Saturday, 29 May 2010


'We know of no other way by which to keep the love of the world out of our heart than to keep in our hearts the love of God - and no other way by which to keep our hearts in the love of God, than by building ourselves on our most holy faith.'
Thomas Chalmers, The Power of a New Affection, p.13.


'The best way of casting out an inpure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good to expel the love of what is evil.'
Thomas Chalmers, The Power of a New Affection, p.12.


'Let us not cease then to ply the only instrument of powerful and operation, to do away from you the love of the world. Let us try every legitimate method of finding access to your hearts for the love of Him who is greater than the world. For this purpose let us, if possible, clear away the shroud of unbelief which so hides and darkens the face of the Deity. Let us insist on His claims to your affection; and whether in the shape of gratitude, or in the shape of esteem, let us never cease to affirm that in the whole of that woundrous economy, the purpose of which is to reclaim a sinful world unto Himself, He, the God of love, so sets Himself forth in characters of endearment that naught but faith, and naught but understanding are waiting, on your part, to call forth the love of your hearts back again.'
Thomas Chalmers, The Power of a New Affection, p.9.


'...the most effective way of withdrawing the mind from one object is not by turning it away upon desolate and unpeopled vacancy, but by presenting to its regards another object still more alluring.'
Thomas Chalmers, The Power of a New Affection, p.3.


'There are two ways in which a practical moralist may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world; either by a demonstration of the world's vanity. so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it; or, by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment; so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon, not or resign an old affection which shall have nothing to succeeded it, but to exchange an old affection for a new one.'
Thomas Chalmers, The Explusive Power of a New Affection, p.1.

Thursday, 27 May 2010


'At the root of all our failures to live rightly - not giving generously, not telling the truth, not caring for the poor, not handling worry and anxiety - is the sin under all sins, the sin of unbelief, or not rejoicing deeply in God's grace, of not living out our new identity in Christ.'
Timothy Keller, Our New Global Culture: Ministry in Urban Centres, p.12.


'If we speak and discourse as if our whole neighbourhood were present, eventually more and more of our neighbors will find their way in or be invited. By speaking in this way, Christians will feel free to include church events as part of their friendship buidling. What we want is for a Christian to come to our church and say "I wish my non-Christian friend could see or hear this!'"
Timothy Keller, Our New Culture: Ministry in Urban Centers, p.12.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


'The fundamental questions every sermon should address are these two questions:
- "Why do we have trouble living right?" Answer: Because in some way we don't really believe the gospel, or rest and rejoice in who Jesus is and what he did for us.
- Why should we live this particular way?" Answer: Because Jesus lived this way for us at infinite cost, and this removes our need to live in any other way.'
Timothy Keller, Our New Global Culture: Ministry in Urban Centers, p.10.


'People in our society do not just want intellectual propositions. For them, life's meaning is grounded in what they experience. If we understand that the purpose of preaching is not only to make the truth clear but also to make the truth real to the hearts of listeners, we will have the kind of preaching that is committed to obkective truth and, at the same time, deeply experiential.
The "informational" view of preaching conceives of preaching as changing people's lives after the sermon. they listen to the sermon, take notes, and then apply the biblical principles during the week. But this approach assumes that our main problem is a lack of compliance to biblical principles, when, as we saw above, all our problems are actually due to a lack of joy and belief in the gospel. Our real problem is that Jesus' salvation is not as real to our hearts as the significance and security our idols promise us. If that's our real problem, then the purpose of preaching is to make Christ so real to the heart that during the sermon we have an experience of his grace, and false saviors that drive us lose their power and grip on us at that moment. That's the "experiential" view of preaching.'
Timothy Keller, Our New Global Culture: Ministry in Urban Centers, p.10.


