I recently came across a wonderful prayer penned by Archibald Alexander many years ago. In it he prays that God would bless and protect him through the years of old age and into the gates of heaven. May his prayer be ours!
O most merciful God, cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength declineth. Now, when I am old and grey-headed, forsake me not; but let Thy grace be sufficient for me; and enable me to bring forth fruit, even in old age. May my hoary head be found in the ways of righteousness! Preserve my mind from dotage and imbecility, and my body from protracted disease and excruciating pain. Deliver me from despondency and discouragement in my declining years, and enable me to bear affliction with patience, fortitude, and perfect submission to Thy holy will.
As, in the course of nature, I must be drawing near to my end, and as I know I must soon put off this tabernacle, I do humbly and earnestly beseech Thee, O Father of mercies, to prepare me for this inevitable and solemn event: Fortify my mind against the terrors of death. Give me, if it please Thee, an easy passage through the gate of death. Dissipate the dark clouds and mists which naturally hang over the grave, and lead me gently down into the gloomy valley. O my kind Shepherd, who hast tasted the bitterness of death for me, and who knowest how to sympathize with and succour the sheep of Thy pasture, be Thou present to guide, to support, and to comfort me. Illumine with beams of heavenly light the valley and shadow of death, so that I may fear no evil. When heart and flesh fail, be Thou the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. Let not my courage fail in the trying hour. Permit not the great adversary to harass my soul in the last struggle, but make me a conqueror and more than a conqueror in this fearful conflict.
I humbly ask that my reason may be continued to the last, and if it be Thy will, that I may be so comforted and supported, that I may leave a testimony in favour of the reality of religion, and Thy faithfulness in fulfilling Thy gracious promises; and that others of Thy servants who may follow after may be encouraged by my example to commit themselves boldly to the guidance and keeping of the Shepherd of Israel.
And when my spirit leaves this clay tenement, Lord Jesus, receive it. Send some of the blessed angels to convoy my inexperienced soul to the mansion which Thy love has prepared. And O! let me be so situated, though in the lowest rank, that I may behold Thy glory. May I have an abundant entrance administered unto me into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; for whose sake, and in whose name, I ask all these things. Amen.
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By Tim Challies — 8 months ago
May the God of love and peace be with you today.
There is a short list of Kindle deals today.
(Yesterday on the blog: Thank You, God, That I Am Not Like Other Men)
If There’s One Thing We Can Offer, It’s Authenticity
“As I’m writing this, I have just seen one of those promo videos from a larger church talking about all the great stuff people can plug into. It was full of youngish, cool people (I assume) talking about how great the church is and all the cool stuff you can do with them. There were special training routes, lots on with a big emphasis on the friendships you can make with loads of other people at a similar age and stage.” We’ve probably all seen videos like that and been tempted to compare…
Hair Pressing Time
I always enjoy Darla McDavid’s stories from a childhood that was very different from my own.
What’s Allowed in Married Sex?
Here’s Ray Ortlund on an important question. “Let’s rethink our married sexuality. Let’s throw off the complications that are claiming too much of us. Let’s go back to what our Lord would be glad to bless in our married sexual experience.” (See also John Piper: Should Couples Use Role-Play in the Bedroom?)
How Do I Grow in the Fear of God and Decrease in the Fear of Man? (Video)
“The more our minds are consumed by the majestic holiness of God, the less we will be intimidated by mere men. From our 2021 National Conference, Steven Lawson and Derek Thomas consider the importance of cultivating the fear of the Lord.”
For the Church that is For the World
“Biblically understood, there is a lot more involved in ‘going to church’ than simply attending a worship service. The gospel is designed to remake our entire souls, reorienting us away from ourselves and instead around God and others.” Jared Wilson explains.
Sustained Creativity By the Power of the Spirit
“I love creativity, whether I see it in a sunset, a painting, a novel, or a piece of music. Something deeply spiritual occurs in me when I behold the creative work of another or set about the task of creating something myself. I’m merely hypothesizing here, but I think creativity is both enhanced and sustained by the Holy Spirit, even into old age, when we surrender to Christ and live for God’s glory.” Maybe or maybe not. But it’s still an interesting thing to ponder.
