Thursday, 31 December 2009

TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2009

In no particular order (selecting 10 was hard enough):

Julian Barnes, Nothing to be Frightened Of
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life
Lauren F Winner, Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses:The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony
Dorothy L Sayers, Creed or Chaos? And other essays in popular theology
Tobias Woolf, Old School
Humphrey Carpenter (Ed.), The Letters of JRR Tolkien
Andrew Marin, Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community
Tom Hovestol, Extreme Righteousness: Seeing ourselves in the pharisees
Timothy Knatchbull, From a Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb

Wednesday, 30 December 2009


'An understanding of people as sinners enables a pastoral ministry to function without anger. Accumulated resentment (a constant threat to pastors) is dissolved when unreal - that is untheological - presuppositions are abandoned. If people are sinners then pastors can concentrate on talking about God's action in Jesus Christ instead of sitting around lamenting how bad the people are...
But a pastor is not likely to find this view of people supported by the people themselves. They ordinarily assume that everyone has a divine inner core that needs awakening. They're Emersonian in their presuppositions, not Pauline. They expect personal help from the pastor in the shape of moralistic, mystic, or intellectual endeavours. People don't reckon with sin as that total fact that charcaterizes them; nor do they long for forgiveness as the effective remedy. They yearn for the nurture of their psychic life, for a way in which they may bypass grace and walk on their own...
The happy result of a theological understanding of people as sinners is that the pastor is saved from continual surprise that they are in fact sinners. It enables us to heed Bonhoeffer's admonition: "A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men." So sinner becomes not a weapon in an arsenal of condemnation, but the expectation of grace. Simply to be against sin is a poor basis for pastoral ministry. But to see people are sinners - as rebels against God, missers of the mark, wanderers from the way - that establishes a basis for pastoral ministry that can proceed with great joy because it is announcing God's great action in Jesus Christ - "for sinners."'
Eugene H Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, p.119-120.


'The word sinner is a theological designation. It is essential to insist on this. It is not a moralistic judgment. It is not a word that places humans somewhere along a continuum ranging from angel to ape, assessing them as relatively "good" or "bad." It designates humans in relation to God and sees them as seperated from God. Sinner means something is awry between humans and God. In that state people may be wicked, unhappy, anxious and poor. Or, they may be virtuous, happy, and affluent. Those items are not part of the judgment. The theological fact is that humans are not close to God and are not serving God.'
Eugene H Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, p.118.


'I know there are times when waiting is painful. I know there are times when it seems as if it is impossible to wait. But you and I must remind ourselves that we wait not because irrational and impersonal forces function as obstructions and interferences in our lives. No, we wait because the world is carefully administered by the one Person who is ultimate in power, ultimate in authority, and ultimate in wisdom, while at the very same time being ultimate in love. You are being asked to wait by One you can trust.'
Paul David Tripp, A shelter in the time of storm, p.135.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


'"For it is said in old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known."'
JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, p.894.


'If we avoid small talk, we abandon the very field in which we have been assigned to work. Most of people's lives is not spent in crisis, not lived at the cutting edge of crucial issues. Most of us, most of the time, are engaged in simple, routine tasks, and small talk is the natural language. If pastors belittle it, we belittle what most peopel are doing most of the time, and the gospel is misrepresented.'
Eugene H Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, p.115.


'Pastoral work, I learned later, is that aspect of Christian ministry that specializes in the ordinary. It is the nature of the pastoral life to be attentive to, immersed in, and appreciative of the everyday texture of people's lives - the buying and selling, the visiting and meeting, the going and coming.'
Eugene H Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, p.112.

Thursday, 24 December 2009


'The honest advice I would give a friend or family member pursued by a journalist is to say nothing at all at first, and then to weigh every word against the chance of it being twisted before making a statement.'
Andrew Marr, My Trade, p.379.


'The opening needs to work immediately: it should affront readers, or make them laugh, or puzzle them in some engaging way. I rarely re-write, but often go back to the first few sentences time and again. The ending may well pick up on the opening image or thought. You should "bite the tail": it gives a satisfying sense of completeness.'
Andrew Marr, My Trade, p.374.


'"It seems, then," said Tirian, smiling himself, "that the Stable seen from within and the Stable seen from without are two different places."
"Yes," said the Lord Digory. "Its inside is bigger than its outside."
"Yes," said Queen Lucy. "In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world."'
CS Lewis, The Last Battle, p.508 of The Complete Chronicles of Narnia


' become free does not mean becoming free in the world, not becoming free from your brother, not even free from God, but to become free from oneself, one's lies. It means to become free from thinking only of myself, from being the center of my world, from hate, by which I despise God's creation. It means to be free to be for the other: the person for others...
The man who loves because he has been made free by God is the most revolutionary man on earth. He challenges all values. He is the explosive material of human society. He is a dangerous man. For he recognizes that the human race is in the depths of falsehood. And he is always ready to let the light of truth fall upon his darkness; and he will do this because of his love. But this disturbance, which such people bring, calls forth hatred from the world. And therefore this knight of truth and love is not the hero that men long for or honor, not one who is without enemies; but one whom they would do away with, outlaw, and indeed kill. The way of God's truth leads to the cross.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Edwin Robertson (Ed.), Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons, p.71.


'...the truth comes. It encounters us in an unexpected form, not with trailing clouds of glory and dazzling clarity, but as the crucified truth, as the crucified Christ. And the truth speaks to us. It says to us, "Who has crucified me, the truth?" And in the same moment it answers itself, "See what you have done. You have hated the truth of God. You have crucified it. And you have set up your own truth. You believed you knew the truth, you possessed it, you thought to make men happy with your truth and thereby you made yourself into God. You have robbed God of his truth and proclaimed your own truth instead - but you have thereby ruined yourself by playing God and with that comes destruction. You have crucified truth."
And if we find this mystery too difficult for us to understand, listen to what the truth says more clearly: You are living as though you were alone in the world. You have thought to find within yourself the source of truth, which can only be found in God. For that reason you hate the other person who does the same. You found in yourself the center of the world and this is the source of the lie. You saw your brothers as part of your personal kingdom, lording it over them and not seeing that you and they live by the truth of God. Your tear yourself out of communion with God and your brother and you think you can live alone. You hate God and your brother and think you can live alone. You hate God and your brother becasue they deny the truth. That was the lie and you are therefore liars through and through. Your wish to be alone, self-sufficient, and your hatred of others - that is the lie. For that reason you crucified God's truth. You thought you would become free if you tore away and hated the truth. But you have become a slave, a slave of your hatred and your lies.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Edwin Robertson (Ed.), Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons, p.69.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


'...the working environment of pastors erodes patience and rewards impatience. People are uncomfortable with mystery (God) and mess (themselves). They avoid both mystery and mess by devising programs and hiring pastors to manage them. A program provides a defined structure with an achievable goal. Mystery and mess are eliminated at a stroke. This is appealing. In the midst of the mysteries of grace and the complexities of human sin, it is nice to have something that you can evaluate every month or so and find out where you stand. We don't have to deal with ourselves or with God, but can use the vocabulary of religion and work in an environment that acknowledges God, and so be assured that we are doing something significant.'
Eugene H Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, p.48.


