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Sunday, July 31, 2016

For Me To Live Is Christ (and other devotionals)

“Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem saying, ‘Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.’” Matthew 2:1-2.

Not all “wise men” are wise men. You may be a great entrepreneur, a great businessman, engineer, or nuclear physicist. You may be a physician, lawyer, a gifted artist. But if you don’t know Jesus, you’re not truly wise. There’s a kind of wisdom that’s not wisdom at all; it’s the wisdom of this world. “PhD” may stand for “phenomenal dud” if you don’t know Jesus. 

Omar Bradley, a great American five-star general, once said, “We’re living in a time when our achievement, our knowledge of science, has gone far beyond our power to control it. We have too many men of science and too few men of God. We’ve brought about brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. We’re living in a time of nuclear giants and spiritual pigmies.” 

That’s well said. What is real wisdom? Wise men and women will seek Jesus. Do you know the mark of wisdom, how to determine wisdom? Just tell me what motivates you, tell me the consummate ambition of your life, and I can tell you clearly whether you’re wise or not just by what you seek. The apostle Paul summed up his life in one sentence: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). What he meant was the source, the substance, the subject, the satisfaction of his life was Christ. 

Could you put your life in a sentence like that? “For me to live is Christ.” Pause and think about that.

~Adrian Rogers~

Trust Perseveres
Trust Perseveres 
For the King trusts in the Lord, through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken. Psalm 21:7

Trust in God perseveres. It perseveres with the addition of more responsibilities and in a season of lost opportunities. Whether in the excitement of promotion or the discouragement of demotion it still trusts God. In fact, the more responsibility we gain, the more we need God. The more it seems we are capable, the more we realize we are incapable without Christ. Power may tempt us to lower our guard in trusting God, but the more responsibility and power we are entrusted with, the more we need to trust the Lord.  Kings and presidents need Christ as much as or more than paupers and priests. Trust is not contingent on our felt need. It is contingent on our having the ability to breathe. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we desperately need the Lord. Self-confidence is an obstacle to our holy confidence in Christ. He sees us through. Trust in Him perseveres.

Trust perseveres because it is buoyant in its belief in the unfailing love of God. The love of God stands secure in the face of suffering. The love of God licks the wounds of a lacerated soul. The love of God provides the grace to forgive and forget. The love of God continues in the face of ugly odds because it is optimistic of what we can hope for in Christ. God’s love draws us into intimacy with Him. It is when God loves us that we feel safe. It is when God loves us that we feel secure. It is when God loves us that we feel support and encouragement. The love of God covers our sin of unbelief. It is a buttress for our belief. It is the love of the Most High that lifts us when we are at our lowest to continue trusting our sympathizing Savior. He is high and lifted up, so He can lift us up. He looks down on us with compassion. Because He is trustworthy, we trust.

No one is higher than Almighty God. He is the Most High. We have the privilege, the opportunity, and the obligation to go right to the top. The Holy Spirit is God’s gatekeeper. By faith we can trust Him to intercede on our behalf. Our faith may be faltering in our confusion, but Christ clarifies. Do not give up because of the complexities of your current situation. Go to the Most High to unravel the mess in which you find yourself. He is the decision maker. He is your maker. He knows how to guide you through this uncertain process. The Most High has the needed perspective to see you through. It is by faith that we do not completely falter. Trust Him to tell you what you need to know. Persevere.

The fruit of trust is perseverance. The lethal high winds of adversity may attempt to uproot your faith, but you will persevere. You will persevere in your marriage though our culture gives you a pass for divorce. You will persevere in your job even though you have been passed over for someone less qualified. You will persevere as a parent because this may be your time to mature and grow up. You will persevere as a leader because God is not finished spreading your influence. You will persevere as a Christian because you trust God. By God’s grace you will not be moved. Allow Him to grow your character. Stand strong. Allow Him to love you through this time of transition. Trust perseveres.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I trust in You to see me through this hard time at home and at work.

Related Readings1 Corinthians 13:7; Hebrews 10:36, 11:27; James 1:12, 5:11; Revelation 2:3

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Jeremiah 2:2
I remember thee.
Let us note that Christ delights to think upon His Church, and to look upon her beauty. As the bird returneth often to its nest, and as the wayfarer hastens to his home, so doth the mind continually pursue the object of its choice. We cannot look too often upon that face which we love; we desire always to have our precious things in our sight. It is even so with our Lord Jesus. From all eternity "His delights were with the sons of men"; His thoughts rolled onward to the time when His elect should be born into the world; He viewed them in the mirror of His foreknowledge. "In Thy book," He says, "all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" (Ps. 139:16). When the world was set upon its pillars, He was there, and He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. Many a time before His incarnation, He descended to this lower earth in the similitude of a man; on the plains of Mamre (Gen. 18), by the brook of Jabbok (Gen. 32:24-30), beneath the walls of Jericho (Josh. 5:13), and in the fiery furnace of Babylon (Dan. 3:19, 25), the Son of Man visited His people. Because His soul delighted in them, He could not rest away from them, for His heart longed after them. Never were they absent from His heart, for He had written their names upon His hands, and graven them upon His side. As the breastplate containing the names of the tribes of Israel was the most brilliant ornament worn by the high priest, so the names of Christ's elect were His most precious jewels, and glittered on His heart. We may often forget to meditate upon the perfections of our Lord, but He never ceases to remember us. Let us chide ourselves for past forgetfulness, and pray for grace ever to bear Him in fondest remembrance. Lord, paint upon the eyeballs of my soul the image of Thy Son.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. -- Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain. -- Having therefore, ... boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. -- We may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
HEB. 4:16.  Phi. 4:6,7.  Rom. 8:15. Isa. 45:19.  Heb. 10:19,22.  Heb. 13:6.
Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. -- The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. -- If the Son ... shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. -- Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. -- Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
JOHN 8:32.  II Cor. 3:17.  Rom. 8:2.  John 8:36. Gal. 4:31.  Gal. 2:16. Jas. 1:25. -Gal. 5:1.

