Poetry Saturday—Unanswered Prayers

Like some schoolmaster kind in being stern,
Who hears the children crying o’er their slates
And calling, “Help me, master!” yet helps not,
Since in his silence and refusal lies
Their self-development, so God abides
Unheeding many prayers. He is not deaf
To any cry sent up from earnest hearts;
He hears and strengthens when He must deny.
He sees as weeping o’er life’s hard sums;
But should He give the key and dry our tears,
What would it profit us when school were done
And not one lesson mastered?

     What a world
Were this if all our prayers were answered. Not
In famed Pandora’s box were such vast ills
As lie in human hearts. Should our desires,
Voiced one by one in prayer, ascend to God
And come back as events shaped to our wish,
What chaos would result!

     In my fierce youth
I sighed out breath enough to move a fleet,
Voicing wild prayers to heaven for fancied boons
Which were denied; and that denial bends
My knees to prayer of gratitude each day
Of my maturer years. Yet from those prayers
I rose always regirded for the strife
And conscious of new strength. Pray on, sad heart,
That which thou pleadest may not be given,
But in the lofty altitude where souls
Who supplicate God’s grace are lifted, there
Thou shalt find help to bear thy daily lot
Which is not elsewhere found. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Thursdays With Oswald—We Must Do The Doing

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

We Must Do The Doing

     Our Lord warns that the devout life of a disciple is not a dream, but a decided discipline which calls for the use of all our powers. No amount of determination can give me the new life of God, that is a gift; where the determination comes in is in letting that new life work itself out according to Christ’s standard. 

     We are always in danger of confounding what we can do with what we cannot do. We cannot save ourselves, or sanctify ourselves, or give ourselves the Holy Spirit; only God can do that. Confusion continually occurs when we try to do what God alone can do, and try to persuade ourselves that God will do what we alone can do. We imagine that God is going to make us walk in the light; God will not; it is we who must walk in the light. God gives us the power to do it, but we have to see that we use the power. God puts the power and the life into us and fills us with His Spirit, but we have to work it out. “Work out your own salvation,” says Paul, not, “work for your salvation,” but “work it out”; and as we do, we realize that the noble life of a disciple is gloriously difficult and the difficulty of it rouses us up to overcome, not faint and cave in. It is always necessary to make an effort to be noble. …

     Things that are worth doing are never easy. … It is a noble life and a difficult life. God works in us to do His will, only we must do the doing; and if once we start to do what He commands we find we can do it, because we work on the basis of the noble thing God has done for us in Redemption.

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

It’s a simple question that all Christians should ask themselves—“Am I doing the doing?” 

It’s never, “Am I working for my salvation?” but it’s always, “Am I working out my salvation because of all that the Redemption has enabled and empowered me to do?” 

Am I Interruptible?

Time after time, Jesus was on His way someplace when someone “interrupted” Him. But was it really an interruption? Do we ever hear Jesus saying, “Not now, I’m busy with someone else”? No! 

Jesus said that every step He took during the day was directed by His Father, so Jesus is our example for dealing gracefully with any “interruptions” by those who need help.

If I pray as Jesus taught—“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”—then the people He sends my way are never interruptions. Instead, they are people who also need to experience God’s kingdom for themselves, and since God has allowed them to cross my path, that means that God entrusts me with the privilege of showing them God’s kingdom love.

If I am God’s servant, that means I must be interruptible by my Master. 

A servant doesn’t get up in the morning and sit around waiting for the master to tell him every single task to be done that day. The servant gets up and gets busy with what needs to be done. 

But neither does the servant put off the master’s request because he’s busy with a task. The servant doesn’t respond, “I’ll get to that request after I finish what I’m doing,” but instead the servant responds immediately to the master. The master’s requests have priority. 

So too with me. I get up and get busy, but my heart is listening for my Master to “interrupt” me (although it’s not truly an interruption!) with someone who is in need. 

May my heart always be ready to say an immediate “yes!” to anyone my Master sends across my path today. 

