Thursday, February 28, 2013

Go to Church

So go ahead, join the Eucharistic feast of God. Go to church. Preferably one where you're not being told you're going to hell -- even if you deserve it -- and preferably one that doesn't sing the national anthem at the offertory or demonize Palestinians in a premillennialist sweep. Go to church where God is celebrated as the creator and lord of life, where the good news of God's overflowing love permeates the congregation's understanding of itself and the world. It does not matter whether the preacher is a liberal or an evangelical, a Protestant or a Catholic, an orator or a rock-and-roller, educated or uneducated, as long as hearts and minds are opened to the peace that passes all understanding. Go to church and let the beloved world of God slowly transform your life in compassion, mercy, and grace.

Charles MarshThe Beloved Community

They do no iniquity

From the additional notes to The Treasury of David, by Charles Spurgeon, in relation to Psalm 119.
Verse. 3. They do no iniquity. All such as are renewed by grace, and reconciled to God by Christ Jesus; to these God imputeth no sin to condemnation, and in his account they do no iniquity. Notable is that which is said of David, "He kept my commandments, and followed me with all his heart, and did that only which was right in mine eyes" (1 Kings 14:8). How can that be? We may trace David by his failings, they are upon record everywhere in the word; yet here a veil is drawn upon them; God laid them not to his charge. There is a double reason why their failings are not laid to their charge. Partly, because of their general state, they are in Christ, taken into favour through him, and "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ" (Romans 8:1), therefore particular errors and escapes do not alter their condition; which is not to be understood as if a man should not be humbled, and ask God pardon for his infirmities; no, for then they prove iniquities and they will lie upon record against him. It was a gross fancy of the Valentinians, who held that they were not defiled with sin, whatsoever they committed; though base and obscene persons, yet still they were as gold in the dirt. No, no, we are to recover ourselves by repentance, to sue out the favour of God. When David humbled himself, and had repented, then saith Nathan, "The Lord hath put away thy sin" (2 Samuel 12:13). Partly, too, because their bent and habitual inclination is to do otherwise. They set themselves to comply with God's will, to seek and serve the Lord, though they are clogged with many infirmities. A wicked man sinneth with deliberation and delight, his bent is to do evil, he makes "provision for lusts" (Romans 13:14), and "serves" them by a voluntary subjection (Titus 3:3). But those that are renewed by grace are not "debtors" to the flesh, they have taken another debt and obligation, which is to serve the Lord (Romans 8:12).
Partly, too, because their general course and way is to do otherwise. Everything works according to its form; the constant actions of nature are according to the kind. So the new creature, his constant operations are according to grace. A man is known by his custom, and the course of his endeavours shows what is his business. If a man be constantly, easily, frequently carried away to sin, it discovers the habit of his soul, and the temper of his heart. Meadows may be overflowed, but marsh ground is drowned with every return of the tide. A child of God may be occasionally carried away, and act contrary to the inclination of the new nature; but when men are drowned and overcome by the return of every temptation, it argues a habit of sin.
And partly, because sin never carries sway completely, but it is opposed by dislikes and resistances of the new nature. The children of God make it their business to avoid all sin, by watching, praying, mortifying: "I said I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue" (Psalms 39:1), and thus there is a resistance of the sin. God hath planted graces in their hearts, the fear of his Majesty, that works a resistance; and therefore there is not a full allowance of what they do. This resistance sometimes is more strong, then the temptation is overcome: "How can I do this wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). Sometimes it is more weak, and then sin carries it, though against the will of the holy man: "The evil which I hate, that do I" (Romans 7:15; Romans 7:18). It is the evil which they hate; they protest against it; they are like men which are oppressed by the power of the enemy. And then there is a remorse after the sin: David's heart smote him. It grieves and shames them that they do evil. Tenderness goes with the new nature: Peter sinned foully, but he went out and wept bitterly. Thomas Manton.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A blameless life

As might be expected, the notes by Charles Spurgeon and others on Psalm 119, in The Treasury of David, are extensive.  Here's is just one paragraph from Spurgeon's own comments on verse one:  
How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the law of the Lord. [NASB]

He whose life is in a gospel sense undefiled, is blessed, because he could never have reached this point if a thousand blessings had not already been bestowed on him. By nature we are defiled and out of the way, and we must therefore have been washed in the atoning blood to remove defilement, and we must have been converted by the power of the Holy Ghost, or we should not have been turned into the way of peace, nor be undefiled in it. Nor is this all; for the continual power of grace is needed to keep a believer in the right way, and to preserve him from pollution. All the blessings of the covenant must have been in a measure poured upon those who from day to day have been enabled to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. Their way is the evidence of their being the blessed of the Lord. David speaks of a high degree of blessedness; for some are in the way, and are true servants of God; but they are as yet faulty in many ways, and bring defilement upon themselves. Others who walk in the light more fully, and maintain closer communion with God, are enabled to keep themselves unspotted from the world; and these enjoy far more peace and joy than their less watchful brethren. Doubtless, the more complete our sanctification the more intense our blessedness. Christ is our way, and we are not only alive in Christ, but we are to live in Christ: the sorrow is, that we bespatter his holy way with our selfishness, self-exaltation, willfulness, and carnality, and so we miss a great measure of the blessedness which is in him as our way. A believer who errs is still saved, but the joy of his salvation is not experienced by him; he is rescued, but not enriched; greatly borne with, but not greatly blessed.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Art for our times

We cannot make art apart from the time in which we live. We must know what is going on, and understand our environment if we want to understand anything of relevance to our times. We must also know the spirit of the times in order to know where it is wrong and should be challenged and fought.... We can never just follow the past: the battle and means of creativity were theirs, for their own situation. And God, in placing us in another period, has given us our own calling: to be "salting salt" today, to hunger and thirst for righteousness in the here and now.