'The appointment calendar is the tool with which to get unbusy. It's a gift of the Holy Ghost (unlisted by St.Paul, but a gift nonetheless) that provides the pastor with the means to get time and acquire leisure for praying, preaching and listening. It is more effective that a protective secretary, it is less expensive than a retreat house. It is the one thing everyone in our society accepts without cavil as authoritative. The authority once given to Scripture is now ascribed to the appointment calendar. The dogma of verbal innerrancy has not been discareded, only re-assigned.
When I appeal to my appointment calendar, I am beyond criticism. If someone approaches me and asks to pronounce the invocation at an event and I say, "I don't think I should do that; I was planning to use that time to pray," the response will be, "Well, I'm sure you can find another time to do that." But if I say, "My appointment calendar will not permit it," no further questions are asked...'
Eugene H Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, p.22.


'What does it mean to be a pastor? If no one asked me to do anything, what would I do?
Three things.
I can be a pastor who prays. I want to cultivate my relationship with God. I want all of life to be intimate - sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously - with the God who made, directs, and loves me. And I want to waken others to the nature and centrality of prayer. I want to be the person in this community to whom others can come without hesitation, without wondering if it is appropriate, to get direction in prayer and praying...
I can be a pastor who preaches. I want to speak the Word of God that is Scripture in the language and rhythms of the people I live with. I am given an honored and protected time each week to do that. The pulpit is a great gift, and I want to use it well...
I can be a pastor who listens. A lot of people approach me through the week to tell me what's going on in their lives. I want to have the energy and time to really listen to them so that when they're through, they know at least one other person has some inkling of what they're feeling and thinking...'
Eugene H Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, p.19-21.


'...the congregation is a place where I'm gradually learning that prayer is not conditioned or authenticated by my feelings. Nothing is more devastating to prayer than when I begin to evaluate prayer by my feelings, and think that in order to pray I have to have a certain sense, a certain spiritual attentiveness or peace, or, on the other side, anguish.
That's virtually impossible to learn by yourself. But if I'm in a congregation, I learn over and over again that prayer will go on whether I feel like it or not, or even if I sleep through the whole thing.'
Eugene H Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, p.9.


' job is not to solve people's problems or make them happy, but to help them see the grace operating in their lives. It's hard to do, because our whole culture is going the other direction, saying that if you're smart enough and get the right kind of help, you can solve all your problems. The truth is, there aren't many happy people in the Bible. But there are people who are experiencing joy, peace, and the meaning of Christ's suffering in their lives.'
Eugene H Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Reurning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, p.5.


'Perfectionism is about control, overresponsibility, self-sufficiency, and achieving glory now.'
Michael R Emlet, CrossTalk, p.162.

Friday, 18 December 2009


'When we are disturbed by the chaos in our own personal life, when we are not ready to face it, when again and again every security fails us and there is no firm ground under our feet, when our life hangs between good intentions and shame, when it becomes inevitably clear that we are weak, when some unmanageable fate comes over us, a great sorrow or a great passion and we are horrified at the inevitable working out of this fate, when we can see only how faithless and hopeless we are caught in our own errors or when friendships are finally broken, when with the best will in the world we cannot find reconciliation with the other, in short, when we take seriously the whole human chaos in which we are stuck - then it all comes over us and we say to God: Lord, I can bear no more. I can't take any more. No, I don't want any more. I'm too deep in the mire. God don't speak any more to me, for I will not hear you. God, we have nothing more to do with each other.
And then it happens that we want to hear something new and at that moment, we hear afresh: "Peace, courage." Courage which God gives is like a mother taking hold of her child who is out of control with so many faults and failures, who is now very unhappy and begins to cry. She takes his hand and gives him a new chance: "Now, let's try that once more." Courage, courage - so God speaks to us when we are disgusted with ourselves.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Edwin Robertson (Ed.), Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons, p.58.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


'Child of the stable's secret birth
the Lord by right of the lords of earth;
let angels sing of a king new-born -
the world is weaving a crown of thorn:
a crown of thorn for that infant head
cradled soft in the manger bed.

Eyes that shine in the lantern's ray;
a face so small in its nest of hay -
face of a child who is born to scan
the world he made, through the eyes of a man:
and from that face in the final day
earth and heaven shall flee away.

Voice that rang through the courts on high
contracted now to wordless cry,
a voice to master the wind and wave,
the human heart and the hungry grave:
the voice of God through the cedar trees
rolling forth as the sound of seas.

Infant hand in a mother's hand,
for none but Mary may understand
whose are the hands and fingers curled
but his who fashioned and made our world;
and through these hands in the hour of death
nails strike to wood beneath.

Child of the stable's secret birth,
the Father's gift to a wayward earth,
to drain the cup in a few short years
of all our sorrows, our sin and tears -
ours the prize for the road he trod:
risen with Christ; at peace with God.'
Timothy Dudley-Smith

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


'Tell someone to do something, and you change their life - for a day; tell someone a story and you change their life.'
Tom Wright in Michael R Emlet, CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet, in p.62.

Friday, 11 December 2009


'Could it be that there are
two kinds of beauty?
In this world there is
Source beauty
Reflected beauty.
Source beauty is
true beauty
pure beauty
timeless beauty
independent beauty
definitional beauty
divine beauty.
Reflected beauty is
shadow beauty
tainted beauty
dependent beauty
ill-defined beauty
creation beauty.'
Paul David Tripp, A shelter in the time of storm, p.99.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


'Dame Matthews used to live at the Home Farm at Langley Burrell. She was a member of the family, but she must have lived a long time ago, as Mrs Banks remarked, because she called cows "Kine". The Dame used to sit in the chimney corner and near her chair was a little window through which she could see all down the dairy. One evening she saw one of the farm men steal a pound of butter out of the dairy and put it into his hat, at the same moment clapping his hat upon his head.
"John," called the Dame. "John, come here. I want to speak to you." John came, carefully keeping his hat on his head. The Dame ordered some ale to be heated for him and bade him sit down in front of the roaring fire. John thanked his mistress and said he would have the ale another time, as he wanted to go home at once.
"No, John. Sit down by the fire and drink some hot ale. 'Tis a cold night and I want to speak to you about the kine."
The miserable John, daring neither to take his hat off nor go without his mistress's leave, sat before the scorching fire drinking his hot ale till the butter in his hat began to drip all over his face. "Now, John," she said "you may go. I won't charge you anything for the butter."'
Francis Kilvert in Alan Taylor (Ed.), The Country Diaries: A Year in the British Countryside, p.307.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


'The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Edwin Robertson (Ed.), Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons, p.21.

