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.

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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.

Salvation by Grace

“God in His sovereign good pleasure from eternity elected certain persons in Christ to everlasting life. By nature the elect, like all other men, are totally depraved sinners who cannot save themselves. In order to save the elect God sent His Son into the world to purchase redemption for them by His precious blood and perfect obedience. By the atonement Christ merited for the elect the Holy Spirit, who effectually regenerates them and works the gift of saving faith in their hearts. That God’s chosen, whom Christ has redeemed and to whom the Holy Spirit has applied redemption, should perish is entirely out of the question. Those are the five points of Calvinism. Together they constitute one doctrine – that of salvation by sovereign grace.”

– R. B. Kuiper, For Whom did Christ Die? (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982), 70.