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Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 11

2. It [The idea that a gracious spirit is a contented spirit] is of universal extent, it concerns all. 1st. It concerns rich men. One would think it needless to press those to contentment whom God hath blessed with great estates, but rather persuade them to be humble and thankful; nay, but I say, be content. Rich men have their discontents as well as others! When they have a great estate, yet they are discontented that they have no more; they would make the hundred talents a thousand. A man in wine, the more he drinks, the more he thirsts; covetousness is a dry dropsy; an earthly heart is like the grave, that is “never satisfied;” therefore I say to you, rich men, be content. Rich men, if we may suppose them to be content with their estates, which is seldom; yet, though they have estate enough, they have not honour enough: if their barns are full enough, yet their turrets are not high enough. They would be somebody in the world, as Theudas, “who boasted himself to be somebody.” (Ac. 5. 36) They never go so cheerfully as when the wind of honour and applause fills their sails; if this wind be down they are discontented. One would think Haman had as much as his proud heart could desire; he was set above all the princes, advanced upon the pinnacle of honour, to be the second man in the kingdom; (Es. 3. 1) yet in the midst of all his pomp, because Mordecai would not uncover and kneel, he is discontented, and full of wrath, and there was no way to assuage this pleurisy of revenge, but by letting all the Jews’ blood, and offering them up in sacrifice. The itch of honour is seldom allayed without blood; therefore I say to you rich men, be content. Rich men, if we may suppose them to be content with their honour and magnificent titles, yet they have not always contentment in their relations. She that lies in the bosom, may sometimes blow the coals; as Job’s wife, who in a pet would have him fall out with God himself; “curse God, and die.” Sometimes children cause discontent. How often is it seen that the mother’s milk doth nourish a viper? and that he that once sucked her breast, goes about to suck her blood? Parents do often of grapes gather thorns, and of figs thistles. Children are sweet-briar; like the rose, which is a fragrant flower, but hath its prickles. Our relative comforts are not all pure wine, but mixed; they have in them more dregs than spirits, and are like that river Plutarch speaks of, where the waters in the morning run sweet, but in the evening run bitter. We have no charter of exemption granted us in this life; therefore rich men had need be called upon to be content. 2dly. The doctrine of contentment concerns poor men. You that do suck so liberally from the breasts of providence, be content; it is an hard lesson, therefore it had need be set upon the sooner. How hard is it when the livelihood is even gone, a great estate boiled away almost to nothing, then to be contented. The means of subsistence is in Scripture called our life, because it is the very sinews of life. The woman in the gospel spent “all her living upon the physicians;” (Lu. 8. 43) in the Greek it is, she spent her whole life upon the physicians, because she spent her means by which she should live. It is much when poverty hath clipped our wings then to be content; but, though hard, it is excellent; and the apostle here had “learned in every state to be content”. God had brought St Paul into as great variety of conditions as ever we read of any man, and yet he was content; else sure he could never have gone through it with so much cheerfulness. See into what vicissitudes this blessed apostle was cast: “we are troubled on every side,” (2 Cor 4. 8) there was the sadness of his condition; “but not distressed,” there was his content in that condition: “we are perplexed,” there is his affliction; “but not in despair,” there is his contentation. And, if we read a little further, “in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults,” (2 Cor 6. 4,5) &c. there is his trouble: and behold his content, “as having nothing, yet possessing all things.” When the apostle was driven out of all, yet in regard of that sweet contentment of mind which was like music in his soul, he possessed all. We read a short map or history of his sufferings; “in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft,” (2 Cor. 11. 23, 24, 25) &c. yet behold the blessed frame and temper of his spirit, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Which way soever providence did blow, he had such heavenly skill and dexterity, that he knew how to steer his course. For his outward estate he was indifferent; he could be either on the top of Jacob’s ladder, or the bottom; he could sing either the dirge or the anthem; he could be anything that God would have him: “I know how to want, and how to abound.” Here is a rare pattern for us to imitate. Paul, in regard of his faith and courage, was like a cedar, he could not be stirred; but for his outward condition, he was like a reed bending every way with the wind of providence. When a prosperous gale did blow upon him, he could bend with that, “I know how to be full;” and when a boisterous gust of affliction did blow, he could bend in humility with that, “I know how to be hungry.” St Paul was, as Aristotle speaks, like a die that hath four squares; throw it which way you will, it falls upon a bottom: let God throw the apostle which way he would, he fell upon this bottom of contentment. A contented spirit is like a watch: though you carry it up and down with you yet the spring of it is not shaken, nor the wheels out of order, but the watch keeps its perfect motion: so it was with St Paul, though God carried him into various conditions, yet he was not lift up with the one, nor cast down with the other; the spring of his heart was not broken, the wheels of his affections were not disordered, but kept their constant motion towards heaven; still content. The ship that lies at anchor may sometimes be a little shaken, but never sinks; flesh and blood may have its fears and disquiets, but grace doth check them: a Christian, having cast anchor in heaven, his heart never sinks; a gracious spirit is a contented spirit. This is a rare art. Paul did not learn it at the feet of Gamaliel: “I am instructed,” (Ph. 4. 11) I am initiated into this holy mystery; as if he had said, I have gotten the divine art, I have the knack of it; God must make us right artists. If we should put some men to an art that they are not skilled in, how unfit would they be for it? put an husbandman to limning or drawing pictures, what strange work would he make? This is out of his sphere. Take a limner that is exact in laying of colours, and put him to plough, or set him to planting, or grafting of trees, this is not his art, he is not skilled in it: bid a natural man live by faith, and when all things go cross, be contented, you bid him do what he hath no skill in, you may as well bid a child guide the stern of a ship; to live contented upon God in the deficiency of outward comforts, is an art which “flesh and blood hath not learned;” nay, many of God’s own children, who excel in some duties of religion, when they come to this of contentment, how do they bungle? They have scarce commenced masters of this art. [Note: The above was a single paragraph in the original!]