Flashback: No One Believes in Social Injustice
…“it’s no good having the same vocabulary if we’re using different dictionaries.” And when it comes to social justice, that’s exactly what’s happening—we are drawing definitions from different dictionaries.
To endeavor to lift our own souls by our own strength is as absurd as to attempt to lift our bodies by grasping hold of our own clothes. —Theodore Cuyler
By Tim Challies — 1 month ago
Not every idea is worthy of an entire article. Hence, this one contain a long list of brief, random (and unsolicited) pieces of advice for living the Christian life, all of which I’ve gleaned from others over the course of the past 45 years. I hope there is something here that benefits you.
When offering counsel to others, always carefully distinguish between what the Bible says and what is simply your best attempt to apply wisdom to a particular situation. Get used to saying, “This is me, not the Bible.” There is a reason I have made this the first in a long list of pieces of advice.
Learn to appreciate the ways in which other people are different from you, not just the ways in which they are similar. Contrary to the way you tend to the think, the world would actually not be a better place if everyone was just a little bit more like you.
Learn to apologize. Learn to apologize first. Learn to apologize often. Learn that to apologize is a mark of strength of character, not weakness.
Remember that your children are sinners who are beset by the fierce enemies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Be gentle with them and have pity for them. Don’t be yet another enemy to them.
Don’t let yourself slip into believing that growing older will magically confer you some gift of godliness. Who you are now—or who you are becoming now—is a pretty good predictor of who you will someday be. If you want to be godly then, you have to learn to be godly now. This is true of young men and women as they ponder marriage and parenting; this is true of middle-aged men and women as they ponder retirement and old age.
Understand that you don’t need to have an opinion about everyone and everything. In fact, it is a mark of maturity to deliberately not have opinions about things that don’t concern you and things you know nothing about.
Find a couple whose grown children you’d be proud to call your own. Ask that couple if you can spend some time with them to either ask them questions about parenting or to simply observe life in their home. This may prove more valuable than any book on parenting. (Make sure their children are old enough that the parents have proven they can do more than raise obedient toddlers or submissive tweens.)
Change churches as seldom as possible and only when necessary. Never change churches without seeking the counsel of the church you are considering leaving and the church you are considering joining. When you do leave, it is almost always best to leave in a quiet and dignified way that preserves the church’s unity.
You get no free pass from the sin of slander when it pertains to an enemy, a heretic, or a politician. Each of these people is made in the image of God and each of them deserves to be spoken of in a way that befits their humanity. Only ever speak of them what is demonstrably and provably true.
Try raising your hands in worship at least once. It’s okay to get used to the idea in private first. Perhaps you’ll find that a little bit of physical expression engages your heart in unexpected ways.
Don’t put your hope in a particular method or system of parenting. Put your hope in the gospel, then consistently teach it to your children and consistently model it for your children during the 18 or 20 years they are in your home. It is the gospel that is the power of God, not any method. But we are easily confused.
In any given situation, it’s always good to ask “What does the Bible tell me to do?” or “what does the Bible say about this?” A great follow-up question is “why am I not already doing it?”
When the church service ends, make it your goal to meet someone you don’t know or connect with someone you don’t know well before you spend time with friends. Make a beeline for anyone who is alone or who looks awkward.
Embrace the tension between knowing that you are called to steward the wealth God provides for you and the fact that life is insanely expensive. Budget your money, control your expenses, give generously to the church, set some aside for the future, and use some to occasionally treat yourself to something nice. But also get used to saying, “it’s only money” as you swipe your card when yet another big and unexpected expense has come along.
Spend lots of time considering how God relates to his children, then imitate that in your parenting. When asked who most influenced your parenting, “God” is a pretty good answer.
Read The Pilgrim’s Progress at least once. If you find you are struggling to read it, try listening to it instead. There is a reason that it is the best-selling fictional work of all-time. (I recommend the recording narrated by Nadia May.)
