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(31 posts)

“Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.”

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. —Romans 5:3–5 Knowing that tribulation worketh patience (5:3). He who has faith indeed has all the excellent things (which are mentioned in the text), but in a hidden way. Through tribulation they are tried and purified to the highest degree. Whatever (virtues) tribulation finds in us, it develops more fully. If anyone is carnal, weak, blind, wicked, irascible, haughty, and so forth, tribulation will make him more carnal, weak, blind, wicked and irritable. On the other hand, if one is spiritual, strong, wise, pious, gentle and humble, he will become more spiritual, wise, pious, gentle, and humble, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 4:1: “Thou hast enlarged me when in was in distress.” Those speak foolishly who ascribe their anger or their impatience to such as offend them or to tribulation. Tribulation does not make people impatient, but proves that they are impatient. So everyone may learn from tribulation how his heart is constituted. Those are ignorant, childish and indeed hypocritical who outwardly venerate the relics of the holy Cross, yet flee and detest tribulation and affliction. Holy Scripture calls tribulation the cross of Christ in a special sense, as in Mathew 10:38: “He that taketh his not cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Let everyone be sure that he is not Christian but a Turk and an enemy of Christ who refuses to bear this cross; for here the Apostle speaks of all (believers) when he says: “We glory in tribulations.” And in Acts 14:22 we read: “We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God.” “Must” does not mean that tribulation comes by chance, or that it is a matter of choice for us, of that we may take it or leave it. In many Scripture passages our Lord is called a “Savior” and a “Helper in need,” and this means that all who do not desire to endure tribulation, rob him of his titles and names of honor. To such people our Lord will never become a Savior, because they do not admit that they are under condemnation. To them God is never mighty, wise and gracious, because they do not desire to honor Him as creatures that are weak, foolish and subject to punishment. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 74–75.

Love—for God’s Sake

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. —Romans 5:3–5 Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts 5:5. Hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God, that is, the love which of God and works in us as unshakable adherence to Him, is shed abroad in our hearts. This love we receive by grace and not on account of our merit; and it makes us willing to endure tribulation. If men are unwilling and of an unstable mind, they do not endure it by the Holy Ghost. St. Augustine remarks on the passage: “Step by step he (the Apostle), leads us toward love, which, as he says, we have as a gift from the Holy Spirit. He shows us thereby that we must ascribe all that we might claim for ourselves to God who by grace grant us His Holy Spirit.” We must understand these words as an added motivation or instruction of the Holy Spirit, showing why we can glory in tribulation, though this is impossible by our own strength. It is not the effect of our own power, but it comes from the divine love which is given us by the Holy Ghost. Let us note: 1. It is shed abroad, hence not born in us or originated by us. 2. It is by the Holy Ghost, therefore it is not acquired by our virtuous efforts as we may acquire good habits which lie on merely moral plane. 3. In our hearts, that is, it is in the innermost course of our being, not merely on the surface, as a foam is swimming on the top of the water. Such (superficial) love is that of the hypocrites who imagine and pretend to love. 4. Which is given unto us, that is, which is not merited, for we deserve the very opposite. 5. It is called love (caritas) in contradistinction to the inert and lower form of love with which we love creatures. It is a precious and worthy love, by which we most highly esteem that which we love, as we esteem God above all things, or as we love Him with highest esteem. He who loves God merely for the sake of His gifts or the sake of any advantage, loves Him with the lowest form of love, that is, with a sinful desire. Such (earthly) love means to use God, but not to delight in God. 6. Of God, because only God is so loved. The neighbor is loved for God’s sake, that is, because God wills this. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 76–77.

