'Oh, how the grace of God
It loosed me from my bonds
and set me free!
What made it happen so?
'Twas His will, this much I know
Set me, as now I show,
My God has chosen me,
though one of naught,
to sit beside my King
in heaven's court.
Hear what my Lord hath done:
oh, the love that made Him run
to meet His erring Son!
This hath God wrought.
Not for my righteousness,
for I have none,
but for His mercy's sake,
Jesus God's Son,
suffered on Calvary's Tree -
crucified with thieves was He -
great was His grace to me,
His wayward one.
And when I think of how,
He bore sin's penalty
instead of me,
amazed I wonder why
He, the sinless One, should die
for one so vile as I:
my Saviour He!
Come now, the whole of me,
eyes, ears and voice,
join me, Creation all,
with joyful noise:
praise Him Who broke the chain
holding me in sin's domain,
and set me free again!
Sing and rejoice!'
Emmanuel T Sibomana
Wednesday, 23 February 2011
'The only way to grow in humility is to take our eyes off ourselves and meditate on the beauty and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Humility is a matter of perspective, of seeing ourselves in right relationship to God.'
Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness: biblical answers for complex questions and deep wounds, p.82.
Friday, 18 February 2011
'...we must never imagine that our own unaided efforts can be relied upon to carry us even through the next twenty-four hours as "decent people". If he does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in this life: but He means to get us as far as possible before death.
That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a tough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well (in the sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected), he often feels that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along - illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation - he is disapointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being necessary. It seems to us unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.
I find I must borrow another parable from George MacDonald. Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanantion is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were "gods" and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him - for we can prevent Him, if we choose - He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.'
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.173.
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
'In general, he [God] guides and directs his people by affording them, in answer to prayer, the light of his Holy Spirit, which enables them to understand and love the Scriptures. The Word of God is not to be used as a lottery, nor is it designed to instruct us by shreds and scraps, which detached from their proper places, have no determinative import; but it is to furnish us with just principles, right apprehensions to regulate our judgments and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct.'
John Newton in Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, p.86.
Monday, 14 February 2011
'The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of complaint. I can chose to be grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart still responds in bitterness. I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty, even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly. I can choose to listen to the voices that forgive and to look at the faces that smile, even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred.
There is always the choice between resentment and gratitude because God has appeared in my darkness, urged me to come home, and declared in a voice filled with affection: "You are with me always, and all I have is yours." Indeed, I can choose to dwell in the darkness in which I stand, point to those who are seemingly better off than I, lament about the many misfortunes that have plagued me in the past, and thereby wrap myself up in my resentment. But I don't have to do this. There is the option to look into the eyes of the One who came to search for me and see therein that all I am and all I have is pure gift calling for gratitude.
The choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious. Because every gift I acknowledge reveals another and another until, finally, even the most normal, obvious, and seemingly mundane event or encounter proves to be filled with grace. There is an Estonian proverb that says: "Who does not thank for lttle will not thank for much." Acts of gratitude make one grafteful because, step by step, they reveal that all is grace.'
Henri JM Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, p.85.
'Is there a way out? I don't think there is - at least not on my side. It often seems that the more I try to disentangle myself from the darkness, the darker it becomes. I need light, but that light has to conquer my darkness, and that I cannot bring about myself. I cannot forgive myself. I cannot make myself feel loved. By myself I cannot leave the land of my anger. I cannot bring myself home nor can I create communion on my own. I can desire it, hope for it, wait for it, yes, pray for it. But my true freedom I cannot fabricate for myself. That must be given to me. I am lost. I must be found and brought home by the shepherd who goes out to me.
The story of the prodigal son is the story of a God who goes searching for me and who doesn't rest until he has found me. He urges and he pleads. He begs me to stop clinging to the powers of death and to let myself be embraced by arms that will carry me to the place where I will find the life I most desire.'
Henri JM Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, p.82.
'The decision to be in God's will is not the choice between Memphis or Fargo or engineering or art; it's the daily decision we face to seek God's kingdom or ours, submit to His lordship or not, live according to His rules or our own. The question God cares about most is not, "Where should I live?" but "Do I love the Lord with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, and do I love my neighbor as myself?"'
Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, p.57.
Saturday, 12 February 2011
'I should raise my Olympus now and snap his picture in this offiicial happy moment. Only I can't risk breaking his spell, since soon enough he'll look again on life and conclude like the rest of us that he used to be happier but can't remember exactly how.'
Richard Ford, Independence Day, p.342.
'The more I reflect on the elder son in me, the more I realize how deeply rooted this form of lostness really is and how hard it is to return home from there. Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier than returning home from cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being. My resentment is not something that can be easily distinguised and dealt with rationally.
It is far more pernicious: something that has attached itself to the underside of my virtue. Isn't it good to be obedient, dutiful, law-abiding, hardworking, and self-sacrificing? And still it seems that my resentments and complaints are mysteriously tied to such praiseworthy attitudes. The connection often makes me despair. At the very moment I want to speak or act of my most generous self, I get caught in anger or resentment. And it seems that just as I want to be most selfless, I find myself obsessed about being loved. Just when I my utmost to accomplish a task well, I find myself questioning why others do not give themselves as I do. Just when I think I am capable of overcoming my temptations, I feel envy towards those who gave into theirs. It seems that wherever my virtuous self is, there also is the resentful complainer.
Here I am faced with my own true poverty. I am totally unable to root out my resentments. They are so deeply anchored in the soil of my inner self that pulling them out seems like self-destruction. How to weed out these resentments without uprooting the virtues as well?
