Scripture tells us the story of how a Garden is transformed into a Garden City, but only after a serpent had turned that Garden into a howling wilderness… which lasted until an appointed warrior came to slay the serpent, giving up his life in the process, but with his blood effecting the transformation of the wilderness into the Garden City.”
All men dream, but not equally. Those that dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act upon their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.
Apparently it took Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken 1009 ‘No’s before anyone would support his idea of fast-food chicken. Most of us would have thought that maybe we needed to change our recipe.
- Bear Grylls, ‘Facing Up’ (on raising funds for his Everest expedition)
"We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we see salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is "of him" [1 Cor 1:30]. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his annointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by birth he was made like us in all respects [Heb 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [cf. Heb 5:2]. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal 3:13]; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his decent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgement, in the power given to hiim to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other."
It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or when the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails whilst daring greatly - so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat … for those who have had to fight for it, life has truly a flavour the protected shall never know.
What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over a half century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia, all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday … where Christ is not preached.
We tend to believe that what we want out of life is comfort and security and absence of stress, but that is only half right. We also want to experience heightened emotions. It’s not that we accept pain, fear and anxiety as an acceptable exchange for moments of euphoria. We also crave the pain and fear. We crave the whole package of despair and delight
- Simon Barnes, The Times (from an article on why 20th and 21st century humans are so into sport)
But any who understand a passage in the Scriptures to mean something which the writer did not mean are mistaken, though the Scriptures are not deceiving them. But all the same, as I had started to say, if they are mistaken in a judgment which is intended to build up charity, which is the end of the law (1 Tim 1:5), they are mistaken in the same sort of way as people who go astray off the road, but still proceed by rough paths to the same place as the road was taking them to. Still, they must be put right, and shown how much more useful it is not to leave the road, in case they get into the habit of deviating from it, and are eventually driven to take the wrong direction altogether.
The really accomplished investigators of the divine Scriptures will be those who have begun by reading them all and becoming familiar with them at least by reading, if not yet by understanding them all…
“So if it seems to you that you have understood the divine Scriptures, or any part of them, in such a way that by this understanding you do not build up this twin love of God and neighbour, then you have not yet understood them.”— Augustine
The infinite love and mercy of God is greater in the work of redemption and reconciliation than in the creation of the world, for the distance between nothing and something was less than the distance between sin and happiness. For nothing adds no opposition; but to be in a sinful state there is opposition. Therefore it was greater love and mercy for God, when we were sinful, and so obnoxious to eternal destruction, to make us of sinners, not only men, but to make us happy, to make us heirs of heaven out of a sinful and cursed estate, than to make us of nothing something, to make us men in Adam, for there God prevailed over nothing, but here his mercy triumphed over that which is opposite to God, over sinfulness and cursedness. To shew that the creature cannot be so low but there is somewhat in God above the misery of the creature, his mercy shall triumph over the basest estate where he will shew mercy. Therefore there is mercy above all mercy and love above all love, in that Christ was a servant.
Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul is upon him. - Matthew 12:18
Behold! This word is as it were a beacon lighted up to all the rest. In all the evangelists you have this word often repeated, and the prophets likewise when they speak of Christ; there is no prophecy almost but there is this word, ‘Behold’.
… [One] use of this word ‘behold’, was to call the people’s minds from their miseries, and from other abasing objects that dejected them, and might force despair. Why do you dwell upon your unworthiness and sin? Raise up your mind: “Behold my servant whom I have chosen.” This is an object worth beholding and admiration, especially of a distressed soul that may see in Christ whatsoever may comfort it.
A [second] end of it is to raise the mind from any vulgar, common, base contents. You look on these things, and are carried away with common trivial objects, as the poor disciples when they came to the temple; they stood wondering at the stones. What wondrous stones! What goodly building is here! Mark 13:1. So shallow-minded men, they see any earthly excellency, they stand gazing. Alas, saith Christ, do you wonder at these things? So the prophet here raiseth up the minds of men to look on an object fit to be looked on - “Behold my servant”. So that the Holy Ghost would have them from this saving object, Christ, to raise satisfaction to their souls every way. Are you dejected? here is comfort; are you sinful? here is righteousness; are you led away with present contentments? here you have honours, and pleasures, and all in Christ Jesus. You have a right to common pleasures that others have, and besides them you have interest to others that are everlasting pleasures that shall never fail, so that there is nothing that is dejecting and abasing in man, but there is comfort for it in Christ Jesus; he is a salve for every sore, a remedy for every malady; therefore, “Behold my servant”.
This word ‘behold’, it is a word of wonderment, and, indeed, in Christ there are a world of wonders, everything is wonderful in him. Things new and wonderful, and things rare, and things that are great, that transcend our capacity, are wonderful, that stop our understanding that it cannot go through them. Vulgar things, we see through them quickly, but when we see things that stay our understandings, that raise our understandings higher, and that are more capacious than our understandings, here is matter of admiration and wonder. Now whatsoever may make wonderment is in Jesus Christ, whose name is Wonderful, as it is in Isaiah 9:7; therefore the prophet saith, “Behold”.