'...Christ's redemption restores identity and community. Both religious moralism and nonreligious idolatry lead to an unstable identity, superiority, and exclusion of those who are different to us. The gospel gives un an unassailably confident and gentle identity, which frees us to embrace "the other" in love. Religion and non-religion lead to an unstable identity (insecurity resulting in either arrognat superiority or fearful inferiority), because significnce is bound up in performance or achievement. This means we are humble but not confident when failing our standards, or confident but proud when living up to standards. We will never be sure we've arrived, however, so we are always driven and nervous. But the gospel makes us humble because we are such sinners that Christ had to die for us, and yet also makes us bold because we are so loved that Jesus was glad to die for us. We are sinfully and hopelessly wretched, yet also unbelievably love and accepted.
Religion and non-religion lead to superiority and disdain toward "the other." If our identity is based on being productive and efficient, we feel superior to those we consider lazy or inefficient. If our identity is based on being open-minded and liberal, we feel superior to those we consider conservatives. It all leads to exclusion. But the gospel is that on the cross Christ fulfilled God's righteous law (unlike the relativist mindset, there are absolute moral standards by which you evaluate others), and on the cross he did it all for me (unlike the moralist mindset, there can be no superiority or haughtiness toward anyone, since we are saved by sheer grace). At the heart of the gospel is not a teacher whose standards we live up to, by a savior who dies for his enemies and who embraced "the other," including us.'
Timothy Keller, Our New Global Culture: Ministry in Urban Centers, p.8.


'Our homes need to be open. Because our hearts are open. And our hearts are open because God's heart is open to us.'
John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, p.122.


'God made bodies and material things because when they are rightly seen and rightly used, God's glory is more fully known and displayed. The heavens are telling the glory of God (Ps.19:1). That's why the physical universe exists. Consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, and you will know more of God's goodness and care (Matt.6:26-28). See in the things he has made his invisible attributes - his eternal power and divine nature (Rom.1:20). Look at marriage and see Christ and the church (Eph.5:23-25). As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you declare the Lord's death until he comes (1 Cor.11:26). Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor.10:31). The material world is not an end in itself; it is designed to display God's glory and to awaken our hearts to know him and value him more.'
John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, p.119.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


'Marriage and family are temporary for this age; the church is forever. I am declaring the radical biblical truth that being in a human family is no sign of eternal blessing, but being in God's family means being eternally blessed. Relationships based on family are temporary. Relationships based on union with Christ are eternal. Marriage is a temporary institution, but what it stands for lasts forever.'
John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, p.111.

Monday, 24 May 2010


'As God made man in His own image, so He made earthly marriage in the image of His own eternal marriage with His people.'
Geoffrey Bromiley in John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, p.76.

Saturday, 22 May 2010


'Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together - the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, p.62.


'Marriage is not mainly about being or staying in love. It's mainly about telling the truth with our lives. It's about portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way he relates to his people. It is about showing in real life the glory of the gospel.'
John Piper, This Momentary Marriage: A parable of permanence, p.26.


'There cannot be new things in England. There can be things freshly presented, or new things that pretend to be old.'
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall, p.118.


'Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his master. Following Christ means passio passiva, suffering because we have to suffer. That is why Luther reckoned suffering among the marks of the true Church, and one of the memoranda drawn up in preparation for the Augsburg Confession similarly defines the Church as the community of those "who are persecuted and martyred for the gospel's sake". If we refuse to take up our cross and submit to suffering and rejection at the hands of men, we forfeit our fellowship with Christ and have ceased to follow him. But if we lose our lives in his service and carry our cross, we shall find our lives again in the fellowship of the cross with Christ. The opposite of discipleship is to be ashamed of Christ and his cross and all the offence which the cross brings in its train.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.45.


'If Jesus said to someone: "Leave all else behind and follow me; resign your profession, quit your family, your people, and the home of your fathers," then he knew that to this call there was only one answer - the answer of single-minded obedience, and that it is only to this obedience that the promise of fellowship with Jesus is given. But we should probably argue thus: "Of course we are meant to take the call of Jesus with 'absolute seriousness', but after all the true way of obedience would be to continue all the more in our present occupations, to stay with our families, and serve him there in a spirit of true inward detachment." Again if he were to us: "Be not anxious", we should take him to mean: "Of course it is not wrong for us to be anxious: we must work and provide for ourselves and our dependents. If we did not we should be shirking our responsibilities. But all the time we ought to be inwardly free from all anxiety." Perhaps Jesus would say to us: "Whosoever smiteth thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." We should then suppose him to mean: "The way really to love your enemy is to fight him hard and hit him back." Jesus might say: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God", and we should interpret this thus: "Of course we should have to seek all sortts of other things first; how could we otherwise exist? What he really means is the final preparedness to stake all on the kingdom of God." All along we are trying to evade the obligation of single-minded, literal obedience.
How is such absurdity possible? What has happended that the word of Jesus can thus be degraded by this trifling, and thus left open to the mockery of the world? When orders are issued in other spheres of life there is no doubt whatever of their meaning. If a father sends his child to bed, the boy knows at once what he has to do. But suppose he has picked up a smattering of pseudo-theology. In that case he would argue more or less like this: "Father tells me to go to bed, but what he really means that I am tired, and he does not want me to be tired. I can overcome my tiredness just as well if I go out and play. Therefore though father tells me to go to bed, he really means: "Go out and play." If a child tried such arguments on his father or a citizen on his government, they would both meet with a kind of language they could not fail to understand - in short they would be punished. Are we to treat the commandment of Jesus differently from other orders and exchange single-minded obedience for downright disobedience? How could that be possible?'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.36.


