Friday, April 30, 2010

Not What My Hands Have Done

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9)

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

I praise the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
My Lord has saved my life and freely pardon gives;
I love because He first loved me, I live because He lives.

Horatius Bonar, 1861

from RC

Sunday, April 25, 2010

God's Grace on God's Terms

The point I am making is quite offensive to us today. It is that God hides himself from us, that he cannot be had on our terms, and that he cannot be accessed from “below” through natural revelation. In the malls, and in much of life, we encounter nothing like this. We expect access. We expect to be able to get what we want, when we want it, and on our terms.

Here this is not the case. Here we have to be admitted to God’s presence, on his terms, in his way … or not at all. We cannot simply walk into his presence. Here nature does not itself yield grace. God’s grace comes from the outside, not the inside, from above and not from within. It is not natural to fallen human life. We enter the presence of God as those who have been estranged, not as those who have been in continuity with the sacred simply because we are human. We are brought into a saving relationship through Christ; we do not put this together from within ourselves.
from "The Courage to be Protestant" by David Wells, pg. 190

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Has God Predetermined Everything?

"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." (Ephesians 1:11)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Calling vs. Choice

"For consider your calling . . . " (1 Corinthians 1:26)

Anthony Bradley recently wrote about something I often get questions about - the common practice among many Christians today to spiritualize their own personal choices. Here is the article in its entirety as posted on
The abuse of the concept of “calling” creates serious injury to people in the church and can lead to poor or cowardly choices. There is no need to spiritualize good desires. I started thinking about this when a friend told me that he’s staying in his current city because he felt “called” there? I thought, “How does he know that?” Does God “call” people to ZIP codes? What is wrong with just saying that you want to live somewhere because you like the place? Why spiritualize it?

For some perspective on this problem I asked a New Testament scholar to reflect on evangelical abuse of “calling.” Dr. James Meek, now in administration at Lock Haven University, had this to say:

“Evangelicals have developed an unfortunate habit of seeking and claiming divine direction to a degree that Scripture does not appear to justify. We deceive ourselves by claiming that our wishes and hunches are divine instructions when we have no solid reason (biblical or otherwise) for believing them to be so. But once one person begins talking this way, it’s hard not to want to sound as ’spiritual.’
I think what we actually do is to baptize hunches and wishes in the mistaken belief that these represent divine guidance. It’s a way of thinking (and talking) that has simply become accepted in many evangelical circles."

Meek went on to say that reducing our hunches and desires to a “calling” saves us the trouble of thinking, drawing on Scriptural principles, and wise understanding of the world, and absolves us of responsibility when things don’t work out well. The false spirituality and false humility of “waiting on the Lord” to avoid wrestling over a wise course of action “in the flesh” results often in sitting passively while waiting for God to drop something in our laps. Not taking risks, moving forward, or taking decisive action could actually be a sign of cowardice or lack of faith. Dr. Meek said that he’s been around long enough to have seen far too many things that “God directed” accomplish nothing. But you can’t question failure because “God directed” the action in question.

Here’s the bottom line: the Bible simply does not generally use “calling” to justify everyday choices or big-life decisions. There are a few notable exceptions for a few biblical characters. The Bible, however, does not generally use “calling” in terms of vocations, college attendance, numbering children, whom to marry, house purchases, which city or neighborhood to live in, and so on. In fact, the Greek word for “calling” is only used in the New Testament around 11 times and its almost always in reference to a divine callings related to salvation or callings to live a holy life. This is what it means to “live in God’s will.” God’s “will” may have nothing to do with whether or not one should move to Seattle instead of Chicago but it does have something to do with what kind of person one will be in either Seattle or Chicago in whatever job one chooses while living in whatever neighborhood one desires.

Until Christians adopt better language we will continue to set people up for disappointment and theological crises when their “callings” don’t work out. You do not have to be “called” in order to choose something good. If your choice turns about out to be a disaster, it’s OK, God is sovereign.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Give Me Jesus

I just noticed today that I’ve not posted since last Saturday. While I have a number of good reasons for not doing so (personal, family, ministry, church, etc.) – I believe the biggest reason is that it's hard to go back to life as usual after focusing on the crucifixion and resurrection. One might call it spiritual warfare (which it is), but I also sense there is also a battle within my own heart which is also at work – the back and forth of my own fallen nature, a mixture of emotional and spiritual highs and lows, praise and sadness, wonder and worry.

I imagine it must have been the same for the disciples during the time between the resurrection and the ascension. In Acts 1:4 we read that our Lord “ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” – which after Jesus ascended into heaven would be the coming of the Holy Spirit who would dwell within them. This is a good reminder that we are not to stay focused on our struggles, but on Jesus. Just as Christ rose from the dead and on into glory, our Father has promised He will also lift us above our fallen, sinful nature by the power of His Spirit.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

He Has Risen From the Dead!

"Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him." (Matthew 28:7)

Only a Look at Jesus

Only a look at Jesus,
Oh so bowed down with care.
He has promised to defend you
He will all your burdens share.

Only a look, only a look
Can turn you away from sin
Oh a look will give you salvation
Eternal, eternal life to win.

Only a look at Jesus,
He’ll prove a constant friend
He will bring you peace and comfort
And go with you to the end

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's Friday . . . but Sunday's Comin'!

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:37-39)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Broken Heart

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1)

This evening we will again be gathering as a church family to remember our Lord’s struggle at Gethsemane and celebrate the Last Passover meal together. Jesus’ painful prayers in the garden before he went the cross always bring to mind my own struggle with sin. I am deeply grateful for God's grace in the brokenness of making me more self-aware and sensitive to my own sin – and for His mercy in the assurance that there was a resurrection that will ultimately remove the deadly burden of my sinful nature from my soul.

O Lord,
No day of my life has passed
that has not proved me guilty in thy sight.
Prayers have been uttered from a prayerless heart;
Praise has been often praiseless sound;
My best services are filthy rags.
Blessed Jesus, let me find a covert in thy appeasing wounds.
Though my sins rise to heaven thy merits soar above them;
Though unrighteousness weighs me down to hell,
thy righteousness exalts me to thy throne.
All things in me call for my rejection,
All things in thee plead for my acceptance.
I appeal from the throne of perfect justice
to thy throne of boundless grace,
Grant me to hear thy voice assuring me:
that by thy stripes I am healed,
that thou wast bruised for my iniquities,
that thou hast been made sin for me
that I might be righteous in thee,
that my grievous sins, my manifold sins,
are all forgiven,
buried in the ocean of thy concealing blood.
I am guilty, but pardoned,
lost, but saved,
wandering, but found,
sinning, but cleansed.
Give me perpetual broken-heartedness,
Keep me always clinging to thy cross,
Flood me every moment with descending grace,
Open to me the springs of divine knowledge,
sparkling like crystal,
flowing clear and unsullied
through my wilderness of life.

From "The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotion" edited by Arthur Bennett