1958) Samuel Johnson’s Birthday Prayers

     On many of his birthdays, English writer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) would compose a prayer.  I first read these prayers 30 years ago, and ever since have prayed through them on my own birthday.  I appreciate their seriousness, depth, and eloquence.  They cannot be read quickly.  Each phrase is filled with meaning, covering many aspects of our spiritual life; gratitude, praise, repentance, trust, servanthood, obedience, commitment, and the hope of eternal life.  Below are several of Johnson’s birthday prayers.  

—————————————————-

     (1738)  Father of all mercies, I do give Thee most humble thanks for all thy goodness and lovingkindness to me.  I bless Thee for my creation, preservation, and redemption, for the knowledge of thy Son Jesus Christ, for the means of Grace and the hope of Glory.  In the days of childhood and youth, in the midst of weakness, blindness, and danger, Thou hast protected me; amidst Afflictions of Mind, Body, and Estate, Thou hast supported me; and amidst vanity and Wickedness, Thou hast spared me.  Grant, O merciful Father, that I may have a lively sense of thy mercies.  Create in me a contrite heart, that I may worthily lament my sins, acknowledge my wickedness, and obtain forgiveness, through Jesus Christ.  And, O Lord, enable me, by thy Grace, to redeem the time which I have spent in Sloth, Vanity, and wickedness; to make use of thy Gifts to the honor of thy Name; to lead a new life in thy faith, fear, and love; and finally to obtain everlasting life.  Amen. 

     (1757)  Almighty and most merciful Father by whose providence my life has been prolonged, and who hast granted me now to begin another year of probation, assist me by thy Holy Spirit, that the continuance of my life may not add to the measure of my guilt.  I repent of the days and years passed in neglect of the duties which thou hast set before me, in vain thoughts, in sloth, and in folly.  I pray that I may apply my heart to true wisdom, by diligence redeem the time lost, and by repentance obtain pardon, for the sake of Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

     (1758)  Almighty and most merciful Father, who supports me in my weakness and spares me in my sins, and hast now granted me to begin another year, enable me to improve the time which is yet before me, to thy glory and my own salvation.  Impress upon my soul such repentance of the days misspent in idleness and folly, that I may henceforward diligently attend to the business of my station in this world, and to all the duties which thou hast commanded.  Let thy Holy Spirit comfort and guide me that in my passage through the pains or pleasures of this present state, I may never be tempted to forgetfulness of thee.  Let my life by useful, and my death be happy; let me live according to thy laws, and die with confidence in thy mercy.  Amen.

     (1766)  Most merciful Father, who hast granted me to prolong my life to another year, look down on me with pity.  Let not my manifold sins avert from me thy fatherly regard.  Enlighten my mind that I may know my duty, and strengthen my resolution so that I may perform it.  Let not another year be lost in vain deliberations; let me remember, that of the short life of man, a great part is already past, in sinfulness and sloth.  Deliver me Lord, from the bondage of evil customs, and take not from me thy Holy Spirit; but enable me so to spend my remaining days, that by performing thy will I may promote thy glory.  Grant that after the troubles and disappointments of this mortal state I may obtain everlasting happiness…  Amen.

     (1768)  O Lord, look down with pity upon my troubles and maladies.  Heal my body, strengthen my mind, compose my distractions, calm my inquietude, and relieve my terrors; that if it please thee, I may run the race that is set before me with peace, patience, constancy, and confidence.  Pardon and bless me for the sake of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

     (1779)  Almighty God, Creator of all things in whose hands are Life and death, glory be to thee for thy mercies, and for the prolonging of my life to the common age of man.  Pardon me, O gracious God, all the offenses which in the course of seventy years I have committed against thy holy laws, and all the negligences of those duties which thou hast required.  Look with pity upon me and enable me to pass the days which thou shalt yet grant me in thy fear and thy glory; and accept, O Lord, the remains of a misspent life, that when Thou shalt call me to another state, I may be received to everlasting happiness.  Amen.

     (1781)  Almighty and merciful Father, who hast brought me to the beginning of another year, grant me so to remember thy gifts, and so to acknowledge thy goodness, as that every year and day which thou shalt yet grant me, may be employed in the amendment of my life, and in the diligent discharge of such duties, as thy Providence shall alot me. Grant me, by thy grace, to know and to do what thou requirest.  Give me good desires, and remove those impediments which may hinder them from effect.  Forgive me my sins, negligences, and ignorances, and when at last thou shalt call me to another life, receive me to everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

     (1784)  Almighty God, who art the giver of all good, enable me to return Thee due thanks for the continuance of my life and for the great mercies of the last year, for relief from the diseases that afflicted me, and all the comforts and alleviations by which they were mitigated; and gracious God, make me truly thankful for the call by which thou hast awakened my conscience, and summoned me to repentance.  Let not thy call, O Lord, be forgotten, or thy summons neglected, but let the residue of my life, whatever it shall be, be passed in true contrition and diligent obedience.  Let me repent of the sins of my past years and so keep thy laws for the time to come, that when it shall be thy pleasure to call me to another state, I may find mercy in thy sight.  Support me in the hour of death, O Lord, and grant me pardon in the day of Judgment.  Amen. 

