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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Over the last few months I’ve been very struck by a theme in the New Testament that I don’t think I’ve properly recognised before:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me (John 8:42)

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23 cf. 14:15)

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15 cf. v16, v17)

…what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9)

If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. (1 Cor. 16:22)

Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. (Eph. 6:23)

Though you have not seen him, you love him (1 Peter 1:8)

I hold this against you: you have forsaken the love you had at first (Rev. 2:4)

The most wonderful gospel truth is not that we loved God but that God the Father loved us and gave his Son to be burnt up instead of us (1 John 4:10). And wonderfully, not only the Father, but Jesus himself loved us to death (Gal. 2:20) and loves us still (Rev. 1:5). Jesus loves me this I know…

But there is another, secondary truth which I fear I have downplayed in my concern to lift up the great gospel blessing of God’s love for us. That truth is that there must be a love for the Lord Jesus. Not a love for theology or a love for gospel ministry or a love for what Jesus brings with him, but a love for Jesus himself. This love is not mere emotion – there is an extremely common and tight connection drawn in Scripture between love and obedience – but neither can it be evacuated of feeling and affection. There is in love a desire for the presence of the other and a delight in the presence of the other (SoS 2:3,14; 3:1-2; 5:6-8; Psalm 27:4; 42:1-2). When my love has gone cold then there’s a big problem.

So I’m thinking this year…

How can I increase my love for Christ?

 

  1. Consider how far you have fallen (Rev. 2:5) – This will involve first looking through the spiritual wedding album, remembering the “devotion of your youth” (Jer. 2:2) and then acknowledging the slide – “followed worthless idols and became worthless” (Jer. 2:5) – the stupid double sin – “forsaken the spring of living water, and have dug cisterns, broken cisterns” (Jer. 2:13) – and the disgusting spiritual adultery of forgetting the Bridegroom, giving lip service and pretend-repentance while really loving and running after others (Jer. 2:20-3:10). I need to recognise the tragedy and outrage of this fallen and debased state. As Richard Sibbes puts it, I need”to be first sensible of spiritual wants and misery. The passover lamb was eaten with sour herbs; so Christ crucified, relisheth best to a soul affected with the bitterness of sin.” (Third Sermon on the Song of Songs).
  2. Repent (Rev. 2:5) – As Peter Mead has shown, repentance is a relational thing – it is a turn from God-hating and, crucially, a turn to God himself. In Jeremiah, amazingly, after horrific spiritual adultery, the LORD Bridegroom says:

    “‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord,
        ‘I will frown on you no longer,
    for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord,
        ‘I will not be angry forever.
    Only acknowledge your guilt—
        you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
    you have scattered your favors to foreign gods
        under every spreading tree,
        and have not obeyed me,’” declares the Lord.

    “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. (Jer. 3:12-14).
    So repentance will mean acknowledging/confessing my guilt and idolatry and adultery and returning to the incredibly forgiving, faithful-to-his-covenant Bridegroom.

