of dinosaurs or the inerrancy of the Bible, study the problem until you get some answers. I am convinced that you will find the Bible and Christianity can overcome any challenge you have for it."

My confidence, which is real and not contrived, seemed to put her at ease. She proceeded to tell me where she thought dinosaurs came into play in the Biblical account of history.

I relay this quote from Radical and the anecdote about my daughter for a few reasons. First, to remind you that not all ideas are equal, and in Christianity I believe we find truth that is verifiable; the claims it makes hold up under scrutiny. Secondly, to remind us that logical investigation does not save people; God saves people. Humans, at the most basic level, do not have an intellectual problem with God; they have a moral problem with Him. They want to be their own god. And only God can overcome that type of defiance. And finally, when faced with inquiring individuals or challenges from children, you can be confident in the answers that the Bible provides, but you can be overwhelmingly sure that God can change people's hearts and minds.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rescuing Ambition

Having recenlty finished Rescuing Ambition (Harvey, David T. Rescuing Ambition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. Print.), I would like to share an excerpt from that book. Here is a fairly long, but worthwhile, explanation by the author, Dave Harvey, on the purpose behind the book:
Rescue Operation
The ambition dreams I’m talking about can’t be unlocked with a surgical procedure. They need to be rescued. To rescue means to save something, to prevent it from being discarded or harmed ...

You see, I believe that ambition-godly ambiti0n, that is-is noble force for the glory of God. But let’s face it: ambition has mostly hovered outside respectability. For church leaders from Augustine to Jonathan Edwards, ambition was synonymous with the love of earthly honor, vainglory, fame-hunting-pretty slimy stuff ...

Ambition must also be rescued from a wrong understanding of humility. That may sound crazy, but I’m serious. I think this issue quenches a lot of evangelical fire. Humility, rightly understood,
shouldn’t be a fabric softener on our aspirations. When we become too humble to act, we've ceased to be biblically humble. True humility doesn’t kill our dreams; it provides a guardrail for them, ensuring that they remain on God’s road and move in the direction of his glory ...

So this book is my own little attempt at a rescue operation. The idea is to save ambition-specifically, godly ambition-and return it to where it belongs. To do this, we must snatch ambition from the dust heap of failed motivations and put it to work for the glory of God ...

I’m not rooting this perspective in common sense or well-researched psychological studies. Nope, ambition is inherent in who We are before the God who created us. The Bible teaches that people are created by God to desire-and to go after those desires with single-minded determination. It’s this capacity to desire and strive that can generate remarkable good or stupefying evil. Whether it’s to conquer nations or control the remote, we’re hardwired to be ambitious for what we want.

Why read this book? Read it to make connections between what you want and what you do . . . between your present opportunities and your future hopes . . . between your life and God’s glory. These connections rescue us from fruitlessness, pointlessness, purposelessness, and the haunting gray twilight of wasted time and lost opportunity. (14-15)
This was an excellent book that dealt with a topic that seems to be under-represented. I found it very helpful in terms of both my understanding of the topic and issues as well as my motivation to strive for things that bring God glory. I strongly recommend it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bending our hearts

Most of us simply Want to get rid of anxiety. Some hunt for a magic pill that will relieve the stress. Others pursue therapy. While antidepressants and counseling have helped many people, including me, the search for a “happy pill” or “happy thoughts” will not stop our restless anxiety. It runs too deep.

Instead of fighting anxiety, We can use it as a springboard to bending our hearts to God. Instead of trying to suppress anxiety, manage it, or smother it with pleasure, we can turn our anxiety toward God. When We do that, we’ll discover that we’ve slipped into continuous praying ...

What does an unused prayer link look like? Anxiety. Instead of connecting with God, our spirits fly around like severed power lines, destroying everything they touch. Anxiety wants to be God but lacks God’s Wisdom, power, or knowledge. A godlike stance without godlike character and ability is pure tension. Because anxiety is self on its own, it tries to get control. It is unable to relax in the face of chaos. Once one problem is solved, the next in line steps up. The new one looms so large, we forget the last deliverance.