Of whom the world was not worthy

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. —Hebrews 11:32–40 The Martyrdom of Polycarp Chap. IX—Polycarp Refuses to Revile Christ. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade hem to deny [Christ], saying, “Have respect to thy old age,” and other similar things, according to their customs, [such as], “Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.” But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand toward them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, “Away with the Atheists.” Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ;” Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?” Chap. X—Polycarp Confesses Himself A Christian. And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar,” he answered, “Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortunes of Caesar, and pretendest not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and thou shalt hear them.” The proconsul replied, “Persuade the people.” But Polycarp said, “To thee I have thought it right to offer and account [of my faith]; for we are taught to give all due honour (Which entails no injury upon ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. But as for these, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me.” Chap. XI—No Threats Have Any Effect On Polycarp. The proconsul then said to him, “I have wild beasts at hand; to these will I cast thee, except thou repent.” But he answered, “Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil; and it is well for me to be changed from what is evil to what is righteous.” But again the proconsul said to him “I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, seeing thou despiseth the wild beasts, if thou wilt not repent.” But Polycarp said “Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and the eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why tarriest thou? Bring forth what thou wilt.” —The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Hendrickson, 2012), 1:41. So Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John, went to his death. Others continue to suffer for their faith today. A testimony sent to The Voice of the Martyrs from a believer in Myanmar (Burma): One day we were sitting at the temple entrance receiving collections from the people, one of the Christians passing by gave me a tract. I kept it to take home with me and read it later. When I read this tract it spoke of receiving the gift of eternal life when believing in Jesus Christ. I started to question and wonder, “How can we know eternal life? What is this eternal life the tract spoke of?” I asked my wife and children about the matter of eternal life, and they simply joked about it saying, “Father you are a good man, you will surely be a rich man in your next life.” But the thought would not leave me, I felt it deeply as I was growing older, When I die, will there be a place that I go to? So I kept thinking about this over and over in my heart and mind, until finally at midnight I called on Jesus, “Lord Jesus I believe, please give me eternal life.” The Lord Jesus heard my prayer and answered my call. Then the light shone into my soul, light in my heart which was great joy. Simply stated, I am at peace, a real peace in my heart which I had never experienced before, which is difficult to put into words. Early the next morning I knew in my heart that I must throw out the image of Buddha, which I had previously worshipped every day. Without speaking to my wife, I took the image and threw it into a small river near my village. . . . Please pray for me as I have been forced to leave my village, my wife and my two children who I love dearly. I pray that I may soon be able to return back to them. I love them but I cannot do what they have asked me to do—curse my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, come back to Buddha and my family. May our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on my family and my fellow-villagers. And I was thinking the other day about one time when someone chuckled a little about my faith, and how well I had taken it.

The Devil’s Greatest Advantage

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. —1 Timothy 4:16 It is by the mixture of counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and distinguished, that the devil has had his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ. It is plainly by this means, principally, that he has prevailed against all revivals of religion, since the first founding of the christian church. By this he hurt the cause of Christianity, in and after the apostolic age, much more by all the persecution of both Jews and heathens. The apostles, in all their epistles, show themselves much more concerned at the former mischief, than the latter. By this, Satan prevailed against the reformation, begun by Luther, Zuinglius, &c. to put a stop to its progress, and bring it into disgrace, ten times more than by all the bloody and cruel persecutions of the Church of Rome. By this, principally, has he prevailed against revivals of religion in our nation. By this he prevailed against New England, to quench the love and spoil the joy of her espousals, about a hundred years ago. And, I think, I have had opportunity enough to see plainly, that by this the devil has prevailed against the late great revival of religion in New England, so happy and promising in its beginning. Here, most evidently, has been the main advantage Satan has had against us; by this he has foiled us. It is by this means that the daughter of Zion in this land now lies on the ground, in such piteous circumstances, with her garments rent, her face disfigured, her nakedness exposed, her limbs broken, and weltering in the blood of her own wounds, and in no wise able to arise; and this, so quickly after her late great joys and hopes: Lam. i. 17. “Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the Lord hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries shall be round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.” —Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, Works (Banner of Truth, 1974), 1:235.

Calvin on Suffering Affliction

What if we were to cling to the idea—so firmly planted in our heads that we seem to have been born with it—that if we suffer affliction in the world we can never really be blessed? If that were the case, which of us would not run a mile from the Lord Jesus Christ or willingly consent to be his disciple, even supposing we accepted his teaching and hailed him as God’s Son who calls us to himself? In that case we might well say, ‘Yes, but surely he knows our weakness and frailty? Why should he not put up with us as we are?’ Each one of us would take our shoulder from the wheel if we truly held the idea—deeply rooted, as I said—that blessedness is only for those who are comfortable and at ease. That is why our Lord preached as he does here to his disciples, demonstrating that our happiness and blessedness do not come from the world’s applause, or from the enjoyment of wealth, honors, gratification and pleasure. On the contrary, we may be utterly oppressed, in tears and weeping, persecuted and to all appearances ruined: none of that affects our standing or diminishes our happiness. Why? Because we have in view the ultimate outcome. That is what Christ would have us remember, so as to correct the false ideas we feed upon and which so muddle our thinking that we cannot accept his yoke. He reminds us that we must look further ahead and consider the outcome of our afflictions, our tears in the persecutions we suffer and the insults we bear. When once we see how God turns all of that to good and to our salvation, we may conclude that blessing will assuredly be ours, however contrary such things to our nature. —John Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes (Banner of Truth, 2006), 20.