The trouble with most of us is that we make happiness our goal instead of aiming at something higher, loftier, and nobler. Unhappiness is like pain - it is only the effect of an underlying cause. Pain cannot be relieved until the cause is removed. Pain and disease go together: disease is the cause, and pain is the effect. Unhappiness is an effect, and sin is the cause. Sin and unhappiness go together. All was blissful happiness in the Garden of Eden until sin crept in. Then happiness crept out. The two cannot exist together.
True happiness: seen, taught and found in Jesus Christ alone
If by happiness we mean serenity, confidence, contentment, peace, joy, and soul-satisfaction, then Jesus was supremely ‘happy’. We never read of His laughing, though I am sure He did. He was not given to pleasure-seeking, hilariousness, jokes or poking fun at others. Nor was His happiness dependent on outward circumstances. He did not have to have an outward stimulus to make Him happy. He had learned a secret that allowed Him to live above the circumstances of life and fear of the future. He moved with calmness, certainty and serenity through the most trying circumstances - even death! What was His secret? He gave it to us in the Beatitudes. Let’s go with Christ and discover the secret of happiness!
- Billy Graham, Preface to The Secret of Happiness
“‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’”
A year ago Ray Edwards, a quadruple amputee, was one of the first people in the United Kingdom to be fitted with a bionic hand. When he flexed his new hand for the first time, he cried. “It made me feel I was just Ray again,” he said. The restoration of one’s normal self is a powerful gift.
It seems to me that Ambrose beautifully stated an example of this righteousness that we have in Christ in the story of the blessing of Jacob. Jacob did not himself deserve the right of the firstborn, but Jacob concealed himself in his brother’s clothing and, wearing his brother’s cloak, gave off an agreeable odour. And so smelling like his older brother, he ingratiated himself to his father, so that to his own benefit Jacob received the blessing while impersonating his elder brother. We in like manner hide under the precious purity of our firstborn brother Christ so that we may be attested righteous in God’s sight. And this is indeed the truth; for in order that we may appear before God’s face unto salvation we must smell sweetly with Christ’s odour; our vices must be covered, buried, by his perfection.
That morning Joseph was sold to the Midianite slave-dealers of Egypt for twenty pieces of silver. Twenty pieces of silver was Joseph’s whole price that day in Dothan. Those who know Joseph’s after-history will flash forwrd their minds, and will contrast the Prime Minister of Pharaoh with that slave lad sold for that paltry price at the mouth of that pit that day. And, to-morrow, when you buy an apprentice, or a message boy, of his widowed mother for five shillings a week, think of Joseph for a moment, and say to yourself, Who knows what the future may have in store for my message boy and for me? Who knows how I may go down, while he goes up? Who knows the talents of God that may lie hidden in that friendless boy? Who knows what place he may be predestined to fill in the church and in the world? And even if he comes to nothing of all that; if he never becomes a great man, yet, even so, such thoughts, such imaginations, such forecasts will help to make you a good man and a good master, whatever your slave-boy may come, or may not come, to be.
Ephraim and Manasseh’s complaint began with discontent for Yahweh’s gift; but our passage shows a deeper problem: distrust of Yahweh’s adequacy… This is not merely the problem of two tribes but of God’s people in all ages. In spite of our professions, we are in fact barely supernaturalists.
The root cause of my behaviour is always, always my heart. What we see is behaviour and emotions, and it’s easy to focus on changing behaviour and emotions. But lasting change is achieved only by tackling their source - the heart.
"There is a kind of Christianity which advocates that our lives should always be filled with laughter and happiness, and our worship always filled with praise and light-heartedness; the kid of Christianity that would have had Jesus singing a chorus at the grave of Lazarus."
“The people who spend the most time with the Bible are in large numbers the foes of art and the sworn foes of imagination… How can it be that with a God who created birds and the blue of the sky who before the foundation of the world wrought out a salvation more romantic than Cinderella, with a Christ who encompasses the highest heaven and deepest hell, with the very hairs of our head numbered, with God closer than hands and feet, Christians often turn out to have an unenviable corner on the unimaginative and the commonplace? Evangelical Christians have had one of the purest of motives and one of the worst outcomes. The motive is never to mislead by the smallest fraction of an iota in the precise nature of salvation, to live it and state it in its utter purity. But the unhappy outcome has too often been to elevate the cliché. The motive is that the gospel shall not be misunderstood, not sullied, not changed in jot or title. The outcome has often been merely reactionary, static, and hackneyed… There is a simplicity which diminishes and a simplicity that enlarges, and evangelicals have often chosen the wrong one.”
- Clyde S. Kilby. “The Christian Imagination” edited by Leland Ryken, p 105