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CMF eZine


The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


Romans 8:14 - Daddy

Romans 8:14 - Daddy

Romans 8:15 — Daddy

In New Testament times adopted sons enjoyed the same privileges as natural-born sons. So, instead of cowering in slave-like fear, Christians can approach God in an intimate way calling Him Abba, Father.

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"  (NASB)

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (KJV)

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.  Instead, you received God's Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, "Abba, Father." (NLT)

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, "Abba, Father." (NET)

Once again we see the illustration from adoption used.  We have entered into a relationship of intimacy wherein the Creator of the universe has become our daddy.  We ought not to cower in fear but appreciate this matchless Grace bestowed.  Grace that liberates us from bondage to sin where we were once slaves but are now freemen.  Seal an empowered by the Spirit that we may know we are now His children whether we "feel" like it or not.

“It was not the spirit proper to slaves, leading them again to shrink from God in fear as they had done when under the law of sin and death, but a Spirit of adoption, a Spirit proper to those who were being translated from the servile to the filial relation to God.” (Denny, as quoted in:  Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader)

“The Spirit has you!” (vv. 12–17) It is not enough for us to have the Spirit; the Spirit must have us! Only then can He share with us the abundant, victorious life that can be ours in Christ. We have no obligation to the flesh, because the flesh has only brought trouble into our lives. We do have an obligation to the Holy Spirit, for it is the Spirit who convicted us, revealed Christ to us, and imparted eternal life to us when we trusted Christ. Because He is “the Spirit of Life,” He can empower us to obey Christ, and He can enable us to be more like Christ.  Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Ro 8:5). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

Gal 4:5  God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children. (NLT)

1Co 2:12  And we have received God's Spirit (not the world's spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. (NLT)

2Ti 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (NLT)

1Jn 4:18  Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. (NLT)

Pray for the Troops

Pray for the Troops

Pray for the Troops

A Seven-Day Devotional

The life of a young man or woman is forever changed when they sign the dotted line contractually binding them to their enlistment or commission in the United States Armed Forces.  That decision can bring exhilaration, fear, excitement, anxiety and a host of many other emotions however, the emotions that surpass trepidations are ones of pride, loyalty, sacrifice, patriotism, honor, and courage, to name a few.  The moment when the individual steps into the uniform for the first time, and views and salutes the American flag, is forever a life changing and heart transformation event.

Whether their initial contract binds them to Active Duty service or as a Reservist, whether a military member is relatively new in their role, and in their career or whether they’re a seasoned veteran having spent many years serving and leading in service to their subordinates and our great nation, structural elements and foundational duties and sacrifices do not change.  The requirements and demands of the “job”, while dynamic, are consistent throughout one’s career.  In fact, the only constant is the dynamic change as the day’s duties unfold.  The “plan” is discussed during the morning hours and duties are assigned accordingly only to be sidetracked or overcome by other events.  “Semper Gumby” is a fun take on the Marine Corps motto “Semper Fidelis”, or Always Faithful.  “Semper Gumby” reminds military members to always be flexible, and that the focus of the mission can change at any second and they’re to adapt, improvise and overcome.  Though the schedule is often fluid, there exists concrete infrastructural attributes of chain of command, expectations, and tradition, and they are deeply rooted into the fabric of Unites States Service Members.  These concepts can be hard to wrap your arms around, if you’ve not had the opportunity to have “walked the walk.”

            How are we, as spouses, family members, patriots and supporters to pray for those in uniform?  Why is prayer an important daily attribute that can help to shape and care for those that volunteer to be deployed in harm’s way?  The Bible has many verses that provide guidance and comfort for how and why we’re to pray, here are two of them:

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 (ESV)

The above verse reminds us that we’re not to worry, that we’re to give everything to God in all circumstances and that our anxiety and worrying are fruitless. 

 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24 (ESV)

Jesus compels us to ask with a pure and expectant heart and to pray with an understanding that we’ll receive what we’re asking for in prayer.

            Our military is in a constant state of readiness, or preparing for “being ready” to deploy Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, or Coast Guard globally, to any place, and at any time.  Regardless of where they are in the deployment cycle, understand that every day, every exercise, every task is in direct support of the readiness and operational missions.  That is their role and that’s how they conduct their daily planning and activities. 

            The best way to pray for our troops, all troops, whether or not they’re in harm’s way, or are supporting the mission from home, is to do so with intentional deliberation in a sage and forthright manner.  For you, this might include a prayer room, or a quiet place where you go to pray, or simply during your morning commute as you turn down the radio and seek to spend some time with the Lord during your drive.  However you have developed your spiritual disciplines, I encourage you to spend a few minutes preparing your heart and then intentionally praying for those, and those who support those, who put on the uniform every day.  

            For specific areas of prayer, if not focusing your prayer for a single person or family, you may want to focus your prayer on an age or rank demographic (young, intermediate or seasoned service members), or on a particular unit or a branch of service in general.  Pray for their preparation and training, the success of their evolution or mission, and their safe passage to and from their areas of responsibility. 

            The following is a seven day devotional that can be utilized as a guide:

Day 1

Focus:  Preparation — Military Member

“Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” Proverbs 24:27  ESV

In this day-and-age of fluid and dynamic work and home environments, we are increasingly aware that “the only constant is change.”  As a child growing up, your family members, parents/guardians, teachers and mentors around you have taught you some things along the way for how to be a responsible member of society when you step foot away from home for the first time.  For our military members, basic training is the conduit that shapes the person and prepares them for their military service.

Preparation teaches our military the elements of what it takes to become equipped in order to go forward and complete a mission.  Without proper preparation, the mission outcome could be detrimental.  Think about it: would you drive your car without the proper training and preparation?  If you did not receive any preparation, the truth is that you most likely could mechanically operate the vehicle, but to what success?

The apostle, Paul says: 

“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”  Romans 13:11-14 (ESV)

Preparation is a key element to the success of any mission.  Whether or not our military members are in an operational environment, an operational support role, or engaged in the deployment cycle, they are always preparing.  They are preparing for the next task, the next mission, the next deployment.  Pray for them today.

Heavenly Father, God.  As our warriors prepare in this day, for whatever the next mission is for them, I pray that you keep watch over them.  Prepare their hearts, minds and hands for the ability to focus on protecting themselves and others, so that they may complete their mission safely and return home with honor.  In Jesus’ holy name I pray, amen.

Day 2

Focus:  Preparation — Spouse/Family

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28 (ESV)

We think about preparation being only for the military member as they prepare for their next mission, whether they’re engaged in a training cycle, or a physical fitness regiment, we know that they are continuously preparing for the next stages in fulfillment of their orders.  But we often forget, that the military member wouldn’t be successful in their preparation without the steadfast and unwavering support of their family.

Military spouses are the unsung heroes of our armed forces.  If there are children in the home, we know that their role, at times, are akin to single parenthood.  They’re responsible for holding down the fort at home, while their spouse is deployed.  Strangely enough, if things can go wrong, they do go wrong while the military spouse is deployed!  The water pipes burst or the car breaks down.  The child becomes ill and in need of special testing.  A tree falls on the roof of the home during a storm.  The family pet contracts a rare disease.  All of these things, which are normal family undertakings at some point in their lives, tend to occur all at once and just-in-time for the spouse to be deployed.

The spouse at home is left alone, having to deal with all of life’s struggles, seemingly alone.  If they have prepared properly, powers-of-attorney have been signed and executed, in addition to the myriad of other preparatory elements.

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Hebrews 11:7 (ESV)

As we consider praying for the preparation of our military, whether for an individual, a particular unit, or a branch of service; I encourage you to also consider praying for the preparation of the unsung heroes, the military spouse.

