Sunday, February 28, 2010

02 A Guide to Our Worship


  1. That Lord's Day worship is our highest privilege, our greatest duty, and our deepest joy. God has created us for just this purpose: to worship Him, and to be transformed by Him as we worship.
  2. That in worship the people of God are engaged by the Spirit and drawn into the Father's presence as living sacrifices in union with the Risen Christ. In Lord's Day worship, God renews His covenant relationship with His people by serving them and them serving Him. He draws near to us to draw us near to Him.
  3. That in Lord's Day worship, we are gathered together in the presence of the living God among a glorious assembly consisting of angels, the church militant on earth, and the church triumphant in heaven.
  4. That each week in worship, through the Lord's service to us and our service to Him, our Triune Creator and Redeemer gives us the covenant gifts of glory, knowledge, and life, in and through the assurance of our forgiveness, the preaching of the Word, and the partaking of the Lord's Supper. While bestowing these gifts upon us in worship, at the same time, He graciously accepts our praise and thanksgiving of Him. In re-orienting us around His covenant, He empowers and calls us to live in terms of His new creation.
  5. That God uses our worship to change us and the world. We are transformed by the grace of God's presence, and leave worship with a renewed sense of, and commitment to, mission, discipleship, and community. Biblical worship results in changed lives, Spirit-empowerment, and impacts the world for Christ. Furthermore, God is pleased to hear and answer our prayers, particularly those that ascend in the Lord's Day worship of the Church. He hears our prayers for the nations and in answering us makes manifest His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
  6. That worship should be informed and governed by the Bible in its entirety. In constructing our liturgies, we are to pay particular attention to those portions of God's Word that are specifically given to inform us of what God desires in worship. These portions include, but are not limited to, descriptions of patriarchal worship, Levitical worship, and Tabernacle of David worship, which all point toward
    the glorious advent of Jesus Christ, whose self-offering and victorious resurrection accomplished our salvation. This final work of our Savior provides the basis for the resultant transformation of worship spoken of by the Apostles in the New Covenant. We are, of course, prohibited from returning to the practices of animal sacrifices, for this would deny our faith in the perfect and complete sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  7. That these portions of the Bible give us a divine pattern and sequence of worship, and provide us a detailed understanding of the benefits of Christ, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. These benefits include purification from our sins, transformation of our persons, acceptance of our work and tribute, and peace with God and men. Through Biblical worship, the Lord assures us of the forgiveness of our sins, the Holy Spirit's ongoing work of renewal in our lives, the requirement and acceptability of vocation, and the promise of the increase and maturation of Christian community.
  8. That these portions of the Bible also teach us that each of these glorious aspects of worship are to be set in the context of beautiful music that is maturing in both voice and instrument, to the praise of Christ the King.
  9. That the proper implementation in love of the above requires a practical understanding of all that Scripture teaches, including an understanding of lesser and greater matters, Christian forbearance with our brothers, liberty in worship which is not self-willed, an avoidance of an over-scrupulous zeal, and a desire to maintain a Biblical catholicity as we build on the work of the historic church.

Lord’s Day Meditation (2-28-10)

Most high and mighty Ruler of the universe, by whom I have been established and preserved; I thank and praise You for Your favor shown to our fathers and mothers, and for Your faithfulness that has continued toward their children and their children's children. Indeed, You are a covenant-keeping God; there is no shadow of turning with You. I especially thank You for Your great love in sending Your Son to be the Savior of the world, and in calling me out of my sins into fellowship with Him. Grant me Your Holy Spirit, so that I may grow continually in thankfulness toward You, as also into the likeness of Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

I bless You, for You have blessed me in my calling. Teach me the lessons of contentment; to serve You gladly wherever I am, even in my failures. O Lord, You are a strong tower of defense to Your servant against the face of my enemies. I give You praise and thanksgiving, for my deliverance from those great dangers that are all around me. I acknowledge it is of Your goodness that I am not delivered to them as a prey. AMEN

Saturday, February 27, 2010

01 A Guide to Our Worship

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. —Romans 12:1-2


Welcome to our church. We are honored to have you visit with us and hope that you will be blessed for having worshipped with us before the Throne of God. Our desire is that all Christians will unite in worshipping the triune God of Scripture in spirit and in truth, both in the midst of this congregation and throughout the world. Worship is that conscious, wholehearted activity of ascribing honor and praise to the living and true God for who He is and for what He has done. The weekly Lord's Day worship service is the occasion where God's people assemble publicly to serve Him corporately, as well the place where God serves His people in a special way.

