What are we doing?

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revolutionary-war-013

by Kuda Zumbika
Originally published at http://www.churchunlimited.co.za/elder/blog/what-are-we-doing

When we hear of Ebola in West Africa, or the war in Iraq, the usual reaction is to say, ‘well, it is far from us’ or, ‘hey, it is bad for those guys in those countries.’ As children of God, we ought to look at how we respond to the suffering that we see all over the world. Jesus showed in John 11:33 that when He saw the mourning of the people, His heart was deeply moved and he was greatly troubled;

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. Joh 11:33

This was in spite of the fact that He knew what was to happen and that He was going to resurrect Lazarus, He was so moved by the suffering He saw that He wept.

How does your heart feel when you hear the news of all this suffering, does it move you, does it trouble you, what reaction does it stir in you. I believe that as Christians, these events ought to lead us to pray, even though we are assured of the victory, but the needs in the world are there for the children of God to be made manifest. Let’s pray as if Ebola is in Hazyview or like the war is in Barberton, pray like your life depends on it! Even if it is for people you may never meet in this lifetime, because God loves the world and is seeking a people who will pray.

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Kuda Zumbika is an elder at Church Unlimited in Nelspruit and White River.

If you’re wondering if Jesus likes all of you (or how depression showed me he does)

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By Wendy van Eyck
Originally published at http://www.ilovedevotionals.com/2014/10/if-youre-wondering-if-jesus-likes-you.html
But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. These are the things I’ll be doing for them – sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute. Isaiah 42:16 (MSG)

I was 21, and standing in the dog food aisle, when I realised that I did not want to kill myself anymore.

I remember the moment clearly; I can even picture the bag of dog food I was examining when I realised that I did not want to die, that I wanted to take another shot at life.

For the first time in almost a year, I wanted to breathe, to live, and to stop wishing cars would run me over when I walked to University.

When I was growing up – blowing bubbles, climbing jungle gyms and jumping on trampolines – I never imagined at 21 I would be unravelling like the hem of my trouser leg and needing to crawl home for some love and repair and hope.

I had walked away from the life I had dreamt of living and I did not know what to do next, or who I was, or what life meant.

Even today there are times when I know nothing else but this one thing. I do not understand it. And I wrestle and grapple and argue about it constantly with myself, with others, and with Jesus.

Jesus liked all of me. He liked the dark places I wished to flee, and the shadows where I dwelt, and the light that reminded me of who I used to be. Jesus stayed with me, not out of pity, but out of love.


I do not know how Jesus happened to be there, and I do not know how he found me, all I know is that he was there.

When I was stumbling through my life, when I was wandering in darkness, Jesus was with me, and he liked me, every bit as much as the little girl who laughed on the swing.

To be honest, sometimes it felt like I was alone, like I was walking with my hands out along a foggy road but then the mist would clear and I’d catch a glimpse of the One who walked with me.

I’d hold that picture in my mind and head towards it reminding myself of the promise in Isaiah 42:16:

I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. These are the things I’ll be doing for them – sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.

Sometimes my life still makes no sense to me, often I feel myself battling the darkness, squinting for a glimpse of the One I know will take my hand before I fall, the One I know will stick with me through the darkest days.

Ponder: Do you think that Jesus likes you on best days? What about on the worst ones?

Prayer: Lord, take my hand when I can’t see where I’m going.


 

Photo Credits (Creative Commons): unsplash.com | Design: Wendy van Eyck

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Wendy van Eyck writes devotionals at www.ilovedevotionals.com about life, God and hard times. She also contributes to ibelieve.com and Crosswalk.com. Follow her on Twitter – @wendyvaneyck.

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When God uses four-letter words – Words to live by Part 2

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by Arthur Stewart | 844 words
Originally published at kingofheartsblog.wordpress.com

“Wait” is a four-letter word. I’d say that is appropriate. If you’re like me, you probably think or say other four-letter words when you hear that you must wait. Wait is not a nice thing to hear!

I’m writing about a few words God is working on with me and it got so long that I had to split it into a series of blog posts. You can read the first post in this series here or the entire piece here. Or, you can read it bit by bit, as I’m posting in more manageable chunks. Today, I am sharing about the word WAIT.

