Archive for February, 2012

Waxing Eloquent About My Backyard

If you were to walk a short way from my home, through the woods, and down a subtle leaf covered path, you would find me sitting upon a great stone in the bed of a creek, which we of my house have affectionately and appropriately dubbed “The Big Rock”. It would take two, or perhaps more, of me lying head to toe to make up its width and more to reach its length. Lying upon a small slope, the rock’s surface slants towards the sky, yet one may sit or walk upon it with ease, as I am now. Other boulders, smaller replications of this larger stone, rest haphazardly along the creek bed. It is with some wonder I imagine, “From whence did this great slab come?” Has it, perhaps, lain here since the great deluge of Noah’s day, when the fountains of the deep burst forth, sundering the very foundations of the earth? How many feet have trod the very spot I sit? Indeed, I am certain that, should this stone speak, it would have great things to tell (though many droll things too; I would assume a stone would have a very tiresome personality). Though it is silent, it is yet a testimony to me of the immutable grandeur of God, and I have often found refuge in Him upon this rock in times of trouble.

The woods that encompass me are equally wondrous. As C.S. Lewis has said (and I paraphrase), enchanted forests of fairy tale lore make every real forest an enchanted one. Have you ever considered the wonders of trees? Branches, bare from Winter’s bite, await their Spring-time resurrection. Within them lies, even now, the potential of life, waiting for the proper moment when the Lord cries out, “Awaken, O sleeper! Come forth, ye buds, ye leaves, ye fruit, in all thy glory!” And so they shall, enlivening this place with viridian glory.

From winter chill and death’s foul sting
Comes life abundant, the joy of spring!

Yet even so, as I gaze upwards towards the clouds, I see the evergreen needles upon the pine trees, great and tall, reminding me that the world shall not always be so. We shall not always pass through the winters of life; one day, we shall burst forth into the Everlasting Spring, and find in Christ our Eternal Joy.

Still I sit in this grey and ashen wood, where the evidence of last year’s Autumn covers the earth. Shall some joy, some taste of that Everlasting Spring, be found even here? I find the answer, hearing a song borne upon the wings of the wind. Nay, no minstrel nor harpist plays; ‘tis musicians of our own Lord’s making, and they still obey His command written in the Psalms:

O “Flying Fowl… Praise the name of the LORD: for His name alone is excellent; His glory is above the earth and heaven”

Their song, rising then falling, floats about me, more beautiful than the music of any man. It is enchanting, as these winged beasts flit about from bough to bough, singing always and ever. Our Lord so invites us to sing and join in with their praise of Him; though the woods be dim and grey, there is yet a song to be found!

If thou hast eyes to see, all Creation cries “Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God alone!” He knows every leaf upon the trees of all the world, every bird that ever sang upon the earth, and every hair that is upon your head. Is not this God worthy of all our praise? Let us join in with that stream of praise that has been going since before time began, and shall persist when the very ages themselves come to a close! Let us obey that great command of the 150th Psalm: “Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD!”

“Doth not all nature around me praise God? If I were silent, I should be an exception to the universe. Doth not the thunder praise Him as it rolls like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not the mountains praise Him when the woods upon their summits wave in adoration? Doth not the lightning write His name in letters of fire? Hath not the whole earth a voice? And shall I, can I, silent be?”
– Charles Spurgeon

Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.

Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.

Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.

Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that [be] above the heavens.

Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.

He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.

Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:

Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:

Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:

Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:

Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth:

Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:

Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory [is] above the earth and heaven.

