December 31, 2008
The splendor of His grace.
As He by sovereign mercy
Has led us to this place.
This place, secured by Him with whom,
No mortal man can touch;
This place of hope within the veil
Where angels dwell and such.
Our eyes are made to see the One,
Who died to set us free.
Our ears are made to hear His call,
And follow joyfully.
Our hearts are made to yearn for Him,
And seek Him through His Word.
Fulfill the plan, designed by Him,
Proclaim His glory heard.
Throughout our time on earth and more,
To magnify His precious name,
Who sets the captives free.
Oh, with a burning heart for Him,
With eagles wings we soar,
Above the world of sin and strife;
This land of wanting more.
None other is so loving,
None other is so kind.
To carry us above the dust,
And leave this world behind.
So with me now, let’s venture on
Behold Him face-to-face;
Exalt the glory of His cross;
The glory of His grace.
Michael E. Wood
My prayer is that God would do such a work of grace in our hearts, as we start this New Year, that we will pursue His Word with even more excitement and desire than we would a lover. You Jesus, are the "Lover of My Soul"
As I was reading the text below, I was asking myself, "Is this how you feel about the Word of God"? With each paragraph my heart was breaking because of the realization that I do not love the Word of God, as I ought.
Thomas Watson from "A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word"
A godly man shows his love for the Word by:
Diligently reading it. The Word is our Magna Carta for heaven; we should be daily reading over this charter. The Word shows what is truth and what is error. It is the field where the pearl of price is hidden. How we should dig for this pearl! A godly man's heart is the library to hold the Word of God; it dwells richly in him (Col. 3:16)
By diligent conversing with Scripture, we may carry a Bible in our heads.
Frequently meditating on it: "It is my meditation all the day" (Psa. 119:97). A pious soul meditates on the truth and holiness of the Word. He not only has a few transient thoughts, but leaves his mind steeping in the Scripture. By meditation, he sucks from this sweet flower and ruminates on holy truths in his mind.
Delighting in it. It is his recreation: "Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." (Jer 15:16) Never did a man take such delight in a dish that he loved as the prophet did in the Word. And indeed, how can a saint choose but take great pleasure in the Word? All that he ever hopes to be worth is contained in it. Does not a son take pleasure in reading his father's will and testament, in which he bequeaths his estate to him?
Hiding it: "Your word I have hidden in my heart" (Psa 119:11) - as one hides a treasure so that it should not be stolen. The Word is the jewel; the heart is the cabinet where it must be locked up. Many hide the Word in their memory, but not in their heart. And why would David enclose the Word in his heart? "That I might not sin against you." As a man would carry an antidote about him when he comes near an infected place, so a godly man carries the Word in his heart as a spiritual antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin. Why have so many been poisoned with error, others with moral vice, but because they have not hidden the Word as a holy antidote in their heart?
Defending it. A wise man will not let his land be taken from him but will defend his title. David looked upon the Word as his land of inheritance: "Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart." (Psa 119:111) And do you think he will let his inheritance be wrested out of his hands? A godly man will not only dispute for the Word but die for it: "I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God." (Rev 6:9)
Preferring it above things most precious: (1) Above food: "I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food." (Job. 23:12). (2) Above riches: "The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver." (Psa. 119:72). (3) Above worldly honour. Memorable is the story of King Edward the Sixth. On the day of his coronation, when they presented three swords before him, signifying to him that he was monarch of three kingdoms, the king said, "There is still one sword missing." On being asked what that was, he answered, "The Holy Bible, which is the 'sword of the Spirit' and is to be preferred before these ensigns of royalty."
Talking about it: "My tongue shall speak of your word." (Psa. 119:172). As a covetous man talks of his rich purchase, so a godly man speaks of the Word. What a treasure it is, how full of beauty and sweetness! Those whose mouths the devil has gagged, who never speak of God's Word, indicate that they never reaped any good from it.
By conforming to it. The Word is his compass, by which he sets his life, the balance in which he weighs his actions. He copies out the Word in his daily walk: "I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7). St Paul kept the doctrine of faith, and lived the life of faith.
December 30, 2008
Among the "unregenerate":
1) What makes some men "givers" instead of "takers"?
2) What makes some men capable of using and defiling as many women as they possibly can--while others have too much respect for the dignity of a women's body and heart not capable of using them to gratify their own sexual needs?
3) What makes one man desire to help an old woman across the street; while another man sits in his car irritated that the old woman is taking too much time to cross the street; thus making him late to his important meeting?
4) What makes one man desire to visit strip clubs and another man have no desire for such entertainment?
5) What makes one man a man of virtue, honor and integrity; while another man will do whatever necessary to achieve his own personal goals?
6) What makes one man get a thrill out of hunting down and shooting a grizzly bear; and another man finding it difficult to squash a bug?
I hope this makes sense to my readers. I am trying to understand how "the fall" has affected us and why there is such a disparity of "sinfulness vs. "Christ likeness" among (even) the unregenerate.
But when, under the conduct of that spiritual light, our affections do cleave unto Him with full purpose of heart, our minds are filled with the thoughts of Him and delight in Him, and faith is kept up unto its constant exercise in trust and affiance on Him - virtue will proceed from Him to purify our hearts, increase our holiness, strengthen our graces, and to fill us sometimes ‘with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’
This is the just temperature of a state of spiritual health - namely, when our light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Christ doth answer the means of it which we enjoy, and our affections unto Christ do hold proportion unto that light; and this according unto the various degrees of it - for some have more, and some have less.
Where light leaves the affections behind, it ends in formality or atheism; and where affections outrun light, they sink in the bog of superstition, doting on images and pictures, or the like."
December 28, 2008
Here is what Thomas Watson has to say:
"A corrupt heart loves the comforts of the Word, but not the reproofs: "They hate the one who rebukes in the gate." (Amos 5:1O). "Their eyes flash with fire!" Like venomous creatures that at the least touch spit poison, "When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth." (Acts 7:54). When Stephen touched them to the quick, they were mad and could not endure it.
QUESTION: How shall we know that we love the reproofs of the Word?
Answer 1: When we desire to sit under a heart-searching ministry. Who cares for medicines that will not work? A godly man does not choose to sit under a ministry that will not work upon his conscience.
Answer 2: When we pray that the Word may meet with our sins. If there is any traitorous lust in our heart, we would have it found out and executed. We do not want sin merely covered, but cured. We can open our breast to the bullet of the Word and say, "Lord, smite this sin."
Answer 3: When we are thankful for a reproof: "Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked." (Psa. 141:5).
David was glad of a reproof. Suppose a man were in the mouth of a lion, and another should shoot the lion and save the man, would he not be thankful? So, when we are in the mouth of sin, as of a lion, and the minister by a reproof shoots this sin to death, shall we not be thankful?
A gracious soul rejoices when the sharp lance of the Word has pierced his abscess. He wears a reproof like a jewel on his ear: "Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to an obedient ear." (Prov. 25:12).
To conclude, it is convincing preaching which must do the soul good. A nipping reproof prepares for comfort, as a nipping frost prepares for the sweet flowers of spring."
[From The Godly Man's Picture by Thomas Watson]
Thomas Watson writes in "A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word":.