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Augustine: God is the Enlightener

Augustine on light

The above is an attempt to illustrate two quotations from Augustine of Hippo, requesting God to enlighten him, and responding that God will do this.

Augustine was apparently referring, in part, to James 1:16 Don’t be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Thanks for looking. The graphic above also serves as a link to a post on Flickr, which can be seen at a larger size.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Sunspots 660

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:


The Arts: (or something) Listverse describes, and shows, 10 beautiful natural  wonders.

Christianity: (and Computing) I don't use YouVersion, the free Bible app but lots and lots of other people do. Maybe you should.

He Lives on "Jacob's Genetic Engineering." (Commenting on Genesis 30.)

I have a post on how the Bible wants us to treat aliens, foreigners and strangers.

A Relevant writer tells us that helping the poor may be the least followed command (or commands) in the Bible.


Computing: FiveThirtyEight reports on a new computer chess program, which has used artificial intelligence to train. It seems to  be more aggressive than previous programs, and analyzes fewer possibilities.

Wired tells us what happens to our electronic waste (old phone, TVs, etc.). It's not pretty. Not at all.

Politics: (and computing) Wired reports on Russian trolls that are after Robert Mueller.

Science: FiveThirtyEight reports on personality tests that are better than the famous  (or infamous) Myers-Briggs instrument.

And FiveThirtyEight also reports on the discovery of the largest known prime number.

Scientific American reports on a poll about whether we approve of possible physical enhancement (improving muscles, eyes, and other parts and functions).

Sports: (and Health) FiveThirtyEight debunks Tom Brady's fitness books and products.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 10

The doctrine of contentment is very superlative, and till we have learned this, we have not learned to be Christians.
1. It is a hard lesson. The angels in heaven had not learned it; they were not contented. Though their estate was very glorious, yet they were still soaring aloft, and aimed at something higher; “the angels which kept not their first estate.” They kept not their estate, because they were not contented with their estate. Our first parents, clothed with the white robe of innocency in paradise, had not learned to be content; they had aspiring hearts, and thinking their human nature too low and home-spun, would be crowned with the Deity, and “be as gods.” Though they had the choice of all the trees of the garden, yet none would content them but the tree of knowledge which they supposed would have been as eye-salve to have made them omniscient. O then, if this lesson was so hard to learn in innocency, how hard shall we find it, who are clogged with corruption!


Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Who the Holy Spirit is and what He does



The Holy Spirit
Based on The Holy Spirit: Activating God's Power in Your Life, Billy Graham. He points out that we need Christ for forgiveness of sin, and the Holy Spirit because we want to be good, but can’t do so ourselves. Scripture from World English Bible, public domain.

What He does:
He speaks: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. (Rev. 2:7a) As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)
He intercedes: But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered. (Rom. 8:26b)
He testifies: “When the Counselor has come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me.” (John 15:26)
He leads: The Spirit said to Philip, “Go near, and join yourself to this chariot.” (Acts 8:29) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God. (Rom. 8:14)
He commands: When they had gone through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 When they had come opposite Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit didn’t allow them. (Acts 16:6–7)
He guides: However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth (John 16:13a)
He teaches: We also speak these things, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches . . . (1 Corinthians 2:13)
He appoints: Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord (Acts 20:28a)

What we can do to the Holy Spirit: Lie: 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the price of the land? You haven’t lied to men, but to God. (Acts 5:3, 4b)
Insult: How much worse punishment do you think he will be judged worthy of who has trodden under foot the Son of God, … and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:29a, c)
Blaspheme: Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. (Matt. 12:31)
Grieve: Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Eph. 4:30)
Receive: Acts 19:2-6

Attributes: He is eternal: how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without defect to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb. 9:14)
He is powerful: The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. (Luke 1:35)
He is omnipresent: Where could I go from your Spirit? Or where could I flee from your presence?” (Ps. 139:7).
He is omniscient: 10b For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. (1 Cor. 2)
He is called God: See Acts 5:3–4, above.
He is Creator: Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Job 3:4 The Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.


Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sunspots 659


Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:


The Arts: (or something) Listverse describes, and shows, 10 beautiful natural  wonders.

Christianity: (and Computing) I don't use YouVersion, the free Bible app, but lots and lots of other people do. Maybe you should.

He Lives on "Jacob's Genetic Engineering." (Commenting on Genesis 30.)


Computing: FiveThirtyEight reports on a new computer chess program, which has used artificial intelligence to train. It seems to  be more aggressive than previous programs, and analyzes fewer possibilities.

Wired tells us what happens to our electronic waste (old phone, TVs, etc.). It's not pretty. Not at all.

Politics: (and computing) Wired reports on Russian trolls that are after Robert Mueller.

Science: FiveThirtyEight reports on personality tests that are better than the famous  (or infamous) Myers-Briggs instrument.

And FiveThirtyEight also reports on the discovery of the largest known prime number.

Sports: (and Health) FiveThirtyEight debunks Tom Brady's fitness books and products.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, January 07, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 10

Watson discusses the doctrine of contentment in depth, at this point, beginning thus:
 
The doctrine of contentment is very superlative, and till we have learned this, we have not learned to be Christians.
1. It is a hard lesson. The angels in heaven had not learned it; they were not contented. Though their estate was very glorious, yet they were still soaring aloft, and aimed at something higher; “the angels which kept not their first estate.” They kept not their estate, because they were not contented with their estate. Our first parents, clothed with the white robe of innocency in paradise, had not learned to be content; they had aspiring hearts, and thinking their human nature too low and home-spun, would be crowned with the Deity, and “be as gods.” Though they had the choice of all the trees of the garden, yet none would content them but the tree of knowledge which they supposed would have been as eye-salve to have made them omniscient. O then, if this lesson was so hard to learn in innocency, how hard shall we find it, who are clogged with corruption!


Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
 
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Prisoners for the Lord



Prisoners for the Lord
We are to minister to those imprisoned, whatever the reason they are there.
Luke 4:18a “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim release to the captives,
Matthew 25:34 Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35a for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. 36 I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’
Hebrews 13:3 Remember those who are in bonds*, as bound with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you are also in the body. (*or “in prison.”)
Christians may be jailed, or otherwise suffer, for their beliefs.
Christ's servants, if they come to be prisoners, are his prisoners; and he despises not his prisoners. He thinks never the worse of them for the bad character which the world gives them or the evil treatment that they met with in it. – Matthew Henry’s Commentary, public domain.
“… for most of church history—and in most of the world today—Christians have been severely oppressed, marginalized and killed for their beliefs. (Daniel Hess, “God Has a Great Plan for You (Even If It’s Not What You Had in Mind),” Relevant, January 5, 2018.)
Luke 21:12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you up to synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 It will turn out as a testimony for you.
Acts 12:1-16 tells the story of Peter’s miraculous release from prison; 16:16-40 Paul and Silas in the jail at Philippi; Acts 21:12 through Acts 28 tells of Paul’s arrest and transfer to Rome. (See below for full texts.)
Becoming a believer is like being released from prison.
“And Can It Be” and “O Zion, haste” are hymns that speak of salvation in such terms.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee. ("And Can It Be ...," Charles Wesley, public domain)
Behold how many thousands still are lying
bound in the dark-some prison-house of sin,
with none to tell them of the Savior's dying,
or of the life He died for them to win. ("O Zion, haste ... ," Mary Ann Thomson, public domain.
Following Christ is like willingly being jailed by Him. That seems to be what Paul was saying in these verses, although he probably was also referring to actual imprisonment:
Ephesians 3:1 For this cause I, Paul, am the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles,
Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called,
Romans 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners, who are notable among the apostles, who were also in Christ before me.
A prisoner of the Lord gives up her freedom. She eats and sleeps as Christ commands. She lives for Christ, and others, not for herself. But she gladly submits to such imprisonment!

Acts 12:1 Now about that time, King Herod stretched out his hands to oppress some of the assembly. 2 He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. 3 When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This was during the days of unleavened bread. 4 When he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. 5 Peter therefore was kept in the prison, but constant prayer was made by the assembly to God for him. 6 The same night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains. Guards in front of the door kept the prison.
7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side, and woke him up, saying, “Stand up quickly!” His chains fell off his hands. 8 The angel said to him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” He did so. He said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He didn’t know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he saw a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went out, and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.
11 When Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I truly know that the Lord has sent out his angel and delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from everything the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 Thinking about that, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 When Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she didn’t open the gate for joy, but ran in, and reported that Peter was standing in front of the gate.
15 They said to her, “You are crazy!” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.” 16 But Peter continued knocking. When they had opened, they saw him, and were amazed.

Acts 16:16 As we were going to prayer, a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. 17 Following Paul and us, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!” 18 She was doing this for many days.
But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” It came out that very hour. 19 But when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 When they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men, being Jews, are agitating our city 21 and advocate customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”
22 The multitude rose up together against them and the magistrates tore their clothes from them, then commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 When they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely, 24 who, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and secured their feet in the stocks.
25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were loosened. 27 The jailer, being roused out of sleep and seeing the prison doors open, drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, “Don’t harm yourself, for we are all here!”
29 He called for lights, sprang in, fell down trembling before Paul and Silas, 30 brought them out, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him, and to all who were in his house.
33 He took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes, and was immediately baptized, he and all his household. 34 He brought them up into his house, and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, with all his household, having believed in God.
35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the sergeants, saying, “Let those men go.”
36 The jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go; now therefore come out and go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly without a trial, men who are Romans, and have cast us into prison! Do they now release us secretly? No, most certainly, but let them come themselves and bring us out!”
38 The sergeants reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, 39 and they came and begged them. When they had brought them out, they asked them to depart from the city. 40 They went out of the prison, and entered into Lydia’s house. When they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them, then departed.
Acts 21:12 When we heard these things, both we and the people of that place begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 

Thanks for reading!