Happy Thanksgiving

Nov 25, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.  1 Timothy 4:1-5

As Francis Schaeffer used to remind us, the devil rarely gives us the luxury of fighting on one front only.  We see a monster in front of us wanting to devour us, and we back away in dread.  But if we’re not careful, we might walk into the jaws of another monster right behind us.  We usually fight on two fronts at once.

Today we fight the danger of materialism.  But let’s not overlook the opposite danger of asceticism, which denies the goodness of God in the creation.  This ultra-serious “holiness” is attractive, in its way.  But it is premised in an audacious lie.

It is a lie so audacious, so destructive, that the apostle Paul calls it demonic.  That’s serious.  But this heretical teaching does not deny obvious truths like the virgin birth of Christ, his sinless life, his atoning death, his bodily resurrection, his heavenly reign, his imminent return.  This bad doctrine influences people not to get married, because that involves sex, which is icky, and not to eat certain foods, because they taste good, which is risky.  And if marriage and food are bad, then there is no end to the denials and deprivations that “serious Christians” must accept, if they are to measure up.  So forget coffee and with cream and sugar.  Take out the sugar.  That’s bad for you.  And stop using cream.  It tastes too good.  And why even drink coffee, for that matter?  Why not just hot water?  Or even better, water at room temperature?  Once you start down this path of creation-denial, there is no way to stop, until you delete your very existence.  And that lie will not only make you miserable; it will also end up denying Christ, the Word become flesh (John 1:14).

What then is the truth that we may and must stand for and rejoice over?  The truth is, “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”  This beautiful truth includes marriage and food and mowing the lawn and flying a kite and paying the bills and sharpening a pencil and sitting on the porch in the evening and playing Monopoly with the kids and laughing at hilarious jokes and setting up chairs at church, and on and on and on.  There is so much divine goodness all around.  To push it away, to be above it, would insult our gracious Creator.

Our earthly human existence is where true holiness thrives.  How?  By thanking the Lord for his gifts moment by moment, and by applying the word of God to them moment by moment: “. . . for it is made holy by the word of God [Genesis 1:31] and prayer [the giving of thanks, mentioned in verses 3 and 4].”

Good enough for God, and good enough for us, for the good is transformed by his grace into the holy.

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Young dad, enjoy your kids!

Nov 24, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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They calmly sang on

Nov 20, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


John Wesley finally saw how little he knew of Jesus in the middle of the Atlantic, on board the Simmonds, when a storm suddenly broke out.  A group of Moravian missionaries happened to be having a worship service on deck at the time.  Wesley records that, when the storm became intense, “a terrible screaming began among the English.”  But “the Germans looked up, and without intermission calmly sang on.  I asked one of them afterwards, ‘Were you not afraid?’  He answered, ‘I thank God, no.’  I asked, ‘But were not your women and children afraid?’  He replied mildly, ‘No; our women and children are not afraid to die.'”  Wesley then knew that something was missing from his life.  He found it in Christ.  He found all he needed to face life and death in Christ alone.

When the next 9/11 hits us, may we serve others in every way we can.  But through it all, and even right now, may we not yield to hysteria.  May we calmly sing on, because we have in Christ a hope that nothing in this world can destroy.  Our serenity will make an everlasting difference to others.

The Wesley episode narrated in A. Skevington Wood, The Inextinguishable Blaze: Spiritual Renewal and Advance in the Eighteenth Century (Grand Rapids, 1968), pages 105-106.

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It would un-Jesus him

Nov 18, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

Öèôðîâàÿ ðåïðîäóêöèÿ íàõîäèòñÿ â èíòåðíåò-ìóçåå

If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.  2 Timothy 2:13

“I tell you, if he were to shut you out, dear soul, whoever you may be, if you go to him, he would deny himself.  He never did deny himself yet.  Whenever a sinner comes to him, he becomes his Savior.  Whenever he meets a sick soul, he acts as his Physician. . . . If you go to him, you will find him at home and on the look-out for you.  He will be more glad to receive you than you will be to be received. . . . I tell you again that he cannot reject you.  That would be to alter his whole character and un-Christ himself.  To spurn a coming sinner would un-Jesus him and make him to be somebody else and not himself any longer.  ‘He cannot deny himself.’  Go and try him; go and try him.”

C. H. Spurgeon, Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), III:862.

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What does it mean for a man to lead his home?

