Heaven A World of Love

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-10

No writer, in my estimation, exudes the fragrance of Christ more than Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Anyone who reads him will attest to this fact. It was Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said of Edwards, “He was a mighty theologian and a great evangelist at the same time.” This cannot be refuted. It is sad, however, that Edwards has been neglected among the “lesser lights” in the church. May we all be stirred to read him anew! The blessings will be inestimable! Nothing ever written on 1 Corinthians 13 could possibly exceed what Edwards wrote in Charity and Its Fruits, from which these extracts are taken:

The apostle speaks, in the text, of a state of the church when it is perfect in heaven, and therefore a state in which the Holy Spirit shall be more perfectly and abundantly given to the church than it is now on earth. And it is also a state in which this holy love or charity shall be, as it were, the only gift or fruit of the Spirit, as being the most perfect and glorious of all, and which, being brought to perfection, renders all other gifts that God was wont to bestow on his church on earth, needless.

I would consider, first, the great cause and fountain of love that is in heaven. Here I remark that the God of love himself dwells in heaven. Heaven is the palace or presence-chamber of the high and holy One, whose name is love, and who is both the cause and source of all holy love. And this renders heaven a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. The apostle tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and therefore, seeing he is an infinite being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love.

There dwells Christ, the Lamb of God, the prince of peace and of love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for men. There dwells the great Mediator, through whom all the divine love is expressed toward men. There dwells Christ in both his natures, the human and the divine, sitting on the same throne with the Father. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love!

Second, I would consider the objects of love that heaven contains. There are none but lovely objects in heaven. No odious, or unlovely, or polluted person or thing is to be seen there. There is nothing that is wicked or unholy. “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination” (Revelation 21:27).  There are many things in this world that in the general are lovely, but yet are not perfectly free from that which is the contrary. But it is not so in heaven. That blessed world shall be perfectly bright, without any darkness; perfectly fair, without any spot; perfectly clear, without any cloud. No moral or natural defect shall ever enter there; and there nothing will be seen that is sinful or weak or foolish.

The Son of God, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory, appears there in the fullness of his glory, without that garb of outward meanness in which he appeared in this world. The whole church, ransomed and purified, shall there be presented to Christ, as a bride, clothed in fine linen, clean and white, “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”(Ephesians 5:27). Wherever the inhabitants of that blessed world shall turn their eyes, they shall see nothing but dignity, and beauty, and glory. “And the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations were of all kinds of precious stones. The twelve gates were twelve pearls”(Revelation 21:18-21). And all these are but faint emblems of the purity and perfectness of those that dwell therein. And there, above all, we shall enjoy and dwell with Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior, who has always been to us “the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:10,16).

~Adapted from Jonathan Edwards, “Heaven a World of Love,” Charity and Its Fruits, pages 325-332

Note: Surely we cannot read the above precious lines from Edwards without tears of joy! And let us all sing anew very loudly, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!”

wfb (October 24, 2016)
A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

Advertisements

Pour Out Your Heart

pray-2558490_1920A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

“Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8

As Christians, we must humbly desire to pray aright. Our text is the what, the how, and the why of true prayer. Note that we must “pour out” our hearts before God! This is essential if we pray correctly. Listen to Ambrose Serle (1742-1812) on this subject: “When the mind is truly touched by grace, it will and must pray. If the heart cannot find words to carry up its request, it will send them forth in earnest groans.

Prayer can no more be kept from ascending than flame from the fire. ‘Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Romans 8:26).  The cries of a drowning man are above the formality of words, and forcibly pierce the ear for help; so the deep-felt anguish of a convinced heart is inexpressibly eager for mercy, and with moans and groans sues it out from God in right earnest.”