'The truth is that so long as we hold both sides of the proposition together they contain nothing inconsistent with right belief, but as soon as one is divorced from the other, it is bound to prove a stumbling block. "Only those who believe obey" is what we say to that part of a believer's soul which obeys, and "only those who obey believe" is what we say to that part of the soul of the obedient who believes. If the first half of the proposition stands alone, the believer is exposed to the danger of cheap grace, which is another word for damnation. If the second half stands alone, the believer is exposed to the danger of salvation through works, which is also another word for damnation.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.25.


'Happy are they who have reached the end of the road we seek to tread, who are astonished to discover the by no means self-evident truth that grace is costly just because it is the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Happy are the simple followers of Jesus Christ who have been overcome by his grace, and are able to sing the praises of the all-sufficient grace of Christ with humbleness of heart. Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world. Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship. Happy are they who have become Christians in this sense of the word. For them the word of grace has proved a fount of mercy.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.14.


'When the Bible speaks of following Jesus, it is proclaiming a discipleship which will liberate mankind from all man-made dogmas, from every burden and oppression from every anxiety and torture which afflicts the conscience. If they follow Jesus, men escape from the the hard yoke of their own laws, and submit to the kindly yoke of Jesus Christ. But does this mean that we ignore the seriousness of his commands? Far from it. We can only achieve perfect liberty and enjoy fellowship with Jesus when his command, his call to absolute discipleship, is appreciated in its entirety. Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets his yoke rest upon him, finds his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard. for those that try and resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy and the burden is light. "His commandments are not grevious" (1 John 5.3). The commandment of Jesus is not a sort of spiritual shock treatment. Jesus asks nothing of us without giving us the strength to perform it. His commandments never seek to destroy life, but foster, stregthen and heal it.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.xxxiii.


'Of course it is our aim to preach Christ and Christ alone, but, when all is said and done, it is not the fault of our critics that they find our preaching so hard to understand, so overburdened with ideas and expressions which are hopelessly out of touch with the mental climate in which they live. It is just not true that every word of criticims directed against contemporary preaching is a deliberate rejection of Christ and proceeds from the spirit of Antichriost. So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say, yet they are always going home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus. Are we determined to have nothing to do with these people? They are convinced that it is not the Word of Jesus himself that puts them off, but the superstructure of human, institutional, and doctrinal elements in our preaching. Of course we know all the answers to these objections, and those answers certainly make it easy for us to slide out of our responsibilities. But perhaps it would be just as well to ask ourselves whether we not in fact often act as obstacles to Jesus and his Word. Is it not possible that we cling too closley to our own favourite presentation of the gospel, and to a type of preaching that was all very well in its own time and place and for the social set-up for which it was originally intended? Is there not after all an element of truth in the contention that our preaching is too dogmatic, and hopelessly irrelevant to life? Are we not constantly harping on certain ideas at the expense of others which are just as important? Does not our preaching contain too much of our own opinions and convictions, and too little of Jesus Christ? Jesus invites all those who are weary and heavy laden, and nothing could be so contrary to our best intentions, and so fatal to our proclmation, as to drive men away from him by forcing upon them man-made dogmas. If we did so, we should make the love of Jesus Christ a luaghing stock to Christians and pagans alike. It is no use taking refuge in abstract discussion, or trying to make excuses, so let us get backl to the Scriptures, to the word and call of Jesus himslef. Let us try to get away from the poverty and pettiness of our own little convictions and problems, and seek the wealth and splendour which are vouchsafed to us in Jesus Christ.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.xxxii.


'Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell's confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptible wobegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
fleeing in disorder from victory already acheived?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou Knowest, O God, I am thine!'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.xviii.


