Monday, November 7, 2022

Joseph Alleine and Praying for Salvation

Robert Elmer compiled a collection of Puritan prayers with contemporary English in his excellent book, Piercing Heaven, which I highly recommend for you to add to your bookshelf. In this collection is a section with prayers in regards to giving the gospel to others. One such prayer includes the 17th Century preacher Joseph Alleine:

"O Lord, how insufficient I am for this work. With what will I piece the scales of Leviathan - or make my heart, hard as a millstone, feel what you desire it to feel?

Will I go and speak to the grave, and expect the dead to obey me and come forth?

Will I make a speech to the rocks, or lecture the mountains, and move them with arguments?


Will I make the blind see?

From the beginning of the world no one has ever heard of opening the eyes of a person born blind. But, Lord, you can pierce the heart of a sinner.

I can draw the bow at random, but you direct the arrow between the cracks of the armor.

I come in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. I come forth, like David against Goliath, to wrestle, not with flesh and blood, but with rulers and cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil of this world.

This day let the Lord defeat the Philistines, take away the armor of the strong man, and give me the captives out of his hand. 

Lord, choose my words. Choose my weapons for me. And when I put my hand into the bag, and take our a stone and sling it, and carry it to the mark, make it sink - not into the forehead, but into the heart of the unconverted sinner.

Take him to the ground like Saul of Tarsus.

Lord God, help! How can I leave them this way? If they will not hear me, still I pray that you will hear me. I pray that they might live in your sight! Lord, save them, or they perish.

My heart would melt to see their houses on fire when they were fast asleep in their beds. So is my soul moved within me to see them endlessly lost?

Lord, have compassion, and save them out of the burning. Put forth your divine power, and the work will be done.

Slay the sin, and save the soul of the sinner. Amen"

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Mercy Killing

In a recent interview on the TV show "The View," actress Anne Hathaway said, "abortion can be another word for mercy." This is such a troubling, disturbing understanding of mercy killing of an unborn baby. How could abortion possibly be merciful? First, what is mercy?

In a discussion with a lawyer, Jesus defined a neighbor as the one who showed mercy to a beaten man along the road (Luke 10:25-37). Mercy is the kind treatment of someone to relieve their trouble. In Jesus' parable, a good Samaritan bound up the wounds and cared for a man beaten along a path and left for dead. The Samaritan man had compassion for this man, even paying for a stay in a hostel. 

Compassion did not lead to ending the beaten man's life for suffering, but to heal. Mercy is healing, treating someone else well to promote good, to help someone in need. Could Hathaway mean mercy to the baby is best shown in ending the baby's life rather than care for both the mother and the baby? What trouble is the baby suffering from which requires mercy? The three troubles I am able to think of are (1) the baby suffers from a potentially troubling life due to unloving parents, (2) the baby suffers from a disability, or (3) the parents cannot support the child.

Killing an unborn baby is not merciful because the baby is unwanted by unloving parents. This logic would be haunting if used by abusive parents of born babies. Furthermore, human beings with disabilities are not signs that life is punishment and killing them is merciful. Life is worth living even with difficulties. I have seen in Christ's church a people with compassionate hearts adopting babies whose mothers could not care for. There is mercy in Christ who shows mercy through His people. 

If you are reading this as a pregnant mother, I encourage you to connect with Pathway to Hope in Hamilton, Ohio. They have merciful resources to help with pregnancy, connecting with placing your baby up for adoption, help for fathers, and plenty more.

Mercy is also defined in the Scriptures as bearing with others, or forbearance. Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp define biblical forbearance brilliantly: "Forbearance is patience under provocation. It is willing to stand alongside someone in trouble even though it makes life more difficult." 

A baby makes life more difficult for a mother. Mercy bears with a life with more challenges. To see an unborn baby's life as something to silence with the cruel hands of killing simply because life is about to get more challenging or the baby will have difficulties due to disability is not mercy, but merciless.

Hathaway continued, "Just because you get pregnant doesn't mean you get to keep that baby." Hathaway admits abortion ends the life of a baby. She calls the unborn what a common sense epistemology knows as obvious: that life is the life of a baby.

Abortion is the execution of human life with an unjust trial, judge, and executioner devised to silence the life of the unborn who is helpless, voiceless, and hidden inside a mother's womb which God meant to be a place of safety for a growing baby. To redefine mercy as a cruel, merciless act is to call something evil good (Isaiah 5:20). It is unjust to legalize the death of an unborn baby due to inconvenience and call it justice.

People are looking for justice and mercy in a place of execution. America's demand for legal killing of babies, now wed with calling it mercy, is a Satanic twisting of the only place human beings may find justice and mercy. Calvary was a place of execution, and we in our sin are the executioners. Yet, God sent Jesus into the world to save sinners. God will not justify our sin by redefining mercy and justice, but with real mercy and justice punished Christ instead of sinners.

Christ's death was not a killing to put Him out of His misery, but to free sinners from the misery of sin and death. Mercy in the heart of God matched with His might and authority to execute Christ to give life to those who believe in Him rather than to place the punishment on them. We are to turn away from our unjust ways and thinking and toward God who is just and merciful to those who believe in Jesus. 

