About Our Hearts

The reality of a hidden depth in our heart is also the answer to a common problem: our lack of understanding of why we behave or feel the way we do.  We have certain conscious thoughts and attitudes, but our experience doesn’t seem to correlate with them.

The truth is that other thoughts and attitudes deep in our heart – of which we are not fully conscious – are actually driving our life.  As psychotherapist Michael Bernard explains, we have conscious rational thoughts, but also deep internal thought not immediately accessible to us.  It is this latter form of thought that often activates our life and contributes to emotional and behavioral disorders.

We often feel like we know and believe something as Christians but, in reality, it is only a surface belief that has never reached the depth of the heart to activate our life.  We may believe, for example, that we truly trust God.  We know that He is trustworthy.  He knows everything.  He is all-powerful.  And He is infinite love.  The combination of these attributes surely makes Him trustworthy in every situation.  We can rely on Him.  Yet, when negative circumstances arise, we experience anxiety and fear.

The question we must ask ourselves is: do we really trust God in our hearts?  Do we know that He is great and loving in the depth of our heart, or is it simply good theological doctrine lying on the surface, in our head?

From: Minding the Heart: The Way of Spiritual Transformation by Robert L. Saucy (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2013), p. 83.

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Avoid an Overly Strict Lord’s Day

We do not think that, in this cessation, believers are bound to Judaical precision which some (more scrupulous than just) maintain was not revoked, so that it is lawful neither to kindle a fire nor to cook food nor to take up arms against an enemy nor to prosecute a journey begun by land or sea nor to refresh themselves with innocent relaxation of the mind and body, provided they are done out of the hours appointed for divine worship, nor to have any diversion, however slight, to any things belonging to the advantages or emoluments of this life.  For, although this opinion bears, on its face, a beautiful appearance of piety (and, undoubtedly, with good intention is proposed, by pious men, to procure the better sanctification of this day, usually so basely profaned), still, it labors under grievous disadvantages nor can it be retained without, in this way, bringing back into the church and imposing anew upon the shoulders of Christians an unbearable yoke, repugnant to Christian liberty and the gentleness of Christ and opposed to the sweetness of the covenant of grace by agitating and tormenting the consciences of men through infinite scruples and inextricable difficulties (nearly driving to desperation).

From: Institutes of Elenctic Theology: Volume 2: Eleventh Through Seventeenth Topics by Francis Turretin; translated from the Latin by George Musgrave Giger; edited by James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1994), 11.14.26 (Volume 2, page 98)

Insights from Mark 11

Hypocritical religion pretends to be what it is not, but Christ will uncover it.  Like a tree with many leaves yet no fruit, the religious hypocrite displays to the world many impressive activities of devotion and self-denial but, under the leaves of external religion, the Lord sees that there are no fruits of Christian love for God and man, joy in the Lord, or peace by Christ’s [death].  The Lord Jesus is patient, but the time will come when He will judge us all.  If our godliness is only a form without His underlying power, He will curse us with a supernatural word of judgment that will wither us from the roots.  Search yourself by this word.  Is your godliness a matter of mere leaves?  What spiritual fruits is Christ producing in you?

Prayer is an instrument of immense power, for it invokes the almighty arm of God.  We should take up prayer with boldness, believing it to be the weapon by which God casts down every mountain raised up against the true worship of Himself.  We should pray with faith in God’s goodness and generosity toward His children, and we should pray together with other believers in a spirit of love, forgiveness, and unity.  How would you describe your prayer life now?  How does this chapter stir you to desire a deeper prayer life?

From: Family Worship Bible Guide, Joel R. Beeke, general editor (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016), pp. 691-692.  Devotion for Mark 11.

A Christian’s Distinguishing Mark

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  (1 John 4.8)

The distinguishing mark of a Christian is his confidence in the love of Christ and the yielding of his affections to Christ in return.  First, faith sets her seal upon the man by enabling the soul to say, with the apostle, “Christ loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Then, love gives the countersign and stamps upon the heart gratitude and love to Jesus in return.  “We love Him because he first loved us.”  In those grand old ages, which are the heroic period of the Christian religion, this double mark was clearly to be seen in all believers in Jesus.  They were men who knew the love of Christ and rested upon it as a man leans upon a staff whose trustiness he has tried.  The love which they felt towards the Lord was not a quiet emotion which they hid within themselves in the secret chamber of their souls and which they only spoke of in their private assemblies when they met on the first day of the week and sang hymns in honor of Christ Jesus the crucified, but it was a passion, with them, of such a vehement and all-consuming energy that it was visible in all their actions, spoke in their common talk, and looked out of their eyes even in their commonest glances.  Love to Jesus was a flame which fed upon the core and heart of their being and, therefore, from its own force burned its way into the outer man and shone there.  Zeal for the glory of King Jesus was the seal and mark of all genuine Christians.  Because of their dependence upon Christ’s love, they dared much and, because of their love to Christ they did much, and it is the same now.  The children of God are ruled in their inmost powers by love – the love of Christ constrains them.  They rejoice that divine love is set upon them, they feel it shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to them, and then, by force of gratitude, they love the Savior with a pure heart, fervently.

