You gave me health to use in your service, but I misused it to a wholly secular use. Now you have sent me a sickness for my correction. O let me not use this likewise to provoke you, by my impatience. I abused my health, and you have rightly dealt with me. O keep me now from abusing that also. And since the corruption of my nature distorts your favors to me, grant, O my God, that your all-prevailing grace may render your chastenings to be beneficial. If my heart has been in love with the world when I was in robust health, destroy my vigor to promote my salvation. Whether it be by weakness of or by zeal for your love, render me incapable of enjoying the worldly idols, that my delight may be only in you.
Blaise Pascal – A Prayer He Prayed During A Time of Sickness
Christianity has thus passed through many stages of its earthly life, and yet has hardly reached the period of full manhood in Christ Jesus. During this long succession of centuries it has outlived the destruction of Jerusalem, the dissolution of the Roman empire, fierce persecutions from without, and heretical corruptions from within, the barbarian invasion, the confusion of the dark ages, the papal tyranny, the shock of infidelity, the ravages of revolution, the attacks of enemies and the errors of friends, the rise and fall of proud kingdoms, empires, and republics, philosophical systems, and social organizations without number. And, behold, it still lives, and lives in greater strength and wider extent than ever; controlling the progress of civilization, and the destinies of the world; marching over the ruins of human wisdom and folly, ever forward and onward; spreading silently its heavenly blessings from generation to generation, and from country to country, to the ends of the earth.
It can never die; it will never see the decrepitude of old age; but, like its divine founder, it will live in the unfading freshness of self-renewing youth and the unbroken vigor of manhood to the end of time, and will outlive time itself. Single denominations and sects, human forms of doctrine, government, and worship, after having served their purpose, may disappear and go the way of all flesh; but the Church Universal of Christ, in her divine life and substance, is too strong for the gates of hell. She will only exchange her earthly garments for the festal dress of the Lamb’s Bride, and rise from the state of humiliation to the state of exaltation and glory. Then at the coming of Christ she will reap the final harvest of history, and as the church triumphant in heaven celebrate and enjoy the eternal sabbath of holiness and peace. This will be the endless end of history, as it was foreshadowed already at the beginning of its course in the holy rest of God after the completion of his work of creation.
Here is the latest video class I taught through the Gospel Project. In this lesson, we look at Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. We will look at why the people loved the teaching initially and why they wanted to kill him a few minutes later.
We will also seek to understand a couple key phrases. -“Physician, heal yourself.” -Luke 4:23 -“No prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” -Luke 4:24
Be assiduous in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived. Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every man of common understanding who can read, may, if he please, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be!
2. Study Scripture Deeply
Content not yourselves with only a cursory reading, without regarding the sense. This is an ill way of reading, to which, however, many accustom themselves all their days. When you read, observe what you read. Observe how things come in. Take notice of the drift of the discourse, and compare one scripture with another. For the Scripture, by the harmony of its different; parts, casts great light upon itself.—We are expressly directed by Christ, to search the Scriptures, which evidently intends something more than a mere cursory reading. And use means to find out the meaning of the Scripture. When you have it explained in the preaching of the word, take notice of it; and if at any time a scripture that you did not understand be cleared up to your satisfaction, mark it, lay it up, and if possible remember it.
3. Study Scripture with Help
Procure, and diligently use, other books which may help you to grow in this knowledge. There are many excellent books extant, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant entertainment in your leisure hours. There is doubtless a great defect in many, that through a lothness to be at a little expense, they furnish themselves with no more helps of this nature. They have a few books indeed, which now and then on sabbath-days they read; but they have had them so long, and read them so often, that they are weary of them, and it is now become a dull story, a mere task to read them.
4. Study Scripture with Others
Improve conversation with others to this end. How much might persons promote each other’s knowledge in divine things, if they would improve conversation as they might; if men that are ignorant were not ashamed to show their ignorance, and were willing to learn of others; if those that have knowledge would communicate it, without pride and ostentation; and if all were more disposed to enter on such conversation as would be for their mutual edification and instruction.