**********************************

Psalm 90:10 — The length of our days is seventy years– or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Psalm 90:12 — Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 139:13-16  —  For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

Isaiah 46:4  —  (The Lord says), “Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.”
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

1957) “I Prayed With My Legs”

Image result for Frederick Douglass images

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was born into slavery in Maryland.  He escaped slavery as a young man, and became the most prominent black abolitionist of his time.  He is one of the most important figures in African-American history, and was a powerful orator.  He was a firm believer in the equality of all people and often said, “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”  In this selection from his autobiography (pages 82-84), Douglass declares that it was faith that enabled him to endure the sufferings of slavery, and it was faith that gave him the hope that he would someday be free.  He was an ordained minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

     Previously to my contemplation of the anti-slavery movement, my mind had been seriously awakened to the subject of religion.  I was not more than thirteen years old, when in my loneliness and destitution I longed for some one to whom I could go, as to a father and protector.  The preaching of a white Methodist minister, named Hanson, was the means of causing me to feel that in God I had such a friend.  He taught that all men, great and small, bond and free, were sinners in the sight of God:  that they were by nature rebels against His government; and that they must repent of their sins, and be reconciled to God through Christ.  I cannot say that I had a very distinct notion of what was required of me, but one thing I did know well:  I was wretched and had no means of making myself otherwise.

     I consulted a good old colored man named Charles Lawson, and in tones of holy affection he told me to pray, and to “cast all my care upon God.”  This I sought to do; and though for weeks I was a poor, broken-hearted mourner, traveling through doubts and fears, I finally found my burden lightened, and my heart relieved.  I loved all mankind, slaveholders not excepted, though I abhorred slavery more than ever.  I saw the world in a new light, and my great concern was to have everybody converted.  My desire to learn increased, and especially, did I want a thorough acquaintance with the contents of the Bible.  I have gathered scattered pages of the Bible from the filthy street-gutters, and washed and dried them, that in moments of leisure I might get a word or two of wisdom from them.

     While thus religiously seeking knowledge, I continued my acquaintance with Lawson.  This man not only prayed three times a day, but he prayed as he walked through the streets, at his work, on his dray– everywhere.  His life was a life of prayer, and his words when he spoke to any one, were about a better world.  Uncle Lawson lived near Master Hugh’s house, and becoming deeply attached to him, I went often with him to prayer-meeting, and spent much of my leisure time with him on Sunday.  The old man could read a little, and I was a great help to him in making out the hard words, for I was a better reader than he.  I could teach him “the letter,” but he could teach me “the spirit,” and refreshing times we had together, in singing and praying.  These meetings went on for a long time without the knowledge of Master Hugh or my mistress.  Both knew, however, that I had become religious, and seemed to respect my conscientious piety.

     …Uncle Lawson was my spiritual father and I loved him intensely, and was at his house every chance I could get…  The good old man had told me that the “Lord had a great work for me to do,” and I must prepare to do it; that he had been shown that I must preach the gospel.  His words made a very deep impression upon me, and I verily felt that some such work was before me, though I could not see how I could ever engage in its performance.  “The good Lord would bring it to pass in his own good time,” he said, and that I must go on reading and studying the scriptures.  This advice and these suggestions were not without their influence on my character and destiny.  He fanned my already intense love of knowledge into a flame by assuring me that I was to be a useful man in the world.  When I would say to him, “How can these things be? and what can I do?” his simple reply, was, “Trust in the Lord.”  When I would tell him, “I am a slave, and a slave for life, how can I do anything?” he would quietly answer, “The Lord can make you free, my dear; all things are possible with Him; only have faith in God. ‘Ask, and it shall be given you.’  If you want liberty, ask the Lord for it in FAITH, and he will give it to you.”

     Thus assured and thus cheered on under the inspiration of hope, I worked and prayed with a light heart, believing that my life was under the guidance of a wisdom higher than my own.  With all other blessings sought at the mercy seat, I always prayed that God would, of his great mercy and in his own good time, deliver me from my bondage.

