Browse Category: Religion

Surely There Is An End

Come Lord Jesus
Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Proverbs 23:17, 18 and Psalm 73 go together nicely. Asaph vividly portrays the perspective of a believer who is envious of sinners: their seeming prosperity, their strength, their pride, their increasing riches. “They have more than heart could wish.” (Psalm 73:7) Asaph’s envy brought him to bemoan his own efforts at piety: “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.” (Psalm 73:13, 14)

Yet there is the injunction from God:

Proverbs 23:17, 18

Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.

For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.

This perspective was turned around for Asaph when he “went into the sanctuary of God.” For then he says, “I understood their end. Surely Thou didst set them in slippery places! Thou castedst them down into destruction!” (Psalm 73:17, 18)

SURELY there is an end! Lord, all I desire is You. Please walk with me and guide me today. What a fearful and amazing thing: that You, the Living God, who is a consuming fire, should love me and want to dwell with me in the person of Your Son Jesus Christ! Even so, come, Lord Jesus! MAY TODAY BE THE END. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done – in me today, Lord. Amen.

The Glory of the Crucifixion

Church of St Patrick
Church of St. Patrick, Huntington, NY

The Glory of the Crucifixion

It’s just after midnight. The neighbors down the hill are lighting off fireworks. It’s 17 minutes into the new year. The successes and failures of 2022 are behind us. The potential humiliations and glories of 2023 are steadily approaching over the horizon.

My heart was lifted by something I read earlier, something regarding the ways in which both God the Father and God the Son were glorified in the crucifixion of Christ. It’s by one of my favorite writers, J. C. Ryle. It’s a passage that has caused me to contemplate how the cross of Christ outshines all else in life. Which of my greatest achievements could I ever boast about as having any eternal value, any efficacious power in regard to real matters of the soul? I would be as an anemic weakling with plastic medallions and faded ribbons bragging in my pipsqueak voice before the all powerful champion with his trophies that will never tarnish and his crown which will never fade.
But enough of my embarrassing attempts at waxing eloquent. Let me share Ryle’s thoughts here. The passage is a good meditation to start a new year.

J. C. Ryle on John 13:31, 32

These verses show us what glory the crucifixion brought both to God the Father and to God the Son. It seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that this was what our Lord had in His mind when He said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” It is as though He said, “The time of My crucifixion is at hand. My work on earth is finished. An event is about to take place tomorrow, which, however painful to you who love Me, is in reality most glorifying both to Me and My Father.

This was a dark and mysterious saying, and we may well believe that the eleven did not understand it. And no wonder! In all the agony of death on the cross, in all the ignominy and humiliation which they saw afar off, or heard of the next day, in hanging naked for six hours between two thieves, – in all this there was no appearance of glory! On the contrary, it was an event calculated to fill the minds of the apostles with shame, disappointment, and dismay. And yet our Lord’s saying was true.

The crucifixion brought glory to the Father. It glorified His wisdom, faithfulness, holiness, and love. It showed Him wise, in providing a plan whereby He could be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. It showed Him faithful in keeping His promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. It showed Him holy, in requiring His law’s demand to be satisfied by our great Substitute. It showed Him loving, in providing such a Mediator, such a Redeemer, and such a Friend for sinful man as his co-eternal Son.

The crucifixion brought glory to the Son. It glorified His compassion, His patience, and His power. It showed Him most compassionate, in dying for us, suffering in our stead, allowing Himself to be counted sin and a curse for us, and buying our redemption with the price of His own blood. It showed Him most patient, in not dying the common death of most men, but in willingly submitting to such pains and unknown agonies as no mind can conceive, when with a word He could have summoned His Father’s angels and been set free. It showed Him most powerful, in bearing the weight of all the transgressions of the world, and vanquishing Satan, and despoiling him of his prey.

For ever let us cling to these thoughts about the crucifixion. Let us remember that painting and sculpture can never tell a tenth part of what took place on the cross. Crucifixes and pictures at best can only show us a human being agonizing in a painful death. But of the length, breadth, and depth, and height of the work transacted on the cross, – of God’s law honored, man’s sin borne, sin punished in a Substitute, free salvation bought for man, – of all this they can tell nothing. Yet all this lies hid under the crucifixion. No wonder St. Paul cries, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14)

(from Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 3)

Happy New Year

May the Father bless us with an ever increasing knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ, in this new year. May we glory in the cross of Christ above all else and boast of His achievements. May we know Him intimately, be transformed into His image day by day, and trust Him with all our cares because He cares for us.

Far Better to Cross the Will, Than to Wound the Conscience

Read it every day!

