Archive for the ‘Voices from the Past’ Category

  1. Struggling With Prayer?

    Posted on April 15th, 2014 by Eric Parker

    VOICES2

    Have you ever struggled with getting started in prayer each day? D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives this really helpful encouragement:

    I have come to learn certain things about private prayer. You cannot pray to order. You can get on your knees to order; but how to pray? I have found nothing more important than to learn how to get oneself into that frame and condition in which one can pray. You have to learn how to start yourself off, and it is just here that this knowledge of yourself is so important. What I have generally found is that to read something which can be characterized in general as devotional is of great value. By devotional I do not mean something sentimental, I mean something with a true element of worship in it. Notice that I do not say that you should start yourself in prayer by always reading the Scriptures; because you can have precisely the same difficulty there. Start by reading something that will warm your spirit. Get rid of a coldness that may have developed in your spirit. You have to learn how to kindle a flame in your spirit, to warm yourself up, to give yourself a start. It is comparable, if you like, to starting a car when it is cold. You have to learn how to use a spiritual choke. I have found it most rewarding to do that, and not to struggle vainly. When one finds oneself in this condition, and that it is difficult to pray, do not struggle in prayer for the time being, but read something that will warm and stimulate you, and you will find that it will put you into a condition in which you will be able to pray more freely.

    D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching & Preachers, 181-182

  2. The “Christian Spirit” of the Christian Life

    Posted on April 9th, 2014 by Eric Parker

    Working Hands

    As we quickly approach this year’s Secret Church, “The Cross and Everyday Life,” Jonathan Edwards helps us in our attempt to honor God in our jobs, our extended families, our homes, our churches, and our communities. He shares with us a very familiar principal, but one that will affect every realm of our lives if embraced:

    A Christian spirit disposes them in many cases to forego and part with their own things for the sake of the things of others. It disposes them to part with their own private temporal interest, and totally and finally to renounce it, for the sake of the honor of God and the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Such was the spirit of the Apostle Paul. Acts 21:13, ‘I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And they have a spirit to forego and part with their own private interest for the good of their neighbors in many instances; ready to help bear others’ burdens, to part with a less good of their own for the sake of a greater of their neighbors’; and as the case may be, to lay down their lives for the brethren [1 John 3:16]. (Works 8, 259)

    Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards on The Good Life, 37

    Join us for the Secret Church simulcast on Good Friday, April 18, 2014 (6pm – midnight CT) to learn more about how the cross should affect our everyday lives.

  3. Bonhoeffer on Healthy & Unhealthy Fear

    Posted on April 2nd, 2014 by Eric Parker

    Voices4

    Bonhoeffer points out that a preacher of the gospel will either be motivated or hindered by fear. The question we must ask is what kind of fear characterizes our everyday lives? Bonhoeffer reflecting on Matthew 10:26-28 writes,

    They must not fear men. Men can do them no harm, for the power of men ceases with the death of the body. But they must overcome the fear of death with the fear of God. The danger lies not in the judgement of men, but in the judgement of God, not in the death of the body but in the eternal destruction of body and soul. Those who are still afraid of men have no fear of God, and those who have fear of God have ceased to be afraid of men. All preachers of the gospel will do well to recollect this saying daily.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 218

  4. The Necessity of Prayer and the Quality of Our Work

    Posted on March 25th, 2014 by Eric Parker

    Voices3

    George Müller’s biographer, Arthur T. Pierson (1837-1911), touches on a topic especially relevant to this year’s Secret Church topic on “The Cross and Everyday Life.” We live in a fast-pace society whose mantra is literally “Time is money,” so that the more we get done then the more efficient we have become. While this is not necessarily wrong in all cases, many of us have been indoctrinated with this way of thinking to the detriment of our souls. Pierson has this to say about the necessity of prayer for the quality of our work,

