A weak hand may receive a rich jewel

bruisedA weak hand may receive a rich jewel. A few grapes will show that the plant is a vine, and not a thorn. It is one thing to be deficient in grace, and another thing to lack grace altogether. God knows we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requires no more than he gives, but gives what he requires, and accepts what he gives: `If she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtle doves’ (Lev. 12:8). What is the gospel itself but a merciful moderation, in which Christ’s obedience is esteemed ours, and our sins laid upon him, wherein God, from being a judge, becomes our Father, pardoning our sins and accepting our obedience, though feeble and blemished? We are now brought to heaven under the covenant of grace by a way of love and mercy.

- Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed

The Spirit of the Day

jc-ryle2I feel it a duty to bear my solemn testimony against the spirit of the day we live in; to warn men against its infection. It is not Atheism I fear so much, in the present times, as Pantheism. It is not the system which says nothing is true, so much as the system which says everything is true. It is not the system which says there is no Saviour, so much as the system which says there are many saviours, and many ways to peace!–It is the system which is so liberal, that it dares not say anything is false. It is the system which is so charitable, that it will allow everything to be true. It is the system which seems ready to honour others as well as our Lord Jesus Christ, to class them all together, and to think well of all. Confucius and Zoroaster, Socrates and Mahomet, the Indian Brahmins and the African devil-worshippers, Arius and Pelagius, Ignatius Loyola and Socinus,–all are to be treated respectfully: none are to be condemned. It is the system which bids us smile complacently on all creeds and systems of religion. The Bible and the Koran, the Hindoo Vedas and the Persian Zendavesta, the old wives’ fables of Rabbinical writers and the rubbish of Patristic traditions, the Racovian Catechism and the Thirty-nine Articles, the revelations of Emanuel Swedenborg and the book of Mormon of Joseph Smith,–all, all are to be listened to: none are to be denounced as lies. It is the system which is so scrupulous about the feelings of others, that we are never to say they are wrong. It is the system which is so liberal that it calls a man a bigot if he dares to say, “I know my views are right.” This is the system, this is the tone of feeling which I fear in this day, and this is the system which I desire emphatically to testify against and denounce.

- J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied

Not Ashamed

Note: I was going through some documents on my computer and came across this article written by Jim Boggan in 2007. After my own encounter with cancer, this all makes much more sense. Jim passed away after shortly after he wrote this, leaving a wife, Shelley, and son, Nathan.

Not Ashamed
A gently shocking encounter in the dark
by Jim Boggan

In the fog of an awakening in the dark, jumbled ideas formed themselves into a conversation:

“Your name, Lord (not mine).”
“At some point, they’re linked.”
“That scares me, Lord.” Unformed thought: I don’t want to let you down.
“I am not ashamed to be called your God.”

Yes, that will take some explaining.

FYI: a month past cancer surgery, I’m looking toward radiation and chemotherapy. I have a 50-percent chance of survival, the M.D.s say.

This cancer thing is resulting in some interesting thoughts coming my way. Some of them are just random firings of the neurons of a fatigued brain. Others mean something to me.

The fatigue comes from the fact that I spend my nights sitting up to keep from choking; I can’t swallow. Several times a night I wake up to see something I don’t understand, then I recognize it as my own abdomen or lap. Or a fragment of a dream will insert itself into my awakening.

In the darkness I woke up this morning with the idea that the hospital public relations department wanted my picture, and those of the other patients. We were to be promoted as the Radiation Department’s “team” for the month.

Oh, well, every dog has his day, and I was to have my 15 minutes of fame. I reacted against the idea. That was the basis for my reaction, “Your name, Lord.”

That phrase will take some explaining.

For several years now “Your name, Lord,” has been a prayer of mine. I want my life to exalt his name. By elimination, it also means, “not mine.”

This time when I prayed, I believe I heard an answer.

I know that sounds strange to those of you who know me and my beliefs. It must drive some of you crazy.

When it comes to healing from my cancer, I’m more Calvinist – resting in the sovereignty of God. I don’t believe he’s under any obligation to heal me. On the other hand, when it comes to hearing from him I’m nearly a Charismatic.

What I heard, when I said, “Your name, Lord (not mine),” was, “At some point they’re linked.”

His name and mine. His and yours, if you’re a believer. The world looks at you and sees Jesus, for better or worse. In the fog of my mind this morning (or maybe it was a sign of clarity) the “worse” came to the fore – the fear that I’ll let him down.

When you stop to think about it, the idea that God would accept our allegiance or friendship is crazy. Looking at ourselves, our sin, our weakness, why should he want any association with us? It’s rather like a politician receiving a campaign contribution from the Ku Klux Klan.

Now here is God, telling me his name and mine are linked.

“That scares me, Lord,” I said.

His reply: “I am not ashamed to be called your God.”

That comes from Hebrews 11, I think. It’s just described all that the people of God have gone through and says, “That is why he is not ashamed to be called their God.”

Ultimately, the world will be forced to acknowledge Jesus, and will know that what in me is bad has nothing to do with him. But he’s not worried about that.

He’s not ashamed to be called my God.

John Bunyan on Prayer

prayerPrayer is an ordinance of God to be used both in public and private; yea, such an ordinance as brings those that have the spirit of supplication into great familiarity with God. It is also so prevalent an action that it gets from God, both for the person that prays, and for them that are prayed for, great things. It is the opener of the heart of God, and a means by which the soul, though empty, is filled. By prayer the Christian can open his heart to God, as to a friend, and obtain fresh testimony of God’s friendship to him.

-Praying in the Spirit

Update

As you might have noticed, I haven’t updated my site in some time. Some of this is due to work demands (I’m a high school teacher and preach every Sunday) and some of this is due to fact that I’ve been dealing with cancer for the past 2 or 3 months.

I was diagnosed with oral cancer on my tongue back in July and then had surgery at the end of August. The recovery from the surgery has gone very well, but I’m still looking at 6 weeks of radiation treatment. The good news is that I should be cancer-free and basically back to normal by the end of the year.

As I’ve gone through all this I’ve certainly pondered the issues of miraculous healing, as opposed to healing that is aided by doctors and technology. I do believe in immediate, divine, supernatural healing. But I also believe it is rare, as miracles by definition should be. Up to the morning of my surgery, I was still hoping for miraculous healing. However, God chose to use modern medicine, modern technology, and doctors and nurses to heal me. As a result of this, I was driven to look to Him in ways I never had before, trusting in Him like never before. Scripture became much more than just a text, it became a living Word to me. If I had been miraculously healed, I would have missed all the precious lessons of God’s love and patience and promises held out to us in His Word.

I also learned a lot about the fellowship of suffering. I had never before needed help. But now I felt (and still feel) the need of help from God’s people. Cards, letters, emails, phone calls, visits, and especially prayers – I had never really needed any of these things (or so I thought) before from other people. But because I had to go through some major surgery, I know now how important it is for us as Christians to help others in need and how much those in need are helped by these things.

I am in the process of the physical healing, but there has been a tremendous spiritual healing (or quickening) because I have been forced by God into this position by the lack of miraculous healing. I am now much more fit to sympathize with and be of value to others who might also be going through similar incidents. And because of this, though I never would have chosen this in a million years, I’m glad that it’s happened this way.

- Sean Richardson