Book Reviews for March 2018

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“Might in the Scriptures: A Memoir of Adolph Saphir, D.D.” by Gavin Carlyle was published in 1893, and is the only published biography of Saphir to my knowledge. You may be able to find an antique copy of it on Ebay or elsewhere, and other versions of it are readily available online.

It is 475 pages long and well over a hundred years old, so unless you’re interested already in Saphir or in the issues surrounding his life and ministry, it may seem like too much for you to get through.

However, I would encourage you to take it up.

Adolph Saphir (1831-1891) is unfortunately not well known in most Christian circles today. In his day, especially in England, he was a well-known Presbyterian pastor, preacher and author. His contemporary fellow London-pastor and friend Charles Spurgeon called him “the godly Saphir,” “the Biblical student, the lover of the Word, the lover of the God of Israel.” He was also a close friend of the famed Jewish-Christian author Alfred Edersheim.

Saphir was esteemed by the Church in his day as a true man of God, a kind of modern “Apollos”—- both brilliant and eloquent, and marked by “the sacred anointing” of the Holy Spirit. His preaching was a demonstration of Lloyd-Jones’ oft-quoted phrase: “logic on fire.”

He was born-again in 1843 (along with his father) through the ministry of the Jewish Mission of the Church of Scotland (of which McCheyne was a chief leader). He served the Lord faithfully in various contexts, through several pastorates, and in a host of church/missions conference settings. This he did through much trial, through much sickness, and with a sporadic but long-term bout with anxiety and depression. We can learn much from his teachings and his life, as well as from the fruit of his ministry and the conflicts he endured. This book contains a rich selection from his teachings, books and letters, and a thorough survey of his life.

After almost 50 years of service to the Lord, in 1891, he and his wife were taken ill with influenza and bronchitis (on top of his long-term battle with typhoid fever). She died on April 1st, and he passed into eternity on April 4th, after suffering from angina-pectoris. Physicians said that he literally died of a broken heart, which highlights the deep and precious relationship that he had with his wife Sara. His last words were from the Scriptures, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness.”

Most of his books are available online either as antique copies, facsimile reprints, or in digital format in one place or another. I highly recommend reading them all. In my judgment, no man outside of the Scriptures had a better grasp of the mysteries of the faith, the glory of the Gospel, the authority and beauty of the Bible, the importance of the Church, the Person and work of Christ, and the issue of Israel as it pertains to the history of faith, and the eschatological testimony of the Biblical prophets. He had flaws as all men do, but I would argue that few men understood and proclaimed “the whole counsel of God” as he did.

I’ve been gleaning from Adolph Saphir’s books since 2001, when another Jewish believer and friend named Art Katz (1929-2007) recommended them to me. They have been a consistent source of encouragement, conviction, and biblical grounding in my life ever since.

It was a real joy finally to read in such great detail the life behind the writings/expositions, and I commend it to you.

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This little book by Douglas Wilson (95 pages) is a dynamite stick of practical wisdom for parents and children alike. It especially highlights the father’s responsibility and role in raising his sons to pursue a woman according to Scripture, raising his daughters to honor God with their lives, and preparing them to be grounded in terms of what kind of man they ought to be eager to enter into covenant with— and what their father’s place is in that pilgrimage.

I cannot recommend it enough. I finished it with tears. Tears of regret (wishing I had read it and put its truth into practice when my children were young), tears of joy (which resulted from newfound clarity), and tears of hope for the future of my children and grandchildren.

I don’t believe I’m exaggerating when I say that the Biblical wisdom in this book, and the helpful teaching which accompanied it, have been used of the Lord to change the way I think about fatherhood, parenting, marriage, and courtship. What a gift to the church. You should get a hold of it, and imbibe it.

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This 144-page book on biblical eldership was excellent. I so appreciate the brothers at 9 Marks and the good work they’ve put their shoulders to for the sake of the Church.

This book continues that precious work. Up until now, I’ve recommended Strauch’s “Biblical Eldership” as the best book on the subject, and it’s still must reading, in my opinion. But this newer work by Rinne may have become my first recommendation. It’s readable, convicting, encouraging, and clear.

I’ve served as an elder in a few local churches for about 15 years (and read or listened to many books and teachings on eldership), and I found myself freshly convicted and helped by what’s laid out in this book. If you’re an aspiring elder, currently serving as an elder, or would like to understand eldership better as a member of your church, this book will be an invaluable resource for you.

Man’s Fable Pulverized: An Easter Poem

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Life? Pitch blackness. A labyrinth, spark-less,

Lungs expand & contract, breathing in and out darkness;

All men beleaguered, bruised reeds, battered race,

Enmeshed in sin, culpable, Oh, grave dwelling place.

———————-

Meaning? We look for it, examining our past,

Sands of time, waters of hope, slip from our grasp.

Rusty toys, tools, and philosophies pacify;

We purpose-less ones tread on, we dissatisfied.

———————–

Stability? We forge veneers for our bodies of death;

Offering up cheers, hollow, vague, half-breathed,

Self-acclaimed masters of fate, yet so mastered;

By time which keeps marching, marching every day faster.

————————-

Truth? It’s a stranger to us, though presumption,

Compels us to claim and voice it, with gumption;

But our truth is spineless, with no heart, no splendor,

It’s relative, combustible, consumed as mere tinder.

————————–

Beauty? For us, it’s a thing double-blurry,

Our objects are fading, our sight plagued by hurry;

We squint to behold it in all the world’s wonders,

Which do briefly thrill, but still leave hearts asunder.

—————————-

All we like sheep have gone so far astray,

All we like fools have not numbered our days;

All we like the Serpent have coveted a throne,

All we like ruptured cisterns, unknown fractured stones.

