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Category Archives: Books and Quotations

A Prayer by St. Augustine

Saint_Augustine_PortraitAs I was reading St. Augustine’s Confessions this morning, I stumbled into this prayer at the end of Book 4, Part 16. The words were striking, powerful, and tender, so I thought I’d share them :

O Lord our God, let the shelter of your wings give us hope. Protect us and uphold us. You will be the Support that upholds us from childhood till the hair on our heads is grey. When you are our strength we are strong, but when our strength is our own we are weak. In you our good abides for ever, and when we turn away from it we turn to evil. Let us come home at last to you, O Lord, for fear that we be lost. For in you our good abides and it has no blemish since it is yourself. Nor do we fear that there is no home to which we can return. We fell from it; but our home is your eternity and it does not fall because we are away.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Books and Quotations

 

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St. Augustine reflects on God’s nature

Saint_Augustine_PortraitReading St. Augustine’s Confessions recently, I was moved by a number of passages. Here is one from early on (Book 1, Part 4) that had never really stood out to me as it did during this reading:

What, then, is the God I worship? He can be none but the Lord God himself, for who but the Lord is God? What other refuge can there be, except our God? You, my God, are supreme, utmost in goodness, mightiest and all-powerful, most merciful and most just. You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present amongst us, the most beautiful and yet the most strong, ever enduring and yet we cannot comprehend you. You are unchangeable and yet you change all things. You are never new, never old, and yet all things have new life from you. You are the unseen power that brings decline upon the proud. You are ever active, yet always at rest. You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need. You support, you fill, and you protect all things. You create them, nourish them, and bring them to perfection. You seek to make them your own, though you lack for nothing. You love your creatures, but with a gentle love. You treasure them, but without apprehension. You grieve for wrong, but suffer no pain. You can be angry and yet serene. Your works are varied, but your purpose is one and the same. You welcome alll who come to you, though you never lost them. You are never in need yet are glad to gain, never covetous yet you exact a return for your gifts. We give abundantly to you so that we may deserve a reward; yet which of us has anything that does not come from you? You repay us what we deserve, and yet you owe nothing to any. You release us from our debts, but you lose nothing thereby. You are my God, my Life, my holy Delight, but is this enough to say of you? Can any man say enough when he speaks of you? Yet woe betide those who are silent about you! For even those who are most gifted with speech cannot find words to describe you.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2015 in Books and Quotations

 

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Is This the End for Mideast Christianity?

The cover article in the November issue of Christianity Today written by church historian Philip Jenkins was entitled “Is This the End for Mideast Christianity?” After traveling through that part of the world for two and half weeks last month, I found this article particularly helpful and insightful. If you haven’t read the article yet, you should. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite.

For Christians in the Middle East, 2014 has been a catastrophe. The most wrenching stories have come from Iraq, where the nascent Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL in news reports) has savagely persecuted ancient Christian communities, including Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syrian Orthodox. Iraqi Christians have declined rapidly in number since the first Gulf War in 1991, but survivors long believed they could maintain a foothold around Mosul.

This past summer, that hope collapsed. In a ghastly reminder of Nazi savagery against Jews, Christian homes were marked with the Arabic letter ن for Nazarenes—Christ followers—or R for Rwafidh, a term for Protestants, and inhabitants were targets for abuse or murder. Islamist militants have controlled Mosul since June 10. Even if the total extermination of each and every believer is not the goal, those ancient communities and churches face the prospect of utter ruin. To that extent, the end of Christianity in Iraq is within sight…

Matters changed swiftly during World War I. Massacres and expulsions all but removed the once very large Armenian and Greek communities in Anatolia (now Turkey). Counting Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks together, murder and starvation killed more than two million Christians between 1915 and 1922.

Emerging Arab nations also targeted Christians. Iraq’s slaughter of Assyrians in 1933 gave lawyer Raphael Lemkin a basis upon which he defined the concept of genocide. The partition of Palestine and subsequent crises in the region massively shrunk other ancient Christian groups. The modern story of the Christian Middle East is one of contraction and collapse.

By the end of the past century, Christianity in the Middle East had two great centers: Coptic Egypt, and the closely interrelated lands of Syria and Lebanon. They are now home to many refugee churches.

Today, Syria’s continuing civil war threatens to extend Islamist power still further. Islamic State flags have appeared in Lebanon. Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt has warned that both Christians and his own Druze people stand “on the edge of extinction.”

Read the entire article online here.

[For articles on similar themes, read “Christian Persecution in Iraq“; “Christian Flight from Syria“; and “Who Will Defend Mideast Christians?”]

 

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5 Must-Read Statements on the Church

Given my recent sermon, “Connecting Together,” on what it means to be the church, I wanted to share again some thoughts from one of my favorite thinkers on the church, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His book Life Together is, in my opinion, the best book written on the nature of true community in the church. Here are 5 must-read statements on  the Church from Bonhoeffer:

  • “Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.” [26-27]
  • “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” [27]
  • “Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.” [28]
  • “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is not great experience, not discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” [29]
  • “A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men….Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren.” [29-30]

[These quotations are taken from John W. Doberstein’s classic translation of Life Together. A more recent translation with thorough annotations and a helpful introduction is found in Volume 5 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.]

 

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Lesslie Newbigin on the Resurrection

In a recent posthumously published series of lectures, I came across this statement by Lesslie Newbigin on the resurrection. These words particularly leaped out to me in light of our recent journey through 1 Corinthians 15 at Eastbrook Church called “Resurrection Hope.”

Christ gives us the victory because He has broken the power of sin, and in breaking the power of sin, He has broken the power of death. Death is still a fact. In Adam all die. The barrier is still there. What we are assured of in Christ is that death is not the last word, but that God in His mercy is able out of the ruin of corruption and death of men and of man’s social institutions to raise up that perfect incorruptible society which is our true goal. It is the assurance that that goal is in the end to be reached – though we cannot reach it in a straight line by our own power. (Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, p. 50)

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Books and Quotations

 

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Martin Luther on the Ninth Commandment

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I spoke about the Ninth and Tenth Commandments from Exodus 20:16-17 in a message entitled “The Neighbor.” I came across an interesting quotation from Martin Luther about the Ninth Commandment:

Knowledge of sin does not entail the right to judge it. I may see and hear that my neighbor sins, but to make him the talk of the town is not my business….Those are called backbiters who are not content just to know but rush ahead and judge. Learning a bit of gossip about someone else, they spread it into every corner, relishing and delighting in it like pigs that roll in the mud and root around in it with their snouts. This is nothing else than usurping the judgment and office of God, pronouncing the severest kind of verdict and sentence, for the harshest verdict a judge can pronounce is to declare somebody a thief, a murderer, a traitor, etc. Whoever therefore ventures to accuse his neighbor of such guilt assumes as much authority as the emperor and all magistrates. For though you do not wield the sword, you use your venomous tongue to the disgrace and harm of your neighbor. (quoted in David Hazony, The Ten Commandments, pp. 214-215).

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Books and Quotations

 

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The Treasure Principle book giveaway

the-treasure-principleAs we concluded our “Real Rich” series at Eastbrook this past weekend, I wanted to share a simple resource for those who want to keep digging into the topic of what it means to be really rich and also steward our finances wisely to honor God.

Randy Alcorn has a brief book entitled The Treasure Principle, which offers six key principles to understanding how we can view our finances appropriately and live in light of eternity. I am giving away one free copy of this book to one person selected at random from those who respond via my blog, Facebook or Twitter to this question:

What is one way you want to grow in honoring God with your finances?

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Books and Quotations

 

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