Let all thy glorying and confidence be in Christ and His Strength

“Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

1 Corinthians 10:12

It is a curious fact, that there is such a thing as being proud of grace. A man says, “I have great faith, I shall not fall; poor little faith may, but I never shall.” “I have fervent love,” says another, “I can stand, there is no danger of my going astray.” He who boasts of grace has little grace to boast of. Some who do this imagine that their graces can keep them, knowing not that the stream must flow constantly from the fountain head, or else the brook will soon be dry. If a continuous stream of oil comes not to the lamp, though it burn brightly today, it will smoke to-morrow, and noxious will be its scent. Take heed that thou gloriest not in thy graces, but let all thy glorying and confidence be in Christ and his strength, for only so canst thou be kept from falling.

Be much more in prayer. Spend longer time in holy adoration. Read the Scriptures more earnestly and constantly. Watch your lives more carefully. Live nearer to God. Take the best examples for your pattern. Let your conversation be redolent of heaven. Let your hearts be perfumed with affection for men’s souls.

So live that men may take knowledge of you that you have been with Jesus, and have learned of Him; and when that happy day shall come, when He whom you love shall say, “Come up higher,” may it be your happiness to hear Him say, “Thou hast fought a good fight, thou hast finished thy course, and henceforth there is laid up for thee a crown of righteousness which fadeth not away.” On, Christian, with care and caution! On, with holy fear and trembling! On, with faith and confidence in Jesus alone, and let your constant petition be, “Uphold me according to thy word.”

He is able, and He alone, “To keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”

C. H. Spurgeon. 

Look at Him!

Phil Newton describes Jesus’ agonizing in Gethsemane this way…

“All of the purity of his soul would be opened to the pitch-black darkness of human sinfulness. Our lies, lusts, deceitfulness, anger, complaining, cheating accompanied an innumerable host of sins, saturating as a sponge in water upon the spotless bosom of Jesus Christ. Our rebellion against the Law of God and our unbelief in Him as a merciful Redeemer in all of its lurid detail strikes the Son. In His own being He felt the combined weight of the world’s sins. That is why we find Him agonizing in the Garden as He fulfilled His high priestly office. He was soon to “appear before God” on our behalf, sprinkling His own blood upon the mercy seat, satisfying the divine cry of “Justice, Justice, Justice!” See Him bearing your sin. See Him agonizing over His separation from the Father. See how He feels the pains of hell upon His own spotless soul. And for whom? For someone who has known the glories of the gospel and is creeping back into the world or retreating to his own devices.

Get your eyes off of your own complaints and your own self-pity! Look at Him who “offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears.” What was He doing? As the only sinless man He was expressing the agony of bearing sin; and as the only great high priest He was submitting to the will of the Father. And the Father “heard Him because of His piety.” He does not hear us because of our “piety” or godly fear. He hears us because of Jesus Christ! (1Ti 2:5, He 7:25) Rather than die in the Garden from the horrid weight of separation from the Father and bearing the weight of our sin, the Father sustained the Son through the trauma of the Cross, so that He might declare, “It is finished!” (Jn 19:30) His prayers were heard and the answer came as He successfully bore the judgment of God for us (Gal 3:13, 1Pe 2:24, 25-note) at the Cross and then rose from the dead in victory (Acts 4:2, 17:32, 23:6, 24:21, 26:23, Ro 1:4-note, 1 Co 15:21, 22, 54, 55 56 57, 1Pe 1:3).”

A. W. Pink wrote…

“Into what infinite depths of humiliation did the Son of God descend! How unspeakably dreadful was His anguish! What a hideous thing sin must be if such a sacrifice was required for its atonement! How real and terrible a thing is the wrath of God! What love moved Him to suffer so on our behalf! What must be the portion of those who despise and reject such a Saviour!” (Hebrews 10: 29)

My God, I Love Thee


My God, I love Thee; not because
I hope for Heav’n thereby,
Nor yet because who love Thee not
May eternally die.

Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace.

And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
E’en death itself; and all for man
Who was Thine enemy.

Then why, O blessèd Jesus Christ
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the hope of winning Heaven,
Nor of escaping hell.

Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Nor seeking a reward,
But as Thyself hast lovèd me,
O Everlasting Lord!

E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing,
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my eternal King.

Quote

The Gospel is t…

The Gospel is this:

We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe,
yet at the very same time
We are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ
than we ever dared hope

Do you realize, Christian? You have been saved from the Greatest Problem faced by mankind: God’s wrath!

