Why Do We Need the Leading of the Spirit?

June15

Psalm 107.1-3
He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. 

Why Do We Need the Leading of the Spirit? | by Thomas Jacomb (1622–1687)

The leading of the Spirit — O, how highly necessary is it! Who can be without it? 

What becomes of the poor blind man that has none to guide him? Of the weak child that has none to uphold it? Alas! the poor sinner, in both respects, does more need the Spirit’s leading inwardly, than either of these need external leading. 

Such is our spiritual blindness — our aptness to wander, our ignorance of our way, our liableness to fall down. Without a divine hand to guide us, we are lost. Such, too, is our spiritual debility and weakness, as that, if the Spirit of God do not hold us up in our going, “taking us by our arms,” we fall immediately. How absolutely necessary, therefore, is the Spirit’s leading, both for direction and also for sustentation!

Christian prudence, caution, and circumspection, is our duty; but do we lay the stress of our confidence upon that? “The steps of our strength shall be straitened, and our own counsel shall cast us down.” So long as you think [that] you can go by yourself, the Spirit will not take you by the hand to lead you.

Would you have him to lead you? O, let your trust and reliance be upon him; and see that you renounce all confidences in yourselves. He who thinks he has wisdom or grace enough in himself to “order his conversation aright,” shall never find the Spirit to be a guide to him.

Pray much for this grace of the Spirit. How much was David in prayer to God for this! 

  • Lead me in thy truth, and teach me.” 
  • “Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness; make thy way straight before my face.” 
  • “For thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.”
  • “Lead me in the way everlasting.”
  • Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.”

O, what a desirable mercy is this leading mercy! Will you not every day make this your request?

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 20 (Listen – 2:55)
Psalm 107 (Listen – 4:28)

*Today’s devotional is abridged from, “The Leading of The Holy Spirit Opened; With Some Practical Inquiries Resolved About It.”

Questions of Faith
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Praying Through the Stress of Work

June12

Psalm 104.1
Bless the LORD, O my soul! 

The beauty of the psalms is they are not simply inspiration and instruction, but example. In hearing and praying through the psalms we find spiritual vitality in a world austere to the divine. 

The idea of commanding one’s soul to bless the Lord, as the Psalmist does five times in Psalms 103-104, can seem trite and overly emotional — but this is far from the holistic rejoicing the psalmist had in mind.

In his journals Jonathan Edwards reveals the way his spiritual life is burdened by stresses of his vocation. He creates space to recenter himself on Christ through the scriptures, prayer for others, and community. And in this, he rejoices in the joys of his Heavenly Father:

Tuesday, June 26. In the morning my desires seemed to rise, and ascend up freely to God. Was busy most of the day in translating prayers into the language of the Delaware Indians; met with great difficulty… But though I was much discouraged with the extreme difficulty of that work, God supported me; and especially in the evening gave me sweet refreshment. 

“In prayer my soul was enlarged, and my faith drawn into sensible exercise; was enabled to cry to God for [them]; and though the work of their conversion appeared impossible with man, yet with God I saw all things were possible. 

“My faith was much strengthened, by observing the wonderful assistance God afforded his servants Nehemiah and Ezra, in reforming his people, and re-establishing his ancient church. 

“I was much assisted in prayer for dear christian friends, and for others that I apprehended to be Christ-less… [I] was enabled to be instant in prayer for them; and hoped that God would bow the heavens and come down for their salvation. It seemed to me there could be no impediment sufficient to obstruct that glorious work, seeing the living God, as I strongly hoped, was engaged for it. 

“I continued in a solemn frame, lifting up my heart to God for assistance and grace, that I might be more mortified to this present world, that my whole soul might be taken up continually in concern for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom: longed that God would purge me more, that I might be as a chosen vessel to bear his name among the heathens. Continued in this frame till I dropped asleep.”

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 17 (Listen – 3:24)
Psalm 104 (Listen – 3:37)

Life and Eternity
Part 5 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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This Weekend’s Readings
Saturday: Deuteronomy 18 (Listen – 3:08); Psalm 105 (Listen – 4:02)
Sunday: Deuteronomy 19 (Listen – 3:04); Psalm 106 (Listen – 4:52)

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TBT: The Grace Which Rises

June11

Psalm 103.10-11

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him. 

TBT: The Grace Which Rises | by Augustine of Hippo

Observe heaven: everywhere on every side it covers the earth. Men sin beneath heaven: they do all evil deeds beneath the heaven; yet they are covered by the heaven. From heaven is light for the eyes, and air, and breath, and rain upon the earth for the sake of its fruits, and all mercy. 

Take away the aid of heaven from the earth: it will fail at once. As then the protection of heaven abides upon the earth, so does the Lord’s protection abide upon them that fear Him. You fear God, His protection is above thee. But perhaps you are scourged, and believe that God has forsaken you. God has only forsaken you if the protection of heaven has forsaken the earth.

When sin is remitted, your sins fall, your grace rises; your sins are as it were on the decline, your grace which frees you on the rise. You should look to the rising, and turn away from the setting. 

Turn away from your sins, turn unto the grace of God; when your sins fall, your rise and profit. This is the grace which rises unto us: both our sins fall forever, and grace abides forever.