Dear Lord, I pray that as you prepare the hands, hearts and minds of our military members for their mission, that you also prepare the household for the absence of the military member.  Lord be with the spouse, the children, and the supporting members of the family so that they are a strong and fortified unit of their own as they endure the hardships of their spouse being away on deployment, potentially in harm’s way.  Lord give the spouse the strength to endure the illness of children, household hardships or loneliness struggles during the time that their spouse is away.  Lord I pray that the spouse leans into you, during this time so that you may keep them and guide them towards a continued and rejoicing life in you.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Day 3

Focus:  Deployment — Military Member

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

The day is upon us.  The day that all of the planning and preparation have called for.  This is the day that we step onto the plane, or we cast off all lines to get the ship underway embarking on the beginning stages of the mission.  Be at ease, rely on the training, this is what we’ve been mentally and physically preparing to do.  Time to operate! 

As the beginning stages of the deployment are underway, the troops are anxious and excited.  Some may be sad while others are exhilarated and thrive in the high optempo environment.  Within these first few days of the deployment, as they transit to and arrive “on station”, God offers His kind and gentle support during this season.

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

The day-counter has begun that will remind us on a regular basis how many days there are until our service member returns home to us safely.  God willing.  As we at home settle into our new routine, with the absence of our spouse, or our son or daughter, or as we come alongside our friends that are enduring this time, we’re to lean into the body of Christ and trust in His will in all things, and to rest in that as we go about our daily activities.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (ESV)

Father, God: I pray for our troops as they transition to their overseas environment.  I take solace in the fact that you are with them, and that you are guiding the decisions of the leadership.  Lord I pray that they lean into and hear your still small voice of direction, and allow for your guidance in the strategic decision making and care for each other, as they trudge forward to do the “hard job”, the mission, that protects me and keeps my country’s traditions and foundational morals and values sound.  Protect them O Lord, and be with them always, until their return.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Day 4

Focus:  Deployment — Family/Home Support

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)

There are “trimesters” to military deployments, similar to how we track growth, and events on the calendar as with gestation and human pregnancy.  At the end of the third trimester, the process is finished and we’re left to enjoy the fruits of our labor.  With deployed family members, the “stages” of the deployment timeframe can be tracked according to the calendar, and there are emotions and events that correspond with each.

First trimester: feelings of exhilaration are abound as the day of your spouse leaving on deployment has finally arrived!  The next few months will be an adjustment to the new schedule, taking care of the children, ensuring they get to little league or dance practice.  Carve out time to meet with friends, perhaps take up a new healthy hobby.  This is a time for perseverance for the “home-base” of support.

Second trimester: The strong spouse, often becomes despondent and is filled with doubt and desperation during this time period.  They miss their spouse, there is no end in sight to the seemingly insurmountable number of days between now and when their spouse returns.  Hopelessness can set in.  Couple this with some tragic events such as a water leak, the car breaking down, or a problem with the insurance and the burden of carrying everything alone, can become daunting.

Third trimester: Over the hump!  On the downward slide!  Feelings of excitement and preparation, along with anxiety can accompany this period.  How will they behave when they see each other?  Will the spouse be angry at the new haircut or the new paint in the bedroom?  Nervousness, doubt, anxiousness, and excitement are all bundled into the days leading up to the homecoming.

Dear Father God, I pray that during each stage that you are the focus of the family.  That all cares be given unto you so that all burdens and worries can be cast aside and that families flourish during times of strife, and their faith in you continues to grow as a result of your abundant and everlasting love.  Be with them always, through each stage of the deployment as each stage brings forth its own sets of challenges.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Day 5

Focus:  Deployment — Troops Looking for the Home Stretch

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. ...” James 1:12-18 (ESV)

It is during the last phases of deployment that the complacency, anxiety, and perfunctory numbness can set in for the troops.  During this time, our troops are watching the calendar as well (or not) while engaging in what can be considered mundane tasks that are performed without feeling or consistency.  The mantra “remember your training” is waning and the unit is in the throes of a continued haze of intermingled work days.  “Time off” provides no respite as they’re still bound to the base, having to respond to emergencies, having to carry their weapons and perhaps run to the bunker if indirect fire is a threat to their area. 

Another day with a couple hundred of their closest friends, clogging the lines to chow, lugging their weapon around, trying to watch a movie or go to the gym on their “holiday routine” (holiday for others, routine for them).  The hypersensitivity and hyper-vigilant operations tempo are the new norm, and no amount of caffeine can stimulate the “rush” that they experienced during the first few months on station.  They now live and operate in a mode where loud weapons releases in the middle of the night are commonplace.  When the siren goes off, they may grab their gear on the way to the bunker, they may not, or they may not even get up to go to the bunker for another alarm at all.  What’s the point?  Depression can set in and this is a critical time and area of prayer for our troops that are deployed in harm’s way.

Dear Heavenly Father…we raise up our troops during this critical stage of their deployment.  We pray that they remain steadfast in their mission and that they rely on you and the fundamental tenements of their job.  I pray a hedge of protection against complacency, that they may remain alert and vigilant in their roles.  Protect them Oh Lord, as they fight not only the physical enemy, but the spiritual enemy including the enemy of self which inaugurates depression, lethargy and complacency.

Day 6

Focus:  Homecoming — Family and Service Member

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15 (ESV)

The countdown is over, the day is here!  Service members wake up (if they’ve slept at all) to a day filled with hope and wonderment, a day that they’ve been longing for ever since they left home: the day of homecoming.  Most of the time, this occurs with the accompaniment of a great fanfare.  There are bands, flowers, news crews, the clapping of hands, freshly dressed families that all await the arrival of their service member with nervous excitement!  That feeling of exhilaration upon first setting eyes on their loved ones as they step off the plane, or wave from the ship is an irreplaceable feeling of gratitude filled with patriotism and pride.

At times, however, a member is returning home without the full complement of their unit.  This can be accompanied by mixed emotions as a bittersweet embrace with loved ones.  While thankful to be home safe, the service member might have anxiety and sadness due to lost comrades-in-arms, and return home with a heavy heart. 

What we can do for them, in those moments is be present, listen when required, offer two shoulders and two ears to allow for the outpouring of strife to occur.  This is the beginning of a process that can allow for healing and growth to begin.

Heavenly Father God, I pray that as our service members return home to their families, that they do so with a thankful heart.  That you’re able to pierce through the emotional strife and continue to love and care and guide the service members as they reintegrate with their families.  Though the experiences that they’ve endured, we rest in your grace as the One True God that provides an abundance of love and mercy to those that respond to your call.  Be with them Oh Lord, as they return home to the safe arms of their loved ones.  In Jesus’ holy name I pray, amen.

Day 7

Focus:  Family Unit Reintegration

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12

Reintegration occurs on many fronts.  For the spouse that’s been holding down the fort at home, to the child(ren) that’s been living with one parent for the past several months, to the military member that’s been living with a couple hundred of their closest friends for quite some time.  The excitement of being back home gives way to stressful circumstances as married couples learn how to “do life” together again.  This may include the service member becoming anxious as they’ve been operating in an unsafe environment and has learned to flourish on very little sleep and thrive on energy drinks.  After they’ve cleaned and organized the entire house and there’s nothing left to do, anxiety can set in.  They may feel useless as the “mission” is over and their participation is no longer meaningful.  When this occurs, they try to fill the adrenalin and anxiety hole with other things.  For some this is alcohol, which leads to relational problems.  For others this is anger which leads to relational problems.  As you can see, this is a volatile time for families as they discover that the elements of patience and grace are in great demand.

