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“To trust ‘progress’ or our putative ‘genius’ to solve all the problems that we cause is worse than bad science; it is bad religion.”
-Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle
When I look upon my inner self, I see all the sins that still entangle my life, I see all the commands that I still am not doing, the faith that I still need to have, I see the unsubmissiveness to leaders still in my heart. I still do not have the love that I need to have for people. I notice that I am not thanking God, or rejoicing in Him in ever circumstance. My lip hardly utter a descend amount of prayer. I am still not patient will the idle, the weak, and the faint hearted. I find myself repaying evil for evils done against me. I notice that my actions quench the Spirit and I do not test what is before me. I let so much evil still remain in my life.
And at this sight my heart would sink in total despair…
…yet these words follow it!
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ( 1 Thess 5:23-24)
Begone unbelief, my Savior is near,
And for my relief will surely appear:
By prayer let me wrestle, and He wilt perform,
With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.
Though dark be my way, since He is my Guide,
’Tis mine to obey, ’tis His to provide;
Though cisterns be broken, and creatures all fail,
The Word He has spoken shall surely prevail.
His love in time past forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink;
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,
Confirms His good pleasure to help me quite through.
Determined to save, He watched o’er my path,
When Satan’s blind slave, I sported with death;
And can He have taught me to trust in His Name,
And thus far have brought me, to put me to shame?
Why should I complain of want or distress,
Temptation or pain? He told me no less:
The heirs of salvation, I know from His Word,
Through much tribulation must follow their Lord.
How bitter that cup, no heart can conceive,
Which He drank quite up, that sinners might live!
His way was much rougher, and darker than mine;
Did Jesus thus suffer, and shall I repine?
Since all that I meet shall work for my good,
The bitter is sweet, the medicine is food;
Though painful at present, wilt cease before long,
And then, O! how pleasant, the conqueror’s song!
“Suppose, in the encounter between doctor and child [in an abortion], the child won half of the time, and killed the doctor in self-defense—something he would have every right to do. Very few doctors would perform abortions. They perform them now only because of their absolute power over a small, fragile, helpless victim.”
—Stephen D. Schwarz, The Moral Question of Abortion (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1990), 143.
From Ray Ortlund about the final words his father gave to him;
Sunday, July 22, 2007. Dad woke up very early in his hospital room in Newport Beach. He knew it was finally his day of release. He had the nurse call the family in. Jani and I had just arrived in Northern Ireland for ministry there. We didn’t know what was happening back home. But the family gathered around dad’s bed. They read Scripture. They sang hymns. Dad spoke of word of patriarchal blessing and admonition to each one. He pronounced over them the Aaronic blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). He fell asleep.
I asked my sister about dad’s message to me. It was this: “Tell Bud, ministry isn’t everything. Jesus is.”
We live surrounded by people impressing us with the most outstanding of abilities, talents, and gifts. From the football player that can catch a pass one handed while diving, to intellectual minds that can hold and work through more information in a day than we hope to attain in a lifetime, to business minds that can be given $15 dollars and make it into millions. The world is filled with impressive people that are displayed as the pinnacle of human achievement.
But I was talking to a new member of our ministry house last night about one’s intellectual abilities. As a recovering alcoholic that that has a very hard time retaining information he was expressing sorrow that he probably will not get past the basic facts of Christianity. This can be very depressing when the winners and heroes of this time are men and women that attain much in their lives. In the face of this, however, Jesus says something different,
“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” -Mark 10:13-16
Now this story is usually told to children to reassure them that Jesus loves them. And this is a very true fact that should not be disputed or forgotten. But I do not believe that it is the main focus of Jesus’ words.
Instead Jesus is presenting a truth that strikes at the very foundation of our idea of greatness. Like I said before, our greats are the rich, the athletic, the beautiful. But I can’t recall one time that Jesus said that the kingdom of God, the very sanctuary of holiness and happiness where God reigns in perfect justice, righteousness, and love to bless his saints eternally to rich, the athletic, the beautiful. Instead he says that it belongs to children. Children, people that cannot retain a lot of information, make a lot of money, make one handed catches while diving. Instead, they have to depend on their parents for everything and trust that their parents are seeking their best interests. How can such be the ones that attain the greatest treasure of all time?
Because that is what Jesus wants. He is not impressed with great might, riches, looks. What Jesus longs for us to possess is a humble spirit that will look to Him for all things and believe that He is who He says He is. Jesus loves to see those, that can never get a PhD in Theology, never make a ton of money, always be pasted over when the magazine covers are looking for a model, bring all their hurts and pains to Him because they believe that He is the Christ that can save them. Those that see Jesus as the true God that will enjoy providing redemption and protection to those that trust in him are very impressive to God.
“Here is the end of the matter: God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is not the act of a needy ego, but an act of infinite giving. The reason God seeks our praise is not because he won’t be fully God until he gets it, but that we won’t be happy until we give it.
This is not arrogance. This is grace.
This is not egomania. This is love.”
– John Piper