'Fragments of France
which fell into the sea
and were picked up by
Victor Hugo.


'And like Billy Bray I go my way, and my left foot says "Glory," and my right foot says "Amen": in and out of Shadow Creek, upstream and down, exultant, in a daze, dancing, to the twin silver trumpets of praise.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.237.


'The frog that the giant water bug sucked had, presumably, a rush of pure feeling for about a second, before its brain turned to broth. I, however, had been sapped by various strong feelings about the incident almost daily for several years.
Do the barnacle larvae care? Does the lacewing who eats her eggs care? If they do not care, then why am I making all this fuss? If I am a freak, then why don't I hush?
Our excessive emotions are so patently painful and harmful to us as a species that I can hardly believe that they evolved. Other creatures manage to have effective matings and even stable societies without great emotions, and they have a bonus in that they need not ever mourn. (But some higher animals have emotions that we think similar to ours: dogs, elephants, otters, and sea mammals mourn their dead. Why do that to an otter? What creator could be so cruel, not to kill otters, but to let them care?) It would seem that emotions are the curse, not death - emotions that appear to have devolved upon a few freaks as a special curse from Malevolence.
All right then. It is our emotions that are amiss. We are freaks, the world is fine, and let us all go have lobotomies to restore us to a natural state. We can leave the library then, go back to the creek lobotomized, and live on its banks as untroubled as any muskrat or reed. You first.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.159.


'What is man, that thou are mindful of him? This is where the great modern religions are so unthinkably radical: the love of God! For we can see that we are as many as the leaves of trees. But it could be that our faithlessness is a cowering cowardice born of our very smallness, a massive failure of imagination. Certainly nature seems to exult in abounding radicality, extremism, anarchy. If we were to judge nature by its common sense or likelehood, we wouldn't believe that the world existed. In nature improbabilities are the one stiock in trade. The whole creation is one lunatic fringe. If creation had been left up to me, I'm sure I wouldn't have had the imagination or courage to do more than shape a single, reasonably sized atom, smooth as a snowball, and let it go at that. No claims of any and all revelations could be so far-fetched as a single giraffe.
The question from agnosticism is, Who turned on the lights? The question from faith is, Whatever for?'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.131.

Friday, 21 May 2010


'Of all known forms of life, only ten percent are still living today. All other forms - fantastic plants, ordinary plants, living animals with unimaginably various wings, tails, teeth, brains - are utterly and forever gone. That is a great many forms that have been created. Multiplying ten times the number of living forms today yields a profusion that is quite beyond what I consider thinkable. Why so many forms? Why not just that one hydrogen atom? The creator goes off on one wild, specific tangent after another, or millions simultaneously, with an exuberance that would seem to be unwarranted, and with an abandoned energy sprung from an unfathomable font. What is going on here? The point of the dragonfly's terrible lip, the giant water bug, birdsong, or the beautiful dazzle and flash of sunlighted minnows, is not that it all fits together like clockwork - for it doesn't particularly, not even inside the goldfish bowl - but that it all flows so freely wild, like the creek, that is all surges in such a free, fringed tangle. Freedom is the world's water and weather, the world's nourishment freely given, its soil and sap: and the creator loves pizzazz.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.125.


'Look, in short, at practically anything - the coot's feet, the mantis's face, a banana, the human ear - and see that not only did the creator create everything, but that he is apt to create anything. He'll stop at nothing.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek, p.124.


'In other words, even on the perfectly ordinary and clearly visible level, creation carries on with an intricacy unfathomable and apparentely uncalled for. The long ping into being of the first hydrogen atom ex nihilo was so unthinkably, violently radical, that surely it ought to have been enough, more than enough. But look what happens. You open the door and all heaven and hell break loose.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.121.


'You are God. You want to make a forest, something to hold the soil, lock up solar energy, and give off oxygen. Wouldn't it be simpler just to rough in a slab of chemicals, a green acre of goo?'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.119.


'Every year a given tree creates absolutely from scratch ninety-nine percent of its living parts. Water lifting up tree trunks can climb one hundred and fifty feet an hour; in full summer a tree can, and does, heave a ton of water every day. A big elm in a single season might make as many as six million leaves, wholly intricate, without budging an inch; I couldn't make one.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.105.


