Archive for the 'Quotes' Category

Richard Sibbes On Being In Christ

God cannot be comfortably thought upon out of Christ our Mediator, in whom he was ‘reconciling the world to himself,’ 1 Cor. 5:19, as being a friend both to God and us [John 15:14], and therefore fit to bring God and the soul together, being a middle person in the Trinity. In Christ, God’s nature becomes lovely to us, and ours to God; otherwise there is an utter enmity betwixt his pure and our impure nature. Christ hath made up the vast gulf between God and us [Romans 5:1]. There is nothing more terrible to think on, than an absolute God out of Christ.

Works of Richard Sibbes, Vol. 1, The Soul’s Conflict

Especially interesting to me is “God’s nature becomes lovely to us, and ours to God”. I’ll attempt to assemble Scripture to portray that, but in reverse order. (I added references in brackets above.)

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God;
Romans 8:7a

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:1-7

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Psalm 84:1-2

Richard Sibbes was an English Puritan preacher (1577-1635).

Luther on Motivation to Pray

This is from Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Trueman.

For Luther, it is not the desire for reading Scripture that fuels prayer; it is reading Scripture that fuels the desire for prayer. That the Christian may not feel like praying is one of the Devil’s tricks played on weak and sinful flesh; the answer is the discipline of reading and meditation, both corporate and individual. One might draw an analogy with marital love: the husband is commanded by God’s Word to love his wife. That command is independent of how the husband feels at any given moment. He is to act in a loving way toward her, and as he does so, his love for her will itself deepen and grow. So it is to be with prayer: reading Scripture shapes people in such a way that their prayer life will deepen and grow as a result.

What is perhaps most noteworthy in all this, of course, is the routine nature of the practice of the Christian life. Nothing Luther proposes in itself is particularly exciting or novel. We live in an age mesmerized both by technique and by the extraordinary. Modern evangelicalism, particularly in America, has been shaped by the kind of revivalism pioneered by Charles Finney in the nineteenth century. Find the right techniques and one will achieve the desired spiritual results; and typically those techniques involve something unusual or impressive. For Luther, this would all have been alien and obnoxious: the Word is powerful in and of itself; and the ways in which the Word works are ordinary and routine.

I may post more quotes from this excellent book in the future.

Luther wrote a letter to his barber called A Simple Way To Pray if you’d like to read more on what he says about prayer. Another good resource is Matthew Henry’s Method for Prayer, which is a website with very brief aspects of prayer and includes Scripture with each one. You can even choose between four Bible translations.

Luther on the Christian Life

Repost: What Does “Grace Upon Grace” Mean?

I just noticed that this has become the most popular post on the blog, most likely because of search engine activity. It has surpassed Complete List of Paul's Prayers. So I thought I’d post it again after three years.

First of all, is it in the Bible? It almost sounds like a catch-phrase of some sort. Why, yes, yes it is in the Bible. You can find it in John 1:16:

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
John 1:16 NASB

That’s the wording I’m familiar with for some reason. KJV has “grace for grace.”

This is according to D.A. Carson (quoting the TNIV), which is consistent with what he wrote in his commentary on John, published almost 20 years earlier. 

GRACE AND LAW

John adds, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given” (1:16). That is exactly what the text says—but what does it mean? It does not mean “grace on top of grace” or “one grace after another,” like Christmas presents piled up under a Christmas tree, one blessing after another. It means we have all received a grace in place of a grace already given. What does that mean? The next verse tells us: “For the law was given through Moses [which takes us back to Exod. 32—34]; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (1:17). In other words, the gift of the law was a gracious thing, a good and wonderful gift from God. But grace and truth par excellence came through Jesus Christ, not in the display of glory to Moses in a cave but in the display of Jesus and the bloody sacrifice on the cross. The law covenant was a gracious gift from God, but now Jesus is going to introduce a new covenant, the ultimate grace and truth. This is a grace that replaces that old grace. It is bound up with a new covenant.