He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; [even] of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.
– Psalm 148

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: Cheese

It may seem strange to you that I would feature a food this fantastic Friday. However, it is not because I love this food that I have chosen to feature it (though that reason is taken into consideration). I read a fantastic essay by G.K. Chesterton recently on this wonderfully food. I will leave the next portion to him. Before I do, however, I will say this, though the essay is primarily humorous. God’s glory can be found in all parts of the earth, since it all belongs to Him anyway. I’ll write more on this later. I hope you enjoy this witty essay called “Cheese”:

My forthcoming work in five volumes, `The Neglect of Cheese in European Literature,’ is a work of such unprecedented and laborious detail that it is doubtful whether I shall live to finish it. Some overflowings from such a fountain of information may therefore be permitted to springle these pages. I cannot yet wholly explain the neglect to which I refer. Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. Virgil, if I remember right, refers to it several times, but with too much Roman restraint. He does not let himself go on cheese. The only other poet that I can think of just now who seems to have had some sensibility on the point was the nameless author of the nursery rhyme which says: `If all the trees were bread and cheese’ – which is indeed a rich and gigantic vision of the higher gluttony. If all the trees were bread and cheese there would be considerable deforestation in any part of England where I was living. Wild and wide woodlands would reel and fade before me as rapidly as they ran after Orpheus. Except Virgil and this anonymous rhymer, I can recall no verse about cheese. Yet it has every quality which we require in an exalted poetry. It is a short, strong word; it rhymes to `breeze’ and `seas’ (an essential point); that it is emphatic in sound is admitted even by the civilization of the modern cities. For their citizens, with no apparent intention except emphasis, will often say `Cheese it!’ or even `Quite the cheese.’ The substance itself is imaginative. It is ancient – sometimes in the individual case, always in the type and custom. It is simple, being directly derived from milk, which is one of the ancestral drinks, not lightly to be corrupted with soda-water. You know, I hope (though I myself have only just thought of it), that the four rivers of Eden were milk, water, wine, and ale. Aerated waters only appeared after the Fall.

But cheese has another quality, which is also the very soul of song. Once in endeavouring to lecture in several places at once, I made an eccentric journey across England, a journey of so irregular and even illogical shape that it necessitated my having lunch on four successive days in four roadside inns in four different counties. In each inn they had nothing but bread and cheese; nor can I imagine why a man should want more than bread and cheese, if he can get enough of it. In each inn the cheese was good; and in each inn it was different. There was a noble Wensleydale cheese in Yorkshire, a Cheshire cheese in Cheshire, and so on. Now, it is just here that true poetic civilization differs from that paltry and mechanical civilization that holds us all in bondage. Bad customs are universal and rigid, like modern militarism. Good customs are universal and varied, like native chivalry and self-defence. Both the good and the bad civilization cover us as with a canopy, and protect us from all that is outside. But a good civilization spreads over us freely like a tree, varying and yielding because it is alive. A bad civilization stands up and sticks out above us like an umbrella – artificial, mathematical in shape; not merely universal, but uniform. So it is with the contrast between the substances that vary and the substances that are the same wherever they penetrate. By a wise doom of heaven men were commanded to eat cheese, but not the same cheese. Being really universal it varies from valley to valley. But if, let us say, we compare cheese to soap (that vastly inferior substance), we shall see that soap tends more and more to be merely Smith’s Soap or Brown’s Soap, sent automatically all over the world. If the Red Indians have soap it is Smith’s Soap. If the Grand Lama has soap it is Brown’s Soap. There is nothing subtly and strangely Buddhist, nothing tenderly Tibetan, about his soap. I fancy the Grand Lama does not eat cheese (he is not worthy), but if he does it is probably a local cheese, having some real relation to his life and outlook. Safety matches, tinned foods, patent medicines are sent all over the world; but they are not produced all over the world. Therefore there is in them a mere dead identity, never that soft play of variation which exists in things produced everywhere out of the soil, in the milk of the kine, or the fruits of the orchard. You can get a whisky and soda at every outpost of the Empire: that is why so many Empire builders go mad. But you are not tasting or touching any environment, as in the cider of Devonshire or the grapes of the Rhine. You are not approaching Nature in one of her myriad tints of mood, as in the holy act of eating cheese.

