A Prayer for Renewal

O my Saviour,

Help me.

I am so slow to learn,

so prone to forget,

so weak to climb;

I am in the foothills when I should be

on the heights;

I am pained by my graceless heart,

my prayerless days,

my poverty of love,

my sloth in the heavenly race,

my sullied conscience,

my wasted hours,

my unspent opportunities.

I am blind while light shines around me:

take the scales from my eyes,

grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief.

Make it my chiefest joy to study thee,

meditate on thee,

gaze on thee,

sit like Mary at thy feet,

lean like John on thy breast,

appeal like Peter to thy love,

count like Paul all things dung.

Give me increase and progress in grace

so that there may be

more decision in my character,

more vigour in my purposes,

more elevation in my life,

more fervour in my devotion,

more constancy in my zeal.

As I have a position in the world,

keep me from making the world my position;

May I never seek in the creature

what can be found only in the Creator;

Let not faith cease from seeking thee

until it vanishes into sight.

Ride forth in me, thou King of kings

and Lord of lords,

that I may live victoriously,

and in victory attain my end.

–from Valley of Vision

The God Who Knows

The Character of God, Part 5

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33, ESV)

If you Google the most intelligent people in history, you’ll get familiar names such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein. Even Adolf Hitler’s name comes up (you know . . . in the evil genius category).  Today, Terence Tao, a 37-year old mathematics professor at UCLA, is considered by many to be the most intelligent living person. With an IQ of 230, at the age of two, he attempted to teach a five-year old relative math and English at a family gathering! At two, I would have been content with “potty-trained.”

Mankind (especially men) has always enjoyed beating their chest over their brilliant accomplishments, scientific discoveries and feats of knowledge. But even more impressive that what our grey matter has churned out is that all ideas – in fact, all knowledge – originates with God. Not only does he know all that there is to know, but he created knowledge itself. He knows all things actual and potential. He knows the future. He is “perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:16).

In addition, God knows how to perfectly apply all knowledge. That is the basic meaning of wisdom. That God’s decisions “will always bring about the best results (from God’s ultimate perspective), and they will bring about those results through the best possible means.”[1]

What does this mean for you? It means that God knows you inside and out. He knows your every thought (perhaps more terrifying than comforting!). He knows everything about you. Did you feel like no one understands you? Well, there is one who does. And despite knowing our deepest, darkest secrets and our ugliest side, he still loves us.

It also means that we can trust him to work wisely in our lives. Since God is perfect in wisdom, he never makes any mistakes or poor choices. All that he does is the best that could be done.

Lastly, it means the one who is all-wise bestows the same wisdom on those who ask (James 1:5-7). When we face one the many difficult decisions that life throws our way, we can turn to him so that we might drink from the source of that infinite fountain of wisdom.

Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:7–8, ESV)

[1] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology, p. 193

A Monday Morning Prayer

I thank you O God, for the pleasures you have given me through my senses;

for the glory of thunder, for the mystery of music,

the singing of birds and the laughter of children.

I thank you for the delights of color,

the awe of the sunset,

the wild roses in the hedgerows…

I thank you for the sweetness of flowers and the scent of hay.

Truly, O Lord, the earth is full of your riches!

-Edward King

Wonder Much?

He who is a stranger to wonder is a stranger to God, for God is wonderful everyway, and everywhere, and everyhow. —C.H. Spurgeon

 He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. (Deuteronomy 10:21, NIV84)

“Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. (Job 37:14, NIV)

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. (Psalm 9:1, NIV)

You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. (Psalm 40:5, ESV)

Come and see the wonders of God; His acts for humanity are awe-inspiring. (Psalm 66:5, HCSB)

Lord, the heavens praise Your wonders — Your faithfulness also— in the assembly of the holy ones. (Psalm 89:5, HCSB)

Sing a new song to the Lord, for He has performed wonders; His right hand and holy arm have won Him victory. (Psalm 98:1, HCSB)

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! (Psalm 107:31, ESV) 

Fighting the Right Way

I really appreciated this article by JD Greear:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

In Ephesians 4:29, Paul mentions two kinds of speech: that which builds up and that which pulls down. This verse and the surrounding passage show us ten ways that we can handle conflict well—10 ways to fight like a Christian.

1. Examine your heart.

This is a huge first step in any conflict. Even if you’ve been wronged, what does your emotional response say about your heart? Is it possible that malice, wrath, or bitterness have snuck in? These things are like alarm systems for your heart, pointing to idolatry, which is often a much bigger issue than whatever your spouse (or brother or friend or boss) has done to you.

