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Providence

(61 posts)

Blunders into Fruit

Tuesday··2006·11·28
If you’re a human being, you’ve made bad decisions. Some of them may have been seriously wrong, even sinful. You may have made choices that have left you wondering whether you’ve “missed your calling,” whether you’ve blown it so bad that God’s will is now out of reach. Fear not. On July 2 [1505], on the way home from law school, [Luther] was caught in a thunderstorm and was hurled to the ground by lightning. He cried out, “Help me, St. Anne; I will become a monk.” He feared for his soul and did not know how to find safety in the Gospel. So he took the next best thing, the monastery. Fifteen days later, to his father’s dismay, he kept his vow. On July 17, 1505, he knocked at the gate of the Augustinian Hermits in Erfurt and asked the prior to accept him into the order. Later he said this choice was a flagrant sin—“not worth a farthing” because made against his father and out of fear. Then he added, “But how much good the merciful Lord has allowed to come of it!” We see this kind of merciful providence over and over again in the history of the church. We saw it powerfully in the life of Augustine, and we will see it in Calvin’s life too. It should protect us from the paralyzing effects of bad decisions in our past. God is not hindered in his sovereign designs from leading us, as he did Luther, out of blunders into fruitful lives of joy. —John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy (Crossway, 2000), 83–84.

Why the saint’s strength is laid up in God

Tuesday··2007·02·13 · 1 Comments
At the moment of regeneration, we (Christians) are transformed (1 Corinthians 5:17). But that transformation does not make us autonomously righteous. It does not make us impervious to temptation. It does not take away our dependence on God. rather, it enables us to experience and rest in God’s gracious providence. [Why the saint’s strength is laid up in God.] Reason First. The first reason may be taken from the nature of the saints and their grace. Both are creatures, they and their grace also. Now, “it is in the very nature of the creature to depend on God its Maker,” both for being and operation. Can you conceive an accident to be out of its subject, whiteness out of the wall, or some other subject? It is as impossible that the creature should be, or act without strength from God. This to be, act in and of himself, is so incommunicable a property of the Deity, that he cannot impart it to his creature. God is, and there is none besides him. When God made the world, it is said indeed he ended his work, that is, of creation: he made no new species and kinds of creatures more; but to this day he hath not ended his work of providence: “My Father worketh hitherto,” saith Christ, Jn. v. 17, that is, in preserving and empowering what he hath made with strength to be and act, and therefore he is said to hold our souls in life. Works of art, which man makes, when finished, may stand some time without the workman’s help, as the house, when the carpenter has made it is dead; but God’s works, both of nature and grace, are never off his hand, and therefore as the Father is said to work hitherto for the preservation of the works of nature, so the Son, to whom is committed the work of redemption, he tells us, worketh also. Neither ended he his work when he rose again, any otherwise than his Father did in the work of creation. God made an end of making, so Christ made an end of purchasing mercy, grace, and glory for believers, by once dying; and as God rested at the end of the creation, so he, when he had wrought eternal redemption, and “by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high,” He. i. 3. But he ceaseth not to work by his intercession with God for us, and by his Spirit in us for God, whereby he upholds his saints, their graces, and comforts in life, without which they would run to ruin. Thus we see as grace is a creature, the Christian depends on God for his strength. But further, Reason Second. The Christian’s grace is not only a creature, but a weak creature, conflicting with enemies stronger than itself, and therefore cannot keep the field without an auxiliary strength from heaven. The weakest goes to the wall, if no succour comes in. Grace in this life is but weak, like a king in the cradle, which gives advantage to Satan to carry on his plots more strongly to the disturbance of this young king’s reign in the soul, yea, he would soon make an end of the war in the ruin of the believer’s grace, did not Heaven take the Christian into protection. It is true indeed, grace, whereever it is, hath a principle in itself that makes it desire and endeavour to preserve itself according to its strength, but being overpowered must perish, except assisted by God, as fire in greenwood, which deads and damps the part kindled, will in time go out, except blown up, or more fire put to that little; so will grace in the heart. God brings his grace into the heart by conquest. Now, as in a conquered city, though some yield and become true subjects to the conqueror, yet others plot how they may shake off this yoke; and therefore it requires the same power to keep, as was to win it at first. The Christian hath an unregenerate part, that is discontented at this new change in the heart, and disdains as much to come under the sweet government of Christ’s sceptre, as the Sodomites that Lot should judge them. What, this fellow, a stranger, control us! And Satan heads this mutinous rout against the Christian, so that if God should not continually reinforce this his new planted colony in the heart, the very natives (I mean corruptions) that are left, would come out of their dens and holes where they lie lurking, and eat up the little grace the holiest on earth hath; it would be as bread to these devourers. Reason Third. A third demonstration may be taken from the grand design which God propounds to himself in the saint’s salvation; yea, in the transaction of it from first to last. And that is twofold. 1. God would bring his saints to heaven in such a way as might be most expressive of his dear love and mercy to them. 2. He would so express his mercy and love to them, as might rebound back to him in the highest advance of his own glory possible. Now how becoming this is to both, that saints should have all their ability for every step they take in the way to heaven, will soon appear. 1. Design. God would bring his saints to heaven in such a way as might be most expressive of his dear love and mercy to them. This way of communicating strength to saints, gives a double accent to God’s love and mercy. (1.) It distils a sweetness into all the believer hath or doth, when he finds any comfort in his bosom, any enlargement of heart in duty, any support under temptations, to consider whence came all these, what friend sends them in. They come not from my own cistern, or any creature’s. O it is my God that hath been here, and left his sweet perfume of comfort behind him in my bosom! my God that hath unawares to me filled my sails with the gales of his Spirit, and brought me off the flats of my own deadness, where I lay aground. O, it is his sweet Spirit that held my head, stayed my heart in such an affliction and temptation, or else I had gone away in a fainting fit of unbelief. How can this choose but endear God to a gracious soul? His succours coming so immediately from heaven, which would be lost, if the Christian had any strength to help himself (though this stock of strength came at first from God). Which, think you, speaks more love and condescent: for a prince to give a pension to a favourite, on which he may live by his own care, or for this prince to take the chief care upon himself, and come from day to day to this man’s house, and look into his cupboard and see what provision he hath, what expense he is at, and so constantly to provide for the man from time to time? Possibly some proud spirit that likes to be his own man, or loves his means better than his prince, would prefer the former, but one that is ambitious to have the heart and love of his prince would be ravished with the latter. Thus God doth with his saints. The great God comes and looks into their cupboard, and sees how they are laid in, and sends in accordingly as he finds them. “Your heavenly Father knows you have need of these things,” and you shall have them. He knows you need strength to pray, [to] hear, [to] suffer for him, and, in ipsâ horâ dabitur, “in the very hour it will be given.” (2.) This way of God’s dealing with his saints adds to the fulness and stability of their strength. Were the stock in our own hands, we should soon prove broken merchants. God knows we are but leaking vessels, when fullest we could not hold it long; and therefore to make all sure, he sets us under the streamings forth of his strength, and a leaking vessel under a cock gets what it loseth. Thus we have our leakage supplied continually. This was the provision God made for Israel in the wilderness: He clave the rock, and the rock followed them. They had not only a draught at present, but it ran in a stream after them, so that you hear no more of their complaints for water. This rock was Christ Every believer hath Christ at his back, following him with strength as he goes, for every condition and trial. One flower with the root is worth many in a posie, which though sweet yet do not grow, but wither as we wear them in bosoms. God’s strength as the root keeps lively, without which, though as orient as Adam’s was, it would die. —William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth, 2002), 20–23.

Book Review: The Grand Weaver

Tuesday··2007·08·14
After receiving several books for review purposes, I have learned a couple of things. First, I would rather choose my own books. Second, I don’t like reading books for the purpose of reviewing them. I would rather read for my own education and edification. With that said, I hope you’ll understand if this is not a particularly well-written review. It is, after all, my first book review, as well. The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us through the Events of Our Lives is the first book I have read by Ravi Zacharias. I had, of course, heard of him as an author, apologist, and conference speaker. By all reliable accounts, he is fairly sound theologically and well spoken of by others whose work I do know and respect, so my expectations going into this book were high. Perhaps those high expectations colored my thinking as I read and made me too susceptible to disappointment, and disappointed I was. I want to state clearly that this is not a bad book. It simply did not, in my opinion, demonstrate biblically “how God shapes us through the events of our lives.” Throughout the book, especially in the first half, Dr. Zacharias depends on anecdotes that illustrate the providential hand of God in directing our lives. These stories, for the most part, serve that purpose well, although, at times, I wondered if Zacharias was not leaning a bit too far toward the mystical. Too little was added by the author, however, to draw that conclusion—and that is a major complaint I have about this book. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who drops the ends of sentences and, with a meaningful look, expects you to get it? That’s how I felt reading this book. Zacharias would almost make his point, and then offer an anecdote, poem, or quatation intended to convey the message. It was like . . . you know? The second half of the book contains two chapters that are really quite good and could easily stand alone, Your Will Matters and Your Worship Matters. The following quotation from the latter is the kind of solid, straight-forward writing that is lacking elsewhere in the book: Teaching must become the center of worship again, and the ideas that shape our expressions must be biblically induced and shaped. I am not for a moment suggesting that right teaching will guarantee a throbbing, lively church. It may not. But I am suggesting that displaced and misplaced teaching will guarantee a heretical church. The message of the book is that God is directing the circumstances and events of your life to make you who he wants you to be, and that you will never see this until you begin to look at your life from his perspective. And that’s an important message. It is a message that is conveyed, after a fashion, through the stories in this book. I only wish it had been conveyed more through biblical exposition. You may enjoy the style of this book. I didn’t. If you are easily moved by poignant stories and you think anecdotes prove anything, this book is for you. If you are a pastor looking for fresh illustrations to spice up your dull sermons (because those provided in the Bible aren’t interesting enough), this book might be for you. However, if you are looking for a biblical exposition of the sovereignty and providence of God, this is not that book.

“None can drive him from his work”

Wednesday··2007·10·17
And now, Christian, may be their confidence, together with the distracted state of Christ’s affairs in the work, may discompose thy spirit, concerning the issue of these rolling providences that are over our heads; but be still, poor heart, and know that the contest is not between the church and Satan, but between Christ and him. These are the two champions. Stand now, O ye army of saints, still, by faith, to see the all-wise God wrestle with a subtle devil. If you live not to see the period of these great confusions, yet generations after you shall behold the Almighty smite off this Goliath’s head with his own sword, and take this cunning hunter in the toil of his own policies; that faith which ascribes greatness and wisdom to God, will shrink up Satan’s subtlety into a nigrum nihil—a thing of nothing. Unbelief fears Satan as a lion, faith treads on him as a worm. Behold therefore thy God at work, and promise thyself that what he is about, will be an excellent piece. None can drive him from his work. —William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:110.

Divine Providence and War

Friday··2007·10·19
We live in a day in which multitudes believe that God’s only interest in violent warfare is to express disapproval of it. Many suggest that the God of the Old Testament is discredited and that he has been replaced by the New Testament God on only love and peace. Such a view ignores the positive teaching of Romans 13:1–7. There we are told that rulers, bearing the sword in just causes and in defense of the good, are God’s agents of justice. Many pacifists refuse to recognize the depths of evil in the hearts of those rogues who rule aggressive and oppressive states. Others, with the same devotion to no aggression, are relatives who are angered to hear anyone label one cause “evil” and another “good.” The hand of divine providence is not withheld from any war. At times the design of neither combatant is accomplished, but a third design (in the secret will of God) is established. All warriors may be left with “unintended consequences,” to their way of thinking. —Walter J. Chantry, David: Man of Prayer, Man of War (Banner of Truth, 2007), 35–36.

