Category Archives: Quotations

Lashed to the Mast

A friend of mine posted a lengthy quotation from Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor. The following two paragraphs are a good reminder that we are weak and can, like Odysseus, be lured away by the sirens of people pleasing. We need God’s grace in seeing that we, yes even you, can fall as fast and hard as the latest tabloid headline. You are one stupid second away from utter ruin. We also need to resolve of brothers and sisters to hold us to the commitment we made when we first set out on the stormy sea. When your men are about to mutiny and the waves are about to consume you, will you be fixed on your Star of direction?

We are going to ordain you to this ministry, and we want your vow that you will stick with to it.  This is not a temporary job assignment but a way of life that we need lived out in our community.  We know you are launched on the same difficult belief venture in the same dangerous world as we are.  We know your emotions are as fickle as ours, and your mind is as tricky as ours.  That is why we are going to ordain you and why we are going to exact a vow from you.  We know there will be days and months, maybe even years, when we won’t feel like believing anything and won’t want to hear it from you.  And we know there will be days and weeks and maybe even years when you won’t feel like saying it.  It doesn’t matter.  Do it. You are ordained to this ministry, vowed to it.

“There may be times when we come to you as a committee or delegation and demand that you tell us something else than what we are telling you now.  Promise right now that you won’t give in to what we demand of you.  You are not the minister of our changing desires, or our time-conditioned understanding of our needs, or our secularized hopes for something better.  With these vows of ordination we are lashing you fast to the mast of Word and sacrament so you will be unable to respond to the siren voices.

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An End Not a Means

I am reading an anthology of Andrew Bonar’s journal entries composed by his daughter entitled Heavenly Springs. In speaking about about his struggles in preparation for preaching he writes,

I see plainly that fellowship with God is not means to an end, but is to be the end itself. I am not to use it as preparation for study or for Sabbath labour, but as my chiefest end, the likest thing to heaven. {July 21, 1843_

How many times do we as preachers and teachers scour our family and daily interactions for illustrations for a message? If we do this with our family and friends, more than likely we also do this with God. Instead of enjoying coffee with a friend, we mentally file away some sin or issue we discussed so that we can use it in a sermon later.

How many times have you gone to read your Bible just to find something new to teach on or some pithy illustration? While this is good to have a lens through which to view the world so that you may help God’s people follow more closely to him, it seems as though we have sacrificed our own nearness to Christ by using those times of fellowship as illustrations rather than canvasses we have lived life on.

Perhaps it would be a good practice to ask yourself why you are getting ready to meet with God.

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Moral Understanding as the First Step in Apologetics

Knowledge and understanding are not as neutral as we might suspect. Knowledge and understanding of the Scripture is first a moral attitude. Psalm 19 explains that the knowledge of God impossible to miss, but perpetually denied – as Romans 1 attests. Augustine’s apology is not to merely give evidences to his Manichean counterpart. He assumes that Faustus is able to see the beauty and glory of God in nature – he has, in fact, been born with this innate understanding.

The power of Augustine’s apology for the authority of the Scriptures stems from the fact that the apostles had been with Christ. They had committed their testimony to writing – isn’t this, after all, John’s argument at the beginning of his first epistle? The pseudo-prophet, Mani, had not even been alive at the time of the Incarnate Word. Thus, the Christian has confidence because those who had been with Jesus made permanent their testimony to the life, ministry, and teaching of the Christ.

“If you want to follow the authority of the scriptures, which is to be preferred to all the others, you should follow the authority that has come down to these times from the time of Christ’s presence, that has been preserved, handed on, and glorified in the whole world through the ministries of the apostles and through the certain succession of bishops in the sees” (Answer to Faustus, 33.9).

Before they can believe what is plain to every person, the Manichean must repent and believe God’s testimony. “Since you will not be able to do this – for, as long as you are such people, you will in no way be able to – at least believe that idea, which is naturally implanted in every human mind, at least if it is not disturbed by the wickedness of a perverse opinion, namely, that the nature and substance of God is utterly immutable, utterly incorruptible, and you will immediately no longer be Manicheans, so that sometime you might also be able to be Catholics. Amen” (Answer to Faustus, 33.9).

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Don’t Just Talk About Christ’s Sweetness…Taste It

I have been steeping myself in Augustine over the past four weeks for a paper I am doing on Augustine’s view of Scripture – particularly inspiration. From his second exposition of Psalm 18 (19), this hit hard:

Verse 12. The sweetness of the commandments

12. Indeed your servant keeps them. Your servant tests their sweetness by keeping them, not merely by talking about it, and keeps them because they are sweet even now, and will bring him everlasting health in the future; for in keeping them there is great reward. Heretics are so attached to their rancor that they cannot see this brilliance, nor taste the sweetness.

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Augustine’s Divine Accommodation In Natural Revelation

The divine scriptures then are in the habit of making something like children’s toys out of things that occur in creation, by which to entice our sickly gaze and get us step by step to seek as best we can the things that are above and forsake the things that are below {The Trinity, I. 1. 2}.

