Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

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Faithful Unto Death: Do you know the story of Polycarp?

Biography, history, documentaries – true stories have always captivated me, whether it was studying an individual in school or reading in my free time.

I was reminded of this again over the last few days, as I prepared to teach Church History for a group of indigenous pastors on an upcoming trip.

There is a wealth of wisdom to be found in the biographical stories of people who lived in previous centuries.

Modern man tends to live with a very short attention span and lacks an appreciation for the hundreds (if not thousands) of years that have gone before us (30, 60, or 90 years seems like ancient history to many people).

Do you know the story of Polycarp, the aged Bishop of Smyrna?

Here’s a brief overview of his life:

Polycarp lived in the first and second centuries (69 – 156 AD).

He lived during the most formative era of the church, at the end of the age of the apostles, when the church was making the critical transition to the second generation of believers.

Tradition has it that Polycarp was personally discipled by the apostle John and he was appointed as bishop of Smyrna (what is now modern-day Izmir, Turkey). He served as Bishop for 50 years.

His only existing writing is “The Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians.” (110 AD)

In this letter we see a deep pastoral concern for the Philippian believers, as well as great familiarity with the New Testament documents. He urged faithfulness in the face of persecution.

His Letter to the Philippians was a significant foundation of early Christian literature, establishing the role of the Apostle Paul and referencing the existence of other texts of the New Testament.

When Polycarp was 86, the proconsul tried to get him to renounce Christ by saying,

“I have wild animals here; I will throw you to them if you do not repent.”

“Call them,” Polycarp replied. “It is unthinkable for me to repent from what is good to turn to what is evil.”

The proconsul then said, “If you despise the animals, I will have you burned.”

To which Polycarp said, “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and is then extinguished, but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.”

Finally, the proconsul said,

“Take the oath [i.e. worship Caesar alone and renounce Christ], and I shall release you. Curse Christ!”

Polycarp responded,

“Eighty and six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

Tradition has it that Polycarp died by being bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to consume his body.

Polycarp was martyred for his faith. His execution was recorded by eyewitnesses.

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword.

They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:35-40 NIV)

For Further Reference:
https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/study/module/polycarp
https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/incontext/article/polycarp-testimony

Discipline and Grace: The Path Toward Christlikeness

At Global Training Network’s annual All-Staff Leadership Gathering last week, I shared about one particular author whose writing has profoundly shaped my understanding of what it looks like to live out the Christian life.

That author is the late Jerry Bridges, who served with the Navigators ministry for over 50 years.

In 1980, I read my first book by Bridges, entitled The Pursuit of Holiness.

Over a decade later, I read Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love.

In 1994, Bridges released a blend of the two above-mentioned books entitled The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness.

This particular book received the ECPA Christian Book Award in 1995.

Here are a few quotes from the book on the role discipline and grace play in our growth toward Christlikeness…

“The Holy Spirit’s work in transforming us more and more into the likeness of Christ is called sanctification. Our involvement and cooperation with Him in His work is what I call the pursuit of holiness. That expression is not original with me. Rather, it is taken from Hebrews 12:14 – ‘Make every effort [literally: pursue] . . . to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.’

The pursuit of holiness requires sustained and vigorous effort. It allows for no indolence, no lethargy, no halfhearted commitment, and no laissez-faire attitude toward even the smallest sins.”

Then Bridges goes on to link the concept of grace with our growth in godliness…

“At the same time, however, the pursuit of holiness must be anchored in the grace of God; otherwise it is doomed to failure. That statement probably strikes many people as strange. A lot of Christians seem to think that the grace of God and the vigorous pursuit of holiness are antithetical – that is, in direct and unequivocal opposition to one another. . .. Grace and the personal discipline required to pursue holiness, however, are not opposed to one another. In fact, they go hand in hand.”

All of us need God’s grace and mercy every moment of every day.

Bridges wrote…

“I have read that every time the great nineteenth-century preacher Charles Spurgeon stepped into the pulpit, he did so with the silent prayer, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ (Luke 18:13 KJV).”

“Regardless of our performance, we are always dependent on God’s grace, His undeserved favor to those who deserve His wrath. . .. Does the fact that God has forgiven us all our sins mean that He no longer cares whether we obey or disobey? Not at all.”

