In opposition to (the Roman Catholic view), our forefathers not only maintained that a man is justified by faith, but that he ought to know that he is justified, and that such knowledge is the great root of a holy life. It started a man upon a happy life, because it relieved him from the burden of doubt and the gloom of uncertainty. It made his religion bright and tranquil, because it sprang so sweetly from the certainty of his reconciliation to God. It delivered him from the cruel suspense and undefined fears which the lack of assurance always carries with it.

Moreover, it rescued him from every temptation to pride, presumption, and self-righteousness, because it did not arise from any good thing in himself, but drew him away from himself to Christ–from what he was doing, to what Christ had done. Thus did it make Christ, not self, the basis and center of his new being. It made him more and more dissatisfied with self and all that self contained, but more and more satisfied with Jesus and his fullness. It taught him to rest his confidence toward God, not on his satisfaction with self, or on the development of his own holiness, or on the amount of his graces and prayers and doings, but simply on the completed work of Him with whom God is well pleased. – Horatius Bonar

Note: To read the article from which this excellent quote is taken, click here.

“And he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. And he had a dream.”

Genesis 28:11-12

 

At this stage in his life, Jacob was not only a restless man, but a godless one. Though he valued spiritual things–the birthright of the family, and the blessing of his father–he used wicked means to attain a good end. He had not yet met his God, or received promises from him, or called upon his name. He had been a man run by lies and cunning; now he was a man on the run, pursued to the death by his murder-minded brother, Esau.

But here at Bethel–hungry, exhausted, and scared–Jacob lay his head down. The Hebrew says, “And he put a rock at his head place.” What a picture this is, and what a comfort, not only to Jacob, but to all his seed!

For the rock is Christ. And the great promise of our text is that for those who put him at their head place and rest their head upon him, they will dream. They will see God.

But how, exactly, does one rest his head upon Christ?

My answer is three-fold.

First, he rests completely upon the finished work of Christ–his righteous life and atoning death–for his justification and salvation, putting no trust whatsoever in his own works.

Secondly, he rests upon the Word of God, and especially the New Testament, saturating himself with its promises and commandments, so that he might every-increasingly live according to them.

Finally, he rests upon the Spirit of God, who brings the Word to life, enabling him not only to live by it, but even more importantly, to behold and delight in the One who is the great Ladder joining heaven and earth, the divine Head of all the angels, the very House of God, and the Gateway to our Father in heaven.

Yes, saints who know to rest their heads upon Christ will become what they so deeply desire to be, and what God created them to be: Dreamers, seers, and worshipers; men and women who know that, of a truth, God is in this place.

 Do not lay hands on anyone too quickly,

and so participate in the sins of other men; keep yourself pure.

 – 1 Tim. 4:22

 

American evangelicals are in a quandary. No, they’re in a crisis. They are eager to vote for an electable presidential candidate who embraces biblical values, but in 2016 it appears they cannot. For reasons that are painfully obvious—and that have been rehearsed ad nauseum—they realize that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is worthy of their enthusiastic support. How, then, should they vote? Should they vote for “the lesser of two evils”? Should they vote for a third party candidate? Or should they vote Christian and conservative down the ticket, but not vote for president at all? Trust me when I say I have given this matter LOTS of prayer and thought. In the present essay I offer both my reflections conclusions. I hope they will help you vote, both now and in the years to come.

In mulling this matter, I have isolated four biblically based lenses through which I believe we can successfully evaluate any candidate for office. They are character, conviction, competence, and calling. Let’s think together about these for a moment, and then apply them to our present situation.

Character

First comes character. And first it is, for character always precedes policy, and determines policy. As our Lord said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad cannot bear good.” We must, then, pay the closest possible attention to a candidate’s character.

