Poetry Saturday—Against A Thorn

 

Once I heard a song of sweetness,
As it cleft the morning air,
Sounding in its blest completeness,
Like a tender, pleading prayer;
And I sought to find the singer,
Whence the wondrous song was borne;
And I found a bird, sore wounded,
Pinioned by a cruel thorn.
 
I have seen a soul in sadness,
While its wings with pain were furl’d,
Giving hope, and cheer and gladness
That should bless a weeping world;
And I knew that life of sweetness,
Was of pain and sorrow raw borne,
And a stricken soul was singing,
With its heart against a thorn.
 
Ye are told of One who loved you,
Of a Saviour crucified,
Ye are told of nails that pinioned,
And a spear that pierced His side;
Ye are told of cruel scourging,
Of a Saviour bearing scorn,
And He died for your salvation,
With His brow against a thorn.
 
Ye “are not above the Master.”
Will you breathe a sweet refrain?
And His grace will be sufficient,
When your heart is pierced with pain.
Will you live to bless His loved ones,
Tho’ your life be bruised and torn,
Like the bird that sang so sweetly,
With its heart against a thorn? —Carrie Ellis Breck

Living Between The Advents

We live in an amazing time—the First Advent of Jesus has already happened in Bethlehem, and yet we are eagerly anticipating Christ’s Second Advent at any moment! 

The fourth stanza of Charles Wesley’s classic Christmas carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is a wonderful between-the-Advents look at what happened at the First Advent, and what we have to look forward to in the Second Advent. The key thing to note in this stanza is the verbs: come, fix, rise, bruise, efface, stamp, and reinstate. 

COME, Desire of nations—What is the “desire of nations”? It’s the restoration of God’s glory on earth, so it’s not really a what but a Who. The prophet Haggai informs us that our Desire is realized in the Advent of Jesus (2:1-9).  

FIX in us Thy humble home—At His First Advent, Jesus came and humbly made His home among us, even dying to pay the penalty for our sins (Hebrews 2:14, 17; Philippians 2:7-8). 

RISE, the woman’s conquering seed—Although Jesus was obedient to death—even death on a Cross, He didn’t stay dead but was resurrected (Philippians 2:8-9; Revelation 1:18)! 

BRUISE in us the serpent’s head—With His death and resurrection, Jesus took away the sting of death from satan, fulfilling one of God’s first prophesies (Genesis 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, 54-57).  

Adam’s likeness now EFFACE—That means to wipe out, do away with, expunge. That’s exactly what God does with our forgiven sins (Psalm 103:1-4, 10-12)! 

STAMP Thine image in its place—Although our sin has been effaced, God doesn’t leave us as blank slates, but instead He allows the image of His Son Jesus to be stamped onto our lives (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 3:18). 

REINSTATE us in Thy love—The relationship we longed for is now reborn in us (1 Corinthians 15:49)! 

The Desire of Nations HAS come, and yet He WILL come again! We’re living between the Advents now, so a good question for Christians to ask is: “How are we to live?” I think there are three key things—

    1. In celebration that Jesus came at His First Advent to be our Savior 
    1. In anticipation of the Second Advent 
    1. In obedience to God’s Word (Revelation 22:7) 

11 Quotes From “Notes On Jeremiah”

Oswald Chambers gives us some unparalleled insights into the Book of Jeremiah. This is a must-read for serious students of the Bible. Check out my full book review of Notes On Jeremiah by clicking here.

“Very few of us understand why clouds of darkness come. It is God trying to get us into line with the prophets and apostles. It is the Holy Spirit seeking to bring us into the place of vicarious intercession, and we nearly always misunderstand it and say, ‘I must have sinned,’ or ‘I must get out of this, I have got the blues.’” 

“We do not need a new Gospel; what we need is the old truth re-stated to hit the things that are wrong today.” 

“Few of us realize the power God has given us to grip on the threshold of the mind as in a vice the things that ought not to be there.” 