*****************************

I Peter 5:6-7 — Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

Luke 11:9-10 — (Jesus said), “So I say to you:  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

John 8:36 — So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

******************************

“I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

–Frederick Douglass

————————-

Frederick Douglass’s Prayer for Freedom:

O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute!…  O God, save me!  God, deliver me!  Let me be free!  Is there any God?  Why am I a slave?  I will run away. I will not stand it.  Get caught, or get clear, I’ll try it…  I have only one life to lose.  I had as well be killed running as die standing.  Only think of it; 100 miles straight north, and I am free!  Try it?  Yes!  God is helping me, and I will.  It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave.

1956) Good Advice from a Young Man (2/2)

From “Ask Someone Older Than You” by Marshall Segal, twenty-something staff writer at Desiring God Ministries; posted August 15, 2018 at: www.desiringGod.org

 —————————

Rehoboam rejects the advice of his elders.

———————-

(…continued)

   4. Beware of counsel from people just like you. 

     “King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father” (1 Kings 12:6) — men who had lived and led, succeeded and failed, suffered and persevered.  “But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him” (1 Kings 12:8) — young men with whom he was more comfortable, boys who were more like him. 

     When you do ask someone older for counsel, resist the impulse to make up your mind beforehand.  Why do we, like Rehoboam, default to our peers?  Positively, because they typically know us best.  And they’re often the most available (they’re already a part of our life).  But negatively, they’re most likely to agree with us.  Not always.  Good friends are hard to find, but they do exist.  But whether they are good friends or not, peers consistently lack the same wisdom we do — the wisdom that often comes with age, maturity, and experience. 

     We do need counsel from our friends because they know us.  The danger is that they’re more like us.  One way to avoid pitting older, wiser counsel against counsel from your friends is to make someone older than you a friend.  Pursue a real, life-on-life friendship with someone in a different stage of life.  When you already have an ongoing friendship with that person, you don’t have to bring them up to speed on the last five years in five minutes to get informed counsel.  They already know you and are ready to speak into your life.

     5. Beware of counsel that serves you at the expense of others. 

     Perhaps the brightest warning in Rehoboam’s story is that his friends’ advice encouraged him to serve himself at the expense of others.  They cheered on his pride, and told him to threaten the people, “Thus shall you speak to this people . . . ‘Whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke.  My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions’” (1 Kings 12:10–11).  True wisdom will be suspicious of any advice, from young or old, that elevates me and my desires while hurting someone else.  Some decisions may end up hurting others to some degree — whom we marry or don’t, where we live and work, what church we join — but counsel that elevates me to the unnecessary pain or inconvenience of others should give us considerable pause.  We should weigh that kind of guidance with even more prayer, counsel, and patience.

     6. Pride is the enemy of wise counsel. 

     Why does Rehoboam reject good counsel and accept the bad?  Because the older men called him to humble himself, while the younger men stoked the fires of his pride.  They provoked him, “Thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs.  My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier.’” (1 Kings 12:10-11a).  His friends knew that Rehoboam would come down hard on the people if they questioned his manhood — his strength, his independence, his ability to make his own decisions.  Satan seeds our thinking with the lie that real maturity is being able to make decisions on our own.  God doesn’t leave us to make any major decisions on our own.  He wants us, first, to lean on him and ask for his wisdom (James 1:5).  And typically what it means to lean on him involves listening well to godly people in our lives, especially godly men and women who have lived and learned more than we have.  If we isolate our decision-making from other believers, we not only forfeit sage perspective and good judgment, we also may “be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).  Nothing keeps more of us from good counsel than our own pride, especially when it comes to asking someone older than us.

What About Bad Counsel?

     Now, not every believer older than you will be wiser than you, at least not in any given situation.  The psalmist declares, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.  I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts” (Psalms 119:99–100).  If you only ask someone older, and never meditate on the word of God, and therefore are not shaped by his wisdom, how will you recognize bad counsel (or know how to handle wise counsel)?  If you jealously seek advice from the aged, but do not seek to obey God himself, you will horde the wisdom of the age, but not the wisdom of God.

     Job’s friend Elihu, wise beyond his years, rightly says, “It is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.  It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right” (Job 32:8–9).  But even while the older men spoke foolishly, “Elihu waited to speak to Job because they were older than he” (Job 32:4).  Wisdom doesn’t end with asking someone older than you.  We begin there, but then vigilantly seek God’s will in whatever advice we hear.  When you ask for counsel, make sure God’s voice in Scripture is always the loudest in your ears.  Ask someone older than you, and then ask if their voice harmonizes with his word.

