God will not throw away His jewels!


abba's jewels

(William Secker, “The Consistent Christian” 1660)

“Lord, I believe—help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

Lord, I see—but enlighten my darkness!
Lord, I hear—but cure my deafness!
Lord, I move—but quicken my dullness!
Lord, I desire—but help my unwillingness!

Wherever sin proves hateful—it shall not prove hurtful.

What an apology does a sorrowful Savior make for His
sleeping saints!
“The spirit is willing—but the flesh is weak!”

Take a carnal man, and what he can do—that he will not do.
Take a Christian man, and what he would do—that he cannot do.

God will pity impotency—but He will punish obstinacy.

It would be folly, indeed, to think that our fields have
no grain
in them—because there is some chaff about
the wheat; or that the ore had no gold in it—because
there is some dross mixed among it.

In heaven, there is service alone—without any sin.
In hell, there is sin alone—without service.
But on earth, there is sin and service in the same man
—as there is light and shade in the same picture.

Above us—there is light without any darkness.
Below us—there is darkness without any light.
But in this world—it is neither all day nor all night.

Though the lowest believer is above the power of sin—
yet the highest believer is not above the presence of sin!

It is in a living Christian that sin is to be mortified—but
it is only in a dying Christian that sin is to be destroyed.

When the body and the soul—are separated by mortality
—sin and the soul—will then be separated to eternity!

Sin never ruins—but where it reigns!

Sin is not damning—where it is disturbing!

The more trouble sin receives from us
—the less trouble sin does to us.

Sin is only a murderer—where it is a governor!

Our graces are our best jewels—but they do
not yield their brightest luster in this world.

The moon, when she shines brightest—has its spots;
and the fire, when it burns the hottest—has its smoke.

Sin is an enemy at the Christian’s back
—but not a friend in his bosom.

Although believers should be mournful—because
they have infirmities; yet they should be thankful
—because they are but infirmities.

It is true, they have sin in them—and that should
make them sorrowful. But it is just as true, that
they have a Savior for them—and that should
make them joyful.

The conduct of a Christian may sometimes
be spotted with infirmity—when the heart is
sound in the love of sanctity.

Jacob halted—and yet was blessed. As his blessing
did not take away his halting—so his halting did
not keep away his blessing.

The heavenly Bridegroom will not put out a believer’s
candle—because of the dimness of its burning; nor
will He overshadow a believer’s sun—because of the
weakness of its shining.

Though that vice may be found in us—for which God
might justly damn us; yet that grace is to be found
in Him—by which He will justly save us. He does not
come with water to extinguish the fire—but with wind
to disperse the smoke!

As death leaves the body soulless
—so death leaves the soul sinless.

“You of little faith—why did you doubt?” Poor Peter
had faith enough to keep him from drowning—but
not enough faith to keep him from doubting.

As Alexander’s painter could find a finger
to conceal the scar on his master’s face—so
when Jesus Christ draws the picture of the
saint’s excellency—He can find a covering
for all the scars of his infirmities!

God will not throw away His jewels—for
every speck of dirt which may be on them!

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The Cross


cross-and-sky_1084_1024x7-2

It’s been so since long I have been here. My heart was injured but slowly healing. The past three years have been the most intense and difficult of my life. Loss and illness, sadness and frustration filled it and I needed time to process that and figure out how to keep moving. Battle weary, but not worn down I had to guard my heart for a season. I think I forgot how to do this blog thing in the process so this may be a jumbled mess. I apologize for that, but it’s at the least an exercise of opening my heart a little again.

In this season of my life I found myself pondering some strange things.  Well strange to most people probably.  I wondered what life would really be like if all of your comforts in life were taken away? I thought about why so many people I know are comfortable…cozy in homes with two car garages and plenty to eat, full of toys and Bluetooth and happy families.  Work all week and church on Sunday if you are a Christian, or a weekend full of honey-do lists and fun,  maybe a trip to a theme park or the beach. The occasional tragedy and hard times that we all face but even after life often goes back to trying to grasp that sense of comfort and normalcy again.   Vanity of all vanities as the very comfortable King Solomon would say.  Some people are born into abject poverty or chaos,  in one way or another much less comfortable circumstances.  Age old questions I guess and I  don’t have any answers, but  I still find myself mulling them over once in a while.  This story caused me to really stop and think about riches in this earthly kingdom, and far greater things  in the one to come http://www.lifenews.com/2014/06/10/meriam-ibrahims-brother-in-law-brutal-pre-execution-flogging-will-take-her-skin-off/