Think often about that well-worn definition of character: character is who you are when no one else is looking. Consider whether who you are when you are all alone is consistent with who you are when other Christians are present.
It is good and necessary to shelter your children from the world. It is also good and necessary to expose your children to the world while they are still under your care and you can help them interpret what they are seeing and experiencing. Do that with wisdom. Your task as a parent is to prepare your children to live and thrive in this world, not some other one.
Acknowledge that in most friendships one person will be the main pursuer and the main initiator. Don’t feel sorry for yourself if you are that person.
Listen carefully to believers who come from cultures other than your own. You may learn valuable critiques of your own culture with all its presuppositions and you may learn valuable insights from another.
Foster relationships between your children and other trustworthy adults. Confidently direct your children to those adults when they have questions or disagreements with you. Don’t be upset if your friends give them counsel that contradicts your own. It’s possible that you’re the one who’s wrong.
Be loyal—loyal to your family, loyal to your friends, loyal to your pastors, loyal to your church. Loyalty is a beautiful virtue; disloyalty is an ugly vice.
If you find that your children are rebellious, take the time to honestly assess if you are modeling rebellion or submission to the sources of authority in your own life—whether in government, workplace, church, or home. There’s no reason to expect submission in your children if all they see is rebellion in you.
Sing loud in church, especially if you are a man. Don’t be content with mumbling as if it’s somehow embarrassing to have a male voice.
Never disrespect your spouse, or speak disrespectfully to or about your spouse, in the presence of others. (Or outside of the presence of others, for that.) If you need counsel or advice about your spouse or marriage, speak to a friend in a way that respects your spouse’s dignity.
Imagine your children as some day being close friends. Relate to them today in such a way as to make that vision come true. This will look different when they are toddlers, teens, and young adults.
Open your home to other people often. Help foster a culture of hospitality within your local church by being the one who invites people over on a regular basis. The living room is one of the best contexts in the world for friendship, discipleship, and evangelism.
Be appropriately romantic and affectionate with your spouse in the presence of your children. It’s okay—good even—if they know the spark is still alive. It’s okay—good even—if they occasionally say “oh gross.” You can do that without ever crossing a line.
Embrace singleness rather than resenting it. Pursue joy and contentment knowing that the God who withholds no good thing from his children also dispenses to them no ultimately bad thing. This is his good and perfect plan for you and he means for you to embrace it, whether it is a temporary state or a permanent one, whether it is involuntary or chosen.
Find common interests with your spouse. Learn to enjoy what your spouse enjoys, even if it’s a sport you wouldn’t otherwise care for or an art form you aren’t naturally drawn to. (Do the same with your friends and children.)
It is good to read widely but also good to read deeply. Find at least one author whose writing particularly helps you and commit to reading as many of his or her books as possible.
Expect to be sinned against even by people who love you. Don’t over-react when it happens. You’ve probably sinned against them many times as well. Remember that is the glory of a man to overlook an offense and that love covers a multitude of sins.
Nobody wants to be part of a church that doesn’t pray, but also, (almost) nobody wants to attend the prayer meeting. Believe in the power of a praying church enough to attend and champion that meeting. Make prayer instrumental rather than supplemental to your church.
Don’t feel the need to finish a bad book, or a mediocre one, for that. There is no shame in tossing it aside and trying something else.
Pursue friendships with people who are different from you. The deepest compatibility is often not easily visible.
Make it your habit to find something positive in the sermon and tell the pastor how it benefitted you. He probably gets less encouragement than you think.
It’s almost never the wrong time to say, “Let’s pray.”
Believe in the big picture of family devotions even when it’s hard to believe in the day-by-day results. Trust that a time of reading the Bible and praying together, repeated on a near-daily basis, will leave a deep and positive impact in the family as a whole and in each of its members.
Don’t let the sun set on your anger. Bitterness grows in the dark and harms you more than it harms anyone else, so the proper time to stop it is before it starts.