~Samuel Bagster~

Getting Established in the Faith

If you are a new believer in Christ, or know someone who is, I want to talk to you today.  I want to share with you four things that will help you get established in your faith.
1. Read your Bible every day. That's food for your spirit. Psalm 119:11 says, Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.  It is vital you spend time in God's Word.
2. Pray every day. Spend time talking to God and then listening in your heart for His answers.  As 1 Thessalonians 5:17 admonishes us, Pray without ceasing.  This is a vital part of your growth and protection as a believer.
3. Fellowship with other believers. Do not get isolated from the church.  Do not get isolated from the rest of the body.  Scripture tells us to not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as is the manner of some (Hebrews 10:25).  In fact, it is important to get integrated into a smaller circle of fellowship.  You need to get connected relationally.  There is a real safety in that.
4. Listen to your spiritual leaders.  Go to church whenever the doors are open, and go expecting God to speak to you through the teaching and preaching.  One translation of Hebrews 13:17 says, Give ear to your spiritual leaders and be willing to do what they say for their work is to watch over your souls. Become a part of a strong Bible-believing fellowship and take heed to what is taught.
If you will do those things:  read your Bible every day, pray every day, get involved in a smaller circle of fellowship and listen to your spiritual leaders, you will be all right. 

~Bayless Conley~

John 10:9
I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Jesus, the great I AM, is the entrance into the true church, and the way of access to God Himself. He gives to the man who comes to God by Him four choice privileges. 1. He shall be saved. The fugitive manslayer passed the gate of the city of refuge, and was safe. Noah entered the door of the ark, and was secure. None can be lost who take Jesus as the door of faith to their souls. Entrance through Jesus into peace is the guarantee of entrance by the same door into heaven. Jesus is the only door, an open door, a wide door, a safe door; and blessed is he who rests all his hope of admission to glory upon the crucified Redeemer. 2. He shall go in. He shall be privileged to go in among the divine family, sharing the children's bread, and participating in all their honours and enjoyments. He shall go in to the chambers of communion, to the banquets of love, to the treasures of the covenant, to the storehouses of the promises. He shall go in unto the King of kings in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the secret of the Lord shall be with him. 3. He shall go out. This blessing is much forgotten. We go out into the world to labour and suffer, but what a mercy to go in the name and power of Jesus! We are called to bear witness to the truth, to cheer the disconsolate, to warn the careless, to win souls, and to glorify God; and as the angel said to Gideon, "Go in this thy might," even thus the Lord would have us proceed as His messengers in His name and strength. 4. He shall find pasture. He who knows Jesus shall never want. Going in and out shall be alike helpful to him: in fellowship with God he shall grow, and in watering others he shall be watered. Having made Jesus his all, he shall find all in Jesus. His soul shall be as a watered garden, and as a well of water whose waters fail not.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Finding Satisfaction

God has provided us with many things to enjoy. But too often our lives are filled with turmoil instead of contentment. Four practices that create dissatisfaction are . . .
Busyness. We live in a hurry-up society, dashing from one activity to another. Jesus did not rush anywhere, yet He accomplished whatever God gave Him to do. Not once did He tell His followers to move faster. He even praised Mary for choosing to stop her work and spend time with Him (Luke 10:39, 42).
Earthly perspective. Too often we live focused on our circumstances. Our minds think about what happened earlier in the week, what’s on today’s agenda, and the activities occurring next week, month, or year. No wonder enjoyment of life remains elusive. The solution is to have an eternal perspective, which acknowledges that God is in charge and our goal is to please Him.
Self-imposed pressure. We have all experienced the unavoidable burdens of schoolwork, employment, and relationships. But we bring needless pressure on ourselves when we allow unnecessary “musts” and “shoulds” to rule us. The remedy is to turn to God, acknowledge His right to order our days, and ask for His plan.
Unhealthy attitudes. Perfectionism, false guilt, and apathy all undermine our enjoyment of life.
Satisfaction is found in a life that reflects God’s priorities—and time with Him comes first. Reading His Word, we become mindful of the Father’s great love, learn what He views as important, and experience the joy of belonging to Him. When contentment is elusive, it’s time to examine our priorities.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Agreeing With God 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
1 John 1:9 

Recommended Reading
Psalm 51:1-6
Confession of sin is multifaceted, but there is a core principle. It is not sorrow, guilt, or shame. It is agreement. The Greek translation for “confess” is made of two words: homos means “same,” and lego means “say or speak.” So, to confess means “to say the same thing as.” As who? As God! We don’t inform God of our sins by confessing them. He already knows what we have done. Our greatest need is to humbly agree with Him: “Father, You call what I did ‘sin’ and I agree with You.”

Consider these words from the General Confession in the Book of Common Prayer: “Almighty God, We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness.” The key word there is “acknowledge.” It suggests that we are simply agreeing with God about our “sins and wickedness.” We aren’t hiding our sins or hiding from God. We enter God’s presence ready to acknowledge (agree with) what God already knows. Such acknowledgement means we humbly accept God’s definition of our actions. We don’t try to call our sins “mistakes.”

If you have sins to confess today, start by agreeing with God. Only what is rightly confessed can be rightly forgiven.

The way to cover our sin is to uncover it by confession.

~David Jeremiah~

Hebrews 12:25-29

(25) See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, (26) whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven." (27) Now this, "Yet once more,"indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. (28) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (29) For our God is a consuming fire.
New King James Version   
Listen! Hear Him! Believe what He says!
The author of Hebrews has presented us with the facts that Christ is greater than angels, greater than Moses and greater than Aaron; that the New Covenant is superior in every way to the Old Covenant. He addresses this presentation to Christians who stand, not before a physical mountain in the Sinai, but a spiritual Mount Zion in heaven. Nevertheless, we still have the potential to refuse to hear, even as our spiritual ancestors who had just come out of Egypt did not hear. Now, they knew—they knew—that it was the voice of God that they heard, and they refused to hear because they believed they could not endure what He commanded!
Do we see the parallel?
It is possible for Christians to cherish their own will—which they know to be diametrically opposed to the will and purpose of God—and to stick to their own desires, thus stifling the voice of the Almighty God Himself! And thus, we can wrench ourselves away from the voice because we feel uncomfortable going against our resolve.