Oddly enough, it took God to show us how not to be godlike. Jesus was the first person who didn’t seek independence. He wanted to be in continuous contact with his heavenly Father. In fact, he humbled himself to death on the cross, becoming anxious so we could be free from anxiety. Now the Spirit brings the humility of Jesus into our hearts. No longer do we have to be little gods, controlling everything. Instead, we cling to our Father in the face of chaos by continuously praying. Because we know we don’t have control, we cry out for grace. We become anxious when we take a godlike stance, occupying ourselves with things too great for us. We return to sanity by becoming like little children, resting on our mothers. (Miller, Paul E. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2009. Print. 70-71, emphasis mine)
I, like most people I know, get anxious. I really liked the imagery Miller uses in this excerpt to describe how to deal with anxiety: "Instead of fighting anxiety, We can use it as a springboard to bending our hearts to God. Instead of trying to suppress anxiety, manage it, or smother it with pleasure, we can turn our anxiety toward God." The idea of bending our hearts back to God expresses both the inclination of our hearts to drift from God as well as the effort it takes to return it to a God-focused orientation. This is what the Christian walks is about; our effort coupled with God's efficacious enabling resulting in the sanctification of our prayer lives.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Internal problem - external solution

From Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology:
Our Problem, the Solution

Al Mohler:
Most Americans believe that their major problem is something that has happened to them, and that their solution is to be found within. In other words, they believe that they have an alien problem that is to be resolved with an inner solution. What they gospel says, however, is that we have an inner problem that demands an alien solution—a righteousness that is not our own.
--'Preaching with the Culture in View,' in Preaching the Cross (Crossway 2007), 81

That's very clarifying.

The world says: the problem is outside you, the solution inside you.
The gospel says: the problem is inside you, the solution outside you.

Friday, September 24, 2010


In this post, I considered how God rejoiced over his people. Spurgeon's devotional, Morning by Morning, was the springboard for those thoughts. Yesterday in his devotional, Spurgeon returned to the idea of how much God love's us with the following:

“Accepted in the beloved.”
Ephesians 1:6

What a state of privilege! It includes our justification before God, but the term “acceptance” in the Greek means more than that. It signifies that we are the objects of divine complacence, nay, even of divine delight. How marvellous that we, worms, mortals, sinners, should be the objects of divine love! But it is only “in the beloved.” Some Christians seem to be accepted in their own experience, at least, that is their apprehension. When their spirit is lively, and their hopes bright, they think God accepts them, for they feel so high, so heavenly-minded, so drawn above the earth! But when their souls cleave to the dust, they are the victims of the fear that they are no longer accepted. If they could but see that all their high joys do not exalt them, and all their low despondencies do not really depress them in their Father’s sight, but that they stand accepted in One who never alters, in One who is always the beloved of God, always perfect, always without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, how much happier they would be, and how much more they would honour the Saviour! Rejoice then, believer, in this: thou art accepted “in the beloved.” Thou lookest within, and thou sayest, “There is nothing acceptable here!” But look at Christ, and see if there is not everything acceptable there. Thy sins trouble thee; but God has cast thy sins behind his back, and thou art accepted in the Righteous One. Thou hast to fight with corruption, and to wrestle with temptation, but thou art already accepted in him who has overcome the powers of evil. The devil tempts thee; be of good cheer, he cannot destroy thee, for thou art accepted in him who has broken Satan’s head. Know by full assurance thy glorious standing. Even glorified souls are not more accepted than thou art. They are only accepted in heaven “in the beloved,” and thou art even now accepted in Christ after the same manner.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

We are not the end of the gospel

In this excerpt from Radical(Platt, David. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2010), we see a Piper-esque appeal for us to realize that God is about making much of Himself and not about making much of us. This is a bitter pill to swallow for an arrogant and prideful creature such as myself. And yet, God's grace has opened our eyes, my eyes, to the fact that we are not the center of the universe; God is.

We live in a church culture that has a dangerous tendency to disconnect the grace of God from the glory of God. Cur hearts resonate with the idea of enjoying God’s grace. We bask in sermons, conferences, and books that exalt a grace centering on us. And while the wonder of grace is worthy of our attention, if that grace is disconnected from its purpose, the sad result is a self-centered Christianity that bypasses the heart of God.

If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity; you would most likely hear something along the lines of
“The message of Christianity is that God loves me.” Or someone might say “The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send his Son, Jesus, to die for me.”

