June 1, 2013 A “Tinker” of Souls

John Bunyan – A “Tinker” of Souls

John Bunyan (1628 – 1688) is best remembered as the author of the beloved Christian classic Pilgrim’s Progress. A Baptist minister, he would become one of England‘s most celebrated prisoners. He is born in Bedfordshire, the son of a tinker who went from house to house repairing broken items. Bunyan later recalls living in abject poverty; with little formal schooling and “without God,” he was an unruly child.

Later, while serving three years in the parliamentary army, he senses God singling him out for protection, while other soldiers around him die in battle. On leaving the military, he takes up his father’s trade and becomes an impoverished tinker. When he marries Mary at twenty-one, he becomes convicted of his sinful life of worldliness—particularly dancing and sports—and begins attending church. In 1653, at the age of twenty-five, he is baptized and licensed to serve as a lay preacher.

With Mary’s death six years into their marriage, Bunyan is left alone with four little children. Moving to Bedford, he remarries and begins his preaching ministry. His is a simple style of biblical storytelling, but he is soon drawing crowds, some coming from great distances to hear him. However, the timing corresponds with the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. After twenty years of freedom of worship, Nonconformist services are banned, and ministers are rounded up and arrested. Thus begins Bunyan’s dozen years of prison. His second wife, Elizabeth, only seventeen when they marry, is now alone with young children. Yet she becomes his strongest defender and advocate, going before judges and magistrates and pleading his cause.

He can free himself by promising not to preach, but he refuses. He tells local magistrates that he would rather remain in prison until “moss grows on his eyelids” than fail to do what God has commanded him to do. Unlike many seventeenth-century incarcerations, his time behind bars is not all misery. In fact, guarded by a friendly small-town jailor, he is permitted some nights at home, and visitors are welcome. Most astonishingly, on occasion he is allowed to preach to those gathered in “unlawful assemblies.” But the most precious freedom he enjoys is time for reading and writing.

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, his spiritual memoir of his early life and ministry, is a treasured piece of Puritan writing. With a simple straightforward style, he records events and relationships without overstated religious piety. He confesses temptations even during his Sunday sermon. Besides inner struggle, he confronts community gossip and rumors of his own sexual impropriety, which he insists are untrue.

Bunyan’s final years in jail are devoted primarily to writing Pilgrim’s Progress, the book for which he became famous. He is released, however, before the volume is finished. When Charles II issues the Declaration of Indulgence, freeing Nonconformists from their prison cells, Bunyan wastes no time in getting back into regular ministry. But he soon finds himself back in jail when Nonconformity is again made illegal. The six-month confinement affords more time for writing.

Pilgrim’s Progress, quickly regarded as a literary masterpiece, is an allegory that touches the emotions like few other books have, spanning every social class and religious identity. By the time of his death there are nearly a hundred thousand copies in print.

While his fame is spreading, Bunyan continues to preach as an itinerant evangelist. Indeed, he travels so much that he is dubbed “Bishop Bunyan.” He also serves as chaplain to the mayor of London. All the while he continues writing, producing in 1680 what some have regarded the first English novelThe Life and Death of Mr. Badman. He also writes theologically oriented treatises, including Differences in Judgement about Water-Baptism no Bar to Communion.


If you enjoyed the above article, please take a minute to read about the book that it was adapted from:

ParadeofFaith-Bookcover

Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church

by Ruth A. Tucker
Buy the book!
The story of Christianity centers on people whose lives have been transformed by the resurrected Lord. Tucker puts this front and center in a lively overview peppered with sidebars; historical “what if?” questions; sections on everyday life; drawings and illustrations; bibliographies for further reading.

 

JUNE 1 2013 Courage, Soldiers of the Cross

Morning

“The king also himself passed over the brook Kidron.”
2 Samuel 15:23

David passed that gloomy brook when flying with his mourning company from his traitor son. The man after God‘s own heart was not exempt from trouble, nay, his life was full of it. He was both the Lord’s Anointed, and the Lord’s Afflicted. Why then should we expect to escape? At sorrow’s gates the noblest of our race have waited with ashes on their heads; wherefore then should we complain as though some strange thing had happened unto us?