The God Who Is There, pg 116, Chapter 7 — The God Who Becomes a Human Being, published in 2010

Repost – Murmuring and Contentment

This was posted a few years ago. It’s something I still constantly work on.

Murmuring–a half-suppressed or muttered complaint, which may be synonymous with grumbling–is a sin that isn’t mentioned often. Thomas Watson writes about this in The Art of Divine Contentment. I’ve been making an effort to think more positively, or less negatively, but when he uses the word murmur and explains it like he does, it’s very convicting. I can see how this is subtly insidious, and the devil would love to see a lot of it, without our ever really realizing it. I can see how profitable this would be if it could be reduced by working on it with God’s grace.

You that are a murmurer are in the [same] account of [or ‘to’] God as a witch, a sorcerer, as one that deals with the devil: this is a sin of the first magnitude. Murmuring often ends in cursing: Micah’s mother fell to cursing when the talents of silver were taken away, (Jude 17:2) so does the murmurer when a part of his estate is taken away. Our murmuring is the devil’s music; this is that sin which God cannot bear: “how long shall I bear with this evil congregation which murmur against me?” (Num. 14:7) It is a sin which whets the sword against a people: it is a land-destroying sin; “neither murmur ye as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” (1 Cor. 10:10) It is a ripening sin this; without mercy it will hasten England’s funerals. O then how excellent is , which prevents this sin! To be contented, and yet murmur is a : a contented Christian does acquiesce in his present condition, and does not murmur, but admire. Herein appears the excellency of contentation; it is a spiritual antidote against sin.

I attempted to slightly simplify the English.

I think that letting this fester is one way that nice young people can become cranky old people. Not cranky like Carl Trueman, but truly mean and destructively negative people.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,
Philippians 2:14 NIV

Also see: Contentment | Scripture Zealot blog

Being content
something deviating from the proper, normal, or accepted order

Stinging Quote by Sinclair Ferguson

This quote by Sinclair Ferguson, in his book Devoted to God, is one of the more difficult ones I’ve read from a contemporary Christian author. It’s an area of sin that’s often overlooked.

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath,
Colossians 3:8 ESV

Here Paul is speaking about settled hostility [anger]. […]

Paul adds we are to put away wrath. […]

But what if–as one scholar puts it–we translate Paul’s term here as ‘exasperation’? That gets under the skin! If all Paul meant was ‘rage’ we might think of others to whom these words apply, but hardly ourselves. But ‘exasperation’? Respectable impatience? Irritation when things go wrong? Surely these cannot be classed as real sin? But this is to remove God from our perspective. For the root cause of impatience and exasperation lies in our response to the providence by which God superintends our lives. At the end of the day the deep object of our exasperation is the Lord himself. For it is his sovereign purposes and detailed plans, and the way in which he has ordered our steps to bring us into the situation, that has been the catalyst of our exasperation.

So in fact ‘exasperation’ spells spiritual danger. Yet most of us do not think of it as serious sin. In fact we may have said (even with a sense of pride): ‘I am not the kind of person to suffer fools gladly. [Matt. 5:22] I am easily exasperated by them.’ But if so we have become deaf to what we are really saying. For such exasperation is an expression of the warped and distorted old way of life in Adam. It is un-Christlike and needs to be put off. At its heart is a self-exaltation over others, and a dissatisfaction with the way God is ordering and orchestrating the events of our lives.

–Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God

Can you imagine what the more argumentative areas of social media would look like if everyone were to take this message seriously? The tenor would be completely transformed. We can easily slip into group-think when we’re constantly bombarded with people being overly blunt with each other. It can become normal. Even if we don’t perceive our words as very harsh–should the other person, or people watching on take it differently–our words don’t come to rest; they can float into other people’s minds as a curse (Proverbs 26:2).

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Colossians 3:13 NLT

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
2 Timothy 2:23-24

Devoted To God Book Cover

God’s Grace Towards Everyone

This is a great quote by Michael Horton. Many are led to believe that if one becomes a believer, their life will get better. I suppose it depends on what one means by ‘life’.

