Tag Archives: Encouragment

Alone, Yet Not Alone


LoneHiker

“Human love is only a little trickling stream; God’s love is a great river, broadening into a shoreless ocean! “

J. R. Miller

“But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” John 16:32

The loneliness of Jesus while in this world was one of the most pathetic elements of His experience. There are two kinds of loneliness.

One is, when a person is away from all human presences. A man who had been shipwrecked and had drifted for many hours on a piece of wreckage, spoke of the terrible feeling of desolation he experienced when on all alone on the waters, he could see no sign of human life, hear no voice, get no ear to listen to his calls of distress.

But there is another loneliness. One may be in the midst of people–and yet be utterly without companionship. Were you never oppressed with a sense of loneliness in a crowd that surged all about you and pressed close to you on every side? Think of the loneliness of one who lands from a foreign country and enters the throngs on the streets of a strange city–but sees no face he ever has seen before, catches no glance of recognition from any eye. In a surging multitude of human beings–he is utterly alone. It takes more than human presence to make companionships; hearts must touch; there must be love and sympathy.

In a sense, Christ was always alone in this world. His very greatness of character, made it impossible for Him to find real, deep, and full companionship. All great men are in a sense, solitary men. Their exalted life lifts them above the plane in which other people live. They are like the few tall mountain peaks of the earth that lift their heads far above the clouds, and wear their crowns of unmelting snows. The little hills are not lonesome, for there are so many of them–but the giant mountains are lonely in their solitariness because there are so few of them. The world’s few great men are solitary, because common people cannot rise into companionship with them in thought, in feeling, in purpose. Christ found no fellow, no equal, no real companion, among men.

Then, in His work as Redeemer, Christ was alone. He had few friends. There is infinite pathos in such words as these, which describe His personal loneliness: “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him–and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own–and His own received him not” (John 1:10, 11). He revealed His feeling of aloneness and sense of homelessness when He said, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58). Thus in the midst of multitudes, His own people, too, not foreigners, those also He had come to deliver and save–He was alone because hearts and homes were shut against Him.

Then, too, Jesus had a gentle heart, which craved affection and companionship. There are some men with cold, stern natures, who are indifferent to the coldness they meet in the world. They desire no sympathy. They are not pained by men’s rejection. Opposition acts as stimulus to them. They almost court unpopularity. But Jesus craved affection and sympathy. We remember how He welcomed love whenever it came to Him; what a strength the beloved disciple was to Him; what a shelter and comfort the Bethany home, with its love, was to Him; how even the slightest tokens of kindness comforted and cheered His heart. We see also His deep craving for companionship in the Garden, when He wanted His closest friends near Him in His bitter agony and so deeply felt the disappointment when they slept and did not watch with Him. Jesus was not, then, a cold, iron man, who was unaffected by the indifferences and rejection of the people. He suffered keenly from every unloving act and touch. This intensified His loneliness.

Here we have another phase of Christ’s loneliness. “You will be scattered, each to his own home.” The only human relief to His loneliness, along the years of His public ministry, was in the love of His friends; and this love, we know, was very imperfect. These friends, though loyal and devoted, never fully understood their Master. They had an earthly conception of His Messiahship, yet they were very unspiritual. They hurt Him continually by their lack of gentleness, thoughtfulness, and perfect trust. They grieved Him unintentionally, of course, ignorantly, loving Him still–but giving Him pain every day by the rudeness and harshness of their contacts with His sensitive heart. Very poor and imperfect, indeed, was the companionship which He found even with the gentlest and truest of His human friends.

But now He looks forward to the losing of even this solace and support, “You will be scattered, each to his own home, and shall leave me alone.” Even the little company of friends, who had walked with Him along the way, would desert Him in the hour of His supreme trial. We remember how it was. One of those who had eaten bread with Him, dipping His hand in the same dish, betrayed Him! Another, until then His bravest confessor, denied even knowing Him! They all forsook Him and fled. Alone, He was led away to His trial. Alone, He was left to stand before the court and before the governor. Loving and craving love as no other ever loved and craved love, He was left alone–with no pitying eye, with not one friendly voice raised in His behalf. At the close of a life given to love of men and to efforts to save men–He was left with no one confessing to have been helped or saved by Him, no friend, no follower; abandoned to the cruelty of brutal men. Even Barabbas, a notorious criminal, found friends that day, while Jesus, who had given His life to gentle deeds and kind ministries, was dragged away by His enemies through the streets, as if He had been a murderer, with no one to speak a word for Him.

But read what He says of this hour of abandonment: “You will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” There was One whose companionship never failed Him for a moment. Through the years when His infinite divine nature found such meager, imperfect fellowship even in the best love of human friends–He had but to turn His face toward His Father to have His hungry heart filled. When His affectionate nature met only misunderstanding, coldness, rejection, and antagonism among the people for whose love and trust He so hungered, He would go away at nightfall, apart from men, and on some mountaintop or in some deep garden shade, He would commune with One who was all love, who never misunderstood Him, and in whose blessed companionship all of the hungers of His heart were satisfied, and all the hurts of love were healed.

One of the most touching incidents in the Gospels, described what occurred at the close of one day in the temple. “Every man went unto His own house; but Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives” (see John 7:53-8:1). It was evening night was gathering. It was time for all to go away. But nobody asked Jesus home with him. They went to their own fine houses on the great streets, leaving Him there. Then He, homeless, with no place to go, no place to lay His head that night, climbed the Mount of Olives, and there stayed alone–alone, but not alone, because the Father was with Him.