Pray that they intentionally lean into the Lord, in order to fill their gaps.  Pray for patience and understanding of the spouse and that they are involved with a loving and kind church family that can come alongside them during their time of reintegration into the home life.  Where it is safe for the Sergeant to become Daddy or Mommy again, and the smile and joy returns as the member is home, and present in the lives of his or her family.

Dear Lord, thank you so much for the safe return of the service members.  I pray that when their elation subsides, that they are intentional in leaning into You father God and that they can find solace and refuge in your arms.  I pray that their mission continues and that they find peace in that mission regardless of the role that they assume.  Whether it’s Daddy or Mommy, Mr. or Mrs. instead of Sergeant or Captain, I pray that they have taken the positive attributes of their experiences and can utilize them in constructive and meaningful ways as they go forward.  I pray this in the holy name of Jesus.  Amen.

Shalom.

Running Off At The Mouth

Running Off At The Mouth

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.  Psalm 141:3

Does your mouth get you in trouble? Most people could honestly say yes or at least there have probably been times when you say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Perhaps you hurt someone and never asked for forgiveness. Maybe you lied about something? Gossiped?  The tongue indeed can cause lots of trouble if not kept in check.

Once something is said it is out there. It could be recorded to haunt you later or in form of a letter, text,  or email. The main thing to remember is to ask God to help you if this is a weak area. Your mom may have told you at one time "If you can't  say something good don't say it at all" and indeed how true that statement is.  James chapter three in the New Testament talks about no man being able to control the tongue. Oh if you and I could just think before we communicate.

Let your yes be yes and your words and thoughts  stay positive. You need right thinking and right thinking is developed by a steady diet of God's word. So what do you say...only good things I hope!

PRAYER:  Lord I thank you for your forgiveness and grace cause when I mess up with my mouth I am feeling horrible and I need your help to stay on track. In Jesus' name. Amen. 

Becky Juett Miller
God's Lemonade Stand
https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/
https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com

Post Dramatic Stress Syndrome (PDSD)

Post Dramatic Stress Syndrome(PDSD)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Life in general can create allot of drama. No one really has to hold the title of drama king or queen for this to occur. Stuff just happens and sometimes the human reaction is just to sigh and throw up your hands. After this occurs a good case of PDSD may occur.

Perhaps things happen in your life and seem to barrel out of control. You feel overwhelmed, exasperated, frustrated, and just want normality to return. When you get this way the best thing to do is stop what you are doing. Regroup. Pray. Relax. Now do that same sequence over. Take a breath. This too shall pass.

Give your worries to God. Give your relationship issues to God. Give your heart and life to God.

PRAYER:  I am thankful I do not have to allow frustrations to define me. I am thankful I can go to call out to God at any time. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Becky Juett Miller
God's Lemonade Stand
https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/
https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com

 

Romans 8:14 - For...Next

Romans 8:14 - For...Next

For as many as are led by the Spirit, etc. - No man who has not Divine assistance can either find the way to heaven, or walk in it when found. As Christ, by his sacrificial offering, has opened the kingdom of God to all believers; and, as a mediator, transacts the concerns of their kingdom before the throne; so the Spirit of God is the great agent here below, to enlighten, quicken, strengthen, and guide the true disciples of Christ; and all that are born of this Spirit are led and guided by it; and none can pretend to be the children of God who are not thus guided. (Dr. Adam Clarke)

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (NASB)

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (KJV)

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (NLT)

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. (NET)

Here is a great FOR…NEXT statement.  All who are led (presumes that there are indeed followers).  The followers must then recognize whom it is they follow.  Since we live in an age when even the saints will be deceived one should consider with great care what is deemed of the Spirit lest deception have its way and we unknowingly become the offspring of sin and death.  There was a segment on National Geographic that told a tale of Christian nudists.  The naked and unvarnished truth was nowhere to be found in the beliefs to which they ascribed (pun intended).  Nevertheless, they are deceived still!  Not all excursions into deception are as patently obvious.  A short sojourn in church history will glean a navigational chart replete with a constant drift until the culture inside the church obfuscates her former glory.  We too quickly focus on the NEXT, "are the children of God," without recognizing our duties as followers. I am sure the folks of Jonestown could not foresee of the day when they would be partakers of Guyana grape juice however, many died deceived.  We have a wonderful navigational chart that has been preserved for us (at no small cost) that we may test every leading.  The Bible remains the standard by which all things are measured.  When I offer the Philippian quote, the question most often offered is, "What is truth?"  But that is not what it says!  Whatever is true, is that which is not crooked!  About 30 seconds at the Lowe's lumber pile will become enlightening as you gaze down the length of an eight foot long board.  The untrained human eye can distinguish distances smaller than one quarter of an inch.  Imagine the trained eye of a master carpenter assessing the work of his hands.  Will he not see even the slightest of imperfection?  To be led by the Spirit is not a mindless meandering nor is it necessarily the shortest distance between two points.  It is however, a constant reckoning!

Col 1:23  But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.  Don't drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.

Heb 2:1  So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.

Phil 4:8  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Isa 53:6  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.  We have left God's paths to follow our own.  Yet the LORD laid on Him the sins of us all.

Eph 5:9  For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

Rom 8:14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God,.... Not by the spirit of the world, or of the devil, or by their own spirits: the act of leading ascribed to the Spirit is either in allusion to the leading of blind persons, or such who are in the dark; or rather to the leading of children and teaching them to go; which supposes life in those that are led, and some degree of strength, though a good deal of weakness; and is a display of powerful and efficacious grace, and is always for their good: the Spirit of God leads them from sin, and from a dependence on their own righteousness, in paths they formerly knew not, and in which they should go, in the paths of faith and truth, of righteousness and holiness, and in a right, though sometimes a rough way; he leads them to the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, and to the fulness of grace in him; into the presence of God, to the house and ordinances of God; into the truths of the Gospel, from one degree of grace to another, and at last to glory; which he does gradually, by little and little he leads them to see the iniquity of their hearts and natures, to lay hold on Christ and salvation by him, into the doctrines of grace, and the love and favour of God, and proportionally to the strength he gives. (Dr. John Gill)

Your 'Job' Friends

Your 'Job' Friends

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

You may recall in the book of Job in the New Testament, Job was greatly tested to see his allegiance to God. If you have never read this account take some time and read this book. In Job 19:19 it says "All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me."

I have 'been there, done that, got the tee shirt' as the saying goes and it is not fun. It is very confusing particularly when you are clueless as to what brought it on. Indeed you do learn from bad situations in your life although they are devastating to endure.

If you have been shut out by a close friend first and foremost pray for this person. You may be angry, and confused. Think about Jesus when he was betrayed. How He must have hurt. Cling to God and He will get you through these times.

PRAYER:  Lord I can't control other people and what they do but I can pray. Help me never be hateful when I am rejected but to remain steadfast in prayer. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Becky Juett Miller
God's Lemonade Stand
https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/
https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com

Romans 8:13 - Choose Your Path

Romans 8:13 - Choose Your Path

Romans 8:13 - Choose Your Path

for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (NASB)

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. (KJV)

For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. (NLT)

(for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. (NET)

Rom 7:14  So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. (NLT)

Rom 7:23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. (NLT)

Rom 6:21  And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. (NLT)

Rom 6:22  But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. (NLT)

Now that we are part of Christ's body will we continue to live unto death in the old way?  For if we do we will reap its just reward.  Gravity has not been suspended!  If anything, it has been enhanced by our ability to see the death and destruction that it wreaks.  But now we have a real choice!  A new chooser powered by the Holy Spirit that will lead us to choose life.  If we take an honest look at our "habits" will we see ourselves habitually under the control of the flesh OR will we see ourselves habitually under the control of the Holy Spirit?  An opportunity for confession or praise daily.