  3. Behold Christ in the Word – “Do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:5). What are those first things? Well it could include a lot (probably most of the points below) but the very first thing we did was to look to Christ. “Behold the Lamb of God!” To put it another way, the first thing we did was to hear the word of Christ (Eph. 1:13; 4:22; 5:14 Col. 1:6). To hear is to see (Gal. 3:1). “Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (SoS 2:14). I need to search the Scriptures to see the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6). I need to have that heart burning experience of the Emmaus road disciples as they saw Jesus not physically but in the (OT) Scriptures he opened to them (Luke 24). I need to dwell on awesome portraits of Christ like those in the Book of Revelation. I need to be dazzled by the Scripture pictures of Christ as creator, king, warrior, Holy One, radiance of the glory of God.  Before even considering God’s love towards us, God’s people “first see that God is lovely, and that Christ is excellent and glorious, and their hearts are first captivated with this view” (Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections).
  4. Savour his love – “your love is more delightful than wine.” (SoS 1:2). As Sibbes puts it, “love draws love” (First Sermon on the Song of Songs). This unconditional love which embraces the prodigal and the prostitute and the leper. This covenant love which unites me with the Son of God so that “My beloved is mine and I am his” (SoS 2:16). This sacrificial love with sweated in the garden and endured the searing pain of Godforsakenness. This love which actually, amazingly, genuinely desires and delights in the object of salvation (SoS 1:15; 4:1-14; 5:2; 7:1,10); which sees us as ‘lovely,’ ‘flawless,’ ‘overwhelming,’ ‘captivating’ (4:7; 5:2; 6:5; 7:5; 8:10) and actually wants to be with us for eternity (John 17:24). To the extent that we experience this extravagantly loving forgiving embrace, to that extent we love Christ (Luke 7:47). And we best come to experience this love corporately – “together with all the saints” (Eph. 3:18).
  5. Savour his name – “Your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you!” (SoS 1:3) Notice the logic. The reason for the love is the fragrance of the Name. You know how you feel when the name of your best friend comes up in conversation. “The very naming of a good man casts a sweet savour” (Sibbes, First Sermon). How much more so of Christ. How sweet the name of Jesus sounds… As John Newton, that hymn’s author, explains, the ‘name’ stands for the whole person (Rev. 3:4,5). “The name of Christ includes the whole revelation concerning him, who he is, what he has done – all that we read of his love, his power and his offices make a part of his great and glorious name. The soul that is taught by the Word and Spirit of God to understand a little of these things receives such a sense of love and joy that the very sound of his name is sweeter than music to the ears, sweeter than honey to the taste.” (Newton, Sermon on SoS 1:3) So I would do well to return regularly, as many Scripture authors do, to the great declaration of the Name in Exodus 34:6-7. I would do well to delight in this character of our God as it is unfolded in the stories of Scripture. I would do well to meditate on the great ‘names’ of Christ in the Scriptures – The One Who Sees Me, The Shepherd, The Bridegroom, The Friend of Sinners, The Banquet, The Light of the World, The Life. And I would do well to listen most to the supreme declaration of the Name at the Cross. Newton again: “The precious vessel that contained this precious ointment was broken upon the Cross – the savour of his name, his love, his blood, poured out from every wound [in] his sacred body. See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingling down… When we desire a new savour of this ointment, let us turn our eyes, our thoughts to Golgotha. To behold him by faith as he hung bleeding and dying, with outstretched arms inviting our regards and saying, ‘See if any sorrow was like to my sorrow.'”
  6. Sit under Christ-ful preaching – “Everything that bears the name of preaching – if it does not diffuse the knowledge of this good ointment [the fragrance of the name of Christ] – is dry and tedious, unsavoury and unprofitable.” (Newton, Sermon of SoS 1:3). As Sibbes’ says, preachers, as the friend of the Bridegroom (John 3:28), are to “woo for Christ, and open the riches, beauty, honour and all that is lovely in him” (Sibbes, Second Sermon). Often I can’t, on my own, get my heart excited about Christ, but, in the company of God’s people, with a preacher opening the Scriptures and wooing for Christ, jabbing his finger in the Bible and saying “Look at this thing about Jesus; isn’t he amazing?!” – then I get excited about Jesus. And that seems to be the way God wants it to be.
  7. Partake in the Lord’s Supper – This is the other main, regular means of grace alongside the ministry of the Word, whereby I feed on Christ in my heart by faith with thanksgiving. This is where I’m reassured (as I recently read in a reformed confession I think) that as surely as the bread is pressed into my hand, so Christ has been given to me; as surely as I am receiving the wine, so surely Christ’s blood was shed for me and atones for all my sins. As Carl Trueman (if I remember rightly) describes it, just as in our marriage we live together and have a continual love relationship with our spouse but we still make special ‘dates’ where we can meet together and express our love for one another and grow in our love for one another and be reassured of our love for one another, so the Lord’s Supper is the time and place Christ has ordained as our ‘date’ where he promises to specially meet with us and reassure us of his love and inflame our love.
  8. Sing of Christ – As many have noticed through the ages, music and song have a special ability to express and inflame the affections. It is notable that the Song of Songs is… well a song! One of the best things for my soul is to be in the congregation of God’s people as we sing to one another and sing to God true words about Jesus. Let’s make the most of the songs that have been written down the ages and more recently that do what the Song of Songs does – address either ‘the friends’ or the Bridegroom and tell of His goodness. How sweet the name, When I survey, I stand amazed, There’s not a friend, Soon and very soon, Sovereign Grace, Emu
  9. Praise Christ – “We rejoice and delight in you; we praise your love more than wine.” (SoS 1:4) As C.S. Lewis would say, the latter (the praising) completes and increases the former (the rejoicing and delighting). As the beloved enumerates the specific, superlative, wonderful attributes of the Bridegroom (SoS 5:10-16) – her joy and love is increased. This works not only in prayer-praise and in song-praise but also in witnessing-praise to unbelievers. Have you ever had that joy of sharing with someone how wonderful Jesus is and as you do that you start thinking, Yes – this really is true – Jesus really is wonderful! Even if the other person wasn’t helped, I go away with a deeper appreciation of the good things I have in Christ (Philemon 6).
  10. Accept suffering as a means of refining love for Christ – God is sovereignly working to perfect us and the older authors (like Cranmer, Sibbes and Newton) recognise that much of that will be through the painful pruning of difficult circumstances. Through suffering he will work to loosen our grip on and weaken our affections for the passing things of this world that we might reach more for and rejoice more in Christ. What is required of us is an acceptance – a patient endurance (2 Cor. 1:6; Heb. 12:7) rather than an impatient rejection; a trust that this is a means of God inflaming my love for Christ.
  11. Be around people who love Jesus – I find this one of the most helpful ones. You’ll have noticed how the corporate, churchly dimension intersects almost all of the points so far. We grow in love for Christ among others who love Christ. As in the old illustration of a coal placed in the fire with glowing coals – the warmth and burning of others stirs me up to glow. To change the metaphor, the Proverbs speak of one man sharpening another. Often we think of this in terms of critical thinking but it is also true of love for Christ. Sibbes talks of “that which hinders the sharpness of the [spiritual appetite], that dull and flat the edge of it… and take away the savour and desire of heavenly things.” The evil and cold banality of the world and the company of those who have no interest in Christ dampens our love for Christ like a wet blanket. On the other hand the “company… of such as ‘labour for that blessed food that endures to life eternal’ provokes” us to a sharper appetite and greater feasting on Christ. I need this every day (Heb. 3:13) and especially need to make use of the Sabbath pattern to meet with God’s people and delight in him together.
  12. Pray – Perhaps this should be the first point. We need the Spirit of Conviction that we would see how far we have fallen. We need God himself to grant us repentance (Acts 3:26; 11:18). Otherwise, like the people in Jeremiah’s day we will not repent, we cannot repent (Jer. 13:23). We need the Spirit to remove the veil and open our eyes to the glory of God in the face of Christ in the pages of Scripture (2 Cor. 3-4). We need to pray that God would enlarge our hearts, give us new desires and new taste buds to crave and enjoy Christ. Sibbes notes from SoS 4:16 that unless the Spirit of God blows on us we do not even want to pray for more of Christ. So let us pray desperate prayers for greater love for Christ – come to his Word and come to church praying for our love to be inflames – knowing that even that desire to pray is a gracious gift and token of his love.
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Litanynoun / a tedious recital or repetitive series