We may apply the words to experiences in our own lives. We, too, have our times of loneliness. In a certain sense, all life is lonely. Even with sympathetic friends all about us, there is an inner life which one of us lives, in which we are solitary. We must make our own decisions and choices. We must meet our own questions and answer them ourselves. We must fight our own battles, endure our own sorrows, carry our own burdens. Friendship may be very close, so close that it seems to us there is no part of our deepest life, which our friend does not share with us; yet there is an inner sanctuary of each human life, into which even the most perfect friendship may not enter.

Blessed are those who in this aloneness can say, “Yet I am not alone, because my Father is with me!” God is the only friend who can really enter into the inner sanctuary of our life. God’s is the only companionship we can really have in the inner experiences of our hearts. God’s is the only friendship that can really meet all our soul’s deep needs and cravings. Human love is only a little trickling stream; God’s love is a great river, broadening into a shoreless ocean! Human companionship helps us at a few points; the divine fellowship flows all about us and enters into every experience of ours. We never can be left alone–if we still have Christ. When other helpers and comforts flee–He will abide with us. When other faces fade out of view–His face will appear, shining out with perfect love, pouring its holy light upon us. “I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

There are special times when we are alone. Pain sets us apart. We have to endure it alone. In any pain or grief of yours, you may have truest friends surrounding you–but none of them can bear one pang for you. Sometimes we almost blame our friends because they do not come near to us in our trouble, because they do not appear to feel for us or sympathize with us. We say they do not understand us. We think they ought to help us more. But the truth is–we have to live all our inner lives alone. Our friends love us and want to help us, but they cannot. None can fully understand us. None can really help us in any deep and efficient way. Those about us, even those who are our truest friends, who sympathize with us most fully, leave us alone because they cannot share our suffering. But we can always say, “I am not alone–because the Father is with me!”

There is a loneliness which is made by the breaking up of homes. A true home is an incalculable blessing to the young lives that nestle in it. It is a shelter where they find protection. It is a school where they are educated, where they learn life’s lessons. There is guidance also in a true home. Many of life’s hardest questions, are answered by wise parents. Blessed is that young man or young woman who takes every perplexity, every mystery, every fear and doubt, every heart-hunger, to the sacredness of love’s sanctuary at home and gets wise counsel and guidance!

Home has also its blessed companionships. It is one place where we are absolutely sure of each other, where we need never suspect anyone, where we do not need to be on our guard. Youth has its unexpected longings, its deep cravings, its hunger for affection, its inexperience needing direction. A true home is the very shadow of Gods wings, the very cleft of the Rock of Ages, to those who abide in its love. But sometimes the home is torn down and its shelter broken up. Sore indeed is the loss when a young person, used to all that is gentle and satisfying in home tenderness, is driven out to homelessness. Other human friendships are very sweet–but they never can give back home with its rest and comfort. But blessed is he who in earthly homelessness can say, “Yet I am not alone!” Who can look into the face of Christ and breathe out the psalm of peace, “Lord, You are my dwelling place; You are home to my heart!”

Another time of special loneliness is that of old age. Old people often grow very lonely. Once they were the center of large groups of friends and companions. One by one the beloved associates slipped away. Now the old man or the old woman stands almost entirely alone. The streets are full, the church is full; but where are the faces of forty or fifty years ago? There is a memory of empty cribs, of vacant chairs, of little graves, of marriage altars–and then the starting of new homes, perhaps far away. But the old faces are gone. It is young life that now fills the home, the street, the church. Only here and there perhaps, is a companion of forty, fifty years ago remains. The old people are lonely.

Yet Christian old age can say, “I am not alone!” No changes can take Christ away. Other companions scatter, leaving them humanly alone–but He never departs. Indeed, Christ becomes more and more real to aged Christians–as other friends drop off and become fewer and fewer. While human friendships filled the life, Christ was not turned to very often, though He was believed in and loved. The joys that were needed were found so easily in the human loves that were always at hand, that Christ did not seem so indispensable, so necessary. But as one by one the earthly loved ones dropped off and slipped away, and could not be turned to in the time of need, then Christ began to be more necessary and was turned to more frequently. As the years went on, and more and more of the old friends were missing, Christ grew every day more precious, until now He is almost the only one left. Blessed is the aged Christian; he is now drawing near to glory. A little while longer–and he will enter heaven! Soon the old people will pass over, and find again, waiting for them, those who were once their friends here, companions once more, inseparable now, in heaven!

But it is not old people only, who are left lonely by life’s changes. Sorrow touches all ages. There is a continual breaking of human companionships. Blessed are those who can say with every bereavement, “Alone, yet not alone, because Christ is mine, and He never leaves me!” Then in Christ also, our human ties are made inseparable. We never really can lose each other if we are united in Christ. In Christ we never lose a friend.

But this is not all, nor the best. Human loneliness here, is filled with the divine presence of Christ. “I am not alone, because the Father is with me!”

There is no other loneliness in all human experience, like that of dying. We cannot die in companies, or in groups, nor even two by two. We must die alone. Two may walk together for long years, never divided in joy or sorrow. But they cannot die together. Human hands, however long they have held each other, must unclasp as the friends enter the valley of shadows–one taken, the other left. Human faces that have looked into ours through the years, must fade from our vision–as we pass into the mists of the valley of death.

“I cannot see you,” said a dying friend the other night, as the beloved ones stood about His bed. “I cannot see you.” So will it be with each of us some night. Human friends cannot go beyond the edge of the valley. “You shall leave me alone.” Yes, that will be true of each of us in our turn. But we need not be alone, even in that supreme moment. When the hand of human love unclasps–the hand of Christ will take your hand and lead you through the dark valley of death. When human faces fade out–Christ’s face will be revealed, with its welcome of infinite love. When you must creep out of the bosom of human affection, and pass into the mystery of death–it will be into the clasp of the Everlasting Arms! So death’s loneliness will be filled with divine companionship! “I am not alone, because the Father is with me!”