Remember, these reflections are drawn initially from my reading of of 1 Samuel 13 which contains the story of King Saul hastily performing priestly rituals to seek God’s will as his army was freaking out in the face of overwhelming enemies. It’s worth reading the story or my initial thoughts to give the context. Again, Saul’s story is so much like our own that I believe there is a lot we can learn about God and us. So, we have these words God has give me:

wait : trust : obey : connect

And the first word to consider is Wait

Saul should have waited. It’s obvious as we read the story now because we know what happened. But at the time, how long would you have told Saul to wait – a huge army getting ready to attack, your army shrinking by the minute? Actually, just put yourself in Saul’s place – how long would YOU wait? I feel like this is something very difficult and counter-cultural for us. Our world does not wait. Speed is of the essence. We make it happen. And the more capable you are (or think you are), the easier it is to strive to get it done. But so often this gets in the way of what God wants to do. He says wait (in the Bible, God says wait A LOT). As I was thinking about this, God reminded me of a picture that was given for me in prayer a while back. It was of an eagle sitting on a cliff waiting for an updraft. The eagle is meant to go very high and can only get there on a thermal. It must wait. No amount of flapping wings will take the bird to great heights. Eagles know this. They don’t stress. They don’t flap. They wait. And then they soar. Right now, I am in a time of waiting – doing different things than I am accustomed to. It is a unique season that I am in, and I honestly don’t like it. But God has said to me over and over, in many different ways – wait.

How does one go about waiting? Do you simply sit around do doing NOTHING AT ALL? Sometimes. But for most of us, we’d be sitting around doing nothing for a very long time. And that is not what God wants either.

  1. We can definitely put extra effort into prayer, worship, and connecting with God (see my post in a few days time) while we are waiting. Allow God to fill the “void” rather than seeking or allowing distractions that may get in the way of what God is wanting to do or show us.
  2. Although it is not always easy, we can be extra attentive as we wait. Allow waiting to be active in that sense. Open your eyes, ears, heart, and mind extra big in this time. There are lots of books and resources on how to do this sort of thing. However you do it, be purposeful in waiting.
  3. Act on what you DO know. If you are waiting for something, there are OTHER things you can act on in the meantime. There are things God has said to you, and to all people, that you can be working on as you wait on other things. This will help tremendously against discouragement, boredom, and the sense of hopelessness that comes when we are waiting.

I am currently waiting for things like:

Healing for people I am praying for

God to come through on some promises He has made and words He has given

God to reveal Himself to certain people in ways that radically alter their lives

God to make clear some next steps into the future for geography & ministry opportunities

What are you waiting for and what does waiting look like for you?

wait : trust : obey : connect

As we continue this series, we will next look at trust…

***

Arthur Stewart helps people find different ways to connect with God and live out their unique design in the kingdom. He is married with three children and moved to Cape Town in 2010 after seven years in Pretoria. He enjoys music, football, hiking, and pub quiz. Between all that and ministry, he is also currently working on a PhD in Missiology from the University of Pretoria. Follow him on Twitter – @arthurstewart2

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When Jesus isn’t Real

desertatnight1

desertatnight1by Stephen Murray
Originally published at osweetexchange.com
1137 words


How do you allow an event, that took place 2000 years ago, to shape your inner emotional and existential life? You don’t have to be in ministry for long before this becomes a recurring question that you hear. Ok granted, the word “existential” doesn’t come up all that often in questions ordinary church people ask me, but the idea does. There’s a nagging sense, in many, that the gospel is an intellectual reality that they’ve made peace with, but they just don’t feel its force in a subjective way. “I believe the gospel in my head – I just don’t know if it’s gotten hold of my heart”.

The answer that I tend to give to folk is something I’ve been trying to develop over a period of time, learning from Scripture, and the insights of other pastors. I’d still like to sharpen it more, but here’s three suggestions as to why an individual might be having a hard time existentially relating to the gospel:

1. You might need God to do a supernatural work deep within you

When the apostle Paul expounds on the gospel in Romans 5 he makes a very poignant statement about our subjective experience of the hope of the gospel in verse 5. He says, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Now whether you consider yourself charismatic or not, I’m not sure you can read this verse to say anything other, than that the Holy Spirit subjectively and supernaturally impresses the love of God upon us (BTW – if you’re not at all charismatic know that this is the way the Puritans read this verse – see Richard Sibbes). At its core, our subjective grasping of the objective gospel is a supernatural affair. God has to pour his love into your heart by his Spirit.

