|Posted by John Suttles on December 25, 2014 at 6:40 PM||comments (0)|
When young and filled with determined zeal to live for God, I prayed for strength. But I was so much like young Jacob who had pillowed his head upon the stones at Luz only to awaken to the magnificent glories of angels ascending and descending upon that heavenly ladder. Adorning the apex stood the LORD Himself. The words He spoke to Jacob from that lofty prominence were the words of covenant promise He had spoken first to Abraham and then to Isaac.
In Jacob’s awestruck wonder, he had recognized that God was in that place. He had recognized that he stood at the very gate of heaven; he understood that this was the place to be henceforth sanctified as the “House of God.” No doubt, he had heard the words spoken in his ears—that repetition of the sacred covenant of God with his fathers. But Jacob had not the ears to hear that God had amended His promise to Jacob. “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest,” the LORD vowed to Jacob, “and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land…”
Jacob was leaving the land of promise. Did he not know that Abram had once left the land of promise; and although God had protected him and provided him with earthly wealth, Abram had returned with Hagar? Isaac, his own father, had ventured forth on that same journey, but had been turned back by the providential oversight of God. Now Jacob had taken his own staff to go forth out of the land of promise—not into the land as Abram before him. But Jacob had just deceived his father—of course, for all the right reasons known only to him and Rebekah.
Now Jacob was afraid. By his own deceitfulness and cold-hearted avaritia (covetousness), he had gained both the blessing and the birthright. He really was a good boy, or so they had said. He never caroused about through the cities of their pagan neighbors. He hadn’t even thought about bringing home pagan wives. But working there close by his parents and managing his affairs with discretion, Jacob had kept the besetting sin of his heart hidden from view. His plotting and planning had granted him his prize—but not the possession of it. For now he was on his way out of the Promised Land; and in his excited haste, he had failed to hear the words of the LORD: “…in all the places whither thou goest.”
Jacob’s experience there was, no doubt, valid, and his recognition of the visitation of the LORD was certain. Renaming Luz to Beth-el was a fruit of his obeisance that would be passed to his progeny in their own sojourn with the LORD of Abraham’s covenant. But his prayer revealed the lingering and overriding attitude of his heart. “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”
Had not the LORD already vowed the same promises to Jacob that He had vowed to his fathers? Of course, His protection was involved, as well as the whole land and all that was in it. Add to that promise, the promise of blessing for Jacob’s children through generations and even the promise of the very Savior Himself to come through Jacob’s lineage. But Jacob was leaving. “If God will keep me in this way…” Jacob spoke to the third-person God, presenting the hypothetical proposition that if Elohim would protect Jacob in his own endeavors, then surely Jacob would render due worship and even a tithe of all he had—when, that is, he returned in peace to his father’s house. Jacob had recognized Elohim, the Supreme God.
But the LORD had named Himself to Jacob as the LORD God of his fathers. He appended His very own exclusive name to Himself. “I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father…” Jacob had respected Him as the Supreme God of all possibilities of gods, but he had failed to understand the specificity of the name of this covenantal God. He is Jehovah—the Eternal, Self-existent, Yahweh. Now how paltry does Jacob’s response seem? If this God would keep him; if this God would give him food and clothing; if this God would give him what he wanted; if this God would bring him back in peace; if this God would appease Esau’s wrath, then this Jehovah would be his Supreme God. This was Jacob’s prayer for strength.
So off went Jacob, as oft I have gone, invoking God for strength to accomplish his own endeavor. Twenty long years of rude awakenings, heartaches, and cruel inhospitality pass for Jacob as he sojourned in Uncle Laban’s house, while his own inheritance back home was tended by others. At long last, God required Jacob’s return. It was time for Jacob to pay his vow. “I am the God of Beth-el…where thou vowedst a vow unto Me…” This time God speaks as God Almighty—the name Abram had heard so long before: “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.”
This would be a tall order for Jacob the Supplanter to walk in righteousness before the Almighty God. This is the Jacob who had swindled and been swindled. But time has a way of changing the heart’s desires, and grief makes a twist that evokes a different language from that once implacable heart. So there on the borders of Esau’s lands, Jacob’s overwhelming fear and distress welled up once more, but this time he was not leaving—he was coming home. This time it was Jacob who called out first. “O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and unto thy kindred…” Now Jacob remembered the Supreme God of his fathers and the Eternal Jehovah who had spoken to him so long ago. He remembered the instructions of this Almighty God with clarity. He had been spared by the merciful provisions of Jehovah Elohim.
Truly what mercy it had been, for Jacob had left the land of promise and gone to Uncle Laban’s. Perhaps Jacob could now understand why his grandfather had said, with a warning, that his son Isaac should never be taken to that land. Abraham had come out; Isaac had remained out; and now, Jacob was coming out. No wonder his prayer was of a completely different hue. “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant…” His fear of Esau still resided in his bosom; but even as it loomed large before him, he remembered the promises of Jehovah not only for himself, but now for his children: “And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea…”
Oh, what insight grief affords us! Oh, what heavenly language grief can speak! “Deliver me, I pray,” Jacob truthfully prayed, “from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him…” Jacob prayed for strength. But Jacob’s restoration robes of covenant exaltation could not cover the halting gait that would now mark his manhood. Certainly Jacob was learning the language of prayer, for his wrestling with the man was with prevailing strength. “I will not let thee go,” Jacob had answered him, “except thou bless me.” Was Jacob proving to this man Jacob’s own worthiness to receive matching strength—just enough more added that would be needed to overcome Esau. Or was Jacob wrestling with the adrenalin of desperation—a strength welling up from unknown depths that must be supernaturally replenished for very survival?
Surely we must grant the worthiness of Jacob’s petition; and if so, we will see how a faithful God grants a glorious answer. Jacob prayed for strength to overcome his adversary; but the man asked Jacob’s name. No—such a name as Jacob will no longer do for such a penitent man. His name must reveal his God and his heart. His name would now be Israel—the prince who has power with God; the prince who has power with men; the prince who has prevailed! But as the light rose upon the new day, and Jacob passed over the brook, he halted. Had he even realized that the man had touched the hollow of his thigh? But Jacob had prayed for strength. Every warrior must have the strength of his right arm and of his thigh!
Perhaps we were not happy with Jacob’s response to the LORD so many years before at Beth-el. But what can we think about such a response to Jacob’s legitimate appeal upon his return? Had not Jacob grown weary of the wiles of Uncle Laban’s land where men measure strength and might by accumulation and numbers? Yet, this time we do not read of Jacob’s response fashioned as a business deal. He had left his home as Jacob, the deceiving son, with a staff he had not needed in his self-sufficiency. He was returning as Israel, the prince of Elohim, to assume his birthright, but halting on a staff he now required. He left with eager anticipation of the gains he might acquire at Uncle Laban’s; he returned home with the overwhelming and all-sufficient joy: “I have seen Elohim face to face, and my life is preserved.”