Thus the one great need of life–is Christ. If we do not have Christ–what will we do in life’s crises? When human joy fades–what will be left? When human companionships are stripped off–who will walk with us the rest of the lonely way? When death comes, and we must drift out from all we ever have known, from earth’s refuges and trusts and from earth’s familiar places and friends–where shall we go? In whom shall we trust? Who will receive us and lead us home? If we have not Christ, life is hopeless and the universe is homeless for us. But if we have Christ, then, no matter what is taken, He will remain–and He will suffice!

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I am a perverse and unruly patient!


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(Letters of John Newton)

I am bound to speak well of my Physician—He treats me with great tenderness, and bids me in due time to expect a perfect cure. I know too much of Him (though I know but little) to doubt either His skill or His promise.

It is true, I have suffered sad relapses since I have been under His care. Yet I confess, that the fault has not been His—but my own! I am a perverse and unruly patient! I have too often neglected His prescriptions, and broken the regimen He appoints me to observe. This perverseness, joined to the exceeding obstinacy of my disorders, would have caused me to be turned out as an incurable long ago—had I been under any other hand but His! Indeed—there is none like Him! When I have brought myself very low—He has still helped me. Blessed be His name—I am yet kept alive only by means of His perfect care.

Though His medicines are all beneficial—they are not all pleasant. Now and then He gives me a pleasant cordial; but I have many severe disorders, in which there is a needs-be for my frequently taking His bitter and unpalatable medicines!

We sometimes see published in the newspapers, acknowledgments of cures received. Methinks, if I were to publish my own case, that it would run something like this:

“I, John Newton, have long labored under a multitude of grievous disorders:
    a fever of ungoverned passions,
    a cancer of pride,
    a frenzy of wild imaginations,
    a severe lethargy, and
    a deadly stroke!

In this deplorable situation, I suffered many things from many physicians, spent every penny I had—yet only grew worse and worse!

In this condition, Jesus, the Physician of souls, found me when I sought Him not. He undertook my recovery freely, without money and without price—these are His terms with all His patients! My fever is now abated, my senses are restored, my faculties are enlivened! In a word, I am a new man! And from His ability, His promise, and the experience of what He has already done—I have the fullest assurance that He will infallibly and perfectly heal me—and that I shall live forever as a monument of His power and grace!”

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Redeem the Rejection of Singleness


The narrow wayRedeem the Rejection of Singleness
May 21, 2015 by Fabienne Harford  Topic: Dating & Singleness

You can read the original article on Desiring God here:http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/redeem-the-rejection-of-singleness

Redeem the Rejection of Singleness
When I was a little girl, I never associated being alone with being rejected. Time on my own afforded me the opportunity to disappear inside my imagination without interruption. I’m not so different now than I was then. I still love finding time away from the world.

However, if I’m not careful, my joy of aloneness gets sabotaged by the painful thought that maybe I am alone because I am not wanted, not chosen, no one’s favorite.

Why Does It Hurt?

Rejection hurts — and in singleness there is plenty of it to go around. Whether it’s the explicit rejection some men face when they ask a woman on a date, or the implicit rejection of wondering why no man is asking you on a date, the single will have to face the fear that they are not wanted.

The world may tell you the solution to this pain is to speak worth over yourself so loudly that you drown out the whisper of rejection. But it doesn’t work. Because we were created to have worth spoken into us by Someone outside of ourselves. What a great gift that needy design is for continually driving us to God. And what a terrifying distortion it is when we let it drive us to mere mortals. There is no person on earth that should have the power to speak into us value or worth in such a way that it secures our identity.

The church may tell you the solution to this pain is a simplistic notion of Jesus; that if you embrace the truth that he wants you, you will be able to overcome the pain of rejection in singleness. Sounds good to me, but there is an agonizing question I find bubbling up in my soul when I consider this: If Jesus is supposed to satisfy all my hunger to be loved and wanted, why doesn’t he?

The Sabotage of Acceptance

We will never find Jesus’s approval truly satisfying until we stop seeking our approval from others. In the book of John, Jesus asks this question:

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)
When we treat people as if they have the power to determine our value, we attribute to them a power that belongs to God alone. As long as they hold power over our worth, we will never feel safe and satisfied in God’s acceptance. It’s like wondering why the finest steak in town isn’t satisfying us when you keep shoving McDonald’s fries down our throat before you eat.

Jesus says that if affirmation from people can add to your sense of self and deep security, it will rob you of the ability to experience deep belief in him. If we want to know why we aren’t satisfied in Jesus, here’s his answer: You receive affirmation from creatures and don’t seek it from the only Creator.

That’s why I feel no hesitation in claiming that the pain of rejection we face in singleness is one of God’s sweetest gifts. It provides a head start on being satisfied in God.

Don’t Waste Your Rejection

Part of the reason rejection hurts so much is because it’s tearing away from us the approval of men. If we can fight the urge to comfort ourselves by scrambling for more human affirmation, we can use that hurt as an opportunity to drive us to seek our affirmation from God.

“The pain of rejection we face in singleness is one of God’s sweetest gifts.” Tweet
You will waste the rejection of singleness if you let the pain drive you to seek affirmation of worth from people instead of God. God has designed this beautiful gift of singleness to highlight your need to be chosen and to underline the inadequacy of people to fill that need. Don’t be ashamed by your hunger to be wanted and chosen. Don’t try to cover or conceal or fill it with positive thinking or encouragement from mortal men. Let it drive you to cling to the God who has chosen you at great cost.

Let no one except God have the power to determine your worth. Let no covenant, other than the New Covenant with Christ, satisfy your need to be chosen.

