Do you understand what you are reading?

Philip’s question for the Ethiopian reading Isaiah in his chariot is a good one. As I recently started into the book of Job in my devotions I realized I shared his answer: “How can I unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31) While I haven’t been reading in my chariot, I have been reading through Job with Derek Thomas’s excellent Welwyn Commentary on Job (Evangelical Press) as a helpful guide. Doing devotions with a good commentary in hand is something I’ve done on and off. Picking it up again I found my resolve to re-engage this practice reinforced soon afterwards in our seminary chapel, with Al Martin highly commending this as a life habit.
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Food and Prayer

Charles Wesley is known for being Christianity’s most prolific hymn writer. But the church today uses relatively few of them. Among those solid hymns are ones thanking the Lord for His provision of food, before and after meals. Full of allusions to Scripture, prayers like this can help shape our thinking about meal times and our own prayers before and after we receive God’s gift of food: Continue reading

Why the Incarnation?

He himself likewise shared in the same [flesh and blood]… (Hebrews 2:14)

But why? Why would he, the eternal Son of God, the heir of all things, the Creator of all, the brightness of God’s glory, do this? Why would he take on our nature for all eternity? Jesus did not do this simply for the sake of a shared experience; he was not a divine cultural tourist. His incarnation was and is an active, willing, pursuit of a multifaceted goal. Hebrews 2 gives at least nine reasons why the Son of God has identified with His people by His incarnation:
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God’s Pardon

When God’s children sin, they can feel as though they’ve gone beyond the pale. How can God continue to forgive someone who sins in so many ways, so often? Our sin is frequent and varied despite regeneration. But God is greater than all our sin.

“There are as many dimensions to God’s pardon as there are to my sin.” – Sinclair Ferguson [Sunday morning sermon, First Presbyterian Church, December 4th, 2011]

Clairvaux on Love

“You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. I answer, the reason for loving God is God himself; and the measure of love due to him is immeasurable love… Could any reason be greater than this, that He gave Himself for us unworthy wretches? …It is hard, no rather impossible, for a man by his own strength or in the power of free will to render all things to God from whom they came, without turning them to sinful ends… ‘For all seek their own’ (Phil. 2.21) and ‘the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.’ (Gen. 8.21) The faithful know how much they need Jesus and Him crucified… they wonder and rejoice at the inexpressible love shown in Him… they love all the more, because they know they are loved so exceedingly… One who loves God truly asks no other recompense than God himself.”

“[Those apart from God in Christ] wander in a circle, longing after something to gratify their yearnings, yet madly rejecting the only thing that can bring satisfaction… they wear themselves out in vain effort, never attaining… because they delight in creatures, not in the Creator.”

“Perfect love will be reached when the good and faithful servant enters into the joy of His Lord (Matt. 25.21), and is there fully satisfied in the abundance of God’s house… In that day those who are in Christ can say fully of themselves, as St. Paul testified, ‘Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.’ (2 Cor.5.16)”

Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God. [c.1130]

Tyndale on Bible Reading

A few great, updated quotes from William Tyndale (c.1494-1536) on reading the Bible (he would have wanted them in the vernacular..):

“It is not enough to just read and talk about the Bible; we must desire, and ask God, every day, to open our eyes, and make us understand and feel why he is giving us this Scripture passage, so that it will be applied.”

“Scripture is a light and shows us the true way of what to do and what to hope for.”

“Stick to the text and plain story, work to grasp the full meaning of everything in it, and note everything in it as being directly relevant to your own heart and soul.”

“The New Testament was always there, even from the beginning of the world. There were always promises of Christ to come, from the beginning of the Old Testament. By faith in these promises the elect were justified before God.”

William Tyndale, Prologues to the Five Books of Moses. [1530]

Dying to Self

My siblings and I have had the blessing of having our pastor/dad perform our wedding ceremonies, and my uncle, also a veteran minister, preach the sermons. The sermons, now known for their striking illustrations, are memorable. (You can still talk with guests from our wedding about how the carnivorous rat scene from Orwell’s 1984 connects to the gospel.) But this anonymous quote in the sermon for my brother and his bride hit me the hardest:

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