Yes, I prayed for strength; and now I, too, halt. But I have learned that “my strength is made perfect in weakness.” The clarity and preciseness of my hearing has much improved, and those things which drew the gaze of my eyes have lost their luster. I have learned the terms of obedience and the reason for Abraham’s instruction: “Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.” I rest in the confidence that the strength of Jehovah is sufficient for me. And I acquiesce with Paul: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Jacob crossed the brook homeward bound—no longer the deceiver, but rather the prince of God. He crossed the brook, however, with lingering trophies from Uncle Laban’s that he would find in days ahead that he must lay down. He would feel the withered sinew of his thigh for the remainder of his days and remember that he had wrestled with such a man. But as his hand moved down the length of that shrunken thigh and reached out for the staff that now must be his companion, Israel would remember that he had been given strength to prevail. He had seen God face to face.
I prayed for strength and learned to walk with God.
Dr. Teresa Suttles
|Posted by John Suttles on November 2, 2014 at 9:40 PM||comments (1)|
Dear Friends of the Sad and Anxious
In 1688, the sunlight of peace was just beginning to break through for Christians in England. A fiercely Catholic monarchy was about to be removed by the so-called Glorious Revolution that resulted in great liberties for Protestants. But in 1688, in the life of one Protestant minister in England, there was nothing but darkness. His days and nights were only bitterness – pain and sickness in his body, agony and desperation in his spirit. His name was Timothy Rogers, and he continued in this miserable state for two long years.
While Rogers’ bodily disease was a great trial to him, it was not the presence of bodily affliction alone that so wrecked his joy. It was that, while his body was being afflicted, his soul also was being tried in God’s furnace. And when both are afflicted together the result is often exceedingly bitter. As he later noted, “there is a very great difference between such as are only under trouble of conscience and such whose bodies are greatly diseased at the same time”. Those in this condition find little rest at all. So it was with Rogers.
But his writings after his time of affliction make one thing clear. The Master intended to teach him things in the fire that would make him able and willing to minister to others in such desperate circumstances. And, once restored to health and his faith renewed, this is exactly what Rogers did. But being a minister of the Gospel and not a physician, he made no attempt to speak to the best medicinal remedies for any particular physical affliction. Instead, he labored much to prepare spiritual medicine for souls in agony as he had been – agony from the guilt of sin, agony over whether he was or could ever be forgiven, agony over the thought of entering eternity as a condemned soul, agony over not knowing when or if his physical torment would ever end. We would say that he was deeply depressed and anxious. But in those days such a state was referred to as melancholy.
Thus, one of the most precious works written by Rogers after his return to health was entitled, A Discourse Concerning Trouble of Mind and the Disease of Melancholy, a book still available in facsimile reprint. While I heartily recommend the entire work to anyone who is or has suffered with the “soul disease” of melancholy, it is actually only the Preface of that book that I wish to highlight here. While there are many good things written by capable writers like Rogers on the subject of melancholy, they are usually written to the person suffering. There is far less practical writing on the subject that directly targets those around the person suffering, offering them sound wisdom as to the care of the distressed souls in their lives. Rogers does this wonderfully with thirteen “advices” to the companions of melancholy persons. I give them to you here only in summary form with some use of Rogers’ own words, again, encouraging you to read them in their fuller context in Rogers’ book.
1. “Look upon your distressed friends as under one of the worst distempers to which this miserable life is obnoxious”. A chronic melancholy is truly one of the worst things a person can endure. When it has taken over, says Rogers, “the force of briskness and courage cannot help”.
2. “Look upon those that under this woeful disease of melancholy with great pity and compassion.” They are, Rogers says, “usually walking in the midst of fire … and most frequently under the very pangs of death … their burden is often heavier than their groaning; their sighs are deep, their hearts are sunk … your friends under this disease … ought much more to move you, for … they are continually dying, and yet cannot die.” And you ought to consider that “you yourselves are in the body, and liable to the very same trouble."
3. “Do not use harsh speeches to your friends when they are under the disease of melancholy.” Being harsh or demanding to them “causes many poor souls to cherish and conceal their troubles to their greater torment, because they meet with harsh entertainment from those to whom they have begun to explain their case.”
4. “You must be so kind to your friends under this disease as to believe what they say.” Notes Rogers, “It is a foolish course … to answer all their complaints and moans with this, that it is nothing but fancy; nothing but imagination … It is a real disease … and if it be fancy, yet a diseased fancy is as great a disease as any other … truly … because melancholy persons do not always look very ill … other persons that know nothing of the distemper, are apt to think they make themselves worse than they are … this makes the grief … to strangle them within, because when they speak of it, they find it to be pointless because they are not believed."
5. “Do not urge your friends under the disease of melancholy to things which they cannot do.” Depending upon the severity of the case, they may be quite incapacitated both mentally and physically.
6. “Do not attribute the effects of mere disease to the Devil.” Some are quick to say to such people that they are just giving place to Satan and that they need to lay down their struggle and tell the Devil to be gone since the Scriptures promise that if we resist the Devil he will flee from us. But, notes Rogers, you may be assuming the Devil is involved in something with which he has nothing to do.
7. “Do not much wonder at anything they say or do.” Says Rogers, “What strange extravagant actions do you see those do that are under the power of fear! And none are so much afraid as these poor people are; they are afraid of God, of hell, and of their own sorrows.”
8. “Do not mention to them any formidable things, nor tell, in their hearing, any sad stories; because they do already meditate terror”. You ought to avoid mournful and grievous talk in their presence, “and yet you must not be too merry before them either; for then they think you slight their miseries and have no pity for them.”
9. “Do not think it altogether needless to talk with them; only when you do so, do not speak as if their troubles would be very long”. As Rogers well knew, “It is the length of their trouble that amazes them, when after a week or month without sleep, or hope, still the next week and month is as painful and as terrible to them as the former was … revive them, therefore, by telling them that God can create deliverance for them in a moment; that He has often done so with others; that He can quickly cure their disease”.
10. “Tell them of others who have been in such anguish … and yet have been delivered.” There are volumes of such examples of the grace and glory of God in the history of the church, not the least of which is the Bible itself – scores of such persons before who “went forth weeping, they sowed in tears, but they reaped an harvest of wonderful joys afterwards.”
11. “The next kindness you are to show your melancholy friends is to heartily pray for them.” You are better composed and less distracted and so more able to intervene on their behalf before the throne of mercy. Do so, and “you know not but that His light, at your request, may begin to shine on those who have bewailed His absence with many dreadful groans”.
12. “Not only pray for them, but get other serious Christians to pray for them also.”
13. “Put your friends in mind of the sovereign grace of God in Jesus Christ”. Whenever you can, “teach them as much as you can to look up to God by the great Mediator for grace and strength and not too much to pore on their own souls, where there is so much darkness and unbelief.” For, said a contemporary of Rogers’ who had also suffered greatly with melancholy, “the fountain of all my misery hath been that I fought for that in the law, which should have been found in the Gospel; and for that in myself, which was only to be found in Christ.”
It is my earnest prayer that these nuggets of practical wisdom from Timothy Rogers will be of use to you, either in your own suffering or in your efforts to support and guide others who may be suffering with the “disease of melancholy”. This sad sickness of soul that is so often attended with great bodily affliction is always present among the saints of God somewhere, sometime, and to some extent. If you have not suffered under it yourself, you likely know someone who has, or is. May God give us all grace to more wisely and compassionately bear one another’s burdens.
(Timothy Rogers lived from 1658-1728 and authored many other works while also being a minister of the Gospel. There is good reason to believe that his soul is now at rest forever. May Christ be praised!)