Loved! Undeserving, but this: LOVED! 

O, to behold this Richness we have in Jesus Christ! 

I meet my Saviour at Golgotha

Sabbath evening. Great Hall, Durham Castle.

Bach: “St John Passion”.

A night of solitude. I needed this. To hear You speak.

Nights like these I take so often, I wonder if I were ever an I, rather than an E.

Kidron. The scene is John 18.

A cup, You say.

John 18: 11 

“Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?”

The necessary death of Christ.

Drinking God’s cup of wrath, Jesus Christ transformed it into the Cup of Life.

I wondered.

Then, these struck me, as these shrill German voices rung through the air.

17. Chorale
Flauto traverso I/II e Oboe I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe II e Violino II coll’Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo
Ach großer König, groß zu allen Zeiten,
Ah, great King, great in all ages,
Wie kann ich gnugsam diese Treu ausbreiten?
How can I make my faithfulness in any way adequate?
Keins Menschen Herze mag indes ausdenken,
No human heart can conceive
Was dir zu schenken.
what gift is fit to offer You.
Ich kann’s mit meinen Sinnen nicht erreichen,
My mind cannot imagine 
Womit doch dein Erbarmen zu vergleichen.
what can be compared to Your mercy.
Wie kann ich dir denn deine Liebestaten
How then can I match Your loving deeds
Im Werk erstatten?
by anything I do ?

19. Arioso Bass
Viola d’amore I o Violino I solo con sordino, Viola d’amore II o Violino II solo con sordino, Liuto o Organo 8va, Organo, Cembalo 8va
Betrachte, meine Seel, mit ängstlichem Vergnügen,
Consider, my soul, with anxious delight,
Mit bittrer Lust und halb beklemmtem Herzen
with bitter pleasure and a heart partly oppressed
Dein höchstes Gut in Jesu Schmerzen,
that Your highest good depends on Jesus’ sorrow,

Wie dir auf Dornen, so ihn stechen,
how for you from the thorns that pierce Him
Die Himmelsschlüsselblumen blühn!
heavenly flowers blossom!

Du kannst viel süße Frucht von seiner Wermut brechen
You can gather so much sweet fruit from His wormwood
Drum sieh ohn Unterlass auf ihn!
therefore look unceasingly towards Him!

24. Aria B e Coro
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Eilt, ihr angefochtnen Seelen,
Hurry , you tormented souls,
Geht aus euren Marterhöhlen,
leave your dens of torment,
Eilt – Wohin ? – nach Golgatha!
Hurry – Where to? –to Golgotha!
Nehmet an des Glaubens Flügel,
Take the wings of faith,
Flieht – Wohin? – zum Kreuzeshügel,
Fly – Where to? – to the hill of the cross,
Eure Wohlfahrt blüht allda!
there your salvation flourishes!

31. Recitative
Continuo
Evangelist:
Und neiget das Haupt und verschied.
And He bowed His head and passed away

32. Aria Bass and Chorus
Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll’Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo
Mein teurer Heiland, laß dich fragen,
My beloved Saviour, let me ask You,
da du nunmehr ans Kreuz geschlagen
since You have now been nailed to the cross
und selbst gesagt: Es ist vollbracht,
and You Yourself have said : It is accomplished,
bin ich vom Sterben frei gemacht?
have I been set free from death?
Kann ich durch deine Pein und Sterben
Through Your pain and death can I
das Himmelreich ererben?
inherit the kingdom of heaven?
Ist aller Welt Erlösung da?
Is this the redemption of the whole world?
Du kannst vor Schmerzen zwar nichts sagen;
You can indeed not speak for anguish;
doch neigest du das Haupt
but You bow Your head
und sprichst stillschweigend: ja
and silently say : Yes!
Jesu, der du warest tot,
Jesus, You were dead,
lebest nun ohn Ende,
and now live for ever,
in der letzten Todesnot
in my final agony of death
nirgend mich hinwende
may I turn nowhere else
als zu dir, der mich versühnt,
but to You , who have redeemed me,
O du lieber Herre!
O my dear Lord,
Gib mir nur, was du verdient,
give me only what You have won,
mehr ich nicht begehre!
for more I could not wish !

~

I repeat.

Dein höchstes Gut in Jesu Schmerzen,
That your highest good depends on Jesus’ sorrow,
Wie dir auf Dornen, so ihn stechen,
how for you from the thorns that pierce Him
Die Himmelsschlüsselblumen blühn!
heavenly flowers blossom!
Du kannst viel süße Frucht von seiner Wermut brechen
You can gather so much sweet fruit from His wormwood
Drum sieh ohn Unterlass auf ihn!
therefore look unceasingly towards Him!

