Here is a passage from the sixth Chapter of Dane Ortland’s book, Gentle and Lowly.
Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Everything that Thomas Goodwin and John Owen were— erudite, well-educated, analytical, at home in the world’s best universities—John Bunyan wasn’t. Bunyan was poor and uneducated. By the world’s standards, everything was against Bunyan’s making a lasting impact on human history. But this is just how the Lord delights to work— taking the side-lined and the overlooked and giving them quietly pivotal roles in the unfolding of redemptive history. And Bunyan, though much earthier in writing style, shared Goodwin’s ability to open up the heart of Christ to his readers. Bunyan is most famous for The Pilgrim’s Progress, which is, besides the Bible, history’s best-selling book. But he also authored fifty seven other books. One of the loveliest is Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, written in 1678. The warmth of the title is representative of the entire treatise. In typical Puritan style, Bunyan took a single verse and wrote a whole book on it, reflecting on it at length. That verse, for Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, was John 6:37. In the course of pronouncing himself the bread of life given to the spiritually hungry (John 6:32–40), Jesus declares:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
It was one of Bunyan’s favorite verses, as evident from how often he cites it throughout his writings. But in this particular book he takes the text and zeroes in on it, looking at it from every angle, wringing it dry.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Here’s a page from Bob Goff’s book of daily reflections, Live in Grace, Walk in Love:
It’s always a little strange to hear someone introduce a person by reading a long biography at an event. Bios like this are usually lists of the most impressive things they’ve done, credentials they have, and recognition they’ve received. The idea is to tell people why the speaker is qualified, why they deserve our attention for the next twenty or thirty minutes, and why they are an authority we should trust on a subject. But I always wish the bios sounded more like something a friend would write. I wish they sounded more like a wedding toast.
When friends describe us, they share stories of how we dropped everything to be with them when they lost someone they couldn’t imagine life without. They usually slip in an embarrassing story of a mistake we made during a time in our lives we’re still trying to forget, and they always talk about how well we loved the people around us. You don’t hear many highlights from their résumé and their education or degrees or title. You just hear about love and friendship.
Acquaintances will know us for what we did. They’ll know about the nonprofit we started or the award we received. They might even know about our reputation for being kind and gracious. None of this is bad, of course. These are stories about our lives. They just don’t have the same weight as stories from our lives. Friends will remember us for how we loved. They’ll be impressed by our accomplishments only because they know the heart behind our actions.
Keep in mind, we’ll be known for our opinions, but we’ll be remembered for our love. I can think of no better introduction, no better bio, than for people to say our greatest expression of love in the world was that we were a faithful friend.
What expression of friendship have you received this week?
Today is the Centenary of the Birth of John Stott. This article, originally published in Premier Christianity magazine, reflects on the global impact of this Anglican priest and theologian.
The reaction to John Stott’s death in 2011 at the age of 90 was extraordinary. The news was covered on the BBC, in every UK broadsheet and across the world’s media, includingThe New York Times. The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Rowan Williams, noted that: “The death of John Stott will be mourned by countless Christians throughout the world. During a long life of unsparing service and witness, John won a unique place in the hearts of all who encountered him, whether in person or through his many books.” In a statement, the American evangelist Billy Graham said: “The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen, and I have lost one of my closest friends and advisors.”
It was not only in death that Stott’s influence and leadership were recognised. During his lifetime, Church historian and Provost of Southwark, David Edwards, described him, aside from former Archbishop William Temple, as “the most influential clergyman in the Church of England during the 20th century”. In 2005 Timemagazine ranked Stott among the 100 most influential people in the world.
Here is a passage from the fourth Chapter of Dane Ortland’s book, Gentle and Lowly.
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses.