W. Luke Suttles
|Posted by John Suttles on October 26, 2014 at 10:30 PM||comments (0)|
Justin the Martyr was a Christian who died for his faith about A.D. 165. He is most commonly known for being an apologist – a defender of his faith. As he grew up, he had no Christian instruction. At a young age he purposed to find the truth.
Justin the Martyr chose four schools, with four different religions, to begin his search for the truth. He liked the last of the four schools the best. This school taught Plato’s philosophy. Justin became a Platonist (one who believes like the Greek philosopher Plato). He became a highly esteemed Platonist philosopher.
An old man questioned Justin one day about his beliefs. In the course of conversation, the old man advised him to search the Scriptures for the truth. Justin did so and became a Christian. He was very faithful in the Christian beliefs, this being why he was martyred.
Justin the Martyr was, as formerly mentioned, an apologist. In his well-known Apology written to Antoninus Pius the emperor, he defended the Christians, claiming they were atheist only by the Roman standards, because they did not worship their many gods. They instead believed in the one true God. He went on to ask the sense in persecuting them only because they bore the name of Christian instead of persecuting them for their character as Christians. This apology was successful because, as a result, the Christians were not persecuted anymore under this emperor.
Persecution of Christians was not ceased for long because the emperor Antoninus Pius died and his son came to the throne. Under the new emperor, persecution for Christians was resumed. Justin became the courageous martyr that he is known to be under this emperor’s rule. He was first scourged then beheaded. Six other Christian friends of Justin, who were arrested with him, were martyred in the same fashion. Justin the Martyr’s last words on this earth were, “We desire nothing more than to suffer for our Lord Jesus Christ; for this gives us salvation and joyfulness before His dreadful judgment seat…”
I believe Justin went to be with his Savior; therefore, because I am a Christian, I will someday meet Justin the Martyr as well as his Savior and mine. I hope, dear reader, you will be able to meet Justin the Martyr; but most importantly, I hope you can truthfully say his Savior is also yours because to lose heaven is to gain hell.
E. Suttles, Age 11
|Posted by John Suttles on March 20, 2014 at 10:25 PM||comments (1)|
Once again, I have heard the sorrowful testimony of Christian parents estranged from their child. Such heartache is inconsolable, and only those whose hearts are breaking in such a way can understand the paralyzing grief. Some of us may be able to put our finger square on the fault in our own bosoms that alienated such a child. Others of us may be genuinely perplexed. Whatever the cause, the consequence is the same.
To add to such misery, some in the religious community would stoically pronounce judgment on our Christian credentials and sew upon our bosoms the condemnation of the scarlet A. We may as well pack our few possessions and move down to the forlorn, wind-swept, and isolated cabin with Hester Prynne. (The Scarlet Letter) Our presence encumbers those who are still qualified to “serve the Lord.” We have sinned the unpardonable sin, and it is known by the behavior of our children. Whatever knowledge energized us, whatever wisdom convicted us, whatever prudence emboldened us to remain stalwart to Truth in those early days of parenting is now stricken from the books as evidence, either no longer relevant, or worse yet, evidence used against us.
“Why is it so?” we cry out in the darkness that enshrouds our hearts. “Why my children? This was what I wanted to avoid!” Of course, that’s so; and it’s so for the countless languishing in the same parental boat. And truly, it is puzzling, when we muse without Providential oversight, that a sizable portion of the “twenty-somethings to forty-somethings” brought up in Christian homeschools and Christian day schools have not just turned aside from their parents’ teaching, but have done so with a vengeance that remains unexplainable in most cases. It even seems that the more sacrificial the parents’ service, the more contemptuous the response of the children.
There is no cure for this malady in our lives apart from the healing and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Why He chose to allow such fruit from among a generation sincerely trying to prepare a godly generation to follow, in the only way they understood at the time, is now a mystery. Could we garner any comfort in remembering that the very grandchildren of our godly Puritan forefathers turned to Unitarianism with their catechisms ringing in their ears? Perhaps some light can be shed in our Lord’s own confession: “…if the mighty works…had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented…” (Matthew 11:21). The turning of nations is the work of the Lord, as is the giving of faith and repentance. Whether it has been His pleasure to grant our children that faith and repentance rests solely in His sovereign will, but that neither negates our faithful administration nor excuses our unfaithful administration of His Word as parents in our homes. Until we parents can both understand and accept this, we can never hope to move up from our abyss.
So, truthfully, does this leave us as failures? That’s a legitimate question that can only be effectually answered and remedied by the healing work of the Holy Spirit in the application of the Word. But perhaps someone acting in the capacity of the Evangelist (The Pilgrim’s Progress) pointing to “yonder light,” will lift our heads from the Slough of Despond and turn our eyes toward the Light and the hope of healing. Just maybe by the painful articulation of those thoughts that have so held us captive, we will be brought to enough release to reveal to us that our ears are those who still have hearing.
First, let’s articulate some of the grievances that have wet our pillows. These are the children who now hand down their ruling on our law with the smugness of a county judge. But remember, our adjudication is on the federal level and our tenure is for life; and all judges owe their rulings and their regard to the Supreme Judge whose Law it is we have feebly attempted to administer.
Of course, we don’t want them to like ways we believe are wrong; but gone are the days when we could make them eat their broccoli because we believed it was good for them. We live in a democratic time in which peer opinion out-ranks anything senior. All the counsel of their brief acquaintances given without the price of sacrifice outweighs our knee-worn counsel pressed under by the burden of parental love.
We can no longer garrison ourselves in a spiritual cloister and refuse to acknowledge the spirit of the age that has permeated now even our own homes. It is the Nietzsche spirit of “super-will” that scorns “servant-hood” in any flavor. Our children’s generation is the ripe fruit of the “we did it our way and these boots were made for walking” generation. We may have taught our children the Christian values of self-denial and loving our enemies, and they may have watched from their childhood sidelines as we endured scorn from friends and family and suffered the loneliness of no church family or lack of Christian friends. But for many of them, this will not be their lifestyle. Some will “mis”-appropriate the very Scriptures we taught them in order to justify a life from which we sought to protect them. Some will deny the validity of the Scriptures altogether and embrace the forbidden and indulge in the fruit. Some will “correct” us in our “misunderstandings.” This correction won’t be wrapped in the tearful softness of a loving, grateful child; but rather it will find its expression in a scornful pride that ranks its brief, focused study as weightier than our years of submitted, all-encompassing study reflected in painful experience and lowly wisdom. It’s the attitude with which their vigilante justice toward us is administered and the contempt with which their actions seem to mock us that presses us under as God said Israel’s sin had pressed Him. (Amos 2:13) “You only have I known of all the families of the earth…” (Amos 3:2) And even as our God grieved for the love spurned, He promised a full measure of return. To whom much is given, much will be required. (Luke 12:48)
It seems we are forced to stand by and watch their “victories” in their new lives as if we are vanquished foes and condemned slaves until we, at last, succumb to the anguish and humiliation in a capitulation that will never really re-establish our parenthood. We will always be the vanquished; we will always be the “bank of you owe it to me”; we will always be the scullery maid who stole the lovely trinkets of a spoiled childhood. In their estimation, we just need to get used to the new way of things. They will set up housekeeping the way they believe is right in spite of the hindrances we have caused them or the fact that we don’t approve. They haven’t liked our wheel because they have a better one.