Ye shall die (μέλλετε ἀποθνήσκειν). The expression is stronger than the simple future of the verb. It indicates a necessary consequence. (Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament)

Assuming that a person lives habitually under the dominion of the evil nature, Paul says, that person is about to be dying. The verb is present in tense, and therefore durative in meaning, indicating habitual action. The individual who lives habitually under the dominion of the evil nature is an unsaved person. That one is on the way to final death in the Lake of Fire. But the person who by the Holy Spirit habitually puts to death the deeds of the body, will live. That person is a saved person.

Translation. So then, brethren, we are those under obligation, not to the flesh, to live habitually under the dominion of the flesh. For, assuming that you are living habitually under the dominion of the flesh, you are on the way to dying. But, assuming that by the Spirit you are habitually putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader

Gal 5:19-21  When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (NLT)

Romans 8:12 - We Are Debtors, Not to the Flesh

Romans 8:12 - We Are Debtors, Not to the Flesh

Rom 8:12  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

An exhortation to oppress the flesh daily more and more by the power of the Spirit of regeneration, because (he says) you are debtors to God, in that you have received so many benefits from him.

 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (NASB)

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. (KJV)

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. (NLT)

So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (NET)

We are no longer obligated!  Why?  Because we have been adopted into a new family!  Paul here introduces us to a new metaphor that is in keeping with Roman law and adoption.  We have lost all rights and obligations to the old family and have received a new father and are now heirs to a new estate.  Our old self has been wiped out and all debts cancelled.  This is demonstrated in history when the Roman Emperor, Claudius, adopted Nero so that he could be his successor (they were not blood kin). (William Barclay, paraphrase mine)  Calvin adds that Paul's sentence leaves out the contrast (perhaps because it should be obvious) that we are now debtors to the Spirit.  Calvin goes on to warn us against contempt and negligence in our walk lest we again find ourselves fighting against God.  Darby equates this with the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt and into a new life where we participate with Christ.  The flesh will continue to assert itself saying we must follow its desires but the completed work of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit will testify that we are participants in a new life and joint heirs with Christ whose power gives us the victory!  Perhaps John Wesley says it best: "We are not debtors to the flesh — We ought not to follow it."

But it is as it were to fight against God, when we extinguish the grace offered to us, by contempt and negligence. (John Calvin)

Eph 4:30  And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. (NLT)

Gal 5:25  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives. (NLT)

The key to all this doctrine of the apostle's, and that which unites holy practice, the Christian life, with absolute grace and eternal deliverance from condemnation, is the new position entirely apart from sin, which death gives to us, being alive in Christ now before God. The power of God, the glory of the Father, the operation of the Spirit, are found acting in the resurrection of Christ, and placing Him, who had borne our sins and been made sin for us, in a new position beyond sin and death before God. And by faith I have part in His death, I participate in this life. (Dr. John Darby)

Php 3:21  He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control. (NLT)

Psa 116:16  O LORD, I am Your servant; yes, I am Your servant, born into Your household; You have freed me from my chains. (NLT)

1Co 6:19-20  Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (NLT)

1Pe 4:2-3  You won't spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.  You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols. (NLT)

True Ambition

True Ambition

True Ambition

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Philippians 4:13.

Dr. Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Lord Bishop of Durham
Great S. Mary’s Church, 22nd Sunday after Trinity, 1883.

Πάντα ἰσχύω ἐν τῷ ἐνδυναμοῦντί με, ‘I have strength for all things in Him that empowereth, enableth me.’

Ambition, the love of power, the thirst after influence—its use and its abuse, its true and its false aims—this is no unfit subject for consideration from a University pulpit.

Ambition in some form or other is an innate craving of man. All men desire power; they cannot help desiring it. The desire is as natural to them as the desire of health. Power and influence occupy the same place socially, that strength and vigour of limb do physically. Other desires, though veiled under various disguises, resolve themselves ultimately into a love of power. Knowledge is power. The cultivated intellect has a command of the resources of the universe. The selfish exaggeration of this feeling is a testimony to the underlying fact. The self-satisfied soul congratulates herself that she is

Lord over nature, Lord of the visible earth,
Lord of the senses five.
She communes with herself—
All these are mine,
And let the world have peace or wars
’Tis one to me.

Again, money is power. A man desires wealth, not for the sake of the stamped metal or the printed paper in themselves. These represent to him a command of resources. The miser indeed by base indulgence forgets the end in the means. In his own domain he resembles the spurious mathematician, to whom the letters and symbols are all in all, who sees in them so many counters and nothing more, who is blinded to the eternal relations of space and number which they represent. But traced back to its origin, the miser’s love of money is a love of power.

Ambition, emulation, rivalry, plays a highly important part in the education of the world. We cannot shut our eyes to its splendid achievements. In politics, in social life, in mechanical inventions, in literature and art, its stimulus has produced invaluable results. If ambition has been the last infirmity, it has also been the initial inspiration, of many a noble mind. If by ambition angels fell, by ambition men have risen. It has heightened their ideal, and drawn them upwards from lower to higher. If it is chargeable with the worst evils which have devastated mankind, it must be credited also with the most splendid advances in human progress and civilisation.

Ambition has its proper home in a University. Ambition is the life of this place. What would Cambridge be without its honourable emulations, its generous rivalries? Body and mind alike feel the stimulus of its presence. Remove this stimulus, and the immediate consequence will be torpor and degeneration and decay. The athletic ambitions and the scholastic ambitions of the place, each in their own province, are indispensable to its health and vigour.

To one who, revisiting the scenes amidst which the best years of his life were spent, asks himself what topic may be fitly handled in this pulpit, the subject of ambition will naturally suggest itself. The University has lived through a period of exceptional restlessness and change during the last three decades—change far more considerable than during the preceding three centuries. Yet the spirit and life of the place are unchanging. It is the ceaseless, orderly-march of a mighty army moving forward. Cross it where you will along the line, the gesture, the tread, the uniform, is the same; the faces only are different. It is the broad, silent, ever-flowing river, changeless, yet always changing. Wave succeeds wave; you gaze on it at intervals; not one drop of water remains the same; and yet the river is not another. The main currents of University life are the same now as thirty years ago. Its moral and social condition is mainly, we may say, the resultant of two divergent forces, its friendships and its emulations. It is the latter alone that I purpose considering this afternoon.

I speak to you, therefore, as to ambitious men. Those only are beyond hope who have no spirit of emulation, no craving after excellence—those only, in short, who are devoid of ambition. I invite you, therefore, to be ambitious. Only I ask you to purify your ambition, to consecrate it, to direct it through worthy channels and to worthy aims. I desire to shew you the more excellent way.

If indeed ambition has achieved splendid results, it can only have done so by virtue of splendid qualities. It must contain in itself true and abiding elements, which we cannot afford to neglect. Thus it involves a love of approbation. This cannot be culpable in itself. As social beings, we have sympathies and affections which lie at the very roots of our nature; and the desire of approval is inseparably intertwined with these. Who would blame the child for seeking to win its mother’s good opinion? But the principle cannot be limited to this one example. It is coextensive with the whole range of our social relations. The end sought is commendable. Only it may be discredited and condemned by the means taken to attain it; as, for instance, if we disguise our true sentiment, or withhold a just rebuke, or connive at wrong-doing, or sacrifice a noble purpose, for the sake of standing well with others. It is then, and then only, that the praise of men conflicts with the praise of God. Again, ambition implies a spirit of emulation. Neither is this wrong in itself. If it were, this University would stand condemned root and branch. Emulation is not envy; emulation is not jealousy; emulation does not seek to injure or rob another. An apostle avows it to be his aim to ‘provoke to emulation.’ This provocation—this stimulus of comparison and contrast—is an invaluable influence. We measure ourselves with others; we see our defects mirrored in their excellencies; our ideal is heightened by the comparison. Thus there gathers and ferments in us a discontent with ourselves—not indeed, if we are wise, with our capacities, not with our opportunities, not with the inevitable environments of our position, but with the conduct of that personality which is free to discipline, to mould, to direct, to develop our endowments. This dissatisfaction with self is the mainspring of all high enterprise and all moral advancement.