The implication is that the only thing we can do here is get on our knees and pray that God would do that supernatural work in our hearts, and that he would do it in increasing measure. So pray, pray, pray.

2. You might not be making use of the various means of grace given us by God

The gospel event might have taken place around 2000 years ago but the church has been celebrating and remembering that event for 2000 years, through the means of grace that God has built into the fabric of what it means to be church. Here are a few things: The corporate gathering of God’s people to worship and exalt him; consistent reading of the Bible; consistent learning of the Bible through listening to preaching and studying it in groups; consistent prayer, both by yourself and with others; the Sacraments, particularly the Lord’s Supper which stands as a regular, visible, and tangible representation of the gospel, commending the good news to our senses; communal fellowship – sharing your lives with other Christians as extended family.

If you’re not regularly partaking of these means of grace it might be what’s keeping you from connecting with God, in the inner recesses of your heart. Living this side of the new creation can become an overwhelming reality that clouds and interferes with the way that your heart grasps theological truth. So these means of grace are given to us to help us break through those clouds and periodically touch the new creation with the fingers of our hearts. Through them we touch and grasp something of the pleasure and satisfaction that we will enjoy for eternity, as we delight in the God of the gospel.

I’m one of those people who tends to use software without learning to implement most of the great features that new software normally comes with. My wife watches me painfully and slowly build a presentation or a spreadsheet and she just shakes her head. She knows all the features, and she regularly uses them. As you can imagine, her experiences with software are a lot less frustrating than mine.

You’re going to have one frustrating spiritual journey through this life, often devoid of intimacy and connection with God, if you don’t make use of the features that God has built into his gospel software: The means of grace. Grace has been poured out upon you in the gospel so take all the opportunities you can get to enjoy that grace and be refreshed in it.

3. Your heart might be out of space

Another difference between my wife and I is that we have different approaches to accumulating stuff. She likes lots of stuff, I prefer “less is more” (in my mind at least). I’m by no means an ascetic minimalist, but I do like to have less stuff but better stuff. She, on the other hand, likes to have lots of stuff, not in a rampant materialist way, but rather in a you’ll-never-know-when-you-need-it way. This is not a battle I win at home, and apartment living in the city means space is expensive and at a premium. So not only is getting new stuff expensive but it also presents the problem of where to store it. I’ve recently begun cycling as an attempt to revolt against my expanding waistline, but I have nowhere to conveniently store my bicycle. No space for the good stuff.

Our hearts are a bit like this – there’s only so much space. Our capacity to love is limited. If we are filling ourselves up with other ultimate loves, nurturing and feeding these loves, then we shouldn’t be all that surprised when our hearts run out of space for Christ. I’ve heard Tim Keller explain this a slightly different way by using the analogy of sweets. You might remember, as a child, being told by your mother not to eat sweets just before dinner because you’ll ruin your appetite. The wisdom being that a quick shot of sugar will temporarily leave you feeling full and not needing the nourishing meal at the table. You really need that meal, but that shot of sugar deludes you. You fill up on sweets and there’s no desire left for the meal. Your heart only has so much space – so be careful you don’t spoil your appetite for the love of Christ by fixating on smaller, fleeting loves.

I’d like to think that if you worked hard on these three elements you’d begin to see Christ move from simply being an intellectual reality to being an all-consuming heart reality. It’s hard work, and the distractions are plentiful, but the payoff is worth it every time.

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Stephen Murray is a Presbyterian pastor from Cape Town who blogs at osweetexchange.com. He calls himself a long-suffering, but dedicated, Arsenal fan. Follow Stephen on Twitter – @StephenMurray.

