Saturday, February 27, 2016

   The following piece addresses the issue of spiritual lethargy. He talks about the part personal sacrifice plays in spiritual growth. I have never heard it said better. 

  "In the mere negative virtue, meaning that which abstains from gross outward wrongs, which commits neither theft, nor cruelty, nor excess, and paces the daily round of usage, there is not necessarily any principle of spiritual growth. The force required to maintain it becomes continually less, as the obstructions are worn down by ceaseless attrition; and the character may hence become simply automatic, performing a series of religious duties with the smallest expenditure of the soul.

To nourish high affections, worthy of a nature that has kindred with the Father of spirits, more than this is needed: positive and creative power, spontaneous and original force, conquering energy of resolve, must be put forth: from the inner soul some central strength must pass upon the active life, to destroy that equilibrium between within and without which makes our days mere self-repetitions, and to give us a progressive history.
There is a connection profound and beautiful between the affectionate and the self-denying character of Christianity.
The voluntary sacrifices feed the involuntary sympathies of virtue: and he that will daily suffer for his duty, and not lay his head to rest till he has renounced some ease, embraced some hardship, in the service of others and of God, shall replenish the fountains of his holiest life; and shall find his soul not settling into the flat and stagnant marsh, but flowing under the most delicious light of heaven above, over the gladdest fields of Providence below.

God will have us surrender without terms; and until then, we are fast prisoners, and not free children in his universe.
So needful is sacrifice to the health and hardihood of conscience, that if the occasions for it do not present themselves spontaneously in our lives, we must create them for ourselves: not reserving to ourselves only those exercises of virtue which are constitutionally pleasant, but on the contrary, esteeming the difficulty of a duty as the reason why we should put our hand to it at once.
He, in short, is no true soldier of the Lord, nor worthy to bear the Christian armor, who in service so high, will not make an hour's forced march of duty every day. So tasked and tested, the inner power, the athletic vigor, of our moral nature, will not waste and die. The perceptions of goodness, beauty, truth, become, when we are thus faithful, singularly clear: there ripens within us the fullest faith in the moral excellence of God; the ties that bind us to him and to his children are drawn more closely round; and in this world we dwell as in the lower mansion of his house, where also the "Father loves us, and makes his abode with us."
  By such practical performance alone, can any genuine love of man be matured in us. Charitable deeds are the true school of learning and kindle our desire to do good to others. We are not to wait, till some descending spirit, uninvoked and unearned enters us and makes the labor of sympathy delightful; but to go and do the deed of mercy, thought it be with reluctant step, with dry and parched spirit, and without the grace of a free charity.
Perhaps we may return with a more genial mind and liberated affections: and if not, we must sooner and the oftener do the act of blessing again, though it be amid self-rebuke and shame, and recoil with no peace upon the soul. He that with patience will become the distributor of sympathy and good deeds to the poor and sad, and ask no portion of the blessing for himself, shall catch the spirit of the divine love at length: those whom he steadfastly benefits he will rejoice in at the end.

  By such practical performance alone, can we dismiss the clouds of doubt and ignoble mistrust, which, really covering our own disordered minds, seem to cast shadows around the Most High, and to blot out the heavens from us." Martineau.  

Friday, February 26, 2016

It is the experience of all Christians that the moving’s of God's Spirit comes and goes, and when He is gone, it leaves us feeling poor and beggarly. Paul addresses this in Galatians 3 and I included a piece from Martineau that also gives his spin on it.
"You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Gal. 3:1-5
"It is confessed by the anxieties of many good minds, that are ashamed of the slow fires and faint light of their faith and love; that they can spur their will, more easily than kindle their affections; and wish they were called upon only to do, and not also to feel. They cast about the vaguest and vainest efforts after deeper impressions of things holy and sublime: they wonder at the apathy with which they dwell amid the infinitude of God: they convince themselves how untrue is the state of mind which treats the "seen and temporal" as if there were no "unseen and eternal;" they assure themselves how terrible must be the disorder of that soul, whose springs of pure emotion are thus locked in death. But with all this they cannot shame, or reason, or terrify themselves into any nobler glow: the avenues of intellect, and judgment, and fear, are not those by which a new feeling is permitted to visit and refresh the heart. The ice cannot thaw itself; but must ask the warmer gales of heaven to blow, and the sun aloft to send more piercing beams. There is nothing vainer or more hopeless than the direct struggles of the mind to transform its own affections, to change by a fiat of volition the order of its tastes, and the intensity of its love. Self-inspiration is a contradiction: and to suspend, by upheaving’s of the will, the force of habitual desire, is no less impossible than by writhing’s of the muscles, to annihilate our own weight."
So, the method to rekindling the Spirit now, is the same as in the beginning, by humbly crying out to God to re-manifest Himself to us by the earnest prayer of faith.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good. 
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

A full cordial for the thirsty

When the cloud of darkness settles on your soul, and doubt blurs the image of Christ, the best remedy is the balm of Gilead, apply liberally.

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. So let them shout for joy and rejoice, who favor my vindication; and let them say continually, “The Lord be magnified, Who delights in the prosperity of His servant. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." And God will provide for those who grieve in Zion: to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts. 
Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.             
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
2Cor. 5:17 Ps. 35:27, Is. 35:10, Is. 61:3, Jer. 15:16, Nehemiah *:10, Hab. 3:17

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

  I have been a Christian for 46 years now and the most important lesson I have ever learned is, as Christians we simply must be among the downtrodden, the poor and downcast.

 "The mind that is rich in holiness and the humanities, appreciates every temptation, computes the force of every passion, and discerns the degradation of every vice, with a precision and clearness unknown to the adept in wrong. When the woman who was caught in adultery stood alone and confounded before Christ, how little did she know of her own abased and abject mind, how much less of the majestic being before her, whose steady eye, as it looked upon her, she could not meet! yet how vividly, and with what results of considerate yet cautious sympathy, did the disorder of her moral nature present itself to him who knew no defilement! Like the pure and silent stars that look down by night upon the foulness and the din of cities, his heavenly spirit gazed direct into the turbid hiding places of sin. He saw it indeed, simply as it will see itself in retrospect...." Martineau.

  "If "Truth" results in bondage, confusion, grievous burdens, division, arrogance, elitism, deprecation of others, bigotry or anything that holds no spiritual life in it for me, but rather causes me to stumble, entangle, doubt, repulse, offends, insights the carnal desires or denies what I believe to be solid truth about who Christ is, I resist it." 


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

  "A good man doubles the length of his existence; to have lived so as to look back with pleasure on our past existence is to live twice. Martial.

"There appears to exist a greater desire to live long than to live well! If measured by man's desires, he cannot live long enough; measure by his good deeds and he has not lived long enough, measure by his evil deeds, and he has lived too long." Zimmerman.