But the chief element in ambition is the pursuit of power. The consciousness of power gives a satisfaction quite independently of the exercise of power. Whatever form the power may take—whether intellectual eminence, or social influence, or physical strength, it is a thing which man desires, which he cannot help desiring, in and for itself. It is a seed of God’s own planting—a germ of splendid achievements, if rightly trained and cultivated. It is only culpable in its excesses and aberrations. By our very constitution we feel a happiness in making the best of ourselves, as the phrase runs—in developing and improving our faculties, irrespective of any ulterior results. But a faculty improved is a power gained.

Brothers, I desire before all things to kindle in you a lofty ambition to-day. Therefore I have striven to justify ambition to you as God’s very precious gift. I wish—God helping me—to inspire you with that inward dissatisfaction, that discontent with self, that ceaseless, sleepless craving after higher things, which gives you no rest day or night, because it pursues an ever-receding goal. I would stimulate in you that high spirit of emulation which, fermenting and seething in your hearts, impels you to unknown enterprises. I ask you to pray for power, to pursue power, to grasp at power, with all the force and determination which you can command.

How can I do otherwise? Are not you the men, and is not this the season, for the handling of such a topic?

Are not you the men? Who among you has not felt, at one time or another, the spark of a divine fire kindling within you? Who has not yearned with an intense, if momentary, yearning to do something worthy, to be something worthy? Youth is the hey-day of hope, of enthusiasm, of lofty aspiration. You have felt that there was within you a latent power, a heaven-born capacity, which ought to work miracles, if it were not clogged by self-indulgence, or cowed by timidity, or choked by sloth and indolence.

Are not you the men? As I have said to such audiences before, so I say to you now. You do not know, you cannot know, with what reverence—a reverence approaching to awe—older men regard the glorious potentiality of youth, in all the freshness of its vigorous life, with all the promise of the coming years. Our habits are formed; our career is defined; our possibilities are limited. The wide sweep of moral victory, still open to you, is closed to us for ever. But what triumphs may you not achieve, if you are true to yourselves? What instruments may you not be in God’s hands, if only you will yield yourselves to Him, not with a timid, passive, half-hearted acquiescence, but with the active concentration of all your powers of body and soul and spirit?

And again I ask, Is not this the time? The first volume of your life’s history is closed. A clean page lies open, and with what writing shall it be filled? This is the great crisis of your life. These earliest few weeks of your University career, with which perhaps you are trifling, which you are idling thoughtlessly away, are only too likely to determine for you what you shall be in time and in eternity. It is the great crisis, but it is also the signal opportunity. Thank God, this is so; for the two do not always coincide. As the great break in your lives, it is the great season for revision, for repentance, for amendment, for the strong resolve and the definite plan. The old base associations must be abandoned; the old loose habits must be cured; the old indolence shaken off; and the old sin cast out and trampled under foot. Never again will such a magnificent opportunity be given you of rectifying the past; for never again can you reckon on the leisure, the privacy, the aids and environments, needed by one who is taking stock of his moral and spiritual life.

Who would not shrink from the responsibility of addressing you at such a crisis? And yet I speak boldly to you. Do I not know that, though the hand of the swordsman is feeble, yet the weapon itself is powerful—keener than any two-edged sword? Am I not assured that, though the preacher’s words may be feeble, faltering, desultory, without force and without point, yet God may barb the ill-fledged, ill-aimed shaft, and drive it home to the heart? It is possible that even now the live coal from the altar may be brought by the winged seraph’s hand, and laid on the sinful lips. I have undertaken to glorify the power of God, and to hold it up to you as your truest goal. How can I hope for a hearing, if I begin by distrusting it where I myself am concerned?

It is here, then, that I bid you seek and find the true aim of your ambition—in realising, appropriating, absorbing into yourselves, identifying yourselves with this power of God. It alone is inexhaustible in its resources, and infinite in its potency. There is no fear here lest the conqueror of a world should sigh and fret, because nothing remains beyond to conquer. If the craving is infinite, the satisfaction is infinite also. Star beyond star, world beyond world, will start out into view, as your vision grows clearer, spangling the moral heavens with their glories. πάντα ἰσχύω, ‘I can do all things.’ πάντα ὑμῶν, ‘All things are yours.’ Yes, but this promise of limitless strength has its condition attached, ἐν τῷ ἐνδυναμοῦντί με, ‘In Him that empowereth me;’ yes, but this pledge of universal dominion is qualified by the sequel, ὑμεῖς δὲ Χριστοῦ, ‘Ye are Christ’s.’

How can we better realise this power of God than by taking S. Paul’s statement as our starting-point? The Cross of Christ is ‘the power of God.’ The Cross is the central revelation of God. The Cross has not unfrequently been preached as a narrow technicality, which shocks the conscience and freezes the heart. It thus becomes a mere forensic subtlety. But the Cross of Christ, taught in all its length and breadth and height and depth—the Cross of Christ, taught as S. Paul taught it—the Cross of Christ, starting from the Incarnation on the one side, and leading up to the Resurrection and Ascension on the other, contains all the elements of moral regeneration and of spiritual life.

(1) It is first of all a lesson of righteousness. It is the great rebuke of sin, the great assurance of judgment, the great call to repentance. Think—no, you cannot think; it defies all thinking—yet strive to think, what is implied in the human birth, the human life, the human suffering, the human death, of the Eternal Word. Ask yourselves what condescension, what sacrifice, what humiliation, is involved in this. Summon to your aid all analogies of self-renunciation, which history records or imagination suggests. They will all fail you. No reiteration of the finite can compass the infinite. You are lost in wonder at the contemplation. And while your brain is reeling with the effort, try and imagine the awe, the majesty, the glory of a righteousness, which could only thus be vindicated. Then, after looking upward to God, look inward into your own heart, and see how heinous, how loathsome, how guilty your guilt must be, which has cost such a sacrifice as this. God’s righteousness, your sin—these are brought face to face in the Cross of Christ.

(2) But, secondly, while it is a denunciation of sin, it is likewise an assurance of pardon. If the infinity of the sacrifice has taught you the majesty of God’s righteousness, it teaches you no less the glory of His mercy. What may you not look for, what may you not hope for, from a Father, Who has vouchsafed to you this transcendent manifestation of His loving-kindness? ‘He that spared not His own Son … how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?’ Is any one here burdened with the consciousness of a shameful past? Does the memory of some ugly school-boy sin dog your path, haunting and paralysing you with its importunity? You feel sometimes as if your whole life were poisoned by that one cruel retrospect. Brother, be bold, and dare to look up. I would not have you think your sin one whit less heinous. But if God’s righteousness is infinite, so also is His mercy. The Cross is reared before your eyes in this moral wilderness, where you are dying, where all are dying around you. Dare to look up. The bite of the serpent’s fang is healed; the venom coursing through your veins is quelled; and health returns to the poisoned soul. Yes, and by God’s grace it may happen that through your very fall you will rise to a higher life; that the thanksgiving for the sin forgiven will consecrate you with a fuller consecration; and that the acute moral agony, through which you have passed, will endow you with a more helpful, more sympathetic, more loving spirit, than if you had never fallen.

