“Suffering Saint, Think Much of What is There!”

“Grace Gems” daily devotional for yesterday was a true gem as far as comfort for God’s suffering people is concerned. I pray it provides all of us with a reminder of what our hope in this world really is – it’s in the world to come!

 

O suffering saint!

(John MacDuff, “The Promised Land” 1859)

“And the days of your mourning shall be ended!” Isaiah 60:20

The present world is a valley of tears–a wilderness of woe. While passing through it, we are exposed to sorrows and sufferings of various kinds. Pain and disease beset us on every side; and many, in the extremity of their anguish, wish for death rather than life.

Here we are subject to innumerable troubles; our fondest hopes may be blasted, and we may be called to survey the wreck of all that we once possessed.

Here the dearest friends are snatched from each other’s embrace! The ruthless spoiler respects neither rank nor age–he tears asunder the very heart-strings of our nature, and seems to delight in trampling upon the tenderest sympathies of the soul. The parent is called to weep over the remains of a much-loved child; the husband has to mourn the loss of the partner of his life; the lover and friend are cut off by a stroke–and the desire of our eyes is taken away.

From a thousand sources, do our present distresses spring; and the streams of sorrow, in all their sad variety, follow us, more or less, through the whole course of our earthly pilgrimage.

But in Heaven, all our troubles will be over! No sorrow will be there. All temporal and all spiritual evils will be entirely banished. No disappointment, no anxiety, will be there. No wearisome nights, no dismal moanings, no tossings to and fro until the dawning of the day–will be there. There will be no sickness to blast–and no death to devour there. There will be no Rachel weeping for her children, no broken-hearted father exclaiming, “O Absalom, my son, my son,” there. There will be no separation from those we love there. There will be no faithless friends to wound our hearts and betray our confidence there. There will be no being vexed from day to day with the filthy lives of the wicked there. There will be . . .
no temptations there;
no fightings without–or fears within;
no hardness of heart–or stings of conscience;
no obscuring clouds, or contrary winds, or tossing waves, there.

No, nothing to grieve, nothing to cause a single sigh to rise from the bosom, or a single tear to fall from the eye–will be there.

But joy and peace will be there; and cheerful hearts and beaming countenances will be there; and the conqueror’s song, and waving palms, and harps of gold, and robes of spotless white, will be there.

O suffering saint! Think much of what is there–it will help you to bear up and to press on under your load of sorrow here. It is only for a little while, that you will have to traverse this howling desert; and then, having passed the narrow stream of death–you shall know Heaven by happy experience! “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined–what God has prepared for those who love Him!”

Christian publishers count their blessings

Christian publishers count their blessings | The Tennessean | tennessean.com.

 

The book, and Worthy, are making their debuts in the midst of good times for the $2 billion religious publishing industry, which is predominantly made up of Christian fiction, non-fiction, devotionals, religious instruction materials and Bibles. Much of it is based out of the Nashville area, although many larger publishing houses on the East and West coasts have established religious imprints of their own in recent years.

In the past 12-18 months, the religious publishing category has seen its sales jump faster than those of almost every other category of books. The book publishing industry overall has remained relatively healthy during the recession, with a nearly 6 percent annual growth rate from 2008 to 2010, according to the Association of American Publishers.

 

I am not sure this is good news, but I found it quite interesting. Christian book publishers are reaping the financial benefits of marketing and selling some of the most popular books on the shelves right now. But with titles like Belieber!: Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber and Heaven is for Real (#1 on the New York Times bestseller list for non-fiction), I know this is not good news. Not for serious-minded Christians, anyway. Understanding that the market determines what titles sell today, mainstream Christian publishing is in sad shape, no matter how much money they make.

 

Contrast the above news with the fact that many smaller publishers are doing fine selling solid Reformed/Christian books from both contemporary and past authors, and I find reason to smile. Profits may be small for such, but their service to the church is much greater. So, yes, know what’s out there as far as what is popular among Christian publishers, but please – please! – read better than Belieber!

Published in: on August 31, 2011 at 3:44 AM  Comments (2)  

WORLD Magazine | “Handheld Affections”

WORLD Magazine | Handheld affections | Daniel James Devine | Sep 10, 11.