Who would want a litany? But the Greek root of the word points to prayer. And hidden away in the Book of Common Prayer service for the ordination of deacons is this wonderful series of supplications to our Father.

Five reasons I love it:

  1. The posture – again and again we call ourselves ‘miserable sinners’ and again and again we call out for mercy and deliverance – i.e. divine pity on our wretched and helpless state, divine help, divine withholding of the wrath we deserve, divine salvation to carry us through this life into the heavenly kingdom. It’s the posture of pathetic, dirty, desperate creatures before a holy, awesome creator saviour God. It’s not politically correct but it fits reality.
  2. The plurality – it’s not just the pastor praying it’s all of us praying.
  3. The perceptiveness – that it is not just enemies outside us we need saving from – the real dangers are in our hearts.
  4. The public spiritedness – there is an outward-looking concern for all of life – civil as well as church, unbelievers as well as believers, natural disasters as well as spiritual disasters. There is no sacred and secular. God is Lord of all.
  5. The pleasures of God – in the second half, where we move from calling for deliverance from dangers to calling for God to positively give grace to his people, there is a repeated invocation ‘that it may please thee… hear us, good Lord.’ We are asking the ‘good Lord’ – the happy God, the loving 3, the fountain of life, the servant God, utterly good and delighting in good – to do what brings him pleasure, what is in accordance with ‘the dictates of his delights’ (Piper).

Here it is (basically the 1559 text with updated spellings). Spot the nice Christmas prayer about a quarter of the way through:

 

O GOD the Father, of heaven : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O God the Father, of heaven : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

 O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

 O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers ; neither take thou vengeance of our sins : spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.

Spare us, good Lord.

Form all evil and mischief ; from sin, from the crafts and assaults of the devil ; from thy wrath, and from everlasting damnation.

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From fornication, and all other deadly sin; and from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder, and from sudden death,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion; from all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and Commandment,

Good Lord, deliver us.

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and Circumcision; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation,

Good Lord, deliver us.

By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the Coming of the Holy Ghost,

Good Lord, deliver us.

In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,

Good Lord, deliver us.