(3) But again; the Cross of Christ is not only a condemnation of sin, not only a pledge of forgiveness; it is likewise an obligation of self-sacrifice. ‘God forbid,’ says S. Paul, ‘that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ But what next? Not ‘whereby I am saved in spite of myself,’ not ‘whereby I am spared all personal exertion,’ but ‘whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’ This conformity to Christ’s death, this crucifixion of self with Christ, always forms part of the doctrine of the Cross in S. Paul’s teaching. The dying with Christ, the being buried with Christ, is the absolute accompaniment of the atoning death of Christ. We cannot be at one with Christ, unless we conform to Christ. The work done for us necessitates the work done by us. The potentiality of our salvation—of yours and mine—wrought through the Cross of Christ can only then become an actuality, when Christ’s death is thus appropriated, realised, translated into action by us—by you and by me. But it remains still the work of God’s grace. Human merit is absolutely excluded still, as absolutely as by the baldest and most unqualified doctrine of substitution.

(4) Fourthly and lastly; the Cross of Christ is a lesson of the regenerate and sanctified life. Dying and living, burial and resurrection, these in the Christian vocabulary are correlative ideas. The Crucifixion implies the Resurrection and the Ascension. The raising up on the cross demands the raising up from the grave, the raising up into heaven. The lifting up of the brazen serpent in the wilderness is the symbol alike of the one and the other. And as with Christ, so also with those who are Christ’s. ‘If we died with Christ, we shall also live with Him.’ Those only can be made conformable to Christ’s resurrection, who have been made conformable to His death. The power of His resurrection is the counterpart to the power of His cross.

Herein then—in the Cross of Christ—resides this power of God, which is offered to you as the true aim of your ambition, inexhaustible, omnipotent, infinite. Will you close with the offer? Then reverence yourselves; believe in yourselves; consecrate yourselves.

Reverence yourselves. Begin with reverencing this your body. Reverence it as God’s handiwork fearfully and wonderfully made. Contemplate it; yes, contemplate it with awe, if only for its marvellously subtle mechanism. But reverence it still more as the consecrated temple of God’s Spirit. Do not neglect it; do not misuse it; before all things do not defile and desecrate it. Young men, the problem of social purity is thrown down for your generation to solve. Will you accept this challenge? The conscience of England is awakening to the terrible curse. To redress the crying social wrong, to raise womanhood from degradation and shame, to hold up to reverence the ideal of a pure, chivalrous, manly manhood—this is the crusade in which you are invited to enlist. Will you, as consecrated soldiers of the Cross, claim your part in the glory of this campaign? If so, the work must begin now, must begin in yourselves. There can be no success against the foe, where there is disaffection and mutiny in the citadel.

Believe in yourselves; yet, not in yourselves as yourselves. Believe not in your strength, but in your weakness. Believe in God Who dwells in you. Give full rein to your ambition. Trust this power of God. It will not stunt nor mar, will not crush, will not annihilate your natural gifts—your social endowments, your political instincts, your intellectual capacities. It will only elevate, harmonize, inspire, purify them. Trust this power. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, which you may not do, if you will only trust it. πάντα ἰσχύω, ‘I have strength for everything,’ everything in heaven and earth. You have youth, health, vigour, enthusiasm, hopefulness, everything on your side now. Seize the great opportunity which can never return.

Consecrate yourselves. Empty yourselves of yourselves, that you may be filled with God. Yield yourselves to Him, not with a passive acquiescence, a sentimental quietism, but with the earnest, energetic direction of all your faculties to this one end. A period must still intervene for most of you before the active independent work of life begins, a period of discipline and waiting. Only by patience will you win your souls. But the self-dedication must be made at once, and it must be complete. Half-heartedness spoils the sacrifice. Postponement is perilous. The opportunity despised turns its back on you for ever. Consecrate, consecrate yourselves, body and soul and spirit, to God now, this night.

I have been asked to plead before you a cause of the highest moment to the welfare of this town. I shall dismiss it very briefly. I will not do you the dishonour of supposing that long and earnest pleading is needed from me. You have brought together large populations in the outlying suburbs to minister to your wants, to your convenience, to your pleasure—alas, in some instances to suffer shame and wrong from your recklessness. The provision for their spiritual wants is therefore a first charge on your temporal wealth. This fund, for which I plead to-day, is in many cases the only instrument, in all the chief instrument, in providing for these wants. But its finance is always precarious, unless on these occasions we raise about a hundred pounds. For a hundred pounds therefore I ask. Let those who have not brought ample gifts, send them afterwards, that there be no shortcoming.

But there is another matter also, which I desire to lay before you. Eleven years ago an effort was made to build a church at New Chesterton, a rapidly growing suburb, inhabited largely by college servants. The preacher from this pulpit then appealed to the undergraduates. He asked if there were not among the younger of his hearers twenty-five men who would offer themselves as collectors among their companions. Not twenty-five, but thirty-two, offered themselves in answer to this appeal. A very considerable sum was collected by these means from undergraduates. With the contributions gathered in this and other ways the Church of S. Luke was erected, an incomplete structure to be finished hereafter. The parish work has gone on vigorously ever since. The clergy give their services for very inadequate remuneration, or no remuneration at all. There is daily service, morning and evening. The church is full on Sunday mornings, crowded to overflowing on Sunday evenings. The communicants have increased manifold; the offertories are large for a poor parish. The spiritual ministrations are thus cramped for want of room, and the completion of the structure is a pressing need. Has not the time arrived for another such appeal to the undergraduates? Are there not five-and-twenty, are there not fifty young men now, who would undertake a like charge? I cannot suppose that undergraduate zeal has waned in these eleven years. Everything that I see and hear leads me to take a far more hopeful view. In Christ’s name and for Christ’s sake come forward and offer yourselves for this work.

Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain)

Bethel

Bethel

Bethel

Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.  Genesis 28:16.

Dr. Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Lord Bishop of Durham
Great S. Mary’s Church, 19th Sunday after Trinity, 1881.

An unobtrusive, unimpressive scene, almost indistinguishable even to the curious eye of the archæologist ‘in the maze of undistinguished hills which encompass it’—with nothing to attract the eye, and nothing to fire the imagination; large slabs of bare rock traversed by a well-worn thoroughfare; ‘no religio loci, no awful shades, no lofty hills’—so is the site of Bethel described by the modern traveller. Yet this was none other than the House of God; this was the very gate of heaven.

An unimpressive scene in itself, but appearing still more commonplace, when contrasted with the famous shrines of heathendom—the rock fortress of Athene, or the pleasant groves of Daphne, or the cloven peak of Parnassus, or the sea-girt sanctuary of Delos. No beauty, no grandeur, nothing of loveliness and nothing of awe, nothing exceptional of any kind, which can explain or justify its selection. Was there not ground for the wanderer’s surprise on that memorable night? Why should this one spot be chosen to plant the foot of the ladder which connected heaven and earth? Why in this bleak wilderness? Why amidst these bare rocks? Why here of all places in the world? Yes, why here?

The paradox of Bethel is the paradox of the Gospel, is the paradox of God’s spiritual dispensations at all times. The Incarnation itself was the supreme manifestation of this paradox. The building up of the Church was the proper sequel to the Incarnation.