~John W. Ritenbaugh~

Saturday, July 23, 2016

He Died For All (and other devotionals)

He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him. (2 Corinthians 5:15 NIV)

We can only know Christ after the Spirit, so that Christ for us in this dispensation is spiritual in the sense that all that we know of Him or can have to do with Him can only be in the Spirit. “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.” (2 Cor. 5:16). He is known after the Spirit. Our resources are spiritual. The weapons of our warfare are spiritual. Everything has got to come to us from above. The one great effort of the enemy, which is again and again successful through this dispensation, has been to bring the things of God down to the attachment with this world, attachment to this earth, to make them something here....
You only need to read John to see how unattached everything is, how everything is lifted clean out of this world, and everything is bound up with the fact that Christ is in heaven, and that the Lord’s people are here, but not here; here, but not known; in the world, but not of it; a mystery people in this world so far as the world is concerned... unrecognized, unknown. And yet by that very means and for that very reason, the most potent force that this universe knows: the spiritual, hidden, secret people of God in this earth. To take hold of Christianity and mold it, and shape it, and systematize it, and crystallize it, and make it some mighty movement here; with its roots here, with all its associations such as man can see, appreciate and approve; to register itself upon the ordinary consciousness of this world as being something; all of that is contrary to the Word of God and is contrary to spiritual life and spiritual power. Christ is in heaven, and we are lifted out, translated, seated together with Him in the heavenlies. Our present purpose in this world is testimony only, by which others will be taken out of the nations, a people for His name.

~T. Austin-Sparks~


Just Look Around

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.

—1 Peter 5:6

When God is looking for a man or a woman to use, He often goes out of His way to find someone who will say, "I'm the last person You would want to choose."

The Lord might say to that person, "Actually, you are the first person I wanted to choose because you think you're the last person I would want to choose." People who think they are qualified, people who think they can do it all and know it all, disqualify themselves. Why? Because "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

Sometimes people tell me they want to be in ministry, and they want my advice regarding how they can get into the ministry. Ministry is everywhere. Jesus said, "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!" (John 4:35).

I started out in ministry on the streets. I was just someone who heard the gospel and believed it. I went out on the streets of Newport Beach, around the pier, and I walked around. I'd walk up to people I had never met and talk to them about my faith. I looked for any opportunity I could find.

In the Bible we see that the people God called to serve Him usually were busy doing something else. Gideon was grinding wheat. Elisha was plowing a field. Peter and John were mending nets. Matthew was sitting at his tax table.

Ministry is all around us if we will just open our eyes. Work where you are. Do what you can where you are. If you are faithful in the little things, God will open up great opportunities for you.
~Greg Laurie~

Today's reading: 2 Kings 9:1-10:27

As we arrive at 2 Kings 9 Jehu is anointed king of Israel, and what immediately follows is deadly violence. I find passages like these extremely difficult to read, understand and accept--even knowing that this account is from a much different time period where customs, traditions, practices and laws were nothing like what we follow today. Nevertheless, it's part of God's Word as well as biblical history which means I need to know about it and look for lessons from it.
There was one word that kept going through my mind as I read this heavy passage--SIN. Sin is powerful, far-reaching and always has consequences.
What are some of the spiritual consequences when we choose to sin? What helps you keep your focus on God and following His ways? 

Quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.

It is the Spirit that quickeneth. - The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. - Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.

I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me. - The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. - The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. - If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. - This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.

No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

PSA. 80:18. John 6:63. Rom. 8:26,27. Eph. 6:18. Psa. 119:93. John 6:63. II Cor. 3:6. -John 15:7. I John 5:14. I Cor. 12:3. 
EVENINGHave no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators. Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolators; for then must we needs go out of the world. I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. - That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.

In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.

EPH. 5:11. I Cor. 15:33. I Cor. 5:6,7,9 11. Phi. 2:15. II Tim. 2:20.

~Samuel Bagster~

Nearest and Dearest Fellowship 

"So shall we ever be with the LORD"   (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

While we are here the LORD is with us, and when we are called away we are with Him. There is no dividing the saint from His Savior. They are one, and they always must be one: Jesus cannot be without His own people, for He would be a Head without a body. Whether caught up into the air, or resting in paradise, or sojourning here, we are with Jesus; and who shall separate us from Him? What a joy is this! Our supreme honor, rest, comfort, delight, is to be with the LORD. We cannot conceive of anything which can surpass or even equal this divine society. By holy fellowship we must be with Him in His humiliation, rejection, and travail, and then we shall be with Him in His glory. Before long we shall be with Him in His rest and in His royalty, in His expectation and in His manifestation. We shall fare as He fares and triumph as He triumphs. O my LORD, if I am to be forever with Thee, I have a destiny incomparable. I will not envy an archangel. To be forever with the LORD is my idea of heaven at its best. Not the harps of gold, nor the crowns unfading, nor the light unclouded is glory to me; but Jesus, Jesus Himself, and myself forever with Him in nearest and dearest fellowship.
~Charles Spurgeon~

This will be a time for you to serve as witnesses.—Luke 21:13
Life is a steep climb, and it does the heart good to have somebody “call back” and cheerily beckon us on up the high hill. We are all climbers together, and we must help one another. This mountain climbing is serious business, but glorious. It takes strength and steady step to find the summits. The outlook widens with the altitude. If anyone among us has found anything worth while, we ought to “call back.”
If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track; 
And if, perchance, Faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low, 
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.
Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when the forest’s roots were torn;
That, when the heavens thunder and the earthquake shook the hill,
He bore you up and held you where the very air was still.
Oh, friend, call back, and tell me for I cannot see your your face,
They say it glows with triumph, and your feet bound in the race;
But there are mists between us and my spirit eyes are dim,
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for word of Him.
But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky
If you have gone a little way ahead, oh, friend, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track. 
~L. B. Cowman~

Monday, July 18, 2016

Not I, But Christ (and other devotionals)

[not I But Christ. I have this on two of my blogs this morning. I think that this should be spread throughout the internet! Worthy is our Lord!!]

Not I, But Christ

Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted,
Not I, but Christ, be seen, be known, be heard;
Not I, but Christ, in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ in every thought and word.

Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord!
Oh, to be lost in Thee!
Oh, that it might be no more “I”,
But Christ that lives in me!

Not I, but Christ, to gently soothe in sorrow,
Not I, but Christ, to wipe the falling tear;
Not I, but Christ, to lift the weary burden,
Not I, but Christ, to hush away all fear.