Gaining Christ

If you are no mortal man’s favorite, you are in good company. Besides me, you’re also in the company of the one who was “despised and rejected by men.” Don’t waste the opportunity to be comforted by the great high priest who can sympathize with your weakness because he has experienced the full depths of rejection.

As you find yourself secure in Christ, you will stand more fully on the great promise that you will never be forsaken, never be rejected by God. Every hour of every day, for all eternity, you are wanted, chosen, picked. And you know why? Because Jesus was willing to face rejection so that you could be secure. He faced our nightmare so we could live in the dream: unconditional love from our sufficient Savior.

Overflowing in Love

The more you seek and experience the glory that comes from the only God, the more of an asset you will be to the hurting and broken around you in the church and the city. You will go into this world full, not empty — satisfied, not starving. Instead of looking around and constantly perceiving the world through the lens of rejection, you will be so safe and secure you will be free to look around and pursue the rejected.

In Christ, we are free to receive the aloneness of singleness as a gift, knowing that it is not ultimately rooted in rejection. That fear and insecurity is drowned out by his great and precious promises.

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31–32)
Settle it in your mind: You are not alone because you are unwanted, unloved, or rejected. Your life is being written with kind and perfect intentions by a sovereign and loving God who is stewarding all things to give you the greatest possible good: himself.

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The light of a new morning


 Lamentations 3:22-24

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

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The word of God says a new day brings new mercies. I think about that a lot on my morning walks before work. Just looking at things in the light of a new day often brings an entirely new perspective. Depending on the weather and the light, things take on new hues and subtle changes. Delicate flowers explode with color and beauty in the noon day sun, but even weeds have a certain shimmer in the first sprinkles of early morning dew and a new days awakening sunlight. I like to hike and take photographs and in order to capture God’s creation you need to notice certain things. I think there is hidden beauty in things often overlooked and my life is a lot like that sometimes. If I am not careful, and focus on earthly troubles my mind is no longer at peace and trusting in God’s promises. I can easily forget that my worries and cares, even afflictions are part of the school of Christ…only leading me to my eternal home and rest in Jesus.

James Meikle wrote in Solitude Sweetened

“Again, in the dark night of adversity, there are beauties seen, that were never seen in the broad day of prosperity. Manasseh, all the time he reigned in Judah, though it was a land of light, never knew God until he was taken among the thorns, bound in fetters, and carried to Babylon, where he prayed, was heard, pardoned, and liberated; and “then Manasseh knew that the Lord, he was God.” Thus, in the depths of affliction, he learned maxims more sublime, and of higher consequence, than he could attain to when seated on a throne. O desirable distress! that discloses and magnifies heavenly excellences, and diminishes earthly vanities!”

“From the depth of afflictions we see stupendous things”.

These are lessons I need to learn to find joy and comfort in. Let me leave you with some encouragement from God’s word that we can stand on no matter our circumstances today.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Matthew 11:28-29

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Isaiah 40:29-31

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Romans 8:37-39

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Proverbs 1:33

But all who listen to me will live in peace,
untroubled by fear of harm.”

John 14:27

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

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She knew Him and she believed.


mustard seedAnd blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled. (Luke 1:45)

My words shall be fulfilled in their season (their fixed appointed time) (Greek, Luke 1:20).

There shall be a performance of those things
That loving heart hath waited long to see;
Those words shall be fulfilled to which she clings,
Because her God hath promised faithfully;
And, knowing Him, she ne’er can doubt His Word;
“He speaks and it is done.” The mighty Lord!

There shall be a performance of those things,
O burdened heart, rest ever in His care;
In quietness beneath His shadowing wings
Await the answer to thy longing prayer.
When thou hast “cast thy care,” the heart then sings,
There shall be a performance of those things.

There shall be a performance of those things,
O tired heart, believe and wait and pray;
At eventide the peaceful vesper rings,
Though cloud and rain and storm have filled the day.
Faith pierces through the mist of doubt that bars
The coming night sometimes, and finds the stars.

There shall be a performance of those things,
O trusting heart, the Lord to thee hath told;
Let Faith and Hope arise, and plume their wings,
And soar towards the sunrise clouds of gold;
The portals of the rosy dawn swing wide,
Revealing joys the darkening night did hide.

—Bessie Porter

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The debt of a Christian


foot washing

We are in debt to everybody!

(J. R. Miller, “The Building of Character” 1894)

“Little children, we must not love in word or speech—but in deed and truth.” 1 John 3:18

“Do not owe anyone anything—except to love one another.” Romans 13:8

We are in debt to everybody! Love is a debt which never can be altogether settled. You may pay it all off today—but tomorrow you will find it as heavy as ever. It is a debt which everybody owes to everybody. Nor can it be paid off with any mere sentimental love. It cost Paul a great deal, to settle his obligations and pay his debts to others.

There is a sort of philanthropic sentiment which some people have, which does not cost them very much. But to pay his debts of love, Paul gave up all he had, and then gave himself up to service, suffering, and sacrifice to the very uttermost. True love always costs! Love’s essential quality, is unselfish helpfulness, the carrying of the life with all its rich gifts and powers in such a way—that it may be a blessing to every other life which it touches.

As Christians, we owe love to everyone—and love always serves. Serving is an essential quality of love. The true standard of greatness—is service. It is not what our life is in gifts, in culture, in strength—but what we do with our life, which is the real test of character. Our Lord taught this truth when he said, “Whoever wants to become great among you—must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first—must be slave of all.” Mark 10:43-44. He who serves the most fully and the most unselfishly, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Love seeks to give, to minister, to be of use, to do good to others. The true Christian desires to serve others, to minister to their comfort, to be a help and a blessing to them. It is thus, that we should relate ourselves to every person who comes within our influence. Love will lead us to ask concerning everyone who passes before us, “What can I do to help this brother of mine, to add to his happiness, to relieve his trouble, to put him in the way of holiness, to comfort his sorrow?” If this were the habitual attitude of our love, paradise would soon be restored. It would put an end to all our miserable pride, to all our petty tyrannies and despotisms.