Knowing God’s Will

Monday··2007·11·19 · 2 Comments
Walter Chantry on the supremacy of God’s Word and prayer over reading circumstances in knowing God’s will: Many who lived during David’s era were quite aware that the Almighty manages all things on the earth and all things in human affairs. In David’s time it was as it is today. Those who have a doctrine of divine providence often attempt to read divine intent for the future through unfolding circumstances, all of which are under God’s control, or through opportunities set before them by the Lord’s governing of our world. When Keilah fell under attack from the Philistines, David’s men feared that responding to help the people of that city would provide Saul with a golden opportunity to capture David and his small band. Since Keilah was so close to the border of Philistia, and therefore, since it faced constant raids from Israel’s arch-foe, the city had built defensive walls. If David and his men entered a walled city, so they reasoned, they would be trapped. Saul would then hasten from Gibeah and seize them all. It was for this reason that David’s army preferred to remain in the open wilderness where numerous routes of escape were their protection. Providence dictated, it seemed to them, that they decline to help Keilah. David reasoned differently and inquired of the Lord as to what his will was (1 Sam. 23:2-5). Through Gad the prophet, and through the Urim and Thummim in Abiathar’s possession, David could entreat God and hear his word in response. Thus did David rise above guesses as to God’s intentions from the mere observation of providence. For him, prayer and ‘Thus saith the Lord’ would guide all decisions. So must we seek to know God’s will by prayer and by the searching of his Word as we make decisions for the future. After David and his forces delivered Keilah from the Philistines, Saul indeed did hear that the brave men of Jesse’s son were in the fortress of Keilah. Reading provid¬ence only, Saul concluded, ‘God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars’ (1 Sam. 23:7). Not unaware of their danger, and employing informers, David knew when ‘Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men’ (1 Sam. 23:8). Again he sought by prayer and by inquiring of God to know what he should do. God told him that Saul was on his way. He further told David that, in the face of overwhelming numbers, and in the face of their rightful king’s demand, Keilah’s elders would deliver David and his men into Saul’s hand. Then, and only then, did David and his men depart in haste. As we have seen, when David was in the region of Engedi (1 Sam. 24), Saul entered a cave, unaware that David and his men were hidden in this very cavern. David’s men, reading the providence of God, said, ‘Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, “Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand”’ (1 Sam. 24:4). The opportunity was there to kill Saul and to seize the kingdom after the assassination. How many presume that God wants us to act in a certain way because there is an unexpected opportunity to do so! David did not need Gad, nor did he need the Urim and Thummim, to tell him what God’s will was. He knew, as well as we, that, ‘the governing authorities . . . that exist have been instituted by God’ (Rom. 13:1). He spoke of their advice as bad counsel, ‘to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed’ (1 Sam. 24:7). On principle, received from the Word of God, he refused to seize his ‘opportunity’ against Saul. How often are we met with flippant comments like, ‘The Lord showed me’, or, ‘I was led of the Lord’! Often, by these slogans men and women mean, ‘I have glanced at providence; I have read circumstances through the lenses of my personal optimism or pessimism, and with my personal wishes near at hand.’ It is possible to use the above phrases if by them we mean, ‘I have prayed for God’s guidance and I have found these principles in his Word which give light to my path.’ Providence does inform us of God’s having acted in the past. It is far less yielding of information about the future will of God. If God’s Word informs us of God’s ways, how much we can see of his hand at work in our own lives! How many praises we should give for surprising deliv¬erances and unexpected grace! We should sharpen our sensitivity to our God’s omnipresence. One of its major evidences is his control and meaningful direction in every circumstance of our lives. —Walter J. Chantry, David: Man of Prayer, Man of War (Banner of Truth, 2007), 82–84.

Lord’s Day 37, 2008

Sunday··2008·09·14
I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. (Psalme 122:1) HYMN XIPlenty in a time of dearth. Gen. xli. 56.John Newton (1725–1806) My soul once had its plenteous years, And throve, with peace and comfort fill’d, Like the fat kine and ripen’d ears, Which Pharaoh in his dream beheld. With pleasing frames and grace receiv’d, With means and ordinances fed; How happy for a while I liv’d, And little fear’d the want of bread. But famine came and left no sign, Of all the plenty I had seen; Like the dry ears and half-starv’d kine, I then looked wither’d, faint and lean. To Joseph the Egyptians went, To Jesus I made known my case; He, when my little stock was spent, Opened his magazine of grace. For he the time of dearth foresaw, And made provision long before; That famish’d souls, like me, might draw Supplies from his unbounded store. Now on his bounty I depend, And live from fear of dearth secure, Maintain’d by such a mighty friend, I cannot want till he is poor. O sinners hear his gracious call! His mercy’s door stands open wide, He has enough to feed you all, And none who come shall be denied. —Olney Hymns. Book I: On select Passages of Scripture. Psalme 143 (Geneva Bible) A Psalme of David. 1 Hear my prayer, O Lord, and hearken vnto my supplication: answere me in thy trueth and in thy righteousnes. 2 (And enter not into iudgement with thy seruant: for in thy sight shall none that liueth, be iustified) 3 For the enemie hath persecuted my soule: he hath smitten my life downe to the earth: he hath layde me in the darkenes, as they that haue bene dead long agoe: 4 And my spirit was in perplexitie in me, and mine heart within me was amased. 5 Yet doe I remember the time past: I meditate in all thy workes, yea, I doe meditate in the workes of thine hands. 6 I stretch forth mine hands vnto thee: my soule desireth after thee, as the thirstie land. Selah. 7 Heare me speedily, O Lord, for my spirit fayleth: hide not thy face from me, els I shall be like vnto them that go downe into the pit. 8 Let me heare thy louing kindenes in the morning, for in thee is my trust: shewe mee the way, that I should walke in, for I lift vp my soule vnto thee. 9 Deliuer me, O Lord, from mine enemies: for I hid me with thee. 10 Teach me to doe thy will, for thou art my God: let thy good Spirit leade me vnto the land of righteousnes. 11 Quicken me, O Lord, for thy Names sake, and for thy righteousnesse bring my soule out of trouble. 12 And for thy mercy slay mine enemies, and destroy all them that oppresse my soule: for I am thy seruant. Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord’s Day 39, 2008

Sunday··2008·09·28
I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. (Psalme 122:1) A Song of Praise for Deliveranceby John Mason (1645–1694)I that I am drawn out of the depth, Will sing upon the shore; I that in hill’s dark suburbs lay, Pure mercy will adore. The terrors of the living God My soul did so affright, I feared lest I should be condemned To an eternal night. Kind was the pity of my friends, But could not ease my smart; Their words, indeed, did reach my case, But could not reach my heart. Ah, then, what was this world to me, To whom God’s Word was dark; Who in my dungeon could not see One beam or shining spark? What, then, were all the creatures’ smiles, When the Creator frowned? My days were nights, my life was death, My being was my wound. Tortured and racked with hellish fears, When God the blow should give; Mine eyes did fail, my heart did sink; Then mercy bid me live. God’s furnace doth in Zion stand, But Zion’s God sits by; As the refiner views his gold With an observant eye, God’s thoughts are high, His love is wise, His wounds a cure intend; And though He doth not always smile, He loves unto the end. Thy love is constant to its line, Though clouds oft come between; Oh, could my faith but pierce these clouds, It might be always seen. But I am weak, and forced to cry, Take up my soul to Thee; Then, as Thou ever art the same, So shall I ever be. Then shall I ever, ever sing, While Thou dost ever shine; I have Thine own dear pledge for this, Lord Thou art ever mine. —Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004). Psalme 7 (Geneva Bible) Shigaion of Dauid, which he sang unto the Lord, concerning the wordes of Chush the sonne of Iemini. 1 O Lord my God, in thee I put my trust: saue me from all that persecute me, and deliuer me, 2 Least he deuoure my soule like a lion, and teare it in pieces, while there is none to helpe. 3 O Lord my God, if I haue done this thing, if there be any wickednes in mine handes, 4 If I haue rewarded euill vnto him that had peace with mee, (yea I haue deliuered him that vexed me without cause) 5 Then let the enemie persecute my soule and take it: yea, let him treade my life downe vpon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah. 6 Arise, O Lord, in thy wrath, and lift vp thy selfe against the rage of mine enemies, and awake for mee according to the iudgement that thou hast appointed. 7 So shall the Congregation of the people compasse thee about: for their sakes therefore returne on hie. 8 The Lord shall iudge the people: Iudge thou me, O Lord, according to my righteousnesse, and according to mine innocencie, that is in mee. 9 Oh let the malice of the wicked come to an ende: but guide thou the iust: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reines. 10 My defence is in God, who preserueth the vpright in heart. 11 God iudgeth the righteous, and him that contemneth God euery day. 12 Except he turne, he hath whet his sword: he hath bent his bowe and made it readie. 13 Hee hath also prepared him deadly weapons: hee will ordeine his arrowes for them that persecute me. 14 Beholde, hee shall trauaile with wickednes: for he hath conceiued mischiefe, but he shall bring foorth a lye. 15 Hee hath made a pitte and digged it, and is fallen into the pit that he made. 16 His mischiefe shall returne vpon his owne head, and his crueltie shall fall vpon his owne pate. 17 I wil praise the Lord according to his righteousnes, and will sing praise to the Name of the Lord most high. Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hymns of My youth: We Praise Thee, O God

Saturday··2010·09·04 · 5 Comments
This hymn seems to be unknown outside of Lutheran circles. If you’re a Lutheran today, and you’ve sung this hymn, chances are it’s been a neutered version with updated and decidedly unpoetic language, no violence (“battles” are now “struggles”), sans any “great Jehovah.” I give it to you con carne. 20 We Praise Thee, O GodWe praise Thee, O God, our Redeemer, Creator; In grateful devotion our tribute we bring. We lay it before Thee, we kneel and adore Thee; We bless Thy holy name, glad praises we sing. We worship Thee, God of our fathers, we bless Thee; Through trouble and tempest our Guide hast Thou been. When perils o’ertake us, escape Thou wilt make us, And with Thy help, O Lord, our battles we win. With voices united our praises we offer to Thee, great Jehovah, glad anthems we raise. Thy strong arm will guide us, our God is beside us, To Thee, our great Redeemer, forever be praise! —The Concordia Hymnal(Augsburg Publishing House, 1960). The tune is Krember, which you may recognize as We Gather Together.