There is nothing more important in the life of the Church than worship; it is central to who we are as the people of God. It is here that we begin each new week, acknowledging that we are the people of God, that He is our God, and that we are dependent upon Him for life and salvation. In public worship we formally practice together, in preparation for the week to come, by coming before God, praying, singing, hearing God's Word, confessing our sins, remembering His forgiveness, giving, receiving His instruction, confessing our faith, communing with God and with one another, renewing covenant with the Lord, and being sent forth into the world to do all these thing in our daily lives. Worship is not a place for mere spectators, but rather a place for the people of God to participate in serving Him by proclaiming His worth.

Lenten Meditation #10 (2-27-10)

Father, I have been accumulating sins since the day of my birth, and while You have graciously forgiven my sins in Christ, and cleansed me from all unrighteousness for His sake, nevertheless my past foolishness and rebellion have inflicted great damage on me and others. In Your grace You have softened their effects and even granted that I gain wisdom from them, thus, by Your mighty power, using even my sins for my good. My I not forget Your mercies and may I not return to those sins, but forsake them forever.

6 Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses,

For they are from of old.

7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;

According to Your mercy remember me,

For Your goodness' sake, O Lord.

8 Good and upright is the Lord;

Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.

9 The humble He guides in justice,

And the humble He teaches His way.

10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth,

To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.

11 For Your name's sake, O Lord,

Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

―Psalm 25

Friday, February 26, 2010

I Was Glad

The Lord's Day is a "day of rest," and corporate Bible study and worship are forms of rest because they feed and restore us. An afternoon nap is also nice. As loyal followers of Jesus, we have denied ourselves and recognize that He determines our priorities because He loves us and knows what is good for us. "Man lives not by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God," and God, in His kind providence, has provided the church and given her pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for service.

Most people, out of a sense of duty and obligation, get up every day and go to work or school, even if they don't feel like it. But on the Lord's Day, we have the special privilege of gathering with God's people―the household of God―and we get to study God's Word, worship Him and gather around the family Table. "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord.'" (Ps. 122:1). Like other Christian commitments, the decision to do these things is a one-time decision, not a weekly decision; it's who we are. As this godly habit is established it becomes the new normal and it is inculcated in our children so that not attending Bible study and worship feels like the odd thing. It sends the message that "this the Lord's Day, not my day." We're called by Him to honor and worship Him, and to serve Him with gladness. Therefore, it's both the attitude of the heart and the location of the body that shows respect for Him.

1 Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!

2 Serve the Lord with gladness;

Come before His presence with singing.

3 Know that the Lord, He is God;

It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,

And into His courts with praise.

Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

5 For the Lord is good;

His mercy is everlasting,

And His truth endures to all generations.

―Psalm 100

Lenten Meditation #9 (2-26-10)

O Lord, it is often so difficult for me to see my own sin. I am blinded by my own stubborn will and my own self-justification and rationalization. It is frequently necessary for You to send another person to speak directly and frankly in personal confrontation. Keep me, O Lord, from going on blindly in some sin. Do send someone to me rather than let me continue in it. Shake me, search me, open my eyes. And when You enable me to see my sin, give me the grace to own it directly and simply, as David did, and say, "Against You, You only have I sinned...that You are...blameless in Your judgment" (Ps.51:1,4). Give me understanding to see that all sin is ultimately against You; a violation of Your holy law, and heinous in Your sight. Let all Your people be sensitive to sin, slow to speak words of self-defense, and quick to confess to You and to others. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, that I may teach transgressors Your ways (Ps.51:12-13).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Giving You Wisdom

It's not enough to "know" and "understand" things, you also have to be able to apply them to life. Wisdom is the goal, and it doesn't come easy. Being smart and being wise are not the same thing. "In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs" (Eccl. 12:9). "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable..." (Prov. 15:2). "The lips of the wise spread knowledge..." (Prov. 15:7).