Chrysostom compares the Scripture to a garden set with ornaments and flowers. A godly man delights to walk in this garden and sweetly solace himself. He loves every branch and part of the Word:
1. He loves the counselling part of the Word, as it is a directory and rule of life. The Word is the direction sign which points us to our duty. It contains in it things to be believed and practiced. A godly man loves the directions of the Word.
2. He loves the threatening part of the Word. The Scripture is like the Garden of Eden: as it has a tree of life in it, so it has a flaming sword at its gates. This is the threatening of the Word. It flashes fire in the face of every person who goes on obstinately in wickedness. "God will wound the head of His enemies, the hairy scalp of the one who still goes on in his trespasses." (Psa. 68:21). The Word gives no indulgence to evil. It will not let a man halt half-way between God and sin. The true mother would not let the child be divided (I Kings 3:26), and God will not have the heart divided. The Word thunders out threats against the very appearance of evil. It is like that flying scroll full of curses (Zech. 5:1).
A godly man loves the menaces of the Word. He knows there is love in every threat. God would not have us perish; he therefore mercifully threatens us, so that he may scare us from sin. God's threats are like the buoy, which shows the rocks in the sea and threatens death to such as come near. The threat is a curbing bit to check us, so that we may not run in full career to hell. There is mercy in every threat.
3. He loves the consolatory part of the Word - the promises. He goes feeding on these as Samson went on his way eating the honeycomb (Judges 14:8,9). The promises are all marrow and sweetness. They are reviving to us when we are fainting; they are the conduits of the water of life. "In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul." (Psa. 94:19). The promises were David's harp to drive away sad thoughts; they were the breast which gave him the milk of divine consolation.
to be continued....
December 27, 2008
they do not possess?" In other words, in order to "hide the Word in my heart", I must first actually become familiar with it--I must read it, I must embrace it, I must grab a hold of it--then, and only then, can I hide it (store it) in my heart.
Then I read this excerpt:
Keep the Word, and the Word will keep you: as the first receiving of the Word regenerated your hearts, so the keeping of the Word within you will preserve your hearts. "Let the word of God dwell richly in you" Let it dwell, not tarry with you, in its commands, promises, threats; in all that is in you, in your understandings, memories, consciences, affections, and then it will preserve your hearts.
"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." It is the slipperiness of our hearts in reference to the Word, that causes so many slips in our lives. Conscience cannot be urged or awed with forgotten truths; but keep it in the heart, and it will keep both heart and life upright.
"The law of his God is in his heart: none of his steps shall slide;" or if he do, the word will recover the straying heart again; Matt. xxvi.57 - "Then Peter remembered the word of Jesus, and wept bitterly." We never lose our hearts, till they have first lost the efficacious and powerful impression of the word.
(Volume 5, page 504-5, Complete Works of John Flavel, Banner of Truth)
Then these thoughts came to me: How do we keep the Word, if we aren't in the Word--if we don't know the Word? How can it dwell richly in us, if we spend little time in it? How do we hide the Word, if we are not in the Word and don't know the Word? How can the law be in our hearts, if we do not know your law?
Why do I not spend every possible "free" moment in the Word of God? That is where the power is. That is where the promises are to be found and learned and embraced. That is where I encounter God. That is where true wisdom, and peace, and joy, and life, and strength, is to be discovered and embraced. That is where I will find my savior and my God. Why don't I want that more than anything else?
Why, if I have been blessed with "free" time, do I turn on the computer and check emails, or pull a book off the shelf and devour it, or turn on TV and watch some rerun that I may have already seen? Life is so short. If our life will have any meaning and any purpose, if we have any hope of impacting this World for the Glory of God, for the salvation of souls, for finding joy in our own afflictions; for comforting and ministering to others that will have a lasting value; for having His truth and His wisdom and His love planted so deeply in our souls that our life can be used by Him to reflect His Love and to bring His light and Truth to others--we must be equipped--and the thing that equips us is THE WORD OF GOD. The promises contained within make that crystal clear. Why do we not want His Word more? Why do we not place a higher value on it, then we do? We have been given THE WORD OF GOD! Why do we not cherish it more? Why do we not hunger for it more?
For me, I think it must be--for I can come to no other conclusion--it has to be "the enemy". What do I mean. Knowing my hearts affection and passion for my Lord, the only possible reason that I can come up with for not placing the Word of God above all other ways to spend my "free" time, is that the enemy has more influence over me than I choose to admit. All of the distractions that he has placed in my life; all of the harmless "free" time alternatives that are available. The enemy is quite content with me "loving the Lord" and living a sweet life. However, he does not want me actually "equipped"!
This coming year, I will be wagging a WAR against the enemies influence in my life. If I am to put on the "Full Armor of God", that means more than just wearing the "helmet of salvation" and resting in my own redemption. That means more than having the breastplate of righteousness in place in order to protect myself--without love and care for others. If my feet are to be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel; I must know the gospel so well that it flows from my mouth with confidence, joy, love and ease. If I am going to wear the "belt of truth" buckled around my waist--I must first know the truth, intimately . If I am going to take up the shield of faith and the "Sword of the Spirit" which is the Word of God; I must be in the Word--I must know the Word!
No wonder we have no impact on the world. No wonder many are sad and depressed. No wonder we feel that we are waisting our life. WE ARE! The enemy and our own flesh has effectively kept us from the one thing that will solve all of these problems; the one thing with promise and power. The one thing that most of us spend little time in--the WORD OF GOD.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Lord, I plead with you. Grant me (in the coming year) by the power of your Spirit, this desire of my heart. Sweet and Mighty God, revive your people! Place in them, by the power of your Holy Spirit, I new and fresh hunger for You and for your Word. Turn their eyes from all the distractions that this world and the enemy has to offer, and all of the things that entice their flesh; turn their eyes, Oh Lord from those things to Christ and to His Word! Oh, Lord; hear the cry of my heart and revive your people in this coming year. It is in the precious name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ that I pray. AMEN
After thought: I can already hear some of your thoughts: "We need balance in our lives". Yes, we do. Fitness is important for a sound mind and body, fellowshipping is important; keeping up on current events is important, etc. When I say "free" time, I mean those times when we sit in front of the TV channel surfing or looking for something to "entertain" us. If we search our hearts and listen to the Spirit of God convicting us; we all know what I really mean. Don't we.
December 26, 2008
By nature we are thoroughly in love with ourselves--but as the Divine work of grace is carried forward in our souls, we come to loathe ourselves. Those who have been saved from penalty of sin, are being made increasingly conscious not only of sin's polluting presence, but of its tyrannizing power! How can we explain the fact, that the Christian finds himself growing worse and worse--the more closely he endeavors to walk with God?
The answer is because of increased light from God, by which he now discovers heart-filth of which he was previously unaware. The sun shining into a neglected room, does not create the dust and cobwebs--but simply reveals them. Thus it is with the Christian. The more the light of the Spirit is turned upon him inwardly, the more he discovers the horrible plague of his heart (1 Kings 8:38), and the more he realizes what a wretched failure he is!The fact is, dear discouraged soul, that the more you are growing out of love with yourself, the more you are being saved from the power of sin.