God’s Decrees and the Use of Means

Thursday··2010·09·23
In his sermon, Divine Decrees (1805), Lemuel Haynes answers well the question, “Why, if God has ordained all that comes to pass, ought we to pray, or take action of any kind? Why not just passively see what happens?” Faith in divine purpose will excite the people of God to the diligent use of means, as He has appointed them as instruments by which he will accomplish His designs and has commanded them to be workers together with him; indeed, without the exertions of men, it is impossible that they should take place. God revealed to Abraham that his seed should go down into Egypt and at such a time be delivered, but this supposed series of second causes [was] all dependent on the first cause; without them the event could not take place. One was the edict of Pharaoh to destroy the male infants of the Hebrews, that Moses should be born and hid three months, that he should be educated at the expense of the King of Egypt, that the Egyptians should be visited with ten plagues, etc. I might with the propriety make the same remark with respect to the deliverance of Israel from Babylonian captivity and the birth and death of Christ. The people of God consider themselves as active instruments to bring about His holy designs and are, in a good degree, cured of that unreasonable temper of mind that will deduce a natural consequences from certain promises, in order to gratify a licentious conduct. The truly pious are pleased with the absolute decrees of God, as what will promote the greatest possible good. If it is desirable that all God’s counsels should stand, then it must be pleasing to saints to be in the use of such means as tend to bring them to pass—without which they cannot exist; this makes them cheerful in the service of God, as they are seeking the same glorious ultimate object with Him. Jochebed and her husband doubtless understood that God, by this remarkable child, designed the deliverance of the church from the iron furnace, which was an animating object; all they did in fitting him for this work afforded satisfaction. Although the children of God cannot always see the connection between means and ends, yet they put such confidence in the divine Being as delights their souls in preserving in the path of duty—believing that God will effect the greatest good by it. The friends of God delight in expressing their obedience to Him. The use of means affords them opportunity to glorify God and commend him the others if love and obedience are delightful exercises to the saints, then to express them will be pleasing. As God cannot exhibit any true virtue of moral excellence without pursuing a plan, so neither can we, unless we regard His will and interest and are workers together with Him. The humble Christian will feel his own weakness and insufficiency to do anything of himself and will see that all his sufficiency is of God, and his faith and hope will rest of His power and providence to do all—which will be a motive to diligence. This will be the foundation of his trust and will excite him to work out his salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God that worketh in him, both to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12–13). This supported the parents of Moses amidst all their care about him and [was the reason] “They were not afraid of the king’s commandments.” Christians will diligently attend to means, as they will see much to be done. Wherever they turn their eyes, they will behold work laid out for them. It is criminal to stand idle in the marketplace. The good man will see enough to employ his head, his heart, his hands, and his temporal interest in the service of God. The reason that so many can find but little to do for God is on account of a slothful and indolent heart that refuses to labor. —Lemuel Haynes, May We Meet in the Heavenly World: The Piety of Lemuel Haynes, ed. Thabiti Anyabwile (Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 81–83.

Hymns of My Youth: Father, Again in Jesus’ Name We Meet

Saturday··2010·10·16
I can’t think of a more appropriate hymn with which to open worship on the Lord’s Day: 37 Father, Again in Jesus’ Name We Meet Father, again in Jesus’ name we meet, And bow in penitence beneath Thy feet; Again to Thee our feeble voices raise, To sue for mercy, and to sing Thy praise. O we would bless Thee for Thy ceaseless care, And all Thy works from day to day declare; Is not our life with hourly mercies crowned? Does not Thine arm encircle us around? Alas, unworthy of Thy boundless love, Too oft with careless feet from Thee we rove; But now, encouraged by Thy voice, we come, Returning sinners to a Father’s home. O by that Name in Whom all fulness dwells, O by that love which ev’ry love excels, O by that blood so freely shed for sin, Open, blest mercy’s gate and take us in. —The Concordia Hymnal (Augsburg Publishing House, 1960).

Pre-Review: Wrestling with an Angel

Thursday··2011·02·10
Back in October 2010, I had subscribed to Cruciform Press, intending (if I my expectations were met) to read and review each new publication as it arrived. Life being what it is—and I being who I am—February 9th rolled around, and I had a stack of five little books on my desk, all unread. Something had to be done, so I grabbed the first edition, Sexual Detox, and got started. You can read about it here. This morning I had meant to knock out the second publication, Wrestling with an Angel: A Story of Love, Disability and the Lessons of Grace by Greg Lucas. As I began, it didn’t take long to realize that this little book was going to take some fortitude to complete. It is intense! I only made it through the introduction and first chapter before I was too emotionally spent to continue—and that’s a significant statement from this stoic Norwegian. Wrestling with an Angel is the story of the author’s experiences caring for his severely disabled son. I expect to have more on it later in the week, but for now, I’ll give you this sample: The cold, hard truth had hit me like a storm. It might actually get worse. My body will get older and weaker and Jake will get bigger and stronger and more defiant. His needs will increase as my abilities to care for him decrease. No matter how frail I get, Jake will never be able to care for me—it will never be that way with us. Jake will always need to be taken care of, and someday I will not be able to give him what he needs. I hear religious-minded people say all the time with good intentions, “God will never place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot carry it.” Really? My experience is that God will place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot possibly carry it alone. He will break your back and your will. He will buckle your legs until you fall flat beneath the crushing weight of your load. All the while He will walk beside you waiting for you to come to the point where you must depend on Him. “My power is made perfect in your weakness,” He says, as we strain under our burden. Whatever the burden, it might indeed get worse, but I know this—God is faithful. And while we change and get old, He does not. When we get weaker, he remains strong. And in our weakness and humility, He offers us true, lasting, transforming, and undeserved grace. —Greg Lucas, Wrestling with an Angel: A Story of Love, Disability and the Lessons of Grace (Cruciform Press, 2010), 14. Wrestling with an Angel is the second book published by Cruciform Press. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.

Book Review: Wrestling with an Angel

Monday··2011·02·14
Read my previous comments on Wrestling with an Angel here. Wrestling with an Angel, at little over 100 small pages, is a book that anyone ought to be able to read in one sitting, but I took three sittings over three days to get through it. The emotional impact was just too much to take it in all at once. This is not because the author employs any emotionally manipulative prose; on the contrary, the style is tersely straightforward, a simple, honest account of the Lucas family’s struggles—physical, emotional, and spiritual—with their developmentally disabled son, Jake. Here is just a sample of a daily routine that taxes both body and soul beyond what we on the outside can imagine: Many times while cleaning and changing Jake, I have been kicked in the face, bitten, smacked, clawed, spit on, or hit with flying objects. It is not too unusual to come away from one of these cleanups with a bloody lip or a new scratch. Every attempt to prepare him for the day becomes a violent struggle played out on several levels, my best intentions pitted against his greatest resistance. Many mornings I leave Jake’s room dejected, hurt, and emotionally drained. Many evenings, in desperation, I find myself restraining his struggles by wrapping him in my arms against his will and gently whispering, “I love you. I love you. I love you—no matter what.” —Greg Lucas, Wrestling with an Angel: A Story of Love, Disability and the Lessons of Grace (Cruciform Press, 2010), 22. (The relevance of that brief vignette will be elucidated below.) Who is this book for? It’s for me, and most of you, the parents of “perfect” children. Do we know, or have we ever known, a family with a special needs child, a child that often if not always, causes disturbances in church, restaurants, etc? Have we ever wished they would just stay home? This book will shame us. It’s for you, the family of a difficult, not-like-everyone-else child, a message of hope from a father who knows what your life is like. This book will point you to your only source of strength and relief. It’s for everyone, really, because the gospel appears on every page. It’s not the gospel of a better life for people who are mostly okay; it’s the full gospel of grace to the desperate and helpless. On the daily battle for personal hygiene, a small part of which was described above, Lucas explains, “It’s not that Jake likes being dirty. He just hates being cleaned.” And that is the story of each of us, isn’t it? Lucas makes it personal: Much like my son, I have been disabled all my life. My disability affects everything I am and everything I do. Scripture diagnoses this disability as sin. Not individual acts of sin, but a sin nature, sin residing within my heart. It causes me to reject love and embrace fear. It plagues me with a slumber that makes me strangely satisfied to lie in my own filth and not be disturbed. It’s not that I like being dirty. I just hate being cleaned. But God is patient, kind, and full of grace. He knows how I am made, but He does not excuse it. He refuses to permit my life to take its natural course. He has sacrificed much to make me His son, and He will not stand by when I am in need—even when I resist His compassion and care. In my son I see a picture of my own relationship with God. In Jake’s defiant refusal to be loved, cared for, and washed, I am reminded of the cross. There, the violence of divine love overpowered my rebellion and forced upon me a process of cleansing redemption that I did not want to undergo. In some ways the process is still ongoing, and most days, I still resist. In my persistent disability I fight against the transformation being worked in me. But I face a power greater than my own and a love stronger than my rebellion. It is as if a bloody, beaten, crucified Savior wraps me in His arms, subdues me with His affection and whispers in my ear, “I love you. I love you. I love you—no matter what.” —Ibid., 23–24. The phrase “changed my life” is often tossed about frivolously, but I think I can fairly say that this book is likely to change you. If it devastates you emotionally, well, I think it should. But if that’s all it does, if you are not spiritually crushed, if it does not cause you to decrease so that Christ may increase, you will have missed the point entirely. Wrestling with an Angel is the second book published by Cruciform Press. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.

Hymns of My Youth: The Lord’s My Shepherd

Saturday··2011·04·02 · 1 Comments
Psalm 23    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.    He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.    He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.    Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. As far as I can recall, I’ve never sung this rendition of Psalm 23, but I should have, it’s in the book, and the tune is familiar, so I’m including it here. 207 The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want; He makes me down to lie In pastures green, He leadeth me The quiet waters by. My soul He doth restore again; And me to walk doth make Within the paths of righteousness, E’en for His own Name’s sake. Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale, Yet will I fear no ill; For Thou art with me, and Thy rod And staff me comfort still. A table Thou prepares me In presence of my foes; My head Thou dost anoint with oil, And my cup o’erflows. Thy lovingkindness all my days Shall surely follow me; And in God’s house forevermore My dwelling place shall be. —The Concordia Hymnal (Augsburg Publishing House, 1960). The Concordia tune is Dundee, also used with My God! How Wonderful Thou Art and According to Thy Gracious Word. And the tune you may find more familiar, Crimond:

Hymns of My Youth: A Mighty Fortress

Saturday··2011·05·14 · 1 Comments
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. —Psalm 46:1 This is one hymn that no Lutheran hymnal can be without. I have no explanation for the unique lyrics. I have found other alternate translations, but I have not seen this version anywhere else. 239 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God A mighty fortress is our God, a trusty shield and weapon; Our help is He in all our need, Our stay whate’er doth happen; For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe; Strong mail and craft and power He weareth in this hour; On Earth is not his equal. Stood we alone in our own might our striving would be losing; For us the one true Man doth fight, The Man of God’s own choosing. Who is this chosen One? ’Tis Jesus Christ, the Son, The Lord of hosts, ’tis He Who wins the victory In ev’ry field of battle. And were the world with devils filled, All watching to devour us, Our souls to fear we need not yield, They cannot overpower us; Their dreaded Prince no more Can harm us as of yore; His rage we can endure; for lo! his doom is sure, A word shall overthrow him. Still they must leave God’s word its might, For which no thanks they merit; Still He is with us in the fight, With His good gifts and Spirit. And should they, in the strife, Take kindred, goods, and life, We freely let them go, They profit not the foe; With us remains the kingdom. —The Concordia Hymnal (Augsburg Publishing House, 1960).

Hymns of My Youth II: O God, Our Help

Saturday··2011·09·24
Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. —Psalm 100:1–5 Isaac Watts originally subtitled this, Psalm 90 Part 1, his paraphrase of Psalm 90:1–5, Man frail, and God eternal. O God, Our Help in Ages Past O God,* our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home. Under the shadow of thy throne Thy saints have dwelt secure; Sufficient is thine arm alone, And our defense is sure. Before the hills in order stood, Or earth received her frame, From everlasting thou art God, To endless years the same. Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day. Our God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Be thou our guide while life shall last,† And our eternal home. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968). * Originally “Our God.” † Originally “Be thou our guard while troubles last.”