The way the Puritans would write books is to take a single Bible verse, wring it dry for all the heart-affecting theology they could find, and, two or three hundred pages later, send their findings to a publisher. Thomas Goodwin’s The Heart of Christ is no different. And the verse being wrung dry is Hebrews 4:15: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Goodwin’s burden is to convince disheartened believers that even though Christ is now in heaven, he is just as open and tender in his embrace of sinners and sufferers as ever he was on earth. The original title page of the book from its 1651 publication reflects this; note especially the prominent juxtaposition between “Christ in heaven” and “sinners on earth”:
the H E A R T of CHRIST in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth. or, A T R E A T I S E demonstrating The gracious Disposition and tender Affection of Christ in his Humane Nature now in Glory, unto his Members under all sorts of Infirmities, either of Sin or Misery
The closing lines clarify that by Christ’s heart, he means Christ’s “gracious disposition and tender affection.” Goodwin wants to surprise readers with the biblical evidence that the risen Lord alive and well in heaven today is not somehow less approachable and less compassionate than he was when he walked the earth. After an introductory section, Goodwin explains why he has picked Hebrews 4:15 to explore this point:
I really like this song, well written and structured, Matthew West’s Truth Be Told, sung with Carly Pearce.
There’s a sign on the door saying ‘Come as you are’, but I doubt it ‘Cause if we lived like it was true, every Sunday morning pew would be crowded But didn’t you say the Church should look more like a hospital A safe place for the sick and the sinner and and sick and the scarred and the prodigal, like me
Here is a passage from the first Chapter of Dane Ortland’s book, Gentle and Lowly.
My dad pointed out to me something that Charles Spurgeon pointed out to him. In the four Gospel accounts given to us in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — 89 chapters of biblical text — there’s only one place where Jesus tells us about His own heart.
We learn much in the four Gospels about Christ’s teaching. We read of His birth, His ministry, and His disciples. We are told of His travels and prayer habits. We find lengthy speeches and repeated objections by His hearers, prompting further teaching. We learn of the way He understood Himself to fulfill the whole Old Testament. And we learn in all four accounts of His unjust arrest and shameful death and astonishing resurrection. Consider the thousands of pages that have been written by theologians during the past 2,000 years on all these things.
But in only one place — perhaps the most wonderful words ever uttered by human lips — do we hear Jesus Himself open up to us His very heart:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).
In the one place in the Bible where the Son of God pulls back the veil and lets us peer way down into the core of who He is, we are not told that He is “austere and demanding in heart.” We are not told that He is “exalted and dignified in heart.” We are not even told that He is “joyful and generous in heart.” Letting Jesus set the terms, His surprising claim is that He is “gentle and lowly in heart.”
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
Here’s a page from Bob Goff’s book of daily reflections, Live in Grace, Walk in Love:
Shortly after Jesus rose from the dead, His friends were embarrassed and confused. So they went back to what they knew best: fishing. I don’t blame them. It’s comforting to do things you know you’re good at when you feel bewildered or ashamed or insecure.
Jesus’ friends pushed back out into the water and started fishing. A voice came from the shore and said something that must have sounded familiar. The voice told them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat. This had happened before. It was life bookended with the same statement. You know how the story ends—these men ended up with so many fish, they almost broke their nets. That’s when the nickel dropped. Peter knew it was Jesus. He immediately jumped in the water and swam to the shore. Sans swimsuit.
When Peter got to shore, he saw a fire burning with fish on top and some bread set aside for them. Jesus didn’t say the biggest “I told you so” of all time. He didn’t chastise His friends for deserting Him in His greatest moment of need. He didn’t take advantage of a “teachable moment” to tell them what to do the next time they were tempted to say they didn’t even know Him and desert a friend. What He did was simply this: He made them breakfast. He let His presence on the shore with them do all the talking.
If we commit to becoming the kinds of people God created us to be, our lives will tell better stories than our words ever will. They will be the testimony people need to see and feel before they hear a word we’re saying. Who is it you think you need to teach a good lesson to? Don’t make a lot of noise in their lives; make them a stack of pancakes.