Who but Christ has prepared His throne in heaven? He who descended and ascended, He who died, and rose from the dead, He who lifted up to heaven the manhood He had assumed, hath Himself prepared His throne in heaven. 

The throne is the seat of the Judge: observe therefore you who hear, that “He has prepared His throne in heaven.… The kingdom is the Lord’s, and He shall be the Governor among the people. “And His kingdom shall rule over all.”

And why? God is the Judge. “In every place of His dominion: bless thou the Lord, O my soul!” From blessing we set out, to blessing let us return, in blessing let us reign.

Prayer

Have mercy, Lord, on me
and make me a temple fit for yourself.
In your great mercy,
in your boundless compassion,
wash away my sins, through Jesus Christ,
your only child, the truly holy,
the chief of our souls’ healers.
Through him may all glory be given to you.

— Unknown author. Likely a private family prayer, found on papyrus, published 1924.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 16 (Listen – 3:25)
(Listen – 2:07)

Life and Eternity
Part 4 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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The Prayer of One Afflicted

June10

Psalm 102.2
Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! 

“Blather, hokum, and trumpery,” scathes Algis Valiunas as in his summary of the modern self-help industry. One in five Americans lives on psychiatric medication. Millions more face non-clinical discouragement, anxiety, and depression on a regular basis. The self-help industry aggressively promotes its products as the pathway to happiness.

The revenue is staggering; Americans spend over half a billion dollars a year on self-help books. The self-help genre thrives from a high recidivism rate. The person most likely to purchase a self-help book has previously purchased one in the past 18 months.

While bibliotherapy is relatively new, the idea that we can save ourselves is not. Shortly after the turn of the century Maslow posited that self-actualization would unlock supreme happiness. Half a century prior to that Emerson predicted that, “As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions,”

“There is pap from sea to shining sea, of wanton avarice, or diaphanous lunacy, or simpleton dullness. One fears for a nation awash in this drivel,” Valiunas concludes. “One longs for a practical democratic philosopher to save us from drowning in it.”

Valiunas is correct in his diagnosis of the futility of self-help. But his longing for an individual to discover themselves as the answer to life’s greatest needs, even under the guidance of a grand philosopher, is misguided. It’s like hoping a castaway, languishing in the outer-reaches of the ocean, will suddenly summon the strength to swim home.

Loss of appetite, hopelessness, sleepless nights, and a sense of isolation: these experiences — exploited by the self-help industry — sit at the heart of Psalm 102. The psalmist takes his darkness, brokenness, and hopelessness before God in prayer. He looks to God as his only sufficient hope for restoration, redemption, and renewal.

God sacrificed greatly on our behalf to win such victories — not only the small ones in this life, but the final one in the life to come. (The exuberance of receiving such a gift is revealed in the words of Psalm 103.) As Edward Mote wrote in his hymn “The Solid Rock,”

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Listen – On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand,  Blake Quimby (2:10)

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 15 (Listen – 3:20)
Psalm 102 (Listen – 2:45)
Life and Eternity
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Hope and Joy

June9

Psalm 100.1-2
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! 

In the late 1860’s Charles Feltman replaced the pie wagon he had pushed through the sand on Coney Island for years with a new one that could serve his latest creation: sausage wrapped in a pastry bun. 

People were skeptical of what would become known as the hot dog, but the idea took off and Feltman built a restaurant that expanded rapidly. The Coney Island History Project reports that Feltman’s, “covered a full city block and consisted of nine restaurants, a roller coaster, a carousel, a ballroom, an outdoor movie theater, a hotel, a beer garden, a bathhouse, a pavilion, a Tyrolean village, two enormous bars, and a maple garden.”

Even after his death in 1910 the restaurant continued to expand — with over five million patrons in 1923 alone. If ever there was an institution that looked like it could last it was the dime-a-hotdog restaurant that could serve 8,000 people at a time and sat not far from the beach and newly-opened subway. But in less than a decade the Great Depression set in and business dried up quickly. Feltman’s family was soon faced with the task of closing the venues and selling off the land. 

We strap our hopes and dreams to what looks most successful and trustworthy. Yet ventures succeed and fail — taking entrepreneurs, investors, employees, and families along with them. Far too many people end up wrought with strife and brokenness because they invest everything they are into things which are exposed as unworthy.

Psalm 100 is the closing Psalm in a series of psalms (starting at Psalm 93) that renders praise to God because he is sufficiently worthy of our praise, affection, and hope. Those who praise God are full of joy because worship centers their life in God’s presence — and better is one day in his presence than thousands elsewhere.

Our work on this earth might carry on beyond our lives — last month a Coney Island man opened a Feltman’s pop up — and is worthy of our time and energy. At the same time, we should guard ourselves from allowing vocation and success to become the object of our affection or the source of our hope and joy. 

Prayer
Lord you are unchanging and eternal. Let us rejoice in you. Let us rest in your arms. Give us clarity and energy for our work. Give us hope and joy in you — both now and for eternity.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 13-14 (Listen – 6:35)
Psalms 99-101 (Listen – 2:49)

Life and Eternity
Part 2 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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