What powerful, searching words! Note the importance of the mind being touched by grace with heart-felt anguish, moans, and groans. We need more than “formality of words” or “florid oration” or “fine speech.” To truly pray there must be “grace” in the heart, which alone produces “earnest groans” and “tearful sighs.” The Greek text of Romans 8:26-27 further clarifies the doctrine of prayer: “groanings” is from stenazo, “to sigh,” and such “unutterable groans” are attributed to the Spirit of God making “intercession on behalf of” the saints. The work of the Holy Spirit is necessary in order “to rescue us” with “sighs that baffle words,” Paul picturing the Spirit “taking hold at our side” as our Paraclete “at the very time of our weakness” (A. T. Robertson).

Some think Jesus taught us to pray something like this: “But when you pray, tilt your head, close your eyes, and listen to the designated person leading in prayer.” Is this not sadly so? Is that the only kind of “praying” you know? But the Master taught us that true prayer is personal, spiritual, of the heart, spontaneous, done mostly in secret, and is not with “vain repetitions” or “many words” (Matthew 6:6-7). An unbeliever cannot pray! The world cannot pray (John 17:25). Bought by Christ’s blood at Calvary, the quickened children of God alone can and do truly pray.

Let us earnestly seek to know prayer’s spiritual power by “humbling ourselves” before the great and awesome Yahweh (Nehemiah 1:4-5; James 4:10). God indeed is the majestic Sovereign, before whom we must come in contrition and fear, being commanded, “Ye people, pour out your heart before Him.”  True prayer affects our hearts, often causing groans and sighs and tears, or just an “Abba, Father.” May we know this experimentally through our Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.

A form of words may please
A sinner dead in sin;
But quickened sinners want to pray,
As prompted from within.
Gadsby’s Hymns #725

wfb

The Prayer of Eliezer

morocco-2750054_1920

It should be a familiar story, but let’s call it Mission Impossible: The Bachelor. It’s the one where Abraham sends his trusted servant to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24). Abraham doesn’t want Isaac to marry a local Canaanite so he sends his servant on a mission to his hometown some 600 miles away. From a modern perspective it’s simply outrageous. How does a beautiful young lady (Rebekah) leave her family, and everything she’s ever known, to take off on a camel caravan across the desert to marry a man she’s never met? Yet, we know that’s exactly what happens. It’s all part of God’s plan and the story of the servant reveals much more.

The Faithful Servant
So who is this servant fellow? He’s not actually named in the passage, but he’s described very well. He’s the oldest servant in Abraham’s household and he’s in charge of all that he had. In today’s language, he would be the top employee, power of attorney, executor of his estate, and trusted advisor. Many scholars believe it’s Eliezer, mentioned in Genesis 15:2 as Eliezer of Damascus, the only heir of Abraham’s house (before Isaac was born). His name means: God is help.

Now, it’s time for the mission and he accepts it by swearing to do all that Abraham asked. It’s a mission Abraham believes God will bless and even send an angel before him, but also one where Abraham acknowledges that if she doesn’t come back his oath would be fulfilled. Eliezer’s name is no accident, he would need God’s help. It’s only the lineage of the Messiah at stake, no pressure!  

The Obedient Servant
In verse 10 Eliezer makes plans like an elderly wise man would. He prepares to go with gifts and a small caravan of camels. Since he’s from Damascus, he most likely never traveled to Abraham’s hometown in Mesopotamia. He must have become a servant when Abraham first arrived in the land of Canaan, not long after God called Abraham to leave his country and his kindred. If true, he has little knowledge of the terrain of where he’s going, but I imagine he researched it and planned it out in incredible detail, keeping in mind he had to bring a young lady back safely.  

From the plans in verse 10 to the destination in verse 11, the story progresses quickly, completely skipping his journey details, to where the camels are kneeling near a well outside the City of Nahor. However, let’s pause and consider that long journey, can you imagine the obstacles faced, the adversity overcome? Can you sense his relief of finally arriving at the target city, exhausted and thirsty, expectant, knowing the time of day the daughters would come to draw water, but unsure of what would happen? He made it in faithful obedience, but we only have one verse to know he made it.

