Poetry Saturday—Selections From “The Pilgrim’s Progress”

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The hill, though high, I covet to ascend,
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear;
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe. —John Bunyan’s Christian, in The Pilgrim’s Progress

He that is down needs fear no fall;
   He that is low, no pride:
He that is humble ever shall
   Have God to be his Guide.
I am content with what I have,
   Little be it or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
   Because Thou savest such.
Fullness to such a burden is
   That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
   Is best from age to age. —John Bunyan’s Mr. Great-heart, in The Pilgrim’s Progress

10 Quotes From “The Screwtape Letters”

C.S. Lewis gives us fantastic insight into the temptations the devil tries to use against Christians. You can read my full book review here. Just as a reminder: When Screwtape talks about “the Enemy” he is referring to God and when he says “our Father” he is talking about satan. 

“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.” 

“Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.” 

“Let his inner resolve be to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear it ‘for a reasonable period’—and let the reasonable period be shorter than the trial is likely to last. It need not be much shorter…. The fun is to make the man yield just when (had he but known it) relief was almost in sight.”

“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.” 

“Our Enemy is a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the seashore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures forevermore.’ Ugh! … He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least—sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.” 

“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” 

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By Jove! I’m being humble,’ and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt. … You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character.” 

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One it to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” 

“Even of his sins the Enemy does not want him to think too much: once they are repented, the sooner the man turns his attention outward, the better the Enemy is pleased.” 

“Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.” 

Jesus Says

Jesus says, “I will… 

…make you fishers of men” (Matthew 7:23; Mark 1:17) 

…acknowledge in Heaven those who acknowledge Me on earth” (Matthew 10:32-33) 

…give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) 

…build My church” (Matthew 16:18) 

…give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 16:19) 

…show you whom you should fear” (Luke 12:5) 

…drive out demons and heal people” (Luke 13:32) 

…never drive away those who come to Me” (John 6:37) 

…give My life for your life” (John 6:51) 

…rise again from the dead” (Matthew 27:63; Mark 14:28; John 2:19) 

…raise up believers to eternal life” (John 6:40, 44, 54) 

…come back to take you to be with Me forever” (John 14:3) 

…do whatever you ask in My name” (John 14:13, 14; 16:28) 

…not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18) 

…ask the Father to give you an Advocate” (John 14:18) 

…give you words and wisdom that are irresistible” (Luke 21:15) 

…see you again and give you eternal joy” (John 16:22)

Oh, what a Savior!

Poetry Saturday—Epitaphium Meum

From my years young in days of youth,
God did make known to me His truth,
And call’d me from my native place
For to enjoy the means of grace
In wilderness He did me guide,
And in strange lands for me provide.
In fears and wants, through weal and woe,
As pilgrim passed I to and fro:
Oft left of them whom I did trust;
How vain it is to rest on dust!
A man of sorrows I have been,
And many changes I have seen.
Wars, wants, peace, plenty have I known;
And some advanc’d, others thrown down.
The humble, poor, cheerful and glad;
Rich, discontent, sower and sad:
When fears with sorrows have been mixed,
Consolations came betwixt.
Faint not, poor soul, in God still trust,
Fear not the things thou suffer must;
For, whom He loves He doth chastise,
And then all tears wipes from their eyes.
Farewell, dear children, whom I love,
Your better Father is above:
When I am gone, He can supply;
To Him I leave you when I die.
Fear Him in truth, walk in His ways,
And He will bless you all your days.
My days are spent, old age is come,
My strength it fails, my glass near run:
Now I will wait when work is done,
Until my happy change shall come,
When from my labors I shall rest
With Christ above for to be blest. —William Bradford

Now And Not Yet

Psalm 68 is a Christological Psalm. That means it points to Jesus and it is fulfilled through Christ’s First and Second Advents. These types of psalms don’t make sense if they are restricted strictly to the Old Testament. 

As I have explained previously, Hebrew literature often puts the key point in the middle—in the case of this psalm, that’s verses 18-20. The opening verse sets the stage, or the scene of battle, and then right in the middle of this psalm of David is the description of God’s victory won through Jesus. 

There are three Selahs in this psalm, and I want you to notice what’s happening at each one: 

  • When You marched through the wasteland (v. 7) 
  • Who daily bears our burdens (v. 18) 
  • Sing praise to the Lord (v. 32) 

Do you remember the three definitions of Selah? A pause to consider; a breath before the crescendo; a time to weigh what’s valuable. In this case, I believe we should lean more to the second definition. Why? Because all three of these Selahs shows us what God has done, what He is still doing, and what He will ultimately do in the eternity of Heaven. I believe we are living in the breath/Selah after Christ’s First Advent and leading up to the crescendo of His Second Advent. 

Jesus is BOTH the Immanuel that came to earth at His First Advent AND the returning King at His Second Advent. We are living in an era of BOTH “now” AND “not yet.” 