Calvin on Bearing Reproach

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. —Matthew 5:11–12, cf. Luke 6:22–26 In brief, we are exhorted to remember continually what our Lord Jesus teaches in this passage. When we are unjustly afflicted, provided our conscience testifies before God that we are blameless, we must not lose heart, thinking that we are worse off than unbelievers. Why? Because the happiness we are to seek is from above. When we are on earth, we must prepare to do battle. But there is also the promise of rest which will be ours, of victory and the glory which goes with it. That promise calls us to look away from the world and to lift up our minds to the realm above. Moreover we are not only encouraged to put up with personal injury and trouble, but also with criticism, slander, and false report. This is perhaps the hardest thing of all to bear, since a brave person will endure beatings and even death more easily than humiliation and disgrace. Among those pagans who had a reputing for courage were noble souls who feared death less than shame and dishonor among men. We, therefore, must arm ourselves with more that human steadfastness if we are to calmly swallow all the insults, censures, and blame which the wicked will undeservedly heap upon us. That, nevertheless, is what awaits us, as St. Paul declares. Since, he says, our hope is in the living God, we are bound to suffer distress and humiliation; we will be objects of suspicion; men will spit in our face. That is God’s way of testing us. We must therefore be ready to face these things and to take our Lord’s teaching here as our shield for the fight. For the rest, he warns us that reproaches will come not only from those who openly decry the gospel and who have no time for pure and true religion, but also from those who pass themselves off as members of the church and who have every appearance of sincerity: they will be the first to pull us down and to shame us in men’s eyes. —John Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes (Banner of Truth, 2006), 66–67.
Sinclair Ferguson on persecution and suffering: In God’s workshop in this world, suffering is the raw material out of which glory is forged (1 Peter 1:7; 4:12–13). That is standard New Testament teaching. But there is a subtle development of it in Peter: “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14, emphasis added). The prospect of future glory has been a great consolation to believers throughout the ages. But Peter is saying more than that. Glory belongs not only to the “there and then”; it is part of the “here and now” of suffering. The Spirit who uses our sufferings to produce glory gives advance indications of the final product in the lives of believers. We get a glimpse of that sometimes in older Christians who have seen trials; we see that there is a grace in them that eludes definition. It is etched into their lives from beyond. A touch of the glory of the future world seems already to clothe them in the present one. Peter’s bottom line is this: don’t be surprised by suffering (1 Peter 4:12). But how can twenty-first-century Christians be un-surprised in times of suffering? We can only do so by being delivered from a faulty understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus was crucified by this world. To become a Christian means by definition to follow a cross-bearing Savior and Lord. it means to be identified with Him in such a way that opposition to Him will inevitably touch us. Paul said that he bore in his body the marks of Jesus (Gal. 5:16). So perhaps we should ask: Hast thou no scar? No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand? I hear thee sung as mighty in the land; I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star. Hast thou no scar? Hast thou no wound? Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent. Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent By ravening wolves that compassed Me, I swooned: Hast thou no wound? No wound, no scar? Yet as the Master shall the servant be, And pierced are the feet that follow Me. But thine are whole. Can he have followed far Who hast no wound or scar?* Are you a marked man or woman? —Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), 203–204. * Amy Carmichael

Loss, Gain, and the Knowledge of God

If we really knew God, how would our attitudes be affected? How would we think of the difficulties and losses we suffer? How should knowing God affect our thoughts of these things? J. I. Packer writes of the Apostle Paul’s example to us. [Few of us would] ever naturally say that in the light of the knowledge of God which we have come to enjoy, past disappointments and present heartbreaks, as the world counts heartbreaks, don’t matter. For the plain fact is that to most of us they do matter. We live with them as our “crosses” (so we call them). Constantly we find ourselves slipping into bitterness and apathy and gloom as we reflect on them, which we frequently do. The attitude we show to the world is a sort of dried-up stoicism, miles removed from the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” which Peter took for granted that his readers were displaying (1 Pet 1:8 KJV). “Poor souls,” our friends say of us, “how they’ve suffered.” And that is just what we feel about ourselves! But these private mock heroics have no place at all in the minds of those who really know God. They never brood on might-have-beens; they never think of the things they have missed, only of what they have gained. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ,” wrote Paul, “what is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him. . . . I want to know Christ” (Phil 3:7–10). When Paul says he counts the things he lost rubbish, or dung (KJV), he means not merely that he does not think of them as having any value, but also that he does not live with them constantly in his mind: what normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure? Yet this, in effect, is what many of us do. It shows how little we have in the way of true knowledge of God. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 25.

Evidence of Knowing God (1)