Hymns of My Youth II: I Sing the Mighty Power

Saturday··2011·10·15
Isaac Watts’ original title for this hymn, published in Divine and Moral Songs for Children, is Praise for Creation and Providence. I Sing the Mighty Power of God I sing the mighty pow’r of God That made the mountains rise, That spread the flowing seas abroad And built the lofty skies. I sing the wisdom that ordained The sun to rule the day; The moon shines full at his command, And all the stars obey. I sing the goodness of the Lord That filled the earth with food; He formed the creatures with his word, And then pronounced them good. Lord, how thy wonders are displayed Where’er I turn mine eye: If I survey the ground I tread, Or gaze upon the sky! There’s not a plant or flow’r below But makes thy glories known; And clouds arise and tempests blow By order from thy throne; While all that borrows light from Thee Is ever in Thy care, And ev’rywhere that man can be, Thou, God, art present there. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Hymns of My Youth II: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Saturday··2011·11·05
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. —Lamentations 3:22–23 Great Is Thy Faithfulness Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father! There is no shadow of turning with thee; Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; As thou hast been thou forever will be. Refrain: Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed thy hand hath provided— Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me! Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above Join with all nature in manifold witness To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. Refrain Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow— Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! Refrain —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Hymns of My Youth II: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Saturday··2012·09·29 · 2 Comments
The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. —Exodus 13:21–22 Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but Thou art mighty— Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand: Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, Feed me till I want no more, Feed me till I want no more. Open now the crystal fountain Whence the healing stream doth flow; Let the fire and cloudy pillar Lead me all my journey thru: Strong Deliv’rer, strong Deliv’rer, Be Thou still my Strength and Shield, Be Thou still my Strength and Shield. When I tread the verge of Jordan, Bid my anxious fears subside; Bear me thru the swelling current, Land me safe on Canaan’s side: Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever give to Thee, I will ever give to Thee. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Hymns of My Youth II: The Lord’s My Shepherd

Saturday··2012·10·06
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. —Psalm 23 This paraphrase is originally from The Scottish Psalter (1650). The Lord’s My Shepherd The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want. He makes me down to lie In pastures green; He leadeth me The quiet waters by. My soul He doth restore again; And me to walk doth make Within the paths of righteousness, Even for His own Name’s sake. Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale, Yet will I fear no ill; For Thou art with me; and Thy rod And staff my comfort still. My table Thou hast furnishèd In presence of my foes; My head Thou dost with oil anoint, And my cup overflows. Goodness and mercy all my life Shall surely follow me; And in God’s house forevermore My dwelling place shall be. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Hymns of My Youth II: Day by Day

Saturday··2012·10·20
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. —2 Corinthians 12:9–10 Day by Day Day by day, and with each passing moment, Strength I find, to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure Gives unto each day what He deems best— Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest. Ev’ry day, the Lord Himself is near me With a special mercy for each hour; All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, He Whose Name is Counselor and Pow’r; The protection of His child and treasure Is a charge that on Himself He laid; “As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,” This the pledge to me He made. Help me then in ev’ry tribulation So to trust Thy promises, O Lord, That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation Offered me within Thy holy word. Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E’er to take, as from a father’s hand, One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the promised land. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968). Original: Blott En Dag (Swedish)

Hymns of My Youth II: Praise Him!

Saturday··2013·01·19
Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! —Psalm 150 Praise Him! Praise Him! Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer! Sing, O Earth, His wonderful love proclaim! Hail Him! hail Him! highest archangels in glory; Strength and honor give to His holy Name! Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children, In His arms He carries them all day long: Refrain Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness. Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song! Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer! For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died. He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation, Hail Him! hail Him! Jesus the Crucified. Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows, Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong. Refrain Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer! Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring! Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever. Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King! Christ is coming! over the world victorious, Pow’r and glory unto the Lord belong. Refrain —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

In Death, We Live

Tuesday··2013·08·06
The father raised the knife. The boy bared his throat. If God had slept an instant, the lad would have been dead. I could not have watched. I am not able in my thoughts to follow. The lad was as a sheep for the slaughter. Never in history was there such obedience, save only in Christ. But God was watching, and all the angels. The father raised his knife; the boy did not wince. The angel cried, “Abraham, Abraham!” See how divine majesty is at hand in the hour of death. We say, “In the midst of life we die.” God answers, “Nay, in the midst of death, we live.” —Martin Luther, cited in Roland Bainton, Here I Stand (Meridian, 1995), 289–290.

Hymns of My Youth III: God Leads Us Along

Saturday··2013·12·21
As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God. —Ezekiel 34:12–15 473 God Leads Us Along In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet, God leads His dear children along; Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet, God leads His dear children along. Refrain: Some thro’ the waters, some thro’ the flood, Some thro’ the fire, but all thro’ the blood; Some thro’ great sorrow, but God gives a song, In the night season and all the day long. Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright, God leads His dear children along; Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night, God leads His dear children along. Refrain Tho’ sorrows befall us and evils oppose, God leads His dear children along; Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes, God leads His dear children along. Refrain Away from the mire, and away from the clay, God leads His dear children along; Away up in glory, eternity’s day, God leads His dear children along. Refrain —Favorite Hymns of Praise (Tabernacle Publishing Company, 1967).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Sing Praise to God

Saturday··2014·02·15
Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above Ascribe greatness to our God! Deut. 32:3 Sing praise to God Who reigns above, The God of all creation, The God of pow’r, the God of love, The God of our salvation. With healing balm my soul He fills, And every faithless murmur stills: To God all praise and glory! What God’s almighty pow’r hath made His gracious mercy keepeth, By morning glow or evening shade His watchful eye ne’er sleepeth; Within the kingdom of His might, Lo! all is just and all is right: To God all praise and glory! The Lord is never far away, But through all grief distressing, An ever present help and stay, Our peace and joy and blessing. As with a mother’s tender hand, He leads His own, His chosen band: To God all praise and glory! Thus all my toilsome way along I sing aloud His praises, That men may hear the grateful song My voice unwearied raises. Be joyful in the Lord, my heart! Both soul and body bear your part: To God all praise and glory! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Saturday··2014·02·22
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty . . . praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven . . . Daniel 4:37 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation! All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near; Join me in glad adoration. Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth, Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth! Hast thou not seen how all thy longings have been Granted in what He ordaineth? Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee; Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, If with His love He befriend thee. Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him! All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him. Let the Amen sound from His people again: Gladly for aye we adore Him. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Lord’s Day 9, 2014

Sunday··2014·03·02
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son,indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” —Genesis 22:1 18 Hymn 129. (L. M.) Submission and deliverance; or, Abraham offering up his son. Gen. xxii. 6, &c.. Isaac Watts (1674–1748) Saints, at your heav’nly Father’s word Give up your comforts to the Lord; He shall restore what you resign, Or grant you blessings more divine. So Abra’m with obedient hand Led forth his son at God’s command; The wood, the fire, the knife, he took, His arm prepar’d the dreadful stroke. “Abra’m, forbear!” the angel cried, “Thy faith is known, thy love is tried Thy son shall live, and in thy seed Shall the whole earth be bless’d indeed.” Just in the last distressing hour The Lord displays deliv’ring power; The mount of danger is the place Where we shall see surprising grace. —The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I: Collected from the Holy Scriptures (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer, Creator

Saturday··2014·03·15
We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer, Creator For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; 1 Chronicles 16:25 We praise Thee, O God, our Redeemer, Creator In grateful devotion our tribute we bring; We lay it before Thee, we kneel and adore Thee; We bless Thy holy name, glad praises we sing. We worship Thee, God of our fathers, we bless Thee Thru life’s storm and tempest our Guide hast Thou been; When perils o’ertake us, escape Thou wilt make us, And with Thy help, O Lord, our battles we win. With voices united our praises we offer To Thee, great Jehovah, glad anthems we raise; Thy strong arm will guide us, our God is beside us, To Thee, our great Redeemer, forever be praise! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Lord’s Day 11, 2014

Sunday··2014·03·16
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. —Psalm 9:1–2 Hymns of Thanksgiving Hymn XV. The General Thanksgiving in the Liturgy paraphrased. Augustus Toplady (1740–1778) Eternal God, the thanks receive, Which thine unworthy servants give; Father of ev’ry mercy thou, Almighty and all gracious too! In humble yet exulting songs, Thy praises issue from our tongues, For that incessant boundless love, Which we and all thy creatures prove. Fashion’d by thy creating hand, And by thy providence sustain’d, We wish our gratitude to shew, For all thy temporal blessings due. But O! for this we chiefly raise The incense of admiring praise— Thy love unspeakably we own Which sent the willing Saviour down. For him, of all thy gifts the best, Th’ exceeding gift which crowns the rest, Chiefly for him thy name we laud, And thank thee for a bleeding God. Nor should we fail our Lord to praise, For all the assisting means of grace; Th’ appointed channels which convey Strength to support us on our way. To thee let all our thanks be giv’n, For our well-grounded hope of heav’n, Our glorious trust, that we shall reign And live with him who died for man. And O! so deep a sense impress Of thy supreme, unbounded grace, That anthems in full choir may rise, And shake the earth and rend the skies Make us in deed, as well as word, Shew forth the praises of the Lord, And thank him still for what he gives Both with our lips, and in our lives! O that, by sin no more subdu’d. We might devote ourselves to God, And only breathe to tell his praise, And in his service spend our daysl Hail, Father! Hail, eternal Son! Hail, sacred Spirit, Three in One! Blessing and thanks, and pow’r divine. Thrice, holy Lord, be ever thine! —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Immortal, Invisible

Saturday··2014·04·19
Immortal, Invisible Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. 1 Timothy 1:17 Immortal, invisible, God only wise, In light inaccessible hid from our eyes, Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious—Thy great Name we praise. Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might; Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love. To all, life Thou givest—to both great and small; In all life Thou livest—the true life of all; We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee. Great Father of glory, pure Father of light, Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight; All praise we would render—O help us to see ’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Saturday··2014·04·26
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Psalm 46:7 A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe— His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal. Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He— Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph thru us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him— His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure: One little word shall fell him. That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours thru Him Who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also— The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still: His kingdom is forever. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Tell Out, My Soul

Saturday··2014·05·03
Tell Out, My Soul For the Mighty One has done great things for me; Luke 1:49* Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord! Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice; Tender to me the promise of His Word; In God my Savior shall my heart rejoice. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His name! Make known His might, the deeds His arm has done; His mercy sure, from age to age the same; His holy Name, the Lord, the mighty One. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His might! Powers and dominions lay their glory by; Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight; The hungry fed, the humble lifted high. Tell out, my soul, the glories of His Word! Firm is His promise, and His mercy sure. Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord To children’s children and forevermore! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music). * This hymn is based on Luke 1:46–49, commonly known as the Magnificat.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Saturday··2014·05·17
Great Is Thy Faithfulness His compassions never fail. They are new every morning: Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22–23 Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with thee; Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; As thou hast been thou forever will be. Refrain: Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed thy hand hath provided— Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me! Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above Join with all nature in manifold witness To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. Refrain Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! Refrain —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Lord’s Day 20, 2014

Sunday··2014·05·18
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. —Matthew 11:28–30 Pass Over to Thy Rest Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) From this bleak hill of storms, To yon warm sunny heights, Where love for ever shines, Pass over to thy rest, The rest of God! From hunger and from thirst, From toil and weariness, From shadows and from dreams, Pass over to thy rest, The rest of God! From tides, and winds, and waves, From shipwrecks of the deep, From parted anchors here, Pass over to thy rest, The rest of God! From weakness and from pain, From trembling and from strife, From watchings and from fears, Pass over to thy rest, The rest of God! From vanity and lies, From mockery and snares, From disappointed hopes, Pass over to thy rest, The rest of God! From falsehoods of the age, From broken ties and hearts, From suns gone down at noon, Pass over to thy rest, The rest of God! From unrealities, From hollow scenes of change, From ache and emptiness, Pass over to thy rest, The rest of God! From this unanchored world, Whose morrow none can tell, From all things restless here, Pass over to thy rest, The rest of God! —Hymns of Faith and Hope, Second Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Children of the Heavenly Father

