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crying woman's eye, black and white image, low key, selective focus Richard Baxter, in A Christian Directory (Ligonier, 1990), page 140, lists seven benefits of looking by faith to the Lord, as to no other, for our deepest delight.  Updating the language a little:

1.  Delight in God will prove that we know him and love him and that we are prepared for his kingdom, for all who delight in him shall enjoy him.

2.  Prosperity, that is, the small addition of earthly things, will not easily corrupt us or transport us.

3.  Adversity, that is, the withholding of earthly delights, will not excessively grieve us or easily deject us.

4.  We will receive more profit from a sermon or book or conversation that we delight in than other people, who don’t delight in them, will receive from many such opportunities.

5.  All our service will be sweet to ourselves and acceptable to God; if we delight in him, he certainly delights in us.

6.  We will have a continual feast within, to sweeten all the crosses of our lives and to provide us with joy greater than our sorrow in our saddest condition.

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Ray Ortlund

Is your church racist?

December 2, 2015<!––>

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You are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28

He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.  Ephesians 2:14

Christ is all, and in all.  Colossians 3:11

I write to my white brothers.  And I want to ask you to consider this searching question that I also ask myself.  Is your church racist?

At one level, the obvious answer is No.  People who resonate with TGC tend to align their convictions with the Bible.  So the verses quoted above most of us will affirm strongly.  The photograph above most of us will find disturbing.  It is so blatant.  But our strong agreement in these obvious ways only makes the question more worthy of conscientious reflection: Is your church racist?  Is mine?

Here are some diagnostic questions I ask myself, to press into deeper insight.  Is your church a white church where black people are welcome, or is your church a Christian church where all who love Jesus are equally accepted and equally influential?  Are the black people in your church receiving and adapting to your church’s culture, or are they, with you, shaping and reshaping your church’s culture?  Are there two circles of belonging in your church?  Is there an inner circle of “us” and an outer circle of “them” — the latter belonging too, but not in the same way, not with the same embrace, the same identity, the same “us”?  Does the “us-ness” in your church need to be broken and re-created, according to the parameters of the one gospel for all sinners who are standing equally on the same footing before the one Savior of all?  Or are the unspoken ground rules for the outer circle more demanding than the ground rules for the inner circle?  Do the outer-circle members have something to prove that the inner-circle members don’t have to prove?  Is there any emotional aloofness dividing your church, or are you loving every member with the same emotional intensity?  Finally, are the black members of your church on the same paths of growth and discipleship such that they too are on their way toward becoming leaders, deacons, elders and pastors?  Or is it inconceivable that you could receive, rejoice over and submit to a black lead pastor in your church?

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by Ray Ortlund

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“The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us [nor, I would add today, postmodernism or materialistic consumerism or visceral sensualism or whatever].  All these are dangerous but not the primary threat.  The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.

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Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  John 6:37

“But I am a great sinner, you say.  ‘But I will never cast you out,’ says Christ.  But I am an old sinner, you say.  ‘But I will never cast you out,’ says Christ.  But I am a hard-hearted sinner, you say.  ‘But I will never cast you out,’ says Christ.  But I am a backsliding sinner, you say.  ‘But I will never cast you out,’ says Christ.  But I have served Satan all my days, you say.  ‘But I will never cast you out,’ says Christ.  But I have sinned against light, you say.  ‘But I will never cast you out,’ says Christ.  But I have sinned against mercy, you say.  ‘But I will never cast you out,’ says Christ.  But I have nothing good to bring with me, you say.  ‘But I will never cast you out,’ says Christ.”

John Bunyan, Works (London, 1861), I:279-280.

What would it be like?

November 25, 2014

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I condemn looting and burning.  But many people not looting and burning are in anguish today.  And I want to say something to those who don’t understand that anguish.

Some years ago I went through the experience of being falsely accused in a significant way.  In that setting there arose around me an aura of suspicion, a guilty-until-proven-innocent bias, an environment in which even my reasonable self-defense was construed as self-righteous denial and therefore further evidence against me, a Kafka-esque hell of fingers pointed in a frenzy of merciless judgments, and facts didn’t matter, truth didn’t matter, the Bible didn’t matter.  The only thing that would suffice and satisfy was my execution.

One of the many benefits of that experience was the moment when this thought occurred to me: “Oh, so this is what it’s like to get lynched.”

But what would it be like to live my whole lifetime in that environment?

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