9 More Quotes From “Expository Thoughts On The Gospels”

Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote a commentary on the Gospels nearly 200 years ago, and it still stands as a phenomenal Bible study resource. Check out my full review by clicking here. 

“When do men make others stumble? … Professing Christians do it whenever they bring discredit on their religion by inconsistencies of temper, of word, or of deed. We do it whenever we make our Christianity unlovely in the eyes of the world by conduct not in keeping with our profession. The world may not understand the doctrines and principles of believers, but the world is very keen-sighted about their practice. … Men will judge by what they see far more than by what they hear.” 

“Every true-hearted Christian who tries to do good in the world must make up his mind to be treated like his Master. He must never be surprised to find that the self-righteous and the worldly-minded dislike His ways.” 

“We shall discover by experience that all is not gold that glitters, and all are not true Christians who make a loud profession of Christianity. The language of Christianity is precisely that part of religion which a false Christian finds it most easy to attain. The walk of a man’s daily life, and not the talk of his lips, is the only safe test of his character.” 

“It is not in reality an astonishing thing that there should rise up so many who call in question the truth of the Bible. The marvel is rather that in a fallen world the sect of the Sadducees should be so small.” 

“Here, if anywhere, we need the heart of a little child and the prayer ‘open my eyes’ (Psalm 119:18). Let us beware on the one side of that lazy indifference which turns away from all prophetical Scripture on account of its difficulties. Let us beware on the other side of that dogmatical and arrogant spirit which makes men forget that they are students, and talk as confidently as if they were prophets themselves.” 

“To suffer patiently for Christ is far more difficult than to work actively. To sit still and endure calmly is far more hard than to stir about and take part in a battle. Crusaders will always be found more numerous than martyrs.” 

“The true cure for a dull memory in religion is to get deeper love toward Christ, and affections more thoroughly set on things above. We do not readily forget the things we love, and the objects which we keep continually under our eyes. The names of our parents and children are always remembered. The face of the husband or wife we love is engraved on the tablets of our hearts. The more our affections are engaged in Christ’s service, the more easy shall we find it to remember Christ’s words.” 

“Let it be a settled principle in our minds, in reading the Bible, that Christ is the central sun of the whole Book. So long as we keep Him in view we shall never greatly err in our search for spiritual knowledge. Once losing sight of Christ, we shall find the whole Bible dark and full of difficulty. The key of Bible knowledge is Jesus Christ.” 

“He that desires to read his Bible with profit must first ask the Lord Jesus to open the eyes of his understanding by the Holy Spirit. Human commentaries are useful in their way. The help of good and learned men is not to be despised. But there is no commentary to be compared with the teaching of Christ. A humble and prayerful spirit will find a thousand things in the Bible which the proud, self-conceited student will utterly fail to discern.” 

You can also check out some other quotes that Bishop Ryle shared on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 

Jesus Prepares Us For The Path

In His final week of ministry leading up to the Cross, Jesus got the most out of every minute He had. 

After a busy Monday where He cleared the temple, Jesus went back to Bethany, where He spent the night, only to return to the same temple courts Tuesday morning to teach His disciples. 

Tuesday is a preparation day. This is His last day in public before His trial and crucifixion and He has many final words to impart to His followers. Much of His teaching comes in response to the increasing onslaught from the religious leadership, who are desperately trying to find a way to silence Him once and for all.

It’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t prepare the path for us, but He prepares us for the path. 

Jesus prepares us for… 

1. OPPOSITION

Not only did Jesus face opposition, but He told His followers that we would too (see Matthew 5:11; 10:17-22). Indeed as Jesus sat in the temple courts teaching on this Tuesday, group after group of religious leaders attacked Him (Matthew 21:23; 22:15, 23, 34-35). There are many lessons we can learn, but here are a few important takeaways: 

    • Answer entrapping questions with a question of your own. 
    • You don’t have to answer everything people ask you.  
    • Either-or questions probably need a both-and answer. 
    • The better we know the Scriptures, the better we can know those both-and answers.
    • Consider the source of the questioner. 
    • We shouldn’t have an unhealthy obsession with nonessential things. 
    • Love fulfills the law. 
    • When we teach in love, some people will finally get it.

