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“If I have you by the hand, death is nothing but sleep.” -Jesus

Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, pp. 67-69, commenting on Mark 5:38-42:

Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

Do you think it is odd that when Jesus arrives at Jairus’s house he says that the girl is just sleeping? The parallel account of this story in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels make it clear that Jesus understands she’s dead. She’s not mostly dead; she’s all dead. Then why does he make that reference to sleep?

The answer is in what Jesus does next.

Remember, Jesus sits down beside the girl, takes her by the hand, and says two things to her.

The first is talitha. Literally, it means “little girl,” but that does not get across the sense of what he’s saying. This is a pet name, a diminutive term of endearment. Since this is a diminutive that a mother would use with a little girl, probably the best translation is “honey.”

The second thing Jesus says to her is koum, which means “arise.” Not “be resurrected”: it just means “get up.” Jesus id doing exactly what this child’s parents might do on a sunny morning. He sits down, takes her hand, and says, “Honey, it’s time to get up.” And she does.

Jesus is facing facing the most implacable, inexorable enemy of the human race and such is his power that he holds this child by the hand and gently lifts her right up through it. “Honey, get up.”

Jesus is saying by his actions, “If I have you by the hand, death itself is nothing but sleep.” . . .

. . . There’s nothing more frightening for a little child than to lose the hand of the parent in a crowd or in the dark, but that is nothing compared with Jesus’s own loss.

He lost his Father’s hand on the cross.

He went into the tomb so we can be raised out of it.

He lost hold of his Father’s hand so we could know that once he has us by the hand, he will never, ever forsake us.

HT: Justin Taylor

Click here for additional resources by Tim Keller.

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Book Review: Leadership as an Identity

I just finished Leadership as an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence, by Crawford Loritts. It was recommended by a friend as one of the best leadership books he’d read and I really enjoyed it. I heard Loritts speak a number of times when I was in college at a number of Campus Crusade events, so it was nice to ‘reconnect’ with him and his ministry (he’s now the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia).

As the subtitle suggests, Loritts lists four key traits of godly leadership. They are: 1) Brokenness, 2) Uncommon Communion (with God), 3) Servanthood as an Identity, and 4) Radical, Immediate Obedience

Overall, I found the book to be very helpful. Loritts pulled principles from a number of biblical places, and the book is filled with many great quotes from other Christian leaders. Here is what I took away as the big idea, followed by some of the key lessons and quotes that impacted me, by section.

Big Idea

Leadership is ultimately about character. If you have all the skills and talent and charisma in the world but lack character, you will eventually lose your influence. Christian leadership is fueled by pursuing a close relationship with God and all that comes with it.

1. Brokenness

  • “Brokenness is not a onetime event. It is never finished.” (36)
  • “Sometimes well-meaning people have tried to talk me out of [my] sense of inadequacy. But this sense is vital to fruitful ministry.” (Randy Alcorn, 37)
  • “Pride is one of the easiest ways for a younger leader to lose his influence.” (Ken Behr, 39)
  • “Your ability to discern God’s will is directly related to presenting your body as a ‘living sacrifice.'” (44)
  • “Brokenness empowers a leader because it forces him or her to do more than lip service to the grace of God.” (Tim Kimmel, 54)
  • “Failure should not be the primary source of our brokenness. It is the ever-present realization that we could hurt [God’s] heart–that we carry within us a pull towards sin–that ought to keep pushing us toward God.” (57)
  • “Authentic brokenness always casts the spotlight on the glory of God and not the fact that we struggle.” (67)
  • “God breaks us at various times in our lives to raise us up to the next level. A brokenness episode in our thirties does not exempt us from a brokenness episode in our forties.” (Monty Watson, 75)
  • “If a leader doesn’t humble himself, he leaves God no choice but to humiliate him. And he will because he must. The work of his kingdom cannot be left at the mercy of a leader who is wrapped up in himself.” (Tim Kimmel, 83)

2. Uncommon Communion (with God)

  • “Why do so many workers break down? Not from overwork, but because there has been friction of the machinery; there hasn’t been enough oil of the Spirit.” (DL Moody, 86)
  • “Never underestimate the power of self-deception and the pull towards self-reliance.” (92)
  • “Unexamined failure teaches you nothing.” (96)
  • “The only thing worse than waiting on the Lord is wishing you had!” (113)
  • “I can’t think of a time in which I had everything I needed ahead of time to do what I believe the Lord wanted me to do.” (117)