The King of kings himself was not favoured with a more cheerful or royal road. He passed over the filthy ditch of Kidron, through which the filth of Jerusalem flowed. God had one Son without sin, but not a single child without the rod. It is a great joy to believe that Jesus has been tempted in all points like as we are. What is our Kidron this morning? Is it a faithless friend, a sad bereavement, a slanderous reproach, a dark foreboding? The King has passed over all these. Is it bodily pain, poverty, persecution, or contempt? Over each of these Kidrons the King has gone before us. “In all our afflictions he was afflicted.” The idea of strangeness in our trials must be banished at once and forever, for he who is the Head of all saints, knows by experience the grief which we think so peculiar. All the citizens of Zion must be free of the Honourable Company of Mourners, of which the Prince Immanuel is Head and Captain.

Notwithstanding the abasement of David, he yet returned in triumph to his city, and David’s Lord arose victorious from the grave; let us then be of good courage, for we also shall win the day. We shall yet with joy draw water out of the wells of salvation, though now for a season we have to pass by the noxious streams of sin and sorrow. Courage, soldiers of the Cross, the King himself triumphed after going over Kidron, and so shall you.

Evening

“Who healeth all thy diseases.”
Psalm 103:3

Humbling as is the statement, yet the fact is certain, that we are all more or less suffering under the disease of sin. What a comfort to know that we have a great Physician who is both able and willing to heal us! Let us think of him awhile tonight. His cures are very speedy–there is life in a look at him; his cures are radical–he strikes at the centre of the disease; and hence, his cures are sure and certain. He never fails, and the disease never returns. There is no relapse where Christ heals; no fear that his patients should be merely patched up for a season, he makes new men of them: a new heart also does he give them, and a right spirit does he put within them. He is well skilled in all diseases. Physicians generally have some speciality. Although they may know a little about almost all our pains and ills, there is usually one disease which they have studied above all others; but Jesus Christ is thoroughly acquainted with the whole of human nature. He is as much at home with one sinner as with another, and never yet did he meet with an out-of-the-way case that was difficult to him. He has had extraordinary complications of strange diseases to deal with, but he has known exactly with one glance of his eye how to treat the patient. He is the only universal doctor; and the medicine he gives is the only true catholicon, healing in every instance. Whatever our spiritual malady may be, we should apply at once to this Divine Physician. There is no brokenness of heart which Jesus cannot bind up. “His blood cleanseth from all sin.” We have but to think of the myriads who have been delivered from all sorts of diseases through the power and virtue of his touch, and we shall joyfully put ourselves in his hands. We trust him, and sin dies; we love him, and grace lives; we wait for him and grace is strengthened; we see him as he is, and grace is perfected forever.

 

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JUNE 1, 2013 The Power in Prayer

God‘s Word is powerful

The Power in Prayer

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[Jesus told them,] “Now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” 

Luke 24:49 NLT

Though the Bible be crowded with golden promises from board to board, yet they will be inoperative until we turn them into prayer. 

F. B. Meyer (1847-1929)

 

 

Golden promises

 

Before Jesus sent out the disciples to take the message of the gospel to all nations, he assured them of his promise to send the Holy Spirit. That promise motivated them to continue with one accord in prayer (Acts 1:14). God’s promises are provided to stir us and inspire us to pray. Those precious promises — there are hundreds throughout the Bible — show us things God has purposed and wants us to ask for, just as he wanted his disciples to ask for the Holy Spirit so they would have power for ministry. These golden promises teach us about how to pray, and they build our faith. “If I am to have faith when I pray,” said American evangelist R.A. Torrey, “I must find some promise in the Word of God on which to rest my faith.…If there is no promise in the Word of God, and no clear leading of the Spirit, there can be no real faith.” Today, ask the Lord which of his promises he wants you to pray about. The Holy Spirit will fill you with power from on high to accomplish what needs to be done.

THANK YOU, FATHER, for the promises in your word. May they be incentives for me to continue in prayer so that your will may be accomplished and your kingdom will come in my life, family, nation, and world. Holy Spirit, thank you for dwelling within me and for filling me with your power. Let my prayers be pleasing to you, Father, as your Spirit leads me in praying in light of your promises.

Adapted from The One Year® Book of Praying through the Bible by Cheri Fuller, Tyndale House Publishers (2003), entry for April 29.

 

Content is derived from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation and other publications of Tyndale Publishing House

Romans 8

Life Through the Spirit

8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[bGod did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c]And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[d] because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[e] his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.”16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Present Suffering and Future Glory

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified;those he justified, he also glorified.

