Christians, take heart! Though we may be surrounded by darkness, Christians do not LIVE in darkness. By faith (belief) in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, we have been born again and are, in fact, indwelt by the Light of the World! We are children of God! Every year that passes brings us closer to the return of our King and true peace on Earth! May we all be blessed in our celebration of the day He entered this world and blessed us with His light.
For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel,
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now1
Here we are in the final days before the celebration of the incarnation. Our outside Christmas lights have been on each night at sundown since Thanksgiving evening. Just about every room inside the house has been dressed with decorations and lights, while various tart burners distribute fragrances throughout our home, adding to the festive atmosphere. Our home is also filled with the sound of carols. Inside our home, Christmas is here again – as long as the television news channel is not on.
Outside, wars and rumors of wars abound. We are often told that some conflict or other could spark WW3. Here in America, it seems that we are still locked in a cold war against each other. Fierce political battles are waged on the airwaves and on Facebook. Family members and lifetime friends are unfriending one another and parting company over issues, which, although important, will be forgotten in a few days in favor of fresh arguments, leaving mostly sadness, unresolved anger, and a little more darkness in their wake.
We want peace, but it seems there is no peace. In many ways, the stanza from “We Need a Little Christmas” is reflected back to us as we prepare for Christmas this year. Certainly, it isn’t a spiritual song, but many would agree that in this emotionally draining year, our culture has “grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older.” We do need something to get us refocused and to bring peace back into our hearts.
Traditionally, at this time of year, we have sermons and articles telling the story of the birth of the Savior. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her of her coming pregnancy: She will be blessed to conceive and carry the Son of the Most High! Joseph, naturally upset by Mary’s pregnancy, also receives a visit from an angel, who tells him that he should go ahead and marry her because the child she is carrying is from God.
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By Kim Riddlebarger — 1 year ago
We also learn from Job how we should respond to suffering, should this be God’s purpose for us. When Job is called to suffer, he does not curse God, nor seek to take his own life. Because he is blameless, Job has every right to cry out for vindication–as do we if we have sown to the Spirit. Job is not suffering because he has done something wrong which angered God. Rather Job is suffering because God has a purpose for his ordeal–-as yet unknown to Job.
Who Was Job?
So, who was this man who God called to suffer great loss and play such an important role in redemptive history?
Job is introduced to the reader in the opening verses of the first chapter. “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (v. 1). The land of Uz is east of the River Jordan (Qedem–“the east”), likely in what is now the nation of Jordan. Uz could be anywhere between Edom on the south, Moab on the east, and the land of the Aram to the north. While Job was not an Israelite–since no tribal or family identification is given–he clearly worships Israel’s God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  So, apparently, do his friends and family.
As the story opens and we meet the central character, what stands out is the assertion that Job was “blameless and upright” and that “he feared God and turned away evil.” What, exactly, does this mean? One thing it does not mean is that Job was sinless, or that he had attained a state of justifying righteousness because he lived a blameless and upright life. We must not confuse cause and effect. We know this to be the case because elsewhere in this book Job declares himself to be a sinner. In Job 7:20, Job laments, “If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind? Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you?” In Job 13:26, he laments “for you write bitter things against me and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth.” Finally, in Job 14:16 -17, Job confesses that “you would number my steps; you would not keep watch over my sin; my transgression would be sealed up in a bag, and you would cover over my iniquity.”
Upright and Blameless: What Does that Mean?
If Job acknowledges himself to be a sinner, what does it mean when Job is described as being “blameless and upright?” The answer is simple. The text means exactly what it says–Job was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil. Job was an honest and moral man, who avoided those things contrary to the law of God that had been written on his heart (cf. Romans 2:14). In chapters 29-31, Job can appeal to the public knowledge of his piety, which is the visible manifestation of his faith in YHWH. When we read that Job was blameless and upright, we should understand this to mean that Job believed YHWH’s promise to forgive his sins and, like Abraham, Job was justified through faith. Job believed and confessed that YHWH will cover his sins and through that act of faith, Christ’s righteousness was reckoned to Job, just as it was to Abraham.
