Desert highlights?


As a city kid with limited experience of the desert (one brief, quite comfortable sojourn in the ‘wilderness’ of modern Israel, and it rained the day we visited Jericho) I admit that I need help to understand it as a metaphor for the isolated, arid, testing times in our experience as Christians. This second brief post on the theme of our desert experiences also comes from J. I. Packer…

J. I. Packer shares five values that God highlighted for him during years of ‘desert’ experience…

  1. Goodwill. I should not get bitter or lapse into self-pity or spend any time complaining and angling for sympathy. God was using my ministry, and I was forbidden to get fixated on my frustrations.
  2. Hope. I was not to become cynical or apathetic about the vision I had been given or to abandon it because there was no immediate way of advancing it. God is never in a hurry, and waiting in hope is a biblical discipline.
  3. Faithfulness. As a husband, father, teacher, honorary assistant clergyman, and occasional author, I had plenty each day to get on with, and I could not honor God by slackness and negligence, whatever discontents I was carrying around inside me.
  4. Compassion. Clearly I was being taught to empathize more deeply with the many Christians, lay and ordained, male and female, who live with various kinds of disappointments, and thus were in the same boat as myself.
  5. Humility. I must never forget that God is supreme and important and I am neither, and he can manage very well without me whenever He chooses to do so.

From J. I. Packer in The Desert Experience




David, God’s chosen (and deeply loved) King in Israel, wrote, ‘O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ (Psalm 63:1ESV) and, like David, generations of Christians since, have at times at least, felt that we have come to a dry and weary place in our life as Jesus’ chosen (and deeply loved) disciples. This first of three brief posts on the theme of our desert experiences comes from J.I.Packer…

J.I.Packer writes…The desert, or wilderness, appears in scripture not just as a place where certain things happened, but as a symbol of isolation in some form – isolation, however, into which God Himself leads us for purposes of discipline and discovery within His love relation to us. In the desert God will discipline us for the maturing of our faith and character as disciples, and we accept the discipline because we know that spiritual advance is what it will lead to.

“In the desert, too, God will uncover and show us, what we are made of spiritually, for it is a place of testing; we shall learn more than we previously knew about our present shortcomings (lovelessness, thoughtlessness, instability, indiscipline, self-absorption, malice, pride, unbelief, disordered desires, and, as the travel brochures say, much, much more)

“… also, through God’s revelatory action, we shall learn, or relearn, much about Him that calls for trust and love and praise (the greatness of His grace, His all-sufficiency, His wisdom and beauty, His faithfulness, His purpose and priorities, and so forth).

“The desert experience may thus have great significance in our personal pilgrimage.”

From J. I. Packer in The Desert Experience

Surprised by Grace?


‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child;
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to Thee.’

For many of us who were introduced to Jesus as infants, this verse from Charles Wesley’s hymn found a place among our first prayers, and I am quite content to believe that our simple, trustful, request was heard; that the same Jesus, who insisted his disciples let little ones, like us, come to Him, received us then, and that all our subsequent experience of grace has been the fruit of the gracious welcome we experienced then. If this manner of conversion has any down side perhaps it is that it takes us longer to discover that we are no less sinners and no less sinful than the likes of John Newton, and that the Grace we have found with Jesus is no less amazing. This third brief post on the theme of Grace also comes from Charles Spurgeon….

 “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus….”
Acts 15:11 ESV

Charles Spurgeon said…. “I think it is very clear, again, from the text that the apostles did not believe in salvation by the natural force of free will. I fail to detect a trace of the glorification of free will here. Peter puts it, ‘We believe that we shall be saved;’ through what? Through our own unbiased will? Through the volitions of our own well-balanced nature? Not at all, sir; but, ‘we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.’ He takes the crown from off the head of man in all respects, and gives all glory to the grace of God; he extols God, the gracious sovereign, who will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and who will have compassion upon whom He will have compassion. I wish I had a voice of thunder to proclaim in every street of London this glorious doctrine, ‘By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.’ This is the old reformation doctrine. This is the doctrine which will shake the very gates of hell, if it is but faithfully preached. O for an army of witnesses to publish abroad the gospel of grace in its sovereignty, omnipotence, and fullness. If you are ever to get comfort, believe me, dear hearer, you must receive the doctrine of salvation by free grace into your soul as the delight and solace of your heart, for it is the living truth of the living God. Not by ritualism, not by good works, not by our own unaided free will are we saved, but by the grace of God alone.”

From Charles Spurgeon in his sermon “Grace – the One Way of Salvation.”

Indignant about Grace?