All we like insecure kings craving honor,

All we like orphans, disoriented we wander;

All we like convicts, trampling Heaven’s Law,

All we like narcissists, with no God-ward awe.

All we like cowards, saving face, loving self,

All we appearing honest, but liars in stealth;

All we like tight-fisted consumers have grappled,

To preserve our great fable, our gold-plated shackles.

————————-

What then could mend this great tear in our souls?

What could make clean, make full, make whole?

What defines life, grants meaning, makes stable,

In real truth and beauty, capsizing the fable?

Gethsemane.

There in the garden One Man was betrayed,

He shouldered our malaise, and with bleeding pores prayed,

From loud cries and tears He emerged resolutely,

Knowing, feeling the cost of Redemption acutely.

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Then kissed by a fable-lover, one not unlike us,

Who treasured not Christ, but preferred money-lust;

The Servant-King was bound by the chains we procured,

His back whipped to ribbons, thorn-crowned, He endured.

Golgotha.

He ascended the Hill, the Place of a Skull,

Where spiked to the Tree He would taste wine & gall;

It was bitter, though not nearly as harsh or sour,

As the wrath He would meet with in that holy hour.

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The Messiah of Israel mocked by His kinsmen,

He was clothed with the blood of Atonement, red crimson;

While Rome’s soldiers watched over Him blind-hearted,

Incapable of seeing sin’s sea being parted.

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Only this God-Man could raise this cup well,

Only this Lamb could confront powers of hell;

Only this Mediator could bear sin and death,

He drank down the cup, and surrendered last breath.

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“It is finished!”, He had cried, Oh, ineffable finish,

The fable we’d lived in and loved, now diminished;

The fountain now opened, decisively, surely,

The sweet tide of mercy, surged powerfully and purely.

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Love vast as oceans and skies and all heavens,

Our sins, pulverized, even seventy times seven;

Fears, ills, and wants now eclipsed by His face,

Our orphan-state? Erased. Our offense? Not a trace.

——————————–

As saving blood dried on Golgotha’s dark slope,

As Pharisees gasped at the veil rent by hope,

Bewildered disciples hid in their inner-rooms,

Their warm-hearted Master now cold, still, entombed.

Resurrection Day.

And then, at the Father’s command angels stirred,

The seal broke apart, the stone rolled at His Word;

Indestructible life then warmed the frame,

Of God’s precious Son, the Lamb who was slain.

—————————

He rose once-for-all from the throes of the grave,

To make friends from foes, to make sons from slaves;

Once delivered to death for the sin of all nations,

Once raised in power for our justification.

—————————–

He crushed death to purchase dead men from all tribes,

Silenced the accuser’s feverish diatribe;

For this Man of sorrows had joy set before Him,

To ransom the many, to cleanse and restore them.

——————————-

He lives! He speaks! Let proud hearts be baffled,

The mystery’s plain-written, the fable’s unraveled;

Let those who believe Him, with joyful hearts burning,

Make haste to proclaim Him, until His returning. ——-

 

He came. He spoke. He died. He Rose. He ascended. He is coming. He is worthy.

Amen and amen.

-by B.A. Purtle

Good Friday by George Herbert

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Good Friday by George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633)

O my chief good,
How shall I measure out thy blood?
How shall I count what thee befell,
And each grief tell?

Shall I thy woes
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one star show’d thy first breath,
Shall all thy death?

Or shall each leaf,
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief?
Or cannot leaves, but fruit, be sign,
Of the true vine?

Then let each hour
Of my whole life one grief devour;
That thy distress through all may run,
And be my sun.

Or rather let
My several sins their sorrows get;
That as each beast his cure doth know,
Each sin may so.

Since blood is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloody fight;
My heart hath store; write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sin:

That when sin spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sin may say,
No room for me, and fly away.

Sin being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sin take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.

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Book Reviews for February 2018

Here are the books I read for February. I read a few I didn’t intend to read, and left off reading Baxter’s “Reformed Pastor” and the new release “Reading Paul with the Reformers.” I aim to get to those later. Here are some brief reviews on the ones I went through.

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Iain Murray’s “J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone” (Banner of Truth 2016) is very much worth reading. With the appendices it comes to 259 pages, and is valuable in my estimation for these reasons:

1. There aren’t many bio’s of Ryle available, so to get a glimpse into the life and thought of a man so precious in Church history is an invaluable blessing.
2. This is probably the best reason: It is well-laced with quotations and clips from Ryle’s body of writing, along with other sources. There is, indeed, little better outside of Scripture for robust, clear, powerful teaching than that which came to us through Bishop Ryle.
3. For those interested in the history and future of the Church of England, it provides a unique perspective, especially regarding the condition of Churchmen in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It raises questions about the history and future of Anglicanism, and much of this is beneficial for evangelical believers in any context.
4. Murray’s overview of the strengths and weaknesses of Mr. Ryle is inspiring to faith and godliness, as well as instructive for ministers (and believers in general) with regard to pitfalls we ought to watch for.
5. It leaves one with a stamp of jealousy for a faithful clinging to Scripture in the face of unbiblical expressions of Christianity. This jealousy for God, the Word, and the Church characterized Ryle’s life resplendently. He was indeed a “man of granite with the heart of a child,” unflinching and unswerving with regard to the truths of Scripture, but largely charitable and patient, even with those who spoke ill of him for being so “archaic” and “puritanical.”

The one weakness I would note, and others may count it a strength, is that the amount of material covering issues pertaining to the Church of England, the ecclesiological and political wrestlings it experienced, were to me a bit overwhelming and made for less-than-interesting reading, at least for those segments of the book. These details will be of great value to some, particularly to those interested in the finer details in the history of Anglican polity. Perhaps that will be of greater interest to me in the future.

For me, much of it became information that I was simply eager to get through so that I could get to what I felt was the real meat of the story, and to Ryle’s own words, which were almost entirely crisp, convicting, faith-building, and practical.