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Words to Live By – wait : trust : obey : connect

WaitTrustconnectObey

WaitTrustconnectObey

by Arthur Stewart
Originally published at kingofheartsblog.wordpress.com
2039 words


Have you ever had a time in life where you felt like you were made aware of very specific words to live by? These words can come any number of ways – advice, something you read or hear, looking back through an old journal. Such revelations aren’t necessarily THE big and ultimate truth on the meaning of life. Rather, they are certain parts that we need to focus on, cling to, or learn at a given time. I’m in one of those seasons right now…

wait : trust : obey : connect

God drew my attention to these words as I was reading through the book of 1 Samuel again recently. In chapter 13, Saul has become king and has begun to rally Israel to defeat the oppressive nations around them. After some initial victories, the Philistines gather a massive army and Saul’s army panics. And Saul panics. He knows they should ask God what to do but instead of waiting for Samuel the Priest to arrive and perform the religious rituals God had established, Saul does the ceremony himself. Samuel then arrives and pronounces God’s judgment on Saul for his disobedience.

Oh Saul, your intentions were good, but why didn’t you wait? Of course, you didn’t know if or when Samuel would arrive, did you? And you had an entire nation looking to you and an army getting weaker by the minute. And I am sure you were both confident in your abilities and absolutely terrified that you would get this wrong. And actually, you started off right by wanting to ask God what to do. But because you went about it the wrong way – the way that probably made sense to you but wasn’t the way God had said to do it – you lost everything. My heart breaks for you Saul, because I’m just like you.

How often do I panic when the pressure mounts past what I can tolerate?

How often do I lose sight of what God has promised because it is taking SO long to come?

How often do I do something the way that makes sense to me when it conflicts with the way God has said to do something?

As I reflected on this story, God kindly moved me from the familiar path of self-condemnation and powerlessness to the truth that Saul isn’t just a story character for us to to pity or scorn (or worse – equate all his failures with ourselves). Rather, in seeing in Saul’s story our own potential to act similarly, we can actually see our real choices and give God the opportunity to write a different story with our own lives. And so God gave me these words:

wait : trust : obey : connect

Wait – Saul should have waited. It’s obvious as we read the story now because we know what happened. But at the time, how long would you have told Saul to wait – a huge army getting ready to attack, your army shrinking by the minute? Actually, just put yourself in Saul’s place – how long would YOU wait? I feel like this is something very difficult and counter-cultural for us. Our world does not wait. Speed is of the essence. We make it happen. And the more capable you are (or think you are), the easier it is to strive to get it done. But so often this gets in the way of what God wants to do. He says wait (in the Bible, God says wait A LOT). As I was thinking about this, God reminded me of a picture that was given for me in prayer a while back. It was of an eagle sitting on a cliff waiting for an updraft. The eagle is meant to go very high and can only get there on a thermal. It must wait. No amount of flapping wings will take the bird to great heights. Eagles know this. They don’t stress. They don’t flap. They wait. And then they soar. Right now, I am in a time of waiting – doing different things than I am accustomed to. It is a unique season that I am in, and I honestly don’t like it. But God has said to me over and over, in many different ways – wait.

How does one go about waiting? Do you simply sit around do doing NOTHING AT ALL? Sometimes. But for most of us, we’d be sitting around doing nothing for a very long time. And that is not what God wants either.

  1. We can definitely put extra effort into prayer, worship, and connecting with God (see my post in a few days time) while we are waiting. Allow God to fill the “void” rather than seeking or allowing distractions that may get in the way of what God is wanting to do or show us.
  2. Although it is not always easy, we can be extra attentive as we wait. Allow waiting to be active in that sense. Open your eyes, ears, heart, and mind extra big in this time. There are lots of books and resources on how to do this sort of thing. However you do it, be purposeful in waiting.
  3. Act on what you DO know. If you are waiting for something, there are OTHER things you can act on in the meantime. There are things God has said to you, and to all people, that you can be working on as you wait on other things. This will help tremendously against discouragement, boredom, and the sense of hopelessness that comes when we are waiting.

I am currently waiting for things like:

Healing for people I am praying for

God to come through on some promises He has made and words He has given

God to reveal Himself to certain people in ways that radically alter their lives

God to make clear some next steps into the future for geography & ministry opportunities

What are you waiting for and what does waiting look like for you?