Friday, 4 December 2009


'Paul challenged the gods of the city of Ephesus (Acts 19:26), which led to such an alteration in the spending patterns of new converts that it changed the local economy. That in turn touched off a riot led by local merchants. Contemporary observers have often noted that modern Christians are just as materialistic as everyone else in our culture. Could this be because our preaching does not, like Saint Paul's, include the exposure of our culture's counterfeit gods?'
Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p.167.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


'Here are a few suggestions...
Know what you're buying. Reporting is now so contaminated by bias and campaigning, and general mischief, that no reader can hope to get a picture of what is happening without first knowing who owns a paper and who it is being published for...
Follow the names. If you find a reporter who seems to know the score, particularly in an area you know about, cherish him or her...
Register bias. Even when you read the same paper every day, be aware that reporters are now less embarrassed to let the bias show...
Read the second paragraph, and look for quote marks. Surprisingly often, the key fact is not in the first paragraph, which is general and designed to grab attention...
If the headline asks a question, try answering 'no'. Is this the true face of Britain's Young? (Sensible reader: No.) Have We Found the Cure for AIDS? (No, or you wouldn't have put a question mark in.)...
And watch out for quotation marks in the headlines, too. If you read 'Marr "Stole" Book Idea' then the story says nothing of the kind...
Read small stories and attend to page two. Just because something is reported in a single paragraph does not mean it is insignificant...
Suspect 'research'. Hundreds of dodgy academic departments put out bogus or trivial pieces of research purely designed to impress busy newspaper people and win themselves some cheap publicity...
Check the calendar... Not simply for April Fool's, but for the predictable round of hardy annuals that bulk up thin news lists...
Suspect financial superlatives... Even if the underlying rate of inflation is modest, then in the ordinary way of things, prices for many limited goods - Pre-Raphaelite painitings, or seaside huts, or football shirts, are going to be "the highest ever"...
Remember the news is cruel. Reading the awful things that people apparentely say about each other, or newspapers say about them, can be depressing...
Finally, believe nothing you read about newspaper sales - nothing. Newspaper sales have been falling in Britain for a long time...'
Andrew Marr, My Trade, p.252-255.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


'I woke up in the middle of the night recently with this rather odd question in my mind: How could you love someone without prayer? I mean, what would it look like if you loved someone but couldn't pray for that person? It was a puzzle to me. I couldn't figure out what it would look like. Love without being able to pray feels depressing and frustrating, like trying to tie a knot with gloves on. I would be powerless to do the other person any real good. People are far too complicated; the world is far too evil; and my heart is far too off center to be able to love adequately without praying. I need Jesus.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.260.


'Prayer is where I do my best work as a husband, dad, worker, and friend. I'm aware of the weeds of unbelief in me and the struggles in other's lives. The Holy Spirit puts his finger on issues that only he can solve.
I'm actually managing my life through my daily prayer time. I'm shaping my heart, my work, my family - in fact everything that is dear to me - through prayer in fellowship with my heavenly Father. I'm doing that because I don't have control over my heart and life or the hearts and lives of those around me. But God does.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.257.


'If we focus entirely on God's written Word when looking for God's activity in our lives but don't watch and pray, we'll miss the unfolding story of his work. We'll miss the patterns of the divine artist etching the character of his Son on our hearts. Our lives will lack the sparkle and immediacy of God's presence.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.242.


'When I begin praying Christ into someone's life, God often permits suffering in that person's life. If Satan's basic game plan is pride, seeking to draw us into his like of arrogance, then God's basic game plan is humility, drawing us into the life of his Son. The Father can't think of anything better to give us than his Son. Suffering invites us to join his Son's life, death and resurrection. Once you see that, suffering is no longer strange.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.236.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


'When idolatry is mapped onto the future - when idols are theatened - it leads to paralysing fear and anxiety. When it is mapped onto the past - when we fail our idols - it leads to irremediable guilt. When idolatry is mapped onto our present life - when our idols are blocked or removed by circumstances - it roils us with anger and despair.'
Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p.149.


'Those who are not secure in Christ cast about for spiritual life preservers with which to support their confidence, and in their frantic search they cling not only to the shreds of ability and righteousness they find in themselves, but they fix upon their race, their membership in a party, their familiar social and ecclesiastical patterns and their culture as means of self-recommendation. Their culture is put on as though it were armor against self-doubt, but it becomes a mental strait-jacket which cleaves to the flesh and can never be removed except through comprehensive faith in the saving work of Christ.'
Richard Lovelace in Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p.140.


'Making an idol out of doctrinal accuracy, ministry success, or moral rectitude leads to constant internal conflict, arrogance and self-righteousness, and oppression of those whose views differ. These toxic effects of religious idolatry have led to widespread disaffection with religion in general and Christianity in particular. Thinking we have tried God, we have turned to other Hopes, with devastating consequences.'
Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p.132.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


'One of the great ironies of sin is that when human beings try to become more than human beings, to be as gods, they fall to become lower than human beings. To be your own God and live for your own glory and power leads to the most bestial and cruel kind of behavior. Pride makes you a predator, not a person.'
Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p.121.

Monday, 23 November 2009


'I have never met a more loving community in my life than the GLBT community. Obviously there are exceptions in any community, but in general I've found that GLBT people don't care if you're skinny, hairy, fat, pimpled, a millionaire or dead broke; there is room for everyone. All they want is to give the same love to others as they want to receive themselves. When I first immersed myself I was completely taken aback by the way I was treated. I was welcomed and included in everything, like I had belonged my entire life. I continued to experience this over and over, and the more it happened to me, especially at the beginning of my immersion, the more upset I became. Their actions were supposed to be me - I was getting out-Jesused by gays and lesbians! They put a bullet in my soul. To be honest, that was the furthest thing from what I thought would happen. I expected the exact opposite.'
Andrew Marin, Love is an Orientation, p.166.


'...most relationships are stuck at a stagnant superficial level void of productive kingdom growth - everyone is too scared to be honest about their true colors and admit we're in a mess together.'
Andrew Marin, Love is an Orientation, p.164.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


'Many see vacations as the end or purpose of work, and even of life itself. Their work earns a holiday; they then deserve a vacation. When they return from their two of three weeks, they hate the thought of going back to work; and they can hardly wait for the next set of holidays. By contrast, the Christian loves to serve. Ministry of all kinds is the end, the purpose; holidays are simply a means to that end. Far from serving in order to earn a rest, we take rests now and then in order to serve the better.'
DA Carson, When Jesus Confronts the World, p.110.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


'Church is a place to give rest to your soul, a place of gathering where anyone should be able to come and involve themsleves with a community of believers who are joined by a common faith in the Lord Almighty. Church is believers - transparent, real and raw. Church is a lifetime of discovery as people brace themselves against their neighbour so both are able to stand and walk together. And yet there are still churches around this country with no sinners. I understand that there will always be people who feel intimidated and overwhelmed in church, but we must do everything we possibly can to rectify an image of perfection that no one can live up to, from the lead pastor down.'
Andrew Marin, Love Is an Orientation, p.59.


' real life both Christians and GLBT community are imagining themselves in the same role: each as the underdog who has to fight their way out of the corner. Both believe they are David and the other is Goliath. Two oppressed mindsets fighting each other will never be able to win the same battle.'
Andrew Marin, Love Is an Orientation, p.57.


'There are nine main concepts that both secular and religious GLBT communities think and fear regarding conservative evangelical churches and people.
1. How can I possibly relate to Christians in a church environment?
2. Will Christians always look at me as just gay?
3. Will I be able to be like everyone else in church activities and groups?
4. Do they think homosexuality is a special sin?
5. Do they believe that I chose to be life this?
6. Do they think I'm going to hit on them?
7. Do they think I'm going to abuse their children?
8. Are they scared that I'm going to infect them with an STD or HIV/AIDS?
9. When will I be rejected and kicked out?'
Andrew Marin, Love Is an Orientation: Elevating The Conversation with the Gay Community, p.31.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


'When God seems silent and our prayers go unanswered, the overwhelming temptation is to leave the story - to walk out of the desert and attempt to create a normal life. But when we persist in a spiritual vacuum, when we hang in there during ambiguity, we get to know God. In fact, that is how intimacy grows in all close relationships.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.192.