Again, others will likely be helped greatly by details that seemed to me superfluous. In this season of my life, they are the least desirable aspect of the book as far as a solid edifying read is concerned. That said, even in those portions valuable thoughts are given and important questions are asked that the reader may dwell on to much profit.

J.C. Ryle loved the Church of England and was a faithful churchman in her midst until his dying day. But he did go to his grave with outstanding concerns for her future, which the book does well to convey.

Along with the history of his many engagements with the wider Church of England, it is remarkable to see the fruit that was born through the writing of his tracts and books, through his preaching ministry, through his investment in global missions, and maybe especially in the truly pastoral convictions he carried in terms of praying for and shepherding the flock of God on a personal level. This he instilled in the ministers he trained and mentored, and it is sadly a rarity in many Christian contexts. We need a recovery of it today, and Ryle’s example may help us along in that.

One of the most saddening parts of Ryle’s story was the unfolding of his son Herbert’s increasingly modernist views of Scripture and Church. The 2nd appendix lays this out well (along with other portions of previous chapters), and it leaves us with a longing to do all that we can in prayer, exhortation, tenderness, and faith, to deliver to our sons and daughters, in word and deed, the same faith which was handed down to us from the apostles of old.

Overall, the book was excellently written, edifying, informative, and challenging. So many of Murray’s thoughts and exhortations, which are sandwiched between quotes and footnotes, are very worthy of prayerful consideration and response as well.

For these reasons, I would encourage you to read this book. May the Lord use it to help us along in His plan to make of us a people “Prepared to Stand Alone” in the midst of a wavering generation, content with “jellyfish” theology, pragmatic ministry innovations, and that ever-present itch to appeal to humanistic views of truth and justice, an itch which plagues every nation today. This book will help to steel-ify your spiritual spine as you seek to give witness to the crucified Lamb, Who “was, and is, and is to come.”

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Spurgeon’s classic work, “Lectures to My Students” was a real joy to me. I’ve recommended it to aspiring pastors and missionaries for a few decades, but I’m slightly embarrassed to say that while I had read significant portions of the book, maybe amounting to half of it, I had never been through it from start to finish until now.

Now that I have, I can recommend it all the more heartily. It is chock-full of spiritual and practical wisdom, mini-expositions of passages, and a great wealth of pointed exhortations which flow from the well-spring of Spurgeon’s own experience as a man, a pastor, and a preacher.

It could well be called Spurgeon’s “Lectures on Preaching”, as more than half of it in my estimation addresses issues pertaining to the proclamation of the word. He is not bound by rigid definitions of exposition, but he cherishes exposition as central to preaching. He offers helpful thoughts on extemporaneous preaching, different ways in which we should give ourselves to study and prayer, and even the practical elements of how to train and use our voices and how not to use our voices.

One of the refreshing things about the book is how consistently it is laced with a godly kind of humour (pardon the British spelling). I found myself belly laughing on several occasions. It is not the kind of trite or cheap humor modern Americans might be accustomed to. It is what I’ll call a serious and profitable humor, which leaves the Christian preacher with a sense of how foolish much of our thinking is, and how we ought not to position ourselves to fall into the categories Charles often uses as the butt of his jokes. It is helpful humor, like unto the kind that Jesus sometimes uses in the Gospels.

Sometimes Spurgeon offers lengthy counsel that flows from his opinions, and as in all books, it is to be weighed with Scripture.

All in all, for a pointed, biblical, readable, practical, convicting, encouraging book on what it means to be a Christian, a preacher, and a pastor, this book should be in our top five, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful gift to every churchman.

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Adolph Saphir’s “Christ and the Church: Thoughts On the Apostolic Commission” is a wonderful read. I’ve never been let down by Saphir (I think he’s my favorite author), and this book was no exception to that experience.

As any book on the Church should, he spends the early parts (first 2 chapters) giving expression to the glories of Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of the Church. Few men have so poignantly and doxologically given articulation to the person and work of Christ, and as in his other books, he does this masterfully in “Christ and the Church”. Like Paul, Saphir would not have us to think that the Church is built upon itself (“we preach not ourselves…”, but rather upon the foundation which has already been laid, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

He goes on to give expression to the phenomenon of the people of God in the Old Testament, how central the Name of God was to their existence and faith, and how this becomes yet more concentrated when the Name of Jesus is revealed to and declared through “the church which is His body.”

His work on the obedience of faith in the New Covenant community is exceptional, and there are valuable and rare ecclesiological points made in the subsequent chapters.

All in all, for a baptism in Christ-centered faith, leadership and church-life, this book is to be highly recommended. Upon my rather small platform of influence, I’m happy to say as I have for years, “By all means, get Saphir in your library!” He is too little known, and would be of help to all who desire to know and please the God of Israel.

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This book on E.M. Bounds by Lyle Dorsett (also the author of a great bio on Tozer, among others) was very good. To be honest, I went through this one much quicker than I would’ve liked, so I didn’t retain what I could’ve. I’d like to go through it again in the future.

I am among the thousands of believers who have benefited greatly from Bounds’ writings on prayer, and I was eager to learn more about the man who wrote so powerfully, especially on that subject.

Dorsett does a fine job of surveying his life and giving us a glimpse into the experience of this remarkable man. One of the surprising details of the story is his involvement in the Civil War, which will be as much of a moral wrestling match to some readers as it was for Bounds.

I recommend you checking this book out. You’ll be enlightened as to Bounds’ life, and even better, you’ll be encouraged and challenged as a disciple by his example and words.

The Only Foundation of True Ministry

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The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. || Luke 10.17-20

In this remarkable passage we have one of the most Gospel-centric statements in the whole of the Gospels. It speaks to the bedrock issue of our identity in the Atonement. It behooves us to pay it mind, and to think about its implications in our day-to-day lives, and in the ministry to which we give ourselves.