When I had done my pilgrimage in the four wayside public-houses I reached one of the great northern cities, and there I proceeded, with great rapidity and complete inconsistency, to a large and elaborate restaurant, where I knew I could get a great many things besides bread and cheese. I could get that also, however; or at least I expected to get it; but I was sharply reminded that I had entered Babylon, and left England behind. The waiter brought me cheese, indeed, but cheese cut up into contemptibly small pieces; and it is the awful fact that instead of Christian bread, he brought me biscuits. Biscuits – to one who had eaten the cheese of four great countrysides! Biscuits – to one who had proved anew for himself the sanctity of the ancient wedding between cheese and bread! I addressed the waiter in warm and moving terms. I asked him who he was that he should put asunder those whom Humanity had joined. I asked him if he did not feel, as an artist, that a solid but yielding substance like cheese went naturally with a solid, yielding substance like bread; to eat it off biscuits is like eating it off slates. I asked him if, when he said his prayers, he was so supercilious as to pray for his daily biscuits. He gave me generally to understand that he was only obeying a custom of Modern Society. I have therefore resolved to raise my voice, not against the waiter, but against Modern Society, for this huge and unparalleled modern wrong.

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The Temple Pattern: Friendship Pt. 2

Last week I wrote a blog post about true friendship, what it means to be a friend Biblically, and whether or not Christians should be friends with non-Christians. I may have stirred up some contention in your minds, and I wanted to clarify what I meant when I said believers shouldn’t be friends with nonbelievers. This example that was given to me has been extremely helpful in understanding where people should stand in their intimacy with me.

First let me say that we live in a day where people and things are invading private space more than ever. Many marriages are breaking up because the children are put in the place of the spouse. Every relationship in our lives has its proper place. It’s when we mess with that pattern that our lives begin to crumble. I hope that this example can clarify some of these things for you, as they have for me.

When I first heard the example of relationships and the temple in Jerusalem, I did some research of my own. I was amazed as I saw how perfectly that design works with the way our lives ought to be:

The Outer Court – the Court of Gentiles

The first layer is where the Gentiles were allowed to enter and fellowship with the Jews. They were not allowed to go any further than that line. As the Jews were separated from the Gentiles, so we are called to be separate from the world. This does not mean that we are never to associate with non-Christians. Please don’t misunderstand me. Jesus ate with sinners, but for a purpose. Paul met and reasoned with sinners, but for a purpose. I think that purpose was two-fold, as exemplified in the temple and in 1 Peter 2:

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

The Gentiles are to be brought in that they might, as in the temple, 1) behold the need for sacrifice and grace and 2) to behold the glory of God within. They are not to be intimate counselors, brought deeper into fellowship in their current state of unbelief; the tension is that we desire them to come in, but in full faith in God. I have seen the ill effects on a Christian when they only have non-Christian friends around them; it leads them to sin, conviction, and guilt, and their witness is tarnished.

The Inner Courts – The Courts of Women and Men

I found it quite interesting that the next court was particularly for the women, since I am a guy. Ladies, for you the next two sections will be the exact opposite. However, as I said before, we live in an age where relationships between men and women, particularly young men and women, are being corrupted. Why? I think it is because this wall of separation has been removed in the name of “equality”. Again, listen closely and don’t misinterpret me: all are in equal need of a Savior and stand in equal grace in Christ, no matter their gender; but in practically everything else, men and women are entirely unequal. Paul commands Timothy to treat “the younger [women] as sisters, with all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2). Peter calls women “the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7). Don’t take that as an insult; take it as a compliment. The best way I can think to explain is an analogy a friend of mine gave: men are like cast-iron kettle pots, made for sitting in the heat of the furnace, boiling and brewing and taking the hits; women are like fine china, to be handled with grace and care, to be treated in a refined manner.

As a man, I should never treat a lady like I treat my brothers in Christ. I am to care for my sisters as family, but with a particular tenderness; never flirtatious, never playful or rowdily. I should be open to them as family; but there are some things about me that no woman should ever know, save one (we’ll get to that later). Thus, though they are part of my family in Christ, they are not in the position my brothers are.