5. Study Scripture for Spiritual Growth
Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls, and in order to practice.—If applause be your end, you will not be so likely to be led to the knowledge of the truth, but may justly, as often is the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error to your own perdition. This being your end, if you should obtain much rational knowledge, it would not be likely to be of any benefit to you, but would puff you up with pride: 1 Cor. viii. 1. ” Knowledge puffeth up.”
6. Study Scripture with Humility and Prayer
Seek to God, that he would direct you, and bless you, in this pursuit after knowledge. This is the apostle’s direction, James i. 5. ” If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not.” God is the fountain of all divine knowledge: Prov. ii. 6 “The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Labour to be sensible of your own blindness and ignorance, and your need of the help of God, lest you be led into error, instead of true knowledge: 1 Cor. iii. 18. ” If any man would be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.”
7. Study Scripture by Practicing What You Know
Practice according to what knowledge you have. This will be the way to know more. The psalmist warmly recommends this way of seeking knowledge in divine truth, from his own experience: Psal. cxix. 100. ” I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.” Christ also recommends the same: John vii. 17. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
We are a people clamoring to be heard. Everyone seems to have a grievance they want to air, and it seems someone else will be offended by those complaints which only compounds the outrage. When their voices are drowned by the flood of protests, many people will raise their pitch and resort to all kinds of deceptive strategies to get people to pay attention. Even journalists have degraded their profession by using misleading headlines to coax us into clicking their links. Contrary to Thoreau, many people are no longer living lives of quiet desperation, instead, they broadcast their desperation like a distorted siren. I suppose the world has always been this way; after all, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Still, with the introduction of the internet and social media, it all seems amplified these days.
As the world continues shouting for attention, truth has fallen in the streets (Isaiah 59:14). Our culture has replaced reason with emotions. Instead of talking about issues, we voice our feelings, trumpet our offense, and label those who disagree with us as evil. Personal attacks rule the day. We judge people for their judging, unaware of our hypocrisy. In a world that believes truth is relative and autonomy is the highest value, anything and nothing can be stated as truth, and those who disagree will be labeled as bigots.
He who shouts the loudest is the winner. We shout on television, we shout on online, we shout with our pocketbooks, and more and more we seem to see people starting to shout with violent protests. Since we can no longer reason, anyone who believes in truth and threatens the dogma of relativism will be bullied. Might makes right is the only logical outcome in a culture that denies reality.
It should not surprise us that many people use the word “hate” like a bully uses his fists: to dominate and intimidate. If this culture does not like what you say, it will try to silence you with trigger warnings and accusations of micro-aggressions. They sneer, “We will not listen to reason because you were found wanting the moment you violated us by failing to celebrate our narrative. If you do not bow to secularism’s subjective dictates, we will beat you into submission with social pressure and slander if we can gain enough power.” They will work to destroy your good name and subject you to cancel culture. These days, he who shuns evil makes himself a prey (Isaiah 14:15).
Despite the noise of this fallen world, the word of God never fails. Truth does not bow to pressure because truth cannot be altered. The word of the Lord is firmly fixed in the heavens (Psalm 119:89). Though the light goes out into the world, and men love darkness rather than light (John 3:19), the word of the Lord will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).
The grass will wither, and the flower may fade, but the word of the Lord endures forever (Isaiah 40:8). It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of the law to fail (Luke 16:17). We, as His children, have not been born of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, we were born again through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23), and we have nothing to fear because our lives are hidden in him (Colossians 3:3).
Every word of God is pure, and he is a shield to those who put their trust in him. Those who add to his words, or take away words, he will rebuke, and they will be found to be liars (Proverbs 30:5–6). The word of God is the rock upon which we must build our lives, for all other ground is sinking sand (Matthew 7:24-27). As believers, we do not need to compete with the noise of the world by raising our voices and playing its games of desperation, but we must speak, whatever the consequences (Acts 4:20). We must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
We have been commissioned by the Word of God himself, Jesus Christ, to go into all the world with his truth. It will not be our ingenuity or our volume that gives the word of God its strength. Its power is inherent. It is truth, and it will stand forever. It will be a light to our feet and a lamp unto our path (Psalm 119:105). If we abide in his word, we are truly his disciples, and we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32).