The Lord of the harvest had sent out 72 of His disciples at the beginning of the chapter. He articulated the greatness of the need in Gospel missions, the ripeness of the harvest fields, and He bemoaned the fewness of the laborers, leaving us with the charge to pray for the raising up and sending forth of workers. Then He sent these disciples to proclaim the Gospel and to drive out demons in the towns to which they would go.

The 72 “returned with joy,” declaring that demons were subdued and driven out in the Name of Jesus. There was legitimate joy in their hearts, the joy of being vessels in the carrying out of the works of God’s Kingdom. Yet, the Lord of the harvest gives them a startling response, one which ought to be central to our consciousness as those laboring in Gospel mission, but one which, like these 72, is often lacking in the consciousness of who we are as His servants.

According to Jesus, they were not to rejoice mainly in the works that were wrought through them, but rather to rejoice in the glory of their adoption as sons— as those whose names had been written by God in heaven.

Robert Stein, in his commentary on Luke, speaks to the meaning of the Lord’s exhortation:

This picks up the “joy” of Luke 10:17 and points out that their true joy should arise not from missionary accomplishments but from their eternal salvation.
….

That your names are written in heaven. This metaphor for eternal salvation is found in the OT, the intertestamental literature, and the NT. “Are written” is a divine passive meaning God has written your names in heaven.

[Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24, p. 310). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.]

I want to say that it is indeed “upon this rock” that the Lord means to “build His church,” and only upon this rock-solid foundation will the “gates of Hades” be incapable of “prevailing” against Her.

It should be obvious to the child of God that this present world system, with all its sinful allurements, should no longer be accepted as part of our identity. We are to “reckon” ourselves “dead to sin, and alive in Christ,” and no clearly-thinking Christian would claim that a life given over to sin befits the life of discipleship. We will be battling our own sin until the Day of the Lord comes, but we are battling it because it doesn’t define us any longer. We are disciples, learning to crucify the world in our hearts, and to walk in the way of the Master. This should be clear to us.

Less clear, often, is the fact that we ought to be battling against our tendency to interweave the good things (even things so good as driving out demons in Jesus’ Name, or being engaged in various forms of ministry) with our identity at the root-level. Bearing fruit in ministry is a great cause for rejoicing, but if it is the primary ground of rejoicing, something has been twisted in our understanding of the faith.

Jesus said not to give primacy to the works that are being wrought through us, but rather to rejoice at the deepest level in eternal salvation; that is to say, that we have become sons and daughters of God through the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Here is a simple way to think about it, one which is so simple that I’ve taught it to my children.

Our identity in the Gospel has vertical and horizontal implications.

Vertically, as we look unto Christ, our root-identity has become that of “sons” and “daughters” of God. Horizontally, our root-identity has become that of “brothers” and “sisters” in the family that we’ve been adopted into.

The Scriptures are so thickly threaded with this truth that I haven’t the time to recite all the verses that speak to us along these lines.

Suffice it to say, whatever I may be engaged in with regard to ministry, even God-given ministries that are biblical and line up with my own unique giftings, they will all become distortions if I am not living as a son in the vertical sense, and as a brother in the horizontal sense.

This puts the Gospel-premium on my relationship to the Father through Christ, and my relationship to the church through Christ.

Therefore, the evidence of my failure to “rejoice” that my name is “written in heaven” will show itself by prayerlessness, neglect of Bible-reading, a disregard for the many commands of Scripture pertaining to life and godliness, and the neglect of healthy relationship within a local Church. I cannot be truly rejoicing in the Gospel if these things are neglected, for they are evidence of the fact that I am no longer seeing myself as a son who walks circumspectly before the Father, and a brother who walks closely with the family of God. Without this reality, there is no stamp of God’s blessing upon my ministry, as a missionary, a pastor, a theologian, or any other role.

I cease to see God as my Source through the Gospel when I neglect communion with Him, and fellowship with His people. I begin to see my “calling” as a preacher, a writer, a church-planter, a worship-leader, a missionary, ministry director, or whatever it may be, as being superior to my grace-given calling as a son before God, and a brother to the saints.

Being a Gospel-grounded son infuses me with the grace of Christ, and being a brother in the context of the life of church keeps me footed on the self-same foundation, and guards me from deception. Yes, even from deceptive ways of doing all sorts of ministry.

Variegated kinds of destructive things have occurred in the name of ministry where these foundations are lacking. That’s because the Lord of the harvest never called his people to do things in the “name of ministry,” but rather in the “Name of Christ,” on the foundational truth that our names have been written in Heaven on the basis of the Atonement. Moral collapses, doctrinal deviations, and misrepresentations of church and mission have issued from the want of this reality.

We are simply not living as disciples of Jesus when our ministries take the preeminent place in our souls.

When there is a fracture in the vertical life-line of sonship, we can literally do nothing aright, for “apart from Me you can do nothing.”

When there is a fracture in the horizontal life-line of brotherhood, even the noblest of ministries become a distortion, for the Lord means to “build” His “church”, not merely to perform a litany of detached and multi-faceted works, however much we might seek to establish them in His Name. Nothing can be established in the Name of the Head in the neglect of His Body. Perhaps the most deceptive form of this neglect of the church is when we bear every kind of ecclesiological language (the priesthood of all believers, biblical eldership, Gospel-centric fellowship), but lack the corresponding reality which belongs to those precious truths. We may, even as the Pharisees of old, have an intensive focus on the truths of Scripture, while being devoid of the grace and life from which those truths ought to find their issuance. We may honor the Head with our lips while our hearts are far from Him, and this is something which we need to be on most diligent guard against.

