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No pit so deep

Mar 28, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) was a Dutch Christian whose family rescued Jews during World War II.  They were betrayed and arrested.  Corrie and her sister Betsy were sent to a Nazi concentration camp.  Betsy died there, but Corrie’s life was spared.  Several years after the war, she was speaking on the subject of forgiveness at a Christian meeting.  After the meeting, one of her former prison guards appeared out of the crowd and approached her.  Here he was, with his hand outstretched to her: “Will you forgive me?”  The sufferings he had inflicted were real.  Corrie’s anguish was not her own hyper-sensitivity.  The wrong was monstrous.  And now he’s asking, “Will you forgive me?”  Corrie wrote:

“I stood there with coldness clutching my heart . . . . I prayed, ‘Jesus, help me!’  Woodenly, mechanically I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me, and I experienced an incredible thing.  The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands.  Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.  ‘I forgive you, brother,’ I cried with my whole heart.  For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard, the former prisoner.  I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment.”

Cf. Philip D. Douglass, “The Power of Forgiveness,” Covenant Magazine, February/March 1999, pages 8-9.

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They could breathe again

Mar 27, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

Bishop-Festo-Kigezi
Christianity Today:  What is the East African revival, and why has it lasted over forty years?

Bishop Festo Kivengere:  Can I explain?  This is a question I have been asked repeatedly for over twenty-five years, and all I have ever been able to do is to share what I have seen.  The only explanation I can give is that it is God’s work.  It is not a technique.  It is a movement that cannot be contained.  It is renewal within renewal.  It is an attitude toward the Lord, toward the Bible, toward the fellowship, and toward the Spirit.  It has always been open to a fresh touch.

CT:  What does this revival mean to the people involved in it?

FK:  It is when Christ becomes a living, risen Lord in the life of a believer.  For the non-believer, it is when he is brought into a confrontation with Christ and accepts him as Savior, thus completely changing his life morally and socially.  In other words, revival is when Christ becomes alive in a life, changing that life.  The person is born again, and if he has previously had that experience, then his life is changed in such a way that it affects all his relationships.

CT:  Is it visible to an outsider?

FK:  Absolutely!  Go back to a village a week after a man comes to the Lord in a meeting in the market.  The whole village knows something about it.  He has paid the debts he owes.  He has gone to people he hated and said, “I’m sorry.  I’m a changed man.”  He has apologized or asked for forgiveness.  He’s now telling them what Christ means to him.  He has carried his new belief into his business practices.  In other words, it isn’t something he sits on as a comfortable experience.  If anything, it is terribly uncomfortable.

CT:  How has this differed from other revivals in history?

FK:  It may be the continued willingness of those who have been revived to be renewed by the Spirit of God.  At the Kabale convention last year, celebrating the fortieth year of the revival in that area, we heard up-to-date testimonies from people who were brought to Christ as early as 1930.  They had tremendous freshness; yet they had been winning souls for thirty-five or forty years.  They learned that when they got into a rut, God had to turn them out of it so that they could breathe again.  The tendency to get into certain patterns can stifle the work of the Spirit and create pockets of hardness.  Continued breaking and bringing new streams of life have been the means God has used.

“The Revival that was and is: an interview with Festo Kivengere,” Christianity Today, 21 May 1976, pages 10-11.

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Just plain hard work

Mar 26, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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“In those early days [at L’Abri in the Swiss Alps] it was really cold, and Mrs. Schaeffer would often sit in that little office in Les Melezes right inside the door, with a thermos bottle on her hand — I don’t know how she typed, it was so cold.  That’s how she kept typing.  Then later on things got very, very busy, and I always was impressed with the amount of endurance she had, because there were times when she would not go to bed for a couple of days.  Yes, she would not sleep but work right through the night.  She had an enormous amount of stamina and drive.  She just worked constantly.”

Quoted in Colin Duriez, Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life (Wheaton, 2008), page 142.

“. . . in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night.”  2 Corinthians 11:27

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A starvation diet for our souls?

Mar 25, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

NPG D13659,Matthew Meade (Mead),by; after Robert White; Unknown artist

English pastor Matthew Mead in 1688:

Christ is precious, as being the Redeemer of precious souls.  The promises are precious, as making over this precious Christ to precious souls.  Faith is precious, as bringing a precious soul to close with a precious Christ, as he is held forth in the precious promises.

O! take heed that thou art not found overvaluing other things, and undervaluing thy soul.  Shall thy flesh, nay, thy beast, be loved, and shall thy soul be slighted?  Wilt thou clothe and pamper thy body, and yet take no care of thy soul?  This is as if a man should feed his dog and starve his child. . . . O! let not a tottering perishing carcass have all your time and care, as if the life and salvation of thy soul were not worth the while.