2. DAILY LIVING

Between all of the entrapping questions, Jesus taught some valuable lessons. 

    • The power of faith-filled prayer
    • Obedience to God is valuable whenever it happens and in whomever it occurs 
    • We are only stewards of God’s resources 
    • The ugliness of hypocrisy

3. END TIMES EVENTS

Jesus doesn’t want us to be surprised, so He tells us upfront what is coming. Some of what He teaches here would have partial fulfillment in about 30 years when the Romans besieged Jerusalem, but the ultimate fulfillment is still to come—Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21. 

Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us. Which means everything He taught us was for our benefit. To honor Him, we need to know the Scriptures and God’s power (Matthew 22:29). 

So we study the Word of God to get to know the God of the Word. Keeping our eyes on Jesus will keep us prepared for the path ahead of us, no matter how rough it is. 

Poetry Saturday—I See His Blood Upon The Rose

I see His blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of His eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

I see His face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but His voice—and carven by His power
Rocks are His written words.

All pathways by His feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His Cross is every tree. —Joseph Mary Plunkett

Thursdays With Oswald—The Love Behind The Warning

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

The Love Behind The Warning

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” —Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14) 

     Always distinguish between warning and threatening. God never threatens; the devil never warns. A warning is a great arresting statement of God’s, inspired by His love and patience. …

     It is the great patience of God that gives the warning, “The way of transgressors is hard.” Go behind that statement in your imagination and see the love of God. God is amazingly tender, but the way of transgressors cannot be made easy. God has made it difficult to go wrong, especially for His children. … 

     If Jesus came to be a teacher only, He had better have stayed away. What is the use of teaching a human being to be what no human being can be—to be continually self-effaced, to do more than his duty, to be completely disinterested, to be perfectly devoted to God? If all Jesus came to do was to teach men to be that, He is the greatest taunter that ever presented any ideal to the human race. But Jesus Christ came primarily and fundamentally to regenerate man. He came to put into any man the disposition that ruled His own life, and immediately that is given to a man, the teaching of Jesus begins to be possible. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

The opposite of love is not hate; it’s apathy. If God didn’t love us, He wouldn’t care what road we attempted to take. But He does love us, so He tells us the one and only way to get to Him: Jesus Christ is THE way. 

Chambers is exactly right when He says that Jesus was not just a great Teacher. If that’s all that Jesus came to do, we would be miserable people because we could never walk the narrow road that He taught. But Jesus came to enable and empower us to walk that road. He came to purchase our atonement (our “at-onement” with Him) so that we could live out all that He taught. 

Jesus is a Teacher, but He is also the Enabler that makes it possible for us to obey His teaching. For that, we should be eternally grateful! 

Escaping The Devil’s Deception

“Not only does he choose when he will tempt, satan also chooses the best methods for displaying his temptations. One strategy is to hang out false colors. He comes up to the Christian disguised as a friend, so that the gates are open to him before his true identity is discovered. Paul says we should not be shocked to find false teachers masquerading as apostles of Christ, ‘…satan himself is transformed into an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). Of all his plots, this is perhaps the most dangerous to the saints; when he appears in the mantle of a prophet and silver-plates his corroded tongue with fair-sounding language. In this manner he corrupts some in their judgment by interpreting gospel truth in such a way that God appears to condone questionable behavior. These Christians get caught up in the world’s morality under the guise of Christian liberty. … How we need to study the Scriptures, our hearts, and satan’s wiles, that we may not bid this enemy welcome and all the while think it is Christ who is our guest!” —William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armor (emphasis mine) 

Christ’s Powerful “I”

“…I…” (Jesus in John 14:2, 3, 6)

The disciples of Jesus, by their words and actions, have made it perfectly clear that they are “troubled” at the thought of being on their own. Jesus assures them with three powerful “I” truths:

  1. I go to prepare a place for youyour future home is secure.
  2. I will come againwe will be with Jesus forever.
  3. I am the way, the truth, and the lifethere is no need to second-guess, no confusion; just perfect, heart-cheering clarity!