“If God’s blessings were dependent on our performance, they would be meager indeed. Even our best works are shot through with sin – with varying degrees of impure motives and lots of imperfect performance. We are always, to some degree, looking out for ourselves, guarding our flanks, protecting our egos. It is because we do not realize the utter depravity of the principle of sin that remains in us and stains everything we do, that we entertain any notion of earning God’s blessings [apart from His grace] through our obedience.”

Then Bridges writes this brief statement that has become one of his most popular quotes…

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are
beyond the reach of God’s grace.

And your best days are never so good that you are
beyond the need of God’s grace.”

Loving Others Well in the Midst of a Watching World

“Nothing discredits the Christian gospel like churches that don’t look like Christ. If we become a religious version of the ugly partisanship already rampant in the world, we are screaming at the top of our lungs, ‘Jesus isn’t real, and we’re here to prove it!’  The ‘only’ point of being a church is, by His grace and for His glory, to represent Jesus as a convincing, satisfying alternative to this world. So much is at stake in every church!”
(Ray Ortlund)

“How are you doing loving the people God has put in your life? We don’t need to be looking for new people to love. We just need to start really loving the ones God has already given us.”
(Bill Hull)

“The purpose of the discipleship process is to create loving, Christlike people who live for others. Disciples are not trophies to be admired; we are servants who are to love people like Christ does.”
(Bill Hull)

“New life [in Christ] makes being saved attractive. People are drawn to beauty.”
(Bill Hull)

Jesus said in John 13:34-35“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 5:14, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Here’s a suggestion for all of us:

Let’s not waste time thinking about someone else we know who needs this message, let’s only focus on the person staring back at us in the mirror.

I would suggest that that project alone could keep us busy for the rest of our lives.

Quotes to Note – January Edition

“The work God needs to do in you matters far more than the work you think He needs to do through you.”
(Sam Allberry)

“If you’re familiar with Bach, you may know that at the bottom of his manuscripts, he wrote the initials, “S. D. G.” Soli Deo Gloria, which means “glory to God alone.” What you may not know is that at the top of his manuscripts he wrote, ‘Jesu Juva,’ which is Latin for ‘Jesus, help!’ There’s no better prayer for the beginning of an adventure.”
(Andrew Peterson, from Adorning the Dark)

“There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”
(St. Romero)

“Having received such grace, Christians have a compelling reason to be remarkably gracious, inviting, and endearing toward others, including and especially those who disagree with us.”
(Tim Keller)

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

“Few things are more refreshing than a Christian who’s quick to assume the best.”
(Ray Ortlund)

“Faithfulness today is the best preparation for the demands of tomorrow…. Can we wholeheartedly surrender to God, leaving quietly with him all the “what ifs” and “but what abouts”? Will we truthfully say to Him, “Anything You choose for me, Lord – to have to be, to do, or to suffer. I am at Your orders. I have no agenda of my own”? It comes down to Trust and Obey, ‘for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus,’ as the old gospel song goes.”
(Elisabeth Elliot, from Secure in the Everlasting Arms)

“New-Year’s resolves, apart from the formation of new habits, likely will not become new-year realities. New habits that really matter don’t just typically thread into your current ones. They must displace the old. According to Groopman, ‘the key lies not in breaking a habit through willpower but in replacing one habit with another.’”
(David Mathis)

“At the root of insecurity — the anxiety over how others think of us — is pride. This pride is an excessive desire for others to see us as impressive and admirable. Insecurity is the fear that instead they will see us as deficient. Insecure pride is a dangerous fear because insecurity can lead to great disobedience.”
(Jon Bloom)

“To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.”
(Tim Keller)

“A rightly oriented Christianity causes us to care not only about ourselves and our families but also about our communities, cities, and society generally.”
(Matt Perman)

“Christian giving is to be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, not by self-congratulation.”
(John Stott)

“Serving God is not about impressing the crowd, crafting a brand, or building an empire… The work of God is not about the fireworks of human talent. It’s about faithfulness to a divine call. It’s not about showmanship but showing up, every day, determined to follow Jesus.”
(Timothy Dalrymple)

As you read through Scripture this year, don’t forget…

If you don’t have a plan to read through the Scriptures in 2020 yet, can I make a recommendation?

I have found the Five-Day Reading Schedule to be one of the most effective.

Why do I like it and recommend it?