But how, exactly, do we evaluate a man’s character? For the Christian, the benchmark of all true character is the character of Jesus Christ. In evaluating a candidate, we examine him (or her) for the presence of those spiritual attributes that made the Lord Jesus the ideal man, the “firstborn” over a whole new race of godly human beings. These attributes include piety, holiness, righteousness, wisdom, honesty, love, kindness, courage, self-sacrifice, and more. And among sinners who truly know their Savior, these attributes also include one important trait not found in their sinless Master: the ability humbly to admit one’s mistakes and misdeeds, and to apologize for them.

No biblically informed Christian expects a candidate to display a flawless character; as it is written, all have sinned and fall short of the glorious character of Christ and God. Nevertheless, in a world where darkness and light always commingle, some among us, by God’s grace, do indeed display many of the character traits of Christ, and in noticeable measure. Christians should only vote for candidates who do.

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She bent forward to look, then gave a startled little cry and drew back. There was indeed a seed lying in the palm of his hand, but it was shaped exactly like a long, sharply-pointed thorn… “The seed looks very sharp,” she said shrinkingly. “Won’t it hurt if you put it into my heart?”

He answered gently, “It is so sharp that it slips in very quickly. But, Much-Afraid, I have already warned you that Love and Pain go together, for a time at least. If you would know Love, you must know pain too.”

Much-Afraid looked at the thorn and shrank from it. Then she looked at the Shepherd’s face and repeated his words to herself. “When the seed of Love in your heart is ready to bloom, you will be loved in return,” and a strange new courage entered her. She suddenly stepped forward, bared her heart, and said, “Please plant the seed here in my heart.”

His face lit up with a glad smile and he said with a note of joy in his voice, “Now you will be able to go with me to the High Places and be a citizen in the Kingdom of my Father.”

Then he pressed the thorn into her heart. It was true, just as he had said, it did cause a piercing pain, but it slipped in quickly and then, suddenly, a sweetness she had never felt or imagined before tingled through her. It was bittersweet, but the sweetness was the stronger. She thought of the Shepherd’s words, “It is so happy to love,” and her pale, sallow cheeks suddenly glowed pink and her eyes shown. For a moment Much-Afraid did not look afraid at all.
Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places


Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, there were four horns. So I said to the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these?” And he answered me, “These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.” Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. I said, “What are these coming to do?” And he said, “These are the horns which have scattered Judah so that no man lifts up his head; but these craftsmen have come to terrify them, to throw down the horns of the nations who have lifted up their horns against the land of Judah in order to scatter it.” — Zech. 1:18ff

 

God’s Judah is still out there, scattered from Eden, scattered from Babel, languishing in the whole wide world. Day after day they are butted about by the four horns of the evil one, whose army of demonic bullies fills the air the globe over, casting down, casting down, always casting down.

But here Zechariah gives us good news. God has a plan for his Judah, a people predestined for the praise of His glory and the glory of His grace. The implementation of the plan is well under way. Already, He has sent them THE Master Craftsmen, the One who skillfully fashioned a perfectly righteous life and a perfect atoning death for Himself, so that He mighty skillfully fashion a perfect people for His possession, and the possession of His God.

But there is more to the plan. As we see here and elsewhere in Scripture, the LORD has posted a Help Wanted flyer. More master-craftsmen are needed, and lots of them; for again, there are still lots and lots of languishing sons of Judah out there, men and women who are still bruised and buffeted, with heads hanging down.

What will lift them up? Zechariah replies: A great host of master craftsmen, all trained by THE Master Craftsmen, fanning out into the four corners of the earth, arriving on the scene with big, heavy tool belts slung over their hips, and ready and able to use those tools swiftly and powerfully.

But herein lies their true mastery: Just like their Master, they will only work at the word of the Master, for they know that in His word alone is all speed, all power, and all skill for all true lifting of the head.

How good to know that the four horns of hell cringe in terror when a team of master-craftsmen shows up on the job site, ready to go to work!

But how much better to know that when day is done, there will be even more of the sons of Judah, men and women from every nation praising The Master Craftsman with uplifted heads and eagerly equipping themselves for a new and glorious trade.