Trust – This goes hand in hand with waiting. We will only wait when we trust that something good is going to happen. It is the thing that allows us to wait. In this Bible story, Saul didn’t trust. Do I? There are things that I am waiting on – that I believe God has said, that I NEED to come true, that seem to be in line with who God is and who I understand myself to be. In this process I am discovering the real limits of my trust. I have learned that with some things, I trust somewhat and not fully – I trust God to make some things a little better, but not completely right. I have also found that one can trust God with some things and not others. I, for example, trust God to provide for our family. God always has. So we live and make decisions according to this trust. On the other hand, I must confess that I have a bad history of trusting God with my heart. I have interpreted my experiences to show that God won’t fully love me unconditionally and be there when I really need. Therefore, I act or protect myself in ways I think will take care of my heart. I can’t tell you how wrong I get this! God and I are working through this one slowly together. Isn’t it interesting how we have different things we do and don’t trust God for? We don’t always see them either. But any part of life where you feel like it is yours to take care of instead of God shows a lack of trust. Thankfully, God understands, doesn’t hold it against us, and gives us endless opportunities to grow.

Obey – Saul, it’s simple – do what God says. If God says the priest must do the sacrifice in a certain way, then that’s what should happen. Sometimes you don’t understand, it doesn’t make sense, it hurts, or you think you may know better. But God is God and you are not. Arthur, do what God says. Sometimes you don’t understand, it doesn’t make sense, it hurts, or you think you know better. But God is God and you are not. What if God has a bigger and better perspective than you? What if God is good and loves you? Will you obey? Yes, it is often difficult. Will you obey? Oh, I struggle with this one sometimes. I’ve wrestled with God over some things He has told me in the past several months – things I don’t want to hear. And perhaps like you, this obedience is testing my waiting and trusting. I don’t obey God if I don’t trust God. And another thing about obedience – it is often repetitive. We don’t decide or act just once. We choose again and again and again. It can be difficult. It can be tiring. It exposes our fears. It tests us. It refines us. Obedience is not popular in our world, understandably so. Blind obedience in most situations can lead to such abuse. But obedience to the good, wise, and loving God of the universe – our heavenly Father – strengthens our soul.

Connect with God – To me, this is the win of it all. I may struggle to wait. I may struggle to trust. I may struggle to obey. But God says – while you are working all that out, connect with me. Spend time with me. Let me show you how much I love you. Let me speak with you and share my heart with you. Let me show you things from my perspective. This is the most kind and generous invitation in all the world. And when we accept, our priorities change. Our stress looks different. Focusing on God does things in our heart that begins to work out things inside and outside of us. I believe that the more we do this, the more God has the opportunity to tell us what to do, how to do it, who to speak to, where to go… In this season I find myself in, full of waiting, trusting, and obeying – I have dedicated myself to lots of connecting with God. Sometimes, it feels like all I have. But oh, I can’t get enough of God. It is what I do when I am stressed, confused, making decisions, preparing for my work. And it makes waiting not seem so bad. And I find myself trusting God more. And I think I am probably obeying more in the process. God doesn’t want to be distant. God wants us intimately connected with Him.

wait : trust : obey : connect

There are words for people living in exile. These are words for people with things still unresolved. These are words for people hanging on for dear life. These are words for those of us who follow God and live in the real world. These are words for anyone who doesn’t have it all figured out. These are words of hope, that God is interested in us as people and who we are. Because God knows and will come through and do what is best because God loves us. I need that. Don’t you? Are you waiting on God for something? Are you struggling to trust? Are you deciding if you will continue to obey? Do you need to connect?

As I set out to write this, I felt that maybe these were words for me and lots of people would have their own couple of helpful words. “These are my four words to live by, what are yours?” However, as I’ve written and spoken about this with others, so many people have resonated with them that I wonder if they might also be helpful words for you right now. They are not the fullness of the meaning of life, but they are true, and definitely part of God’s good news. And I hope they are as encouraging for you as they have been for me. I’ve scratched out the attached pic as my computer wallpaper to remind me (because I easily forget). May these four simple words bless your heart today.