My reader, do you love Him?  Ere you sleep, give an honest answer to a weighty question! – Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), from Morning and Evening (June 5, evening)

From the Bible

The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.  Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”  I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.  The Lord has disciplined me severely, but He has not given me over to death.  (Psalm 118.14-18)

Matthew Henry (65) (26)

It is really a greater honor to be a faithful servant of Jesus Christ than to be kin to Him according to the flesh.  Many of Christ’s natural kindred, as well as of His progenitors, perished, not from want of natural affection to Him as a man but from infidelity and obstinacy in themselves, which should make the descendants and near relatives of persons most eminent for sincere and exemplary piety “jealous over themselves with a godly jealousy.”  A son of Noah may be saved in the ark from a flood of temporal destruction and yet be overwhelmed at last in a deluge of divine wrath and suffer the “vengeance of eternal fire.”  Christ Himself tells us that “he who hears His word and does it” (that is, He only) “is as His brother and sister and mother,” that is, more honorably and advantageously related to Him than the nearest and dearest of his natural relatives, considered merely as such (see Matthew 12.48-50). – Matthew Henry (1662-1714), commenting on Jude 1-2.

Social Tensions Between Roman Catholics and Protestants

It was in the household of this threatened, harassed, and indignant Prince that the first four or five years of the married life of John and Sarah were to lie.  The wars had stopped, and with them for John, not only pay and promotion, but all chance to use that military gift of which he had become conscious.  He must follow a master, united to him by many ties, but a man unlovable, from whom his whole outlook and nature diverged – nay, if the truth be told, recoiled; a master who was at times an outcast, and whose public odium his personal servants to some extent shared.  Between him and that master opened the almost unbridgeable gulf which separated Protestant and Catholic.  Faithful and skilful were the services which Churchill rendered to James.  Many a secret or delicate negotiation with the French King or with Charles II and the Court or with English political parties was entrusted to the discreet and persuasive henchman.  The invaluable character of these services and the sense of having been his patron from boyhood onwards were the bonds which held James to him.

But no services, however zealous and successful, could fill the hiatus between contrary religions.  The English Catholics, and above all James, their fanatical champion, and his immediate friends, were united not only by their creed, but by the comradeship which springs from being persecuted for conscience’ sake.  They thought thoughts and spoke a language of their own.  Relations they must have with the Protestants.  Indeed, the Churchills formed for them indispensable contacts with the outer world.  The fact that these two well-known Protestants were high in James’s confidence could be paraded as a proof of the toleration of the heir to the throne.  But at this time, when religion held the first place in men’s minds, and when Catholics were a sect hunted and proscribed, there could be no perfect union of hearts.  “They are with us,” James might have exclaimed to his close, fervent necklace of priests and co-religionists, “with us, and serviceable; but, alas, not of us.”  And so it continued to the end.

From: Marlborough: His Life and Times by Winston S. Churchill (London: George H. Harrap & Co., Ltd., 1933), pp. 144-145.  This is Volume 1 of the four-volume biography (1933-1938).

Sir Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965), soldier, journalist, politician, statesman, and author, was twice Prime Minister of Great Britain (1940-1945; 1951-1955), a member of Parliament for fifty years (1909-1959), and a gifted historian.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.

John = John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722)

Sarah = Sarah Churchill (formerly Jennings), his wife

James = King James II

The Redeemed Life

The purpose of the redeemed and renewed life is threefold.  First, it brings praise and glory to God.  Second, it assures us that our faith is true faith; putting it differently, it assures us that Christ, whom we confess, is indeed the crucified and risen Lord and Savior.  He works faith and conversion in us; these two go hand in hand.  Third, we are redeemed and renewed so that our neighbors may be won for Christ.  A life of gratitude projects a persuasive power to win our neighbors over to Christ.  When these three elements are lacking and life continues in sin, salvation can never be attained.

From: “The Theology of the Heidelberg Catechism” by Willem van’t Spijker, in The Church’s Book of Comfort, translated from the Dutch by Gerrit Bilkes; edited by Willem van’t Spijker (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Press, 2009), p. 125.  Dutch original published in 2005.

On God’s Goodness

Q. 132.  What is the goodness of God?

A.  It is that essential property of His nature, by which He is infinitely good in Himself and the author and fountain of all good to others (Psalm 119.68).

Q. 133.  How may the goodness of God be distinguished?

A.  Into his absolute and relative goodness.

Q. 134.  What is His absolute goodness?

A. It is the essential goodness of His nature without considering it in relation to the creatures (Matthew 19.17).

Q. 135.  What is His relative goodness?

A. It is the relation that His goodness bears to the creatures, both in the propensity of His nature to do them good (Exodus 33.19) and in the actual manifestation and communication of the blessings of His bounty to them in creation, providence, and redemption (Exodus 34.6-7).

From: The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained by Way of Question and Answer (“Fisher’s Catechism”) by Edward Fisher et al; reprint (East Stroudsburg: Dovetale Books, 2015), pp. 37-38.  From the third edition of 1765.  Originally published in 1753.

Annoying Autograph Hounds!

I was a good deal pushed by the kindness and attentions of the folks at Belfast.  Among others, a person wrote me a letter and transmitted, along with it, his album, requesting an insertion from me there, along with the other eminent persons who had honored it by their hand-writing.  I sent it back without any reply and just because of my repugnance to an act which carries with it the consciousness that I, too, must be a very eminent man like the lave of them.  It is a most indelicate request, and I do think, if people are amateurs and collectors of handwriting, the way is, just to get hold of any scrap of a card or letter that he may have written to another upon any familiar occasion, and batter it upon one of the pages of the portfolio.  It is really too much to make the man himself accessory to this sort of vanity.  You can accommodate, I have no doubt, your friends with abundance of my hieroglyphical scrawls. – Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), from a letter to Mrs. Jane Morton (October 20, 1827)

From: Letters of Thomas Chalmers, edited by William Hanna; reprint (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2007), pp. 209-210.  Originally published in 1853.