Posts belonging to Category Quick Takes

Quick Takes – 6/20/2009

Ray Ortlund writes about the importance of those seemingly innocent, little moments of decision in life. “Your danger and mine is not that we become criminals, but rather that we become respectable, decent, commonplace, mediocre Christians. The twentieth-century temptations that really sap our spiritual power are the television, banana cream pie, the easy chair and the credit card. The Christian wins or loses in those seemingly innocent little moments of decision. Lord, make my life a miracle!”

C.S. Lewis offers some advice about giving. “I do not believe one can settle on how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”

Amy Hall dicusses the phrase, If God were real: “It’s the temptation of some who reject the reality of God’s existence to use the following kind of reasoning as part of their evidence: ‘If the Christian God were real, He would do [X]. However, He does not do [X], therefore He is not real.’ The problem with a person using this kind of reasoning is that he presumes to know what God would do, and often he does this without the proper knowledge of God’s actions in the past, His character, or His overall purposes. The reasoning turns out to really be: ‘If I were God, I would do [X]. The Christian God does not do what I would do (in light of my purposes and goals), therefore He is not real.'”

Tony Woodlief looks at friendship as shared experiences. “My 298 Facebook friends aren’t the ones who remember our dead daughter’s birthday or leave flowers at her grave. Nor among them is the pastor who baptized each of our children and waged a personal holy war to keep our marriage from crumbling years ago. We have these deeper friendships because we’ve tried to build a life in one place. They sprang up because the stuff of life happened to this cluster of us living near one another, and much of it was too joyous or heartbreaking not to share with someone. If friendship is the key to happiness, then maybe this is the key to friendship, to be enmeshed — not just tangentially or voyeuristically, but physically — in the lives of others. That can be hard to swallow in a culture that prizes individualism, mobility and privacy.”

Quick Takes – 6/13/2009

Dannah Gresh on Christian dating relationships: “A girl should get so lost in God, that a guy has to seek God to find her!”

Russell Moore writes about our family background as Christians (in the context of adoption). “Whether our background is Norwegian, Hatian and Indonesian, if we are united to Christ, our family genealogy is found not primarily in the front pages of our dusty old family Bible but inside its pages, in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Our identity is in Christ; so his people are our people, his God our God.” (Adopted for Life, p. 37)

Jonathan Edwards urges believers on to greater zeal and resolve. “Two things urgently needed in ministers, if they would attempt great advances for the kingdom of Christ, are zeal and resolve. Their influence and power for impact are greater than we think. A man of ordinary abilities will accomplish more with zeal and resolve than a man ten times more gifted without zeal and resolve … Men who are possessed by these qualities commonly carry the day in almost all affairs.”

Crime writer Andrew Klavan recounts the prideful, arrogant little prayer that led to his conversion. “I was reading a novel … and got to the scene where one of the main characters … said a little prayer before going to sleep. That’s the one thing I’d never tried. So I said a very brief prayer of thanks and it went off in me like a bomb. There are really no words to describe it. I have always thought it was a tribute to the generosity of God that even such a prideful, arrogant little prayer in some sense would be answered.”

Quick Takes – 5/30/2009

John Piper encourages you not to use Twitter while in church. “When you are in corporate worship, Worship! There is a difference between communion with God and commenting on communion with God. Don’t tweet while having sex. Don’t tweet while praying with the dying. Don’t tweet when your wife is telling you about the kids. There’s a season for everything. Multitasking only makes sense when none of the tasks requires heart-engaged, loving attention.”

Paul Miller writes about God’s divine story in your life. “If God is sovereign, then he is control of all the details of my life. If he is loving, then he is going to be shaping the details of my life for my good. If he is all-wise, then he’s not going to do everything I want because I don’t know what I need. If he is patient, then he is going to take time to do all this. When we put these all together — God’s sovereignty, love, wisdom, and patience — we have a divine story.”