Christ, only Christ! No idle words e'er falling,
Christ, only Christ; no needless bustling sounds;
Christ, only Christ; no self important bearing,
Christ, only Christ, no trace of “I” be found.

Not I, but Christ, my every need supplying,
Not I, but Christ, my strength and health to be;
Not I, but Christ, for body, soul, and spirit,
Christ, only Christ, here and eternally.

Christ, only Christ ere long will fill my vision;
Glory excelling soon, full soon I'll see
Christ, only Christ my every wish fulfilling
Christ, only Christ my all and all to be.

~Frances E. Bolton~

[Oh, halleluah!!! Most beautiful expression I have ever seen of our Lord and Saviour!! Not I - no, never "I", but always, always  Christ!]

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

(16) Rejoice always, (17) pray without ceasing, (18) in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
New King James Version   
Paul addresses I Thessalonians 5:16-18 directly to us, and its commands can greatly affect our attitudes during trials so that we make the best use of them without getting down on life: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in ChristJesus for you.” These are quite challenging! But since God commands them of us, they are things that He will enable us to accomplish. Therefore, they are not impossible tasks.
These are attitudes and actions that we can control. Other scriptures reveal that God permits us to be saddened or disappointed about what is happening. For example, the gospels say that Jesus sorrowed about various things. Here, Paul's concern is that, in our relationship with God—as the mention of prayer establishes—we will not remain depressed for an extended time because of our contact with God. We should be able to come out of our funks. If we do not, it is because we are too focused on ourselves.
These commands guard against allowing ourselves to sink from an upbeat, positive, and hopeful attitude of a child of God to a discouraged and self-centered one. How? By doing spiritual work directly in relation to God, holding onto God in the midst of all circumstances in life. Peter writes that if God is our hope, He will lift us up (I Peter 5:6-7).
I Timothy 6:6-8 reminds us of an important reality: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” This passage's central issue concerns wealth. Great discontentment and discouragement are generated through coveting wealth. However, the attitude of a reasoned, faith-based contentment, regardless of economic circumstances, causes great spiritual gain.
Within a relationship with God, this faith-based attitude greatly assists in enabling a Christian to live an “over the sun” life. In a converted person's mind, because he is living such a life, God is the Central Figure, and he accepts whatever life throws his way. A Christian with that focus works his way through his trials, overcoming the pulls toward self-centeredness because he knows God is with him.
Without God being the beacon that provides guidance and encouragement, a person can much more easily drift into an easily discouraged, discontented, covetous, “life is down on me,” self-centered existence. When that happens, spiritual progress grinds to a halt.

~John W. Ritenbaugh~

None of you can be My disciples unless you give up everything. (Luke 14:33 GW) 

Nothing is truly established until it has been yielded up and has received the brand of the Cross upon it. Have you got that? Even though that may have been given to you from God, there is still always the danger of something in ourselves impinging upon something that God has given us. We insinuate ourselves into it, and make it ours somehow. This Self! This flesh! Oh, yes, God gives us a ministry and then we get hold of it and become jealous about our ministry and afraid of other people getting in our way and taking our ministry away from us; interfering with our ministry, you see. The flesh comes up in that way and in so many other directions and connections. God does something, and then we come into it. We get into the picture.
Somehow or other this flesh cannot keep itself out of even the things that God does by a miracle. We turn them to the glorification or the gratification of this flesh of ours, and even a thing which God may give – and you are thinking perhaps of different things which God may give – will never be established and confirmed until it has been yielded up and knows the mark of death to ourselves and that is only alive for and unto God, and we are only alive for and unto God in that connection, whatever it may be. The Cross is the way of Life in everything and immediately the Cross is nullified by this thing upon which the Cross says, "No, No!" Immediately anything of that comes up again, we counter the life of that thing, we strangle its life, we limit its life. We not only arrest the progress, but we bring into smallness God’s intention of multiplication. Why cannot God increase? And the answer is clearly and definitely this: that somehow or other man has come into this business of God and turned it to himself. The Cross has not been kept in its place to give God a clear, full, free way.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

Today's reading: 2 Kings 8:7-15

Elisha was well-known for boldly following and serving God and the many mighty works he did in God's name and through His strength. So when the king of Syria falls ill, he reaches out to "the man of God," for guidance and direction, rather than turning to the god of the Syrians. Elisha's demeanor and how Elisha interacts with Hazael and responds to Ben-hadad, got me thinking about ministry and the varying situations, demands and opportunities that come with it. Elisha is in a country that follows a foreign god, and when he is approached by the king through Hazael, he represents God fully and well. He willingly conversed with Hazael, he wasn't arrogant or condescending in his actions or words, he was straightforward and spoke openly and with truth.
There's a temptation as we read passages and accounts about people like Elisha, Elijah, Moses, or one of the disciples to think of their examples as being primarily for those who have chosen full-time ministry as an occupation. But the fact of the matter is that as a follower of Christ, we are all in full-time ministry, whether or not it generates our paycheck.

As a follower of Christ, do you consider yourself as being in full-time ministry? Think back over the past week, how did you represent God to others through your actions and words? What does you representing God well look like? 


Galatians 2:20
The Lord Jesus Christ acted in what He did as a great public representative person, and His dying upon the cross was the virtual dying of all His people. Then all His saints rendered unto justice what was due, and made an expiation to divine vengeance for all their sins. The apostle of the Gentiles delighted to think that as one of Christ's chosen people, he died upon the cross in Christ. He did more than believe this doctrinally, he accepted it confidently, resting his hope upon it. He believed that by virtue of Christ's death, he had satisfied divine justice, and found reconciliation with God. Beloved, what a blessed thing it is when the soul can, as it were, stretch itself upon the cross of Christ, and feel, "I am dead; the law has slain me, and I am therefore free from its power, because in my Surety I have borne the curse, and in the person of my Substitute the whole that the law could do, by way of condemnation, has been executed upon me, for I am crucified with Christ." But Paul meant even more than this. He not only believed in Christ's death, and trusted in it, but he actually felt its power in himself in causing the crucifixion of his old corrupt nature. When he saw the pleasures of sin, he said, "I cannot enjoy these: I am dead to them." Such is the experience of every true Christian. Having received Christ, he is to this world as one who is utterly dead. Yet, while conscious of death to the world, he can, at the same time, exclaim with the apostle, "Nevertheless I live." He is fully alive unto God. The Christian's life is a matchless riddle. No worldling can comprehend it; even the believer himself cannot understand it. Dead, yet alive! crucified with Christ, and yet at the same time risen with Christ in newness of life! Union with the suffering, bleeding Saviour, and death to the world and sin, are soul-cheering things. O for more enjoyment of them!

