God can afflict, but God can also make well. God wants you to trust Him. Approach God with humility and prayer, and He will give you His mercy. God is not pleased when you suffer. He is willing to help you.
Have you ever felt the pain, inflicted by the Lord, at the very center of your being, deep down in the most sensitive area of your life? The devil never inflicts pain there, and neither can sin nor human emotions. Nothing can cut through to that part of our being but the Word of God. “Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ ” Yet he was awakened to the fact that at the center of his personal life he was devoted to Jesus. And then he began to see what Jesus’ patient questioning meant. There was not the slightest bit of doubt left in Peter’s mind; he could never be deceived again. And there was no need for an impassioned response; no need for immediate action or an emotional display. It was a revelation to him to realize how much he did love the Lord, and with amazement he simply said, “Lord, You know all things….” Peter began to see how very much he did love Jesus, and there was no need to say, “Look at this or that as proof of my love.” Peter was beginning to discover within himself just how much he really did love the Lord. He discovered that his eyes were so fixed on Jesus Christ that he saw no one else in heaven above or on the earth below. But he did not know it until the probing, hurting questions of the Lord were asked. The Lord’s questions always reveal the true me to myself.
Oh, the wonder of the patient directness and skill of Jesus Christ with Peter! Our Lord never asks questions until the perfect time. Rarely, but probably once in each of our lives, He will back us into a corner where He will hurt us with His piercing questions. Then we will realize that we do love Him far more deeply than our words can ever say.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”Romans 12:1
When I travel, wake-up calls are really important! More than once I have registered my wake-up time with the hotel desk confident that they would call right on time. Well, you know the rest of the story. Rolling over and looking at the clock only to realize that you’ll never make the morning meeting on time is not a great way to start the day!
So here’s a wake-up call that will help you get your day (and the rest of your life) on track for God. If you are not wide awake spiritually, you may find that you have been robbed blind of the most important treasure you have: your mind and the way you think!
Os Guinness tells a great story about a Russian factory worker in the days when Khrushchev was the prime minister. Because of the enormous economic strain in those days, employees would steal tools and just about anything else they could get their hands on. To stop the thefts, a KGB officer was placed at every factory gate where each worker was carefully searched for contraband. Petrov, a long-time laborer, pushed a wheelbarrow loaded with two large sacks of sawdust out the factory doors every day. Each day the guard searched through the sacks of sawdust but consistently found nothing. Weeks into this routine the frustrated guard finally said, “Hey, Petrov, I promise not to tell anybody. I can’t get what’s going on here. I don’t know why you need all this sawdust. What are you stealing?” Petrov grinned and whispered, “Wheelbarrows.”
Os Guinness makes this probing conclusion: “While we’ve been inspecting bags of sawdust, Satan has been stealing our minds.” What a great insight! And while how we behave—keeping all the rules and all the fuss over politics, abortion, and gay agendas—is not sawdust, it is easy to get sidetracked by the issue du jour while letting “control central” slip into thought patterns that quite frankly aren’t anything like God’s thoughts at all. This is no small issue. God’s Word says that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). I have always been taken aback by Jesus’ reproof of the religious folk of His day, when He said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” (Matthew 15:8)!
Paul gets it right when he informs us that the key issue in growth and transformation is the renewing of our minds, not just the mental activity of stacking up huge stores of biblical data. If that’s all we have we soon become proud and judgmental. We are to train our minds to think God’s thoughts after Him. To think the way He does about the poor and the oppressed. To think His thoughts about our enemies and those who have used and abused us. To let His thoughts honestly evaluate the lame stuff we pile up in our hearts. To think His thoughts about our money, time, family, job, and all other aspects of our lives.
After years of marriage, I find that increasingly my wife Martie and I think a lot alike. I can almost complete her sentences. After years of being a Christian, you would think that one should almost instinctively know His mind about nearly everything! But unfortunately that is often not the case, because Satan has been stealing us blind of our greatest treasure: the way we think!
From: Streams in the Desert
Be ready in the morning, and come… present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. And no man shall come up with thee (Exod. 34:2-3).
The morning watch is essential. You must not face the day until you have faced God, nor look into the face of others until you have looked into His. You cannot expect to be victorious, if the day begins only in your own strength.
Face the work of every day with the influence of a few thoughtful, quiet moments with your heart and God. Do not meet other people, even those of your own home, until you have first met the great Guest and honored Companion of your life–Jesus Christ.
