Go back?

Oct 25, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


“‘But wait a minute,’ says somebody.  ‘Are you saying that the passage of the years makes no difference?  Are you asking me to believe that I have got to go back nearly two thousand years, and that the truth is what these men taught then?’ . . .

Yes, I am, and this is why.  There can be no development in this truth, and there has not been, because this is not truth that man works out for himself, but is truth which God reveals.  Not one of the apostles was a discoverer of truth.  The mighty apostle Paul never discovered the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. . . . It is a revelation; it is something that is given by God, something that has been revealed by him supremely in the person of his only-begotten Son.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Love So Amazing: Expositions of Colossians 1 (Grand Rapids, 1995), pages 63-64.

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The ways of God are to be admired

Oct 24, 2014 | Ray Ortlund

“Research suggests that promiscuity is not associated with increased happiness and, in fact, that the number of sexual partners needed to maximize happiness is exactly one. . . . If sex makes us happy then surely, if variety really is the spice of life, having more sexual partners must make us happier.  Well it doesn’t.  People with more sexual partners are less happy than those who have just one.  People who cheat in marriage (10% of the married people in the sample have had sex with more than one person in the previous year) are less happy.  Men who use prostitutes are also less happy.  That is, promiscuous people are less happy.”

HT: Marina Adshade. Italics added.

One man, one woman, united for life in Christ — where the best sex happens.

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The Presidency of the Holy Spirit

Oct 23, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.  1 Kings 8:10-11

Our forefathers used to call this “the presidency of the Holy Spirit,” when the Lord himself would preside over the gathering of his people in such a way as gently, wonderfully to take charge.

I have seen this.  Doubtless, many of you have as well.

One Sunday morning at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena — we were a mainstream church of business people, school teachers, scientists, real estate agents, stay-at-home moms — my dad was preaching.  I was eleven or twelve years old, and not paying much attention.  But then, with no prompting from the pulpit at all — dad was minding his own business, preaching Christ, and he wasn’t even in the final, appeal section of the sermon — Ed Fischer quietly and with no self-display rose from his place in the choir, went down to the communion table at the front, and knelt in prayer.  He felt that he needed to get right with God.  Then his wife Lita got up from her place and quietly joined him there.  I thought, “That’s odd.”  But then I was surprised to see many people from all over the church going forward and kneeling as one there at the front in an overwhelming response to the ministry of the gospel going out in the power of God.  There was no emotionalism.  It was quiet, dignified, even solemn, but very beautiful.  Dad was caught off-guard.  He hadn’t planned on this or asked for it or even foreseen it.  God stepped in, filling the church with an unusual display of his glory, and dad yielded to the presidency of the Holy Spirit.  He stepped back from the pulpit and went to prayer.  The organist had the presence of mind to begin playing quietly, appropriately.  The service took a surprising direction, in the mercy of God.  And although this experience was no panacea, and the next morning everyone went back to work in the usual way, still, God had visited us.  God bent down and kissed us that Sunday, bringing us closer to himself, clearing away some problems, opening up new possibilities.

We could never be the same again.

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Faith and risk

Oct 22, 2014 | Ray Ortlund

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. . . . Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”

C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York, 1961), page 21.

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How blessed are those who care

Oct 21, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


In Breughel’s Icarus . . . how everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, but for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone as it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.  W. H. Auden

Auden is referring to a painting by Dutch painter, Pieter Brueghel, based on Ovid’s Myth of Icarus, the story of a boy who flew too close to the sun.  It hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels.

If you look closely, in the lower right hand corner of the painting you can see Icarus with melted wings falling into the sea.  Ovid’s point was the danger of hubris; Brueghel had another idea.

In Brueghal’s version of the myth, Icarus falls and no one cares.  Sailors on their ships, farmers and others are unconcerned, going about their own business, unaware of the calamity unfolding in front of their eyes.  All are apathetic in the face of appalling tragedy and heartbreak.

Few of us are aware of the sadness all around us; we go our way inattentive and unmoved, too busy with our own business to respond to human need.  Something amazing has happened: “a boy falling out of the sky”—right in front of our eyes—but we have “somewhere to get to and sail calmly by.”

You don’t have to go far to uncover tragedy and heartache: a young widow, stricken with loneliness; an anxious parent concerned for a critically ill child; a frightened man awaiting heart surgery; a care-worn checker in a grocery store working at a second or third job to make ends meet; a young boy who’s never had enough father; a single mother whose worries have washed her hope away; an old man who inhabits his bleak world alone; a needy soul behind our own front door—all right in front of us.  Perhaps we don’t have much to give, but we can see beyond what others see to the possibility of mercy, compassion and understanding.

I wonder how many times I’ve glanced at a grocery clerk, a bank teller, a waitress and failed to see the marks of woe, the drab, cheerless affect, the weary face, the downcast eyes, the mumbled response to my frivolous query, “How are you?”  I hear the splash but miss the forsaken sigh, the deep sorrow in their response.  I turn away from the disaster.  I feel no tug on my heart; I have somewhere to get to and sail calmly by.