The Court of Priests (Family and Deeper Friendships)

As I said earlier, there are some things my sisters will never know about me; but even more there are some things that some brothers will never know that others do. The next chamber in is the Court of Priests. This place is reserved for those who are closest to me: my family, my band of brothers, and eventually, Lord willing, my children. These people have a deeper and more ready access to me than anyone in the previous courts. They know me better than anyone else, either because I’ve lived with them my whole life or because I have grown close to them over time.

Proverbs 17:17 says that “a brother is born for adversity.” Though I said in my last post on friendship that that verse could be retranslated, I love the idea that my older brother is given to me to be a help and a source of strength in time of need. God has given me these particular family members and these particularly deep friendships so that I might be encouraged, edified, and, if necessary, rebuked. When you let people deep into your life, and trust is built, they will likely see your flaws better than you do; thus, though it is true in all relationships, it is especially true in this one that we must be humble and submit ourselves to one another, that we may grow together.

The Holy of Holies – the Most Intimate Place

And now we come to the final chamber. For me, this chamber is currently empty, because it is reserved for one person alone. Of course, my greatest intimacy is to be with God; but in regards to human relationships, there is one person who should take the most intimate spot in my life: my wife. Ephesians 5 gives us a powerful example of what it means to be married, using Christ’s relationship to the church as an example. As a husband, I am to love her, give myself for her, sanctify her, cherish and nourish her. My relationship with her is to be the most intimate, the deepest relationship in my entire life. That’s why Charles Spurgeon called the Song of Solomon the holy of holies of the Bible. When this chamber is defiled by allowing the outside to influence it, that intimacy will be broken and harder to find.

Honestly, this theme of friendships and relationships could be (and has been turned into) a book. The purpose of this is to realign ourselves with God’s pattern, that He might be most glorified. When humanity fell, everything was broken by sin, rebellion, and selfishness. But God can, and has, reversed the effects of sin on the cross of Jesus Christ. He alone is the Friend who has loved so deeply that He gave His life, even to those who hated Him. Allow Him to build your life into His pattern; and if you do not know Him, then give your life to Him this day, for is not the Lamb that was slain worthy to receive the rewards of His sufferings?

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: Lift Up The Light

With two of my past Friday Features (J.S. Bach and Andrew Peterson), you may have noticed that I am very musically inclined. Music has always been and continues to be one of the most important factors in my life. Something about it drives me and moves me more than any other art. My older brother once asked, “If you had unlimited money to spend on one thing, would you pick books or music?” I chose music, simply because I think I spend more money on that than books (though, honestly, it was a tough choice).

This week, I’m featuring perhaps my favorite worship album of all time. The group is Oaks Worship, which is known for their musicians Shane & Shane. This album has a few of their best songs, along with many other original tunes that have quickly landed a place in my head, which is a good thing.

One track, “Creation Calls You Father” highlights God’s glory in creation and in redemption. “Everybody who believes in this song now, praise the God of all eternity!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEViaBuJg6I

Another great track is “Every Good Gift”, based on James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKlB7fn7Dl8

These are just two of 13 awesome tracks. Whether you want it to use in your personal worship, or just to have something moving to listen to as you drive, this album is it. Most of the songs can be found on Youtube, but I encourage you to purchase it here on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lift-Up-The-Light/dp/B004RR3TBO/ref=sr_shvl_album_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329510666&sr=301-1

Blessings on your weekend!

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If you have anything you want me to feature, or just that you think I should know about, please, leave a comment! 

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Of Hearts and Heroes

That delightful holiday, Valentine’s Day, is soon to arrive, and for some of you it may be an enchanting day where you get to spend time with a beloved, or, for those who have no such special friend, I hope it will be a time of remembering Christ’s love for the church. Whatever your feelings may be for Valentine’s Day – dread, joy, or bitterness – I hope you hear me out on the history of Valentine’s Day which, surprisingly, has little to do with romance. In doing this, I hope to remind you what our lives are really all about.

Valentine’s Day was set in our calendars back in 496 AD by Pope Gelasius I in honor of three saints named Valentine. All three are honored as martyrs, but it is primarily with Valentine of Rome, who lived around 270 AD during the reign of Emperor Claudius, that I am concerned with. Not much is known about him, and for this reason the Catholic Church has decided to remove the holiday from their religious festivals. However, we may perhaps truth in legends, for every tale has its origins in some fact.