 

World magazine recently did a brief interview with pastor Tim Challies, prominent Reformed-Christian blogger, which they have now made available online. Challies has written a new book about how Christians should use modern technology wisely (The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion). Not only do I appreciate Tim’s blog (worth visiting daily!), but I also appreciate his wisdom in guiding us (me!) in using the latest gadgets. Am I making an idol out of my Kindle? A very good question indeed!

 

Here’s a part of the interview; read the rest at the link above.

Technological media (cell phones, email, texting) can keep relationships connected from anywhere, but what’s the drawback? They allow us to communicate immediately outside of our physical presence. For young people it’s more and more natural to have very little face-to-face contact: It’s now even expected that before you call me you’ll text me to ask if it’s OK that you call, because jumping into my life with your voice is almost too intimate.

I think there’s a sense in which that becomes a dehumanizing thing. There’s no young man out there who says to his girlfriend, “I just can’t wait to write you a letter.” Instead you write a letter saying, “I can’t wait to be with you.” That’s one of the great things that the Lord holds out in heaven: You will see Me face to face. There won’t be this mediation between us anymore.

 

How did the animals know? | Cranach: The Blog of Veith

How did the animals know? | Cranach: The Blog of Veith.

 

Maybe you too read something about the strange behavior of the zoo animals in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. prior to the earthquake that hit there last week. This post by Gene Veith documents the animals’ activity and points to the fact that scientists cannot explain this well-documented phenomenon. While attempts to explain it befuddles man with all his “wisdom”, our sovereign Creator knows. Because He created animals with this “natural” ability. And this too points to the groaning of these earthly creatures, now under the curse, but waiting to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom.8:19-23). They and we as believers are saved by hope. Shall we not then groan with them in anticipation?

 

Click on the link above to read this interesting article.

Augustine’s “Confessions”, Kindle Style

A week or so ago I finished reading Book II of Augustine’s Confessions on my Kindle. From that section I post a few quotes, while “setting the stage” a bit first. In this section Augustine continues his spiritual “remembrance and review” of his life, focusing on his older time of youth, mainly his teenage years. He recalls and confesses the following at the beginning of the book:

I will now call to mind my past foulness, and the carnal corruptions of my soul; not because I love them, but that I may love Thee, O my God. For love of Thy love I do it; reviewing my most wicked ways in the very bitterness of my remembrance, that Thou mayest grow sweet unto me (Thou sweetness never failing, Thou blissful and assured sweetness); and gathering me again out of that my dissipation, wherein I was torn piecemeal, while turned from Thee, the One Good, I lost myself among a multiplicity of things. For I even burnt in my youth heretofore, to be satiated in things below; and I dared to grow wild again, with these various and shadowy loves: my beauty consumed away, and I stank in Thine eyes; pleasing myself, and desirous to please in the eyes of men.

Augustine, Saint (2006). The Confessions of Saint Augustine (Optimized for Kindle) (Kindle Locations 330-335). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

Indeed this was not a faith-ful time in his life; he walked in the ways of his flesh, as many a young (and older) man can attest. He mentions specifically his sins of rebellion, sexual immorality, stealing (pears! yes, pears! Are we that sensitive to sin?), and love of humanistic learning. But at each step he pours out his heart to the Lord, broken on account of his foolishness, confessing his sins before the Lord, and seeking and finding His blessed forgiveness for all his errors. Of note here too is Augustine’s mention of the unfailing love, admonitions, and prayers of his godly mother Monica for him in these wild years, which actions, of course, would in time bear a precious fruit. A real source of  encouragement is this to covenant parents who see their children err in similar ways during these years. Once again, Augustine’s confessions are a pattern for us in dealing with sins past and present. Toward the end of this section he has these beautiful words:

What shall I render unto the Lord, that, whilst my memory recalls these things, my soul is not affrighted at them? I will love Thee, O Lord, and thank Thee, and confess unto Thy name; because Thou hast forgiven me these so great and heinous deeds of mine. To Thy grace I ascribe it, and to Thy mercy, that Thou hast melted away my sins as it were ice. To Thy grace I ascribe also whatsoever I have not done of evil; for what might I not have done, who even loved a sin for its own sake? Yea, all I confess to have been forgiven me; both what evils I committed by my own wilfulness, and what by Thy guidance I committed not. What man is he, who, weighing his own infirmity, dares to ascribe his purity and innocency to his own strength; that so he should love Thee the less, as if he had less needed Thy mercy, whereby Thou remittest sins to those that turn to Thee? For whosoever, called by Thee, followed Thy voice, and avoided those things which he reads me recalling and confessing of myself, let him not scorn me, who being sick, was cured by that Physician, through whose aid it was that he was not, or rather was less, sick: and for this let him love Thee as much, yea and more; since by whom he sees me to have been recovered from such deep consumption of sin, by Him he sees himself to have been from the like consumption of sin preserved.