***************************************

THE REST OF THE STORY:  The advice of Rehoboam’s young friends was foolish and led to disaster.  The northern half of the nation rebelled against him, and the nation that had become great under Rehoboam’s grandfather David and father Solomon, became divided and weakened.  

I Kings 12:18-19  —  King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death.  King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem.  So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.  (verse 17)  —  But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.

1955) Good Advice from a Young Man (1/2)

Related image

From “Ask Someone Older Than You” by Marshall Segal, twenty-something staff writer at Desiring God Ministries; posted August 15, 2018 at: www.desiringGod.org

 —————————

     When your next major decision comes — what house to buy, where to go school, who to marry — do the wise and unexpected thing: Ask someone older than you.

     Most people in America, for instance, get married today without getting serious counsel.  They meet each other, go on a few dates, get more serious, decide they want to get married, then tell people they’re getting married.  They may keep a couple close friends up to date through the process, but they barely have a category for “counsel” — much less counsel from someone older.  So, they wed without guidance.  And according to Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls.”  Many marriages fall the same way.

     “Without counsel plans fail” (Proverbs 15:22), and not only wedding plans.  Do you want to take the wrong job, or buy the wrong house, or join the wrong church?  Then ignore the godly people in your life who made those decisions years ago (and have seen many others do so).

     But if you want to marry well, choose well, and commit well, then ask someone older than you.

A BIBLE STORY ON SEEKING COUNSEL

     Consider King Rehoboam as a case study in refusing good counsel.  Unlike many today, Rehoboam did seek guidance from his elders, but how he handled their wisdom is a warning to any of us.  If we never ask someone older than us, we’re warmly inviting adversity, affliction, and even disaster.  But even when we do ask, subtle (or obvious) opportunities arise to despise wisdom.  Rehoboam teaches us how not to seek counsel.

     1. Ask someone older than you. 

     Rehoboam started well: “[He] took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, ‘How do you advise me to answer this people?’” (1 Kings 12:6).  When we are confronted with a difficult or complicated decision, one aspect of wisdom is to ask “the old men” (or women).

      Many of us don’t even think to ask for counsel.  We just do the best we can with what we have and know on our own.  Even those of us who do ask for counsel often neglect to ask someone older than us.  We ask our peers, typically those experiencing the same dilemmas and making the same decisions, and with the same shortage of life experience.  Our friends know us best, and they’re most immediately familiar with our stage of life, so we assume they must be the best people to ask.  But age and experience have a place in the pursuit of wisdom.  Job says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days” (Job 12:12).  So, ask someone with (many) more days than you.

     2. Don’t make up your mind beforehand. 

     When you do ask someone older for counsel, resist the impulse to make up your mind beforehand.  The older men advised Rehoboam, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever” (1 Kings 12:7).  Not only is the counsel wise, but it also benefits Rehoboam.  If, as king, you strive to serve the needs of the people and lessen the burdens on them, they will never stop serving you. 

     “But [Rehoboam] abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him” (1 Kings 12:8).  When the old men gave Rehoboam counsel he didn’t like, he rejected it and retreated to his friends.  He wasn’t really looking for counsel; he was looking for approval.  And if we’re only looking for approval, wise counsel will fall on deaf ears.  If you only receive counsel when it agrees with you, you’re not really receiving counsel.  When you go to others older than you, fight to keep your mind genuinely open to what they have to say.

     3. If they disagree with your direction, seek to be persuaded. 

     So, if someone older than you disagrees with you, should you just do what they say?  Maybe.  But not always.  Rehoboam wasn’t necessarily wrong to disagree with his counselors, but he was unwise to disregard their counsel so flippantly and arrogantly.  Instead of listening well, pressing into their seasoned perspective, asking good questions, and seeking to understand, Rehoboam just dismissed them and took an easier path to approval: his peers.  If someone older, who manifestly loves you, disagrees with you, take a default posture of humility and openness, genuinely seeking to be persuaded.  “You who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5).  Don’t just tuck humility in your pocket in case you need it in the conversation.  Clothe yourself in humility, because God gives grace to the humble — to those gladly willing to admit that they might be wrong.  (continued…)

1954) “The Next Time We Meet”

Related image

From the August 15, 2018 Open Doors daily devotional Standing Strong Through the Storm.

—————————————–

     Perhaps the most difficult of Jesus’ commands is to love even our enemies.  A true Christian always seeks another person’s highest good—even when mistreated.  Brother Andrew says “The Christian’s only method of destroying his enemies is to ‘love’ them into being his friends.”