Drawing from the book of Daniel, J. I. Packer lists four evidences of knowing God. 1. Those who know God have great energy for God. In one of the prophetic chapters of Daniel we read, “the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (11:32 KJV). RSV renders thus: “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” In the context, this statement is introduced by “but” and set in contrast to the activity of the “contemptible person” (v. 21) who sets up “the abomination that causes desolation” and corrupts by smooth and flattering talk those whose loyalties to God’s covenant has failed (vv. 31–32). This shows us that the action taken by those who know God is their reaction to the anti-God trends which they see operating around them. While their God is being defied or disregarded, they cannot rest; they feel they must do something; the dishonor done to God’s name goads them into action. This is exactly what we see happening in the narrative chapters of Daniel, where we are told of the “exploits” of Daniel and his three friends. . . . Daniel in particular appears as one who would not let a situation of that sort slide, but felt bound openly to challenge it. . . . When Darius suspended the practice of prayer for a month, on pain of death, Daniel not merely went on praying three times a day, but did so in front of an open window, so that everyone might see what he was doing (6:10). . . . Such gestures must not be misunderstood. It is not that Daniel . . . was an awkward, cross-grained fellow who luxuriated in rebellion and could only be happy when he was squarely “agin’” the government. It is simply that those who know their God are sensitive to situations in which God’s truth and honor are being directly or tacitly jeopardized, and rather than let the matter go by default will force the issue on men’s attention and seek thereby to compel a change of heart about it’even at personal risk. Yet the invariable fruit of true knowledge is energy to pray for God’s cause—energy, indeed, which can only find an outlet and relief of inner tension when channeled into such prayer—and the more knowledge, the more energy! By this we may test ourselves. Perhaps we are not in a position to make public gestures . . . But we can all pray about the ungodliness and apostasy which we see in everyday life around us. If, however, there is in us little energy for such prayer,and little consequent practice of it, this is a sure sign that as yet we scarcely know our God. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 27–29.

Evidence of Knowing God (4)

One of the greatest blessings of knowing God is the peace and contentment that comes from knowing that God is sovereign, and that he holds us in his hands in all circumstances. Packer writes, 4. Those who know God have great contentment in God. There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God, and God has know them, and that this relationship guarantees God’s favor to them in life, through death and on for ever. This is the peace of which Paul speaks in Romans 5:1—“since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”—and whose substance he analyzes in full in Romans 8. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. . . . The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children . . . heirs of God. . . . We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. . . . Those he justified, he also glorified. . . . If God is for us, who can be against us? . . . Who will bring any charge against those who God has chosen? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . . I am convince that neither death nor life . . . neither the present nor the future . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus or Lord” (vv. 1, 16–17, 28, 30, 31, 33, 35, 38–39). This is the peace which Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego know; hence the contentment with which they stood their ground in face of Nebuchadnezzar’s ultimatum (Dan 3:15): “If you do not worship [the image], you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Their reply (3:16–18) is classic “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.” (No panic!) “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.” (Courteous, but unanswerable—they knew their God!) “But even if he does not”—if no deliverance comes—“we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods.” (It doesn’t matter! It makes no difference! Live or die, they are content.) Lord, it belongs not to my care Whether I die or live; To love and serve Thee is my share, And this Thy grace must give. If life be long, I will be glad, That I may long obey; If short—then why should I be sad To soar to endless day? The comprehensiveness of our contentment is another measure whereby we may judge whether we really know God. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 31–32.

When You Encounter Various Trials

Monday··2008·11·10 · 1 Comments
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. —James 1:2–4 Life is hard. Working for a living is hard. Marriage is hard. Raising children is hard. Sometimes, just getting up in the morning is hard. Are you thankful? You should be. I don’t mean you should not grieve and mourn over serous calamities, or even cry out to God for deliverance. I mean, can you recognize God’s hand at work, stripping away your independence, self-sufficiency, and pride, strengthening your faith, and trusting him to work all things together for your good, thank him and be joyful? These are hard questions for me. I think I have experienced my share (what is my share, exactly?) of trials, and I think I can honestly say that I have learned to be content and thankful for lessons learned and for the providence of God in those situations. I do pretty well, I think. But wait; what did James write? “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you look back on various trials, and see how God has worked through them . . .” No, he wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials . . .” When, not after. This is a hard pill to swallow, and I’m afraid I haven’t quite choked it down yet. Here is where I’d like to have a nice, inspirational, devotional book-like conclusion, but I’m afraid I haven’t got one. It’s only the grace of God that brings me around to see in hindsight what I’m too selfish or stupid to see at the moment. Needle-point that and hang it on the wall.

When You Encounter Various Trials

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. —James 1:2–4 Life is hard. Working for a living is hard. Marriage is hard. Raising children is hard. Sometimes, just getting up in the morning is hard. Are you thankful? You should be. I don’t mean you should not grieve and mourn over serous calamities, or even cry out to God for deliverance. I mean, can you recognize God’s hand at work, stripping away your independence, self-sufficiency, and pride, strengthening your faith, and trusting him to work all things together for your good, thank him and be joyful? These are hard questions for me. I think I have experienced my share (what is my share, exactly?) of trials, and I think I can honestly say that I have learned to be content and thankful for lessons learned and for the providence of God in those situations. I do pretty well, I think. But wait; what did James write? “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you look back on various trials, and see how God has worked through them . . .” No, he wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials . . .” When, not after. This is a hard pill to swallow, and I’m afraid I haven’t quite choked it down yet. Here is where I’d like to have a nice, inspirational, devotional book-like conclusion, but I’m afraid I haven’t got one. It’s only the grace of God that brings me around to see in hindsight what I’m too selfish or stupid to see at the moment. Needle-point that and hang it on the wall.

