Archive for the ‘Quotes, with apologies to whomever.’ Category

A question to consider

June 5, 2010

This morning, as I was drinking my coffee trying to keep my caffeine withdrawal at bay, I read something that really woke me up. Here’s the opening of J.C Ryle’s, “A Call To Prayer”

“Men ought always to pray.” Luke 18:1 “I will that men pray everywhere.” 1 Timothy 2:1

I have a question to offer you. It is contained in three words, DO YOU PRAY?

The question is one that none but you can answer. Whether you attend public worship or not, your minister knows. Whether you have family prayers or not your relations know. But whether you pray in private or not, is a matter between yourself and God.

I beseech you in all affections to attend to the subject I bring before you. Do not say that my question is too close. If your heart is right in the sight of God, there is nothing in it to make you afraid. Do not turn off my question by replying that you say your prayers. It is one thing to say your prayers and another to pray.

Advertisements

Would my kids know Jesus from knowing me?

April 28, 2010

Would they? I don’t know. That’s my aim, however.

If my family were somehow shown the essence of Jesus, as he was incarnated, (I mean as he was in human form, not as the majestic being of infinite glory ascended and seated at the right hand of God the Father) would they be able to say, “Yeah, I’ve seen that before. That’s kinda like my Dad/Husband.” Or if God were to grant my prayer that they might “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”, would they be able to say, “I already know a little bit of that kind of love.”

Lord, have mercy. May it be so.

The following is a post from Anne Voskamp, at “A Holy Experience” (another of my favorite blogs) that looks at this question.


How The Kids & The Neighbor-Next-Door Might Really Become Christians?

I’m brushing my teeth, flecks of white spraying the sunny mirror, confetti celebrating new morning, when she crawls up on the toilet, leans into the mirror to find my reflection and ask me straight up, “How do you become a Christian?”

I’m Crest-foaming.

Which is slightly less than conducive for a theological treatise.

I rinse, wash the pearly whites clean, swish again, decide the best way to answer the curl girl’s question might be exactly the Jesus answered questions.

With another question.

Aren’t the answers that strike the deepest the ones our own unlikely lips discover, pull out of thin air?

Photobucket

“Shalom,” I tap the toothbrush dry on the side of the sink, porcelain knocking at today. I still haven’t found my glasses amidst the teetering stack of books on my bedside stand so I have to peer into her face, her one shake of seven freckles peppering her nose. “You tell me, Shalom… How do you become a Christian?”

I want to think I’ve fulfilled my parental calling, that she knows this one and this is a test more of my own mothering than of her four-year-old mind. But nose to that sun-kissed nose, I’ve got to concede: “Do I even know?”

What is it to become a Christian? Aren’t I still, even now, always, becoming Who I really am? Whose I really am?

What I used to think of as a four-line prayer on the back of a Billy Graham tract I now see as oceanic, cosmic, a decision made with every lugging up of the lungs for breath and it takes a whole life to labor into rebirth.

Lashes dipped gold, she rolls her sapphire eyes and grins sheepish, her head tilted shy. Has she got it? Yes? I smile, tap the end of her button nose, a vending machine tap of the universe for the right answer and maybe the Child can show me the way into the Kingdom?

So how do you become a Christian?” I set my toothbrush in its cup and turn to her and she looks clear into my canyon depths and before she opens her mouth I feel exposed.

“I know…. ” she touches my cheek in morning light mottled.

I get it from you.”

Oh.

I’m not ready for that.

I reel, pull away, glance me in the mirror and I don’t want to see, turn, fold a towel up just straight, breathe through the burn.

She’s got her theology all wrong. And all right.

She’s getting her Jesus from me.

Is that what we’re all doing here? Passing out the crumbs of our Jesus, the Bread of life we’ve been given, to the beggar starving sunken beside us?

And is that why there are fewer and fewer of genuine disciples?Because we who have Bread are indifferent hoarders, letting the masses die? Or because we’re going around passing out cardboard, pseudo-Life, because the ugly truth is that we’ve never tasted of the Real Christ ourselves?

He said those Easter People would receive power when the Holy Spirit came, that we’d be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the table, the ends of the couch, the ends of the street. The ends of the earth. Witnesses who hand out the Real Story. With their whole body.

Photobucket

And I’ve got to ask and I’m the one who has to find my own answers:

What Christ am I witnessing and what Christ do I read of, and where do I see God in my life and Who do I really eat of every Sunday? And is this body of bones wrapped in bluing thin flesh a faithful witness at all to the Truth or do my words twist the Gospel, my hands and my tongue lying outright about Christ, the Messiah?