The apostle Paul looks back to this psalm (especially those middle verses of 18-20) even as he looks forward to the Second Advent. He captures the essence of “now” and “not yet” in all these passages:  

Jesus paid the price for our sin.
He broke the bonds of hell and death.
He prepared the way to Heaven.
He showed the way to Heaven.
He built our mansions in Heaven.
He WILL return to take us to be with Him in Heaven!

 

So how shall we now live in this time of “now” and “not yet”? In a word: AWARE… 

  • …of His ultimate victory (Psalm 68:1) 
  • …of the desperation of the enemy. Death, sin, and the devil have been defeated! We now deal with a broken army, a scattered foe in the final death throes, a wounded, dying warrior desperately lashing out. The prince of this earth is quickly failing, while God is liberally pouring out rewards that were purchased by Christ our King! 
  • …of the brevity of this life (v. 2)
  • …of the joy of living in God’s presence (v. 3) 
  • …of the power of worship (v. 4) 
  • …of our confidence in being heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (vv. 5-6) 

Now is not the time for fainting, but fighting the good fight. Our Immanuel has won the battle, He will continue to strengthen us every day that we walk this Earth, and He will keep us by His side as He reigns for all eternity as King of kings and Lord of lords! 

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this series, you can check out the full list by clicking here. 

‘Tis I, Be Not Afraid

Tossed with rough winds, and faint with fear, 
Above the tempest, soft and clear, 
What still small accents greet mine ear?
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”

“‘Tis I who led thy steps aright; 
‘Tis I who gave thy blind eyes sight; 
‘Tis I, thy Lord, thy Life, thy Light. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid.

“This bitter cup fear not to drink; 
I know it well—oh! do not shrink; 
I tasted it o’er Kedron’s brink. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid. 

“Mine eyes are watching by thy bed, 
Mine arms are underneath thy head, 
My blessing is around thee shed. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid.“

When on the other side thy feet 
Shall rest ‘mid thousands welcomes sweet, 
One well known voice thy heart shall greet. 
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”

From out the dazzling majesty 
Gently He’ll lay His hands on thee, 
Whispering: “Beloved, lov’st thou Me? 
It was not in vain I died for thee,
‘Tis I; be not afraid.” —Anonymous

Poetry Saturday—Beyond The Glittering, Starry Skies

Beyond the glittering starry skies,
Far as th’ eternal hills,
There, in those boundless worlds of light,
Our great Redeemer dwells.

Legions of angels strong and fair,
In countless armies shine,
At His right hand with golden harps,
To offer songs divine.

“Hail, Prince!” they cry, “forever hail!
Whose unexampled love
Moved Thee to quit those glorious realms,
And royalties above.”

While He did condescend on earth
To suffer rude disdain,
They cast their honors at His feet,
And waited in His train.

Through all His travels here below
They did His steps attend!
Oft gazed and wondered where at last
This scene of love would end.

They saw His heart transfixed with wounds,
His crimson sweat and gore,
They saw Him break the bars of death,
Which none e’er brake before.

They brought His chariot from above,
To bear Him to His throne,
Clapped their triumphant wings and cried,
“The glorious work is done!” —James Fanch

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Assurance In Christ’s Ascension

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

The Assurance In Christ’s Ascension

     Our Savior descended when He came to the manger of Bethlehem, and further descended when He became ‘a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3). He descended lower still when He was obedient to death, even the death of the Cross—and further yet when His dead body was laid in the grave. … Long and dark was the descent. There were no depths of humiliation, temptation, or affliction that He did not fathom. …  

     The time came for our Lord to continue His homeward, upward journey and return to the glory from which He had come down. From the Mount of Olives, ‘while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight’ (Acts 1:9). The rest of His upward progress we cannot describe. Imagination and faith step in and conceive of Him as rising beyond all regions known to us, far above all imaginable height. … 

     How high He ascended after He passed the pearly portal Paul cannot tell us, save that he says God ‘seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion’ (Ephesians 1:20-21). He describes our Master as ‘dwelling in unapproachable light’ (1 Timothy 6:16). The Man Christ Jesus has gone back to the place from where His Godhead came! …

     We are sure that the purpose of His love is secure or He would not have returned to His rest. The love that brought Him here would have kept Him here if all things necessary for our salvation had not been finished. …

     Remember that His assent to the Father is representative. Every believer rose with Him and grasped the inheritance. When He rose up, ascending on high, He taught our feet the way. At the last His people will be caught up together with the Lord in the air, and so will they be forever with the Lord. He has made a stairway for His saints to climb to their bliss, and He has traveled it Himself to assure us that the new and living way is available for us. In His ascension He bore all His people with Him.

From Our Lord’s Triumphant Ascension

Jesus told His Father that He had completed everything He was sent to complete (John 17:4). John also says that Christ’s “It is finished” cry from the Cross also marked the completion of everything that had been prophesied about Jesus (John 19:28-30). 

Such amazing love brought Jesus to earth! And His steadfast love also made sure that He left absolutely nothing undone that was needed for our salvation! 