  1. It guides you through the entire Bible in one year. If you invest approximately 20 minutes a day (five days a week), you will read Genesis to Revelation in one year.
  2. You only read five days a week – with two days off (allowing you to catch up for those missed days).
  3. The schedule is laid out in a (generally) chronological order, which means (for example): you will read the Psalms at the appropriate moments in the life of David and the books of Kings and Chronicles are read in harmony.
  4. And finally, this plan doesn’t start until the week of January 5 (so you’re not behind when you begin next week)!

Click here to download the free PDF schedule.

As we read and study Scripture, we must never forget that the goal of all Bible reading (as well as listening, studying, memorizing, etc.) is application to our daily lives so that we become more and more transformed into the image of Jesus.

In other words, Bible knowledge is not the end – rather it is the means to the end, which is becoming more like Jesus in all of our thoughts, attitudes and actions.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the story of the wise man and foolish man (Matthew 7:24-27). Both men heard God’s Word – but only one put into practice what he learned – and thus his life was built upon a “rock” (as opposed to sand) and withstood the storms that life threw at him.

Chuck Swindoll said it this way:

“What is a sign of [spiritual] maturity? Practicing what you hear. Through practice you become mature. You see, it’s one thing to grow old in the Lord, but it’s another thing to grow up in the Lord.

There are many people cruising from church to church, from Bible conference to Bible conference, filling notebook after notebook, wearing out Bible after Bible, who are still some of the crankiest, fussiest, grumpiest, most irresponsible people you meet. Why? Because they do not practice the things they hear.

This is the whole thrust of the book of James. He wants you to put to the test what you claim to believe – by doing it. A mature person is one who is involved in practicing on a regular, consistent basis what he hears and what he takes in. Just being exposed to Bible instruction won’t solve problems.”

James said “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)

And then he goes on to say in verse 25…

“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25)

Finally, let the words of John Stott encourage your heart as you begin another year of reading and studying Scripture:

“We must daily soak ourselves in the Scriptures. We must not just study, as through a microscope, the linguistic minutiae of a few verses, but take our telescope and scan the wide expanses of God’s Word, assimilating its grand theme of divine sovereignty in the redemption of mankind.

‘It is blessed,’ wrote Charles Spurgeon, ‘to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in scriptural language, and your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord, so that your blood is bibline and the very essence of the Bible flows from you.”

I pray you have a wonderful 2020 as you personally engage with Scripture and seek to apply it to your life.

Happy New Year!

Top 10 Quotes from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

One of the most influential authors in my life has been C.S. Lewis. The first Lewis book that I read back in high school was The Screwtape Letters. The second (not long after) was Mere Christianity. Over the years I have returned often to this small, yet incredibly profound book.

We live in a world where fewer and fewer people read books. We read articles, clips, “quotes” 😉 and other small snippets of thought here and there. But we rarely (if ever) immerse and submerse ourselves in a really good, thought-provoking book.

Here are a few articles that talk about the importance of reading books:

“Why (More Than Ever Before) You Need to Read Deeply” by Greg Bailey

“How to Read 100 Books in a Year” by Srinivas Rao

“Why Some People Become Lifelong Readers” by Joe Pinsker

My hope is that sharing these quotes will “whet your appetite” to read the whole book – with pen or highlighter in hand – marking up words and sentences and paragraphs that stimulate your mind and arrest your heart.

On a side note, the reading of Scripture should be first and foremost in all of our lives (as I wrote about here a few weeks ago).

In the meantime, reading these “top 10 quotes” from Mere Christianity will take you less than five minutes. Enjoy.


“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.”

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

“If a man thinks he is not conceited, he is very conceited indeed.”

“Each day we are becoming a creature of splendid glory or one of unthinkable horror.”

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”


And finally, two longer (but truly “classic” quotes):

“The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.’ A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex.

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.

I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”


“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say.

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”


And one more quote from Lewis’ book, The Weight of Glory:

“It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

*underlined portions mine

Marriage Thoughts

Our engagement and wedding photos, circa 1980.

We were just kids.

I was just a few weeks shy of turning 20 and Lisa turning 19. In October of 1980, I was a junior in Bible College and a youth pastor. She was a freshman in college.

This past week, we celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary. 40 years ago, we met… and within weeks I knew I wanted to marry this girl.

We dated for six months, got engaged and were married six months later.

One of the many “graces” God gifted us with was advice we received from some wiser, older saints who told us…

“Good marriages don’t just ‘happen.’ They are the product of preparation, work, sacrifice, attentiveness and commitment. Prepare now so you will have deep roots later… and deep roots have the ability to produce beautiful fruit.”