As wonderful as this sentiment sounds, is it biblical? Isn’t it incomplete, based on what we have seen in the Bible? “God loves me” is not the essence of biblical,Christianity. Because if “God loves me” is the message of Christianity then who is the object of Christianity?

God loves me.


Christianity’s object is me.

Therefore, when I look for a church, I look for the music that best fits me and the programs that best cater to me and my family. When I make plans for my life and career, it is about what works best for me and my family When I consider the house I will live in, the car I will drive, the clothes I will wear, the way I will live, I will choose according to what is best for me. This is the version of Christianity that largely prevails in our culture.

But it is not biblical Christianity.

The message of biblical Christianity is not “God loves me, period,” as if we were the object of our own faith. The message of biblical Christianity is “God loves me so that I might make him-his ways, his salvation, his glory and his greatness-known among all nations.” Now God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers ground him. We are not the end of the gospel; God is.(70-1)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A child's heart

From A Praying Life by Paul Miller

It took me seventeen years to realize I couldn’t parent on my own. It was not a great spiritual insight, just a realistic observation. If I didn’t pray deliberately and reflectively for members of my family by name every morning, they’d kill one another. I was incapable of getting inside their hearts. I was desperate. But even more, I couldn’t change my self-confident heart. My prayer journal reflects both my inability to change my kids and my inability to change my self-confidence. That’s why I need grace even to pray ... If we think we can do life on our own, we will not take prayer seriously. Our failure to pray will always feel like something else-a lack of discipline or too many obligations. But when something is important to us, we make room for it. Prayer is simply not important to many Christians because Jesus is already an add-on. (59, emphasis mine)
I can't change my children's hearts. How could I? I can't even change my own heart. I identify with the quiet desperation that Miller describes here. My inability to transform my children is a great motivation for me to pray. Because, God can change their hearts. And he can change mine too.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Singing God

I have begun to read Spurgeon's classic devotional Morning by Morning. I try and read before I read my Bible as a means of calibrating my mind and heart to God and things of God. Spurgeon has a way with words, and these brief writings help me get the morning going in the right direction.

His entry from this morning was edifying:
"I will rejoice over them to do them good."—Jeremiah 32:41.

How heart-cheering to the believer is the delight which God has in His saints! We cannot see any reason in ourselves why the Lord should take pleasure in us; we cannot take delight in ourselves, for we often have to groan, being burdened; conscious of our sinfulness, and deploring our unfaithfulness; and we fear that God's people cannot take much delight in us, for they must perceive so much of our imperfections and our follies, that they may rather lament our infirmities than admire our graces. But we love to dwell upon this transcendent truth, this glorious mystery: that as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so does the Lord rejoice over us. We do not read anywhere that God delighteth in the cloud-capped mountains, or the sparkling stars, but we do read that He delighteth in the habitable parts of the earth, and that His delights are with the sons of men. We do not find it written that even angels give His soul delight; nor doth He say, concerning cherubim and seraphim, "Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in thee"; but He does say all that to poor fallen creatures like ourselves, debased and depraved by sin, but saved, exalted, and glorified by His grace. In what strong language He expresses His delight in His people! Who could have conceived of the eternal One as bursting forth into a song? Yet it is written, "He will rejoice over thee with joy, He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing." As He looked upon the world He had made, He said, "It is very good"; but when He beheld those who are the purchase of Jesus' blood, His own chosen ones, it seemed as if the great heart of the Infinite could restrain itself no longer, but overflowed in divine exclamations of joy. Should not we utter our grateful response to such a marvellous declaration of His love, and sing, "I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation?"
As well as being uplifting and encouraging in and of itself, this short writing reminded me of something that has been brought to the reader's attention previously on this blog:

What God really thinks of His children

Zephaniah 3:14-17

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, t
he LORD, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:"Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
17 The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Isaiah 62:5

5 For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

In this post Chris drew attention to a sermon by Sam Storms entitled The Singing God which he highly recommends and which can be downloaded or listened to here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Poem by my daughter

The following is a poem by my eldest daughter. She produced this for her grade 7 school assignment. I am very impressed. "Of course", you say, "you're her father". Fair enough. But if you knew my family, you'd know how perceptive she was in picking ideas that we stand for and selecting things that symbolize who we are and what we do.

