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A Minister’s Inner Life

Aug 28, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“Chief corruptions to be watched against: sourness, sadness, timorousness, forgetfulness, fretting, and inability to bear wrongs . . . .

Let me resolutely set myself to walk with God through the day.  If anything fall out amiss, recover again speedily, by humble confession, hearty prayer for pardon, with confidence of obtaining.  And so proceed.

Oh, mildness and cheerfulness with reverence, how sweet a companion art thou!

Few rare and worthy men continue so to their end, but, one way or other, fall into coldness, gross sin or to the world; therefore, beware!

Count not the Christian life to be bondage but count it the sweetest liberty and the only way to true peace.  Whensoever this is counted hard, that state that is embraced instead thereof shall be harder.”

John Rogers, quoted in Cotton Mather, The Great Works of Christ in America (Hartford, 1855), I:424.

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All are welcome here

Aug 26, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“The cross of Jesus displays the most awful exhibition of God’s hatred of sin and at the same time the most august manifestation of his readiness to pardon it.  Pardon, full and free, is written out in every drop of blood that is seen, is proclaimed in every groan that is heard, and shines in the very prodigy of mercy that closes the solemn scene upon the cross.  O blessed door of return, open and never shut, to the wanderer from God!  How glorious, how free, how accessible!  Here the sinful, the vile, the guilty, the unworthy, the poor, the penniless, may come.  Here too the weary spirit may bring its burden, the broken spirit its sorrow, the guilty spirit its sin, the backsliding spirit its wandering.  All are welcome here.

The death of Jesus was the opening and the emptying of the full heart of God; it was the outgushing of that ocean of infinite mercy that heaved and panted and longed for an outlet; it was God showing how he could love a poor, guilty sinner.”

Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul (London, 1962), pages 183-184.

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Prophetic power today

Aug 25, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“There is not one of [the Old Testament prophets] who did not receive this new certainty of God in such a way that the whole previous pattern of his life, the thoughts and plans by which he had till now regulated his relationship to the world, was not smashed, and replaced by a mighty divine imperative obliging him to undertake something which hitherto he had not even considered as a possibility.”

Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (Philadelphia, 1961), I:345.

“There is something magnificent about these prophet-dreamers, who are so sure of God.”

Ralph S. Cushman, Practicing the Presence (Nashville, 1964), page 108.

Let’s remember today that humility does not mean we are hesitant about God but only about ourselves and very sure of God.  Let’s remember today that brokenness does not mean we are weakened in resolve but only fed up with our sin and very bold for God.  Let’s remember today that when our whole previous pattern of life is smashed it is not destroyed but only remade into even greater usefulness to God.  And let’s remember today that God intends to accomplish gospel miracles through us we don’t even believe are possible.

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God for us, or God against us?

Aug 19, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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God is for us.  Romans 8:31

But I have this against you.  Revelation 2:4.  See also 2:14, 20; 3:3.

So, which is it?  Is God for us, or is God against us?  If we are in Christ, the answer is: maybe both.  God is certainly for us, and God might also be against us.

God is for us in an absolute sense, in Christ.  We have peace with God (Romans 5:1).  There is now no condemnation threatening us, none at all (Romans 8:1).  God foreknew us, predestined us, called us, justified us and promises to glorify us (Romans 8:29-30).  God is for us.

So here is my assurance.  I can sin my way out of my marriage, I can sin my way out of the ministry, I can sin my way out of physical health, and a lot more.  But I cannot sin my way out of Christ, and neither can you, because the cross of Christ paid the damning penalty for our sins.

God might also be against us at times.  Not that he de-justifies us, but he might discipline us (Hebrews 12:5-6).  He might oppose us (James 4:6).  He might send out wrath against us (2 Chronicles 19:2; 32:25).  Not condemning wrath, but purifying wrath, correcting wrath, for a time.  Even his disciplines and oppositions are gifts of love.  How could it be otherwise?  The smile of God is not an all-approving grin.  What kind of Father would that be?

Is our understanding of the gospel biblical enough to include a category for the God who is for us also being against us?  Is our understanding of the gospel big enough and complex enough so that we feel not only reassured but also solemnized?  If the only message we are willing to receive is reassurance that God’s condemning wrath has fallen on Another, why?  Why block out this other clearly biblical message, warning us that his disciplining wrath can fall on us?  If we are in Christ, why deflect anything the Bible clearly says?

Even when God is against us, still, he is for us.  His love is burning away whatever keeps us from pressing more deeply into his mighty heart.

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).

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Is the Sabbath still relevant?

Aug 13, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  Exodus 20:8

Let’s not dictate Sabbath observance today.  The point of the Sabbath is a dress rehearsal for a future eternity of glad rest in God.  So, for now, every one of us can work out the details personally.  But in our frantic modern world, the Sabbath offers wisdom that has lasted since the beginning (Genesis 2:2-3).  It is not written on our calendars as much as we are built into its calendar.  It seems to be part of the God-created rhythm for weekly human flourishing.

If we did set apart one day each week for rejuvenation in God, we would immediately add to every year over seven weeks of vacation — and not for “whatever” but for worship, for community, for mercy, for an afternoon nap, for reading and thinking, for lingering around the dinner table with good jokes and tender words and personal prayers.