Israel recognized Solomon's wisdom, "for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice" (1 Kings 3:28). The Psalms declare: "The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom" (37:30); "My mouth will speak wisdom" (49:3). Again, the Proverbs support this aspect of learning: "The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom" (10:3 1); "She opens her mouth in wisdom" (31:26).

Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge and understanding as revealed in Ecclesiastes: "For wisdom is protection just as money is protection. But the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors" (7:12); "Wisdom strengthens a wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city" (7:19); "Wisdom is better than strength" (16); "Wisdom is better than the weapons of war" (9:18); "Wisdom has the advantage of giving success" (10:10). You are to have the "word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another..." (Col. 3:16); The Scriptures are "able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15); And we are told, "conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity" (Col. 4:5).

Genuine understanding is evidenced in obedience to the truth as we see in these passages from Psalms: "A good understanding have all those who do His Commandments" (111: 10); "Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, and keep it with all my heart" (119:34); "Give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments" (119:73); "From Thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way" (119:104). The Proverbs observe: "a man of understanding walks straight" (15:21)."The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding sees through him" (28:11).

God complains to Jeremiah, "For My people are foolish. They know Me not; they are stupid children, and they have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know" (4:22). Daniel and his companions were described as those who were "endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge" (Dan. 1:4). The apostle John points us to the ultimate purpose of understanding when he writes, "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true..." (1 John 5:20).

Lenten Meditation #8 (2-25-10)

Merciful Lord, like Adam in the Garden, I have often sought to hide from You, for I am ashamed. Rather than come to you for mercy and forgiveness I have sought refuge in other places, concealing my sins. I have feigned innocence when I was guilty and pretended to be righteous when I was not. Even as You promised mercy and grace, I have frequently refused to receive Your gift and preferred to nurse my secret sins. Come to me, O Lord, and shine Your light upon my sins that I might confess them to You.

13 He who covers his sins will not prosper,

But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

―Proverb 28:13

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Giving You Understanding

It's not enough to "know" things, you also have to put them together. Understanding in Scripture is directed toward discerning good from evil; truth from falsehood. In other words, the man who has understanding has good judgment. He comprehends the right relationship of the particular pieces of knowledge to the whole. The Bible describes the sons of Issachar as men "who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (1 Chron. 12:32). Do you have a truly biblical understanding of politics and culture? Do you know what you and others should be doing? Or are you relying on the media and your own thoughts to navigate through your life?

While the unbeliever swerves into the truth on a regular basis, without the fear of the Lord he has no means of discerning good from evil (Heb. 5:14). He is a creature, made in God's image, living in God's world. However, since he does not acknowledge any of this, the truths he does pick up fall short of accomplishing their intended purpose which is to glorify God. We have to know why and how things fit together so that we don't muddle our way through life. We need a coherent worldview that is comprehensive. Without this, we cannot make sense of our own lives, or the world around us, much less the things of eternity.

Do you understand the covenantal structure of all of life and what the Bible teaches about how life works? Blessings and curses? Visible and invisible? King Solomon prayed, "So give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil" (1 Kings 3:9). Job observes, "And to depart from evil is understanding" (28:28).

Genuine understanding is evidenced in obedience to the truth as we see in these passages from Psalms: "A good understanding have all those who do His Commandments" (111: 10); "Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, and keep it with all my heart" (119:34); "Give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments" (119:73); "From Thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way" (119:104). The Proverbs observe: "a man of understanding walks straight" (15:21)."The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding sees through him" (28:11).

God complains to Jeremiah, "For My people are foolish. They know Me not; they are stupid children, and they have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know" (4:22). Daniel and his companions were described as those who were "endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge" (Dan. 1:4). The apostle John points us to the ultimate purpose of understanding when he writes, "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true..." (1 John 5:20).