But here is the key to our recovery. Our failings do not remove us from office. Cain’s murder of Abel rendered Cain the outcast from God, not his father Abel. Isaac had sinned in favoring Esau in spite of God’s choice of Jacob. But Esau’s marriages to Canaanite wives proved his true heart, and the revelation of his true heart did not remove his father Isaac as the patriarchal heir of the covenant promises. Samuel was not driven from the prophet’s chamber because his sons were dishonest. David retained his authority to crown the next king, even after his sin and in spite of Absalom’s treachery. We will always be the parents who are to be honored by the commandment with promise.
Then what do we do? As in all things, we confess our sin. Surely, if we think all day, every day for the rest of our lives, we will not understand all the wrong we have done nor which wrong specifically sealed the attitudes of our children toward us. We’re not asked to do so. We are told to repent and promised that He will heal. He forgives our sin and places it behind His back. We may have trouble putting it behind our own backs, but we must still move forward in spite of it. This repentance is a final action; it is not accomplished one evening with the sin laid aside to be retrieved the next morning. It is a scar that may remain tender, not an oozing sore that cannot heal. It is a wet pillow, but a smiling face. It is a mouth of wisdom, and a tongue of praise. It is a servant submitted, and a child leaning on His bosom. It is the marching step of a soldier in the flickering light of a candle. It is service to the worthiest of Kings.
We are not failures. We have failed; but if we are redeemed, we are no longer failures. But we must keep ever before us that our children are just that—they are our children, the recipients of our own personal, sinful propensities. Perhaps that will help us to put into right perspective our downtrodden spirits that it is our children who are behaving in such a way. We must submit to the purposes of God in their lives—even if it means His rejecting them.
And we must look for “spiritual orphans” put in our paths who need our spiritual teaching. Our Lord told us that the fields were “white unto harvest.” (John 4:35) It is so, if we will but look. Our fellowship may no longer find peace and spiritual intercourse with our “blood” children; but others may be given to us for our experienced care and nurture. We must leave the monastic cell of our self-flagellation, and return to the battlefield. We have the armor. We have the call. God equips repentant failures.
Dr. Teresa Suttles
|Posted by John Suttles on March 6, 2014 at 11:40 PM||comments (0)|
Rev. 22:7: “Behold, I come quickly...”
Rev. 22:12: “And, behold, I come quickly...”
Rev. 22:20: “Surely, I come quickly...”
These words are nearly the last words of the last book of God's inspired and infallible Scripture. They are the final words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to us and they are spoken to us three times as He closes His revelation.
Many take a great interest in the last words of men. They listen with great care to hear what men, especially the famous and great ones of the earth, have to say when they come to the door of death. They read with great interest the records of the final words of those of ages past in their dying hour.
But here, we have the last words of Him “that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, is alive for evermore” (Rev. 1: 1). He who holds the keys of death and hell. If there were ever words to which we should give our complete, undivided, and most serious attention, it is to these words of “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5).
If any earthly king should express but once his intent to do something, that is enough to cause the entirety of that country's government to make immediate preparation for the fulfillment of that intention. By how much more then should we give earnest heed to the King of kings and Lord of lords when He speaks not once – not twice – but three times over, His final word to the church and the world – “Behold, I come quickly.”
If some great person should send word directly to us saying that he was coming – and coming quickly – we would instantly and thoroughly prepare ourselves and all our possessions for his arrival. And then how careful and anxious would we be to keep watch, constantly looking out and looking for the moment when he would appear at our door.
Oh, but sadly, the King of glory has sent word to you, to all, that He is coming and that quickly, yet how few have heeded His announcement, how few have made preparation, how few are anxiously watching, expecting that, at the next moment, He comes quickly?
The most part of mankind conduct themselves as though the Lord had never spoken these words even once, forgetting altogether that He said them thrice over. And many among that vast multitude – are you one such? – many among that vast multitude of the careless have gone beyond mere carelessness and become mockers of this promise.
They are like those in the days of the Apostle Peter who said “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet 3:4). They scoff and jeer and mock saying, where is this Jesus? What's become of Him? It's been twice a thousand years since he departed and there's no sign of him.
Dear reader, make not yourselves the companion of such fools. For these mockers have forgotten that further inspired word of the Apostle Peter – “be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:4). By this eternal accounting of time the Lord Jesus has been gone but TWO DAYS!
That man is a fool who measures according to earthly time this brief pause between our Lord's first coming and His return. To those who scoff the words of Mr. Matthew Henry are most appropriate when he wrote that for such the Lord's coming “will be sooner than they are aware, sooner than they are prepared, and sooner than they desire.”
Let the mockers mock, that day is yet fixed and appointed in the court of heaven when the Father shall say, “DONE!”, and the Lord Jesus Christ will rise from His throne at the right hand of the Father and shall gather the souls of all His people that inhabit the heavenly realms and for the first time since their creation heaven shall be emptied of all its angels (Matt. 25:31-32). Then all the souls of the redeemed who died in the Lord and all the angels shall follow Him as He returns once more to earth, this time in the full glory and splendor that is His as the Son of God. And this He will do just as He said - “Behold, I come quickly!”
And this is no bare re-appearance. He comes for this reason, to judge the earth, every man and woman, boy and girl. In that day when He returns “every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him” (Rev. 1:7). Yes, every eye shall behold Him – kings' eyes and beggars', those of the rich and the poor, your eye and mine. The dead in their graves shall be raised, and together with the living, shall look up and see Him coming, as Jude has written, “with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed” (v. 14, 15).
The Scriptures refer to this day as the great and terrible day of the Lord. Exactly so shall be that day for every sinner, every scoffer at the Lord's return. Everyone who bowed not their knee to Christ while in this mortal body, shall, in that resurrected body, bow their knee and confess with their tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Listen to the description of the scene of that great day when He comes quickly – Rev. 20:11–15:
“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Oh, reader, what a dreadful day that day shall be for everyone – for you – if you have not repented and believed, if you have not laid hold of Christ by faith as your Redeemer before that day. Consider carefully this solemn word – if you have not known the Lord Jesus as your Redeemer and Savior in this present hour, then you shall know Him as your Judge in that hour when He comes quickly, and He will pronounce your condemnation in that hour before the assembled universe of men and angels.
Think for a moment what it shall be when the Lord of hosts sits upon His seat of judgment. His all seeing eye shall pierce every heart and make every sinner to know every sin that he or she ever committed. Then they shall confess before Him and that vast assembly that their sentence is just and right when He declares to them - “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41).
And who are these cursed? From this same last book of the inspired Scripture we have this description: they are “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” Rev. 21:8.
Think you that you are not there listed? Do you say, these are not my sins? They ARE, for the Scripture clearly declares “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10)! If you are yet outside of the safety of forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ the Redeemer, you are at this moment within the just condemnation of Christ the Judge who is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) and all that awaits is the execution of your sentence.
Reader, do not count these words foolish tales or myths for the feeble-minded. You have the witness of the prophets and apostles, the testimony of angels, and the word of Jesus Christ Himself, not once nor twice, but three times over to the truth of it – “Behold, I come quickly.”
