Saturday, September 16, 2017

Christ All in All: Christ is Our Hope

I'm reading a series of sermons by Philip Henry (Matthew Henry the Bible Commentator's father), and thought I would share some quotes as I go along. Using the book "Christ All in All" as a devotional, I'm reading just one sermon a day, but each one is full of rich doctrine!


The saints of God are people of great hopes...They trade not, as the men of the world do, for pebbles but for rich pearls; for a kingdom, an eternal kingdom.


What in Jesus Christ do we make the grounds of our hope touching all these things? There is nothing of all these blessings and benefits but what he has expressly told us in His holy Word will be certainly conferred on us, if we will believe in Him and be ruled by Him. But may we trust Him? Is He faithful? Will He not deceive us? I answer: There is no danger. Had you as many souls as you had hairs on your head, you might venture them all on His bare word. But for our more abundant consolation we have His oath, His bond with two seals.


He is Jesus, a savior, one raised up on purpose to bring people to heaven. The very name encourages hope.


He is Lord; Jehovah, blessed forever; King of kings and Lord of lords; almighty in power; able to save. Other hopes are weak and unable. 


Try your hopes and be sure they be right, else expect disappointment. How were they wrought? If born with you, and you never did otherwise than hope, suspect that hope. The foundation of good hope is laid in a kind of despair—no hope in the way I am in, therefore I must have a better foundation.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Grand Day Out (The Big Family Way)

A trip to the grocery store, when you have 10 children, becomes An Occasion, with a capital A and a capital O. For one thing, we always have a ton of stuff to buy, since there are so many of us, so we require multiple carts, and much to-ing and fro-ing between the isles. It is also more cost effective to buy in bulk, so rather than the local grocery chain, we haul all the way out to Costco, or some other wholesale supplier.

As always, we have implemented certain rules to assist the smoothness of this process: no touching any merchandise (sometimes we were absolutely required to walk along with our hands folded behind our backs), and no asking to buy things. (One child might ask for one candy bar. Ten children, ten candy bars. One child, one toy. Ten children, ten toys. Both the price and the storage space at home quickly become prohibitive.)

We did not however, lack for entertainment as we trailed along behind the cart, attempting to avoid stepping on one another's heels and toes. (Or stepping on them purposefully, depending on the temperament of the child). We took great interest in arranging ourselves into what we considered to be the most decorative formations: generally a judiciously spaced single file (which made our number appear even greater), shortest to tallest. This kept the youngest children near Mother, while creating a sweeping upward curve effect for the people who came towards us, most pleasing to the eye.

Occasionally, a child (usually one of us girls!) who had been recently over-topped by a sprouting younger sibling made some protest about their demotion, but in the end dignity was sacrificed to artistic rigor. The oldest siblings took charge of this display, and we did our best to instill a sense of discipline into the unruly members of the family, to keep the line straight. We also attempted to introduce marching as part of the procession, but this was a failure, overall. We do not have a very good sense of rhythm, and we were prohibited from calling out the steps to keep time. It may be that our vigorous "HUT-TWO-THREE-FOUR" or the command "You, there! Dress up that line!" distracted our Beloved Parent from her gathering of food for her household.

Indeed, at times she seemed rather flustered to check behind her and see us parading solemnly along in a column, attracting rather a lot of attention from other shoppers. Often and often, we spoke among ourselves of waving or saluting to people as we went by, but we never quite dared. There are limits, after all. We would, however, assist those who were obviously trying to count, by spreading all our fingers in the air, or whispering "ten" as we passed.

All this is very well for the grocery store, but there are some outings—such as the zoo, an amusement park, or a conference—where it is impossible to keep us in line at all times, and different measures are called for. In such cases, the Matching Outfits come into play.

First, Mom bought a bunch of yellow t-shirts. Though entirely unsuited to the family complexion, we wore the horrible, mustard-coloured things until we outgrew them, or they wore out. They were replaced with orange shirts, which were slightly better. In due course those wore out, and were replaced with red.

This color, we quickly discovered, was not striking enough. You may have never noticed anyone wearing a solid red t-shirt, but I can assure you that once your entire family is clothed in red, you are instantly aware of the hundred other people also dressed in red, which quite spoils the effect, besides making it more difficult to count your children, rather than less. We discarded the red shirts, and for a season experimented with matching lime green handkerchiefs around our necks, though by this time we were all old enough not to wander off, and the system was becoming less necessary.

The t-shirts worked fairly well, in making us conspicuous and easy for parents to spot. We have had children returned to us by strangers, with the comment, "This must belong to you", when we are all matching, and we have successfully retrieved children without panic from distances of over three hundred feet. Due to our climate, however, we are often wearing jackets or coats when we go out, and this decreases the efficiency of the system.

