Saturday, January 31, 2009

Prayer

Prayer the church's banquet, angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth
Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tow'r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.

(George Herbert's poetic description of prayer)

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.

(--George Herbert, 1593--1633)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pat Terry then and now



I enjoyed the music of the Pat Terry Group back in the 70s, with lines like
I can't wait to get to heaven
And get my sleeping bag unrolled...
Now I'm appreciating his new CD "Laugh for a Million Years" (2008). An interview with Pat on his perspective of the past decades of music is here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On 1 Peter 1:8 and change of heart

"Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory..." (1 Peter 1:8 ESV)

Been thinking on this passage... that becoming a Christian is not a matter of externals (religion, ceremony, moralism), nor even a matter of willing or decision or choice, though these follow in turn. It is a matter first and foremost of the heart and the change of "affections" (Edward's term) that takes place through the new birth by the Holy Spirit.

Here's a good quote from Luther...

But again, on the other hand, when God works in us, the will, being changed and sweetly breathed on by the Spirit of God, desires and acts, not from compulsion, but responsively, from pure willingness, inclination, and accord; so that it cannot be turned another way by any thing contrary, nor be compelled or overcome even by the gates of hell; but it still goes on to desire, crave after, and love that which is good; even as before, it desired, craved after, and loved that which was evil. This, again, experience proves. How invincible and unshaken are holy men, when, by violence and other oppressions, they are only compelled and irritated the more to crave after good! Even as fire, is rather fanned into flames than extinguished, by the wind. So that neither is there here any willingness, or "Free-will," to turn itself into another direction, or to desire any thing else, while the influence of the Spirit and grace of God remain in the man.

In a word, if we be under the god of this world, without the operation and Spirit of God, we are led captives by him at his will, as Paul saith. (2 Tim. ii. 26.) So that, we cannot will any thing but that which he wills. For he is that "strong man armed," who so keepeth his palace, that those whom he holds captive are kept in peace, that they might not cause any motion or feeling against him; otherwise, the kingdom of Satan, being divided against itself, could not stand; whereas, Christ affirms it does stand. And all this we do willingly and desiringly, according to the nature of will: for if it were forced, it would be no longer will. For compulsion is (so to speak) unwillingness. But if the "stronger than he" come and overcome him, and take us as His spoils, then, through the Spirit, we are His servants and captives (which is the royal liberty) that we may desire and do, willingly, what He wills.

(Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, sect. 25)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Eternal Word

As cultural fads ebb and flow, the inescapable truth emerges that century after century the power of his written Word has surpassed, and will continue to surpass, the exhilarations of momentary experience, which are conceived and die in an instant. We tenderly set a halo on the forehead of feeling or miracle, but in times of greatest loss it is the written Word, the embodied Word, that carries us through, not feeling.

The apostle Peter reminds us of this very truth. We must remember that this is the same Peter who experienced the ecstasy of the transfiguration--a sight that caused him to plead that he and those with him be permitted to permanently bask in its afterglow. It is Peter who, contrasting the temporariness of that experience with the eternal and unfading brilliance of the Word, says, "We now have the more sure word of prophecy" (2 Peter 1:19). Inscripturation has a present and eternal point of reference, transcending mere flashes of feeling or of the miraculous.

Over the span of life, the Word can be tested time and time again and its truths will stand tall as our culture's fascination with the subjective proves itself to be hollow and false. By contrast, the biblical documents have withstood the most scrutinizing analysis ever imposed upon any manuscript and have emerged with compelling authenticity and authority.

(Ravi Zacharias, "Generations, Regeneration, and the Word" (Slice of Infinity, January 15, 2009)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A gospel perspective on suffering

The Gospel transforms our approach to suffering. Moralism takes the "Job's friends" approach, laying guilt on yourself. You simply assume: "I must be bad to be suffering". Under the guilt, though, there is always anger toward God. Why? Because moralists believe that God owes them. The whole point of moralism is to put God in one's debt. Because you have been so moral, you feel you don't really deserve suffering. So moralism tears you up, for at one level you think, "what did I do to deserve this?" but on another level you think, "I probably did everything to deserve this!" So, if the moralist suffers, he or she must either feel mad at God (because I have been performing well) or mad at self (because I have not been performing well) or both. On the other hand, relativism/pragmatism feels justified in avoiding suffering at all costs--lying, cheating, and broken promises are OK. But when suffering does come, the pragmatist also lays the fault at God's doorstep, claiming that he must be either unjust or impotent. But the cross shows us that God redeemed us through suffering. That he suffered not that we might not suffer, but that in our suffering we could become like him. Since both the moralist and the pragmatist ignore the cross in different ways, they will both be confused and devastated by suffering.

(--Tim Keller, from "The Centrality of the Gospel")