~Charles Spurgeon~

Thursday, July 14, 2016

It Was A Serpent (and other devotionals)

It was a serpent, not a Savior--which Eve pressed to her joyful bosom!

(Thomas Guthrie)

"I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord!" Genesis 4:1 

Most expositors think that Eve imagined Cain to be the promised seed that would bruise the head of the serpent. (Adam Clarke's Commentary)

Many suppose that Eve thought that this son was the promised seed, and that therefore she thus triumphed in him, as her words may be read, "I have gotten a man, the Lord!" (Matthew Henry's Commentary)

Eve cherished the hope that she herself would be the mother of the Messiah. Wrung with remorse for her incalculable crime, and eager to see its misery and mischief undone--she grasped at the fulfillment of the promise, but only to be disappointed--to catch only a mocking shadow. It is a common saying, What we eagerly desire--we easily believe

Our poor mother Eve, hailing in her first-born, the promised seed, clasped Cain to her beating bosom. "I have gotten," she exclaimed, "the man"--the promised man, "from the Lord!" Never was mother so bitterly disappointed! Never more false was the bright happy vision that has floated round many an infant's cradle! It was a serpent, not a Savior--which Eve pressed to her joyful bosom! 

Here, in this quiet bower where Eve is singing her boy asleep, he who cruelly shed man's blood to kill--is mistaken for Him who generously shed His own blood to save!

Ingratitude to God—a Heinous but General Iniquity

by Samuel Davies

"Hezekiah's heart was proud—and he did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him; therefore the LORD's wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem." 2 Chronicles 32:25
Among the many vices that are at once universally decried, and universally practiced in the world— there is none more base or more common than INGRATITUDE; ingratitude towards the supreme Benefactor. Ingratitude is the sin of individuals, of families, of churches, of kingdoms, and even of all mankind. The guilt of ingratitude lies heavy upon the whole race of men, though, alas! but few of them feel and lament it. I have felt it of late with unusual weight; and it is the weight of it that now extorts a discourse from me upon this subject.
If the plague of an ungrateful heart must cleave to us while in this world of sin and imperfection, let us at least lament it; let us bear witness against it; let us condemn ourselves for it; and let us do all we can to suppress it in ourselves. I feel myself, as it were, exasperated, and full of indignation against it, and against myself, as guilty of it. And in the bitterness of my spirit, I shall endeavor to expose it to your view in its proper infernal colors—as an object of horror and indignation. None of us can flatter ourselves that we are in little or no danger of this sin, when even so good and great a man as Hezekiah did not escape the infection. In the memoirs of his life, which are illustrious for piety, zeal for reformation, victory over his enemies, glory and importance at home and abroad, this, alas! is recorded of him, "Hezekiah's heart was proud—and he did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him; therefore the LORD's wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem."
Many had been the blessings and deliverances of this good man's life. I shall only particularize two, recorded in this chapter. The Assyrians had overrun a great part of the country, and intended to lay siege to Jerusalem. Their haughty monarch who had carried all before him, and was grown insolent with success, sent Hezekiah a blasphemous letter, to intimidate him and his people. He profanely bullies and defies Hezekiah and his God together; and Rabshakeh, his messenger, comments upon his master's letter in the same style of impiety and insolence. But here observe the signal efficacy of prayer! Hezekiah, Isaiah, and no doubt many other pious people among the Jews, made their prayer to the God of Israel; and, as it were, complained to him of the threatenings and profane blasphemy of the Assyrian monarch. Jehovah hears, and works a miraculous deliverance for them. "That night the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian troops!" (2 Kings 19:35)
Sennacherib, with the thin remains of his army, fled home inglorious; and his two sons assassinated him at an idolatrous altar. Thus Jerusalem was freed from danger, and the country rescued from slavery and the ravages of war. Nay, we find from profane history, that this dreadful blow proved fatal in the outcome of the Assyrian monarchy, which had oppressed the world so long; for upon this the Medes, and afterwards other nations, threw off their submission; and the empire fell to pieces. Certainly so illustrious a deliverance as this, wrought immediately by the divine hand—was a sufficient reason for ardent gratitude!
Another deliverance followed upon this. Hezekiah was sick unto death; that is, his sickness was in its own nature mortal, and would have been unto death—had it not been for the miraculous interposition of Providence. But, upon his prayer to God, he recovered, and fifteen years added to his life. This also was great cause of gratitude. And we find it had this effect upon him, while the sense of his deliverance was fresh upon his mind; for in his thankful song upon his recovery, we find these grateful strains: "Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation can make known your faithfulness to the next. Think of it—the LORD has healed me! I will sing his praises with instruments every day of my life in the Temple of the LORD!" Isaiah 38:19-20
But, alas! those grateful impressions wore off in some time; and pride, that uncreaturely temper, began to rise. He began to think himself the favorite of heaven, in some degree, on account of his own personal goodness. He indulged his vanity in ostentatiously exposing his treasures to the Babylonian messengers; which was the instance of selfish pride and ingratitude which here seems particularly referred to. This pride and ingratitude passed not without evidences of the divine indignation; for we are told, "Hezekiah's heart was proud—and he did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him; therefore the LORD's wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem."
As the crime was not peculiar to him—so neither is the punishment. Nations and individuals have suffered in this manner from age to age; and under the guilt of it we and our country are now languishing. In order to make you the more sensible of your ingratitude towards your divine Benefactor, I shall give you a brief view of his mercies towards you, and expose the aggravated baseness of ingratitude under the reception of so many mercies!

