Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Enchantment Dissolved - A Poem by John Newton

I recently ran across this poem by John Newton. It's well worth a careful reading.

"The Enchantment Dissolved"
Blinded in youth by Satan's arts,
The world to our unpractised hearts
A flattering prospect shows;
Our fancy forms a thousand schemes
Of gay delights, and golden dreams,
And undisturbed repose.

So in the desert's dreary waste,
By magic power produced in haste,
(As ancient fables say)
Castles, and groves, and music sweet,
The senses of the traveller meet,
And stop him in his way.

But while he listens with surprise,
The charm dissolves, the vision dies,
'Twas but enchanted ground:
Thus if the Lord our spirits touch,
The world, which promised us so much,
A wilderness is found.

At first we start, and feel distressed,
Convinced we never can have rest
In such a wretched place;
But he whose mercy breaks the charm,
Reveals his own almighty arm,
And bids us seek his face.

Then we begin to live indeed,
When from our sin and bondage freed
By this beloved Friend;
We follow him from day to day,
Assured of grace through all the way,
And glory at the end.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Quotes from this past Sunday

In case you want to ponder these a bit more:

The word “doubt” is an uncomfortable one in most Christian circles. It’s something that is frowned upon or even condemned in many church circles. But that doesn’t stop us from doubting; it just makes doubting shameful for many of us. We don’t know what to do with it, who to talk to about it, or how to talk about it. We just know that our questions feel like they are pulling us away from God.
But what if they aren’t? What if doubt isn’t inherently wrong? And what if doubt is something that doesn’t necessarily undermine our faith but can actually lead us deeper into faith? How we respond when we doubt determines whether it is “unbelieving doubt” (that which leads us away from faith) or “believing doubt” (that which leads us to deeper faith).
Here are four ways to distinguish unbelieving doubt from believing doubt.
  1. Unbelieving doubt asks questions in order to challenge. Believing doubt asks questions in order to learn.
  2. Unbelieving doubt takes questions to anyone but Jesus. Believing doubt takes questions directly to Jesus.
  3. Unbelieving doubt questions God’s character because He is beyond our understanding. Believing doubt trusts in God’s character because He is beyond our understanding.
  4. Unbelieving doubt says, “not Your will, but mine be done.” Believing doubt says, “not my will, but Yours be done.”
You can read how Barnabas unpacks each of these four points by reading the whole thing HERE.

    Ray Ortlund, “Never give up. Someone else needs you. They need your weakness, anguish, bewilderment. They need to see a buffeted Christian go to Christ and hang on for dear life and make it through. They need that from you today, and they will need the memory of it years from now. Hang on!”

    1)    I am a child of God.
    2)    God is my Father.
    3)    Heaven is my home.
    4)    Every day is one day nearer.
    5)    My Savior is my brother.
    6)    Every Christian is my brother too.
    “Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as your wait for the bus, any time your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true.”

    And one last quote, from J.I. Packer, The Christian’s motto should not be ‘Let go and let God’ but ‘Trust God and get going.’

    He Will Hold Me Fast

    "He Will Hold Me Fast" has been something of a theme song for our "Perseverance of the Savior and His Saints" series.

    You can read a little of the story behind the song HERE and HERE.

    And here are a few great renditions:

    Tuesday, March 17, 2020

    Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 - Helpful Quotes

    We continued our study through the Sermon on the Mount this past Sunday, considering Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 together. I mentioned that I'd share the quotes from the sermon, in case you wanted to reflect on them a bit more. Here they are (all emphasis is mine):

    Dallas Willard commenting on Matthew 6:1, 
    “One of the greatest fallacies of our faith, and actually one of the greatest acts of unbelief, is the thought that our spiritual acts and virtues need to be advertised to be known. ... Secrecy rightly practiced enables us to place our public relations department entirely in the hands of God, who lit our candles so we could be the light of the world, not so we could hide under a bushel. We allow him to decide when our deeds will be known and when our light will be noticed. The Spirit of the Disciplines (173-74)

    Addressing the apparent tension between Matthew 5:16 & Matthew 6:1, A.B. Bruce stated, 
     We are to show when tempted to hide and hide when tempted to show."
    Jesus is apparently motivating us in Matthew 6 with the promise of reward. Is it selfish or mercenary to be motivated by reward? 

    No. There is a world of difference between proper and improper rewards, between selfishness and enlightened self-interest. C.S. Lewis wrote with great insight on this point: 
    “We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of rewards. There is the reward which has no natural connection with the things you do to earn it and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love, that is why we call man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.”
    I didn't quote this one on Sunday, but Lewis addresses this point again in The Problem of Pain:
    "We are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man's love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by its very nature, seeks to enjoy its object."
    In Matthew 6:3, why does Jesus say, “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing?" John Stott offers some insight when he writes, 
    “Not only are we not to tell other people about our Christian giving; there is a sense in which we are not even to tell ourselves. We are not to be self-conscious in our giving, for our self-consciousness will readily deteriorate into self-righteousness. So subtle is the sinfulness of the heart that it is possible to take deliberate steps to keep our giving secret from men while simultaneously dwelling on it in our own minds in a spirit of self-congratulation.” (Christian Counter-Culture, 130).
    Commenting on Matthew 5:5-6, Don Carson writes, 
    “The person who prays more in public than in private reveals that he is less interested in God’s approval than in human praise. Not piety…but a reputation for piety…is his concern.”