     Romanian pastor, Dr. Paul Negrut, was visiting an old friend in Romania named Trian Dors in his humble home.  As Paul entered, he realized that Trian was bleeding from open wounds.  He asked, “What happened?”

     Trian replied, “The secret police just left my home.  They came and confiscated my manuscripts.  Then they beat me.”

     Pastor Paul says, “I began to complain about the heavy tactics of the secret police.  But Trian stopped me saying, ‘Brother Paul, it is so sweet to suffer for Jesus.  God didn’t bring us together tonight to complain but to praise him.  Let’s kneel down and pray.”

     “He knelt and began praying for the secret police.  He asked God to bless them and save them.  He told God how much he loved them.  He said, ‘God, if they will come back in the next few days, I pray that you will prepare me to minister to them.’”

     Paul continued, “By this time I was ashamed.  I thought I had been living the most difficult life in Romania for the Lord.  And I was bitter about that.”

     Trian Dors then shared with Paul how the secret police had been coming to his home regularly for several years.  They beat him twice every week.  They confiscated all his papers.  After the beating he would talk to the officer in charge.  Trian would look into his eyes and say, “Mister, I love you.  And I want you to know that if our next meeting is before the judgement throne of God, you will not go to hell because I hate you but because you rejected love.”  Trian would repeat these words after every beating. 

     Years later that officer came alone to his home one night.  Trian prepared himself for another beating.  But the officer spoke kindly and said, “Mr. Dors, the next time we meet will be before the judgement throne of God.  I came tonight to apologize for what I did to you and to tell you that your love moved my heart.  I have asked Christ to save me.  But two days ago the doctor discovered that I have a very severe case of cancer and I have only a few weeks to live before I go to be with God.  I came tonight to tell you that we will be together on the other side.”

*******************************************

Matthew 5:43-44  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Matthew 25:31-36…41-43…46  —  (Jesus said), “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…’  Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me…’  Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Hebrews 9:27  —  People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.

II Corinthians 5:10  —  We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

*******************************************

Almighty and most merciful God, who hast not yet suffered me to fall into the Grave, grant that I may remember my past life, as to repent of the days and years which I have spent in forgetfulness of thy mercy, and neglect of my own salvation, and so use the time which thou shalt yet allow me, (to) become every day more diligent in the duties which in thy Providence shall be assigned me, and that when at last I shall be called to Judgment I may be received as a good and faithful servant unto everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ…  Amen.

–Samuel Johnson

1953) Blessed Money and Cursed Money

Related image

———

Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) was a Dutch Christian who, with her family, helped many Jews escape the Nazis in the early 1940’s.  She worked in her father Casper’s watch-making business in Holland, and they hid Jews in their upstairs apartment until they could get out of the country.  They were betrayed by a neighbor, arrested, and sent to the concentration camps.  Corrie was the only family member who survived.  Her autobiography The Hiding Place (1971) was made into a movie.  This story is from her 1976 book In My Father’s House which was about the years before the war. 

————————————-

     There were many ups and downs in the watch-making business, but Father seemed to have a keen understanding of the economic situation of our times.  In his weekly paper he wrote information and suggestions for others in the business.  Since he read all other papers about his trade in German, English, and French, he could adequately fill his paper with important news about trade and business.

     However, when it came to making money in his own shop, it wasn’t always so simple.  He loved his work, but he was not a moneymaker.

     Once we were faced with a real financial crisis.  A large bill had to be paid, and there simply wasn’t enough money.  One day a very well-dressed gentleman came into the shop and was looking at some very expensive watches.  I stayed in the workshop and prayed, with one ear tuned to the conversation in the front room.

     “This is a fine watch, Mr. ten Boom,” the customer said, turning a very costly timepiece over in his hands.  “This is just what I’ve been looking for.”

     I held my breath as I saw the affluent customer reach into his inner pocket and pull out a thick wad of bills.  Praise the Lord– cash!  I saw myself paying the overdue bill, and being relieved of the burden I had been carrying for the past few weeks.

     The blessed customer looked at the watch admiringly and commented, “I had a good watchmaker here in Haarlem his name was van Houten.  Perhaps you knew him.”  Father nodded his head.  He knew almost everyone in Haarlem, especially colleagues.

     “Van Houten died and his son took over the business.  However, I bought a watch from him which didn’t run at all.  I sent it back three times, but it was just a lemon.  That’s why I decided to find another watchmaker.”

     “Will you show me that watch, please,” Father said.  The man took a large watch out of his vest and gave it to Father.

     “Now, let me see,” Father said, opening the back of the watch.  He adjusted something and turned it back to the customer.  “There, that was a very little mistake.  It will be fine now.  Sir, I trust the young watchmaker.  He will be just as good as his father.  I think you can encourage him by buying the new watch from him.”