We write plainly and directly and perhaps some are offended, but should we not so plead when matters of eternity are before us? If the building you are now in were on fire, would you not speak plainly and directly to all urging them to flee and escape the danger? How much more then should we be clear and direct when not just our bodies but our souls are in eternal danger!
I urge you, let these words – behold, I come quickly – consume your thoughts, and may they be an unceasing cry in your ears to flee to Jesus Christ repenting of your sins and believing on His shed blood as your only hope of cleansing from them. Fail to take timely heed and it shall be for you as the Lord said of another, “the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Matt. 12:45). For the sinner that day when the Lord comes quickly will be as the prophet Zephaniah describes it “a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess” (Zeph. 1:15).
But there is another scene on that day that deserves notice. Vastly, eternally different will be the character of that day for those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. For that day when He comes quickly will be a day of joy and delight for the believer. Oh, you who are the believing ones, “lift up your heads for your redemption draweth nigh” for Behold, He comes quickly!
Saints of God, “now is our salvation nearer than when we believed,” (Romans 13:11) and in that day when He comes quickly, our salvation shall be complete and there shall be fulness of joy and pleasures forevermore at His right hand. In that day every redeemed one will be like Him for we shall seem Him as He is, and who can conceive even the least part of it, for eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man what God hath prepared for them that love Him.
We shall indeed see Him with immortal, incorruptible eyes on that day. We shall see the fullness of His glory and what shall that be like? He Who is the brightness of His Father's glory and the express image of His person we will see with our own eyes. Even Moses could not bear the sight of God's glory while on earth, but in that day when the Lord Jesus comes quickly, our vile bodies will be changed, and we shall behold the King in all His glory. Who can tell what that sight shall be with mere human words?
We shall see His glory, yes, and we shall see His wounds. Those wounds He received at Calvary, now made all the more glorious by the fullness of that glory which He had with the Father before the world began. We shall look upon His pierced hands and His wounded feet and His riven side, and we shall worship the Lamb of God forever and sing “a new song, saying...thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests” (Rev. 5:9–10a).
We shall indeed see His glory and we shall see His wounds, but more than that we shall see His face. For the very first time numberless multitudes of the redeemed will look upon the face of their dear Redeemer with eyes made able to bear the glory! Haven't we wondered from time to time what He will look like? In that day, when He comes quickly, we shall know!
We shall look into the eyes of Him Who saw us in eternity past, and who loved us with an everlasting love and who drew us in lovingkindness to Himself. His eyes will surely beam with delight when He looks upon His bride, the Church, which He Himself has adorned in white, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, and we, in turn, shall look upon Him with an admiration unspotted and unstained by sin and frailty any longer. It shall be as the hymnwriter has gloriously put it:
The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom's face
I will not gaze at glory, but on my King of grace
Not at the crown He giveth, but on His pierced hand
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel's land.
Then again we shall see His smile as He rejoices over us with joy, and we shall hear His voice for the very first time with our ears, and it shall cause our hearts to leap within us as He speaks those wondrous words – “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Sinner, fear and tremble for “Behold, I come quickly!” Flee to Christ as the Savior while you have this moment or you shall meet Him as your Judge in that day. And saint, rejoice for this word – “Surely, I come quickly!”
|Posted by John Suttles on February 4, 2014 at 10:45 PM||comments (0)|
(The author of the following blog is an eleven year old boy, a member of our church, and the oldest of four siblings. While much of his time is given to his classical, Christian studies, he always finds time to enjoy the wonders of God's creation, like mud and tractors. He hopes to be a preacher when he is grown. He has written from his heart to encourage other children - and adults as well.)
I am a young Christian whom God saved about a year ago. I feel the need of telling you about the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only Son of God. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The Lord Jesus Christ paid the wages of sin for all who turn from their sin and believe on Him. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” So, I would beg you to “seek Him while He may be found”, in the words of Scripture. I would beg you to think about your future – eternity. Where will you be; heaven or hell? If you are a professing Christian, then I would encourage you to “make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
|Posted by John Suttles on January 14, 2014 at 10:45 PM||comments (0)|
Often our skepticism is based not on fact, but on something rather flimsy such as personal taste or unfamiliarity with the proposed option. Such is the case with much of modern education and its skeptical adherents. “The classics are of no value to modern children, and certainly not to Christian children,” they say. “Time can be better spent on something else.” It is without argument that time will be spent on something else; but the value accrued from that “something else” may be negligible. Classics are not the recently-published paper-back “tritisms.” A true classic has stood the test of time and generations of readers, captivating imaginations and teaching lofty lessons of character. So it is from a proponent’s perspective for studying the classics, that I am grateful to be able to share a portion from a classic.
Many teachers, including this one, are indebted to Rosemary Sutcliff for bringing the adventures of the Trojan War to younger children not yet capable of reading Homer’s classics in the more difficult text. Even our young children are wise enough to understand the frailty of human nature and the futility of hoping in gods whose characters have all the same flaws as humans. Yet, these same children are enriched by the personification of honor, value, respect, loyalty, and integrity in the Greek and Trojan heroes. They see also the consequences of pride, arrogance, insolence, and dishonesty in the villain Paris and even in the gods themselves.
We have been reading aloud Miss Sutcliff’s Black Ships Before Troy; and with rapture, we reached the awesome battle when Hector the Trojan hero and his mighty army pushed through the Greek defenses and nearly reached their black ships anchored on the shore below the great city of Troy. Heroes, in these days of classics, were god-like men whose strength and courage knew no bounds. Their troops rallied behind them, trusting not only in their bravery but in their military genius as well. Hector, was the hero of the heroes.
Two days before this formidable battle-day, Hector had been called out in single combat with the Greek hero Ajax. Their strength being evenly matched, the combat remained breath-taking, but without notable incident until they were reduced to short blades. Ajax’s blade gashed Hector’s neck, and Hector retaliated with a spear-jab on the shield of Ajax. His spear-point bent on the boss of the shield, and Hector tossed it aside. Catching a huge stone from the ground, he flung it at Ajax. Ajax caught up a larger stone and “hurled it with all his strength against Hector, smashing the shield in on him, taking the strength from his knees and flinging him over onto his back. Hector’s world darkened and swam, but he scrambled, gasping, to his feet, his hand going for his sword. Ajax’s sword was also out, and in a moment more they would have been close locked, blade to blade, but heralds from both armies came running and thrust their staves between them and bade them cease, for both had proved themselves worthy champions, and the night was coming on.” (1)
The day following was a truce day. Both heroes had only the one day to recuperate and make ready for the next battle. We know from the story, that their days and nights were spent in planning strategies and reconnoitering the enemy. At first light on that fateful battle day, the two war-hosts clashed on the plain below Troy, the Trojans pushing the Greeks down to the sea. Mid-day had passed, and Hector rallied his men, rushing ahead of them into the midst of the Greeks. It was in the rushing of this engagement that the Greek Diomedes struck a hard blow on the helmet of Hector, sending Hector crashing to the ground. But listen to what happened next. “His warriors closed about him with their shields, and in a few heartbeats of time he was up, the light coming back into his eyes. He sprang into his chariot, and…headed away for the left-wing of the Greek war-host.” (2)
Then the Greek hero Diomedes was struck by a Trojan arrow that pierced his foot and pinned it to the ground. But when Odysseus, his battle comrade, had pulled the arrow from his foot, he covered Diomedes with his great shield until Diomedes could climb into his chariot and be driven back to the ships.