Job’s faith in YHWH bore much fruit of the Spirit, fruit which was tangible to all who knew him and fruit which was especially pleasing to YHWH. As one writer puts it, “there was an honest harmony between Job’s profession and his life, quite the opposite of the hypocrisy of which he was presently accused by Satan and later by his friends.”  Having been justified by faith, Job lived in such a way that his conduct before men was blameless and upright, in contrast to someone who is indifferent to the things of God, or who hypocritically professes one thing, but lives like their personal profession makes no difference.
Job’s conduct was exemplary (some of it is described in the following verses in the way he served as priest of his family). In Job 4:3-6, one of Job’s friends can declare of Job, “Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?” In Job 42:8, when God rebukes one of Job’s friends, telling him “now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” In this, we see that Job is a righteous man, which is the outward manifestation of his faith in YHWH—not only by virtue of his justification before God through faith, but evident in his daily conduct. James 2:18 comes to mind. “But someone will say, `You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” When Job suffers, it is not because he has some secret sin, or because God is punishing Job because he has done something which provokes God to anger.
This is precisely why Satan sets out to expose Job’s obedience as phony (a quid pro quo) and why the Lord allows Job to be put to the test. Even if God turned Satan to an ash at that very moment, the question about human righteousness resulting from divine bribery would never be answered. Job was truly blameless and upright. Job had done nothing to bring about the trial that is about to befall him. He feared God and shunned evil. Hence God allows Satan to put Job to the test to vindicate God’s righteous dealing with his creatures. Satan will get his answer.
This also explains why Job has every right to cry out for God to vindicate his good name. After all, God has promised not to punish the blameless. But why then does Job suffer if he has done nothing wrong? That is the question which this remarkable book will seek to answer. And that answer is found in the wisdom and mysterious purposes of God.
In verses 2 and 3, we learn something of Job’s personal circumstances before his ordeal begins.
By Nick Roark — 9 months ago
Sibbes wrote this book for “bruised reeds,” for heartbroken, distressed, and discouraged Christians. He shows from God’s word that Christ will neither break them nor quench them; instead, he cherishes them. Sibbes beckons the hurting and weary Christian to look to Christ for comfort and strength, knowing that since he has finished his work for us, he will most certainly finish his work in us. By looking to Christ, “we see salvation not only strongly wrought, but sweetly dispensed by him” (Works, 1:40).
Some sentences can change your life. One written four hundred years ago changed mine: “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us” (Works of Richard Sibbes, 1:47).
The author was one of the greatest preachers of the Puritan age, Richard Sibbes (1577–1635), and the sentence is found in his greatest book, The Bruised Reed, in which he “scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands,” as Charles Spurgeon put it (Lectures to My Students, 778). That sentence, and that book, ignited in me a passion to spend time every month reading dead pastors, like Sibbes, who point me to the living Christ. The Bruised Reed just might do the same for you.
Sibbes was born in Suffolk, England, in 1577, and grew up in a Christian home. He began his studies at Cambridge at the age of 18. After he was converted to Christ in 1603, he began to faithfully minister the gospel to others. Over the next three decades, those who heard Sibbes preach in Cambridge and London often called him “The Sweet Dropper,” because of his tenderhearted gift of “unfolding and applying the great mysteries of the gospel in a sweet way” (Works, 3:4).
After receiving his doctorate of divinity from Cambridge in 1627, he was often referred to as the “heavenly Doctor Sibbes,” on account of his heavenly minded life and doctrine. A couplet was written about him upon his death on July 6, 1635, at the age of 58: “Of that good man let this high praise be given: Heaven was in him before he was in heaven” (Meet the Puritans, 535).
Sibbes regularly wrote out his sermons, leaving behind over two million words on paper. But The Bruised Reed is far and away his best-remembered and most-treasured book. It’s considered a classic of Puritan devotion, a paradigm of practical divinity. It’s easy to see why.
The book is a Christ-exalting exposition and application of Isaiah 42:3, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” Following Matthew’s lead (Matthew 12:18–20), Sibbes understands this prophetic text about the servant of the Lord, the one in whom God delights, and upon whom the Spirit dwells (Isaiah 42:1), to be fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Over the course of sixteen brief chapters, Sibbes unfolds his argument in three parts: (1) Christ will not break the bruised reed; (2) Christ will not quench the smoking flax (or “burning wick”); (3) Christ will not do either of these things until he has sent forth judgment into victory.