Look at the accompaniments of the Incarnation. Could any environment of circumstances well have been imagined more incongruous, more alien to this unique event in human history, this supreme revelation of God’s wisdom, and power, and beneficence? An obscure corner of the Roman world; an insignificant and down-trodden race, scorned and hated by the rest of mankind; an ox-stall for a nursery, and a carpenter’s shop for a school—what is wanting to complete the paradox? Yes, there is still one feature to be added to the picture—the crowning incongruity of all—the felon’s death on the gibbet. Said not the prophet rightly, when he foretold that there should be nothing lovely in His life and circumstances, as men count loveliness; ‘no form nor comeliness;’ ‘no beauty that we should desire Him’?

And the same paradox, which ruled the foundation of the Church, extended also to its building up. The great statesmen, the powerful captains, in the kingdom of God were fishermen and tentmakers. Never was this characteristic incongruity of the Gospel more signally manifested than in the preaching of S. Paul at Athens. Have we ever realised the force of that single word, with which the historian describes the impression left on the Apostle’s mind by this far-famed city? Gazing on the most sublime and beautiful creations of Greek art, the master-pieces of Pheidias and Praxiteles, he has no eye for their beauty or their sublimity. He pierces through the veil of the material and transitory; and behind this semblance of grace and glory the true nature of things reveals itself. To him this chief centre of human culture and intelligence, this

Eye of Greece, mother of arts
And eloquence

appears only as κατείδωλος, overrun with idols, beset with phantoms which mislead, and vanities which corrupt. Art and culture are God’s own gifts, legitimate embellishments of life, even of worship, which is the highest form of life. But if culture aims at displacing religion, if art seeks to dethrone God, why then in the highest interests of humanity be it our prayer that the sword of the barbarian and the axe of the iconoclast may descend once more, and sweep them ruthlessly away. There was, at least, this redeeming feature in ancient art, that it gave expression to whatsoever sense of the Divine lay buried in the heathen mind. But art and culture, which studiously ignore God—what can be said for these? In this one word κατείδωλος lies the germ of that fierce and protracted struggle of Christianity with Paganism, which ended indeed in a splendid victory, though not without inflicting many a wound on humanity of which the scars and seams still remain. Notwithstanding the merciless scoffs of a Celsus and the biting sarcasms of a Julian, the Apostle’s words were verified in their literal truth. Strength was made perfect in weakness. God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, aye, and the uncomely things of the world to confound the beautiful. The things which are not brought to nought the things which are.

So then in its accompaniments, not less than in its main idea, this incident at Bethel is a type of the Gospel of Christ. This exile, the representative of the Israel after the flesh, prefigures a greater outcast and wanderer, the representative of the Israel after the Spirit, the representative of the whole family of man. This ladder reared up from earth to heaven, whereby angels ascend and descend—what is it but the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, wherein God is made man, and man is taken up into God? This it is, which establishes the title of Christianity as the absolute and final religion of the world—this indissoluble union of the human with the Divine—this one only adequate response to the deepest religious cravings of mankind. Hence the Church has ever clung with a tenacity of grasp which shallow hearts could ill understand, to this central idea, the indefeasible wedlock of heaven and earth in the God-Man. And to those whose sight is purged by faith, to those who are gifted with the eye of the Spirit, the vision of Bethel will be vouchsafed with a far more exceeding glory; ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man’—on the Son of Man; yes, and on thyself too, O man, for thou art one with this Son of Man, one with the Father in Him.

‘Gifted with the eye of the Spirit,’ I say: for in vain the heavens are riven asunder, and the glory streams forth, and all things are flooded with light, if the capacity of vision be absent. Only the cold bare stones beneath, only the midnight gloom overhead, only the dreary, monotonous waste around, these and these alone are visible otherwise. We have been saddened, perhaps we have been disconcerted, as recently we read the melancholy epitaph which sums up the creed of a brilliant man of science not long since deceased—a hopeless, soulless, lifeless creed, to which his own very faculties and acquisitions appear to us to give the lie. We have been saddened justly; but why should we be disconcerted? God be thanked, the most absolute childlike faith has not unfrequently been found united with the highest scientific intellect. We in this place have never yet lacked bright examples of such a union, and God grant we never may. But what right have we to expect it as a matter of course? What claim do the most brilliant mathematical faculties, or the keenest scholarly instincts, give to a man to speak with authority on the things of the Spirit? Are we not told on authority before which we bow, that a special faculty is needed for this special knowledge; that ‘eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard;’ that only the Spirit of God—the Spirit which He vouchsafes to His sons—knoweth the things of God? And does not all analogy enforce the truth of this lesson? One man has a keenly sensitive musical ear, but he is colour-blind. Another has a quick eye for the faintest gradations of colour, but he cannot distinguish one note of music from another. Does the imperfect eye of the one throw any haze of uncertainty over the hues of the rainbow; or the obtuse ear of the other disparage the master works of a Handel or a Mozart or a Beethoven? Here is a mathematician who sees in a sublime creation of imaginative genius only a tissue of unproven hypotheses; and here is a poet, to whom the plainest processes of algebra and the simplest problems in geometry are mere barbarian gabble, conveying no distinct impression to the brain, and leaving no intelligible idea on the mind. Judge no man in this matter. To his own master he stands or falls. But judge yourselves. Yes, spare no rigour and relax no vigilance, when the judge is the criminal also. Believe it, this spiritual faculty is an infinitely subtle and delicate mechanism. You cannot trifle with it, cannot roughly handle it, cannot neglect it and suffer it to rust from disuse, without infinite peril to yourselves. Nothing—not the highest intellectual gains—can compensate you for its injury or its loss. The private prayer mechanically repeated, then hurried over, then intermitted, and at last dropped; the devotional reading found to be daily more irksome, because suffered to be daily more listless; the valuable moral and spiritual discipline of the early morning chapel, gradually neglected; the unobtrusive opportunities of witnessing for Christ by deeds of kindliness and words of wisdom suffered to slip by—these, and such as these, are the unfailing indications of spiritual decline; till disuse is followed by paralysis, and paralysis ends in death; and you are left without God in the world. And yet when again—you young men—when again, in the years to come, can you hope that the conditions of your life will be as favourable to this spiritual self-discipline as they are now? Where else do you expect to find in the same degree the opportunities for private meditation and retirement, the daily common prayer and the frequent communions, the inspiring and sanctifying friendships, the wholesome occupation for the mind and the healthy recreations for the body, every appliance and every aid, which if you will only employ them aright, neither disusing them nor misusing them, will combine to build up and to perfect the man of God? Choose ye, this day. To you, more especially, I appeal who have recently commenced your residence here, and to whom therefore with the changed conditions of life a heightened ideal of life also is suggested. This is the momentous alternative. Shall your life hereafter be typified by the barren rocks and the monotonous waste, hard and dreary, if nothing worse; or shall it be illumined within and around with the effulgence of God’s own presence, so that

The earth and every common sight
to you shall seem
Appareled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.

A dream? Nay, not a dream, but an everlasting reality, eternal, as God’s own being is eternal.

There are two ways of looking on the relations between the things of this life and the things of eternity—a false and a true. The false way regards the one as the negation of the other. They are reciprocally exclusive. The avocations, the interests, the amusements of daily life—nature and history, poetry and art—these are so many hindrances to the heavenly life. Every moment given to work is a moment subtracted from prayer. Thus the inward life becomes a constant reluctation against the conditions of the outward. This is the spirit which of old peopled the desert with anchorites; the spirit which in all ages, though under divers forms, has made a religion of selfishness. This is the voice which cries, lo, here! and lo, there! though all the while the kingdom of heaven is within us, is in the very midst of us. The true conception is the reverse of all this. Its ideal is not a separation, but an identification of the two. It takes its stand on the old maxim laborare est orare. It strives that its work shall be prayer, and its prayer shall be work. Nature and history to it are not the veil of God’s presence; they are the investiture of God’s glory. And therefore to it is vouchsafed the vision of grace and comfort and strength, as to the patriarch of old. The solitary wanderer along the dreary thoroughfare of this life lays himself down. He has nothing but the bare stones beneath for a couch, and nothing but the midnight sky overhead for a tent. He closes his eyes for a moment; and the whole place is flooded with glory. Aye, the Lord was in this place, though he knew it not. He knew it not; but he knows it now—knows it in the access of strength, knows it in the promise of hope, knows it in the celestial voice and the ineffable light. All the common interests of life—the avocations, the amusements, the cares, the hopes, the friendships, the conflicts—all are invested with a dignity and an awe unsuspected before. Reverence is henceforth the ruling spirit of his life. This monotonous round of common-place toils, and common-place pleasures, is none other than the House of God. This barren stony thoroughfare of life is the very portal of heaven.

