Thursday, January 1, 2004

January 1, 2004

10:22 PM I just calculated that I wrote over 300,000 words in 2003. That counts sermons, back pages, articles, weblog entries, and one book manuscript. John Derbyshire did a similar calculation and concluded that he “beat the King James Bible” in 2003. He adds this insight: “The depressing thing about writing columns is that only a tiny proportion of what you write sticks in people’s minds, and the rest blows away like chaff in the wind.” That applies to sermons and all the rest. Years ago I took a class on preaching from Jim Means of Denver Seminary. During his early years, he pastored a small church in wheat farming territory. He said he worked for weeks to preach the best sermon he had ever delivered. It was a sermon for the ages, a sermon so great that it ranked with anything Spurgeon or Billy Graham ever delivered. So the day came and he delivered his masterpiece to his congregation of hardworking farmers. After it was over, he was deflated when he realized that after the usual greetings at the door (What one wag called “the glorifcation of the worm”), his members weren’t talking about his sermon. They were talking about the price of wheat. I believe it was Charles Jefferson who gave this advice in a book for young preachers: “My young brothers, remember this. Great sermons are a nuisance.” I agree. Back to Jim Means who said, “Never overestimate the value of one great sermon. Never underestimate the value of many good sermons.” That one makes me smile. 10:21 PM Cotton Bowl countdown: 14 hours, 39 minutes. 10:19 PM My first bike ride of 2004 took me along the Prairie Path through Elmhurst to Villa Park where I picked up the Great Western Trail. I rode out to Carol Stream—north and a little west of Wheaton. 36 miles in all. My new bike really zips along but it’s a true road bike—narrow tires with very little tread. It’s made for fast riding on pavement. I slipped a few times on some loose limestone on the trail somewhere west of Lombard. 10:05 AM When Jonathan Edwards was about 20 years old (1722-23), he wrote a series of Resolutions that guided the rest of his amazing life. Edwards is generally considered to be the foremost theologian America has ever produced. The Resolutions begin with the following statement:

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

There are 70 resolutions in all. Here are a few of them:

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’ s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever. 3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again. 4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it. 6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live. 7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life. 8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. 9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death. 14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge. 17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die. 24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it. 28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same. 30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before. 31. Resolved, never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution. 36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. 37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,- what sin I have committed,-and wherein I have denied myself;-also at the end of every week, month and year. 40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. 41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. 48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent 52. I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. 53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. 55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. 58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. 67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what am I the better for them, and what I might have got by them. 69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. 70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

It would be well worth your time to read all 70 resolutions. They testify to a young man who took his faith seriously, who wanted to please God in all that he did, who understood the impact his life made on others, and who truly and fervently believed in heaven and hell and therefore lived with eternity always in view. No wonder Jonathan Edwards changed the world. No wonder we still read his books 300 years after his birth. Since many of us will be thinking about New Year’s resolutions today, we could hardly do beter than to start with these. To read all 70 resolutions, click here. 10:01 AM Kudos to Keith Ertner who told me last night that he has just finished his second trip on the “Bible Bus.” That means he has read it twice in two years. The second time he used the One-Year Chronological Bible that rearranges the biblical text so that you read it in the order in which the actual events took place. Howard Duncan told me that he also rode the “Bible Bus” last year and is almost but not quite to the finish line. 12:15 AM Mark just called from Grant Park. He called to say Happy New Year. There was so much music in the background, I could hardly hear him. Sounded like he was having a great time. I think they are coming back here to play video games later. Oh to be young and able to stay up all night and sleep all day. Happy New Year to one and all. I’m going to bed.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?