Balm for Weary Believers
Why might Christians today read this book written by a preacher in London nearly four centuries ago?
For this reason: since its initial publication in 1630, countless weary Christians have found The Bruised Reed to be full of encouragement for the downcast and full of strength for the weak — because it is full of Jesus Christ, the merciful and mighty Savior of sinners.
In his book Preaching and Preachers, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “I shall never cease to be grateful to Richard Sibbes who was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil. . . . The ‘Heavenly Doctor Sibbes’ was an unfailing remedy. . . . The Bruised Reed quieted, soothed, comforted, encouraged and healed me” (Preaching and Preachers, 186–87).
By Bill Muehlenberg — 2 months ago
There is much in this book worth thinking about and reflecting upon, even if one may well end up having almost as many questions as answers after going through its 480 pages. I still have a number of very real questions and do not agree with everything being said. A number of further articles will be needed to fully and properly present what he is saying, and how I might react to it. This is a significant and valuable volume looking at some key issues and questions that have been debated for many centuries now.
This book is getting a lot of attention – and opposition. But it is worth being aware of:
In America at least plenty of folks are talking about ‘Christian nationalism’ – usually used as a term of abuse and derision. The secular left (and some Christians) see it as some sinister plot along the lines of what is found in The Handmaid’s Tale.
So when a Christian author comes along seeking to make the case for Christian nationalism, all hell tends to break loose. Already a number of books have appeared on this, both pro and con. The most substantial and significant volume seeking to make the case for it is by Stephen Wolfe.
This is the second of several pieces that looks at his new book which is getting a lot of attention, as well as causing no small amount of controversy. Given that it is a tightly argued and carefully crafted work of nearly 500 pages, dealing with rather complex and difficult topics, a short review can hardly do it justice.
Thus I am doing a series of articles on this volume. Yesterday I looked at one particular aspect of the book.
Here I just want to offer some big-picture preliminary thoughts, before I can even attempt to try to both describe and assess the case he is seeking to make. So here are some prefatory remarks that are worth making. Stay tuned for future articles which will be a bit more in line with a proper book review.
Before I go any further, let me make one minor criticism. This large book has no index. So before I could adequately discuss it or properly review it, I had to create my own index. That I did over a 24-hour period, listing at least the major issues and points of note. In what follows I will include page numbers along the way.
And before listing my preliminary concerns, let me try – as foolish as it might be – to give the skimpiest of outlines of his case. It would run something like this:
There was, even before the fall, the need for some sort of social organisation and order.
Love of family, kinship, and even liking one’s nation are not necessarily bad things (although they can become bad).
There is no neutral public square. If it is not one informed by Christianity, it will be informed by some other competing worldview.
There is a place for like-minded Christians having communities and nations reflecting their beliefs and values – including the use of civil rulers to help affirm and maintain this to some extent.
Wolfe says his intent is this: “[M]y goal is to reinvigorate Christendom in the West – that is my chief aim” (119). But that term, like ‘Christian nationalism,’ needs to be carefully defined – which Wolfe seeks to do. However, as mentioned, I will seek to tease all this out much further in some sort of proper book review – or two! So stay tuned. But here are a few prefatory remarks.
First, this is an important book. That is because it deals with some very important topics, especially including the two things we are NOT supposed to discuss in polite society: politics and religion. These are topics that have been discussed for millennia by philosophers, theologians, historians, political scientists, and ethicists. They are bound to be big topics, and thus not easily digested or understood in short sound bites or quotes.
But to say this book is important is not to say that I necessarily agree with all of it. Das Kapital is important, as is The Origin of the Species (not that I am lumping Wolfe’s book in with these two). One can differ quite a bit with significant titles. But they are worth being aware of and interacting with.
Also, like most authors writing about such topics, there will be a starting point, a worldview, or a set of presuppositions that guide the writer. If one has fundamental differences with those starting points, then chances are the argument as a whole may not be embraced.
Wolfe certainly has his own points of reference. First of all, he is an American, and much of this book of course reflects Christianity in America, along with the rest of the West. In many respects America did have a unique founding – many would argue a Christian founding – so those from other nations may not be fully in sync with what is being presented here.