Mercy has poured in upon you upon all sides, and followed you from the first commencement of your existence; rich, various, free, repeated, uninterrupted mercy! The blessings of a body wonderfully and fearfully made, complete in all its parts, and not monstrous in any! The blessings of a rational, immortal soul, preserved in the exercise of sound reason for so many years, amid all those accidents that have shattered it in others, and capable of the exalted pleasure of religion, and the everlasting enjoyment of the blessed God, the Supreme Good! The blessing of a large and spacious world, prepared and furnished for our accommodation; illuminated with an illustrious sun, and the many luminaries of the sky! The earth enriched and adorned with trees, vegetables, various sorts of grain, and animals, for our support or convenience! The the sea, a medium of extensive trade, and an inexhaustible store of fish! The blessing of the early care of parents and friends, to provide for us in the helpless days of infancy, and direct or restrain us in the giddy, precipitant years of youth! The blessing of being born in the mature age of the world, when the improvements of civilization are carried to so high a degree of perfection!
The blessing of being born, not among savages in a wilderness—but in a humanized, civilized country; not on the burning, sandy deserts of the torrid zone, nor under the frozen sky of Lapland or Iceland—but in a temperate climate, as favorable to the comfort and continuance of life as most countries upon earth; not in a barren soil, scarcely affording provision of the coarsest sort for its inhabitants—but in a land of unusual plenty, which has never felt the severities of famine! The blessing of not being a race of slaves under the tyranny of an tyrannical government—but free-born Britons and Americans in a land of liberty: these birthright blessings are almost peculiar to us and our nation.
Let me enumerate also the blessing of a good education; good, at least, when compared to the many savage nations of the earth! The blessing of health for months and years! The blessing of clothing suited to the various seasons of the year! The blessing of rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, of summer and winter, of seedtime and harvest! The agreeable vicissitude of night and day! The refreshing repose of sleep, and the activity and enjoyment of our waking hours! The blessing of a refined society! The blessing of the most endearing relationships; the blessings included in the tender names of friend, husband or wife, parent or child, brother or sister! The blessing of peace; peace in the midst of a peaceful country, which has been our happy lot until of late years; or peace in the midst of a ravaged, bleeding country, which is a more distinguished and singular blessing, and which we now enjoy, while many of our fellow-subjects feel a terrible reverse!
Blessings in every age of life; in infancy, in youth, in adult age, and in the decays of old age! Blessings by sea and land, and in every place where we have resided!
In short, blessings as numerous as our moments, as long continued as our lives; blessings personal and relative, public and private! For while we have the air to breathe in, the earth to tread upon, or a drop of water to quench our thirst—we must own we are not left destitute of blessings from God!