Wherein lies its fearful potency? Why, in its power to deceive us; it lies to us. It did so to Adam and Eve. It gives us false estimates of values so that we mistake the tinsel for real gold. To be saved from the power of sin is to have our eyes opened so that we see things in God's light--it is to know the truth about things all around us, and the truth about ourselves.
But further--sin not only deceives, it puffs up, causing its infatuated victims to think highly of themselves. Sin ever produces self-love and self-righteousness. But when God takes us in hand, it is the very opposite--the workings of the Spirit subdue our pride. How? By giving increasing discoveries of SELF and of the exceeding sinfulness of SIN, so that each one cries with Job, "Behold! I am vile!" (40:4). Such a one is being saved from the power of sin--its power to deceive and to inflate.
Growing worse and worse!(Arthur Pink, "A Fourfold Salvation" 1938)
Please Note: This is a very atypical post; but, one I thought would help many (especially men) who may get their feelings confused by images--especially, when it comes to "online" relationships. Many men (and some women) place way too much emphasis on how a person looks and get involved in a "romantic" online relationship for the wrong reasons. Emotions and "feelings" are often sparked by an image; which result in feelings based on "fantasy" and "illusion". People can even think that they are "in love" only to finally meet and be very disappointed or feel that they were "tricked". On the flip side, some men may dismiss a woman based on her online image, only to discover that they dismissed a very beautiful woman.
My recommendation to Women: If you decide to use the Internet to look for a potential spouse, post the most unflattering picture of yourself that you can find. If a man sees you at your worst and is still interested in pursuing you, it will be based on reality instead of fantasy and you will not be feeding into the "lust of his eyes" and/or guilty of confusing the poor guy and setting yourself up for heart break.
My recommendation to Men: Think about how you would react to the images below if they were posted on a women's online profile. Perhaps that will help you get a "reality" check and make you realize that you may place way too much emphasis on images. Always assume that a woman will post the most flattery picture of herself possible. Keep that in mind. She will not look like that picture when you meet her in person, or in the morning with no make-up on. The images below should clearly send that truth home.
I have read so many testimonies of disappointment, heart break, anger, etc., caused by this very thing. One woman in California fell in love with a man who lived in Florida. They had become engaged online and when she went to meet him for the first time; she was shocked to find that he was 50 pounds heavier and 15 years older than the image that she had been looking at for over a year online. Needless to say, she felt deceived.
We are all so prone to vanity and we all place way too much importance on outward beauty. I found this a fascinating study and I hope my observations and my recommendations will be used to give all of us a "reality check".
Which picture should she post? Same woman - You "fall in love" online with the one on the right and finally meet (in real life) the one on the left:
The real woman below. Definitely not a "glamour shot". What you see, is what you will get. No surprises and no disappointments. Wouldn't you rather know this ahead of time?Look below at the images on the right. Let's say you had only seen the image on the right and based your feelings on thinking that the image on the right was really how the woman looked. You couldn't wait to finally meet the "woman of your dreams" and when she arrived at the airport, you were greeted by the "real" woman; the one the left:
MY DEAREST GRACE,
I received your valued letter; and in return, I have to say, that the first essential to a pleasant and productive employment of your time is, the regular and systematic distribution of it. This does not supersede the relaxations of society, domestic concerns, light reading, and exercise out & indoors.
The truth is, that the zest of the last is greatly heightened by the previous tension and fatigue which you may have incurred throughout those parts of the day which are given to the more serious pursuits of instruction and self- improvement. Regulate your hours, then; for it were quite vain to offer any advice to those who will not relinquish the habit of living at random, and living as they list.
With this as my great preliminary advice, I would further recommend:
(1) that the first time of your day should be devoted to religious meditation and prayer, both of which would be mightily helped by a little serious practical reading. Of course, I suppose a regular progress, through the Bible; but, over and above this, a pious practical commentary, though only of a single verse each morning, might tell impressively on the heart. I give as samples, ‘Bridges on the 119th Psalm, ‘Home on the Psalms, Doddridge's ‘Family Expositor, Scott's and Henry's Bibles. The same in the evening as well as morning.
(2) One or two hours of solid reading - such as the Evidences of Christianity - its doctrines expanded so as to suit a general reader; as ‘Syrnington on the Atonement; ‘Owen on the Work of the Holy Spirit; ‘ Owen on the Person of Christ, &c. Intellectual literature - as Reid's, Stewart's, and even Brown's ‘Works, Foster's "Essays"; "Chalmers on Endowments and Establishments".
(3) All proper female work - as the management of cow- heels in the kitchen, and stocking-heels in the drawing-room; the making of puddings in the one place, and of pin-cushions in the other; the orderly arrangement of all your articles in drawers, and on mantelpieces, and table-heads; the proper keeping of accounts, with as much letter-writing as is incumbent upon you.
(4). After standing acquitted of these, I give you great license as to all proper and innocent recreations; and I ask you to make trial for a week of the regularity I now prescribe, and see whether there is not a charm in it which might well convince us of the immense resources both for improvement and enjoyment that have been placed within our reach by a kind Providence.
I would rank biography and even history as light reading, along with imaginative literature, such as poetry and a few good and right novels.I will allow you, however, to make Cowper's ‘Poems and "Paradise Lost" tell for solid reading. Tell me what you think of Thomson's "Seasons" And now my last advice to you is, self-denial, or the habit of giving up your own will first to the will of God; and then, in things lawful, even in things indifferent, to the will of others, also.
I promise you the greatest enjoyment from the success of such a discipline; and remember what I have often felt to be a most precious connexion between two things in Christianity - the connexion between obedience and spiritual discernment, in virtue of which I should look, as the fruit of the sacrifice that I now recommend, for a clearer view of the Gospel end its method of salvation.
Yours most truly,
"EDINBURGH, November 17, 1838.
December 25, 2008
Our salvation from the pleasure of sin is effected by Christ's taking up His abode in our hearts, "Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).
Our salvation from the penalty of sin was secured by Christ's sufferings on the Cross where He endured the punishment due our iniquities.
Our salvation from the power of sin is obtained by the gracious operations of the Spirit, whom Christ sends to His people.
Our salvation from the presence of sin will be accomplished at Christ's second advent, "We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like His own!" (Phil. 3:20, 21). And again we are told, "We know that when He shall appear--we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).
It is all of Christ, from beginning to end!
Salvation from the pleasure or love of sin takes place at our regeneration; salvation from the penalty or punishment of sin occurs at our justification; salvation from the power or dominion of sin is accomplished during our practical sanctification; salvation from the presence or indwelling of sin is consummated at our glorification. "You shall call His name Jesus--for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
First, He shall save them from the pleasure or love of sin by bestowing a nature which hates it--this is the great miracle of grace. Second, He shall save them from the penalty or punishment of sin, by remitting all its guilt--this is the grand marvel of grace. Third, He shall save them from the power or dominion of sin, by the workings of His Spirit--this reveals the wondrous might of grace. Fourth, He shall save them from the presence or indwelling of sin--this will demonstrate the glorious magnitude of grace!