~

I know, what has finally, truly quietened my anxious heart.

All these talk, such talk on “Blooming”.

How for me for the thorns that pierced Him,

only then,

could heavenly flowers blossom.

~

This is what will keep me through the wait,

before You take me Home to Glory.

Constantly. Unceasingly.

I meet my Saviour at Golgotha.

Eilt – Wohin ? – nach Golgatha!
Hurry – Where to? –to Golgotha!
Nehmet an des Glaubens Flügel,
Take the wings of faith,
Flieht – Wohin? – zum Kreuzeshügel,
Fly – Where to? – to the hill of the Cross,

Eure Wohlfahrt blüht allda!

There, your salvation flourishes!

~

40. Chorale
Flauto traverso I e Oboe I e Violino I col Soprano, Flauto traverso II e Oboe II e Violino II coll’Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo
Ach Herr, lass dein lieb Engelein
Ah Lord, let Your dear angels
Am letzten End die Seele mein
at my final hour carry my soul
In Abrahams Schoß tragen,
to Abraham’s bosom,
Den Leib in seim Schlafkämmerlein
while my body in its narrow chamber
Gar sanft ohn eigne Qual und Pein
gently without pain or torment
Ruhn bis am jüngsten Tage!
rests until the last day.
Alsdenn vom Tod erwecke mich,
Wake me then from death,
Dass meine Augen sehen dich
so that my eyes see You
In aller Freud, o Gottes Sohn,
in all joy, O God’s son,
Mein Heiland und Genadenthron!
my Saviour and throne of mercy
Herr Jesu Christ, erhöre mich,
Lord Jesus Christ, hear me,


Ich will dich preisen ewiglich!
I shall praise You eternally!

Sing to the LORD a new Song

What a week it has been. What a week indeed.

Since emerging from the depths and abysses of semi-despair (it had felt like it, or perhaps as a kind euphemism this could be replaced with ‘troubled estate of fervent Christian mind’ – I was at no moment about to renounce my faith nor let the enemy claim the victory seat in the throne of my heart that will never be his), to Divine revelation through the words of one who ministered to me, whom I had rightly turned to by His grace…

What it week it had been.

That I should be able to deliver a Bible study on Tuesday evening in a proper state of mind, while the skies in my head cleared and my Creator shone His Loving rays into my misty eyes, to recovering – if only incredibly gratefully – the following morning, and engaging with a commendable presentation on evolution, subtle racism, men-as-wild-animals and Neanderthals in the Senate Suite in the Castle in the darkened evening (nevertheless lit up by a splatter of stars in the night, just as He always has been and will always romance) and finally, that glorious Friday morning as I trod along that morning path to school with the Sun shining marvellously in my face when I found myself smiling again,

Really smiling again. 

I had an academic supervision that morning and his comments were ‘outstanding, simply outstanding’ and what could one do but to just give thanks in praise and worship and skip all the way home, rewarding oneself with a little weaving through of the charity shops (where an almost-certain ninety-nine percent of my clothes come from, teacher-y as they are, in the words of Naomi), and just… being incredibly joyful, you know?

Tea had followed with Guo Ting where lips of His anointing spoke of His Love and how He had found me in Cambodia when I was 17, and threading through this very night with a follow-up and this time, with her friend, Bodhi, where good conversation on Pure Land Buddhism, hynopsis, “Fa Xing” (or, the Higher Source of Good and Evil which one can truly be found within oneself) and its juxtapositions (and really, strangely, more similarities) with the Christian faith. He is one of questions, good questions. I also now have a worthy contender of names – a Bodhi tree was one of significant relation to Gautama Buddha. It is my firm belief, however, that the Love of God still stands, still reigns 😉 We look forward to another meeting after he is back from a healing hynopsis next week, (quite a pricey one at that, yet I did not feel compelled to put it down straightaway, if in fact it might help disprove anything, him being thoroughly convinced at it), and I pray the LORD will continue and lead and guide. I feel he is seeking, as much as she too, is seeking, even if the fence is getting a little warm from the sitting, but His promise is that

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” — Jeremiah 29: 13

Three years they have got, and sometime in those three years, I believe, they will find Him.

