Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What is the Christian Life?

One of the other things I decided to in learning about Lent was to get the Anglican Church’s Lent app, which has daily reflections. The following quote, which I think is a very nice summing up of the Christian life, is excerpted from the 02/28 entry.

The Christian life is not a set of principles that can be quickly learnt and swotted up on, and the exam then passed. It is a life of growth, pruning, development, commitment, wisdom, maturity, chastening and encouragement. It is, in short, learning and growing through a living relationship.

(Quote taken from the Reflections for Lent app, Published 2012 by Church House Publishing. It is Copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2011.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lent 2012

There seems to be lots more activity than normal surrounding Lent this year. I could be wrong, or it may simply be that I'm paying more attention since I've decided to participate.

My wife and I have decided to celebrate Lent for the first time this year by making it a priority to pray with each other every day. We are both excited about it, and hopeful that God will use this time to grow us closer together, and help us make a habit of this important practice.

One of the most interesting things I found in my readings was written by Michael Horton of White Horse Inn. This link brings together an article he wrote entitled Lent—Why Bother? To Lead us to Christ, which defends the idea of Lent without condoning the superstitious practices surrounding it, and a brief discussion of why he doesn't think the practice violates the regulative principal.

I'm not a fan of the regulative principal anyway—I think it is misused and arbitrary at times—but its use in this case seems to bring it into conflict with Scripture. I think Horton nails it when he talks about Paul allowing feasts.

That's not to say that Horton couldn't be wrong; he could. I could, too. But I hope that, far from celebrating something superstitiously, we are actively working to redeem the time, doing something to strengthen our marriage and devotion to the Lord.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hymn for Sunday - O Love that wilt not let me go

A few years ago Bryan Duncan put out an album called "Quiet Prayers," tied to the "My Utmost for His Highest" anniversary celebration. It is by far some of my favorite music, wonderful for background, contemplation, and the right kind of meditation. Highly recommended, and although out of print, it is available used and download. I really need to track my copy down.

One of the songs on it was "Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go." I was thrilled when I stumbled upon this hymn at the Oremus Hymnal this week. Between the words themselves and the ABAAB structure of the stanzas, this is a nice selection.

O Love that wilt not let me go

Words: George Matheson, 1882
Music: St. Margaret, Consecration, Wyke
Meter: 88 886

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine's blaze its day
may brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red
life that shall endless be.

(Taken from an entry located at the Oremus Hymnal. This work is in the public domain.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hymn for the Day - I Sing the Mighty Power of God

We are just getting started in Romans at church, and as we’ve come to Romans 1:18-23, we read that God’s invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—are clearly perceived since the beginning through the creation itself. This was one of the hymns we sang today, and our pastor reminded us that we should be inspired to praise God even just by looking at what we see around us.

I Sing the Mighty Power of God
by Isaac Watts

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Character of God's Law

"There can be nothing... in the demands of the law, and the severity of the law, and the condemnation of the law, and the death of the law, and the curse of the law, which is not a reflection (in part) of the perfections of God. Whatever is due to the law is due to the law because it is the law of God, and is due therefore to God himself."

Nathaniel Dimock, Doctrine of the Death of Christ, p. 32, quoted in The Cross of Christ, by John Stott, p. 118 (IVP, 2006).

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Hymn for the Day - Isaac Watts on Psalm 90

Isaac Watts was not merely prolific in his hymn writing, in terms of quantity; even a brief glance at a hymnal reveals that lasting impact he has had on the faith. Here is one of his adaptations of Psalm 90.

Psalm 90 (v. 1-5)

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
To endless years the same.

Thy word commands our flesh to dust,
"Return, ye sons of men:"
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

[The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the op'ning day.

Like flowery fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower's hand
Lie with'ring ere 'tis night.]

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

(Taken from Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts, located at the the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. This work is in the public domain.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

No More Death to Die

We sang Crown Him With Many Crowns a couple of weeks ago at church. I remember it well, because it was just after my grandmother's funeral, and the following stanza struck a particular chord and stuck with me.

Crown him the Lord of life,
who triumphed o'er the grave,
and rose victorious in the strife
for those he came to save.
His glories now we sing,
who died, and rose on high,
who died, eternal life to bring,
and lives that death may die.

At Grandma's memorial service, we were given the opportunity to say something. I decided to try to find something from or about a Scripture passage on death, and after doing some research, I found what I wanted in a sermon from Charles Spurgeon, quoted in the book We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon's Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven, by Randy Alcorn. (If that book sounds familiar, you may have previously read this review.)

Preaching on 1 Cor. 15:3-6, Spurgeon said this:

In the heathen part of the catacombs of Rome, the inscriptions over the place where their dead were buried are full of grief and despair. Indeed, the writers of those inscriptions do not appear to have been able to find words in which they could express their great distress, their agony of heart, at the loss of child or husband or friend. They pile the mournful words together, trying to describe their grief. Sometimes they declare that the light has gone from their sky now that their dear ones are taken from them.

"Alas! Alas!" says the record. "Dear Caius has gone, and with him all joy is quenched forever, for I shall see him no more." But when you come into that part of the catacombs which was devoted to Christian burial vaults, everything is different. There you may constantly read these consoling words: "He sleeps in peace." There is nothing dreadful or despairing in the inscriptions there; they are submissive, they are cheerful, they are even thankful. Frequently they are victorious, and the most common emblem is not the quenched torch, as it is on the heathen side, where the light is supposed to have gone out forever, but the palm branch, to signify that the victory remains eternally with the departed one. It is the glory of the Christian religion to have let light into the grave, to have taken away the sting from death, and in fact, to have made it no more death to die.

Our dearly departed loved ones who have died in Christ now have no more death to die, and it is all thanks to the Lord of life.