I think of people like Corrie Ten Boom who never really had a lot of money or luxury, but in a providence only God understands was asked to give up her comforts, most of her family and nearly her own life for the cause of Christ in the Holocaust.  I am so guilty of scanning social media, comparing myself to friends and wondering why I am less comfortable than them when in fact I am rich compared to most of the planet, and spiritually rich beyond all measure. God forgive this sinner for her discontent! Comfort, ease and a false sense of security are lures to my flesh and I know so much better than to even think they might make living temporarily better.  I don’t know a whole lot but in these past few years I have learned that  no matter the mood or circumstance I can lift my eyes to Christ, trusting that my heart will follow soon when I read His word and believe and contentment and joy flood my soul. What a gift we have Christian Brothers and Sisters! Like Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians  I can say “ for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content”.   God’s promises are eternal, never fading and they are available to the most comfortable of us and the least.

I am going to quit yapping….Martyn Lloyd-Jones got me started and now I will let his words finish this. 

 

“To whom does the invitation of this cross come?  It comes to the failures, the people who know they have gone wrong, the people who are filled with a sense of shame, the people who are weary and tired and forlorn in the struggle. . . .

Do you despise yourself, kick yourself metaphorically, and feel you are no good?  Weary, forlorn, tired, and on top of it all, sad and miserable?  Nothing can comfort you.  The pleasures of the world mock you.  They do not give you anything.  Life has disappointed you, and you are sad, miserable and unhappy, and on top if it all, you have a sense of guilt within you.  Your conscience nags at you, condemns, raises up your past and puts it before you, and you know that you are unworthy, you know that you are a failure, you know that there is no excuse, you are guilty. . . .

And then on top of all this, you are filled with a sense of fear.  You are afraid of life, you are afraid of yourself and your own weakness, you are afraid of tomorrow.  You are afraid of death, you know it is coming and you can do nothing about it, but you are afraid of it. . . .

This is the amazing thing about the cross.  It comes to such a person, and it is to such a person above all others that it brings its gracious and its glorious invitation.   What does it say to you? . . . You are not far off, and the cross speaks to you with sympathy.  That man dying on that cross was known as the friend of sinners.  He was reviled by the good and the religious because he sat down and ate and drank with sinners.  He had sympathy. . . .

Not only that, he will tell you that he is ready to accept you.

The world picks up its skirt and passes by.  It leaves you alone, it does not want to associate with you, you have gone down, you belong to the gutters, and the world is too respectable to have any interest in you.  Here is one who is ready to receive you and to accept you. . . . Sit down, he says.  Wait, stop, give up your activities.  Just as you are, I am ready to receive you.  In your rags, in your filth, in your vileness.  Rest.

What else?  Pardon.  The cross speaks of benediction, of pardon, joy and peace with God.  It tells you that God is ready to forgive you.  It says, listen to me, your sin has been punished.  I am here because this is the punishment of sin.  Listen to me, says the blood of sprinkling.  I have been shed that you might be forgiven, pardoned, at peace with God.  Oh, thank God, there is also cleansing here.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Cross (Wheaton, 1986), pages 168-170.

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The birds and lilies teach me better


wild lilly

(Alexander Smellie, “The Hour of Silence” 1899)

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26

Let me not worry — the birds and lilies teach me better. God spreads a table for the sparrows, and clothes the wayside anemones with their exquisite beauty. And I am dearer to Him by far. I, who am made in His image, and for whom His Son has died, and whom He means to dwell with Him in His Heaven — I occupy a larger place in His heart of hearts.

Let me not worry — it serves no good purpose to fret and worry. I cannot, with all my solicitude, add a cubit either to my stature or to my age. Anxiousness will only plunge me into mental distress and annoyance and sorrow, without bringing me any compensating advantage whatever. It knows how to wound; but ah! it does not know how to heal.

Let me not worry — a child should have more confidence in his Father’s wisdom and watchfulness and love. It may be excusable for worldly men and women to worry — but not a son in the royal and wealthy family of the King of kings! There is no justification for him if he goes worried and burdened during the day, and lies down to hours of sleeplessness at night.