Love works most effectively—when it works unconsciously, almost instinctively, inspired from within. That is the best service, which flows out of the heart and life—as light from the sun, as fragrance from a flower. There is no other way of paying our debt of love to others, which is so Christlike as this. We are to be to others—what Jesus would be, if He were in our place!

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Blessed are the Peacemakers


March 9, 1986 | by John Piper | Scripture: Matthew 5:9 |

Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

With each beatitude another nail is driven into a coffin. Inside the coffin lies the corpse of a false understanding of salvation. The false understanding said that a person can be saved without being changed. Or: that a person can inherit eternal life even if his attitudes and actions are like the attitudes and actions of unbelievers.

The Cry of the Beatitudes: Get a New Heart

One after the other the beatitudes tell us that the blessings of eternity will be given only to those who have become new creatures. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.

If we don’t obtain mercy, we receive judgment. If we don’t see God, we are not in heaven. If we aren’t called the sons of God, we are outside the family. In other words these are all descriptions of final salvation. And it is promised only to the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.

Therefore the beatitudes are like long spikes holding down the lid of the coffin on the false teaching which says that if you just believe in Jesus you will go to heaven whether or not you are merciful or pure in heart or a peacemaker. In fact, from beginning to end the Sermon on the Mount cries out, “Get yourself a new heart! Become a new person! The river of judgment is at the door!” You recall the words of verse 20: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

And at the very end of the sermon in 7:26f. the Lord calls out over the crowds, “Every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.” In other words, a life of disobedience to the beatitudes and to the Sermon on the Mount will not stand in the judgment no matter what we believe!

Not Optional Suggestions but the Path to Heaven

I have been convicted this past week that I have probably not treated this dimension of the beatitudes with as much earnestness and seriousness as I should, and that the care that I have for your eternal good has not shown itself as genuinely as it must. My conscience was pricked in reading an old book by Horatius Bonar to pastors in which he said,

Our words are feeble, even when sound and true; our looks are careless, even when our words are weighty; and our tones betray the apathy which both words and looks disguise. (Words to Winners of Souls, p. 55)

So I want to impress upon your consciences this morning with as much earnestness as I can that in the beatitudes Jesus is not making optional suggestions, and this sermon is not a series of suggestions on how to make the world better. On the contrary, Jesus is describing the pathway to heaven, and this sermon is a message from God to urge you to get on that pathway and stay on that pathway so that you can be called sons of God at the last judgment.

That is what is at stake this morning. If you are on the narrow path which leads to life, my purpose is to help you stay on it. And if you are still in the broad way that leads to destruction, my purpose is to direct you to the path of life.

How to Become Sons of God

When Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,” he does not tell us how to become a son of God. He simply says that sons of God are in fact peacemakers. People who are peacemakers will be recognized as the sons of God at the judgment and they will be called what they are and welcomed into the Father’s house.

To see how to become sons of God we can look, for example, at John 1:12 and Galatians 3:26. John 1:12 says, “To all who received him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” And Galatians 3:26 says, “For in Christ we are all sons of God through faith.” In other words, we become sons of God by trusting in Christ for our forgiveness and hope.

Sons of God Have the Character of Their Father

What Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:9 is that people who have become sons of God have the character of their heavenly Father. And we know from Scripture that their heavenly Father is a “God of peace” (Romans 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20). We know that heaven is a world of peace (Luke 19:38). And most important of all, we know that God is a peacemaker!

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). He made peace by the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:20). In other words, even though by nature we are rebels against God and have committed high treason and are worthy to be eternally court-marshaled and hanged by the neck until dead, nevertheless God has sacrificed his own Son and now declares amnesty free and clear to any who will lay down their arms of independence and come home to faith.

God is a peace-loving God, and a peacemaking God. The whole history of redemption, climaxing in the death and resurrection of Jesus, is God’s strategy to bring about a just and lasting peace between rebel man and himself, and then between man and man. Therefore, God’s children are that way, too. They have the character of their Father. What he loves they love. What he pursues they pursue. You can know his children by whether they are willing to make sacrifices for peace the way God did.

By the sovereign work of God’s grace rebel human beings are born again, and brought from rebellion to faith, and made into children of God. We were given a new nature, after the image of our heavenly Father (1 John 3:9). If he is a peacemaker, then his children, who have his nature, will be peacemakers too.

The Spirit of God Is the Spirit of Peace

Or to put it another way, as Paul says in Galatians 4:6, “Since we are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” And therefore, as he says in Romans 8:14, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.” And being led by the Spirit always includes bearing the fruit of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit is peace!

So you see why it must be so, that the children of God must be peacemakers. It is by the Spirit of God that we are made children of God, and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of peace. If we are not peacemakers, we don’t have the Spirit of Christ.

So we do not earn or merit the privilege to be called sons of God. Instead we owe our new birth to the sovereign grace of God (John 1:13). We owe our faith to the impulses of the new birth (1 John 5:1). We receive the Holy Spirit by the exercise of this faith (Galatians 3:2). The fruit of this Spirit is peace (Galatians 5:22). And those who bear the fruit of peace are the sons of God.

Our whole salvation, from beginning to end, is all of grace—therein lies our hope and joy and freedom. But our final salvation is not unconditional, we must be peacemakers—therein lies our earnestness and the great seriousness with which we must deal with these beatitudes, and seek the grace of God in our lives.