As the story goes, Valentine was a Christian priest during the reign of Claudius who, like most Emperors before him, persecuted the church heavily. Many Christians were thrown into cruel prisons, where they were beaten, tortured, and left in poor conditions. Valentine had had enough, and began saving prisoners covertly. Another tale reports he was performing secret Christian marriages, though this may be an addition to add romance to Valentine’s history. Nonetheless, he was discovered by the Emperor and was immediately jailed for his faith. It is said that Valentine had an interview with Claudius himself, and he was asked what he thought of the Roman gods. I imagine him answering in this fashion:

“The gods of the Romans are indeed no gods, O Emperor, but are sticks and stones made by men’s hands. There is only one true God, the God of all the heavens and the earth and thou shalt be answerable to Him, O Emperor, for thy actions. Yet this God sent His Son to us as a sacrifice that we might be forgiven our misdeeds, and He alone is Lord of all the earth.”

It is also said that Claudius was impressed with Valentine’s speech, yet, angered that he was the one being proselytized and not Valentine, Claudius threw him into prison.

Yet he continued to minister, preaching to the guards in the prison. One guard, a good man, had adopted a blind girl as his daughter, and asked if perhaps God would have mercy on his daughter. Valentine prayed, and soon the blind girl could see. There was great rejoicing and glorification of God, and the guard and his family became Christians. Valentine found great joy, even in the deepest darkness.

Of course Claudius heard what had happened. It seemed this Valentine would not, for any price or penalty, cease speaking of this Jesus. Thus, Valentine was beheaded.

John 15: 13 reads, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  Valentine was willing to lay down his life for the cause of Christ, and, like Paul before him, became an “ambassador in bonds” (Eph. 6:20). He knew the immeasurable worth of Christ.

Unfortunately, much of Valentine’s Day is commercialization now; it’s all about chocolate, hearts, roses, and, as a friend of mine put it, “a short, chubby toddler coming at you with a weapon.” Alas, we are too prone to forget the important things and care too much about the trivial.

Valentine’s Day is a holiday about love. Love is not what the world would have us believe it is, though: a mushy feeling you get, like butterflies playing ping pong in your intestines, lightheadedness, and an irresistible force to be obeyed. 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Nothing about feelings here. Love is about sacrifice, and, primarily, selflessness.

True love was expressed for man upon the cross where Jesus died. Romans 5:8 reads, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There was nothing we could do about our condition: we were entirely without hope, estranged from God with no bridge to get us back. Then Christ came and, offering His own life as the perfect sacrifice, gave Himself for our sins. “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

If you have someone you love this Valentine’s, rejoice in that, inasmuch as it is God given. But whether you do or do not, know that you shall not ever find fulfillment in any love save God’s, for He is the essence of love. Delight in Him, and you shall find a fountain overflowing that shall not run dry. In all things, pray to be more like St. Valentine, who gave his all for the gospel, and that Christ would be exalted in your life or your death, now and forevermore.

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: Asking the Tough Questions

As I will be out of town this weekend, I thought I would post today, Thursday. I apologize, therefore, for the misnomer above. Today I’ll be featuring a short video from one of my personal favorite ministries and people, Eric Ludy. This is the newest of a series of short films calls “The Bravehearted Thots”, collections from preachers that hit fast and hard. Most of the scores were written by Steve Rosen, and his music can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Call-To-Glory/dp/B004TLMTB4/ref=sr_shvl_album_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328827525&sr=301-1

“The Bravehearted Thots” are incredibly convicting, so count this as your warning label, like hot sauce that says “Handle with caution”! But, unlike hot sauce, they’re painful in the best way, because they push us towards Christ. I hope this video sends you running to Him, seeking His face in all things. Blessings.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrNQnrI0Uug

 

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A Hard Question: Should Christians be Friends with Unbelievers?