I overheard a woman complaining, about the idea of salvation ‘by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone’, that she wanted nothing that she could not earn for herself. Whether the lady believed that she could earn salvation, for herself alone, by her good works alone, or whether she simply did not believe that she needed saving, I don’t know. But her indignation impressed me as evidence of the pride that once alienated us all from the love of God, and lying at the root of all the ‘other gospels’ offered, hopelessly, in the world today. This second brief post on the theme of Grace also comes from Charles Spurgeon… 

“But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus….”
Acts 15:11 ESV

Charles Spurgeon wrote…. “We believe that if we are ever saved at all, we must be saved gratis – saved as the gratuitous act of a bountiful God – saved by a gift, not by wages – saved by God’s love, not by our own doings or merits. This is the apostle’s creed; salvation is all of divine grace from first to last, and the channel of that grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved, and lived, and died, and rose again for our salvation. Those who preach mere mortality, or set up any way except that of trusting in the grace of God through Christ Jesus, preach another gospel, and they shall be accursed, even though they preach it with an angel’s eloquence. In the day when the Lord shall come to discern between the righteous and the wicked, their work, as wood, hay, and stubble, shall be burnt up; but those who preach salvation by grace through Jesus Christ, shall find that their work, like gold, and silver, and precious stones, shall survive the fire, and great shall be their reward.”

From Charles Spurgeon in, “Grace – the One Way of Salvation.” – a sermon.

‘Good enough’ for God?


As long as we hold out hope that we are, or that we may, someday, by our own effort, become, ‘good enough’ for God, we are, and will remain, lost to Him. This first of three brief posts on the theme of Grace comes from Charles Spurgeon….


”But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus….”
Acts 15:11 ESV

 Charles Spurgeon wrote…. “Another thing is very clear here. The apostle did not believe in self-righteousness. The creed of the world is, ‘Do your best and it will be all right with you.’ To question this is treason against the pride of human nature, which evermore clings to salvation by its own merits. Every man is born a Pharisee. Self-confidence is bred in the bones – and will come out in the flesh. ‘What?’ says a man, ‘do you not believe that if a man does his best, he will fare well in the next world? Why, you know, we must all live as well as we can, every man according to his own light; and if every man follows out his own conscience, as near as may be, surely it will be well with us?’ That is not what Peter said. Peter did not say, ‘We believe that through doing our best, we shall be saved like other people.’ He did not even say, ‘We believe that if we act according to our light, God will accept that little light for what it was.’ No, the apostle strikes out quite another track, and solemnly affirms, ‘We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved,’ not through our good works, not through anything we do, not by the merit of anything which we feel or perform, or promise to perform, but by grace, that is to say, by the free favor of God….”

From Charles Spurgeon in, “Grace – the One Way of Salvation.” – a sermon.

He knows my name?


Of all men’s ideas of God, the least attractive to me, personally, is the notion of God as impersonal force; benign, blind, or any otherwise. Of all our characteristics as creations of God, made in His image, it is our person-hood, I think, that reflects His own nature best, albeit broken by sin  and in need of re-creation in Christ, by His Spirit. That God knows my name and calls me to Himself by name is, to me, beyond words to explain. This third and final brief post on the theme of the call of God also comes from Oswald Chambers…

Oswald Chambers wrote…. “…. he calls … by name ….” John 10:3 ESV

It is possible to know all about doctrine and yet not know Jesus. The soul is in danger when knowledge of doctrine outsteps intimate touch with Jesus. Why was Mary weeping? Doctrine was no more to Mary than the grass under her feet. Any Pharisee could have made a fool of Mary doctrinally, but one thing they could not ridicule out of her was the fact that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her; yet His blessings were nothing in comparison to Himself. Mary ‘saw Jesus standing and knew not that it was Jesus…’; immediately she heard the voice, she knew she had a past history with the One who spoke, ‘Master!’”

“Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”
John 20:16 ESV

The Call of the Wild?


If we, these days, out of respect for political correctness, attempt to ‘civilize’ God (‘Christianize’ Him?), we risk dis-respecting Him and diminishing our relationship with Him and separating ourselves from His purposes in us and in the world. Perhaps the solution to much of our spiritual malaise is to listen again for the call of the Wildness of God and recognize Him again, in ourselves, in Jesus. This second brief post on the theme of the call of God comes from Oswald Chambers…

“I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send?” Isaiah 6:8

Oswald Chambers wrote…. “When we speak of the call of God, we are apt to forget the most important feature, viz., the nature of the One Who calls. There is the call of the sea, the call of the mountains, the call of the great ice barriers; but these calls are only heard by the few. The call is the expression of the nature from which it comes, and we can only record the call if the same nature is in us. The call of God is the expression of God’s nature, not of our nature. There are strands of the call of God providentially at work for us which we recognize and no one else does. It is the threading of God’s voice to us in some particular matter, and it is no use consulting anyone else about it. We have to keep that profound relationship between our souls and God.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest