Why am I afflicted?

The effect (of affliction) has been to recall me from my wanderings, and to turn me to paths of duty and holiness. This is an effect often — very often — experienced; this is language which can be used by many a child of God. Of those who are the children of God it may be said that they are “always” benefited “sooner” or “later” by afflictions. It may not be at the time of the affliction, but the “ultimate” effect is in all cases to benefit them. Some error is corrected; some evil habit changed; some mode of life not consistent with religion is forsaken; pride is humbled; the heart is quickened in duty; habits of prayer are resumed or formed; the affections are fixed on a better world; the soul is made more gentle, calm, humble, spiritual, pure.

Afflictions are among the most precious means of grace. They are entirely under the direction of God. They may be endlessly varied, and adapted to the case of every individual. God knows every heart, and the best way to reach any heart. By sickness; by disappointment; by loss of property; by bereavement; by blighted hopes; by the ingratitude of others; by the unkindness of professed friends, and the malice of enemies; by domestic troubles; by the misconduct of children — perhaps the most severe of all human ills, and the hardest to bear; in ten thousand ways God can reach the heart, and break and crush it, and make it ready for the entrance of truth — as the farmer breaks and pulverizes the soil by the plow and the harrow, so that it shall be prepared to receive the seed.

Among those things for which good men have most occasion for thankfulness are afflictions; and when we lie down on the bed of death, and look over life and the divine dealings with us through life, as the glories of heaven are about to open upon us, we shall feel that among the chiefest mercies of God are those dealings of his holy hand, trying at the time, which kept us from going astray, or which recalled us when we had wandered from him — and “that in our life, now closing, there has not been one trial too much.”

– Albert Barnes, 1872-1951, Barnes Notes

Published in: on May 31, 2016 at 1:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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Be not in debt to anyone

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another.
– Romans 13:8

“Owe no man anything.” Be not in debt to any one:

1. because it is a part of our duty as good citizens; and

2. because it is a part of that law which teaches us to love our neighbor, and to do no injury to him, (Ro 13:10). The interpretation of this command is to be taken with this limitation, that we are not to be indebted to him so as to injure him, or to work ill to him.

This rule, together with the other rules of Christianity, would propose a remedy for all the evils of bad debts in the following manner:

1. It would teach men to be industrious, and this would commonly prevent the necessity of contracting debts.

2. It would make them frugal, economical, and humble in their views and manner of life.

3. It would teach them to bring up their families in habits of industry. The Bible often enjoins that. See also “Ro 12:11”, comp. (Phil. 4:8; Prov. 24:30-34; 1Thess. 4:11; 2Thess. 3:10; Eph. 4:28)

4. Religion would produce sober, chastened views of the end of life, of the great design of living; and would take off the affections from the splendor, gaiety, and extravagances which lead often to the contraction of debts, (1Thess. 5:6,8; 1Pet. 1:13, 4:7; Tit. 2:12; 1Pet. 3:3,5; 1Tim. 2:9).

5. Religion would put a period to the vices and unlawful desires which now prompt men to contract debts.

6. It would make them honest in paying them. It would make them conscientious, prompt, friends of truth, and disposed to keep their promises.

– Albert Barnes, 1798 – 1870, Barnes Notes

Published in: on May 22, 2016 at 1:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Types of Sermons

If we were even to try to name some of the types of sermons heard on occasion, let alone trying to classify them, our task would be difficult.

There might be the BUTTERFLY sermon in which the preacher flits from book to book not lighting too long at any spot lest someone should catch him.

There is what Jeff D. Ray called the OLD MOTHER HUBBARD sermon. In this, the preacher uses each word as a jumping-off place into extended elaborations of disjointed items.

There is the BAG OF BEADS message which consists of a number of good ideas without a string to tie them together.

There is the PERSECUTION sermon structure in which the preacher stays with a verse until persecuted and then flees to the next.

There is also the MAJORING ON THE MINUTIA method. This emphasizes the items picked up by an exegetical microscope so that as Thomas Hobbs once said, “the preacher casts atoms of Scripture as dust before men’s eyes, thereby making everything more obscure than it is.”

