The most important thing my dad taught me

Jan 11, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

I think about my dad a lot.  I miss him so much it aches.  But the most important thing he taught me was this.  There is only one way to live: all-out, go-for-broke, risk-taking enthusiasm for Christ.

He used to say, “Halfway Christianity is the most miserable existence of all.  Halfhearted Christians know enough about their sin to feel guilty, but they haven’t gone far enough with the Savior to become happy. Wholehearted Christianity is happy, and there is no other happiness.”

How did my dad get there and influence me to go there?  He really, really knew that God loved him and had completely forgiven all his sins at the cross of Jesus.  He did not wring his hands, wondering what God thought of him.  He believed the good news, his spirit soared and he could never do too much for Jesus.

I am thankful for what I saw in my dad.  It’s the most valuable thing anyone has ever given me.  I want everyone to have this treasure.

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For the brokenhearted

Jan 10, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.  Exodus 34:6-7

“Well, you say, but though God is able to help me, I fear that God is not willing to help me, and therefore I am discouraged.  But be of good comfort, says the Lord, for my name is Merciful, and therefore I am willing to help you.

But you say, though the Lord is willing to help me, yet I am a poor unworthy creature and have nothing at all to move God to help me.  Yet be of good comfort, for the Lord says again, My name is Gracious.  I do not show mercy because you are good, but because I am good.

Oh, you say, but I have been sinning a long time, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years.  If I had come to you long ago, I might have had mercy.  But I have been sinning a long time, and therefore I fear there is no mercy for me.  Yet, says the Lord, be of good comfort, for my name is Slow to anger.

Oh, you say, but I have sinned extremely, so many sins that I am never able to reckon up and to humble myself for them, I have broken all my promises to God and all the vows I made to him, and therefore I am discouraged.  Yet, says he, be of good comfort, for I am abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.  Are you abundant in sin?  I am abundant in steadfast love.  Have you broken faith with me?  Yet I am abundant in faithfulness also.

Oh, but though the Lord is all this to his chosen ones like David, Abraham and Moses, yet I fear the Lord will not be this to me.  Yes, says the Lord, keeping steadfast love for thousands.  I have not spent all my mercy on David or on Abraham or on Paul or on Peter, but I keep mercy for thousands.

Oh, but my sins still recoil on me.  I am the greatest sinner in the world, for I have sinned all kinds of sin.  I fear there is no hope for me.  Yet, says the Lord, be not discouraged, for I forgive iniquity and transgression and sin, even all kinds of sin.  This is my name forever.

Oh, but I am afraid to lay hold on this promise, for I think this is a doctrine of license.  Do not say that, says the Lord, who will by no means clear the guilty.  But if there is ever a poor, drooping, fearing, trembling soul that desires to know my name, here, says the Lord, is my name by which I will be known forever.

The name of God quiets the heart against all discouragements.”

William Bridge, A Lifting Up For The Downcast (London, 1961), pages 270-272.  Slightly edited.

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Romance: a non-ultimate good

Jan 09, 2016 | Ray Ortlund


“How can a human being be a god-like ‘everything’ to another?  No human relationship can bear the burden of godhood, and the attempt has to take its toll in some way on both parties. . . . If your partner is your ‘All’ then any shortcoming in him becomes a major threat to you. . . . After all, what is it that we want when we elevate the love partner to the position of God?  We want redemption – nothing less.  We want to be rid of our faults, of our feeling of nothingness.  We want to be justified, to know that our creation has not been in vain. . . . Needless to say, human partners can’t do this.”

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York, 1973), pages 166-167.  Italics original.

Human romance is a glorious experience.  But it is not the Ultimate Human Experience.  And needing it to be more than it can be destroys the modest but good thing true romance is meant to be.

It is loving to allow your dear one not to provide your finality and to embrace him or her gratefully as a limited but precious reminder of your Savior’s endless love.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”  Jeremiah 31:3

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Jan 07, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

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Do you believe in common grace?

