Sunday, June 24, 2007

Conflicting Feelings

A thankful H/T goes out to Kim at Hireath for posting this hymn back in May. When I read it I went, "Wow! That Newton guy read my mind!" That's pretty good for a guy that died about 200 years ago.

We've just finished a series on 1 John at our Wednesday night Bible study. It has been a roller coaster ride for me. I've always felt a strange mixture of fear and wonder while reading 1 John. He wrote it to give assurance (5:13), but I've often thought that he could have been more comforting if that was his purpose. Sometimes I feel like I'm not a Christian when I read about not continuing in sin and loving my brother. One evening a while back we were studying chapter 4 (9-19 particularly) and it struck me afresh (as it did when I was preparing during the week) that the prior foundation of our love for God and others is God's love for us. The love of God in Christ permeates 1 John. If we miss that, we will despair because of the high standard set in that book. If we get that, "perfect love casts out fear." It was this same week that I found Newtons "Conflicting Feelings" at Hireath. Wow. I tried to read these lyrics to the guys at Bible study, but I was just too choked up. I retreated to the photocopier and just gave them copies (I did manage to read it with quavery voice later).

One observation: When Newton says that sometimes he finds Sunday a day of guilt and grief, remember that he was the preacher. The more I read about him, and by him, the more I appreciate him.

If you are a Christian, you will be able to identify with Newton as well. If you can't identify, prayerfully read 1 John and ask God to soften your heart and open your mind to the reality of your sin and the wonder of His gracious love in Christ. We love because He first loved us.

Conflicting Feelings

Strange and mysterious is my life.
What opposites I feel within!
A stable peace, a constant strife;
The rule of grace, the power of sin:
Too often I am captive led,
Yet daily triumph in my Head,
Yet daily triumph in my Head.

I prize the privilege of prayer,
But oh! what backwardness to pray!
Though on the Lord I cast my care,
I feel its burden every day;
I seek His will in all I do,
Yet find my own is working too,
Yet find my own is working too.

I call the promises my own,
And prize them more than mines of gold;
Yet though their sweetness I have known,
They leave me unimpressed and cold
One hour upon the truth I feed,
The next I know not what I read,
The next I know not what I read.

I love the holy day of rest,
When Jesus meets His gathered saints;
Sweet day, of all the week the best!
For its return my spirit pants:
Yet often, through my unbelief,
It proves a day of guilt and grief,
It proves a day of guilt and grief.

While on my Savior I rely,
I know my foes shall lose their aim,
And therefore dare their power defy,
Assured of conquest through His Name,
But soon my confidence is slain,
And all my fears return again,
And all my fears return again.

Thus different powers within me strive,
And grace and sin by turns prevail;
I grieve, rejoice, decline, revive,
And victory hangs in doubtful scale:
But Jesus has His promise passed,
That grace shall overcome at last,
That grace shall overcome at last.
John Newton, 1779

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Nothing But the Blood - Sunday Hymn

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Robert Lowry 1826-1899

Dr. D.A. Carson

I like to listen to sermons, lectures, interviews and the like. I listen when I go to the gymn (not often enough) when I drive (via my iPod and an FM transmitter) and when I'm working around the house (thankfully my wife and older children enjoy listening to these messages too).

I have been helped by folks like C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, Mark Dever, R.C. Sproul, Albert Mohler, Alistair Begg and many others. Lately I have been listening to more of D.A. Carson. I have appreciated Dr. Carson's books and messages for over two decades now. I first heard him when I was a student at Northwest Baptist Theological College in 1985 at a conference called "Basic Baptist Beliefs." Two messages particularly stand out from that conference. The first was a message on Ephesians 4 and the second was on contextualization.

Before the conference, I was sitting with a couple of "older" pastors (who must have been in their 30s) in the back row of Faith Baptist Church. They were talking about Carson's days at Northwest. They said he was a real egghead - way too profound for normal people to follow. They didn't expect much from the conference. To their credit, after that first message they changed their tune and admitted that he was an excellent communicator. I was blown away. I own many of his books now, and have benefitted from them immensely.

Back to the MP3s. Thanks to the great work of a blogger that I hadn't come across before and a link a while back from Justin Taylor, I have been working my way through a treasure trove of Don Carson messages. I would strongly encourage you to do the same.

I listened to a message on Friday morning entitled "Pentecost" that was fantastic (#3 in the linked page above - stream only). I told one fellow in the church that this is a course in Biblical Theology in a one-hour message. Dr. Carson has a gift for making familiar passages come alive, all the while being true to the text in context.

I thank God for Dr. Carson's ministry. I hope the Lord gives him many more years, books and messages to benefit the church around the world.

Angels Wish

I'm not into the CCM scene, but there are a few contemporary artists that do pretty well with their lyrics. When I first heard Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Angels Wish" I thought it was cool, but pretty light (this is CCM after all). The more I listen to this song, the more I like it. It is evocative without being too speculative, methinks.

The song jumps off from 1 Peter 1:12 - "even angels long to look into these things." 1 Peter 1:10-12 is such a profound passage of Scripture, coming as it does on the heels of verses 3-9, an exquisite statement regarding our salvation in Christ. This is a great launch pad for biblical theology. This song does not come close to that level of awe and wonder, but it is pretty good. Seeing as it's been stuck in my head off and on all week, I thought I'd share it with you.

Without further ado, here are the lyrics:

Was God smiling
When He spoke the words
That made the world
And did he cry about the flood
And what does God's voice sound like
When He sings, and when He's angry
These are just a few things
That the angels have on me

Well, I can't fly
At least not yet
I've got no halo on my head
And I can't even start to picture Heaven's beauty
But I've been shown the Savior's love
The grace of God has raised me up
To show me things the angels long to look into
And I know things The Angels only wish they knew

I have seen the dark and desperate place
Where sin will take you
I've felt loneliness and shame
And I have watched the blinding light of grace
Come breaking through with a sweetness
Only tasted by the forgiven and redeemed (repeat chorus)

And someday I'll sit down with my angel friends
Up in Heaven
They'll tell me about creation
And I'll tell them a story of grace (repeat chorus)

Steven Curtis Chapman, From the album, All Things New