     “But, ten Boom!” the customer objected.

     “This young man has had a difficult time in the trade without his father.  If you have a problem with one of his watches, come to me, I’ll help you out.  Now, I shall give you back your money and you return my watch.”  I was horrified.  I saw Father take back the watch and give the money to the customer.  Then he opened the door for him and bowed deeply in his old-fashioned way.

     My heart was where my feet should be as I emerged from the shelter of the workshop.  I said, “Papa! How could you?”  I was so shocked by the enormity of what I had seen and heard, that I reverted my childhood name for my father.

     “Corrie,” he said, “you know that I brought the Gospel at the burial of Mr. van Houten.”

     Of course I remembered.  It was Father’s job to speak at the burials of the watchmakers in Haarlem.  He was greatly loved by all, and he welcomed the opportunity to talk about the Lord Jesus.  Father often said that people were touched by eternity when they have seen someone dying.  That is an opportunity we should use to tell about Him who is willing to give eternal life.

      I felt ashamed and knew that Father was right.  I wondered if I could ever have that kind of trust.  I… had been unwilling to go the direction God wanted, only to follow my own stubborn path.  Could I really trust Him with an unpaid bill?     “Corrie, what do you think that young man would have said when he heard that one of his good customers had gone to Mr. ten Boom?  Do you think that the name of the Lord would be honored?  There is blessed money and cursed money.  Trust the Lord.  He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He will take care of us.”

     “Yes, Father” I answered quietly. 

     ****************************

Psalm 50:10 — …Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. 

Matthew 7:12 — (Jesus said), “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

I Peter 2:12 — Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 

****************************
Lord, I am a countryman coming from my country to yours. 
Teach me the laws of your country, its way of life and its spirit, 
so that I may feel at home there.   –William of St. Thierry

1952) “Are We Square Now?”

Image result for tom bodett images

by Tom Bodett, the Motel 6 “we’ll leave the light on for you” guy, as heard on American Public Media’ s Weekend America December 31, 2005.  (NOTE: This piece was written for an end of the year broadcast, but it will work anytime)

————————–

     It’s the end of another year and time for a little ritual I call, “Forgiveness.”  There’s no gain in carrying over resentments from one year into the next.  I’m sure there’s more where these came from.  So, why don’t we let each other off the hook for all our little transgressions right here and now?  I’ll start.

     At a quiet movie last month you sat behind us eating what sounded like raw barley that you’d brought from home in a crinkly sack.  You were oblivious to our body language and we had to move.  We still talk about you.  But that ends here.  Forget about it.

     In turn, I should confess to you that we were the couple with the baby on your all-night flight to Madrid.  I admit that could have gone better.  Can we let it go now?

     You were rooting around for a cigarette or a CD or something in your console and didn’t notice the light had turned green for one whole cycle.  Everybody behind you wanted you dead.  But, we’re over it.

     You were eating cookies while you worked on your Christmas cards this year, weren’t you?  I could see the little crumbs stuck to the edges of the glue seam on the envelope.  I forgive you, because you weren’t even on our list until we got your card.

     You asked me for directions in an unidentifiable foreign accent and I talked to you as if you were an idiot with a hearing impairment.  Sorry.

     Your dog is obnoxious.

     I drive a bigger car than I really need.

     I’ve known you for years and couldn’t remember your name when I ran into you at that party.  I tried to cover it up by being friendlier than the situation called for.  That’s behind us now, right?

     You will forget my name even though I was just in your store yesterday and bought two thousand dollars worth of plumbing fixtures.

     You put me on hold in order to finish a conversation with your girlfriend.  It’s okay.

     I told you we were out of town the weekend of your daughter’s birthday party and then you saw us at the video store that evening.

     You took too long at the ATM.

     Remember that busy street where you had sat waiting for a left turn for seven full minutes?  I was the pedestrian who ambled across the intersection at the critical moment and you had to wait another eight minutes for traffic to clear.

     You always tell me what your cats have been up to.  I punish you by showing you pictures of my children.  Can we stop this madness?

     The truth is we’re all pretty darn annoying.  Just not about the same things and, thank goodness, not on the same days.  So, in the spirit of the holidays and a brand spanking New Year. I forgive you if you’ll forgive me.

     Are we square now?

© Tom Bodett. All Rights Reserved. 
Reproduction or distribution of any article or portion of this website, such as copying and pasting into an email to send to all your crummy friends, is strictly prohibited without written permission from Bodett.com.  We mean it.  Don’t do it.  Steps will be taken.  Oh yes.  Steps will be taken.  (Unless you really want to, then go ahead.  We don’t care.)