The most profound insight she made, in my opinion, was associating herself with the pool fence. Ena is very motherly and protective; she looks out for the younger ones' well-being more than you would anticipate for someone her age. For her to she herself in the fence was either an amazing "coincidence", or incredible insight.

Her focus on our faith and our family made me particularly proud.


Where I'm From

By Ena St. John

I am from sharp bladed hockey skates
from smooth nike swim suit
I am the fence guarding the pool
( Black, smooth, it feels and smells like rubber )
I am from the dandelions, roses, vines, far reaching grasses
the maple trees blocking the sun's light, birch tree,
two apple trees that feed the insects all summer.

I'm from Easter family banquets that fill you up all day
from Christmas day gatherings were I see all 12 cousins
from old grandpa Ray
from young cousin Jayla
I'm from Thanks Giving feast with steaming hot gravy
from babysitting every Wednesday
I'm from suck it up buttercup
and what you say is what you are

I'm from redneck country people and Christians
that go to church to learn every Sunday
I'm from London, Ontario
from the sinking boats that the waves crashed over.
the rushing through traffic to get to the game.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Deep Wrestling

From David Platt's book Radical
The danger of spiritual deception is real. As a pastor, I shudder at the thought and lie awake at night when I consider the possibility that scores of people who sit before me on a Sunday morning might think they are saved when they are not. Scores of people who have positioned their lives on a religious road that makes grandiose promises at minimal cost. We have been told all that is required is a one-time decision, maybe even mere intellectual assent to Jesus, but after that we need not worry about his commands, his standards, or his glory We have a ticket to heaven,and we can live however we want on earth. Our sin will be tolerated along the way. Much of modern evangelism today is built on leading people down this road, and crowds flock to it, but in the end it is a road built on sinking sand, and it risks disillusioning millions of souls.

Biblical proclamation of the gospel beckons us to a much different response and leads us down a much different road. Here the gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves, and to follow Jesus. These are the terms and phrases we see in the Bible. And salvation now consists of a deep wrestling in our souls with the sinfulness of our hearts, the depth of our depravity and the desperation of our need for his grace; Jesus is no longer one to be accepted or invited in but one who is infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender.

As in a previous post, here David Platt deconstructs an aspect of modern evangelism that he feels is at best inappropriate and at worst a terrible tragedy. He begins with the possibilty of error; and I think he hits close to the mark. But what struck me is the positive correction of the alleged problem which he states. "the gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves, and to follow Jesus ... salvation now consists of a deep wrestling in our souls with the sinfulness of our hearts, the depth of our depravity and the desperation of our need for his grace." (38-9)

For me, I need these constant reminders. This is part of preaching the gospel to my self everyday. The depth of my depravity and the sinfulness in my heart is a source of constant contention, better yet warfare, in my soul.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Distortion and denial of justification

From John Murray's commentary on Romans (Murray, John. The Epistle to the Romans: the English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968. Print.):

The intimacy of the relations between justification and sanctification is made evident by the way in which chapters 5 and 6 are connected. There is no abruptness of transition. The question with which chapter 6 begins arises, from the emphasis at the close of chapter 5. If grace superabounds where sin abounds, if the multiplication of transgression serves to exhibit the lustre of grace, and if the law administered by Moses came in alongside in e order that the trespass might abound, the logical inference would seem to be, let us sin all the more in order that God may be gloried in the magnifying of This grace. This is the antinomian distortion of the doctrine of grace and it is also the objection of the legalist to the doctrine of justification apart from works by free grace through faith. It is both the distortion and the objection that the apostle answers in this Chapter, and in his answer he develops the implications of the death and resurrection of Christ. (212, emphasis mine)
I find it interesting that the depravity of our hearts and minds leads both the legalist and the antinomian to erroneously abuse the same doctrine; in the case of the antinomian, take our right standing with God as a springboard for license to sin and, in the case of the legalist, to deny justification outright either through argument or action. I know that I too often pitch my tent in both camps, but your more likely to find me in the same neighbourhood as the legalists. God help us.

Friday, September 17, 2010

My brief sojourn into Hollywood

I "starred" in a movie with Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman. I think the studio was concerned I would upstage them so they killed off my character. Here is the video.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Quietly Confident

"If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life. You'll always be a little too tired, a little too busy. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can't do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will find the time to pray."