We sinners do beseech thee to hear us, O Lord God; and that it may please thee to rule and govern thy holy Church universal in the right way;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to keep and strengthen in the true worshipping of thee, in righteousness and holiness of life, thy Servant, our most gracious Sovereign and Governor;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to rule his heart in thy faith, fear, and love, and that he may evermore have affiance in thee, and ever seek thy honour and glory;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to be his defender and keeper, giving her the victory over all his enemies;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless and preserve all the Royal Family;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to illuminate all Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thy Word; and that both by their preaching and living they may set it forth, and show it accordingly;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless these thy servants, now to be admitted to the Order of Deacons, [or Presbyters,] and to pour thy grace upon them; that they may duly execute their Office, to the edifying of thy Church, and the glory of thy holy Name;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to endue the Lords of the Council, and all the Nobility, with grace, wisdom, and understanding;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless and keep the Magistrates, giving them grace to execute justice, and to maintain truth;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us an heart to love and dread thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace to hear meekly thy Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such as have erred, and are deceived;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand; and to comfort and help the weak-hearted; and to raise up those who fall; and finally to beat down Satan under our feet;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to succour, help, and comfort, all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve all who travel by land, by water, all women labouring of child, all sick persons, and young children; and to show thy pity upon all prisoners and captives;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to defend, and provide for, the fatherless children, and widows, and all who are desolate and oppressed;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to have mercy upon all men;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth, so that in due time we may enjoy them;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us true repentance; to forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives according to thy holy Word;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Son of God : we beseech thee to hear us.

Son of God : we beseech thee to hear us.

O Lamb of God : that takest away the sins of the world;

Grant us thy peace.

O Lamb of God : that takest away the sins of the world;

Have mercy upon us.

O Christ, hear us.

O Christ, hear us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

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Analysing slogans on matatus and buses is a fun pastime in traffic. This one made me think a bit more the normal. Some good and challenging stuff here:

  • It’s good to pray. And good to pray each day (“daily bread”). And we’re particularly encouraged to pray “deliver us from evil.” I’m rebuked for my prayerlessness.
  • There’s an important recognition here that the devil is a great enemy. He does indeed prowl around seeking to destroy. The world is not simply mechanical cause and effect. There is a spiritual battle going on.
  • The way that a slogan about prayer is unashamedly pasted in big black and white letters on the front of public transport is a sharp contrast to the secularised anti-religious public space in many Western countries where no-one would dream of putting such a message on a public vehicle.
  • There is an interesting juxtaposition of the slogan and the bus it is pasted on. Perhaps an intended connecting of the world of transport and commuting with the spiritual realm. Again I find this challenging and helpful. The Western worldview has little room for praying for a journey or about mechanical issues. Here is an attempt to integrate daily life and physical practicalities with the reality of an intimately involved personal God.

But on the other hand I’d like to ask the guy who pasted that slogan on the bus four questions:

  1. Are you thinking of prayer as a ‘thing’ that you do? Prayer in and of itself does nothing and merits nothing. It is the person you are praying to who needs to do something. Prayer is (or should be) simply talking to a person who can do something.  Which brings us to the next question…
  2. Who are you praying to? If there is no God you are wasting your time. If there is a God who is unconcerned or powerless you are wasting your time. If you are praying to a god other than the Lord and Father of Jesus Christ revealed in his Scriptures you are in great spiritual danger. And if you are praying to that Father, the follow up question might be, Why do you think he should listen to you?
  3. How would you know if your prayer was answered? Or to ask this another way, What is the worst that the devil could do which causes you to pray that he is kept away? I wonder whether, behind this slogan, and perhaps implied by its placement on the front of a bus is the thought that the devil is the one who brings disaster, accident and death. So to keep the devil away is to keep disaster, accident and death away. But what if the devil’s main agenda is to deceive us, to take us away from a pure devotion to Christ, to rob us of joy in Christ (John 8:44; 2 Cor. 11:3)? Perhaps the devil would be quite happy with us having safe travel and healthy lives so long as our hearts are drawn away from Christ to love the world and the things in the world.
  4. Are you in Christ? The idea of keeping the devil away implies that he is already away from us. But what if we are right now under the power of the devil? What if we are captive to him? What if he is working in us? (Eph. 2:2) In that case a prayer a day is not the answer. We need the Stronger Man to rescue us from the Strong Man. We need God to deliver us from captivity by the death and resurrection of His Son. Then, seated with Christ, secure in Him, indwelt by the Greater Spirit, we can enjoy praying to our heavenly Father, through the righteousness of the Son, in the communing power of the Spirit. And it would be good then to ask, among other things, for protection from the enemy of our souls.

 

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Martin Luther loved the Lord’s Prayer. He told his barber in “A Simple Way to Pray”:

To this day I suckle at the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and as an old man eat and drink from it and never get my fill. It is the very best prayer, even better than the psalter, which is so very dear to me.

