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
One of the best periods of spiritual growth in my life came when I listened to a sermon every morning while eating breakfast. For more than two years, I was able to feast on the preached word at the beginning of each day. In my current season of life, a sermon a day isn’t possible, but I still like to indulge when I can.
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:
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]
“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]
“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. 
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:
Most of us who are married realize the blessing and necessity of taking time to just be with each other as husband and wife; whether it is a date, or a date night at home after the kids are in bed. As life gets busy these times are pressured, and all the more precious. But what about taking time out to listen and speak to God? We all understand the good and essential discipline of personal devotions, Scripture reading and prayer. We know the precious value of pursuing a life saturated with moments of prayerful communion with God. But what about finding another window of time here and there to get away from everything to meditate on God’s Word and commune with Him alone? John Willison (1680-1750) in his Sacramental Catechism gives us some good practical counsel. Here are a few (revised and contemporized) sections of his discussion:
Q. What is the Christian calling of meditation?
A. Meditation consists in getting away from the business of daily life and intentionally creating space and time for devoted, uninterrupted contemplation of spiritual realities as revealed in the Word. The goal is communion with God and spiritual growth. This is essential and very beneficial to Christian life. Scripture consistently describes meditation as a means and mark of Christian vitality. (Gen. 24:63; Josh. 1:8; Psalm 1:2; Psalm 119:97)
Q. What are some of the benefits of this practice?
A. It is tremendously helpful for other aspects of Christian life and calling. It will give better substance to our conversations, prayer and praise; it will make us absorb more as we read Scripture and listen to preaching; it will restrain us from sinning; it will melt spiritual hardness in our hearts, making us sincerely sorry for sin; it will make us love Jesus more; it will make our holiness stronger; it will make us more diligent and more enthusiastic and active in worshipping and serving God. (Psalm 19:7-11, 14; 40:1; 42:1; 49:3; 119:97,99; Heb. 11:15-16)
Q. Why do we neglect this very good practice?
A. (1) Because of our spiritual laziness, which makes us unwilling to pursue spiritual things, hard things, or things that stretch us beyond our comfort or complacency zone. (2) Because of guilty consciences that make us want to be busy and entertained rather than alone, quiet, and thoughtful. We’re not used to, and afraid of, being still before God. (3) Because our hearts love other things more than meditation on, and communion with God, and His Word. We have no problems filling our lives with other business, but tend to come up empty when we think in spiritual directions. Not only that but the natural tendency of our hearts and minds is to skip and wander from one thing to another. (Proverbs 21:25; Isa. 6:8-10; Jer. 4:14) (4) We have attempted it at times when we are either not yet fully awake and cogent, or overly tired and sleepy.