So, at ages 18 & 19 we together read six or seven great books on marriage and discussed them during our engagement. We were reading things we didn’t even fully understand, and had no idea that we would ever need them.

But they were wise words that laid a foundation for what life would bring our way in the years and decades to come.

I always tell couples,

“It’s never too late to start preparing for a better marriage tomorrow.”

When Lisa and I do pre-marriage counseling with young couples, the book we have used most recently is Tim and Kathy Keller’s excellent work, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God.

Here are a few meaningful quotes from their book. I pray you are encouraged and blessed by them…


“Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, ‘I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”


“When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him – or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”


“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So, what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions, you must be tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.”

“Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course, that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love.”


“You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm. If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love ‘in the bank’ to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment.”


“Sociologists argue that in contemporary Western society the marketplace has become so dominant that the consumer model increasingly characterizes most relationships that historically were covenantal, including marriage. Today we stay connected to people only as long as they are meeting our particular needs at an acceptable cost to us. When we cease to make a profit – that is, when the relationship appears to require more love and affirmation from us than we are getting back – then we ‘cut our losses’ and drop the relationship. This has also been called ‘commodification,’ a process by which social relationships are reduced to economic exchange relationships, and so the very idea of ‘covenant’ is disappearing in our culture. Covenant is therefore a concept increasingly foreign to us, and yet the Bible says it is the essence of marriage.” 


“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”

(Proverbs 31:10-12 – ESV)

Quotes to Note – October Edition

Here are 10 new quotes to ponder this week…

“A good sign of how secure you are is what it takes to offend you. The more secure we are, the less we take offense.” (Henry Cloud)

“If the grass looks greener somewhere else, it’s time to water your own yard.”

“When I want to know someone’s theology – their actual theology, not just professed theology – I look at how they treat other people. How we treat others is a living, breathing creed of what we believe God to be like.” (Dane Ortlund)

“Impatience with God tends to lead to impatience with God’s people . . . . If we start using the sickles on each other, we will miss the harvest.” (Warren Wiersbe)

“The pain of our shattered plans is for the purpose of God’s scattered grace.” (John Piper)

“Preach the gospel; if necessary use words” is like saying “Feed the hungry; if necessary use food.” (Matt Smethurst)

“The term ‘Christian’ is used 3 times in the New Testament. The term ‘Disciple’ is used 238 times in the Gospels and 269 in the New Testament. You don’t become a Christian and then choose to be a Disciple. Christian = Disciple.” (Robby Gallaty)

“Raise a daughter with a fully loaded heart and mind so that a fully loaded shotgun isn’t necessary. She shouldn’t need you to scare off weak suitors. Let her strength and dignity do the job.” (Jen Wilken)

“Lord, give me firmness without hardness, steadfastness without dogmatism, love without weakness.” (Jim Elliot)

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” (John Wooden)

When was the last time you…?

Above Photo: One of our grandsons is shown above, looking intently at a small bug on our patio several years ago.

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”
(C.S. Lewis)

“The Bible makes it clear that the world around us reveals the character, nature, and purpose of God. And it does so every second of every day.”
(Richard DosterBy Faith Magazine)

Scripture explains that the world around us reveals God’s character, nature, and purpose:
  • Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”
  • Romans 1:20: “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
Similarly, we gain helpful insight from lyrics to the familiar hymn “This is My Father’s World”:

“This is my Father’s world:
And to my listening ears,
All nature sings, and round me rings,
The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.”

This hymn reminds me why I love spending time in the outdoors. One of the reasons I so enjoy being in nature (besides refreshing my soul) is because of the wonder of God’s creation and His artistic, intricate and beautiful handiwork that is all around us (yes, even in a broken and fallen world).

If we will simply slow down long enough to look intentlyand listen carefully,we will see His beauty all around.

As C.S. Lewis said, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”


In the most recent issue of By Faith Magazine, Richard Doster writes…

“The all-powerful creator God is telling us something about Himself in everything, from the tiniest ghost crab to the right whales that visit us in calving season.”

Doster goes on to say:

“Professor and author Joe Rigney illustrates the point when he talks about how we see the divine nature in the things that God has made just as we see the talent and creativity of the artist in his painting or the composer in his music. 