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Arthur Stewart helps people find different ways to connect with God and live out their unique design in the kingdom. He is married with three children and moved to Cape Town in 2010 after seven years in Pretoria. He enjoys music, football, hiking, and pub quiz. Between all that and ministry, he is also currently working on a PhD in Missiology from the University of Pretoria. Follow him on Twitter – @arthurstewart2

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Comment at http://kingofheartsblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/words-to-live-by-wait-trust-obey-connect/

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

rearviewmirror

rearviewmirror

By Pete Missing | 570 words
Originally posted at riversidechurch.co.za

Throughout my journey with God I was persistently caught between an ideal and a reality as in, “It should be like this, but it’s like that?”

And you think we have it tough … consider Abraham, he had no church support base or cultural anchors when God asked him to do the unthinkable in offering his son, just as any good pagan might do – he left Haran to escape it all, yet God brought him face to face with it again, after so many years of wandering – in so doing he stripped his faith down to its basics.

Gone were the extras: the big-church, high pulpit, charismatic leaders, great singing, mind-blowing teachings and awesome music. His was so stripped down he had to ask, “So what sets this apart now?” Moses asked the same and came to Abraham’s conclusion – the difference is that God goes with us. He is the lover of our souls, a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

In going with us, He has sworn to never to leave or forsake us.  His promise is both passive and active. He is under oath to back us all the way and underwrite our faith – passive.  But His faithfulness is also active – He shares the scrapes, yelps, groans, bruises, occasional strong words, swinging moods, door slamming, dog flying and other trials we have to endure until we get to where He is taking us. He took similar abuse from Jeremiah, “it is you who hurt me, my familiar friend” and Psalmists who said, “withdraw your hand from your cloak and help me”, or “why are you so far from the noise of my roaring (substitute with loud shouting)” or “where are you Lord?”

The ensuing journey will ultimately grind our idealism down, like wind howling across the plains, but what will remain is the reality of a deep faith.  He will not let us go lightly or easily – attention to detail was and still is one of His strongest traits – Moses would tell you that 16 cubits meant 16 cubits, not 16.01254 cubits, more or less or that’s good enough. No I don’t mean He is a legalist, never, but He will persist with you until your lessons are so deeply ingrained in your life, that neither hell, nor heaven I suppose, will move you.  It is why Jesus could face opposition without flinching, not because He was superman, but because God schooled Him over the preceding thirty years.

I am a short writer (you know what I mean), so will leave it there … one thought is enough, God is faithful and true. He may send you round the mountain a few times or drive you back into wildernesses to learn unlearnt lessons, but I was young and now am older and can truly say, He has never forsaken us or left us begging for bread.

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Pete Missing has written over a million words and eight books and says he agrees with Luke – there would not be enough space in the earth to write all there is to write about Jesus. What he is left to confirm, he says, is that God is faithful. You can follow Pete Missing on Facebook.

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Comment at http://riversidechurch.co.za/blog/2013/02/09/objects-in-the-rearview-mirror-part-1-pete-missing/

Invitation to the Devotional Classics – On Loving God

Bernard-of-Clairvaux

Bernard-of-Clairvaux

by David de Bruyn | 491 words
Originally published at conservativechristianity.wordpress.com

Reading works from the Middle Ages is a strange experience. Some of their theological blind-spots seem to us to be so obvious that only willful blindness can appear explain it, we might say. Alongside these errors, we often find ardent devotion to God, written with a fervency and vehemence that would seem forced and phoney in our world of theological precision and devotional frigidity. For these reasons, we might do well to read Bernard of Clairvaux.

After all, his errors are so transparent, there is very little chance that a modern reader is in danger of being persuaded. Bernard’s rallying cry to the Crusades, his beliefs in Mary as Mediatrix, and his call for the faithful to pray to her are errors which we would quickly spot, and just as quickly oppose.

But right alongside this are works which stir us deeply with their piety. Most of us have sung English translations of Bernard’s poems in the hymns Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving HeartsJesus the Very Thought of Thee, and O Sacred Head Now Wounded. And at the top of the list of devotional works would be his treatise On Loving God.

Bernard states, “You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. I answer, the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due to Him is immeasurable love…We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing is more reasonable, nothing more profitable. When one asks, Why should I love God? he may mean, What is lovely in God? or What shall I gain by loving God? In either case, the same sufficient cause of love exists, namely, God Himself.”