2.     Overlook whatever you can.

Part of speaking to others with grace is discerning what needs confronting and what should be overlooked. That’s a lot of what Paul means by that little phrase, “as fits the occasion.” On certain occasions (not all!), confronting little infractions only serves to heighten tensions. There are times you need to speak up and confront; and there are times to just let it go. There’s a real art to knowing the difference.

3.     Be practical in how you fight.

Again, think about what “fits the occasion.” My wife and I have learned the hard way that there are certain times, places, and moods that are just bad for arguments. So we never fight, for instance, if we’re both exhausted. We table the argument and come back to it within 24 hours, after we’ve had time to rest. Now, there’s always a temptation to just table a critical discussion endlessly, so you need to be sure to keep your word. If you say, “Let’s talk about this in the morning,” then put it on your calendar and actually bring it back up.

4.     Be quick to listen and slow to speak.

As our Pastor of Counseling Brad Hambrick says, the vast majority of communication problems are not expression problems, but listening problems. You’re plenty skilled at making your point known; but the “communication breakdown” is the result of your stopped up ear. Listening well is one way of applying the biblical truth of considering others’ interests more important than your own (cf. Phil 2:3–4)

5.     Seek their sanctification, not your vindication.

Once you let go of the idea that you have to win every argument and vindicate yourself, you can finally focus on what helps the other person and the relationship. That means backing off, even when you think you are in the right.

6.  Believe in God’s overriding purposes in your relationships.

Knowing that God has a purpose for your relationships introduces an element of hope, even to the most broken of those relationships. This will not automatically make a difficult relationship easier, but it does add perspective: God knew you would be in that relationship, and he intends to do something beautiful with your conflict.

7. Speak grace-saturated words.

When grace saturates your speech, it changes both the content and the tone of what you say. Instead of assuming the positives and noticing the negatives, you begin to assume the negatives and intentionally point out the positives. You avoid being sarcastic and condescending, because that kind of talk—even if it’s technically “true”—only serves to ostracize and tear down.

8. Don’t give up until there is no longer a chance of reconciliation.

This is specifically applicable to married relationships, though the principle is broader than that. I see so many couples going through the pain of divorce, and even though there are a few isolated cases in which divorce is biblically justifiable, I wish that more people would just give the power of grace a chance before giving up on that relationship.

9. Truly forgive.

Forgiveness is a choice to put an offense away from our minds, but it’s not conditional on another person’s repentance. Many people think, “I’d forgive so-and-so if they would just ask for it.” But don’t confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. Reconciliation takes two people; forgiveness only takes one. For your own sake, do not wait on another person’s repentance before you forgive. The only alternative to forgiveness is bitterness.

10. Do all things out of reverence for Christ.

The only way to follow any of this is for the cross to grow large in your life, to be so overwhelmed by Christ’s sacrifice for you that it reorients how you view every offense against you. If you try to resolve conflict as an act of service to your spouse, you will always lose motivation. You have to do it for Jesus. 

The Sneakiness of Sin

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:
We tend to think of sin as we see it in its rags and in the gutters of life. We look at a drunkard, poor fell, and we say: There is sin; that is sin. But that is not the essence of sin. To have a real picture and a true understanding of it, you must look at some great saint, some unusually devout and devoted man. Look at him there upon his knees in the very presence of God. Even there self is intruding itself, and the temptation is for him to think about himself, to think pleasantly and pleasurable about himself, and really to be worshipping himself rather than God. That, not the other, is the true picture of sin. (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 301)
How true is that? Sin to us is always what we see on the news or at the very least, my “real big” screw-ups. The subtly of sin is that it creeps even into our worship and times of greatest intimacy with God. May we be ever watchful and vigilant and have eyes to see its approach so that we can come near to God with a clean heart.

Worry and Prayer

 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6, ESV)
Charles Spurgeon once said in a sermon:

A farmer stood in his fields and said,

I do not know what will happen to us all.

The wheat will be destroyed if this rain keeps on.

We shall not have any harvest at all unless we have some fine weather.

He walked up and down, wringing his hands, fretting and making his whole household uncomfortable.

And he did not produce one single gleam of sunlight by all his worrying—he could not puff any of the clouds away with all his petulant speech, nor could he stop a drop of rain with all his murmurings.

What is the good of it, then, to keep gnawing at your own heart, when you can get nothing by it? . . . .

In the same sermon Spurgeon offers another illustration:

I have often used the illustration (I do not know a better) of taking a telescope, breathing on it with the hot breath of our anxiety, putting it to our eye and then saying that we cannot see anything but clouds!

Of course we cannot, and we never shall while we breathe upon it.

HT: Justin Taylor

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