How else can we find quietness of heart in today’s crazy world?  If anyone has a more biblical (and more immediately beneficial) place to begin, I’m open.  But raising hermeneutical objections to the Sabbath principle doesn’t in itself actually help any of us.

I wonder if the very concept of “the weekend” is biblical.  It seems to me that “the weekend” turns Sunday into a second Saturday.  Home Depot may gain, but we lose.  It turns Sunday into a day to catch up on what we didn’t do Saturday or a day to ramp up for what’s ahead on Monday.  It hollows out our whole week, because it marginalizes God and church and sermons and all the other vital things that happen in our lives only when we make the vital things also the central things.  If we accept the concept of “the weekend,” we risk “fitting God in” rather than centering our every week around him.  We risk living soul-exhausted lives, and wondering why God isn’t more real to us, why we’re exhausted and grumpy.

If we want to find our way back into quietness of heart and reality with God, the first step might be simple.  Bold, but simple.

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The power of the Holy Spirit today

Aug 08, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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Performance in Music City USA

Aug 07, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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Performance counts here in Music City USA.  And why not?  Everyone wants to shine, we do look for excellence, and there really is a lot of impressiveness around.  In fact, the glory of God is shining through all this talent, whether or not the music is meant for him.

But there is a dark side to our culture of performance.  The dark side is bondage to appearances — smiling, beautiful, impressive, attractive appearances.  Nashville is a city of truly amazing people.  But under the surface are also stories of unspoken disappointment, insecurity, heartache, failure, loneliness, fear, regret, injury, loss, even as the show must go on.  We may well wonder, “Does anyone care about my broken heart?”

The gospel opens a door to freedom of heart by telling the success story of Someone Else: “But now the applause of God is heard — without our own hard-won performances” (Romans 3:21, paraphrased).

What difference would it make if we knew deep within that the only One whose opinion finally matters has already chosen us for a Lifetime Achievement Award because of his performance for us, in our place?  Wouldn’t we relax?  Wouldn’t it free our creativity to perform better on the stage of this life right now?  Wouldn’t it help us cheer for someone else’s success too?

This freedom can be ours moment by moment, as we receive approval from God on terms of his perfect grace.  Jesus said to everyone tired of keeping up the act, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

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Want to be remembered in 20 years?

Aug 06, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“Of all the albums that formed the soundtrack to 1967’s ‘Summer of Love,’ The Doors is the one least tethered to its time.  More importantly, The Doors’ self-titled disc remains one of the greatest debuts in rock history.  Spanning a startling range of styles – swampy blues-rock, psychedelic jazz, hard-coated pop-rock, and even German cabaret – the album was ambitious in scope, but also loaded with visceral energy.  To this day, few albums sound more inspired.

‘We stayed away from trendy clichés, including the use of popular devices of the time like wah pedals,’ producer Paul Rothchild said in the Jim Morrison biography, Break On Through.  ‘I asked the band if they wanted to be remembered in 20 years, and they said, Yes.  I told them that, in that case, we couldn’t use any tricks.  It had to stay honest and it had to be pure.'”

Gibson guitar’s Classic Album of the Month at gibson.com.

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The secret to freedom

Aug 05, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

Mihajlov L. 1964

“What happens within a person at that moment when, suddenly torn out of an ordinary life, he is thrust under the jurisdiction of merciless and powerful forces which appear to have only one wish — his destruction?  Is any kind of defense or resistance possible?  Everything a person had lived by, everything he possessed, i.e., free will, people who were close to him, work which he enjoyed, private property, his physical being, his life — none of these is he able to defend, and all is in the hands of the forces of evil. . . .

Thus finding himself on the edge of an abyss, a person, before complete destruction, begins to understand that nevertheless something exists which is not within the realm of the external, invincible forces.  And even though all the rest can no longer be saved, resistance, fight and victory are possible in one way: in the preservation of the soul — or to put it another way, which is, however, exactly the same thing — in safeguarding one’s spiritual freedom and in resistance to evil and force.  However, in order for this fight to be successful or even possible, one must renounce, beforehand, everything that the physical forces can take away. . . .

Only through this complete renunciation does a person become free — only then, when he no longer has anything to lose.”

Mihajlo Mihajlov, Underground Notes (London, 1977), pages 178-179.  Italics original.

“. . . having nothing, yet possessing everything.”  2 Corinthians 6:10

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“I die believing these words”

Aug 04, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“Robert Bruce, the disciple of John Knox and Andrew Melville, died at Kinnaird on July 27th, 1631.  He had come to breakfast and his younger daughter sat by his side.  As he mused in silence, suddenly he cried, ‘Hold, daughter, hold; my Master calleth me.’  He asked that the Bible should be brought, but his sight failed him and he could not read.  ‘Cast me up the eighth of Romans,’ cried he, and he repeated much of the latter portion of this Scripture till he came to the last two verses: ‘I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’  ‘Set my finger on these words,’ said the blind, dying man; ‘God be with you, my children.   I have breakfasted with you, and shall sup with my Lord Jesus this night.   I die believing these words.'”

Marcus L. Loane, The Hope of Glory (Waco, 1968), page 160.

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