“So do not worry . . . For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them!” Matthew 6:31-32

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The book of Job


Reblogged from Christ is deeper still

winter_sun_snow-on-ground

The book of Job is not answering a theoretical question about why good people suffer.  It is answering a practical question: When good people suffer, what does God want from them?  The answer is, he wants our trust.

The book is driven by tensions.  One, Job really was a good man (1:1, 8; 2:3).  He didn’t deserve what he got.  Two, neither Job nor his friends ever saw the conflict going on between God and Satan, but his friends made the mistake of thinking they were competent to judge.  Three, his friends interpreted his sufferings in moralistic, overly-tidy, accusing categories (4:7-8).  Thus, they did not serve Job but only intensified his sufferings further.  Four, Job refused to give in either to his own despair or to their cruel insinuations.  He kept looking to God, he held on, and God eventually showed up (38:1-42:17).

Two observations.

One, even personal suffering has a social dimension, as others look on and inevitably form opinions.  Suffering brings temptation both to the sufferer and to the observer.  The sufferer is tempted to give up on God.  The observer is tempted to point his finger at the sufferer with smug, self-serving thoughts and words: “This is all your own fault, of course.  If you’d just own up, everything would start getting better.”  The fallacy here is to assume that we live in a universe ruled by the simple laws of crime and punishment.  Our minds dredge up these thoughts not really because we are confident in ourselves but because we are uneasy about ourselves and therefore threatened by the suffering of another: “If it’s happening to Job, it might catch up to me too.”  So we cling to the illusory feeling of control by reinforcing our own self-image of moral superiority.  We try, by sheer force of assertion, to re-order the moral universe in a way reassuring to our prejudices.  The book of Job teaches a more honest and humble way.  When we observe someone suffering, we too should trust God and sympathize with the sufferer rather than off-load our own guilty anxieties by dumping on the sufferer.

Two, when we ourselves suffer in ways that defy easy explanation, God wants us to trust him more deeply than we ever have before.  Job eventually settles into a profound place where, without answers to his questions, he trusts in the omnicompetence of God: “I know that you can do all things” (42:2).  What God can do is more important than how God explains himself.  What if he did tell us every mystery right now?  Would we be satisfied?  Would we say, “Oh, I see.  Here I have your explanation for it all.  That really makes everything okay now”?  I doubt it.  An explanation is a wonderful thing, so far as it goes.  But it is an intellectual thing.  It cannot touch our core being, where the anguish in fact has taken up its deepest residence.  Far better to leave it all with God, as our faith deepens from questioning to waiting.  We don’t live by explanations; we live by faith.

“I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able.”  2 Timothy 1:12

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Not the time


lone birdBelieve me, it’s no time for words when the wounds are fresh and bleeding; no time for homilies when the lightning’s shaft has smitten, and the man lies stunned and stricken. Then let the comforter be silent; let him sustain by his presence, not by his preaching; by his sympathetic silence, not by his speech.

George C. Lorimer

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O Love that wilt not let me go


angel face

 This is my hope for 2014. 

No matter the circumstance, the suffering, pain or any daily experience. I can make the choice to do something with my life, whether in suffering or happier times, I can surrender it.  I can turn my thoughts away from what I have lost or gained, and lift my sometimes weary soul to the far greater Love of God that will never let me go.  George Matheson, blind from birth and reeling from personal loss did just that. This hymn was an offering to God from his pain.

You can read his story below the hymn and listen to the Westminster Chorus sing this balm from Heaven.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

George Matheson suffered poor eyesight from birth, and at age 15 learned that he was going blind.  Not one to be easily discouraged, he enrolled in the University of Glasgow and graduated at age 19.  He then began theological studies, and it was while pursuing those that he began totally blind.  Matheson’s three sisters rose to the occasion and tutored him through his studies –– even going so far as to learn Hebrew, Greek, and Latin to be able to help their brother.  With their help he was able to complete his studies.   After graduation, he answered a call to serve as pastor of a church in Innellan, Argylshire, Scotland.  He had a successful ministry there, and was later called to serve as pastor of the much larger (2000 member) St. Bernard’s Church in Edinburgh.

