Shelter of the Weary

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The day is yours, God, and also the night. Keep my heart fixed on you, and my mind at peace in you. Do not let me give in to temptation through tiredness, but let me rest my weary self in your unfailing strength. You shelter the weary, and restore those who come to you in their weakness. Teach me, when the day is done, to meditate upon your goodness and love—to let go, and delight in you.

Book Note: Church History

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Church History, Volume 1: From Christ to Pre-Reformation, by Everett Fergusson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005).

Excellent.  A very clear and engaging tour of the story of the church before the Reformation.  Fergusson does good history: fair, insightful in analysis, neither burdened by (post)modern disdain nor blinded by the rosy lenses of nostalgia.  Highly recommended.

Beyond the Gates

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In J.R.R. Tolkien’s tragic fantasy The Children of Hurin, there is a scene towards the beginning where Hurin, the mighty warrior, is disputing with Morgoth–an evil power, who is a figure of Satan.  Morgoth has just dealt a terrible blow to the forces of good, and has Hurin for prisoner; but still Hurin defies him.  Among his words of defiance is this statement of transcendent hope:

“Beyond the Circles of the World you shall not pursue those who refuse you.” (65)

Truly, the great struggle of the soul is confined to this world, and this life.  Satan’s power cannot reach beyond the gates of death.  And those doors, so fearful, have been by Christ transformed.  Though shadowed still by uncertainty and limned with grim finality, they mark nothing terrible for those who belong to the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

For the Christian, death is the passage to everlasting joy in the presence of the Lord, the departure to be with Christ and abide with Him until the day of resurrection, when all things are made new.

In this life there is much we might fear.  But courage comes with the conviction of certain vindication.  For the present, Satan has been allowed to act, even though already decisively defeated at the cross.  But his power stops at the gates of death.  He cannot pursue those who refuse him.

The Grace of Joy

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Lord, your day rises and your glory is shown in all your works. Glory to you, great God of all the universe. Teach me, today, to delight myself in you; and make me to live for your delight. If I delight myself in you, I will know joy in any circumstance; if I delight you, I will realize my purpose in this your day. Give me the grace to please you in all things, and to find my highest pleasure in yourself. Give me the grace of joy, O Joy beyond all joys.

God Our Shield

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Thank you, Lord, for your preserving and protecting power today. You have kept me safe and strong, and cared for me in every way. Though the world is full of danger, you have guarded me during the sunlit hours, and you will be my shield through the hours of the night. The darkness holds no fear, when you are my defense. Let me rest in the shelter of your might, and entrust all things to your care. Amen.

Faith’s Question

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“To whom, O Savior, shall we go?

The night of death draws near;

Its shadows must be passed alone,

No friend can with our souls go down

The untried way to cheer.

Thou hast the words of endless life;

Thou givest victory in the strife;

Thou only art the changeless Friend,

On whom for aye we may depend:

In life, in death, alike we flee,

O Savior of the world! to Thee.”

-Frances Ridley Havergal, final paragraph of “Faith’s Question”.

Approval vs. Forgiveness

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I saw an article the other yesterday on a liberal news venue, pushing back against a conservative church’s attempt to influence their community.  Several observations might be made, but one will suffice for the nonce.

One of the reasons this church’s influence is so objectionable to some is the church’s promotion of Christian sexual ethics, particularly their opposition to homosexuality.  Christian sexual ethics are considered intolerant to secular society.  But, interestingly, another objection cited in the article was that the pastor had officiated the marriage of a man who had a different area of sexual immorality in his past, of which he had repented.

That is to say, part of what some people find so offensive about this church is that it does not approve of sexual immorality (of the kind society presently approves), and another part is that the church believes in restoration for people who have engaged in sexual immorality (of the kind society does not [presently] approve).

I think this is an interesting observation, that can be seen in society at large, at least to some degree.  Tolerance is aggressively (intolerantly?) promoted by de-stigmatizing of numerous immoral behaviors.  Acceptance is the order of the day.  But there are still numerous things that are not tolerated, not accepted; and for these things, forgiveness and restoration for the repentant can be in very short supply.

The Christian church calls sin what it is, but preaches that anyone can be forgiven their sins if they will repent and place their faith in Christ.  It should not be surprising that the secular world, which finds the conviction of sin offensive, sometimes finds forgiveness offensive as well.

The Narrow Way

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God all-wise, lead me today in the way I should take. Guide my steps, so that I will not turn from your path. Teach me to follow in the way set by Jesus my Savior, to walk in His footsteps and carry my cross. Lord, it is hard for me to deny myself and follow you; be my strength and support. Firm up my feeble limbs for the uphill climb, and may I find the narrow way sweet, according to your promise—your yoke easy and your burden light.

Through the Hours of Night

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Thank you, God, for bringing me safely through this day. I lay it now at your feet. Bless the work I have done, and let it be for your glory. Forgive my sins and cover my failures, and let me know tonight the peaceful sleep of grace and the hope of your mercies and strength on the morrow. When I go to rest, turn my thoughts to the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ my Savior. Guard me through the hours of the night, until the new day dawns. Amen.