'Spiritual blindness not only blinds me to the reality of my sin, but it also blinds me to the glory of God that is everywhere around me. God has created his world to be a constant sight-and-sound display of his power, glory, faithfulness, and love. Yet, the eyes of my heart can be so clouded by the duties of the day, by the busyness of the schedule, and by the problems of life that I don't see the God of grace whose glory is evident everywhere I look.'
Paul David Tripp, A shelter in the time of storm, p.36.

Monday, 16 November 2009


'Outside a few black evangelical churches, formal rhetoric is almost dead in Britain; there are as few people left in the country who can hold an audience spellbound for an hour by the sheer power of their language as there are sword-swallowers.'
Andrew Marr, My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism, p.139.

Friday, 13 November 2009


'...we recruit the wrong people. There are a number of common mistakes:
  • We only recruit people like ourselves - people who fit with our particular personality or style of ministry.
  • We overlook the maverick or the revolutionary, who is harder to train but might evangelize nations.
  • We miss the creative or intuitive person, who is poor administrativley but will reach people in ways we haven't thought of.
  • We recruit the flashy, outgoing young superstar rather than the person of real character and substance.
  • We recruit only for one kind of ministry - usually the traditional form of it in our denomination - rather than starting with a gifted, godly person and thinking about what kind of ministry might be built around them.
  • We don't let people escape from the box into which we've put them; we don't let them outgrow the first impressions we have of them.
  • We wait too long to recruit someone, and they make family or career decisisons that close off ministry options.'
Colin Marshall & Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine, p.148.

Thursday, 12 November 2009


'To say that sermons (in the sense of Biblical exposition in our Sunday gatherings) are necessary but not sufficient is simply to stand on the theological truth that it is the word of the gospel that is sufficient, rather than any one particular form of its delivery. We might say that the speaking of the word of the gospel under the power of the Spirit is entirely sufficient - it's just that on its own, the 25 minute sermonic form of it is not.
We say this because the New Testament compels us to. As we have already seen, God expects all Christians to be disciple-makers by prayerfully speaking the word of God to others - in whatever way and to whatever extent their gifting and circumstances allow. When God has gifted all the members of the congregation to help grow disciples, why should we silence the contribution of all but one of them (the pastor), and think that this is sufficient or acceptable?'
Colin Marshall & Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine, p.102.


'...I've always said, you know, that I don't respect people who don't proselytize. I don't respect them at all. If you believe that there's a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, well, it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward...How much do you have to hate someone to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn't believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that...'
Penn Jillette in Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine: The ministry mind-shift that changes everything, p.53.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


'The Christian says, "Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let in get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of my life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same."'
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.115.


'Aim at Heaven and you will get earth "thrown in": aim at earth and you will get neither.'
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.113.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


'When we listen to an MP3 recording of a sermon we are not listening to preaching, but to an echo of preaching that happened in the past. Listening on my own to a recording can never be more than a poor second-best to actually being there with the people of God in a local church. It is better to listen to the pastor you know, and who knows you, than to hear a recording of the well-known preacher you don't know, and who doesn't know you.'
Christopher Ash, Listen Up! A practical guide to listening to sermons, p.13

Monday, 9 November 2009


'What contradictions meet
In ministers' employ!
It is a bitter sweet,
A sorrow full of joy.'
John Newton, Olney Hymn No. 26.

Friday, 6 November 2009


'The Psalms live in your city, on your street, in your family. The Psalms tell your story. It is a story of hope and disappointment, of need and provision, of fear and mystery, of struggle and rest, and of God's boundless love and amazing grace. People in the Psalms get angry, grow afraid, cry out in confusion, survive opposition, hope for better days, hurt one another, help one another, run from God, trust in God, make foolish choices, ask for forgiveness, and grow wiser and stronger. They are people just like you and me.'
Paul David Tripp, A Shelter in the Time of Storm: meditations on God and trouble, p.7.


' Luke 12 Jesus says, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed." That is a remarkable statement. Think of another traditional sin that the Bible warns against - adultery. Jesus doesn't say, "Be careful you aren't committing adultery!" He doesn't have to. When you are in bed with someone else's spouse - you know it. Halfway through you don't say, "Oh, wait a minute! I think this is adultery!" You know it is. Yet, even though it is clear that the world is filled with greed and materialism, almost no one thinks it is true of them. They are in denial.'
Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p.57.


'There are many people in the world who have not found a romantic partner, and they need to hear the Lord say, "I am the true Bridegroom. There is only one set of arms that will give you all your hearts desire, and await you at the end of time, if only you turn to me. And know that I love you now." However, it is not just the those without spouses who need to see that God is our ultimate spouse, but those with spouses as well. They need this in order to save their marriage from the crushing weight of their divine expectations. If you marry someone expecting them to be like a god, it is only inevitable that they will disapoint you. It's not that you should try to love your spouse less, but rather that you should know and love God more.'
Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p.44.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


'...some people mistake the tears for pain, when of course they're not, they're the pain coming out.'
Timothy Knatchbull, From a Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb, p.240.

Monday, 2 November 2009


'God saw Abraham's sacrifice and said, "Now I know you love me, because you did not withold your only son from me." But how much more can we look at his sacrifice on the Cross, and say to God, "Now we know that you love us. For you did not withold your son, your only son, whom you love, from us."'
Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: When the emopty promises of love, money and power let you down, p.18.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


'The great preachers you hear or that you read about in your church history books are almost never those who were preaching great sermons from the very beginning of their ministries.
Great preachers are the ones who preach really bad sermons. The difference is that they preach really bad sermons when they’re young, and are sharpened for life by critique.
Mediocre preachers are those who start off with sermons that are, eh, pretty good, but they’re never critiqued and thus never grow.'

Thursday, 29 October 2009


'We all like to think of ourselves as more independently capable than we actually are. We weren't created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble dependency on others. Our lives were designed to be community projects. Yet, the foolishness of sin tells us we have all that we need within ourselves. So we settle for relationships that never go beyond the casual. We defend ourselves when people around us point out a weakness or a wrong. We hold struggles within, not taking advantage of the resources that God has given us. The lie of the garden was that Adam and Eve could be like God, independent and self-sufficient. We still tend to buy into that lie.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow: meditations on sin and mercy, p.147.


'I'll tell myself that I didn't really lash out in anger; no, I was speaking as one of God's prophets.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow: meditations on sin and mercy, p.147.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


