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Encouragement from Psalm 6

On Psalm 6 William Plumer comments:

“With believers when things get to the worst then they get better. To them darkness is the harbinger of light; grief, of gladness; humility, of exaltation; death, of life. The whole Psalm teaches thus . . . The pious man has a friend in heaven, and on that account has no reason to be violently overcome by his sorrow.”

And Matthew Henry on Psalm 4:6:

“It has often been the the lot of the best of men to be men of sorrows; our Lord Jesus himself was so.”

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– William S. Plumer, Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks. 1867 (Carlise, PA: Banner of Truth, 1990), 101.

– Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. 3. 1710. (McLean, Virginia:  MacDonald Publishing Company, 1985), 259.

 

Bearing the Heaviest Afflictions

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) argues that “it is under sufferings that the superiority of the Christian’s state is to be seen to the greatest advantage.” He comments on Romans 8:28:

“The Christian may be called to bear the heaviest afflictions; but they shall bring him to consideration, stir him up to prayer, wean him from the world, and lead him to seek his rest above — He maybe assaulted also with the most distressing temptations; but these will shew him the evil of his heart, and the faithfulness of his God: they will also teach him to sympathize with his tempted brethren: even death itself will be among the number of the things that shall prove beneficial to him. This is the most formidable enemy to fallen man: it cuts him off from all means and opportunities of salvation, and seals him up under endless and irremediable misery; but to a true Christian it is a most-invaluable treasure. It puts a period to all his sorrows and temptations, and introduces him to the immediate, everlasting enjoyment of his God.”

– Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae Vol. 15, Discourse 1877.

Calvin: Waiting on God with Patience and Peseverance

 

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Yesterday I finished reading Bruce Gordon’s masterful biography of John Calvin. The highest praise I can give Calvin is that it compares positively with my two favorite biographies, Peter Brown’s Augustine of Hippo: A Biography and George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life.

Calvin was a towering figure of his age. But above all Calvin was a pastor, his heart attuned to the realities of life in God’s persecuted church.  Gordon observes that

“Resignation to fate and delusions of perfection were equally abhorrent to Calvin. God’s providence is an excuse for neither inaction nor wickedness; it encourages joy among the faithful, and fortifies them to face the hardships of the world, but it is not an inoculation. The Gospel teaches God’s everlasting kindness and love; it is the source of comfort, and that is its chief power. Christian should wait on God with patience and perseverance, and submit to the divine will.”

– Bruce Gordon, Calvin (New Haven: Yale, 2009), 278.

When Does Effective Preaching Become Possible?

When does effective preaching become possible?

“Dr. Wilbur Chapman has this to say of the handicaps which befall the minister: ‘when trials are many, when burdens are heavy, when tears are blinding, when the heart is almost broken, then, as a rule, ministers come to an experience when effective preaching is possible.'” – William Childs Robinson, The Certainties of the Gospel (Zondervan: 1935), 130.

Inevitable Adversity

51ddjftbRHL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_-2“In the older world we left behind, people thought of adversity as inevitable. Adversity was a consequence of the fall for those of a Christian outlook. But even for non-Christians it was never seen as an unexpected intruder in life. It was never thought that life should be without pain. Pain, disease, setbacks, disappointments, and wrong done to us were all seen as part of our life in this world, part of its texture, a thread woven with all the other threads through the fabric of our daily experience. Adversity was seen, even, as a necessary component in life. Today we resent adversity as an interruption in our pleasure seeking, a rude disruption of our opportunities and our sense of calm. It is a gross injustice. Why should bad things happen to good people? Where is the justice of that? We are entitled to better. Indeed, we are demanding better! Adversity of any kind is unacceptable.”

– David F. Wells The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2008), 161.

A Dignified President

From a speech at Hillsdale College by former Congressman Mike Pence. Mr. Pence was elected governor of Indiana last year:

There is no finer, more moving, or more profound understanding of the nature of the presidency and the command of humility placed upon it than that expressed by President [Calvin] Coolidge. He, like Lincoln, lost a child while he was president, a son of sixteen. “The day I became president,” Coolidge wrote, “[Calvin, Jr.] had just started to work in a tobacco field. When one of his fellow laborers said to him, ‘If my father was president I would not work in a tobacco field,’ Calvin replied, ‘If my father were your father you would.”‘ His admiration for the boy was obvious.

Young Calvin contracted blood poisoning from an incident on the South Lawn of the White House. Coolidge wrote, “What might have happened to him under other circumstances we do not know, but if I had not been president . . .” And then he continued, “In his suffering he was asking me to make him well. I could not. When he went, the power and glory of the Presidency went with him.”

A sensibility such as this, and not power, is the source of presidential dignity, and must be restored. It depends entirely upon character, self-discipline, and an understanding of the fundamental principles that underlie not only the republic, but life itself. It communicates that the president feels the gravity of his office and is willing to sacrifice himself; that his eye is not upon his prospects but on the storm of history, through which he must navigate with the specific powers accorded to him and the limitations placed on those powers both by God and man.

– Mike Pence, “The Presidency and the Constitution,” Imprimis (October 2010), 3-4

Bless and Do Not Curse (1)

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14).

Love is the preeminent Christian virtue. Justice, self-control, courage, and wisdom may mark our lives, but without love we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2).

Our obligation to love is all encompassing. We Christians must love our brothers and sisters in Christ. With all of our family sins and failures and shortcomings, that looms a monumental challenge, and without God’s help, proves insurmountable. But loving our dear Christian brothers and sisters is only the starting line. To finish our lives well our enemies too must be loved and prayed for, and for them, God’s blessings sought. It’s at this point that character faces its severest test.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14). No qualifications, no escape clauses.  The command’s very clarity troubles us. As one writer puts it, it is “one of the most revolutionary statements in the [New Testament] and can be carried out only by the power of the Holy Spirit.” [1] Another writer asserts: “No practical exhortation places greater demands upon our spirits than to ‘bless them that persecute us.”[2]

Persecution covers the spectrum: from a cold shoulder to harsh words, to mistreatment, to injustice, from confiscation of property to imprisonment, to death. Regardless of the situation, we are to bless our enemies. We are to bless and not curse the ex-spouse who has abandoned the marriage covenant and wrecked a home. We are to bless and not curse the business partner whose carelessness has wreaked financial havoc. Biting and hurtful words from the gossip do their damage, but our response must be blessing and not cursing. Not only must retaliation go, but so also the vindictive thoughts that provoke every harmful act.[3] Nor can we vacillate, sometimes blessing and sometimes cursing. The command stands unqualified: “bless and do not curse.”

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[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (Baker: 1998), 667.

[2] John Murray, Romans (Eerdmans, 1968), II:134.

[3] Murray, II: 134.