the God who answers by fire

A.W. Pink misses no opportunity to exhort to faithfulness and offer encouragement to those whom God has called as ministers and shepherds to His sheep. Below are some of those warnings found in Pink’s work, “Elijah.”

…the man whom the Lord uses has to be kept low: severe discipline has to be experienced by him, if the flesh is to be duly mortified…alas, how little is man to be trusted: how little is he able to bear being put into the place of honour! How quickly self rises to the surface, and the instrument is ready to believe he is something more than an instrument! How sadly easy it is to make of the very service God entrusts us with a pedestal on which to display ourselves. But God will not share His glory with another, and therefore does He “hide” those who may be tempted to take some of it unto themselves. It is only by retiring from the public view and getting alone with God that we can learn our own nothingness.

God often says to His servants, “Get thee hence…hide thyself”: sometimes it is by the dashing of their ministerial hopes, sometimes by a bed of affliction, or by a severe bereavement, the Divine purpose is accomplished. Happy the one who can then say from his heart, “The will of the Lord be done.”

What a message is there here for any ardent ministers of Christ whom Providence may for a season have laid by from public service!They are so desirous of doing good and promoting the glory of their Master in the salvation of sinners and the building up of His saints, that they feel their enforced inactivity to be a severe trial. But let them rest assured that the Lord has some good reason for laying this restraint upon them, and therefore they should earnestly seek grace that they may not be fretful under it, nor take matters into their own hands in seeking to force a way out of it. Ponder the case of Elijah [during the time he was hidden away in the widow’s home]! He uttered no complaints nor did he venture out of the retirement into which God had sent him. He waited patiently for the Lord to direct him, to set him at liberty, and to enlarge his sphere of usefulness. Meanwhile, by fervent intercession, he was made a great blessing unto those in the home [by supernatural provision of food and the raising from the dead of the widow’s son].

There is therefore no higher testimony to their fidelity than for the servants of God to evoke the rancour and hostility of the reprobate.

Chastised. Watchful.

The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

Focused on keeping the cars churning through the drive-thru at Starbucks, I was completely broadsided when the LORD, once again, allowed me to glimpse the depths of wickedness and self-love in my own heart.

I was frazzled, we were having issues (multiple) that made our usually hectic pace even more stressful. An older couple pulled up to the drive-thru window. I started to hand them the next drink in my queue but the man stopped me. “We didn’t order. We missed the place where you order.” Impatience and irritation rose up within me and, I am certain, flooded across my face. The man’s hand shook slightly as he gestured, “I’m sorry.” I looked at the couple and saw them as I should have seen them before…an elderly man and woman (my husband and myself not too many years hence, if the LORD allows), both bearing the image of God and worthy of my respect. I had dishonored them in my impatience and, in doing so, dishonored my God. My heart broke in shame and unspoken repentance. Even though my irritation lasted but a second or two, and my “Just say ‘YES'” attitude returned in a flash (I filled their order quickly, smiling, and gave them one of their cups of coffee “on the house”), I should have said the words. “I’m sorry. I was rude. Please, forgive me.”

And so, I am thankful. Thankful that I am loved by the most wise, righteous, and gracious God. Thankful that He has given me a glimpse of the hidden strength of corruption of my heart, that I might be humbled. Humbled, yes. And driven, yet again, to the cross of Christ. For apart from my Savior, there is no hope for a sinner such as I. Apart from His Spirit, this lesson will be lost.

Who but Christ?

The work to be performed by the mediator [Christ]
was of no common description…
to restore us to the divine favor so as to make us,
instead of sons of men,
sons of God;
instead of heirs of hell,
heirs of a heavenly kingdom.
Who could do this,
unless the Son of God
should also become
the Son of Man,
and so receive what is ours
as to transfer to us what is His,
making that which is His by nature
to become ours by grace?

John Calvin was clearly no dry, boring theologian. These words excite in my soul doxology and praise. Jesus, my Savior, my Lord, and my God…you took the only thing I have that is mine to give and gave to me that which could never be mine apart from Your grace. May Your Name be blessed FOREVER. Amen.

mercy’s store

Let us wonder; grace and justice
Join and point to mercy’s store;
When through grace in Christ our trust is,
Justice smiles and asks no more:
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God.
~John Newton

It is days like today when the store of God’s mercy
is much needed…
in this sinner’s life.

My prayer, today, must come from another pen:
Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

~Charles Wesley

consistency of life

And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye. For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:39-45).

In considering the text above, Ryle states that, “the main object is…the importance of consistency of life. The passage is a solemn warning not to contradict by our lives what we have said with our lips…a loud profession of doctrinal purity will never procure respect for a minister’s sermon if his congregation sees him cleaving to ungodly habits.”