Now let’s look at . . .

What It Means to Be a Peacemaker

The promise of sonship in the second half of the Matthew 5:9 points us to Matthew 5:43–45 for our main insight. Both of these texts describe how we can show ourselves to be sons of God.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Notice verse 45, ” . . . so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” The thought is the same as in Matthew 5:9. There, we must be peacemakers to be called sons of God. Here, we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us if we would be sons of God.

So probably Jesus thinks of peacemaking as all the acts of love by which we try to overcome the enmity between us and other people. And if we ask for specifics, he gives two examples.

Two Examples

The first thing he mentions is prayer (verse 44): Pray for those who persecute you. Pray what? The next chapter tells us. In Matthew 6:9–10 Jesus says, “Pray like this.” Pray that you and your enemy would hallow God’s name. Pray that God’s kingdom be acknowledged in your life and his life. Pray that you and he would do God’s will the way the angels do it in heaven. In other words, pray for conversion and sanctification. The basis of peace is purity. Pray for yours and pray for his, that there might be peace.

Then in Matthew 5:47 Jesus gives the other specific example of peacemaking-love in this text: “If you salute (or greet) only your brethren, what more are you doing than others?” In other words, if there is a rupture in one of your relationships, or if there is someone who opposes you, don’t nurse that grudge. Don’t feed the animosity by ignoring and avoiding that person. That is the natural thing to do—just cross the street so that you don’t have to greet them. But that is not the impulse of the Spirit of a peacemaking God, who sacrificed his Son to reconcile us to himself and to each other.

Peacemaking tries to build bridges to people. It does not want the animosity to remain. It wants reconciliation. It wants harmony. And so it tries to show what may be the only courtesy the enemy will tolerate, namely, a greeting. The peacemaker looks the enemy right in the eye and says, “Good morning, John.” And he says it with a longing for peace in his heart, not with a phony gloss of politeness to cover his anger.

Not the Same as Peace-Achieving

So we pray and we take whatever practical initiatives we can to make peace beginning with something as simple as a greeting. But we do not always succeed. And I want to make sure you don’t equate peacemaking with peace-achieving. A peacemaker longs for peace, and works for peace, and sacrifices for peace. But the attainment of peace may not come.

Romans 12:18 is very important at this point. There Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.” That is the goal of a peacemaker: “If possible, so far as it depends on you . . . ” Don’t let the rupture in the relationship be your fault.

A Tough Question: Peace and Truth?

Ah, but that raises a tough question: Is it your fault when the stand that you take is causing the division? If you have alienated someone and brought down their anger upon your head because you have done or said what is right, have you ceased to be a peacemaker?

Not necessarily. Paul said, “If it is possible . . . live at peace.” He thus admits that there will be times that standing for the truth will make it impossible. For example, he says to the Corinthians (in 11:18–19), “I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” Now he would not have said that, if the genuine Christians should have compromised the truth in order to prevent divisions at all cost. It was precisely because some of the Christians were genuine—genuine peacemakers—that some of the divisions existed. (Also see 1 Corinthians 7:15.)

Jesus said in Matthew 10:34,

Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.

In other words, you must love peace and work for peace. You must pray for your enemies, and do good to them, and greet them, and long for the barriers between you to be overcome. But you must never abandon your allegiance to me and my word, no matter how much animosity it brings down on your head. You are not guilty; you are not in the wrong if your life of obedience and your message of love and truth elicit hostility from some and affirmation from others.

Purity the Basis for Peace

Perhaps it’s just this warning that Jesus wants to sound when the very next beatitude says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” In other words, righteousness must not be compromised in order to make peace with your persecutors. When Jesus pronounces a blessing on you for being persecuted for the sake of righteousness, he clearly subordinates the goal of peace to the goal of righteousness.

In James 3:17 it says “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable.” First pure, then peaceable, not the other way around. And that is the order we have in the beatitudes also (in verses 8 and 9): First, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” then, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Purity takes precedence over peace. Purity is the basis of biblical peace. Purity may not be compromised in order to make peace.

Why Focus on the Individual Dimensions?

Now I want to close by dealing with one more question that a message like this would raise for some people today. Why, in view of the world situation, does this message on peacemaking confine itself to the personal dimensions of prayer and greetings and individual reconciliation? Aren’t these personal issues insignificant in comparison with the issues of nuclear war, military budgets, arms talks in Geneva, apartheid in South Africa, civil wars in Central America, religious oppression in Romania and Russia, and international terrorism?

Before we answer that question, let’s ask another one. Was Jesus unaware that the iron hand of the Roman Empire rested on the tiny land of the Jews without their consent? Was he aware that Archelaus slaughtered 3,000 Jews at a Passover celebration? Was he aware that the Roman soldiers could conscript any Jew they chose to carry their baggage? Was he aware that Pilate had his soldiers bludgeon a crowd of Jews protesting his stealing from the temple treasury? Was he aware that Pilate massacred Jews on the temple ground and mixed their blood with their sacrifices they were offering?

When Jesus spoke of enemies, why did he confine himself to prayer and personal greetings and blessings and individual deeds of generosity and kindness? Why didn’t he talk about the issues of national humiliation, and Roman oppression, and political corruption, and the unbridled militarism of his day? Was he utterly out of touch with the big issues of his day?

Social Injustices as Demands for Personal Repentance

No. There is another explanation for why he preaches the way he does. In Luke 13:1–5 some people confronted Jesus with one of Pilate’s atrocities. Here’s the way he responded:

There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

He took a major social outrage of injustice and turned it into a demand for personal, individual repentance. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish!” That’s what he always did. Why did he do this? Because for Jesus the eternal destiny of a human soul is a weightier matter, a bigger issue, than the temporal destiny of a nation.