C. J. Mahaney celebrates the blessing of unanswered prayer. “I want to celebrate unanswered prayer. I want to … thank God for all the prayers I have prayed sinfully motivated, that the Saviour hasn’t answered. I want to thank God that he is sovereign, not sentimental. I want to thank God for all the times when … I have approached the Saviour demanding that he do for me whatever I ask, … that the Saviour’s response was not simply, ‘You don’t know what you are asking’, but that he withheld an answer to that prayer. I am grateful to God for unanswered prayers.”

Quick Takes – 5/23/2009

William Fay encourages you to get out of your comfort zone. “If you are living in isolation from the world and the only friends you have are in your comfortable Bible study, Wednesday night church get-togethers, Sunday school, church picnics, retreats, homeschool events, and concerts, you will never experience the joy of sharing your faith.”

John Ensor reflects on God’s providence in sparing his grandson’s life. “Why was Jack spared? At least part of the answer … is found in Psalm 57:2: ‘I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.’ Jack was saved because the Lord has not yet fulfilled his purpose for him. If he had been crushed, though our hearts would be crushed as well, we would take a measure of comfort in knowing that evidently all God’s purposes for Jack’s life here on earth were fulfilled in three months.”

Colin Peckham reminds us of the cost of prayer. “It is not an easy thing to pray. There is a price to be paid, a price of curbed freedom, of resolute concentration, of agonizing supplication. Prayer is the acid test of devotion. To stay in the presence of God and to wait upon him, bearing your soul to His searching gaze, costs everything. The one who prays must be transformed. Prayer must make him holier, purer, more Christ-like. Prayer is a purifying medium.” (Sounds from Heaven, The Revival on the Isle of Lewis 1949-1952.)

Jessica Snell shares about celebrating the church year at home. “As a new parent, I was flummoxed by how to explain Jesus to a two-year-old. The church year answered my question. You start by letting her participate in the story: By letting her see the crèche at the front of the church during Advent and the Wise Men moving toward it during Epiphany. By standing with her in a candle-lit church on Christmas Eve. By having her forehead crossed with ashes at the beginning of Lent. By giving her a palm frond to wave on Palm Sunday. By giving her a bell to ring on Easter Sunday. By wearing red on Pentecost. The church year was made for people like her.”

Quick Takes – 5/16/2009

Rachel Barkey shares her hope in Christ despite being diagnosed with terminal cancer. “Cancer does not define me. Neither does being a wife or a mother. All these things are part of who I am but they do not define me. What defines me is my relationship with Jesus.” (Rachel is 37 years old, married, and a mother of two.)

Alfred D’Souza reflects on obstacles in life: “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”

Thomas Brooks argues that the believer’s last day is his best day. “The best of Christians are able to take in but little of God; their hearts are like the widow’s vessel, which could receive but a little oil. Sin, the world, and creatures do take up so much room in the best hearts, that God gives out himself little by little, as parents give sweets to their children. But in heaven God will communicate himself fully at once to the soul! Grace shall then be swallowed up of glory!”

Quick Takes – 5/2/2009

Justin Taylor points out some helpful distinctions to make when discussing the issue of civil obedience. “Someone might ask you if you believe in ‘civil disobedience,’ but it helps to know what form of injustice requires disobedience — is it when the government prescribes evil, promotes evil, permits evil, or prohibits the good?”

John Calvin explains why Jesus was condemned as a criminal. “If [Christ] had been murdered by thieves or slain in an insurrection by a raging mob, in such a death there would have been no evidence of satisfaction. But when he was arraigned before the judgment seat as a criminal, accused and pressed by testimony, and condemned by the mouth of the judge to die—we know by these proofs that he took the role of a guilty man and evildoer.” (Institutes, 2.16.5)

Ligon Duncan reflects on the ultimate difference between heaven and hell. “Hell is eternity in the presence of God without a mediator. Heaven is eternity in the presence of God, with a mediator. Hell is eternity in the presence of God, being fully conscious of the just, holy, righteous, good, kind, and loving Father’s disapproval of your rebellion and wickedness. Heaven, on the other hand, is dwelling in the conscious awareness of your holy and righteous Father, but doing so through a mediator who died in your place.”