Saturday··2014·05·24
Children of the Heavenly Father See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us . . . children of God 1 John 3:1Children of the heav’nly Father Safely in His bosom gather; Nestling bird nor star in Heaven Such a refuge e’er was given. God His own doth tend and nourish; In His holy courts they flourish; From all evil things He spares them; In His mighty arms He bears them. Neither life nor death shall ever From the Lord His children sever; Unto them His grace He showeth, And their sorrows all He knoweth. Praise the Lord in joyful numbers, Your Protector never slumbers. At the will of your Defender Ev’ry foeman must surrender. Though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh; His the loving purpose solely To preserve them pure and holy. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: God Leads Us Along

Saturday··2014·05·31
God Leads Us Along When you pass through the waters, I will be with you Isaiah 43:2In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet, God leads His dear children along; Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet, God leads His dear children along. Refrain: Some thro’ the waters, some thro’ the flood, Some thro’ the fire, but all thro’ the blood; Some thro’ great sorrow, but God gives a song, In the night season and all the day long. Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright, God leads His dear children along; Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night, God leads His dear children along. Refrain Tho’ sorrows befall us and evils oppose, God leads His dear children along; Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes, God leads His dear children along. Refrain Away from the mire, and away from the clay, God leads His dear children along; Away up in glory, eternity’s day, God leads His dear children along. Refrain —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: The Lord’s My Shepherd

Saturday··2014·06·07
The Lord’s My Shepherd He guides me in the paths of righteousness Psalm 23:3The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want; He makes me down to lie In pastures green; He leadeth me The quiet waters by. My soul He doth restore again; And me to walk doth make Within the paths of righteousness, E’en for His own Name’s sake. Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale, Yet will I fear no ill; For Thou art with me, and Thy rod And staff my comfort still. My table Thou hast furnishèd In presence of my foes; My head Thou dost with oil anoint, And my cup overflows. Goodness and mercy all my life Shall surely follow me; And in God’s house forevermore My dwelling place shall be. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Saturday··2014·06·14
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah The Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire Isaiah 58:11Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but Thou art mighty; Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand; Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more, Feed me till I want no more. Open now the crystal fountain Whence the healing stream doth flow; Let the fire and cloudy pillar Lead me all my journey through; Strong Deliv’rer, strong Deliv’rer, Be Thou still my strength and shield, Be Thou still my strength and shield. When I tread the verge of Jordan, Bid my anxious fears subside; Bear me thro’ the swelling current, Land me safe on Canaan’s side; Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever give to Thee, I will ever give to Thee. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: O God, Our Help in Ages Past

Saturday··2014·06·21
O God, Our Help in Ages Past Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Psalm 90:1O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home! Under the shadow of Thy throne Thy saints have dwelt secure; Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure. Before the hills in order stood, Or earth received her frame, From everlasting Thou art God, To endless years the same. A thousand ages in Thy sight Are like an evening gone; Short as the watch that ends the night Before the rising sun. Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream Dies at the op’ning day. O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Be Thou our guide while life shall last, And our eternal home. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Day by Day

Saturday··2014·06·28
Day by Day My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9Day by day, and with each passing moment, Strength I find, to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure Gives unto each day what He deems best— Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest. Ev’ry day, the Lord Himself is near me With a special mercy for each hour; All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, He Whose Name is Counselor and Pow’r; The protection of His child and treasure Is a charge that on Himself He laid; “As your days, your strength shall be in measure,” This the pledge to me He made. Help me then in ev’ry tribulation So to trust Your promises, O Lord, That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation Offered me within Your holy word. Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E’er to take, as from a father’s hand, One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the promised land. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: I Sing the Mighty Power of God

Saturday··2014·07·05
I Sing the Mighty Power of God The Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, Exodus 20:11I sing the mighty pow’r of God That made the mountains rise; That spread the flowing seas abroad, And built the lofty skies. I sing the wisdom that ordained The sun to rule the day; The moon shines full at his command, And all the stars obey. I sing the goodness of the Lord, That filled the earth with food; He formed the creatures with his word, And then pronounced them good. Lord, how thy wonders are displayed, Where’er I turn mine eye: If I survey the ground I tread, Or gaze upon the sky! There’s not a plant or flow’r below, But makes thy glories known; And clouds arise, and tempests blow, By order from thy throne; While all that borrows light from Thee Is ever in Thy care, And ev’rywhere that man can be, Thou, God, art present there. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Meanwhile, down on the farm …

Tuesday··2014·08·19
By “down on the farm,” I mean in my back yard, naturally. In spite of a late Spring, the hops are coming in. We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Lord’s Day 36, 2014

Sunday··2014·09·07
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high! May He send you help from the sanctuary And support you from Zion! May He remember all your meal offerings And find your burnt offering acceptable! Selah. May He grant you your heart’s desire And fulfill all your counsel! We will sing for joy over your victory, And in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the Lord fulfill all your petitions. Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand. Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God. They have bowed down and fallen, But we have risen and stood upright. Save, O Lord; May the King answer us in the day we call. —Psalm 20 Paraphrases on Select Parts of Holy Writ Para. IV. The xxth Psalm. Augustus Toplady (1740–1778) Belov’d of God, may Jesus hear The ardent breathings of thy pray’r, And cancel thy transgressions; Be with thee in affliction’s day, Redeem thee from thy fears, and say Amen to thy petitions! Thy ev’ry need he will supply; His saints shall surely find him nigh, The God whom they rely on; He will not turn away his face, But save thee from his holy place, And send thee help from Sion. Thy feeblest pray’r shall reach his throne, Thy ev’ry pang is noted down, And thou shall be forgiv’n; He loves thee, troubled as thou art; And all the pantings of thy heart Are treasured up in heav’n. God is our triumph in distress; His children’s privilege it is To smile at tribulation: Jesus, to thee we lift our voice, By grace enabled to rejoice, In hope of thy salvation. Ready to hear, O Lord, thou art, Mighty to take thy people’s part, And help them in affliction: Creation kneels to thy command, The saving strength of thy right hand, Shall be our sure protection. In chariots some repose their trust, Of horses others make their boast, But we in God are stronger: Who on the arm of flesh rely, Trembling before our face shall fly When we shall more than conquer. Still may the palm to us be giv’n, Thy saints, O mighty King of heav’n. Continue to deliver: Support us with thy strength’ning grace, ’Till we, in yon celestial place, Sit down with thee for ever. —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Praise Him

Saturday··2014·10·11
Praise Him! Worthy are You . . . for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Revelation 5:9 Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer! Sing, O Earth, His wonderful love proclaim! Hail Him! hail Him! highest archangels in glory; Strength and honor give to His holy Name! Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children, In His arms He carries them all day long: Refrain Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness; Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song! Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer! For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died; He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation, Hail Him! hail Him! Jesus the Crucified. Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows; Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong: Refrain Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer! Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring! Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever; Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King! Christ is coming! over the world victorious, Pow’r and glory unto the Lord belong: Refrain —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

That Make a Poor Man Rich

Monday··2014·10·27
Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate. —Psalm 127:3–5 I remember a great man coming into my house, at Waltham, and seeing all my children standing in the order of their age and stature, said, “These are they that make rich men poor.” But he straight received this answer, “Nay, my lord, these are they that make a poor man rich; for there is not one of these whom we would part with for all your wealth.” It is easy to observe that none are so gripple and hard fisted as the childless; whereas those, who, for the maintenance of large families, are inured to frequent disbursements, find such experience of Divine providence in the faithful management of their affairs, as that they lay out with more cheerfulness what they receive. Wherein their care must be abated when God takes it off from them to himself; and, if they be not wanting to themselves, their faith gives them ease in casting their burden upon him, who hath more power and more right to it, since our children are more his than our own. He that feedeth the young ravens, can he fail the best of his creatures? —Joseph Hall (1574–1656), cited in The Treasury of David (Passmore and Alabaster, 1883) [read Spurgeon’s commentary on Psalm 127 at spurgeon.org].

The Testing of Our Faith

Tuesday··2016·02·09
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. —1 Peter 1:6–12 Unlike the vast majority of those reading this blog, and certainly unlike this writer, the Christians to whom Peter wrote did not have it easy. They suffered levels of persecution like we have seen in China, and are now seeing in Muslim nations. Yet, Peter writes, “In this [1 Peter 1:3–5] you greatly rejoice . . .” Sproul comments, In a real sense, their sufferings and afflictions were unjust—they were victims of persecution—but we have to see beyond the human dimension, the proximate cause of the suffering, and look to the remote or ultimate cause. These afflictions were sent upon the believers by God. God uses the iniquitous afflictions wrought by human hostility for the ultimate well-being of His children. In this text here we see a marvelous reaffirmation of the doctrine of the providence of God. The classic teaching of divine providence is found at the end of the book of Genesis. Joseph, who had been viciously betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, was held in prison for many years and separated from his family and homeland. . . . When Joseph was reunited with his brothers years later . . . [he] said, “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 50:20). Their intentions were wicked, and they were responsible for that, but over and above their actions, God intended good. “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” Paul wrote (Rom. 8:28). God’s hand is in earthly trials that are unjustly foisted upon us by wicked people. The hand of God trumps the evil intent of those who wound us, and He uses, in His gracious providence, those various experiences of affliction and pain for His glory and for our ultimate edification. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 35. Christians often try to exonerate God of responsibility for the bad things that happen to “good” people by saying they are the work of Satan, that God has nothing to do with them. However, this is not only an inadequate excuse for a sovereign God, it robs us of the hope we should find in suffering. [I]f God has nothing to do with death or our afflictions, we of all people are the most to be pitied. The comfort we receive from the Word of God is that God is involved with our sufferings even to the extent that He ordains them, but the purpose of that ordination is always good and righteous. —R. C. Sproul, Ibid. More often, Christians acknowledge God’s involvement in our suffering, but only to the extent that he “permits” it. Sproul replies, [W]hatever God permits, He must choose to permit, and what He chooses to permit, He thereby ordains. That should not discourage us but encourage us, so that when we are falsely accused, slandered, or have our reputation injured, we can get on our knees and say, “God, please, vindicate me against these wicked people.” We can ask for vindication. At the same time, we have to ask Him, “What did you have in mind in this trouble?” Even though we suffer unjustly at the hands of men, we never suffer unjustly at the hands of God. —R. C. Sproul, Ibid, 36. And this is the purpose: So, Peter says, we are grieved by the trials that come upon us, but in the midst of them we can rejoice exceedingly, not only because of the inheritance laid up for us but also because we can be sure that through these trials, the genuineness of our faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. —R. C. Sproul, Ibid.