I realize that the content of this particular post may be confusing and easily misunderstood. Read through it fully before you come to any conclusions about what I am saying. For more on this theme, I wrote a follow up post that should clear up any misunderstandings. Blessings. 

This isn’t a hard question in the sense that it took me much time to mull over and find a good answer to. It’s a hard question because the answer I will give you will likely be different than the one you’re thinking I will give.

“Christians shouldn’t be friends with non-Christians.”

That was the statement my roommate at Ellerslie made once, and it stuck with me. Of course, at the time, I disagreed with him; how else is a Christian to impact the world aside from being friends with those in it? However, it recently came to mind again, and, after some study, I think I agree with him.

In our American society, we have defiled and degraded the real meaning of friendship. Pause a moment, and think about it: how many Facebook “friends” do you have? How many of those do you actually see on a regular basis? How many do you talk to outside of Facebook? Yet we still consider them our “friends” when, in reality, they’re practically strangers to us. Dr. Baarendse, one of my brother’s professors, said in an essay, “Facebook has inflated the definition of friendship and thus devalued it. A friend used to be solid currency you could bank on: David and Jonathan, John Newton and William Cowper, John and Abigail Adams, Lewis and Tolkien. Diana is Anne Shirley’s bosom friend; Hopeful comforts Christian in Doubting Castle and lifts his face above the icy waters of the Jordan. In Facebook’s world, friend has come to mean casual acquaintance.”

But what is a friend, and why was my roommate convinced that Christians should not be friends with unbelievers (this has nothing to do with who’s your “friend” on Facebook, by the way)? Looking into scripture, I found a much more powerful definition of what it means to be a friend.

Friends share intimate council with one another:

In Exodus 33:11, it says that “the LORD spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend.” Abraham is called “the friend of God”, not because God shared a meal with him, but because God shared intimate knowledge with Abraham, even giving Abraham an opportunity to object to God’s plans (Gen. 18:23-33). If a friend is one with whom we can share intimate council with and receive advice from them, that should not be an unbeliever, because their counsel wouldn’t come from God’s Word, but from their own ideas, which may not be right.

Friends love one another at all times:

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Some commentators have said that this verse could be translated in this fashion: “A friend loves at all times and becomes as a brother in adversity.” Proverbs 18:24 goes even further in saying that “there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Through thick and thin, friends band together, as allies in war. We are in a war, between the powers of darkness and light. You want allies around you who will not draw you towards the enemy, but towards the King’s side; how can someone not on the King’s side help you do that?

Friends sharpen countenances:

The phrase, “Iron sharpens iron” is very well known, and comes from Proverbs 27:17, which states, “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” When two friends meet and talk, at the end of the night, they both ought to be better off than they were an hour before. This goes back to sharing intimate counsel with your friends. Whether it’s a discussion on scripture, or simply life issues, friends always strive to better the other where they are lacking. Tolkien and Lewis, who were good friends, critiqued one another on their books, essays, stories, and thoughts, and because of it, they were that much better. Some even speculate that the character Treebeard in Lord of the Rings is the way Tolkien pictured Lewis. As a question, if we are turning to unbelievers to sharpen us, particularly spiritually, the result will more than often be a dulling of the spirit. Unbelievers don’t think spiritually; how then can we expect them to refresh our spirits?

Friends are willing to say and do things that hurt the other:

Proverbs 27:6 tells us that, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” So often the enemy slays us spiritually with comfort and ease; but God pushes us onward with discomfort and hardship. I can attest to the fact that being rebuked by a friend hurts. You don’t want to be hurt, but in order to grow you know there must be pain. They sit you down, and say, “Listen we need to talk about something…” and then they proceed to tell you something you don’t want to hear. But it’s exactly what you need to hear. They are willing to tell you when you’ve messed up and when you need to fix something. Only a true friend will do that. Can you find that in the world, which so often laughs at our standards instead of reinforcing them?