‘Out of the lavishness displayed in the marvelous variety and richness of creation itself, God continues to pour out his common blessings on all people. Therefore we neither hoard possessions as if God’s gifts were scarce nor deny ourselves pleasures as if God were stingy. Believers and unbelievers alike share in the common joys of childbirth and childhood, friendship and romance, marriage and family. Unlike life under the old covenant theocracy, there is no guarantee in this time between Christ’s two advents that the lives of Christians will go better than those of non-Christians. The promise, rather, is that even calamities cannot frustrate God’s salvation of his elect, but, on the contrary, are turned to our ultimate good. [Romans 8:28-29]

It is always dangerous to interpret one’s temporal circumstances as a sign either of God’s favor or of his displeasure. […] However, believers have no right to God’s common grace any more than they do to his saving grace. God remains free to Show compassion on whomever he will, even to give breath, health, prosperity, and friends to those who breathe threats against him. The psalmist never resolves this paradox philosophically, but eschatologically—that is, by entering God’s sanctuary and recognizing that the temporal pleasures of the ungodly conceal their ultimate doom, while the saints’ temporal struggles conceal their ultimate glory: “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. . . . My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:24, 26).’

–Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, pg 352

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 2 of 2

Here are eleven quotes from his book on Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. This is the best book I’ve read on prayer so far. It’s something I like to read about regularly.

[Prayer is] A personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God.

What is prayer, then, in its fullest sense? Prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through his Word and his grace, which eventually becomes a full encounter with him.

It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances. … He does not see prayer as merely a way to get things from God but as a way to get more of God himself. Prayer is a striving to ‘take hold of God’ (Isa. 64:7) the way in ancient times people took hold of the cloak of a great man as they appealed to him, or the way in modern times we embrace someone to show love.

Our prayers should arise out of immersion in the Scripture. [We] speak only to the degree we are spoken to. … The wedding of the Bible and prayer anchors your life down in the real God.

We must be able to existentially access our doctrinal convictions. If doctrinal soundness is not accompanied by heart experience, it will eventually lead to nominal Christianity—that is, in name only—and eventually to nonbelief. The irony is that many conservative Christians, most concerned about conserving true and sound doctrine, neglect the importance of prayer and make no effort to experience God, and this can lead to the eventual loss of sound doctrine. … Christianity without real experience of God will eventually be no Christianity at all.)

God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows.

If God’s words are his personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God.

Prayer is the way that truth is worked into your heart to create new instincts, reflexes, and dispositions.

If I am in denial about my own weakness and sin, there will be a concomitant blindness to the greatness and glory of God.

We should remember Augustine’s letter to Anicia. There he says, in short, that you should not begin to pray for all you want until you realize that in God you have all you need. That is, unless we know that God is the one thing we truly need, our petitions and supplications may become, simply, forms of worry and lust. We can use prayer as just another way to pursue many things that we want too much.

It takes pride to be anxious, to know how my life should go.

“we should lay before God, as part of our prayer, the reasons why we think that what we ask for is the best thing.” This is an insightful and practical idea. [Packer’s ‘arguing with God in prayer’. –Packer and Nystrom, Praying: Finding Our Way] … This means embedding theological reasoning in our prayers.

Also see: Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 1

Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 1 of 2

Timothy Keller wrote a book entitled Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. The next post will have quotes from that book.

There is an excellent interview with him at Desiring God: 10 Questions on Prayer with Tim Keller.

If you don’t have time, or want to read my mumbling, I have a few quotes from it that I think are important.

I read a book some years ago by Eugene Peterson called Answering God. He makes a strong case that we only pray well if we are immersed in Scripture. We learn our prayer vocabulary the way children learn their vocabulary — that is, by getting immersed in language and then speaking it back. And he said the prayer book of the Bible is the Psalms, and our prayer life would be immeasurably enriched if we were immersed in the Psalms.