(Arthur Pink, "A Fourfold Salvation" 1938)
December 24, 2008
"When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 2:11)
This was written by one who was permitted to gratify the physical senses as no other ever has. Yet we do not take this warning to heart, for we do not really believe it. On the contrary, we persuade ourselves that satisfaction is to be found in things under the sun--that the creature can give contentment to our hearts. As well attempt to fill a circle with a square!
The heart was made for God--and He alone can meet its needs. But by nature we are idolaters, putting things in His place. Those things we invest with pleasing qualities which they do not possess, and sooner or later our delusions are rudely exposed to us, and we discover that the pleasing images in our minds are only dreams--that the golden idol is but clay after all!
(Arthur Pink, "A Fourfold Salvation" 1938)
There is a police officer, who works for the city that I work for. I have gotten to know this man over the course of the past year. Not only is he a man of integrity, honor, virtue and courage--he is also a physically gorgeous man (almost flawless). All the women in the office talk about him. All of the single women in the office have a “crush” on him and all the married women get “silly” when he comes around.
Throughout the year, I would listen to the conversation that women would have regarding this man, saying things like, “Dang, if I wasn’t married”; or, “I wonder if he’s happily married, cause he is one good looking man”. I would tell my married co-workers, “How would you feel if your husband was expressing those same things about some new good looking woman at his office?”
They would get quite and ponder for a minute and then say “Oh, I would not like that at all”, and then they would say, “Wow, I hadn’t thought about that. Thank you for pointing that out.”
We are all pretty pathetic, aren’t we?
Anyway--back to the story.
One Friday evening, the City hosted an employee appreciation Barbeque. Employees and their families were invited to attend. This officer (the good looking one) brought his wife and his two children. As people were being introduced, I watched the stunned look on the faces of the women, and the exchange of eye contact between them, as they were introduced to this officer’s wife. There was nothing physically attractive about her. She was overweight, out of shape, and actually quite homely.
I also watched him as he introduced her to people. His eyes sparkled with pride. He obviously thought that she was the most beautiful woman in the world because he saw something in her that no one else could see. He had found something that very few people find. LOVE—a love that this world cannot understand and very few will ever experience.
Witnessing this, made my heart sing!
"You do not love a woman because she is beautiful, but she is beautiful because you love her." Oscar Wilde
Christ does not love us because there is anything in us that is beautiful, but we are made beautiful because He loves us. That is what True Love does.
December 23, 2008
God's sin-purging medicine (Arthur Pink, "A Fourfold Salvation" 1938)"
God chastens us for our good--that we may share in His holiness." Hebrews 12:10
Chastening is God's sin-purging medicine, sent . . . to wither our fleshly aspirations, to detach our hearts from carnal objects, to deliver us from our idols, and to wean us more thoroughly from the world.
God has bidden us, "put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed." (Col. 3:5) If we refuse to comply with this unpleasant task, then we may expect God Himself to use the pruning knife upon us! "My son, do not take the Lord's chastening lightly, or faint when you are reproved by Him." (Heb. 12:5)
This is a beneficial warning. So far from despising the Lord's chastening, we should be grateful for it--that God cares so much and takes such trouble with us, and that His bitter medicine produces such healthful effects. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.
Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11)
Oh, how deceitful our hearts are. We create our own misery and then cry out to God to bless us with the desires of our deceitful hearts!
As I awoke this morning and saw the time was 5:38 a.m. my first thought was to go back to bed; but, then my mind went back to when I was a kid; finding it hard to sleep on Christmas Eve--because of the excitement of what Christmas morning held. I couldn't go back to sleep because of the excitement of seeing the unwrapped gifts under the tree, and the prospect of unwrapping the one's that were yet wrapped concealing the gift's in particular that had my name on them which seemed to have been calling out to me for days.
I can remember the overwhelming joy of receiving those things of which I had hoped for, and I recall the memory of those things of which (at that time) did not strike me as being of great value; or, the disappointment of not receiving that which was expected.
My, how some things change over the years; and, how our appreciation of the things we valued at one time lose their allurement and the things we saw little value in become prized possessions.
How we learn the lesson that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive, and are still learning, by the way, and will continue to learn as long as there lies within us any speck of selfish pride hidden from our view at the present.
Thank you Jesus, that all our expectation is in You as You continue to conform us into your image through the washing of the water of the Word. We thank You for another day and for the desire You have placed within us for You. Help us that we would, with all of our being, be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we might prove that which is good and acceptable and perfect in Your sight.
We ask for the grace to remove the logs from our eyes which have blurred our vision; that we might see clearly to remove the splinters lodged in the eyes of our brothers and sisters in Christ; That we might be used of you, for the advancement of Your kingdom and for the cause of Christ. We thank You for the cross whereby You have not only made possible the probability of these things; but, have in fact secured the reality of these things as we wait upon You, knowing that You shall fulfill all Your Word unto Your glory in Jesus name. AMEN
Michael E. Wood - North Carolina
December 21, 2008
The woman decided that she would find a way to buy him a chain for that watch and surprise him with it at Christmas; and find a way she would.
While walking by a shop window one day, the man spotted the most beautiful hair combs that he had ever seen. They were shiny gold and adorned with opals and mother-of-pearl. He knew that he must find a way to buy those for his beloved for Christmas. She had long and lovely hair that (when let down) almost reached the back of her knees. He had no way of purchasing those combs for her even though he had tried to save for them all year. He decided that he would find a way; and find I way he would.
The man stopped by his beloveds flat 3 days before Christmas and asked if she would meet him on Christmas Eve at midnight in the park at the bench where they had first met, a year ago. She agreed.
That Christmas Eve was a cold windy night. The woman bundled up with a heavy coat and hat and set out to meet the man she loved. She was very excited, because she had found a way (at the very last minute) to buy him the watch chain and had wrapped it up in a little wooden box that she had found in her hope chest. She could hardly wait to give it to him for Christmas.
The moon was full that night and as she got closer to their special place, she could see him standing there waiting for her. He was holding a glistening box with a big satin bow in his gloved hand.
"Merry Christmas, my love". This is a very wonderful Christmas for me and I hope that it will be for you also. I have a rather special gift for you this year" he said, as he handed her the glistening box. She said, "I have a very special gift for you this year, as well". She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out the box containing the watch chain. "This is for you", she said softly.
"You open your gift first", said the man. She said, "Oh, no - you open your gift first". Since neither would budge, the man suggested that they open their gifts at the same time, and so they did. As the man lifted the lid on the tiny box to see the golden watch chain, his eyes filled with tears. He looked up at his beloved, who had discovered the beautiful hair combs. Tears were flowing down her cheeks.
As their eyes met, she said, "Do you like your gift"? He wiped away his tears and said "Of course I like my gift. I love my gift. However, I must tell you that I sold my pocket watch to buy you those beautiful hair combs because I knew that you had never owned anything so lovely to put in your long beautiful hair. Do you like them as much as I thought that you would?"
With tears flowing down her cheeks, she slowly pulled off her winter hat to reveal that all of her beautiful hair had been cut off. He said, "My love, what happened to your hair"? With her head down and hardly able to speak, she said, "I so desperately wanted to buy you that watch chain; but, I had no way of raising the money in time for Christmas--so, I sold my hair to the wig shop in order to buy your gift.