Lord’s Day 7, 2016

Sunday··2016·02·14
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Now when the Philistines heard that the sons of Israel had gathered to Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the sons of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. Then the sons of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it for a whole burnt offering to the Lord; and Samuel cried to the Lord for Israel and the Lord answered him. Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel. The men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and they did not come anymore within the border of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even to Gath; and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. So there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. —1 Samuel 7:7–14 Hymn LXXI. At Parting. John Newton (1726–1807) As the sun’s enliv’ning eye Shines on ev’ry place the same; So the Lord is always nigh To the souls that love his name. When they move at duty’s call, He is with them by the way; He is ever with them all, Those who go, and those who stay. From his holy mercy-seat Nothing can their souls confine; Still in spirit they may meet, And in sweet communion join. For a season call’d to part, Let us then ourselves commend To the gracious eye and heart, Of our ever-present Friend. Jesus, hear our humble pray’r! Tender Shepherd of thy sheep! Let thy mercy and thy care All our souls in safety keep. In thy strength may we be strong, Sweeten ev’ry cross and pain; Give us, if we live, ere long Here to meet in peace again. Then, if thou thy help afford, Ebenezers shall be reared; And our souls shall praise the Lord Who our poor petitions heard. —Olney Hymns. Book II: On Occasional Subjects. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Called to Suffer

Tuesday··2016·02·23
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. —1 Peter 2:18–25 It is just a fact of life that hard times will come. Every adult knows this, and has probably learned it at an early age. Often, our suffering will be consequential to our own choices and actions. At other times, we will suffer for doing right. When that happens, we need to remember that it is not just something that is happening to us, just a circumstance through which we must persevere, but is actually—if we are Christians—a reason for our existence. We were born for this. Why does God give His smile of approval on those who suffer patiently when they are victims of unjust treatment? Peter gives us the answer: For to this you were called (v. 21). It is our vocation. When God calls us to a task, it is our duty to obey it. It is commendable when we suffer unjustly and bear the pain in patience because God has called us to that. Many television preachers today say that God always wills healing and prosperity for His people and, therefore, any pain we suffer comes from Satan and never from the hand of God. This is a pernicious distortion of biblical truth. Just the opposite is the case; our vocation is a call to suffer. . . . Suffering becomes bearable when we understand that we are in that state by the providence of God, and therefore, at that time, it is our vocation. The word vocation means “calling,” from the Latin root voco. If we fall ill with a terminal disease, we can curse the fates that have brought us to that stage, or we can see it as the providence of God. There is nothing worse than to suffer pain or grief for no reason, which is why those without Christ are without hope. For them, ultimately, life is an experience of futility, but if their souls become captured by the truth of the gospel, they will know that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28), so there is purpose even in our suffering. That is perhaps the hardest biblical truth to embrace. When Job’s great suffering came upon him, he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). In time his pain grew so intense that his wife told him, “Curse God and die!” (2:9), but Job responded, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (2:10). As his suffering endured Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (13:15); and “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth” (19:25). That is the message Peter is giving. It is commendable to accept suffering with patience because, in the first place, we have been called to that very thing. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 83–84.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: For the Beauty of the Earth

Saturday··2018·02·03
For the Beauty of the Earth Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! Psalm 107:8 For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies, For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies: Refrain: Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise. For the wonder of each hour Of the day and of the night, Hill and vale, and tree and flower, Sun and moon, and stars of light: Refrain For the joy of human love, Brother, sister, parent, child; Friends on earth and friends above; For all gentle thoughts and mild: Refrain For Thy Church that evermore Lifteth holy hands above, Offering up on every shore Her pure sacrifice of love: Refrain For Thyself, best gift divine, To our race so freely given; For that great, great love of Thine, Peace on earth and joy in heaven: Refrain —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Creation and Providence Inseparable

Thursday··2018·02·22
[T]o make God a momentary Creator, who once for all finished his work, would be cold and barren, and we must differ from profane men especially in that we see the presence of divine power shining as much in the continuing state of the universe as in its inception. For even though the minds of the impious too are compelled by merely looking upon earth and heaven to rise up to the Creator, yet faith has its own peculiar way of assigning the whole credit for Creation to God. To this pertains that saying of the apostle’s to which we have referred before, that only “by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God” [Heb. 11:3]. For unless we pass on to his providence—however we may seem both to comprehend with the mind and to confess with the tongue—we do not yet properly grasp what it means to say: “God is Creator.” Carnal sense, once confronted with the power of God in the very Creation, stops there, and at most weighs and contemplates only the wisdom, power, and goodness of the author in accomplishing such handiwork. (These matters are self-evident, and even force themselves upon the unwilling.) It contemplates, moreover, some general preserving and governing activity, from which the force of motion derives. In short, carnal sense thinks there is an energy divinely bestowed from the beginning, sufficient to sustain all things. But faith ought to penetrate more deeply, namely, having found him Creator of all, forthwith to conclude he is also everlasting Governor and Preserver—not only in that he drives the celestial frame as well as its several parts by a universal motion, but also in that he sustains, nourishes, and cares for, everything he has made, even to the least sparrow [cf. Matt. 10:29]. Thus David, having briefly stated that the universe was created by God, immediately descends to the uninterrupted course of His providence, “By the word of Jehovah the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth” [Ps. 33:6; cf. Ps. 32:6, Vg.]. Soon thereafter he adds, “Jehovah has looked down upon the sons of men” [Ps. 33:13; cf. Ps. 32:13–14, Vg.], and what follows is in the same vein. For although all men do not reason so clearly, yet, because it would not be believable that human affairs are cared for by God unless he were the Maker of the universe, and nobody seriously believes the universe was made by God without being persuaded that he takes care of his works, David not inappropriately leads us in the best order from the one to the other. In general, philosophers teach and human minds conceive that all parts of the universe are quickened by God’s secret inspiration. Yet they do not reach as far as David is carried, bearing with him all the godly, when he says: “These all look to thee, to give them their food in due season; when thou givest to them, they gather it up; when thou openest thy hand, they are filled with good things; when thou hidest thy face, they are dismayed; when thou takest away their breath, they die and return to the earth. If thou sendest forth thy spirit again, they are created, and thou renewest the face of the earth” [Ps. 104:27–30 p.]. Indeed, although they subscribe to Paul’s statement that we have our being and move and live in God [Acts 17:28], yet they are far from that earnest feeling of grace which he commends, because they do not at all taste God’s special care, by which alone his fatherly favor is known. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.16.1.
God’s providence, as it is taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous happenings. Now it has been commonly accepted in all ages, and almost all mortals hold the same opinion today, that all things come about through chance. What we ought to believe concerning providence is by this depraved opinion most certainly not only beclouded, but almost buried. Suppose a man falls among thieves, or wild beasts; is shipwrecked at sea by a sudden gale; is killed by a falling house or tree. Suppose another man wandering through the desert finds help in his straits; having been tossed by the waves, reaches harbor; miraculously escapes death by a finger’s breadth. Carnal reason ascribes all such happenings, whether prosperous or adverse, to fortune. But anyone who has been taught by Christ’s lips that all the hairs of his head are numbered [Matt. 10:30] will look farther afield for a cause, and will consider that all events are governed by God’s secret plan. And concerning inanimate objects we ought to hold that, although each one has by nature been endowed with its own property, yet it does not exercise its own power except in so far as it is directed by God’s ever-present hand. These are, thus, nothing but instruments to which God continually imparts as much effectiveness as he wills, and according to his own purpose bends and turns them to either one action or another. No creature has a force more wondrous or glorious than that of the sun. For besides lighting the whole earth with its brightness, how great a thing is it that by its heat it nourishes and quickens all living things! That with its rays it breathes fruitfulness into the earth.! That it warms the seeds in the bosom of the earth, draws them forth with budding greenness, increases and strengthens them, nourishes them anew, until they rise up into stalks! That it feeds the plant with continual warmth, until it grows into flower, and from flower into fruit! That then, also, with baking heat it brings the fruit to maturity! That in like manner trees and vines warmed by the sun first put forth buds and leaves, then put forth a flower, and from the flower produce fruit! Yet the Lord, to claim the whole credit for all these things, willed that, before he created the sun, light should come to be and earth be filled with all manner of herbs and fruits [Gen. 1:3, 11, 14]. Therefore a godly man will not make the sun either the principal or the necessary cause of these things which existed before the creation of the sun, but merely the instrument that God uses because he so wills; for with no more difficulty he might abandon it, and act through himself. Then when we read that at Joshua’s prayers the sun stood still in one degree for two days [Josh. 10:13], and that its shadow went back ten degrees for the sake of King Hezekiah [II Kings 20:11 or Isa. 38:8], God has witnessed by those few miracles that the sun does not daily rise and set by a blind instinct of nature but that he himself, to renew our remembrance of his fatherly favor toward us, governs its course. Nothing is more natural than for spring to follow winter; summer, spring; and fall, summer—each in turn. Yet in this series one sees such great and uneven diversity that it readily appears each year, month, and day is governed by a new, a special, providence of God. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.16.2.

No Idle Observer

Monday··2018·02·26
At the outset, then, let my readers grasp that providence means not that by which God idly observes from heaven what takes place on earth, but that by which, as keeper of the keys, he governs all events. Thus it pertains no less to his hands than to his eyes. And indeed, when Abraham said to his son, “God will provide” [Gen. 22:8], he meant not only to assert God’s foreknowledge of a future event, but to cast the care of a matter unknown to him upon the will of Him who is wont to give a way out of things perplexed and confused. Whence it follows that providence is lodged in the act; for many babble too ignorantly of bare foreknowledge. Not so crass is the error of those who attribute a governance to God, but of a confused and mixed sort, as I have said, namely, one that by a general motion revolves and drives the system of the universe, with its several parts, but which does not specifically direct the action of individual creatures. Yet this error, also, is not tolerable; for by this providence which they call universal, they teach that nothing hinders all creatures from being contingently moved, or man from turning himself hither and thither by the free choice of his will. And they so apportion things between God and man that God by His power inspires in man a movement by which he can act in accordance with the nature implanted in him, but He regulates His own actions by the plan of His will. Briefly, they mean that the universe, men’s affairs, and men themselves are governed by God’s might but not by His determination. . . . As if the dumb creatures themselves do not sufficiently cry out against such patent madness! For now I propose to refute the opinion (which almost universally obtains) that concedes to God some kind of blind and ambiguous motion, while taking from him the chief thing: that he directs everything by his incomprehensible wisdom and disposes it to his own end, and so in name only, not in fact, it makes God the Ruler of the universe because it deprives him of his control. What, I pray you, is it to have control but so to be in authority that you rule in a determined order those things over which you are placed? Yet I do not wholly repudiate what is said concerning universal providence, provided they in turn grant me that the universe is ruled by God, not only because he watches over the order of nature set by himself, but because he exercises especial care over each of his works. It is, indeed, true that the several kinds of things are moved by a secret impulse of nature, as if they obeyed God’s eternal command, and what God has once determined flows on by itself. At this point we may refer to Christ’s statement that from the very beginning he and the Father were always at work [John 5:17]; and to Paul’s teaching that “in him we live, move, and have our being” [Acts 17:28]; also, what the author of The Letter to the Hebrews says, meaning to prove the divinity of Christ, that all things are sustained by his mighty command [Heb. 1:3]. . . . God so attends to the regulation of individual events, and they all so proceed from his set plan, that nothing takes place by chance. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.16.4.

“Man’s Steps Are from the Lord”

Tuesday··2018·02·27
The pride of man rebels against the sovereignty of God over all creatures and events. Nevertheless, Scripture affirms the conclusion of the Westminster Confession that “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” But because we know that the universe was established especially for the sake of mankind, we ought to look for this purpose in his governance also. The prophet Jeremiah exclaims, “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not his own, nor is it given to man to direct his own steps” [Jer. 10:23]. Moreover, Solomon says, “Man’s steps are from the Lord [Prov. 20:24 p.] and how may man dispose his way?” [Prov. 16:9 p., cf. Vg.]. Let them now say that man is moved by God according to the inclination of his nature, but that he himself turns that motion whither he pleases. Nay, if that were truly said, the free choice of his ways would be in man’s control. Perhaps they will deny this because he can do nothing without God’s power. Yet they cannot really get by with that, since it is clear that the prophet and Solomon ascribe to God not only might but also choice and determination. Elsewhere Solomon elegantly rebukes this rashness of men, who set up for themselves a goal without regard to God, as if they were not led by his hand. “The disposition of the heart is man’s, but the preparation of the tongue is the Lord’s.” [Prov. 16:1, 9, conflated.] It is an absurd folly that miserable men take it upon themselves to act without God, when they cannot even speak except as he wills! Indeed, Scripture, to express more plainly that nothing at all in the world is undertaken without his determination, shows that things seemingly most fortuitous are subject to him. For what can you attribute more to chance than when a branch breaking off from a tree kills a passing traveler? But the Lord speaks far differently, acknowledging that he has delivered him to the hand of the slayer [Ex. 21:13]. Likewise, who does not attribute lots to the blindness of fortune? But the Lord does not allow this, claiming for himself the determining of them. He teaches that it is not by their own power that pebbles are cast into the lap and drawn out, but the one thing that could have been attributed to chance he testifies to come from himself [Prov.16:33]. In the same vein is that saying of Solomon, “The poor man and the usurer meet together; God illumines the eyes of both” [Prov. 29:13; cf. ch. 22:2]. He points out that, even though the rich are mingled with the poor in the world, while to each his condition is divinely assigned, God, who lights all men, is not at all blind. And so he urges the poor to patience; because those who are not content with their own lot try to shake off the burden laid upon them by God. Thus, also, another prophet rebukes the impious who ascribe to men’s toil, or to fortune, the fact that some lie in squalor and others rise up to honors. “For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the wilderness comes lifting up; because God is judge, he humbles one and lifts up another.” [Ps. 75:6–7.] —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.16.6.