Quick Takes – 4/25/2009

Randy Harris sums up the book of Revelation in three lines:
    1. God’s team wins.
    2. Choose your team.
    3. Don’t be stupid.

Thomas Nagel talks about his fear of religion. “I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” (The Last Word, pp. 130-131)

R. A. Torrey explains why we don’t always understand God’s ways. “It will solve a great many of our perplexities when we come to see that God knows more than we do … If a child of six or seven should undertake to criticize the teachings of a profound philosopher of fifty or sixty, we would not take it as an indication of the child’s wisdom but simply of the child’s foolish conceit. But it would not be as foolish as the ripest philosopher undertaking to criticize God. Man never appears more ridiculous than when he tries to tell what an infinitely wise God must do.”

Quick Takes – 4/18/2009

Mark Shead shares a favorite Twitter message . “A train station is where the train stops. A bus station is where the bus stops. On my desk, I have a work station…”

Charles Spurgeon on praying for guidance: “Take your difficulty to God in prayer and say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears’ (1 Sam. 3:9). Do not ask God to confirm your opinion; ask Him to make your opinion conform to His truth.” (Beside Still Waters, p. 26)

Stanley Hauerwas on receiving life as a gift: “Long story short: we don’t get to make our lives up. We get to receive our lives as gifts. The story that says we should have no story except the story we chose … is a lie. To be human is to learn that we don’t get to make up our lives because we’re creatures…. Christian discipleship is about learning to receive our lives as gifts without regret.” (Living Gently in a Violent World, p. 93).

Veggie Tale creator Phil Vischer comments on Christians and fame: “I am growing increasingly convinced that if every one of these kids burning with passion to write a hit Christian song or make that hit Christian movie or start that hit Christian ministry to change the world would instead focus their passion on walking with God on a daily basis, the world would change… Because the world learns about God not by watching Christian movies, but by watching Christians.”

N. D. Wilson explains why he writes stories for children. “For many children, the only nobility, the only joy, the only strength and sacrifice that they see firsthand comes in fiction. Even when children have plenty of joy in their lives, good stories reinforce it. As long as I’m dealing in honesty, I may as well admit that I have been more influenced (as a person) by my childhood readings of Tolkien and Lewis than I have been by any philosophers I read in college and grad school. The events and characters in Narnia and Middle Earth shaped my ideals, my dreams, my goals. Kant just annoyed me.”

Quick Takes – 3/28/2009

Jerry Bridges shares some wise words about grace. “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace, nor are your best days ever so good that you are beyond the need of it.” (Jerry Bridges, Discipline of Grace)

Mark Roberts talks about American Idol and the need for honest critique in our lives. “I wonder sometimes if I need a Simon Cowell in my life. I wonder if you do. As hard as it may be to hear the truth about ourselves when it isn’t nice, sometimes we do need to hear this truth.” (Of course, we can all use a Paula Abdul for encouragement as well!)

John Stott comments on Jesus’ words about being salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-14). “So Jesus calls his disciples to exert a double influence on the secular community, a negative influence by arresting its decay and a positive influence by bringing light into its darkness. For it is one thing to stop the spread of evil; it is another to promote the spread of truth, beauty and goodness.” (John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on The Mount)

Quick Takes – 3/21/2009

Abraham Piper asks: “What are you better at than other people?…Now you know what you should do for them.”

Former President George W. Bush speaks out on President Barack Obama, saying he wants Obama to succeed and that it’s “essential” to support the new leader. Instead of taking potshots at Obama, Bush said the new president has enough critics and that he “deserves my silence.” Bush also said, “I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office.”

Ray Pritchard reminds us that God’s delays are not the same as God’s denials. “If Jesus had healed Lazarus, that would have been a great miracle. Raising him from the dead was an even greater one. God’s delays are not the same as God’s denials. If we know that, we can keep believing even while we wait for an answer that has not yet come. You never know when a resurrection is on the way.”