Meet Him alone. Meet Him regularly. Meet Him with His open Book of counsel before you; and face the regular and the irregular duties of each day with the influence of His personality definitely controlling your every act.
Begin the day with God!
He is thy Sun and Day!
His is the radiance of thy dawn;
To Him address thy lay.
Sing a new song at morn!
Join the glad woods and hills;
Join the fresh winds and seas and plains,
Join the bright flowers and rills.
Sing thy first song to God!
Not to thy fellow men;
Not to the creatures of His hand,
But to the glorious One.
Take thy first walk with God!
Let Him go forth with thee;
By stream, or sea, or mountain path,
Seek still His company.
Thy first transaction be
With God Himself above;
So shall thy business prosper well,
And all the day be love.
The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early upon their knees. Matthew Henry used to be in his study at four, and remain there till eight; then, after breakfast and family prayer, he used to be there again till noon; after dinner, he resumed his book or pen till four, and spent the rest of the day in visiting his friends.
Doddridge himself alludes to his “Family Expositor” as an example of the difference of rising between five and seven, which, in forty years, is nearly equivalent to ten years more of life.
Dr. Adam Clark’s “Commentary” was chiefly prepared very early in the morning. Barnes’ popular and useful “Commentary” has been also the fruit of “early morning hours.”
Simeon’s “Sketches” were chiefly worked out between four and eight.
The allegories of Sarah and Hagar
“These are the two covenants.” Galatians 4:24
Suggested Further Reading: Galatians 3:19-24
Hagar was not intended to be a wife; she never ought to have been anything but a hand-maid to Sarah. The law was never intended to save men: it was only designed to be a hand-maid to the covenant of grace. When God delivered the law on Sinai, it was apart from his ideas that any man would ever be saved by it; he never conceived that men would attain perfection thereby. But you know that the law is a wondrous handmaid to grace. Who brought us to the Saviour? Was it not the law thundering in our ears? We should never have come to Christ if the law had not driven us there; we should never have known sin if the law had not revealed it. The law is Sarah’s handmaid to sweep our hearts, and make the dust fly so that we may cry for blood to be sprinkled so that the dust may be laid. The law is, so to speak, Jesus Christ’s dog, to go after his sheep, and bring them to the shepherd; the law is the thunderbolt which frightens ungodly men, and makes them turn from the error of their ways, and seek after God. Ah! if we know rightly how to use the law, if we understand how to put her in her proper place, and make her obedient to her mistress, then all will be well. But this Hagar will always be wishing to be mistress, as well as Sarah; and Sarah will never allow that, but will be sure to treat her harshly, and drive her out. We must do the same; and let none murmur at us, if we treat the Hagarenes harshly in these days—if we sometimes speak hard things against those who are trusting in the works of the law.
For meditation: God’s law will never have the power to save us (Romans 8:3); but thank God that it points us to a Man who can.
Sermon no. 69
2 March (1856)
A sight of self
‘But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. ‘ Isaiah 64:6–7
Suggested Further Reading: Acts 26:9–20
When you really feel your sinfulness, and mourn it, do not stop here; never give yourself any rest till you know that you are delivered from it, for it is one thing to say ‘Ah, I do sin,’ but it is quite another thing to say ‘He has saved me from my sin.’ It is one thing to have a repentance which makes you leave the sin you loved before, and another thing to talk about repentance. Ah, I have sometimes seen a child of God when he has sinned, and I have seen his broken-hearted actions, and heard his piteous confessions, and I can say that my heart goes out toward the man in whom there are tears of repentance of the right kind. It is one of the fairest sights that is seen under heaven when a believer who has gone wrong is willing to say, ‘I have sinned,’ and when he no more sets himself proudly up against his God, but humbles himself like a little child. Such a man as that shall be exalted. But I have seen—and it is a fearful sight to see—I have seen one who can sin and repent, and sin and repent. O that dry-eyed repentance is a damnable repentance! Take heed of it, brethren. I have known a man who professed to have been converted years and years ago, who, ever since that pretended conversion, has lived in a known sin, and yet he thinks he is a child of God because after he has fallen into the sin he has a little season of darkness arising from his conscience, but he quiets that conscience after a time, and presumptuously says, ‘I will not give up my hope.’ Oh, that is an awful thing. God deliver you from dry-eyed repentance, for it is no repentance.
For meditation: Repentance is a change of mind; are you tempted to repent of your repentance? That would be an attempt to short-change God and can easily develop into a vicious circle. For God’s attitude to such behaviour see Jeremiah 34:12–17.
Sermon no. 437
2 March (1862)