He held her in his arms, and said, "This is indeed a Christmas that we will always remember--a very wonderful Christmas".
"What is the moral of this story?" Perhaps, that they were willing to sacrifice something of value, to give something that ended up having no usefulness or value, except to always remind them of their willingness to sacrifice something they valued in order to express their love for each other.
My slant on it: As touching as this story is and perhaps simply because of my practical nature; my exhortation would be: Meet each other under the moonlight; serenade her with a song; slow dance to the sound of the wind rustling in the trees; softly kiss and say "I love you!" Don't buy each other gifts! You are each other's gift.
Typically, we used to spend a great deal of time and money finding each other gifts, wrapping them up, and then opening them at Christmas. It seemed completely ridiculous to me.
We would all spend hundreds of dollars trying to guess what someone might like or enjoy, and only got it right (maybe) 30% of the time. People ended up with stuff they didn’t want, need or even like very much; but, they would put on a little smiley face and thank the giver and then make little humorous comments on the ride home like, “What was she thinking?”
I finally couldn’t take it anymore. At Christmas dinner (about 10 years ago) I shared my concern and proposed an alternative. In a nut shell, this is what I said,
“Look, we all spend a great deal of time and money finding and purchasing gifts for one another; mostly for things none of us really need. I would like to suggest that next year, instead of buying gifts for one another, we determine who much we would spend; find a real need in the community, like; a single mother with four kids who can’t pay their rent; or an old lady who needs help with the cost of her prescription drugs; or a worthwhile charity, and spend the money we would normally spend on each other on those people or charities. Then at Christmas, instead of exchanging gifts with one another, we exchange our stories of how God used our resources to truly help someone in need.”
To my delight, everyone agreed! I then added, “Perhaps the Christmas celebration could be made memorable and special if people wanted to give gifts to each other that did not cost any money; like, writing a humorous poem for each member of the family and reading it out loud at Christmas, composing a song and singing it at Christmas; spending some time thinking about fond memories and then sharing the details with everyone at Christmas; researching a branch of the family tree and sharing about a great, great, great Grandfather; learning a traditional folkdance and performing it (this is great for laughs--especially if it’s performed by your chubby Aunt so-and-so).”
Well, for ten years, our family has not exchanged wrapped gifts among the adults and for ten years everyone is a great deal happier, less, stressed and can actually focus on what really matters.
Note: We still give gifts to the under 18 year olds; but, you know what? It became clear that we hadn’t a clue what they wanted either and basically they finally admitted, that all they really want is money. So there you go.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my whole armor, be thou my true might;
be thou my soul's shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise:
be thou mine inheritance now and always;
be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.
High King of heaven, thou heaven's bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won;
great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.
Do you know?
Do you know the history of this hymn that so beautifully expresses the desire of the Christian heart? Although it has only gained popularity over the past fifty years, it actually dates back to the eighth century. Between the years of 400 and 700 AD the Irish people lived out a passionate faith in Christ. Ireland took up the missionary endeavor with excitement, and the country became known for its all-absorbing efforts to share Christianity throughout the world. Irish missionaries were found from Scotland to Switzerland, spreading the Good News wherever they went.
"Be Thou My Vision" undoubtedly comes from this spiritually rich period. Its prominent theme encourages single-hearted focus and devotion to Christ. In the hymn lyrics, the poet expresses his adoration of God through the many titles he gives him: Vision, Wisdom, Word, Great Father, Power, Inheritance, High King of heaven, Treasure, bright heaven's Sun, Ruler of all.
It is nothing less than self-idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day without his counsel. He loves to be consulted. Therefore take all thy difficulties to be resolved by Him.
Be in the habit of going to Him in the first place—before self-will, self-pleasing, self-wisdom, human friends, convenience, expediency. Before any of these have been consulted, go to God at once.
Consider no circumstances too clear to need his direction. In all thy ways, small as well as great; in all thy concerns, personal or relative, temporal or eternal, let Him be supreme."
Charles Bridges (1794–1869), from A Commentary on Proverbs (Banner of Truth, 1846/1968) pp. 24–25.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
December 20, 2008
One reason why Christ was despised and rejected, was because He repudiated empty profession. Nothing so infuriated the Jews, as Christ's exposure and denunciation of their vain pretensions.
Being omniscient--it was impossible to impose upon Him! Being inflexibly righteous--He could not accept deceptions! Being absolutely holy--He must insist upon sincerity and reality.
When they declared "Abraham is our father!" He answered, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham!" When they added "We have one Father, even God," He replied, "If God were your Father, you would love Me . . . you are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do!" This so riled them, that they exclaimed, "Aren't we right in saying that You are a Samaritan and demon-possessed!" (John 8:39-48).
Men will not tolerate One who pierces their religious disguise, exposes their shams, and repudiates their fair, by empty profession!
I found myself amused, in a sad way (if that is possible) because I realized that in some (if not many) "reformed" churches today, these men's thoughts and sermons, in reference to the Holy Spirit's power would be viewed as potentially dangerous if not bordering on "charismatic". Of course, they would not admit that, once they knew the source. But, if a lay person were to say the exact same things, they might even be counselled by the Elders. Sad, but true.
One of my favorite Puritans is Richard Sibbes. I found "The Works of Richard Sibbes" in a used book store long before I even knew what "Puritan's" were. When I started reading, my soul was thrilled beyond words. It was like a down pour of fresh rain on a field that hadn't been watered in years.
I have copied a small excerpt from an article written by Joel Beeke which summarizes Sibbs teaching on the Holy Spirit. Please take the time to read it. There is a link to the complete article at the end of the post for you brave and thirsty souls.
This is so important to understand. I feel this is what is lacking in many of the "Bible" faithful churches. They have the Word, but not the Spirit. We are impotent if we quench the Spirit of God.
In his book Preaching and Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote: "I shall never cease to be grateful to Richard Sibbes, who was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil.... I found at that time that Richard Sibbes... was an unfailing remedy. His books The Bruised Reed and The Soul's Conflict quietened, soothed, comforted, encouraged, and healed me."
Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) was one of the greatest Puritans of his age. He greatly influenced the direction and content of Puritan preaching, theology, and writing in England and America. Sibbes's theology of the Holy Spirit is especially important because of its emphasis on how the Spirit operates in the daily life of the Christian. Sibbes winsomely referred to that process as "entertaining the Spirit" in the soul. For Sibbes, that entertaining meant to nurture the friendship and hospitality of an indwelling Spirit. "There is no one in the world so great and sweet a friend who will do us so much good as the Spirit, if we give him entertainment," Sibbes wrote.
Sibbes's teaching on entertaining the Holy Spirit can be divided into the following four categories: (1) the indwelling of the Spirit, (2) the sealing of the Spirit, (3) the comfort of the Spirit, and (4) grieving the Spirit.
The believer is like a musical instrument, tuned and played by the Spirit. Sibbes wrote, "Let us lay ourselves open to the Spirit's touch. When the Spirit has ruling sway in our lives he fine-tunes our souls much like a musical instrument, and then he plays our lives as a piano concerto before God."