Doesn’t anyone take the witness stand for the God who laid it all down? Have we not seen? Heard? Touched? Why shrink away? Why lie about it?

I don’t know…. I don’t claim to know.

I just know that the Child’s startling claim that she’s getting her Christianity from me brings me to my knees. It’d better keep me there.

And I know that I’d better be handing out the real Bread — not something that will make her, anyone, soul sick. And maybe the answer is that, whether we realize it or not, every moment is our testimony before a world who has Christ on trial.

When I tenderly gather her up into the lap there on the edge of the tub, I explain what it means, how to break the amniotic waters of new life, or what little I know of the mysteries of being born again, and I feel so small.

She feels along the story for days.

I pray my hands are a better witness than my words.

She prays a sinner prayer on a Tuesday, and we who conceived her bones are bent with her, midwives for the second birthing. I pull her close, kiss her forehead fresh with heaven’s scent and I whisper into curls, “The angels have seen this, Shalom, the angels bear witness. The angels have a party today.”

On her new day one, we make angel cookies, her and I, of the wheat kernels fallen to the ground, gathered and ground fine, angel cookies for the angel party, for the lost sheep found, celebration for the long delivery begun.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

And I bear witness to her splitting smile, the Christ Alive and bits of the heavens fallen quiet across the greening earth, the blue periwinkles, the dark violets, the dandelion suns.

Guarding the Gospel

January 8, 2010

“Many good people think that they ought to guard the Gospel, but it is never so safe as when it stands out in its own naked majesty. It needs no covering from us.

When we protect it with provisos, guard it with exceptions and qualify it with observations, it is like David in Saul’s armor—it is hampered and hindered and you may even hear it cry, ‘I cannot go with these.’

Let the Gospel alone and it will save! Qualify it and the salt has lost its savor.”

– Charles Spurgeon, “The Dying Thief in a New Light” (sermon on Luke 23:40-42, preached on August 23, 1885)

(ht-Of First Importance)

The Church and the Holy Spirit

November 28, 2009

“‘Edith, I wonder what would happen to most churches and Christian work if we awakened tomorrow, and everything concerning the reality and work of the Holy Spirit, and everything concerning prayer, were removed from the Bible.  I don’t mean just ignored, but actually cut out – disappeared.  I wonder how much difference it would make?’  We concluded it would not make much difference in many board meetings, committee meetings, decisions and activities.” – Edith Schaeffer, The Tapestry, page 356.

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of they did would stop and everyone would know the difference.” – A.W. Tozer

What the spiritual life really is

September 30, 2009

“Then we discover what the spiritual life really is. It is not a matter of doing one good thing rather than another, of praying in one way rather than in another. It is not a matter of any special psychological effect in our own soul. It is the silence of our whole being in compunction and adoration before God, in the habitual realization that He is everything and we are nothing, that He is the Center to which all things tend, and to Whom all our actions must be directed. That our life and strength proceed from Him, that both in life and in death we depend entirely on Him, that the whole course of our life is foreknown by Him and falls into the plan of His wise and merciful Providence; that it is absurd to live as though without Him, for ourselves, by ourselves; that all our plans and spiritual ambitions are useless unless they come from Him and that, in the end, the only thing that matters is His glory.” -Thomas Merton

Tomatoes

October 10, 2008

One of the things I’ve done with the boys this year is grown tomatoes. Just a couple of plants, but I wanted them to see how things grow, to understand the process growth a little better. Personally, I consider this a spiritual discipline, although I’ve not seen it formally listed as such.

I wanted them to learn about planting, how deep do you plant them?, how important is soil preparation? Watering, weeding, feeding, diseases, and bugs, all need to be watched and tended to. How the cages that seem so big and useless at first, but later become the framework that allows the plant to flourish.

Neither of them like tomatoes, unless you first make them into ketchup, but they really like to go check on the plants. They spend most of the time looking at how big the plant is, and how many tomatoes are on them.

I don’t know how much time they think about the roots. My guess is not much. I’m a lot like that.

I’ve been pondering this article from A.W. Tozer in The Root of the Righteous . Tending to the root of anything is, by and large, hidden. It’s aim is for soundness for the long haul. It requires regular maintenance, knowledge of what you’re doing. 

ONE MARKED DIFFERENCE between the faith of our fathers as conceived by the fathers and the same faith as understood and lived by their children is that the fathers were concerned with the root of the matter, while their present-day descendants seem concerned only with the fruit.