The rest of this short work explains the theme, giving both how reasonable it is to love God (His glorious merits), and how profitable it is (the rewards, the joy, and the future hope). He describes what he sees as four degrees of love, and how we might attain it. For those who doubt that the idea of ordinate affection is found outside of the writers of this blog, read C.S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, Blaise Pascal, Augustine, and then Bernard. You’ll notice they’re tackling the same question: what does it mean to love God? What kind of love is the love we give God? And they write not because they believe the question is unanswerable, but because they believe the question is difficult and worth tackling carefully.

We who live in the emotionally burnt-over land of sentimentalism and modern pop culture would find a tonic in writers like Bernard. Hearing a writer from the 12th century, with no knowledge of our worship wars, taking on the question of what it means to love God, is certainly worth our time. I commend to your reading On Loving God.

Editor’s note: this book is available through Religious Affections Ministries here.

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David de Bruyn pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa (see www.bibleperspective.co.za). He is a contributor to religiousaffections.org and blogs at Towards Conservative Christianity.

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Devotional Classics: The Letters of Samuel Rutherford

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by David de Bruyn | 255 words
Originally published at conservativechristianity.wordpress.com


It is strange what comfort can be gained from reading other people’s letters! Certainly this is true of many books of the Bible, and it is also true of much correspondence from one Christian to another.

The Letters of Samuel Rutherford are justly celebrated as a rich devotional feast. Much of their value comes from the suffering circumstances which Rutherford endured, and in which many of the letters were penned.

Rutherford was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who lived through the tumultuous period of the abolition of the British Monarchy, the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, the Westminster Assembly, and finally the restoration of the monarchy. He was banished to Aberdeen and forbidden to preach in 1636, and restored in 1638. When Charles II was restored, Rutherford was charged with treason, but died before his trial.

A typical collection of his letters includes a variety of persons addressed: parishioners, fellow ministers, nobles, countesses and a few unknowns. His letters sing of the sufficiency of Christ, and of the need to seek Him and adore him. Themes of assurance, suffering, pastoral concern, prayer, experiential knowledge of Christ, holiness and deep repentance are found throughout.

What makes these letters more than the average Puritan fare, is the ardent tone with which Rutherford speaks of Christ. He longs for Christ when he seems absent, and seems to sing of Christ’s sweetness in others. The letters are instructive, pastoral, and sometimes even painfully corrective. Yet they seldom fail to be acts of adoration for Christ. For this reason, Rutherford’s Letters have come to be considered gems of devotion.

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David de Bruyn pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa (see www.bibleperspective.co.za). He is a contributor to religiousaffections.org and blogs at Towards Conservative Christianity.

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Devotional Classics: The Knowledge of the Holy & The Pursuit of God

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by David de Bruyn | 387 words
Originally published at conservativechristianity.wordpress.com


The Knowledge of the Holy and The Pursuit of God are A.W. Tozer’s most popular titles and understandably so. Those who read them find genuine spiritual insight, heartfelt piety, and an invitation to worship from one in the very act of doing so.

They are different works, that came about in different ways. The Pursuit of God was the culmination of decades of thought on the Christian life, which flowed out of Tozer in one sitting. During an all-night train ride, with some toast and some tea, he wrote the entire book. The Pursuit of God opposes spiritual complacency, and calls for the deliberate, vigorous pursuit of knowing God in conscious personal experience. This book follows no predictable pattern, nor can it be comfortably pigeon-holed. Instead, it covers notions of surrender, consecration, spiritual apprehension, the need for illumination and self-denial, in a unity that makes sense once read in its entirety. Years of spiritual experiences surround the exhortations of each chapter, and those with seeking hearts will resonate with Tozer.

The Knowledge of the Holy began as a series of sermons which Tozer preached in his last years, while ministering in Toronto. Those sermons, also published as The Attributes of God, were hammered into book-form by Tozer, and published in 1961, two years before his death. A study in God’s attributes, it could not be more different than a work on the same topic by A.W. Pink. Tozer’s work is musical: poetic descriptions break off into a quoted quatrain from Faber, Watts, or Tersteegen. Sprinkled through the work are quotes from church fathers, puritans, and mystics. Tozer’s wordcraft is probably at its best in this work, combining both theological precision with imaginative metaphor to fire the religious imagination. Twenty one chapters deal each with one attribute of God. And worth the price of the whole book is the first chapter: “Why We Must Think Rightly About God”. I’ve often referred Christians to this chapter as an introduction to understanding the importance of the religious imagination.