Pre-Review: Wrestling with an Angel

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

Book Review: Wrestling with an Angel

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

Hymns of My Youth II: When Morning Gilds The Skies

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. —Philippians 1:21 I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. —Philippians 4:11 May Jesus Christ Be Praised When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries: May Jesus Christ be praised! Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair: May Jesus Christ be praised! Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find, May Jesus Christ be praised! Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this, May Jesus Christ be praised! In Heav’n’s eternal bliss the loveliest strain is this, May Jesus Christ be praised! The powers of darkness fear when this sweet chant they hear: May Jesus Christ be praised! Be this, while life is mine, my canticle divine: May Jesus Christ be praised! Sing this eternal song through all the ages long: May Jesus Christ be praised! —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

The Best News

It is assurance of salvation that enables the saints to suffer persecution and even die for their faith. Assurance should allow any of God’s own to die happily and without fear. ‘When I live in a settled and steadfast assurance about the state of my soul,’ said Bishop Hugh Latimer, ‘then I am as bold as a lion.’ John Bradford, another martyr could say, ‘If Queen Mary gives me my life, I will thank her; if she burns me, I will thank her.’ Nor is it only in days of persecution that Christians have been able to speak in this way. Many believers, when dying, have been as ready as Richard Baxter to affirm that they were ‘almost well’. William White, a country pastor in Virginia, on hearing from his doctor that he had only a few days to live, could declare, ‘That’s the best news I have heard in twenty years.’ A bedridden Methodist woman in Cornwall, and eager for ‘home’, told her attentive daughter that she was too weak to take a drink. ‘Do not say so,’ the daughter urged, ‘you will be down among us again yet.’ To which the response was, ‘You are always a-foreboding!’ —Iain Murray, The Old Evangelicalism (Banner of Truth, 2005), 171.

So That We Will Trust and Give Thanks

Why does God allow and even send suffering? For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many. —2 Corinthians 1:8–11

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: May Jesus Christ Be Praised

May Jesus Christ Be Praised Christ . . . is over all, God blessed forever. Romans 9:5 When morning gilds the skies, my heart awaking cries, May Jesus Christ be praised! Alike at work and prayer to Jesus I repair, May Jesus Christ be praised! Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find, May Jesus Christ be praised! Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this, May Jesus Christ be praised! The night becomes as day, When from the heart we say, May Jesus Christ be praised! The powers of darkness fear When this sweet chant they hear, May Jesus Christ be praised! Ye nations of mankind, In this your concord find, May Jesus Christ be praised! Let all the earth around Ring joyous with the sound, May Jesus Christ be praised! Sing, suns and stars of space, Sing, ye that see His face, Sing, Jesus Christ be praised! God’s whole creation o’er, For aye and evermore Shall Jesus Christ be praised! Be this, while life is mine, my canticle divine, May Jesus Christ be praised! Be this th’eternal song eternal song through all the ages long, May Jesus Christ be praised! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

The World Hates You

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. —John 15:18–19 John Calvin and I wonder why so many pastors work so hard to make themselves attractive to the world. If the world hate you. After having armed the Apostles for the battle, Christ exhorts them likewise to patience; for the Gospel cannot be published without instantly driving the world to rage. Consequently, it will never be possible for godly teachers to avoid the hatred of the world. Christ gives them early information of this, that they may not be instances of what usually happens to raw recruits, who, from wont of experience, are valiant before they have seen their enemies, but who tremble as soon as the battle is commenced. And not only does Christ forewarn his disciples, that nothing may happen to them which is new and unexpected, but likewise confirms them by his example; for it is not reasonable that Christ should be hated by the world, and that we, who represent his person, should have the world on our side, which is always like itself. —John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XVIII (Baker Books, 2009), Commentary on the Gospel according to John, 2:123.

The Testing of Our Faith

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.

Called to Suffer

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.

Counting the Cost (2)

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” —Luke 14:27–30 Itemizing the costs of following Jesus, J. C. Ryle finishes as follows: In the last place, it will cost a man the favour of the world. He must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn. He must submit to be thought by many a fool, an enthusiast, and a fanatic—to have his words perverted and his actions misrepresented. In fact, he must not marvel if some call him mad. The Master says—‘Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also’ (John 15:20). I dare say this also sounds hard. We naturally dislike unjust dealing and false charges, and think it very hard to be accused without cause. We should not be flesh and blood if we did not wish to have the good opinion of our neighbours. It is always unpleasant to be spoken against, and forsaken, and lied about, and to stand alone. But there is no help for it. The cup which our Master drank must be drunk by His disciples. They must be ‘despised and rejected of men’ (Isa. 13:3). Let us set down that item last in our account. To be a Christian it will cost a man the favour of the world. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 97—98