The Prayerful Servant
Then we come to verse 12 and find Eliezer’s unique prayer, where he’s not kneeling like the camels, instead, he’s standing, eyes open, watching. This is the first recorded prayer in the Bible. There are other conversations between God and man, other visions noted, but this is the first prayer. It may seem odd that the first prayer is not from a well known character, but it’s not really that strange because we know that God chooses the humble and less obvious characters throughout the Bible to accomplish His purposes.

Another thing the writer (Moses) doesn’t tell us is how frequent Eliezer prayed during the mission, or if he was a prayer warrior. I imagine he prayed many, many times on the way, but what sticks out in the absence of this knowledge is that his faithful, obedient action precedes his specific prayer for guidance.

And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” (Genesis 24:12-14).

And here we must ask, is this a legitimate way for us to pray? Isn’t he asking for a sign and putting God to the test? What if this isn’t God’s will?

The Bible contains many prayers where God honors specific requests. One that comes to mind is Samson’s prayer in the Book of Judges where he asked for strength one last time (16:28). Of course, God, in His wisdom, may not grant our specific requests. For instance, Paul’s request to remove the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8). Thus, God may answer prayers exactly how we pray them, may not answer them (but like Paul – His grace is sufficient), or may answer them in a way that we don’t expect, but we should not be afraid to be very specific when we pray. In fact, we’re encouraged to go boldly before the throne of grace to find Help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Like Eliezer, we should make plans, seek wisdom, and take action, all while seeking the Lord’s guidance in prayer. Then we must trust our Great God to direct our steps and trust Him with the outcome.

The Worshipful Servant
We know that Eliezer was ultimately successful in his mission. Verse 15 tells us that before he finished praying Rebekah came out with a water jar. Then she does everything that he prays to confirm – she’s the one! And what’s amazing is before he even started to pray she had to be on her way. What a faithful God! When we see God’s faithfulness through the lens of answered prayer what does it cause us to do? Worship! And that’s exactly what he did:

The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD and said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things (Genesis 24:26-28).

May we all be encouraged to be faithful, obedient, and prayerful in the service of our Master. The next time you face a seemingly impossible situation, remember how God has been faithful in the past, that He is faithful for today, and we can trust Him to be faithful in the future. Thus, we can act, pray, and cling to His promises. And when you see His faithfulness through answered prayer, worship!

 

What Does The Bible Say About Lying?

truth-2069843_1280We’ve all lied or we’re lying about never lying. And from experience we know that one lie can easily lead to many more. So I can confidently say you’ve been a liar liar pants on fire, but have to admit my jeans have burn marks too. But lying is a sin so severe it’s not something we should make fun of or take lightly is it? In fact, it’s awful and we should hate it.

If you’ve ever been deceived by a slick salesperson or misleading mechanic, led astray by a false teacher, had your identity stolen and used, your account hacked and fake messages sent, burned by a dishonest boss or employee, falsely accused or slandered, deceived by a seemingly trustworthy friend or family member, or one of the hardest – lied to by your spouse, child, or teenager, you know the damage, distrust, disruption, anger, frustration and anguish that can be generated by a single lie – no matter the perceived color of the lie.

So what does the Bible say about lying? 

1. A Liar Hates

Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart (Proverbs 26:24).

A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin (Proverbs 26:28).

2. There Are Consequences To Lying

Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit (Proverbs 12:17).

A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish (Proverbs 19:9).

An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue (Proverbs 17:4).

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy (Proverbs 12:19-20).

3. God Hates Lying

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16).

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (Colossians 3:9-10). 

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight (Proverbs 12:22).

There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Of the seven things God hates in Proverbs 6, notice how lying is mentioned twice, but it can be applied to all seven in the form of lying or believing a lie.

4. A Liar is a Liar Because of The Liar

It all goes back to Genesis:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:4-6).

When Jesus was speaking to the Jews who wouldn’t believe He said:

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).”