'...many Reformed evangelicals think of sound, expository preaching as something of a 'magic bullet.' We may think that as long as we are preaching the Word--preaching the law and the gospel rightly--that everything else in congregational life will somehow take care of itself. We may give lip service to the other two marks of the church--the administration of the sacraments and discipline--but we don't give them proper weight. Fully considered, the administration of the sacraments includes pastoral care, education, and discipleship, while the ministry of discipline means rightly ordering the community, that is, pastoral leadership.
I have often seen many men spend a great amount of time on preparing and preaching lengthy, dense, expository messages, while giving far less time and energy to the learning of leadership and pastoral nurture. It takes lots of experience and effort to help a body of people make a unified decision, or to regularly raise up new lay leaders, or to motivate and engage your people in evangelism, or to think strategically about the stewardship of your people's spiritual gifts, or even to discern what they are. It takes lots of experience and effort to know how to help a sufferer without being either too passive or too directive, or to know when to confront a doubter and when to just listen patiently. Pastors in many of our Reformed churches do not seem to be as energized to learn to be great leaders and shepherds, but rather have more of an eye to being great teachers and preachers.
I'd point us to the example of John Calvin himself. No one put more emphasis on expository preaching as central to ministry. And yet Calvin sat nearly every Thursday in the Consistory, hearing hundreds of practical pastoral cases each year brought by the elders of the city to the council of pastors and other elders. He applied his theology to the intimate details of "adultery and fornication, disputed engagements and weddings, family quarrels, incest, rape, sodomy, buggery, prostitution, voyeurism, abortion, child neglect, child abuse, education disputes, spousal abuse, mistreatment of maids, family poverty, embezzlement of family property, sickness, divorce, marital property disputes, inheritance..." (Witte and Kingdon, Sex, Marriage, and Family in John Calvin's Geneva, Vol 1, p. 15.) Also, Calvin's voluminous correspondence shows what a forceful and wise leader and statesman he was. Because Calvin was not only a preacher but also a great shepherd and leader, he built up the church in a way that changed the world.
I pastor a church with a large staff and so I give 15+ hours a week to preparing the sermon. I would not advise younger ministers to spend so much time, however. When I was a pastor without a staff I put in 6-8 hours on a sermon. If you put in too much time in your study on your sermon you put in too little time being out with people as a shepherd and a leader. Ironically, this will make you a poorer preacher. It is only through doing people-work that you become the preacher you need to be--someone who knows sin, how the heart works, what people's struggles are, and so on. Pastoral care and leadership (along with private prayer) are to a great degree sermon preparation. More accurately, it is preparing the preacher, not just the sermon. Through pastoral care and leadership you grow from being a Bible commentator into a flesh and blood preacher.'


'...a lie told with outward deeds...'
James S Spiegel in Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism, p.191.

Monday, 26 October 2009


'Consider this: two friends met after a long separation. After greetings and pleasentries, one asked the other how his wife was.
"She's fine, I guess. we got divorced a year ago."
"Oh," the surprised friend responded. "I'm sorry to hear that. What happened?"
"I guess you could chalk it up to irreconciliable differences," the divorced man explained.
A long pause added awkwardness to the moment as the inquiring friend puzzled over the phrase, one that he'd apparently never heard. He broke the silence with, "Irreconciliable differences? I thought that was the whole point of marriage!"'
Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did, p.174.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


'If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.'
Martin Luther in Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelismn: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did, p.154.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


'Change...means taking many small, incremental steps in the right direction. For example:
  • A decrease in the frequency of a sin is a true good. It’s not good that you are still indulging in pornography, but if you are doing it less, you are going in the right direction.
  • A change in the actual nature of the sin is progress. If you are no longer having an affair or premarital sex, and now you are battling pornographic fantasy, it’s good that your struggle has changed from your actions to your imagination.
  • A change in the battleground is progress. When your battle has moved from purchasing materials or going onto explicit internet sites to battling the old fantasy tapes that are still in your mind, that’s movement in the right direction.
  • An increase in honesty and accountability is progress. You are moving forward when you are willing to be truly candid and accountable to a trusted friend, spouse, or pastor and say, “Here’s where I’m struggling.” An appropriate openness to others is a very significant step towards change.
  • Not always responding to difficult circumstances by indulging in sin is progress. If your life gets hard and instead of going straight to your fantasy life, you pray for help and ask others to pray for you, then God is at work.
  • Repenting more quickly is progress. Learning to go more quickly to the Lord of life, instead of wallowing for days, weeks, and months in the gloom of “I failed again,” is a sign that God is at work in your life.
  • Learning to love and consider the interest of real people is progress. Your immoral fantasies use other people in an imaginary world. Caring for others, even in small ways, means that Jesus is changing you.'

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


'Now I want you to remember a few things about the pastorate. Being a pastor today involves more than merely teaching and preaching. You’ll be the comforter of the fatherless and the widow. You’ll counsel constantly with those whose homes and hearts are broken. You’ll have to handle divorce problems and a thousand marital situations. You’ll have to exhort and advise young people involved in sordid and illicit sex, with drugs and violence. You’ll have to visit the hospitals, the shut-ins, the elderly. A mountain of problems will be laid on your shoulders and at your doorstep.
And then there’s the heartache of ministering to a weak and carnal and worldly, apathetic group of professing Christians, very few of whom will be found trustworthy and dependable.
Then there a hundred administrative responsibilities as pastor. You’re the generator and sometimes the janitor. The church will look to you for guidance in building programs, church growth, youth activities, outreach, extra services, etc. You’ll be called upon to arbitrate all kinds of problems. At times you will feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Many pastors have broken under the strain.
If the Lord has called you, these things will not deter nor dismay you. But I wanted you to know the whole picture. As in all of our Lord’s work there will be a thousand compensations. You’ll see that people trust Christ as Savior and Lord. You’ll see these grow in the knowledge of Christ and his Word. You’ll witness saints enabled by your preaching to face all manner of tests. You’ll see God at work in human lives, and there is no joy comparable to this. Just ask yourself, son, if you are prepared not only to preach and teach, but also to weep over men’s souls, to care for the sick and dying, and to bear the burdens carried today by the saints of God.'
Bill Piper in a letter to his son John Piper. See:


'I am enthralled by the reality of God and the power of his Word to create authentic people.'
John Piper in his journal, 14th October 1979. See:


'Consider...what the Bible does teach us about the problem of evil. It gives us slivers of a pie chart. One tiny sliver (and I'm convinced that it's no more than that) would be labeled, "We live in a fallen world." Another sliver would say, "There is a devil." Other tiny slivers would be labeled, "People have free will," "Sin has consequences," "Sometimes God disciplines his people," or "Good can come out of suffering."
Perhaps there are more slivers. I tire of even writing them because they offer so little consolation. The vast majority of the pie chart (a good 75 per cent if you could quantify such things) would be labeled in bold, bright letters, "WE DON'T KNOW."
However we choose to word our answer, we must not imply that one of the slivers in the whole pie. Our "answer" must sound and feel like it's 25 per cent sliver, 75 per cent "I don't know." If our words have no Job-like angst, we'll sound more like Job's friends and receive a similar response.'
Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did, p.110.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


'...sin isn't an event; no, it's a progressive movement of the heart that results in disobedient behavior.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow: meditations on sin and mercy, p.110.

Monday, 12 October 2009


'I had a motive for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to to, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in a way that they find most advantageous to themselves...For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.'
Aldous Huxley in Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did, p.67.

Saturday, 10 October 2009


'...God didn't simply offer you legal forgiveness. Praise him that he did that. But he offered you something much more profound. He offered you himself. He knew that your need was so great that it wouldn't be enough to simply forgive you. He literally needed to unzip you and get inside you, or you would never be what you were supposed to be and do what you were supposed to do.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow: meditations on sin and mercy, p.103.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


'The greatest struggle of my life is not trying to discern God's will; it is trying to discern and then disown my own.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.157.


'You cannot go on "explaining away" for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on "seeing through" things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it...If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To "see through" all things is the same as not to see.'
CS Lewis in Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.91.


'The feel of a praying life is cautious optimism - caution because of the Fall, optimism because of redemption.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.84.


'Cynicism and defeated weariness have this in common: They both question the active goodness of God on our behalf. Left unchallenged, their low-level doubt opens the door for bigger doubt.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.77.