There is mercy for sinners in Christ who suffered and died for sinners, including those guilty of abortion. If you have had an abortion and looking for mercy, or would like to know more about God's forgiveness and salvation in Christ Jesus, please email me. I would love to tell you about our Savior and to pray with you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

The Wise Person is Teachable

 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” –Proverbs 12:15

The fool does not admit to wrongdoing in total. He is either right in his own eyes, or would be right if it weren’t for circumstances or other people, what we call blame-shifting.

I look back and reflect on how the Lord used me as a tool to help so many people. Redeeming rocky marriages, reconciling friendships in strife, comforting those who grieve, seeing sinners repent. However, I am in no ways perfect. I have said words that have wounded, stemming from wrong thoughts. I could easily defend my wrongdoing with a posture of being right in my own eyes, shifting blame on others saying “they made me angry” as opposed to confessing that I sinned in my anger.

God has a wise word: a wise man listens to advice. What remains foolish in me must humbly be open to council. In a word, the wise person is teachable; moving from self-righteousness toward humility. This requires my pride to gaze toward the cross. Christ laid down His life not only to forgive me, but to save me. Christ cleanses me with the water of His Word. Beloved, the Bible is a treasury of wisdom instructing our hearts to be transformed from our foolish thoughts and desires to know and desire God. Self-righteousness stands in the way of my knowing and desiring God.

Self-righteousness kills relationships. To a spouse or kids, self-righteousness makes living with you difficult because you cannot be wrong and they can never live up to your expectations. Being a close friend to you is difficult because any threat to your self-righteousness makes conversations with you unbearable. Words and behaviors must be defended or excused because you know you are right.

The Christian has received the gift of the Father in Christ a righteousness that is not his own. I am perfect in the eyes of God because I am in Christ. I no longer feel dread defending my foolishness because such things no longer condemn me. I have been liberated to listen to advice because now I am being sanctified.

Pride fears appearing weak, yet wisdom owns up to two things in our decision making and relationships: I miscalculate my own foolishness and blindness in my thoughts and I undervalue the wisdom I could receive from the counsel of others. God has made known to us the path of life (Psalm 16:11), a path our Savior tells us few find and is a hard path (Matthew 7:14).

A healthy Christian traveler on the hard path of life needs a church family pursuing wisdom as well as a humble ear inclined to learn from their advice. Christ’s disciples are lifelong learners of the depths of the hidden treasures of knowledge and wisdom in Christ (Colossians 2:3). Oh, how much more precious are the treasures of wisdom to be learned than rubies (Proverbs 8:11)! The great treasury of learning God’s revealed Word together with humble, teachable hearts in adoration of Christ in whom is hidden all the treasures, the valuable joyous rewards which delights the heart, of knowledge and wisdom.

Beloved flock, let us be easy listeners and truth speakers encouraging one another’s adoration for Christ as we pursue wisdom together in united harmony, not in pride but lowly, not wise in our own eyes (Romans 12:16).

Heavenly Father, You search the heart and know our foolishness. Yet, in Your wisdom You know what lessons must be heard and learned. Grant Your servants humble, teachable ears to hear godly advice. Grant us grace to recall our need and dependence on You. Grant us grace which stirs our hearts to pursue wisdom hidden in Christ by the deep study of Your Scripture. Bless Your church as we labor together as we teach one another in united adoration of Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Spurgeon on Being Prepared for Death

On my drive home today, I listened to the top of the hour news on the radio. I heard 153 people died, many trampled, in a large Halloween crowd in Seoul, South Korea. There were a few murders. Someone died in a car crash. Someone famous died. I listened with a bit of trembling reflecting on my own mortality. "This could be my last drive home," I said to myself, knowing the Lord was listening in. 

Yet, I also noticed the many homes with Halloween decorations. Death is something cute, something funny. There seems to be no fear nor respect of death in our culture. People die, often met with such gloom and painful grief of heart for loved ones. All while parties mocking death fill a celebratory air in homes around us. 

Then I recalled this sermon by Charles Spurgeon entitled, "Our Last Journey" from Job 16:22 which reads, "For when a few years have come I shall go the way from which I shall not return." Please read with deep consideration of your own soul and be prepared for death:

"May God make you wise unto salvation! To be prepared to die is an immediate duty, will you neglect it? Some imagine that to be prepared to die would involve a life of perpetual gloom. If it did so it were well to face it. When a man comes to die and finds himself prepared, even if he had endured fifty years of perpetual anguish of heart, and had denied himself every worldly comfort, he would think himself well
repaid to have the prospect of a blessed future. Heaven at any price is well secured. A good hope through grace is worth a thousand worlds. But it is a mistake to suppose that melancholy attends upon fitness to die. Why should it? To be unprepared for death, and to know that it may come at any moment, is a fair reason for sadness, but to have that great matter secure must surely be a source of joy. To be prepared to die is to be prepared to live; to be ready for eternity is in the best sense to be ready for time. 