Also comparing our prayers to Paul’s.

I’ve been reading more and more about using the Bible as our prayer language or ‘phrase vocabulary’, if there is such a thing. Matthew Henry wrote about it, and I see many others who mention it. I find that many Christians conform to each other more than Scripture. I’ll leave out the examples for now.

I’m concerned about approaches to reading the Bible that say: read the Bible, but don’t think about theology, just let God speak to you. I’m concerned about that, because God speaks to you in the Bible, after you do the good exegesis and you figure out what the text is saying. Martin Luther believed you need to take the truth that you have learned through good exegesis, and once you understand that, you need to learn how to warm your heart with it — get it into your heart.

This is scary, yet at the same time maybe a little extreme. Certainly God speaks to us without us having to do exegesis on every verse of Scripture we read. On the other hand, the ‘just me and the Holy Spirit’ or ‘what it means to me’ attitude can lead people astray. It might also be a bit much to expect people who are Biblically illiterate to not just read the Bible, but be expected to understand it well. I think that’s why reading books is so important, in addition to getting teaching from preaching and Bible studies.

Without meditation, you tend to go right into petition and supplication, and you do little adoration or confession. When your heart is warm, then you start to praise God and then you confess. When your heart is cold, which it is if you just study the Bible and then jump to prayer, you are much more likely to spend your time on your prayer list and not really engage your heart.

This is interesting because I feel like I often meditate when praising and thanking, possibly confessing too.
I think it’s when I’m praising especially, that God is often directing my prayers in a Scriptural direction.

Again, this is from 10 Questions on Prayer with Tim Keller

Timothy Keller

Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 2.

What Did Moses Do So Wrong?

On that same day the Lord told Moses, “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”
Deuteronomy 32:48-52

What did Moses do so wrong in the Desert of Zin that God wouldn’t let him go into the land of Canaan like the rest of the Israelites he was leading? For 40 years? And in the beginning of it all, God spent a chapter and a half convincing Moses to lead the people in the first place. (Exodus 3-4 — I’m no scholar, but a chapter and a half is like, a lot.) All I could find in plain sight is that he struck the rock when that isn’t what God explicitly stated.

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
Numbers 10:7-12

In his commentary on Deuteronomy, Daniel Block addresses this, with the help of another quote.

Aaron Wildavsky comments eloquently:

At Meribah Moses substitutes force for faith. In his hand the rod reduces a divinely ordered act to a trickster’s shenanigans. But the import runs deeper. If Moses’ strongest leadership quality has been his ability to identify with the people, then the lack of faith at Meribah is a double one. Moses not only distances himself from God by doubting the adequacy of his work but also distances himself from the people by assuming power that was God’s. Tired of the incessant murmurings, Moses taunts the people just before he strikes the rock: “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water from this rock?” (Num 20:10).

Instead of exhorting a stiffnecked people to greater faith, Moses condescends to their plea with an arrogant jeer. His words imply acceptance of the people’s evil (separating himself from it) rather than hope of overcoming it. “Ye rebels” assumes very much what Aaron had presumed in trying to rationalize fashioning the Golden Calf. At that point, Aaron had lamely pleaded for Moses’ sympathy: “thou knowest thy people, that they are set on mischief” (Exod. 32:22). Like Aaron’s defense then, Moses’ “Hear now, ye rebels” [Listen, you rebels] now becomes its own accusation. Similarly Moses taunts the people with rebelliousness, yet is himself rebelling when he smites the rock without authority—the authority God alone can provide. Perhaps, after all, Moses does have more authority than he, or any man, can handle.

Block also mentions that this can be a warning for leaders.

This is the type of thing that’s bothersome to us if we’re thinking soberly, but we can also believe by faith that God is good (Num 1:7) and a God of justice (Deut 32:4).