Peter Leichart shares some lenten thoughts on fasting and feasting. “Fasting looks like an enemy to life, but the opposite is true. We live abundantly only if we know how to fast—which is to say, only if we are disciplined to wait until the feast is ready. Lent trains us to be a people of patience and restraint, a people who rejoices in a God who has time and gives us time and makes us wait for the treasures He gives.”

David Wayne (who is battling cancer) writes about suffering as witness. “The thinking goes that God sends trials to teach us a lesson and thus, we should expect relief once the lesson is learned. When the trial continues beyond what we expected or hoped, we wonder what is wrong with us — we [think we] must not have learned enough from them … [W]hile acknowledging that suffering has a teaching focus in the life of a believer, I think we ought to expand our view of suffering to see it as a means of witness. I know that many do, but maybe this ought to be given the greater weight.”

Quick Takes – 3/7/2009

                            Honk If You're Paying My Mortgage
Edward G. Stafford asks: “Now that those of us who have been making steady, on-time payments on our mortgages for years will be paying off others’ mortgages through our taxes, can we claim a tax-deduction for our neighbors’ mortgage interest too?” (HT: Instapundit)

C. S. Lewis reminds us that we cannot truly love others until we put God first in our lives. “When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” (Letters; 8 November 1952)

Jim Martin shares some good thoughts on before you marry. “Marriage can be wonderful. It is a gift of God. Yet, it is very important to think through your reasons for wanting to get married. I have been thinking lately about what I have learned through many, many conversations with couples regarding marriage. I have been privileged to be a part of many conversations that were encouraging and thoughtful. Yet, on occasion, a few of these conversations have been troublesome. From these conversations I have also learned much.”

Sinclair Ferguson writes about the church’s failure to preach about the cross. “It is a disheartening fact that evangelical Christians, who write vast numbers of Christian books, preach abundant sermons, sponsor numerous conferences and seminars, and broadcast myriad TV and radio programs actually write few books, preach few sermons, sponsor few conferences or seminars, and devote few programs to the theme of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We give our best and most creative energies to teaching God’s people almost everything except the person and work of our Lord and Savior. This should cause us considerable alarm, for there is reason to fear that our failure here has reached epidemic proportions. We need to return to a true preaching to the heart, rooted in the principle of grace and focused on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Roger Overton shares about the joy of being hacked for Christ’s sake. “As best as I can tell, the motivation for all of this is that I am an outspoken Christian. When I read that, I immediately thought of the promise that we would be persecuted because of Christ, and I take great joy in that. I have many shortcomings, and there are times I wonder about the quality of my witness. But apparently there are those in the world who have identified me with Christ and one person in particular who decided to take their hatred of Him out on me.

“I have lost my website (a site I was never satisfied with), my Facebook photo albums, 3 or 4 Facebook friends, a pile of email I probably didn’t need and a few hours of sorting through the damage. All in all, it could have been much worse. Those things can be dismissed and/or replaced. What I have gained is of great value- a better understanding of the importance of web security, and (more importantly) a deeper sense of joy in my affiliation with Jesus the Christ.”

Quick Takes – 2/14/2009

Mother Teresa on trials: “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”

Dan Phillips on the existence of God:
      – Challenge: I don’t see God.
      – Response: [hold hands over eyes] I don’t see you.

Mark Dever on conviction of sin: “The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian: when a non-Christian is convicted of sin, he sides with his sin. When a Christian is convicted of sin, he sides with God, against himself.”

Trent at the Simple Dollar discusses financial success and sacrifice. “What I discovered is that giving up all of those things wasn’t a sacrifice — it was a trade. I gave up all of those bad spending habits, but in return I was able to knock down that scary pile of debt, start saving for my children’s college education, build up a big emergency fund, and buy a house.”

Ray Pritchard concludes his series on preparing for ministry. “There is one final thing necessary in preparing for the ministry. You might state it in a dozen different ways because it has to do with what happens inside your heart. Here’s how it comes out for me. Get to know the character of God … Get to know the Lord. Nothing matters more than this. You might even say that the whole purpose of our earthly journey is for us to get to know what God is like. This is where the ministry begins and ends.