Sibbes went on to describe this process of tuning and the touch of the Holy Spirit: "The Holy Spirit must rule; he will have the keys delivered to him. We must submit to his government, and when he is in the heart he will subdue by little and little all high thoughts, rebellious risings, and despairing fears."
Our soul is the battlefield upon which the Spirit marches and He will have the final victory, Sibbes said. For wherever the Spirit dwells, He also rules, for He will not be an underling to lusts. He repairs the breaches of the soul. in this battle we must submit to the Spirit in all things, however, for only then will we experience the victorious life that is the inheritance of believers in Jesus Christ. To be sure, the greatest battles were won on Calvary and in our hearts when we were brought to new birth, but we must also fight daily battles in our life of sanctification. Our ever present foes — our flesh, the world, and the devil — will unceasingly strive to tear up the foundation upon which we stand as children of the Most High.
The believer's greatest encouragement in spiritual warfare is the abiding presence of the Spirit. "The Spirit is the leader and enabler of our soul," Sibbes wrote. It is through what Sibbes termed "the motions, or holy stirrings of the Spirit" that the Spirit enables us to overcome the sin that attacks us internally and the forces of darkness set against us externally. The Spirit of Christ is powerful and strong. Through His indwelling, we are able "to perform duties above nature, to overcome ourselves and injuries," Sibbes said. He added, "He makes us to be able to live and die, to do what others cannot do, just as he enabled Christ to do things that another man could not do."
To read the entire article click here.
What phenomenon and I referring to? If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be this: "It seems to me that in many churches the Holy Spirit has been removed and "Grace" has taken His place as the third person of the Trinity." You rarely hear the Holy Spirit mentioned in corporate prayers; or from the pulpit; or in private conversations among the congregants. I believe they are afraid of Him. The result is a congregation that is, and individual Christians that are (at least from this writers prespective)--spiritually dead and without power.
After six months of attending one church that preached the "doctrines of grace" and whose pastor was a Master's Seminary graduate, it dawned on me that the Holy Spirit was blatantly missing. For the following year, I actually made a mental note of how many times He was mentioned from the pulpit in prayer or in a sermon. That wasn't hard to do, as He was only mentioned six times during the course of one year. Six times during an entire year. I met with the Pastor on several occassions and expressed my concerns. They were not well received and I currently worship at another church. (However, I am still praying for that church and all the members)
I often tell people that in my experience of trying to find a church home, I ultimately discovered that I basically had two choices; I could either attend a "Carnival" or a "Crematorium" on Sunday. That is a sad commentary; but, I fear a true one--at least in California.
Where the Holy Spirit is neglected--there is no life and no power! God's "grace" does not replace the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian.
Since I have felt pretty alone, in terms of this concern, I was encouraged to read the following article written by the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I hope you take the time to read it. This is so very important to be aware of. Not only in the life of a church; but, in our own individual lives, as well:
We can study the authority of the Lord and of the Scriptures in a purely intellectual manner. We may have intellectual convictions. But they do not of necessity affect our lives and our work. Only when the authority of the Holy Spirit comes to bear upon us do all these things become real and living and powerful to us. More than that, all that we believe about the Scriptures and about the Lord Himself can only be applied in our ministry, and so become relevant to the world and its situation, as we are under the authority and power of the Holy Spirit. So from the practical standpoint there is no question but that this is the most important matter of all.
In the second place, there is often a conflict in the minds of people between the authority of the Scriptures and the authority of the Holy Spirit. How this comes about is an aspect that in itself merits careful and prolonged treatment, but we cannot linger on it because our concern at the moment is to deal with something else. I would just remind you in passing that in the seventeenth century this conflict became acute among the Puritans and divided them into two main groups. Those who asserted that nothing mattered except the authority of the Spirit became known as the Society of Friends (or ‘Quakers’). They said that nothing mattered but the ‘Inner Light’, the inner witness, the inner experience, and an inner power. They also tended to depreciate the Scriptures, some of them going so far as to say that the Scriptures were not even necessary at all. That attitude naturally provoked a reaction in the other party who tended perhaps to depreciate somewhat the place, influence and authority of the Spirit and to emphasize exclusively the authority of the Scriptures.
Now this, surely, is a thoroughly artificial and false antithesis. Believing as we do, and as we have seen, that it is the Holy Spirit Himself who inspired and guided men to write the Scriptures, it should be clear to us that it is obviously His intention that the Scriptures should be used. But more than that, the Scriptures exhort us to search, to examine and ‘to test the spirits’.
Unfortunately there are evil spirits as well as the Holy Spirit in the world. Furthermore, these evil spirits are ever attacking us and trying to influence us. ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood,’ says the apostle, ‘but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places’ (Ephesians Vi. 12). These spirits would delude us, and would lead us into error. So the only way by which we can examine and test the spirits, and also ourselves, is by the Word.
The Bible suggests, therefore, that the Holy Spirit normally speaks to us through the Word. He takes His own Word, He illumines it, and takes our minds and enlightens them, and we are thus made receptive to the Word. Through such a process we are able to check all the experiences that we may have, so that we may be sure that we are not being led astray or deluded. It is not right, therefore, to speak of the Spirit or the Word, but rather of the Spirit and the Word, and especially the Spirit through the Word. This antithesis which tends to be perpetuated in some quarters even today, is one which we must refuse to entertain.
A third consideration which emphasizes the importance of our subject is that, of all the aspects of this question of authority, there is none which is so neglected today as the authority of the Spirit. A great deal of attention is given to the Person of our Lord and His authority. There is certainly great interest in the Scriptures and in their authority. But how much do we bear, comparatively speaking, about the Holy Spirit and His authority? If I were to hazard an opinion I would say that no aspect of the Christian faith has been so tragically neglected and perhaps misunderstood. Why is that? It is important that we should ask that question, because as we come to answer it we shall be forced to examine ourselves. Here, I truly believe, we are dealing with the main source of weakness in modern Evangelicalism.
What, then, are the reasons for this neglect? I think that one is respectability and our great concern about ‘dignity’. That is the fatal word which, it seems to me, came in somewhere about the middle of the nineteenth century. The fathers of that generation had been born in an atmosphere of great religious awakenings and revivals. They were men who were alive to the movements of the Spirit. They were not very much concerned about themselves, or their dignity, or their position. But toward the middle of the last century this other idea came in, and men began to talk about the need of a ‘dignified’ service. So they began to put their emphasis more upon the intellectual equipment and training of the minister than upon his conversion, his being filled with the Spirit, and his consequent spiritual insight and authority. This was done in order that we might have a ‘dignified’ form of service. One result was that the Church began to pay more and more attention to forms and ceremonies.
At the same time, a kind of pride of learning and of knowledge began to creep in. As popular education spread, people said that the Church needed a more educated ministry. It was argued that people who were going to primary and secondary schools and to universities would no longer be content with the old kind of preaching. All this comes under the general heading of ‘respectability’, and it undoubtedly had the effect of ‘quenching the spirit’. The desire for a cultured, educated ministry is of course right, but not simply as an end in itself, and never at the expense of the spiritual element.