“The Cross of Jesus Christ is not a martyrdom, it does not procure salvation; it is the only salvation.” 

“Beware of ever saying to yourself, ‘God’s law is not exactly binding to me, I am under grace.’ To be under grace should mean that we can fulfill the law of God gracefully.” 

“Prosperity that does not spring from a godly motive is the external sign of having forsaken God.” 

“We cannot answer God’s call collectively (John 6:68-70). Never get disturbed out of hearing God’s voice by saying other people have not heard it.” 

“Human nature hates God’s message that there is a bad tendency inside that has to be plucked out, and unless it is it will damn us.” 

“Jesus Christ’s salvation is the destruction of the sinner in the man, not of the man.” 

“The measure of my misery when I turn from God is proportioned to my knowledge of Him when I walked with Him.” 

“Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Old Testament prophets are inseparable from one another, for in the Person and the teaching of our Lord all that the prophets taught is in part fulfilled, and will be completely fulfilled.” 

Every week I post longer passages from Oswald Chambers’ books in my “Thursdays With Oswald” feature. 

C.S. Lewis On Relationships

All of these quotes from C.S. Lewis appear in the book Yours, Jack.

“The modern tradition is that the proper reason for marrying is the state described as ‘being in love.’ … Doesn’t the modern emphasis on ‘love’ lead people either into divorce or into misery, because when that emotion dies down they conclude that their marriage is a ‘failure,’ though in fact they have just reached the point at which real marriage begins.” 

“There is a terrible comment on this in I Cor VI 16 ‘he that is joined to a harlot is one flesh.’ You see? Apparently, if Christianity is true, the mere fact of sexual intercourse set up between human beings a relation which has, so to speak, transcendent repercussions—some eternal relation is established whether they like it or not.” 

“Agape is best seen, I think, in the words ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ i.e., by an act of will, aim at your neighbor’s good in the same way as you aim at your own. Now you don’t ‘love’ yourself because of your own ‘lovable qualities.’ You may, in moments of vanity, attribute lovable qualities to yourself, but that is not the cause of your self-love but one of the results of it. At other moments, when you dislike yourself, you still wish for your own happiness. This attitude to one’s own self is dictated by nature: towards other selves it has to be acquired.” 

“The great thing in friendship as in all other forms of love is, as you know, to turn from the demand to be loved (or helped or answered) to the wish to love (or help or answer).” 

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” 

“I take it that in every marriage natural love sooner or later, in a high or low degree, comes up against difficulties (if only the difficulty that the original state of ‘being in love’ dies a natural death) which forces it either to turn into dislike or else to turn into Christian charity. For all of our natural feelings are, not resting places, but points d’appui, springboards. One has to go on from there, or fall back from there. The merely human pleasure in being loved must either go bad or become the divine joy of loving.” 

“It is right and inevitable that we should be much concerned about the salvation of those we love. But we must be careful not to expect or demand that their salvation should conform to some ready-made pattern of our own. … God has His own unique way with each soul.” 

“The real trouble about the duty of forgiveness is that you do it with all your might on Monday and then find on Wednesday that it hasn’t stayed put and all has to be done over again.”

You can read my review of Yours, Jack by clicking here. And you can check out some other quotes I shared from this collection of Lewis’ personal correspondence here and here.

Poetry Saturday—In Christ

In Christ I feel the heart of God. 
Throbbing from heaven through earth: 
Life stirs again within the clod. 
Renewed in beauteous birth. 
The soul springs up, a flower of prayer, 
Breathing his breath out on the air. 

In Christ I touch the hand of God, 
From His pure height reached down, 
By blessed ways before untrod, 
To lift us to our crown;—
Victory that only perfect is 
Through loving sacrifice, like His. 

Holding His hand, my steadied feet 
May walk the air, the seas; 
On life and death His smile falls sweet,—
Lights up all mysteries: 
Stranger nor exile can I be 
In new worlds where He leadeth me. 