The Secret Things

Wednesday··2018·02·28
God rules not only through his law, which is revealed to us, but also through providences which we can only see after the fact—or may never see at all. As his creatures, it is our place to accept his providential direction of our lives and circumstances with humility, reverence, awe, and adoration. Therefore no one will weigh God’s providence properly and profitably but him who considers that his business is with his Maker and the Framer of the universe, and with becoming humility submits himself to fear and reverence. Hence it happens that today so many dogs assail this doctrine with their venomous bitings, or at least with barking: for they wish nothing to be lawful for God beyond what their own reason prescribes for themselves. Also they rail at us with as much wantonness as they can; because we, not content with the precepts of the law, which comprise God’s will, say also that the universe is ruled by his secret plans. As if what we teach were a figment of our brain, and the Holy Spirit did not everywhere expressly declare the same thing and repeat it in innumerable forms of expression. . . . But if they do not admit that whatever happens in the universe is governed by God’s incomprehensible plans, let them answer to what end Scripture says that his judgments are a deep abyss [Ps. 36:6]. For since Moses proclaims that the will of God is to be sought not far off in the clouds or in abysses, because it has been set forth familiarly in the law [Deut. 30:11–14], it follows that he has another hidden will which may be compared to a deep abyss; concerning which Paul also says: “O depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’” [Rom. 11:33–34; cf. Isa. 40:13–14]. And it is, indeed, true that in the law and the gospel are comprehended mysteries which tower far above the reach of our senses. But since God illumines the minds of his own with the spirit of discernment [Job 20:3 or Isa. 11:2] for the understanding of these mysteries which he has deigned to reveal by his Word, now no abyss is here; rather, a way in which we ought to walk in safety, and a lamp to guide our feet [Ps. 119:105, Vg.; 119:105, EV], the light of life [cf. John 1:4; 8:12], and the school of sure and clear truth. Yet his wonderful method of governing the universe is rightly called an abyss, because while it is hidden from us, we ought reverently to adore it. Moses has beautifully expressed both ideas in a few words: “The secret things,” he says, “belong to the Lord our God, but what is here written, to you and your children” [Deut. 29:29 p.]. For we see how he bids us not only direct our study to meditation upon the law, but to look up to God’s secret providence with awe. Also, in The Book of Job is set forth a declaration of such sublimity as to humble our minds. For after the author, in surveying above and below the frame of the universe, has magnificently discoursed concerning God’s works, he finally adds: “Behold! These are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a thing is heard therein!” [Job 26:14]. In this way he distinguishes in another place between the wisdom that resides with God and the portion of wisdom God has prescribed for men. For when he has discoursed on the secrets of nature, he says that wisdom is known to God alone, but “eludes the eyes of all the living” [Job 28:21]. But he adds a little later that His wisdom has been published to be searched out, because it is said to man: “Behold, the fear of the Lord is wisdom” [Job 28:28]. To this point the saying of Augustine applies: “Because we do not know all the things which God in the best possible order does concerning us, we act solely in good will according to the law, but in other things we are acted upon according to the law, because his providence is an unchangeable law.” Therefore, since God assumes to himself the right (unknown to us) to rule the universe, let our law of soberness and moderation be to assent to his supreme authority, that his will may be for us the sole rule of righteousness, and the truly just cause of all things. Not, indeed, that absolute will of which the Sophists babble, by an impious and profane distinction separating his justice from his power—but providence, that determinative principle of all things, from which flows nothing but right, although the reasons have been hidden from us. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.17.2.

The Believer’s Solace in God’s Providence

Thursday··2018·03·01
[T]he Christian heart, since it has been thoroughly persuaded that all things happen by God’s plan, and that nothing takes place by chance, will ever look to him as the principal cause of things, yet will give attention to the secondary causes in their proper place. Then the heart will not doubt that God’s singular providence keeps watch to preserve it, and will not suffer anything to happen but what may turn out to its good and salvation. But since God’s dealings are first with man, then with the remaining creatures, the heart will have assurance that God’s providence rules over both. As far as men are concerned, whether they are good or evil, the heart of the Christian will know that their plans, wills, efforts, and abilities are under God’s hand; that it is within his choice to bend them whither he pleases and to constrain them whenever he pleases. There are very many and very clear promises that testify that God’s singular providence watches over the welfare of believers: “Cast your care upon the Lord, and he will nourish you, and will never permit the righteous man to flounder” [Ps. 55:22 p.; cf. Ps. 54:28, Vg.]. For he takes care of us. [1 Pet. 5:7 p.] “He who dwells in the help of the Most High will abide in the protection of the God of heaven.” [Ps. 91:1; 90:1, Vg.] “He who touches you touches the pupil of mine eye.” [Zech. 2:8 p.] “I will be your shield” [Gen. 15:1 p.], “a brazen wall” [Jer. 1:18; 15:20]; “I will contend with those who contend with you” [Isa. 49:25]. “Even though a mother may forget her children, yet will I not forget you.” [Isa. 49:15 p.] Indeed, the principal purpose of Biblical history is to teach that the Lord watches over the ways of the saints with such great diligence that they do not even stumble over a stone [cf. Ps. 91:12]. Therefore, as we rightly rejected . . . the opinion of those who imagine a universal providence of God, which does not stoop to the especial care of any particular creature, yet first of all it is important that we recognize this special care toward us. Whence Christ, when he declared that not even a tiny sparrow of little worth falls to earth without the Father’s will [Matt. 10:29], immediately applies it in this way: that since we are of greater value than sparrows, we ought to realize that God watches over us with all the closer care [Matt. 10:31]; and he extends it so far that we may trust that the hairs of our head are numbered [Matt. 10:30]. What else can we wish for ourselves, if not even one hair can fall from our head without his will? I speak not only concerning mankind; but, because God has chosen the church to be his dwelling place, there is no doubt that he shows by singular proofs his fatherly care in ruling it. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.17.6.

Providence, for Better or Worse

Friday··2018·03·02
Whether we prosper or suffer, it is all from the hand of God, who does all things for our good. [I]t is [God’s] care to govern all creatures for their own good and safety . . . Gratitude of mind for the favorable outcome of things, patience in adversity, and also incredible freedom from worry about the future all necessarily follow upon this knowledge. Therefore whatever shall happen prosperously and according to the desire of his heart, God’s servant will attribute wholly to God, whether he feels God’s beneficence through the ministry of men, or has been helped by inanimate creatures. For thus he will reason in his mind: surely it is the Lord who has inclined their hearts to me, who has so bound them to me that they should become the instruments of his kindness toward me. In abundance of fruits he will think: “It is the Lord who ‘hears’ the heaven, that the heaven may ‘hear’ the earth, that the earth also may ‘hear’ its offspring” [cf. Hos. 2:22–23, EV]. In other things he will not doubt that it is the Lord’s blessing alone by which all things prosper. Admonished by so many evidences, he will not continue to be ungrateful. If anything adverse happens, straightway he will raise up his heart here also unto God, whose hand can best impress patience and peaceful moderation of mind upon us. If Joseph had stopped to dwell upon his brothers’ treachery, he would never have been able to show a brotherly attitude toward them. But since he turned his thoughts to the Lord, forgetting the injustice, he inclined to gentleness and kindness, even to the point of comforting his brothers and saying: “It is not you who sold me into Egypt, but I was sent before you by God’s will, that I might save your life” [Gen. 45:5, 7–8 p.]. “Indeed you intended evil against me, but the Lord turned it into good.” [Gen. 50:20, cf. Vg.] If Job had turned his attention to the Chaldeans, by whom he was troubled, he would immediately have been aroused to revenge; but because he at once recognized it as the Lord’s work, he comforts himself with this most beautiful thought: “The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. Thus David, assailed with threats and stones by Shimei, if he had fixed his eyes upon the man, would have encouraged his men to repay the injury; but because he knows that Shimei does not act without the Lord’s prompting, he rather appeases them: “Let him alone,” he says, “because the Lord has ordered him to curse” [II Sam. 16:11]. By this same bridle he elsewhere curbs his inordinate sorrow: “I have kept silence and remained mute,” says he, “because thou hast done it, O Jehovah” [Ps. 39:9 p.]. If there is no more effective remedy for anger and impatience, he has surely benefited greatly who has so learned to meditate upon God’s providence that he can always recall his mind to this point: the Lord has willed it; therefore it must be borne, not only because one may not contend against it, but also because he wills nothing but what is just and expedient. To sum this up: when are unjustly wounded by men, let us overlook their wickedness (which would but worsen our pain and sharpen our minds to revenge), remember to mount up to God, and learn to believe for certain that whatever our enemy has wickedly committed against us was permitted and sent by God’s just dispensation. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.17.7, 8.

Providence and Responsibility

Monday··2018·03·05
Although we recognize that all things come from the hand od God, and ultimately, all thanks and praise belong to him, we must not then ignore the ordinary means which he uses to serve his purposes. We must seek help from our fellow man when needed, and give thanks to whom thanks is due. We must act wisely, responsibly, and charitably, not passively leaving all to providence, but actively fulfilling the duties God has assigned to us. “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:31). [A] godly man will not overlook the secondary causes. And indeed, he will not, just because he thinks those from whom he has received benefit are ministers of the divine goodness, pass them over, as if they had deserved no thanks for their human kindness; but from the bottom of his heart will feel himself beholden to them, willingly confess his obligation, and earnestly try as best he can to render thanks and as occasion presents itself. In short, for benefits received he will reverence and praise the Lord as their principal author, but will honor men as his ministers; and will know what is in fact true: it is by God’s will that he is beholden to those through whose hand God willed to be beneficent. If this godly man suffers any loss because of negligence or imprudence, he will conclude that it came about by the Lord’s will, but also impute it to himself. Suppose a disease should carry off anyone whom he treated negligently, although it was his duty to take care of him. Even though he knows that this person had come to an impassable boundary, he will not on this account deem his misdeed less serious; rather, because he did not faithfully discharge his duty toward him, he will take it that through the fault of his negligence the latter had perished. Where fraud or premeditated malice enters into the committing of either murder or theft, he will even less excuse such a crime on the pretext of divine providence; but in this same evil deed he will clearly contemplate God’s righteousness and man’s wickedness, as each clearly shows itself. But especially with reference to future events he will take into consideration inferior causes of this sort. For he will count it among the blessings of the Lord, if he is not destitute of human helps which he may use for his safety. Therefore he will neither cease to take counsel, nor be sluggish in beseeching the assistance of those whom he sees to have the means to help him; but, considering that whatever creatures are capable of furnishing anything to him are offered by the Lord into his hand, he will put them to use as lawful instruments of divine providence. And since it is uncertain what will be the outcome of the business he is undertaking (except that he knows that in all things the Lord will provide for his benefit), he will aspire with zeal to that which he deems expedient for himself, as far as it can be attained by intelligence and understanding. Yet in taking counsel he will not follow his own opinion, but will entrust and submit himself to God’s wisdom, to be directed by his leading to the right goal. But his confidence will not so rely upon outward supports as to repose with assurance in them if they are present, or, if they are lacking, to tremble as if left destitute. For he will always hold his mind fixed upon God’s providence alone, and not let preoccupation with present matters draw him away from steadfast contemplation of it. Thus Joab, though recognizing the outcome of the battle to be in God’s hand, has yielded not to idleness, but diligently carries out the duties of his calling. To the Lord, moreover, he commits the determination of the outcome: “We will stand fast,” says he, “for our people and the cities of our God; but let the Lord do what is good in his eyes” [2 Sam. 10:12 p.]. This same knowledge will drive us to put off rashness and over-confidence, and will impel us continually to call upon God. Then also he will buttress our minds with good hope, that, with confidence and courage, we may not hesitate to despise those dangers which surround us. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.17.9.

