Everything to Look Forward To

Arrival

Not conscious
that you have been seeking
suddenly
you come upon it

the village in the Welsh hills
dust free
with no road out
but the one you came in by.

A bird chimes
from a green tree
the hour that is no hour
you know.  The river dawdles
to hold a mirror for you
where you may see yourself
as you are, a traveller
with the moon’s halo
above him, who has arrived
after long journeying where he
began, catching this
one truth by surprise
that there is everything to look forward to.

R. S. Thomas, Later Poems (Macmillan 1983)

Thanks to Stephen Pentz.

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Prayer and the Faithfulness of God

 

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  Mark 11:23,4

This week I came across a good brief commentary on this text.  In part:

If ever there were a proof text for the “name it-claim it” crowd, this is it. In fact, entire theological systems and faith movements have been built by a few verses like these and others strung together. However, I think any biblical interpreter worth his or her salt would quickly say, “Not so fast!” My dear friend, Dr. Ben Witherington III, often puts it this way, “A text taken out of context becomes a pretext for anything you want it to say.”

So what’s going on here? Remember, we are coming to the end of the three year period of discipleship for the twelve. They have been schooled in the nature of the sovereignty of God. They have been taught and trained in the ways of the Kingdom of God. And let’s remember the bigger context at work. Just yesterday, Jesus cursed the fig tree and cleaned house at the Temple. In contrast to the religious machinations of the Temple in which Israel placed so much confidence, Jesus tells his disciples to

“Have faith in God,”

As they stood there on the Mount of Olives looking at the withered fig tree that would indeed never bear fruit again they couldn’t but help to have seen the towering Temple across the valley in the mighty Jerusalem. Jesus in essence told his disciples the whole project had become a house of cards that would soon come crashing down. Don’t have faith in the corrupted system. “Have faith in God.”

This is the big deal—the whole point of discipleship. As they followed Jesus, he showed them what God was like every step of the way. Discipleship is learning by Word and Spirit who God is and what God is like. It is learning to trust the true God. This is manifest through a life of prayer, which is the hidden way the life of faith works. The way of faith depends on the life of prayer as one’s heartbeat depends on one’s breath. Dr. William Lane, one of my teachers through this Gospel of Mark said it well: “When prayer is the source of faith’s power and the means of its strength, God’s sovereignty is its only restriction.”

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

When a follower of Jesus lives immersed in the Word of God and is animated by the Spirit of God, their prayers—with ever increasing resonance—ring true to the will of God. God funds his will through the faith-filled prayers of his people. Here’s what this text is all about: We must learn to think of prayer not in the terms of the power of our faith but the framework of the faithfulness of our God.  Prayer is that constant abiding conversation Jesus wants to have with us all the time. It is simpler than we could ever have imagined yet more consuming than we can conceive. With [this] text, Jesus teaches us what it means to be people who live and love with power.

Read it all here

 

Sabbath: a Rest toward God

From one of my favorite preachers/teachers, Alistair Begg:

“The key to the Sabbath is not inactivity.  The rest which God has ordained is a rest from labor and a rest toward Him (emphasis added)…  to be released to the worship of the glory of God…a great day for acts of mercy….to enjoy the privilege of God’s presence, the study of God’s word, the fellowship of God’s people.”

Listen here

True Friendship

Screenshot 2018-05-29 06.08.00

Friendship

Friendship! peculiar boon of Heaven,
The noble mind’s delight and pride,
To men and angels only given,
To all the lower world denied.

While love, unknown among the bless’d,
Parent of thousand wild desires,
The savage and the human breast
Torments alike with raging fires.

With bright, but oft destructive gleam,
Alike o’er all his lightnings fly,
Thy lambent glories only beam
Around the favourites of the sky.

Thy gentle flows of guiltless joys
On fools and villains ne’er descend;
In vain for thee the tyrant sighs,
And hugs a flatterer for a friend.

Directness of the brave and just,
Oh guide us through life’s darksome way!
And let the tortures of mistrust
On selfish bosoms only prey.

Nor shall thine ardours cease to glow,
When souls to peaceful climes remove.
What raised our virtue here below
Shall aid our happiness above.

                      –Samuel Johnson

 

And a favorite of mine from G.K. Chesterton on this, his birthday:

 “Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.”
G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

Psalm 131, a Song of Trust and Hope

Oh Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
My my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
  too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
  like a weaned child with its mother;
  like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
  from this time forth and forevermore.

 

Humility

“Humility has nothing to do with depreciating ourselves and our gifts in ways we know to be untrue.  Even humble attitudes can be masks for pride.  Humility is that freedom from ourself which enables us to be in positions in which we have neither recognition nor importance, neither power nor validity, and even experience depravation, and yet have joy and delight.  It is the freedom of knowing that we are not at the center of the universe, not even the center of our own private universe.”

From the journals of Samuel Rutherford