These Things Ought Not So To Be

I’m all outta love, bro.

The utter absence of real charity and love among men in the days when our Lord was upon earth ought not to be overlooked. Well would it be if men had never quarreled about religion after He left the world! Quarrels among the crew of a sinking ship are not more hideous, unseemly, and irrational than the majority of quarrels among professors of religion. A historian might truly apply St. John’s words [“For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” – John 4:9] to many a period in church history, and say, “The Romanists [Catholics] have no dealings with the Protestants,” or “the Lutherans have no dealings with the Calvinists,” or “the Calvinists have no dealings with the Arminians,” or “the Episcopalians have no dealings with the Presbyterians,” or “the Baptists have no dealings with those who baptize infants,” or “the Plymouth Brethren have no dealings with anybody who does not join their company.” These things ought not so to be. They are the scandal of Christianity, the joy of the devil, and the greatest stumbling-block to the spread of the Gospel.

So wrote J. C. Ryle, an Anglican bishop, in 1869. Things are still the same today.

I’ve been guilty of this attitude. There have been many times in my past as a Christian where I was content to stay within the bubble of those who believed exactly what I believed. Everyone outside the bubble was wrong, or less serious about their faith, or maybe just evil. And by “everyone” I mean others who professed to be Christians.

I’m embarrassed by my past attitude. It’s not like I had always and consistently been that way. I had been quite charitable mostly. But I got sucked up into the club of exclusivity. It was cold, stark, unlike Jesus Christ. Ultimately, I got away from it, but fell extremely far away from Jesus too.

There are former associates of mine who, if they knew where I worship now and the respect I have for the community of Christians to which God has brought me, would see my current involvement with these folks as proof that I never had true faith and it was fitting that I was excommunicated from a church in 1999.

Did I just say that out loud? Yes, excommunicated. Not for matters of faith, but for conduct. Maybe someday I’ll write about that. But I’ll have to charge for that blog post. Save up your money to pay for a Substack subscription.

Truly, I am grateful that Jesus has led my family and me to a community of sincere believers. I pray that He will help me to serve my brothers and sisters, to love and honor them, to learn from them. And I pray that He will prevent me from forming any bubble here in order that I could love and fellowship with all I may encounter who have the Spirit of Christ living in them.

Something’s Fishy

Jonah, Commentary by Hugh Martin

I’ve started reading Hugh Martin’s commentary on Jonah. When I reached for a bookmark out of my various stash, which I keep in a mug which features an elephant trunk as a handle (see below), I happened to pull out this one with a number of fish on it. What are the chances? Given that they were fresh water fish, I highly doubted that the one that swallowed Jonah in the salt water Mediterranean Sea was a trout or a bass. Although, if God had prepared a fish large enough to swallow a man and keep him alive for three days in its belly, I supposed that God could have made that fish of whatever species He wished.

I know this blog post is about fish, but ya gotta see this elephant mug!

Marked with the Stamp of Divine Purpose

Today, New Years Eve, I read the following comments on Ecclesiastes by Charles Bridges.

Ecclesiastes 8:6, 7 – “Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him. For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?”

All concerning us is determined in the counsels of God, and all in judgment. The time is the best time, because it is God’s time. It is a solemn thought to us all – most precious to the Christian – that each of us has been in the mind of God – the subject of the thoughts of God – from all eternity. Every particle of our being – every trial – every step in our journey – the most minute as well as the most important – everything has been marked with the stamp of Divine purpose. And what a dignity does it give to the veriest trifle of circumstance or work? Yet what can be called a trifle, that is a link in the purpose of the great Sovereign?

What a beautiful lovely prospect, to be “the subject of the thoughts of God from all eternity!” It’s mind blowing, really.

I am thankful that Jesus Christ has made Himself known to me in 2021. After many years of forgetting Him, ignoring Him, denying Him – living in sin with abandon – He opened my mind and heart to His truth again. Interestingly enough, He used another book by Charles Bridges (Exposition of Psalm 119) to trigger these circumstances. To pull that book out of a box in which it was packed for so many years, to see the markings and notes I made when I first read it in 1995, to remember how that book brought me closer to Jesus long ago – made me ask, “What happened to me that I am not that person of faith today?” I consider this to be a great mercy for which I am sincerely grateful.

I am ending 2021 and entering 2022 with the firm conviction that “everything has been marked with the stamp of Divine purpose.” May the fruits of the Spirit be the evidence of my faith in the new year. May those fruits be in more abundant evidence in 2022 than they ever were in 1995 or any previous time of my life.