The offence of the cross is not ceased

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. —John 15:18–19 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. —1 John 3:13 If the Apostle John had been a twentieth-century country music singer, he might have sung, “I beg your pardon / I never promised you a rose garden.” The disciple of Christ is called to abandon the world’s goods and the world’s esteem to follow him. I do not say that the statesman must throw up his office, and the rich man forsake his property. Let no one fancy that I mean this. But I say, if a man would be saved, whatever be his rank in life, he must be prepared for tribulation. He must make up his mind to choose much which seems evil, and to give up and refuse much which seems good. I dare say this sounds strange language to some who read these pages. I know well you may have a certain form of religion, and find no trouble in your way. There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough—a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and is worth nothing. I am not speaking of religion of this kind. But if you really are in earnest about your soul—if your religion is something more than a mere fashionable Sunday cloak—if you are determined to live by the Bible—if you are resolved to be a New Testament Christian, then, I repeat, you will soon find you must carry a cross.—You must endure hard things, you must suffer on behalf of your soul, as Moses did, or you cannot be saved. The world in the nineteenth century is what it always was. The hearts of men are still the same. The offence of the cross is not ceased. God’s true people are still a despised little flock. True Evangelical religion still brings with it reproach and scorn. A real servant of God will still be thought by many a weak enthusiast and a fool. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 189–192.

The Fire that Burns the Dross

A lesson from J. C. Ryle for those deceived by preachers of the prosperity gospel: It is good to understand that Christ’s service never did secure a man from all the ills that flesh is heir to, and never will. If you are a believer, you must reackon on having your share of sickness and pain, of sorrow and tears, of losses and crosses, of deaths and bereavements, of partings and separations, of vexations and disappointments, so long as you are in the body. Christ never undertakes that you shall get to heaven without these. He has undertaken that all who come to Him shall have all things pertaining to life and godliness; but He has never undertaken that He will make them prosperous, or rich, or healthy, and that death and sorrow shall never come to their family. I have the privilege of being one of Christ’s ambassadors. In His name I can offer eternal life to any man, woman, or child who is willing to have it. In His name I do offer pardon, peace, grace, glory, to any son or daughter of Adam . . . But I dare not offer that person worldly prosperity as a part and parcel of the Gospel. I dare not offer him long life, an increased income, and freedom from pain. I dare not promise the man who takes up the cross and follows Christ, that in the following he shall never meet with a storm. I know well that many do not like these terms. They would prefer having Christ and good health—Christ and plenty of money—Christ and no deaths in their family—Christ and no wearing cares—Christ and a perpetual morning without clouds. But they do not like Christ and the cross—Christ and tribulation—Christ and the conflict—Christ and the howling wind—Christ and the storm. . . . How should you know who are true Christians, if following Christ was the way to be free from trouble? How should we discern the wheat from the chaff, if it were not for the winnowing of trial? How should we know whether men served Christ for His own sake or from selfish motives, if His service brought health and wealth with it as a matter of course? The winds of winter soon show us which of the trees are evergreen and which are not. The storms of affliction and care are useful in the same way. They discover whose faith is real, and whose is nothing but profession and form. How would the great work of sanctification go on in a man if he had no trial? Trouble is often the only fire which will burn away the dross that clings to our hearts. Trouble is the pruning-knife which the great Husbandman employs in order to make us fruitful in good works. The harvest of the Lord’s field is seldom ripened by sunshine only. It must go through its days of wind, and rain, and storm. If you desire to serve Christ and be saved, I entreat you to take the Lord on His own terms. Make up your mind to meet with your share of crosses and sorrows, and then you will not be surprised. For want of understanding this, many seem to run well for a season, and then turn back in disgust, and are cast away. If you profess to be a child of God, leave to the Lord Jesus to sanctify you in His own way. Rest satisfied that He never makes any mistakes. Be sure that He does all things well. The winds may howl around you, and the waters swell. But fear not, ‘He is leading you by the right way, that He may bring you to a city of habitation’ (Psalm 107:7). —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 263–265.

Eternal Life Is More Sweet

John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester (1495–1555), was originally to die alongside John Rogers, but was instead taken to Gloucester to be burned before his parishioners, in front of his own cathedral. The day before his execution, Sir Anthony Kingston, whom the good Bishop had been the means of converting from a sinful life, entreated him, with many tears, to spare himself, and urged him to remember that ‘Life was sweet, and death was bitter.’ To this the noble martyr returned this memorable reply, that ‘Eternal life was more sweet, and eternal death was more bitter.’ On the morning of his martyrdom he was led forth, walking, to the place of execution, where an immense crowd awaited him. It was market-day; and it was reckoned that nearly 700o people were present. The stake was planted directly in front of the western gate of the Cathedral-close, and within 100 yards of the deanery and the east front of the Cathedral. The exact spot is marked now by a beautiful memorial at the east end of the churchyard of St. Mary-de-Lode. The window over the gate, where Popish friars watched the Bishop’s dying agonies, stands unaltered to this day. When Hooper arrived at this spot, he was allowed to pray, though strictly forbidden to speak to the people. And there he knelt down, and prayed a prayer which has been preserved and recorded by Fox, and is of exquisitely touching character. Even then a box was put before him containing a full pardon, if he would only recant. His only answer was, ‘Away with it; if you love my soul, away with it!’ He was then fastened to the stake by an iron round his waist, and fought his last fight with the king of terrors. Of all the martyrs, none perhaps, except Ridley, suffered more than Hooper did. Three times the faggots had to be lighted, because they would not burn properly. Three quarters of an hour the noble sufferer endured the mortal agony, as Fox says, ‘neither moving backward, forward, nor to any side,’ but only praying,‘Lord Jesus, have mercy on me; Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;’ and beating his breast with one hand till it was burned to a stump. And so the good Bishop of Gloucester passed away. —Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 46—47. Words to live—and die—by: Life may be sweet, and death bitter, but eternal life is more sweet, and eternal death more bitter.