Zeus, the greatest of the Olympian gods, had helped the Trojans reach the middle of the Greek camp but then turned his thoughts elsewhere. Taking advantage of his inattention, his brother Poseidon, god of the sea, realized the desperate situation with the Greeks. He harnessed his chariot horses and came driving ashore attended by huge sea monsters to energize the Greeks. In this surge by the Greeks, Ajax and Hector are once again face-to-face. Ajax caught up a great stone used to chock a ship and holding it aloft, heaved it with all his strength down on Hector, “catching him over the shield arm and below the helmet strap, so that he dropped like a bull under the ax of sacrifice, with all his armor clanging upon him.” (3) What now of the fate of Hector? Let us read on.
“Instantly his companions sprang close about him, and while some guarded their rear and flanks, others bore him off out of the fighting.” The Greeks rallied, thinking Hector to be dead, and pushed the Trojans back to the plain. Meanwhile, Zeus realized that the Trojans were in trouble and that Hector lay beside the river spitting up black blood. Zeus could not undo the work of his brother Poseidon, so he dispatched his own son Apollo, the sun-god, to go to Hector and breathe life and battle power into him “such as he had never known before.” So in obedience to his father, Apollo swooped down to “where Hector lay, with his companions dashing cold water over him, and breathed fresh life and the strength of his own godhood into him. And Hector rose and called for his armor and turned back to the battle.”
It was here that the story time ended for the day; but what a lesson I could teach from this battle. Yet, the most poignant aspects belonged to me. How many battle wounds have brought the blood and taken me to my knees with my head swimming. These were the times when the herald came and drove a stave in the ground for the truce. I had fought well, but now it was time to rest. Those heralds are marked all through the pages of my Bible, times and trials, suspended by the herald sent from the King. I thought again of Hector engaged in battle, already wounded from the day before, receiving a fierce blow from the enemy that sent him to his knees. Surely this was the mortal wound—the one that removed him from the battle, rallied his enemies, and brought the black blood of death. Is not this the testimony of many Christians, already wounded, yet struck by the enemy’s blow that reels them to the ground? But it was the faithfulness of Hector’s friends, guarding him, carrying him to safety, laying him by the water of life where the son of Zeus came in his light and breathed life into Hector’s fading body. And so, it has been the family of God that has cared for these wounded Christians, “partakers of the sufferings” yet “also helping together by prayer for us…” (II Corinthians 1:7, 11).
In reading this classic to the children, it has not just been lessons of bravery and character that have presented themselves. The recollection of many Scripture parallels have come forward, and thoughts of the battle with the enemy of this world loomed large in my mind. As Hector’s rallying cry must have pierced the air on that Trojan plain, so the Apostle Paul’s sounded in my ears, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). I was reminded again that only the whole armor of God will make me able to stand. And I must be strengthened by the promises of God’s Word to be able, as battle-weary Hector was strengthened to do, to rise up, pick up my sword and turn back to the battle. And in the battle, I must be faithful to close about my brothers and sisters in the Lord with my own shield of faith to cover them while they are carried to safety. These are the lessons I most want to bring to the children’s minds.
Of course, these lessons can be taught to children without incorporating the classics. And of course, even with the incorporation of the classics, the Bible is not only precedent but the Perfect Rule. The classics reveal the growing up of Western Civilization, the gods of the nations and the God of the Bible, wrapped in the beauty of our language and delivered through the medium of storytelling. This is the rich heritage of our children.
I am so thankful that my God is not the Zeus-god whose attention can be diverted! And when I read how poor Hector suffered because of Zeus’ distraction, I am brought to worship when I contemplate yet again how that the true God is never distracted. His own Son, the Light of the world, came in His covenantal love from the Father to breathe life when I lay dying in my sin. He washed me clean by the water of His Word. He is my strong tower where I can find safety and rest. His armor girds me for the battle, and the fellowship and prayers of His saints guard my sides and carry me to safety when I fall. Certainly, I am engaged in a fierce battle with the enemy; but, hallelujah, the enemy is already defeated.
Is it possible that all of this could come to mind just reading about a battle of long, long ago? Yes! What rich lessons can be pressed upon the minds of our children when classic stories can bring these lessons to life!
Dr. Teresa Suttles
1 Rosemary Sutcliff, Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of The Illiad, (New York: Laurel-Leaf, Random House, Inc., 1993), 42.
2 Ibid., 59.
3 Ibid., 65-66.
|Posted by John Suttles on December 24, 2013 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
How to Sacrifice Your Children
What an interesting concept—a “how-to” on sacrificing our children. Actually, parents in antiquity followed prescribed procedures for passing their children through the fire to Moloch. They were probably not unlike parents of all generations who simply follow the “norms” for bringing up their children. But these same parents fail to account for the shifting “norms” that change almost as frequently as the months on a calendar. Today this one thing is in vogue; tomorrow it is absolutely forbidden. Civilizations, with their way of life, rose and fell. Our own way of life is drastically different from two generations past. Just consider the opening statement. This is a “how-to.” But a “how-to” what? A book—a manual—a CD—a DVD—or just an “e-how” of one or two brief paragraphs?
Ah—but Christians have a Book that has never fluctuated, never been affected by generational dysfunction, never changed. But that’s the problem for many modern Christians. We have a Book. This Book is the Logos, the Word of God—all of which requires reading. Our Book is not given for simply a cursory reading, nor an “e-how” instruction for a specific problem. Our Book is to be read and understood and “straightly cut” for instruction and application. (II Timothy 2:15) The problem is that many modern Christians can’t read well and don’t really see the need. Consequently, they parent their children with the same standard. “I never liked to read.” “I hated history.” I wasn’t good in math.” These excuses form the working educational foundation in many homes; yet, they also chip away at the very foundation of our Christian churches.
In 1647, the Puritans of the Massachusetts colony passed the Old Deluder Satan Law that required all parents to teach their children how to read. Their intention was to guarantee that succeeding generations could read the Bible for themselves, and in doing so, to maintain the foundation of their own religious freedom. Whether we agree with making this a civil law or not, we must recognize the intention of these Puritans. They understood the dangers of their society and the necessity for their children to excel—even beyond themselves—in understanding and obedience to God’s Word.
These Puritan parents wholly embraced the requirement that, as Christians, we are to love the Lord our God with all of our minds. (Matthew 22:37) This was their paradigm that motivated them in the education of their children. They understood that the greatest enemy was the enemy who would steal the words that fed the minds of their children. These were parents whose education had been based in the Bible, languages, and the classics. They knew the enemy and how to fight him.
But modern ignorance of the enemy has deluded Christians, just as our forefathers warned. Feeble attempts have been made to remedy our situation, but too many churches are failing to reap any benefits. Many homeschooled children have been vacuum-sealed in a perpetual infancy of their minds in the name of “sheltering.” Their “unschooled” environment may be a sort of Great Protectorate from detrimental external influences; but the real enemy of the children has been overlooked.