Monday, 5 October 2009


'What is the most important lesson that life has taught you?
Love is sacrifice.'
David Oyelowo, Guardian Weekend, 3rd October 2009, p.9.


' Friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at our first meeting - any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends "You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another."'
CS Lewis, The Four Loves, p.83.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009


'In a secular world, which is what most of us in Europe and North America live in, history takes on the role of showing us good and evil, virtues and vices. Religion no longer plays as important a part as it once did in setting moral standards and transmitting values. Congregations at the old mainstream churches have declined sharply. It is true that there are huge evangelical churches out there, but they are as much about entertaining and socializing as religion. The millions who describe themselves as born-again Christians often have, according to surveys, the sketchiest of ideas about what it is they are adhering to. And even those who continue to have faith in a divine being may wonder how he or she can allow such evils as the twentieth century witnessed. History with a capital H is being called in to fill the void. It restores a sense not necessarily of a divine being but of something above and beyond human beings. It is our authority: it can vindicate us and judge us, and damn those who oppose us.'
Margaret MacMillan, The Uses and Abuses of History, p.20.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


'Anxiety. Instead of connecting with God, our spirits fly around like severed power lines, destroying everything they touch. Anxiety wants to be God but lacks God's wisdom, power or knowledge. A godlike stance without godlike character and ability is pure tension. Because anxiety is self on its own, it tries to get control. It is unable to relax in the fact of chaos. Once one problem is solved, the next in line steps up. The new one looms so large, we forget the last deliverance.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.70.


'The gospel, God's free gift of grace in Jesus, only works when we realize we don't have it together. The same is true for prayer. The very thing we are allergic to - our helplessness - is what makes prayer work. It works because we are helpless. We can't do life on our own.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p. 55.


'If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life. You'll always be a little too tired, a little too busy. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can't do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will always find the time to pray.
Time in prayer makes you even more dependent on God because you don't have as much time to get things done. Every minute spent in prayer is one less minute where you can be doing something "productive." So the act of praying means you have to rely more on God.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.49.


'Jesus does not say, "Come to me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest." No Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28, NASB). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.33.

Thursday, 24 September 2009


'I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that none of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage - though it may no doubt contain errors - pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn't see this has simply not learned to read.'
CS Lewis, 'Fern Seed and Elephants' in Faith, Christianity and the Church, p.244.


'We are not being told of a superman but of someone supremely human.'
JB Phillips, Ring of Truth: A Translator's Testimony, p.65.


'I have read in Latin and Greek, scores of myths but I did not find the slightest flavour of myth here. There is no hysteria, no careful working for effect and no attempt at collusion. These are not embroided tales: the material is cut to the bone. One sensed again and again that understatement which we have been taught to think is more "British" than Oriental. There is an almost childlike candour and simplicity, and the total effect is tremendous. No man could ever have invented such a character as Jesus. No man could have set down such artless and vulnerable accounts as these unless some real Event lay behind them.'
JB Phillips, Ring of Truth: A Translator's Tale, p.58.


'Anyone who has any experience at all of the living God knows that he is nothing at all like this somebody who tut-tuts politely at our failings and lays a soothing hand upon our anxious little heads. The God who lives in us if we allow him, is not necessarily gentle: he can be wind and fire and a whole lot of other things. He can give us strength, but he can also show us our weakness! He will "increase our faith", but frequently not in the way we want or expect. He will show us, as we can bear it, more and more truth, but he will shatter our illusions without scruple, perhaps especially illusions about ourselves. He will give us moments of wonderful perception, but will also allow us to endure terrifying darkness. His dealings with us are not some optional religious game; he is deadly earnest and he is intent on "bringing many sons to glory". He is indeed all goodness and light but he will show no more compunction towards the evil things that we have allowed to grow in our hearts than a human surgeon would to a malignant growth. The men of old were hardly exaggerating when they said, "Our God is a consuming fire."'
JB Phillips, Ring of Truth: A Translator's Testimony, p.31.


'Christ lives in the personality of the man who believes in him, and brings with him the hope of "glory" to come. No other religion dares to say such a thing about the person whom men worship as God. God has always been external, the power to be obeyed. Now at last the wonder which we would never had the impertinence to claim, is seen to have come true in Christ. Not only has God become man and lived life on human terms; not only has God reconciled himself by a personal act; not only has God proved that death is conquered by an unforgettable demonstration of power, but God lives in the man whose personality is open to him. Life is a matter not of conforming to external rules but of being transformed from within.'
JB Phillips, Ring of Truth: A Translator's Testimony, p.30.


'The New Testament, given a fair hearing, does not need me or anyone else to defend it. It has a proper ring for anyone who has not lost his ear for truth.'
JB Phillips, Ring of Truth: A Translator's Testimony, p.14.

Monday, 14 September 2009


'Is there a place right now where you live is not consistent with what you believe? Isn't it wonderful that you do not have to panic, hide, or be depressed? Stop and confess your inconsistency to the One who was consistent so that you could be accepted and forgiven even in your moments of greatest inconsistency.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow: meditations on sin and mercy, p.44.


'The Psalms of David, in sublimity, beauty, pathos, and originality, or in one word poetry, are superior to all the odes, hymns, and songs in any language.'
John Adams in David McCullough, John Adams, p.629.

Sunday, 13 September 2009


· Because a little sin leads to more sin.
· Because my sin invites the discipline of God.
· Because the time spent in sin is forever wasted.
· Because my sin never pleases but always grieves God who loves me.
· Because my sin places a greater burden on my spiritual leaders.
· Because in time my sin always brings heaviness to my heart.
· Because I am doing what I do not have to do.
· Because my sin always makes me less than what I could be.
· Because others, including my family, suffer consequences due to my sin.
· Because my sin saddens the godly.
· Because my sin makes the enemies of God rejoice.
· Because sin deceives me into believing I have gained when in reality I have lost.
· Because sin may keep me from qualifying for spiritual leadership.
· Because the supposed benefits of my sin will never outweigh the consequences of disobedience.
· Because repenting of my sin is such a painful process, yet I must repent.
· Because sin is a very brief pleasure for an eternal loss.
· Because my sin may influence others to sin.
· Because my sin may keep others from knowing Christ.
· Because sin makes light of the cross, upon which Christ died for the very purpose of taking away my sin.
· Because it is impossible to sin and follow the Spirit at the same time.
· Because God chooses not to respect the prayers of those who cherish their sin.
· Because sin steals my reputation and robs me of my testimony.
· Because others once more earnest than I have been destroyed by just such sins.
· Because the inhabitants of heaven and hell would all testify to the foolishness of this sin.
· Because sin and guilt may harm both mind and body.
· Because sins mixed with service make the things of God tasteless.
· Because suffering for sin has no joy or reward, though suffering for righteousness has both.
· Because my sin is adultery with the world.
· Because, though forgiven, I will review this very sin at the Judgment Seat where loss and gain of eternal rewards are applied.
· Because I can never really know ahead of time just how severe the discipline for my sin might be.
· Because my sin may be an indication of a lost condition.
· Because to sin is not to love Christ.
· Because my unwillingness to reject this sin now grants it an authority over me greater than I wish to believe.
· Because sin glorifies God only in His judgment of it and His turning of it to good use, never because it is worth anything on it’s own.
· Because I promised God he would be Lord of my life.
Copyright © 1992 Jim Elliff
Christian Communicators Worldwide, Inc.201 Main, Parkville, MO 64152 USA
Permission granted for not-for-sale reproduction in exact form including copyright
Other uses require written permission. Write for additional materials.