There are many times when I read my daily Bible chapters and later find other authors referring to something I read the same day. It seems to happen so frequently that I started to keep track of the occurrences. Here is one example.

Charles Bridges connected Proverbs 3:17 with Acts 5:41, 42.

Daily Bible reading chapter: Acts 5
Other reading: Charles Bridges’ commentary on Proverbs 3:17

Prov. 3:17 – “Her [wisdom’s] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”

Acts 5:41, 42 – “And they [the Apostles] departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”

Bridges – “It is saying far too little, that the trials of these ways are not inconsistent with their pleasantness. They are the very principles of the most elevated pleasure. ‘The verdict of Christ,’ says Dr. South, ‘makes the discipline of self-denial and the cross – those terrible blows to flesh and blood – the indispensable requisite to the being His disciples.’ And yet, paradoxical as it may appear, in this deep gloom is the sunshine of joy. For if our natural will be ‘enmity to God’ (Rom. 8:7), it must be the enemy of our own happiness. Our pleasure, therefore, must be to deny, not to indulge it; to mortify sinful appetites, that only ‘bring forth fruit unto death.’ (Rom. 7:5) Even what may be called the austerities of godliness are more joyous than ‘the pleasures of sin.’ Far better to cross the will, than to wound the conscience. The very chains of Christ are glorious. (Acts 5:41, 42; 16:24, 25) Moses endured not ‘his reproach’ as a trial. He ‘esteemed it as a treasure – greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.’ (Heb. 11:26) Our principles are never more consoling that when we are making a sacrifice for them. Hannah yielded up her dearest earthly joy. But did she sink under the trial? Did she grudge the sacrifice? ‘Hannah prayed and say, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord’ (1 Sam. 1:26; 2:1); while to show that none serve Him for naught – for one child that was resigned, five were added. (1 Sam. 2:20, 21)’

This morning I am truly struggling with “Far better to cross the will, than to wound the conscience,” finding it hard to go against my “natural will,” even though it is “enmity to God.” I know that my “pleasure, therefore, must be to deny, not to indulge it; to mortify sinful appetites.” My sinful will has been winning for the past 24 hours. I am forcing myself to read the Word, to pray, to read theology. But mixed in is the desire to indulge sinful thoughts. It’s at these time that I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me in spite of my own will – praying against myself.

Romans 8:12 – 14 – “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

It seems to me that the act of mortifying my flesh, going against my own natural will, can only be done through the Spirit of God. And the only way I can see for that to happen is for me to pray for it. Luke 11:13 – “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?

Even as I write this I feel the strong pull of my flesh. “Oh wretched man that I am.” Better would it be for me to be beaten for speaking for Christ as the Apostles in Acts 5; or to be in chains for Christ and singing at midnight in a prison like Paul and Silas in Acts 16, as referred to by Bridges. How thankful I am that the same apostle wrote Romans 7 to show us all how he also struggled against the flesh, praising Jesus Christ for the ultimate victory and trusting the Spirit of God for strength through the battle.

Your Greatest Care Should Be for Your Soul

Thomas Manton
Thomas Manton, 1620 – 1677

I’ve been making my way through Thomas Manton’s commentary on James. Today I was touched by his comments on the the second half of James 1:21 – “… receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”

The main care of a Christian should be to save his soul. This is propounded as an argument why we should hear the word; it will save your souls.

Usually our greatest care is to gratify the body. Solomon saith, ‘All a man’s labor is for the mouth;’ that is, to support the body in a decent state.

Oh! But consider this is but the worser part; and who would trim the scabbard and let the sword rust? Man is in part an angel, and in part a beast. Why should we please the beast in us, rather than the angel? In short, your greatest fear should be for the soul, and your greatest care should be for the soul.

Your greatest fear: Matthew 10:28, ‘Fear not them that can destroy the body, but fear him that can cast both body and soul into hell fire.’ There is a double argument. The body is but the worser part, and the body is alone; but on the other side, the soul is the more noble part, and the state of the boy dependeth upon the well or ill being of the soul: he is ‘able to cast both soul and body,’ and therefore it is the greatest imprudence in the world, out of a fear of the body, to betray the soul.

So your greatest care, riches and splendor in the world, these are the conveniences of the body, and what good will they do you, when you come to be laid in the cold silent grave? Matthew 16: 26, ‘What profit hath a man, if he win the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ It is but a sorry exchange that, to hazard the eternal welfare of the soul for a short fruition of the world. So Job 27:8, ‘What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh his soul?’ There is many a carnal man that pursueth the world with a fruitless and vain attempt: they ‘rise early, go to bed late, eat the bread of sorrows;’ yet all will not do. But suppose they have gained and taken the prey in hunting, yet what will it profit him when body and soul must part, and though the body be decked, yet the soul must go into misery and darkness, without any furniture and provision for another life? What hope will his gain minister to him?