Death Is No Death

The following lines are attributed to John Hooper. Tradition says they were written in coal on the wall of the cell in which he was held before his execution. Content thyself with patience With Christ to bear the cup of pain: Who can and will thee recompense A thousand-fold, with joys again. Let nothing cause thy heart to fail: Launch out thy boat, hoist up the sail, Put from the shore; And be thou sure thou shalt attain Unto the port, that shall remain For evermore. Fear not death, pass not for bands, Only in God put thy whole trust; For He will require thy blood at their hands, And thou dost know that once die thou must, Only for that, thy life if thou give, Death is no death, but ever for to live. Do not despair: Of no worldly tyrant be thou in dread; Thy compass, which is God’s Word, shall thee lead, And the wind is fair. —in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 83.

Only an Instrument

Among the last writings of English Reformer John Bradford (1510–1555), as he awaited his death in the Tower of London. When I consider the cause of my condemnation, I cannot but lament that I do no more rejoice than I do, for it is God's verity and truth. The condemnation is not a condemnation of Bradford simply, but rather a condemnation of Christ and His truth. Bradford is nothing else but an instrument, in whom Christ and His doctrine are condemned; and, therefore, my dearly beloved, rejoice, rejoice, and give thanks, with me, and for me, that ever God did vouchsafe so great a benefit to our country, as to choose the most unworthy (I mean myself) to be one in whom it would please Him to suffer any kind of affliction, much more this violent kind of death, which I perceive is prepared for me with you for His sake. All glory and praise be given unto God our Father for this His exceeding great mercy towards me, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. —in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 179.

Bishop Ridley versus Queen Mary

Among the English Reformers, Nicholas Ridley (c. 1500–1555) was closest to the throne, and therefore in the most immediate danger from a hostile sovereign. As chaplain to Henry VIII, father of Queen Mary, and finally, Bishop of London, conflict was inevitable. When Edward VI died in 1553, and his sister Mary, who, writes Ryle, “had a special dislike to him,” took the throne, Ridley was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The circumstances under which Ridley came into direct collision with Queen Mary before the death of Edward VI are so graphically described by Fox that I think it best to give them in the martyrologist’s own words: About the eighth of September, 1552, Dr Ridley, then Bishop of London, lying at his house at Hadham in Herts, went to visit the Lady Mary, then lying at Hunsden, two miles off, and was gently entertained of Sir Thomas Wharton and other her officers, till it was almost eleven of the clock, about which time the said Lady Mary came forth into her chamber of presence, and then the said bishop there saluted her Grace, and said that he was come to do this duty to her Grace. Then she thanked him for his pains, and for a quarter of an hour talked with him very pleasantly, and said that she knew him in the court when he was chaplain to her father, and could well remember a sermon that he made before King Henry her father at the marriage of my Lady Clinton that now is to Sir Anthony Browne, &c., and so dismissed him to dine with her officers. After the dinner was done, the bishop being called for by the said Lady Mary, resorted again to her Grace, between whom this communication was. First the bishop beginneth in manner as followeth: ‘Madam, I came not only to do my duty to see your Grace, but also to offer myself to preach before you on Sunday next, if it will please you to hear me.’ At this her countenance changed, and after silence for a space, she answered thus: ‘My Lord, as for this last matter, I pray you make the answer to it yourself.’ Ridley. ‘Madam, considering mine office and calling, I am bound to make your Grace this offer to preach before you.’ Mary. ‘Well, I pray you, make the answer, as I have said, to this matter yourself, for you know the answer well enough; but if there be no remedy, but I must make you answer, this shall be your answer, the door of the parish church adjoining shall be open for you, if you come, and ye may preach if you list, but neither I nor any of mine shall hear you.’ Ridley. ‘Madam, I trust you will not refuse God’s Word.’ Mary. ‘I cannot tell what ye call God’s Word that is not God’s Word now, that was God’s Word in my father’s days.’ Ridley. ‘God’s Word is one at all times, but hath been better understood and practised in some ages than in other.’ Mary. ‘You durst not for your ears have avouched that for God’s Word in my father’s days that now you do; and as for your new books, I thank God, I never read any of them, I never did nor ever will do.’ And after many bitter words against the form of religion then established, and against the government of the realm, and the laws made in the young years of her brother, which she said she was not bound to obey till her brother came to perfect age, and then she said she would obey them; she asked the Bishop whether he were one of the council? He answered, ‘No.’ ‘You might well enough,’ said she, ‘as the council goeth nowadays.’ And so she concluded with these words: ‘My Lord, for your gentleness to come and see me I thank you, but for your offering to preach before me I thank you never a whit.’ Then the said bishop was brought by Sir Thomas Wharton to the place where they had dined, and was desired to drink, and after he had drunk, he paused awhile, looking very sadly, and suddenly brake out into these words, ‘Surely I have done amiss.’ ‘Why so?’ quoth Sir Thomas Wharton. ‘For I have drunk,’ said he, ‘in that place where God’s Word offered hath been refused, whereas if I had remembered my duty, I ought to have departed immediately, and to have shaken off the dust of my shoes for a testimony against this house.’ These words were by the said bishop spoken with such a vehemency, that some of the hearers afterward confessed their hair to stand upright on their heads. This done, the said bishop departed, and so returned to his house. From the Tower Ridley was sent to Oxford in 1554, to be baited and insulted in a mock disputation; and finally, after two years’ imprisonment, was burned at Oxford with old Latimer, on 16 October 1555. Singularly enough, he seems to have had forebodings of the kind of death he would die. Humphrey, in his Life of Jewel, records the following anecdote: ‘Ridley, on one occasion, being tossed about in a great storm, exhorted his terrified companions with these words, “Be of good cheer, and bend to your oars; this boat carries a Bishop who is not to be drowned, but burned.”’ —in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 184–186.