Lenten Meditation #7 (2-24-10)

Second Penitential Psalm

Psalm 32 - The Joy of Forgiveness

A Psalm of David. A Contemplation.

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,

Whose sin is covered.

2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,

And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old

Through my groaning all the day long.

4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;

My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah

5 I acknowledged my sin to You,

And my iniquity I have not hidden.

I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,"

And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You

In a time when You may be found;

Surely in a flood of great waters

They shall not come near him.

7 You are my hiding place;

You shall preserve me from trouble;

You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will guide you with My eye.

9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule,

Which have no understanding,

Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,

Else they will not come near you.

10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked;

But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.

11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous;

And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Giving You Knowledge

The fear of the Lord is the starting place and the ending place of all legitimate learning. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Pr. 1:7; Eccl. 12:12-13). The fear of the Lord is God's creature functioning in context. Absent the recognition of God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of life, the learning of particular facts is vain and the assembling of those facts into a cohesive whole is impossible. It's somewhat like lifting sentences at random from a novel and trying to organize them into something that makes sense without acknowledging there ever was a novel or novel writer. The unbeliever learns, but to what end? Perhaps he becomes proficient, or even excellent at performing particular tasks—he gets a good job—he makes a lot of money. Nevertheless, "what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" It doesn't matter how smooth and fast the train is if in the end the bridge is out. It was the rich man that found himself on the other side of the great chasm from Abraham, crying for a drop of water.

Lenten Meditation #6 (2-23-10)

Heavenly Father, help me not to be hardened through the deceitfulness of my sins but rather may I search them out and willingly receive Your rebuke. Reveal to me those hidden sins that lie buried in my heart and that do their insidious work to bring me low and to separate me from You. Give me new eyes to see and open up my ears to hear. Holy Spirit, continue Your work of sanctification in me, rooting out sin, that I might more and more be conformed to the image of the Son.

12 Who can understand his errors?

Cleanse me from secret faults.

13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;

Let them not have dominion over me.

Then I shall be blameless,

And I shall be innocent of great transgression.

Psalm 19

Monday, February 22, 2010

Knowing the Lord and Knowing Yourself

I want you to know the Lord and to know yourselves. The Bible says: "for the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth" (Malachi 2:7). We are all born ignorant and we must be taught.

You know almost nothing about everything (past, present and future). Do you know what the Bible says about, God, about you, about others, about the past, present and future? Do you know what the Bible says about, your calling, about money, worship, music, science, and history? Do you know what the Bible says about, life and death, and sin and salvation? Do you know what the Bible says about, love, and marriage, and sex, and children, and happiness and misery?

Jesus said, in what is called the Great Commission: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

Beauty as Reflection of the Nature of God

Jonathan Edwards argues that the source of beauty is God Himself, and that this beauty can be understood in two areas: first, the beauty of moral virtue, that is, the benevolence of God toward being in general and specially toward other benevolent beings; and second, beauty is seen in the agreement or unity of purpose of the Godhead in the trinity, as well as in the union of purpose of spiritual beings in what Edwards calls "a mutual propensity and affection of heart."

This order and mutual propensity is reflected in a secondary or inferior beauty, a beauty formed not only in the relation of spiritual beings, but seen in even inanimate things. Examples of this secondary beauty (consisting in, Edwards says, "mutual consent and agreement of different things, in form, manner, quantity, and visible end or design; called by the various names of regularity, order, uniformity, symmetry, proportion, harmony, etc."), include the "mutual agreement of the various sides of a square, the beautiful proportion of the various part of the human body, and ... the sweet mutual consent and agreement of the various notes in a melodious tune."

This most important connection between the nature of God's virtuous character and the secondary beauty of created things forges a significance for the beauty of objects in this world. The external physical world is formed in analogy to the spiritual world. God seems to take delight in analogy, Edwards says. He makes created things reflect something of the invisible qualities of His nature and the nature of the agreement among His spiritual creatures.

