Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Hidden Life
J. R. Miller, 1895

"Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart!" 1 Samuel 16:7. In a sense, all life is hidden. The blood courses through the veins as the heart keeps throbbing, throbbing, day and night. You can lay your finger on your wrist and feel the pulsings. The lungs also continue breathing, inhaling, exhaling, without pause, from infancy's first gasp until at last watching friends say, "He is gone!" Pulsings, breathings—yes; but have you found the life? What is it that keeps the heart throbbing and the lungs respiring? "Life," you say. Yes—but what is life?

Take the mind. It is very active. One man thinks, and writes beautiful poems or charming stories. Another thinks and puts marvelous visions on canvas, or throws great bridges over rivers, or erects a noble cathedral. But who ever saw the process of thought? Mental life is hidden.

Take heart life—the life you lived yesterday, with its hopes and fears, its joys and sorrows, its pleasures and pains, its cares and its affections, its thousand varying experiences. Does the world know what is going on in your heart today—or any day? People see the smile or the shadow which flits across your face—but they do not see the emotion which produced it. Even to your closest bosom friend your life is unrevealed, cannot be revealed. Says Keble—

"Not even the tenderest heart next to our own
 Knows half the reasons why we smile or sigh."

Take spiritual life. We see the effects of the Holy Spirit's work—new dispositions, new conduct, new character; but the divine spark of spiritual life—we cannot see as it comes down from above. It is secret, hidden. One day you are sad, disheartened; and, taking up your Bible, you find a sweet word of promise, a revealing of God's love—and into your heart there comes a strange peace. One day you are in sorrow. A friend sits down beside you, and speaks a few words of strong comfort. You are calmed and quieted. Yet no one sees any of these processes. They are hidden, secret.

There is an inspired word which says, "Your life is hidden with Christ in God." The thought is wonderfully bold and strong. Christ is the source of the Christian life. Christ is in the heaven with God, in God, wrapped up in the very glory of divinity. Hence the Christian's life is with Christ in God. Its source is thus in the very heart of God.

Outside an old garden wall hung a great branch covered with purple clusters of grapes. No root was visible anywhere; and those who saw it wondered how the vine grew, how its life was nourished, where its roots clung. It was then discovered that the great vine from which this branch sprung, grew inside the garden. There it had an immense root, with a stem like the trunk of a tree. This one branch had pushed out over the wall and hung there, bearing in the mellow autumn its clusters of luscious fruit.

Likewise—every Christian life in this world is a branch of a great vine which grows in heaven—a branch growing outside the wall. "Your life is hidden with Christ in God. We have heaven's life in us in this world. The fruits which grow upon our life are heavenly fruits. Jesus spoke of giving his own peace to his disciples. He prayed that they might have his joy fulfilled in themselves. We read too that love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness—are fruits of the Holy Spirit. Thus in our human experience in this world—we are drawing our life and its support from the hidden source of life which is in the heart of God. This assures us of its security. It is beyond the reach of earthly harm.

Herein, too, lies the secret of the quiet peace which we find so often in Christian sufferers. In all their pain they are sustained by some hidden strength which the world cannot understand. They are drawing their life from a source which no earthly experience can reach or affect.

"Oh! There are some who, while on earth they dwell,
And seem to differ little from the throng,
Already to the heavenly choir belong,
And even hear the same sweet anthem swell.
They joy, at times, with joy unspeakable,
Pouring to him they love their heartfelt song;
While to behold him face to face they long,
As the parched traveler for the cooling well.
Ask you how such from other may be known?
Mark those whose look is calm, their brow serene,
Gentle their words, love breathing in each tone,
Scattering rich blessings all around unseen.
They draw each hour—from living founts above—
The streams they pour around of peace and joy and love."

One writes of watching an old tree in the autumn, as the leaves were touched by the frosts and fell off when the rough wind blew. As the tree at last became bare, he saw a bird's nest on one of the branches. Through the summer days the nest had been hidden beneath the thick foliage—but the blasts of winter which swept away the leaves uncovered this home and shelter of the birds. So, ofttimes, is it in the history of God's children. In their prosperity we see not their refuge, which is hidden and secret—hidden beneath the leaves of worldly prosperity. But when adversity comes, taking away earthly beauty, stripping off the bright foliage—their true and eternal refuge in God is disclosed. The storms of earth only drive them back into God's bosom.

We say a certain person's beauty has been wasted by sickness. One came to me whom I had not seen before for five years. A dark tragedy had just darkened her home, and I went to try to give a little comfort. Until that day, her face had been beautiful with all the freshness of youth. But these five years since, had been like twenty years in her life. The beauty was now faded; how could it have been otherwise, with the broken heart she brought out of those terrible days? Yet a few minutes conversation showed me that in all the wasting of physical beauty—that her spiritual loveliness had not been marred. She had kept near the heart of Christ in all the bitter anguish—and the joy and peace of her inner life had not failed. Beauty of the face is only external, and is transient. Any accident may mar it. But beauty of the soul is spiritual and imperishable. It abides even in the destruction of the body.