    And finally, Matthew 6:16-18 makes clear that we are not to draw attention to our fasting. But what if someone finds out? Is it always wrong to let other people know that you are fasting? John Piper, in his excellent book length treatment of fasting, A Hunger For God, says, “being seen fasting and fasting to be seen are not the same.”

    Apologetics with Rebecca McLaughlin

    Rebecca McLaughlin is a sharp and articulate defender of the Christian faith. She's written a book titled, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion. She was asked HERE (time stamp 11:53) "What motivated you to write this book?" Her answer is an interesting one, and it gives you a window into some of her background.

    The book addresses the following questions:
    1. Aren't We Better Off without Religion? 
    2. Doesn't Christianity Crush Diversity? 
    3. How Can You Say There's Only One True Faith? 
    4. Doesn't Religion Hinder Morality? 
    5. Doesn't Religion Cause Violence? 
    6. How Can You Take the Bible Literally? 
    7. Hasn't Science Disproved Christianity? 
    8. Doesn't Christianity Denigrate Women? 
    9. Isn't Christianity Homophobic? 
    10. Doesn't the Bible Condone Slavery? 
    11. How Could a Loving God Allow So Much Suffering? 
    12. How Could a Loving God Send People to Hell? 

    One quick example of Rebecca's winsome competence:

    Wednesday, January 15, 2020

    Gospels Reading Plan for Jan-May

    As we study through the Sermon on the Mount on Sunday mornings, we've provided a reading plan that takes you through all four Gospels 2x and the Sermon on the Mount 6x from Jan-May. If you misplace your copy, it's posted here for reference.

    Wednesday, January 8, 2020

    Sabbath in the Bible

    The Bible Project just posted a great video explaining the meaning of Sabbath in the Bible:

    Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

    Tuesday, January 7, 2020

    The Magi and Magnificent Providence

    I'm reading slowly through the Gospel of Matthew, wanting to "fix my eyes on view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Heb 12:2; Php 3:8). Matthew chapter 2 was up for today. I'm reading the ESV Study Bible notes along with the text, and I loved this comment on Matthew 2:11:
    “The gifts were likely used providentially to support the family in their flight to Egypt.”
    What a beautiful, providential provision for this peasant family! The magi from the east were doubtlessly wealthy. This was no haphazard little band of three guys on camels. Most likely they traveled in a large caravan of people and animals and supplies. If they came from Babylon, their trip was around 800 miles. Covering that distance would have taken over 40 days. These dignified magi would not have popped up a couple of Coleman tents each night. A small nomadic camp would have to be set up, meals prepared, and precautions taken in protection from thieves. This was probably an impressive entourage. Consider how quickly they gained face time with Herod the King upon arrival. 

    All this to say, when they showed up at the door in Bethlehem, it’s hard to imagine their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh totaling a cheap token. These gifts "were likely used providentially to support the family" while they were refugees in Egypt, possibly longer. 

    We don’t know how old Jesus was when Joseph died, but perhaps this providential gift served his poor widow and son. Imagine the thoughts when Mary took a few more myrrh beads or frankincense tears from the pouch to exchange at the market. “Great men traveled great distances to offer these costly gifts and to worship my son. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. He has exalted those of humble estate. He has filled the hungry with good things." (cf. Luke 1:46-53)

    Saturday, August 3, 2019

    Body-Image Brokenness

    Brianna McClean wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition (Australia Edition) entitled, "Eve's Nakedness and Your Broken Body." It's really well written, addressing a pervasive problem with grace and wisdom. She writes to the daughters of the King, but knows that the sons need to read it too. I'd encourage you to read the whole thing. A couple quotes should prove that it's worth your time.
    Eve was the last woman to experience unbroken body-image. She was the last woman to see her body outside of the shadow of sin. In Genesis chapter two, Eve listens to the serpent and not to God, sin enters the world. Note, the first consequence of sin is broken body-image. Adam and Eve realise they are naked and feel ashamed. They cover themselves. Imagine Eve squirming in her fig-leaf, sucking in her stomach and pinching her upper arms. She is dissatisfied. ‘Am I ugly?’, she wonders for the first time. Sin affected Eve’s physical body, made it mortal. The moment she turned her back on God the life-giver, pain, disease and death embedded themselves in her DNA. 
    As God made Eve’s animal-skin covering, he was really sewing a prototype. He had plans for a much better covering, one which would destroy the power of sin and shame. The clothes of Christ’s righteousness. The Bible has good news for those weighed down by body-hatred. Jesus Christ died for your body, and he will resurrect it. Christ didn’t just die for your soul, he died to redeem your physical body. The New Creation will be a physical place, where God’s people will live in their redeemed physical bodies.