If what I have in my head does not affect what I do with my hands and my feet
then my having it will not lead to commendation, but rather condemnation.

Great God and Father, save me from besetting sins, and from presumptuous sins as well. Without Your perfect law, the grace You have given me, and the guidance of Your Spirit, I would have a fruitless life and no profitable ministry to others. My heart is often inclined to evil, LORD, so I pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You” Psalm 51:10-13.
For Christ the King. Amen.

stretch out your hand

Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.”
(Luke 6:6-10)

Unearthed, from the simple soil of “and he did so,” we see the response of faith to the command of Christ, “stretch out your hand,” as J.C. Ryle, once again, offers depth of insight into this commerce between Jesus and this man:

Our Lord said…”Stretch out your hand.” The command, at first sight seems unreasonable…obedience impossible…the poor sufferer was not stopped by doubts…at once he made the attempt to stretch forth his hand and…was cured. He had enough faith to believe that He who bade him…was not mocking him
and ought to be obeyed.

He who bids us to…
…fear not
…cast our cares on Him
…not be anxious
…seek ye first
…consider the lilies
is not mocking us
ought to be obeyed.

LORD, help me live in obedience to and dependence upon You. Let me not hesitate to “stretch out my hand” in response to Your commands. The tasks you set before me are often enormous and my strength little. I must depend on Your kindness and mercy. Forgive my lack of obedience to Your commands, my willful transgressions of Your Law. I do indeed bring only my sin and need to You when I come to Your throne–no goodness, nor merit, no wisdom, no strength. Yet countless times, by Your grace, You send me out to serve You cleansed, restored, and strengthened. Let me never forget Your benefits towards me, those benefits already received and those promised for my future need.

enduring much

Why do You cast me off?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

~Psalm 43:2b

Spurgeon restates the question, “LORD, why am I called to endure so much for so long?” and considers this a “useful question [when] addressed to the right quarter. The answer will often be because we are saints and MUST BE MADE LIKE OUR HEAD, and because such sorrow is chastening to the spirit and yields comfortable fruit.”

This “being made like our Head” can be a painful process. Better though, as one old puritan calls them, “sanctified afflictions,” than the prosperity and peace of the wicked, for their judgment is sure:
Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
~Psalm 73:18-19

forgotten finery

Can a virgin forget her ornaments,
Or a bride her attire?
Yet My people have forgotten Me
days without number.
~ Jeremiah 2:32

Matthew Henry warns, “Those who begin well, but do not persevere, will justly be upbraided with their hopeful and promising beginnings. Those who desert religion, commonly oppose it more than those who never knew it. For this they could have no excuse. God’s spiritual Israel must own their obligations to him for safe conduct through the wilderness of this world, so dangerous to the soul. Alas, that many, who once appeared devoted to the Lord, so live that their professions aggravate their crimes! Let us be careful that we do not lose in zeal and fervency, as we gain knowledge.”

O Father, let me not forget my ornaments.
O Bridegroom, let me not forget my attire.
You have clothed me in Your Righteousness, and ornamented my life with all the riches of glory in Christ Jesus. Let me never forget Your goodness to me. Keep my feet from following after other gods, fix my eyes on my Savior. Except by Your grace I would be as Israel, playing the harlot. Pour out Your mercy with Your grace, O Lord.

prostrate awe; sacred fear

And when I saw Him [the One like the Son of Man], I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.(Revelation 1:17-18)

Spurgeon says of John’s encounter with the Alpha and Omega, “The sight of the King in His beauty caused no alarm to John in Patmos, and yet it made him fall at His feet as dead. Oh to behold Him and worship Him with prostrate awe and sacred fear!” O Lord, let me see You and worship You today.

And from one of my most cherished passages of Scripture, John 20:14-16, we find Mary, weeping at her Lord’s tomb…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” How my heart will sing with joy to hear Him speak my name.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

perfect holiness; infinite wisdom

God’s way is perfect, and when we would have him alter it to please us, we are guilty of tempting him; and the fact that we do so in vain, while it magnifies the Lord’s holiness, by no means excuses our guilt. We are in most danger of this sin in times of need, for then it is that we are apt to fall into unbelief, and to demand a change in those arrangements of providence which are the transcript of perfect holiness and infinite wisdom. C.H. Spurgeon

these arrangements of providence I find so trying
are born of Your Perfect Holiness
and Infinite Wisdom.
Forgive my murmuring heart.
Ravish me with Your grace
until my fear gives way to thanksgiving.
My Savior, cleanse me.
My Shepherd, lead me.
My king, rule me.
My Lord, subdue me.