*****************************

Ephesians 4:2 — Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:31-32 — Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Matthew 7:1-5 — (Jesus said), “Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others.  Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye?  How dare you say to your brother, ‘Please, let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when you have a log in your own eye?  You hypocrite!  First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

*******************************
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.   –Jesus

1951) What is the Book of Revelation About? (2/2)

Related image

“The Book of Revelation is Not About the Rapture, ” by Richard Gilbert, posted July 30, 2018 at <www.corechristianity.com>, adapted from “Christ & The Book of Revelation” in Modern Reformation, Mar/April 1993.

———————————-

(…continued)

     2.  Revelation was written to the persecuted church.

     It is important to note first the circumstances under which this letter was written.  What was John’s purpose?  This letter was written during a time when the Church was increasingly being persecuted, John was himself exiled to the island of Patmos under this persecution.  The power of the state was beginning to be used with great force against the Church.  Christians were being tortured and killed for their faith.  They were watching their friends and their family members die horrible deaths.  Doubts were beginning to arise about the wisdom of being a Christian.  Christ had promised them that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church.  Now they were beginning to wonder if it actually might.

     So John writes a letter to encourage them.  He shows them how all things are still in God’s all-powerful hands.  Christ, to whom “all power and authority has been granted” will ultimately triumph over the forces of evil arrayed against the Church.  This is so because He has, in fact, already defeated them.  Christ is “the Almighty,” “the First and the last,” “the Beginning and the End,” “the Alpha and the Omega” (1:8; 21: 6; 22:13).  In short, He is God Himself, the one “who is and who was, and who is to come” (compare 1:4 with 1:8).  He is “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5).

     3.  Revelation is about victory.

     The believer can take courage, whatever happens to him (even death), because his eternal destiny is in Christ’s hands.  Christ has done it all for him.  Recognizing this, the elders around the throne lay their crowns at His feet (they realize that they can take no credit for either being there, or for receiving their crowns, and that they owe all to Christ alone).  Christ is “the firstborn from the dead” (1:5).  He “was dead,” yet is “alive forever and ever” (1:18).  By His death on our behalf, He “has freed us from our sins” (1:5).

     By emptying the wrath of God onto Himself, and dying in our place, the just for the unjust, He has satisfied the justice of God, and canceled the debt we owed.  Thus, He disarmed Satan of his greatest weapon against us, his ability to accuse us of our sins before God (cf. 12:10).  By His resurrection He “holds the keys of death and Hades” (1:18).  It is Christ who, alone, is found worthy when none of us were (Ch. 5).

     The Christian is righteous because he has washed his robe and “made it white in the blood of the lamb,” i.e., because Christ’s death has covered his sins.  The fine linen that the bride (the Church) wears, to the wedding feast, is a gift.  We are told that this fine linen represents righteous deeds.  Our righteousness is something given to us.  It is not our own.  It is, to use a word the Reformers used, an alien righteousness.  It is Christ’s righteousness given to us (19:7-8).  This is meant to give courage to the Christian undergoing persecution, because, if Christ has been able to do all this, then surely, all things in this world are in His hands as well.

     Ultimately, the forces of evil, arrayed against the Church, will be defeated completely, and all their deeds will be punished.  Satan will no longer be able to attack the Church.  He will be cast down and bound forever in the lake of fire.  His access to God will be cut off.  God will put all enemies under Christ’s feet and He will establish, fully and forever, the reign He now already has over all things.  Then, there will be a new Heaven and a new earth where there will be no more suffering, no more death, no more tears, for He shall wipe away all tears, and the Christian shall be with Him forever.  Christ is central.  We are saved by Him, not by anything we have done to deserve it.  His righteousness is imputed to us, and it’s on this basis that we have any standing with the Father.

This is the message of Revelation.  It is not about a tribulation.  It is not about a rapture.  It is not a one world government.  It is not about Russia attacking Israel.  It is about Christ, and what He has done, continues to do, and will do, for us.  And, just as we must not take away anything from the message, we must not add anything to it by our interpretation, or the warnings contained therein will apply to us.  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

**********************************************

Revelation 22:1-7  —  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal,flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.  On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.  And they will reign for ever and ever.  The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true.  The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”  “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”

**********************************************

Revelation 22:20b:

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

1950) What is the Book of Revelation About? (1/2)

Related image

“The Book of Revelation is Not About the Rapture, ” by Richard Gilbert, posted July 30, 2018 at <www.corechristianity.com>, adapted from “Christ & The Book of Revelation” in Modern Reformation, Mar/April 1993.