Deuteronomy

Also see:
Why I Love Deuteronomy | Monergism

Christ’s Suffering Is Beyond Our Comprehension

Regarding the suffering of Jesus, I often find myself thinking, ‘But did he have to deal with… (this, that or the other thing that he didn’t directly experience)?’ This doesn’t matter, because he suffered virtually infinitely more than we could ever suffer, in any way, no matter what. He had to. That was a revelation for me which is something God brought up while praising him. There may be some people who might comprehend his physical suffering, but much worse is the infinite aspect of it–being punished for all of the sins and sinfulness of all time (Rev 7:9), and being forsaken by his own infinitely loving Father, all after living a perfect life as a human being.

This not only demonstrates that he can identify with the depth of all of our suffering, but much more importantly helps us to begin–to whatever infinitesimally small degree–to comprehend what Christ did to atone for our sin (Rom 3:25) and bring us peace with God (Rom 5:1).

This reminded me of some concepts in The Person of Christ by John Owen (see quotes below). He writes about how no man could atone for the sins of other men. Just looking at the obedience Jesus learned–I know that I would be crushed if I had to deny myself the way he did during his perfectly lived life, which was necessary in order to be a perfect sacrificial lamb. I’m having a hard time just dealing with the relatively small losses that I’ve had, and not being able to embrace God’s will for me in those areas.

The recovery of mankind was not to be effected by any one who was a mere man, and no more, though it were absolutely necessary that a man he should be; he must be God also.

It was necessary, that an obedience should be yielded to God and his law, which should give and bring more glory and honour unto his holiness, than there was dishonour reflected on it, by the disobedience of us all.

Such an obedience could never be yielded to God by any mere creature whatever; not by any one who was only a man, however dignified and exalted in state and condition above all others. For to suppose that God should be pleased and glorified with the obedience of any one man, more than he was displeased and dishonoured by the disobedience of Adam, and all his posterity, is to fancy things that have no ground in reason or justice, or any way suitable to divine wisdom and holiness. He who undertakes this work must have somewhat that is divine and infinite to put an infinite value on his obedience; that is, he must be God.

The people to be freed, redeemed, and brought to glory, were great [in number] and innumerable; ‘a great multitude which no man can number;’ Rev. 7:9. The sins which they were to be delivered, ransomed, and justified from, for which a propitiation was to be made, were next to absolutely infinite. They wholly surpass the comprehension of any created understanding, or the compass of imagination. And in every one of them there was something reductively infinite, as committed against an infinite majesty. The miseries which hereon all these persons were obnoxious to, were infinite, because eternal; or all that evil which our nature is capable to suffer, was by them all eternally to be undergone.

The Person of Christ by John Owen

Why Deuteronomy Is Important

Every book of the Bible is important. This is a post about some reasons why Deuteronomy is important.

I’ve recently been reading the commentary on Deuteronomy (The NIV Application Commentary) by Daniel Block in a devotional sort of way. I’ve wanted to read a commentary on Deuteronomy for a long time because of it being theologically rich, along with having a lot of questions I wanted answered, one of which I’ll write about in another post. I found this one on sale in Kindle format for under $5 (along with the commentary on Job, which was excellent).

I came across a couple of quotes in the commentary on why it’s so foundational.

Although readers of the Old Testament often assume that expressions translated as “the law of the LORD” refer to the Pentateuch as a whole, the default view should rather be that “the Torah of Yahweh” and “the Torah of Moses” refer particularly to the book of Deuteronomy. This book is the heart of the Torah that the priests were to teach and model, in which psalmists delighted, to which the prophets appealed, by which faithful kings ruled, and by which righteous citizens lived (Ps. 1).

This was the book—long neglected—that Josiah’s officials found in the temple and which provided the theological impetus for his wide-ranging reforms (2 Kings 22–23); this was the book that Ezra read to the community of returned exiles on the occasion of the Festival of Booths (Neh. 8). And as the light of Old Testament prophecy was going out, this was the book to which Malachi called his people to return (Mal. 4:4). The book of Deuteronomy provides the theological base for virtually the entire Old (and New) Testament and is the paradigm for much of its literary style. Luke 16:19–31 and John 5:19–47 illustrate the enormous stature of Moses in the tradition of Judaism at the turn of the ages. In the Torah the Jews heard Moses’ prophetic voice, and in the Torah they read what he wrote.