It’s this reality that caused Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th- century theologian, to view the world as a kind of language. The whole universe, Edwards said, including “heaven and earth, air and seas … are full of images of divine things, as full as a language is of words.”

And yet, Edwards continued, all these images convey only a fraction of what God intended to signify or typify by them. 

Rigney points out that most Bible readers are familiar with typology. We understand, for example, that the Passover lamb was a type or image of the sacrifice of Christ…

But Edwards goes further, arguing that God has created images and types in the natural world, too. And that these types are a kind of language that God uses to speak to us.

For example, the Scriptures encourage us to look at the birds (Matthew 6:26) and consider the lilies (Matthew 6:28) and go to the ant (Proverbs 6:6). There are, Rigney points out, divine lessons in seeds and fields, in sand and rocks, in wineskins and fig trees. 

This next excerpt reminded me of my grandson looking intently at the bug on our back patio…
Continuing the previous thought, Doster writes:

“And even in insects. In a recent Wall Street Journal story, professor Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson points out that insect pollination increases fruit or seed quantity in three-quarters of our global food crops. And it’s not just bees that do this work, Sverdrup-Thygeson says. It involves some 20,000 different species of flies, beetles, ants, wasps, butterflies, and other insects. 

The sunrise over the ocean, then, is never just a sunrise. It’s a message, and God intends for us to receive it, comprehend it, and respond.

The color of a bright red cardinal is a message. The dolphin arcing up for air is a message.

The breeze, the texture of the sand, the dunes and sea oats, the golden retriever passing by in the other direction — God spoke them into existence, which means we’re enveloped by visual, audio, and olfactory aids — each one sent to help us understand God’s extravagant goodness.

Sadly, because of sin, we no longer see such things the way we’re meant to. We don’t hear, smell, or touch to the degree God intended. But, with God’s help, we perceive more than we used to.

By His Spirit, we’re able to see the kingdom in the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32), in leaven (Matthew 13:33), and in the priceless pearl (Matthew 13:45). By His Spirit and through His word we’re free to perceive His invisible attributes at the beach, strolling through the mountains, and watching birds build nests in our own backyards. 

We’re free to respond, too, in thanks and adoration. C.S. Lewis parsed the difference for us. “Gratitude,” he said, “exclaims ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration asks, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary [displays of brilliance] are like this?’”

There’s a good chance we’ll be happier, kinder, more grateful, and more generous if we spend time pondering the quality of God who gave us the beach, birds, and mountain forests.” 

Click here to read the full article.


My question today is:

When was the last time you…
slowed down enough to look intently and listen carefully
to what God is saying through His creation?


Quotes to Note – September Edition

Paul Madson

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“Give me 100 people that hate nothing but sin, and love nothing but Jesus Christ, and we’ll shake England for God.” (John Wesley)

“At the cross, the love of God and the wrath of God shake hands; the mercy of God and the justice of God embrace; and the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humanity appear in stark contrast.” (William P. Farely, from his book – Outrageous Mercy)

“I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds … Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.” (Jim Elliot)

“A public man, though he is necessarily available at many times, must learn to hide. If he is always available, he is not worth enough when he is available.” (Elton Trueblood)

“God has not bowed to our nervous haste nor embraced the methods of our machine age. The man who will know God must give time to Him.” (A.W. Tozer)

“I have done less waiting than working, and my works would have been better had I waited more. But I have enjoyed God’s incomparable companionship. I have walked the world with God as my friend.” (from the autobiography of Carl F.H. Henry)

“Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.” (D. L. Moody)

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“Until we know that life is war, we will not know what prayer is for.” (John Piper)

When asked to describe what is “the heresy of modernity,” J.I. Packer described it this way:

‘The belief that ….

the newer is the truer,

only what is recent is decent,

every shift of ground is a step forward,

and every latest word must be hailed

as the last word on its subject.’”

(J. I. Packer)

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” (Job 13:15)

“Fly this banner over every wound and regret: ‘Satan meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20).” (John Piper)

“We like to serve others from the power position. We’d rather be healthy, wealthy, and wise as we reach out to the sick, poor, and ignorant. But people see and hear the gospel best when it comes through those who have known difficulty. Paul says, ‘To the weak I became weak, to win the weak’ (1 Corinthians 9:22). Suffering creates a sphere of influence for Christ that we couldn’t otherwise have.” (Randy Alcorn)

“The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.”

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