'The essence of ideological statements is that, unless our political senses are developed, we will fail to spot them. Ideology is released into society like a colourless, odourless gas. It is embedded in newspapers, advertisements, television programmes and textbooks - where it makes light of its partial, perhaps illogical or unjust take on the world; where it meekly implies that it is simply stating age-old truths with which only a fool or maniac would disagree.'
Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety, p.214.


'The quickest way to stop noticing something may be to buy it - just as the quickest way to stop appreciating a person may be to marry them. We are tempted to believe that certain achievements and possessions will guarantee us an enduring satisfaction. We are led to imagine ourselves scaling the steep sides of the cliff face of happiness to reach a wide, high plateau on which to continue our lives; we are not reminded that soon after reaching the summit we will be called down again into the fresh lowlands of anxiety and desire.'
Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety, p.207.

Friday, 11 September 2009


'The quest of the Innner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and the other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises that the Inner Ring produces. But it will do the things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which speeches and advertisements cannot maintain. And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Innner Ring. But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no-one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed in among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.'
CS Lewis, 'The Inner Ring' in Literature, Philosophy and Short Stories, p.320.


'I believe that in all men's lives at certain periods, and in many men's lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.'
CS Lewis, 'The Inner Ring' in Literature, Philosophy and Short Stories, p.315.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


'I find the Sunday Times test helpful. Currently the newspaper has over a dozen different sections. Look at all the headings of those different sections and determine if any of these have become your idol. Are any of them the call you always take over and above God?
Possibly not 'News Review.'
But 'Style'? 'Travel'? 'Home'? 'Sport'? 'Business'? 'Appointments'? 'Money'?'
Jago Wynne, Working without Wilting: Starting well to finish strong, p.37.


'Sin lives in a costume; that's why it's so hard to recognise. The fact that sin looks good is one of the things that make it so bad. In order for it to do its evil work, it must present itself as something that is anything but evil. Life is a fallen world is like attending the ultimate masquerade party. Impatient yelling wears the costume of a zeal for truth. Lust can masquerade as a love for beauty. Gossip does its evil work by living in the costume of concern and prayer. Craving for power and control wears the mask of biblical leadership. Fear of man gets dressed up as a servant heart. The pride of always being right masquerades as a love for biblical wisdom. Evil simple doesn't present itself as evil, which is part of its draw.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow: meditations on sin and mercy, p.32.

Sunday, 6 September 2009


'The plain, sad fact is that we do not always feel bad after we do something wrong. To acknowledge that premarital sex - or any other sinful act - might feel good is not to say that premarital sex is good. It is rather to say that our feelings are not always trustworthy. Our emotions and our hearts were distorted in the fall, which is one reason we need the community of the church and an articulated Christain ethics in the first place. If our feelings could be trusted - if we felt good every time we did something good, and felt bad every time we did something bad - we would need neither biblical guidelines of right behavior nor a community to help hold us accountable to those biblical standards. In other words, if we felt lousy every time we sinned, there would be a lot less sinning in the world. And if we felt great every time we did something good and worthy and true, there would be a lot more prayer and giving of charity.'
Lauren F Winner, Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity, p.89.

Saturday, 5 September 2009


'Human beings are simply not self-sustaining, and we were never designed to live as if we are. The doctrine of creation confronts us with the reality that we are neither physically or spiritually self-sustaining. We were created to be dependent. Dependency is not therefore a sign of weakness. Rather it is a universal indicator of our humanity. Humans are dependent beings.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow: meditations on sin and mercy, p.23.

Friday, 4 September 2009


'Cynics are only idealists with awkwardly high standards.'
Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety, p.128.


'...the Bible tells us to intrude - or rather, the Bible tells us that talking to one another about what is really going on in our lives is in fact not an intrusion at all, because what's going on in my life is already your concern; by dint of the baptism that made me your sister, my joys are your joys and my crises are your crises. We are called to speak to one another lovingly, to be sure, and with edifying, rather than gossipy, or hurtful, goals. But we are called nonetheless to transform seemingly private matters into communal matters. Of course, premarital sexual behaviour is just one of many examples of this larger point. Christians also need to speak courageously and transparently, for example, about the seemingly private matters of Christian marriage - there would be, I suspect, a lot fewer divorces in the church if married Christians exposed their domestic lives, their fights and tensions and squabbles, to loving wisdom, advice, and sometimes rebuke from their community. Christians might claim less credit-card debt if small group members shared their bank account statements with one another. I suspect that if my best friend had persmission to scrutinize my Day-timer, I would inhabit time better. Speaking to one another about your sexual selves is just one (admittedly risky) instance of a larger piece of Christian discipleship: being community with each other.'
Lauren F Winner, Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity, p.53.


' outside God's created intent destroys us. By contrast, life lived inside the contours of God's law humanizes us and makes us beautiful. It makes us creatures living well in the created order. It gives us the opportunity to become who we are meant to be.'
Lauren F Winner, Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity, p.42.


'When it comes to sex, one cannot leave out marriage. The no to sex outside marriage seems arbitary and cruel apart from the Creator's yes to sex within marriage. Indeed, one can say that in Christianity's vocabulary the only real sex is the sex that happens within marriage; the faux sex that goes on outside marriage is not really sex at all. The physical coming together that happens between two people who are not married is a distorted imitation of sex, as Walt Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort is only a simulation of real wilderness. The danger is that when we spend too much time in the simulations, we lose the capacity to distinguish between the ersatz and the real.'
Lauren F Winner, Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity, p.38.


'...when I come to the Lord after I've blown it, I've only one argument to make. It's not the argument of the difficulty of the environment that I am in. It's not the argument of the difficult people that I'm near. It's not the argument of the good intentions that were thwarted in some way. No. I have only one argument. It's right there is the first verses of Psalm 51, as David confesses his sin with Bathsheba. I come to the Lord with only one appeal, his mercy. I've no other defense. I've no other standing. I've no other hope.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow; meditations on sin and mercy, p.22.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


'Bodies are central to the Christian story. Creation inaugurates bodies that are good, but the consequences of the fall are written on our bodies - our bodies will sweat as we labor in the fields, our bodies will hurt as we bear children, and, most centrally, our bodies will die. If the fall is written on the body, salvation happens in the body too. The kingdom of God is transmitted through Jesus' body and is sustained in Christ's body, the church. Through the bodily suffering of Christ on the cross and the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead, we are saved. Bodies are not just mirrors in which we see the consequences of the fall; they are also, in one theologian's phrase, "where God has chosen to find us in our falleness." Bodies are who we are and where we live; they are not just things God created us with, but means of knowing Him and abiding with Him.'
Lauren F Winner, Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity, p.37.


'God created people with bodies, and God declared that they were good. It is sometimes hard for us modern day Christians to grasp that central fact. Bodies are not simply pieces of furniture to decorate or display; they are not trappings about which we have conflicted feelings ("body images" that we need to revamp or retool); they are not objects to be dieted away, made to conform to popular standards, or made to perform unthinkable athletic feats with the help of drugs; they are neither tools for scoring points nor burdens to be overcome. They are simply good.'
Lauren F Winner, Real Sex: the bnaked truth about chastity, p.33.