From God—all these blessings originally flow! And to him—we are principally obliged for them. Indeed, they are conveyed to us by means of our fellow creatures; or they seem to be the spontaneous productions of natural causes, acting according to the established laws of nature. But then it was God, the Fountain of being and of all good, who gave our fellow-creatures the disposition, the ability, and the opportunity of conveying these blessings to us! And it is the great God who is the Author of those causes which spontaneously produce so many blessings for our enjoyment, and of those laws of nature, according to which they act. These are but channels, channels cut by his hand! And he is the source of all our blessings—he is the ocean of blessings. Creatures are but the hands which distribute his charity through a needy world; but his is the storehouse from which they derive their supplies. On this account, therefore, we should receive all these blessings as gifts from God, and feel ourselves obliged to him, as the supreme, original Benefactor.
Besides, it is very probable to me, that in order to bestow some of these blessings upon us by means of natural causes, God may give these causes a touch to turn them in our favor more than they would be according to the established course of nature; a touch so efficacious as to answer the kind design: though so gentle and agreeable to the established laws of nature, as not to be perceivable, or to cast the system of nature into disorder. The blessings conveyed in this way are not only the gifts of his hand—but the gifts of his immediate hand.
Therefore let God be acknowledged the supreme, the original Benefactor of the world, and the proper Author of all our blessings! And let all his creatures, in the height of their benevolence and usefulness, own that they are but the distributors of his alms, or the instruments of conveying the gifts of his hand. Let us acknowledge the light of yonder sun, the breath that now heaves our lungs, and fans the vital flame, the growing plenty that is now bursting its way through the clods of earth, the water that bubbles up in springs, that flows in streams and rivers, or rolls at large in the ocean; let us own, I say, that all these are the bounties of his hand, who supplies with good the various ranks of being, as high as the most exalted angel, and as low as the young ravens, and the grass of the field.
Let him stand as the acknowledged Benefactor of the universe—to inflame the gratitude of all to him; or to array in the crimson colors of aggravated guilt the ingratitude of those sordid, stupid wretches, who still continue unthankful.
The positive blessings I have briefly enumerated, have some of them been interrupted at times; but even the interruption seemed only intended to make way for some deliverance; a deliverance that reinstated us in the possession of our former blessings with a new and stronger relish, and taught us, or at least was adapted to teach us, some useful lessons, which we were not likely to learn, had not our enjoyment been a while suspended.
This very hour—let us turn our eyes backward, and take a review of a length of ten, twenty, forty, or sixty years; and what a series of deliverances rise upon us! Deliverances from the many dangers of childhood, by which many have lost their limbs, and many their lives; deliverances from many threatening and fatal accidents; deliverances from exquisite pains, and from dangerous diseases; deliverances from the gates of death, and the mouth of the grave; and deliverances for yourselves, and for your dear families and friends! When sickness, like a destroying angel, has entered your neighborhood, and made extensive havoc and desolation around you—you and yours have escaped the infection, while you were every day in anxious expectation of the dreadful visit, and trembling at the dubious fate of some dear relative or your own; or if it has entered your houses, like a messenger of death, it has not committed its usual ravages in them. Or if it has torn from your hearts one or more members of your family, still you have some left, or perhaps some new members added to make up the loss.
When you have been in deep distress, and covered with the most tremendous glooms, deliverance has dawned in the most seasonable hour, and light and joy have followed the nights of darkness and melancholy.
In short, your deliverances have been endless and innumerable. You appear this day—as so many monuments of delivering goodness. You have also shared in the deliverances wrought for your country and nation in former and latter times: deliverances from the open violences and clandestine plots and insurrections of enemies abroad and traitors and rebels at home: deliverances from the united efforts of both, to enslave us to civil or ecclesiastical tyranny, or a medley of both; and deliverances from drought, and the threatening appearances of famine, which we have so lately experienced in these parts; and yet they are long enough past to be generally forgotten!
In these instances of deliverances, as well as in the former, of positive blessings, let the great God be acknowledged the original cause, whatever creatures he is pleased to make use of as his instruments. Fortuitous accidents are under his direction; and necessary causes are subject to his control. Diseases are his servants, his soldiers; and he sends them out, or recalls them according to his pleasure
And now mention the human benefactor if you can—to whom you are a thousandth part so much obliged as to this divine Benefactor. What a profusion of blessings and deliverances has the Almighty made you a subject of! And oh! what obligations of gratitude do such favors lay upon you! What ardent love, what sincere thanksgiving, what affectionate duty do they require of you! These are the cords of love—with which he would draw you to obedience.
What returns has this divine Benefactor received from you—for all this goodness? Alas! the discovery which this inquiry will make, may convict, shock, confound, and mortify us all; for we are all, in a prodigious degree, though some much more than others, guilty in this respect—guilty of the vilest ingratitude!
Alas! are there not many of you who do not return to God—the gratitude of a dog to his master? That brute animal who receives but crumbs and blows from you, will welcome you home with a thousand fond and obliging motions. The very dull ox you fodder, knows his owner. But oh! the more than brutal ingratitude of reasonable creatures! Some of you, perhaps, do not so much as acknowledge the agency of Divine Providence in these enjoyments; but, affecting a very foolish infidelity under the name ofphilosophy, you make natural causes the authors of all good to you, without the agency of the first Mover of all the springs of nature!
Others of you, who may be orthodox in your faith as to this point—yet are practical infidels, the most absurd and inconsistent sort in the world! That is, while you certainly acknowledge, and speculatively believe the agency of Divine Providence in these things—yet you live as if there were no such thing! You live thoughtless of the divine Benefactor, and disobedient to him for days and years together. The very mercies he bestows upon you—you abuse to his dishonor, by making them occasions of sin! Do not your consciences now convict you of that monster sin, ingratitude, the most base, unnatural—and yet indulged ingratitude? How do you resent it, if one whom you have deeply obliged should prove ungrateful, and abuse you? But it is impossible any one of your fellow-creatures should be guilty of such enormous ingratitude towards you—as you are guilty of towards God; because it is impossible that any one of them should be as strongly obliged to you—as you are to him!
You children of God, his peculiar favorites, whose hearts are capable of, and do actually feel some generous sensations of gratitude; what do you think of your conduct towards such a Benefactor? I speak particularly to you, because you are most likely to feel what I say. Have you rendered back to your God, according to the divine benefits done to you? Oh! are you not mortified and shocked—to reflect upon your ingratitude, your sordid, monstrous ingratitude! Do you not abhor yourselves because you were capable of such base conduct? From you I expect such a generous response. But, as to others, they are dead in transgressions and sins, dead toward God—and therefore it is no wonder if they are dead to all penitential sincere relentings for their ingratitude.
But if all this does not suffice to make you sensible of your enormous guilt in this particular, let me lay before you an inventory of still richer blessings! At the head of this stands Jesus Christ, the unspeakable gift of God. "God so loved the world, (hear it, men and angels, with grateful wonder!) that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish—but have everlasting life." John 3:16. "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world—but that the world through him, might be saved." John 3:17. The comforts of this life alone would be a very inadequate provision for creatures who are to exist forever in another world; for what are sixty or seventy years—in comparison to the long duration of an immortal being! But in the unsearchable riches of Christ, are contained the most ample provisions for your immortal state. Jesus Christ is such a gift as draws all other gifts after it; for so the apostle argues, "He who spared not his own Son—but delivered him up for us all—how shall he not with him also freely give us all things!" Romans 8:32.
And the purposes for which he gave this gift, render it the more astonishing. He gave him not only to rule us by his power—but to purchase us with the blood of his heart! He gave him up to death, even the death of the cross! In consequence of which an economy of grace, a ministry of reconciliation, is set up in our guilty world. Various means are appointed, and various endeavors are used—to save you, perishing sinners. For your salvation Jesus now intercedes in his native heaven, at the right hand of God. For your salvation the Holy Spirit strives with you; conscience admonishes you; Providence draws you by blessings, and drives you by chastisements; angels minister to you; Bibles are put into your hands; ministers persuade you; friends advise you; and thousands of saints pray for you. For this end, prayer, preaching, and a great variety of means of grace, are instituted.
For this end, heaven is prepared and furnished with many mansions; the pearly gates open, and dart their splendors from afar to attract our eyes; and things which the eye—which has seen so many things, had never seen; which the ear—which has had still more extensive intelligence, had never heard; nor the heart of man—which is even unbounded in its conceptions, had never conceived; are all brought to light by the gospel. Nay, for this purpose, your salvation— Sinai thunders, hell roars and throws its devouring flames, even to warn a stupid world not to plunge themselves into that place of eternal torment! In short, the kind designs of redeeming love run through the whole economy of Providence towards our guilty world. Heaven and earth, and, in the sense mentioned, hell itself, are trying to save you. The strongholds of sin and Satan, in which you are held prisoners, are attacked in kindness to you, from all quarters.
What beneficent efforts, what heroic exploits of divine goodness are these! And, blessed be God, these efforts are not in vain. The celestial regions are fast peopling, though, alas! not so fast as the land of darkness, with numerous colonies from our guilty globe! Even in these dregs of time, when iniquity abounds, and the love of many waxes cold—Jesus is gaining many hearts and saving many souls, in the various regions of his church. Though you and thousands more should be left, and continue to neglect Him—yet such excellencies shall not lack admirers, such a Physician shall not lack employment in our dying world. No, "he shall see of the travail of his soul—and shall be satisfied; and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand." Isaiah 53:11.
And I doubt not, but there are some among you who are the trophies of his victorious love—of his victorious love, I say; for it is by the force of love—that he sweetly conquers. Now you, my brethren, are the subjects of this administration of grace; with you, these means are used for your salvation; to you Jesus is offered as a Savior; and heaven and earth are striving to lodge you safe in his arms.
You should not rejoice in the needs of others; but certainly it may make you the more sensible of your peculiar obligations, to reflect that your lot, in this respect, is singular. It is but a very small part of mankind, who enjoy these great advantages for a happy immortality. You live under the gospel, while the most of the nations of the earth are sunk in heathen idolatry, groaning under Popish tyranny, seduced by Mohammedan imposture, or hardened in Jewish infidelity. And what peculiar obligations of gratitude, result from such peculiar, distinguishing favors to you?
If mere men have obliged you, and you feel the obligation. But can men, can angels, can the whole created universe bestow such gifts upon you, and make such provisions for you—as those which have been mentioned? Gifts of infinite value, dear to the Giver; provisions for an everlasting state; an everlasting state of as complete happiness as your nature, in its highest improvements, is capable of! These are favors worthy of God! favors that bespeak him God! And must he not, then, be the object of your supreme gratitude? Can anything in the world be more reasonable?
And yet—hear, oh earth, with horror; be astonished, O heavens, at this: How little gratitude does God receive from our world after all! How little gratitude from you—on whom these favors are showered down with distinguished profusion! Do not many of you neglect the unspeakable gift of God, Jesus Christ, as well as that salvation which he bought with his blood? Do you not ungratefully neglect the means of your salvation, and resist the generous efforts that are used, from all quarters, to save you! Oh! the mountainous load of ingratitude that lies upon you! It is enough to sink the whole world into the depth of hell!
But I must now address such of you, who are still more deeply obliged to your divine Benefactor, and whose ingratitude therefore is black and horrid; I mean such of you who have not only shared in the blessings and deliverances of life, and lived under the advantages of a dispensation of grace—but have experimentally known the love of God to your souls in a manner peculiar to yourselves, and are actually entitled to all the unknown blessings prepared for those that love him. If I am so happy as to belong to your number, I am sure I am so unhappy as to share deeply with you in the guilt, the black guilt of ingratitude!
When you were dead in transgressions and sins, God quickened you, out of his great love with which he loved you! When you were rushing on towards destruction, in the enchanting paths of sin—he checked your mad career, and turned your faces heavenward! When you were sunk into sorrows, borne down with a sense of guilt, and trembling every moment with the fears of immediate execution—he relieved you, led you to Jesus, and, as it were, lodged you safe in his arms! When dismal glooms have again gathered upon your minds, and overwhelming fears rushed again upon you like a deluge—he has relieved you again by leading you to the same almighty and ever-constant Savior! When your graces and virtues have withered in the absence of the Sun of righteousness, he has again risen upon you with healing in his wings, and revived your languishing souls. He has shed abroad his love in your hearts, which has made this wretched wilderness a paradise to you.
He has, at times, afforded you, as you humbly hoped, joy and peace in believing; yes, even caused you to rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. He has met you in your retirements, and allowed you to converse with him in his ordinances, with the heart of a friend. He has, as it were, unlocked his peculiar treasures to enrich you, and given you an unshaken title to the most glorious inheritance of the saints in light. He has made you his own, his own in a peculiar sense: his people, his friends, his very own children! You are indeed his favorites: you were even so, long before time began. He loved you with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness has he drawn you! And having loved you once, he will love you always, and he will continue in his love to all eternity. Neither life, nor death; neither things present, nor things to come—shall ever be able to separate you from his love! Romans 8:38, 39.
His love to you is an unbounded ocean, that spreads over eternity, and makes it, as it were, the channel of the ocean of your happiness. In you, he intends to show to all worlds what glorious creatures he can form of the dust, and of the polluted fragments of degenerate human nature. What is all the profession of kings to their favorites, what are all the benefactions of creatures, nay, what are all the bounties of the divine hand itself within the compass of time—when compared to these astonishing, unparalleled, immortal, infinite, God-like favors? They all dwindle into obscurity, like the stars of night in the blaze of noon!
And now I am almost afraid to turn your thoughts to inquire—what return you have made for all these favors, lest you should not be able to bear the shock. You know that you have a thousand times repeated Hezekiah's offence. I need not be particular. Your conscience accuses you, and points out the particulars; and I shall only join the cry of conscience against you. Oh! the ingratitude! Oh! the base, vile, unnatural, horrid, unprecedented ingratitude!