That is one explanation of the neglect of this subject. Another, which is closely related to it, is our fear of ‘enthusiasm’. There has been a horror of excesses. We hear of various sects and denominations which put a great deal of emphasis upon the work and ministry of the Spirit, but we add at once, ‘Look at their excesses. Look at the things they do. Look at their lack of control.’ Many have become so horrified at the thought of excesses and have allowed themselves to be driven so far to the other extreme, that they are undoubtedly guilty of quenching and grieving the Spirit.
Yet this charge of enthusiasm has ever been brought against Evangelicals. It was brought against George Whitefield, John Wesley and their coadjutors two hundred years ago. They were continually being charged by bishops and others with being ‘enthusiasts’. However, it did not concern those men, nor frighten them.
But the modern Christian, the modern Evangelical, seems horrified and terrified of this charge, as if there were something inherently wrong in a Christian’s being really roused and, at times, almost taken out of himself and his own control. Far be it from me to attempt to defend excesses or fanaticism, but I am certain that our danger today is to be so afraid of such things as to be guilty of quenching the Spirit. In the last analysis, of course, it all comes back to the question of pride.
We are so concerned about ourselves and our self-importance that we are almost afraid to allow the Holy Spirit to gain control, lest we find ourselves doing something or saying something, or appearing in a guise which does not accord fully with our ideas of what befits the modem educated, sophisticated individual.
If you would like to read the entire article click here.
Religious education is not the new creature. Education greatly cultivates and refines nature. Education is a good wall to plant the vine of grace against—but it is not grace.
A form of godliness is not the new creature. Every bird which has fine feathers, does not have sweet flesh. All who shine with the golden feathers of profession, are not saints. Formalists so counterfeit and play at devotion—that others think they are living saints. They are religious charlatans!
Every change of opinion does not amount to the new creature. Man may change from error to truth—yet be no new creature. Here is a change in the head—but not in the heart. He who is changed only in opinion, is not changed with any eternal benefit whatsoever.
Every sudden passion or stirring of the affections, is not the new creature. One may have trouble for sin—yet not be a new creature. Every abstaining from sin, is not the new creature.
So what happens in regeneration. What changes?
It is an inward change—a change of heart. Though the heart is not newly made—it is newly molded. The outward change will do no good, without the inward change. What will become of those, then—who have not so much as an outward change?
Old pride, old ignorance, old malice; the old house must be pulled down, before you can set up a new one. We must know that the change wrought in the new creature, though it is a thorough change—yet it is not a perfect change. Sin will remain. As there is a principle of grace—so there is a principle of corruption. Like wine and water mixed, there is in the regenerate, flesh as well as spirit.
QUESTION: So what is the difference between a formal morally strong unregenerate man and a weaker man. If outward morality is not the ruler of regeneration what is?
There must be a GRIEVING for the remains of corruption not for the remains of immorality. In the new creature, there must be a mourning for the indwelling presence of corruption.
There must be a DETESTATION of old things—as one would detest a garment in which is the plague. It is not enough to be angry with our sinfulness—but we must hate the sin. Hatred is the highest degree of enmity, and we must hate sin in us not only for its hurtful effect—but its loathsome nature, as one hates a toad for its poisonous quality. Something that you see as poison will not tempt you to drink from it!
There is an OPPOSITION against all old things. A Christian not only complains of the sin that is within him—but fights against it.
QUESTION: But may not a natural man oppose sin?
Yes—but there is a great difference between his opposing sin—and the new creature's opposing it. First, there is a difference in the MANNER of opposition. The natural man opposes sin only for the shame of it—as it eclipses his reputation; but the new creature opposes sin for the filth of it. It is the spirit of mischief; it is like rust to gold, or as a stain to beauty.
The biggest difference between the natural man's opposing sin and the new creature's opposing sin—in regard to the MOTIVES is that a natural man opposes sin from carnal motives—to stop the mouth of conscience, and to make himself feel good. But the new creature opposes sin because he see's it through the eye's of Christ for what it really is. He hates sin because He loves God.
Did you notice that the motive was not to gain Heaven or to avoid Hell. This is critical.
He knows Christ after another manner. An unconverted man, by the light of common grace, may believe Christ to be the Son of God; but the new creature knows Christ after another manner—so as to esteem Him above all, to adore Him, to touch Him by faith, to fetch a healing virtue from Him.
The new creature knows himself better than he did. When the sun shines into a room—it reveals all the dust and cobwebs in it. Just so, when the light of the Spirit shines into the heart—it reveals that corruption which before lay hidden; it shows a man his own vileness and nothingness no matter how “moral” he was before he was saved!
"You do not love a woman because she is beautiful, but she is beautiful because you love her." Oscar Wilde
Beauty may excite the mind and stimulate the flesh, but love beatifies its object–"she is beautiful because you love her." This is the essence of grace, and the beatific force of Love–it metamorphoses its object, transfiguring the beloved into the beautiful.
Dante would have us remember that “Love” beautifully metamorphoses both the beloved and the lover himself. Dante’s love for Beatrice indeed transfigured her in his eyes, but equally transfigured him. Like the moon embraces and then throws back to the sun its light, Dante’s love for Beatrice ricocheted back to his very own soul, and thus he describes her as "she who doth imparadise my soul."
Wordsworth referred to such a transfigurational experience when he wrote, “There are in our existence, spots of time—that with distinct pre-eminence retain a renovating virtue. A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced, that penetrates, enables us to mount when high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.
Indeed, the man who knows that his wife is "beautiful because he loves her" is a man whose soul has experienced the "renovating virtue" of transfiguring love. As if borne by angels’ wings, the beauty of love transmigrates from his beloved back into his own soul, there feeding "a most vehement flame" that neither the floods of circumstances; nor the deep waters of sorrow can extinguish. Moreover, as his genuine, heart felt, and soul satisfying Love (true love) is constant, so also is her Beauty.
Physical beauty is temporal, "the grass withers" and the flower that smiles today, tomorrow dies. All that we wish to stay tempts and then flies.
As a man grows old and loses his own youthful attractiveness, the eyes of his flesh never grow old. They always lust after the outwardly young and beautiful. If he never learns to love with the eyes of his heart and soul, he will never know true love. The only kind that satisfies the soul.
True love, not temporal beauty, remains changeless, fixed, and immutable. It’s the only kind I am interested in giving and it is the only kind I am interested in being the recipient of. To be in a lifetime covenant of marriage, that is not based on this kind of love; and, where both people do not mutually experience this kind of love, is a lifetime prison of bondage and misery.
Most of us create our own misery, because we marry for the wrong reasons, the wrong motivations, and for self-centered desires.
Something to Ponder: I find it fascinating that the scriptures describe Christ as having “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” and yet most paintings portraying him; and, most movies made about him, depict him as outwardly extremely attractive. Think about this. Chew on this. Reflect upon this. Why do we do that?
Oh, how prone we are to wanting, esteeming, and idolizing the outwardly beautiful.
But, we are also capable of understanding and experiencing how true love can transfigure an object in our eyes. If you are like me, my reaction to the first appearance of E.T. (you know the movie) on the screen was, "dang, that is one ugly little creature". By the end of the movie, I thought he was the cutest thing I had ever seen. In a child like way, even the story of "Beauty and the Beast" tugs at that part of all of us who want to experience a deeper love, one that eclipses our idolatrous hearts. One that is blind to the flesh.