'...if we take seriously the pastoral task of helping unmarried Christians live chastely, the church needs not merely to recite decontextualized Bible verses, but to ground our ethic in the faithful living of the fullness of the gospel.'
Lauren F Winner, Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity, p.30.


'...chastity is God's very best for us. God created sex for marriage and that is where it belongs. Still many Christians who know about chastity have a hard time being chaste. Chastity may be instantly rewarding, but it doesn't always feel instantly rewarding, and, let's face it, we live in a therapeutic culture in which people often make decisions based on what seems right at the time. Too often the church, rather than giving unmarried Christians useful tools and thick theologies to live chastely, instead tosses off a few bromides - "True love waits" is not that compelling when you're twenty-nine and have been waitiung, and wonder what, really, you're waiting for.'
Lauren F Winner, Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity, p.15.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


'Gospels scholarship must free itself from the grip of the skeptical paradigm that presumes the Gospels to be unreliable unless, in every particular case or saying, the historian succeeds in providing independent verification. For such a suspicious approach the Gospels are not believable until and unless the historian can verify each claim that they make to recount history. But this approach is seriously faulty precisely as an historical method. It can only result in a misleadingly minimal collection of uninteresting facts about a historical figure stripped of any real significance. Neither in this nor in countless other cases of historical testimony can the historian verify everything. Testimony asks to be trusted. '
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, p.506.

Monday, 31 August 2009


'...Jesus did many other miracles like this. Things people thought couldn't happen, that weren't natural.
But it was the most natural thing in all the world. It's what God had been doing from the beginning, of course. Taking the nothing and making it everything. Taking the emptiness and filling it up. Taking the darkness and making it light.'
Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible, p.249.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


'It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by a scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.'
Abigail Adams in David McCullough, John Adams, p.226.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


'Given the vast inequalities we are daily confronted with, perhaps the most notable feature of envy is that we manage not to envy everyone. There are people whose enormous blessings leave us wholly untroubled, others whose minor advantages act as sources of relentless torment. We envy only those whom we feel ourselves to be like; we envy only members of our reference group. There are few successes more unendurable than those of our close friends.'
Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety, p.47.


'Rather than a tale of greed, the history of luxury could more accurately be read as a record of emotional trauma. It is the legacy of those who have felt pressured by the disdain of others to add an extraordinary amount to their bare selves in order to signal that they too may lay a claim to love.'
Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety, p.28.


'The attentions of others might be said to matter to us principally because we are afflicted by a congenital uncertainty as to our own value - as a result of which what others think of us comes to play a determining role in how we are able to view ourselves. Our sense of identity is held captive by the judgments of those we live among. If they are amused by our jokes, we grow confident of our power to amuse. If they praise us, we develop an impression of high merit. And if they avoid our gaze as we enter a room or look impatient after we have revealed our occupation, we may fall into feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness.'
Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety, p.15.


'To be shown love is to feel ourselves the object of concern. Our presence is noted, our name is registered, our views are listened to, our failings treated with indulgence and our needs are ministered to. And under such care, we flourish.'
Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety, p.11.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


'"But please, please - won't you - can't you give me something that will cure Mother?" Up till then he had been looking at the Lion's great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at his face. What he saw puzzled him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion's eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory's own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.
"My son, my son," said Aslan. "I know. Grief is great."
CS Lewis, The Magician's Nephew, p.57 of The Complete Chronicles of Narnia.

Friday, 24 July 2009


'Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack'd any thing.

A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit down and eat.'
George Herbert in The Oxford Book of English Verse, p.154.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


'"Well he and his wife had both been devout evangelicals for a while. They had these two kids and then she had an incredible job giving birth to the next one. The upshot was that she lost her religion - with a vengeance - and walked out on him, taking these three daughters with her. Faith, Hope and Brenda."'
Jonathan Coe, What a carve up! p.149.


'For some reason I have never lost faith, not since I was a young child, in the power of letters to transform my existence. The mere sight of an envelope on my doormat can still flood me with anticipation, however transitory. Brown envelopes rarely do this, it has to be said; window envelopes, never. But then there is the white, handwritten envelope, that glorious rectangle of pure possibility...'
Jonathan Coe, What a carve up! p.155.

Monday, 20 July 2009


'Trusting testimony is not an irrational act of faith that leaves critical rationality aside; it is, on the contrary, the rationally appropriate way of responding to authentic testimony. Gospels understood as testimony are the entirely appropriate means of access to the historical reality of Jesus.'
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, p.5.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


'...a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing; the more's the pity. So, if any one man, in his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend or be spent in that way. And the man that has anything bountifully laughable about him, be sure there is more in that man than you perhaps think for.'
Herman Melleville, Moby Dick, p.33.


'Work hard, and play hard, but never confuse the two.'
Margaret Carson in DA Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, p.93.


'It is rare for me to finish a sermon without feeling somewhere between slightly discouraged and moderately depressed that I have not preached with more unction, that I have not articulated these glorious truths more powerfully and with greater insight, and so forth. But I cannot allow that to drive me to despair; rather it must drive me to a greater grasp of the simple and profound truth that we preach and visit and serve under the gospel of grace, and God accepts me because of his Son. I must learn to accept myself not because of my putative successes but because of the merits of God's Son. The ministry is so open-ended that one never feels that all possible work has been done, or done as well as one might like. There are always more people to visit, more studying to be done, more preparation to do. What Christians must do, what Christian leaders must do, is constantly remember that we serve our God and Maker and Redeemer under the gospel of grace.'
DA Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, p.92.


'All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.'
JRR Tolkien in DA Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson, p.13.


'...the most beautiful words ever written or said: His Father, when he saw him coming, ran to meet him.'
Tobias Wolff, Old School, p.195.


'The beauty of a fragment is that it still supports the hope of brilliant completeness.'
Tobias Wolff, Old School, p.8.

Saturday, 27 June 2009


'Humility doesn't demand mathematical precision from another's input; humility postures itself to receive God's grace from any avenue possible.'
CJ Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness, p.134.


'I believe in the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love.'
Charles Spurgeon in CJ Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness, p.103.


'Laughter is a divine gift to the human who is humble. A proud man cannot laugh because he must watch his dignity; he cannot give himself over to the rocking and rolling of his belly. But a poor and happy man laughs heartily because he gives no serious attention to his ego.'
Terry Lindvall in CJ Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness, p.94.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009


'Worship is the God-centred focus and response of the inner man; it is being preoccupied with God. So no matter what you are saying or singing or doing at any moment, you are worshiping God only when you are focused on Him and thinking of Him. But whenever you do focus on the infinite worth of God, you will respond as surely as the moon reflects the sun.'
Donald S Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p.88.


'As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.'
Martin Luther in Donald S Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p.68.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


'It is a help to knowledge, thereby your knowledge is raised. Thereby your memory is strengthened. Thereby your hearts are warmed. Thereby you will be freed from sinful thoughts. Thereby your hearts will be tuned to every duty. Thereby you will fill up all the chinks and crevices of your lives, and know how to spend your spare time, and improve that for God. Thereby you will draw good out of evil. And thereby you will have communion with God, and enjoy God. And I pray, is not here profit enough to sweeten the voyage of your thoughts in meditation?'
William Bridge in Donald S Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p.62.