Who so fit to live on earth as the man who is fit to live in heaven? Who hath brightness of the eye? Is it not the man who has looked within the gate of pearl, and seen his place prepared among the blessed? Who hath lightness of heart? Is it not the man who is unloaded of his sin, and has found mercy through the blood of Christ? Who can go to his bed and sleep in peace and wake with joy— who but the man that is reconciled to God by the death of his Son? Who hath the best of this world as well as the world to come? Is it not he to whom death has now become a changed thing, a cherub that has lost its way— no longer destruction, but rather development, and admission into a higher and nobler life? Since readiness for death is peace and happiness, and is above measure needful in prospect of the eternal state, let us see to it at once. We are to be gone so soon let us gird up our loins for our solemn journey. There is no time to spare. The end is drawing near. Every flying moment is hastening on our last hour. It is high time to awake out of sleep, and in earnest make ready to meet the Bridegroom, who is already on his way."

Sunday, October 30, 2022

J.C. Ryle on Friendship

I have been richly blessed by God's mercies by surrounding me with precious friends. Friends who not only deeply invest their care into me, but into my wife, children, and other friends in my life. Practical thoughts of friendship from the 19th Century Anglican expositor JC Ryle may serve helpful to us considering and being thankful for Christian friends.

 

“I do advise you to be very careful in your choice of friends. Do not open all your heart to a man merely because he is clever, agreeable, good-natured, high-spirited, and kind. These things are all very well in their way, but they are not everything. Never be satisfied with the friendship of anyone who will not be useful to your soul.


Good friends are among our greatest blessings – they may keep us back from much evil, quicken us in our course, speak a word in season, draw us upward, and draw us on.

But a bad friend is a positive misfortune, a weight continually dragging us down, and chaining us to earth. Keep company with an irreligious man, and it is more than probable you will in the end become like him. That is the general consequence of all such friendships. The good go down to the bad, and the bad do not come up to the good.”

-J.C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men, 50-52

“A friend is one of the greatest blessings on earth. Tell me not of money: affection is better than gold; sympathy is better than lands. He is the poor man who has no friends.

This world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. It is a dark place. It is a lonely place. It is a disappointing place. The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our troubles and doubles our joys.

A real friend is scarce and rare. There are many who will eat, and drink, and laugh with us in the sunshine of prosperity. There are few who will stand by us in the days of darkness,—few who will love us when we are sick, helpless, and poor,—few, above all, who will care for our souls.

Does any reader of this paper want a real friend? I write to recommend one to your notice this day. I know of One ‘who sticketh closer than a brother.’ (Proverbs18:24) I know of One who is ready to be your friend for time and for eternity, if you will receive Him. Hear me, while I try to tell you something about Him. The friend I want you to know is Jesus Christ. Happy is that family in which Christ has the foremost place! Happy is that person whose chief friend is Christ!”

J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians, 317

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Talking to your Depressed Heart

Spiritual depression, what the Psalmist calls turmoil hearts and downcast souls, has a mighty Deliverer received by faith. Such a faith is not silent, but speaks to our spiritually depressed selves with the assurance of Christ. Consider these words, dear soul, the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones from his book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure:

"The ultimate cause for spiritual depression is unbelief. For if it were not for unbelief even the devil could do nothing. It is because we listen to the devil instead of listening to God that we go down before him and fall before his attacks. That is why this Psalmist keeps on saying to himself: 'Hope thou in God for I shall yet praise Him...' He reminds himself of God. Why? Because he was depressed and had forgotten God, so that his faith and his belief in God and in God's power, and in his relationship to God, were not what they ought to be. We can indeed sum it all up by saying that the final and ultimate cause is just sheer unbelief.

There then we have looked at the causes. What about the treatment in general? Very briefly at this point, the first thing we have to learn is what the Psalmist learned - we must learn to take ourselves in hand. This man was not content to just lie down and commiserate with himself. He does something about it, he takes himself in hand. But he does something which is more important still, that is he talks to himself. This man turns to himself and says: "Why art thou cast down o my soul, why art thou disquieted within me?" He is talking to himself, he is addressing himself...

...I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing "ourselves" to talk to us! Do you realize what this means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man's treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul?' he asks. His soul has been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, 'Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.' Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: 'Why art thou cast down' - what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: 'Hope thou in God' - instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: 'I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.'"



Thursday, October 13, 2022

Seek Knowledge for the Benefit of Your Souls

What is your motivation to know truth? To some, the secret motive to know a lot is to be honored by people as smart. To others, knowledge is only pursued in order to debate and correct others. The Christian is to pursue knowledge for the benefit of the soul and to practice biblically wise living. Jonathan Edwards has a good thought on this:

"Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls, and in order to practice.—If applause be your end, you will not be so likely to be led to the knowledge of the truth, but may justly, as often is the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error to your own perdition. This being your end, if you should obtain much rational knowledge, it would not be likely to be of any benefit to you, but would puff you up with pride: I Corinthians 8:1 'Knowledge puffeth up.'"