(Miller, Paul E. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2009. Print.)

Well, my personal resources of time, money, and talent are not instilling me with much confidence, at least not when I stop and think about them. However, my "default position" seems to be one of quiet confidence; this is clearly not the case. So, I must, I will, find time to pray.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Don’t we need him?

From Radical by David Platt:

So how do we respond to this gospel? Suddenly contemporary Christianity sales pitches don’t seem adequate anymore: Ask Jesus to come into your heart. Invite Jesus to come into your life. Pray this prayer, sign this card, walk down this aisle, and accept Jesus as your personal Savior. Our attempt to reduce this gospel to a shrink-wrapped presentation that persuades someone to say or pray the right things back to us no longer seems appropriate.

And that is why none of these man-made catch phrases are in the Bible. You will not find a verse in Scripture where people are told to “bow your heads, close your eyes and repeat after me.” You will not find a place where a superstitious sinners prayer is even mentioned. And you will not find an emphasis on accepting Jesus. We have taken the infinitely glorious Son of God, who endured the infinitely terrible wrath of God and who now reigns as the infinitely worthy Lord of all, and we have reduced him to a poor Savior who is just begging for us to accept him.

Accept him? Do we really think Jesus needs our acceptance? Don’t we need him?

I invite you to consider with me a proper response to this gospel. Surely more than praying a prayer is involved. Surely more than religious attendance is warranted. Surely this gospel evokes unconditional surrender of all that we are and all that we have to all that he is. (37)

When I first read this I thought, "Whoa, David. A little bit of an overstatement there." But the more I reflect on the excerpt and the more I reminisce about my church upbringing, the more I sense he is close to the truth.

We-as in my church and those other churches I had experiences with-cheapened the gospel in an effort to make it as easy as possible for people to "get saved". The motives, I'm convinced, were honourable; snatching souls from the hands of the devil. But the results indicate, at least in my feeble analysis, a cohort of Christians who really might not be comprised of as many regenerate souls as I once thought.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


As seen at The Puritan's Woodshop:

Light without, Darkness within

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

(Psa 139:23-24 KJV)

“The heart of man is full of sin and corruption, and that corruption is of an exceedingly darkening, blinding nature. Sin always carries a degree of darkness with it; and the more it prevails, the more it darkens and deludes the mind.- It is from hence that the knowing whether there be any wicked way in us is a difficult thing. The difficulty is not at all for want of light without us, not at all because the word of God is not plain, or the rules not clear; but it is because of the darkness within us. The light shines clear enough around us, but the fault is in our eyes; they are darkened and blinded by a pernicious distemper.

Sin is of a deceitful nature, because, so far as it prevails, so far it gains the inclination and will, and that sways and biasses the judgement.”

-Jonathan Edwards, from Christian Cautions

This post caught my attention particularly in the last line of Edwards' quote. Sin's danger and destructive power is not just in the sinning itself, though the danger and destructiveness in that is enough to make you an enemy of God and condemn you to hell. But it is perilous because of its deceitful and beguiling qualities. Sinning, and sin itself, captivates our inclination and wills. Edwards purported that the regenerate where endued with a 'inner relish' for God and the things of God. Sin smothers this inner relish, this desiring of things spiritual. So, not only do we reap the punishment that comes with sin, but we are also subjected to its motivation-smothering effects.

I approach Christ for forgiveness for my sins, but also for a strengthening of the God-ward desires for Him that His regenerative work procured in me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

You don't create intimacy ...

An excerpt from Paul Miller's A Praying Life (Miller, Paul E. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2009.):
Jesus' examples teaches us that prayer is about relationship. When he prays, he is not performing a duty; he is getting close to his Father.

Any relationship, if it is going to grow, needs private space, time together without an agenda, where you can get to know each other. This creates an environment where closeness can happen, where we can begin to understand each other's hearts.

You don't create intimacy; you make room for it. This is true whether you are talking about your spouse, your friend, or God. You need space to be together. Efficiency, multitasking, and busyness all kill intimacy In short, you can't get to know God on the fly. (47)
I really appreciated the line about not creating intimacy.

It is not something that can be fabricated when desired. Rather, it is the fruit of time spent together with someone; no quick fixes here.