John Newton said on one occasion, “If, as I go home, a child has dropped a halfpenny, and if, by giving another, I can wipe away its tears, I feel I have done something.  I should be glad to do greater things, but I will not neglect this.”  Nor should I.

“Oh, how blessed are those who care,” Israel’s poet mused (Psalm 41:1).  How rare and how happy they are.

David Roper

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Your church: where Jesus calms the storm

Oct 18, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


“How wonderful it is to come every Sunday into a liberating church!  All week long we swim in an ocean of judgment and negative scrutiny.  We constantly have to comply with the demands of a touchy world, and we never measure up. . . .

Then on Sunday we walk into a new kind of community where we discover an environment of grace in Christ alone.  It is so refreshing.  Sinners like us can breathe again!  It’s as if God simply changes everyone’s topic of conversation from what’s wrong with us, which is plenty, to what’s right with Christ, which is endless.  He replaces our negativity, finger-pointing, and self-attack with the good news of his grace for the undeserving.  Who couldn’t come alive in a community which inhales that heavenly atmosphere?

Here is where every one of us can happily take our stand right now: ‘The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20).  Our self-focus was crucified with Christ.  The need to conceal failure and display false superiority no longer lives.  Christ is enough to complete every one of us, without adding anything of ourselves.

As we humbly keep in step with the truth of this gospel, people will find a new kind of community in our churches where sinners and sufferers can thrive.”

Ray Ortlund, The Gospel: How The Church Portrays The Beauty of Christ (Wheaton, 2014), pages 90-91.

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Coordinated effort

Oct 16, 2014 | Ray Ortlund

In 1836 Judge William Gould led a movement at First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia, to buy their first organ.   It was a break with tradition.  In a congregational meeting, one member rose and demanded chapter and verse where the Bible authorizes “the worship of God with machinery.”  But the members voted for the organ, and Judge Gould was appointed to raise the money.

Soon after the Judge ran into Robert Campbell, a member who had opposed the organ.  Mr. Campbell asked the Judge why he had not asked him for a donation.  Gould replied, “I knew you did not wish to have the organ.”   “That makes no difference,” said Campbell.  “When the majority of the members of the church have decided the matter, it is my duty to put aside personal feeling and assist as well as I may.”

Narrated in David B. Calhoun, Cloud of Witnesses (Greenville, 2004), pages 40-41.

Putting self aside, submitting to the Body, serving a higher cause . . . .

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Immanuel Presents: Peace in the City

Oct 13, 2014 | Ray Ortlund

If, like me, you’ve never seen a city with too much reconciliation, too much forgiveness, too much shalom, and your heart longs for unprecedented blessing from above for all alike, then you may be interested in three city-wide events coming soon to Nashville:

Paul Tripp: peace in relational intimacy, November 14-15

Rosaria Butterfield: peace in sexual identity, January 23

Russell Moore: peace in community involvement, April 18

All are invited. All events are free. You can register here.

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Exceeding cross to our pride

Oct 10, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


“God proceeded in this work in a way that was exceeding cross to their pride.”  This was Jonathan Edwards’ observation from the Old Testament — how God’s obvious blessing might be dismissed by some people for unworthy reasons (Judges 8).  Obviously but importantly, God has the right to use faithful people we personally don’t warm up to.  Then Edwards offers this insight as a practical take-away for us during a time of strong gospel advance:

“As persons will greatly expose themselves to the curse of God by opposing or standing at a distance and keeping silence at such a time as this [the Great Awakening], so for persons to arise and readily to acknowledge God and honor him in such a work and cheerfully and vigorously to exert themselves to promote it will be to put themselves much in the way of the divine blessing.”

Jonathan Edwards, “Thoughts on the Revival,” in his Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:385-386.

The next great movement of the Holy Spirit might come through people you and I are predisposed to dislike.  Let’s be ready to evaluate not only what’s happening in the movement but also what’s happening in our own hearts, lest we inadvertently exclude ourselves and our churches from a real blessing sent down from above.

It might come in a way exceeding cross to our pride.

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Wash, O God, our sons and daughters

Oct 09, 2014 | Ray Ortlund

Wash, O God, our sons and daughters
Where your cleansing waters flow
Number them among your people
Bless as Christ blessed long ago
Weave them garments bright and sparkling
Compass them with love and light
Fill, anoint them, send your Spirit
Holy Dove and heart’s Delight

We who bring them long for nurture
By your milk may we be fed
Let us join your feast, partaking
Cup of blessing, living bread
God, renew us, guide our footsteps
Free from sin and all its snares
One with Christ in living, dying
By your Spirit, children, heirs

Oh, how deep your holy wisdom
Unimagined all your ways
To your name be glory, honor
With our lives we worship, praise
We your people stand before you,
Water-washed and Spirit-born
By your grace our lives we offer
Re-create us; God, transform!

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