At the present time, we have expanded the scheme to include our cousins, and the shirt colour has changed to blue, in support of the Cousin County football/baseball/basketball/volleyball team (The Cousin County Canines).

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Christ All in All: Christ is the Head

I'm reading a series of sermons by Philip Henry (Matthew Henry the Bible Commentator's father), and thought I would share some quotes as I go along. Using the book "Christ All in All" as a devotional, I'm reading just one sermon a day, but each one is full of rich doctrine!
Christ is to His church the only sovereign and supreme head. The head has the preeminence in the body. It is placed by nature uppermost, and all the rest of the members below it. The Lord Jesus is uppermost, above all and over all.
The office of the head is to show the body whither to go and what to do. There, the eyes are seated, as in a watchtower. Whereinsoever we have need at any time of guidance, we must look to Him.
Many are tied to Christ by an outward profession that are not grafted into Him. There may be class eyes and wooden legs fastened by art to the body. And those wooden legs may have silk stockings, and yet they are not of the body.
As the head sympathizes with the members, so the member sympathizes with the head. If a blow be offered at the head, the hand will venture a cut to save it. Are we affected with the dishonor done to the Lord Jesus by the wickedness that abounds in the midst of us?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Christ All in All: Christ is Raiment to Us

I'm reading a series of sermons by Philip Henry (Matthew Henry the Bible Commentator's father), and thought I would share some quotes as I go along. Using the book "Christ All in All" as a devotional, I'm reading just one sermon a day, but each one is full of rich doctrine!
"Two things in Christ are the garment: His merit and righteousness—we must put on this for our justification—and his Spirit and Grace—we must put on this for our sanctification...neither of these can possibly be had otherwise than by putting on Christ. There is no justification but by His merit, no sanctification but by His Spirit."
"The Lord Jesus Christ is a costly garment, the dearest and most costly garment that ever was. We may judge of its excellency by its price."
"Lo, here is a costly robe indeed—not to us that must wear it (it costs us nothing but the accepting and putting it on), but to Him that made and prepared it. It cost Him dear. "
"Having bought [the garments of Christ] we must put them on and wear them. Not as a hat to put off to everyone we meet; not as a cloak to be worn only when we go abroad; but as your inner garment to be worn next to you, and upper garment, and above all these, as your entire garment. Christ must be your all in all: your day clothes; your night clothes. Put Him on daily and duly, constantly and continually. It is a good meditation, when we are putting on your clothes, we must put on bowels of mercies, charity, humility, meekness, or, which includes all, the Lord Jesus Christ. If so, when we die, we will put on better clothes of glory. Christ will never put them off that put Him on."

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Advocate Holiness

Psalm 119:46 I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.

"When piety is calumniated in the world, the saints will stand up in its defense; they will wipe the dust of a reproach off the face of religion. Holiness defends the godly, and they will defend holiness; it defends them from danger, and they will defend it from disgrace."                        —Thomas Watson

In this verse, the psalmist is using the testimonies of God in a practical way: he is speaking them. It is important to read the Bible, to study it and to memorize, but we also have an obligation to speak of it. We cannot keep it to ourselves.

To whom are we to speak these words? All lost sinners need to hear it, but here there is a specific audience: "before kings". This can be expanded to anyone in authority over us—whether a President, a governor, or someone like a boss or a teacher. The Bible has a lot to say about how we should interact with authorities. Certainly, we cannot shout at them, and wave our Bibles in their faces. (In fact, this is hardly the best course of action with anyone, let alone someone in a position of authority.) We need to be respectful, and obedient, but when it comes to God's words, we cannot back down.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:15

We are blessed, in this country, with remarkable freedom to speak of our faith. It is not surprising that governments through the ages have sought to reign in Christianity; governments by their very nature are trying to organize and control people, and ideas—especially a Big Idea like Christianity—make people difficult to control.

However, kings and rulers still need the gospel. Just like all men, they are sinners and separated from God. As leaders and teachers of the people they rule, they are even under a stricter judgment for their decisions and actions (James 3:1). God is the One who gave rulers their power, and if they are wise they will be careful to exercise it according to His will.

He who rules over men must be just,  Ruling in the fear of God. 2 Sam 23:3

By me kings reign,  And rulers decree justice. Proverbs 8:15

We know, then that we should speak God's testimonies before kings, and the author also addresses what our attitude should be as we do so: we should not be ashamed. It is far too easy to feel uncomfortable or ashamed when our convictions are made evident in unsympathetic company, but we should not be! God's testimonies are nothing to be ashamed of. 

