Friday, July 29, 2011

Lilias Trotter's Parables

Two little books, now out of print, wonderfully expand on the imagery Jesus used.  Parables of the Cross and Parables of the Christ-Life.

The Sign of the Cross
     Can we not trace the sign of the Cross in the first hint of the new spring's dawning?  In many cases, as in the chestnut, before a single leaf has faded, next year's buds may be seen at the summit of branch and twig, formed into its very stem blood-red.
     Back in the plant's first stages, the crimson touch is to be found in seed-leaves and fresh shoots, and even in hidden sprouts.  Look at the acorn, for instance, as it breaks its shell, and see how the baby tree bears its birthmark. 

A Clean Severance
     Botanists say that across the leaf-stalk there forms in autumn a layer of thin-walled cells, termed "the layer of separation."  These press and tear the older cells apart, and become disintegrated in their turn, till without an effort the leaf detaches with a severance clean and sharp as though made by a knife.  The plant sentences the leaf to death, and the winds of God carry out the sentence.

The New Leaf
     From the first hour that the layer of separation begins to form in the leafstalk, the leaf's fate is sealed; there is never a moment's reversal of the decision.  Each day that follows is a steady carrying out of the plant's purpose:  "This old leaf shall die, and the new leaf shall live."

Spiritual Pruning
     It is when the death of winter has done its work that the sun can draw out in each plant its own individuality, and make its existence full and fragrant.  Spiritual growth means something more than the sweeping away of the old leaves of sin -- it means the life of the Lord Jesus developed in us.

Life Out of Death
Note this bit of gorse bush.  The whole year round the thorn has been hardening and sharpening.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What God Hath Promised

What God Hath Promised

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Annie Johnson Flint

Annie Johnson Flint was born on Christmas Eve, in the year 1866, in the little town of Vineland, New Jersey.  Her life was lived, as someone has said, from hand to mouth, but as she liked to have it expressed, the mouth was hers, and the hand was God's and His hand was never empty.  This is one of her sweetest sonnets, "What God Hath Promised," which she says was born of experience of another would never have found expression if it had not been for her own trials.  Annie's sweet songs prove that God's purpose in allowing pain is not to destroy us but to conform us to the image of His Son, for "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves." (2 Cor 4:7).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Does God's Children Escape Pain, Disappointment, and Sorrow in Life?

Still a popular question asked today is:   “Why do God’s children suffer?”

One of the factors that has added to the perplexity and complexity of the problem is the unbiblical sales pitch to the unsaved that is given in some quarters. It is claimed that if you will only trust Christ you will move into the green pastures where all is calm and the problems of life are solved. Even prosperity and healing abound as a bonus for believing. Another addition is joy without any sorrow and with no cloud to darken the sky.

Let’s understand one thing: Salvation is a redemption paid by Christ for the penalty of your sin and my sin. And the primary benefit is that a hell-doomed sinner is now going to heaven because Jesus died in his stead, and the Holy Spirit has brought conviction of sin into his heart and life while he was still “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

 If you go back as far as Job, which would take you back probably to the time of Moses or even to Abraham, you will find that he illustrates this truth by a great law of physics:

Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward. (Job 5:7)

According to the laws of aerodynamics, because of the heat being generated, sparks will fly upward. Just as that is true, man must experience troubles. We will face trouble in this world.  David wrote:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. (Psalm 34:19)

And actually the Lord Jesus told His own (sometimes I think we forget Scriptures like this):  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Paul likewise makes the dogmatic assertion:

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)

There is no if, and, but, or perhaps about that at all. It is an axiom of Scripture that God’s children suffer.  God’s child is not promised that he will escape pain, disappointment, and sorrow in this life.

Thru The Bible by Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lilias Trotter

Lilias Trotter was born in London in 1853, seventh child of a businessman.  She was tall and slender with large brown eyes, an active and orderly mind, and "a quality of selflessness which gave her a peculiar charm."  When she was twenty-three she met John Ruskin in Venice, who recognized her gift for painting and offered to give her lessons.  "She seemed to learn everything the instant she was shown it, "he wrote," and ever so much more than she was taught."  But her heart was elsewhere.  She had put herself, her gifts, her life at God's disposal, so it was a great disappointment to Ruskin and a surprise to others when she decided to give herself to missionary work.  She was criticized and even ostracized, but her enthusiasm was fed, not quenched, by scorn.

For some reason, North Africa awakened strange vibrations in her soul.  She heard what she believed was God's specific call, and in 1888 landed in Algiers, where she spent the rest of her life.  She was the founder of the Algiers Mission Band which later merged with the North Africa Mission.  She died in 1928.

She found in the plant life of the deserts the fundamental principle of existence-- that death is the gateway to life-- exhibited in a thousand ways, and painted them with her brush and watercolors.  Who is to say she was a fool for turning her back on home, the possibilities of marriage and perhaps an artists career (these, after all, were certainly God's good gifts)?  The last of her water colors in Parables of the Cross is that of the wood sorrel, springing from an apparently useless little pile of twigs and dead leaves.   She writes, "God may use ... the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessings of souls unknown to us:  as these twigs and leaves of bygone years whose individuality is forgotten, pass on vitality still to the newborn wood sorrel.  God only knows the endless possibilities that lie folded in each one of us!

A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jesus' Suffering

The words which have the deepest understanding of suffering are Jesus' own, "In truth, in very truth I tell you, a grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls into the ground and dies; but if it dies, it bears a rich harvest."  This, He told His disciples, was the key.  There is a necessary link between suffering and glory.