3. Servanthood as an Identity

  • “Sometimes the [term ‘servant leadership’] is used in a utilitarian way…we need to be careful that we are not using servant leadership language as a strategy–as a means to manipulate people to do what we want them to do.” (131)
  • “Don’t think of yourself as a leader but as a follower of Jesus…most leaders have fallen because at some point of their lives they ceased to be a follower of Jesus.” (131-132)
  • “Both pride and humility have, for the most part, very little to do with your actions and choices, but they have everything to do with your motives and attitudes.” (133)
  • “Unfortunately, too many leaders love the tasks but just tolerate the people.” (145)
  • “Those who work with me or report to me should feel as if I have invested more in them than I have asked them to give.” (146)
  • “This is what Jesus defined as greatness. You must be a servant. You don’t just act like one; you must become one.” (150)

4. Radical, Immediate Obedience

  • “There’s no such thing as partial obedience. We either completely do what God says or we disobey him.” (171)
  • “You can never get too big or too important for God to replace you.” (175)
  • “[When they failed,] Saul was afraid of losing his position as the leader of Israel. But David was afraid of losing the touch, intimacy, and favor of God who had been everything to him. Honestly, what are you more afraid of?” (176)
  • “If you quit now, you probably will be quitting for the rest of your life.” (184)
  • “Courage is…complete obedience in the face of opposition.” (186)
  • “It is a good thing to remember the failures of those we admire.” (188)
  • “Courage is like a muscle; it grows stronger with use.” (192)
  • “We need to be acutely aware of the cumulative nature of our little choices.” (Randy Alcorn, 199)

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Jesus Had the Courage to Take His Own Medicine

“For whatever reason, God chose to make man as he is — limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death — he [God] had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life to and the cramping restrictions of hard word and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace, and thought it was worthwhile.”

-Dorothy Sayers, as quoted in Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, p. 39.

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If God is Sovereign, Why Pray?

One of our key distinctives at Second Mile Church is that we celebrate the sovereignty of God over everything. This means we believe that God is in absolute control of everything that happens.

In light of this, an obvious question, especially as we study about prayer is “If God is in control of everything and already knows everything that will come to pass, why bother praying?”

Bruce Ware has a chapter on this in the book For the Fame of God’s Name, and here’s one of my favorite paragraphs from his much more comprehensive answer:

One of the most startling and wondrous realizations that any Christian can have is that much of the purpose of prayer has to do with one simple thing: relationship–that is relationship coram Deo (before the face of God). One great and glorious reason God devised prayer was to use it as a mechanism to draw us to himself, to help us see how much we need him, to set before us constantly the realization that he is everything we are not and he possesses everything that we lack. We are weak, but he is strong; we are foolish, but he is wise; we are untrustworthy, but he is faithful; we are ignorant, but he is infinitely knowledgeable; we are poor and empty, but he is rich and full. Imagine this: although God does not need any of what we bring to him in prayer, he longs for us to bring everything that we do bring to him and so much more!

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What is Biblical Forgiveness?

Ray Pritchard writes:

There are four different words for forgiveness in the Bible — three Hebrew words and one Greek. The first Hebrew word means “to cover”–like using a rug to cover the dirt on your floor. The second word means “to lift and take away”–which happens when you remove a stain from a carpet. The third word means “to pardon” or “to wipe the record clean.” The fourth word means “to let go” or “to send away,” as when you release a prisoner from jail.

When you put these words together, you get a graphic picture of forgiveness. God covers our sin, he removes the inner stain, he wipes our personal record clean, and then he releases us from our guilt so that we are set free. (19, emphasis added).

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What We Really Need is Poverty

Another good quote from A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (by Paul Miller):

We don’t need self-discipline to pray continuously; we just need to be poor in spirit. Poverty of spirit makes room for his Spirit. It creates a God-shaped hole in our hearts and offers us a new way to relate to others.

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Weakness Leads to Prayer

Here’s another quote from Paul Miller’s excellent book, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World:

We tell ourselves, “Strong Christians pray a lot. If I were a stronger Christian, I’d pray more.” Strong Christians do pray more, but they pray more because they realize how weak they are. They don’t try to hide it from themselves. Weakness is the channel that allow them to access grace.

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