To read these hieroglyphs traced on nature, on history, on the human soul—to decipher this handwriting of God wheresoever it appears, and where does it not appear?—is the ultimate and final study of man. All history is a parable of God’s dealings; and we must learn the interpretation of the parable. All nature is a sacrament of God’s being and attributes, and we must strive to pierce through the outward sign to the inward meaning. To realise God’s presence, to hear God’s voice, to see God’s visage—let this be henceforth the aim and the discipline of our lives. So at length we shall pass from Bethel to Peniel—from the palace courts to the presence chamber itself. We shall see God face to face. It is a vision of power, of majesty, of awe unspeakable; but it is a vision also of purification, of light, of strength, of life. The blessing is won at length by that long lonely wrestling under the midnight sky. The fraud, the worldliness, the self-seeking is thrown off like a slough. All is changed. Old things have passed away. The supplanter rises from the struggle the supplanter no more, but the Israel, the Prince, who has power with God and with men. Shall not Moses’ prayer then be our prayer, ‘Lord, I beseech thee, shew me Thy Glory?’

‘Shew me Thy glory.’ Where else shall this glory reveal itself, if not in the studies of this place? These properties of numbers, these relations of space, these phenomena of light, of heat, of energy, of life, of language, of thought, what are they? Individual facts to be recorded, arranged, tabulated, marshalled under several heads, which we call laws and, having so called them, with a strange self-complacency and contentment fold our hands, as if nothing more were to be done, as if by the mere imposition of a name we had crowned them absolute sovereigns of the Universe? Or are they the manifestations—partial, indeed, and needing to be supplemented—of a power, a majesty, a wisdom, an order, a beneficence, a finality, a oneness, a One, Who is shewn to us as the Eternal Father in the revelation of the Eternal Son? Can we afford to look down from the serene heights of modern science and culture on the untutored Indian, who saw God’s face in the shifting clouds, and heard God’s voice in the whistling winds? Nay, was there not a truth in this childish ignorance, which threatens to elude the grasp of our manhood’s wisdom? Was it altogether a baseless dream in those Stoic Pantheists, who endowed each several planet with an animating spirit of its own? Was it altogether a wild fancy in those Christian fathers which assigned to each its particular angel, who should whirl it through space and hold it in its course? Was it not rather a Divine instinct feeling after a higher truth? Human life cannot rest satisfied with the science of phenomena alone. It needs to supplement science with poetry. And the true, the absolute, the final poetry is the recognition of God the Creator and Governor, of God the all-wise and all-powerful, of God the Father, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier, of God the Eternal Love. Blessed are they who have eyes and see—they to whom

The meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears;

thoughts of immortality, of wisdom, of light, of love.

‘Shew me Thy Glory.’ Where else again shall His glory be seen, If not in those friendships which are the crowning gift of University life? This intimate communion of soul with soul, this linking of heart with heart, is it merely a matter of human convenience, of human preference, or has it a Divine side also? This love, this devotion, this reliance of the weak on the strong, this reverence for a nature purer, nobler, more upright, more manly, more unselfish than your own—what is its meaning? It is a precious, unspeakably precious, gift of God, you will say—far beyond wealth, or fame, or popularity, or ease, or any earthly boon of which you can conceive? Yes, but it is more than this. May we not call it in some sense a sacrament, a sign and a parable of your relation to your Lord? You are awed—no other word will express this feeling—you are awed with the honour done to you by this friendship. You do not talk much about it—it is too sacred a thing—but you do feel it. You confess to yourself day and night your own unworthiness. And yet, though you strive to be worthy, you would not wish to feel worthy. The very sense of undeservedness invests the gift with a bountifulness and a glory which you would not forego. The fountains of your thanksgiving would cease to flow freely, if you claimed it as a right; and it is a joyful and a pleasant thing to be thankful. Apply this experience to the infinitely higher gift of Christ’s friendship, of Christ’s sacrifice. Herein lies the power of the Cross—which men called, and still call, weakness—the power which awes, inspires, energizes, which elevates the heart and sanctifies the life—here in this feeling of boundless thanksgiving arising from this sense of absolute undeservedness. For is it not true, that those will love most, to whom most is given and forgiven? So then this your friendship is found to be none other than the House of God. The Lord is in this place, and happy, thrice happy are ye, if ye know it.

Once again; look into your own soul, and what do you find there? Yes, ye yourselves are the temple of the living God. He is there—there, whether you will or not. Through your reason, through your conscience, through your remorses and regrets, through your capacity of amendment, through your aspirations and ideals, He speaks to you. You are His coinage. His image and superscription are stamped upon you. Aye, and He has also re-stamped you, re-created you, in Christ Jesus by the earnest of His Spirit. If it be true of your body that it is fearfully and wonderfully made, is it not far more true of your soul? Henceforward you will regard yourself with awe and reverence, as a sanctuary of the Eternal Goodness. You will not, you dare not, profane this sanctuary. Here is the true self-respect—nay, not self-respect, for self is abased, self is overawed, self veils the face and falls prostrate in the presence of Infinite Wisdom and Purity and Love thus revealed. Surely, surely the Lord was in this place—in this poor, self-seeking, restless, rebellious soul of mine, and I thought it a common thing, I went on my way heedless, I followed my own devices and desires, I knew it not.

In conclusion, I have been asked to plead before you to-day a cause which it should not require any words of mine to enforce. The Barnwell and Chesterton Clergy Fund appeals to you year by year for aid. Of all claims this (I say it advisedly) should be a first charge on the liberality of members of the University. These populous and growing suburbs are created by your needs. They are chiefly peopled by college servants and others for whom you are responsible. Zealous clergy are willing to work for the work’s sake in these districts commonly for stipends which no one could call remuneration—sometimes for no stipends at all. And yet it is still the same old story which I remember years ago. There is still the same difficulty in meeting current expenses; still the same fear lest the spiritual machinery should be impaired for lack of funds; still the same precarious hand-to-mouth existence, of which we heard complaint in years past. Is it quite creditable, that matters should go on thus? In a thousand ways you all, some directly, some indirectly, you all are reaping, materially, intellectually or spiritually, the fruits gathered from the liberality of past ages. Will you not make an adequate return? Steady, continuous subscriptions are needed. A liberal response to this day’s appeal is needed. The Fund is largely dependent on the proceeds of the University Sermon. Not less than a hundred pounds will suffice to meet all requirements. Will you not give it this day, either in this church, or in contributions sent afterwards to the treasurer? Think not that you hear only the poor words of the preacher in this appeal. Christ Himself pleads with you. Christ’s own words ring in your ears, ‘Ye did it, ye did it not, to Me’. Ah yes, the Lord was in this place—in this weary pleading of the preacher, in these trite commonplaces of spiritual need; and we, we knew it not. God grant that you may know it in time. God forbid that He should ever say to you, ‘I know you not.’

Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain)


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