HT:  Dane Ortlund

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Something profound in our generation

Mar 25, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

A nice church filled with nice people doing nice things will make no impact today.  Nor should it.  Every hybrid form of “Christianity” deserves to die.  But here is a pathway back into the greatness of apostolic Christianity.

Francis Schaeffer asked the question, What is the Christian’s task in the world today?  That is a boldly focusing question.  And Schaeffer’s answer was not evangelism.  Evangelism too often seems canned and mechanical, Schaeffer said.  But when evangelism is pursued as part of a larger whole, it will be more convincing.  What is that larger whole, embodied in an apostolic church?  Two contents and two realities, Schaeffer proposed.

Two contents

1.  Sound doctrine

“The first content is clear doctrinal content concerning the central elements of Christianity.”  This strong message stands in contrast to the content-weak philosophical and pragmatic rolls of the dice people are settling for all around us.

2.  Honest answers to honest questions

“The second content is . . . honest answers to honest questions. . . . Christianity demands that we have enough compassion to learn the questions of our generation.”  We must listen respectfully to all around us and try to satisfy their questions from the full biblical gospel.

Two realities

1.  True spirituality

“There must be something real of the work of Christ, something real in Christ’s bearing his fruit through me through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. . . . There is nothing more ugly in all the world, nothing which more turns people aside, than a dead orthodoxy.”

2.  The beauty of human relationships

“True Christianity produces beauty as well as truth. . . . If we do not show beauty in the way we treat each other, then in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of our own children, we are destroying the truth we proclaim.”

“When there are the two contents and the two realities, we will begin to see something profound happen in our generation.”

Francis A. Schaeffer, 2 Contents, 2 Realities (Downers Grove, 1975), pages 1-32.

 

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We are not on our own

Mar 24, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“The duties that are required of us are not proportioned to the strength residing in us, but to the supply laid up for us in Christ.”

John Owen, Works (Edinburgh, 1982), IX:109.

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As if there were no tomorrow

Mar 19, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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“I never really knew Stevie Ray Vaughn well.  We played together only a couple of times, but it was enough to be able to link him with Jimi Hendrix in terms of commitment.  They both played out of their skin, every time they picked up their instruments, as if there were no tomorrow, and the level of devotion they both showed to their art was identical.  Listening to Stevie on the night of his last performance here on earth was almost more than I could stand and made me feel like there was nothing left to say.  He had said it all.”

Eric Clapton, Clapton: The Autobiography (New York, 2007), page 325.

When planning a worship service for Immanuel Church, a question Ben Reynolds and I sometimes ask is, “If this were our last opportunity ever to lead people in worship, what would our hearts long to do?”  After all, it might be.  And even if we have another chance next Sunday, we never want to hold back.  So much is at stake every time.

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Youth renewed

Mar 17, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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“You are surprised that the world is losing its grip, that the world is grown old?  Think of a man: he is born, he grows up, he becomes old.  Old age has its many complaints: coughing, shaking, failing eyesight, anxious, terribly tired.  A man grows old; he is full of complaints.  The world is old; it is full of pressing tribulations. . . . Do not hold onto the old man, the world; do not refuse to regain your youth in Christ, who says to you, ‘The world is passing away, the world is losing its grip, the world is short of breath.  Do not fear.  Thy youth shall be renewed as an eagle.'”

Augustine, quoted in Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo (Berkeley, 1967), pages 297-298.

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Orthodoxy and love

Mar 11, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Revelation 2:4

“As for orthodoxy, it is cold and dead and grim without the warmth and life and beauty with which love invests it.  The Ephesians even hated the evil deeds and words of the Nicolaitans, so unimpeachable was their theological correctness.  But to hate error and evil is not the same as to love Jesus Christ.”

John R. W. Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church (Grand Rapids, 1959), pages 28-29.

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I must take care — by not taking too much care

Mar 07, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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“You ask me what I shall do if I am called by the emperor.  I will go even if I am too sick to stand on my feet.  If Caesar calls me, God calls me.  If violence is used, as well it may be, I commend my cause to God.  He lives and reigns who saved the three youths from the fiery furnace of the king of Babylon.  And if he will not save me, my head is worth nothing compared with Christ.  This is no time to think of safety.  I must take care that the gospel is not brought into contempt by our fear to confess and seal our teaching with our blood.”

Martin Luther, quoted in Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York, 1950), page 174.

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