I want my prayers to be saturated with an intimacy heretofore not yet experienced. And though I would like that reality now, I realize it is not procured or produced when desired. Rather it is created and cultivated in a relationship that requires time spent together.

I pray for God's grace in this.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The point of life

"Human beings are only bearable when the last defenses of their egos are down; when they stand, helpless and humbled, before the awful circumstances of their being. It is only thus that the point of the cross becomes clear, and the point of the cross is the point of life." - Malcom Muggeridge in Jesus Rediscovered

We daily, hourly, minute-by-minute need the point of the cross to become clear in our life. Let me restate that: I need a moment by moment clarity of the purpose of the cross and the person on the cross. Not just I want it or would prefer it; I need it.

Because, as Muggeridge puts it, it is "the point of life." Without the cross, life is pointless. And not just pointless in an over-arching sense, but pointless in an instantaneous second by second sense; completely pointless.

The issue that causes my gargantuan ego problems is that this requires a lifetime, a yearly, a daily and hourly, humbling so I can see life, Jesus Christ and Him crucified, clearly. And in a life like that, there is faith, hope, and love.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Which is more important?

In his book Radical, David Platt describes the woeful condition we as human beings find ourselves in:
No one who is morally evil can choose good, no man who is a slave can set himself free, no woman who is blind can give herself sight, no one who is an object of wrath can appease that wrath, and no person who is dead can cause himself to come to life. (31)
Platt continues by describing to radically different solutions to the problem above:
The modern-day gospel says "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved." Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, "You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do." (32)

Platt then contrasts the difference in the two approaches:
The former sells books and draws crowds. The latter saves lives. Which is more important? (32)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gospel application or gospel denial

Here is a great post by Dane Ortlund which I'm guessing we can all relate to.

Quit Asking for Forgiveness

One way I reinforce my inveterate functional Pelagianism is by allowing remembrance of a past sin to bring me back into despondency and a renewed plea for forgiveness every time it comes to mind.

The trouble is that (normally) I've asked the Lord to forgive me in the wake of the sin, yet when it comes to mind again I find myself crumpling internally into yet another anguished prayer for forgiveness.

The enemy loves it. He sees I'm not letting a decisive placing of that sin under the blood of Christ settle the issue once and for all. Somehow I allow myself to feel that the more often I ask for forgiveness, and the greater the anguish, the more effectual the blood of Christ on my behalf.

Which is itself works-righteousness. It's a denial that the blood of Christ is enough. It's thinking: I need to help out Christ's work by a super intense, repeated, pleading for that blood. The very gospel application is a gospel denial. My mind pleads grace while my heart self-atones.

Place it under the blood. Once. Then quit asking for forgiveness.

'. . . and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.' --Isaiah 53:6

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Superabounding grace!

Romans 5:20,21

ESV - Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

From John Murray's commentary on Romans:
The apostle construes the multiplying of trespass which the giving of the law promoted as magnifying and demonstrating the superabounding riches of divine grace. The more transgression is multiplied and aggravated the greater is the grace that abounds unto justification and the more the lustre of that grace is made manifest. The surpassing efficacy and glory of God's grace are stressed by the superlative, "superabounded".

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pretenses Relinquished

"The Way begins where for Christ himself its mortal part ended—at the cross. There alone, with all our earthly defenses down and our earthly pretensions relinquished, we can confront the true circumstances of our being; there alone grasp the triviality of these seemingly so majestic achievements of ours, like going to the moon, unraveling our genes, fitting one another with each other's hearts, livers and kidneys. There, contemplating God in the likeness of man, we may understand how foolish and inept is man when he sees himself in the likeness of God." Malcolm Muggerdige in Jesus Rediscovered

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Most. Dependent. Ever.

In A Praying Life (Miller, Paul E. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2009. Print.) by Paul Miller, the author does, in my mind, an excellent job of elucidating what it means to become like a child; the well-known mandate of Jesus in the gospels. He does this specifically in regards to prayer, but also generally in regards to life. Here is an example:
When Jesus tells us to become like little children, he isn't telling us to do anything he isn't already doing. Jesus is, without question, the most dependent human being who ever lived ... He is telling us to realize that, like him, we don't have the resources to do life. When you know that you (like Jesus) can't do life on your own, then prayer makes complete sense." (45)
This was an unexpected twist on the "be like a little child" imperative. Jesus the most dependent. Ever? C'mon. If that were the case, you would expect that Jesus would not do anything of his own accord, but only what someone else prescribed.
John 5:19 - So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Spurgeon's Morning by Morning for today

Here is the Scripture for September 6:

“In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”
Philippians 2:15

Here is the opening line:
A Christian man should so shine in his life, that a person could not live with him a week without knowing the gospel.