It has pleased [God] to establish a law of nature by virtue of which the uniformity and mutual correspondence of a beautiful plant, the respect which the various parts of a regular building seem to have to one another, and their agreement and union, and the consent or concord of the various notes of a melodious tune, should appear beautiful because therein is some image of the consent of mind, the different members of a society or system of intelligent beings, sweetly united in a benevolent agreement of heart.... And here I should further observe...that God has so constituted nature, that the presenting of this inferior beauty, especially in those kinds of it which have the greatest resemblance of the primary beauty, as the harmony of sounds, and the beauties of nature, have a tendency to assist those whose hearts are under the influence of a truly virtuous temper, to dispose them to the exercises of divine love, and enliven in them a sense of spiritual beauty.

The point is that beauty is seen not only as a pleasant diversion, but as one of the ways God reveals Himself in His creation. This is not to say (as the Romantics did) that the artist is a prophet, or that what he reveals should in any way overshadow specific revelation, but beauty cannot come from anyone other than God Himself, and it is a window into heaven for those who have ears and eyes to see and hear. If this is the case, then WHAT Christians call beautiful says a great deal to the watching world about WHO we call beautiful.

John Mason Hodges

Lenten Meditation #5 (2-22-10)

O Lord, as I consider my sins I am reminded of how lightly I pass over them, forgetting the many ways they are compounded. There are so many of them that I cannot count or recall them all. Neither are they light, but are often entrenched and deep. I have repented of the same sins over and over, and though I have known the joy of your cleansing forgiveness, yet, I return to those very sins again and again. I am sorry for the repetition and continuance of my sins.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me, and know my anxieties;

24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting.

―Psalm 139

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Nothing New Under the Sun

"Power, especially over-grown power, whets the ambition and sets all the wits to work to enlarge it. Therefore, encroachments on people's liberties are not generally made all at once, but so gradually as hardly to be perceived by the less watchful; and all plastered over, it may be, with such plausible pretenses, that before they are aware of the snare, they are taken and cannot disentangle themselves."

—Samuel Webster— (Election sermon, 1777)

Lord’s Day Meditation (2-21-10)

NOTE: Lord's Days are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, since they are always feast days.

Glorious GodFather, Son and Holy SpiritCreator who has made this lovely world and given it to all men for enjoyment, help me to never grow dull to all its wonder. Since I have grown so familiar, let me not forget how glorious Your lovely creation is. Keep my eyes open to the beauty of the blue sky and the pageant of the clouds, the mystery of the moonlight and the majesty of the silent stars. My I see in every sunrise the miracle of life and light renewed, and in every sunset a reminder of the shortness of this life and promise of resurrection. May no day be common to me, but may each one bring the benediction of Your renewed kindness in Jesus Christ. As I begin this new week, reflecting on the resurrection of Christ and my union with Him, gathering to worship with Your people, grant that I may learn to serve You with gladness, for the sake of Him by whom all things were made. AMEN

Saturday, February 20, 2010

He Who Would Please All Will Lose His Ass and Be Laughed at for His Pains

For those not familiar with Charles Spurgeon's "John Ploughman," below is one of his many vignettes from John Plougman's Pictures.

"I have written for ploughmen and common people. Hence refined taste and dainty words have been discarded for strong proverbial expressions and homely phrases. I have aimed my blows at the vices of the many, and tried to inculcate those moral virtues without which men are degraded. Much that needs to be said to the toiling masses would not well suit the pulpit and the Sabbath; these lowly pages may teach thrift and industry all the days of the week in the cottage and the workshop; and if some learn these lessons I shall not repent the adoption of a rustic style. That I have written in a semi-humorous vein needs no apology, since thereby sound moral teaching has gained a hearing from at least 300,000 persons. There is no particular virtue in being seriously unreadable."