Distinguish between what is mandated by God and what is simply a matter of wisdom or prudence. Much of what Christians advocate with such strong words falls under the latter category more than the former. The Bible says nothing about date nights, the Billy Graham Rule, sleep training, and so on. Don’t hold strongly to what the Bible holds loosely (or vice versa). And that includes pretty much everything I’ve included in this article…
By Tim Challies — 2 days ago
I have often said that I don’t know what I think or what I believe until I write about it. Writing is how I reflect, how I meditate, how I chart life’s every journey. In the waning weeks of 2020 my dear son Nick passed away very suddenly and very unexpectedly. And when that sorrow was still new in my heart, when the tears were still fresh in my eyes, when I barely knew up from down and here from there, I began to write. I had to write because I had to know what to think and what to believe, what to feel and what to do. I had to know whether to rage or to worship, whether to run or to bow, whether to give up or to go on. I had to know how to comfort my wife, how to console my daughters, how to shore up my own faith. I put fingers to keyboard and pen to paper to find out.
In the weeks and months that followed, I wrote a series of meditations, some of which I shared through this blog, but many of which I did not. As that first year drew to a close and I came to the first anniversary of Nick’s death, I wrote one final meditation, then sent it all to my publisher in the hope that it would be able to bless and serve others. The result is Seasons of Sorrow: The Pain of Loss and the Comfort of God which will be published on September 13. The book is not a thorough theology of grief or an exhaustive tome on suffering, but neither is it meant to be. It is a real-time, first-person, present-tense series of reflections on the pain that comes with loss and the comfort that God provides. It is my fervent prayer that it will give help, hope, and comfort to others who are enduring hardship as well as to those who may be seeking to help them.
I sent the manuscript to some friends and asked if they would consider reading it and providing some words of endorsement. All were kind enough to do so and you can read their words below.
It would mean a lot to me, and be helpful to the publisher, if you would consider pre-ordering Seasons of Sorrow. Pre-ordering a book helps the booksellers gauge interest and, if the results are good, to determine how they will give it attention as it releases. In other words, if it is something you would order anyway, it would be helpful if you would order it in advance. Here are a few of the stores that already have it listed for pre-order:
‘If ever there was a book Tim Challies needed to write, it’s this one. And it’s a book I needed to read. Within these pages, you will do more than enter Tim’s story of enormous loss; you will come out on the other side having gained a softer heart and a renewed courage to persevere through your own dark seasons of affliction.’ — Joni Eareckson Tada, founder of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center
‘Seasons of Sorrow is a beautiful book. Reading it is like holding a precious gift, like standing on holy ground.’ — Paul David Tripp, pastor, speaker, author of New Morning Mercies and Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
‘Seasons of Sorrow cut straight to my soul. I read it within a few weeks of the unexpected deaths of two close friends and while my wife struggles bravely with stage 4 cancer. Tim’s heartfelt pain and Christ-centered perspective spoke to both my heart and my head.’ — Randy Alcorn, author of Heaven and If God Is Good
‘Tim Challies has taken us into his confidence by writing with such self-searching honesty. It is a painful pleasure to be invited into these sacred moments of grief and to be helped by the reminder that God is too kind ever to be cruel and too wise ever to make a mistake.’ — Alistair Begg, senior pastor, Parkside Church, and host of the Truth for Life radio program
‘Believers need this book, and only Tim Challies could have written it. I am so thankful that Nick was a student at Boyce College, and his influence as a young Christian was remarkable.’ — Albert and Mary Mohler
‘In the pages of this book, grieving people will find companionship, insight, and genuine encouragement for the journey.’ — Nancy Guthrie, author of Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow and cohost of Respite Retreats for grieving parents
‘This book is brilliant, not because of Tim Challies’s eloquence, but because of his tears! The buoyancy of faith that shines from every page often left me teary-eyed, thanking God for his grace to his people during their darkest times. What priceless grace!’ — Conrad Mbewe, pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church and founding chancellor of the African Christian University
‘If you have lost a loved one to death, as everyone has, or if you have buried a child, as many have, Tim Challies is your friend. Your brother. Your lifeline.’ — Robert and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, bestselling authors