Can the elder son in me come home? Can I be found as the younger son was found? How can I return when I am lost in resentment, when I am caught in jealousy, when I am imprisoned in obedience and duty lived out as slavery? It is clear that alone, by myself, I cannot find myself. More daunting than healing myself as the younger son is healing myself as the elder son. Confronted here, with the impossibility of self-redemption, I now understand Jesus' words to Nicodemus: "Do not be surprised when I say: 'You must be born from above.'" Indeed, something has to happen that I myself cannot cause to happen. I cannot be reborn from below; that is, with my own strength, with my own mind, with my own psychological insights. There is no doubt in my mind about this because I have tried so hard in the past to heal myself from my complaints and failed...and failed...and failed, until I came to the edge of complete emotional collapse and even physical exhaustion. I can only be healed from above, from where the Father reaches down. What is impossible for me is possible for God. "With God, everything is possible."'
Henri JM Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, p.75.
'I often wonder if it especially the elder sons who want to live up to the expectations of their parents and be considered obedient and dutiful. They often want to please. They often fear being a disapointment to their parents. But they often experience, quite early in life, a certain envy toward their younger brothers and sisters, who seem less concerned about pleasing and much freer in "doing their own thing." For me, this was certainly the case. And all my life I harbored a strange curiosity for the disobedient life that I myself didn't dare to live, but which I saw being lived by many around me. I did all the proper things, mostly complying with the agenda set by the many parental figures in my life - teachers, spiritual directors, bishops, and popes - but at the same time I often wondered why I didn't have the courage to "run away" as the younger son did.
It is strange to say this, but deep in my heart, I have known the feeling of envy toward the wayward son. It is the emotion that arises when I see my friends having a good time doing all sorts of things that I condemn. I called their behaviour reprehensible or even immoral, but at the same time I often wondered why I didn't have the nerve to do some of it or all of it myself.'
Henri JM Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, p.69.
Thursday, 10 February 2011
'Affirmation is genuine appreciation, expressed quietly to another person, for what they have done. It is standing alongside someone who has been criticized. If the criticism was deserved, affirmation lets them know that you still believe in them; and if not, that they should ignore it and confidently get on with life. Affirmation is that thoughtful word, expressed in person, on the phone or by letter, that demonstrates how helped you were by your brother or sister.'
Peter Brain, Going the Distance, p.148.
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
'The most important issues for God are moral purity, theological fidelity, compassion, joy, our witness, faithfulness, hospitality, love, worship, and faith. These are His big concerns. The problem is that we tend to focus most of our attention on everything else. We obsess over the things God has not mentioned and may never mention, while, by contrst, we spend little time on all the things God has already revealed to us in the Bible.'
Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, p.44.
'...most of our prayers fall into one of two categories. Either we ask that everthing would be fine or we ask to know that everything will be fine. We pray for health, travel, jobs - and we should pray for these things. But a lot of prayers boil down to, "God, don't let anything unpleasant happen to anyone. Make everything in the world nice for everyone." And when we aren't praying this sort of prayer, we are praying for God to tell us that everything will turn out fine.'
Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, p.40.
'By and large, my grandparents' generation expected much less out of family life, a career, recreation, and marriage. Granted, this sometimes made them unreflective and allowed for quietly dismal marriages. But my generation is on the opposite end of the spectrum. When we marry, we expect great sex, an amazing family life, recreational adventure, cultural experiences, and personal fulfillment at work. It would be a good exercise to ask your grandparents sometimes if they felt fulfilled in their careers. They'll probably look at you as if you're speaking a different language, because you are. Fulfillment was not their goal. Food was, and faithfulness too. Most older folks would probably say something like, "I never thought about fulfillment. I had a job. I ate. I lived. I raised my family. I went to church. I was thankful."'
Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, p.31.
Tuesday, 8 February 2011
'God is not a Magic 8-Ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him. We know God has a plan for our lives. That's wonderful. The problem is we think He's going to tell us the wonderful plan before it unfolds. We feel like we can know - and need to know - what God wants every step of the way. But such preoccupation with finding God's will, as well-intentioned as the desire may be, is more folly than freedom.
The better way is the biblical way: Seek first the kingdom of God, and then trust that He will take care of our needs, even before we know what they are and where we're going.'
Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something: A liberating approach to finding God's will, p.26.
Friday, 4 February 2011
'Jesus' incarnation was much more than just a kind visit from the Creator. It was the launching of God's full and final counteroffensive against sin, death, and destruction that had entered the world when Adam fell.
You can see the war happening all over the story of Jesus' life in the New Testament. King Jesus goes alone into the wilderness to face Satan - the one who had tempted Adam and thrown the world into corruption so many years earlier - and decisively defeats him! He touches the eyes of a man born blind, and light enters for the very first time. He stares into the sad blackness of a tomb and cries out "Lazarus, come forth!" and death feels its grip on humanity begin to weaken as the dead man walks out.
And then above all, of course, sin itself was defeated when Jesus cried out on the cross, "It is finished!" And death's grip finally failed entirely when the angel said - with a smile, I'm sure - "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen" (Luke 24:5-6).'
Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? p.89.
Thursday, 3 February 2011
'Most people, once they reach a certain age, troop through their days struggling like hell with the concept of completeness, keeping up with all the things that were ever part of them, as a way of maintaining the illusion that they bring themselves fully to life. These things usually amount to being able to remember the birthday of the first person they "surrendered" to, or the first calypso record they ever bought, or the poignant line in Our Town that seemed to sum up life back in 1960.
Most of these you just have to give up on, along with the whole idea of completeness, since after a while you get so fouled up with all you did and surrendered to and failed at and fought and didn't like; that you can't make any progress. Another way of saying this is that when you're young your opponent is the future; but when you're not young, your opponent's the past and everything you've done in it and the problem of getting away from it.'
Richard Ford, Independence Day, p.95.
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
'The difference between an unconverted and a converted man is not that the one sins and the other has none; but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled God against his hated sins.'
William Arnot in Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? p.82.