The Head cannot be detached from the Body. If our works are not building His church, neither are they truly exalting the Head. If we are not experiencing life as members in His Body, neither are we experiencing life as it issues from the Head. When the vertical and horizontal fruits of our belonging to Christ are lacking or being circumvented, we are swimming in sub-apostolic  waters, and sharks abound therein.

So what can be said of your works, saints? Are you rejoicing that demons are subject to you; that your sermon was hailed as great; that the missions work is expanding and doing much good; that your writings are being heralded as ground-breaking; that your theology is ship-shape and confirmed as orthodox by men you esteem; the list goes on. Many of these things, if not all, could either be an expression of God truly bearing fruit in your life, or an expression of that you have become one who is operating in deception.

The question is, are you vitally related to God through your adoption as a son, and are you vitally related to the local church for the ongoing growth of a true rejoicing in the eternal salvation that has come to you in Christ?

Are you living, thinking, praying and laboring as a purchased son? Do the Christians around you truly know you as a brother— in accountability, vulnerability, and godly responsibility in their midst? Or are you more known by your particular gifting or position in the world or in ministry? If the latter, you are standing upon a faulty foundation, however fruitful your ministry may appear to be, with all of its calculated external characteristics. A ministry of that kind may be alive by way of reputation, but God will only reward finally what has been wrought by His Spirit and carried out in accordance with His Word. Jesus would have none of this for the 72, and He will have none of it for us. His love for us is too great and too true to permit it.

No wonder that the most fruitful of apostles in Church history “determined to know nothing among” the saints “except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” He wanted their identity to be founded upon and issuing from the only faithful and immutable foundation. He was eager to preach the Gospel to the sinners and saints, for only in the Atonement can the saints receive and enjoy the familial identity of sons and daughters before God, and brothers and sisters in His family.

Look at your life and ministry in light of the exhortation that Jesus gave the 72. Find and tear out the threads of inferior rejoicing that you’ve permitted to define your identity and drive your decisions and ambitions. Let the cross of Christ bring you to the place Paul boasted in, that cross “by which the world has been crucified to me, and I have been crucified to the world.”

Your joy will be fuller and fuller as you grow in an identity of sonship, and share intimately as brothers and sisters in the grace and truth of the Gospel with “the church, which is His Body.” On this foundation He means to build His church in the nations, and by His zeal He will accomplish this. May we be found in the company of souls who know the preciousness of this truth, carrying out His work upon the only true foundation of life and ministry.

But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. || John 1.12-13

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Let love of the brethren continue. || Heb. 13.1

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Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass,

and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you. || 1 Pet. 1.17-25

Israel, the Church, and the End of the Age: An Eschatology Seminar

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Greetings, saints.

We have an upcoming eschatology seminar which will take place on four consecutive Sunday evenings at Bellicose Church.

Here are the dates (and subjects to be addressed), times, and the location:

Dates:

November 12th:

“Unto All Who Love His Appearing”: Why Eschatology is Not a Peripheral Issue, but Is Central to the Faith

November 19th

Covenant Pre-Millennialism: A Christ-Riveted, Pre-Millennial, Post-Tribulational, Gospel-Grounded, Israel-Focused, Godliness-Nurturing, Prayer-Stoking, Missions-Inducing, Joy-Increasing, Church-Engaging View of the End of the Age (I aim in this session to give an overview of what I believe to be the harmonious testimony of Scripture with regard to the consummation of the age and the summing up of all things in Jesus Christ.)

November 26th

“Look At the Nation Israel”: The Meaning of Israel, the Theology of Israel, the Crisis of Israel, and the Glorious Destiny of Israel

December 3rd

“What Sort of People Ought You to Be?”: The Character and Role of the Church in the Eschatology of Both Testaments

Time:

7:00 P.M. (all sessions)

Location:

Bellicose Church
207 Westport Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64111

All are welcome. Invite as many friends as you’d like. The doors will open at 6:45 P.M. Coffee and other beverages will be available. Childcare will also be available, space permitting.

We’ll begin promptly at 7:00 P.M. with a hymn, followed by a teaching and a Q & A session with myself and Brandon Quezada. The sessions will be over at 9:00 P.M. (including the childcare), but I will stay longer for those who wish to spend a bit more time dialoguing and praying. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at bryanpurtle@mac.com.

I’m very much looking forward to opening the Word with you, saints. The old poet George Herbert gave us the wonderful line, “Bibles laid open, millions of surprises.” I’m praying that we will share in a rich and fruitful time together as we look to the One “Who was, and is, and is to come.” 

Affectionately,

BP

Treading Wisely Upon Wilderness Grounds

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Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. || Colossians 4.5-6

Paul issues a charge to the saints in Colossians 4 with regard to how we ought to carry ourselves in a world which “lies under the power of the evil one.”

Very simply, he tells us to “walk with wisdom toward outsiders.” Every believer needs to hear this exhortation. We are not to take lightly our goings and doings in the daily life of discipleship. We are regularly rubbing shoulders with “outsiders,” in our neighborhoods, as we’re running errands, meeting with blood-relatives, and in the natural cycles of employment and entertainment. Outsiders are everywhere about us, and we are to seek the Lord for “wisdom” as to how we see them and relate to them.

We are too casual about this, often seeing men only as a means to our immediate benefit, counting anything beyond utility as an inconvenience and hassle, and this reveals our lack of Godly wisdom. Too often the saints can be found mingling with the world and being stained by their garments, or swinging to the other pendulum-end by disregarding and avoiding them while we tend to our busy-headed life pursuits. The former dilutes and invalidates the brightness of our witness. The latter makes witness impossible, creating a kind of isolated Christian bubble, which ends up being un-Christian altogether.