Ready to Do and Suffer

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. —1 Peter 4:19 Considering all our sufferings are by the appointment and will of God, let us bring our souls to an holy resignation unto his Majesty, not looking so much to the grievance we are under as to the hand that sent it. We should with one eye consider the thing, with another eye the will of God in the same. When a man considers, I suffer now, but it is by the will of God!; he puts me upon it, how cheerfully will such an one commit his soul to the Lord! It is as hard a matter to suffer God's will as to do his will. Passive obedience is as hard as active. In the active we labour that what we do may please God; in the passive we must endeavour that what he doth may please us. Our hearts are as untoward to the one as to the other. Therefore, let us beg of God to bring our wills to the obedience of his blessed will in everything. Would you have a pattern of this? Look upon our blessed Saviour, to whom we must be conformable in obedience if ever we will be conformable in glory. ‘Lo, I come,' saith he; ‘I am ready to do thy will, Lord,' Heb. x. 9. What was the whole life of Christ but a doing and a suffering of God's will? ‘Behold, it is written in the volume of thy book that I should do thy will,' ver. 7, and here I am ready pressed for it. It should be, therefore, the disposition of all those that are led by the Spirit of Christ, as all must be that hope to reign with him, to be willing to suffer with Christ here, and say with him, Lord, I am here ready to do and suffer whatsoever thou requirest! When once we are brought to this, all the quarrel is ended between God and us. —Richard Sibbes, The Saint's Hiding-Place in the Evil Day, Works (Banner of Truth, 2001), 1:403–404.
Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. —1 Peter 4:19 If anything overcome, this will do it, to suffer well. The church of God is a company of men that gain and overcome by suffering in doing good. Thus the dove overcomes the eagle, the sheep overcomes the wolf, the lamb overcomes the lion, &c. It hath been so from the beginning of the world. Meek Christians, by suffering quietly, have at length overcome those that are malicious, and have gained even their very enemies to the love of the truth. —Richard Sibbes, The Saint's Hiding-Place in the Evil Day, Works (Banner of Truth, 2001), 1:406.

Lord’s Day 18, 2018

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,   Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;   For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,   And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. —Hebrews 12:4–11; cf. Job 5:17–18, Proverbs 3:11–12 Hymn XVI. Welcome cross. Tis my happiness below Not to live without the cross; But the Saviour’s pow’r to know, Sanctifying ev’ry loss: Trials must and will befall; But with humble faith to see Love inscrib’d upon them all, This is happiness to me. God, in Israel, sows the seeds Of affliction, pain, and toil; These spring up, and choke the weeds Which would else o’erspread the soil: Trials make the promise sweet, Trials give new life to pray’r; Trials bring me to his feet, Lay me low, and keep me there. Did I meet no trials here, No chastisement by the way; Might I not, with reason, fear I should prove a cast-away: Bastards may escape the rod, Sunk in earthly, vain delight; But the true-born child of God, Must not, would not, if he might. —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.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");


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