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Help My Denial!

augustine1

IN the latest Towers paper for Southern Seminary, Jeff Robinson asks Tripp about his anthropological view.

He asks: Why do Christians so often get the doctrine of man wrong? Don’t you think we often overestimate our own holiness and in so doing, we underestimate our need for God’s grace?

Tripp’s response: It is very hard for me to embrace that what I see in the mirror of the Word of God is actually me. I think that much of evangelicalism is people looking into the mirror and denying what they actually see. I think that’s a huge struggle.

I lived for years in my marriage as an angry man and I was deeply persuaded that the problem in my marriage was a wife who was discontent. The reality was that the Bible elaborately described what I was struggling with, but I couldn’t believe that it was me. I was so convinced that I was better than I actually was. . . . There is something dramatically wrong with me (emphasis added).

How true is it that when we are confronted by sin from our spouse, our first reaction is disbelief or blame shifting? We do not assume FIRST that we are in the wrong. If we had a healthy view of ourselves, we would start there and then look for external issues that would contribute to our attitudes and words.

This is what Augustine was primarily concerned with in his Confessions. He writes regarding his former life with the Manichees:

In Rome I did not part company with those would-be saints, who were such frauds both to themselves and to others. . . . I still thought that it was not we who sin but some other nature that sins within us. It flattered my pride to think that I incurred no guilt and, when I did wrong, not to confess it so that you might bring healing to a soul that had sinned against you. I preferred to excuse myself and blame this unknown thing which was in me but was not part of me.The truth, of course, was that it was all my own self, and my own impiety had divided me against myself. My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner. It was abominable wickedness to prefer to defeat your ends and lose my soul rather than submit to you and gain salvation.  [Confessions 5.10]

And so may we not be accused of committing abominable sins, but may we be quick to confess our sin and save our soul.

{Entire Tripp Interview in .pdf}

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Multi-Faceted Blessings

Godliness, while not guaranteed to change the original situation, often had an effect for good on the world. . . . The possibilities for the many-sided blessings of God are endless. Instead of my day being ruined, God has extricated me from sin and misery, and this is perhaps one of the most significant days in my life from the standpoint of growing into the image of Christ. I’ve learned how life works in God’s world. I’ve learned how the gospel works. I’ve learned profound lessons in a very tiny corner of life.

– David Powlison, Anger, 25.

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Question #8 Answer

What are the consequences of faith and obedience? We’ve already mentioned some of the subjective benefits. More objectively, maybe a dented fender or even a killing was prevented. Somebody else was kept from stumbling into sinful anger or murder on my account. And in the half dozen cars around me, maybe my courtesy and relaxed response prove catching.

-David Powlison, Anger: Escaping the Maze, 25.

This point Powlison hit me hard because I too often merely consider my sanctification as indicative of my relationship with God. Here we see that our exercise of self-control entails others in our wake. If I am able to put to death the deeds of the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit, then, perhaps, someone else may be enticed to pursue such holy living. Perhaps, my willingness to intentionally walk by the Spirit will keep someone else to go down the road to perdition.

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Question #7 Answer

How should I respond in this situation to glorify God? Do it. Repentance and faith lead to concrete changes in behavior, emotion, thoughts. Righteousness is just as specific as the sins described in question #2. At the simplest level, I may simply take a deep breath and relax, trusting that God is indeed in control. But God has other fruits in mind, too. I become a charitable, courteous driver. What does it matter if I’m two more car lengths behind? I’ll let a couple of cars in. God has set me free of both the hostile and competitive aspects of sinful anger. The traffic jam is no longer a dog-eat-dog battle. I offer thanks to God. I plan what I will say to the person I’ve stood up: not anxious excuse-making or blustering irritation, but the simple facts, an apology, and a concern for his welfare.

– David Powlison, Anger: Escaping the Maze (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000) 24

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Question #6 Answer

As I mentioned earlier, I just finished reading the “Anger” booklet through CCEF. I am going to post a few excerpts that I found especially helpful.

How can I turn to God for help? Do it. Question #5 laid out the worldview in which problems now make sense. Mere analysis, however, won’t change me. Question #6 gets me moving. God wants me to seek him, to interact with him. I need to apply the truths of question #5, for example, by distinguishing between righteous and sinful anger. It’s not hard to tell that my anger fails the test of righteous anger: this traffic jam is not a moral evil! My anger has arisen because I served the false gods identified in question #3.

– David Powlison, Anger: Escaping the Maze (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000) 23.

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Though Rich, I Am Poor

If you should see a person puffed up by arrogance and pride because he is a participator of grace, and even if he should perform signs and should raise the dead, if he, nevertheless, does not hold his soul as abject and humble and he does not consider himself poor in spirit and an object of abhorrence, he is being duped by evil and is ignorant. Granted he should perform signs, he is not to be trusted. For the sign of Christianity is this, that one be pleasing to God so as to seek to hide oneself from the eyes of men. And even if a person should possess the complete treasures of the King, he should hide them and say continually: “The treasure is not mine, but another has given it to me as a charge. For I am a beggar and when it pleases him, he can claim it from me.” If anyone should say: “I am rich. I have enough. I possess goods. There is nothing more I need,” such a person is not a Christian, but a vessel of deceit and of the devil. For the enjoyment of God is insatiable and the more anyone tastes and eats, the more he hungers. Persons of this kind have an ardor and love toward God that nothing can restrain. And the more they apply themselves to the art of growing in perfection, the more they reckon themselves as poor, as those in great need and possessing nothing. This is why they say: “I am not worthy that the sun shines its rays upon me.” This is the sign of Christianity, namely, this very humility.