Jan 06, 2016 | Ray Ortlund


Now and then a commenter asks why I post music videos that are not devoted to God.  Most inquiries are courteous.  A few are not.  In any case, here is my answer.

I  believe in common grace.  John Calvin taught me that it is God who lavishes giftedness on his human race.  We may therefore enjoy it wherever we encounter it, with gratitude to God (Institutes 2.2.15).

That gives me three categories of music — since music is what we’re talking about here.  First, music devoted to God.  Hopefully, this is great music everyone will fall in love with.  Second, music opposing God.  Hopefully, this will be rotten music people cannot stand.  Third, music neither devoted to God nor opposing God.  If it happens to be good music, by God’s common grace, I for one will enjoy it.  Good music does not have to be devoted to God for me to be okay with it — though, if it were devoted to God, I’d be thrilled.

One thing I love about the gospel is its promise of the new heaven and new earth.  In eternity, God will not delete all the culture-creating we’ve done throughout human history; he will redeem it.  The Bible says that, in the New Jerusalem above, “the kings of the earth will bring their glory into [the holy city]. . . . They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.  But nothing unclean will ever enter it” (Revelation 21:24-27).

The glory and honor of human cultures — the music, the clothing, the literature, the dance, the languages, the customs, the humor, the traditions, and so forth — it will be cleansed and brought in forever.  So Eric Clapton’s blues guitar, for example, is a preview of coming attractions.  The blues will be brought into heaven.  But there it will be even better, and fully devoted to God.  It will finally be perfect.

I hope and pray Eric himself will be there too.

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The heart of Jesus

Jan 02, 2016 | Ray Ortlund


“I am gentle and lowly in heart.” Matthew 11:29

“Now it is very remarkable that the only passage in the whole New Testament in which the heart of Jesus is distinctly mentioned is the one before us. . . .

The words employed here include, first, a readiness on the part of Christ to pardon all past offenses. ‘Come to me,’ he says, ‘for however much you may have offended in the past, I am meek and easily to be entreated. I am ready to forgive, to forget and cast behind my back all your provocations. I do not say this to cajole you; my very heart says it, for my heart is full of tenderness and compassion for you.’

The words also include a willingness to endure yet further offenses. ‘Not only do I forget the past but I am ready to bear with you still, though you should still offend me. I will endure it all. Come to me, although you cannot hope that your future character will be perfect. I will help you to struggle into holiness and be patient with your failures. As frequently as you shall grieve me, so frequently will I forgive you. I am meek in heart, ready to forgive the past and willing to bear with you in the present and in the future.’

Beloved brethren, what a heart Jesus has to receive sinners in this divine manner!”

C. H. Spurgeon, Treasury of the New Testament, I:177-179.

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The Immanuel Mantra

Jan 01, 2016 | Ray Ortlund

Start your New Year with gospel hope!

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I laugh, I smile, I leap for joy

Dec 31, 2015 | Ray Ortlund



“Glorify the Lord in your sufferings, and take his banner of love and spread it over you.  Others will follow you, if they see you strong in the Lord.  Their courage shall take life from your Christian carriage.  Look up and see who is coming!  Lift up your head, he is coming to save, in garments dyed in blood, and traveling in the greatness of his strength.  I laugh, I smile, I leap for joy to see Christ coming to save you so quickly.  Oh, such wide steps Christ taketh!  Three or four hills are but a step to him.”

Samuel Rutherford, Letters (New York, 1863), page 267.

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God’s goodness spreading toward us

Dec 27, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


“God’s goodness is a spreading, imparting goodness. . . . God is more willing to bestow good than we are to ask it.  He is so willing to bestow it that he becomes a suitor to us, ‘Seek my face.’  He seeks us, to seek him.  It is strange that heaven should seek earth, and yet so it is.”

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

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Why it matters that God is our Father

Dec 26, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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