More Than Conquerors

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Footnotes:

  1. Romans 8:2 The Greek is singular; some manuscripts me
  2. Romans 8:3 In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit; also in verses 4-13.
  3. Romans 8:3 Or flesh, for sin
  4. Romans 8:10 Or you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive
  5. Romans 8:11 Some manuscripts bodies through
  6. Romans 8:15 The Greek word for adoption to sonship is a term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture; also in verse 23.
  7. Romans 8:15 Aramaic for father
  8. Romans 8:21 Or subjected it in hope. 21 For
  9. Romans 8:28 Or that all things work together for good to those who love God, who; orthat in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who
  10. Romans 8:36 Psalm 44:22
  11. Romans 8:38 Or nor heavenly rulers

http://www.biblegateway.com/audio/mclean/niv/Rom.8

2 Corinthians 5:7

For we live by faith, not by sight.

MAY 30, 2013 The Word Convicts

God‘s Word is powerful

The Word convicts

When the king heard what was written in the law, he tore his clothes in despair. 

A rampage of revival

 

If Josiah, kind of Judah, had kept a journal, we might have noted this first significant entry: “Eight years old today” (2 Chronicles 34:1). At that tender age, Josiah had a scepter thrust into his hand. Yet he didn’t let the super-responsibilities of those years allow him to forget his Creator. Rather, he “did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight.” (34:2)

Another important entry might have been “Sixteen years old today” (2 Chronicles 34:3). That’s when Josiah began to rid his country of the pagan shrines, idols, and images that had accumulated during the reigns of prior kings. After he purified the land, Josiah ordered the repair and restoration of the temple.

“Twenty-six years old” (2 Chronicles 34:8) was the midpoint of Josiah’s 31-year reign. It was also Back-to-the-Word time. When Hilkiah the high priest stumbled across the “Book of the Law of the Lord as it had been given to Moses” (34:14) and had it read to Josiah, the king was devastated.

Josiah went on a rampage of revival, first making his people covenant to obey the Lord and his laws. Second, he destroyed all idols and required everyone to worship the Lord. And third, he initiated a Passover celebration on a scale that hadn’t been seen since the time of the prophet Samuel.

Josiah did everything he could to bring Judah back to God and the treasury of his Word, but the clock of God’s favor was running out. Sadly, because the people tired of Josiah’s revival, within twenty-five years of Josiah’s death, Jerusalem was destroyed and all it people taken in to captivity.

Adapted from Men of Integrity Devotional Bible with devotions from the editors of Men of Integrity, a publication of Christianity Today International (Tyndale, 2002), entry for April 11.

 

May 30, 2013 Do We Approach God Reverently?

Playing with Fire

Leviticus 10:1-7

Read

Aaron‘s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they disobeyed the LORD by burning before him the wrong kind of fire, different than he had commanded. So fire blazed forth from the LORD’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the LORD.

Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD meant when he said, ‘I will display my holiness through those who come near me. I will display my glory before all the people.'” And Aaron was silent.

Then Moses called for Mishael and Elzaphan, Aaron’s cousins, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel. He said to them, “Come forward and carry away the bodies of your relatives from in front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.” So they came forward and picked them up by their garments and carried them out of the camp, just as Moses had commanded. (Leviticus 10:1-5)

Reflect

What was the unauthorized fire that Nadab and Abihu offered before the Lord? The fire on the altar of burnt offering was never to go out (Leviticus 6:12-13), implying that it was holy. Perhaps Nadab and Abihu brought coals of fire to the altar from another source, making the sacrifice unholy. Another possibility is that the two priests gave an offering at an unprescribed time. Whatever the case was, the point is that Nadab and Abihu abused their positions as priests in a flagrant act of disregard for God, who had just reviewed with them precisely how they were to conduct worship. As leaders, they had special responsibility to obey God. In their position, they could easily lead many people astray. (Accountibility)

Aaron’s sons acted carelessly by not following the laws for sacrifices. In response, God destroyed them with a blast of fire. Performing the sacrifices was an act of obedience—doing them correctly showed respect for God. We can easily grow careless about obeying God and live our way instead of his. But if one way were just as good as another, God would not have commanded us to live his way. He always has good reasons for his commands, and we always place ourselves in danger when we consciously or carelessly disobey them.

Respond

If God has commissioned you to lead or teach others, be sure to stay close to him and follow his advice. And no matter what position you have, ask God to help you remain faithful in your obedience.

EXCELLENT STUDY SOURCE FOR Leviticus:

http://www.messianic-torah-truth-seeker.org/Torah/Vayikra/leviticus.html

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May 30, 2013 God Brings Life Into All Matters

John 11:1-29

The Death of Lazarus

11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, â€œThis sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, â€œLet us go back to Judea.”

8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

9 Jesus answered, â€œAre there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, â€œOur friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, â€œLazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, â€œYour brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, â€œI am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.