Who or what is this enemy? Our enemy is the Old Deluder himself. His war has always been waged against the Logos; and his most effective weapon is the destruction of His followers by devaluing His Word. (Consider Genesis 3) It follows that something of little value is also little considered. Then what will direct the paths of our children, or correct their ways, or fill their minds? We may have all the external fortifications for their safe-keeping, but what will fortify their minds and provoke them to good works and provide for a godly continuum of generations to follow? Or—have we shipwrecked the next generation?
We must be teaching our children to read; yet not just to read, but what they must read. We must be connecting the dots to show them the wiles of the enemy. We’re so easily impressed by modern religious rebuttals against evolution; but we’ve stopped there as if that was the greatest of all debates. Rather, we should be considering the Great Conversation that spawned such ugly children as Evolution and Atheism and the poisoned venom that nourished them.
Consider how few children are taught to read Shakespeare; and consider how few who read the words with some meaning understand any of the underlying references of Shakespeare to the Bible and to writings of antiquity or contemporary writers of his day. Consider his play Henry V. He showed how the powerful words of King Henry rallied his bedraggled and spent army to overcome the mighty French army. Shakespeare rebuked those whose intention was to demean words and replace them with “sensory images.”
Consider how few children read Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress; and consider again how few modern Christian children are required to study it. Yet, the self-educated tinker knew well his Bible and the psychology of man and events of the religious world of his day. Consider in the words of his Christian how he described the enemy as the Leviathan, referencing Job 41:26-29. Pilgrim’s Progress was published in 1678. Thomas Hobbes’ work the Leviathan was published in 1651, invoking the text from Job 41:33 to support his teaching. Mr. Hobbes cloaked his “doctrine” in Christian terminology while he dug up and discarded the foundation of Divine Revelation and rendered our Bibles less authoritative than the Laws of Nature. But Mr. Bunyan’s Christian warned that when “we hear that such robberies are done on the King’s highway,” we must go out in our armor with our shield of faith. (Ephesians 6:16) How many students of Bunyan would have recognized that admonition?
We know that Paul referred to “secular” things and to Greek writers to evangelize and to fortify the early churches. But can we as modern Christian parents accept that the same broad classical knowledge is necessary for our children? Perhaps, we have failed to realize that Ignorance is such a powerful deterrent to classical education; rather Ignorance often breeds contempt of such knowledge. But the contempt of classical knowledge then spills over into contempt of all knowledge, including knowledge of the Bible as Paul admonished Timothy to have. (II Timothy 2:15)
Perhaps when we realize just how little our children understand that the Bibles we cherish are Divinely Inspired, we will be motivated to abide by our own Old Deluder Satan Law to teach them to read. But if we also realize how little our children really care that they don’t understand, we may be motivated to act quickly. But then, if we begin to study ourselves and realize how much the Laws of Nature and “touchy-feely” Science has replaced the Word in the our own minds, we will realize as Mr. Bunyan taught us that unless we go out with our armor and our shield, we will not make the Leviathan yield, for “he fears us not at all.”
Dr. Teresa Suttles
|Posted by John Suttles on July 17, 2012 at 10:25 PM||comments (0)|
Christian...and Faithful, The Legacy of John Harper
If you were told that you had about 2 hours, 40 minutes left to live, what would you do with your remaining time? Surely, this is not a scenario in which you would like to find yourself, and yet, for one man in 1912, this was exactly the dilemma he faced. That man’s name was John Harper.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. While stories, movies, books, and songs abound related to the fateful voyage of the Titanic, one is hard pressed to find records of explicitly Christian conduct the night of the Titanic’s sinking. Indeed, there were many acts of bravery – many acts of courage and selflessness. And these are worthy of noting. But even pagan Rome honored these virtues! Where, we might ask, are the last testaments and dying proclamations of real Christians? Where are those who glorified God and served Christ to the very end in the face of a horrible and frightening death? Where are the accounts of men or women spending their last moments to save more than just bodies – to save souls? Sadly, these are not things one hears of when hearing of the Titanic. You won’t find gospel witnesses heralded in Hollywood! All you'll find there are stories of drunken irresponsibility and fornication that is praised as love. In light of these things, John Harper’s story needs repeating.
John Harper was a Scotsman and a Baptist pastor of some renown. He was a passenger on the RMS Titanic when it struck an iceberg. But, most importantly, Harper was a Christian with a burning zeal to see lost souls come to Christ. Those who knew him universally testified of this fact. He beautifully demonstrated this love for Christ and for lost souls on the night of April 14th, 1912.
Little did Harper know, when he departed for the U.S.A. what he was to face! He had been invited to speak at the Moody Church in Chicago and was traveling along with his six year old daughter, “Nan”, and her aunt, Miss Leitch (both survived). He eagerly looked forward to being there in the coming weeks. But God intended instead that the deck of the Titanic and the frigid waters of the North Atlantic would be Harper’s last pulpit experience.
By all accounts, Harper spent his final moments energetically evangelizing the lost and comforting the believers. Almost from the moment that news was sent below, a little after 11:40 p.m., about the Titanic having been damaged by ice, Harper went to work as a dying missionary. We may never know how many lives God touched or souls He saved by the preaching of this one man as he bravely looked death in the face on that frozen night. But one moving testimony will serve to present your mind with a view of the nature of his dying service.
After hurrying about the deck of the sinking ship for some time encouraging hearers to repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, Harper took a step of great self-sacrifice. Seeing scores of people already in the frigid ocean screaming and crying, and knowing that he too would not escape death, Harper threw himself into the ocean and began swimming to those still alive to give the gospel to as many as possible before they perished. Apparently, he would swim from one to another inquiring whether they were saved. If the reply was "no", he would admonish them to look to Christ for salvation.
One person Harper encountered was a young man who later testified that he had managed to cling to a drifting piece of wreckage. Harper appeared to him, panting and freezing, and inquired about his salvation. He said he was not saved, to which Harper shouted, “Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!” The currents took Harper away, but some time later Harper came within sight of the same young man again and shouted, “Are you saved?” Again, the young man said, “No”. Harper was again carried away.
Four years after the sinking, at a reunion of survivors in Ontario, Canada, this young man, thought to have been a steward on the ship, recounted this event and testified to those present that he had finally come to salvation in Christ and owed it to John Harper, the messenger sent by God on that horrible night.
Shortly after his last meeting with this young man in the early hours of April 15th, Harper, hopelessly exhausted in his final service to Christ, slipped into the dark waters to rest until the Lord’s coming. His body was never found. How many others were similarly touched by this dying missionary, only eternity will tell.
Harper is little remembered now. His name is not associated with all the rich and famous for which the Titanic is most known. Yet, his service to Christ is nobler than fame or fortune. Ought we not all to be so impressed with the great need of lost souls? Ought we not to respond to this one witness in the “great cloud of witnesses” before us with a renewed zeal to labor for Christ while the vanishing moments draw to an end? For they surely do! They surely are!
What will our legacy be? Will it be one of service to Christ for the cause of the Gospel –to the very end?
(The reader is referred to The Titanic’s Last Hero by Moody Adams, originally published as John Harper: A Man of God, in 1912, for further information.)
|Posted by John Suttles on July 16, 2012 at 9:15 PM||comments (0)|
Mothers, Talk to Your Sons!