This appears in our attitude toward certain great Christian souls whose names are honored among the churches, as, for instance, Augustine and Bernard in earlier times, or Luther and Wesley in times more recent. Today we write the biographies of such as these and celebrate their fruit, but the tendency is to ignore the root out of which the fruit sprang. “The root of the righteous yieldeth fruit,” said the wise man in the Proverbs.

Our fathers looked well to the root of the tree and were willing to wait with patience for the fruit to appear. We demand the fruit immediately even though the root may be weak and knobby or missing altogether. Impatient Christians today explain away the simple beliefs of the saints of other days and smile off their serious-minded approach to God and sacred things. They were victims of their own limited religious outlook, but great and sturdy souls withal who managed to achieve a satisfying spiritual experience and do a lot of good in the world in spite of their handicaps. So we’ll imitate their fruit without accepting their theology or inconveniencing ourselves too greatly by adopting their all-or-nothing attitude toward religion.

So we say (or more likely think without saying), and every voice of wisdom, every datum of religious experience, every law of nature tells us how wrong we are. The bough that breaks off from the tree in a storm may bloom briefly and give to the unthinking passer-by the impression that it is a healthy and fruitful branch, but its tender blossoms will soon perish and the bough itself wither and die. There is no lasting life apart from the root.

Much that passes for Christianity today is the brief bright effort of the severed branch to bring forth its fruit in its season. But the deep laws of life are against it. Preoccupation with appearances and a corresponding neglect of the out-of-sight root of the true spiritual life are prophetic signs which go unheeded.

Immediate “results” are all that matter, quick proofs of present success without a thought of next week or next year. Religious pragmatism is running wild among the orthodox. Truth is whatever works. If it gets results it is good. There is but one test for the religious leader: success. Everything is forgiven him except failure.

A tree can weather almost any storm if its root is sound, but when the fig tree which our Lord cursed “dried up from the roots” it immediately “withered away.” A church that is soundly rooted cannot be destroyed, but nothing can save a church whose root is dried up. No stimulation, no advertising campaigns, no gifts of money and no beautiful edifice can bring back life to the rootless tree.

With a happy disregard for consistency of metaphor the Apostle Paul exhorts us to look to our sources. “Rooted and grounded in love,” he says in what is obviously a confusion of figure; and again he urges his readers to be “rooted and built up in him,” which envisages the Christian both as a tree to be well rooted and as a temple to rise on a solid foundation.

The whole Bible and all the great saints of the past join to tell us the same thing. “Take nothing for granted,” they say to us. “Go back to the grass roots. Open your hearts and search the Scriptures. Bear your cross, follow your Lord and pay no heed to the passing religious vogue. The masses are always wrong. In every generation the number of the righteous is small. Be sure you are among them.” “A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.” ( Article taken from The Root of the Righteous, Chapter 1 )

 

 

A Letter Worth Reading

July 19, 2008

I’m going to post this today instead of a follow-up to the “King and His Kingdom” because, 1) I just found it today, and 2) it’s really good.

Here’s a letter written by Evelyn Underhill that I think is as timely today as it was when it was written.

(HT- Brother Maynard)

A letter from Evelyn Underhill to Archbishop Lang of Canterbury  

(Found among her papers. c.1930)  

MAY it please your Grace:  

I desire very humbly to suggest with bishops assembled at Lambeth that the greatest and most necessary work they could do at the present time for the spiritual renewal of the Anglican Church would be to call the clergy as a whole, solemnly and insistently to a greater interiority and cultivation of the personal life of prayer. This was the original aim of the founders of the Jerusalem Chamber Fellowship, of whom I am one. We were convinced that the real failures, difficulties and weaknesses of the Church are spiritual and can only be remedied by spiritual effort and sacrifice, and that her deepest need is a renewal, first in the clergy and through them in the laity; of the great Christian tradition of the inner life. The Church wants not more consecrated philanthropists, but a disciplined priesthood of theocentric souls who shall be tools and channels of the Spirit of God: and this she cannot have until Communion with God is recognized as the first duty of the priest. But under modern conditions this is so difficult that unless our fathers in God solemnly require it of us, the necessary efforts and readjustments will not be made. With the development of that which is now called “The Way of Renewal” more and more emphasis has been placed on the nurture and improvement of the intellect, less and less, on that of the soul. I do not underrate the importance of the intellectual side of religion. But all who do personal religious work know that the real hunger among the laity is not for halting attempts to reconcile theology and physical science, but for the deep things of the Spirit.  