There’s now no reason for us to live fearful or anxious or skeptical about what is coming next. When Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” and when He promises that He has gone to prepare a place for us to bring us to be with Him, He has demonstrated His authority to make these claims in His death, resurrection, and ascension. 

Oh my friends, live every day in that glorious assurance!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Greatest Treasure Ever!

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

The Greatest Treasure Ever!

     Oh! Christian, do but consider what it is to have God to be your own! Consider what it is, compared with anything else.

Jacob’s portion is the Lord;
What can Jacob more require?
What can heaven more afford—
Or a creature more desire?

     Some have their portion in the city. Their wealth is superabundant and in constant streams it flows to them, until they become a very reservoir of gold. But what is gold compared with your God? You could not live on it; your spiritual life could not be sustained by it. Apply it to your aching head, and would it afford you any ease? 

     Put it on a troubled conscience, and could your gold allay its pangs? Put it on your desponding heart and see if it could stay a solitary groan or give you one grief the less. But you have God, and in Him you have more than gold or riches ever could buy, more than heaps of brilliant ore could ever purchase for you. … 

     There are griefs here with which men cannot intermeddle, and there are griefs to come with which men cannot interfere to alleviate the pangs, pains, agonies, and dying strife. But when you have this: “I will be your God” [Jeremiah 31:33]—you have as much as other men can have put together. … 

     O Christian, ask for nothing in this world but that you may live on this and that you may die on this: “I will be your God.” This exceeds all the world has to offer. …

     Oh! Here is a very sea of bliss, a very ocean of delight! Come, bathe your spirit in it. You may swim to eternity and never find a shore. You may dive to the very infinite and never find the bottom. “I will be your God.” Oh! If this does not make your eyes sparkle, if this makes not your foot dance for joy and your heart beat high with bliss, then assuredly your soul is not in a healthy state.

From God In The Covenant 

I agree with Spurgeon: “If this does not make your eyes sparkle, if this makes not your foot dance for joy and your heart beat high with bliss, then assuredly your soul is not in a healthy state.” 

If you want your soul to be in this healthy state, it is possible for you to know assuredly that God is saying to you, “I will be your God.” Jesus died in your place to pay the penalty for your sin. If you believe that, you may ask God to forgive all your sins—completely cancel that record of wrongdoing—and He will! Then His Spirit will take up residence in your heart and you can know the unspeakable bliss of the truth of what God says: “I am your God”! 

Humbug?!

In Longfellow’s classic I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day every stanza ends with the phrase “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Unless you’ve been living someplace that doesn’t get the daily news, you might be saying, “Peace on earth? Really? I just don’t see it….” Or as Ebenezer Scrooge might say, “Peace on earth? Bah! Humbug!” 

A humbug is an imposter, or something empty of meaning. 

The third stanza of I Heard The Bells seems almost to slide into that Christmas humbug note: “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said. ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.’” 

Indeed, even for those who call themselves a Christian, Christmas could become a humbug if…

  • … it’s all about busyness or just trying to “survive the holidays” 
  • … we get more excited about Santa Claus coming down the chimney to fill stockings than we do about Jesus coming down to Earth to be born in a manger 
  • … our main focus is on gifts—both what you’re giving and what you’re getting—and then we regret putting ourselves into debt 

Between Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) and Matthew (the first book of the New Testament) is a time span of about 400 years that is called “the dark period.” God had promised through Jeremiah that He would restore the Israelites and rebuild Jerusalem. There were promises of the Messiah coming to set things right, but after 400 years of darkness, the mindset of most Israelites was probably, “Messiah? Peace? Bah! Humbug!!” 

What God really promised through Jeremiah was a peace that came about as a result of two things: (1) forgiveness of sins and (2) restoration of a perfect relationship with God. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, which means one’s personal sense of wholeness and well-being, free from anxiety and fear, knowing that all is well between my soul and God. 

This is what God promises—I will cleanse them from ALL the sin they have committed against Me and will forgive ALL their sins of rebellion against Me (Jeremiah 33:8). 

This shalom is what comes through the First Advent of Jesus! As Longfellow observed, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.” 

And this is what Jesus brought—

  • She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21 NIV). 
  • Now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ. For Christ Himself has brought peace to us… (Ephesians 2:13-14 NLT) 
  • Therefore, since we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us grasp the fact that we have…peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) (Romans 5:1 AMP). 

The bells and carols and remembrances of Christ’s First Advent should send our hearts soaring in anticipation of Christ’s Second Advent—when Christ shall return to take all of His own to be with Him forever, where He will wipe away every tear and where we live forever with Him in the New Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 33:9; John 14:3; Revelation 21:1-4). 

Let us guard against Christmas ever becoming a humbug—an imposter, something empty of meaning—but let’s make sure the rich meaning of Christ’s peace dwells richly in us! 

Join us this Sunday as we continue our look at the carols of Christmas! 

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