Just some things to think about.
Some text paraphrased from other authors - source unknown - but beautiful.
December 19, 2008
Sincere believers are often cast down by the realization of how far, far short they come to measuring up to the standard which Christ has set before them. According to the yearnings of the new nature--you have sincerely endeavored to follow Christ's example, but being weak in grace and meeting with much opposition from the flesh and temptations from the Devil--you have been frequently turned aside from the holy purposes and designs of your honest hearts--to the great grief and discouragement of your souls.
You can heartily say with David, "O that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!" (Psalm 119:5), and you have tried hard and long to follow after exact holiness, "if by any means you might attain unto it." But your efforts have been repeatedly thwarted, your aspirations dashed, and you have to cry out, "O wretched man that I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin!" (Romans 7:24)
First, let us assure the genuinely exercised soul, that such defects in obedience do not invalidate your justification, or in any way affect your acceptance with, and standing before God. Your justification is not built upon your obedience--but upon Christ's. However imperfect you are in yourself, you are "complete in Him" (Col. 2:10). Woe had it been to Abraham, Moses, David, and Paul--if their justification had depended upon their own holiness and good works. Let not, then, your sad failures dampen your joy in Christ--but rather be increasingly thankful for His robe of righteousness, which hides your filthy rags!
Second, your heart-anguish over your unlikeness to Christ, evidences that you have a sincere acquaintance with the evil of your heart, a deep loathing of sin, and truly love God. The most eminent saints have made the bitterest lamentation on this account, "My sins have flooded over my head; they are a burden too heavy for me to bear. My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness!" (Psalm 38:4-5)
Third, the Holy Spirit makes an excellent use of your infirmities, and turns your failures unto spiritual advantages. By those very defects--He humbles you, subdues your self-righteousness, causes you to appreciate more deeply the riches of free grace, and to place a higher value upon the precious blood of the Lamb. By your many falls--He makes you to long more ardently for Heaven--and gradually reconciles you to the prospect of death. The more a holy soul is buffeted by sin and Satan--the more sincerely will he cry out, "Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest!" (Psalm 55:6). "O the blessed chemistry of Heaven, to extract such mercies--out of such miseries!" (John Flavel), to make sweet flowers--spring up out of such bitter roots!
Fourth, your bewailed infirmities do not break the bond of the Everlasting Covenant! That holds firm, notwithstanding your many defects and corruptions. "Iniquities prevail against me" said David--yet in the same breath he added, "You shall purge them away!" (Psalm 65:3)
Fifth, though the defects of your obedience are grievous to God--yet your deep sorrows for them are well-pleasing in His sight, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit--a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise!" (Psalm 51:17)
Sixth, your very grief is a conformity to Christ--for when here, He was "the Man of sorrows." If He suffered because of our sins--shall we not be made to weep over them?
Seventh, "Though God has left many defects to humble you--yet He has given many things to comfort you. This is a comfort--that your sins are not your delight as once they were--but your shame and sorrow! This is a comfort--that your case is not singular, but more or less the same complaints and sorrows are found in all gracious souls in the world!" (John Flavel)
December 18, 2008
Let's face it, most of us have welcomed being able to microwave a frozen entree as opposed to cooking a meal from scratch. Cooking a meal from scratch requires that you actually plan ahead: create a grocery shopping list; make a trip to the grocery store; spend time in the lines at the grocery store; spend (sometimes) a great deal of time in the preparation of the ingredients; cook the meal; finally get to sit down and eat the meal; and then, you not only have the dishes that you ate off of to wash; but, all the pots and pans and utensils that you used in the preparation of the meal. Even if a home cooked meal tastes a thousand times better than a frozen entree; and, with a home cooked meal, you usually have lots of left overs to enjoy for another few days--most of us would prefer a quick microwaved frozen entree. Yes?
I can already hear someone saying, "Well, that all depends on who's doing the cooking and the cleaning up afterwards". Ah yes, it is those same people, who would say, "If you have read the Bible, I'll just go to you for answers to all my problems". You get my point, I'm sure.
We are products of our culture. Technology has made us lazy and creatures who desire immediate gratification with less effort, even if the end result is inferior. I fear we apply this same mentality to the Word of God and our own spiritual growth.
When we are faced with a life decision, we flip open the bible and look for guidance based on the concordance. We go to all of the passages that speak to a particular topic, without ever being familiar with the "big picture" the "whole counsel of God". Oh, how dangerous a practice this is.
Read this excerpt and see if it does not shed a great deal of light on how pathetic most of us are. It is amazing how God blesses and gives spiritual discernment to those who love His Word enough to actually read it from cover to cover, even when their life is going smoothly and they are not turning to it for "immediate answers".
They know the Word of God; they have read it--many. many times. They chew on it, they digest it, they love it and it feeds their souls. They may not have it all memorized, but when faced with life decisions, the Spirit of God can spark recall because it was once read.
Read this and see what you think. It blessed me tremendously. God's Word is a precious treasure. Let us never fall prey to wanting a "Reader's Digest"version or a microwaved substitute.
Upon the whole, though the Lord may give to some persons, upon some occasions, a hint or encouragement out of the common way; yet expressly to look for and seek his direction in such things as I have mentioned, is unscriptural and ensnaring. I could fill many sheets with a detail of the inconveniences and evils which have followed such a dependence, within the course of my own observation.
I have seen some presuming they were doing God service, while acting in contradiction to his express commands. I have known others infatuated to believe a lie, declaring themselves assured, beyond the shadow of a doubt, of things which, after all, never came to pass; and when at length disappointed, Satan has improved the occasion to make them doubt of the plainest and most important truths, and to account their whole former experience a delusion. By these things weak believers have been stumbled, cavils and offences against the Gospel multiplied, and the ways of truth evil spoken of.
But how then may the Lord's guidance be expected? After what has been premised negatively, the question may be answered in a few words. In general, he guides and directs his people, by affording them, in answer to prayer, the light of his Holy Spirit, which enables them to understand and to love the Scriptures. The word of God is not to be used as a lottery; nor is it designed to instruct us by shreds and scraps, which, detached from their proper places, have no determinate import; but it is to furnish us with just principles, right apprehensions to regulate our judgements and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct.
They who study the Scriptures, in an humble dependence upon divine teaching, are convinced of their own weakness, are taught to make a true estimate of everything around them, are gradually formed into a spirit of submission to the will of God; discover the nature and duties of their several situations and relations in life, and the snares and temptations to which they are exposed.
The word of God dwells richly in them, is a preservative from error, a light to their feet, and a spring of strength and consolation. By treasuring up the doctrines, precepts, promises, examples, and exhortations of Scripture, in their minds, and daily comparing themselves with the rule by which they walk, they grow into an habitual frame of spiritual wisdom, and acquire a gracious taste, which enables them to judge of right and wrong with a degree of readiness and certainty, as a musical ear judges of sounds. And they are seldom mistaken, because they are influenced by the love of Christ, which rules in their hearts, and a regard to the glory of God, which is the great object they have in view.