We look to the Church to give us an experience of God, mystery, holiness and prayer which, though it may not solve the antinomies of the natural world, shall lift us to contact with the supernatural world and minister eternal life. We look to the clergy to help and direct our spiritual growth. We are seldom satisfied because with a few noble exceptions they are so lacking in spiritual realism, so ignorant of the laws and experiences of the life of prayer. Their Christianity as a whole is humanitarian rather than theocentric. So their dealings with souls are often vague and amateurish. Those needing spiritual help may find much kindliness, but seldom that firm touch of firsthand knowledge of interior ways which comes only from a disciplined personal life of prayer. In public worship they often fail to evoke the spirit of adoration because they do not possess it themselves. Hence the dreary character of many church services and the result in the increasing alienation of the laity from institutional forms.  

God is the interesting thing about religion, and people are hungry for God. But only a priest whose life is soaked in prayer, sacrifice, and love can, by his own spirit of adoring worship, help us to apprehend Him. We ask the bishops . . . to declare to the Church and especially its ministers, that the future of organized Christianity hinges not on the triumph of this or that type of churchman’s theology or doctrine, but on the interior spirit of poverty, chastity and obedience of the ordained. However difficult and apparently unrewarding, care for the interior spirit is the first duty of every priest. Divine renewal can only come through those whose roots are in the world of prayer.  

THE TWO things that the laity want from the priesthood are spiritual realism and genuine love of souls. It is by these that all Christian successes have been won in the past and it is to these that men always respond. We instantly recognize those services and sermons that are the outward expression of the priest’s interior adherence to God and the selfless love of souls. These always give us a religious experience. On the other hand, every perfunctory service, every cold and slovenly celebration (for these are more frequent than the bishops realize because when they are present, everything is at its best), is a lost opportunity which discredits corporate worship and again reflects back to the poor and shallow quality of the Priest’s inner life… It is perhaps worthwhile to recall the humbling fact that recent notable secessions to the Roman Catholic communion have been caused by declaration by a felt need of the supernatural which the Church of England failed to satisfy, while the astonishing success of the Oxford Group Movement among young people of the educated class witnesses to the widespread desire for an experience of God unmet by the ordinary ministrations of the Church. History shows that these quasi-mystical movements among the laity do not flourish where the invisible side of institutional religion is vigorously maintained.  

I know that recovering the ordered interior life of prayer and meditation will be very difficult for clergy immersed increasingly in routine work. It will mean for many a complete rearrangement of values and a reduction of social activities. They will not do it unless they are made to feel its crucial importance. This will not be achieved through “schools of prayer” which stimulate the mind rather than the spirit. But the solemn voice of the united episcopate, recalling the Church to that personal, realistic contact with the which has been since Pentecost the one source of her power, will give authoritative support to those who already feel the need of a deeper spirituality and will remind the others that the renewal of a spiritual society must depend on giving absolute priority to the spiritual life.  

I venture to put before the conference the following practical recommendations: (1) Education of Ordinands— That the bishops shall emphasize the need and importance of a far more thorough, varied, interesting and expert devotional training in our theological colleges which, with a few striking exceptions, seem to me to give insufficient attention to this vital part of their work. (2) The Clergy— That they should call upon every ordained clergyman, as an essential part of his pastoral duty and not merely for his own sake: (a) To adopt a rule of life which shall include a fixed daily period of prayer and reading of a type that feeds, pacifies and expands his soul, and deepens his communion with God; b) To make an annual retreat; (c) To use every endeavour to make his church into a real home of prayer and teach his people, both by exhortation and example so to use it.  

 

(Courtesy of the Austin Fellowship) 

Sinclair Ferguson on the church

June 23, 2008

From a sermon delivered to the EPC General Assembly last week. (HT- Jimmy Davis)

“When the church fails to be the church, individual Christians need to learn how to ask questions that will make ungodly people think about godly things. But when the church is the church, the people of God simply need to answer the questions that the very character of the church is prompting the world to ask.”

Go here to read Jimmy’s longer quote. Great stuff.

A Good Life

June 9, 2008

I’m re-reading a little book that has a curious draw for me.  

I’m not a very disciplined person. Never have been. Long term good habits are pretty hard to come by for me.

Why then would a book about a strict monastic rule of life be so attractive that Id want to re-read, and even try to implement some form of it in my day to day living?

I’m sure psychological explanations abound (And psychological examination is probably warranted in my case), but the best reasons I can come up with are balance, and Robert Benson.

I’ll start with Robert Benson. I really like him. I like the way he writes, clear, simple, honest prose (not an easy thing, by the way) that obviously comes from long hours of experience with a subject. You know how some people come across as very knowledgeable in a particular subject, but you can tell it’s still theoretical and not lived? I never get that feeling with Robert. Everything seems to have been lived for a long time before he puts it on paper.