Later on, Block writes:

At the theological level, the Song [of Moses–or of Yahweh, as Block would prefer to call it–Deut. 32] is unparalleled within the book of Deuteronomy, if not the entire Old Testament, for its concentrated but extraordinarily lofty theology.

The Shema (Deut. 6:4) is contained there, and the verse after it, which Jesus quotes as being the greatest commandment.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Deuteronomy

Also see:
Deuteronomy and the New Testament | Scripture Zealot blog

Intimacy and Awe of Scripture

Those times when I fail to find any intimacy or awe in the text [of Scripture] (which are far more frequent than I care to admit), I find three primary culprits: I’m not reading it often, I’m not inviting the Author into my reading, or I’m not bothering to do what I read. When any of one of those three occurs, the Bible quickly becomes a dusty textbook. For those who find no joy in the Bible, I offer the following suggestions (and for those who don’t care to, I offer the following challenges): (1) Try “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so,” like the Bereans did.1 (2) Ask with the psalmist, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”2 (3) Take James’s advice to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”3 Read it, ask the Author for a sense of wonder, do what it says, and watch what happens.

–Thaddeus J. Williams, Reflect: Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History

1Acts 17:11
2Psalm 119:18
3James 1:22-25

I’ve found the benefits of reading it often after I started reading more of the Bible more consistently. Reading our Bibles often helps us to: 1.) Develop the habit of reading daily (Acts 17:11). 2.) Enables us to trust the Bible more (Acts 17:11 again). 3.) Allows the Spirit to speak to us and influence us (John 14:26, Romans 12:2, Romans 15:4, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Among many other things.

Being Content In All Circumstances

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10

Contentment is a terribly difficult subject for those who’s lives aren’t what they’d like them to be. The Puritans wrote some great books on this subject, including The Crook in the Lot, The Art of Divine Contentment, and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (quoted from below).

‘O if I had it again, I would do better than I did before.’ But this may be but a temptation. You should rather think, ‘What does God require of me in the circumstances I am now brought into?’ You should labor to bring your heart to quiet and contentment by setting your soul to work in the duties of your present condition. And the truth is, I know nothing more effective for quieting a Christian soul and getting contentment than this, setting your heart to work in the duties of the immediate circumstances that you are now in, and taking heed of your thoughts about other conditions as a mere temptation.

I cannot better compare the folly of those men and women who think they will get contentment by musing about other circumstances than to the way of children: perhaps they have climbed a hill and look a good way off and see another hill, and they think if they were on the top of that, they would be able to touch the clouds with their fingers; but when they are on the top of that hill, alas, they are as far from the clouds as they were before. So it is with many who think, If I were in such circumstances, then I should have contentment; and perhaps they get into circumstances, and they are as far from contentment as before. But then they think that if they were in other circumstances, they would be contented, but when they have got into those circumstances, they are still as far from contentment as before. No, no, let me consider what is the duty of my present circumstances, and content my heart with this, and say, ‘Well, though I am in a low position, yet I am serving the counsels of God in those circumstances where I am; it is the counsel of God that has brought me into these circumstances that I am in, and I desire to serve the counsel of God in these circumstances.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Monergism Ebook Edition

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

Book Cover

Grace and Grace in Prayer

In this manner these eminently wise and holy men [David and Daniel] thought themselves highly honoured in being permitted to contribute, by their prayers, to the execution of the divine purpose.

–Herman Witsius, Sacred Dissertations on The Lord’s Prayer

I see intercessory prayer partly as participating in God’s work. We can sit on the sidelines, or be active in bringing about God’s will in other people’s lives.