'It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. If the mockingbird were chirping to give us the long-sought formulae for a unified field theory, the point would be only slightly less irrelevant. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful? I hesitate to use the word so badly, but the question is there. The question is there since I take it as given, as I have said, that beauty is something objectively performed - the tree falls in the forest - having been externally, stumbled across or missed, as real and as present as both sides of the moon. This modified lizard's song welling out of the fireplace has a wild, utterly foreign music; it becomes more and more beautiful as it becomes more and more familiar. If the lyric is simply "mine, mine, mine," then why the extravagance of the score? It has the liquid, intricate sound of every creek's tumble over every configuration of rock creek-bottom in the country. Who, telegraphing a message would trouble to transmit a five-act play, or Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," and who, receiving the message, could understand it? Beauty itself is the language to which we have no key; it is the mute cipher, the crytogram, the uncracked, unbroken code. And it could be that for beauty, as it turned out to be for French, that there is no key, that "oui" will never make sense in our language but only in its own, and that we need to start all over again, on a new continent, learning the strange syllables one by one.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.101.


'When we lose our innocence - when we start feeling the weight of the atmosphere and learn that there's death in the pot - we take leave of our senses. Only children can hear the song of the male house mouse. Only children keep their eyes open. The only thing they have got is sense; they have highly developed "input systems," admitting all data indiscriminately. Matt Spireng has collected thousands of arrowheads and spearheads; he says that you really want to find arrowheads, you must walk with a child - a child will pick up everything. All my adult life I have wished to see the cemented case of the caddisfly larva. It took Sally Moore, the youngest daughter of friends, to find one on the pebbled bottom of a shallow stream on whose bank we sat side by side. "What's this?" she asked. That, I wanted to say as I recognized the prize she held, is a momento mori for people who read too much.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.88.


'An infant who has just learnt to hold his head up has a frank and forthright way of gazing about him in bewilderment. He hasn't the faintest clue where he is, and he aims to learn. In a couple of years, what he will have learned instead is how to fake it: he'll have the cocksure air of a squatter who has come to feel he owns the place. Some unwonted, taught pride diverts us from our original intent which is to explore the neighbourhood, view the landscape, to discover at least where it is that we have been so startlingly set down, if we can't learn why.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.23.


'...the extravagant gesture is the very stuff of creation. After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigour.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.21.


'Pascal uses a nice term to describe the notion of the creator's, once having called forth the universe, turning his back to it: Deus Absconditus. Is this what we think happned? Was the sense of it there, and God absconded with it, ate it, like a wolf who disapears round the edge of the house with the Thanksgiving turkey? "God is subtle," Einstein said, "but not malicious." Again Einstein said that "nature conceals her mystery by means of her essential grandeur, not by her cunning." It could be that God has not absconded but spread, as our vision and understanding of the universe have spread, to a fabric of spirit and sense so grand and subtle, so powerful in a new way, that we can only feel blindly of its hem. In making the thick darkness a swaddling band for the sea, God "sets bars and doors" and said, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further." But have we come even that far? Have we rowed out to the darkness, or are we all playing pinochle in the bottom of the boat?
Cruelty is a mystery, and the waste of pain. But if we describe a world to compass these things, a world that is a long, brute game, then we bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and light, the canary that sings on the skull. Unless all ages and races of men have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous. About five years ago I saw a mockingbird make a straight vertical descent from the roof gutter of a four story-story building. It was an act as careless and spontaneous as the curl of a stem or the kindling of a star.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.20.


'Every live thing is a survivor on a kind of extended emergency bivouac.'
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p.19.


'By the closing years of the 1950s most people - certainly most middle class people - had pretty much everything they ever dreamed of, so increasingly there was nothing much to do with their wealth but buy more and bigger versions of things they didn't really require: second cars, lawn tractors, double-width fridges, hi-fis with bigger speakers and more knobs to twiddle, extra phones and televisions, room intercoms, gas grills, kitchen gadgets, snowblowers, you name it. Having more things of course meant having more complexity in one's life, more running costs, more things to look after, more thaings to clean, more things to break down. Women increasingly went out to work to help keep the whole enterprise afloat. Soon millions of people were caught in a spiral in which they worked harder and harder to buy labour-saving devices that they wouldn't have needed if they hadn't been working so hard in the first place.
By the 1960s, the average American was producing twice as much as only fifteen years before. In theory at least, people could now afford to work a four-hour days, or a two-and-a-half-day week, or six month year and still maintain a standard of living equivalent to that enjoyed by people in 1950 when life was already pretty good - and arguably, in terms of stress and distraction and sense of urgency, in many respects much better. Instead, and almost uniquely among developed nations, Americans took none of the productivity gains in additional leisure. We decided to work and buy and have instead.'
Bill Bryson, The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid, p.330.