On the day that one of his sisters was married, Matheson wrote this hymn.  He recorded this account of that experience in his journal: “My hymn was composed in the manse of Inellan on the evening of June 6, 1882.  I was at that time alone.  It was the day of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of my family were staying overnight in Glasgow.  Something had happened to me which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering.  The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.  It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life.  I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself.  I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction.  I have no natural gift of rhythm.  All the other verses I have written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high.  I have never been able to gain once more the same fervor in verse.”

Matheson obviously didn’t intend to tell us what caused his “most severe mental suffering,” but people who know his background strongly suspect that it had to do with a heartbreaking experience several years earlier.  His fiancee had broken her engagement to him, telling him that she couldn’t see herself going through life married to a blind man.  Matheson never married, and it seems likely that his sister’s wedding brought to memory the woman that he had loved and the wedding that he had never enjoyed.

At any rate, Matheson’s “severe mental suffering” inspired him to write this hymn, “O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go.”  The hymn celebrates the constancy of God’s love –– “love that wilt not let me go” –– “light that follow’st all my way” –– “joy that seekest me through pain.”  It concludes by celebrating “Life that shall endless be. “When I read the various accounts of Matheson’s writing this hymn, one sentence struck me as especially important.  It was this –– Matheson said, “The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.”  There is an important lesson in that.  All of us suffer some sort of heartbreak or disappointment or disability at some point in our lives.  What makes all the difference is our response ––whether we let the hardship stop us or inspire us to greater effort.
Copyright 2008, Richard Niell Donovan

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Battle worn and weary, but home!


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“The last drops of my sacrifice are falling; my time to go has come. I have fought in the good fight; I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:6-7).

As soldiers show their scars and talk of battles when they come at last to spend their old age in the country at home, so shall we in the dear land to which we are hastening, speak of the goodness and faithfulness of God who brought us through all the trials of the way. I would not like to stand in the white-robed host and hear it said, “These are they that came out of great tribulation, all except one.”

Would you like to be there and see yourself pointed at as the one saint who never knew sorrow? Oh, no! for you would be an alien in the midst of the sacred brotherhood. We will be content to share the battle, for we shall soon wear the crown and wave the palm. — C. H. Spurgeon

“Where were you wounded?” asked the surgeon of a soldier on Lookout Mountain. “Almost at the top,” he answered. He forgot even his gaping wound — he only remembered that he had won the heights. So let us go forth to higher endeavors for Christ and never rest till we can shout from the very top, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Finish thy work, then rest, Till then rest never; The rest for thee by God Is rest forever.

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars.”

Of an old hero the minstrel sang —

With his Yemen sword for aid; Ornament it carried none, But the notches on the blade.

What nobler decoration of honor can any godly man seek after than his scars of service, his losses for the crown, his reproaches for Christ’s sake, his being worn out in his Master’s service!

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God moves in a mysterious way


William Cowper 1774

 “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” .  John 3:17

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God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purpose will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
the bud may have bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

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Black seeds without beauty


tears_of_sadness

J.R. Miller)

“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

“Lord, what do You want me to do?” Acts 9:6

The first condition of consecration, must always be entire readiness to accept God’s will for our life. It is not enough to be willing to do Christian work. There are many people who are quite ready to do certain things in the service of Christ, who are not ready to do anything He might want them to do.

God does not send us two classes of providences
— one good, and one evil. All are good. Affliction is God’s goodness in the seed. It takes time for a seed to grow and to  develop into fruitfulness. Many of the best things of our lives — come to us first as pain, suffering, earthly loss or disappointment — black seeds without beauty — but afterward they grow into the rich harvest of righteousness!

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

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Waiting is an art


Waiting75

Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten.

It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespectful hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them. Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting—that is, of hopefully doing without—will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.

Those who do not know how it feels to struggle anxiously with the deepest questions of life, of their life, and to patiently look forward with anticipation until the truth is revealed, cannot even dream of the splendor of the moment in which clarity is illuminated for them… For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing, and becoming.

Be brave for my sake, dearest Maria, even if this letter is your only token of my love this Christmas-tide. We shall both experience a few dark hours—why should we disguise that from each other? We shall ponder the incomprehensibility of our lot and be assailed by the question of why, over and above the darkness already enshrouding humanity, we should be subjected to the bitter anguish of a separation whose purpose we fail to understand…. And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.”

Letter to fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer from prison, December 13, 1943

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2011-03-21). God Is In the Manger (pp. 4-5). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

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