A Blessed Knowledge

Tuesday··2018·03·06
It is often said that “ignorance is bliss,” and that may be true at times; at others, just the opposite is true. Innumerable are the evils that beset human life; innumerable, too, the deaths that threaten it. We need not go beyond ourselves: since our body is the receptacle of a thousand diseases—in fact holds within itself and fosters the causes of diseases—a man cannot go about unburdened by many forms of his own destruction, and without drawing out a life enveloped, as it were, with death. For what else would you call it, when he neither freezes nor sweats without danger? Now, wherever you turn, all things around you not only are hardly to be trusted but almost openly menace, and seem to threaten immediate death. Embark upon a ship, you are one step away from death. Mount a horse, if one foot slips, your life is imperiled. Go through the city streets, you are subject to as many dangers as there are tiles on the roofs. If there is a weapon in your hand or a friend’s, harm awaits. All the fierce animals you see are armed for your destruction. But if you try to shut yourself up in a walled garden, seemingly delightful, there a serpent sometimes lies hidden. Your house, continually in danger of fire, threatens in the daytime to impoverish you, at night even to collapse upon you. Your field, since it is exposed to hail, frost, drought, and other calamities, threatens you with barrenness, and hence, famine. I pass over poisonings, ambushes, robberies, open violence, which in part besiege us at home, in part dog us abroad. Amid these tribulations must not man be most miserable, since, but half alive in life, he weakly draws his anxious and languid breath, as if he had a sword perpetually hanging over his neck? Yet, when that light of divine providence has once shone upon a godly man, he is then relieved and set free not only from the extreme anxiety and fear that were pressing him before, but from every care. For as he justly dreads fortune, so he fearlessly dares commit himself to God. His solace, I say, is to know that his Heavenly Father so holds all things in his power, so rules by his authority and will, so governs by his wisdom, that nothing can befall except he determine it. Moreover, it comforts him to know that he has been received into God’s safekeeping and entrusted to the care of his angels, and that neither water, nor fire, nor iron can harm him, except in so far as it pleases God as governor to give them occasion. Thus indeed the psalm sings: “For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. Under his wings will he protect you, and in his pinions you will have assurance; his truth will be your shield. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the flying arrow by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at midday” [Ps. 91:3–6]. From this, also, arises in the saints the assurance that they may glory. “The Lord is my helper” [Ps. 118:6]; “I will not fear what flesh can do against me” [Ps. 56:4]. “The Lord is my protector; what shall I fear?” [Ps. 27:1] “If armies should stand together against me” [Ps. 27:3], “if I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death” [Ps. 23:4], “I will not cease to have good hope” [Ps. 56:5]. Whence, I pray you, do they have this never-failing assurance but from knowing that, when the world appears to be aimlessly tumbled about, the Lord is everywhere at work, and from trusting that his work will be for their welfare? . . . . . . In short, not to tarry any longer over this, if you pay attention, you will easily perceive that ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.17.10, 11.

Does God Repent?

Wednesday··2018·03·07
On several occasions in Scripture, God is said to “repent” of things he has done or decreed. Since repenting, or changing one’s mind, necessarily implies learning and correction, this might lead, and indeed, has lead some, to conclude that God is neither omniscient nor immutable, and adjusts his actions to new information as he receives it. This conclusion, of course, contradicts the testimony of Scripture to the nature of God, and therefore must be erroneous. Yet the passages that describe God as repenting cannot be ignored. How, then, should they be understood? [C]ertain passages . . . seem to suggest . . . that the plan of God does not stand firm and sure, but is subject to change in response to the disposition of things below. First, God’s repenting is several times mentioned, as when he repented of having created man [Gen. 6:6]; of having put Saul over the kingdom [I Sam. 15:11]; and of his going to repent of the evil that he had determined to inflict upon his people, as soon as he sensed any change of heart in them [Jer. 18:8]. Next, some abrogations of his decrees are referred to. He made known through Jonah to the Ninevites that after forty days had passed Nineveh would be destroyed, yet he was immediately persuaded by their repentance to give a more kindly sentence. [Jonah 3:4, 10.] He proclaimed the death of Hezekiah through the mouth of Isaiah; but he was moved by the king’s tears and prayers to defer this [Isa. 38:1, 5; II Kings 20:1, 5; cf. II Chron. 32:24]. Hence many contend that God has not determined the affairs of men by an eternal decree, but that, according to each man’s deserts or according as he deems him fair and just, he decrees this or that each year, each day, and each hour. Concerning repentance, we ought so to hold that it is no more chargeable against God than is ignorance, or error, or powerlessness. For if no one wittingly and willingly puts himself under the necessity of repentance, we shall not attribute repentance to God without saying either that he is ignorant of what is going to happen, or cannot escape it, or hastily and rashly rushes into a decision of which he immediately has to repent. But that is far removed from the intention of the Holy Spirit, who in the very reference to repentance says that God is not moved by compunction because he is not a man so that he can repent [I Sam. 15:29]. And we must note that in the same chapter both are so joined together that the comparison well harmonizes the apparent disagreement. When God repents of having made Saul king, the change of mind is to be taken figuratively. A little later there is added: “The strength of Israel will not lie, nor be turned aside by repentance; for he is not a man, that he may repent” [I Sam. 15:29 p.]. By these words openly and unfiguratively God’s unchangeableness is declared. Therefore it is certain that God’s ordinance in the managing of human affairs is both everlasting and above all repentance. And lest there be doubt as to his constancy, even his adversaries are compelled to render testimony to this. For Balaam, even against his will, had to break forth into these words: “God is not like man that he should lie, nor as the son of man that he should change. It cannot be that he will not do what he has said or not fulfill what he has spoken” [Num. 23: 19 p.]. What, therefore, does the word “repentance” mean? Surely its meaning is like that of all other modes of speaking that describe God for us in human terms. For because our weakness does not attain to his exalted state, the description of him that is given to us must be accommodated to our capacity so that we may understand it. Now the mode of accommodation is for him to represent himself to us not as he is in himself, but as he seems to us. Although he is beyond all disturbance of mind, yet he testifies that he is angry toward sinners. Therefore whenever we hear that God is angered, we ought not to imagine any emotion in him, but rather to consider that this expression has been taken from our own human experience; because God, whenever he is exercising judgment, exhibits the appearance of one kindled and angered. So we ought not to understand anything else under the word “repentance” than change of action, because men are wont by changing their action to testify that they are displeased with themselves. Therefore, since every change among men is a correction of what displeases them, but that correction arises out of repentance, then by the word “repentance” is meant the fact that God changes with respect to his actions. Meanwhile neither God’s plan nor his will is reversed, nor his volition altered; but what he had from eternity foreseen, approved, and decreed, he pursues in uninterrupted tenor, however sudden the variation may appear in men’s eyes. The sacred history does not show that God’s decrees were abrogated when it relates that the destruction which had once been pronounced upon the Ninevites was remitted [Jonah 3:10]; and that Hezekiah’s life, after his death had been intimated, had been prolonged [Isa. 38:5]. Those who think so are deceived in these intimations. Even though the latter make a simple affirmation, it is to be understood from the outcome that these nonetheless contain a tacit condition. For why did the Lord send Jonah to the Ninevites to foretell the ruin of the city? Why did he through Isaiah indicate death to Hezekiah? For he could have destroyed both the Ninevites and Hezekiah without any messenger of destruction. Therefore he had in view something other than that, forewarned of their death, they might discern it coming from a distance. Indeed, he did not wish them to perish, but to be changed lest they perish. Therefore Jonah’s prophecy that after forty days Nineveh would be destroyed was made so it might not fall. Hezekiah’s hope for longer life was cut off in order that it might come to pass that he would obtain longer life. Who now does not see that it pleased the Lord by such threats to arouse to repentance those whom he was terrifying, that they might escape the judgment they deserved for their sins? If that is true, the nature of the circumstances leads us to recognize a tacit condition in the simple intimation. This is also confirmed by like examples. The Lord, rebuking King Abimelech because he had deprived Abraham of his wife, uses these words: “Behold, you will die on account of the woman whom you have taken, for she has a husband” [Gen. 20:3, Vg.]. But after Abimelech excused himself, God spoke in this manner: “Restore the woman to her husband, for he is a prophet, and will pray for you that you may live. If not, know that you shall surely die, and all that you have” [Gen. 20:7, Vg.]. Do you see how in the first utterance, he strikes Abimelech’s mind more violently in order to render him intent upon satisfaction, but in the second sentence he clearly explains his will? Inasmuch as there is a similar meaning in other passages, do not infer from them that there was any derogation from the Lord’s first purpose because he had made void what he had proclaimed. For the Lord, when by warning of punishment he admonishes to repentance those whom he wills to spare, paves the way for his eternal ordinance, rather than varies anything of his will, or even of his Word, although he does not express syllable by syllable what is nevertheless easy to understand. That saying of Isaiah must indeed remain true: “The Lord of Hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” [Isa. 14:27]. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.17.12, 13, 14.

Lord’s Day 12, 2018

Sunday··2018·03·25
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? —Romans 11:34 Hymn XV. Light shining out of darkness. 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 purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding ev’ry hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flow’r. Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan his work in vain; God is his own interpreter, And he will make it plain. —William Cowper, Olney Hymns. Book III: On the Rise, Progress, Changes, and Comforts of the Spiritual Life. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about #LordsDay from:thethirstytheo !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Let Us, with a Gladsome Mind

Saturday··2018·05·12
Let Us, with a Gladsome Mind Monkland Psalm 149 Let us, with a gladsome mind, praise the Lord, for He is kind: for His mercies shall endure, ever faithful, ever sure. Let us blaze His Name abroad, for of gods He is the God: for His mercies shall endure, ever faithful, ever sure. He with all-commanding might filled the new-made world with light: for His mercies shall endure, ever faithful, ever sure. All things living He doth feed; His full hand supplies their need: for His mercies shall endure, ever faithful, ever sure. He His chosen race did bless in the wasteful wilderness: for His mercies shall endure, ever faithful, ever sure. He hath with a pious eye looks upon our misery: for His mercies shall endure, ever faithful, ever sure. Let us therefore warble forth His high majesty and worth: for His mercies shall endure, ever faithful, ever sure. —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, recently published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

@TheThirstyTheo



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