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The deep happiness of heaven

Feb 04, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

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“Let us look at our lives in the light of this experience [in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10] and see whether we gladly glory in weakness, whether we take pleasure, as Paul did, in injuries, in necessities, in distresses.  Yes, let us ask whether we have learned to regard a reproof, just or unjust, a reproach from friend or enemy, an injury, or trouble, or difficulty into which others bring us, as above all an opportunity of proving how Jesus is all to us, how our own pleasure or honor are nothing, and how humiliation is in very truth what we take pleasure in.  It is indeed blessed, the deep happiness of heaven, to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is lost and swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all.”

Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness (London, 1896) page 83.

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Readpray, studypray, workpray, thinkpray

Feb 03, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

“I am doggedly sworn to irrelevance, insofar as relevance implies a corrupt indebtedness to modernity. . . . My deepest desire as a theologian is to be permitted to study the unchanging God without some pragmatic reason.  I simply want to enjoy the study of God — not write about it, not view it in relation to its political residue, or pretentiously imagine it will have some social effect.  The joy of inquiry into God is a sufficient end in itself. . . .

I relish those times when there are no responsibilities but to engage in this quiet dialogue that is my vocation.  Then, I readpray, studypray, workpray, thinkpray, because there is nothing I more want to do.

So when old activist friends ask why I’m not out there on the street working to change the world, I answer that I am out on the street in the most serious way by being here with my books, and if you see no connection there, you have not understood my vocation.  I do not love the suffering poor less by offering them what they need more.”

Thomas C. Oden, “Last Wednesday’s Theology,” Christianity Today, 10 February 1992, page 9.

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The Thinking Pastor

Jan 30, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

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Yesterday it was my honor to address the pastors at The Pastors’ Conference of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.  I thank my friends there for their many kindnesses.  Attached is my manuscript, “The Thinking Pastor”:  Jxnville2016

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America’s greatness, God’s will, raw courage

Jan 23, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

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Not one moment longer

Jan 22, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

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“But in Passion Week, as I was reading Bishop Wilson on the Lord’s Supper, I met with an expression to this effect — ‘That the Jews knew what they did, when they transferred their sin to the head of their offering.’  The thought came into my mind, What, may I transfer all my guilt to another?  Has God provided an Offering for me, that I may lay my sins on His head?  Then, God willing, I will not bear them on my own soul one moment longer.  Accordingly I sought to lay my sins upon the sacred head of Jesus.”

Charles Simeon, quoted in Handley C. G. Moule, Charles Simeon (London, 1956), pages 25-26.

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The man who has God

Jan 16, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

“The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.  Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness.  Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things, he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight.  Whatever he may lose he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately, forever.”

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (London, 1967), page 20.

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Paul Tripp in Nashville this weekend

Jan 15, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

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This public event is free and open to all.  Please register for childcare at ikidsregister.com. The address of Immanuel Church, our venue, is 4301 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, 37209. Join us!

Peace In The City events are one way Immanuel Nashville serves our city.

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Not your ordinary food

Jan 14, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

“Penitent sorrow is only a purge to cast out those corruptions which hinder you from relishing your spiritual delights.  Use it therefore as physic [medicine], only when there is need, and not for itself, but only to this end, and turn it not into your ordinary food.  Delight in God is the health of your souls.”

Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory (Ligonier, 1990), page 142.  Italics added.

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When God took the work into his own hands

Jan 13, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

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There are two levels at which God can bless a church.  At one level, God can bless the faithful efforts of the people: “Establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:17).  This is a great grace from the Lord.

At another level, God can do for the people what only he can do: “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb!” (Psalm 126:4).  The “streams in the Negeb” are a torrential flash flood, “the sudden unleash of God’s blessing” (VanGemeren).  This is a greater grace from the Lord.

So the Bible has these two categories: God blessing the work of our hands, and God taking the work into his own hands.

In his Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, Jonathan Edwards had to use words like “surprising” and “wonderful” and “extraordinary” and “remarkable” to describe what the Lord was doing.  For example:

“God has also seemed to have gone out of his usual way in the quickness of his work, and the swift progress his Spirit has made in his operations on the hearts of many.  It is wonderful that persons should be so suddenly and yet so greatly changed.  Many have been taken from a loose and careless way of living, and seized with strong convictions of their guilt and misery, and in a very little time ‘old things have passed away, and all things have become new with them’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

God’s work has also appeared very extraordinary in the degrees of his influences; in the degrees both of awakening and conviction, and also in the degree of saving light, and love, and joy, that many have experienced.  It has also been very extraordinary in the extent of it, and its being so swiftly propagated from town to town. . . .

When God in so remarkable a manner took the work into his own hands, there was as much done in a day or two as at ordinary times, with all endeavors that men can use, and with such a blessing as we commonly have, is done in a year.”

John Smith, Harry Stout and Kenneth Minkema, editors, A Jonathan Edwards Reader (New Haven, 1995), pages 66-67.

I wonder why we rarely see this greater grace.  Are we crowding out any possibility of God taking the work into his own hands?  What would it look like to take some of the work out of our hands and deliberately put it into God’s hands?  What if our churches created space where we wait on God to do what only God can do?

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Himself

Jan 12, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”  Exodus 40:34

In Exodus 40:16-33, Moses assembles the tabernacle.  He does so carefully, thoroughly, obediently.  The paragraph begins with a prospective summary in verse 16 and ends with a retrospective summary in verse 33, emphasizing the completeness of Moses’ obedience.  In between, seven times the text records that his work was “as the Lord commanded.”  What more could one hope for?

But the book doesn’t end with “So Moses finished the work” (verse 33).  There is still another, better paragraph to go.  In that final paragraph, verses 34-38, we read of what only God can do.  God’s glory comes down and covers the completed tabernacle.  After all, that was the whole point to begin with: “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8).

Our aim as pastors is not only that our churches will be well assembled, thoughtfully and carefully and biblically obedient in their doctrine and structures.  That is important.  But it is not ultimate.  We desire the dwelling of the risen Christ among us.  We desire his felt presence.  We desire him.

If we are not experiencing his glory coming down upon us, we need to ask if we have been disobedient in any aspect of what we have built or failed to build.  But even if we have built well, we need to ask if we have settled for mere constructional obedience.  The Lord has more for us than that.  He has himself to give!

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