Our lack of Godly wisdom in dealing with unbelievers has two root maladies which Paul addresses here, and he calls us to repent and reconfigure them, that we might become wise, seasoned with holy salt, and enabled to answer the labyrinth of worldly paradigms with the rock-solid truth of Jesus Himself. We live in a world that is languishing for want of truth, and only the redeemed of the Lord can address it rightly. Are we walking wisely, that we may do it?

The first root malady has to do with how we manage our time. Paul tells us to make “the best use of the time.” That is to say, we must “take every thought captive,” that every moment of the day might become a window through which the glory of Christ freely shines. We must establish the secret place of prayer and Scripture reading firstly, and secondly, we must learn the art of abiding in Christ throughout the day, and prioritizing all things rightly beneath the canopy of His rule. This will affect everything, from our theology, to our responsibility to the local church, to the ways in which we handle our finances, our families, our work ethic, and our management of all earthly pleasures (including food, entertainment, smart phones, etc.).

The second root malady he addresses is the manner of our speech. We are called to let our “speech always be gracious.” That is to say, we must learn to bridle our tongues, and bring them into submission to the Scriptures, and to the very Spirit of God Himself. There are times when we should be silent, and there are times when we should be speaking. Knowing how to discern these times, to be dependent on the Spirit and submitted to the Scriptures, will determine whether or not our speech is “seasoned with salt,” preserving in our hearts a love of the truth, and flavoring our words in such a way that men might “taste and see” the goodness of God in our conversations with them.

Only this kind of wise-walking amongst outsiders will equip us to “answer each person” in their respective mindsets and worldviews. Only this kind of gracious, salty living and speaking will bear ample witness to the crucified, resurrected, and soon-coming King.

Are you walking in this kind of wisdom, or are you neglecting the command to make the most of your schedule and to be careful about how you listen and speak to others? Your answer to this question may mean the difference between eternal life and eternal damnation for the “outsiders” around you. Indeed, it may mean the difference for your eternal destiny as well, for the child of God who is truly justified will find that his soul is on the road to being sanctified in these ways. If we refuse to grow in this, it may be that we do not belong to Christ at all— that we are “insiders” by way of reputation only, living cultural “Christian” lives which can only lead to the Lord’s fatal pronouncement, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.” We must “work out” our own salvation “with fear and trembling,” and as we do, we become vessels for the salvation of “the many” who otherwise could only be called “outsiders.”

This is our privilege and call. Let us be washed afresh and warmed anew in the grace and holiness of Christ, and give ourselves to the wise-walking which the apostle encourages. Thus may we constitute a “city on a hill” which cannot be “hidden.” One which faithfully casts Gospel-light upon “outsiders”, so that a “people dwelling in darkness” may see the “great light,” even Jesus Christ the Righteous. May we walk in this wisdom, and may it be said of our neighborhoods and cities, even of Israel and the nations, that “those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

Humble Teachableness Beneath the Canopy of Holy Fear

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Teach me Your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in Your truth;
    unite my heart to fear Your Name. || Ps. 86.11

Humble teachableness befits the true child of God. The children of the world cannot know it, indeed they wish not to know it, for a true knowledge of God’s ways requires the upending “me-firstism”, a total transition and reconfiguration of the man-centered life, until it is suffused with Divine grace and wisdom. “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

The people of the world do not care for enlightenment; they feel no pressing need for it; in all probability they have an instinctive feeling that if enlightened they would know a little more than they wish to know, that their newly acquired knowledge would interfere with their old habits and ways, and this is one reason why all spiritual teaching which goes beneath the surface is distasteful to the majority of men. They cannot bear to be brought into contact with God, in anything but a general way; the particulars of his character may not agree over well with the particulars of their lives! It is the fashion in the present day to talk of man’s enlightenment, and to represent human nature as upheaving under its load, as straining towards a knowledge of truth; such is not in reality the case, and whenever there is an effort in the mind untaught of the Spirit, it is directed towards God as the great moral and not as the great spiritual Being. A man untaught of the Holy Ghost may long to know a moral, he can never desire to know a spiritual Being. || John Hyatt, 1767-1826

To be teachable before God means to make ourselves willing for death; the suffocation of our pipe-dreams and strong-headed aspirations. It does mean a transformation of our moral choices, but the moral change is not the center of the exchange. The center of our becoming teachable is God Himself. It means a radical exchange of our glory for His. Our morals change not because of human preference or opinions, but because we “see the Lord, high and lifted up,” and as Hyatt declared, we are “brought into contact with God,” desiring to “know a spiritual Being.” This brings about not merely a tweaking or improving of our morals, but an exchange of all that we deem moral with the very morality or holiness of God.

“Teach me to know Your way.” The way matters because the “Your” precedes it. The majestic King is the One source and aim of sincere, humble teachableness. He is at once the Source:

Christ is our Way, Truth, and Life, because he is Man united to God, and is one substance with the Father. || Christopher Wordsworth.

There is no learning of His way or walking in His truth apart from the Gospel. Jesus justifies us in the immediate and sanctifies us over time. He “is Man united to God.”

The Psalmist did not merely want to agree theoretically with the truth of God, he wanted to “walk” in it, and this is crucial. His desire was that the very ways of God would permeate his very perspectives and actions. This was true orthodoxy wedded to orthopraxy, faith with works, worship with obedience, a heart “united to fear His Name” in all of life.

Do you possess this kind of humble teachableness, child of God? It is a most precious thing to live in this state of child-like circumspection before God. The same light that pierces and kills the pride of our own way is the light which warms our souls and brightens our vision of the narrow path of discipleship. It must be a daily cry for the pilgrim en route to eternal glories. The world, the flesh and the devil would have us to stand erectly in the deception of self-sufficiency and know-it-allness. The Spirit of truth leads us to humble teachableness, moment by moment, bowing again and again before the authority of His Word, panting and believing for the help of His power and grace.

Our aim then is not to walk in our own way, nor even merely to agree with His way as a category, but to “walk.” To “live, move, and have our being in Him.” 

A life lived outside of this kind of experience, despite even accurate credal affirmations, will be “distasteful to the majority of men,” for by nature we do not yearn for this kind of humble teachableness. We want to do it our way, as Frank Sinatra has so eloquently and devastatingly sung. But to cling to our way, even if we have a “reputation of being alive,” is to go from death to death, to be “double-minded and unstable in all our ways,” and the “end thereof is the way of destruction.” The Scriptures must be our guide along the way, and this applies not only to moral actions, but even to the manner of our ministry in the local church and in missions. Those who lack this kind of humble teachableness can only build works that will at the final Day be left in ashes.

Better to humble ourselves before the wise and gracious Judge, and to sink our souls into the prayer of the Psalmist. “Teach me Your way… that I may walk… Unite my heart to fear Your Name.”

Our hearts must be freed from the double-mindedness of seeking the variegated paths of the worldly. To live under the influence of the spirit of the age means to have a thousand paths before us, all of them wide and quite accessible, but leading ever and always to confusion, uncertainty, and godlessness. In fact, they lead to ill conditions precisely because they are godless, for the One True God is the ground of “righteousness, peace, and joy.” The one path of truth leads to holiness and assurance, and it cannot be traversed without the grace which teaches our hearts to fear God— “amazing grace”, as Newton put it.

Forsake your strong-headedness, your hardness of heart, your insistence to walk in your own way. By faith now look unto Christ, and pray that He would tie your heart in the firmly cinched knot of humble teachableness— that He would unite your heart to fear Him, to learn of His ways, and thereby to “walk in newness of life.”

In knots, to be loosed never,
Knit my heart to Thee forever,
That I to Thy Name may bear
Fearful love and loving fear.
—Francis Davison.

The Reciprocal Effect of Christ’s Wisdom in Marriage

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“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” || Eph. 5.25

“…let the wife see that she respects her husband.” || Eph. 5.33b

There is a reciprocal dynamic to be noted in Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5. In the “fearful and wonderful” creativity of God, men and women have been designed with certain impulses and capacities which complement one another, and they can only function healthily when the wisdom of Christ is the centrifugal force which compels them.

When Paul calls husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church,” he is charging the men to take up arms against “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” There is a cosmic war on, one which requires painstaking attention. In the main, he is calling men to die, that their wives might flourish in the grace and truth of God.

Douglas Wilson gives us help on defining the man’s role:

“Biblical manhood is the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility.”

When a married man (or a man aspiring to marriage) sees clearly that the Scriptures call him to a sacrificial kind of love, to gladly assuming the weight of responsibility in spiritual, relational, and practical headship, he is seeing clearly indeed. When he acts consistently upon this kind of clear seeing, he frees his wife up to flourish in her own role as woman abounding in the grace of God.

The children of God, whether we are aware of it or not, are right in the thick of the most ultimate and cosmic war; one which transcends, in intensity and longevity, all of the global and civil wars in the blood-drenched history of men. Our enemy has waged war against mankind since the garden of Eden, and he will be waging war until he is finally cast into the lake of fire. One of his chief aims is to blur and disfigure the unique intentions of God for men and women, and he’s making a devastating show of it in our day. We mustn’t be naive or casual about this. Our failure as men to assume responsibility, and to shoulder it gladly, is to our peril, and to the peril of our wives, our children, and our churches.

Christian men must strap up their boots daily and plant their feet at the front of the battle-line. It is our sacred privilege and call. This battle is on every day. Bullets and arrows are whizzing by, often striking our souls, and as much as we might seek vacations and retreats, the war carries on. Nothing gives the enemy cause for pause or hesitation. He is cutthroat from Eden to Eschaton, wholly engaged in a diabolical fury, with the aim of victory whatever the cost. He will not rest until marriages are destroyed, or he is destroyed. We must look then to the Captain of the hosts, for He is faithfully present in the battle, and He gives us all that we need in the war for “life and godliness.”

Men, our call is quite clear— to lead our wives spiritually—- by praying for them, praying with them, and teaching the Scriptures to them (and the children); to point them again and again to the Gospel, being quick to repent ourselves, and to glory in the grace of God; to gently and wisely shepherd them in their weaknesses, that they might be strengthened in their call as wives, mothers, and Titus 2 women in the church; to lead the way in disciplining and nurturing the children (the buck ought to stop with us, and the springs of wisdom ought to flow from us); to bear the primary brunt of work in providing for the family; to lead the way in decision making with regard to all matters, giving appropriate guidance to empower her areas of responsibility and authority, including the education of the children; to lead the way in managing finances and creating a responsible, generous culture in the home; to protecting and nurturing our wives in affection, establishing them more deeply in the love of God by lavishly giving God-centered praise to them, helping them to know that they are beautiful to us and to Him.

This is a tall order, indeed, and impossible order if we seek only to draw from natural means. But “nothing is impossible with God.” Through the grace of the Gospel, with the two-edged sword of Scripture, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul charges us to grow in this reality, and to gladly assume the responsibility of loving our wives in this Christ-riveted way.

In a complementary manner, Paul charges the women, “let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.”

As the helpmeet, the wife is charged joyfully to “submit” to her husband, and to see to it that she respects him. There is something glorious in this kind of godly submission. It is meant to image the very relationship of the church to Her Lord.

When a husband is wayward, or lapsing in his call to take up responsibility, there is nothing more likely to heap grace-infused coals upon his head and to awaken him to his role, than a quiet, peaceful, woman who is secure in God on the basis of the Gospel, and who trusts His sovereignty to bring about His purposes in the context of family.

When a wife is enabled by God to “respect” her husband, though there will always be areas in which he doesn’t deserve it, it has a positively reciprocal effect. Functioning in her role, she is used of God to quicken him towards a loving, sacrificially responsible kind of thinking and living.

If she puts all her hope in her husband, or if her eyes are not upon the Lord, she will resort to nagging, belittling and manipulating, and this kind of unfaithfulness to God often leads tragically to being unfaithful to her husband. The Holy Spirit knew what He was doing when he inspired Paul to issue that command, “respect your husband.”

Nothing could strike more at the root and essence of manhood and womanhood than the command for the man to “love,” and for the woman to “respect.” 

We all desire both love and respect, but there is something about these reciprocal commands which calls us to task profoundly. Paul wouldn’t have issued these commands if it were natural or easy for men to love and for women to respect. He was hitting a touchstone, tapping the bedrock of our malady as the children or Adam and Eve. Hearing and responding to these imperatives will daily require the graces of repentance and faith, both for the husband and for the wife.

When a Christian husband and wife obey the call to fulfill these charges from the apostle, they are reversing the primal curse that is resident within us all, the ruptured condition of sinful humanity. When a man in Christ loves his wife, even when she seems unlovable, the wisdom of the Cross is being demonstrated. When a woman in Christ respects her husband, even when he seems unworthy of respect, the Gospel is being magnified in the earth.

There is a positively reciprocal kind of God-glorifiying power at work in a couple of that kind, and the Lord means for this to image, most profoundly, the sacred union of Christ and the Church. With regard to the roles of husbands and wives, the one affects the other as the years go by, and from faith to faith, an imperfect but increasingly wonderful picture emerges, “to the praise of His glorious grace.”

Conversely, the failure of the husband or the wife to see and carry out their call in these regards has a negatively reciprocal effect on the other— it discourages love from a man and hinders respect from a woman.

In light of these things, what say you, men? Are you clinging to Christ and “gladly assuming sacrificial responsibility” for the good of your wife and the glory of God? Are you loving her in that way, day by day, moment by moment? The answer will be “no” if we’re honest, for none can do this perfectly. But the apostle doesn’t lower the bar for us. He calls us higher, even to the zenith of Christ’s own love for the Church. He calls us to die that we might love. We are charged with leading the way into the battle, bearing the bulk of the assault from the enemy’s firing line; laying down our lives for the woman with whom we’ve been covenantally conjoined. Will you answer your Master’s call today?

Wives, are you clinging to Christ, making Him your source and delight, and out of that place seeing to it that you “respect” your husband? All of your pulling, jerking, nit-picking, and pestering will not produce the man you so ideally hope for. But when you soak your soul in the Bible, hope in the Gospel, keep in step with the Spirit, and show him respect simply because you have heeded the call that God has given you as a wife, it will have a quickening effect on him, and point him to the only One who can refine and shape him as a man.

You can see, then, that the one role encourages the other, and Christ is the center and aim of it all.

So here we are, saints. Let us hear His Word afresh on these matters. Let us take up our crosses and gladly assume our positions in the battle. Our enemy is not our spouse. Our enemies are “the world, the flesh (our own flesh!), and the devil.” Every painstaking movement in the battle, every scar we bear from the war, will be worth it in the end. It will eventuate in our everlasting joy in God, and the hallowing of His Name in our homes, our neighborhoods, and out into the Nations.

Our strategy is clear enough. Let us follow in the train of our kind and unrelenting Captain. Let us advance with Him at the center. Let us advance, not against, but side by side with our spouses. Let us go to war.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” || Eph. 5.25

“…let the wife see that she respects her husband.” || v. 5.33b

“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” || v. 32

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” || vv. 15-16

 

An Intense & Unquenchable Hope

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“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them….” -Rev. 21.3

We need regularly to be reminded that the Kingdom of God is not some ethereal piece of imagination, but rather a concrete reality- indeed, it is the end and substance of all reality. The Day of the Lord is not an idea created by thoughtful authors who have fancied themselves by writing within the apocalyptic genre of literature, but an actual season at the end of this age, wherein God will bring about His desired consummation. “Believest thou this?”

The Kingdoms of this world will be toppled, the nations that have raged against Him will collapse, and the Son of God will literally return, treading the winepress in judgment, bringing deliverance to His people, and planting His feet on the Mount of Olives. He will set into motion a final millennial period, when the earth will be prepared for the conjoining of the New Heavens and the New Earth.

If we hold a cartoonish and symbolic view of what is to come, we rob ourselves of the foundational hunger and expectation that has driven the saints of all ages; namely, the hope that God Himself would again dwell amongst men, and that His glory would be known and His name heralded to the ends of the earth.

The Day of Yahweh has often been regarded as the very heart of the prophetic eschatology. Wherever it occurs in prophecy, the statements culminate in an allusion to Yahweh’s coming in person. -Gerhard Von Rad

When we feel the breeze, catch the fragrance of a flower, hear the rustle of leaves in the trees, or see the force of waves crashing upon the shore, let us be reminded that the Day is coming when“the glory of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea,” when every portion of the cosmos will be warmed by the light of His countenance. We do not walk upon aimless ground. Our lives are not random and meaningless ventures. God Himself is coming to claim the entire created order and to set it aright, and we have the great privilege of leaning hard into the reality of His love and holiness, even before the Day of the Lord comes in full and uninhibited Divine revelation.

We have been touched by His mercy, and have therefore been touched by His reality. In that Day, we shall not only be touched, but submerged and consumed in the reality of the glorious God, “who was, and is, and is to come.”

The Bible stirs up an intense and unquenchable hope that an age of time is coming on this earth, inconceivably wonderful, when all that we have ever dreamed will fade into silly fancies beside the reality. -Oswald Chambers

Let us taste the powers of the age to come, and walk in this age with the light of His countenance resting upon our souls, until the Day when Jesus Christ shall be all in all!