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Ephesians 6:18-20

With as little truth is it alleged that prayers are an insult to the goodness of God. We do not press them on the notice of God as the meritorious causes of the blessings he bestows, but view them rather as the marks and consequences of divine grace acting on our minds. The knowledge we have of what is good and desirable; the desire we have to obtain it, and the expression of that desire, accompanied by proper dispositions towards God, are themselves gifts which are usually followed up by another gift, the granting to us of the things desired, according to the saying in the Psalms, (Ps. 81:10) “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” The gifts of God become usually the more delightful to us in consequence of our obtaining them by our prayers. We then find that they came to us not by chance, but from the love of our heavenly Father, who keeps his ear open to our prayers. Hence arise comfort, joy, and filial love; Ps. 116:1, “I love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplication.” Meanwhile, it is certain that God bestows on us many blessings for which prayers have not been offered, which we did not even feel that we needed, and by his grace anticipates our application. [Eph. 3:20]

–Herman Witsius, Sacred Dissertations on The Lord’s Prayer

I suppose you could call this grace upon grace, although not meant quite in the same way John put it in his gospel.

God blesses our time in the Bible by showing us and reminding us of his will as revealed in Scripture. Also, I find that prayer can be a way of meditating on God, especially praise and thanksgiving. God shows us ‘new’ (but Scriptural) facets of his character and what he’s done, and things to thank him for that he’s done for us individually that we might not yet have thought of. By that grace of insight, we are further blessed in growing in our life with him. Let’s remember to always ask him for these things.

Order all my ways by thy holy Word
and make thy commandments the joy
of my heart,
that by them I may have happy converse
with thee.

–Christian Love from Valley of Vision

Also see:
Complete List of Paul's Prayers | Scripture Zealot blog

Union with Christ

Martin Lloyd-Jones in his Exposition of Ephesians 2 says:

There are two ways of looking at this great statement [union with Christ]. There are some people who take a purely objective view of it. They think of it exclusively in terms of our position, or our standing, in the presence of God. What I mean is that they think of it as being something that, in a sense, is already true of us in Christ, but is not true of us in practice. […] They say that it is true of us by faith now, but actually only by faith. It is not real in us now: it is entirely in Him. But it will be made real in us in the future. Now that is what I call the purely objective view of this statement. And of course as a statement, it is perfectly true, except that it does not go far enough.

This is the way I’ve always envisioned it. Union with Christ is not only our position in Christ. It’s something that changes us, feeds us, something we meditate on, something that hopefully affects how we act as we live in union with him. If two people are married, there is usually a relationship that goes on because of it, not just a legal document that was enacted at a ceremony. It should also impel us to act in a godly manner, because he is in us and we are in him. (Acts 17:28, Ephesians 2:22, Colossians 2:6-7)

But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
1 John 2:5-6

Later he continues:

“I am the vine, ye are the branches” (John 15:5). The union between the branches and the vine is not mechanical: it is vital and organic. They are bound together: the same sap, the same life is in the stock as in the branches. But that is not the only illustration used. At the end of the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul says that the union between a Christian and the Lord Jesus Christ is comparable to the union of the various parts of the body with the whole body, and especially with the head. […]

All these blessings that we enjoy become ours because we are joined to Christ in this double manner: in the forensic, federal, covenant manner, but also in this vital and living manner. We can therefore claim that what has happened to Christ has happened to us. This is the marvel and mystery of our salvation, and it is the most glorious thing we can ever contemplate! The Son of God, the Second Person in the eternal Godhead, came down from heaven to earth; He took unto Him human nature, He joined human nature unto Himself, He shared human nature; and as the result of His work we human beings share His life and are in Him, and are participators in all the benefits that come from Him.

In another excellent article, Michael Horton writes:

Regeneration, or the new birth, is the commencement of this union. God brings this connection and baptism even before there is any sign of life–“while you were dead…he made you alive” (Eph.2:1). […] Through union with Christ, we receive his righteousness imputed (justification) as well as his righteousness imparted (sanctification).

Also see:

Union with Christ