For Christians, temptations surround us to silence us. The enemy will whisper that scripture is dull and no one will listen to you. It will not earn you likes or shares so why bother. If you resist that warning, the threats will begin to be muttered reminding you that you will lose friends. You will become irrelevant. You will be labeled as narrow-minded, and the accusations will not be fair or truthful. The attacks on your character will be amplified to distortion, and they could leave you unemployable if you live our faith in public.
In light of all that, what will you do? At the end of the day, all Christians must answer the following question. Do I trust the word of God enough to continue speaking truth in a culture of noise?
The good times are to be expected, and the hard times are surprising and strange. Perhaps that unconscious assumption is causing us grief. Wendell Berry, in his book, Jayber Crow, describes the “old-timers” in a way that seems lost on many people today. He says: “As much as any of the old-timers, he regarded the Depression as not over and done with but merely absent for a while, like Halley’s comet.”
Though many wrongly interpret this disposition as fear, there is health in this way of thinking. For many of us, politicians have promised us the world, and we have believed them. We may indeed chuckle at the thought that a single person thinks they have that much influence, still, conservatives and liberals alike often feel that the state of our existence will continue to progress and that humanity will build its tower to heaven. This thinking, of course, is foolishness. There are good days and bad days ahead for all of us. Pandemics, economic collapse, and the threat of government overreach are nothing new. They have all happened in the past, and they will occur again in the future. Scripture itself tells us that when fiery trials come upon us, we should not think that something strange is happening to us (1 Pet. 4:12).
Bringing this to a more personal level, as long as our health is robust and our jobs feel secure, we think we can handle anything, but in the words of the late Rich Mullins, “We are not as strong as we think we are.” It does not take much for us to feel our weakness. The problem is that when our vulnerability is not apparent, a false sense of our competency begins to blind us.
For the Christian, hard times might not be the blight on our existence we think them to be. If we believe God’s word, which reminds us that God is working in our favor as much in the hard times as in the good, we have no reason to panic during the difficult days, as we are prone to do.
When I think, for example, about how quickly I am prone to forget about my daily dependence upon God through prayer, I thank the Lord for the days that knock me to my knees. I am much better off on my knees in prayer after taking a hit than walking confidently without Him. Charles Spurgeon said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
Maybe it is just me, but too many “good” days in a row, and I begin to forget that we are living in a fallen world. Even when evidence surrounds me, I deceive myself with a false sense of self-sufficiency, and it is not until life hits me with a reminder of my frailty that I am brought back to a favorable frame of mind. If this is true, then some of my “hard’ times are actually my good times, and some of my “good” times are my hard times. Some days it is abundantly clear how much I need Jesus. On the other days, I am delusional.
For the Christian, our eternal well-being is not bound up in the pleasures of this life. The scoffers will say this kind of talk reveals our deficiency, and they are right. I will boast all the more in my weakness. I contributed nothing to my salvation, and I have no strength of my own to contribute to the Christian life. I will praise God for the days I lay helpless at His feet because those days he has promised that in my weakness his strength will rest upon me. When the hard times hit, and we find ourselves entirely dependent upon our God, it is time to draw up under the wing of our Savior and start paying attention because his power is about to be revealed in his people.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. -Ephesians 3:8
The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery, but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes, the deeper it sinks in the water. Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness.
If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God, attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are.
Although the apostle thus knew and confessed his weakness, he was never perplexed as to the subject of his ministry. From his first sermon to his last, Paul preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. He lifted up the cross, and extolled the Son of God who bled thereon. Follow his example in all your personal efforts to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and let “Christ and him crucified” be your ever recurring theme.
The Christian should be like those lovely spring flowers which, when the sun is shining, open their golden cups, as if saying, “Fill us with thy beams!” but when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, they close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influence of Jesus; Jesus must be his sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness. Oh! to speak of Christ alone, this is the subject which is both “seed for the sower, and bread for the eater.” This is the live coal for the lip of the speaker, and the master-key to the heart of the hearer.