There is mystery in this hidden life—which is in every Christian. It has a strange power of recognition. When two Christians meet, though utter strangers heretofore, there is something which reveals them to each other. The same life pulses in their hearts. They have the same hopes, the same joys, the same Christ, the same purpose in living, the same heaven. The world has nothing in common with Christians—but all who love Christ are members of one family.

The Christian's life is hidden also—in the sense that its true and full glory is concealed in this world, and will not appear until it enters the heavenly life. Only the bud is seen as yet; by and by the flower will burst into rich bloom. The best of every Christian's life remains unrevealed on the earth. We fail to realize even our own best intentions. You did not live yesterday as you meant to live when you went out in the morning. No artist ever puts on his canvas—all the beauty of his mental vision. No singer ever gets into the song he sings—all the music of his soul. No saintly Christian ever translates into disposition and conduct—all the spiritual loveliness which glows in his ideal. Our hands are too clumsy and unskillful to express the best things of our mind and heart in word or act or character. We see the good—but cannot do it, in more than a mere fragmentary way. Yet the visions of beauty which we have in mere flashes and glimmerings, are hints of divine revealings which are yet to be made, and of the wondrous possibilities which lie in the hidden depths of our nature, some day to be brought out.

The sea covers great fields of concealed splendors. Now and then a storm stirs its depths, and washes up a few brilliant shells or pebbles, which shine like fragments broken from heaven's walls. Yet these few stones or shells are only specimens of millions more—even more brilliant—which are buried in the ocean depths. Likewise—there come out here and there, in a Christian's life, in times of special exaltation, glimpses of something rarely beautiful—an act, a word, a self denial, a disposition, the revealing of some noble quality or some marvelous power or measure of love; and we say as we see it, "That is like Christ! That is a gleam of heavenly life! That is a fragment of divinity!" But that flashing gleam of character, that glimmering of Christ-likeness, that act which seems too pure for earth—is only a hint of the infinite possibilities of each human soul. Hidden in the depths of the nature, under all its faults and imperfections, is a life which far surpasses the highest things which are reached in this world. The love, joy, peace, unselfishness, purity, holiness, attained in the saintliest experience of earthly Christian life—are but divine intimations of what we shall be when the limiting conditions of earth shall have been left behind.

There will be a time, when all this hidden life shall be revealed. The bud shall burst into the rich flower. The gem shall break through its rough imprisoning crust, and shine in lustrous splendor. The dull character which here shows only gleams and flashes of spiritual beauty—amid manifold defects, flaws, and infirmities—shall yet show in its every feature—the beauty of Christ. The holy thoughts, desires, longings, and the hunger after righteousness, which here are hindered, restrained, limited, and which fail to take full form in life and character—shall yet be wrought out in deeds as beautiful and holy as themselves. We shall see Christ, and we shall be like him—when we shall see him as he is.

Some day we shall slip away from things that are familiar to our eyes and hearts here, and shall enter into what we call the other life. Really, however, it is not another life—but only a fuller, deeper unveiling of the life which we have been living in Christ, since he first saved us. The mystery of the Christian's life of faith, is that it is "hidden with Christ in God." Here we touch but the outer edge of it; in what we call dying—we shall press farther into its blessedness. Here our little barks move only along the shore; by and by we shall sail out into the infinite expanse. There will be nothing to dread in the experience. We call it death, and we shudder at its mention; but really it is life—fullness of life. To those who watch us in departing, we shall disappear; but to us the path will be only one of increasing brightness, as we go on until we enter into the presence of Christ.

So will it be when we leave this world. It will not grow dark to our eyes, as we imagine it will do, when we enter the valley of shadows. We shall pass into fuller light, until we, too, are hidden with Christ in God, in the glory of eternal life!
7 Keys to Breaking the Bondage of Pornography
Wendy Alsup

Porn On The Hookporn on hook
Over 50 percent of men in the church struggle with porn.

One of my elders at church taught a class Sunday on pornography. He was vulnerable and honest about his own serious struggle with pornography after being exposed to it at a very young age through sexual deviancy among the adults in his home. I found his lesson relevant to men who've struggled with pornography, women who've struggled with pornography, men who haven't struggled with pornography and women who haven't struggled with pornography. Since that probably covers all the readers here, I thought I would share the progression of his thoughts.

1. Pornography is sin. Despite the near mainstream acceptance of pornography in many cultures (certainly here in Seattle), we need a biblical framework for understanding the issue.

Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
See also 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 and Galatians 5:19-21.

2. However, don't elevate the sin above what it is—simply sin. Adam, the elder teaching this lesson, shared how in a moment of deep angst over his use of pornography yet again, he was confronted by another elder at our church. Did he have the same angst when he yelled at his wife? When he was angry with his children? The elder exhorted him to not minimize the sin, but also not to allow it a place of importance above other sins. In a twisted way (because we often do twist such things), elevating the sin of pornography can make fighting the struggle a legalistic idol and source of pride for those who struggle less than others.

Romans 1:29-32 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
3. Hate the sin, and speak truth with patience and grace to yourself and others with overcoming the struggle. Paul's words in Romans 7 don't excuse our sin, but it does explain our sin.