    George Müller was conscious of being too busy to pray as he ought. His outward action was too constant for inward reflection, and he saw that there was risk of losing peace and power, and that activity even in the most sacred sphere must not be so absorbing as to prevent holy meditation on the Word and fervent supplication. The Lord said first to Elijah, ‘Go, hide thyself’ then, ‘Go, show thyself.’ He who does not first hide himself in the secret place to be alone with God, is unfit to show himself in the public place to move among men. Mr. Müller afterward used to say to brethren who had ‘too much to do’ to spend proper time with God, that four hours of work for which one hour of prayer prepares, is better than five hours of work with the praying left out; that our service to our Master is more acceptable and our mission to man more profitable, when saturated with the moisture of God’s blessing—the dew of the Spirit. Whatever is gained in quantity is lost in quality whenever one engagement follows another without leaving proper intervals for refreshment and renewal of strength by waiting on God. No man, perhaps, since John Wesley has accomplished so much even in a long life as George Müller; yet few have ever withdrawn so often or so long into the pavilion of prayer. In fact, from one point of view his life seems more given to supplication and intercession than to mere action or occupation among men.

    Arthur T. Pierson, George Müller of Bristol, 130

    Join us for the Secret Church simulcast on Good Friday, April 18, 2014, 6pm – midnight (CT) to learn more about how the cross should affect our everyday lives.

     

  5. Love Is Not God

    Posted on March 6th, 2014 by Eric Parker

    VOICES5

    The religious consensus across our culture has dwindled so much that you would be hard pressed to find anything that a pluralistic society might agree upon.  Even still, if someone is religious, then love is bound to be one of their core values. Some might even go as far as to flip the famous axiom “God is love” to say that “Love is God.” This reversal can be a dangerous error. Listen to what A. W. Tozer has to say,

    The apostle John, by the Spirit, wrote, “God is love,” and some have taken his words to be a definitive statement concerning the essential nature of God. This is a great error. John was by those words stating a fact, but he was not offering a definition.

    Had the apostle declared that love is what God is, we would be forced to infer that God is what love is. If literally God is love, then literally love is God, and we are in all duty bound to worship love as the only God there is. If love is equal to God then God is only equal to love, and God and love are identical. Thus we destroy the concept of personality in God and deny outright all His attributes save one, and that one we substitute for God. The God we have left is not the God of Israel; He is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; He is not the God of the prophets and the apostles; He is not the God of the saints and reformers and martyrs, nor yet the God of the theologians and hymnists of the church.

    For our souls’ sake we must learn to understand the Scriptures. We must escape the slavery of words and give loyal adherence to meanings instead. Words should express ideas, not originate them. We say that God is love; we say that God is light; we say that Christ is truth; and we mean the words to be understood in much the same way that words are understood when we say of a man, “he is kindness itself.” By so saying we are not stating that Kindness and the man are identical, and no one understand our words in that sense.

    The words “God is love” mean that love is an essential attribute of God. Love is something true of God but it is not God. It expresses the way God is in His unitary being, as do the words holiness, justice, faithfulness and truth. Because God is immutable. He always acts like Himself, and because He is a unity He never suspends one of His attributes in order to exercise another.

    A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 97-98

  6. Not By Works…

    Posted on February 25th, 2014 by Eric Parker

    Voices1 

    Charles Hodge, the 19th century theologian from Princeton, comments on the free nature of our salvation based on Ephesians 2:9:

    Works of all kinds, as distinguished from faith, are excluded. Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works; for the person who attains the reward has earned it. But salvation is of grace, and therefore not of works, lest any man should boast. That the guilty should stand before God with self-complacency and refer his salvation in any measure to his own merit is so abhorrent to all correct feeling that Paul assumes (Romans 4:2), as an obvious truth, that no one can boast before God. To all who have any correct understanding of God’s holiness and of the evil of sin, this is understood intuitively; and therefore, a free salvation—a salvation which excludes all works as a ground of boasting—is the only salvation suitable for the relation of guilty people to God.

    Charles Hodge, Ephesians, 78

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    Like A Sentry At His Post

    Posted on February 18th, 2014 by Eric Parker

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    Famous 16th century theologian John Calvin talked about the tension of living in this world, while not being of it:

    When it comes to a comparison with the life to come, the present life can not only be safely neglected but, compared to the former, must be utterly despised and loathed. For, if heaven is our homeland, what else is the earth but our place of exile? Therefore, if the earthy life be compared with the heavenly, it is doubtless to be at once despised and trampled under foot. Of course it is never to be hated except in so far as it holds us subject to sin; although not even hatred of that condition may ever properly be turned against life itself. In any case, it is still fitting for us to be so, affected either by wariness or hatred of it that, desiring its end, we may also be prepared to abide in it at the Lord’s pleasure, so that our weariness may be fare from all murmuring and impatience. For it is like a sentry post at which the Lord has posted us, which we must hold until he recalls us…. Therefore, if it befits us to live and die to the Lord, let us leave to his decision the hour of our death and life, but in such a way that we may both burn with the zeal for death and be constant in meditation. But in comparison with the immortality to come, let us despise this life and long to renounce it, on account of bondage of sin, whenever it shall please the Lord.