C. H. Spurgeon

Here's a queer picture, and this is the story which goes with it; you shall have it just as I found it in an old book. "An old man and his young son were driving an ass before them to the next market to sell. 'Why have you no more wit,' says one to the man upon the way, 'than you and your son to trudge it a-foot, and let the ass go light?' So the old man set his son upon the ass, and footed it himself. 'Why, sir,' says another after this, to the boy, 'ye lazy rogue, you, must you ride, and let your old father go a-foot?' The old man upon this took down his son, and got up himself. 'Do you see,' says a third, 'how the lazy old knave rides himself and the poor young fellow has much ado to creep after him?' The father, upon this, took up his son behind him. The next they met asked the old man whether the ass were his own or no? He said, 'Yes.' 'Troth, there's little sign on't,' says the other, 'by your loading him thus.' 'Well,' says the old man to himself, 'and what am I to do now? for I'm laughed at, if either the ass be empty, or if one of us rides, or both; 'and so he came to the conclusion to bind the ass's legs together with a cord, and they tried to carry him to market with a pole upon their shoulders, betwixt them. This was sport to everybody that saw it, inasmuch that the old man in great wrath threw down the ass into a river, and so went his way home again. The good man, in fine, was willing to please everybody, but had the ill fortune to please nobody, and lost his ass into the bargain.''

He who will not go to bed till he pleases every-body will have to sit up a great many nights. Many men, many minds; many women, many whims; and so if we please one we are sure to set another grumbling. We had better wait till they are all of one mind before we mind them, or we shall be like the man who hunted many hares at once and caught none. Besides, the fancies of men alter, and folly is never long pleased with the same thing, but changes its palate, and grows sick of what it doted on. Will Shepherd says he once tried to serve two masters, but, says he, "I soon had enough of it, and I declared that, if I was pardoned this once, the next time they caught me at it they might pickle me in salt and souse me in boiling vinegar."

"He who would general favour win

And not himself offend,

Today the task he may begin,

He'll never, never end."

If we dance to every fiddle we shall soon be lame in both legs. Good nature may be a great misfortune if we do not mix prudence with it.

He that all men would please

Shall never find ease.

It is right to be obliging, but we are not obliged to be every man's lackey. Put your hand quickly to your hat, for that is courtesy; but don't bow your head at every man's bidding, for that is slavery. He who hopes to please all should first fit the moon with a suit of clothes, or fill a bottomless barrel with buckets with their hoops off. To live upon the praises of others is to feed on the air; for what is praise but the breath of men's nostrils? That's poor stuff to make a dinner of. To set traps for claps, and to faint if you don't get them, is a childish thing; and to change your coat to please new company is as mean as dirt. Change for the better as often as you like, but mind it is better before you change. Tom of Bedlam never did a madder thing than he who tried to please a thousand masters at once: one is quite enough. If a man pleases God he may let the world wag its own way, and frown or flatter, as the maggot bites. What is there, after all, to frighten a man in a fool's grin, or in the frown of a poor mortal like yourself? If it mattered at all what the world says of us, it would be some comfort that when a good man is buried people say, "He was not a bad fellow after all." When the cow is dead we hear how much milk she gave. When the man's gone to heaven folks know their loss, and wonder how it was they did not treat him better.

The way of pleasing men is hard, but blessed are they who please God. He is not a free man who is afraid to think for himself, for if his thoughts are in bonds the man is not free. A man of God is a manly man. A true man does what he thinks to be right, whether the pigs grunt or the dogs howl. Are you afraid to follow out your conscience because Tom, Jack, and Harry, or Mary, Ann and Betsy, would laugh at you? Then you are not the seventy-fifth cousin to John Ploughman, who goes on his way whistling merrily, though many find fault with himself, and his plough, and his horses, and his harness, and his boots, and his coat, and his waistcoat, and his hat, and his head, and every hair on it. John says it amuses them and doesn't hurt him; but depend on it you will never catch John or his boys carrying the donkey.

Lenten Meditation #4 (2-20-10)

O Lord, I descend from many generations of sinners and was conceived in sin. Not only is my nature to sin, but my sinfulness has given birth to many actual transgressions. I have often rejected Your holy law and refused correction. I have provoked Your Spirit and followed my own selfish desires. I have not feared You as I ought and have been slow to return to You even as You called. I have frequently hardened my heart and provoked You, and yet You have shown me much mercy and kindness.

22 Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed,

Because His compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness.

24 "The Lord is my portion," says my soul,

"Therefore I hope in Him!"

Lamentations 3

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friends and Lovers

From C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves.

"Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities." (p. 103)

"When I spoke of Friends as side by side or shoulder to shoulder I was pointing to a necessary contrast between their posture and that of the lovers whom we picture face to face. Beyond that contrast I do not want the image pressed. The common quest or vision which unites Friends does not absorb them in such a way that they remain ignorant or oblivious of one another. On the contrary it is the very medium in which their mutual love and knowledge exist. One knows nobody so well as one's 'fellow.' Every step of the common journey tests his metal; and the tests are tests we fully understand because we are undergoing them ourselves. Hence, as he rings true time after time, our reliance, our respect and our admiration blossom into an Appreciative love of a singularly robust and well-informed kind. If, at the outset, we had attended more to him and less to the thing our Friendship is 'about,' we should not have come to known or love him so well. You will not find the warrior, the poet, the philosopher or the Christian by staring in his eyes as if he were your mistress: better fight beside him, read with him, argue with him, pray with him." (p. 104)

Lenten Meditation #3 (2-19-10)

Gracious Father, teach me to love You by hating the thing that is evil and to abhor sin; especially my own sins. Let the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice come between me and the enemy of my soul. May I come to see sin in all it shades of darkness and deceptionit’s grays and blacksand may I dwell in the light with You. Help me not to trivialize my sins or to pass over them lightly, for they are all offensive to You and were each imputed to Christ on my behalf.

12 Who can understand his errors?

Cleanse me from secret faults.

13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;

Let them not have dominion over me.

Then I shall be blameless,

And I shall be innocent of great transgression.

Psalm 19

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Thousandth Man

One man in a thousand, Solomon says,

will stick more close than a brother.

And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days

if you find him before the other.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend

on what the world sees in you,

but the Thousandth Man will stand your friend

with the whole round world agin you.

'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show

will settle the finding for 'ee.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em go

by your looks, or your acts or your glory.

But if he finds you and you find him,

the rest of the world don't matter;

for the Thousandth Man will sink or swim

with you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk

than he uses yours for his spendings,

and laugh and meet in your daily walk

as though there had been no lendings.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em call

for silver and gold in their dealings;

but the Thousandth Man he's worth 'em all,

because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right,

in season or out of season.

Stand up and back it in all men's sight—

with that for your only reason!

Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide

the shame or mocking or laughter,

but the Thousandth Man will stand by your side

to the gallows-foot—and after!

[Rudyard Kipling, from A Selection of His Stories and Poems, edited by John Beecroft, Doubleday, 1956.)]

Lenten Meditation #2 (2-18-10)

Heavenly Father, I am grateful for the grace given to me through Your Son, Jesus Christ, which enables me to approach You in peace, having my sins washed away by His blood. As we joyfully and corporately celebrate the resurrection of our Savior on each Lord’s Day, and as we anticipate our annual celebration and feast on Easter Sunday, I also know that we need to remember Your great salvation and the darkness from which I have been delivered. As I reflect upon the sins that made the death of my Savior necessary, grant to me a clear perception of the depth of my sins and help me to loath them even as I praise You for my deliverance from them through Jesus my Lord. May I increasingly be repulsed by everything that is not from Him, through Him and to Him. For indeed, He came into the world to save sinners. He that knew no sin, became sin, that I might be the righteousness of God. AMEN

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lenten Meditation #1 (2-17-10)

First Penitential Psalm


A Prayer of Faith in Time of Distress

To the Chief Musician. With Stringed Instruments. On An Eight-Stringed Harp.

A Psalm of David.

1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger,

Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.

2 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak;

O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.

3 My soul also is greatly troubled;

But You, O Lord—how long?

4 Return, O Lord, deliver me!

Oh, save me for Your mercies' sake!

5 For in death there is no remembrance of You;

In the grave who will give You thanks?

6 I am weary with my groaning;

All night I make my bed swim;

I drench my couch with my tears.

7 My eye wastes away because of grief;

It grows old because of all my enemies.

8 Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity;

For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.

9 The Lord has heard my supplication;

The Lord will receive my prayer.

10 Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled;

Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.