Not everyone will agree with Tozer’s understanding of sovereignty and free will, or his views on prevenient grace. These seem to me to be small matters to overlook, given the genuine gold in the rest of the works. I encourage every believer to include these two books in his or her reading list.

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David de Bruyn pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa (see www.bibleperspective.co.za). He is a contributor to religiousaffections.org and blogs at Towards Conservative Christianity.

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Invitation to the (Devotional) Classics – De Contemptu Mundi

Mundi

Mundi
by David de Bruyn | 725 words
Originally published at conservativechristianity.wordpress.com


 

The first duty of man ordained and brought forth into this world for that end, — my most dear Valerian! — is to know his Creator, and being known, to confess Him, and to resign or give up his life — which is the wonderful and peculiar gift of God, — to the service and worship of the Giver.

Eucherius was bishop of Lyons from around 434 till his death in 449. His most famous work, De Contemptu Mundi (On Contempt for the World) has enough nuggets for the devotional prospector.

Eucherius advocated the ascetic lifestyle of the Egyptian hermits, but remained connected to a life of learning and active service. On Contempt For the World has much more to say on loving God than it does on bodily mortification. The theme of this epistle to Valerian is essentially 1 John 2:15 – to love not this world.

For Eucherius, that meant a two-pronged approach: seeing the pain and inferiority of a life lived for this world alone, and meditating on the far greater reward that is God Himself and Heaven.

“And indeed I know not which should soonest or most effectually incite us to a pious care of life eternal, either the blessings which are promised us in that state of glory, or the miseries which we feel in this present life. Those from above most lovingly invite and call upon us; these below most rudely and importunately would expell hence.”

While exhorting Valerius to do so, Eucherius wrote words of admiration and praise for God that will make the heart of any worshipper rejoice:

“But if pleasure and love delight us, and provoke our senses, there is in Christian religion, a love of infinite comfort, and such delights as are not nauseous and offensive after fruition. There is in it, that which not only admits of a most vehement and overflowing love, but ought also to be so beloved; namely, God, blessed for evermore, the only beautiful, delightful, immortal and supreme good, Whom you may boldly and intimately love as well as piously; if in the room of your former earthly affections you entertain heavenly and holy desires. If you were ever taken with the magnificence and dignity of another person, there is nothing more magnificent than God. If with anything that might conduce to your honour and glory, there is nothing more glorious then Him. If with the splendour and excellency of pompous shows, there is nothing more bright, nothing more excellent. If with fairness and pleasing objects, there is nothing more beautiful. If with verity and righteousness, there is nothing more just, nothing more true. If with liberality, there is nothing more bountiful. If with incorruption and simplicity, there is nothing more sincere, nothing more pure than that supreme goodness.”

Of course, we wish that Eucherius had seen the manifold ways in which we can worship God and glorify Him in this world and in this life. But we don’t read Eucherius for earthy, everyday piety. We read Eucherius to remind us that this world, as good as it is, is not our home. We read this short, dense work (less than 11 000 words) to be reminded that the Christian faith is not merely a means to earthly ends. Instead, God Himself is the quest of the human soul.

“Take up your eyes from the Earth and look about you, my most dear Valerian; spread forth your sails, and hasten from this stormy sea of secular negotiations, into the calm and secure harbour of Christian religion. This is the only haven into which which we all drive from the raging surges of this malicious world. This is our shelter from the loud and persecuting whirlwinds of Time. Here is our sure station and certain rest; here a large and silent recesse, secluded from the world, opens and offers itself unto us. Here a pleasant, serene tranquility shines upon us. Hither, when you are come, your weather-beaten vessel — after all your fruitless toils — shall at last find rest, and securely ride at anchor of the Cross.”

You can download De Contemptu Mundi by Eucherius of Lyons at ccel.org (no Kindle version. PDF version free. ePub version costs $2.95)

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David de Bruyn pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa (see www.bibleperspective.co.za). He is a contributor to religiousaffections.org and blogs at Towards Conservative Christianity.

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