    Donald McKim- editor, Calvin’s Institutes: Abridged Addition, 3.9.4, 89-90

  8. The Hope of Heaven

    Posted on February 11th, 2014 by Eric Parker

    C.S. Lewis Narnia

    In the last book of his famous Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis writes about heaven by speaking of the children’s experience once they get to Aslan’s country:

    “What was the fruit like? Unfortunately no one can describe a taste. All I can say is that, compared with those fruits, the freshest grapefruit you’ve ever eaten was dull, and the juiciest orange was dry, and the most melting pear was hard and woody, and the sweetest wild strawberry was sour. And there were no seeds or stones, and no wasps. If you had once eaten that fruit, all the nicest things in this world would taste like medicines after it. But I can’t describe it. You can’t find out what it is like unless you can get to that country and taste it for yourself” (p. 157). In trying to describe the place itself, he says “It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking-glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different—deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean” (p. 195-196). Then a unicorn spoke up and said, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this” (p. 196).

    C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, 157-196

  9. How Can Jesus Have a Body and Be Everywhere?

    Posted on February 4th, 2014 by Eric Parker

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    How can Christ have a body and yet be present everywhere in creation? Athanasius, one of the great Church Fathers, helps us to further see the glory in the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ:

    The Word was not hedged in by his body, nor did his presence in the body prevent his being present elsewhere as well. When he moved his body he did not cease also to direct the universe by his mind and might. No. The marvelous truth is, that being the Word, so far from being himself contained by anything, he actually contained all things himself. In creation he is present everywhere, yet is distinct in being from it; ordering, directing, giving life to all, containing all, yet is he himself the uncontained, existing solely in his Father. As with the whole, so also is it with the part. Existing in a human body, to which he himself gives life, he is still source of life to all the universe, present in every part of it, yet outside the whole; and he is revealed both through the works of his body and through his activity in the world. It is, indeed, the function of soul to behold things that are outside the body, but it cannot energize or move them. A man cannot transport things from one place to another, for instance, merely by thinking about them; nor can you or I move the sun and the stars just by sitting at home and looking at them. With the Word of God in his human nature, however, it was otherwise. His body was for him not a limitation, but an instrument, so that he was both in it and in  all things, and outside all things, resting in the Father alone. At one and the same time–this is the wonder–as man he was living a human life, and as Word he was sustaining the life of the universe, and as Son he was in constant union with the Father…. His being in everything does not mean that he shares the nature of everything, only that he gives all things their being and sustains them in it. Just as the sun is not defiled by the contact of its rays with earthly objects, but rather enlightens and purifies them, so he who made the sun is not defiled by being made known in a body, but rather the body is cleansed and quickened by his indwelling…

    Saint Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 31-32

  10. William Tyndale’s Encouragement to a Martyr

    Posted on January 27th, 2014 by Jonathan Lenning

    A Scripture-saturated excerpt from the letter that William Tyndale wrote to his best friend, John Frith, right before Frith was burned at the stake for his loyalty to God’s Word.

    Your cause is Christ’s gospel, a light that must be fed with the blood of faith…. If when we be buffeted for well-doing, we suffer patiently and endure, that is acceptable to God; for to that end we are called. For Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps, who did no sin.

    Hereby have we perceived love, that he had lain down his life for us; therefore we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren…. let not your body faint…. If the pain be above your strength, remember, Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will give it you. And pray to our Father in that name, and he will ease your pain, or shorten it…. Amen.

    Taken from Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ (Crossway), by John Piper, p. 52

    This post was originally seen on the Secret Church blog. Be sure to check it out for updates and information on Secret Church gatherings and the persecuted church.