There is also the SKYSCRAPER sermon in which the preacher tells one story upon another.

Lloyd M. Perry, “Biblical Preaching”

 

Published in: on May 15, 2016 at 1:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Three rules for a happy marriage

Of all relationships of life, none ought to be regarded with such reverence, and none taken in hand so cautiously as the relationship of husband and wife.

In no relationship is so much earthly happiness to be found, if it be entered upon discreetly, advisedly, and in the fear of God. In none is so much misery seen to follow, if it be taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, wantonly, and without thought.

From no step in life does so much benefit come to the soul, if people marry “in the Lord.” From none does the soul take so much harm, if fancy, passion, or any mere worldly motive is the only cause which produce the union.

There is, unhappily, only too much necessity for impressing these truths upon people. It is a mournful fact, that few steps in life are generally taken with so much levity, self will, and forgetfulness of God as marriage. Few are the young couples who think of inviting Christ to their wedding!

It is a mournful fact that unhappy marriages are one great cause of the misery and sorrow of which there is so much in the world. People find out too late that they have made a mistake, and go in bitterness all their days.

Happy are they, who in the matter of marriage observe three rules:

The first is to marry only in the Lord, and after prayer for God’s approval and blessing.

The second is not to expect too much from their partners, and to remember that marriage is, after all, the union of two sinners, and not of two angels.

The third rule is to strive first and foremost for one another’s sanctification (holiness). The more holy married people are, the happier they are.

J. C. Ryle, The Gospel of Mark, 1857

Published in: on May 12, 2016 at 12:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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Room in a Humble Sphere

When you are tempted to chafe and repine at the narrowness of your circumstances and the limitations of your sphere, remember that Jesus, with all his rich life and all his great powers, for thirty years found room in a humble peasant home for worthy living and for service, not unfitted to his exalted character. If you can do nothing but live a true Christian life—patient, gentle, kindly, pure—in your home, in society, at your daily duty—you will perform in the end a service of great value and leave many blessings in the world. Such a life is a little gospel, telling in sermons without words, the wonderful story of the cross of Christ.

– J. R. Miller, In Green Pastures

Published in: on May 11, 2016 at 12:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christian Love

The spirit of Christian love, if allowed to work deeply and thoroughly in all hearts and lives—will prevent variance and alienation among Christians. It will lead us to forget ourselves and think of others, not pushing our own interests unduly, nor demanding the first place—but in honor preferring one another. It will make us willing to serve, to minister, even to stoop down to unloose a brother’s shoes. It will make us thoughtful, too—in all our acts, in our manners, in our words. It will make us gentle, kindly, patient, teaching us to be all that Christ would be—if he were in our place.

– J. R. Miller, In Green Pastures

Published in: on May 4, 2016 at 2:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Disciples, not Converts

Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you.”Luke 10:20

As Christian workers, worldliness is not our snare, sin is not our snare, but spiritual wantoning is, viz.: taking the pattern and print of the religious age we live in, making eyes at spiritual success. Never court anything other than the approval of God, go “outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in successful service, and yet this seems to be the one thing in which most of us do rejoice. We have the commercial view – so many souls saved and sanctified, thank God, now it is all right. Our work begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation; we are not to save souls, but to disciple them. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace; our work as His disciples is to disciple lives until they are wholly yielded to God. One life wholly devoted to God is of more value to God than one hundred lives simply awakened by His Spirit. As workers for God we must reproduce our own kind spiritually, and that will be God’s witness to us as workers. God brings us to a standard of life by His grace, and we are responsible for reproducing that standard in others.

Unless the worker lives a life hidden with Christ in God, he is apt to become an irritating dictator instead of an indwelling disciple. Many of us are dictators, we dictate to people and to meetings. Jesus never dictates to us in that way. Whenever Our Lord talked about discipleship, He always prefaced it with an “IF,” never with an emphatic assertion – “You must.” Discipleship carries an option with it.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Published in: on May 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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