What Luther meant by this was not that he prayed the words of the Lord’s Prayer over and over as he had in his monastic days. No, he meant something quite different:

  • “I want your heart to be stirred and guided” by the Lord’s Prayer
  • “I do not bind myself to such words or syllables, but say my prayers in
    one fashion today, in another tomorrow, depending upon my mood and feeling. I stay however, as nearly as I can, with the same general thoughts and ideas [i.e. the 7 petitions of the Lord’s Prayer]. It may happen occasionally that I may get lost among so many ideas in one petition that I forego the other six. If such an abundance of good thoughts comes to us we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts”
  • “Prepare your heart for prayer” – which suggests that Luther had a similar pattern to George Mueller – Bible and then Prayer – read the Word and get your heart happy in Jesus first and then move into prayer.
  • “In a good prayer one fully remembers every word and thought from the beginning to the end of the prayer. So, a good and attentive barber keeps his thoughts, attention, and eyes on the razor and hair and does not forget how far he has gotten with his shaving or cutting. If he wants to engage in too much conversation or let his mind wander or look somewhere else he is likely to cut his customer’s mouth, nose, or even his throat. Thus if anything is to be done well, it requires the full attention of all one’s senses and members, as the proverb says, “He who thinks of many things, thinks of nothing and does nothing right.” How much more does prayer call for concentration and singleness of heart if it is to be a good prayer!” (In practice this probably means praying out-loud or writing.)
  • And in another treatise (“An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer” 1519) he talks of praying the Lord’s prayer “against ourselves.” Speaking about ‘Thy will be done’ he says:

“We judge and accuse ourselves with our own words, declaring that we are disobedient to God and do not do his will. For if we really did his will, this petition would not be necessary…

God bids us to pray against ourselves… In that way he teaches us that we have no greater enemy than ourself. You see, our will is the most formidable element in us, and against it we must pray, “O Father, do not let me get to the point where my will is done. Break my will; resist it. No matter what happens let my life be governed not by my will, but by yours. As no one’s own will prevails in heaven so may it also be here on earth.” Such a petition or its fulfilment is indeed very painful to our human nature, for our own will is the greatest and most deep rooted evil in us, and nothing is dearer to us than our own will. Therefore, we are asking for nothing else in this petition than the cross, torment, adversity, and sufferings of every kind, since these serve the destruction of our will.”

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2014-08-24 16.14.23

Thanking God for a good day yesterday. Here are the notes so far:

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Just a few links that might come in handy:

  • ‘Orphans or children of God’ – study guide by World Harvest Mission including a study of Galatians and the much-shared diagram comparing the characteristics of an orphan mentality with a child of God mindset. Hugely helpful, particularly in our context.
  • ‘For the Love of God’ – Don Carson’s wonderful devotional going through the Bible according to the Murray McCheyne reading plan. Very rare in being a devotional which really gets you into the Bible and helps you see rich biblical theology truths. Available in blog form here (with option of email subscription) or as free PDFs (made available by TGC) : Volume 1 and Volume 2.
  • PrayerMate – a smart phone ap, now available on android which “Helps you to actually pray for all the people you say you’ll pray for”. (I’m yet to join the smart generation but I’m told by people who use it that it’s really helpful.)
  • Conversation Magazine – now launched in paper and e-format. ‘Rethinking life and ministry in light of the gospel.’ More on the first issue and how to get hold of one here.

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climbing stairsOne way to look at spiritual disciplines is as stairs to climb to get up to heaven. This is the way Luther saw the Christian life in his early days. By his own account he almost killed himself with fasting, praying, vigils, confession, pilgrimage, even literally climbing up a venerated set of stairs in Rome on his hands and knees. It’s possible to come to prayer and Bible reading like this – as a work that gets me credit with God or gets me a bit further up the holiness ladder or ‘gets me into the presence of God’ or somehow tries to bring heaven down or at least makes me feel less guilty for not doing it.

window-of-heaven-The later Luther saw things very differently. The Scriptures had become to him a gateway to heaven. Prayer had become the cry of a son secure in his Father’s love coming in confidence to the throne of grace. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were wonderful assurances of a sure and finished salvation in Christ. Where before there had been a desperate striving to overcome the displeasure of a frowning God, now it became all about hearing the promises of a God who smiled on him in Christ. Spiritual disciplines in this paradigm are means of grace. The arrow is not pointing up it is pointing down. As we open the Bible or turn to prayer we are simply opening windows in heaven and standing under the waterfall of truth and love and grace.

And here’s something from Peter Mead on that…

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