Nov 10, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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A spreading, not a defeated, goodness

Nov 06, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


“God’s goodness is a communicative, spreading goodness. . . . If God had not a communicative, spreading goodness, he would never have created the world.  The Father, Son and Holy Ghost were happy in themselves and enjoyed one another before the world was.  But that God delights to communicate and spread his goodness, there had never been a creation nor a redemption.  God uses his creatures not for defect of power, that he can do nothing without them, but for the spreading of his goodness. . . .

Oh that we had hearts to make way for such a goodness as God would cast into us, if we were as we should be.  God’s goodness is a spreading, imparting goodness.”

Richard Sibbes, Works (Edinburgh, 1983), VI:113.

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“Can he pray down the Holy Spirit?”

Nov 05, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


“Worldliness in the church is the number one enemy, and that comes in when we have unspiritual people, and we have unspiritual people too often because they are nominal Christians.  They have the language, they have the outward, but they don’t have the power.  So, Paul’s words: ‘The kingdom of God is not in word but in power.’  That whole school of Edwards and Alexander and so on — they believed in the power of religion.  You know, men candidating for the ministry, and the minister saying, ‘Can he pray down the Holy Spirit?’  Imagine that question today.  Can a man pray down the Holy Spirit?  It’s not perhaps exactly the sentence we would say is completely correct, but you know what they meant. . . . When those men prayed, the Holy Spirit did come down.”

Rev. Iain Murray, in a 9Marks interview with Dr. Mark Dever.

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Preaching flows from deep within

Nov 03, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

The prophets will become wind;
the word is not in them.  Jeremiah 5:13

“[The sermons] are the words of one who has felt himself forced to speak by a greater than human power. . . . the tremendous impetus behind the preacher.”

A report of the preaching of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, recorded in Iain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The First Forty Years, 1899-1939 (Edinburgh, 1982), page 144.

True preaching is more than preaching truth.  It is also deeply personal.  It rises from within a man.  He is fully aware and engaged and intelligent.  But he is forced to speak, compelled not by the expectations of others around but by the power of God within.

A man can preach the word, but still the word is not in him.  It has not yet become interior to him, experientialized to him, a part of him.  Such preaching is mere wind.  True preaching is brewed within, as the gospel enters into a man, floods his awareness, rearranges his own interiority, and surges out of him as something divine and yet still his own.

To preach in the power of the Holy Spirit is not to take a good thing and make it even better.  Preaching the truth in one’s own strength is destructive (1 Corinthians 1:17).  “The word is not in him.”  Preaching the gospel in the power of God is the only true preaching.  All lesser preaching is sinful and to be repented of.

May the Lord help all of us pastors!  May we resolve, God helping us, never again to preach a single sermon without power from on high — and deep within!

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When God seems unreal

Oct 30, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  1 John 1:7

Sometimes God seems unreal, remote, theoretical.  When that is so, there is always a reason.  God is in fact real.  So are we.  That it doesn’t seem so demands an explanation.

The problem might be intellectual in nature.  We might have doubts.  God wants to satisfy our honest doubts with reasonable assurances.  God loves our minds.  He made our minds to know him.  So this barrier to reality with God is significant but surmountable.

The primary problem might be more personal in nature.  1 John 1:7 says that God is “in the light.”  The light is where God locates himself.  It’s where he has made himself findable.  If we want him, it’s where we need to go — out into the light, where God already is, waiting for us.

To “walk in the light,” in the context of 1 John chapter 1, is an honest relationship with God and with one another.  Honesty about our sins and failings and weaknesses and shortcomings.  No denial.  No sweeping the past under the rug.  No evasion.  But stepping out from the shadows of denial into the light of honesty.  It’s humbling, even painful, to face ourselves in this way.  But owning up is how we get free from our need to be impressive, and how we experience the comfort of being truly known and forgiven and connected.  Walking in the light might make us feel exposed, vulnerable and embarrassed — initially.  But entire openness to God about who we really are and what we have really done is where God becomes real again.  “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light . . . .”

And the wonderful blessings God has for us out there in the light are two-fold: one, deeper fellowship with one another, as the walls fall down and we discover how much we have in common and the sympathy flows back and forth as never before; two, cleansing by the blood of Jesus his Son, as he frees us from long-standing sins by the mighty power of his finished work on the cross.

When we get real, we find that God is real.

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The most dangerous thing we have

Oct 29, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire . . . set on fire by hell.  James 3:5-6

“James tells us that the tongue is the most dangerous thing we have. . . . We need to pray for help in this terrific battle against the danger of our own tongues.  It is my tongue and your tongue which can kindle a forest fire!”

Edith Schaeffer, Lifelines (Westchester, 1982), pages 188-189.

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