Pseudo-Macarius, Homily 15.37

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The Deception of Perception

I came across this today as I was doing research on the life of Amphilochius. Basil of Caesarea wrote to his beloved son in the faith many times. As I read this, it sounded like a father speaking to a son. I wanted to share it:

So the primary function of our mind is to know one God, but to know Him so far as the infinitely great can be known by the very small.  When our eyes are first brought to the perception of visible objects, all visible objects are not at once brought into sight.  The hemisphere of heaven is not beheld with one glance, but we are surrounded by a certain appearance, though in reality many things, not to say all things, in it are unperceived;—the nature of the stars, their greatness, their distances, their movements, their conjunctions, their intervals, their other conditions, the actual essence of the firmament, the distance of depth from the concave circumference to the convex surface.  Nevertheless, no one would allege the heaven to be invisible because of what is unknown; it would be said to be visible on account of our limited perception of it.  It is just the same in the case of God.  If the mind has been injured by devils it will be guilty of idolatry, or will be perverted to some other form of impiety.  But if it has yielded to the aid of the Spirit, it will have understanding of the truth, and will know God.  But it will know Him, as the Apostle says, in part; and in the life to come more perfectly.  For “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”  The judgment of the mind is, therefore, good and given us for a good end—the perception of God; but it operates only so far as it can.

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…Dividing Mere Academy and Spiritual Capitation

“It is not moral education, even if it includes Bible study and memorizing Scripture verses, that makes people member of the kingdom of God. Nor is it personal reflection, a road travelled by Luther and Wesley in their early years. Instead, it is supernatural regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit but always in conjunction with the reading or hearing of the word of the gospel as given in Holy Scripture. The Bible saves and converts not even because of its unique inspiration but because it is the sword of the Spirit, it is the sword that slays the demon of pride, it is the fire that consumes the old nature” (Donald Bloesch, “The sword of the Spirit: the meaning of inspiration” in Themelios 5(3, 1980), 19).

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A Reminder to My Seminary Friends

“Little learning and much pride comes of hasty reading. Books may be piled on the brain till it cannot work” (Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, p. 177) Doug Wilson

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Double Standards

This encouraged me greatly as I think about my workplace environment. I too feel stifled in my witness at work. I continue to do it, but it does feel a little awkward when I am challenging someone with regards to the Gospel. And yet, if we pause to think about it how much religion is being shoved down our throats. Not only from perverse conversations swirling around us, but also the music that is pumping through the speakers at the store I work at sings the praises of having sex whenever you want with whomever you feel like. The music preaches the wonder and majesty of getting drunk, sleeping in late, dissipation, etc.

Timmy Brister shares how he responded to his boss when confronted by him. Some of his co-workers heard him talking about the significance of a cross around his conversant’s neck. Timmy responded:

“Every day I work here at UPS, people are pushing their religion upon me. They are atheists and live like there is no God, there is no day of accounting, there is no purpose in life except living for oneself. And everyday, that religion is preached from one co-worker after another, calling me to unbelief, and I am offended by that. Everyday I hear godless talk, my Savior’s name slurred, and hear of things that used to make people blush, and I am offended by that. Without fail, my coworkers are being entirely intolerant. One would tell me of their love and passion for Kentucky basketball and another for Louisville football, and to believe contrary to them would be against their “religion.” Yet I have the same passion and devotion, not to sports or girls or parties, but Jesus Christ. So why is my “religion” the only one being called out here at UPS? Why am I the only person who is being labeled judgmental when I am doing the most merciful thing in telling people about the love of Jesus Christ? If we were to apply the same standard to others as you are applying to me, we would have to shut down all conversation among all co-workers from this moment on, and believing that will not happen, then you have forced yourself to settle with a double-standard predicated upon hearsay of those who found a portion of my conversation as offensive. On the other hand, I exhort you to visit with everyone of my coworkers and supervisors for the past three years, people who I have worked with and talked to on a daily basis, and determine whether the claims uphold any warrant. If at that point you believe that I am unfit to function as a trainer at UPS, I would resign immediately in deference to your judgment and the goodwill of UPS. But I want to make it clear to you that this is not about me, and it has never been about me. Young men like my new hire need someone who will actually take personal interest in them and want to genuinely help them in life, not shove them off like a package on a conveyor belt, and I am of the opinion that those whom I have been given to train, they will be to me of greater worth than a package to be delivered in five days but hopefully a friend for many days to come.”

Thanks, Timmy, for speaking truth balanced with grace. Read the whole post: “The Cross Isn’t Sexy: A Dying Man’s Confession.”

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