If you come to Jesus with a question about the justice of taxes to Tiberias Caesar, he will turn it into a personal command aimed right at your own heart: “You give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:15–21).

If you come to Jesus with a complaint about the injustice of your brother who will not divide the inheritance with you, he will turn it into a warning to your own conscience, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you? . . . Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:13–15).

The Truly Weighty Matter in the World Today

Now let’s go back to the question. Why does a message on peacemaking from the Sermon on the Mount focus on the individual issues of prayer and greetings and personal reconciliation? Aren’t these personal issues insignificant in comparison with the issues of nuclear war, military budgets, arms talks in Geneva, apartheid in South Africa, civil wars in Central America, religious oppression in Romania and Russia, and international terrorism?

The answer is no, because the point of these personal issues in the Sermon on the Mount is to make crystal clear that every individual within the hearing of my voice must become a new creature if you are to have eternal life. You must have a new heart. Without a merciful, pure, peacemaking heart you cannot be called a son of God at the judgment day. And that is the truly weighty matter in the world today. Is the Son of Man confined in his views of the world, is he out of touch with the real issues of life because he regards the eternal salvation of your soul as a weightier matter than the temporal destiny of any nation on earth?

Blessed are you peacemakers who pray for your enemies and greet your opponents with love and sacrifice like your heavenly Father for the reconciliation of people to God and to each other, for you will be called sons of God and inherit eternal life in the kingdom of your Father.

March 9, 1986 | by John Piper | Scripture: Matthew 5:9 |

Matthew 5:9

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Alone with Jesus


Alone with Jesus!

(from Octavius Winslow’s, “Morning Thoughts”)

“Suddenly they looked around, and Moses and Elijah
were gone, and only Jesus was with them.” Mark 9:8

It is possible, my dear reader, that this page may be
read by you at a period of painful and entire separation
from all public engagements, ordinances, and privileges.

The way which it has pleased God to take thus to set
you aside may be painful and humbling. The inmate
of a sick chamber, or curtained within the house of
mourning, or removed far remote from the sanctuary
of God and the fellowship of the saints, you are,
perhaps, led to inquire, “Lord, why this?”

He replies, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet
place and get some rest.” Oh the thoughtfulness, the
discrimination, the tenderness of Jesus towards His
people! He has set you apart from public, for private
duties; from communion with others, for communion
with Himself. Ministers, friends, privileges are withdrawn,
and you are; oh enviable state! alone with Jesus!

And now expect the richest and holiest blessing of your life!

Is it sickness? Jesus will make all your bed in your
sickness, and your experience shall be, “His left hand
is under my head, and His right hand embraces me.”

Is it bereavement? Jesus will soothe your sorrow and
sweeten your loneliness; for He loves to visit the house
of mourning, and to accompany us to the grave, to
weep with us there.

Is it exile from Christian fellowship? Still it is Jesus who
speaks, “I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile.”

The very circumstances, new and peculiar as they are,
in which you are placed, God can convert into new and
peculiar mercies; yes, into the richest means of grace
with which your soul was ever fed.

The very void you feel, the very need you deplore, may
be God’s way of satiating you with His goodness.

Ah! does not God see your grace in your very desire for grace?

Does He not mark your sanctification in your very thirsting for holiness?

And can He not turn that desire, and convert that thirst,
into the very blessing itself? Truly He can, and often does.

He can now more than supply the absence of others by the presence of Himself.

Oh, who can compute the blessings which now may flow
into your soul from this season of exile and of solitude?

Solitude?

No, it is not solitude! Never were you less alone than now.

You are alone with Jesus, and He is infinitely better
than health, wealth, friends, ministers, or sanctuary,
for He is the substance and the sweetness of all.

And oh, if while thus alone with Jesus you are led more
deeply to search out the plague of your own heart, and
the love of His; to gather up the trailing garment; to
burnish the rusted armor; to trim the glimmering lamp;
and to cultivate a closer fellowship with your Father,
how much soever you may mourn the necessity and
the cause, you yet will not regret that the Lord has
set you apart from others, that you might rest awhile
in His blest embrace; alone with Jesus!

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Laughter, Friends and Joy.


The trials of life can often discourage even the strongest and most mature Christian.  Disturbing news, illness and all sorts of human suffering can cause us to long for our heavenly home and sometimes overlook the blessings we have here on planet earth. God in His mercy and love has promised to meet our needs on our sometimes trying journey home.

I believe one of our greatest blessings is the love and joy of walking that path with our fellow pilgrims. God has blessed me with the friendship of Godly Christian bloggers, who are not only my Sisters in Christ, but they have become like Sisters in real life too. Love, laughter and the joy of sweet fellowship can ease the stress of many burdens. One of my precious Sisters in Christ, Diana Lovegrove has the most uplifting post this morning on her blog “Waiting for our blessed Hope” Read it here: http://waitingforourblessedhope.blogspot.com/2011/06/love-laughter-and-friends.html

I know Diana’s post will bless you, and for some more words of wisdom on the subject of laughter I have shared the writings of J.R. Miller below. Love and blessings to you today dear reader, may God grant you peace, joy and a good dose of laughter today on your journey!

Teresa

The Duty of Laughter

J. R. Miller

They tell us that laughter is dying out among men. If so, it is a pity. The Wise Man says that “there is a time to laugh.” That is, there is a time when laughter is right, when it is a duty—and when it would be wrong not to laugh. Perhaps we have not been accustomed to think of laughter in this way. We regard it as an agreeable exercise—but are not apt to class it among duties, like honesty or kindness.