William Blake (1757-1827) references that infernal serpent lending his forked tongue in his poem The Liar. After reading it, I can’t help but wonder if the serpent’s tongue can be borrowed so often he eventually says, “you don’t need mine, you already own one.”

The Liar
Deceiver, dissembler
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Shall they dangle in the night?

When I asked of your career
Why did you have to kick my rear
With that stinking lie of thine
Proclaiming that you owned a mine?

When you asked to borrow my stallion
To visit a nearby-moored galleon
How could I ever know that you
Intended only to turn him into glue?

What red devil of mendacity
Grips your soul with such tenacity?
Will one you cruelly shower with lies
Put a pistol ball between your eyes?

What infernal serpent
Has lent you his forked tongue?
From what pit of foul deceit
Are all these whoppers sprung?

Deceiver, dissembler
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Do they dangle in the night?

5. The Truth Will Set You Free

With all the bad news regarding the consequences of lying, where is the remedy? The good news is the truth will set us free. The truth is Jesus came to save sinners like you and me.

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”

If you place your hope and faith and trust in Him you will be set free, you will repent or turn away from lying and will no longer be a slave to sin and the deception of The Liar. Going back to same chapter in John (Chapter 8) where Satan is called the father of lies, Jesus speaks to the Jews who believed and says:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:31-36).”

In this life we won’t have perfection, and you may struggle with lying, but if you are a disciple of Christ there is hope, forgiveness, and freedom. If you continue to struggle, seek accountability, be quick to repent, be quick to seek forgiveness, don’t lie and try to cover it up with more lies, but walk forward in the light of His victorious truth and freedom!

 

The Wise Counsel of Friends

children-1149671_1920

At some point in our lives we’ll face a crisis where we’re not sure what to do and we’re overwhelmed with the weight of what we’re facing. These kind of dilemmas may have various degrees of severity, but what they do is push us over the edge of the normal routine of life and into an uncomfortable situation that refines us by fire. The Book of Proverbs is full of wisdom to help us navigate difficult circumstances and one thing is clear God provides friends with wise counsel to help and encourage us on our spiritual journey. Friends are precious gifts from God and we shouldn’t take friendship lightly.

Acknowledge The Need For Help

The first thing we must do in difficult situations is to realize when we need help, wisdom, and counsel from friends and act upon it. The challenge for us during tough times is we’re often flooded with anxiety and may experience sadness, depression, anger, restlessness, and frustration. Both sleep and the appetite may be lost, or we may go to the other extreme of oversleeping and overeating. This is on top of the daily pressure of work, school, family, and household duties. The reality of our specific situation may be multifaceted and complex. Our decision making may be clouded by doubts, fears, and mental phantoms where we tend to resist the help of our friends because it exposes something we’d rather not deal with. We may be hurting emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Therefore, we’re more likely to believe lies and say things out of frustration which aren’t helpful. We’re primed to make bad decisions.

This is precisely why and when we need wise friends with Godly counsel.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad (Proverbs 12:25).

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Proverbs 27:9).

Resist Following Your Own Heart

The second thing we must learn is to resist the desire to follow our own heart and mind because the Bible tell us we’re prone to think wrongly. Where the world tells us to “follow our heart”, the Bible says:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). 

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26).

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Here we often struggle by justifying our attempts of coping alone. We ask ourselves questions and answer back and believe things which aren’t true: “So what if I make an unwise decision or hurt someone? I’m already hurting, it can’t get any worse. Is this happening to me because of my sin? What if I have to confess something that makes me look bad? I think God is after me. I wonder what the Bible says about the situation? I really don’t have time to dig into the Word. I wonder if I should seek my pastor or friends advice? What if I talk to one of my friends, I’ve heard they’ve been through something similar? No, they wouldn’t understand my situation, it’s similar, but not really the same. And I bet my pastor is too busy, and I don’t want to look foolish to my friends, but is it more foolish of me not to seek advice? I don’t know, I’ll just do this my way and see how it goes.”