———————————-

Revelation 22:18  —  I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

     Every time something big happens in the news, especially if it involves the Middle East, it seems a new set of books, reinterpreting the book of Revelation, is published.  It is, therefore, no surprise when the reader begins to get the impression that the book of Revelation is a very dark, mysterious book that is difficult, if not downright impossible, to understand.

  1. Revelation is about Jesus.

     The basic message of the Scriptures is clear to anyone who can read them.  This does not mean that every part of Scripture is equally clear.  Some passages are, indeed, difficult to understand and it helps to have the consensus of the Church through the centuries to correctly interpret them.  But the basic message of what man’s condition is, who Jesus is and what He’s done for us, and how I can be saved, is perfectly clear.

     The Scriptures are about Christ.  This is no less true of Revelation than it is of any other book of the Bible.  Again, this is not to say that everything in Revelation is as plain as the Gospel of John, nor do I claim to understand everything in it perfectly.  After all, the book of Revelation is part of the genre known as apocalyptic literature, that is to say, it is full of symbolism.  It employs numbers and images that were very familiar to 1st century Jews and Christians to get its message across.  To understand the book of Revelation it is essential to have some knowledge of what these numbers and images represent.

     Most people are familiar with some of these already:  3 is the number for the triune God, 4 is the number for creation, 6 is the number for man, 7 is the number for perfection, 12 represents the tribes of Israel or the apostles, 1000 is a number for completeness; so when a number like 666 is used it means always coming short of perfection, or a number like 144,000 is 12 squared times 1000 meaning a great multitude, everyone who’s meant to be included is, with no one left out.

     But Revelation, like the rest of Scripture, is about Christ, and any interpretation that ends up with something else as central has not only missed the entire message of the book but, to put it simply, is wrong.  By, “about Christ”, I mean that it is about His person (He is both fully God and fully man), and His work (His life, death, and resurrection) on our behalf, and not merely about His second coming.  (continued…)

*************************************

Revelation 14:1  —  Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion,and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.

Revelation 22:12-13  —  (Jesus said), “Look, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

***********************************

Revelation 22:20b:

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

1949) Now, No, or Not Yet

By Joshua Rogers, posted August 4, 2018, at:  http://www.joshuarogers.com

————————

     I wanted the job.  I wanted it badly.  And a few weeks after making it to the final round of interviews, I learned that I had just missed the cut.

     I called my friend Shon to share the bad news.

     “Is the door totally shut?” he asked.

     “They only hire seasonally, and this was pretty much my one shot,” I said.  “So basically, God will have to do it if it’s going to happen.”

     “Would you want it any other way?” he asked.

     I paused, looked down, smiled to myself and said, “I suppose I wouldn’t.”

     That was several years ago, and as God would have it, I did end up getting that job through an unexpected chain of events.  Since then, I’ve had many other opportunities to wait for God to meet my needs.  Sometimes it was other jobs I wanted, or a wife, healing from chronic illness or His intervention in the lives of others.  I’m still asking for some of those things today.  But when I plead for divine intervention, it’s usually because God is the only one who can pull it off.  Otherwise, I would just take care of it myself.

     Unfortunately, the real answer to Shon’s question, “Would you want [your miracle] any other way?” is often, “Absolutely.” I want it my way.

     I want to be the answer to my own prayer.  I want to make things happen and then say God did it.  I don’t, however, want to humble myself before an invisible God whose silence feels like an insult.  And quite frankly, I don’t want a miracle if getting a miracle means having to wait for God to provide what I want.

     I used to see this very same kind of selfish desperation in my toddlers.  They wanted their toy now; they wanted a snack now; they wanted to watch TV now.  But in those moments, my top priority as a father was not giving them what they wanted.  It was teaching them to wait, because otherwise, I would be raising them to be entitled little monsters.

Image result for pouting child images

Related image

     God is not raising you and me to be monsters.  He’s raising us to be conformed to the image of His Son, the One who “learned obedience through what He suffered” — not by the miracles He performed or the prayers His Father answered.

     So as much as it hurts, I’m learning to appreciate the moments when I’m in desperate need and the only way I’m going to get a miracle is if God provides.  And as I wait, I pray God will give me the grace to stop demanding my way, start looking to Him to meet the need, and then be okay when the answer is “no” or “not yet.”

**************************************

Hebrews 5:7-8  —  During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.

Romans 8:24-25  —  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

I John 3:2  —  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

**************************************

O Lord, we know not what is good for us.  Thou knowest what it is.  For it we pray.

–Prayer of the Khonds in North India