It would be a sad thing, however, if laughter should be altogether crowded out of life. There are other exercises, which we could much better afford to lose. Think of a world of human beings with no laughter—men and women always wearing grave, serious, solemn faces; with no relaxing of the sternness on any occasion. Think of the laughter of childhood departing from the world, and the laughter of youth—how dull and dreary life would be!

Laughter has its place in every wholesome, healthy, holy life. A man who never smiles—is morbid. He has lost the joy chords out of his life. He has trained himself to think only of unpleasant things, to look only and always at the dark side. He has accustomed himself so long to sadness—that the muscles of his face have become set in hard, fixed lines and cannot relax themselves. His thoughts of life are gloomy, and the gloom has entered his soul and darkened his eyes!

All this is wrong. It is abnormal, unnatural. True, most of us are busy and burdened. Our life is full of serious tasks which fill every moment and give us little time for unbending. Yet hard work should never drive laughter out of the soul. We should keep a happy heart amid the severest toil. We should sing at our work. We will work better and far more effectively if we keep the music always ringing within our breast. “A sad heart tires in a mile” runs the old song. “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” said Nehemiah to the people, as he urged them to rejoicing. Joy of spirit makes burdens seem lighter and tasks easier. It is probably necessary to require silence in certain establishments where people work together—but it is not the natural way. It would ad much to the value of labor if the strokes of toil could be the time beats of joyous music.

Laughter is a token of a good heart and a good conscience. Shakespeare said some quite uncomplimentary things about the man who has no music in his soul. Where there is no laughter—all evils nest. Demons do not laugh—unless it is the laugh of wicked exultation over the mischief they have wrought, or the laughing sneer at goodness and virtue. Nothing on earth is more beautiful than the merry laugh of childhood. It is the bubbling up of the fountain of innocence and simplicity in the child’s heart. It tells of a spirit yet unspoiled by sin, unhurt by the world’s evil. Spontaneous, holy laughter tells always of godliness. The man who never laughs, must not blame his fellows if they think there is something wrong with his life, something dark within. If the streams which flow out are only bitter—the fountain cannot be sweet!

Even trouble should not quench laughter. Sorrow often rolls like a dark flood over human lives, and it may sometimes seem as if there could be no gladness in the heart thereafter. But however great the grief—joy should live through it. Christian joy does not have its source on the earth—but in heaven, in the everlasting hills. People who live in the valleys amid great mountains, have water even in the driest, hottest summer, because they receive their supply from springs which flow out of the mountains and are unaffected by heat or drought. The Christian’s springs of joy are perennial, because they flow from under the throne of God. No matter what goes wrong—we should still sing and be glad.

Along the shore one sometimes comes upon fresh water springs which bubble up on the edge of the salt sea. The tides roll over them and bury them out of sight for the time—but when the brackish floods ebb again—the springs are found sweet as ever. Just so, after the deepest sorrow—should the heart’s fountains of joy be found, still pouring out their streams of gladness. Christ says much about his people having his joy—a joy which the world can neither give nor take away. He says, too, that their sorrow shall be turned into joy, meaning that the deepest joy in this world is transformed sorrow, and not the joy which has never known pain.

If, therefore, we are Christians—grief should not crush laughter out of our life. Some people seem to think that it would be disloyalty to their friends who are gone—for them ever to be happy again. But this is not true. Of course, there is a sense in which we never get over sorrow. Our life is never the same after sore bereavement. We carry the marks forever. But they should not be marks of sorrow. There is a beatitude of the Master’s which pronounces those who mourn—blessed or happy, because they have God’s comfort. God’s comfort is heaven’s joy entering into the human soul. It is a blessing which transmutes pain into joy and loss—into gain. Sorrow healed by God’s wise, skillful treatment, leaves no ugly scars, no bleeding wounds. Nothing beautiful is lost—in the grief which Christ comforts. The sweetest songs sung on earth—are those learned in the darkened room of trial.

The true problem of living is to pass unhurt in our real character through the greatest trials, and to have our life softened, enriched, and refined—by every trouble we endure. Therefore, we have not met grief aright—if we come out of it with a loss of joyousness. Our songs should be sweeter and our laughter should be gladder, if less hilarious, for a baptism of pain.

There is a mission for humor. The man who can make others laugh may be a great blessing to his fellows. There are times in one’s experience when a bit of fun is better, more a means of grace, than a serious sermon would be. There are times when the best help we can give to a friend—is to make him laugh. The Wise Man says:

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:13

“A cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

A hearty laugh would cure many a sickly feeling, driving away the blues, and changing the whole aspect of life for a man. The gift of bright, cheerful humor is one to be envied. The man who can keep people laughing at the table—is both a promoter of health and a dispenser of happiness.

We may set laughter down, therefore, among Christian duties. Nor is it one of the minor duties. There may be no commandment in the Decalogue, saying: “You shall laugh,” but Christ certainly taught that joy is a duty, one of the virtues which every Christian should cultivate. No one now believes the old tradition that Jesus never smiled—but always wept. He must have been a happy hearted man. Paul also makes it very clear in his teachings that we should rejoice always, and that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, an essential quality of the complete Christian life.

It is not hard for young people to laugh; it comes naturally to them. They should cultivate laughter as a Christian grace, never losing the art, nor allowing it to fall into disuse. They should seek always to be cheerful. Living near the heart of Christ, faithfully following his commandment, and obeying conscience, their lives may be always full of gladness and song. Of course they will find thorns in their path and the sun will not always shine. But there will be ten times more gladness than sorrow in their life, and even the clouds will bring rain with its blessing, and pain will make the song sweeter, if softer.

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God with us


Psalm 46

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A song.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.

5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah

8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah

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