We Dare Not Trust Ourselves… (Packer)

knowing god j i packer cover image

Here’s an excellent devotional thought for today. It’s from one of my favorites: Knowing God by J. I. Packer.

What is the purpose of grace? Primarily, to restore man’s relationship with God. …Grace is God drawing sinners closer and closer to Himself.

How does God in grace prosecute this purpose? Not by shielding us from assault by the world, the flesh, and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstances, nor yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology; but rather by exposing us to all these things, so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy, and to drive us to cling to Him more closely.

This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another—it is to ensure that we shall learn to hold Him fast. The reason why the Bible spends so much of its time reiterating that God is a strong rock, a firm defense, and a sure refuge and help for the weak is that God spends so much of his time showing us that we are weak, both mentally and morally, and dare not trust ourselves to find or follow the right road. When we walk along a clear road feeling fine, and someone takes our arm to help us, likely we would impatiently shake him off; but when we are caught in rough country in the dark, with a storm brewing and our strength spent, and someone takes our arm to help us, we would thankfully lean on him. And God wants us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn thankfully to lean on Him. Therefore He takes steps to drive us out of self-confidence to trust in Himself — in the classic scriptural phrase for the secret of the godly man’s life — to “wait on the Lord.”

J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 227.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

God is My Fortress, My Strength, and My Help (Boice)

Psalms, 3 Volumes (Boice Expositional) Boice, James Montgomery cover image

Most of us know well the opening words of Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.  Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas…” (Ps. 46:1-2 CSB). This is an awesome Psalm to memorize for comfort, strength, and courage as we face various trials and crosses in our Christian lives. I appreciate James Montgomery Boice’s comments on these words:

Verse 1 looks to God for two kinds of help, indicating that he is: (1) a stronghold into which we can flee and (2) a source of inner strength by which we can face calamities. Sometimes God shields us from what is going on around us and it can be said of us, quoting the later psalmist, “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked” (Ps. 91:7–8). In such times God is our fortress.

At other times we are afflicted and do suffer. Then we find that God is our help. We are able to say, “God is my strength, my ever-present help in trouble.”

God is our help even if the worst imaginable calamities should come upon us. This is what verses 2–3 are about, as the psalmist imagines the return of chaos, in which the “earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,” thus reversing the work of God on the third day of creation. Sometimes life is like that. The foundations of our established worlds are shaken, and chaos seems to have come again.

I seldom read these verses without thinking of Elisabeth Elliot. She suffered the loss of two husbands. The first, Jim Elliot, was killed by Auca Indians in Ecuador while trying to reach them with the gospel. The second, Addison Leitch, was slowly consumed by cancer. In relating what these experiences were like, she referred to this psalm, saying that in the first shock of death “everything that has seemed most dependable has given way. Mountains are falling, earth is reeling. In such a time it is a profound comfort to know that although all things seem to be shaken, one thing is not: God is not shaken.” She added that the thing that is most needful is to do what the psalmist does later, to “be still” and know that God is God. God is God whether we recognize it or not. But it comforts us and infuses strength into our faltering spirits to rest on that truth.

The above quote is found in  James Montgomery Boice, Psalms 42–106: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 389.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Music Monday: All Thou Art Is Mine (Toplady)

On this edition of Music Monday, I want to share Augustus Toplady’s hymn called “Divine Aid.” I didn’t have time this morning to find a tune that fits – although I’m sure they’re out there. Anyway, here’s the wonderful hymn. May it give you Christian comfort and hope today!

1 The power of hell, the strength of sin,
My Jesus shall subdue:
His healing blood shall wash me clean,
And make my spirit new.

2 He will perform the work begun,
Jesus, the sinner’s friend;
Jesus, the lover of his own,
Will love me to the end

3 No longer am I now afraid,
The promise shall take place,
Perfect his strength in weakness made:
Sufficient is his grace.

4 When thou dost in my heart appear,
And love erects its throne;
I then enjoy salvation here,
And heaven on earth begun.

5 Lord, I believe and rest secure,
In confidence divine;
Thy promise stands for ever sure,
And all thou art is mine.

Augustus M. Toplady, The Works of Augustus M. Toplady, vol. 6 (London; Edinburgh: William Baynes and Son; H. S. Baynes, 1825), 417.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Much We Need Thy Tender Care (Brooks)

Works of Thomas Brooks (6 Volumes)

We know that God cares for his people. We’re called to cast all our anxieties on the Lord, because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). He’s mindful of his children (Ps. 40:6). It’s very clear throughout Scripture that the children of God are cared for!

In his booklet “A Heavenly Cordial”, Thomas Brooks gave a brief but detailed explanation of God’s care for us. Here it is (edited slightly for length and readability).

God’s care …

Is an extensive care, a care that reaches, that extends itself to all the saints, whether rich or poor, high or low, slave or free, etc. 2 Chr.16:9, Zech. 1:10,11.

Is an intensive or earnest care: he cares for all as if he had but one to care for (Zech. 1:14).

Is a pleasant and delightful care (Is. 31:5) and not a wearying, tearing, tormenting care. It is such a pleasant care as an indulgent father exercises towards a son, an only son, a son that serves him (Mal. 3:17).

Is an effectual, prosperous, and successful care, a flourishing care. Men many times rise early and go to bed late and take a great deal of care at home and abroad, with nothing to show for it. But the care of God is always successful (Dt. 11:12).

Is a singular, peculiar care. God cares more for them than he does for all the world besides. The father’s care over the child is a peculiar care, and so is the Lord’s care over his people a peculiar care. God’s general care extends to the whole creation, but his special care centers on his saints (Zeph. 3:16-20, Ps 36:6).

It is a very tender care. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arms and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” Is. 40:11.

It is an abiding care, a lasting care. “They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever” (Ps. 125:1, 2). “He that keeps you will not slumber” (Ps. 121:3, 4). …This constant care of God over his people was signified by these two types, the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud that did not leave Israel until they were in possession of the land of Canaan, which was a type of heaven.

It is an active care, a care in which the Lord actively preserves his people, protects them, makes provision for them, stands by them, and so on. God surrounds his people with care. He is on their left and on their right, in front of them and behind them.

You can find this discussion on page 420-421 of Thomas Brooks’ Works, volume 6.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

High-minded Self-sufficiency (Kuyper)

 Here’s another great excerpt from Abraham Kuyper’s devotional, To Be Near Unto God:

High-minded self-sufficiency is the canker which gnaws at the root of all religion. It is the futile dream of a little, insignificant world, of which self is the great center, whose mind understands everything, whose will controls everything, whose money can buy everything, and whose power carries everything before it. This makes self a miniature god in a little temple. In this sinful isolation one is, of necessity, icy cold, frozen away from the living God and unfit to dwell under the shadow of his wings.

If in all honesty we can say: Such is not my case, because I feel my dependence, my lack of strength and my utter helplessness, then that we might have fellowship with God, we must unlearn our sinful leaning on people. We need not necessarily cut ourselves loose from every one. Far from it. The faith of another strengthens ours. The courage of another shames us out of cowardice. The example set by another can double our strength. We are disposed to society both in matters of life and belief. But we must give up all sinful dependence upon others. Dependence that takes a man for more than an instrument appointed of God for our help, as long as he allows it, is sinful. We must not build on man, in order when human help fails to turn to the Divine. Our help must always be from God, whether power to save springs from ourselves or comes to us from without. Even in this way, that when at length all human help fails, nothing is lost. For the unchangeable God always remains the same.

 Kuyper, A. (1918). To Be Near unto God (pp. 78–79). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans-Sevensma Co.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002