Faith: April 2004 Archives

Safer than a known way


This poem was a favorite of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The opening four lines were used by her husband, King George VI, to open his Christmas address to the nation in 1939, just a few months after the start of World War II.

"The Gate of the Year" by Minnie Haskins 1908

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied, 'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'

So I went forth and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.

So heart be still!
What need our human life to know
If God hath comprehension?

In all the dizzy strife of things
Both high and low,
God hideth his intention."

The Truth in Small Things


I really need to curtail my surfing and get some work done or at least some sleep, but I should let you know that Dawn Eden has written a series of excellent, thought-provoking essays called "The Truth in Small Things". She's on the sixth installment, and I suspect that there is more to come. You can find all of them in the April archive of her blog, the Dawn Patrol.

Here's a highlight, from her third essay:

As for myself, I'm thirsty all the time. I'm also hungry—I can never understand those people who claim that they "forget to eat." But when I read the Scriptures, I realize that I am not hungry enough.

"He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings. And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation" (Psalm 107:35-36).

What does this tell us?

You could say that it means God feeds the hungry, which He does—the next verses say He gives them fields to plant and that he allows their cattle to increase. But there's another meaning in those verses, one which gives me pause:

There is a condition for living in the city of God. And that condition is hunger.

It doesn't say, "God takes the satisfied people and sets them up so they can stay satisfied." It says, "He maketh the hungry to dwell..."

That hunger is a figurative hunger—the same hunger that Jesus speaks of in the Sermon on the Mount, when he blesses "they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matthew 5:6).

When you are hungry, really hungry, it's hard to think about anything else. Likewise, hungering for righteousness means not being able to rest until your hunger is satisfied. As Augustine wrote of God, "Our hearts are restless until we find rest in You."

Today I am going to practice an exercise. Whenever I feel hungry or thirsty, before I fulfill that need, I am going to get in touch with it and try to imagine, just for one moment, how much I really need God for everything in my life. Because "in Him we live and move and have our being," yet "His footsteps are not known." He is so omnipresent that it is possible to go through the day without sensing his presence.

Hunger—real spiritual hunger—is a gift. Cherish it.

Leading a Cross-Centered Life


A failure to focus on the Cross of Christ, to "preach" to ourselves the good news of God's forgiveness and acceptance of us in Christ, can lead to busyness or to introspection. I realize I don't measure up to God's standards, and it is easy to look to my performance as a way to affirm my standing before God. Or at the other extreme, I can withdraw into introspection and self-pity, despairing of fellowship with God and finding other ways to comfort myself. That's the gist of an excellent essay by Jay Wegter:

Certain temperaments are prone to specific departures from cross-centeredness. The “catalytic extrovert” has a personality that makes things happen. He shies away from introspection. He seldom retreats into the “grey castle of self.” He prefers to manage his dereliction (depravity) by performance, production, and by the generation of massive amounts of work.

The extrovert’s problem is harder to see than the person’s who is neutralized by condemnation. Yet the extrovert’s deviation from cross-centeredness is just as real – he may be operating by law, not grace.

By contrast, the person laboring under a yoke of condemnation feels that heaven is staring at him in one large cosmic frown. Thus he retreats into the grey castle of self and attempts to comfort his soul with sensual things justified by self pity.

Having lost sight of the cross, he does not entertain high prospects of the Lord’s desire to meet him and commune with him. Comfort from the Lord seems light years away.

From John Owen's The Things of This World:

Whither so fast, my friend? What meaneth this rising so early and going to bed late, eating the bread of carefulness? Why this diligence, why these contrivances, why these savings and hoardings of riches and wealth? To what end is all this care and counsel? "Alas!" saith one, "it is to get that which is enough in and of this world for me and my children, to prefer them, to raise an estate for them, which, if not so great as others, may yet be a competency; to give them some satisfaction in their lives and some reputation in the world." Fair pretenses, neither shall I ever discourage any from the exercise of industry in their lawful callings; but yet I know that with many this is but a pretense and covering for a shameful engagement of their affections unto the world. Wherefore, in all these things, be persuaded sometimes to have an eye to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Behold how he is set before us in the gospel, poor, despised, reproached, persecuted, nailed to the cross, and all by this world. Whatever be your designs and aims, let his cross continually interpose between your affections and this world. If you are believers, your hopes are within a few days to be with him forevermore. Unto him you must give an account of yourselves, and what you have done in this world. ...

Labor continually for the mortification of your affections unto the things of this world. They are, in the state of corrupted nature, set and fixed on them, nor will any reasonings or considerations effectually divert them, or take them off in a due manner, unless they are mortified unto them by the cross of Christ. Whatever change be otherwise wrought in them, it will be of no advantage unto us. It is mortification alone that will take them off from earthly things unto the glory of God. Hence the apostle, having given us that charge, "Set your affection on things above, and not on things on the earth," Col. 3:2, adds this as the only way and means we may do so, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth," verse 5. Let no man think that his affections will fall off from earthly things of their own accord. The keenness and sharpness of them in many things may be abated by the decay of their natural powers in age and the like; they may be mated by frequent disappointments, by sicknesses, pains, and afflictions, as we shall see immediately; they may be willing unto a distribution of earthly enjoyments, to have the reputation of it, wherein they still cleave unto the world, but under another shape and appearance; or they may be startled by convictions, so as to do many things gladly that belong to another frame: but, on one pretense or other, under one appearance or other, they will forever adhere or cleave unto earthly things, unless they are mortified unto them through faith in the blood and cross of Christ, Gal. 6:14. Whatever thoughts you may have of yourselves in this matter, unless you have the experience of a work of mortification on your affections, you can have no refreshing ground of assurance that you are in anything spiritually minded.

Link via The Threshold, and its page of links on the godly life.

Surfing around I found an interesting website, The site's proprietor, Don Whitney, is a frequent guest speaker at churches and conferences, and he has come up with a list of 10 questions for a conference planner to consider, in order to insure that they are treating the meeting's guest speakers with courtesy and consideration. In church settings, guest speakers aren't usually compensated as professionals, paid for their time or expertise, which makes it all the more important to ensure that their expenses are covered and their basic needs are met. Here's his introduction, and a sample of the 10 questions:

Those with little experience hosting guest speakers may be unaware of some of the courtesies their guests will appreciate. Because of my frequent travels as a guest speaker, I'm sometimes asked for tips on showing hospitality to other visiting speakers. Answering these questions will help you excel in this sort of hospitality....

Are you prepared to offer several restaurant options?

Just about everyone has likes and dislikes. You may be planning on going to your favorite local seafood restaurant, for example, but not know that your guest doesn't like or is allergic to seafood. If you plan for your guest to eat a complimentary breakfast served in his hotel, ask if it is sufficient. The quality of these varies widely, and nearly all supply nothing but carbohydrates, something your guest may be trying to minimize.

I found Whitney's website through the links page of Grace To North America, a ministry which works to facilitate planting churches which are faithful to the Reformed doctrines of grace. The links page is going to be worth exploring further: It includes links to online repositories of the works of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon and to a host of other soul-provoking articles.

And I found Grace to North America through Founders Ministries, an organization devoted to "encourag[ing] the return to and promulgation of the biblical gospel that our Southern Baptist forefathers held dear."

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from April 2004.

Faith: March 2004 is the previous archive.

Faith: May 2004 is the next archive.

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