Embrace Wise Counsel

Whatever trial we’re facing its purpose is to help us depend less on ourselves and more on God. Trials reveal our heart, expose sin, and help us see our need for a Savior anew. This is where wise counsel helps us through the muck of our lives, helps us stay on the right path, and helps us to learn to accept the love and support of friends whom God has placed in our lives for this very purpose. Thus, instead of following our own heart, we should embrace the help of Christian friends and thank God for them.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). 

A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory (Proverbs 24:5-6).

And I’ll include my favorite again:

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Proverbs 27:9).

So embrace the sweetness of a friend who will rejoice your heart by their counsel and be that friend to others. Friends are a Godsend for our good and His glory on our life journey.

The Pilgrim’s Progress

This reminds me of The Pilgrim’s Progress, that famous book penned by John Bunyan, where the main character, Christian, has two friends on the way through life’s journey. One was named Faithful and the other Hopeful.

Faithful was from the City of Destruction whom Christian meets as he leaves the Valley of the Shadow of Death and the two journey together until Faithful is killed in the wild town of Vanity Fair. But soon after Faithful’s execution Christian meets Hopeful and the two of them travel together all the way to the Celestial City. After each trial God provides a friend for Christian.

In the second half of the book, Christian’s wife, Christiana, later follows her husband on a similar journey and she has Mercy and Great-heart to help her on her way. If you’ve not read The Pilgrim’s Progress lately I highly recommend it.

Like Bunyan, and the writer of Proverbs, God knows we need friends that are faithful, hopeful, full of mercy, and who have great hearts for the Lord. Embrace their wise counsel because, even though they’re not perfect, they are very much a sweetness to the soul and in God’s providence they provide much encouragement to us on our long spiritual journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delighting in the LORD’s Discipline

wallpaper-3295190_1920

What comes to mind when you think of a father’s discipline? Is it a rough and tough dad picking-you-up-by-the-pants and spanking you angrily out-of-control, or is it a strong, but caring father who firmly corrects you because he loves and delights in you? The later is of course the picture painted about the discipline our Heavenly Father gives in Proverbs.

Proverbs 3:11-12
My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

The Hebrew word for despise is ma’ac (phonetically maw-as’) and it means to abhor, cast away off, disdain, become loathsome, refuse. What are we not to make light of and refuse? God’s love through His discipline. The Hebrew word for weary is quts (phonetically koots) which means to feel a loathing, abhorrence, or sickening dread. What are we not to sickening dread? God’s love through His reproof.

Let’s turn our attention to the word delight. It’s the Hebrew word ratsah (phonetically raw-tsaw’) which means to be pleased with or accept favorably. Should we loathe and hate to be under the loving care and discipline of a Father who is pleased with us and accepts us so favorably?

Think about these two points:  

  1. Our Heavenly Father disciplines us because He loves and delights in us, but if we despise His correction, we are despising His love.
  2. Our Heavenly Father disciplines us for His glory and our good, but when we’re in dread of, or distressed by, His correction, we are in fact denying His goodness and throwing shade on His glory.

Even the best earthly father will fail in many ways and ruin the perfect picture of love and discipline painted in this verse. The writer of the Book of Hebrews quotes it again to remind us not to forget it and never grow weary of our Heavenly Father’s discipline and care.

Hebrews 12:5-11 
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 

Don’t you love that He disciplines us for our good so that we may share in His holiness? Sinners! You and me? Holy?

Yes, His discipline may seem painful for a time, but it will one day produce peaceful fruit and holiness! And fruit takes the mind all the way back to the garden, to that seemingly delightful, yet sinful fruit that Adam and Eve partook of. But God, in Genesis 3:15, promised an Offspring, and then took His children by the hand in order to lead them all the way back to peace with Him. This peaceful fruit was made possible by and through the sacrifice of the promised Offspring – His One Loved Son!

We have a Good, Good Father indeed! Delight in Him…

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: