Well Supplied

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), who wrote  such beloved hymns as “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Joy to the World,” also wrote hundreds of hymns which are virtually unknown.Three of his lesser-known hymns are based on the well-known Psalm 23…and each one is a precious reminder of the wonder of having the Lord God as our Shepherd.  Below are the first stanzas from each of these three hymns.  Given the uncertainty of the world in which we live, and both the physical and spiritual needs we all have, these are stanzas well worthy of our contemplation!  I have bolded the wording which has had the greatest impact on my heart today. The phrase in italics comes in a close second.  The result:  Greater stillness of heart and trust in God’s care.

My Shepherd is the living Lord; Now shall my wants be well supplied; His providence and holy word Become my safety and my guide. My Shepherd will supply my need, Jehovah is his name; In pastures fresh he makes me feed, Beside the living stream. The Lord my Shepherd is, I shall be well supplied; Since he is mine and I am his, What can I want beside?

The Sea of God's Mercies

With spring Bible study classes complete and conferences past, I have recently had some time to spend in the works of some of my favorite Puritan authors.  Upon reading portions of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, I was once again struck by this thought which I had long ago marked in the margin.

It is a saying of Luther:  ‘The sea of God’s mercies should swallow up all our particular afflictions.’  Name any affliction that is upon you:  there is a sea of mercy to swallow it up.  If you pour a pailful of water on the floor of your house, it makes a great show, but if you throw it into the sea, there is no sign of it.  So, afflictions considered in themselves, we think are very great, but let them be considered with the sea of God’s mercies we enjoy, and then they are not so much, they are nothing in comparison.

How grateful I am for these faithful believers who have come before us, and for God’s grace in preserving their thoughts…for a heart such as mine in a time such as ours!

Who can compare?

Yesterday was a wonderful day. . .so wonderful that I’ve had a hard time deciding which was the REAL highlight of my day: reuniting with some of our church family from South Carolina, hearing RC Sproul and Mark Dever speak, or noticing some lilies of the valley (our wedding flowers) blooming out my window!!

lilies.jpg


Jeremy and I have been married 12 years and I’ve tried growing these flowers before, and it has just never worked. We’ve lived seven different places, and this location is, by far, the worst location of those seven, when it comes to nature (we are in the city in a tiny apartment). But outside my little kitchen window I can see a mass of these beautiful flowers, just growing wild on a CLIFF pushing through wild ivy and other stuff!  It feels like a special gift straight from the God who made me and knew I would see it as a personal gift from HIM (Matthew 6:25-34).  RC Sproul and other great men spoke to over 7,000 people today, BUT God, HIMSELF speaks straight to me. . . how can that compare???  My heart worships more humbly tonight.

The Necessity of Trials

As I have lately been studying, meditating, and teaching on spiritual comfort, questions regarding the reasons for trials and troubles (whether big or small) have repeatedly surfaced.   As I have searched out answers, one question has occupied my thoughts more than others:

How much does our sinful pride necessitate trials and troubles in our pursuit of Christ-likeness?

In other words, how successful would we be in putting pride and self to death if we did not have trials and troubles to attack our pride, humble us, and drive us to God for help and comfort?Thomas Charles (a preacher in North Wales in the 1770’s) writes:

The cross, which we must expect to meet daily in the way, will hurt nothing but sin and self:  and surely we would not wish to spare them.  I hope it is our happiness to think, that God is against them, and has determined their destruction in his own way.  Blessed be the Lord, there is a world where righteousness only dwelleth, and where sin and self shall no more trouble us for ever!

I don’t know about you, but I do not often meditate on the necessity of trials in life.  But it does make sense.  If trials were not needful for His people, God would surely not cause or allow them.  He does nothing without reason and He does nothing that is not for the good of those who love Him.  So although they can be grievous and heart-rending, sometimes to the extreme, I am thankful for trials, not only because they do indeed “hurt” sin and self, but also because they drive us to God, who is the God of all comfort, and there is no better place to be than utterly and totally dependent upon Him! (2 Corinthians 1)

First Fruits of Heaven

The older I get, the more I notice that life’s changes and uncertainties increase with every passing year.  Now whether they actually increase, or simply seem to (because I don’t have the rest or stamina I used to have???), the result is the same:  I continually face the daily/hourly/moment-to-moment challenge of glorifying God in times of change and uncertainty…and even in the fear which too often accompanies such seasons.

And so, I have recently been thinking about contentment.  This evening, as I began reading chapter 11 of The Art of Divine Contentment by the Puritan Thomas Watson, he immediately brought to my attention a most wonderful and encouraging insight, quite worthy of further meditation.  In the excerpt below, I’ve emphasized the thoughts which stood out so strongly to my heart.

A contented Christian carries heaven about [with] him: for, what is heaven, but that sweet repose and full contentment that the soul shall have in God?  In contentment there are the first fruits of heaven. 
There are two things in a contented spirit, which make it like heaven.
(1.) God is there; something of God is to be seen in that heart. A discontented Christian is like a rough tempestuous sea; when the water is rough you can see nothing there; but when it is smooth and serene, then you may behold your face in the water. (Pr. 27:19)
When the heart rageth through discontent, it is like a rough sea, you can see nothing there, unless passion and murmuring; there is nothing of God, nothing of heaven in that heart: but by virtue of contentment, it is like the sea when it is smooth and calm, there is a face shining there; you may see something of Christ in that heart, a representation of all the graces.
(2.) Rest is there. O what a Sabbath is kept in a contented heart! What a heaven! A contented Christian is like Noah in the ark; though the ark were tossed with waves, Noah could sit and sing in the ark. The soul that is gotten into the ark of contentment, sits quiet, and sails above all the waves of trouble; he can sing in this spiritual ark; the wheels of the chariot move, but the axle-tree stirs not; the circumference of the heavens is carried about the earth, but the earth moves not out of its center. When we meet with motion and change in the creatures round about us, a contented spirit is not stirred nor moved out of its center.
The sails of a mill move with the wind, but the mill itself stands still, an emblem of contentment; when our outward estate moves with the wind of providence, yet the heart is settled through holy contentment; and when others are like quicksilver, shaking and trembling through disquiet, the contented spirit can say, as David, “O God my heart is fixed:” (Ps. 57:7) What is this but a piece of heaven?

While Watson’s thoughts have both excited and encouraged my heart, they have also added a wonderful implication to 1 Timothy 6:6–“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”