Romans 7:15-8:1 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Adam shared his story of his wife's response to him when he first confessed his use of pornography to her. He waited until late in the evening to tell her. Then he got up off the bed to leave the room in shame. She asked him where he was going, and he told her he figured she didn't want to be around him right now. She said, "Why would I want that? I love you!" Adam recounted with tears how her words ministered grace to him that kept him walking his struggle with pornography in the light.

In contrast, he knew another man who told him his wife's response was along the lines that if she ever caught him using pornography again, she would immediately divorce him. This further pushed this man into isolation and shame when he needed to admit his sin and walk in the light with his wife. Adam pointed out how his own wife's gracious response helped him walk in the light and confess his sin, which has been key to moving forward in his struggle successfully.

There is a tension here. We need to make sure that in our patience and grace we remember that grace also means to speak truth. Consider Bonhoeffer's words in Life Together: "Reproof is unavoidable. God's word demands it when a brother falls into open sin ... Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin."

4. If you struggle with pornography, you are not alone. Pornography is impacting all kinds of things in our culture—fashion, crushing expectations regarding physical appearance and sexual performance, and so forth. Many believe it is now the number one educator for teaching American children about sex. One survey showed 50 percent of Christian men and 20 percent of Christian women said they were addicted to pornography. 60 percent of Christian women said they struggled with lust. This is a big struggle affecting many people you know.

When Adam first introduced a class on sexual immorality during announcements at our church 10 years ago, a number of wives and girlfriends came up to him after the service to thank him for giving them the freedom to talk with their significant other whom they thought was struggling with pornography. Many men talked with him in the weeks afterwards as well, though not immediately after service. It was a widespread struggle, and one man speaking in the light gave freedom to others to join him.

5. Work out the sin and struggle in community. Adam recounted leaving work after a particularly stressful day feeling a strong desire to watch porn and masturbate. He texted another elder exactly that. That elder had struggled as well, and the power of the temptation each felt seemed to dissipate when they brought it into the light. I am thankful for a gospel-centered church that is safe for people to struggle in the light with their sin. We need to be safe places where others can be honest about their sin. No struggle with sin can be won in the dark.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
6. Know that you are defined by Jesus, not your sin! Consider these truths from Scripture on how God thinks of and speaks of you regardless of your struggle.

I am God's child (John 1:12)
I am confident that God will perfect the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
I am chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 11)
I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)
I am given God's glorious grace lavishly and without restriction (Ephesians 1:5,8)
I am in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:14)
I am included (Ephesians 1:13)
I am sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
I am raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12)
I am God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)
I am not alone (Hebrews 13:5)
I am His disciple (John 13:15)
I am set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32)
7. In conclusion, hear this encouragement from Galatians whether your struggle is pornography or other sexual sins, anger, greed or something else.

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
If you struggle, bring it into the light. And if you don't struggle, be ready to walk with those who do bring it into the light. They need safe places to be honest about the temptations they face and the sins they commit, because light heals.
God’s Medicine: Affliction
Affliction is one of God’s medicines. By it He often teaches lessons which would be learned in no other way. By it He often draws souls away from sin and the world, which would otherwise have perished everlastingly.
Health is a great blessing, but sanctified disease is a greater. Prosperity and worldly comfort, are what all naturally desire; but losses and crosses are far better for us, if they lead us to Christ. Thousands at the last day, will testify with David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” (Psalm. 119:71.)
~ J.C. Ryle

Dennis Osullivan
August 6
We can get discouraging words, from enemies or even family or church friends - A discouraging word can be a deadly weapon. Nehemiah refused to surrender to Tobiah's discouragement, just as David rejected Goliath's diabolical teasing. Focusing on God and His Help rather than on their discouraging situations, David and Nehemiah both achieved victory. Taunting can come from anybody, including those very close to us. This is very true. Responding to them negatively only saps our energy. But God encourages us through His Promise: He will never forsake us ( PSALMS 9:10--HEBREWS 13:5), and He invites us to rely on His Help ( HEBREWS 4:16).
Thank you, Father, I pray for All in Jesus Holy Name
Thu, August 10, 2017
Prayer is No Substitute for Obedience
Granted that the man who seeks revival has stopped thinking in plurals and has narrowed his faith down to one single individual, himself, what then? How can he find that after which his soul is yearning? How can he cooperate with his hungers to the end that he may indeed be filled?

He must rid his mind of the false notion that prayer alone will bring the blessing. Normally all transactions between the soul and God are carried on by prayer. It is right and scriptural and according to the testimony of all the saints that any spiritual advance on any front, any deliverance, any purification, any enduement of power, comes by the prayer of faith. Our error is that we try to secure these benefits by prayer alone.

The correction of this error is extremely difficult for it entails more than a mere adjustment of our doctrinal beliefs; it strikes at the whole Adam-life and requires self-abnegation, humility and cross-carrying. In short it requires obedience. And that we will do anything to escape.

He replied, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.'
Luke 11:28

Prayerful Bible study exposes us to God's will for us. Knowing His will, praying about it, is not enough. Personal revival comes as we obey His will.

Forgive me, Lord, for trying to substitute prayer and other religious activity for simple obedience to your will as You reveal it to me.