At the end of every worship service, right before the benediction, our pastor gives a charge–a “now go do this”–to the congregation. Usually it’s an application from the sermon, as was the case this past Sunday. This was the gist of it:
“At the end of the day, damnation is the unwillingness of man for God to make him happy.”
Doug Wilson (From the assurance of pardon, Sunday, January 19, 2014)
Buncha quotes from Death by Living, by N. D. Wilson (with comments in italics and parentheses by me):
A critic told me recently that she remembered scenes from one of my newer adventure novels…not as scenes from a book, but more like personal memories from her own experiences….Fiction loves to thwart the filing systems of the mind. (And the mind loves to be thwarted.) (p.18)
…[A] life well lived is always lived on a rising scale of difficulty….But the promotions come regardless of whether or not we’ve actually improved. If you are bad at being two, you will be bad at being four. If you’re bad at being four, you will be bad at being six. (pp. 42, 43) (I’m pretty sure I was bad at being two, so it’s pretty much been a disaster ever since.)
Only two men and one woman have ever lost more than Job.
Adam. Eve. Adam II. (p. 69)
Man is born to trouble. Man is born for trouble. Man is born to battle trouble. Man is born for the fight, to be forged and molded—under torch and hammer and chisel—into a sharper, finer, stronger image of God. (p. 69) (This is the quote I read before I read the book and have had taped to my bathroom mirror for several months. It’s still the money quote for me. A part of me has spent my life demanding, contrary to every shred of both theoretical and empirical data, that life be easy. I need this reminder that trouble is normal. It’s not a bug; it’s a feature. I think I would be happy with a steady stream of trouble-free From Trampoline to Tea Party stories [see p. 82], despite the fact that they’d be lousy stories. I just read this before starting this post, which nails my problem, cowardice, and shows it for the Hellworthy thing it is. But sin is one of those troubles we’re born to, resisting it is one of the fights we’re born to. Bring on the torch and hammer and chisel, Author, and get this image in better shape.)
Living is the same thing as dying. Living well is the same thing as dying for others. (p. 84) (That’s the book in a nutshell.)
Some people are given more on this earth and some are given less. Some people spend their days in pain with bodies that keep the yearning front and center, that keep loss always in the mind’s eye. Widows. Orphans. The sick. The damaged (by birth or man). Know this: God has special promises for you, and He loves bringing triumphant resolutions to those who have tasted the deepest sorrows. And this: Gratitude is liberation….See the gifts. And if they seem sparse, start counting. (pp. 109-110) (Did you catch this one—”Gratitude is liberation”? Here, let me put it another way: GRATITUDE IS LIBERATION. It’s the antidote for the cowardice, I’m pretty sure, though I haven’t worked it all out yet.)
Burden your moments with thankfulness. (p. 117)
We are authors and we are writing every second of every day….What you say and what you do in response will be done forever, never to be appealed, edited, or modified.
Of course, we try to edit. We dump lies and likes of white-out behind us. We are always explaining and attempting to recast our actions in “better light.” (pp. 164-165)
[Living] means failing and knowing that, somehow, all of our messes will still contribute, that the creative God has merely given Himself a greater challenge—drawing glory from our clumsy botching of the past. (p. 166)
“But what is this fear of the Lord? It is that affectionate reverence, by which the child of God binds himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law. His wrath is so bitter, and his love so sweet; that hence springs an earnest desire to please him, and–because of the danger of coming short from his own weaknesses and temptations–a holy watchfulness and fear, ‘that he might not sin against him’ (Hebrews 12:28-29). This enters into every exercise of the mind, every object of life. ([Proverbs] Chapter 23.17). The oldest proficient in the Divine school seeks a more complete moulding into its spirit. The godly parent trains up his family under its influence (Genesis 17:19, Ephesians 6:4). The Christ scholar honors it as the beginning, the head, of all his knowledge; at once sanctifying its end, and preserving him from its most subtle temptations.
“Why then do multitudes around us despise wisdom and instruction? Because the beginning of wisdom–“the fear of the God–is not before their eyes” (Psalm 36:1). They know not its value. They scorn its obligation. Wise they may be in their own sight. But surely God here gives them their right name. For fools they must be to despise such a blessing (Jeremiah 8:9); to rush into willful ruin (verses 22, 24-32). Comp. I Samuel 2:25, I Kings 12:13, Jeremiah 36:22-32); to treasure up work for despairing repentance (Chap. 5:12, 13; 29:1).
“Good Lord! May thy childlike fear be my wisdom, my security, my happiness!
~Charles Bridges, Commentary on Proverbs
I was going through some papers and came across this quote I’d printed out a few years ago. I wanted to post it here so I could toss the paper. I think it’s a good description of what it means to fear God, but I still don’t understand it, at least not very deeply. Having not had a good picture of God’s fatherhood in my father, I don’t have a heart-deep understanding of God’s fatherhood, and therefore definitions based on His fatherhood, accurate though they may be, don’t really give me enough to go on. There’s a sort of fear that perfect love casts out (1 John 4:18), and that fear I know all too well (the casting out of it, less so). But an understanding of the good kind of fear continues to elude me. And I’m sure that, as a sad result, proficiency in the actual practice of such fear continues to elude me. So it’s one of those topics I come back to now and again to poke and prod, to ponder and pray, in hopes that I’ll someday have an Aha! moment that makes it come clear.
Following this morning’s sermon on 2 Samuel 4:1-12, Pastor Wilson gave a charge that went something like this: “If you think we shouldn’t pray the imprecatory Psalms because we shouldn’t be vengeful, you’ve got it backward: We should implore God to bring about His vengeance so that we won’t be so tempted to take the prerogative of vengeance upon ourselves.” (Actually, I don’t think it went anything like that, but I think that captures the gist of the thought.)
We must also bind up our imprecations with blessing (Matt. 5:44, etc.) by praying first that He would destroy His enemies by destroying their enmity and making them His friends. And if our enemies are already His friends, but aren’t behaving like it, we must pray first that He will grant them the blessing of repentance. Those parameters will help us keep our own bitterness and vindictiveness out of the picture so that we can earnestly and blamelessly pray that He will requite every wicked deed.
We can and must even pray these sorts of things upon our own heads, asking Him to remove sin from us by whatever means necessary and gratefully submitting to the discipline He metes out on us, trusting that it will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
From Death by Living (The book’s not out yet, but a friend who’s read an advance copy has been posting some tantalizing quotes. This one wanted playing with. Liberties were taken with punctuation.)
“What are the distinguishing marks of joy? Is it an emotional high or something we can produce on demand? No. Joy is something that the Spirit gives, and therefore the flesh cannot manipulate or imitate it. Joy is an intense, deep, and abiding satisfaction in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Joy is praise.”
Nancy Wilson, “Joy Overflowing”
(I have had the bolded sentence taped to my monitor since Nancy first posted this…going on six years. Think maybe in another six or so it’ll start to sink in?)