Not my Christ only: He is ours; 
Humanity’s close bond; 
Key to its vast unopened powers, 
Dream of our dreams beyond.—
What yet we shall be, none can tell; 
Now are we His, and all is well. —Lucy Larcom

Thursdays With Oswald—Isaiah 1

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.

Isaiah 1

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Isaiah 1.]

     There is no such thing as fate; a human being always has the power to do the incalculable thing. There are fatal issues, not fate. When God’s decrees come to pass it is because men will not turn. God’s will is supreme, but God never fights against us; it is self-will that fights against God. …  

     If God were love according to our natural view of love He ought never to cause us pain, He ought to allow us to be peaceful; but the first thing God does is to cause us pain and to rouse us wide awake. He comes into our lives all along with ideals and truths which annoy and sting us and break up our rest, until He brings us to the one point, that it is only moral and spiritual relationships which last. That is why God looks cruel judged from the human sentimental standpoint; He loves us so much that He will not prevent us being hurt. …  

     Many a life is paralyzed because this is not realized—“I know God has forgiven me, I know I am right with God, but every now and again I remember the things I did that damaged other lives.” If I put the wrong right with my fellow men, have I become right with God? No, get right with God and He will put you on the way to be right with your fellow men. 

From Notes On Isaiah

Isaiah 1 opens with God taking His people to task for merely going through the motions of worship, with their hearts being far away from Him. Chambers reminds us that this self-will that fights against God will often bring its own pain. Why? Because God loves us too much to let us go unmolested down the path to eternal destruction. Instead, God longs for us to turn our hearts unreservedly to His love and purpose for our lives.

11 Quotes From “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals”

John Piper has written a book that I think every pastor should read: Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. You can read my review of this book here. Below are just a few quotes that caught my attention.

“We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. … The professionalization of the ministry is a constant threat to the offense of the gospel.”

“I defined spiritual leadership as ‘knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to get them there by God’s means in reliance on God’s power.’ …  So the goal of spiritual leadership is to muster people to join God in living for God’s glory.”

“The Son of Man has not come seeking employees. He has come to employ Himself for our good.”

“In this fallen world, the tide is always going out. That is, the affections of our people have for God Himself (as distinct from His gifts) are continually prone to shrink. Our job is to tilt the world, by the power of the Spirit and the Word, so that the tide rolls in again.”

“A pastor who feels competent in himself to produce eternal fruit knows neither God nor himself.”

“Salvation is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Love is a gift of God (1 Thessalonians 3:12). Faith is a gift of God (1 Timothy 1:14). Wisdom is a gift of God (Ephesians 1:17). Joy is a gift of God (Romans 15:13). Yet as pastors we must labor to ‘save some’ (1 Corinthians 9:22). We must stir up the people to love (Hebrews 10:24). We must advance their faith (Philippians 1:25). We must impart wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:7). We must work for their joy (2 Corinthians 1:24). We are called to labor for that which is God’s alone to give. The essence of the Christian ministry is that its success is not within our reach.”

“Are not our people really yearning to be around a man who has been around God? Is it not the lingering aroma of prayer that gives a sense of eternity to all our work?”

“Few things frighten me more than the beginnings of barrenness that come from frenzied activity with little spiritual food and meditation.”

“The domestication of God is a curse on preaching in our day. We need to recover reality and the language of majesty and holiness and awe and glory.”

“He knows that the only way he can deliver God’s message to God’s people is by being rooted in it and by saturating his sermon with God’s own revelation in the Bible. The Bible-oriented preacher wants the congregation to know that his words, if they have any abiding worth, are in accord with God’s words. He wants this to be obvious to them. That is part of his humility and his authority. Therefore, he constantly tries to show the people that his ideas are coming from the Bible. He is hesitant to go too far toward points that are not demonstrable from the Bible.”

“Our salvation and the salvation of those who hear us week after week depend in large measure on our faithful attention to personal holiness and sound teaching” [see 1 Timothy 4:16]. … Oh, how earnest we should be in attending to ourselves and the soundness and helpfulness of our teaching!”

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