Thursday, December 1, 2011

He Who Holds the Keys

"It is impossible to be submissive and religiously patient if ye stay your thoughts down among the confused rollings and wheels of second causes, as O the place! O the time! O if this had been, this had not followed!...Look up to the master motion and the first wheel."
- Samuel Rutherford

"We are always held in the love of God.  We are never wholly at the mercy of other people - they are only 'second causes," and no matter how many second or third or fiftieth causes seem to be in control of what happens to us, it is God who is in charge, He who holds the keys, He who casts the lot finally into the lap."

- Elisabeth Elliot

"'The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.’"
(Deuteronomy 33:27 ESV)

Monday, November 28, 2011

"The Proof of Love"

Testing Times - The Proof of Love

"Fear not: for God is come to prove you."—Exodus xx. 20.

..."Fear not,"—this was the tender message; and the reason for confidence was given,—"for God is come to prove you" The blessed fact of His presence changed the appearance of all the things that seemed against me. The trial was not taken away, but my eyes were opened to see that, if it came from the hand of my God, there must be a blessing in it. My soul pondered the sweet assurance, and found therein the calm of Heaven, after the storms and strifes of earth.
...If we can only get firmly fixed in our hearts the truth that the Lord's hand is in everything that happens to us, we have found a balm for-all our woes, a remedy for all our ills. When friends fail us and grow cold, when enemies triumph and wax confident, when the smooth pathway upon which we have been travelling suddenly becomes rough, stony, and steep,—we are too apt to look askance at the visible second causes, and to forget that our God has foreseen every trial, permitted every annoyance, and authorized   each item of discipline, with this set purpose: "The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut. xiii. 3). O heart of mine, what is thy response to this demand? Dost thou not love Him enough to endure any test to prove it?
I remember once reading words to this effect—that, the moment we come into any trial or difficulty, our first thought should be, not how soon can we escape from it, or how may we lessen the pain we shall suffer from it, but how can we best glorify God in it, and most quickly learn the lesson which He desires to teach us by it? ...The soul that has learned the blessed secret of seeing God's hand in all that concerns it, cannot be a prey to fear; it looks beyond all second causes,straight into the heart and will of God, and rests content, because He rules.
"God is come to prove you'' My soul, think how great must be His love to thee, that He should stoop to search for thy heart's obedience and devotion! Think of the Infinite God, thy Redeemer, longing, desiring, yearning to be assured of thy supreme affection! As He Himself puts it by His servant Moses, —
" Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee, ... to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or no." 

What pains He has taken with thee! How tenderly He has borne with thee! Every trial has been a test, every pain has had a purpose. And can it be that thou art still keeping back from Him the full surrender of heart and life which His Divine love demands? Still lingering and wavering on the borderland of halfheartedness, instead of gladly leaving all to follow Him? Nay, Lord, it shall be so no longer! Help me to give Thee, at this moment, instantly and eagerly, the proof of my love which Thou dost seek, in the submission of my heart to all Thy will, and the entire consecration of body, soul, and spirit to Thy service! Then, every yoke will be made easy, and every burden will become light, for I shall carry them under the firm conviction that my gracious Lord has laid them on me, and is but testing the strength of the love and grace which He Himself has given.

~Susannah Spurgeon

Saturday, November 19, 2011

That Thou May'st Find Thy All in Me

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

~ John Newton

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"And death itself shall not dissolve."

I've been listening to an audio version of Foxe's Book of Martyrs recently and was particularly touched by this account. It is hard to judge whether the woman was right in her actions. Perhaps she was foolish, perhaps desperate, but her devotion as a wife - to cast her lot wholly with her husband in his faith and in the consequences of it - seems beautiful:
Pichel, a bigoted popish magistrate, apprehended twenty-four Protestants, among whom was his daughter's husband. As they all owned they were of the reformed religion, he indiscriminately condemned them to be drowned in the river Abbis. On the day appointed for the execution, a great concourse of people attended, among whom was Pichel's daughter. This worthy wife threw herself at her father's feet, bedewed them with tears, and in the most pathetic manner, implored him to commisserate her sorrow, and pardon her husband. The obdurate magistrate sternly replied, "Intercede not for him, child, he is a heretic, a vile heretic." To which she nobly answered, "Whatever his faults may be, or however his opinions may differ from yours, he is still my husband, a name which, at a time like this, should alone employ my whole consideration." Pichel flew into a violent passion and said, "You are mad! cannot you, after the death of this, have a much worthier husband?" "No, sir, (replied she) my affections are fixed upon this, and death itself shall not dissolve my marriage vow."Pichel, however, continued inflexible, and ordered the prisoners to be tied with their hands and feet behind them, and in that manner be thrown into the river. As soon as this was put into execution, the young lady watched her opportunity, leaped into the waves, and embracing the body of her husband, both sank together into one watery grave. An uncommon instance of conjugal love in a wife, and of an inviolable attachment to, and personal affection for, her husband.

