“Nothing they feel or fear”

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“[God] comforts them when in trouble, strengthens them when weak, makes their beds in sickness, revives them when fainting, upholds them when falling, and so seasonably and effectually manages for them, that though they are persecuted and tempted, though their enemies are many and mighty, nothing that they feel or fear is able to separate them from his love.”

Works of John Newton (2015), 1:344.

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“He controls everything.”

“When God’s people are beset by temptation or persecution, a revelation of God’s character and glory is the best remedy. His power guarantees the final victory, his justice guarantees vindication of the right, and his goodness and magnificence guarantee blessing and comfort. The blood of the Lamb demonstrates that solid redemption has already been accomplished. Even in the midst of trials and persecutions, God is still the ruler. He controls everything.”

– Vern Poythress, The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, 97.

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“Forgive Us For Using You”

“Heavenly Father, you are the Lord of Armies, the commander of the universe. Though we belong to you we confess that we often have cold, hard hearts toward you.

We know your voice, yet we often fail to obey it, preferring to go our own way. We serve you with mixed motives, secretly hoping that our obedience will purchase your favor, and that it will motivate you to serve us as we think you should.

We don’t see our hearts clearly until we ask for things and you do not give us what we want: when we suffer and you won’t take the pain away; when we’re scared and you don’t remove those feelings; when we’re depressed and anxious and the black despair won’t depart.

Then we get confused and think our circumstances reveal how you feel about us. We spin off into sinful patterns of escape, hopelessness and revenge. Father, forgive us for using you and for failing to listen to your voice.”

Christ Presbyterian Church, Prayer of Confession, 4/23/17

Write

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“There are many good reasons for writing that have nothing to do with being published. Writing is a powerful search mechanism, and one of its satisfactions is to come to terms with your life narrative. Another is to work through some of life’s hardest knocks – loss, grief, illness, addiction, disappointment, failure – and to find understanding and solace.”

– Willliam Zinsser, On Writing Well (New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 2006), 283.

“If our hearts need to be broken…”

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“We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.”

– C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & World Inc., 1960), 170.

I Could Not See God for His Creature

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“Jane herself in a fateful, self-reflective moment prior to the disastrous wedding ceremony observes:

My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol. (Bronte 274)

This could almost be a classic illustration taken from a theological textbook to exemplify the sin of idolatry…”

– Alison Searle, “An Idolatrous Imagination? Biblical Theology and Romanticism in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre,” in Christianity and Literature 56, No. 1 (Fall 2006): 42-43.

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The Smallest Detail

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“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

– Proverbs 16:33

“But even in all these normal things – including the casting of lots – we may see God’s leading. His providence covers everything, even the outcome of rolling dice. The lot is simply cast in the lap; and especially if that act ‘simply’ occurs in a game, you might imagine that God is not involved. But the smallest detail of our lives is in His hand.”

– J. Douma, The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life, 105.

“Somebodyism”

“Funny how that happens. I finally smiled, remembering something I heard Ram Dass say on the radio once, about somebodyism – how most of us are raised to be somebodies and what a no-win game that is to buy into, because while you may turn out to be much more somebody than somebody else, a lot of other people are going to be a lot more somebody than you. And you are going to drive yourself crazy.”

Bird by Bird, Anne Lammot (New York: Anchor Books, 1995), 220.

On Rightly Relating to God

The pious mind recognizes “God because it knows that he governs all things; and trusts that he is its guide and protector, therefore giving itself over completely to trust in him. Because it understand him to be the Author of every good, if anything oppresses, if anything is lacking, immediately it betakes itself to his protection, waiting for help from him. Because it is persuaded that he is good and merciful, it reposes in him with perfect trust, and doubts not that in his loving-kindness a remedy will be provided for all its ills.”

– John Calvin, Institutes, I. ii. 2.

A True Monster

“If you have lived in cities and have walked in the park on a summer afternoon, you have perhaps seen, blinking in a corner of his iron cage, a huge, grotesque kind of monkey, a creature with ugly, sagging, hairless skin below his eyes and a bright purple underbody. This monkey is a true monster. in the completeness of his ugliness he achieved a kind of perverted beauty. Children stopping before the cage are fascinated, men turn away with an air of disgust, and women linger for a moment, trying perhaps to remember which one of their male acquaintances the thing in some faint way resembles.”

– Sherwood Anderson, Winesburgh, Ohio, pg. 121.

Pain and Pleasure

“Pain is meant to drive us to God: in need, from a sense of helplessness and poverty. When you are willing to enter into experiences of loneliness, loss, disappointment, or frustration – willing to face hard realities, and not bolt for some lesser pleasure – you find the door to the greatest pleasure of all.

Similarly, pleasure is meant to draw us to God: with simple gratitude and delight. You take it for what it is, a mere gift to be enjoyed from the hand of the Giver of gifts. When we desperately try to escape pain, we turn our pleasures into saviors and they prove to be the devil to us.”

– Dr. David Powlison, Innocent Pleasures, JBC, Fall 2005, 28.

Psalm 119 and Speech Therapy

“If you speed-read, all you get is, ‘Psalm 119 is about the Bible.’ But if you take it slow and live it out, you find yourself saying things like this: ‘You are good and do good.’ Or this: ‘I am Yours.’ Learning to say that out loud and mean it will change your life forever. Psalm 119 is not information about the Bible; it’s speech therapy for the inarticulate.”

– David Powlison, Suffering and Psalm 119.

“One unspeakable pleasure that brought no joy”

“And I thought to myself, twelve hours! In those twelve hours the whole world had changed, because of one insensate act. And what madness made a man pursue something so unspeakable, deaf to the cries of wife and children and mother and friends and blind to their danger, to grasp one unspeakable pleasure that brought no joy, ten thousand of which pleasures were not worth one of the hairs of their heads? Such desire could not surely be a desire of the flesh, but some mad desire of a sick and twisted soul. And why should I have it? And where did it come from? And how did one cure it? But I had no answers to these questions.”

– Pieter, after he committed adultery in Alan Paton’s novel Too Late the Phalarope (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981), 174.

Open the Cupboard

“We do not welcome strangers into our lives or homes, and we do not go out to meet them. We do not inform ourselves of events abroad and cannot locate them on maps or in context… We have never dealt seriously with a homeless person. We do not grieve over news stories of poverty or starvation, and we make token efforts to relieve such suffering by our charity. Claiming allegiance to the Christ who speaks in active imperatives (Go! Tell! Witness! Declare! Proclaim!), we Christians nonetheless prefer to keep the bread of life in our own cupboard and to speak of it only to those who already have it. Do we subconsciously suppose that in such inbred silence we can keep our dignity, and unbelievers can go to hell where they belong?”

– Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 189.

“Wash thee in Christ’s blood”

Oh my black soul! now art thou summoned
By sickness, death’s herald, and champion;
Thou art like a pilgrim, which abroad hath done
Treason, and durst not turn to whence he is fled;
Or like a thief, which till death’s doom be read,
Wisheth himself delivered from prison,
But damned and haled to execution,
Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned.
Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lack;
But who shall give thee that grace to begin?
Oh make thy self with holy mourning black,
And red with blushing, as thou art with sin;
Or wash thee in Christ’s blood, which hath this might
That being red, it dyes red souls to white.

– John Donne, Holy Sonnets IV

Gandalf the Exegete

“‘Good morning!’ said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.

“‘What do you mean?’ he said. ‘Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning, or that it is a morning to be good on?'”

– The Hobbit (New York: Ballantine Books, 1985), 17-18.