The disciple’s job—and therefore our job as well—is simply this: “Believe Me” (v. 11). 

When we believe what Jesus says—I go, I will, I am—then we unleash the power of God in our lives. The power to…

  • … do greater works (v. 12)
  • … pray more powerful prayers (vv. 13, 14)
  • … know the companionship of the Holy Spirit (vv. 16-18)

Whenever fear tries to creep in and paralyze us, may we quickly drive out that fear by believing and reaffirming what Jesus says: I go … I will … I AM!

What Christians Often Miss About Zeal

On what we now refer to as Palm Sunday, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem with the crowd shouting, “Hosanna” because they thought Jesus was going to set things right. In this, they were disappointed. Jesus knew that His time for reigning in Jerusalem hadn’t come yet, and Christ’s passionate journey meant He would not cut any corners!

Before Jesus left Jerusalem that Sunday evening, Mark noted that “He looked around at everything.” He didn’t respond right away to what He saw. This is very important to note because we shouldn’t think that His response on Monday was something spontaneous. No, it was planned out in specific detail.  

On Monday morning, Jesus prepared to make the 2-mile trip from Bethany to Jerusalem. The Gospels note quite frequently the amount of time Jesus spent in prayer, including beginning His day in conversation with His Father (see Mark 1:35). On this morning, He must have talked with His Father about everything He had seen in Jerusalem the day before. 

 En route to Jerusalem, Jesus encounters a fig tree that gives every appearance of life and vitality. It looks like it’s ready to serve people, but upon closer inspection, Jesus discovers that there is no fruit on it. He curses the tree for its deceptive outward appearance. This is definite foreshadowing for what’s about to happen! 

Jesus enters the temple and begins to drive out merchants, and moneychangers, and dove sellers. He roars at them, “God says this is to be a place of prayer for all nations, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!” (see Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; and Luke 19:45-48). 

The phrases house of prayer and den of robbers are direct quotations from Isaiah and Jeremiah, respectively (Isaiah 56:3-7; Jeremiah 7:1-11), but what do they mean? 

The temple had specific courts available—

  1. The Court of the Gentiles was open to all people, foreigners included.
  2. The Women’s Court was open to all Jews and, their “uncontaminated” wives.
  3. The Court of Israel was limited to male Jews who were clean and purified.
  4. The fourth court was the Holy Place limited to priests robed in their priestly vestments. 

This buying and selling was undoubtedly happening in the Court of the Gentiles. As the Passover was approaching, people from all over the world were here—some purchasing animals to use as sacrifices, and some exchanging their foreign money for Israelite money for the temple tax. 

There was a lot of hustle and bustle, but very little worship. This is what angered Jesus. The activity in the temple was like the fig tree He cursed—it looked like it was fruitful, but that was merely outward deception. 

Were the merchants exploiting people? Perhaps. But they were certainly occupying the only space where non-Jews could worship. They were certainly becoming a distraction to any true worship activities. They were clearly becoming the main attraction. 

There are two important lessons in this outburst that Jesus gives to all His disciples:

  1. As our Christlikeness increases, our intolerance of religious showmanship should increase. 
  2. As our Christlikeness increases, our intolerance of unrighteousness should increase—both a greater hate for sin and a greater love for sinners! 

“Let the zeal of the house of the Lord ever eat you up. For example: do you see a brother running [toward sin]? Stop him, warn him, be grieved for him, if the zeal of God’s house has now eaten you up. Do you see others running and wanting to drink themselves drunk? Stop whom you can, hold whom you can, frighten whom you can; win in gentleness whom you can: do not in any way sit still and do nothing.” —Augustine 

Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us. Which means He hates anything that keeps us from His Father. 

If you know God’s love, be zealous about those things that keep others from coming in to know God’s love for themselves. Not angry at people, but angry at practices and “religious shows” that hinder people from knowing God’s love like you know God’s love. 

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