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17 ESV)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"And shall be theirs"

I cut this poem out of a church bulletin and have had it taped on my wall for years. The paper is now old and curling, but the words are now in my memory. After taking down at last the well-loved little paper from my wall, I think the poem deserves a fresh imprinting here.

"Wouldst thou have that good, that blessed mind,
That is so much to heavenly things inclin'd

That it aloft will soar, and always be
Contemplating on blest eternity?

That blessed mind that counts itself then free
When it can at the throne of Jesus be.

There to behold the mansions he prepares
For such as be with him and his co-heirs.

This mind is in the covenant of grace,
And shall be theirs that truly seek his face."

- John Bunyan

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Over all His works"

"Even the unclean beasts, which were least valuable and profitable, were preserved alive in the ark; for God's tender mercies are over all his works, and not over those only that are of most eminence and use."- Matthew Henry

Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thoughts on a Humble Life

"Clothes came in with sin. We should have had no occasion for them, either for defence or decency, if sin had not made us naked, to our shame. Little reason therefore we have to be proud of our clothes." '
- Matthew Henry

" in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control..."
- 1 Timothy 2:9, ESV

"That calling or condition of life is best for us, and to be chosen by us, which is best for our souls, that which least exposes us to sin and gives us most opportunity of serving and enjoying God."
- Matthew Henry

"aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."
- 1 Thessalonians 4:11, ESV

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"He would show"

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
- Genesis 1:1-2, ESV

A chaos was the first matter...mere earth, destitute of its ornaments, such a heavy unwieldy mass was it...This immense mass of matter was it out of which all bodies, even the firmament and visible heavens themselves, were afterwards produced by the power of the Eternal Word. The Creator could have made his work perfect at first, but by this gradual proceeding he would show what is, ordinarily, the method of his providence and grace."
- Matthew Henry

Friday, March 18, 2011

For Thee, O God

As wingless bird blown from its nest
By heartless wind with cruel surprise
As such a bird for wings to rise
So longs my soul for Thee, O God.

As wandering lamb when twilight falls
Cold, bleating longs for sheltered fold
And shepherd-love to find and hold
So longs my soul for Thee, O God.

As stranger lone in friendless place
Met cold by loveless stranger gaze
Hungers for home and love's warm rays,
So longs my soul for Thee, O God.

For Thou art wings to weakened souls
And Love to find the ones who roam
And bring them to Thee - Thou art Home
And joy to me, Thou art my God.

- AFC, 3-18-2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Letters to a 17th century woman....

BE sure that humility, frequent silence and recollection, will do you more good than any amount of anxiety and self-chosen austerities. Silence is, above all, important for you. Even when you cannot withdraw from society, you might often practise silence, and let others take the lead in conversation. There is no way by which you can so effectually subdue your haughty, disdainful, contemptuous spirit, as by bridling it with silence. Keep a strict watch upon your tongue. The presence of God, which restrains your words, will likewise keep all your thoughts and wishes in check. But this work must be accomplished gradually. Be patient with yourself, as well as with others.

I THINK, Madame, that you should try hard now to practise silence, so far as general courtesy will permit. Silence promotes the presence of God, prevents many harsh and proud words, and suppresses many dangers in the way of ridiculing or harshly judging our neighbor. Silence humbles the mind, and gradually weans it from the world; it makes a kind of solitude in the heart like that which you desire: it will supply all that you need under your present difficulties. If you retrenched all useless talk, you would have many available moments even in the midst of society, where you are obliged to stay against your will....Often lift up your heart to Him, without making any outward sign; talk only when it is necessary; and bear patiently with what crosses you. You have more need of self-denial than of light. If you are faithful in keeping silence when it is not necessary to speak, God will preserve you from evil when it is right for you to talk.
Your portion is to love, to be silent, to suffer, to sacrifice your inclinations, in order to fulfil the will of God, by moulding yourself to that of others. Happy indeed you are thus to bear a cross laid on you by God's own hands, in the order of His Providence. The discipline which we choose for ourselves does not destroy our self-love like that which God assigns us Himself each day. All we have to do is to give ourselves up to God day by day, without looking further. He carries us in His arms as a loving mother carries her child. Let us believe, hope, love, with all the simplicity of children. In every need let us look with love and trust to our Heavenly Father.

- Fenelon, Selections

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

...Who loves Thee

"I would love Thee, God and Father!
My Redeemer, and my King!

I would love Thee; for without Thee
Life is but a bitter thing

I would love Thee; ev'ry blessing
Flows to me from out Thy throne

I would love Thee; He who loves Thee
Never feels himself alone."

- Jeanne Marie Guyon

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Because the way is short"

I think we are too ready with complaint
In this fair world of God's. Had we no hope
Indeed beyond the zenith and the slope
Of yon gray blank of sky, we might grow faint
To muse upon eternity's constraint
Round our aspirant souls; but since the scope
Must widen early, is it well to droop,
For a few days consumed in loss and taint ?
O pusillanimous Heart, be comforted
And, like a cheerful traveller, take the road
Singing beside the hedge. What if the bread
Be bitter in thine inn, and thou unshod
To meet the flints ? At least it may be said
' Because the way is short, I thank thee, God. '

- "Cheerfulness Taught by Reason"
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Thousand Yards Deep

"When the work on the cross was finished, blood formed a creek;
Grace from the west flowed a thousand yards deep."