We all know some of the benefits of social media. Whether it is staying in touch with family and friends, keeping up on the latest news, or a little entertainment, social media can deliver. These are the reasons we started using it, but as I mentioned in another post, when it comes to social media, the benefits rarely outweigh the costs. The main reason is because we tend to misuse it. To get the advantages mentioned above, we rarely need to spend more than 20 minutes a week on these platforms; an hour, at the most, is usually enough.
I am not talking about people who have social media responsibilities in their job descriptions or use it as a form of income. For those people, the benefits increase dramatically, so they can better shoulder some of the burdens that come with it. I am talking about the general user. The last thing the architects of these platforms want you to do is to use it wisely. They make their money by getting you to spend as much time online as possible so they can collect a more extensive and more accurate marketing profile on you. That way, they can profit off of the information they have collected by selling it to advertisers who are looking for people like you, and you need to be online to see those ads.
To get you to spend more time online, they employ multiple tactics that I talked about in this post. All I want to do now is point out a quick test to see if you are experiencing mission drift with your social media usage. Mission drift is when you set out to accomplish one thing but unconsciously end up pursuing something else. In some cases, it can be positive; in other cases, it can be harmful.
If you started to use social media for the primary reasons already mentioned, one of the ways you can detect mission drift in your usage is to ask yourself how obligated you feel to check these sites continually. Remember, you started to use them to make them serve you, but if the feeling of obligation is strong, maybe you are beginning to serve them.
If you are unsure if you feel an obligation to social media, ask yourself this question. How would you feel if you were to step away from these platforms entirely for two weeks? For most of us, there is an instant internal spike of concern. We think we have too much at stake to do something like that. How would I know what is going on? What if someone commented on one of my old posts, and I would look bad if I did not respond? Would the people I interact with start to forget about me? I have worked hard to cultivate these followers; would I lose them? All these questions could be warning signs that something unhealthy is taking place.
These feelings of obligation are one of the main reasons why the majority of people who spend long periods on social media struggle with more anxiety and depression than those who do not. Social media has a way of making us feel like we have more on our plate than we do, and it gives us next to nothing in return. It can also give us a false sense of accomplishment because we think we somehow have met our social media obligation. The problem is, in the end, we have not accomplished anything that will last. Social media is some of the shallowest of all shallow work.
If you have been feeling a strong obligation to social media, maybe now is the perfect time to take a week off to see what life is like without always checking in. My guess is you will not miss it as much as you think you will. Likely, you will find your week off more fulfilling than the weeks you are active online. If that is the case, there are ways to adjust your usage going forward to gain the benefits without incurring as high a cost. In the end, it never hurts to take a closer look at our habits and reevaluate what we are doing because, as Socrates once said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
When we look at the universe, we wonder at the magnificence. We stand in awe as the massive spheres move perfectly in their orbits. We stand amazed at the power of our sun and realize it pales in comparison to many other stars, let alone the vastness of it all.
There is, without a doubt, a glory announced by the universe that causes us all to marvel, but we must realize the glory that is declared is not the glory of the universe; it is the glory of God. The experience we have is true knowledge of the Lord Almighty. Now, we must not misunderstand this, the verse in the Psalm 19 does not say that the universe is God. In fact, it is clearly distinct from him in this passage, but the Glory that we are experiencing is our Father’s. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made (Romans 1: 20).”
This is where the natural man steps in and attempts to suppress that truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Many naturalists say it should be enough for us to marvel at this world and all its complexities without any appeal to God, and this is what we should expect them to say since the natural progression from trading the truth of God for a lie, is to begin worshiping the creation instead of the creator (Romans 1:25). This is exactly what they are doing when they ascribe the glory that belongs to God to creation itself.
As for believers, we have every reason to rejoice and praise our Father who made it all. All we need to do to get a glimpse of His splendor is slow down, look around, and with childlike wonder, recognize glory of God.