Here was my response:

Raising the dead

"An old preaching professor used to take his students to a cemetery every semester. Standing on the perimeter overlooking scores of headstones, he would ask his students in all sincerity to speak over the graves and call people from the ground to rise up and live. With some embarrassment and an awkward chuckle or two, they would try it. Of course, one by one they would fail. The professor would then look at his students and remind them of a core truth in the gospel: people are spiritually dead, just as these corpses in the cemetery were physically dead, and only words from God can bring them to spiritual life." David Platt from Radical

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Insanely Optimistic

"It is a curious fact that today, as I have found, one is called a pessimist if one ventures to express a certain contempt for the things of this world, and dares to entertain the truly extraordinary hopes about our human destiny which buoyed up the first Christians when, in earthly terms, their master had gone from them and their cause was lost. What a weird reversal, as I should have thought, of common sense! What a preposterous distortion of language! How, I ask myself, can it be pessimistic to call in question the transitory satisfactions available in our mortal existence, and to contrast them with the enduring ones offered us in the Gospels and Epistles? I wonder whether, in the history of all the civilizations that have ever been, a more insanely optimistic notion has ever been entertained than that you and I, mortal, puny creatures, may yet aspire, with God's grace and Christ's help, to be reborn into what St Paul calls the glorious liberty of the children of God. Or if there was ever a more abysmally pessimistic one than that we, who reach out with our minds and our aspirations to the stars and beyond, should be able so to arrange our lives, so to eat and drink and fornicate and learn and frolic, that our brief span in this world fulfills all our hopes and desires." - Malcolm Muggeridge in Jesus Rediscovered

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sloppy and meandering prayers

"The gospel, God's free gift of grace in Jesus, only works when we realize we don't have it all together. The same is true for prayer. The very thing we are allergic to-our helplessness-is what makes prayer work. It works because we are helpless. We can't do life on our own.

Prayer mirrors the gospel. In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks at the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers."
- Paul Miller in A Praying Life

Friday, September 3, 2010

Drivel of entertainment

The gospel reveals eternal realities about God that we would sometimes rather not face. We prefer to sit back, enjoy our cliches, and picture God as a Father who might help us, all the while ignoring God as a Judge who might damn us. Maybe this is why we fill our lives with the constant drivel of entertainment in our culture-and in the church. We are afraid that if we stop and really look at God in his Word, we might discover that he evokes greater awe and demands deeper worship than we are ready to give him. (Platt, David. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2010. p29)

I enjoy entertainment as much as the next guy. A good movie to provide escape is often something to look forward to at the end of the day. A well-contested hockey game or a adrenaline-raising video game might work the same for others. Or perhaps the latest paperback thriller or romance is more your thing. We all like to be entertained. And as I mentioned, the entertainment value to me is much about escape. I have always felt that this urge to escape was a retreat from the hectic pace and heavy pressure of life in North American culture; a brief time-out in the rat race of life. It never really occurred to me that the very thing I might be trying to escape is a confrontation with the personal God. A confrontation through His word or by His Spirit that might be a little too awe-inspiring or demanding. A little to real. But I think that far too often it ultimately must be God that my too-often roving and far-ranging heart is avoiding when I look for escape. God help me!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I can flee no farther

"However far and fast I've run, still over my shoulder I'd catch a glimpse of You on the horizon, and then run faster and farther than ever, thinking triumphantly: Now I have escaped. But no, there You were, coming after me. Very well, I'd decide, if I can't get away by running, I'll shut my eyes and ears and not see or hear You. No good ! one sees and hears You, not with the eyes and ears, but inwardly, with the soul, whose faculties never can be quite put out however gorged, stupefied and ego-inflated we may become. Now I can flee no farther; I fall. Mercy!" - Malcolm Muggeridge, from Jesus Rediscovered

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Here's a great post from Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology:

What's the Key to Healthy Christian Growth in Godliness?