'Each year the teacher held up my pathetically barren book as an example for all the other pupils of how not to support your country and they would all laugh - that peculiar braying laugh that exists only when children are invited by adults to enjoy themselves at the expense of another child. It is the cruellest laugh in the world.'
Bill Bryson, The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid: Travels through My Childhood, p. 211.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


'The whole virtue of the meditation of the suffering of Christ lies in this, that man should come to a knowledge of himself and sink and tremble. If you are so hardened that you do tremble, then you have reason to tremble. Pray to God that he may soften your heart and make fruitful your meditation upon the suffering of Christ, for we of ourselves are incapable of proper reflection unless God instills it.
But if one does meditate rightly on the suffering of Christ for a day, an hour, or even a quater of an hour, this we may confidently say is better than a whole year of fasting, days of psalm sinigng, yes, than even one hundred masses, because this reflection changes the whole man and makes him new, as once he was in baptism.'
Martin Luther in Nancy Guthrie (Ed.), Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passsion and Power of Easter, p.12.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


'...a runny dessert with friends is better than the perfect dessert eaten alone.'
Julia Jones, A Cup of Cold Water, p.25.


'Hospitality tends to be given a low priority as it's not seen as being of any great importance or effectiveness in the kingdom of God. But I believe it is vital for the healthy life of a local fellowship. We live in a society that increasingly tends towards being individualistic and fragmented. Think about individuals, perhaps those who live alone, or who are on the fringe of church life. Many of these have no meaningful contact wth other Christians apart from church services or meetings. So what do we do? Perhaps we try and include some "fellowship events" in our church timetable. We may term these "fellowship" meetings or events but often they're little more than polite and pleasant chit-chat. Often they don't acheive the aim of getting to know one another and engaging at a deeper level. The early Christians met together daily and so could share as each had need. Often we don't really know one another well enough to be aware when there is a need, be it practical, emotional or spiritual.'
Julia Jones, A Cup of Cold Water, p.7.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


'So often the initial reaction to a painful suffering is Why me? Why this? Why now? Why? You've now heard God speaking with you. The real God says all these wonderful things, and does everything he says. He comes for you, in the flesh, in Christ, into suffering, on your behalf. He does not offer advice and perspective from afar; he steps into your significant suffering. He will see you through, and work with you the whole way. He will carry you even in extremis. This reality changes the questions that rise up from your heart. That inward-turning "why me?" quiets down, lifts its eyes, and begins to look around.
You turn oputward and new wonderful questions form. Why you? Why you? Why would you enter this world of evils? Why would you go through loss, weakness, hardship, sorrow, and death? Why would you do this for me, of all people? But you did. You did this for the joy set before you. You did this for love. You did this showing the glory of God in the face of Christ. As that deeper truth sinks home you become joyously sane. The universe is no longer supremely about you. Yet you are not irrelevant. God's story makes you just the right size. Everything counts, but the scale changes to something that makes much more sense. You face hard things. But you have already received something better which can never be taken away. And that better something will continue to work out the whole journey long...
Finally, you are prepared to pose - and to mean it - almost imaginable questions: Why not me? Why not this? Why not now? If, in some way, my faith might serve as a three-watt night-light in a very dark world, why not me? If my suffering shows forth the Savior of the world, wny not me? If I have the privilege of filling up the sufferings of Christ? If he sanctifies to me my deep distress? If I fear no evil? If he bears me in his arms? If my weakness demonstrates the power of God to save us from all that is wrong? If my honest struggle shows other strugglers how to land on their feet? If my life becomes a source of hope for others. Why not me?'
David Powlison, 'God's Grace and Your Sufferings' in Piper & Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p.172.