Augustine, Saint (2006). The Confessions of Saint Augustine (Optimized for Kindle) (Kindle Locations 447-456). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

Why “Let Go and Let God” Is a Bad Idea by Andrew Naselli

Why “Let Go and Let God” Is a Bad Idea by Andrew Naselli | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

For our final article of interest from the August issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional, we reference the above-linked article by Dr. Andrew D. Nasalli. He is research manager for D.A.Carson, administrator of Themelios, a theological journal published by the Gospel Coalition, and an adjunct faculty member at several schools. And he has written a book about the popular school of theology known as Keswick theology, about which we may know little (which is why I wanted to mention this article).

When you read his article, you will probably be familiar with its teachings, for it has influenced many porfessing Christians and infiltrated several denominations. As usual, I will quote a few paragraphs from it and ask you to read the rest at the link above.

What is “let-go-and-let-God” theology? It’s called Keswick theology, and it’s one of the most significant strands of second-blessing theology. It assumes that Christians experience two “blessings.” The first is getting “saved,” and the second is getting serious. The change is dramatic: from a defeated life to a victorious life; from a lower life to a higher life; from a shallow life to a deeper life; from a fruitless life to a more abundant life; from being “carnal” to being “spiritual”; and from merely having Jesus as your Savior to making Jesus your Master. People experience this second blessing through surrender and faith: “Let go and let God.”

…Keswick theology is pervasive because countless people have propagated it in so many ways, especially in sermons and devotional writings. It is appealing because Christians struggle with sin and want to be victorious in that struggle now. Keswick theology offers a quick fix, and its shortcut to instant victory appeals to genuine longings for holiness.

Keswick theology, however, is not biblically sound. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

1. Disjunction: It creates two categories of Christians. This is the fundamental, linchpin issue.
2. Perfectionism: It portrays a shallow and incomplete view of sin in the Christian life.
3. Quietism: It tends to emphasize passivity, not activity.
4. Pelagianism: It tends to portray the Christian’s free will as autonomously starting and stopping sanctification.
5. Methodology: It tends to use superficial formulas for instantaneous sanctification.
6. Impossibility: It tends to result in disillusionment and frustration for the “have-nots.”
7. Spin: It tends to misinterpret personal experiences.

You can tell that Keswick theology has influenced people when you hear a Christian “testimony” like this: “I was saved when I was eight years old, and I surrendered to Christ when I was seventeen.”

Choir of King’s College – “I Was Glad”

I Was Glad – YouTube.

 

For our music meditation from the Psalms today we hear this majestic piece by Sir Charles H.H. Parry based on Psalm 122: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” This is the “blurb” that introduces the video:

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, sings the famous Coronation anthem, ‘I Was Glad when they said unto me’, by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry.

 

May we rejoice  in our ability to worship and fellowship with the Lord this Sunday.

Published in: on August 28, 2011 at 12:46 PM  Leave a Comment  

J.Calvin on Psalm 45:2-3

For our further meditation on Psalm 45 we also post these comments of John Calvin on verses 2-3:

 

It is also deserving of our notice, that, after the Psalmist has commended this heavenly king for his eloquence, he also describes him as armed with his sword. As, on the one hand, he governs by the influence of persuasion, those who willingly submit to his authority, and manifest docility of disposition; so, on the other hand, as there have been in all ages, and will continue to be, many who are rebellious and disobedient, it is necessary that the unbelieving should be made to feel in their own destruction that Christ has not come unarmed. While, therefore, he, is alluring us with meekness and kindness to himself, let us promptly and submissively yield to his authority, lest he should fall upon us, armed as he is with his sword and with deadly arrows. It is said, indeed, with much propriety, that grace is poured into his lips; for the Gospel, in its very nature, breathes the odour of life: but if we are stubborn and rebellious, this grace will become a ground of terror, and Christ himself will convert the very doctrine of his salvation into a sword and arrows against us. From this also there arises no small consolation to us, that the multitude and insolence of the adversaries of Christ may not discourage us. We know well with what arrogance the Papists reject Jesus Christ, whom, nevertheless, they boast to be their King; we know also with what profane contempt the greater part of the world deride him, and how frowardly the Turks and Jews reproach him. In the midst of such disorder, let us remember this prophecy, That Christ has no want of a sword and arrows to overthrow and destroy his enemies.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 45