Instead we should be proud of God and His word: it is true, and lovely, more noble by far than any person on earth. Let us pray that if we are ever called to uphold God's truth, He will give us the words to speak, as Jesus promised in Matthew 10:19-20. 

Remember also that, "the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord" (Prov. 21:1). Man can do nothing to us unless it is God's will.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Christ All in All: Christ is the Root

I'm reading a series of sermons by Philip Henry (Matthew Henry the Bible Commentator's father), and thought I would share some quotes as I go along. Using the book "Christ All in All" as a devotional, I'm reading just one sermon a day, but each one is full of rich doctrine!

Jesus Christ and true believers make one great tree, whereof He is the root and they are the branches.
None but [true believers] bring for fruit in Him. To bring forth fruit is to do that which is for the matter of it good, either toward men in works of justice, mercy, charity, or award God in praying, hearing, sanctifying the Sabbath. Now all this a hypocrite may do...but nothing of it in Christ. Here they part. They [true believers] do it by virtue of strength received from Him. They bring forth fruit, aiming with a single eye at pleasing Him, to show forth His virtues and praises. And also, it is done trusting to His merit and mediation alone for acceptance. (emphasis added) 
The church is a great tree inverted. Its root is in heaven; its branches, here on earth, multitudes of them. It is true there are branches in heaven with their root.
The sap of this great tree that keeps it green and flourishing is the Spirit, the Spirit of Grace. Now Christ the root had the Spirit without measure, according to the promise. ...The sap which the root has, it has not for itself but for the branches. The branches suck and draw from it and so are maintained in their greenness and fruitfulness. Though the root have it, yet if it do not communicate it, the tree is none the better. The Lord Jesus Christ is a communicative root. What He has of the Spirit He has for us.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Understanding for the Simple

The entrance of Your word gives light, It gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130

Have you ever read a passage of scripture and thought, I don't get this? I think most people have, especially those who read their Bible often! But have you ever thought Hebrews is too confusing, I will never understand it? Or I'm just not smart enough to figure out what Paul means here? I hope not, because the Bible is for everyone, not just for geniuses! There is no need to have a Bible degree, or to study Greek and Hebrew, to understand the Bible.

"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, 
and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty. 
1 Corinthians 1:27

Think about the disciples. Not only were they humble fishermen rather than learned priests and scribes, at times they were a bit dull. I have no desire to run down the disciples—much of their confusion was perfectly legitimate, thanks to the cryptic way Jesus liked to say things. However, consider the feeding of the four thousand: they have already seen the feeding of the five thousand, and yet they have the same question for Jesus again—"How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?" Or when Jesus straight up tells them that Judas is going to betray Him, and they thought he was leaving to give something to the poor?

So if you're not naturally academic, or if you find abstract arguments hard to follow, be encouraged by the example of the disciples. Remember, they did not stay confused forever! Not only did they begin to heal people in Jesus' name, they started preaching eloquent sermons, and even writing books. They were also able to stand before the highest scholars of their day and clearly articulate their beliefs: "Now when they [the Sanhedrin] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)

That's right, the disciples were changed by spending time with Jesus. Today, we have the words of God in the Bible, and when we spend time studying them we will be changed too! The more time we devote to reading the Bible, the more our brains will have to work to understand, and the harder the brain works, the stronger it gets.

This means that even young children can learn to understand the Bible. Indeed, their simple approach to spiritual things is praised by Jesus: "Of such is the Kingdom of God", he says. "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." Just as children must come to a point when their faith becomes their own, rather than something imposed by their parents, so also they must be taught to read the Bible for themselves, and to try to understand it with their own minds!

In this effort, each of us, whether child or adult, has a powerful Helper:

"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things...When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth;" Jn. 14:26; 16:13

Never be afraid to ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand as you read. Remember, however, that the Holy Spirit does not speak on His own authority: He will not help you to interpret a verse in such a way that it contradicts another teaching of Scripture.

The Bible can be understood by anyone. It is not inherently bad to seek the counsel of other men concerning the Bible (commentaries, devotionals, Pastors, speakers, sermons, blog posts, and so on), but make sure you always check back up with scripture. Believe no man implicitly, not even your pastor or your parents—they will sometimes be wrong. Be like the Bereans: when you hear a certain teaching, search the scriptures. Be fair-minded—willing to be taught—but find out from the Bible whether it is actually so!

Unstable men will always try to twist the Word and make it fit their own purposes, but if you have saturated yourself in the Word itself, their smooth pitch will not deceive you. The more familiar you are with the original, the quicker you will be able to spot a counterfeit.