Friday, April 21, 2017

The Promise Is: Refuge

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah. For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name. Thou wilt prolong the king's life: and his years as many generations. He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him. So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows. 
~*~Psalms 61~*~

Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography

When I cry, be my refuge, O God. 
When my heart is overwhelmed, be my rock, O God. 
When the enemy roars, be my tower, O God.
When calamity falls about me, hold me beneath Your wings, O God.

Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: 
yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, 
until these calamities be overpast.
For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds. 
Psalm 57:1 & 10

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Promise Is: Perfect Strength

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations,
 there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me,
 lest I should be exalted above measure.
 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice,
 that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, 
My grace is sufficient for thee: 
for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, 
that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: 
for when I am weak, then am I strong
~*~2 Corinthians 12:7-10~*~
Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography

God has a vested interest in us being partakers in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10-11). When great spiritual giftings endanger us to pride, He lovingly chastens us for our profit. When He answers, "No." He also supplies grace for our joyful submission. When we become weak for His name's sake, He sends His power to rest upon us.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Can I Rejoice Enough?

Sometimes the greatest sin of all is laboring to be righteous. At least, I can say this was my sin.

I suppose to many I didn't seem very sinful. Born to the most loving of parents, I truly had an serene and peaceful childhood in 1830s Devonshire. My father and mother lived before me a love for the Lord from the time I could toddler the halls of our comfortable home. Nourished in this wholesome soil, I grew into a cheerful, amiable young lady.

But in my mid teens, a disturbance rippled over the calm pool of my life. Fellow church members, whom I had always held in great esteem, begin to disappoint me. It was no personal transgression against myself they committed; but their relationships with some others lacked the compassionate mercy of Christ. Their words held a great form of godliness, yet seemed wholly absent from the love that worketh no ill to her neighbour.

Already given to an perfectionist bent of nature, this hardened my resolve I should not be found with this stain of hypocrisy. With crusader zeal, I set about to establish I would exemplify all God required. I studied the Bible. I prayed with the fervor of a seasoned intercessor. I diligently followed every good work. But the more I applied myself, the more I saw how high and lifted up was the law of God. It was as if whenever I drew near to touching the bar of perfection, it rose higher out of reach than ever before.

By my nineteenth year, I was hopeless. My friends and acquaintances all thought I was a Christian, but I knew the truth. I had come to the end of my ideals and found my heart unsatisfactory for the name or favor of Christ. Would I never find the empowerment to walk in the love and holiness of Christ?

Then one day, all changed. Through the help of a visiting minister, I realized for the first time working for righteousness was what had held me back all along. How do I begin to describe it? My eyes were finally open to the simplicity of the gospel. The work of our redemption is not ours but God's. I had been looking inward, hoping to raise some proof I was in Christ. But salvation is never found within man anymore than the cure is found within the diseased body. As the bitten Israelite could only find an antidote against the venom of the fiery, wilderness serpent outside his own resources, only the look of faith at the Son of God could cure my sin. As long as I looked within, I would find despair. But when I looked to Christ, I found healing and I found rest. I found Him!

Dear friend, don't look within to see if you have faith enough to be saved; look only to Jesus. If one asked you why you should have hope of God's good heaven, any answer beginning with "Because I..." will not justify or assure you. Only the answer that freely speaks "Because Jesus is righteous and died to be made sin for me if I only believe God raised Him from the dead." will bring the Spirit's witness you are God's. It's not your righteousness; it's Jesus. It's not your wholeheartedness; it's Jesus. It's not your understanding; it's Jesus. Won't you come and rejoice with me?

In witness to Christ,
Elisabeth Rundle

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Promise Is: Fulfillment

In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah;
 We have a strong city; 
salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. 
Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. 
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee:
 because he trusteth in thee.
 Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: 
~*~Isaiah 26:1-4~*~

Not every promise is fulfilled instantly. But each one has a day of fulfillment. And just as surely as each has a day of fulfillment, each has a condition. So until the day of fulfillment let us be found keepers of truth, that we might inherit the city. Until then let us stay our minds on Jehovah, sure He will gift us perfect peace. Until then let us trust in Him forever, finding in Him everlasting strength.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

When The Son Made Him Free

When man sees his need for grace, its wings can not fly swiftly enough to him. 

In childhood, I was taught by my uncle and aunt of Christ and held the tender belief of a child. In their home I witnessed a faith pure and free from the pretentious Christianity practiced by most of my countrymen – including my mother and grandfather. When the influence of my second parents reached her, my mother spared no rest until she had brought me back under her guard. For she was set on me being brought up for great seats in the world – earthly heights Christ would be a sure stumbling block to their fulfillment. With tears of a near broken heart, I was taken from my uncle's home and molded in the ways of sin. Truly yes, zealous was the labor of my mother and grandfather to immerse me in all irreverence, indulgences, promiscuity, gluttony, gambling – anything that might quench the tender conscience my uncle and aunt had watchfully nourished in me. Indeed, no Christian parents have ever been so careful to warn their children from the world as my mother was to infect me with it. By the time I was accepted as a student in Cambridge, I was as committed to pleasure and romp as they. My college years only provided more indulgences for the same. During this time, I was also drawn to a field more thrilling and powerful than the wealth and popularity I has thus far enjoyed: politics. Mere days after brushing my fingers against the milestone of my twenty first year, I was elected to the British Parliament – one of the youngest men ever elected. Yet even in this heady office in the great British Empire, I thought nothing of God's hand on me or why He might have given me this station.
All this changed when I took a leisure trip abroad with my friend, Issac Milner. Ready to amuse ourselves while crossing Europe in a carriage, Milner and I fell into conversation on Christ. My curiosity was aroused by the earnestness the usually jesting Isaac would adopt when we spoke on matters of faith. At first they were only musings that tickled the mind, another diversion for a young man enjoying all the world could give. This interest of mind soon turned to influence of heart. In time my conscience begin whispering the truth: my righteousness was as rags before God. Yet the sin that weighed on me most was the black ingratitude of my past life to God for His mercy and goodness though I had hardly acknowledged Him for twenty and six years of living.

What could I do? My conscience refusing me rest, I withdrew from my acts of sin, hoping, praying my measures of reform would grant me mercy before God. I now saw sin as He did: treason against a just God and a crime worthy of death. As a representative in parliament, I knew any king would be just to punish a subject for breaking a royal command. Was a holy, perfect God any less righteous not to expect such obedience from me? Yet my efforts in reforming myself brought no assurance of salvation. The more I sought to humble and distance myself from my sin, the more entangled and knotted its deathly bonds gripped around my heart. I spent hours a day in prayer, meditation of the Scriptures, thought on my soul and yet I still fell woefully short of His holiness. What might I do to make me clean?

I wish I might say a few days of striving to be right before God was enough to open my eyes to my need for a saviour. But alas, my struggle would go on for many months. No preacher, act or condition of heart was enough to cancel the payment of my sin, or even bring Christ closer. But in time, God did what I could not. I saw Jesus. I saw Him as the perfect Son of God and Son of man, Who loved me and gave Himself for me. I saw Him as the One Who knew no sin become sin for me, that I might be made the righteousness of God in Him. I saw Him at the pinnacle of His perfection take on sin and suffer the wrath of God in man's stead. Then with the sentence of sin fully satisfied, God showed His acceptance of Christ by raising Him again and seating His Son at His right hand. I can not describe how the word of God wrought faith in my heart or how the simplicity of the gospel became clear to me. But when it did, I found rest. God required not but believe on His Son.

In years to come, God would take me as a vessel for liberating – physically and spiritually – millions. But it all begin and ended with Jesus. The sin of my youth and the sin of seeking to establish my own righteousness nearly cost me eternity with my holy God. But when I simply rested in the work of Christ, instead of the work of William, my account shifted from sinner to righteous. I pray the same is true for you as well. For if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

In witness to Christ,

William Wilberforce

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Promise Is: Security

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling,
 and to present you faultless before
 the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
 To the only wise God our Saviour, 
be glory and majesty,
 dominion and power, 
both now and ever. 
~Jude 1:24-25~

Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography
Faultless righteousness, only by Jesus' power. Wisdom for discerning truth, only by Jesus' power. Hope of exceeding joy, only by Jesus' power.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What She Couldn't Have Known: A Forgotten Lady And Her Love For The Captive

When God wanted to illustrate the relationship between believers, He used the example of the body. 
Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography

Often we use this metaphor as a guide for daily fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters and rightly so. But there is another dimension I'm just beginning to discover. As I learn more about Christians in ages past, I'm learning the Body of Christ encompasses both the cloud of witnesses already gone on before and those of us who are yet on earth. As a young woman, I'm especially thrilled when I learn of the faithfulness of godly women who fulfilled the role God gave them. Why? Because their obedience, no matter how small, is still felt by you and me today. Century after century, generation after generation, life after life, the kingdom of God goes forward in the hearts of those who obediently follow the great Director's script.

It was such a woman who bridged the chasm between an enslaved people and liberty. Though nearly forgotten, how God used this lady to bring an enslaved people and their human liberator together is a very relevant story for women dwelling in the 21st century.

The Lady Who Joined The Slave To A Liberator

In 1815 there was a squall of excitement in England. The British Slave Trade had been abolished eight years prior, a monumental event not lost on those who witnessed it. Like most battles for liberty, few brave enough to take the bullets could be not found until after victory was won. Now each was greedy for their claim – real or imagined – among honorable mention in this historical moment.

Since the unprecedented labor of the English statesman William Wilberforce was too great not to be acknowledged by all, men started vying for the silver medal: who had been the human joint linking the young Wilberforce to his divinely appointed call as Liberator of Africa? Eventually truth would prove it belonged to one who never voiced her right to glory. One Mr. Latrobe, a minister, wrote a letter to his daughter detailing his knowledge of the woman who encouraged William Wilberforce in his work - an account that would be verified by Wilberforce's own family. Supporting his argument with great detail, Mr. Latrobe leaves us a beautiful record of our lady's character and how she came to this special moment in history. Who is this person, you ask? Lady Middleton of Kent. Here is her story.