Today, I was incredibly impacted by Eric Ludy’s call for Intercessors, (his theology a hearty mix of C T Studd and Spurgeon and Ravenhill) as I first did with Elizabeth Alves, the book a gift from dearest Aunt Lucille:

The video’s message is powerful in its conveyance, soul-stirring it is – ‘the medium is the message’ rings a little true in its dramatic effect, and this has been His reminder to me that in the time that I am elseplace, I must be an Intercessor. I must stand in the gaps, and Pray.

~

Friday evening, I had skittled a little.

It had begun slightly harrowing as I took a dimly-lit path (my only light coming from my handphone) where people smoking weed called out for 20 pounds for a smoke as I hurried on along my way, and though afraid, I reached the grounds of safety (strange that things as such should mar Durham’s pristine glory in that I am reminded that I find myself in a world now so foreign to me in a greater sense of the word), I looked up at the stars which guided me, the Hand which guided me, and entered safely the little house where You had arranged a Missions Fair.

There was no coincidence, You don’t plan coincidences do You.

That I should stumble upon a conversation with Andy and Esther Wade, a father and his lovely daughter of 18, and be reminded as You spoke through them.

Felt a calling to Morocco, he did, when he first set foot on the grounds soon to be his home for the next 15 years (a quarter or a fifth of a Life) when he was but 18, felt that “this is it” and the LORD made you wait how many years? I asked. He showed me his fingers, his dusty blue eyes peering deep into mine.

Eight years.

Eight good years, and the LORD prepared him well in those years. Had to go to University to read English he did, and so teacher-trained would he be, and the LORD never wasted any of those 8 years.

Experience, you know, he said. You need experience. It equips you.

I almost teared at the depth of this encounter, at how God would be speaking this into my heart, even as I tried to hold on to some kind of a silver of hope that there would -there might- there-still-could-be kind of a possibility.

8 years.

She had waited 6 years.

I wonder sometimes, still wonder, what is the number You might have for me.

But I wonder more at who You are now. Exact numbers no longer mean anything to me when I fix my eyes on You whose Hands hold Eternity.

What brought you the greatest joy in the field?” I asked.

Not numbers of people saved, not the revolutions or revivals, not anything else, but this:

The Sun shining on my face. The Sun shining on my face.” he said.

I paused, if only to catch a mid-of-a-half-and-not-really breath.

Those were the exact same words You had for me that glorious morning as I walked through Pimlico Lane, among the towering trees like those of Mandai, only a trillion times more beautiful as the path trundles along in its ups and downs.

Those were the exact same words You had for me that morning.

That is how real You are.

I shook Andy’s hand, hugged Esther, and I left.

I know now.

I’ll most certainly be heading to NIE, and I have to go through my years of teacher training.

You told me so.

I remember dedicating the year ahead to You in Phnom Penh, at Daughters of Cambodia.

These years, but a speck in eternity. You’d get me through.

~

The night was late as we trod to Hallgarth Street, and our voices rose to You in jubilant song.

“Give me oil in my lamp keep me burning, Give me oil in my lamp I pray, Give me oil in my lamp keep me burning, keep me burning til the break of day! 

Sing, Hosanna, Sing Hosanna, Sing Hosanna to the King of Kings! 

Sing, Hosanna, Sing Hosanna, Sing Hosanna to the King of Kings!”

She strummed, and we did the vocals. I was astonished that she had sung this childhood song in her country too, and that only served to strike a chord with our hearts aligned to serve Him with our lives in this manner.

You don’t find many called. Each are called differently, graciously, by the LORD.

But its always a joy to know that another had been called, too.

A decade down the road, we half-seriously joked (what irony), we would remember this night when we sang this beautiful song in resonant memory. It is captured. It is replayed. It will be replayed, when the time is ripe.

For Esther had said:

“It is the LORD’s flame He’s put in your heart, and He’ll be the One to keep it burning.”

Amen.

And one day, so is my promise to Andy as I left,

I will convey his regards to his good old friend in the unknown village, whose name is Michael King.

I’ll make it to Cambodia.

Once again, it is when I meet Him in peaceful surrender that He surprises, ever surprises.

He blew the doors wide open this morning, as I facetimed (yes, it is now officially a verb) Home.

Yes from Pa, and a Yes, too from Mom. The Summer awaits. Round 5.

Progress in the building of His School is well, and all is good to hear.

O, How Gracious is the LORD! 😀

One of my favourite Psalms this is,

and I have, and shall sing forth again in Joyous praise:

Psalm 96

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
tell of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him;
strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
bring an offering, and come into His courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before Him, all the earth!
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for He comes,
for He comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and all the peoples in His faithfulness.

~

AMEN.