' is worth noting that Christians, as new creations in Christ, also live in an essentially different relationship to their own sinfulness. You sin now afflicts you. The "dross" no longer defines or delights you. Indwelling sin becomes a form of significant suffering. What you once instinctively loved now torments you. The essential change in your relationship with God radically changes your relationship to remaining sinfulness. In Christ, in order to sin, you must lapse into temporary insanity, into forgetfulness. It is your worst cancer, your most crippling disability, your most treacherous enemy, you deepest distress. It is the single most destructive force impacting your life. Like nothing else in all creation, this threatens your life and well-being.'
David Powlison, 'God's Grace and your Sufferings' in Piper & Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p.163.


'People who love you often focus exclusively on "the problem." they ask about "the problem." They pray that God would solve "the problem." They offer advice for solving "then problem." They care for you! These are well-meaning attempts to be helpful. But the effect can be unkind. For example, many significant sufferings have no remedy until the day when all tears are wiped away. Your disease or disability is incurable. The injustice will not be remedied in your lifetime. You loved one is dead. The marriage is over. The money is gone. There may be partial helps along the way. There may be partial redemptions. There will be no fix. Often the biggest problem for any sufferer is not "the problem." It is the spiritual challenge the problem presents: "How are you doing in the midst of what you are going through? What are you learning? Where are you failing? Where do you need encouragement? Will you learn to live well and wisely with pain, limitation, weakness, and loss? Will suffering define you? Will faith and love grow, or will you shrivel up?" These are life-and-death issues - more important than "the problem" in the final analysis. They take asking, thinking, listening, responding. They take time. Other people are often clumsy and uncomprehending about the most important things, while pouring energy and love into the insoluble.'
David Powlison, 'God's Grace and Your Sufferings' in Piper & Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p.156.


'The early church used a wonderful phrase to capture the essential inward-turning nature of sinfulness: curvitas in se. We curve in on ourselves. Sin's curvitas in se pointedly turns away from God.'
David Powlison, 'God's Grace and Your Sufferings' in Piper & Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p.155.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


'You have taken refuge in the Lord. You are a "refugee." You fled for your life and found every sort of aid and protection in Jesus. In September 2005, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Many escaped with nothing and lost everything. They were vulnerable. They needed food, housing. medical care, clothes, money, police protection, a new start. But a public official caused an uproar whne he referred to the evacuees as "refugees." The term was seen as demeaning. It called to mind the degraded conditions in refugee camps for those fleeing genocide in Sudan or Rwanda.
Refugee might conote degradation; but in Christ it becomes an affirmation of glory and hope. We are refugees. The Bible turns many typical associations upside down. Words for degradation and powerlessness - "slave, crucifixion, child, weakness" - invert into symbols of joy. A refugee absolutely depends on outside mercies. And you have found all you need and more than you could ever imagine in the Lord, the only true refuge. The opposite of a refugee? It is the current cultural ideal: self-confidence, self-sufficiency, independence, right of ownership, freedom to boldly assert your opinions, freedom to do what you want as long as it doesn't hurt someone else.'
David Powlison, 'God's Grace and Your Sufferings' in Piper & Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p.152.


'When you get to what most matters, to life-and-death issues, what more can he say than to you he has said? Betrayed by someone you trusted? Aggressive, incurable cancer? Your most persistent sin? A disfiguring disability? The meaning and purpose of you life? Good and evil? Love and hate? Truth and lie? Hope is the fear of death? Mercy in the face of sin? Justice in the face of unfairness? The character of God? The dynamics of the heart? What more can he say than to you he has said? Listen well. There is nothing more he needed to say.'
David Powlison, 'God's Grace and Your Sufferings' in Piper & Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p.151.


'A sufferer's primal need is to hear God talking and to experience him purposefully at work. That changes everything. Left to ourselves, we blindly react. Our troubles obsess and distract us. We grasp at straws. God seems invisible, silent, far way. Pain and loss cry out loud and long. Faith seems inarticulate. Sorrow and confusion broadcast on all channels. It's hard to remember anything else, hard to put into words what is actually happening, hard to feel any force from who Jesus Christ is. You might mumble right answers to yourself, but it's like reading the phone book. You pray, but your words sound rote, vauguely unreal like pious generalities. You'd never talk to a real person like that. Meanwhile, the struggle churning within you is anything but rote and unreal. Pain and threat are completely engrossing. You're caught in a swirl of apprehension, anguish, regret, confusion, bitterness, emptiness and uncertainty.'
David Powlison, 'God's Grace in Your Sufferings' in John Piper & Justin Taylor (Ed.), Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p. 149.