A Lady of Hospitality

In an era before hotels, it was common practice for families to house guests for week or months on end. One such visitor to the Middleton family was Dr. Ramsey. Dr. Ramsey had actually served Sir Charles Middleton while the latter commanded a war ship in the West Indies. As the army surgeon, Dr. Ramsey had the opportunity to investigate the condition of the African slaves who worked the enormous plantations. What he saw horrified him. In time Dr. Ramsey wrote about his experience, exposing the cruelty he witnessed in the West Indies – an act that would make him an unpopular man and cause him much suffering.

After his service in the West Indies, Dr. Ramsey returned to England. It was during during his extended stay with his former commander that he shared with the Middletons his experience among the slaves. The account astonished Lady Middleton, lighting a fire in the tender woman's soul that would not be quenched.

A Lady of Active Compassion

While Mr. Latrobe describes Lady Middleton's strong reaction to the misery of the slaves, her compassion also motivated her to action. In the steps of Christ who was moved for a shepherdless people, Lady Middleton spoke on behalf of a voiceless people she'd never seen. Mr. Latrobe describes the following to his daughter:

“Yet all this [referring to Dr. Ramsey's book and others like it] which was said and written on the subject might have passed away and produced as little effect as the declamations and writings of many good men in England and America...but that God put it in the heart of Lady Middleton to venture one step further, and urge the necessity of bringing the proposed Abolition of the Slave Trade before parliament, as a measure in which the whole nation was concerned.”*

Lady Middleton did not point her finger at a few landowners across the sea and cry, “Shame on you.” Though the crime was as far from her as the sound of the slave whips across the great Atlantic, she rightly understood slavery as a national sin with national consequences. The concept of worshiping the will of the individual to define good and evil for him or herself was totally foreign to this woman. Human beings were suffering, dying and it was being condoned with the silent consent of the British people.

Yet Lady Middleton did not race to fill a seat in parliament to bring justice to the slaves. Instead she employed a more powerful weapon – one sadly neglected by many of us ladies today.

A Lady of Womanly Intersession

Which of us have not fallen into the trap of thinking we could change the world if we only had more power? If only we were president, in Congress, the pastor, the teacher, the head of that family or that one. Since the Garden of Eden, it has been the constant temptation of the women to envy the position of her male counterpart. So covetous are we of this role we often forget the power feminine influence and intersession can have for godliness.

At breakfast in the autumn of 1786 with Dr. Ramsey and her husband present, Lady Middleton earnestly pressed the necessity of parliament taking action on the Slave Trade. We again turn to Mr. Latrobe for details.

“Lady Middleton, addressing her husband, who was a member [of parliament] for Rochester, said, 'Indeed Sir Charles I think you ought to bring the subject before the House, and demand parliamentary inquiry into the nature of a traffic so disgraceful to the British character.' Sir Charles granted the propriety of such an inquiry; but observed that the cause would be in bad hands if it was committed to him, who had never yet made one speech in the House; but he added, that he should strenuously support any able member who would undertake it...when some one mentioned Mr. Wilberforce, who had lately come out, and not only displayed very superior talents and great eloquence, but was a decided and powerful advocate of the cause of truth and virtue, and a friend of the [prime] minister. He was then as at Hull and Lady Middleton prevailed on Sir Charles immediately to write to him, and propose the subject. He did so, and communicated the letter he had written to the family, as well as Mr. Wilberforce's answer which he received a few days later....”**

The all important conversation at breakfast that morning, was initiated by a submissive, yet passionate wife. When her husband pointed out the fault in her original request, they reasoned together until the man God had already appointed was mentioned. It was then Lady Middleton's fervent intersession that gave speed to her husband writing this same man, creating a divine appointment that would bridge William Wilberforce to the slaves.

Shortly afterwards, William Wilberforce himself came for a stay at the Middleton home. At her own hearth, Lady Middleton would have the pleasure of seeing the first series of events which would confirm to the praying Wilberforce God was indeed calling him to be a voice for the oppressed. Forty seven years later, both the slavery and its gruesome trade was abolished in the British Empire. An entire people group was liberated because one woman listened, had a tender heart, acted with compassion and understood her role as a godly wife and woman.

Ladies, we have our work cut out for us, don't we? Are we willing to be secondary characters in God's story if that is His best for us? Will we fashion our hearts in hospitality, tenderness and Christlike obedience? Whether future generations ever know our name – whether we live to see the fruit – may we be found faithful members in the Body of Christ.

*Wilberforce, Robert Isaac and Samuel. The Life of William Wilberforce 1st. ed. London: John Murray, 1838, pg. 144
**Wilberforce, Robert Isaac and Samuel. The Life of William Wilberforce 1st. ed. London: John Murray, 1838, pg. 144-145

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