As we prepare to worship our glorious Savior-King this Lord’s Day, we consider the unique and beautiful Psalm 45. For an introduction to this psalm I will quote from the “New Geneva Study Bible” (Nelson, 1995):

As the title indicates, Ps.45 is a wedding song (a “song of loves” – CJT). There are no other examples in the Psalter. The closest parallels are the love poems found in the Song of Solomon. This song is appropriate for a royal wedding, and was probably used in many rotal weddings throughout the history of Israel. Since the Davidic kingship reflects God’s ultimate kingship and anticipates Christ as King, the psalm has a second application to Christ, the King and Bridegroom, and the church as His bride (Eph.5:25-32). Ps.45 is applied to Jesus Christ in Heb.1:8,9.

With that understanding we can now read the psalm together carefully and see clearly Christ and His church in this love song. First the bride breaks out in praise of the king for his beauty and might, vss.2-9:

2Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.

3Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.

4And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.

5Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.

6Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.

7Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

8All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.

9Kings’ daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir.

And while these words would apply to Israel’s king in the OT, the point of this Word of God is to point us to His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is anointed to be God’s King (see Psalm 2 and 72 also), King of the church, i.e., all His elect people from Jew and Gentile, not of earthly Israel as the dispensationalists teach. And as such He is also the Bridegroom of the church, the one bride He marries and carries through life and death and into life everlasting. Through His anointing with the Holy Spirit He was and is girded for battle against our foes. So that through His cross, resurrection, ascension, and return in glory He defeats all our enemies, protecting His bride as the Perfect Husband.

And that bride is the queen at His right hand, as the rest of the psalm speaks of her, of her calling and her blessedness as the wife of Christ:

10Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house;

11So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.

12And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour.

13The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.

14She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee.

15With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king’s palace.

16Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.

17I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever.

Do we see what we are to do as the church toward our glorious, powerful King and Bridegroom? Forsake all other allegiances and worship Christ alone! Be devoted to Him only as a faithful wife! This is our glory and beauty as Christ’s bride. And today we have the opportunity to do that again publicly with the gathered body of Christ in our own Christian congregations. And when we do that, we also have a foretaste of that great wedding feast day to come (Rev.19:7-9). This is how we may sing of our calling:

O Royal Bride give heed, And to my words attend;

for Christ the King forsake the world…. And every former friend.

Thy beauty and thy grace Shall then delight the King;

He only is thy rightful Lord, To Him thy worship bring (1912 Psalter).

May God bless your worship this day, that it exalts His Son, our great and gracious King. And in and through Him may we be a beautiful bride, bringing honor to our majestic Bridegroom.

Time for a Vacation Break :)

Starting today and through next Friday, our family will be taking a cottage vacation together in West Michigan. It has been a long summer with no breaks, so we are looking forward to this time away. And I mean time away. Last year I worked two days of my vacation. Big mistake. This year we (men!) are all taking the whole week off! I am taking no computer and no work along. Just books, my Kindle, and my fishing equipment. I plan to relax and enjoy the fellowship of my children and grandchildren. And read and fish and ride bikes and tube with the grandkids and sing and tell stories around the campfire. And maybe get up on water skis again. And that’s just the first day! And then we’ll start all over again. Ah, relaxing and tiring at the same time. But we sleep so well!

 

So this also means I am leaving the blog alone for a week. I’m not tired of it, but I am looking forward to the break. This will be a good time to go back and read or re-read some posts. Now’s your chance to catch up. Better yet, grab a good book and read it in the next week! Which I hope you are doing anyway. And Lord willing, I will be back next weekend. Have a beautiful and blessed week. And thanks again for all your faithful following.

 

Published in: on August 19, 2011 at 4:00 AM  Leave a Comment  
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