But I don’t just like him as an author, I really like him. I spent a weekend with him on retreat and got to know him a little bit. He’s very unassuming, honest about his past and present, quick to laugh, and I wish he lived in my town so I could hang out with him.

Now the balance part.

When I think about a “rule of life” the feeling that immediately comes over me is one of wearing wool pants and neck ties that are a little too tight. Constricting legalism that “builds character”. Ugh. No fun, all serious, all the time. Gruel for breakfast lunch and dinner.

Benedict, on the other hand begins his rule this way,

Seeking his workers in a multitude of people, the Lord calls out and lifts his voice again: Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?

Oh yeah, I yearn for life and good days. You’ve got my attention now. How do I get there from here?

We intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service…

The wool pants are itching again.

In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned, however may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.

Ok. I ‘m still a little wary, but I’m old enough to know that a little strictness is needed to amend faults, after all I’ve got two boys. And if we really are safeguarding love, I can deal with a tie from time to time.

I’m hooked. 

The book has seven chapters-

  1. Longing
  2. Prayer
  3. Rest
  4. Community
  5. Work
  6. Living
  7. Authors notes- technically not a chapter, but functionally it is.

I’m not going summarize them though. The book’s short enough, and a good enough read that I’ll leave that to you. But I will give you my overall thoughts. 

Benedict was unusually balanced in his approach to the spiritual life. The idea being that all of life is spiritual and can be categorized under four headings- prayer, rest, community and work. Each of these areas needs to be nurtured, and balanced, recognizing their essential part in a life well lived, with prayer being the framework around which each day’s rest, work and community takes shape. *Disclaimer*-This is my very simplistic summary of the rule, but it will do for my purposes here. 

Robert’s writing on the rule makes it both inviting and accessible to folks like me- tired, busy, overcommitted, suburban, mini-van drivers looking for some way to live out life following Jesus. At the same time it’s not a pie in the sky promise that it’ll all be quick and easy either. He’s clear that this way of life is a radical departure from the good life as advertised on TV. It’s gonna take some real work and commitment. Decisions have to be made, schedules reworked, patterns of living changed. But the end result is (hopefully) what the subtitle holds out, “Everyday Joy”. And that’s too good to pass up.  

My suggestion to you? Buy it, read it, let it grow in you. Let the poet-author, and an old monk teach you about the possibility of living a good life.  

Revival?

May 31, 2008
Update: I just about finished this and realized that I wasn’t writing in the first person. BIG mistake. If you read this, realize that it applies to me first. Then anyone else that wants to join up, feel free. 

“It is my considered opinion that under the present circumstances we do not want revival at all. A widespread revival of the kind of Christianity we know today in America might prove to be a moral tragedy from which we would not recover in a hundred years.”- A.W. Tozer

Don’t tell me about Lakeland. Don’t tell me about emotional “worship experiences”. Don’t tell me about spiritual gifts. Don’t tell me about programs, projects, and long term strategies. Don’t tell me about good preaching or sound theology. Don’t tell me about looking at the “fruit” of a church’s (or a preacher’s) ministry if you mean numbers in attendance, or even converts (remembering the parable of the sower). God may be at work in all these.

Then again, he may not be.

The fruit we should be looking for is found in the letter to the Galatians.

We’re called to discern the spirits. Well?

Do you see evidence of this, “… enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,…” in yourself, or the people in your congregation? Remember, this comes next, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Are your people, are you, more loving? Is this your aim, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2)

Are you increasingly more joyful? Does the joy set before you cause you to endure the cross and its shame? Is that joy your strength? Do newcomers to your group notice a deep seated joy that transcends circumstances?

What about peace? Are you a peacemaker? Are you known as an ambassador of reconciliation? Or does your proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom mostly convey strife and division? The Gospel will always have an unpopular, prophetic edge to those who smell death instead of life, but which direction are you headed as a people?

Patience? Are you content? When people interrupt your plans how do you react? Is the desire for your vision of ministry frustrated by the very people you are shepherding? How do you react to those weaker brothers?

Kindness?… anyone?… anyone?… kindness?” (read in your best Ben Stein voice) How do you measure yourself and your folks when you read this from Henry Drummond?

“‘The greatest thing,’ says someone, ‘a man can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of His other children.’ I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are? How much the world needs it. How easily it is done. How instantaneously it acts. How infallibly it is remembered.” (The Greatest Thing In The World)

What about goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?

(*crickets*?)

What about the first things that history tells us happened in almost all, if not all, real revivals. Prayer, and Godly sorrow leading to repentance?

Ruthlessly look at your own heart, see if you are at least moving the right direction, then I’m pretty sure you’ll know what real revival would look like.