Classic and contemporary excerpts.

Passing The Buck

Revolutions have never lightened the burden of tyranny; they have only shifted it to another shoulder.

George Bernard Shaw in

Man and Superman

Dry Rot And Worms

An English vicar with his mind on decaying buildings announced one day that the offertory about to be taken would be devoted in its entirety to the extermination of dry rot in the pulpit and worms in the pew. Inadvertently he had touched a nerve. Not infrequently the rot in the pulpit is so dry that it causes the people to wriggle wearily through the dark, subterranean passages of thought without any real sense of direction or hope of arrival. Whether the problem be worms in pews or owls on tombstones, we need to ask, “How is it possible for a message as electrifying as the Christian gospel to be presented in such a way that it is greeted with something less than euphoria and responded to with something less than enthusiasm?”

D. Stuart Briscoe in

A Passion for Preaching

(comp. by David Olford)

Love’S Motive

Whenever people expend themselves, they want results. If they lay down life, they want someone’s life raised up. If they empty themselves, they want someone to be filled. They want their sufferings to bear fruit. If this doesn’t happen, they’re tempted to give up. The refusal of the gift quickly becomes a reason not to offer it. Instead of leaning into resistance with love, they’ll back off and say, “Well, we tried.”

However, the motive for offering love is not that it be successful. Christians want response, but they are not bound to it. They sacrifice for others because they are the recipients of sacrifice. They are the current generation of a long line of broken bodies and shed blood. This gift Christians have received, they freely give. They join the living history in enacting the dream of God, [which] is a people sustained and transformed by mutual sacrificial love.

Fr. John Shea in U.S. Catholic

(March 1990)

Wrong Starting Point

Our normal, ordinary view of salvation is hopelessly and ridiculously inadequate. Our trouble is that we always start with ourselves instead of starting with God. Instead of going to the Bible and looking at its revelation and discovering there what salvation means, I start with myself and certain things that I want and desire, certain benefits that I always want to enjoy in this life and in this world. I want forgiveness of sins; I want peace of conscience and of mind; I want enjoyment and happiness; I want to be delivered from certain sins; I want guidance; I want this and that; and my whole conception of salvation is reduced to that level.… The most wonderful thing of all is not that my sins have been forgiven, nor that I may enjoy certain experiences and blessings as a Christian. The thing that should astound me … is that I am a child of God, one of God’s people.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in

Safe in the World

Perilous Boasting

Trouble always comes whenever we begin to take credit for any of the gifts of the Spirit, be they gifts of prayer, tongues, prophecy, art, science.

Madeleine L’Engle in

The Irrational Season

Elusive Definition

Faith is nothing at all tangible. It is simply believing God; and, like sight, is nothing apart from its object. You might as well shut your eyes and look inside to see whether you have sight, as to look inside to discover if you have faith.

Hannah Whithall Smith in

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life

Wrong-headed spontaneity

“Discipline” has become a dirty word in our culture.… I know I am speaking heresy in many circles, but spontaneity is greatly overvalued. The “spontaneous” person who shrugs off the need for discipline is like the farmer who went out to gather the eggs. As he walked across the farmyard toward the hen house, he noticed the pump was leaking. So he stopped to fix it. It needed a new washer, so he set off to the barn to get one. But on the way he saw that the hayloft needed straightening, so he went to fetch the pitchfork. Hanging next to the pitchfork was a broom with a broken handle. “I must make a note to myself to buy a new broom handle the next time I get into town,” he thought.…

By now it is clear the farmer is not going to get his eggs gathered, nor is he likely to accomplish anything else he sets out to do. He is utterly, gloriously spontaneous, but he is hardly free. He is, if anything, a prisoner to his unbridled spontaneity.

The fact of the matter is that discipline is the only way to freedom; it is the necessary context for spontaneity.

John Guest in

Only a Prayer Away

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