Hans RookmaakerModern Art and the Death of a Culture

Is Art only to be produced to challenge and fight?  Certainly some art is, but can Rookmaaker's statement be applied to all art in any period?  (Note that one of Rookmaaker's books was called, Art Needs No Justification.)

The light of life

 From the additional notes to Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David, on Psalm 118.
Verse 27. God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light. The Psalmist was clearly possessed of light, for he says, "God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light." He was evidently, then, possessed of light; and this light was in him as "the light of life." This light had shone into his heart; the rays and beams of divine truth had penetrated into his conscience. He carried about with him a light which had come from God; in this light he saw light, and in this light he discerned everything which the light manifested. Thus by this internal light he knew what was good and what was evil, what was Sweet and what was bitter, what was true and what was false, what was spiritual and what was natural. He did not say, This light came from creature exertion, this light was the produce of my own wisdom, this light was nature transmuted some action of my own will, and thus gradually rose into existence from long time and assiduous cultivation. But he ascribes the whole of that light which he possessed unto God the Lord, as the sole author and the only giver of it. 
Now, if God the Lord has ever showed you and me the same light which he showed his servant of old, we carry about with us more or less of a solemn conviction that we have received this light from him. There will, indeed, be many clouds of darkness to cover it; there will often be doubts and fears, hovering like mists and fogs over our souls, whether the light which we have received be from God or not. But in solemn moments when the Lord is pleased a little to revive his work; at times and seasons when he condescends to draw forth the affections of our hearts unto himself, to bring us into his presence, to hide us in some measure in the hollow of his hand, and give us access unto himself, at such moments and seasons we carry about with us, in spite of all our unbelief, in spite of all the suggestions of the enemy, in spite of all doubts and fears and suspicions that rise from the depths of the carnal mind, in spite of all these counter workings and undermining, we carry about with us at these times a solemn conviction that we have light, and that this light we have received from God. And why so? Because we can look back to a time when we walked in no such light, when we felt no such light, when everything spiritual and heavenly was dark to us, and we were dark to them.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Calling on the Lord

Verse 5. It is said, I called upon the LORD. Thou must learn to call, and not to sit there by thyself, and lie on the bench, hang and shake thy head, and bite and devour thyself with thy thoughts; but come on, thou indolent knave, down upon thy knees, up with thy hands and eyes to heaven, take a Psalm or a prayer, and set forth thy distress with tears before God. Martin Luther.
John Gill
Verse 5. The LORD answered me, and set me in a large place. It may be rendered, The LORD answered me largely; as he did Solomon, when he gave him more than he asked for; and as he does his people, when he gives them a sufficiency and an abundance of his grace; not only above their deserts, but above their thoughts and expectations. See Eph 3:20. John Gill.

Two writers commenting on Psalm 118:5, recorded in Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

The mercy of the Lord endures forever

Because we hear the sentence so frequently repeated here, that "the mercy of the Lord endureth for ever," we are not to think that the Holy Spirit has employed empty tautology, but our great necessity demands it: for in temptations and dangers the flesh begins to doubt of the mercy of God; therefore nothing should be so frequently impressed on the mind as this, that the mercy of God does not fail, that the Eternal Father wearies not in remitting our sins. 
Solomon Gesner, quoted in Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David, in the notes on Psalm 118, verses 1-4.  The paragraph originally comes most likely from Gesner's Disquisitions on the Psalter.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Place is space that has historical meanings, where some things have happened that are now remembered and that provide continuity and identity across generations. Place is space in which important words have been spoken that have established identity, defined vocation, and envisioned destiny. Place is space in which vows have been exchanged, promises have been made, and demands have been issued. Place is indeed a protest against the unpromising pursuit of space. It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment, and undefined freedom.

Walter BrueggemannThe Land

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


Globalization and the horizontal integration of corporate structures have more recently introduced the notion of placelessness into the modern vocabulary. Big-box chain retail stores and identical, production-built tract houses can be understood as placeless places. These are technically places in that stories are lived in them, but the generic nature and short time span of the buildings make them resistant to holding the stories that are generated there. More and more of the contemporary landscape is being taken over by developments in which it can be very hard to tell where one happens to be located.

Eric Jacobsen
The Space Between

Friday, February 01, 2013


Accepting and living by sufficiency rather than excess offers a return to what is, culturally speaking, the human home: the ancient order of family, community, good work and good life; to a reverence for excellence of craftsmanship; to a true materialism that does not just care about things but cares for them; to communities worth spending a lifetime in.

Alan Durning"How Much is Enough?" in Simpler Living, Compassionate Life