The old adage, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” may be time-worn and faded; but the truth it contains was never more new. We find ourselves today in a culture that has managed to achieve an almost complete sexual amalgamation among our youth—indeed, to a level unparalleled in history.
Old men, like myself, can well remember that “oft replayed” newsreel of the Beatles when they landed on American soil for the first time—the so-called “second British invasion.” The clip showed them disembarking from their airplane and waving at the crowds.
Most Americans were shocked! “These boys look like girls!” was the nearly universal cry. Well, we’ve come a long way since that sad day in the 1960s—a long way down.
We’ve degenerated into a “culture” (or the absence thereof) in which gender distinction is almost illegal. It is, to say the least, socially distasteful.
God made Adam.
God made Eve.
God made male and female.
Since that day of Creation, indeed, because of that act, God has established the roles and responsibilities for all subsequent “Adam's” and “Eve's” time immortal. The pages of God’s Word delineate His purposes in both genders and their roles in the home, in the culture, in society.
While volumes could be written (and some already have) addressing the many facets of this crisis in American life, it is my intent to open only one component, namely, the relationship of mothers to their sons at one specific stage in their maturity—young manhood. It is especially at this stage that their further maturity demands a mother’s strength of character in ways never before needed.
Openness, honesty, and firmness are always virtues in a mother’s dealings with her sons; but that period of time in which the flower of youth begins to ripen into the fruit of manhood is a critical time in their relationship. This is not a time for the mush and fluff of Hollywood’s fantasies. This is the time for her to face the “little man” with all the strength, firmness, and force that godliness demands and faithfulness requires. Our modern lingo has furnished us with a term for what’s needed here—“tough love.” This is the hour for tough love in a son’s life. His need now is no longer the sweet coddling of an infant or the soft preening of a child; but the firm guiding of a youth.
Nothing teaches truth better than example; so it is that I turn now to a glorious example to illustrate my point.
The famous Baptist scholar Dr. Patrick Hues Mell was born in Liberty County, Georgia, in July 1814. In his lifetime he became the professor of Ancient Languages at Mercer University, pastored two churches simultaneously for over twenty-five years, served as a colonel in the Army for Southern Independence, served as chancellor of the University of Georgia, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention for many years until his death in 1888.
Early in life, his family had lost their fortune through certain financial reversals. Nevertheless, he had several opportunities for education. His mother’s influence on young Mell was profound. Long after her death, Dr. John Jones (an eminent Presbyterian minister of the day) described Mell’s mother in these words:
His mother (Cynthia Sumner) was a woman of marked individuality of character, intellectual, and a truly godly woman, brought up in the strictest mode of Congregationalism, and no doubt, perfectly familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism…Dr. Mell was all Sumner, a perfect reproduction of his mother, in form, in features, in character, and in mind, proving the old saying ‘that men of mark are chiefly indebted to their mothers for their superiority.' 1
It was later in his life, as a youth of fifteen, that Mrs. Mell found occasion to exercise the “tough love” her son so urgently needed in his life. Just before her death, his mother wrote to him while he was away at school at Sands Hill. In that letter she said:
It is high time that you and I should communicate frequently and confidentially. If this is not to be expected by the time you have arrived at fifteen, when is it to be looked for? On one account I have more anxiety, and even dread on your behalf than for any of my children. Earnestly as I wish a son of mine to be a minister, yet I tremble at the idea of educating and devoting a son to that sacred profession without…satisfactory evidence that his own soul was right with God…My heart burns to see you, in every sense of the word, a true Christian…I have loved you from your birth, and have watched over you until now with the tenderest affection, but feel my own deficiency in not communing more with you on the state of your mind. You should exercise a jealousy over yourself lest the trifles of this world should deaden your feelings about the grand question: What are the hopes of my salvation? What have I done—what must I do to be saved? Important questions. Other studies are very commendable and right, but let those which tend directly to religious subjects have the first place in your thoughts and affections. Let these pages, my dear boy, be a testimony before God and keep them as a sign between you and me, that I am in earnest. I have long been studying your character in respect to your common life and particularly in reference to this point: Remember, they that are Christ’s have crucified their lusts—crucify yours. 2
Strong words indeed! Strong and painful, no doubt, but words pouring out of a mother’s heart who had no time for trifles nor patience with neglect. Her burden was crystal clear, and her design unambiguous. So great was her burden for her son, and so determined her purpose to deliver it, that the very next day she sat down and wrote him again. Among other things she said:
I will not conceal from you any longer my anxiety for you to become a minister, yet I dare not decide on such a plan without much more clear evidence than I have yet seen that your actual state, feeling, conduct, temper and conversation, habitual and fixed thoughts, are such as will justify me in doing so. I say this with anxiety, and write with fear, but I say it with earnest prayer for the real conversion of your soul to God, and with some hope that He will hear the petition that I have endeavored to offer up for you many years back. I will repeat: I can never consent for you to study for the ministry until I have some satisfactory proof of your heart turned to God in holy consistency…of character. 3
Tough words! Tough love! Exactly what a son must hear from a mother whose aim is, above all else, the glory of God.
I am glad to report that God “put her tears in a bottle and recorded them in a book” (Psalm 56:6). Well after Mrs. Mell was dead, God sent out His Sheriff to arrest P. H. Mell. Hear him tell it in his own words in a letter to the Rev. Josiah Samuel Law dated February 1839:
The Lord has dealt mercifully with me and has been pleased to bring me from the most awful lengths of unbelief and to humiliate me at the foot of the Cross. And I think I can say that I have the firmest belief relying humbly upon His promises that He has for Christ’s sake pardoned all my sins. It is almost more than I can realize, and when I consider who I am and what I have been and how I have trifled with this subject, I am filled with astonishment that I can by possibility arrive at such a state of mind as to believe that I have passed from death unto life…and by steps that were imperceptible to me at the time and cannot be traced now, I was brought to relinquish all my doubts and to feel that even for me the subject had an interest…I would often retire to a private place and try to pray, and because I did not receive a miraculous manifestation of God’s presence in my heart, I would give up in despair and perhaps the next moment with a zeal that would astonish myself, would join with the thoughtless in throwing ridicule on the Bible and religion. But not to multiply words, in this awful state did I continue until about three weeks ago when God was pleased to bring me like a little child to the foot of the Cross, and I was led to pray Him to save me in His own way…Pray for me that I may not again deceive myself, but that I may build on the Rock Christ Jesus. 4
Oh, that more sons had this testimony that “Mama told me the truth—even when it hurt.” As Mrs. Mell’s grandson wrote in his biography of his father:
God answered her prayers by giving to the country a noble life, the influence of which was felt for more than fifty years through the length and breadth of this Southern land. 5
Maybe we, in the grace of God, may produce again a Dr. P. H. Mell. “He was all Sumner.”
Mothers, talk to your sons.
Dr. John Suttles
1 Mell, P.H., Jr. The Life of Patrick Hues Mell. Harrisonburg, Virginia: Gano Books, 1991. pg. 11.
2 Ibid., pg. 13.
3 Ibid., pg. 14.
4 Ibid., pg. 34, 38.
5 Ibid., pg. 15.