- "The Cross"

"For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."
- Colossians 1:19-20, ESV

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Unspoken Thoughts on Womanliness

...that's all I have to say.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"...looking up for glory, my fear all fly away."

A poem written about two years ago, which I rediscovered this evening and found most timely! Dark winters never cease to come, and we still have no other hope but Christ.

In bleak and chilling winter
When earth’s frail comforts fly
Where can I hide but in your side,
Whose life keeps mine on high?

Health proves a reed to lean on.
Stark illness stalks the best.
What can I do, but cling to You,
Whose love is my sweet rest?

I feel the pangs of sin’s blight
As every earthling should
What can I do but trust in You
Who works all for my good?

Earth’s days fly fast to evening
And cold black nights descend
What can I do but hope in you?
For you will come again!

A day will come as flooding
Of summer’s seaside wave
A day will come as rising
Of sun that dawns to save

Our King will leap the bound’ry
Of earth’s cold, cloud-grayed sky,
With potent regal glory,
To bring salvation nigh

And judgment to the evil
That scorns His precious grace,
Reversal of the evil
That plagues his chosen race.

His piercing eyes of judgment
Bring terror realized
To sinners bound for torment
From Him they long despised.

But, oh His face’s shining
Will be the sweetest sight
To those whose hearts were yearning
For Him through earth’s long night.

This star of hope shines for me
Though dark my present day
And looking up for glory
My fears all fly away.

- AFC, 2009

Thursday, January 13, 2011

If Only They Knew...

Reading today in my human development textbook* on the decisions that agonize parents of abnormal children I was stirred by the powerful nature of our world's blindness to the truth of the Creator.
In the case study, a couple is discussing the implications of having a baby with Down syndrome...

"It's not as though we're deciding whether or not to have a baby. We're deciding what kind of baby we're willing to accept. If it's perfect in every way, we keep it. If it doesn't fit the right specifications, whoosh! Out it goes."...

John was looking more and more confused. "Martha, why are you on this soapbox? What's your point?"

"My point is," I said, "that I'm trying to get you to tell me what you tink constitutes a 'defective' baby. What about...oh, I don't know, a hyperactive baby? Or an ugly one?"

"They can't test for those things and --"

"Well, what if they could?" I said. "Medicine can do all kinds of magical tricks these days. Pretty soon we're going to be aborting babies because they have the gene for alcoholism, or homosexuality, or manic depression...."

"Look," he said, "I know I can't always see things from your perspective. And I'm sorry about that. But the way I see it, if a baby is going to be deformed or something, abortion is a way to keep everyone from suffering - especially the baby. It's like shooting a horse that's broken its leg.... A lame horse dies slowly you know?...It dies in terrible pain. And it can't run anymore. So it can't enjoy life even if it doesn't die. Horses live to run; that's what they do. If a baby is born not being able to do what other people do, I think it's better not to prolong its suffering."

"And what is it," I said softly..."what is it that people do? What do we live to do, the way a horse lives to run?"
What do we live to do? If only they knew! This is why we share the gospel with people: they do not know what they were made to do -"to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever". To not know that God is our Maker, that sin destroys our ability fulfill our God-given purpose, that the cross and resurrection of Christ restores us to our God-glorifying destiny - to not know these things is an unspeakable tragedy. Without the gospel, life is meaningless. Without the gospel, we cannot see a hope or divine purpose in the gift of an abnormal child. Without the gospel, we will slaughter unwanted babies, and never know why it makes us feel bad. Without the gospel, we are in a wretched darkness that does not end when this life ends.

How sweet, then, is the light that God causes to dawn on darkened hearts, to give us "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God"(2 Cor. 4:4, ESV) , who restores that image in us, and who will work all things in our life for good. How sweet it is. If only they knew.

*The Developing Person Through the Life Span by Kathleen Stass Berger, 7th ed.

Monday, January 3, 2011

"They love Thee little, if at all, who do not fear Thee much..."

This morning I was listening to Sinclair Ferguson preach on the fear of the Lord, and heard him read this lovely poem by F. W. Faber:

My fear of Thee, O Lord, exults
Like life within my veins,
A fear which tightly claims to be
One of love's sacred pains.

There is no joy the soul can meet
Upon life's various road
Like the sweet fear that sits and shrinks
Under the eye of God.

Oh, Thou art greatly to be feared,
Thou art so prompt to bless!
The dread to miss such love as Thine
Makes fear but love's excess.

But fear is love, and love is fear,
And in and out they move;
But fear is an intenser joy
Than mere unfrightened love.

They love Thee little, if at all,
Who do not fear Thee much;
If love is Thine attraction, Lord!
Fear is Thy very touch.

—F. W. Faber

The Chaseur in the Forest
Caspar David Friedrich