And now, it is time to Intercede.

The Sabbath approaches, and You fill me with gladness 😀

Pascal’s Method for Presenting the Christian Faith

Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.”

Blaise Pascal was a brilliant 17th century French mathematician and physicist who had a dramatic Christian conversion experience and thereafter devoted much of his thought to Christianity and philosophy. He began to assemble notes and fragments that he hoped would be woven into a book called “The Defense of the Christian Religion” but he died just two months after his 39th birthday and it was never written. Those fragments, however, were published as Pensees (“thoughts”) and it has become one of the most famous Christian books in history.

One of the most interesting of Pascal’s Pensees is the one printed above. Here Pascal looks holistically at how to present the Christian message to those who do not believe it. He begins with the psychology of non-belief. He says that people are not objective about religion (here meaning Christianity). They really despise it and don’t want it to be true—yet fear it may be true. Now some of these are fair-minded people who see good, well-thought out reasons that Christianity is not true. Others are not so fair-minded and they just vilify and caricature it. But no one is neutral. People know instinctively that if Christianity is true they will lose control, and they will not be able to live anyway they wish. So they are rooting for it not to be true, and are more than willing to accept any objections to the faith they hear.

How should Christians respond? Pascal thinks there are basically three stages to bringing someone on the way to faith. First, you have to disarm them and surprise them. Many people hope that Christianity does not make sense on any level. They especially enjoy hearing about professing Christians who are intemperate, irrational, and hypocritical—this confirms them in their non-belief. When, however, some presentation of Christian faith—or simply a Christian believer’s character—comes across as well-informed, thoughtful, sensible, open-minded, helpful, and generous, then this breaks stereotypes and commands a begrudging respect.

After this, Pascal says, we should be somewhat more proactive. “Next make it attractive, make good men wish [Christianity] were true.” We might object to the term ‘make’ and suggest that Christianity is already attractive, but that’s to miss Pascal’s point. Of course he is not saying that we should make Christianity into something it is not—rather we should reveal, point out, and expose its existing features. But the phrase “make good men wish it were true” gets across that this takes determination and ingenuity. We must know our culture—know its hopes—and then show others that only in Christ will their aspirations ever find fulfillment, that only in him will the plot lines of their lives ever have resolution and a happy ending.

I’m glad Pascal calls for this, because, understandably, in these conversations we want to talk about sin and the barrier that creates between God and us. Pascal is not arguing against that. Certainly he is not telling us to hide that. But do we take time to talk about the manifold and astonishing blessings of salvation? Do we give time and effort to explaining the new birth, our new name and identity, adoption into God’s family, the experience of God’s love and beholding Christ’s glory, the slow but radical change in our character, a growing freedom from our past and peace in our present, power and meaning in the face of suffering, membership in a new, universal multi-racial counter-cultural community, a mission to do justice and mercy on the earth, guidance from and personal fellowship with God himself, relationships of love that go on forever, the promise of our own future perfection and glorious beauty, complete confidence in the face of death, and the new heavens and new earth, a perfectly restored material world?

If we do this, Pascal gives us a very specific outcome to shoot for. If we have pointed such things out in an effective way, then some (though surely not all) will say “If Christianity really can give that, it would be wonderful. Yes, it would be greatif it were true. But of course Christianity isn’t. What a shame!”

It is only then that most people will sit through any kind of substantial presentation of the evidence and reasons for the truth of Christianity. Now Pascal says to “show that it is [true].” If they have not been brought through stage 1 (being disarmed and surprised by the lives and speech of believers) and stage 2 (seeing the great and attractive promises of God in Christ), their eyes will simply glaze over if you begin to talk about ‘the evidence for the resurrection.’ They will still expect Christianity to be at best useless and at worst a threat. But if Christianity has begun to make emotional and cultural sense they may listen to a sustained discussion of why it makes logical and rational sense. By ‘emotional sense’ I mean that Christianity must be shown to be fill holes and answer questions and account for phenomena in the personal, inward, heart realm. By ‘cultural sense’ I mean that Christianity must be shown to have the resources to powerfully address our social problems and explain human social behavior. Only if someone’s imagination is captured will most people give a fair hearing to the strong arguments for the truth of Christianity. Let’s appeal to heart and imagination as well as to reason as we speak publicly about our faith in Jesus.

Timothy Keller, The Redeemer Presbyterian Church Newsletter 

I Arise Today

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.”

~ A prayer of St Patrick.  

Surely, this must be what it means,

“In Him we live and move and have our being” 

~Acts 17: 28