That’s the question I asked a handful of thoughtful men of God last week. Responses below.

Please understand: I explicitly asked our brothers to keep it to a single, short sentence. Of course, whole volumes could be (and have been!) written addressing this question (here’s my favorite). So we gladly receive these wise statements remembering that sanctification is not a math problem. There is no formula. Every answer below needs a hundred footnotes. Point taken.

The purpose of this exercise is not to provide an opportunity to nit-pick but to re-center, refresh, encourage, spur on, help one another.

Thabiti Anyabwile:
‘If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.’ (Col. 3:1)
Mike Bullmore:
I believe the key to healthy Christian growth in godliness is a deep life in the Word of God (Psalm 1:1-3) in which we are encountered by Christ, the Living Word (John 5:39-40, Col. 3:16), in whom we find all the fullness of God himself (Col. 1:19, 2 Cor. 1:20, and a hundred other verses).
Justin Buzzard:
Trusting and enjoying God as your Father, living as his son/daughter, on account of Christ's work.
Graham Cole:
The key is to treasure Jesus Christ, for that will be where your heart is.
Jonathan Dodson:
Growth in godliness is not character-centered but Christ-centered, a constant expression of repentance and faith in the person and work of Jesus.
Lyle Dorsett:
Radical, unreserved love for Jesus Christ manifested in obedient intimacy.
Zack Eswine:
Jesus. Mercy. Tears. A friend. Time.
Sean Lucas:
The key to healthy Christian growth in godliness is to live out of the reality of your union with Christ.
Doug Moo:
The constant, disciplined practice of reminding ourselves who we are in Christ.
Steve Nichols:
Self-determination is a myth.
Eric Ortlund:
The key to healthy (un-Pharisaical, un-ugly) Christian growth is the thing you believed when you first became a Christian, which delivers you into that deep rest and rightness and OK-ness before God, and which exposes sin as counterfeits which can’t match Christ’s righteousness.
Gavin Ortlund:
The key to healthy Christian growth in godliness is experiencing the grace and glory of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.
Ray Ortlund:
Applying the interruptive ‘But now’ of Romans 3:21 to my heart.
Darrin Patrick:
We must have an increasing sense of our unworthiness before God by ourselves and an increasing sense of our own acceptance from God in Christ.
George Robertson:
The key to healthy Christian growth in godliness is faithful attention to gospel preaching.
Tim Savage:
Having the strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ in us (cf. Eph. 3:18).
Tom Schreiner:
The key to growth is trust in God, and faith comes from hearing God’s word.
Steve Smallman:
I’ve become convinced from Scripture and experience that personal spiritual growth is rooted in participation in a healthy church; personal growth comes from community growth.
Colin Smith:
A lively sense of all that Christ is for us and all that is ours in Him.
Sam Storms:
Healthy Christian growth in godliness doesn’t primarily come from trying harder but from enjoying more; or again, pleasure in God is the power for purity in life.
Justin Taylor:
The key to healthy growth in godliness is to seek and to enjoy fellowship with the Father, in union with Christ, through the power of the Spirit, in accordance with the Word, with the body of Christ.
Joe Thorn:
I believe the key to healthy growth in godliness is the cultivation and exercise of Scripture-saturated prayer by which we express and experience our dependence on, joy in, and work through Jesus Christ.
Carl Trueman:
The key to healthy growth in godliness is to be an active, serving member of a local church where the gospel is preached and the eldership care about nurturing the congregation as outward-looking, humble servants of Christ.
Bruce Ware:
Growing knowledge of and love for God, particularly as revealed in Christ and through the Scriptures, that re-structures one’s mind and enflames one’s heart, resulting in increasing transformation into Christ-like character.
Jared Wilson:
As pat as the answer may sound, the key to healthy Christian growth in godliness is submissive study of the Scriptures.
Bob Yarbrough:
Hard work in response to Christ’s cross.

Good answers, brothers! Thought-provoking and helpful. Thank you for serving us in this way.

(My own response would be something like:
Resolutely enjoying our full and free justification from God in Christ, in the shadow of which all the beckoning functional justifications of the world lose their vice-like grip on our hearts.)

God grant us grace to move forward with the glad abandon of faith in September 2010 as never before.