Oh! that we were wise to consider these things, that we would make it our work to provide for the soul, to clothe the soul for another world, that we would wait upon God in the word, that our souls may be furnished with every spiritual and heavenly excellency, that we may not be ‘found naked,’ saith the apostle, 2 Corinthians 5:3.

October Second

Where I Was in 1990

October 2 was a Tuesday in 1990. Tuesdays are always a tough day of the week. Aren’t they? When I recall the words I wrote in this song, I remember that particular October 2 as being a tough day for me. I remember singing this song, perfecting it, while at work. I was working at a milk processing plant back then. We called it “the dairy.” I pasteurized the milk, unloaded the tanker trucks, washed the storage tanks. There was a section in the pasteurizing area that was a narrow hallway between storage tanks. It was out of the way and isolated, a good spot to be alone while cleaning those tanks. I remember working in that area on the day I wrote this song. There were some very tough situations happening in my life then. I remember singing this, praying, crying a bit – all while cleaning the components of the storage tanks and rigging up the stainless steel pipes to the cleaning system. I prayed a lot at that time of my life.

I wrote a lot of songs back then. I played guitar and sang at church, often leading the worship services at a small Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. I sometimes sang at other churches. My drive was to worship Jesus and share what I had experienced of His working in my life. Most of the songs I wrote tended to be prayers.

Our church had a Bible study on Tuesday evenings, usually in the home of a couple that lived in Easton, PA. While writing this I struggled a bit to remember their names. After all, it was 30 years ago. But my memory is still quite neater than the paper in the photo above and I recalled the names of Ken and Bernie fairly quickly. I have no idea what that brown stuff is on that paper. It’s not coffee. I didn’t drink coffee 30 years ago.

It was at one of those Tuesday night Bible studies at Ken and Bernie’s house where I first sang this song to people. There were maybe a dozen of us gathered in their living room. We used to start those gatherings with singing and prayer. I must have asked if I could share my song with them that night. I wrote about it in my journal when I got home that night.

Tuesday, October 2, 1990
10:05 PM

Our Bible study was really good tonight. The singing was pretty good. I really tried to concentrate on worshipping the Lord from my heart. I know that there are sins in my heart. But I really want that to change. I really want to have a clean heart before God. And as we sang, I prayed for that tonight.

I also sang a new song that I just wrote today. It’s hot off the press! Here it is:

Oh Lord, please light my way
Holy Spirit please strengthen my soul
Let me hear Your voice once more
I just need to know
That no matter how dark the night may seem
No matter how distant I feel from You
No matter how low I may sink in despair
You still love me
You still love me.

Can it be that You love us
When all our sins You know?
But You take those sins, so scarlet red
And You make us white as snow
The tears of joy do fall
And how it thrills me so!
You loved me enough to die, my Lord
By Your word now I know:
That these voices that whisper
Such lies to my heart
Are but ghosts that vanish
In the light of Your truth
You faithfully prove
Time and time again
That You still love me
You still love me.

Sometimes when I get down and I feel far away from God (usually from my own rebellion from Him), I have to remind myself that God still loves me. And His will is to heal the pains in my heart, to heal the wounds that my sin has made and to lead me on to a life of wholeness in Christ.

Incidentally, I couldn’t think of a title for my new song. So at the Bible study we decided to call it “October 2nd” since it was written on that day.

I have thought about this song many times on October 2nd. Through years of wandering far away from God, on October 2, I often remembered how there was a day back in my 20s when I poured out my heart to God. Because the song was title “October 2nd,” that made it stick in my mind on that date through the years. It has served as a reminder to my wandering self that I once lived close to Jesus and that I needed to return there.

When I wrote “October 2, 2022” in my journal this morning, again this song returned. This time, after moving and reorganizing things two years ago, I knew where to find those original lyrics written on that old messy paper. This time, after having been touched by Jesus to return close to him in February 2021 while reorganizing things, I am warmed by reading again the context in which this song was written.

I smile to think how it was a group effort to give a title to the song. I’ve lost touch with the people from that church. At least three of them have passed away to my knowledge. That particular church no longer exists. I wonder where Ken and Bernie are.

“Lord Jesus, You are the Good Shepherd. You will keep all of Your sheep. None shall be lost. May all of us who gathered at that home in Easton on October 2, 1990 be blessed by You today. Remind each of us of Your love, of forgiveness through Your blood, and of Your faithfulness which is the same despite our years of wandering. Indeed, Lord, Your faithfulness endures forever. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.”