Friends lay down their lives for each other:

Christ said to His disciples in John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” It is one thing to call someone your friend; the ultimate test is when it comes down to your life or theirs. Paul tells us in Romans 5:7, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. (NIV)” It is a rare thing to find the type of man or woman who would literally give their lives that you might live. If you have such a friend, you are very blessed. Such a friend will stand beside you through thick and thin. Would a person, living in the world and in selfishness, be willing to do such a thing as that?

We have degraded friendship to mean something very small, when Scripture calls it something grand. I do not think a Christian should have an unbeliever in their intimate counsel, as those that help them along life’s way. Do not think that I am saying a Christian should never associate with unbelievers. That would be silly and erroneous. What I mean to ask you is, who is your intimate counsel? Who loves you at all times? Who sharpens your countenance? Who is willing to wound and rebuke you when necessary? Who is willing to lay down their life for yours? Are you that type of friend?

There truly is only one friend who can and will stand by you forever. Circumstances may separate you from your earthly friends; even if they are the type of man or woman as described above, there will come a day when you are all alone. What then? Who shall you stand by? The only Faithful Friend, Jesus Christ. He said that “Greater love has no man than this”; and He meant it, proved it by giving His own life that we may live eternally. When there are none to guide you, let Him be your Counselor. When there are none to love you, let Him show you His everlasting love. When there are none to purify you, let His consuming fire burn you. When there are none to rebuke you, let Him search you and try you. And know that He has laid down His life that you might live. Let Him be your Friend, First in your heart; He shall stick closer than a brother, forevermore.

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: J.S. Bach

This post is letting out a bit of my inner nerd, but I’m all right with that, because not only do I love this man’s many compositions, I have enjoyed learning about his life as well. I hope you do as well.

J.S. Bach lived from 1685 – 1750. During his lifetime, he was most famous as a church organist, but today, we revere him practically as the “patron saint” of classical music. Most other famous composers – Beethoven being the most significant one – came after him and were influenced by his music. A few years after Bach heard a famous organist playing, he decided that his purpose in life was to create “well regulated church music to the glory of God.”

Everything Bach did was for this purpose. His orchestrations were signed “S.D.G” – Soli Deo Gloria, latin for “To the Glory of God”. In his book of the Little Organ Book, a “secular” work, he wrote in the beginning, “To God alone the praise be given for what’s herein to man’s use written.” His son once said that all of them “were in the habit of beginning all things with religion.” Everything was spiritual to Bach, even smoking. He wrote in a poem:

“On land, on sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God.”

J.S. Bach took to heart this quote from Martin Luther, who was an influence on Bach’s life: “I wish to see all arts, principally music, in the service of Him who gave and created them. Music is a fair and glorious gift of God. I would not for the world forego my humble share of music. Singers are never sorrowful, but are merry, and smile through their troubles in song. Music makes people kinder, gentler, more staid and reasonable. I am strongly persuaded that after theology there is no art that can be placed on a level with music; for besides theology, music is the only art of affording peace and joy of the heart… the devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.”

And work Bach did. He accredited his genius not to any particular ability, but to practice, telling a student, “Just practice diligently, and it will go very well. You have five fingers on each hand just as healthy as mine.” He also once said, after being asked about his musical prowess, “I was made to work; if you are equally industrious you will be equally successful.” In a world where distractions are constantly vying for our attention, this thought is key. Bach did much more than the average person, but he never complained. He instead found joy in his work, and did his very best to glorify God. We say we don’t have the time; but are we being honest? Bach’s life is an example that there is far more time in our day than we could ever have imagined, if we would but search it out and “redeem” it (Eph. 5:16).

You can find an excellent album with 100 pieces of Bach’s music, and many other classical composers, for just $1.99 here on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bach-Supreme-Classical-Masterpieces-Masters/dp/B005WW94ZS/ref=sr_shvl_album_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1328318625&sr=301-3

Many of the facts and quotes came from a great book called “Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers” by Patrick Kavanaugh. It’s an amazing book, and very encouraging to read if you love classical music.

Blessings, my dear readers! S.D.G.!

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