The Gift of Life

“He who shall preserve the life bestowed upon him, and give thanks to Him Who imparted it, shall receive also length of days forever and ever. But he who shall reject it, and prove himself ungrateful to his Maker, inasmuch as he has been created, and has not recognized Him Who bestowed the gift upon him, deprives himself of the privilege of continuance forever and ever. And, for this reason, the Lord declared to those who showed themselves ungrateful towards Him: ‘If you have not been faithful in that which is little, who will give you that which is great?’ (cf. Lk. 16:11) indicating that those who, in this brief temporal life, have shown themselves ungrateful to Him Who bestowed it, shall justly not receive from Him length of days forever and ever.”

— St. Irenaeus, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1

Man’s Maker was Made Man

Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.
– Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)

That bitter root, indwelling sin!

By John Newton:

The righteous are said to be scarcely saved, not with respect to the certainty of the event, for the purpose of God in their favor cannot be disappointed—but in respect of their own apprehensions, and the great difficulties they are brought through! But when, after a long experience of their own deceitful hearts, after repeated proofs of their weakness, willfulness, ingratitude, and insensibility, they find that none of these things can separate them from the love of Jesus—He becomes more and more precious to their souls. They love much, because much has been forgiven them. They dare not, they will not ascribe anything to themselves—but are glad to acknowledge, that they must have perished (humanly speaking) a thousand times over, if Jesus had not been their Savior, their shepherd, and their shield. When they were wandering—he brought them back; when fallen—he raised them; when wounded—he healed them; when fainting—he revived them! By him, out of weakness—they have been made strong! He has taught their hands to war, and covered their heads in the day of battle. In a word, some of the clearest proofs they have had of his excellence, have been occasioned by the humiliating proofs they have had of their own vileness. They would not have known so much of him—if they had not known so much of themselves!

Further, a spirit of humiliation, which is both the strength and beauty of our profession, is greatly promoted by our feeling, as well as reading, that when we would do good, evil is present with us. A broken and contrite spirit is pleasing to the Lord—he has promised to dwell with those who have it. Experience shows, that the exercise of all our graces, is in proportion to the humbling sense we have of the depravity of our nature.

That we are so totally depraved, is a truth which no one ever truly learned by being only taught it. Indeed, if we could receive, and habitually maintain, a right judgment of ourselves, by what is plainly declared in Scripture, it would probably save us many a mournful hour! But experience is the Lord’s school, and those who are taught by him usually learn that they have no wisdom—by the mistakes they make; and that they have no strength—by the slips and falls they meet with. Every day draws forth some new corruption, which before was little observed, or at least discovers it in a stronger light than before. Thus by degrees, they are weaned from leaning to any supposed wisdom, power, or goodness in themselves! They feel the truth of our Lord’s words, “without me—you can do nothing;” and the necessity of crying with David, “O lead me and guide me!”

John Newton, April 1772

Repentance and Cleansing

Lord God, we live in an age when sexuality is trivialized and when covenants are broken routinely.  We are bombarded with cultural insensitivity for the sacredness of life and what was once considered perverted is now common place and accepted. Please help me increase my sensitivity to the Truth of Your commandments and show me where I need to amend my attitudes and my actions. Forgive me my failures in this area and strengthen me to live a chaste life. Work within me by your Holy Spirit so that I would be able to resist the temptations of the world, my flesh, and the devil. I pray that you will not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions. Wash away the memory of past sins from my mind, erase the feelings of guilt and shame for they have been nailed to the cross along with all my sins. Please think of me according to Your mercy and for Your goodness sake, O LORD, free me from the bondage of my passions and enable me to master my inclinations.  When I am tempted, may I rely on you; When I fall, may I find restoration by your grace. Heal me of past hurts and the impact of erroneous instruction and guide my relationships in purity, fidelity and love. Grant a renewed and faithful obedience to Your word, and work within me by Your Holy Spirit , so that I may keep Your commands all the days of my life. In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, who with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, lives and reigns forever. Amen.

A New Year’s Dedication

Almighty God, as we cross the threshold of this year we commit ourselves, soul, body, affairs, friends, to Thy care. Watch over, keep, guide, direct, sanctify, and bless us. Incline our heart to thy ways. Mold us wholly into the image of Jesus, as a potter forms clay. May our lips be a well-tuned harp to sound Thy praise. Let those around see us living by Thy Spirit, trampling the world underfoot, unconformed to lying vanities, transformed by a renewed mind, clad in the entire armour of God, shining as never-dimmed lights, showing holiness in all our doings.  Let no evil this year soil our thoughts, words, hands. May we travel miry paths with a life pure from spot or stain. In needful transactions let our affection be in heaven, and our love soar upward in flames of fire, our gaze fixed on unseen things, our eyes open to the emptiness, fragility, mockery of earth and its vanities. May we view all things in the mirror of eternity, waiting for the coming of our Lord, listening for the last trumpet call, hastening unto the new heaven and earth. Order this year all our communications according to Thy wisdom, and to the gain of mutual good. Forbid that we should not be profited or made profitable. May we speak each word as if our last word, and walk each step as our final one. If our lives should end this year, let this be our best year.

 

Adapted from The Valley of Vision: Morning Dedication

Year’s End

O Love beyond Compare,
Thou art good when thou givest,
when thou takest away,
when the sun shines upon me,
when night gathers over me.
Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,
and in love didst redeem my soul;
Thou dost love me still,
in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.
Thy goodness has been with me another year,
leading me through a twisting wilderness,
in retreat helping me to advance,
when beaten back making sure headway.
Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past.
I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.
If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation,
thou wilt be with me in them;
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation,
I shall not drown;
If I am to die,
I shall see thy face the sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot,
grant me grace that my faith fail not;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
I can make no stipulation;
Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,
as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.

Faith is a plant that can grow in the shade

How many, alas, of the precious saints of God must we shut out from being believers, if there is no faith but what amounts to assurance…. shall we say their faith went away in the departure of their assurance? How oft then in a year may a believer be no believer? even as often as God withdraws and leaves the creature in the dark. Assurance is like the sun-flower, which opens with the day and shuts with the night. It follows the motion of God’s face; if that looks smilingly on the soul, it lives; if that frowns or hides itself, it dies. But faith is a plant that can grow in the shade, a grace that can find the way to heaven in a dark night. It can “walk in darkness, and yet trust in the name of the Lord.”

—William Gurnall