From you—your God might have expected better things! From you, whom he has so peculiarly, so infinitely obliged, and whose hearts he has made capable of generous sensations. But oh! the shocking, horrid ingratitude! Let our hearts burst into a flood of sorrows at the thought! They may be justly too full to allow us to speak much upon it; but, oh! they can never be too full of shame, confusion, and tender relentings for the crime. Methinks the thought must break the hardest heart among us!
Let me now add a consideration, that gives an astonishing emphasis to all that has been said. All this profusion of mercy, personal and relative, temporal and spiritual—is bestowed upon creatures that deserve not the least mercy! Upon creatures that deserve to be stripped naked of every mercy; nay, that deserve to be made miserable in time and eternity! Upon creatures that deserve not to breathe this vital air, to tread the ground, or drink the stream that runs through the wilderness; much less to enjoy all the blessings which the infinite merit of Jesus could purchase, or the infinite goodness of God can bestow! Upon creatures that are so far from deserving to be delivered from the calamities of life—that they deserve to have them all heightened and multiplied, until they convey them to the more intolerable punishments of hell! Upon creatures that are so far from making adequate returns, that they are perpetually offending their God to his face; and every day receiving blessings from him, and every day sinning against him!
Oh! astonishing! most astonishing! This wonder is pointed out by Jesus Christ himself, who best knows what is truly marvelous. The Most High God, says he, "is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." Luke 6:35. "Your heavenly Father makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:45. It need afford you no surprise, if my subject so overwhelms me, as to disable me from making a formal application of it. I leave you to your own thoughts upon it. And I am apt to think they will constrain you to cry out in a consternation with me, "Oh! the amazing, horrid, base, unprecedented ingratitude of man! And oh! the amazing, free, rich, overflowing, infinite, unprecedented goodness of God! Let these two miracles be the wonder of the whole universe!"
One prayer, and I am done. May our divine Benefactor, among his other blessings, bestow upon us that of a thankful heart, and enable us to give sincere, fervent, and perpetual praise to his name, through Jesus Christ, his unspeakable gift! Amen.